Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How Do I Write Beauty

Outside my kitchen window, last nights snow is melting in the gutters creating a song of water drips and gurgles I can barely hear over my music playing here on my desk: Dark Side of the Moon, Time. The sun is fading behind the clouds blowing in from the southwest; Clouds that will eventually run into the cold front flowing in from Canada--no passport required.

I've been neglecting my blog lately. I am trying to remedy that. I was sitting here in this swivel chair--in front of my open electric stove, the kitchen doors shut, locking the heat in--trying to think about something to write about. It is so easy to write about things when they are going shitty. It is much harder to write when things are going good. Beauty is hard to define; ugliness much easier.

I could write opinions about my freedom as a smoker being taken away by the voters of Washington State. I can muse about a girl's style who walked to school today in the !snow! wearing a butt revealing mini skirt with a stocking cap on her head and snow boots over her calves. I could write about finding God or defining God. About the University and what a peculiar institution it is. I can write about war, violence, and corporate take over. About feminist and how as a tall, white, Christian, male, I belong to the most hated demographic on the planet. How I am privileged to be in such a demographic and then drown my audience in unadulterated pleasure in my own white guilt. I can write about lost loves and failed opportunities. About single moments or the big picture. I can spill my guts like a patient on a leather couch in a psychiatrist office. Politics, religion, race, sex, drugs, rock and roll, oppression, money, ideals, jokes.

What I don't know how to write about is my own contentness. When I write about the world as an oppressive force against me, the boundaries are clear. It isn't writing, it is tracing. It is entirely different writing about beauty. It is the difference between Creating and Disassembling. Creation. That is difficult. That is a challenge. That is poetry.

"Everything is in tune, and the Sun is Eclipsed by the Moon." --Pink Floyd

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"Here's the game. Introduce 10 quirks or idiosyncrasies of yours on your blog,following which you are free to pick five more people to do the same thing."

1. When I do clean the house, I don’t just clean it, I sterilize it. If there is a crumb on the counter or a pube under the toilet, the house is NOT clean.

2. When I am out at a restaurant, especially a Mexican restaurant serving chips and salsa, It is almost impossible for me to stop eating until everything in front of me is consumed and I want to puke.

3. I drink coffee during the day, and wine at night.

4. I hate talking on the telephone.

5. When people say supposeBly instead of supposedly, I cringe.

6. I brush my teeth and gargle about 6 to 8 times a day.

7. I blush easily.

8. I like my steak medium rare. My mom, when I was growing up, would broil steak ‘till it was as tuff as leather. Yuck.

9. From December to March, my favorite channel is, The Weather Channel.

10. I break my eggs on the large end.

I don't have any friends, so anyone who wants to do this, feel free. Jessi, Micheal,Becky.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Modern Mythologies

Last night I watched the Black Cauldron, a great Disney movie. It had all the old characters we've grown so accustomed to in Western culture. The wise wizard, the young apprentice who has to find his warrior strength to battle the dark lord boss who is holding the princess and the fate of humanity in his high tower. Along the way there were fairies and barbarians, Castles and country sides, swords and spells. Hey this character is Luke Skywalker, and there is Gollum, I thought while shoving garlic butter bread sticks in my mouth--archetypal characters.

I wonder what a modern mythology would look like. I don't mean replacing the dark lord with a corporate CEO, or changing the castles to skyscrapers, or the princess to a depressed emo punk, but I mean a new story all together. Would we even recognize such a story if we came into contact with it?

Is the love story, the warriors story, the Good vs. Evil Story, the coming of age story, are they hardwired in us? Perhaps a brand spanking new story would be incomprehensible to us. Will we scoff at it, brushing it off as modern art?

If we are on the cusp of changing as organisms from Homo Sapien to Homo Digitalis, then surly our stories will change as well. And that is what is really exciting, the language, the stories we'll tell in the future!

It really bothers me when people poo-poo ideas because of buzz words in the language of the idea. When people turn off their brain when the word alien or cyborg is spoken. Those words are just sketches, man. The quick sporadic pencil lines beneath the Mona Lisa. We will come up with new words. We are trying to describe now what is not yet possible to imagine. "That is just science fiction!" they say, "quit living in fantasy!"; But science fiction is a bridge between the old mythologies and the new. Science fiction is just one way of speculating about the stuff awaiting us around the bend in the timeline.

Or the religious who reject such ideas because such ideas aren't found in the book of Revelation--they frustrate me to no end. Don't go there Matt, if God would have meant us to fly he would have given us wings. A church member smirking, rolling their eyes because they know the Bible doesn't mention space men or cloning. Don't stray too far from the faith, they'll say. I don’t think there are any limits on the imagination while living a life in Christ. He didn't give us wings but he did give us a burning curiosity and an almost uncontrollable imagination, the tools used to lift us off the ground.

God laughs at earthly wisdom, I've been told. I seriously doubt it! I think God is up there in the clouds looking down, tapping his foot, drinking a glass of wine while bobbing his head to the rythm of the harps and horns--the angelic jazz, "Yes, Yes!" His voice rings, getting higher and higher, almost in song. “They've finally turned over that stone after all these millennium, eh? Good for them, I can't wait till they find the next surprise." says God.

(Dad, this is not about you, our conversation just got me thinking. You are one of the wise ones!)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Not All Galaxians Are Created Equal--For Good Reason

Against too many writers of science fiction

Why did you lure us on like this,
Light-year on light-year, through the abyss,
Building (as though we cared for size!)
Empires that cover galaxies
If at the journey's end we find
The same old stuff we left behind,
Well-worn Tellurian stories of
Crooks, spies, conspirators, or love,
Whose setting might as well have been
The Bronx, Montmartre, or Bedinal Green?

Why should I leave this green-floored cell,
Roofed with blue air, in which we dwell,
Unless, outside its guarded gates,
Long, long desired, the Unearthly waits
Strangeness that moves us more than fear,
Beauty that stabs with tingling spear,
Or Wonder, laying on one's heart
That finger-tip at which we start
As if some thought too swift and shy
For reason's grasp had just gone by?

CS Lewis

Yes. Yes. Lewis, thank you for keeping me endlessly fascinated. After I read this, I got to thinking: Why should extra terrestrials be anything like us? As creatures from an alien world with vastly different environmental condition, is it even possible for them to be similar enough to us that we could relate to them? What exactly are humans? So with the real possibility of boring my audience, I’d like to explore my thoughts on these questions.

Let me start with the assumption that humans have two main parts, spirit and body. This is not a particularly obvious fact and doesn’t fit the materialist world view, but I am not a materialist.

These two parts, spirit (or mind) and body, produce different byproducts. The body is nourished with food and water and oxygen. It is a factory that consumes raw material and turns it into energy. Without energy our bodies eventually break down and die. The byproduct of the body then is energetic: mobility and sensory. The spirit likewise produces byproducts; mind states that are emotional in nature. The healthy spirit produces happiness and love; the unhealthy spirit dies in despair and hate. So these two substances, spirit and body, produce very different byproducts; byproducts of a fundamentally different nature. But they also work together. Healthy spirits produce healthy bodies and vis-versa.

So we have two substances, and they interact with each other, but what interacts with them? Is there anything else besides mind and body? The physical environment interacts with the body which in turn shapes the spirit. This is evolution--the physical part anyway--nature. But there is also nurture; the interaction between individual spirits, people talking, loving, voting, collaborating, etc. The most popular belief is that there is a little bit of nature and nurture mechanisms acting upon the spirit-body machine. As far as evolutionist and the materialist are concerned however, the environment, nature, natural selection is the main mechanism driving evolution on this planet.

If nature is the main mechanism then we can expect extraterrestrials from vastly different environments to look and behave very different from us. They may be larger or smaller, have more limbs or less limbs, a heart or no heart…a completely different physiology from our own. A creature living on a gas giant will evolve very different bodies from our own, having different demands for mobility and sensory perception. How then will those bodies shape the spirit if in fact aliens do have spirits.

For me, nature is important, but not the most important. Whether scientifically supported or not, the spirit is the more important of the dual substances. When our body dies our spirit lives. So, nurturing the spirit is the essential point of life. This isn’t that hard to believe really. Anyone who calls for world peace or for social awareness or more charity in the world is actually appealing for spiritual changes in the human creature. And spiritual change does effect how bodies interact with each other. Just look at how Christianity has changed human culture, human evolution; instead of survival of the fittest, the new creed became, love your neighbor as yourself. This allowed for all sorts of leaps in social evolution. We live in a better world because of it.

So what I propose is turning the materialist model upside down. That nurture is the driving force in evolution not nature. That ideas, concepts of the mind are what are really what is changing us. Howard Bloom calls these memes.

God (yes the G-word) has certain characteristics to his being such as Love. God is Love, we say. Love is a spiritual gene. While feeling a spiritual love, we experience physiological phenomena: lightness, tingling, heart fluttering, stomach aching. It’s as if God built us so that we may experience an aspect of Him. We are Loving Machines.

Now what if God is Love, but he is a bunch of other things too, like say, Evol (a word I just made up). So, God has this other great attribute that is just as great as love but we are built in such away physically that we can’t perceive this other thing. I guess what I’m getting at is, God may be like a spectrum, like the light spectrum. We can’t see Microwaves but we can see visible light. Now when humans try and wrap their mind around God they bump into a wall. He is just to big. We are only able to gather so much about God because our minds, our spirits, are built like our eyes are built: to see only a small part of the light spectrum.

Extraterrestrials perhaps have bodies that process different information all together and therefore have spirits that are shaped differently than ours. Perhaps their spirits are able to see the spiritual equivalent of microwaves, Evol. Two species experiencing different aspects of God. What would happen if we met such creatures? It might be much like a bat describing the world seen through his sonar to a man. We would have no frame of reference for such a thing because we do not have a sonar part of the brain.

So to wrap this dribble up let me restate what I’ve tried to say. Aliens and humans are probably built very differently from each other physically due to very different environmental conditions. But surely if you are a theist like myself, you would expect that even if extraterrestrials and humans could not talk about physiological phenomena such as the fluttering of butterflies in the stomach when experiencing love, that surely they would be able to understand universal spiritual truths such as God is Love. But no not so fast. How could they possibly know what love is when they are entirely different spirit-body machines? That is why I say that they might not grasp Love but would know Evol. If this is the case then God is a spectrum and not a point. And this is why it is difficult for us to understand the nature of God, we were built to enjoy a part of the spectrum. We are Love Machines and perhaps in the afterlife we’ll be given a gift: the ability to experience the full God spectrum in it’s completeness.

Ok, I’m going to publish this against my better judgment.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Tropical Daydreams

It's cold and wet outside. I'm in the office writing an email about love and aliens and the moods of God. Maybe I'm putting too much thought into to this email. I hear a buzz and a few beeps from the fax line behind me. A fax!

I spin in my chair and pluck the paper, still warm from the magic of the faxing process, out of the tray and read, “Disney World Vacation!” It looks like Walt Disney himself just wrote it with a dripping cartoon paint brush. I read further: Only $99 per person. 1st 50 reservations only! Call now!

Oh man, somewhere tropical sounds great.

Me and Donald duck sipping sodas under palm trees while discussing life as a sailor. Later, I have a wide open grin, my heart tickled by gravity as I plummet 30 stories over a water fall in a hollowed out log. Hurray! I'm buying cotton candy from a man in a hat made of straw wearing a pastel pink shirt and pearl tooth smile. At night, under the stars, Snow White and I dance under the stars on a white sand beach while the dwarfs cook us mushroom burgers on the patio BBQ. A dwarf cousin—Punchy--shows up with tequila, cranberry juice and a blender full of ice. We party all night and I wake up with a splitting headache, not next to Snow White, but Dopey, who after a moment of reflection, recollect that he got all trashed and cornered me, dumping his problems at my feet and then after a guilt trip, convinced me to give him a back rub and then…I shudder.

Oh well, one hour till long weekend. Who needs Disneyland anyhow?

I crumple up the fax and pitch it in the waste basket.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

What a Good Book

It is slow in the office and I have managed to hide in my book and have just now finished it. The book is Through Painted Deserts, by Donald Miller. It is a simple book and I have enjoyed that about it. And now that I am done with it I am searching around for someone to talk to about it, but nobody is in the office. Let me share this passage with you. It is at the end of the book and it sums up what he, Don, has learned on this road trip across the country in an old VW bus.

I think I would sum it up this way: life is not a story about me, but it is being told to me, and I can be glad of that. I think that is the why of life and, in fact, the why of this ancient faith I am caught up in: to enjoy God. The stars were created to dazzle us, like a love letter; light itself is just a metaphor, something that exists outside of time, made up of what seems like nothing, infinite in its power, something that can be experienced but not understood, like God. Relationships between men and women indicate something of the nature of God—that He is relational, that He feels love and loss. It’s all metaphor, and the story is about us; it’s about all of us who God made, and God Himself, just enjoying each other. It strikes me how far the commercials are from this reality, how deadly they are, perhaps. Months ago I would have told you life was about doing, about jumping through religious hoops, about impressing other people, and my actions would have told you this is done by buying possessions or keeping a good image or going to church. I don’t believe that anymore. I think we are supposed to stand in deserts and marvel at how the sun rises. I think we are supposed to sleep in meadows and watch stars dart across space and time. I think we are supposed to love our friends and introduce people to the story, to the peaceful, calming why of life. I think life is spirituality.

I saw Donald Miller speak on Western’s campus last month and I can’t tell you how “empowering” (hey, the feminist shouldn’t be the only one’s allowed to use that word) it was to hear someone finally say something sane. Check out his books if you get a chance. He is young and a Christian and very funny.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


It takes a butt-load of cash to be an environmentalist. I had about thirty minutes of free time this afternoon to get my laundry up to the mat. With time as a variable, I was slightly peeved to discover that my brother had jacked my detergent. I could walk down to the Grocery Outlet and pick up a barrel of Tide for thirty five cents like usual but that would really be cutting it close. I had to be back to work in twenty eight minutes. The Food Co-Op is the closest place and my only alternative. So I walked the two blocks downtown to the hippy Mecca of the city.

I walked in, greeted by hairy people, then past the pesto, the olives, the free range chicken, the organic pomegranates, the sticks of myrrh incense, finally arriving at the soap isle. “WTF!” I said through my teeth so that only me and the few near by granola crunchers could hear. A gallon of environmentally friendly laundry soap: $17.99! I don’t even think my wardrobe is worth eighteen bucks. No way. What’s the cheapest deal here? 12.99 for the half gallon, 8.59 for the powder. Ah ok, $4.65. I grab it and go. For that much I could have gotten an oil tanker to deliver a ton of the Outlet stuff directly to my door, maybe even hire a servant to do my laundry but like I’ve said, I was fighting time. I stood in line looking sadly at what I was about to purchase, a container the size of a twenty once bottle of Seven-Up with a very blaan label.

On the walk home I studied the ingredients. Number one: salt water. Number two: plant extract for scent.
Where was the ethyl alcohol or the ammonia ethanol--you know, the stuff that’ll sterilize the f@#k out of your clothes making you feel serene and android fresh.

At the laundry mat, I read the label to see how much of the stuff I should use. One teaspoon , it tells me. One teaspoon of salt water is going to clean my clothes? I think not. I poured half the bottle in and chuckled.

Damn hippies.