Archive for March, 2011

Selling Apps by Cabbage Heads

Friday, March 25th, 2011

This week Apple Computer is both my hero and my enemy. They removed from their store an application from Exodus, the church group who, against all modern rational thought, pursues their bigoted agenda of “curing” people of their homosexuality.

I abhor this action, because I find censorship deplorable. I do consider this censorship even though it is not a government action because Apple has a captive audience and has declared that even though their users own general purpose computing devices, only the general purposes that Apple approves of will be allowed to run on those devices. However, since Apple has declared themselves the arbiters of iOS applications, has set themselves forward as the gatekeepers of decency, disallowing applications on moral as well as other grounds, then I applaud them for having the guts to stand up to Exodus, to tell these “holier-than-thou” hooligans that their brand of bigotry, masked though it is in the sheep’s clothing of “helping” those who wish to overcome their innate nature, is not acceptable, is not moral, and will not be sold in Apple’s store.

I mean, I’d much rather see hateful intolerance and persecution, which is what Exodus is, be banned than simple pornography, but if Apple is going to ban the porn, than I’m glad they’re also banning the bigots.

So the world is made both a little worse and a little better. Another week passes by.

I asked God if I should pray for the Exodus members, if I should ask her to help them to see the light, but she told me not to bother. She said that anyone who could base so much of their world view on such a selective reading of the ramblings of some old priests and prophets who were mostly worried about keeping their “flock” in line so that they wouldn’t have to actually work for a living, well, anyone that could close their mind that much to rational thought was not likely to have it pried open with anything short of the prayer equivalent of a nuclear missile. She told me it was probably best for me to just ignore them. After all, that’s what she does.

Again and Again

Friday, March 18th, 2011

We all have our rituals. Yesterday it was time for one of mine. It was St. Patrick’s Day. Every year on St. Paddy’s day I boil up some corned beef and cabbage. With potatoes. It’s simple food but it connects me to my childhood and makes me feel good.

I asked God if it was okay that I engage in rituals while putting down religion, when really most of what religion is about these days is practicing their ancient rituals. He said it was okay. He said the rituals aren’t the problem, either with me or with them, the problem is thinking that your rituals are better than the other guy’s, just because they’re yours.

“Just because they’re yours?” I asked. He told me that was key. He said that most people are born into their religion but then defend it, at least in their own minds, as fervently as if they had invented it. There’s nothing wrong with having rituals, but if you want to think that they’re better than everyone else’s, you’d better find something by which to measure that. If my ritual involved the torture of small children and your ritual involves eating marshmallows until you vomit, well, neither of those are very good, but I think you can find some pretty solid arguments why torturing kids is the worst of the two. On the other hand, if my ritual is eating corned beef and cabbage with a chaser of Irish whiskey and your’s is eating a small piece of bread that you pretend is the flesh of your god, with a chaser of wine that you pretend is his blood… Well, it’s pretty hard to say that either of those is better than the other.

So if you’re not hurting anyone, do what makes you happy. Just don’t forget that the map is not the territory, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and the ritual is not the reality.

Time to Think

Friday, March 11th, 2011

There are times when our intuition gets ahead of our cognition. I say that as someone who very highly values cognition. In fact, anyone who’s had more than a few conversations with me may be prone to say that I value it too much. I make demands on the people I talk to. I make them define their terms. I call them on it when they use the wrong word. I correct people’s grammar; to the point where I’ve often been accused of correcting every little mistake, which hurts because I know how very many mistakes I note but let go by unremarked upon.

But for all of that, I know that for most people there’s an awful lot, probably even a majority, of their thought processes that do not happen at the cognitive level. The subconscious mind is a powerful and tireless worker. I’m fairly certain the main reason we need sleep and not just rest is because the subconscious has so much to do that sometimes, maybe even the better part of a third of the time, it needs to take over, it needs to have full command of our over-sized brains, needs to put all of that marvelous gray-matter to the tasks that it deems important, in the meantime letting our petty foibles and concerns be damned. Sometimes the subconscious doesn’t have time to put all its toys away when it gets done, sometimes we get a glimpse of the things that it’s filing away or pulling out for another look. We call those glimpses “dreams.”

I tried talking to God about this, but she told me to give it a rest. I’ve kept pushing; I bring it up every now and again, but she always pushes back. One time I did get her to admit that dreams are a sore point with her. It seems she used to use people’s dreams as a way to talk to them without having to go all corporeal, but apparently these conversations just got mixed up with all the sick things that were going on in some of the dreams and this led to a lot of the Old Testament, things that people are still fixating on even after she managed to get all that peace and love stuff into the New Testament and told them that that was the important stuff. But let’s face it, even Hollywood has figured out that the majority of us pay a lot more attention to things that hurt than to things that are nice. Still, I keep holding out hope for us. And so does God.

This Must Be the Reason

Friday, March 4th, 2011

When I left work today I didn’t walk the same path that I take ninety-nine percent of the time. I turned instead to wend my way between the high rises in a narrower walkway over which the buildings hulk like squatting giants. It’s not any longer a route, but it’s less open, less free, and offers fewer options.

When I reached the street a woman came up to me, excused herself, and then quickly asked me if I knew the location of a particular bar, which, presumably, she was trying to find. As it happens, the bar in question is right across from my office building, and I pass right across the street from it whenever I leave my building the way that I normally leave my building. I directed her around the corner and gave her what further instructions she would need.

As I continued on my way I said, “So that’s why I didn’t go the way I normally do. So that I could be in the right place to help out this stranger.” God immediately bapped me on top of my head and told me to stop that. He says that’s one of the most annoying things about us humans; we want so much for there to be reasons for things, for there to be purpose to our lives, that we readily grab onto anything and everything to build up coherent stories in our minds, to explain away the randomness of it all, to give it meaning. At the extremes we even build conspiracies from commonalities and conflate causation with coincidence.

God would like us all to just take a deep breath and get over it. He points out that not just sometimes, but most of the time, things just happen. In the immortal words of Rosanne Rosannadanna, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” It’s not a question of “is something coincidental going to happen to you,” it’s just a question of when, how often, and will you even notice. So don’t worry about the number 23, don’t care that its digits add up to 5, and whatever you do, don’t be bothered by the fnords.