Wednesday, May 25, 2011

This is the End. No, THIS is the End. No, Wait ...

Yeah, I know I should have posted stuff here a long time ago …

… but the world was supposed to end, and I have a rather large bucket list!

Boiling down the events of the past months into one cynical sentence, “An 89 year old head of a multi-million dollar radio station played on the beliefs and fears of people, used their millions of dollars of THEIR money to advance his agenda, failed to take responsibility for his failure, and now is doing it again!” Recap article is here.

Nothing is more irritating (for me) than having to sit through lunatic rantings and ravings about the end times. Never have enjoyed it, and never will. I’ve often wondered why I get so upset at cult leaders like the nutcase over at Family Radio (No, this time the world is REALLY going to end! … unless we made a mistake in our super secret math formulas. Again.) . I mean, I feel compassion towards the members, because it’s easy to fall under the spell of a charismatic person who seems to have all the answers, especially when times are tough and a person’s sense of self-worth may not be that high. But for the leaders, there is nothing but contempt in my heart.

Was I feeling more in a pirate-y mood, I’d make a comment about keelhauling or flogging or rendering into shark bait, but I’m not there today. Today I’m sitting at work with too much time on my hands and not enough things going on to make the day go by. Yeah, it’s great where I work … when there’s stuff to do. But when the doctor is on vacation, and the patients aren’t coming in and keeping me occupied, I get grumpy. And that’s what today is like.

So instead I’m wondering why people get wrapped up in this sort of end times hysteria. You would think that the whole Y2K thing would have convinced us that belief in that sort of thing is misguided, at best. We’ve done this so many times, after all. I remember hearing about Nostradamus when I was a teen. He supposedly predicted the end back in the 80s. Then it was the 90s with another group. Camping did it, too. Then I saw Pat Robertson of 700 Club fame say it was going to be 2000 (of course, he said this during one of his telethons, which didn’t lend him much credibility!). Now this. Don’t even get me started on the December 21, 2012 Mayan prediction!

So why? Why do people go for this type of thing? Why are people so eager to buy into a belief system that predicts an imminent end to the world, even after being fooled again, and again, and again …?

The only idea that I’ve been able to come up with is that if a prediction is coupled with a benefit – as in this case with the rapture preceding the destruction of the world – then it’s seen as a good thing by a certain segment of society. I saw somewhere that the baby boomers and older generations, basically those who have already experienced a lot that life has to offer, are generally liking this whole belief system. The younger bunch, especially the children of the rapture lovers, aren’t feeling it, because there’s still life to be lived.

This leads me to believe that the love of the apocalypse is essentially a suicide by proxy wish. People want to stop the pain that comes with everyday existence. It hurts to deal with relationships, careers, bills, getting older, health problems, and everything else that goes with living. We all have this desire to flee pain and move towards pleasure, however fleeting. With the belief that life will end, but people will live forever in paradise, one gets to wish for death without any of the negatives of harboring suicidal thoughts or desires. Since most religions tend to discourage, if not outright prohibit, suicide, there’s a cognitive disconnect that comes when a religious person gets weary of the pain. Looking forward to an imminent end of days brought on by a returning messiah takes care of that disconnect, and offers a way out of suffering.

I had a conversation with One Ring a couple of days ago during which I wondered what Christianity would look like if we could remove all the end times stuff. Get rid of Revelation; get rid of the chapters of Daniel that depict the end. Just wipe the Bible clean of all thoughts of an end, and get people to focus on the work that needs to be done in the here and now. You know, all that feed to hungry, house the homeless, visit the prisoner stuff. What would happen if we scrubbed the place clean of all it and focused on, I don’t know, the stuff that Jesus TAUGHT us to do?
But, of course I remembered that the guy himself was an apocalyptic teacher, as was John the Baptist before him. The Judeo-Christian tradition is rife with people who lived in horrible times, preaching that surely things were so bad that God would intervene and clean the mess up. I’m not sure what we would get if we removed that tradition, and kept the rest. I’m sure it would be wonderful, but would it still be Christian?

If it is not, and I suspect that removing the apocalyptic would render Christianity into a sort of quasi Unitarian Universalist faith, then is there any way it can be moderated? Is there any way we can help protect the vulnerable from being taken for a ride by Camping, Robertson, and their ilk? Is there any way, without becoming heavy handed and theocratic, that people can speak up and say, “No! It’s not the end! Go back to your lives and stop sending money to these morons!”

I hope so. ‘cause this is getting really old and is starting to give faith and religion a bad name.

Read more!

Monday, May 9, 2011

False Start on the Great Tattoo Adventure

Well, the great tattoo adventure didn’t go as planned. Tigger and Pooh have been visiting us for the last week, and the plan was for Pooh and I to go to the tattoo shop on Friday afternoon to get my long anticipated ink. I spent part of my lunch break playing around with MS Paint, tweaking the design and getting more and more psyched about the adventure. I’m not sure why I was getting so into this new thing. Maybe because it was an experience I had never had, and might never have again. Maybe because it was a way to rebel and do something absolutely foolish. Maybe because I’m trying to recapture some youth. At any rate, I was having fun, and as soon as I got done with a presentation to a bunch of supervisor trainees, I raced home and got ready.

The shop was right around the corner for my house, so getting there didn’t take long. When we walked in, the strong odor of cheap incense smacked us full in the face. I don’t mind incense; I medidated at the Tibetan Buddhist temple in Nashville and they used the stuff by the pound. But this was cheap, and my head soon developed a pretty nice headache. We looked around while waiting for the clerk to wait on us. The walls were wood panel, and decorated with random bits of cheap kitsch meant to convey a menacing tone. Ceremonial daggers, skulls, etc. Normally I like the goth stuff, especially in the fall and winter months. But this was haphazard and tacky. And dingy. When I'm thinking of having needles and my skin meet, the last thing I want to worry about is how dirty everything is! Strike two.

Strike three came when the artist came out to meet us. I showed him the design I had chosen months, perhaps even years, ago – a simple enso that I wanted shaded blue and looking like a watercolor painting. The guy apologized and said that he only did black tattoos – line art and lettering only. He hated to do color, he added, and recommended that I come back on Tuesday to meet the color artist. Pooh and I left, and I felt a little dejected. Putting things in a Buddhist context, I was clinging to the idea of getting a tattoo with Pooh, and when this plan went awry, suffering ensued.

So off we went to the other nearby shop I had scoped out online. Btw, for future reference, if you are ever checking tattoo places out, visit in person. Pictures never convey the whole vibe of a place, nor does a picture of a smiling dude holding a needle tell whether or not the guy knows what he’s doing.
Second place had a line and only one tattoo artist. He told us to call Saturday around 3 to see if he could squeeze us in. This wasn’t doable by our schedule, so off we went again.

So now I’m sitting here at work, without the tattoo I had told everyone I was getting. Not the end of the world, but disappointing nonetheless. One Ring suggested I call up a shop in downtown Nashville that is also an art gallery. The tattoos they have on display on their website are absolutely stunning. They don’t open until 1 though, so I’m going to have to wait to call and see if they have openings for this weekend. I imagine that they are in high demand, so I’m not getting my hopes up too much. I’m also still playing with the design, so it’s probably for the best that I didn’t get it done. If there’s one thing I don’t want, it’s regret for the next forty years of my life or an expensive laser removal treatment!

As I look back on this weekend, with the disappointment and irritation brought by derailing of my tattoo adventure, I realize just how far I need to go on this journey of controlling my ego and my desires as well as developing mindfulness. The fact that my mood went sour for the rest of the day, even though I recognized the reasons behind it (cravings, etc.), shows me that I’m not as far along as I want to be. Of course, even that statement shows that I have desires about my spiritual and psychological development, which brings even more suffering. Sheesh.
Oh, well. Life goes on. If there wasn’t progress to be made, and learning and growth to be done, I guess there wouldn’t be much in life that was exciting! I suppose that where I am, tattoo or no, is where I am, and what happens, happens, and it is what it is. Or something like that.

I’ll try to post more later, as developments occur.

Read more!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tattoo Time!

I have an appointment to get the long discussed, long planned, probably ill conceived tattoo today. Yes, it will involve the ocean. Yes, it will involve Zen. Hopefully, it won't suck!

Pictures to follow.

P.S. And yes, I know it has been several weeks since I last updated. This will change. Stuffs be happening!

Read more!