a personal note … moving!

Hi, all, if anybody’s reading.

I haven’t been blogging lately because I’m a bit distracted for some personal reasons.  I’m probably going to be moving soon.

Trying to figure out where to live in a way that’s consistent with my values is really, really hard right now.  Maybe I’ll write more about that later.

Have a good day, all.



Since when is “reality TV” more important than reality?

Last night I was at a restaurant and there was a TV playing silently one of the major cable news stations and as I glanced up at it every couple of minutes (because, well, I’m well trained to look at a TV screen if there’s one there), I couldn’t help but notice that (not exaggerating) about 75% of the time the thing being discussed was something related to “reality TV,” and the issue that was being covered at great, great length was an incident on “The Bachelor” in which one of the contestants said that she’d act like a bimbo (even though the general public thinks she’s not because she has a college degree) in order to get the guy’s attention.

Now, I think that there are a lot of really, really important issues wrapped up in this that I would be happy if folks would seriously discuss, such as gender roles, society’s views of women, intelligence, and higher education.

However, it makes me really, really, really sad that the issue is only raised in the national consciousness when it’s on one of the cheaply-produced, lurid, base and uncreative TV shows that get mislabeled as “reality” by the media networks that air them.  All one has to do to become aware of the issues of gender, intelligence, and education is, you know, talk to people, read a real newspaper, look around the world.  In short:   FUCKING LIVE!!!!  OPEN YOUR FUCKING EYES, PEOPLE!!!!!

Why is reality more real when it’s on “reality TV?”  Is our society so blind that they can’t see that intelligent women put on a bimbo act everywhere, every day, and it only merits discussion when a woman on a nationally-viewed show explicitly says she plans to do it?

Makes me want to smash my TV and live among the Amish or in a pre-industrial area where there is no “reality TV.”  Not really, but it’s a nice escape fantasy.

the irrelevance of “abomination”

A few days ago I wrote a post called “The Joys of Self-Damnation” which featured a quote from Rabbi Rami Shapiro.  After posting it, I felt inspired to see what information I could find on the man and through some googling found out he’s involved in a number of cool things, one of which is spiritually progressive web site called Holy Rascals and a tied in radio show, “How to Be a Holy Rascal.”

I’ve since downloaded and listened to a few episodes and have been impressed with it.  Rami is funny and deep and his guests are interesting to listen to.

In one of the recent episodes, Rami was interviewing Rabbi Debra Kolodny, a bisexual female Rabbi who’s working to move progressively-minded Jewish congregations past being welcoming of LGPTQ folks and toward celebrating sexual diversity, an effort that I applaud although as a non-Jew my opinion is probably not of interest.  At one point she quoted the verse in the Torah (Leviticus 18:22) that says in my preferred translation, The Inclusive Bible, “Do not lie with a person of the same sex in the same way as you would lie with a person of the opposite sex; this is detestable.”   In more traditional translations, the verse only addresses men engaged in homosexuality and uses the word “abomination” instead of “detestable.”

Rabbi Debra claimed that the Hebrew word translated “abomination” or “detestable” really means “a foreign religious practice that is prohibited to us,” and therefore must have been referring to a ceremony or fertility rite or something that was happening in the region that involved men having sexual relations with each other and therefore does not speak to the kind of homosexuality we have today in which people of the same gender will have a home together and possibly a family.  It’s an interesting argument, but not entirely compelling to me for two reasons.

First of all, in the context of ancient middle-eastern culture, a prohibition against same-gender eroticism would fit too well contextually.  A crap-ton of the laws attributed to Moses are there to maximize reproduction among the Israelites.  Men having multiple wives, the prohibition of sexual relations during menstruation, and many other laws, including the prohibition of homosexuality, would serve to ensure that people were having lots of the kinds of sex that could result in a pregnancy.  I can’t buy it that the only kind of same-gender eroticism that was prohibited was that occurring in the context of a religious ceremony.

And second, and more importantly, I just don’t hold the kind of faith where I have to read the scriptures in such a way that in no place do they ever explicitly prohibit the things I think are acceptable.  I love the scriptures, but I’m comfortable (usually) reading it as a document of how groups of people in the past constructed an image of God and tried to live in a way that was consistent with their beliefs.  I do believe that the ancient Israelites prohibited homosexuality, and I don’t believe that that means that those who esteem their writings highly need to adhere to the same prohibition.

So, while I can appreciate the interesting take on the verse in question advanced by Rabbi Debra, to me it’s irrelevant.  Still, I applaud the work she does, even if it’s from a distance, over here in my little Christian world.

And I plan to continue to listen to downloads of “How to Be a Holy Rascal.”  Good stuff.

Happy 40th Birthday, Ramones!

A couple weeks ago the preacher at the church I was attending quoted theologian Karl Barth as having said “The angels listen to Bach, but God listens to Mozart.”  That may have been true when Barth said it, but that’s only because it was before January 10, 1974 when four angsty young New Yorkers donning black leather jackets and shaggy hair decided to become the Ramones!

Now that Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee have moved on from this life, I can’t help but believe that the heavenly host and all three persons of the Trinity are all doing the pogo in a much more awesome Heaven!

There’s a shit-ton of debate out there about the significance of the Ramones in the history of popular music and culture such as if they were the first punk band and so forth.  I don’t intend to weigh in on that as I don’t really have facts and research to say anything authoritatively (although whenever people say “So-and-so was the first musician/group of this or that genre” I think it’s really, really, really silly).  But I will write a few sentences about what the Ramones mean for me.

I find the Ramones boldness to be quite inspiring.  They were four guys without a lot of musical training or technical ability, but they were passionate as can be.  They wrote music that was a huge departure from the wanky orchestral rock that was being churned out at the time by bands like Styx and Elton John, and rejected all the silly theatrical special effects that were being used by Kiss and David Bowie.  Having decided not to be all that stuff, what were the Ramones?

Four guys playing catchy, aggressive songs in dimly-lit smoky basement clubs like CBGB.  They might not have had any pyrotechnics, but they got people out of their seats and restored to rock and roll the element that had been sorely missing for years at the time: FUN!  Rock had lost its sense of fun and was taking itself too damn seriously!  Thank God for the Ramones!!!!

And, when I was a teenager and heard “Blitzkrieg Bop” for the first time, I knew I’d discovered something special.  I had been listening to all the shitty California punk that was popular in the 90’s, but it always felt a little uninspired.  The Ramones changed all that, and I saw that there was a whole lot more to punk rock than I’d been aware of.

And so, I say again, Happy Birthday, Ramones!  I hope someday to be rocking out to you in a heavenly mosh pit!

The Joys of Self-Damnation

In the October 2010 Issue of Ode magazine, Rabbi Rami said the following in his article “Standing Barefoot Before God: The Agony and Ecstasy of Writing as a Spiritual Practice”:

Being damned is quite liberating.  That’s why the saved fear the damned, and why they damn them in the first place.  Salvation, as too many of us imagine it, is ultimate conformity to one or another system of belief or behavior, while the damned are those who insist upon living outside that system.  Authentic spiritual practice–disciplines that don’t merely mirror the imagined world of any given system of thought, but shatter the mirror to see what is on its own terms–is about living outside the system, any system.

Good God, what a wonderful quote!

I first read that article several years ago because I was into spiritual journal writing at the time and still do it here and there, but found that that single paragraph transcended the rest of the piece in its wisdom, universal applicability, and irreverence!

You see, I find that I am among the damned in so many fields because I’m too fucking jaded to accept orthodoxy as anything other than the oppressive views of the majority.  I am a sort of a Christian, but because I don’t give a flying fuck about most matters of doctrine most religiously-minded folks throw me into the theological outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of metaphysical teeth.  As an anarchist I don’t completely reject religion, and therefore I might not be taken seriously by some radicals, again finding myself damned.

A few months ago, I was involved in a church that practiced a sacramental form of Christianity and in which most clergy are not paid for their work, but have to support themselves some other way.  I was encouraged to pursue priesthood and I even took a minor order that was bestowed upon me by the bishop for the USA of the denomination.  I later left that denomination for a lot of reasons, way too many to outline here, but among them was the fact that the hierarchical structure in which the clergy have to operate was, in the end, too restrictive and just a pain in the ass.  I resolved that, if I were to pursue being any kind of religious teacher or leader, it would be as a damned person, a man who operates outside of the rigid boundaries of what that denomination defined as orthodox.  And since then, it’s been so nice to not worry about what that rightwing Masonic douchebag bishop thinks.

As Rabbi Rami said in the quote above, it is freeing to be damned.  I don’t care what the Christian authorities say about my theology or what the anarchist gurus say about my views.  Fuck ’em all.

Perhaps we should start a kind of a “Church of the Damned.”  Hmmmm….  sounds way too much like the title of a horror movie.

reactions to Crimethinc’s The Ex-Worker Holiday Special

Warning: You should probably know that when I blog, I sometimes try and write well-crafted and carefully structured essays, and other times I just spew my thoughts into a big fucking mess.  This post is in the later category.

Preamble: Since Crimethinc started podcasting, I’ve listened to it almost every time and would encourage other folks with anarchist leanings to do the same.  They always summarize anarchist struggles and actions, which is helpful for a person like me who gets discouraged at the thought of being alone in their beliefs of freedom and equality.  They also usually do a good job of examining issues of importance to anarchists through commentary, interviews, and historical summary.  Past issues have looked at environmentalism, facism, and squatting.  Whether or not I agree with the particular statement they’re making, I can usually respect the place they’re coming from and am enriched by their criticism.

Preamble over.  The latest episode of Crimethinc’s “The Ex-Worker” was a completely anti-religious holiday special.  If you feel like it, check it out here: http://crimethinc.com/podcast/15/

Toward the beginning of the episode, they give the following definition of religion from the Crimethinc Contradictionary:

Etymologically speaking, hierarchy means “rule by the sacred.”  In theory, religion is not necessarily oppressive.  One could hold, as certain revolutionary heretics have, that everyone and everything is sacred.  In practice, the only religions that survived the rise of empires were the ones that were willing to make themselves accomplices to conquest and colonization, not to mention the ones leading the charge.

They then summarize a history of anarchist opposition to religion, complete with relevant quotes from all the greatest anarchist writers.  It concluded with a commentary by the two podcasters, Clara and Alanis.

I have a crap-ton of reactions to the content of the podcast.  Way more than could fit into a blog entry of reasonable length (even though I doubt anybody’s reading), so I’ll just outline a few of them.

The most valuable portion of the podcast was the history piece in the middle, definitely makes the whole podcast worth listening to.

The commentary by Clara and Alanis was interesting.  They did concede that many devout Christians have also been dedicated anarchists and done good work, including Tolstoy, Dorothy Day, and some of the early IWW organizers.  Ultimately, however, they dismiss it because of the view they generally see among religious folks regarding authority.  As anarchists, they say, a person is their own authority and should not look to any scriptures, traditions, or institutions.

This view is interesting and makes for good rhetoric, but I consider it to be simplistic and absolutist.  They state that scriptures are a mirror in which the viewer sees affirmation of whatever views they want to see.  Christian anarchists find scriptures that justify their views, Liberationists find some to support a Marxist views, right-wing Americans think the Bible tells them to bomb abortion clinics and speak highly of a fictionalized version of Reagan, and the vast majority just don’t give a fuck about any of it.  This is true, but offers the possibility of meaningful dialogue with the hope of resolution, whereas the only future I can see for an individualistic view of authority supported by the podcasters can only lead to eternal fighting.  It’s a problem we both have to solve.

I’m going to wrap this up by looking at the definition of religion they quoted at the beginning.  As they say, religion is not necessarily oppressive, but the long-lasting ones become parts of empire.  I hope to be part of a non-oppressive religion, knowing fully that this means that nothing I contribute to it will last.  It will be wiped out, but that’s OK.

What do you all think?  Leave a comment if you feel like it.

Merry Christmas, if that’s your thing!

Hi, readers.  If there is in fact anybody reading this.

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a good one today.  If you don’t, I hope it’s a good day all the same.

I’m working on a post that’s inspired by some thoughts I’ve had in response to Crimethinc’s latest episode of their podcast.  This episode’s all about anarchism’s opposition to religion.  Very timely.

Later, everybody.

“wonderful as vertigo”

Hello, dear friends.  Thanks for stopping by.

Why the hell am I here writing this?  Shit, I don’t know.

I’m currently re-reading the long poem Altazor by Vicente Huidobro.  It’s a rather confusing epic about a person (or maybe an angel) named Altazor journeying by parachute, discovering new worlds and experiences that completely destroy any attempt to describe them.  It’s unclear whether they’re falling to the earth or out into space, and it doesn’t really matter, because it’s a fantastic poem that I highly recommend.  In the preface, Huidobro invites us along with the following lines (translated from Spanish by Eliot Weinberger):

Here’s your parachute, Man, wonderful as vertigo.

Here’s your parachute, Poet, wonderful as the charms of the chasm.

Here’s your parachute, Magician, that one word of yours can transform into a parashot, wonderful as the lightning bolt that wants to blind the creator.

What are you waiting for?

I’m writing this blog because I am a Christian, although I find myself in a state of doubt more frequently than in that of belief.  However, there is such hope in the story of the Infinite becoming a human being in order to experience, teach and redeem I can’t help but want it to be true, and the examples given by folks who’ve believed in that story like Saint Francis of Assissi, Gustavo Gutierrez, and Dorothy Day are also inspiring.

I’m writing because as an anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist, I believe in freedom and equality.

I’m writing because I believe that a strong (though perhaps unorthodox) Christian faith can be compatible with anarchist ideas and that there is an expression of Christianity that is other than the hateful varieties that are over-represented on TV and talk radio and among elected officials.

I’m writing because stuff happens to me and thoughts occur to me, and I currently don’t have any other place to share them.

Most of all, I’m writing because I have a parachute, and although I’m scared as all fuck I’m gonna jump.  Does anybody want to take this parachute journey with me?