Friday, July 26, 2013

Running a marathon for families with autism

 I'm super excited to announce that I'm in training for my first ever marathon.  I'll be running the Melbourne Marathon on October 13 2013, and I'm using the event to raise money for an amazing organization that financially helps parents of children with autism--Loving Autism.

I'm blogging about running and autism at my shiny new blog, RunningandAutism.blogspot.com.  Check it out!

If you want to donate to my marathon fundraiser, you can click here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

FSMparent

Conceptualized in a conversation with Ahona today: FSMparent. It's like a Godparent, only twice as awesome. A person who is to take an interest in the skeptical, wonder-filled raising of a child. Hurrah!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Water into wine


My friend Steve Bell has not given me permission to publish this perfect thing he wrote:

I don't know if you're a talker by nature. I'm not particularly. Sure, I can do it, but the truth is, I can do it better once I've had a drink or two. On this day, I'd had a few. Enough to settle the nerves, and not enough to say anything regrettable on such an important occasion: my youngest brother's only daughter's wedding, where I was most honoured to be the Master of Ceremonies for young Lilah, and her groom.

Her new husband, Andrew, is a good man. I'm most pleased for them both, though not a little worried about their security, as Andrew has left his trade to follow this emerging Rabbi, Jesus. Of course, Andrew and Lil invited them all. But the numbers were as expected, and no-one quite knows how the unthinkable happened: We were, quite literally, wringing the wineskins. Thankfully, I was one of the first to know, and I'd done my utmost to steer the guests' attentions to activities other than drinking. But soon enough, the inevitable was unavoidable: Andrew and Lil, still blissfully unaware, were soon to begin their ever-after ashamed: they were to fail at providing for their guests. All custom and tradition called for them to be shamed, ostracized, and held low as an example to ensure such poor hosting would not happen again, and I, as the Master of Ceremonies, was to announce this news.

What happened next happened out of my sight; not difficult to achieve in my 73rd year. But I've pieced together in the last few days what took place: Mary, the mother of the Rabbi, who was helping with kitchen duties, called her son quietly to the entryway, and together they discussed Andrew's predicament, the news of which was slowly spreading amongst those present. In the entry stood several wash-jars, now empty, and it was these that were quickly filled from the spring. To be honest, I'd hoped beyond hope that more wine would materialize from someone's home nearby, and when I was presented at the head table with a mug of water drawn directly from one of these jars, heads began to turn to see how I would approach what needed to be done.

Murmur descended to silence, and I drew that deep breath that one draws when one needs to think very deeply, very quickly. As slowly as I could manage, I turned to look for Jesus, for some hint or clue as to where he was going with this. I found him standing with crossed feet beside a pale Lil, his left arm around her shoulder, and his right holding a mug. With the tiniest of flourishes, Mary leaned over and filled the mug with wash-jar spring water.

He blinked slowly. The corner of his mouth crept up. He raised his own mug towards me with that across-the-room 'cheers' - took a gulp, and nodded to me to follow.

I understood the choice was mine. I drank. I stared into my cup. Raising my eyes, I started to scan the room of guests, regarding every pair of eyes. The choice was all of ours.

"This wine", I declared emphatically, "Is the best wine you will ever taste. Whether you can enjoy it now is for you to decide".

Slowly then, a true miracle took place. Almost all of the guests felt it, as we sat together enjoying that cool spring water. Together we chose humanity, we chose grace, and we put people before our traditions.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

hyper young earth creationism

 I noticed today that google returns zero results for the exact phrase of the title of this post, which is unacceptable.  So I'm posting about it to fix this.

  First off, to put it in context, a word about normal young earth creationism.  Young earth creationism, as I understand it, is the belief that the earth and more generally the whole universe were created by God approximately 6000 years ago in its present form.  This view, promoted by groups like the Institute for Creation Research, sometimes (often) posits that God created the earth with the *appearance* of age, so that for instance, light from stars that are billions of light years away has already reached us.  Etc. For further details see the wiki article

  As you may know, I am a Pastafarian--that is, an adherent of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM). As such, I believe that the FSM created the universe. However, a few years ago I departed from FSM orthodoxy (if there is such a thing) and decided to embrace a hyperbolic version of young earth creationism which posits that the FSM created the universe sometimes in the last 3 seconds.  All the back story which we have as memories, and so forth, were all placed there by the FSM to give the appearance of an age greater than 3 seconds.

  I find this belief enormously empowering. I should point out that I believe that this belief, like all beliefs, is entirely make believe.  It's arbitrarily chosen. I've chosen it and have been quite easily able to accumulate evidence for it since that choice. I believe that this is how all believes are in actual fact chosen--first the choice, then the accumulation of evidence, never vice versa.  This latter belief is also of course entirely arbitrary/make-believe. =).

Hope that explains it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Dialogue

So why do I always have these reactions to all these things that people post on memorial day every year?

What specifically are you reacting to, Benjamin?

Well, for instance, people keep posting this poster on facebook that has a picture of a military graveyard, with a young lady lying face down in front of one of the graves, and the caption says something like "In case you thought it was national barbecue day".  I feel grumpy in response to that?

Why do you feel grumpy, Benjamin?

Well, I feel like we're just perpetuating this lie, that joining the military is a great idea, honorable, blah blah blah, and part of the lie is that if you join the military, and you die, that's honorable and powerful and wonderful. And also this lie that somehow our side is right and the other side is wrong, that our pursuit of so called "justice" is good and honorable, but the others' pursuit of their so called "justice" is total bullshit.  It comes out in the whole nuclear weapons non-proliferation thing.  Like OMFSM it's so bad for "them" to have or try to get nuclear weapons, but it's really good and excellent for "us" to have nuclear weapons, even though we are the only ones who ever deployed them, and that was against civilian populations. etc. etc. etc.

So given that you believe that this poster is somehow perpetuating this belief that you see as a lie, why are you grumpy about that, Benjamin?

I think I feel really angry because OMFSM now I'm gonna cry.  I feel angry and sad that people told this lie so much that it ended up meaning that my dad bought into that, at least to the extent that he didn't really believe he had any other option when he was drafted into the military in the mid-60's, and the repercussions of that are so horrible for him. I mean he's had such huge amounts of pain in his body, almost overwhelming pain, because of his exposure to Agent Orange and lots of other stuff, not to mention basically untreated post traumatic stress disorder for decades and thus also depression and I could go on.

Given that your dad has experienced these things that you are describing, why do you feel sad and angry in response?

Well, it's this.  I see that the whole culture carries on about it being honorable, etc. etc., and the end result is that young people, people who are young now like my dad was back then, choose to join the military, and no one tells them the truth, about PTSD, and what blood and death and destruction and war are really like up close and personal.  I'm thinking of my young second cousin who I believe recently joined the military, for instance.  This poster is telling him this lie, and there are real consequences for him in the future.

So Benjamin why do you believe that you are better suited to make decisions for your 2nd cousin that he is?  or do you believe that?

No. Of course I don't believe that. I'm talking about the reality of systems.  Haven't your read Zimbardo?  Can't be a sweet cucumber in a vinegar barrel.  Or at least ... most people can't.

Why do you believe that?

Well, I don't believe that.  it's more like ... I believe most people CAN, but it's fairly clear that most people DON'T.  But ... if we can drain the vinegar and maybe put in some oil, then the cucumbers will be more likely to stay fresh.

Okay.  So given that most people DON'T stay sweet pickles in a vinegar barrel, and to whatever extent you're dad got pickled, and maybe your 2nd cousin will get pickled, why are you angry and sad in response to posters which call for honoring pickled people?

You ask hard questions.  I think sometimes I'm the only one, or one of the very very few, who is saying "HEY, WHAT THE FUCK?  WE NEED TO DRAIN THIS DAMNED VINEGAR OUT OF THE FUCKING BARREL, BEFORE WE PICKLE ANY MORE SWEET CUCUMBERS!".  I think I'm angry that other people seem to just be kind of passively accepting that people get pickled, and pretending to remember.  They're not REALLY remembering. They're not memorializing what actually happened.  They're memorializing some sugar coated fantasy about what happened, in order to prevent facing the painful reality of what happened. And fair enough.  But in doing that, they're consenting to have it happen again and again and again and again.  Like the poster is missing a level.  Yes, fair enough, let's not turn memorial day into BBQ weekend and forget about people dying in war.  But there's another level of forgetting. Let's not turn memorial day into some glorified bullshit remembrance of glory or honor.  Let's allow ourselves to actually see and understand what war is really like, and remember that.  The thing is, the whole apparatus is designed to make sure that doesn't happen, so that those benefitting under the current system can continue to do so.

(Fuck this.  I need a real dialogue partner.  I'm totally stuck for a question.  sigh. Why is it so much easier to listen to someone else well than to listen to oneself well?  I lose track of the themes and such, for which I would normally be listening out, while I'm talking.  Hmmmmmm.  Okay.  pretend the dialogue started right now.  here goes.)

So Benjamin, how come you're angry about this situation you described?

'Cause I have judgements about the stuff that's happened to my dad. And I don't want that stuff to happen to my cousin.

What specifically is your judgement about what's happened to your dad?

I think it sucks that he is suffering so much as a result of things about which he didn't really have a choice.

I know this might sound like a strange question, Benjamin--but I ask it sincerely.  Why do you think it sucks that your dad is suffering?

'Cause I want him to not be suffering.

Okay--I totally hear you on that.  But I want to suggest that these are completely different things--not wanting your dad to suffer, and judging his suffering as sucky.  So given that you want him not to suffer, why do you judge his suffering as bad?

Teehee.  okay.  what if I judge his suffering as perfect?  That feels slightly relaxing.  Now I'm afraid that other people will judge me for judging my dad's suffering as perfect--that they'll think I'm a cruel horrible son for thinking that.

Whom are you afraid will judge you for that, Benjamin?

Couple people come to mind.  My Aunt Carol, and my Aunt Sarah, among others. Okay, I'm going to take over the questions for a minute =).  The question is:  .... Actually, when I think about specific people, as I contemplate them one by one, I don't really believe any of them will judge me for deciding to believe my dad's suffering is perfect.  It's more some vague aggregate who will do that.  Okay, actually no one about whose opinion I really care will judge me for that.

So how is this decision to believe your dad's suffering is perfect related to your reactions against people posting this poster about memorial day on facebook?

Wow.  So is my dad's suffering is perfect, then maybe all suffering by everyone involved in any way on any side of any war past or future is perfect.  that sounds like somewhat inflated optimism right there.  Okay, that reminds me of something that always makes me giggle.  There is no scenario better than the one that will happen.  So ... if that's the case, then it is impossible for all these people posting all this subtly pro violence memorial day stuff to lead to a scenario that's less than optimal.  Which means that I can go for what I want in terms of an optimal scenario without having to feel angry or sad since an optimal scenario is inevitable.  That feels kind of delicious.

Do you feel finished with that?

Yeah, I think I do =).  thanks! =)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Unspokens, and my mum's birthday

  Today would have been, I'm pretty sure, my mum's 61st birthday.  She died in June 2008 after a 3 year battle with ovarian cancer.

  During my growing up years, people used to gather in our family home on Wednesday evenings for Bible study and prayer time.  There would be ~8 to 20 people gathered in our living room.  Part of the ritual was that people shared prayer requests.  Often, during this time, people would say "I have an unspoken".  That meant they wanted folks to pray for something about which they wanted prayer but about which they did not want to share any details or specifics, not so much as the general topic or anything.

  Later, someone would be appointed to lead off the praying, and someone else to close it out, when a sufficiently long pause had developed.  Between these two, others in the group would pray.  Some people would pray for what seemed like a very long time. My mum was sometimes one of the latter.  You could tell when my mum was really engaged in her praying in these groups, as she would revert from her Seattle accent back to the Boston accent of her youth. She'd sometimes catch herself doing that, and feel very self conscious about it.

  During all this praying, usually the unspokens would get mentioned: "Father, I lift up to you Sue's unspoken request.  And also Brother Ady's unspoken". etc.

  I didn't realize it at the time, but I bet lots of people had lots of unspoken guesses about what other people's unspokens were. My mum was a very private person, and I think that probably most unspoken guesses about her unspokens were probably way off target. But I could be wrong.