‘If you walk a mile in another man’s shoes, you can experience the world as he does.’ There is a truth to this old quip of wisdom. It can be a piece of wisdom that rests in the soul and helps us to understand each other without constantly being in conflict with the entire world. This part has allowed large groups of people collect under certain ideals with a collective understanding. For example, in the United States, each state has its own ideals, while all look to the national ideals of patriotism and democracy. However, in each state, these national ideals hold different meanings and priorities. It is strength to be made of so many ideas, yet the nation needs to be aware of the dangers. A single spark could ignite the entire powder keg.
We cling to the ideas that we are able to understand another’s points of view, but our references for the experience return to the subjective points. As hard as one might try, it is impossible to actually taste or smell as another does. The sights and sensations are quite different for each of us. The basis of our conscious mind to grasp these stimuli and the experience that each will bring must have a reference. So, it is common to pull from one’s own experiences and thoughts, but one can use the gift of imagination to find the true sense. In other words, the validity of the objective experience weakens against the subjective.
It is this very notion that we are all unique creatures placed on this planet as part of the complex system known as Nature. Yet, with our individuality, we each try to connect with others in order to remain involved in the system. It is this conflict of community and individuality that has returned to the surface. In thoughtfulness of this conflict, one can draw from their lives to construct the evidence to support one side or the other.
This particular conflict has a way of opening the eyes and minds of those who are within and outside of it. Caught in the battleground, it is difficult just to see what is around a person. It is immediately the priority of this warrior to survive and find a way to resolve the struggle. Each moment is another chance for that resolution. This experience can either lead to the disillusion of the ideals held by the warrior or alter the perceptions about the other side. The conflict has a manner of giving the individual the necessary thoughts for a new path.
A quarrel of the community can be similar in the means of survival and resolution, but the group has the ideals around which the people assemble. As the war rumbles on into history, these groups are touched by losses and experiences given to them vicariously from members who survived. Yet, the community holds steady to their ideals until the bitter end. It is difficult to alter the entire group, but they can recover with deeper understanding. The collective becomes stronger by its parts surviving with knowledge.
Back to the quip, one can see that the wisdom is attempting to construct a solid bridge between the sides. It wants to force the self-examination while pushing the view to remain objective. Within this context, the conflict can begin to create the third option that continues to elude our pursuit. There remains no easy path to the answer, so the search must continue and the struggle must never stop.
With this thought, society has a way of holding true to the ideals that brought them together. From the earliest times in our world’s history, men have found various ideals to promote in their community as well as with each individual. Take the ideal of immortality, various myths and legends incite us with the idea that a being can be free of the natural concerns of time. Gilgamesh sought the secrets of immortality in order to give his kingdom stability with him as its ruler. The story follows his trials and successes, but the pursuit of this prize cost him the greatest friend that he would ever have. His failure to achieve this goal did not fail to help his community. They learned a valuable lesson that such quests will lead to destruction for the individual, but the community gained the knowledge. However, Gilgamesh did achieve his prize as his name has lived on.
Essentially, there is a balance that can be found in the two sides of our world thinking with individuality and community, but both sides will have to pay the price. In this, there is hope that the future will provide us with that third option and remove the price tag.
I have been spending a lot of time focusing on the effects that various religious thought has had on my life. Originally, I had given into the belief systems of those around me. This had lasted for so long that I nearly lost myself. Eventually, I resurfaced and realized that I needed the skills to keep me from drowning. This was the effect of those early years which turned into a cause. Yet, as I picked my way through the matters of the doctrines and dogma, I soon felt the stones being tied to my legs. This was beginning to pull me down into the depths.
I soon discovered that it was my choice to continue on this path or alter my direction. It was my choice based on free will, so I took that step. This became a turning point. I took some time to reflect on that moment. I came to remember it as the epiphany of my religious understanding. The moment did not stop my search for the answers or fulfill my need to know more. I did not want to sink further into the mire. Instead, I was given freedom from the oppression and continued on my own path.
As I did this, I grew interested in finding others who could understand what it was that I had discovered. I knew that my spouse was with me after having a similar experience in relation to religious beliefs. Yet, I wanted to know if anyone else had come to some of the same conclusions. The search for this person or group of people was for the purpose to discuss and refine the thoughts and theories. I found something that surprised me.
The first moment that I found a group was one day when I was revising some points on my Facebook page. The religious views drop-down menu had many options, but I never expected to find Free-thinker or Hard core non-theist, but non-atheist. I never did care for such labels because no one should be put in a box unless they choose it. As I reviewed the options, I discovered what I thought was a typo. I had read much about Rastafarians, but I had no clue to what a Pastafarian was. I was soon to learn more about it because of that little drop-down menu.
In 2005, I found the answers to this new question. Pastafarians are the followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster who is the creator of the universe and pirates. The movement essentially was created in a simple response from an Oregon undergrad in 2003 to an incident in Kansas. His letter was to the State’s Board of Education. It was their intention to teach Creationism as part of the science classes. Creationism would be taught as a theory along with Evolution. This letter was a request for them to also teach his theory on the creation of the universe by a pile of noodles with a pair of meatballs. It was a voice that expressed satire for this decision while designing a curious point for people to gather and discuss their ideas about the world and the universe.
Around this point, the ideas grew until the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was founded and formal religious texts were set down. The ceremonies and holidays were established including September 19. This day came from a curious legend in modern society. It was International Talk Like a Pirate Day. The tone for this group of Pastafarians was set and the battle was on. Satire was soon questioned by those of other faiths and the words started to fly.
Of course, I was not interested in the battles as much as I was eager to find others who had seen some of the ridiculous contradictions of the religions. This was not a desire to gang up and make fun of them, but it became a deeper exploration of others’ experiences. I was completely fascinated and quickly identified with them. Perhaps I was more excited to have other minds to bounce ideas off. Either way, I had found something to share and acknowledged this following in my religious views.
So, I would like to invite anyone interested in a different point of view that is not out to strike aggressively at other beliefs to check out the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This discovery is not the end of the search for answers, but a way station for general fellowship. I belief that we all should take a moment to question what is told to us. We should all strive to experience and to understand our own beliefs.
It is a curious and disturbing situation when one reads in the news some of the activities about protests and assembled groups. Whether it is the Occupy crowds that filled several cities across the country or the gathering protestors in Chicago during the NATO meetings, these events have me wondering about the very heart of our right to free speech and how it can quickly be turned against us by those with the power.
I believe that the freedom of speech is one of the many rights gained over time that has truly allowed us to take back some of the power that leaders have claimed. Power of the leader rests on the fact that the followers have given this person power. Once it is given, the leader, for ill or good, must keep the followers believing in that leadership. Free speech is a vehicle for the followers to reclaim their place in this process. If something needed to be brought to the attention of the followers, anyone could speak without fear of retaliation. I wonder if perhaps we are losing this taproot to the finely honed axe of those in power.
As I was sitting down to write this, I had a curious thought about my own right of free speech. I had promised to complete this little run about the First Amendment and its different parts. It was my intent to relate some our current political debates to this amendment. However, during my quick research of free speech, I came across some points on the decisions of SCOTUS and their view of matters.
There are few items that I discovered on the history of this Amendment. It was left virtual idle for a centuries before it gained further definition and it was not until the twentieth century that this began in the Court. For example, in the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 were enacted in order to define acts against the government in the form of insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States; or in the form of disloyal, scurrilous or abusive language against the government. For the Espionage Act, the phrase “clear and present danger” has been the center of the challenges against this law. While it is stated that no case has tested the Sedition Act, so I ponder if we should be concerned.
Over the past century, several different events have tested the free speech rights. These may include a single individual to the political side and associated groups. The rights to let your opinion be heard have become slowly sliced and defined. The idea that one can speak their mind in the manner of burning the Flag comes to mind as a test. Does this act represent a protest against the government and its affiliates? Does this act find protection under the rights of free speech? So far this idea has been protected by these rights, but an amendment has been proposed to give the Flag protection from such acts.
Another area that has become a turning point in this debate is the decision from the Court to give an expansion of political speech rights to corporations and unions, as noted in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010. Essentially, this case supported the continuation of recognizing corporations as people, but it extended the political influence beyond the normal rights for a citizen to donate to a particular campaign. The part that relates to freedom of speech is that this case confirms that a corporation or union has the right to use its money to voice support for a political campaign. It has been this case which led to the formations of these entities known as super PACs. Privacy and anonymity for the donors has give these groups a path to donate limitless funds into a treasury that is separate of the campaign, but used to speak for the candidate.
With all of this and some of the other things that I didn’t mention that includes private actions and freedom of the press, we all need to take a moment to consider a few of these things so we are informed. As informed citizens, we can avoid stepping into situations that the rights are not protected or where it can be tested. For me, this has become a point of great concern as with any blog, the author is putting out an opinion that someone might construe as a private act of libel. In addition, a recent law passed in one state has concluded that online speech against another may be punishable. It is labeled as an anti-bully law, but the language is broad enough that it can include any words written in an online format.
Personally, I am not concerned that I will say anything so inflammatory, but in the event that I do, I want to know that my rights are not being regulated to a vote from a small group that has claimed power. I have a right to say what I need to as one of the followers. Many have sacrificed their lives to protect my rights and I owe them everything to make sure that sacrifice was not in vain.
As children, we look to our parents as guides and mentors. When we have an issue or question, we seek them for guidance through suggestions or aid in resolution. Parents who find a way to give their children this raising are among those that have done their job for the next generation. Providing shelter and nutrition is a given, but the molding of their children is the most important part of being a parent. It is our only path to immortality.
For me, my parents split shortly after my fifth birthday, so their influence on my life was quite divided. On top of this, a couple of step parents were introduced into the mix, so the ingredients were multiplied. However, I lived with my father and his new wife, which was uncommon in those days. My mother had rights to my sister and me, but for her own reasons, we only saw her on the occasional weekend.
My sister and I were raised in the environment of my father and his new wife and we learned that the worship of God was a central part of our lives. It was in a Protestant fashion as my father sought to find the right church for the fellowship that worked for him. So, many churches are tested and attended over the years until we settled into a church that was somewhat disconnected from the denominations of the Evangelical churches.
This affected my first twenty years as the doctrines were often the same in those congregations, but I found subtle differences. It was the practice in one church that only members were allowed communion. Or to become a member, baptism had to occur in that building. Another church worshiped without music or musical accompaniment, so the songs were sung a cappella. Different spotlights were focused on various details in order to support these doctrinal differences. It was often very confusing.
I attempted to satisfy the wishes of others in their beliefs and accepted what they were preaching, but my young mind was twisted in the labyrinth of hedges which were filled with thorns. As I have stated before, my hometown’s hierarchy was based on the particular church that one attended, so those doctrines became the structure of the town and its social context. I was left with an understanding of each as I had attended several. I had even reached the point when I was baptized six separate times. All this understanding should have left me with an advantage in such a construct, but it only worked to isolate me further.
At a later point, I will dive back into the idea of how these different views and doctrines left some scars that I continue to try to heal. For now, the primary purpose is to reflect on the swirl of so many different doctrines at a time when most are focused on a single system. In my father’s search for the right group, I became the beneficiary of a treasure trove of knowledge from many sources on the subject of doctrines. Of course, at the time, I was just a struggling teenager looking for a path toward a productive future. Headstrong and stubborn, I stumbled through high school as the awkward nerd with a few memorable moments of friends.
By the time I had reached the age of twenty, I was lost. I had no idea of what to believe, what to follow, or what doctrine was right. I began my search. I decided that the first twenty years would be the collection years and the next twenty would be the search for my own way. I stopped going to church. I left my faith in that institution behind. This turning point was marked by lost friends and connections that left because I would not join their church. My importance to them ended with my rejection of inclusion into their social group. I intended to use the next twenty years to find my own truths.
Those years are nearly over. The clutter of so many doctrines created in me a drive to find the answers. I entered college with the intent to become an engineer or perhaps a graphic designer. However, I had a chance to take a few religion courses in those first years. I thought that maybe I could find some truths in the histories of the different doctrines. By the time that I completed my degree, I had taken to the past with so much fervor that I earned a degree in Classical Humanities with a minor in Comparative Religions. I had learned the sources of the material and I feel that I am closer to the answers.
In fact, with the last year of my twenty year quest before me, I have actually started to touch upon the other religions of the world. I have come to learn more about the faith systems outside the Judeo-Christian based systems. Now the question is: Am I satisfied with the knowledge? No. I will continue to search, find, and acquire all that I can about these matters. The formulation of my own heart’s beliefs is nearly complete and I plan to share it with others.
Recently, the Secretary of State for the great state of Arizona decided to put forth a request, which he states is a wish of his constituents, for the president to prove that he is a natural born citizen. It was only a year ago that Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona, vetoed a bill that came to her desk with this same language. That bill and this request have wording that explains that without this prove or other forms that will prove his citizenship he will not appear on the ballot in the state of Arizona. As the chief elections official, this man has the power to put this forth. If he succeeds, the residents of Arizona will likely be unable to vote in favor of the incumbent President in November.
This was reported in the news on a Friday. It was done on a Friday so that it would be lost in the weekend news and no one would notice. A common tactic used by those that wish to give bad news or bad ideas a chance to slip by the public eye. It also seems that this guy is attempting to push the governor a little as they will be rivals in 2014 for the governorship. All in all, this action places an unnecessary situation on the state of Arizona.
First, let me say that the idea the President has been able to gain public office on several levels without any red flags raised on his citizenship is crazy. These Birther conspiracies hold about as much water as a bucket with holes. The bureaucratic system would have found some discrepancy long before he was elected Senator of Illinois. It is incredible that this matter continues to surface after so many attempts have been made to quash it. I am pretty sure that in my experience it is difficult for anyone to get a social security card or driver’s license without a legal birth certificate. I also don’t believe that he or his mother would have been in a position to influence anyone to forge such documents. It is outrageous and pointless to continue the debate.
So, why do I bring this up if my mind is already set? Couple things come to my thoughts. First, we need to see past our “Pavlovian Conditioning” when it comes to the media. Most of us have the understanding that if you have the media throwing a flashing graphic at us as if they may have something important to say. However, we would do well to ponder what they are really attempting to do with all of these flashing, brightly-colored words and attention-gaining sound effects.
In the age of the 24 hour news cycle, it takes some extraordinary measures to pull our attention to a specific news story. The news channels have found great success with the response that the masses give when it comes to the effects. Yet, when we look, it is often a repeated story or a story that is filler. The repeats can be seen as important to those that might have missed it earlier in the day, but it has lost its significance in the redundancy. As for the filler, in a world of channels that produce 24 hours of news, they have to keep the eyes on them at all times. It is the same as a man crying fire in the theater. After a while, no one will be paying attention when there is an important story that does affect us.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that all this is terrible, but it has made some of us hesitant to look up from what we are focused on. A second thought comes to the front. Are we being manipulated with these methods? Are we being dulled by the constant bombardment of news stories that hold little importance so that the essential news is buried? We are left ignorant of the truth because we cannot see the trees for the forest. The fog of news does not allow us to see what is on the road before us. If we are ignorant of the facts or the truth of a story, then we are likely to become intolerant of other news that contradicts. It is our civic duty to see beyond the headlines and flashing graphics. To have an opinion, we all need to seek what is lying behind the stories and confirm the reports.
It is our way to become more cognizant and hold more liberality. Do not let the media mislead with their methods. Use the media as any scholar might. Find many sources to compare and confirm their words so that you can have an educated opinion. Better to have that than to just spill out the talking points of a single source. Become a more informed citizen or we might end up without the very rights that our people has fought and died for.
Can this country and its states just take a step back for a moment? We are a country of many people and many thoughts. Our forefathers came here to have a freedom of religion. They did not seek to sail over the waves and risk their families just to set up a new home where they would be ruled by someone else’s religious rules. These ancestors were the ones that helped establish our country as a place where freedom rings true under the premise that all men are created equal. They are the very people that wrote the Constitution and sacrificed their lives to see that it would become the ruling government of our country.
Yet, today, we have groups and parties that cry out that they are in full support of this document while stripping away rights and privileges based solely on religious beliefs. They have initiated laws that will deny a group’s equal rights because their lifestyle is considered sinful by these lawmakers’ religious affiliations. In other words, the government of the state or states in favor of these laws has established their religion as the preference of the government.
The rights of a woman’s health or the rights of gay marriage are under attack by many legislatures in the states. A few states have even passed laws that deny gay marriage or established the judgment of when life begins. One particular law has been passed in Arizona with the side effect that some forms of contraception are now considered illegal. This set a point when life begins. In this case, it is set at the last day of the woman’s most recent menstruation. This is actually the day that is used to determine the due date of the pregnancy. So, life begins before conception. I think my head started hurting when I heard this. This will make the forms of contraception that regulate the body illegal. To me, this entire law is just a way for the states to sidestep Roe v. Wade decision.
Another law has even stepped into the work place and will allow the business to request medical information of the employee to determine whether health insurance will cover contraception. Arizona has decided to give rights to businesses to determine if their employee insurance will cover birth control used by the employees. It gives the employer the right to ask the employee for the details and deny them coverage if they are using it for any reason outside medical ones. This caused me to do a double-take. We have people making decisions on medical cover who have no medical certification. These matters are starting to just get out of control.
Here is my question to the states and the federal government: Why are you using all this energy to create new laws to circumvent settled laws and to usurp personal rights when it should be used to create a better environment for economic recovery and growth? In my opinion, our elected representatives are focused on an agenda that distracts the public with these unnecessary laws while the true needs of our country become a political tagline in a speech. No one is moving on this during an election year, but they were not moving on it before that.
One additional point on this entire subject is the desire for some politicians to push government into the medical rights of a woman while men’s rights are not touched. Whether one agrees with the entire idea of abortion, the thought that the group clamoring for regulation of women’s health is the same group that speak of pulling the government out of everyone’s lives. The hypocrisy is often more than I can truly handle. Of course, the other side of the aisle has their moments of complete hypocrisy also.
So to wrap up, we need to stop the push for women’s rights over their own bodies to be regulated. If your reasons for wanting control over the woman’s reproductive rights are because your religious doctrine has created the belief that woman have no right to end their pregnancy for any reason, I suggest that you try to remember that women are no longer second class citizens to be ruled over by a patriarchal system. This is America and we have changed. Perhaps this religious doctrine needs to have a reexamination. However, if your reasons for wanting the control are your own insecurities over your lack of control, it is definitely time to make some changes.