Archive | June 2012

Enjoy Life! Not Zombies!

For several years, I have been faced with a few matters that cause me a shiver. The shiver is due to my lack of knowledge on the subject and to the focus that some have on the topic.  This topic is the zombie apocalyptic scenario. Popular culture does many things to enhance the mindset on the matter through movies and games.  It is even to the point when some see the beginnings of it in the action of crazy people under an overpass. I was even shocked to hear that a few city governments have begun practicing zombie apocalypse preparedness drills.  I don’t discount the idea of preparing for all emergencies, but I hesitate to idly sit back and wait for inner fears become reality.

The mind of a people can easily buy into the hysteria of an idea or event becoming real. It is to the point that it can become reality if enough believe it.  I am more frightened by those that believe this can happen than the actual event occurring.  Fear and superstition have caused some of the greatest catastrophes in our history. The Black Plague was allowed to flourish because of fear and superstition over cats, which could have killed the rats that carried the fleas that passed the disease to humans.  Even in the modern times, we are still a susceptible group.

I am not saying that zombies are impossible.  I do believe that all life can be altered and the human mind could be overwhelmed by a disease that induces such a state. My desire is to simply remind that hype and hysteria have a way of paving the road to these disasters.  One might even begin to believe that they are a zombie in the same way that people claim to be vampires.  The psychology of the matter can be related to other examples, but we should never allow this to make us board up the windows and start seeing things that are not there.

As a nerd, I have many friends that are into the appreciation of zombie genre.  They have movies, books, and games.  I have listened to them speak of their hypothetical preparedness drill.  It is entertaining to hear the vivid details as people attempt to avoid all contact with the creatures and have a large cache of weapons for defense.  I often laugh and shake my head.  I don’t enjoy the genre and never will, but these friends are entertaining.

I am reminded of a quote from Wil Wheaton on a webshow called 4-Points.  His plan, which mimics my own, is if the event happens, he will simply fling himself into the middle of them rather than wait the inevitable.  A bit nihilistic, but he touches on a good point.  The struggles of the human mind can achieve great things for the world, but against the overwhelming decision of Nature, there is no winning against it.

Or it could be that the possibilities of a zombie apocalypse are nil and we should focus our energies on the constructive ways of life.  There is little gain from planning the end of the world.  Embrace what you have and make the world better.

crudus animus


What a Bunch of Babel!

One of the many common points in the histories and cultures of the world is the shared stories. Tales of great deluges, first cities, and immensely powerful deities tie together a familiar touch to us all. It is possible that such things were brought forward by the inheritors to help connect with masses in the inevitable conversion of the conquered people. The example of such a tale comes in the form of the breaking of a single people into many. Normally, this is told as a myth of the powers above confusing the languages and sending the people to the edges of the map.

A familiar telling of this comes in the Hebrew Bible. It is called the Tower of Babel and it has some significance to the history of the world that followed.  I searched for the exact wording in Genesis 11:1-9 via Revised Standard Version in English from the website:

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

a.    Genesis 11:9 Babel sounds like the Hebrew for confused

As a scholar of religious histories, this story intrigued me.  First, it seems to be an editing error in Genesis. The chapter before it is about the genealogies from Adam to Noah and two of his sons.  Chapter 11 starts with this passage in verses 1-9, and then verse ten begins with continued genealogies from Shem to Abram.  However, with a bit of background work, I learned that some of the common problems with the version that we have of the Hebrew Bible are due to fact that scribes would make mistakes or try to fix mistakes from the last rewrite.  Over time, the mistakes would not be recognized as such and remain. It is also clear that the Hebrew Bible version in our time survived from the Exile period.

So it seems out of context for the words around it.  With that thought, I looked solely at this tale and began to ask myself what the purpose of this tale is.  According to most explanations of this and some of the other similar stories where the deities confuse the language and break up the unity of the people, it is described as a moment when the hubris of people attempting to place themselves on the same level as the deities or it is a moment when the deities fear the people remaining united.
In the Greek myths, Zeus is always searching for a way to keep the people dependent on the gods so they don’t become obsolete.  His act of breaking up the languages comes as he realizes that he cannot be the ruler of Earth.  He passes this to a mortal king and breaks up the languages to confuse them.  Josephus, first century CE Jewish historian, describes the tale as a moment of hubris when the people of Shinar under the rule of Nimrod defy God and build a tower.  His reading a lot more into the Chapter 10 under the Priestly tradition as verse 6 refers to Nimrod ruling over Babel.  As Nimrod is a descendant of Ham also known as the cursed Canaan, Josephus makes the connection to support doctrine of the cursed line defying God.

Now, one theory is that this story is just an example of etiology. It is meant to apply a particular cause to an event which, in this tale, is blamed on the deities.  I tend to agree with this tendency of the primitive cultures that did not have much in the way of science to explain the world around them.  It is also helps support some of the stories that come with the culture especially for the ones that claim to be the source culture from which all others spring.  

So, this leads me to a question still dangling before me like a carrot.  If it was the plan of God or the gods to keep man from rising above their place in the universe because we are a threat, is this the reason that the religions that are based on these old stories continue to battle against a common form of communication that speaks with a universal language?  This universal language is science and it does not remain confined to the need for shared languages.  It is understood no matter the culture or language group.

It is my thought that scientific theories and methods that come to question the very faith-based systems and mythologies are rejected by certain members of those faiths because of this challenge.  My thought is based on Chapter 11 verse 6.  An example is the conflict between the Theory of Evolution and the tales of the Creation.  Is this battle over the conflict of evidence versus faith or is it a conflict of science being a universal language that defies God once again?  Let me know what you think.

crudus animus

Some Things Are Better Left Alone

Recently, I had a long discussion with a friend about something that I try to avoid with new acquaintances.  It does leave a bad taste if it goes terrible. That topic was politics.  Specifically, we were discussing government assistance, entitlement, and the corporate state of the United States. These things start with an innocent comment from one side which demands a response.  Silence would be acceptance at that point.

I had to chuckle at myself later as it was a reaction to speak out in opposition of the statement. Essentially, the comment was about the numerous entitlement programs that the federal government has and the burden that they have become on the system. It is almost to the point that it will soon collapse. Entitlement programs in this sense were government assistance to the poor and unemployed in the form of cash and food assistance. This is a reasonable statement to a certain point of view.

A society of entitlement created by this can start to weigh heavily on the government. It is understandable to those that feel that their taxes from hard work should not be entirely given to those that are not contributing to society in a productive manner. There is nothing wrong with this ideal.  It has a pearl of wisdom to it. It is the civic duty of a citizen to become productive.  However, some are incapable of working the productive jobs and others cannot find the productive jobs that pay.  We will come back to this point in a moment.

Now, my reaction to the statement was almost knee-jerk. It is my belief that if someone wants to bring a balance to the system then it must happen on both sides of the argument. So, I simply stated that if the government was hoping to find the path of cutting entitlement programs, then it should look to the corporate subsidies such as the ones which oil companies and military contractors benefit from. I simply think that if one wants to cut the assistance to the poor, then it should be cut to the corporations and the rich also.

Of course, it was not my intention to start a long discussion about the fiscal policies of the country.  However, I learned a few new things about my fairly new friends. For one, it was quite apparent that the side of the political argument that they had chosen was the libertarian stance on fiscal issues. Essentially, they would like to see a wide-open free market system without government regulations.  Not my description, it is my friend’s.

With such an open market approach, we would likely revert back to a robber baron era. Such a time was lucrative for the rich and corporate executives, but the gap between the rich and the poor would widen so much that the middle class falls into the abyss and never seen again.  The country would find the current economic times to be the edge of that drop.  Our military prowess would be nothing against the economic stranglehold that other countries would have over us.

Now, back to the point earlier about the productive citizen, there are those unable to work and we, as a country, own it to our veterans, seniors, and disabled citizens to help with their needs.  As for those that are unemployed and unable to find the productive job, it is difficult to explain to those that feel their taxes are working to help those who are seen as lazy, unmotivated, or perhaps even drug-addled. It is this misconception that is offensive to the unemployed who fell out of a job because of the economic times.  These same times include huge corporations which are drowning in money from record profits.  These groups are the job creators as it is stated by certain parties.  So it begs the question as to what is truly causing the unemployment. Is it the assistance for the poor and these necessary programs?  Is it the unmotivated masses that live day to day or is it these huge corporations who have the greatest profits of the modern era which have not created more jobs with the money that they have collected?

It is time for someone to step free of the system of money ruling the government and turn back to the true roots of citizenship. We need a fresh voice that will answer these questions and stick to it with integrity.  In the end, find the cognizance and liberality for the problems and find the courage to stand your ground.

crudus animus

A Play At the Storyteller

Over the last week, I have been considering the direction of this blog.  I still want to explore the depths of knowledge on the subject of religious history and political thinking. I have much to say still in those arenas, but I think that to keep them fresh that I should occasionally drop in a topic of my nerdy side. Most of the time, I take on topics that seem so serious.  It is my dream to try to connect the thoughts of the human race back to the same source.  We are all humans after all.

So, let’s turn to my nerdy side. It is the tendency of the young to stand at the first years of adulthood with the idea that they have all the answers and all the energy to change the world. They look to make these changes based on their own thoughts of how the world really should be run.  Such dreams are had, but soon the world wakes them up to the reality.  My question is what happens when they avoid reality and never wake from this dream. I imagine that these are the people who find a way to make great leaps forward for mankind.  They do not listen to the world and find a way to see their dreams come true.

My dreams as a young adult were to have a simple thing. All I wanted was respect. I did not demand it, but I wanted to earn it from my peers, colleagues, and acquaintances. So, I set off on my journey.  It was a quest that I felt would be very difficult but not so out of reach.  Reality hit me in the face, so I had to find another route. I needed to outsmart and outmaneuver reality.  I set my sights on the idea that I would find a way to write a story that was worthy of reading.

I found the creative spark early. As a boy and teenager, I studied the techniques of oil painting and drawing.  Most of my sketches were portraits and still lifes and the oils were landscapes.  My teacher was an older lady who traded my help with making frames and cleaning the studio for the lessons.  My artistic energies were satisfied each Saturday afternoon.  I wanted to create the best art that I could.  I wanted to make her proud.  The one thing that all this taught me was that I was capable of creative thinking.

As life in high school became busy, the Saturday afternoons were not available and I left the studio.  I visited on occasion, but mostly, I stopped it for a few years. However, I filled my creative time with the art of telling stories for my friends.  I could entertain them with various stories during our role playing.  I had the chance to tell the tales, create the characters, and bring them all an understanding of the heroic saga.

Once the lazy days of the teen years were gone, I had to decide what to do with my life. I took the path that seemed right.  The logical path of using my math and science skills was laid out before me.  I learned that my creative energies were set to the side and were not needed.  It was difficult, but I did not let it perish.

I set forth to write my stories.  I wanted to tell the tales of my heroes and villains.  I wanted to challenge the story to have a message and show that I could do it. In that time, I have tried various genres and attempted to complete numerous stories. To this day, I have yet to completely finish a story.

Yet, I don’t consider any of this to be a failure.  I am an artist at heart and the artwork is never complete.  I feel the stories are working still and soon I hope to bring some to a conclusion.  Even if I have to spend another twenty years working on it, I will conclude the story.  The saga never ends for the journey is the true ingredient.

crudus animus

Who We Are Is What We Do

Each person in the world has experiences and turning points in a lifetime. Some experiences are common and shared by everyone.  Perhaps they are not exact, but the event is given a common label.  It comes in the first kiss or the event of a birthday party.  The world is filled with so many combinations of variables that no individual can be the same.  We are unique. Quite unique, even when the genetic make up is the same, we are individuals.

In twins, the connections can be very close.  Almost to the point that we can seem them as the same person, but even then, they are two separate people.  They have two different personalities.  Their early lives may have been shared and the first moments may have been shared. However, it is the inner thoughts and drives that separate.  Both may have a strong personal affinity to butterflies, but one takes the step to collect them.  Both may like to read books, but one feels the desire to create his own writing. It is curious, but we make ourselves different.

This draws me to a couple of personal examples that have come to me recently. With the passing of Father’s Day, I had the moment when I spoke with my father and felt the connection with him. We have only recently come back into contact after many years of separation because of disagreements. It had taken nearly 18 years for me to actually want to speak to him. Now, we have found our common ground and understanding. Yet, when I was done speaking with him, I turned to my own son and wondered if I understand him any better than my father understood me. For the longest time, I had heard that my son was my clone and acted just as I did at that age.

I disagreed with that sentiment immediately because he may have some tendencies in his personality, but he is a different person.  At times, he possesses a drive in his life that I wish I had had at that age.  He may not know what he is going to do, but he has the skill to do it. He is a different person and I find that I want to know more.  I do not want our understanding of each other to fall apart like with my father.

Another example from a personal experience that supports this idea of different experiences comes from my current employment. For the last few months, I have been working with my spouse on freelance writing through an online site.  We have taken numerous assignments which are usually for web content.  We have covered a wide spectrum of topics from online degrees to fishing trips.  All this has brought me to a thought that many experiences waiting for people are out there.

The world is filled with a vast array of experiences and enjoyments that can change how we see things and how our personalities are shaped. Now, I am not saying that we need to be complete hedonists and explore every sensation and situation.  It is the event that makes us the individual and these are shaped by the inner desires of our mind. If I wanted to experience the feeling of falling, I might explore sky diving.  If I wanted to taste the spiciest food, I might try different restaurants in different cities. We can’t all become Epicureans of the modern day, but we can listen to our inner drives and make ourselves individuals.

For me, the desires that I hold are focused on a few things that I have not tried yet.  I want to feel the success of finishing a novel.  I want to sit at an outdoor restaurant and enjoy a long afternoon with my spouse.  Other things that I have experienced I want to visit again. A summer baseball game at Wrigley Field would be the top of my list. A trip down a mountain river on a tube would bring me joy again.

As time passes in our lives, we each must remember that we are created from the events and memories in our lives. These experiences are the basis of our personality and we should never let it stagnant.  Keep it fresh.

crudus animus

O! Those Characters!

The exercise of writing has become a daily habit after the last few months.  It is a wonderful exercise of muscles that have been atrophied in the recent years.  I feel that I have grown and sharpened.  It is not perfect and likely will never be, but my greatest critic is pushing me to be as close as possible.

With this thought, I have made a few ventures into fiction because of my burning need to express myself in storytelling.  I have explored the different techniques, touched on a few do-it-yourself manuals, and touched base with a few local authors.  I think that it has trained me to look at my writing in a different way.  I find myself actually editing it without realizing it.

So, this has brought me to a few thoughts about how to proceed.  I have put some of it on the back burner for the moment.  I can recharge on one project and turn to another line to work on it for a while.  In this method, I have found that several stories are appearing, but none are finished.

This is a curious matter that I feel is a benefit. When the time passes, I will actually have many options to complete the stories.  I have set the tracks down and prepare the way for the rest of the words.  As I do, I stepped back to examine some of the techniques that have worked.

One of the crucial steps that I am using that I have never tried before is the character sketch.  Usually, I have the character mapped out in my head and I don’t need the sketch.  However, I found that with short stories that the sketches can be used for supporting character; while in a novel style the characters need some form of a sketch as I switch between the main characters and minor characters.

With such a technique, it has me turning my thoughts to the character quirks, traits, and personality of other people in my life.  It is not a critique of them, but a simple evaluation of them in this basic form.  In this, I discovered that some very curious stories come into view.  It is from this than I can mine some of the traits for my stories.  I understand human nature a little better.

This weekend helped me to understand and quantify this as my children helped me celebrate Father’s Day.  Each of my three children brings into my life a variety of character qualities and I see how they have developed.  It was a wonderful time.  Now, I will be back to my regular blog posting.

crudus animus

Seek and You Shall Find the Answers

Symbols around us are left to the various interpretations of the individual and the community. History and cultural tradition has altered these perceptions, but some remain consistent over time.  They are a language that few have had the chance to translate completely.  Symbols of the ancient pagan religions have been absorbed into the modern beliefs.  Both viewed them with different eyes and different cultural baggage.  Neither is right nor wrong, but the intention of the one who placed it that should be considered for interpretation.  It is not for the viewer to just decide what it means to them.

Imagine if a person wished to interpret the hieroglyphic symbols of the ancient Egyptians from a point of view only based in the modern era.  Instead of the ibis being related to Thoth, it is viewed as a stork in the modern view.  It is here that I feel the understanding of matters related to the occult is viewed.  To most eyes with a theological lens, these matters are easily viewed as something evil, foreign, or possessed by the outsider.  Fortunetellers and astrologers are tolerated but scoffed at by these some people because they are considered to be readers of signs.  Yet, they are left alone and allowed to continue on their way because they are not regarded as a serious threat to the religions of the world.  Their skills of interpretation are mostly muted so they will present a non-threatening position.

Over the years, I have always been amazed with the different views on the matters deemed occult.  However, it is generally mild until the mention turns to pentacles, Ouija boards, pagan rituals, and tarot cards.  At this point, the cries are for the sinners to repent as they are supposedly turning their minds from the focus of God.  It is quite possible that this is true, but what is found can lead to some answers from within.  Especially when it comes to the tarot cards, the enlightenment found there can be eye-opening.

Let me begin by focusing my interpretation of what the word occult means.  I turn to the dictionary for the definition. Occult, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined: matters regarded as involving the action or influence of supernatural or supernormal powers or some secret knowledge of them.  For the tarot cards, we will leave the supernatural to the side and appeal to the secret knowledge found with them.

Few things in our world are this full of symbolism and arcane understanding.  These cards comes from various sources with numerous people designing them with different definitions for the symbols, but for the most part, there are consistency in the cards and allow a person to understand what the language of the cards is relaying.  As with most things, there is a habit for the reader to create ritual around the cards in order to keep the consistency and formality regular each time.

Many years ago, I had my first encounter with these old items of oracular information.  It was a moment of surrealistic visions where I came to understand more of myself than I ever thought possible.  At first, I sat there and searched for the reasons why this was not really happening.  I had been told and ministered to over the long years that the items of the occult like tarot cards were to be avoided.  By the time I was done, I needed to understand how this language worked.

So, I turned to history to find my answers and it was revealed that the language was something that had always been with me.  In the doctrines, symbols, and definitions that were part of my life already.  The minute symbols on the cards were learned already.  I took the next step and learned to read the cards with some proficiency.  I am not fortuneteller, but I help to interpret the symbols of the cards.  The answers to the questions come from those that shuffle the cards.  In other words, the subconscious mind creates the order of the cards as one shuffles the deck.  As it is unseen and not truly understood, it appears supernatural.  It is a road to the subconscious similar to the exercise of dreams.

Essentially, why I felt this topic was worthy of sharing had to do with the fact that I am learning.  I am learning to understand once again that the answers to my own questions are within.  I have not touched the cards in a long time, but recently, the words of those blogs, such as Alex at The Liberated Way,  here have reminded me what I have already.

crudus animus

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