Thursday, February 20, 2014

Have a Little Faith in Jimmy

Jimmy stands about five foot nothing. I used to stand five foot nothing, too, or so I am told by those who should know. This would have been roundabout fifth grade or maybe sixth.

I grew; Jimmy did not.

I like Jimmy and I like it when he stops by. I like our long talks deep into the night. You see, I do not trust many people, but I trust Jimmy, except when he starts talking belief and talking doubts.

Jimmy says he’s never had doubts – not a one. This makes me suspicious. I have my doubts about Jimmy’s doubts.

Mark 9:24 says, “Lord, I believe; please help me in my unbelief.”

Tertullian said something like “Creo quia absurdum,”  which means, “I believe because it is absurd.”

Even Mother Teresa admitted to forty years(!) of doubts and constant questioning of her faith.

But not Jimmy. Never a doubt for that boy. Angels, pharaohs, burning bush. Virgin birth and talking snakes. Revelation. Prophesy. Seven seals and regrown ears. Nephilim and two by two. Ninety year old moms and six day worlds. No problem!

Bring it on! Jimmy believes. No, more than that, even. Jimmy knows. He’s sure.

Jimmy smokes cigarettes and I do not smoke cigarettes (except when Jimmy is here). But I understand bad habits, so fine. I get it. Really I do. Jimmy smokes cigarettes.

And Jimmy votes Republican, which makes less sense to me than the cigarettes, but I do have a worldview and I have picked a side before, so I can wrap my head around it. A little.

And he is vegan, which is sort of like being gay, I guess.

But when it comes to belief… I mean, when it comes to really believing, well then, I just don’t know. It is not like five foot nothing and it’s not like cigarettes. It’s not like voting Republican and it’s not like vegan food.

I just don’t know.

Now it’s 3 a.m. and I am in my living room and I am smoking Jimmy’s cigarettes. Jimmy’s asleep on the couch – over there – and I’m weighing the possibility of breaking open the man’s head.

So that I can see the belief, I mean. To see if it’s there. To see if it’s real.

Or maybe not the head. Maybe the chest. This might take some digging, seeing as I’m not even sure what it is I’m looking for.

What would it look like? How would it smell?

You know, I’m okay with God. I really am. That much is clear to me. I know wonder. I know awe. I know babies and kittens and wise men, and I think I know love and hope and fear, as well. I have stood out on the thirty-fifth floor downtown and I have looked out across and seen forever. I knew Dana. I have heard In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.  And so on and so on. Whatever.

But I’m not sure I believe in belief. I’m not sure the belief thing is real.

I can’t relate.

And that’s why Jimmy’s getting cut. He’s just a little guy; this should not be too hard.  I’ll just break open his rib cage and I’ll feel around inside ‘til I find something that I don’t understand.

I’ll bet it’s oily and green and parasitic and blind.

Jimmy’s dying for a damn good cause tonight. We should all be so lucky… or blessed.

I’m going to miss Jimmy’s visits and our late night talks. I won’t have anyone to discuss religion with anymore. I’m even going to miss his cigarettes.

I’ll smoke one more now and then we’ll get this thing started. 

I’ll let you know how it goes, believe me!


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(All of the pictures this time out are from Tatomir: http://tatomir.deviantart.com/). 

42 comments:

  1. For reasons that would be entirely too boring to you or your audience for me to get into, this feels particularly relevant right now. And it seem right to describe that belief as a thing that lives inside of people, separate from who they are. Though I've never been tempted to cut people open to test that metaphor.

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    1. I've tried everything short of cutting people open.

      I've studied Christianity pretty thoroughly, so I find myself explaining to believers what it is that they believe.

      I am explaining to them what they believe. How does that make any sense?

      What is going on in their minds that they are listening to me telling them what they didn't previously know they believed?

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    2. How do we explain people who've acquired this belief though? I can wrap my head around the idea that some people are born wired to believe in God in a very specific and traditional manner. But what about people who've denied such a belief, sometimes vociferously, only to later in life acquire it? Was it secretly inside of them all of the time and simply dismissed or ignored? I'm curious for curiosity's sake, but also because I secretly dread the idea that it could happen to me. If it really is an oily green parasite that sneaks inside of us while we're sleeping, that would at least make a little sense.

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    3. Peter Gabriel once said, "I am a Buddhist when I think about life and a Christian when I think about death." Or something like that.

      Big bad stuff leads to conversion a lot.

      My problem with all of this might be that I approach this stuff with my head, and no one's faith is strictly head-based.

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  2. This was beautiful in its own sadistic way. Probably because things like "I have stood out on the thirty-fifth floor downtown and I have looked out across and seen forever," taps into my nostalgia now that I have drifted from Houston's bayous.
    Is there any way to actually, with all manner of rib spreaders and skull splitters, dive into the reasoning behind a vegan conservative smoker.
    Thanks for keeping me anchored. Damn, I want an Alabama Ice House trailer taco.

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    1. They're clearcutting most of Montrose right now to make way for more townhomes, so I've got mixed feelings about my city at the moment. Every apartment I lived in up until this one is going to be torn down in the next few months!

      Incidentally, this short piece took forever to write and was no fun at all. I am going to have to start sitting down and doing stream of consciousness.

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  3. Contrary to popular, errm, belief, the faithful are not people who hear voices in their head. You know, those voices that say there is nothing special about the human race, or that there is no Great Plan or merciful Father Figure in the sky. People turn to faith precisely to shut up those voices.

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    1. There's an author named Robert Anton Wilson who said that people turn to religion when they want to stop thinking. Life is confusing and it's easier to throw up your hands and point to a book for every answer, no matter how strange or unlikely.

      I'm not sure about that. I know Christians and Muslims who think a lot about the world vis a vis their faith. I just don't know whether they really believe it all or it's just wishful thinking and cognitive dissonance.

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  4. I used to be on an endless run.
    Believe in miracles cause I'm one.
    A have been blessed with the power to survive.
    After all these years I'm still alive.

    funny stuff in a disturbing way
    http://youtu.be/_-p8bOoFlPo

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    1. That's pretty funny.

      I'm not opposed to the idea of miracles myself. Every day that i get through without accidentally blowing myself is a miracle.

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  5. Was there a green oily blind parasite inside, or did something with eyes and an extensible mouth explode out of his chest in a memorable shower of blood before you could put knife to skin? I ask because something large and insectile-looking has been trying to break into this room all evening, and when I stabbed it in self-defence, it bled acid and ate a hole through the earth.

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    1. If you come back here tomorrow as a Christian fundamentalist, we'll know what happened...

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  6. You stated in your comment, "There's an author named Robert Anton Wilson who said that people turn to religion when they want to stop thinking."

    I believe there are two types of religious "believers" --- the robotic types that are dictated by "people" and their congregations who let themselves be brainwashed, or even worse off, let themselves drain all thoughts out of their minds. Then there are the believers who do think, who do struggle with certain beliefs, who still question everything --- yet still have faith. With my own faith, I don't belittle anyone who doesn't believe. I can only share and have strong testimony to my own faith. But when others try to shove their religion down your throat, that tells me that they're very insecure and that they need others to believe what they believe in…….because they're not sure. (Hope that makes sense.) Meaning --- if I see a ghost, I want YOU to see it too, so that I can believe that I didn't just go cray-cray.

    :)

    Great twisted post! I enjoyed this and definitely got the true meaning out of it. Brilliant!

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    1. Thank you. I wasn't entirely sure I'd expressed myself well this time out...

      I can - intellectually - understand struggling with faith. I can understand that there can be a conversion event in which one connects, sees, understands that God exists. Afterwards, the struggle comes, and the arguments supporting this conversion come...

      A professed lack of ANY doubt confuses me, of course.

      My problem is, I think, that I want to keep my mind open to anything wondrous, amazing, and beautiful, but I have this constant skeptical/cynical edge. I want to stay dynamically agnostic. Disbelievers are no fun at all.

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    2. The problem with nonbelievers is that they are actually believers who have just happened to put their faith in a narrow and reductive concept of Science that doesn't grasp the distinction between the universe being fundamentally *knowable* and the universe being basically *known*, which are not at all the same things. They pick and choose a smattering of stuff they remember from school science class and/or read in some pop science magazine, generally cherry-picked to rationalize their preexisting prejudices and with an exasperating inability to be self-critical in any meaningful way.

      Narrow-minded and dogmatic people are obnoxious regardless of whether their dogma is based in some kind of religious doctrine, New Age mystic woo-woo, or crap science.

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    3. Hi, Argent.

      I have thought about what you're saying a lot in recent years with the Christopher Hitchens-variety of New Atheists, none of whom I can stand to read at all.

      To me, it is like they are demanding that someone prove they are in love, and then insisting the person isn't in love because the explanation didn't bootstrap everyone else into a falling in love, too.

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    4. It's also hard to overlook the fact that an awful lot of Disbelievers are white cisdudes who, as white cisdudes are wont, confuse "privilege" for "objectivity" and use it to justify ugly contempt for anyone who does not look and think like they do.

      This goes from annoying to pernicious when they start talking about politics and start sounding like colonial missionaries promoting imperialism in the name of "saving" the dumb savages from their ignorant superstition and elevating them to the True Way, or the racial theorists of the 19th century who used science to rationalize white superiority, slavery, discrimination, and eugenics.

      The SO was reading a book a while back about the origins of the modern medical profession and the rise of scientific medicine that made the interesting point that a lot of the dudes who led that effort were the sons of prominent ministers or preachers and thus came to the party with a full load of paternalistic arrogance and determination to justify their authority in the name of an unassailable outside power (in this case, the stern objectivity of Science rather than God). Plus ├ža change...

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    5. I liked this comment.

      There must have been an incredible number of ministers in the past in the US, because it seems like 50% of the male historical figures I read about were the sons of ministers. It could have been one of the more common means of gaining social standing...

      The shepherd thing might be an archetype, I guess.

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  7. Hmm, you might have just tweaked my writer's block this morning, so thank you!

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    1. That is cool! I like knowing that I got a brain started!

      Delete
  8. This reminds me of the recent Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate. It's pretty easy to imagine how the debate went without listening to it. Granted, neither man was an an all-knowing authority on their subject, but every Ken Ham rebuttal began with something along the lines of "There's a book out there [the bible] with all the answers." It was a very close-minded way to refute Nye's explanations of "the beginning".

    I forget where I was going with this because I'm operating on little sleep, but I'd describe myself as an agnostic. Which is difficult to say because of my early religious influences.

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    1. It's tough to make convincing pro-Christian arguments to a non-Christian using only Biblical sources. Too often, those come across like, "You should believe this book because this book says you should!"

      I've made arguments in favor of Christianity to non-Christians before, and I almost always do so using analogies, so maybe they can relate.

      I don't label myself as anything, but serious Christians (particularly of the fundamentalist variety) would never say I pass their test as a Christian, so I won't claim the term.

      Maybe someday I'll figure it out. I hope it's not too soon, though!

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  9. One of my favorite subjects is religion and the very concept I hate to the core is religion. I love the myths and mythology and stories and lessons who could learn from them but institution of religion - crap.

    Love the stories but leave the moral to me, I will figure it out and religion please don't dictate or translate it for me.
    Like , if Bible says that a man who lays with another man should be stoned, I am not going to take offense or take it and hurt them with stones, instead I will interpret it like George Takei and get them both some weed.

    Robert Wilson's quote seem to hit nail right on his head. I don't have problems with Christianity or Islam or any religion as long as they don't knock my door and mock me and say I have led a sinful life and I should totally take one book and follow every instruction from that and harass everyone and give them labels and play holier than thou game.
    I am not going to get silver pennies from my rapist and give my dad and make him my husband or kill people and wait for hoories to give me sexual pleasure in heaven or burn in my husband's pyre so that they could carve "here lies the virtuous golden woman" in my grave. Thanks no thanks.

    I don't need any religion to dictate what I should do and what i shouldn't do and blame and quote someone/something for my actions.
    If I need to I have my mom and I have my father-in-law for that.

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    1. You say that very well, the idea that you don't want to xerox your thoughts or morality from something you're handed.

      I think I COULD: I could say, "Okay, I'm going to do it this way. I've read all about this, and I think I'm on board."

      Like the legal system, you know? Getting on board with it because it structures things the best or whatever. But the extra step of saying that this is objectively the way that the Universe has said is the ONLY way to be... I can't intellectually get on board with that.

      I can follow rules, but I can't believe that's the only way the rules are meant to be.

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    2. Yeah rules. See, in Gita you would find a saying - not exactly saying but dharma - thumb rule by Lord Krishna.
      "It is ok to sacrifice a person to save a family, a family to save a street, a street to save a kingdom and all such."
      "One must follow the ordained norms of one's nation, of one's tribe or caste, of one's clan, and of one's family. Dharmas differ for men and women, for old and young, for married and single, and for rulers and common people; there are dharmas, in fact, for every major order of human differentiation. When dharmas conflict, that is, when duties toward one group conflict with duties toward another, the interests of the smaller group, such as the family, should be sacrificed to the larger, such as the caste."

      See earlier day - death sentence for stealing a bag of rice was acceptable because they had to inflict fear and control the mass and save atleast some or special some.

      But today, we are civilized and we have lot of surveillance and today's king might have been yesterday's slave and today's lord maybe tomorrow someone's prisoner. We need to evolve and the books and the scripts needs to take a new meaning and rules need to be redefined.

      In Hinduism the world's boundary started at Srilanka and ended in Mt.Everest. They couldn't even see anything past Pakistan or Srilanka, no Mynamar, not even Indonesia or China.

      How do you dictate everyone to lead a life quoted in some book that was written when the world was presumed FLAT?

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    3. I think it sort of depends on what level of authority you give the holy book.

      With the Bible, for instance, there are people who think that God basically dictated the books and that every word is the literal truth on every level. There are other people (like the Catholics) who believe that human beings put their understanding of divine ideas down on paper, but in human ways.

      The difference between those two approaches is that the latter way lets you look to the the reason for the old rule. What was the purpose behind the rule, what value does it show? The first way, on the other hand, basically allows you no flexibility. A passage says "execute a man who does X," and you have to either execute anyone who does it or else reject the text and the faith.

      There's a passage in Paul that says, "Slaves obey your masters," and "Wives be submissive to your husbands," and that passage has been used to justify some really awful stuff over the years. But if you look at it in context, Paul was promoting people getting along and a level of respect for others in society that was really sort of unusual and high for that time. He told the men and slave masters to be good, too.

      But if there's no real room for understanding or interpretation - if it is just rote literal truth - then you're sort of screwed, enforcing the values of an ancient culture in modern circumstances where it does not really apply.

      I think this is officially the longest comment I have ever typed on this blog!

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  10. I hope you don't mind but I'm gonna ramble a minute.....

    Belief is that essence we all have somewhere inside our core that makes us wake up in the morning. That indefinable something that makes us want to get out of bed and live through the day. It's what makes good people good and bad people bad.

    Religion...left.

    Spiritual essence...ah there it is. Spiritually is the belief. And it's entirely different from religion. But you all know that part.

    The invisible essence that we can't truly define but so many of us try to understand.... are we supposed to understand? Or is the whole point of belief just saying okay, I believe....and without doubt or question, enjoy the journey.

    In the end it doesn't mater really. I choose to throw caution to the wind and believe because it certainly can't hurt my odds of getting the big prize...if there is no big prize, it won't matter because I will by worm food.

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    1. You said that every well and I can understand it and even agree with it, but I still keep things on an intellectual level so much that I can't follow it down the rabbit hole.

      Now, keep in mind I probably keep everything on an intellectual level too much. To the point where belief and love and all that human stuff become issues. I can ape emotions, though!

      I might be a sociopath.

      There have been a couple times in my life when i have decided I was going to be a believer. I weighed everything, the pros and cons and everything, and decided, "OK. I am going to be a believer now. ready, set, go!" And nothing happened.

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  11. You know I'm a believer. I do have questions, but I also have strong reasons for believing what I believe, having gone out into the world and tested things for myself. Maybe I'm one of the blessed few or maybe we all have the ability to heal and resurrect the dead and just are not aware of it. Perhaps it takes an epiphany for us to realize that we have the ability. That came to me trough Christianity and the only thing in life I really knew... music.

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    1. You might want to be careful around me, then. I want to know what goes on in your head, and I'm willing to go to great lengths to have a peek inside.

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    2. I'll leave you my brain when I die. Haha. There is an alternative if we could ever meet somewhere to talk.

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    3. I think I've written before about my brain consumption theory. I really want to eat a brain sometime. It works for flatworms and some indigenous people: They obtain the knowledge from the one eaten.

      I've never been able to test my theory so far, though.

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    4. I heard of some tests they were doing using the brains of geniuses in some kind of mixture and injecting it into another person. It worked but it also transferred their personality.

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    5. Ugh. Having the personality of a genius is not worth it. I think I prefer being a functional dolt.

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  12. I'm loving this post and I'm loving these comments. This is something that's near and dear to my heart, as a guy who has his beliefs but still questions the hell out of everything. I could talk your ear off (my beliefs are from personal experiences, not from books [sorry Ken Ham]), but frankly, this is what amazes me most about the whole thing: I have beliefs that, to me, seem like 100% logic. Yet I tell these beliefs to another person, and they could think I'm a complete moron. Meanwhile, they have their own beliefs that I might think are ridiculous, which they see as 100% logical.

    I'm looking at you, Scientologists.

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    1. Haha. Yeah, it seems like that's how these things work. We all live in our own little worlds... People have deep experiences of some kind, and then they go back later and find facts and arguments to support the experience. There's nothing wrong with that - I think it's how we work. No one has ever been converted because of Thomas Aquinas' proofs for the existence of God.

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  13. I admire people that are sure in their beliefs. As for me, I'm not even sure what kind of potatoe chip is my favorite.

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    1. I don't quote Karl Rove a lot, but he gets ridiculed a lot for something he said like, "I've never been blessed with faith."

      I sort of relate with that, though.

      I don't think I put up a barrier to it. I just can't do it.

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  14. "What puts a hundred thousand children in the sand
    Belief can, belief can,
    What puts a folded flag into his mother's hand
    Belief can, belief can"

    I rarely quote someone as hopelessly banal as John Mayer, but that line sums the danger of NOT having doubt.

    And I say that as one of the doubtless scolds.




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    1. If singing that would bag me Katy Perry, then bring on the "Your Body is a Wonderland" crap.

      We'd be Katy and Katy. Katy squared.

      I have no doubt it would be legendary.

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  15. The brains will smell like really clean, not overpowering fish and the blood like an old wet penny.

    I'm sorry I blurted that out- one too many wars and too many years as a nurse I spose.

    Jimmy never cracked your head open as you napped. Maybe he isn't as closed minded as we might think- he accepts you for who you are.

    Ha, I'm kidding. Get to cracking and see whats in there.

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    1. I don't think he's close-minded. I think he might lack curiosity, though.

      I'll bet he's never even wondered what my brains look like.

      My brains probably look completely different than everyone else's.

      It's all I can do not to break open my own head to find out.

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