Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Guilt (God) v. Shame (Satan)

from an attempted agnostic perspective

What is guilt? Furthermore, what is shame? What does God have to do with anything?
These questions are difficult, and the answers are based on belief, rather than on fact. Science is a very fickle thing. It changes radically and abruptly. We might cling onto an incorrect idea for centuries before science, which proved it in the first place, proves it wrong. Science is a great way to look at the dead things in the world. But faith is a great way to look at the living things in the world—how to interact with each other, with nature, and with God. Faith can change, too—inside ourselves—as we grow closer to the Truth. Science and faith both point towards truth and none of us can truly hope to get there. Faith is how we learn inside ourselves, whereas science is how we learn of things outside ourselves. Since guilt, shame and God are all inside us, let’s stick with that for this one blog post. I should furthermore point out that this post refers to my current understanding of the world, and is open to discussion. I will be declaring, as if fact, the things inside of myself.
There is a law inside all of us. God placed it there. Many call it “the light of Christ,” or more secularly, a “conscience.” It has nothing to do with the laws of the government. Right and wrong is different for everyone. The laws inside us change, are fluid, and are most apparent when we are close to Truth. Since all of us have the ability to choose, we can go against these laws. You might call that sinning. You might think that you’re only going against yourself, but remember: God put the laws there. You’re also going against him when you break your rules. Whether you’re aware of this connection or not, it doesn’t feel great when you break the rules—which brings us to the happy dialogue of guilt and shame.
Shame is one that everybody will recognize as I start talking about it. It often gets called guilt on accident. Shame makes you feel like you are a bad person. Shame is going to tell you that you’re not worth it. Shame will tell you to give up, or to change your rules because you’re not good enough. Shame comes from Satan. Shame makes us miserable. Shame, frankly, is not proactive, it is not positive, and it just sucks. It is gray ooze that can drown us.
Guilt, which I guess I should call “true guilt,” is a much more benign feeling. Guilt is actually quite simple. Guilt tells us that we shouldn’t have done what we just did. Guilt means we’re sorry for what we did. Guilt means we don’t want to do it again. Guilt is proactive. Guilt can make us want to make things right, to correct our wrongs—to change ourselves for the better. Guilt leads to action. Guilt is remorse.
It is this same remorse that will lead us back to God. Whether or not we acknowledge God, it feels bad when we make mistakes. He is there for us. Guilt will lead us to God, who will comfort us and help us through what we’re going through. He can help us correct our mistakes and stop making mistakes. This is repentance. When we come out on the other side, we emerge stronger and better than before. It is a refiner’s fire. We go through a burning and cooling process that makes us stronger. On the other side, we feel better and wiser than when we made the original mistake.
And now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

A man, a plan, and no canal.

In the battle between human rights and capitalism, I'm on the side of human rights. 
Plain and simple, the purpose of government is to maintain a peaceful society. A libertarian might say that the government shouldn’t poke its head into anything unless it’s necessary. The problem is that everybody thinks that exact thing. The issue is we don't agree on what is necessary. To be completely honest, we all need the government. However cozy you think your life is, the government is what’s keeping it afloat.
Our nation has a very strong rule of law. That means that the laws in our country are obeyed and enforced. If somebody burgles my house, the police will try to nab the perpetrator and the courts will bring them justice. The legislators will write laws that can then be broken. Our nation also has a strong sense of freedom. If I want to do something, anything—I can do it. The balance of these two ideals can be summed up thusly: I can start a business (capitalism), and the government will make sure that I’m playing fair (human rights). The government needs to maintain the safety of the populace (human rights) while allowing as much free reign as possible for businesses (capitalism). Some meddling is necessary in order to keep us free from threats such as monopolies, counterfeiting, unsafe products, swindlers, and unsafe working environments.
When it comes to politics, the media (and politicians) stick to hot-button issues on the whole. These are questions in the running of our country that stir up emotions: birth control, taxes, wealth, unemployment, healthcare, terrorism, etc. These issues have to do with opinions as well as facts. The facts, by the by, are often blurred by statistics, which the average person is unlikely to interpret correctly. This means that each side can blur what actually happened to promote their cause. Take for example the following statements: “Nearly 3,000 people died in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. It truly is a sad day for our country.” On the other, hand: “Only 3,000 people died in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Considering the population and the severity of the damage, it is a miracle that figure is so low.” Both of these statements use the same numbers, but you can see how we can be bamboozled by the way the numbers are presented. Politicians lean on the emotions of their followers rather than on the cold hard facts. In the same year as 9/11 there were 37,795 deaths related to police reported traffic accidents according to the NHTSA: more than ten times the deaths in the terrorist attacks. How many politicians used traffic safety as a platform in the coming elections?
The point is, we really paid for our emotions with 9/11. The war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq were started based on national sentiment rather on actual need (and possibly on racism), even though Al-Qaeda is based and funded in Saudi Arabia. The thought of the United States going to war with Saudi Arabia is laughable, considering our dependence on Saudi oil, because of course, besides emotions, politcs is money. Politicians talk about money because they have money, and because we have money and we want more. We want our money protected. We don’t want to spend money (capitalism), but we still want stuff (human rights). This is never going to happen because it just doesn’t make sense. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Somebody is paying for food stamps (hint: it’s all of us).
Capitalism is always going to be at odds with human rights. Human rights cost money and very rarely give a return investment. Capitalism often skates over human rights for this very reason. The problem is that those with enough wealth to even think about running for president of this country are capitalists. These are men and women who got to where they are by preserving their own capitalist interests. I can only try to side with those with enough mercy and grace to also promote human rights. It’s a narrow balance. How do you preserve freedom for businesses as well as for individuals?
It may not even matter in today’s political atmosphere. A politician is going to say whatever it takes to get votes. The problem is that the nation on a whole has a very simple mindset. Individually we may have great ideas, but what is going to get votes is simple, psychologically important issues that affect all of us—instead of societally important issues.
It also may not matter because the president doesn't run this country—we do! If you think the 99% don’t have any control in this country, think again. I may not be in a big room full of legislators, but I know that I can write to Carol Shea-Porter (my house representative) and tell her what I think. But still, I’m not thinking big enough. The country does not reside in a single room, or in a single government entity. The government may be the binding force to the country, but it is not the steak and potatoes between two oceans. I am a part of this country and I’m going to do my part. Like Kennedy said: “It is not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!” Not for your government, but for your country. What does it matter who is leading us? We are ademocracy—ruled by the people! We rule ourselves. We have enough free reign to do what is necessary in order to bring about our desired ends.
It is up to ALL OF US to bring the economy back to where it needs to be. It’s going to take ALL OF US to promote education. ALL OF US need to be honest when it comes to welfare. We don’t need a government to tell us what to do—we just need the government to maintain what we have worked so hard to produce. So vote! Not just for the president, but for our actual lawmakers—the congressmen. Don't listen to a millionaire tell you what he'll try (And mostly likely fail at) doing. Tell them what we want! And they're more likely to make it happen.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012



I like my readers to be comfortable.

It sufficeth me to say that my relationship with Melanie was one long fiasco.

I'm still processing everything. It's a little premature to say anything about it other than it's over.

Of course, I moved back to New Hampshire, back in with my parents. Just being back in New Hampshire has done wonders for my morale. Sometimes I feel like I can't do anything for myself--like I'm stuck. I felt that way before I was diagnosed with FM, I felt that way before I moved to Idaho, and I felt like that before I moved to Texas, and I felt like that up until now. Sometimes I need to remember who is in control.

see, Drive, by Incubus (the best song ever) is all about who is in control. Am I a slave to my addiction, or am I my own man, in control of my own fate? William Ernest Henley has the answer: "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."

So, what did I do? I'm currently working quite a lot of hours at Eddie Bauer where I am valued for the excellent work I do. I'm living at home where my food and rent is free, and yet--I'm still not making enough to make ends meet. I felt helpless for a while, and then I decided to start a career... the U.S. Navy.

I've thought about it before, but now it only makes sense. I've only just started the process, so I don't know many details. But yes. The Navy. I hope to get into the CTI position, which is cryptology. I am quite good with languages so I think that is the place for me. After 4-6 years, I may continue where I left off, or reserves, or continue with a military career. Who knows where I'll be by that time. I'll let future Gabriel figure that out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Life As a Sponge: A Literacy Autobiography

When I was a kid, both of my parents were high school teachers. I love them, and I thought that it was so cool that they were teachers. Over the years, they both got graduate degrees and changed careers. However, my parents affected my identity most as schoolteachers.

There has always been an academic feel about our home. My parents always, always read us books when we went to bed, just for fun, on long drives, when we were infants, when we were teenagers, and even now. Now we have a family Charles Dickens book club. Books were important to my family and they are important to me.

When I was 3 years old, my mom taught my older sister how to read while I was climbing the curtains behind the couch. I learned how to read and my sister did not. I figured out pretty quickly how useful reading could be. I started reading store signs and TV ads. I got so much more information just with those two things and I didn’t want to stop reading. I remember, when I was in pre-school, my teacher tested if I could read or not, which she had to do before I went to Kindergarten. She held up a note card with several different words on them. I didn’t want to go to Kindergarten because my sisters told me how awful it was (they were lying). In my 3-year-old head, if my teacher thought I couldn’t read, then I wouldn’t have to go to Kindergarten. So as she pointed to the word “bear,” I said “wolf.” Then when she pointed to “wolf,” I said “fox.” When she pointed to “fox,” I said “beer,” and so forth. I could read, but I was not very clever, and so went to Kindergarten.

From an early age, I started reading. I would read children’s encyclopedias long after my bedtime. My parents got them as a wedding present, and I loved them. There was one that was all about the Animal kingdom. In the back they had an index of all the animals they talked about, complete with illustrations and dimensions. I would take out the measuring tape to our living room just so I could see exactly how big these animals were. I read National Geographic magazines. We had a large collection of them. Up until the 80s, National Geographic was almost more like a travel magazine. I would read about all the exciting places around the world that they wrote about, and if I was too tired to read, I could just look at the pictures.

When I was in first grade, we moved to a different town. My new teacher literally thought I was mentally retarded because I was hyper, had a speech impediment and lied about everything. I even convinced her that I was from Japan for about two minutes. I wanted to read The Boxcart Mysteries. I’d already read a few and she had every single one! However, since I was “retarded” she had me reading Dick and Jane with the slow readers. This was especially frustrating because reading is what I really excelled at as a child. The other kids passed by me in math, arts and crafts, socializing, etc. Reading, though, was my own world. While other kids were still reading picture books, I was getting completely lost in novels. I was in a whole other world. Try getting lost in Dick and Jane. Mrs. Cardwell—for some reason I never liked her.

I don't think my parents liked her either. Most of the parents that teachers deal with aren't familiar with the way teachers work. Most of my teachers treated my parents this way. They also treated my parents like it was because of their bad parenting that I was such a "wild child," but I don't think anything is further from the truth. My parents raised us right. It's not their fault that I'm different from the other kids. My parents, in spite of their busy schedule made sure to spend lots of time with me. We shared a lot of good experiences.

My dad and I have a lot of things in common. One of these things is a desire for knowledge. Even when I was 3 and 4 years old, I wanted to learn as much as I could. In all reality, that is exactly who I am. I am a sponge. Just like a sponge soaks up water, I soak up as much information as I can, and I don’t let it go. Other people seem to learn things and then forget them later. I’ve never done that; I’ve never squeezed out the sponge. In second grade, we learned the countries of Africa as a class. Last year, I took an online quiz and I still knew all of them, except for Sierra Leone—and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel like information is my friend. When I forget information, it's like betraying that friend. Poor Sierra Leone.

Information, of course, is in books. Therefore, reading was the gateway for me to learn as much as possible, or to put it another way: the gateway to become who I am today. We had plenty of books at home: books about ducks, books about bats, books about Sweden, books about wars, books about Jesus Christ, books about science. Books were always my favorite gifts to get at Christmas (except maybe a certain train set).

Once I got into high school, the advantages and disadvantages of my sponge became apparent. The most valuable thing I had was the ability to learn. My peers, for the most part, seemed to struggle to learn the material and remembering it was even harder. I was different, and I was treated that way. A lot of my classmates ever since I started school resented the way I learned so easily and seemed to already know things. The teasing, name-calling and pranks were hard to bear. I felt really bitter about it for a long time, which made it even harder to fit in. But again, it has made me who I am. I was never in the “popular” crowd, but once I got to high school, I always had plenty of friends, which is probably because I’m funny.

Now that I’m an adult, I have no problem at all making friends. People like that I know a lot of things because it means I can relate to them. I can ask meaningful questions about people’s occupations, where they come from, what their degree involves, etc. because I already know about those things. It makes people feel like I know them when I know a lot about what they are involved in.

It's ironic, isn't it? The secret world of reading and information used to mark me as different and pushed me away from others. Now, though, that wealth of information is what connects me to others. I can be on the same plane as others. It's not just the facts anymore. The information in my head is a network that connects me to other people. I've reached the point where I've connected to enough characters in books, scientists in magazines, and politicians

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tax Return Drama

That's right. It's that magical time of year that the government gives you back some of the money that it took away last year. It's a beautiful time of year. What are you going to get with your return?

Let me tell all of you how my return is working out.

This year, I have the option to claim myself, or have my parents claim me. If I claim myself, I get $900 back on my return, and my parents get $340 back. If my parents claim me, I have to pay $400 and my parents get $3900 back. The agreement I had with my mother was that "If we end up making more from claiming you, we'll pay you the difference." When we ran these numbers today, my mother informed me that she meant the difference to my return. I thought she meant the difference to her return. Basically, because I'm not claiming myself, my parents are getting $3560 more and they are giving me $1300 of that, leaving them with $2260 more than they had before.

My problem with all of this is that my parents DON'T NEED MONEY. My mother clears 6 figures easily. My dad makes about 15% of that. Yes, they have lots of debts, they have helped me a lot in the last year. However, I NEED that help. Furthermore, I'm doing my BEST to live on my own. I'm not making enough money at my current job to fully support myself, so I found another job that starts in May. From the time that job starts until the end of time, I will be able to support myself without periodic help from my parents. I am barely scraping by. My income is barely enough to pay all my bills, not including food, which my parents pay most of--$200 a month.

What I want to propose to my parents is $1950 for each of us. With that money, I could pay my taxes, get a lap-top, and pay off two credit cards. That'll open up $50 a month for me and help me make more money. With a computer, I could do work for Cha Cha while I'm in Yellowstone. My parents can do the same thing for themselves without a tax return.

Even if we do this, my parents will get more than 5 times what they would get without me. I don't think that's unreasonable. What do you think?

Thursday, August 5, 2010



My eyes have been opened. Now…don’t go crazy, but I think I may have recently been converted to Buddhism.

Here, let me explain.

We are all taught that all churches and religions have some truth in them. Most religions , in fact, have quite a lot of truth. However, what I’ve found in my few years of study, curiosity, and conversations with people of other religions is that the truths they share are truths that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints actively teaches. It’s like there are parts that have truth and are taught by our church, and the rest is false and is in contradiction or ambiguity with our church’s teachings. For example, there is no way to completely live the teachings of the Catholic church AND the Mormon church at the same time. I believe that Buddhism and Mormonism are completely compatible: that one can live completely by both at the same time. If I try to combine Buddhism and Mormonism: the only differences are regional traditions that have little to do with the religions. In general, for example, most Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and several Gods. However, these beliefs vary from place to place. Buddhists in Indonesia worship different idols than Buddhists in Nepal. Do Buddhists have to worship idols? Is that one of the tenets of their religion? No, it is not. Even the Buddha, himself, is just a man who achieved enlightenment, Nirvana. He taught others how they might try to achieve Nirvana themselves, which is simply a higher understanding and enlightenment concerning the connections between all living things. The belief in reincarnation is really the biggest lump in Buddho-Christian compatibility. This, however, is not an official Buddhist belief. The important thing to know and remember is that we are all connected. All things which are on earth were created in Heaven. This is a Christian concept that teaches the same lesson.

I challenge you to go through and look at Buddhist beliefs and tell me if you catch anything that is in direct conflict with the teachings of the church.

The thing is, the two religions cover completely different aspects of life. I thought that Buddhism was very much like ancient mythology like the Egyptians and the Greeks who basically invented several gods and goddesses to explain what was going on in the world around them. Some people expand that into Christian Monotheism, but we who practice know it is much more than just a way to explain things I don’t understand. However, the things Buddhism helps us understand have little to do with the natural world, and more to do with suffering and inner turmoil. Buddhism is about the quest to find peace through understanding the connections among all living things. It has nothing to do with worshipping deity, sins, or ordinances. It has to do with wisdom. Christianity is all about deity, and sins. Christianity deals with the cycles of faith (worshipping deity), repentance (after sinning), baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost (ordinances). What Christianity does not deal with is suffering. This has always been a vague concept with Christianity. The general idea is that this life is a test, more or less, and we need to choose right from wrong. God tests us, and Satan tempts us with challenges, trials, and suffering.

Take, for example, the movie, The Invention of Lying. The main character “invents” the basic ideals of Christianity with his new ability to lie. A cynic, atheist, or general audience member might think that this is trying to say that all religion is hooey invented to make us feel better about life. I think, however, that the message is about truth; truth always comes out, and it is beautiful. A world where only things that are provable exist is a terrible (and comedic) place to live.

At any rate, suffering may indeed be a refiner’s fire that God puts us through to make us better people, and so we can experience all that a mortal life has to offer. However, it is extremely difficult to simply have the force of will to give our lives to Christ, to place our burdens upon him.

I think that one way he helps us in this process is with Buddhism. That’s right, Buddhism. It’s all about getting over our selfish desires for comfort, happiness, or whatever else, and giving them up to a higher power—which in our case is Christ. Once we have learned to let go of these bad desires, we achieve Nirvana, a kind of peace and enlightenment. This peace and enlightenment is, I assure you, the same peace and enlightenment we get from Christ’s love.

I have no idea if I articulated this well at all, but there it is. Buddhism and Christianity don’t clash like most religion match-ups would, but they complement each other.

Let me know your thoughts about this! PLEASE do research before you comment or judge.

What Men Want

What Men Want
Men, it is generally agreed, are simpler creatures than women. This generally comes from men’s desire to understand things, as opposed to women who are more comfortable than men about not fully understanding the opposite sex. However—I believe that Satan is taking everything that men want and perverting it in two levels. One, is society’s representation of that instinctual desire, and two is a simulation of that desire that is almost always damaging and uses electronic devices to provide that.

The examples I am about to go are in random order, except that they are probably more or less in the order that they were presented to me in, by my friend, Russ, in a lesson.

The first attraction is to power and performance. One might say that this attraction is what drives men to accomplish great things. We are always trying to push the limits on what is possible. This attraction has been with us forever—and for good reason. In order to survive in the wilderness, we need to have the most powerful weapons, and perform with them with precision and accuracy using our own strength, power, and performance. One modern societal manifestation of this attraction is cars. Almost all guys like cars. We like fast cars, powerful cars, cars that turn on a dime, etc. We are all attracted to the power and performance. One way that this attraction is simulated—and probably in the most healthy way of all the simulations—is with computers. It is comparing hardware or software: RAM, fast applications, special commands, control, etc. This is barely a simulation as another societal manifestation of the attraction. In fact, it would be quite a healthy outlet into this desire, as long as it does not turn into an obsession, as it so often does.

The second attraction is to male companionship. In stone-age times, this was quite necessary. It is, of course, much more difficult to hunt on your own than it is with a group of men. It might be easy enough to imagine stalking and killing a deer on your own, but bringing it to camp? All the time alone is also not good. A hunting trip could potentially take weeks. That is why we have “pals.” It’s not just enough to tolerate having other men with you; we have to instinctually like it. In modern society, however, homophobia runs rampant. Most straight men in Western society have inhibitions when it comes to revealing feelings to other men, or showing a need for companionship. Thus comes one of the most common societal manifestations of this desire: “booze.” Alcohol’s first job is to take away our sense of judgment, and therefore breaking down the walls that we’ve put up against our fellow men so that we can share our feelings—and embarrass ourselves. Only a fool or an alcoholic will tell you that alcohol is completely harmless. Many lives, families, homes, reputations and barstools have been destroyed by the influence of alcohol. It is already not the healthiest manifestation of the desire for companionship, but the simulation is steadily growing in damage: video games. When I was in high school—which wasn’t too long ago—there was a huge group of friends I had with whom video gaming was the only source of “real” socialization. The only time I have interacted with many of these friends was by playing video games with them. Sure, I might know that they prefer the energy sword over a gun, or have a favorite level on Zelda, but I did not get to really know these people, and in reality, neither did they.

The third attraction is to war. This has a very real stone-age manifestation. Ten thousand years ago, there were all sorts of wild animals and savage neighboring clans to deal with, and protection was a very real necessity. We created spears, bows, arrows, catapults, tomahawks, rockets, cannons, and today’s chief societal manifestation: guns. Other common societal manifestations include martial arts, boxing, all sports, and the spirit of competition. Most of these manifestations, if not all, are pretty healthy. However, the simulations are usually not so healthy. Violence in electronic media is desensitizing our society to the realities of death. If you mention the phrase “raping and pillaging” to a group of middle school boys, they will laugh. If you mention that phrase to a group of Dark Age Scotsmen, I doubt they would have the same response.

The final attraction is the most serious for a few reasons. For one, God gave us this attraction for the most sacred reason. For two, it is perverted more than any of the others by Satan. This, of course, is sexual desire. These feelings are extremely powerful. God gave them to us for a beautiful purpose. The societal manifestation of this has always been sex with women. Common societal perversions include pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, sodomy, and the big catalyst for all of these perversions and more: pornography. Pornography is, of course, most accessible on the computer. It is the biggest web industry. Most sex offenders will tell you that they began with an addiction to pornography. This is the grossest of Satan’s attempts to pervert men’s natural attractions. It is a disease that runs rampant in our society today. It is the most serious temptation we are given in these latter-days.
Thus we see that all of these instinctual attractions can be twisted and perverted electronically into some fake simulation that too many of us men are substituting for the real deal. I want to see my friends in real life, not in a video game. I want to protect my family, not pretend I’m in a war on my computer. I want a fast car…AND a fast computer. I want to have sex with my wife, not watch some strangers re-create the experience for me.

With that, I’m out.