Monday, November 26, 2012

On the Importance of Maintaining Religious Freedom

     Religious freedom should always be protected. I think protecting religion is so important so that we, as a whole people, can naturally come to realize organized religion and its dogmas are a hindrance to social progress.  It's like the difference between kids whose parents made no attempt to hide aspects of life versus kids who kept from everything deemed "bad" or "adult".
     The Puritan families wind up with the most fucked up kids.  If you happen to be ultra conservative with your children's upbringing in terms of not allowing your kids to explore their world without fear and secrecy, then your kids are going to be a mess.  While deviating slightly from a permissive parenting style in the sense of passing on to progeny some sort of ethical fortitude, it is important for healthy people to be able to explore and sample different aspects of life.  If life remains in such darkness, the seeker will always look for light.
     When tolerance and freedom to explore are the central factors in one's upbringing, suddenly, the taboos of life are diminished.  All the "sins" suddenly become less sinful.  Now, I'm not talking about breaking universal taboos like incest, child abuse, and murder if we all get out there and give it the college try, attempting to desensitize society.  What I am saying is that when we make nothing in life more special than something else, we see that nothing is shocking.  Life becomes less enigmatic and more pragmatic.
     Here's where religious freedom comes into play.  If there is no freedom, there are two possibilities that remain which are similar to Cannon's "fight or flight" response: 1) Freedom is sought and/or 2) Freedom is not sought.
     In the first instance, since its inception, the battle to pursue organized religion has only lead to war and death. From the Crusades to the American Revolution, the cause is the same.  Prohibit or attempt to suppress any behavior, and the one exhibiting the "negative" behavior will continue to rebel either in secrecy or in overt, physical manners.
     In the second instance, one might note a person forced into religion by birth, marriage, etc.  In modern times, this seems to be a more accurate portrayal of most people born into democratic cultures.  You are what your parents are- in the case of most, what your father is or was, unless one is Jewish, in which case, it follows the mother's lineage.  One time, when I was about 10, I asked an orthodox rabbi, "Rabbi, Jews say that if my mother is Jewish, then I am Jewish; yet, Catholics say that I am what my father is. So what am I?"
     "Is your mother Jewish?" he looked at me, bending down to my level.
     "Then you're Jewish," he said, shaking his head in the affirmative.
     "But, Rabbi, my parents baptized me Catholic."
     "It doesn't matter, we don't recognize that.  You're Jewish."
So, basically, even if I choose, am indoctrinated, swear allegiance to any number of gods or goddesses, or choose no religion at all, I am Jewish, at least according to some people.  If I lacked the kind of freedom that was really given to me by my parents, I might actually think I must be Jewish.  Every other religion is the same- you are what your parents say you are, because their parents told them what they are and so on.  This is a classic case of blind leading the blind.  Why are we waiting in this line? Oh, just because there is a line! I see... you mean some guy is just tying his shoes?  This alternative reality to religious intolerance is far worse than the former, as people become sheep, "Sheeple".  Unfortunately, sheeple follow the pack.  They raise their hands, speak when spoken to, believe in a Golden Rule, not because it comes from a deeper understanding of human suffering and the need for compassion, but because they were told of it, over and over again.  It was drilled into their heads as basically as the ABCs or simple arithmetic.  These are people who completely lack all advanced moral development.  Kohlberg believed most people fell into the category of defining morality according to rules and the law--maintaing order above all else.  This is why people can accept "safety and security" above their own liberty.  I'd rather fight.  There is more honor, though life might not be as long lived, like Bertolt Brecht's character, Mother Courage, an ironic name given to a woman who profits from war by claiming allegiance to whomever the ruling occupiers were during the Thirty Years' War.  That's how she stayed alive, and is the ironic facet to her name, she simply flew the flags of those occupying and never really showed any courage- but she stayed alive.
     When religious freedom is protected in society and especially in the home, or when a kid is allowed to sip wine at dinner with her parents, there is no mystery, no need to seek.  There is no need to binge drink with one's buddies, learning the hard way that lying face down in one's vomit is no pleasure cruise, and there is no need to die, kill others, or walk blindly like sheep and turkeys.
     As a Jewish Catholic, I've participated in Southern Baptist bible school, Catholic school, synagogues (from orthodox to reform), Jewish overnight camp, twirled with Dervishes, attended Buddhist temples and sangas, Hindu temples, Wiccan ceremonies, and sat in on Satanic rituals.  I've danced naked to the moon and sung songs praising Jesus.  I've read bibles, ancient religious texts, spoken philosophically with religious leaders, honored Mother Earth, drank from the plants of the gods, and sat in quiet meditation praying for inner and outer peace.
     Through all of this some have called me "lost".  Contrarily, I believe I'm found.  Through my ability to freely seek, tasting delicious, savory, full-bodied life without fear, I have found that one truth remains: Organized religion is nothing more than a tool for controlling the masses and the self in a world of competing gods who threaten an eternity of suffering or elation, depending upon whether or not one accepts that god or set of beliefs.  True morality comes from within one's self, through seeing the suffering that exists in the world and through seeing that laws change according to the culture of the times.  A moral compass can't be worn around a neck like a crucifix.
     So, Atheists and Agnostics, fear not.  You are what you are because you had the freedom to see, first hand, the antiquated tyranny of religion.  Long live religious freedom!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


     While preparing dinner the other night, my ten year old daughter asked what the purpose of ants is, so I explained they help fertilize plants, help with decomposition, they work the soil and are like nature's housekeepers, keeping the earth tidy. Then, she paused and asked about spiders, so I said they eat insects we don't like, like ants.  I added, "Now, mosquitos, fleas, ticks, lice and other parasites serve no purpose. They can die." 

     "Mom, what about humans? What purpose do humans serve? They pollute and kill, so what is the point of a human?" she pondered.

     "Well, the great thing about humans is that we make choices to pollute and kill." She wasn't following me.  "You see, humans have free will and consciousness.  They can choose to do wonderful, beautiful things, or they can be destructive and do awful things." I realized that my words did not answer her question, I merely described potential, not purpose. "Microbes. Bacteria."

     "What are you talking about, Mom?" Angelina leaned her head to the side and stuck her chin out, while furrows appeared in her little nose and brow.

     "Remember I told you that humans are really ninety percent microbial, that only ten percent of our cells are human?"

     "Yes, Mom, you told me this a millon times," she said, shaking her head in the affirmative.

     "Well, you know, the entire planet is microbial too.  So, what if it's all about the microbes? What if humans exist in order to serve the purpose of the microbes? Like, each of us is just a planet for the microbes that exist on us and in us."

     "Mom," she said, as her voice became slightly more bass, "that idea freaks me out. You are freakin' me out, woman!"

     I shrugged my shoulders and raised my left hand into the air as if to suggest that it's just another idea, "Hey, it's the only purpose I can think of!"

     Philosophers have, for millennia, attempted to answer the seemingly simple, yet most puzzling question life can offer-  a child can ask it, but a quadrillion minds who worked tirelessly until the end of time (if that exists) would not be able to think of one, true reason that all would accept.  There are ideas about utility and greater good, existential happiness, pleasure, responsibility and absolutes, whether free will really exists, whether free will is meant to serve in duty, that life has no meaning or purpose at all... on and on, around and around people go, trying to make sense of life.

     Last year, I wrote an article called "Space Invaders" that discussed the eerie antithesis of human existence- that we're not really human at all.  In a US News article from 2008, Matt Kane, from the National Science Foundation, said, "If all of Earth's microbes died, so would everything else, including us, but if everything else died, microbes would do just fine."

     Microbiologists have been attempting to globally map microbial genomes (this links to an interactive map, showing the current genome mapping at the Microbial Genomics Program) which seems like a daunting and impossible task since there are more microbes that exist in a spoonful of dirt than stars that exist in our galaxy... about 100 billion.  According to the article linked above, humans, depending upon where they live and how they are born (vaginally or Caesarian section), can be host to many different bacteria- so not all humans are created equal. Our biology is different and our response to internal and external environment depends wholly upon the microbial colonies that exist on us and in us.  

     In the future, perhaps science will have the perfect formula for colonizing bacteria in and on humans to allow us to reach our biological peak of perfection- nonetheless, benefit or not, the microbes reign.  

     What if our brains and all of our directed consciousness are the evolutionary response to bacteria's need for optimal survival?  If only our egos would let us believe this is true, we might be a lot happier with the result being more compassion and less suffering. After all, life is so very small and so very large- it seems like a lie when we promote the idea of the "individual".

         Now, humans, you billions of inner-planetary planets, you will learn to bow to your microbial overlords! And for the sake of all us, throw away that anti-bacterial soap.

(Image Source-

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Where Zombies Go To Retire

Ah, Florida.  You're really only good for a few things- beaches, Disney, alligators and the Okefenokee, and baseball.  Let's face it though, it's really the home of rednecks and people eighty percent of the way to death.  I lived in Florida as a kid, in a place called Kendall, about 30 minutes south of Miami.  I swam with old people, day in and day out, who all seemed annoyed by the presence of a five year old (I fet like they were sucking the life out of me)- oh, there were swings too, but that was it... days spent swinging and swimming.  It sounds fine to some people.

I prefer it here in the northeast and, specifically, in my home state of New Jersey, where I have beaches, am close to Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and New York for a cornucopia of well-rounded culture and dining.  I have witnessed firsthand absurdities from those transplanted from my tri-state area to Florida (where people go to die, I repeat, where people go to die) from sub shops who attempt to replicate Atlantic City's Italian bread (sorry people, it's in the water and that stays here) to people paying high prices to overnight ship our crabs.

Florida even tried to best our zombies.

I was shocked when I read about the Florida man who literally chewed off the face of another man while high on an experimental chemical called 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone, otherwise known on the street as "bath salts".  The media and authorities attempted to falsely and irresponsibly represent the chemical as a "new LSD"- their reporting is even more dangerous than the zombie attacks.  In fact, as a side note, it's disturbing, at a minimum, to attempt the pairing of LSD to MDPV, as LSD has never been the cause of psychosis; rather, research shows it fosters spiritual and mental healing from "trip" experiences in most people.  Since MDPV is a research chemical, no one can safely say what it does.  Additionally, the chemical structure of both substances is so vastly different that to make any comparison is not only a stretch, it's a lie intended to continue the demonization of a societally beneficial substance. But enough digression because this had nothing to do with drugs, clearly, zombies are the problem.

Yesterday, in New Jersey, further evidence of the zombie apocalypse made its way into national news.  A man from Hackensack, when confronted by police, took a large and very sharp knife, began stabbing himself throughout his body, and finally, when police threatened to end his self-inflicted tirade, he did what any self-respecting zombie would do... he threw his intestines at them.  Yep, he disemboweled himself and flung his innards at the police, "Take that, coppers! You want a piece of me? You want a piece of me? Here, have some..." Even when hit with two cans of pepper spray, the New Jersey zombie kept throwing his guts at the police.

Okay, Florida, you just try to compete with New Jersey, we dare you!  Your guy? Eh. What a wimp! I mean, come on, it takes a fairly lame zombie to eat someone else's face off- in Jersey, we don't mess around, we eat our own faces off! By the way, Florida, your guy is dead while our guy hangs on by a thread, I mean, by his intestines. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Through the, (Well, My) Ages

     When I was twelve, going on thirteen, as the leaves fell from the trees in 1988, our Language Arts class was asked to write a sense poem with "love" as the topic.  We were unaware that our teacher was also choosing a poem from each grade to be entered into a city-wide poetry contest.  
     I was truly the kid who used to make wishes at the wishing well and sit in the warm sun, gazing (no, really, I gazed... seriously), thinking about lovely nature, and daydreaming of spectacular adventure.  So, this was the poem my adolescent mind generated, complete with my current feelings after each line in parentheses:

Our Love
Love is a wonderful color, beyond explanation.          
(Yes, because you couldn't think of any.)
It tastes like caviar and chocolate covered cherries.         
(AND champagne wishes?? Oh my God, I'm Robin Leach.) 
Love sounds like beautiful music being played at oceanside by a goddess.          
(Is she sitting on a rock, strumming a harp, perchance?)
It smells like a garden of roses with the scent of sweet perfume.
(At least I wrote this before Bon Jovi laid on his bed of roses.)
It looks like man and woman, together, forever embracing.         
(until someone farts...)
Love makes me feel like my heart will pop out at any moment from the excitement.
(and this makes me feel like I want to vomit from all the cliches.)

     Four years later in 1992, I was on to sonnets- boy, did I love Shakespearean sonnets.  There are still a lot of filler words being used.  Notice that the material has taken on a slightly more mature tone and introduces the idea of turmoil in unrequited love.  I think I wrote this for a teacher- a major crush on the super-hottie-young-wrestling coach who was only 26 or 27 at the time... I actually remember writing this poem in the typing lab and printing it on the dot-matrix:

Unreachable Lover
This night that passed, I felt again your touch,
It was as grand as a warm summer's eve.
Your porcelain, red lips I've missed so much;
These tears, again, they will flow when you leave.
An exchange of thoughts and hearts once again;
These moments I anxiously do await;
Until then, on other days it will rain;
Perhaps, this is my unchangeable fate.
Although not true, all my dreams seem so real;
It oft hurts to wake to an empty bed;
These visions were ones I, indeed, could feel;
There must be a way all these would be dead.
Can you understand my feelings for you?
Just know one thing, all love expressed is true.

     Then, in 1995, I had my first, major break-up with a boy.  We actually still keep in touch and he agrees that he treated me miserably... though I was a stupid, little girl.  Anyway, for about a week, I hated this guy for breaking my heart:

Funny Bones Heart Splatterby *thejamcascru

Through tragedy, my hopes have gone,
No longer do I feel the pain;
A numbness in my every touch;
Now, I know no other way.
my mind spirals
downward, further
Until it hits the frosty sweat
days spent
future's past-
Thanks to you, I've learned this love
Thanks to you, I feel no pain,
And so to you, a cheery toast,
"Anguish and sorrow will here remain
with you."
The candle drips,
my spirit rips;
Fills up with a shuddering hurt;
Screams and blood,
Confusion, madness,
Black tears-
And it's all thanks to you.

No venom, angst, or insanity there, kids. So, I began to lighten up a little when I, again, found love in 1996:

I wake in the morning
feeling your gentle kiss
pressing my lips--
I smile
my spirit, again, knows
freedom to soar
through eternity with hearts
souls united
wishes granted--
a spirit so high
birds cannot follow
but together we climb
together in peace
knowing love
seeing beauty in others'
learning that existence
is enough to love
to give love
to forever

     Then, I was married and in 1999, I gave birth to my first child and "Love" took on a whole new meaning:

Julia Love
My bright angel baby--
shimmering happiness
exploding into stars
shooting across the sky,
falling upon wide eyes,
transforming into dreams.
Kiss a delicate cheek--
warmth of a thousand suns
penetrate, melt the soul,
lift it to the heavens
delivering to God--
a universe of love.

    Finally, I began writing about universal love- making love to the entire quantum universe- immersing, superimposing, all of me into and onto all of it.  No longer limited by earthly love, I decided to branch out and expand the definition:

Body Electric

Turn on my Body Electric,
come-- brush against my quarks,
a chemistry explosively 
revealed after dark.

I wish to be your lightning rod,
come ZAP! me in delight,
come in, explore, there's so much more,
find vision without sight.

So long, I've searched through galaxies,
and foraged through a maze
of lifeless, empty energy
forced stunted by a haze.

Get warped, consume my juicy space,
take journeys in my mind,
wrap warm lips around every
particle you can find. 

     I continue to write love poems- though, likely, they will continue to reflect my love of Nature.  I haven't changed from the little girl who used to lay in the grass and search for bugs, cloud watch, and smell all the neighbor's tulips and daffodils on the way to school in the springtime- so much that she'd be late for 1st grade almost every day.  
     In fact, all this daydreaming and reminiscing about love has occupied my time all day today...