Monday, February 27, 2012

Ghost Books

To make it clear, we're talking about the non-fiction kind of books, not the fictional ones. Though I do read plenty of fantasy books that involve ghosts and spirits of one kind or another I am also deeply fascinated with the real life versions of these.

Sanil mentioned in the last post that she'd added the book GHOSTS by Hans Holzer to her wish list. I begged her, for the sake of her own sanity, not to do it. It's not a very good book, truth be told, and I've been slogging my way through it for the better part of two years though I'm almost done and hope to finish it this week! FREEDOM IS IN SIGHT! :D

The book is only 768 pages long but it's built like an encyclopedia. It's 11.22" x 8.92" x 2.34" and it weighs 6.27 lbs (thank you, Librarything!). It's *huge* and the pages are printed in two column format so there's a *ton* in there. On top of all of's *boring*. There. I've said it. This book, a book about hauntings, which is a topic I find endlessly fascinating, is *BORING*. Each case is given an ample amount of space, especially for the amount of actual information that comes out of it. You get a brief sort of introduction to the house and a little bit about the history of it, some reports of the phenomena that are being experienced and then it goes into (and on and on and on...) about the psychic readings that Mr. Holzer and his favorite mediums do.

And that's where they lose me. I have no doubt that there are people out there who have psychic abilities. I can accept that easily in the abstract. However I tend to have doubts and not trust all the people that I meet or hear about that claim to be psychic. Don't ask me why, but I do. There's also the fact that Holzer was involved in the Amityville Horror debacle which I admit makes me judge him. Not that I don't believe that he was sincere in his beliefs, just that I think he wanted to believe so hard that he got fooled on occasion.

Which has *nothing* to do with the fact that this book is very dry and boring. Did I mention it was boring?

Anyway. Personally, I want to read two things in a book about ghosts. I want details of the haunting. I want the creepy fact. Things moving, shadows, voices in the dark. I want to read the ghost story. And I want the investigation. Not with psychics but with attempts to debunk, to find rational explanations. Because that way, whatever can't be explained has to stand on it's own as inexplicable phenomena.

I don't even have to have those two things in the same book! Though of course it would be better if I did, I've accepted that there aren't very many books out there like that.

So. Ghost books that I have read and enjoyed:

Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter by Josh Gates - Okay. First off, this book is not entirely about ghosts. It isn't even mostly about ghosts. However it is about Josh Gates and his insane life. I found it entertaining but that could have something a lot a little to do with the fact that Josh Gates is my unabashed crush and that I would give several organs and possibly my first born child to run around and nearly get killed with this man. So, you know. I may be biased. Or something. Whatever. It's a fun, fun book and you learn a lot about the monsters he's trying to find or debunk as well as the nations and the cultures of the people who believe in them.

Anything by Leslie Rule. Her books definitely fall into the category of being all about the haunting with no scientific attempts to solve the mystery of what might be causing people to see these things.

Hidden Files: Law Enforcements True Case Stories of the Unexplained and Paranormal by Sue Kovach - I enjoyed the ghost stories in this one. There are other stories, dealing with Big Foot and the like which appealed less, but I always find it especially fascinating when the people reporting the phenomena are police officers or members of the military. After all, the police are trained to be more observant than the general populace, to be tougher in many senses. And I think the military thing speaks for itself, right? If they're getting freaked out by things that are happening then I think whatever's going on is way out of the ordinary.

Possessed Possessions and Possessed Possessions 2 by Ed Okonowicz - Ghosts attach themselves to things. The author of these books collects haunted objects. Again, nothing very scientific going on but I enjoyed reading the stories. The only thing is that these two are very thin volumes.

Most of the other ghost books that I've read are local ghost stories, all about hauntings in Florida so I won't bother going on about them right now. I think that, in general, every area has their own ghost legends and that if you look you can find books written on them.

I've not had much luck in finding the scientific kind of books about ghosts, truth to be told which is why you don't see any on the list above. I have picked up both books written by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson. Ghost Hunting and Seeking Spirits but I haven't gotten around to reading them yet. I have hopes that they'll at least be a little skeptical but one never knows. :)

So that's what I've got for you. The books that I've read and enjoyed. Not very objective, so YMMV on all of these books of course. And if you have any suggestions that you think I might enjoy, please let me know. I'm always looking for more books.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

"Winning means fame and fortune. Losing means certain death. The Hunger Games have begun."

These books have been recommended all over the place, forever. Becky did a Writer's Wednesday post on them and Googling them brings up a butt load of other rec's and reviews. If you do Google them, beware of spoilers, please.

The Hunger Games is the first book in The Hunger Games Trilogy, followed by Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I've been meaning to read them for a while but was putting it off until I'd finished the mystery series I'm reading on Murdock but then one of my co-worker's received a hard cover set of the trilogy for Christmas and loaned them to me. I read the books in two days, which, even given my typical reading speed, should tell you how much I enjoyed these books.

They are Young Adult and you should keep that in mind. The writing is good but it's not *excellent*. What really draws you through is the story. It's good enough to make you forget that it's YA and it's a fairly good treatment of some very heavy themes.

The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian future where America, and presumably the rest of the world, has destroyed itself. America has been replaced by a nation called Panem, a confederation of 12 Districts under the control of the Capitol. There used to be 13 Districts but the Districts rebelled 74 years before the beginning of this book. The thirteenth District was utterly destroyed, the remaining twelve defeated and enslaved by the Capitol.

"Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favor."

In order to prevent any future rebellions the Capitol puts on the Hunger Games once each year. Two children, one boy and one girl, between the ages of 12 and 18 from each District are selected by lottery to participate. The twenty-four Tributes are taken to the Capitol, dressed up, paraded around and then dropped into an Arena where they fight to the death until there is only one left. The victor of the Hunger Games is set for life. They have food, comfort and pretty much anything that they could desire while the rest of the people of the Districts starve and slave away for the Capitol.

“What must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button? How would I spend the hours I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance if it were so easy to come by? What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol, besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to roll in and die for their entertainment?”

Katniss Everdeen is from District 12, a strong hunter (which is outlawed) and the backbone of her family. Her father was killed in a mine explosion when she was 11, leaving her to find a way to keep her mother, her younger sister Primrose and herself alive. When Prim is chosen as Tribute from District 12, Katniss volunteers to take her place. Along with a boy named Peeta Mellark, who once saved her life right after her father was killed, she is taken to the Capitol to fight.

The first book is all about their struggle for survival in the arena. It's brutal, especially if you have a good imagination. The author doesn't dwell over every single death but the plain fact is that these are children, starving and desperate, taken from their homes and their families. Trained to fight and survive, then thrown into an arena designed to kill them or force them to kill. Their only way out is to kill. Some of the winners from previous Hunger Games have gone mad. There's at least one recorded instance of cannibalism within the Game. It's just as ugly as it should be.

These books suck you in. The world is so desperate, so ugly and still so filled with beautiful things, with people who are willing to fight for one another and sacrifice for the people that they love. It's wonderful, truly.

And I should warn you, I did a lot of crying towards the end of the last book. I spent most of the series going like this: O.O and screaming at characters in my head.

Also, I went to sleep one night in the middle of Catching Fire (because I just *had* to sleep at some point), thinking: 'Can't sleep, President Snow will get me.' which may only be funny to me. :)

Rating: All the stars! Realistically, let's go with a 4.75/5. Because no book is perfect.

And now, the trailer for the movie! Yes, I am going to see it when it comes out. I may even go to a midnight showing. Because it's just that wonderful.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Making and Begetting

"In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, `I've no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I'm a religious man too. I know there's a God. I've felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that's just why I don't believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who's met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!'"

I agree with the hard-bitten old officer, actually. If you've experienced the divine directly I imagine that the images and words that we use to try and approach that divinity pale and seem useless in comparison. The problem is that most of us will never have such a direct experience. So we're only left with the descriptions of those who have had them, or the logical wonderings and conclusions of our own minds. Which we then apply to the descriptions the people who have experienced the divine directly give us. So it becomes rather like a game of telephone when you start to think about it.

God/god(s)/the universe/whatever you would like to call it communicates directly to one human being. Because humans are limited by their very nature, the experience is already a simplified or boiled down version of the actual presence of the divine. Then you take that and filter it through the recipients perception which is formed by their culture, their time and their individual experiences. Have them try and put that into words to convey it to other people. Then have those people translate what they took away from the talk/book/interview and filter it through *their* perceptions which are formed by their culture, time and individual experiences. Rinse and repeat. It's very easy to see how what is believed to have been the message of any divine encounter could be vastly different from what it actually was.

And I've wandered off on a rabbit trail there. My point remains! I think that theology pales in comparison to an actual encounter with the divine and anyone who has had one might have less need for the 'scientific' understanding that the rest of us are left with. Which is not to say that we should do away with theology of course. It's fascinating and I think that we can, in some small ways, use it to get a faint reflection of an idea of the divine. And it's fun to argue as long as it doesn't get to the insulting, personal attack side.

"Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God—experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map."

Must we? Again, I enjoy theology. It's fascinating. But do we *have* to use it? Or does it perhaps get more in our way than help us out? Block us from seeing the simple evidence of the divine around us because we're too busy arguing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin?

"You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion—all about feeling God in nature, and so on—is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work: like watching the waves from the beach."

I disagree. All religion *starts* from that point. From a person having a singular experience of the divine. And who's to say that, as I said earlier, our obsession with theology and defining everything as closely as we can, on 'mapping' the way to the divine isn't preventing us from the very experience we seek?

Lewis goes on to state that since we're so educated now, since we are capable of such wide range discussion amongst ourselves, that we have to have theology. When everyone was ignorant it was okay to have 'simple' ideas about the divine.

"Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones—bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. To believe in the popular religion of modern England is retrogression—like believing the earth is flat."

Aren't all ideas about god theology to one extent or another? Whether they're simplistic or not. And how do you judge which theology is correct in any case? Just because it was rejected centuries ago doesn't make it incorrect. The parallel of comparing old, rejected theologies to the Flat Earth Theory is a false one. We can prove that the earth is not flat. You can't prove that one idea about god is more or less right than another idea about god. We just think that we can because we've been thinking in the same general path for so long that it's become an automatic assumption. Also, there are apparently people out there who do, in fact, still believe that the earth is flat. So...yeah.

"For when you get down to it, is not the popular idea of Christianity simply this: that Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher and that if only we took His advice we might be able to establish a better social order and avoid another war? Now, mind you, that is quite true. But it tells you much less than the whole truth about Christianity and it has no practical importance at all."

Is that the popular idea of Christianity? Maybe it was at the time. Or maybe this is another case of my not having encountered this in my life. My understanding is that the majority of Christians do believe that Jesus Christ was God, which belief brings with it varying degrees of belief that salvation (eternal life in heaven) comes only through him. Now if you went outside of Christianity, among those who even believe that the man Jesus lived at all, I think you would find many who would say that he was a great moral teacher and if more people followed his examples the world would be a better place, none of which requires him to be of any more than mortal origins. And really, I think that following Jesus to a kinder, more accepting and generally better world has the most practical importance of anything relating to his life.

After all, how much practical importance is there to what may or may not happen to you after you die? Perhaps it's more accurate for me to say that the social teachings of Jesus have a more wide spread and applicable practical importance than the theology behind his being God. After all, no matter what your faith or lack thereof, you can follow the concepts of equality and treating others as well as you would want to be treated

Right. So Lewis says all this to say that even though people have told him he shouldn't talk about theology, he's going to anyway. And he does this by jumping into the difference between Christ who, as the third person of the Trinity is the *begotten* Son of God and humans who are the *made* Sons (and Daughters, though that phrase is never used) of God. 

"We don't use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is a clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.

Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God."

(edited for clarity): The Father, in Christian theology, begets the Son but not in exactly the same way that we would understand a human father begetting a son. After all, if it did work in exactly the same way then the Father and the Son would be two distinct entities rather than one.

Let's all just say out loud what we all know. The doctrine of the Trinity is a hard one to get your head around. It's easy enough to lay out: There is one God. That one God, however, is comprised of three Persons. These Persons are, as we call them, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost/Spirit. While these three Persons exist, they are not separate gods. That's the simple, surface idea of it. And you're already going, 'But...' and raising your hand. You know you are, don't deny it.

It just gets worse from there. This post would get *incredibly* long if I went into it. Suffice it to say most Christians believe in the Trinity and acknowledge that it is impossible for us to understand how it works.

Back to the begetting. So the Son was 'begotten', but not in the same way, precisely, that humans beget. Because if he was then we've got one god spawning/birthing/fathering *other* gods which drops us right out of monotheism.

We, however, are made. Like statues. We kind of resemble the living thing, God in this case, but there's no life to us. What Lewis is saying that Christianity says to us is that we are created things who have the chance to become alive.

Like there's a warehouse full of statues created by the Father. Along comes his Son who wants to make the statues live. So the Father says, 'Sure. We can adopt them if they want us to.' and the Son runs around inside the warehouse making whichever of the statues want to be alive in the same way that he and his Father are alive, live. Only it's not exactly the same, since they're God and the statues can never be God. And the Father and the Son aren't separate entities but aspects of the same entity.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I'm prejudiced, I admit it.

Am I the only one angered every time I'm reminded about the Mormon practice of baptising random deceased people?

I get that if Mormonism is incorrect, then it makes no difference at all and if it is correct then it's just offering people a choice but it still just makes me grind my teeth.

I read someone arguing that it shows how much the Mormon faith values each and every human soul that has ever been on the planet, but I see it as very disrespectful. I should really have some sort of argument or something here, I know, but I don't. I could, but I'm just not going to go into the lack of honesty involved, retroactively trying to make everyone Mormon, or the utter (again) lack of respect for the beliefs and lives of the people that they're doing this to. I just get this urge to go up to random Mormon's and go, 'Hands off my ancestors!'


It's irrational, I know. Then again, Mormonism is one of the (few) religions that I just cannot deal with. I find them bizarre and I don't like them, in general. I've never, to my knowledge, even *met* a Mormon, but I'm prejudiced against them. I'm not proud of it, but that's just the way it is. For some reason I don't trust them and this is one of those things that just makes me go, 'Yeah. Creepy and weird. Stop it.' and reinforces my feelings of dislike and distrust.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

I loved this book. Loved. Unabashedly, unreservedly, loved.

Right then. I picked this up...a long time ago. It's one of those books that's been sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to get around to it. To be honest, I almost got rid of it years ago when I did my Great Purge. I held onto it for some reason, shallowly, probably because of the 'Oprah's Book Club' seal on the front.

I'm very glad that I did hold onto it. See above for my general level of :DDD - all the love for this book.

The death of something living is the price of our own survival, and we pay it again and again. We have no choice. It is the one solemn promise every life on earth is born and bound to keep.” 

It's told in the alternating point of views of the five Price women. The mother, Orleanna, and her four daughters; Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth May.

Their lives revolve around the patriarch of the Price family, Reverend Nathan Price. The man, a Southern Baptist preacher turned missionary is driven by inner demons whose shapes become clear through the story of the book. Believing that he is on a mission from God, Price drags his family to the Congo in the late 1950s which I think most people know could be, in a massive understatement, called the beginning of a time of great upheaval in the region.

The Price family arrive in the Congo with no knowledge of the language and no idea of the political situation. Nathan has dragged them there against the advice of the people in charge of the mission, though his wife doesn't find that out until later. They arrive believing in their inherent superiority as whites, as civilized, Western people and as Christians. Their arrogance and utter lack of understanding or even a desire to understand the culture and the people that they are suddenly surrounded by is grating and sickening in places.

While the women of the family adapt to varying degrees, forced to learn how to survive in a completely alien environment, Nathan is focused and blind to the point of madness. He sees nothing but enemies all around him, even in his own family. Throughout the book we are shown the damage that his rampant misogyny has on his family. His wife, a strong and spirited woman in her youth when they first marry is beaten down and subjugated to the point where she becomes unable to stand strong enough to save her daughters until it is too late.

"God doesn’t have to punish us. He just grants us a long enough life to punish ourselves."

There is action in this book, though not of the guns and knives sort. The tension, the driving force behind the book is the slow growing understanding of just how far out of control this family is. How at the mercy of a single man and his madness they have become. It's a novel about people and about how they can either bend or break.

It does start out slowly. I can't tell you the number of times that I was reading and thought about just putting it down and moving on at first. There are moments of dark hilarity, like when Nathan is finally told that the reason no one wants to be baptised is that they think he's trying to feed them to the crocodiles in the river that grow fewer and fewer as you read on and begin to understand exactly how delusional Nathan is, how determined he is that he is chosen by God and that he will stay his course no matter how many lives it costs.

"Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened. First, picture the forest. I want you to be its conscience, the eyes in the trees. The trees are columns of slick, brindled bark like muscular animals overgrown beyond all reason. Every space is filled with life: delicate, poisonous frogs, war-painted like skeletons, clutched in copulation, secreting their precious eggs onto dripping leaves. Vines strangling their own kin in the everlasting wrestle for sunlight. The breathing of monkeys. A glide of snake belly on branch. A single-file army of ants biting a mammoth tree into uniform grains and hauling it down to the dark for their ravenous queen. And, in reply, a choir of seedlings arching their necks out of rotted tree stumps, sucking life out of death. This forest eats itself and lives forever."  

I know this is a short and kind of really vague review, but I always want to err on the side of not giving too much of the book away. Part of the wonder of books, the thing that draws us in, is not known what's coming on the next page.

This book is worth the time you spend on it. Go read it.

I give this book 4.5/5.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Signal Boost - Paws 4 Pogo

I'm reposting this from Heather over at Cover(ed) Girl:

A friend of mine, Mandi, is a 100% service-disabled Navy vet. Her service dog, Pogo, is a rescue who was later trained to her current occupation. Pogo has a torn ACL (ligament) in her leg and needs a very expensive surgery ($3,500) to have it repaired. Due to her disabled status, Mandi is unable to work and is on a fixed income. She can't afford Pogo's surgery alone, and is largely confined to her home without her service dog due to her disability.

Here's where we can help! A fundraising campaign has been started at:
Paws 4 Pogo -

If you can donate, please consider doing so. Pass the word along to your family and friends through social networking. Please help us to reach our goal ASAP, as Pogo is in a lot of pain and suffers each day that she doesn't get this surgery. 

It's a worthy cause, people! I know that things are tight for a lot of us and that people may not have much, but if you can, please go and donate whatever you can afford to help.

Faith, Part II

And in full awareness of the fact that probably no one cares what I think about this book, especially in light of yesterday's post, which I have now deleted because I'm a fickle, fickle beast and I just...I don't even know. I need to actually sort myself out here because I'm doing things that are going in opposite directions. Let's just call me confused and still looking, okay? Anyway, back to the book!

This is the end of the section of Morals. Aren't you all glad?

Here's how Lewis starts out the chapter:

"I want to start by saying something that I would like every one to notice carefully. It is this. If this chapter means nothing to you, if it seems to be trying to answer questions you never asked, drop it at once. Do not bother about it at all. There are certain things in Christianity that can be understood from the outside, before you have become a Christian. But there area great many things that cannot be understood until after you have gone a certain distance along the Christian road. These things are purely practical, though they do not look as if they were. They are directions for dealing with particular cross-roads and obstacles on the journey and they do not make sense until a man has reached those places. Whenever you find any statement in Christian writings which you can make nothing of, do not worry. Leave it alone. There will come a day, perhaps years later, when you suddenly see what it meant. If one could understand it now, it would only do one harm."

I am torn on my reaction to this statement. On the one hand, it's true that there are some things in every religion that people outside of the religion cannot make sense of. I tend to think that it's a lack of proper building blocks of knowledge in many cases, a lack of the understanding of the foundation of the belief. For instance, the Trinity. It makes absolutely no sense to many people who are non-Trinitarian, whether those are non-Trinitarian Christians or members of other monotheistic faiths. I think the Trinity probably makes a bit more sense to polytheists of certain stripes since they're used to thinking of a single divine entity that presents in different aspects or forms. And for other polytheists, it doesn't make as much sense because they're used to discrete gods. So yes, there is some truth to the fact that certain aspects of a religion don't make sense to those outside of it and might confuse them. My problem is the idea that people studying the faith or converting should 'just leave' the parts that confuse them in the hopes that it will some day make sense.

There are some things that I think you need to understand before you commit to a faith! And if you don't understand them then you shouldn't join the religion. Yes, some things are 'minor' or 'not salvation issues' according to some opinions. But those are just opinions and other people may believe that those same issues are a part of the heart of the faith. So if you don't understand them to your satisfaction, because I'm not saying that you have to be able to grasp every mystery of your chosen faith perfectly of course, are you really 'saved'? Are you truly a member of that religion?

Then again, this may be part of my own personal problem. I want to understand and the not understanding drives me crazy. I do know that divinity is so different from us that we can't understand it through our filter of limited senses and I'm okay with that. But the things that we do know, I want to understand. I want it to make sense to me. If I can't grasp even that much, how can I have faith in it?

"the question of Faith in this (second) sense arises after a man has tried his level best to practise the Christian virtues, and found that he fails, and seen that even if he could he would only be giving back to God what was already God's own. In other words, he discovers his bankruptcy."

I have issues with the concept of moral bankruptcy as the default human condition! I always have. I don't see where people get that. In the Bible, does God create man? Yes. Is God the author of anything evil or wrong? No. That's one of the basic tenets at the heart of monotheism. God = good. End of story. He only contains good, so He can only create good. So if both of these statements are true, then man is inherently, morally good. I do know that this is a simple view of reality, really I do. But boiled down, this is what it comes to in my mind. If God created everything, then everything is at it's core good. That does not take away the fact that people do bad things. We make mistakes. Free will is a bitch, remember? But this whole idea that people are born morally corrupt and dirty just doesn't make sense to me. I much prefer and better understand the Orthodox position that the Fall didn't corrupt the core of human beings but more...smudged them up. So it's like having an incredible work of art covered by a layer of dirt and grime. The art is still there, still beautiful as the day it was created, you just have to get to it.

Since the next several paragraphs are all about the moral bankruptcy of humans and how we cannot understand our relation to God until we understand that we are scum...I just have to go, 'no' at Lewis and shake my head. I disagree. There are morally good people who don't believe in God at all. There are morally good people who believe in different gods. Believing that you are scum and inherently flawed does not necessarily lead you to being a better person or in a 'right' relationship with deity. It seems so very self-destructive to me, like being raised in a household where you're told the entire time that your every impulse is wrong, that your opinions are wrong, that you shouldn't think for yourself in some areas but leave the judgment to those who are your 'moral superiors'. This is a pattern of behavior that leads people to depression and no sense of self-worth when it occurs between human beings. How much worse is it when you believe that the creator of all things thinks that you're so bad He can't even look at you?

So...blah, blah, handwave, 'humans are morally bankrupt'. :p

"Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary. A serious moral effort is the only thing that will bring you to the point where you throw up the sponge. Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out of that Faith in Him good actions must inevitably come."

This part I like, in a way. I view the whole faith vs. actions thing as a sort of chicken vs. egg thing. You can't have one without the other. Or, well, you can, but in the salvation economy of Christianity it doesn't work. You have to have faith *and* do good works. I'm not denying that there are arguments as to whether or not the good works are motivated by the fact that you have faith or not, but I'm not aware of any branch of Christianity (which doesn't mean that there isn't one, just that I don't know about it. My knowledge base isn't all inclusive) that says that you can earn your way into God's good graces. I know that some branches have been mis-characterised in that fashion, but it's simply not true. Even Islam, which is accused very often of being a works based religion, doesn't work without faith. I could pray salat five times a day for the rest of my life, give charity, make Hajj, do all the things that are outward signs of a good and faithful Muslim and it wouldn't mean anything if I didn't believe in the message of Islam.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Change in the House of Amber - Restored Post

There are a few changes going on in my life right now, some you know about and some you don't

I decided to do a reading last night on a change that I've been feeling and seeing for a while now. The truth of the matter is that I've been feeling very disconnected from Christianity for a long time now. I've never been 100% comfortable with it, in spite of the face that I have tried to present to people. I made a choice based on in part wanting to keep the peace in my house and in part on wanting to irritate someone who was nasty to me. Which I think we can all agree are not good reasons to choose a religion.

And I want to say that I feel that, in spite of the wrong beginning, I really did believe. Or maybe it would be better to say that I decided that I should believe, that I wanted to believe and so I believed that I believed. I wasn't lying, or at least not to anyone but myself. But I never felt quite exactly like I meshed. I did have moments of comfort and happiness, where I felt as though I'd found someplace that I could belong. If I was just going on feelings I could happily keep plugging along under the label of Christian because I feel good about it.

But here's the honest truth: I don't see any difference between the claims of Christianity versus the claims of any other religion, ever. Yes, there are different details, but what I mean is that the likelihood of any one of these faiths being correct is equal. So there's no automatic greater weight to be applied to Christianity simply because it's monotheistic and monotheism is so much simpler and more logical than polytheism. First, that's not true. Just look at the debates that rage in Christianity, whether you're Trinitarian or Unitarian. Or Judaism or Islam. Second, monotheism has been tried before, in antiquity. It didn't take off quite as well as it later did but it's not new.

This...really has little to do with what I'm saying though. Other than accepting that fact has made it easier for me to step back and really evaluate what I'm doing. I think, in part, I wanted to be Christian, or at least in the monotheistic tradition because that's what is common. It's what is expected, in many ways, unless you've become an atheist.

The truth of the matter though is that I have always understood the universe and divinity best through paganism. I have to admit and accept that I never really left it, even when I said that I was a Christian and had done away with the old 'superstitions' of my life. I never stopped worshiping some of the gods in small ways. I never stopped feeling the need to perform certain rituals. And when I *did* stop them, something reached out and reminded me. I debated, within my own mind whether or not it was an accident and a coincidence or not. And I don't believe that it was. It's too perfect with meaning and with the devotion that I had let slip.

Since I picked that devotion back up, I've felt better. More settled in my own soul and things have been looking up in my life in general. I know now that in the past my religion has been unbalanced. I'm not going to pick it up exactly the way that I left it because I left it for a reason. I was allowing my anger to control a great many things and my form of worship was one of them. And that's why, I think, it didn't work the way it's working now.

I feel like I'm finally seeing the path that's been beneath my feet the entire time.

So, that was rambling, all to get to the reading. I use a set of rune cards, for the moment. I plan on making my own proper rune set but I need to make them in stone rather than clay since I sleep with the runes beneath my pillow and I'm afraid clay would break. For the moment, the cards work well enough.

The way I do a reading is really simple. I shuffle the deck while concentrating on the question or the event that I want insight on. When I feel that I've got the focus right and given enough time I cut the deck in half (roughly) and draw the card on top of the bottom half. That's the first card. I will usually draw two more cards to further focus and clarify the answer.

Last night I did two readings on the same issue. The issue being whether or not I was right to let go of Christianity and follow what I was feeling.

These are my cards from the first reading:

Cen (Freya) - Asa (Odin) - Mannaz

Right. So Cen (Kenaz) was my first card. It's associated, in this deck, with the goddess Freya. There are a *lot* of meanings on different levels associated with each rune but I'm just going to focus here on the ones that apply to my question. On the mental level Cen is associated with insight. Spiritually, it represents enlightenment, a spiritual awakening or opening. It is a sign of guidance, a reminder that the spirits (or gods) guide believers along their chosen paths.

My second card was Asa (Ansuz) which is associated with Odin. For those unaware, Odin is the chief god of the Norse pantheon. Again, many meanings but it is wisdom, the gaining of knowledge and religious acts. Inspiration.

My third card was Mannaz, or Man as the cards call it. The meanings attached to this are the human intellect, rationality, memory and tradition.

It's a very good, positive reading! I was surprise that the message was so very straightforward and positive without any pitfalls or notes of warning. You get that, sometimes, where there's a message of progress but it comes with a second card that warns of delays or blocks in your life. That's why you draw multiple cards, in order to see further.

I was so surprised by the goodness of this first reading that I did a second one!

Asa (Odin) - Sol - Algiz

I got the Asa/Ansuz card first this time. Which actually just about knocked me on my ass. I've never done two readings back to back as it were and gotten the same card in both. Never. So we remember from the first reading that Odin is associated with this rune and that it's wisdom and knowledge. I personally associate Odin with self-sacrifice in the name of knowledge.

Sol (Sowulo) is a rune that means success, or favorable circumstances.

Algiz is a rune associated with the god Heimdall who is said to be all seeing. There's nothing that can be hidden from him. He's considered a protective deity. It means protection, success through effort at the end of a quest or a period of seeking.

Which all boils down to me getting two readings on the same question with very similar answers. It's...I'm not going to lie. It's very awesome.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

TV: The River

Did anyone else watch The River last night? It's a new horror/suspense/something show on ABC. According to the end of the premier there're only six more episodes of the season, so it's really more of a mini-series than a regular series anyway.

I watched it and I have to say I was neither impressed nor disappointed in it.

The basic idea is that there's a family; Tess (mom), Lincoln (son), and Emmett (father). The father, Emmett Cole, is a famous explorer whose television show followed the family around as they explored the world. Of course there's the requisite falling out between Lincoln and his father and the suspicion/knowledge that Tess cheated on Emmett at some point. But those are all things that are mentioned but not fleshed out in much detail just yet. At the start of the show Emmett has been missing for six months and he and his crew are declared dead. They had gone off on a strange (are you really surprised?), kind of secretive mission to the Amazon and vanished.

Tess convinces Lincoln, who is ready to try and move on, to come with her and some of the television crew to try and find the missing expedition. They tack down Emmett's beacon, which has suddenly and mysteriously turned on after being inactive for half a year, and find it inside a diving cage at the bottom of the river. With no sign of anyone. *makes spooky sounds*

They continue looking, even though everyone is *sure* that the crew is dead, and come across the boat that the missing expedition was using. Also mysteriously abandoned. Blah, blah, spooky shots of the interior, they come to the panic room on the boat (designed in case of pirate attack), which has been welded shut from the outside. There are banging noises coming from within, so the rescue mission believes that some of the crew are alive and trapped inside.

Eventually they restore power and bust the room open to discover...a creepy shrine looking thing, something that looks like a giant seed and no one home. The seed thing turns out to be a native made coffin for an infant which is also alternatively used to capture 'dry ghosts'. Which, shock, is what was in there. According to the recordings that are found on the boat, the producer that Emmett brought with him, Cam, died and for whatever reason came back as one of these dry ghosts. They captured his spirit inside the little coffin and sealed it up in the room after it had killed some other members of the crew.

So the rescue mission, having accidentally set the ghost free, as you do, try to flee. The ghost shreds their little rafts that they need to get back to the boat they were using. They get the Magus (Emmett's ship), going again in 2 hours. Even though it's been sitting in the Amazon for six months with no maintenance, but whatever. The ghost kills one of the camera men and then they manage to trap it back in the little coffin. Not before it tells them that Emmett is still alive somewhere though.

Point of logic: Lincoln decides to dump the ghost-pod into the river. Which seems to me like it would un-seal the pod since there's nothing holding the two halves together. Thus re-freeing the ghost to hunt more people. But whatever. *handwaves the logic*

That's the first hour.

Second hour, they're still on the Magus and there's another point of logic. They have a perfectly good boat without any rust or, you know, giant smears of blood on the walls. Why did they not use the Magus to get back to the non-damaged boat. Then they could still keep looking, but in a perfectly functioning boat. Anyway. Moving On.

Still searching. Through *mumbltyconvenientplotpoint* they pick a direction to look for Emmett which just happens to lead them to an old colonial cemetery. Which happens to be right next to a giant creepy tree with dolls tied to it. Not voodoo dolls or anything, just plain old baby dolls.

Blah, blah, they find Lincoln's childhood bear tied to the tree so they know they're on the right path. He takes the bear from the creepy tree of dolls and you just know that that's never a good idea. Later, there's footage of the dolls moving behind peoples backs and then when they all go to sleep something grabs Lincoln and pulls him out of his tent. The group freak, try to leave, and wind up running in a circle back to the tree. Try to leave again, something grabs Tess and tries to drag her under in this little stream. Back to the tree. Someone suddenly remembers an old story about a girl whose mother had no time for her. The girl fell into the river and drowned, then her spirit, still lonely, started luring people to the river to drown them. The locals, to appease her, started to leave dolls at a tree for her. Thus, creepy doll tree. So they figure Lincoln pissed her off and make him give back his bear.

Ghost girl rejects the bear. She's decided she wants her mommy. She lures Tess off and takes her into the river. In a brilliant move they decide that if they give the little ghost girl her real mother's body that she'll give back Tess. So they go back to the graveyard, find the ghost girl's grave - easily identifiable since the only thing it says on it is her name, 'Rachel' and something about being taken by the river. Then they find the mother's grave. Also easily identifiable because apparently there was only one woman on this expedition and her grave, conveniently, mentions her heartbreak at losing her daughter to the river. Dig, carry somehow fully articulated skeleton to the river and drop it in. Tess pops up in the open grave of Rachel's mom.

And after all that, they're still willing to keep looking for Emmett. The end.

It's's supposed to be a horror show, but there was nothing truly frightening about it. The doll tree was creepy, because really. Dolls. But that was a total rip on a real myth that actually exists in Mexico. See the Destination Truth episode, Island of the Dolls for that one. So far it seems like they're taking things that are supposed to be creepy and throwing them all at us. I'm fairly 'meh' about the show thus far, but I'm all about giving shows the chance to prove themselves so I'll withhold final judgment for a while yet.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

That is *not* right!

I would like someone to please explain to me what thought process would lead a man to believe that the appropriate response to being informed that his flirtatious approaches to a woman at the gym are not welcome is to come up while the woman is on the treadmill and make sexual gestures at her.

No, it was not me this happened to, and no, I did not see it. If it had been, or I had, I would already have complained and the man would be banned from the gym.

I can't decide which part pisses me off more: that the man thought this was an acceptable thing to do or that the woman didn't report it. Or, or, that she was so freaking *shocked* when it was mentioned to her that she could, in fact, complain about his behavior. Like the thought had never occurred to her that she had another path to take rather than just take it and try to rebuff him herself. *twitches*

I just- I don't even have the coherency to make a rant about this. I'm too pissed for words and that *never* happens.

Monday, February 6, 2012

in which i rant about things i know nothing about

After talking with Eve on the drive home yesterday I've become half convinced that so much of prenatal care/screenings/tests is deliberately designed to make the parents freak out and then have to go to specialists.

So Evesdottir (still in the womb, keep in mind), has one kidney that is slightly larger than normal. This, according to what Eve told me, is one of the most common birth 'issues', and usually corrects itself. But she only knows this after having been told that the problem which causes that enlargement is one of the signs of Downs Syndrome, panicking about that, then being told that Evesdottir doesn't have any of the other signs three weeks later, then being told that if the problem doesn't correct itself that Evesdottir will be born and have to have surgery. So they have to go to Sarasota, which is a larger city north of where we live, to see a specialist to keep an eye on this 'problem' which, according to everyone is most likely not a problem at all. But just in case. Thus sucking more and more money out of Eve and Kyle, all while making them worry that there's something horrifically wrong with their baby.


Don't get me wrong, I absolutely understand that modern medicine is a necessary thing in many instances. That it saves people who would otherwise die. I'm all for it, when it's necessary. But is it really necessary to panic people for seemingly no reason at all except to have to send them to specialists?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

New Books!

The arrival of these books has totally made up for having to host a baby shower for two hours. The shower went well, by the way and Evesdottir is set up at least for a little while.

Now, on to the books!

The ones on Christ and God is Red are from sanil, thank you!

The others, the Eddas and the book on Asatru, are ones that I picked up earlier in the week.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I want to go where I'm not exactly allowed...

I want to go on Hajj. Really.

It's wrong, which I realize. I have no faith in the pilgrimage or in Islam, but I have a desire to experience Hajj and see Mecca. Not just through photos and videos, but in person. No clue why. I want to touch things, you know?

I was reading the Two Cheers for British Museum's Sanitized Hajj Exhibition on Religion Dispatches and it reminded me of my bizarre desire to do this.

Here ends your random revelation of the day.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...