Family, friends, and back to Hell

I got to see my parents and other family members this last weekend for the first time in about 18 months due to COVID and scheduling issues. It was really good to see everyone and we had a great time. I also got to see a good friend that I haven’t seen in as long. He and I were on a very similar path for about 7 years as far as our skepticism towards religion. In August of 2020 he did a complete 180 back to Christianity, big time. Which is totally fine with me. We are still great friends with lots in common outside of religion.
During the visit, some topics regarding Christianity came up. Included in these topics was the subject of a literal hell. I’ve written about Hell before, but I want to revisit it. Hell being, in the Christian belief, a fiery place of eternal torment created for those who do not accept Jesus as their savior. Not every Christian believes in a literal hell, but most do. Now that I am no longer a believer, I’m often amazed at the lack of logic and reason when these kinds of topics come up. I asked my friend if he still believes in a literal hell. He said yes, he does. When I asked what his belief was based on, I got the same answers that I used to use when I was asked the same. A handful of scriptures that seem to indicate a hell live Christianity believes in and stuff about God being holy and can’t stand sin, etc. So I asked some more questions, leaning a bit on logic and reason. Do you think the punishment of eternity in hell fits the “crime” of not believing in Jesus as savior? What about people who decide they believe only because of the threat of hell? If God created hell, knowing that hundreds of millions, or even billions, of people will be there forever, doesn’t that make God the most horrible monster, ever? Have you ever studied the history of the doctrine of hell? What about people with down syndrome or Aspergers or any number of conditions like this? Where is the cutoff for people who are responsible for believing the right thing and those that are not capable of making that choice? What about the scriptures that talk about death either being the end, or of the unbeliever, annihilation? Could you really enjoy an eternity in heaven knowing that there are so many suffering the flames of hell for all eternity? If a literal hell exists, wouldn’t there be a LOT more scriptures that are very specific on who goes there and who doesn’t? There is a great post by Michah Redding on this subject here:
He wouldn’t entertain these questions at all. He just kept saying that he believes the Bible is clear on the subject and he won’t change his mind. Sigh.
It seems to me that if someone believes in hell, then nothing else in the Bible should matter. Why would it? That’s a big fucking deal! How to not go to hell should be the only sermon ever preached. This should be the only subject talked about in the break room at work. This should be the only thing ever prayed about. People should spend all their “free time” stopping people on the street, passing out literature on the subject everywhere they go, begging people to pray the sinner’s prayer with them… But almost none of the people I know who say that they believe in hell do any of these kinds of things. I didn’t either when I was a Christian. Does that mean people like that are just shitty, selfish people? Or could it be that deep down, they really don’t believe such a place exists?
Things that make you go, hmmmm…

Ask the questions!

I think that most humans are naturally inquisitive, especially when we are young. What parent hasn’t gone through the “why?” phase with their kids? Why is the sky blue? Why do dogs bark? Where do babies come from? You remember this phase, right? And for whatever reason, we kind of “grow out of” that phase and often we seem to lose that inquisitiveness. I’m sure there are many reasons for this. One thing I’ve enjoyed about studying Buddhism is that the questions are often more intriguing than the answers. And there is often more than one answer and no absolute right answer. When I was involved in religion, I was definitely more interested in the answers than the questions. Something that should have raised several red flags was that we were told not to ask too many questions. Certainly don’t question the Bible or God. I now have many issues with this.

If your doctor told you that, based on your recent bloodwork, you were going to have to have a procedure done. But didn’t tell you what the procedure was, or what it’s supposed to fix, or any pertinent information. Wouldn’t you have questions? Or taking your car to a mechanic because the check engine light is on. He comes out and says that he has it figured out and will start working on it, but won’t say what he will do or how much it will cost. Again, wouldn’t you stop him and ask questions? These two examples pale in comparison to the possibility of some kind of eternal destination after we die, don’t you think? People will spend hours researching the side effects of a medicine that their doctor wants them to take. Or hours upon hours researching a medicine that their vet wants to give their pet! I would do the same thing for my cat. But, many people will just take the word of a man or woman with a Bible and a charismatic personality regarding how the universe came into being, how humans came into existence, what happens to us after we die, etc. All without spending much time at all, if any, doing research on the history of the Bible, the particular denomination they are in, the history of the Christian church, etc. And the people who do generally only look at Christian sources.

Without asking questions, or asking very few questions, people will throw themselves into a belief system, give 10% of their income and more to this belief system, pray to a God that they have no real evidence exists, turn their lives upside down for their beliefs… you get the point. I know, because I did this very thing. Several times during my life! And one day, a friend questioned something that I was teaching at a home Bible study, the same thing that my pastors and teachers taught me, and I said that I would dig into it more deeply. Well, once I did some digging below the surface level and started asking hard questions, I realized that many of the scriptures I was using were taken out of context, and that I was only getting part of the story, so to speak. I’ll be honest, it freaked me the hell out! I thought, if I’m wrong about this, what else could I be wrong about? And so I started digging and asking and digging more and asking more. At the end of all this, and by the way, I’m still digging and asking, I decided that I just don’t believe anymore. That’s where the answers to my questions led me. And if I find legitimate information that changes my views, I’ll go that direction. The whole shifting beliefs thing. I’m not going to tell you what to do with the answers you find to your questions, but I do encourage you to ask. If the group you are with discourages you from asking hard questions, ask anyway. The internet has plenty of resources you can go to for answers. Don’t just go to one source, go to many sources. But ask, and keep asking. See if you can stir that natural inquisitiveness that most of us had at one time. I think you will wind up surprising yourself. It’s a lot of fun.

Can we really “know” God?

Through the years I’ve seen many books, workbooks, mini-books, and devotionals that basically said, if you’ll read this, and do what it says to do, you will know God better than you do now. And of course, multiple sermons on the same subject, many of which I preached myself. Religions throughout human history have talked about knowing their god more intimately. And many followers have made claims about doing this very thing. But since no god has ever actually revealed himself/herself/themselves, we can only take these people at their word.

In the Christian tradition that I spent most of my adult life in, we were told that the main way you get to know God (assuming, of course, that the Christian god is the only true god) was through the Bible. At first glance, this seems simple enough. Lots of authors through history (supposedly) writing about the same god, they surely will all be saying very similar things. After all, Jesus/God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the lord, and he changes not. All those good things. It would be like asking several of my friends and relatives to write about me. Surely there would be enough consistencies to be able to piece together a fairly accurate picture of who I am and what I’m like. I would think so. Yet, the God of the Old Testament is anything but consistent. There are so many places on the internet where you can go and see all the inconsistencies and contradictions concerning God and His character in the Old Testament. I will not spend much time here. But I do think of a quote by Richard Dawkins from The God Delusion that fits nicely here: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” In my humble opinion, well said, Richard.

Then, along comes Jesus. It’s like good cop, bad cop. In the book of John, it’s written that Jesus said, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. But I don’t see the same thing. From the start, this schizophrenic God looks nothing like this Jesus we see in the gospels. A quick side note, I do not use the term “schizophrenic” lightly and I mean no disrespect to anyone suffering from this condition or having friends or relatives who do. So, as far as knowing God through the scriptures, its seems like a tough thing to figure out. I know all the evangelical, Bible school, word of faith answers, but those answers no longer make any sense to me. So when I see a devotional or book or whatever that says that I can know God better, but the book is based on the Bible, I’m skeptical.

What if we try to know “god” through our life experience, and the experience of others? Nope. That’s a totally fucked up method. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this.

Within Christianity (I will stick with this because this is my back ground) ministers, lay minsters, and plain ole’ church folk can’t agree on the nature, personality, motives, desires, or any other trait, of God. You could put 10 ministers from the same denomination in a room together, bring up a scripture about who God is and what He is like, and it’s likely that none of them will agree. That’s just a guess because I’ve not done a scientific study on this. But, my flavor of Christianity taught that God wants us healthy, wealthy, and happy. Many other flavors think the opposite, or something like that. So, between a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Word of Faith/Charismatic, Church of Christ, etc, and subgroups within these groups, they all “know God” differently. And they all believe that they are right, and others are wrong.

And then there is the extremely small possibility that the Christian god is not the “real god” (eye roll), will the real God please fucking come forward! Don’t hold your breath, people. Some religions say that god is knowable like the Christian religion. Others claim that we can never “know” god. And some claim that we are all god in some way. What about that? Do we just know ourselves?

Anyway, I was “inspired” to write this because of a devotional that I saw called Knowing the Heart of God. Which is even crazier than just knowing God! Knowing his heart? Shit, I don’t know my “heart”!! Whatever the fuck that is?!?! So, if you know how to know god or the heart of god, please share so we can all have this pleasure. In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to stay grounded in reality, being aware of what’s going on around me, and sometimes “inside” me. I hope you all are doing ok during the pandemic and all. If not, or if you have lost friends or family, my heartfelt condolences.

Peace, y’all.

Get out of jail free card

I’m not sure if this post can be defined as a rant, but I’ve been thinking about this for a while and it’s really bugging me. So I thought I would write about it.

Just to make sure we are all on the same page, the “get out of jail free” card is an element of the board game, Monopoly. It has also become a popular metaphor for something that will get one out of an undesired situation. The metaphor is what I’ll be talking about in this post. It’s kind of like the phrase, being let of the hook. With that being said, it seems that the Christian god and the Bible have get out of jail free cards for just about every situation. And it’s annoying.

I used to do it. When I was a Christian, and someone questioned god’s character or the Bible, I felt obligated to defend him. Isn’t that funny? It seems like if god existed and is as powerful as people think, this god should be able to defend himself/herself/itself. Maybe he/she/it isn’t concerned about such trivial things as having to explain why something did, or did not happen. If a person applies sound logic and reason to any situation regarding god or the Bible, Christians have to jump through a lot of hoops to explain away said sound logic and reason. One interesting thing about that is that the hoops are not consistent. Different Christian groups will use different hoops depending on their theology.

The examples are endless. But we will look at a few. COVID-19. Some say it is god’s judgment because there is so much sin in the world. So this is our/humans fault, not god’s. “He’s not judging the people, he is judging the sin”. Oh, bullshit. According to the Bible, didn’t god’s judgment fall on Jesus for us? “There are still consequences for sin”. Ok. Whatever. Even when you have all this prayer going on all over the planet, Kenneth Copeland “blowing” the virus away, and any other examples you can think of, it’s still here. When all else fails, things fall under god’s ineffable plan. People will say, “I don’t know why these bad things are happening, but I know god is good”. Hmmm…. So this good god still gets the get out of jail free card.

A quick side note, speaking of god’s ineffable plan. If you haven’t seen Good Omens on Amazon prime, I highly recommend it. I enjoyed the hell out of it. See what I did there? Hell out of it… There is scene where an angel and a demon are talking after Adam and Eve have been cast out of the garden. The demon thinks that god overreacted and doesn’t see the problem with humans knowing the difference between good and evil. When he expresses this to the angel, the angel says that it’s best not to speculate. It’s all part of the great plan. The great plan is ineffable.  Another scene is at the building of the arc and the angel has told the demon that god is going to drown everyone except Noah and his family. Again, the demon thinks that to be a bit harsh, but the angel again talks abought god’s ineffable plan. God gets out of jail, again.

All the suffering in the world? It’s because of sin and/or the devil. Not god’s fault. I prayed for healing and didn’t get it? I didn’t have enough faith. Not god’s fault. What about all the contradictions in the Bible? They are apparent contradictions, but it’s really just humans not being able to understand some things about god. After all, his ways are higher than our ways… Again, total bullshit. What about errors in the Bible? Nope, the Bible is perfect. It must be human’s lack of understanding that makes it appear like there are errors. You get the idea. God is never at fault, never just being an asshole, it’s always either the devil or we humans bringing all the bad stuff on ourselves.

I read an article lately that started with, “I have to say, the Bible is a poorly compiled piece of work”. And I agree! Where I am now in my beliefs, or lack thereof, is because I studied the Bible thoroughly with my brain on, using logic and reason and what I know about science and history. There is a YouTube channel called Leaving Religion hosted by William Jones. In the intro to all his videos he says, “The purpose of these videos is to get you to think. Turn your brains on and think. Use logic, use reason, and realize that religion is fake”. I was talking to someone recently who had been doing some critical thinking, and she said that it seems like if god allows things to happen, it’s the same as… she wouldn’t finish the thought, so I did it for her. It’s the same as he caused it to happen. She flinched a little, like I might get struck by lightning. Yep, let a little bit of logic and reason slip in there and you might be thinking all kind of shit you never thought you’d think about god.

When I was in church, we heard it on a fairly regular basis. Never question the scriptures or god’s goodness. If something happens in your life or you read something in the Bible that makes you question god’s character (his character being that he is good, and he is good all the time), it just means you don’t understand. God is still good and faithful and all that. So quit trying to figure it out. Ugh!

It seems to me that if you take god out of the equation, life on this planet just makes a little more sense.

The Liberated Atheist

One of the blogs I follow is The Liberated Atheist, previously The Covert Atheist. It’s well thought out and well written and the posts are topics that interest me and that I can relate to. The latest post is called Leaving a Relationship With Jesus. Many things are said in this post that I’ve been thinking of how to write about. But said better than what I had in mind for my blog. So instead of trying to re-write a well written post, I asked for, and was given permission to share the post here. Please check it out, along with other posts. I think you will find some interesting writings and good food for thought.


Atheists among us

3 weeks ago, a friend that I’ve known for about 17 years sent me a text. He asked, “Do you follow Seth Andrews?” Seth Andrews is the host of The Thinking Atheist podcast. I had made a comment on one of Seth’s posts on social media. None of my close friends or family know that I’ve left my Christian beliefs behind. I simply answered my friend’s text, “Yes I do”. He then told me that he saw my comment and was curious. He started following Seth about 3 or 4 years ago, after a change in beliefs that he can’t talk publicly about. I was like, holy shit! So I said something about me having a drastic change in beliefs about 3 or 4 years ago. And the flood gates opened. As a closeted skeptic/agnostic/atheist in the south, you don’t realize how badly you desire the company of another skeptic/agnostic/atheist until you meet one. And in my case, it’s a good friend of mine! We sent several long texts back and forth. It was quite refreshing.

We wound up going to dinner about a week later and talked for three hours. And yes, we left a generous tip. I could tell that we were both excited and really needed someone to talk to about all this. Even crazier is that our serious questioning of our faith happened around the same time period. We both started our individual in-depth study of the Bible, hoping to strengthen our faith, around the same time. And then we both wound up deciding that it was all bullshit around the same time. He has a friend who is an ex-minister who is now an atheist that he wants me to meet. That should be fun!

It makes me wonder how many Christians from my past are no longer believers. I belong to a couple closed groups on social media for ex-religious folks. I keep waiting to see if anyone I know pops up. So far it hasn’t happened, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. Everyone has the inherent desire to feel safe and secure, and human behavior revolves around the need to garner that sense of physical and emotional security. We all want to be accepted and validated in some way. That’s part of why I belong to the groups on social media. But I’ll tell you, it’s not the same as with a close friend. I’m so glad that I posted the comment I did on Seth’s page and that my friend noticed it. I’m sure that some great conversations await. 🙂

Where is god?

Where is god? Where is he/she/they/it? For ease of writing, I’m going to refer to god as “he”. And since Christianity has been my only experience as far as religions go, that is what I will be addressing. This is going to be a bit of a rant, so here we go…

If there is a god, I’m pissed and want some real fucking answers! Not the bullshit theological stuff, but real answers. When children are molested in churches or by church leaders or by those religious believers that are supposed to have that child’s best interests at heart, where is god? Where the fuck is he? All the scriptures in the Bible that talk about god being their protector, where is he? These horrible things that happen at the hands of Christians, surely god can speak to someone about this, right? All these people “filled with the spirit of god”, surely god can get someone’s attention and show them what the hell is going on? Or shit, just stop them himself! Nope. That never happens. NEVER!

When something happens at a school, such as a school shooting, one of the things that always comes up is, “We need prayer back in the school!” Well shit, what about the church shootings? If it’s about prayer keeping people safe, it seems that churches would be the safest fucking places in the world! People talk about how when prayer was taken out of the schools, god was taken out. Really? I would guess that there are Christians in just about every school in the country. And since god supposedly inhabits Christians, if they are in the school, isn’t god in the school as well? But where is he when the shit happens?

I live in a city with a ton of churches. I was surprised to see that we are only number 5 in the country for number of churches. There is one church for every 800 people. So as I drive to work and the store and gas station, etc, I pass plenty of them. Most have something on their signs that reads like, “services suspended; pray for an end to covid-19”. If I do the math right, in my city alone there are about 650 churches. There are roughly 2.3 billion Christians on the planet. Let’s say only a third of those are praying for an end to covid-19, that’s still about 70 million. Surely, assuming Christianity has it right, there is one person out of 70 million who can get god’s attention. But where is he is all this? I hear preachers saying shit like, “well, if it wasn’t for god, it would be much worse”. Oh, bullshit. If he could keep it from being “much worse”, why wouldn’t he just have stopped it? Hell, even the strip club down the road has “god bless America” on their marque. LOL Come on, god! Even the strip club folks are praying! And don’t get me started on why a city like mine with so many churches is always in the top 5 most violent cities in America. Where’s god?

I see things on social media a lot saying things like, “god helped me find my keys!”, “god helped me get a parking spot”, “god helped my son get into such and such college”, etc, etc. That’s great. But what about all the terminally ill people I have prayed for in my life, as a devout Christian, who all died. Many others were praying as well. Where was god? What about the tornadoes that wipe out Christian’s homes, except for those few that he seems to like best? Were the others just all living in sin or some mumbo jumbo like that? Not to mention all the natural disasters, plagues, pandemic, wars, inquisitions, and on and on, throughout history. No matter what, god always seem to get out of being blamed for what happens. I know all the religious answers to these questions, but in my mind, those answers are no longer enough. Thankfully, in the last several years more people are finally asking, “What if he just isn’t there?” If god isn’t there, to me, the world makes a lot more sense.

Religious indoctrination teaches us not to question. We were taught not to question the Bible as being the inerrant and inspired word of god. We were taught not to question those who god has placed over us, spiritually. And we certainly were never supposed to question the almighty himself! Well, fuck that. I have lots of questions. For example, why is god such a poor communicator? Seriously? Couldn’t he show himself to mankind in a way that would get rid of all questions and doubts? Instead, there are approximately 4200 religions in the world, included in those are approximately 200 flavors of Christianity. And what if there is just one right religion? Depending on whether or not that religion includes an afterlife, picking the wrong one could have some serious consequences. If there is a literal hell, a place of eternal torment, you would think a loving god would make it VERY clear what we need to do to not go there. Yep. If god exists in the way most people in the west think he exists, he has done a piss poor job in that respect.

I’m grateful for the few people in my past that asked me that hard religious questions that I didn’t have the answers to. When I got out of the Christian bubble I had been in where no one asked questions, and started getting questions from freethinking people using logic and reason, I was stuck there with my mouth open. They were poking huge holes in my theology and I didn’t have the plugs to stop the leaks. These questions didn’t come along very often, but they stuck with me when they did. Hell, I still read things from time to time that make me go, why did I never see that?!?!?

Anyway, I suppose I should bring this rant to some kind of a close, for now. I no longer believe in any god that resembles the god of Christianity. Are there things that I’ve experienced in my life that might point to some kind of “supernatural intervention”?  Maybe? But as a whole, I’ve not seen any real evidence to point to a god. Perhaps pantheism is close to reality? All that exists is so that god can experience himself? I don’t know and probably never will for sure. But I think I’ve made peace with that fact. As I’ve gone along with many more questions than answers, I’m getting more comfortable living this way. If there is no afterlife, I’m ok with that. I don’t think I want to exist forever. And maybe that lack of belief in an afterlife will help me squeeze more life out of each day that I’m here? LOL I can tell that writing out my “rant” is calming me down. I was hoping to end on an angry note, but as I write my thoughts, the anger is subsiding a bit. For now.

In the good times and the hard times and the in between times, I think it’s ok to ask, “Where’s god?” Shit, who knows? If there is one, maybe he will answer us some day? I doubt it, but I could be wrong.  🙂

Thanks for reading and I hope you and yours are doing as well as possible. Peace.

Common sense and religious wackiness

I wanted to share some thoughts on religion, god, prayer, and religious wackiness during this pandemic.  If I were still a Christian, I would be having a difficult time with this situation.  The mental gymnastics that people are going through to let god off the hook is exactly what I would be doing as well.

The Christian denominations that I grew up in don’t have to do as much theological juggling as others.  They were of the opinion that whatever is happening is just god’s will, because he is in control and all that.  This group still prays for what they want, but if they don’t get it, then that means the answer was “no”.  But the group that I was with for the last 20 years of my Christian life was of the charismatic/word of faith flavor.  This group will have more trouble explaining things.  They believe (and I used to) that god wants you healed and happy and protected and all your needs met.  The believer’s faith is very important with this group and they find scriptures to back up their faith or beliefs.  They believe that god’s will has already been revealed in the Bible.  If a believer doesn’t get what they want, or gets what they don’t want, the blame is always on the believer, never on god.  So if a person in this group comes down with the coronavirus, it’s because they didn’t have enough faith that god would protect them, or they are living in some kind of sin, or god tried to warn them about something and they ignored it… man, trying to figure all that out is exhausting!

But when it’s convenient, god’s will or his plan is brought up.  If lots of “good Christians” who have a lot of faith are praying that the coronavirus wouldn’t get to the point where it is today, but it does, then it’s because it has to happen as part of the end times.  Or maybe it’s god’s judgment on a sinful world (even though my understanding was that Jesus paid for all sins).  Or something similar to that.  But even within specific denominations, Christians can’t agree on god’s part in all this.  So when you spread it out among the top 5 or so groups within Christianity, you come up with many, many varying ideas as to where is god in all this.  Not that I know anything more than anyone else about that, but it seems to me that god is conspicuously absent.

And then you have the extremes like a Pentecostal church that continues to meet, even though there is a statewide ban of 50 or more gathering.  A quote from the pastor regarding the state ban on gatherings because, well, people could die: “This is an extreme test brought on us by the spirit of antichrist and the mystery of lawlessness,”. “What good is the church in an hour of peril if the church caters and caves in to the fears and the spirits of torment in our society?”  Crazy man, just fucking crazy.  I’m thankful for the majority of pastors who preach faith, but have the sense to cancel services until this thing is past us.

I wonder if the idea of having church services in the midst of a pandemic is partially to try to “prove” that god exists?  Or something like that?  Even some of the most devout believers that I know are having doubts and questions coming into their minds during this time.  Contrary to what I was taught in church, I think questions and doubts are a good thing.  If questions and doubts regarding god cause a person to pray and think and research what they believe and why they believe it, no matter what conclusion they come to, I think that is a great thing.  That would be a good thing for people to do with other beliefs as well, such as political, parenting, marriage, health and wellness, etc.

I don’t pretend to know anything for sure, just putting some thoughts out there.

Stay healthy, folks.


COVID-19, how is everyone doing?

Hello all.  For those of you who are reading this, I hope you and yours are well and you are surviving the COVID-19 pandemic.  If you or your loved ones have contracted this virus, I’m truly sorry and my heart goes out to you.  And if you are one of the millions of people who have lost your source of income, I feel for you as well.  Hopefully you have friends or family who can assist you until this event calms down.

If you are still working every day because your job is considered essential, thank you.  From medical personnel to grocery store workers to truck drivers to mail carriers to first responders, and so many others, thank you.

I am very fortunate to still be working and being paid.  The company I work for is considered a critical organization that helps support the infrastructure of the US and parts of Canada.  The same job that stresses me out and that I’ve bitched about many, many times, is allowing me to keep working.  It’s humbling.  I don’t make the kind of money that would allow me to keep businesses from going under or anything like that, but I’m doing what I can to support local small businesses when I can.  Hopefully there are enough people in a similar situation who can do the same.  Crisis like this pandemic seem to bring out the worst, and the best, in people.  In the initial panic buying, I think most of us saw more of the worse than the best.  I think that’s probably normal human behavior in the initial stages of panic.  But now, I’m starting to see more of the good and best of humanity coming out.  Hopefully that will continue.

Even though I’m still coming in to work every day, I can’t say that I’m afraid of getting sick.  It’s not because I’m just that brave, or stupid.  I don’t have faith in a god that will protect me.  I’m not delusional about the severity of the situation.  I’m not really sure why I’m not afraid, but I’m grateful.  I am keeping my distance from co-workers, I have hand sanitizer at my desk, I’m drinking a ton of water, and I wash my hands multiple times throughout the day.  To and from work, if I do have to stop for gas or food, I make sure to keep my distance from others and watch what I touch.  All those things that we are being told to do.

It’s a crazy time, to be sure.  But it’s not a time for us to act crazy.  Please take care of yourself and your families.  Use common sense and listen to the advice of the health care community.  And when possible, help take care of someone else.  Even if it’s just something like only buying one can of Lysol instead of two.  You get the idea.  🙂


Aging and acceptance

I’m 51 years old.  Still fairly young by my standards.  In my head, I’m still about 28.  But my body often reminds me that no, I’m not 28 anymore. For the most part, I’m enjoying getting older.  I feel that I have more wisdom, I’m more patient and mellow, and I understand myself and how my mind works more than ever.  It’s the physical aspect that gets annoying. And, of course, those who are older than I am often tell me that it only gets worse.  Yeah.  Thanks for that.

In my younger years I was very athletic.  I swam competitively, played tennis and soccer, ran several miles per week, lifted weights and did calisthenics, and I’ve been involved in martial arts since I was 12.  I’ve sustained injuries along the way and have probably worn out a joint or two.  These old injuries often come back to say hello.  Especially when I try to participate in activities that I used to do like lifting weights or calisthenics.  Because of some mild scoliosis, I’ve had back pain most of my life.  As a younger man, I just pushed through it.  “No pain, no gain”.  With the vast wisdom I’ve accumulated over the last half a century (said in a sarcastic tone), I’ve decided that pain sucks.  My left shoulder often hurts bad enough that it’s difficult to use my left arm for many things.  I’ve started to develop arthritis in my knees.  My back still hurts most of the time.  And there are the occasional pains that just seem to come out of nowhere.

So, since I’ve decided that pain sucks, I’ve made some adjustments.  Instead of practicing Tang Soo Do (which I did for about 22 years), I’ve switched to tai chi.  This has actually helped my back quite a bit.  Along with a good chiropractor and an inversion table.  Tai chi also fits nicely with the Buddhist and Taoist philosophies that I’ve been studying.  I’ve stopped lifting weights or doing calisthenics due to the shoulder and knee pain.  I do work out with a steel mace.  Google steel mace 360 to see the main workout.  It is helpful for my shoulders and gives a decent overall strengthening workout.  I tried cycling for a while but my knees just can’t do it.  So, walking it is.  And on good days, I practice yoga.  In what seems like a few short years, my exercising has been reduced to tai chi, walking, and yoga.  The funny thing is, if I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would have said to go ahead and just do these three activities.  I enjoy doing them, and they are activities that heal my body instead of hurting it.

The Buddhist practice of acceptance has helped me a lot as I’ve gotten older.  This was a difficult concept for me to grasp when I first heard of it.  I was confusing acceptance with resignation.  Resignation, the way I thought of it, would be something like, “My body hurts when I exercise.  So I guess I just won’t exercise”.  But acceptance would be more like, “I accept the fact that my body is aging and I can’t do many of the same exercises I used to do.  But, I can still walk and practice tai chi and yoga”.  I read an excerpt John Kabat-Sinn’s book, “Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness”, regarding acceptance that I thought was really good:

“Acceptance doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, mean passive resignation. Quite the opposite. It takes a huge amount of fortitude and motivation to accept what is- especially when you don’t like it-and then work wisely and effectively as best you possibly can with the circumstances you find yourself in and with the resources at your disposal, both inner and outer, to mitigate, heal, redirect, and change what can be changed.”

With this in mind, I can accept that I’m getting older, along with every other life form on the planet.  And even that I will eventually die, just like every other life form.  And with this acceptance comes the realization that my body will not continue to perform at the level it did when I was 20 years old.  But I can work wisely and effectively with my body, where I am today, and still enjoy a very full life.  And then shift to gratitude for what I can still do.  I know a few folks my age that have already had to have knee replacements and hip replacements and so forth.  I’m thankful that my body isn’t in worse shape!

An interesting side note to aging is that the older I get, the less I have to say.  I’m not exactly sure why that is?  It could be that as I age, I realize how much I don’t know.  Also, I have been making a fairly consistent effort to listen more and talk less.  This might also be linked to realizing how much I don’t know.  Another possibility is my mindfulness practice.  I practice seated mindful meditation.  But I also try to be mindful as I go through my day.  A natural result of the meditation and mindfulness practice is that the thoughts going through my brain tend to slow down.  My mind is much more quiet than it used to be.  I suppose that could also contribute to my decreased chattiness.  But I have to say, it does make it more difficult to come up with things to write about for this blog.  Maybe fewer posts will turn into better content?  Hmmm… We’ll see.  🙂

I hope you are well.