Day 5…

So today concludes Day 5 of my water, tea, coffee fast. I’ve not been having coffee, the smell makes me unhappy in the tummy. I have decided to end my fast tonight. I was hoping to do 7 days, but I am mentally done.

Physically I’m getting regular heart palpitations, and my balance is a bit wonky. I get tired pretty quick too. And I’m cold. Always cold. I think physically that’s the most disturbing part, I’m never cold. I can tromp around for half an hour in -30C and be warm again when I get inside within 15 minutes, but right now I am icy all day long.
Mentally I’m a bit sideways. I work all day at code type tasks, mostly CSS and HTML, and I find myself doing a lot of ‘stare blankly at zend and css trying to figure it out’. Talking is a bit weird too, getting my thoughts in the proper order is often an issue for me, and right now I’m pretty sure half of what comes out of my mouth makes no sense.
Spiritually I am on the fence. My meditative prayer is totally shot, I can manage 2-5 minutes before it all falls apart. My spontaneous prayer has improved though. I haven’t had any amazing revelations for sure… other then a deeper understanding of what my Father went through as a kid in WW2, and what billions of people go through every day. I guess empathy is a form of spiritual growth.

Day 3…

On Friday, after my meditative prayer, I joined the fast with the 35,000+ people at hungerfast.org If you don’t know what this is about, here’s the skinny: the latest US budget rapes and pillages the money going to feed the poor, feed children, care for vetrans, and care for the least of our society. At the same time it maintains benefits for the military and the rich ( such as a $2billion a year tax break for vacation and second homes ). In response some fairly influential figures started fasting, and it’s grown to 35,000+ people fasting in prayer and protest from across every major religion and secular group.
The politicians say there is not enough money, yet have cut nothing from military spending. The people are saying a budget is a Moral Document, and that these cuts are not about scarcity, but about horrifically skewed morality ( or a total lack of it ).
I’m fasting from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It may seem a bit odd that a Canadian is fasting in prayer and solidarity with Americans over an issue largely in America. But our government is planning on spending insane amounts of money on fighter jets ( 2% of our national budget for 20 years ), and ignoring our growing issues with working poor, working homeless, and the growing number of Canadians without proper food. ( 3.5 million and growing every year! )
Our government sort of just follows along with what America does, so I’m hoping that by praying and fasting with them to help their poor, it also helps ours. Besides, love thy neighbour right? Canadians spend a lot of time mocking our American neighbours, or slighting them. But what’s going on down there affects us, and what they are doing to the poor in the US is sick and wrong. It is heart breaking.
I’m at day 3 of no food. I’m on water, tea, or coffee ( black ). This seriously sucks, it is a level of discomfort I’ve never felt in my life. It brings a whole new meaning and understanding to hunger. Proper empathy. I can only imagine how this feels when you do not have a choice to go hungry. I can end this any time, millions of people in the US and Canada don’t have that luxury. Billions don’t world wide.

Seven of Spades

I was out on my morning walk today and I stumbled across a playing card, face down, on the sidewalk in front of me. The card was one of those cheap decks of waxed paper, all curled and worn from rain and who knows how many feet. The back is printed in reflex blue ink, a simple pattern of crowns with a small shield that contains a roaring lion. Minor scroll work.

The card seemed to draw me too it, so I picked it up, and flipped it over.
The card is the Seven of Spades.
In fortune telling the Seven of Spades represents: ‘Advice that is best not taken; loss. There is some obstacle to success, and this indicates the obstacle may be coming from within the seeker. May also represent surprise: stealth in dealings, betrayal by someone you trust. Minor theft.’
I found the card on the ground, at an odd angle too me. Because of that I am choosing not to view it as an inverted sign.
What was I thinking about as I was walking: what to do with my employment life, friends who I’m ticked off at, friends who I am worried about, my wife and our collective health issues.
I have decided to incorporate the card into a drawing or painting.

Banners from Knox Presbyterian Church

Continuing my random timeline of artwork uploads I have added the banners that Sarah and I worked on for Knox Presbyterian Church in New Westminster BC. These banners were tag-team collaborations between us, and they were printed in large format to hang in the church sanctuary. They are 24 inches by 108 inches long ( 2 feet by about 10 feet ), not including the hanging straps and devices. I did the design, Club Card did the printing, and Sarah devised and attached the banner hanging methods.

This project was started by Rev. Michael Koslowski to spruce up the banners for the various seasons of the church, and Sarah and I were happy to work on the project. We donated our time and paid for the cost of printing as part of our efforts to give back to the church that kept us sane and filled our spiritual needs during our time in New Westminster ( aka: Vancouver ).

Artwork
Artwork

on religion

Anyone who knows me knows that I love religion. I came inches away from having a religious studies minor in university, and am happy to lug around a hundred kilos of religious studies books where ever my wife and I move. I love learning about religions, I love writing about religions, and above all else I love arguing in the defense of religions. I’m pretty sure I am one of the very few people outside of the Scientology community who goes around defending the right for Scientology to call itself a religion. Most people call them cultists or lunatics, I call them in tune with the Force.

There is a very clear reason why I am a fan of, and supporter of, religion. In my opinion as society has become increasingly consumer and secular we have lost a lot of the cultural, ethical, and moral history that used to guide us. I see this as an incredibly dangerous thing that leads to horrific things like industrial pig farms, science without ethics, and culture without depth. These are all things growing out of an increasingly secular and industrial consumer society, and religions with their traditional values and morals provide important fiber to society.

This is not to say that I condone the horrific acts done by people in the name of religion, far from it. Nor is this to say that religion is a cure or provides a solution to the horrific lows human behaviour can reach. When I defend religion I am defending the power and importance of traditions and culture along with the beneficial impacts that religion has on a society. Human beings do horrific things whether they are religious or not. Human beings do honourable things whether they are religious or not. What religion provides us is a context for understanding and dealing with the highs and lows of the human being, while providing a method of instilling traditional moral and ethical behaviour. And this is important.

Without something firm and solid adding much needed cultural fibre to our world we find ourselves in a moral and ethical wasteland, where semiotic debate and self serving hedonism serve as a focal point for life. This leads to people who act in the most hypocritical ways, screaming about tolerance and justice while at the same time oppressing anything that gets in the way of their pleasure instincts. It leads to huge acts of ignorance that are in many ways worse then the ignorance that is increasingly associated with religion in contemporary society. People, cut adrift from traditions and cultural heritage are left to pursue base desires, all the while acting superior to those who follow more ‘archaic and less scientific’ paths. Yet at the same time these people often hold up science, and the scientist, as the key source for guidance in society, as the new religion, believing in science with a blind faith. Question not the scientific process, for it is the be-all-and-end-all. Empiricism as religion.

But the role of science is not to grapple with matters of ethics, morals, social structures, faith, life, or death. You can not measure ethics. You can not put together an equation to measure what is ‘good’ and what is ‘evil’. There are no devices sensitive enough to measure honour, or honesty, or tolerance. These are all elements that are normally defined and guided by religion and traditions within a culture. Without guidance on these huge components of the human social being we as a species are in trouble. The purely rational mind can rationalize anything.

Now with all things I believe there is a balance that must be struck. When it comes to fundamentalism, and fundamentalist religions, I am incredibly wary and distrustful of their motives and actions. I do still support their right to exist, I support their right to faith and the traditions they hold true. But fundamentalism easily leads to the sort of closed minded thinking that breeds suicide bombers. What is most interesting about the force of fundamentalism is that it is a force that cuts across society. There are fundamentalist atheists who go around trying to end all religion out of dogmatic desire. There are fundamentalist Christians who go around trying to bring about the end times. There are fundamentalist Buddhists who go around abusing the peasant class to support lavish monastic organizations.

Fundamentalism, not religion, is the real danger. When one closes the mind off to other opinions, excluding all other potential ideas and concepts completely to the point of not even seeing them… that is trouble for the world, society, and the individual. It is a good thing that fundamentalism is so very easily dealt with, all one needs to do is educate.

In the end, without a balance between the social, scientific, secular, and religious components of the human being we as individuals and a species run the risk of falling into dangerous modes of operation that lead to very sad, dark places. Without traditions we become lost in the now, at the whims of others looking to manipulate us. External forces have an easy time buffeting around someone without an anchor in something with legacy, with tradition. It is easy for someone lacking religion to fall into complacency, anger, and cynicism. It is easy to succumb to despair, sorrow, and antipathy.

In terms of what I define as religion, I include theistic and non-theistic religions, as well as animistic and humanistic faith systems. I define religion based on guidelines set down by Irving Hexham, whos lectures and writings have played a key role in how I view and understand religion. And for the record, I am what I like to call a Christian who doubts like Thomas and rants like Job. I typically introduce myself as Presbyterian.