Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Communion memmories. (Super Atheist part II of III)

It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t been there.  Fasting is hardship.  It’s not nearly so bad as starving, but it’s an experience that few westerns have had.  Shared hardship builds tight social bonds, and fasting is no exception.  We hadn’t eaten in three days.  The first day is easiest, you don’t even feel it till supper, really.  The second day is harder at breakfast, but easier in the afternoon.  The third day is pretty hard.  I’ve talked to people who’ve fasted for weeks, and they say the third day is the hardest, that your body is learning how to fast, metabolically.

Wednesday night we had all had supper together, and none of us had eaten since.   Eating together also forms bonds between people.  The early church broke bread and praised together in houses Acts 2:46 and so did we.  Everyone had brought something, a casserole, a dessert, finger food, prepared with shaky hands and growling stomachs.  Have you ever prepared food when you haven’t eaten in 70 hours?  The anticipation is almost crushing.

There was so much food it was overflowing the table, crock pots were circled around outlets like campers around a fire, and chairs were loaded down with platters and bowls.  We stood around the table, hand in hand.  It was strange how we looked at each other.  Our eyes were shinning like lovers as we looked into each other’s souls shamelessly.

We prayed in a babble of tongues for a time, each person worshiping God in an inscrutable language he blessed them with, and then stopped, looking at each other breathlessly.  We ate, at last.  We talked, we laughed, we loved.  We all loved each other.

Finally it’s time for communion.  Communion is a joy, but also serious business.  Many modern Christians have forgotten that God punishes those who take communion unworthily with death and damns them to hell (First Corinthians 11:27-37). This same passage also tells us that to take communion is to be in unity.  We knew that.  We had chosen this communion to be special.

This was our standing before the lord as one.  We took communion together that night not only because we loved Jesus, but because we loved one another.  That night, before we took the cup, we each affirmed that we loved each other, and that we bonded ourselves together, to care for one another as Christ cares for us.

The next post I write will tie this and Super Atheist together.  Thanks for reading all, and thanks for the comments, both for and against my position.

June 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Ubuntu-mobile II

OK, so that’s Ubuntu.  And here’s why the open source car people are full of bologna.

What they are calling open source means they provide CAD/CAM drawing of the car, and these drawings and plans are open source.  That’s dumb.  Open source cannot be applied to the tangible.  Open source is a response to closed source.  Closed source = intangible.  You can’t open source the tangible.  If you can put a tape measure on something a measure it, by it’s mere tangible existence its already “open source”

You can open source software because it’s code is intangible. You can open source the die of a microchip because blueprinting the die is so bloody difficult it rates as intangible.

You catagorically cannot “open source” something you can blueprint quickly and easily.

Further, remember that Linux was developed by brilliant professionals doing what normal folk cannot.  Normal people CAN make car bodies. Fiberglass + Bondo + elbow grease = car body.

The hard part of car design, the things you really need professional help for is emissions and crash standards.  To control emissions you need software running on an Power Control Module (PCM.) There is one open source PCM available and it cannot be used on emission control vehicles because it has not been EPA approved.

Crash standards can be suggested by computational anysis but require regirous testing.  Once a basic chassis granted DOT approval the blueprints of that chassis could be open sourced.

But without EPA stamp on the PCM and engine, plus DOT approval of the chassis, the car is dead in the water.

The active community of users with wikis and forums and blogs is development of an effective product, not the cause of it.  The open source car, as it stands is a joke.

Finally, since cars do not reproduce flawlessly like software, a certify agency will have to put a stamp of approval on cars to show that they are open source compatable, and therefore, EPA and DOT approved, as well as sharing parts interchangability with other certified cars.

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Engines, Government, Linux, Microcar, skepticism, Small Car, Software, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Godless Love

Acts Chapter 2 (44) All the believers were together and had everything in common. (45) Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. (46) Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, (47) praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

It was these verses, and ones like them, which led me to question the ultraconservative version of Christianity I grew up believing.  It was these verses, and ones like them, which led me to question the very core of my faith.  So, some introspection seems appropriate here.

These verses speak of a magical time in the early history of the Church. Everyone was equally generous, and no one abused this generosity.  They met together everyday to pray and probably to sing.  They ate together, sharing good times around their tables.  They constantly told God how great He was, and everyone loved them.  Seeing all this love and affection, approval and care, few could resist and their numbers increased everyday.

I read this passage for the first time when I was around nine or ten years old.  My home life was pretty rough in those days: lots of screaming, lots of crying, and some rare violence, so I suppose it’s no surprise that my heart locked onto this concept of the divine super-family of the early church.

“Why then, but not now?” I remember asking someone.

“Well,” began the voice of reason, “that was a special time, and God was pouring out special gifts as a sign, to mark the beginning of this glorious age of Christ in which we dwell.  But once the time of marking the beginning was over, God began to step back those special signs.”

And for a long time that was enough of an answer.  But the question still burned in me. “Why not now?”  Sometime later I would see the movie “The Mission“.  In part of the plot development, the Jesuits explain that the Indians live as the early Church, sharing all things in common.  After viewing the movie, my father remarked, “Well, the Indians were doomed.  Communism never works.”

But it did work in the early history of the Church; the Bible says so.  What made that time so different?  And the reasonable answer was repeated.  The question remained in the back of my mind, rolling around for years.  I suppose it was this question, in fact, which made me take the interest in cults I mentioned here.

Away at college, a new friend encouraged me to really study through the New Testament and see if I could find any evidence of this theory that those “special times” of the 2nd Chapter of Acts had ended.  I found evidence aplenty, but none of it was any good.  To prove this theory with one verse, you had to forget the one in the next sentence.  To use another, you had to ignore the verse previous.  From the evidence, no person trying to base their worldview purely from scripture, rather than from the traditions about scripture, could conclude that these fascinating things had ended.

And after much consideration, I became a “Charismatic“.  I did not make this decision lightly.  I detested the touchy, “don’t-think-just-feel” vibe that I felt the Charismatic movement represented, but I felt that if I were to call myself a Christian, then I must follow the Word of God, and the Word of God did not teach (in any textually valid way) that the Signs and Wonders of the early church should have stopped.

Yet, the evidence of the Church and the world around me showed clearly: The Signs and Wonders were gone.  There was an explanation, however.  The lack of the signs of God was caused by the lack of obedience to God.  And so I joined the church which I thought did the best at obeying God.  They believed God would use them as vessels to bring His Glory, and thus His Signs and Wonders, to Kansas City.

I still love those people. They were earnest people, desperately hoping for a better world.  But when I was truly presented with the chance to live the way I thought I had always wanted, I was repulsed.  I prayed about it.  I confessed it.  I said I wanted help.  But the idea of working my butt off, to give my tiny, hard earned wages away so that others could fritter away their time in 24 hour prayer grated on me.  Worse still, then I felt terrible for feeling that way.  Obviously, the Lord had so much more work to do in me for I was still so full of self.

It’s been three years since we left that church, broken hearted.  Sadly, hoping for a better world does not alone a better world make.  More questions, and my abiding love for reality, has lead me to atheism as a world view.  And now, surprising even to me, I want that communal life that seemed so repugnant only three years ago.  How did this change in world view make me desire this deep community?

Becky and I went to another Society for Creative Anachronisms class.  The class is held in the living room of huge, rambling country house.  It is owned by one couple, whose adult sister and her husband also live there.  They share many things in common, and “break bread” together from time to time, often with the strangers that wander through their door for the S.C.A. classes.

It’s lovely.  And it sets me to thinking how lovely it would be if Becky and I could do that.  I think of all my friends under one huge roof, laughing together, joking together, and working together.  I makes me feel warm inside just to think of it, like the memory of a hug. Why this 180 degree change?

And then I knew.  Compulsion.  I don’t have to love my friends now; I choose to.  I don’t have to force myself to love any yahoo I meet; I am allowed to be honest with myself and admit that I really love some people, and really dislike some other ones.  I don’t believe anymore that there is anything particularly moral about “loving” all 6.6 billion members of the human race (as if such a thing were even possible).  So, while the quantity of my love has gone down, the quality has gone up.

I don’t love people because I am supposed to anymore.  I love them because I chose to love them.  I can choose to share my home with the people I truly love, people with whom I share reciprocal giving of happiness.  Since there is no Holy Book which can tell me the “right way to love someone” (again, as if such a way existed), there is no expectation.  I do not perform for the people I love and they do not perform for me.  We love one another because, intrinsic to our very identities, our way of showing love is the way that makes the most sense to each other.

Imagining this house full of friends now is a house full of people who love each other by choice instead of compulsion.  What could be more wonderful than living with people who could have chosen to love anyone, but chose me and mine?

August 1, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Corsets and Community

SCA Geeks getting it. Do you?

SCA Geeks "getting it". Do you?

Of late, my wife has been going to a corsetiere class put on by Mistress Isolde of a certain Society.  Sounds naughty doesn’t it?

It’s not.  She is learning to make corsets from a retired opera singer and costume mistress whose SCA name is Mistress Isolde, the Society for Creative Anachronisms being the the society in question.   There are hundreds of menial details that go into making any beautiful thing, and corsets are no exception.  In addition to the celebrated lacing, a corset is a complicated sandwich of steel “boning” strips in the middle of brocade and heavy muslin.  I sat on a pleasantly medieval styled bench in Lady Dianna’s living room filling away at the square tips of the boning, making them safely round. (Lest in a splendid gyration during a courtly dance, a broken stitch cause a skewered booby.  Don’t laugh it actually happened to Mistress Isolde, once. “A pain like I’ve never before known, ” she explained in her French Canadian accent, gesturing wildly with her free hand and holding her wine in the other.)  She wanders around the room, telling a funny story here, offering advice there.

Conversations start in one side of the room.  Some flower, branch out and bloom.  Some die in the corner they started in when louder or more funny one starts in another corner.  There is some wine about.  Most don’t imbibe, and those who do sip at one or at most two glasses over the two hour evening.  The file rasps long and vibrates the table with a deep hum, like a faraway pipe organ.  A sewing machine whirs now and then, punctuating the laughter and talk with it’s hum.  The air is scented with the smell of worked metal from the filling and the sewing machine, and of sealant to keep the boning, soon to be sealed in the brocade and muslin, from rusting.

Becky always comes home so radiantly relaxed from these things.  And she’d said one simple thing that I wanted to experience for myself.

“People who don’t do church do it so much better than we ever did”

Becky and I, you see, left the mainstream church to chase a dream of a church that actually brought hope and healing.  The method was called house church.  It was startlingly simple: you didn’t go to a building, because a church is not a building, a church is the people. A church is family.  You got your spiritual family together for a potluck in the living room once a week or so.  Love and relationships would happen, and God seeing a place he would feel so at home, would rest there.  Where God was, change would follow.

No more clergy and laity.  No more pulpit and pew.  No more spiritual haves and haves not.  We were chasing the Kingdom of Heaven, not as some fuzzy ideal, but real and attainable thing: A new kind of spiritual economy in which the pastors/priests/missionaries would not have the all the spiritual responsibilities and blessings, parasitically supported by the common folk.  We would meet in houses, eat, and pray, and then God would show up, evidenced often by the speaking of tongues and prophecy, but sometimes just a presence, a pervading feeling of love and elation.  At some undetermined time, God would manifest the way he did in the New Testament, in Love and Power.  The impoverished would be fed, clothed, and sheltered, and Kansas City would become a lightening rod, the highest point, struck by Divine power.  When the hospitals emptied out and the gangs laid down their arms who could then doubt the power of God?

Looking back, I feel like such a fool.  Any high school freshman with a penchant for the History Channel could have seen were this was going.

Lets go over the facts shall we?  The existing system is one were a tiny group of people control all the (spiritual) resources, and the people have none.  All they can do is work to support the ‘spiritual production’ but with no chance to ever own the means.  We will form into small cells and meet together to discuss this problem and what we can do about it.  At some undetermined point in the future, our system, which is the final evolution of the (spiritual) economy, will displace the other existing systems because of its lack of waste (no money spend creating religious professionals, leasing buildings, or unspiritual competition).  Then all will join with us in our beautiful Utopia and all will be equals (in Christ)

My God, how stupid were we?  This is Marxism 101.  But we missed it.  We wanted the change so bad.  We wanted to be part of the solution and not part of the problem so badly, that we ate this shit with a spoon, smiled and asked for some more.

It worked like you might think.  God just wouldn’t quite show up.  We had tongues a plenty.  Warm fuzzies abounded, but real, objective limb growing change seemed to elude us.  A solution was arrived at.  We had lost the focus.  We were focusing on what we wanted God to do after we made the Workers Paradise Kingdom Community, instead of building said community.  What we needed to do was just love each more.

And so we did, we all did.  But thats when it sort of began to fall apart.  As Christians are, ironically, aware,  you cannot command love. One began to ask oneself, “Am I being loving enough?”  A bar had been set.  We would be loving enough when the local, unsaved community, began to change from the love in us.  The final brick of Marxism walled us into our own tomb.   Soviet Communism made huge promises that it could never keep.  It demanded enormous sacrifice.  And all that was OK at first, because it was “only temporary”.  As soon as this 5 year plan was done, as soon as the American menace was contained, as soon as the production kinks were ironed out, as soon as, etcetera ad naseum. By the time people wised up, they were already under the gun.

Now the church had us by the balls.  Someday in the future we would be good enough.  Until then, we could not love enough, be selfless enough, give enough, pray enough, or hope enough.  So the revolutionary movement church that had first promised freedom and empowerment now used our hope of that promise to enslave our hearts….

All over now.

Back to the SCA.  Tonight, I sat in a room with bunch of strangers.  It felt so right.  It felt so like house church did, but something was missing, and its lack was wonderful.  I took me some time, listening to snatches of talk and laughter to understand what it was: seriousness. When you are trying to save the world, everything is so damn serious.  A popular question at house church was “How are you really doing?” a simple “fine” being totally inadequate. You had to have a serious question, and a serious answer.

That and there was no expectation.  When someone accidentally stabbed needle into their thumb below the thimble no one judged when they said “Shit!”.  There was not an enormous pressure to be great, or even a pressure to be yourself.  There was no pressure at all.

The freedom and community I wanted existed all along, in groups of people having to much fun to have the time to promise me how free and communal they were.

July 23, 2008 Posted by | Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 6 Comments