Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

My error, revisited

I’m going to talk more about me/my wife/sex/honesty/feelings etc. My point in this is not just to write for therapeutic value, though I do find it therapeutic. I am opening my life up here to tell my friends and family (as well as anyone else) what its like to deal with issues of personal failure without Christianity.

It’s not, in retrospect, quite as serious as the previous post made it sound. I do dumb, hurtful stuff sometimes. I have conversations that I shouldn’t, and sometimes the things said mean more to me than they really ought too. Becky is aware of this, and since it is such a problem for me, I told her about it when we were dating, least it surprise her at some point in the future.

I was pretty upset when I wrote the previous post, and I hadn’t had the time to process precisely why I was so upset. It’s taken me a bit to figure out why I was disappointed with myself. I’m not disappointed with myself for having the feelings. I’m not even disappointed in myself for the action I took. In a different context, it wouldn’t have even been a big deal.

What bothers me is the context. Had I sat down with Becky and said, “You know I am stressed out and the only thing I know that numbs that feeling is macking on girls I can’t sleep with.” she probably would have said something a lot like this.

“Honey, I think that is a really stupid idea. I think its a terrible precedent to set, and I am concerned about your emotional health if that’s how you feel. I’m not going to forbid you to. We don’t forbid each other. You’re smart enough to cover your rear and not get caught, if you choose to anyway. I am really uncomfortable with it and if you do it, there will be some consequence to us.”

What bothers me is not how I felt. What bothers me is not what I did. What bothers me is the underhandedness of it. I have the coolest wife in the world. I could have done this in a context of total honesty, but I choose not too. My failure here was not an issue of sin. It’s not about feeling bad, or how I did this because I don’t have Jesus. (I did stupid, hurtful things when I “had” Jesus too). The point is understanding my failure so I can not do it in the future.

Now, let me clarify here, what I did was not right, it was wrong. But instead of just instead of having done wrong honestly (which is bad) I did wrong underhandedly, which is worse. The best thing would pretty obviously been to not have done it in the first place.

I guess more than anything, I must say to my Christian friends, I still have a conscience. Growing up a fundamentalist (and darn near a christo-fascist) I thought the only thing that makes people do good things was the holy spirit. I believed that if I didn’t have the holy spirit I would go on a horrible, sexual, and violent rampage. My urges would master me and I would die slowly and painfully of venereal disease, alone in a Chilean prison. Turns out, not so much.

In this case, I did something really dumb. I talked all sexy with a friend of mine. According to normal Christian, Dobsonite thought, as a atheist/deist sort a guy I should have no reason not do anything that feels good. So I talked all sexy with my friend and it felt really good. And you know how I felt 3 minutes afterward? Like shit. And you know how I felt when I told my wife? Like shit. And you know how I’ve felt when ever I thought of betraying my wife’s trust like that again? Like shit.

So it turns out that treating my wife badly, even in a very passive and not-so-quantifiable way makes me feel really bad. The friendship is now somewhat awkward for the three of us, and will be for awhile. The cost to benefit ratio on this is totally not favoring doing this again.

Like I said I did things like this when I made a big noise about being a Christian too. My character, never changed by Christianity, is not especially different NOT believing in a personal relating to me God. What is different, is that for the last couple days I have felt dirty, and lame instead of suicidal and despondent.

Even with setbacks like this, life not believing in a personal god who can magically solve my problems continues to be richer and better than life believing in a personal God who could rescue me when I sought Him.

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I suck today, and I’m not sure what to do to get better.

Or I fuck up just like I used too when I called myself a Christian, but feel free to talk about it.

I don’t really understand stress.  If you ask me “Do you feel stressed?” I would say no, by that I would mean that I don’t feel the crushing panic of impending doom that something isn’t done.  You know, the feeling you have that you are at the end of a conveyor belt and it is running too fast for you to keep up.  The sort of thing that makes non-smokers take up the habit, makes you hands shake, makes you sweat in a cold room.  To me, that is stress, and I am not feeling that at all.

On the other hand, I’m having a hard time sleeping. My stomach is constantly churning, and I am am really bitchy.  I hate being bitchy.  Men are not supposed to be bitchy, but I am right now.  I have some constant bit of nastiness to say or do at every juncture.  I get mad far to quickly and hurt far to easily.

Plainly, this is a response to stress.  What do I have to be stressed about? Well, I’m leaving my current job, selling everything I own, packing whats left up to be seen again in 3 months, and taking my family to Germany.  Once there, I will be starting my new job, while living in a hotel and finding a place through a language barrier.  I am not stressed about the fact I am stressed.  This is a very stressful and somewhat abnormal situation, and I think, in general, I am dealing with it quite well, aided by the knowledge that many thousands of servicemen have done this before me, as well the support of my wife, and the support of my friends.

I have only one real problem.  This is the problem I always have when I am quite stressed.  I don’t know why my mind and body feel this way, but when I am stressed I want to have sex with most every woman I see.  Now, I am a man. As a man, I think about sex a lot.  I might see a woman and have a scattered and unfocused sexual thought, something a bit more than “Say, what a lovely pair of breasts.” but a good deal less than “I want you.”  I think that is perfectly normal, and not what I am talking about here.  Noticing that a woman is very attractive and wishing I could see more of her is what makes me straight, which in turn is part of what makes me who I am.  I am pretty happy with I am, so I make no apologies.

No, this stress-response-horny thing is, in the words of John Cleese, something completely different.  I see a woman tossing her hair over her shoulder at the checkout line.  Suddenly, I am completely submerged in her.  Alone with her at last, I gently lift the hair from the nape of her neck, kissing the soft skin between the zipper of her dress and her hairline as I pull the zipper down, her breath drawing sharply as I… I shake my head. I’m not in a candle lit room.  She’s not in a little black dress.  She doesn’t know me, I don’t know her.  She’s just some girl.

If to my lonely readers this sounds like a lot of fun, its not.  Its sort of involuntary, like shying from a bug bite.  I see a very large woman and her butt suddenly becomes magnificent rather than just “huge”.  And inch or two of cleavage suddenly becomes a whirlpool, drawing me in.  Suddenly cleavage is not something I notice, the way you notice the name of road when you go through an intersection.  It becomes something I notice the way a starving wolf notices the scent of blood.  Sometimes, I can even step out of it and laugh at my hunger.  Holy crap, man! She not only not pretty, she’s not even bathed!  When bag ladies look good, maybe you should hurry on home. It’s very unpleasant, but not terrible. Its not any worse than being 16 again, and there are certain benefits to having the life experience of a 27 year old with the drive of a 16 year old, which my wife and I both enjoy.

The worst part is how I feel about my friends.  My wife and I are both in our 20’s. We have about as many single friends as married ones.  The thoughts about random strangers are, as I said, not that bad.  But the thoughts I have about my single female friends are very different.  These are our friends, people that Becky and I really care about, some of them even love.  With them, because I love them, I don’t want some random encounter in a hotel.  No, with my female friends, the ones I really love, I want to take make love to them.  I want to take them home, give them back rubs, undress them slowly and lovingly, and slowly make love to them.  All of them.  One at a time, all at once, in pairs, anyway at all.  And right now, in the stressed state I am, not only is there this feeling that I want to do this, there is this feeling that if I do it, it would be so beautiful and so right.  It seems as if the all the clouds in the world would blow away, and the whole world would be one of those perfect summer evenings if I could just get them all naked.

I lived with these desires my whole life, so I know enough not to act on them…but, last night…

Last night chatting with a friend, I let her know how I felt right then.  She’s a kind hearted person and only wanted to help (she’s also pretty lonely).  We both knew that nothing was really going to happen so we really let ourselves go and talked pretty explicitly. For both of us, it was a poor substitute for what we wanted, but it seemed at the moment better than just facing that empty, sick, lonely, hunger I feel whenever I am stressed out.

The next morning (today), I felt so icky.  In a way, it’s not a huge deal.  Neither one would actually take anymore action that we did.  We aren’t going to sleep together.  And in much more intelectual, less emotional conversations, we have mentioned that we have feelings for each other, they can’t be resolved, and thats just part of life, so nothing new was said.  But in another way, I really fucked up.  I, a happily married man, gave part of heart away to a woman that I am not married too.  Yeah, I kept my pants on.  There was no physical contact, we weren’t even in the same place, but I took something of my wife’s and gave it away without asking.  I feel dirty.

Of course, I told my wife about it.  I’m not that stupid. In addition to the physical intimacy, my wife and I enjoy a very emotionally intimate relationship.  She knows all about these feelings, has for years.  She knows that sometimes when I feel this way I do indiscreet but not horribly dangerous things. (ie, I’ve never done more than rub another woman’s shoulders.) She’s understanding, and a little disappointed in me, and a little disappointed in our friend.  (I’m sure some ignorant fool will read this and tell me she should throw me out on my ear.  Bullshit.  All men have these struggles at least once in their life, and some don’t struggle, they just give in.  She’s a realist.  She has moments when she has feeling for other men too.  That life.)

It is at this moment this blog becomes another deist-atheist-what-ever-the-heck-I-am blog.  I want god to be a personal God right now.  I want there to be some divine plan that I fell out of last night.  Then I could just pray “Oh, Lord, please forgive me.” and magically, having felt like I took the step to put myself back on the road o’ righteousness, I would feel absolved, clean again.

But I don’t believe in a personal relationship God.  I believe that belief is a comforting fantasy.  In the real world, where I live, I can’t magically make this right.  I have to accept the fact, that having done it once it will be easier to do again, and easier to do worse next time. (Which is of course, is what my wife is disapointed by)  Accepting that, I have to figure out what I am going to do about it on my own, then, I, out of my own willpower I have to do it. The real issue is not that I violated some 4000 year old book, or that I was unfaithful (I didn’t and I wasn’t.)  The real issue that I ultimately failed my own values, and in so doing failed my best friend (Becky) and our mutual friend. That sounds like a huge amount of work to fix, and wish I could just pray the magic prayer and have everything be good.

September 16, 2008 Posted by | Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Notes On War

War is force.  This force is applied by the waring groups to each other. The purpose of this force is get the other group/s to act in a certain way.  Perhaps Clausewitz spelled this out best with the statement, “War is politics by other means.”

The measure of human work is money.  That may not represent the world we wish to live in, but, it is, in fact, the world we live in. It’s not a perfect metric, but its easy to figure and quantifiable, so I will use it here.

For every act in politics and thus war, there is a cost versus benefit (c/b).  This c/b must be considered in the short term and long term.

The empires which are best at accurately figuring c/b’s tend to to be best at expanding and managing their respective empires.

The method of war is to spend the least (cost) to get the most (benefit).  As I mentioned, this must be figured for both short term and long term.  These c/b ratios are the cause and sustenance of the early concept of chivalry and the modern concept of “war crimes”

The idea of “war crimes” is patently absurd.  At home, when a man kills someone because (a.) he was wearing the wrong clothes and (b.) his boss told him to, we call him gangster.  When his boss is a general, we call him a hero.  At home, if man blows up a building, he is an arsonist. On the front lines, he is a pilot.  War represents a reversal of moral code.

Empires to do not do c/b in years, they do it in centuries.  The traditions of honor and chivalry became embedded because they work.  If you plan on holding a nation within your empire, the vassal state’s success is your success.  Ideally, you would seize the nation causing as little damage to the infrastructure and production of wealth as possible because as soon as the nation is yours that’s your infrastructure.

Remember that the method of war is to accomplish the most with the least investment.  To do this, the empire must attack logistical choke points.  Logistical choke points are weak links in the chain.  It is for this reason that Allied bombers targeted ball bearing factories.  Ball bearing go in everything.  Knock out a handful of factories and it shuts down hundreds of other factories.  That’s excellent c/b.  This is also why Allied bombers targeted bridges.  Knock out a few bridges and you can isolate hundreds of square miles of terrain from effective support.  That is also excellent c/b.

You don’t kill anyone you don’t have to (ie non-combatants) because you want the beaten men to go home to their woman and make lots of babies, and plant lots of crops.  The short term benefit of killing a whole town of non-combatants will have an enormous long term cost that is usually not worth the expense.  Killing non-combatants is usually very poor c/b.

Notice I said usually.  The idea of non-combatants is logically indefensible.  It is beautiful lie and worthy to be cherished.  But like other such lies (the innocence of childhood and a caring God spring to mind) it remains a lie.  And sometimes that lie must be confronted.

Killing 100 soldiers is, by it self, a pretty pointless act, strategically.  Killing 100 factory workers who assemble 10,000 soldier’s rifles is remarkably more effective.  Sometimes the factory workers are woman, children, and your own POW’s.  If that’s the case, the c/b is not so favorable.  More consideration is needed, but sometimes, a logistical choke point controls so many resources that the enormous cost of killing cherished persons is worth it, because the benefit is perceived to be even larger.

The United States if often criticized for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Was it a ghastly act? Certainly.  But the question is not “Was the act horrible?” the question is “Was the act worse than the alternatives?”  The Emperor of Japan had sworn that every man woman and child would be armed, and that the Japanese would fight to the last person.  Our experiences with the Japanese fighting in the islands lead us to believe this was no idle threat.

The atomic bombing was done in the hope that this would break the will of the people to fight. 250,000 noncombatants were sacrificed in the hope of saving the remaining infrastructure and the remaining 70,000,000 noncombatants.  Apparently, it worked.  Japan is our ally now, so apparently, the c/b estimate was accurate.

I say all this to give historical perspective to Fabius Maximus‘ question “Should the US use terrorism to fight terror.”  Its an invalid question.  The morality of war is based purely on perspective.  I am sure that according to Al-Qaeda we have using terror for years.  To Johnny Q Public, we’ve never done it ever.

Is it right? We don’t know yet.  60 years is only about 2 or 3 generations.  It’s barely enough time to decide if we were right about Japan, though the evidence seems to say yes.  Is fighting anti-US terrorists by funding pro-US terrorists a good idea?  Personally, I say no, and use Saddam Hussein and the Taliban  as my exhibits A and B (Both had documented relationships with the CIA.)

However, despite of how I or anyone else feels about, governments, including ours, will continue to pay unsavory characters to fight unsavory characters, regardless of semantics.  Only time (in the order of decades or more) will tell us if the c/b for this a net gain or a net loss.

September 4, 2008 Posted by | Government, Politics, Religion, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Situational Morality for Everybody.

Just a quickie today, I need to vacuum my apartment.

All morality is the result of a personal judgment.  As an atheist, I know that, but its harder for people raised in religious tradition to accept.

“No, no, no!” they cry, “The source of morality is God!”

And how do you know which God?

“By his Holy book!”

And how do you know which Holy book?

“Because he lead me to it!”

And how do you know he lead you to it?

“Because He told me!”

And how did you decide this still small voice in your head was his voice and not yours?

“I made a personal judgment.  Oh.”

See, ALL morality comes from a personal judgment.  Either you personally judge each situation, or you make an appeal to some authority.  If you make an appeal to authority, you must first execute your personal judgment on whether that authority, be it God, some Holy book, a tradition, represents a good authority.

So, all morality is ultimately situational and dependent upon the person deciding it. Doesn’t bother me, but man does that bum out the religious folk.

July 30, 2008 Posted by | Religion, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , | 6 Comments