Boring Lives and Creepy Interests

Lucifer (or Frank) Contemplating the Boring LifeIt is probably never a good idea to write anything too personal publicly. But I’ve never been very good at going along with good ideas. So I thought I would spend a moment to talk about the boring people I went to high school with. I don’t mean all of them, of course. I don’t know all of them. And some that I do know are quite interesting. But you see: I get mail.

I have a horrible memory, so I only have the vaguest of recollections of the people from high school. But they will write to me from time to time. This is pretty much always because of one aspect of my colorful life. They want to know if I am as evil as I appear to be. Do I snarl? Eat puppies for breakfast? Of course, they don’t put it that way. But the subtext is clear enough.

I no longer respond to such email, because I know how these things go. Regardless of how I respond, there will never be a reply. I think of it as the internet equivalent of doorbell ditch. But it really is them getting a thrill out of the process of comparing what they remember as a shy, skinny kid and his later life as despoiler of the world’s children and general pox on society. It makes me feel like a geek at a freak show.

And then I have to go and screw it all up by showing that I’m much more like a mathematics professor at a small liberal arts college. The disappointment must be extreme. But still, there are the books! They’ll always have the books! But I get the sense that they think somehow the lives they’ve led have been better than mine. And they might be right. I’m in no position to judge. But most of them have led what I think of as very boring lives.

This is not a surprise. I went to a high school that was known locally as “the ranch.” In fact, if my memory is correct, on the side of the gymnasium, that was painted in big block letters. And even though it was a suburban school, it had a certain feel of being a country school. The people who came out of it are now mostly a conservative lot — many of the Donald Trump supporting variety. You know the type: don’t much like African Americans, even though they’ve only seen them on television.

That’s all fine. Most people do just want a normal life — that’s why they call it that: a normal life. I like barbecues as much as the next person. But why reach out to me? I think that shows a certain amount of boredom with their own lives. I’d never write to someone I barely remember asking them about the twenty years they spent as a supply clerk in the army. Then again, I’ve lived, in retrospect (having survived it), a charmed life — and certainly not a boring one. I’ve traveled extensively, known amazing people, done some great things, got in ridiculous amounts of trouble, and lived to tell the tale. Not that I do — at least not to those people from the deep past who want to drive by my digital home and slow down, hoping to see me sacrificing a goat.

Satanic Temple Has Spiritual Lessons to Teach

Satanic Temple MonumentElizabeth alerted me to this bit of excellent news, Satanists to Give Prayer at Phoenix City Council Meeting. In December, two members of the Satanic Temple, Michelle Shortt and Stu de Haan, requested to be able to do the opening prayer for the regular meeting. It is scheduled for 17 February.

Not surprisingly, some of the council members were unhappy about this. But Phoenix City Attorney Brad Holm released a statement saying that prayer will go forward as planned. He seems to be one of people who has studied the Constitution and the Supreme Court and found that it would go against our laws and traditions to stop the Satanic Temple.

I fully expect when the Satanic Temple members speak, they will be quite serious about it. The core of the teachings of the Satanic Temple is that Satan is a symbol for those whom the society casts out.

Before I get into this, can I quote a little Shakespeare? “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose; By any other name would smell as sweet.” The people who hate the Satanic Temple know nothing about it. They just know that they were taught in Sunday School that Satan was the Bad Guy™ in the Bible. And as I’ve discussed, the modern conception of Satan — The Devil! — is really not the traditional one. Certainly in Job, Satan is more of a helper to God — making sure that man really does love God and isn’t just pretending because God is so good to him.

I fully expect when the Satanic Temple members speak, they will be quite serious about it. The core of the teachings of the Satanic Temple is that Satan is a symbol for those whom the society casts out. To use John Edwards’ words, Satan is a symbol for the other America — the one that is only shown on the television when it is at its worst. Satanism is quite consistent with Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. Indeed, I would say that Satanism is more in keeping with Christianity than most American Christians I see who seem only interested in stopping abortion (without a care for the child after it is born) and vilifying same sex couples.

Intolerance Toward Satanic Temple

Councilman Jim Waring thinks that the Satanic Temple should have been told no because he thinks they are just trying to be offensive. Notice how far we’ve come in these 225+ years! Waring is arguing that the offense taken by the vast majority of Americans trumps the offense taken by the minority. Every time I go to an event where there is some kind of prayer, I bristle. I hate it. I am offended. I think, “How dare you!” Because these people only think it is okay because most people believe this Iron Age nonsense. It is presumptuous to think that I do.

There’s just one problem with Jim Waring’s thinking: it goes entirely against the Bill of Rights. Despite what idiot Fox News pundits say, Christians are not being oppressed in this country. They say this when Christians are called on their special rights — like doing 95% of all the public prayers in the nation. Majorities don’t need to be protected; minorities need to be protected. The whole of human history has shown this. And that is what makes our Constitution a remarkable document for its time.

De Haan said, “We don’t intend on doing anything offensive.” And I’m sure he’s being honest. It’s not like the Satanic Temple has an organizational structure like the Catholic Church, but everything I’ve seen from them indicates that they take it all seriously. But if this leads to someone in a pirate suit and colander talking about beer volcanoes, fine. And if that means that older religions decide that they don’t want to do these kind of public prayers, well, happy days are here again! Because, as I said, I find them offensive as hell. And they have no place in the workings of a secular government.

If we don’t allow the Satanic Temple to give prayers at city council meetings, then the government has established a religion. It may not be a particular one, but it has divided religions into those that have rights and those that don’t. And if we do that, we really are lost. But frankly, I think at least a third of this country already is.

See also: Seven Tenets Beat Ten Commandments.

Morning Music: Codeine’s Cave-In

Frigid Stars LP - CodeineRight around the time that people were not buying American Music Club albums, they were busy not buying Codeine albums. I must admit to long having a bit a problem with the band’s name. Look: if you’re depressed, don’t call yourself codeine (a ridiculously toxic substance — far more dangerous than morphine). Be like Nick Cave and Rowland Howard and call yourself something like “The Birthday Party.” Show a little style! It’s like if “Weird Al” Yankovic had a band, it should be called “Slow Motion Suicide.”

Anyway, I think there was something about the late 1980s. American Music Club, Codeine, Red House Painters (probably do them tomorrow) — they all started in the late 1980s. I’m thinking after 8 years of Ronald Reagan and then knowing we were looking at more from George Bush… It was all just too much. I remember. I did canvasing for Michael Dukakis. What a miserable year 1988 was! Now that I think about it, Will and I had a band in 1988, but we didn’t have the talent to actually set any kind of mood. Or sing in tune. (Well, me anyway.) But we did have depressing and angry songs like “Memories of Loneliness,” “We’re Just Waiting for Letter Bombs,” and “Cock in Brain.” They all strike me as hilarious titles now, and I can perhaps be forgiven for having written the first two when I was 17.

Anyway, today we are going to listen to a song off Codeine’s first album, Frigid Stars LP, “Cave-In.” I don’t know quite what it’s about. It seems kind of like the wait for the inevitable break-up. The “cave-in” is the backing down — not allowing it to end, as it must. But I quite like these lines: “Your eyes were lit by fire; The way you tried to smile; The way you couldn’t smile.” Yep. I’ve had that girlfriend several times!

Codeine Relief

If you feel you just can’t go on, here is James Taylor singing You’ve Got a Friend. Although he was likely strung out on heroin when he recorded it. Just saying.

Anniverary Post: Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster

Space Shuttle Columbia Crew - Sadly All DeadOn this day in 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster occurred. During the mission (STS-107), a small bit of foam had broken off and damaged the left wing. On re-entry, the wings broke off, causing the entire shuttle to break apart — killing all seven astronauts.

Funny thing, when I was a teen, I read, The World According to Garp. Garp was not exactly a character I connected with except in the sense that he was a writer and I kind of liked to write at that point in my life. But time goes on and Garp gets married and has children.

What does this have to do with the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster? I’m getting to it!

At one point, John Irving writes that if there was one thing that Garp cared about, it was keeping people safe. It seemed odd to me on two accounts. It didn’t seem to go along with the character that Irving had developed. And I really didn’t know what he was talking about.

As I got older, I understood. I worry about everyone. I don’t even have kids, but I worry. And this really is why I’m not so keen on the manned space program. I understand: these are pioneers. We’ve got to do this if we are going to make progress. But I’m still not over George Clooney dying in Gravity. And let’s face it, Sandra Bullock wouldn’t have survived either.

But I have great respect for brave people that push the limits of our existence. But they worry me. Constantly. And I hope they know that!