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Death

The death of the mind

Creeps in through necessity

Crushed beneath the lie

Moon

The sickle moon hangs

above the dark horizon

my road lies beneath

Commandments

The 10 Commandments

One of the key aspects of thinking about religion without regard to any one dogma, and purely in context to our current world is that it forces you to consider many actions and judgments carefully. This can be a tricky thing, as many people would agree.  If you adhere strongly to a religion, you may simply say “my religion determines what is right and wrong”.  An atheist might simply say “law determines what is right and wrong”.  My experience with many religious people, though, is that they often break their own religious codes based on common societal practices.  My experience with Atheists is that they often have feelings about morality that are outside the current law.

For myself, I am stuck making decisions consciously if I am going to make them within the structure of conscious living that I strive to achieve.  My decisions are based partly on my experience with religion, partly on my knowledge of law, and partly based on my knowledge of history.  My objective is to try to do the best I can do, in balanced measure, for my family and the society in which I live. The risk in doing it this way is that you can find yourself justifying almost any crazy stuff if you are not consciously grounded in a reasonable society. I use a broad range of friends and relatives to help me stay grounded.

In reference to the 10 commandments, I feel that this is an important historical document that must be taken into context both for the original writing thousands of years ago and for its effect on society and vents in history.  It is part of the original Jewish writings that defined the journey of the Jews and their religious lessons over a long history.  It was incorporated by the early Christian church, made dogma by Emperor Constantine, and then codified in the Christian Bible around the 9th Century. Its historical significance pales in comparison to its general use as a moral compass through the centuries, still in general use today. Please note that I don’t see the bible as a source for literal stories or commands.  I DO see the bible as both a tool to understand social history, and as a source for life lessons that have bolstered a religion that has had one of the greatest effect on people in recorded history.

Here is my take on the 10 Commandments

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

No, I don’t see there being a God who is “My Lord that lead me from Egypt”, nor any other unpleasant form of slavery.  I think that this statement was placed ahead of any strong urgings by the writers of such material to establish the credentials of this writing.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me

No: Not my morality.  This is a critical commandment for a one-god religion.  I must admit that I don’t see God anymore with a capital “G” in the light of an old guy with a beard and omniscient powers sitting just out of site up in a fluffy cloud place called heaven. My view of God is somewhat more flexible, and I don’t see bowing down to the old concept as critical to my spiritual life.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

The Iconoclasts would argue that this commandment meant that you shouldn’t have any religious art, statues, or anything that might generate a sense of reverence in “Image”.  For myself, I’m not really sure what this commandment means in our modern times.  It was written by the ancients when idol worshippers were a dime-a-dozen, and the objective was to get them to stop making secret idols, as far as I can understand the times. My answer for modern times would be, strangely, YES: I don’t see making images to bow down too as a healthy or moral thing.  Whether that is the “image” of the almighty dollar, the “image” of some Hollywood icon, or any lifestyle “image”.  But also NO: I don’t see any problem with religious art, or physical images of any kind.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain

No: Not my morality.  This is a second critical commandment for a one-god religion. I prefer a concept of God that doesn’t have to take him or herself that seriously.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy

No: I’m willing to work on Sundays (or Saturdays, depending on the source).  In fact, you are hard pressed to find many Christians who take this one seriously.  But also YES: I think that it is important to make a space in your life for your religious practices, and important to have a day of rest to focus on your family. In many ways I think that or busy life has sapped strength from each one of us by sacrificing this weekly day of contemplation to the gods of Football or Home Repair.

Honour thy father and thy mother

Yes: I agree with this on a spiritual and moral level. I don’t see this as a message of “do whatever they tell you”, but I do honor them by listening.

Thou shalt not kill

Yes: You shouldn’t kill… and No: you might have to kill in order to protect your family or your own life.  I don’t believe we should kill criminals.  I don’t believe that we should go to war unless the case for protecting our families is a very clear one.  Given the violent nature of ancient societies, the violent nature and death lust of many Christians through the ages, I’m surprise that this commandment remains on the books.

Thou shalt not commit adultery

Yes: It is against my morals to commit adultery, however No: I believe that a couple can be married, then divorced.  After divorce, it’s no longer adultery. In my moral structure, “Divorce” is not the point when you get your legal divorce paperwork from the government, “Divorce”, and the end of possible adultery, is when you have a mutual agreement that the marriage is ended, with or without the blessings of church or state.

Thou shalt not steal

Yes: stealing is immoral and bad for society.  This includes, in my mind, the legal stealing that is performed by irresponsible businessmen and politicians.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor

Yes: If I make statements about my neighbor, then they should be true and carefully considered. I don’t consider this commandment to mean “Don’t lie”, however, Yes: I think that falsehoods are immoral and we should teach our children to speak the truth, carefully and with consideration.

Thou shalt not covet (neighbor’s house, wife, servants, animals, or anything else)

Yes: I don’t see covetness as a major problem in my life, but lusting after your neighbors stuff is something that I would teach to my son as something bad for society.  As well, “keeping up with the Jones” can sap your bank account and ruin your credit rating.

Ye shall erect these stones which I command thee upon Mount Gerizim

No: I’m not erecting stones upon any mountain.  I’m not even sure where that mountain is.

Contemplations

I’ve heard recently that every major religion includes some form of meditation. We don’t know much about the ancient Celt’s real practices since our documentation of these (mostly pre-Roman) cultures is minimal: only what the Greeks and Romans wrote about these tribes. And yet, we might hazard a guess that some of the Celtic religious practices were captured in early Catholicism, like flies in amber, especially in the early Irish Christian church, where the pre-Christian Roman influence was much less. Meditation in that early church was something well known (See Last Meditation of St. Columbia).

Meditation for me, as a modern Celt, has been few and far between.  I’ve always been a man of action, fighting my battles in modern businesses, and I have not yet taken on the mantle of someone who spends time sitting around thinking. My moments of contemplation have been short, and usually tactical.

Perhaps the time for change has come. Perhaps, Like St. Columbia, I need to consider just what I’m going to do with the years I have left, what little wisdom I’ve accumulated, and for the family that I’ve begun.  Perhaps I need to spend time on a hill, quietly thinking.  From Last Meditation of St. Columbia: “It was not long that he, who was all weary, stood upon the hill, but even to man there are times when one hour is as many years, and a lifetime as one hour.”

This, perhaps, is the key to meditation.  Within the space of a meditation time becomes meaningless. Within the space of meditation, the worries of worldly pressures can fall away.  Within meditation the possibilities of reaching to the sublime, connecting to what is important, connecting to nature, connecting to the primitive but very real self that lies within the shell of your society.

For some people meditation is simply sitting back and letting yourself relax enough to enjoy the beauty of the land around or the sky peeking through the leaves above. For some people, meditation can lead to a nap, and I don’t see this as bad.  For others meditation is something that had to be lead, controlled, with blank mind, in a cross-legged posture. Perhaps there are ways to do it wrong, however, I don’t believe there is any one way to do it right.  So what are the key ingredients? Here is my guess:

  1. Finding a place where you don’t have any immediate distractions or requirements for your attention. I think a place that requires some effort, or a conscious decision to reach that place, is best.  St. Columbia used a hill top in his Last Meditation. I’ve always imagined that a place reserved just for meditation would be ideal.
  2. Ability to sit or lie down in a comfortable posture, or a posture that helps you relax.
  3. Dedicating or reserving a time, or simply deciding to take some time.
  4. Remove yourself from the world at a mental level.
  5. Connect with nature and the natural world

So my suggestion for the modern Celt? Find a hilltop, or any quiet spot away from the wife and kids where you can look out at your trees and lawn. Spend a few minutes there when ever you are troubled.  Relax, open your mind up and think about where you have been, and what lies ahead. Let your troubles slip away as you enjoy your quiet moment.

Understanding

Each clear word written

Wipes away the confusion

Freed knowledge released

I have discovered that I’m beginning to grow a great hatred for Chevrolet.  For all Chevy vehicles.  I recognize that this hatred is most likely undeserved for most Chevy vehicles, most Chevy people.  And yet I have this growing hatred.

Why, you might ask?  And what could be the cause of this growing general malice?

I have been experiencing conflict since the day I drove my new 2014 Chevy Volt home.  In the process of purchasing the new car I have found a growing number of reasons to love the car, and an unfortunately larger number of reasons to hate the car, hate the dealerships, and hate the Chevy support services.  Hate is not too strong a word.  The bile rises when ever I think of them.

Why, might you ask, have I developed these conflicting feelings?

Because the Chevy Volt is a fun, fast, car with some great engineering hurtles overcome.  It is quick, reasonably nimble, and includes a powerful electric motor that can zip it into traffic with at least the quickness of any production sedan that is reasonably priced, if not the full neck-snap of the $100,000 Tesla Roadster.  The small and efficient gasoline generator does a reasonable job of keeping the electric motor running even after the batteries are run dry.  This car is a perfect balance of plug-in electric vehicle, with enough range to cover most commutes and the flexibility to be taken on the road for unlimited gasoline travel. I bow to the engineers that designed this drive train.  it’s not a Tesla, but it’s a good, solid, fun platform at a reasonable price.

The reason why my hatred grows, however, is NOT the engineers that developed this excellent drive train.  My hatred has to do with the elements of the Chevy organizations that seem to have conflicting objectives. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I think that these elements are either abysmally incompetent, or attempting outright sabotage. Here are my points:

  • Finding a local dealer who new anything about the Volt, two years after its introduction, was a challenge.  After a mostly delightful experience with Nissan and Toyota, dealing with a Chevy dealership felt very outdated and painfully antique.  I finally found a dealer in the next state over, about 2 hours from the house, where one salesperson specialized in Volts.
  • The longer I drive this car, the more I want to find the team leader for the console design and just slap him or her.  The touch screen display design breaks all good ergonomic design rules, and the slick little bumps with icons and words unreadable in daylight conditions is both confusing, overlapping, and contradictory.
    1. This console creates a more hazardous condition than a cell phone does: i’m far more likely to pull over in order to select a temperature setting than I am to make a cell call.
    2. Gone are the days when if you want it hotter, you slide the bar to the right, and cooler, slide to the left.  Now you have to figure out where the temperature setting is, then figure out how to raise it or lower compared to ambient temperature, then figure out how to override the fan settings. Why has technology made this less usable?
    3. Radio controls have become unusable. I’m a smart guy, but I have yet to figure out how to make favorite station settings.  True, I’ve not looked this up in the giant thick manual, but for every previous car I have ever owned this has not been necessary.
    4. Default settings are unchangeable.  For instance, I need to charge my car at the higher current if it is to be charged by the time I need to go to work.  Since the higher current is not a default setting, i need to remember to reset the current level every time I charge the car.
  • Finally, I find the car unsafe for left turns.  You heard me.  If you are turning left, you need to constantly bob your head back and forth in order to be sure that another vehicle or pedestrian isn’t hiding in the enormous blind spot created by the extraordinarily fat front left post. I have been surprised more than once with vehicles popping out of that blind spot, and have become more than a little paranoid.  As well, i’m developing a neck ache.

How, do you think, can these blinding problems generating my hate have been perpetuated?  All I can think is that the right hand of Chevy is gnawing on the left.  The left hand, those lovely drive train engineers, seemed to have been given direction to develop a great car.  The right hand, those sniveling managers, seem to by trying to sabotage that lovely car in favor of their antique gasoline engine technology by under supporting dealer roll outs, and sliding in the worst console design team in the history of modern consoles.

I think that this conflict echoes the basic problem with Chevy, and perhaps is a harbinger of their very long term chances for success.  Will they get their act together and come up with a more integrated electric car?  The Bolt looks promising, but we will see.

As for me, Chevy had one chance to convert me from my Toyota ways.  It failed.  This is leased car, and I’m going to have a party when I return it.

Red Sun

There is a red sun rising over the trees

There is a red sun rising to meet the steaming day

There is a red sun rising / There is a red sky coming

The river bleeds bloody red

 

Black trees hold the red sun in the eastern sky

Black trees release it again

Black trees will bake / Black trees with blow

Till they bleed red at the end of the day

 

Green lies the grave beneath the red trees

Green turns to gray in the twilight shadows

Green goes to black / Night falls deep

Bright flickering fireflies rise up to be free

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