Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Perspective: You Matter

It's a thing that you can't wish for; you have to find it, sometimes in unexpected places. Have you ever seen that moment in Grand Canyon, a Kevin Kline movie from 1991, when the young troubled teenager sees the Grand Canyon for the first time? 

I didn't love the entire movie (though I might check it out again in case I missed the real meaning of the film), but one thing that struck me to the absolute core while watching it in the 90s was that moment, the Grand Canyon moment, that moment that slapped me with the grandeur of our planet, of our solar system, of our universe. That moment still gives me a major hit of perspective. All of those struggles of my life are, in fact, small things in the grand scheme of it all. And that, somehow, comforts me.

But there's more. Do you ever find yourself in a crowd of people and feel a part of a mob until, suddenly, some individual catches your eye. Then you realize you are a part of a group of humanity. That each of these people has an incredibly complex web of life, at least as complex as our own life. It's kind of a crazy thing, to realize that each person we meet or don't meet is living within a network of complications, relationships, past, present, future, finances, memories, likes and dislikes, conflicts, expectations, inadequacies, successes. And that's cool and also gives me perspective.

But there's more. It's how we are each a part of that complex network. How do we keep ourselves from feeling completely tiny and insignificant while knowing that we are a part of such a huge reality? It's a completely human struggle, to feel important, meaningful, significant while walking in that mob, while sitting at home, while moving through our days. Because, the thing is, it's not just a thing we want, it's a thing we need, to feel necessary, needed, respected. Like we matter. I honestly think I need to feel some sense of this each and every day. 
Do you?

Weirdly, I have an answer to this.

I have given this one quite a bit of thought in my life. It's a human thing, right? And I've figured out the single best way for myself to find ways to feel significant and that is to BE significant to others. This is a thing that I can do and do do every day. I tell people that they matter to me, why they are important, what I love about them. I touch people with my hands. I look at people in the eyes as I talk to them, when I tell them that I appreciate what they have done or who they are. It's that old adage the more you give the more you get
I guess.

Give it a try. Start today. Tell the people in your life that they are meaningful to you and why. Find a lovely pause in your day and do it. Make someone's day. Make your own day.

You will feel significant.
Because you are.

I hope my friend doesn't mind that I used her image.

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Friday, July 27, 2018

My Senior Moments

The other day I was watching some really cute video somewhere on social media that gave me all of the feels. It was a group of senior citizens sitting together and dancing and swinging arms and singing and just enjoying their music. It was adorable. I'm sure the music was by Duke  Ellington or Bing Crosby or Nat "King" Cole. Or maybe I'm a decade early and it was probably Elvis Presley or Glenn Miller or Frank Sinatra or The Platters. Either way, the seniors were glowing, positively glowing with the love of their music.

Music is a miracle of time travel. We can listen to a song and, before we realize it, it has transported us back in time to a specific moment. Somehow, it's magical. And each of us has our own specific songs that transport us. There is one song that actually takes me back to some awful fight my parents were having one time; the song makes me cry even though it's not a sad song. I once told my sister about that song and she said that she has the exact same response to it. Weird, huh?

Yes, music is a time capsule that transports us.

I got to thinking about the music that gets me out of my chair and dancing because I figure that these will be the songs that I would be sitting in my wheelchair and listening to one day. The songs of my generation are many and varied, but they are definitely specific to me and my contemporaries. Disco, funk, hair bands, hard rock...

Imagine it. It's several decades in the future and I'm wearing my teal track suit. My side table is covered with pill bottles and iced tea. My walls are covered in electronic frames flashing memories past me at a new one every three seconds. It's a lovely quiet afternoon and someone turns on some tunes that get me moving. It's not likely to be Frank Sinatra or Elvis or Duke Ellington. It's more likely to be AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Salt-n-Pepa, Rose Royce, Molly Hatchet, April Wine, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, Motley Crue, Chaka Khan, and Twisted Sister. I might also be swaying and snapping my fingers to Quiet Riot, Black Sabbath, Pearl Jam, Heart, Santana, Bob Seger, Billy Idol, Loverboy, or Lynyrd Skynyrd.

And as I'm sitting there listening to my tunes, will the next couple of generations of people think how cute and adorable I am?
Those little whippersnappers!

 What will your senior moment 
 music be? 

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

There are Hateful People out There

I know.
It's true.

There are truly unpleasant human beings out there in the world. The angry, the racist, the selfish, the intolerant, the lout. They're there and they're generally loud. My Facebook feed can overwhelm me at times when I see the hateful things that people post, that people find humorous, or that some people spout. I think that we see these people only because they are loud and in places easy to see.

But the truth is, there are more wonderfully loving people out there. The people who follow their passions and who enjoy their lives to the fullest. The people who take pictures of the blue, blue sky. People who give their lives to the care of their loved ones. People who always make a point to look you in the eye when they greet you, right in the eye so you know that you are being seen. People who lay out pennies for the luck seekers.

There are  humans who dance to their own tunes. People walk our sidewalks with goodness in their hearts and with coins jingling in their pockets, paying the parking meter of strangers. People who pay it behind at the drive through. People who research and built and create. People who speak up for the pets in need of love and family. People whose very jobs , their very livelihoods are taking care of the neediest among us. There are people who speak the truth with trembling hands and voices, yet they speak it. There are people who look under bridges for those in need.

There are people who greet you with a kiss, people who sing on the bus, people who leave a larger than necessary tip, people who notice your mood, people who look to the stars and learn their names. Our world has people who hide a little for their own protection but who also show tremendous courage when seeking connection. There are people who exhibit extraordinary courage by their very brave actions and revolutionary hearts. 

There are people who are frightened beyond belief but who still stand up and say the truth. There are people who will stop and step over the earthworm on a rain soaked sidewalk. There are people brave enough to forgive someone who is not apologetic. There are people who are brave enough to say I'm sorry. People who have the bravery and integrity to go the extra mile whether anyone else notices or not. People who do the right thing because it is the right thing. People who seek truth and justice. People who pay for the guy behind them in line.

There are people who ignore your errors, who don't correct your pronunciation of words you've only read. Or who DO because they appreciate your efforts. People who stop to notice the beauty of the trees or the clouds. People who sing at the top of their lungs in their cars. People who stand in front of the bully. People who wear purple. People who tat up for the fun of it. People who leave sunshine where there is rain. People who find ways to share their freshness. People who pick up ugliness left by others. People who care. People who smile in spite of it all. 

There are people who, when you ask How are you?  will tell you and people who, when you ask What are you up to?  will tell you about their passions. There are people who bravely present themselves to the world. And people who hide certain parts of themselves until they are certain someone will love them. And some people show love, love in the face of all. More and more love.

Be one of these people.  Be the reason that some people can again believe in the goodness of humanity.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Atheist Kids

Being a first generation atheist and raising children was, for me, a challenge. Many times I found myself having to reconsider things that seemed, at first glance, to be simple, but were actually life mired in religion. It was eye-opening to clearly see how ensnared in religion our country actually it. I realized that I had to continually engage my skepticism and research inclination, kick it into high gear, in fact. 

My daughter's first year in school, kindergarten, she was a very active listener, a child who was looking for real magic, a child who saw every single incidence of religion in the world around her. I will never, ever forget being a volunteer in her classroom when they were all standing for the Pledge of Allegiance, she spoke the words, then turned and shouted to me across the room See, Mom, one nation under God... 

Another time, the librarian read Jesus stories to the kids THREE WEEKS IN A ROW! I'm not the complainy type, but after the third week of Jesus, I did contact the Vice Principle of the school and discuss the matter with her. My daughter's teacher thanked me, but the librarian never looked at me again.

My point is that religion is absolutely normal in the world. It is everywhere. Deliberately raising children outside of the norm is truly a challenge.

My daughter told me about several occasions between the ages of five and twelve, because those are the brainwashing years, she said, where she was on the playground with new friends who asked her if she believed in god, capital G. When she would reply that, no, she did not believe in God, the other child would stop playing with her. She tells me of more than one occasion where the other child would say My mom told me I couldn't play with other children who don't believe in God.

Yes, you heard that correct. Parents were already teaching their children to fear and reject people who were different from themselves. 

As Elizabeth's mother, I always knew that she was out there with her eagle eyes and logical brain looking for inconsistencies, facts, and most importantly magic. She wanted to believe. But she was also burdened with a natural fully functioning bullshit detector that would not allow logical fallacies to slide by. That made my job super important. I knew I had to be as coherent and as constant as possible because she was learning every single moment.

Because, in reality, we're not raising ATHEIST kids. We're raising kids who will be atheists - because it makes sense.

You might also enjoy this:
How to Talk Religion with Children as an Atheist or Skeptic
How an Atheist Discusses Religion with their Children
Raising Atheist Children
Death, Grief, and Loss: Atheism Style
Books for Your Skeptical Children 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I Couldn't be a Millionaire or a Billionaire

If there is one thing I don't understand as I read the news these days, it is the upper crust, the top 1% of people who have insane and savage amounts of cash. I simply don't get that. Surely there is some mental illness label for people like this, people who can hold onto obscene amounts of money, who even collect and desire more, at a time when so many humans have such need.

I simply could not be a millionaire or a billionaire, because I couldn't keep that money. I COULDN'T be a millionaire. I already give away far too much money. My poor husband is always having to add large sums to the GIFT$ section of our budget. I cannot help it; I get far better feelings giving it away than I ever did having it. I know this for I have done it again and again...

I cannot fathom how a human being can have reserved cash when other human beings are homeless, in need, unable to pay for necessities, kids with needs, humans living in poverty, entire countries struggling, incredibly worthy opportunities to support research or cool projects, investment in people and ideas, and on and on. I have about two dozen friends who could each use a million dollars or more. I know of about a dozen very worthy groups who do amazing good in their communities who could use another million. I know of entire cities who need essentials such as clean water, electricity, safe and adequate schools, health care, services for veterans, civic projects, humans of all age who could use my billions. 

No, if I was a millionaire or a billionaire today, tomorrow I would not be. 
And I would be happy.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Are You a First-Generation Atheist or Humanist Parent?

Escaping the mind prison of religion is a grueling, effortful, celebration-worthy event. There should be Hallmark cards. The thought liberation is a tremendously life-changing event that few people have the strength, courage, and integrity to accomplish. Myself, it took me over two years to find my way out once the journey toward freethought began. 

So, New and First-Generation Freethinking Parents, gather round because I have some words for you.

I know the stress, the anxiety, the fear: for I have been you. I know the awareness that you are blazing an entirely new trail, the knowledge that loved ones will not and cannot understand and may not support you, the stress of feeling unable to trust believing loved ones with the hearts and minds of your children, the brightening world that is still unknown to you. 
It is a lonely path to liberation, this flight toward freethought, one fraught with anxiety that our hearts and minds walk without certainty in the beginning. But stay tuned, for soon you will experience the light.

The old way was well-worn, well-supported, extremely public, highly-sanctioned, popular, easier...choking, false, cloying, limiting, bloodthirsty, malignant. This new way is honest, cleansing, saving, liberating, essential.

So how do you do it?
How does one move forward into this unknown territory, albeit into the freedom that one craves, when our parents and friends and other loved ones begin circling the wagons? How do we PROTECT THE MINDS AND HEARTS OF OUR CHILDREN? I believe that this is a major task, to raise freethinking children.

Did we expect the battle of integrity that would erupt?

Fully knowing the massive division of belief systems between our beloveds and ourselves, most of us leapt into freethought and/or humanism with sheer relief. The religious systems of belief were too unpalatable, too intolerable, too objectionable. Knowing we would be entering into a completely incomprehensible place to our loved ones, we vaulted into the fresh and clear air. Aware that we were leaving all that we knew behind, 
we bounded into the light of freedom of thought.

Moving Forward

So you are ready.
How to move forward?
Please stay tuned. I will be writing tons more for you in the next days and weeks.

For now allow me to leave you with one suggestion: find a community. Online, in real life, whereever you can find them, a community of freethought or humanist parents who can support you, from whom you can learn, who will understand your fears, and with whom you can be honest. This journey into the light is just that, a journey. 
You will continue to learn. 
You can do this.
And check back soon!

I welcome your questions!

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Saturday, July 7, 2018

Well HE Believes in You

If I have heard it once, I have heard it a hundred thousand times, and usually in a rather magniloquent way; Well He believes in YOU.  😉

This particular diatribe that I have planned might upset you, but please relax a moment and allow me to explain why I find this particular claim to be nonsense. And I often wonder if people who utter these words are aware that they are quoting a character in the Dumas book The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas, himself, a bit of a mystic at best? 😄

First let's look at the idea that a deity is with us at important times in our lives, the tough days, those days that suck, aloneness, struggle, loss, lost. I have been there myself, and for long stretches of time. These are the times when one feels so very alone, regardless of who else is in their company. I get  the need to feel that someone is actually on your side, someone is in your corner, someone is aware of your struggle and cares. I get that, the true gift of love from someone else when you are so very in need. Indeed, such a connection with a person who truly cares can be life changing and may be one of the truly transforming things in life.

In a case such as this, having someone say that HE believes in you might actually be useful to some people. I'm sure.
But to a skeptic, such a statement is positively ridiculous, less than nothing. 

I can honestly say that, even at those times in my life when I was the most alone and a true believer, the idea that a deity was with me did not give me the kind of comfort that some people might think that it should, that I had wished that it would have. In fact, I often felt that people were mistaken, that I was forsaken by God, that I was unworthy. And I felt this way completely because there was no relief, no comfort...nothing tangible at a time when I truly needed it.
Yet I believed...

The reality of difficulties in life are hard to bear and, I'll bite, it would be freaking lovely LOVELY if, indeed, some parental force would actually be there in some tangible way to help, guide, support, give succor. But the imaginings of a deity truly do nothing tangible. It's a sad, sad offering to a person in such a place, this imaginary ideal character, for there is no true comfort from imaginary things.

As I write this blog post, my cousin's dear husband is laying, post-heart attack, in the hospital in a coma. Everyone is surrounding this man with very sincere and well-intentioned prayer. They all sincerely believe that their deity is capable of miracles, including bringing this wonderful man back to them. I find it incredibly heartbreaking that they are placing such emotional energy, at this time, into this belief...

Dozens of people are praying, literally waiting for miracles, believing that their deity has this planned for this man... Though I've not been close to this side of the family for many years, on FB I have grown very fond of my cousin and her children. I'm so sad for them at this unexpected loss...

They firmly believe. 
I wouldn't, for all of the tea in the world, take away the comfort that they are getting from their belief. But I'm dumbstruck how their faith moves them from The Lord will bring miracles  to The Lord is taking him Home in just hours...
Does no one think, Gee, it's as if our prayers are doing nothing...

I sincerely wish I could remove the religious issue from this story of my cousin, but, alas, I cannot because the entire family is fully-saturated in their belief. One of her children is a minister and the remaining children and grandchildren are fully-immersed in their belief. It is truly a mystery to me as, I'm sure, my complete and total disbelief in their deity is a mystery to them.

Getting back to my argument, let's be real, He Believes in You  is generally spoken to a person who has the audacity to make the claim that, indeed, no evidence exists for the existence of a deity or any supernatural being. 
So, the familiar scenario is such: a person with temerity (read reason) has an exhausting and laborious conversation with a believer and makes the statement that they, in fact, do not believe in a deity of any kind. At this point, our intrepid believer will tilt their head to the left, give a pietistic smile, and say Well, He Believes in YOU.

And that's all. That's the height of the argument.
He believes in You.

It's cute. It's clever. It's catchy. But there is no more because there truly is nothing else behind it.

And let's not forget that Everything Happens for a Reason.
And I should believe Just in Case He's Real.

You want to believe, HEY, more power to you. But I also challenge you. If you didn't sincerely want to believe, would there be any reason to continue to do so?

Your thoughts?

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