Monday, September 24, 2007
The first book is Will Self's The Book of Dave. I have already posted my review. Our next book is Separate Flights by Andre Dubus. The book after that is American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
Feel free to participate. Books are dävine.
I grew up without religion. When I turned 17, I had a spiritual awakening and began to modify my behavior accordingly. I quit drinking alcohol completely. I gave up iced tea and coffee, which in the Southeastern United States is akin to giving up water. I decided to be chaste (not that I had any experience otherwise). I also began to see the world in very black and white ways. Suddenly, I felt that anyone that didn’t want to live the same standards as myself was wrong. I judged people. When I was 19, I decided to become a Mormon missionary, and I was called to serve in Costa Rica for two years (1993-1995). During this time, as a lay volunteer, all I did, all day every day, was go around and talk to people about my beliefs. This experience had the effect of allowing me to see the world in something besides black and white, or shades of gray. I saw the world in color, and realized that there was more than one way of doing something--that many people, most people in fact, were able to be moral and ethical without identifying with a certain religion, or any religion for that matter--what Kant might have called an autonomous morality.
This awakened me to the realization, that in trying to live my life according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, I was doing the exact opposite, and essentially ignoring his warning in John, Chapter 8, that the first stone be cast by one who was spotless. I was judging unrighteously, blissfully ignoring my own sins. And also, while a missionary, I realized that I might be wrong, that my spiritual awakening might be a farce, that this is all there is to our existence. I do not believe that it is, but I have no way of proving that it isn’t. I believe in God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and modern-day revelation by prophets. I cannot prove that they are right, but it is what I believe; it is my hope and faith. All I could do, as a missionary, was share what I believed, bare and bear my testimony of what I believed, and then invite others to do the same. If they felt the same as I did, great. If not, then they have every right to not live according to the same precepts that I hold dear.
I am in a small minority however. I’m not claiming to be enlightened, but I do realize that tolerance of others culture, practices, and habits come from peeling back the layers of ignorance that we allow to crust over our eyes when we cling to a belief that we have not fully examined. I still believe in my religion; I most likely always will, and I also believe that each and every person has the right to live their life according to the dictates of his/her conscience. I feel that most people who claim to follow Christ, do not feel this way, especially in the United States. This causes problems.
And, I get the feeling (to overuse that word), with the increase in Protestant private secondary schools, homeschooling, and the like, many people are trying to shield their children from the world. I find this most disturbing. Children need to be taught correct principles, and then be allowed to govern themselves, provided there are consequences for poor behavior. Part of this is allowing them to experience the diversity of the world. And a huge part of this is the experience of a rigorous liberal arts education.
How boring would it be to grow up and never have any of your beliefs and ideals questioned? You would be woefully unprepared for the 21st Century. So, when I hear politicians and pundits rail against the liberal, nay leftist, and by association in the United States, “godless pinko Communists,” in higher education, I think to myself, “How scared do you have to be in your own influence over your child, that some professor might make them abandon all they’ve ever known.” I’d hope that conservative parents would want their children to have their beliefs questioned, that much like the Amish allowing their children to go out into the “lone and dreary world” that they would see the value in questioning their own values to make them stronger and more refined. How do you know if you really believe in something until after the trial of your faith?
There is no liberal bias in higher education. What does bias even mean in that context anyway? Higher education is a process by which we turn children into adults, capable of thinking for themselves, and not just parroting back what their parents have told them. To use conservative religious terminology, Adam and Eve had to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil so that they might know the bad from the good (with “bad” and “good” left up to interpretation).
The most important thing to remember in all of this, is that as much as another’s beliefs might annoy us, maturity and civility demand that we respect them and recognize their right to hold them as dearly as we hold our own. I hate politics in the US right now. It’s all “if you’re not with us, you’re against” rhetoric engendered by egg-headed politicians stumping for votes, and pundits desperate for ratings.
I mean someone actually published a book called Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder. Seriously, how does that help? The right needs to just calm their asses down. To all right-wing Christians, what Jesus said in Mark 12:31-33 wasn’t a suggestion; it was a commandment.
I am not a conservative. I am not a liberal. I am rational moderate that wishes we could all just get along.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Weight on 9-4-07 = 417 lbs.
Weight on 9-17-07 = 398.3 lbs.
That's 18.7 lbs in 13 days. That's not a sustainable rate, but I am very happy to be back where I was during the first half of this year. I could tell that my suit fit better yesterday when I was at church, and the safety belt in the car wasn't as tight. Mickelle too is losing weight, but I'll let her report that if she wants to, down in the comments section.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
When I started the South Beach Diet in January 2005, I weighed 440 lbs. Right before Katrina hit, I got down to 372 lbs. After Katrina, I found it impossible to not stress eat, so in January 06, I got back on it, and maintained my weight at around 390 lbs. until April of this year. That's when the stress hit, and I responded by overeating. So, the day after Labor Day, with Jack almost weaned and Mickelle able to diet with me (I do much better when we're both on the same page), we started again. I'm not going to keep tabs on Mickelle's weight, but I'll happily reveal my progress. No bets this time (I lost $20 to Paul).
My weight on Tuesday September 4, 2007 = 417 lbs.
My weight on Wednesday September 12, 2007 = 401.3 lbs.
Weight loss in someone of my size is always dramatic at the beginning because of the water weight associated with glucose storage in the liver. Once those supplies are exhausted, then the body starts burning fat. I'm not in ketosis, nor do I really want to be. The South Beach Diet really works if you stick with it. Two things I've found that I don't like doing, and that most fat people don't do, but that South Beach requires:
#1 You have to eat breakfast. I hardly ever want to eat breakfast. I'm not usually hungry until lunch.
#2 You have to eat all day long. Snacks are required. Even if you are not hungry, you're supposed to eat. This keeps your metabolism humming, keeps your blood sugar even, and avoids insulin spikes which tell your body to store excess carbs as fat.
Believe it or not, I don't eat constantly when I gain weight. I just eat huge portions, and the big bowl of cereal before bed. I'm usually starving at bedtime. Have been my whole life. I don't get it. I can eat a full meal, that if it were lunch would last for eight hours. If I eat the same thing for dinner, I am ravenous by bedtime. I have a weird body. Water gives me gastritis; I get acid reflux if I drink water, but not if I drink Coke.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I think that might be one reason. However, as a man, someone who is visually drawn to these images when my eye catches them (think Skyy Vodka ads in every magazine), I have to say that these locations satisfy the commonality of the male sexual fantasy realm. Every man, I'd imagine, has fantasies about having sex out-of-doors, on a dock, on the beach, standing by the shore of a Norwegian fjord, in the woods next to a tent, in the actual tent, on the hood of a car, in the back seat of the car, in the front seat of the car, halfway between the front and back seats; if it's an old Cadillac, perhaps even in the trunk. My point being that these images, that use eroticism to sell products, are always pornographic, and usually seek both to downplay the overt sexuality of the image and to fill the fantasy space common to as many people as possible.
I don't see how putting a vamping twentysomething in a bikini, outside, with the goods titillatingly close to being on full display is ever not pornographic. On a bed, in a bathroom stall, or sitting in a church pew, the image of a woman in lingerie, especially a tan, thin, chesty one, will always get attention, nay command it, and will forevermore be the object of the gaze, the longing one at that, of the Other.
I also plan to start posting on a daily basis again, else I'll have to change my blog's name.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
PART ONE My Life
Nagin does nothing. The President didn't even mention the Gulf Coast in his State of the Union address. The permits process to rebuild is byzantine, and not geared towards helping people of meager means re-establish themselves in their homes. The poor will lose their homes. Many of the elderly in Gertown and Pigeontown will most likely live out their days in their formaldehyde-tainted FEMA trailers.
I worry that right now, politicians and their cronies are divvying up the 9th Ward and planning to use the 2005 Supreme Court decision on imminent domain to seize properties along the Industrial Canal in the name of industry and commerce.
It just amazes me how politics, personal vainglory, and incompetence have allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to do the wrong thing time after time when it comes to flood control in the Mississippi Valley. John Barry's book should be required reading for politicians.
Rumor has it that Chertoff might replace Gonzalez as Attorney General. I hold him just as responsible as "Brownie" for allowing the Superdome and Convention Center tragedies to transpire. I voted for Bush and for Nagin. After seeing the fruits of having put my trust in these men, I have no faith in the political system anymore.
PART THREE My Spiritual Growth
In conclusion, I’d like to conclude with the most powerful example of meaningful worship that I have ever seen. Of the 700+ members of the church living in the New Orleans First Ward, Chalmette Ward, and Uptown Branch boundaries, my little family was one of only two that did not flood. We lived only six blocks from our branch president. His house was raised 4 feet off the ground, and he had water up to my navel in his home. After overseeing the refugees assembled and living in the stake center 3 hours away in Alexandria, Louisiana for 3 weeks after the storm, he, at the New Orleans stake president’s request, moved into the only church building in New Orleans that did not flood. He had lost his home, had to be there to tend to his business, and the stake president had to order him to stay at the church, finally persuading him that he needed to live there so that the church wouldn’t be looted. During the day, with his family still living in Alexandria, he worked on his business, and by night, he helped coordinate the relief effort that the Church was establishing. He is a small and physically weak man. He has epilepsy and daily seizures, but his desire to worship meaningfully makes him a spiritual powerhouse. Let me explain why.
In late October, some two months after the storm hit, the Church finally put the branch president’s house on the schedule for home-gutting. Two crews showed up on a Saturday morning, and began tossing all of his worldly possessions onto his tiny front yard. A pile of putrid filth of what had been his life was, in front of his eyes, bulldozed into a dumptruck. Ruined photographs, ruined food storage for his family of 7, a true years’ supply for seven people, was thrown into his yard and then hauled away. He endured this. He worked as hard as he could despite his frailties. The smell was so bad that some people (myself included) vomited repeatedly when the wind blew a certain way. About noon, the leader of the group of workers came to me and said that they had other work orders and that they had to leave and go work on them. These were orders to remove fallen trees off of people’s yards; people that electricity in their homes already; people that hadn’t flooded. I saw his face go ashen. He pulled me aside and said, “please go and talk to these bretheren, I cannot do this work myself, and I’ve been waiting for two months for their help. Find out if there’s anything that can be done.” I went and talked to the crew leader, and he made a phone call, and they were told to stay and finish the job. Elated, I went looking for the branch president. I couldn’t locate him. I went outside, around back of the ruin that was now his home, and when I rounded the back corner, I saw him, on his knees in his shed. I heard him utter the following:
“Heavenly Father, if it be thy will that these bretheren go and help someone else, I understand and accept that, but if it be they will, please, let them stay. Nevertheless, thy will be done. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
That is the kind of meaningful worship that we should seek. When we are able, in a time of abject need, to surrender our own needs and desires to the will of the Lord, and allow aid that we want to go to others who might need it, THEN do we catch a glimpse of a miniscule portion of what the Savior did in his sacrifice and agony that night in Gethsemane. His lesson is what I had to learn from Katrina. My branch president was trying to be like Jesus; we should allow follow his example.