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Magic words

Image of Andrew Huang from the Youtube video "Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing On Rainbows"

The hardest part about an ability is the using. Many of you guys say that I write well – maybe I really do, or maybe you’re just being charitable – and that I should write more and more often. Whatever your real intentions are, I do wish I could write more; I simply lack inspiration.

Some would say that we’re surrounded by inspiration – and indeed many artists can write a song, paint a picture, or pen a poem at the drop of a hat. I recently came across Andrew Huang on Youtube – this guy is a veritable master of sounds, making reasonably good songs out of seemingly any idea that pops into his head, such as sounds of water, turning Beethoven into Dubstep, his obvious love of rap and a whole lot more besides. Heck, he even wrote a whole song based on a single asinine comment about fuzzy unicorns posted to one of his videos!

That’s not to say I have a shortage of ideas. In fact, I have A Lot Of Ideas. Thinking back on my previous output though, it occurs to me that what I’m waiting for is almost always an interesting sounding word (e.g. macabre) or turn of phrase (“Meet Me In My Reverie“) that I can latch onto, around which I can craft something. To use a horrible cliché, it’s like a pearl forming around a grain of sand, or a raindrop around a speck of dust.

I also find that having limitations helps. When I wrote “Danse Macabre” I forced myself to write solely on pen and paper, without using the computer to look up words or rhymes (truth be told, despite what I previously wrote, the real reason why I started writing that way was to try and use up as many pens and as many sheets of paper as possible because I had so many lying around). My poetry is also mostly in rhyme because it gives me a way to constrain all the possibilities inherent in language – otherwise wrangling words would be like trying to herd cats.

Back to the point, I’m just a guy who strings words together. The more I read, the more I write. So if you want me to write more just give me more things to read, including things that you write such as your posts and comments on Facebook – just please no unicorns.

Perfectly crazy

Mr. Perfect, from the Mr. Men series of children's booksI have this habit, which annoys the crap out of Jenny: it’s my tendency to keep things in pristine condition. And I don’t mean just my mint-in-sealed-box collection of Transformers, but practically everything we own. For instance, I get monumentally upset when either of us scrape our car’s alloy wheels against the kerb, and last night, I got a little upset because she accidentally put a hot frying pan a little too close to one of our table mats, causing it to melt a bit.

I don’t like bending the spines of books or magazines when reading; I keep the boxes, manuals and accessories for almost everything for when I finally sell it or give it away after I’m done with it (chuck it out? I don’t know you); I even don’t like using the windscreen wipers on the car until absolutely necessary, to avoid excessive wear on the glass. Yes I am that batshit crazy.

So whenever either of us damages or breaks something I get really upset (or if I see it being done to something that’s doesn’t belong to me, I cringe on the inside).

To me, an item in its brand new state is a kind of perfection. The way it was intended to be. Its divine form. And I see it as my duty to preserve it to the best of my ability. After all, what are we if not the products and stewards of nature’s (or your preferred divine being’s) efforts against disorder and decay?

Those who are religious spend their entire lives in the pursuit of intimacy with a being – or beings – belonging to a higher state of perfection than themselves, and those of us who don’t believe still strive to fulfil our innate purpose of maintaining that unbroken chain of progress (be it biological/evolutionary or intellectual/scientific/technological). Perfection is both our destiny and our fate.

Therefore, in the language of religion, I feel that a sin has been committed when a thing is sullied or marred. The entropy in the world has increased by a perceivable amount, and I mourn it as a loss. Sometimes that means I display a disproportionate amount of grief over an inanimate object, but it’s probably the closest thing I’ll ever have to a spiritual experience.

Grind

Whizzing by while standing still
Time to waste and time to kill
Lazy as a busy bee
Idle productivity

Kicking goals and scoring nil
Climbing up and down the hill
Round and round along the straight
Opening the closing gate

Meaningless profundity
A heathen blessing unto me
Oh miserable happiness
The void that fills my emptiness

Aborting anti-abortionist arguments

Yellow Balloons with "Yes" in celebration of Ireland passing laws in favour of abortion rights

Photograph by Informatique

Ireland recently passed laws to allow abortions in circumstances where the mother’s life is at risk (link). As reported in the article, the trigger for the change was a case where a woman died from blood poisoning after being refused an abortion.

Typically, the ensuing reporting painted a picture of outrage from those against the change, but it strikes me that “pro-lifers”, like climate change deniers, are an over-represented minority view. Unlike climate change though, it does strike me as surprising that many churchgoers tend to put themselves into the anti-abortion camp simply because they feel it is the right side to be on.

I felt that this was worth considering.

First, a thought experiment. Supposing God’s character is exactly as detailed in the bible, this suggests that He supports “life” (I realise this is a big call, since it begs the questions of why there are deaths due to natural disasters, earthquakes, etc. but sadly that’s just too much for one blog post). That in itself is vague, so let me break it down as follows: assuming the child is not yet ready to be born, a complication arises during pregnancy such that both mother and child’s lives are at risk.

  1. If an abortion is denied, both mother and child die
  2. If an abortion is granted, the mother’s life is saved

In the first outcome the net result is total death; none survive. It is only in the second outcome that one life is preserved at the cost of another. A God that is “pro-life” should therefore desire the second outcome. So what objections could there be to this? I can think of two:

  • Those who believe “nature” should be allowed to take its course (oftentimes expressed as “submitting to God’s will”). Those who fall into this category are simply ignorant hypocrites – humans have been interfering with natural processes for as long as recorded human history (and then some). In fact, interfering with nature is pretty much one of our defining characteristics as human beings, e.g. agriculture, domesticating animals, etc.
  • Those who object to the act of “killing”, even for the sake of saving life. Again, this is hypocritical as human sacrifice is prominent in the bible, particularly in the Old Testament (e.g. God commanding Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering – although this was not actually carried out), but also Jesus’ crucifixion. There are also some lengthy discussions on the nature of murder, but even these allow killing in the act of self-defence.

Having said that, let me come back to the point I made near the beginning of the post where I said that only a minority of Christians would actually hold these views. Certainly, of all the Christians I have ever encountered, none would deny a woman an abortion if it meant saving her life. So I will take liberties here and state, without proof, that any Christian who understands their faith and has actually considered the issue, should arrive at the same conclusion.

And what about abortion under other circumstances?

This may seem like a cop-out, but I would categorise anything apart from the above scenario as no longer just about abortion, but enmeshed with a bunch of other judgements about sexual immorality. For example, those who would condemn a woman for choosing to have a “voluntary” abortion will usually also have some very strong opinions about promiscuity, sex outside of marriage, or responsibility. Pretty big issues, so another time perhaps…

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This post is part of the series An Atheist in God’s Kingdom.

Fright Makes Right

A few days ago, I read an article on the Guardian about asylum seekers. Admittedly, and in the interest of disclosure, I do not have strong feelings about this issue but I have been influenced a lot by many friends past and present who were boat people, books like Anh Do’s book (The Happiest Refugee), and the opinions of various friends and influences who do have strong feelings on the matter. Suffice to say, as a result I gravitate towards the idea that both major Australian political parties’ attitudes towards asylum seekers is horribly awry.

But back to that article: it was more than a little jarring to learn from the comments section that there are a significant number of people who believe the government has an obligation to restrict immigration and prevent asylum seekers from entering the country and claim that, as a democracy, the government must oblige “the will of the people”.

I find this extremely disturbing, but I cannot fault their logic. It is true that “we the people” (as the Americans would say) wield the power to eject governments that do not reflect their interests – as we will certainly see in the upcoming election (a Rudd comeback notwithstanding). However, my problem is that it is also a case of “might makes right“, where any idea supported by sufficient numbers can triumph regardless of whether it is ill-informed (as is likely the case, as I’ll get to shortly), or outright wrong.

The Australian mainstream media (MSM) cannot claim with a clear conscience that they had no part to play in this. Every issue is sensationalised, and the hysterical reporting inevitably wrings the topic to within an inch of its life for whatever potential it has to harass the Government (and sometimes even the Opposition) for no better reason than to generate column inches and sell newspapers. It goes far beyond what is strictly necessary in the interests of journalism and reporting – here is an example borrowed from an article on The Hoopla:

Christopher Pyne held a media conference Monday morning as well and had a crack at talking about the Liberal Partys education policy. The first question he was asked when he finished? What did he think about Kevin Rudds leadership chances.

The second question he was asked was what happened to the rat that bit him during a charity sleep-out on the weekend. He quipped it died of bubonic plague. The third question to Christopher Pyne was from an excited journalist, thinking he had the scoop of the week, seriously asking if Pyne now had bubonic plague as well. Pyne had to point out it was a joke.

Oh yes, and questions on the education policy Pyne had spoken about? Zero.

So essentially, what really gets me is the possibility that people are agitating for change based on misinformation fed to them by lazy journalists and power-mongering media moguls. Of course, there’s always just plain old stupidity.

No doubt some will claim that the problem is a lack of leadership in this country. I don’t buy it. There was a profound quote in a letter to the editor of the Australian Financial Review: “Leadership in a democracy is by the consent of the led.” Sadly, its author, Greg Angelo, mentioned it in the context of criticising Julia Gillard, but I took a completely different meaning from it. The comments in the Guardian article show that a significant number of Australians do not consent to being led at all – they simply want a token figurehead to express their bigoted tendencies into law.

That does not bode well for either Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott after the election, although Abbott has the clear advantage in that he possesses some of those bigoted tendencies.



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