Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Worth Watching: Vincent and The Doctor

Doctor Who is a sci-fi show that has a little something in store for everyone. It has adventure, sci-fi, memorable characters, compelling plot, and sometimes, reminders of things we tend to forget as we carry on in our day-to-day lives.

A good friend had me watch Episode 10 of Season 5, arming me with these lines -- "Have tissues ready."

My daily pocket pack of tissues could not contain all my feelings, or the tears shed in this episode.

No, no one dies. Well, yes, someone actually does, but it's a meaningful death, and its not the actual point of the episode. Everyone dies, but sometimes, seeming-villains are scared too, when they die.

I want to focus on the main idea in this episode, and this is something I shared with another good friend.

We're all imperfect people.

There will be times when we feel weak. Hopeless. Worthless. An embarrassment to society or our families. There will be times when we feel our life's work is garbage or mediocre, no matter how hard we try. .

The Universe might not need you in its encompassing enormity and  wondrous complexity. You might be merely a speck to it. But --

 The Universe is also in you, and you are wonderful and complex and bigger in more ways than your body can define you. You are part of this majestic and infinite Cosmos, and in some ways of thinking about it, it manifests itself through you.

You're You, your're Here, Right Now.

And this is just me, but to me, this is the most empowering life lesson I've ever learned in a long, long time.

Whenever I feel down and terrible, this episode never fails to pick me up again and set me straight.

Let me share the biggest turning point of this episode with you. Have tissues ready. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Is it not enough to believe a garden is beautiful without believing faries live at the bottom of it too?" -Douglas Adams

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism

Science Saved My Soul.

Bertrand Russell on Clarity of Thought

  I should like to say two things, one intellectual and one moral. The intellectual thing I should want to say is this: When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed. But look only, and solely, at what are the facts. That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say.

The moral thing I should wish to say to them is very simple.  I should say love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world which is getting more closely and closely interconnected we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like.

We can only live together in that way and if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.

AnnaBanana's Right, You Know.

Taxi driver: [translated from Filipino] "A lot of people nowadays tend to forget who owns our lives as we go about making a living. The people at Cagayan De Oro and Japan deserved it, you know. Hey, I think we can assume that they wanted to get rich too. They didn't pray enough."

Me: "...what lovely weather we're having today." 

They didn't pray enough. 

There are just so many things wrong about the above statement. It was a terrible, terrible thing to say.
A part of me wants to get angry. Really angry. When a person believes that someone else deserved what great misfortune befell them because they simply "didn't live up to my god's standards, what lazy bums", that makes me very, very wary of this person.


The people at Cagayan De Oro and the Japanese didn't want this. Heck, they weren't even expecting it. If there's one thing Nature is, it's not motherly, nor is it cruel. Nature in itself is random. Indifferent. 

Again, I reiterate, the people at Cagayan de Oro and Japan did not expect this to happen.

And really and truly, the best thing anyone can ever do to help out is to really give aid. Send useable clothes, food, supplies, medicine, clean drinking water. Get in touch with the Red Cross. Send money, if you can. With the Cagayan De Oro calamities happening right before Christmas Day, I would think whatever help you and other people send will be the best gift they'll ever receive.

I wanted to get angry and answer back, but I decided not to.

Number one: In some cases, arguing with a believer is useless, much more when that person's already pretty much decided on what he believes, and there's not much room for a new idea to sink in and get processed. I've tried to be a polite atheist with someone like him, and see where that got me. It's also an important skill, I've learned, to choose your battles wisely.

Secondly: A good friend Anna calmed me down with this: "Just feel sorry for him --- he doesn't know any better."

This is what I think, and this is just me: For a lot of people in my country, religion has become the poor man's "science". He knows no other explanation for how the world works, and can't be bothered to explore other perspectives, empirical or otherwise. This is what happens when a great big number of the population live below the poverty level, and have no access to a good education.

They can't help it. Religion is something that was passed on to them as a means of survival, and they know no other way to live. Rock of Ages cleft for me, because Life is so goddamn hard, and I need the money.
This brings to mind the first few lines in the preface for Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion
As a child, my wife hated her school and wished she could leave. Years later, when she was in her twenties, she disclosed this unhappy fact to her parents, and her mother was aghast: ‘But darling, why didn't you come to us and tell us?’ Lalla's reply is my text for today: ‘But I didn't know I could.’

I didn't know I could. 

A part of me now wonders if things could have turned out any differently if I had spoken up. Would I have been able to get my point across within that fifteen-minute drive? Would he have yelled at me? Listened to me? Driven me out of his cab, screaming, "Away from me, Satan"? I guess now I'll never know.
Ah, and Thirdly: It was such a pleasant day. The sun was high, clouds wafted by, the sky was blue, and it was lovely and warm. I wanted to savor that moment while it lasted, and I wasn't going to let anything spoil it for me. Best to appreciate these moments and be thankful for them while they're still here.

Hey Mr. Taxi Driver

[Caveat: Gentle readers and friends alike, this is a potentially angry-ranty post. If reading about non-belief is not your thing, I'm cool with that. There are other fine non-charged posts on this blog which I'm sure you'll enjoy. but if you do decide to stay and read, please remember this is me being human below... and that I thank you for choosing to sit this out with me.]

 I will say it now, and have it be over and done with. Mr. Taxi Driver, I like you. You’re a pretty cool dude, I appreciate your great command of English, and that you’re quite the charmer. But please please please, for the love of rapport and all that is swag about the common commute, do not cry over the fact that I am an atheist.  Most specially not in front of me.

Fact: there are atheists in this world. and Yes, there are also atheists in — horror of horrors! — the Philippines. Fact: Atheists can also be very cool, awesome, and most importantly, good people. 

Fact: Atheists do not worship the devil, or are on an express-way to hell. Both of these ideas are very, very contradictory to what an atheist is all about.

Fact: You are reading the post of an atheist right now.

Yes, I am an atheist who loves drag queens, lolita fashion, otaku things, gorgeously delicious food, lovely and profound art, hand-made beauty, mind-blowing shows, the glorious complexity of the natural world, The English language, philosophy, reading, music, and so much more, in no particular order.

I also love my family, my friends, my pets, and a wonderful, wonderful man who adds more meaning and joy to my life everyday.

So yeah, Mr. Taxi Driver, you are now crying over an atheist who you just compared notes with over pet care, shared your dreams for your kids with, and who just tipped you twenty bucks more.

When you asked me whether I believed in “the Devil of the world”, I gave your question a bit of thought. I pointed to my temple and told you “the Devil is here.” And I do stand by what I told you that day. The Devil is your thoughts, the thoughts that turn into decisions and actions that step on people’s basic rights and dignities. These thoughts and actions are your responsibility, and you are very much accountable for them, as I am with mine.

When you chased a cheery “God bless you!” after me as I ran for my office, I didn’t take that against you. You believe in God, and owe your job, your sideline, your marriage, and your education to him, and I’m cool with that. That’s just the best way you know to express your goodwill, and that’s alright by me. It just feels odd for me, thinking that you owe everything you yourself worked for to Santa Claus, but hey. If you’re happy, I’m happy. Really.

Just please do not look at me with those sad, sad, so-terribly-sorry-for-you eyes when I respond to you quite honestly and respectfully (as this is the polite way to go about with a conversation, is it not?) that I am very much an atheist.

You wouldn’t behave that way around a Muslim, a Buddhist monk, a straight or gay person. You sure as hell shouldn’t be behaving that way around me. Manners, please; we are still very much members of the human race.

It’s sweet that you wish we’d meet again. That means more money for you, and a chance for me to arrive at my destination in comfort and peace of mind, un-accosted in every manner possible. Let’s please keep it that way.