Swarm–There’s an App for That

Technocrats and wonks have a very interesting way of recreating the English language, turning verbs into nouns, nouns into verbs and giant numbers into search engines.

Take the word swarm: usually a term meaning a large gathering of insects, with bees and locusts being the most swarmy of creatures in our collective memories.

But, apparently, humans can swarm, thanks to an app, appropriately called Swarm, by Foresquare.

Let me be clear, I am in no way working for Foresquare, nor am I trying to make money for this company, but I do think the idea is somewhat ingenious. In the “good old days,” before we held phones in our hands that have more computing power than the machines that propelled NASA astronauts to the moon, we used to have to make specific dates to see and meet people. Now, this app pairs up subscribers in the same place, at the same time, so meeting up is a breeze without having to waste time on pre-event planning. In true post-industrial form, members can earn badges and coins, while competing against each other for stickers and other cyber shit.

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It’s sort of a way to swarm with your own human hive, without being overrun by biblical plagues of locusts. And, the company has an adorable logo. Just saying.

via Daily Prompt: Swarm

The Vivid Phallus

I live a vivid life–a life of culture, travel and experience. Vivid does not have to be simply visual. A vivid life is one where you participate fully and accept the here and now–a mantra that I’m trying on a daily basis to understand and accept.

A vivid life necessitates moving out of one’s comfort zone. It necessitates a tolerance and an understanding of our world’s vast differences.

I was recently in Bhutan, a country of mystery and Gross National Happiness (GNH), and an infrastructure unprepared for the inevitable tourist onslaught. Our group descended one day into the village of Lobesa in the Punakha District of northwestern Bhutan. Pilgrims take a short trek to the Chimi Lhakhang or the Monastery of the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kunley (1455-1529). This monk’s MO was absolutely out of the ordinary, even for his 16th century land-locked, mountain-locked followers. He espoused the greatest Tibetan Buddhist’s traditions, but he also might have been the earliest hippy, talking of free love–most specifically with him. Over the centuries, worship of the Divine Madman has evolved into a fertility cult. People, now from all around the world, come to pray at the Chimi Lhakhang for children–a pilgrimage to pray and meditate for the awarding of children in their lives. Our guide excitedly displayed a typical cheap, plastic notebook in the temple, showing us page after page of couples proudly posing with their newborns after visiting the monastery. This notebook is guarded by a large statue of a generic version of the Madman himself, while behind him sits the requisite giant statue of the Buddha, surrounded by many bodhisattvas–those humans who choose to not enter enlightenment, but decide to help their fellow human to reach the all enlightenment.

I have been in different places all around the world that celebrate fertility. We, as westerners, are used to depictions of female fertility, perhaps driven by the cults of Mother Earth to the Virgin Mary, all the while embracing and yet abhorring the phallus, which can impregnate with force and without our feminine consent. Society can then, socially and religiously, relegate the “promiscuous” woman to the status of adulterers and whores, while Donald Trump, the President of the United States, gets away with “locker room talk.”

This is what makes us comfortable. This is what makes abstinence-only sex education in the United States celebrated, yet ineffectual at curbing sexual relations and pregnancy outside of marriage.

But in Bhutan, sex is celebrated in its masculine form. Instead of seeing the very western-style paintings of beautiful, objectified and stylized nude women with their rounded, fecund stomachs and hairless genitalia, the Bhutanese present to us the fertile penis–the other part of the “it takes two to tango” catchphrase.

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A Fertility Shop in Punakha, copyright, SCH, 2017

This is what I would call a vivid projection of the male anatomy (no pun intended). So many homes had this happy penis painted on the sunbaked adobe. Still, I felt very uncomfortable. As I walked through the village to the monastery, we were greeted with kindness and gentleness. What is keeping me from embracing the happy penis without this feeling of impending doom?

Upon reflection, I can only conclude that my anxiety stems from a deeply rooted cultural belief within me. The source of this feeling might originate from my western, Puritanical background, which has set me up for the great joy as well as the great emotional pain of sex, within and without marriage. But for the Bhutanese people, even the children see that sex is natural, expected and celebrated. These images do not invite rape or unwanted sexual advances. Rather, they embrace the male and female together, the ying and the yang, the dual source of fertility…the vivid life of love and the vivid love of life.

For a description of the Bhutanese phallus worship, see Wanderlust: Penis Worship in Bhutan from Public Radio International.

via Daily Prompt: Vivid

A Short Poem on Desire

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The Buddha Dordenma in Paro, Bhutan, 2017

via Daily Prompt: Desire

Desire is what we wish, but may not be what we get.

Desire is hunger and yearning, but may leave us empty and anxious.

Desire is a need for something to happen in our lives, but is often met with static.

Desire is a longing for something we dream up, but never fully conceive.

Desire is best manifests when presented to us in a completely different form.

I desire to awake to what I need, not what I want.

I desire for the universe to unfold to me in its time, at its place.

I desire to recognize that time and place.

Doubt–Going It Alone

via Daily Prompt: Doubt

Doubt. Mostly, I doubt myself. I doubt myself because three years ago, my husband (who is 11 years my senior) and I split up because we found that our relationship had run its course. We no longer had anything to say to each other. We no longer wanted to be in each other’s arms. We no longer wanted to share our days and our nights together.

There is no doubt in our decisions. The doubt surfaces when I realize that as a 60-year-old woman who wants to date someone my age and financial situation, I have found that the men in my age group and social level can afford to have girlfriends who are 20-30-40 years younger than they are. I can compete with my brain–I have degrees in journalism and engineering and a Master’s degree–but I can no longer compete with my body and my looks. I gave birth to two bright young men. My stomach is flat, but it is also wrinkled, as is other parts of my body. I had to have a hysterectomy so that I would not bleed to death before I finally moved into menopause naturally. I no longer have the hormones for the body-wide firmness that a younger woman would naturally have, and the body that I USED to have for decades. AND, if men my age and social status want the young, beautiful trophy women, I DON’T want that type of man in my life.

I do not doubt my choice to split with the father of my children. I have doubt that I will be able to find a vital, intelligent, interesting man to share my life who is my age and not 70 to 80 years old. I doubt that I have the fortitude to accept this situation.

Jesus is my Co-Pilot

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Courtesy, http://www.brandpowder.com/jesus-airlines

I am amazed at the lengths to which some people will go to justify their pomposity and entitlement as so-called “christian” leaders who exploit their congregants to service their self-aggrandizing egos.

Self-professed evangelical minister Jesse Duplantis carried on a conversation with Kenneth Copeland on the Believer’s Voice of Victory Network back in December 2015 about hearing voices–of Jesus (of course)–while flying on their private planes. They have so many places to be…so many people to convert all over the country, that Delta Airlines could not possibly get them to the needy people longing to hear the word of the lord. Yes, god gave Jesse a private airplane to criss-cross the country and bring you heathens to JEEEEEsus.

Besides, who wants to sit in coach in that “long tube with a bunch of demons?”

Here, have a listen, courtesy of YouTube:

If I had not heard and seen this clip with my own eyes and ears I don’t know that I would have believed it.

Look, believe your mythology if you want. It’s no skin off my nose. But if you are going to give your social security check to these clowns, just know that they are laughing all the way to the pulpit–and to the Fixed Base Operation (FBO) at the private airport where Jesus’ Falcon 50 is kept in a private hanger out of the sun and rain on your nickel.

Additional Sources:

Pulpit and Pen

Patheos

 

 

Quest

Photo Challenge: Quest

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© SCH, 2014

Through much of the history of mankind, the quest for answers takes a circuitous path through the divine.

I took this photo at the Noravank Monastery, roughly 100 miles southeast of the Armenian capital of Yerevan. I found this small carving on a built-in altar in a small side chapel at the monastery complex, called Sub Grigor Chapel, named after one of the most important figures in the history of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Although this small chapel was built as a tomb for members of the influential Orbelian family in 1275, this face caught my eye.

While adorning this small altar, the face would have been carved after the initial altar installation. It appears to take advantage of the natural curve of the side of the altar. Was it added merely as embellishment, as an afterthought or was its image planned?

Does it represent the quest for the divine or the quest for the divine in each of us? Is it a god looking down on us, or us looking up for god? We are left with only questions and suppositions. Ultimately, we are on a quest to seek the answers…to the quest.

We Agree to Disagree

Daily Prompt: Disagree

“Either you are right or I am right!”

“Well, then, I disagree with you!”

Disagree. Are you telling me that I am wrong? Do you not trust me? Are you insulting my intelligence?

In our minds, our opinions are solid, moral, grounded, and they make sense for us in our lives at that particular moment. But it is in disagreement that we grow.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. eloquently said, ““We as a society have not learned to disagree without being violently disagreeable.”

Unfortunately, his words still ring true and continue to resonate in the face of intractable opinion, masked in modern culture, rooted in religion, dogma and delusional thoughts of superiority.

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Courtesy, Dr. S. Venkatesan, WordPress.com

In the company of Maslow’s Hierarchy of NeedsPaul Graham gives us a roadmap on how to effectively argue your point. It does not mean that you will always win. In fact, it guarantees that if you do not have your facts and examples lined up to present, you can be outclassed with as little as name calling and ad hominem retorts.

Most of what I hear today in religion, civil war and politics rarely moves above the point of Contradiction on Graham’s scale. The art of disagreement comes with intelligence, empathy and knowledge.

 

Atheists Are So Hard-headed

I ran across this very interesting blog from Kevin Davis who writes for SecularVoices.org, which can be found on one of my favorite across-the-board spiritual websites, Patheos.com.

It looks like Billy Graham might be laying down his arsenal in this post by Davis, entitled, Billy Graham Says Christians Can Do Nothing to Convert Atheists. It’s a quick read. I found it enlightening. Here’s why:

Secularism, and, shall we say, REALITY continues to rear it’s rationally religious-rebuking ugly head more and more in the United States. Across the board, the fire-and-brimstone teachings of the past no longer resonate with people. Religion’s ability to scare individuals into believing has simply lost its strangle-hold on our conscience.

No organization knows this better than PRRI, the Public Religion Research Institute, a non-profit group of highly-regarded researchers who’ve been reporting on the state of religion in America since 2009. For those god-loving peeps, the news is not good. The latest research paper from PRRI, published two days ago, is Exodus: Why Americans are Leaving Religion—and Why They’re Unlikely to Come Back. It seems that many of us are sick of hearing that our fellow LGBTQ friends and family are going to hell for their “lifestyles.” That we need to “love the sinner; hate the sin.” That we need to believe in miracles that are simply impossible on this earth: stigmata, virgin birth, raising from the dead, coming back to life…the same old diatribe designed to win you over emotionally, but asks you to surrender reality.

That being said, let’s get back to Reverend Billy and his Christian friend/Atheist friend scenario as brought to us by Kevin Davis. Growing up in the 1970s in Texas I was constantly told that I was going to hell because I was not a Southern Baptist. Never mind whether I had gone through the same giving up my life to Christ as a Methodist–that made no difference. It had to be done on the terms of the Southern Baptist Convention: you know, Billy’s group. So when I realized that we were suppose to believe in the same thing–that we were playing on the same team, but that my team was not good enough, well, that’s when I started questioning the whole situation. That’s right. Billy Graham’s team, the Southern Baptists, help me to decide that religion was really just a mythological scare tactic to keep me invested, and investing, in their cause.

Now we see that Billy is going soft on the atheists. Rather than attempting to pound us into submission, they can use the passive-aggressive move to pray for us and, perhaps occasionally interject that we will have no life after death and that no one can help us when things get bad, except praying to Jeeeeeesus. Number one: we Atheists don’t believe in heaven or the pearly gates or Dante’s nine circles of hell. There’s no proof. You either believe it or you don’t. I don’t. Number two: things will get bad and they do get bad. If you think that turning to religion is the only way to turn your life around, then you don’t get out enough. For those of us who are highly educated, travel extensively and know people from many different cultures, the narrow dogma of “you have to do what we say or all is lost”–well, that just doesn’t hold water. It never did and it never will.

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Courtesy, bornagainpagan.com 

So this was the original question on Billy Graham’s website:

My best friend and I enjoy each other’s company, but I’m a Christian and he says he’s an atheist. I’ve tried to argue with him, but he just laughs and says I ought to grow up and forget about God. How can I win him over?

The Reverend’s initial answer to the question is:

You can point him in the right direction—but to be honest, you can’t win him over by yourself (as you’ve discovered). He’s convinced that he is right—and even if he has secret doubts, his pride probably gets in the way.

The atheist is convinced that he is right because all evidence points him to the actual reality of life: not giving in to impossible, mythological beliefs inherent in all religion. What if you are wrong, Billy? Your pride must be equally great to not be able to see the ridiculous dogma of your beliefs.

I like Kevin’s answer to all of this pray-the-atheism-away: he suggests, “focus on enjoying the friendship and camaraderie you have with your atheist friend. Most of my friends and family are believers and don’t try to convince me to believe their dogma, just as I don’t try to burst their Bronze Age ideological bubble. It’s called respect. Once you stop showing that, you can say goodbye to your friendship altogether.”

Might I add to the Christian who wants to convert his/her friend: accept your Atheist friend as he/she is. As for your continued attempt at evangelizing to an Atheist, you might be safer just to stay in your religious bubble. Reality has its way of rearing it’s head around secularists. That might be too dangerous for a believer.

Read the original post on Answers, from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.