Shoopity Doopity*

Yay, it’s birthday time!  I honestly did not expect anything for my birthday. This has nothing to do with the other people in my life or a lack of self-esteem.  Rather, I was raised in a strict religious environment that did not believe in birthdays. In fact, they didn’t believe in celebrating any holiday except The Passover. Can you guess which religion it was? I’ll give you one hundred and forty four thousand guesses..

It's the Anti Cake

No cake for you!

At any rate, I am accustomed to my birthday being just another day.  I used to work hard to squelch any form of pride or excitement I felt for that day, again because of my upbringing. This year, I did not feel guilty but I did not feel excited about it either.  That is, until people started saying, “Happy Birthday.”  At work, they post the birthdays for the month, something I completely forgot about in the recent monsoon of stress.  A few coworkers wished me a happy birthday and asked me what I wanted.  I was a deer in the headlights.  “Oh, I forgot to ask the office to not post my birthday,” I responded.  This is not the answer they wanted. They looked at me as if I was a freak of nature and then walked away.

Birthday confusion

Wait.. No.. I.. Uhh..

 

I continued going about my days and telling Hubby the truth: All I wanted for my birthday was to spend time with him. I am lucky to have a loving husband and to be apart of his wonderful family.  Cards, well wishes, and presents made me realize that it is important to celebrate having someone in your life.  These things may seem trivial when you stop and look at it. “Isn’t all of this just a marketing ploy so companies can profit?” you may ask.  Yes, greeting card, jewelry, and chocolate companies are cashing in. But that does not degrade the importance in any way.  These traditional tokens of appreciation have made me realize just how important it is to tell people how much you appreciate them.

**Warning!** Waxing philosophical zone ahead.  Wax on, wax off.

Our lives pass by so quickly and can be full of a great deal of stress.  It is necessary to have a day where everyone shows you how much they care and just how important you are in the world. Lately I’ve started to feel like I am just a way for other people to cash in: at work dealing with unnecessary but unavoidable stressors, as well as at home dealing with an uncaring landlord.  Is making money and getting ahead the only way to have happiness and success in this place? Is it worth walking all over other people to attain this? Big Fat Nope.  Having a day where people reminded me how much I was appreciated made me realize something: being is enough. It sucks to have bills piling high.  It sucks to live in a world where monetizing things is the big goal. It sucks that people take advantage of eachother for this.  But the things that don’t suck, the things that are absolutely wonderful, are the people that make it all better.  Thanks people. You rock!

 

 

*This phrase is from my friend, M.  Thanks M for being an awesome you 🙂

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Religious Viewpoints, pt.2: Feng Shui and Mom

My Mom is a Jehovah’s Witness. I’m not going to make this post all about that, however.  I go into more detail about this in Religious Viewpoints, pt.1.  Rather, this post is about how Mom and I talk about certain subjects because of her perceptions, which are greatly influenced by her religion.

Mom is big on demonism.  It’s not that she’s a Satanist (though there are many people out there with the misconception that Jehovah’s Witnesses are worshiping Satan).  Rather, Mom is big on thinking that anything she doesn’t fully understand is from the Devil.  Her reactions can be so quick and fully integrated into her thinking that it can completely inhibit any form of rational thought or problem solving skills.  I cannot fully blame being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for this, Mom’s mental condition has something to do with it as well.

That being said, there is a great tendency to blame many things that happen in life on this mysteriously dark force that JW’s have termed as “the Devil”.  If something bad happens in their lives, then it is either a test from Jehovah or it is something the Devil has sent their way to try and trip them up.  It cannot simply be a set of circumstances put into motion by the decisions they or others have made.  That would be too easy.

With all of this in mind, whenever I am talking to my mother about certain things, I have to choose my wording very carefully.  I also have to be prepared to break down the demonic defenses (as I call them) and whip out my critical thinking skills to explain why something makes sense without the necessary influence of a malevolent being.  I should be a lawyer.

What brings all of this about?  Well lately I have been looking up ways to improve the positive flow of energy in my life.  When I talk about this to Mom, she automatically nods her head and says that I need to pray to Jehovah for help.  Umm, no.  I need to do research to find ways to get rid of the negative energy in my life (like getting rid of negative thinking, negative people, etc.) and bring in the positive.  “Oh…”, Mom will say.  She will look confused at this point because her mind is totally anchored to prayer as the only acceptable and non-demonic way of bringing positive energy into one’s life.  As I explain other ways that counteract this belief, she becomes confused.  She begins to rationalize how the two can exist at once: how prayer to her god can be the only way while my way is also not influenced by little red imps.  This is what I believe George Orwell termed “Doublethink” in his book “1984”.  I see it in action almost everyday.

Back to the positive energies.  I have been researching ways to get more positive energy, and just more energy period, into my life.  I looked into Feng Shui to see what it was all about.  In my opinion,  Feng Shui was started as a common sense approach to keep one’s environment clean and organized.  Back in the day, they didn’t have the luxuries we have today that allow us to live in clean homes and communities that are not plagued by .. well.. plagues.  We now have running water and electricity.  The principles such as fixing things around the house, keeping things clutter free, and increasing the aesthetic appeal of the house itself all point towards keeping oneself and one’s home happy and healthy.  In other words, keeping out the nasty germs that could cause plagues.

I can see how fixing leaks saves money and, therefor, helps deter negative energies.  If I feel like I’m paying off bills faster and getting out of debt, my energy will probably be much less negative.  It’s harder to pay off debt when your utilities are high, and having leaky faucets can make your water bill high.  So fixing those leaking faucets can lead to more positive energies.  In this regard, I find that a lot of the Feng Shui principles are common sense activities to have a happy and healthy home.

Mom does not see it this way.  Feng Shui is from the Devil.  It’s what “those” people practiced.  “Those” people who did not believe her religion or in her god so were obviously from the Devil.  Her thinking is very either/or.  It’s either this way, or it’s that.  There is no grey, no in between, no other possibility.  For this reason, I have had to bring Feng Shui into the Christian faith.  I think I’ve done a damn good job too.  Click the link below to read the full article.  I would put it in here, but then this would be way too long.

Feng Shui, Christian-style

I wrote the above article (the one I linked to) while my mom was in Michigan taking care of her parents.  I really wrote it just to get my thoughts down before I tried to explain to Mom about Feng Shui.  I wanted to be able to incorporate it into her religion in a way that did not cause the whole debacle of how it was demonic and then I’d be all emotionally stressed out again.  I wanted to nip it in the bud from the beginning . I think I have done that.  I guess I’ll find out when I get the chance (read: nerve) the talk to Mom about Feng Shui.  One must be careful about the setting such things are brought up in as well.  If, for example, I begin the discussion in a public restaurant.. she will be less likely to be so vocal.  Talking about it in the car will only lead to me being more stressed out as my mind tries to deal with bad drivers and Mom.  I think public is the best bet..

Feng Shui: Christian-style

Many Jehovah’s Witnesses that I know are apprehensive about Eastern philosphies for various reasons.  I have found that some of them have a black/white view of the world and have applied evil/bad tendencies towards theses philosophies.  Some even go as far as to call them “demonic”. Other simply do not care to learn about Eastern philosophy, feeling content with their own spiritual existence.  In all fairness, this can be said of any other group of people.

We have a tendency to apply the principles of what we know to that which we don’t know in an effort to rationalize our opinions about a subject we know so little of.  I feel that Feng Shui suffers the same fate in many people’s minds.  Fundamentally speaking, Feng Shui is an awareness of your living space to the point of maintaining rooms for the purposes they were designed for.  Ex: Keeping the bedroom for sleep by not allowing things such as TVs, PCs, exercise equipment, etc in them.  Feng Shui can take things a step further by incorporating a spiritual element to such space organization.  (This was probably done to make it more appealing to those practicing such spiritual practices at the time.)  I believe that this is where many people develop misconceptions.  The spiritual practice of Feng Shui is like reading Shakespeare.  How so?

In Elementary School, when I was first exposed to Shakespeare, I was taught to ‘translate’ the language of his works into my own language to better understand and express them.  In such a way, “Rome, where for art thou Romeo?” becomes, “Romeo, I’m lusting after you and I don’t know where you are.  You better call or text soon.”  In the same sense, understanding the spiritual origins behind Feng Shui and then translating them into your own spiritual language can allow you to practice Feng Shui with a clean conscience.

First of all, Feng Shui deals with spiritual energy called “Chi”.  This is because the Easter viewpoint on spirituality is simply and fundamentally different than Western viewpoints.  It is not wrong or worse, just different.  You must understand the spiritual history of the East.  Their philosophies were not created around an omnipotent God-like figure.  They had Emperors for that.  Rather, their spiritual philosophies are based on the belief that Man can become something better through constant observation, reflection, and study of himself and his surroundings (He can become a Buddha and move onto Nirvana).  Westernized Christianity can translate the term Chi into the positive, spiritual energy given to them from God for obedience, loyalty, etc.  So in reading about and practicing Feng Shui, a Christian is simply trying to make the most of the positive energies their god is bestowing upon them.  For example: Feng Shui teaches that the front door of the house is the gateway for Chi and should be kept clutter free and full of positive energy inducers (like pretty pictures).  This will allow Chi to flow through you and your home to bring peace.  This can be applied to the Christian lifestyle as well.

By keeping your front entrance free of clutter and, instead, full of “God energy” inducers (such as favorite scriptures framed), you are mentally and spiritually reminding yourself of the positive energies brought into your life by God.  This will spill over into the rest of your day and act as a positive starting point each time you come home.  Also, it will show others your spiritual priorities which is something of importance to most Christians I know.

In this sense, Feng Shui becomes a Christian-oriented practice.  This is, of course, what Christianity is good at.  Taking the practices of another philosophy or religion and tweaking it to fit it’s rules.  Of course, aren’t well all good at doing this?

Religious Veiwpoints, pt 1: Perception

You know the old saying, “It’s all about perception.”  This doesn’t ring more true than when talking about such topics as religion and philosophy, where people have invested a great deal of emotional energy into creating their perception.  I can truly appreciate another person’s point of view on such topics.  I generally do not agree with them because I have such non-traditional views, but this post is not about me.  Didn’t see that one coming did you?

Nope, this post is about my mom.

My mom is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  When I tell people this I get a lot of different reactions.  Some people don’t know a lot about the religion and so they just let it go, as if I had told them that she has brown eyes.  Some people don’t know a lot about the religion and this worries them, so they get all worked up.  They say things like, “Are those the people that don’t believe in Jesus/Hell/God/etc?”   I usually try to, very tactfully, set people aright about such things.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I am not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  My mother tried to raise my brother and I in that faith but we both decided it was not for us.  She has been very accepting of this and I hope that we have been just as accepting of her decision to remain in the faith.  I think that sometimes I am not.  This all sounds a bit contradictory, and for good reason.  When people make accusations against JWs, I feel they are making accusations against my mother.  It’s kind of like the whole older sibling thing.  “Hey!  You can’t beat up my younger brother.  Only I can do that!”  When people ask how I feel about the religion, I do not give glowing reviews.  I don’t like any organized religions, however, so if they asked me about Catholicism, I would probably say the same thing.

I find that there are times when it takes a lot of effort on my part to mentally and emotionally untwist my perceptions about organized religion from Mom.  I have gotten better at it, but I guess I can commiserate with the bigots a little on this one.  I don’t excuse it at all, in fact I think it’s awful.  It’s something about myself I am trying to change and I wish other people would too.

Generally speaking, people who know my mother first and then find out that she is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses are alright with it.  This is because my mother is awesome.  I am not comparing her to any other mothers, so get your knickers out of a bunch.  Mom just likes to help people.  She became a single mother very quickly, and at a young age so it spurred in her a sense of putting others before herself.  This lasts til this day, where my mother will give her last dollar to another stranger in need.  She loves to be around people with a good sense of humor, and has a great one herself.  She makes the best damned chicken and rice and her desserts are to die for.  Last of all, Mom rocks out to alternative music and has even played Rock Band on the Wii.  Mom is cool.

With all of this in mind, people who are meeting my mother for the first time (people who do not know about her “coolness”) will judge her solely based on their perceptions of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They will label her as weird, Jesus-hating, and unAmerican.  It is strange because the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a very Jesus-based religion.  In fact, the only holiday they are permitted to celebrate is that of the Memorial, or of Jesus’ passing from mortal back to Heaven to join his father.  Yes, their beliefs are a little different when you put JWs under a microscope next to another, generalized Christianity.  However, they are fundamentally the same.  They all function on the same basic principles: Treat everyone with respect, put God first, find salvation through Jesus, and learn to appreciate life through the love God gives you.  These are the basic principles of most any religion (if you tweak the God and Jesus parts a bit) so I find it very strange that people get so bent out of shape.  I find it unAmerican.  I find it one of the uglier parts about myself that I am, as I have stated, working very hard on changing.

I’d like to enjoy a lasting and positive relationship with my mom and I don’t want to let any little complexes I might have get in the way.  The only option I can see is to eradicate them, or “fix” them.  I am trying to do this by spending more time with Mom, trying to see things from other people’s perspectives, and reminding myself that just because I listen to someone else’s viewpoint and acknowledge it, does not make it my own.  I do not have to argue everyone else into submission of my viewpoints.  Mine are not the only ones, mine are not the correct ones.

We all create our perceptions out of the various and unique experiences in our lives.  By sharing our ideas and emotions with other people, we are trying to impart not only those experiences, but the impact that they have had on us.  I think being more receptive to what Mom has been through and how it has impacted her will help to ensure that we have a loving mother-daughter bond.  Here’s to you Mom, thanks for all you do and keep up the good work!

Spirit Guides – What are they and do they really exist?

In all honesty, this is a highly personal question in the sense that the perception of the answer and the question itself will change from person to person.  This, in turn, is due to everyone’s perception being different, but I won’t get into the difference between subjective and objective reality so deeply at this time.  Instead, this answer is my opinion combined with an educated guess.  If this is unsettling to you because you are a person who requires to have seen something in order for it to be true, that is fine.  However, I politely request that you do not post on here that your thoughts are such and use them to debunk my own opinions.  On the other hand, I do like a little debate and insight into other’s points of view.  I simply ask that if your purpose is solely to prove my opinions wrong with your opinions, that you save it for your personal Facebook page.  On to the good stuff.

According to Wikipedia (which I loathe to use as a reference source, see “credibility”), a “Spirit guide is a term used by the Western tradition of Spiritualist Churches, mediums, and psychics to describe an entity that remains a disincarnate spirit in order to act as a guide or protector to a living incarnated human being“(Wikipedia, 2012).  The article goes on to say that there are people that disagree with this idea of a spirit guide, considering it degrading to both spirit beings and those still in the physical realm.  I would have to agree with that assumption, on some levels.

In my personal fancy, I cannot see how a person can be “assigned” to another person even beyond this realm of things.  There are many reasons for this but first I must explain something interesting about energy and how the Universe uses it.  You see, the Universe does not destroy energy – it simply reuses it. If we want to learn anything about reduce, reuse, and recycle we can look to the epitome of the subject – the black hole.

A black hole is an object in space that is thought to be created when one or more stars go supernova (or hypernova, as the case may be).  This instant release of such intense energy causes a gravitational force to be created wherein no light can escape.  That’s “escape”, as in “not destroyed but sucked in”.  Many people are under the mistaken idea that black holes destroy everything they suck in.  However, astronomical theorists have been able to prove that there is, in fact, energy coming out the other side of a black hole.  It has simply changed in its make up.  This leads me to believe that the Universe does not destroy energy, it reuses it.  When a star, a mass of nuclear energy, implodes and releases it’s energy.. it has not been destroyed in the sense we believe it to have been.  It simply “released its energy”.  This can, in turn, create something as astronomical (pardon the pun) as a black hole.  If my thinking on this matter is erroneous, I welcome corrections.

This given example of how the Universe reuses energy without destroying it leads me to think that when we pass on, our energy is reused as well.  It is released and the Universe uses it for other things.  It can be as elementary as our decomposing body providing the necessary nutrients to help other lifeforms thrive.  But what happens before this occurs?  What of our consciousness?

That depends, I suppose, on your perception.  What is consciousness?  Do we possess some separate form of energy that allows us to be sentient or is all of this bundled into our biological make up and simply decomposes along with the rest of us?  Let’s take a look.

If our conscious and sentient beings are somehow separate from the rest of us, in a type of “soul”, then where did it come from and where does it go?  A soul is many things to many different religions.  I, myself, do not practice any orthodox and organized religion so the matter of a soul is still grey and fuzzy to me.  There are those that believe a soul is separate from the body and will transcend this realm onto another once the physical body is discarded through death.  Then, there are those who believe that the soul and body are one and the same and the soul will cease to exist along with the physical body.  To me, both answers are a little to cleancut and simple.  Just like the various paths we each pursue while still alive – I think our consciousness follows various paths.  I am not sure if we possess a soul that contains all of our memories, intentions, and wisdom.  I do believe, however, that it is possible for two things to happen.

ONE – We may have a more focused energy in our sentient consciousness that can leave foot or finger prints when we experience highly charged situations.  I think this may be why people who feel they are sensitives or psychics can pick up on memories, intentions, etc.. from people they do not know in places they have never been.  Is it merely an echo from the past or is the person still aware of these goings on and trying to communicate through them from beyond this realm?  I think it is more like an echo.  It is hard for me to grasp that an individual would spend such a long time hitting the same place again and again, in the same way, in the hopes that someone will eventually come along.

TWO – We are creating it.  It is possible for a person to create a type of energy through their own expectations or intentions if they are focused and/or skilled enough.  I believe many “hauntings” may be the result of a group of people focusing their energy and expecting a certain outcome.  Is it really such a surprise when it happens?  No, it’s what everyone expected and intended all along.  Of course, there are beings based in spirit energies that do “haunt” places and may even use the focused fingerprints of those past.  That’s something altogether different, as I don’t believe these beings were ever human.

Actually, it is possible for both of these to be happening.  It may just be that we left many imprints around this world of our focused energy before we died and that the now living are translating and using such energy to achieve the desired outcome.  I believe this may be what is going on.  I do not believe in “assigned” guardian angels that follow us all the time, nor do I believe that those passed are somehow trying to communicate from beyond the grave.  Rather, I believe that we are associating our own focused energies with the imprints of those we once knew and loved.  We may be translating these impressions differently, based on our needs and desires at the time.

This does not mean that these occurrences have any less meaning or importance.  Whatever can help a person through a difficult time without harming others, I believe, is well worth it.  I don’t care if you believe that a purple-polka dotted alien is following you around and causing good things to happen in your life.  If it helps you stay positive and on the road to happiness.. does it really matter?

Is that the bell?

Do you remember when you were in your High School Speech class?  The teacher made you write essays and speeches about given or suggested topics.  It seemed like, initially at least, a lot of the class started their speeches out with dictionary definitions of the subject.  Well guess what?  It’s High School Speech Class time because I feel like I’m still living in friggin’ High School.

The dictionary defines “drama” as “a situation or sequence of events that is highly emotional, tragic, or turbulent”(Dictionary.com, 2012).  I think we need to change this definition a little to perhaps “a situation or sequence of events that is distorted through personal opinion to become a highly emotional, tragic, or turbulent event.”  And it seems as though society is not only adept at doing this, they prefer it to the normal sequence of events and their drab interpretations.  Case in point, the current state of the media. Oh I know, you are all probably sick to death of hearing about it.  At least you are if you aren’t “dramatic”.  I am fed up with the so called “news” reporting on situations and issues in a way that is designed to stir up distorted feelings amongst the population instead of simply reporting the facts.  OMG!  Like, the facts are so totally boring.  I have to project my own personal beliefs onto them so that I can get all worked up and then I won’t talk about the facts of the situation anymore, I’ll talk about my own personal, distorted interpretation of the situation.

Wow, really?  I am not surprised.  From the news we go to advertising.  Facts have always been “polished up” in advertising to .. well.. sell a product.  A product that may not do all that the seller claims it will.  This seems to be readily accepted and somehow, we blame ourselves for buying a product that fails when it doesn’t live up to the promises of the seller.  Say what?  “Oh sigh, how dare I spend my hard earned money on this thing.  The guy promised it would do this, and it didn’t.  It’s all my fault.”  Classic codependency.

What is codependency?  It has many definitions, depending on who you ask.  Oh my.  So not only are we now distorting news tidbits with our personal opinions, we are distorting the simplest facts such as word definitions.  I can understand that if you come from a certain branch of study, you may lean more towards a specific definition of a word or have a different take on a situation.  That is not what I mean.  I mean when people use the distortion of such a situation to get emotionally “worked up” because they seem to need to bounce from drama to drama in order to feel fulfilled.

I believe it has something to do with the rising levels of false entitlement that seems to be ever present as of late.  How dare that person go first at the four way stop even though they had the right of way!  I will yell at them because I have the right!  Ahhh.. but you don’t.  The rights of this country seem to have taken the same beating as news stories and word definitions.  People are projecting their personal biases onto them instead of accepting the laws and constitutional guidelines for what they are.  Just because someone else doesn’t agree with you, does not make you or them wrong.  It just means you’re different.

The constitution was smart enough to reflect this by doing one thing: separating church and state.  The forefathers understood the impact that projecting one’s religious beliefs onto the laws of the country could have.  Such examples can be readily seen today and, very sadly, they are not being upheld constitutionally.

Like the forefathers of yore, the peace-seeking activists of the distant past, and the minority groups of today I long for a country that lives by its own guidelines.  Why can’t we all be different, accept and enjoy those differences, and still be respectful to one another?

This concludes my High School rant of the day.  Back out into the jungle.

Opinion Time (aka Soapbox Time)

Alrighty, let me just get my little pedestal in place before I start ranting.  There.

First of all, I am so tired of hearing about Chick-Fil-A.  There are various aspects to this, such as how often does this happen without getting as much media coverage?  Again, if the media hadn’t blown it up to begin with, would it have gotten this far?  Also, it brings us back to the whole Christians who worship a God that teaches tolerance and love to all.. not really doing that.  As one of my friends pointed out, replace “Gay” with “Black” and this is 1960.  Secondly, who the hell cares how two people have sex?  Why is it such a big deal if people of the same gender want their rights recognized?  Hello!  In the Bible they did things like trade women into marriage for other property, marry at a young age, make the brother of the widow’s husband marry her.. etc..  We don’t do those things anymore, why can’t we accept this one?  Oh wait, it goes back to prejudice and intergroups.  Don’t want to have a stronger group uprising against the White, Middle-Aged, Middle Class.  Because those are the people I see complaining about this whole fiasco.  Ugh.

This type of mentality is why Romney is so popular these days.  He is backed by the upperclass white.  This will be his downfall when voting time comes around.  He’s not relatable.  When I watch the broadcasts of his speeches, his audience is a sea of white, older faces that are auspiciously dressed.  Shocker.  When I watch Obama speak, the audience is multi-colored, multi-aged, and multi-classed.  He’s relatable.  As much as the American people don’t like the fact that Obama can’t wave a magic wand and fix everything wrong with this country (that the people are causing by the way), they dislike Romney more.

As for that magic wand, let’s take a closer look.  Perhaps things would not be so bad financially if.. oh wait, I know it is easy to look back and reprimand.  The thing is, I’m guilty of it too.  I had to learn my lesson.  Don’t buy things you can’t afford.  It is that simple.  If we as a country did that, I think it would help to solve a lot of issues.  I am not saying it is the magic pill, I’m saying it would definitely help.  Another few things that would help?  Getting rid of career politicians with life-long cadillac insurance and retirement plans.  Getting rid of archaic Government programs that were designed to assist the soldiers and their families from wars from almost a century ago.  Stop putting them into law!  We can’t afford them.  It’s time to restructure and develop a new system that truly addresses the issue, doesn’t just get you re-elected.

Last rant-o-da-day, have you watched the news lately?  I got news for you, it ain’t news.  I’d like some good, old-fashioned information.  Not this hyped up, jacked up, make believe world story crap that is designed to cause drama and not inform.  Mike Wallace and Peter Jennings are turning in their graves.

Okay, I’m done. Thank you for listening, you’re a great audience!  Have a good night.  Don’t forget to vote for.. oh wait.