Tag Archives: faith

Tesseracts 17 Interview: Ed Willett

Ed Willett, SF, speculative fiction, Tesseracts 17, Canadian authors, faith, spirituality

Ed Willett is author of more than 40 books of fiction and nonfiction. Read his story in Tesseracts 17.

Ed Willett is our only Saskatchewan author in Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast. I would say this puts us nearly halfway through Canada but once I hit the Atlantic provinces for interviews I’ll come back across the northern parts of Canada.

CA: “Path of Souls” is a beautifully rendered world, told by an outsider who makes it home. But that home is in some ways a gilded cage. What was the most important aspect of this tale for you?

For me the heart of the story is the decision by one individual to take responsibility: to do what must be done, what is the right thing to do, despite the personal consequences. That is, I think, the only definition of heroism that makes sense to me. Whether that decision makes sense to someone outside that individual’s personal mindset is another matter, of course. The actions of the main character might be seen as foolish in the extreme: she essentially throws away her previous life for many long years of service to an alien religion. But she is convinced that what she is doing is what is right, and that doing what is right is more important than her own personal wants and desires.

Over and over in my fiction I find myself returning to the theme of individual responsibility. In so much of the world, especially in the realm of politics, we pretend as if people are defined by a few simple characteristics: gender, skin color, income, place of residence. “Can such-and-such a party’s policies resonate with voters-of-a-particular-ethnic group?”, etc. But none of us are defined by the various groups into which we fall—not entirely. Each of us is an individual. We build our lives from a series of individual decisions, and while the easiest path to follow is always that most often taken by those with whom we associate, we have the power, the free will, to break from that path, to take “the road less travelled,” as Robert Frost memorably put it. And that moment, when an individual truly acts as an individual and separates him or herself from the herd, especially if that moment arises out of a powerful moral sense, is a moment that greatly interests me as a writer.

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

The title of the piece is “Path of Souls,” but it’s really about the path taken by a single soul: an individual who makes a difficult decision to do what she has become absolutely convinced is the right thing to do, despite the cost to herself.

CA: In one sense it’s religious, or spiritual, but there is a dark side that the outsider discovers. Do you think people see the inherent pitfalls in their own faiths?

Religious belief is a powerful thing, as we know from our own world, where every day religious fanatics blow themselves and others up in suicide attacks, murder sleeping students in their beds for the sin of getting a western education, terrorize shopping malls, and on and on. They are, to carry on my answer to the previous question, individuals who have made a decision to abandon all further individuality in the service of what they see as a greater cause. It’s a decision that seems almost incomprehensible to those of us who do not share their convictions. But within their own minds, they are doing what is right and holy, what must be done to make the world a better place—although their version of a better place would be a nightmare to those of us who do not share their belief. By my previous definition, they are heroes: not to us, not at all, but certainly to themselves.

Religious belief seems to be hard wired into humans (and, in my story, into aliens as well). It can be a powerful force for good and beauty, and a powerful force for evil and destruction. Those at the extremes of religious belief do not, I think, see any inherent pitfalls. When you have given over your individual responsibility to orders that you believe are coming directly from God, there’s very little room for doubt. There are, of course, millions of believers who do have room in their beliefs for doubt and questioning. Some religious belief systems are more open to internal questioning than others, and those, I think, are at less risk of turning to the dark side (okay, that reference is from Star Wars, which is perhaps a step down from Robert Frost, but still, it fits!).

So, do “people see the inherent pitfalls in their own faiths?” Some do, some don’t. Once again, everything comes down to the individual.

CA: This is also a story of reflection, a journey in and of itself. Many spiritual paths are just that, journeys of discovery. Is this a theme you have explored before?

I think all characters in my stories are on journeys of discovery, because characters who remain unchanged by the events of the story are boring. So it’s really a theme I explore over and over, in pretty much everything I write.

CA: Will we be seeing other tales on this particular world, or are you moving on to new worlds?

This is the only tale I’ve ever set or anticipate setting in this particular world. But I’m very fond of it, partly because it’s one of those stories whose genesis I can pinpoint with some accuracy. A few years ago, Globe Theatre here in Regina held, perhaps three years in a row, a fundraising event called Lanterns on the Lake. People bought and made paper lanterns and came down to the shores of Wascana Lake to light them and parade them. The image of that endless string of lights stretching down to the moonlit water struck a chord with me that eventually resulted in “The Paths of Souls.”

It’s also a story I’m fond of because it’s a bit of a tribute to a book I absolutely loved as a young science fiction reader: Andre Norton’s Moon of Three Rings. That idea of humans coming to a world they think they understand and falling into trouble because they don’t really understand it at all was something I wanted to use, and I also wanted to capture the deep sense of strangeness and wonder Norton’s book woke in me when I was 12 or so. I think maybe I manage it, at least a little.

I hope readers think so, too.

Edward Willett is the author of more than forty books of fiction and non-fiction for children, young adults and adults. Born in Silver City, New Mexico, he moved to Canada with his parents from Texas when he was eight and grew up in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where he began his career as a newspaper reporter, becoming news editor before moving to Regina as communications officer for the then-fledgling Saskatchewan Science Centre. For the past 20 years he’s been a fulltime freelance writer. Ed won the Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English in 2009 for his science fiction novel Marseguro (DAW Books). His newest book is Right to Know (Bundoran Press). November will see the release of Masks, the first book the Masks of Aygrima fantasy trilogy for DAW Books, written under the pseudonym E.C. Blake, and in the spring, Coteau Books in Regina will release Song of the Sword, first book in a five-book YA modern-day fantasy series collectively called The Shards of Excalibur, with subsequent books to appear at six-month intervals. Shadows, the second book in the Masks of Aygrima, will be out next summer, along with an as-yet untitled sequel to Right to Know. In addition to writing, Ed is a professional actor and singer. He continues to live in Regina with his wife, Margaret Anne, their daughter, Alice, and their cat, Shadowpaw.

 Ed is online at www.edwardwillett.com, on Twitter @ewillett, and can also be found on Facebook.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, people, Publishing, religion, science fiction, spirituality, Writing

Our Lives: the Microcosm vs the Macrocosm

The world revolves on a grand scale and on a small or microcosmic scale. The macrocosm can be something as enormous as the galaxy or the universe. But within the environs of the earth it comes down to a country’s personality. It is also earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes. It is war, and pandemic diseases. As well it is the nature of both humankind as a whole and the planet in its entirety. On this grand scale we see the war in Libya, the overturning of the government in Egypt, the rising price of gas, heating, food, etc., the many deaths from Japan’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the political temperament of France or Tunisia, the cholera in Haiti, the religious fervor in Afghanistan or the human rights issues of China.

The macrocosm can be scary and all-encompassing. It is the onslaught of the human condition. It can also be beautiful: the ocean, the skies above, a forest, the many species that blanket the earth. It is humanity in all its great creativity, the collective consciousness, the evolution of our kind.

But when we look at the world as a whole we see doom and despair. We see death and cataclysms and everything looks like it’s spiraling down the hole. There are rapists and murderers and pedophiles, drug dealers and car accidents, disease and poverty, wars and subjugation. The news dwells on the negative and not the uplifting. It’s one reason I don’t read newspapers or watch TV; to lessen the onslaught to my sensibilities. My soul weeps when all I see is the tragedy of life and ever impending doom.

But…and this is a big emphasis on a small word…but when I look at the microcosm I see my neighbor who will rescue my cat, the friends who push my car through the snow, the person who holds the door open for me, the intimacy and love of friends and family. I smell a flower, watch a tree slowly unfurl its leaves and blooms, pet a cat, plant a flower, nod to a fellow shopper, go to a party, have a drink with friends and listen to their trials and tribulations, and relate to people every day. That’s my world.

We have to remember this  to achieve some balance in life. To look only at the macrocosm means the world is a despairing place bereft of good and beauty. To look only at the microcosm can mean your problems seem to be mountains or you are ignorant of the world around you. I remember the microcosm daily so that my spirit lifts and I have hope and joy. What matters most are the relationships we form with the people around us, and our environment. What is greatest is sharing love and joy. It is the only way to exist and stay sane in a world filled with chaos. Here’s to the intimate moments in the microcosm.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, family, people, relationships

My Religion’s Better Than Yours

Religion, ain’t it grand? Everyone can use it to feel righteous, superior and special. In fact, people can use it to preach tolerance, yet in the same breath turn around and show bigotry and narrow-mindedness.

Nine years after September 11 and what have we learned? Place the blame elsewhere and stoke the fires under the fetid brew of religious intolerance. I speak of some Qu’ran burning putz in the US and the masses of protesters screaming against a mosque being built near ground zero in New York.

The masses, as has been shown again and again, are mostly ignorant, easily swayed and influenced by hype. If there is a complete intelligence amongst them, they hide it in the mob mentality. Notice I don’t say the Christian masses or the Hindu masses or any specific religion, because a mass of people (as opposed to the Catholic mass) is just that; not necessarily an unthinking organism but a lower thinking one.

The problem with religion is that it’s open to interpretation, interpretations of interpretations, offshoots, branches, sects and other views of the same religion, let alone all the different religions out there. Take just one, even Buddhism, and you have moderates, those who are orthodox or who adhere to the most stringent rules, and those who are liberal. One extreme end holds the fundamentalists. It makes no difference if this is Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam or one of the host of many religious practices. Fundamentalists are sometimes raised in the tradition but just as often (if not moreso) they are brought to this view as adults.

Fundamentalists are often recognized as being stringent and unbending, narrow-minded, and resistant to truth and facts. They like going on tirades, performing highly dramatic proclamations and at the worst, killing people in the name of their religion. A fundamentalist, whether a Taoist (Are there fundamentalist Taoists? Probably),  a Wiccan or some other religion is annoying at best and downright threatening to life and liberty at worst.

Who is a fundamentalist? The Taliban subjugating men and women, the Holy Roman Empire feeding Christians to lions, the Spanish Inquisition toasting witches, and southern Baptists burning religious texts. This is only a small sampling of pointing the finger at another group and ostracizing them for their beliefs. Sometimes this religious prejudice has been wholly one group against another and that’s not necessarily fundamentalism (really, the Roman Empire was a state religion and not fundamental beyond that) as it is the tenets and interpretations of the era and culture, such as various pogroms against the Jews in Medieval Europe. But fundamentalists will loudly proclaim the right and might of their belief system, then put their hands over their ears so they do not hear anything which would make them doubt. And they just as loudly denounce everyone else of not being on the “one true faith.”

Most religions preach love, compassion and turning the other cheek but it seems it doesn’t run to your neighbor if they are of a different ilk. It’s okay to tell your wives to stay home and raise babies if you’re a fundamentalist Christian but it’s not okay if you’re a fundamentalist Muslim and tell your wife to wear the hijab.  It’s okay to guilt trip people into being of a particular faith but then not let homosexuals into your church. It’s okay to convert by the gun or the sword because that will really give you more believers but it will only be lip service. Oh and do I even have to mention that should you start burning, breaking or otherwise destroying one group’s symbols of faith, that that won’t make them go away but will have them in your face. But if it’s war you want, in your religious peace, then it’s war you’ll get.

I’m not sure when the world is going to grow up. I have little faith it will be anytime soon as religious superstition, suspicion and intolerance seem to be on the rise. And people, no matter their faith, should be willing to listen to another person’s belief system. If they’re threatened, then they’re already insecure in their beliefs. If they change to another path, so what? Spirituality is always an individual journey and coercing or forcing people is not the way to spirit and belief.

Blaming all people of one faith for what some men did of dubious and most likely fundamentalist beliefs is the same as saying half of the species (say, women) is inferior to the other half. It’s the same as saying, Joe killed someone; therefore all of humanity should be punished. It’s the same as saying, my great grandfather raped someone so all the men in my family line are rapists (and this is a what-if and not indicative of my family). It’s the same as saying all Christians are good and all Muslims are bad. Switch the nouns and names around and it will sound as ludicrous.

Anyone who supports such wholesale bigotry should not be surprised when vengeance is wreaked upon them by the group they denounce. Look at the individual and do not use that wide brush to paint all of any group with it. There are evil Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists (Burma/Myanmar is run by Buddhists), pagans, agnostics, atheists, Hindus, Sikhs, etc. all over the world. And there are many more people of all faiths and none who are compassionate, charitable, giving and willing to let each person live, as long as they do not damage or subjugate another person in any way.

3 Comments

Filed under crime, Culture, history, news, people, politics, relationships, religion

Best Careers For Criminals

Our world has gone topsy turvy, and perhaps it’s always been this way. There certainly have always been people who used corruption, selfishness, exploitation and amoral behavior to further themselves at the expense of others. These people were usually kept in check, or at least the wholesale rampant anarchy was, so that there is a semblance of society, rules and laws by which the majority abides. And it tends to make living a happier and better experience.

Sometimes we get too many laws, and bylaws and requirements and procedures that muddy our lives in bureaucratic paperwork and hoop. But even so,  we usually know who the good guys are. Then again, if you look at the news we’ve been getting of late it might be hard to tell as the lines blur. I’ve already talked about how the good police and RCMP have had their name tarnished by the criminal, unthinking or untrained actions of other members of these forces. Perhaps, because I live in BC I hear more about this province but the police and RCMP here seem to be particularly bad, tasering people to death, shooting them in the back of the head kicking a guy who is complying (the latest from Victoria), or beating and robbing innocent people. We have hit an age of media that lets these events be recorded more frequently, therefore bringing what may once have been hidden to the attention of the common citizen.

So that’s one career for a criminal. If you like pushing people around, abusing power and generally getting away with murder, become a cop and you can avoid the usual criminal prosecution and just get suspension with pay, a desk job, or a worse, dismissed from your job. But you won’t end up in jail. I wonder if these police forces actually understand how much they’re hurting their own image by past denials and cover-ups. Doesn’t say much against corruption, does it?

Then of course there is the Catholic church. If you’re a pedophile, or some other form of sexual abuser, it’s the best place to be. Doesn’t really matter if you believe. After all, the church has gone through a few evolutions, fabrications and resurrections in its 2000 year history. Some of those evolutions involved banning sex in all sorts of forms by the 12th century and making it wrong for a priest to be married to a woman. Of course, we can try to negate the fact that as animals and humans there is a natural drive to procreate, or what the Church really hates, fornicate.

So in the really sensible repression of sexuality, the Church has helped create its own demons. Who needs hell when the Church houses it within its own walls? First Nations children taken from their homes and raised in residential schools often run by a priest and abused different ways. Choir boys and girls sexually abused. Other children and young teens molested in schools or other places. And one sexual pervert after another, still held in the comforting arms of the Catholic church, protected, hidden and defended. Priests moved from one place to another with not word from the Church to warn parents. No, far better to hide it and then pretend it never happened.

The latest in a string of priestly molesters so long it would probably encircle the globe (if we even knew all the names which you can bet we don’t) is Father Murphy alleged to have sexually abused some 200 boys and the church under Cardinal Ratzinger, the now Pope Benedict, just covered it up. When the religious leader of a very powerful and rich institution helps cover this up you know that the disease that eats at the heart of the Catholic church is deep and possibly irreparable. But then they are only human; conniving, lying, deviant, criminally human.

If I was the antiChrist or Satan, you know where I’d go? Not some dark den of Goths, not even into a lawyers’ enclave. No I would go straight to the church. Who would notice amongst that pack of miscreants. And in fact if I needed an army of darkness, well I could certainly pick the best from the Church’s own clergy.

Sad, isn’t it, that these two institutions (law and faith) don’t try to rid themselves, incarcerate or otherwise punish those who have blatantly disregarded the laws. Instead they hide and protect. So this year’s top two jobs for criminals is to become a police officer or a priest. Best place to learn the ropes, to avoid the rope and to have the time of your life at the expense of others. So much for civilization.

Leave a comment

Filed under crime, Culture, news, people, religion, security, sex

Pilgrimage Tourism

In my research for a story during biblical times I have come across the bizarre business of what I call pilgrimage tourism. By the Middle Ages, parts or bodies of saints had begun to surface, literally. They were found in sepulchers, under churches, in the naves, perhaps a grave yard, and various other places. Some of these saints may have done a lot more traveling after their deaths than they did before they died.

Monasterboice, Ireland

Some traveled far and wide and one was likely to find  the remains of every saint at some point or another. The only person whose remains were never found were those of Jesus because he was supposed to have ascended bodily to heaven and to find his body would have whacked a giant hole in the tenets of early Christianity. So only his image on shrouds and capes, and parts of the true cross came into bearing.

After the first few saintly parts appeared and were ensconced in a church, or in the foundations or a reliquary box, the faithful visited these churches to venerate the saintly body, even though supposedly Christians believe in the transmigration of the soul, which means there is no spirit in the remains. And then, of course, cures or other miracles began to happen in the presence of a dead saint’s remains. In a way you could say that early Christians venerated a certain zombie aura to the dead, considering saints’ flesh or bones reanimated enough vitality to touch the living.

When the faithful flocked to these churches they needed places to sleep and food to eat, which not only buoyed and increased the wealth of the town but also filled out the coffers of the church. A richer church meant a bigger church and more items of gold and jewels, illuminated manuscripts, attention from Rome, larger flocks, etc. Soon, saintly remains were showing up everywhere.

A great many saints seemed to have left the environs of the Holy Land after Christ’s resurrection and traveled to Gaul or southern France. Why, I’m not sure since Italy was closer but it may have been to escape the Romans. And as the business of spiritually imbued remains grew more popular, grave robbing became a pretty regular business. If you were a saint you could bet that there would be no mortal rest for your body, nor for your soul as you would be dug up, dismembered, sold to various churches and pilgrims and then called upon for daily miracles. Busy life, busier afterlife. But of course, Christianity has only maintained that it is monotheistic, worshiping one god. Oops, but then there are saints galore.

Suddenly, or perhaps not that sudden, the early Middle Ages saw grave robbing as almost respectable. The fine line between good and bad was stretched a bit thin. On top of the grave robbing, churches started stealing the venerated saints from neighboring parishes and monks/priests were praised for such actions as obviously the saints had let them know they wanted to be moved.

But a problem started to arise, which neither Christ nor God could control, and it exposed a shady side to religion that was the ultimate downfall of a few churches’ prosperity. The dead saints seemed to multiply. Mary Magdalene had five bodies and numerous legs and arms. There was more than one head for other saints, or enough finger bones to populate a centipede’s legs. In truth the saints became legion and pretty much any suitable grave would be pillaged for body parts for nearby churches. There was no DNA testing then and the distance between towns and cities was much greater, with the only common modes of transportation being by foot or horse/mule. Often it was easy to have the same saint in a few places, until the mother church started to hear about it.

At first complicit in venerating saintly bits, the church had to curb the ghoulish trend. Just imagine a zombie army of saintly limbs and torsos and heads able to not necessarily animate, but to cure a host of ills. And all of this for the longest time brought hordes of faithful to various towns and cities. Popularity of saints waxed and waned but Saints Peter, Paul, John, Thomas, Mary Magdalene and Virgin Mary were popular at different times.

However, the multiple parts that each saint owned, and the full bodies or extra heads started to mar the validity of not only the Catholic church but also the belief that these were the holy remains, which could cure the ill and perform miracles. There was probably a couple of centuries worth of great tourism for pilgrims and Santiago de Compostela in Spain (a pilgrimage route to St. James) is popular to this day by tourists, hikers and the faithful.

It’s obvious that in two millennia of Christianity its role and rules changed and evolved, and perhaps the original teachings of Jesus got skewed quite a few times. What this says about humanity is fascinating: that for the sake of religion (and fame and fortune within that) even if you’ve taken a vow of poverty but you live in a monastery, you’ll do anything, even the illegal things, to bring glory to God, Jesus or the saints. You’ll cheat, swindle and create fake holy items. And if you’re just a worshiper, you’ll forget that it’s the soul that’s supposed to matter, and venerate desiccated body parts, that if ever tested might show the wrong gender or someone of origins other than Jewish for those first Jewish-Christian saints. Makes for an interesting evolution of a man-made religion with creative intervention.

Leave a comment

Filed under crime, Culture, history, people, religion, spirituality, travel

I Don’t Get Religious Coverings

I should title this “I don’t get religious head coverings” but in essence it applies to any covering. Now I imagine this post will probably get me in the bad books of a lot of religions, but let’s just say I’m not against a religious covering in one religion or necessarily all religions. I’ve actually put off writing this for a long time, not out of fear but because I thought I should educate myself more. But there are a lot of religions and no matter how much I read I’m likely to miss some crucial element somewhere. And like every layperson out there I have questions that probably only a scholar could answer.

So, let me frame my confusion with this statement: I am an egalitarian. I expect and believe that everyone should be given an equal opportunity, whether in jobs, lifestyle or religion and that one group is not made to do differently than another because of gender or race. I have a huge problem with any religion that allows priests/clerics/spiritual leaders to be of only one gender. And there are many. Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism. There are sects in these religions that often allow for female leaders but overall, the pope can only be a man, the Dalai Lama (only one sect of Buddhism) is always a man, Jewish and Muslim leaders/holy men seem to only be men. Hinduism does seem to be one religion that has no leader over others though different sects might worship a female god or a male one. Paganism likewise has both male and female priests but again there are sects that are male or female exclusive.

But when it gets down to the clothing and the headgear I ask why does one person wear it over the other and how does this treat all human beings as equal? Jewish men wear the yarmulke/kippah (as well as the pope and other ranks in Catholicism), Sikh men wear the turban, Tuareg men wear the veil/turban but the women don’t. Muslim women wear the burka or veil, but the men don’t. Catholic nuns (some of them wear the wimple) but the men don’t though they wear a mitre or kippah on their heads. Why?

At one time in all these cultures’ histories, their robes were the style of the time. Then the religion became codified and traditionalized, setting like cement in time and never more to have the clothing change. Why do Christian priests wear cassocks and the nuns wear wimples: because it was the style when the church finally gained its true strength. Clothing wasn’t part of the religion and then it was. And suddenly, what was cultural dress became symbolism for faith. I can understand a faith that says your hair or head needs to be covered under the eyes of God (or whatever) but then it shouldn’t be a veil for women or a turban for men while the other gender gets to wear nothing or little. I also wonder why, if God created us, in all these religions, why he should want us to then hide? Shouldn’t we shine with the glory of his/her creation?

I’ve attended Native/First Nation sweats where a man could go in, in shorts but a woman had to be covered from neck to ankle and to wrist. Why? Because  a woman might be enticing? So, does that mean a semi-nude man isn’t enticing and why is it the woman’s responsibility for a man’s reaction? To me that says that men are animals, wild and uncontrollable and if that’s the case, they should not be in charge of anything, should they? The sweat was pitch black and so hot you didn’t want to touch yourself let alone anyone else and the farthest thing on anyone’s mind was sex. But still the women had to carry the brunt of this bigotry.

So why is a woman made to wear a burka or cover her hair? Why doesn’t a man have to do the same? Is a woman’s hair too beautiful and God is jealous? Are men going to turn into ravening, covetous animals? Shouldn’t they be chained and hobbled then? Is a man’s hair too boring to be enticing? How is it fair in any religion where a god or gods treats one half of his/her creations better or worse over the other? That already sets up a hierarchy of favoritism just based on gender. Not very good grounds for believing if you’re the underdog in the religion.

It is not the belief or faith, or tenets of the religion itself, where the pursuit is spiritual enlightenment that bothers me. It is the strictures and restrictions on only certain groups within the religion (or those outside of it) that disturb me greatly. Albeit, in all these religions, and the ones I haven’t mentioned there are sects, and a range of tolerance from acceptability to fundamental condemnation, and I use the word fundamental with all its horrid connotations. Fundamentalism in any religion is a sign of intolerance and fear, without a willingness to believe that people are different. But people should be able to choose, not be shamed, guilt-tripped or subjugated into the role of religious unworthy in their belief system.

If a religion requires a robe or a headcovering, then make it the same for everyone, not of two different levels depending on whether you’re blessed or only slightly blessed. I would find it hard to follow/convert to any spiritual belief where my god already saw me as a lesser being than my fellow believers. I’m waiting for someone to enlighten me.

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, fashion, history, people, religion, spirituality

Perspectives on the World

The world is an amazing complex sphere. None of us can truly understand the scope of all that it encompasses nor be knowledgeable in all ares. We can fathom some of it but are our views accurate?

I long ago stopped watching TV or even reading newspapers. To this day I have never seen a picture of the twin towers falling. I didn’t need to. The horror was all too real without that. And that is just one reason why I don’t watch TV–the horror of it is too much. These days we have 24-7 news and programming and multiple channels. You can catch the news on a particular subject at any time and if it’s something big, like Michael Jackson’s death, the predators start circling immediately with “in-depth” commentary on his life, his fashion, his eccentricities, his doctors, his drugs, his family, his kids, his debts, his fortune, etc. On and on, with huge drama in every commentator’s voice; melodrama one could say. (I did catch a little bit while at my neighbor’s)

That’s one example but news is never (or rarely) about the good stuff. The adage goes, No news is good news, and that can mean that if you don’t hear anything that’s good news and of course, what sells papers or draws audience viewing is the bad news. The disasters, the accidents, the murders and rapes, the lost children, the poverty, the wars, the despotic regimes, etc.

And what does this do? It weighs us down with darkness and despair, with loss of faith in humankind, with  fatalism. When I watched this stuff, the news, the same plane disaster would be played out several times a day with graphic depictions of the accident. I wept and felt terrible, and grew depressed, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t have compassion for anyone hit with hard circumstances. We should, but we can also be bludgeon into insensitivity with a constant overload of the bad and the tragic.

My outlook would start to cloud and I thought as the world on an downward spiral into eternal darkness. We didn’t need religious myths, we had our hell now. But then I stopped and thought. Were my coworkers, my friends, my family despots, murderers, rapists? Were they evil and uncaring? No. Were they uncaring? No.

And that was just the people I know. On the macrocosm of the world and world events, there are horrors beyond belief. On the microcosm are individual organisms, you and me. Each person can be good or bad but the majority are caring people, who follow the law, who try to help out, who want to believe in the goodness of their fellow human. I try to remember this when I look at the likes of Mugabe, Ayatollah Khomeini, Idi Amin, Osama bin Laden, Willie Picton, Paul Bernardo, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc. that they are the small percentage, the very few.

Their crimes are so vile that they make the headlines. Your friend that picks you up when your car breaks down on the highway, the father who comforts his child, the person who donates to organizations where money will help the underprivileged, we don’t hear about those people, except once in a while. Only if it’s a celebrity do we hear of charitable acts.

And so we get a skewed outlook of our world. Yes, one war can wipe out thousands or millions and is terrible and on the macrocosmic scale still speaks of a problem for human kind in general. As a whole homo sapiens need to strive harder to be better. Yet we must remember the good that people do for it is these small acts that give us hope and faith.

Even with only getting my news through radio (I do stay informed) it is still skewed towards the tragic. But I try very hard to remember the good and that I would have been in more dire straights were it not for the support of friends and family and yes, at times strangers. Give a little and you can receive a lot.

Leave a comment

Filed under crime, Culture, family, history, life, news, people, security

What Egalitarian Means

They called it Women’s Lib or Feminism. They called it Black Power. They called it Gay Pride. They  called it the Suffragette Movement. It has had many names but what it all boils down to is equal rights. Yes, equal rights, that every person, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference or religion should have equal rights.

I realized a while back that I’m not really a feminist, and it’s too bad some people color that as a negative thing (misconstruing it with feminazis who are adamant, woman over the expense of others hard noses). I am an egalitarian. Whether I am that color, that race, that gender, it matters not. Everyone should have a fair chance.

Obviously, I was raised in a culture that alows women certain rights, that also has laws about human rights. In my lifetime those rights have changed, allowing in most places across Canada gay marriage, recognizing discrimination. It’s not perfect and there are still obvious cases of discrimination, racial profiling, bigotry and hate crimes. Otherwise we wouldn’t hear about these in the news.

I think everyone needs to be given a fair shake. Unfortunately, everyone is born into different circumstances. They may be in a country that lacks human rights, that treats women as chattel, that considers a race inferior, that has poverty, corruption and disease. They might be born into a family with too many kids and not enough money to feed them, into royalty, with physical or mental defects, into a loving family, a hateful neighborhood, a low populated farming population. They could be affected by war, drought, flooding, car accidents, rape, murder, economic collapse, disease, love, hate, generosity, prejudice, fear, etc. There are thousands of ways that each person begins a life without being on even footing with everyone else.

This does not mean that we should just accept this status quo, that it’s your lot in life and you should therefore accept it and not strive above your station. If that were the case, women would still not have the vote, black people would still be slaves in the US, Japanese would still be in interment camps in BC, royalty would still be ruling… Oh, right, we still have that. I am inherently against monarchies whether figureheads or leaders, because they did not attain their position through popular vote. They get to be “royal” and rich because they inherit the position. Sure, we the people might vote in a scoundrel (Bush comes to mind) but it is the bed we make ourselves (mostly, but not all in Bush’s case), not the bed we are shoved into.

Inheriting the family business is one thing but not if it’s nominative ruler of a country. In an election everyone  who runs should have a fair shake at winning. That’s being egalitarian. Of course we have examples of sham elections, fudged ballots such in Iran and with Mugabe’s tyranny in Zimbabwe or Bush’s suspect election in the US. When something becomes unfair as the rigged elections of these rulers, it really bothers me. It’s not fair, the rules for everyone having a “fair chance” are tossed out.

When it comes to subjugation of women and children, and in some places men as well, I cannot understand how someone could treat a person as inferior because they are of a different sex. We’re all human beings. We must work together to survive and because one sex bears the fruit of the race does not make them inferior. To keep someone subjugated means that they aren’t allowed to do things or make their own decisions, that they are possessions of another. There have slaves of various races and there are slaves of gender. No matter how you cut it, it is still slavery, one human owning another.

There are people that believe in religious freedom but only if it applies to them. They then think that “those people over there” need to be converted or are Satan’s minions or the infidel. They shouldn’t do it that way. To convert someone by sword or gun serves only to give lip service to a religion not build true faith. It would definitely backfire with me, for no matter what I said to preserve my life I would grow to hate and detest the “faith” that was trying to convert me. In essence, should a person’s faith require them to wear an icon, a seven-pointed hat, a tattooed forehead or robes with pink polka dots, it is up to them. They shouldn’t, no matter what they claim, have a faith that requires them to subjugate, beat, murder, rob or otherwise denigrate another human being. What has been done in the name of religion is inexcusable. Basic human rights is what it comes down to.

So yes, I’m an egalitarian to the bone. It is such a fundamental part of my being that it could never be removed. Am I perfect in my philosophy, free of judgment and prejudice in all things. No. Cultural and societal conditioning, moires and values can sway and color us. I too have to watch for attitudes sneaking in which could prejudice me against someone. Difference is sometimes a hard thing for people to accept.

A person should get the fairest chance at life. That means through skill and experience should someone get the job, not through age, or gender, or looks, or color or religion. It should be on what the best person can do. If that goes to a white guy fine. If it seems there are too many white guys and not enough women or people of color then don’t rig requirements for a job or admission into something by that criteria because it is reverse discrimination. Instead, make is possible for those people to attain better educations if they have come from limited circumstances, no matter who they are.

I know there are many connotations to fairness and that ethical equations come into play, sometimes protect a culture or a way of life. But to me the basic rule applies, do what you will, as long as it hurts no one else. And everyone should get a fair chance at life and all its aspects and not be limited due to how we were born.  Overall, I don’t think it’s a bad way to live my life, trying to consider the rights of others and working to make sure they get a fair shake.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, history, life, people, politics, religion, security, sex

Losing My Religion

My mother would probably have been raised Catholic, had her mother not died when she was four. Being of Italian parentage, it’s the default religion. I’m not even sure if my mother went to church regularly. Her stepmother wasn’t supportive and kept her and her sister outside till ten at night.

By the time I came along, third in the family with a six-year gap, my mother didn’t even bother getting me or my younger brother baptized. I seem to recall a few sessions in some church when I was young but I might have mixed that up with other things. I do know that when the teacher would ask us in class what we did in Sunday school I had a secret shame, because I did not go. I was different.

I did seem to have a spiritual bent because when I was about five my turtle died. I remember having a funeral, carrying the turtle in its little box down the steps in the back yard. A couple of little friends were lined up behind me. Then I buried the turtle against the side of the house but worried that it wasn’t protected. So I placed colored stones in a semicircle around its grave, butting up against the wall of the house.

Then my older brother turned Mormon from when he was around 16-18. (He got baptized twice because they slipped and dipped him a second time. We always joked that his soul needed extra cleansing.) My mother let us be taken to Mormon Sunday school, I think mostly to get us out of her hair for a couple of hours and give her a break. Strangely, I remember nothing of Sunday school so I don’t think we went for very long. My mother would roast the Mormon missionaries that were assigned the Anderson household, asking them why they had no black people in their inner temple (the one in Salt Lake City), why only the rich could go, etc. They must have drawn the short straw to see who would have to visit my mother.

My mother certainly didn’t attend church and she tended to read a lot of Edgar Cayce (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Cayce) books when I was young. I read or flipped through a few in my teens and Wiki says he was probably the forefather of the New Age movement. He does seem to be a kind of modern oracle who tried to ease people’s physical suffering.

As a teenager, I went with my mother to a few Spiritualist Church events. They sang hymns, which I didn’t like, but then would do palm or psychometry readings, or aura readings. A little bit of free fun. I was never convinced in what I was told though. I also felt no inclination to follow this path. I remember attending one friends communion around when I was 16. I felt intensely uncomfortable, being unfamiliar with churches and especially Catholic rites. After that I tended to avoid churches because I felt uncomfortable with them and unfamiliar in them.

I did continue to explore and think of spiritual and metaphysical matters throughout my teens. At one point my mother attended an experiment being done through the University of Calgary on psychic energy. In one room they had one of those bulbs that have the light sensitive vanes inside. The bulb was in a darkened room and in another room sat a person trying to move the vanes with psychic energy. I have no idea what the results of the experiment were, but my mother met several people intrigued with this aspect.

I would go with her to these meetings at one person’s house where we would try spoon bending, psychic impressions, psychometry, aura reading, etc. It wasn’t religious or spiritual, just exploring psychic phenomenon. There was one guy when we tried reading each other’s minds where it seemed he was trying to manipulate. Interestingly enough, on the drive home my mother had also got strange feelings about the guy.

Eventually the group dissipated, my mother stopped going and the group sort of reformed as a meditation group. I think we did start to get into some spiritual aspects as well. However, I left the group when it got down to Ouija board practice and asking the “spirits” and how to conduct day to day affairs. It got ridiculous and no one seemed to make a decision with their own brains, so off I went.

I moved to Vancouver, and continued my own explorations into spirituality but it didn’t involve churches at all. When I was 25 a young cat I had disappeared one night. I looked everywhere for her, put posters out, checked the SPCA. Nothing. So then I put out prayers, pleas, bargains, cajoling, threats to any deity that existed. And nothing.

At that point I gave up the last vestiges of being a Christian, and lost my religion. I also realized at that time that our North American culture is so permeated in Christian values that even if a person is agnostic they still are ruled by these values. It shapes our everyday affairs, how we conduct our marriages and families. It is in everything we do. At that point I claimed to no longer be even a token Christian and I also tossed out the belief that we’re guilty until proven innocent, as sits at the base of most Christian doctrines. Jesus didn’t die for my sins. He didn’t know me and in these tenets we’re all bad and flawed and tainted. I didn’t like being painted with guilt and so I wasn’t.

I became agnostic at that point, and believed in nothing (refused to believe in anything) for three years. After that the journey of discovery continued and does to this day, but that’s a tale for another time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, family, life, memories, myth, people, pets, religion, spirituality

Brutal Indifference to Child’s Plight

I’m sure if I talked about sex or the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, then more people would read this as it seems to be what titillates humanity most. But unfortunately this is more important, sadder and tragic than some woman selling her virginity. Oh, I know. I should just title this Virgin Sells Body for Charity. Now that would be something to talk about.

I have a friend who works ECOMM, emergency 911 calls. On January 10, the following occurred here in Vancouver, leaving me appalled and horror-stricken.

At 10:30 pm a woman and her child were walking home in the pouring rain and slush when  a barefoot, 12-year-old Asian boy (I mention the race because maybe it’s important, maybe it’s not) in pajamas came running out, pleading for help. His parents were fighting. The woman refused to help and didn’t even guide the boy to some phone or another place but just pointed to the care home nearby. Fifteen minutes later when she got home, perhaps guilt gnawed at her because she called 911.

When the police came, they checked at the care home where no one had answered the phone. The duty nurse, someone who is supposed to care for people, had said yes, the boy, soaking wet, crying and begging had come to the door. But they didn’t help or let him in because it was against their policy. They told the police that yes, they had called 911 but in fact the dispatchers confirmed that they had not. They left the boy, late at night, soaking and cold, to fend for himself.

The police then sent units up and down all the streets, including canine units but there were too many people who had come and gone by then. My friend, along with the call taker, checked houses within a radius to see if any had past histories of disturbances/abuse. Nothing showed up.

When the duty officer arrived on the scene, he sent the police door to door from the care home. In fifteen minutes they found six witnesses who had seen this boy trying to stop traffic in the street pleading for help. All the cars swerved around him. No one stopped. Not one of those six witnesses helped or called 911.

The police searched for three hours that night. They never found the boy.

Who knows what happened. Did the boy go home to a resolved fight? Or did he go home and get beaten for trying to involve others? Did he get frostbite, hypothermia, pneumonia? Is he dead somewhere? Worst of all, this boy, should he survive this will have lost all faith in humanity and will probably grow up to prey on others as he has seen nothing but a cold and uncaring world. It makes me cry just thinking of this. All these coldhearted people should consider the child abuse that they perpetrated.

We like to think the big cities in the US have this problem but it’s right here, on your doorstep and it will get worse if no one cares. The police should commended for trying their all. The rest of us should wonder if we live in a civilized society.

Leave a comment

Filed under cars, crime, Culture, family, health care, life, news, people, security