On marriage for all

As with way too many things in life, I’m confused and frustrated with the way things are, with the way people are. I know that people are confused and afraid and distrusting of things that are different from them — by belief, by nature, by choice. What confuses me is why, and why more people don’t make the concerted effort to overcome that basic human trait.

SCOTUS declared yesterday that marriage as a legal entity (with the legal benefits that it provides) can not be denied to anyone based on their sexual orientation. To my knowledge, it hasn’t been stated that any of the religions have to redefine marriage, or that any minister, pastor, reverend, rabbi, or any other religious leader will be forced to perform a ceremony wedding two people in a manner that disagrees with their beliefs. It simply says that there can be no law denying marriage and its benefits to anyone, straight or gay.

My religious friends and family that object to this ruling continue to repeat a thought along the lines of, “The Court has redefined marriage, contrary to what Christians believe it is.” First and foremost, if this is true, then certainly, SCOTUS made the correct ruling, as:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

My interpretation of that is that there would be no laws related in any way to religious beliefs, including marriage (my bachelor’s degree notwithstanding, I’m clearly no legal scholar, so I’m open to being corrected by someone who knows better). And what SCOTUS did yesterday, contrary to some beliefs, was NOT to create a law redefining marriage; anyone with an elementary knowledge of the U.S. government can point out that the judicial branch can not make laws, only rule on them; quite the contrary, SCOTUS only said that laws preventing gay men and women from marrying are unconstitutional.

I take issue, too, with the fact that Christians are speaking as though their definition of marriage is the only one, ignoring the fact that there are different definitions of marriage for different religions and cultures, and that marriage, as an institution, predates Christianity (and Judaism, for that matter). This stance, while it may hold true for a vast majority of Americans, is still arrogant and unfair.

But really, I guess the bottom line is this: why does anyone — ANYONE — care? There’s this atmosphere of horror surrounding the whole thing, as though this is the beginning of the end, or that tomorrow, there will be armed soldiers knocking on their door and forcing them to marry their best friend. But none of these things are true, or have any grounding in any truth, at all.

My understanding of Christianity — and again, I’m not as well versed as many of my friends, but I have spent a lifetime learning and questioning and exploring, so I feel comfortable publicly stating my opinion — is that no sin is greater than any other. It’s a tough pill to swallow, that having wanton thoughts about your neighbor’s wife is no better or worse in the eyes of God than wholesale genocide, but that’s what is put forth – not directly, but it can be inferred from verses like the following:

James 2:10 (NIV)

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

And then there are the words of Christ Himself:

Matthew Chapter 22

36Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law?

37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38This is the first and great commandment.

39And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Now, I’m not particularly interested in getting into religious debates. There are many, many levels on which I am still exploring and learning and discovering my faith, and I’m definitely sure that I’ve had more than my fill of being the audience to too many people presenting me their (or worse, a spoon-fed) opinion of what’s right and wrong as though it were fact carved in stone. But I will say that I find Jesus’ teachings — the words that came from the mouth of the man Himself, even presuming that they are subject to having been changed and revised over the last two millenia — to be the most important part of Christianity for me, with the Old Testament laws a distant second. Christ spoke, at the core, of love — for our fellow humans, regardless of profession or behavior or belief; and for God and His love for us.

There’s also this idea that this decision, and the new-found right to marry will be somehow detrimental to society as a whole, but I think that’s nothing more than fear speaking. You know what’s detrimental to society? Families where one parent or the other has abandoned the family. The ease of divorce. Our cultural glorification of violence and our quickness to show anger and hatred and to deny happiness and love. We choose to focus on the differences between ourselves and others rather than embracing our commonalities. We push the less-fortunate down and create as much distance as possible between us and them instead of doing all that we can to lend them a hand and help them rise closer to our station.

It is my opinion — and only that, an opinion — that those who are decrying the right of gay people to marry, preaching to anyone who will listen that it’s the end of the world as we know it because two men or two women who have love in their hearts for each other can now enjoy the same legal right and benefits as a man and a woman with the same are the real detriment to society.

I can’t understand why we can’t, as a people, just live and let live, when the actions and beliefs of others do us no more harm than make us uncomfortable, because we’re too lazy to try and understand differences better.

It’s not easy to effectively communicate depression, even to myself.

Under the gun, I can spot things that are bothering me, but it’s not really the core of what’s wrong. I can tell you that I’m feeling isolated and lonely, or that I’m concerned about money or aging or that I’ve become increasingly nihilistic in my future thinking… but none of that is right (though not necessarily wrong). Those tend to spring from the depression, becoming amplified by whatever wondrous tricks my brain is playing, turning into outlets through which the depression can be explained.

The problem with that lies in that the tendency for people — myself included — is to offer advice, or a positive word. Those things are nice, but ultimately useless. It’s like treating a virus that manifests itself in any painful way that it can; treat the feverish ache, and the virus will simply reveal itself in vomiting or a sore throat.

It’s a lot like living your life through molasses, or slowly drying amber. Everything is tiring; the act of getting up from bed is exhausting in and of itself, and motivating beyond that can seem pointless. When I was younger, I would sleep entire weekends just to avoid the thoughts and feelings that come with depression. It was just easier that way.

I’m fortunate, in that I’m usually very quickly aware that my depression is not caused by any real stimulus, and don’t dwell on things too much. I’ve spent years reading and re-reading a lot of inspirational words, and can lean on those to remind me that, after a sense, this isn’t real, that this, too, will pass. A lot of my ink serves to remind me of these things on a daily basis – that was the reason for getting those pieces, and for their placement.

But even this takes a lot of work, a lot of energy that could be better spent on things above and beyond my daily embedded and instinctive routine. Decisions become mired in apathy, and so don’t get made. What do I feel like eating? Well, honestly, nothing – and so another hour or three or twenty four passes before I do.[1]

It’s hard to talk about, for a number of reasons beyond the difficulty communicating what’s happening in my head, these intangible things I experience. I know what sorts of responses I am apt to get, and I don’t want those. I don’t deal well with sympathy (particularly the uncomfortable kind that can come out when dealing with these subjects), and that sympathy can actually make the depression worse — my brain will twist your concern for me into a burden that I’ve placed on you, and like all the other unpleasant thoughts, that little carpenter bee with burrow itself down into a nice cozy little home where it can grow and thrive and make little baby unpleasant thoughts.

It’s not that the sympathetic thoughts and the notes of solidarity and the hugs aren’t appreciated, at least on some level. They are. But often times, shining the spotlight on my depression just feeds it and gives it more power.

So… why are you writing all this down?

Good question, me. I guess for a number of reasons. To record the storm in the midst of it, rather than after the fact and colored by memory and a readiness to move beyond, so that I don’t forget. To let the people that know me and are curious or concerned what’s been going on with me the past few days (or longer — sometimes, it’s an insidious little ninja that I don’t notice until way later than someone looking in from the outside).

But maybe more than anything else to let people who go through this — and I know more than a few that do — know publicly that they’re not alone. With everything happening in the world lately, you see more and more mention of encouraging people to reach out, to let people know that they’re hurting for seemingly no reason — but from my perspective, it all feels cold and impersonal. Maybe seeing it expressed by someone they know, an everyman, might make a difference.

Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. If nothing else, it helps to remind me that these manifestations are just that. Writing it all down helps me remember that I can choose to be sad about not having something, or to be hopeful and excited that one day I will have those things. I can be sad about loss, or I can be happy that I experienced that person/place/thing and am better for it.

I can push through the amber, lean into the wind, knowing that the tides will cycle again, or I can lay down and give up.

“We endure and pass the moment.”

-Devin Townsend, ‘Ki’

Ideas, not events

When I started writing here what seems like a billion years (and many different lifetimes ago), I recorded events. At the time, in my late twenties/early thirties, those things were important to me.

As I get older, I find that slipping away. There are plenty of things I want to remember, of course — people, events, places. But at least at this point on my personal timeline, those things are important to me from a sense of emotion attached to those events — and if I look at a photo or re-read the details of a day, more and more those things seem detached and disconnected from me. The things that manage to survive and stick in my head, on the other hand, I think do so because the emotions resonate.

I’m not a huge fan of recapping vacations, barring really amusing or monumental events. It makes me exhausted, and usually really disappointed that the moment has passed.

I am fascinated by my thought patterns and opinions, and the way they’ve evolved and shifted over the years. The things I found important, the things I discarded from my attention, and where I stand now. The common ground that lets me know that I’m still the same at the core, and the differences that display change (if not actual growth).

Steven Wilson’s new album is phenomenal on so many levels, but right now, at least, it hits me particularly hard on the thematic level. There’s this exploration of our interconnection (and lack thereof), and how that’s been affected by technology’s advance. And I’m the first one to say that I’m often comforted by the level of surface connection that social media and such allows me, but I’ve recently realized that I was isolatiing myself too much. The album kinda drove that nail home for me.
The song in the video is wonderful, and makes its point with clarity and grace. But watching the video — it’s a gutpunch, for certain. Even knowing what’s coming after the twentieth viewing — man, that’s rough. At least it is for me — I’m incredibly cognizant of the fluid nature of my life and my seeming inability to maintain long distance relationships. If you’re not in my life in the here and now, in the immediate proximity, then the tendency for drift is pretty strong. And I’m not a big photo person, or one who saves too many things.
And then at some point you look up, and another important person is gone, and has been, without a trace.
Water has no memory.
But maybe, at the core, I find some comfort in that — if not the concept, then the related feeling.

Back in the Saddle (on my usual high horse)

Maybe I’ve waited too long between writings. Thoughts are bits of paper and ash caught up in a maelstrom, a tempest of things I feel like I need to verbalize, if only to relieve the pressure in my head.

“Tame the storm in your head.” Indeed.

I think too many people don’t understand what friendship should be, what love actually means. When a friend tells you that they are about to do or have done something that makes them happy – even if only momentarily – then you should be happy for them, and congratulate and encourage them. If you see dangers, point them out – but only so they are aware of things they might have overlooked in their excitement. Past that – what is it you gain by criticizing their actions, their desires, their hopes and happiness?

Friendship and love are not about you. They aren’t about possession. Sometimes they hurt, but there are better ways to soothe the pain than sharing with and reflecting it onto other people.

This seems a fundamental thing to me, common sense. Clearly, I’m mistaken in that perception.

People are terrified of homosexuality, so they use every tool in their power – even religion, which they all claim is built on a foundation of love – to debase and destroy it. People are terrified of different skin color, so they commit wars and genocides. People are terrified of being alone, or of being someone’s second (or last) choice, or of not being in someone’s favor, and so they lash out and try to share the rejection.

I don’t know. It frustrates me to no end for so many reasons. Maybe because I treat others this way in hopes that they will return the favor. Maybe because I see friends being treated as possessions, as people who haven’t earned respect and trust in their own ability to make decisions. Maybe because the things I see others doing or experiencing are things I would rather avoid in the future, and wishing that at least those I call friends (and that call me the same) could practice this path.

I recognize that you have the right to say whatever you want, no matter how hurtful, ignorant, wrong, despicable, misinformed, or just goddamned stupid it is. You need to recognize that the rest of us have the right to walk away from you, to ignore or dispute anything that comes out of your mouth.

We have the right to free speech, not the right to an audience. Learn the difference.

Related: stop telling me what comes out of my mouth is offensive. I frankly don’t give a plague-infested hate fuck. If you don’t like what I’m saying, stop listening. I won’t bother chasing after you.

This world, this society, this little piece of square footage that we call our own, is completely about us, as individuals. We are what makes the universe worth experiencing, what inspires and sparks and teaches and grows and evolves from one second to the next. Every single one of us important and crucial to the big picture, if only for a split-second – none with value over the others.

The world, this life, is all about you. You’re all you definitely have, the only absolute you can ever be 100% certain of. The only guarantees you have in this world are being born, and dying, and something in-between. Odds are pretty good – but not guaranteed at all – that in-between is going to have pain and loss, smiles and celebration. Each is important, even that which you think is bad or causes you discomfort, because without the darkness, you stop appreciating the light. The measure of your capacity to feel happiness and satiation and love is directly proportional to your experience with sorrow and desire and hate. Embrace them all, because it’s a big chunk of this gift of being human.

Until it’s at the expense of another, especially one you call friend or claim to love or respect. At that point, you’ve lost at least some measure of humanity, and probably deserve whatever karma sends your way.

The beauty of a dream

I’m too old and too pragmatic and too cynical to still think this way.

It’s not as strong as it used to be — doesn’t happen as often, nor as unwaveringly. I see the holes in the thought process more readily, and I don’t fight or deny those holes as blindly.But it’s still there, that part of me… the dreamer.

I still believe in the possibility of comic books and Hollywood endings (and beginnings, and middles). Anything that I can imagine can happen. Anything that anyone can imagine can happen.

Thousands of years ago, was light from a source other than the sun or fire possible? Could you capture images for future viewing? Communicate across distances with a hunk of metal the size of your hand or travel to other planets?

Things man once swore impossible are not.

If reality can destroy the dream, why should not the dream destroy reality?

That’s the beauty of a dream — you don’t ever let it go.

I’m in love with ideas and ideals, with things that no adult believes in, with things that belong on the printed page and in celluloid nights in cinemas.

It can make it rough, being a grown-up while still holding onto childish things,… but it makes it easier, too, getting from one day to the next.

Ouroboros can go eat itself

There is nothing more disheartening to me at this moment in time* than realizing that that thing — that incident, that action, that behavior that has been weighing on you all day, angering, puzzling, bothering you, on too many levels to deal with rationally and properly — is similar if not identical to something you did in the past.

Fuck your context, and mine. Being a hypocrite sucks. Self-awareness doesn’t really balance this one out too well.

* fuck you, semantics Nazis. You’ll not be using this one against me in the future…

Pressure valve

Some days are all fun and giggles in my world. Other days — and this is one, it is probably apparent — not so much. I get caught up in the news: in reading stories about religious extremists killing and torturing in the name of their god, about men abusing women and children and each other, about greed and entitlement and belittling other people because they are different and you’re afraid of that and everything that is wrong in the world. I get caught up in these things like taking a step too far into the flood waters, thinking they’re shallower or less powerful than they are, realizing as I’m suddenly knocked off my feet and being pulled along with no control.

I get angry, and that’s not something I enjoy feeling. My natural instinct, in fact, is to say no one does — what kind of sick person enjoys being angry? Besides political extremists and the talking heads on news channels? And religious people, and people that are passionate about issues, whether cultural or economic or spiritual, whether left or right leaning. Whether right or wrong, by my definition or yours, they get angry, and shout, and write, and take action.

So there’s the positive takeaway, I tell myself. Working for change in the world, to turn the tide from the status quo, to bring awareness. And sometimes it works — my parents were in the generation that fought to get equal rights for black people, that attended rallies led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and split from their parents and neighbors and refused to give in to the ignorance and intolerance. And my grandparents, they were around for women’s liberation movements, and I’m living in time where sexual orientation is becoming less and less acceptable a reason to deny someone their rights.

But how much has changed? How little? Close friends of mine still think of blacks and browns and yellows as different and inferentially inferior (especially when there’s no one else around). Gays are weird and gross — and from the agnostics and atheists in my circle. The really religious are so much worse. And women still ask for it they way they dress, and who cares if they make less than me for the same job?

Over the years — almost 43 of them, and counting — I’ve tried debating, using solid logic and research and, when appropriate and necessary, impassioned words. It’s a nice thought, that all that talking and discussing leads to change (on either person’s part, to be fair, or perhaps even observers who don’t participate). But realistically — how many minds have I changed over the years? How many minds have I opened? I won’t say none, but the number can’t be much greater than that.

For whatever reason, people are set in their beliefs, even when shown that the foundation of one of those beliefs is patently untrue. Which, you know — fine. Ignorance is bliss, maybe. And what do I care, at the end of the day, if the rest of the world want to believe in something that is demonstrably (even obviously) wrong?

Because, like it or not (and this is one of those days when I don’t so much), I’m stuck living in the same world as them, and more likely than not, these false beliefs shape their actions, and their actions touch me. Sure, I can ignore the entitlement-shaped statements, and the ignorance and fear-fueled idiocy, and the greed-driven hi-jinks, until it turns into a religious nut deciding that I should die because I believe differently, or my financial situation is affected by some out-of-touch CEO’s avarice — because the world owes it to him, by God!

That list almost went on ad nauseum, but it was gonna end on an obvious Justin Beiber joke. Because fuck that guy. With a jackhammer.

Seriously. Jackhammer. Right in the earhole. Or anywhere, really. it’s a jackhammer. No need to be picky about it.

It’s all impotent rage, at the end of the day, which I think is why I choose to ignore it. It’s more fun to be the funny guy, the guy who makes people smile and laugh and forget about their worries, than to be the guy who gets on social media and rails about problems and issues and who shows up in bars making fun of those idiots who have different opinions than his own.

I wonder what it’s like to be ignorant, comfortable accepting the truth of the world around you from talking heads without ever questioning any of it, letting first and easy impressions and assumptions become the fact and foundation of your world.  I really do. Is it easier? Are you happier at the end of the day?

It’s all just ranting on a page. And even with scalded fingers too tired to hold open this valve any longer, I don’t feel at all ventilated.

I blame it all on Bieber fans.

Day… Nine?

Man, it’s a good thing I’ve spent a good chunk of my life working two or three jobs. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be quite so used to not getting enough sleep, and I would likely be looking a lot like the aftermath of the Hindenburg right now.

I may or may not be a little more irritable than usual, and a little more prone to introspection-bordering-on-depression the past few days. I’m also remembering dreams again (if not details, then the fact that I had them) every morning. They’re not particularly weird or vivid, aside from the fact that I’m used to not remembering them at all. The only real noticeable side effect — and it might not even be the Chantix causing this, but any number of other factors — is a lack of quality sleep. I can go to bed at whatever time, in whatever state of exhaustion, and I’m pretty guaranteed for the last three nights to sleep no longer than two hours at a stretch.

I’m on this for three more weeks, max, so I’m not too worried about it. And I’ve not been 36 hours without a cigarette (one in the past 60), so now on top of determination, I’ve got the “Why ruin my progress?” thought going for me.

…and then I saw this today:

... Progress Successfully Saved!

… Progress Successfully Saved!

One day at a time, though.

Day six

And day zero of no smokies. Not so bad.

Chantix isn’t necessarily giving me bad dreams, but something — and I’m looking at you, Chantix — is fucking with my sleep patterns. Enough that I’m remembering my dreams a lot — and thus, how I can confirm my sleep patterns are being fucked.

Not so bad, aside from the tired. Got my vape thing, so when I slip and have that physical reflex, I’m okay.

Think this time it’ll finally stick.