Matthew Commentary 03

The funny thing about reading spiritual works such as the Bible, is that you interpret different meanings and see different significances at different times.

One of the most remarkable things that Jesus said was that people should not only not-seek-vengeance for wrongs committed against them, but they should help the transgressor transgress even more! In other words, if you’re slapped on one cheek, provide your other cheek for ease-of-slapping as well. If someone demands your shirt, well give him your coat too. The first time I read that, I thought wow, this guy really must be of a godly nature, that’s some next-level forgiveness right there. He then goes on to say I should not only help these people, but I should LOVE them!? What!?

I thought his standards were impossibly high at this point. I thought I could never reach that level of zen. I figured Christianity wasn’t for me since I just couldn’t maintain that level of committed selflessness. It didn’t help that I believed the world to be a dark place filled with cutthroats wanting nothing more than to lie, cheat, and steal. I’d be left with nothing, I’d be taken advantage of to no end! When reading Matthew, I’d often just stick to the Sermon on the Mount part and ignore the miracle-related magic-stuff — “that’s just old-timey nonsense that’s not relevant today”, I’d think, “just give me the humanistic stuff and leave out the spiritual mumbo-jumbo”.

Well, can you really separate the two? From a physical-world perspective, it kind of makes sense to put up barriers and defend what you have. Yet from a spiritual-world perspective, there’s literally nothing to defend — what we’re experiencing is more dreamlike than actuality. If you want the shirt I’m wearing, sure, it’s not mine to begin with, I didn’t make it, God did and He can simply provide another — here, might as well take my coat as I didn’t make that either. And it turns out, people aren’t waiting in line to slap me — but if they did, sure go-ahead bro, I’ve got two cheeks ya know! It’s not my body, I’m just borrowing it for the time being.

So from a spiritual perspective, I can see how much easier it is to follow the teachings of Jesus. Trying to fit infinite love, selflessness, and unyielding forgiveness within a physical framework is an uphill battle. “I have to survive and earn my way through this world, everything I obtain belongs to me, and I work hard for it.” But to see the world as God’s creation, and myself as an invited guest provided everything I require upon entering, then I’m not entitled to anything, I’m just a guest same as the next guy — I don’t own this seat I’m sitting on nor anything else for that matter, it’s all God’s stuff.

From a spiritual perspective, I’m off the hook, God provides for me — end of story. Anything I wish, I need faith but the size of a mustard seed for it to manifest. How can you not love such a giving host? And being that everything is a creation of this host, how can you not love thy fellow guests? When I interact with others, I’m interacting with God’s creations — therefore, the way in which I treat others is the way in which I treat God himself, so how could I be anything but patient and respectful? And as Jesus said, love for God and neighbor are the great commandments upon which all others depend.

Sure you can try to live a life sans-spirituality — but why, when it’s so much easier the other way? That’s why Jesus seemed to be so frustrated by the end, when he was rebuking that entire generation for their faithlessness. If they’d only believe in the goodness of life, everything would work out, people would experience fulfillment, they’d be without illness, and everyone would get along. But no, the people refused to cooperate, obstinate in their pessimism and dislike for each other. So devoted they were to the physical life, that they murdered the guy for simply offering a better way.

It’s like his dad threw this great party called Earth and there were all these special activities planned for everyone’s amusement — but people started wandering off doing their own thing, smokin’ in the bathroom, pourin’ whiskey in the punch, kickin’ over potted plants, vandalizin’ the house, startin’ fights — and Jesus is trying to tell everyone to chill out, that his dad went to a lot of trouble for them, and they’ll have a much better time if they behave respectfully and get along. Well the crowd wasn’t havin’ it, they dumped a bowl of dip all over his head and threw that Poindexter in the pool.

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Wishlist 2018

If life is a computer-simulation, what changes would you like to see implemented?

From my particular perspective, I would like these aspects altered:
A good night’s sleep every night.
A perfectly functioning physical body.
Increased resources.
Upgraded dwelling.
Light easy travel with family.

In general I’d like to see:
An abundance of safe well-functioning advanced technology.
Worry-free transportation.
Clothing designed to fit flawlessly.
A stable basically futuristic/utopian political climate.

Society-wise, I’d like to see all medical/legal/political and even relationship drama come to a close. Instead of heavy dramatic stuff, I think challenges and competition should come in the form of ever-advancing technology, philosophy, art, athletics, and just creativity in general. There can be exploration of not only space and uncharted regions of the planet, but consciousness and the underlying foundation of existence itself. People often overlook that the Internet was (and still is) a new frontier to be explored and conquered.

P.S. Yes, I do like Star Trek.

Forever Conflicted

An excerpt from the fictional tales of Alien on Earth.

Since its very inception this nation has been at war with itself, it is our national character. From religious separatists to armed insurrection against the ruling power, to slave labor and human trafficking, to natives versus foreigners, an actual civil war, workers and voting rights, politics, generational divides, lifestyle choices, and even the prominence of professional sports shows there has always been division and conflict — one side verses another. I would go so far as to say that those not itching to fight their neighbor lack the American spirit. It’s always been Hatfield versus McCoy, and that can never end lest America end with it.

Don’t like it? Then fight me! Git yer guns and let’s have a feud! Disagreement only proves my point. The problem isn’t the fightin’, it’s the pretending that we’re anything but quarrelsome critters lookin’ to defeat anyone and everyone. We’ll even battle our own self if external enemies can’t be found! And though I’m an American and naturally ignorant of things beyond my native land, I’m sure other nations are just as prone to fightin’ as we are. I can think of at least two world wars for instance. So this belligerent nature appears to be part of the human condition.

So now what? It’s certainly no use talking about “division in America today”, as we can plainly see it’s always been the case and will continue indefinitely. The question is never “should we fight”, as that’s a done deal whose answer is forever YES. The question becomes, which side do I pick and what form shall my attack take. Even the Bhagavad Gita and Krishna himself would corroborate this sentiment, “Stop crying about the impending battle Ajuna, arise and fight!”.

But what about Jesus, certainly he said that we should not only love our neighbors, but our enemies as well. Jesus fought the religious leaders of his time up until they had him executed by the civil authority. Even Jesus picked a side and a means to fight. We can’t not participate, that’s just another form of fighting: fighting against fighting. We are forever tied to a treadmill of conflict.

But that sucks! No it doesn’t! You love fighting, remember!? It’s an endless opportunity to do what you love, duh! The trick is in picking the battles you’re passionate about, the ones you truly want to win. Don’t get swept up in nonsense that doesn’t stoke your inner fire. Grab the weapon you’re comfortable with, the one that feels just right in the hand and start swingin’.

Spoiler Alert. If you haven’t figured it out yet, let me ask you this question. Where does one usually experience an inexhaustible supply of enemies and obstacles? A video-game perhaps? A form of entertainment in which we purposefully put ourself in the midst of challenging combat. So what’s life on Earth then? Seems to me that the underlying concepts are quite similar are they not? And what’s the point of games? To engage our attention for the purpose of having fun.

The problem is not the constant conflict but that we take the game too seriously. Krishna was eventually able to drive this point home to Arjuna, who picked up his bow and started raining arrows down on his beloved friends and family standing on the other side of the battlefield — but now he was okay with the pageantry and spectacle of life. And the same goes for you: do not shrink from battle, you must do as your nature compels, arise and fight!

Tested Faith

An excerpt from the fictional non-fiction tales of Man’s Journey: A Love Story about Life.

I always vacillate between whether life is a movie or a video-game. I know it’s fiction, I’m just not sure which type. To help me ponder this dichotomy apparently, I was recently struck down by a minor illness. Cold, flu, who knows, who cares. First it hit my friend. I laughed a little, secure in my ability to manipulate space-time and all things spiritual while feeling sorry for her lack of faith.

In my view, sickness is preceded by sadness or stress. So in that sense, illness stems from a common source whether your primary foundation of existence lies in a mechanical or spiritual belief system. So either your physical body is worn down and susceptible to disease or your spiritual fortitude is weak and welcomes negative energy into your life.

We can plainly see that not everyone gets sick even when exposed to the same environmental conditions. Why do some get sick while others don’t? There’s something beyond the simplicity of “germs” and “viruses” and exposure. But what? Plus, people’s recovery times vastly vary — but why?

An early influence in my philosophy about life, the zoologist Desmond Morris mentioned in his book The Naked Ape how he believed many forms of sickness to be related to our underlying primate grooming needs. In other words, humans subconsciously use ailments as a means to connect with fellow humans. If someone gets a cold for instance, it’s because he requires comfort and the sickness invites others to take care of him.

I’ve used my current belief for quite awhile to explain sickness, and so far it holds up to the limited scrutiny I’ve applied. The primary reason I maintain this belief is because it helps me to feel as though I’m in control of illness. As long as I’m not sad or stressed, I’ll be fine. If I do get sick, then I know I caused it with my lack of appropriate mental maintenance — something I can work on. Another benefit is that it scares me into keeping a positive attitude — I dare not concentrate on things that sadden or stress lest I get sick.

As it happens, my friend was actually feeling a bit stressed and sad — so her recent illness fits neatly within my model. Under my theory, proper mindfulness could have prevented her sickness once she realized her sad/stressed state. She could have said, “hmm, I notice I’m out-of-sorts, I better adjust my attitude and focus on the great things life has to offer rather than the worst aspects I can imagine — or else I’ll likely induce some sort of physical ailment upon myself.”

Could my friend have played the game better? Or was she scripted to receive her uncomfortable condition? Was an unstoppable wave of negativity coming her way, causing her initial stress and sadness, and then her subsequent physical ailment? Could mindfulness have helped? Is every stimulus mere potentiality, our reactions forming scenes and situations based around our thoughts and emotions? The question becoming, should we accept our fate or fight for the path we prefer?

Well as it turns out, I started feeling a bit off-kilter. Did the stress of my friend’s condition put upon me the impetus to get sick myself? Am I just a wannabe follower forever treading in my friend’s footsteps? Must I simply resign myself to the narrative before me? Could I utilize mindfulness to talk myself out of sickness? Is it my duty to fight against such forces?

Christian Science for instance says that the belief in sickness is my error, God simply doesn’t create such things — I do, through my confusion. My other takeaway from Science and Health, is that we don’t exist within a physical reality, it’s simply a simulation of sorts, thus we’re not limited by the material realm — we create the world through thought.

Even if this is true though, I must be mindful and well-disciplined enough to accept and practice this belief. Do I have that ability? Can I ignore the stimuli that says otherwise? The slight chills creeping down my limbs, the little aches appearing around my body? The tiredness clouding over my mind?

Long story short, I did not have the ability to manipulate space-time and all things spiritual. I had a high temperature and low energy, really bad headache, and couldn’t sleep due to discomfort.

I remember back when I was younger, there was an incident in which I was overcome with sickness. Nothing major, but I was very uncomfortable. Eventually, I got so sick of that sickness that I marched out of my room and into the garage — and closed the door behind me. It was go-time, I was about to get down and dirty. I don’t quite remember the specifics, but I got a bit rough and sickness left after that.

But having just thought about that story, I realize that I have a long history of quarreling with sickness. What this tells me is that I’m “energized” by illness, it’s a problem to solve, a challenge to overcome. So by engaging with sickness, I’m inviting its presence. To remove sickness therefore, I would have to pay it no mind — not ready myself for battle.

I tend to see sickness as a game every time it pops up, a game of can-I-overcome-it? I always refuse medicinal-aids based on that premise: that I will defeat this by my mind alone. One obvious flaw in the game is that if I avoid illness from the start, I can’t win, there’s nothing to play. I’d have to get slightly symptomatic to prove its presence, then dismiss it from there — then I’d win. But that never happens — whenever I get symptoms, I get lost to the illness, focusing only on the ride it takes me on, the total takeover of my physical being.

I’ll admit this other aspect too: in a group, when you’re the one that’s well, a lot of responsibility gets put on your shoulders. Suddenly you go from a dude that just shows up whenever the dinner-bell rings, to a dude that has to fend for himself or even a dude that has to start taking care of others. Yikes. I’ll further admit that I shrink from responsibility, it’s just my nature. So did I feel a sense of relief when I transformed from being the only healthy adult to a poor sickly patient, umm….

And so ladies and gentlemen, I think we have our answer. It was not germs or improper hygiene, nor even a lack of faith that caused illness to manifest within me. No, I was sick simply because it was lonely at the top. It was the shortest route to resigning from a leadership position. It turns out that I am the lazy-good-for-nothing that my friend always accused me of being. But on the plus side, that means I truly do have influence over illness…. Faith restored!

New Lands

When things get cramped, humanity goes exploring, discovering new lands to disperse into. Yet what happens when there’s no place left to go? Well amazingly, new territories appear on the map. Columbus thought he’d find India traveling across the ocean, but oops, something just happened to be in the way, a giant continent. And so a swarm of people left the density of Europe for the relative openness of the Americas. Coincidence?

Well what’s left today? The forests? Oceans? Mars? Cyberspace? All of the above? Solar and battery technology along with satellite and radio communications will make moving away from population centers more doable. And with advancing rocket technology, colonies on Mars are becoming more feasible. As for cyberspace, much of my life already takes place online, a virtual existence — why bother to leave the house at all?

In cyberspace, I can browse the endless aisles of Amazon. I can watch shows catering to my particular personality. I can read the compiled works of human literature. I can video-chat with my mom who’s hundreds of miles away. I can control giant battling robots. And these worlds intersect when people you meet online manifest in-person or when packages arrive or when your heart races from a rather intense online-battle.

But new land doesn’t come cheap does it? There’s always a bit of struggle, no? Whether it’s legislative control, corporate hegemony, restricted bandwidth, technological limitations, griefers, hackers — whatever form it may be. But what game comes without challenge — overcoming obstacles is the entire point of many games. So, the things that get in our way are just part of the fun.

We must consider that not everyone left the Old World for the New, so we shouldn’t expect old ways to be overwritten by the new. Ideally, we should all support each other’s right to go in the direction we choose. Just because we don’t like a certain path, we shouldn’t attempt to shut it down. If people want to live in the forests, in the ocean, on Mars, in cyberspace, or wherever and however they want — then good for them.

By the way, such an obvious pattern of constant realm-expansion should serve as evidence of life’s artificiality. For those of us too tightly wound, we should use these little reminders as reason not to take life too seriously — it’s for entertainment purposes only. There’s always something newer and bigger around the corner. Lack isn’t real, there’s nothing physical confining us. Relax and enjoy the show.

Getting Up

What would make you energized to get out of bed in the morning?

The opportunity for bonding and experiencing lighthearted camaraderie with people I care about.
Delving into new stuff, like on Christmas morning.
Continuing an interesting project I’ve been working on.
Freshly fallen snow.

Great Again

My mother was a kid in the 1950s. She lived with her divorced mom and felt self-conscious about not having a dad around. She was considered fat and as an adult she was always following the latest fad diets. She knew some neighbors but nowadays she knows even more and feels safer than ever. Her biggest fear as a kid was being kidnapped, she had some incident with a guy asking her to find his lost puppy. She was born around the time WWII was ending, a little before the first nuclear bomb was detonated over a city full of people. She saw the end of laws that specifically persecuted the descendants of slaves, although it didn’t really mean much to her. When she was a young adult her peers were being drafted into a war they didn’t support. A president during her young-adulthood was assassinated in office and a later one was disgraced out of office.

I find it strange whenever I hear people claiming things were better in the past. I wouldn’t trade the Internet era for any time in recent history. When I grew up, my biggest aggravation was the unrepentant reruns the TV would air, especially compiled clip-shows of the current season’s episodes. Being the 80s, I did consider global thermo-nuclear war a viable threat too.

When people complain about social media, I find it odd. My childhood consisted mostly of sitting alone in my house watching TV reruns. Calling someone on their house-phone was torture, as anyone could answer, or it could be a busy-signal, or the person wasn’t home — it was inconvenience-cubed. I like the connectedness of today, the new content, I like watching shows whenever I want. And when I was a kid, I just assumed I hated music because I disliked what the radio played — it turns out I like music now that I can select what I want to hear.

When I wanted a specific book, I had to ask the bookstore to order it for me and then wait until they called. When I ordered stuff from a catalog (toys, trinkets, clothes, whatever), I tore out the order-form, meticulously filled it in, mailed it along with my mother’s check, then waited three weeks until the check cleared and the item arrived in the mail. When I missed an episode of my favorite show I waited weeks until it aired again as a rerun. When I wanted to watch a movie I had to go to the movie theater to watch it, that is until video rentals became a thing, then I could choose from a selection of crappy movies because that’s all they had in stock.

I love mobile-phones. When I was a kid, you just showed up hoping other people would be there. If you had the wrong time and your mom dropped you off, you were outta luck. Incessant waiting without knowing was a thing. It was nerve-wracking, what if no one came, what if I had the wrong date, I’d be stuck.

When I thought of cities when I was a kid, I pictured violent crime, gangs, graffiti, vandalism, riots, pollution. When I think of cities today I picture culinary adventures, tech hubs, gentrification, and hipsters. When I thought of Europe as a kid, I thought of spies and cold-war stuff, iron-curtains and oppressed peoples, hijackings, bombings, post-war aftermath, and bad food. Nowadays when I think of Europe I picture modern well-taken-care-of citizens in charming old-world settings. When I thought of nature, I pictured endless litter and toxic dumping. Nowadays I picture beautiful beaches and well-maintained woods.

In my opinion anyway, this is the best it’s been (there’s even robots on Mars!) — screw the haters that say otherwise.