A few odds’n’ends

Since I’ve been reading a couple of really good liberal Christianity blogs, I’ve been finding links to a lot of interesting content. I’ll be sharing more, goin’ forward. Also, politics.

A nice take on Catholic education, as it should be. I really did luck out with my 2nd Catholic school, even though my father apologized for it. The quality of teaching was much higher, especially in the subjects that still dominate a lot of my thinking – science, English, literature…

This is one of the books I’m reading right now. (Out of… about 4. Maybe 5. heh. I need to organize that better.) It’s going to be grist for later posts about BDSM, masculinity, and a bunch of things, but my oh my is it fascinating reading. I know that not all straight men are like the pick-up artist community, but holy fuck are these guys strange. Then again, I could write a similar book, starting with blog posts, about gay culture. *lightbulb* OK, will keep that idea on file. And I really want to meet the book’s author, who I know lives in Chicago. Maybe some year I’ll get off my ass…

I’m always looking for new music(even though my collection is at… 91GB of music. Which translates to over 39 days, total. And that’s just music, not counting lectures, both audio-only and video, that I’ve downloaded. plus all the podcast novels I’ve listened to, and the podcasts I listen to on a daily basis… There’s a reason I always have iTunes open on my mac, currently named Gnosis. *grin* One of my best sources for new music every year is the best albums list created by one of my favorite web cartoonists every year. I’m just getting to Jeph’s list this year, but it’s got 15 albums, and in the past he’s lead me to some of my favorite music, like Royksopp:

Yeah, weird video – awesome music, though! And if you have any recommendations, please do keep ’em coming.

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Wonder and beauty and awe! (Oh my!) And creation.

One thing I alluded to over-vaguely in yesterday’s post on religion  is one of the things I feel is most important in bringing me back, however vaguely or UU-like(Mulder refers to the UUs as “Principle without belief”, as opposed to his description of the Republicans, “Belief without principles”), is a sense of awe, of wonder, at the beauty in the Universe, an appreciation of the infinities of space and time that science has a really good hold on, but religion generally ignores.

There are occasional exceptions. This is a really crappy version of a hymn I remember from later in my Catholic school years:

It’s campy, but it at least demonstrates my point: this world, this universe, is the only thing we know we have. And it’s fucking amazing. If you can look at stuff like this and not feel awe, there’s something wrong with you. Sadly, though, one of the best places to find a sensawunda these days is still in science fiction – or occasionally in science fact. Although if you have the right mindset, you can still find it. When Mulder took me to Hawaii last year, and we were on top of Haleakalā, and I could see all of the Milky Way spilled out like stardust on velvet… it was absolutely breathtaking, and as close to a religious moment as science can take you.

That’s a point that way too much of the science-vs-creationism debate sadly misses. (Granted, I still think the Young-Earth Creationists are fucking loons, and “creation science” is a fraud as cruel as homeopathy. And if they’re right, and you have a God up in Heaven that would resort to something like blatant lies, maybe I’d be better off in Hell.)

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Presented without further comment…

“For  a well-rounded education, you could try curling up with good books and bad librarians.”

Richard Needham

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A few witches burning, gets a little toasty…

Sorry I’ve been quiet – a whole week just kind of got away from me somehow… I won’t commit to posting daily, but I will try to keep it pretty consistent, at least. So, I’ll try not to let more week-long hiatuses happen unannounced.

That said, into the meat of the things…

I was raised Catholic – something my father has apologized for. Well, he apologized for the 8 years of Catholic school. I was also Confirmed, although that was purely to keep my mother happy. I’d started questioning the Catholicism I’d been raised with at about the age of 10, and by the time I turned 12 I’d pretty much fully renounced the faith entirely. That, too, was all my mother – she was very good at emphasizing all that’s bad in Catholic doctrine(the utterly punitive nature of God, the fallen nature of all humanity, the ultimate depravity of all women) while utterly ignoring the good parts of Jesus’ message. Of course, that’s due to a lot of the Catholicism she absorbed – pre-Vatican II, still drowned in Latin and incense. She didn’t adapt to the changes very well… heh.

I went from being Catholic to (self-, and only internally) identifying as pagan. Not much of a switch, there… And in retrospect I realize a lot of what was going on in my head then, with these odd self-aggrandizing epics involving titanic, invisible battles between angels and demons, was really compensating for amazingly deep loneliness. At that point in my life, I could count the friends my age I had on one, maybe two hands. And not many more sympathetic adults… It was a bad time. heh.

My 20s were spent pretty firmly towards the atheist end of the atheism/agnosticism spectrum, with a position I would jokingly describe as “evangelical agnosticism”. To wit, “I don’t know, and you don’t, either.”

That, too, is shifting a bit. It’s odd, too – a lot of my questioning of the idea of spirit comes from my grasp of science. Specifically, what the Internets call stellar nucleosynthesis. The short explanation – the most abundant substance in the universe, probably the only thing created during the Big Bang, is hydrogen. Stars are big balls of hydrogen undergoing fusion – getting smashed together to make helium. And when stars explode, they make all the really heavy shit – from iron through and beyond uranium. This means that the carbon and oxygen and hydrogen we’re mostly made from, and all the rest of the stuff we’re made from, was at one point part of a star. So, you, and I, and everybody else, and all the other sentient things out there(since there has to be something out there) are, literally, starstuff. This isn’t really news – Delenn in Babylon 5 said it on TV in the 90s. But it ‘s something that a lot of people, including those on my favorite internet hangout, are increasingly aware of. (And celebrating(that’s been my wallpaper for weeks now.) And that fact, combined with all we’ve been able to learn about Nature, the fact that nature is, to even some extent, knowable, says to me that there’s Something Going On, and that something is greater than we can understand.

I’ve been talking a lot with Shepherd, a priest I know(in fact, the same priest who’ll be doing the ceremony for Mulder and I this fall) about stuff like this, and the position I’ve basically arrived at he termed panentheism. Reading the page, and pondering the difference between panentheism and pantheism, took a while, but it made sense at the end, and the distinction is important.

As far as the afterlife is concerned, I don’t know. I’d like to think there’s something significant, since human thoughts and emotions are a lot of energy, and it’d be an awful waste for that energy to just go away when we die.

One of the more useful things Shepherd has said to me is that reading the Bible and wondering about heaven is like consulting the rulebook for football for clarification on home runs – it’s not the book that’s appropriate for the job. It’s a guide to this life, and how we’re supposed to treat each other. It’s a fault or at least a limitation of mine that, given my still-in-progress recovery from my upbringing that I can’t quite appreciate the Bible for it’s good life lessons right now, and I have to leave it aside. But I know it’ll be waiting for me when I need it.

So, in accordance with the dictates of St. Savage, hallowed be his name, I took what he calls the Campsite Rule of dating and generally apply it to the whole world. He says that boyfriends, like campgrounds, should be left in better shape when you depart than it was when you get there – so, make it better. That’s such damn good advice(that I’ve tried, very hard, to follow – with mixed results) that I’ve applied it to the whole world, and as many of my daily interactions as I can. And really, I think that’s a pretty good way to live, for now.

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Turning all our children into hooligans and whores!

Despite all my sexual adventures, I’ve always been oddly reticent about drugs. (And I do consider alcohol a drug.)

I didn’t start drinking until I was 21 – specifically, my 21st birthday, when the Tsarina took me out on a bar crawl for my birthday. He bought quite a few drinks that night – even then, I had a certain mass advantage, and I pretty quickly built up a decent tolerance. And getting really involved in furry helped, too – furries love their booze. I think it helps make the pain go away.

Then I found the SCA… While it really stands for Society Creative Anachronism, but one of the common joke expansions for the acronym is Society for Crazy Alcoholics. I tend to prefer the Society for Consenting Adults, but they all work in different ways. When Mulder got me into the SCA, in 2008, I also met his awesome friends, some of whom could be near-professional drinkers. Mulder and I were really shocked one day when we figured out we’re technically binge drinkers – once in a while we get together with a bunch of SCA friends and really tie one on. We’re always careful, there are enough designated drivers or hotel rooms, and there are enough non-drinkers scattered about to keep the chaos from getting out of hand.

And then, just over two years ago, I tried pot.

Mulder and I were in a nearby state for an SCA event, and after the event was over we drove to visit some friends of ours, furs, who lived relatively nearby in the state. They offered, quite graciously, to smoke me up, and I accepted. There wasn’t quite an angelic choir singing, but I do have to say, it was love at first puff.

I don’t want to sound incredibly arrogant about this, but… I’m smart. Too smart, really. And sometimes it can be really really problematic. Overwhelming, even. And the pot just makes it all OK. I’m still pretty clearheaded, but my thoughts work differently. Things are slower, looser, and I’m actually able to follow whole lines of thought to their conclusion, because there aren’t always new things coming in to outcrowd them. And the cross-connections are, of course, fascinating.

Now, since I’m that kind of guy, I’ve done a lot of research, and I pretty firmly believe that using marijuana, especially given its antianxiety and antidepression effects for me, is a lot better than adding more prescriptions, with all their side effects. I think that marijuana prohibition is pretty immoral and, well, legally silly at best. And I think the War on Drugs has been a colossal failure in terms of law enforcement, medical policy, and humanitarian concerns.

So… I try to make sure I buy my weed from responsible, ethical growers, keep my money out of the hands of the cartels, and most of my “drug abuse” involves getting baked and playing video games, possibly watching nature documentaries, and overtipping when I order pizza. Oh, and there’s the stoned kinky sex with my boyfriend… I am the fall of western civilization!

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32 Flavors – of nerd!

Today, Mulder attended a meeting while I studied for the PMP exam, then we had dinner with a techie friend who operated on our TV Mac and made us dinner. What a guy, eh?

The funny, or more likely “funny” thing is that the meeting was with a group of nerds, the dinner was with a group of nerds, and there were individuals in both groups that would have probably gotten along quite well together – but aside from via the influence of Mulder and I, these two groups of people will likely never meet. They’re from non-overlapping fandoms(link here), and people from fandoms tend to run fairly tightly in their preferred fandom, without crossing over much. Mulder and I are fairly rare in that we cross over a lot into different fandoms, and spend fairly serious amounts of time and energy on them.

Furry is how Mulder and I met, long long ago. Briefly infamous in the early 2000s, thanks to a CSI: Las Vegas episode, an ER episode, and a really shitty Vanity Fair article, furries are at heart people who really enjoy anthropomorphized animals. That’s it. The really complicated stuff hits when you start trying to figure out what furry means to a given individual. For Mulder, furry is about the artwork, and the people. For me… it’s about the people. Always has been. I found furry when I was very confused about my place in the world, and who I could be, much less who I was. In furry I found an extremely, wonderfully open and welcoming community – over the years, I figured out that furry’s incredibly open arms have a downside, too. In furry, there is no positive pressure for change at all. As much as high-status furries might joke about no-job slackers who live in their parents’ basements, in furry there isn’t much real opprobrium for there. But, for a long time, that sense of welcome is exactly what I needed, and in addition to the love of my life, it’s given me an amazing circle of friends.

The SCA is, according to legend, described in an FBI file as “harmless weirdos”, despite the fact that it’s a very enthusiastic private army – one of the world’s largest. (Yeah, the gear’s a little out of date… but it’s easier to repair!) It’s a nonprofit living history group dedicated to researching, recreating, and educating about the world prior to 1600. The SCA has been very welcoming, too, but in a different way than furry is. F’example, almost nobody cares that I’m queer and poly, but it’s as a whole much more hetero and monogamous. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not how I live my life. So there’s a certain… distance. On the other hand, there’s a lot of very positive, encouraging gentle pressure to improve yourself and make life, and the organization, better. This works because the SCA is highly centralized, while furry grew… much more organically. The award structure just wouldn’t work. I’ve got an amazing group of friends there, too, in a totally different way than furry.

We have really loose connections to the larger sci-fi/fantasy community, and watch quite a few geeky/fannish shows, but it’s not like we’re Browncoats, y’know?

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The “Holy Shit, It’s Really Happening” Files, Part I

Mulder and I woke up this morning, stumbled into our respective showers(we have two fully functioning showers now, and each claimed one) and headed downtown.

Mulder had met a kinky daddy dom on Fetlife, and the guy works as a jeweler downtown. Mulder had discussed our wedding plans with him, and he offered to set us up with wedding rings. Here’s what we settled on:

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They’re tungsten-carbide, with a carbon-fiber band under a protective coating. Nifty, eh?

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