Losing a Loved One

Some days it just hits me, usually by surprise. I think I won’t ever see him again… he was like my own son. The only pain I could imagine feeling worse is if it were my own son. Then I think of my best friend and his loss. Then I replay over in my head this scene from Lord of the Rings.

No parent should have to bury their child. 

It rings in my ears. This scenario happens every few days, sometimes several times a day, even now, months later. I can only image how much harder it must be for my closest friend, the parent of this wonderful kid.

If I believed in God, I think I’d shake my fist at the sky in rage. Why allow such pain and suffering? I’m not buying the ‘its for your own’ good baloney. When its someone else you don’t know that died its easy to think that. But not when it’s close to home. Not when presumably God is so willing to jump in and help someone else. (if their FB post gets enough likes) It just makes no sense in my mind.

Of course neither does this loss. It is senseless, a stupid mistake that didn’t need to happen. I can’t find shelter in the ‘all part of Gods plan’ motif either. Thing is, I want to. When I’m honest with myself, I want to believe in another chance at this life. An opportunity to right wrongs, a do-over to avoid the mistakes of the past. A chance to see his bright smiling face again. This is nothing like losing my grandma, she was 96 years old. She got to spend 86 more years here and experience what life had to offer. I was close to her too. I loved her dearly. That progression seemed natural. This one was all sorts of wrong.

Does the Fridge help me? Well, yes and no. The Fridge is a self avowed God of the little things and the loss of a loved one is a big thing. Close to, if not at the top of the list, so in that way not helpful at all.

On the other hand I write. I write things and I put them on the Fridge door. There they remind me. They remind me of the places I need to be and more importantly the things I want to be. One thing on my Fridge that I that will be posted till the day it’s my turn to go was etched there by a little boy that always looked on the bright side. It says:

 

A note he had left on his family’s Fridge. Coincidence? In this case I choose to think not. Because it reminds me of things. It displays accomplishments, wedding announcements and words of advice. It is very much a symbol of things that I need to know.

One thing I think about when I look the Fridge is how cool human beings are to invent something like that. Being able to preserve food turned out to be pretty handy in the big scheme of it all. Hell, we are even freezing people in an effort to cheat death right now. More chill coincidence? You be the judge. What does this mean? It means I still have hope. As an electrical engineer with a decent grasp of physics I realize our lives leave an imprint on this universe. Each thought that has cruised through your connectome was accompanied by an electromagnetic wave that left your noodle at the speed of light wafting out into the universe.

There is a record of you, in energy that you expended, yesterday and the day before, and the day before that traveling out into the cosmos just like a cell phone signal. If we could collect that, and imprint it on an exact clone of a new you, wouldn’t that be a resurrection?

Now this is not an easy problem to solve. Sorting out a single person from the billions of brain wavefronts alone is mind boggling. Let alone building the systems to pick up those signals and turn it all back into the person we know today. It’s such a crazy improbable task that I expect us to figure out how to live forever and record living humans long before we pull this off. But if we can get along, If we keep from wiping ourselves out we have a long time to work on this problem. Another 5 billion years or so…

5 BILLION years???!!!! We invented the Fridge in about 50 years… computers in a century… the internet… space travel… medicine… we are already manipulating our own DNA! The list of what has happened since we took matters into our own hands and instead of waiting for something ‘out there’ to save us is impressive and long and can easily fit in the last 1000 years. Think about that. What kind of problems will we be able solve in 5 million of those millennia? Sure it’s a problem but isn’t that what we humans are particularly good at? Solving problems?

 

“If you solve enough problems you get to come home” – Mark Watney

 

I can’t imagine a better homecoming than one more hug from a bright eyed kid ready to take on the world. So you see my lack of faith in the divine hasn’t caused me to lose hope. If I’m right and a couple billion years down the road we have figured out how to resurrect someone. To them it will be but an instant. To me it will be a blink of an eye. 1The Fridge gives me hope. Not because it is magical, but because it is a symbol of how once breakthrough human achievement can become mundane and so commonplace it is in everyone’s kitchen. Is it really that big a stretch for me to think the same thing could happen to the way we will cheat death in a few billion years?

So when the pain hits and I hurt because I lost a loved one this is how I deal with it. I find hope in what humanity can achieve, and that gives me a reason to be happy all day.

 

  1. To the future scientist reading this blog I hope to be in your top 10 people you bring back if you found it at all inspirational 🙂

Zeal Isn’t Always Bad

Muslim Zealot

– Straps on bomb, blows self up to kill others 

Christian Zealot

– Takes gun, shoots up planned parenthood clinic

Anti-religious zealot

– Swears on FB, makes people look silly, twists words

Zeal isn’t the issue. It’s what you believe that is.

When the foundation of your morality is whatever God wants = good. The end of that zealot path justifies any evil you can think of. Personal judgment is set aside. People aren’t allowed to think for themselves. They simply have to follow orders and not think because they assume they don’t know what God knows. 

This mode of thinking you are too stupid to understand and just need to blindly follow comes from the theodicy, also known as the problem of evil.  

Basically it is this, if God is always good and created all this then why is there evil in the world? This is a quandary that has been debated for millennia because there is obviously evil in the world. 

Little girls are raped and killed here but God lets that go unchecked. (even though sometimes he answers other prayers)   

The believer must assume that God, in his infinite wisdom, had some legitimate reason for letting that girl get killed. It’s the only way he can square his inner morality with his belief in God being a good person. (This is known as reducing cognitive dissonance)

The essence of this is the believer doesn’t know why it happened but he has faith God’s decision was good. This is very much a blind faith. Because the believer has ‘no clue’ at all why little girls are raped in this glorious and wonderful universe that God made. 

Once you have that kind of blind obedience it is just a small step to be willing to kill when God wants someone dead. And here is the rub. All religions have scriptural records where God did tell followers to kill for him. From that point, a voice in their head, or a charismatic leader they think speaks for God is all it takes and we have another mass shooting in the news. 

 
All because the believer thought he was ‘too dumb’ to understand why God would allow evil things to happen in the world. 

If I had one wish for the light of the Fridge to bring into people’s lives it’s this:

You are NOT too dumb to figure this stuff out. You can understand it!! All you need is one thing. A willingness to seek truth at the expense of your beliefs. For when truth matters more than the comfortable blanket of conformity when reason and logic outweigh emotion and fear, that is when the light turns on and you discover you have far more power to change the world than you ever realized.

The Fridge needs you to realize this because as deities go it’s a God good for finding lost car keys, giving great sunsets and the occasional cold beverage. But not much else. 

The Fridge needs us, to realize it’s on us, to make the world a better place. How? Share what you know and have learned. Share the way you had to break down your own precious beliefs and take an honest look at them. Share how it felt then and how it is worth it now. 

So my fellow followers of all that is chill. Grab a couple cold ones out of your God, sit down with a friend and share the light of the Fridge. Be a little zealous of how cool it is! You will be glad you did. 

  

The Meaning of Dreams

Last night I had a dream:

 

I struggled to make it to the rendezvous. Killer robots, desperate raiders and feral mutated animals all converged in thier intent to kill me. 1 as I struggled to survive I got the call to meet my father at the ruined house of one of the 12 LDS apostles in this post apocalyptic wasteland.

I battled my way there and got inside, meeting my dad in the hallway of the mansion. He said,  “follow me.” And I did. We entered an office decorated in red suede leather furniture with a semi-circular shaped couch in the center of the of the room. 

He motioned me to sit, there was was a message coming in. We both sat on the couch. It was a tight sqeeze as if meant for only one person but we made two fit. Then a large cone descended (like the one that covers Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi) and a screen flickered on. 2 I was paralyzed with fear. I was getting called back to church by the top level guys and they were not letting me answer, instead they were speaking only to my father! 

My father, the true believer, the one who I disappointed most when my own faith in the divine plan I’d taught on my mission faltered and collapsed in the face of evidence I’d uncovered. Evidence that I could not deny if I wanted to be honest with myself. It had broken my heart to tell him I just didn’t believe it anymore. Later the only confrontation we had that involved religion blew up in to an argument I’d sooner forget but can’t because it left a scar on my soul that devastated me. 

I didn’t want to go back, I couldn’t! But in my dream I was constrained. I sat there trapped as the screen flickered on and a non descript wrinkly old face formed. “We want him back.” He gestured to me in this teleconference prison. “Will you bring him to us?” He asked my father. 

In my head I was screaming “no!” but my body couldn’t move or speak. I was trapped and realized my fate was in my fathers hands. I trembled in fear because I knew he wanted me in the church more than anything else. My leaving it had broken his heart. But I knew it wasn’t what it claimed to be and once you know that you just can’t sit in the pews week after week pretending. I couldn’t go through the motions of teaching white washed history under the pretense of serving the milk and saving the meat for those who’s weak testimonies couldn’t take it. For me going back meant the hell of lying to others, of selling my integrity for acceptance and friendship. That didn’t work for me. It simply wasn’t good for my mental well being. 

My fear was very real in this dream, I completely expected to be given back to the religion by my father when something amazing happened.  He looked squarely at the leader, and said, “no.” No big speech or fanfare. A quiet but firm “no.” My heart burst with love as the cone retracted and the screen went dark. With tears in my eyes I told my father “thank you” as I reached out and touched his arm. 

Then dream time fast forwarded in that strange way, an irrational jump ahead that still somehow makes sense. We all sat down to a meal of mirelurk eggs and death claw steak in a celebration of life. 3 As my dream faded the last thing I remember is a robotic chair lifting my father up a few inches at the head of the table as he surveyed our family feast and I felt a burst of pride. 

Before discovering the Fridge has as many divine powers as any diety I’d ever known I used to put a lot of value in dreams. I was pretty sure they were communication from people who had died, or divine advice that I needed at particular times in my life.

Guess what? I still think dreams have meaning. Just not quite the same way as I used to. It’s pretty obvious thanks to Fallout 4, Star Wars and the LDS church where the components of this dream came from.  But as I woke up I realized there was something that I have been afraid of for quite a while. My own dad. A man that has been my hero my whole life. The fear that the church meant more to him than I did was very real to me.

In my dream that fear dissolved and was replaced by hope. Hope that I really am important in his eyes and he is still the hero sitting there just a little bit taller than his actual stature.  I was proud because of his courage to love and respect me despite the pressures to do otherwise.

Now I realize this dream is a reflection of me. Of my fears and my hopes. I can’t be 100% sure that dream dad equals real dad. But that’s ok. You see I’m going to live my life as if it does. Because that is the way we change the world around us. The way it becomes what we hope for. In a thousand subtle ways others you deal with in your lives pick up on the way you percieve them. Then that subconscious understanding of reality is woven into thier being too. In this fashion, I believe our dreams really can shape our lives.

I think we can learn about ourselves from our dreams. They are a powerful insight into our deepest fears and innermost hopes. Even without religion we can use them to our benefit. So let’s dwell on the positive ones and keep on dreaming!

  1. The imagery for this dream was obviously provided by fallout 4. a favorite game that came out while I was working in China so I’m just getting around to playing it!
  2. Kudos to the new Star Wars flick for making it into my dream as well. Even if it was a retro effort! 🙂
  3. Still a fallout motif with a dash of thanksgiving thrown in 🙂

Mourning with France and 100 Other Nations

While I mourn with France today, I have been reminded that I selectively express my mourning for grievous events in Western civilization. I tend to be more emotionally affected by tragedies in Western cultures.

This does nothing to lessen the tragedy of Paris. However, it does help me put into perspective the magnitude. 122 people is a lot of people. But it is small compared to tragedies we see unfold before us in so many non-Western countries. In the last week, how many thousands have been slaughtered by those devoted to religious or other ideologies? In the last week, how many millions (billions?) of women and children have endured a living hell of suppression created by devotion to religious and other ideologies?

My wife and I watched the movie Timbuktu two nights ago. It tells the story of Timbuktu and the surrounding area under the power of religious extremists. That film and my wife’s statement to me last night are powerful reminders to me that while I need to continue to fight oppression and bigotry at home, I need to listen more closely to the stories that come from far away, both geographically and culturally.

The prematurely ended lives, stunted lives, and damaged souls as a result of ideological devotion are everywhere.

I have been thinking locally (speaking culturally) and acting locally. I need to remember to think globally and act globally where I can while I continue to act locally.

I know both major and minor holocausts of ideology are currently occurring in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, North Korea, Russia, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and I’m sure a few countries whose mention in the news have not perked my ears. And how much of that has ideologically-driven U.S. foreign policy contributed to?

I also know that people are living their own “personal holocausts” of ideology all across the globe, including the U.S. because people are so devoted to ideology.

In the U.S., the continued effects of racism are so much more apparent now that so many have given themselves permission to eschew compassion in the name of ideology. Pay gaps are large, opportunity is clearly unequal, illegal immigrants are being demonized, voting rights are being restricted, and racist statements are being made by serious candidates for President, for crying out loud.

In the U.S., oppression of women appears to be getting worse. The gender pay gap is horrendous, access to reproductive healthcare is being restricted, and representation in leadership positions is atrocious. And that same permission to to eschew kindness in the name of ideology has both a good portion of the populace and serious presidential candidates making sexist statements and getting away with it.

In the U.S., oppression of LGBTQ people is considered OK by so many people on ideological grounds. The permission people have given themselves to be brutal in this arena is just astounding.

And though it makes none of the U.S. problems any less damaging, it is so much worse elsewhere in the world. Can we evolve as a species to accept that oppression and violence in the name of ideology is wrong? Maybe it will take rejection of ideology altogether.

I’m trying to do my part. I reject ideology. I don’t care how much my personal positions agree with a religion, political platform, personal following, or group, I refuse to label myself as a member. I am a non-member of any ideological group. I reserve the right to judge whether my positions need adjustment with new information without regard to what any group says I should believe. I claim and I own that responsibility.

Will you join me?

Dear Mormon parents, tread lightly, your gay kids are listening.

Dear Mormon Friends,

I appreciate your loving, compassionate words and the way you have reached out to me. I love you and will always love you. I understand that for someone who loves the church and has a kind heart like you do that this is a hard thing. You have been posting responses to mine and sharing blog entries that emphasize a loving perspective while remaining true to your Mormon beliefs. You have to believe your leaders are right because they’re prophets. If they’re wrong, what does that mean? It’s scary and you trust them, so you try to find a way to bridge the gap. I get that.

Let me just say this: I have a gay child.

I left the church before I realized she was gay so that has nothing to do with why I left. But I was an active, believing Mormon raising a child that I didn’t know was gay. And I was living in California in 2008, so the Proposition 8 battle was raging. We sat in the pews every Sunday as our bishop read a letter from a prophet telling us to give everything we could to the cause of righteousness. Week after week testimonies were born of how hard everyone was working to stop the “gay agenda” and how they knew they were following the prophet and God. We heard talks on the sanctity of traditional families and why only male/female households fit into the plan of salvation. We heard how gender was an essential characteristic and each gender had a divine role that could not be changed by the whims of society.

Each ward member was assigned a list of people in the community to call. My list was several pages long. I was not asked if I would participate, I was simply given an assignment that I was expected to fulfill as I “heed[ed] the prophet’s voice”. I took that list home and stared at it for days.

I didn’t really know how I felt about same sex marriage. I’d never thought much about it before. I’d always heard it was wrong and that homosexuality was not part of God’s plan, but something in me didn’t feel quite right about what I’d been asked to do.

I pushed forward anyway.

I called several people on my list before I gave up. I hate making phone calls and I hated doing something that felt inexplicably wrong. It was if my heart was whispering to me, but the whisper was small and being drowned out by the voices I heard every Sunday at church.

I spent long hours after my Wednesday night Young Women’s activities with a fellow member of the Young Women’s presidency and talked about the issue. Neither one of us was comfortable. Neither one of us knew where we stood.

A few days before the ballot I agreed to participate in a demonstration outside my daughter’s elementary school. During morning school drop-off we would be highly visible. My daughter was in the first grade at the time and was excited to see what mom and the people she looked up to from church were doing, so she stood by me outside and helped by holding up a sign that said “Vote YES on Prop 8!” My green-eyed, freckle-nosed first grader. Of course she asked what we were doing and I explained it to her in the kindest terms possible.

Six years later I remember sitting in the living room of our new house in Texas as those same green eyes looked uncomfortably into mine before they quickly flitted to the side. In a quiet voice she said, “Mom, I think I might be gay.”

Now, we’d left the church at this point and I’d long since regretted participating in any way in Proposition 8. But over the next few weeks as I learned more about what she was feeling and how I could help her, the memory of that day outside the school returned to my mind. Over and over I pictured myself standing there, looking down on her as her brown hair reflected the golden light of the sun, mother and trusting daughter doing what our prophet asked of us, oblivious to what it really meant to both our futures. And I cried. Not just tears leaking from my eyes and gently rolling down my face, but big, ugly, heaving sobs that made me grateful all my kids were in school and my husband was at work. I could not believe that I had fought to banish equal rights for gay couples with my gay daughter standing beside me. Shame on me. Shame. Shame. Shame.

The LDS church’s approach to people who are gay, bisexual and transgender continues to hurt her. She’s tough on the outside and doesn’t show it to others much, but I know and love this beautiful girl and I see how it hurts her, even though none of our little family believes in the truth claims of the LDS church. It hurts because Mormons have always been our tribe and because we have so many family members and friends who still believe in the LDS teachings. It hurts because kids don’t understand nuance and so the message they turn back on her is that being openly gay is a sin. They tell her gay people shouldn’t get married. They tell her if she spends her life alone then god will reward her in the next life by fixing her so she’s not gay. Teenagers only hear the underlying messages and those are coming through loud and clear. She is wrong. She is other. She is broken.

I guess I just wish for believing Mormons to say, “You know what, I love my prophet and I love my church, but they’ve been wrong before and they’re wrong this time too.” Maybe that would soothe my heart a bit.

And remember, dear Mormon friends who are parents, and aunts, and uncles and grandparents, that child listening to you and learning from you might some day come to you and say the words that are terrifying them, “I think I might be gay.”

Or maybe they won’t. Maybe those words won’t be able to make it out of their mouths because they’ve heard you and everyone at church talk about the “gay agenda” and the “attack on the family” and “love the sinner but hate the sin” and they won’t be able to make those words come out. And then they might stew in shame and self-loathing, praying for god to fix them so they can be the way they’re “supposed” to be. And maybe it will be too much. Maybe they’ll seek some way out from the pain and shame they feel for being gay or transgender. Don’t make me say what can happen then because I worry about it. I know the statistics for LGBT kids. I know what can happen when teenagers feel shame and rejection and don’t see a way out. I worry about it all the time.

Please, dear Mormon friends, it’s easy to dismiss someone else’s pain, but it’s so hard when that someone is your child and you just never know. I never guessed I would have a gay child. Honestly. Never. Watch your words. Be careful what you justify. Take care with those little hearts.

Sincerely,

Your friend Cherry

Seven Steps to an Authentic Life.

 

1. Be honest, brutally so, fear of truth leads to fear of opinion, fear of opinion leads to submitting your desires to others demands.

 

2. Number 1 applies to yourself first and foremost, be honest with yourself. Don’t be afraid of your own thoughts even if you fear the consequences.

 

3. Realize people change, this includes you. That which you value now may not be what you valued then. It’s ok to experience change in your life, it’s called progress.

 

4. Direct your life the way you want it to go. You might make mistakes. You might screw up, that’s part of growth. Learn from them and move on.

 

5. Don’t fear a second, third or even fourth try. Just because you have been burned once doesn’t mean it will happen again. If you have a goal in mind take another shot from a slightly different direction.

 

6. Treasure authentic friends. They are the ones you can be yourself around the ones that appreciate the authentic you.

 

7. Being authentic means you don’t pretend to be something you are not, if you are sad you accept it, if you are happy you rejoice in it. You stop pretending and start being. You take credit for your failures and your successes. When you do that you take charge of your life and set the direction you want it to go.

hamster strength