Posts Tagged ‘religion’

When I’m sad, hurt, frustrated or scared, I wish I believed in religion. Any religion. It seems that many religious people can wrap their worries and scares up into bundles and give it to someone or something, thus leaving them relaxed and refreshed to go on with their lives.

But I’m not religious. I grew up immersed in a myriad of religious beliefs – from Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism (even went to Catholic school), several forms of Christianity, and with close ties to Islam. With all of that, you’d think I’d be at least one and a half of something, right? Nope. I’ve found that many of these holy books, from what I’ve learned and read, provide similar messages in different ways. However, I haven’t been able to find texts proving there’s a God to worship without these items having first gone through numerous translations or cleansing efforts by kings and other leaders at the time, and don’t require discussion, or understanding, or studies of some kind today to decipher. Sure, I think there are some good life lessons to be found in holy books because there are, I just don’t subscribe to a religious belief or live as if there is a God of some entity ruling every aspect of my life, demanding that I have a particular belief or set of thoughts on everyday life issues. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with believing. It’s just not for me.

So here I am, stuck, somewhat, relying on myself, my value system and my sometimes fading sanity, to get through life’s sharp turns, and deal with the bony elbows to the ribs, and knocked knees to my forehead. But I will. Maybe with a mild concussion. As will you. Even if you don’t know it yet. And maybe without being concussed.

I hope that soon we will all figure out that we’re all on the same path together, no matter the religion, culture, or even political party. I hope we can find ways to steer clear of hate in all forms, or stand strong in the face of it, as we enhance our lives, beliefs, and show each other love. Because that’s really what’s needed – more love – regardless of our past, our present and our circumstances. When has hate ever solved anything? I know when I’m frustrated I’m more inclined to make a stupid choice. Don’t be me on stupid.

So while I don’t believe in a particular God, nor do I believe in the world’s most popular religions, I see that their tenets of love and kindness are being ignored. As I deal with my own issues of hurt, frustration, loss, and others things that go bump in my head, I hope you can too.

Love ya! 😉

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Death and Life

Posted: August 2, 2015 in Awake, Rocks in my path
Tags: ,

Rumi Quote

 

Death and Life. One does not exist without the other. Many are afraid of, or try to slow a pending death. I have done this and sometimes I still do. I’m not perfect. I also discovered I can’t stop death. Of course I knew this but it didn’t stop me from trying at times. If death is my next step, my next pathway, there is nothing I can do to slow the progression and metamorphosis of me into whatever I will become or not become. I don’t know if I’ll exist in a different form or just cease to exist. I don’t have the answers. Thing is, I don’t believe any of the religious leaders or deities or Gods have the answers either. If they did, there’s be clearer messages and less man-written texts about how to live, how to behave, etc. I believe we are given free will and free thought for a reason. What’s the reason? Well, for us to use our brains, our souls, our instincts to create, to build, to do, to love, to live, and so much more!

I believe in spirituality and in a higher power. However, I don’t believe that an enlightened being, or higher power is immersed in, or frankly, gives a damn about what we as humans are doing with our everyday lives and whether we are wealthy or sick or poor or angry or happy. I also don’t believe that when some material wealth or some heath “miracle” or good fortune befalls us, that God is being good to us. Because if I believe that, I may be asked to believe that those who don’t worship the same way or the same God, are being punished. And well, I don’t want to worship a petty or vindictive God. Working for some people in positions of power is stressful enough. Why would I want to have that type of narcissistic fool dictating my every move?

I challenge those who feel that way to remove the man-written verses out of a holy book and consider the options. Oh, and no, I’m not asking you to stop believing what you do, I’m simply asking you to just think about life without religion as a foundation. Can you? Is that even possible for you? Is your religious belief so intrinsic to who you are as a human being? How does this enrich our society, or rather, does it? If so, then please continue to practice and share the beliefs with your loved ones. For those who use religion a crutch to tell others what they are doing incorrectly, to shun others for their beliefs because they’re different than yours, and for those who read their holy books but still judge others, then I hope you take a minute to think about what I’m saying. If you don’t get it, let me say it clearly.
RELIGION AND YOUR BELIEFS DO NOT GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO BE A JUDGMENTAL ASSHOLE. It also does not give you permission to behave badly towards other human beings when the humans do not share your belief system.

There. Got it? Good. 🙂

I have a lot of work to do on myself. That’s why I’m reading, learning, sharing and discussing my opinions. I have many moments when it takes a lot of work to calm down when someone or a situation irritates me. Sure, I am easier to calm now as I’ve progressed a bit but it is still hard work.

If Steve Harvey can give dating and marriage advice and women advice on how to be a woman, I can give lessons from my relationship guru platform, pass out backhanded compliments and cloak all of this condescension in religion. Who knows, I may even be able to come up with a plan on how to objectify women even more…and then get them to believe everything I say AND quote me! After all, it seems that speaking with authority on subjects I know nothing about, or to be fair, from the 1920-1950 decades, will ensure success as an authority on…something!

If Kirk Franklin can give advice on being a clean and holy person, I can give advice on Christianism.

If people believe that Bin Laden represented all Muslims, then I am entitled to capsize these fake yogis and those claiming these mastery titles in Buddhism which totally go against the way of life.

If all these white boys full o’privilege who sing about niggers, and lynchings, and who call little black girls “slut” can find some head shaking African Americans to stand by their side as if accepting the Morgan (I only help white people in all my movies) Freeman supporting role award, and who can even get some notable Black American to pontificate on how “extending a hand in love” will heal all racial rifts, as the boys o’privilege apologize in a non-apologetic manner, I can give lessons depicting how tough the slave owners had it back in the day with keeping slaves downtrodden and accounted for. Look, it was hard to do all the accounting math and whatnot and even harder keeping it in the pants with them fine assed slaves around.

If a South African named Noah can take over for a Jewish spot-on comedian who understands race relations, gender biases, and discriminatory practices better than most minorities who are discriminated against, then I…oh wait. No, I can’t do better. Well, maybe Tina Fey or Dave Chappelle could have but no, at this time, unless he screws up, I can’t do better… 😉

Tell it!

Tell it!

If I declare “Je suis Charlie” I’m popular* with those who are saddened and with the numerous people aware of the recent killings of satirists in France. And I may feel good about myself. If I declare that there’s long been anger and hatred between Algerians and the French and that it’s sad that all religions have fanatics wanting to kill in the name of said religion, I’m not so popular*. And I may or may not feel so good about myself.

If I declare that Boko Haram needs to be stopped from killing more innocent people in Nigeria, I’m popular*. But mostly with those concerned about humans in Africa and around the world. Sadly, many people in my social media network and from reports I’ve seen on several media outlets don’t seem to care. It also seems that not many people in first world countries see Boko Haram as a threat to humanity or their issue to address. However, I still feel good about myself.

If I declare that I’m against police brutality and the murder of innocent black men at the hands of police officers sworn to protect and serve, I’m popular*. If I say that the police officers who turned their backs on Mayor De Blasio when he spoke at a recent police officer’s funeral should be reprimanded and if they hate their city’s Mayor that much, they should find another job, I’m not quite as popular*. If I say that black on black crime chafes my hide but it’s a different problem that should be addressed separate from the police brutality/murder issue, I’m not so popular* again.

If I say to some black people in the U.S. who want people from the Islands and other countries to claim “black” as their race are wrong, I’m not popular*. When I explain that everyone has a right to be labeled whatever they consider themselves, I’m still on the not-so-popular side of things. If I say, “passing as…” or “lying to self…” etc., is a separate subject, I’m still not in the popular* club.

If I say that both white AND black people can be racist, I’m definitely not popular*! We’re all human though, and based on our life experiences, thoughts, sometimes backgrounds and conditioning, etc., we have biases. Granted, many of us move past those to live peaceful and accepting lives among other humans. Some…not so much. But the nerve to say that someone is racist, especially if they don’t believe it, although they exhibit traits and actions proving it, makes me very unpopular*.

What’s all of this have to do with anything? It doesn’t matter how many Facebook “likes” and social media shares, thumbs ups, RTs, responses, etc. I get. If an opinion or thought is truly my own, I will stand behind it when it is popular and when it is less popular or considered downright wrong. Parroting someone else’s agenda and opinions makes you a parrot, a sheep, a meek moron. Who cares if you’re not popular? Stand your ground. But maybe not in Florida.

In large part, the npr.org article below helps to shed light on why I will not agree with certain categorizations for myself, and partly why I despise what is included in small talk and whatever’s considered one step up from small talk.

So many people are afraid to ask bold, meaningful questions. Instead, they’ll take the comfortable yet oh-so-boring path and ask category-based questions in an attempt to determine friend or foe. Such a lazy and unimaginative approach! Why not go for the gusto and say what you think about one particular subject instead of bundling the thought with that particular categorization’s baggage and conceptions? For example, if I say I’m Republican, does that mean I automatically hate President Obama and am against the recent immigration reform he put forth? If I say I’m Buddhist, does that mean I renounce all of Christianity’s teachings? Do you see how these labels and categorizations can bring with it other aspects that may or may not be “thing”. You know, the baggage that comes with that particular label.

Raven Symone recently took a lot of her for saying she didn’t want to be labeled. Granted she did not explain it well but that was the gist of her thoughts. And boy oh boy did she take a social media arse whopping!! Some black people thought she wasn’t a proud black woman and some gay people thought she wasn’t a proud gay woman and some feminists thought she wasn’t a proud feminist. Poor lil thing. She meant well but we all know how kind *extreme eye roll* social media can be.

But not to digress. This is not about a former Cosby show lil superstar who can’t have her wayor explain her way out of that kerfluffle. This is about those who see religion and race as defining factors. To you I ask, What Would Jesus Do? What would your religious leader encourage?

Would he or she or whomever guides your spiritual path want you to love all humans as they are created or put labels on them so that when you see them you can avoid them or form opinions based on their life’s choices (that may or may be accurate)? Think about it.

If you truly believe your religious leaders would encourage division among humans, maybe you should take some time to ask yourself why. Oh and be honest about your thoughts. I know honesty can be tough but we really should not lie to ourselves. 

Full credit to NPR for the article below published Dec. 08, 2014:
NPR Blog: What if Atheists were Defined by Their Actions

(or copy and paste this link of you have trouble opening the link above):
http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/12/08/369356881/what-if-atheists-were-defined-by-their-actions

I recently got into what feels like a repeated discussion about the importance of things in America. Why? Because I’m tired of avoidimg this type of conversation like a plague. However, annoying people would not leave me alone. Honestly, I used to think that discussing my opinion on Americans and choices made by a group of people not representative of the whole was wrong. But over the years I feel that I’ve lived here long enough to not only observe but relate, and since quite a few people want to know what I think (God only knows why), I decided to share. But not just in a bar, at a dinner table or in some pre-arranged social setting. I decided to share on the interwebs where not only the people who agree with me live, but where fun creatures like trolls and haters visit on a daily basis. I wanted to be bold and brave and honest.

So what do I consider the one thing that most (again, not all) Americans love the most? Is it God? Food? Maybe love? Nope. From my observation, and this can be scientifically backed up, (but let’s face it, most things can be scientifically proven if you search hard enough), the one thing that many, if not most Americans love, is sports!

Just take a gander over to any one of the news stations, read  the newspaper, scroll through the social media feeds online, and I bet you’d agree. Yes, sports. No country loves sports, almost any sport really, as much as Americans. Where I was born, sure soccer and cricket worship is high and so yes I realize that I’m placing love of sport in this country over love of sports in another country, and hell many other countries who worship sports like a God, but in this case I see it as an obsession. A good and bad obsession.

Also for the record, I happen to think of sports as important and essential. However, the fascination with it here, in the way statistics are compiled, dug up, or reiterated over and over again, is incredible especially in light of everything that happens – good or bad. For example, a sports score will be shared on news outlets and social media in the midst of turmoil and then just as quickly, the topic will turn back to the issues on hand. But usually after the final whistle is blown. Recently, during the riots in Ferguson Missouri, even the prevalent news channels took a break from its sensationalization of the issue to share football scores.

It seems as though no matter what is wrong with the country or its citizens, if there’s a Superbowl, a Major League Playoff game, or an NBA final, even some of the most impoverished or trampled upon individuals will find a way to watch, and cheer their team on. Is that bad? Yes and no.

Yes it’s bad when a lack of thinking or doing is being covered up by watching. Yes it’s bad when the only thing that many impoverished kids have to hope for, or work hard towards, is being an athlete. For many children if they expect to “be somebody” or earn a decent wage, they’re taught they have to become an athlete. This is emphasized with the push on sports in schools along with the way student athletes are revered on school grounds. There isn’t always this type of maniacal push towards being a scientist, an engineer, a doctor, lawyer or even a teacher, etc.

Sure, the reality is that many athletes make more than a lot of people in the other fields but sadly and statistically proven yet again, not many children become the next Michael Jordan, A-Rod, or Ray Lewis. I say this not to discourage an up and coming athlete but to present a reality check and to hope that parents remember to emphasize the importance of education to their children. Hey, and if a kid becomes the next Tiger Woods or LeBron James, shouldn’t he or she be able to read his/her accounting ledgers and understand the marketing deals being agreed upon? I’m not saying to give up on dreams, just add education to the mix.

To look at the other side of the list, no it’s not bad when sports are promoted to encourage team work and explore or encourage ability. No it’s not bad when someone has a true affinity for a thing and love doing it. No it’s not a bad thing when a sport brings towns and cities and states together to celebrate good times and show support to their children and talented athletes no matter how good or bad they are.

But is the God-like worship of sports and the treatment of their stars like kings and queens really the number one thing that Americans care about? For many, it is. And sure for some it is not. But to say that sports love and addiction is not at the top of important things in America is to ignore facts.

How many schools have, and continue to retain sports programs while other equally important educational programs are cut? How many K-12 coaches, college coaches and education systems ask for a measly 3.0 GPA in order to be a student athlete? How many student athletes get preferential treatment on campus? How many people live vicariously through an athlete’s skill or distract themselves with sports to avoid thinking too much?

Again, to be fair, I enjoy sports as well. But I don’t follow blindly when there are other more pressing matters on hand, and I sure as hell don’t worship athletes. What I do enjoy is a sense of team work to accomplish a goal and have fun. I value movement and exercise. I value sports programs in schools as much as funding for the arts, and would reduce or cut ROTC programs in a heartbeat when sports or arts programs are threatened.

And I dare say that if a religious book claimed that their God played a sport, we’d be more inclined to wake up early to tune in on Sundays before football’s kickoff time just to get a running list of his prior stats, blow-by-blow action of his plays, and predictions for the teams that he cultivayed and affected over the centuries.

I’m an artist at heart (head, body and soul). Art in many forms inspires and drives me, but for-profit business, technology and the understanding of technology – specifically business analysis, project management and product management pays me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike my job, in fact I enjoy it very much. I love working with and learning about technology, performing detailed business analysis and functional specifications in the creation of products. But, it’s not my passion when I wake up at night with a story in my head, nor is it a driving force 24/7. That passion and driving force belongs to the art of storytelling.

I agree that you can be a lifelong learner and creator of art but for many of us, this happens mostly if you’re a lifelong earner – or at least until your art can afford to match or surpass your current or projected worker bee salary. So how do you get to the point of earning decent or relatively good income from your art? For me, I haven’t reached that point of understanding yet nor but I have read what many self-proclaimed and touted experts have to say on the topic. I also don’t foresee giving up my day job because I really do enjoy it and I’m proud of the career I’ve built over the span of approximately 20 years.

So what does this have to do with my artist’s head and my business professional’s wallet? Well, I think I have to accept two things, understand how my worlds intersect with the acceptance that one feeds the other, and remember to celebrate my small wins .

The two things I have to accept:

1. I’m unique but not really. What I mean by this is that while we would all love to think we are unique, we humans may have some differences but we have way more similarities than we’d care to admit. Let’s face it, it’s the differences that stir up or highlight what we call “unique qualities” but I’m sure if I search not-so-far and not-so-wide, I can find another person very much like me. So I need to find a way to sell my “uniqueness” in that I need to offer the world a valuable and worthwhile item and illustrate why it’s different than anything else they’ll come across at the moment. I also need to ensure that it provides much more than the average cuppa joe, which I used in my marketing as you’ll see a little further along in this post, and that like a tasty cuppa something good, it’s a tasty mind treat. I won’t lie, I dreaded “selling” the premise behind my book and still, sometimes do. But this challenge brought me to my next realization.

2. I have to think of my art as a commercial product. This thought evoked screams of phrases that I never really use like, “EGADS” and “YIKES” as well as worn out phrases I use regularly such as, “Fuckadoodledoo!!! Nooooooo!!! Fucketyfuckaduck”. After all the screaming, I still had to accept the fact that yes, I needed to market a commercial product. Did it make me happy? Hell no. But it was the truth and I couldn’t find a reasonable way to dispute it. Well, I could but then I’d have zero sales.

So how does this intersect with my other life as a business professional? By realizing that my ideas, stories, poems, etc. can be abstract, different, quirky, dark as black on midnight and whatnot but my once I ask for money, it becomes a commercial product that I need to sell and promote like any other computer system I’ve worked hard to build and showcase, and like any other business process and product I’d like a client to pay money for. And as things go with commercial products, there’s a ton of competition out there. So what makes me worth the monetary support? My unique points of view and the way I tell a story. See how I’ve come full circle here? 🙂

So to illustrate this commercial product mindset, I made sure that my book contained more poems than I’d seen in one book for my set price of $7.99 for a relatively unknown author. After all, this was my first release and I was a (still am, in many ways) relatively unknown on the writing circuit outside of the poetry worlds I visited from time to time. I have some regular please where I am recognized and supported like poetry clubs, shows and regular gigs where I did readings and fell into hosting open mic nights, etc. with accompanying jazz bands and other types of music. However, this was limited to two major U.S. cities so I was hardly breaking the bank or towns via this circuit.

Part of my marketing schtick was that my book cost LESS than two large cups of coffee from Starbucks (venti, as it’s known to the Starbuckians) and in some venues, when you purchased my book, you received a bonus audio track, free of charge or some other small freebie I could drum up for that night. And whaddya know, for a first time effort, it worked! However, as with most new things, there was a sales lull a few months later. So, to stir interest, I decided to set up a couple of giveaways. I gave my book away, FREE of charge on designated days to anyone who wanted to download it and on the first free day, there was tons of downloads.

What did that tell me? It told me that while I didn’t become rich because of my writing, I could carry on with being UTTERLY STOKED and SUPER EXCITED because people wanted to read what I wrote! And I needed freebies or something to show customers that I valued and appreciated their business. Yes, I know that a purchase doesn’t guarantee a read, but in my writerly world, it most certainly filled my need of getting the word out about my book and in encouraging those who were still reluctant to part with their cash, to pick up a copy and give it a go. On top of that excitement, I received some wonderful feedback on my poems from people I’d never met and I made some great online friends who were all about discussing ideas and ideals and all that’s in-between and who still provide encouragement from time to time. It was all worth it!

Another “win” in my opinion, was one that I wanted to scream about, but in a different way than when I realized my passion was being $old was that I lost some friends and family. My former friends and family (wish I had a way to denote former family. Sad that you can’t legally get rid of them, just have to ignore their existence) couldn’t find it in their heart to support my writing dreams because they didn’t agree with the content and my “leanings into gay stuff” (<< eloquent quote, ain’t it??). I was also told that my “homo-ness” and “homo love” wasn’t something that their religion and God could accept. These statements, along with many others that are worse, were said to me on many occasions. Nice “Godly” folks, ain’t they? 

Thankfully, my sanity was retained by the people who truly loved, and still, love me. They reminded me that many were scared of their own emotions or of what thoughts would get stirred and most of all, that you don’t want fake support from the wolf in sheep’s clothing. My head told me that I should rise above and even forgive the comments and reactions, but my heart couldn’t. After all, here I was, doing relatively well according to society’s rules – great job and successful career, higher education club member, yadda, yadda, yadda – but  there I was, being shunned for being myself and writing about my life and about people who needed a voice. Mind you, it wasn’t all “gay leanings” that made things bad. I wrote about the death penalty, abuse and things that go bump in the night, but I guess to them, things like that should stay in the closet, under the bed, stuffed in your pants or roaming around in your head.

So what saved me and made me want to keep writing in spite of the shunning? My loved ones – the ones who truly loved me, and honestly, the wonderful and overwhelming feedback from those who purchased my book! Their love, support and acceptance warmed the cockles of my heart and reminded me that without the book, I may have never met some of them. In my opinion, the reward was absolutely worth it. Besides, it gave me the opportunity to do something that I didn’t realize, needed to be done. I had to accept myself and my own musings. I hadn’t fully accepted myself and the things I think about, when I let the voices of others eff with me and make me question myself and my life. In many ways, direct rejection was the proverbial ripping off of the band-aid that I needed to let the fear, scab and hurt of all that I am and write, heal. Interestingly enough, it inspired me to do better, be better and to just write what I felt without fear of rejection. So in a way, I should thank them for being jackholes – but I won’t. Look, I’m not perfect but I’m trying. 

So to all of you  out there struggling to be the real and true you, to artists who are unsure if they’ll keep creating due to fear of rejection or fear of being true to yourself, remember that you must push on, push through and KEEP ON doing what you love! Why? Because when you do whatever makes your heart sing, I guarantee there are people in the world who will appreciate and love what you do. I guarantee there’ll be people who get you and who would want more. Sometimes the world doesn’t know what is needed until they see it, hear it or experience it.

KEEP CREATING! KEEP WRITING! KEEP SKETCHING! KEEP COMPOSING! KEEP SHINING! The world needs artists, creators, composers, writers, etc. just as much as they need business professionals, career individuals, and for-profit organizations.

For all of you who read what I write, who get me, who feel lost but keep on keeping on, I appreciate and admire you. If no one has said it today, let me say it: YOU ROCK! Don’t ever give up on your dreams or stop doing what makes you excited and happy even when jackholes try to stop you.

Huggles and lots of artistic, feel good creation vibes! 😉
Natasha

My work thus far:

  • Website and samples are available here
  • My book, “Hungover Poet” is available here

Drop me a line and let me know if I can support you in any way. I love making friends and checking out new projects, and art in general!