Sunday, July 20, 2008

Esoteric Fumblings

July 20, 2008.

I have this sort of uneasy feeling that I should feel embarrassed about my last few entries. I know I would have felt that way a few years ago. If the innermost cries of a persons soul could collectively step out on to the front porch in tightie-whiteys to get the morning paper and have the wind slam the locked door behind it, you would basically have what I posted lately. What I'm really feeling isn't shame, though. I'm not really sure how to identify this emotion without going all Hunter S. Thompson on you all. If you could combine the rush of upping the ante in a poker game with the nervous bundle of emotions associated with your first day at a new job or a new school, that might come close. The remaining crumbs of my perfection complex have been, officially, swept out the back door, it would seem. It would be rather difficult to attempt to preserve such pretensions after exposing what a whiney little wanker I can be. Ah, well. It was all a house of cards, anyways.

My Dad recently wrote me the following in a letter:

"Your wrestling with the issues like this gives me joy because it shows that you are trying to make decisions for yourself, based on what you know and your testing, and not simply because someone else tells you. Can you see what a positive thing this is? Your main fear for so long was that you felt empty, without a core "Bart", and that you were unable to know what you should do in situations, relying on the reactions of others. And now, leaving behind that old person (and by the way: I think symbolic actions like leaving your old name and renaming yourself Thomas are very important), here you are wrestling with some very important and weighty questions, trying to decide what YOU think of them. I am so happy! You may shake your head and say to yourself, 'Well, I'm glad somebody's happy about this struggle.' And the questions you bring are deep; I have never had anyone point out that (while Job was restored) the story didn't turn out so good for Job's children. Anyway, I am greatly encouraged by your apparent discouragement. Which may sound strange, but this questioning is a great place for you to be. We all have these seasons. And it is in these times that we grow in great ways. You have been growing for quite a while now, whether or not you can see it yet. In fact, most of the time we cannot see the growth in ourselves until long after those around us become aware of it."

Sometimes, all it takes to pull yourself out of a nose-dive is for someone you love to give you a pat on the back. While those comments certainly helped, I don't think they were the panacea for my better mood of late. When it comes right down to it, the solution and the problem both have to do with a few pounds of gray protein sitting behind my eyeballs. I sometimes have this sneaking suspicion that if you could see inside of my pituitary gland, you would see a bunch of stoners dressed up like Jimmy Buffet, using all sorts of complicated scientific equipment in totally inappropriate ways.

Stoner 1, looking over a long printout: "Woah, brah, we're like totally out of dopamine!"

Stoner 2, looks up from using two protractors as eyeshades: "Ah, wow, man. That's like the third time this month."

Stoner 1, "Well, like, we got all of this serotonin, brah. I mean, big dif, am I right?"

Stoner 3, who until this point had been throwing darts at a memo board set up by the nerds in the hypothalamus department: "Hey, we got any of those corn dogs left over?"

Stoner 2: "Very useful, Tim. Thanks. Serotonin, you say? Sheet, hook up em bro! And we'd better hurry, cuz MTV's Cribs is on in like ten minutes."

Well...maybe things aren't quite that bad. And yes, clearly, I have too much time on my hands if I am to the point of granting individual personalities to various bodily organs. In all honesty, though, I do get myself into all sorts of problems by over-thinking things, and then I have to go and unknot myself and start over form square one after I realize one of the premises was flawed. I keep trying to apply the guiding principle of our modern age, mainly that the strength of our belief in a postulate should be proportionate to its' evidence, to spiritual matters. That doesn't work, of course, because faith is, well, almost by definition made up of stuff that exists beyond the realms of the provable. So, what is the answer? Suck in your gut, tighten your belt, and soldier on? I think I've done that. I've done the spiritual work-outs. Picked up the armor I'm told that I need. The thing about being really strong is, you can't bend with all of that armor on. For me, the problems always start with a hairline crack, and before you know it, that crack is a canyon, and then you become the divide, and it's all you know. Sure, you eventually work your way out of the pit, and what do you do? You go about picking up the pieces of the very armor that betrayed you, and set yourself to reattaching and gluing it all back together again, all the while promising yourself that you will dodge just a little bit faster next time. While you are telling yourself this, the nature of the crack and what it means simply gets ignored. I'm beginning to think that maybe the armor is part of the problem. That maybe the cracks which run through our modern interpretation of the Church are there for a very important reason. Repeating the same answers ad-nauseam doesn't strike a chord with me at all. I require new answers, and this requires I ask new questions. I don't think God created reality with dead ends on the road of Truth (capital "T", mind; I think there are many roads of truth, most of which are empty roads leading nowhere). I cannot believe that God gave us these remarkably overcomplicated computers without realizing we might try to use them to get a glimpse of who He is. I think He wants this. I have no doubt that such views might be seen as somewhat out of left field. (Some might even call it heresy, though I don't think too many people are themselves radical enough to use such a word.) I'm just not satisfied with the conclusions that most churches have settled on. "God works in mysterious ways" seems like a cop-out, and I hate it when people rest on this to explain everything from wars to children dying of cancer. I'm sure that some will say that I do not rely enough on blind faith, a charge I proudly admit. I have faith. Whether you believe in the Big Bang or Membrane Theory or Creationism (or, as in my case, some form of all three and no, you ignorant rednecks, they are not mutually exclusive), you are going to have to shell out some faith at some point. Anything beyond your ability to empirically observe requires some faith. Blind faith, however, does a disservice to your God and to your heredity as a homosapien. What is my reasoning for this? It goes something like this: why were we given the ability to think and perceive the world as we do? Why the existence of this brain-mind? Whether from evolution or design (or both), we have them. If you believe the Bible, God created man because he wanted someone to have a relationship with. He already had angels, though. Why were we necessary? I suppose a God who was purely curious might have created the world on a whim, but His actions throughout the New Testament clearly show God has an emotional attachment to us, which sort of nullifies the simple "God Experimenting" theory. Additionally, these actions also rule out a creation built around spite or some other negative emotion. (It will be noted that I am taking the New Testament to be a statement of fact. Even if I did not, however, there are certain things that exist in this world which would stand in as proof, to me, that God is neither indifferent nor wholly cruel...think love, or a really great guitar solo...or whatever event touches you in a transcendental way.) Personally, I think we were necessary because God was lonely. I think He knew the potential of love, yet was missing the means of applying or receiving it fully. Very simply, He wanted someone to choose Him. I know that some of you are thinking, "Hold up. Isn't it a little egotistical to project human emotions on to something as large as a Deity?" Yes, I can see the problem with that. I think that when we die, we will come into a more complete and pure version of our minds. Call it a heavenly mind, if you will. Different from what we've got, but I think they are going to be structured a lot alike. In Genesis, God says, "Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness..." I don't think He was talking about our physical bodies, however. Ask yourself, why would a being with no need to eat have a digestive system? Why would a being with the ability to create worlds with sheer power of will need to have reproductive organs? No, the forms of our bodies were built to complete certain functions, functions an entity like God would have no need for. I think what God was talking about when He made us in His image was the landscape of the mind, including our emotions. These things will survive death, but our bodies will not. So, while I definitely agree that trying to understand Gods love or loneliness by looking at the reflection of my own abilities with love or loneliness is quite deficient, I believe we can get clues to what God feels by evaluating what we feel. If this is true, then learning about our own minds can give us clues to who God is. That means ALL of my mind, and if this means focusing on some things that have always filled me with sadness, then so be it. That's the only way I know how to get over some of this stuff. In other words, I believe God gave us these minds to think. If I get it wrong 99% of the time, then at least I am still trying.

I get told regularly that I need to think less with my head and feel more with my heart. This is an example of metaphor taking on properties which are a tad ridiculous. Your heart is a muscle. It neither thinks nor feels anything. It is a nice symbol of deep sentiment that we love someone with "our whole heart", but it is basically Hallmark nonsense, to me. When you love someone, it comes from your brain. So does faith.

Ask yourself, why do you believe what you believe? If your faith is entirely dependent upon the geographical region of your birth (IE, "I'm a Baptist because I was born in Georgia" or "I am from Hong Kong, therefore I am a Buddhist"), or you have chosen your religion because it is comfortable and does not cause you to change any of your habits, don't you think you might want to reevaluate things a bit? Does what you believe make you and the people around you better, in any way? These are questions that only you can answer. Don't turn to TBN to provide you with a cliff-notes version of God. Faith is a journey you can take with other people, but nobody can walk the path with you the whole way.

Anyways, that's where I'm at. Not perfect, by any means. I spend at least half the time face-planting on the spiritual highway, it seems. I have no intention of apologizing for this. Sure, I would love to have a mind that always serves me well and completes it's tasks as I ordered, but until I get such a device, all I can do is work with the equipment from the factory. The esoteric is never easy.

I told you that I was not going to hide who I am. That is the major point of this website. I can not deny the portion of me that wrote the last few entries, just as I cannot deny the portion of me that wrote this one. They are both me. I'm hoping that I will be able to look back at all of this one day, and laugh at myself for being a little ignorant, a little daft. But one thing I will be able to say is this: I tried. I pushed myself to the edge of human experience and didn't flinch. Can you say that? Do you even want to?

© Copyright 2008 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker.
All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Art by Anthony Engles

Continental Soldier - Revolutionary War
This mural is located in G-unit at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connel, Wa. It is 93 feet long from floor to ceiling and when completed will be 605 square feet of painted surface. The mural is in the veterans side of the unit and the design is intended to showcase the efforts of American service people from the first engagements our country was confronted with to our current involvement in the Middle East. The mural is not quite half finished and is projected to be completed some time in 2020.

World War I

Fokker DR I

Boston Tea Party War of 1812

New Jersey, Vietnam, Modern Desert Warfare

USS New Jersey - WWII

Anthony Engles 832039
Coyote Ridge Corrections Center
P.O. Box 769
Connell, WA 99326

My name is Anthony Scott Engles, born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1965.  After a brief stint in the Navy, I pretty much roamed around the country, waiting tables and bartending.  I settled in Spokane in 1994, then got pretty heavy into survivalism and related activities.  I got in a shoot out with Stevens County Deputies in 2003 and wounded one of them.  I’m serving a 30-year sentence in Washington State, where I have done the majority of my writing.  I have one short story published and several unpublished short stories and poems.