Poetry – Am I This Beast?

 

Am I This Beast?

Am I not my own beast? May I set him free?
This beast lives and he lives within me.
In some manner or way, I am he, and it is I
who fears the beast. And I know why.

This is no charming fucking poet.
He is no eloquent reader of verse;
he’s no lover of beauty for all to see.
‘tis me, this beast, but is he also not me?

Summon your magic, bring on a shaman,
twist my beast with the best that you can.
Bring on the robots. Cast the day’s best witchery
into the face of this monster, who really is me.

Cut him and burn him and poison the beast.
More lives than a cat, he’ll find his way back.
From annihilation, he’ll rise-up, again to be me.
A beast: one with me. Here to kill me, you’ll see.

Look deep. Dig deeper still. Search for his mark.
In this battle for life, made from my nature,
his shadow will be there for as long as I lurk.
This beast that we seek – has control of my future.

© Bill Reynolds 8/8/18

 

Recently, I read about a British poet named Peter Reading. He and I were born on the same day. His poetry is said to be ugly and morbid in its honesty. Yet, I do hope to read more of Peter’s work soon. While Peter was not the inspiration for this specific poem, his attitude was.

I am also trying to write my words as they come, regardless of what others may think. That is not easy, but it’s not like I’m trying to make a living writing poetry. Sometimes, it is just bleak.

This outburst is just another poem. While it shouldn’t be taken lightly, I reject any perceived notion that I need counseling or psychiatric care. I’m fine, but this is how it came to me.

Peter Reading, ‘Collected Poems’ cover

 

Look both ways, inward and out.
Mind the gaps as well as the beast within.

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In Defense of Atheists (Part II)

What believers need to know about Atheists

While many people rightfully argue about (or discuss) belief and religion, I’m sure many don’t know what atheists think or believe. However, I encourage people to learn the truth about atheism to understand atheists better. It’s very simple but it may require more unlearning of past prejudices than assimilating new information. That is partly why I decided to become open about my atheism and to write about it.

My take on life’s meaning

I ended Part I with mention of an article that accuses atheists of being nihilists. Indeed, nihilists do not usually follow a god belief. There are multiple forms of nihilism because it is a basic philosophical position that applies to different things differently. So there are many types of nihilists, but that discussion is well beyond my intent here. As with most posts of that nature, it was full of assumptions about atheists that are either wrong or stereotyping. That should be enough, but the article was also replete with reasoning fallacies; a common problem with theistic arguments of virtually any type.

One claim the author made regards life having meaning. Life being meaningless would be a nihilist philosophical premise, but it is not atheist even if some atheists may see life like that. Few atheists are nihilist of any kind, but this is about me. So, this guy claims my life is void of meaning and must be so because it includes no gods. Specifically his. Many people may need a god to give meaning or purpose to their life. Fine – that’s them. I don’t! (And, frankly, neither do they.)

I contend that since this life is all I have (reincarnation notwithstanding), every day of it is filled with purpose and reason. What I will never accept is that life is some sort of test given by a god to determine if I, or my eternal soul, must spend eternity either incredibly bored (or however you see that state) or suffering (aka eternal damnation). I say this life is all we get, and I hope it is wonderful for everyone. If someone thinks it is a blessing from god, I’m ok with that. That’s them. If they follow a religion, I am sure there is more to it.

I think the purpose of each life is simply to live it. My reason for existence is the reason I give it, just as each person gives reason and purpose to their life, with or without the assistance of a deity or the promise of an afterlife. That’s my opinion, and it’s not nihilist. I find people telling me that such thoughts are not what I truly think to be incredibly annoying.

I don’t believe that I was created by a god. It is not the purpose of my life to serve anything or anybody outside of nature – I respect reality and nature. I believe in living my life as implied in parts of much wisdom literature to the fullest (eat, drink, and be merry), to find happiness and pleasure (e.g., The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam), to limit my suffering and that of other people and creatures. Certainly, to love.

I am here to be part of nature. And then, as is the highest law all life must follow, to return my borrowed physical essence back to the natural universe, allowing my mind to pass on to whatever respite awaits in death, if anything of the kind follows, which I doubt. That is the natural cycle of life. We cannot change it. I can think of no reason to change it. It seems to be working, provided we don’t fuck things up too badly.

I couldn’t have said it better myself

A Catholic priest once said (I’m paraphrasing), if there is no god, we have all been involved in a horrible deception and charade. I heard those words at a critical time: true, serious, tragic. I consider most people I know to be good, be they atheist or Christian or other religion. I assume that believers who post anti-atheist things are also good people being controlled by religious fear and the dark side of human nature. People can be stubborn. I prefer to say that I’m persistent.

But these folks who write such tripe are just plain wrong about me and other atheists, wrong about the conclusion that is atheism, and are often offensive. I hope that’s because they don’t know that atheists are as good as any believer. But, as Neil Carter implied, the on-line us is often not the best side of the person.

Neil Carter

This youtube video is among the best explanations I’ve seen. It is respectfully well-done by Neil Carter, who blogs as Godless in Dixie. It is an abbreviated version of a longer talk given by Neil. So, while it is about 15 minutes, it’s only part of the talk. The point here is the 11 items and his explanations. This was made in a Christian Church for Christians, so it is worth viewing be you theist, atheist, or anywhere in between.

Look both ways because “a hair divides what is false and true.
And mind the gaps because “
We shall perish along the path of love.”
(quotes by Omar Khayyam)

In Defense of Atheists (Part I)

 

Most Christians are wrong about Atheists

About me

I’m atheist. I do not identify as humanist or nihilist. I’m expert in neither, but I agree with some views of both philosophies even though they often conflict. That sometimes makes me of two minds, or maybe three. Click this link for my story if you need to know it, but, ya probably don’t.

Why I am writing this

I decided to post this in two parts to keep them of reasonable length. In this part, I talk about things that believers (I say Christians, because that’s what most Americans are) are wrong about regarding atheists. It’s been said a lot, but not enough. Part II will address some things I think people should know (particularly Christians, but anyone) about atheists. Some atheists read my blog and I hope they will correct my errors or clarify my confusion.

I’ve often read long, esoteric, philosophical explanations about why atheists are bad people. I’m a sensitive man, and they hurt what feelings I still have. Since being atheist is simple (we believe in no gods; done.), those rants are virtually always wrong. They are not attempts to convince me to repent or to believe in god. They simply judge atheists, or atheism, as bad.

Believe to be good

Belief in god makes no one better, and vice versa. But, most believers seem to think it does make them better. Otherwise, why bother with religion? That is to be expected. Conversely, they further seem to think that not believing makes me worse. A lot worse, apparently. Since these folks have no specific atheist behavior to point to, they go off on long, broad-brush, baseless philosophical tirades that can only be explained as being essential to their own personal and spiritual well-being. We all know people who put others down to make themselves feel good.

Atheists are bad

I fully understand the morality issue for some folks. But atheists are as moral as anyone. Yet, these rants are not as simple as holier than thou. Each is judging other people they do not know as evil for having a harmless opinion. Conversely, those who do evil things and repent (or maybe not) are judged to be better than those who simply don’t think gods exist. How is that logical?

Bad to the bone

However, leading the pack of obnoxious nonsensical know-it-alls are the clueless people who seem to know exactly what atheism is, what atheists are up to, and why. They claim to know our thoughts. Yet, for all the animus it generates, atheism is simple. But these self-appointed detractors are not atheist and don’t seem to want to get it right. What they seem to want is to preserve something that disbelief threatens simply by being a conclusion in someone’s mind – a conclusion that can change (as in reverse) in a New York minute, but rarely does.

These holy souls swing at the low-hanging-fruit to bash people for what they believe. This is partly because of what they think (not know) about atheists and atheism. Such assaults are unnecessary, insulting, and vulgar. One Orthodox Christian priest has said that embracing atheism is worse than committing murderer. People believe this crap, especially when it’s said from the pulpit by a “man of god.” That annoys me.

I have my limited personal experience, but surveys I’ve read indicated that people trust atheists (I assume ones they don’t know) about the same as convicted rapists and murderers. In some states, it is illegal for an atheist to hold public office, even if democratically elected. While such laws are not enforceable, they remain on the books. Very few outspoken atheists hold elected office – none nationally. So, why the need to pile-on with the endless “they are bad, bad, bad?”

The essay

Recently, I read a post by someone who insisted that all atheists are nihilist. Following several of my objecting comments, he stood firm with his accusation. In the essay he further insinuated that any social justice work done by atheists is a ruse, insincere, and as doomed as a “utopia” (his word). Now, that shit hurts. I can’t imagine how he connected nihilism to utopia (dystopia perhaps?). This, they will say they’re not, but they are argument is worthless. Do all Christians play with snakes or drink poison to prove the strength of their faith? Of course not. Nor do all atheists agree with nihilist philosophies. It’s difficult enough without someone making stuff up.

Look both ways: either there is a god or there are not gods.
Consider all the gaps and mind them well.

Wednesday’s Poem

Who do I think I am?

Poetic Dream

Dream and dream and dream,
Is this life my dream within a dream?
My fantasy and my horror?
Is my pleasure only what is seen?

Pity she who cannot dream and feel
sorry for he who cannot visit
the dark night of pleasured dreams.
True pleasure and true fear in the mist.

Dreams wrapped in dreams
nightmares filled with fear and panic,
Pleasure unrestricted by rules
and commitments of fact.

I stand before my mind
searching for the dream of life,
Wanting in and wanting out
to dream and to dream and to dream about.

 

© Bill Reynolds 7/25/2018

 

Dream and look both ways, into the night in the light of the day. Mind gaps of dusk and dawn.

A Poet’s Week of Poetry

Taken on my walk this morning. Prickly pears are ripe. Edible, but buy in store and use leather gloves to prepare.

A week of poetry

I listened to the Frank Sinatra Radio station on Pandora during my walk this morning. Good music that makes me appreciate why so many cringed as the rock and roll era dawned. Enjoyed it, but I’ll be back to Thumbprint tomorrow morning.

So, Friday is my birthday. Question: when you become older than older-‘n-dirt, how old are you? I have arteriosclerosis (crummy circulation), heart disease and an effed-up aortic valve, and now I’m looking at “radical” surgery on my left forearm to ensure all the cancer is gone. Oh, and I drink too much wine (beer, coffee). Every day I’m gladder to be alive than I was the day before. Yer only dead once. That can wait. Right?

In ‘honor’ of the year I will spend transitioning into the mid-seventies (proud baby boomer), I plan to post at least one poem each day this week and two on Friday (B-day). These are quick little ditties done in less than 15 minutes each and tweaked very little. Some are exactly as first written. Here’s why…

I’ve read (in On Writing and others) that all first drafts are shit. I agree when it’s prose. I have written good enough poems then tweaked them to death trying to make them better (perfection?) and ended up letting them ride the hard drive for eternity.

Last year I posted a poem about my frustration with my poetry (click here to read it). I never know about my poems, so I often overwork them (not the first time in my life I worked harder than I needed to). I’m currently working on some that I’ve knocked around for over a year. Sometimes it’s cuz my muse got another call and failed to get back to me. Sometimes, I end up with something I like. Sometimes I’m skeptical, but you like it. Go figure?

So, if you read my poems this week, know that they are sunny-side-up or only tweaked to over-easy. They’re a little raw, but thankfully brief. Happy Sunday. The first poem:

Tanka Poem – A Feather

How life passes by
We see, as we feel the breeze
so like the feather
life moves us from here to there
how we love and how we care.

Bill Reynolds – 7/21/2018

Look both ways, wander often, wonder always. Mind the gaps and respect the abyss.

 

Poetic Recovery

I am atheist. I groan when I read, “as an atheist” before people make a statement. Well, guess what? I owe lots of apologies because….

As an atheist, I have been asked how we handle life when it sucks: sick kids (or grands), lost jobs, death of friends and loved ones, financial trouble, or any disaster. They rightfully ask, “How do you get through those tough times when even heavy-duty doubters pray for relief?” We do manage without god. Not only are there atheists in fox holes, some of us have died there.

I’m dealing with a cancer diagnoses and some of my doctors ask me how I feel about it. “Well, Doc, this is one time I wish you were wrong. Now, let’s do this.” I want action, science, and medicine; not prayers.

Here’s what I got for ya. Franky, baby! I love the song; both the music and lyrics of That’s Life, by Frank Sinatra. Some say, this too shall pass, but the song puts that theory on another emotional level, and I love it. I hope you do too.

Here are the lyrics. Below them, I also posted a youtube video with music, singing, and the words. Now, let’s get back up, brush ourselves off, and have a wonderful July.

That’s Life

That’s life (that’s life) that’s what people say
You’re riding high in April
Shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June

I said, that’s life (that’s life) and as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks
Stompin’ on a dream
But I don’t let it, let it get me down
‘Cause this fine old world it keeps spinnin’ around

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate
A poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race

That’s life (that’s life) I tell ya, I can’t deny it
I thought of quitting, baby
But my heart just ain’t gonna buy it
And if I didn’t think it was worth one single try
I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate
A poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself layin’ flat on my face
I just pick myself up and get back in the race

That’s life (that’s life) that’s life
And I can’t deny it
Many times I thought of cuttin’ out but my heart won’t buy it
But if there’s nothing shakin’ come here this July
I’m gonna roll myself up in a big ball and die

My, my

Songwriters: Vernon Duke / E. Y. Harburg

That’s Life lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Music Sales Corporation, Shapiro Bernstein & Co. Inc., BMG Rights Management

Look both ways for life’s ups and downs. Mind the gaps, as silly as it sounds.

Perfect Perfection

 

“Perfect!”

Maybe you have heard this: Sets low standards. Achieves same. Or this: Good enough for government work. I find both phrases tediously trite and possibly insulting. But, I’ve cheerfully used both. How about, practice makes perfect? I later heard it as, perfect practice makes perfect.

As that quality assurance guy for government contracts, I was very busy, never bored, and often unloved by contractors. They did not have to be perfect, but they did have agreed to, measurable standards to meet. Nobody likes it when “shit don’t work like it’s supposed to.”

As I write this, I’m sitting in the Tap Room of my local microbrewery sipping an excellent porter. I shall have another. It’s good and reasonably priced, but it’s not perfect. Perfect beer cannot be improved upon.

Perfection, by definition, cannot be made better.

Rarely do I say the word or identify something as perfect. When I do, I’m lying. Perfect works best when it’s said sarcastically and implying the exact opposite: FUBAR (definition below).

My strained relationship with the word perfect started with software – Word Perfect. It was not. Later, the word and the connotation it held annoyed me. Years ago, I decided that perfection was not a realistic or achievable standard. I developed a skeptical dislike for the word. When I heard someone say progress, not perfection, I liked that. Who does not want things to improve?

As part of my prep to write about this, I watched a couple of TED talks that only served to piss me off. With apologies to all her fans, Elizabeth Gilbert has a talent for making me want to bang my head on the nearest wall. Her following is vastly larger than mine, but I still think she’s out there. I like and admire her, but I strongly disagree on many levels with her views on creativity and writing. She makes me feel guilty, and I’m not sure why.

The other TED talk was by a man named Jon Bowers. Jon was (I assume he is) the lead on UPS training. Indeed, he does good work and as a professional trainer myself, I can relate to the challenges his company faces. The title of his talk was, We should aim for perfection – and stop fearing failure.

I interpret that title as, Attempt the impossible and guarantee failure. While Bowers gave many truthful and accurate statistical examples where high standards are critical, he ruined it when he implied that for us to not accept his position equated to accepting lower standards. He is wrong. I agree that excessive fear of failure prevents much good from happening. But, it is also motivation to succeed.

I think we need to set high, achievable standards commensurate with risk. My training background was in aviation. Our stated standard was in the 80 to 85 percentage area. Yet, our trainees (pilots) normally performed in the high 90s, many at the 100% level. Aviation is one of many human, high-risk endeavors labeled inherently dangerous. Fly safe and thank training.

For years the response to many statements (esp. by Brits) was “brilliant.” Another word where sarcasm works better than reality while good or excellent would suffice. But, when I answer a question and the response is “perfect,” I want to ask, “how so?”; or to simply say, “No. It is not perfect. It simply is.” And, thank you, but it’s also not brilliant.

I was on the phone with an otherwise charming and competent millennial when she asked for my address and phone number as part of a business transaction. After I told her my address, she responded with “perfect.” Her reaction to my phone number was again, “perfect.” If my address was One Penny Lane, Liverpool, it would be cool or, in a stretch, excellent. Yet, still not perfect. Same for a phone number of three sixes followed by the digits one through seven. Yet, the young lady declared my responses to every one of her questions perfect.

A friend asked if I was available to meetup next Thursday. When I responded “for lunch at noon” she could have said okay, or see you then, or great. But she said, “perfect.” I assume all times before noon would have been satisfactory and later would have been acceptable. But noon was fucking perfection without peer.

My friend, Jack, once described wine to me as drinkable. If you have ever tasted undrinkable wine, you know exactly what he meant. Jack served mighty fine wine — not perfect, but perfectly drinkable.

When people ask me about something and I answer with good, fine, or (god forbid) okay, it’s common for them to follow by asking me what was wrong or what I didn’t like. Perfect.

Look both ways crossing streets.
The perfectly trained UPS driver may not be having a perfect day.
Mind the gap lest you fall and ruin an otherwise perfect trip.

Note: FUBAR is an acronym for fucked up beyond all reason.

 

Judge Judy – about to explain law