Birthday Party: the spiritual side

We gave a surprise birthday party for a friend Saturday night. I was the event planner. I rented a bowling alley and pool hall. Everything went well, and people seemed to have had fun. They complimented me on helping put the event together. Yesterday, I tried to put the evening into perspective.

I enjoyed being the event planner as it was a labor of love of sorts. Up until the past week, I had a crush on the person whom we gave the party for, which in a way is odd, since I have known her for years, and until a few years ago had no such feeling. The party broke the spell and the crush. That is a good thing.

You may recall a short post I made about finally realizing that crushes are not good things either for the person who has the crush or its recipient. I have come to see a crush as a fantasy that makes a person merely an object of desire. I suppose that can be innocent and nontoxic, but when the person is a friend you have known for a long time, there is something cheap and tawdry about it.

What remains is the love of a good friend, someone I admire in many ways. However, describing and defining what that love amounts to is a new question. I frankly do not have the inclination or energy to work through it as a priority. I am just relieved to have escaped a rank piece of silliness on my part.

I now view the birthday in a more spiritual light, for it was a labor of love with no motives beyond wanting my friend to have a very special evening with her friends and family. I do feel good about myself for having helped move it along, but that is merely subsidiary.

I also mentioned in a previous post that I lacked spirituality and felt somewhat impoverished by it. I am a skeptic so religious spirituality is of no use to me. I fortunately discovered Robert C. Solomon’s short book, Spirituality for the Skeptic. The book impressed me. Solomon, who died earlier this year, calls spirituality the thoughtful love of life. He claims the foundations of spirituality are love, reverence, and trust. Solomon’s spirituality draws from Hegel, Nietzsche, and existentialism.

Solomon’s view of spirituality does not run counter to science or religion. He states the case for how they are not only compatible, but also enhance each other. That seems an important attempt given the war between religious fundamentalism and science. The religious who see humanism as the great evil in the world would do well to reflect on what Solomon has to say. Bigoted attitudes toward skeptics does not seem spiritual to me. Authoritarian attempts to force religious belief may create appropriate behaviors at times, but it never changes a single heart or mind. It seems banal to say it.

The passionate love of life seems a more reliable motive than dogmatic beliefs, whether it is in the personal sphere or the public sphere. We should not deny spirituality to anyone.

Published in: on April 30, 2007 at 11:47 am  Comments (2)  

Squirm, Baby, Squirm

It happened much to my surprise. Congress has sent a bill to the president calling for a timetable for leaving Iraq, which the president will surely veto. Let everyone go on record over the war. Let the pro-war faction squirm during the next election and find new jobs.

Published in: on April 26, 2007 at 1:27 pm  Comments (2)  

Take me out to the ballgame and the bar, or the dirty old man dials it up one more time

It was another nasty day at the Wrigley Field yesterday. The wind, cold, and rain drove us to the nearby Goose Island Brewery bar after the fifth inning where we watched the end of the game. A young woman who was tending bar caught my attention, as she was pretty, had a wonderful smile, and bright Betty Davis eyes that lit up the room. I could not take my eyes off her. Fantasies help break up the monotony and make the day lighter. I never would have thought I would grow up to be a dirty old man yet I have. I suppose if one is nontoxic in one’s approach that it is not that big a deal.

After that, my great friend Tom and I went to a bar near his place. During the evening, I mentioned that I still had not met his girlfriend and looked forward to doing it. He called her up and she joined us even though it was past nine o’clock.

She is very attractive in the broad sense of the term. I can see why he has fallen in love with her. You also have to admire someone who will join two guys for beers after they have been drinking since noon.

Well, I am supposed to go to the Sox game tonight. Guess what? It is another cold, windy, and rainy day. However, it is baseball and you should not forsake baseball just because of inclement April weather. The real problem is that the beer does not taste as good when you are sitting in a cold rain with the wind howling off the lake.

Oh well, I resign myself to fate today. Maybe, I will meet the woman of my dreams at the ballpark.

Now, I must finish the four cups of espresso I have made to jump-start myself.

Published in: on April 26, 2007 at 10:04 am  Comments (1)  

Cubs baseball: one more time

It’s cold and raining, but I am going to Wrigley Field again today. My dream is that the Cubs will actually win a game. Even if they don’t, I plan on having lots of fun. Is there ever really a bad day at the ballpark if you dress appropriately and get drunk?

Published in: on April 25, 2007 at 9:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Politics, Ideology, and Spirituality

As you know, I have recently decided to explore spirituality. My goal as a secular humanist skeptic is to develop my own spirituality to improve the quality of my life. The exercise has led me back to reading Hegel, Nietzsche, and Hume.

I have been speculating if there can be a politics of secular humanist spirituality—one that counteracts the toxic message delivered by the most loathsome of the right wing Christian leaders. My intuition tells me it is possible. Developing the rhetorical devices and strategies to deliver a new spiritual message might take many decades.

What passes for religion in the U.S. is not spiritual in any meaningful sense of the word. Many people are proud of their ignorance and hatred because their so-called religious faith has led them to it. This, of course, has spilled into the political sphere.

Other people have passed into New Age nonsense to gain a foothold on spirituality. That in its passive way is just as toxic as the right wing Christian message, for it leads to passivity and a denial of the power and necessity of political ideology.

There has to be a third way. One can embrace science and philosophy without scientism. One can be spiritual without deluding oneself about the nature of the universe.

Published in: on April 25, 2007 at 8:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Opportunism: a polemic

The NYT reports that Bush and Cheney chide Democrats on Iraq deadline..

Well the president and vice president are the masters of political opportunism. They ought to know.

The majority of Americans want a timetable for leaving Iraq—the sooner the better—because the president and vice president have prosecuted the war on deceit and a failed strategy.

The president, vice president, and Bush cheerleading squad cannot deal with the lamentable facts. They should no longer be allowed to gamble with the future of the U. S. They should realize that accountability, responsibility, and results trump blind ignorant faith when it comes to practical affairs.

The president believes god speaks to him. Well, if she does, why doesn’t he listen?

Published in: on April 25, 2007 at 7:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Spirituality and Cubs Baseball

I went to the Cubs game last night. A chilly wind blew in off the lake. In the 7th inning, it started to rain. The Cubs dug themselves a hole earlier in the game they could not get out, but we stayed to the end. It was a spiritual experience fueled by beer and whiskey.

Published in: on April 25, 2007 at 7:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Solomon: Spirituality

Yesterday afternoon, I discovered Robert C. Solomon’s Spirituality for the Skeptic: the thoughtful love of life. I find it agreeable. It may be because it confirms my suspicions rather than makes me think. Sharing the same speculations is not all bad.

Published in: on April 23, 2007 at 1:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Seminar: Nichomachean Ethics

I might join a seminar on Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics this summer. I keep having these internal dialogues and debates about the value of seminars. I might be ready to do it—participate with the necessary attention span. I must break from my lethargy.

Published in: on April 23, 2007 at 1:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Certainty and Your Last

Live everyday as if it is to be your last, for one day you will surely be right. Breaker Morant

Death is the most certain thing we know. That is a good thing, for we would never take a dare or a chance without it.

Published in: on April 22, 2007 at 9:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Total Piece of Shit: the postcard

I spent last night carousing with a young woman (even though that was not my intention) who is going through a very trying time. I wish I would have had some words of wisdom and comfort for her. That ain’t me though, as I am a self-absorbed piece of shit.

Published in: on April 22, 2007 at 8:48 am  Comments (1)  

Dead Babies

I know what you are thinking. Lynn, it’s only the NYT, a despicable liberal left wing rag, but this is what the NYT has to say.

In Turnabout, Infant Deaths Climb in South.

The ominous reversal has raised questions about the impact of cuts in welfare and Medicaid and of poor access to doctors.

No shit? How the fuck did that happen?

Well, it’s Sunday morning and all the god-fearing folks are going to church. They can ask for forgiveness and donate to the Republican and Democratic parties the next election and I am sure Jesus will fucking forgive them.

Even we less spiritual folks, such as me, will turn a blind eye and fucking find a way to weasel out of the whole deal.

Can anybody say, “right to fucking life?”

Can anybody say, “hypocrisy taken to the fucking extreme?”

Published in: on April 22, 2007 at 7:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Get emotional then write down the feeling

I have been working on a play for several months. I decided to plan the thing out before I started writing—something I never do. The work is going horribly. Even though I am an analytical person who enjoys mathematics, I cannot write analytically. I need to tap my emotions and say whatever comes to mind.

I was eating lunch and drinking margaritas with a friend yesterday and he advised me to just sit down and write the play, which I began to do this morning. I felt a great burden lifted from me.

I wish I could tell you what the play is about, but I do not know myself. Jean Paul Sartre, Simone Beauvoir, and Albert Camus are in it. So are a young Frenchwoman and an American reporter. A friend asked me if he could be in it too. That seemed like a good and necessary idea for the story, so he is in it too.

There you have it. I feel good about this play again. We’ll see how long the feeling lasts.

Published in: on April 21, 2007 at 10:08 am  Comments (1)  

Crushes? Never!

I should never develop a crush on anyone. Crushes are debilitating. The large amount of mental energy wasted is never worthwhile even if the person returns my affections. Crushes are games I play. The crush is always over when I get what I want.

Published in: on April 21, 2007 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  

A New Me?: a postcard note to self

I should construct a spiritual life for myself. As I am a religious skeptic, that will take some work on my part. I do enjoy my excesses. I am quite lazy when it comes mending my ways. However, I feel the need for a new identity and narrative about myself.

Published in: on April 21, 2007 at 9:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Loathing and Enjoyment

From Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground:

Tell me this: why does it happen that at the very, yes, at the very moments when I am most capable of feeling every refinement of all that is “sublime and beautiful,” as they used to say at one time, it would, as though of design, happen to me not only to feel but to do such ugly things, such that… Well, in short, actions that all, perhaps, commit; but which, as though purposely, occurred to me at the very time when I was most conscious that they ought not to be committed. The more conscious I was of goodness and of all that was “sublime and beautiful,” the more deeply I sank into my mire and the more ready I was to sink in it altogether. But the chief point was that all this was, as it were, not accidental in me, but as
though it were bound to be so. It was as though it were my most normal condition, and not in the least disease or depravity, so that at last all desire in me to struggle against this depravity passed. It ended by my almost believing (perhaps actually believing) that this was perhaps my normal condition. But at first, in the beginning, what agonies I endured in that struggle! I did not believe it was the same with other people, and all my life I hid this fact about myself as a secret. I was ashamed (even now, perhaps, I am ashamed): I got to the point of feeling a sort of secret abnormal, despicable enjoyment in returning home to my corner on some disgusting Petersburg night, acutely conscious that that day I had committed a loathsome action again, that what was done could never be undone, and secretly, inwardly gnawing, gnawing at myself for it, tearing and consuming myself till at last the bitterness turned into a sort of shameful accursed sweetness, and at last–into positive real enjoyment! Yes, into enjoyment, into enjoyment! I insist upon that. I have spoken of this because I keep wanting to know for a fact whether other people feel such enjoyment? I will explain; the enjoyment was just from the too intense consciousness of one’s own degradation; it was from feeling oneself that one had reached the last barrier, that it was horrible, but that it could not be otherwise; that there was no escape for you; that you never could become a different man; that even if time and faith were still left you to change into something different you would most likely not wish to change; or if you did wish to, even then you would do nothing; because perhaps in reality there was nothing for you to change into.

How does one find some way out of this consciousness and condition? Some form of spirituality might do the trick, however, if one is a religious skeptic this spirituality does not come ready to hand. Or does it? The world looks just the same whether god is in it or not. That is the case in ethical space also.

Published in: on April 21, 2007 at 9:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Reality: the feeling of what happens

This poem is contained in A Book of Luminous Things—Czeslaw Milosz’s international anthology of poetry.


I am the poet of reality
I say the earth is not an echo
Nor man an apparition;
But that all the things seen are real,
The witness and albic dawn of things equally real
I have split the earth and the hard coal and rocks and the solid bed of sea
And went down to reconnoiter there a long time,
And bring back a report,
And I understand that those are positive and dense every one
And that what they seem to the child they are
[And that the world is not joke,
Nor any part of it a sham].

Czeslaw Milosz has this to say about the poem:

The strong presence of a thing described means that the poet believes in its real existence. That is the meaning of a programmatic and unfinished poem by Walt Whitman. “I Am the Poet,” which rehabilitates a “naïve” approach and rejects philosophy’s unfavorable opinion on the direct testimony of our senses.

A Book of Luminous Things

Published in: on April 20, 2007 at 11:26 am  Leave a Comment  

With a Postcard

With a postcard, you can tell someone how much you enjoyed the latest book she wrote. Or you can say thanks for loving me because I really love you too. Or you can try to describe just how the brilliant cobalt morning sky has turned you on. Or you can say I wish you were here—right now.

Published in: on April 20, 2007 at 9:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Dialing it up in the city

I dialed up the Jagz—a rock band composed of friends—at the Liar’s Club with Lucinda and Billy—two of my favorite people. Later, I had breakfast with Lucy at Tempo, my best all-night breakfast joint. Then it was morning. Some nights regrettably pass too quickly.

Published in: on April 20, 2007 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  

New Arrival

Many congratulations to Cuppa and Anvilcloud on the birth of their first granddaughter!

Published in: on April 19, 2007 at 11:49 am  Comments (3)  

Tax Day

Tax day. What more can you say?

Published in: on April 17, 2007 at 11:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Iggy Pop in Concert

I saw Iggy Pop in concert with the Stooges last night. Iggy is in his sixties, does not wear a shirt when he frenetically prances about the stage, and is in good shape. I was distracted from the music by the fans at the show, but it was fun.

Published in: on April 16, 2007 at 6:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Fantasy Baseball; Real Clock Time

I woke at 2:45 in the morning. Fortunately, I have fantasy baseball to pass the early morning hours even on those nights when bats still inhabit the belfry.

One of the players dropped out of my Pippin’s league so we decided to conduct a random draft of his players. I spent the morning working on the draft and getting results communicated. Being the league commissioner is taking more time than I imagined. Things should settle down by the end of the week when I have the team broken up and redistributed.

I can see now that I will have to prioritize how much attention to give my five teams. The Pippin’s league, where I am in first place, comes first. I have spent a fair amount of time on one of my other teams. It is in position to move up in the standings from its current seventh place. That team will get second choice. I don’t know how much time I can spend on the others.

I had my daily lineups set early this morning, but fortunately noticed that the games in the northeast were canceled. Fortunately, I reset my lineups in time for the start of today’s play.

This is crazy. I suppose that was the point. Do another crazier thing and see what happens.

Published in: on April 15, 2007 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  

The Essence of Blogging

I think I have found the essence of blogging; it’s all postcards and letters sent to the general public. Even the most serious and ponderous posts are merely that. I like mail.

Published in: on April 14, 2007 at 7:57 am  Comments (1)  

Vonnegut and Fantasy

What is on the agenda today? Study Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions and try to learn how to write well. Is it another one of my wasteful and futile fantasies? I hope not; I want it.

Published in: on April 14, 2007 at 7:49 am  Leave a Comment