Monday, February 16, 2015

Adding My Voice to a Chorus

I hardly ever do any posting to The Repeal of Gravity Blog nowadays. Mostly I do my online posting to my Facebook account, which is set up with privacy protections so that I'm sharing with my small group of friends and my somewhat larger but still pretty smallish group of Friends. Today I'm reposting something here that I posted there last week, simply because I want to make sure that it really is a public declaration. This is not my best piece of writing. It's not the most important thing I've ever said. It's not the thing that I would most want to be remembered for. I merely want to add my voice, unabashedly, to a righteous chorus [however small, however quiet]. What follows is that contribution.


Anyone with a working brain and any sense of the world knows that heinous terrorist acts committed in the name of Islam and/or Allah are not in any way representative of Muslims in general. Likewise, anyone who's been paying attention in the last 13.5 years knows that there's been and continues to be a steady and extremely persistent effort to conflate radical Islam [the hate-filled ideology that provides our news coverage with heinous acts committed in the name of Islam and/or Allah] with Islam [the religion that does not]. We all ought safely to assume that almost all Muslims are deeply offended and truly revolted by the horrendously bad behavior of groups like ISIS/ISIL/The Islamic State/Daesh and Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab. And yet, clearly not all of us are willing to make that assumption. We regularly hear calls for Muslims or "moderate Muslims" or "Muslim leaders" or "prominent Muslims" to go out of their way to publicly denounce whatever the latest radical Islamist terrorist act happens to be. These calls are silly.
If you are Muslim, I will always take for granted that you are not a radical nutjob unless/until you choose to indicate otherwise. I think your religion is idiocy, but I don't think you're a hate-filled murder machine just waiting for your button to be pushed. The same is true [both that I assume you are not a radical nutjob and that I think your religion is idiocy] if you are a Christian. Or a Jew. Or a Buddhist. Or a Taoist. Or a Hindu. Or a [fill in the blank].
As silly as they are, these calls for public denouncement—essentially an accusation that any Muslim who has not bothered to say "NO!" loudly enough must therefore be a sympathizer at best or, more likely, a co-conspirator—are out there and they're probably quite effective at encouraging anti-Muslim sentiment in this minority-Muslim nation of ours.
I mention all this because a heinous terrorist act was committed yesterday by someone who happens to belong to a group [not a religion, but for argument's sake essentially the same thing] that I too happen to belong to. I am an atheist. And, now, an atheist is a domestic terrorist. If you believe that it's the responsibility of all decent Muslims to stand up and denounce the horrendous acts and rhetoric of the world's least decent Muslims then it stands to reason that you must believe that it's my responsibility [as a decent atheist] and the responsibility of all other decent atheists to stand up and denounce the acts of the world's least decent atheists. If you believe the one and don't believe the other, I want you to examine why not and then I want you to explain why not. Please.
Of course I denounce the killing of three innocents in Chapel Hill yesterday! You ought not need me to say so. You should just assume it. That horrible act has nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with my philosophy or my ideology or my world view or my affiliation or non-affiliation or my association or non-association with any group. Shame on that guy! If he did it [and I have absolutely no reason to doubt that he did] I want him convicted and sentenced and I don't want his sentencing to be anything less than harsh. I am a member of a society, and on that basis alone you ought to know better than to think that I condone or endorse or feel even the slightest bit of joy over what happened in Chapel Hill yesterday.

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Atheist Issues a Serious "Gratitude Challenge"

Warning: I am an atheist. If you are "a believer", gird your loins before proceeding! Continuing to read this post won't hurt [really!]. It won't even challenge your faith. Not a bit. Really! But it might offend you if you're not prepared and if you're insecure or way too sensitive. Why? Because I think your religion is nonsense, especially if it's an organized religion, and I don't pretend otherwise. Take a second, get prepared, and read on!


About a month ago, I was tagged to do this "Gratitude Challenge" that's been going around on Facebook. I took it seriously, mostly. Instead of rattling off three sentences a day, I wrote a bunch of little essays. I have a tendency to get wordy when I write. That's sort of a general trend. I don't expect that all of my Friends read all of it. I think that would be unreasonable. But I do always hope that a good number of them read at least a good amount. In case you want to read what I wrote during the five days of my Gratitude Challenge, I've posted a concatenated version here.

A week ago, I went on a twenty mile bike ride. During the ride, I was listening to the "Believers and Doubters" episode of the TED Radio Hour podcast. My mind kept going back to this Gratitude Challenge. Specifically I was thinking about one specific entry that I made [number 4.3 on my list], and even more specifically to a little note I put at the bottom of that entry. And I kept thinking about how few of my Friends had, in the intervening three weeks, chosen to do their Gratitude Challenges to any degree in the way I suggested there. Maybe that's all attributable to them not having read my entries. Maybe not. But it bothers me.

So I got it into my head to write this blog post in order to issue a serious Gratitude Challenge to everyone, regardless of whether they're my Facebook Friends or not.

I understand that lots of people believe in gods and magic and higher powers and guardian angels and ghosts and devils. Still, I've always been absolutely dumbfounded when I've heard people express the idea that "if there's no God, life has no meaning". I've heard it a lot. Frankly, I've heard it mostly from Christians, usually, I guess, stated as "without the love of Jesus, life would have no meaning" or something very similar. It seems insane to me! But I've thought about it a lot and I think this is the crux of why it bothers me:

If you can say, with a straight face, that belief in God [or Jesus or Allah or unicorns or karma or the magical power of feng shui or crystals or whatever] is THE THING that imbues your life with meaning and goodness and makes it all worthwhile, then what you're really saying is that you believe that your natural state is as a sociopath. You believe that THE THING that makes you behave in a way that is decent and ethical and acceptable in a society is that you have an imaginary friend! Maybe that's true. If it is, then please, please, please hold on to your superstitions! Do whatever it takes to keep you from snapping and turning into a mass murderer or rapist or sidewalk shitter or arsonist or serial eye-poker-outer or whatever sociopathic monster you think you'd be without those superstitions. Frankly, if your imaginary friend is what's keeping you from offing yourself, hold on to that! There are people who love you and will be devastated if you off yourself. You may not know it, but it's true.

Anyway, I've just gone off on one of my tangents. So, back to business:

Whether you are a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or an atheist or a Buddhist or a Wiccan or something else, I want to seriously issue you a Gratitude Challenge of my own:

If you have already done a Gratitude Challenge, go back and take a look at what you came up with. Take a good look, with an analytical eye. Did you actually express gratitude to somebody/somebodies [not a god or a guiding force] for something that he/she/they did or do with intent? If not, try—seriously try—to rephrase your statements of gratitude in such a way that you're expressing the kind of gratitude that I'm talking about. If they can't be rephrased, think of new statements of gratitude that fit the bill.

If you haven't already done a Gratitude Challenge, try it. Try to come up with somewhere between five and fifteen statements of the kind of honest gratitude that I'm talking about.

You can choose to share your results with me or not. If you don't want to, that's fine. If you do, I'd be honored. Either way, I'd be very interested in having you report back to me whether there are any surprising results. That's really what interests me here.

I may not have been clear about what I'm hoping you can come up with in terms of your statements of gratitude. So here are some examples:

  • Expressing gratitude to a cow for giving you milk is nonsense! Don't do it! The cow produces milk as a biological process. If you take the milk, you are happy to get milk, but you are not truly grateful to the cow for giving it to you. I hope you can understand this difference.
  • You CAN express gratitude to the dairy farmer for bringing milk to market.
  • If you actually milk a cow yourself, you CAN express gratitude to the cow for not kicking you in the head. Producing milk is not a decision the cow can make. Not kicking you in the head is.
  • Don't express gratitude "for my wife", "for my baby", "for my masseuse", "for my barber". Instead, consider expressing gratitude "to my wife for making me laugh", "to the woman who gave my baby up for adoption so that I could adopt said baby and let it fill that big spot in my heart", "to my masseuse for working out that kink in my neck on Tuesday", "to my barber for making me look like a million bucks". See the difference? If you say "I'm grateful for janitors", what you're implying is that you believe that janitors are put here by your god for your benefit. You're denying janitors' contribution. You're denying their agency. You're dehumanizing them even if you think you're praising them! If, on the other hand, you say "I'm grateful to the janitors of the world for keeping my workplace [or school or city] clean and pleasant smelling", you're actually giving them credit for their contribution. You're acknowledging that on some level they're actually your equals, not your playthings.
I think this may turn out to be a difficult task for some people, but I believe it will be doable for all! I really believe that you are capable of finding people in your experience who you think deserve gratitude because they choose to do what they choose to do that somehow enriches your life. If you can't manage it, I especially want to know! That would qualify as a surprising result.

This Gratitude Challenge is issued by an atheist. It is mainly geared towards non-atheists. But it is not at all about trying to convince you that your non-atheism is senseless. It is, instead, about exploring your connection to humanity.

If you think sunsets are a gift from God, okay. You can be grateful to God for sunsets—though I think it's disingenuous if you're not equally grateful to God for dementia and ebola and the incessant noise when the cicadas emerge every 17 years. But if you're truly grateful to God for sunsets, that's simply outside of the scope of this challenge. You're welcome to it, but it's not part of the exercise. If you tell me "I'm grateful for sunsets", I'm going to assume what you really mean is "I feel lucky that I get to enjoy the beauty of sunsets". Congratulations! Me too! But it's irrelevant. Take a  minute and think of someone who has done something that makes you feel grateful to that person for that something. It's much more meaningful to be grateful to your cat for snuggling with you when you came home from a hard day at work than it is to be grateful for your cat.

See if you can experience the difference!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Most Recent Drawings

I was recently invited to provide some work for display in a show at Artists’ Mediums in Williston, VT. They have four shows per year, and the current show’s title is “Once Upon a Time”. Instead of just selecting some drawings I had already done, I took the title of the show as inspiration to create a series of three new drawings. I had the idea of combining the Three Little Pigs with the Three Bears of Goldilocks fame. Would the presence of the bears be enough to deter the big bad wolf from harassing the three little pigs at their new abodes? I’ll leave it to you to decide whether this would be the case. If so, would the wolf then take the bears’ absence at their own abode as an invitation to deal with Goldilocks as if she were Little Red Riding Hood?

The show runs through October. Be sure to stop in if you’re in the area.

* Interestingly, the stories of The Three Little Pigs and The Three Bears are both British tales and both originally appeared in print in the 19th century. Little Red Riding Hood is much older and not British.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Prints Available for Purchase

I've finally set up a storefront, through Imagekind, where you can purchase prints of my charcoal drawings. See the snazzy banner to the right? Here's the direct link to the storefront's URL:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Video Showing My Drawing Process

This is a video I made for my Kickstarter campaign. I like it a lot. I hope you do too.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My First Kickstarter Campaign (please help)

Eight days ago I launched my first Kickstarter campaign. It runs until November 2, 02012. I hope you'll consider helping, by backing the campaign or by spreading the word to your friends or both.

I got an easy to remember URL for the campaign:

Thanks for your consideration.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I've Been Selected!

I received word yesterday evening that I have been selected to show a couple of drawings in the Juried Regional Exhibition at Newport's Library Arts Center. This is the second consecutive year in which I have been given this honor. The exhibition will open to the public on Friday, May 4, 02012. I am extremely excited about this opportunity.

What thrills me even more is that I have been selected to participate in the 02013 Selections Exhibit at the same gallery. That's a group show that will include the work of just seven artists. In that show, we'll get to show more than just two works apiece. I have not gotten any details yet about how many pieces I'll be able to show or whether they have to be new works or who gets to decide which pieces are included. I'm sure all will be revealed in due time. For now, I'm just over the proverbial moon about having been chosen. It's something that I basically set for myself as a "lifetime goal" within the last couple of years. Now that it's been achieved [the invitation, not the showing], I guess I have to set a new lifetime goal for myself. Perhaps I'll aim for a solo show sometime in the future. That'd be a real dream come true.

Anyway, It occurred to me that while my friends on Facebook have been privy to my "artwork", the general public has for the most part been able to see very little of it on the interwebs. I figure I might as well take this opportunity to rectify that with a blog post. My blog has been largely dormant in recent months. This is as good an excuse as any to add something to it. So, in case anyone's interested in seeing what I do, here are some examples of my work:

This is an old drawing from when I was in college. That'd make it approximately twenty years old.
This was from shortly after I left college. It must be at least seventeen years old at this point [and probably more like nineteen].
The rest of these are from my "resurgence" — within the last two years.
All the works I'm including in this post are drawn in charcoal, my favorite medium to work with.
I am not including the drawings that are going to be included in this year's Juried Regional Exhibition.
I'm also not including the drawings that were included in last year's Juried Regional Exhibition.
There's no particular justifiable rationale for these exclusions.
And of course you're encouraged to come see the shows when they're open.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Untitled [to avoid mean spiritedness and profanity]

“Before we marry the guy next door, don't you think we ought to have a fling with a tall dark stranger and see if he can support us in the manner to which we'd like to be accustomed? And if he can't, we can always marry the steady beau who lives next door.”

—Richard Land, in an NPR piece that aired January 13th

[Richard Land is the president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.]

The quote above was made in an effort to explain the need for a meeting that was scheduled to happen this weekend. At that meeting, 150 influential religious Conservatives ended up deciding [on the third ballot] that Rick Santorum is the Republican candidate that they want to support, collectively, as the anti-Romney. I found it absolutely fascinating that Dr. Land chose the words he did in making his analogy. I was all set to send him a letter congratulating him for finally facing his own homosexual tendencies. I was all set to thank him for taking a courageous position in support of same sex marriage—noting, of course, that said position is only “courageous” in the sense that it is likely to be unpopular among the narrow-minded sorts of people that he represents. I was all set to give him plenty of words of encouragement for taking his uncharacteristic stand in favor of equal protection for a segment of the population that his organization has until now been irrationally hostile towards.

I was, of course, also going to point out to him that so far there are actually very few jurisdictions in these United States where he would be afforded the opportunity to marry the steady beau who lives next door. I was going to point out that this must change if America is to live up to its ideals. I was going to point out that because the institutional bias against social justice for that segment of the population is so strong, we need for him and his friends to join in the effort to try to convince not only Rick Santorum and not only Santorum’s rivals for the Republican nomination, but also politicians throughout the country (whether they're on the national, statewide, or local stage). In fact, the fight to establish equal rights for all members of our society, including the homosexual members, is a fight that would benefit greatly from his efforts at convincing all of his constituents within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Alas, for some stupid reason I decided to do a Google search on Richard Land, at the very least to find out whether other NPR listeners had picked up on what seems to be such an obvious Freudian slip. Perhaps others had commented on this. Perhaps others have already deluged him with letters such as I was about to write. That’s when my thrill at his change of heart turned to disgust at his hypocrisy and sanctimonious deceit.

What I discovered was that on the very day when the NPR piece aired, it was also reported in an article in the Baptist Press that Land and 38 of his pals had signed an open letter to U.S. citizens in opposition to same-sex marriages. The letter itself was dated one day earlier, on January 12th. Given the early hour during which the NPR piece aired, I’m guessing that Land’s contribution was recorded either on or before the 12th.

You can reach your own conclusions. My own conclusion is that Richard Land is clearly a two-faced hateful sonofabitch and if you support his twisted ideology, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Poem #206

The repercussions
of long discussions
can be deep and wide and troubling.
For strong protection
try misdirection.
Perhaps mention tripling or bubbling.

Did you notice the "misdirection"? If you were paying attention, you were likely waiting for a rhyme with "troubling" and the setup word of "tripling" should have led you to expect "doubling". But then I threw in "bubbling" instead. Okay, so it's gimmicky. What do you want? I'm providing these free of charge.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Poem #205

If I start to pant
but I'm still unable to breathe
and my skin breaks out in hives,
please don't — you can't —
I don't want you to leave
or force feed my sour cream and chives.

I don't remember composing this one, but it sure seems like it was strictly an exercise in rhyme.