Tenacious (D) euteronomy

June 30, 2010

Last time I posted I bailed on my commitment to finish Numbers in one reading. I finished Numbers today and moved onto Deuteronomy, which practically summarizes Numbers! It would have been awesome if someone told me that. Deuteronomy is so much more concise.

I suppose that’s what I get for cheating, which brings me to tenacity. Do I have enough to survive the next three weeks without any substances? I think so, but we’ll see. My reward for making it is a trip to Colorado. If I fail, I’ll still go to Colorado, completely annihilating cause-effect as motivation. Cause-effect aside, this ban on substances is self-inflicted and if I don’t have enough tenacity to follow through on my own impositions, it’s going to be ride. For the record, I view “substance” and “fun” as synonyms so feel free to sympathize.

Deuteronomy clarified a lot of references I’ve never understood. I’ll get to that later. Since people pick and choose the pieces of the Bible they’d like to follow, I choose the parenthesis, which makes an epic cameo in this section.

Example:

“… (A mighty race of giants called the Emim used to live in Ar. They were as tall as the Anakim, another race of giants. Like the Anakim they were also known as Rephaim; but he Moabites called them Emim. The Horites used to live in Edom, but the descendents of Esau chased them out, destroyed their nation, and settled there themselves, just as the Israelites later chased their enemies out of the land that the Lord gave them.)”

So this substance thing is a way to (hopefully) rid myself of a really long stint of insomnia. So far the worst part is caffeine withdrawal, which really sucks. (According to the 20 websites I visited during my ‘caffeine withdrawal symptoms’ search, I’m experiencing all side effects including headache, sleep deprivation, irritability, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. In other good news, a 2004 CNN report, “A new study that analyzes some 170 years’ worth of research concludes that caffeine withdrawal is very real — producing enough physical symptoms and a disruption in daily life to classify it as a psychiatric disorder. Researchers are suggesting that caffeine withdrawal should be included in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), considered the bible of mental disorders.” As if I need another.)

 (On a positive note, there was a 12-hour period in May where I was hell bent on obtaining a heroin addiction and then writing about the withdrawal. This experience has taught me that no, I don’t want to do that.)

It’s very difficult to read 30-40 pages of the Bible twice a week especially when lack of concentration, sleep deprivation and irritability are thrown into the mix however, I’m still plowing through and as usual, I always end up enjoying the reading.

For a non-believer, Deuteronomy is very informative. This is moronic, but I’d never heard of the “great commandment,” understood the whole chosen people bit, really known why Jewish people stay away from the pig (I’ve feigned this information for years), why some believers want women to wear skirts and men pants, the consequences of having sex before marriage (still digesting this one) and the whole virginal blood on the sheets thing (sick).

It’s very fitting that my quest for purity coincides with my goal to read the Bible by Christmas. I’ll just go a day at a time, a lesson I believe is taught in the Bible and substance abuse groups. Tenacity.

Stopping Point: Deuteronomy, Section 28 (I never committed to reading this in one sitting. Conscious cleared.)

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Today’s piece is a write-as-I-read number. I’m in a FANTASTIC mood and want to see if reading the Bible while irritated shows any measurable results. Many people think yes, good for all moods.

Generally when I see the world in varying shades of shit I do the following:

  1. Run until I feel like vomiting (can’t do it, foot is still a mess)
  2. Punch or kick something (nice little mix of German/Italian blood, already did it, didn’t work)
  3. Shutdown (did it, obviously opening back up)

Today we’re going thumper style. I’m reading Numbers. We’ll see how far I get. Looks pretty dense, but fitting since it’s about “people who were often discouraged and afraid in the face of hardship.” Substitute anger for fear and there I am.

I’m three pages in and I already feel better as the Lord has just affirmed that first borns are the best. He chose them as his No. 1s. They got things started and then the second/third borns what have you, took over. Typical.

The details in this chapter — numbers, ages, rituals — are a bit annoying, but the rhythm of reading something and letting it pass through one eye and out the other without any pause for thought is rather soothing. I suppose this zombie-like repetition has modern appeal as it compliments much of 21st Century fiction. (It should be noted that I loved Nora Roberts when I was in fifth grade. She gives some  great tutorials about the synchronicity of bells and whistles.)

I’ve reached the “Lord Sends Quails” section. The correlating drawing of people chasing quail is amazing. I can’t find this drawing on the web, but this little nugget relates to one of my favorite national political headlines of 2006, the year Mr. Dick Cheney shot one of his supporters while quail hunting.

Oddly enough, the rest of the piece is about whiners and how they should stop pissing and moaning. Oh so appropriate given my state of mind. The people spent so much time complaining that God gave Moses a complaint department of 70 people and devoted two sections — “The People Complain” and “The Lord Punishes the People for Complaining” — to the matter. Punishments for complaints include death, 40 years of suffering, abandonment in the wilderness, fire, being swallowed by the earth, plague and attack by poisonous snakes.

Message received.

Did the turn-to-the-Bible experiment work? I suppose. The coincidence is rather interesting and did improve my mood. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll give this another try and measure results.

Question. I’m writing this from the Michigan State University (MSU) library. Do men really use the stacks to relieve certain tensions? That’s just fantastic.

Stopping Point: Numbers 27

Leviticus is very interesting in that it outlines various traditions, rules and consequences as defined by God. As with sections of Exodus, I sort of CliffsNoted my way through the boring stuff. But in those more than 30 pages, I found some value and many exceptions.

I’m not particularly adept at following rules be they legal, moral or social. I follow the ones I find most beneficial — wearing a seatbelt (if I’m in the front seat), applying sunblock (after succumbing to summer’s inaugural burn), taking care of those I love (but only if they’re not pissing me off), keeping my hands off the property of others (a few mishaps here) and respecting the lives of others (see section 1A for a complete library of addendums). I obey rules and laws sidelined with consequences I prefer to avoid  — paying taxes (um…), voting (soon to join the do-not-follow section) and killing (of large animals). And I disregard the ridiculous — respecting misplaced stop signs (when cops are not around), succumbing to obligation (unless it includes intoxication) and expressing kindness toward strangers (see section 1B for specifics).

My rules concerning rules are only consistent in devotion to exception. This, in effect, is Leviticus, a section of the Bible known for the “love your neighbor as you love yourself” commandment, one that gets lost in the quagmire of God’s laws, which are so confusing it’s nearly impossible to decipher right from wrong. (For the record, it took 30 pages before I noticed it’s “Le-vi-ti-cus,” not “Le-vic-tus.”)

Thankfully, a multitude of exceptions are wrapped up in these laws. I thrive on exceptions and therefore can place the following in my patchwork list of acceptable rules.  

1. Laws Concerning Skin Diseases: Yes, I agree that skin diseases are disgusting and an individual afflicted by such a disease should be examined and, if necessary, quarantined. Unless of course the affliction is ringworm and it happens to be on my leg.

2. Laws Concerning Mildew: Also disgusting, but wonderful if covered by insurance.

3. Unclean Bodily Discharges: Agree with the concept, not the fluids.

4. Laws of Holiness and Justice: This is generally good stuff — no cheating, no lying, no breaking promises, no holding grudges — and a perfect demonstration of the value of exception. Have you ever gone a week without cheating, lying, breaking a promise or holding a grudge? I have, but only if white lies and cheating at board games are classified as exceptions to the cheating and lying portion of holiness and justice.

5. Eye for an eye. Love it, but prefer the world follow it after I’m safely housed in a concrete bunker in a land far, far away.

The way in which God designs these rules, regulations and punishments is ingenious because complexity allows for confusion, which encourages interpretation, which results in justification. Some people really blow the justification component. Justifying the alleged killing of a strawberry stripper as a means to appease a bitch-slapping wife is not exactly the best logic.

That being said, justification is generally used to excuse blurry and harmless offenses. If God had created black and white rules punishable by the same consequence, we’d be screwed. If the punishment were death, we would cease to exist. If the punishment were guilt and shame, we would cease to prosper.

Humans are imperfect and incapable of linearly following legal, moral and social laws. If God’s laws didn’t allow for exception and interpretation we would not only hate ourselves for consistently failing, we would, by default, hate our neighbor. It is simply impossible to fully love your neighbor if you hate yourself.

Cheers to God’s exceptions.

Stopping Point: Should be Numbers, but will be Leviticus Part II — “That’s What She Said

Touchdown!

June 16, 2010

I initially found this section fraught with uninteresting detail. With the exception of the 10 Commandments, this portion of Exodus is like participating in a Broadway rehearsal. Wear a rope here, gold there, rub bull blood there, don’t walk here, offer here, waste wine over here – far too many details for my attention span, an affliction to be broached when a certain medicinal trailer moves through Lansing.

I started this section with the 10 Cs but since they’re revised later on, let’s get straight to the nut of my new affection for the Lord. Orgies and alcohol.

After the yada yada yada blah blah blah about robes, tents, lamps and whatnot, the people, who are left to their own devices because Moses is with the Lord working on wardrobe, “… sat down to a feast, which turned into an orgy of drinking and sex.” Yes please.

The people had this orgy before a homemade golden bull calf alter, which  prohibited by the 10 Cs where the Lord SPECIFICALLY tells his people not to worship anything – idols, metals, Gods, what have you – other than himself. The amazing part – and the reason I may relax my resistance against the Lord’s rules – is that the only thing about the situation that pisses him off is the gold-bull calf.

“So the Lord sent a disease on the people, because they had caused Aaron to make the gold-bull calf.”

I can’t blame the Lord for getting a little peeved. Everyone has their own idea of proper orgy ambiance. The Lord just happens to dislike bronze and all other metals.

“Do not make gods of metal and worship them,” he says to Moses and his people.

This prohibition may explain the recent destruction of Ohio’s Touchdown Jesus. The structure was made of plastic foam and fiberglass over a steel frame. Unfortunately for Touchdown, steel is an iron alloy. Goodnight Jesus. My reading has yet to bring me to Jesus so I’m unsure as to whether he is amenable to metals. If he is, it would appear that the burning of Touchdown Jesus was a man made event, not a punishment from God.

If you are unfamiliar with Touchdown Jesus dirt eating incident, please check out the following video.

Version one of the 10 Cs makes sense until the Lord lists his addendums. If this then that. If this then that THEN this then this, then this. It’s like reading a Senate bill. The “do not desire” component of the 10 Cs is antithetical to human nature and American culture. If we did not desire, would our economy be collapsing and would we be at war?

The 10 Commandments round deux is fine, but the details about the lamp stand, the covenant box and the making of the Lord’s tent is just tedium. Basically he adds more bronze. Men.

Stopping Point: Leviticus

3 a.m. Eighth night of insomnia in 14 days. Not the sleep a little, wake a little, sleep a little wake a little insomnia that sets the stage for groggy days. This is the solitary, wide-eyed variety responsible for driving people to insanity. Again, I find myself reading the Bible.

Exodus is a fitting 3 a.m. read for one enslaved by the mind. Exodus begins with Egyptian tyranny and the oppression of the Israelites, who have their spirits crushed by slavery and hard labor. We’re both boxed in, but one of us chooses to exercise free will and the other does not. One of us will be set free and the other will not.

Even though they are slaves, the Israelites outnumber their Egyptian rulers, igniting fear in the Egyptian king who is determined not to let them leave. Rather than taking advantage of their manpower and overcoming the Egyptians, the Israelites do nothing. They accept their lot and hope for someone else to set them free. No uprising, not a peep of malcontent, not a single slitting of a throat. Nothing.

God knows the Israelites are weak and sheep-like in mentality. So when he tells Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he commands Moses to take the long route and avoid the shorter, reason being that if faced with a fight, the shorter route would allow the cowardly Israelites to “change their minds and return to Egypt” where they would once again succumb to servitude.

Moses does as he is told and leads the Israelites to the Red Sea. Despite being protected by Moses and God (or the Lord, yet another identity crisis), the Israelites become fearful of the sea and say “We told you to leave us alone and let us go on being slaves of the Egyptians. It would be better to be slaves there than to die here in the desert.”

After assurances from Moses, the Israelites follow him beyond the bed of the Red Sea toward freedom. However, when they’re freed from the Egyptians, the Israelites settle themselves under the thumb of God, surrendering freedom for protection.

I cannot identify with the Israelites and it’s not because I have never followed a magic man through a parted sea or found loyalty in circumcision. It’s because I cannot stand weakness, particularly as it applies to submission of free will.

In Exodus it’s established that the weak shall be protected, a tenant of American civilization that is, in theory, widely accepted. Weakness encompasses a plethora of flaws, misfortunes and life situations, many of which are legitimate and temporary. My question is, why protect the weak that have no will? I believe it’s because doing so would precipitate the collapse of American civilization. What would the majority do without the lily pad path leading from elementary school to junior high; junior high to high school; high school to college; college to mechanical employment; and mechanical employment to retirement?

God, or the Lord, as his highness prefers to be referenced in Exodus, designates stubbornness as a sin. At this point in the Bible, this leaves us with two sins: Homosexuality and stubbornness. Currently, incest, murder, rape and greed are mere plotlines. Perhaps stubbornness is a sin because when applied properly, it mirrors free will and therefore threatens civilization.

Maybe my test is to survive my sin – stubbornness masked as free will – by conquering insanity bred by insomnia. Or maybe not.

Stopping point: Exodus, The Ten Commandments

Open-Minded Judgments

June 9, 2010

People stare at me when I read the Bible in public. I’m inclined to explain to young gawkers that this is a summer project in hopes that doing so will prevent them from pegging me as a believer. I am equally tempted to crush those who approve of my studies (hint — they include the population that will receive Social Security benefits) with a sarcastic admission of disbelief.

My conflict with reading the Bible is paramount to the Bible itself. This monstrosity of diction is a colossal contradiction, an impossible labyrinth mankind somehow decided to follow and interpret. The problem with interpretation is that it’s subjective. Not only is it subjective, successful transmission relies on intelligent agents. We are completely screwed.

I was really excited to use the Rape of Dinah as a lynchpin for a diatribe about the Bible and sex, but my head is so spun by erotic conflict that I’m going to have to put my favorite subject off until I can slow the rotations. Therefore, I will do what I prefer not to do and save myself for a later entry, devoting this one to “The Twelve Tribes of Israel.”

For those of you who don’t remember, Jacob (don’t worry about him, he’s just a cog) presented these 12 “tribes,” which are like premonitions or curses or whatever, to his sons on his deathbed. FYI, at this point Jacob’s name is now Israel but he still responds to Jacob. If any of you can explain the name changing, by all means, jump in…

The messages embedded in these “tribes” are all over the place and are only consistent in lack of clarity. Individually they can be interpreted as good or evil, right or wrong, cause or effect. As a group, they can be divided into categories, but how should they be divided and what does it mean? Basically, how does some dumb schmoe like myself make sense of this?

I looked through all 11 tribes — Jacob has 12 sons but apparently Simeon and Levi are not important enough to have their own so they get smashed together — evaluated them, weighed their outcomes and then paired them. I used Jacob’s moment with God, which he has midway through naming the tribes, as the divider between my two sections. It’s a yin-yang situation. Those before the interference are yin, those after, yang.

— Hold on. I need a moment with myself. — Since I absently rolled up the napkin where I wrote my notes about the Twelve Tribes of Israel, proceeded to wrap it around my finger and then rip it up, I’m starting from scratch. One second…

And we’re rolling. These are my pairings.

1. Benjamin (also renamed) is like a wolf and kills all day and night. His brothers Simeon and Levi also kill but they use weapons, anger and violence and they use it to harm humans and animals. Here we have instinct versus indulgence or animal versus man.

2. Joseph gets a huge paragraph because he’s like a donkey. He’s also a good fighter, protector and farmer. God also loves him so he can do whatever the hell he wants and people will bow down to him. Some kids inherit unpaid property taxes and others God’s devotion. Who said life is fair? Paired with Joseph is poor Judah. Like Joseph, people will bow to Judah but Judah’s a loner and a glutton. He will always spawn, but he’s addicted to the grape and will die with purple teeth. Here we have perfection and imperfection or power and misfortune.

3. Naphtali is a deer and a nympho. He gets two sentences and a license to screw. He’s an ancient Mimbo, a dumb male purposed with reproduction and blessed with beautiful sperm. Reuben, on the other hand, is a good person but since he slept with dad’s concubine, he’s dishonorable. Here we have frivolity and oppression or reproduction and chastity.

4. Asher is good with food and will feed the king, but his brother Issachar is fine with being no better than a donkey so he bends his back to carry food and works as a slave. Here we get into an equal to or better than equation. If you’re kind of like a donkey (Joseph), you’re better than a donkey and also amazing. If you’re equal to a donkey (Issacher), you’re ripe for blankets and fat asses. Here we have responsibility and laziness or status and freedom.

5. Gad is destined to get attacked by robbers and turn them in. Fantastic fortune. Dan will rule people and act as a snake that attacks pedestrians. Here we have honor and deception or cowardice and enterprise.

5.5 Zebulun is the cheese. He’s the last brother, he doesn’t have a yin-yang match and is destined to live by the sea where he will become a haven for ships and expand his territory beyond Sidon. I say he’s a decoy for the gluttonous devouring of land that spawns eternities of religious warfare.

So what’s good and what’s bad? It all depends on the lens. Is everything circumstantial? I don’t know, but organized religion sure wants us to think so.

This project has me overwhelmed and empathetic to those who devote their lives to this journey. For this entry I read 10 pages and could only write about 1.5.

Rather then spend any more of my day expanding my worldview, challenging my often bombastic proclamations and sitting in my chair sipping tea and looking thoughtfully out the window like a scholar, I’m going to close my computer, spend money on clothes I don’t need and then have a drink of the least holy water imaginable.

Stopping Point: Exodus

I’m sitting in my bedroom, brooding. The pain pills prescribed to heal my injured toe are not working. Since the mad scientists watered down by the FDA have quashed my fantasies of a buzz, I’m running through and adding to the list of people who have wronged me — primarily family members and strangers — while simultaneously weighing the fiscal viability of a shark-for-hire or communicable-disease-for-hire service industry.

I am not a churchgoer, but I’ve hear the whole God is forgiving bit. Actually, he isn’t.  He’s a narcissistic hypocrite, which explains why I’ve never been able to bow my head or close my eyes when forced to pray. In Genesis, or when God decided man could come into being, he not only sets man up for failure, he uses his power to punish those he doesn’t like and reward those he does. The funny thing is, I can’t figure out how he chooses good and evil. Why did Noah get to build an arc? Because he gave an offering to the Lord that smelled good? Cain gave God his harvest before Abel gave him a chopped up sheep, but God got pissed at Cain. Why? I guess we were never meant to be vegetarian.

I don’t see any forgiveness yet.

I’ve also learned about Shem (wasn’t he an original Stooge?) and Ham, whom I can’t imagine had much in terms of self-esteem. I’m curious to see if they turn up on subsequent pages and if so, what role they play.

I’m confused by Abram’s story. God gives him this awesome piece of land than creates a drought and forces Abram to Egypt where his beautiful wife has to be disguised as his sister so he doesn’t get killed? Then we get into a little Indecent Proposal because the king gives Abram gifts in exchange for his wife’s company.  But later on she gives him permission to take on a concubine so I guess it’s all good. Does monotony ever get addressed in the Bible? At this point sex is a circus and the carnal relationships don’t fall in line with what I’ve heard from Christians who seem to favor monotony over pleasure, especially Catholics who are anti-divorce.

Then we get into the warring kingdoms. It’s confusing and stupid and reinforces my commitment to ignore what we know as the Middle East. Well, everything but oil, which is pretty cool and pretty neutral in terms of dinner conversation.

The circumcision covenant is interesting. I’ll have to revisit that one and the multitudes of sexual norms/deviations presented in this first section. I can’t tell if norms or deviations are a human construct. Thus far homosexuality has been met with blindness and incest life.

I thought reading the Bible while brooding would calm my irritations and encourage forgiveness, but it actually just normalized the moronic nature of relationships, particularly those bound by blood. Apparently families have been dysfunctional since the beginning of time. As the Godfather, God holds the promises he makes over his loved ones’ heads and every time they get close to cashing in, he reneges or changes the rules. I’ll give you descendants if you do this. OK. Now I’ll give you descendents if you do this. OK. Now if you do this. OK. This must be where family game playing was created. Family members play favorites, engage in healthy acts of jealousy, rivalry, spite, deception and torture.

Example: “When Esau was forty years old, he married two Hittite girls, Judith the daughter of Beeri, and Basemath the daughter of Elon. They made life miserable for Issac and Rebecca.”

We’ve also got kicking in the womb, sexual punishment and steeling. This could be good.

First impression of the Bible: I wish the Goddamn thing had consecutive page numbers. Second impression: What about some pictures or a family tree? Come on God! Throw me a bone.

I also like Uz and Buz. This could be another case of déjà vu, but I’m pretty sure we’ve met before.

Stopping point: Genesis, Jacob Meets Esau

I’m agnostic. I’m a writer. I’m a rejection devotee and I’m deeply committed to publicizing unsubstantiated opinions. In May, I started brainstorming summer writing projects. I came up with three.

1. Develop a heroin addiction by August, finish rehab by October and post a bleak blog by December.

2. Obtain a taser license and tour the U.S.

3. Read the Bible.

Project No.1 would have derailed a marriage I rather enjoy and No. 2 has been postponed until 2011 so here I am, reading the Bible cover-to-cover. I started in June and will finish Christmas day.

Why the Bible? I love literature but miss all Biblical references. I also love my sister but she seems to have no interest in me. Since she goes to church and I don’t understand her or religion, I thought two rocks, one stone.

I’ve been to church a few times. My last visit was December 24, 2009. I went with my sister and left with little insight and a plastic candleholder I later recycled. I want to give my sister and the Bible a fair shake and am doing my best to keep an open mind. Admittedly, the name of the blog — ThumpMe — is a little dig at Bible thumpers. Unfair? Maybe, but I have a difficult time with people who force their views on others. I realize this is a minority and trust me, God’s already messing with me on that one by encouraging the pornographically inclined to send me e-mails, tweets, etc.

I love to hear from readers, particularly those who know what they’re talking about because I don’t. Contact me any time with questions, thoughts, musings. Love it.

Amen God and mozeltov.

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