15 Minutes of Fame

July 28, 2010

I’m noticing that as my peer group ages, particularly if diminishing time includes reproduction, it trends toward organized religion. People state various reasons for the return — renewed faith, trauma, fear of death — but I believe the overarching reason is tucked in the subconscious and can only be defined as an overwhelming desire for fame, an eternal recognition by the masses that yes, they are SOMEONE SPECIAL.

People don’t like to use the word famous as it relates to their desired legacy. They prefer to be “remembered” yet for most, finite remembrance by a universally insignificant amount of people (nuclear family for most, extended for a few), is almost tragic.

We don’t know what the afterlife — if there is such a thing — will bring, but fame is a possibility. Let’s say you’re 60 and decide you’ve got about 20 years left to “make a mark.” Let’s say that so far your only “mark” is a one-sentence quote in an archived local paper. Wouldn’t the very idea of having an unlimited amount of time to become “known” among many be very compelling? What if even after all that time, your legacy was whittled down to a paragraph? Would you still do it?

The First Book of Kings discusses the life and conquests of Israel’s most influential kings including Solomon, who is known for being “richer and wiser than any other king” one “the whole world wanted to come and listen to.” I suppose he was sort of like Oprah. Even though he was considered a “great,” when he dies only a small paragraph is devoted to his life. The same goes for the other kings mentioned in this section including those rarely recognized, such as Zimri.

This pattern continues today. The 2010 TIME 100 list of  the people who have most affected our world includes some household names — Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Ben Stiller (he is listed as a “hero”), Oprah, Lady Gaga, Conan O’Brien and Prince — but how long will their fame last? Certainly longer than Louise Brooks and Gustav Mahler, but not by much. If they’re lucky, their lives will collapse to a paragraph in a mass-produced high school history book. But everyone wants a paragraph and many will look to a fantastical afterlife to get it.

Many times people say they don’t want to be famous. They’d rather “influence” others. I believe many do, but influence is often a smokescreen for fame. Influence in its true sense, which I see as an altruistic means to help others, isn’t flashy, not even when it touches fame.

How many of these people could you talk about (intelligently) for more than five minutes?

Zaha Hadid, Elizabeth Warren, Douglas Schwartzentruber and Larry Kwak, Michael Pollan, Atul Gawande, Jaron Lanier, Victor Pinchuk, Lee Kuan Yew, Deborah Gist, Kathleen Merrigan, Steve Jobs, Tim White, Lisa Jackson, Elon Musk, Edna Foa, Jaime Lerner, Paul Volcker, Amy Smith, Matt Berg, Amartya Sen, Michael Sherraden, Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy, Tim Westergren, David Boies and Theodore Olson and Sonia Sotomayor.

These people happen to be the 25 “thinkers” on the 2010 TIME 100 list, which gives them more exposure than most other 21st Century “thinkers.” But they’re still not household names because influence isn’t sexy, fame is.

Perhaps if we let go of fame and focused on influence purely as a means to improve the lives of others, the number of people returning to church as a means to get one last shot at fame, would vastly diminish. If you’re goal really is to influence, there’s no need to cling to eternity. If you’re goal is fame, and you’re not Lady Gaga, hold on tight and don’t miss Sunday mass.

FYI. This video explains how they made the TIME 100 list.

Note: I will be publishing again this Friday, July 30. To keep on track I need to get through the Second Book of Kings this week. Next week I’ll be back on the Monday/Wednesday track.

Stopping Point: Second Book of Kings


Oh Black Water

July 26, 2010

As mentioned in my last blog, I took a weeklong hiatus from Thumpme to visit various people and places in Colorado. As expected, it was the mountains —not Bible study — that encouraged me to examine the possibility of something greater than myself. Because I wasn’t in a church and haven’t “accepted” God, I’m pretty sure my nature-based spirituality doesn’t count in the book of organized religion.

True to this project, I did attempt to experience religion as defined by the Bible. While tooling around my hometown I tried to give confession at St. Joseph’s church, an edifice I’ve always admired but never entered — or so I thought.

When my best friend and I walked into St. Joe’s, she reminded me that we’d fist visited St. Joe’s when we were seven. It was our first solo trip to Old Town Ft. Collins, an independent milestone I’d been seeking for months. Our only instructions: Don’t talk to strangers; look both ways when crossing; get home by dinner.

Our parents didn’t say a word about throwing a handful of black raspberry candy into the holy water at St. Joe’s. I thought it was simply hysterical when the water turned black, but my friend was mortified and dragged me out of the church.

Twenty-one years later I decided to confess, but when I approached St. Joe’s confessional I was met with a sign that said: “Confessional Hours 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.” I couldn’t stick around for varying reasons (namely Sunshine, Ranger and Skinny Dip) nor could I attend the Sunday service (again, Sunshine, Ranger and Skinny Dip), but today I called the church asking for some sort of guidance regarding my impulse. Explaining my quest to the church secretary was a bit difficult. She was polite, but after my explanation she said, “You want to turn the holy water black?”

“No, I already did that. I would like to talk to someone about the implications of turning holy water black. Is that a sin and can I be forgiven?”

My call was not returned. A little Internet research suggests individuals have been using holy water for black satanic rituals. I can assure you that’s not what I intended with my black water however, I doubt I’ll be “forgiven” for this tiny infraction. Unlike God’s revered David, I am not cruel, have not disregarded half of the 10 Commandments (I’ve only hit four), murdered anyone or, most importantly, accepted God as my savior.

Like David I had a little brain fart regarding my indiscretion, but God likes David because David likes God so it’s OK for him sweep it under the rug.

After God forgives David, David sings a little ditty completely void of his blunders. He says:

“The Lord rewards me because I do what is right; he blesses me because I am innocent.

I have obeyed the law of the Lord; I have not turned away from my God.

I have observed all his laws; I have not disobeyed his commands.

He knows that I am faultless, that I have kept myself from doing wrong.

And so he rewards me because I do what is right, because he knows I am innocent.”

It seems that sins are insignificant as long as the sinner has accepted God and confessed in a church. If I had accepted God and waited until 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to confess my 21-year-old sin rather than drinking and hiking in the mountains, would my black berries go unnoticed?

I know “accepting God” takes more than 15 minutes, but I can’t understand these general principles. Please explain this to me.

Stopping Point: The First Book of Kings

This week I’m swapping the Bible for the mountains. I’ll resume Thumpme when I return Monday, July 26.

Though I find more peace in the mountains than I do the Bible, I did visit a Catholic church. I was even prepared to give confession. Unfortunately, confessionals now have hours. This particular church has God’s ear from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. I teetered in at about 2:30 p.m. and considered a return trip, but then I remembered my plans to rally at 4 p.m. in preparation for a 4:30 p.m. meeting with some representatives from a local brewery.

I’m headed to a different location and may give church another shot before getting back into the Bible. I’ll keep you posted.

Gay David

July 14, 2010

Interpretation is perhaps the most compelling and contentious component of Bible study. It’s also the most liberating.

I always thought God despised homosexuality, but he doesn’t. In fact, in the story of David, he chooses homosexuality over heterosexuality. Earlier in the Bible God directly addresses his distain for sodomy but in the Book of Samuel, he indirectly addresses homosexuality and he approves. I think this giant elephant is often missed because humans, particularly Americans, ignore that which they disapprove of as long as it’s not thrown their face. Think politics, family, work, environment, happiness, economy. Religion.

Here’s a quick rundown. David is the attractive guy who kills the big ugly mass that is Goliath. God loves him, but he’s not too thrilled with King Saul. Saul’s son, Jonathan is “deeply attracted to David and came to love him as much as he loved himself.” Jonathan protects David from Saul, who hates David as fervently as Jonathan loves him. Eventually the J and D go into a field and promise to love each other. After the field, Jonathan returns to Saul who beats him for not being “ritually pure.” Ritually pure refers to many things — animals, food, what have you — but it plays a major role in sexual relationships. Saul gets pissed and beats Jonathan for being rebellious.

Then J and D rendezvous in the field once more only this time they’re joined by a young boy and his arrows. Jonathan saves David once again and “…both he (David) and Jonathan were crying as they kissed each other; David’s grief was even greater than Jonathan’s.” Then they make a “secret promise of friendship to each other.”

OK heterosexual men. How many of you have made a secret promise of a friendship with another man and then cried and kissed him in joy?

When David goes to a priest for some bread, the priest tells him he “…can have it if your men haven’t had any sexual relations recently,” but he doesn’t specify the nature of the relationships. There are several references to David “hiding,” “spears” and other homosexual undertones. David also tries to make peace with Saul by bringing him 200 enemy foreskins. That’s not gay. It’s just gross.

In the end, the Lord has to pick Saul or David. He has to “…judge which one of us (Saul or David) is wrong!”

Guess what? He picks David.

If you want a more detailed rundown, check out this video. It was produced by the “The Gay Bible Project, which has its own agenda but I couldn’t find a video addressing this topic on GodTube — if you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist.

The Gay Bible Project: David and Jonathan

In this portion of the Bible, Saul battles with his own homosexual tendencies and is made miserable by suppression. Perhaps this is the real lesson here — Rejecting ones self can only result in a lifetime of torture. Perhaps.

Of course, this is all open to interpretation.

Stopping Point: Second Book of Samuel

Passing on Passover

July 12, 2010

I realize this will devastate the Jewish community, but I will not be converting to Judaism. The Old Testament is largely at fault as it’s full of names and places I will never get straight. I’m also not that hot on Jerusalem, a sentiment my husband says is “ignorant” and therefore may require revision.

Even though I don’t want to be a Jew and am looking forward to the New Testament, I’ve enjoyed several pieces of the Old including the Book of Judges. The majority of the Book of Judges is about killing, taking land and killing. Naturally, I can’t remember the names of the murderers, lost tribes or pillaged lands, but I remember the means to every end. They include a left handed stabbing with a double edged sword; an enthusiastic hammering of a tent peg into a skull; an oxgoad beating; a natural beating via thorns and briars; lighting people on fire (this happens a lot); death by flaming fox tails; dead donkey jawbone bashings and collapsing structures for the sole purpose of crushing skulls.

The Book of Judges also introduces us to our first sociopath, a wayward Levite who makes up for selfishly murdering his wife by generously distributing her chopped up body to each of the 12 Tribes of Israel. I believe Judges records our first gang rape, but I’d have to go back and check because something similar may have happened last time homosexuality was discussed. I have major issues with this and am logging all violence related to homosexual activity.

The Levite is fascinating, but I’m awestruck by Samson, who ripped a lion apart with his hands and then ate honey from its innards; and indebted to Deborah, who created a two page “song” that reads like a text book, proving that people have been subjected to musical train wrecks since the beginning of civilization. In other words, I finally found a song less palatable than “Money Can’t Buy You Class,” by New York real housewife Countess Luann de Lesseps.

This is entirely unrelated but I came across extraordinary hat while searching for photos of Jerusalem. If anyone wants to send me one, I promise to search eBay for a matching oxgoad (a stick-like weapon) and wear both to work.

Stopping Point: Samuel

Ali G Religion Roundtable — Priceless

Either-Or-Nothing

July 7, 2010

Blessing or curse. Life or death. Republican or Democrat. Smart or stupid. Mayo or Miracle Whip. Penis or vagina.

The black and white rhetoric of the most vociferous religious entities in our culture is absolutely the No. 1 reason I passed on religion for the first 20 years of my life. I came to understand faith and spirituality by cautiously moving about their lucid parameters, but back away from both as soon as they fall into the fold of religion as defined by institution.

I am not alone. I’ve spoken with several friends and acquaintances about this Bible quest. Surprisingly (at least to me), all of them spent time in religious institutions when they were children and all of them have faith in a higher being. Interestingly, most of them are removed from and bothered by the emptying institutions hell bent on preaching archaic extremes.

I realize the squeaky wheel grabs the camera, particularly as it pertains to religion and politics, but the in-betweens — the Objectivist Party, the average Joe (Joe the Plumber excluded) — remain quiet. They have no interest in out-shouting the Billy Graham’s of the world. They’re not extremists. They don’t see in absolutes. They just want to do and be.

At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses recites the following:

“Today I am giving you a choice between good and evil, between life and death. If you obey the commands of the Lord your God, which I give you today if you love him, obey him, and keep all his laws, then you will prosper and become a nation of many people…

“But if you disobey and refuse to listen, and are led away to worship other gods, you will be destroyed …”

“I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make.”

One or the other. No middle. This is absurd. Parents often pretend to operate in absolutes, but how many really do it? What about the courts? Education? Relationships?

The Lord threatens termination of entire nations incapable or uninterested in choosing his life. By not choosing life (as defined by his terms), we choose death. So how the hell has any HUMAN population survived?

I’ve read and noted some “exceptions” to these many rules, but so far this text is a boomerang of extremes.

When does the loud extremist make room for a quiet, middle of the road being capable of measuring the Lord’s extremes and making human life not only possible, but enjoyable?

Jesus?

Stopping Point: Book of Judges

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