banana + triangle ≠ God

On Christmas Eve I went to church. It is the church I went to as a child, the church I have not set foot in in over 20 years. I went looking for something, my sister perhaps. The church had changed as things do over time and in our memories. The people had changed too. I enjoyed the carols, the singing, the stories. I did not find what I was looking for, something to fill the hole where my sister used to live inside me. At some point I will have to accept that she is truly gone and the only things left of her are the impact she had on the people she touched and the words she left behind. I will have to be content with her in my memory and dreams.  I also didn’t find God there in “his ” house. I’m sorry to my believer friends, I worry they will judge me or feel sorry for me. I am mad at myself that I fear my friends judgment. None the less it is there in my heart. The following is how I feel about God, take it or leave it, it is my truth.

I am a scientist. Even before I had the legit college degree to prove it, I was a scientist. As a child I studied the world around me; I didn’t ask why is the sky blue, I asked how can it change color? I didn’t think about gold at the end of the rainbow, I considered what makes a rainbow happen and why don’t I see more of them. From a very young age to this moment in time, I deal in the tangible world that can be studied, observed or dissected to find answers. This does not mean I am devoid of faith or the ability to believe in things that have yet to be proven or cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Christmas is an interesting time of year for me because I do not believe in God. I do not celebrate the birth of a man called Christ, though I do think it is fun to say “Happy Birthday Jesus”. I do celebrate the spirit of giving and loving that Christmas holiday has evolved into. I am neither angered by nor interested in “Jesus is the reason for the Season” and I do not begrudge my family and friends who choose to believe in a higher power; it is their right to believe or have faith in whatever strikes their fancy. I believe this is part of the human condition, and who am I to judge this? I don’t say this with a niggling of doubt that there might actually be a Supreme Being and I want to hedge my bets, I say this because I really believe that life is hard and if believing in or worshiping something that can neither be seen or proven makes you feel better or helps you make sense of the world around you than I am glad you can find such peace. It is not my view, and I don’t understand it, but please don’t let me stop you from investing in your decision.  And I ask the same respect from you, please stop disrespecting my decision or lack of religion; and for all that is good and “holy” in your world, PLEASE stop praying for me. I’m all set, thanks.

I love the certainty of science and math. I love critical thinking and logical arguments. I enjoy cohesive thoughts that move from A to B with clear and brilliant strokes of genius and dependable theories or facts that encourage in depth thought and wonders to ponder. I love that 1+1=2 and that if I am presented with 1+X=2 I have a proven way to solve for X. I do not have to take it on faith that X is 1, nor do I need to make giant leaps in logic to believe that X=1; all I need is cohesive algebraic math to get me from point A to point B. It is sort of like Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Now, before you get your hackles raised listen to my thought process. Before you make a decision on how you feel about what you think I am going say, please just actually listen to my words. Darwin’s theory has not been entirely proven within a shadow of a doubt, this is why it is still called a theory instead of a law or fact. This is as opposed to Newton’s “LAW” of gravity, it is a provable fact. Anyhoo, the Theory of Evolution makes a coherent cohesive argument for evolution as the process by which man, and other species of animals and plants, came into being. It gives specific examples and demonstrations throughout not only time but through a species lifecycle that support the theory (some would say prove the theory), almost to the point of it being accepted as fact. Science may be missing the proverbial missing link that prevents true “proof”, but they have done a damn fine job of filling in enough gaps that it is hard to refute the theory (of course you can choose not to see the proof but that is a different blog altogether).

So, given the wealth of information and examples available to support Darwin’s idea, I can easily accept the rest that we have not yet proven on blind faith because it passes the logic test. In a world full of infinite possibilities for the creation or development of man, this theory has more than lived up to the need for supporting evidence. If you disagree then go back to school, disagreeing because it conflicts with your “faith” is not the same thing as being able to explain why it is all a bunch of bunk. For me, science prevents the belief in an Omnipotent Creator because 1+1=2, it never equals 4 and it certainly never equals banana. I think at the very least we can all agree on that. If you want to argue that 1+1 does equal banana then please just stop reading now and move on to more sensible blogs that talk about fairies and leprechauns.

Now back to this God fellow. Religion is based on faith and “history” books written by men who had a goal or objective that included convincing other men to believe in a God. Sorry that is not disputable, the goal for writing the Bible, and other religious texts, was and will always be to convince man there is a higher power to worship and guide his actions.  I get this. I really do. I understand laws to govern actions and faith to believe if we follow them good things will happen. I even get faith to believe in things we cannot see and cannot prove, after all I have already admitted that I have faith in evolution and that it has not been technically proven, so you can see I am nothing if not flexible. But to ask me to believe in God is asking me to disengage from my logical side. The side that wants equations to work out, to have a logical answer or a cohesive argument why they don’t work out. Don’t get me wrong, I know a person can be a person of science and be religious, I have two dear friends that are doctors and are also very dedicated Christians. But when I ask them, or any other believer, to make a logical argument for God that includes at least some verifiable facts they all sort of stare out into space and bring up faith or feelings. Well, faith is all good and well, I have faith, a lot of it actually, but faith does not make banana+triangle=God no matter how you try to spin it.

I am not asking for the Almighty himself to come down from the heavens and speak to me about my eternal soul. I am not asking to witness a miracle (which frankly I think are just a wonderful happenstance and crazy collisions of just the right elements). All I am asking for is a cohesive, logical argument based on facts that show or at least provide a case for a God to exist. Telling me I have to rely on faith is telling me that X in the above equation could equal any number, but respectfully, no it can’t. Telling me that the Bible is a history book that proves the events happen, will only cause me to produce many “history” books man has written over time that have little or nothing to do with actual verifiable history. Fiction is fun and entertaining, it can even seem real and so engaging you wish you could be in that world, but fiction is still fiction, and other than other religious texts, there is no corroborating evidence that any of the religious texts are anything more than stories written to convince men to follow a leader or control their actions (also sometimes known as propaganda).

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to upset anyone, some of my very best friends believe in God, and like I said I am happy for them. I often think my life would be easier if I could “give my problems to God” “be absolved of all my sins” or “know” that I will see my sister in the after life so I can stop mourning her in this one. You have no idea what a huge relief that would be to me, how much I wish that I could let down my logical brain and set my desire for truth to the side so I could just “let go and let God”. Whew! I mean I really get it.

In my sister’s last days, from what I can piece together, she was looking for God to help her, looking for some being to take away her burdens or help her understand her life. She was looking for peace and understanding and forgiveness. What she got was a line about God never giving you more than you can handle and a big old fashioned guilt trip for being unable to handle what the “good” Lord apparently felt she deserved or could manage. In fact, she couldn’t deal with what was happening to her, no one could have dealt with it, believer or not.

The bottom line is wanting to believe and wanting to find peace because of religion or a Supreme Being is fine if that works for you. If you can honestly sit down and say you are good with banana+triangle=God then good for you. I prefer to look inside myself for strength. I prefer to ask myself what is the right thing to do. I prefer to forgive myself instead of hoping someone else will. I prefer to love myself instead of needing to be loved by a “Father”. I prefer to stand tall, and believe in my own strength of character and ability to think logically to help me through life. I believe in love, I believe in respecting and supporting others. I believe in logic and sound reasoning. I believe in 1+1=2.

So in this holiday season, whether you are a believer or an atheist, I am on your side. No need to argue with me. However, I have seen far more tragedy, death, judgment, and pain in the name of religion than I have ever seen from those who don’t believe and instead hold themselves accountable for their actions and their words (as opposed to a religious being or belief).  So you can keep your banana and triangle, and I’ll keep my algebra. I don’t need to hedge my bets on this one. I feel pretty confident that if there were to be such a being, truly out there in the ether, who actually created me in his own image, that he will totally get and forgive my need for logic. But either way, I’m okay.

Christmas Outtakes Part 2

 

I write this having just finished my holiday shopping and wrapping for Santa. White Christmas is on Netflix in the background and I have had my cup of hot cocoa and a few well thought out gifts from friends (Kerry you never cease to amaze me with your creativity, now I have to take up playing cards:)) I am feeling full of the holiday spirit and after driving by my old church from my childhood I am even inspired to attend the candlelight ceremony tomorrow evening. I thought maybe I would see Carri there when I drove by, but maybe she was guiding me in the car to a destination I haven’t been to in 19 years. I am ready for Christmas to arrive, complete with mixed feelings of excitement and loss, cheer and sadness. It is only recently I have really learned that this is true for most folks, the holidays, if you are lucky are a mixture of both, why lucky you ask? Who would want the loss and sadness part? Well simply put, as I heard on a television show of all places:

We never truly bury the dead. We take them with us; it is the price we pay for living.

I like to add to that it is the price we pay for having loved and been loved deeply and honestly. Those people linger in our hearts and minds, our lives and experiences. So to experience some loss, some sadness, means I have been lucky enough to be loved and completely whole with someone else. It is a bitter drink to be sure, but I am grateful I had her while I did, I will continue to drink it every year in her honor no matter how much I dislike the taste. .

This week my goal is to be realistic. Holidays and family can leave us filled with emotions that don’t fit the scene in our heads, or the events we plan may go awry. What I want to do this week and every week is to remember that nothing is perfect and often it is the imperfections that make a moment or a holiday something we will remember and hold dear. There is the Christmas we bought our tree on the 24th and Carri convinced them to give it to us free. The time we opened presents in her closet for reasons I don’t even remember. There is the Christmas I skipped work to go see the Muppet Christmas Carol and I had to hide in the bathroom because people from work were there. And I will always remember the year Carri Worked at Walt Disney World and we got to see James Earl Jones read the Christmas Story to an intimate crowd of about 20. Darth Vader telling the story of a baby in a manager will forever change the way you see Christmas, trust me.

These mishaps and misadventures stick better in my memory than any well planned and perfectly executed moment ever will I suspect. So this year I’d like to let go of the belief and the desire that there is only one way to experience something, only one way to remember it. I might forget my sons sitting with Santa, but I will never forget Vazer grabbing Santa’s hand and trying to walk away with him. It wasn’t planned, it couldn’t have been foreseen, but it was the best moment of that day for me.

We took our yearly picture over the weekend, if you haven’t already check out the previous years outtakes in the previous post (my links aren’t working). This year was better than most and with the exception of our closet Doberman with the damaged and abused brain, we are all at least present in every shot. So even though some of them show a little boy giving evil eye to his Rottie sibling, and one looks like I’m being molested by a Swissy, it was fun and funny this year with little people finally big enough to hit the timer button and dogs finally blocked in with an intricate network of gates that trapped them in the frame. And this  year, unlike some others of recent past, I smiled through the whole darn thing. I hope you do too. Merry Christmas everyone, or happy whatever holiday you call your own during this season. May your days be filled with awesome mistakes and by chance moments that you will remember long after the candy canes fade and the presents have broken.

 

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What I’m Listening to:

What I’m Reading: Matched by Ally Condie, ah more dystopian YA… I think I have a problem. ;)

 

Christmas Outtakes

  Christmas 2007- Just me and my “boys”

I don’t have many family traditions when it comes to the holidays. Unless you count someone over doing it on a prescription medication while the rest of us act like there isn’t an elephant in the room to be a tradition, which I don’t. And since my sister died in 2010 I haven’t had the Christmas spirit the way I used to and I am still wondering if it will come back to me or not. In the mean time I have been faking my way through the holiday season, not really depressed, just not really feeling it either. I often wonder how many people are faking it and how many people are really filled with the spirit of Christmas and everything that goes with it. I’ll probably never know since people are pretty good at faking what they don’t actually feel.

I’m not  religious, but somehow this year I feel compelled to go to the Christmas night proceedings at the little church we used to go to when I was a kid. The last time I remember going there was with my sister when we were in our twenties. They handed out a copy of the Christmas story and apparently our copy was different than the pastor’s, so as he read the stories didn’t match up; I still don’t know why, but Carri and I could not stop laughing at how funny it was. There we stood, strangers in this congregation where only the pastor remembered our little kid faces, laughing and snorting behind our hands simply because the words didn’t match. Maybe the story was just a metaphor for the fact that we didn’t match either, and were completely out of place even if the church used to be our story. I don’t know if I want to go to feel closer to her, or to find something missing inside. I don’t believe in God, now more than ever, but I am drawn to the peace of strangers holding candles singing carols and reciting stories about a baby born in a manger. I don’t think my sister will be there, but I sort of hope that if I go I will see her covering her mouth with her hand snorting with laughter that the words don’t match. That would make it all worth while. I miss her.

But back to traditions. Now that I have little boys I want to create family traditions for the holidays. I want my kids to grow up remembering the things we did each year that made the holidays special, that hopefully they will pass on to their own kids. I would like the family time together to be about more than food and presents. I want them to look back and remember the events, the feelings, the love of traditions. My first Christmas with a baby was fine, but there were no traditions and I more or less phoned in the holiday. My sister had only been gone six months and I wasn’t coping well with her loss. I bought my son toys off the internet and I put up a tree, that was about it. I am grateful he was too young to know how little I accomplished, nor will he remember the lack of festive cheer or the tears I fought back most of the day.

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The second year I had just had my youngest and I was overwhelmed with two children and an out of work husband. We had just moved to Colorado from Virginia and while I tried to put in more effort that year it was about the same. I think we watched a few Christmas classics on TV and we made cookies to decorate with friends. That Christmas eve we spent with friends and it was the only time during the season I didn’t long for my sister, and it truly felt like a wonderful holiday. Last year was a repeat of the year before only I managed to buy presents on Black Friday and we skipped cookies. I felt weary and bad about not having the Christmas spirit, my kids were starting to figure out what Christmas was and how we should be acting.

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This year I am no longer mired in loss and I finally feel like I have enough sleep and energy to dedicate to the holiday that little kids love so much. We have made our hand/Santa ornaments, we have visited old St. Nick, we’ve bought presents and watched Mr. Grinch and we have talked about the meaning of Christmas. I think this will be a Christmas I will want to remember, one I will be able to look back on and say that is when we started our traditions. That was the year we made our first paper chains for our tree (when we stuck them together with stickers because Vazer used all the tape), the year we left cookies and milk out for Santa, the year we toured lights on houses and drank cold cocoa. I think I will look back on this year with fond memories of my sister and our time together instead of grieving what I have lost and the times we will never get.

In the midst of all of this there is only one tradition I have done faithfully since 2006. Sure that was only 7 years ago, but it is my tradition and it had to start somewhere, sometime. Every year I take a family picture right around the Christmas holiday. It started as an attempt to create fabulous holiday postcards, but it has turned out to just be a wonderful way to show the passage of time. The introduction of new family and the passing of old family. I love these pictures and what they have come to show about me, my life, and the people and animals I am blessed to share it with.

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My family has always had dogs in it and it was always my hope to include them in the family photo. I have managed that every year but last year and I still look at that photo and it feels empty to me, fake and somehow not a good representation of “us”. We even took it outside hoping it would make two kids and 5 dogs easier to get a picture of all together. It wasn’t it was terrible. Mind you, every year has its challenges. You try to photograph a bunch of dogs in a confined space with nothing but a remote control and zero for them to focus on. It isn’t as easy as it sounds and I don’t think I make it sound easy. Dogs are not good at getting their photos taken on a good day. Now add a person moving around and nothing to look at and you have general pandemonium. It didn’t help when we introduced kids to the mix either.

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Every year I flip through the 2 dozen or so photos we have taken looking for the “best one”. But even the best one won’t be that good. Someone won’t be looking at the camera, or someone will be licking their privates or making a weird face. But that isn’t why we take the photos, it isn’t why I insist on it every year. These photos are the real “us”. My family uncensored, unedited, unsterilized by a commercial photographer. It just doesn’t get more real than my husband jokingly choking out the Rottie for not behaving, or me pushing a Swissy away from my face because his tongue is in the way of the shot. My exasperated look and my children running around with dogs chasing them is who we are. I love these pictures and the 30 minutes we spend taking them because we have low expectations of the results, and no matter what they are hilarious and meaningful.

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So while I may not remember if we made cookies one year or not, and my kids won’t remember most of the gifts they get, we all will remember the moment we tried to get our family picture. We all will remember the yelling at dogs, the treats flying, kids crying, dad laughing and mom getting flustered as she keeps looking at the shots and saying “just one more”. I’ve only been taking these photos for a short time, I look forward to the day when my whole wall will be covered in the honest picture of our holiday seasons.  I love that I can see myself go from single to engaged to pregnant to a mom to a mom of two and growing children. I love that my favorite dog Cody is in the beginning with Rutger and Harold, then Rutger passes and his nephew Backup takes his place, then Cody passes and my baby joins us. It is a cool thing to look back on, where we have been. It reminds me of where I get to go and how exciting this ride is going to be.

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Below is what we have so far. Enjoy! And may your holidays be filled with the love and laughter of your family and friends. You never know when will be your last picture with someone you love.

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