Saturday, 29 October 2011

Hit List

The number of things you can fix with a good smack is pretty impressive. At Tim Horton's, if the sugar machine gives you too much sugar, you hit it. If it's not giving you enough sugar, you hit it. If the hot cap machine gets clogged, you hit it. If the pin pad goes blank, you hit it. With all the corrective hitting going on among Tim's employees, I suspect we could make a notorious mercenary group. With all the aggression going on it's almost a wonder we haven't tried.

Elsewhere, if your blue Dell laptop computer monitor is on the blink, you hit it. Gently first, then more angrily as it becomes increasingly useless. If a remote control isn't working, you hit it. If your flashlight stops shining, you hit it. If you get water in your ear swimming, you hit it (or slap yourself across the face, if you happen to be my sister).

Most people seem to think that if your microphone isn't working, you hit it, but I wouldn't recommend that one. Anyway, I believe my point is made.

"Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft." Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, 28 October 2011

Dream Life

Last night I dreamed that I was stuck in an elevator. It was throwing me and tossing me around its interior, but I wasn't actually going anywhere. Several floors beneath me, where I had embarked, I had accidentally left my purse behind. Several floors above me, where I was trying to go, was a convention full of various displays and sales I wanted to view. As the useless elevator continued to flip me around, I eventually hit the panic alarm button.

And what an incredible metaphor for my life it is just now. I wonder if my dream is trying to tell me something.

I consider working a loathsome 9-5 job just for the sake of making money "beneath me" and not something I want at all. And there's a wide variety of things I would be interested in doing and seeing, but don't really have the means to do them or see them. I'm neither here nor there. I'm a lump around the house and not going anywhere, and it's getting more distressing.

There was, of course, more to the dream that I'm not quite sure how to understand. My work supervisor, my siblings, and a random guy from church all showed up and started morphing into each other. We had a conversation about Christianity and science and "Toph machines", which by the way, are something my subconscious brain made up. Plus, after I hit the panic button a voice came over the intercom to talk to me (and eventually a drop-down video monitor so I could see him). The guy on the other end was the minister from the British political sitcom "Yes, Minister", except during my dream I thought he was from a show called "Top Gun", which my brain also made up. Yet when I woke up, it was definitely the elevator part I remembered best.

Finally I got out of the army barracks where the convention was and went to leave for home. I promptly got lost... though with a bit of logical thinking I was able to remember the route out. At least the dream ended on a happy note. Giving the metaphorical nature it seems to hold, I find that encouraging.

"All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams." Elias Canetti

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dinosaur Hunt

Happy birthday, Justin! I am glad to have you for my brother.

Changing gears, one of the questions I was asked most often at Dallas Valley by my campers was, "Well, if all this stuff is true, what about dinosaurs?" Please note that hardly anyone asked about Evolution. They just wanted to know about dinosaurs. Anyway, I would answer that there are various popular views on this:

1. Dinosaurs are a hoax (generally not a good stand to take).
2. Dinosaurs and people coexisted. People survived the Great Flood, dinosaurs did not.
3. The days of creation weren't actually 24 hours days, but long eras. The dinosaurs lived in the "day" they were created and were dead by the time people were created.

In all these cases, dinosaurs are now dead, because textbooks tell us that they went extinct. I wish to propound to you now a different idea. Maybe dinosaurs AREN'T DEAD. And no, this is not a round-about way of insinuating that my brother is a monster.

My cousin brought up an interesting point on the loooong drive from Regina to Sylvan Lake. If iguanas were extinct today, we'd call them dinosaurs. Little herbivorous dinosaurs, maybe, but that's not the problem. The problem is that iguanas are still alive. Dinosaurs are bones in rock strata. Ergo, iguanas cannot be dinosaurs - at least, not until we kill them all. But if a dinosaur is just a "terrible lizard", dead OR alive, then an iguana pretty much qualifies as a dinosaur. Look at them:

And let's not forget about our friends the Komodo Dragons - given the way they devour their still-conscious prey, if anyone qualifies as a "terrible lizard", wouldn't it be them?

Well, maybe that wasn't the most terrifying picture. But you get the idea.

But let's shift gears again. If we assume that dinosaurs are not dead by definition, then do we have any evidence of living 70-million-years-ago-style dinosaurs, like the t-rex or triceratops? Brontosaurus, stegosaurus, plesiosaur, pterodactyl?

Well, yes. Granted, there's nothing undeniable. There have been claims of "dragon" sightings all throughout human history, well before the term "dinosaur" was coined and paleontologists told the world that giant lizard things ever existed. The Bible talks about the leviathan and the behemoth. Chinese history claims that their land had to be cleansed of "dragons" so that they could live there without fear of being eaten. Though apparently the inhabitants drank dragon fluids and such from time to time themselves. Fantastic myth or actual history? Their neighbours the Japanese caught what appeared to be a plesiosaur carcass about thirty years ago. However, there's supposedly a lot of evidence that it was just a decomposing shark. And nobody has proven the existence of either Nessie or the Ogopogo, or the many other purported lake monsters all over the world.

Dinosaur sightings and footprints in Africa don't seem to be exceedingly rare, but photographs of them are. Plus it just seems a little odd that animals the size of Mokele-mbembe could live without leaving more of a trail. And how long could a lake monster survive by itself? Wouldn't there have to be a whole family in there to keep themselves from dying out? Could a single lake really house that many without giving up any proof of them?

Or maybe there is proof, and it's just hidden away by the scientific community. When the line has been that dinosaurs all went extinct millions of years ago, it would be a blow to the ego to have to say "we were wrong". Not to mention, since dinosaurs are already extinct, no one tries to hunt them illegally, so cryptozoologists have motivation for keeping it all a myth.

Clearly, dinosaurs do not exist today in the numbers they once did, if they exist at all. But it does seem possible. The grandfather of a friend of mine was a trapper (or was it a hunter?) in BC. One can assume that he probably has quite a bit of knowledge regarding animal skeletons and carcasses. Yet, when, as a young man, he found a fresh but headless skeleton deep in the bush, he had no idea what it was. He did, however, find himself spooked enough that he told a ranger and tells people about it even now. Apparently it had plates all along its spine. And he's certainly not the only one in the BC/Alaska area to report unfossilized skeletons of what appear to be dinosaurs. Wouldn't that count as evidence?

While I myself have not seen a living dinosaur, I have found what I am convinced would be a wonderful dragon cave. I love dragons.

As a final aside, though some believe it would, I do NOT believe that the existence of dinosaurs today would in any way disprove or be evidence against modern scientific dating techniques. Finding living dinosaurs would not cast doubt on an old earth, only on the honesty of the scientific community in reporting all dinosaur finds. A few living dinosaurs now does not mean that a whole lot of them didn't die around the time scientists say they did.

"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him." J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Fate of the Blue Jay and Mormons

It turns out that the dead little blue jay was killed by pneumonia. But fear not, I myself do not yet feel like keeling over and heaving my last breath - in fact, I think I'm almost better. Maybe it's due to the yogurt. In addition to antibiotics, I now have to consume large quantities of yogurt on a daily basis, or else fear the wrath of a "growth in my gut". At least I've finally learned how to swallow pills.

Anyway, now that you know all about the state of my personal health (didn't you want to know?) I can move on to other topics. Like....

After several weeks of watching TV and generally lying around being a blob, I pulled a bunch of books out of my closet and spent time browsing. One of the books I pulled out happened to be the Book of Mormon, which some missionaries dutifully made sure I had. I didn't actually spend much time reading it, but it got me thinking again about the similarities and differences between what I believe and what those in the LDS church believe.

For the most part, there's a lot of agreement between "standard" Protestants and Mormons. There's a lot of variance in the details, sure, and the Mormons add a lot of extra stuff, but there's a lot of variance in the details between different Protestant denominations, too. As far as I'm concerned, I don't think God really cares if you mess up with the doctrinal details. Does it really matter if you believe that God is literally three-in-one or just one with two good buddies? I used to think it mattered. Maybe I was right then and wrong now, but currently I think that the main thing is how you react to God, not what you know about Him. Yes, it would be very nice to have all the details correct, but I can believe that the Mormons really don't know what they're talking about, and still not be concerned that they're good as doomed for all eternity.

Doctrine will forever be a point of contention, but I don't see that it should be much of an issue unless it affects the way you serve God. And that's where the fundamental difference between Mormonism and other "brands" of Christianity exists. I believe that the main point, the main goal, of following Jesus is love. Yes, we avoid condemnation and we obtain our freedom through grace, but if the basic point of someone's testimony is "I'm a Christian because I don't want to go to hell," well, that concerns me. It's not about doing whatever you have to in order to obtain a get-out-of-hell-free card. We were created to love and worship God, and sin came between us to rupture that relationship. By God's grace, we are restored to a place of communion with God, able to and called to love God and to love others as God loves us. And that's the main point. By God's grace, we can be filled with selfless love. God saves us because He loves us, and we follow Him because we love Him.

So far as I can tell, the main point of Mormonism isn't love, but ambition. Ambition, to me, is an ugly word. It brings to mind arrogant university presidents, psychopathic empire builders, and the traditional story of Satan desiring to be better than God and getting kicked out of heaven for it. Hear me out, I am not implying that Mormons are basically Satan. All I am saying is that I have a healthy distrust of ambition. Now, so far as I understand it, Mormons are completely on board with the idea that their own ambition won't get them very far. It's only through Christ's sacrifice that anyone can receive salvation, and Christ's sacrifice isn't something they earn. They are called to love and serve and probably do love God, but that's not the end goal. The end goal is their own godhood, their own deification. Thanks to Christ's sacrifice, they can maneuver their way into the Celestial Kingdom and eventually be granted planets of their own to be gods over.

In both cases, reaching the end goal requires grace, but it seems to me that the reasons someone would want to accept that grace are really quite different. Grace so that you can become more like God, in that you become more and more filled with love? Or grace so that you can literally become God and be elevated to a place of enormous power? The end goals are basically opposites. Why does someone ultimately want the grace? And won't that affect the way they relate to God? It seems to me this is the most basic, fundamental difference between Mormonism and what I consider to be the truth.

I'm sure this isn't a totally fair assessment. I know that plenty of generic "Christians" don't think of their relationship with God in such a manner as I described. The whole "safe from hell" thing is pretty popular. And I suspect that a lot, if not most, of Mormons focus more on their relationship with God than on becoming gods themselves, but if you look at the theologies and not the followers, the difference is there. Is it important? Honestly, I kinda hope not, but if any difference in theologies and doctrines does matter, I think this would be it.

And back to being sick, which I am sick of being, I found a sick quote that pretty much agrees with me:

"I reckon being ill as one of the great pleasures of life, provided one is not too ill and is not obliged to work till one is better." Samuel Butler