Saturday, July 28, 2007

Second Life

I had planned to write a description of “Second Life” this morning, but then I discovered that Freyashawk has already posted a wonderful description and discussion . Of course her approach to the “game” is different from mine, but before I write my essay on “Second Life” I recommend that you read the one on "Thoughts from Freyashawk".


Freyashawk and I agree that “Second Life” is not a game. It is another world largely created by its inhabitants (I suppose we should consider the original creators/owners of the game its gods). The inhabitants/members are visually represented there in the form of the “avatars” they choose. The most difficult thing for me to remember when exploring “Second Life” is that every person on the screen -- walking or flying, creating things, dancing, talking via typed chat to other people nearby -- is a real person sitting at a computer somewhere in the real world at that moment.

To me the most remarkable and interesting thing about “Second Life” is not anything in it, but the fact that it exists – that such a fantastically complex and coordinated virtual world can exist, and how it can exist.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Reality and I

A few mornings ago I had the strong feeling of how strange it felt to be in this body, this fuel-absorbing tube held up by a rigid frame which was capable of motion, how strange to look out through something we call “air” at incredibly complex arrangements called “trees”, and beyond that, lights moving slowly above in periods of darkness and daylight, lights which I’m told are balls moving in nothingness.

Imagine that you raised your hands right now and saw large lobster claws instead of hands. To me it felt about the same to see ten fingers as you would feel seeing lobster claws.

I know from blog comments as well as from published accounts that some people share my sense that there is something strange or unreal about “reality”, while others are convinced that the body and what we call the material world is all there is. That such differences can exist among humans who are presumably experiencing the same universe is in itself interesting. How can it be that our perceptions tell us to disagree on such profound questions as whether we are spiritual beings inhabiting bodies, or simply physical bodies and nothing more? Or whether there is more to the universe than insentient building blocks tossed about by something called “chance”?

Which brings me back to a conclusion I’ve expressed here before – that we understand absolutely nothing, and that one person’s reality is another person’s illusion, maya.

Which brings me to the subject of computer games. I was a game addict for months before blogging captured my attention and enthusiasm. I played some Nintendo games with console and TV screen -- "Tetris", various Super Marios, “Harvest Moon”, “Animal Crossing”, “Legend of Zelda”, etc. – but many of the games resided on my computer – the “Age of Empires” series, “Pirates”, “Roller Coaster Tycoon”, “The Sims”, “Flight Simulator”, etc.

Maybe my circuit breaker flipped from overload, but at the time I began this blog I was nervous and uncomfortable about computer games. After I had been away from them awhile I felt real unease about returning to them.

Then a few days ago a friend persuaded me to try a free download (which like many “games” isn’t’ a game at all) called “Fish Tycoon”. At about the same time a repairman told me how he and his wife had become addicted to the online games “Everquest” and “World of Warcraft” and had made a meaningful amount of money through them, even thought it meant spending so much time online that they had to give up their children (almost).

Thus the gaming world’s gravity drew me subtly back into orbit. “Fish Tycoon” is a beautiful virtual aquarium. Harmless, relaxing. Nothing to worry about there. Right.

Evidence of the fragile nature of “reality” as I know it is shown in my experience at a pet shop a couple of days ago, where I found myself looking at a display of aquarium plants and thinking, “I’ll buy one of those for my fish tank.” It took maybe one second to recall that my fish are make-believe, but the proof that the brain (or at least my brain) has trouble distinguishing between imagination and “reality” had been established.

With the repairman’s stories in mind, I urged my perennially over-budget friend who had lured me into the aquarium to try making money with online games like “Everquest”. She is, I should add, a computer game expert to the degree that she writes published guides, but she had not played “massively multiplayer” games before. She quickly found something called “Second Life”, and once more I heard the Siren sweetly call: “Try it, Fleming, it’s free and there’s no stress.”

I slipped as easily into “Second Life” as a lobster into a baited trap, and for three days I’ve had trouble concentrating on blogging. I’ve neglected my friends’ blogs and done little with my own. After all, there’s a whole new world out there to be explored, a new body to learn to move and use, new ways of seeing to be perfected. . .


Saturday, July 21, 2007


Last night as I was watching news video on television, Hilary Clinton came down some steps toward the camera, looking fit and smiling. I was suddenly hit with a premonition that she has, or will have, a physical problem that will prevent her from completing a term as President of the United States. The area that I sensed would be the focus of the problem was her mid-body, generally from the lower rib cage to the thighs.

It was quite a strong feeling, accompanied by the psychic "electrical shock" that I've experienced with valid precognition in the past. I was completely unprepared for it, but it was my immediate interpretation that, "This woman will never finish a term as president."

I hestitated to post this, but I'm doing so, just for the record.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Afterword on "The Impeachment of Jehovah"

This essay relates to my infamous and much misunderstood post of July 2, ”The Impeachment of Jehovah”.

Among the things I’ve learned through blogging – in addition to the fact that it actually is cold in Brazil and Australia when it’s hot in the US, and that more people have multiple personalities than I realized – is that I know a lot less about national differences in attitudes toward religion than I thought I did.

Obviously I have no real feel for what it is like to be brought up in a Chinese or Japanese or Hindu or Islamic milieu, but I did have the simplistic idea that in the English-speaking nations (among which I hesitantly include the United States) the religious indoctrination was probably quite similar. I’ve noticed, however, that my friends who were offended by “The Impeachment of Jehovah” were separated from me by the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans, while those who agreed with me were not. Coincidence? Probably, but it made me wonder.

My reason for publishing my opinions about “Jehovah” was not to offend those who believe that the Old Testament is the word of God and that the Jehovah described and quoted there is the one true God, but instead to help lift a burden from myself and others who do not share those beliefs and feel oppressed by much that is in the Old Testament, although uplifted by some of the beautiful passages, as from “Psalms” and “Song of Solomon”.

My purpose now is to improve intercultural understanding with these personal, impressionistic notes on Jehovah and the Bible in America.

I was born and raised in the southeastern United States, where most people I knew were Protestants – although the Florida town where I was born, St. Augustine, was predominately Roman Catholic because it is the earliest surviving Spanish settlement in America, and there remain many people of Minorcan descent. It’s the only area in Florida I know where the little country churches are mostly Catholic rather than Baptist.

My mother’s family was Methodist, my father’s Baptist. My father’s mother prevailed, and so I was taken to the First Baptist Church to learn about God and the Bible. In a sign of things to come, I put up such a loud protest when I was first dragged to the Age 5-6 Sunday School that my father had to carry me down the stairs over his shoulder, vowing, “Never again.”

But that was not the end of it, and most Sunday mornings of my formative years were spent at the church with crayons and a Bible coloring book, where I was supposed to render in brilliant color such scenes Moses in the bulrushes, Moses carrying the Ten Commandments down the mountain, Jesus gathering the little children to him, Noah completing the loading of his Ark as his neighbors began to drown, Jesus walking on water, and David killing Goliath with a much better shot from his sling than I ever got with my slingshot made from a tree fork and a heavy rubber band.

The walls of the rooms in which we children created our art works were populated by old bearded men in bathrobes and sandals -- some holding shepherd’s crooks, some with their eyes rolled heavenward, some cowering before a burning bush or a glowing cloud or an angel – many with circles of light above their heads. I have never been able to remove those alien old men from the inner walls of my skull, and so I’m condemned to carry around, in lithographic splendor, characters dreamed up by Jews thousands of years ago.

We learned that Jesus was our Savior, the son of the Old Testament Jehovah, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and that if we loved Jesus and behaved ourselves we would go to heaven instead of what my mother called, “The Bad Place”.

We had only a vague understanding of the different Protestant denominations to which we variously belonged and which we sometimes visited. We didn’t think there was really much difference, and most of our parents were not that interested in the theological distinctions either. All the congregations dressed up in best clothes on Sunday mornings and looked the same; all the congregations smelled of bath powder and perfume; the sermons and prayers and hymns sounded about the same. We knew the Baptists believed in total immersion and the Presbyterians were supposed to believe in predestination, while nobody was sure what the Methodists or the Episcopalians believed. I was nervous about visiting the Episcopal Church because I got confused about when to stand up and when to sit down. In the Baptist Church we sat down most of the time except when ordered to stand and sing (or in my case, mouth) endless verses of hymns.

As for the Roman Catholic Church, it was small, mysterious, and unsuitable for informal visiting except on Christmas Eve, when the Catholic and Episcopal churches became popular with sneak-ins, because of their midnight services. We Protestants were told that Catholics didn’t read the Bible and so were missing the whole point of religion. My father, with ill conceived envy, complained that the Catholic secretaries in his office in St. Augustine went out and did “immoral things” on the weekends because they could always be forgiven at confession, and my mother remembered that her best friend would walk with her to school carrying on a conversation while saying her rosary. In other words, Catholics went through more motions than we did, but with less meaning. That was the myth.

There were only three or four Jewish children in school, all from old local families, and we looked on them just as people who went to another church, although they never invited us to visit it. I learned almost nothing about modern day Jews until I was in college. They were almost never mentioned. When I asked my mother about them she said only that they were “clannish” and kept to themselves, and my father, a County Agricultural Agent, complained that “Jews from Jacksonville” had rented all the government-subsidized farmer’s market booths (meant to help farmers survive the Depression) and then rented them at higher rates to the actual farmers.

If I learned nothing about contemporary Jews, I learned plenty about biblical Jews. And remember, the whole Bible was the word of God, absolutely and literally true. All those Bible stories we learned were about real people and events: Noah and his ark, Moses, Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors, the Red Sea parting for the Jews and drowning their enemies, David and Goliath, Lot’s wife turning to salt, Samson and Delilah, Balaam and his talking donkey, Job and his boils, Joshua trumpeting down the walls of Jericho. My wife says she was especially frightened by the story of Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego in the fiery furnace. I was frightened by the plagues Jehovah visited on Egypt, but I liked the Moses’ magic tricks for the Pharaoh, and the spectacles which led him toward the Promised Land, and the idea of manna falling from the sky to feed the Children of Israel.

'6 1/2" x 10" Foam Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Craft Kit. (makes 12) Item Number: IN-48/2526'

Those stories, and all the contents of the Old Testament, are alive and energetic in America today. Children still get gold stars in Sunday School for memorizing the names of the books of the Old Testament and reciting them in order. You’ll find references to those ancient Hebrew tales in everything from sermons and Sunday School lessons to cartoons, and documentaries such as the perennial “Search for Noah’s Ark”. It interests me how often a children’s animated film about Noah and the animals, or a movie like “The Ten Commandments”, will turn up on television on the unlikely occasion of a Christian holy day like Easter or Christmas.

The Old Testament is especially problematic in America today because it is used as the justification for the Zionist colonization of Palestine, and the United States has contributed much more than any other country to financing and politically protecting Israel, as well as a lot to its leadership and population too. Any alleged moral right of Israel to the property which it occupies or keeps under military control is based solely on the words of Jehovah in the Old Testament. If you are not an American, you would be amazed at the number of “I Love Israel” bumper stickers on the roads. Those are usually Christian bumper stickers – and the rationale is the Old Testament.

From “The Land of Israel Necklace - Designed by Israeli Soldiers and handmade by Israeli artisans; The Land of Israel Necklace displays beautifully layered earth from her holiest sites and is truly a way to keep Israel close to your heart.”

As an adult, I feel it is bizarre that we in the United States learn Jewish myth rather than the myths of our European heritage. The Norse, Teutons, Celts, Romans and Greeks left us a wealth of myths, with gods and tales at least as colorful as those of the Old Testament, and more relevant to people descended from European stock than ancient Hebrew myths.

Why more relevant? This passage helps explain:

‘Unlike the gods of the Greeks and Romans, a major function for Israelite theology was not to interpret the workings of nature or to bring good fortune in various endeavors, but rather to represent the kinship group through historical time. . . Israelite theology is intimately bound up with Israelite history. . . . There is a general lack of interest in cosmogony and anthropogeny, but “the history of man serves as a background for the still more significant history of Israel.” . . . In a very real sense one may say that the Jewish god is really neither more nor less than Ezra’s “holy seed” [Ezra 9] – the genetic material of the upper-class Israelites. . . “It is not Creation that is the most important event in early Hebrew history, but rather the Exodus, in which the Israelites successfully flee from Egypt after a successful sojourn as a minority in a foreign land.”' A PEOPLE THAT SHALL DWELL ALONE, Prof. Kevin MacDonald (Praeger 1994), p. 45.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Ultimate Feline "American Gothic"?

This was sent from Ann of "In the Mind's Eye", who took the pictures from my July 7 post, applied some Photoshop magic to them, and . . . voila! Very clever. Very funny!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Saturday, July 7, 2007

American Gothic

Photo by JULIA Painting by GRANT WOOD

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Banana Blossom Continues Its Story

The latest’Notes from Freyashawk’,"'The Word of God' and an 'Invisible fairy'", has given me the perfect caption for these photographs:

‘The “Word of God” could not be reduced to human language in any case.
It does not follow, however, that human beings cannot hear the “Word of God” but it is something that is carried on the winds, on the wings of music and poetry, reflected by the light of the moon on the water or the sun's warmth as it awakens plants and other living creatures.’

Just for Fun

A Jewish lady friend sent these cartoons to my wife a couple of days ago, and the timing is so amazing that I can't resist sharing them. I also can't resist remarking that I think the art of "being offended" has been developed to dazzling heights in the past 50 years and fine-tuned to incredible degrees of sensitivity. If these cartoons offend you, or the idea that they might offend other people offends you, then please just go to your room, close the door, and cry quietly.


Monday, July 2, 2007

The Impeachment of Jehovah

The Pan-Dimensional Court of Truth for the 5,000th Galactic District has convened on Earth’s Moon to consider Articles of Impeachment against “Jehovah, a.k.a. Yahweh.”

The Articles accuse “Jehovah, a.k.a. Yahweh” of falsely claiming to have created the Earth and all the living creatures on it in a single week, to have established laws which human creatures must obey if they are to escape unjustly hideous consequences, and to have chosen a certain small group of humans as his favorites to be exalted above all others and to subjugate all others.

‘Said chosen group, known as Hebrews, Jews, or the Children of Israel, are the authors of certain books collectively known as the Tanakh or “Old Testament” of the Bible which set out the purported words and acts of Jehovah. Because it appears that the accused, Jehovah, has either fled the jurisdiction or never existed in the first place, and because all witnesses in the case are dead, the evidence which will be placed before the Court consists solely of said Tanakh, and so it is in fact the Old Testament which is under judicial scrutiny.'

‘It might appear pointless to impeach a possibly nonexistent deity based on documents whose authors have been dead for thousands of years, but among not only Jews but also the much greater multitude of Christians on Earth the Old Testament is still held out as holy scripture, “the word of God”, and is influential today in shaping the minds of many humans, as well as relied upon by certain of the “Children of Israel” for fraudulent claims to ownership of real estate which have resulted in prolonged bloodshed.'

The allegations supporting the articles of impeachment are:

1. Incompetence

Although claimed to be perfect, all good, omnipotent and omniscient, Jehovah created a world into which evil could repeatedly come. To wit:

Creating a first man and woman so defective that they quickly did the one thing he told them not to do and as a consequence were subjected to permanent punishment rather than wisely taught.

Creating a first family so dysfunctional that one sibling murdered the other.

Selecting as his “chosen people” a whining tribe which again and again ignored his commandments.

Creating angels which could and did rebel against him.

Demonstrating a lack of confidence in himself by cruelly testing loyal Hebrews like Abraham and Job to see if or prove that they would function according to his blueprint.

2. Favoritism and Lack of Proper Judicial Temperament

In spite of claiming to be the creator of the Earth and heavens and all the creatures on Earth, making an exclusive contract with a small tribe and promising to exalt them above all others. “I am the God who created heaven and earth. [T]he kings shall come from you and shall rule wherever the foot of the sons of man has trodden. I shall give to your seed all the earth which is under heaven, and they shall rule over all the nations according to their desire; and afterwards they shall draw the whole earth to themselves and shall inherit if forever.” Book of Jubilees 32

Making promises to his “chosen people” which would inevitably lead to strife, war, and usury: "The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession. . . Then he will place you high above all the other nations he has made. He will give you praise, fame, and honor, and you will be a people holy to the LORD your God. . ." Deut 26:18-19 "All the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of Yahweh; and they shall be afraid of you. Deut 28:10 You shall lend to many nations, and you shall not borrow. The LORD will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath." Deut 28:12-13

Using terror tactics even against his favorites:

But if you do not give ear to the voice of the Lord your God, and take care to do all his orders and his laws which I give you today, then all these curses will come on you and overtake you: A curse will be on your basket and on your bread-basin. You will have few children. Your land will have few crops. Your cattle will be cursed with few calves, and your flocks will have few lambs and kids Yahweh will strike you with consumption, and with fever, and with inflammation, and with fiery heat, and with the sword, and with blight, and with mildew; and they shall pursue you until you perish. Yahweh will send on you the disease of Egypt, and other sorts of skin diseases which nothing will make well. Yahweh will strike you with madness, blindness, and panic. Yahweh will strike you in the knees, and in the legs, with sore boils, of which you can not be healed, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head. You will become a thing of horror. All the nations where the LORD will send you will make an example of you and ridicule you. Deut. 28:12-45

The LORD said to [an angel], “Go through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.” 5 But to the others He said in my hearing, “Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity and do not spare. 6 “Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark.” Ezekiel 9

A jealous and avenging God is Jehovah; Jehovah is avenging and wrathful. Jehovah takes vengeance on His adversaries, and He maintains wrath against his enemies. Nahum 1:2

3. Excessive force

When displeased with his chosen Israelites, drowning every human on Earth except Noah and his passengers.

Destroying the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah when offended by the actions of some of their inhabitants without even specifying what they had done to incur his wrath. “Then Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.” Gen 19:24

I, Jehovah thy God, am a jealous God. I punish children for their parents' sins to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. Ex 20:5

32 Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the LORD had commanded Moses. Numbers 15

4. Emotional Instability; Arbitrary and Capricious Behavior

Punishing Moses by preventing him from entering the promised land because instead of “ordering” water to pour from a rock to satisfy the thirsty Jews as Jehovah had told him to do, Moses struck the rock with his rod to bring forth the water.

Commanding Abraham to kill his own son and then telling him not to at the last moment.

Making the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the Jews living among them, and making Moses, the Jews' leader, highly regarded in Egypt, but in spite of the divine power to influence Egyptian public opinion, murdering all of the Egyptians’ first-born sons in order to encourage the Egyptians let the Jews leave Egypt.

Turning a woman to salt because of a trivial infraction: “But Lot’s wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Gen 19-26

“This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.” Gen 17:10-11

5. Cruelty Unbefitting a Deity

Allowing Satan to horribly torture his most devoted servant, Job, and kill Job’s servants and children, in order to win a bet with Satan.

Inventing the concept of eternal damnation.

Creating the plagues of Egypt. ‘Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on men and animals throughout the land.” So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on men and animals.’ Exodus 9:8-10.

Passing over all homes in Egypt and killing every first-born son (except sons of Jews), even while predicting, “loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.” Exodus 11.

6. Racism

Commanding his chosen tribe to avoid mixing with other peoples through intermarriage or otherwise.

“I am Jehovah your God, who have set you apart from the peoples.” Lev. 20:24

In Ezra 9, the abhorrent racial mixing of the Jews with other peoples was reported to some Jewish leaders: “So that the holy race [holy seed] has intermingled with the peoples of the lands.” The Hebrew listeners were appalled, and Ezra was so upset that he ripped his clothes and pulled out tufts of his hair and beard.

On that day they read aloud from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people. . . So when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the alien mixture. Neh. 13:3

Jehovah’s policy toward people displaced or captured by Jewish invasion – as Jehovah “clears away many nations before them” -- is that the Children of Israel “shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. 3 Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them. . . For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” Deut. 7 "If you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you” there will be terrible consequences for Israel. . . “a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish. . .” Joshua 23

7. Substandard Skills in Personnel Management

Placing his newly minted humans, Adam and Eve, in a garden with an attractive fruit tree from which he ordered them not to eat even though he knew or should have known that they were sure to eat from it.

Putting the Ark in charge of an alcoholic captain even though it contained the only survivors of Jehovah’s genocide.

Selecting as his chosen people, and Earth’s rulers, a stiff-necked Semitic tribe which proved so erratic and disobedient that he chastised, threatened and punished them repeatedly over centuries.

8. Suppression of Arts

“Thou shalt not make to thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” Ex 20:4

9. War Crimes and Genocide

Jehovah said to Moses, “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel. See what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many.” The spies reported: “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey. . . Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large.” 30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, then he fought against Israel and took some of them captive. 2 So Israel made a vow to the LORD and said, “If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” 3 The LORD heard the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites; then they utterly destroyed them and their cities. Numbers 13

33 Then Israel turned and went up by the way of Bashan, and Og the king of Bashan went out with all his people, for battle. . . 34 But the LORD said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have given him into your hand, and all his people and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon, king of the Amorites.” 35 So they killed him and his sons and all his people, until there was no remnant left him; and they possessed his land. Numbers 21

After Israel conquered Jericho, “They utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.” Joshua 6:21

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Take full vengeance for the sons of Israel on the Midianites. . .” ‘And the Jews warred against Midian, as Jehovah commanded Moses; and they slew every male. They killed the kings of Midian. The sons of Israel captured the women of Midian and their little children; and all their cattle and all their flocks and all their goods they took as loot. They burned all the cities where the Midianites lived and all their settlements .’ When the Israeli army returned from battle Moses was angry at its officers and asked, "Why did you let all the women live? Put every male child to death, and every woman who has had sex relations with a man. But all the female children who have had no sex relations with men, you may keep for yourselves.” Numbers 31