Sunday, July 5, 2015

More Things I Think About

This morning I was feeling the gray cloud again. I've been thinking about writing. (In fact, I'd like to write a book at some point, though at this point I have no idea what that book would be.) So I started an entry in my journal, and it has made such a difference for me today. Here's what I wrote this morning:

"Why am I sad? Do I have a reason to be? And tired? I'm always tired. If I'm honest, I feel there's not much to which to look forward. I'm here, but there is no inherent purpose to that. I must provide the purpose, and some days I can. Some days are happy and fulfilling. Other days are such a drag.

"'God' once provided some meaning. But 'God' has been shown to be a myth. So there is no going back to god. He's gone. And honestly, good riddance. His son said a couple of decent things, and some of his people are lovely, but on the whole God is just nasty.

"So here we are. The truth appears to be, regardless of what triggered the event, that we are here as a distant minor consequence of an explosion that occurred about 13.8 billion years ago."

And there I ran out of time. But in writing that something inside me unclenched. My heart became lighter; hope grew stronger.

I did not create myself. I do not control all the many things that affect my future. But I do control some of them, and I do get to choose how I react to the rest. That I can live with. Time to go figure out some more.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Things I Think About

Could you live well on $100,000 a year? By well I mean live comfortably now without worrying whether your bank account will be overdrawn by next payday, be able to take some time off for a bit of vacation (with the whole family, if you want) once or twice a year, have money to encourage your kids interests and explorations, repair the house if a drain is damaged or an air conditioner fails, and save so you don't have to work until the day you die. $100,000 isn't what it used to be. Well, the number is, but what it buys isn't. So I'm thinking about $300,000 instead.

And what one does to get there.

Let's look at the numbers. Remember the question, "How do you eat an elephant?" And the answer is, "One bite at a time." Right? So, the elephant is how to generate $300,000 annual income.

There are 52 weeks in a year, and the nominal work week is 40 hours. That means there are 2080 hours in a standard work year, which I will round to 2000 for convenience (and time off). If one were to earn $300k from an hourly wage, one would need to make 300000/2000 = $150/hour. OK, so there are not a lot of jobs that provide that. Hey, it's hard to get 10% of that for a lot of jobs still. If you could find a job paying $75/hr you'd have to work 80 hrs/wk even with that, which would be possible but very tiring, and wouldn't leave much time for anything else.

So let's imagine you're an engineer with 20+ years, or accountant with a decent clientele, or a senior program manager for a large company, and you're pulling in $100k/yr, including benefits. OK, you're a third of the way there working full time, which probably means something more like 45 or 50 hours a week. Where do you get the other $200k?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Invest in stocks and/or bonds.
  2. Invest in a start-up and hope the new company hits the big time.
  3. Engage in some kind of network marketing activity.
  4. Develop affiliate marketing to make money online.
  5. Start your own business and benefit from the work of your employees. 
None of these are guaranteed to bring results, but all have achieved the results I'm suggesting (and much more) for some people.

What ideas do you have?

Monday, February 9, 2015

I'm not angry with you

A friend I've not spoken with in many years recently asked why all the hatred in my comments on Facebook. Since we were pals a quarter century ago he's become an Anglican priest, and I've become an unbeliever, an atheist. I have no hatred or animosity toward individual Christians. Those who hear "hate" in my comments don't know me. I'm not attacking them, personally. I am attacking the ideas, ideas which are so familiar to them it can be hard to see themselves separate from those ideas. Because I've been developing this short essay lately, I'll explain some of my thinking here for the record. This is not personal. It's not an attack on my reader. I want you to remember that as you read, this is not an attack on you. It is totally about ideas and their effects.

And, I love you. So let's begin.

The Bible is largely a work of fiction in the same sense that the Chronicles of Narnia or the Harry Potter stories are, and perhaps more so than the Iliad or Odyssey. If I told you now there was a school for wizards in the north of England somewhere and it was in a parallel reality operating all around us, you would confidently, and correctly, say that I clearly was not in agreement with reality. Or if I told you I wanted to share my faith in Zeus, you would discount everything I had to tell you.

It's so easy for a Christian to see the ancient Greek or Roman pantheons as mythology, or the other modern religions as worship and dedication to false gods, and yet so hard to see that exactly the same statement applies to Christianity.

The old testament, in its history of Israel, is almost entirely fabricated. This is a real problem for Christianity, since the OT is where the Christian God begins to be revealed. The new testament fares no better, either. There is not one real piece of historical evidence outside of the bible itself that Jesus existed at the time he is supposed to have existed. The earliest dates of the NT gospels, even given by believers, can only place the writings to about 40 years after the Ascension. No historians of the day report about goings on in Israel that would support the NT writings. AND the reports of such things as Jesus' virgin birth are copycat stories that have a deep tradition in that part of the world going back at least hundreds of year earlier.

But the Christian experience also fails to deliver on its own promises. Hardly a month goes by now that one does not hear of babies or children dying, and/or parents being put in prison, for relying on prayer alone for healing, and being tragically and painfully disappointed. How is this, if "the prayer of a righteous man availeth much", if Jesus meant what he said that those who followed him would do greater works than he did, because he went to his father? I think every major televangelist in the US has been thoroughly debunked, and I don't think a single one is to be found who is not crooked and deceptive in order to maintain the illusion. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain", but in fact that is the entire show.

There is no reality to the biblical god.

That god does not exist.

Christian faith is respectable only because it is such a long-standing and widely-held delusion. But it is only a delusion. And to believe in that god, and his son Jesus, is indeed just as misdirected as believing in the existence of Hogwarts or Asgard or Hades and the River Styx.

About a decade ago I saw this for the first time. I didn't see it as clearly then as I do now, and three and a half decades of faith and earnest, whole-hearted following after God had me so conditioned I was unable at first to let it go without caveat and trepidation.

I did not get this from any church. I got this from reading outside the church. And please don't tell me that's where I went wrong. For starters, if Christian truth can't contain truth from other sources, it isn't ultimate truth. That's a bit like saying "Don't study quantum or string theory because Newton's laws of motion fall apart there, and we know Newton's laws are true." Except it's a bad analogy, because Newton's laws work very well in a specific set of conditions, and the Christian faith fails under any set of conditions. The Christian faith presumes the existence of God, and while I have not searched anything like the whole universe and cannot say with unassailable certainty that a god does not exist anywhere, I can say with certainty that the God described by the bible does not exist.

I am not angry with God. Why should I be. Being angry with God is like being angry with Voldemort. But I am angry that so many people live constrained in ridiculous ways by absolute rules created hundreds and thousands of years ago by scientifically ignorant people and those now in positions of power are more interested in retaining their power and control than acknowledging the need to adjust our rules for living in accordance with our increased knowledge as a species.

Being an atheist doesn't make a person immoral. And I don't want anyone to "convert to atheism" so they can do evil. No, atheism is simply the name for where one finds oneself when one can no longer believe in any of the handful of remaining gods still active. Even a Christian is atheist concerning the Hindu, Viking, Greek, or Roman gods. Or the animist deities of parts of Africa and Asia. And I'm tired of the knots Christians tie themselves in to find answers for everything in modern life in a book whose pages were penned for Constantine.

I don't expect to convince the reader, though I do hope I can inspire you to think again. It's scary to have long- and/or deeply-held beliefs questioned. Scarier still it is to find those beliefs are not worth holding. I deconverted almost overnight when I realized the true nature and reliability of evolutionary theory, when I realized there is no way to effectively harmonize Genesis 1 and 2 with the abundance of evidence we have for the history of life on earth. And if god is unable to get that story right, he's not worthy of being trusted about ANYTHING else, especially about matters for which there is no evidence and that must be accepted solely on faith. But it needn't be evolution. It could just as well be the OT chronology of the Exodus, or the Flood story, or the supposed life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It could be lots of other stories; evolution just happened to be the one that turned the lights on for me.

So my comments are intended to provoke a little bit of a reaction in you, my reader. I hope to send them into a glitch in the matrix, to create or feed a bit of cognitive dissonance. Faith is a vector normal (perpendicular) to the plane of reality, so it is an easy place to hide, and difficult to dislodge. But I wish you were out here with me. It's better here, truly. And you have nothing to lose but illusion.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A new year

A new year is an odd thing. Today is only one day more than yesterday, but when enough yesterdays go by we call the lot of them by another name. It's a bit like the decimal number system - ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, etc - only in time units. Day, week, month, year, decade, century. There are more obscure denominations, such as fortnight or leap year.

But a new year.... I think we humans like to make rituals. They help us remember. Personally I'm glad that something bigger than my own circumstances insists that I pause, even if only slightly, now and again. Actually, I deeply miss down time. Time to just take off, alone, away from the driving demands of life, and think. Think? Well, yes, think, but also to just be. Be quiet, be still, be aware. The new year, that phrase, suggests something is starting again. And yes, in a real sense it is, as we feel the days gradually lengthening again from the movement of the earth through its orbit around the sun. But though we have done this trip before, it's never been exactly this one. The sun is in a different place in space, and so is the earth. It doesn't ride on a fixed track. In that sense, today is new year's day and tomorrow will be too. And so will be the day after that.

Still, it's nice to have a marker that says, Restart here. From this day you can make another year of plans. Begin fresh. Take a new run at what you haven't yet accomplished that you really want to do. Start over. Try again. Live in hope that no matter what your past the future can be different. Or even, now is a time you can make a change. You don't have to keep doing the same thing this year; try something new.

I am a spousal caregiver. I am a father. I am a business owner/operator.

Caregiver. That label has circumscribed my life for a decade. For almost that long it has determined how far I can travel. I have not slept a night away from home in about 8 years. I have put my whole being into giving care to my wife. Today I was told by a friend who has observed me the past 6 years that he has never seen anyone put more of himself into his family that I do. Although most of that time self-employment has provided a decent to comfortable income, overall this past year was extremely difficult. I appear now to be on the cusp of several things, and a little nudge in the right direction could rewrite our family's financial history. But I am starving for time and for connection. And I and my family need some financial stability. This week, perhaps, probably, I find out whether I am to be offered a position for which I interviewed almost 3 weeks ago. I want the opportunity to make a choice, the choice to accept or decline the offer. If I don't get that choice, though, there are other things in motion that appear to be starting to flower.

Happy new year. Today, and every day.

Monday, October 28, 2013

...and I'm back.

I took a break for a while. It's hard to run when you're overweight, and it's hard on the knees. I did buy a good pair of running shoes before I started up running again recently. During the break I tried to stay focused on swimming. I've managed to keep at it, mostly consistently, and can churn through 1500 yards in an hour now. I don't force myself to do that non-stop, and I am working on technique and speed. The improvement in my speed through the water is starting to show. Last night I felt like running again. Finally I got out the door about a half hour after midnight. I walked and ran around the neighborhood, a distance that turned out to be 1.9 miles. Of that, I ran 0.9. I can feel the improvement swimming has produced. It's not huge, but I notice it. 8 miles down. 992 to go. 5 pounds down too! Yes! At least 60 to go still.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Running away from the weight

Next night. I think I'm going to like the Couch to 5K podcast from I used the podcast from week 1 tonight and liked the coaching along the way. 2.8 miles tonight. 6.1 total, 993.9 to go.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Journey begun

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a 3.3 mile walk/jog after too long of too little exercise. About 4 weeks ago in a chance meeting with a friend I agreed to start swimming laps again twice a week with him. This has gone well and I've already felt the improvement in my sense of well-being. But both Monday and last Wednesday both of us were detained by other demands. And tonight, partly because I'm missing the exercise, I went "running" again for the first time in a long time. So here's my goal: I'm going to track my cumulative running (and walking) progress until I reach 1000 miles. 3.3 tonight/996.7 to go.