Saturday, September 17, 2011

Namaste, bitches!

I recently joined the YMCA in my 'hood and after a few trial of "low impact" aerobics classes, I realized I was too out of shape, too fat, too old, and too uncoordinated to keep up with the Mitzys, Bitsys, Boopsies, and Chickies, in those "look at me I'm so cute in my workout pants dancing to Britney" classes.  So, on a whim, I decided to check out Yoga, because I had heard that it was perfect for people who needed to train their bodies back into excercise and because it only had one star next to them in the brochure, indicating that I wasn't going to have my ass kicked in 2 minutes.

Now for those of you who know be, either in the "real world" or the "twitterverse", know that I can be easily labeled as a "Cranky Atheist", "Unforgiving Skeptic" or plain ol' "Bitch".  When it comes to magic, superstition, being "one with mother earth", healing chakras, or "the healing power" of basically anything, I will give you the biggest eye roll this side of the solar system.  To put it plainly, I live in the real world.  I don't have a "spirit" or a "soul".  My "chi" does not need to be centered and my "aura" is basically telling you to shut the fuck up. In other words, "Spirituality" does not apply to me in any way shape or form.  I'm the Ebenezer Scrooge of Spirituality, except instead of saying, "bah humbug" I'm usually just calling bullshit on you and accusing you of being a hippie who smoked too much pot.

Suffice it to say, I was a bit apprehensive about going to my first yoga class, but I tried to "open my mind" (and not laugh) and in I went.  That was three weeks ago and since then, I have upped my yoga-ness to 3 times a week (with Pilates thrown in between).  I have even purchased my very own yoga mat, complete with peace dove, bamboo, and heart decoration on it.  And it's NOT BLACK.  It's purple.  My body is not thinner, but I have lost inches everywhere and I am night and day on how I move.  And, if I can even say this without revoking my "Cranky Atheist" card....

I feel "connected" to my "spirit" when I am doing the practice. 

Between the breathing and the names of each pose, it's hard not to feel the thousands of years of  history in these ancient motions.  It's hard not to secretly be proud of yourself as you do a complete backbend with your hands behind your head FLAT on the mat.  It's hard not to channel the strength of the Buddha while balancing in a perfect "tree" position.  It's amazing to go from Child's Pose, to Plank, to Downward Dog and feel the sweat dripping off my face as my arms start to shake from exhaustion.  At the end of the practice, my abs are screaming, my arms are noodles, and my legs feel like jello.  But I am so proud of myself that as we end the practice in the Savasana (Corpse Pose), I really do allow the pose to affect me and .....dare I say spirit.

So what the hell is happening here?  Is this "Cranky Atheist" becoming "Spiritual"?  Do I need to check "Buddhist" on forms now when asking me about my religion, instead of the big black, upper case NONE/ATHEIST that I normally scrawl?  Could it be that in "opening up" my body during yoga classes, I'm kind of opening up to the idea that maybe I am connected to this pale blue dot that's spinning aimlessly in space?

Now before any of my more religious readers start planning a "Come to Jesus" party for me, let me tell you that this in no way makes me believe in a higher power or god or creator or anything superstitious.  If anything, Yoga has enhanced my belief that human beings are amazing products of evolution and that we are simply connected to our planet in such a way that we are connected to eachother.  Neil DeGrasse Tyson, my astrophysicist, atheist, secret boyfriend, said it best when he said, "We are all connected; To each other, biologically To the earth, chemically To the rest of the universe atomically."

Who knew that I would have a "spiritual" experience?  In a Yoga class.  At the local Y.

So what am I if I am not the "Cranky Atheist"? Can I be a Buddhist Atheist? If atheism is the absence of belief in gods, then many Buddhists are, indeed, atheists. Buddhism is not about either believing or not believing in a god or gods. Rather, the historical Buddha taught that believing in gods was not useful for those seeking to realize enlightenment. I guess then that I am becoming enlightened. Not to a higher power, but rather the power that is within me to push myself and feel better about myself. 

So, Namaste, bitches!  With a side of "Ohm" as well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Does This Sound Kosher to You?

I received my Kindergarten son's weekly school newsletter today and this was one of the subjects of note:

This program, called STRIVE (Schools/Students Taking Responsibility for Important Values of Excellence), is not just an occasional emphasis on character but a comprehensive and systemic character education program that will be part of the daily activities of our school including grade level curriculum.

Our children are exposed to many influences within our society, and we know that children develop character
by what they see, by what they hear and by what they are repeatedly led to do.
STRIVE will provide our school additional ways to partner with parents and stem the tide of children learning their moral values too heavily from our media saturated culture and other negative influences. STRIVE will help develop our students ethically, academically, and socially and provide enriched learning experiences for your student. We anticipate measurable positive results in the areas of:

• Academic performance

• Promotion rates

• Student attendance

• Student behavior

• Enhanced school climate

Um, ok.  What the hell is all that?  "Stem the tide of children learning their moral values too heavily from the media".  WTF?  What "moral values" are they "stemming the tide" from?  Better yet, what media?  Because, we're the family that doesn't censor sex and "teh gayz" from our children.  They have seen movies with people kissing, and with boobs, and with "teh gay peeplz".  We don't think there is anything wrong with "exposing our children" to people who love eachother.  Granted, they're not watching XXX porn (and neither am I frankly), but if two people are making out on TV, gay or straight, we're not the parents who are screaming "COVER YOUR EYES!" to the kids.

On the flip side though, we ARE the parents that won't let our children watch "realistic violence".  When all the boys and girls are at the movies watching Iron Man, our children are wondering who the hell he is.  Now mind you, Dante (the five year old) watches movies like Clash of the Titans (the original, not the remake), Tron (again, original not "legacy" bullshit) and Transformers.  You may say, "but hey, those movies are violent too" but there is a difference.  In the first few scenes of Iron Man, Tony Stark is in Afghanistan with a bunch of US soldiers on a Humvee.  They get hit by an IUD and people go flying and blood is everywhere.  The next scene is Tony Stark with guns pointed to his head and a gigantic hole in his chest. (spoiler alert) When he escapes the underground compound, he shoots people and blood flies everywhere.  In Transformers and its subsequent movies, giant CGI robots kick eachother's asses.  In other words, NOT REAL.  Same with video games.  The kids watch us play games where we blow up aliens, robots, dragons, giant spiders (aaaaaaaccckkkk!), worms, zombies, etc. but they are forbidden to watch, play, or even look at the realistic war games like Call of Duty, Black Ops, Killzone, etc. that depict humans killing humans in actual historical REAL events.

So I guess we're "weird" like that.

Anyhow, back to this S.T.R.I.V.E. program.  While I have yet to get a list of the "points" they strive each child to attain, I do know that some are Co-Operation, Self-Respect, Independence, and Community.  Ok, ok, I can live with that.  But what the hell is Patriotism and Justice?  I already have "issues" with my son being indoctrinated into kowtowing to the American Flag every morning (or any flag, mind you) but now it's a requirement in being an "ethical" person?  And Justice?  What the hell is that at 5 years old?  Is he interning with Nancy Grace or learning shapes?

And not to continue my rant, but everytime I hear the words "moral values" in the same sentence, I get the feeling that I'm going to find a right-wing conservative on the other side preaching from the pulpit about "morals and values" that don't jive with mine.  I'm sorry, but it's mine and Randy's responsibility to instill morals and values and ethics into our kids, not some weird school program that is giving me the creeps.  And who or where are these "moral values" coming from?  Who runs S.T.R.I.V.E.?  What if it's a spider-lover who thinks everyone should keep spiders as pets and kiss them?  What if it's someone who has posters of Sarah Palin all over their house and has a "I *heart* Sarah" tattoo on their left butt cheek?  In the same respect what if its this crazy person with a clown fetish who wants everyone to worship clowns?  See what I mean?  WHOSE "morals and values" are they planning to instill on my kiddo?  They should only be mine and my husband's.

I don't want to jump to any conclusions or be "that parent" that is always asking questions, but I would really like to know more about what this S.T.R.I.V.E. is.  Website searches have turned up nothing and I really don't want it to end up the way it did when I joined the Publix Toddler Club and then discovered it was run by uber-Christian parenting group "MOPS" and dropped my membership like a bad habit.  I guess I will have to wait and see.......or drill the principal for more information.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Year Ten

Scattered thoughts on the tenth anniversary:

  • How can people say "god bless America" today?  I asked a believer how they can rationalize that statement and they told me that "he" works in mysterious ways. Somehow, and as much as I try to be respectful, I have to, deep down inside, call bullshit on that.  How can one justify such atrocities by labeling it with the benign "mysterious ways" excuse.  "Mysterious ways", at least to me, involve a man in a black cape pulling a rabbit out of a hat, or making a woman disappear in a "magic" box, not the complete annihilation of 3000 innocent people, some of them meeting their end in the most horrific and prolonged ways imaginable.
  • And why is god blessing us today?  Why not wonder where the fuck he was in 2001 on this day.  Was he out to lunch?  Was he having a business meeting with Lucifer?  Was he simply hedging his bets on Al Qaeda and radical Islam?  After all, Mohammed Atta and company committed these acts FOR GOD.  The same god Christians worship, the same god Jews worship, the same god not-crazy Muslims pray to five times a day.  Sure, he's Allah in the Qu'ran, but guess what?  Same god. So how can people "thank god" or "god bless" anything when he's the very same god that didn't snatch those planes out of the sky on that Tuesday and say, "No, no, children. Play nice."
  • If the acts of 9/11/01 don't make anyone realize that there is no god, then I don't know what else could.  Oh, wait, how about the Holocaust, Dharfur, Somalia, Andre Brevik, Rwanda, Bosnia, Palestine, AIDS, children born with cancer, children dying of starvation, people that shoot up IHOP restaurants for no reason, Michelle Bachmann, amputees (if there is a god, why won't he heal them?), war, famine, stillborn babies (bullshit that "god needed an angel in heaven"), rape, murder, pedophiles (priests, especially), and all those wonderful other things that this supposed benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent being "allows" to happen because of his "mysterious ways".
  • And before you accuse me of being an Atheist because of all the bad things listed above, I will stop you there.  Sure, the horrific things that humans do to eachother are one of the reasons why I cannot logically believe in a god, but the wonders of the Universe and of our planet trump the idiocies of humanity.  How egotistical of us wee humans to think that the sun rises and sets for us.  That it was somehow "created" for our benefit.  We are a speck of a planet, on a speck of an arm of a galaxy that is a speck in the corner of an endless universe of which we are just learning about.  Our visible Universe, as detected by the Hubble telescope, shows millions, if not billions, of other galaxies, with other star systems, and presumably other planets that contain life.  We are here for a minute in the grand spectrum of things and then we are gone.  Yet people perpetuate this Bronze Age notion that we were "created" in a god's image and have this huge purpose.  We don't.  And that's ok. 

  • As I said on my Facebook page, today should be a day where we remember what happened, but focus our energies on making this world a better place for our children.  How do we do that?  Well, for me, it means to stop fundamentalism in all aspects.  The United States is on the verge, if not already, of becoming a theocracy.  We are, in no way, a Christian nation as clearly outlined in both the Constitution and the Treaty of Tripoli, yet zealots and fundamentalists continue to push the notion that we are.  We must insist on a complete separation of church and state in both public lives and government.  The Michelle Bachmans, the Rick Perrys, the Mitt Romneys, the Falwells, the Robertsons, all must be removed from positions of influence. We must focus on teaching our children that EVERYONE is entitled to rights in this country: the right to love, the right to marry, the right to be a parent.  No one should be singled out or condemned simply because an ancient book, written by primitive goat herders says so.   
  • Evolution is Science. Creationism is Myth.  One of them belongs in a Science class, the other in a Theology/World Relgions class. Not doing so is a disservice to the education of our children, or do we want all of them to sound like idiots?

  • Let us not forget that horrific tragedies that befell sacred American soil (cough, cough, cough, sarcasm, cough) ten years ago are par for the course in not-so-lucky countries all over the world.  Children and raped and sold into slavery on a daily basis in certain African countries.  People are hacked to death with machetes for being gay, not following the same religion (oh, look religion and violence again!), going against the status quo, and other stupid reasons.  Buildings are detonated, families are destroyed, sons and daughters are lost every day in other countries and nobody blinks an eye.  Yet, when it comes knocking on our front door step, America all of a sudden, comes together and listens. 
  • Well, America, you should be listening every day, to every person in every country who is victim or witness to their horrors.  We're not better than them, we're not special, and now, we're just like every other war torn country.  We're being taken over by theocrats who want to rule from the pulpit, who believe violence is the only way to conquer "the enemy", who believe "the enemy" is someone who isn't like them, and who wish to marginalize and demonize anyone and anything that threatens their "morality" and "values". 
  • Sorry, but my godless Atheist morals and values never told me to hate gays and lesbians. 
  • In conclusion, if I can get to one, today absolutely sucks.  And I dread the day when I will have to explain to my children why I just burst out crying for no reason on Sept. 11.  Or why the TV stays off or on cartoons all day.  Or why I hide the newspaper.  Or why, in my hope chest, there is a box with pictures in it of two towers.  Were that we were all children and didn't know about the cruelty of man.