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The Crucible

No cheesy pseudo-cult pretense this time. There’s just too much going on, and too much pain and fear to make light of it. And I’ve frankly been so wrung-out emotionally that it’s hard to even formulate coherent sentences. Because here in America, we have just royally fucked ourselves, and good. The rise of Trump and the sharks circling in his wake have made the divisions that we have long tried to ignore far too glaring and obvious to deny any more. I’ve spent the last week and a half cycling through stages of grief and mourning; I’ve cried, I’ve yelled, I’ve bargained, I’ve eaten a metric ton of junk food, I’ve tried to ask “why?”, and I’ve even started planning my post-apocalyptic compound. But the most helpful and cathartic thing I’ve done is just silently been in community with people who feel the same way. And that’s what has given me the hope I cling so desperately to right now.364e4d08071c3adbf7148391dcbf3ebd

And I do have hope. Not for the immediate future – I’m pretty sure that’s totally fucked. I have no doubt that the GOP Resurgent will do its best to destroy the environment, deplete our resources, exploit anyone and anything they can, and just generally try to turn our country into a fascist theocratic police state that would make George Orwell gasp. I mean, we literally are straying into 1984 territory here. All we’re missing is the Thought Police… unless you count the NSA’s surveillance of social media, so I guess that’s sort of covered too. But I digress.

The Rise of Trump is a clarion call that we must now act upon. Evil has literally taken over our country. People masquerading as religious people preach hate and are calling for concentration camps. The president-elect is setting up state-regulated foreign trade that will directly benefit his companies and dynasty. And so forth. We knew this was coming, though. To pretend otherwise is to deny the suffering and marginalization of countless Americans over the last 200+ years. Because make no mistake, this has everything to do with the Civil War and the fundamental difference in philosophy between those who embrace a multicultural society and those who reject it.

We like to quote statistics about the election and analyze every little detail to death, but the core of the matter is that there are two primary worldviews in conflict with each other in America and they are simply not mutually compatible. We can slice and dice the two camps in whatever terminology you want: rural versus urban, educated versus under-educated, Republican versus Democrat… but the reality boils down to people who are tribalistic versus those who are globalistic. (And while I’m pretty sure those aren’t the sociological terms for it, hopefully you know what I mean.) And because the globalistic folks were so busy pointing fingers at all the other problems we have, we let the tribe of barbarians into the city and they took it over.

So what do we do now? I really don’t know. There’s no easy solution. Or at least not an effective one that will allow all of us to walk away with our ivory towers of morality intact. Because I strongly believe we are at a true turning point in human social evolution: we must choose to push forward as a global society, or let ourselves remain mired in the evil and backwardness of the Dark Ages. Rome may not have fallen in a day, and America won’t either. But it’s crumbling quickly, and we need to make some difficult decisions about the greater good. And it will get bloody. It’s already gotten bloody. And yes, the other side has a LOT more guns (thanks, NRA) and willingness to use them. But we have other weapons we can use to fight back: Intelligence. Compassion. Innovation. Love.

Love is a powerful force. Perhaps the most powerful in the ‘verse. It’s what makes us alive, and yearn for something better. We love our children, so we want them to flourish. We love our planet, so we want to protect and nourish it. We love our each other, so we march in protest and we yell and scream and WE DO NOT FUCKING EVER GIVE UP. Because that’s how we got here. A lot of good people gave up and didn’t vote. Or they voted for candidates they knew weren’t feasible. But the time for throwing tantrums because you didn’t get exactly what you wanted is over. We’re now at war, and we have to stick together. United we stand… divided they triumph.

This is our crucible as a nation. Perhaps as a species. What we do and where we go from here will resonate in time for centuries to come. America IS great, and always has been. But we must take it back from the greedy corporate assholes and the small-minded bigots who only want to benefit their own tribe that prop them up. Because we know there are no more tribes… we are all one tribe, now and forever. And we may come out of this crucible burned and diminished, but also stronger.

I don’t believe in divine intervention or in fate. But I do believe in the power of humanity to accomplish amazing things. We will work together and survive. Because we must. I believe in us.

Be excellent to one another, my friends.

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The beginning is a very delicate time

The wise words of Bene Gesserit-trained Imperial Historian Princess Irulan of House Corrino speak of a sea change in human evolution that ring true for us today, even though they were more specifically referring to giant sandworms, Fremen warriors, and transcendent human consciousness. But we, too, have reached a fork in our path and must decide how we move forward: together as a united species or wallowing in our tribalistic feuds and barbaric beliefs.

In the Dune universe (original Frank Herbert version, at least), being called a human is a term you have to earn. Any old moron can call himself homo sapiens, but being a human comes with the responsibility of using your higher mind – the part that gives us the gift of rationality, creativity, and compassion – and overcoming your baser animal instincts. Unfortunately, I do not have a gom jabbar

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careful with that, precious

with which I can cull the lesser prospects, nor do I have Paul Muad’Dib’s prescience and cannot tell you how the near future will turn out, but I do predict our path ahead is difficult. Many of us will not make it, and we will have to leave some behind. But I do have hope that there will be some that forge ahead to start building a better sietch among the dunes.

The 2016 elections in America are playing out like a badly-written morality play, with both sides becoming almost cartoonish in their hatefulness or inclusiveness. It’s a little too easy to paint one side as evil and the other as good; we all know that’s not how human beings work. But what we can do with a better degree of moral certainty is qualify each side in degrees of tribalistic or globalistic:

He Who Shall Not Be Named (a.k.a., The Donald) clearly represents the atavistic and primal instincts of our caveman forbears, hoarding resources for his tribe and his alone with all Others being hostile aliens and those who would Take What Is Rightfully Ours. What was once the Republican Party has become a squabbling pack of rowdies, clawing and biting at any perceived threat to their small worldview or privilege. You’ll hear justifications of every tone and creed… from the purely emotionally biased (“I just don’t LIKE that Hillary woman, I don’t trust her!”) to the misinformed pseudo-intellectual (“Studies have shown that a strong policy of corporatism is the best way to encourage growth!”). But don’t be fooled. It all really boils down to selfishness and fear of the Other.

That’s not to say the Democratic party’s hands are clean; far from it. Until fairly recently, the Dems were the stronghold of the same racists and anti-establishment, pro-Confederacy lackwits that have now infested the GOP, and the Democrats happily manipulated them too. The “party of the middle class” has long been in bed with corporate special interests and has done its fair share of trying to tip the balance in their favor by illicit means. But there’s an underlying difference in philosophy that is truly essential: the Democratic party (not that I’m discounting independent parties, but I only have so much time in the day to blog) is working towards equity and inclusion. Towards making us all a little more human.

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image courtesy of http://www.bradwarthen.com

I doubt either presidential candidate would pass Reverend Mother Mohiam’s gom jabbar test, but I dare to say that the Democrats are trying. Much like Princess Irulan, Hillary Clinton may not be cut out to be a Bene Gesserit, but she’s a fair sight better than Baron Vladimir Trumpkonnen would be.

So the point to all this is that being human means continually striving to be better, not just as an individual, but as a species. People like Baron Trumpkonnen don’t want progress, they want stagnation and exploitation. We must embrace our diverse strengths and work together against our weaknesses. There is a gom jabbar pressed against our necks right now, even if we don’t perceive it, and if we don’t at least strive to rise above being mere animals, we may feel its sting all too soon.

Long live the fighters!!


Congratulations! You chose: Despotism!

 

This is the best of times; this is the worst of times. This axiom always seems to be true, but no more so than during an election season. And what a season it is, my fellow Geeks! We stand at the cusp of a major cultural shift, not just in the USA, but across the globe. In the last one hundred years, we’ve seen the balance of power shift from being exclusively in the hands of rich white men to… mostly just rich white men. But that’s not to say there haven’t been significant advances towards a more enlightened society: universal suffrage, civil rights, marriage equality… these are not small accomplishments. They’re YUUUGE, to borrow a phrase. And we should be proud of coming so far in such a relatively short time, but we still have a lot of work to do before we can all truly be excellent to one another.

If you’ve ever played any of the Sid Meier’s Civilization games, you should be familiar with the guilty thrill you get when you get to select the type of governmental control over your civilization. And the best part is: no one else will ever hold you accountable if you choose to be a despotic, theocratic tyrant who enforces your rule through police state brutality… though the same is true if you decide to be a benevolent secular humanist democracy either.

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Hmm, shall I be Stalin or Gandhi today?

But the problem with reality is that you can’t start a new game if you really fuck up your civilization – you have to deal with the consequences of your decisions. History is rife with lessons, if we’re willing to listen, about people who gave in to fear and hate and let the Forces of Darkness triumph. You don’t need me to give you a history lesson on dictatorships, you have the interwebs and Netflix. So you know that we are extremely privileged to live in a society that allows us (or at least most of us) the right to determine our own type of government through that most magical and mundane of experiences: voting. As imperfect as our system may be, it’s what we’ve got and it ain’t too bad. While it technically isn’t a democracy (which depends on a level of public education and awareness yet to be realized in any human society that I know of), we do largely get to determine who runs our government.

So while it’s easy and self-affirming to blame the corporations, it’s also a cop-out. We’ve allowed rampant capitalism to become our primary value in the good ole’ US of A… allowed it with every time we feel it’s too much work to vote, or stand by while the corporate cronies who make the laws bend them to protect corporations over human beings. Or when we allow said cronies to make laws that benefit or protect a select elite while disenfranchising others. By giving in to the consumer greed that permeates everything in our culture, we give Crap Capitalism more power. But what can we do? Stop playing the game, for starters. Stop buying a new smart phone every year or two – and I’m totes guilty of this too – because you do NOT really need to play with the latest and greatest apps to be fulfilled as a person.

But, you say, isn’t capitalism GOOD? Well, let’s examine it. What’s the defining concept of capitalism? If you said “independence” or “competitive advantage,” you’re wrong. It’s greed. That’s it. Just greed. Capitalism relies on the basic premise that we should allow our tiny little lizard brains to hoard as many resources as we can, and fuck off if you’re not part of the tribe that’s worthy of being on the dole. I’m not saying capitalism is mutually exclusive of being a good person, but it sure makes it more difficult when your worldview is based on the concept of “exploit everyone else before they can exploit you.” And the Presumptive Candidate for the Grand Obstructionist Party is basically the embodiment of corporate greed.

There comes a time when every generation needs to stand up to the previous ones and tell them that it’s time to go sit down and let us run things. The Greatest Generation has failed in some of the worst ways imaginable, and it’s time for those of us who have grown up with a broader view of our tribe to take the reins and reign with compassion and true justice for all. So do not go softly into that greed-filled darkness – fight, fight, fight with all your heart. Because the world is ours, and it’s time to reclaim it from the tyranny of evil men (and some women) that would drain our world into an empty husk simply because they do not care about anyone else. And the easiest way to do it? Vote for the candidate that speaks to your values, or if that candidate isn’t available, the next-best option. Just don’t give up, that’s how they win. And we can’t restart this game if we lose.


Why are we here again?

I’ll be honest, geeks. I’m writing this more for myself than anyone else, but if someone gets something from it… all the better. I wish I knew the answer to the question “Why are we here?” – but does anyone, really? If you accept that science is valid and real, you know that your life and existence is a consequence of a chain of events that stretches back beyond time and human comprehension, and that every being in the universe that has ever lived is just a minuscule dot in the time-space continuum.  All of human history, philosophy, science, love, hate, life, death, every meal ever cooked, every kiss given, every crushing defeat, every exhilarating victory, doesn’t really mean shit on a cosmic scale.

But maybe that doesn’t matter. What’s the purpose of life? Mu. Not moo, though I do think cows are better at being zen than humans are. Mu: as in, maybe that’nothingness1s the wrong question. Maybe life is the answer to its own question. To exist, to have form and consciousness out of all the potential across all of time in the entire cosmos, WE GOT TO BE HERE. That’s fucking amazing, so why do we have such a hard time appreciating it?

If you think about what makes life different from the rest of the gunk floating around the universe, it’s hard to describe what life is but pretty easy to know when you see it. (At least, it has been for most terrestrial life.) But no matter your definition, there is something about the sheer tenacity of life that’s undeniable. Whatever drives it – DNA, chi, spirit, aetheric energy – life is self-perpetuating in a way that’s actually pretty spooky. Since life evolved, it’s managed to survive pretty much every disaster thrown at it: ice ages, meteorites, war, famine, disease, flooding, ecological collapse. For some reason, that little string of molecular code we call DNA (or RNA or whatever other genetic-y things I’m not learned enough to know about) has been slowly but surely insinuating itself into every nook and cranny it can manage. And the scariest part? It’s really really good at it. Like, we can’t even come close yet to replicating DNA’s evolutionary dynamism and self-motivation towards continual progress. But progress towards what? Again, mu. As products of DNA’s tireless pursuit, we may never understand how or why it came to be, or even if there IS a why. I don’t want go too far down the deterministic versus chaotic rabbit hole, but that’s ultimately where these types of questions go. Is there a reason that life, not just my life or your life, but life exists? Maybe the pursuit of that question is another reason life exists, to ask itself these questions.

Then why am I bothering to write about questions that no one has answers to? Because we all have moments when not knowing is painful. Like soul-gasping, don’t-know-if-I-can-manage-this-life-shit pain. I find myself thinking about this a lot lately – what meaning does my life have? Does it have a meaning outside what I artificially impose upon it? Would it matter if I had never existed? Mu. I DO exist, I have existed, and nothing will ever change that. Everything that has ever existed in our universe, from the first hydrogen atom to the In-and-Out burger you shouldn’t have eaten last week, was given form and substance and reality. It doesn’t even really matter if some higher power willed it into existence or not; the fact is, being given existence and especially a sentient consciousness to understand and (hopefully) appreciate our existence is a gift. The Gift of the Universe. So yeah, we do matter because we ARE matter. A single life does change the course of the universe, just as one hydrogen atom fusing with another can ignite a star, because we are part of the universe already.

So does all this help me deal with feeling like my own life can be pointless and meaningless? Maybe a little, but I think it’s ultimately all about context. My life may not matter thousands of years from now, but it sure as hell matters to me and to a lot of the people that know me. In the Zen Buddhist tradition, the exploration of the concept of mu comes from a student asking a Zen Master: “does a dog have a Buddha nature?” The teacher answers, “mu,” which is actually a mental test, telling the student he needs to rethink his assumptions. Perhaps I need a Zen Master to tell me, when I ask “is this all there is to my life?” – mu.


Know Thy FOE

Hear me, o children. I shall now speak of that against which we toil and fight. The darkness that has spread and must be brought into light. The Forces of Evil, or Foe as we shall call them, are insidious and ubiquitous. But by knowing our Foes, facing them, and unleashing our amazing Geek powers upon them, we shall vanquish them. But before I go into detail about specific Foes, I will give a general overview of the nature of anti-Geekly Forces of Evil and how it affects us all.

In the beginning, there was an emptiness, a black field of nothingness. Then, structure began to appear; first, a sphere of light here and there, then more complex forms and designs. After a certain time, the universe began to pixelate into discreet branches and pathways, with countless spheres of energy populating it. Boundaries became part of reality, separating energy and matter, dark and light. And with all such analogies, good and evil. Did Evil come first, or Good? I don’t claim to know; perhaps it doesn’t matter. And as was inevitable in an evolving universe, life formed. And with that life, struggle.

It is the nature of life to seek to continue itself and, in order to do so, it must feed on and use energy. The energy that ultimately comes from the creation of the universe, which is in all things. However, as you know, some life craves its own continuance too greatly and hoards more energy than it needs. Thus is born all struggle and strife; the great ongoing fight to sustain oneself in the universe. Life competing with other life for access to finite energy resources. But what happens when access to those resources fall out of balance? Strife. Famine. War. Death. Sometimes on a scale too great for our puny human minds to comprehend. “But,” you ask, “how do we know how much energy is fair and balanced for me to take?” Let me answer by asking you a question.

Consider the creation of the universe as described above. Now, instead of humans and dolphins and spiders and slime mold evolving, imagine a universe populated by ghosts… and Pac-Man. A vastly simplified universe where entities compete for energy. There seems sufficient energy pellets for the number of inhabitants, but somehow they are never enough. Why? See the truth!!pacman_french_citation__eat_the_world__by_okman179-d82s4dd

Consider Pac-Man versus his ghostly enemies. Why do we assume Pac-Man is the hero? What have the ghosts done to deserve such torture and death? Pac-Man’s entire purpose is to gobble up all the available energy and then persecute and destroy his competitors. Are the ghosts attacking him because they are Evil or because they are trying to defend access to their fair share of the resources? What is left of the universe when it is full of Pac-Men? Emptiness.

Therefore, we must consider the ramifications of our actions and motivations. Is what we are doing in keeping with the balance of the universe, or seeking to upset it? Chaos. Order. Good. Evil. Light. Dark. Bacon. Tofu. These are just words and concepts, meaningless in the greater scheme. All things are natural, as they are part of natural existence. But not all actions and behaviors support the healthy existence of the universe and are thus, in our definition, Evil.

As I said before, the Foe is insidious and will disguise himself (I say “him” as it’s just easier… rest assured there are plenty of the “herselves” too) and attempt to deceive and confuse you. This is why we must always ask ourselves “why?” and “what impact does this have?” for this is how you can cast off Evil’s spell of deception and recognize it.

Meditate on this, children, and speak your minds. For no man is an island, though some dudes can get pretty fat.


The Founding of the Church

What the hell am I doing here? No, I’m asking you. What do you think the hell I am doing on with this blog? Well, that’s a good question. I think it’s time for the Geeks to inherit the earth. The barbarians have had their shot, and this is a call for all good geeks, nerds, and weirdos to pick up your swords (figuratively) and go do battle against the Forces of Evil, or as we shall call them in our church, the Foe.

So this is a call to Crusade. And of course, the driving power behind any good crusade is the Church. So, my friends, you have witnessed the birth of a new kind of spiritual bastion against the Foe; a driving force for goodness and bacon. A shining beacon to light your darkest hour. We are the Holy Geek Orthodox Church… or, to avoid potential litigation, just the Church of Geek.

Consider me the missionary, come into your village and show you the wonder of the power of Geek. We don’t have just one holy book, we have thousands of them. We don’t subscribe to one belief system, we subscribe to all of them. We aren’t content to sit the shadows any longer while barbarians roam the land and enslave the populace. We will rise up with our D20 dice and our phasers set to awesome. Beware, our Foes, because we have flying cars and unicorns and magic arrows. We have compassion and understanding and science! And we know how to use them all.

So you have two choices now: you can join the crusade and let your geek flag fly, or you can let the hoard continue to ravage the land. Time to choose your own adventure.