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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

'The Pill'

Yes, I am still alive.  Doing a lot of thinking, which actually is not as conducive to writing as much as one might expect.  In this format, 'thinking out loud' can lead to all kinds of mostly-permanent problems.
The internet has its own 'permanent record.'  And, particularly these days, few humans seem to possess the 'mercy gene' which allows for minor foibles to go unpunished.  There is a totalitarian mentality these days, perhaps mostly because we are so much more afraid of the world than we were before.
However, that's not what I'm posting today.  Rather, a reader of this blog sent me a very interesting article:
Of course, it contains all of the usual bromides... the 12 Steps are too hard, the overall success rate of AA is only 5-8%, etc.
Another bromide is that 'harm reduction is successful with heroin addicts.'  That should be rewritten to say that harm reduction is successful at making addicts slightly less of a public nuisance.  They are still addicted and are not free.  It is like having padded manacles or gentle slavery. 
So, a pill is developed that will 'help' reduce the effect of alcohol, thus reduce the amount of drinking.
I swear these folks have never talked to an addict.  It isn't about the drinking.  Or the using.  It is about the suffering.
Sure, the pill may reduce the effect of alcohol, particularly on those alcohol abusers and hard drinkers that get carried away like the way many people lose themselves occasionally at the dinner table.  That's not addiction.  It is gluttony.
The addict will find a work-around.  Sure, he may stop drinking with the pill, but watch his pantry or his computer screen or his bank account... the addiction moves into another activity that releases the endorphins and 'relaxation response' that drinking once did without the pill.
Addicts don't need alcohol to get high.  They just need a high, and they can get it lots of ways.
Heck, I've seen raging alcoholics give up their drink overnight and remain on a rage bender for years.  yes, there's another pill for that, and soon our friend can take a whole pantry of meds and literally fry his liver doing what the 12 Steps do organically.
Maybe that can be AA's new message-sharing strategy-
The 12 Steps are the Green way to recovery.
Yes, I am kidding.
Sure, the recovery rate in AA is low... because the meetings are open and most people take years to get to a point of willingness.  AA is meant for the 'hopeless alcoholic,' not the newbie abuser with plenty of spunk and lots of ambition.  Read the histories written by Dick B. and you will see that AA has changed dramatically in that respect.
The 'pill' does not rebuild the relationships broken by addiction, nor does it cure the inner suffering the Steps address.
No pill can replace the healing of repentance and conversion.  No pill can make your amends for you.  No pill can replace the sense of God's love and mercy.
No pill can make you Sober.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Same-Sex Friendship

The hyper-sexualization of the modern Materialistic Consumerism has caused us to be alienated from one another.  Here's a look into this problem:
People these days are lonely.  The drive for online friendships is an easy way out, but it really never sates the thirst we have for real friendships and associations.
Think about it: children need a mother and father, but after the divorce, they are forced to accept and then reject their parents' various sexual partners.  Marriage has become about sexual union rather than family-building.  We tempt our children into early 'dating' long before they are ready to marry, then gnash our teeth when they abuse their freedom and have sex, which we encourage by supporting sexualized advertising aimed at them.
We are sex-obsessed, which is why our news outlets sprinkle a heavy dose of 'entertainment news' in with the hard stuff, knowing we are more interested in some young tarts cleavage more than we are in the spread of Ebola.  After all, Ebola does not generally effect Wifi access, does it?
Sure, we have the iPhone#, with all the attendant apps and access to our electronic needful-things, but what about real people?  Most of us have much fewer of those around these days.  We used to have clubs and fellowships and teams... they are dying out as people sit at home and bask in the eerie light of a LCD screen.
When we make the effort to meet others, it is often with that overwhelming desire, enforced by media messages, to have intercourse.  Like a prisoner first released for a long sentence, everything seems to stimulate us.  perhaps we've been watching millions of images of these things, and thus we are now 'primed' to go to work.
But, we know it is wrong, and so we stuff our stimulus down and thus begin the awkward fumbling of a 'proper relationship,' all the while wondering and wondering and wondering if our stimulation and craving for human intimacy is sexual or not.  We don't know, because we get so little of the real thing in either way.  Thus, they become confused.  Sex and social intimacy blend into a single neediness.
But, failing to understand that sex and friendships are different, and that sexual intimacy and social intimacy, while sharing some traits, are not the same, we become afraid to have both because we know there is a difference but it is no longer taught to us... and the guardrails are removed.
We encourage sodomy and so-called 'same sex attraction,' which then places the same barriers that heterosexual men and women place in their own relationships in order to prevent the blending of sex and friendship.  It is awkward for a man to treat another man like a woman, but that's what happens.  Or, rather, he may treat himself like the woman knowing that he really isn't, but, again, it is all confusing and therefore awkward.
Some people enjoy the confusion.  Yes, there are people who thrive on it.  It makes them feel alive.  Most of us like things to be straight-forward.  We benefit from rules and standards and clarity.  In this age, the former have the edge.  They are out to cause confusion.  They like it.
But, the rest of society pays the price for social experimentation.  We become the lonely ones, earning for the joys of friendship unmuddled with sex.
Until society reaches the breaking point, we will have much more of this alienation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Be Mad At God First

For countless centuries, perhaps even from the beginning, man has often viewed the world with an 'us-versus-them' attitude.  His classical approach to life is that those who are not for him are against him, and that those against him are pure evil and a dire threat.
After all, the 'Other' takes our stuff and makes a mess we have to clean up.  The 'Other' is selfish and greedy and inconsiderate.  Of course, we are never like that.  We are always perfect.  It is the Them that has all the problems.
So, when we feel threatened or imposed upon by circumstance, we turn out ire towards some other.  When things get really bad for us, and we are genuinely afflicted, then our hatred of the Other becomes fully justified and we can go about hating and resenting.  Our insults are true because we say that they are, since we have decided it is so and the Other has no truth at all.
Whole political systems, from Stone Age Tribalism to Modern Age Marxism are built on the premise that the bad guys over there, be they the fellows in the tepee on the other side of the hill or the wealthy Bourgeoisie in the manor house (these days, a McMansion is enough to get the envy of most Americans going), must be stopped because they are bad and we are good.
Race politics is another place where this is the core belief.  Be angry, and remain so, because only your rage will give you the strength to fight your enemy.  Kind of like this:
So, we encourage our rage for 'social change' or 'preserving our traditions' with hate and well-suckled grievances.  The Other becomes, like the video suggests, the 'nail' that we have to be angry enough to hit.
The path of Recovery requires that we drop the pretense: anger is a poison, and it is never justified.  Resentments and condemnation of others is the same judgment and condemnation you will receive.  Hence, the Lord's Prayer.
Most people are weaned on hatred, and it is mother's milk to them, and no matter how often they read their Bibles, they can't get over their own hatreds.
Those who afflict you... who lets them get away with it?  God.
I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I gird you, though you do not know me, that men may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe, I am the LORD, who do all these things. (Is 45:5-7)
God sends Israel into the hands of the Egyptians.  And the Babylonians.  They are afflicted by others.  Who should they have been angry at... their afflicters, or the God who ordained their affliction?
Here's a bishop's take on the matter:
'This Came From Me' by St. Seraphim of Vyritsa

Have you ever thought that everything that concerns you, concerns Me, also? You are precious in my eyes and I love you; for this reason, it is a special joy for Me to train you. When temptations and the opponent [the Evil One] come upon you like a river, I want you to know that This was from Me.

I want you to know that your weakness has need of My strength, and your safety lies in allowing Me to protect you. I want you to know that when you are in difficult conditions, among people who do not understand you, and cast you away, This was from Me.

I am your God, the circumstances of your life are in My hands; you did not end up in your position by chance; this is precisely the position I have appointed for you. Weren't you asking Me to teach you humility? And there - I placed you precisely in the "school" where they teach this lesson. Your environment, and those who are around you, are performing My will. Do you have financial difficulties and can just barely survive? Know that This was from Me.

I want you to know that I dispose of your money, so take refuge in Me and depend upon Me. I want you to know that My storehouses are inexhaustible, and I am faithful in My promises. Let it never happen that they tell you in your need, "Do not believe in your Lord and God." Have you ever spent the night in suffering? Are you separated from your relatives, from those you love? I allowed this that you would turn to Me, and in Me find consolation and comfort. Did your friend or someone to whom you opened your heart, deceive you? This was from Me.

I allowed this frustration to touch you so that you would learn that your best friend is the Lord. I want you to bring everything to Me and tell Me everything. Did someone slander you? Leave it to Me; be attached to Me so that you can hide from the "contradiction of the nations." I will make your righteousness shine like light and your life like midday noon. Your plans were destroyed? Your soul yielded and you are exhausted? This was from Me.

You made plans and have your own goals; you brought them to Me to bless them. But I want you to leave it all to Me, to direct and guide the circumstances of your life by My hand, because you are the orphan, not the protagonist. Unexpected failures found you and despair overcame your heart, but know That this was from Me.

With tiredness and anxiety I am testing how strong your faith is in My promises and your boldness in prayer for your relatives. Why is it not you who entrusted their cares to My providential love? You must leave them to the protection of My All Pure Mother. Serious illness found you, which may be healed or may be incurable, and has nailed you to your bed. This was from Me.

Because I want you to know Me more deeply, through physical ailment, do not murmur against this trial I have sent you. And do not try to understand My plans for the salvation of people's souls, but unmurmuringly and humbly bow your head before My goodness. You were dreaming about doing something special for Me and, instead of doing it, you fell into a bed of pain. This was from Me.

Because then you were sunk in your own works and plans and I wouldn't have been able to draw your thoughts to Me. But I want to teach you the most deep thoughts and My lessons, so that you may serve Me. I want to teach you that you are nothing without Me. Some of my best children are those who, cut off from an active life, learn to use the weapon of ceaseless prayer. You were called unexpectedly to undertake a difficult and responsible position, supported by Me. I have given you these difficulties and as the Lord God I will bless all your works, in all your paths. In everything I, your Lord, will be your guide and teacher. Remember always that every difficulty you come across, every offensive word, every slander and criticism, every obstacle to your works, which could cause frustration and disappointment, This is from Me.

Know and remember always, no matter where you are, That whatsoever hurts will be dulled as soon as you learn In all things, to look at Me. Everything has been sent to you by Me, for the perfection of your soul. All these things were from Me. (
Do you want to blame someone for racism, and inequality, and the burdens others unfairly place on you, and the suffering of the poor, and the inequality of the rich, and that you didn't get what you wanted... put the blame on God.
He started it all, and He is the one who lets it happen.
Do not be a coward and blame mere mortals.  God could stop them, but He does not. 
And, since you are afraid of God, it is easier to hate others than taking Him on.  That's being a chicken.
If you are angry at another person, you either don't really believe that God is in charge, or you think He is asleep and not doing His job.  You may need to rouse Him with your indignation.  Yes, God will surely respond if you are angry enough!
Those who can actually muster the courage to be angry at God are well on their way to recovery.  After all, to be angry at Him means you really believe that He is there and that He is all-powerful.  This is a stronger belief than the made who pays lip-service to God but in his heart believe that men are responsible for his suffering.
Men are tools.  Reread the Old Testament.  Pay attention to Deuteronomy 32.  That is a warning for all of us.
Our afflictions are the path to healing.  Do not resent others for doing what is in their nature to do.  God will deal with them.  You yourself must be healed, and God will only do that if you cooperation.
If you must hate, then hate truly and hate God.  He can handle it.  Hate Him and get over it.  Be honest.  Sometimes we cannot avoid being angry over what has happened to us.  Direct it to the One who really did it, and who also knows why it must be so and can change it from bad to good.
Be angry with no man.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Marijuana and Suicide

More scientific research showing the bad side of marijuana usage:
However, it may be more complicated... like the chicken and the egg.
Does the predisposition to usage have a natural link to suicide?  Are people using to marijuana to medicate the underlying problems which lead to suicide?  Or, is it the marijuana use which is solely responsible?
The deeper question which never really gets answered is why people would 'need' to get high every day.  It is the escape from 'reality' (the 'reality' of one's own mind, that is) which should be our main concern.
We need to teach people that their memories will be there when they get back from being high.  If there is a single message that we should be delivering to others, it is this.  Memories are inescapable... unless you get amnesia.  But then, you lose out on who you are.
I suppose we can say that we are failing to teach people who they are, largely because we can't agree on it ourselves in the age of the 'pluralistic' society.  We have made everything an uncertainty.
Thus we live in a constant flux, and our fears come to overwhelm us. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Understanding Happiness

Happiness is not an 'experience' in terms of an achievement, but rather a motion.  In physiological terms, it is about a series of brain chemical experiences that transition us from anticipation and excitement to satisfaction and relaxation.
This is why this article should be no surprise, though it might be for many:
The modern mind sees happiness as a achievement... a single event or experience.  But, it really isn't.  It is only by repeating the false image of happiness that we can ignore the truth that you don't get to happiness in a split-second. 
I think advertising usually plays into this because an ad would have to be far more complex in order to express happiness in that way.  Advertisers want to keep ads simple, because they know you won't spend time to get their messages.
Others do not want us to think about happiness too much because they are afraid that you might disagree with them.  They want a quick agreement and not too much focus on the reality of all the potentially contradicting evidence.  Most often, however, we do that to ourselves.  We want something so bad because we want to be happy but we are not willing to work at it.
Or, at least take the time for it.
In this day and age, we have lots more shots at being happy, or rather getting things we think will make us happy.  Look at all that you have around you right now.  Just think about the endless possibilities that the very computer you are using right now is offering you.
All you need is time... the one thing we seem to be running out of.
Your great-grandfather could have entertained himself with a pocket knife and a piece of wood.  Now, you have a power outage and almost instantly have a panic attack.  All he needed was daylight, but now look at all the things you need
A process takes time.  Take away the time, and there can be no process.  But, this also eliminates the potential for real happiness.
That's why drugs are so popular: you can get a quick fix of brain chemicals without having to work for it or spend any time really working towards happiness.  The clamor for marijuana legalization in America is not about 'free choice' as much as it is a desperate cry of despair: "We don't have the time or energy to be happy, so let us smoke pot!"
If you want to find happiness, then you have to work.  You also have to be realistic: happiness is not about controlling the process as much as adapting to it.  This is the second fallacy after happiness as a singular experience.  Most folks think that happiness is synonymous with control.
Look at powerful people.  Are they really happy?  Does their control bring real joy?
Most of the super-wealthy are generally unpleasant people.  In Hollywood, the old saying goes that the stars that aren't jerks are the ones that are depressed.  The only happy ones you encounter are the ones that stay outside the 'game' of power and influence.
Yet, we continually fill ourselves with the notion that we have to be in control and that happiness is about actualizing our expectations rather than enjoying the mystery of surprise.
I know that, in most cases, people are deeply disappointed in meeting me.  Generally speaking, I fail to live up to most people's expectations (especially my own).  They think they will be 'happy' meeting me (for what reason, I have no idea), and come away with... well, I'm not exactly sure.  Most folks don't call back with feedback.  Sometimes I am a jerk on purpose, because I test people who seem over-confident in their 'spirituality' (I will say that I have a highly-tuned 'BS-o-meter' that has rarely failed me, though I must say that I have failed it by ignoring its results on more than one occasion).
That's OK.  I don't make myself out to be anything other than a man with a blog and a short attention span.  I am not here to make anyone happy.  In fact, quite the opposite: what I write here is designed to take away 'happiness'... the false kind.  The cheap kind.  The delusional kind.
If you want to be happy, then let go and appreciate what God is giving you right now.  Take the time and savor the experience.  Stop whining about your plans.  They are probably stupid anyhow (most of mine are).
Happiness is a journey.  Ultimately it is a journey in God, with God, through God.  Enjoy it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Battle With the Mind

I'm going to go out on a limb here, so this may get messy.
Over the last few months, I've been working through the ramifications that one of my children has ADHD.  Right now, he's in his room fighting some kind of battle with aliens that will go on for hours.
His little mind races from thought to thought and image to image.  He's a good lad, but most of the values of today's schools don't include his.  Like his father, he's in for a long road of exile.
Many a night I have been unable to sleep because my head would not shut off.
I was always told that there had to be some deep, Freudian explanation for all those thoughts.  I searched high and low.  Never found it in most cases.  Yes, there were times when I knew EXACTLY why I was freaking out at 3am.  There were other times when I knew something was up, and eventually I learned the skill of soul-hunting.  The underlying cause would be brought out and addressed.
But, most of the time, it was just my head doing its thing.
No amount of inventorying or soul-searching or even cheap bourbon could triumph over the mind that simply won't stop.
What makes it worse is that not only is it many times unpleasant and counter-productive, but it has been popularly demonized.  Our recent flirtations with pop-Zen-Buddhism and the romantic notion of 'no mind' has made those of us that have race-car-engine imaginations feel like Cave Trolls.
I'm tired of it.  I am tired of people telling me that something is wrong with me... or my son. 
I can't fix him or me by 'trying harder' or saying more Jesus Prayers.  As a monk, I would fail.  If you want to call me a failed Christian because I can't stop my head from flitting from thought to thought (even though I desperately want it to stop), then go ahead.  I've been called worse.
No, my house isn't shaking with loud music.  In fact, I don't listen to much music at all.  It is too hard at times.  Most of the time, it is dead silent other than the sound of power tools.
What I have learned to do is not kick myself so hard for being distracted.  It is going to happen.  What I have also learned is that real peace lies beneath the thoughts and the distractions of the 'busy mind.'
I am never going to be able to master the Philokalia's demands that I roll my thoughts up into a ball and insert them into my heart.  My 'hands' aren't big enough, and I will just make more anyhow.  I will never know silence until it is given to me, because there is no natural way for me to stop my head.
It's over... I am done trying.  I pray amid the chaos, and I can only trust that far below is the stillness and tranquility that I have only had momentary glimpses of.  Though I want nothing more than that blessed silence, it is just one more thing that is outside of my grasp in this life.
So, I will continue to leave around a thousand half-done projects.  I will miss appointments or be late because I can't remember half the time where I am or what comes next (I am also dyslexic with numbers, and so dates and times befuddle me).  With all my best efforts, I will still disappoint those with high expectations, or even moderate expectations.
I will not feel bad anymore for being a failure.  It is my Cross, which means that it is also my gift.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Shame Is Your Friend II

Judging from the feedback, I think I need to clarify a bit more about what I am saying.
You can't be civilized, or spiritual, unless you first accept the notion of shame as beneficial.  It is necessary, and if you ditch it, you will pay the consequences.
So, what is shame?  Shame is the feeling that one has lost one's proper position in the world and broken the standards of one's relationships with others.  It is more than embarrassment over a misstep, but an acknowledgement that one has fundamentally failed to be what one is called to be.
Adam and Eve sense shame when they sinned.  Are you going to tell me they were too hard on themselves?
Many people these days struggle with their consciences because they know instinctively that they are called to something greater, yet the world calls them to depravity and accepting a low estate.  They are told that the easy way is the best way, and that a life of pleasure is better than a life of struggle leading to accomplishment.
They are told to ignore good and evil, and instead focus on what is desirable.  Sound like Adam and Eve?
So, when they sense in the shame of their choices, they react with rage and, of course, denial.  After all, who wants to admit that one played right into the hands of one's enemies?
This is why poverty and social disorder always walk hand-in-hand with alcohol and drug abuse.  It takes the edge off of that shame that modern man experiences in the wee hours of the morning when he realizes that all of his decisions have led him away from beauty and honor.  The garment of his humanity is torn, and he has no needle to mend it with.
So, he drinks.  Or, he smokes.  Or, he shoots up.
Man oppresses man, but it requires cooperation.  You can oppress a man by taking away his honor at the point of a sword, but you can also take it away from him by promising 'paradise' if he would but bend his knees.
If you tell people that there is no shame in giving up one's dignity for the sake of pleasure, the average man will gladly do so... at first.  That is, right up until he notices that he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup.  Once he realizes that he has done so, he will likely drink and use... and perhaps strike out at the 'society' that took his dignity from him.
After all, there is no shame in the poor man who has struggled his whole life yet remained honest.  There is shame in the man who has kept himself poor by making bad decisions and refusing to learn from them.
There is shame in oppressing the poor, but the blame is to be shared with those who choose to be oppressed in exchange for a life of ease.
We cannot necessarily condemn society as if we are innocent, because we are part of society.  The moment you point fingers at someone else, you are saying they are somehow different from you.  Don't you realize that you and the people around you are embraced by the inseparable bonds of not only a common citizenship, but a common humanity?
What does this mean? 
It means that we all have to take our share of the blame, and our part of the solution.  Change happens when everyone makes the decision to change themselves rather than others.  Accept the shame as your own.  Then ask God for help.
A man who claims innocence is deceiving himself.  Look deep within yourself and ask, "Am I really acting like a free man every day?  Or, am I excusing my weaknesses by blaming others?"
Recovery means accepting the blame and the shame... and turning it over to God.  It means taking our poverty, both self-imposed and the result of theft, and asking God to handle it for us.  We stop looking for human will as the solution, and turn to the Creator, our Father in Heaven.
Accepting the reality of our shame is a powerfully spiritual moment.  It is an essential step in the path of holiness.