Why I just can’t do Religion…

Very early on in life we are taught about right and wrong.  Various means to this end all seem to have one underlying theme – we all have within us the ability to discern between the two.  For everyone, this is influenced by unique factors but for all the voice is still there – the one that weighs everything we know against a situation and allows us to make decisions.  Sometimes this is the right decision, sometimes it’s not-so-right.  Fox News knows all about the second one.

We are taught that Situation A + Action B = Result C.  We are taught, through consequences, that we have the ability to evaluate this system.  Break the rules, you’ll be punished.  Help an old lady across the street in Russia and someone with a dash cam will make you feel good about yourself.  Make top grades in your class and you’ll get a gold star…whatever.  I believe in this system of cause and effect.  It’s how I live my life and I know that, at the end of every day, my actions will be evaluated by my most scrupulous critic:  Me.

The problem I have with Religion (I have capitalized the letter R, as Religion is an entity which holds so much power over the human race that it deserves a proper name) is faith.  I know of no Religion which doesn’t require one to have faith.  Webster says faith is “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”.  No proof?  In other words, with faith, what you see and feel and touch is trumped by what someone else tells you – whether it be from a book, a pulpit, or a bible verse written on a bathroom stall at Speedway.

I see it constantly.  Under the veil of religion, people look Situation A, Action B and Result C in the eye and tell them to go shove off – that they’ve got a uniquely true version of reality supported by nothing definitive and screw anyone who says otherwise.  Obviously this issue is as infinitely complex as the flaws in our understanding which allow it to continue but the simple truth is this:  We all have, built into our bodies and minds, the capacity to evaluate the world around us objectively.  It is, absolutely, how we stay alive.

Forget the countless conflict that has arisen.  Forget the families that have been torn apart.  Forget that some of the most heinous acts in human history have been committed in the name of Religion.  This is the reason that I just can’t do Religion, and it has to do with that essential capacity which makes us human:  Religion allows us to ignore it.

 

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Are cigarettes good for you?

Of course not. They’ll do less for your health, in fact, than most hideous car crashes.   But that’s not the point, is it?  We already know that they’re unhealthy.  This has been drilled into our minds for what may as well be eons and yet 19% of the US smokes.

But whatever.  These are boring statistics that really aren’t what you’d call “unpublished”.  What I’m more interested in are the aspects of the “tobacco entity” that allow this habit to continue.  Why?

Because I smoke.  It’s expensive, has turned what used to be swimmer’s lungs into the biological equivalent of a tired old leaf blower, and in my circles smoking is more deadly to your social status than it is to your mortality.  But I do it anyway, because (here’s the good part)…

Hot or not?

Hot or not?

I enjoy it.  Genuine enjoyment and pleasure happens when I spark one up.  Turkish Royals, pink BIC, hell yeah.  I love it while driving, while eating, after sex, while at work, while hiking, or after I leave the gym (yes, you read that right).  Pretty much any activity I do, besides sleeping, is made better with a cigarette.

I’m addicted, hopelessly.  I say this with a tiny dash of shame, or much less salt than Emeril uses.  I’ve been smoking my entire adult life, for 12 years.  I’m 24 (hello?!).  Before you count years on your fingers I’ll go ahead and tell you that I was 12 the first time I took a puff – a beautiful, blue, billowing…never mind.  Anyway, this despite being brought up in a good family, in an excellent school (where I did well), and in an affluent area of town.

My next point, and this is the big one, is that I don’t know what life is like without cigarettes.  I have never actually lived adult life without them and the thought of not having tobacco at arm’s reach is downright scary.  How could it not be?

I don’t do drugs, I exercise, and I’m very conscious of what I eat.  The juxtapose of cigarettes in my life is nearly laughable.  I know I can’t smoke forever, but for now I shall.  So if you’ll excuse me, I have something to take care of…outside.

A Mercedes tells its story…

Yesterday I pulled on the door handle on my car (pretty mundane stuff).  But instead of opening the door, the handle came off in my hand.  So today I went to a junkyard to get a new one.  While the scrapyard gentleman removed one from a carbon copy of my car, I wandered about.   A Porsche Cayenne caught my attention.  It had apparently caught fire and burnt to a German crisp.

IMG_4536

…to a crisp.

Weaving through the rows of cars, I came across a white Mercedes E-Class.  The view from the rear suggested that the car was only a few years old, and in great condition…or at least it was at some point.  The front, however, was a devastated hunk of contorted metal.

From inside shone the crisp, white, and nearly luminescent color of crumpled airbags.  They seemed to have come out of every nook and cranny.  In the passenger footwell was a can of Axe body spray and a pair of green and yellow Adidas gym shorts.

Behind the passenger’s seat were two cans of RedBull, one empty and one unopened.  I guessed that the driver couldn’t have been much older than me.  Coming around to the driver’s side, there were a few more items that held more of the driver’s (and the Benz’s) story.

The leather inside was a dark tan color.  Looking around the driver’s seat, I noticed many deep-red blotches.  They were the unmistakable color of blood.  In the driver’s footwell, thrown in almost as an afterthought, sat two items which revealed the story’s climax.

A CPR mask, tossed on the floor, hinted at something devastating.  The second item was barely visible, so I opened the driver’s door to get a closer look.  White with more red stains, it was a sheet.

I noticed that the seatbelt was completely reeled in, as it is when no one is wearing it.  Between the mask, the blanket, and the position of the seatbelt, it became evident that someone had taken their last drive in the car that I was peering into.

Suddenly I became dramatically aware of the brevity of a two-ton vehicle plowing down the road, and what can happen if things go wrong.  I was staggered.

Then I began to wonder.  Who was the driver?  Where were they going?  Was it something mundane?  The grocery perhaps?  Or maybe this person was on the way to the gym, ready for an ordinary workout.  While standing there, staring into that Mercedes, another question came to mind which was completely overwhelming.

What were this person’s last moments like?  Images of what may have happened seemed to rush though my mind.  Did they see it coming?  Were they scared?  Did they have any idea how serious the crash was going to be?  Did they even know what hit them?  No matter what, they certainly couldn’t have been prepared for what was about to happen to them.

Walking away from that white Mercedes, I realized a universal truth of life:  We are all, no matter how different in life, going to someday be humbled in the face of death.

To leave things on a positive note, I am pleased to report that my habit of not wearing my seatbelt has been completely kicked.