Truth Is…

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Truth Is…

truth is, you were an outcast, lonely and pushed back, feeling so small
truth is, you were invisible, unnoticed and miserable, a fly on a wall
truth is, you never had much, reclusive and out of touch, nobody got you
truth is, you weren’t even needed, always mistreated, black and blue

truth is, you couldn’t handle it, no they just wouldn’t quit, or leave you alone
truth is, confusion was setting in, knew that you couldn’t win, out on your own
truth is, you tried to ignore it, but you couldn’t forget, you’re not that tough
truth is, the sticks and the stones, cut right to the bone, you had enough

take it all away, the pain that haunts
all the things you hate, it’s just too much
all the lies and the shame, and the hurt and the blame
can’t hold on no more
take it all away

truth is, the pressure was building, and your head was filling, with all of their lies
truth is, your heart was aching, insanity glazing over your eyes
truth is, you needed to stop it, just couldn’t stop it, out of control
truth is, your world’s turning black now, no turning back now, or saving your soul

truth is, your mind was racing, manic and pacing, ready to end it all
truth is, went to the closet, that’s when you saw it, your father’s gun
truth is, felt you were breaking, hands started shaking, metal so cold
truth is, you pulled that trigger, you didn’t figure, you’d feel the bullet

take it all away, the pain that haunts
all the things you hate, it’s just too much
take it all away, its all I want
all the things they say, it hurts too much
all the lies and the shame, and the hurt and the blame
can’t hold on no more
take it all away

truth is, you weren’t really hated, it’s your friends that saved you, tackled you to the floor
truth is, the bullet it missed you, death only kissed you, letting you go
truth is, it wasn’t worth it, life isn’t perfect, despite what you think
truth is, you were loved, and no matter what, nobody wants you gone

© Marcella Fruehan
Lyrics: M Fruehan, J Goode, B Prakope

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The Consequences You Sow

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As often happens for me, leading a charmed life and all, words and messages come to me just as I need them. Apparently, today is to be no exception.

I’ve just enjoyed a fantastic few days with my extended Marine Corps family, and this morning I discover this in my email courtesy of the Daily OM:

June 15, 2010
The Consequences You Sow
Action And Effect

Every action you take has a cause and effect. The influence we wield is infinite.

All motive and action affects the cosmos in some way. The principle of cause and effect is the truth that allows us to change ourselves and the world around us for the better. However, this same universal law is also at work when change is not at the forefront of our minds. Our intentions flow forever outward in the form of energy, affecting both the people closest to us and billions of individuals we will likely never meet. For this reason, we should strive always to speak, think, and behave with great thoughtfulness and compassion. The virtues we choose to embody can inspire joy and integrity in the lives of countless people, whether we touch their existence directly or not.

The influence we wield is infinite. In an effort to internalize our conscious understanding of the nature of cause and effect, we can never truly know how our thoughts, emotions, words, or actions will manifest themselves on the larger universal stage because it is likely that the furthest-reaching effects will fall outside the range of our perception. We can only look to the guidance of our conscience, which will help us determine whether each of our choices is contributing to humanity’s illumination or setting the stage for unintended troubles. When we are in doubt, we need only remember that the cultivation of altruism inevitably leads to a harvest of goodwill and grace. Motivated by a sincere desire to spread goodness, we will be naturally drawn to those choices that will help us express our commitment to universal well-being.

Nothing you do, however minor or mundane, is ever exempt from the rules of cause and effect. From the moment of your birth, you have served as an agent of change, setting forces beyond your comprehension into motion across the surface of the earth and beyond. You can exert conscious control over this transformative energy simply by examining your intentions and endeavoring always to promote peace, positive energy, and passion in your ideas and actions. While you may never fully comprehend the extent of your purposefully heartfelt influence, you can rest assured that it will be universally felt.

Clearly, in another time and place, I must have done something amazing. And whatever those actions were, they still echo through my life and return as the wonderful people I still call friends today. And I will strive to remember that my actions have consequences, my choices impact others, and I have the power to influence others. Knowing all of that, I will make every effort to only use my powers for good. Because ultimately, all of that good returns to me many times over.

It’s Everybody Draw Mohammad Day.

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And I can’t explain it any better than Greta Christina has already done:

This is my drawing of Mohammad.
Greta drawing Mohammad

I wish I were a better artist, and could draw something other than a stick figure. But I actually kind of like its purity. If a simple, entirely undistinguished, smiling stick figure with the word “Mohammad” above it can be so offensive as to earn me a possible death sentence… that makes the whole silly idea seem even sillier. And I like the fact that it’s a photo of my hand actually making the drawing. Gives it a certain punch, I think.

Today is Everybody Draw Mohammad Day: an event in which people around the world… well, draw Mohammad. We’re deliberately violating the Muslim law against creating images of the prophet Mohammad — a law that some radical Muslim extremists are attempting to enforce with violence and death threats. On everyone. Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Draw-Mohammad-PromoActually, strike that. It is a law that some radical Muslim extremists are successfully enforcing with violence and death threats. Everybody Draw Mohammad Day was instigated by Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris, after Comedy Central cut a portion of a South Park episode following a death threat from a radical Muslim group. And this is hardly an isolated incident: when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran the cartoons of Mohammad that sparked violent protests around the world, many news publications declined to publish the cartoons in question, despite their obvious newsworthiness. Many newspapers still won’t publish them. And when this self-censorship happens, the Muslim law against drawing Mohammad has successfully been enforced.

Today, along with hundreds of people (hopefully more), I’m drawing Mohammad.

I want to explain why.

That’s more or less what I’m doing today. I realize that.

I’m doing it because, in some cases, offending people’s sensibilities is, in and of itself, a valid point. And this is one of those instances.

The idea that the rules of a religion ought to apply to people who don’t follow that religion? It’s flatly absurd. As Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist so brilliantly pointed out, “You never hear about Hindus walking into McDonald’s and telling the manager they’re not allowed to use beef products anymore. If they did, we would laugh it off. We’d say that’s absurd because non-Hindus don’t have to follow their rules.”

But that’s exactly what these radical Muslim extremists are doing. Despite the fact that they will happily violate the Hindu rule against eating beef, or the Orthodox Jewish rule against interfaith marriage, or the Yazidi rule against wearing the color blue, they nevertheless feel that it is their right, and indeed their duty, to enforce the Muslim rule against drawing Mohammad — even on people who aren’t Muslim. Using violence, and threats of death.

Mohammad cartoons-thumbAnd it is not possible to effectively protest this by simply saying, “This is wrong.” The only way to effectively protest this is by violating the damn rule. If we all wring our hands and say, “Oh, yes, this is terrible, how dare these terrorists use violence and death threats to enforce their religious rules on people who don’t share them” — and still nobody will break the damn rule because we’re afraid they’ll hurt or kill us — then their terror tactics will have worked.

I’m drawing Mohammad to send a message to Muslim extremists — and other religious extremists — that their terror tactics will not work.

I’m drawing Mohammad to reject out of hand the attempt to make criticism of Islam — or of any other religion, for that matter — off-limits, simply out of fear of violence.

I’m drawing Mohammad because many people feel comfortable critiquing, or poking fun of, or indeed commenting on, any other religion… but avoid doing any of this with Islam, for fear of violent retribution. And I refuse to allow myself to be extorted in that way.

And, perhaps most importantly of all, I’m drawing Mohammad to spread the target around… so there are so many people drawing Mohammad, the terrorists can’t possibly go after all of us.

InfidelThis is a point made by Ayaan Hirsi-Ali — former Muslim, current atheist, target of a fatwa for her outspoken blasphemous criticism and defiance of Islam. In a piece she wrote about the South Park/ Comedy Central incident — and about the seriousness of the death threats against the show’s creators — she asked, “So what can be done to help Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone?” And she answered, in part, “Do stories of Muhammad where his image is shown as much as possible. These stories do not have to be negative or insulting, they just need to spread the risk. The aim is to confront hypersensitive Muslims with more targets than they can possibly contend with.”

That’s the point.

And there is no way to make that point without actually violating this rule.

Perhaps you think that going out of your way to offend a cherished tenet of people’s religious beliefs is… well, offensive. Hurtful. Perhaps you think that secular groups and others organizing “Draw Mohammad” protests are engaging in anti-Muslim or anti-Arab marginalization. Perhaps you think that deliberately breaking another religion’s sacred rule, with the sole and stated purpose of breaking that rule, is a form of religious bigotry. Or even just childish jerkitude. A lot of people think that: moderate Muslims, and others.

To them, I say… well, Claudia commenting at Friendly Atheist said it way better than I could, and I’m just going to quote her: “The day drawing a bloody stick figure isn’t something you have to do while looking over your shoulder. The day cartoonists don’t have to build panic rooms in their homes (!!) for a rough picture of a dog with a mans head. The day dozens of people don’t die (again !!) because of some cartoons. On that day, I will agree that the secular group is just being immature and hurtful.”

Is it hurtful to deliberately poke people’s sore spots with a stick, just for the sake of doing it? Yes. I don’t think it’s a very nice thing to do, and I don’t generally do it.

But is it far, far more hurtful — not only to certain individuals, but to every individual in the world, and to society as a whole — to use violence and death threats to frighten people away from criticizing your religion, and to force obedience to your religious views on the entire human race?

By a thousand orders of magnitude, yes.

And in this case, the only way to oppose the latter is to engage in the former.

There’s something I want to say here: words that keep brimming up in my head and won’t shut up. I’m reluctant to write them down; I cringe a bit at the thought of posting them; they’ve become such a cliche that it’s embarrassing to even think them. I never imagined that I’d say these words as anything other than a joke. I never imagined I would say them with any sort of sincerity or passion.

But if we don’t draw Mohammad, the terrorists win.

*

Atheist-cartoonI don’t normally go out of my way to offend people’s religious sensibilities. I’m perfectly willing to do so, obviously: most of what I write here offends somebody’s religious sensibilities, and of course I know that most of my atheist writing is deeply offensive to many religious believers, simply because it is atheist. But offending people’s religious sensibilities, while it’s something I’m willing to do, is secondary. It’s a side effect of the fact that I’m making some point. It’s rarely the point itself. I rarely offend people’s religious sensibilities just for the sake of it, simply because people find it offensive.So here’s mine:

New Pope. New Shame.

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Pope Slams Irish Church Over Sex Abuse Scandal, But No Mention of Vatican Responsibility

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI rebuked Irish bishops Saturday for “grave errors of judgment” in handling clerical sex abuse cases and ordered an investigation into the Irish church. But he laid no blame for the problem on the Vatican’s policies of keeping such cases secret.

In a letter to the Irish faithful read across Europe amid a growing, multination abuse scandal, the pope apologized to victims but doled out no specific punishments to bishops blamed by Irish government-ordered investigations for having covered up abuse of thousands of Irish children from the 1930s to the 1990s.

Ireland’s main group of clerical-abuse victims, One in Four, said it was deeply disappointed by the letter because it failed to place responsibility with the Vatican for what it called a “deliberate policy of the Catholic Church at the highest levels to protect sex offenders, thereby endangering children.”

It’s not surprising to me that this is what we get when the head of the church has his own degree of responsibility in the very mess he is investigating.

In particular, the so-called Murphy report faulted the 2001 secrecy letter penned by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a quarter-century before becoming pope, making him the most informed Vatican official about the global scale of clerical abuse.

Shame on the Pope for this blatant attempt to deny true responsibility. When friends ask, I point to actions like this to explain why I feel that the Church is moving farther and farther away from me.

The “Happy” File

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A discussion on Facebook today has inspired this blog post. (And in true circle-of-life fashion, when it posts, a copy will be automatically sent back to Facebook and further discussion will likely take place.)

My long-time friend, in response to an ongoing thread, posted this:

I concur about John–I’ve always thought he was much more thoughtful than almost anyone our age–even when we were all way younger. Not afraid to stand for himself and others when most other people would not have done so. Not afraid to care about others. Way more caring than most people our age. John is a person people remember no matter how much time has passed. He will definitely leave this world a better place than he found it. And we’re all better for having known him.

What an amazing thing to read about myself. It isn’t often that we get such direct and heartfelt praise from others. And even when we do, we either dismiss it or (too quickly) forget all about it. I suppose it is our nature to hang on to insults and criticism, their caustic words clinging to us like barnacles on a ship. But the good stuff? It’s too soon gone. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Because of that thread, I posted this:

John Hulsey is inspired by my friends Cj McKercher Fillmore and Jeremy Ward, so I’m passing this idea along. Whatever the format, create a “when I feel down” file and fill it with the compliments and kind words of others. In dark moments, it will remind you of your own worth and value.

Obviously, CJ’s words are going in my file. And there are many others, like this message sent to me last month by another friend.

Today I am thankful for you. I think you are wonderful. And I am lucky to have you as a friend. Not just in the FB world or even just online. I really value you, John, and I hope we will have the chance to actually meet – and hug like crazy – in real life one day. I know this is a random message, but it is from the heart. Just saw you online tonight and wanted to send you some love. You deserve it!

I’ve edited out only the identifying information, since it was a message sent privately. But it was such an unexpected kindness that it made me feel good for days. And yet, a month later, I had almost forgotten about it. Now, as a second entry in my “When I’m Down” file, I won’t ever forget it again. And when I’m feeling like the world is kicking me in the teeth, and my all-too-human nature is seeing only the bad, I’ll have my ready-made mood enhancer set to go.

And one last thing. As I’m writing this, I wonder if it will come across as boastful or even arrogant. I mean, I am posting the words of two people praising me. But then I realize, so what if it sounds like I’m bragging? I am. And I have every reason to. Two friends believe that I am worthy of their compliments and kind words, and who am I to disagree with them?

It is no coincidence that good people are surrounded by good people. It’s how we all survive a world that is, too often, not good at all.

(Edited to add: And thanks to a bit of feedback from my friend Charish, I’m amending the name of this entry and the file. Instead of a “when I’m down” file, it will be my “happy” file. A slight change, perhaps, but words have meaning and power. So why start by presuming a negative?)

Struggling With The Blues?

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So you’re in a bad mood. You know, the sort of mood where everything makes you mad. When it seems as if everyone in the world is going out of their way to make sure your day is as bad as it can possibly be. And yes, you are in such a funk that you feel as if a dark cloud is following you and the sun may never shine again.

When I hit that sort of funk, there is one thing I can always do to snap me right out of it. I take a few minutes to sit down and write something positive and encouraging to someone in my life that I know is struggling. Maybe it’s something serious, like an illness, or maybe it’s something minor, like a quarrel with another friend or a bad day at work. Whatever they are going through, I find that my writing a note to help lift them up helps me put my own problems into perspective.

There is no shortage of sorrow and struggle out there. So many people I know are going through a rough time of one kind or another. And if my little note is a bright spot in their day, and writing it helps me adjust my own attitude, then we both come out winners.

So go ahead, let that bad mood find you. And you can even wallow in it for a bit if you think that’s what you need to do. But before you let it swallow you up, take a look around you. Odds are, you have friends or family that are struggling just as much, if not more. And it’s completely within your power to give them a bright spot in their otherwise painful day.

So, what’s going to be? Burn another hour of your day with a pity party or make a difference for someone else? It’s your decision.

Affirmation

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I choose to know the truth about myself… no matter how beautiful it is.

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