The SamuraiMarine

Thoughts, Philosophy, Life and Love

Tag: Religion and Faith

Westboro Bapist Church…

It has been said that nothing does more to bring people together, than a common enemy.   And while I think it would be going a to a bit of an extreme to call someone like the Westboro Baptist Church an “Enemy”, I would say that they are enough of a foe to the people in general that they almost qualify.

So if you have been reading my work for any length of time, you know my opinion of homosexuality.  For those of you just tuning in, that is to say that I am really rather apathetic to it.  I pay about as much attention to it as I do any heterosexual couple’s relationship.

With that being said, Westboro seems to place all the wrongs in the world squarely on the shoulders of the Homosexuals, or “Fags”, as expressed in their own words.  If there is some wrong in the world, anything from Soldiers dying in the middle-east, to a kid shooting up a school to an educator going on a murderous rampage.

Through their unique class of extremism, this is a group that seems to have done something that others could not, and that is that they have brought people together that would normally not have joined forces.  Think about this, when the Klu Klux Klan comes out and counter-protests a group like the Westboros, then you have to stop and consider that their brand of hate actually outweighs the ideals of the KKK.   THAT is, in itself, impressive.

The Westboros and their zealots have found a formula to single handedly annoy, anger and generally piss off (pardon the french), almost every group out there.  Even some people that I know to be pleasant and menial, get there hackles up when I mention this group to them.

So what does this group gain by their actions?   It is said that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and yet if you do a Google search for this group, you will certainly not be disappointed in the plethora of articles you find.   There are so many out there that the mind swims.  They are not all bad either… there does actually seem to be some that agree with them and what they are doing, but the percentage, thankfully, is low.

I personally have no grudge against this group as an entity… they have the right to exist just like all other quasi-religious groups in the United States have the right to exist.  I see them in the same light that I see the Moonies, Scientology, Church of Satan, etc…  They all have the right to practice what they want, as long as it does not hurt others.

And THAT is where my problem DOES start with these people.  

Through their actions, they ARE causing harm to others.  No, not physical injury, but emotional.   By protesting the funerals of fallen soldiers, police and others with their “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” banners, they are not sending anything BUT a message of hatred and anger.  There really is no good in what they do, and it is beyond me how they can, in any way shape or form, see a positive message in their actions.

What seems interesting here is that the rights that they have to do what they do are protected, even though a majority of people out there agree that what they do is considered, hate speech, they are, as the Supreme Court has upheld, protected to do so.  Thankfully, that right does not include trespassing on private property, which most cemeteries are,  and does not preclude others from COUNTER protesting them when they do show up.

Some of the best examples of these counter-protests have been from groups like the Teamsters, The KKK, The Patriot Guard Riders (Bikers), Anonymous, and students, among others, have found some common ground in the need to stand up against this group.

One can look at the diverse groups that are rising to curtail the WBC and say that maybe there IS some good in what the WBC is doing, as a byproduct.   That good would be that providing us all with a common evil that we can agree on, we find a way to work together.

I recently posted on my Facebook page a request for people to tell me what they thought about the WBC, and though the response was weak, and briefly overshadowed by someone diverting the subject, I saw responses like this:

J.E.C writes:

“After a major earth change, these people will burn you as a heretic if you disagree with them. Every civilization has thugs like this, unfortunately.”

S.V. writes:

“Most of us seem to feel that they are bigoted idiots and lunatics who preach hate & violence (which they proudly do), and that doesn’t mean people aren’t for equal rights. If WBC is in their church, preaching whatever brand of venom they want, that is their business. When they spew it onto the rest of us, especially those grieving the loss of a loved one, then it becomes the business of the rest of us. By forcing their way into our view, aren’t they violating our rights to not have to put up with their crap?”

Finally, T.D. wrote:

“WBC and those like them are, or should be, the bane of Christians everywhere. They have set Christianity back at least 500 years. If you ask me, about the only difference between them and al-Qaeda and groups like them is that they have not yet taken up arms. I fear that if left to their own devices, they one day will. It is the duty of Christians everywhere to stand up against them. To let the world know that the vile poison they spew is in no way Christianity. That they in no way represent Christians or the God of the Muslims, Jews and Christians.”

There are more on my FB site and you are welcome to visit it… for the sake of time and space, I only put a few here.

In closing… I wish no ill will to the members of the WBC… They are, still, humans like you and me.  They have hopes, dreams, wishes, ideals, just like you and I do.  I just wish that they could see that what they are doing is hurting more than helping people.  Their actions are selfish and hurtful to the people that the protest.   No matter what your religion, I cannot see that as how G-d would want us to act towards others.

Thanks for your attention and time.

Muslims…

With the stories that I see each day, I find myself struggling with my own convictions and beliefs with regards to the Muslim community as a whole based mostly on the actions of a few.

As a Jew, I have a personal reason to know better than to dislike a group for their religious followings and beliefs.  To understand that by picking out a group for their religious beliefs and casting them in a shadow or shunning them BECAUSE of their religious following, would make me no better than those that have done the same to me and my people.

As I have posted in the past, I KNOW that there are good Muslims out there, and I am not talking about the recent converts.  I am talking about the people that are “Multi-Generational” Muslims who have practiced in the manner that their predecessors have before them.  People for whom this is more than words on a page, but a part of their culture.

With the events in England and Boston over the last couple months, as well as the other rumblings, it remains my focus to explain to people that these are the actions of a few, militant, groups within the Islamic community and certainly the exception and not the rule.  But it would be so easy for me to cave… to give in to the anti-Islamic uproar and fall in step with them to condemn the Islamic community as a whole for this.

But that would be wrong.  It would also be wrong for me to allow others to take this attitude without my trying to explain to them, like I am trying to here, that you cannot hold an entire group accountable for the actions of a few within it whom have decided to act on some misunderstanding that they have picked up from their readings.

This is usually the point were someone points out how violent the Qur’an is and how, but I would ask those same people, mostly Christians, to review their own texts and tell me that there are no violent or outdated actions that are suggested to carry out in the Bible.  But I am not writing this to argue religious texts.

The point of this to not hate Muslims, or any other group, for the actions of a few within it.  All this does is raise distrust among all of us and create more hatred, thus giving other groups the feeling that they have earned some right of revenge against the other, and so the hate and anger become self-perpetuating.

I will say, to all servicemen and women everywhere, to please watch yourselves carefully.  With the horrific attack on Lee Rigby and the suggestions that the Radical Islamism are going to carry out more such attacks on soldiers, I worry for all of you serving out there.  Keep your guard up and I would suggest, as I think many commanding officers should as well, to not travel alone, if you are in uniform.

As always, I thank you all for reading.

 

In my Son’s eyes…

Being a father has been an incredible journey for me.  There is really no other way to describe the way I feel about it.

My feelings about love, commitment, priorities, finances, etc… have all changed in the last 14 months since Gideon was born.   He dominates my every thought and is what I look forward to each day when I leave work for home.  And until he came along, I never knew that a person could feel that kind of love for another person.

Yes… I know, or at least hope, that what I am feeling is no different than what every parent feels for their child.   I understand that just because I am a new parent, that does not make me any more knowledgeable than anyone else.  But I like to think that I have been granted access to a secret room and all this new information has been made available to me for the first time.

Suddenly I am part of a community… a society of parents.

One of my greatest joys right now, it seeing things through the eye of my son.  Seeing things that I have become used to or dismissive of, that have taken on new meaning and new excitement to me, because now I am seeing with Gideon, for the first time, anew.

When he walks up to a flower and points at it, I see him starting to interact with the world around him.   And so now I get to experience this with him… the newness of the world as he sees it.   When he picks something up and holds it, it is with hands that have not held that object before, or may have but not knowing what it is or what it is called.  So I try to share that with him.

He is taking in so much and processing so many new things, it does not surprise me how he wears out so easy through the course of the day, and needs to take naps.  There is so much input going through that little mind, that I am certain he reaches points of overload and needs to just “shut down” for a while.

I also think I understand, now, why there is a statistical fact that people with children live a little longer than those without.   I think that our own internal clock gets a reset or recharge when we are raising a child.   Some of that youth or youthful thought process rubs off on us.  The fact that we have an excuse to act like children in order to play with our children has a rejuvenating affect.  It allows us to be kids at heart again.  And maybe this is just G-d’s way of saying… “Your doing a great job…  here are a few more years so you can keep up the good work.”

As always, I thank you for reading and, of course, sharing this journey with me.

Our next adventure…

Well… My wife and I are about to embark on our next big adventure in our lives.

About two weeks ago we discovered the completely unexpected, but not unwelcome, news that we are going to have a baby.  At the time of my writing this, she is about 6 1/2 weeks along, so we are expecting to have a little package arrive sometime around the first part of February 2011.

We actually had given up trying to have a child.  We were told that we would not be able to have a child.  This was not for lack of TRYING, I mean, like they say… that is the fun part.  Trying to have a child.  But it never happened, so we just figured we would not worry about it and have fun.

I have had a couple people tell me that it is not a good idea to have a child at our age.  I am 41 and my wife is 40, she will be 41 when the child is born.  There are stories of people that have problems with pregnancies after the age of 35.   I understand this, but I also think that in this day and age, where people are having children well into their 50s, that my wife and I will have no problems at all, as long as we stick to the doctor’s advice and make sure we take care of ourselves.

I will not lie to you all… I am nervous.  But that emotion is joined with several others… Fear, Excitement, anticipation and anxiety are a few of these other emotions that I am feeling.  I am sure that these are the same feelings that all fathers have felt when they first got that news that they were expecting.

In all… this is going to be great.  Between my wife and I and our friends and family that will be part of this child’s life, there is going to be no lack of love in the child’s life.  That is the most important thing.

Ten Questions…

I have just watched a program called “Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama” and all I can say is that you must watch this program.

I have, for the last nine years now, studied Buddhism.  Not for the sake of becoming a Buddhist, but because of all the religions and beliefs that I have encountered and studied, Buddhism has struck me as one of the most interesting, for reasons that I will go over later.

To listen to the Dalai Lama and to watch him speak and interact with others is truly a delight.  The film warns you in the beginning that he has a infectious laugh and smile, and that turns out to be no lie.  If you sit any watch this program, I dare you to NOT smile almost every time you see him smile, laugh or play to the camera.  He is most certainly a little bit of a ham when it comes the the camera.

In the face of all that has happened to his culture and his people, the tremendous loss of the histories and artifacts of his past and the past of Buddhism, he smiles.  He smiles and he dismisses it as so much water under the bridge.  Then, as if you do not think that he could do one better… he forgives the Chinese for their actions and destruction.

This is something that I, at this time, would not be able to bring myself to do, yet deep inside, I understand what his reasons were and why he, and most other monks, feel this way.  While I understand that carrying a hatred for a person or people is unhealthy and causes us more pain than it helps us, I am not able to follow in those steps… yet.

I also admire his, the Dalai Lama’s, ability to interact.  You can see in his eyes and his actions that he genuinely loves everyone.  He does not care what color you are, what you look like, what religion you are or how you dress.  His love is not swayed by what he can get from you or how much you can donate to his cause.  If you can help the Tibetan cause, then he will accept that help, but you can tell that he will only accept that help if it is offered freely and is not contingent on something in return, short of the love that he and his people offer to all.

Most surprising to me is that the Dalai Lama, in spite of what the Chinese have done, encourages us (meaning the world) to engage in favorable relations with them.  This is another thing that I find hard to talk myself into actively doing.  I know that it is impossible, as an American, to stop buying Chinese products.  Look at how much of what you and I buy, on a daily basis, that is made in China.  I bought a “Proud to be an American” t-shirt a couple weeks ago, and it has a “Made in China” label in it.  This in and of itself is enough to make a person question the direction that their country is going.

But he, and they, look above that.  They, somehow, are able to see beyond their own loss and need to understand the need for peace in the world.

This brings me to my final point.  I think that all the religions of the world could stand to benefit by studying Buddhism.  If even the “Big Three” (Judaism, Christendom and Islam), could incorporate the basics principles of Buddhism towards one another.  Accept the differences and embrace them for what they make us, not use them as dividing points and wedges to further separate us and make us fear one another.  Teach us to look at one another an laugh at the little things we bicker over.  After all… as Buddhism teaches us… everything is tranistory, nothing last forever.

What would my ten questions be?

They have all, already been asked, and the answers are there, but we, as a world, are not mature enough to understand them yet.  Hopefully we will mature enough to do so, before we destroy ourselves and the world that we are borrowing from our children.

While the term has become somewhat cliche these days and more a joke to those that do not understand, I do agree with the “Free Tibet” movement.  I do side with the Dalai Lama on the point that this should be done through peace, not through conflict.  People who are used to conflict and war are not intimidated by it.

Depression – Reaching out from the dark.

Before I start, I need you, the reader, to understand that this is not a self help guide. It is not meant to be the key to help you out of your problem with depression. This is simply my story of how I cope and what I feel when I fall into my bouts of depression, and the paths I take to try and get out of them. If you do take something away from this that helps you, then I am happy for you and would like you to share your story with me, if you feel comfortable doing so. I just want to make it clear that I am not an expert on depression, nor am I a health professional. Please read this with the understanding that I am sharing my experience in the hope that others might take something from it for themselves.

This is also therapy for me. Talking about a problem I have suffered with for years in a way that others will see can be very liberating. I am sure that there are those out there that will read this and wonder why I am airing my issues, but if even one person out there reads this, and it touches them, then maybe it was worth it.

I cannot say for certain when I first started having depressive bouts, but I am pretty sure it goes all the way back to high school. That in itself should be no surprise to most people, since almost everyone can agree that high school is a harsh place, even for those that do well in school. It is where we first start really learning how popularity and money can divide people into groups. I think everyone experiences a little anxiety or depression in high school simply because they need to learn to fit in to certain cliques, or become outcast.

This is not going to be a “History of Me”, so I am going to concentrate more on the “here and now” and not the “there and then”. Looking at the past, at least in my case, has never been much of a help. Those are all things and times that can not be altered and should not be worried about. What is more important is how I face the future.

Many times when a person says that they are suffering from depression, the first thing people say about it, be it verbally or in their own minds, is “Oh… Get over it.” Too often people see it as just a person feeling sorry for themselves or wanting attention, and they are dismissed. I know this because there have been cases where I have talked to a person that was going through a depressive bout and I have thought that same way about them. When I go through the same bouts and I talk to people, I can see the same thing in their eyes or hear it in their voice. It is not their fault. People who do not suffer from this or who do not understand what it is to go through it, have no way of seeing the world as I do when I am experiencing a bout. In fact, I can say that I am just as guilty because I do not, and cannot, see things the way that another person might when they are going though an episode of depression.

Because, for me, depression is a personal experience, another person cannot understand my process of “going down.” When I am starting down into one of my funks I do not care what a person can tell me or what they try and do to cheer me up. In fact I really cannot see the positive in anything at that point, I just do not care. For me, if I were to use an analogy, it is a dark tunnel that leads nowhere, and only gets darker. That is what I feel when I am in a depressive mood, and the sad part about it is that I usually know when they are starting. This is as frustrating to me, as the person affected, as it is for the few people who know I suffer this problem. Talking is about the only cure or remedy that I know, but the people I talk to have to understand that I am not going to be responsive to their support at first, so all they can do is be there. Even though I may not be interested in what they have to say at the time, and I may not care for their efforts, in the moment, they do help in the long run. Another thing that helps is if they, your friends and family, understand that you suffer from depression in the first place.

I have never shared my problem with depression with my friends, at least not until this blog. I have never felt comfortable with sharing it because I have never wanted the whole “pity parade” that seems to follow people who suffer it. I also know that some of my friends would probably not understand it, especially the ones closer to my own age. This is not meant to offend them, but unless they, too, suffer it, then they would not understand what it is to go through.

In addition to the overall sense of loathing that I feel at the time, one of the hardest parts about depression, for me, is the state of reclusion that I fall into. I want nothing to do with anyone, friends, family, coworkers, etc… and I convince myself that no one wants anything to do with me. I close myself off into what I have termed my “Darkspace”. I cannot bring myself to care about anyone or anything, I have even treated friends and family rudely during these times, and only see the doom and gloom in life. My wife will try and motivate me, but she has learned what I have learned, and that is that I have to find a way out on my own. Reaching out from the dark, as I have titled this article. However, she has always been there when I come out of it.

Another thing about my episodes, is that I can see who I am during and after the attacks. I look back at my latest bout, and I know that it had a negative affect on my job and may have affected my relationships with my friends, and I know that… I also knew that at the time, but could not work my way out of it. You do not want to tell people what you are going through, because at the time, how to you explain it? Where do you start? Can you really, truly, explain what may appear to most as a state of mind? You really cannot tell a person, “Hey, I am depressed right now, I will call you back when I feel better… M’Kay?”

One of the problems with people sharing a problem like this with others, especially in my age group, is that I was raised being that taught you should not share your problems, as I am sure others were as well. You need to hide your troubles away and keep them to yourself and things like depression and openly expressing feelings were a sign of weakness or a liability. This is much like how my father was, at least to me, and many of the male figures in my life, as a child, were much the same. I have worked hard to not be like that over the last several years. Mostly because I knew that I had a problem with depression, and that the best way to help myself was to reach out to those around me.

Since depression affects everyone differently, there is nothing I can say that will be a magic bullet that will help others. What works for me, may not work for you, and you should not expect it to. If you feel that you are suffering from depression, you need to get in to see a doctor as soon as you can. While I choose not to take medicine for mine, because I understand the potential risks in doing so, you may not have that luxury. Depression should never be taken lightly.

In my case, the best thing for me to help me get out of the funk, is writing, woodworking and family. The writing gives me a release, a way to vent and share thoughts and feelings. The woodworking gives me a outlet of creativity and something to accomplish. Family… well that is self explanatory. Your family is potentially the strongest medicine you have, and is not confined to those that share your blood, but those who are close to you. I have several friends that I consider family, and in reality, they are just as much a part of my life as any brother or sister. I may not always express that with them, but I would like to think that they know.

For me… coming out of the funk and haze of depression is like walking into a well lit room after spending a while in a long dark tunnel. There is relief because I, once again, beat it down and took back control of my life. There is also sadness… because you look back, and see the person you were during that time, and the affect you had on others… those you do not know, and those you love.

If you are a religious person, that can help as well. As I have said in a couple of my past writings, there is a lot of good in your belief in god. It helps you find your center and to feel comforted that there is someone watching over you, something greater than you that you are accountable to in the end. If you find yourself in a depressive mood, and you have a Priest, Rabbi, Pastor, etc… that you can talk to, do so. That is another reason they are there, and sometimes it is just nice to talk to someone that is not part of your immediate family. I, personally, use meditation to help… it is like having a nice sit down and chat with yourself… but sometimes you may not like what you have to say, and that helps too. If you never get to know yourself, then you may never get over it.

In closing… depression is hard to get through. I will not lie to you about that, you sometimes feel like there is no way out and that nothing you do is worth anything. You may even get to the point were you are certain that no one is there for you, but none of that is true. You have to tell yourself to live above that, live above yourself. You can get through it and you can get back to being the person you, your family and other people like you to be. You just have to take it one step at a time… that is what I do. This is no different than what they teach you in a twelve-step program. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other, and one day at a time.

I hope that some of what I said can give someone a little guidance.

You are more than welcome to comment, but as I said toward the beginning of this… I am not a professional in this field. I will not offer any advice, other than to tell you that you should see a professional.

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