Gratitude

The word comes from the Latin, gratus, meaning “thankful”. Gratitude is a feeling we often express when we have received something we may not deserve. Actually, when does anyone ever really deserve anything they get? I didn’t deserve to be born in the US, to a middle class family with limitless opportunity, albeit without an abundance of money. A good life, one that I am grateful for. So many good people – people better than I – simply get the shaft. Do they deserve that? And yet, there are millions of poor people around the world who are grateful for the little they have. On the other hand, I have met some true ingrates in my time.

Years ago, I was talking to the mother of a friend from college when she paid me a compliment. I wasn’t used to being complimented, and I had pretty low self-esteem, so I dismissed it. What she said next was the rude awakening I needed. She told me, quite bluntly, that when someone pays me a compliment, I need to say “thank you” instead of telling the person they’re wrong. It’s insulting to the person giving the compliment. Well, this was a new concept for me. I was a scrawny, nerdy kid with crooked teeth and thick glasses. I knew I didn’t have much going for me. But I was so wrong. And ever since, when someone tells me I am nice or funny or smart or anything else positive, I thank him. It says to that person that I accept that this person has good taste, and that I appreciate that they said something nice.

Being thankful is something we learned when we were in kindergarten. I mention this a lot. Kindergarten taught me almost everything I needed to know about dealing with people. Say “please” and “thank you”. Sit up straight. Share with others. And if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. That last one is under fierce debate right now in the court of social media. But the basic principles are pretty good. It’s a sure sign of the collapse of Western civilization when people stop thanking one another.

Saying thanks is kind of a reflex for some of us. I say it sometimes even when a “thank you” is undeserved. But I can’t help it. As much as I want to be someone else at times, I can’t bring myself to be an asshole. Being grateful is just part of who I am. And people want to hear it. Being thanked perhaps fills our souls, if only a little. Here in Texas people are pretty polite. I’ve heard that people from other places are a little callous. I’ve been to LA and Washington D.C., and I detected a little rudeness there. But I’ve never been to New York, and I hear people say New Yorkers are very rude. (However, I’d wager I could get a “thank you” from  some of youse.)

I am grateful for many things, especially my wife. We have a very, very good relationship. That’s worth more than all the rest of my blessings combined. I’m thankful for the life I have. I don’t have any health problems, and I can get around quite easily. I have time for hobbies, and I have a good job. How could a person not be thankful? As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post, my wife has taught me to be thankful even for bad times, because it is through these trials that we grow and learn to appreciate the better times. I hope that’s true. I mean, we all have bullshit to deal with. Some of us have more than we deserve – there’s that word again. But maybe the assholes in our lives don’t deserve us, either. I think you never really achieve equilibrium with your relationships, anyway. So, we can give with some, and take with others. Try to be more of a giver in your life. I think you’ll be happier.

I want to offer my sincere thanks to all my readers. Thank you for putting up with my grammar, or lack thereof. Thank you for being okay with the swearing – I know someone who really knows how to curse, by the way. And thank you for reading this blog. You guys have no idea – or maybe you do now – how much motivation it gives me to know that there are people who actually want to read my awkward sentences.  But I will always accept a compliment now because of someone who had the nerve to tell me to my face what an ingrate prick I was being. She wasn’t the first, so it took some time for me to get it.

Thank you, WordPress readers. And Happy Thanksgiving!

How Old Are You, Really?

When I was in 3rd grade I thought my parents were old. I was eight, but my dad was thirty. Actually, I saw the fifth-graders as big kids. Later, being eleven years old was like standing at a crossroads. Looking back, you see that you’re not a little kid anymore, but you are not yet a teen. These days, we call them “tweens”. They’re on the cusp, kids who are in between one age and another. Fifth grade was clearly the last chance at being a kid, because, soon after, I was going to be changed forever, and it would be a painful experience.

Shakespeare wrote, “And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.” (As You Like It, Act II, scene vii.), declaring that humans pass through phases of existence, becoming new creations at the arrival of each age. Well, it was Shakespeare, after all. But it has been proved time and again that we all go through certain phases. And most of us will get there

hourglass
“Like sands in an hourglass…”

at about the same chronological age. Of course these “ages” are different for men and for women. But generally, teenagers behave like teenagers, and 40-year-olds behave like middle-aged teenagers.

When the earth has revolved in its orbit around the sun 21 times after you were born, you may legally buy a drink in the US. It seems arbitrary when you look at it this way. The day before that orbital period is reached, you are not permitted to buy alcohol. Actually, it can come right down to the minute in the event you and your friends are out past bedtime. People often point out the futility of enforcing such laws, and to be sure, there are millions of“underage” drinkers on college campuses around this country. The argument against the 21 and over drinking age is that a person can vote and join the military at age 18, but that soldier or sailor cannot order a beer while on leave (in the States). New York City has recently raised the smoking age to 21. The goal, according to a city spokesperson, is to reduce the number of teenage smokers. And thus reduce the number of adult smokers, by attrition I suppose. Why 21? According to Dr. Farley in the interview, “20 is the age where the move from experimental smoker to regular smoker occurs.”

One of the most anticipated rites of passage in the US is when a teenager get his or her drivers license. This usually happens at 16. Many kids are taught to drive by their parents or by older siblings, and some start driving much earlier than 16, but that is mostly in rural areas where there are private or farm roads to practice on. But it is clear when a teen is not ready to get behind the wheel. Some teenagers don’t start driving until later, usually because of the lack access to a car, or there being no need to drive, as with New York City. But there are times when a 16-year-old is simply not ready to handle the responsibility. Did the earth orbit the sun at a different rate of speed for this lot?

Sarcasm aside, I’m sure most everyone recognizes that some people mature faster than others. This is kind of obvious during puberty. But I’m one of those “late bloomers” we hear about. I’ve come to grips with it, now that I’m chronologically 46. But I feel like 28, at least mentally and emotionally. I have a wealth of anecdotal evidence to back this up, but suffice it to say there are people like me out there, probably more than we know. At the same time, there are young people wise beyond their years.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was, most people agree, a genius. He was five when he began composing music. His Symphony no. 1 in E-flat was written when he was eight. Despite his fame and profound talent, he died at age 35. In his very brief lifetime, Mozart wrote more than 600 pieces of music, more than other composers managed in twice that time. Naturally, the works of Brahms and Liszt are great in their own right. But Mozart is the standard by which others are measured.

When I look at where I am in my life, I get a little depressed – I think most people do – to think I haven’t quite arrived. Realistically, though, why do we do this to ourselves? Aren’t we just fine where we are? And if we feel like we should be owning a home by a certain age, or being in management by a certain age, where are we getting this measure? I say that I’m a late bloomer because I feel like I should have “made it” by now. But I like what I do, and what I do is write, a lot, and take photos of people when they let me. I work all day, and sometimes all night, too. That’s a drag, but it pays the mounting bills [sigh]. But in my life I have travelled, I have sung the National Anthem at several sporting events, I’ve played in three symphony orchestras, and I have a good marriage.

Where am I supposed to be at 46? Right here. Doing this. I’m not late. I’m not early. I’m here. There’s no timetable to life. We don’t run on a schedule, not cosmically, anyway. We shouldn’t be made to feel like we’re not where we’re supposed to be. That’s kind of ridiculous. Unfortunately, the laws we live by tell us differently. To the State, you can be too young or too old. Meanwhile, I still get carded when I buy a bottle of wine at the supermarket, as if the gray in my beard doesn’t offer some clue. Be that as it may, even as I get older, I will never “grow up”.

Am I Wrong?

Facebook irritates me. Actually, Facebook users irritate me, mainly the ones who post little factoids and memes masquerading as truth. The people who mindlessly share these bits of misinformation primarily aren’t interested in whether or not they are accurate or even the least bit factual. People want to express their opinions for the world to hear. That’s mainly why I write this blog. But the little info-turds that are brought to my attention are presented not as opinion, but as some sort of truth that the sender serves as an adherent. Many of them are political in nature. We’re in a period of sharp divide, some say, more dramatic since the Civil War. That might not be so true, but the information age surely has amplified the noise.

Sometimes we hear something said, or we read an article, and we automatically assume it is fact. This is especially true for children. But adults often will accept something as truth if enough of us have said it. Take, for instance, the Texas flag myth. I have lived my entire life in Texas. But even my friends who moved here as adults have been brainwashed a little by the propaganda machine of Texas nationalism. I don’t intend to be flippant, but Texas has a rather strong “national” identity. And it is that sense of pride that has led to some fairly outrageous claims. For instance, it is widely believed that Texas has the sole right among all other states in the US to fly its state flag at an equal height to the US flag in an array. Now, US flag code does state that the US flag should be flown above any state flag on a single staff, and that in an array of flags of the same height, the US flag must be on the far right. But there is no provision for the treatment of the Texas flag. It’s made-up. Yet many in my home state firmly believe this.

There have been countless “urban myths” circulating, probably since the beginning of civilization. With the emergence of global communications, especially the world wide web, such myths and legends can be recycled and distributed over and over, with subtle changes to keep them relevant. Certain website, like Snopes.com, are dedicated to exposing and verifying these stories. It’s very easy for a person to do a little fact checking nowadays. And yet, almost no one bothers. Many of us will simply accept what’s been presented as fact. Facebook is littered with posts and comments that essentially prove that.
Being right, it seems, is less important than being heard. There are certain people who will continue to spread content that aligns with their views and opinions in the hope that others will be swayed to their way of thinking. (In my case, this tactic always results in making me hold my ground even more.) There is an old maxim of false logic: “one million Frenchmen can’t be wrong.” What this translates to in modern times is that if enough voices say something is fact, it must be true. This is the basis of democracy, is it not? We live by the code of majority rule. If most of the people agree on something, we all have to live by it. But what if that majority opinion is wrong?

We all mostly have an understanding of right and wrong. We learned this when we were in kindergarten. It boils down to whether or not someone is hurt by your actions. Stealing is wrong. Sharing is right. Lying is wrong (but sometimes it’s the right thing to do). Smoking pot is wrong. (Wait, is that universally accepted now? That’s another discussion). What about slavery? It’s wrong now. But people thought it was right 200 years ago. Not all of them believed that, however. The point is, just because you are in the minority doesn’t mean your opinion isn’t valid.

Some of my friends have rather strong opinions, and they believe they’re right. That’s okay. I like debating with them. But some people will not participate. They don’t want to expose their weak argument, or they are unwilling to hear a dissenting or opposing view. I think that’s unfortunate. How will we grow if we’re unable or refuse to learn. Learning requires that we question what we think we know. If you believed that you knew everything, it would be difficult for you to learn anything. I am a skeptic. I always was. My teachers were often frustrated with me because I questioned their stance on the subject matter. I believe a healthy amount of skepticism is acceptable. I question anyone who claims to be right. The result is that I will learn something, or the other person will. Well, I have learned a lot over the years, especially how not to piss off people in positions of authority. But even if I’m sure I am right, could I be wrong? I accept that, but sometimes I need to be right.

Can We Change?

There are a few things I’d like to change about myself. I’m not “in shape”, for starters. I mean, I can climb stairs, and I’m can run about 3 km without too much difficulty. But I wish I were leaner. Also, I stay up later than I should, and I end up writing through the night, and I nod off at my desk at work. Not good. I also don’t remember to send cards or presents on birthdays. And I don’t talk to my parents as often as I ought to. I’m a slacker and a couch potato. Not the end of the world, of course, but I would like to change. I live in a nice little house with my wife and a pair of cats. There’s almost nothing better. And yet, I am not 100 percent satisfied with my life.

Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus), Colchester Zoo
Courtesy Spencer Wright / Flickr.com

Many people – most people, I suppose – are mildly dissatisfied with aspects of their lives. Some of us feel like we could do better. We could be better spouses or parents. We could do a better job at work, or we could read more or eat better. We want to be more successful, even though we might not have a clear definition of success (it’s a moving target). And there’s always someone who is better than us at what we do. And so we wish for change, in ourselves or our situation or circumstances. I think about it often, but you might say I obsess over it.

“If I could just…” or “If I had some more…” is the usual start to my self-examination. More time? More money? More focus? Yes, I think any of these could help me immensely. And I believe change would happen. Some people say, “a leopard can’t change his spots.” Well, we’re humans, not leopards. I believe we can change. I have done it, although not permanently in many cases.

I have at least overcome certain barriers in my life. I used to think I could not run. I was never very good at running when I was a kid. I was that kid who always got picked last in PE. You know, the skinny geek with thick glasses. But I developed into a nerdy adult. And one day several years ago, I decided to start running. All those times in my life when I tried to run, I didn’t have the stamina or the perseverance. But this time I just pushed past the perceived barrier. And suddenly I understood what people were talking about when they mentioned catching their “second wind”. I eventually got up to a routine in running 24 km per week. And once, I competed in a 20 km race on Memorial Day around White Rock Lake in Dallas. (One of my coworkers at the time actually told me I wasn’t going to finish, but I did it. Asshole.)

I was able to change from a non-runner into a runner. My goal is to return to that shape, but it’s not going as well as I’d hoped. Nevertheless, people can change. I have a dear friend who grew up down the street from us. We attended middle school and high school together, and we’ve been close for more than 30 years. After high school, he started drinking a lot. He joined the US Army and was stationed overseas, where, I guess, the temptation to drink became stronger. He eventually left the army and sank into the depths of alcoholism. A few years later I heard from him unexpectedly one day. He was in a AA, and he was reaching out to everyone who might have been affected by his drinking. At the time, I didn’t realize what a tremendous step he had taken. But he was undergoing a dramatic transformation, one that would change his life forever. He’s been sober now for about 23 years, and his daughter started college last fall.

All around me I see people undergoing change. Most changes are imperceptible, but occasionally I will see true metamorphosis, a fundamental and profound change of a persona. It’s remarkable to witness. I know I have been transformed. But most of my change was due to external influence. I think we could all say the same. But we all have the capacity for change within ourselves. It takes conviction and courage and focus. But it is possible.

Veterans’ Day

November 11 is Veterans’ Day in the US – it’s known as Remembrance Day in the UK – is a day that has gained importance in this country over recent years. Now, after the War in Vietnam, the American people realized that returning soldiers were treated poorly, especially wounded ones. This was the subject of Oliver Stone’s film, Born on the Fourth of July, an account of the life of activist Ron Kovic, who was wounded in a firefight while leading an attack on a village in Vietnam. The aftermath of the war, and the ongoing suffering of returning soldiers,inspired Stone, also a veteran of the Vietnam War, to work with Kovic to write a screenplay based on Kovic’s autobiography. The film was a huge success, but some critics argued it did little to address the real issues faced by veterans.

Veterans' Day
A WWII veterans joins the Dallas Veterans’ Day parade in 2010

My step-dad is a veteran of the Vietnam War. He also was wounded, twice. He has two Purple Heart medals, but unlike Kovic, he prefers not to talk about his experience there. The memories of the war keep him up at night, even after all these years. It was, and still is, a nightmare. War is not a Hollywood set. It is not glamorous. It is ugly, and it does not appear to resolve anything.

I am not a veteran. I have never served in the military. Many would therefore say that I have no right to speak on the topic of war. But that makes as much sense as dismissing a lay-person’s opinions on religion. A person should have the right to speak about something, even if he is on the outside looking in.

Having said that, I have seen what war does to people. Aside from my step-father, I have known a few more people who served in conflicts. Some don’t like to talk about their experiences, and others can’t hold back. One gentlemen, who served in the navy in World War II, would tell me some of the most gruesome tales. I was shocked and disgusted, but at the same time, I wanted to hear more. I won’t share those stories here, mainly because I don’t want to think about what he told me.

When a government decides to go to war with another nation, whom do they send into battle? Children. Officially, all the soldiers from the US are willing adults. There hasn’t been a draft in this country for decades. Unfortunately, this is not the case in other countries. Child soldiers are conscripted in Africa and Asia and forced to fight and kill other people. No matter how old a person is, that will scar you for life. It is unforgivable to force a child to participate in war.

People come back from war with invisible scars. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is now recognized by the medical community as a bona fide psychiatric disorder. Veterans hospitals in the US have begun treating people afflicted with PTSD, and new therapies appear to be making progress. But it’s not only soldiers returning from battle who have this problem. Abused children often show some of the same symptoms as do veterans of war. And not just soldiers are affected by war. In Syria, human rights organizations estimate that 100,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed, and millions have been displaced. That country’s civil war has quite literally destroyed lives across Syria and beyond. There are some very difficult-to-watch videos compiled by the NY Times, but be warned: some are quite graphic. When and if Syria comes out of their civil war and to a more stable state, it will take many, many years for the people to heal. Some of them may not. They might carry their wounds forever. And most of those people have nothing to return to.

Soldiers are humans, but they are moulded into fighters. They are trained to do things that I could not do. Part of me wants to admire it, but I remember that old man who told me what he saw on the deck of that boat in the Pacific Ocean 70 years ago. The way he retold the story made me wonder if he just needed someone to hear it, even though I wasn’t prepared to hear the gory details. Perhaps he was just tired of pretending he was okay, like the war was like we saw it in the movies. Maybe he wanted to talk about how horrifying it was to be a 19-year-old kid watching other 19-year-olds die right in front of him. Kovic didn’t pretend he wasn’t affected by the war. And people listened up. To what end, though? There is always a war somewhere. And war is hell, kind of.

On the TV show, M*A*S*H, “Hawkeye” Pierce once said of war:

Hawkeye: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.

Father Mulcahy: How do you figure, Hawkeye?

Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?

Father Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.

Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them – little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.

For all veterans out there, I offer my sincere thanks for your service to our nation. In spite of my objection to the idea of armed conflict and war, I do accept the need to have a military. The United States needs a military, and some countries depend on our presence around the world, although we’re not very popular in some places lately. (Be that as it may, I think North Korea would not hesitate to attack the South if US troops were not there.) Let us hope and pray that someday war will just be in the history books and not in a newsfeed.

Thanksgiving

Every year on the fourth Thursday of November people in the States celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. In 2013, it will be on 28 November. In the late 16th century, Puritans and others fleeing a volatile political environment back home left England to establish settlements in the New World where they could retain their cultural identity and heritage. These pilgrims faced difficult times in their new home in what is now Massachusetts. The conditions were harsh, food was not abundant, but the indigenous peoples of the Wampanoag tribe were helpful, and the settlers survived. As a result, the first Thanksgiving is commemorated with depictions of early European “Pilgrims” and Native Americans enjoying a feast together. It’s possible that this event actually took place, but it doesn’t matter to 21st-century Americans – I mean North Americans, and specifically, people in the US in this context. Canada’s Thanksgiving is in October.

Thanksgiving here in this country is celebrated pretty much the same, with roasted turkey stuffed with bread and fruit, cranberry sauce, gravy, potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Naturally, this is not universal. My brother and his girlfriend are vegans, and I am interested to know what delicacies they’re planning for the day. It hardly matters what is served, because the holiday is all about giving thanks.

The Thanksgiving Square Chapel in Dallas, Texas<br />© 2011 Chris Zuniga Photography
The Thanksgiving Square Chapel rises above the strangely serene park and water garden in the center of Dallas.

The original settlers to New England were profoundly religious – maybe more so than we are here in the Bible Belt – and so their celebration was undoubtedly in giving thanks to God for the abundance of their harvest. Nowadays, for most of us, food is plentiful, but many people pause to acknowledge that things could be far worse. Along with the obscene amount of food being served is the traditional football game. I’m talking about American football – traditionally, games involving the Dallas Cowboys or the Detroit Lions. The game is televised nationally, and the halftime show in recent years has been a bawdy spectacle with pyrotechnics. Back in the days of Tom Landry, when the Cowboys played in that eyesore that was Texas Stadium, I had the privilege of playing in the Thanksgiving Day Game halftime show as a member of the East Texas State University (now Texas A&M – Commerce) marching band. Our show was not particularly entertaining, featuring music of the heady, orchestral score from the film Henry V. For a marching band show, it was awful and over-reaching. But it was Thanksgiving, and the Cowboys were having possibly their worst year ever, except that they won more games than they would in the following, reorganizing, post-Landry years. So, there I was, playing in a dull show, for a mediocre, albeit professional team, in a derelict stadium on Thanksgiving. But, you know, I had a great time.

My friends and family on Facebook have started to count down, with expressions of thanks for whatever they are grateful for each day. It’s different for everyone. Most are thankful for their kids. It resonates with me differently because I have seen relatively hard times, and things have been better than they are now. But that’s life, and most of us can find something to be thankful for. Am I thankful for the bad times as well as the good? My wife taught me to think that way. It’s not easy. How are we to give thanks for things that bring us pain or grief? Maybe those moments, ordeals and trials, are part of our unique makeup. Yes, I could say that I am what I am because of the trouble I have faced. But it’s not intuitively obvious for me to be grateful for being bullied, or for never having children. So I struggle with that one. Moving on.

Thanksgiving has become kind of a holy day for me. It does not actually meet the criteria for a holy day in most religions, but I am a heretic, so, there. To me, Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays in the US that has resisted being overly commercialized, to the extent that people are not compelled to purchase extravagant gifts for one-another as is the case with Christmas and Valentine’s Day. But so much commerce is staged with Thanksgiving as its centerpiece. We have “Black Friday”, where sales begin at the stroke of midnight. But, lately, some retailers have been opening their doors in the evening on Thanksgiving. And people can’t wait to start their Christmas shopping. Except, now, there’s Cyber Monday, where online retailers offer even better deals. But even with all this commercialism, Turkey Day still seems to have held some reverence with its modern-day pilgrims. Everyone in this country probably remembers some tradition in their family, if they had one. Even homeless shelters have a special dinner on that day for their residents. And in the midst of the disparity between those who have plenty and those who have nothing, people still hold onto the notion of that first Thanksgiving of legend.

This year, we were planning to travel to see my 93-year-old grandmother, my aunts, uncles, and cousins for Thanksgiving. But things didn’t go as planned. Even so, my local fam will certainly appreciate that we are staying. If I may be immodest for a moment, my croissants are excellent, and I cook a pretty good bird. What this day means to me is beyond words. It’s more than the food and the gathering of family. I think of that Norman Rockwell painting, titled “Freedom From Want”, depicting a typical (white) American family, gathered around a table in anticipation of what, for some, could be considered a modest feast. But the sentiment expressed here is more to the point. Everyone at that table looks absolutely joyful. What more needs to be said? This embodies what we all hope or are nostalgic for. But for those who have something close to this ideal, you should be grateful. Give thanks. If you believe in God, thank him. If you’re not sure what you believe, thank the people who worked to provide that moment, from the farm workers who raised the turkey (or whatever) to the employees in the supermarket who stocked the shelves. Thank your neighbors and friends. Thank the firefighters who are working every holiday. Thank the gas station employees. Thank your parents. If you have nothing to be thankful for, be thankful for the nothingness.

I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. Lately, I’m thinking of the people of the Philippines, who are currently homeless, starving, and have no fresh water. Please go to http://www.charitynavigator.org/ for  information on which charities are serving the affected region. Be thankful for something, and forgive my sentimentality. I love the season.

About that Flood, O Lord

You know the story. The waters poured down from the heavens, destroying all life on earth for their sins. That’s at least the version I grew up hearing. The Great Flood appears in many cultures’ lore, across the globe, not just in Mesopotamia and Babylon, but in North and South America, too. The Bible tells the story of a righteous and humble man, Noah, to whom God gives instructions to build an ark in order that two of every creature that walks the earth might survive the coming deluge. It seems that God was disgusted with how wicked his creation had become, and so he decided to wipe every stinking human off the face of this planet.

I grew up as a Roman Catholic. And I still attend mass, but I have always had problems with the Old Testament. There are times that I think those stories were made up by old men trying to put people in their place. It’s what makes the world go ’round. Two things bother me about The Flood.

First, the Ark. We’re told, in Genesis, that God instructed Noah to build an ark to house two of every bird, animal and bug, in order to save them from drowning. Now, this had to be a pretty big boat to hold every species on earth, plus food enough for the time it would take to reach dry land and restore the earth’s ability to sustain life. I mean, what kept the tigers from eating all the different deer and antelopes? I assume once they opened the doors to set the animals free, all bets were off. So, okay, two African elephants, two Asian elephants, two Bengal tigers, two Siberian tigers, two South American three-toed sloths (they had to really haul ass), two Javan rhinoceroses, and so on. You get the picture. And I haven’t even gotten to the plethora of insects just in the Amazon region alone. And what about the enormous amount of manure? I suppose they had enough handlers to scoop all the poop. No, wait, there were only eight people. Logistically, I can’t see this happening. Now, this doesn’t mean I doubt every word of it. It just doesn’t add up.

Secondly, the flood. Now, God went to great lengths to create the universe and the earth. I’m certain it was – and still is – exactly the way he intended it to be. (My particular view of theology is such that I think everything was set in motion, and God is more hands-off.) Genesis 6:6 says, “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” So, God regretted his creation? WHAT?!

Alright, now, I have made mistakes in my life, and I have some regrets – anyone who says he has none is kidding himself. But my particular view of God can’t make sense of this. Did God make a mistake? Is that even possible? Even if the Bible didn’t actually say he had regrets, the flood as an act of retribution is extreme, and it implies that he wasn’t pleased with the way things ended up and wished to start over. Being imperfect in our ways, we tend to screw up. Some of us can really fuck things up good. But God is supposed to be perfect in everything. How or why the world got to be so corrupt and wicked doesn’t surprise me. I look at the way we have treated one another and what we’ve done to this planet, and I think I would love a do-over. Just look at what’s going on in Central Africa or North Korea. Human beings are being treated no better than insects, and we, the most informed and affluent society in the history of the world, we stand by and do nothing.

If I had all the power in the universe, all the knowledge, all the wisdom, like God, I think I might want to torch this place. Things were pretty good before humans messed it up. Ever since we started painting cave walls and building tools, it was all downhill from there. But we’ve created some awesome things, too, like the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall, and Dubai’s Palm Islands. But humans leave a lot of destruction and waste in their wake. We create landfills to pile up all our garbage so we don’t have to smell it, rather than recycle or produce less waste. We cut down and burn rain forests to create farm land. We hunt animals for sport, and we kill our own kind, sometimes for no reason at all.

This flood idea is starting to look like a good thing, now that I think of it. But if I caused it, it would be out of anger, not because I was dissatisfied with my own creation. Could I do that to my children? Were there no other good people beyond Noah and his sons? Why did God feel the need to go to such extremes?

Another thing that bothers me about this is that with all the tremendous lengths of building a giant boat to carry all the creatures on earth, it stands to reason that extinction of any particular species would be unthinkable, and to many people in previous centuries, it was inconceivable that God would allow a species to disappear from the earth. I feel some disgust knowing that the passenger pigeon was wiped out by the early 20th century due to loss of habitat and over-hunting. What was the point of building that huge vessel to store these animals if they were just going to be extinguished by us eventually? That a species could become extinct did not sit well with the Victorian mindset, which may have contributed to the passenger pigeon’s demise.

For some time I really wished someone would find the ark. I think I wanted it to be real. Part of me still does. You can find me, from time to time, searching for “proof” out there. (Oh, Interweb, you deceiver, you!) But I understand the purpose of these stories, sometimes referred to as “creation myth” or “flood myth”. We humans need explanations. We need to know why things happen. Senseless events confound us, even to this day, and we so easily look for answers. Ancient peoples couldn’t explain the universe they lived in – inasmuch as we don’t know any more than they did – and so they determined it was because they had offended their god. Even so, there is evidence of some catastrophic flood, and, like I said, the stories originated from all parts of the globe. It’s been said many times that there is always a grain of truth, and I suppose there are elements of this story that are true. But that does not mean that everything about it is factual.

Or maybe it was just a big misunderstanding.