Honestly

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I’m an anti-theist. What that means is that I’m against religion for many valid reasons. For example, an ex-girlfriend had gone to her priest and confessed that she had lost her virginity. The priest scolded her, telling her that she had sinned. She never confessed again. Another example is the segregation of people by faith, sexuality, or magic underwear. “If you don’t believe in what we believe, then you’re going to hell!” Think about that for a moment. A serial killer in the U.S. can seek forgiveness from Jesus and be allowed into heaven. But a non-believer will go to hell. That’s fucked up.

So much of religion is based on the idea of faith. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, one of the definitions of faith is: firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Though, theists often vehemently decry the Theory of Evolution, demanding transition bones, blah blah blah. But to believe in god, you must have faith. Hypocritical much?

Because I’ve been watching the Atheist Experience on YouTube, I’ve gained a superficial knowledge of logic and have found a small hobby of talking to theists about their beliefs. I’m under no illusion that I’ll convert them to non-believers. But it’s always fun to challenge their faith. The issue comes when theists aren’t willing to have an honest conversation about it.

I was talking to someone who was very skittish about taking his lord’s name in vain.

“I know there’s a god,” Skittish said.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“I can feel it.”

“Imagine this. You’re walking down a dark alleyway and see a shadow moving behind a dumpster. How do you feel?”

“I feel concerned.”

“Cool. You keep walking and you find that the shadow was just a garbage bag fluttering in the breeze. Now how do you feel?”

“Not concerned.”

“So your feelings aren’t a good pathway to finding the truth since they can lead you astray.”

“But the word feeling is so broad. It can mean anything, blah blah blah...”

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Here was where the dishonesty had happened. I showed that his feeling that god existed can’t be used to show the truth. Feelings can be unreliable. So he diverted the discussion by focusing on something else. I’d wager that if he’d admitted that my argument was right, then he might begin to doubt his faith in some deity. That was why he channeled the subject onto the some vague thing about the meaning of a word. To this day, he likes to muddy words instead of focusing on the subject we’re discussing.

There’s another theist that I talk to, and he commits something called guilt by association fallacy. He spent a lot of time trying to discredit Evolution. I explained that Evolution is both a fact and a theory. He narrowed his eyes at me and started to debate me, and I realized he didn’t understand the difference between fact and theory. So I talked about that. Then he diverted the conversation to how scientists couldn’t be trusted because grant money depends on their results. They’d manipulate the data or ignore evidence that proved their hypothesis wrong to preserve their grants.

I then tried to explain the peer review process and how competitive it is in scientific community. So, if someone wants to make a name for themselves by proving the Theory of Evolution is wrong, for example, then they would garner fame and fortune beyond most people’s dreams. Ignoring what I had said about the peer review process, he continued on the path that some scientists have “cheated”, so science as a whole couldn’t be trusted. Hence, guilt by association fallacy.

I suggested that he talk to a theist who was also an evolutnary biologist and get their point of view. This way they could have an open discussion without having the heaviness of opposing worldviews. Alas, he declined.

Having honest discussions is paramount to growing and learning as a human being. If we’re all about protecting our egos and our beliefs, then we’re never open to new ideas and ways of thinking.

I’m wrong a lot. That’s why I go to my writing group on a weekly basis and have them critique my pages. Otherwise, my writing and story would never improve. I like to say that I’m wrong 50% of the time and am guessing my way through life the other 50%. Life’s too short to worry about being right most of the time. Sometimes making the wrong choices can lead to the right outcome.

Listen to my writing group discuss writing and masturbation on the Uncontained podcast.

Life’s Purpose

I write almost every day. Usually at cafes. Starbucks is my go to because I’m Asian: free electricity, heat, WiFi, and refills. During my years at these cafes, I’ve met a lot of people. I met one of my riding friends because he saw me carrying my motorcycle helmet. Our differences could be described as a great divide. He’s conservative, highly religious, a Trump supporter. I’m a liberal and am an atheist. To say that I am not a Trump supporter would be putting it very lightly. However, we’re open enough to have cool conversations about our similarities and differences without getting emotional. Subjects range from boobs to mechanical steeds to religion and other fiction about the human condition. For me, it’s human connection at its finest, the trading of ideas.

Then I encounter the other side of the spectrum. I met a guy who is very closed off to listening to new ideas. Well...he heard them, but I could sense he wasn’t processing them because his counter arguments were a repeat of what he always says. It’s like ideas tried to fly into his head, but there was a cage that kept them out.

We were talking about kids. That I didn’t want them. “That is the purpose of life,” he said. “To procreate.”

I said, “We’re human, we’re conscious beings. We can determine what our purpose is in life. If a person wants to earn ungodly riches, then that person can pursue that.”

He laughed at me. “Good luck to that guy. Cause that never happens.”

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“Do you wanna go to Silicon Valley? Because the tech industry is creating a lot of rich people.”

Now, I thought I had some serious limiting thoughts. No. Talking to him, I could feel the mental limitations that he placed on himself. I could feel how constricted his thinking was, how small his world was, a prison of his own making. It made the few conversations that we’ve had unpleasant. Now all I do is have small talk with him. And I despise small talk.

Limiting thoughts are nothing. What I mean is that thoughts are just that. Thoughts. They don’t become anything until we act on them. Sometimes I wanna kill my mom because she rags on me so much. We’re two generations removed so my ideas about life is night and day compared to hers.  Obviously, I’m not going to kill my own mother. Too dark?

When I have a limiting thought—I have many—I do my best to ignore them. It’s very difficult to try and negotiate our way out of our own limiting/negative thoughts because we’re prone to seeing patterns where there aren’t any.

I have a friend who is in a committed relationship. But she’s perpetually angry at him when he doesn’t do what she expects him to do. For example, she sent him a sext—a naughty text—and he didn’t respond for a while. That upset her. Then when he did respond, she grew more pissed because he didn’t sext her back. So when we talked about this, I said, “Maybe he’s busy. Maybe there was an emergency. Maybe something happened, and he couldn’t be in that headspace.”

“Of course I know that,” she said. “But that doesn’t help.”

“You know you’re overthinking things.”

“Yeah. But I can’t help it. I feel rejected.”

In all fairness, to feel rejected from thoughts of rejection is a healthy response. However, we get endless thoughts fed to us every day. There’s little we can do about that. The good news is that most of them go unnoticed. It’s like walking down a crowded street. We don’t notice most of the people that walk past us. The issue is that thoughts drive our emotions. Especially the ones we deem important.

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What we do have control over are the thoughts that we hold on to. Like the guy who has limiting beliefs, he holds on to the idea that he can’t accomplish more than what he thinks he can. Worst is that he acts on it. My female friend feels rejected because she’s insecure about her relationship. So she blinds herself to all of the good that her boyfriend has done for her. And she isn’t present enough to realize that her perpetual anger might be pushing him away, making her unpleasant to be around.

For me, the best way to handle limiting thoughts and beliefs is to take steps toward your goal. Just do it in spite of them. In a podcast that featured my writing group—link below—we all talked about how difficult it is to get published. There are so many writers and so many books that a voice could get lost in all that noise. So why try? Because if you don’t, then the chance of it being heard is zero.

There’s another phrase that certain life coaches dispense: fake it till you make it. Faking it means that you’re taking time and mental energy to pretend about something you’ve yet to believe in. That can create conflict within a person because they’re fighting against their limiting belief with a counter belief. It’s hard enough to pursue your goal and then pile on top of that mental warfare against yourself. Why stack the cards? Once you’re focused on the task at hand, there’s no room for limiting beliefs. And even if you make room, you’re moving toward your goal anyways. So faking it isn’t necessary.

Neverending Karate Kid

When I was a kid, I loved movies.  But there were certain ones that I've always connected to but never knew why.  Now, as I'm wiser, not necessarily more mature, I know why I loved certain movies, why I kept watching them over and over. One day I was rummaging through a fantasy book store and came across The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende.  The book was first published in 1979 in German.  Ralph Manheim translated it to English.  I must have seen the movie dozens of times.  I loved the characters, I loved the story within the story, and I totally loved the soundtrack.  So when I saw the hardcover, I bought it.

For parents and children, this is totally appropriate.  It's an allegory on life, and if you watch the movie with your kids, ask them what the movie means.  It's the one thing that I don't see parents doing is asking their kids what things mean to them.  Do it and you'll be surprised by what you find out.

When I mentor students, I always ask what things mean, or how they feel about the experiences they're going through.  It's also my main tool in getting them to open up.  Eventually, they spill the beans about anything that I ask.  I need to know what they're thinking, feeling in order to help them out.  Click here if you want to read more on talking to your children.

If you read to your kids, read The Neverending Story.  If not, then watch the movie.  Don't have the money to rent movies, well the whole movie is on youtube:  Part 1.

While I was perusing youtube at work, don't tell my boss, I came across the Karate Kid.  This is an interesting movie.  Not because of the awesome cat-like choreography.  To me the hero is interesting.

A normal underdog story goes something like this:  hero enters new world (town, school, wizard school), is overwhelmed by bad dude (love interest's ex, bully, the most evilest powerfulest wizard), gets a gift (learns the way of love, learns how to fight, learns he's a great wizard), and, voila, hero wins.

Most of the times, the bad buy is an actual bad guy.  Not in The Neverending Story or Karate Kid.  The antagonist is the hero's disbelief in themselves.

When we look at Neverending, Bastian, the hero, must follow his inspiration, his love for books, fantasy, and story.  It isn't until he fully gives in does he overcome the antagonist, self-doubt.  In Kid, Daniel must believe in himself.  He never got stronger, faster, or learned more karate then the bully.  The bully was never the obstacle, just the opportunity.  His teacher guided him to trust in his ability, to let go of his self-proclaimed weaknesses.  In doing so, Daniel prevailed, or what I like to term kicked ass.

I've always loved stories that have this undertone.  When I look at the characters I've written in my book, all of them at some level must deal with self-belief.  It's the one thing I hone in on when I mentor people.   I use stories to open conversations with children, to guide them toward their passions in life, their truth.