An assortment of jugglers, priests, activists, socialists, atheists, buskers and conspiracy theorists

…  and I only walked down one and a half streets.

Sin, hellfire, death and bloody foetuses — some of the cheerful topics mentioned on O’Connel Street on a daily basis. In fairness, that’s not the only stuff happening.

O’Connell Street — not my photo

I go into town quite often, and I see a lot of loud people on the side of the streets of Dublin. As a lover of music, I am always delighted by buskers. Even those with a lack (or over-abundance) of volume or skill will elicit a smile, and deserve it. Busking takes courage, which I know as someone who tried once. Just once. And drunk guys are scary even in the middle of the day when there are two of them and one of you and you’re already a little bit scared shitless. Also, I’m a really small woman who frankly at twenty still considers herself a child in the world. So: huge props for anyone with the guts to put themselves out there. Even if you’re rapping, or break-dancing, or juggling, I massively respect your will to perform, and I think you ultimately make town a much more awesome place. Please continue. Don’t forget to be awesome, my friends.

However, I wouldn’t be fond of the charity hounds that are really hard to avoid on Henry Street on a Saturday. I mean, I respect that your charity is quite possibly lovely, and that perhaps you’re a volunteer and giving your time to help others. Or, if you’re getting paid (I know people who have a harsh view on this, and am a bit sceptical myself), then for all I know you really care anyway and might just really really need the money and who am I to judge? Not the worst thing you could be doing. You’re just freaking annoying. And you really need to understand that while I feel quite guilty every time I pass … how am I possibly supposed to pick a charity? I have limited funds. And if I give money to the blind, then I’m not giving money to cancer research (for example). And in that case, do I just give the money to the most aggressive salesperson? Because that seems a little … off to me. But either way, while I really dislike being approached by you, I don’t actually dislike you personally.

Then there are those on the street who I view with full disapproval. And no, I’m not talking about drunk people and drug addicts (frankly, while a little wary, I’m sure they’re getting enough disapproval to be getting on with). No, I’m talking about the guys (and yes, always guys for some strange reason) who stand on a box with a megaphone and declare to the street that we’re all sinners who are going to hell. Those people really piss me off. I’m not religious. You may have noticed. Religion frankly doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but that’s OK because if it did I wouldn’t be an atheist. And I’m sure my atheism doesn’t make sense to a lot of people either. We’re not all the same. Tha’scool. Peace and love and all that. However. Hell always seemed to be the most hateful concept imaginable. Especially for those who believe in an all-loving God. Burning for eternity? Really? Either God condemns us/doesn’t save us just ’cause we’re not giving him enough attention (is he five?), or else you think he’s dispensing justice and that I truly deserve eternal hellfire, despite the fact that I try very hard to live good life. And that, I think, makes you a really crap human being. Monstrous, actually. What happened to compassion? Second chances? Redemption? Why do I feel like the person you make Christ out to be would not approve of this? He loves us all, apparently. That’s some seriously tough love, darling.

So yeah, I sort of despise these people. And the fact that people like them are still influencing the politics and social issues of Ireland, my country, is both heart-breaking and deeply unsettling. And this is not me ranting against religion per se. If you want to hang out on the streets singing religious songs and telling everyone about God and Christ and love I will not begrudge you it. I will not believe you, but I’ll think you’re probably a nice person. I just can’t stand those who spread needless hate. It makes me feel vaguely sick inside. It makes my heart hurt. It makes me weep for the children you raise to believe in this hate, who will turn that hate on others or on themselves, or will turn away and be hated by you. I don’t really understand. I’m not sure I want to.

Of course then there’s the anti-abortionists (I have to say, Pro-Life is the most incredibly loaded term I’ve ever heard, for various reasons. I will not be using it), who make me pretty angry. I’m not saying you need to get an abortion. I’m not saying you have to vote for it. I’m not saying you even have to approve of it, though I could give you a few reasons why you should. What I am saying, is that the scare-mongering, dogmatic, idiotic mis-information you constantly spread with your disturbing flyers is simply horrible. You’re lying to people. You’re emotionally black-mailing people when you send your small children to hand out flyers about the death of foetuses and rape. Not to mention indoctrinating your children. They have no idea what they’re handing out, the amount of hate they will get for handing people things like that. And then there’s the terrible parenting involved in dragging your children into your political, dogmatic, fundamentalist agenda, which is completely inappropriate (bringing up rape? Seriously?). Then there’s the fact that YOU JUST LET A CHILD WANDER UP TO STRANGERS in the middle of O’Connell Street (handing them highly controversial leaflets)! A street which I have seen many druggies and drunk people on. And while someone is either arguing with you or praising you for spreading God’s Law, someone could kidnap or injure your child. So you’ll protect unborn life, but not the child in front of you? It seems really illogical.

*deep breath*

This just really upsets me, and if you get a dirty look after attempting to give me a leaflet, I … I can’t even say I’m sorry. I might be judgemental. I don’t really know you as a person. But I know one thing about you, and I hate it. I hate what you’re doing to this country. I try not to hate you. But it can be hard. I can be very judgemental, and I’d like to be better, I try to be better. But when you tell people that abortion is murder, you judge them too. You upset people who you don’t know, you hurt them. You know nothing about why they did it, you’re just giving them a label that is untrue. Murderer. I’d probably cry if someone called me that, and I don’t even kill spiders on purpose (there was an accidental incident or two when I was trying to catch some spiders to release into the Wild. A story for another time).

However, while there was the usual hoard of anti-abortionists hanging around with their distasteful flyers, I was positively delighted to see a stand representing Atheism Ireland right beside them. I clung to their stand like a raft of reason in a sea of ignorance. I had a really interesting discussion with one of the guys handing out stuff. They had print-outs about humanism and secularisation and such. I’ll have to write something about my opinion of them once I’ve done more research. While I am a proud atheist, and a firm humanist, I didn’t agree with everything we discussed, but I firmly follow their goals of secularisation of state-funded schools, secularised teacher-training, non-religious oaths for presidents and judges and legislation that is completely without Catholic control beyond the vote of individual Catholics along with every other Irish citizen.

One of the fellow-atheist’s complaints that I disagreed with, however, was that religious people waste their time focusing on an afterlife that doesn’t exist. I’m honestly of the opinion that as long as they’re not wasting anyone else’s time, or hurting anyone, then … why not? If it might bring them comfort of guidance or whatever (though I do believe that their children should get to choose what they believe for themselves). I might not believe in it, but not everything worth believing in is true. I for one very much valued the (embarrassingly long) period of time that I believed in Santa Claus. I like to think about magic. I don’t actually believe in it, but I wouldn’t consider it a waste of time either. As long as religion promotes love and not hate, I can’t dislike it. Anything that makes the world a little kinder, a little more accepting, can only be good. I don’t think you need religion to be good. I don’t think religion makes you bad. And I think good deeds only done for heaven aren’t really good at all. If your religion makes the world better (and I mean by reducing the pain and suffering of people, and helping them to have a chance at health and happiness, not fulfilling the strange agenda of people who died over 2000 years ago — by which I mean specifically the writers of the Old Testament, but also various more recent people), then good. If your cynicism, your atheism, makes the world a sadder place … why promote it? I’m an atheist, but first and foremost I’m a humanist. I believe that we have to make this world good, and I want to work with anyone who will help with that. If your atheism becomes nihilism, the meaninglessness feared by Nietzsche a hundred years ago, then why spread it? I believe that we do not need a god. That there is no god. But we can help each other, and that is what we should do. Because we are each of us human, and have value if only because we feel pain and feel pain for others.

So, I’m going to look up atheism Ireland, and see what kind of message they spread. But regardless, I was very much pleased to see people from my side of the fence about. We can’t find any middle ground or compromise if we only ever see one side out in the open.

So, buskers? Keep on busking. Music is good for the soul.

Atheists? Stay positive. Let’s make life better, shall we?

Theists? Believe in love, and a god who loves. Because you deserve a god who returns your unconditional love — and those around you deserve it too.

Those happy Irish Buddhist guys? Keep dancing if that’s your thing. You seem lovely.

Charity muggers? I like you a lot more when you’re not obnoxious. I won’t give you money anyway. If I give money, it will be because I rationalised it and looked up charity info, not because you were chatty. Hope you find a more fun job.

Scare-mongering anti-abortionists and hell-obsessed preachers? Please just go away. You make me really sad, and kind of scared of the future of this country.

Photo is not mine. Opinions are. However, if you think I made a particular generalisation or unjust comment, tell me specifically why it was unfair and I’ll either defend my choice of words or apologise and revise. My aim is to become less ignorant, not stick to my guns to the point of obnoxiousness.

Atheism and Christmas

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. I am terrible at dealing with cold weather, but there’s something very cosy about Christmas (don’t talk to me about January. Ugh, January …). I like the traditions. I like giving my friends and family gifts. I like receiving gifts. I adore the warmth inside houses, the warm, filling food, the hot drinks, the alcohol, the general excuse for good cheer. However, I’ve been told that atheists don’t appreciate Christmas in the same way that Christians do. This is true, it doesn’t mean the same thing — which isn’t the same as it meaning less.

Once, a friend of mine — a very good friend of mine, who I consider one of the most awesome people I shall ever meet — told me that atheists should not celebrate Christmas. I’m not sure if she was offended that I professed to love the holiday, or if she thought that only good, Christian children should receive presents (for being so pious all year long and suffering through church). Either way, this made little sense to me, and I was made more frustrated when I attempted to complain about this and, several times was met with, “Well … she’s got a point.”

I’ve probably thought a lot more about this than she has in the years since. I think it was probably some pet peeve of hers, and I took it deadly serious in a way that it may not have been intended. But no, she does not have a point.

Christmas is, it is true, a holiday named by Christians (shocking, I know). However, it has traditions suspiciously similar to those of the Roman mid-winter holiday (the feasting and lights, for example), which occurred on the darkest day of the year (22nd of December, I believe), pre-Christianity. Also, it is distinctly unclear if Jesus Christ was born in winter. There are different hypotheses. It seems likely that the Christians took a holiday that all were celebrating anyway, and renamed it. Which is OK, it’s a nice time to have a holiday (when all is dark and cold), and you’re celebrating your saviour’s undetermined birthday at a time convenient to you. That’s fine. However, telling me that the mid-winter holiday, in which there is light and warmth and feasting during the darkest, coldest time of the year, is exclusively Christian … that’s sort of bullshit.

“But Kate,” you cry, “you can have a mid-winter celebration, you just can’t call it Christmas.”

*cough* None of you were saying that? I’m just being defensive? Possibly. But anyway, in rebuttal:

If I go around saying ‘Happy Atheism Day’ around about December the 25th, most people are going to give me funny looks. Some will just be confused. Some will laugh. And someone shall be deeply offended. “HOW DARE YOU TRY TO REMOVE MY CELEBRATION OF THE BIRTH OF CHRIST,” they’ll thunder in indignation of my re-naming of their faith’s most important day, and in shock that I would proudly announce my beliefs (because I MUST be challenging their own). So you see, I can’t win.

Also, would that mean I can only give gifts to fellow atheists? Who share in my non-existent holiday? That’s kind of sad. Some of my best friends are not atheists. I wish to have the same holiday as them. I want to show them how much I love and appreciate them. I want a beautiful tree hung with lights, a warm fire, spectacularly nerdy gifts (of which I’ve already received one *_* — a Snitch necklace. Be very jealous), hot food. I like the traditions. I like the Christmas Carols. I was in my school’s Carol Service almost every year for 6 years. I like to sing. I love the harmonies. I do not believe in the Christian God, but I do not regret this. I do not feel that it is justified for me to be excluded from this for my lack of believe, in what is becoming an increasingly commercial and secularised holiday anyway (not that I like the commercialism too much … gets on my nerves. I love when people make gifts). I think, if you try to exclude me, it cannot be because of rational arguments, but because my being an atheist offends you, and you think I should not have nice things because of this. Also, if it truly offends you … That’s not my problem. I’m certainly not offending my own lack of beliefs by participating in the season’s celebrations, so … *shrugs*

So we can all celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, mid-winter, Humanism Day, whatever. Why not? Celebrations are great, I love them. Happy Holidays, folks.

Discworld coinage and a Snitch necklace. Doesn’t get much better than that, folks

Note: I recently received a Sunshine Award from the lovely Lily Wight (who runs a really cool Lord of the Rings-based blog here on WordPress). Go check out the awesomeness. Also, I watched the Hobbit. I loved it. Had so much fun. There were criticisms, and it wasn’t as good as LotR, but still wonderful 🙂

Snitch necklaces and similar can be found here, for those interested 😉

Thoughts on Perception

Sometimes I wonder if others live in the same world as I do. I mean, even in a purely physical sense, we could actually be seeing different things and no one would know. Colours, for example. We could all identify that chair over there (cue hypothetical chair) as being blue … but what I learnt as ‘blue’ might be what you think of as ‘purple’ if you saw it through my eyes. We don’t have a purely objective way of viewing colour. And that baffles me, frankly.

Yes, I actually hunted down a picture of a blue chair … just in case you were confused, or something …

So, there’s definitely wriggle room over physical perception … so it surely all gets a whole lot fuzzier once we bring the mind into it. ‘Cause as we know, people’s minds all seem to work veeeeeery differently. I, for instance, am terrible at the sciences. I mean, I’m interested to a certain extent (and can very much see why they would be so intensely fascinating) but if I even try to delve one layer beyond basic knowledge of a phenomenon … you lose me. Completely. I zone out. I don’t understand. And then someone else tells me philosophy is a waste of time and I yell, “NO NOT MY BABY,” and … yes *cough*

So, different minds work differently. We’re wired differently somehow.

But when we descend to, say, moral issues … this can become a problem. Am I wired ‘right’? I mean, how do I know that my reasoning isn’t just another example of how my mind works differently? Does the same reasoning even make sense on a purely objective scale? Because I would have said, originally, that colours were, technically, objective. I mean blue’s blue and nothing more can be said about it, right?

“Perception is created and twisted so quickly.” ~ Louis C.K.

And this can frustrate me, because I wonder if my arguments are wasting everyone’s time. Is it that we’re both obtusely refusing to submit to the other’s reasoning (they, of course, are in the wrong …) or is it actually that it could never make sense to us? I will never know how things work in someone else’s head (I don’t know how things work in my own head, let’s be honest).

Other times I wonder … is reason the exception to this subjectivity? I mean, there’s always a point you come to where reason can go no further (why is happiness good? Um … it just … is?) and if someone doesn’t agree with that … well, nothing more can really be said. But a lot of the time I think people just don’t think about things. This is possibly extreme arrogance on my part — that I’m suggesting I’ve thought more than others. But some people don’t think. And others think way more than I do, I know. I think we’re all learning, though some don’t like to admit that. I mean, five years ago I held opinions that I really think are awful now. We all have prejudice, we all suffer from lack of experience about something. We all make mistakes. We all learn.

“Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.” ~ Samuel Butler

So, if I make a mistake, if I offend someone with this blog … please forgive me. My learning process is slow and stumbling, but I do my best. I want to be a good person.

But keep in mind … if you disagree with me, there’s also the chance that your learning process is the one that’s behind the times.

For example, if you try to tell me that homosexuality is evil or that I will burn in hell for atheism or … I don’t know. Things like that. They will earn you a condescending head-shake, if not rage.

… I never claimed to be a good person, just that I try 😀

Sorry, this was a rant, a ramble, a spewing of thought into the abyss. Carry on.

Though by the way … if you, like me, find science vaguely interesting but too difficult to study, Hank Green’s ‘Sci-Show’ can be really informative and hilarious. Or just watch them anyway, they’re just awesome. Also ‘Crash Course’ is great — learning history with John Green. Yay knowledge!

… I’m oddly enthusiastic about learning, sometimes. The world is a crazy interesting place. Just sayin’.

Any thoughts? Do share …

Morning

I woke up this morning to streaming sunlight.

The air seemed so clear, it was amazing. I never realise how dim the world can look until I see how beautiful it could be. The sky was clear and blue, bitterly cold, and the rising sun was white and gold, making the trees black silhouettes as the light peaked through them and blinded me.

The grass glittered with a slight frost, which melted to dew within half an hour.

I went outside, I closed my eyes, and I breathed deep.

“The perfect moment is now … be glad of it.” ~ Terry Pratchett

Image

I’m sorry for such a short post, but … that’s really all I need say.

The photo is mine. The quote is Sir Terry Pratchett’s.  The place is Ireland.

This is a relevant song: ‘New Morning‘ by Bob Dylan (sung by Darren and Chuck Criss, because it’s my favourite version, but there’s this for the purists — and ’cause Dylan is awesome).

Is it good to exist?

He’s adorable *_* And exists …. That is the only relevance, to be honest.

Is it good to exist?

This was a question put to my philosophy class today, while we were studying the environmental ethics of Hans Jonas, a German philosopher.

When discussing whether it’s wrong to destroy a rainforest or a species or even the future of our own race … all arguments for preserving nature are null and void if existence is not a good thing.

My lecturer told us that for the Buddhists, life is suffering (which is why detachment is the way to enlightenment — if you don’t have something you are not sad when you lose it). I cannot refute this. Life is suffering. Some have suffered more than me, some less — but we all suffer.

“Life is a disease: sexually transmitted, and invariably fatal.”~ Neil Gaiman

So why is existence good? Why do we strive to live? Why do all things strive? Why do we think killing is one of the highest sins? Why is the destruction of the human race to be feared, rather than desired? There is a clear way to end all suffering, yet most of us deny it with every fibre of our being.

I’ve thought about this before, perhaps more than is healthy. The conclusion I’ve come to, the only true answer I can find … is one of potential.

Sure, most of us will experience happiness at some point, but it will not last, before we descend once more into sadness, stress and general angst. So is the sadness balanced out by this happiness? Not necessarily, perhaps for some of us.

But when we are at our worst … death offers us nothing. I do not believe in an afterlife (you may differ from me, here), but death … leads to nothing. It means that your life had an imbalance of sadness. But if you choose to live … there is a chance. It might be small, it might be vaguely irrational, depending on your circumstances, but it is there. This hope of happiness. That is what we strive for.  And as someone who has experienced what I believe to be both intense joy and intense sorrow … I think the joy is worth waiting for. A gamble. We exist for all those little moments in which we are happy, or hope to be happy. We live to see it in others, see it for others when they can’t see it for themselves.

“All things strive.” ~ Terry Pratchett

I believe life is worth it for that chance. Because nothing compares to that joy. We have all heard Sartre’s famous quote, “Hell is other people” yet he fails to mention that only with other people, choosing life alongside us, will we reach a form of heaven. It may be fleeting, it may fade, but it existed, and it was utterly beautiful.

We may see it again.

“FOR THE SAKE OF PRISONERS AND THE FLIGHT OF BIRDS. WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?” ~ Terry Pratchett

While I don’t dislike Buddhism, I could never adopt it for myself. Life is suffering, true. And you minimise this suffering through detachment. However … when you are detached, you lose that chance at euphoria. I don’t think it’s worth it.

Image

Someday … we shall all be gone. All that we know, all that we have done, all that we have thought and dreamed and achieved shall have faded. But not yet. There is beauty to be found that has not yet come to pass.

I ask only that you give it a chance.

“After all this time, it still seems to me like straight and fast is the only way out — but I choose the labyrinth. The labyrinth blows, but I choose it.” ~ ‘Looking for Alaska’ by John Green.

So … is it good to exist? Not always. Existence can be good or bad. But who are we to deny anyone, including ourselves, that chance?

Let me know what you think. Let me know if you have questions. I wrote this at 1am. Bear that in mind, please.

If you have a thought that you think is relevant, or might change my own view, I might write something else on this topic incorporating your philosophies.

Influences: Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, John Green, Sartre, moral philosophy, life, Buddhism, etc.

The first photograph is not mine. The second is (it’s of Stephen’s Green Park, in Dublin, Ireland).

That first step …

This is my first ever post, which follows far too long a period of bugging my friends to help me pick a name and assuring me that they will, in fact, read my blog. I am writing to you today, oh void of the internet, due to a need to structure my thoughts, to share them. To fathom the stars of my thoughts into constellations, as it were (as John Green would put it).

I wanted my first post to be something ground-breaking, my first foray into open exploration of my personal, philosophical, openly-nerdy and vaguely political opinions on this glorious and shitty world in which I live. I’m not always sure that it’s the same world in which everyone else lives, but that’s another issue.

I wanted my first post to be deep and meaningful and instantly engaging, to be a perfect representation of all I want this blog to be. Unfortunately, life is not that simple, I am not so easily summed up, and that much pressure on my first post was crushing me under a familiar terror of creation. Therefore …

This post is my metaphorical first step on the road to actually writing what I want to write. It can be scary, but otherwise I’ll never do anything.

“It’s a dangerous business … going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ~ Tolkien (well … the film of The Fellowship. Been too long since I read the books. Can’t remember).

Embarking on an adventure …

Things I refer to that are not mine: the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, a movie adaptation of the same, John Green (author, nerd, beautiful human being) and a vague reference to a video by Charlie McDonnell about the terror of creation (titled ‘I’m Scared’. It and the many responses are all pretty awesome).