Friday, June 5, 2009

What Would Dio Do?

Penn Jillette is an illusionist and a comedian. He is also an atheist and he put together a video response to a high ranking Catholic official's comment that atheist's are not fully human because they do not enjoy the full human experience (some kind of emotional and/or spiritual thing-a-ma-bob):

I consider myself an agnostic. I have no evidence to believe one way or the other in the existence of God as I was raised to believe, or any God or gods as anyone else was raised to believe. I do have a belief, however, and that belief is that if God does exist, s/he is an non-interventionist. What that essentially means is that I don't think God answers prayers.

Which is odd, because I will toss up a prayer every so often. Not for myself - I try not to be selfish - but for other people. I guess I'm a hypocrite, praying to a deity I don't worship.

Whether or not God exists, and whether or not God is active in human existence, I do not believe in any church. I mean, I believe they exist - I just don't believe in what they do. I understand that they offer community and charity, sometimes, but it is a system that is not for me. For starters, I cannot be a part of something that's whole foundation is in steeped in fantasy or misinterpretation or bigotry. Also, sleeping in on weekends is very important to me. That is my little slice of heaven.

From a literary and artistic standpoint, I love religious imagery. That's a small part of why I am excited about the new Heaven & Hell album. That name may not mean much to you, but it is the operating moniker of Black Sabbath as fronted by Ronnie James Dio.

From my own personal preferences, that Dio-led version of Sabbath is one of the most satisfying musical experiences I have enjoyed. This is the fourth album, "The Devil You Know," following up "Dehumanizer" (1992), "Mob Rules" (1981) and "Heaven and Hell" (1980). I have seen this Sabbath twice, and I look forward to seeing them again, if possible, promoting this new record. This mixture of musicians I find like honey in a rich black tea, ultimately satisfying.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Come to me, understanding

During the Memorial Day holiday (now two weeks ago), I spent the weekend with a friend and her family at her parent's house, which is located near one of New Jersey's many scenic bodies of water (that's not sarcasm, New Jersey is actually a lovely state, depending on where you are). We basically sat around and ate, drank, and enjoyed life. Enjoyed living. All people are familiar with the expression, "money can't buy you happiness," and usually we can dismiss it as bullshit, because money certainly doesn't hurt. Yet, during times like I enjoyed that weekend, I really get the meaning of that. I understand. I absorb the wisdom of those words and experience it in my core. All the money in the world couldn't buy me that simple experience. It was pure...contentment. Yes, the worries of my world and the truths of my existence tried to worm their way into my brain, but for the most part, I was in a complete state of comfort. I was beyond comfort. It was like the poet B. Carlisle once wrote, "Forsooth, do you know what that's worth? Zounds, heaven is a place on earth."

Of course, like a ball tossed into the air, everything comes back down to earth. The higher the heights of happiness, the more you recognize its absence. Back to work, back to the grind, back to bills, back to the general sourness and bitterness I find in myself and others over any and all harms, real or perceived, grand or slight. But really, what can be done about it? The oppressed may change, but oppression itself never goes away. Someone must be ground under the heel of the world. Sometimes that someone is me, but more often than not it is some other shmuck. All in all, life is okay.