Monday, April 14, 2014

Jail-happy America

Yesterday I had a chance to briefly chat with a couple of ex-cons. We were walking back from this care facility we'd gone to visit with the rest of our church-group, and got to talking about why we think the itsy-bitsy church we go to is pretty cool, even if most churches aren't. And I was thinking, I like these guys. Not only that, but I really wanna know what their stories are, because they're not just some box marked "Ex-Con." They're people. Complex, fascinating people.

I love people, and I just bet those guys have a lot of really great stories to tell.

I also know enough about the penal system in 'Murrica to be sick about it, and even though I don't have a clue how to turn the tide of stupid-headed stupidism that's given this country one of the most effed-up, over-incarcerating, stupid-dumb penal codes in the world, well, maybe I can strike a blow for the good by listening to the stories of people who've been curb-stomped by society. Listening is, after all, an act of love.

Then today I saw a quick little animated video about 'Murrican penal-system stupidness, and even though I sometimes feel like re-posting videos to this website is a bit of a bloggeriffic cop-out, well, I reckon this is worth your time:

Friday, April 4, 2014

goin' to Miami...

Well, I'm off to Miami for a week to meet my new nephew-grublet.

I'm not likely to write anything on here whilst I'm gone, but guess what? Tomorrow is the five-year anniversary of this particular iteration of my website! There's positively heaps for you to do, here. Scroll down on the right to the label-cloud and find a topic you like. Or page through the albums for my photos, paintings, or drawings.

Heck, you can even watch the ridiculously-embarrassing youtube videos I've embedded way down at the bottom right. I don't care! I'm goin' to Miami. Where the heat is on and the night is long.

Bienvenidos a Miami!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

the history of recorded motion

A snazzy bit of memorializing:

EVOLUTION of FILM from scott ewing on Vimeo.

forgetting grace

I don't know about God. 

I don't know about Jesus, or the Bible.

I do know that I am troubled by the way many people claiming to speak for God have used the Bible to justify ugly, un-Jesus-like things. 

But the Bible and Christianity were where I heard about God, and it's there that I've found whatever it is of God that I have experienced (at least in a cerebral sense). It is a part of me, and will always be a part of me. It has shaped my thinking, and will continue to do so. 

I respect and love a great many Christians, and I have found SO MUCH truth and wisdom in so many of the things that many of them say. There are past writers who have opened up the world to me, and there are present writers like Rachel Held Evans and Dr. Richard Beck and Ben Myers and others, whose writings have kept me hopeful about the Christian faith today. 

I know I grind down on that faith a lot on this blog, but maybe that's because I think it can be better. I want it to be better

I'm aware that there's that other side, too - an affirmation of the good that's there, and ought to be pointed out, sometimes. I have a hard time with that part of it, and I end up mostly just writing out of a place of anger and sadness. Maybe here's why: because I approach Christianity in a really cerebral way, and from a cerebral perspective, a lot of it seems really effed-up right now.

My faith has never been a primarily emotional experience. I have gone to charismatic churches in the past and I have felt the tug of it, but that aspect never felt all that... solid. I wanted it to. I prayed for it. I went up to the front, and then up to the front again. I had people pray for me. I'm an emotional guy, and I had emotional experiences in church. But I also had emotional experiences OUTside of church, and I felt this cognitive dissonance over the way I was being told that those outside-church experiences weren't as valuable. That they weren't as real, and the emotions weren't as good. 

They sure felt good, though. And real.

I got tired of trying to split the world into good/spiritual versus bad/secular/physical. I studied, and learned that a split like that was actually a gift (curse?) from Platonic dualism - from the Greek culture the Biblical writer Paul appropriated in order to make the words of Jesus relevant and understandable to the people living in his time. I learned that the Bible is this collection of the stories and poems and essays of people trying to do just one thing... to express who God is/was, and how God related to them. 

The Bible seemed to me to ask one, big question: What's God like? 

And then it answered with a lot of small answers, that were more like stories. They said, God's like this. And God's like this

No one story ever told the whole thing. They were all just pieces - all glimpses of truth seen "through a glass darkly," as Paul put it (quoting, again, from Platonic dualism).

I looked around and I saw these glimpses everywhere. I saw them, even, in Hollywood movies. And I thought... maybe I can write some glimpses, myself. I found that I could get lost in stories. That I could find truth, there, and wisdom. I found that art and stories could be, for me, a sort of transcendent experience. They could be my prayer. When I prayed and felt like I was talking to myself, I could turn that prayer into a story, and make that story into a truthward-meandering exploration. 

I prayed a LOT when my marriage ended. I prayed two things: the Lord's Prayer, and the Serenity Prayer. I prayed them like a mantra. I prayed them on the way to work. I prayed them during the day. They calmed me. They helped me out of my foxhole. 

But time passed.

I crawled up out of that foxhole, and maybe I discounted those prayers. I forgot, somewhat, about the hand that helped to pull me out of there. Maybe I spent too much time thinking that it was the stories that had saved me, and not the truth they pointed toward. Maybe I started to believe that the stories came from ME, and only me. I forgot the way it felt when I was writing them - how they seemed to speak to and through me from the Transcendent-Beyond toward which they had tugged my spirit, allowing me to survive that Dark Night of my Soul. I forgot, and forgot, and forgot.

I don't think this is ever going to be something I'm going to fully escape. 

I tend to rationalize a lot, and to forget about things like my dependence on Something More. I know that lately I've been feeling more anxious and even depressed, from time to time, and I can see how it's likely that this is the result of the false beliefs I've slid towards. The false pride that's had me believing that I could be my own salvation. And I can see that I need to remember and be reminded that I need to move away from that, back toward humility. Back into an acceptance of my own fragility. I need, as I once wrote, to "stop seeing God as just another tool I could use to get over the hump until I was able to manage things again on my own." I need to remember the community of the fellow-humble-broken if I'm going to keep to my feet... if I'm going to keep from falling back into that dark pit. 

I think this will probably be a lifelong process for me: forget-remember-forget-remember. 

That doesn't scare me like it once did. For one, because I think it's very human of me. And for two, because I no longer believe in a God who sits around waiting to Himself-damn me to hell if I screw up, or forget for too long who I am and who I'm meant to be - a humble creature cradled in the loving arms of God and community. I no longer worry that God's love for me is contingent on my behavior, on my emotional experience, or on my beliefs. I no longer feel that forgetting that love from time to time as I live my life is a cardinal sin. Who knows? Maybe God likes it when I just get lost for a while in this little life-gift I've been given.

That, to me, is the whole bonus and appeal of Jesus... that God's love is inescapably there. Not because of me, but because God is Love. I guess that's what they call Grace - that thing Bono once said was the only difference between Christianity and any other faith-tradition. 

I don't rationally know this, and sometimes I don't even believe it. 
But that's where my faith and hope lie. 

That's what infuses my stories with the love they need to come alive. 

- - -

A FINAL NOTE: Writing isn't magic. It's hard work, and the greatest reward for that work is to share it with others. So if you enjoyed this little (ad-free) piece of my brain... please share the love on your social internets. And pick up a copy of my Short Story Collection, whilst you're at it. You can even get it as an ebook for less than a fancy cuppa hot bean-water, and it'll last waaay longer.

Monday, March 31, 2014

adapting my brain

Sometimes there are movies that most people don't watch, but that mostly all film-people watch. And then there's ADAPTATION, which most film-people and every single screenwriter ever watches, because it's by Charlie Kaufman and he's a writer's writer, writing about a writer. This is the opening sequence. It's also my brain... except for the male pattern baldness. I repeat, I am not male pattern baldnessing. Not one bit.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

holding children hostage

The recent debacle with World Vision's hiring practices is a perfect example of what's horrifically wrong with the mass-consciousness of so much of the so-called Christian church in America.

For those unaware of this evidence that the grinches have grinched their way into power, what happened is that the Christian-based child sponsorship program World Vision decided that they were no longer going to preclude married gay people from being hired by their more than 40,000-employee organization.

The fit hit the shan.

A whole bunch of ostensibly-Christian people screamed bloody murder, and about 5,000 of them withdrew their $35-a-month sponsorships of needy children around the world, resulting in what would have been about a $2.1 million loss for the organization over the next year. I say "would have been," because within 48 hours World Vision  flip-flopped a reversal, and a whole bunch of smugly self-satisfied people called back in to renew their support.

Now, you may disagree with me on some of my opinions on gay rights. You may think that blah-blah-blah traditional-marriage blah-blah-blah etc. is the most important thing in the world (despite your apparently blasé attitude toward divorce, you hyppo-potanical land masses!), but that's not the issue, here.

The issue is, as Rachel Held Evans so succinctly put it, that this response "reveals the fact that that your sponsorship isn’t really about the child and the community your sponsorship helps; it’s about you. It’s about feeling good about the face on the refrigerator, regardless of whose face it is."

That, to me, is what a LOT of North American Protestant Evangelical culture is about: it's about feeling good not just about the face on display on your refrigerator when your likewise "Christian" buddies come over for your alcohol-free parties and pop into the kitchen hoping to sneak one of the beers you most likely hid down in the crisper, under all that kale... it's about feeling good about yourself in general, by creating an elaborately-structured in-group from which to vilify the vast, tainted majority.

Your righteous indignation isn't a virtue. It's embarrassing. It's sickening. It's anti-Christian, and you should shut your faces like right now.

Honestly, you make me want to do what Elizabeth Esther (another Christian-blogger friend of Rachel Held Evans) did when she heard about the World Vision thing and write a blog post that includes the word "fuck," directed at anyone who'd stop paying to feed a malnourished child just because the person doing the feeding might be gay.

Why did Elizabeth Esther write the word "fuck," and why would I want to echo her?

For the same reason, I think, that she quickly removed the post from her website: because using the word "fuck" around people who build their sense of identity by excluding anyone whose moral behaviors they consider un-Christian is an immediate, one-way ticket to out-grouping/scapegoating/villainization by those same people. And being excluded by the excluders might just be a sign that you're on the right track.

Unlike Elizabeth Esther, I don't make my living floating around at the fringes of Christianity, selling books to people who wield their wallet-power by not buying your book unless they agree with every one of your (visible) life-choices (ask my buddy, who got pulled from most of the Christian bookstores after he got a divorce).

But also unlike Elizabeth Esther, the word "fuck" isn't really part of my personal lexicon.

So I will say, instead, to all those people who got on their high horse about World Vision's policy change and then held the nutritional health of thousands of children hostage so that they could feel like the good guys:

Screw that. And may the ineffable God (whomever that is) damn that attitude of yours to hell (whatever that is) forever.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Status: (ab)Normal

Fun Fact: Depression is an actual (invisible, marble-sized) creature named Steve that gets into your medulla oblongata and saps your willpower to keep you from doing the things that you know will make you feel better (exercise, good food, communing with other humans). Which is to say that depression is both physiological and personal, and that while its effects can be temporarily ameliorated with the heavy use of narcotics, if you want it out of your head you're going to have to go in after it with a crocheting needle.

I've been looking for a crocheting needle. But until I find one, I'm having a hard time summoning the gumption for another blog post.

Instead, I'm going to gift you with this marvelous collection of some of my more interesting facebook status updates of the past month. You're welcome. Feel free to send me a laundry bill for all your laugh-urine stained underpants. Or just send the underpants. My address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. / Washington, DC. /2500. You're welcome again.

I'm going to sleep now. I'm sure that when I wake up, everything will be all better. Because sleep fixes everything.

- - -

Mar. 25 : Been feeling a bit down the past few weeks. Considering a heroin addiction as a temporary pick-me-up. Whattaya think? Good Idea / Bad idea?

Mar. 24 : Three things: One - the fungal life forms of this planet have become sentient. Two - they have elected me their supreme leader. Three - send me money, or you're all getting athlete's foot.

Mar. 24 : Sometimes I get tired of people acting like I'm some type of clown. Besides - clowns are people, too.

Mar. 19 : Any of my facebook friends have x-ray vision and the ability to fly? Something's wrong with my leg and I'd love it if you could hop over and have a look. Also, there's a bank we need to rob.

Mar. 18 : I'm going to bed now to read the end of my Civil War novel. No spoilers, people! #howdoesitend? #nomoreslavery?

Mar. 18 : If I was a girl I'd change my name to Jenny TseKwa. What does that say about me? I don't know what.

Mar. 17 : I hate when someone asks me how much I can deadlift, because my first instinct is to think, oh crap, now I'm gonna have to kill you, too.

Mar. 16 : Yesterday I self-administered my first passable haircut using only scissors and a mirror, thereby eliminating one more reason to ever have a woman in my life again. Check, check, and check.

Mar. 17 : Well, it's been half a year, but the time on my analog wristwatch is FINALLY right again.

Mar. 3 : How to get sick a lot: Step One - Produce human worm-baby. Step Two - Raise baby to age five and send to germ-production facility (aka: school). Step Three: There is no step three.

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