Archive for September, 2012

A Call to Inaction

Posted in Public Service Announcments, Reflections on September 27, 2012 by Justin S. Smith

This has been a year of protests and counter protests. On February 14th anti-gun activists scheduled a boycott of Starbucks because of the company’s refusal to post signs banning guns in their coffee bars. Then there was the Chik-fil-a boycott and the Chik-fil-a appreciation day. And of course the occupy movement. Recently we’ve seen violent uprisings in some countries over an anti-Islamic internet video followed by demonstrations by peaceful Muslims in the same country holding pro-American and anti-violence signs. From what I can tell, Blasphemy day, which has been “celebrated” by atheists since 2009 is getting a resurgence this year because of the violence.

If you looked at the link, you would see that International blasphemy day is every year on September 30th. Somehow, I’ve been blessed to be blissfully unaware of this. The date was selected to coincide with the anniversary of  the publication of satirical cartoons of Mohammed in a Denmark newspaper. To me, that sounds like protest not celebration and the resurgence this year in light of religious unrest smacks even more of protest, but I’m not writing to try to convince Atheists against protesting or celebrating their “holiday” (the word holiday is incorrectly used on the wikipedia link above, it does not appear on any Blasphemy Day pages I’ve seen; I use it for ironic humor based on the etymology of the word.)

My real reason for writing is for my religious friends. On September 30th, if you have atheist friends on Facebook or other social media, they will probably be posting stuff that you and I both find offensive. Whereas Justin Trottier (quoted in the link) states “We’re not seeking to offend, but if in the course of dialogue and debate, people become offended, that’s not an issue for us. There is no human right not to be offended.”  one of my atheist friends sees it differently: “I believe the only way to end violent responses to supposed offenses to Islam is to shower the religion with blasphemy – numb those who align themselves with violence to the blasphemy so they no longer have the energy to threaten the world.” Though the original intent and this years resurgence both have to do with Islamic extremist responses, don’t think the rest of the religions are safe: (from the same conversation with my friend) “Doing this for all religions and spiritual beliefs is just being fair.”

So what should we do on International Blasphemy Day? Well, if your a Christian, you should go to church (it is a Sunday) and you should pray specifically for atheists that you know.  Secondly you should remember that expecting an atheist to behave in a Christian manner is like asking a toddler to act like an adult. Not because I’m calling atheists childish, but because as hard as it is for Christians to act Christian, expecting a non-Christian to do so is foolishness. I think this actually goes to the core of the issue for Atheists as shown in the picture below that was the post that started the conversation with my friend.

My biggest issue with Blasphemy Day is not Atheists acting like Atheists, I expect that. My issue is, I don’t think dedicating a day to offending people adds value to the conversation about free speech. I think it’s irrational and I tried to express that to my friend. *note below

As for avoiding this offense, if you can’t tolerate Atheists behaving like Atheists, you probably don’t have any on your Facebook friends list, but if you do either don’t go on Facebook that day or temporarily block your atheist friends that day but don’t rage against their blasphemy. Adding your reactionary anger to their reactionary “holiday” will not help. That’s my call to inaction. If you can’t stomach it without reacting, find a way to avoid it. Do not fuel it.

As for my Atheist friends, Facebook is a party and I know who I’m at the party with. You expressing yourself will not get any response from me unless you bring it to my house (wall.) If you take the time to go to my wall to post blasphemy as an expression of your free speech, it will be no more tolerated than if you came into my house to do so. I will consider it personal at that point.

That’s it on this topic for now. Don’t forget to post questions for my previous post. You know you want to.

– J.S.S.

*Through undercover research I have found that one of the most popular discussion groups at Atheist Summer Camp is “When your friend who has an imaginary friend tries to convince you to behave rationally.

Interview Proposal

Posted in Old Friends and Ghosts on September 25, 2012 by Justin S. Smith

One of the things that always bothered me in literature classes was the teacher explaining layered symbolism in the story. I’m not saying the teacher was just making stuff up, but I always thought it would be nice to ask the author “is that what you were trying to show?” or “did you consciously think about the symbolism while writing this description?”

I bring it up because I had thought about doing a companion piece to the three “songs”  For Old Friends and Ghosts of Friends that I would write up as a mock interview while I was still working out the verse forms. I have talked to a couple of people about the pieces and was going to insert some of those conversations, but I thought it might be fun to get some questions from my readers.

Ground rules:

I will not answer “who” any of the addressed are. If you are wondering “is this me?” ask me in an email or a private message. But even by private message, I won’t answer about somebody other than the asker.

I have a pretty limited reader base, so ask as many questions as you want including follow-ups on potential answers.

To avoid duplicate questions, post in the comments section of this post (this will also give anyone interested a little preview )

That’s it for guidelines. Inspiration, symbols, ask about it all. I’m going to write the interview anyway, but I think it would be fun if you help out. At the very least, answering your questions instead of mine will feel less like delusional self-importance and anytime I can delude myself to believe that I’m not delusional is good.

If you haven’t read them yet, Here they are:

For Actors

For Singers

For Brothers

I’m hoping to have a little fun with audience participation, so please participate.

– J.S.S.

A Song for Brothers

Posted in Old Friends and Ghosts on September 24, 2012 by Justin S. Smith

This is the last of the three songs “For Old Friends and Ghosts of Friends” . The previous  two can be found by following the links:

For Actors

For Singers

I hope you have enjoyed these. I might post a companion piece to these before the verse versions are complete, but I might not.

-J.S.S

For Brothers

We were brothers, not long ago. Joined by common cause and love, if not by blood. We laughed and played, we drank and danced and fought. We fought but we always came back together and laughed all the louder at our foolish squabbles as we raised a glass to each other. It seemed then that this brotherhood was forever, that we should never leave each other’s side. But as we reached that time where all men must make their own way, you had to walk your path and I mine. We shook hands and slapped shoulders. We would be together again.

*

As I walked my path, I often thought of you; how I would like to break bread or raise a glass again; how you would support me when the path was overgrown and rough as you had before. To have you, my brother, at my side again would make the road seem easier; we could face the challenges together as we had faced so many before. You had your own path to walk, but I had the ghost of you walking beside me, and I heard your voice and laughter. I would tell you of this when we were together again. We would be together again; we were brothers.

*

But when our paths met again, it was not as I had seen. We shook hands and slapped shoulders, but with time spent on separate ground, our common ground was lost. The common causes that joined us were gone and our new causes were at odds. New brothers had filled the gaps and there was no place at your side for me. In your place by me stood your ghost’, who had shared the road with me. He is not you; you are not him. He is you had you walked my path with me, but you did not; you walked your own.

*

We were brothers, but how can that be true? brothers once but brothers no longer. Once together, supporting, now opposing, I wonder if had our paths stayed closer would we still be on different sides. Can we be at crossed purposes without crossing swords? I hope one day we can find that common ground again. But I want you to know, though the common cause is gone, the love is not. I would like to shake your hand and slap your shoulder and tell you that if we were brothers once, then we are brothers still. Then walk away, your ghost still at my side.

A Song For Singers

Posted in Old Friends and Ghosts, Reflections on September 14, 2012 by Justin S. Smith

This is the second song in the series “For Old Friends and Ghosts of Friends”. The first song “For Actors” can be found here. The Third song “For Brothers” will be forthcoming  in the next week.

-J.S.S

For Singers

We were singers once in a great choir, blending parts through songs of love and sorrow and of God. Through sweeping crescendos our voices swelled in harmonies and dissonance. We passed the melody between parts, always supporting the lead; always supporting each other. We knew by the tune the end of our concert was coming, but we smiled through it and gave all we could to our song until, at last, the conductor, with a flip of the baton, gave his final cut off. The last note faded in the hall, and our concert was done. We bowed to the applause, hugged and said “well done” and “goodbye.”

*

I had thought then, as we went our separate ways that, should we meet again, we would greet each other with the old songs and harmonize again or perhaps sing in unison new songs we had learned since. But, as I have met some of you,  it seems we cannot find the notes or remember the lyric. We have not learned the same new songs and our voices no longer blend. (Has your voice changed, or mine, or both?) We try to find the tune, correct and compensate, but there is too much wrong with the performance and not enough time. So, in sad disappointment, voices spent from trying to reclaim it, we talk, only talk, about the old concert knowing it will not be again.

*

With others, our voices, mellowed by years, blend much better than before. We sing through the old songs and into the new, teaching each other as we go. Taking turns serenading and being serenaded we sing a new concert of our own. No, it’s not the same as the old concert, but it is right for our time and for our age, and we recapture that spirit of camaraderie. We dance with the ghosts, but also with the living and the tune and the waltz are beautiful still, as they once were, but different.

*

No, that concert can never be again. Some of us can no longer sing our parts and some sing no more. For those of you with whom I still sing, I cherish every note, even when your voice, or mine, falls flat. For the rest, it does not matter which voice or voices have changed; we should not struggle to sing those harmonies we have lost. I think only of you in how we once sounded, for that concert, that moment was glorious in my mind, and the ghost of you lives in that glorious recording because you sang it with me.

A Song for Actors

Posted in Old Friends and Ghosts, Reflections on September 13, 2012 by Justin S. Smith

The original intention, which I hope to yet see through, is to have three sonnets under the collective title “For Old Friends and Ghosts of Friends.” As sonnets involve considerable work in refining of meter, rhyme and language and editing to 14 lines (140 syllables,) I am presenting the first theme  in colored prose (though I’m calling it a song, because I can) in hopes that verse will follow after the three “songs” are complete.  The second song “For Singers” is written and will be published once the third song is written and being revised.

– J.S.S

For Actors

We were actors once sharing the stage. Delivering lines and hitting our marks through comedy and tragedy. When the curtain fell and the lights went out, I returned my props to the table and checked the script for the next act; your name was not there. I turned and looked, but you were gone and the stage was set again and the show must go on. I stepped out on the stage with strange faces and gave all I could muster while wondering: if I had seen the script before and known you were leaving would I have drawn out that last scene a bit longer, or changed the words to try to keep you in the play for another act?

*

I happened by that old theatre once. In my mind the boards of the stage we had shared were dull and worn, the curtains falling and moth eaten and cobwebs hung from the lights and rigging. But new actors were performing a new play, not unlike ours in our time, but different enough. The set looked much like it had so long ago, but the costumes had changed. The costumes and the actors, that is all. To see it in use, and so different than my imagination, was bittersweet. It seems the building should have fallen when our show ended, or at least the box office locked.

*

From the balcony, I have seen bits of your new play, and it pleases me that you are still on stage. I watched actors that were in our show come out and do a scene with you and I want to stand up and join in. I want to yell a line from the balcony and hope that by recognition of my voice you and they are warmed and bid me to join the cast. But I do not because I must not. This is not our show; our show is done. And though I would like to think that I could join with old cast mates to stomp across the boards again I must accept that I would only be acting with ghosts on a cinema screen.

*

I think now, if I had known that our show was at its end, I think I would have left the script unchanged; I think I would have delivered the lines as written and not dragged out the ending. It was right the way it was written. I would have let you go just the same, but I would have known it was time to tell you goodbye.