Escape to Skyrim

skyrim

When my children were little, their father and I played video games with them. Hours racing each other in Mario Kart brought us together as a family like nothing else did. We weren’t the adventurous outdoor family like those today that take their kids hiking and biking, etc. No, we were indoor folk. We watched television, read books, saw films, and wrote in our journals. And despite all the indoor activities, my kids are all grown, healthy, and happy.

Last Christmas, my son visited and got me interested once again in video games. I bought a Playstation 3 and some used games and started my adventures all over again. I must say I enjoy them now more than I did even then. Gaming has come a LONG way since the 1990s and Turok, Dinosaur Hunter.  Most of them now feel like I’ve inserted myself into a movie.  Take Skyrim for example. I love this game. It is a huge open world that is beautiful to look at and fun to explore. I’ve started three games so far with different characters and abilities and even though the quests are the same, there is always something new and different to experience as each character.

I’m sure that my husband can’t possibly mind. While I’m in the other room slaying frost spiders and necromancers, he’s busy talking on Skype to one of his ‘friends’. I’m at the point now where it’s good that he has others to keep him busy so I can play in peace. Sounds cold perhaps? Not as cold as shunning a wife who was willing to give him everything and was rejected for fetish talk and long distance relationships. I’ll stick to Dragon Age, Skyrim, and Fallout 4, thank you very much.

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Are Religious Scriptures “Hate Speech?”

The Westboro Baptist Church picketing at the m...

Image via Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia hate speech is defined as:

In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristic.[3] In some countries, a victim of hate speech may seek redress under civil law, criminal law, or both.

Over at Anne Rice’s Facebook page there is discussion about hate speech and homosexuality. Many are claiming the christian bible as their authority to call out homosexuality as sinful behavior. They have every right to label something sinful if they want. That’s their choice. However, one person’s comment struck me however when they said that the bible itself was hate speech. Hmm. I tend to agree that bible could be construed as hate speech. So can the Koran and other scriptures that advocate killing due to behavior or ethnicity. The Hebrew god condoned killing when “he” moved the tribes of Israel around and demanded others move out to accommodate them. The Muslim god condones killing those who don’t believe in their religion. This falls under the category of inciting violence against a protected group. So I believe both of their scriptures can be construed as hate speech if they are taken literally as guides for modern life. In fact, I think anyone inciting violence using religion and their scriptures as a prop for supporting such violence should be prosecuted for hate crimes. Let’s just call it for what it is and be done with it. You can claim something as sin all you want as long as you keep it to yourself. If your religion is peaceful you have nothing to fear.

I Want to Be in This Man’s Skull

Thanks to my friend Alyce for a link to this wonderful site where I culled this gem of a paragraph from “Varioram of Classic Tracts and Pamphlets:”

At one time or another, the ills of the world have been blamed on everything from tight-fitting shoes to television. The Diggers wanted to abolish money, the Luddites wanted to destroy the machines. The majority of such sectarians has traditionally adopted the medium of printed matter to broadcast theories, positions, opinions. Social theorists have published provocative polemics about eugenics and population engineering. Crusading utopians and meliorists have generated a wealth of redemptive and rehabilitative circulars such as the memorably-titled Kill Your Television (anti-cathode tube), The Menace of Psychiatry (anti-mind modification), and Absinthe – Sapper of Souls (anti-alcohol). Feuding factions have produced pamphlets both pro and con concerning such issues as abortion, the legitimacy of monarchy, gun control, the right to privacy, methods for disposal of the dead, vegetarianism, even aesthetics. The germ and genesis of most of these is the impulse to air grievances. Gripes, beefs, cavils and carpings envenom the prose of leaflets, pamphlets, flyers, tracts and broadsides published by a panoply of political extremists, religious fanatics, eccentrics, radicals and zealots of every stripe. It is a long tradition dating to the early days of the printing press, and which persists even in the era of e-mail, facebook, and twitter and, although the pages of many of these impassioned documents have become brittle with age, many are still dripping wet with vitriol or, at least, with the perspiration of fervid conviction.

Good gosh almighty, can Gilbert Alter-Gilbert write! Sometimes a piece is so good, it almost doesn’t matter what the subject is, however in this case, the subject of tracts and pamphlets is also interesting. I’ve had a fascination with pamphlets since I picked up my first Jack Chick tract, one I’d found on the effluvia littered ground during my hometown’s July 4th carnival in the late 60s. Besides the blatant fundie drivel, anti-semitism, anti-catholicism, and other crude things about Chick’s tracts, reading it set me firmly on the path of appreciating the graphic novel, but that’s another story. Gilbert’s compendium of tracts and pamphlets is a look back at sociological/psychological warfare.

New Meaning to the Word “Monopoly”

You know those games you grow up with and think nothing of the title? Monopoly is one of them that comes to mind. Who knew that it was about Capitalism and the evils inherent therein? It wasn’t until I went to the Missives From Marx blog that I suddenly made the connection. Doesn’t the graffiti iconic figure at the blog look remarkably like the man on the Monopoly board game and cards that come with it? Fascinating.

The Sin of Be-ing

I’ve often argued that religion and faith in something mystical are not synonymous. Jeff Lily has written a nice series on the subject of religion, and written it very well. Start here and wend your way through all six arguments. While I was reading elsewhere on the internet this morning I came across an interview with Dallas Willard. I would like to contrast Lilly’s assessment of religion with Dallas Willard’s excellent explanation regarding atonement theories and Jesus Christ. Coming at it from the theological angle, Willard tries to explain the meaning of justification, atonement, and other Christian terms. While Lilly’s argument takes on Christianity in general, Christians still argue amongst themselves about what role Jesus played.

Surprisingly, after reading both of these, less is Jesus becoming the “sticking point” for me in my spirituality. I’ve long been suspicious of religions and their leaders, but Jesus seemed always to loom large in my world view. However, the whole idea of a necessary atonement implies that humanity is just basically “wrong” from the beginning. This is indeed how many religionists view life and the world, especially the Catholic and Protestant churches. I viewed it once thus myself. All of Christian doctrine hinges on what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross, if anything. However, let’s back up and say that no atonement theory explains to my satisfaction the thorny issue of such a God creating a world and then holding it accountable for the flaws this God created. Atonement then is extremely tautological. This doctrine would be like your parents berating you your entire life for having been born, when you are merely the product of their own lusts. They didn’t ask you to be born. You just were. Imagine if they then told you that you can be brought fully into the family if your sister died to make up for it! We are all shocked at such a suggestion. But yet, we are not shocked when the Christian God demands that only by the death of a “son” can said God forgive the world! And THEN we aren’t done! We must then still work and work for a “kingdom” that never arrives and be satisfied that our whole life was spent working for an ethereal idea, all because of the possibility of reward “after death” when there is no proof of life after death either, except Jesus, who was resurrected they say. The church as an institution was created specifically to be the “family” gatekeeper; ones who could say “You are in.” or “You are out.” And not as nicely as Heidi Klum either!

Jeff Lilly makes a good argument for questioning religious leaders and our assumptions about religion, but I think everyone should back up from atonement theories and even  religion in general and ask the bigger question behind all of it: Who said there is such a thing as “sin” to begin with and why the automatic assumption that people are “wrong” or guilty from birth? Mary Daly, a radical feminist philosopher with two doctorates in sacred theology and philosophy from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland and a doctorate of religion from St. Mary’s College, writes that sin is “derived from the Indo-European root es- … meaning to be.” (Pure Lust, The Women’s Press, Ltd., London, page 151) She writes further, “clearly our ontological courage, our courage to be implies the courage to be wrong.” (152) In other words, according to men’s religions, we are simply “wrong” from the beginning, women especially so. Therefore to be fully alive, we must find the courage to sin, not avoid sin. We must fully come into be-ing, not try to avoid it, something I believe Eve was faulted for in the Garden of Eden myth and something for which women have been paying ever since.

It’s a lot to take on but Daly’s thinking has so radically jarred my own for the past 10 years, that I have never been able to ignore it and it’s all well worth exploring. Since my college days I’ve asked, “Who said so?” and “Why?” The answers to those questions are why I’m here.

Can’t Pin Me Down

Pinning me down to some coherent theology/philosophy/ism is like trying to wrestle a cat into a nice bath of warm water. Ever done that? Wrestle a cat, not pin me down! LOL. It’s down right impossible. The cat gets all squirmy and even scratches the hell out of your arms and hands; may even go for your head. So it is when I try to pigeonhole myself about what I believe. Changes daily. Like my undies. OK. TMI for a Thursday.

Came across some interesting arguments against PSA or in the evangelical world: Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  Hey, I’m great with the penal part. That just invokes girlish giggling on my part, but a while back I wrote my best attempt at explaining this doctrine from a Baptist/Catholic point of view. Ever since then, I’ve come to realize that it’s the main bone of contention among believers and unbelievers. On this doctrine evangelical rises or falls.  On this blog there are other good examinations of PSA. Check it out. I find it fascinating.

Torchwood: Children of Earth

torchwoodOk, so being an X-Files fan, I had to watch Torchwood, a BBC program that aired over here in the U.S.  on BBC America. I watched seasons 1 and 2 and  have now seen season 3,  Torchwood: Children of Earth, which was a five-part mini-series that aired last week and over the weekend.  This was the second movie (and really the mini-series felt like a long movie) I’ve watched recently that dealt with the theme of aliens and children and the end of the world as we know it. The first was a movie starring Nicholas Cage called Knowing (link is to a review with spoilers) which featured an end of the world plot with alien “intervention” but-not-in-a-good-way kind of theme.

I’m always fascinated by literary tropes that I see running through novels, movies, and television shows and lately the theme has been the destruction of our planet and the consequences for us and our children, as well as possible rescuing scenarios. Well this isn’t a surprise given the global warming hysteria in the scientific community, but really, do the science/entertainment channels like Discovery, National Geographic, and TLC have to inundate us with shows that imagine the earth without humans because of this or that natural disaster: giant tsunamis, tornadoes, catastrophic earthquakes, sun spots exploding, etc. They present it with such glee that I am always left with the feeling that they wish it would happen to make their point, whatever that point is. All I am left feeling is, “Well, the world’s going to end. So what? There’s not a whole lot I can do to stave off a giant tsunami.” But I digress.

Back to Torchwood. For background, Torchwood is a secret Cardiff based  British government agency set up during Queen Victoria’s reign to investigate alien activity on the planet and to gather any alien weapons or other objects said aliens may leave behind. The alien activity is usually detected by the odd behavior of citizens which cannot be explained by other than supernatural or supra-natural means. There were originally five Torchwood members but the series began with the recruitment of another member, Gwen Cooper (played by Eve Myles), who as a police woman ran across Torchwood mid-investigation and became more curious than the average citizen should be.  Capt. Jack Harkness (played by the irrepressible and perfectly dental John Barrowman) is the real star of the show, however.  He leads his group into dangerous situations quite recklessly sometimes, but it’s understandable as he is indestructible. (The reasons for this stem from his stint on the Dr. Who series where he originally debuted).

The show is quite entertaining, but it’s possible to learn much from British culture by watching it. First, you can say far more racy words on British TV than you can American TV. Second, you can show far more skin. Third, the actors and actresses look more like real people than the fake ones we see on television and in the movies. Finally, I learned what CCTV is; the cameras that record all the goings-on of normal citizens’ activities during the day all over London. Torchwood uses this almost exclusively to track people and events they are curious about. However, what set this last mini-series apart was how Russell T. Davies and James Moran (co-writers) dealt with the plot of Children of Earth. The plot consisted of the head, not so reasonable, alien called 456 who has contacted the British government before in 1965. At that time they requested 12 children in exchange for an anti-virus that would help quell an epidemic of flu.  Capt. Jack was in charge of that operation, but unfortunately, one of the children got away and is now non compos mentis at an institution. He too freezes at the same time as the children, implying the necessity of his being “chosen” perhaps? He is targeted for elimination, as is Capt. Jack, for knowing too much about the aliens.

Cut to present day, where all the earth’s children stop at various times of day and at the same time to relay one unifying message that the aliens are returning. The alien does  return to Thames House where the Prime Minister has set up a holding tank for it’s arrival. It arrives and demands more children, 10% of the earth’s children to be exact. From there we are treated to, in my opinion, the best part of the whole series; a convoluted and oh so believable discussion among the governments about which children will be selected, from where, and by whom and how they all got into this mess in the first place. Capt. Jack is the only one who thinks of refusing the alien’s demands, but it’s not as simple as that and the resulting scenes are vivid and thought provoking. I must say that I was very impressed with the dialogue and the issues that it brought up. The acting was exceptional, as it usually is in even the cheesiest of British television shows, and it was time well spent watching it.

I get so much more out of intelligent fiction, whether in television, film, novels, or radio, than I do out of straight political, mostly vociferous discussion found in the news or those venues designed to “give us information.” Perhaps it’s because good fiction, done artfully, without obvious bias, and with attention to detail is far more intelligent and persuasive than main stream media and it’s air of condescension toward the very people it claims to want to “inform.” Art simply does it and lets you decide about its quality or judge its merits. it has no vested interest and if it does and it is evident, then it’s not good art. I greatly admire that in a program and hope to point that out whenever I can.  Kudos to Davies and Moran for trodding that fine line quite nicely and with great skill.

What I want to know however, is why this common theme of the deus ex machina? Why must aliens rescue the planet and why must the plot be intertwined with children? Remember when movies were are about children and Satan? Are we reflecting the cultural fears of adults? Is it because we are fast approaching an age in which God is no longer seen as in control of the world? Is it because children are seen as our best hope for the future but it must be elsewhere than earth? The common mentality that humans have fucked up the planet to such a degree that it should be wiped out and we should start over, is so common that one wonders how this much touted scenario affects our younger generation? Could this be why they have such an attitude as they do? Live now for tomorrow we die? Just some thoughts.

Blessings as ever.