July 28, 2011


Mr. Louderstill


I am trying to be a better person/less judgmental asshole.

Mr. Louderstill has lived in the house next door since before I became his neighbor. He is younger and that makes me wonder if I am sometimes being a stick-in-the-mud old fart when I get severely annoyed by his penchant for activities of advanced decibellàge. I may be a curmudgeon, but you’ve got to know the man is a menace to peace and quiet.

Think of any noisy mechanical apparatus and chances are he owns one. Monster truck with glass-pack exhaust – check. Four-wheelers (several, none street legal, including a two-seater that he was letting his eight-year-old drive) – check. Chainsaw, pressure washer, power blower – triple check. He also has jet skis, which of course don’t affect my household, but I bet if it snowed here more often he’d have a snowmobile that he could race up and down our road. He owns an auto body shop and so occasionally has side projects going in his garage, complete with an air compressor and several vwip-vwip-vweeeeeearr tools that it runs. Then there are the fireworks. New Year’s Eve and July 4th without fail, and usually at annoying intervals into the post-midnight hours instead of just doing as the pros do and lighting them all off in quick succession (they’re illegal in our state but available in startling abundance in two adjacent ones, split between roadside kiosks and ballpark-lighted supermarkets of sparkly danger nicknamed with the premise of some certifiable proprietor).

There is some relief in our son having overcome most of his problematic sensory overload from the noise, and now that the dogs are gone we don’t have to worry about puddles of pee caused by abject fright.

But that’s not all we get. Mr. Louderstill recently installed a widescreen television and surround stereo speakers out on his deck to add to the fun of his redneck friends (a.k.a. the Smokersons) watching NASCAR races or some CMT tripe. They’re pointed in our direction and even that’s not usually too bad if we stay indoors, but when they get the subwoofers cranking, boy, I’ve felt my kitchen wall vibrating. He has a pool and his guests’ young children can often be heard screaming with aquatic delight until well past any halfway responsible bedtime. Adding to the fun two doors down are the Methicks, from whence Mr. & Mrs.’s drug and alcohol-fueled disagreements come. They’re hard enough to tune out, becoming intolerable when their yappy dogs get worked up with either them or any random breeze.

Essentially, Mr. Louderstill has little and often no regard for his neighbors. Not long after we moved in he told us that he didn’t plan on staying in his house forever. It was Mrs. Louderstill #1 that got to move out (said she couldn’t take the degradation anymore), and she was pretty nice and sometimes even sheepish about her boorish then-spouse.

We have some pity for him because we’ve suspected his work and party ethic are fueled by a hyper-recreational use of drugs. For several reasons we would prefer to simply (or even complexly) just not be his neighbor anymore. That’s the easiest way.

How do you reach out to people that make your skin crawl?

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July 12, 2011


Questioning things isn't pretty


I recently came across that one from a FB friend, and aside from it being one of the better bumper sticker aphorisms I've seen, it is today's topic (seems that getting back into blogging isn't going to be all lighthearted fun after all. Who knew?).

The Internet has proved to be such a great tool for impromptu, casual forums, in particular for religion and politics. Formerly taboo subjects for polite conversation, these twins have latched on to the fact that the Innertubes are often less than polite if not just plain insufferable - the speed of technology makes it harder and harder to hold on to good ideas and remain intellectually honest with out going all troll. In the midst of trying to be a better person, which at times seems like a nowhere-to-go-but-up proposition, like a raven I still look for the shiny objects to plunder and horde. Thankfully the times for needing to deliver the smackdown, meet my match, or duel to a draw are waning, and I'm relieved to see calm, measured, respectful and knowledgeable discussion increasing.

So today, let's take religion. A recent Gallup poll posits that nearly one-third of the people in the U.S. believe the Bible is to be taken literally. I perceive that number to be big, and it's actually down 10 percent from a peak in the 1980s. The poll shows the unsurprising trend that belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible declines as educational attainment increases.

Speaking of which, it was also not surprising that a fellow writer, seminary student, and FB friend from whom I shared the link wryly questioned how many of the 30 percent have sold all they own and given it to the poor. A commenter replied with a question, "How do we interpret God's word without clouding the truth with our own biases and those of society?"

Indeed, "the truth" is always elusive and most of the time impossible to fully ascertain, but for me and many other seekers it's not about recognizing anything written down by men as canonical. Eschewing that has served me well since the time when my Christian faith began to diminish because of, as is written in Ecclesiastes, "making many books" and from trying to parse meanings as literal, figurative, or metaphorical. The seminary student commented that the only way to go deeper than interpreting an interpretation is by "knowing, experiencing, and opening ourselves to God."

I agree on two of three points -  opening ourselves to spiritual experiences is important, if difficult in the lives of the paycheck to paycheck lower middle class parents of a special needs child (I've done precious little of it in the past few years, and struggled with depression knowing that any justification, rationalization, or excuse is not insurmountable). But I have to draw the line between me and so many religious people in my belief that "knowing" is dangerous ground for anyone to stand on, whether a believer or an atheist.

The "Questioning" FB friend said in a separate discussion that they suffered PTSD from their past religious experiences. They said that it put them "at risk of being overly judgmental of the god that has been created by man, and of forgetting that there is a peaceful function for many people in religion." At the risk of sounding crass - Amen, brother. I also deal with PTSD of that type, and part of the continuing struggle with that is dealing with my occasional bigotry toward religion, particularly hyper-dogmatic, doctrinaire Christians. As I stated in my recent post on the Pledge, I strive to apply my faith in the human ability to love one another, including our "enemies." I can overcome the seeming harshness of the latter by considering - how often is someone truly that?

But I am going to need a LOT of tweaking, because I am a product of those who "know," and that tends to have me, perhaps like most people on this planet, wanting conclusions instantly and missing the usually wonderful, always unfinished process of discovery. As Questioning pointed out, "dogma is living with the results of other people's thinking," and while I'm getting better at calling out dogma, I hope I can eventually eliminate my usual kneejerk reactions of either pummeling dogmatists with all that I "know" or running away screaming in judgment. Better results should come from my often being mindful of Jung's famous quote, "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." And if questioning things isn't pretty, understanding them ain't the belle of the ball, either. Shall we dance?

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