Ein Sof

My current understanding of the nature of God is that he* is an entity outside of this universe in which I exist and by which my comprehension is contained. There are a whole slew of implications in this, and I will talk about some of them in future entries. (Specifically I’m looking forward to talking about implications of timeliness and spacial bounds, implications of manifestations and their inherent restrictions, and implications of vested powers. Oooo!)

My vision of God at this point is very close to the Kabbalistic concept of Ein Sof. Well, ok, my understanding of the Kabbalistic concept of Ein Sof. I admit that I’m not Jewish in any way, shape, or form… as long as you ignore my nose, that is… so my understanding is likely to be warped by my pervasive Pentecostal upbringing, but nevermind that. There are 2 specific aspects that I cling to:

  1. The Constant Creation of God: God’s interaction with his creation, this universe, is continuous and constant. None of these words are accurate, but they all apply: power, spirit, essense, breath, force. So, I’ll make up a word: sbefp. His spefb is constantly being added, injected, inserted to the universe, and is continuously manifesting, in some form or another. Again, there’re a whole slew of implications here. Or maybe a slaw.
  2. The Transcendence of God: God, by virtue of his constant influential sbefp, God is an underlying presence in everything in and of this universe. That includes me and you (whether you think so or not), my stinky farting dog, the rocks in the back yard, this half-dilapitated apartment with the beautiful hardwood floors that I’m sitting in right now, the ancient lode-stone I’m typing all this on, the sun, the moon, and the attractive-repulsive forces that keep them dancing around in space… everything in and of this universe.

And for some reason, the vision of a mist with a white fedora-style hat still persists in my head.

. Topher

Footnotes:

* I always refer to God as a he because it is the default pronoun in English for a person whose sex is unknown or undeterminable. I have tried using the word it instead, but I somehow find that distasteful. After all, I would be offended if I wrote a computer program who referred to me as an it.

I capitalize God because I use it as a name. I don’t capitalize pronouns referring to God because I have never found any reason to do such a silly thing.

The Swirling Mist With the Hat

When
I was a teenager, I went to a weekend retreat thingy at a place called Springs of Living Water at Richardson Springs. Or something like that. It’s part of YWAM now. Go Loren.

Yeah, anyhow… The cabin counselor guy who was in charge of the cabin I was in asked us during one of our group discussion meetings, “How do you picture God?” Then we went around the world (which was confined to that room right at that moment) and each of us talked for a few minutes. Most of us even answered the question.

When it was his turn to talk, one of the more colorful characters in the group kicked his feet back on his bunk and began to draw out a tale like that story-telling kid in the movie Stand By Me. He had an east coast accent, so read his words like that.

“My world is a bit different than all of yours,” he began dramatically. “In my world there are dragons, wise and powerful. In my world the yeti rules the high mountains. In my world vampires and werewolves are real monstrosities.

“I envision God as an old man,” he continued in his confident Bostonian accent. We were all enraptured. From the moment he started speaking, he made us all sound like pre-schoolers who still had trouble actually forming complete sentences and talking without mumbling at our feet. “An old man…” he paused for a moment savoring the moment, “in an all white leather suit, with a brim hat, you know, fedora style. In my head, he’s always got a cigar in his mouth that he just lit, and a twinkle in his eye like he knows the punch-line. Which I’m pretty sure he does.”

The room was silent for a moment before somebody started chuckling softly at the image.

As for me, I have discovered that my vision of God has changed quite a bit over the years. Originally, I had a similar conception, that God was an older man… ok, without the cigar and leathers, though.

In my conception, he was in a large stone throne room with engravings all over the walls and pillars depicting angels and demons doing things that were angelic and demonic. He sat on a large stone throne with armrests up a bunch of large stone steps. The ceiling was not… I mean, there was nothing — you couldn’t see it. As you looked up everything just faded to black.

At some point, I came to the belief that putting God in the form of a man was a severe limitation on him. After all, I’m not any sort of diety, and I feel that it’s a limitation on me! So then, the throne room remained in my imagination, and my God became an ever-invasive, ever-present, ever-flowing mist inhabiting the room. Which somehow made me nervous to breath.

At some even later point, I realized that I was still confining God by keeping him in that throne room. How could I do such a thing?

Well, how do you picture God?

. Topher

La Cucaracha, La Cucaracha

So there I was, riding my trusty steed in to work. I was only a few blocks from my house when I pulled up behind an old custom van. You know the kind I mean? With mini-blinds in the windows, plush carpeting, a leather couch-cum-foldout bed as the back seat and shiney disco dingle-balls hanging from the christmas-light-framed rear-view mirror… Ok, maybe it didn’t have a christmas-light-framed rear-view mirror… And maybe that keen 25 year-old setup was a bit run-down.

Anyhow, this custom van had a whole front-yard’s worth of leaves on its roof all trapped in place by the once-chromed luggage rack. As I was sitting there, my bike making a nice rumble under me, I thought, “As soon as that thing starts moving, all those leaves are going to blow right off the top of that van and right into my face.”

I was busy being slightly annoyed when I noticed a black beetle-like form crawl out from that resevoir of leaves and do a scuttle-run across the back of the custom van. Yes, ladies and gentlement, there was a blatta orientalis, a cucaracha, a cockroach nesting in those leaves.

The light turned green, the van accelerated, I followed unable to deviate from my foreshadowed fate. Sure enough, the leaves started blowing around, swirling up, around and down onto me and my bike. And sure enough, moments later a small black dot flew off the back of the van directly towards me.

All my years of training and practical experience in kicked in. I did several things simultaneously. 1) I screamed in disgust. 2) I brought my left fist up to my ear and dodged my head to the right in a classic martial-arts shoulder block. 3) I swerved my bike to the right in a modified push-push; I only had one hand on the handlebar, so I did a push-pull instead. Then I spent the next several miles flicking every spec of anything off my jacket and jumping at every wisp of air that felt like it might be crawling up my neck.

I do not know the fate of that cockroach. But I do hope that it’s future (if it still lives) is in no way related to mine.

. Topher

Five Pennies?

Ight. So a little foundation.

I grew up in a pentecostal Christian church. I know, I know, what the hell does that mean?! The Pentecost was an event that happened shortly after the crucifixion and ressurection of the Christ. It happened on the fiftieth day after the ressurection. Basically all the former apostles of Christ started doing a bunch of crazy stuff like speaking in tongues and healing people. So a pentecostal church is one who teaches that anybody can do these things, which they call “gifts of the spirit.” Read the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Acts.

But I’m not prepared to give you a whole in-depth dissertation on all things pentecostal. Just letting you know where I’m coming from. In short, I grew up with a strong sense of (what I now call) the spirit realm, and a whole lot of things that people called miracles.

Mmm. Nice word that. Miracle. Yeap.

1. An event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

 

Another nice word is Magic.

1. The art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

 

But I digress…

There is one particular major difference between my own idiomatic beliefs and that of the current established religious organism which people generally call Chrstianity which I would like to point out right off the bat. Modern Christians (in almost every variation) are very focused on the after-life. They celebrate their own eventual freedom from this “horrible” life and graduation to a blissful eternal life, which they have garnered through their salvation in their acceptance of Jesus as their own personal… uh… with a nod to Johnny Cash Depeche Mode, Christ, quite extensively.

Me, I am much more interested in the life I’m living right now, in discovering how the environment I’m in behaves, and what wonderful things I continuously find all around me. My religion is here and now.

So, to summarize this bit: I grew up Pentecostal, like to put the words miracle and magic as close together as possible, and don’t focus on the after-life like most modern Christians do. (nod)

. Topher

But You Never Post

I decided last week that I need an X-Box. Yes, I said, “Need.” Truly!

See, I was planning to use a Linux-based MythTV box as my PVR, juke-box, and all-around house system. But see… that plan isn’t working out so well.

  • Building that box has turned out to be rather expensive. And getting all the hardware working together is a rather large project, even with the leaps and bounds the Linux community have made in making stuff Just Work over the past few years.
  • I don’t have a video feed (cable or dish), and am really not intending to get one at this point. I can get everything I want to see on DVD, either renting or buying, and even buying them it’s cheaper than getting a dish or cable.
  • The game support for my MythTV box will always be lacking, and that’s something I’ve always enjoyed.

So… I need an X-Box. I hate Microsoft. But I need an X-Box.

Oh! And I started a new blog to talk about beliefs. It’s the Hunt for Blue February. I don’t expect to be able to have any more time to write in that one than I do in this one… but I din’t want to muddle this light-hearted little ditty with such heavy subjects.

. Topher

[Note: Hunt for Blue February has since been merged with this blog.]

The Hunt for Blue February? Wazzat?

Over the years I have often been asked about my beliefs. Why? Well, apparently I seem a bit of an enigma to some people. I’m not. I’m actually very open with just about everything. Perhaps they think this openness is a front for some underlying secret complex agenda involving aliens from other galaxies who look surprisingly like us, and latent supernatural powers laying dormant in us all subtly wreaking havok on our cities and individual humanity?

At any rate, here I will write about my beliefs. Or not. I might write about other peoples beliefs that I find interesting. Or about what if scenarios, you know, like “What if gravity were repellent.” Except better.

. Topher

Where Did You Learn The Word Orgy?

I was young very young the first time I heard the word Orgy. I don’t remember how young, but prolly around 4 or 5 years old. I was in church at the time. Through some odd fluke of acoustics and my child’s attention span, I actually heard something the pastor said. And in that something the pastor used that little word. He was talking about something horrible and evil, a sin.

Of course, I didn’t know what an orgy was, let alone why it would be a dark evil sin. But I was a good kid. I knew what to do when there was the threat of an unguarded sin looming on the horizon of my life. I went straight to my parents!

As we were leaving the church, I said, “Mom, what’s an orgy?”

“What?!” she exclaimed as only a full-blooded Italian mother could. She used that same tone she had used when she caught me stealing candy, “Where did you hear that?”

The confident courage I had mustered to ask the question was flooded out by a surge of fear. Whatever this orgy thing was, it was so bad that I wasn’t even supposed to know the word existed! Ooooh, I was in trouble now! But what could I do? I had already opened the topic up for a general discussion with one of the two most authoritative people in my life. There was nothing to do but succumb to the interogation.

I managed to find my voice enough to answer her, “In church just now.” My voice quavered a little.

“Oh,” she said simply. Then, “Ask your father.”

It was strange. All that attention she had been focusing on me, on digging out the roots of my transgressions suddenly vanished. No, not vanished, it inverted. Instead of directing all her divining attention on me, she was actually trying to divert my attention away from her. And I, being but a child, had no choice but to be diverted.

“Dad?” I said as we were walking out to the car, “What’s an orgy?”

“What?” he said comparitively calmly. “Where did you hear that?” he demanded with a calm intensity that was somehow even more intimidating than my mother’s boiling exclamations.

“Uh,” I stammered, “In church.”

“You heard that word in church?” he asked incredulously, clearly not buying my story, which is really not surprising considering how often my stories were much more real in my head than out.

“Yes. From the pastor,” I said quickly, then quoted to him the phrase that the pastor had used.

“Oh,” he said. Really, he should have been impressed at how closely I had been paying attention, and how clearly I had remembered the sermon! Instead he seemed a little concerned that now he actually had to answer the question. He put on his best educational tone, then plunged right in, “An orgy is when several people all get together and have sex.”

“At the same time?” I asked incorrigibly.

“Yes, at the same time,” he answered stiffly.

And that’s the story of how I learned the word Orgy from church. Well where did you first hear the word Orgy?

. Topher

My New Snapshot Taker

Wow! Am I ever a bad photographer! I mean, horrid! Really bad!

I finally got a digital camera, since the ex-wife kept the “joint” digital camera we had. Oh, I can’t really complain about that, seeing as how it was a gift from her daddy and all. But really, it’s amazing how much stuff ended up in her hands. But I wasn’t waxing bitter about my divorce, no sir! I was telling you about my camera!

It’s a DSC-P93. Here’s Sony’s Buy Me Buy Me info site.

But really, I was talking about what a horrible photographer I am. I always thought that the art of photography was basically pretty simple. To get really good pictures, you had spend lots of money and understand how to work all this expensive equipment you just bought. But really almost anybody could do it. I just figured that point-and-shoot pictures are never that good because it’s all automated and the algorithms to make everything work really aren’t that great.

Well, it turns out that I’m wrong. Fancy that. Me! Wrong! Pah! Yeah, seems to be true though. See — my camera is actually pretty good about doing mostly the right thing in most circumstances. I just don’t know what I’m doing with it!

My friend Leigh,
though, is actually a pretty good photographer. So, right after getting my fancy little camera (which I’ve named Clopson) I had a little dinner party and invited a few people over. Among the people were this adorable little family, and Leigh, of course. (It’s from “cyclops” and “sony” if you really must know — now pay attention!) At one point I tried to take a picture of this cute little family because they were all bunched up and looking… yeah, cute. I took a couple shots of them then handed the camera to Leigh while I ran off and did something else. And she took a single shot of them.

I was reviewing the pictures the next day. My shots all sucked. Her one shot was fanfuggingtastic. Same camera, same point of view, same lighting. I’ll add the pics in here when I get a chance.

So… I apparently have a lot to learn about taking decent pictures. Yap.

. Topher

Xephyrus Xephyrus Everywhere!

How did my handle suddenly become so popular??? Apparently there are a couple other people who also call themselves Xephyrus floating around out there now.

One of them seems to have a crush on that cute little blondie tennis player, Anna Kuawhozziewhatsit. Another seems to be an online game junkie, slapping his (or her) arm for a new injection of EverQuest or whatever the latest addiction is. Another apparently thinks he (or she) is a poet.

Of course, I think I’m a poet… so maybe that was me…

. Topher