what about urban golfing? these folks adapted the ritzy ritual to a fun little city game with instantly customizable targets. trash cans and fire hydrants were among the objects cited by the city-dwellers as appropriate to aim for.


i watched as they reached with clubs to retrieve stray balls, joking about how selecting a luxury car as their next target. but what makes the game safe for play in downtown portland? tennis balls. now you know.

making waves

there's a calm in the lethargy
of minutes on the sofa i will miss
there's a nothing-will-be-calm-again
again, but i'm familiar with this
illusory imminence

and this too shall slide
into the never-ending and always beginning

do you ever read, honey
a poem about yourself and think 'goddamn!
that doesn't do me justice at all'
well i don't
by dating poets, i've been immortalized

by living in the past,
by speaking out of turn,
by loving dreamers,
i've not always been loved
(but at least i've been considered)

now is not the time to be sad
now is not the
time to be

now is the nicotine, now is the whiskey shots
now is the time to cash in on all of our 'no guarantees'
now is reason enough to make our nerve endings bleed,
to embrace breakers in an ocean full of entropy
and learn to love each other from across the thrashing sea

out of breath, in the
rear-view mirrorworld,


sleep, cynicism

is any of this worthwhile?
all these thoughts about God, religion and the church (and i intentionally separate terms) keep tumbling out. i don't know about you, but sometimes i see this blog as a cynical rail against the sect i grew up in, a lamentable reaction to the regrettable discovery of a deep, deep emptiness.


i have been looking back at what i've written, and through all of the negative comments and sarcastic accusations, i've seen a coherent thread of progress. this is going somewhere. but progress isn't always so great. is it?

maybe not. but the way i see things, we are, all of us, in a nearly hopeless predicament of apparent meaninglessness; maybe the disillusioned try not to think of it, while the comfortable 'make their own meaning.' the especially bold will claim transcendent truth (that, and people who get paid to claim it).

the problem is that people starve, are attacked, are killed. maybe i naively believe that every famine has a solution, every war is misguided and every addiction or mental illness speaks to a lack of something.

God. how can we fix this?
it's like we're complacently lost at sea, and i'm like 'it's hurricane season. let's go.' you can ask me where, but we all know the answer to that one. anywhere.

so where are you going with this?
i'm in a state of crisis because i haven't found a voice that's strong enough to calm the storm of our times. can we really abide sickness, famine and war? can we really call them part of God's plan?

people commonly use the idea of God as a calming influence that will help them sleep at night. but i think if we really believed in God, we would find it just that much harder to sleep. 

hell. that's more like it:
if we say we value human life, then there is absolutely no way we can be ok with a God who doesn't. christianity champions such a God.

if we say we know the divine Author of the universe, then we had better have some damn good answers for our actions...

poussin's victory of joshua over the amelekites.

maybe what i'm arguing for most of all is to get people out of this state of certainty and complacency, and into the wasteland of doubt and possibility. have we constructed these comfortable idealogical cocoons only to sleep through the epidemics and the genocide?

no. i really believe that if we stop and think about it, we can't accept the pathetic and crippling notion that 'He's got the whole world in His hands.' it might help us sleep at night, but that won't make it any more true.




i've been on the road for much of the last few weeks. here are some pictures to that effect:

the last of the landlines.


darklit sepialand.

...which way to go? 

this dude.

tree (+synthetic vibrance)..

..what an opportunity

ok, that's all.

- j


some thoughts on abandoning christianity

crack a window and let the
universe in

days are blurring together. 
i am more frequently confronted with the probability that it is naive to assume God in anything, and deceptive to pretend He is. a nostalgically charged song pervades my subconsciousness, and suddenly instead i want this or that (him or her)...

in the abjectly pretended certainty of such observational claims, my thoughts are revealed as frivolous little adventures. 'isn't that cute?' quips a sarcastic and unassuming self from somewhere below the calm.

maybe most of the trouble is all my assuming. other people who dropped serious christianity to sink like the millstone it is have ended up as addicts, as unstable flounderers in the ocean outside. it's hard to abandon your basis for reality, no matter how fucked up it is. it's hard to be unsure, and it's easy to be wrong.

but i can't live life on unstable assumptions; not even for convenience sake. a modern augustine might have said: 'the church is a violent, racist, sexist, slave-mongering, war-justifying, genocidal whore. and i hate that bitch.'

it's disconcerting to apply a modern perspective to a religion that has asserted its infallibility through dozens of wars, thousands of internal schisms and at least a few witch hunts... it's disconcerting, but it needs to be done. otherwise people will keep telling me that we've finally got it right.

wrong again
i will inevitably have to face up to a steadily lengthening list of inadequacies. but my pathetic notions of certainty didn't make me any more right, any more wrapped up in love.

i invite the reader to celebrate the realization that they are right about everything but possibly a few minor points in their theological doctrine. others who disagree are either ignorant, rebellious or the ever-popular "led astray."

as for me, i don't know the way to where i hope He is. and this is such a horribly big deal.



monday is apparently not a big blogging day. that's completely understandable, world. i mean, i really want to read your juicy updates, but i understand. you're a busy planet.

so, i put together a few pictures:

kitchen fire.

o. the. sun.

free bus ride.

free alley.


scrolls, etc.

this cat from the whitaker (yeah, babe!)

the faster i walk,
the warmer i feel
forgetting my coat
that's on the coatstand
purchased for
the season.

the faster i walk,
the less i feel bad
which i've decided,
has its place
but doesn't know it.


so in the deepest blue part of the morning,
i was right about the sky and wrong about the
(it was only light reflecting off my cornea.)
and i connected you and me without sufficient

it wasn't us,
but what's the difference?


i spent my
first six days
digging up scrolls.
on the seventh one i met you,
maybe soon and maybe since.

it's just like you to laugh at me,
trying to think of you in terms of me,

there isn't space for all of this.
you are and maybe someday i'll be.
we're out of sight and out of time
(which isn't real, but might as well be).

(thanks to mel for editing this poem.)



smoky and his friends have lied to you. arson is the only way to true enlightenment. to prove it, check out these photos of things:

bike by roommate.


can't get enough of that waffle sound.

scared of losing all the time?

goats are the future.

no imagine them all on fire. k cool.


a ten-thousand-pound lid

this is a continuation of an earlier post entitled the God in my box.

one of the most difficult dilemmas in my life right now is the debate over how to treat the bible. it's true that i live in one of the most adamantly christian nations on earth, and to add to that i am surrounded by people who are convinced that the protestant bible is the infallible word of God. this is how i grew up. 

this dumpster has an incredibly difficult lid
as well. just don't read into it too much.
i was taught to believe "in the beginning.." and "for God so loved..." before i could form sentences on my own, and these are among the verses that i vehemently defended until a year ago. thankfully, life experiences have recently prompted me to ask some very specific questions.

it seems very obvious to me now that the belief system i once subscribed to is built on a series of half truths and convenient assumptions, which would not hold up against a little critical thinking and solid reasoning. how about yours?

while this entire issue may seem irrelevant to many, i have found it very valuable to have an ongoing discussion regarding the evolution of my stance on belief and religion with those around me. it has helped me to think critically and stay sane.

would you like to join the discussion? the following are just
 three of the main reasons that i simply could not give up my faith in the bible as higher truth for so very long. enjoy! (and feel free to disagree in the comment box below)

three myths i whole-heartedly believed about the bible

(1) inerrancy
the argument for the inerrancy of scriptures was initially taught to me in apologist form. i had already embraced the biblical texts as the highest from of truth due to songs and mantras that i learned in sunday school and at home. in reality, i believed in inerrancy of the scriptures chiefly because of vacation bible school songs like "i believe the bible is the word of God."

when i actually did learn the basis for our belief in divinely inspired and uncompromised nature of the bible, it was in fragmentary form. archaeological evidence was referenced in passing. the cohesiveness of the texts 
(addressed below) 
was invoked. by far the most compelling reason i was given was that literally billions of people have embraced the christian faith over literally thousands of years.

how could two billion christians be wrong? there are a billion muslims who can tell you exactly how.

i remember asking my mother why certain books were chosen for inclusion in the bible while others were left out. she replied that by the time of the council of nicea (325 ad, when the bible as we know it was assembled), it was obvious which books had changed people's lives and which had not. and this answer sticks with me to this day. 

in a certain sense my mom was right;  belief in the inerrancy of the bible does change people's lives. but i would argue that you can take any book and bestow upon it the status of higher truth, wholeheartedly living according to the (real or imagined) principles contained in it. there is no doubt that that book will change your life.

(2) morality
maybe the biggest misnomer about the biblical texts is that they are collectively expressive of a set of transcendent values. for years 
i have heard 
from parents, church leaders and friends who i studied the bible with that the bible never contradicts itself.

this is categorically untrue. there are so many contradictions within the current biblical texts that the problem of agreeing on an interpretation for application has started actual wars. 
this one task occupies the minds of millions of intelligent scholars around the globe, and has preoccupied millions more for literally sixteen hundred years. their failure is testified to by the existence of thousands of distinct christian groups, many antagonistic and some willing violently prejudiced against each other.

for years, when i would point out a contradiction in the biblical texts i was studying, my friends or family or family members would point to a lack of faith on my part. sometimes they would follow this by expressing their concern that i was looking for a reason to ignore the moral standards in the bible. 

however, my motivation for questioning the veracity of the biblical texts wasn't always motivated by an irrational and nihilistic rebellion. much to the contrary, my greatest motivation was often genuine desire to understand what is true about the world, about God.

in a structure of belief that depends on the interpretation of the biblical morals as a basis for community, questions like mine were outside of the scope of discussion. 
i think this is why it took me until long after i left the church to establish a clear line of thinking about the possibility of a transcendent moral structure throughout the scriptures. 

it was only after i left the church that i was able to take more seriously the observation that the biblical authors are saying radically different things. there actually didn't seem to be much of a continuous thread uniting them...

(3) cohesiveness
and this brings me to the most prevalent myth of all. i was previously convinced of the notion that the biblical texts represented a whole document that revealed God's unfolding plan of redemption to humanity.

the trouble is that these texts do not appear to be written by God, but by several people over the course of more than a thousand years. there can be no cohesiveness of the biblical texts as a whole for the same reason that we have failed over the centuries to successfully extract a coherent moral structure from the these books. these notions have traditionally been read into the text, but the reality they assert doesn't intrinsically manifest itself to the critical reader.

there is no transcendent take-home message - probably because no such message was intended.

to sum up
if you think about it, none of the aforementioned myths have solid foundations in the biblical texts in the first place. the biblical texts never claim to be part of a cohesive 66-part volume; and no author could make the claim that their writings would not contradict those of the other authors, because many of them didn't even know about each other. it's true that a few of the canonized authors make claims regarding the supernatural inspiration of their books, but the vast majority do not.

i confess that i don't express as much faith as i once did. but i actually look at this as a good thing. my faith was not primarily in God, or even the bible, but in culturally absorbed myths about the bible. 

but what should we believe? or is faith obsolete?

i have no answers to these questions. but maybe we have over-focused on belief out of convenience or out of fear. maybe we have made too many (or too few) conclusions. whatever the case, i suggest we take a closer look at what we believe to start with.

as ever,



what's wrong with faith?

i learned from a sign on a guy's backpack that the world is ending. then there were the silent protestors with the "atheists love you" signs, and little mennonite children holding signboards that encouraged the onlookers to repent. there were bibles being waved at a crowd of at least two hundred. oh, the joys of eugene!

yesterday's hilarious collision of belief systems at the e.m.u. (spectator video) got pretty ugly at some points. there was a lot of screaming and name-calling. basically, it was brilliant to watch.

multiple times i saw people come down from the crowd and either debate or support the fundamentalist preacher. there was often rudeness on both ends, while the crowd crudely moderated by either drowning out or screaming "let him speak."

amid the crass yelling and un-stifled laughter, i thought i could sense a sort of excitement that goes beyond the usual mocking. there seems to be a suppressed desire for discourse on belief and its real-world consequences; and this in a university that patronizingly treats serious belief like pop art.

and then there's the phenomenon of the chomsky speech, during which people literally sat outside in the cold listening on a speaker after the lecture hall and all the satellite video locations were full to capacity.

here are several generations of self-proclaimed free thinkers (with anachronistically unthinkable volumes of information available on their cellphones) cramming in to lecture halls to hear the conclusions of an almost an almost resolutely anti-polemical 92-year-old linguist. is there really so much popular disgust with contemporary politics? what gives?

we have developed in western academic culture what the contemporary thinker sam harris refers to as "balkanized discourse." once we enter university, our beliefs never engage our knowledge or experiences in way a that would make us alter either of them. this is the foundation for religious moderation in the west.

this separation of brain and faith is actually a good thing on an individual level. if what you want out of life is peace of mind and a sense of community, then mindlessly embracing conflicting ideologies is a very effective approach. however, on a societal level this poses some serious issues.

religious moderates, who support, for example, the bible can't in good conscience take it all literally. there are several roadblocks to this, including revisionism among the later canonized jewish thinkers (see romans 9, hosea 1-2), cultural specificities (see paul's letters) and considerations of genre (jonah is a satire, jesus' parables are metaphorical, etc.)

however, there are obviously those who take the bible so literally that they feel the need to subjugate women and shout the hell-fire gospel on college campuses. not so long ago in many western nations there were those who took the bible so literally that they saw fit to capture and enslave africans, and there there remains a remnant who tolerate the wars based on biblical precedence.

we are subject to extremists because we have separated our knowledge (science and culture) from our religious beliefs (things we accept "on faith" without critically analyzing them). if religious moderates stand up and defend the teaching of books they don't believe in (like the bible or the qur'an), then they give license to religious literalists to take them to their violent and/or repressive extremes.

no wonder people are so enamored by the areligious discourses of chomsky and fascinated by the hyper-religious shoutings of the open-air preachers. at least these people are addressing the issue!

modern tolerant culture is at once forming and suppressing the expression of a dilemma - while on one hand we are overwhelmed by information and unable to cohesively process it, on the other we are willfully engaging in the internalization of contradictory science and belief.

these two problematics combine for what i would argue is one of the biggest issues facing mankind - for all of our certainty, we can't form a coherent worldview. more than simply tragic, this confusion makes us vulnerable to the loudest propaganda and the most subtle culturally dissolved falsities. if we don't take advantage of our desire for greater meaning, we can have no doubt that someone else will.

as ever,


"shawn the baptist" also made an appearance
at oregon state (photo: fsa osu).


midwestern kids (offensive)

midwestern kids and their midwestern drugs


if i'm underneath the weather, i'm not only feeling down.
i don't think i can quantify the emptiness i've found.
now the interstate is freezing through an avalanche of spin,
i can only stop and shiver as the cold pollutes my skin...


come friday, i’m
cryogenically inclined
or maybe i’m in and not of
the in-and-not-of-crowd
something’s wrong with my social id
like i'm simply simple in this so-complex, or
i want truth and love in this money and sex...

i smoke cigarettes now,
always have and always will.
you don’t have memories,
each moment is the only eternity.
a-blazingly curious after each fad,
(i want you, i want you, i want you so bad)
it's driving me mad, it’s driving me


but, i protest, i am more 
than just a conflated state of mind:
i am all of the people i've loved in the the past,
voices in the back of my consciousness:
'support the sys-tem.'

'fuck the man.'

'and life begins.'

the hype.

i am all of the resonance
of a dissonant shade
who saw sultry suburban settlements
entrusting god with their monies
and their monies with their god
and flew into a rage,
midwestern boys and their midwestern girls;
midwestern girls and their midwestern

people try to calm us down;
and, speaking of my generation,
i saw the sharpest of the sharp cutting doses,
the brightest of the bright lighting j's.
why should i,
and why should we,
behave any differently?

(i am swiftly losing traction on this question.)


so this is our lot, then?
staring at skies and
sleeping in shifts around the sun.
so it's always six a.m. somewhere.
but you, brother,
you go back to sleep:
this is my watch.


my unanchored wishful thinking
(grace an ocean, we're all sinking),
my textbook appeals to sentiment
approach my own thrown with confidence..
again, faith is fungible...
life is literal...
can't we all just get along?

no we can't, and;
if we can't afford to love each other,
we'll collapse into material binge,
we'll believe things for the peace of mind they bring
(you know what it is)


[the shivering god
is screaming at the bus stop


'come unto me
all you who are lowly,
and if you're barely getting by,
throw down your guns,
dump out your rum,
and i will get you high.
let the little children,
if they're down and out of luck...'
but midwestern kids and their midwestern christ
still don't give a fuck]



i'm held hostage by my socially-generated desires. advertising and its human-borne echos have irrevocably captured my understanding.

on what grounds do i ever need a cheeseburger?
...cup of coffee?
...new jacket?


running the atrociously grandiose numbers

this composite photo shows 320,000 light bulbs
 in an effort to illustrate the scale of in-home
power waste (from chris jordan's rtn).
"i enjoy exploring around our country's shipping ports and industrial junk yards... there I find evidence of a kind of slow-motion apocalypse in progress." - chris jordan

probably among the most unsettling sights in present-day eugene is the featured exhibit at the jordan schnitzer museum of art. an eclectic set of jumbo photographs depicting industrial waste and industry-driven culture hang on the four walls of the on-campus gallery's upper room - twenty photographs with captions that betray a tragic truth about contemporary american culture - that it is a catalyst in the accelerated destruction of the natural world.

among the phenomena depicted by the exhibit are junk mail, plastic bottles and breast augmentations, all in quantities massive enough to squash the casual visitor's expectations. it was precisely because i was a casual visitor, my observations were obliterated.

and this is the sentiment which i retained:
  • that many and maybe all of us are participants in the artificial projection of a commercially motivated conception of aesthetics onto the natural world through its destruction and strategic reformation.
  • that to call the american flavor of neocapitalism massively and unsustainably wasteful is comparable to unilaterally asserting that the roman empire was 'un-caring.' it just grazes the surface of the matter.
  • that our way of life, that my way of life needs to significantly change.
also: there is a moon made of 29,000 credit cards. honest.


eliot, fawkes, bin laden

abject villainy? a reasonable retrotrend.
there's nothing like social media to hyper-intensely explicate how temporal situations repeat. a friend had this as his status:
was osama bin laden simply
playing a role? (photo: @swanksalot)

a penny for the old guy

shape without form, shade without color
paralyzed force, gesture without motion...
those who have crossed...
to death's other kingdom
remember us - if at all - not as lost
violent souls, but only
as the hollow men
the stuffed men...

this is the way the world ends
this is the way the world ends
this is the way the world ends
not with a bang but with a whimper

- t. s. eliot (1925)

the original "old guy" from this poem was the british anarchist and famous attempted arsonist guy fawkes. the parallels been his life and death and that of bin laden are notable, and he may make a good half-forgotten folk hero someday (much to the chagrin of the nationalistic old guard).

few may agree that these two were good, but many are sympathetic to the notion that they stood against a great (and possibly greater) evil.

to raze a building in the name of a religion is an unredeemably banal action. bin laden and fawkes both got that wrong. but there is a take-home message.

both of these crazies lived in a world in which was safely in the grips of an elitist minority. and this continues: bin laden dead or alive, the world remains safe for the financial elite everywhere - they are safe from economic troubles, safe from terrorism, safe from ever having to work to increase their wealth. they are safe from facing the consequences of their lifestyle on the third world.

what have our famed arsonists and terrorists done wrong? plenty, and almost everything. killing, threatening and getting involved in religion. bin laden, for one, got his anti-western message all wrong. true, neocapitalist practices are a main cause of global starvation and perpetual economic depression in the third world. but killing people will only make him the bad guy. better methods must be engaged.

let's look for a moment at what fawkes and bin laden got right. first, they recognized that nothing they had done had in any way affected the "security" of the worlds they lived in. and then they did bigger things. i might suggest in times like this that you don't have to be crazy to engage in civil disobedience. maybe you just have to be informed.

we have silent hunger strike on our hands the world over, and all the western powers can think to do is to stabilize the oil-producing arab countries. wars in iraq, afghanistan and libya are just good-old police brutality on a global scale.

the world is in protest, and bin laden simply chucked the first brick (and got the cops called). but maybe more bricks need to be thrown. and maybe less people need to die.