Time to give Webcomic a try yet again?

Once upon a time, some years ago, I started a webcomic and then I stopped. There was many reasons, but chief amongst them was that I was not happy with the artistic direction as well as the rather broad nature and strange humour.

I realized now, that the funniest things to me are stuff about my own life and beliefs, the stuff I write about on facebook or joke about with friends in Whatsapp or Discord.

That’s where my humour shines.

So it’s perhaps time to restart. To once again, give webcomics a try. After all, I have lot to say, lots has been happening in my life, and my abilities have never been sharper. And if not now, when? Lockdown, Covid-19— all these things keeping me indoors and in front of a computer. When else would I have the chance to really just focus on pumping out some consistent work?

It might even give me content for my Youtube Channel. Maybe.

There’s another reason though. I am getting fairly serious about studying anatomy to improve my figure drawing. That’s not for webcomics or anything like that, but I recognize the need to express myself in alternative ways, ways that has nothing to do with my attempts to learn how to draw realistic anatomy.

Generosity and 仁

How do I find a meaningful field that can fulfill my objectives whilst being generous? What is generosity? According to Seth Godin, it is the kindness of authentic and meaningful work.

It doesn’t mean free, but it has to contribute in some way. In one sense, this means that making average work is not meaningful. What is creative?

Good design is generous. Authentic work is generous. Work that helps other is generous. Kindness and empathy is generous.

It reminds me, to an extent, of the Confucian virtue of Ren (仁), which is commonly translated as Benevolence, but should be best understood as mutuality or empathy.

“So, a man of Ren helps others become established if he desires to establish himself, and helps others reach their goals if he desires to reach his. Being able to make analogies between his own situations and those of others around him could be called the approach to Ren.”

— Confucius

Narrowing down my interests

I am no longer certain of what it is I should be doing. I have wide ranging interests, but a deep dissatisfaction with my present mastery (or complete lack of skill) in many many disciplines.

Ironically, the disciplines in which I am most adept (such as graphic design or marketing) are more of a means to an end, then an end unto themselves.

What is that end? What is it that I truly wish to pursue?

I want to grow my youtube channel, in fact, I started one, in secret. It was terrible, it focused on the arts, or at least, on the random things I create, but was very broad.

I have to really question whether documenting (vlogging) my hobbies and drawing practices really mean anything. Whether anyone really cared for that.

I don’t think they do.

When creating something, we need to ask whether that product serves a purpose. Whether my content serves anyone.

I was also nervous talking to the mic, being nervous when talking is uncharacteristic of me. Yet I was nervous nonetheless.

Regardless, I felt I needed to return to the drawing board and figure out what it was that I really wanted to do, and why.

Here are my interests. I need to cut some of these off as mere hobbies (because that’s what it is when you can’t muster the discipline to do them everyday), and which ones are what I really want to do. The things I actually need to make happen.

  • Humanities (Religion, Philosophy, History)
  • The Visual Arts (Drawing, Painting, Sculpting)
  • Board Game Design
  • Writing
  • Graphic Design
  • Marketing & Advertising
  • Business
  • Dancing
  • Music
  • Film Studies and Literature
  • Education
  • Politics
  • Science.

Right away, we cut away the things I don’t actually know enough or would ever know enough to be able to master. Those would probably be hobbies at best. So that list now look something like:

  • Humanities (Religion, Philosophy, History)
  • The Visual Arts (Drawing, Painting, Sculpting)
  • Board Game Design
  • Writing
  • Graphic Design
  • Marketing & Advertising
  • Business
  • Education

That’s still not good enough. Or rather at this point, I need to ask myself what I can combine together to make them into a single field I can practice with. I realized that Graphic Design, Marketing & Advertising, Business, and Education are all byproducts of the jobs I do, or supports for my own personal goals and projects. There’s no need to “master” them, until they become relevant to what it is I’m doing.

So now we’re left with the four things I probably truly want to do.

  • Humanities (Religion, Philosophy, History)
  • The Visual Arts (Drawing, Painting, Sculpting)
  • Board Game Design
  • Writing

But it is wise to focus on only one thing. So how do I make all of this relevant and practicable at the same time? And if not done together, what is it that is holding me back right now on each of these fields?

Humanities = I am always learning new things, through podcasts, books, other people, and personal spiritual cultivation.

Visual Arts = I am always learning about this. But I need to practice more, on a daily basis. Right now, I am trying to figure out anatomy. And I hope to get better at sculpting because of it, and making better art, fan-art, and even webcomics.

Boardgame Design = I am always working on one prototype or another. But I need to finish, instead of always second guessing myself.

Writing = I need to write everyday. I need to, as Seth Godin says, ship something everyday. Make something happen everyday. So this blog, I will try to post a blog post every single day, just as Seth Godin does. Now to be clear, I also write a lot on facebook and Discord. Perhaps I need cut down on what I write in those spaces, and focus on writing here on my blog. Perhaps I should consider whether I should migrate to Medium or some other platform to better serve my needs.

And of course, this hasn’t really helped me figure out what to do about my Youtube Channel. Perhaps I can combine my passion for the humanities with my art and storytelling. God knows it’s already part of my writing. Maybe it can become part of my boardgame designs too.

I need to think about it. But before I even know what I want to do, I need to start doing it. Start before you’re ready. Because you’ll never be ready. I am never ready, I never will be. So I just start.

Reflecting on my near lost of faith.

If you grew up like me, you hear all kinds of wild claims.

But after you actually studied basic philosophy, religion and history (originally because I wanted to defend these claims), you start to realize religious and institutional mythology aren’t always literally true; nor are they even compatible with each other and that’s not a problem, as long as one accepts religious diversity. Unfortunately, this is not always acceptable. Instead, there’s the tendency for cheap syncreticism, which is just sloppy and lazy. If you don’t know, just accept the mystery of it. Mystery is okay. But materialists always want to be certain.

What kind of claims do I find problematic? Many.

I am sorry, I am supposed to believe that this sutra’s claims are true, whilst also simultaneously accepting that this sutra’s AUTHOR is not a member of the true faith? That doesn’t even make any sense.

I am supposed to accept this children’s educational material from 17th century China is an infallible reflection of the teachings of Confucius? That this commentary on the Mahayana Sutras is infallible? That this frankly fictional hagiography is literally true, word for word? Don’t make me laugh.

I am suppose to accept that these foreign religious figures, whose teachings were conveniently propagated to China are somehow true, but that hundreds of other religious figures and their teachings, whose teachings were coincidentally not propagated to China at that time (or was historically destroyed), is therefore not true?

I am suppose to ignore the taint of ethno-nationalism and colonializing tendencies in religion? I really hate nationalism.

How about to so grossly misread and misinterpret Paul (not that he’s someone you should read as infallible either, since he was just a normal man too). My God. I couldn’t translate any of this with a straight face. Fortunately, it’s labeled as commentary. Thankfully. I would have huge problems if anyone claimed this was true.

How can I claim to have true faith if I ignore all of these heresies and lapse of discernment?

Don’t get me started on having to accept some heretical American Evangelical revisionism of Jesus and biblical history, just because that’s the only form of Christianity you have ever been exposed to. But you know, it’s okay. All of that I can accept, it doesn’t make a religion not true or unworthy of practice.

The hard part is getting the religious fanatics to leave you alone. They seem very invested in forcing you to be a literalist, or forcing you to accept infallibility (contrary to the teachings clearly making it clear infallibility is possible) but that doesn’t jive with their mistaken assumption about what they think religion is, nor what spiritual cultivation is. Fortunately, these days, I have divest myself of the influence of severely misguided people, and keep to myself.

This is for the best, engaging with people like that only makes me unfairly hate religion. It’s the people that are the problem.

I have little faith, but I am deeply invested in keeping that little faith as true as possible. 99% of “faith” is actually just constructs you can toss out if necessary. But that 1% that is true is worth cultivating.

The horrific realization you were actually influenced by borderline fundamentalists while growing up is truly terrifying (and I have this tendency to take their words seriously or with obedience, and that has lead to very dark times in my life), but the saving grace was that actual teachings are the opposite of fundamentalism (that’s the case for any religion, really).

That has saved me, along with close friends who have encouraged me to keep faith— ironically, none of them are members of my faith, or even religious. The people my religious communities would claim are “inferior” or sinful, are the ones who helped me, but I can’t even voice my own doubts to my so-called peers because literalists are incapable of critical thinking, and tends to react with smug condescension or outright hostility (especially because they believe they are more elderly, they are magically wiser. A typical Chinese fallacy). How funny is that.

Scepticism is a great tool of self-understanding, it is no wonder that the Buddha preached it so much. Unfortunately for fundamentalists, skepticism and insight destroys blind faith and malpractice; and they would react with hostility or try to gas-light you.

Toy Story 4, Initial Thoughts

The Theology of Toy Story 4 is a fascinating one, and easily more mature than the previous entries. I will wrote an entire article about all four films at some point.

Minor spoilers ahead!

My hot take that will require more refinement: I can immediately see how your typical monotheistic exclusivist types might have trouble reconciling the theology depicted in this 4th entry with the rest, and indeed, I read an essay just now by a religious person who feels that the 4th film compromised the foundation of the previous films’ themes.

It seems the exclusivist monotheists feel that Toy Story 4 renounces God! Ha! Well, they’re not wrong, Toy Story 4 does renounce God. But this is not a problem.

The first 3 films shows Woody’s evolution from blind faith to eventual true faith, this 4th film show his evolution into a greater spirituality that dissolves the need for an “image” of a Kid (of a single religion and all the psychosomatic accessories— the mythology— that implies) altogether.

The theology makes sense to me, more than that, it is exactly how I see the natural evolution of religiosity and spirituality. It shows a dawning insight into the nature of the relationship between Toys and the World that defies the simple mythology of a Creator and Creation, or any other metaphors we can choose to base our life on.

Far from a metaphor for atheism, it destroys both theism and atheism as the anthropological constructs that they both rightly are. Realizing religion and all doctrines as construct is a cornerstone moment of true faith.

Woody’s embarkment upon the transcendental path of a saviour instead of merely another toy that needed to be loved by a kid, is the logical conclusion of his tendencies to save others shown in the previous films.

A Toy does not need to be loved by a Kid construct in order to have faith. A Toy does not even need a Kid construct in order to have faith.

A Toy with Faith serves the same moral purpose that Kids exist for; a Toy’s purpose is NOT “to make a kid happy” as the first 3 Toy Story films would have us believe.

The Toys have evolved spiritually, though not all viewers will appreciate their abandonment of religious construct.

Toy Story 4 is the esoteric path, however, just like the Toys required a hierarchal construct as a foundation to their cultivation, so do we. You can’t just jump into the path of a “Lost Toy” without any grounding, or you will truly be lost.

The phenomenological and experiential reality of magic.

“[Magic is] a category of exclusion, used to define an unacceptable way of thinking as either the opposite of religion or of science”.
— Karen Louise Jolly

Justin in 2019: Magic is mostly nonsense, but if it existed, it’s because some people have woo powers beyond my understanding.

Justin in 2020-2021: I am forced to accept that the phenomenological and experiential reality of magic is true, even if this doesn’t prove its objective existence.

The reason I am forced to accept this is because I reject that an objective existence is possible at all, therefore, all subjective experiences takes priority as the primary reality.

Since all modern magic deals with enacting experiential change (ie, of the mind in a world which is mind only), magic is therefore a real phenomena experienced by some peoples.

If Ontological Idealism is true, then the implications are more profound.

Magic is difficult to prove, because it is not a standardized experience, but is an experience everyone experiences for themselves as unique and true, even if other people cannot experience it.

It is much like a religious experience, or even a scientific one. Suppose you don’t take a mathematical equation on faith, not everyone have the ability to go and verify its veracity (to experience it for themselves), but if they did, they would be utterly convinced it really is true (despite the fact that math as a discipline is of course, a construct, and could be very wrong on several axioms).

Likewise, someone who has personally talked to Jesus would be unlikely to consider another cause for why they had (to them) an authentic theophanic experience.

God, all influence, but no power.

Some accuse God of negligence regarding creation. It’s not that God doesn’t care, but His power of unilateral intervention is limited or non-existent.

God has the supreme power of influence (divine inspiration), but His nature as the ontological whole also locks him into a nature which is necessarily “immutable” and thus not all-powerful (omnipotence is not an attribute of God).

God has no free will, and never created anything literally, rather, his “creation” is what was already emerging out of chaos as a natural process (continuous creation; or creation-evolution 造化). Whatever is the limitations of nature is the limitations of God. Whatever is the limitations of God is the limitations of nature. But note that “nature” is an abstraction of human conceptual origin. When we say nature, we mean the phenomena we consider as occurring by themselves without human agency or divine agency.

But what if both human agency and divine agency are natural processes and thus not wholly in human nor divine control? Did you choose to be born? Did you choose to control your evolutionary history? Did you choose to be a conscious being?

Neither did God. This is really putting a new spin on “made in God’s image”— that we are alike due to our naturalness, rather than due to a supposed divine origin.
God is not equivalent to nature (not pantheism). He is not the world, but he is co-eternal to its processes.

But that being said, where is God though? What even is God?

He is not separate from nature, but is also not equivalent to it. If the world is the “body”, than God is the “spirit”— that is to say, there is an ontological distinction that distinguishes God from World, but they are mutual processes in all other respects.

Pantheism (god is world) is wrong. But Panentheism (god pervades world) might be correct.

Now, since you are part of nature, and God is part of nature; whatever we experience as good or evil is no more God’s fault than it is our own.

If there is any negligence, it is plainly mostly our own, since unlike God, we have much greater agency (conditional free will) due to our position in the world as a changing “part”, but not the “whole” (which would be unceasing change, and thus static, and thus God).

“Why do God not stop evil?”, should really be “why won’t you?”If the Mind wants to treat an illness, the Mind influences the Body to do so by taking medicine or performing surgery. The Mind cannot “will” miraculous healing. In this allegory, Mind is God, and Body is Mankind— and by extension, the entire Universe of human experience.

We have all experienced the truth of “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” in our personal lives; but that is also how God is related to us. He cannot move us, because we are unwilling to be moved— but moving us is the only thing God can do. By nature, he cannot do anything else.

Flat Earth, Skepticism, and Religion.

The Buddhists of early-modern to modern times, in Japan and Thailand, had difficulty accepting that the world was round. They were astonished at the Western claims of a round Earth, because it contradicted their interpretation of scripture. One Buddhist in Japan built an elaborate 3D model of a Small-World system to “prove” to the Westerners that a Flat Earth was true, and that the Devas of Trayamstrimsa lived on the Sun.

Ironically, a Buddhist in Tibet in the 1930’s argued that it was foolish to believed that the Earth was flat just because the Buddha seemed to have said so, he argued that because global scholarship accepted that the Earth was round, Tibetans should do so as well.

The Indians of the Buddha’s time had models of a spherical Earth (though one where the Earth was at the centre of the Universe— a geocentric model), however this contradicts the Buddha’s own cosmological model, which instead lay out the Universe in flat tiers of realities, which also organized them into systems great and small. In this schema, the Earth, and the human realm in general, is a small part of a larger cosmic system, not the centre of anything.

Did the Buddha believed in a flat earth though? Why would the Buddha not have been aware of the spherical Earth theory, when the Indians at the time already knew this?

But none of the Dharmic religions (Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism) ever explained a spherical Earth even though it should have been obvious to their astronomers and mathematicians that the Earth was round.Because religion is not specifically about the sciences (though in many time periods, they were the same), and it is not necessarily explaining phenomena in a context we would consider scientific today.

If religion was about science, why bother having religion? If the Buddha wanted to teach science, why did he become a monk, he could have a full time tenure Nalanda University instead (incidentally, he did teach a term there).

Even if the Buddha was aware the world was round, and bothered teaching about a round earth, who would have listened? No doubt to the masses of the Indian sub-continent, almost everyone believed in a flat Earth— it is intuitive to believe so after all. It would have been a meaningless distraction to the main thrust of his philosophy.

That’s a big if, of course. It’s entirely possible that the Buddha was himself a flat-earther. This would be no fault of his really, since the vast population of the world all believed fervently that the Earth was flat (it’s funny though, the model of the Universe today is usually portrayed as a flat shape, so if one were to believe that there was no true division between Earth and the cosmos, a flat world model isn’t even entirely unreasonable, even though the planet Earth is certainly spherical in the context of the sciences).

My point is, scripture is not about objective reality, and it is foolish to waste time conflating scientific disciplines with religion and vice versa. They are different kinds of philosophical schemas, dealing with different kinds of problems.

However, historical and scientific claims that are related to religion need to be historically and scientifically accurate. This is not a matter of faith, but of extraordinary claims.

We know that Noah was a mythological figure, even if there was a possibility that his story was inspired by one or more ancient Iranian whose farm animals was saved on a coracle, and later adopted by the Israelites in exile in Babylon.

We know that Moses was a legendary figure, and was likely a Levite Chieftain from Egypt. We know that creationism is obviously untrue for myriad reasons. This is true enough from critical studies of the Bible.

We know that there was no Dragons who gave Nargajuna sutras, we know that Maitreya likely never revealed anything to Asanga— since we know all of their philosophies developed over time and was contextualized to the Buddhist philosophical development of the day.

Development and evolution of doctrines and stories are not attributes of divine revelation; if it was truly divinely revealed out of nowhere, then it would be a completed whole, and wouldn’t have such obvious human elements and histories in the text. Related to this is of course my view that the Qur’an could have been divinely inspired, but limited by Muhammad’s personal scope of knowledge (which are limited to the languages and religions he could have known only in the vicinity of Arabia).

Popular stories and claims are about spiritual matters (and sometimes political or folkloric matters, in the events where religious stories are tied to founding mythologies of certain countries and peoples and their customs), but the moment a believer claim these are objectively true events, we must deny them and use the proper tools to analyze this claim.

Hells should not exist in the Minds of Bodhisattvas.

Namo great compassionate Avalokitesvara, May I soon unite with the Dharma-Nature Body.
If I go towards the mountain of knives, the mountain of knives of itself breaks up;
If I go towards the boiling oil, the boiling oil of itself dries up;
If I go towards the hells, the hells of themselves disappear;
If I go towards the hungry ghosts, the hungry ghosts of themselves become full.
If I go towards the demons, their evil thoughts of themselves are tamed.
If I go towards the animals, they themselves attain great wisdom.

— Excerpt from the Maha Karuna Dharani,  the Great Compassion Mantra of Avalokitesvara 

Although the so-called Hell-worlds irrevocably exist as a natural result of the cosmic ecosystems’ bodily permutations (re-becoming, or punabbhava), as a Bodhisattva aspirant, acknowledging the Hells is a betrayal of our fundamental compassion.

Our mind cannot be pure if we believe in Hells, or that anyone could enter them. It is impossible. Consider that there is no abiding self (anatman), for we are all one ecosystem— how can any part of this ecosystem be allowed to transform into the realm of pain? How can this separation be possible so long as any one of us clings to the path of liberation?

Worlds are clusters of sentient beings, they are not space-times of their own. They do not really exist, just as sentient beings do not really exist. They abide in nowhere, within the sphere of experience of a single veridical awareness (a Buddha).

As such, categorically, the Hellworlds cannot exist for me. It hasn’t, for a long time. And all beings who die in my sphere of experience (which is itself, the sphere of experience of the Dharmakaya), I often imagine and visualize that I keep them aloft in a Pure Realm. I have a hazy, barely cognizant and unspoken vow, that our Buddha-field (for I cannot do it alone) will prevent all beings in my sphere of experience from ever transforming into Hell-worlds. And that the very concept of Hell should be abolished from our minds. For the Hells should be as valid an existence and as happy as the rest of the innumerable worlds. That from my point of view, that my awareness of the cosmos is luminous from world to world.

This is the rightful Bodhisattva mentality. This is the only mentality that is correct. For we can acknowledge that Hell is a real phenomena, but we refuse to entertain the notion that anyone “deserves” or “has entered” such a state; for in YOUR mind, the deceased are kept safe and rises together with you through Anumodana (the sympathetic joy of spectators witnessing the holy qualities practiced by you, thus attaining for themselves the same holy quality).

I have not yet uttered this vow, because it is too vast for me to do so. But the desire grows stronger day by day.

We are sown a natural body, and raised a spiritual one.

My thesis: The Kingdom of Heaven is the extrinsic manifestation of the intrinsic Resurrection. For we are sown “a natural body” and we are “raised a spiritual body.” For the Kingdom is a mustard seed, small and invisible, and grows into a mighty tree that birds come and perch in its branches. The Kingdom and the Resurrection are one. We will not enter the Kingdom until we die. For what you sow does not come to life until it dies. If a child becomes a man, that child is dead. If a seed becomes a tree, that seed has died. If you have become a spiritual body, the natural body has died. If the Kingdom has come, this world is dead.

The Kingdom is not a place, but a Nation. And a Nation is it’s people. A resurrected people. This is why they are the same.

Now, please note I do not take a stance here on whether the resurrection is bodily or not (that’s an ontological problem in my opinion. What does being alive even mean?).

Supporting argument 1: He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32 NIV)

Supporting argument 2: But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. (1 Corinthians 15: 35-37 NIV)

Supporting argument 3: It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man (1 Corinthians 15:44-49 NIV)

Conclusion: Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV)

Note: Yes, this is, I realized later, similar to Orthodox theology, and also to the positions of preterism. Though I was initially inspired by Buddhist theology.

Intrinsically Pure

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. If I practice experiencing the world as intrinsically pure, I have saved myself. If others experience the world as intrinsically pure, we will have saved the world.Philosophy, precepts, and creed are just expedient means (like gestures, wireframes, and blueprints). They don’t mean anything by themselves, and can’t help people see intrinsic purity.

Gestures, wireframes, and blueprints* are not a means unto themselves, we have to see beyond and acknowledge that they are merely the fundamentals to establishing the Pure Mind. When we practice the fundamentals, we see that there is no such thing as “practice makes perfect”. Rather, “perfect practice makes perfect” is the mentality we should have. Which is why, that those who establish the Pure Mind have established it, and that those who don’t never will no matter how hard they work**.

It is a matter of self-will, and our cognizance of it; the awareness of what it is that we seek to transform in ourselves (which is everything we experience).What causes change is in turn changed. If we see them purely, they learn to see themselves purely. And when they see us purely, we see ourselves purely too***.

Our awareness of purity itself makes us pure. And thus by mutual arising, peace is established in the minds of mankind, and thus the world.

*I’ve been doing a lot of art lately, it colours my analogies.

**Not because they never could, just that only at the moment of establishing a pure mind is it established, and wrong practice is that which doesn’t lead to it (which is almost all practice, because it lacks a clear direction; a clear cognizance of the essence of mind. Without implicit faith in the Buddha-nature within oneself and the Intrinsic purity of the world, you cannot realize it).

***I think I was also hinting at Agape here, which is a tripartite codependent love; that of the love of God towards Man, Man towards God, and Man towards Man.

The Vastness of Indeterminacy; and its endless awe.

From September 24th, 2019

When I was a child I wanted to write silly fantasy novels exploring cool ideas based on theologies and mythologies, but I had also realize I could never bring myself to actually do it because I was too attached to the so-called “correct” theologies (just like I am attached to correct science, correct law, correct everything).

“I wish I had enough doubt to contemplate such interesting things” was something I would say to myself, comforted by the knowledge I already knew the right answers, backed by the assurances of my elders (who definitely did not know better).

Well, for years now, I have all of those doubts I thought was beyond me, and it was wonderful to experience. Truly wonderful. Blessed are he who believes, without seeing. But Doubly blessed are he who sees the difficult-to-reconcile and unknowable facets of life, and still believes without denying reality.

Now I am older, and I am not really interested in literature for its ideational escapism. I am however, interested in religion, very much so, and its infinity of themes that can explain the human condition. The irony here, is that I realize what I thought was the “correct” theologies was all wrong (as was my realization that the scientific method cannot answer every type of question, and legal laws are constructs).

What happened then, is that the ceiling was blown wide open. It’s not that there was no right answers— but we have to understand that there are a great many diversities of right answers. I am now free to explore all kinds of theological themes and ask many uncomfortable questions. It is no longer so transgressive to write and think and do so-called “wrong” things, because they are not in fact, wrong at all. They are real. More than that, I am asking those difficult questions everyday. Far from being fiction or thought experiments, it is now clearly just plain old reality.

Likewise, unexpectedly, my ancient lamentation that I will never understand “normal peoples’ troubles” is cast into an abyss, because I do in fact, understand their troubles now. I may be slightly exotic (culturally speaking) due to my self-imposed spiritual discipline, but in all that matters, I experience the exact same problems. Because I am very normal, you see. I was normal all along.

I am in fact, merely human; and God is in fact, unknowable, and it only took 26 years for me to let go enough of my attachments to realize this simple truth.

And my faith in God has grown stronger as a result of this. More importantly, I have greater love and respect for my fellow lifeforms, who are, every one of them, my equal in all ways that truly matters. It is easy to say you love all beings, or that you understand them— I never truly loved anything, nor understood them at all. Because I have to start with genuine friendship. You cannot understand anyone if you are lofty, and you cannot be a lover, if you set yourself above your fellows.

Faith must always match what you know to be true (and that is always subject to change). To retain my faith, it was necessary to ask the hard questions and find the hard answers. This is only possible, if you let down your pride and embrace true humility. Fear will turn you away from the truth, but we cannot blind ourselves to truth. And things do not get easier, and never will— and I would not wish for it to be easier. Of doubt and contradictions, they are innumerable, but well worth exploring. To be able to never know for sure…is that not a blessing? Knowing the world is without limit, and that Man can never truly overcome Nature, and that God is never truly knowable— such will renew your faith like nothing before as you gasp in awe at the vastness beyond you, or it will destroy you.