Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blowing Gas

Love. I scoff at the word. It is as though time is lost, people are lost, a sense of self is lost in exchange for something very valuable. But what is more valuable than belonging to yourself?
I loved once.
I still love. I still need, I still feel. These things are not lost on me as they appear, for I have feelings, I just rarely show them. When I do, they are sometimes explosive. Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel and was as unemotional as people make me out to be. I wish I could be that person sometimes, but why would I trade the human experience, joy, sorrow, gains, losses, losses beyond reason, but joy beyond comparison. Would I trade these things?

It is not my intention for anyone to read this, actually this is for me. I don’t expect anyone to read it. Just rantings and ravings of a psychotic mind. Ive been worried about poisonous gas lately. And that its being blown all around me. I don’t know who is blowing this gas or why, but I promise you I will get to the bottom of it for sure. This one may take some time. I cant imagine who would want me dead. I mean, there are people that hate me but surely they respect my right to live, I would think so anyways.
So it would have to be some governmental figure of sorts. Someone powerful. Or mafia, yeah. Possibly. See the possibilities are endless once you open your mind up to the idea that poisonous gas is in fact being blown into places where I dwell and I want to know why. These things become facts to you. They are now embedded in my schema and you cannot tell me that no one is blowing poisonous gas because I will not even hear of it. I KNOW that the gas is there, its just now a question of who is doing this unfortunate deed.
I need answers. I need questions. I need something different. A job, a new life. Something to look forward to. This depression has me down low, almost to the bottom. I know what the bottom looks like, and I like to avoid it at all costs. So im lingering somewhere near the bottom. Ive had my fightclub into the light experience, you don’t have to tell me about those things. I understand that someday I will die, and I know that, so I cease to be useless. Its only after you’ve lost everything that you are free to do anything I guess.

Sometimes I like to get deep and think about the universe. It provides for our needs. You have a need and you ask the universe, your needs are met. The only problem is that most people do not know how to ask the universe for what they need. The universe took care of me for august, and I just have to believe that its gonna take care of me for September as well. We shall see. I have to believe in something larger than myself. Why? Perhaps for peace ofmind. I cannot choose to believe in “nothing” because the absence of belief or faith in something displaces my sense of self. It has been hammered into me to believe in something and not to live a life without religious influences. My parents would have been happy if I was a Buddhist. They and everyone else just wanted me to be something. So I was a Christian for a little while and that worked for a while but I had to give it up. There are certain core beliefs of Christianity that I do not believe in, so I cannot call myself a Christian. I can I guess, and do sometimes around others who believe, because there are aspects of Christianity that I believe in, but not all aspects. The key core things I don’t believe in are the trinity. I do not believe in the three in one. I believe in some of the miracles and life accounts of Jesus, though however skewed and written in a misguided sort of way.
The bible to me is a piece of literature written by man that is used to comfort people in times of need. There is nothing wrong with that, but that this all that it is really. I believe it has personal application in my life but I don’t seek it out as a sole source of my compliance or discompliance with any external stimulus.
I am a modern Universalist. I see the universe as god, and that all religions have something beautiful to share and all religions have something ugly to share. There are some not so decent parts of the bible where “god” commanded despicable acts be carried out. The god I know would never command such things. The god I know doesn’t need evidence that you love him anymore than you need evidence. Its called faith, and it happens on both ends.  Terrorism is something I feel like satan would use, not god. He doesn’t have to scare me with delusions of hell to make me love him. I either accept or I reject, based on the evidence available. The evidence being, what has god or the universe done for me lately? Many many things, so I accept the notion that there is in fact a “god” the “universe” I call it or some sort of omnipotent being larger than myself with cognitive processes that far outsource my own. This being loves me and wants to give me gifts simply because I am a process created from his being. The universe does not punish or judge, it loves unconditionally and gives unconditionally to all those who call upon it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Illness of Vincent van Gogh

            Many forensic psychologists and psychiatrists have argued over what ailed the famous painter Vincent van Gogh, was his illness mental or physical, or a combination of both? This article seeks to diagnose the painter under the DSM-IV-TR,

“And They Were all Yellow”: The Illness of Vincent van Gogh
            Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853 – July 29, 1890) was a 19th century Dutch painter whose vast influence in the art world on expressionism and early abstraction cannot be denied, although during his tumultuous life, he only sold a single painting. It is also undeniable that attached to the beauty and creativity that van Gogh had to offer the world was a very sad, unsuccessful life painted with spurts of depression, restlessness, and psychotic episodes.
Vincent’s Childhood
            In order to understand the illness of this legendary artist, we must first explore his tortured existence. Vincent van Gogh was born in Zundert in the Southern Netherlands to a family that was well respected in the church and in the art world. His father was a protestant minister, many of his family members were successful art dealers, and his uncle, who had the same name as Vincent, was a famous sculptor. Interestingly, Vincent was given the name of his older brother upon birth, who had been born a year earlier but died shortly after birth (Hudson, 2006). As a child, Vincent had five younger siblings, three sisters and two brothers. Of them, the only sibling that Vincent was close to was his brother Theo, who supported him financially throughout most of his life, and actually believed in his brother’s art and ability to succeed, despite van Gogh’s repeated failure to generate income from his paintings.
            Throughout his childhood and adolescence, Vincent displayed evidence of mental instability and was described as a difficult and moody child who would often withdraw from social situations. Vincent’s sister, Elizabeth, described him as, “intensely serious and uncommunicative, and walked around clumsily and in a daze, with his head hung low. Not only were his little sisters and brothers like strangers to him, but he was a stranger to himself.” A servant of the van Gogh family also referred to him as, “an odd, aloof child who had queer manners.” (Butterfield, 1998).
Failed Career Paths
            As he reached early adulthood, Vincent attempted to take the professional path that was expected of him by his family, as he was already in danger of becoming a failure in their eyes. He first became an apprentice to an art dealer before entering the trade himself, but this was fairly short-lived. Vincent poured himself into his work, learning every detail about what constituted a great piece of art, often swaying customers from purchasing what he considered to be a poor painting, and often arguing with customers. His failure as an art dealer can be greatly attributed to Vincent’s inability to understand interpersonal diplomacy.
He began to feel a great rejection by his family, but this was only the beginning. Around this time, Vincent experienced rejection in love for the first time, falling in love with an upper class woman and openly expressing his love for her. She was greatly insulted by his unwanted advances, and Vincent was unable to understand that she had never had any real interest in him, probably due to his inability to read the intent of others (Butterfield, 1998).
            Vincent then attempted to enter the ministry, hoping again to gain the respect of his family. He worked as an evangelist in a poor mining district in Belgium, but soon after living among these people, he sold all of his belongings and became poor and disheveled himself. It was during this time that Vincent first began doing charcoal drawings of the poor people with whom he lived. One of his most famous paintings, The Potato Eaters began here as a charcoal work.
Vincent was soon dismissed by the church for a refusal to conform to their ways of teaching, and they were mortified by his sudden lack of concern for his own well being. This marked an episode of depression, where he abandoned his religious beliefs.
In a letter to Theo, he wrote, “My only anxiety is, how can I be of use in the world?” (Blumer, 2002).
Art as a Profession
            After many failed career attempts, Vincent decided to become serious about art, and immediately became very passionate about it. He read multiple manuals and worked very long hours to perfect his style, creating over 900 paintings and 1100 drawings in his ten year career (Ayoub, 2005). It was quite rare for the time period for someone to decide to take such a career path late in life, although he was only in his late 20s, this was an age when one should already be established in a field. Perhaps Vincent worked at such a furious pace because he believed that he had much catching up to do with this career path, and this might have been the only chance he had left to possibly please his father.
Vincent’s Alienation
            Vincent alienated himself from his family except for Theo, who continued to support him. The climax of Vincent’s family issues came about during an extended visit back home, where the artist fell in love with his first cousin, Kee, despite her repeated rejection of his advances. In a desperate attempt to express his love, Vincent approached Kee’s father and placed his hand over a kerosene lamp. “Let me see her for as long as I can keep my hand in this flame!” (Butterfield, 1998). Having relational intentions with a cousin was an outrage to his family and to what was socially normal in 19th century Holland, so this was the initial cause for Vincent’s alienation from the family. Vincent later invited Sien, a prostitute, to live with him, mostly out of empathy for her deep sorrow. Vincent eventually entertained the idea of taking her as his wife, and although the marriage never materialized, such an idea caused Vincent and his father to cut ties for good. Vincent’s father wrote in a letter to Theo, “…Vincent is again in a wrong mood. He seems to be in a melancholy state of mind, but how can he be otherwise? Whenever he looks back into the past and recalls to his memory how he has broken with all former relations, it must be very painful for him. If he had only the courage to think of the possibility that the cause of much which has resulted from his eccentricity lies in himself. I don’t think he ever feels any self-reproach, only soreness against others…” (Davidson, 1997).
            After 6 years as an artist in the Netherlands and Belgium, Vincent went to live with Theo in Paris for two years, where he met many painters who would later become famous. This is where Vincent began to use the alcoholic beverage absinthe, which was popular at the time among French artists. His use of the drug was not severe according to standards of that society, but its use possibly played a crucial role in the precipitation of the illness of Vincent van Gogh. (Blumer, 2002). His temperament was wild and quarrelsome, and he caused many scenes in public places that were a concern. Theo sympathized but was increasingly burdened by Vincent’s presence, so he eventually set Vincent up with a flat in Arles to continue his work. At this time Vincent was an “accomplished artist”, although not recognized and still in need of financial support.  
In a letter to his younger sister, Theo wrote of Vincent: “It seems as if he were two persons: one, marvelously gifted, tender and refined, the other, egotistic and hard hearted. They present themselves in turns, so that one hears him talk first in one way, then in the other, and always with arguments on both sides. It is a pity that he is his own enemy, for he makes life hard not only for others, but also for himself.” (Blumer, 2002).
Axis I Diagnosis: Bipolar I Disorder
            It was here that Vincent’s mental state worsened, and a pattern of abnormalities and violent oppositions in mood are seen. He described his shifts of dysphoria and euphoria in a letter to Theo: “I am unable to describe exactly what is the matter with me; now and then there are horrible fits of anxiety, apparently without cause, or otherwise a feeling of emptiness and fatigue in the head…. There are moments when I am twisted by enthusiasm or madness or prophecy, like a Greek oracle on the tripod. And then I have a great readiness of speech.” (Blumer, 2002).
            The character swings that Vincent experienced at this time could have been the product of bipolar I disorder, periods of deep depression or anxiety coupled with periods of grandiosity and creativity. Vincent’s behavior meets criteria for bipolar I disorder as stated in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). To carry the diagnosis of bipolar I disorder, a person must have experienced a heightened state referred to as “mania” or a slightly lessened heightened state referred to as “hypomania”.  The DSM-IV-TR criteria for manic episodes states that a “distinctly elevated or irritable mood” must be present, followed by at least 3 or 4 of the 7 criteria for the disorder. We can see in evidence gathered from his own letters and his behavior that Vincent met at least 4 of the 7 criteria, which are: an increase in goal-directed activity or restlessness, flights of ideas or racing thought, decreased need for sleep, and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that are likely to have negative consequences (Kring, Davidson, Neale, Johnson, 2007). We can tell that Vincent was very into his work, and when reading his letters, one can find a “flight of thought” as in one lengthy letter to Theo in July 1880, where he changed topics often and couldn’t quite get his point across (Bernard, 1985). We can also see evidence of this in his seemingly inability to communicate or read the intentions of others. There are also accounts of Vincent painting for sometimes days on end without sleep, where he would eventually drop from exhaustion and then enter a depressive state (Davidson, 1997). We can look to Vincent’s frequent visits to the brothels as evidence of his behaving in negative pleasurable activities. For the time period, men did visit brothels from time to time, but few flaunted it the way Vincent did, and still even less “fell in love” with prostitutes. This Axis I diagnosis of bipolar I disorder would also explain the mood swings of his adolescence. Vincent kept a constant flow of letters to his brother Theo, which offers documented accounts of intense creativity, grandiosity, activity, and lack of sleep, followed by periods of fatigue and depression (Bernard, 1985). He did not maintain any functional disability after each attack, and those around him were surprised at how well he would recover from them (Loftus, Arnold, 1991).
We can contrast the different aspects of Vincent’s moods by looking at two different confessions from his parents. His father wrote, “It grieves us so when we see that he literally knows no joy of life, but always walks with bent head, whilst we did all in our power to bring him into an honorable position! It seems as if he deliberately chooses the most difficult path” (Davidson, 1997). This monologue of a seemingly depressed and hopeless Vincent contrasts with the words of his mother, “I am always so afraid that wherever Vincent may be or whatever he may do, he will spoil everything by his eccentricity, his queer ideas and views on life” (Davidson, 1997). There is evidence of mania and hypomania throughout Vincent’s history, such as during his time as an evangelist, when he horrified his family by giving away all of his possessions and becoming a poor member of the mining community, while doing little evangelistic work among them (Hudson, 2006). These are clearly all examples of bipolar I disorder in Vincent, and perhaps if lithium had been an available medication in the 19th century, things would have turned out differently for the troubled artist (Wolf, 2005).
Psychotic Features
We can also find evidence of psychotic features during phases of severe mania, with reported delusions and sometimes hallucinations. Little is known about the nature of Vincent’s hallucinations, so we cannot really conclude whether the psychotic features are mood-congruent or mood-incongruent. It has been suggested that there might be evidence of these in his art, such as the spiral color in the sky that is seen in the famous painting, The Starry Night.
In Arles, the artist became very lonely so Theo persuaded Gauguin, another artist, to move in with Vincent. This only lasted a couple of months and ended catastrophically. The two quarreled constantly, and finally Gauguin decided to move. Upon telling Vincent the news, Vincent became very angry and wild and threw a glass in Gauguin’s face. When Gauguin left the house, Vincent followed him and approached him with an open razor, and was repelled. Vincent then went back home and cut off part of his earlobe, which he took to the local brothel and presented to his favorite prostitute, Rachel, with the instructions, “keep this object carefully.” It is thought that Rachel actually favored Gauguin over Vincent, and that this was perhaps the reason that she was involved in this episode (Cohen, 2003).
The police later found Vincent in his home unconscious and he was hospitalized. Vincent then fell into a psychotic state of agitation, experiencing delusions and requiring three days of solitary confinement, upon which he was given potassium bromide to help calm his episode. Vincent later reported, “The intolerable hallucinations have ceased, in fact have diminished to a simple nightmare… I am rather well just now, except for a certain undercurrent of vague sadness difficult to explain. While I am absolutely calm at the present moment, I may easily relapse into a state of overexcitement on account of fresh mental emotion.” (Blumer, 2002).
Vincent van Gogh suffered another two psychotic episodes following this one, both with brief hospitalizations. He later voluntarily entered the hospital for a full year, because citizens were uncomfortable with him, and the taunting from them was more than Vincent could bear. Brief psychotic episodes were then reported, as well as bouts of amnesia and partial seizures.
Axis II Diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder
Evidence points to borderline personality disorder in Vincent van Gogh, but we must be careful with this diagnosis because there are many features of a mania that can mimic borderline personality disorder traits. It is important that we can see these traits extending across the life span, and not just in situational events.  Five or more of the diagnostic criteria as stated in the DSM-IV-TR must be met to diagnose the disorder, and Vincent meets at least 6 of the criteria, which include: desperate efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships (with extremes of idealization and devaluation), recurrent suicidal behavior or self mutilating behavior, affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood, chronic feelings of emptiness, and inappropriate intense anger and difficulty controlling that anger (Kring, et. al., 2007).
We can look to Vincent’s self mutilation behavior as one good example, as well as his anger and dramatic response to learning the news that Gauguin was leaving him. Perhaps the news and fear of abandonment and Vincent’s dramatic personality is what triggered his manic episode. The dramatic encounter with Kee’s father is also a good example of a borderline personality, especially when we look at what happened immediately after the incident. Kee’s father accompanied Vincent to a local bar and explained why he and Kee would not be a good match. It did not take much convincing for Vincent to see his uncle’s side, causing him to renounce his love for Kee (Butterfield, 1998). This quick shift in emotion suggests that Vincent was not in love with Kee, but rather “in love with the idea of being in love”; needing someone to attach to in order not to feel abandoned. Another example of borderline personality was when Theo, whom Vincent relied on the most, got married in 1888 and became a father in 1890. There is evidence that Vincent perceived Theo’s new family as a threat, and felt in many ways that Theo had abandoned him. In one letter to Theo, Vincent wrote: “and without your friendship I would be driven to suicide without pangs of conscience—and as cowardly as I am, I would finally do it” (Blumer, 2002).
Although Theo continued to support Vincent, we can see this that Vincent had a deep fear of losing Theo and used frantic efforts to hold on to their relationship. The idea of there being others revered above him made Vincent feel very vulnerable and negatively reactive. Consistent with borderline personality disorder, Vincent required excessive admiration but at the same time compromised it with his impulsive emotions. There were many “Para suicidal” attempts during this time in which Vincent would ingest paint, turpentine, or lamp oil, most often in the presence of another person, earning him repeated stays at the asylum. Vincent’s repeated episodes of sadness also suggest a borderline personality, and he never seemed to have a problem expressing his grief to others, often in long tedious letters to Theo or with socially obnoxious behavior. It is also reported that Vincent would often wear unwashed clothing and appear very ragged at times, which for the time period could be an example of acting out behavior by using an extreme appearance to draw attention to oneself,  which is consistent with the desperate need for attention that people with this disorder exhibit (Butterfield, 1998).
Axis III: Brain Abnormalities
Vincent was diagnosed with epilepsy in his lifetime and by a few doctors who examined his case after his death, but his partial seizures were rare and not severe. He only seemed to experience them after drinking absinthe, and even then his psychosis caused him much more grief, and when abstaining from absinthe, his seizures would go away but his behavior and cognitions would remain constant. It is believed that Vincent ingested too much absinthe, and that this might have been the cause of some of his grief. Contrary to this popular belief, Vincent did not ingest as much absinthe as his contemporaries, and was known not to become intoxicated. It might have been that Vincent was simply more vulnerable to the absinthe because of its thujone, a substance known for inducing convulsions (Blumer, 2002). Vincent reportedly received a diagnosis of epilepsy and was treated with digitalis by his physician Dr. Gachet. In Vincent’s painting of Dr. Gachet, he is holding the plant Digitalis purpurea, from which the drug digitalis is extracted (Wolf, 2001).
 (Vincent’s portrait of Dr. Gachet would eventually become the most expensive painting ever sold, for a record 85.2 million dollars in 1990) (Ayoub, 2005). If Vincent was treated with digitalis, it might interestingly explain Vincent’s fascination with the color yellow, because people receiving repeated doses of this drug report seeing things with a “yellow hue” and it might also explain the dull yellow hue that Vincent often used in his paintings of the night sky (Wolf, 2001). Another good example is the portrait The Night CafĂ©
Vincent reportedly painted his house yellow, and created the series of portraits called Yellow Sunflowers for the purpose of filling his home with the beloved color. His own self portrait and other pictures, as well as accounts from people close to Vincent suggest a significant craniofacial asymmetry, which would suggest some sort of physical brain deformity. It has also been suggested that he might have suffered a brain injury, possibly at birth (Blumer, 2002).
There is no way to know for sure if Vincent suffered from epilepsy or some other brain dysfunction, but we conclude that there was some sort of biological explanation for Vincent’s rare seizures, such as an early limbic lesion, and therefore this phenomena is diagnosable under Axis III of the DSM-IV-TR as a general medical condition (2000).
Vincent was finally declared “cured” of mental ailments and was released from the hospital for good in the spring of 1890, where he lived out the last 10 weeks of his life in Auvers. Theo chose this place for Vincent so that he could be near Dr. Gachet. During this time in Vincent’s life, he did not suffer from any psychotic episodes, and his art was beginning to gain recognition. It was also during this time that someone purchased Red Vineyard at Arles, which was the only painting sold during Vincent’s lifetime.
As Theo’s health began to fail, financial support became bleak and Vincent considered himself to be a larger burden than ever. Perhaps using this as fuel, he created 70 paintings and 30 drawings during his last 10 weeks at Auvers. His over-productiveness could have also been that Vincent wanted to take every opportunity to work, before “a more violent attack [destroys] forever my ability to paint.” (Todkill, 1999). Vincent liked to venture out into the field near his small yellow home and paint amongst the yellow wheat, alone and quiet. One such day, Vincent took a gun with him into the field and shot himself in the lower chest. He died two days later. He told a friend, “I couldn’t stick it any longer, so I shot myself.” (Blumer, 2002).
Axis IV: Psychosocial Problems
It is important to note also some psychosocial problems ailing Vincent van Gogh, diagnosable under Axis IV of the DSM-IV-TR. Vincent obviously had problems with his primary support group, having never felt accepted by his parents, and having never been able to live up to the family name. He also suffered from occupational problems, never being able to settle in a field of interest and not being able to keep a job because of his social awkwardness and fits of anger. Even when Vincent found a career, he was unsuccessful. The artist suffered from economical problems, having to rely on his brother Theo to provide for his basic needs. Vincent’s personal relationships were always rocky, as he was a person who had few friends but still placed himself in social situations very often and seemed to need people.
Axis V: Global Assessment of Functioning
On the GAF scale under Axis V of the DSM-IV-TR, Vincent van Gogh would have scored about a 50 upon leaving the asylum for the final time before his death, as he was suffering from suicidal ideation and impairment in social situations.
The Curtain Closes
Vincent was always an awkward man with “strange” ideas, who was irritable, impulsive, and probably very hard to love or maybe even have a conversation with. Perhaps that was the price he paid to leave his mark on the art world, as such was always his main concern. Vincent van Gogh died with Theo by his side, the only person who attempted to understand his heart. Theo reported Vincent’s last words to be, “La tristesse durera toujours” (the sadness will last forever), (Ayoub, 2005). Theo expressed grave grief after Vincent’s death. He wrote in a letter to his mother, “One cannot write how grieved one is nor find any comfort. It is a grief that will last and which I certainly shall never forget… life was such a burden to him; but now, as often happens, everybody is full of praise for his talents…” (Davidson, 1997). Those people that Theo described, the ones who only loved Vincent in death, mourned with reverence at his funeral and tearfully covered his coffin in flowers… and they were all yellow.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011


The first bar in history was a cave buried deep in the woods, underneath layers of marsh so it was cozy inside around the small fire. Fermented fruit was served to the guests, who got away from the cold and wouldn’t talk much. These places are found throughout places where cavemen dwelled, humans first bars. We can only imagine what those bars were like, being that we were a society without rule. We all hunted and gathered, shared, traded, and lived peacefully for the most part. It wasn’t until our primitive brains began to change that we became something else.
Im sure bar brawls broke out in those days, perhaps over a female or over some moldy apricots. Research suggests that primitive humans knew the nature of consuming mold and used is as a remedy for ailments. Still, little is known about caveman culture, but we do know there was a system and that it included bars.
I believe that bars have existed for centuries and that they are in some way a cornerstone to our culture. So after a long day of hunting and gathering, Maxi Hunter Bay is going out for a drink, with her best friend Mr. Joe Bay.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Seven Principles

The following is a brief exerpt from my new book, Modern Universalism.
The Seven Principles
There are Seven Principles which Unitarian Universalists affirm, but to be a Universalist, one does not have to adhere to a certain creed.
1.       The inherent worth and dignity of every person
2.       Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
3.       Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
4.       A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
5.       The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and society at large
6.       The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all
7.       Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
As you can see, even in Unitarian Universalism, the only creed that one adheres to is a moral creed, one that is often taught in other religions. The only difference is that Universalism promotes the search for the truth, or multiple truths, as it views the “truth” about religion as being a different experience for each individual.
Sprouting up today we see many Unitarian churches, or churches that claim Universalist belief, such as the Christian Universalists. In order to be a Christian Universalist, one must follow the doctrine of Christianity but cognitively process like a Universalist. Many Christian churches with strict orthodoxed doctrine do not recognize Universalism, and I believe this is only because they do not understand what it entails. It is not a text to follow nor a collection of stories, but a personal way to live and think, and behave. Many religious scribes would agree to the seven principles if they were presented in a different context. I am sure many devout Catholics would follow them if the Pope decreed them to be true. They are not hard to follow, and seem morally correct. Treat others in the way you expect to be treated. People like Gandhi and Martin Luther King taught the same principles, but in a different context. These principles are the way that most people believe, they just have a title. It does not give them any less or any more merit than they deserve.
Proclaiming “Belief”
                Many Christians can remember the day they accepted Christ, and might mark it as the day they affirmed their faith before a congregation, the day they first took Communion, or the day of their Baptismal. For Modern Universalists, there is no special moment when one “believed” because it is a thought process, a way of life. Most people would agree with it, just as most people just go along with the religion of their family and suppress their secret questions.
                Many religious texts I have read have started out saying to take your own journey and figure out what you believe, but then it is followed by how after doing that, the intelligent individual should choose their religion, because it’s the best! This text simply presents to you my thoughts on Modern Universalism and doesn’t as much act as a text to follow, but rather a defining of what I believe. I do not claim it to be the “way” etc, but I do want to point out that changing the way you think can have a profound positive effect in your life, and I present methods for changing your thought processes from negative to positive, and letting the Universe take care of your needs.
                There is no method to proclaiming “faith” of Universalism. It is an individual journey, and can be done privately. There is no reason to proclaim it to others, unless you feel the need, as Universalism is a private thought process that may or may not occur. As discussed before, most people would agree with the principles of Unitarian Universalism, and some churches today even advocate it. But what you will not see with Modern Universalism is people trying to convert others to their ways. The Universe does not care if you believe in it or not. As an omnipotent being, the Universe does not need your belief. The Universe is, and always will be, and does not need a head count of followers or proclamation of mere humans to affirm its godliness, like the gods of other religions require. When you think about it, why would God, the seemingly all-knowing, require such affirmation? The God of many faiths often seems like a jealous, insecure child, not an all powerful being. Shouldn’t God, who created us, have a better understanding of human nature? I am not trying to disprove God, but I am asking the questions that may cloud your mind at times, but you might not want to admit. I am not afraid to ask these questions, because the God I know does not need affirmation, and does not mind me finding my own way and thinking for myself. The God I know will continue on with our without my belief. It is not that God doesn’t care about me, it is simply that God doesn’t need my individual faith in order to prove his godliness.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Introduction to Modern Universalism by Maxi Hunter Bay

Modern Universalism-- Introduction
The universe is so specifically designed that things that seem completely random always follow a pattern.  Years and years of statisticians rolling dice in the laboratory to see if events can be concluded as random statistically have left us with modern statistics, assuming that events are separate, but that in some situations, one can have an effect on the other. The event of rolling dice is seen statistically as a random separate event at each roll, that is, each die when rolled again has an equal probability of landing on each face. However, roll a die twenty times and a pattern emerges because the universe is comprised of patterns, and we all fall victim or in favor of the bell shaped curve every day of our lives.
The Bell Shaped Curve
The normal distribution or Gaussian Function is represented as a bell shaped curve. If you pattern your life out as a distribution it would probably be approximately normal for specific events. That is because, like the normal bell shaped curve places a pattern to the randomness of the universe, we can see this pattern emerge in events and even in the placement of yourself inside your environment. For this reason, the bell shaped curve is the most prominent probability distribution in statistics.
This concept can be easy to understand. This text is not intended to be very mathematical, so I will leave the formulas out. The bell shaped curve is a simple model to help one understand complex phenomena. In statistics, you are taught that when enough data is collected, the distribution becomes more normal. That’s why we ignore differences seen in very large data sets, such as those with 5000 participants or more. Statistically, with a data set this large, differences are likely, and anything can be proven significant.
“Significance” simply means that a difference among groups has been found, and in some statistical procedures it also means that one variable had an effect on another. Statistics becomes clouded with things like main effects and interaction effects, but simply these effects are only differences between groups. When group sizes increase you can see why a difference would be found, and most anything can be significant. This is the point when modern statistics resembles “monkey math” as my husband calls it.
The third variable problem
When we see significance, or differences between groups, there are sometimes other variables having an effect. When doing an experiment, it is impossible to include every possible variable that has an effect and the result is sometimes effects that seem implausible because a third variable is involved. In statistics we are taught that correlation does NOT imply causation partly because of the third variable problem. A correlation is basically a value, between 0 and 1 that represents the relatedness of the variables. 1 is a perfect positive correlation, -1 is a perfect negative correlation, and 0 is no relationship. A high correlation ranges from .5-1, and if these numbers are negative that means the correlation is negative. With a positive correlation, it means that as one number increases, the other does also, and in a negative correlation, as one variable increases the other decreases.
For example, as the height of individuals increase, so does their weight. This means that there is a positive correlation between height or weight, or rather, the taller a person, the higher their weight (generally). Also, looking at US currency and gold, there is usually a negative correlation between the two. That is, as the value of currency increases, the value of gold decreases. This trend has held true since our currency was removed from the gold standard.
An example of the third variable problem is that ice cream sales and drowning accidents have a positive correlation. It has been shown that as ice cream sales increase, drownings increase, but this does not mean that people drown more because they buy ice cream. Can you think of a third variable that might be the actual cause? The third variable here might be temperature. As the temperature increases, people enter the water more, so drowning accidents are more likely, and they also buy ice-cream more often. Therefore, in this example temperature is the third variable. Simply, when one looks at temperature we see that it has an effect on both ice cream sales and drowning accidents. As sure as I am sitting here, some idiot has written that because drowning accidents increase as ice-cream sales increase, that consuming ice-cream causes drowning accidents, but that is not the case. Science can neither prove nor disprove anything, but rather offer evidence in either direction. This is why modern science is comprised of theories and not so many laws.
Introduction to Modern Universalism
This book attempts to link principles of modern universalism with scientific events. Universalism refers to religious and philosophical concepts with universal applicability. In this context, religion refers to a set of beliefs concerning the nature and purpose of the universe, and a code governing the conduct of human affairs. A “church” that calls itself Universalist today claims to emphasize the universal principles of all religions and is accepting of all religions. Universalism sees that all religions have something unique to share to the whole life experience, and gathers the beauty from previous doctrines as historical events that can shape our thinking.
Modern Universalists like me believe that the fault of religion is its interpretation of the nature of this world by man. Any religion can have extremists. Almost every religion has killed in the name of God, but the Modern Universalist sees God as a universal event, a way of thinking, not so much as a being but as a nature. It is important to understand that Universalism is not a monotheist religion, and not a religion believing in a single god either. Modern Universalism does not see god as a personified individual having a direct impact on our lives. The “Universe” itself as a spiritual being can have an impact on our daily lives, but not by picking which humans to help and which not to help, as in many religious doctrines. The universe grants all needs with simple belief in something larger than ourselves. It is often difficult for human beings to see past themselves and understand that the universe itself does not revolve around human beings. We are a species that lives on a tiny planet in a tiny galaxy in relation to the universe. Looking at it this way, it is not “all about us” as we are led to believe, but as human beings our default is to think of ourselves as the hub of a wheel that is our lives, and knowing that in relation to the universe we are really insignificant can be difficult or unsettling to consider. It often elicits a fear that nothing matters, but it is interesting to know that if nothing matters, then everything matters. Modern Universalism is not a particular doctrine followed but rather a way of thinking manifesting in behavior. One way to consider this is the rippling effect, or butterfly effect. Every single event has an impact on the Universe, but that does not mean that one event “matters” over another. The only reason things matter is because as human beings we assign meaning to events. December 25 has meaning for us because humans assigned an idea to that date, not because the Universe assigned meaning to it. The Universe assigns meaning to nothing and to everything all at once.
Therefore, belief in Modern Universalism is not belief in a particular god or doctrine, nor is it an atheistic belief. The Universalist view can coincide with other religious views, and many Universalists do subscribe to one religion over another. The Modern Universalist subscribes to all religions and no religions all at once.
This book attempts to dive deeper into Modern Universalism and even propose new theories of the nature of the Universe based on scientific and philosophical principles. To begin this journey, we will use science to understand the nature of the Universe and then dissect modern religious principles into philosophical entities to create a belief system comprised of scientific data, not just mountaintop “feelings” or instant gratification.