Skeptic and the Geek

It’s been a few days. I’m trying to get as many posts in here before school starts, because I know once I’m a complete basket case who’s drowning in academia it’ll be hard. It’ll be hard to write things that make any degree of sense that aren’t coated in despair. I’m one of those irritating students who refers to my academic stress in any real-life conversation and I feel bad for anyone who has to talk to me during school months. It used to annoy me when I’d bump into my high school friends and upon asking them how they’re doing they’d tell me they’re at the UofA (my school) working on their poli sci degree and dive into a story about it. All I’d think is “WHO CARES” but now I totally get it. Sorry, high school friends for thinking that. It is an all-consuming kraken that may or may not one day help us get a sweet job. During school, I’m swimming in the stomach acids of the academic kraken. Sometimes you deal with it just fine, but sometimes you get burned, depending on whether the kraken has heartburn or not. The heartburn happens when you get a prof that doesn’t post notes online.

Anyhow, the way I deal with the stress is by the deep rituals that are tightly laced in the grand schedule we call our lives. I wonder if it’s because of my heavy anti-theism, and I adore my rituals. I would describe them as both languid and intense. The intensity of my 15 minute morning routine that includes a 5 minute drive to my bus stop is one. Putting on the Amelie soundtrack during an hour and a half bubble bath with a juicebox of coconut water and some candy crush on my iPad is another. The majority of my online shopping also happens in the bath. Those ones might end when I drop my iPad in the tub. Lets hope that doesn’t happen. My rituals that make me the happiest are the moments each day I spend with my dogs and my indulgence in geekery.

Here’s a brief history of my journey into geekdom. It started with my parents picking the Sega line of gaming consoles for my brother and I. My Game Gear and Genesis were my best friends for a good three years while I spent my elementary years playing every Sonic game out there. Sleepovers at my Nintendo friends’ houses were a necessary indulgence and to this day I still play Mario as often as I can. Next came Tolkien. Along with every other 10-12 year old out there, The Hobbit is one of the first “big kid” books we read. Some of us are completely enchanted, while others decide that The Babysitters Club is more for them. I was one of the kids completely enthralled with the world Tolkien masterfully painted and graduated to Lord of the Rings. This morphed into more fantasy literary “masterpieces” with almost all of the Dragonlance books. Lame? Doesn’t matter. I loved those books. This was during the time that I started dating a guy who was the epitome of geek. His job, his appearance and his interests were molded around geekdom and we bonded over that for a good four years. I loved watching him play Neverwinter Nights and meticulously painting his warhammer figurines. The best way to describe him is the guy from 40 Year Old Virgin, minus the virgin part and including the lavish breakfasts. I was 16 and he was 22, and it was strange but I feel my geekery put me into a higher level of maturity that allowed this relationship to be okay. Now, I’m a 28 year old with the maturity level of a 20 year old, and I relish in that. It makes it okay for me to do the weird things that I do. So I was this person, who loved Star Wars, Warhammer, Tolkien, old school console gaming and any indulgent fantasy book I could get my hands on. Then I met my husband, Andrei. During the infancy of our relationship, he eased me into MMORPG’s. He got me to start playing WOW and I attribute the success of our marriage to my love of this game. We’re not hardcore with it anymore but still play. 7 years of history with World of Warcraft could probably get me a decent management position at Best Buy or something if I put it on my resume. It’s my greatest indulgence, hands down. And the rituals I’ve created in this game have been one of my greatest sources of joy. Paired with beer and loud gaming-appropriate music? That’s my heaven.  Now, I spend my spare time watching Voyager and TNG, watching Geek and Sundry, playing Magic the Gathering and so forth. It’s still the dominant force in my life.

I understand how the sense of ritual that religion gives us is a positive thing to a degree. For theists, it’s prayer, mass and conventions that keep their faith growing. Since what I know to be true is that religion is a complete fallacy, I’ve placed my rituals elsewhere. They live in places that are constitutional to who I really am. If it wasn’t geek culture it would be something else. Maybe fashion, maybe drug culture, maybe something else. Who knows. When I went to Blizzcon in 2009, I guarantee you that was so much better than a Youth Convention that any theist would attend. If you haven’t been to Comicon or Blizzcon etc and love geek culture, think about how mindblowing and awesome it is to be in a room with 30 000 other geeks. It’s incredible. I’ll never forget those three days. Even standing in line for my pass was an epic bucket list experience. Funny enough, the Anaheim Convention Center was also housing a christian youth convention. There were lots of funny exchanges. My atheist self laughed at the exchanges between hyper geeks and devoted christians. So, these rituals that I’ve created for myself have filled the “void” that christians and other theists consider us to inevitably have.

The idea that I get to fill my ritualistic desire with whatever I please is awesome. It helps me get through school, helps me appreciate my relationship and helps to keep me busy when I have nothing to do. The obligation is only encouraged by my own desire, and it makes me happy. I have tried praying before as a kid. Those were the days when I felt envious of my religious friends and wanted to go to church, yet I felt silly. At my bedside I’d be like “hey Jesus, ummmmmmm. Can you make sure I have a good day at school tomorrow?” And then I’d get bullied by the same group of mean girls that would bother me every other day. I never believed, but I tried to. I’m proud to say that I yearned for more. It seems like a lot of people who are a part of geek culture feel the same way. Most of my geek friends aren’t religious and are too busy trying to get through Diablo on nightmare mode than worry about some scripture. It takes skill and an open mind to enter this world, and it’s an incredible place to be.

If any borderline skeptics are reading this, come to the geek side. It’ll fill that void that religion left for you and you’ll leave a better person, trust me.

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god = Dog

So I have all of these topics figured out that I want to discuss, but today I decided last minute to give a glimpse into the present and talk about who/what take up the most of my time: my dogs. I have a dog, my border collie Lacey. She’s 11 and we adopted her from the humane society 2 years ago. Love her. I’m also a foster parent through an organization that rescues dogs from mostly rural reserve areas around the province. They only have foster parents to house their dogs- no facilities; so that’s why I chose them. Basically, right now I have 3 sick dogs in my house. Not going to lie, I’m feeling like a terrible “dog parent”. Long story short, Lacey and her foster brother Odin both have kennel cough, which Odin caught at daycare. Lacey needs to go to the vet today since she’s 11 and it’s more dangerous at that age. My third dog… well he needs his own paragraph.

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Odin and Lacey during a painting sesh

So my third dog is Guinness. He quite literally represents the ethical dilemma of “rescuing” dogs. Chances are pretty good that he would have been killed in the wild by an alpha and so at the very least he’s alive at my house. But this dog is something else. He’s feral, behaviorally challenged… alright, never mind. It’s hard to think of a word to describe him. In all honesty, I guess I would call him autistic. Seriously. I don’t think it’s far fetched to say that non-humans can be autistic too. Essentially, all we can do is sustain his life. I do therapy with him and a behaviorist every Sunday and I’ve definitely made some headway. Sigh. It’s soul-leeching, but luckily I don’t believe I have a soul. Maybe that’s why I can handle this. A few positives? He eats from my hand now. Only after I’ve sat there on the floor for 45 minutes with delicious smelling dog food (I’ve mused with the idea of trying some). He had turkey dinner last night. Yum. My legs fall asleep about 5 times a day when I’m down there and my circulation is going to shit, but him eating from my hand means that he’s taking a leap and learning to trust people a bit. It’s not even worth going into his behavioral profile. I’m sure whatever you think is bad, he’s worse. Totally shut down. So he got a bedsore from never moving. It needed to be stitched together and now it’s infected. So we go to the vet again.

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Send them your well-wishes! It won’t matter to them, but it’ll make me feel better.

Obviously, there is a facebook page for the amazing organization I volunteer for, and we were posting Guinness’ journey from feral to um, whatever its opposite is. Unferal? And probably every 3rd or 4th comment was a prayer, a thank you to god, or something associated with him. I’m not saying here that I require validation for my services, I specifically chose to help those of whom cannot say “thanks” to me because that’s how I keep it real. That being said, I still get encouragement from the people behind the dogs. So a few things I’ve noticed: the people who are the ones DOING things aka driving out to the reserves, bringing these dogs to the city and fostering are overwhelmingly non-religious. One of my newest and most awesome friends is the one who does a bit of everything at the organization and we share the same beliefs. On the other hand, the facebook crusaders, so the ones that post pictures of abused animals and comment on pictures of our dogs at an exhausting rate are the ones sending prayers and placing the responsibility of the good we’re doing on god. I have no statistical analysis of this but I’ve seen things here and there on pinterest that have hinted towards non-religious people being more charitable.

I know there are missionaries and the christian children’s fun etc. and even though it’s not my personal cause, I’m all about saving the kids. But missionaries are a ploy of conversion cloaked in a few bowls of oatmeal for hungry children in third world countries. JUST GO DO IT. Going with an ulterior motive is a sick way to be the hand that feeds. As far as I can see, jesus hasn’t actually eradicated hunger anywhere. So, your missions are therefore invalid. As Sarah Silverman said once, “sell the vatican”. Take that money, and feed the poor. It’s pretty straightforward. Take your tithes and give them to those who need it, but I know your superchurch is more important. Giving the glory to god with your $15000 sound system will definitely prevent children in Haiti from dying of disease and hunger. And while you’re at it, forget about the dogs, livestock and other non-humans because they’re soulless, right? Therefore, unworthy of your attention. Also, screw the monkeys. I believe a fear of apes and our association with them is called pithecophobia. The classic line “if we’re descended from apes, why are they still on this planet?” is ones of my favourites. I’m using every form of restraint right now to not post a Picard face-palm. So where’s your compassion, christians? I don’t dislike christianity any more than I do other religions, but it’s prevalent in North America and therefore more relevant in this topic. Don’t worry, I’ll talk about Islam eventually. But I feel it needs to be devoid of sarcasm. It’s serious stuff.

So in summary, Guinness is an ethical dilemma for me. He’s shut down and his quality of life is very poor, but I’m not going to give up until somehow we know for certain that he is never going to be happy. Odin. Now he’s my success story. He makes me feel like this when I wake up every morning:

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I saw a unicorn when I looked in the mirror before, but I cred Odin for the badassery.

Below is an image of what he was like before. If you dislike unflattering bruises, scroll no further.

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Yep. That’s me. Odin was a nervous chewer. He’d spend all day chewing on my arms, legs, whatever skin he could get a hold of. He’s 90 pounds of muscle so it was tough to shoo him away. And clearly, I bruise really easily. Well he’s better now. I haven’t had Odin jaws clamped on my flesh since May. Now most people thanked god he stopped, but it was actually a trainer, a bunch of little treats torn up in my pocket, and me having to point at my nose and tell him to sit every time he’d get nervous. A phrase we humanists and atheists like to use is give credit where credit is due! Now his trademark move is to lie his head in my lap and nudge my hand asking for pets. We’re nearly foster fails, we love him so much. But I’m keeping my focus gloves on because we made a commitment to foster these dogs who would otherwise be shot for $10. That sounds awful, but in these rural areas, that’s quite often how the dog population is kept under control.

I try not to put too much stock into the religious facebook crusaders or take offense when someone thanks god and not the organization that puts so much time into saving a life. My rant centers around these people who spend their energy under a guise that seemingly validates complacency and laziness. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m lazy as fuck 🙂 I see very clearly that doing a good thing when religion is a strong force in your life, must be under the banner of religion. Charity is an action that will guarantee your path into heaven. At the end of the day, goodness is goodness, but since the journey is more important than the destination, doing it to save your own ass is a petty excuse. Those who are talking about god’s glory should instead act in whatever capacity they are able to to support the cause they preach to. You are doing nothing for me, and your prayers are not appreciated.

To know that you are compassionate only under the banner of your own morality is what promotes progression.