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I Believe In “The Closet Atheist”

It started with a Like. Or, rather, the lack of one.

When the following comment on The Closet Atheist’s latest post did not inspire any kind of response:

“…we should be building better relationships and greater understanding…”

I agree. Thank you for these words, CA. It is sentences like this that make me proud to follow your blog.

In the interest of transparency:

Days ago, CA, you came up in a conversation I was having with a fellow blogger. To quote the relevant words:

“The reason I told you that I am not interested in ‘bringing her back into the fold’ is: She has never left the fold.

“Does the CA want to ‘test everything’? (i.e., Test the validity of all beliefs?) I would say: Yes. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
Does the CA seek truth wherever truth might be found? I would say: Yes. (Matthew 7:7)
Does the CA want people to be treated with love, regardless of their gender, sexuality, beliefs, etc.? I would say: Yes. (1 John 4:8, Matthew 9:11)
Does the CA want to surround herself with all that is deserving of her time and energy? I would say: Yes. (Philippians 4:8)
Does the CA want to make the most of her talents and passions? I would say: Yes. (Genesis 2:15, 1 Corinthians 12:7)

“My point being: The Closet Atheist strikes me as quite Christian.”

I had the following thought:

I am punching myself over the possibility that my words could have unintentionally hurt her.

As a result of poor decision-making, I hurt my knee a week and a half ago, and that has impacted my hunt for a summer job. The feeling of helplessness that comes with waiting for one’s body to heal was one factor that led to the resurgence of the depression I thought I had beaten months ago. The second factor being: The failure of that very same job hunt. I’ve found, and applied for, a few jobs, but so far none of my efforts have led anywhere.

My mind and body are feeling better now, and by hard work, patience, and the grace of God, they’ll only get better. But still: Lately, life has been hard.

I meant what I said about her: I can’t be who The Closet Atheist wants me to be. Not all the time. But, I can keep on trying.
~Thoughts On “The Closet Atheist”

But, recent events have caused me to realize: I can’t be there for The Closet Atheist like I thought I could be.

Which is why I have chosen to un-Follow her blog. A choice that, unlike last time, I will not be taking back. I’m doing this because: I feel like I’ve been going through Hell, and I don’t want to put her through Hell too.

I don’t want to add to her struggles.

So, to The Closet Atheist I say: I’m sorry if I’ve ever hurt you. I never meant to. Ever since I discovered your blog over a year and a half ago, all I’ve wanted to do is help you.

Which is why it is through prayer, not words typed on a computer, that I will do what I can to help The Closet Atheist. That is, I believe, the greatest good that I can do for her. I say this not to give myself a pat on the back. (I struggle with pride.) The reason I say this is: For the sake of clarity; so that The Closet Atheist knows why I’m doing what I’m doing.

What is it that I will be praying for? This:

That, no matter how hard it seems in the coming days, weeks, months, and years…

…The Closet Atheist will continue to live out the following words:

“…we should be building better relationships and greater understanding in the hopes that eventually, this care for humankind will be a foremost priority with or without a god.”

Cat

You say that one can be “Good without God,” Closet Atheist? I believe you. Thank you for being you.

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Look — A Short Story

Blue Eye Macro

Once she stopped shaking, Sam looked at her phone.

Zero Hour being less than twenty minutes away now, her thoughts turned to the person responsible. Oh, Leah. You and your I-know-you’ll-do-the-right-thing smile. Smile at this. Sam’s boots, socks, pants, sweatshirt, T-shirt, bra, and underwear went into her bag, on the bench opposite the mirror.

Seeing is not believing. Her eyes traveling the length of the scar on each thigh, both longer than the one that ran down her forehead, Sam was reminded of that truth. “Mr. Mirror,” she tsked, “you are a liar.” Returning to her bag, she grabbed two pieces of clothing: a yellow bathrobe and matching slippers.

Locking the door behind her, Sam walked past the other unoccupied changing rooms and opened a door to the place where she would be breaking out of her comfort zone: the art room. Bright, with spotless white surfaces and the lingering scent of cleaning agents, it would not be out of place in a hospital.

Gazing out the windows whose shutters had yet to be lowered, she could see, by the sunlight shining through the overcast sky, the beginning of a snowfall. The sight of flakes made her shiver despite her robe and the heater she had asked be turned on before her arrival, her one request of the woman seated behind a desk with downcast eyes and red pen in hand. Sam approached her.

“Ready, Professor Abbott.”

Looking up from her work, her scowl became a smile. “Good,” she said, pointing to a chair set apart from the rest. “Feel free to take a seat while you wait. The door doesn’t open for…,” she glanced at the clock above the door, “…ten more minutes.”

Standing on the platform in the middle of the room as students, their seats arranged in a circle around her, took out their art pads and pencils, Sam focused on only one. Taking off her slippers, her hands gripping the sash of her robe, the look Leah gave her now was the same one she had seen while they were walking home in the raw after spending another Sunday morning at the lake.

“How different will it be?” said Leah, stepping over an exposed tree root in the middle of the dirt path. “You’ll never know for sure until you go for it.”

Rising above the falls in the distance, the sun had burned away last night’s fog, leaving a clear sky. Above their heads, the trees shed their leaves. And, in the silence of the forest, Sam found her voice. “What about you? You’re the artist.”

“And…” Leah said with a smile, stopping.

“‘And’ what?” said Sam, nervously twirling her hair.

Leah took Sam’s hands in her own.

“And: You are my muse.”

Aware that her robe was now on the floor, Sam struck her first pose, the expression on her face saying what was in her heart: I know you’ll do the right thing.

The End

Thank you to the woman whose photo I used in this post.

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Why Ted Baehr Is Not Changing Hollywood

movieguide-masthead

As a follower of Jesus with a passion for film, Movieguide should be speakin’ my language.

But it’s not.

I’ve written here and here about the various issues I have with this organization.

But the biggest problem that I see with Movieguide is: It is impotent.

What do I mean by “impotent”? This:

Movieguide recently celebrated its 26th Faith and Values Awards Gala — an event celebrating the best films of the past year.

Every year Ted Baehr, the founder, comes to the conclusion that pro-American, pro-conservative, and pro-Christian films are “the best.” i.e., They make more money than anti-American, liberal, and non-Christian films.

Every year it’s “___ films make money and ___ films do not.”

And yet, if the previous 26 years are anything to judge by, anti-American, liberal, and non-Christian films continue to get made.

My point being: Other than the names of the films being celebrated or derided, nothing changes.

Which is kind of a big deal for an organization that is all about changing Hollywood. On a side note: In that post, Mr. Baehr says this:

“Although the Critics Choice Awards weren’t given to [Movieguide’s] picks, we are grateful we were the only faith-based advocacy group at the Critics Choice Awards.”

Why would a Christian be grateful for that? Faith-based advocacy must be doing awful if there is only one faith-based group present at the Critics Choice Awards. Or maybe Mr. Baehr doesn’t want to share the spotlight with fellow Christians.

To get back on track:

“By the way, every year I conduct several intense, comprehensive four-day workshops on filmmaking, including film investing, using…principles from my book. I’m here to help you succeed. So, please read the book and take the workshop at least once.”
~Dos and Don’ts of Film Investing for Christians and Others

That workshop Mr. Baehr is talking about? It’s $1,500.

$1,500 to learn skills that any person with internet or access to a library can learn for free.

To prove my point: Here are some free filmmaking resources:

There Are No Film Prodigies

How to Write a Screenplay: Your 30-Step Guide

Amazon Storywriter

Anyone Can Be a Director

How To Invest In Movies

10 Film Distribution Basics

Why Knowing Your Audience Is The Key To Success

To go back briefly to Mr. Baehr’s highlights of the 26th Faith and Values Awards Gala: He says, “BOSS BABY told audiences that Jesus was the boss[.]” Which is not true.

From The Boss Baby (2:38 — 2:57):

“I’m on a mission from above.”
“Are you the baby Jesus?”
“Yes. I’m the baby Jesus.”
Gasps
“No! You see, I’m more middle management for the company.”
“The company? What company?”
Pulls out a pacifier
“Here. Take this. It’ll explain everything.”

How is that telling audiences that Jesus is “the boss”?

When Paul said to think about whatever is excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8), I don’t think he had this in mind:

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I think Paul had something like this in mind:

This is the last post I will be writing about Movieguide.

Thank you for reading to the end.

Yawn

I’m off to sleep. Good night.

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Eureka — A Short Story

Woman

Around Eureka, people rise to leave.*

Her head bowed in prayer, Eureka ignored them.

She heard the voices coming from the foyer begin to fade. She heard the priest close the foyer doors. She heard nothing from the priest as he returned to his changing room behind the altar. She saw the church’s lights shut off.

Rising, Eureka left the pew, walking to the foyer’s double doors. Opening the door on the right, she took a right across the foyer, to the bathroom. Seeing that the bathroom door was partially open, she opened it farther before slipping inside, turning on the light, and closing it behind her.

Eureka undressed. In her underwear, as she was folding her pants, she remembered the paper. Pausing to make sure the folded piece of sketchbook paper was still in her right pocket, she resumed folding her pants. Finishing undressing, her folded clothes in a pile in the middle of the floor, she went to the door.

Opening the door an inch in order to make sure that there was no one in the foyer, Eureka opened the door all the way once she saw that the coast was clear. Turning off the bathroom light before crossing the foyer once again, opening the door on the right once again, and entering the church once again.

Naked and alone, Eureka walked down the aisle.

Her bare feet on marble was the only sound.

Shaking as much from fear as from the cold, Eureka took slow, deep breaths in order to calm herself. She could just make out the painting, illuminated by candles, above the altar. A painting of the three aspects of God. Eureka imagined they were speaking to her.

Father: “How dare you!”

Mother: “Whore!”

Child: “Why?”

Not slowing, stopping, or turning around, Eureka made it to the pew closest to the altar. Gingerly easing herself into the pew in order to not touch a surface with her butt, Eureka knelt, putting her elbows on the low wooden wall that separated the altar from the congregation, bowing her head, and clasping her hands in prayer.

“God…” she whispered. “See me. Just. See me. I know you must not like this, but… I wanted to do this. I felt I needed to do this. Even if you hated me, I needed you to see me. And I… I needed to see you.”

***

Eureka sat in a booth, enjoying the bar food that was her father’s gift on her 21st birthday. Giving her a moment to think about it as she took a drink of her water, he asked a question.

“Are you ready for your last final?”

Eureka answered. “As ready as I can be. Now I feel like all I can do is roll the dice.”

Her father smiled. “You’ll do great. Your mother and I are proud of you.”

“Thanks. I’m glad for this opportunity — to be here. I’ve learned a lot about myself.”

“Like what?”

“Being an editor is hard. It’s nothing like I thought it would be.”

Her father took a drink of his beer, steeling himself for the question he dreaded. “You have a back-up plan?”

“I’m working on it.”

Putting his left hand on the table, Eureka grasped it.

She was looking him in the eye when he said: “Your mother and I are thankful you waited. I know it must not have been easy living at home while your brother finished school.”

Eureka shook her head, appalled. “No. I knew you and mom could only do so much. I didn’t want to put pressure on you. Plus, I needed time. I wasn’t ready to make the leap from high school to college yet.”

“Thank you for thinking of us.”

“Yeah. You’ve done so much for me, and I want to do what I can for you.”

“No matter what, Eureka, you’ll always be our miracle child.”

She withdrew her hand.

“Dad–”

“Really. The doctors told us you wouldn’t make it. For the longest time, we couldn’t decide on a name. But when the doctors found that you would make it, as the saying goes: ‘The rest is history.’”

“‘You’ve been given a second chance,’ you’d say when I was younger. And I want to be worthy of that second chance.”

Eureka’s father could see that his daughter still had a habit of absentmindedly rubbing the inside of her forearms.

“Eureka–”

“I know you and mom say I have nothing to prove. But I wouldn’t be much of a ‘miracle child’ if I disappointed you, would I?”

“Eureka… I have to ask: How do you think you did this semester?”

***

The first awake that day in her on-campus apartment, Eureka sat on the floor in her pajamas just outside her open bedroom door with her arms wrapped around her legs and her head against her knees….

***

Eureka sat at her desk in her bedroom, her eyes widening in shock when she realized that the letter she had received was from her academic adviser….

***

Not looking him in the eye, Eureka answered her father’s question.

“Not good.”

***

Eureka sat at the dinner table, frowning at her laptop.

On the laptop’s screen was the Employment page on the public library’s website. This summer, there were no positions currently available.

Next to Eureka stood her mother, reading a letter. A letter from Eureka’s college.

“Seven thousand dollars, Eureka! How do you expect to pay this? Because there’s only so much your father and I can do now.”

Despite a gesture at her laptop, Eureka refused to blame technology. “I’m doing everything I can! You know that!”

Not wanting to hear any more, with a shake of her head, Eureka’s mother walked away.

In shock at seeing her so upset, Eureka reached into her right pants pocket and pulled out her cell phone.

Scrolling through her contact list, Eureka abruptly stopped as she came to a name: Theo.

“…it must not have been easy living at home while your brother finished school.”

She resumed scrolling.

She called a number.

“Lyra? It’s Eureka.”

***

Eureka raised her bowed head, trying to see, through her tears, the painted faces of the Father, Mother, and Child.

“I want to know that I’m enough,” she whispered. “I want to know that I was worth it to you. That I was worth saving.”

Sniffling, Eureka unclasped her hands and looked at the scars on the inside of her forearms.

***

Nude, Eureka sat in a chair in the middle of Lyra’s living room.

Across from her, on the couch, clothed, sat Lyra. Drawing.*

Tightening her grip on the chair armrests, Eureka fought the urge to flinch.

Eureka imagined that every time Lyra’s pencil made contact with paper, she was being cut with a knife. The knife exposing Eureka’s regret and fear as it lay her bare.

Glancing down at her front, Eureka imagined herself covered in bleeding cuts.

The blood turning her white skin red, Eureka remembered her father’s words to her.

“Miracle child.”

The blood running down her skin made Eureka think of worms.* Worms crawling out of an open grave.

Eureka imagined worms crawling out of her cuts and, in horror, drew in her breath sharply.

“Eureka, please don’t move.”

“Sorry.”

Eureka re-focused on Lyra, who continued drawing.

***

Narrowing her eyes, putting the pencil’s eraser to her lips and holding her sketchbook in front of her at arm’s length, Lyra was silent as Eureka sat still.

A moment later, she lowered her pencil and sketchbook.

“All done,” Lyra said with a smile.

Eureka sighed with relief.

“Thank you.”

“Thank you for allowing me to draw you. My Best Friend. That’s what I’m calling it. I think it turned out good.”

“Can I see it?”

Lyra nodded.

***

Tears drying on her cheeks, Eureka stood, in order to try and see God’s faces more clearly.

Feeling exposed, she took a step backward and, with the wood of the pew against her skin, was comforted by the knowledge that there was something solid at her back.

Suddenly, Eureka felt lips close around her right nipple.

Looking down, Eureka saw a naked little girl standing on her tiptoes, nursing. The girl’s hands on her for balance.*

Their eyes meeting, the girl pulled away. She burped and giggled.

Staring at the girl licking her lips, then at her wet breast, Eureka uttered the first word that came to mind: “What…?”

Bright eyes found Eureka’s blushing face once again.

“Go- goo- good,” the girl said.

Recoiling, Eureka pointed to herself. “M-me?”

Beaming, the girl nodded.

***

Eureka got up from the chair to come and see Lyra’s drawing of her.

“One look at you today and I thought I’ve found it! And now you can keep ‘it.’”

Bending over, Eureka looked at the drawing.

She was speechless.

The drawing’s face radiated an inner peace Eureka did not believe that she herself had. On the drawing’s face was an expression that said “This will all be over soon.”

“What do you think?”

“It’s me…. It’s just not my life.”*

“What do you mean?” said Lyra, concerned.

Eureka tapped the paper and looked at her.

“I haven’t found what you saw.”

The End

*One of the inspirations for Eureka was the character of the same name in the anime Eureka Seven.

*The character of Lyra was inspired by Ursula from Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989).

*The words “The blood running down her skin made Eureka think of worms,” were inspired by these words in George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords: “Slow red worms crawled along her arms and under her clothes.”

*The Child nursing was inspired by the story of Saint Anthony of Padua holding the baby Jesus.

*The words “It’s me…. It’s just not my life,” were inspired by these words in the novel Armor by John Steakley: “It was her. It just wasn’t her life.”

Thank you to the woman whose photo I used in this post.

What Is My Blog?

My blog has been going through an identity crisis lately.

Is it a place for nudist fiction?

Is it a place for me to share my thoughts on Catholicism and atheism?

Is it a place for me to just write down whatever is on my mind at any given time?

All three?

It’s hard for me to say.

Image result for i have no idea what i'm doing

I’ve been deleting a number of posts lately because I haven’t been satisfied with my writing, and so I’m going to be taking a break from writing until I can determine what exactly my blog is.

I’ll still be following other peoples’ blogs, though.

Thank you, everyone who has read my writing. Whether you enjoyed it or not, may you have gotten something out of it.

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What I Learned Posing Nude

I never actually have gotten the chance to model for an art class. The one class I’ve found that calls for models won’t be going on for a long time. But, I can still practice modeling nude in the privacy of my own room. And what that experience taught me is: The value of vulnerability.

I’m someone who struggles with pride. I can have an ego the size of a planet. If I do even the most seemingly mundane thing — like crawl out of bed to get to church on a Sunday morning — I can end up thinking that I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread.

But, standing in the middle of my room, nude, made me think This is me.

I could see all of myself. And I thought Do I like what I see?

Gone was this notion I had of I can do anything! And I was grateful.

Being nude reminded me why I don’t see the notion of submitting to a higher power as something to avoid.

And why is that? Because: When my eyes drift over my every scar, curve, and orifice, I am made aware of my limits.

Being nude is a humbling act.

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Understanding My Nudity

For over 4 years now I’ve slowly but surely been climbing out of the pit that my life has become after I realized that I didn’t know what I wanted to Major in, and dropped out of college.

During that time, one method I used in order to cope with what I had allowed my life to become was going naked. Channel surfing one night, coming across the Discovery Channel show Naked & Afraid reminded me that people who go naked exist. Before this, my experience with nudism was a T-shirt I had when I was young that had a picture of footprints on it with the words “Nude Beach.” Writing about my thoughts on nudity, nudism, and naturism, is how I found bloggers who shared their own experiences going naked, and it made me think I want that in my own life. There was a love of life that I saw in people who went naked, and for someone who was feeling depressed, such a feeling was desirable.

But, I’m not those people. I’m me. Though walking around my room naked made me think If I can do this, I can do anything, and helped give me courage before I had to attend a job interview, going naked never seemed to feel like what I’d thought it would.

The tagline of this blog is “If fake is the fashion, than I will be naked.” The irony being: Looking back, the word I would use to describe the few times I went naked would be Fake. I realize now that I was trying to be like other people, not myself. My life choices had made me ashamed of myself, and I wished I could be someone else.

No more.

I write about nudity because I want to help people who have gone naked, or who want to go naked. And I write stories and poetry about people going naked because, to reiterate the lesson that Naked & Afraid taught me: People who go naked exist. I want to help such peoples’ voice be heard, because I don’t want to see anyone treated like a freak or an outcast because of a lifestyle choice they’ve made.

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Top 3 Naked Characters In Fiction

3. Cortana — Halo

Perhaps it’s because I was introduced to the series at a young age, but it took until Halo 4 for it to dawn on me that Cortana, the Master Chief’s AI sidekick, is naked. I suppose her nudity is something that had always been in the back of my mind — in Halo: Combat Evolved, you can see her butt — but Halo 4 made it more clear than it has been since.

HaloHalo 4 (2001 — 2012):

Image result for evolution of cortana

Halo 5 (2015):

Image result for cortana halo 5

I attribute Cortana’s redesign in Halo 5 to the 2014 controversy over women’s representation in video games (i.e., Gamergate). I could be wrong. But, regardless of the reason, I see Cortana’s change as a shame. Because I believe it reflects her new role in the series — that of the antagonist — and because, done right, nudity can send a positive, powerful message. A woman’s breasts shouldn’t be viewed as degrading or indecent, because they’re not.

When I think of Cortana, what comes to mind is not her new role as the villain, or her breasts, but how she convinced me that an artificial intelligence could be the most human character in a series that has provided me with some of my most cherished memories. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way.

2. Mystique — X-Men

I saw X-Men (2000) so long ago I barely remember it, so I’m counting Days of Future Past (2014) and Apocalypse (2016) as the X-Men films that I’ve seen.

X-Men is a series with many memorable characters. Wolverine being my #1, with Mystique being a close second. Not just for the fact that she’s often played by Jennifer Lawrence — an actress whose work I am a fan of for the most part — but also because, like Cortana, she implicitly asks us to look beyond her naked body and see the human being underneath.

As far as I understand it, in the world of X-Men, Mutants are seen as, at best, second-class citizens and, at worst, as threats. Because of her nudity, it would be easy to degrade Mystique even further than that. But Mystique sees her inherent dignity, and demands to be treated like a person.

Image result for x-men mystique gun

In a time where “She was asking for it” is used to excuse verbal or physical abuse, a character like Mystique will not tolerate anyone treating her as less than who she is.

1. Rei Ayanami — Rebuild of Evangelion

3 of the 4 films in the Rebuild of Evangelion having been released, it’s currently unknown how Rei’s story will end.

There is much I could say about this series, but for the purpose of this post, for now what I will say is: If there was ever a respectful way to do fan service, it’s in Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone.

Shinji, having arrived at Rei’s quarters in order to give her a new ID card, sees her toweling herself dry after a shower. What could be nothing more than an excuse to titillate the viewer instead drives home what Shinji (and, thus, we the audience) has been suspecting about Rei: There is something… off about her.

Her response upon being told “Sorry” after Shinji inadvertently falls on top of her naked body:

“For what?”

Rei’s reaction to being in one of the most awkward positions possible develops her character in a way that I did not see coming.

In Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo, having basically caused the apocalypse in order to save Rei’s life, Shinji is horrified to discover that she has become a shell of the person she once was, unable to do something as simple as put on clothes unless ordered to.

Rei’s attitude towards her nudity conveys how human and non-human she can be.

To paraphrase the words of Patrick Star: “The inner machinations of Rei’s mind are an enigma.”

An enigma I want to understand.

I end with this quote from Rei’s voice actress, Megumi Hayashibara:

Throughout my encounter with [Rei] … I was able to go deep — deep withing the soul, where it gets so dark, and the more you try to see you come closer to the point where you’re almost blind. And of course, I then drew back from that place.

Rei’s beauty comes from the truth that she has feelings. … The struggle to draw your feelings forth, the reconciliation between your surface and your depth — that, I believe, is where we truly become alive, truly become human beings. And when I found the warmth below the coldness in her words, I synchronized with Rei for the first time. And it felt so good that I want to say thank you, from the bottom of my own heart.

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Return — A Poem

On a day like any other,

My fingers bloody from scrabbling the walls of the pit,

I see her.

 

Her hair,

The color of the sun,

Tumbling down her bare back

As her fingers brush waist-high grass.

 

A woman

In nature

In her natural state.

Is there anything more beautiful?

 

She looks at me.

Does she see me?

Then I realize:

It doesn’t matter.

 

To know that she exists–

That is enough.

 

Knowing…

 

To know the sight of her blue eyes,

As clear as a pond untouched by the hand of man,

Gives me the strength to raise my own hands–

And climb.

 

Blood from my cracked nails flowing down my arms,

I climb,

Knowing:

 

I want her to feel, forever, what she made me feel for a moment.

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