Thursday, May 31, 2007

My case report on Smeagol

Okay, for those of you who have been so anxiously waiting, here it is at last (huh? whatever). I wrote a case report on Smeagol for my abnormal psych class this quarter. I had to diagnose him with something from DSM. He ended up with schizotypal personality disorder. We had to do a made up case report--it was supposed to be totally made up, where we made up the person and their history and so forth, but they said it was fine to use a fictional character from literature. It was fun. It's kind of long. Enjoy.

Sméagol: A Case Study involving Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Benjamin Ady
University of Washington, Seattle

Presenting Problems

Sméagol is a 562 year old male who comes from a large and wealthy family among the Stoor people (Tolkien, 1965b, Appendix B). He was arrested and prosecuted for stalking and was sentenced to two years probation. One of the conditions of his parole was evaluation and therapy at a private mental health clinic. During his intake appointment, Sméagol presented as an emaciated (BMI of 18.1), pale, figure who seemed to be fixated on an item which had been stolen from him, a ring which he called “my precious”. Furthermore, he appeared to have two distinct personalities, switching back and forth between them sometimes rapidly, as well as having conversations between these two identities, and referring to himself as “we” or “us”. He also exhibited a great dislike for and even fear of light of any sort, as well as some delusional thinking. Sméagol constantly expressed throughout the interview a great suspicion of the therapist and of people in general.

(Read more...)

Course and Psychosocial History

Sméagol claims to have been given a ring as a gift from his friend Déagol for his 20th birthday. He believes this ring makes the wearer invisible. Sméagol’s symptoms began soon after his acquisition of this ring. He claims to have used to it to learn people’s secrets, and became a gatherer and trader in gossip and hurtful information. He withdrew more and more from the life of his family and community, becoming something of an outcast. Finally, he was expelled from the community, which did not displease him. It was during this time as well that his dislike of light, especially the light of the sun, began.

After this Sméagol wandered alone until he finally became a solitary hermit living in the vast unexplored underground system of tunnels and caverns known to exist under the Misty Mountains. He eschewed, and continues to eschew, any and all social relationships.

Sméagol says that it was also after the acquisition of “my precious” that he began to experience himself as two personalities. “Gollum”, an unkind name which his community and family began calling him, was the dominant personality who increasingly hated and wanted to hurt other people. Gollum is also the personality that is most fixated on the ring which he says was stolen from him. “Sméagol”, on the other hand, was his original name and appears to be afraid of Gollum and under Gollum’s control.

He has been separated from his family of origin for centuries, yet it is clear that his early experiences have affected him greatly. As a bright child in a large and influential family, there were high expectations placed on Sméagol. His grandmother was the matriarch of a large extended family, and was believed to have great wisdom and spiritual power (Tolkien, 1965a, book I, chap. 2). After his acquisition of the ring, however, Sméagol found himself increasingly disliking his family and people in general, and avoiding them or taking actions to minimize or destroy relationship.

Having lived alone as a hermit for hundreds of years, Sméagol has no social support. His only relationships were those that were lost when he was expelled from his family of origin. He also seems fixated on Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, whom he claims stole and still have his ring.

Sméagol knows of no history of mental illness within his family. He has no documented medical history, and apparently has not seen a doctor in hundreds of years. There is no known record of previous mental health evaluation or treatment.


Sméagol’s diagnosis is schizotypal personality disorder. His ongoing lack of any participation in, desire for, and anxiety over, any social relationships or interactions, his magical thinking about “my precious” (invisibility), his odd manner of speaking, his two distinct personalities, his paranoid ideation, his anxiety over interacting with the therapist, and his ideas of reference regarding the ring and himself all meet criteria for this disorder (Durand and Barlow, 2006, p. 442). Most of these characteristics developed during early adulthood and have persisted throughout Sméagol’s life. While both paranoid and schizoid personality disorders were considered, neither diagnosis accounted for the full range of Sméagol’s cognitive distortions and his eccentricities. Sméagol’s behavior is too clearly odd to meet criteria for delusional disorder, and his symptoms are not severe enough to warrant a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Although he does have 2 distinct personalities, he does not have the inability to remember important personal information required for a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder. Sméagol does not appear to be depressed or have a history of depression and thus does not meet criteria for mood disorder. His emaciated state is due to lack of food availability, and not to anorexia.

Cultural Context

As a person living within the varied cultures of Middle Earth, some of Sméagol’s ideas and behaviors are bound to strike therapists in the 21st century western paradigm as odd. Nevertheless, even within his own culture, Sméagol’s ideas and behaviors are remarkably unusual and have caused him enormous social impairment over the years. The Hobbitish peoples are known to be trusting, highly social, lovers of open spaces and the sun, and generally unconcerned with the larger world. So even from his cultural paradigm within Middle Earth Sméagol clearly meets criteria for the diagnosis of schizotypal personality disorder.


We recommend Sméagol be referred to a psychiatrist to be prescribed fluoxetine, which was found to be somewhat effective for schizotypal personality disorder by Markovitz, Calabrese, Schulz, and Meltzer (1991). We recommend continuing cognitive behavioral psychotherapy with the specific goals in mind of helping Sméagol to integrate his two personalities, and to reduce his fixation on the ring and his inappropriate stalking behavior towards Frodo Baggins.


Durand, D. M., & Barlow, D. H. (2006). Essentials of abnormal psychology (4th ed.). Australia: Thomson Wadsworth.

Markovitz, P. J., Calabrese, J. R., Schulz, S. C., & Meltzer, H. Y. (1991). Fluoxetine in the treatment of borderline and schizotypal personality disorders.
American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 1064-1067.

Tolkien, J. R. R. (1965a). The fellowship of the ring. New York: Ballantine Books.

Tolkien, J. R. R. (1965b). The return of the king. New York: Ballantine Books.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Quote from Jim Henderson, and OTM's Idealab

From this interview. I love this. He nails several things perfectly in one beautifully succinct statement.

Here’s how people feel whenever they enter a new experience—alone and stupid. Churches need to “attack” those feelings by training Christians (the non-professional and non-highly motivated kinds) to simply say “hi” to someone who they have not noticed before.

good god those highly motivated kinds can be creepy, can't they? I'm laughing while writing here. Go Jim.

Oh, in case you didn't know about it, I highly recommend the book which drew Matt and Jim together: Jim and Caspar Go to Church (Caspar is Matt's last name--don't ask me--I think he goes by either or something)

And while I'm promoting Off-the-Map's Stuff, Can I recommend also their monthly ezine, Idealab, which always has kewl stuff in it. You can subscribe here.

Monday, May 28, 2007

bits and pieces

I wonder if there is any correlation between the timewise rise and fall of GDP and the timewise rise and fall of ... say, number of people in the armed forces---in the U.S.--in other particular countries? In general in the world? or rather than "armed forces", what if we check for correlation with say ... number of people killed violently *within* the country, or how about *outside* the country, but by Americans, or how about just deaths of american soldiers. Just curious. How about instead of GDP, we ask it about general happiness levels? or longevity? Or suicide. So much data, so little time.

my technorati authority rose from 12 to 15 this last week. yeeehaw. Thankyou to those who linked here. You all rock.

check out this totally gnarley search which recently led someone here =)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Weekly roundup of civilian deaths in Iraq under U.S. occupation

stolen from Lily.

The violence this week has caused over 600 civilian deaths.

More than 80 die on Monday 21 May. Gunmen kill 7 inside a minibus near Hibhib, one of them a child, while US forces shoot dead a civilian in Ishaqi, after their patrol is hit by a roadside bomb. In Baghdad, Falluja and Baquba, police find 51 bound and tortured bodies.

(Read more ...)

On Tuesday 22 May 125 lose their lives. In the day’s largest incident, a car bomb blows up 25 people, including 3 children, in Amil, Baghdad. Gunmen shoot dead 8 college students in Baghdad, while mortars kill another 4 students in Adhamiya, Baghdad. Near Baquba, gunmen kill 6 people, mother, father and 4 children, while US forces kill 4 civilians in two different incidents in Baghdad and Mosul. In Albu Ubaid, east of Ramadi, a suicide bomber enters a house and blows up 10 members of the same family. Police find 46 bodies in 5 cities, most of them in Baghdad.

On Wednesday 23 May 110 die, including 20 killed by a suicide bomber in a café in Mandali, 3 children killed by mortars in Khan Bani Saad, a primary school pupil killed when mortars fall on his school in Mahmudiya, and 8 policemen. 49 bodies are found in 6 cities, most of them in Baghdad.

Around 100 die on Thursday 24 May, among them 35 people who die when a car bomb explodes during a funeral in Falluja. Gunmen set up a fake checkpoint and shoot dead 11 people inside a minibus when it stops. After planting a bomb among the bodies, they blow up another 2 who come to the scene. 2 more civilians are shot dead by US forces, while a truck driver is killed by Blackwater security contractors in Baghdad. Also, 27 bodies are found, most of them in Baghdad.

On the quietest day of the week, 58 die on Friday 25 May. In an attack on Aswad village, gunmen kill 17 people, while mortars kill 2 children in Baghdad. Police find 26 bodies, mostly in Baghdad. In Kufa, Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr calls for all Iraqis to fight the occupying forces united.

Another 60 civilians are killed on Saturday 26 May. In an air raid over Sadr City, Baghdad, US planes kill up to 5 people. According to several reports and witnesses, as well as Iraqi officials, the dead are civilian drivers queuing in their cars to buy petrol. 11 cars are destroyed in the raid. During another air strike by British forces, up to 8 civilians are reported killed in Basra. Police find 27 bodies, mostly in Baghdad.

Around 75 are killed on Sunday 27 May. Among the victims, a famous Iraqi calligrapher shot dead in Baghdad, a child blown up by a car bomb in Falluja, 2 farmers, a head of council and his assistant, and 3 women and a child killed by mortars in Baghdad. In Baghdad police find 44 bodies, tortured and shot in the head.

This is what the pursuit of self-interest by a powerful state has led to: the total devastation of a country and its people. The collapse of Iraq: a country that had no terrorists before its invasion, a country that never attacked America. The goal has been achieved: the US is in Iraq and it will stay there to protect its interests. Yet too much has been lost on both sides to make this a sweet victory..

what does it mean to "die for your country"?

My dad served 2 tours of duty in the vietnam war. At age 18 he tore up his draft notice for the U.S. Army and went down to talk to the Air Force recruiter. He's definitely a man with a high practical intelligence, and he was, I think, considering attrition rate comparisons between the services. He went on to work for the U.S. air force for twenty years, retiring in 1987. After a big argument on mother's day, he called and left a message on my cell phone in which he said in a tone of great sorrow and sincere regret "Son, I'm sorry that you are ashamed of me because of my service in the U.S. military."

That was wrenching to hear. The last thing I want to communicate to my dad is that I'm ashamed of him. He's a great guy, and from my current 32 year old frame of reference, I can see that he did worse than some but better than most in his role as a father.

The memorial day holiday tomorrow has really set me to thinking this year. In years past, I've pretty much ingnored the holiday. I asked a barista today while she was preparing my (fair trade) coffee "What is Memorial Day about anyway?". She replied "ummm, I dunno--something about the military?" The two older people behind me in line looked chagrined and charged "Aha--a product of Seattle Public Schools!". My friend Julie, who preached earlier today about Pentecost, said that older members of her church wished she had mentioned or preached on memorial day. Is it a generational thing?

(Read more ...)

All this had led me to this question: Has the meaning of "Die for America" changed over the years? Has it become less significant, or more significant? Has the meaning of "America" changed? Memorial Day finds it's roots in both the North and the South in the American Civil War taking time in May to remember the War Dead. It became a national holiday much later, after World War II, as a nation chose to remember it's staggering losses in that enormous conflict.

The soldiers in the american civil war were fighting, I guess, for preserving the union, or a way of life, or freedom, or at some level against slavery. The soldiers in World War II were fighting against Hitler and his allies, or against the genocide of Jews, or against Japan. Was it about self preservation? Preservation of an idea, or an ideal? What did the 3500 U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq die for?

I can't get my head around how and why the deaths of U.S. soldiers are more to be remembered than the deaths of civilians, or of opposing soldiers. Maybe I've just too far and altogether lost my sense of nationality, of specific place and group. A lower estimate of civilian deaths in Iraq is 70,000. Did you know that, in some strange and powerful way connected with our own Vietnam War Memorial, there are memorials throughout vietnam honoring those who died to conquer the invasive occupying Americans? On this memorial day, as our nation pauses to consider the memory and meaning of the lives and deaths of american soldiers, who will remember the names of at least 70,000 innocent iraqi civilians who have died since we invaded?

Whom shall I honor tomorrow? As an human being who is increasingly attracted and committed to the idea of non violence, I want to remember those who are heroes of non violence who have lived or died in their quest for peace--people who believed that you can't fight death and tyranny by killing people--people who believed that the only way to end war and violence and hatred and increase security was to promote forgiveness and kindness and non-violent justice for the poor and those with no voice and little power and love for one’s enemies. Names that spring to mind are Ghandi, and King, Rachel Corrie, and Christian Peacemaker Teams. Who will you be honoring tomorrow?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Submarine fiber optic cable

Did you ever wonder how exactly it is that you can place video calls over the internet using skype between Australia, UK, U.S., etc.? Check this out. All that info--the voice, the video--is going back and forth through fiber optic cables which are lying across the bottom of the ocean. wild.

Why?--I'm confused, again.

Today this story from BBC about a seven day old armed conflict between the government of Lebanon and and "Islamic militants" who have taken control of a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. I have lots of questions about this. Why did "Islamic militants" take over a refugee camp? How is "sending in the army" going to help de-escalate/improve the situation? And most ... strangely to me:

Why is the United States delivering military equipment to the Lebanese army as assistance for this situation?

I just don't get it. Is it kind of like we want to make sure we want to get our own whatever sized piece of the culpability for whatever innocent people die? Confused, again.

I said to Megsie "Okay, I thing I figured it out. There are lots of people in this country who are okay with accepting culpability for the death of the innocent in the name of the grand end goal of MTWABP". and she said "Oh, so the end justifies the means? Is that kind of like how the terrorists think?".

She went on to say "I think it's more understandable if you are able to realize that this is just another greedy country which is jumping into the fray. But there is this powerful myth in this country that America is somehow God's country and with good pure motives, so that kind of confuses things, because they are not behaving in a way that is consistent with that. People think they are, but then it works out to not be good for the other countries, and that's why it's confusing."

That was helpful

Friday, May 25, 2007

illegal t-shirts

Ran across these t-shirst on the web today--they're selling for $22 here. They actually contain a printed list on front and back of 3155 U.S. troops who had died in Iraq through February 2007.

Apparently Lousiana and Texas have enacted laws outlawing the commercial use of the names of the war dead without their families' permission, and Arizon, Florida, and Texas have similar bills close to being enacted.

The families of some of the soldiers who have died have expressed chagrin at such a use of their deceased loved ones' names.

The guy selling the shirts, Dan Frazier, says they are expensive to produce and he is using them to make a political statement about the enormous cost of the Iraq War. He says his use of the names is constitutionally protected.

Here's a recentish article about the subject

What do you think? Should governments stop the production and sale of such shirts? How does the families' chagrin over these shirts weigh up against, for instance, the weight of tens of thousands of civilians who are likely to die in Iraq over the next year under U.S. occupation? What does it mean that while legislators and the families of dead soldiers are arguing over "exploitation" of the names of Americans who have died in Iraq, with their $3 starbucks lattes firmly in hand as they drive their $30,000 SUV's from meeting to meeting, children as well as adults in Baghdad have to deal with an amazingly high sense of physical insecurity, a third of the world's population is living on $2/day or less, and 30,000 children will die today from lack of clean water and sufficient calories? Would you wear one of these? I would, except I can't afford one right at the moment =) Your thoughts?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A brilliant story

Want to invite you to read Meg's brilliant short story The Story of the Weeping Camel. The best short piece of writing I've run across in ... a very long time (and I'm quite a voracious reader). Someone should oughtta be paying her for this.

Lost in translation

So just out of curiosity, the other day after I posted the narrative essay I wrote for my Spanish class, I fed it to google's machine translator, just to see what would happen. What follows is what happened. It struck me quite funny. So I mailed it off to my spanish profesor, who said she almost choked on her sandwich cause she found it so funny. Let this be a warning: Don't *ever* trust machine translators--at least not free ones! Maybe in another 20 years they'll be better at it. My prof says she's going to use it show the students in her 100 level classes what it looks like when they (the cheaters) write essays in English and then translate to Spanish with free web based translators, and then turn in the machine translated version without (apparently) even reading it, much less massaging it into workable spanish =)

Here it is:

I want to write a history how we knew ourselves and we fell in love I and my esposita Megan. How attack of a boat like engineer worked, totally (then, more or less totally) it cheers, without a preoccupation in the world. A day, arrived at the boat a group of new workers, including a girl, discharge, blonde, and very pretty. But it did not notice anything. In fact, as a child I made an oath that never went to marry to me, and until that hour, at least never I had a amiguita, a fiancèe. Then, a day, I entered the pequeñita library of the boat, and found to two girls reclining in the ground, reading. One of them was this girl, the blonde and discharge. I said "Hello. You must be the new ones. I am called Youngest child. And you-like they are called". That was the beginning of the aim of my oath. About that time, it did not think that nothing important happened ( but you watch - who still it memory). Single I spoke with them minutitos and I was myself. I did not remember the meeting nor concerned much to me. As much later, we remembered that meeting like ours first. Later (like memory), the second time when we spoke was when we and some others prepared behind schedule during for a celebration and an international-a celebration spectacle to that two thousand people came more or less in the twilight. We only spoke while we worked, about our countries, families, the government, etc. etc. I think that it was that time when I began to fall in love with her. But still I did not understand that that was what happened. In fact, I did not know, consciously, that it enamored to me with her until much more behind schedule - did… four months, more or less. It was in Accra, in Ghana, when finally I realized that. Meanwhile, she knew from almost that night of the spectacle. (I think that this, that she knew and I no, I was because the men suffer damage of brain in uterus, but the girls no, and for that reason men are as much stupid emotionally, in resistance to the women. But that is another history.) We were in Accra, and a shepherd, call John Ramey, did not invite to go to a restaurant with some others. He knew that it wanted to me, because she had trusted him. Also, I think, he knew that I fell in love with her although no longer i myself knew to it. That night, during the supper, he gave to us with many romantic histories of all his years like a shepherd. Finally it, somehow, fixed it so that Megan and I walked from the restaurant to the boat (where we lived) more or less together solamentes. A very strange thing happened. We were walking and my hand, seemed by its own will, moved to take the hand from her. When I noticed that this happened, I very was surprised. I thought " Mano mine, what you do your? Please mantenerte in your own place" This spent two or three times while we walked, and finally I began to occur to account of something very great-something that was, to me, very rare. After that night, we have more been and inseparados. Months I take more, we were enamored totally during the spring in Italy. And soon after that, I requested it that she married to me underneath million stars sailing in the Mediterranean, about the Lambda-type islands. Then we married in a beach in Australia, and now we lived happy and we eat perdices.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Menstrual blood and superpowers

Julie recently posted an insightful and provocative article, (quoting Sonja's article) along with this photo--a couple quotes:
Without menstrual blood, we would not have the human race for much longer. It is that monthly cleansing of the womb that allows pregnancy and prolonging our species. It’s high time we acknowledged that far from being unclean and a joke, it is what allows us to be and continue being. It is what makes us intensely feminine, female and other and beautiful.

And don't even get me started on how breastfeeding is still a hidden taboo thing.

Is this a latent fear of all things feminine? It is too other for men to try to engage and understand? Is it part of the centuries old habit of despising women for the "weakness" of these things? Or is it even confined just to women or does our culture still accept the dualistic assumptions that disparage the physical body? And why do we as women continue to see the natural aspects of what it means to be female as something to be embarrassed by and hidden? Or is this just a Christian backlash to the world's objectification of all things sexual

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

top 5 authors for people have been screwed by the church

So yesterday I met a really kewl guy who, like me, had very much been screwed by the Christian Church. In his particular case, the chief culprit was a big Christian university. I realized in talking with him that a lot of people actually have had it even worse than I have (and this is only part of my story), and that I've been very blessed to experience a lot of ... healing and ... moving on, compared to many, who are still very much in the thick of the horror and pain. I was hoping to encourage him a little with some of the things that have encouraged me. Some of what saved me, during and after all the bullshit that was rained on my head during my years in 'the church', was, and has been, a smallishish group of authors who have made their way into the ongoing attempt to satisfy my lifelong never ending book lust.

Here's my top five authors for people who have been screwed by 'the church', from a guy that's actually found a lot of encouragement throughout the whole hellish process. They are in chronological order of when I first read them.

1. George Macdonald. Honestly anything at all by him, and he's got a ton--my favorites are the two fantasy books for grown ups--Lilith and Phantastes. But his children's fantasies, his popular novels, his sermons, his poetry--it's all brilliant, all very readable, and all amazingly encouraging. George more then anyone else, I guess, saved me from the worst that fundamentalist christianity had to offer during my growing-up-in-the-sect years, I guess more than anything else because I found him first and kept going back for more. All George's stuff is way out of copyright and so most of it is available free online from project gutenberg and other such places (although that is never nearly as satisfying as an actual *book*--and of course all George's stuff is still in publication as well)

2. Brennan Manning. Anything by Brennan is basically brilliant, but most of all his Ragamuffin Gospel, which I have gone back to and back to and back to. And if you ever get to hear him speak--that's really enjoyable too.

3. Jeff van Vonderen's The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. I haven't read any of Jeff's other books, but this one was beyond helpful to me when I was in the process of finally figuring out that it *was* abuse, and how to get the hell out (which can be inordinately difficult!).

4. Brian McLaren. I've only read a couple of his, and heard bits and pieces of his latest The Last Word and the Word after That (read out loud by my lovely wife). I've found what I've read, and also hearing him speak in person, *so* refreshing! I think of him and George as the top two people on my short list entitled "People who create a space within which it is possible to imagine myself a christian". And like the first guy on my list, George, he argues from inside a deep understanding of and love for Jesus and the bible *against* the insane and heinous idea of "eternal conscious suffering of the lost in hell".

5. Tony Campolo. I've only read his Let Me Tell You a Story, but I found it very uplifting, and I got to hear him speak a SPU once, and it was .... great.

the Jim henderson talk at UW yesterday

Yesterday I attended a really kewl event put on by the secular student alliance (the atheists) at UW in conjunction with the Intervarsity Christian group there. They invited Jim Henderson (a 25 year pastor, evangelism ... guru (sorry Jim), promoter of dialogue between christians and normal people, and the guy who bought Hemant's (an atheist) soul on ebay 15 months ago, to come and speak to them about that experience, and about Hemant's Book I Sold My Soul on Ebay, and about Jim's new book in which he and Matt Caspar, another athest, visited and dialogued about 20 different churches across the U.S., called Jim and Caspar go to Church. (long breath. sorry about the run on sentence. Don't feel like fixing it, and don't have an editor (yet), so deal with it =)). I really enjoyed the event--here's a little report on it.

I got there quite late, so I missed a good bit of what was said. It was really kewl to hear Jim kind of saying what he really thought right out, because it was such an open environment. A couple things I really liked:

Jim talked about how no matter what we think, it’s important to not compare “our best” to “their worst”

A young man talked about growing up in a really conservative baptist church, and how hard it was to get out of his head the thought that he, and/or others, would go to hell if they didn’t maintain a correct belief. He asked Jim how Jim would respond to someone saying he was going to burn in hell for failing to believe “correctly”? Jim empathized with the young man and went on to say that if such a god exists, who sends people to hell for incorrect belief, then he, Jim, wasn’t super interested and would probably end up burning in hell with all the other unbelieving or incorrectly believing people. I’m quoting from memory here so it’s not exact, but I think I got the gist of it right.

Jim was talking a bit about how there’s certainly plenty of ammo for anyone who wants to critique the church, and a young man, I think perhaps the atheist who helped organize the meeting, said “Well, you’ve talked a lot about how there’s plenty of ammo for critizing the church–that the church has lots of bad sides and has done and continues to just not get it in a lot of ways. So what about athiests? What are we doing wrong–what ammo are we providing as fodder for legitimate critique?” Jim seemed very pleased by this question, and talked about how he couldn’t even get Christians to ask him questions like that if he paid them. He went on to talk about how there are fundamentalists everywhere–by which he meant, he said, people who get afraid and then become mean and bigoted–christian fundamentalists and atheist fundamentalists and fundamentalists in any other camp you care to name.

Jim was saying he really like Habitat for Humanity, because it’s about what you *do* rather than what you believe, and that they don’t have any orthodoxy except the orthodoxy of the hammmer–if you can hit a nail with a hammer, you’re in. But they do have follower of Jesus roots, so they do this one thing which is that they pray over the house together after they’ve built it. So one young man pointed out that he knew of some atheists who actually wouldn’t work with habitat because they do have the … very gentle connection with following jesus, and why didn’t they just give that up so they could include even more people. Jim talked about how habitat gets criticized by lots of people in the christian community for not talking enough, and that a lot of their financial backing comes from non religioius non christian sources, and that maybe the fundamentalist atheists who are against it from one end should get together with the fundamentalist christians who are against it from the other end and form an organization called “Why Habitat for Humanity Sucks”, which drew a laugh from the audience.

He talked about the macro business of religions and of christianity, and how it’s come to be all about beliefs, and beliefism. He talked about how this business has latched onto the phrase which Jesus used one time in a secret meeting with one other person at night: “Born again”, but maybe it would make more sense to use wording which he used thirty times: “Follow me–be my disciple (that is, apprentice–do what I do, and say what I say)”

He talked about how 95% of the time when Jesus talked about hell, it was to religious people, and that he never talked about hell to … non religious, normal, hurting people.

He talked about “non manipulative intentionality”, which he defined as living intentionally, or on purprose, without trying to control the process or the outcomes. He gave credit to Buddhist thought in this idea. I found this very appealing, and would love to hear more about it.

Eliza was there, and he got her to come up front and introduce herself, to say that she was on facutly at the hospital, and to talk a little about how she came to find out about off the map and about her experience with the Lutheran class.

I had a really great conversation with a guy who has a similar background to me in a really conservative baptist church, and who is also a UW student, and I am hoping to reconnect with him ongoingly in the future.

Overall, I’m really glad to have gone to this event. It was very enjoyable. It felt like Jim could be more open and honest about his thoughts and ideas and feelings and goals than it seems like he can normally be in the more … churchish settings where I’ve seem him speak before. That was really … refreshing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

three blessings

For all you people out there who think I focus too much on the negative (you know who you are), and any others who are interested,

I started a new blog today called three blessings, in order to create a space for myself to begin practice one of martin seligman's scientifically proven exercises for increasing happiness. It works quite simply--every day one just writes down 3 things that went well, and why they went well. He's demonstrated that it increases happiness long term. Kewl. So in case you wanna follow it, here's the link.

And if you wanna post your own three blessings over there occasionally, feel free to email me at Benjamin.ady at and let me know, and I'll be happy to add you as a user =).

Don't worry, I'm not abandoning here or anything. Just adding something new =)

Irony again

reported civilian deaths in Iraq since U.S. invasion and occupation in 2003 (as of May 21, 2007)

Near the top of Google's headlines today was this story. It begins

Washington - The United States urged Israel Monday to avoid harming civilians as it conducts military attacks against Hamas in the Gaza Strip but stood behind the Jewish state's right to defend itself.

US State Department Sean McCormack said Israel should 'take all possible actions' to prevent civilian casualties and damage to Palestinian infrastructure and to ensure the Israeli-Palestinian peace process stays on track.
This from the nation who *coined* the euphemism "collateral damage"

A quote from Charlie Clements from April 2003--one month pre-invasion

I am a public health physician. In January I participated in a ten-day emergency mission to Iraq, sponsored by the Brooklyn-based Center for Economic and Social Rights. Our task was to assess the potential consequences to Iraqi civilians of a war on Iraq. As a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a Vietnam veteran, I have some understanding of the potential consequences of the air war we are about to unleash on Iraq as a prelude to an invasion by U.S. troops. The Pentagon will refer to the innocent victims of this assault as "collateral damage," but I've seen their faces, and I think they should have another name. One that occurs to me is "children," since half the population of Iraq is under 18 years old.
and from iraqbodycount

This is an ongoing human security project which maintains and updates the world’s only independent and comprehensive public database of media-reported civilian deaths in Iraq that have resulted from the 2003 military intervention by the USA and its allies. The count includes civilian deaths caused by coalition military action and by military or paramilitary responses to the coalition presence (e.g. insurgent and terrorist attacks). It also includes excess civilian deaths caused by criminal action resulting from the breakdown in law and order which followed the coalition invasion.
And this, attributed to Jesus

Love your civilian enemies, and try to avoid killing them while you are bombing your military enemies

Cómo nos enamorábamos

Well, I wrote it in Spanish. Maybe you can find a web based translator thing somewhere =)

Quiero escribir una historia de cómo nos conocimos y nos enamoramos yo y mi esposita Megan. Cómo trabajaba abordo de un barco como ingeniero, totalmente (pues, más o menos totalmente) alegre, sin una preocupación en el mundo. Un día, llegó al barco un grupo de trabajadores nuevos, incluyendo una chica, alta, rubia, y muy linda. Pero no notaba nada. De hecho, de niño yo hice un juramento que nunca iba casarme, y hasta esa hora, por lo menos nunca tuve una amiguita, una novia. Entonces, un día, entré a la biblioteca pequeñita del barco, y encontré a dos chicas reclinando en el suelo, leyendo. Una de ellas era esta chica, la rubia y alta. Yo dije “Hola. Ustedes tienen que ser las nuevas. Me llamo Benjamín. Y ustedes—como se llaman”. Eso era el comienzo del fin de mi juramento.

En esa vez, no pensaba que nada importante pasaba (¡pero mire usted – que todavía lo recuerdo!). Solo hablé con ellas unos minutitos y me fui. No recordé la reunión ni me importó mucho. Tanto más tarde, nosotros recordamos esa reunión como la nuestra primera.

Después (como recuerdo), la segunda vez cuando hablamos era cuando nosotros y algunos otros preparábamos durante un tarde para una fiesta y celebración internacional—un espectáculo a que vinieron en el crepúsculo mas o menos dos mil personas. Sólo hablábamos mientras trabajábamos, acerca de nuestros países, familias, el gobierno, etc. etc. Pienso que fue esa vez cuando empecé a enamorarme de ella. Pero todavía no entendí que eso era lo que pasaba.

De hecho, no supe, conscientemente, que me enamoraba de ella hasta mucho más tarde –hacía … cuatro meses, más o menos. Era en Accra, en Ghana, cuando finalmente me di cuenta de eso. Mientras tanto, ella sabía desde casi esa noche del espectáculo. (Yo pienso que esto, que ella sabía y yo no, era porque los hombres sufren daño de cerebro en útero, pero las chicas no, y por eso hombres son tanto estúpido emocionalmente, en contraste a las mujeres. Pero eso es otra historia.)

Estábamos en Accra, y un pastor, llamado John Ramey, no invitó a ir a un restaurante con algunos otros. Él sabía que ella me quería, porque ella lo había confiado a él. También, pienso, él sabía que yo me enamoraba de ella aunque ya no lo sabía yo mismo. Esa noche, durante la cena, él nos regaló con muchas historias románticas de todos sus años como un pastor.

Finalmente él, de alguna manera, lo arregló para que Megan y yo caminábamos del restaurante al barco (donde vivimos) mas o menos juntos solamentes. Una cosa muy extraña pasó. Estábamos caminando y mi mano, parecido por su propia voluntad, se movía a tomar la mano de ella. Cuando noté que esto pasaba, yo estuve muy sorprendido. Pensé “¿Mano mía, qué haces tu? ¡Favor de mantenerte en tu propio lugar!” Esto pasó dos o tres veces mientras caminábamos, y finalmente empecé darme cuenta de algo muy grande—algo que era, a mí, muy raro.

Después de esa noche, hemos estado más y más inseparados. Unos meses más tardo, nos encontramos totalmente enamorados durante la primavera in Italia. Y pronto después de eso, yo la pedí que me casara debajo de millones de estrellas navegando en el Mediterráneo, acerca de las islas Grecas. Entonces nos casamos en una playa en Australia, y ahora vivimos felices y comemos perdices.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

620 Civilian deaths in Iraq under U.S. occupation this week

Stolen from Lily Hamourtziadou.

This week the nameless and faceless Iraqi civilians who died exceeded 620.

Over 80 die on Monday 14 May, half of them in Baghdad. US troops kill an Iraqi policeman in Abu Dsheer in Baghdad; US forces also kill a child when they open fire on a house near Dujail. In a gun battle between British forces and gunmen in Basra 2 students are killed, caught in the crossfire.

Over 100 die on Tuesday 15 May, including 45 killed by a suicide truck bomb in a market in Abu Saida, 7 killed by bombs in al-Tayaran square, Baghdad, and 4 by mortar fire in Ur, Baghdad. Police find 23 bodies in Baghdad, Suwayra and Baquba. In Karbala, 91 unidentified bodies are buried in a mass grave.

Around 90 die on Wednesday 16 May. Among them 9 civilians killed in clashes in Nasiriya, 2 by mortars in Baghdad’s Green Zone, while a child is shot dead by Iraqi police trying to break up a protest. In Baghdad 30 bodies are found.

On Thursday 17 May 80 civilians lose their lives, half of them in Baghdad. Among the victims 2 journalists working for ABC news, ambushed and shot dead in Baghdad, and 30 bodies found bound and tortured in Baghdad. More bodies are found in Baquba, Kirkuk, Latifiya and Karma.

On Friday 18 May the civilian death toll is 90. A US patrol, firing randomly, shoots dead 2 civilians in Baghdad, after a roadside bomb explodes next to them. Gunmen shoot dead 3 lorry drivers near Kirkuk, a suicide bomber kills 3 policemen at a checkpoint in Jarf al-Sakhr, police find 25 bodies in Baghdad, 30 in Diyala, 5 in Hilla and 5 in Kut. All tortured and shot, one of them a 12-year-old child.

Over 100 die on Saturday 19 May. In a Kurdish Shiite village gunmen shoot dead 15 men and 1 woman, 15 are killed in various incidents in Baghdad, 3 children are blown up by a bomb in Nassiriya, and police find 60 bodies in Baghdad, Mosul, Falluja, Basra, Hilla, Khalis and Muradiya.

Around 70 die on Sunday 20 May, half of them in Baghdad.

... Irony

Here's a fun and informative and gentle thumbing of the nose at Disney in particular, and powerful evil corporations in general. HT to Mike

Friday, May 18, 2007

google's new timeline view

This is pretty kewl. check out this search. And while you're at it, you can now do directory assistance calls for free to look for local businesses using google's new 1-800-Goog411. It works quite well. no more $1.25 charges for that little service. yeehaw. they'll even connect you for free, and/or text the number to your cell for free. Can't beat that.

friday video

I think Mr. Colbert is pretty freaking entertaining. And I've never even seen him on proper television--only on the internet.

Jim Henderson to speak at University of Washington

Jim Henderson, founder of Off the Map and co author of Jim and Capsar go to Church, will be speaking at UW Monday night from 6-8 PM at Thomson Hall Room 101. The event is being sponsored by the Secular Student Union and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, with the idea in mind of promoting dialogue between Christians and atheists/agnostics (*not* evangelism--*dialogue*!).

I recommend the event highly, if you happen to be in Seattle Monday Night.

More than 60 died by violence in Iraq yesterday

Two quotes from this article

More than 60 people were killed and dozens wounded in mortar strikes, drive-by shootings, roadside explosions, suicide bombings and other violent attacks in Iraq on Thursday, as a study warned that the country was close to becoming a “failed state.”

In Washington, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has announced his retirement amid declining British support for the war in Iraq, said at the White House on Thursday that if he could do it all over again, he would still stand with President Bush and back the war. “The forces we are fighting in Iraq,” he said of al-Qaida and Iranian-backed terrorists, “are the same forces we are fighting everywhere.”

And from Jesus

Fight your enemies

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gotta a question for one of the leading Democratic candidates for president?

God's politics is inviting readers to submit questions, and then plans to allow readers to vote on which questions should be asked to Barack, Hillary, and John at Pentecost 2007.

Even if you don't have a question, you might enjoy watching the forum in which Jim Wallis and friends will be asking the three candidates about their views on faith, moral values, and poverty. The show is to be aired nationally at 7PM eastern on June 4.

Here's a comment from Shane Claiborne touching, methinks, on the whole upcoming election cycle

Perhaps reflect on the following words from George W. Bush: “The ideal of America is the hope of all mankind ... That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” And the recent words of Barack Obama on the Late Show with David Letterman, “This country is still the last best hope on earth.” As Christians, how do we reconcile where our ultimate faith lies, especially within an empire as mesmerizing as Rome or America?

learning as an antidote for sadness

Found this quote today, from T.H. White's Once and Future King, which I suppose I shall now have to read (and it will doubtless be a pleasure!). It just resonates perfectly with me. As I continue to work on finding my Yes, I'm convinced that part of it is a huge motivation to learn, to understand things and people, to get my head around them. When I'm doing this, I feel Csikszentmihalyi's flow--especially, funnily enough, when I'm doing maths.

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn--pure science, the only purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes in biology and medicine and theocriticism and geography and history and economics--why, you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it is time to learn to plough."

It seems to be the exact opposite of what the writer of Ecclesiastes says
For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.

And funnily enough, both are true. So there's a nice example of antinomy for you. One thing that would make christianity more appealing, IMHO, would be if more of its practitioners were willing to embrace the way in which reality seems to be very much chock full of antinomy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

God in a Foxhole?

I wrote this post for the other blog I co-host, I'm closing comments on this post and inviting you to post any comments you have over there. =)

Newsweek ran an insightful article this last week about how the war in Iraq is causing some U.S. soldiers to lose their Christian faith. The piece centers on the story of army chaplain Roger Benimoff, who shared with Newsweek the personal journal he kept through two deployments in Iraq and his current service as a chaplain at Walter Reed Medical Center. Roger has gone through what sounds like quite a wrenching of his faith, as he had to perform more memorial services than regular chapel services. He saw that the reality of war forced many soldiers to reevaluate the faith they had embraced back in the relative wealth and security of the United States.

Some quotes:

[He] begins his time in Iraq brimming with faith and a sense of devotion that carries him into a second tour. "My heart is filled with prayer and God is giving me a discerning spirit," he writes at the start of that later deployment. "The spiritual battle I am engaged in is a minute-by-minute war." He is "on fire for God."Countless soldiers—not just chaplains—have struggled with how to reconcile a God of love with a God who allows the terror of conflict. For centuries theologians and philosophers have grappled with ideas of "just war": thou shalt not kill, but under certain conditions—to prevent wider bloodshed and suffering—slaughter by armies is acceptable.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

this week in U.S. occupied Iraq

It seems to me that's it's important to keep this in front of our eyes, since after all, we are spending something like US$200 million/minute to (presumably) accomplish something over there.

So last week:

  • An additional 585 civilian deaths. That breaks down to 140 on Monday, 60 on Tuesday, 90 on Wednesday, 50 on Thursday 60 on Friday, 45 on Saturday, and 140 more on Sunday) (Try not to think about the fact that every one of these has a name, a father, a mother, friends, ..... etc.)
  • The 585 doesn't include the 2 newborns who died in their incubators in Samarra due to a power outage and the fact that they couldn't be transferred to another hospital because security measures prevented ambulances from entering or leaving the city. (by the way, it's count discrepancies like these which account for the difference between Iraq body count's 69000 figure and John Hopkins University 690,000 figure)
  • The Tuesday total includes 7 primary school children killed by a U.S. Helicopter while shelling their primary school in Al Nedawat village.

(just as an aside, how would you like to have one of these fuckers shooting at your school? Your children's school? I wonder why we don't deal with terorrist school shooters in this country by dispatching longbow apaches? When I was young, I used to thing these were kewl. Don't even pay attention to the weapons mounted on the side. The really scary one is the M230 30 mm chain gun under the fuselage. It can shoot 625 rounds per minute. But the really crazy thing is the honeywell (an evil corporation if ever there was one!) M142 IHADSS. That's for "Integrated Helmet and Display Sight System". What it boils down to is that the chain gun can be hooked up to the helmet, on the head of the pilot, in such a way that the chain gun points at what the pilot looks at. I've seen this in operation, and it's pretty freaking scary. I used to think it was kewl. I guess I grew up a little.)

  • News that mortality of children under 5 has risen 150% since the original 1990 invasion, from 50/1000 to 125/1000. (Don't think too much about that, you might get depressed)

Follow the weekly roundup of Iraq's devastaion with Lily Hamourtziadou

It was nice to see that

For once my government is taking a reasonable, internationally acceptable position on something.

A Sinead O'Connor interview

HT to Helen for this.

Harp magazine published last year a moving interview with Irish singer songwriter Sinead O'Connor. (Her latest album, Throw Down Your Arms, can be had at Amazon for US$8) I thought she really nailed it throughout the interview. Some quotes:

So yeah, I think music is the thing that rescues God from religion and politics

What bothers me about him [George Bush]is he seems to have the wrong facial expression when he talks about violence. He smiles! But they are all victims of a culture of violence, a culture of being brought up to believe this is how you sort things out.

I suppose what I see in all this is that there are all these people who claim to be representing God and who are actually killing each other, killing people. You can't judge one side or other to be better or worse than another-anybody who claims that they have God on their side while committing an act of violence is blaspheming. ... I think we all need to say, "Look, the way we've been sorting out these things doesn't work. Maybe we could try to sort it out lovingly.

I try not to get involved with politics of any description. But I am interested in the cause of rescuing God from religion.

And I suppose if I had to say anything to a 20-year-old [me], I'd say, "Sinead, look-just don't give a shit when these people are telling you you're a piece of shit. Don't buy into it." I came to believe I was a complete fucking monster, so I had to recover.

But as a child I grew up in a very theocratic society, so I sort of became interested from a very small age in rescuing God from religion. And it became apparent that music and singing was a way one could do that.

Monday, May 14, 2007

the Pentagon bans Youtube, myspace, etc.

I guess you know that Mr. Bush and co are getting pretty desparate. This is unfreakingbelievable. The Defense Department has announced it will begin blocking access on its computers and networks "worldwide" to YouTube, MySpace and 11 other popular Web sites, according to a memo sent Friday by Gen. B.B. Bell, the U.S. Forces Korea commander.

So the U.S. has what, 300,000 troops deployed worldwide right now? They are cutting off access to what for many is a primary mode of communication and connection with friends and family back home. They're claiming it's to protect both "bandwidth and sensitive information". I guess we might as well just move to China. Now not only is the Bush administration illegally monitoring civilian phone usage, it's outright attempting to ban parts of the web.

Of course, it's totally ridiculous. You can't ban parts of the web. It's like trying to swallow the ocean. Soldiers will use private networks or other web services to accomplish the same things.

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.
Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Propaganda Minister

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mother's Day Proclamation

This proclamation was written by Julia Ward Howe, who in 1870 sought formal recognition for a national Mother’s Day in the US. HT: Sharon

Mother’s Day Proclamation
by Julia Ward Howe

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

How to make statistics fascinating--a Friday video

HT to Byron for this one.

It's about the getting a fact based big picture sense of what is happening in the whole world

some news and thoughts on abortion

So in the news yesterday was the story of "Miss D", an irish teenager who recently won the right in court to travel to Britain to terminate her 4 month pregnancy (as abortions are illegal in the Irish Republic). Why does she wish to terminate it? The foetus has anencephaly, a condition which means that a large part of the brain and skull is missing. Babies with anencephaly live a maximum of just three days after birth.

How can it be remotely right or sensible to force a 17 year old to carry to term a child that will live a maximum of three days? It's horrible that she had to go through what was no doubt a hellish court experience to be allowed to terminate this pregnancy. The BBC Story

In related news, the Pope set off a firestorm yesterday when he said it was fine for Mexican Roman Catholic higher ups to excommunicate Catholic politicians who voted in favor of abortion rights. He said:

Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon [church] law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ.
I guess Jesus sort of fucked up when he offered communion, aka his own body, to Judas, who was surely more ancillary to the killing of an innocent god than these politicians are to the killing of an innocent child. I guess Jesus should have checked with the pope first.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

HT to Jen for this. I found it intriguing as I've heard before that we in the Seattle area speak "network standard", and this seems to confirm it. This is also kind of good news for me because .... I remember when I was in third grade in Tacoma, I had to skip a class once a week for a while to go work with a speech therapist because my teachers couldn't understand me. I had to overcome a lisp pronouncing "s" as "th" and also learn to say "r" rather than "w" for "r". My memory is that I had a grand old time with the gentle, encouraging therapist I worked with, and felt a sense of accomplishment both in learning how to say these sounds "correctly" on purpose (that is, when I wanted to), and also "habitually" (that is, when I was meant to, without having to consciously think about it).

I remember also the therapist talking about how part of the reason that I had learned to speak the "wrong" way might be related to the fact that my parents both came from the east coast (Baltimore, MD and Boston, MA), and I grew up in Oklahoma and then Kansas, and then was attending 3rd grade in Tacoma, WA. Anyway, apparently I now have the accent, if not the voice (or the looks) to do radio or t.v. very kewl.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
North Central
The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A tale of excommunication, continued

continued from here

Maybe the reason I was somehow avoiding getting to the excommunication bit yesterday was because it's still a bit painful...

So Megan and I had gotten SP. And we were hanging out a lot together, and liking each other rather enormously, and both of us rather serious about our relationship, and the likelihood of future marriage. And of course, the rule was that you couldn't get engaged to be married during your first two years on board, which for us meant more or less until after we had left Logos II.

My whole two years on board I was working for the engine department, under the chief engineer, the first engineer, and so forth all the way down to third. I had a lot of responsibility, spending shifts alone in the engine spaces making sure that a lot of equipment was working okay and that nothing went too drastically wrong. During this two years, the people filling the certified engineer positions changed multiple times, since these were people with current certification with which they could earn a lot of money in "the real world", and who were working on Logos II for free, so they tended to never stay for more than six months, and often only one or two months. So anyway, since Megan and I had joined the ship at times four months apart, we were slated to leave at times four months apart--I in October '00, and she in Jan. '01. But because engine room watchkeepers are hard to train and hard to keep, when I requested to extend my stay for four months, the engineers, and then thusly the ship leadership, were happy for me to stay so that Megan and I could leave at the same time.

Now during one's two years on board, one gets a one week ... "vacation". Generally, the rule is that one must spend this week somewhere in the country in which the ship happened to be. Sometimes, however, permission was given to fly "home". So Megan and I obtained permission in summer '00 to fly to Seattle and hang out with my parents for a week. And furthermore, I requested and obtained permission from the ship's director, Coleman Tyler (as an aside, there are kind of two head cheeses on Logos II. There's the ... technical head cheese, the captain--a licensed and certified ship's master one of whom we must have on board at all times to meet international regulations. The guy who was the captain for most of the time I was on board, Tom Dyer, is one of the kewlest, humblest, most amazing people I've ever had the privilege to interact with. Then there's the ... sort of ... ministry head cheese, who oversees ministry, personnel, and the ministry leadership, etc. This is called the ship's director, and ... IMHO, Coleman Tyler was right on in (from what I understand) definitely *not* wanting the job. He was more or less pressured into taking it by higher ups in the ships' ministry organization because *someone* had to do it, and no one was available after the last one left. But I digress) for us to get officially engaged to be married during our week in the states. Even though I was more or less trying to keep this little fact secret from Megan, she was (as is no doubt often the case), pretty much picking up on what was going on, and I do believe she was rather excited.

However, (and here is misstep number one, methinks), one day before we were to leave for Seattle, Coleman called me into his office in order to inform me that the people with the real power, the people at ships' headquarters in Mosbach Germany, had ... (and I'm actually not totally clear on this bit) either "found out" about the engagement permission, been shocked, and demanded it be rescinded, or else they had "changed their minds", having previously known about it. Truth be told I was so shocked that I didn't manage to take in the details super well. The bottom line was that the permission that had been granted was now being revoked. Bummer for us, dude. So then of course I had to go more or less talk to Megan about this, since, despite my secrecy efforts, at that point she was definitely expecting a proposal during our time in Seattle. I guess this was kind of the beginning of the end for us.

So off we flew to Seattle, and Megan got to meet my parents (with all that entails, hehe) and my *very* strange, rural, masochistic, fundamentalist, KJV only, sectarian home church (but that's a whole nother (yes, I know "nother" isn't ... technically a word. but everyone *says* that! Just *try* saying "a whole other". Sounds *too* weird.) story). So during our week in Seattle (which is, after all, sort of a medical "mecca"), we managed to get a medical appointment for Megan to check out some pain she'd been suffering with for a long time. And then surgery was recommended. So we talked on the phone with the ship's leaders about that, and they said "fine", knowing that it meant we'd have to hang out for 3 additional weeks for her to recover (of course, what else *could* they say, honestly!). And truth be told we weren't exactly *super* bummed about hanging out in summertime seattle for 3 weeks, although of course post surgery is post surgery, and isn't any fun for anyone.

So then, (and here we approach misstep number 2), we had to change our tickets. Now our tickets were into Trieste. However, since we were getting there three weeks later than we intended, Logos II would already be gone--during that three weeks, she would have spent a couple weeks in Rijeka Croatia, and then moved on to Durres Albania. Looking at a map, that looks like about 350 or 400 miles. So we thought (here's to naivete!) it probably wouldn't be a huge problem to get from Trieste to Durres overland on a bus or train or something. Truth be told, this simply wasn't the case, and we failed to plan accordingly. I think if Megan hadn't been preoccupied with the surgery, she would have picked up on this small detail, as she had a great deal more prior travel experience than I did. However, surely some culpability ought to (god I hate saying "ought to" Strike that.) belongs to the ships leadership. That is to say, one might reasonably expect leaders in a huge worldwide missions organization with 3000 full time long term adult missionaries in over 100 countries, along with many thousands of short term workers (defined as two years or less), especially leaders in a field like the ships, which are dealing mostly with fairly young people, often coming to the ships straight from living at home with parents, to ... have some kind of understanding of what is or isn't entailed in international travel of this sort, and to, perchance, even be willing to share that understanding/educate the aforementioned volunteers. (stepping off soap box now)

However, putting all that aside, we arrived in Trieste late one afternoon in August with nothing but the very vaguest of plans for getting public transport overland to Durres, with, alas, all our (as it turned out) amazing heavy luggage, etc. We were promptly told there were really no viable overland routes to Durres (well, um, triple duh-ola! How about a little awareness of war and it's effects on transportation. oh well.). We were further told we needed to catch a train *all* the way around and down the coast of italy, and then catch a ferry across the adriatic. Train had already left for the day. Ferry only ran twice a week. etc. etc. By this point we were both completely exhausted (which, by the way, very much ought to be pronounced "ex ha UST ed", with 4 distinct syllables), and wanted nothing more than to sleep.

Must insert two small details here, which, perhaps, comprise misstep number 3. Before we left Logos II, we had both signed an agreement, to the details of which neither of us had paid enormous attention (since I guess we both agreed with the spirit of the agreement), which stipulated among other things that we wouldn't ... oh I can't remember *exactly*, but what it entailed was not sleeping in the same room together. So in Trieste, we found out that the ship, moored in Durres, had no phone lines, which was not super normal (this speaks to the question of overland transportation through the former yugoslavia). So they couldn't be contacted. So instead we contacted the ships' headquarters in Mosbach, and specifically received permission to get a hotel room (I know, the normal people are going--what the hell is the big deal? And the ... other people are going "Oh my god! a hotel room, together, alone, not married, etc. blah blah blah") ( I will just point out here that we were *not* having sex, and actually did fulfill our intention to not have sex until marriage. Not that I think that makes us better than anyone else, nor that I necessarily think that everyone should follow suit. But it *was* kind of understood to be a core value of the organization for which we were working) (this strikes me as a bit of a pathetic core value. that is to say perhaps respect and kindness and treating people like adults would be better core values. But again I digress.)

And long story short, some $600 (which was *rather* a lot to us at that time, as it came more or less out of our pockets, and we had neither of us earned a dime for some two years) and 4 days later, we found ourselves on a ferry approaching Durres, with equal parts utter exhaustion and a sense of relief when we saw Logos II moored just a quarter mile away in the harbor: "At last, we're home!" Alas, the exhaustion was soon to be exacerbated, and the relief squashed. Little did we know!

I think we had about $5 cash between us at that point, and then we found out that we needed to buy a visa to get into Albania. It was a mere ... $15 each or something like that. Can you imagine--we were pulling into the port in Durres! We managed to explain (across languages, you understand!) that we were poor volunteer workers with that non profit ship just over there (pointing), and please please we don't have a dime--and I'm sure they'll pay for us, etc. etc. So *they* let us through. Next, in trying to move from port area A, where we had arrived, to port area B, where Logos II was moored, we were stopped by 3 armed guys, who made it clear to us we weren't allowed to go that way. So close! At last we also convinced them to let us through, flashing our ship issued photo ID's, and finally found ourselves dragging our asses and our luggage up the gangway and aboard.

It started almost immediately, even from very close friends--a sort of "where the hell have you been? you must have been having a grand old time." This was a Friday night, and we were both thinking "All right, go to our cabins, sleep until noon tomorrow. Finally!" This was not to be. We both soon found little notes stuck on our cabin door instructing us to "Meet with ship's leadership in the blue room tomorrow, 8 AM sharp". We requested that the meeting be moved back to 10 or 11 and were told "Can't be done--we need to meet first thing".

So next morning, still slightly bleary eyed, we found ourselves sitting in two chairs in the blue room. These chairs were placed side by side, and were facing an opposite row of chairs, in which sat several white males, looking gruff, named Coleman Tyler, Bill Frisby, (Americans) Diego Hill (Uruguayan), Wilco ...(Dutch. Can I just say thank god for the Dutch?), and Jonathan Rodwell (Australian). You must picture this in your mind--the blue room is actually quite small, the smallest meeting room on the ship--perhaps 10x12 feet. It felt very much like an interrogation was to take place. And essentially, that is what happened. It *felt* amazingly painful and shameful. The only saving grace was Wilco, chief steward, who, although he was sitting with the other interrogators, looked on at the whole procedure with apparent amazement and disapproval, as if he couldn't believe we were being treated this way. Wilco, however, as I remember, didn't *say* a whole lot that morning.

Over the next few days, we were told, a decision would be made as to whether we should stay on board, or be excommunicated. Okay, nobody *said* excommunication, but that's what it worked out to. Looking back, it seems to me that this group of leaders was absolutely terrified of *something*. I'm still not *totally* clear on what. Perhaps losing control. It seems to me that it should be taboo for people with power to be afraid of anything other than themselves (ha, wouldn't that be nice?)

I think perhaps the final nail in the coffin was the reaction of Diego Hill, first engineer from Uruguay, who had been aboard, I think, 4 or 6 months at that point. The First oversees day to day operation of the Engine Department, and thus is directly involved in the supervision of plebs like me. Diego expressed a sense of outrage that I had left him in the lurch for so long in terms of watchkeepers, while others had had to fill in. He had been told I would be back on board the day of our flight's arrival in Trieste, and had had me scheduled to stand watchkeeping shifts starting that day. He said that never in his (no doubt long and illustrious) naval career had he experienced or heard of someone so miserably failing to fulfill their duty. He sat me down with the Chief engineer and, after delineating a long list of the shocking things I had done while working for him in the engine department, he said he absolutely would not work with me any longer, and that I was no longer welcome in his engine room. Honestly what could anyone have said? I was a pleb who had faithfully worked in the engine department for two years, never missing a shift (indeed, standing extra ones so the whole engine room could have parties (which admittedly, I didn't want to attend anyway)). He was licensed and certified first engineer, a person whose presence was required for the ship to sail, and furthermore a person of the type for which the ships ministry is always scrambling. There's just not that many first engineers out there who are willing to come work on a christian ship for free. Sometimes sailings get delayed because the ship isn't able to fill it's required quota of engineering and deck officers. There it is.

So I was unceremoniously kicked out of the engine department. And this, methinks, provided more impetus than anything else to our being kicked off the ship. The reason I had been allowed to extend my 2 year commitment originally had been related to the fact that I was a valuable, already trained watchkeeper.

We were told, by Bill Frisby, the husband in our accountability couple, and one of the leaders onboard, that in his opinion the best possible thing for us was to leave the ship and go get married, and that he was lobbying for this option with the other leaders. I think Bill's take on things at that time, more than anyone else's, reminds me of the re: your brains song, part of the lyric of which goes "All we wanna do is eat your brain. We're not unreasonable, no one's gonna eat your eyes".

So there were two largish emotional upheavals for us. One was that we had thought to have some 4 months longer to both work out "What next" and to begin to prepare to deal with the huge loss of community and of the sense of place we had developed during our time aboard. Instead, suddenly, we had a mere two weeks to accomplish both of these tasks. The second was the actual tangible and huge sense, above and beyond the fact that we were leaving, of *rejection* by almost the entire ship's company. It's hard to describe this. I mean how often in life do you get to actually be part of such a community? I mean to live and work and converse and hang out and dream and study and preach and reach out and travel and just do and be all those things with this really tight knit group of people for two whole years. There's a huge emotional involvement, which can feel absolutely wonderful--a kind of "I'm part of *us*". Then to have the ... mass, the torso and arms and legs and eyes and heart of that body, somehow raise itself up to actively and passively *disclaim* you. That felt like shit. It was reflected in what happened on a community fun night just a few days before we flew out of Istanbul.

Community fun nights are a time when a large majority of the ship's company gather in the main meeting room to do skits, sing songs, --kind of a really big party. Since we were getting kicked off anyway, I figured it was certainly reasonable to go ahead and get engaged. So in Izmir, I found and purchased a ring, and on the sail from Izmir to Istanbul, out on deck under the stars, I proposed to Megan. And she ecstatically accepted my proposal. So, (oh fools that we were), we thought we should share our joy with the ship's company. So with some friends we made up a skit for fun night, at the end of which I proposed to her again. The reaction of the ship's company was a sort of shocked, deafening silence. I get horrible shivers just thinking and writing about it.


I would like to also share that the inestimably respectful, brilliant, humble, and kind Myles Toews, who was director of Logos II when Megan and I both arrived onboard, and who had left that position, and the ship, before the aforedescribed events took place, has apologized to us on behalf of OM on two different occasions, and has also expressed his personal sorrow and sympathy for the way in which we were treated. He has said that he rather suspects things would have been handled quite a bit better if he had still been director at the time when we were excommunicated. I totally concur with his suspicion.

Monday, May 07, 2007

why the "eat your brains" song appealed to me...a story of excommunication

So over the weekend I found and posted on this blog a video with the song by Jonathan Coulton: re: Your brains, which I found ... evocative.

What did it evoke? Well, it took me a little while to realize that. It evoked a memory for the way in which my lovely wife and I were ... excommunicated from Logos II. How did that happen, pray tell? Well it was like this ....

(no names have been changed to protect anyone)

... so I spent two years working for a huge international missions organization called Operation Mobilization as a volunteer on board their (lovely, although somewhat trashed, from a technical point of view) (actually I could digress here and point out that when we were in West African ports, Logos II was generally the most beautiful looking ship in the harbor of any given major port city in which we happened to be moored. However, in Italy, she was generally the ugliest and dingiest looking one) 5000 ton (now I know I've really gone ... native, in the sense of speaking English rather than American, because in looking back over this paragraph, that "z" in "Mobilization" is really annoying me, and very much seems to want to be changed to an "s". Ah well....)

Okay, I see I must begin again. Now where was I? Ah yes, aboard the 5000 ton motor vessel M.V. Logos II. She has an all volunteer crew of 200 from approximately 40 different nations, all committed Christians (well, almost all. sometimes one or two slipped through the screening process and ended up serving onboard as a non-believer, like, for instance the very personable and brilliant Martin, a plumber from Holland, who often couldn't be bothered to go to all the trouble of signing all the paperwork and getting all the permissions to get the smoke alarms turned off in a cabin where he needed to do hot work (welding, for instance). So instead, he would simply carry around a plastic bag and two rubber bands, and nonchalantly cover the smoke detector in the cabin with them. Then after he was done with his hot work, he would nonchalantly have a smoke in the same cabin. My god, the "leadership", both technical and personnel, would have *freaked*. This makes me smile enormously just thinking about it (actually, I have another funny story about Martin I could tell you sometime)).

Alas, I must again begin again. Where was I? Ah yes. These volunteers have generally committed to serve onboard for two years and have raised the monthly support from friends, family, and church to help offset the costs of Logos II's operation during that two years.

Logos II is a very ... rule oriented community. That is, there are just lots and lots of rules about community life. One rule, for instance, which I and my lovely wife Megan (along with our delightful friends Matt and Laurel) found almost impossible to keep was the curfew. This rule required that everyone be back on board by 11PM (unless you had a signed curfew extension from your department head, in which case you could be back as late as, but no later than, 12:30), and in the cabins with lights out by 12:30. This was of course unless you were one of the "special" people, the "leaders", who could (but generally didn't) stay up as late as they wanted. There were various ... punishments assigned for breaking this rule, along with a rather wiggly system of warnings, demerits, etc. (or some such). A couple of the punishments (they kept changing, in an attempt, I suppose, to more or less rigorously see the rule kept) during the time we were on board, for instance, included spending time cleaning the bilges, doing an extra shift of work in some department other than one's own (for instance, in the pantry or galley, in my case), or being "grounded" to the ship for a week (this last was a stupid-ass idea in the extreme, as one of the psychological difficulties of living on board a ship is a waxing and waning sense that one is ... kind of trapped inside or on board.)

Another rule that was a real biggie was called "SP", which stood for, at various times, either "Social Policy" or "Social Permission" (or, perhaps, "Stupid-Ass Pain"). The way it worked was this: People who were not romantically connected when they came onboard made a promise to not begin a new romantic relationship during their first year on board. And social policy also required that a romantic couple not be engaged to be married during their first *two* years on board (some people serve *longer* than two years). Furthermore, if after having been on board for one year, you wanted to begin a romantic relationship with someone else on the ship (who would also have to have been on board for at least one year), then permissions were required. Permissions were required from onboard leadership, specifically from the personnel director, as well as from the home offices of Operation Mobilisation in the countries of both potential partners, as well as, depending on the culture of the potential parties of the potential relationship, of their immediate families and/or their home churches. No, I'm not joking. All this was involved. And of course all of it was to some degree or other warranted. That is to say that during 30 years of "ships ministry", this organization has learned a little bit about what works and what doesn't. They say relationship time is multiplied on Logos II, so that 2 years onboard is equivalent to 5 years in the so called "real world". This is because you are living and working in close proximity to a relatively small group of people who are all there with relatively similar religious beliefs, and relatively similar goals. And the average *age* of these people is quite young--I'm guessing ... 21/22? So they are ... for lack of a better term, generally horny, generally single, generally available, generally outgoing ... etc. etc. All the ingredients are very much in place for the beginning of lots of romantic relationships. And yet this is complicated by the fact that they are from very different backgrounds, very different cultures, very different languages. So any marriages that result are going to have all the stressors of .... "normal" marriages (whatever that means) plus, plus, plus. So it seems to me that it is entirely reasonable to take precautions.

On the other hand, the introduction of such a complex set of rules very much sets a community up for an enormous ... lack of reality--that is, a huge dichotomy between "what the rules say we are like and want to be like" and "what actually happens". So for instance while I was onboard, at least one couple (he from Sudan, she from Mexico) were caught having sex and then, in a sense, publicly shamed, after which *she* was sent "home" (that is, back to Mexico where she came from), while *he* got to stay onboard. Some claimed this indicated sexism, others ... a sort of racism--that she was blamed and shamed more somehow, both because she was a woman, and because there were *so* many latinoamericans onboard, and only 2 persons from sudan, and it was important to maintain our racial diversity quota. I think that while such claims didn't really get at the whole picture of the reality of the situation, they certainly touched on some portion of that reality. Rumors abounded, as well, of people (confidentially, one hopes, although I know of at least one case on board where such confidentiality was horribly violated) going to the ship's doctor to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancies.

I hope this isn't getting way too wordy already.

So anyway, I met lovely Megan, journalist, photographer midwife, nurse, australian. I met her in Argentina, when she joined Logos II in January '99. And I found out later she fell more or less in love with me, and knew it, during our 5 ports in brazil, or perhaps even earlier, in Uruguay. It took me a lot longer to figure out that I reciprocated. I mean I think I was reciprocating quite a while before I *realized* that I was. It took me until Ghana, in West Africa. Yes, the passage of time starts to be measured in ports when one is onboard--each port visit lasting approximately 1 to 3 weeks. Neither of us had been on board a year yet, and we both (I think) obeyed the spirit, if not the letter, of SP admirably well. We never talked about our relationship, or made romantic overtures (okay, well, not exactly never, but at least never overtly and consciously) etc. until after the one year date had passed.

Then (and this is another separate long story), we jumped the hoops, got the permissions, talked about it, and ended up with "Social Permission". The way it worked was this. When a couple got Social Permission, a notice got posted on the bulletin board in the kiosk, which was kind of the living room/central interior passage point of the ship. The notice simply announced that "Benjamin Ady and Megan Jones have received social permission". (Well, actually, ours was a bit more artsy and literary than that, but that's part of the separate long story). At that time there were, I think, .... perhaps 7 other SP couples on board. What this meant was that we were allowed to hang out alone together, allowed to be physically affectionate, and so forth, and that the rest of the ship's company could relax if they saw us doing that and not feel guilty for not turning us in (yes, this *was* part of the psyche of ship life). because we officially had social permission (Megan and I were apparently a bit *more* physically affectionate than some people were comfortable with. I know this because not too long after we got SP, a meeting was called for all the SP couples in which we were informed of a change in the social permission which meant that SP couples were no longer allowed to sit or lie in such a way that their head was resting on their partners lap. It wasn't acknowledged as such, but this was certainly directed at us, as none of the other SP couples had been spotted reclining anywhere in such a position. But I digress.)

I see that this has gotten rather lengthy. I'm almost up to the beginning of the part where we get excommunicated. More tomorrow... =)