The Year of Living Foolishly

It’s over. The relatives have gone home, happy, well fed and well loved. Just one more set of weird rituals to go, the official end to the Holiday Season: Alcohol Consumption, Get Maudlin About Time Passing and Drunk Driving Night followed by Hangover and Resolution Breaking Day.

If I can just get through those without being turned into highway hamburger I can breathe my annual January 1 sigh of relief for a month and a half until Early Christian Martyrs Memorial Co-opted to Chaucerian Poetic England-Bohemia Treaty Celebration Co-opted to Greeting Card, Chocolate Candy and Erotic Underwear Consumption Day on February 14. Then there’s a whole month before Catholic Irish Feast Co-opted to Neo-Bacchanal Alcohol Consumption Day on March 17, followed soon after by Pagan Vernal Equinox Fertility Rite Co-opted to Catholic/Protestant Resurrection Celebration Co-opted to Chocolate Leporid and Ovum Icons Consumption Day on March 23.

Then there are several months of quietude when no co-opted religious holidays affect me much until Celtic Harvest, Livestock Slaughter and Passing of the Dead Festival Co-opted to Roman Pagan Harvest, Livestock Slaughter and Passing of he Dead Festival Co-opted to Roman Catholic All Saints Vigil/Feast Co-opted to Subconscious Psycho-Sexual Sado-Masochistic Eros-Thanatos Paravestite Fetish Fantasy Catharsis and Candy Consumption Day on October 31, when the madness begins to build and build toward Every Culture On the Northern Hemisphere Winter Solstice Sure Hope we Don’t Freeze Or Starve Before Spring Ritual Co-opted to Christian Birth of Founder Celebration Co-opted to Consume As Much Electricity, Food and Manufactured Goods as Humanly Possible Day on December 25.

Notice how they’ve all been co-opted to some kind of consumption day. Hooray America.

But seriously folks,
The approach of the New Year is a time when many people take stock of themselves and sometimes follow the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. It’s a good idea in principle I guess, although those resolutions are usually more perishable than egg salad on a hot day. But take stock I will and resolving I shall.

I’m sitting here right now, really late at night wiggling my fingers over a keyboard making words to publish on an atheist website, and it strikes me how utterly absurd that seems. What a goofy activity to be doing. How can I possibly take this seriously? In any activity the times when I am angry or frustrated or being hurtful or doing something that will later be embarrassing to me are all times when I am taking myself too seriously. I cause the most trouble when I take myself too seriously. Saying something like “Oh yeah?! How dare you!” is a big clue.

Think about the people you have encountered here who in your opinion were the biggest fools. Weren’t they the ones who were taking themselves way too seriously? Their pomposity or their indignation or their justification for being unkind are all from that silly, foolish self-importance. Think also that somebody out there may consider you to be the self-important fool.

So I renew my resolution to not do that.

Consider coming along with me on this, both believers and non-believers. Care about your opinions and values, argue well for them, passionately defend what you see is valuable, work diligently for justice, but don’t take yourself too seriously. I’m not saying to be flip or cavalier or to not give a damn. The issues discussed here are usually important and significant. But when your stomach is etching an ulcer, your teeth are grinding each other flat, your brain is practicing for a stroke, your heart is rehearsing an infarction and you’re wishing all that will happen to somebody else then maybe you need to lighten up!

I don’t see enlightenment as “to see the light” so much as “to lighten up.” I think there’s a way to lighten up and to still take a stand, to transform our too-serious foolishness into a healthy kind, a Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill” kind.

May your new year be not too serious.

Richard

About Richard Wade

Richard Wade is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist living in California.

  • http://wintershaven.net Jacob Wintersmith

    Ulcers are caused by bacteria, not stress.

  • Stauffenberg

    “friendly” atheists.

    Not in Kansas City. Not when they get the chance. Bill Tammeus manages the religion section of the Kansas City Star.

    He has, or had, a fascinating blog, unmoderated, called Bills Faith Matters Blog.

    Since Dec first a group of Kansas City atheists, participants in a couple of local atheist groups, have been filling it with vile and unbalanced posts, even saying the want “eat our brains”, challenging us to debates and then changing the terms, sometimes close to 200 posts in a day.

    You’d have to read the filth and insults to believe it.

    Bill says he believes in free speech, and will not moderate.

    If the atheistss had a lick of HONOR they would at least give people a chance to respond.

    Thats my experience with friendly atheists. They are friendly has a means of gaining position; when they have power over you the story changes.

    Who ya kiddin?

  • Mriana

    Jacob, IF they were by bacteria, then why haven’t they cured my aunt’s ulcers in the last 20 years, which are now severely bleeding ulcers? IF it were bacteria then all they would have to do is give her an antibiotic. Trust me, hers are self-imposed stress and if she’d stop it, then maybe she’d get better.

    Sorry, Richard. I did enjoy your little piece you posted. Don’t know what to say to it though.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    I find physiology fascinating. I had no idea about the bacterial cause of ulcers. I had often thought it was only through stress. It’s nice to see that we take our opinions about the cause of ulcers so seriously, as to induce potentially harmful stress related effects!

    From Wikipedia:

    Stress and ulcers

    Despite the finding that a bacterial infection is the cause of ulcers in 80% of cases, bacterial infection does not appear to explain all ulcers and researchers continue to look at stress as a possible cause, or at least a complication in the development of ulcers.

    An expert panel convened by the Academy of Behavioral Medicine research concluded that ulcers are not purely an infectious disease and that psychological factors do play a significant role. Researchers are examining how stress might promote H. pylori infection. For example, Helicobacter pylori thrives in an acidic environment, and stress has been demonstrated to cause the production of excess stomach acid.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard,

    I will toast to that! To a year of not taking things too seriously! And to getting rid of ulcers and cold sores! And to more laughter! And to more silly giggly conversations! Much much more festivitas! — living life like one big party! But…. what about the hangover? hmmm… aah…forget the hangover. We’ll save that for the afterlife! ;-) For now, Cheers! ..Where’s the keg?

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Mriana, ulcers are indeed most frequently caused by bacteria, although there are also other causes.

    This was discovered fairly recently and I (not being a doctor) guess that if your aunt had an ulcer for a long time and it was not treated properly because they didn’t know about the bacterial cause, that it has in some way caused more permanent damage to her stomach. Or, perhaps, she has an ulcer from some other cause.

    A peptic ulcer is a sore on the lining of the stomach or duodenum, which is the beginning of the small intestine. Peptic ulcers are common: One in 10 Americans develops an ulcer at some time in his or her life. One cause of peptic ulcer is bacterial infection, but some ulcers are caused by long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), like aspirin and ibuprofen. In a few cases, cancerous tumors in the stomach or pancreas can cause ulcers. Peptic ulcers are not caused by stress or eating spicy food, but these can make ulcers worse.

    http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hpylori/

  • Claire

    Mriana said:

    Jacob, IF they were by bacteria, then why haven’t they cured my aunt’s ulcers in the last 20 years, which are now severely bleeding ulcers?

    It’s a recent discovery (last ten years?) and if her doctor hasn’t been keeping up with new discoveries (and some don’t) she may not be getting the benefits of the research. The bacteria is Helicobacter pylori, and if she hasn’t been tested for that or else tried on the regimen that they use (a combination of antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor), then her doctor isn’t doing his job.

    Sorry for the off-topic post, but people need to know about this.

  • Richard Wade

    “Hey guys, let’s not take ourselves too seriously.”

    “Ulcers are caused by bacteria!”

    “No they’re not, they’re caused by stress!”

    “They’re caused by both!”

    “Atheists are not friendly, they’re jerks!”

    “Party! Party!”

    (sigh)

  • http://blackskeptic.wordpress.com black skeptic

    Thanks Richard! Awesome, witty, insightful post as always. And … I’ve never had a “lighten up” new years resolution before and I like it. I like your thought that enlightenment isn’t seeing the light, but lightening up :) Happy new years!

  • Mriana

    writerdd said,

    December 26, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Mriana, ulcers are indeed most frequently caused by bacteria, although there are also other causes.

    This was discovered fairly recently and I (not being a doctor) guess that if your aunt had an ulcer for a long time and it was not treated properly because they didn’t know about the bacterial cause, that it has in some way caused more permanent damage to her stomach. Or, perhaps, she has an ulcer from some other cause.

    WriterDD, my aunt has had her ulcers since the early 80s. That’s a long time and she has plastic tubing too.

    I don’t think hers is bacterial or they would have given her antibiotics when she was in the hospital this last time around- which was a few months ago. Instead, they gave her three units of blood because they were bleeding so badly. Hers are probably not peptic either- unless they have a tendency to bleed severly and cause a lifethreatening situation.

    I spoke directly to the dr in front of my aunt and asked him the questions she did not ask. Not once did he say it was bacterial nor did he say it was peptic. He did say he doesn’t know the cause of her ulcers and they are afraid to do surgery again, because it could be life threatening too.

    You would think a hospital would be up-to-date with the latest studies too. So, it probably is not bacterial with my aunt. They ran many blood tests on her and could not find the cause that way either. She’s on the traditional bland diet, Mylox, etc. They did everything they could when she was in, IMHO, so I doubt they aren’t up-to-date. I believe there are other causes then bacterial.

  • Mriana

    Richard Wade said,

    December 26, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    “Hey guys, let’s not take ourselves too seriously.”

    “Ulcers are caused by bacteria!”

    “No they’re not, they’re caused by stress!”

    “They’re caused by both!”

    “Atheists are not friendly, they’re jerks!”

    “Party! Party!”

    (sigh)

    ROFL! Thanks for the laugh, Richard.

  • Maria

    “friendly” atheists.

    Not in Kansas City. Not when they get the chance. Bill Tammeus manages the religion section of the Kansas City Star.

    He has, or had, a fascinating blog, unmoderated, called Bills Faith Matters Blog.

    Since Dec first a group of Kansas City atheists, participants in a couple of local atheist groups, have been filling it with vile and unbalanced posts, even saying the want “eat our brains”, challenging us to debates and then changing the terms, sometimes close to 200 posts in a day.

    You’d have to read the filth and insults to believe it.

    Bill says he believes in free speech, and will not moderate.

    If the atheistss had a lick of HONOR they would at least give people a chance to respond.

    Thats my experience with friendly atheists. They are friendly has a means of gaining position; when they have power over you the story changes.

    Who ya kiddin?

    well, I found it online, and it appears to be just one guy mostly making the comments (some of which are pretty good, others he gets really childish in). I get what he’s trying to do, but he is coming across as a troll IMHO. Just ignore him-he’s just trying to get a rise out of you. It’s just one guy, sheesh.

    http://billtammeus.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/12/dec-26-2007.html

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    I still say, party! party! and don’t forget pizza! pizza! :-) Ulcers are for the lightweights.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    Stauffenberg, the only thing that atheists necessarily have in common is a lack of belief in gods. On just about any other matter, our opinions can be all over the place. Some atheists are friendly, while others are jerks, and you got the misfortune to be around at least one of the jerks.

    Put it this way. How fair do you think it is for Christians to be judged by their worst exemplars? Obviously, not very fair at all. So please extend to us atheists the fairness that you would like to have extended to your own.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    umm… don’t tell me that we’re gonna use this thread to get all serious and stuff… Not THIS one. Can we just laugh and play on this one??

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    My resolution last year was to do more hand-waving. Not the rhetorical kind, where you push away complicated arguments with simplistic reasoning, but the literal kind where you wave your hands around. That was one resolution I could keep!

  • Claire

    Pagan Vernal Equinox Fertility Rite Co-opted to Catholic/Protestant Resurrection Celebration Co-opted to Chocolate Leporid and Ovum Icons Consumption Day on March 23.

    Yay, Bunny Day is coming early this year!

    My personal resolution was to only eat GOOD chocolate, so no leporid ears for me this year I guess….

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Claire said,

    My personal resolution was to only eat GOOD chocolate

    Me too!! I was just introduced to Leonidas, and Mmmmmmm…! It’s heaven! Who needs an afterlife when you have heavenly chocolate? ;-)

  • monkeymind

    Richard, I just read the post and I love it. I would love to have a calendar designed by you with all those holidays:-) From what I remember you are a science educator, but I hope you are giving some serious thought to developing your writing talent. I now feel like I have been witnessing the birth of a writer over the past few months.

    The world can always use more people to make us think and laugh without being mean!

  • Richard Wade

    Thanks, monkeymind, actually that is what has been growing in the back of my mind for some time now. It’s pretty scary to put oneself out there in front of all the slings and arrows. I’m not sure I have the courage, but you just helped me along. (damn you) I don’t know exactly what I would write though.

  • Karen

    Richard Wade, we so desperately need good writers with science backgrounds who can do more to popularize science and expose people to how fantastic and fascinating it is, without overwhelming them with jargon and making their eyes glaze over with technical lingo.

    In other words, we need more Carl Sagans and Neal deGrasse Tysons. We need writers who can energize young people and help them see that science isn’t dull, it’s cool. Your sense of humor would be a natural for that.

  • Rachel

    What a coincidence.
    Yesterday I was stepping out of the shower thinking to myself what this years new year’s resolution would be.
    And I thought about all the militant resolutions in the past and how, basically I’m not doing too bad on the fitness/diet/education/calmness/finance front this past year and I hereby resolve to “stop being so hard on myself”.
    Effectively resolving not to make myself resolve anything.
    I think I’ll add “stop taking myself so seriously” to “stop being hard on myself” and 2008 should go swimmingly.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Excellent post Richard!

    And this is a great point too:

    Notice how they’ve all been co-opted to some kind of consumption day. Hooray America.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    We need writers who can energize young people and help them see that science isn’t dull, it’s cool. Your sense of humor would be a natural for that.

    I second that!!!


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