Atheism, skepticism, and agnosticism

Cleanthes’ words of wisdom over at the ATPo board:

If you don’t think there’s such a thing as a fundamentalist Atheist, and you claim to be atheist, then you are a fundamentalist atheist.

If you worship Skepticism without the slightest bit of skepticism over skepticism, then Ockham will haunt you.

As to the rest of his dialogue with Fresne, alas, I am too left-brained to follow all its intricacies.

A curse on my over-sized left brain!

I’m so glad we have these folks gracing our board.

Turgid supernatural soap opera

I know I should read Proust and James Joyce and Virginia Woolf and all those people, but I don’t. I haven’t read “literature” since I nodded off in American Short Story in the 10th grade. But I know I should read that stuff because I absorb what I read and it is reflected in how I write.

But *alas*, I read for entertainment. To relax, to pass the time. Anything that I perceive remotely as, “this reading is GOOD for me, it will enhance me as a writer and/or person”, I won’t touch. It’s *work*, and all the pleasure dribbles out of it.

The preceding was my long neurotic apologetic preface to my review of the Tanya Huff Blood series, which falls somewhere in that nether region between fantasy and horror where BtVS and Angel ambiguously reside. And in fact, it was the resemblance of this series, in spirit, if not in level of writing quality, to BtVS/Angel that kept me reading through five books.

Specifically, this series has (1) richly drawn protagonist characters, (2) a hidden world of the “supernatural” existing within our world that our protagonists must enter and investigate and participate in to varying degrees, (3) a writing style that is humorous and a bit irreverent and yet at the same time takes its subject matter seriously, (4) and butofcourse, soap opera. Angst and passion and relationships.


Doing a novel synopsis…

I have no problem telling people I’m writing a novel. It makes me sound Interesting at parties. “You’re writing a novel?” But inevitably, people ask me, “What is it about”? They want a 30-second synopsis. Or is it 30 words? Anyway, that’s when I get tongue-tied. I suck at giving synopses, and usually just say lame stuff like, “I don’t know,” or “It’s complicated”, or… I change the subject.

It’s not like I’m embarassed about my novel or anything. It’s just it’s… it’s a character-driven novel with a bit of a complicated plot, and how do you summarize such a thing? Plot-driven novels usually have a concept, or a premise. Something that started the whole writing process in the first place, something the writer is shooting for that lets him/her know when it’s complete.

My novel

Or a cunning one…


Congratulations, Nancy!

Your IQ score is 133

This number is based on a scientific formula that compares how many questions you answered correctly on the Classic IQ Test relative to others.

Your Intellectual Type is Insightful Linguist. This means you are highly intelligent and have the natural fluency of a writer and the visual and spatial strengths of an artist. Those skills contribute to your creative and expressive mind.

The Ultimate Personality Test

Nancy, you’re an Observer!

That means you’re one of the more kind-hearted people around. You are unusually intuitive, and you probably understand yourself, as well as others. That also means you’re a good mediator — though you may prefer to spend more quiet time on your own than most.

Because of the self-knowledge you already possess, you are better equipped than many to steer your life in the right direction.

The inkblot test was exhausting!

Nancy, your subconscious mind is driven most by Peace

You are driven by a higher purpose than most people. You have a deeply-rooted desire to facilitate peacefulness in the world. Whether through subtle interactions with love ones, or through getting involved in social causes, it is important to you to influence the world.

You are driven by a desire to encourage others to think about the positive side of things instead of focusing on the negative. The reason your unconscious is consumed by this might stem from an innate fear of war and turmoil. Thus, to avoid that uncomfortable place for you, your unconscious seeks out the peace in your environment.

Usually, the thing that underlies this unconscious drive is a deep respect for humankind. You care about the future of the world, even beyond your own involvement in it. As a result, your personal integrity acts as a surrogate for your deeper drive toward peace and guides you in daily life towards decisions that are respectful toward yourself and others.

Though your unconscious mind is driven most strongly by Peace, there is much more to who you are at your core.


Ganked from cuddlywombat

I like being a famous writer!

You are Edgar Allen Poe. You don’t like being ordered around. You don’t believe very much you are told. You feel that if something is physically out of your control then you should let it go. You enjoy being alone. People can anticipate not only what you do but how you feel as well. You wear your emotions on your sleeve. You are most looked up to for your individuality and shamelessness.

What Historical Character Are You?
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Metaphorical coffee

I complain sometimes about how doing my website/moderating the board takes up time I could be working on my fiction, but in other ways, the ATPo board has greatly enriched my fiction. I’ve made it one of my goals in life never to take a literature class (don’t ask me why, I have no principled reason, the thought just makes me squirm with the potential for sheer boredom).

Talking to ATPoers with literary expertise has taught me a lot about metaphor and symbolism. I never purposefully tried to incorporate those literary elements into my writing until recently. And now I seem to find interesting symbols and metaphors in passages I’ve already written.

Like this weekend. In one of the very last chapters of my novel, I have the protagonist (Valerie, a brassy graduate student) coming to a truce with the antagonist (Elizabeth, her control-freak advisor). The setting of the chapter is Valerie’s apartment. I wrote the first draft of this chapter years ago, and in it, I naturally had Valerie wearing no shoes, just socks. It’s her house; Elizabeth comes over unexpectedly.

But reading it lately, as I’ve been working diligently on details and descriptions, I noticed there was something symbolic in Valerie wearing no shoes. When she wears no shoes, her feet don’t clomp against the kitchen tile. Valerie is always clomping. She wears cowboy boots, and they are always heralding her entrance into a room. In one big early confrontation scene between Elizabeth and Valerie, Valerie ambushes Elizabeth in the laboratory where they work, and Elizabeth’s first awareness that Valerie has entered the room is through the clomp of those boots.

Naturally, Elizabeth tenses up at the sound. So in the final scene between them, Valerie’s new softer, emotionally spent attitude is symbolized in her lack of boots. Even as she and Elizabeth seem to clash one more time, they are on the verge of an understanding, and it is symbolized by the lack of clomping.

Pretty cool.

Now I find myself actually trying to incorporate more symbols and metaphors into my novel. Like with coffee. Nearly all my characters drink coffee (maybe too much, maybe I overuse this little detail). But each of their preferences in coffee says something about who they are as a character.

Felicia, who is in love with a playful artsy blonde, drinks her coffee with cream and sugar. At one point, her lover even comments of Felicia’s morning cup, “Just the way you like it. Blonde and sweet.” As the novel continues and Felicia starts having problems with her lover, the coffee she drinks becomes increasingly luke-warm and acrid.

Elizabeth, who is abrasive and a work-a-holic, drinks her coffee strong and black and bitter.

Elizabeth’s husband Arthur, who wishes his marriage was better than it was, douses his black coffee with sweetner.

Valerie, who wants to think she is nothing like her mentor Elizabeth, also drinks her coffee black.

Lisa, a teenager being drawn into Valerie’s more adult world, at first drinks orange soda, but later orders coffee and douses it in cream and sugar to make it palatable, but then doesn’t drink it. At the end of the novel, when Lisa has started coming into adulthood, she orders an mocha espresso and drinks it down. Grown up, but still sweet.

Way kewl

Ganked from jupitah, butofcourse

I’ll go along with this, considering the alternatives. After all, I am a little nervous nelly agnostic empiricist skating on the edge of nihilism. Well, f*** nihilism. Life is ultimately about billiards, beer and chicks.

You are David Hume.  You are the most famous empirical skeptic who has ever lived.  You single-handedly extended the doctrine of complete doubt to almost completely destroy philosophy.  Employi
You are David Hume. You single-handedly made monkeys out of guys with a lot more education and experience than you, making you the most famous empirical skeptic who has ever existed. You believed that all ideas were merely copies of sensations, and with this simple principle you almost destroyed all of philosophy, not to mention religion, ethics, and the basis of natural science. While you give us no assurances that we are justified in any of our most treasured beliefs, you never let these pain-in-the-ass views stop you from enjoying a beer and a good game of billiards at the end of the day.

Which philosopher are you?
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Spiritual musings

I don’t know what it means to have a spirituality when you’re an agnostic who withholds judgement, pro or con, about things that cannot be proved by the mind or the five senses. I know I find what could be called “spiritual comfort” in the workings of nature. And not just because that’s about the only thing we can prove anything about. I just feel spiritual when I’m in nature, and that happens on the ineffable level of emotions, something very deep.

I found this poem this morning. I’m not sure if I agree with all of it, but it captured the sense of connectedness I feel to something greater than myself when I’m in nature:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blu air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
— Mary Oliver, 1986