This is one of the maxims of my life – learn something new every day. Keep the brain active, don’t let life bring you down by it’s natural inclination to push you into a rut. If you accomplish this small task, over time, bit by bit, your mental health is enhanced.
Getting stuck in a rut will occur if what you do every day is repetitious, and ultimately mind-numbing. Your job can do it, whether you work on an assembly line, (the stereotypical, though not necessarily typical, mind numbing job) or if you work as a professional. The natural tendency is to become proficient at your job, and to do that, you need to do some of the same things over and over. Even your playtime can get you into a rut, hence the term couch potato.
I learned something new today. I learned that if you have the words “s*xual p*sitions” in a post on your blog, eventually the search engines that troll this wonderful medium will find you, and every curious, red blooded human will be looking at your site, mistakenly thinking, or hoping, they’ve found porn. This happened with my Sax and Violins post last week. Yesterday, the various search engines must have found the caption under one of my images, because I went from an average of 32 viewers a day, to over 400 hits yesterday, with over 400 so far today. [Edit: The third day ended up at almost 700. It’s been declining since.] Almost all of the hits are coming from people using search engines searching for information (or pictures, I presume) of various positions humans use when copulating. Who knew? I facetiously wrote in that post
Bloggers will probably accuse me of picking this topic for the sole purpose of increasing traffic to my site, so let me assure all of my readers – both of you – that I have no such intent.
and while I thought that was possible, never in my wildest imagination did I really think it would happen to this extent. Of course, it’s nice to think that I have that many new readers, however, I’m not that naive to believe they actually stuck around to read an atheist’s blog, though I hope that if even one did, I not only learned something new, but so did he/she.
Of course, if you learn something, you must not ignore the lesson, so that explains the intentional spelling of the offending term above. I also changed the vowels in my original post, in the hopes that the search engines won’t pick them up. We’ll see.
Stepping back a bit from this, I find that I’m also reading more about religion than I used to. Before I de-converted, I found the subject of religion almost embarrassing, certainly uninteresting, and completely boring. I think a lot of my reaction to it was due to the mind-numbing repetition of religious training in a Catholic family, and in Catholic school. (Religious training tends to produce religious couch potatoes, or, more precisely, pew potatoes.) When I became an adult, and finished school, I stopped thinking about it intentionally. I wanted nothing more to do with it, I think, because I had ingested all that it could offer, and still found it wanting. There’s only so many times you can listen to the Sermon on the Mount to figure out that it’s either so obvious or so simplistic that you don’t need a complex organized world-wide institution to recognize the kernel of truth in the matter. So I put organized religion behind me.
Now that I am an atheist, I find religion fascinating, not because of its religious content, but because of its human content. So much is explained about the human condition from a religious standpoint, that the study of religion is actually necessary for a full understanding of the intricacies of human life. Instead of focusing on the netherworld, atheists tend to focus on the real world. So, I read books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, George Smith, David Mills, John Loftus, and (soon) Christopher Hitchens that open up so many avenues of knowledge, so many sources of new information, it’s simply breathtaking. I learn something every day. Most of the questions I had when I was a student, ones that religion just couldn’t answer, these authors have answered.
I’m literally catching up. Where once I avoided the subject, because it would require me to implicitly profess belief in something I wasn’t so sure of, now I am embracing it. I no longer believe that any god(s) exist, I no longer believe there is such a reality as belief in the supernatural suggests (because if we can experience it, test it, or prove it exists, it becomes, by definition, natural – and if we can’t, it’s the same as not existing), and so without those rose colored glasses on, I see the world as it is – stark, sometimes brutal, ofttimes wonderful, yet very much a changing, flexible, understandable (though not fully understood) reality. There are things to learn about the world that I will learn, and there are things about the world that I will never learn, but hope my children will, and there are things about the world that humanity may never learn, but in any case, it’s all an open question waiting to be answered, not the static, known reality posited by religion. It is not one that tells us we know everything, because God is the explanation for everything, but one that science and human intellect will discover.
Gaining knowledge is exciting, and stimulating, and enervating. Religion is stultifying. Religion forces us into a rut. Our goal should be to learn something new every day.
Keep your mind open, look for new information wherever you can. Surf the web, read a book, talk to someone about anything, even if it doesn’t seem to interest you. Don’t allow your mind to close. Do not become rigid in your opinions. Don’t think that there’s a right way and a wrong way, and by God, your way is right. It might not be. Be open to alternative explanations. Don’t think all criticism is destructive, because if you look closely, most of it is constructive in some way or another. Don’t get defensive when someone offers advice. By all means, wake each day with the determination that you won’t go to sleep until you’ve learned something you didn’t know that morning.