Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Spiritual but not Religious, but Maybe Religious?

I guess, I'm not the only one thinking of religious feelings right now. Tim Urban over at the blog has an interesting post describing nirs views on a religion for the nonreligious.

Merriam-Webster defines religion, non-metaphorically as:
: the belief in a god or in a group of gods
: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
A little imprecise, since it doesn't include religions like Shinto, or Shamanism, which view everything in the universe as partaking in the divine and having an associated spirit. But, these religions also seek to worship, petition, or appease said spirits as the others do their various gods. Maybe I'm nitpicking.

I'm not sure we need a new organized religion, but maybe each of us could benefit from creating our own personal religion. I certainly feel I benefit from my own ideas of spirituality, assembled from those ideas which seem to work best for me. Most people I've met have the religious feelings I've talked about before. What Tim calls, that "Woah" moment. Most people structure a set of beliefs about those feelings, sometimes in a religious context, sometimes in a non-theistic context like the scientific model.

I like Tim's metaphor of the fog from the babbling of our various animal selves, but nirs casting of our better impulses as a higher being seems a little too like anthropomorphic hubris to me. I think it oversimplifies things to think of our consciousness as only having a few animal voices to get under control, but the idea of it feeling or acting like a fog seems like a good metaphor.

I think casting some of our impulses as selfish animals and others of our impulses as those of a higher being, unnecessarily elevates some impulses and denigrates other impulses. A value judgement that will necessarily vary from individual to individual, at least somewhat; certainly substantially between individuals of differing cultures.

His Consciousness Staircase and Human Consciousness Sub-staircase creates hierarchy were we need one the least. At least in the sense that step 2 very naturally seems higher than step 1. It easily creates a metaphor for looking down at all the schlubs still stuck on step 1. No doubt that clearing away the fog of all our conflicting, competing impulses for at least some of the time has some benefits. It doesn't necessarily make you a better person, nicer person, or more compassionate person than someone on step 1. I don't know if Tim necessarily had this in mind when he modeled it as a staircase; just that the model implies an aboveness, where using such a direction seems misleading.

People will abuse these kinds of features in a model about spirituality. Evidently, it's easier to remain ignorant, unenlightened but put on a pretense of spiritual advancement than to endure the suffering that comes from actually advancing one's approximation of enlightenment.

It bugs me because it goes against the Cosmic Schmuck principle of RAW. I think realizing you never leave the Cosmic Schmuck stage, keep reducing some of the Schmuckiness as you grow probably has more existential utility that most models of enlightenment/religious feelings. Hopefully one of those videos from that YouTube link has ol' Bob talking about being a Cosmic Schmuck. No matter how much of the fog of animal impulse ne clears away, ne remains a Cosmic Schmuck. Our ignorance will always outweigh our knowledge, and our stupidity will always outweigh our wisdom.

Looking at it from the Secular Buddhist I think when we seek for enlightenment, that knowledge of our eternal schmuckness seems just as important as knowledge of the Buddha mind. No matter how far into enlightenment we get, we'll always feel like a schmuck, even if we just look at our behavior yesterday.

That doesn't imply a fatalistic view that we shouldn't try and grow smarter, or more enlightened, just that we shouldn't forget we're still a schmuck most of the time.

In one of RAW's books,  Masks of the Illuminati, he dramatized a lecture given by Aleister Crowley. Crowley speaks of the Soldier and the Hunchback, an actual essay in The Equinox, v1 n1.

It's one of Crowley's more amusing essays. He uses the !, calling it the soldier to represent enlightenment. Standing straight up at attention as a metaphor for that WOW! moment when something hits you and more of the universe comes alive for you. The ? he calls the hunchback both because of its shape, like the ! soldier; but also that hunched over shape we take when we're thinking/asking. The classic example being The Thinker statue by Rodin.
There's your question mark. So basically what it comes down to in that essay, the process of enlightenment isn't a finish line. It's a process that never ends. You investigate spirituality, experience some awe, transcendence, maybe worship. You get a few ! moments. But you still have ?.

Always and ever the ? moments exist. If you look a that process of enlightenment over time you get something like this:


and so on.

So, alway remember, no matter how enlightened you feel today, yesterday you were still a schmuck. A few days from now, you'll look back on today, and realize you were still a schmuck now. You'll always be a schmuck, just accept it, keep soldiering on.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Religious Feelings

Still missing ol' George and likely always will.

But those religious feelings, they still bug me… why do we have them at all? They certainly seem to arise spontaneously from beauty, from viewing that which seems infinite or eternal; these feelings seem built into our psyche. While religion can poke and prod these feelings out of us as well, it doesn't seem accurate to assign religion as their origin.

Photo by gollor all rights reserved.

Surely there's no survival benefit to a hunter gatherer, to periodically stand in awe of the things around nem; and let some deer run off, or miss some tasty vegetable treat cause ne was spaced out watching the pretty pictures in nir's brain. Maybe the people more prone to this got into the religion business in the first place. I imagine that someone who would fugue out, babble inanities about beauty, infinite, eternal numinous things frequently would seem generally useless for fuck all else.

If they were useless for gathering food, you probably couldn't count on them for anything directly related to survival, but… I bet they could do one thing, that while not have immediate survival benefits, could still enrich the experience of their entire tribe. They could tell stories. Create a little entertainment to raise people's minds from the drudgery of hand to mouth existence. If most of them were blissed out fuckoffs, I doubt this happened for all of them, nor were all the blissed out fuckoffs who told stories necessarily religious.

A few of them, might have enough brains and time off from blissing out to realize, very interesting stories we would remember well, could actually help us in the long term if they had some bit of wisdom buried in with the wit. After all, even the rest of us non-blissed out non-fuckoffs came up with fun rhymes to help remember basic information about things. We still do that in the modern era: "do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti", or "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour".

So smart part-time blissed out fuckoffs, might have the idea to tell us important stories about ourselves with long time strategy tips about living with other people; or dealing with groups of other people.

One could tell stories about animals, since being early hunter gatherers living out directly with nature, they all knew the animals in their area. So our blissed out proto-priests told stories about foxes, cats, rabbits, lions, snakes, and other such common animals.They all have traits in common with humans, and those common traits gives a framework for basing a moral story to tell us about getting along together in groups without too much bloodletting.

Crows, for example. Crows are an especially good subject, since corvids seem very like us in many ways: curious, smart, loud, brassy, and also thieving, angry, grudge-holding. There's seven possible story topics about crows, doing things that humans do that some proto-minister of blissdom could use to tell us about ourselves.

Ever flake flint for cutting tools? Make cordage by hand? Or scrape and stretch hides for leather? Hard, time consuming, and boring work. If you want shoes and laces; clothes and rope - it's work that has to get done. How much better would that time go by if you have the shaman sitting back being survivalishly useless, tells you wondrous stories about the animals around you. Maybe those religious feelings have a useful purpose after all; one that might end up getting some otherwise useless schmucks laid.

So when did we start taking them so seriously? Or when did some of us start taking their role as tellers of stories so seriously? When did stories of animals turn into stories of heroes and gods? I’m going to guess and say it was probably about the same time we started living in cities and doing farming, where someone had to organize all this mass effort; and huge groups of people needed entertaining stories more relatable to what was going on around them. Also to relieve the new stresses of being in such tightly packed groups, instead of small scattered groups. To defuse dominance-submission feelings when there was more hierarchy - and that hierarchy needed to stay stable for all the crazy stones we were juggling in this new endeavor of civilization to not fall on our heads.

Civilization has always been a mixed blessing - more food, more leisure time, but more assholes telling you what to do.

Certainly there were a huge multitude of reason to tell stories, beyond just survival and basic social order. No doubt when group A forms their farming city state here, and group B forms their farming city state there - they're going to argue about the bits in between them. "Rally the troops around the great god who protects the city!" Tell some really inspiring tale of heroic deeds and those troops will go out and kick some extra ass for you. Especially if you do some prestidigitation on some pots of oil or water, and bless the troops with it - filling them with the strength of gods and heroes.

Unfortunately with hierarchies come problems. We know they have problems, and have known for some time. Also unfortunately, we're still pretty stupid, and we keep using them anyway to organize our societies. This puts the story telling priests into positions of power, because the leaders, strong men, chiefs and kings needed them to help keep their group pulling in the same direction on these new large coordinated ways of surviving together. We all have heard that phrase, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

All due respect to Lord Acton, but I agree more with Frank Herbert and David Brin, who were definitely on the same wavelength in 1985.

"All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible." Chapterhouse: Dune[1985], Frank Herbert

 "It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power." 
The Postman[1985], David Brin

This factor and the SNAFU effect, tend to perpetuate the same individuals in the hierarchy which they support, and also supports them. At least up to a certain point. Corruption eventually destroys itself.

Eventually this must have turned into the various organized religions, going back to the time of Neolithic revolution when we started farming and forming these new social structures organized around this new activity.

Of course, not all of this story telling exploded into vast religidiocy. Some of the story tellers looked within as well as without, and found stories that if you learned and told yourself over and over made you feel happier. In fact they made you impervious to pain, fear, boredom and free from all suffering. The stories told you how to look within as well as without, and see how we are all the collections of the stories we tell ourselves. How if we get rid of the stories we tell ourselves that make us feel bad, and block our vision of how we can be happy; and replace them with stories of how awesome we can feel, and act - that we have no real limits on what we can feel and do except those we set on ourselves by our past and current choices.

It seems like these second set of stories had a more mixed reception in different parts of the world. The stories of messiahs, yogis and Buddhas, have many similar bits in pieces scattered through the religidiocy we suffer thru in the West. The useful bits have just lay hidden behind cloistered doors, or under many layers of political claptrap. Possibly under some other blissed out idiot's twisted confusion of the original message. The just be happy story tellers themselves usually become victims of the status quo of existing hierarchy and it's obey and tow the line story tellers - but not always.

Out of all the blissed out dudes telling us to how to be happy, the Buddha was pretty successful. He taught nirs point of view, he lived to a ripe old age, and died. Nirs teachings have been passed down for about 2500 years. People bicker and disagree about some of the pieces of what he said, and how to apply them to one's life - the core message persists in the four noble truths and the eight-fold path. Fortunately, since one of The Buddha's teachings was the value of all live, these disagreements tend to stay civil. Although a few Buddhists here and there seem to have a problem with the all life is sacred, and that we shouldn't kill others.

Unfortunately, except for Secular Buddhism, most Buddhism has developed as much religidiocy as any other organized religion. A few of Buddhist flavored obey and tow the line story tellers, got their hands on the Dharma, and spun some of their same sad/pointless tales there. The Dharma of this era, in it's many variations, contains many things that no doubt have the Buddha spinning in nirs grave or at least making a bunch of cosmic sighs of exasperation.

The more prevalent, obey and tow the line story tellers always seem to have greater effect and success. Probably because we love to wallow in our own stupidity.

For example, the seemingly never ending list of claimants to the title of King of the Jews. Jesus of Nazareth was probably the most successful at getting nirs message out. It lasts in a Paulified version in Christianity. However, like almost all the other Jewish Messiahs, it got nir killed. Paul's version of the message was more successful once a Roman emperor got behind it. I don't think the Jews consider that a win for their Messiah, though.

Some people think that Jesus was a just be happy story teller, but after Paul and nirs crew got through with the message, it seems impossible to tell.

Mohamed, provides a good counter, counter example. Nirs successes, militarily, were spectacular compared to the Jewish Messiahs. However, nirs message got just as fragmented, and distorted as all the others. It also has retained quit a bit of the violence of its origins. To this day, the two main groups, Sunni and Shi'ite fight one of the nastiest sibling rivalries the world as known. 

Still, Islam seems young as religions go, and most religions have a violent streak. Christians were still killing people accused of witchcraft into the 19th century. Quite a few of them would still like to execute witches today, along with tax collectors, atheists, democrats, Jews, black people..etm.

Given we are one of the last bastions of religious extremists, it gives me hope that the number of atheists in this country rises with each year. Soon they will likely match the numbers of atheists in Europe. Hopefully the rest of the world will follow suit and begin to grow the fuck up, remembering the point of the stories was to learn from them, not fight over them.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Worshipful, Worshipworthy

I really miss George Carlin. On stage ne was always a constant, hilariously brilliant, source of cantankerous reason. Ne turned normal things on their head to show us how wondrously silly they really were. During the early days of the Internet twenty or thirty sayings got tagged to the ends of peoples emails as part of their signatures with George as the author. Ne wasn't the author of them, of course, as with things ascribed to Einstein, Christ, or Buddha; since they reflected Georges on stage character and they were brilliant and funny people just thought the must have been said or written by him.

At different points of time I had several to a dozen of nirs routines memorized to share with friend, and acquaintances. Of course, they weren't nearly as funny when I did them - George was a genius professional comic, ne could do things with nirs eyebrows that would make people wet themselves with laughter. A few changes of expressions and people would be rolling in the aisles. I'm surprised nirs audiences didn't destroy entire theaters with paroxysms of laughter when ne did nirs acts.

I'm not a very religious person, but I do get the occasional religious feelings. I wonder where they come from and what evolutionary purpose they serve. I suppose we might have some bits of gunk in our genetic makeup we carry around for centeons. Crud that clings to our DNA, surviving from species to species, not because they influence our survival in a positive way, but they just stick to the beneficial bits and that's their way of surviving. Just sticky genetic bits that bloat our genetic code, so they can keep existing.

It's tempting to think religious feelings come from those useless sticky bits of DNA that hang around stuck to the more successful bits. Certainly there's a whole range of horrible things to hate about some religious organizations, and many of the people who focus on or specialize in the religious feelings of humanity. Most of them seem about as useful as those sticky bits of DNA, just hanging around poking us in our religious feelings so we pump out change into the collection plate.

Sun Worship
Photo by gollor all rights reserved.
Today I was walking around the track in the park next to where I work, and it was one of those cloudy days with many big fluffy white clouds. The kind of big white clouds that dream of the day real soon, they can grow to giant gray black thunderheads, throwing lighting and rain around. Today they were just big and fluffy, floating around blocking the Sun to amuse themselves as they grow.

I got one of those great shots of the clouds in front of the Sun with it's rays shining from behind - a grand collection of light and shadow. A shot that shows the glory of the sun by it's effects, rather than it's direct incandescent self.

A photo like this seems to inspire Christians to think of their god. I frequently see these great photos with some Christian's confusion about their bible printed across it. Those misused photos always make me feel a little sad, because they kind of miss the point of the photo. In Christian terms the photo shows a glorious piece of their god's creation, and a picture speaks a thousand words - why cover it up with your confused babble? I really don't get that.
Sun, sky, light and shadow that together created a unique beauty that just made me gape for a few seconds, my brain frozen in awe and worship of it's exquisiteness. In psychological terms, the numinous experience had captured my brain for a short time. In the words of that great mystic, Christopher Hitchens, "Everybody has had the experience at some point when they feel that there's more to life than just matter.".

We feel a connection with some aspect of the universe, and we feel a sense of worshipfulness. Things like that vision of beauty in the sky, seem much more worthy of worship than some invisible bearded grumpy dude with lots of rules about how you should eat, and cloth yourself, and really do every damn thing. Maybe those kinds of silly stories were helpful to some brilliant leader of the past, who wanted their people to stop killing each other for petty reasons; and not poison themselves with shellfish they couldn't figure out how to prepare or cook.

The numinous feelings of worship just seem to come to us. They bring a bit of special meaning to some experiences that would otherwise seem normal, plain or banal. I think we need better things to worship than those described in thousand year old dusty tomes. For example, the entity behind those clouds - our local star - The Sun. Everything in this solar system, including us, came from the corpus galactic of the ancestors of our Sun. We little parasites on the surface of this small rocky stellar child, live at her whim. All of our air, food, water and shelter come directly or indirectly from the Sun and her child.

Hopefully that sounds like something George would have written, because I'm paraphrasing one of my favorite of nems schticks. Hopefully that search string on YouTube shows a video of nirs sun worship bit, because it's one of nirs greatest. I would link to a specific vid, but some stupid algorithm of Google's or the MAFIAA would take it down eventually because they can't seem to fathom fair use.

It's from his, You Are All Diseased special. Which probably has more snippets up on YouTube than any other George Carlin special. Which it should, cause it's a damn fine show. So here's some key bites from this bit, where George describes these feelings better than I possibly could:

"I decided to look around for something else to worship, something I could really count on, and immediately I thought of the sun…Overnight I became a Sun Worshiper."

"Several Reasons: First of all, I can see the Sun, okaaayy?!...Unlike some other gods I could mention, I can actually see the Sun. I'm big on that, if I can see something… I don't know… it kind of helps the credibility along."

"So every day I can see the Sun, as it gives me everything I need - heat, light, food, flowers in the park, reflections on the lake,… the occasional skin cancer, but hey - at least there are no crucifixions, and we're not setting people on fire simply because they don't agree with us."

"Sun worship is fairly simple, there's no mystery, no miracles, no pageantry, no one asks for money - there are no songs to learn - and we don't have a special building were we all gather once a week to compare clothing."

"And the best thing, the best thing about the Sun - it never tells me I'm unworthy. It doesn't tell me I'm a bad person who needs to be saved. It hasn't said an unkind word - it treats me fine."

"So, I worship the Sun - BUT, I don't pray to the Sun. Know why? I wouldn't presume on our friendship. It's not polite."

Well said, George. I will speak for myself and the Sun and say we both miss you a whole bunch. Even though it was meant as a critique of conventional religion, I think we can take nirs words literally here and come off none the worse for it.

So take a look at that photo of the rays of the Sun; worship it's beauty; know that it will keep on rising each day, and helping the Earth provide us with a bounty of air, water, and food. At least a few billion years more - or until we fuck up badly enough the Earth really gets serious about killing us off.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Guns, David Brin and Meeting Your Heroes in Person(sort of)

I Love David Brin's works, both fiction and nonfiction. I've read nearly all the fiction, and some of the non-fiction. When I read Sundiver and encountered the idea of Uplift for the first time, it blew my flippin mind. In the cavity in my brain that the uplift explosion left, I found all sorts of other interesting ideas growing. I love reading an author, where not only do I feel entertained but also more intelligent after having read their books.

 Reading nirs blog posts as they come out forms one of the high points of my week. I usually agree with most of what ne says, and despite my disagreements I still feel smarter after having read nirs post.

 I Love Guns. I love looking at them, shooting them, smelling cordite and lead vapor at the range, and seeing a reasonably dense cluster of holes in the paper I just peppered with copper clad lead. I love that I live in a country, and state where the government authorities trust me to carry a concealed gun to protect myself and others. I love that I can just do it, that I can practice the right enshrined in the Constitution as the 2nd Amendment without having some bureaucratic ninny putting my name in some database.

I work in IT, I have worked for the federal government in the Air Force. I know the special kind of idiots that don't know shit about shit, but still can't be fired for not doing their damn job. If the government puts information in a database they are going to loose that info, give it away to the wrong people, or show it to the whole bloody world. At best they might accidentally delete it.

Anyway, I love that in my state I can take the training that I know I need to carry a gun from the best people I can afford, instead of some instructor with questionable qualifications at a gun range trying to shove too much information into too many brains in too short a time. Brains possibly contaminated with too much cordite and lead vapor.

It makes me feel like an adult, that the state government trusts me and it's other citizens to carry a concealed weapon and generally not do something stupid with it. Naturally there will always be problems - Law number one of The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, nuff said. But the fact is that most of us are adults, we generally get along. My state has nearly 3 million people in it, and last year less than 100 of them were murdered by someone who should have known better. Naturally all those murders were tragic for the families of the victims and the perpetrators, but <100 out of 3 million seems like the vast majority of us are acting like responsible adults, even with around 80k or so of us running around with guns on our persons.

Even before "Constitutional Carry", we've had concealed carry for a number of years, and our murder rate hasn't skyrocketed, nor has our violent crime soared into the liberal gun hate fantasy land. If we had a murder by someone one with a conceal carry endorsement I couldn't find it - and my Google-fu is pretty strong.

Imagine my chagrin at bickering with David Brin about guns, well... people using guns to defend other people, who might be trying to shoot a bunch of other people at the time. Well... the idea of perhaps only potential people doing that. Not exactly the kind of introduction to a conversation with David Brin I had imagined before this week. Certainly more uncomfortable and confusing than, "Hi David, I love your work".

So Ooops. Not going to rehash the whole conversation, but in Guns vs Cameras -which are "equalizers" that can prevent tragedy?  David said that "'s worth noting that in not a single case has the perpetrator been brought down by an armed civilian bystander... not once. Ever.". While I enjoyed with and agreed with much of what ne said in that post, that statement floored me.

I frequently feel the urge to comment on things on the internet, but I nearly always refrain because what does it really accomplish? Having read David's blog for a while, I know that unlike many other blogs David has active conversations with many of the commenters on his posts, and they are generally convivial. So I really, really felt the need to comment. That absolute "not once. Ever." really bugged me, cause it seemed to devalue the valuable, if accidental heroics of quite a few people over the years.Indirectly, it seemed to devalue the very idea of carrying a concealed gun for the purposes of defending oneself and others.

So I posted some counter-examples, clumsily, and I think we eventually came to a grudging agreement that maybe some people with guns may have shot some other people with guns, who might have been about to shoot a whole bunch of other people without guns, for generally no good reason.
Nor did that conversation and conclusion really help him get the comments moving in the direction ne wanted.

I don't think either one of us felt very satisfied with this conclusion. I know I wasn't - but I also know that under no conditions can I imagine a satisfactory study of these kinds of events. No way, no how will a social scientist manage to show that conclusively shows that x number of people definitely stopped y number of mass murders by using a gun on the culprit in progress. Or less likely, the reverse.

It's an impossible task. I mean if some guy walks up to a firehouse and whips out nirs gun shoots up a couple of cars and then realize he's picked a firehouse where a bunch of the firemen have concealed weapon permits - is that a mass shooting prevented? or the plot to a bad high school film class project?

I do think the ample cases of armed civilians stopping other violent crime indicates that with more armed citizens we'd see a larger response of armed civilians in the case of an active shooter. Depending on the location, the gun free zones do seem to self-select themselves for potential active shooter targets a little more than you'd expect randomly. In those areas you'll find less civilians carrying.

I only posted the most recent ones this year in my comments to David. A search on the internet will pretty quickly show there are several like that from year to year each just as clear or fuzzy as the ones this year. Does that prove that armed civilians stop active shooters? I think so, but not as clearly or as definitively as I'd like.

More importantly, that conversation with David didn't get to my biggest gripe about news on mass shootings. These incidents in total seem like a tiny problem that gets blown all out of proportion to the overall problem of violent crime in the US - mass shootings make good grist for the 24/7 news grind. At least now that the news has to make it's own money. Unfortunately that gives the newscritters a disincentive to avoid using the mass murderers names - or anything else they can do to sensationalize these stories.

The day to day incidents should capture our attention more than the mass murders. Sure the events where three or more people get killed (to use the FBI's arbitrary line), represent a terrible cluster of pain for the surviving victims, and victims' families; but those numbers pale in comparison to the full catalog of our collective malfeasance to each other each year: 1,165,383 acts of violence last year, including 14,249 murders. Those points of pain deserve just as much of our attention as the few d>3 clusters that occur each year. They probably deserve more of our attention - they represent more clearly our predicament.

Those folks conflating the mass murders committed by firearms with another tiny part of the rest of each years violence, i.e. the talkers about mass shootings instead of mass murders or mass killings - surely have their hearts in the right place, but they help downplay the overall problem. They just add to the bullshit grist on the 24x7 news cycle.

So does the overall reaction to these mass killings. It's certainly more fun to twattle on Twitter or fatualize on Facebook about these killings. More grist, instead of thinking about how to solve the massive problems we keep turning away from. The root cause of the majority of these killings.

Poverty and violence together describe a strange loop of reciprocating horror. The million plus events of violence pale in comparison to the billions of tiny losses of freedom, dignity, and happiness to those stuck in poverty. Especially since the responsible culprits consist of few handfuls of families which have encouraged politicians to create the current massive income inequality and increasing poverty. Simply, so they can play with all the damn pennies.

I don't see what good either more guns or more cameras will do to help with that. But, maybe this conception of the problem just makes it feel too unassailable.

These families only have power to increase income equality because we've let them with this Citizens United bullshit, along with other bullshit we let our politicians do like gerrymandering. I think of all the candidates for President this campaign season (yet to be), Larry Lessig seems like the only one with a valid plan. A simple plan, a doable plan, and one the overly monied will do everything they can to derail. In fact here's the Washington Post completely missing the point of nirs campaign. Or maybe they're part of the PsyOps, the overly monied have already begin. Who knows.

Ne what, nem who?

English as widely spoken and flexible as it is, just sucks balls at some perfectly simple things. Genderless pronouns being one of them. I've just used they and them, knowing perfectly well those plural forms don't really work or fit, and it irks me.

Then I read about some authors in science fiction that I haven't read (which in itself was amazing), and other fields who have been playing with some genderless pronouns for English.  A Canadian school started using a set of genderless pronouns with the nominative Xe.

And of course wiki has a bunch to say on the subject.

Then I found this delightful post on a blog devoted to the subject. The author's table leaves out a few of the wiki variations:

Nominative (subject) Objective (object) Possessive determiner Possessive Pronoun Reflexive
Traditional pronouns
He He laughed I called him His eyes gleam That is his He likes himself
She She laughed I called her Her eyes gleam That is hers She likes herself
It It laughed I called it Its eyes gleam That is its It likes
They They laughed I called them Their eyes gleam That is theirs They like themselves
Invented pronouns
Ne Ne laughed I called nem Nir eyes gleam That is nirs Ne likes nemself
Ve Ve laughed I called ver Vis eyes gleam That is vis Ve likes verself
Spivak Ey laughed I called em Eir eyes gleam That is eirs Ey likes
Ze (or zie) and hir Ze laughed I called hir Hir eyes gleam That is hirs Ze likes hirself
Ze (or zie) and zir Ze laughed I called zir Zir eyes gleam That is zirs Ze likes zirself
Xe Xe laughed I called xem Xyr eyes gleam That is xyrs Xe likes xemself

But can't argue too much with his selections.

I don't know that I agree with the author's ratings of: ease of pronunciation, distinction from other pronouns,  gender neutrality. However, we did agree our favorite were the Ne series. After experimenting with some of the others they seemed to consistently based on English feminine pronoun morphology.

In some respects this seems fair, since so much of English uses he and him as the only pronoun. But I personally feel that a genderless pronoun shouldn't promote any other agenda besides being genderless.  I want to like Xe, Xem, Xyr, Xyrs, and Xemself... but X is the stupidest frakin letter in the English alphabet - I mean really? It can mean: /ks/, /ɡz/, /kʃ/, /ɡʒ/, /ksj/, /ɡzj/, oh and also /z/. It has to have just been thrown together randomly as a joke.

So starting from the bottom of the table above... and if I remember aright from the Canadian school article it's pronounced using a /z/ sound. So we got:
Ze(he), Zem(him), Zir(her), Zirs(hers), Zemself(himself).... 2/3 female/male bias to my ears.

Next the actual Ze, which is almost the same:

Ze(he), Zir(her), Zir(her), Zirs(hers),Zirself(herself).... 4/1 clear feminine bias

Ze(he), Hir(her), Hir(her), Hirs(hers), hirself(herself).... 4/1 again

Ey(he), Em(him), Eir(her), Eirs(hers), Emself(himself)... 2/3 slight male bias like Xe

Ve(he), Ver(her), Vis(his), Vis(his), Verself(herself).... 2/3 slight male bias like Xe

Ne(he), Nem(him), Nir(her), Nirs(her), Nemself(himself).... 2/3 slight male bias like Xe

 All the rest of the ones in wiki, except for Humanist, Thon and Per; they all use some variation of vowel and m/r that makes them sound like the existing third person pronouns.

The Humanist, has a little more interesting phonology:
Hu, hum, Hus, hus, humself

While the Thon and Per system, just use Thon or Per for every grammatic case.

Whimsically, randomly, maybe with some purpose I don't see yet, I like the Ne series. I'm not entirely sure why yet.

Who knows if any of them will gain any great adoption, we maybe stuck with extra random plurality for the foreseeable future.

Er, what? Oh, don't mind me.

I'm glad I finally got a decent name for this previously aborted attempt to blog. They, their them… bring me down a bit when I have to use them. Gun, David Brin, and genderless pronouns whizzed together in the Blend-o-matic of my brain and out spit some blog posts. Been flirting with the idea of blogging…in my head, for ages. I always come up against the road block, that reads: "I'm just a dude, who wants to read what I have the prattle about?". Today I realized, that I want to read what my brain has to prattle about. Something about putting the words into the electronic ether of blog posts, files, and such makes it look different...hell, even interesting. If nothing else, self-reflective. So if you happen to find yourself here, welcome. Don't mind me, I'm just talking to myself. Pulling some stuff out of my brain to look at before it goes back in. Glad you showed up. Maybe we'll find something to chat about. In the words of a much wiser being than myself, "…the least I can do is share a little bit of my confusion"