Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Seat Blocking, Kind Words and a Testimony

Seat blocking & angle finder

My planer / jointer & a bunch of shredded mahogany

Seat Blocking

Yesterday, I made the 2 pieces of blocking that will go under the ends of the rear thwart. Thanks to my angle finder, I knew the bevel on the blocking needed to be 15°. I cut that bevel by adjusting the fence on my planer / jointer, and running the pieces of mahogany (roughly 12” x 2” x 1” each) over it a few times. Everything looks like it should fit just fine. I’ll trim the pieces of blocking down about a half inch or so, before actually installing them. 

The next step will be to remove the seat and attach some reinforcing pieces to the bottom, in an effort to straighten out the slight bend in the plywood. 

Kind Words

Earlier in the day yesterday, I had attended a funeral mass for a friend’s mother. I’m not very familiar with Catholic services, and I was sitting in the back with others who weren’t really sure when to sit, stand, or what words to repeat. Some people can feel pretty uncomfortable about that, but I find the awkwardness a little fun. Some of the rituals of the mass were similar to Episcopal services I’m more accustomed to, so it wasn’t entirely foreign to me. But ultimately, such ritualistic expressions are not the main point. “Religiousness” and “faith” are two entirely different things. 

That was on my mind as I walked through the narthex, greeting old friends… many of whom I haven’t seen in a long time. One of them, who knew a bit of what I’ve been through as far as divorce, heart surgery, and other things, spoke the kindest and most affirming words to me that anyone has ever spoken. I was entirely humbled by the man’s eloquence and consideration. I was not worthy of it. 

What totally floored me was when he said that, whenever he faced difficulties or hardships in his own life, he thought about me; that in doing so, he found inspiration in separating what really is, and what really is not, worth worrying about. I was speechless. I was even more speechless when he gestured toward the altar, with the crucifix on the wall above it, and said that he had no use for the supernatural, but instead found inspiration in other people. I understood, because I knew that my friend is a devout atheist… Just as I professed to be for the majority of the time he & I have known each other. 

What changed? 

I thought of the words of Peter: “Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” All I could do was gesture back toward the crucifix on the wall. 

A Testimony
Don’t worry. This is a boatbuilding blog, and not a platform for proselytizing or shoving religious agendas in anyone’s face. Of all people, I completely understand how irritating that is. I just wondered, how would I share with my friend who I admire and respect, the reasons I had gone from sharing his very same viewpoint to the one I hold now? 

For one, there is this: Most atheists I know are very sensitive to notions of right and wrong, and are almost all advocates of kindness and social justice. From a humanist standpoint, I began to ask myself, “Where do all these sentiments of knowing good from bad, right from wrong, come from? How and why are these sentiments so innate in most people?” 

You may have also heard the expression “there’s no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.” True enough… when most people are pushed to points of absolute desperation, why do they say phrases like “please, God… don’t let this be.” Is it only an expression? If so, why is it so instinctive, even for the non-believer, in those most desperate moments? 

Also, I began to question why I had such a disdain for religion. After a lot of honest self-examination, I realized that I truly did not have a problem with a God… if there was one. Instead, I had a general disdain for “christians.” You know — those hateful, rude, self-righteous people who express their moral superiority over everyone else & tell the rest of the world they’re going to hell. Those people. 

I have come to believe that “those people” with “that attitude” have done FAR more to alienate people from faith than they have done to share it. 

So, at a point in one of my darker moments during the early stages of my divorce, I made a decision. I decided I would discard EVERYTHING “those people” EVER told me about God. I decided to discard every sermon, from every denomination…. every shaking, judgmental finger that had ever been pointed at me. I jettisoned it ALL. 

I realized that, throughout much of human history, during times of the most corruption and evildoing in the name of God, “the church” held the power of one particular point of leverage over common people: Literacy. 

Much of human history has been filled with unwritten, average, everyday people who could only dream to read. These people had to rely fully on “the church” to explain the words of the bible. With the power of literacy and the fear of a wrathful God in their hands, “the church” gained an almost absolute power over common people. 

Today, we largely take literacy for granted. I realized that my impression of faith had largely been based on what I had seen and heard from “those people,” and NOT what I’d read for myself. My impression of faith had also been formed by things I’d heard and read from vociferous opponents of religion, and what THEY had to say about the bible…. NOT what I had read for myself. I had absorbed everyone’s opinions but my own. Maybe it had just been easier that way. 

In any case, I decided to change it. 

I discarded everyone else’s interpretations, explanations, and opinions of the bible. I bought one, and simply began reading it. It was a turning point. 

Have a great day.

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