Monday, May 18, 2015

They're all about Christ?

Paul wrote in an epistle that you could be a world-class general conference speaker.  You could prophesy the Higgs Boson, God Particle and end-of-days calamities.  That you could unlock secrets of immortal life.  You could be a billionaire philanthropist.  You could build bombs that destroy evil nations that usher in the millennium...

But if you don't have the love of Christ, called charity, you really suck at Christianity.

Here's the actual KJV quote from Corinthians:

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3)

You heard it at my blog in 2013, based on personal communications I've had with other developers in my area.  The LDS church truly wants money.  They want to take their so-called charity ranch in central Florida and turn it into a hundred billion dollar development for their future benefit.

My hometown paper, the Orlando Sentinel, is reporting what I essentially said two years ago.

"[LDS Owned] Deseret Ranches and Osceola County's vision for accommodating a half-million residents on an enormous piece of ranch east of Orlando has triggered an environmental dispute that could be tough for even the state to solve.

The development plan for the 133,000 acres..."

See this Sentinel pay-per-view link.

But don't worry, no animals were harmed in the making of this money, nor direct tithing used to make a fortune.

Really?  So let's think about the cycle of LDS monies investment.

When they receive donations--whether tithing, fast offering, missionary, humanitarian or whatever--they explicitly say they have a right to use your donation however they want.

This is written into their incorporation documents and bylaws.  The second article says: "This corporation shall have power, without any authority or authorization from the members of said Church or religious society, to grant, sell, convey, rent, mortgage, exchange, or otherwise dispose of any part or all of such property."

They take your donation, invest it into interest or investment bearing accounts.  Scoop the excess interest or investment cash and put that into for-profit ventures.  They pay themselves from that so they can tell members the GAs do not steal tithing money, and then they use the excess for other investments which yield profits that are "donated" to LDS charity so the for-profit venture has little tax burden.  The laundry cycle begins again.

What to do with all that excess, tax-free investment cash?

Put it down on huge developments that will rape the environment and yield a boatload of surplus they can use when the members wise up and stop donating.

Yes, the move to a for-profit venture per the "winding up" and "dissolution" clause of the LDS corporation article on incorporation is in full swing.

I began telling you this in 2013.  The Orlando Sentinel is now telling you again.

Stay tuned to see if the Mormon lawyers can force FL counties to let them bankroll a hundred billion dollar development.  Of course, this is because they're such a charitable church.

Through Fasting and Praying comes...

Ok, it's true, that last blog was an attention whore post.  I'm not re-taking the missionary discussions.  Not exactly -- I am re-visitng them (see below).  I didn't actually write that I was re-taking the discussions (I just used it in the title of the blog).  I implied it, and yes, it was misleading, so I apologize.

It was a trick--a short lived one.  So are the emotional tricks of Mormonism that fool people everyday. Such is the parallel here to what I have done -- to show how "conversion" is an emotional manipulation trick. The LDS missionary discussions use a build up and an emotional tug to trick people into buying their story.

No, I'm not reconverting to Mormonism or to any religion.  Yes, I had a very emotional experience a few weeks ago.  But I know, and most of my readers know that this is physiological and it is explicable.  Transcendent or not, it is still biology.

To illustrate the point I am making, I am re-visiting my missionary journal.  This is an act of vulnerability.  I was a silly, immature, caught-up in the MTC moment kid.  And I'm embarrassed by how loopy I was then.  Perhaps I still am.

To wit, here are the first few entries of my own missionary journal.  At the end, I talk about a very specific spiritual experience you might find interesting.


9 Agosto - El Jueves
Well I can't believe it's finally here! My mission has just started and the MTC is going to be great. It was a long day full of orientations and meetings. It would all wear me out except for the terrific spirit here keeps me going. This whole day has been one big spiritual experience. My district is all going to my same mission. ...
We met our teachers and branch president. They all seem nice, and I'll say more about them tomorrow it's going to be hard to learn and study everything that needs to be done. I know I can do it with the help of the Lord! They might make a missionary out of me yet!

12 Agosto – El Domingo
In branch meetings today, we had a short testimony meeting and some of the elders who are getting ready to ship out bore their testimony.  I felt a spirit, but not as much as I thought I should.  They seem so sure of what they are about to do in the field, and I want to.  I don’t know if I can speak with as much power as some of them.  They’ve had spiritual experiences that proved the church is true.  While I believe and feel the spirit, I don’t have that same experience.  It makes me worried I won’t make a good missionary.  Then after meeting, our branch president, Elder P___ interviewed our distrito and he heled me on some personal problems I had.  He also told me to be patient with my full testimony.  That if I fast and pray, it will come.  I plan to do a long fast soon.

16 Agosto – El Jueves
I can't believe it's been a week. The time has gone by so fast. It's surprising how much I have gotten done. I started the baptismal commitment discussion today and learned it real fast in about 2 hours. I passed it off with two mistakes with pronunciation, but I got every word in. That's a great feeling.  We’re supposed to get the investigators to commit to baptism after the first discussion or by the second.  It feels fast to me, but I know the Lord has blessed me and helps me with Spanish and my testimony so that I can be a powerful missionary.  I started a fast last night and continued all day today.  I’m looking to have a spiritual experience like the ones I heard the elders leaving the MTC told us about on Sunday.  I’m already feeling a little weak and praying all the time is harder than I thought.  

17 Agosto – El Viernes
I'll tell you today was one big experience! I woke up really tired and cranky probably because I have been fasting. Today the district was falling apart. We all went our separate ways during P-Day. And we quit doing things together. I switch companions to get a haircut and the spirit about us was terrible.  I think the whole district lost it. We could sense something was wrong in our night class. During scripture study after the teacher left, we talked for a little and decided to pray to get the spirit back together. After praying the spirit was better in the room. Then our teacher Elder M___ returned and was showing us how to present a discussion. He did it in English, and at the beginning he mentioned that by the end of the lesson we would feel the spirit very strongly. I was worried because I felt like my testimony was wavering even as I was fasting and praying so much. Near the end of his lesson I felt a little something strange I thought maybe I was tired or something because it felt like the light in the room had gotten a little brighter.  My head then cleared.  Like I could think faster.  And then I felt like I was floating above my chair, and I was happy.  Like the world was so beautiful. At that point Elder M____ turn to me and asked me if I was feeling something. And I barely got the words out that something was happening when I felt consumed or like my whole body was taken over by the feelings that had started.  I was floating I knew right away what I was feeling;  it was the spirit.  It was almost as if I had left my body.  Light headed and very pleasant, comforting and peaceful.  It lasted for many minutes. I’m not sure how long.  When I came back down, tired and I expected to be hungry, but I didn't feel like I needed to eat.  I knew the Lord had answered my prayers.  I had wanted a spiritual experience so that I could have proof in my soul to take to the mission field. I felt so elated that I just bore my testimony right there in class.


Was I experiencing a true spiritual experience?

The experience on that last entry is probably what some call Fasting Ketosis.  

The process of ketosis is one of the physiological effects of fasting in which the brain (and some other bodily processes) produces and uses ketones produced from fatty tissues as a fuel instead of the usual glucose.  

"Anecdotal evidence links the initial phase of fasting or a low-carbohydrate diet with feelings of well-being and mild euphoria. These feelings have often been attributed to ketosis, the production of ketone bodies which can replace glucose as an energy source for the brain."    See

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Bended Knees

In my previous blog post, I described a very personal experience while photographing cypress knees that could be called spiritual or transcendent.  At the outset, I will admit, I do not have the answers, but I feel the same needs that others—believers or unbelievers—have felt.  I ache just like you.  Some accuse atheists and agnostics of being hard-hearted and unfeeling on what others call the spiritual.  It’s not true.  We feel it too, but perhaps we humbly accept that the answer is not yet in focus.
(click on the images to see any of them larger)
(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

The diversity of human individual experience leads to a diversity of belief.  I find in the cypress knees vast iconic representations of the spectrum of belief.  I wrote before that the uniqueness of these is like the uniqueness of experience each of us has that lead us to where we stand today.  No knee is truly the same, but they are all of the same genus, and in groups they sprout from a common tree. Each knee representing distinct experiences of the one--some growing large, some remaining small.

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

One common element humans have is a yearning for an answer to a question we haven’t yet completely formalized.  I really wish I knew the answer, if there is even an answer.  But what am I questioning?  It seems we all ask, generally—is there meaning in our chaotic and seemingly random life?

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

I've studied the various forms of answers.  I found so many and really no answers.  At times I feel beaten by life; at others I find awareness raised as I look across the various forms and shadows we sculpt into meaning.

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Some find meaning in family.  I dedicated my former life to this view.  These build up a philosophy about a blessed mother and perfect child who became the deliverer of meaning through expiation, binding the family together.  It drives at the most essential connection every person has—the desire for comfort and familiarity in the embrace of loved ones.  However, for some, family hurts when human weakness injures their bonds.  They look for self-reliance and abandon the pain.

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Some find meaning in pondering.  In my post-Mormon exploration I have pursued a solitary search.  Seclusion allows an inner-focused practice of contemplating the meaning of self, and sometimes finding the eradication of ego.  Meditation has even found support in factual neuroscience, but by digging deeply into the psyche, it vanishes and meaning evaporates along with it.  For some it is a truth they accept humbly; for many the yearning remains unsatisfied.

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Some find meaning in pleasure.  Each of us has punctuated moments of self-indulgence.  If there is no meaning, then the import is gratification.   Life is short enough to waste, they say, and squander time on meaningless pursuits of elusive meaning.  Hedonism promises instant rewards, and ancient religions and fertility gods such as Min have been devoted to its pursuit.

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Some find meaning in life after life after life.  The impoverished find themselves unable to devote time to philosophical searches or hedonistic paths.  This life has starved them of rewards and peace.  Facts are useless to the hungry.  They hold to the promise of life after life, where we live many different versions to gain a broader and more complete perspective.  

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Some find meaning in facts and science—the field in which I work.  My art is based on my own scientific pursuits in technology to sense unseen light. I have patents in detection of unseen light.  Science delivers, as seen in the exponential burst of technology that even promises to save us from universal hunger, from pain to deliver prime fulfillment, and perhaps even reward future generations with immortality. Facts, however, yield no meaning to the yearning about deeper purpose. 

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

And even some find peace in ignoring all meaning, and relaxing like my cat along the lazy river a quiet life provides.  He doesn't need meaning; just a good scratch behind his ears.  Carefree, whimsical,  happy, unburdened and able to just ignore the yearn that irritates the rest.  These happy-go-lucky souls supply an embrace of solace on our journey to wherever this quest takes us.

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Not one school of study, not a single philosophy, nor a particular creed actually has the full gamut of satisfying promises, fact and peace.  Some have peace, but lack extraordinary promises of treasure beyond the earthly.  Some have fact and study, but lack the peaceful answer to the hunger of meaning. Some have promise of splendor hereafter, but lack facts to support their claim.  Many interesting narratives exist.  Diversity of individuals find different narratives satisfying.

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

I ache for answers like you.  Why must some claim they have the answer, when they lack some component of the full triangle of human yearning?  Even my preferential bias toward science has left me incomplete.  While I don’t subscribe to any religion, I still feel that science has its biases based on the foundation of incomplete, evolved human sensory organs.  We may have expanded our detection well beyond biology through instrumentation, but we have not come close to the boundary on defining reality.  Our ego tunnel—that narrow cone of what we perceive is real—is still primitive. 

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Religions have just as much bias and narrow-minded ego tunnels, when they claim to have a connection to "otherly plains" and "ethereal beings", but their predictions and factual answers are shown time and time again at odds with well-established measurements.  While they have imagination, they lack grounded facts.  Despite this, they call “hard-hearted” those of us who unpretentiously hold to the limited facts we do have.

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

None of us has the answers.  All of us yearn with questions.  Most of us are a combination of all the above approaches.  The terrain tread by humanity is vast.  Each of us needs respect for the sole-wandering, awe-inspiring thirst of others.  My journey of capturing unseen light represents to me the search for unanswered questions.   In promoting this blog, and moving toward an art show (which I call, "On Bended Knees") centered on these topics, I continue building the examples of surreal lit cypress knees that exemplify diversity of thought, uniqueness of individual experience and iconic human narration.  

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

There are times in one's life when we are enormously connected with the world, the universe or whatever higher power to which you ascribe, that the simplest thing reveals enormous detail.  You find the weave of a sweater or the glistening light from a plastic water bottle just amazing.  Something as simple and humble as a muddy root can teach us much about beauty, love and tolerance.  We can touch the hand that reaches for us from deep within ourselves, even if just in form of Plato's shadow.
-- my own hand's shadow across the "cypress hand" --
(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use.)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

I Had a Spiritual Experience Today

Perhaps I should call it a transcendent experience.  

Most of my readers know a few things about me personally--such as I consider myself an agnostic-atheist since leaving Mormonism.  And that I engage in an artistic pursuit using full-spectrum photography.  I post examples on almost every blog I write here.  About 15 years ago I began taking apart digital cameras and modifying them to sense light that is not visible to our eyes.  The camera receives colors in the ultraviolet and the near infrared that exist in abundance all around us unseen.  Then the camera electronically translates the unseen light into a new message of visual interpretation that I have called my Surreal Color World.  

(click on the images to see any of them larger)
(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use)

In the past few weeks, after a relationship breakup, I have been focusing my attention on a new subject of Cypress Knees surrounding where I live in Florida, with a new optical filter I recently developed to make more vivid the surreal colorism of my world view that I created well over a decade ago.  Following are a few examples of the scenery, seen in a new light, I encountered in my meanderings along the Shingle Creek banks in Central Florida. 

While I was out today (Sunday, May 3, 2015) and listening to piano music on my headphones, the songs moved from serene piano baroque pieces to contemporary pieces.  Songs like Canon in D, well known to me, played in the back as I snapped shot after shot of lovely scenics.

A popish version of the instrumental song “Hallelujah” played by Brian Crain ("Piano and Light" album)--it's one my ex GF loved--and my thoughts reminisced that about a decade ago the song would have meant more to me.  As the song transitioned to another, I came across a cypress knee that took the form of a hand.  

The song became the theme piece from the movie American Beauty, which when I saw not long after I had left religion and become agnostic-atheist, had a profound impact upon me.  There I listened and took in the surreal beauty around me.  The symbolism of the very present subject took on a direct connection to emotions that were bubbling up inside me.  An unseen hand of a sort touched a chord deep inside me.    

I felt overpowered by the beauty of nature that we can’t even perceive with our natural eyes.  There is so much hidden under our limited experiential abilities, our narrow ego tunnel of squat human sensory bandwidth.  Seeing the colors, shadows, illuminations, dimensions in the viewfinder of my altered camera opened me to the idea that the world is so beautiful and we barely realize it. I started to analyze it, but felt the emotive sensation evaporating as I did, so I stopped and let it flow.  It filled me up, passing through me, and I bodily-felt vision and visually-saw beyond where my eyes could see.  No, I didn’t see anything actually real, but I felt it out there.  I felt that I was with it on all sides of myself.  I wished I could absorb it all, and grow with it.  I yearned to slow down all the feelings that rushed by me.  I heard words in my mind call out, “There has to be more. This can't be all there is to it.”  

Meaning took hold without being defined.  I knew there was a meaning to all of this and while I couldn’t verbalize any of that meaning, it felt logical and real for a transient breath of thought. Maybe, I questioned for the first time in almost a decade, just maybe there is purpose and something beyond, or perhaps higher, than us.  Instinct from many years ago almost took me over—to fall to my knees and call upon something—as I was overcome by this lost or perhaps tossed-away feeling, now returned as an older friend with new wisdoms and insights learned during our separation.

Years ago I would have interpreted this strictly in the religious context in which I was raised.  When I had developed surreal color  photography over a decade ago, I had felt these connections and near mystical insights—seeing the dreamlike world I captured in my camera—back then in Michigan and Colorado.  I knew now, however that it was something else.  Perhaps not mystical or even metaphysical--after all I was feeling it inside my physical body and brain.  These experiences aren't exclusive to the followers of one religion or another.  Unbelievers have them often too, but don't usually declare it from the doorstep or rooftop.  

At that moment I felt this grandeur and expansive connection to the world, gathering even a hope of something larger out there, I also felt saddened by so many losses:  My former life in a black and white delusion that gave comfort without actual fact and truth; the loss of relationship with my children’s mother; the time lost with them as they grew.  I felt the loss of other relationships since then, and the burden of knowing that my youthful dreams hadn’t quite fulfilled the way I wanted. Then I realized what an amazing journey it was.  I couldn’t have planned any of it, but it has brought me to so many places in life that I wouldn’t trade away. 

I recalled something I had written almost a year ago in a blog.  
“You know that moment when you learn something profound for the first time?  Reading a well written blog or novel that fires off all kinds of new thoughts? ... The Newness of the Everlasting Curiosity is exciting...  Tired of your boring friends at church?  Find new ones.  Seeing the limitation of your inherited, family philosophy?  Search for a new one.
“Leaving the LDS [church] is like becoming a child who is merging into adulthood again.  All the fascination of a whole world opens to your exploration, of choosing new directions, of seeking new friends, learning new insights—it’s the candy store that continues to give when you remove the abundant limits placed on you by [religion].”

The words at the end of the movie American Beauty also resonated into my mind.  
“I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn't a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time... I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me... but it's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday.”

That was how I felt at the moment I watched myself connect with the world through light that is unseen.  It was as if I could see everything literally and metaphorically in a new light through the vision glowing on the LCD of my full-spectrum converted camera.  In a short moment, ages passed and I felt as if I had gain the experience of years, all in a few dozen heart beats. 

As the feeling ebbed, I figured I had primed my emotions with the music and scenery; this concoction of emotions, beauty, peaceful surroundings and seeing in a new light opened me up to experience myself in a way that doesn't happen often enough.  We crave this because it feels so alive.  We feel big and tightly loved.  We feel small and ineffably important.  Contradictory elation and sadness all in the same bottle-opening moment, which overcome and fill us with so much wonder.  The New and Everlasting Curiosity is a kind of spiritual experience even if there is no such thing as a spirit, in the dualism sense.  It is transcendent. 

(All photos are copyrighted 2015 by David Twede.  Permission must be granted for any use)

Cypress knees grow around the tree, from the roots.  While their function is not fully understood, some scientists have thought they may help in oxygenation in the low dissolved oxygen mud swamp through the knee's bald head. I have also read the knees assist in anchoring the tree in the soft, muddy soil.  Each knee is very unique, and they take on iconic forms which I am investigating through my art style.  Like them, we find our anchors in the mud of the world through our own unique experiences. We rise above the mire and breathe new life into ourselves through very personal transcendent events.  

While I do not know what the future will bring--death dark as empty space, or an afterlife of surreal unseen light--I am glad to be alive and having the experiences I have.  May you have new and everlasting curiosity.