Cat Blogging for American Atheists, 3/31: Comet and Houdini

I’m going to be in Austin for the American Atheists convention, March 27 through April 2, and probably won’t have time to do much blogging. And I realize I’ve been derelict of late with the cat photos. So for the next week or so, I’m posting pictures of our cats.

I’m really touched by how much Comet and Houdini love each other. They have such different personalities… and yet they have a profound mystical understanding.

Comet and Houdini

Comet and Houdini

Comet and Houdini

Comet and Houdini

That last one just kills me. I can barely parse who’s who.

Cat Blogging for American Atheists, 3/30: Comet Belly!

I’m going to be in Austin for the American Atheists convention, March 27 through April 2, and probably won’t have time to do much blogging. And I realize I’ve been derelict of late with the cat photos. So for the next week or so, I’m posting pictures of our cats.

This is Comet, getting her belly skritched.

Comet belly

This photo renders me incoherent. BELLY! Belly belly belly belly BELLY!!!!!

Atheism and Sensuality

This piece was originally published in Free Inquiry.

Let’s talk about a pleasant topic for once. The most pleasant topic of all, in fact. Let’s talk about pleasure.

jump for joyThe atheist view of sensuality, of pure physical pleasure and joy in our bodies, is about eleventy billion times better than any traditional religious view. Our view — or rather, our views — of physical pleasure are more coherent, more ethical, way the hell more appealing and fun. We don’t believe in a supernatural soul that’s finer than our bodies, more important than our bodies, superior to our bodies in every way. We don’t think we have a soul separate from our bodies, period. We sure as heck don’t believe in an immaterial god who thinks that our bodies are icky — even though he, you know, created them — and who makes up endless, arbitrary, unfathomably nitpicky rules about what we may and may not do with them. We understand that the physical world is all there is. We understand that our bodies, and the lives we live in them, are all we have. And as a result, we are entirely free — within the constraints of basic ethics, obviously — to enjoy these bodies, and these mortal, physical lives. As atheists, we’re free to celebrate our bodies, and the pleasures they can bring us, as thoroughly and exuberantly as we can.

So why don’t we?

Why isn’t atheist culture more physical? Why isn’t it more focused on sensuality and sensual joy? Why is it so cerebral so much of the time? As atheists, we’ve flatly rejected the idea that there’s a higher, finer world than the physical one. Why does it so often seem as if we’ve bought into it?

Dr. Anthony Pinn posed this question, at the Atheist Alliance of America conference in Denver last September. I don’t remember how exactly he worded it: I was too busy sitting there with my jaw hanging open thinking, “He’s right. He’s absolutely right. Why didn’t I see it that way before?” to take precise notes. But ever since he said it, the ideas have been roiling and tumbling in my head, and bursting to come out.

I know for a fact that many atheists, maybe even most of us, don’t live this cerebral way in our private lives. I know that I’m not the only atheist who revels in good food and better hooch; who fucks all afternoon and dances all night; who walks in the sun for miles and pumps iron for the sheer endorphiny pleasure of it; who literally stops and smells roses. But our public life typically doesn’t reflect this. There are notable exceptions, of course: Skeptics in the Pub and similar events leap to mind. But in large part, our public life as atheists — our events, our writings, our culture — is geared towards political activism, social change, the pursuit of science, and the life of the mind.

the thinker sculptureDon’t get me wrong. I am a passionate devotee of political activism, social change, the pursuit of science, and the life of the mind. But that’s not all atheist culture has to offer. Not by a long shot. This wacky notion that our selves are not separate from our bodies and therefore this life is all we have… this is one of our greatest strengths. And yet, when it comes to one of the most obvious logical conclusions of this notion — the idea that ethically pursued pleasure not only isn’t sinful, but is an actual positive good — we flinch from it in public. When believers accuse us of being sybaritic hedonists, we hotly deny it… rather than saying, “Hell yes, we’re hedonists — why shouldn’t we be? The religious arguments against pleasure are laughable and vile: why should we accept them?” When believers insist that we’ve rejected God’s rules just so we can wallow in sensual pleasure, we get all high-minded and offended and cite every other reason we can think of for rejecting religion… rather than saying, “Yup, that’s a big part of it. Your made-up god’s rules about pleasure are hurtful and inconsistent and flatly stupid, and for a lot of atheists, they’re an important part of why we started questioning religion.” When believers accuse us of the dreaded crime of enjoying our bodies, we vehemently defend ourselves against the accusation… rather than questioning the very premise behind it.

What’s that about?

puritan theology book coverSome of it may just be PR. In the United States at least, the Puritanical equation of pleasure with sin and self-absorption is deeply ingrained in the culture. Some atheists may think — consciously or un- — that in order to gain acceptance in mainstream culture, we have to accept that culture’s values, or at least not make a virtue of flouting them in public. It’s the old “accomodationism vs. radicalism” debate again: are we working simply for wider cultural acceptance of our basic existence, or are we working for deeper and broader changes in the culture? And it’s a debate that’s raged in every social change movement I know of. As just one example: Think about the “accomodationism/ radicalism” debates in the LGBT movement. One side wants to present the community as “just like everyone else,” with kids and polo shirts and white picket fences and monogamy and a fervent belief in God. The other side wants acceptance for exactly who we are, in all our varieties of sexual practices and relationship choices and gender presentations and social identities… and it passionately wants to see society change some of its most fundamental views on family and love and gender and sex. The first side says, “It’s a myth that gay people are promiscuous! We just want to get monogamously married, just like you!” The second side says, “Actually, some of us are promiscuous, some of us do have hundreds of sex partners — what on Earth is wrong with that?” The first side thinks we’ll never gain acceptance if we don’t make society see us as just like them. The second side thinks we’ll never change how society sees us if we don’t change society… and won’t accept a victory for more mainstream LGBT folks that throws more marginal queers under the bus.

Sound familiar?

So that’s a big chunk of it. But I don’t think this atheist tendency to downplay physical pleasure is simply about how we present our image in public. I think many of us — and I don’t exempt myself from this — have bought into it. If not consciously, then un-.

It’s very common for marginalized people to buy into the worldviews that marginalize them. Internalized sexism, internalized racism, internalized homophobia, etc…. all of these are well-documented in sociological research. And it’s entirely unsurprising. Sexism and racism and so on are deeply entrenched in our culture’s attitudes. We’re soaking in it. We’ve all been brought up with these attitudes, and we’ve all absorbed them… even the people who are targeted by them. Sometimes internalized self-phobia can be very overt… as we see with women who think that women are only suited to be wives and mothers. And sometimes it can be more subtle, an unconscious absorption of less obvious ideas and reflexes… as we see with women who don’t ask for raises or promotions as often as their male colleagues. (Which is to say, a lot of women. Including me.)

And the same is true for atheism and atheists. Sometimes internalized atheophobia can be very overt… as we see with atheists who insist that religious faith is a wonderful thing that’s necessary for society and they totally wish they had it themselves. And sometimes it can be more subtle, an unconscious absorption of less obvious ideas and reflexes. As we see with the acceptance of the preposterous notion that physical experience is less valuable and meaningful than intellectual experience, and that physical pleasure is something to be ashamed of.

Greta and Ingrid at Dyke MarchSo let’s knock it off. Let’s celebrate our bodies as much as we do our minds. In fact, let’s stop seeing our bodies as something totally apart from our minds. Let’s not simply reject Cartesian dualism and the absurd notion that the soul is the real self and the body is just a skanky shell. Let’s reject its mutant offspring, the absurd notion that the intellect is the real self and the senses are just a meaningless indulgence. The atheist view of physical pleasure is more coherent, more ethical, and way the hell more appealing and fun. Let’s put that view front and center. It’s good PR: we may scare off a few fuddy-duddies, but we sure as hell will bring in the young folks. And it also has the advantage of being the truth.

Cat Blogging for American Atheists, 3/29: Houdini

I’m going to be in Austin for the American Atheists convention, March 27 through April 2, and probably won’t have time to do much blogging. And I realize I’ve been derelict of late with the cat photos. So for the next week or so, I’m posting pictures of our cats.

Here are some awesome pictures of Houdini. A.k.a. Theda Bara; a.k.a. Hoodoo Lady.

Houdini

Houdini

Houdini

She’s so magic!

Cat Blogging for American Atheists, 3/28: Snuggling Tabbies

I’m going to be in Austin for the American Atheists convention, March 27 through April 2, and probably won’t have time to do much blogging. And I realize I’ve been derelict of late with the cat photos. So for the next week or so, I’m posting pictures of our cats.

Here is a Comet and Talisker snuggling montage. Imagine it rapid-cut to some stirring ’80s power-pop music.

Comet and Talisker

Comet and Talisker

Comet and Talisker

Comet and Talisker

Comet and Talisker

Comet and Talisker

It’s the eye of the tabby, it’s the thrill of the bite!

Cat Blogging for American Atheists, 3/27: The Comet “Bite” Poster

I’m going to be in Austin for the American Atheists convention, March 27 through April 2, and probably won’t have time to do much blogging. And I realize I’ve been derelict of late with the cat photos. So for the next week or so, I’m posting pictures of our cats.

This is one of my favorites. I’ve always been struck by how Comet has this tendency to look very intently, up and to the left, looking very noble and like that Obama “Hope” poster.

Comet looking up

Comet looking up 2

So I decided to Obamize one of the photos.

BITE

Comet: Teeth you can believe in.

Runway Recap: “I’m Not Here to Make Friends”

“I’m not here to make friends.”

If you’ve ever watched any competition reality show, you’ve almost certainly heard this line. There’s even a YouTube video montage of dozens of reality show contestants saying the damn thing. More than one. This week, on Project Runway, it was Richard’s turn to utter these timeless words.

And it is one of the dumbest things anyone on these shows can say.

You know what?

You are here to make friends.

If you are on a reality show centering on competition in your professional field — Project Runway, Top Chef, etc. — you are here to make friends.

The chances that you are actually going to win the big prize — the big cash, the equipment, the profile in the major magazine, etc.? They’re very, very slim. There were, to give just one example, 16 contestants at the start of this season of PR: the chances that any one of them would end up as the winner were 6.25%. Not very high. (And that’s assuming the outcome isn’t rigged.)

But the chances that, if you stay on the show for at least a few rounds, you’re going to have an opportunity to make huge advances in your career? The chances that you’ll meet major opinon makers in your field, from editors to celebrities to established names in the industry, and will be able to make an impression on them? The chances that you’ll meet potential employers in your field, and will be able to make an impression on them? The chances that one of your fellow competitors will do well for themselves in the future, and will be able to give you a leg up? And maybe most importantly: The chances that you’ll be making an impression on hundreds of thousands of potential customers who are watching the show, people who might buy your clothes or buy your records or go to your restaurant or whatever?

Those chances are huge. If you make it onto the show, and you don’t get kicked off in the first couple of weeks, the chances that you’ll be able to do any or all of these things are excellent.

But here’s the thing. The opinion makers and potential employers and future customers aren’t just interested in whether you won the contest. In fact, they’re probably not interested at all in whether you won the contest. They’re interested in whether you have talent. They’re interested in how well you handle pressure. And, very importantly, they’re interested in your interpersonal skills. Fashion is a collaborative art form, and even the most high-strung divas have to have some basic ability to function with other people. They have to be able to work with colleagues, with staffers, with bosses, with suppliers, with service providers, with media, with clients, with clients, with clients.

And if you come across on the show as a self-involved, high-strung diva who schemes and throws fits and talks trash about their clients and makes excuses for their shoddy work and stabs their colleagues in the back? If you make everyone who watches the show hate you and never want to have anything to do with you? You’ve wasted that chance. ([cough] Ven Budhu [cough])

You are, in fact, here to make friends.

Okay. Rant over. There was also some fashion on display in this week’s show, so let’s talk about that. This week was the Lord & Taylor challenge, which translates as “make a pretty dress that could sell in a department store.” Which is kind of ironic, since in pretty much every other challenge, “I could buy that in any department store in the country” is a kiss of death from the judges. And which also makes it kind of sad when the designers fall flat: if you can’t just crank out a pretty dress at this point in the competition, WTF are you doing here?

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 9 Michelle 1

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 9 Michelle 2

No argument with the win. Michelle was the clear winner. A very nice dress. The back means you probably can’t wear it with a bra, which seriously limits the number of women who can wear it, which is kind of dumb for a “department store” challenge. Still: very nice.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 9 Daniel

Daniel is so fucking lucky he got teamed with Michelle this week. This looks like a waitress’s uniform from the 1980s. It somehow manages to be shapelessly boring and garishly hideous, all at the same time. It was embarassing to see the judges try to find something to praise about it: they clearly wanted to give Michelle the win, and had to give Daniel a pass so they could do that. Also, I don’t buy his Mr. Nice Guy act any more. The veneer snapped this week, and what’s underneath is not pretty. I’m done with him.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 9 Patricia

I liked Patricia’s look more than I expected to. And kudos to her for not just making a dress like everyone else. But she also needs to quit the passive-aggressive number, stat. Stanley saved her bacon this week — he was something of an asshole about it, but his critiques of her work were absolutely on target — and she needed to quit whining about it. Also, if she didn’t agree, she needed to say, “I don’t agree,” instead of just nodding and saying “Yes” and then going ahead with what she was going to do anyway until it was almost too late. Every week she berates herself for screwing up her time management and screwing over her teammates… and every week, she does it again. Go away.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 9 Stanley

A perfectly nice dress, and very well-made, although the length is a bit awkward. But come on, Stanley — a sheath dress? Without anything at all to liven it up? Boring, boring, boring. There is not a single element in this dress that would make it jump off the rack and scream, “You must have me! You cannot live without me!” This dress screams, “I need something tasteful and dressy and on the conservative side to wear to my sister’s wedding.” Snore.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 9 Richard

Richard. Richard, Richard, Richard. If you’re going to throw an “I’m not here to make friends” hissy-fit, do it over something more interesting than a beach cover-up. The same damn beach cover-up you’ve now made three times. And a fugly beach cover-up at that. The swoosh doesn’t look elegant or graceful or exhuberant, it looks awkward, like it’s tugging at the hip and tugging at the boob, a half-assed compromise between curves and angles. Go away.

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 9 Samantha 1

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 9 Samantha 2

Okay. This was hideous. This was vile. Ingrid and I have been arguing over it: I think it makes the model look like a waitress in a really cheap theme restaurant; Ingrid thinks it makes her look like a hot dog stand girl at the state fair. Bad ideas, poorly executed: those layers in the skirt are sloppy and flat and sad, and the heart cut-out in the back would have been tacky and laughable even if it hadn’t been poorly-placed and saggy.

But I also think Samantha got the shaft this week. As a rule, when the PR judges are choosing between “hot mess, but at least they were trying something interesting and had some ideas in there” and “sleeping pill in fabric form that isn’t even made well,” they usually get rid of the sleeping pill and give the hot mess another chance. Especially if the hot mess designer has done interesting and beautiful work in the past, and the sleeping pill designer has done jack. Hard to escape the conclusion that Richard was kept on because he creates drama.

And finally:

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 9 Layana 1

Project Runway Season 11 Episode 9 Layana 2

I liked Layana’s dress, and didn’t understand why the judges were hating on it. No — strike that. I loved Layana’s dress. I actually thought it gave Michelle’s dress a run for its money. And I don’t get them hating on the print: it didn’t make me swoon with delight and yearning, but I thought it was fine. Again, though: another dress you can’t wear a bra with, which means most of the women in the store are going to pick it off the rack, go “Oo! Pretty!”, realize you can’t wear a bra with it, and reluctantly put it back.

But I love the way the leather detailing frames the bosom. It’s a clever way to be sexy and body-conscious, without showing a lot of skin. And I really like how gracefully it combines both a flowy resort-wear look and a strong, edgy urban look: you could wear it in the city at a party in the summer when it’s way too freaking hot for anything other than something loose and flowy, or you could wear it on a cruise and look way more stylish and awesome than anyone else there. Thumbs-up from me on this one.

How Not to Talk To People With Mental Illness, Episode #43,635 – UPDATED

UPDATE: The commenter in question has written a very gracious apology.

This is written in response to a comment on my blog, commenting on the post Some Incomplete Thoughts on Mental Illness and Shame:

I’ve not had a mental illness to my knowledge and no depression so I’m willing to concede I know nothing and should not comment but I’m going to anyway.
I love reading your blog but IMHO you think too deeply about the depression and its not healthy.
My suggestion would be to talk to good friends about this but have a break from writing about it for a bit.
Writing might be ‘burning it in’ to the parts of you brain that think deeply and that might be making it harder to resist because depression sort of gets ‘tagged’ to a lot of other thought processes that you have to use daily as part of your life.
Only write about the good things for a bit or the things that make you angry. (I especially like those.)
But not about being depressed. Just try a break for a bit.
No evidence this might work but didn’t want to stay silent and offer nothing. A big virtual hug.

Dear Commenter,

I know you mean well, and I’ll try to take your comment in that spirit. But if you have no personal experience with mental illness, aren’t a trained professional in the field of mental illness, and by your own acknowledgement don’t have any evidence to support the opinions you’re expressing about mental illness, please don’t give advice to mentally ill people on how to manage their illness.

Writing publicly about my depression has been extremely helpful. It helps me process it and make sense of it. It helps alleviate the sense of shame I’ve been made to feel about it. It helps me normalize it, and frame it as simply another illness, like my cancer or the time I had pneumonia — which also helps alleviate the shame. The fact that my writing about it helps others gives meaning to it, which makes it more tolerable. There is no possible way that I’m not going to “think deeply” about my depression — that’s part of the nature of depression — but writing about it helps keep those thoughts from spinning into a secret, self-perpetuating black hole. It helps give me insight into it, helps me crystallize and focus those thoughts in a productive way, and helps me move on from them. And when I write about my depression, I often get good suggestions and ideas on how to manage my depression from other people who experience it. I’m not the only one, either: many people I know who experience depression and other mental illness say that being more public about it has helped them.

And when people tell mentally ill people not to speak about it publicly, It’s nearly impossible to not hear it in the social context of shame and silencing — even if it’s not intended that way.

When you have a voice in your head saying “I shouldn’t comment,” I urge you to listen to it. If you feel driven by compassion to say something, to “not stay silent and offer nothing,” I suggest you try saying, “I’m really sorry you’re going through this.” If that doesn’t seem like enough, you can add, “If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.” But please don’t tell mentally ill people to shut up about our illness. Thanks.

Some Incomplete Thoughts on Mental Illness and Shame

So this weird ridiculous thing happened the other day, and it’s bringing up some weird feelings about mental illness and shame.

We had this household accident last night: one of our doors fell off its hinges. (One of the hinges snapped in two, actually, which pulled the other hinge clean out of the frame.) Of course it happened at ten o’clock at night; of course it was a door to a room that isn’t catproofed, a room that Comet absolutely can’t be allowed into, a room that we really really need a door to. So we had to frantically wrestle the door into a temporary safe place; wrangle the cats into another room and shut them in; scour the Internet to find an emergency handyperson who would come out to the house at that hour… and call Kaiser to look up my medical records and find out when I last had a tetanus shot.

See, in the course of the door-wrangling, I got these two giant raggedy gouges on my inner forearm. I’ve never before seen what attaches a door to a door frame: apparently, it’s huge pointy skewers approximately the size of railroad spikes, firmly bolstered with rust dating back to 1895, and most likely lubricated with Clostridium tetani. So in the middle of freaking out about the door and the cats and the un-catproofed room and the the handyperson, I also got to freak out about the giant gouges on my wrist, and whether I’d have to somehow find time the next day to get a tetanus shot.

All is now well. Door is fixed; cats are fine; last tetanus shot was two years ago. Crisis averted. One of those incidents that seems impossibly unmanageable and overwhelming at the time, and that will almost certainly make for a funny story later, with details exaggerated and embroidered to make it funnier.

Except that when I was getting dressed this morning to go give a talk, I realized that I was completely self-conscious about the gouges on my wrist.

arm with wounds

I started worrying that, since I’ve been blogging about my depression, people might see these two big raggedy red cuts on my wrist, and think that I’d tried to kill myself. I actually chose my outfit for the day, very specifically, to cover the wounds. I didn’t want to have that conversation with a bunch of strangers, or indeed with people I know. I didn’t want to have to tell the story of the door and the hinges and the giant skewers, over and over and over again. I was imagining myself getting defensive and over-explaining… and in the process of getting defensive and over-explaining, making people even more concerned and suspicious… which would make me get even more defensive and over-explainy, thus making them even more suspicious. It got to the point where I was almost gaslighting myself: imagining other people thinking, “Oh, sure, you cut yourself on a broken door hinge, that’s a likely story,” and feeling embarrassed at myself for concocting such a ridiculous cover story, a story that’s only just barely redeemed by being true.

All of which is absurd. The gouges don’t even look like self-inflicted cuts. They look exactly like accidental gouges acquired in a wrestling match with a heavy door that was wielding giant, rusty, tetanus-infected railroad spikes.

So why was I so freaked out?

It’s weird. I have people in my life who have been suicidal, and I don’t think they have anything to be ashamed of. Any more than I think people with diabetes who’ve lost a toe have anything to be ashamed of. But I realized that I do have this fear, this shame, about people thinking that I might be suicidal. And I realized that I do still have this shame about my depression. Not anyone else’s depression: just my own. And this shame sometimes manifests itself as an anxiety about people thinking that I’m more depressed than I am. I’m fine with the world knowing that I’m depressed, that I’m on anti-depressants and in therapy, that the depression sometimes interferes with my ability to work and socialize and otherwide function, that right now I have to make managing my mental health close to my top priority. I’m not fine with the world thinking that I tried to slash my wrists.

And yet, at the same time, I also have anxiety about people thinking that I’m less depressed than I really am: an anxiety about people thinking that I’m malingering, using the depression as an excuse to avoid responsibility. I bloody well want people to understand that I’m exactly as depressed as I really am, at any given moment — no more, and no less.

Not sure where I’m going with this. I guess I’m throwing this out to the rest of the class, to anyone who currently has or has ever had mental illness: Have you ever dealt with stuff like this? Have you ever worried that entirely normal life events — or, indeed, freakishly weird life events that are pretty much just random — would be interepreted as a symptom of your illness, a sign of trouble? Have you ever worried that an explanation of what really happened would be interpreted as a cover story? And in general, do you get self-conscious or anxious or micro-managing about how you present your mental illness to the people in your life?

And if so… how do you deal with it?

Humanist Thoughts on a Life Well-Lived

Without any gods or any afterlife, what makes for a life well-lived?

For most religious and spiritual believers, life’s meaning tends to be framed in external terms, and in terms of forward motion. Not always, but generally. For believers, life’s meaning tends to be framed in terms of making God/ gods happy, and/or getting to some happy afterlife. In fact, one of the things that baffles believers most about non-belief is how we experience meaning in our lives when we don’t have God deciding that meaning for us, and when we don’t have that teleological sense of charging through this life to get to the next one. And it can be hard for atheists and humanists to explain how we create our own meaning for ourselves, how we live without convincing ourselves that our meaning was created by an external party, and still experience that meaning as… well, as meaningful.

But even in a secular context, we still often think of a meaningful life — a full life, a life well-lived — as a life with some sort of direction. Raising children. Creating art. Building and growing a business. Doing political or social change work and making the world a better place.

These are all good ways to live. I’m deeply engaged in more than one of them myself. I’m a very driven person, a very forward-moving person, and I do tend to think of the meaning of my life in terms of where it’s going, and what I’m achieving, and what I’ll leave behind after I die.

But I don’t think these are the only good ways to live.

I don’t think a life well-lived has to be a life with accomplishments. I think it can be a life with experiences. I think we can see the meaning of our lives, not just in terms of where we’re going, but in terms of where we are, and where we’ve been.

I think a life well-lived can simply be an interesting life. One with travel. Adventures. Hobbies. Books. Music. Sex. Friendships. Love. A life well-lived can be a life with an upward- and- forward career trajectory… but it can also be one with a whole lot of weird-ass jobs. It can be a life spent building and improving a home… but it can also be a life lived in a dozen different cities. It can be a life making the world better for more people… but it can also be a life getting to know some of those people. It can be a life spent achieving a solid set of accomplishments… but it can also be a life spent enjoying a series of cool hobbies. It can be a life with a bookshelf full of books you’ve written… but it can also be a life with bookshelves full of books you’ve read.

And frankly, if there aren’t people to experience stuff, what point is there to the accomplishments of all the accomplishers?

As a writer, my life’s work is only meaningful if there are readers. A musician’s work is made meaningful by music lovers. An architect’s work is made meaningful by people living and working in their buildings. Etc. Accomplishment and creativity are two-way streets: they require a recipient to make the connection. And it’s the connection that makes them meaningful.

Not sure where I’m going with this: this is sort of a “late-night musings” post, and somewhat appropriately to the topic, I’m not sure it has a point. But I think if atheists and humanists are going to say that we create our own meaning, that life is meaningful and precious even without a creator and an afterlife, then we should let go of the teleological thinking that’s so inherent to religion. We should let go of thinking that the only meaningful life is one spent in forward motion.