July 23, 2013

Stepping away from the decks

Following a successful Independence Day gig, it's time I announce that I will no longer be available to provide contracted DJ services. I am closing Brad's Mobile DJ Service indefinitely to pursue bigger and better things.

This is a bittersweet time. DJing, for me, started as a hobby more than anything else. Turning it into a business and performing professionally was an added bonus, and I enjoyed it immensely. But now I'm afraid its time to revert it back to a hobby as I shift my focus elsewhere.

Over the next few weeks, I will be closing all of the major accounts and web spaces associated with BMDJS. My music on SoundCloud is available for free download, so feel free to grab it before it's gone.

I plan to continue producing music in my free time and sharing it on my personal blog. I'm sure I'll also keep spinning tunes and playing sets for my own enjoyment, but going forward I will not accept any professional gig requests.

I love music, and manipulating it to flow well and make people dance is invigorating for me. But with VentureBreak on my hands, in addition to my plans to move out of state in a few months, DJing as a business is not currently a viable option.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years. I appreciate it more than you'll ever know.

July 6, 2013

Living in the face of death

Death is probably the most widely discussed topic in all literature, perhaps barring love. It's a difficult thing to deal with—we are the only creatures on the planet that are aware we're going to die someday. Read it again: we're all going to die someday. There's no avoiding it—you live for a few decades, and then your life ceases forever. That's just how it works.

So how do we cope?

Some turn to religion and prophecy for comfort. Although I was raised to be a Christian, I am now subscribed to an atheist worldview. As far as I'm concerned, religion is nothing more than a coping mechanism. I definitely understand the need for such a system—knowing that someday you won't exist anymore is a terrifying thought. However, not only does religion lack an evidential basis, it also does more harm than good as an outlook on death.

I believe that you have one life. There is no afterlife, no heaven nor hell, and you won't continue to live as some kind of disembodied spirit. Death really is the end.

I find this perspective incredibly liberating. I don't lose sleep at night over final judgements—whether I deserve heaven or hell or how long I'll spend in some purgatorial prison. On the contrary, my concerns are grounded within my own lifetime.

Do I fear death? No. If I die quickly and painlessly, I won't even know. If I find myself infected with some terminal disease, such as cancer, I'll probably worry about pain and deterioration. But I won't fear death.

Death is personified in many ways, and when we discuss diseases like cancer, we use words like 'battle' and 'fight' to describe the process of trying to cure the disease. But death is not a person. Nor is cancer a military leader hell-bent on conquering its host's body. Death is inevitable. You can't avoid it, and you shouldn't fear it. You certainly shouldn't concern yourself with superstitious judgements and where your home in the afterlife will be.

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins notes that despite their belief in an afterlife, many religious people are afraid of death. Why? Because no one has a definitive guide as to what qualifies you for heaven, hell, or otherwise.

Personally, I'd rather know that my relatives were dead and buried in the ground than suffering indefinite torment for some long-forgotten misdemeanors before God will allow them into heaven.

Having found the conventional methods of dealing with death inadequate, I have my own way of approaching the matter.

To me, having one life increases the urgency to make the most of it. Go out, have fun, get a successful and fulfilling career, be a good friend, fall in love, get married (or don't), have children (or don't). Whatever. Don't tolerate people, situations, or ideologies that make you unhappy. Life is a blank canvas, and you are the artist: the final picture will be unveiled after you're gone. It better be good.

I love the way one person put it in a comment on the De-Conversion blog:
At this point, I am fairly at ease with the idea that death will be final and that my ashes (I have given instructions to be cremated) will one day become part of the natural matter of the earth. This seems appropriate to me. Ironically, I no longer have to wonder and hope that I really, truly am saved and will get to heaven and avoid hell. The solace that Christian faith was supposed to bring me led to uncertainty and some anxiety. That anxiety disappeared when my faith vanished. In the meantime, I want to live each day to its fullest because life is incredibly precious

I've found a lot of strength in this outlook—certainly more than religion can offer. I hopefully won't be dying anytime soon, but when the time comes, I'll be perfectly content in my nonexistence, just as I was prior to my birth. Until then, I hope to live my life to the fullest.

July 3, 2013

VentureBreak Weekly podcast promo

If you haven't had a chance to listen to VentureBreak Weekly yet, this quick promo will give you an idea of what you're missing.

I'm an extroverted introvert

People are supposed to be either introverted or extroverted. I've never been able to figure out where I fit in. Maybe I'm an ambivert (despite how ugly that word is):

Most of the time, I enjoy meeting new people. I don't have stage fright; in fact, I often enjoy being the center of attention, being a long-time blogger, content creator, and podcaster. I can handle small talk at parties, and I can be quite a chatterbox in the right context.

On the other hand, I always enjoyed being an only child; I tend to become quiet and withdrawn when I'm uncomfortable or in pain; I hate making unsolicited phone calls, and I don't much like phone conversation at all; when I'm out and about, I'm much more likely to wander alone and think to myself than strike up a conversation with a stranger; and I need significant time to myself every day, time I usually take late at night when everyone is asleep.

I suspect I am primarily an introvert. That's not to say I prefer solitude in all situations, but that social interactions take energy for me, and I need time alone to recharge. I like activities with my friends, especially with my girlfriend and my relatives, but given time to myself, I'm unlikely to want to meet anyone for lunch or a night out. Instead, I might spend some time alone to reflect, and it doesn't feel at all lonely.

Right now is a good example. With my girlfriend fast asleep on my arm (which makes typing on my iPad even harder), I'm taking some time to listen to music in my headphones and just think for a while. It's just what I needed.

July 1, 2013

On religion

In polite conversation, it's generally wise to avoid politics and religion, especially if you don't know the crowd very well. And while there are topics I avoid here on this blog, religion and politics aren't among them. With that said, this particular post could be dicey, so proceed with caution. I've rewritten it several times, putting it off for fear of how it will be received. But I guess I should get it out there.

As I've noted before on several occasions, I've never really been religious. I used to go to church with my grandma, but the teachings stopped resonating with me as soon as I learned to think critically. None of it made sense anymore. Today, not only do I not follow any traditional religion, I also don't believe in gods, demons, or spirits of any kind.

I've long held this belief (or lack thereof) privately. Surrounded by religious people who look down on atheists, I've always felt alone—ashamed, almost—for my lack of faith. But I'm beginning to realize that I'm wrong to feel that way.

We human beings, quite naturally, are afraid to die. But we still do. Wishing otherwise cannot prevent it, yet we try anyway. We wish that we could somehow live after death, or that there is a part of us that persists after we die, and maybe preceded our birth.

As far as I'm concerned, wishing doesn't make it true. For me, it's perfectly reasonable (and not at all disturbing) that my sense of myself, my thoughts and feelings, and my personality are all the result of reactions between billions of neurons in my brain. In fact, I find that pretty cool.

Over the past century or two, we've learned a lot about the vastness of time and space. We've learned how insignificant our brief-lived little species is, on this lovely but small planet, orbiting a very average star along one of several spiral arms of a typical galaxy in an unassuming part of the universe. We've also found out just how old our little planet is and what a tiny portion of that history we humans have occupied.

Further, we've learned that, despite our sometimes-parasitic accomplishments, we share genes and basic physiological processes with everything from chimpanzees to sponges, ants, and algae. We're all very much related, and it's clear that humans are merely a late-sprouting twig on the ever-growing evolutionary tree of life on Earth.

If we somehow wipe ourselves out by changing the climate or starting a nuclear war or simply not being able to avoid extinction in the next few million years or so, life on Earth will soldier on without us. After all, it has survived worse calamities—like asteroid impacts and the ancient poisoning of the atmosphere with oxygen—before.

When a flower dies in our back yard, it's just dead, and we compost it because there's nothing left of it to live. When I die, I imagine the same thing will happen to me, though with any luck not in the back yard. When my body shuts down, I won't be here (or anywhere) anymore. I won't go to heaven or hell, be reincarnated, or roam the halls of creepy old houses, clanking chains.

I've been pointed toward this philosophy since I found out there was no land at the North Pole for Santa Claus to live on, and that bunnies are mammals and therefore can not lay eggs. It doesn't make me feel sad, or that life is meaningless, because I don't think happiness and meaning require eternal life.

However, it does mean that religious teachings are largely meaningless to me in their spiritual context. I don't believe there's an afterlife, so that makes it senseless to treat my actual life as a big exam to get into heaven, or to reach nirvana, or to avoid being reborn as a snail (though I imagine, to a snail, a snail's life is pretty sweet). To me, the huge swaths of theological analysis say a lot about human thought and institutions (not to mention politics), but very little about the reality of the world and the universe.

It means that, even if I did think there was a god or gods who created the universe—and I don't—it wouldn't matter, because once we're dead, we're dead, and there is nothing left of us to be judged or evaluated. Plus, given the scope of this universe, and any others that may exist, why would any god or gods be so insecure as to require regulated tributes from us in order to be satisfied with their accomplishments?

We fear death. We create ways—beliefs, stories, rituals—to pretend it's not the end for each of us. Huge worldwide institutions arise from those inventions. They provide meaning, comfort, and a sense of wonder to billions of people. But not to me.

My meaning and comfort come from another place, from trying to understand people, creatures, life, the planet, the universe, and their amazing diversity from my tiny perspective as someone living in the 20th and 21st centuries here on Earth. From trying to be a good person, a good friend and lover.

What will outlive me is not my soul. But my future children will outlast me, and their children, if they have them, will too. As will, perhaps, some of my words and ideas, like the ones written here. Anything that persists of me—besides the molecules that make up my body—will be in the memories of others, and in their genes. That might not be much, and it won't be up to me to decide what that includes, but that's okay.

I don't begrudge my friends and relatives who do believe in gods and spirits. And I realize that what I've written here may hurt them, or inspire them to pity me and fear for my nonexistent soul. I'm sorry if that's so. I have no way of knowing with absolute certainty if one of the many philosophies and religions that support the idea of an afterlife is right. If they're wrong, as I'm all but certain they are, but if those beliefs help people to live happily, and to die comfortably when the time comes, that's good, because they'll never know. If I'm wrong, I come by my error honestly.

The incredible height of a mountain, and the depth of geological time—to me, these are natural miracles, not supernatural ones.

So is being able to feel love and share it. Is love biochemical? So what if it is? It's not "just" biochemical. The atoms and molecules in my brain and the infinitely complex interactions between them is a natural miracle, too—one I cherish. Even more because I only have a short time—eighty years of life, more or less—to experience it.

I hope to make the most of it.