Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tabula Rasa - liberation. resurrection and renewal

This time of the year is special for many people and religious beliefs.  The Jews celebrate Passover and Christians, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.   For others, today has been and is still called Easter Sunday. It was only recently when Christians advocated changing the name of Easter Sunday to Resurrection Sunday after realizing that Easter was a goddess  worshipped by Anglo Saxons  of ancient times in connection with the coming of spring, which was celebrated with egg hunts. Eggs symbolized renewal and fertility.

There is for me an underlying thread connecting Passover, Resurrection and pagan Easter -- liberation.   In the story of the Passover, God freed the Jews from slavery to the Egyptians by diverting their attention from hunting Jews down to mourning their dead first male newborn who were slayed by God's angels whereas every male newborn of the Jews were  passed over.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ for many Christians symbolizes not only salvation from sin and its consequence of hell and eternal damnation. For me, resurrection is a clear message of triumph over whatever trumps us, mortals -- fear, anger, disappointment, rejection and even those "death of the spirit."

Today, in commemoration of Resurrection, Easter and Passover,  I choose to free myself from thoughts and feelings that  weigh my soul down and keep me from the light  and growth. I choose to be liberated and to  renew myself with a clean slate -- tabula rasa in latin.

I wipe my slate off  whatever vestiges of toxicity  I've been  struggling with and replacing those with  forgiveness, compassion, love, peace and joy.

I cleanse myself by asking for your forgiveness.  To those I may have wittingly or unwittingly caused pain, please accept my apologies.

A happy Easter and Resurrection Sunday to everyone!


- Ariel Murphy

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gallery: Photography by Alvin Ing

Today I am featuring the photography of Alvin Ing. Please enjoy his art.


Ariel's Note:  G+Alvin Ing together with Andy Ly founded "Light and Motion Photography". He has a passion for photographing landscape and nature. His images capture the interplay of light and motion in the natural world. He is a gold member of Canon Professional Services (CPS).  To view or purchase his photos, please go to his websites:

- Ariel Murphy

Friday, March 29, 2013

Funny Pictures

My recent blogs have been rather serious so I thought that this time I'd share some funny stuff. Enjoy your weekend!

- Ariel Murphy

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Coming Out of the Closet on Same-Sex Marriage

I've been accused of being passionate -- as if that is a crime.  And I admit that I am passionate, especially where justice and equality are concerned.

Having chosen Christianity as my main spiritual discipline, I am sure that many of my Christian friends will not be happy with this blog.  As a matter of fact, I've already received numerous negative reactions to my posts on Facebook that support equality for homosexuals.   And nope, I'm not gay. I assure you that I like men. 

Many of you reading this blog are not in the US and most likely do not know what I'm talking about. Here is what's going on. 

The US Supreme Court is currently in the process of deciding the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was enacted into law in 1996 by  President Bill Clinton, who, since then, has changed his mind and recommended the repeal of the law.

DOMA limits marriage benefits offered by the US government to only opposite-sex marriages. Those benefits pertain to taxation, insurance,  and social security, among others.

It is bad enough that, in some states of the US, same-sex weddings are not allowed.  But to deny those already married the rights and privileges that they should have adds insult to injury and is like rubbing salt on a wound.

Ironically for a country  supposedly founded on Christian principles, the US took about 240 years to abolish slavery. The fight for women's rights took about 165 years.  I can only hope that full recognition of same-sex marriage does not become a long protracted struggle that foments division, bigotry and inequality where there should be compassion, justice and love -- Christian values.

I was doing research with the intention of writing a full- blown blog in support of gay people's cry for equality. Afterall, Jesus Christ did not discriminate against anybody.  He embraced even the so-called dregs of society. Besides, as is true in  the field of Law, there is in Scriptures a definite over-riding intent or principle that many of my fellow Christians unfortunately miss -- love.   Jesus Christ was never ambiguous. There are only two primary  commandments in the Bible. One is to love God above all else. The other is to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22: 37-40)

Is denying same-sex couples the rights and privileges enjoyed by hetero-sexual marriages an act of love? Is it the Christian thing to do?

In the course of my research,  a prayer that aptly summarizes what I want to say in this blog jumped right in front of my face. The prayer paraphrases the  Bible's definition of love as articulated in  1 Corinthians 13: 1-13.

The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of the United Church of Christ (UCC) in Washington DC  offered the prayer during the interfaith  prayer service that opened the US Supreme Court hearings on marriage equality on March 26, 2013.

Here's the prayer (verbatim):

If I speak like I know everything, like the world revolves around me, but I don't love, I am nothing but a fool at a microphone. 

If I can talk about the Scriptures, and preach better than all the other preachers, and get everybody and their sister coming back to church, but I don't embrace love, then I'm just a silly dude in a robe. 

If I give away all my best stuff, and have all the "Rev. Dr. This and Thats" in front of my name, but I can't recognize love, then I haven't learned a thing. 

Because love, she is amazing. Love is relentless. Love is extra-generous. 

Love looks out for the interests of other people, not just ones own self. 

Love doesn't reserve rights and privileges just for some. Love doesn't promote hierarchies, to the expense of equality, because love just doesn't think that way. Love doesn't work that way. 

Love doesn't hurt people. And love never leaves people out. 

No... Love goes all the way. Love removes every obstacle. Love appeals to the highest court of the land, when necessary.
Love gets up really early in the morning, after having stayed up really late the night before. 

That's how love is. Love always does the right thing,  even when it's hard. Love is fair and just, extravagant and wasteful. Love can never be depleted. 

Now as for long speeches and oral arguments and amicus briefs, they'll play themselves out. And fanatics can cry, "Surely the world will come to an end!" and they too have their rights.  But your love one's embrace at the end of a hard day? .... The dreams you shared... The plans you've made...The inside jokes...The kisses goodnight...Till death do you part. That will never pass away. 

When I was a scared, uncertain, disempowered gay person, I thought and reasoned like a scared, uncertain, disempowered gay person. I thought this day would never come. But now, I've put all that behind me, every limiting thought. 

Yes, we see through murky waters. We're trying to discern every 5 to 4, 6 to 3; 9-to-nothing scenario. But the day is surely coming, when we will be seen, and see each other, as God sees us -- through love, because God is love. 

We have a lot of things to sustain us in this life. There's that quirky optimism that, with God, all things work together for good. And there's always hope, and hope never disappoints. And that's all nice. But more importantly, we've got this big, expansive, inclusive love.
Love! And isn't that the greatest thing?  Isn't it?


 (What the Bible says about love)

(The two greatest commandments of Jesus Christ)

(Why homosexuality is not a sin)

(Why recognizing gay rights is good for the economy)

(On a Christian church's support for gay equal rights)

- Ariel Murphy

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gallery: Photography of Willie Colozo

Today, I'm featuring the work of Willie Colozo.  I found by accident a photo that Willie had posted on Facebook and contacted him. I asked to see more of his work and requested permission to use them in my blog. Some of the photos were taken in the Philippines and others in Canada.  Please enjoy his photos.

Willie's Note: I was born and raised in Manila, Philippines but have been living  in Toronto, Canada for 25 years now. I started getting into serious digital photography 3 1/2 years ago while recovering  from a surgery. I found photography to be a perfect match for my daily outdoor walks with my camera, which I call my Third Eye, as my constant companion. Self-taught, I am still learning the art of photography.  I have  academic degrees in Political Science and Urban Planning but my other passion, aside from photography,  is ballroom dancing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

GMOs: A Moral Dilemma?

People in Hawaii, where I live, are very protective of what makes Hawaii "paradise." Nature rules here.  Active and vocal environmentalists put up a strong and persistent fight to anything that threatens Hawaii's natural habitat.

Hawaii's environmental activism, unfortunately, has not always been as strong as it is these days.  Many were not aware when several decades ago, producers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)  descended on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. The huge companies set up shop  on 40-60 acres of land leased by the King Kamehameha school system, the biggest private land owner in Hawaii with about 360,000 acres scattered among the Hawaiian chain of islands.  Today, Hawaii is one of the biggest exporters of genetically modified seeds of corn, soybeans, sunflower,  and papaya.

So what's the big deal about GMOs?

Advocates, like  Microsoft multibillionaire Bill Gates who in 2010  supposedly bought 500,000 shares of US-based Monsanto Corporation (one of the world's  leading producer and exporter of  pesticides, herbicides and GMO seeds), claim that genetically engineered seed varieties can solve world hunger.

"If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture. We believe that it's possible for small farmers to double and in some cases even triple their yields in the next 20 years while preserving the land," news agency Agence France Press quoted Gates as saying before a forum of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) held  February last year in Rome.

Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen, another GMO advocate, professor at Cornell University and former head of the International  Food Policy Research Institute,  said in an interview during  a lecture at Sydney University in Australia: "Imagine if a drought-tolerant maize variety could be developed and the farmer could grow that. That way when the drought comes there will be something to eat because the drought-tolerant crop variety will produce something."

On the other hand, anti-GMO activists debunk Gates' claim. According to them, biotech companies promote GMOs not because of any desire to help but to reap huge profits.

Multi-awarded health diet author John Robbins says: "GM technology permits companies to ensure that everything we eat is owned by them. They can patent the seeds and the processes which give rise to them. They can make sure that crops can't be grown without their patented chemicals. They can prevent seeds from reproducing themselves. By buying up competing seed companies and closing them down, they can capture the food market, the biggest and most diverse markets of all."

Some say that since genetic engineering is a relatively new and still unproven technology, the use of modified seeds could have a huge adverse impact on the environment and even on human health.

Farmers in Kauai say that children in a school that abuts a GMO farm have fallen ill due to huge amounts of chemical residues in the air.  In Canada where genetically engineered Canola is grown, farmers call Canola  a "Superweed." The plant is resistant to herbicides and takes over other plants.

The breeding ability of GMOs has also become a cause for alarm. Anti-GMO scientists speculate about the possible impact on ecology once GMOs cross-pollinate with other plants in the wild.

Still, others say that instead of GMOs the solution to hunger in poverty-wracked countries lies in the provision of  infrastructure, like roads and irrigation systems, that will help farmers grow and market their produce.

Opponents of GMO  in the US have called for the labeling of genetically modified food -- a practice already in place in other countries like Japan, China, the United Kingdom and the EU but which was recently turned down by the Hawaii legislature.   At least, consumers will be given options whether or not to consume a vegetable or fruit that has been genetically altered.

But having a choice of food to eat is a luxury that not everyone enjoys.

In places like Darfur, people just  simply need something to eat.

Here are links to an article about GMOs and to a video about its propagation in Hawaii:

- Ariel Murphy

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Super Shrimp

If you like eating shrimp like I do, you might be surprised to know that a kind of shrimp you may have enjoyed is a powerful predator.   Small but terrible, the Mantis Shrimp can give you  deep painful gashes if this interesting crustacean is not handled properly.  The shrimp is so powerful it can crush corals and rocks,  easily smash the hard shell of a crab (a favorite food of the shrimp),  and remove stainless steel boat propellers. It can even punch through aquarium glass a quarter of an inch thick.  Unbelievable?  It's true.

The creature is so amazing that scientists have been studying it in their search for strong materials that can be used in the military, medical and construction fields.

You will need to duck quickly when faced with a live Mantis Shrimp. The ocean boxer uses its claw to throw a punch at a speed of 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour or as fast as a bullet from a .22 caliber pistol.  

But though dangerous and predatory, the mantis shrimp has redeeming qualities.  It is faithful and can stay monogamous to its mate for as long as 20 years. Unlike some of us humans who leave child rearing entirely to mothers, the shrimp is a model of joint parenthood and helps its mate tend the eggs.

You would wish that you have eyes like the shrimp's which can see 11 to 12 primary colors. In contrast, we humans only see  three -- red, green and blue. The shrimp can also see how light vibrates, which we  humans can't see unless we use technology.
Intimidated by the crustacean puncher?  Don't be.  The best way to deal with it is to put it on the dinner table.  It reportedly  tastes more like lobster than shrimp.  The Japanese call it  "Shako" and use it as Sushi topping.  The Chinese cook it with garlic and chilli peppers.  The Vietnamese grill or boil it.  For Filipinos, the shrimp  is  "Alupihang Dagat" (sea scorpion)  eaten  deep fried. 

The Mantis Shrimp may be the world's most dangerous shrimp but like the popular idiom says, all is fair in love, war and, if I may add, in  food.

Bon apetit!



Below are links to videos and other information about the Mantis Shrimp: 

- Ariel Murphy

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Funny Dating Website Profiles

Here are two dating website profiles that someone told me about.
Foxy Lady
I'm a sexy, fashion-conscious, blue-haired beauty. I'm in my '80s, slim, 5 feet and 4 inches tall although I used to be 5 feet 6 inches tall. I'm searching for a sharp-looking and sharp-dressing companion. Matching white belt and shoes a plus!
Long-Term Commitment
I'm a widow who has recently buried my 4th husband.  I'm looking for someone to round out a six-unit cemetery plot.
- Ariel Murphy

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Gallery: Photography by Tristan W. Che

Today I'm featuring the photography of a young man in Japan whose name is Tristan Chen.  While browsing through Google+ one day I saw Tristan's photos. I contacted Tristan and asked if I could use his photos for my blog's photo gallery. At first Tristan was hesitant. He said that he's merely an amateur photographer.  I thought however that whether amateur or not, anyone who takes good photos deserves to have them displayed. I hope that you enjoy Tristan's photos below..

Ariel's Note: G+Tristan Che is 42 years old and lives in Japan. A web designer, Tristan started becoming a serious photographer in 2012.