10.25.2015

Utopia? Nope. FB dialogue

P. O. to me: We could rearrange the how the world is organized such that everyone could attain their heart's one true desire if they are only willing to play by certain rules. I think that perfect happiness would be a sufficient motivator for all besides the few that have short-circuits in their minds.

Moi: 

Certainly - if only everyone would abide by the rules, we'd have a Utopia; but Utopia is not possible, because of the people I referred to, sociopaths and psychopaths in the main, but also your average joe (if such a person exists, which I'm inclined to think: Not). How many people do you know who have never broken a law, have never broken a rule? I've never met a single individual who would meet that criteria, and I'm not sure I'd want to, because such a person might possibly be an anemic, lifeless, approximation of a human being, rather than the real McCoy.

We stand at a place in history where hindsight tells us abundantly more than foresight or insight. Nearly 3,000 years of various attempts at Utopia-building, all of which have failed. Some of these attempts were monstrous, such as what we saw in the first half of C20, as well as many a barbarous empire in ages past; some had better luck, as in the UK, the USA, the EU, or places like Australia and Canada. 

Now we are witnessing what appears to me as the downfall of the last, and perhaps greatest empire: the USA. What will become of the world when the USA goes down, as Rome went down? The future looks grim from my perspective, though I admit I'm an American, born at West Point, with every advantage, and I've lived my life in relative safety and security thanks to the industry, effort, and sacrifice of millions who came before me, who made it so I could live my life without the fear of having a bomb dropped on my house, or my town or city invaded by a foreign invader. 

I don't know if a world stripped of religion is the answer. And the only way a "Utopia" could be established would be through means envisioned by writers like Orwell and Huxley.

10.25.15

10.02.2015

Information versus Entertainment; posted @ FB

I want to offer some suggestions to the producers of media content whose primary purpose is to educate people, and not necessarily entertain them.

If you have information that you would like to communicate to people that you think is vital, and that they should understand for their own betterment, you should concentrate on educating, and lower - or even eliminate - the entertainment aspect of the content you produce.

If one goes to Youtube to watch videos on any given topic, and if these videos are somewhere in the higher-budget area, ie, if they have a certain value as items of entertainment: a look, a sound, hi-def quality video and music, one might notice that often it appears that the producers have placed a higher priority on entertainment value than on the value of the information they wish to communicate.

This is especially the case with respect to videos that are political or polemic. If a video is trying to convince you that aliens have visited Earth, for example, you will notice that it will have a music track that creates an atmosphere of mystery, fear, intrigue, excitement, and controversy; and usually the video will be edited in such a way that the atmosphere of intrigue and mystery is even more enhanced: For example, documents will be shown with focused areas highlighted while the outer areas are blurred or obscured, and these will be shown for only a moment, and usually accompanied with dramatic music. The editing is frenetic and confusing, causing a sense of disorientation in the viewer.

Now, if a producer and/or writer's intention with these videos is to convey information they believe to be credible and important to other people, the viewers, I believe it is absolutely contrary to that intention to create videos that induce in the viewer a definite sense of disorientation, shock, alarm, and a general feeling of emotional ambivalence to what they are witnessing and hearing.

In other words: producers and writers of that kind of video are automatically suspect, and I would encourage people to avoid and even ignore that kind of content, because those producers and writers are patently more interested in entertaining you than in persuading you to believe in whatever it is they want you to believe.

The above refers not only to lesser known or unknown producers on sites like Youtube, but to any and all creators of such content, even National Geographic and other prestigious, world-renowned individuals, groups, or companies.

If you have something of vital import to tell me, tell me, don't entertain me. I can seek entertainment elsewhere.

10.2.15

9.27.2015

Sam Harris, Nominalism, Islam, Mustaches, & Swiss Cheese; navelgazing @ FB

I was having a discussion with a young man about religion, Islam, Sam Harris, and accusations directed at Harris of racism and "Islamophobia". The conversation started off on a sour note due to some misunderstandings of what I had written. I was happy to take the blame for that misunderstanding - occasionally my writing is convoluted, goes off on tangents, and crawls up its own arse. I get gabby, I lose focus and go off into areas that in my own mind are relevant to what I started out with, but are utterly confusing to someone trying to make sense of what I'm trying to say.

I ended up deleting the post and subsequent thread that initiated this conversation, since the young man with whom I was talking has either blocked me or deactivated, since his posts vanished and I can't locate him in a search. Ah, well.

The point I tried to get across to this person was that I'm a nominalist, in that I subscribe to the idea that groups are not real entities, that only individuals are real entities. A group is made up of two or more individuals who have at least one attribute in common. The group called Americans, for instance, is a big group, and the one attribute all Americans have in common is that they are citizens of the United States of America. Americans have many other attributes in common with one another, but none of them are necessary attributes. The only necessary attribute of an American is that he/she be a citizen of the United States of America. That's it.

Americans have innumerable attributes in common. Some of them are Christians, some of them are Jews, and some of them are Muslims; some of them are white, some of them are black, some of them are hispanic. Some of them are women, some of them are men. Some of them are Christian and white. Some of them are Jewish and white. Some of them are Muslim and white. Some of them are white Christian men, some of them are white Jewish men, some of them are white Muslim men. Some are black Christian men. Some are black Muslim men. Some are black Christian women. Some are black Muslim women. Some are hispanic Christian women. Some Americans are atheists. Some Americans are white atheists. Some are black atheists. Some are hispanic atheists. Some American atheists are white women. Some American atheists are black women. Some American atheists are black men. Some American atheists are left-handed. Some Americans are gay men. Some Americans are gay women. Some Americans are claustrophobic hockey players. Some Americans are blind. Some blind Americans are blues guitar players. Some blind guitar-playing Americans are black. Some Americans have mustaches. Some Americans like cheese. Some Americans don't like American cheese.

Sorry for all that, but I think it's kind of necessary. When someone like Sam Harris, or any rational person, stands up and says that radical Islam is a danger to real people in the real world, he is not saying that everyone who is an adherent to the Islamic religion is therefore dangerous. As a matter of fact, Harris has gone out of his way, time and time again, to explain that he is, in fact, defending innocent people in Muslim countries, who are themselves at least nominally Muslim - meaning in name only - against the people who are oppressing them and keeping them in a constant state of fear and danger. By the very act of denouncing the atrocities committed by radical Muslims against their own people, Sam Harris is defending the majority of Muslims, the far greater majority of individuals who are just as sane and rational as anyone else, who just want to live their lives in peace and be left alone.

And yet, by some amazing miscomprehension, or purposeful slander, he is accused of being an Islamophobe, of being racist, of being the very thing that he is in complete opposition to.

At the heart of most of the confusion is a simple conceptual error: the failure to distinguish the real from the unreal. A group is not a real entity. It's just a label, an abstraction. The word "Muslims" does not identify any individual, rather it's a term that refers to a massive group of individuals who share at least one attribute in common: that they are, at least nominally, members of the religion of Islam. They may be hardcore fundies, or frightened atheists who are unable to confess to disbelief because to do so could get them killed, or any number of moderate, liberal, or orthodox believers.

When Americans fought Americans in the Civil War, Sam Harris, while he is an American, was not a member of those groups that fought. I'm an American, but I am not in the group of Americans that fought against the Japanese and the Germans in World War Two. Those people were Americans, and I'm an American, but I was not a member of that group of Americans.

Spaniards killed a lot of Native Americans. There are many Spaniards who never killed any Native Americans.

Some Spaniards are men. Some Spaniards are vegetarians. Some Spaniards like American cheese. Some Swiss people don't like Swiss cheese.

9.27.15

8.11.2015

Middle Path; Jesus; Buddha; posted to Facebook philosophy group

...I really don't understand the extreme view to either direction. I don't understand scientism any more than I understand religious dogma. I don't understand an appeal to a purely materialistic view any more than I understand an appeal to a purely mystical view. I think, and the history of the human race has illustrated, that we need the objective and the subjective, the quantitative and the qualitative, the empirical and the conceptual. The human mind requires a balanced synthesis of opposites. The black and white worldview, good versus evil, right versus wrong, is misgiven. The far left and the far right are both a little bit right, but quite a bit wrong. Reality is in the middle, the *Point*, as Julian of Norwich *and* Euclid would agree. Gautama and Jesus taught the Middle Path, IMHO. We need the Light and the darkness to sort things out. More importantly, we need to face the darkness, to look into the evil in the world straight on, and say, "Bring it!" I pray to my conception of Christ - which I admit is eccentric - and I plainly let Him know that I find the concept of a literal Hell abominable, revolting, heinous, criminal, unspeakably evil. If I have to go to Hell for having that belief, then so be it. That's where I'll go. Bring it on. I imagine souls in Hell would need consoling and comforting, and as a Christian, that's what I'm called on to do. An eternity of ease and bliss is unchallenging, and I find most conceptions of Heaven to be greatly lacking in appeal to my heart, soul, and mind.


8.09.2015

Me 8.9.15; posted also @ Facebook


I am a Spinozan agnostic non-denominational universalist follower of Jesus Christ as I understand Him to be and as He has revealed Himself in my heart (not the pump in my chest).

I am not diagnosed bi-polar, but underwent treatment for emotional disorder for a while - to no benefit. My brother and sister (I'm in the middle) have both been diagnosed bi-polar and both are on medication. My mother was also hospitalized in her 30s for severe depression. It's in the family.

I believe very strongly that bi-polar disorder (and other similar mental disorders perhaps) may be at the heart of many religious conversions, many a deeply religious person, and also be at the core of many testimonies by individuals who claim to have been 'touched' (for want of a better word) by a higher power, or God, some of whom are quite famous, such as St. John of the Cross and Julian of Norwich. There are no doubt countless others, ancient and modern.

I do not really **know** what I believe or don't believe; I have zero certainty; but I do know that I have a strong faith (made the leap) that a Being or Beings have intervened in my heart and mind and that this Being or these Beings are benign, loving, and are of a nature that is beyond my brain's capacity to comprehend. I have named these Beings God and Jesus Christ, and while my gut and my heart tell me I am correct, my reasoning brain allows me to consider that this could be (and probably is?) due to the place of my birth, my upbringing, and the information about the world that I have been exposed to. From my scant reading of Buddhist beliefs, if I were born in the Far East, I would probably be a Buddhist; and the same may be said if I were born in the Middle East, etc, etc.

I've been astonished of late by the similarities in core teachings of all world religions, and believe that there is a reason for that which goes beyond what we know scientifically, historically, philosophically, and sociologically.

The LAST thing I wish to do is offend my Lord, or to offend God. I would gladly die right now than willfully do such a thing. While I say this, I am fairly convinced that Jesus Christ and God cannot possibly be offended by me, because their nature is such that there is simply no means available for me to cause any actual offense to them. I may, however, be wrong, and this very thing that I've just said right there could very well constitute a grievous offense to the very Lord and God Whom I love with all my heart and soul. That is my greatest fear at the moment. I don't fear eternal punishment, as I believe that to be utterly contrary to a loving God; what I fear is offending That which I love so much, so deeply. A retreat to disbelief, at this point in my travels, would leave me with a feeling on par to that of abandoning one of my children, and/or forsaking my parents.

I realize that none of this sounds remotely rational or reasonable. I cannot defend my views or my feelings with wholly rational, reasonable discourse or argumentation.

I was a militant atheist, and was even a Randian Objectivist for a few years, for most of my adult life. I went through what I can only call a radical religious conversion in 2011, over the course of a few months of intense depression, elation, confusion, grief, and sporadic bouts of prolific artistic creativity, which has lasted up until now and is ongoing.

That's about it,
Bill

7.17.2015

Stuff initially meant for Facebook; God, sin, Ayn Rand, contradiction

Where does the teaching, "God cannot look upon Sin" come from? If it's in the Bible, what book, chapter, and verse? To my mind, saying that God can't look upon sin is like saying a baker can't look upon flour, or a mechanic can't look upon an internal combustion engine. 

I just found this person, and I agree with what he writes. And I like his blog's purpose: "Rescuing Scripture, Theology, & Church from the Shackles of Religion." which you realize is the same thing Christ was trying to do, if you read the New Testament like Spinoza did, which means the same way you read any other book, ie, knowing that there will be a need to sort the wheat from the chaff. In other words: Cherry-picking!

I don't know about you, but I'm a cherry-picker. I pick up a book, I don't assume that everything in it is true. I read and use my brain to try and determine what sounds reasonable and what doesn't. I reject what sounds like nonsense, or unfactual, or what appears to be inserted for the purpose of political persuasion; and I accept what appears to be sensible, and based on what appeals to common sense or is verifiable scientifically and/or historically. 

That doesn't mean I won't make mistakes. Of course I will accept some falsehoods as true and reject some truths as falsehoods, because I'm fallible. All I can do is keep going, acknowledge errors, be grateful for having my mistakes pointed out to me, and understand that every time I correct a mistake, I am becoming wiser. 

I think God (and that is just a word) is something far more amazing and wondrous than any human can conceive. There is a unique concept of God for every individual, and no two concepts are identical. A scientist, or a person with a refined, analytical mind, would tell me that what I just wrote is a perfect indication that I ought to reject the word God and forget the concept altogether, since I am quite patently speaking about something which I candidly admit to not having the capacity to understand! 

And so it goes. All I know is, Pascal makes just as much sense to me as Carl Sagan. Ayn Rand said that when you arrive at a contradiction, examine your premises, because one of them has to be wrong. That's true, but it's also true that Ayn Rand was a living contradiction. She claimed that it was not proper for a woman to aspire to the U.S. Presidency. And here she was, the living proof that a woman could be a leader. Ayn Rand, the leader of one of the largest intellectual movements in history, claiming that a woman ought not aspire to a position of prominent power and leadership! 

6.22.2015

Gun control; rights; @Facebook

Well, I did some reading as promised, but in the long run my opinion on the issue remains as it was. Even if it's true that owning a gun puts one at greater risk for harm, which is self-evident by virtue of what a gun is: a potentially deadly instrument, that's simply not a justifiable reason to divest a person of their right to own a gun for the purpose of self defense. I'm a professional cook. I work with fire and sharp knives. Common sense tells me that I run a higher risk of burns and cuts than a person who doesn't work with fire and sharp knives. ?

You say a person may "feel" safer, but in reality not be. So what? Who are you, or I, to deny a person their right to "feeling" safer in a dangerous environment? Furthermore, and much more importantly, people are different. Person X, who is well-trained in gun safety, will be safer than Person Y, who hasn't bothered. Citing stats that show any number of horrible things happening when people get hold of deadly weapons changes nothing when it comes to the fundamental issue of rights.

Having the right to do something, like own a gun, or eat at MacDonalds every day, does not carry with it any guarantee of safety or wellbeing, nor should it. And if I defend a person's right to own a gun, or to eat at MacDonalds every day, it doesn't mean I am giving either thing my stamp of approval.

Ayn Rand made a similar point when she brought up the subject of pornography. She found porn repellent and disgusting, but she was willing to defend a person's right to consume it. Defending a person's right to do something is neither a moral sanction nor a stamp of approval. I hate to repeat this but it bears repeating, because it's frequently forgotten.


Gun ownership entails a great deal of personal responsibility. Some people are simply not responsible. Do you suggest that we limit a responsible person's rights by virtue of the fact that irresponsible people exist? Perhaps you and I are vastly different people.

6.19.2015

Media data overload; madfingering @ Facebook

 I've got so much I could add to this conversation, I could literally go on for thousands of words. However, I'll try to keep it short and sweet. I think we need to ignore the media. Ignore it flat out. We're in an age now where "information" - (usually misinformation, especially the very first articles or blogs about a particular event or issue, because people are too eager to get their opinion out there, and too eager to play the part of the concerned citizen who's more on the ball than their neighbor, whom they imagine is an ignoramus - and I am generalizing here as well, committing the very mistake I am blaming others of!) - is so readily available and so easy to access, so everyone (not literally) is going mad thumbs on their smart phones and on their pcs trying to keep up. No-one (not literally) wants to be thought of as ignorant, or unconcerned, uninvolved. And most people (even that's a stretch) still can't stand to see someone else who's "wrong on the Internet". Basically (and don't you hate ppl who start sentences with that word, as if things need to be dumbed down for others?) the world and world events are no different than they have been since day 1, the only difference is the massive media scramble to glut the information highways (cliche alert) with data - and negative news has more appeal than positive news, so we hear about criminals and catastrophes far more often than we hear about the latest child prodigy who just wrote an opera in three days, or five year old drummers who can give Mike Portnoy a run for his money, or the average joe or jane in the street who is doing wonderful things without concern for media attention, and simply out of a love for humanity and the selfish joy of reaping the rewards of being a good person and living according to an unwritten code of morals and values. That's all for now. And everything I've just said has been said by a million people in the past five seconds, and probably said better.

6.12.2015

Thanksgiving

Whatever happened to politeness and simple courtesy? At a BB I post regularly at, which shall go nameless, I've noticed over the past few years an annoying tendency amongst the more entrenched members, particularly those who are widely published, to ignore the time-honored etiquette for such public fora, meaning the idea that one should always thank a critter for their critique. At least two prominent senior members, both very well known and widely published, seem to have a habit of posting work, receiving critique, and then only thanking the critters they are pleased to thank, or just not saying thank you at all. How difficult is it to say thank you? One can abbreviate, Facebook style: ty, and that would at least be something. But they seem content to give nothing, which is bothersome, and downright silly. Perhaps a thank you is implied, without actually being present in text form, and I'm just out of the loop? Or could it be that George Orwell was right, and that some animals are more equal than others? My Christian goodwill would like to believe the former, while my reptilian kernel believes George was right. 

6.05.2014

Pontificating at the Sphere; crit and critters phase 1 where Doris gets her oats; as Williamb


Many in this thread have already given expression to most of the things I think and feel about poetry, but there are some things I'd like to say about the relationship between poet and reader, or poet and critter.

 There are always people in workshops who take a hard, aggressive approach to critique, and this, by and large, with proper moderation and attention to board etiquette, is a good and productive thing.

 Knowing that, and knowing that aggression is not a big part of my nature, and that I always regret any instance when I become aggressive, and that I feel better after I have behaved passively and not belligerently, I go about critiquing in a more passive manner. I, as the reader, am the passive vessel, into which the poet pours her words. These words, in the arrangement she has made, are intended to affect me, and as a reasonable reader, I know that she wants me to be affected by the words in the same way that the words affected her, so I try to do that, to share her experience. I don't go into it with the feeling that she owes me something, or that she will be responsible for my disappointment if her poems fails to make an impression on me, or is simply poorly made: I let the disappointment fall on her by virtue of my having failed in sharing her experience. 

 There is no reason whatsoever for me to be angry or indignant towards her. And the worst thing to do is act offended by a poorly made poem. I've seen that kind of thing happen a million times: a critter acting like a shrinking violet, so in accord and at one with the benevolent power of good poetry that bad poetry is odious, even harmful to them. Bad poetry cannot possibly harm or offend a competent poet; on the contrary, it should arouse pity and compassion. Without bad poetry, no-one would know what good poetry was, and if all poetry was good poetry, there would be no need for poetry, no reason to write it. 

 I take a subordinate position to the poet. The poet has made something that she thinks might work, and wants to try it out on like minded people. I voluntarily take the time to read what she has made, and voluntarily agree to think and think and think and think about what she has made. The poet has not coerced or forced me to read her poem by the mere act of posting it for critique. 

 There are those who argue the contrary, but those arguments are not valid . Even in a workshop, any critique done by a member is done voluntarily, of their own choice. No-one is forced to critique a poem in an online workshop. No-one. I've seen many poems slide down the board at another site with a big goose egg in the reply column. I've had one or two of my poems slide down the board with nothing but a goose egg to bid it farewell. That, when all is said and done, is probably the harshest critique a poet can receive. We all have egos. No comment is worse than no comment.

 Now, some of the more aggressive critters like to say things like this to the poet:

commentexample_one says > I can't believe I wasted three minutes reading this. I wish I had those three minutes back! Will you please read the guidlelines, and post in a forum appropriate to your level of ability and experience, so that other people [meaning we really smart people] will not have to waste their time reading a poem written by someone who obviously doesn't know anything about the craft of writing poetry? We value our time as much as you value yours. 

The above comment, to my mind, is an example of someone with an ego on overdrive. Something similar to the above has been typed, or copy-pasted, millions of times, at other sites, and at one site in particular. The best response, even if the poem is execrable, as far as I'm concerned, is this:

poetreplyexample_88 says > Thank you, commentexample_one. I appreciate your taking the time to write this response. However, I'm afraid I cannot feel responsible or guilty about how you manage your time. I can only manage my time. Thanks again! 

At which point, due to the critter being wounded by the poet, much nastiness ensues, until a moderator steps in. In the real world, it sometimes happens that a Colley Cibber actually can hurt an Alexander Pope, though for most people the joke is always on Cibber. Ha-ha-ha. 

 It's obvious to anyone who knows about poetry that Pope was better at it than Cibber. It is glaringly obvious, hence the tragedy (to my mind) of Pope spending so much time wasting his gift, his remarkable skills, on laughing at and mocking writers who everyone knew could not hold a candle to him. Who knows what amazing works he could have penned had he been able to value a great poem over a good joke? 

 Luckily, for readers of poetry, along came poets like Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, who spent their time writing with an effort aimed at exalting the human experience, of finding value in human life and human beings, in reverencing the natural world and the cosmos, rather than focusing on putting mankind to shame. Our religion, our faith, if we understand and practice it to the best of our ability, provides us with shame proportional to our deserving of it as individuals, and history gives us an abundance of reasons to be ashamed of ourselves collectively. 

 I prefer to use poetry, the artform that I love the most, even above my great love for music, to make an impression of that passion, that love that I feel, in the minds of a few other people. I don't wish to use poetry to make myself feel better or bigger than others, to softsoap or coddle myself, a purpose for which certain authors of satire have used it. I'd rather use it as a means of helping a reader to empathize with another human being, no matter who that human being is, just to take a severe example: a violent criminal undergoing capital punishment, or an innocent wrongly undergoing the same; how would, or could, that feel to the father and mother of the former, or the latter? How must that feel, as a human being? That's a big part the experiment of poetry for me, to explore situations in which I haven't been involved, to wonder how I would react, how I would feel, in such scenarios.

 In the end, I'd rather praise than blame as a critter, I'd rather reward than punish: knowing that there are plenty of harder, more aggressive critters out there doing what they do, keeping things balanced. I can't act in contradiction to my nature, nor, I think, can anyone else. Our job is to understand this and to enslave the emotions to reason, as best we can, even if, in reality, that goal is most likely impossible.

5.18.2014

"...It's an Orangy sky..."


As a father, I've encouraged my sons to look up Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Rape of Nanking, I've discussed the atrocities of the Holocaust, the evils of war, the evils that occurred in POW camps, the evils of religious, ethnic, and political persecution; as well as to bear in mind the evils of child and spousal abuse, sexual abuse, especially in times when people had no recourse to the law, nowhere to turn, no-one to go to for help. I've talked to them about poverty, disease, natural catastrophes, horrible accidents, etc. I want them to know the dark side of nature and the dark side of humanity, as well as the dark half of happenstance.  Anything can happen, at any time, to remove their comforts and destroy their lives. That's not to say I want them to dwell on such things inordinately, only to bear in mind their relative good fortune, and to be grateful, and to be compassionate to those who are not as fortunate, and to be reverent to our ancestors, who in general had far more difficulties and challenges to face in life than we do now.

And I'd rather they watched an extremely violent film like Kiss of the Dragon, a Jet Li vehicle, than the artsy fartsy A Clockwork Orange, for the simple fact that the former has a redemptive moral meaning and purpose while the latter does not. I can already hear the slings and arrows of contempt that might come my way for saying such a thing. I said as much on another forum and was pelted with rancor and indignation, so I won't be surprised.

4.22.2014

Cosmotheological diddlings from Eratosphere; as Williamb


I'll be 50 in two months, and until Feb. 2011, when I was 46, I was an atheist the whole time, just like my pop, who as it happens, turned 70 back in January.

 Either I'm insane or I was touched by God. Or something extremely powerful, benevolent, and amazing. I have been an outspoken God-believer ever since, despite the fact that my life is falling apart around me and each day brings new difficulties. I go to bed every night and see images of the Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking, The Inquisition, the bombing of Hiroshima, Pompey, tsunamis, human suffering on a terribly grand scale. But it's the daily catastrophes, accidents, atrocities, the day-in day-out round of human suffering that I don't hear or know about, that troubles me even more.

 I say, Hey God, why the hell is all this happening? When am I or my loved ones gonna be tossed into the grinder? Why am I safe and sound? Why don't I have physical pain? Why are my loved ones not dying? Why am I not suffering? I conclude that my suffering is still to come. In a universe where balance is all, it seems only correct and proper that I should get my share of the pain, after 50 years of relative ease and comfort.

 I think this is how Christ works in me. I've had it too easy. I let the years go by. Now comes the rough stuff. Every day is harder and harder. No wife, see kids rarely, no friends, low-wage job, future looks dismal.

 And we haven't even started. I expect things to become worse. After a certain amount of time, I won't be able to handle the stress, that harsh gnawing in the belly, the fear. A time will come when I can't keep a job, or do a job properly. A lifelong Tull fan, that Aqualung character has always haunted me, since I was about 14. I saw myself in him.

 Back in Cowper's day (I think I'm a lot like he was) there were patrons who helped crazy poets along. Those days are long gone. Nobody gives a tinker's damn about poetry, because everyone's a poet. Mishmash splishsplash = word salad: poem.

 Listen to what Roger said. This needs to be tightened up, much of it deleted or re-written. The final couplet, I'd do without the summing up. There's good material here, and something fine can be made of it I'm sure. The F-bomb is too fucking much in the first bit.


1.25.2014

To be or not to be, that is the question. Part I.

I don't know how this composition will go. I believe it will not go as I hope it will go, which always happens, so my belief is well-founded.
 
Shakespeare's line, which everyone knows who knows English, even if they despise poetry and have spent their entire lives avoiding it, really does say it all. It neatly and concisely sums up the rich pageant of humanity on Earth. That line is not only at the heart of every philosophical argument ever launched, but is also at the heart of almost every work of art ever made. I say almost to cater to nihilists who like to say that nothing means anything, who by virtue of saying that are stuck in a contradiction they cannot get out of, no matter how hard they try. And there are many who sincerely and stridently believe that life, the universe, art, everything, is devoid of purpose and meaning. This is evidenced not only by their works of art, but by virtually everything such people do with the purpose of expressing what they mean. All this has been said before, of course. That should go without saying, but for some reason occasion always arises wherein there is need for it to be said, again, and again. And again. You get the picture.
 
When talking about Art, we automatically take ourselves out of Reality and deliberately occupy an abstraction. I wanted to say 'place', but that would not have worked, and after 'place' I would have compounded my first error by traipsing along in the middle of nowhere with no possible sense of direction, no compass, no standard by which to judge the efficacy of my steps. This happens inevitably, and I am at this very moment guilty of the very thing which I have already said it is best to avoid. If you can deal with this kind of thing, by all means venture forward (or whereever) with me; if not, no harm done, no problem. I can handle your silence and I promise I won't attribute anything unsavory to your silence (as if that were remotely possible).
 
The fact, and this may be the single best fact we can apprehend, is that we humans are not God. We are fallible, alarmingly so, and imperfect, which in reference to us is the epitome of understatement. When I attribute that line, the title of this thread, to Shakespeare, I do so with the assumption that most of you know that the concept or idea expressed in that line is hardly original to Shakespeare, and in fact was extant in human thought long before the immortal Bard was hatched. The reason Shakespeare is world famous and most people aren't, is because of his economy with words (which I assume you also know), or at least with words belonging to his native language. If the idea is not original, which it certainly isn't, that isn't to say that the words, and the order of those words, is not original, albeit it may well be that that exact set of words, in that order, occurred somewhere at some point prior to his writing it down, be it in speech, or in a private or public document of some kind. It could very well be that some yahoo named Derfwin, a tapster in Elizabethan England, or a soldier or thief in that time period, uttered those exact words, in that exact order, and not only did not become famous, but was laughed at or punched in the face for his effort. Not that Shakespeare stole it from poor Derfwin, only that there are such things as coincidences.
 
Just as there are such things as conspiracies, and hence, conspiracy theories. I like to say that the only person sillier than your garden variety conspiracy theorist is a person who believes that there are no such things as conspiracies. I bring this subject up because I believe we are in a world where very intelligent people are doing and saying extremely silly things, and making a strident effort at undoing everything that has been done, or at least done well, by people on this planet. A casual glance at news articles in print or across the Net will bring to light a large number of people who defend science at all costs and who decry anything that might smack of 'woo', to use their favorite word. These people are out in force, and are living out their obviously well-intended wet dream of ridding humanity of anything that cannot be ultimately reduced to simple, material existence. I've spent countless hours arguing with scientists at a highly trafficked freethought & rationalism board, and from what I've observed there, I am not being paranoid, nor am I an alarmist. Calling me a conspiracy theorist would be semantically accurate, but it would not be true or fair because we all know that in the minds of a great many people—especially those I'm trying to reach—that term is pejorative and basically means, 'sucker', or 'idiot'. That happens to be the way these people of whom I speak go about their business of eradicating 'woo' from the 'collective soul' of the human race: They do it with mockery and invalid ad-hominem attacks on persons rather than ideas. ie: if you believe X, you're an idiot, ha-ha-ha-ha! Look at the idiot! Let us laugh at and mock the idiot!
 
The world is upsidedown. The first and best evidence of this is scientists behaving like the mob and the mob (or the masses in general) waking up and educating themselves. This wouldn't have happened without the Internet, and a lot of this easy polarization of factions (which I'm guilty of) is a direct result of the Internet, and ease of access to scads of information. The White Tower has been thrown down, and the three wise bald men on top of the mountain have been obscured by billions of regular, every-day human beings exercising their right to think, making use of the freedom granted by the Internet. What we need today is not to seek out great geniuses, great discoverors; what we need is to winnow them out, to identify them from the glut of also-rans, and from multitudes of yahoos who truly are yahoos, who think they know something but don't.
 
 
Onwards (or is that backwards?):
 
To deconstruct the Bard's famous line, I have to put on my atheist/materialist hat and speak according to a worldview I once held as true: While what he says is a perfect reflection of basic, fundamental questions that thinking people ask themselves, the question has, and always had, an easy answer: there is no choice. We can only deal with being; we have no other option. To not be seems like an option, but in reality, it isn't, because once we're dead we've effectively erased our existence with respect to ourselves, our own conscious awareness. Others will remember us, and what we said and did will pertain to them, but as for us, when we are dead, all we had said or done will be irrelevant, on equal footing with what we didn't do and didn't say. But even from this atheistic view, which I held from the age of about fifteen to the age of forty-eight, barring the occasional 'spiritual' phase where I tried like hell to have faith in God but never found it, I'm not even remotely drawn to what I conceive as the view of a nihilist: that because we return to oblivion everything we have done is therefore meaningless, purposeless, and devoid of value. Quite the contrary. Even as a somewhat militant atheist posting rants in various forums, I adamantly defended the notion of life having purpose, meaning, and value. We as mortal beings impose those qualities on our lives, without need of any exterior or supernatural standard, or at least without being consciously aware of, or believing in, such a standard.
 
If a man leaves work in a crowded city, hurries to propose to his girlfriend at an outdoor cafe, and gets run over by a bus in the process, that tragic event in no way erases or obviates the purpose, meaning, or value the man was compelled by the moment before his death. To propose that his death does in fact erase those qualities, is to reverse the order of cause and effect. It's to say that his sudden death causes those qualities that once existed to not exist, in other words, affects them. Such a belief is backwards, a logical impossibility, a metaphysical naughting, a wiping out, a zero. If there is anything Satanic, it's the refusal to accept nature, to reject the fact that the universe is lawful, and to struggle hopelessly on the side of non-value, non-purpose, non-meaning. Why is it then, that scientists, or scientistic people, people with an allergy to 'woo' of any kind, materialists, reductionists, the very people who believe in a lawful universe, meaning it is a determined system, that physical laws are in effect which make imposible any notions of freewill, miracles, anything smacking of chaos or disorder, anything outside the law of cause and effect, are the ones who are the least romantic, the least inclined to wax poetic over a sunset or sunrise, the most apt to poo-poo hero-worship in fiction or film, the least likely to give credence to the sighting of non-terrestrial craft, the least likely to give credence to any theory that suggests that our planet may have experienced some kind of intervention from non-terrestrial entities, the least likely to give credence to any theoretical physicist's hypothesis about interdimensional beings, collective consciousness, the idea that the universe itself might be conscious, the least likely to side with the idea that human life has value, purpose, and meaning, and that such a thing as evil actually exists? I find it extremely odd that the world's heaviest proponents of cause and effect, have no trouble siding with ideas that necessitate the reversal, the wiping out, of cause and effect. 
 

Speaking of which, I believe there is such a thing as Satanic art, or perhaps Black Art would be a more proper term. It would be incorrect to label such work as 'not-art', since such a label would be too much of a compliment, and too convenient a hand-waving of something that exists and is real, and is working in this world, and it would underestimate the force with which that 'something' has moved, and is currently moving. We can ignore the occasional yahoo who screams that there is an invisible unicorn in his closet, or that the moon is literally made out of cheese. Said yahoo may turn out to be right, but the odds of that are pretty steep, at least so I imagine. I could be wrong. But to ignore a very real threat that has the potential to destroy civilization as we know it and replace it with a dystopian nightmare of grand proportions, would be foolhardly. I realize that I loaded my phrase there with the words "very real", and made that sentence no more significant than any other tautology, but I will leave it as it is. I'm imperfect and I make lots of mistakes, as do all of us, and I enjoy reminding myself of that fact. I try to be humble.
 
But then, what is humility (there's always a but, hm)? We've heard it said that if you think you're humble, you're not. I think there is a great deal of truth in that. I think it's mostly true, and I'm becoming more and more convinced that the only persons capable of genuine humility are God, Jesus, Buddha, and a handful of very enlightened individuals our planet has been graced with, not least among them the beloved philosopher, Benedictus de Spinoza. When asked about his God-belief, Einstein replied, "I believe in the God of Spinoza." There are profound (and I think humble) reasons behind that answer, and I don't think any of those reasons were impetuous or meant to forego a more articulate answer. If you read and understand Spinoza, at least the fundamentals of his thought, which is not really all that difficult since he wrote as a very fine and patient teacher, you might see what I mean. Spinoza considered affected humility an evil, and he was no doubt right; but on the other hand he also knew the vast array of emotional experiences possible in a human being, and I'd venture to suggest that he knew it by virtue of having experienced it. Short of that, he certainly had keenly observed it. I've concluded that in my attempts at humility I've only proven something I boasted about during my brief but excited Ayn Rand phase (which I've never completely gotten out of, nor wish to):
 
I'm not humble, I'm an egoist. I wish I could be humble, but I think that's a virtue beyond me at this point, and maybe beyond the larger percentage of humans. I doubt that this is a real problem, though I also think that were all of us truly humble, our society might be less infected with internecine strife and endless blather, our history less bloody. Then again, were all of us truly humble, society might not exist, the reasons for socializing, at least on a large scale, virtually absent.

 
1.25.14
To be continued...

1.11.2014

'Splainin' @ FRDB; response to D; as WilliamB


D. wrote: The question was not about art, or the role of art, but the descriptive efficacy of ordinary language/folk psychology.

Fair enough. The best way I can answer this accurate rebuttle is to try and address the exact terms you have used in my own way. I hope this eases things along and that our interactions can improve.

First: I would have to say that "folk psychology", at face value, is an oxymoron. Psychology is a science, and "folk", generally speaking, does not refer to scientists and what they do. So I have never cared for that phrase, which is why you won't catch me saying, "we need more folk psychology, people!", while it may appear that I actually am endorsing such a thing.

Now here is the important part: while "folk psychology" doesn't really make much sense with respect to the medical, and/or scientific disciplines (at least so I believe), that does not therefore mean that "folk", meaning people who are not scientists or psychologists, are without relevant insights into the things which professional people conduct research about, or without intelligence, scrutiny, the capacity to reason, or the ability to understand the way the world is. See? That's all I'm actually saying, in a nutshell. I am not dissing science—that would be ludicrous! I am defending us regular "folk" in a world where regular "folk" desperately need defending against increasing whackiness in government and academia.

My apologies to those in and from places of higher learning. I am not judging individuals when I make these comments, but things in general, from the standpoint of an avid reader and observer who is basically self-educated and has been since I got out of High School knowing absolutely nothing. You don't have to attend universities or colleges nowadays to get a fair handle on what is being taught to people. The major institutions of higher learning have vast websites, libraries, and data-bases which can be accessed by people who aren't students, and YouTube and many other sites are choked with videorecorded classes, lectures, debates, pdf documents of papers, etc. Not that this is equal (of course not!) to being a student, or anywhere near it, but an intelligent person can get an idea. And to be honest, I've read some things being taught by professors to impressionable young people that I find embarrassing, shameful, and utterly absurd as an intelligent human being. I hope I don't have to go into detail, but if I absolutely must, I suppose I can dredge up some examples of what I'm talking about.

An easy example off the top of my head would be courses given with a patently militant-feminist bent that suggest that Beethoven's music was about rape. That isn't to say that one shouldn't be able to have a theory that Beethoven's music contains aggressive elements that could potentially correlate to masculine aggression against women, etc, but to actually teach it to students and grade them on their response to such a theory, from a decidedly biased and totally subjective proffessorial perspective, is not good education, but something entirely different.

Next: let me address the phrases "descriptive efficacy" and "ordinary language", and what "Art", my one-word answer to the post I quoted from you, could possibly mean in relation to those terms:

I'll grant, straight off the bat, that a novel, or a poem, does not have "descriptive efficacy", at least not in the way you, J. or f. might understand the term (I say "might" because I don't want to come off as a mind-reader or what have you. I'm only guessing at your respective viewpoints and perspectives based on our interactions here); but, if you really want my honest opinion, I would venture to suggest that a novel like Adam Bede, by George Eliot, or The Hero, by Somerset Maugham, or any number of great novels one would care to mention, have truckloads of "descriptive efficacy" with respect to the human experience from my personal perspective: meaning, necessarily, what it means to be a conscious, intelligent being in society co-existing with other similar beings. A great film can work even better on the average person, on people who either don't like to read or need things delineated in a more immediate, sensual, and relatively brief fashion. Millions of people across the planet exit movie theatres with their brains in overdrive, pondering ideas and concepts, having been oftentimes deeply moved, even changed, by the simple experience of watching a great flick. This is nothing new or controversial. Smart, and highly educated people around the globe, including academic philosophers (like Deleuze, just as one example) have recognized the important psychological impact of film on the social animal.

To go out on a limb here, I'll say something that is controversial, and which I realize is just my personal opinion, which you can take or leave at will: I think classic and contemporary film-makers, particularly the Chinese masters (and yes, many in the mainstream blockbuster camp as well), have just as much—and very often far more— useful and important things to say about the human experience than the average college or university course. <<< there, that's just one of my wholly subjective, emotional, and hopelessly passionate, romantic opinion on things. Y'all may tear it apart like hyenas if you like, but I'm stickin' to it until convinced otherwise!




12.26.2013

Theological scribblings; Power & Force; The Godfather; Ayn Rand; speculation.


Paramount in any discussion of a political or philosophical issue (though politics is really but a subset of philosophy: ie: there is no unphilosophical political idea), and particularly in a theological one, is to make clear the distinction between power and force.

  • Power is passive and negative.
  • Force is active and positive.

  • **Edited in 1.11.14: This could be wrong. Perhaps power is passive yet positive, and force is active yet negative ?

Power and force are both attributes which pertain to God; in fact they constitute the two symmetrical and equivalent sides of His nature. A proper understanding of this will cast light on the reason why the doctrine of the old Church, or Catholic Church, is more in keeping with the true nature of God than any of the offshoots of Protestantism. The reason for this is the focus on the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ. This focus, far from being heretical or idolatrous, as Lutheran and/or Calvinist-Wesleyan doctines maintain, is essential and even necessary to the proper appreciation of the total Being and over-arching authority of God, which is both matriarchal and patriarchal in its attributes. A dismissal of God's feminine nature is not only incorrect and misleading but dangerous, in that it casts God's positive and active nature as constituting His total nature, thereby making God a being of strictly active force rather than one of active force and passive power, working in perfect, perpetual harmony.

To explain the distinction between these two primary attributes, from which all other attributes come, it is handy to resort to simple analogies, which luckily are provided by various works of art and fiction and sundry philosophical, political theories.

To take one that comes to mind immediately: consider the film, The Godfather. Francis Ford Copolla has a particular genius when it comes to dileneating the passive and active sides of authority, which are force and power. Before I continue I should emphasize that power is primary, and force, at least and especially in its relation to true authority, is contingent on, and only genuinely productive because of, power. In The Godfather, Don Corleone, played brilliantly by Marlon Brando (who also understood the true nature of power and force, as shown in his portrayal of Colonel Kurtz in the Coppola film, Apocalypse Now), is never seen at any point in the film exerting force. He is only seen exerting power.

It might be suggested that there is a scene which could be thought of as indicative of force, which is wherein Don Corleone slaps his son [Edited in much later: it seems this scene may not exist, and that I may have been thinking of a different film, therefore:] chastises his son, for revealing the wrong information to a potential enemy. However, it can be readily observed that this scene, rather than threaten my thesis, supports it perfectly. For instance, just as Vito can slap [chastise] his son and have no fear of being slapped [chastised] in return, a small child of two or three may strike [chastise] his father without being in peril of undergoing serious harm, and that would be because the child is loved by his father, who has no desire to harm his child. The father, by virtue of love, invests his child with a form of power, which, let us remember, is passive, and requires no actual force to back it up, at least not in its instantiation with respect to the child. While it is plainly obvious that the child has only this passive power and no force at his disposal whatsoever, this in no practical sense diminishes that power, which is the result of love and true authority. Force and power, with respect to God, being both passive and active, positive and negative, are mutually co-dependent and, since God is perfect, work together in perfect harmony and purpose, without the slightest possibility of failure; this is, however, most emphatically not true insofar as force and power act in relation to men. Men are fallible, and the attributes of force and power are both habitually abused and their harmony confounded and set at naught, with respect to human interaction. Force and power, when working in perfect harmony, for example with respect to a loving and properly moral marriage, and to the relationship between family and good friends, can be a great benefit and a boon to fulfillment and happiness, but in the wrong hands, and wielded improperly, power and force can be merely harmful, or, in the case of sheer force absent a rational, and therefore counterbalancing, power, fiercely and widely catastrophic.

Subordinate to Corleone are his sons and members of his cadre (who happen to be criminals and thus immoral and not reflective of God or moral religious doctrines), and it is this group which represent force: brute, physical, active muscle. Without Corleone's higher authority, based presumably (for the benefit of the functionality of the story) on his intelligence and ability to rule in a successful and consistent fashion, the muscle and raw force at their disposal is chaotic and uncontrolled, without headship, without the governing, passive force of power (Enter Michael Corleone, the successor to Vito, his father, but more of that later).

As I mentioned, it has to be borne in mind that the Godfather is a fictional story based on real people and similar events, and the real people on whom the plot is based, which are organized crime families and cadres past and present, are in no sense moral or praiseworthy. A real life Don Corleone may wield this passive power I speak of, in limited degrees, but will not in any good or permanent sense possess power as that attribute pertains to God and moral religious doctrine. I do not mean to set up a fictional crime family as being reflective of the Living God and the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That would be fatally misleading and in itself an act of gross neglect and irresponsibility. I offer the analogy for the simple reason that it is deeply ingrained in the social mind and readily accessible. It will also help to demonstrate the ultimate and crucial distinction between true power and force.

Let's now move to another example of power and force, also deeply ingrained in the modern collective consciousness (though the deceased author of this example would detest me for using that term in any relation to her work: and I do not say this with even a grain of smugness or disrespect), which is a much discussed scene in Ayn Rand's famous novel, The Fountainhead. The scene in question is the so-called "benevolent rape", which has the novel's hero, Howard Roarke, overcoming, by brute force alone (though Rand and most Objectivists vehemently [and incorrectly] disagree), the novel's heroine, Dominique Francon. I take a patently unforgiving view in regard to the scene in question, and will plainly state now that the act, as described in the novel, was a rape, and a rape plain and simple, of no greater or nobler nature than any other rape so-called. At bottom, Roarke's decision (for it is, as Rand would agree, an intellectual decision and not an act of blind rage or chemical, hormonal wiping-out), is deserving of nothing less than complete contempt and condemnation. Having Roarke go through with his decision to overcome Dominique by means of physical force (and not passive power, as defenders of the act might hope to insinuate: which means the complete consent of the victim—surrendered gladly to that power—which was not given in the actual narrative or in any hopefully imagined subtext), reduces what is in most other aspects a truly heroic nature to that of any base thug you care to mention.

That being said, we do need to examine the scene a bit in order to hope to justify my unyielding position in regard to it. To do this I would like to point out that a certain Objectivist I am acquainted with online is fond of referring to what he believes is a pervasive and behavior-influencing predilection for irrationality and emotionalism in women. I would like to immediately confess that I do not know this Objectivist's view in regard to the rape scene at issue, but it would be interesting indeed if his view was such that there was indeed no rape, and that the book's heroine, Dominique, gave consent to Roarke's forceful sexual violation of her. It would be interesting because it would call to light the contradiction inherent in any defense of the scene as being anything other than a rape, plain and simple.

What, you may now ask, would constitute this contradiction? Especially in light of the fact that the scene's author, who naturally possesses universal and omniscient knowledge of any and all acts and thoughts of the characters at her disposal and which act as instruments of her intent, declared in no uncertain terms that Dominique had given consent, albeit implicitly, to Roarke's action. Wherein lies the contradiction? Well, it is twofold. First, the Objectivist I referred to, in his belief that women, with precious few exceptions, have an inherent predilection for emotional and irrational behavior and ways of thinking, would have a difficult time eradicating the possibility that the author, Ayn Rand, who was a woman, may have been afflicted by and under the influence of this inherently determined weakness, thereby potentially putting at fault this authorial absolutism. Naturally, or so one would presume, this Objectivist would almost certainly claim that Ayn Rand was one of the rare exceptions to this general trait to which he believes women are vulnerable. Therein lies one contradiction, and it is a contradiction because it pressuposes that this theoretical weakness in women is general at best, and not strictly determined by genetic or natural factors. In effect, this theoretical weakness does not exist (it only appears to exist, to some, just as it appears to some people that blacks are less intelligent than whites, or that Jews are stingier or more avaricious than non-Jews, or that Muslims are more predisposed to acts of radical violence and intolerance than non-Muslims, etc), a fact to which any Objectivist with a grain of integrity and consistency ought to agree.

In what other way is this so-called benevolent rape scene a contradiction? Because the scene itself delineates a merely forceful act, and not an act of power. The male character, by virtue of physical, active force alone, subdues the female and has his way with her. Of course it can be argued that there was an implied consent. Bear in mind that this can also be argued in defense of any common rapist in just about any rape trial. If we are to assume the unspoken, strictly "implied" consent of the victim, in any case whatsoever, in total disregard to the physical facts of the event at issue, then we can absolve virtually any rapist of culpability and set him free, without our contempt or public and private condemnation. Without quoting the narrative—which can be consulted by anyone online or off, at a library, or wherever or howsoever they come by possession of the book, in digital form or hardcopy—I can state from memory alone that the private thoughts of the female character were not thoughts of consent, but of fear, degradation, and shame. Of course, underlying and underpinning these emotions as they are experienced in real time by the character during the rape, there are the facts (fictional facts) of her attraction and willfulness to engage in sexual congress with the male character. But this does in no way absolve Roarke of guilt, since Roarke is not Ayn Rand; he is not omniscient, and he does not have any privileged, telepathic, or absolute access to Dominique's mental state of mind. This and this alone is what needs to be kept in plain view while determining the moral value of the scene as a work of art. At bottom, Roarke's only true means of gaining his desire, at that particular point in time, is his physical strength. This physical strength, in and of itself, is not a virtue. It is only a virtue in connection to passive power, which, as it happens, Roarke does not possess at that point in time, either in relation to the world or to Dominique. It can be argued over and over that Dominique was attracted to Roarke and wanted to be sexually violated by him, and that this is the true and primary fact which saves the rape from being something worthy of contempt; but I would only continually remind those who would make this argument that the very same argument could be waged in real life situations, and indeed is waged in real life. It will also help to remember that such an argument would never hold up in a court of law, and for excellent reasons, albeit it may, for those who so desire, hold up in the ethereal and abstract institutions of the mind. To any and all those who wish to cleave to such a defense, I have no important dispute. The dispute remains completely in the realm of esthetics, and not of ethics, since ethics refers to real people and not fictional characters. This claim of mine, of course, could be a point of contention as well, but I do not wish to go into that at this time. I may at some point in the future, but it is beyond the purpose of this essay.

It would be prudent now to forget these examples, which are merely brought up as a means of helping the reader to access popular and common delineations of power and force, and to concentrate on just what this passive power is and why it is so vital in considering and worshiping the headship and absolute authority of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It may be considered that God is a Being absolute and perfect, and has no desire to harm or punish human beings. As Spinoza is good at reminding us, being the excellent teacher that he is, desire is a human emotion and does not in any sense that we can understand apply to God's nature, which, being whole and perfect in every way, does not desire anything, but indeed possesses exactly that which He would by his Nature "want" to possess. While it is convenient and in fact unavoidable to use such terms in reference to God, it must be always remembered that those terms apply only insofar as they aid our understanding. This can and has caused a great deal of dispute and internecine confusion among theological and philosophical authors, and it will no doubt continue to do so, but it needs to be borne in mind and not forgotten at any point, lest cognitive dissonance and mental chaos ensue and render all our dealings with one another pointless and literally dangerous.

I posit this lack of desire to harm or punish human beings is what constitutes God's passive side. I say 'side' to remind the reader that this may not be all of God's nature, but only one coequal side to it. The other side of God's nature, being absolute and complete, is the positive or forceful side. It will be difficult to digest this claim and test its weight without explaining, or indeed, speculating, upon the matter. I fully admit that all that I write in reference to God is at bottom speculation, since I am not capable of understanding His nature in any consummate sense. I can only come near to Him, in my all too human way. I can only approach God and my Lord, Christ the Savior; I can not enter into Their presence in any literal way. When I mention God's positive and forceful side, I mean to suggest that while I believe He does not desire to harm or punish human beings (a statement which will alienate me from a great many religious teachers, I realize, and which may be gravely in error, God help me), He is most certainly capable of doing so. Without this positive capacity, we could speculate on His passive, or negative, side all we like without doing so much as spouting hot air. It must be at the forefront of our thinking about God at all times. It must strike fear into us, in a very grave and serious manner. A person, however devout, who does not in his heart feel a necessary and humiliating fear of God, will be missing something. I will not claim that this cavalier absence of fear places such a believer in a state of peril (though that may be the case), for that would contradict the premise of this essay; but I will humbly state that I would much rather experience this very real and immediate fear than be free of it; in fact, to go further, I would think of myself as being foolhardy and suspect were it not for this ongoing condition of rational fear. Be that as it may, we must continue without dwelling too much on issues which, while important, are not central to my purpose with this particular writing. This may all be false, I don't know. This is speculation.

It may be said in truth that the only thing I know is that God knows all and that I know naught but that; even that Jesus Christ is His Son and Lord and Savior is contingent on the eternal and mysterious knowledge of God alone in His Nature, which I may say I believe with all my heart and mind contains His Son, Who is my Master, my King, My Lord, the Savior of my eternal soul, Whose Blood has washed the filth of my sins away to everlasting. This is my one and greatest belief, my highest, most sacred belief, one from which I wish never to become separated, even after a thousand deaths. My one and only claim to knowledge, is that God knows all. I do not hold this claim as a belief since were I to say that such were a belief it would be to contradict my own mind, which holds that claim as absolutely true. If this be the mark of insanity than I am gladly insane; if this be absurd, than I am absurd; but what I am assured of nonetheless is that God is not insane, and not absurd.

Given this we may continue. I may first explain what constitutes this certainty of mine. I can only state explicitly that not once, not for a single instance that I can remember, was I devoid of a sense of exterior and absolute authority and watch. This is to say, in my heart I knew God as soon as it was possible for me to know anything, which is not to say that I knew of this from my infancy, since I can not recall knowing a single thing from that initital state; and since I cannot recall even a shred of knowledge from that state of infancy I may reasonably consider myself by no means responsible for my ignorance therein. I can confess, however, that God, in the council of His own Mind and Will, can very well have held me accountable for my ignorance in that initial state, and along with this confession I am able to add that He may have done so, and may at this moment still so do. It is beyond the capacity of my understanding to enter into God's own council, nor do I dare to wish to possess such a capacity; it is enough for me to confess my incapacity, and my ignorance.

Now, where does this find us with respect to the doctrines which have come down to us? Once again I recognize the utility of my single certainty, which is that God knows, and I do not. All I can do is offer a theory, an hypothesis, and this I will do with all the liberty of expression I find expedient, and in the Witness of God, Whose authority I fear. This is all any man can do, be he atheist or cleric, mysterian or scientist, genius or fool. I care not about in which category my fellow men find fit to situate me; I am only concerned for the Judgment of God and Christ, my Lord, who have eternal watch over me and who know me to the furthest and deepest recesses of my soul and mind. If I can not lie to my Lord, Who may destroy me forever, then what reason do I have to promote a theology I do not believe to my fellow men, who may kill me but once, or cause me to suffer for a time? For this reason it remains to no avail to suggest that I say this or that out of fear, since I have already confessed that very fear, and my Lord knew it already, from the foundation of the world.

It will be argued that holy scripture is possessed of absolute authority. I will claim that all scripture, be it canonical or no, is the product of men; I can easily say, and do say, that I believe with all my heart and mind that such men were inspired by God, whose authority is beyond question; but to go further and say that the things written by such men are therefore beyond question is to suggest that man, or men, at such and such a time, were possessed of the very infallibility which is possessed solely by God, and this would go contrary to that of which I am most certain. It is clear that to suggest that any scripture is the perfect and infallible word of God is to invest men with perfection and infallibility; and furthermore, and what is worse, it is to invest systems of communication - those being speech and codified language - among men with perfection and infallibility, a claim which is in any case contrary to scripture and thereby undermined by the very thing wherein it seeks support.

The best that we, as infallible creatures of God, can do, is to say that God writes his Law on the heart, and not on matter. We may believe that He did at one time write on matter, in fact on tablets of stone, which is written in scripture, and this belief would not be contrary to the one thing of which we are certain, which is that God knows all; but while we may believe this [and I do believe it], this is not the same as to say that we know it for a certainty, since we do not have those tablets, since they were destroyed. It is only to say that we believe it. It is important that the distinction between an article of belief, or faith, and a claim to certain knowledge, be clearly marked, for all to see. This is of the utmost importance, as it pertains to our commonwealth.

Before going further let us be reminded that while we suggest caution and liberality in regard to man's affairs in society, we do not expect from God this same liberality or leniency. God's law is perfect and incorruptible, and while we remain careful of being caught in the snares of false certainty we do not recognize our Highest Authority as having any regard to such a precaution. It is only for us and each other that we need be concerned, and what I mean by this is that while we are forced to judge one another we do not judge God. It will be said, however, that God's law is available to us in scripture, an assertion to which I would easily agree. What must be borne in mind is that while we believe God's law to be expressed in the sacred writings which we have generally received to have been divinely inspired, this expression comes by way of human manufacture, with the instruments of oral and codified language. We must remember the words of St Paul who encourages us to find God's law written in our hearts. This is the message of the Gospel, expressed over and over, the point driven home in such a way as to be understood and embraced by even the simplest mind.

What does this mean, then, written on our hearts? Certainly it cannot refer to simple impulse, without caution or discrimination; it cannot mean that we should yield to the appetites of the flesh whensoever they arise. It cannot mean this, and yet it's easy to see where this interpretation can lead to certain doctrines prominently held as true and taught throughout the world: the Calvinist doctrine at first comes to mind, which its assurance of Grace meaning that once we are saved we are always saved, which I do believe in a most profound sense to be true, but which I readily see can be destructive to persons who take a too cavalier approach to this once-saved-always-saved belief. Certainly, all sins of the elect are propitiated on the Cross, which means all those past or present in the lives of those saved; but I do not believe this should bring with it the security that comes of a loosening of the reins on one's own will. Yielding to the flesh's appetites is still sinful, in those born again as in those unregenerate, for all sin is present and equal to God, and a complete surrending of one's will to the appetites cannot and will not ever come without a sure cost to the well-being and spiritual orientation, to one's happiness, to be simple about it. To be happy is to follow Christ, not to yield to the flesh and live in a sort of limp and fearless anticipation of future compensation. To despise the things of this world is not to live in fleshy celebration of them, whether one is saved or no. This isn't to say that Calvin's doctrine teaches such laxity. It doesn't. It is only to suggest that in a careless adherent an inclination to indulgence might very well prove contrary to that person's well-being and spiritual life.

One must also constantly remember that we are called upon to have faith in Christ and in the gospel, not to draw from it a sense of infallible certainty, which can only be possessed by God. All things perfect and sound are in God and in Jesus Christ, not in man. In us is faith, a strong belief, a conviction in the heart and mind, which is not equal to absolute certainty. You may be deceived, and all your confidence be ill-placed and groundless. You may be tricked by false teaching, or by a false compulsion which has its source in the flesh and not in Providence. As strong as your faith is, it is not equal to the indestructible and permanent Law of God. Hence the wisdom of tolerance insofar as systems of government are written and maintained. The law of the creature is not equal to the Law of the Creator, nor can it be, and any suggestion that the contrary may be true is suspect. God help me and protect me, and my Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for my sins.

Were a man to ask me, "If Jesus required you to murder an infant every day for a hundred years before Him, would you do it?", I would answer, yes, very simply. But to this we add: The question is absurd, and it matters little if the answer be yes or no. I could be more clear and say, I know of a certainty that the Lord would not require something so evil of me. This would not satisfy the asker of the question, of course, and this very thing has been the source of many volumes of argument. It is sometimes called the Euthyphro Dilemma, which is one popular and classic instantiation of the moral question: is that which is good so called because God deems it so, or does God deem it so because it is good? The answer is that there is no dilemma. God wills the good because it is good. For this reason we may be assured that God does not require evil deeds or actions of us, actions which we know are evil by virtue of His law being engraved in our hearts. If scripture appears to be at odds with this surety we possess, then we can only assume that there was an error or misunderstanding in the author of said scripture, or an error in translation, or some other mistake.

We are reminded of those villains of the Inquisition who found it acceptable in their hearts to torture and debase human beings on the excuse of attending to matters of the Law and correct evangelism. It should be easily and readily known in the heart of any Christian, that such actions can in no manner whatsoever be committed under the guidance of Providence, but only by means of the wicked and devious inclinations of the flesh, and of Reason unleavened by the sacred dictates of compassion, charity, and pity, which are written plain in the heart of any Christian who understands his calling. A man who can submit a human being to such grave and unspeakable duress and despair is not a Christian, though he may believe in his black heart to be one. He is deceived, and behaves under the guidance of evil.

The same may be said of those hardened theocrats in Geneva who saw fit to burn Servetus for a theological quibble. It is readily and immediately obvious that to set fire to a human being and allow him to die in such unconscionable torment is to be under the sway of pure evil, and not God or His Son, Jesus Christ.

 
March 2012