Archive for August, 2008

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The Devil Can Site Scripture for His Purpose

August 31, 2008

Unfortunately the devil speaks all the same languages as God. Usually louder too.

We should never confuse this with the powerlessness of God. Nor as proof that he is not good. But it should remind us that we are flawed.

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Something Is Rotten In The State Of…

August 29, 2008

We, because we are members of this whelmed democracy, must remember that laws are simply extensions of ideology. They are neither good nor bad, neither helpful nor harmful, neither prudent nor ignorant by nature. Laws find justification by assuming an ideology of concepts too grand to be refuted. In every debate surrounding law reform a heady concept is thrown around like peanuts at a baseball game. We must decide as a nation what the goal of laws are.

Do they promote freedom?
Do they promote rights?
Do they promote equality?
Do they promote order?
Do they preserve the Union?
Do they aid in our development or education?
Is there goal to make us better human beings?
Are they attached to justice or ethics?
Or are they simply the voice of the herd with absolutely no concrete guidance whatsoever?

Please leave your comments about which you feel and why. This is but a small sampling that I wish to discover. Please also note that some may comment on what they feel is the reality of laws while others should feel free to comment on what laws OUGHT to be. Please consider both what laws ARE and what they OUGHT to be.

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How Bitter A Thing It Is To Look Into Happiness Through Another Man’s Eyes

August 27, 2008

I am angry and not thinking clearly. Please forgive the following rant if it offends. I have decided to let the dogs of Eros off their chains for a bit.

Literature, in particular fiction, in particular the novel, particularly in its characters creates envy within us, no? Isn’t that why we love the hero? He is, as it turns out, everything we want to be but we cannot due to lack of training, natural talent, or motivation. Likewise with the anti-hero. Don’t we all enjoy a good bastard every now and then? Someone who can do all the things that our bodies desire but our minds oppose, someone who can transcend ethics for a good time or for simple desires, someone without that nagging voice, someone truly free like some Nietzchean Ubermench. Hence can literature ever be fulfilling, can it ever really make us happy? (Trust me, this is a dreadful question for me as well). Any emotion we pull from a book is really seeing happiness through another man’s eye, it is hollow, it is shallow and it is keeping us from achieving things in the real world.

Before we get too radical let me reflect for a second. I am not calling for a Fahrenheit 451 here. Books are good, reading them can be good, but they are also bad. I find too many people hide behind books and couple it with faux intellectualism, or they feign multiculturalism because they read some book on Zaire, or more shockingly they pretend to be pretentious while they read garbage modern novels using hackneyed story lines lifted from classics. (Insert here Dean Koontz, Danielle Steele, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Terry Prachett, and Stephen King, Note: I am not saying these authors are ‘bad’ but they are no Shakespeare and you shouldn’t be acting like a scholar just because you picked up a book for once). The above authors wrote for fun, their books should be read for fun, not for intellectual pursuit so don’t put on some pseudo elitist look of disgust when I say I don’t read any of these authors on a regular basis.

That being said I have wasted much of my life reading. Well, I guess the term ‘wasted’ is really at the heart of the entire question. What makes a book worth reading (outside of pure fun because people find all sorts of weird things fun)? Personally it shocks me why people read modern novels over classics. Yet, I am not stupid and I understand I am the minority in that equation. Yet, being as pompous as I am, I would defend my position as the correct one, and yet do I not have guilty pleasures that I cannot explain? And yet, if all you have are guilty pleasures without substance isn’t that a vice? And yet I don’t know, and yet another yet.

Shouldn’t it shock us that J.K. Rowling’s book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows sold more than: To Kill A Mockingbird, Night, Catch-22, Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, the Complete Works of Shakespeare, the Complete Works of Plato, The Confessions, The Summa Theologica, The Brothers Karamazov, Wuthering Heights, the Bell Jar, etc. The only thing more shocking to me is that Dan Brown’s Divinci Code sold even more than that. I assure you Harry Potter didn’t beat Crime and Punishment based on intellectual merits, writing style, advanced imagery and symbolism, social relevance, or even timelessness – it sold because it made us FEEL things. Don’t get me wrong, I FELT things when I read Crime and Punishment but I also THOUGHT things. FEELINGS are nothing but looking at happiness (or even sorrow because we are a sadistic society) through another man’s eyes. It is pointless, absurd, and probably a waste of our time. Then again what isn’t? We have to have fun, right? Not everything can be work or education, right? Can I truly condemn someone for living the life of quiet pleasure in reading? If they don’t hurt a fly, nor commit any vice, but simply slowly waste away reading? Its a tough call. For all I know, I am doing precisely that. Or perhaps I am the one wasting away and I am really only angry at myself.

Who the hell knows. I am confused but at least I am not angry anymore.

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Good God Y’all, What Is It Good For?

August 17, 2008

First, allow me to thank Holly Martins (http://persnicketyrph.blogspot.com/) for his comments, which have spurred me to write. I recently left for a 4 day camp trip that gave me some time to think about the nature of the comment she gave regarding religious war in the pre-Enlightenment era. This comment came on the back of a previous post I wrote regarding the nature of religious and rational violence. Though he seemed in agreement with my general premise he did show me that I was not fully expounding upon my historical basis. A fact I hope to remedy with this post.

Recently the earth lost one of its fiercest defenders of ethical accuracy (despite your thoughts on his ability to live up to those standards). Alexander Solzhenitsyn passed in Russia a short while back and put to rest a corpus of work that was fraught with honesty, intellect, and hope (three things that are absent from much modern writing, perhaps even my own). His legacy is the story of communism, its twin brother democracy, and their warring feud which extends back into the Enlightenment. His books “The First Circle” and “The Gulag Archipelago” fully revealed the nature of practical communism for the first time and by doing so undermined the idea that perfect ideas can be applied by imperfect humans. This fundamental flaw travels contrary to the premises of the Enlightenment, of infinite progress, of historicism, and brings us back to a time where the fragile nature of man was impossible to question.

We have our ideas about the past that simply aren’t true. The ancient Greeks knew the world was round (not flat), the dark ages actually had a lot going on, and the only people who read Plato for hundreds of years were the Arabian Muslims. Add to those myths one more. We blame religion for almost every war after the death of Christ and before the birth of the Enlightenment. Is this a fair assessment or simply one that our modern understanding of human consciousness has whipped up to banish a more romantic interpretation?

The simple fact is that war exists, it always will, and always has. Ever since man separated into groups and competed for resources there has been conflict. (This in itself is an Enlightenment era proposition: Hobbes, Locke, Machiavelli, and Hooker). The only true causes of war surround this dichotomy of “us” and “them”. Religion is merely a marker of “us” and sets us apart from “them”. It is a distinguishing aspect to our character but not strictly a cause. Rather it is a condition by which the cause is manifest. Religion allows us to see more clearly who is “them” and hence can be a tool of war which thrives on finding contrary elements. Likewise it is something that we can rally around – something that makes us “us”. 

A simple analogy in modern terms is nationality. Not all nationalists or all patriots desire war. However, when war occurs the two can be easily used to better define “us” vs. “them”. There is no inherent violence or anger implied by love on one’s own. However, when a violent aspect is introduced it mimics itself to appear in the clothing of a more benign virtue. This phenomenon of concealing vice as virtue is one form of ideology because it justifies what would otherwise be considered unjust.

Hence the crusades cannot be considered strictly a holy war. Religious thinkers of the time often spoke about how the Church was not performing its proper role in those wars. Shortly after a host of analysts came forward to say that other forces were at work. Modern historians point more to the fall of Rome and the separation of Byzantine and Italian powers as more of a concrete cause of the Crusades. Likewise, on the other end, the Turkish invaders fervor for Islam was only partially religious. The true cause was a motivation to make everyone like them or to subsume the “them” into the “us”. Religion became a rallying cry and perhaps even a justification but the true desire is more deeply rooted in human nature and it is a love for ones own and a hate for the other. Psychology and Biology will often talk about this phenomenon as “natural” and a product of “evolution” though to keep things simply I will use the term “human nature” though it is a heavily debated one.

The notion of a merely religious war inherently implies that those wars wouldn’t have happened without religion being present. Outside of possible historic accidents (like the collation of Arabic cultures under the flag of Islam) it is easy to see an eastern power and a western power colliding without the necessary presence of religion. Take, for instance, the Greek struggles against Persia, the Roman conquest of Africa, the Russian wars with the Tartars, and the Huns sacking of Western towns. So long as a power arises simultaneously in both the East and the West there will be conflict between the two because the “us” and “them” will now be interested in the same resources.

In the case of the Crusades, accidental qualities, such as religion, united and empowered both east and west cultures at the same time. As both united and found power (keep in mind many Christian nations and many Muslim nations fought each other to achieve such unity often in the name of money, land, and power rather than religion) they expanded into each other and clashed. Both used religion as a way of uniting “us” and defining “them” but merely by the accidental nature of religion not because of an inherent factor within religion as an idea. Thus religion can only ever be considered an accidental cause and not a sufficient cause. And perhaps that means it may have to deal in the dirt on occasion and be blamed on occasion for its lack of action or its abundance of action but add to that list race, language, culture, government, regime, philosophy, location, and time period. All these things have “caused” wars too yet we cannot start blaming them for war in general merely because they have been used as reasoning or justification. It wouldn’t make sense and neither would saying religion caused these wars. They are related, possibly entangled, but are not caused by each other. This error appears too often in our modern day when we confuse related things as caused by each other. Two things can be found and even generated in the same time and place without be caused by each other. 

For more on this issue I would read Solzhenitsyn’s address to Harvard. It seems we too quickly judge things like religion because of our modern culture. We are in a mind frame of “fixing” the problem quickly. Simple minded solutions like atheism in the name of peace fail to take into consideration that the problem might be within us. We, indeed, might be the monster under our bed rather than any outside or external idea that has arisen from philosophy, politics, or religion. Perhaps we are imperfect, dirty, war loving animals who will always struggle with violence despite our governments, religions, locations, languages, and cultures. But such a concession would mean or reliance on old world ideas springing from the mouth of (dare I say) Theologians like Pascal, Aquinas, Augustine, Pope Leo, St. Francis, etc. It seems it is religion which all along has embraced the nasty nature of man and offered as a solution in accordance with the problem of vice.

Perhaps that is why we so quickly slander religion with false accusations. For one does not feel the ethical obligation to listen to what they deem a “murderer”. So we label religion as the cause of war so we do not need to hear its valid cries over humanity’s fallen nature. One day we will find out that we ourselves were to blame all along, but then in may be too late.

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A Man Loves the Meat In His Youth That He Cannot Enjoy In His Age

August 7, 2008

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” Isaac Asimov

I have decided that summer is not for writing. Despite the setbacks, despite the rust that develops in my fingernails. I’d rather be outside – learning, loving, recharging. Then, and only then, can I return to the paper and ink to make reality into something less real but more true. Much like the deceiving beauty of a thunder cloud, the subtle signs of wind on the grass, or when air becomes visible. A time must come when I will chose between living and writing. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.