Archive for the ‘Understanding’ Category

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An Apology for Alyosha

September 24, 2009

Ethics is not mathematics. A balanced equation of right and wrong does not justice make. The most dangerous individuals had the best intentions supported by earthly logic and balanced equations. It is not right to murder one innocent child to save the entire universe.

You must only commit good acts to prevent bad acts. Doing a bad act to prevent a worse outcome is still vile, contemptible, and a sign of our base nature – the nature which craves justification for our inner most demons. The devil is a logician too, after all. So despite your desire to help or save another, you mustn’t commit an evil act to do so.

The question is – can we live like that?

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On Genesis

September 10, 2009

“We always know who we should love \ but we’re never certain how.” John K. Samson.

From the dark silence of several weeks… a spark. A spark to start a fire. A spark from the void to ignite a word, and from that word spoken comes words written. The word is genesis and the words follow beneath. The subject is a particular genesis, the beginning of a book that represents the beginnings of humanity. Nothing in my life has intrigued me more than this particular account and it is often during the genesis of new and wonderful things in my life that it returns.

The book of Genesis speaks to the beginnings of humanity. That is to say, it gives an account for the root of human nature by creating a theoretical beginning. It is not a historical or scientific account but rather an observation of the things that were happening around the author at the time. Perhaps divinely inspired, perhaps not, it stands regardless as one of the greatest summations of human experience in the western cannon. Not because it accurately describes a moment in time, but rather because it describes every moment in time.

The stories, whether divinely inspired or not, serve as guides to human nature that tells how man lived, how we currently live, how we will most likely live in the future, and how we should live despite all of this. It is a summation, a prediction, and an ethic. Not only is it this, but it is all of those things for an individual life, for a community’s life, and for humanity in general. It accounts for personal ethic, political life, and ethical existence for people and does so while confronting man’s natural desire to wrestle with meaning at its metaphysical core. 

One story, the topic of this entry, is the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel are brothers who live their lives in unfettered contact with God. This becomes important later. It must be noted that God is a character in Genesis and as a symbol means a great deal. Cain and Abel give worship to God through sacrifice. It is assumed by the reader that this is not a faith based worship but rather a necessity. They seem too close to God to really require faith to believe. He is more a fact. As if all the barriers between physical and metaphysical reality have been stripped.

Cain kills Abel. But why? After both brothers give sacrifice Abel’s is favored over Cain’s. Cain, assumingly out of envy, kills Abel. But why? For what end? I posit this – to achieve God’s love. Cain’s crime, one that is the ultimate in damnation, heinous in nature, and base in motive was caused by his desire to be loved by God, and his love for God. Having failed to achieve God’s love through worship, Cain removes the one that God favors, eliminating the completion if you will.

Thus Genesis not only confronts such base human behaviors as murder but does so while intertwining vicious behavior with the one true God. God, the greatest of all things, the good to which no other good should be sought, even without the veils between physical and metaphysical existence, gives man such great desire that man, given his freedom, will commit the ultimate atrocities to achieve His love.  

Thus we, whose mode of existence is weighed down by the barrier between physical and metaphysical beings, are even more likely to have our love misguided or to love improperly. Yet faith tells us to love God with all our hearts. Was Cain any different? We always know who we should love, we are never certain how. This to me, is most true with God himself.

The truth is we are all more like Cain than Abel. We will always love improperly, will always have misguided attempts at love, and will often confuse where and who God is. The punishment for this human flaw? Homelessness.

Following Cain’s atrocity he is punished by God. He is not killed, nor harmed, but rather exiled to forever wander and never rest. Cain is not only spared by God, but protected with a mark. Any of those who commit the atrocity of murdering Cain will be punished 7 fold. Cain must live, must carry the weight of his body, and wonder forever. This is humanity in the embodied state. Disconnected and wandering without true rest. For true rest comes in God. “Our hearst are restless until they rest in you.”

This is more bleak than hell, or at least equivalent. Unlike Cain, we are told of mercy and a possible return home but are left to wander until then. The possibility of mercy and home is a topic for another discourse on Genesis. For now, let us drain the final lessons for the story of Cain about how to deal with ourselves in the state of wandering.

Cain having been banished builds a city. A curious fact for a homeless man. Once again showing that earthly buildings do not provide man a ‘home’. The city is called Enoch, after his son. So Cain also has a family whose lineage continues. Cain’s family begets all those that play the lyres and pipes, and the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. A pretty prestigious class that gives birth to things so intimately woven with human culture that one cannot divorce humanity from them. They are the very finger prints of man.

Music shares in Godliness because its power can insight man to do both evil and good things. Music itself evokes love and as a product of love comes hate. It is the very lineage of Cain playing in our cars, or homes, while we run, while we read, from our computers, IPods, and stereos. In reminds us of the Cain inside all of us.

Beauty is a terrifying thing as much as it is an uplifting thing. The most beautiful and good things guide us but our weakness misguides us. Our love, coming from such flawed things, move with the power of all mighty God, but with the direction of the wind. We are pushed and pulled to the paths of least resistance. Yet even without resistance we would still be Cain. So engrained is freedom in our lives that even in the presence of God himself we can still falter. Faith is not loving God, no that is easy if you try. Faith is not thinking He loves you back, He does. Faith is thinking that His mercy will outweigh his justice, and that despite your flaws he will bring you home.

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The Great Gig in the Sky

June 9, 2009

“I think its time we compiled a list of places that we shouldn’t go.” – Maximo Park.

So here I sit, listening to Pink Floyd and Jazz music. I mindlessly go from thought to thought, and occasionally write. Yet as each thought rises from my mind it becomes too vague to exist outside me, and it dissipates. To grasp at it, is to destroy it outright, to let it go, is to let it drift away into the abyss of the physical world. I am here again, at the point I always come to, the point of reflecting on the mirror’s surface, the knowledge of knowledge, the knowledge of self.

In the name of unquenchable desire for knowledge many realms of thought have been explored and perhaps invented using this vague ancient defense as validation. Yet, as we focus our telescopes on the sky and trail our microscopes across strange alien fungi, we forget where knowledge comes from, to where it goes, and why we desire it to begin with.

We desire knowledge because we desire things like us – we desire ourselves. This is why we cherish such qualities as freedom and equality – the ability to make one’s self and to make others be like you. The greatest scientific discoveries in the world have always been immediately followed with questions that escape the realm of science. Until recently, this was a shame to even scientists.

Yet, this post is not an attack on science (like most of my others), it is instead an attack on everything – perhaps out of some metaphysical angst that must manifest itself as anger in order to make my feeble flawed soul feel empowered like some ancient Greek warrior. But none the less, I lash out violently at the entirety of my generation, in the process scourging myself.

How oft I failed to stop and understand my own argumentation. How oft have I walked the tight-rope between logic and emotion claiming clemency from either attack on the basis of its counter point. I am, after all, a lingual illusionist. The David Blaine of philosophers. The Criss Angel of poetics. Have I garnered anything but applause from my audience, who seeing the trick are convinced of magic, yet go home knowing that it can’t be true – despite any emotional response.

Just like everyone else when I finally settle back upon myself I cannot put a finger on where I am. (Anyone who tells you differently is one of two things. A liar, or an idiot). Yet, like most people I still claim a ‘selfhood’ to which I am obligated to be ‘genuine’. The tension between these two ideas gives the birth of such beautiful concepts as freedom, free will, and choice. I am concrete that changes. The result is the amazing ability to stroke the passions regardless of logic, and then collapse back into a world of 1+1 justifications. Proof. Poof.

The greatest pleasures arise from this tension and furthermore by this tension is magnified like an echo chamber. This equality of opposites within our souls allows the passions to win just often enough to make us miss it when its gone. Then in its victorious return it is all the more glorious. Furthermore, I am not entirely sure that this is a necessarily bad thing, but rather a misdirected good. Part of me wants to embrace this passionate side and perfect its music – while another part, the equality of reason, demands I embrace something “higher” – an emotion that is not without its own pleasure.

The result of continued friction and tension is, of course, orgasm. The release of the self in favor of one or the other. In the release there is always simultaneous guilt and pleasure, immortality and death, love and hate. The person is either truest or most false in the midst of this orgasm wherein the ‘pure’ form of the two sides is most dominant. But in so doing, in so stepping into purity, we have betrayed the things that got us there – the tension of two opposites. So have we become more pure by dissolving one side in favor of the other – or have we become less human because we have too much clarity. Perhaps we add this to the list of places we shouldn’t go. Perhaps we draw a map and mark it with an x. Perhaps we just sit here and listen to The Great Gig in the Sky.

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Midnight Contemplations

April 17, 2009

Why do we waste our time talking about a ‘perfect world’ when such a thing cannot be imagined?

I have grown so tired of theories that attempt to remove complexity, remove contradiction, and by doing so, remove humanity.

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The Valiant Never Taste of Death But Once

March 30, 2009

“I do not fear death. I fear that I may somehow inadvertently or purposefully bring it about.” – My paraphrasing of Timothy Holmes.

I wish I could take credit for this extreme lucidity and eloquence when I responded to the same question… I cannot. Though I did answer the question in a similar way: “No I do not fear death. I fear the deaths of others”. I for one have always confronted the idea of death with more curiosity than fear – even the darkest hours of my atheism whereupon I still agreed that the deaths of my loved ones was far more painful than my own death.

This question did arise rather suddenly and externally when myself and Mr. Holmes participated in an interview wherein the subject of death was discussed in relation to spirituality and politics. It is important, beyond the urging of my words, that we understand the entirety of modern politics is based around death and the complete desire to avoid it at all costs. Beginning with Machiavelli, and then Hobbes, and finally with Locke the idea of death becomes the foundation of rights. Natural rights flow from the nature of death.

Death’s introduction to the political order makes any answer extreme. Since our idea of life, and it’s rights, are based on death – killing becomes either grim natural reality or perverse execution. In reality it is neither.

“Death is the respite from life. It is possibly joyous and maybe even preferred.” (again another paraphrase – Tim please send me the actual quotes if you can remember them and I will errata this entry). Death as respite is something I could never believe as an atheist (though many have tried to put forward a similar concept). This understanding does come about it is in the esoteric writings of select secular philosophers who then get misquoted and misunderstood by others. It is equally important that we understand that such a concept can never be the popular understanding of the masses in a secular state.

This is not a defense or justification of religion – it is reality. The post-enlightenment birth of secular states coincides with political revolution based on the concept of death. The two need each other. If we are to understand death in a Hobbesean or Lockean way then we must see it as flowing from nature and to be the subject of reason. Thus the state shouldn’t indulge itself in the particular mythologies of churches. Thus we arrive at our modern state.

Modern religious freedom creates an accepting environment by refusing to have any religious beliefs. Thus when confronting issues of death the state must make decisions without metaphysical guide posts. This has a tendency to make the regime either act too brutally or too late. Almost every war since the Enlightenment has been a total war, an ideological war, and a devastating war. The wars have been so gruesome that even the “good guy’s” virtue was often clouded or downright abandoned. America entered the war late to save American lives – then they ended it early by dropping two nuclear weapons. Again to save American lives. Here is not the time to discuss just war theory but it is important to point out this phenomenon historically.

But here is the not the time to talk about such politics either. It is the time to point out the reasoning of a secular state. Reason, as it turns out, is no different than blind faith. It indulges itself, justifies itself, and is often used to do all sorts of bad things. Is fighting over democracy abroad any different than fighting for the glory of God? Our love of democracy is based only on post-enlightenment reason that is ultimately based on a new death theology.

What I am about to say is perhaps the most extreme thing I have ever committed to public dissection. Perhaps death isn’t all that big of a deal. Perhaps life (as we know it) isn’t all that big of a deal. It seems the greatest virtues eventually push individuals to put their own lives out of the picture. Ultimate humility, ultimate courage, and even ultimate justice sometimes demand a lack of regard for one’s own life. We are going to die. So don’t waste time fearing your death but rather fear you have not lived. Fear that you will die alone sitting watching the TV. Fear that you will have never changed another person’s life for the better. Fear that no one will mourn your death.

This idea is also dangerous. For once you realize the meaningless of death you no longer have the whip of the slave driver. The clear direction to the stars is cut short of its gravity and you’re left to drift in an apparent void. The temptation is to dive into meaningless and arbitrary faith – do not do this. This is not a justification for such irresponsibility. The fight is hard and it may flirt with that old slave driver like a mistress. It may find the bitter sting of the whip pleasant and what was once your master is now your ally. This is the most tempting and problematic effect of this new belief – one that for ages lead antiquity to the heights of greatness.

In the end, it is most likely our proximity to death that allows us to transcend and understand the things beyond our body. Only in the comfort of science could we embrace cold unfeeling atheism. Only with the soft despotism of the television could we finally give up the freedom we fought for. Only in the age of medicine and health could we devote our lives to living healthily only to realize too late that we never did anything with our 75 years. This proximity fueled our pre-science ancestors in the Renaissance who watched a great empire fall, a plague strangle Europe, and a 100 year war over a holy land they’d never see. They saw it every day and they clawed with clenched hands at the dark sky to let some light through.

The enlightenment itself started in the mild rumblings of an Earthquake in Lisbon. Such tremors have shaken the world and crumbled entire foundations. We now fear death or worse, we ignore it. But why? For what good does all this fretting and worrying do? Do we not shake the earth so badly that the ghosts of Lisbon pity us? Do those wraiths sit somewhere beyond it all fearing that one day they will be thrown back into a body and reintroduced into the fear of our skin? Perhaps I will ask them when I meet them. Perhaps they don’t even know the movement that started in their name. In which case I won’t tell them, I won’t make them worry about us, I’ll just ask about the weather or how the weather used to be.

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A Forest Through the Trees

March 9, 2009

It’s about time for another crazy rant. Here we go.

I hate supporters of the ancient astronaut theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_astronauts). I also hate supporters of panspermia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia), but that is for another post. For now let us concentrate on the Ancient Astronaut Theory (here forth known as AA).

AA claims that at some point in prehistory aliens came to earth and gifted us with knowledge and technology. This gifting accounts for our culture, our tools, and our religions. Most support for this theory comes from cave paintings, ancient architecture, and early written accounts. The theory is that such massive creations, such pointless creations, would not be created without another purpose.

AA’s absurdity is more offensive than its illogical leaps. How does one look at religious centers and doubt man’s ability to create something for no reason other than worship. We still do it today. It is, of course, unscientific to assume we do it for God, but are aliens any better? Why do people find it more comforting to assume aliens over a benevolent God? This is what I talk about when I say ‘modernity’. We’ve got our heads jammed so far up our scientific assholes that we assume just because technology is involved that it must be more true. But isn’t this the same argument as the world resting on a tortoises back? When does the ‘seeding’ end? When does man \ alien get credited for doing something on its own? Something creative and without purpose? Or something spiritual? I assume the answer is never, for a believer in AA, one would speculate that the same thing happened to those aliens and so on.

There are other problems, other than its fanatical modernism. It bases its theory on ancient depictions of aliens. It then says “See! It looks just like how we picture aliens?” Ok, genius, and how many people that draw aliens have actually seen one? How many worship them? Of course they look similar! We do the same things to aliens that they did to Gods…we make them look human. So of course they all look similar because they all look like us! So they have a dome on their head? Cyclopes had one eye, maybe they were relatives of Mike Wazowski. AA basically rapes man’s ability to be creative and discounts it as merely experiential but fails to realize that the real cause of this is our imagination being too similar to those of our ancestors. We simply can’t picture things not being like us.

Then, worst of all, AA discredits what could be their only allies. In many cases they simply contradict or deny the accounts given to them by archeologist (hence the closest we get to firsthand accounts). Why were the pyramids built? To house the dead. Not to position some space mother ship. Firsthand accounts tell us of a love for astronomy, not because of visitors from another realm, but because it was so huge! Sure a sky God might be a plausible (though ridiculous) alien, but what of Hades lord of the underworld. I suppose we have mole people too.

To add to this most ancient deities were cruel. They killed, tortured, and sometimes raped people. If these aliens are like that, why didn’t they conquer our globe. AA likes to say aliens helped us along and that this caused our ideas of a benevolent God, but let us ask the Indians about what happens when aliens visit their shores with other intent. The ancients did believe that Gods did such things as well… or are those stories magically made up while the other stories are inspired by historical fact (alien visitation)?

How screwed up is our society? We have become so modern that a belief in God is nearing impossible so to indulge our spiritual side we comfort ourselves with aliens? We have to give it a material cause, don’t we? It can’t be something greater, something more than matter, it must be something we can eventually find and study and conquer. It must be something we can ‘figure out’. How can AA look for clues in the pyramids, the bible, and cave paintings and not see the God that is so clearly in them? Like not seeing a forest through the trees.

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To Contemplate Later

March 5, 2009

Some quotes to contemplate later.

“Tragedy is a big part of our lives”

“Christian Theology is not Christian”

“3 Persons in 1 Person does not brake the law of Mathematics”

“God cannot make what is true false and what is false true because it would make him weaker doing so.”

“Creation Ex Nihilo does not mean something is coming into being where once nothing was.”

“Jesus did not change the nature of man… otherwise everything would’ve changed a day after Easter.”

“Sounds controversial, but ultimately I agree.”