Friday, June 9, 2017

Psalm 103

In our evening prayer service we read Psalm 103 where King David describes different aspects of the interactions of creation even small details like the springs of water and the habitation of rabbits and goats and sparrows and the order that God has established that allows for all of this.

At first it seemed strange to me that we'd regularly be prescribed this pastoral scripture, almost pagan even.  But then one day I imagined David writing it as he looked around him and marveled at what he saw.  Not only at creation, and not only at his place within it, but even at his ability to ponder it and that it is in fact real and beyond him.

Sometimes I think we get caught up in our minds and amidst the abstract creations of our own imagination.  Our ability to even do this is amazing and unique among creatures, but we can and tend to create entire realities in our heads and can quickly begin to take objective reality for granted, dismissing it completely as an uninteresting given.

Who cares what rabbits and sparrows do when we aren't watching them?  Shouldn't we be articulating and defending the intricacies of the ideology we've chosen to identify with instead?  And we continue to abstract from our place on the earth into our heads to a point that we don't even regard the sun or the moon or the winds or the waters that sustain not only us but every other living thing that we also ignore, even our fellow man.  

And when we do this our world becomes incredibly small, able to fit nicely within our own minds.  (Which in and of itself is an incredible ability, to model a whole little world in our minds.)  But we can't live there, it can't sustain us.  We need to take some time to be reminded of the very big and intricate and amazingly interconnected physical existence that we live in.  And as we see our place it in is both precariously similar to those irrational beasts that instinctively seek the nurturing of nature to survive and at the same time wildly and extraordinarily different from them in almost every regard evidenced plainly by our very ability to consider it.

For me Psalm 103 is a reliable source of grounding as well as a reminder of the paradoxical idea that we are both creatures and made in the image of God and that creation serves to act as a medium in which we are able to exist and commune with God.

"He sendeth forth springs in the valleys; between the mountains will the waters run. They shall give drink to all the beasts of the field; the wild asses will wait to quench their thirst. Beside them will the birds of the heaven lodge, from the midst of the rocks will they give voice. He watereth the mountains from His chambers; the earth shall be satisfied with the fruit of Thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and green herb for the service of men, To bring forth bread out of the earth; and wine maketh glad the heart of man. To make his face cheerful with oil; and bread strengtheneth man's heart. The trees of the plain shall be satisfied, the cedars of Lebanon, which Thou hast planted. There will the sparrows make their nests; the house of the heron is chief among them. The high mountains are a refuge for the harts, and so is the rock for the hares. He hath made the moon for seasons; the sun knoweth his going down. Thou appointedst the darkness, and there was the night, wherein all the beasts of the forest will go abroad."

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I, Irrational

In order to be completely free, an individual must be free from the threat of coercion.  Coercion is ultimately enforced by the threat of death.  One may be able to endure pain and discomfort and frustrate the will of those attempting to coerce you with those methods, but if you cannot endure death, then your advisory need only to be willing to kill you in order to bend you to their will.  For instance, Jesus Christ experiences the fullness of liberty because he can choose to die, and then raise himself up again.  His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection was an example of that choice.  He, being God and immortal, cannot be coerced by threats of death.

If a person can choose to die, then even coercive tactics enforced by death become impotent.  Belief in the resurrection of Christ, and his promise to extend that resurrection to others, enables a person to be liberated from the threat of death.  Whether or not the person, or Jesus Christ actually has the power to resurrect the believer is irrelevant, all that matters is that the person believes that death has been undone.  This effect isn't limited to Christians, however Jesus did exemplify the principle.

It IS an irrational position, but the rational position is subject to death, so it is by its own nature not capable of enabling freedom.  Impending death forces the rational individual to subject themselves to the passions that can be imbibed in while still living as well as to the very maintenance of life itself.  Death stands as an end to the individual, and to meaning itself.  The threat of death either effectively coerces the rational individual, or causes them to accept death to end the suffering of existence.  The "irrational" individual can choose to die and still have hope, and can therefore also choose resist coercion, even unto death, without giving up on life.

One may say "I don't believe in life after death, however I can still choose to die for reasons that give me hope, such as a better world for my children, or a legacy for my own name", but this is simply accepting the irrational position, as death's putting an end to one's existence renders one's hope meaningless and irrational.  

I'm not a mathematician but there seems to be a corollary principle here in irrational and rational numbers.  The irrational position isn't called irrational because it is crazy, but only because it cannot be represented using symbols contained within the context of the rational.  Super natural principles are similar in that they can be described by borrowing terms from the rational world, but their premise has no objective representation there.

So, overcoming coercion requires us to calculate life's meaning using an irrational symbol in order to be able to reason beyond the limits of death, similar to how we calculate the circumference of a circle by using pi.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

So what are you going to do? Crucify him?

People say "If God wanted to forgive he could just do it by saying "I forgive you" and it's done." And that's true for your sins against God, but what about your sins against other people? Is it just for God to forgive you of those too? What about your victim? Where is justice for them? The truth is that in this act of mercy God does something unjust, and in extending mercy unjustly he takes responsibility for the offense upon himself. And those who cry that justice was taken from them have a legitimate claim, especially in a human sense. In a very real moral sense, by offering effective mercy to those who have harmed others, God is acting unjustly, he is in fact guilty. It was Christ who was given authority to be the judge of all correct? And as judge he offers mercy, unjustly. It's true that God is God and he can do whatever he wants, but what if he actually cares about our perceived claims against Him? What if he realizes that these claims are a barrier to our reconciliation? He could simply say "Get over it an accept my mercy for yourself as well as for your victimizer", but he doesn't leave it at that. What about the claims that God was unjust in his interventions throughout human history? How often have you heard him brought up on charges for killing the first born in Egypt, or even simply for NOT intervening in other horrific events? At the end of the day we bring charges against him for a) being God but not living up to our expectations of Him and b) forgiving not our own sin, but the sins of those we think he should instead execute judgement. God's response though isn't to withhold mercy, instead it is to take upon himself the responsibility for his own mercy. We accuse him of "a" and "b" above, and he accepts our condemnation of him for it, even unto the cross. So now as we approach reconciliation with him, the only claim we can make is to despise our own existence, as all other charges are acknowledged and dealt with through his own death, and once again overcome through his own resurrection. In this light, hell is simply the rejection of this and the choice to live in bitterness of our own existence. What was it Christ was accused of? Wasn't it the crime of claiming to be God as well as claiming to forgive sin? His response? Guilty as charged. So when people blame God for being unjust I often simply respond, "Well what are you going to do? Crucify him?"

Social Media Matters

I quite often hear this criticism of libertarians that we should "get out from behind our keyboards and go do stuff that matters."
It irks me. First of all, it simply shows that the people making that criticism likely have little interaction with activism outside of social media. If this wasn't true then they would clearly see Libertarians actively and physically involved in many things from lobbying at the capitol, to organizing campaigns, helping out with causes, etc.
But secondly is this idea that somehow having conversations on social media is meaningless and fruitless. I believe that our ability to reason together afforded by the means of social media is one of the greatest change agents of our time. To dismiss this is to dismiss the importance of human reason all together.
We are having conversations and people are being exposed to thoughts and ideas that they were previously well insulated from.
Take for instance the seemingly silly and simple "Taxation is theft" campaign currently rounding the meme-dom. Do you realize that this simple phrase is something that many people have never even considered before? They've simply blindly, by no fault of their own mind you, accepted the premise that the state has a prior claim to all property.

Regardless of how they respond to the presentation of the idea, the fact of the matter is that a powerful message conveying some uncomfortable cognitive dissonance has made its way past the mental firewall inculcated by their cultural upbringing, and it's all because of the ease of communication that internet technology has opened up to us.
The human mind, absent mental illness or willful ignorance, will simply not allow cognitive dissonance to persist, it is hard wired to resolve it. Any challenging of an idea with a weak premise is effective in eventually changing the public perception of the idea and social media as well as similar technology is only causing this to happen on an exponentially increasing scale for many different issues.
It is anything but meaningless and fruitless to be able to converse and reason and argue with one another in a way that affords physical safety and a large degree of freedom, in fact it may be the most important thing happening to humanity in quite some time.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Corptocracy or Democratic Socialism, either way it's all the same.

In thinking about the rise in popularity of Bernie Sanders, I will have to say that I do share in their concern about the power of the corptocracy. Big business has used its money (shareholder money) to influence government even to the tune of trillions of dollars in bailouts and other more abstract forms of corporate welfare.

This does irritate me and my sense of justice can envision legitimate policy by which restitution is demanded for the wealth that was taken from the public treasury and put directly into the pockets of those with power and influence. I wouldn't mind seeing this money taken back, and if it was used to pay for schools and roads and healthcare or to bail individuals out of their own mortgage crises then so be it.

What I don't understand about the Sanders craze is the accepted forgone conclusion that taxation on the individual will have to increase as well. That is when this flippant idea being tossed around called "Democratic Socialism" begins to scare me.

How about we tax the corporations, particularly those we've bailed out and provided welfare, and leave the individual alone?

I know some will say "Any expense you put on the corporation will eventually be passed on to the consumer via higher prices or to the worker via lower wages anyway." While this might be true the fact of the matter is that the consumer and the employee have a much better position to negotiate prices and wages directly with the corporation they are dealing with than they do with a government extracting their wealth directly via forced taxation.

That is a pragmatic reality that should provide a secondary support to the moral premise that government does not have the legitimate authority to tax the wealth of the individual, which it did not create, whereas it does have the legitimate authority to tax and regulate the corporations that it does create (so long as individuals are free to operate outside the corporate structure). Good policy should be that which encourages business while providing the appropriate revenue for a limited government, and that which leaves the individual to their own choices.

It's frustrating that the political spectrum is polarized in such a way that you must choose between crony capitalism and democratic socialism, which are essentially two sides to the same coin. It is particularly frustrating considering that each side of the dichotomy holds the complementary pieces of a workable solution, but each side also holds diametrically opposed positions that keep these pieces from ever coming together.

The fiscally conservative coupled with the socially liberal policies that enable a vibrant and free society can only currently be found in the Libertarian philosophy, which is of course, derided and bedeviled for different reasons by each side of the mainstream political duopoly.

As long as the margins between the opposing sides remains split around 50/50, I think things will continue relatively unchanged. The encouraging thing is that the Libertarian philosophy is uniquely poised at this time to be able to leverage the margins and bridge those gaps; possibly facilitating some reasonable and effective change.






Saturday, October 17, 2015

Mental Firewalls

Much of your worldview is shaped not by reason or experience on the subject, but by the inculcation of fear through the application of systematic messages and subtle abuse such as humiliation.  Unfortunately many of our beliefs regarding religion and politics are formed this way.  This is a misuse of this function of your mind which is designed to protect you from traumatic events.  In fact the symptoms of post traumatic stress are caused by this same mechanism in your mind.  When a stimuli similar to the trauma is encountered, the mind starts to attempt to protect itself from the trauma by triggering the neural pathways created from the original trauma.

This technique actually creates biological neural pathways in your brain, actual physical alignments of your neurons that "fire" a certain way upon encountering the stimuli a they were formed around.  I call them mental firewalls.  So your response is more like a mechanical movement than it is a rational reflection.  Like Pavlov's dog who could be stimulated to drool upon the ringing of a bell, it was a biological mechanical reaction, not the response to a rational conclusion.

So it shouldn't be surprising that if you disrupt the ability for these established neural pathways to fire in response to stimuli, that you'd free the person's mind to consider what they actually THINK about the stimuli.  The physical nature of these pathways is such that they can be disrupted with electromagnets, it can also be done with drugs.

Here is an example of scientist using electromagnets to accomplish bypassing the minds mental firewalls: https://www.rt.com/uk/318881-magnets-brain-immigration-religion/ 

If you don't have an electromagnet or drugs you can also use words.  If you can begin a thought process in the person's mind using words that do NOT trigger the "firewall" of preconditioned neural pathways, and then suddenly link by analogy or metaphor that idea to an idea that does trigger the stimuli, then you create a kind of conflict or paradox, a cognitive dissonance that the mind will work to resolve ultimately "rewiring" the neural pathway that make up the firewall.

For instance, if I show you a suffering child, and then I show you the child healed and happy, I've safely entered your mind without triggering your firewalls (or at least without triggering the firewalls I'm attacking).  Then I tell you that the child was healed with marijuana.  Since marijuana is a word that triggers an inculcated fear response (a firewall word), the thought of the healed child conflicts with the irrational fear of marijuana, and eventually weakens or rewrites the neural pathways associated with that irrational fear.

If you consider that in our culture religion, education, and politics are highly standardized and interrelated you can see that there are many people operating almost exclusively out of paradigms built upon these firewalls.  Almost like zombies in that they are not living a life based on beliefs they have reasoned through and come to own, but are simply responding to stimuli that either trigger a pre-programmed mental firewall or not.  This creates a pseudo objective reality that can be controlled through propaganda.  With this in mind you also see the importance of spreading ideas that tear down these firewalls and force people to consider reality with their own minds.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

RISE UP AMERICA KILL ISLAM

Today I was stopped at a railway crossing waiting on a train.  I'm looking at all the cars on the train and trying to guess what's in them, reading the graffiti, etc. Then I saw something that shocked me, and upon reflection, greatly concerned me.  Some very crude graffiti (not like the stuff that is actually very artistic) ignorantly screamed in big red letters: "RISE UP AMERICA KILL ISLAM".  I was too slow with my camera to take a picture, for a few seconds I just sat and stared as it went by.  It was shocking because of what it said and the grotesque and uncreative way in which it was presented but also because of how it stood out, like a sore, from the other messages and art painted on the train's cars.  Then I began reflecting on it. 





The other graffiti on the train was colorful and bold, artistically done and although I don't know what it communicated, it intrigued me, it even captured my imagination a bit to ponder its meaning.  It was the art of a sub-culture that I'm not familiar with, that seems to have its own stories and even language.  Where did it come from?  Who wrote it? How far away is it from the person who painted it?  What were they like?  What was their purpose in painting it?  Maybe it's gang signs, or simply eccentric street artists, or an expressive teenager in love.  It was definitely, and almost comfortingly different.  It wasn't a corporate brand, or a cliche phrase, it was its own thing.  To me, that's kind of cool.

Yes, it was vandalism, and it seemed irrational, but it was nearly, if not completely harmless,  and maybe even the contributor of some beauty into the otherwise dull view of a passing train.  If there is to be crime, it seems to me, then this is what we want:  Artistically gifted vandals expressing their irrationality in ugly places and making those places a little prettier as a result of their crime.

But the other, it was just more of the parroted drivel of the demagogues on television.  I knew exactly where it came from.  It was born of ignorance and bigotry, there was no need to be curious as to the personal insight of the author.  It was just copy and paint hate.  What personal connection or interaction could the vandal who painted that obscene challenge to America have with Islam?  How many Muslims do they know?  I can almost guarantee none, and if any, it's on the basis of a peaceful coexistence in their community. The unique and colorful language and art of the train graffiti that caused me to imagine a culture of its own expressing itself was suddenly sullied with the bland and obtuse propaganda of the network news.  It concerns me, and it should concern all of us that the hateful rhetoric of the Islamophobes and war mongers can penetrate this far.

Yes, it was also vandalism, and it also seemed irrational, but this time it wasn’t harmless.  It was exposing the symptoms of the sickness of our society.  Of a society that can nurture and transmit hatred to the depths of our most independent sub-cultures and fester even there an unwarranted hatred of people they don’t know.  “RISE UP AMERICA KILL ISLAM”: words that have little meaning to the vandal who scrawled it barely legibly across the train, except for what he was told by the television, and through those peddlers of hatred that seem to permeate all of our media. 

Sit down America.  Love your neighbor.  

Maybe I should grab a can of paint and catch that train!