Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Breeding Ground of Demons

Maybe oversharing, but that's what I do sometimes: In the past 10 or 12 years, by being blessed with positive interactions with some amazing people I've been cured of marijuanaphobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and most recently, through a series of events that I regard as almost miraculous, the last vestiges of some lingering trans and homophobia have finally evaporated away
These are real hangups that kept me from being able to relate to people, and they also kept me from knowing myself. They keep a person from self-discovered epiphanies. Instead you mindlessly repeat the dead habits of culture passed to you and accepted by you without examination.
These phobias are the breeding ground of demons, take that figuratively or literally, it doesn't matter. They are the enemy of faith as they cause you to stereotype, stigmatize, dehumanize, and demonize (create demons out of) the people around you that you should be getting to know and loving and learning from. These phobias live off fear, pride, and ego, all of which I have an abundance of. Believe me.
It was not only through reason alone, but primarily my faith in Christ and through the Church that I've been able to finally put these demons down. I could always understand the reasons, but a moralistic fear often kept me from letting those demons die. I can't really explain the mechanics of it, it is a mystery to me how it came about.  But by God's grace I'm glad to finally be free of those oppressors.
I'd recommend everyone do it. The world is a better place when you don't arbitrarily hate people just because you personified them as some kind of demon in your mind based on the group you identify them with.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Painful Symptoms

It seems like the institutionally abandoned, morally devoid, and socially misfit young white male with family problems to mass murdering school shooter pipeline is a fairly specific pathology. Maybe we should figure that out too while we're failing to take everyone's guns again. Is a society that creates people like that really all that better off just because we figure out how not to give them guns? I mean maybe we shouldn't let people like that have guns, but maybe we should try to help people not become like that too? The problem is that these kind of problems typically aren't something you can pawn off to the state, forget about, and go along your merry way. I think there may be something terribly wrong with us if our activism in the face of these now very typified events are completely focused on yelling at politicians and at each other about gun control and none of it is focused on what is wrong with our communities and institutions such that we are repeatedly manifesting this very specific homicidal ideation in young men. The gun control argument is primarily a convenient scapegoat that we all know will ultimately fail, which is OK, because then we won't have to deal with any actual change, and we can still blame it on the politicians instead of taking any real personal and possibly uncomfortable ownership of the problem. Taking the blame like this is one of the reasons a corrupt and perverse political class can persist despite their obvious incapacity to be anything like something we ought to respect. It's the true value exchange, power in exchange for blame. The school shootings are a painful symptom. Blaming politicians is just a pain killer.

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 advisary 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.