Psychic Blindness

26 04 2010

Despite its name, it’s really not the sort of thing one would go to a palm reader for.    Psychic blindness is a fancy name for a vaguely defined problem, when a person’s eyes are working, but the mind is not seeing.

As a physiological problem, psychic blindness can result from brain damage.  Though the eyes are working and the signal is getting to the brain, it cannot be properly processed.  As a psychological problem, psychic blindness is effectively a dissociative disorder, whereby a person denies his own sight.  He sees, but he does not acknowledge.  He claims to be blind, but he still reacts to visible threats.

On a more common level, it affects everyone.  This is the aspect to psychic blindness that doesn’t make the medical journals.  We’ll say you’re looking through the refrigerator for a bottle of ketchup, and you feel confident that you’ve searched every last inch of the interior.  It’s gone.  It couldn’t possibly be anywhere in there.  You ask your spouse where it went, and your loved one walks straight to the refrigerator and pulls it from a parallel universe (the middle shelf, near the front).  You can’t say that you didn’t see it, because it was right there in front of you.  You were staring right at it.  Yet, you didn’t see it.  That’s a limited form of psychic blindness.  The eyes were working, and the image of the ketchup bottle was transmitted to the brain, but it got lost in the paperwork.

Now, being unable to find a specific object might be a memorable example, but it is not a representative one.  Let’s say you were not looking for the ketchup bottle in the first place.  Would you see it?  In fact, you would have been even less likely to see it if you had not been looking.  Therefore, if we are occasionally blind to objects that we are looking for, we must be very blind to many objects which we are not looking for.  It’s like the man who claims that he sees no evidence of God.  He has not looked, and if he looked, he would not try to find, and if he found, he would pretend that he did not find anything at all.  Finding God is a challenge to them who want to find God, and it is an impossibility to those who do not.

I do not know how many square inches of surface area the interior of my home has, including all of the objects contained therein, but the vast majority of my attention is drawn to 198 square inches of it, my computer monitor.  The reason is simply because it captures my interest.  It continues to change.  Every last object within sight of me gets ignored from one day to the next.  This is a mental efficiency.  The mind does not need to take continual notice of things which do not change, and it tends not to notice things that change slowly.  On the whole, I think I must ignore billions of details per day.  From the knickknacks on the desk in front of me, the loaded bookshelves to my side, or the decorations to my right to the living room that I never use, I am surrounded by an environment of my own making, which we have lovingly arranged for our comfort and pleasure.  I see all of this every day, and yet, like the ketchup bottle it is all invisible to me.

Yesterday, I sat in an outdoor eating area, watching the drama unfold in the lives of a community of sparrows.  I watched their courtship.  I watched them hop around, looking for food.  I watched a nearby kid nearly step on one, except that the sparrow was far more observant than he was.  The birds were invisible to everyone but us.  The other diners were blind to this detail.

In the evenings, I have walked along a sidewalk, observing how the residents spent their time staring at a television.  The air was crisp, and the moon reflected off of the ocean just a stone’s throw away.  Surely, they must have paid millions for this view, but they were blind to it.  House after house was illumined by the same blue glow.

I have been in homes where clutter littered the floor, the desktops, the chairs and even the yard.  They may have been too lazy to clean it up, or they may not have had enough time, or they may have even been unable, mentally, to solve the problem, but in the end, they got used to their situation.  Eventually, they stopped seeing the trash.  The eyes still worked, but the mind did not see what the eyes were conveying.

I have seen people put themselves into destructive relationships, boyfriends who used their ladies, friends who manipulated their peers, drugs that rotted the body and well-being of the user.  I have seen sin destroy a life, and I have seen the sinner stare straight at his circumstances and continue walking into it.

I have seen a piece of wood grow and stretch, developing little solar panels, capturing light.  I have seen it tap into an underground source of water, drawing moisture from depths less than a well could find it.  I have seen cells that knew exactly what shape to take and what function to serve, because they knew exactly where they were in the body.  I have learned of an engineer’s plans, written in multiple redundancy, for the construction of an organism that could find energy without a wall socket or a battery supply.  It could find materials to repair itself and make another of its own kind.  It could do all of this with nothing special at its disposal.  Release it into the woods, and it could make do with anything that it found.  It was more advanced than anything made by humans.  I have seen people look at it and call it a freak accident, as though one might spill a glass of milk and accidentally make a cow.  Their eyes work, but their minds do not see.

We learn from the things that we afford our attention.  What we do not see, we do not experience.  What we do not experience, we do not live.  All of the joys of real life, the physical, tangible things, are lost to our blindness.  The spiritual things are twice removed from our sight.  Everything has been reduced to a flat screen and whatever shines forth from it.  Everything we learn, we are taught.  People have become inept at learning for themselves, could not even begin to see, even if they looked.

Within the view of everyone who reads this is an innumerable array of details and objects, but the biggest question on anyone’s mind is, “I wonder what’s on television?”

That’s psychic blindness of the common sort.

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Invalid Syllogism; working backward and getting lost

19 04 2010

If you follow the stream downhill from camp, point A,  then you get to the same place we got to, point B. We followed the stream downhill from camp, which is why we are here.

It stood to reason that following the stream assured a predictable path of travel.  If they followed the stream away from camp, then they could follow the stream back to camp.  While it is true that anyone who followed that stream with the current would eventually end up where they were, it was not true that anyone from where they were could follow the stream against its current to arrive back at camp.  Traveling downhill, the tributaries were all convergent.  If the stream split at all, then it always merged again a little further down.  Thus, one could reliably follow that stream and overtake anyone else who also followed that stream.  They would not veer from the path.  However, while the tributaries are convergent on the way down, they are divergent on the way back up.  What this means is that a person not paying close attention to the forks in the stream might not remember which one to follow going back.  In fact,  two members of our camping group did that very thing.  Traveling downstream was deceptively easy, as there were no decisions to make.  There is always only one downstream.  However, traveling upstream has its alternatives.  There are often multiple ways to go upstream.  The result of this was that at the end of the trip, when the pair never returned, Search And Rescue had to be called.  In attempting to work their way back to the beginning, they got hopelessly lost.

In social interaction, this very same kind of mistake is often made regarding the interpretation of other people’s actions.  For example, if I do not like you, then I will be reluctant to spend any time with you.  Let’s say I do not like you.  Therefore it stands to reason that if you invite me to your party that I will do my best to avoid going.  This is a valid line of reasoning, but I am already privy to my own motivation.  I didn’t really need to reason it out to know what I was going to do.  The real deduction comes from the person who is trying to figure out why I did not attend his party.  I was invited, but I said I was busy.  I was invited again, but I was still unable to attend.  Yet again, I was invited, but I still found a reason to decline.  The other person observes that I seem reluctant to attend his parties.  He knows very well that if I dislike him, then I will try to avoid attending his parties.  Therefore, he concludes that I do not like him.  However, working forward was like traveling downstream, and working backward was like traveling upstream.  While one motivation yields a predictable result, the motivation is not necessarily predictable from the result.  I don’t attend his parties, because he serves alcohol, and I am uncomfortable around it.  I don’t attend his parties, because he plays the music too loud.  I don’t attend his parties, because I have really bad flatulence, and I’m afraid of embarrassing myself.  I don’t attend his parties, because I’m infatuated with his sister, but I’m so shy that I’m afraid to be around her.  I don’t attend his parties, because I’m a very busy person with very many obligations, and I really have no time to attend.  Working backward from the response to the motivation, our lines of causation are divergent.  We may never really know why a person seems to avoid us, unless that person tells us, and maybe not even then.

But we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, and we imagine the circumstances that would have gotten us from the motivation to the outcome, and we use that to determine what the motivation was.  Generally, we choose the conclusion that involves the fewest specifics, the details that we could never guess, or else we choose the conclusion with the most egocentric basis, the one that pertains specifically to me.  I don’t know what goes on inside your head, and I don’t know what goes on in your life, so my understanding of you is limited to generalizations that could apply to anybody.  I don’t have any way of knowing that you are overwhelmed with the burden of raising your kids.  I might have guessed it, but if I am not, or have not been, in a similar situation, then I might not understand.  What I can apply to anyone who knows me is that they have an opinion of me.  Add to that the fact that my whole world revolves around myself, I’m far more likely to assume that your behavior has something to do with me.

Tracing back a person’s behavior to that person’s motivation is tricky, so long as that person is not me.  It gets trickier if that person is from a different culture.  In Japan, the open expression of anger is greatly suppressed.  Therefore, it finds its way out in very subtle ways.  This passive-aggressive behavior often tries to say, “I hate you,” through the little things in life, like a drawer left open, or a dish left unwashed, or a task performed slowly.  Understanding the Japanese mindset requires amplifying their actions.  An American missionary to Japan once told me that her roommate confronted her for hating her.  She was shocked that her roommate thought she hated her.  The evidence for this animosity amounted to a number of trivial things that had nothing to do with the American’s feelings for the Japanese friend.

In contrast, the Russians are known for being painfully blunt with their feelings.  If a Russian hates you, then that person will likely tell you.  You simply don’t need to guess.  Consequently, I find that Eastern Europeans are generally easier for me to get along with, as my reticence does not cause them to wonder if I dislike them.

A Japanese man once invited me to dinner for the sole purpose of deliberately making wrong turns on the way there, spending the entire time trying to tell me not to be a racist (I couldn’t convince him that I wasn’t), and making me pay the bill (which I could not afford).  I barely knew the man, but he had decided in the few minutes that I had known him that I simply did not like him.  The dinner was his way of getting back at me.  For the life of me, I cannot fathom what I did wrong.  All I had done was sit in the same room with him for a few minutes without engaging in conversation.  He took that as an expression of dislike, I suppose.

Relating to different cultures is relatively easy, compared to relating to different species.  Sometimes people get bit by their own dogs because they hug the dog around the neck, putting themselves over the dog’s shoulders.  To us, it is an act of affection, but to the dog it is an assertion of dominance.  Some dogs don’t mind.  Some retaliate.  When dogs fight, the winner proclaims its victory by putting its head upon the other’s shoulders or over the other’s neck.  When a dog does it, the motivation is one thing, but when a person does it, the motivation is another.

Relating to other species is easy, compared to relating to something as vastly different as God.  What goes on in the mind of an omniscient God is an endless enigma.  The reasoning behind any action could have such a vast array of possible causes and motivations, that understanding him becomes an almost hopeless Gordian knot.  Most often the best answer to why God did something is, “I don’t know.”  As is generally the case, we tend to overlook the many details that we could never guess, and we opt for the explanation that relates most directly to ourselves.  A bad thing happens to me, and I conclude that God must not like me.  In so doing, I may have followed the stream uphill, and been misdirected to a tributary that went another way.  The fact is that I don’t know why bad things happen to me.  I might never guess the feelings he has for me, unless he tells me.

I used to think that the Bible was a form letter.  It seemed like a generic letter of love written to everyone, in general.  Then, it seemed like a store-bought greeting card, written by someone else for no one in particular, given to me by a God who loves me.  People are very egocentric.  If a speaker gets on stage, smiles and says, “I like you people,” they take it personally and impute that the speaker really does like them.  In truth, no such assessment could hold any meaning.  The entire group cannot be evaluated like an individual.  The same seems to hold true for God’s love expressed to us in the Bible.  In this we are at a crossroads.  If we ask, “Does God really love me?” we are left with life’s circumstances, which tell us nothing, and a Bible not written specifically for any particular person.  Tracing God’s actions backward to his motivations is an impossible task.  Without the moving of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, without God simply telling us in his own way, we are at a loss.

Jesus loves me,

This I know,

For the Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me, this I know, because he told me so, himself.  The Bible tells me that he loves the world (John 3:16), and I need his Spirit to make it personal.





Descent into Royalty

18 04 2010

[fiction]

No cell phone for  a week was punishment enough to send my teenage daughter into fits.  Try no cell phone for a lifetime.  We add to that no internet, no text messaging, no blogging, no computer games.  That’s only a half-truth, though.  In reality, I’m stuck with no computer at all.  For that matter, I’m without electricity.  I don’t even have a land line.  I couldn’t call 911 if I needed to, and if I could, there would be no one there to answer it.  I have no car, but at least I have no gasoline to put into it.  When the sun goes down, I tell someone to burn something, and my home, my cold drafty stone prison, is dimly lit by a conflagration that makes my eyes water.  I spend the evening listening to someone play a song on a “stringed” instrument that I’m sure must be strung with actual cat gut.  The poor beast seems to holler with every tortured pluck.  The alleged minstrel hasn’t discovered homophony yet, either.  I’ve tried to teach him, but he seemed to think me mad for suggesting that he play more than one string at a time, and in retaliation he threatened to drive me mad, as if to prove him right.  I wonder often what might be playing on the old plasma screen, if such things existed, if there were any programming being broadcast anywhere.  I’d even take a little black and white cathode ray tube, if I could.  Forget the television.  I would give my kingdom for an AM radio to make me feel that there was life out there, somewhere.

The sun sets slowly, and the cold eats its way through these stone walls, right into my bones.  Tonight, I shall sleep on a sack of grass, the haunt of fleas and mites.  The servants shall have it heaped with lilac and some other flowers whose names I never learned, as if that helped.  My bed will be warmed by the fetid body of another man, my servant, because the men in these parts do not believe in sleeping next to their wives.  My wife seems to agree with that tradition, and so I am condemned to live like a student in an over-crowded frat house.  I spend my days in an uncomfortable hard chair, listening to the droning of stewards and bailiffs giving account of the day’s revenue.  So many heaps of that crop, so many piles of cordage collected.  And for entertainment, there’s a child with Downs Syndrome dressed in a jester’s outfit, doing his best to be silly.  If an award could be given to any person with the highest happiness-to-investment ratio, that kid would get it with no contest.  He’s got even less going for him than I do, but I don’t remember ever having a day quite as good as the one that he seems to be having at this moment.

I didn’t used to be in these miserable circumstances.  There was a time when a domain was something that followed the letters, “http,” a colon and a couple of slashes.  Now those were the days.  I lost hours in front of the computer, playing games and reading stuff I don’t remember.  Then I lost the rest of the time lying on the couch, snacking and staring like a zombie.  Between the two, there was always the MP3 player.  I had a job that I thought I hated.  I had a daughter that thought she hated me.  I was lower-middle class, but I had the world at my fingertips.  At work, I was the bottom of the totem pole, and I hated it.  Now, I’m a king, and I’m wishing I could be at the bottom again.  My biggest thrill is to drink melted chocolate from a small glass cup.  Did you know that glass is scarce here?  That’s why they have to cover the windows with great tapestries that keep out the sunlight.

Ah, but I’m a rich man.  I haven’t had a bath in weeks, can’t remember the inconvenience of having to wait for the tap water to get warm.  I smell like a compost heap.

My name was Edward Aisin.  I met a dope on the net who thought he had a design for a time machine.  I took one look at his plans and recommended a good psychiatrist.  A year later, I realized he was not far off.  At least, he seemed to have the theory of the matter down, solid.  With some spare parts salvaged from the junk in the garage, I made a flimsy hack job of a time machine.  It was mostly tape and glue, an entry for a fifth-rate modern art show.  The on-button consisted of two bare wires that sparked when they came together.  The device roared to life, and I wriggled through it, barely managing not to break it asunder in the process.

The next thing I knew, I was sucking on tepid milk.  Well, let’s not go into details, but I think I lost a month to mental development shortly after birth.  I must have wasted half a year in coming to my senses before I realized what had happened to me.  Oh, certainly, I went back in time, but my body did not go with me.  I was back to being imprisoned in a crib, in a world without satellite television, a world that barely had satellites.  I thought, then, what a wretched soul I’d become.  The freedom of adulthood was lost.  My car was gone.  My favorite songs had not been recorded yet.  My entire CD collection was gone, along with the very idea of a CD player.  I was a man trapped in a baby’s body.  I had to wait half a decade for the invention of the Atari, just so I could make little squares move across the screen and pretend that they were airplanes and submarines.  Science fiction movies had terrible special effects.  The internet had technically been invented, but no one had access to it.  Life had become boring as snot, and the spare parts and junk that I called a time machine must have stayed in the old time.  I imagined it would sit there and hum happily, until someone discovered it and unplugged it…except that it hadn’t been invented yet, so technically, I could turn it off myself if I wanted to…in a few years, but I’d have to invent it first.

But, who wants to drag through a few decades of dull childhood, endure puberty all over again and slowly return to the starting point, just to turn off a machine that I left running when I left home?  If I had known that it would not come back in time with me, then I never would have used the thing.  I thought I would come back as a middle-aged, overweight man, not return to the womb and live a rerun.  The second time around just wasn’t the same.  For one, there was no way I was going to let my mother boss me around.  I may be a child, but for crying out loud, I’m a grown man.  I was ten years old before I managed to scrape enough parts together to build another time machine.  By then, I devised a way to really go back in time.  The previous design had wedged me into the past, where I didn’t belong except where I already belonged, if that makes any sense.  I could only go back as far as I existed.  The new design was substitutionary.  I would trade places with something else.  I don’t know what I thought that thing would be, perhaps a rock, or a gerbil, or something.  I hadn’t considered that I might be stuck living life as a gerbil (oh, what a thought).  I wonder if I’d still want to raise a family, at that.

On the night that I had planned to restore my dignity, my father grounded me for my insolence.  Of course I was insolent.  He wasn’t going to ban me from watching television, because I was already banned from it, so I had to spend the evening holed away in my bedroom.  But, as soon as they were asleep, I sneaked out to the garage and activated the device.  It hummed and lit the garage with its eerie glow.  I could hear someone’s voice coming from it.  Eagerly, though somewhat wary, I crawled into it and found myself standing before a haughty, effeminate pansy, adorned with jewels and lace.  He was flipping his wrist in my general direction and telling me where to go.  Not knowing any better, I did what he told me to.  “Edward,” he said, “There’s a reason why I run things around here.  The sooner you learn it, the happier we’ll all be, so run along to your room, then.”

Being, by now, used to this treatment, I did what he said.  Down the long stone corridor, the servants lead me to my room, where my wife was waiting.  By the looks of things, she was expecting more than just me.  She looked like she could give birth at any moment.  I stared at her dumbly, wondering who I was and how old I was.  Five minutes ago, I was a child.  Two minutes ago, I thought I was a teenager, by the way I was being treated.  Now, with my pregnant wife before me, I wondered just how old I really was.  She looked…ashamed.

Philippa was her name, as I later discovered.  When I had married in my former life, we waited until we were nearly infertile before having a child.  We deemed it greatly important that our children, who turned out to be only one child, be blessed with all the wealth that we had been raised with.  In retrospect, I suppose we overestimated our own childhood.  As kids, we had nothing.  It makes me wonder why we waited so long.  I think it was simply that we could not bear to part with all of life’s trappings and freedom.  We waited and waited.  The house was never big enough, never had a big enough yard, and so on.

Now, I was practically a child, living in a castle, married with a child on the way.  As it turned out, I was still Edward.  I just happened to be a different Edward.  The fop in the hallway turned out to be a man named Mortimer, who slept with my mother and killed my father.  As it turned out, the hat on my head was a crown, but I needed a full month to come to grips with who I was, because I was treated about as much like a king as were the king’s dogs.

To think of it, I was a king!  What a glorious happenstance!  I went from the bottom to the top in a second.

But the joy was short-lived.  As I discovered, the real King Edward was a weakling.  He had allowed himself to come to this place where his mother’s paramour ruled the country while he sat in a back room and played the good little boy.  The father was dead at the hand of Mortimer, the philanderer, the adulterer.  I decided, then, that I would not be the obedient milksop that they had expected.  The moment my wife gave birth, our lives would be in grave danger, for we would have an heir.

Needless to say, I overcame my circumstances.  We killed Mortimer, and I assumed the throne as a real king.  When the real King Edward traded places with me again, he would find his life much improved.

A year later, I found myself bored out of my mind, wondering if I could be developing a case of sciatica, sitting on the throne and staring out the open window at the fading twilight.

Some people think that if they could go back in time that they would change the world.  Certainly, I knew much that the rest of the world did not know.  I knew that the Black Death was coming.  I knew a few things about hygiene, and I knew where penicillin came from.  But all of my advantage could not procure a single television.  Oh, man, I know so much more than these people.  Compared to them, I’m practically omniscient.  Yet, for the life of me, I can’t remember how to produce gun powder.  I tried to explain to some artisans how to engineer an aircraft, but while they could make the wings, they could not fashion the engine.  I told them how to make the engine, but they could not quite shape the steel, nor refine the oil.  I told them how to refine the oil, but they could not find how to drill for it.  On and on it went, one technology building upon another, yet, at the end of the day we still had nothing.  Anything less than a functional plane was nothing but modern art.  If we could not do that, then the time machine was well beyond our grasp.

To my horror, I realized that I was stuck in this world of the mundane, condemned to remain a king.  After a time, the amusement of riding on horses, impaling helpless porcine creatures with sharp metal objects lost its appeal.  After a time, the court musicians and dancers were nothing but a pathetic appeal against lethargy.  I had to get out, or I would lose my mind.  Therefore I outfitted the army with more soldiers, finer armor and handful of newly built trebuchets.  I don’t think that the old Edward had ever owned a trebuchet in his life.

It was a fine day, sunny and fresh.  We stood arrayed against the Scottish castle, ready to do battle.  They watched us from atop the walls, wary and unprepared.  The first shot from the catapult signaled the beginning of the siege.  Blood coursed through my veins with excitement.  This was the first bit of excitement I’d had in years.  In the next moment, the drawbridge lowered and a parley was had.  They wanted nothing to do with this battle.  But I had just spent good money outfitting my men and purchasing the new siege engines.  I would not have my fun spoiled by a bunch of cowards.  We refused their unconditional surrender and made them fight us.

A few hours later, we rode over the broken bodies of villagers who wanted nothing better than to be left alone, to live their ordinary lives.  We took our loot and returned quietly home.  Near the road, I spotted a column of smoke rising from a small knoll.  Veering off toward it, I discovered that it was a dugout home, a mere hole in the ground with a sod roof.  Looking in under the apex of the roof, I saw a young man, maybe seventeen, sitting on a stool and telling a story to a group of children.  His wife sat in the corner, working on some needlework.  When he noticed me, he leaped to his feet and hurried out to greet me, more in fear for himself than because of my celebrity.  “Your highness,” he stammered, “I am your humble servant.”

I looked at his dwelling distastefully and said, “Man, you’re living in a hole in the ground!”

“It is my home,” he said apologetically.  “It is not much, but I am pleased to have a roof over my head.”

I poked disdainfully at the sod.  “And I thought my life was bad.  What are you having for supper?”

At this, a worried expression fell across his face.  “All we have is a loaf of bread and two fish, but we’ll be happy to share it with you.”

“No, I don’t want your food,” I snapped.  “How can you live like this, man?  What do you do for fun?”

“I beg your pardon?” he asked.  “I tell stories to the children.  Otherwise, I don’t have much time for fun.  I am but a peasant.  Much work is required to live, but I am grateful.”

“Grateful?” I scoffed, “For what?  To whom are you grateful?  Me?”

“I beg your pardon, your highness, but I am grateful to God.  He has blessed me with a home, a family, and enough food for tonight.  I thank God because the rain falls from the sky, and the grass feeds the bagots, and there is milk for us.  I may not be a king, sir, but I am rich… in a way.”  He looked to his feet in fear of punishment, probably for claiming to be wealthy with respect to me.

I sat back on my horse and looked around at the fog rolling over the green grass, growing like a carpet over the downs.  A few feet away were a handful of goats grazing on the lawn.  The dirty faces of little children gazed up at me from under the roof.  The wife was watching her beau with adoring earnestness.  They were but kids with kids of their own, living in poverty, and this was all normal for them.  They were even worse off than I was.  They were far worse off, but they were happy.  At least, they were happy enough to marry and build a home and be a family.  They would not have the luxuries of a mere king.  They would not have the modern luxuries that I knew as a child.  They would never know all of the wonders and technology that I had grown comfortable with as an adult.  Yet, here they were, living in a hole, and they were happy because they had a roof, a scrap of food and each other.

I was a king, and I lost sleep over my lost plasma television.  I was never hungry, but I was never happy.  I was at the top of my world, but the bottom of my own heart.  I had everything, but I was thankful for nothing.  I wondered, almost seriously, if the peasant had come full circle.  I could almost stoop to try to live like that.

Almost, but not quite.  “Let’s go,” I commanded my men, and we continued home.  At least, I suppose it was as close to being a home as anything would ever be.

[/fiction]





Going Down?

11 04 2010

Despite my frequent study of fecal bacteria, my gut feeling toward them is that I find revolting the very idea that anything would be living inside of me, other than my own body parts.  Nevertheless, I understand, albeit reluctantly, that humans benefit from a stable population of beneficial intestinal bacteria.  The maintenance of that relative stability in population can be compared to the workings of a sewage treatment plant.  The secondary treatment process for sewage involves mixing the influent with recycled sludge.  That sludge is a mass of microorganisms that help to remove organic compounds from the water, which would otherwise reach the outfall and be dumped into nature, overly rich with pollutants.  After a long exposure, drifting slowly through the reactor, these organisms are again collected and pumped as sludge back to the beginning of the cycle to start over again.  The sewage carries its own organisms, but seeding of the process ensures a stable and efficient population.

In the human intestine, a similar principle applies.  Intestinal fortitude depends entirely upon the population residing therein.  The appendix serves the function of seeding the intestine with bacteria collected earlier, promoting not only a stable population but also one that doesn’t wreak havoc on us.

Earlier, students had been told that the appendix was a useless vestigial organ, left over from evolution from some previous organism.  Had this really been the case, what we should really be surprised at is that we aren’t entirely loaded with vestigial organs.  If the process of evolution is really as gradual as they say it is, then we can’t really afford to waste so much time exchanging organs one at a time like that.  Well, the vestigial organ paradigm has more problems to it than just its frequency of occurrence.  According to the Theory, every change that provides even the slightest benefit to an organism should be selected and amplified by natural selection and reproduction.  Their problem lies in the fact that the changes are supposed to be gradual.  If a slight change is not enough to improve survival rates and promote evolution, then that change is lost, and no evolution takes place.  If life had to rely on leaps and bounds in lucky engineering to make a noticeable difference on a species survival rate, then even relatively senseless people would have trouble digesting that one.  Every little positive change must work to improve survival and move evolution forward, or else the whole idea falls flat.

That’s where the vestigial organ complicates the problem.  Supposedly, the organ once had a relevant purpose, but as the organism changed, the organ lost its usefulness.  However, if that vestigial organ still provided even the slightest benefit, then natural selection should still promote it.  The thing should never become vestigial, unless it was absolutely useless.  Marginally or mostly useless doesn’t cut it.  People can’t say that a slight benefit causes it to stay and proliferate, but not enough benefit causes it to be lost.  By that reasoning, it actually takes less usefulness to keep a trait than it does to discard it.

This is where the creationist usually drops the ball, by failing to claim the vestigial organ as evidence for the nature of change.  We can say that in the beginning, God created all things good.  Any change from there is going to leave things in a worse state than the way that they started.  We wouldn’t want to make the mistake of naming things as vestigial simply because we don’t understand their purpose, as the evolutionists do, but a dysfunctional organ is an example of negative evolution, the antithesis of what we’re being fed of atheist dogma.

The evolutionists want to have it both ways.  Slight benefits accumulate, but insufficient benefit is lost.  In fact, there is only one direction of travel in this world, and it is downward.  It is true that blind naked mole rats might have once been furry little gophers with excellent vision.  This is what the creationist should anticipate.  The evolutionist explanation in this case is the same as the creationist’s should be, but while it is integral to the creationist’s view, it is more of an exception to the evolutionist’s view.  But while the evolutionist is quick to claim evidence of both upward and downward movement in evolution, the creationist is often reluctant to accept either.  If both sides accepted the logical implication of their own beliefs, then the many examples of bad useless organs out there would be a devastating blow to the evolutionists and a victory to the creationists.

But there is an aspect to this that goes smaller than the vestigial organ.  There is also the vestigial gene.  In the game of genetics, the dominant genes are almost always the functional ones.  That is to say that genes are like cars: they either run, or they don’t.  The recessive genes, the ones that don’t work quite right anymore, have always been the ones that came later.  Blond hair, blue eyes, hemophilia, diabetes and other such recessives are known to be relatively recent developments.  No amount of selection has gotten rid of them, and despite the claim that random change has been going on for millions of years, these random changes practically happened yesterday (why did they wait so long?).  Looking at the genetic history of humanity from a rational creationist point of view, the original humans were blacks, at least in appearance.  When a black man and a white woman marry, the resulting child looks more like a black than a white.  This is because the genes responsible for physical appearance are generally dominant in blacks and recessive in whites.  If that child runs for president, they don’t call him yet another white president.  Instead, they call him the first black president, even though he’s just as much white as he is black.  If the genes responsible for this are dominant in blacks, it is because they are functional, healthy genes, whereas the compliment from the white is recessive, sitting there and doing nothing while the black’s genes do all of the work (sounds disturbingly familiar).  From the creationist perspective, and from all available evidence, humanity is trending very strongly toward recessives with time.  That means that we’re not evolving from white to black, from diabetic to healthy, from blond to brunette and so on, but we are moving unstoppably in the opposite direction.  Genes are becoming vestigial.  Adam and Eve, then, were black, at least in appearance.

If God made man in his own image, and in so doing he made a black man, one might wonder something about God’s own appearance, but I digress.

Let’s say that some fool plows his field and dredges up a “missing link.”  Let’s ask ourselves what we really have.  Let’s say it’s something less than human.  The evolutionist sees it and unquestioningly determines it to be an early hominid.  The assumption is that the lesser human was on his way up.  We’re on the third floor, looking at someone in an elevator at the second floor, and we assume that he’s going up.  He could just as easily be going down.  In fact, the evidence would overwhelmingly suggest that he must be going down.  Yet, the evolutionist never questions the man’s direction.  He is going up, and the discussion is over.  Because the skull is older, it therefore indicates that we have improved since then.  The implication, then, is that there has never been a single malformed individual in all of history.  If a man is born deformed today, will future generations find his skull and conclude that humanity has improved since this man’s time?  This says much about how far our popular science has wandered from objectivity.

When two things correlate, one of the most common mistakes people make is to assume that one led to the other.  If A and B look very similar, then people jump to the conclusion that A causes B.  In truth, there are always three possible explanations:

1) A caused B.
2) B caused A.
3) A and B were both caused by C.

In our case, they see that monkeys and humans have something in common.  Therefore, they concluded that monkeys evolved into humans.  When people pointed out that monkeys are physically superior to us, the evolutionists backtracked to say that monkeys and humans both evolved from some unknown subhuman sub-ape ancestor.  What if monkeys evolved from humans?  What if their similarities were only due to the fact that they were both created by the same God, who tended to follow the same functional patterns for both?  Okay, so we’ll admit that we’re not too keen on accepting that monkeys evolved from humans, but are we evolving into something subhuman and sub-ape?  A “missing link,” could always be either post-human, pre-human or non-human (similar only because it was created by the same God, with the same functionality).  The evolutionist only considers one of these three options, because the other two point to a creator.  In fact, if a missing link resulted from negative evolution, or if it resulted from similar engineering, then it evidences creationism.  It all depends on which way the world is really moving.  Evidence suggests that we are moving toward recessives.  We are losing functions and moving downward.  The missing link is not an example of what we came from, but where we are going.  It just happens that one of us got there sooner, and managed to remove himself from the gene pool in the process.

I don’t know if it is possible that “vestigial” organs were created that way.  My first car, a ’72 Mazda, was a rolling piece of junk, missing everything but the barest requirements for running.  Every wire in it had been gnawed in half by a rat.  No dashboard function worked.  Consequently, I found myself scavenging from junk yards for the missing parts.  In this futile exercise, I learned that the engine appeared to be built for parts that it was never equipped with.  Other makes and models had a very similar engine block, but where theirs was connected to various parts in certain places, mine only had the places, still shaped as though they were meant to connect to something, but closed off abruptly.  The engineers used a modified plan from some other design to make this vehicle.  This sounds like an act of laziness, and not something that God would do, but I do recall that while God made all other life ex nihlo (out of nothing), he made man from the dust of the Earth.  I’ve always wondered why he would borrow the substance of something else when he could just as easily make it from nothing.  Why did Jesus need dirt and spittle to make a blind man see?  The point in all of this is that God’s style of work might be slightly more in a way of adapting designs, materials and whatnot, than a creationist would be comfortable with.  This is not to say that things evolved.  This is to say that he does not mind borrowing ideas and materials from his earlier works in spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that a god-hating evolutionist might use it to demonstrate a falsehood in order to believe what he wishes to believe.

You are in an elevator going down.  You wish to believe that you are going up.  You insist that you are going up.  You ridicule those who suggest otherwise.  You look for evidence to prove your point.  Even when the evidence suggests that you’re going down, you still claim that it proves your point, because going down is still movement, and the net movement must be up.  We must be going up, because it’s the only desirable explanation for how we got this high in the first place.  At least the elevator doesn’t have windows.

Going down?





A Blaze for Glazed Eyes

7 04 2010

It’s a memory burned into my mind.  I was a little kid, watching television with my older brother and sister, when I noticed that I was the only one laughing at the punchlines.  I could imagine that the humor may not have been their style, but it begs the question as to why they were even watching it if they were not being entertained by it.  I glanced back at them and did a double-take.  They stared at the television in a hypnotic state.  Their eyes were glazed over, and they did not respond when I tried to talk to them.  This was a very creepy moment in my life.  I don’t know what it is about television that shuts people’s minds off, but I’ve heard it said that brain activity is actually greater in people who stare at a blank wall.  I have no trouble believing that.  People who watch comedies rarely laugh.  Even the laugh track is fake.  What impact does this have on us?

Every now and then we hear about how someone was brutalized in public, and no one even called the police, or how a beaten individual was left lying in the street, only to have people veer around the victim without stopping to help.  Life is just one big television to us.  No response is required.  At least, that’s a habit that we have developed.

So much so, when it comes to helping others.  More dangerously so, when it comes to helping ourselves.  I remember the first time I saw smoke in the distance, rising in the east.  There was nothing between our home and that smoke but an endless expanse of dry brush.  I wondered what could possibly stop its advance.  We made no preparations for escape.  Had it reached us, we could have lost everything.  Fortunately, it never got close.  But, we did not learn, and we were not ready the next time, either.

My next memory of that ominous cloud was to the north.  We speculated that it was a controlled burn.  We thought nothing of it.  The cloud got a little bigger, at first, but looked like it might stop altogether.  Near midnight, my mother woke me from bed, panicked.  She was telling me that we needed to evacuate.  I got up and wandered to the living room, lit eerily by the light of a fire, creeping over the nearest hill line like a blanket of lava, creeping toward our home.  Nothing lay between us but the only road out of there.  What did we do about it?  We sat there and watched it, of course.  We watched it come down to the road and stop.  Then we got in the car and drove around the perimeter of the fire, watching its advance.  At the time, the blaze was considered huge.  A mile west, it crossed the road that served as our fire break and started toward us.  For some reason, it just stopped.  Maybe it was the work of the fire crew, though they were almost entirely tied up with protecting some mansions directly in the path of the blaze.  We did not evacuate.  We were not even packed.  We had no plan at all.

The next major fire struck after I was married and moved away.  It passed my parents’ home narrowly on the south, way down at the bottom of a valley, with nothing to guard them but a two-lane highway.  The fire crew were absent.  They only stopped to warn my parents that they would not be able to do anything about it if it should come up the hill.  This was the scariest fire by far.  If the tiniest spark had crossed that road, it would have raced up the steep hillside and devoured my parents home in a moment.  And they were entirely unprepared.

All it would take is one careless driver, flicking a cigarette out the window, and there would be nothing to stop the blaze.

They were the hobby ranchers.  When disaster struck, they were left to beg friends to cross fire lines with horse trailers to save their horses.  They were left to pace and wring their hands and scramble to load their chickens, pig, rabbits, goats, sheep, dogs, parakeets, etc. into one minivan, plus whatever they could borrow.  It must have been like loading Noah’s Ark without the benefit of God’s guidance, or, for that matter, an ark.  The fire roared toward them, and it raced by them, and they watched it pass while talking on the telephone.  Nothing was ready to be saved, not even the humans.  In that same fire event, a similar woman died while waiting for someone to help her rescue her horses.  That could have been my parents’ fate, but for the mercy of God.  For that matter, it could have been my fate at one time.

The next fire that visited them was the one that got them. For the first time in their lives, they were finally prepared…mostly.  Their fire insurance company dropped them like a viper, and the next insurance agency was diligent enough to make them clear a wide swath around their home.  My father complained at the huge loss of plant life on their property, that such a large clearing would be required.  For the first time, ever, they had enough clearing to save their home and their barn.  They purchased a horse trailer.  They loaded the animals at the first sign of trouble.  They sorted and packed their most precious memorabilia.  They were ready, for once.  The only thing they had not accounted for was the fact that one horse was not accustomed to being in a trailer.  They still had to recruit the help of friends to force the horse into the conveyance.

They survived.  They got out before the blaze ripped through their property, burning everything flat for miles in all directions.  The most important structures survived.  My father laughed when he saw it, remembering his chagrin at having to clear so much brush, before.  It was all cleared, now, for miles.

The next blaze….

The next blaze will be an even bigger blaze.  No fire line will stop it.  No water will quench it.  It will burn forever, and hardly anyone will be prepared for it.  The preparation is simple.  The safety is reachable.  Yet, I somehow think that we will still all find ourselves staring at the approaching disaster, like we stared at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, or the earthquake at Haiti, or the tsunami at Sri Lanka.  We watch the world go by like we watch television.  We have become accustomed to the idea that no response is required.  The next blaze comes for everyone, urban and rural, in all manner of terrain, in any season.  The next blaze is Hell, and it will catch, is catching, the entire world unprepared.  A physical fire can destroy an entire town, yet people do not think that the spiritual one is any threat to them.  At least, they do not think it a threat to them, in particular.  So scary is the fire that destroys the body, and so fictional seems the fire that destroys souls.  When it comes, there will be no time to prepare.

I know people who get an external hard drive with automatic backup, and they think themselves prepared.  I ask them if they know how to use it, and they say they use it regularly.  I tell them that it’s fine that they know how to use it when nothing is going wrong, but do they know how to use it when their computer crashes?  Then, when the computer actually crashes, they have no idea how to recover their data, even with it all stored right there on the backup drive.  The disk is boot-able, but they don’t know how to boot from it.  In the end, surprisingly, they seem to “lose” their data just as though they had not safeguarded it.

Get ready.  No, seriously, get ready.  The barn will burn and the animals will roast.  Are you going to be ready for that disaster?  Are you really going to be ready, or are you relying on a false sense of security?  Every land has its natural disasters.  Every person gets to stare into the pit of Hell.  So few are ever ready for it when it comes.

Life is a hobby ranch and we are the ranchers.  Life is a television and we are the viewers.  We do not take it seriously enough to be truly prepared.  We hardly take it seriously enough to be truly entertained.  God, help us, for we gaze upon the blaze with glazed eyes.





Feeding the Meat Grinder

3 04 2010

The apostle, John, wrote about a time to come when people would not be able to buy or sell without the mark of the Beast.  At the time that he wrote this, people were far less dependent upon currency than they are today.  In a worst case scenario, one could always drop a line and catch a fish for dinner.  One could still do this today, but even the simple act of fishing is regulated through permits that require money to purchase.

Once, I had the remains of a neighbor.  Rather, it was the remains of his home, along with all of the telltale evidences of his former life.  His crumbling abode sat between two hills, surrounded in brush and overlooking a valley some distance below.  One of the walls had fallen to the ground, giving the home an ample view of the scenery.  Some exploration yielded an old dirt road leading up to his place, though it had become hopelessly hidden beneath foliage by the time we found it.  The more we explored the place, the more relics we found, testifying to the life of one who had come before.  He had dug himself a well and lined it with rocks.  Nearby, he constructed something resembling a barbecue pit.  Up the hill from his place, we found a pile of quartzite, which he had apparently smashed to pieces in his search for gold.

We presumed that the man was only a gold miner, until a fire swept over the property and eliminated what was left of his house.  Underneath all of that scrub we discovered that the land had been plowed into rows for farming.  Because of the fire, we also found what was left of his car, as well as a small flowerbed in front of his home, lined with rocks.  We know it was a flowerbed, because the daffodils sprouted after that fire, a living remnant of the lost legacy.  We had not seen the flowers before, but they sprouted through the ash, still growing right where they had been placed.

Public records told the rest of the story.  Our government had taken the man’s home for failing to pay his property taxes.  Rather than leave it in the hands of its owner, they took it from him and gave it to the forces of erosion in the 1940s.  Our mystery man had built a life with the intention of living off of the land.  One might easily doubt that he succeeded.  One might even propose that he had abandoned the property by the time the government took it.  This may all be true, or it may not.  Nevertheless, our man illustrates a problem that he may have failed to consider.  No matter how hard one works, or how successful a man is in providing for himself, unless he does something to actually generate cash, he cannot pay his taxes, here, and if he cannot do that, then the government will take his land.  If that happens, then he can no longer provide for himself.  Property tax is the infinite tax.  It is the tax that keeps on taking, over and over for the same thing.  It is the mortgage that can never be paid off.  Minding one’s own business and being completely independent is not an option, here.  Somehow, I do not think that this is what our founding fathers intended.

So much depends upon cash.  The government makes the stuff and gives it to us that we might add value to it and give it back.  We are the providers, giving up the meat to the civil meat grinder.  Our masters want only two kinds of citizens.  They want, most of all, the providers, providing the necessary cash value and services to feed the machine.  They also want the dependents, nursing from the great teats of the government like a newborn calf.  What they don’t want are a bunch of free spirits living off of their own land, minding their own business and doing their very best to be left alone.  The country has become more than just a territory.  It has become a machine.  Those not actively participating in the function of that machine are without any real purpose in the mind of our government.

Never mind that purpose is endowed by our creator and has no bearing on human masters.  The American government has been exempted from a national religion, for which it has substituted a public education.  The effect is still the same, but it gets around the problem of separation of church and state.  First, it came as an act of benevolence, providing education to those who could not pay for it.  Then education became mandatory.  Now, in Germany homeschooling becomes illegal.  This religious/educational institution provides all of the functions of a church, indoctrinating us as to our purpose and origins.  Without a creator, we have no innate purpose, which serves our government well.  What’s more is that it is exempted from the same rule that suppresses the competition.  The hierarchy of public educators increases in stature and influence, while the hierarchy of the church declines.  Education used to be a function of the church, and it is the very force that pulled the world out of the Dark Ages.  It is still a function of a church, but this is not the church of our forebears.  This church is the meat grinder, and we feed our children to it daily.  We give the government our offspring, and they force them into the mold.

A coworker of mine frequents the deep southern territories of Mexico, where money is a foreign and unused thing.  When he needs a place to stay, he knocks on the door of a house and they let him in and feed him.  If he were to offer them money, they would not take it.  They do not want it.  They do not need public education.  They do not need money.  They do not waste their lives away in fruitless ambition.  They live far from the meat grinder.  They neither provide the meat nor eat its hamburgers.  I cannot help but think that this is what our founding fathers envisioned.

But we are an ambitious superpower.  The pride has gone to our heads, and more so to those in power over us.  We are no longer content to sit by and merely be happy.  We must dominate, and, in so doing, we have become dominated by the greatest among us.  Non-participation is no longer an option.  We must get an education.  We must have a job that pays cash.  We must have health care.  A person who cannot pay taxes has no value.

Get into a single-file line.  Walk slowly into the grinder.  Don’t complain.  Take your number.  Take your turn.  We’ve got our society all nicely gift-wrapped for the Antichrist.  Satan would be proud.