Splitting Hares

26 10 2013

hareThe day that the hare moved into the area,  I was riding with my dad down the long driveway, with that long-legged Lepus trotting along ahead of us.  My dad grumbled something to the effect of, “There goes the neighborhood!”  By his reasoning, the presence of the faster species was a death sentence to the local rabbit population.  He wondered aloud to himself if maybe he should kill it while he still had the chance.  A rabbit was just a rabbit, to me.  I don’t know for sure, but I suspect I’m not the only person in the world who didn’t know the difference between the two.  There were simply long-legged rabbits and short-legged ones.  There were fast rabbits and even faster ones.  Until someone pointed out the differences and gave me a new word to call it by, I only saw one species.

My fellow bird watchers know what I mean.  Spend any time with someone who has never learned the names of different birds, and it becomes apparent that people who have not learned the species names cannot see the different species.  I was walking with my boss one day, and she pointed to a phoebe and asked me if it was a sparrow.  If you don’t know what they’re called, then all little birds are sparrows.  The differences that seem obvious to a bird watcher are insignificant to someone who doesn’t know one bird from another.  We’re not even talking about the differences between crows and ravens, assuming there are any.

Chinese people, Koreans, Japanese and Vietnamese are all vastly different from each other from their own point of view.  Just ask them, and they’ll tell you.  A white American can’t tell them apart:  they’re all Asians.  The differences between the nationalities seem ludicrously insignificant to the white American, even when those differences are pointed out.

So, on the one hand, while sparrows and phoebes might all seem the same to someone who only knows the name of one of them, Chinese and Japanese all seem the same to someone who has not learned to appreciate the differences, even with the categorization.  Differentiation, then, is a two-step process.  Without a new word to name the different thing, there is no grasping the existence of a different thing.  Even with the new word, there is no grasping that difference without a clear understanding of the distinction in the definition.  The general trend in our society, lately, is to eliminate these distinctions.  Smaller groups are getting lumped into larger ones, and words that used to have distinct meanings are becoming more synonymous.  The end result is that we are becoming less clear in our understanding of things in general, and we are less able to deal intelligently with life.

Eskimos were said to have had seven different words for snow.  I don’t know if they still do.  Westerners have largely civilized the native American.  We might be inclined to think of, possibly, several different textures for snow if we try hard enough.  To be honest, I don’t think I could distinguish between as many as seven.  Certainly, though, they would all be different versions of the same thing, to me.  To the Eskimo, they were seven different things.  This is not to say that they didn’t understand the fundamental connection between the different types, that they were all different forms of the same thing, but they saw greater significance in the difference.  The different types of snow were functionally different to them in ways that us southerners will never grasp.  When building a home requires a specific kind of snow, the type of snow is more than just a difference of how much the snowball hurts when it hits you.

We of the English-speaking variety have had a number of words lose their distinction lately.  Some of those words are less important, like the differences between idiots, morons and imbeciles (pre-politically correct terms later replaced, collectively by the term “retarded,” which, itself, became incorrect and was replaced by the word “developmentally challenged.”)  Most people can’t tell one term from another, and they’ve all become mere pejoratives, anyway.  Some of these words used to have more useful distinctions, however, and before we throw them forever into the smelting pot of synonymity, we might consider whether it will result in our understanding things, in general, less clearly.

Joy versus Happiness:

When I ask virtually anyone what the difference is between joy and happiness, I get a quizzical look in response.  Is there any real difference between the two?  Yet, if I ask what is the difference between depression and sadness, almost no one has trouble understanding the difference.  The reason is simply that our society is becoming better acquainted with sorrow than with joy.  Sadness is to depression what happiness is to joy.  A person can be happy but not have joy.  A person can have a moment of happiness but be depressed, overall.  Or, better yet, a person can be sad in the short run, but ultimately be joyful.  Hard as it is to understand, happy people commit suicide.  In fact, depressed people typically become quite happy once they decide to do the deed.  Joyful people never kill themselves.  Of all of the people I’ve asked, only Christians have demonstrated any grasp of the difference.  When I start to explain the difference, recognition shows on their face, and they tell me that they know what I mean.  Their joy is based on Heaven.  No matter how bad the temporary circumstances, the bigger picture is guaranteed to be bright.  A depressed person sees the opposite, that no matter how good the current circumstances, the bigger picture is always hopeless.  Some people, namely those who don’t believe in Heaven, would say that the distinction between joy and happiness is meaningless, but I would argue, why should we be more intimately knowledgeable about sadness than happiness?  We sell our joy by merging definitions.

Rights versus Entitlement:

I saw someone on a forum argue that something is a right when you like it, and it’s an entitlement when you don’t.  This ignorance is inexcusable.  Now, the terms are, lately, politically charged, so we’ll try to approach this as objectively as possible.  A right is something that you, yourself, should be permitted to do.  An entitlement is, strictly speaking, something that you should be able to have.  Because having a thing requires either getting it yourself or having someone get it for you, getting it yourself is more of a right, and true entitlement is about having others provide a thing for you.  At the outset, it would be tempting to say that rights can be good, but entitlement can never be good.  Conservatives often see it this way.  If having a thing requires making someone else provide it for me, then I would seem especially greedy to think I have a right to it.  Let’s think of it differently: if I pay cash for a new car, but I have to wait for it to be shipped from a lot in Arizona to a local lot in California, which I did recently, then I am entitled to that car.  I had a contractual agreement with the company.  If not the car, then I was at least entitled to a refund.  If someone makes me a promise in exchange for my services, then I am entitled to the fulfillment of that promise.  No conservative could argue with that.  Then, we can agree that some entitlements are acceptable.  Liberals, however, are more likely to blur the lines between rights and entitlement.  The previously mentioned forum poster did not know the difference between the two, which said everything about his political leanings.  He might say that he had a right to health care or a right to food, shelter and clothing.  He would have better said that he was entitled to health care, food, shelter and clothing.  No one was stopping him from getting those things for himself.  There was no dispute as to whether he had the right to pursue his health and happiness.  When he said that he had a right to it, what he meant was that he was entitled to it, not that he should be permitted to pursue it, but that he should get it somehow, even at the expense of others.

Personally, I’m not entirely certain that there really is such a thing as an inalienable right given to us by our creator, but only because of the fact that a man being mauled by a bear in the woods would not benefit from claiming those rights.  The bear wouldn’t understand it, and, if he could understand it would not agree with it, and God might not enforce it.  Rights really only exist within human interactions with each other.  Hence, it’s not so much a matter of my right to pursue something as it is your responsibility to let me pursue it.  In that case it comes back to one person’s expectation of another, but in a different way.  One person’s entitlement is another person’s responsibility to fulfill that entitlement.  Hence, responsibility comes into play in both cases.  Hence, the confusion.

Good versus Nice:

This one is a personal pet peeve of mine.  It’s probably the nastiest symptom of our degenerating society.  People equate being nice with being good.  The confusion of terms is so solid, now, that hardly anyone can extricate one term from the other, anymore.  War, for example, is one of the meanest things that humanity has ever committed.  Hence, all war is considered by some as the antithesis of good.  That being the case, such people are having a harder time saying that America’s involvement in World War II was a good thing, even though it meant stopping the Nazis and their ruthless murder of millions of innocent people.  We get the cliché, “War is not the answer,” because war is bad and peace is good.  War is bad, because war is not nice.  Peace is good because peace is nice.  Hence, all things nice automatically get the stamp of approval.  Spanking a child is not nice, therefore it is not good.  The child grows up to be a selfish whiny adult, but at least the parent was nice.  People in our world are incapable of imagining how a thing can be nice but not be good, or be nice and horribly evil.  Hence, the nicest thing to do with homosexuality is to condone it, and the nicest thing to do with bestiality is to condone it.  Therefore, accepting everyone’s lifestyle is good, and rejecting anyone’s lifestyle is bad, because it’s judgemental and not nice.

I wonder if the emergence of these ugly twisted pieces of metal that I find in public places, labelled as art, are the direct result of this trend.  Rejecting bad art is not nice, therefore accepting even the ugliest work of chaos is deemed good.  As a result, we get to look at ugly scrap metal instead of real art, with real beauty.  We cannot discriminate between good and bad art, because we cannot discriminate between good judgement and nice judgement.

Truth versus Fairness:

The fairest thing to do is to allow people to marry anyone, or anything, that they want, regardless of sex or species.  That’s the way things are currently heading.  It doesn’t really stop there.  The fact is, it’s fairer to let people marry or do anything that they want, at all.  If they want to flush a toilet and call it marriage, then that’s the fairest thing to do.  Get out the marriage license and file it with the county records department.  Repeat after me, “With this lever, I thee flush….”  If a man pulls up to a gas station and wants to fill his car with gas, then the fairest thing to do is to let him fill it with gas however he wants, even by sticking the nozzle up the tailpipe and squeezing the trigger.  If the pump has to be modified to make this possible, then we would write legislation mandating gas stations to provide pumps that are exhaust pipe compatible.  Never mind if the act results in the car catching on fire when the gasoline hits the catalytic converter.  Never mind if the act goes against both the design of the pump and the design of the car.  Never mind if it really serves no purpose.  The fairest thing is to let him do it, and to provide a way for him to do it, if that is his wish.  The same argument is being made about homosexuality.  It’s destructive.  It goes against the design of the machinery.  It really serves no purpose.  The fairest thing is to condone it.  The honest thing is to call it what it really is, which is vile nonsense.

The trend is, to each his own, and while it is fairer to allow all people to go their own way, there often is no effort to discern the truth of the matter, that some ways are beneficial and meaningful, and others are destructive and meaningless.  It’s one thing to let others be who they are, but it’s not the same as turning a blind eye to the reality of what they’ve chosen to become.

Excusing versus Forgiving:

When someone hurts us, we say that the Christian thing to do is to forgive that person.  That’s true, in word, but sometimes people make the mistake of excusing the evil deed, thinking that they’ve done a virtuous thing in doing so.  We can blame it on his upbringing or his troubled past.  We can delve into the dark depths of his troubled psyche to understand what drove him to hurt us.  If it brings us to vow not to retaliate, then that is forgiveness, but not if we come to it by denying that a wrong was committed in the first place.  Extreme forgiveness is often mistakenly thought of as so completely overlooking a person’s misdeeds as to say it never happened, or that it was completely understandable.  It’s not really forgiveness.  If we excuse the deed, then we say that it’s okay, because he only acted that way because of some underlying factors.  The person is no longer an actor on the stage of life.  The person becomes just one more domino in the chain reaction of cause and effect, not a perpetrator to be held accountable for his actions, but a victim, or just a medium through which a chain of events happened to pass.  The bad deed becomes nothing more than an unlucky circumstance.  There is no longer anything to forgive, because no evil has been committed.  We become nothing but unfortunate victims to the cruelty of blind fate.

Hence, it is only possible to excuse a misdeed or to forgive it, but it is not possible to do both.  Yet, too many people equate one with the other.  They think that they are forgiving when they are really excusing.  Excusing sin involves no forgiveness at all.

Righteousness versus Self-Righteousness:

There are three types of people in modern society.  There are those who comprise the vast majority, those who occasionally act out of malice or playful indiscretion, but who are, essentially, good people.  Then there are those people who, unlike the rest of us, generally prefer to act badly by default.  We can feel free to scorn these individuals.  Then, there are the self-righteous people, who are unwilling to accept any sin, and who arrange their own lives to avoid these indiscretions at all cost.

I hope you disagree with all of this.  Non-religious people never use the word “righteous” in any meaningful way.  There was a brief time when it was used by some as a byword, like “cool” or “groovy,” but secular individuals never use the word, except to compound it into the term “self-righteous.”  When asked to distinguish between righteousness and self-righteousness, about the best that they do to explain is that righteousness is really being good, while self-righteousness is only thinking you’re good and condemning everyone who’s not as good as you, which makes you really bad.  Having said that, the closest that they can come to defining righteousness is equating it with being nice (not saying that anyone else is being unrighteous), and doing your own thing without hurting anyone else, which is just another way of being nice.  Their use of terminology blows the cover off of their lie.  They never use the word, because they don’t believe in the concept, in reality, that true righteousness is real and something worth striving for.

Christians are most often the victims of the term “self-righteous,” but Christians are the inventors of the term.  We, acknowledging our own inability to define and achieve righteousness, created the term of self-righteousness to identify those people who invent their own standard and attempt to, and sometimes even succeed in, achieving that standard.  What they achieve is not really righteous, nor is it particularly lofty.  About all it does is make them arrogant.  Hence, the secularist has the right idea in thinking that self-righteousness causes haughtiness.  However, the secularist has no concept of righteousness, the pursuit of God’s standard of righteousness, which no human can fulfill by his or her own power but can, with God’s help, develop habits in that direction.  The secularist has no concept of that, therefore all righteousness is self-righteousness.  There is no distinction between the two for someone who doesn’t understand their meaning.

One might argue, what’s wrong with pursuing a higher standard than one’s self?  Why not strive for something better?  Why should the pursuit of excellence be an insult?  One might argue that if faulty humans define righteousness for themselves, then the end result is not that humans will better themselves to reach it, but that the standard will be lowered to where people already are.  No one need aspire to anything better.  If you say you’re there, then you’re already there.  We’re all a bunch of dirty pigs rolling around in the same sty and the same mud.  The one who tries to leave, who takes a bath, makes the others feel dirty.  No matter how vile the deed or foolish the thought, if everyone else is doing it and thinking it, then it feels normal.  If even one person calls it what it is, he upsets the apple cart and makes us hate him.  If he strives for something better, then we insult him.  If he actually succeeds at it (Heaven forbid), we punish him.  If he starts to change the status quo, bringing others to his way of thinking, changing the definition of “normal,” then we kill him.


The Human Wave, and Isometric Exercise

18 06 2012

I find myself in the weight room, curling my XXX pound weight, with a vigorous male next to me pumping the weights like he needs it to power his home.  I’m on my first rep, and he pounds out his first five.  I’m still on my first rep, and he pulls the weight another five, in rapid succession.  By the time he finishes with his entire set, I’m still on my first rep, and I can tell he’s waiting for me to finish so he can use the machine that I’m on.  I’m thinking the guy could go easier on the machine and save his joints if he’d replace the quick and powerful reps with more weight.  It has the exact same effect. I’d also like to explain to him the virtues of isometrics, but seeing that he already doesn’t understand simple physics, I’m reluctant to engage him on the matter of physiology.  After about fifty seconds, I finally finish my set, rewarding me with one and only one rep.  I raised and lowered the bar only once, and I’m fairly certain I got more exercise for having done so.  Raising the weight a great number of times makes a person feel that more work has been accomplished.  Holding the weight in place seems about as productive as putting it on a table and counting to ten.

This brings us to an important question raised by a fellow student in one of my classes in college, years ago.  Exactly, how is it that a table can hold a weight four feet off of the ground and utilize no energy, but a man cannot hold the same weight four feet above the ground for more than a few seconds without getting completely exhausted?  This question was asked in a physics class, by a business student.  I might add that the student had to be a genuine genius to have posed such an insightful question in a subject far removed from his own specialty.  The physics teacher did not answer the question.  He had no answer.  The question could not be answered strictly with physics math.  No energy is being expended on an object that remains stationary, no matter what holds it, human or table.  At least, that’s what the math says.  So the professor turned to the class and asked if there were any biology students who could answer the question, and I gave the answer.

I came across the question on the internet, once.  It was posted as a physics question.  Naturally, experts in physics were the primary respondents.  They all gave the same answer that no energy is expended in the effort to hold a barbell up, so long as it is not being raised higher.  This, of course is false.  Simply stated, the human muscle is incapable of holding anything in one position.  It contracts at a single speed, and it relaxes.  In order to contract slower, it must intersperse contraction with a little relaxation.  The muscle contracts and relaxes very rapidly, on a microscopic scale.  In order to hold an object in a stationary position, it must balance the contractions and relaxations very carefully, so that the muscle vibrates rapidly, back and forth on that microscopic scale.  In truth, the weight is never really being held in one place.  A human muscle can do no such thing apart from death and rigor mortis.  At death, when energy is deprived of the muscle, it locks in position, and then it could hold a weight in a stationary position with no added energy.

So, at the end of my set, I’m not sure whether to say that I’ve completed one rep or several million reps.  The second one sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  In the first ten weeks I doubled my strength.  I lift the weight to the optimal angle, where the muscle is at its strongest because the entire muscle is engaged.  For most joints, that’s about a ninety-degree angle.  For shoulders, it’s about a forty-five degree angle from the torso.  Some web sites suggest using the least advantageous angle, but I’m fairly certain they’re wrong.  Many web sites also suggest that holding the weight at one angle improves strength only at that angle, but I have not found this to be true.  Just to be on the safe side, I very slowly lower the weight at the end of the rep, in order to exercise a wider range.  To be fair, though, this method, called isometric exercise, has a disadvantage.  In real life, picking up an object requires a whole system of muscles, with different ones being employed in stages during its ascent.  Holding that weight in one place generally only uses a few muscles, and if a machine is involved, it might only use just one muscle per arm.  Despite my increased strength, I found my strength unchanged in real-life activities, so I had to be more careful about maintaining an exercise regimen that included more muscle groups, which amounted to significantly more time in the weight room.

The difference between a human and a table, or a human and any inanimate object, is that in every aspect the human body is thoroughly dynamic.  Muscles are either building or deteriorating.  Actually, they do both at the same time.  Bones are being built up and torn down at the same time.  Enzymes are being assembled and destroyed simultaneously.  Nothing in the body remains in any one stable configuration for any length of time, prior to death.  A rock, on the other hand, mostly maintains the same chemicals and chemical bonds throughout its existence, minus the superficial erosion.  A human body is never exactly the same at any two moments in time.

Similarly, a wave in the ocean is a dynamic thing.  Like the body, substances flow into and out of a wave.  The body of a wave is not composed of any set of atoms.  In fact, like the human body, the moment that new substances cease to enter it and old substances cease to leave it, it ceases to be what it was.  Stop breathing and you die.  Stop eating or defecating and you die.  The wave moves through the ocean, from one batch of water molecules to another, like the human body moves through life, from one batch of carbon-based molecules to another.  Hence, the question, “What is a human?” seems, at first glance, to resemble the question, “Is light a particle or a wave?”  A human is not a particle.  Instead, we are defined by what we do, rather than by what we are.  The moment we stop doing anything, we stop being human.  Likewise, the moment a wave stops doing anything, it stops being a wave.  We are not a thing.  We are an action.  We don’t lose part of ourselves with every exhalation.  The substances that leave us were only the temporary medium that supported the action.  Food, water and air are to us what water is to a wave, what air is to a sound wave.

With a human, there is no real stasis.  There is no such thing as doing nothing.  Only a corpse does nothing.  In fact, a corpse is really no different from any of the other substances we excrete daily.  It is merely a mass of substance through which the action once moved.

So a man who pushes against a wall is not doing nothing.  Despite having no net effect on the wall, he is still exerting energy, and he is still getting his exercise.  The man who raises and lowers a weight repetitively may think he is doing more than the one pushing against the wall, but not only does he still have no net effect, after doing and undoing his actions every time, but he actually gets less exercise, because he is not exerting maximal force, and his muscles are only passing through their optimal point, not hovering there.

As I’m exercising, though, I can’t help but imagine two worms munching on my corpse after the end of my life, and I can’t help but wonder if they’ll really appreciate the finer quality of meat that I’m giving them.

I shake my head to clear that thought.  I concentrate on getting those substances into my system and out of my system, that the wave may continue onward, growing steadily as it approaches the shore…

…where it will beat itself to death on the rocks and cease to exist.  Ah, nuts.  Pass me a donut.

The Target that Hit the Bullet

28 05 2012

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that the suspect is sitting in the witness stand, giving testimony on his behalf.  The defense attorney, of course, is about ready to crawl under the table and do himself in, because he knows his client is guilty and, to make matters worse, exceptionally foolish.  With great animation and apparent self-confidence, the accused explains that he did not, in fact, cause the bullet to fly from his gun at the victim (may he rest in peace).  Rather, the victim, reckless man that he was, actually rode the rotation of the Earth straight into the bullet.  Because the gun was fired in a westerly direction, the bullet was essentially released in a stationary position, and the accused did nothing at all to propel that bullet toward that victim.  Even after the jury hands down its verdict, the defense attorney scuttles out of the room in shame and the bailiff begins to drag the man off to prison, the accused is still shouting at the top of his lungs that he is not to blame if someone else manages to impale himself on a stationary object left behind by him.  The argument, you see, is that the Earth is not stationary, but that it actually rotates.  In fact, it does so at considerable speed, even  to the point of negating the velocity of the bullet.  The jury, without even realizing it, makes their judgment based on the premise that the Earth is stationary and the universe revolves around it.  Otherwise, the bullet never moved, because the gun was fired toward the west.

After writing that last paragraph, I had to walk down the hall and get a cup of coffee.  Incidentally, the cost of coffee has gone up so much that I’ve resorted to doing something that I swore I’d never do again, which is to buy a generic brand.  So, as I’m walking back with the brew that will likely make me sick to my stomach, I might have wondered if I was walking in a westerly direction.  Actually, I did not worry about that at all.  The fact of my movement down the hall was, however, a matter of speculation.  You see, we judge the movement of an object by the change of its location relative to its surroundings.  I knew that I was walking down the hall, because the bigger picture, the whole rest of my environment, appeared to be moving with respect to me.  Excuse me, I mean to say that I was moving with respect to the rest of my environment.  In the early geocentric world, all things were judged with respect to the Earth, because the Earth and everything on it was the bigger picture.  If your location (or your bullet’s location) moved with respect to the Earth, then we would have said that you (or it) moved.  Of course, we’re wiser, now.  Our horizons have broadened, and we realize that there’s a great big universe out there.  The background, the bigger picture and the surrounding environment are now the universe, as a whole.  We say that the universe is stationary and the Earth is moving.  To say otherwise would require an even bigger picture by which to judge the movement of the universe.

A former coworker of mine was poring over the diagrams of the Ptolemaic model of the universe, the geocentric view, and he marveled at how stunningly elegant the designs were.  In truth, it took a great deal of math and mental stamina to follow and diagram the movements of the heavenly bodies according to a geocentric view.  I responded that it was, actually, possible to think of the universe in geocentric terms, but it required a great deal more math, and the description was a heck of a lot more complicated.  He looked at me with a startled expression, not quite that I was mad, but that I had challenged his most basic assumptions.  I hereby renounce any responsibility for his admission to a psychiatric ward shortly thereafter; it was a preexisting condition, and I had nothing to do with it.  We often mistakenly think of the heliocentric model as the simplest explanation of how the universe works, but we would be wrong.  It’s actually not an explanation of anything.  It is a description, but not an explanation.  The whole model depends, very heavily, upon an understanding of the nature of gravity.  While we know much about what gravity does, we know absolutely nothing about what it is.  Much speculation exists as to the cause of gravity, but there seems to be no good evidence, or even any bad evidence, to suggest that any of it may be true.  The rule of thumb (Occam’s razor) is that the simplest explanation is usually the best.  We don’t have any explanation, so we’ve settled with the next best thing, which is the simplest description.  Heliocentrism is the simplest description, because it uses the least math to tell us what to expect from moving objects in the universe.  The description for geocentrism is far more complicated than the description for heliocentrism.  Therefore, heliocentrism is deemed correct, and geocentrism is deemed a falsehood.

Yet, despite all of that, the jury, which claims to believe solely in heliocentrism, still convicts the man on a geocentric reasoning, that being the same geocentrism that they would in any other setting have called a complete falsehood.  While heliocentrism may be technically true, it is only practically true to astrophysicists.  While geocentrism may be technically false, it is practically true for everyone in every situation but space exploration.  In fact, a small amount of geocentrism exists even for an astronaut standing on the moon, because the Earth is still the center of his universe.  We still say that the sun rises, never giving the slightest care to the fact of the Earth’s rotation.  If I hit you, then you don’t care which direction I’m swinging and whether or not you technically hit my fist with your face.  Either way, I need to start running before you come to your senses.

As I’m running, two things at once become very clear to me.  The first is that I haven’t been getting enough exercise and will likely not outlast you, but this is largely irrelevant.  The second is that you really do care which way I swung my fist; you just don’t care which way it was in relation to the Earth or its rotation.  This brings us to an even more practical, yet highly incorrect, technically, view of the universe, which is an egocentric one.  Suddenly, I realize that I never called it a sunrise because of geocentric notions.  I don’t really care what it’s doing in Japan unless I happen to be in Japan.  I don’t look at a sunset and say, “Oh, look at the Indian sunrise!” because I neither know nor care what it happens to be doing for the Indians, or the Pakistanis, or the Iranians.  You, likewise, are not really shocked that I hit someone, or that I hit in a direction other than West (though, we all know by now that I ought to be forgiven if it happened to be West).  No, the only directions you know are relative to your own person.

When I was a baby, I thought the whole universe revolved around me.  When I got older, I learned on my own that it did not.  With education, I learned that the universe does not even revolve around the Earth.  With a higher education, a divine one, I learned that the universe does not even revolve around itself.  As previously stated, we judge the motion of an object by its change in location relative to its surroundings, the bigger picture.  Beyond the confines of this universe is God.  The universe is contained only within God.  Therefore, while egocentrism is more practical than geocentrism, which is more practical than heliocentrism, and while heliocentrism is technically more correct than either of them, theocentrism is the card that trumps them all.  When we were egocentric little babies, as some of us still seem to be, all things related to our own personal needs, yet the whole world was largely out of our control.  When we grew into geocentrists, as kids, we had a better handle on the world, but we still lacked maturity.  As heliocentrists, we of the adult world have maturity, but, like the baby, there still exists that outside element of our own destiny, which not only eludes us but utterly terrifies us.  The world may come to an end by collision with an asteroid, or the world may come to an end by environmental disaster, and no one can say otherwise.  When limited to heliocentrism, this way of thinking is true in a practical sense, though it is not technically true.  Practically speaking, it could happen, but in the big picture, things are not really so far out of control as that.  The universe does not revolve mindlessly around itself.  The relationship of I and the Earth is such that I revolve around the Earth.  The relationship of the Earth and the universe is similar, and the universe does not revolve around the Earth.  Likewise, God does not revolve around the universe, but if his attention is fixed on the Earth, and the Earth abides with God, then, from the biggest picture of all, the universe really does seem to revolve around the Earth, not that the Earth is really its focal point, but that the Earth happens to be aligned with the ultimate focal point.  The same could be said for human individuals.  Does the universe revolve around a person?  No, but it revolves around God, who may abide with that person, having a similar effect.  Looking at the universe as the biggest picture still convinces us that we are merely lost in space, but looking at God as the biggest picture, space becomes the moving object, while the human being remains stationary, so long as God is with him.  It’s a coincidental alignment.  People feel like the center of the universe and know that they are not, but still, the original impression might lie closer to the truth than realized.

This brings us to the problem of destiny.  The truth of the matter is that there are really two polar-opposite meanings of the word.  One is egocentric and the other is theocentric.  I could say that God has called me to be a prophet, or that I am destined to do something great, or that I am destined to take over the world, or that it is my divine mission to eradicate the world of an unwanted race of people.  All of these things, from pastor and prophet to emperor and mass-murderer, are a product of the egocentric meaning of destiny.  It’s a question of what God has planned for me.  God revolves around self.  Really, it’s a very practical outlook.  The world’s most successful people tend to live on that kind of a sense of destiny.  It’s also untrue.  It’s only good until things go wrong, or worse, when life turns out to be extra-ordinary, instead of extraordinary.  Where is the destiny, then?

Destiny as a theocentric view takes a different meaning.  No matter who you are or what you do, the world does not revolve around you, and the universe does not revolve around your planet.  You can rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic, but it still ends up sinking.  You can institute environmental policies and struggle to save the Earth, but life on Earth still comes to an end, and the sun eventually winks out.  In the end, the bigger picture wins.  Earth trumps the human.  The sun trumps the Earth, and God trumps everything.

Destiny is a paradox.  When I say that I sawed a piece of wood in two, you might imagine that the log was held in place while I dragged the saw back and forth on it.  With destiny, the reverse is true.  I held the saw in place with a vise and dragged the wood back and forth on it.  Either way, the result is the same (except that the second way left me badly in need of a bandage).  Did you do the act because it was your destiny, or did you do it because you chose to?  Did you shoot the bullet at the victim, or did the victim fly eastward and hit the bullet?  In the end, no jury changes its mind about your guilt because of the higher understanding.  It was your destiny, and you chose to do it.  You shot the gun at the victim and he flew eastward at you, piercing himself on your motionless projectile.  Still, you are punished because you chose to do it.  You are punished because you shot the gun.  Galileo is in the restroom at the moment, and he isn’t here to defend you.

The screaming continues down the corridor, something about the speed of the Earth’s rotation as it relates to the circumference of that line of latitude, versus the speed of a bullet, but the door shuts and we hear nothing more.  All rise….

Modernists’ Angels

5 04 2011

Oh, but the modernist can accept angels, only on his own terms.  Robin Parrish, a current writer of Christian fiction, or, I should say, writer of fiction marketed as Christian (according to him),  wrote a novel called Nightmare, essentially a fictionalized telling of various known ghost stories from around the continental United States.  What, at first, appears to be a very pre-modern plot about angels, demons, ghosts and other paranormal phenomena, ends in a climax of an entirely modernistic nature.  In his story, men have learned how to harvest and bottle the human soul.  All of this requires special materials, special machinery, several hundred life-support systems and a full lexicon of spirit-controlling hieroglyphs.  In essence, he took the magic of the supernatural and brought it under the dominion of everyday science, though it be a purely imaginary one.  Somehow, when the world of angels and demons falls into the realm of the test tube and the litmus paper, it ceases to be the very thing that made it special: it ceases to be magic.

The modernist will forever reject the supernatural, until he finds a way to manipulate it and control it, just like so many other things.  Then, not only will he believe it, but he will state that the existence of such things are an absolute fact.  He will not be reverent of them, and he will teach us to be equally irreverent.  Fortunately, the supernatural lies forever outside of his grasp.  Spiritual things are not physical, therefore they cannot be studied as physical things.  A permanent barrier leaves the modernist in ignorant bliss, while protecting us from yet another technology that threatens to wipe us off the face of the earth.

Occasionally, we may meet a student of public broadcasting who will tell us that the Bible could not have been accurately copied for thousands of years.  He tells us that we accept it blindly, on faith, that we call it inerrant simply because we want to believe that it is so.  The quickest way to shut him up is to tell him that there is a field of science called textual criticism, whereby the oldest codices, actual thousand-year-old parchment, are compared with each other to determine what the original text actually said.  Considering that our recent translations are based on that very same science, he doesn’t have much to stand on.  He puts his faith in science.  More to the point, he puts his faith in processes subdued by mortal men.

Magic can be seen simply as technology that is not understood or fully grasped by the human mind.  The assumption is that it actually cannot be contained.  Take a person from a thousand years ago and go on a walk through a field just as the pop-up sprinklers activate.  To him, that’s magic.  Mushrooms mysteriously sprout from the ground and begin watering the plants.  Such a person would either be struck dumb or run in terror.  The monitor in front of your face, the ability to talk with people anywhere in the world, the chance to board a flying airship and travel the world, such things are magic…no, they’re just technology.  Ah, but if I could say the magic word and turn you into a toad, now that would be magic.

The problem with magic, real magic, is that not even the person wielding it has a complete grasp on what it is she’s doing.  The witch uses superhuman powers, she thinks, but she does not reconcile the fact that she is only human, and she does not understand her work well enough to think of it as technology.  If it seems like magic to her, then it’s because it really isn’t her magic.  It’s the magic of a demon.  If it’s yours, then it isn’t magic to you.  If you think you wield magic, then you aren’t really the one wielding it, sucker.

On the other hand, the modernist wishes to turn all things into technology, or else reject them.  Hence, the modernist would take that which is not his and possess it.  That which he could not possess, he would reject as mere myth.  Here we have the original sin repeated in Technicolor.  The domain of God is…well, he has no domain, in the modern mind.  Is the spirit the possession of God?  If so, then it does not exist, and if not, then we can manipulate it, harvest it and do what we want with it.  That is to say that a modernist can deal with angels only if he can find a way to make an angelic handgun and hold them for ransom.  So long as he is helpless in the world of the spirit, he is certain that the spirit does not exist.  Miracles follow the same line of thinking.  Miracles that come from God are fake, to the modernist, but miracles that come from men are real.  The only difference is in the possession.  God gave us the whole earth and everything on it to subdue and claim dominion.  Yet, we would have what God has not given us, or, having failed at that, we would reject the very existence of the thing that we cannot accept, the thing that we cannot have.

If you could put a demon in a bottle and sell it at the dollar store for a buck, then this world might believe in demons.  If the demon could put you in a bottle and sell you at the market for half a farthing, then you only need medication.  It’s all in the wielding of power.

This world does have its own version of the angel, though.  It’s called the outer-space alien.  In it, you have an intelligent creature from without, influencing us with power that we do not have, formed in an image that we have not learned, but the alien creature lives by technology, and that technology can be learned.  The difference between the alien and the angel is in the potential to subdue.  It’s all in the wielding of power.  The modernist can accept the alien, because the modernist can have some hope of assimilating its magic and subduing it.  No such hope exists over angels.

The modernist is obsessed with power.  The modernist does not want a God that he must fear.  He wants the whole Garden of Eden, its forbidden fruit, the angels and God, himself.  What he can’t own, what he can’t hope to own, he would rather pretend does not exist.

Hat tip to Nina Stone.

The Murder of Kairos, and the Illusion of Time

17 01 2011

“The illusion of time” is a concept making its way across the internet, stated mostly by people who don’t really know what is meant by it, much less who started it.  So we’ll get out with the basics of the matter firstly.

Hawking, that great master of intellect, who has yet to think of anything useful, made the assertion that time is an illusion, meaning not that time doesn’t exist, but that our travel through time is just a product of our brain function.  He would say that time exists, but that we do not travel through it, and it is non-linear.  More to the point, he has embraced the first dimension of time and rejected the second.

To be fair, our travel through time, the fact that we pass along the time line seems to suggest that we exist at different places in time at different times.  Now, it is 3:00, but soon I will be at 3:01.  Hawking would argue that we exist both at 3:00 and 3:01 at the same time, if that isn’t a self-contradiction.  To a degree, he’s right, that I exist at both of those times.  Historically speaking, I do.  The fact of the matter, though, is that I can only be at one of those times at any given time.  He calls it an illusion.  I call it a profound truth, missed by a celebrated intellectual.

The idea of two-dimensional time is not a new one.  The ancient Greeks called these two forms of time Kairos and Chronos.  As a way of remembering them, they are personified as mythical beings.  Chronos is what we would know as the traditional time line, like what might be marked on a calendar.  Kairos is the second dimension of time, that instantaneous moment at which we exist right now.  Kairos is represented as a winged man with the back of his head shaved.  He runs by, and we attempt to grab him by his hair.  Once he is past, even slightly, we have nothing to hold on to.  Kairos is the symbol of our journey through time.  We see each infinitely small span of time for an infinitely small span of time.  We can only just barely utilize it, and only but for an instant.

In a previous post, which also references an even earlier post, Here and Now…, I go into a more detailed explanation of what is meant by a second dimension to time.  In a nutshell, there is an important distinction between saying that I exist in the future, as in, I will exist in the future, versus saying that I exist in the future as in saying that I am there right now.  There are two different ways to be in the future.  So long as I’m still alive by then, then I exist in that time.  That’s different than saying that I’m there right now.  In terms of Chronos, I am in the future.  In terms of Kairos, I am not in the future.  Hawking has taken upon himself the role of executioner, and he wishes to murder Kairos.  The real question is why.

Modern science, a strategy that attempts to fully understand the physical world as a means of deliberately overlooking the spiritual, by its very nature rejects the most obvious thing of all, which is human experience.  Descartes, who often is seen as a forefather of empiricism, ironically determined that experience was the original premise.  “I think, therefore I am,” is not so much relevant to the nature of my thoughts, as it is the fact that I had one.  It is therefore with a great deal of sarcasm that I observe the self-proclaimed defenders of empiricism abolishing the only thing I really know for certain, the obvious fact that I am experiencing something, even if it is an illusion.

Kairos was targeted for murder for the simple reason that Kairos is spiritual, whereas Chronos is strictly physical.  Chronos is safe, and useful for various physical tasks that can be calculated through standard math.  No one really questions the existence of Chronos.  Kairos, the perception that we are traveling through time, is threatening, because it means we are at different places in time at different times.  Where I am now in time is a constantly changing location, and it makes absolutely no sense from a strictly physical worldview, such as modernism.  It means that not only is there a secondary time, by which we judge our progression through the more conventional physical time, but it means that there is something that exists beyond the physical, riding the physical world like a wave.  If there is Kairos, then there is spirit.  If there is spirit, then there might reasonably be an afterlife.  If so, then there might be no escape, neither from troubles, from judgment nor from God.

Hawking is on a rampage to kill God once and for all.  To do so, he must effectively kill the human spirit and all things beyond his reductionist atheistic worldview.  He intends to murder God, Kairos, and even his own spirit.  In the end, he might escape God, lose Kairos and spiritually die in that afterlife for which he is destined, which is to say that he might largely succeed.

I, for one, am inclined to think that, were it not for greater minds than Hawking, he would not have enough technology to make him anything more than a drooling cripple.  His whole life is propped up by the inventions of “lesser” minds, people who actually conceived of something practical and true.  Hawking is nothing but a story teller.  He overawes people by speaking a language that they don’t understand, to convey ideas that they cannot disprove.  But the fact is that there is a limitless supply of fantastic ideas that cannot be disproved.  We tend, all too often, to put the burden of proof on the negative assertion, rather than the positive.  I can say that the entire universe is contained within a huge eggshell, too massive to be seen.  It goes against intuition, but it would be hard to disprove, because it could always be just out of sight.  To say that time is an illusion is also counter-intuitive, and it also cannot be disproved, because no matter what I say I observe, my observations could be nothing but a product of that illusion.  The burden of proof should always be on the positive assertion.  Until we know for certain that Hawking is right, we assume he is wrong.

And he has a lot to be wrong about.  His whole life is a string of fantasies about things that are far out of reach, but the underlying theme behind it all is his drive to kill God.  When we know what motivates a man, we ought to mistrust any reasoning of his that furthers that motivation.  Just because he implies that Kairos doesn’t exist doesn’t make it true.  It only means that greater minds are dead and unable to defend themselves.

The Problem with Divination

29 06 2010

A man came back from vacation telling of his trip to the top of Half Dome, a great mountain of rock with a sheer cliff on one side.  According to him, a man was seen feeding a marmot by placing the tidbit on his foot and offering it to the small furry creature.  The marmot, used to the generosity of humans, approached the man and gratefully took the piece of food.  A second later, the man kicked the poor animal right off the edge of the sheer cliff, where it fell to its death.  “Don’t feed the animals,” the park rangers say.  In fact, they’ll land you with a hefty fine if they catch you doing it.  Few people understand the harm done by taming the wildlife.  When the cute little beast approaches you with his plaintive pitiable stare, you might find yourself offering a piece of your granola bar, or a small morsel of trail mix.  What harm could it do?  The poor thing is starving, and it was brave enough to beg from a human.  It behaves as though it were your own pet, and, in a sense, that’s exactly what it has become.  You certainly wouldn’t hurt the little creature.  You know I wouldn’t hurt it.  Most people would not dream of harming it.  But while its trust in you may be well-founded, it’s trust in the next hiker is a gamble.

Rattlesnakes are dangerous, but squirrels are safe.  Is a human safe?

Up in a small town called Sierra City, there lies a small pond teeming with trout.  Next to the pond stands a gumball machine that dispenses food for the fish.  All day, people buy a handful of pellets for a quarter, tossing them in, one at a time, for the merriment of watching the fish attack the bait.  Most of the people who visit the pond would not harm the fish.  To them, the fish are a joy to watch and a pleasure to feed.  Sometimes, a person comes to the pond with a fishing rod.  They aren’t there for more than a couple of seconds before getting a bite from some unsuspecting fish.  Where humans were known to be harmless, the fish swallowed anything that they were fed, and they did it aggressively.  The safe humans made life more dangerous for the fish by teaching them to trust humans, in general, and unsafe humans, in particular.

A scorpion is dangerous.  A polar bear is dangerous.  A black widow is dangerous.  A hummingbird is safe.  A rabbit is safe.  A mouse is safe, even if it is a pest.  Is a human safe?

Generalizations can be made about each species with regard to its relative safety to other species.  In fact, generalizations can be made about the temperament of each species if it is wild, or each breed if it is domesticated.  If a squirrel were to ask you if you were safe, you might say “yes,” and you might be telling the truth.  What the animal may not realize is that while one human may be safe, then next one, a kid with a new bee-bee gun, might pose a serious hazard, even if his aim is bad.  Animals are predictable creatures, and they expect the same from other animals.  Humans, on the other hand, display a unique tendency toward individualism.  That is to say we have a propensity to make our own decisions and carve out our own nature, independent of the nature of our species, as a whole.  If you don’t believe me, just ask the marmot.

The human marmot is a woman who attempts to communicate with her guardian angel.  It is a boy who tries to use his Ouija Board to contact the spirit world.  They beg and they plead, and if they got what they wanted, then they would learn to beg and plead more fearlessly.  Most of the angels are faithful to God.  Only a third rebelled with Satan, and yet, on any given day if a person managed to get a message from the other world through active divination, that message would almost always be from an evil one.  The reason is simple.

Are angels safe?

Angels have one thing in common with humans that they have in common with nothing else.  They had and have the ability to choose between good and evil, and some, but not all, have chosen evil over good.  They cannot be generalized as a species in the same way that humans cannot be generalized as a species.  That being the case, anything that a good angel feeds an eager audience merely serves to make people more vulnerable to the fallen angels.  As I have said before, we are clearly at a disadvantage in our relationship to the spirit realm.  Unless we approach the matter with a healthy dose of fear, we stumble blindly into a dark room with lions and lambs.

A divine law has been set that, except under special circumstances, the angels are not to feed bits of communication to the humans, lest they become tame and vulnerable.  Unlike the human campers, the angels tend to do as they’re told.  That’s the problem with divination: invite the spirit world to your party and the demons will come to crash it.  I do say facetiously that the angels are commanded not to participate in our divination.  This I cannot verify, except to say that the outcome of such involvement would be certain evil.  God has commanded us not to engage in divination, and one must consider that no good being would encourage disobedience to God.

The problem with humans is that they cannot be generalized as safe or unsafe.  The same is true for spirits.  The problem with divination is that only the evil ones respond.  The good thing about divination, ironically, is that only the evil ones respond, which keeps the sanest among us leery of anything that comes from it.

Disposable Man

30 05 2010

Somewhere on the streets of gold a man does not walk, though he might have.  He was not born into that world.  He never walked there.  He was discarded from there before he ever arrived.

Somewhere in a dark alley on Earth, another disposable man also does not walk.  He was never born into this world, much less reborn into the next.  Perhaps, he was murdered in the womb, discarded before he ever arrived.

Then again, perhaps he never even arrived in the womb.  Maybe his parents used effective contraception.  Perhaps they abstained altogether.  The parents were too busy to marry, or they rejected each other, not knowing that they rejected their own destiny.

Disposable Man had no say in his own parentage, whether he would be born at all.  Had he been born, he would have had no say in his own death.  No degree of effort could prevent his passing.  Somewhere in between the two, between the cradle and the grave, we presume that he would have had the autonomy to choose his destiny, and yet, that destiny may have been the beginnings, or lack thereof, of yet another Disposable Man.  The part in the middle, where we assume he had free will, another is born into the world by destiny through the actions of an autonomous man.  Perhaps we presume too much.

When a woman aborts her child, we say that she has murdered another human being, and rightly so.  She assumes the right to live, and she attributes to her child the duty to be discarded.  The child is disposable, but she is not.  From before conception the baby had no identity at all.  Had she abstained from sex, it would not have existed.  She would not have been guilty of murder, because nothing existed to be murdered.  So much weight is given to sentience.  Some would say that the death of a human does not matter before it is fully conscious enough to realize that it is getting ripped apart.  At what point does the human soul enter the body?  As far as I know, I am the only one for whom it ever has.  I cannot study or know the soul of a single other human on the planet, any more than I could travel to a parallel universe.  People are islands, entire universes separated from each other by uncrossable chasms.  I only know that I have a soul, because I experience the act of living.

The woman who wishes to kill justifies her act, essentially, on the notion that the soul of the baby has not yet arrived, does not exist.  Yet, no one can know if or when it ever does.  She can only know the existence of her own soul, and this is the crux of the matter.  She was the only person that concerned her, anyway.  Abortion is, at heart, a postmodern problem.  The modernist, at least, can see the creation of a new human within the womb, because the modernist is obsessed with the physical world.  What can be studied can be believed.  But the postmodernist is obsessed with the highly internal world of the mental universe, those events and experiences which capture the soul.  If she does not feel it, then she does not care.  As postmodernism grows, so does the industry of infanticide.

A pastor need only mention the word, abortion, and we can see certain women in the congregation squirming in their seats, as though the truth were trying to crawl right out of their wombs where they sat.  But there can be forgiveness.  If Paul The Apostle can make a living at murdering masses of believers, yet repent and walk straight into Heaven, then there is hope for any of us.

Otherwise, the mother of the Disposable Man may find herself disposable in the next life.

What of the man who was never conceived?  He may have more in common with the everyday man than any might recognize.  The one who fails to live the entire nine months of gestation may only live a few weeks, but the elderly man who dies after a century still dies.  Both are soon forgotten.  As we approach eternity, both lifespans approach nothingness.  A man of any lifespan gradually becomes a Disposable Man.  If he is not born again into eternity, then he is lost before he even began.  He is like the man who never existed.

Coming into existence was always a matter of destiny.  It always comes about by an act of God, being entirely beyond us.  This remains as true for the second birth as for the first.  And so, our Disposable Man does not wander the streets like a haunting ghost.  He ceases  to exist without a trace.

At the top of this page is a picture.  Look again.  Is something missing?  Was it ever there?  Something is desperately missing from that picture, gone as though it had never existed.  It is Disposable Man, and it may be you.