Carte Blanche Philosophy

5 09 2010

Bed and breakfast inns are a hobby of mine.  With most things in life, I think like a middle class citizen: I look to buy things that give me the most for what I pay.  Lower class mentality looks for the cheapest options.  Middle class seeks value, and upper class simply seeks out the best things.  When it comes to lodging, I tend to break out of my middle class mentality and splurge a little.  We all have something like that.  For my grandmother, it was perfume.   For some people it’s a nice car.  For me its a nice inn.

In a lovely coastal town there sat a lovely little inn, famous for having been there almost as long as the town.  The inn, over-all, was first-rate, with heated towel racks, an oak-paneled lobby with a small library of books, complete with armchairs that squeaked like some ancient thing from a bygone era.  In the morning, we found our way to the parlor, where we were to be served the second B of our B & B.  Usually, the host might ask us for the specific way in which we preferred to have a meal prepared, or else we might be served whatever the host had already prepared.  Usually, that’s what happens in these places.  Surprisingly, this host entered the parlor, clasped her hands together and asked us, without preface, what we would like for breakfast.  My first thought was how amazing it was that we might be served whatever we asked for.  My next thought was that, despite my experience with a variety of delicious offerings at other places, I could not, for the life of me, recall the names of those exotic dishes.  The following thought was that, even if I could remember what they were called, it was highly unlikely that the man in the kitchen could possibly serve up a single plate of any of them at a moment’s notice, even if he were the world’s most renown chef.  Therefore, I must assume that while the menu was theoretically limitless, there still had to be some practical limits to what could actually be prepared.  When I asked what could be made, the answer revealed to me that very little was really on the menu at all.  I ended up eating french toast for breakfast each day.  The paucity of options was disguised by the open-ended question.

In a typical restaurant, we might have the luxury of choosing from a list of repasts.  In a very small establishment, like a B & B, the customers are so few that the proprietor cannot afford to avail an entire list of options.  Instead, we typically get the single option handed to us on a menu the size of a business card, which is often mounted in a special holder near the middle of the table.  Now, the first menu appears, at the outset, to be the better of the two.  We are offered, first and foremost, the luxury of choice.  Unfortunately, what this means is that the odds are not so good that we might happen to choose the best item on the list.  We must resign ourselves to an inferior dish, perhaps.  When the menu consists of a single option, the onus is on the host to choose the best meal possible, and the necessary ingredients, however exotic, may be supplied in advance, with no fear of them going to waste.  The single-item menu is like the best item on the multi-item menu, with the added benefit that it can consist of expensive perishables, being that they don’t have to sit around and wait for someone to ask for them.

Now, the blank menu, at first, seems to be the biggest menu of all.  One would think it was limitless.  That’s the art of its disguise.  In truth, though, while it sets no limits on what can be ordered, it still doesn’t really offer anything.  If a larger menu almost guarantees that we won’t order the best thing, then a limitless menu makes one wonder if we might order anything good.  This is the paradox of a boundary.  Sometimes, a fare without limit is a fare with no offering.

In the most liberal of worldviews, we find philosophies with no moral restrictions.  We might marry anyone, or anything.  We might keep a vow or break it.  We might lie, cheat or steal, or we might abstain from such things.  We might eat, drink and be merry, or we might inject, snort, smoke and blow our minds.  We could vandalize a wall, a website or our own bodies.  We could talk like the devil, live like Hell and still expect a Heaven on Earth.  The complete rejection of religion is the rejection of boundaries.  It is a man who knocks down the walls of his house, because he finds the space too confining, only to discover that he is now homeless.

A world without God and a world without religion is a world at your feet.  You can do anything that your heart desires, and then you can die.  You can populate the Earth, build empires, amass wealth, attain celebrity and struggle to carve out your little Avalon.  You can have anything and everything, except for the only thing that you really need.  The blank menu offers everything and nothing at the same time.  It has no limits, which is easy, because it has nothing to offer.

For, without God, there can be no purpose.  Without him, there can be no meaning at all in life.  In fact, there can’t even be meaning to the idea of meaning.

When the house is on fire, you can run any way you like, but the only way that matters is the way out.  You can have it all, because it all has your destiny, which is the destiny of death.

When the atheist says that your purpose is whatever you make it, what he really says is that there is no purpose.  When the postmodernist says that all ideologies are equally good, what he’s really saying is that they’re all equally worthless.  When the host says you can have whatever you want to eat, what she really means is that she has nothing much to offer.  The best menu is the one that has only one option on it.  We give you the best thing we know, and we stake everything, our reputation, our lives, upon it.  You can take it, or you can refuse it, but there’s only one best way.

That way is Jesus, the Christ, who paid for our sins that we might be saved.  You can take it or leave it, but I’ll not offer a list of choices, nor will I lie and tell you that you can have whatever you want.

Sincerely,





The Endless Hallway

16 08 2010

[fiction]

Solomon Leechman failed to live up to his name that day at the bar, when he’d had too much to drink.  He made a friend and accepted a ride home.  The next thing he knew, he was lying in the dark on a cold stone floor, which probably contributed as much to his headache as the hangover.  Several hours passed in semi-consciousness, where he very much hated lying there, but he very much more hated the idea of standing.  Eventually, the sun finally found its way to him, after illuminating his prison several hours in advance, like a prolonged twilight.

Finally admitting awareness of his environment, he observed two things.  Firstly, he noticed that he was in a hallway without a ceiling, letting in the blare of direct sunlight from high above.  At least, if it was not a hallway, then it was an alley between two walls.  Next, he noticed that he was among two others, one man and one woman.  The other man came to his senses hours later, being, perhaps, more affectedly drugged than Solomon.  The woman awoke not long after that.  Upon inquiry, he found that the man’s name was Charles Bessemer, and the woman’s name was Mary Eddy.  Neither of them knew how they had gotten there.  Mary had only sipped a cup of tea on her front porch before winding up here.  Charles had taken such a cocktail of drugs that any of them could easily have been responsible for his unconsciousness.  In fact, he had taken them for that express purpose.  There was no apparent connection between any of them, other than that they were all lacking anything that might have been in their pockets previously, except for a used tissue and a pack of cigarettes with accompanying lighter.  This was immediately put to use by the man called Charles, who took a long drag and muttered, “Apparently, we’ve been robbed.  Well, at least we’ve still got fire.”

Solomon looked around at the cold stone walls and wondered what good a fire would do them here.  Perhaps if they had something to burn, they might have a comfort at night.  “Well, I suppose we’d better be making our way to the police,” he said, without confidence, as he peered down the seemingly interminable alley.  He looked both ways and then picked one at random, following it steadily for about ten minutes before doubting himself.  The others followed him for lack of any excuse to do otherwise.  He stopped in his tracks and looked back.  The way they had come stretched out indefinitely behind them, but the way before them was unchanged.  They might easily have remained in their original position, by all appearances, except for the fact that they knew that they had moved.  Solomon ran his fingers through his hair and said to himself, “Man, what a long alley.”  They continued for a few minutes more, accelerating a little with every passing minute.  When the end of the alley continued to elude them, they broke into a trot.  The trot became a run, and the run developed into a mad dash.  When Solomon finally could run no further, he stopped dead in his tracks and panted, staring down the hellishly interminable lane.  He looked back and found that he had lost his friends.  The insanity of the imprisonment seemed so much the worse without companionship that he panicked and ran back the way he had come, until he reached Charles and Mary, who had given up the chase before him.

Mary sat against the wall and hugged her knees.  Charles smoked another cigarette and gazed down the alley.  Solomon kept looking up at the sky, with the sun now out of sight, wondering if there might be some way to climb over the wall.

“Listen, man,” said Charles, irritably, “This blasted hall can’t go on forever.  Everything has an end.”  He paused to think about it, glanced up and then reconsidered.  “No way, man, we didn’t just get taken into some parallel universe.  This thing has an end, and we’re going to find it.”

“Are you sure we’re not just dreaming the whole thing?” asked Mary.

“You want me to kick some sense into you?” barked Charles, coldly, “I’m not dreaming, and neither are you.”

They continued on down the way between the walls for the rest of the day, until the light faded into dusk, and then the real fear began to set in.  Charles burned through the rest of his cigarettes for the sole joy of having a flame.  Solomon sat staring at the stars, comforting himself with the one opening to their prison.  Mary sat with her back to the wall and cried herself to sleep.

“You know,” mused Charles, “We’ve been marching down this alley all stinking day.  We must have come several miles, yet.  We’ve encountered neither corner nor door, so we can rule out the possibility that either wall surrounds some other area, which means that this probably isn’t the space between two properties, and those aren’t just walls at the edge of someone’s estate.  We’ve been doing the only thing we know, which is to follow this thing in one direction, in some hope of reaching the end.  I figure this is probably a canal of some kind, which means that the top of the wall is actually at ground level.  Otherwise, I can’t see any reason to build two such long walls.  I mean, sooner or later someone’s going to want to cross from one side to the other.  There’s got to be a bridge, or a tunnel or something, eventually.”

Solomon kept looking at the stars.  Cool air drifted down to him from above, which was about the only comfort to be found in that otherwise comfortless place.  At least he had fresh air.  At least he could see an opening above him, if nothing else.  He stood to his feet and called out to the opening above.  Nothing answered him.

Charles rebuked him, saying, “Save it, man.  No one hears you, alright?  Now, I have an idea.  Just wait here.  Don’t move until I get back.”  Then, he walked off into the darkness.

Solomon sat down next to Mary, attempting to comfort her as best he could, which wasn’t very much.  They passed a long sleepless night together, with no event except the movement of the stars and Solomon’s occasional calling out to them.  If they had been in a pit, then their circumstances might not have seemed as dire, but this interminable hall gave it just a devilish enough intrigue to make the place unbearable.  At least a pit was normal.  This was something out of Hell.

In the morning, Solomon and Mary started walking down the alley again, wondering constantly whether they were moving forward, or whether hey were merely retracing their steps.  He resolved not to make the mistake again.  Charles had not returned.  The passageway had swallowed him up with sheer distance.  Somehow or other, he would reach an end, and so would they, if they just continued on.  When darkness fell that night, Solomon removed his shoe and placed in on the ground, pointing in their direction of travel.  At least, if they needed several day’s journey, they would be traveling in the same direction each day and not undoing the previous day’s work.  They spent the night without conversation.  Whatever her thoughts on the matter, she wasn’t sharing.  By the third day, he knew that they would perish without food and water.  Somewhere in this waterless canal, there must be at least a puddle, or they were sure to die.  Mary was an inconsolable wreck.  He had to urge her every step of the way.  When at last they reached a stand of water in their way, probably a slightly low spot in the dry channel, he fell to his face and sucked at what little was there.  To continue this journey might be death of dehydration, but if they remained where they were, they were also doomed.  Forward was the most hopeful thing in the universe.  They stayed at the puddle for an hour longer, and then they continued.

In the distance, barely seen in the darkening dusk, they perceived the figure of a man walking.  Solomon ran toward him, and when the man heard him, he also began to run.  The other man was the first to stop running.  It wasn’t until the other man fell to his knees and roared with agony at the top of his voice that Solomon realized whom he was running at.  It was Charles, finally returning to them after so much time.  He trotted the remaining distance and called to him, “Charles!  You came back!  What’s wrong, man, did you reach the end?”

Charles wept like a baby and said through his tears, “Shut up, you fool!  I didn’t come back!  I didn’t come back, you ass!”

Solomon ignored the slight and inquired, “What do you mean, you didn’t come back?”

“Don’t you get it?” Charles cried, “I went full circle!  I’ve been walking nonstop since I left you people!  This thing is just one great big circle!  There’s no end!  There’s no way out!”  He gasped for breath, “It took me two days to get around it.  If I went two miles per hour, then it must have been ninety-six miles around.  But, wait!  You were travelling in the other direction!  That means it could be even twice that!  What hole have we fallen into?  This isn’t a channel!  This is like a moat around some gargantuan castle!”

After much hugging and weeping, they decided that their best option was to retreat back to the puddle, where at least they had water.  That night, Charles slept like a log, while Solomon lay awake, staring at the sky, hallucinating frequently of people looking down at them.  Once, he thought for sure that a man poked his head out from above them, and he leapt to his feet and yelled at the face until Charles knocked his legs out from under him and told him to shut up.

The next morning, they sat around the puddle and stared at their respective sources of comfort.  Charles stared at the flame of his lighter.  Solomon stared at the open sky, and Mary stared at the back of her eyelids.  Charles was the first to speak, “Well, at least there’s some comfort in knowing that this isn’t a passageway that goes on forever in both directions.  If it’s a circle, then it might as well be a pit.  We’ve been in a very large pit, wandering its outer edge.  There’s nothing too diabolical about that.”

Solomon found no comfort in the thought.  Knowing the limits of his enclosure only heightened his fear, because that meant that there was no way out.  Charles might have been comforted by the taming of its magic, but Solomon was terrified at the setting of its outer limit.  He would have preferred a magical hall with no end, because at least in magic there was some hope of something totally unexpected happening and providing a way out.  For a while, he even argued that it really was a magic hall, and that it really was straight.  He imagined that the magic had caused Charles to reverse directions, or to come back from the other end without actually travelling in a circle.  In the end, though, Charles’ rationality won out.  Yet, there still stood the matter of getting out.  Charles, forever the thinker, worked on various means of escape, such as climbing on each other’s shoulders, climbing the stones, or using a belt buckle to carve a hole.  In the end, though, they were not tall enough to scale it, the masonry was too smooth to climb, and the belt buckle idea, though theoretically possible, would take more days than they could survive.  Even at that, if they were in a circle with no bridge over them, then they might accidentally find themselves inside of the circle with not one but two walls between them and freedom.

Solomon continued to shout at the stars, and Charles continued to yell at him to stop.  “No one hears you, okay?”

“Someone might eventually hear me,” Solomon argued.

“What’s going to make that happen?  No one has heard you yet, and you have no reason to expect that to change.  The stars can’t hear you.  Walk a few feet down the way and scream, and if that doesn’t work, then walk a few feet more and do it again.  Eventually, I’ll be rid of you, and maybe I’ll be able to spend my last days in peace!”

The irony of the situation was that while Charles had brought the hall down from the mysterious to the understandable, he had brought the outer world from the understandable to something rather mysterious.  There was no explanation as to how a trench, or hall, could follow such a huge circle without impacting the lives of other people.  There was no reason it should even exist, and there was no reason why anyone should make it.  Nevertheless, there really was no sign of interference from without, and there was almost no reason to believe that the pit was made by humans, except that it did not likely make itself.  Solomon, however, who had originally clung to the idea of a mysterious hallway, was the last to give up on hope for outside help.  Someone had obviously made the pit, or hall, which meant that human civilization was not only near, but the passage was actually a part of that civilization, somehow.  The walls were built by people, therefore there was a chance of meeting more people.

Solomon and Charles argued about the matter until Mary burst out with her first words in more than two days, “Shut up!  Just shut up!  Keep your beliefs to yourselves.  You want to climb the wall and save yourself, then do it.  You want someone to climb down from the wall and save you, then let them.  Just stop talking about it!”  Then she closed her eyes, plugged her ears and imagined herself in a happier place.

So Solomon continued down the hall, shouting every so often for help from above, to people that he could not see.  It was the only chance for hope.  He wasn’t content to make the best of his short life in the pit.  He wasn’t content with imagining it all away.  If someone outside didn’t hear his cries, then there was no hope, but if he did not cry out, then there never could be hope.  Several times, he hallucinated that people were looking down on him.  With time, he began to imagine even wilder things than people looking down on him.  Then, startlingly, a voice called down to him, saying, “Hello, now how did you get down there?”  He looked up at the smiling ruddy round face at a man, and for a moment, the real thing seemed stranger than the hallucinations ever were.  He stared transfixed at the stranger before he could mumble something only halfway intelligible in return.  When he finally came to grips with the reality of the situation, he wanted to run back and get the others, but then the stranger might go away, and Solomon might not find the spot again.  When the face did disappear, he sat down, afraid to leave the spot, which was rewarded nearly an hour later by the lowering of a very tall ladder.

“Sorry it took so long,” said the jolly man, “but the shed is some distance from here and I had a dandy of a time finding a ladder.”

Solomon scaled the ladder quickly, afraid that the dream might fade.  At the top, he discovered that the passage was a deep trench.  Some distance away was a small building, and the surrounding terrain was quite flat.

“You’re lucky I came by when I did.  They’re closing down the place, and I was the last to leave.  They dug this monstrosity to be an atom smasher, only the funding got cut before it was finished.  They gutted the workings and sold it as scrap, but there’s no money in filling holes, so they left it.  I can’t imagine what you were doing in there,” said the rescuer.

“An atom smasher?” Solomon wondered.  Suddenly, it was all making a little more sense.  The pit contained a massive circle of piping for shooting subatomic particles in a circle, faster and faster, in an attempt at breaking them apart and discovering the origins of the universe.  People had quit trying to reach beyond the universe to the one who made it, preferring instead to live and die within it.  The flat earth with mysterious limits had become a circular prison devoid of mystery, and the ones who shattered the mystery devoted themselves to abolishing any mystery that they could not shatter.  It did not continue in all directions, but it went in a circle.  There was no point in calling for help from the outside, because no one had heard, and no one would ever hear.

While some people, like Charles, tried to defeat the mystery understood by Solomon, others, like Mary, tried to defeat the prison created by people like Charles, preferring instead to take refuge in the ever subjective philosophy of their own imaginations.  If Solomon was pre-modern, Charles was modern and Mary was postmodern.  Charles, at least, had a great deal of understanding the nature of the confinement.  Solomon understood the nature of his salvation.  Mary feared all understanding, and therefore she had none.  In the end, only the wisdom of Solomon could save them.

Perhaps, then, Solomon outlived his first mistake by living up to his name in the end.

[/fiction]





Postmodern Madness

23 11 2009

I have mentioned before in an earlier post, Three Universes, there are essentially three levels of reality in our world.  God, who is not confined within his own creation, exists outside of the physical universe.  This makes him his own universe.  Within his domain, there exists our physical universe, which can be affected from without.  It is a lesser reality, being less absolute, not existing forever, and depending upon God for its existence.

Within the physical universe is another, lesser reality, called the mind.  That’s where we actually live.  The mind is even less absolute than the physical world, capable of spontaneous change, inconsistency and a certain degree of incongruity.  Yet, when we experience the physical universe, we do so indirectly, through reconstruction within our brains.  If any of the processes between the actual sensation and the final experience goes awry, then we do not experience the physical universe accurately.  Nerve damage or brain damage disrupt the transfer of information, and what we see no longer resembles reality.  We do not really have a complete grasp on the physical world.  What we really hold, completely, is the image in our minds.  What we experience is all that the universe of the mind contains.  Nothing can exist within the mind except that we are aware of it.  Similarly, nothing can exist within the physical world, except that God is aware of it.  Hence, God is omniscient.

The physical world is not a piece of God.  Nor is the mind a piece of the physical world.  The physical world is corrupt, but that doesn’t make God corrupt.  Similarly, anything can happen in the mind, but it does not escape the mind and infiltrate the physical world.  In fact, nothing in the physical world explains the mind.  Cognitive processes might be explained in physical terms, but not the mind, itself.  A computer thinks, but it does not have a mind.  The mind is as much its own universe as the one we live in, but in a lower fashion.

Now, I’ve said all of this before, but there’s something more to consider.  Before the industrial revolution, humans were grossly subject to the whims of nature.  We had not developed technologically enough to conquer our world.  In that era, through most of our history, we looked to God for the answers to our problems.  That meant that we looked outside of our minds, through and beyond the physical world to God for truth.  With increasing understanding, we became confident in our own power and began to look no further than the physical world for answers.  This was the advent of modernism.  This was also the birth of naturalism, the belief that all things could be explained through the physical universe alone, with no need of God.  We had conquered the world, and we became our own gods.  Technology was the answer for everything that ailed us.

When we sought understanding from God, we attempted to live our lives and order our world in his likeness.  That is, we strove to be godly.  It is no different than the mind attempting to resemble the physical world.  If the lesser world fails to resemble the greater one, then it becomes detached, and its survival becomes imperiled in the one that gets rejected.  If a man goes insane, he no longer sees the world as it is.  Functionally, he imperils himself in the physical world, because he is not firmly grounded in it.  The same is true for our relationship with God.  If we reject God and the supernatural, then we become imperiled in the supernatural.  That is to say that we risk death, spiritually.  For those who still don’t get it, that means Hell.

Modernism was madness.  We might think that what followed, the rejection of modernism, would be the cure to this problem, but it wasn’t.  Rejection of a lie is not necessarily the embracing of truth.  Postmodernism was a flight in the opposite direction from God.  Today’s movement is to seek truth no further than the mind.  Postmodernists don’t even look to the physical world for answers.  For them, there is no absolute truth, because the world that they draw truth from is a world lacking in absolutes.  The mind is not subject to such things.  You have your own truth, and I have mine.  The idea of God is not even on the table.  They’re two steps removed from the truth of God.  They worship whatever their mind creates.

Pre-modernists prayed for rain.  Modernists attempted to make rain.  Postmodernists criticized the modernists for causing climate change.  Where the modernists attempted to improve life through their own hands, postmodernists attempt to improve life by undoing everything that the modernists did.

Pre-modernists believed in the immortal human soul, absolutes and God.  Modernists believed that nothing would last forever, and there was no God, but at least there were absolutes.  Postmodernists believe in no God, no absolutes and nothing eternal, but they play with fantasies in their own heads.

Pre-modernists used the physical world to understand God beyond it.  They worshiped him physically, and they prayed aloud.  Modernists used their minds to understand the physical world.  Postmodernists are primarily concerned with finding themselves.

Now, this postmodern revolution is a religious one, also.  Modernists sought out the “God particle,” reducing God to physical circumstances.  However, postmodernists are a little peculiar, in that they can be just about anything that they want to be at any time.  One could easily attend church one hour and a Buddhist temple the next.  Some of them do exactly that.  Their belief system is not absolute, because the universe of the mind is not absolute.  In Christianity, we know them as the Emergent Church.  In reality, they have even less of a grasp on God than a materialist, who at least recognizes the value of the world that God created.  Had they at least grasped the physical world, they would have held to some concept of an absolute.  In truth, the Emergent church is less of a  Christian than a Darwinist.  They are even further from God.

Now, consider what I said before about sanity.  When a man’s mind ceases to relate intelligibly to the world around him, he is considered insane.  When we, with our lives, ceased to relate meaningfully to the God beyond this world, we took the first step toward our own insane demise.  Postmodernism was the second step, detaching us even from the physical world.  Society is gradually slipping into a state of insanity.  Perhaps this is irreversible.  Perhaps this is the end.  The real travesty is that the Church, which was meant to be the salt and the light of the world, has developed its own form of postmodernism, the Emergent movement.  The real blasted shame is that our own fellow “Christians” have betrayed us and the world to this madness.  They were supposed to be there with us to help stem the tide of this sickness, but they have stabbed us in the back.  The Emergent Church has chosen the same fate as the world.

Therefore, they are also condemned to a world separated from God, a place where he never goes.