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Archive for September, 2009

On September 30th, I was watching the news of the tital wave in Samoa from an earthquake.  Someone took video footage that was played on the news.  On the footage, a guy is saying “please Lord Jesus Christ…give me strength to accept this…please Lord Jesus Christ…”  He was referring to the temporary river then going by his building.   The invocation of a lord something struck me as odd…and the implications as troubling.

The sheer act of asking an external agent to give one strength makes one a passive recepticle that is itself a state of weakness.  The asking outward, in other words, makes one weaker, making it more difficult, not less, to achieve the strength desired.  If the entity being summoned does not exist (or can not be known to exist), the added problem of appealing to an imaginary friend would also point to an underlying weakness.  Specifically, it seems rather pathological to me–like Jimmy Stewart in Harvey having  an imaginary friend that he talks to in spite of never hearing any voice from the other–no real evidence of the bunny’s existance.  …an imaginary rabbit.   …maybe this is why the easter bunny has has had such traction.  It is astounding to me how social legitimacy can make something seem real even though there is no evidence of its independent existence. 

That people would reduce themselves to passivity on the premise that an imaginary benefactor exists does not bode well for the human condition or the individuals themselves, particularly as they want to gain strength.  Their means, in other words, is inherently counterproductive to the end, and yet the subterfuge of religion can make an entire society blind to the underlying feckless nature of the illusion (and its participants).  

 For those who would retort: what if there really is a Lord Jesus Christ existing “out there” in a resurrected condition that transcends the bounds of our perception and cognition, I would counter that God as (an) intelligent being could not be expected to set us up to engage in anthropomorphic (i.e., self) idolatry.  God as  it is understood cannot be sin.  Nor do I think it in God’s nature to set us up to be passive and self-ashamed rather than instantiating what strength we are capable of.   Moreover, were there there such an entity as an eternal Son of God, it would be at best a cruel joke were “he” to have kept himself from presenting himself to all of us externally (i.e., as a real being)…an “internal voice” being possibly one’s own.  As Nietzsche wrote (and was stated at his funeral), “Save us from the redeemer!”  That is to say, save us from the illusion perpetrated by weakness under the guise of strength.  If such a dynamic is in the nature of truth, perhaps we need to re-conceptualize our notion or content of truth.  

Ironically, Jesus’ inner strength in the story of his death–in facing adversity in standing up (with arms out-stretched) for one’s principles is so utterly at odds with “Save us, or give us strength…”    The humility ascribed to the figure is so utterly at odds with the presumption of those who claim to follow him and tell the rest of us what we should believe–indeed, the presumption to call on such a being as they have invented for themselves.  A Catholic priest once said in his homily: “We have the truth; we know this.  We can therefore be thankful.”  Translated: “We have defined truth and feel no hindrance in imposing it on others. We can be thankful for what we have decided is truth and not have to consider that we could be wrong.”  Such a stance belies the substance of faith, which by definition goes beyond what is known. 

To presume knowledge of the truth and go on to impose it on others as if one’s own ability to know truth is somehow superior to other human beings are to take a matter of faith for that of knowledge…and thus to have little faith and much self-love.   Self-emptying, in other words, involves riding faith of presumed knowledge and therefore to be agnostic to the essence of things as they really are.  Faith is a transcending glance rather than an exposition on the nature of that which transcends the limits of our conception and perception.  As Joe Campbell once said, the conception one has of Christ is the final obstruction to the religious experience. 

Of course, my reflections here are those of a person limited cognitively and in perception.  That is to say, my argument is made by a human being, and therefore cannot be taken as truth.  Rather, it evinces a passion for transcending that which may be a misleading and weakening subterfuge.  The content of truth itself is beyond the grasp of even faith in human terms.  So a reader could justifiably fill his or her cup with my argument, then just as easily pour the quickly-stale liquid out and fill up again somewhere else.  I would like to think that there is some accumulation of progress in such a process, but this could just be human hubris too.  Perhaps the process itself is useful in human terms if ridding the world of arrogance and conceit is of any value here.  We, as humans, may be presuming much too much for ourselves, given how we are hard-wired, and yet in presuming we overlook (or presume away) the sheer possibility of it!  Ironically, perhaps in looking internally for strength we might downscale that which we presume to ask for.

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According to CNN, you’re unlikely to experience another single-digit date in your lifetime. The next one won’t roll around for 92 years — until 1/1/2101.
 
But what about 1/11/11?  technically speaking, that is better than 1/11/01 in 92 years.  lol   Speaking of 2101 or so, the news reported this week that babies born in a few years will be able to checked for genetic congenital illnesses in advance and therefore be expected to live 150 to 200 years.  They could hit several single digit dates.
 
Another benefit of today’s date: it means the same thing in American and European orderings …just like -43 is the same in F and C.  I would not want to report that temperature on 9/9/9

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Amazing Grace

On the lyrics to “Amazing Grace”:

The self-reference to being a retch…I can’t go along with the self-directed shame…nor, for that matter, do I like arrogance or excessive pride ….perhaps the two are related rather than antipodal? I’m thinking of Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean…in this case, accepting oneself for whom one is without bashing oneself for one’s faults or vaunting one’s virtues.  Perhaps the historical assumption in the West has been that inflicting self-shame is necessary to avoid arrogance.  I wonder if it actually makes it worse, besides adding other negative effects (such as low self-esteem).  I have never been able to understand how arrogance can go with low self-esteem, though I’ve been told that arrogant people are actually quite different inside than how they appear (e.g., scared and weak rather than strong).

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This morning while I was stopped at an intersection in the bike lane of a major street, a Gideon stepped into the lane to hand me one of his little bibles.   Sensing that he was so preoccupied with saving me–the Gideon website refers to the aim of reaching “a lost world with the saving message”–I decided to point out to him that he was breaking the law by entering the lane as a pedestrian.   Assuming the persona of a sergeant in a matter-of-fact tone, I said, “Sir, please remove yourself from the bike lane as it is illegal.”  He was undaunted so I repeated myself…again in an official rather than antagonistic tone.  Finally he backed up and resumed his sales pitch from the sidewalk.  

In assuming that I was “lost” and he had “the saving message,” he was not looking at his own falling-short.  He felt himself entitled not only metaphysically, but legally as well–as if to say, “the law doesn’t apply to me because I’m saved.”  …but Jesus is said to have said he came to fulfill rather than break the law.   I have no problem with Jesus’ teachings…in fact, I value them more than the ways of the world.  This does not mean, however, that claim a superior or false entitlement that gives me license to impose my agenda on others…even breaking the law to do it.  What is the expression…clean up one’s own house before breaking into another to tell another that his or her house is dirty and needs to be cleaned in a certain way?   The irony is that the one doing the p0inting is the lost one….the lapses in his or her imposing being lost to him (or her).  

In discussing the ascetic priest figure in Geneology of Morals (section III), Nietzsche characterizes them as being essentially weak yet not letting that get in their desire to dominate others.   Imposing one’s presumption that the other is lost and is in need of one’s own “saving message” evinces the sort of weakness that seeks to dominate.  When Christianity was the dominant religion in the West, such weakness was not transparent.  Now it is…increasingly so.   The passive aggressive aspect of the imposing can be recognized and put back in its place.  My “official” speak is an example of passive aggression being used to counter the passive aggression.   The Gideon probably felt my reaction as passive aggressive (certainly not friendly), though I doubt very much that he recognized his own.  The breach of personal boundaries, such as by a stranger assuming that he is welcome to discuss religion with me, is itself a form of passive aggression.   I suspect that modern society is blind to many forms of presumption…hence we don’t tend to call the perpetrators on it and return passive aggression in kind.   Instead, we feel guilty in not reacting as the Gideons would like.  The guilt, or self-shame, is a form of weakness, according to Nietzsche, which the weak have been able to convince the strong to take on.   The weak take advantage of the strong’s vulnerability…the weak always have their advantage on their minds, whereas the noble strong do not.  I suspect the power of the strong is in recognizing or making transparent the fecklessness and presumptuousness (as well as the passive aggression) of the dominating weak.   I think a better way of responding to them than “officialism” would be to simply draw attention to the subterfuge being used to dominate.   However, I suspect that like a cat around tuna, such transparency would make little or no difference to one with the imposing agenda.  In away, evangelicals are not far removed from merchants.  Neither group is likely to be free spirits.  Hence my attention is on how we may be freed from them.  What is that about knowing or seeing the truth will set you free?  Let me see, and therein be free of, the true nature of truth-imposers!   We need truth-seekers rather than imposers.   I am assuming that we are all human beings…that no one of us has a monopoly on knowing the truth.   Save us from the redeemers! 

Perhaps the question is: is there any salvation from arrogance?  …which is perhaps in the human condition…all of us being innately presumptuous.  A “saving message” that is accompanied by this quality belies itself.  Invalidating such a message and messenger is not sufficient however, for one to be a free spirit–free of even one’s own internal obstacles. For this, one must face and overcome one’s own arrogance….the presumption in my own “official” warning this morning.   This is not something that can be subcontracted in a bike lane.  The self-emptying of arrogance is not something that is accomplished merely by having the “correct” cognitive metaphysical belief (unlike in Buddhism and Christianity).  Neither can it be done by another who is driving to save others (under the presumption that he or she is already saved).  

I believe we would all be doing modern society a huge favor by concentrating on recognize our own arrogance and presumption.   I think this can be done on an incident by incident basis, generalizing from them to see how these qualities reside in our own personalities and related world-views.   Secondarily, it does not hurt to learn to recognize the sordid qualities in others who profit on them remaining hidden, though “secondarily” because the sliver in another’s eye is difficult to see but for removing the plank in one’s own.  Still, the protection of personal boundaries is a matter of social justice, and therefore justified (though here on the world’s terms) in order to restore the natural equilibrium of mutual rights from the encroachments by some.

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