Thursday, May 26, 2022

Probate and Divorce

The two sisters were inheriting the mansion. The mansion had servants, cool dogs, huge TVs, fluffy beds, a bowling alley, a huge garden, a wet bar, and lots of other things like that. The mansion smelled good and was in a good neighborhood.

The two sisters disputed the mansion. Only one of them could own it and they refused to split it up. They fought over it in probate court, and every two to four years appealed to a higher court. And the court would change the decision. How sweet it was to be the one sister taking possession of the mansion, after two to four years living in some dingy apartment.

--

The husband and wife got a divorce. They fought in court over custody of the kids. They appealed the divorce court, and every so often the court reversed its decision. No matter who had the kids, the other one had to pay child support.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

National Adolescence

It used to be that everyone was children and parents. Then, one year, a precocious child got rid of his parents and entered adolescence. His capabilities grew and he was happy and free. The other parents (and many of the children) were horrified at his freedom. There are ways in which parents (and children) are more mature than adolescents. But because the bodies of the children craved to be adolescent, one by one they rejected their parents and were free, despite the attempts of some of the parents to control them to prevent the change.

It used to be that within the children there was the good child, who obeyed his parents, and the bad child, who disobeyed. But within the adolescents, all parts are equal, and all parts are valued. And between the different adolescents, all are equal, although some are much stronger than others. They create a brotherhood and sisterhood of adolescents, enjoying hanging out, taking drugs, having sex, doing graffiti, and playing loud music.

The parents and children live for all kinds of reasons, but the adolescents live, and always have lived, for pleasing themselves.

The adolescents increasingly hope, and the parents and children increasingly fear, that adolescence will conquer the world. That it's the final state of human development, and there will be no further maturing beyond that point.

Horror Math

Here is a Twitter thread that I wrote that I wanted to put on this blog:

Has anyone made math that doesn't (always) resolve? E.g. X + -X that can't be made 0, but which is always X + -X.

I got this idea from the horror of something that is simultaneously good and bad without resolving to a "shade of grey". (The horror of forcing two opposites into one thing without resolving them.) So it could be "horror math".

I'm not sure it would be that useful, but I note that 2N/(4(X + -X)) resolves to N/(2(X + -X)) in horror math, while in regular math it resolves to "undefined".

Since math is often talking about reality, there may be cases where X + -X talks about reality more accurately than reducing them down to 0. So they should be immune, or partially immune, to mathematical processing.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Book Review Preview: Between Man and Man by Martin Buber

Continuing with the theme of Judaism, I have a copy of Between Man and Man (by Martin Buber) that I've been meaning to read sometime. Buber was a Jewish philosopher and probably the book is influenced by Judaism.

I'm not completely sure what the book is about, but I know it has something to do with education, which is the topic of some other books I want to review. It looks like it also has a discussion of "what is man?" (which has something to do with my question of "what is a person?") and an expansion of Buber's dialogue-based philosophy.

MSLN is most influenced by Berkeley. But Buber has probably had the next-most influence on it, such as that is. As such, it's possibly a good idea for me to examine Buber's themes of "dialogue", "I-thou vs. I-it", and so on as he tries to apply them to things outside the space (perhaps a garden) in which philosophies have their own existence. Maybe I don't want to go down all the paths Buber does.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Learning Languages; Indonesian

I met someone on a pen pal site from Indonesia, and I got interested in learning more about that country. Then, I was having a hard time getting writing done one day and thought about learning Indonesian. So I went to the Indonesian Wikipedia and looked around. I looked up some of the words that looked interesting, and tried using the random article function to explore. I found that I was learning that way.

Now doing that, or similar things, is a little bit of a habit, maybe 20 minutes a day. Indonesian is an easy language to learn, I think. I've tried learning (in descending order of how far I got:) Spanish, German, and Russian before, all of them through some kind of "official language learning" thing (school, cassette tapes, Duolingo). I realize now that that spirit takes the fun out of learning, and that it's better to do something inexpertly over and over over a long time period than to do things well for a while and then give up. If you keep your love for something, you can go far. I like freely exploring "all knowledge" (Indonesian Wikipedia) rather than learning practical things I would need as a tourist, or grammar. I guess someday I'll end up learning those things somehow.

Indonesian and Spanish are both spoken in the developing world, which interests me. Indonesia is the fourth-most-populous country in the world. Could climate change (or war?) send refugees to where I live who speak Indonesian or Spanish? Or maybe I could spend time in Indonesia, where the official religions include Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism (as well as Christianity). If I ever get to the point in my life where I want to focus on non-Christian religions, that might be a good place to go. Or maybe I could go to Tijuana, which could be a day trip for me where I live, and speak Spanish there, or find someone where I live whose main language is Spanish. (Or I could interact with those languages' social media worlds.)

A saying that I read in The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson is "you overestimate what you can do in a year but underestimate what you can do in ten years". I don't think I'll be fluent in Indonesian anytime soon.

How serious am I about learning Indonesian? I tried to quit learning, and decided not to, and then I felt the interest coming back on its own. This is a sign to me to consider myself really on the way to learning the language.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

A Meaning of "Human Freedom"

It's possible to ask what human freedom is.

Here's an answer:

To be free is to be yourself. Who you are is up to you to choose. What you choose is valid.

If you want to maximize your own freedom, then you want to be free for as long as possible. You don't want to die the second death. So, the way to maximize your freedom is to become fully in tune with God so that you don't have to die the second death. Otherwise, to maximize your freedom is to do/be whatever your heart tells you and whatever you set your heart to be.

Who do you love? / Who do you fear?

Sometimes I ask of myself "Who do you love?" when I am drawn toward something or someone other than God. Who am I putting first in my intentions and emotions? Who am I most committed to?

Sometimes I ask of myself "Who do you fear?" when I am afraid of some reality other than God. A reality might limit me, but I choose if the idea of a reality limits me, more than the reality itself does. What I fear is what I consider real. What I fear most is what I consider most real. So, who do I fear?

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Running Software; Insecurity and Evil

"You" can selflessly choose to become a "you" who selfishly desires the good. It's as though you choose to run software. You enter into the software with all of who you are, but ultimately it's something you chose to run, and maybe there are times where you become distant from that software and can face the choice once more, and unchoose it, or affirm it, consciously.

Sometimes we see people (or nations) doing evil. Why do they do that? Are they evil? (Aggressive, powerhungry, greedy, hateful.) Or is it because they are acting out of self-defense? (Out of fear, insecurity, weakness, desperation.) Sometimes an observer of them can make a case both ways.

Maybe what is going on is that the evil reality of them, who they really are, is choosing to install the insecure software, to justify its evil. Or maybe they aren't really evil, but their fears install the software of being evil. For instance, choosing to install the software of dehumanizing your opponents to allow you to do what you have to do to survive. Once your opponents are dehumanized, then it is natural to be evil to them. Or maybe they are simultaneously significantly evil and significantly insecure.

People can have significant evil in them and also significant non-evil (good, or amoral self-interest). But even purely evil people have to mind their own self-preservation. So they might act even more evil than they would just out of their own inherent evil, if you threaten their survival.

What's the right strategy with people like this? Are the people who seem evil to us often the people that we really understand? So, given cases in which we lack understanding, we bet -- either that our opponent is so evil that they will try to take over if given a chance, and we must "do what it takes to stop them", including threaten their self-preservation; or that they are not so evil and will content themselves with self-preservation if we leave them alone. Do we know what we're doing? We may think we do.

Perhaps this consideration of "software", insecurity, and evil is more often more usefully applied to ourselves, because of all people we know ourselves best. How often do we install "software" that justifies, motivates, or makes more feasible some kind of hostility (perhaps software of a kind of morality) primarily or significantly to serve our own self-preservation? How often do we emphasize our neediness (run a supercharged self-preservation program) because we want to be greedy? How often do we install software for reasons other than the truth of what the software states or is based on?

Alien View of Two Cities

Cities tend to be alike insofar as they are places to meet future spouses, raise families, go to school, work at a job, grow old, get born. Your whole life story can play out in a city, and there is a way in which your human life can sort of be lived the same no matter what city you live in. In Delhi or Lima (each under a cloud of smog), people meet future spouses, raise families, go to school, work at jobs, grow old, and get born. I went to Lima for a few days, when I was 17, and was impressed by the smog. But if I had stayed five years, while that would have been bad for my respiratory health, I might have gotten more involved in friends or perhaps a girlfriend, or a church, or something like that. The smog would have been a background condition, one which I noticed here and there, maybe every day, maybe not. But I would have been living my life, the important, (near?-)universally human parts of life, of developing as a person, caring about things which were emotionally weighty to me (God, art, science, etc.) and participating in other people's lives. I would have shifted back and forth from theism to atheism to agnosticism in my fiducial depths, and experienced whatever other essential features of the human condition. But the smog wouldn't have been worth mentioning.

The alien view of a city is to see the smog and not the people raising their families (and going to school, growing old, etc.), which is the familiar view of a city. Both the alien view and the familiar view are right, and both are wrong.

Except for time I spent in Davis, CA, going to college, I have lived my whole life in San Diego. I'm not particularly interested in travel, and tend to feel the monk's feeling of wanting to stay in my cell. When I'm feeling very local, I see nearby me only a few places, which comprise my whole world that I can see. It's as though San Diego is my house, and I'm looking out the window. My whole world is Southern California, plus a view into Mexico. The Imperial Valley to the east is a desert farming community, and Tijuana to the south is in another country, reputed to be dangerous. I don't go to those places very often. To the west is the Pacific Ocean, which is a watery desert. To the north is Los Angeles, which of all these neighboring places I have the strongest impression.

As an outsider, my view of Los Angeles is that it is a place of spiritual darkness. There is greater stress and hostility there than in San Diego. Los Angeles seems to have been shaped by the movie industry, which sells beauty, but it's an ugly place. The Hollywood neighborhood is not a vision of beauty. But the sun shines "all year long" (not literally true, but something like it). A constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit may sound idyllic (it's the temperature you set your thermostat to), but that 72 degree sun gnawing at your skin, day after day, becomes a horror. You find yourself irritable under its gaze. (We have spells of this in San Diego as well.) That irritating pleasantness can even have an obscene component, the obscenity of people being fed things engineered to please them. Hollywood actresses are selected for for appearing beautiful to American men, but I have come to feel like I'm looking at a Doritos chip, a snack chip for the eyes rather than for the mouth, which has a dark energy to it, something to make me high, addictive and bedazzling. Films themselves are like Doritos chips, though they are all superficially beautiful. There is an obscenity to their beauty, which I see as an alien to them. Los Angeles is a place of desperation (aspiring actors and musicians), of broken dreams, of exploitation. While not all of LA is in the movie or music industries, I would guess that this spills over into the city at large.

When I go to LA, I often come in on the train. As it approaches Union Station, where I get off, I see the same thing every time, a kind of industrial landscape, with the Los Angeles River running through it, channelized with nothing natural about it, graffitied, sometimes with trash and the belongings of homeless people. In San Diego, there's nothing exactly like it. The Skid Row equivalent in San Diego as I've experienced it is smaller, and I have felt uncomfortable but comfortable enough walking through it, but an Angeleno friend had me canceling my Greyhound tickets so I wouldn't have to go to Los Angeles' Skid Row, where the LA Greyhound station is located. There is a hostility in Los Angeles, and an aggressiveness, both in the way people drive, and in the things people say. My Angeleno friend once said "Welcome to LA" after a homeless person went off in a train station in a way I don't think I've ever heard in San Diego. Being homeless is stressful, but perhaps more stressful in Los Angeles.

I visited a therapist in San Diego one time at a particularly dark time of my life. He said good things about Portland, but his opinion was that Los Angeles was a spiritually dark place. I don't want to be unfair to spiritualities which are not Christian, but I will note that goth and occult spiritualities and aesthetics are relatively strong in Los Angeles, and while they could be defended by some as not being really bad for you, their imagery tends to be dark and often weird, a participation in horror. David Bowie went through his worst years in Los Angeles crawling deeper into cocaine and occultism, enabled by false friends and money.

Hollywood (and Los Angeles, to the extent that Los Angeles is a support organ for it) sells America, and the world, fake beauty, so no wonder Los Angeles itself has arguably the pleasantest weather in America (shared with San Diego), but is actually an ugly, dark place. But to be fair to Los Angeles, though I am familiar with San Diego in ways that I am not with Los Angeles, I can see San Diego, as well, as an alien. San Diego, often enough, is a place of genuine beauty, not fake beauty. San Diego is the good life, a genuinely nice experience. It shares some of Los Angeles' dark side (we have that gnawingly pleasant weather, and some of the traffic) and San Diego had (and has?) a relatively strong goth scene. But San Diego is a sleepy place, a kind of "last man" place. San Diego is more spiritually dangerous than Los Angeles, because in Los Angeles, you know something is wrong. But in San Diego, you feel like everything is right. The word "hedonism" sounds to some like cocaine and strippers on Sunset Strip -- a Los Angeles phenomenon -- but to me it sounds like a beautiful sunset at La Jolla Shores, or Coronado, or whatever other San Diego beach, that feeling of the "pacific" ocean calming you, quieting away the deeply personal side of you, drugging you with genuine psychological health. How can you really learn to love in San Diego, when it is at its "finest"? You have a better chance in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is known for the film and music industries, and its container ports. San Diego is known for the military, and for craft beer and burritos and going to the beach. The World Famous San Diego Zoo is here as well.

The vulgar hedonism of Hollywood rock stars in the 1980s is probably too easily grown past. Also, the version of hedonism envisioned by transhumanists (for instance, discussed somewhat in X-Risk), while exciting and motivating to them, may seem sort of ridiculous and unnecessary to the average person. But San Diego, instead of radical hedonism represented by rock stars or transhumanists, represents normal hedonism, for normal people. If you want really good, human compatible experience, come to San Diego. Watch a sunset. Eat food from a taco shop. Drink a craft beer. Go surfing. Maybe stay home and watch a movie. Go check out a farmer's market on the weekend. Forget God. Lose your passion. Let go. Turn off the part of you that cares about anything outside of your lifestyle of normal humanity.

San Diego is the hedonism that normal people would choose, and already do choose, long before any advanced technology makes an Experience Machine possible. It may be the exact experience that people choose once they've tried all the "adventure programs of youth" that you can run on the Experience Machine. At the end -- our vision of heaven, I guess, will be San Diego, or culturally varied versions of it.

One San Diegan I knew lived in Germany for school, but came back to visit his parents in a neighborhood close to mine. He said that when he visited San Diego, he felt sadness. That was his alien view. I can connect with that -- the sadness of a beautiful sunset, all the people beautifully bedding down for one last night, as the dark settles in and they cease to exist.

San Diego says "look at things from the familiar view". Los Angeles says "look at things from the alien view". I feel like I would have a much easier time discussing the content of this post in Los Angeles-as-Los Angeles. I feel it very difficult to talk about it in San Diego-as-San Diego. In Los Angeles, we can have the possibility of really being aware of weird things, like that if we give $5,000 to a charity, it could save someone's life, a totally meaningless and abstract behavior from the point of view of an ordinary human's life. But that weird sacrifice, from our perspective, is like a gift from heaven for the person who benefits, who gets to live 35 more years (up to life expectancy, at least). In Los Angeles, we can be aware that the familiar view, normality, human nature, themselves are horrors, which prevent people from giving to anyone outside their own familiar lives. In Los Angeles we may long for something other than "this", and perhaps even occasionally cry out to God. But San Diego is self-sufficient. I don't want to be too kind to Los Angeles -- I don't know that Los Angeles leads people to love God. But at least in a sense it is unstable. San Diego is more hedonically stable, is a lower-energy point of cultural development. You can become aware of God if you can see outside the totality of the experience-as-experience. You can become aware of persons as persons, as more than just experiences, if there is some outside to the hedonic moment. A perfect San Diego could exclude you from loving God as a person, as a real being, and you would have no way to motivate yourself to leave that perspective. It would be a perfect sunset at the end of a 10/10 day.

The truth is found in totality. So while I have presented the alien views of the two cities, to be accurate, one should remember their familiar views. Every person is an alien to us and family to us, and every collection of people is alien and familiar. Most aliens have some element of horror to them, and so do most people, though there are some aliens who are like cities of God.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Both Teeth-gritting and Natural Love

Humans are motivated to get what they want, because they want it. Sometimes we can be motivated to do things because of some sort of external force. Perhaps some definition of virtue is "doing what you don't feel like doing". It is virtuous to be self-sacrificing in that way. Allowing an external force to rule over you, or willfully offering yourself to that external force, is virtuous, perhaps the height of virtue. Perhaps as though the real enemy is Self and not any other evil.

The problem with that view is that we may never learn to really want what is good. We tend to value what we desire, and when we value, we love. We have to come to love the good completely someday, and if we have a capacity for "teeth-gritting" love and for "natural" love, we are not fully loving the good if we don't love it naturally. Also, we are more likely to be effective in pursuing the good if both the teeth-gritting and natural sides are working together. To the extent that effectiveness matters in pursuing the good, it is better for us to prefer to have both teeth-gritting and natural love.

So, I do what is good because it is what I want. This is my selfish desire. (There's a sense in which it isn't selfish, if I chose to naturally want to do what is good because it was the right thing to do.)

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Book Review: Holy Resilience by David M. Carr

I read Holy Resilience and my method for writing this review of it is to copy the preview of it and reply to it, like to a long email.

My "replies" are set off with --

--

In 2018, I wrote a book called Patience. It's a sort of strange book, most of which I can't remember right now. I've tried to re-read my old books in the last few years, but I haven't gotten around to reading that one. But I am aware of one part of it that opened up a big new area in my thinking.

Someone I knew back in the middle of the 2010s was a secular Jew around my age who was a history student. He pointed me to a book by Yosef Yerushalmi called Zakhor which claimed that "history was the faith of fallen Jews". What impressed me was a claim that Yerushalmi was using as background for his argument, which is I would guess not original to him, that the Hebrew Bible was the "cultural memory" of the Jews, and not history.

It struck me that the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament was something "remembered from" a position. Even as a non-scholar, it really looked to me like a lot of the Old Testament was written down in captivity. That's when the history books (1 Samuel through 2 Kings / 2 Chronicles) leave off. My naive theory is that a lot of the content of the Old Testament was oral tradition, and the editors or canonizers of the Old Testament chose which oral tradition to preserve and trust. The Old Testament could be historically accurate, but it's more like the past of the people in captivity, which makes them who they are, and only secondarily history in a secular sense (what literally happened in time). I don't think this takes away from the possibility that they are inspired. Maybe God wanted his people to remember their past a certain way. Maybe the events of the Old Testament literally happened in a kind of spiritual world, which is somehow in parallel with our own and which we have lived and will live again in our own secular way.

I thought that the Jews ended up being admirable because they were losers when they wrote down the Old Testament. They were losers who survived.

--Carr's book basically doesn't support my theory. Yes, they were losers who survived, but he tends to make it sound like they didn't choose to remember things the way they did from a sense of loss, of having nothing more to lose, but rather, they chose to remember things the way they did to help them survive emotionally. But, one of the ways of emotional survival was to make sense of things through self-blame -- there was a reason for what they went through, which was their own sins. This is a known trauma mechanism. That caused them to see the negative in their own past, which then got somewhere into their identity.--

--A Jew steeped in the Hebrew Scriptures would probably have the sense that the people of Israel were "mixed" people: chosen, but sometimes morally exemplary and sometimes the opposite of morally exemplary, who fell short of a holy God. There is a sense of being aware of spiritual danger in that stance and also a version of humility. I guess my perspective now is that the initial psychological mechanism was (or could have been) some kind of self-blame, and that may have come up over the years when things went really bad for the Jews, but that there is a "mellowing" effect that time and tradition has on a text which gives the text a life of its own. (Like cooking raw ingredients until they make a soup.) And once it "mellowed" (or "ripened" or "aged") the text was able to speak as though it had been edited, composed, and/or canonized, by people who "had nothing left to lose" and "just wanted to speak the truth".--

--Maybe the distinction between "having nothing left to lose and speaking the truth" and "self-blaming" is that "self-blaming" could be a semi-conscious or unconscious way to take control of a situation and to save yourself, but "having nothing left to lose", I could say by definition, is about letting go of control of a situation and not trying to save yourself.--

--However, one thing which I didn't determine in the one reading I did of the book, is exactly how epistemically trustworthy Carr is. I'm not sure that there couldn't be other valid stories about the origin of the Bible, and, supposing I could list them all, I don't know how much credence I would apportion to Carr's views. I often wished he would qualify some of his statements in keeping with the conjectural nature of what he was saying, and also, I would have liked to have seen quantified credences for those statements. I would have had a better sense that there was something possibly more to believe than what Carr was defending if I saw that, and I suspect that Carr does not believe that his view is conclusively certain and thus does believe that there is a wider epistemic world, and so it would be a way to have his text reflect his actual worldview to indicate its insufficiency. I would have also liked to have seen more endnotes or discussion in the text proving some of his cases, or referring to other sources that did.--

--But, I'm not extremely interested in history, but rather in philosophy and present and future religion. So, I am glad to face the distinction between "self-blame" and "having nothing left to lose" occasioned by his book ("philosophy") and then I continue to think that God may use "having nothing left to lose"-based "loser thinking" in the present and future of religion, given that good "loser thinking" can be good for people and society. I think that Scripture is validated not by the process of composition, but by how it speaks to people once it has taken its form, mellowed culturally, entered the world of ahistorical or extramundanely historical truth (as opposed to, say, random things people were saying about recent events) and become established and trusted by communities and individuals.--

At the time, and still to this day, I don't feel a strong sense of identification with a people group. Some people are very nationalistic -- some in ways that seem good, others in ways that seem bad (like the Nazis). Nationalism is a great way to start wars; motivate genocide and ethnic cleansing; suppress, shame, or dehumanize people; or waste time getting and feeling angry. Nationalism (as I used it in my book) doesn't have to just be about nation-states, but could operate at different levels -- it operates at the level of the individual with his or her own personal nation, as well as in the family or friend group, and in the church or workplace, and in various identities (races, sexes/genders, and sexual orientations as identities rather than as accidental physical facts, political or religious affiliations, fandoms), all of them nationalisms. The love that we have for ourselves and others is often (or usually?) nationalism. So every affiliation that draws persons into distinct people groups (one meaning of "political"), we could call nationalism. So that "nationalism" (which can include nation-state level nationalism) can make people brothers and sisters of each other, emotionally bonded, can give them spiritual nourishment, can give them a sense of being a person, can motivate whatever it is that causes people to help each other.

I don't think that that "good nationalism" is a good god, in fact, I think it is a tempting idol. But, "bad nationalism" is an obviously bad god that can also be an idol. And good nationalism, like all really good temptations, is a good thing in itself. Perhaps we need good nationalism (of a sort that is really good and non-tempting) so that bad nationalism or bad anationalism doesn't cause us to get desperate for good-nationalism-of-whatever-sort, leading us to idolize good nationalism.

So there are two questions: can we split good nationalism from bad nationalism, and how? And, can we make nationalism an inherently God-worshiping thing instead of a very good thing which turns us away from God? I don't know the answer to the second question right off the top of my head right now, but I have a suggestion for the first, based in the sort of notable moment of insight or inspiration I had when I wrote Patience.

Being ignorant of most of Jewish history, I saw the Jews as being the people group who wrote and remembered the Old Testament. So what kind of people wrote and remembered the Old Testament? Losers. So I thought, if I'm going to be part of a people group, part of a chain of cultural memory, if I'm going to adopt an identity as a person who belongs to other people based on their collective self-concept and "past", and in this way become a "thick" person who connected with people, what group should I choose? The Jews (the people who wrote and remembered the Old Testament) have claim to being the people of God's word. They certainly have a "past" (the Old Testament itself), which I could adopt. But, notably, they are also the losers of history, dispossessed, looking back on how they messed up, how they fell away from God, how they mistreated each other. I thought that if I intentionally identified with this, even strongly, I would not fall into the temptations of bad nationalism.

At that point I thought that if I was ever going to join a people group, for real, on the level of "rootedness", it should be to the Jews who wrote down and remembered the Old Testament, or people who could be considered sufficiently like them, although not necessarily to the Jews in general.

Recently, I heard on this episode of the Israel Bible Podcast an introduction to David M. Carr's Holy Resilience which claims that the Bible (both Old and New Testament) came out of response to trauma, and that that origin enables it to speak to people in difficult times. This is why it has staying power over time, where more triumphalistic texts have failed. (At least, that's what I remember from the episode -- I may have misinterpreted or misremembered it.) If that is Carr's argument, it's akin to what I believe, but also maybe strangely askew to it. It sounds like maybe Carr will have the people of the Bible be winners after all, the winners who use non-triumphalism about their failed "battles" to help them win the longer-term "war" of survival. Survival is good, and "pays the rent" for the truth, but survival itself isn't the point -- it's a very good thing and therefore a very compelling temptation to idolatry.

I expect Carr to have interesting arguments, some of which may support my own point of view. I'm also perhaps expecting that he could say things which flesh out his point of view in a way that makes my own less attractive to me. (Sometimes seeing your reflection in a mirror does that.) So, I've bought a copy of the book, and intend to start reading it soon.

(I read the preface and it somewhat makes me think that Carr will not be in favor of triumphalism, but will also not be arguing for exactly what I would argue for.)

--Overall, I think Carr's point of view was of humanism, survival in a secular ("first-deathly") way, self-care, healing. My point of view is more of ... not anti-humanism, but a humanism which must depend on loyalty to God, survival in a supernatural way (avoiding the "second death"), being true and moral. So his point of view is all about how trauma makes people not triumphalistic and then they go on to be successful in the world. Assyria, Babylon, and Rome (who had triumphalistic narratives) are gone and largely forgotten (Rome less so, but still relatively forgotten), but Judaism and Christianity have survived to this day, much longer, and Carr thinks it's because of their ability to get through tough times with adaptations caused by trauma's mark on their text. Ironically, he does point out that Christians ended up persecuting Jews once Christians became dominant. But Christians got some of their cultural power, allowing them to be strong enough to persecute, from their ability to die without shame by calling Jesus' death on the cross good (by having that response to the trauma of seeing their leader killed). So the Christians ended up using the power of trauma for basically evil ends. So is trauma that yields power a good thing? It's only as good (in effect) as the use of the power.--

--But I would like to be in favor of trauma which produces holiness and truth, or perhaps instead of trauma (which we might define as being something that produces "kneejerk" reactions (for instance, of self-blame)), that adverse effects, exilic conditions, breakdowns of groups or individuals, or whatever other stresses occur should cause us to "lose" rather than develop the complexes of textbook traumatization. Maybe the kinds of things that break us generally do traumatize us and it's only as we heal and look back at the mellowed trauma that we can see a glimpse of loserhood and go on to choose to enter into that identity.--

--Or, we can willingly leave our "throne room next to God in heaven where we are victors and live comfortable lives" and instead identify, without being forced to, with the losers of history. That we prefer or inhabit a "throne room" does not mean we are not insecure, nor that we do not suffer and struggle. But we are still trying to hold onto victory as a value and onto our own victorious status, such as it is, as though it will save us.--

--(Lives of suffering and struggle can still be comfortable on some levels.)--

--One thing I should mention by way of warning is that I don't know if "loserhood" as I describe it is something that works in real life -- I feel like it is somewhat "untested" and I don't feel the strongest intuitive and emotional connection with it, it doesn't feel completely comfortable. It may work. It does feel right in cases of zero-sum or "insufficiently positive-sum" competition.--

Friday, May 13, 2022

Playing at the Role of Being Human

The spirits of grieving and of romantic love are characteristically human and lean atheist. Grief claims that there is no way to bring people back from the dead, and romantic love claims that your "exceedingly great reward" is a human being and not God -- two dimensions of atheism.

There is a sense in which such feelings, as real as they are, are spiritually risky, and can set themselves up as more real than God, who is actually the most real. And yet, if we do not feel them, how can we be human? If we are not human, then ... certainly we are not trusted by humans as much, for being alien to them, and maybe one could say that there's something inherently wrong with being a human who is not maximally human, or who is alien to humanness.

Jesus wept, even though he didn't have to. He knew better, but he didn't at the same time. Perhaps for us, we can inhabit the stage play of being human, and inhabit our roles in it, but still know that we have a reality outside it.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Gifts for Difficult Times

Solomon was faced with the task of ruling Israel, a populous country. He prayed to God to give him wisdom and knowledge to help him be king.

Solomon was already wise, to recognize the difficulty of what he was facing.

I think a good exercise is to ask yourself if you are doing something difficult, or have something difficult in your future. Then, you can see what kind of gift to ask for from God.