Monday, July 13, 2020

Values of Altruists

Values of altruists, based on this thread.

Altruism: concern for other sentient beings. A larger moral circle is better than a smaller one. Components:

other-orientation / relative lack of self-focus

(curiosity is an intellectual version of this)

hope (a fusing of something like optimism with openness to evidence, a kind of trust)

personal connection with reality (maybe a sense of moral obligation, a connection with other being's subjective states, or a taste for a better world)

inclination to work

Support values/practices to the value of altruism:

"moral uncertainty (normative uncertainty in general)" -- helps keep an ethical/social movment from becoming fanatical

(another approach being "you trust God, and thus you know things, and thus you don't act as though God doesn't exist to underpin your well-being and be the authority in your place")

rationality -- disciplined thinking helps find problem areas and address them effectively

outcomes matter

don't only do emotionally appealing things

effective communication -- work with the culture while trying to change it, listen, be disciplined / rational in speech and listening, argue well

against politicization

for working / building rather than fighting / exposing

("exposing": "saying the unhealthy truth for truth's sake", or something like that)

for knowing and self-improvement

Support values that are riskier to promote culture-wide:

some kind of ambition is good

humility is good but trying to maximize humility is bad (being so humble you don't have any confidence in your knowledge prevents action)

courage is good but not foolhardiness

will is good, if it stays in touch with reality

being "real" is good (following through on promises, really having intentions)

personal sufficiency is good (you have enough or are enough to dare reach into someone else's reality)

These are riskier. I think one thing to remember is that ideas are things in people's minds, that culture is really embodied in people, not in words. A lot of culture is in interpersonal contact, which forms the context for ideas. So ideally, if you promote values, you shouldn't just say things, but should instruct people (or be in relationships with people) such that they really understand what you're saying. Genes become phenotype through epigenetics, and concepts become emotions, attitudes, and behaviors through the "epiconceptual". The epiconceptual could be the cultural background that informs how people hear a message (like "yes, this is the moral truth, but we don't actually expect people to live up to the moral truth"), or it could be the subcultural background from a relationship or community that makes it make sense. The practices and expectations of culture / subculture. So values are a thing which are not promoted just by communicators, but also by community-builders, and good communities help make risky but productive words safe to spread.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Legitimacy

This post replaces a previous one on the same topic.

One way to look at reality is that it is basically just matter. We are conscious of it, but that's a footnote. Mainly, everything is matter.

If that's the case, then whatever is psychological is just "in our heads". We think it's true or valid, but it isn't. What's real is what's out in the open for everyone to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.

Another way to look at reality is that it is all consciousness. We have perceptions of matter, but matter doesn't exist in itself. Consciousness just is its contents. This consciousness could be some kind of meaningless goo, like a film of static projected on a wall.

A third way to look at reality is that it is personal. We are most certain that we exist, persons exist. We are conscious, but also personal.

A fourth way to look at reality is that it is conceptual. For instance, the set of all objects is a real thing. If it were to no longer refer to a particular object, the object would cease to exist.

Is it possible to reconcile all these views of reality? We could say that concepts are conscious persons, or that persons are concepts, or perhaps that some concepts are dependent on larger concepts for existence, that is, on "large-enough" persons.

What about "oughts"? What are "oughts"? If there ought to be a lawnmower on the lawn, what is that "ought to be"? If I do something useful that needed to be done, what is the "ought" implied by "useful" and "needed to be done"?

Oughts correlate tightly with ises. If there is a lawnmower on the lawn, if it in no way ought to exist, it doesn't. Oughts themselves must be.

Which is more powerful, ought or is? Under the "all is matter" point of view, is is taken to be supreme, and ought is subordinate. But under the other three views, ought could have independent validity, as a conscious being, a person, or a concept with its own inherent power.

Does is precede ought? Then in the (logical) instant before it justifies itself just by being, was it valid? And if it was invalid, could it exist? Does ought precede is? Then how could any ought exist, in order to bring about is?

So there can be a problem if we split ought and is. One approach to solve it is to fuse is and ought. Again, all oughts are, and all that is in any capacity is a kind of ought. That a rose is is that it ought to be. Horrible things can both ought to be and not at the same time. Free will can be legitimate and lead to behaviors which are allowable as following from free will but which themselves are illegitimate. The juxtaposition of this legitimacy with this illegitimacy is a horror.

If an ought is, what is it? One solution is to say that an ought is an opinion. Opinions are conscious, parts of persons. They are concepts or something like concepts, the concept of "such ought to be so". You could say an opinion just is a person, relating in a certain way to what is/should be according to their preferences. (Or you could say that each person is an overall opinion, a relation to what is/should be, and that that opinion has sub-parts.)

Not all opinions are fully valid. But being is something that is unquestionable. Where does such absolutely valid opinion come from? A fully valid opinion is one given by a person who knows what they are talking about and is worthy of respect. A valid opinion about reality as a whole comes from someone who knows reality as a whole. So for reality as a whole to exist, there must be a person who knows reality as a whole.

And this person must be respect-worthy. One way to think about "respect-worthy" is, are you a real person? In the sense of "So and so is real". There's a kind of everyday meaning to that. Such a person really cares -- they are reliable and serious, do not pretend to be your friend when they are not, things of that nature. This might be considered a personal way to look at it. An impersonal, or less personal, way to look at it would be to say, what are persons made out of, and then how can we maximize that quantity? If persons are conscious experience, then what is personal consciousness "made out of"? It seems like all experiences are a form of trust (trust as "receptivity to enhancement"). I trust my eyes to show me horrible things. I trust my doubts which turn me from trusting propositions. I'm open to existing because on some level, perhaps in some small way, I am open to in some sense being made better by my openness. My disposition to trust means that I seek to trust all kinds of experiences, as much as is appropriate and possible.

Another more personal way to look at respect-worthiness is to consider an important subset of ought, which is morality. If someone is setting up morality, they are laying burdens on the people under their law. Is the law-giver willing to experience this burden?

A real person, a trust-maximizing person, and a good leader, would all submit to the law they were making others stand up under.

So then, if we are interested in knowing what kind of being, what kind of opinion, what kind of ought, were the fundamental authority over reality, then we should look for one who suffered what it made others suffer.

We can see this source of legitimacy in a God who suffers, who suffers both all of what we do in an unlimited capacity, and who knows limitation and death, as we do. A God capable of experiencing these things would be disposed to do so, if he was valid enough to found reality.

Therefore, if this all is true, any ought that is is grounded in God, and if we think we are making a valid judgment, we ought to do so keeping in mind God's ultimate authority and what aspects of God's nature raise his respect-worthiness to the point of having that authority. And we, who claim to be on God's side if we make a moral judgment, are therefore promised a trustworthy future, putting God first, so we should not make our judgments out of anxiety or self-righteousness, because we are not "gods in a godforsaken world".

The Euthyphro dilemma says that if God is supposed to be good, is it due to his fiat, or due to him being aligned with a higher good? According to the drift of this article, the higher good itself would have the power/legitimacy to authorize God's very existence, and would be the real God.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Book Review: Dark Intimacy by David J. Hassel

The "dark" in the title has to do (as the subtitle says) with the difficulty of prayer experiences.

The book talks about "intimacy", which Hassel gives his own flavor to.

This book seems idiosyncratic, which makes me think it partially comes out of the author's own life. This is interesting in itself.

Here are some notes I took, related to the book:

Intimacy in one area leads to intimacy in another.

--

I'm reading Hassel's Dark Intimacy right now. It has a good section on powerlessness. There's also a section on the "prayer of being". On pp. 95 - 96:

Let us glance at these levels of human experience so as to better understand dryness in prayer. There is, first, a superficial level which presents to our awareness pleasures and pains like the constant purr of an air-conditioner, the heavy perfume of lilacs, the irritation of a skin rash or a raspy voice, the comforting warmth of a May sun or an April shower. The first level, then, is a constant stream of sensate impressions, the context of life.

Underneath this is a second layer of deeper experiences, such as the constant ache of neuralgia or the deep pleasure of loving intercourse or the delight of solving a perplexing business problem or the lyric leap of an evening at the symphony or the exuberant planning for the first baby or the panic fear of a flashing knife. This second level is more meaningful and lends greater depth to the first one.

But underlying both of these is a still more profound set of experiences which make up the third level. It is at this level that one experiences the enervating worry at not having a job, the satisfaction of affectionate family living, the sorrow of watching the alcoholic spouse struggle for respectability, the fulfillment of a successfully completed project demanding ten years of one's life, the sense of wortwhileness in the costly sacrifice for the beloved. At this third level the deepest hopes are raised or dashed, the finest joys are brought into full bloom, and the most crushing sorrows test the stamina of a person's very being.

Believe it or not, there is yet a fourth level, which is the dynamic basis of the three upper levels of experience. Although the top three levels are directly knowable to oneself, this fourth level is discovered and known only indirectly, that is, only in contrast with the other three. Thus a woman can be in good health on the first level, can be enjoying a full family life on the second level, can see her role in life as richly meaningful on the third level, and yet be restless and pain-filled on the fourth level. If it were not for this dramatic contrast with the top three levels, she could not possibly come to know the fourth level as part of her experience.

Hassel identifies this fourth level as the inmost being. He notes on p. 101 that Jesus on the cross had joy on the fourth level while feeling complete affliction and desolation on the upper three. (Or maybe he had expectation of joy on the fourth level, that might be more in keeping with the source verse for "joy" on the cross, Hebrews 12:2.)

"Powerlessness" has its own meaning that Hassel gives it. An illustration he gives of it is how John the Baptist was in the desert for years, Mary went through all kinds of particular things after her "let it be so", and Jesus also, once his ministry began, was at the mercy of it. Something about how we live for years and years in particular parts of life we don't have much if any control over, and there's a prayer for this.

I can't remember if Hassel says this early in the book or if I'm making this up (it took me a while to read, so the beginning of the book is relatively distant to me), but I possess the feeling that his "Prayer-Experiences" could be read as "experiences or places in life which are prayer". There's a quote from the Psalms that I like that says "In return for my love they accuse me, but I am prayer". Well, it says that in the ESV and not in other translations, but I think it's a plausible translation, maybe the best. And what am I if not my life? I think there can be a distinction between me and my life, but at the same time, me living my life is a big part of me, so I am prayer when I live my life of powerlessness. The whole place in life of powerlessness itself is communion with God.

The book had a discussion about bitterness that I also found helpful.

There were other parts I was less interested in, but for what's mentioned in this review, I can recommend this book.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Simantic Words

Everything that exists is conscious, but perhaps some things are words spoken by persons, and in that sense extensions of the speaker, rather than completely independent persons. In this way, it is possible for a brick, concept, emotion, spoken or written word, or any other phenomenon to not have its own personality. Such a phenomenon is a simantic word. It has meaning, and the meaning is put into it by a speaker who speaks it to you, the listener. The speaker knows you and adjusts the meaning of the word so that it means what it means to you. (This paragraph might be clearer after reading Simantism.)

Simantic words have a meaning independent of the hearer. They are coined. The Coiners of the universe (the whole of reality, wholeness and reality included), time, matter, the emotions, species of all sorts (biological or not), taxonomies and what instantiate them, and so on, determine much of what a word means. But we individually also understand words in our own way.

A word stands between speaker and listener and connects them. It means something different to both speaker and listener, but substantially the same to both. The consciousness that speaks to us, God, the Speaker, shares our experiences, shares the words we hear from him, although he understands more of what the words mean than we do. So we have direct knowledge of the meaning of our experiences, and we have a good idea of God's understanding of them, through our own understanding, although there is room for error depending on how much we are in tune with him.

As a consequence, those who practice all kinds of religion (or other meaningful pursuits) find themselves being spoken to by God. An entire religion is valid, even if not literally true, because it is a word spoken by God to its adherent. It is possible that a pursuit is not entirely in line with God, but in general, what is beautiful is good, if not necessarily literally true. There are many images of God that we worship, some more, or less, connected with who he is, but only one God who answers our prayers.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Meaning Conveyed Through

Meaning is conveyed through aleatoric art.

Meaning is conveyed through what we can see of human beings and animals.

Meaning is conveyed through art.

Meaning is conveyed through betrayal.

Meaning is conveyed through blasphemies.

Meaning is conveyed through concepts.

Meaning is conveyed through doubts.

Meaning is conveyed through fragrances (even cheap ones).

Meaning is conveyed through interpretations.

Meaning can be conveyed through life as a whole.

Meaning is conveyed through life realities.

"That love story is just dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, evolutionary mechanism" itself conveys meaning.

Meaning is conveyed through moralities.

Meaning is conveyed through numbers.

Meaning is conveyed through objects.

Meaning is conveyed through pain.

Meaning is conveyed through patterns.

Meaning is conveyed through the sky (a firmament, a canopy, etc.)

Meaning is conveyed through stars, as pinpoints of light as much as fusion engines trillions of miles away.

Meaning is conveyed through sunsets. (Aggregates of water molecules struck by light? Rather, a vision in the sky.)

Meaning is conveyed through the moment.

Meaning is conveyed through words which turn people away from trusting in meanings.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Simantism

Edited for tone and correctness.

What if there was a philosophy that was the opposite of nihilism? Nihilism denies meaning. So what would we call its opposite? The Greek for "meaning" is "semantos". That's ancient Greek. But in modern Greek it's "simantos" -- modern Greek for meaning as it's experienced everyday nowadays. So, it could be called "simantism".

Everything has meaning. When you look at something, you see its meaning, the way that it registers in you. In The Little Mermaid movie, the mermaid sees a fork as a comb (which she calls a "dinglehopper"). When she looks at it, it means that to her, but it means "fork" to us. Physically, it's the same. But the world isn't fundamentally physical. A thing is a thing according to its meaning.

How can a thing mean what it does? It does, we do not perceive that we project meaning on to it. What we actually experience is not that we project. We don't think we project the physical world. If we assume that the physical world is ultimate reality, we have to assume that the meaning of a thing can't be stored in the matter of a thing, and so must be a projection. But what we really experience is that a beautiful thing is beautiful, and a sunset is a sunset, not billions of unrelated dust and water particles lit up by light, which we "make" into a sunset. A sunset is a real thing independent of us. You do not make a sunset, you see it. You don't make it beautiful, it is beautiful.

So then, materialism goes against empiricism. When we deny our experiences, life becomes less meaningful. We become dishonest on a certain level.

What we see to be beautiful deserves to be beautiful. So there is an element of legitimacy in meaning. Human well-being is deeply meaningful to people because it deserves to be meaningful. If we think "I'm projecting deservingness onto this", it weakens the meaning of it.

But sometimes interpretations betray us. So we learn to not trust our perceptions. Does this mean that we do not really perceive what we perceive? No, we really perceive the sunset to be a sunset and a beautiful sunset. We really perceive wrong as wrong and right as right. We really perceive people as this way or that way. The perceptions may turn out to betray, but they really are what they are.

When we misinterpret a person, we really are relating to some kind of reality. It isn't them, but we really are perceiving something. This something has meaning to us. Illusions and lies have meaning to us. Doubts do. They all really do. We really do perceive.

So how can we explain meaningful perception? There are beings (objects, people, phenomena, ideas, etc.) which are not us. We directly perceive these things. And yet these beings which we could never conjure on our own in some way are what they are in a way that follows from who we are. The sunset is beautiful, has an intuitive meaning, to me because of who I am as well as because of how it is. So these things, which I do not make, which do not follow from my will, which sometimes surprise me, sometimes surprising me in how they are meaningful, somehow "know" me in order to speak to me the way that they do, be the way that they are.

Is there anything other than consciousness? If so, then how would that non-consciousness interact with consciousness? I'm not sure that it's possible for something that is essentially not conscious to "bring about" or interact with consciousness. But it makes perfect sense to say that consciousness perceives appearances of non-consciousness (for instance, perceives matter), and that consciousnesses can interact with consciousnesses.

On the other hand, if we look at what is the most fundamental reality, we arrive at "I think, therefore I am." It could be that only I exist. If so, then what do I think about myself? If I am the base unit of reality, then why should I question my sense that I am a full-fledged person, rather than some stringing-together of matter or impersonal consciousness? The person becomes the fundamental unit of reality.

But if only I exist, how do I explain all the things that are not-me that I interact with? And how is it that these things that are not-me somehow "know" how to be connected to who I am in their very being? Are they each conscious beings who know me?

Perhaps. If so, then what about the way in which everything that exists (as a whole) can speak to me, can mean a certain way to me? Does that mean that everything that exists is a conscious being who knows me? It could be that I have my own individuality and yet am part of another being. If we look at things from the "everything is consciousness" lens, a consciousness (a "coordinating consciousness") could connect with another consciousness by sharing that other being's exact consciousness. If I feel pain, this coordinating consciousness could feel the exact experience I do, not a copy. And this coordinating consciousness could connect to all other conscious beings, and communicate their intentions into my consciousness. It might be like how a live TV director can see a bank of different potential camera angles on different screens all at once. This could bind things together using pure consciousness.

So, the being that is conscious of everything could be everything that is -- a person who is distinct from all the things that it is and yet contains everything / everyone. This being is fully empathic -- goes beyond empathy as humans know it, by perfectly experiencing what we experience exactly as we do. Through that experience, it is able to communicate things to us exactly as we would perceive them. Its motive would be to eventually eliminate the betrayals we experience, because a betrayal of us is a betrayal of it, as well as bringing us into tune with itself so as to eliminate the ways we betray it. It puts up with our suffering, and our betrayals of it, without deciding to make us not be one of the things that are -- why? It must value us on some level.

Basically, this being sounds like God.

What about legitimacy? Is it possible for things to really be as we interpret them? Can something really be wrong? We might be wrong about it being wrong, maybe it's right, but is there any possibility of us being right about it? If we internalize on some level that no one really knows what's right or wrong, beautiful or ugly, we don't trust our plain, honest perceptions of things. And, supposing that there is a real right and wrong, if we think it's just "my take on things" that something is wrong, we don't do what's really right or avoid what's really wrong, because we can't fully trust our own values.

The problem comes because people's values differ. People's opinions differ. So is there an opinion that can decide between different values, opinions, cultures? What is it that would make an opinion most valid? Is it that the opinion-haver is powerful? Or rather that they are in touch with reality? Or they are reality? We tend to find valid the opinions of people we respect. Who is the most-respectworthy, most-valid person? What would they look like?

If a leader imposes a situation on you, shouldn't they also experience what you do as much as you have to? Isn't being all about experiencing, about trust? So then to really be, you have to be disposed to trust, to connect to and accept as beneficial on some level even the worst things. God experiences all the bad things we do (and the good), so then what is left to validate his legitimacy but for him to experience life (and death) as a limited being? So there must be some way in which the author of legitimacy can be a limited being. This would make sense if reality, the language of reality, of how things mean to personal beings (a sunset is a simantic word that many people can share, but which means something a little different to each person), and thus the language of what is and what is legitimate, was first coined and developed by two or more beings in collaboration, one of whom was all-things, conscious, some of whom were limited but of the same kinship group.

If God exists and is the foundation of legitimacy, then if we align our thinking with God's existence and values, then we can minimize how much we interpret things a certain way and then turn out to be wrong. We can find meaningful the things that God finds meaningful to a greater degree than if we based them on "what I feel, or what everybody sort of feels" -- we might say "I like loving people", but if we acknowledge the reality of God, then we have to really love people, even more than we would like. And we would have to approach love itself from the angle that God really exists (viewed Spiritually), and not make love (or some version of it) a pitiless, brutal god of its own, an impersonal idol.

If a society acknowledges God, then it can really be good. And it can take into account working according to God's interests, not just its own. Humans have something outside themselves to look to, so that humanity itself does not become a collective (semi-personal) idol.

People get focused on their own pain, their own ability to trust. But there is a reality outside of well-being and the obsession with well-being -- the world of meaning, of things that exist just in themselves, apart from anyone's interests. On a certain level, this is what we want when we seek after truth.

So this is a sketch of a philosophy which supports or even maximizes meaning, to provide an opposite to nihilism.

Aesthetic Bullying

Aesthetic bullying is when you say "Poison is the greatest metal band of all time. Anyone who doesn't agree just doesn't know what they're talking about." "Aesthetic bullying" and that particular example are relatively nice versions of a phenomenon that can affect any kind of values. You offer no argument for your opinion, you just forcefully state it in an intimidating way. It is taken to be, and sometimes is, an effective way of getting people to agree with you, but it has no connection to ultimate validity, just your projection of psychological force.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Prophets Make You Trust

1 Kings 17:

1 Elijah the Tishbite, who was one of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As Yahweh, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word." 2 Then Yahweh's word came to him, saying, 3 "Go away from here, turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, that is before the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook. I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." 5 So he went and did according to Yahweh's word, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith that is before the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. 7 After a while, the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.

8 Yahweh’s word came to him, saying, 9 "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to sustain you."

10 So he arose and went to Zarephath; and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and said, "Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink."

11 As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, "Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand."

12 She said, "As Yahweh your God lives, I don't have anything baked, but only a handful of meal in a jar and a little oil in a jar. Behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and bake it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die."

13 Elijah said to her, "Don't be afraid. Go and do as you have said; but make me a little cake from it first, and bring it out to me, and afterward make some for you and for your son. 14 For Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, 'The jar of meal will not run out, and the jar of oil will not fail, until the day that Yahweh sends rain on the earth.'"

15 She went and did according to the saying of Elijah; and she, he, and her household ate many days. 16 The jar of meal didn't run out and the jar of oil didn't fail, according to Yahweh's word, which he spoke by Elijah.

And here, in 1 Kings 18:

1 After many days, Yahweh's word came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, "Go, show yourself to Ahab; and I will send rain on the earth."

2 Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria. 3 Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared Yahweh greatly; 4 for when Jezebel cut off Yahweh's prophets, Obadiah took one hundred prophets, and hid them fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water.) 5 Ahab said to Obadiah, "Go through the land, to all the springs of water, and to all the brooks. Perhaps we may find grass and save the horses and mules alive, that we not lose all the animals." 6 So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself. 7 As Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him. He recognized him, and fell on his face, and said, "Is it you, my lord Elijah?"

8 He answered him, "It is I. Go, tell your lord, 'Behold, Elijah is here!'"

9 He said, "How have I sinned, that you would deliver your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? 10 As Yahweh your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent to seek you. When they said, 'He is not here,' he took an oath of the kingdom and nation that they didn't find you. 11 Now you say, 'Go, tell your lord, "Behold, Elijah is here."' 12 It will happen, as soon as I leave you, that Yahweh's Spirit will carry you I don't know where; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he can't find you, he will kill me. But I, your servant, have feared Yahweh from my youth. 13 Wasn't it told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed Yahweh's prophets, how I hid one hundred men of Yahweh's prophets with fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water? 14 Now you say, 'Go, tell your lord, "Behold, Elijah is here".' He will kill me."

15 Elijah said, "As Yahweh of Armies lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today." 16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.

When you follow the Spirit, you will be led into other people's lives. They have the choice of whether to trust you or not. There is some risk -- in the case of the widow of Zarephath and Obadiah, the risk of death. You sometimes bring with you a confrontation with life and death, just in the course of following God.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Spiritual Reality

Romans 8:

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don't walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the law couldn't do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; 7 because the mind of the flesh is hostile toward God, for it is not subject to God's law, neither indeed can it be. 8 Those who are in the flesh can't please God.

Thinking like a preacher, I see "You choose which law to live by. You'll always live by a law. The law of fleshly desires, which wants a pound of flesh from everyone who has hurt you, which wants you to be responsible for yourself because there is no God, which demands responsibility of and from others (among other things that we naturally want) -- or the law of the Spirit, which trusts in God, which listens, which does not believe in a strict accounting, at least not one up to humans to understand. To see things as though there is no God is to rebel against God, against the law of the Spirit. It is to reject God."

Thinking like a philosopher, I see a kind of approach to reality here. We think things have natures. Some people don't like that. They say that things have no natures. Nature: A thing has its attributes, its way it is. Anti-nature: Or it doesn't -- we can throw away the strict accounting -- anything goes (at least on some level).

We are tempted to see reality as impersonal. The modernists (nature and nothing but nature) and the postmodernists (anti-nature mixed with nature) both think reality is impersonal. But what if reality is personal? What would that look like? Things might still have natures, but be more like words, spoken with the breath of a person. Or there might be a reality other than nature.

Buddhism may be attractive to some as a way to soften the word "is". "Non-dual" could be a way to soften "is". DBT treats borderline people who have black and white thinking by borrowing from Buddhism's way of softening "is". Buddhism softens anxiety by softening "is".

We might see a softening of "is" in "seeing things in a Spiritual way rather than natural way". Things really are a certain way. But the way in which they are is partially unknown to us, is known by God instead. And in order to know something, it's known against the backdrop of our relationships with God. For something to be, it must be by the will of God, according to the legitimacy of God. So for something to really be itself requires that God exist -- and, according to a different logic, it follows that we trust him. And so "is" remains as true and even clear as ever, but a bigger fact -- not really a fact, but a person -- sets it in a different context, allowing us to bear it.

We get wrapped up in our interpretations of what we see. But God has an interpretation of things, which we can hear from him, and by aligning ourselves with him. The Spirit is life and peace.

If reality is fundamentally personal (which is pointed to by Descartes' cogito ergo sum), then we relate to reality, instead of figuring it out, controlling it, possessing it, taking it for granted, denying it, or ignoring it. But the greater personal reality is God, and it's in the context of trust and loyalty toward him that we can rightly approach what is, and thus come to know the truth.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Transfiguration

Matthew 17:

1 After six days, Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain by themselves. 2 He was changed (transfigured) before them. His face shone like the sun, and his garments became as white as the light. 3 Behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them talking with him.

4 Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you want, let's make three tents here: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them. Behold, a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him."

6 When the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces, and were very afraid. 7 Jesus came and touched them and said, "Get up, and don't be afraid." 8 Lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus alone.

9 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Don't tell anyone what you saw, until the Son of Man has risen from the dead."

Obviously what happened here was an event of power. The disciples already knew that Jesus was a man of power -- they might have felt, if not consciously thought, that he was a god. In this event, he is revealed as God, but perhaps more importantly, as a true servant of God. God validates his son.

To those who see through the eyes of power, the Transfiguration separates disciples from Jesus. The disciples will never have Jesus' power. They are subject to the absolute power of his glory. But if you see how the point of the Transfiguration is for God to validate his son, then you see how the disciples are kin to Jesus. If they obeyed God as sons, as Jesus did, God could say of each of them "Behold my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him."

Bible Readings (introduction)

Today I start posting "bible readings". All the Bible passages come from the World English Bible.

Do people have time to think? Maybe some do. These readings tend to be short but you can get more out of them if you think about them.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Substitutes for Desire

You can work toward something as a substitute for desiring it. For instance, I think it would be easier for me to write a love poem or even to win someone's heart than to desire them romantically. I could do those things as substitutes for romantic love, and they might be perceived as romantic love, and do some of the work of romantic love, but I would have no such love.

So it can be with holiness. We work toward holiness; worry that we aren't working toward it (a substitute for working toward it); worry that by working toward it, we're bad people for being so ambitious (another substitute); worry that we'll never really be holy (yet another); labor in our minds over it -- but what we could be doing instead is desiring it.

"How should I trust?"

Pouring your heart out to God and asking what you need of him is good because it is a form of trust. But sometimes doing those things is not trusting, on a deeper level. You pour out your heart rather than listening, or you ask what you need or want instead of trusting that he will provide.

So you can ask, "God, how should I trust you in this situation?"