The Watcher behind your Forehead
December, Anno Domini 1998
Decebrem 1, Par Christic
I've applied early to my college of choice and my life as a senior has gotten a little less busy again. I'm writing this in november knowing that I probably won't finish it until the start of december, especially because I'm now waiting on a few christian ministers for their replies.
I'm taking economics this year. Two neat things about today's world: Now is the best time in the history of the world to buy a car. Prices on the 1998 models are lower than for the 1997's. More features and more car, for a lower price. Rush out and buy an American car right now. The other neat thing is slightly terrifying and also vaguely reassuring. In the month of October, in the face of a crumbling world economy and deteriorating financial security, the average american spent more money than they earned. For every $100 we earned, we spent $100.20. Usually, between 4% and 55 of our incomes go into savings of some sort. Not last month. Last month, we borrowed against previous savings to pay for our purchases. At first glance, this seems nuts. Americans are crazy. But, looking again, perhaps this will keep our economy from going into a deep recession. The more we spend, the higher prices get and high prices keep the economy healthy, until you get to inflation, which, given the situation with cars, probably won't be a problem.
I just realized something. For the most part, the only time I work on these is after I've just gotten out of a bath. Here I am with wet, dripping hair and a towel wrapped around my waist and shoulders, typing away.
When I get sick, which isn't very often, I don't get a headache or a stomach ache or feel the need to empty my digestive system out of one end of the other. Instead of fairly harmless physical symptoms, I simply enter an odd sort of dreamlike state for the duration of my illness. It's characterized by my brain operating at around 65% of full capacity. I'm also usually not aware of it. So a few days ago I realized "Wow! I must be sick! That's probably why I don't remember anything clearly!" I forget to do important things, my driving skills decrease markedly, and I lose weight because I forget to eat. Just thought I'd share.
Normally, matter gets recycled by the planet. This is not to say that anything plastic you throw into the woods gets reused and becomes a new plastic squirrel. But, any matter you throw away will, eventually, be broken down into it's component molecules and reused. A dead body decays until it is just proteins and digestves for micro-organisms and worms. A plastic cup thrown into the world will (given several million years in the woods or a speedy trip through a magma flow) will become carbon and lots of other crap. The point is, everything goes back into the planet, except for a few cases.
The first, which has been going on at some level since just after the formation of our atmosphere , is the bleeding off of ultra light gasses. Several thousand tons of hydrogen, nitrogen and helium manage to escape the pull of earths gravity and diffuse into the vast emptyness we call space (because there's a lot of it). Fortunately, this is mostly countered by the new meteors that fall onto our world. In the average year, counting both meteors and atmospheric bleeding, the earth losses a few hundred tons of matter each year. This alone bothers me a little, but seeing as it's a natural and inescapable process, I can mostly ignore it.
What I have more of a problem with, even though it results in relatively little loss of mass for our planet, is when we allow something we build to escape the pull of gravity. Examples of this are: gasses vented for maneuvering in space and the various pieces of spacecraft that we find it inconvenient (for some reason) to simply let fall back into our atmosphere where they will be disentegrated from heat and friction until their component molecules are scattered to the winds to be recycled.
This is not to say that I'm against the space program, but that I'd like to see us keep space clean. Admittedly, there is no much room around our planet that the amount of stuff we'd have to leave there to make a collsion likely is so astronomical in our terms that we will almost certainly never clutter it up enough for it to ever to a problem. But the issue is not one of danger from possible collisions, but an issue of mass no longer available to our world.
It will certainly never make a real difference to the mass of our world, but I'd rest easier knowing that our world isn't shrinking due to our own actions.
I have a lot to say about communism, but I'm only going to say a little of it here.
First off, Communism is a wonderful idea. People live together and share the fruits of their labors without any parasties to hoard all the wealth. It's so Utopian.
Secondly, People have had their chance at communism and showed themselves unable to handle it. This is not the fault of communism, but rather the fault of the Soviets, Cubans, Chinese and various other people who tried communism and failed. The real key to communism lies in the phrase "Dictatotship by the proletariat". The soviets took this to mean a bunch of old men sitting around a table and making decisions in the interest of the people. They certainly got the dictatorship part right, but they seem to have completely missed the "by the proletariat" part. Democracy is far closer to communism than what the Russians/Soviets did with the Politburo.
Thirdly, This is not to say that people are simply not up to the challange of communism. What communism requires is a devotion to the common good and a willingness to be equals. In extreme times such as wars, famines, and plagues, people have been seen to sacrifice themselves for the common good. This is what is required for a communist society. Everyone has to put the welfare of the state before the welfare of themselves. In our modern american society, we get around this necesity by paying certain people to sacrifice for the country (soldiers, postal workers, honest politicians and most government employees, to whom I'd like to say a small "Thanks" to right now.)
Finally, it looks more and more to me like Marx was right. Capitalism is failing all over the world and may soon fail here in America if we are not careful. The lower classes are still being exploited as badly or worse than during the heights of laissez-faire; It's just that there are now more lower class people, so the exploitation is spread out over a larger number of people, slightly mitigating the effects. And, while we're still not on the verge of a worldwide communist revolution, it looks like there might be one in the next 10 years. Maybe. Probably not. We'd just screw it up as badly if not worse than the soviets/Russians did.
Hurry out to your broker and buy stuck now. Now is a great time to buy a new car. Or a house. The more you spend and invest and the less you save, the greater the chance we can avoid a worldwide collape. And encourage anyone you know living in a third world country to buy a car too. That last one is really key.
So that you don't have to delve too deeply into my only vaguely organized opinion section, here is a brief description of the salient points of my religion. Feel free to ridicule/point out flaws. I do it to other people's religions. Constructive criticism and the peaceful acceptance of constructive criticism are the keys to harmony. I'd love more feedback, particularly pertaining to my beliefs.
Christicism is the name I've given my own particular set of beliefs. Whenever my beliefs change, the definition of Christicism changes as well.
I used to consider myself Christian, and in some ways I still do. I believe in god, souls and an afterlife. Anything else is up to the discretion of the believer. Some people would say that makes me a Christian, but that description could also be applied to Satanists. Three important things about religion are that:
"God exists" is a fairly basic belief held by a good chunk of the world population. The explanation that God created the universe makes more sense and seems simpler to me than the big bang theory. He may have created it in a big bang, but the point is that he created the particle that exploded into the universe, and therefore, he created the universe. I think that everyone should believe whatever they want about who God is. Everyone who believes in God has some details about who God is, whether they have a name, a gender, a moral code, or whatever. It doesn't really matter what one believes about who God is, so one should believe whatever makes one the most happy. For my particular beliefs, click here.
The bible was obviously written by men, and religions that claim the bible as holy text don't deny this. And if it was written by men, what makes it any holier than "Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger? Divine inspiration is no excuse for this inexplicable holiness. The bible has now been translated from ancient Hebrew into Greek, into Latin and into English. Virtually none of the original text still exists. It was revised and edited at the ecumenical councils. How can something, even if it was divinely inspired when it was created, still be perfect after having been "edited" for content and then translated a couple of times and edited some more, and translated again? It can't be. The modern revised standard new-American or whatever bible probably does not resemble the original, long since decayed, divinely inspired texts at all. I do have great respect for whatever people wrote it however. Any book that can not only stay in print, but sell more copies than any other book in the world for 2000 years is much better than I could write. I think that most of the bible, especially the new testament, was written by a bunch of amazingly brilliant altruists, not a divinely inspired disciple or whatever. Not everyone is aware of it, but sections of the bible have been altered or even completely removed at the councils because they seemed to differ with the image and message that the church was trying to show. Anything that has been edited and translated to that extent should not be thought of as holy or divinely inspired because, while it may once have been holy/divinely inspired, it no longer is..
No absolute morality is another fairly simple point, but some people find it hard to accept. Why would God think it's wrong to kill? or steal? or commit adultery? These aren't "nice" things to do, but nice is defined by our own internal set of morals. Each member of a society is implanted with that society's morals at a very young age, usually by their parents, sometimes by other means. Your parents teach you that killing is wrong and that planting trees or giving toys to orphans is right. Who taught your parents? Their parents of course! Our morals have been passed down by our ancestors from the ancient days when they were decided upon for health or business reasons. Incest is wrong because it encourages genetic disease. Murder is wrong because every member of society is necessary for the survival of the tribe. Theft is wrong because it creates discord and ultimately leads to internal violence which is counterproductive to the survival of the tribe. These morals had, and some still have, a basis in practicality, but this does not make them absolute morality. They are "bad" for practical reasons, not because God doesn't like them. Why would some acts offend God? Some acts that wouldn't bother me at all would disturb or anger certain people from different cultures. Why is your or my set of morals better than any other one? It isn't. God never had a set of morals impressed upon him by parents and culture, nor did he have to construct morals to govern his own survival. As a result, God favors no acts above others. It pleases him just as much when you slaughter infants as when you plant trees or give toys to orphans.
This conclusion leads to the idea that nothing is a sin. If nothing is wrong, why would anything upset God or make him angry at you? It wouldn't. And if nothing you can do would upset God, why would one afterlife be better than the other? Therefore, Heaven and Hell are essentially the same. At this point, having concluded that Heaven and Hell are equivalent, it comes down to a personal belief as to whether God likes people. I happen to think that God likes people, why else would he have created them?. This leads to the conclusion the both Heaven and Hell are not only the same, but are good places to be. I believe that whatever you enjoyed doing in Life, you continue to do in the afterlife. If you liked slaughtering infants and old ladies and hanging their entrails around your neck, you get to do that forever. If you enjoyed planting trees, going to church and giving toys to orphans, you get to do that forever. And if you get bored of whatever you enjoyed in life, you do something else you enjoy. So, everyone is happy in the afterlife, forever. Now isn't that better than burning in Hell forever in a lake of sulfur as punishment for saying "Shit" when something heavy fell on your foot when you were 13? I think so.
Wow! I loved all that feedback last issue. For those you who missed my original question regarding hell and judgement, it's in issue #3.
In a contrast to last months impressively well thought out reply from the Russian Orthodox Christians comes the rantings of a seemingly unenlightened baptist youth pastor. His reply is far less impressive and ultimately boils down to "I don't know". Apparently either he or baptists in general don't have a very clear conception of what happens when you die, despite that it's spelled out in the bible (even if in slightly vague terms). While I suppose it's very humble of him to say he doesn't know, it's also kind of a cop out. The point of religion is to answer the great questions "Where did it all come from?" and "What happens when it ends?" If a religion doesn't have an answer to either of those questions, it's either not really a religion or it needs to go sit in the corner and meditate for a while until it figures it out. Anyway, it's not really worth reading (I summed it up pretty well in three words a minute ago) but here is his reply anyway:
Hi. Sorry it's
taken so long to get back to you. I've been in and out of
my office, but even more the questions you ask aren't easy ones and I
didn't want to give just pat answers.
Actually, I think it might really be a issue of not giving answers at all.
The questions you ask have been raised, pondered, debated and prayed over
for centuries. No one really has the answers. We can approach an answer,
perhaps, but that's about it. It is, after all, God we are dealing with
here and if we could explain God, God wouldn't be God, just some
projection of us human beings.
Let me share some of my thoughts with you.
One of the issues behind your questions is why is it that we live "a good
Christian life?" Is it because we fear the consequences if we do it? Which
is where, of course, hell comes into the picture. Another approach would
be that living a good life, the kind of life God wants us to live, comes
not out of fear, but as a grateful response to God's love for us. That's
the take on it I prefer. It doesn't resolve the issue of hell, but it does
put it in a different perspective. It's no longer the essential motivation
for getting people to live decently.
Much of your concern revolves around the question of why does God do what
God does. My sense is that the only really honest answer to that question
anyone can make is, "I don't know." Again, it's God being God. God's ways,
thoughts, understandings are not ours. Our humility before God has to be
one in which we are willing to say that we don't understand God's reasons
and ways. That doesn't mean we can't make affirmations about God, because
we can. We can affirm God's great love for us. We can affirm that God
holds us accountable for what we do and the way we live. We can affirm
that there are consequences for not living the way God intends for us to
live. What we can't do, however, is spell out in detail all the ways those
things get worked out in our lives.
Certainly a strong, consistent teaching of the New Testament is that God
will accept us whenever we come, whenever we confess and say we're sorry.
Again, I can't give an exact timing of when or describe the exact
conditions under which that happens, but I can affirm that it is true.
Your questions are good ones. They are ones that need to be asked. I also
believe that they can never be answered completely to our satisfaction --
at least not in this life. We can take our thinking about God only so far,
then we have to stop and simply stand in awe at God's power and most of
all God's love. That's not something we ever really understand, but it is
something we can experience deeply and fully enough to know that it is
Wow. The orthodox people had such a better answer. Maybe it's just that Orthodoxy is so much older that they've had more time to think about such important issues than the baptists have had. Or maybe the baptist youth pastor I asked was simply not the brightest guy. Either way, I was very impressed by the orthodox answer and totally unimpressed by the baptist answer.
Also worth mentioning is that he says we can't/shouldn't try to understand God because we won't be able to. I think this is simply wrong. Any conclusions we come to won't be 100% correct, but I believe that our best conceptions of God resemble God in the same way that a pebble resembles a boulder. It's basically the same stuff and looks and feels the same, only it's alot bigger and maybe a little more complicated on the inside where we can't see. The point is that they're basically the same (it's only a matter of scale).
Stay tuned for next month when I ask another christian sect the very same question.
For the original question, see issue #3 and for the orthodox reply, see issue #4.
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