January 10, 2009

The Mystic Route

Posted in atheism, church, fiction, film, martial arts, philosophy of religion, psychology of religion, science, theology at 8:35 am by Jerry

What is this video telling you?

First of all, it’s obviously an allegory. Flies don’t grow back half of their bodies when they’re cut off, or disappear into a painting. For that reason (and the title of the video), the fly is our clue to understanding what the video is about. And remember, it’s an allegory, so the video is not saying, ‘Don’t kill flies.’

The beginning of the video introduces a contemplative, sword wielding warrior who sees the life of a fly in his practice area to be his enemy (a destroyer of the peace the warrior possesses), and assumes the life of the fly should, therefore, not exist.

I’ve interpreted the fly to represent all enemies (destroyers of the good we possess) that live within our environment, or our selves. And, to destroy what we believe to be our enemy multiplies evil rather than saves the good because any living thing we think to be evil is never without possessing good (life itself, for example). Therefore, destroying our enemy makes us an enemy of good too, and subsequently, multiplies the evil rather than saving the good.

A fine lesson, in some respects. Although, anyone’s welcome to present a different interpretation.

Where I take issue with what is being taught in the video is when a fly lands on a beautiful painting and transforms into something beautiful within the painting. And the warrior learns from the fly that to overcome the presence of a living destroyer of peace one must create an ideal (heavenly) reality apart from the one actually experienced. Then, by using some mental gymnastics, the warrior re-interprets the not-so-ideal (earthly) reality as an ideal one. In other words, he deluded himself of what is really going on – a la mysticism!

Why? Why take the mystic route? Why must we think we can know or even imagine the one and only, highly improbable, ideal reality, and think it should, and WILL, replace our lowly earthen reality soon, making EVERYTHING completely good?

Why couldn’t the warrior direct his efforts to a realistic pursuit of peace? Like trying to gain a better understanding of his present reality, achieving a greater awareness of the good that is within his enemies, finding what already exists to be “heavenly” within our earthen reality? No, instead, the mystic hides by overshadowing the real with an illusory veil, whitewashing what he or she doesn’t want to work through.

And we can find this happening throughout many of the religious communities, people who believe in a supernatural reality that sets themselves apart from the rest of the doomed world. Just recently, a Pastor explained to me that people who continually reject God’s goodness are creating their own irreversible destiny for complete evil. And God will “honour” their choices, while “redeeming” the lives of those who didn’t reject God’s goodness.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s admirable for anyone to want to change the life we have for the better, moving it closer to an ideal world (however unlikely an ideal world is). But until humanity is able to actually calculate a highly plausible future, we have no reason to assume that the universe will bow to our wishes.

The universe does not revolve around us. And yet there are many who believe that “God” (Creator/Creation or just Creator) made the universe suited for humanity, like a womb suited for a baby. Even in the empirical sense, some believe the whole universe (especially the planet earth) was ‘fine-tuned’ for humanity instead of humanity being ‘fine-tuned’ for the universe.

Look, I’m not saying there wasn’t a time in the journey of our species that we shouldn’t have thought and felt as if a loving, superior consciousness created a universe (or “womb”) for the benefit of our maturity. What I’m trying to draw attention to is that first, we all know there is a time when a child recognizes that he or she is not the center of the universe, and second, we also know that there is a time when a child outgrows the physical, mental and emotional needs to remain cuddled in the center of a loving, superior consciousness.

January 5, 2009

Technologically Impaired

Posted in culture, family, film, politics, psychology, soup at 6:25 am by Jerry

Picture this: a ‘Jack-of-All-Trades’ father having a philosophizing daydreamer for a firstborn son. Yep, that’s my Dad and me. Here’s another interesting comparison – I’m a ‘Generation X’ guy with a Mennonite heritage, but my ‘Baby-Boomer’ Dad is the gadget man. And my lack of skills with any type of gadget would probably destine me to a passive Luddite lifestyle if it wasn’t for my family’s (wife, Dad, brothers, father-in-law) assistance.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no moral prohibitions against all uses of technology. I’m aware that there are plenty of ethical uses of all sorts of machinery. If our collection of gadgets fill our bank accounts instead of draining them, and the mechanical world around us requires far less of our time than we require of it, fire up the machines!

But when the power of machinery is in the hands of governments and corporations, I become suspicious.

To me, it seems like they use technology to provide easy (and sometimes far from easy!) access to their product/service without a human face that actually responds to me, the citizen/customer. Sometimes I feel like I’m treated as a preconceived, computer generated, version of the average customer/citizen… And there’s no time or interest in a conversation about the transactions being made.

(Before I go any further, I suppose those who think the mediums of blogging and emailing to be too cold and relationally distant may deem this post ‘ironic’ and ‘contradictory’. I’ve heard it said more than a few times that ‘this kind of technology is used to segregate oneself from society’. However, comparing blogging and emailing with face to face communication might make it seem that way, but even face to face communication can be used in the coldest and most relationally distant way, segregating one’s vulnerability from any listener just two feet away. Blogging and emailing is, in fact, another way to share one’s vulnerabilities with those you know and those you have yet to know.)

And so, my concern is the question of unhealthy versions of segregation in our technologically advanced society. Because I know there are times and places in our lives when/where we need to segregate ourselves from part of the world. Be it with our families, with just our spouses, or a moment of solitude. Sometimes segregation can, I think, be equated with solace.

In the meantime, my impression of our attempt to progress as a technological society is missing some important human factors. Mainly, in the manner of communication between ourselves and governments or corporations. But this may be more of a personal issue than a public one. I don’t know. After all, I’m the one who is ‘Technologically Impaired’.

P.S. – here’s a somewhat related video that I find myself playing now and then, for some odd reason. 😛