April 28, 2007
Lately, I’ve been wondering about the Christian value of “free will”.
I’ve read and had conversations with many Christians who argue for the existence of free will by saying something like – you can’t truly love someone if you don’t have freewill (as if the choice itself rather than the act authenticates love). Nevertheless, if God couldn’t (or wouldn’t) look into the future of possible Universes to decide which one he was to create, and – if the present Universe is not completely governed by the laws of causality, then – there would seem to be room for the ever-popular “FREE WILL”.
According to bible-based Christology, the volition or will of a Christian will be sacrificed to God when they enter into heaven so that God can make it perfect, thereby – making it so that God’s followers will always choose what God wants.
1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12 (NASB)
10After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5 (NASB)
I suppose, if I knew that someone who was all-good, and had the power to give me a righteous brain-washing (and was willing), I’d consider having it done for the simple purpose of stopping myself from harming others and myself. But I have a hard time imagining myself handing someone control over every facet of my mind because I’ve never met anyone THAT trustworthy! (And as you can see from four previous posts of mine, I don’t think the God presented in the bible is “all-good”.)
I use to be a Jesus follower…
[The bible paints a metaphor of the body of Jesus followers as a virgin betrothed to Jesus the bridegroom. And whenever Jesus followers die in this world they walk down the afterlife-isle to be married to Jesus – a match made in their heaven.]
..but I left him at his altar of thought control.
November 15, 2006
After re-reading Becky’s post on our baby blog, I wonder how frustrated our child may get because of how badly we misunderstand him/her. Articulation is such a challenge. I consider it one of my greatest weaknesses. I’m not exactly superhuman in other areas either, but in some sense, ineffability has become my Kryptonite. (Maybe that’s why I’m so hard on those who pursue ineffability.)
I can already see the irony in what I’ve just said here, because, my pursuit to improve my ability to articulate my thoughts and feelings about my life and the world I live in, is, in fact, a form of pursuing ineffability. Let me attempt to clarify: I’m not saying any pursuit of ineffability is dangerous. What I am saying, is – destroying or barring forever any knowledge, and the language that carries it, is dangerous. If we pursue ineffability by reaching the limits of knowledge and language after using all knowledge and language available to us, then ineffability can be accepted as a part of our current identity. Arriving at this point, for me, is the pinnacle of poetry.
I say “forever” above, because I see validity in keeping certain knowledge from ourselves until we think we are ready for it. It may seem, at times, knowledge and language can be mirrors that don’t always reveal the best of life, including ourselves. But this shouldn’t make knowledge and language our enemies. I know meaning can often get buried in so-called knowledge and convoluted wordiness. It doesn’t have to. Knowledge and language can reveal meanings, create clarity, and help us understand their limits. These are not characteristics of an enemy, but instead, a friend.
And this is the kind of friend that can empower us. There’s validity in the saying, “Knowledge is power,” as long as that knowledge is in the right hands. How alienated and powerless would we feel if we were not able to articulate who we are to others? How blind would this world be if we barred knowledge of others from ourselves?
Here’s a clip from the movie “Waking Life” – an elaboration of language and the human need to communicate with others…
*[Coffee break needed here. This post doesn’t know if it’s two posts or one.]
There is power in being known and knowing someone’s identity, someone’s true name…
My baking and brewing I will do today,
The queen’s son to-morrow I will take away,
No wise man can show the queen where to begin,
For my name, to be sure, is Rumplestiltskin.
Rumpelstiltskin – one of many ineffable names, only, this one was ineffable out of ignorance, not out of fear. Out of fear, other monsters’ names are not uttered because it is felt the utterance would call the monster’s attention to the one speaking their name, as if the monster was omnipresent. This kind of superstitious fear gives more power to the monster and its name than deserved. (A lesson kids can learn from Rowling’s Harry Potter.)
And what, exactly, are the evil doers’ motivations for wanting others and themselves to believe misrepresentations of their own identity? I think it’s because the truth would reveal how small and incompetent the evil doers really are. I think this is the reason why some myth-making novelists portray the paradoxal vampires as incapable of seeing their own reflections. And I say “paradoxal” because these “undead” creatures are also created to have the power of immortality. To me, this represents the lofty value of life, recognizing that as long as life has existed, its always been larger than death.
But I’m getting off track here. Tangents – for good or bad, you’ll find them in all daydreamers.
At a loss without a segue, I’ll return back to the beginning about my child’s articulating abilities and say that I’m also looking forward to the day when our child articulates his/her recognition of us parents by calling out, “Momma” and “Daddy.” But before the little one tries to articulate our self-imposed names, the two of us have to try to make our nameless child named, which is no easy task.
Whatever his or her name will be, someday, I may end up telling the little one that as much as I try to understand her/him, I will not be able to define who s/he is in a few syllables (or a 300 page biography); but I’d be more than willing to help her/him pursue the ineffability of his or her identity through the means of all available knowledge and language. I know it’s presumptuous to pre-plan my fatherly role here, so I’ll just say – I’m looking forward to being there when my child needs my help on his/her journey of struggles.
November 13, 2006
I often question the validity of the psychosomatic process. And today is one of those days when I can’t help but wonder if it is valid. Throughout my Kung-Fu training I have discovered alot about my poor posture. I use to think posture was only about taking on a rigid, physical pose – “Sit up straight!” I’ve seen on TV shows, characters being “civilized” by learning to walk with a book balanced on top of their heads. But through my current training I’ve been discovering there is so much more value to this practice of posture…
- A position of the body or of body parts: a sitting posture.
- An attitude; a pose: assumed a posture of angry defiance.
- A characteristic way of bearing one’s body; carriage: stood with good posture.
- Relative placement or arrangement: the posture of the buildings on the land.
- A stance or disposition with regard to something: “Those bases are essential to our military posture in the Middle East” (Gerard Smith).
- A frame of mind affecting one’s thoughts or behavior; an overall attitude.
My training has revealed to me that my heart was literally not into the maneuvers my body was doing. I arched my upper back as if my heart was trying to pop out of it. And to compensate, my mind would literally over-extend itself forward to over-analyze a badly needed instinctive response. And to increasingly lose adherence to a unified posture, my arms would get so involved with creating distance between me and my opponent’s strikes that their fluttering disconnected themselves from any power in my stances – which were also disconnected from a pelvis slipping out backwards and up to inadvertently dump my belly in front of me. Horrible.
Presently, I’m working to correct my posture while avoiding any further compensations of my uninvolved heart – like the superficial puffing out of the chest with rigid muscles, holding nothing but air (as if I was covering an insecurity of mine). I’m told by my Shifu (Kung-Fu teacher) to be relaxed-yet-ready; and breathing belongs at the back of the gut. I’m also told, after learning all the body mechanics of a posture to make them one feeling.
I wish I would have learned these lessons sooner. They might have saved me from alot of unhealthy behaviour. Whether it’s from the martial arts training I took before Jiulong Baguazhang Kung-Fu or just the verbal and psychological battles I’ve had while growing up, I can see now that I’ve mistakenly made an attempt to protect my heart by pulling it back from its natural position.
“Live and Learn,” they say, but what do they say about the difference between learning to think and learning to feel? There were so many times when a teacher of mine in public school (from early on) would write in my report card or stress to my parents, “Jerry would do so much better if he put his mind to it.” Apparently, I was capable of doing better than I did, but I daydreamed too much.
The teachers never (from what I can remember) suggested the possibility that my heart just wasn’t in it. Why would they? Because, then what? The mind is a better actor than the heart. Getting a student to think about different ideas is one thing, but getting a student to feel different emotions and desires would ask so much more from the teacher, more than the teacher may be able to give.
[note: I’ve described here my analogy of the relationship between emotion and reason, but I’d like to expand on it a little. Though I think emotion is to reason as flesh is to bone, I want to emphasize that there is a time when bone is not yet formed. And I say this because I want to emphasize that flesh and desire are much more prevalent than bone and reason. In other words – Just as flesh sets up the bone to keep the flesh in its place, I think desire does the same with reason.]
September 18, 2006
What do you do when there’s a disconnect between your mind and your body?
When our noumena (world within ourselves) develops its intellect through our body’s perception of phenomena (world beyond ourselves), we can then use this intellect to critically analyze its developing data to find any logical conclusions. When we (or our noumena) have found conclusions, we arrive at a personal “Ought”. At this point we’ve discovered what we should do, our conscience has changed once again.
Then, the next step is to just do it. But is it as easy as saying “just do it”?
At the Kung-fu seminar I went to I learned so many things, I had no doubt it would take a long time before I could make my body do what my mind had concluded I should do. So, back to my original question — “What do you do when there’s a disconnect between your mind and your body?”
When it’s a matter of my Kung-Fu training, I can’t force my body to do what my mind wants it to do. This may sound weird, but it’s as if I need to set aside time for my mind and my body to get to know each other. You see, my body could pretend to make it look like it can do what my mind wanted, but it wouldn’t feel natural or be authentic. I would be ingenuine. My body needs time to get to know my mind, experience my mind’s world. And the more my body understands my mind, the more it can become unified with my mind.
I know, I know, what an internal labyrinth! But I think it’s important. We can get so caught up in doing “the right thing,” what we “Ought” to do, that we end up losing ourselves in the process. Or, to put it another way, we can make prisons of our consciences rather than homes. This makes doing “the right thing” sound bad, but we know it isn’t. We know that doing the right thing is beneficial for others. It just feels bad for us when it’s not our natural tendency. So, if we want to be genuine people, it’s up to us to make the right thing natural.
It’s up to us to put our minds and bodies back together again.
August 31, 2006
I just listened to an interview led by Robert Wright discussing with Daniel Dennett various topics, and ending with the hot topic of the day, which is consciousness.
My own interpretation of the conflicting views of consciousness (especially after watching this interview) is that it is a question of whether we can actually BE another person.
Dennett, if I understand him correctly, does believe we will be able to BE another person when our technology is so advanced that we are able to download all information from within another person. Others, in opposition to Dennett, believe that knowing all the collected information of another’s inner self cannot equate with sharing that person’s experience of one’s self.
Dennett’s philosophy intrigues me. Because, if he is right, in the future we will have the technology to download everyone’s self into ourselves. Therefore, we could become everyone. Does that freak you out? It’s not that new of an idea. The eastern philosophy, Hinduism, runs along much of the same lines here. The “Atman” is the Hindu understanding of the self. And the “Brahman” is the Hindu understanding of a God that is Ultimate Reality, everything else. And the path of Hindu enlightenment is to actually experience the Atman becoming the Brahman.
Now, based on what I’ve mentioned above, this western perspective of Brahman would only include the Ultimate Reality of all human beings. But if technology were able to take it to the farthest level, I suppose Brahman could include all other information available in the universe. And by that logic, we would be able to become ALL. And if the downloaded information was interchangeable, eventually, “we” wouldn’t exist. Our former selves would be gone. Which, if I understand it correctly, is the equivalent to the ultimate goal for Hindus, called “Moksha”.
Technology would have made religious monism a reality.
March 21, 2006
I just read an interesting article defining “Divine Simplicity“. Out of the many statements that caught my eye, here’s one of them:
[God] cannot harbor any unrealized potentialities, and so must be immutable.
I can accept the idea of God’s personality being immutable (like a statue), but should we understand God’s actions to be like a skipping record?
Maybe God doesn’t relate to Him or Herself in new ways, yet still finds Herself fascinating, I don’t know. But when She decided to communicate to new Beings (us) She had yet to create, didn’t She decide to express Herself in new ways? The quote above assumes God has no free will, there is no new act of God. But if God can create a new universe out of nothing, wouldn’t She be able to create new divine actions out of nothing?
AND NOW, THE ROBOTS…
Am I implying in my questions above, “free will” is only for agents capable of creating something new out of nothing? Maybe. But that would mean, if not now then later, our actions will become like skipping records. Who could accept that? I’ve heard it said, “Humans need to have ‘free will’ to avoid being mistaken for robots!”
Well, believe it or not, not all determinists view themselves as robots. Robots and humans both have a hand (program) that guide the glove (body), but the human hand is something more than a robot hand.
The difference is – language can be reduced to numbers by humans, but numbers cannot be made into a language by robots. Languages to robots are nothing more than practical tools any third party can witness being used. But to humans, language has meaning that is experienced on a conscious level where no third party can enter – the subjective. (See the philosophical works of John R. Searle)
The subjectivity of the mind is beyond the reach of empiricists. As of yet, no one has been able to measure our thoughts and feelings. The realm of the mind is left (so far) to rationalists and metaphysicists. Thanks to philosophers such as John R. Searle, the current development, and hot topic (philosophy of the mind), has returned to being a large playground for philosophers, including religious philosophers. Why? The subject is moving towards a rationalized perception of the soul.