January 13, 2011

40 Down, 40 To Go?

Posted in family, fatherhood, friends, history, marriage, secular humansim, soup at 8:09 am by Jerry

Looking back through the years, I would have never imagined being where I am.

I couldn’t have imagined the wife I have, the daughter we’ve created, and the good friends we regularly get together with.

I wouldn’t have imagined the books I’m reading, the arguments I’m joining, the drinks I’m drinking.

I wouldn’t have imagined taking the job I have, making the sacrifices I make, having the fun I’m having.

It makes me wonder what’s next…

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October 29, 2009

Stardust

Posted in atheism, film, mythology, science, songs, soup at 3:56 pm by Jerry

So many stars have died, exploding their dust across the universe, finding homes on planets such as ours. We, are literally the dust of many stars that have mixed into a variety of shapes, evolving from one form into another over millions of years.

One form we hold close to our hearts, among the many passing forms of stardust, is a form we call “life”.

We can be myth-makers, personifying death as a thief, a thief that will soon be met with justice, our lives returned to us once again. Or we can see ourselves as stardust, changing its form from one with life into another without.

Once the game is over, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.

Italian Proverb

October 27, 2009

Mother Nature and Father Time

Posted in atheism, church, film, history, novelists, philosophical theology, philosophy of religion, science, soup, theology at 5:35 pm by Jerry

Check out this video on what kind of “God” cannot logically exist…

I remember when I wrote about these ideas sometime ago in my novel-in-progress. The end result was, however it came to be, that I couldn’t think of “God” (I was a christian at the time) as being the creator of all things ex nihilo (out of nothing), but rather the creator of all things in the sense that he/she worked with material already existing. So, “God” to me was a “God” that could NEVER have been “omni-present”, nor “omni-potent” (unless whatever is, logically, the most powerful being ever to exist could be called “omni-potent”).

These changes in my theology also included a limitation of “God’s” knowledge. I couldn’t see “God” as a supreme being living outside of time. And assuming time is never without an end, it was impossible for me to picture “God” with the ability to know the future. And so, my novel-writing process led me to re-interpret my theology into one of many “Open Theist” interpretations.

I never even considered the fact that I had stepped into a “liberal” understanding of christianity (though I had yet to see the bible as a strictly human artifact) . From my perspective, I was only trying to see God in a logical manner because I assumed he/she thought of him or herself as logical. Even when I started reading Brian Mclaren’s books while entering into the “Emerging Church” scene, I never realized that I had liberal leanings in my christian faith. Looking back, I can see now that I could have easily labeled myself a Liberal Christian much earlier than I did – which was right after I left the church for good.

October 25, 2009

Time

Posted in philosophy, psychology, soup at 6:58 am by Jerry

Time is that quality of nature which keeps events from happening all at once. Lately it doesn’t seem to be working.

Anonymous

How do you take “one step at a time” when the more you’re involved in, the smaller the steps become?

Edit: I’ve got it! Learn to rock climb. (Dammit! I hate it when i find the solution and it isn’t an easy one!)

July 25, 2009

Concrete Morality

Posted in atheism, philosophy, politics, religion, soup at 10:27 am by Jerry

“Do you believe there is absolute morality?”

You gotta love this question, because if you say ‘no’ then it is easily assumed that you believe morality is conditional, flawed, and therefore, you have no solid ground to stand on when deciding what you think is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? Some may go so far as to assume you lack any true standards.

It’s true that there is little to nothing that I “believe” in. However, there are many things or ideas that I accept. (You know, it’s strange that these words, ‘believe’ and ‘absolute’, can be held onto so tight by many of those who get upset when you assume them to be “Fundamentalists”. Huh!)

For those interested, I don’t believe absolute morality exists but I accept the idea that concrete morality does. The literal definition of ‘concrete’ means “to grow together”. As an adjective it can be used to define things as ‘particular’, ‘real’, ‘actual’, ‘tangible’ rather than abstract. As a noun it can be used metaphorically..

an artificial, stonelike material used for various structural purposes, made by mixing cement and various aggregates, as sand, pebbles, gravel, or shale, with water and allowing the mixture to harden. via

I like ‘artificial’ in the sense that it emphasizes that morality is human made. I like ‘stonelike’ in the sense that morality is capable of providing tangible stability. And I like ‘various aggregates’ in the sense that what’s made is made out of diversity.

Morality, to me, is the result of a collective growing together, whether it be intentional or unintentional. When people cross paths, some sort of relating happens. My wife teaches her students, “We cannot not communicate”.  And this communicative experience will naturally establish itself in some kind of rule-enforcing political form (totalitarian, democratic, etc.), for better or worse. And these rules, if broken, are intended to guarantee negative consequences for those who break them. But if the rules are followed, the collective demonstrates an act of reciprocal altruism, however imperfect it may be. And naturally, within this collective, sub-groups develop of people establishing more of these social contracts although with a lesser legalistic nature.

Some might wonder, by using the word “concrete” do I think at some point in the future the moral standards will harden into an unchanging entity. First of all, and let me make this clear, I don’t accept notions of prophecy or fortune-telling. So I don’t know what the future will be for morality, but if at some point the moral standards are hardened concrete and are in need of having some ingredients added or subtracted in the mixture, there’s always room to revise the recipe, collect the edited list of ingredients, and make a similar but better concrete foundation to replace the one being stood on.

Also, some may ask, “Then the horrors of the past are justified because the morality of that day had yet to evolve?” I say, “No”. Whether they knew it was wrong or not, our human ancestors are responsible for discriminatory actions that we, today, consider to be ‘immoral’. Having the individual freedom to decide which of the many good (acceptable) choices will be our own is a must. And expecting a society to protect all individuals that belong to the society from whatever harmful characteristics it may have is just plain common sense. “Then, where is justice for the victims of the past?” they may ask. I say, “Just like morality, justice too is not absolute …it’s concrete.”

July 7, 2009

Breath Without Breathing

Posted in culture, literature, martial arts, mythology, poetry, psychology, soup at 4:48 am by Jerry

It is said that when you breathe out you contact the Root of Heaven and experience a sense of openness, and when you breathe in you contact the Root of Earth and experience a sense of solidity. Breathing out is associated with the fluidity of a dragon, breathing in is associated with the strength of the tiger. As you go on breathing in this frame of mind, with these associations, alternating between movement and stillness, it is important that the focus of your mind does not shift.

Let the true breath come and go, a subtle continuum on the brink of existence. Tune the breathing until you get breath without breathing; become one with it…

– Zhang San Feng (widely accepted as creator of “Taijiquan”)

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. 😛

November 30, 2008

The Green Dream

Posted in culture, film, politics, soup at 4:24 am by Jerry

I just came across this video from my brother’s blog. It’s probably longer than the patience quota we give for other videos, but I wouldn’t edit any bit of it out…

Now that the U.S. has stepped towards reality by voting for Obama (and have yet to step farther by legalizing same-sex marriage), let’s put aside more of our apathy by politically pursuing the green dream. And by “let’s” I mean global action. Canada sure needs a wake-up call. The one political party that didn’t express any clear environmental messages during the last election was the one we many Canadians voted for. Pathetic.

December 11, 2007

Defining Love

Posted in atheism, church, culture, family, friends, marriage, psychology, religion, scripture, soup at 5:20 pm by Jerry

“Love” is one of those words that are mutually expressed in conversation despite a lack of mutual understanding in its meaning.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 NASB)

According to this biblical passage, either there’s no such thing as an atheist or atheists cannot experience true love. Both are presupposed fallacies and possible explanations for the confusion over “what I believe”. I assume, when people say they just don’t know what I believe anymore, what their really wondering is where does my heart find meaning and purpose, what is it attached to or what does it rest on. In other words, where does my heart find security and significance?

I find, though, when I respond to this concern my answer is never good enough for a religious person. Maybe it’s because a religious person sees my life as cheated out of the extras in their lives, I don’t know. They have an extra reality called the supernatural. They have an extra life beyond the grave. They have an extra Being who is extra extra powerful and extra extra knowing. And because of all these extras, they have extra hopes for the future.

I think my life has just as much depth and fullness (sometimes more, sometimes less) than any religious person. So, if I do the math, I can only assume that I’ve been able to take greater advantage of the meaning naturally gleamed from this world than some others have. But my point is not to create a hierarchy of meaningful lives here. Rather, it is to emphasize the opportunities atheists have to enrich their lives here on earth. Now, to answer the interest in where my heart finds security and significance: I believe in Life and the Love it creates.

Whether life is intelligently designed or love is attributed to a god (Ishtar, Aphrodite, Freya, Radha, Jesus, Kama, and so on), I find security and significance among all the living and a world of exploration in the love that life creates. That’s right. I think life, good old fashioned naturalistic life created love. Yet some have told me that the evolutionary reasons (survival) for the naturalistic world to have created love diminishes love’s meaning. I fail to understand this kind of reasoning because I just don’t see how the evolutionary process diminishes love’s meaning – unless your losing some mystical extras presumed in love’s definition.

I think a close association between God, Life and Love makes some worshipers feel that an attempt to clarify what ‘love’ is would be irreverent or impossible because the true meaning of love is ineffable in the mystical sense. And even for those of us who feel our experience of real, beautiful love cannot be diminished by any explanation of it, we fear the loss of our own meaning of the word, our own poetical definition from the depths of our being that need not be mystical to be ineffable.

Sometimes I wish we could just eliminate words like ‘love’ and create a new word for each of the many meanings that can be found in it. Some languages do this already. Take the five Greek words for ‘love’, for instance. In the Greek, the words “Xenia,” “Storge,” “Eros,” “Agape,” and “Philia” are all translated into the English word “Love”. (If you’ve grown up going to church, you’ve probably heard these definitions with extreme emphasis on Agape as Godly love that completely outshines all others, even though the others, we are told, are not without purpose.)

After re-exploring the five Greek concepts of love, I discovered I already had my own personal revamped definitions of love too:

XENIA (known as love offered to strangers) = a consented act of service between those of their own species.

STORGE (known as family love) = a consented act of service between those considered a refuge.

AGAPE (known as unconditional love) = supporting humanity’s instinct for Xenia and/or Storge with a dutiful commitment to the political/social necessity of Xenia and/or Storge despite the lack of happiness found there in.

EROS (known as erotic desire) = a consented act of service between those with a mutual sexual attraction.

PHILIA (known as friendship love) = a consented act of service between those with a mutual attraction of minds; ‘soul mates’

(Notice how my definitions of Xenia, Storge, and Agape do not require or rely on the consciousness of physical or emotional feelings to perform the acts of love. Eros, however, does require a consciousness of one’s physical feelings; and Philia requires a consciousness of one’s emotional feelings.)

Now that I’ve articulated my current definitions of love, I’ll be analyzing them, contemplating overlaps or the lack there of, and looking to read material out there that will restore the true definitions of the greek words while helping me to develop my own.

May 19, 2007

Borrowing Morality

Posted in culture, politics, psychology, religion, soup at 9:40 am by Jerry

RIDDLE ME THIS: What does a Revelationist and Relativist have in common?

ANSWER: They both claim to, ultimately, give up their responsibility of making their own moral judgements of others over to someone else.

Which means, ultimately – they can never take credit for being right nor own up to being wrong. And yet, even though someone else is understood as the ultimate judge of others, neither Revelationist nor Relativist can live up to this fundamental principle of theirs…

“They are unfit to judge themselves properly. Only God is a righteous Judge!” says the Revelationist, “And by His Word, we know these people are committing sins against Him.” “But that’s a different culture than the one you’ve grown up in,” says the Relativist, “Their moral structure is just as valid as yours. Telling them they are sinners is wrong!”

Oh, the irony! All this judging of others for making judgements!

The reality is – everyone judges everyone all the time. Just by our curiousity alone we come up with a theory about who people are, the good and the bad about them (though we might not always express these opinions). And just by saying this, I can hear the objections already – “Are you saying we should embrace these judgements of others? What if they’re wrong?”

I’m aware of our fallibility. We cannot always be certain about what others ought to do. But, by just saying certain moral standards are God’s standards or another culture‘s standards doesn’t make them infallible either. I hear more objections – “So what do we do then? Everyone for themselves? If we can’t completely subject ourselves to external authorities, are we to make ourselves the ultimate Authority? What gives us the right to make our own moral judgements of others?”

When I read The War for Children’s Minds by Stephen Law, I came across “Milgram’s Experiment” (pp.43-45). I’ve never heard of the experiment before, but it confirmed for me the need for all to be capable of questioning external authorities and defending disobedience when needed.

A subject who has no ability or expertise to make a decision, especially in a crisis situation, will leave it to the group and its hierarchy.

via Wikipedia’s Milgram Experiment

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