Archive for October, 2011

October 29, 2011

Slices of reality

We live, think and act inside thin slices of reality. Another slice, intersecting at an angle the exact point where i now exist, might look entirely different from the ones i am used to. Its truths and goods will seem like foolish errors, if they are even comprehensible. We must learn to travel between these slices of our reality, speaking of one truth with opposite words.

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October 29, 2011

Try to imagine at the same time that there is a god and that there isn’t. Use this seeming contradiction to stretch your mind until it realizes that neither position is true (nor hence contradictory) and thus learns to make out much better forms of what it once thought of as god or godless. Your view of the world will open up, no longer in thrall to a specific but inevitably flawed idea of God, nor the gaping hole where such a god was said to not exist.

October 29, 2011

A wiser man

A wise man was being led to the gallows after having insulted the cruel despot who ruled the land. While still on the way, the man turned to one of his guards and said: “Quickly, go back to the King and tell him i have repented and, if he should spare my life, will spend the rest of it only speaking to what will make him happy.” The soldier ran off with his message and returned a short while later, staying the executioner because the King had pardoned the sage.

Reinstated in court, the wise man began in earnest to find the very best ways the King could make himself happiest. When one of the King’s wives had angered him and he wished her flogged, the wise man took the King’s defense and said: “Oh King, your wife behaved badly indeed, and we must ensure that none of this weigh upon your mood one minute longer. It is surely not in your interest to punish your wife as she will then sulk, the children she bore will hate you, and your days will become misery. Instead, send her a sumptuous gift and shame her into loving you!” The King smiled at his cunning advisor and gave his say-so.

When a seditious general was brought in a few months later to be sentenced, tortured and hung, the wise man again took the King’s defense, berating the general for alarming and saddening their gracious ruler. Then, turning to the King, he said: “Oh gracious one, i plead with you, do not sentence this man to death or you shall never hear the end of it: his children and grandchildren will come after you, and your soldiers’ fear will destroy the palace’s festive air. Instead, speak to him, steal his heart, and you will have the greatest of friends and staunchest of defenders!” And so it was.

On his deathbed, the old King called his wise counselor to him. He said, “I know what trickery you have been waging all these years; i was never duped. But your ingenuity so amused me, i gladly watched you play the clown.”

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October 22, 2011

Liberal unbelievers

The liberal unbeliever of today imposes upon eself one or more of the following food restrictions: sustainable, fair trade, organic, vegetarian, vegan or raw only. The attendant casuistry (specific good deeds) includes: reducing, reusing, recycling, polluting a strict minimum, favoring renewable energies, fighting deforestation and rampant capitalism. The soteriology is corporate, as either all people or none will be saved in the end, and based on deeds (instead of faith). The hermeneutics is scientific, the unbeliever accepting the (liberal) pronouncements of (in particular climate) scientists as true and binding. The ecclesiology encompasses the entire human race as well as all or most living things on this planet. The eschatology is pessimistic and catastrophic, believing the end times are near, namely that the world and perhaps humanity itself will soon be irremediably destroyed unless almost everyone continuously performs most of the above-mentioned good deeds.

October 22, 2011

Imagining other selves

The following reflection might help you imagine how it could be that you have another self at a different level than your individual self:

When we are born, others teach us how to speak, how to think, how to reason and how to interpret our feelings and emotions. Every concept and idea we have about the world (trees, houses, parents, good & evil, joy, science, color, beauty, truth etc.) has been foisted upon us by our parents and teachers, broadly speaking. None of our thoughts originated with ourselves, but rather were directly or sometimes indirectly implanted in our brains by a pollyty, that is, by some other self that has our own self as one of its many parts. What we consider to be true, the methods we use for reasoning, the things we consider good or bad, the direction in which our desires lean, the accuracy of our emotional knowledge — all of these intimate aspects of who we are were given to us by the pollyty (except in those very few instances where we inventively gave them to the pollyty). We needn’t believe any of this was intentional, that some other foreign self is controlling us (intentions as such might  be only something individuals have), but we can imagine that we are unavoidably part of something that exerts a very great deal of control over us as individuals — like our brains exert a great deal of control over our bodies. We would then be a small node doing some of the thinking & feeling of this distributed pollyty. So, you are not only an individual but also another self, one that existed long before your individual self appeared and which will continue to exist long after you individual self disappears.

This other self is, however, very much your self, in a very practical and moral way. You just have more than one self, some extending much further than others, but all being ultimately important to you.

October 3, 2011

Moral and cosmological atheism

In looking for alternatives to the God/no God dillema, we should distinguish between its moral and cosmological aspects, whose solutions might be independent and perhaps even opposite.

Science strives to be methodologically atheist. The cosmological half of this effort has proven a resounding success, its moral half a terrifying failure.

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October 3, 2011

It is always in…

It is always in your interest to do what is truly good; it is always good to do what is in your true interest.

October 3, 2011

Tame your will …

Tame your will with your reason, your reason with your emotions, your emotions with your will.