Greatness: Some Honesty to Upset You Science-Types

I’d kinda planned on skipping these points, or glossing them over, so as not to lose some of you completely (I’m looking at you, Kris). But, any meaningful philosophical discussion really does require a significant degree of intellectual honesty, so I’ll drop some on you.

I believe pretty much everything modern science claims to be true of the universe, is true of the universe. There! You’ve gotta love that. Evolutionary speciation, Einsteinian can’t-go-faster-than-the-speed-of-light-for-no-good-reason-really, Heliocentricity, all that.

I ALSO believe pretty much everything ancient science (often called “Mythology”) claimed to be true of the universe, was true of the universe. See? That’s where I lost you.

Today, the world is fifteen billion years old, or whatever actual number you want to claim. Four hundred years ago, the world was four thousand years old. That’s where I’m going. All natural matter may be constructed out of 136 elements, but two thousand years ago it only took four elements to do the same thing.

I honestly, seriously believe that our world is socially constructed. All of the rules that govern the universe, all natural laws (as well as all nature) are pieced together from the mind of Man. Everything that can be tested, everything that can be measured, everything that can be communicated by way of symbols is simply a manufactured (might as well say “imaginary”) expression of some Real Truth to which we have NO shared access.

Therefore whatever number we put on the age of the earth is just an expression of how we are currently interpreting the nature of the world. If it is more useful for our present-day scientists to believe in time-intensive evolution in order to construct a functional explanation for the nature of animals as we observe them today, then our universe is flexible enough to include a world that’s billions of years old.

All it takes to make it true is to say it, and convince other people to believe it.

I believe lightning used to be heavenly javelins, and now it’s static discharge. I believe birds used to fly because they had so much Air in their nature, and now they do it using updrafts and hollow bones. I believe heat used to be an invisible liquid-like agent that flowed between objects, seeking balance, and now it’s an expression of energy.

I believe margarine used to be better for you than butter, and then butter was better for you than margarine, and now margarine is better for you than butter (I think). And where do we stand with eggs? And coffee?

NONE of this is real. It’s all just a game that all of humanity is playing, every day, and we change the goal sometimes, and we change the rules sometimes, but for the most part, at any given time, everybody agrees to a basic set of rules and we all follow them, and keep playing. That’s what society is.

That’s constructed reality.

There IS something real out there, but it’s not governed by any Natural laws. It’s not accessible to science, or logic. It’s Other, it’s Outside. We encounter it all the time, but in the process of trying to explain it, communicate it, understand it, we make something not-quite-like-it, we make a symbol, and then we pass that symbol around for years, forgetting the original source that it was supposed to describe. We make up uses for that symbol, and modify it over time, until it is very much a part of our lives, but no longer CLOSE to the Truth it was supposed to describe.

And then we encounter that Truth again, and it’s entirely foreign to us, so we try to understand, describe, and we end up making a NEW symbol for it, which we adopt, and pass around, and use for different purposes, but neither one is the actual thing, see?

So we still have myths about lightning as the javelins of the gods (the old symbol), and we still keep those around, and use them for certain purposes (they make good poetic images, for instance), but obviously that’s not the REAL thing, lightning. We know that now, because we’ve encountered lightning on a different level. We have a new symbol for it, this static discharge idea…. But that’s NO MORE the real thing than the javelin image was.

ALL of it (everything we say is true of the universe) is just a symbol we’re passing around, and modifying with each iteration, until it’s not the same thing at all. In other words, the MORE accurate you make your description (through testing and discussion and professional journals) the LESS like the original impulse it is. Yeah, you hate this paragraph now that I’m talking about lightning as static discharge, but go back and reread the paragraph before this one. It’s a constant cycle. It’s HOW WE DO THINGS.

Do you see what I mean? Do you see what I’m saying? It’s basically what you believe, too, except….

Ehff. You tell me. That’s what comments are FOR.

God: God’s Divine Plan and the Meaning of Life

I’ve already told you the meaning of life (that is, the reason for this temporal existence). It’s an opportunity for us to learn that Man’s way doesn’t work — that striking out on our own is…unpleasant. Even with all the beauty and the love and goodness we DO manage to effect, the sum total of human independence is a life we DON’T want to live.

Life is a chance to learn that.

After all, most of the beauty and the love and the goodness are aspects of God in our lives ANYWAY, so living independently merely reduces the amount of it. And, that reduced amount doesn’t make up for the genocide and the starving babies and etc.

So. Where, then, our interventionist God?

I’ll say this: I don’t believe God has an ultimate plan for the things that will happen in this world. I don’t think he’s in control, and I don’t think he’s trying to be. Oh, he’s CAPABLE of it — he’s shown before and he shows again every day that there’s nothing in this world so real that he can’t bend or twist it to his needs. But, for the most part, he doesn’t have much in the way of needs.

He needs a voice calling out his name, so that others will hear and remember what they already know. He needs a perfect life lived and a payment in blood to forgive on the infinite scale the mistakes made in this finite place. And that’s been done. I think, pretty much, that’s the plan. Oh, yeah! He needs people to be people (and learn why that doesn’t work).

That’s life, right there. That’s God’s divine plan for this world. I don’t think God has a plan that involves where you work, or what color your baby’s eyes are. Life is in OUR hands — he gave us dominion over this world and it goes all the way. And — rain on the just and the unjust — he gave dominion to ALL of us. Not just the good ones.

I’ll say it loud: God is not responsible for the state of this world. People are. People made this world.

God’s not even responsible in an initial kinda way, because he didn’t MAKE people in this world. He starts them out in Eden, and starts them out with a nature that will keep them there, but their own proud curiosity drives them (and, of course, by “them” I mean “us”) out of Eden and into this world, which we then help make more like it is.

This world, the one we live in day to day, is not of God’s making, but it (as a whole) fits within his plan for that other world, Infinity. Life is broken (we broke it), and that simple realization is an opportunity to learn why we should let go of it.

Does this all sound like I’m repeating myself? I’m actually trying to extend the argument to a conclusion. God’s Plan has nothing to do with our day-to-day lives. If God controlled that — if he exerted his dominion over how the world runs, and its general course — then life wouldn’t be able to serve the purpose it serves. It’s not that he’s an uncaring God (as some have said) and certainly not that he’s an absent God. It’s just that this life is doing what it was meant to do — it’s hurting as much as it heals. Which is a reminder that there’s a world that doesn’t hurt at all.

But what about prayer? I can practically hear you shoving each other out of the way to be the first to challenge me with that. Didn’t I say I believed in prayer? Am I shoving God out of the world entirely now?

Not at all. There are two answers here, and the difference between them is kinda subtle. (Also, one of them presumes I’ve done a better job establishing the whole nature of constructed reality than I have, but I’ll ignore that for now.)

First: people are born in Eden, entirely devoted to God’s giving, and only through living learn to try to live outside of Eden, which enters them into this world, which is Man’s dominion, not God’s. By trusting yourself wholly to God, by walking in the light, as it has been said, you begin the process of removing yourself from Man’s world and entering back into God’s. Prayer for THINGS doesn’t qualify as this — asking God to work miracles and bend the reality that we think of as reality, that’s insisting on staying within this reality but wanting it to be a better one.

But committing yourself to God, within this life, removes you mostly from it and entrusts your self to a world where God IS in complete control. That’s what Eden is all about.

That’s the first option. Your frame can be ambling around in the real world, while your spirit rests in God’s dominion.

The other option is one I offered above as a possibility: miracles, powerful prayer, interventionist deity. And I believe in these things, and I think it’s the only possible way to claim that God lets us run our own lives, but still loves us.

Because he’s there as a safety net, as a protector, as a Providence. He gave us full control, but part of that control is the capacity to ask God to help out. He is very much there, and he is very much paying attention — he’s just not running the show. A mother watching her children perform a puppet show, maybe. She’s paying attention and deliberately not interfering, for their sake, but she’s still there in her full capacity as their mother, ready to step in and save them if they get hurt, or to correct them if they take this little play too far into wickedness.

It’s a pleasant metaphor, and it gets a basic idea, but I’m not trusting it too far. Get the gist out of the image and then let it go, because it’s not a whole parallel. Still, God is there, constantly, watching and listening and dearly loving us. He answers prayers, he changes things within this world (perhaps things we could change on our own, through magic or logic or technology, perhaps things we couldn’t), but he doesn’t guide its flow. He doesn’t tell us what our world should be…or, rather, he did, once, and we saw it, and we shrugged, and we said, “Ehh, I could do better.”

And that’s this world. The other one is still there, waiting for us, and God DOES have an active hand in that world — he’s constantly maintaining it as the perfect residence for Man, and constantly inviting us back to it. We get to live in this sandbox of a Life for as long as we need to, to learn, and it’s all ours, but God’s is there, too, just as real, and always open.

God and Greatness: Those Who Are For Us

I went to church with Trish last night. I’ve commented before how topics on my mind seem to crop up throughout the day in surprising places, most notably at church. There was a Bible passage I’d discussed with Toby at work yesterday morning, and when I sat down in the pew for class Wednesday night, I actually thought to myself, wryly, “I wonder how that passage is going to come up in Terry’s lesson.”

Unfortunately, he robbed me of that opportunity. He opened the class with a question — what Bible passages or Biblical concepts do you think of when going through a tough time, for consolation — and the passage on my mind was too perfect an answer. So I brought it up, and spoilt my little game. Alas.

Anyway, here’s the passage we discussed yesterday:
Now the king of Aram was warring against Israel; and he counseled with his servants saying, “In such and such a place shall be my camp.”

The man of God sent word to the king of Israel saying, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Arameans are coming down there.”

The king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God had told him; thus he warned him, so that he guarded himself there, more than once or twice.

Now the heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel?”

One of his servants said, “No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”

So he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and take him.” And it was told him, saying, “Behold, he is in Dothan.”

He sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.

Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see ” And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, “Strike this people with blindness, I pray.” So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

Then Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he brought them to Samaria.

When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “O LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the LORD opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.

Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?”

He answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.”

So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel.

I always have a little trouble at this point, deciding whether to make a sermon out of the passage (as long habit in the church of Christ and as son of a minister have taught me to do), or do I just make my point, and get on with it.

I love II Kings, though, and all the stories therein, so I think I’ll make a sermon out of it, and hope that you get my Conversation points in the process.

First, notice what is going on in this passage. Pay attention to the way Elisha uses the power that God has given him. He is spying on an enemy king, to protect his own nation (and I’m very much caught up in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel right now, so this concept is very much on my mind). It’s essentially a political use of magic power.

When the Aramean army shows up at Elisha’s house, his servant freaks out. I realize we all know this story, but look what’s happening here (in the terminology I’ve been using). The armies of men show up, all terrifying in their Constructed might. They have learned how to use weapons to impose their will on the world (their own world, and those of others). They have learned how to unite their wills in great numbers, to overpower smaller numbers of men. They show up in great power, to threaten the Man of God, and his servant is afraid.

And Elisha just tuts, and asks God to open his eyes, so that the servant may see the great host arrayed around him. Elisha is a Man who lives by faith, who casually accepts the inexplicable presence of God’s Real Truth in his life, so he’s not blinded by Constructed reality. He doesn’t hide the power of God from his own mind, he accepts it on its terms. He doesn’t recognize the Constructed strength of his enemy, for he knows that, in Real terms, it’s insignificant.

And so he prays, and for a moment at least, his servant is able to see the world as it really is. He can still see the Aramean army around him with their temporal power, but all across the hillside he can see the fiery host, the army on Elisha’s side.

And then…well, there are two ways to interpret what it was he saw. Perhaps it was the Heavenly host, God’s army of angels lined up to do battle with the enemy. That’s what I was always taught to read, here. And if that’s the case, then it’s an army of Real Truth that can wash away Constructed might as though it were nothing, cobwebs and moonlight, by its sheer DENSITY. I think there’s reason to believe differently, though.

The passage just before this, in II Kings, is of the axehead that floats. If you’re not familiar with it, I recommend you go read it. Briefly, a man is out chopping wood, and loses the head of a borrowed axe in the river. It sinks, and the man is distraught, but Elisha comes and convinces the axehead to float up to the surface, and the fellow gets it back.

We are not supposed to believe, there, that Elisha summoned an angel and asked it to fetch the axehead for him. I’ve never been given THAT impression. Rather, I think it was a little Construction on Elisha’s part. By faith, he knows how ephemeral this world is, and by faith he is willing to release himself from it, to shape it as God wants him to. I don’t see Elisha (often) bending the world to suit him. Less so than Elijah, even. He trusts in God, and bends the world to make it more like the kind of world God would want Man to live in. That’s admirable.

I think that’s what we saw with the axehead — Construction. Elisha rearranged the natural laws so that iron would float, for just a moment, in just that place, so that reality itself bent to serve the needs of Man (its master).

And, returning to today’s passage (or, rather, yesterday’s) concerning the fiery host — here’s the thing: he didn’t USE them.

That’s the thing that makes me hesitate to call them an army of angels. Perhaps they are, perhaps the angels are just a great cloud of witnesses, and Elisha wanted to remind his servant that they existed. But it seems more like Construction to me — primarily because they took on precisely the form of an army. A Constructed thing, designed to rival the threat of Men, but magical in nature. When a mighty army of Men came against them, Elisha conjured up a mightier army of fire….

And then didn’t use them. I mean to say, I think this was just an example. Elisha was showing his servant that this world DOES NOT FOLLOW the laws we believe it follows. If a strong man comes against us, we can have something stronger on our side. If an army comes against us, we can have a mightier army on our side. It takes just the faith of a mustard seed to reorder reality….

So the servant’s eyes were opened to the power available to Elisha. The servant was able to see the protectors available. The same might that allowed Elisha to rescue a worker’s axehead also allowed him to defeat an army, but he didn’t use it.

Instead, he prayed. “When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, ‘Strike this people with blindness, I pray.’ So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.” And God did as he asked, changing Constructed reality by the power of his almighty hand. This is the density thing, again. The angels could have done the same (well, not the same as God, but they could easily have overwhelmed Constructed reality), but, as I said, Elisha didn’t call on the angels (which is why I doubt they were there — there’s no NEED for them to have been there).

The rest of the story is about respecting human beings as human beings. Elisha’s a funny little guy, but he sure comes off classy in the end of this story (and the king of Israel, not so much). It’s a good resolution, so I left it in the quote, but it’s beyond the scope of my argument, so I’ll leave it at that.

I’ve explored two possible interpretations of the fiery host here, and one is very much within my worldview and the other is probably one you’re more familiar with, but I’m not particularly arguing in support of either. The important point is this: there is something Real, all around us, something available to us that makes us more powerful than reality. More powerful than natural law or even than the world of Men.

There is something unseen, that is more Real than all the reality you deal with every day. Remember that.

Greatness: Colors Again

Daniel just sent this link, and I find it awesome.

The news story is quite short. Read it through. It’s not arguing my case at all, but it’s talking about the issue, and that alone is cool. Kris, you should love it. Nobody else really got the POINT of my question, so I’m just posting this as proof that it’s a valid question in the first place.

Thanks for the link, Dan.

Greatness: Point-by-Point

There appears to be some significant level of misunderstanding what I am proposing to be the case, and what I am suggesting as a profitable course of action. So let me recap. Most of these are not new ideas (within these conversations), but I’m going to try to bullet-point a bunch of them, in a good order, to actually clarify what I’m saying.

1) There are base truths. People are real things, and there are forces and energies around us (including other people) which present themselves to us through our senses.

2) Real Truths are chaotic, inexplicable things. When we experience something through our senses, we interpret it in a way that is meaningful to our brains. To do this, we build a logical structure that can rationally contain the original experience.

3) Over time, each new experience must be interpreted into our rational understanding of the world in a way consistent with others. We begin to build more and more complex logical structures in order to accomodate these various conflicting stimuli.

4) One of our strongest systems for building rational structures is Language, which we use as a foundation for most of our other techniques. We name experiences, and then are able to group similar experiences using similar names. Mathematics is as much a language as English or Swahili, and serves as a very clear example of this.

5) By sharing language between two people, we can establish common points between our rational systems, and nail down our common experiences until we share the same interpretation of the base experience. (I could write pages and pages of articles on this point alone.)

6) When we teach another person our language, we teach them how to interpret base experiences. Thus the apparent similarity between individuals’ constructed worlds is actually crafted by the process of learning to communicate — once we have a chance to compare worlds at all, we’ve already made them similar.

7) “Constructionism” refers to the process of building a rational network to accomodate the unique human experiences. “Social Constructionism” is the process of sharing our constructed systems with others, and developing realities capable of overlapping.

8) Science is a Constructed System, in that it analyzes real experience and tries to explain its relationship to other real experiences (and predict future experiences based on that).

9) Religion is a Constructed System, in that it responds to the real relationship between Man and God and seeks to address the differences between them, providing a rational (if not logical or naturalistic) structure of behavior and belief to accomodate those relationships.

10) Philosophy is a Constructed System, in that it analyzes the most challenging and inexplicable of human experiences, and attempts to consolidate them into a comprehensible explanation.

11) Social Constructionism is a Constructed System, in that it recognizes the dissociation between reality and base experience, and seeks to rationally explain the source and method of a rational reality given irrational experience.

12) Okay, I’m done with that now.

13) Constructionism is the mechanism by which Man INTERPRETS his reality but, in the process, he imposes his will on it. Consider Schrodinger for this. Or Schroedinger. Or Schro:dinger. Howsoever it is spelt. By observing, we change things. Or, rather, we incorporate into our own, personal reality, a reflection of those real things which we observe, and this reflection is shaped by our understanding thereof. Thus, though there may be real things without, unchanged by our perception…the instance of those things within our personal universe is changed by our personality.

14) All rational creatures are, as part of being rational, capable of constructing for themselves these logical fantasies which are Constructed Systems. Rational beings are able to interpret their experiences and, in the process, build for themselves operational replicas of the world of Real Truth, with a kind of mental scaffolding they are able to use to navigate it. This scaffolding, rather than the environment containing it, is then taken to be the true reality, because it is logical and consistent.

15) It is the nature of rational beings to try to exercise these powers of Constructionism. It is difficult for rational beings to accept Real Truth as it presents itself to them, they want something more comfortable. Thus the drive to Construct reality.

16) I am not a Constructionist in that I’m advocating that people Construct more. I’m a Constructionist in that I believe (or…recognize) that this is the way the world is, and I’m trying to clarify that for everyone else. Yes, Science works, but that’s no reason to BELIEVE in Science. It works because we’ve made it work. I’m not suggesting that we Construct instead of practicing Science — I’m saying that Scientists are Constructing reality whenever they try to describe it. I’m not trying to stop them, I’m just trying to change your perspective a little bit.

17) Recognizing the difference between Constructionism and Naturalism allows us to meaningfully, intelligently believe in something greater than reality while still successfully functioning within reality. Naturalism only allows the latter. (Existentialism, on the other hand, only allows the former. Dirty hippies!)

18) The act of Construction is a rebellion against God. Some of you think I was calling for people to do more Constructing. I was not. The act of Construction is rebellion against God. It’s also something very much a part of temporal life. There are ways to escape it, but those ways are not easy and they’re not natural.

19) God created temporal Life for Man as an opportunity to act out our rebellious Constructionism (which, as I said, is an inherent tendency of rational beings) within an environment of only temporary consequences. We will all Construct our experiences, throughout our life, and this is rebellion against God, but it’s allowed…temporarily.

20) Heh. Temporarily. That’s a good one….

That’s my summary. At its barest, I think you could use “Construction” as a synonym for “Worldview” and get away with it. Construction is our interpretation of our experience. However, at its true Post-modern best, Construction recognizes that this Worldview is imaginary (that’s the point of the term — it’s something we built, not something foundational), and thus subject to deconstruction and reconstruction and just general fiddling with. And, if we can do that, we have no reason to be bound to our initial understanding of reality. We can build one more to our liking or, even better, build one closer to the reality that God wants us to experience.

Got that? We can change our world. That’s the point of Constructionism. And, with faith, we can change it into something more like what God wants. That’s maybe not THE ultimate purpose of Man, but it would be pretty good preparation for accepting Paradise when it’s offered, and make a whole lot of people’s lives better while they’re living them. Which isn’t a terrible ambition, y’know?

Greatness: Existentialism, Nihilism, and You!

Dan and Trish and I watched “I Heart Huckabees” last night (against my wishes!). It’s about an existential detective agency which you hire to spy on you, and figure out your innermost…whatnot.

I don’t like Existentialism because it stikes me as an entirely Constructed method of Deconstruction (in the movie they called it “dismantling,” but the philosophical and literary term “Deconstruction” came out of Existentialism — I believe.)

Existentialism calls for an understanding of and intimacy with the principle that all things are one. It’s got its similarities to Buddhism, with a higher degree of New Age thrown in, and here’s my problem with it: even though the language of Existentialism completely escapes the greatest problems of Buddhism (ego-centricity), the practice of Existentialism achieves the exact same effect. The one-ness is entirely internal. An Existentialist brings everything in the universe into his own consciousness, ties everything to himself, and then reacts to everything in an entirely selfish way (after all, his “self” is now the whole universe, so that’s an unselfish attitude, right?).

The LANGUAGE of Existentialism is focused on others and respect for all things and et and cetera, but the drive of Existentialism, really, is to break everything in existence down until you understand how it relates to you (oneness, right), which is essentially stripping it of its independent existence, its independent reality, and leaving behind only the ghost of it that was your constructed version.

Because, yes, everything in YOUR universe is wholly One, because all of it is the product of your mind. You can attain perfect Oneness within your universe by divorcing yourself from the connections with other Constructing realities, leaving only yours, unchallenged.

Thereby removing yourself from the human drama (as they put it in the movie) and gaining a pure understanding of everything going on in the whole universe (because it’s all the product of your own mind).

Nihilism does a very similar thing, with opposite language. Nihilism recognizes the utter incomprehensibility of Unconstructed reality, and rather than trying to draw Meaning from it (where the incomprehensible is, in my opinion, the only source of Meaning), Nihilism concludes that the whole universe is a dark, chaotic, unfriendly place. Nihilism brings people closer to Real Truth (by focusing on the incomprehensible and ignoring the Constructed), but gives them no hope and no tools to react to Real Truth once they’ve found it.

It boils down to this: Life is not Nihilistic. Life is not Existential. Life is not Christian. Life is not our explanations of Life, it’s the thing they’re explaining. At one point in the movie, Mark E. Mark asks, “Why is it we only ask the big questions when things go terribly wrong? And then, when it gets better, we forget all about it….” That’s an easy one: Life isn’t what you read about in philosophy books. Life is the normal human experience. When it starts to confuse us, though, we begin to look for a rational explanation, and so we begin constructing.

Existentialism CAN describe the human condition (Creators that we are, any philosophy can eventually be built up to describe the human condition). The thing is, it’s not how we live most of our lives. It’s not the consistent thing across human experience, it’s a manufactured and TAUGHT method of understanding that experience. All philosophies are constructed. All religions are constructed. All logical frameworks are constructed.

The thing about Existentialism, though, is that it uses the language of Deconstruction as its method of Construction. That annoys me. Really, deep down, it makes me want to punch a hippy.

Nihilism gets to me, too, because it achieves what I WANT to achieve, but leaves you at the end of your journey with none of the resources necessary to enjoy the destination. I feel sorry for people who go that route, because I can’t even argue that it’s an ineffective method, just that it’s ultimately unrewarding, and I believe better options are available.

(Argh! RELIGIONS, I said! Not God. Not Real Truth. The temporal structure we use to worship God is Constructed. That’s no heresy. The Temple was Constructed (physically, manually), but it was still a viable place to worship God. It’s no more terrible to say the methods themselves are Constructed. That’s all I was getting at.)

P. S. – I’m actually not saying anything for or against the movie here. It was a fun watch, in a delightfully wacky kinda way, it brought up some good conversation. This article is about some of the things they discussed, not what they did with them. I was impressed with the structure of the movie, in spite of its alarming hippiness. Oh, and I hate Jude Law.

God: Deconstruction as the Path to Salvation

“Yeah, yeah,” you’re saying, “motives are all well and good, but WE want to know what you think about those Bible passages!”

Fine. Jerks.

There are two important bits here. The first goes like this:
And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?”

And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”


The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?”

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”

And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”

And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.

“But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.”
That’s not the Workers’ Wages, that’s the Rich Young Ruler. This is an easy story to make a lesson out of, for anyone. It’s rich with drama and inversion and just cake for anyone to spin to whatever point they want. I’ll do the same. Don’t think I’m claiming that THIS is what the passage REALLY means, but it’s as viable an interpretation as any other….

The young man who comes to Jesus asks him about Salvation and Jesus (as is his wont) answers first according to the Law (after all, it hasn’t been made obsolete yet). He tells the young man not to commit any Temporal sins.

And the young man answers that he HASN’T, and yet still he doesn’t feel he is prepared for Heaven.

That’s one of my major points. Obedience — plain ol’ good behavior — can’t make a Temporal being Infinite. It just won’t happen. We have to spend our time, in this life, preparing our souls for Infinity, and until we begin…we can FEEL that we’re not ready. This rich young man did. He asked Jesus what he needed to be, aside from behaving, to become Infinite.

And Jesus said, to the Rich Young Man, “give up your wealth.” I don’t think it was a financial thing — I think it was a Constructionist thing. A Rich Man (someone who the Bible describes as nothing other than “a Rich Man”) is a man who has built himself a world run by successful financial ventures. He’s a man who has learned how to use money to his advantage, and how to depend upon money to get what he wants. He has separated himself from Real Truth using layer after layer of symbolic wealth.

A man like that has to overcome money in order to have any shot at Infinity, because there are very few things more temporary than wealth. It’s precisely the kind of faith-based, Man-made system of power we so like to turn to, to keep from having to rely on God as our Providence. Mankind built money, designed the concept and invested in it enough belief that it has come to have a great deal of symbolic power within our reality. Money can provide food, it can provide shelter and security and even physical healing. It’s one of our Constructed substitutes for God, and the more we use and believe in Money, the harder it is to recognize and value and really believe in the Real Truth that we’re so deliberately obscuring.

That’s where this bit comes in:
“But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.”

That’s the inversion that occurs between Temporal and Infinite. Because all of Man’s own Temporal power comes from Construction of this imaginary, insignificant reality we dwell in. Money, popularity, technology, magic — all are ways to power in this life, and the more a Man invests in them, the greater he will become within the Temporal world. But everything he invests in reality pulls him that much farther away from Real Truth. Those who keep their lives basic, who seek after Real Truth even within the Temporal world, and rely on God for their needs — they’re going to be weak within this world (although well provided for). They’re going to be the last, in Temporal measures, because they’re investing themselves in recognizing the Infinite.

That’s the thing: we can’t USE the Infinite. It gives us no strength, no power, no advantage, but it DOES give us significance and meaning and…well, Infinity. Every Temporal sacrifice we make for the sake of Salvation (as Jesus said) will pay for itself in Infinity.

It’s a good passage. I’ll get to the Workers’ Wages next.

Greatness: A Mind Puzzle

Okay, I’ve been told that I haven’t made some points clear enough, and I’m going to stay within that theme….

This one you have to do for yourself. When you first read it, it probably won’t seem significant or reasonable. It is, though. It’s a REALLY tough one. Spend some time, figure out what I’m really asking about…and then consider it for a while.

Okay. Here it is. Imagine (I mean it, do it) imagine if what everyone else saw as red, you for some reason saw as blue. And vice versa. Totally cosistent, maybe a physical defect in your eyes or something, and not recognizable by doctors.

How would you know? How would you ever know?

Think about it. Keep going. Write a comment once you’ve got a good one.

God: A Metaphor

I’ll give you a simple metaphor, that may help convey what I’m trying to say about sin.

I’ve spoken several times about our Infinite Decision. When we die, we will become Infinite Beings (not the frail temporal things we are now). We’ll still be US, we’ll still have the same soul, the same memories, the same disposition that we had in life, but we’ll have perspective and power like we have never known.

And we’ll have to use that perspective and power to decide, based on what we know, whether or not we want to go to Heaven, and submit to God for all time.

That decision is like a Final Exam. Yeah, Comprehensive. Naturally. And it accounts for 100% of your grade for the semester.

Our lifetime is the time given us to study for the final. Our entire lifetime is provided for us to learn what we need to know to pass that ultimate test.

Committing temporal sins (and by this I mean breaking commandments, lying, stealing, even murder) are the metaphorical equivalent of goofing off during that study time. Got it? Committing temporal sins is not, in any way, failing the test. You’re not even TAKING the test. There was a time when the rules were different — when your performance throughout the semester was factored into your grade too. That was a LOT of Fs, though. (Thus Jesus’ sacrifice, which changed the grading so only the Final counted against you.)

Your lifetime is the only chance you’ve got to study for the test. Some people will spend that whole time studying — and still fail the test, because they’ve studied the wrong things, or studied in the wrong way, or just don’t understand the teacher well enough to answer what he wants. Some people will goof off all semester, then cram the night before, and pass with aces. Most people will spend their whole semester wavering back and forth — sometimes attending class, sometimes skipping, sometimes doing their homework, occasionally studying — and then it’ll just depend how well they’ve learned which topics.

Let’s say the commandments are a study guide. Or even a practice test. It doesn’t matter HOW WELL YOU DO on a practice test, that grade doesn’t go in the book. Got it? Temporal acts don’t count toward your final grade, good or bad. What matters is, in the time you were given, did you learn the material?

Do you know how to be Infinitely Perfect? It’s not out of our reach. In fact, we’re born with it, and every layer we add to the world around us hides our own perfection from us. We have all the materials we need to strip away the layers, and see the truth in ourselves. We can’t see it anywhere else (not in this form, not really — we see as through a shadowy mirror), but we can find it in ourselves. We can be confident in our place in Heaven, but we have to learn to look for it, to think the way the teacher thinks. We have to stop having panic attacks about what our grade is going to be, and start really, really, deep-down LEARNING what life is all about. What God is all about. What Man is meant to be.

It matters. It’s the only grade that ever really will.