Beauty and the Eyes of The Beholder 

Beauty 2/24/00

Beauty they say,                                         Is in the eye of the beholder, Something only skin deep.                   But why do those who lack it,           Hold their eyes and weep?
Sympathy passes on,                             into the life of the pained,               Lifting its head from the few who pass, Without knowing gain,                         But why do those who get it,             Wish to the skies for more?                 Life is filled with everything,             And everything is beautiful,               Life is dealt without sympathy,           And sympathy is alone,             Wondering,                                       Through black streets,                           And dark roads,                                   Lying in lonely disarray,                   While beauty is admired.

Is “beauty in the eye of the beholder” as the common phrase says?  Or is beauty objective and determined by fixed rules? 

When I hear someone say there are objective standards for beauty I often get the impression that what they really mean is “everyone should agree with my subjective opinion about what is beautiful.”  When pressed about these objective standards, most people who claim an objectivity about beauty will point to some cultural standard or some past expression of beauty that they personally find timeless and standard. These are obviously just subjective opinions held by the majority, not a truly objective set of standards. 

Is there an objective standard of beauty? Sure: God Himself. 

God is the only objective measure of all things. Since nothing is beautiful compared to the perfect God, it can be argued that nothing is truly beautiful. If this is true it can be argued that mankind is incapable of producing anything objectively beautiful. We merely produce ugly things and insist that they be called beautiful. 

That view is too pessimistic in my opinion.

God gave mankind a cognizance of beauty, therefore we can find beauty in nature. We know there is beauty because we know that a beautiful God created the universe and imparted beauty to it. Not only can we recognize beauty, we are part of that beauty, because we are made in His image.

If God made all things, does this make all things beautiful? In a sense everything God has made is beautiful. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” There isn’t anything ugly which God has made. So where does ugliness come from? 

The simple answer is this: sin. 

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” – Isaiah 52:7

Good news is beautiful, the Gospel is beautiful, and news of happiness is beautiful.  In a sense beauty is truth: that which corresponds to reality. 

Sin both corrupts the beauty of God’s creation and distorts our ability to see it correctly. Sin distorts our mind’s interpretation of reality and therefore our ability to comprehend beauty is corrupt as well. The corruption of our souls often leads us to miss true beauty. Often we instead perceive true ugliness (sin) as beauty.

Does sin destroy our ability to see beauty at all? Some might say that we cannot truly see beauty because of our sin. I think we are capable of seeing beauty, but our minds corrupt and darken the beauty we see (see Romans 1).

So what is the objective standard, if any, for beauty?  I can only define beauty by what it is not. Anything which violates the Holy will of the Holy God is NOT beauty. Sin is not beautiful. Violence, lying, theft, illicit sex, idolatry, covetousness, and blasphemy are not beauty. Anything which is untrue is not beauty.

Objectively speaking then, anything which is not sinful can be considered beautiful. 

But what about subjectivity? Is beauty inherent in things or is it “in the eye of the beholder?”

To those with natural senses there are at least two things that I would say are universally considered beautiful: sunrises and stars. No one looks at either and says “that’s ugly!”  Other natural wonders could be added to this list, but every other one I can think of may be tainted by cultural perspectives, i.e. the ocean may be beautiful to islanders, but to inland folk it could be considered mysterious and terrifying. Perhaps even these cultural perspectives are tainted by sin (fear). 

The common thread through all of these beautiful things, whether they be natural things or Gospel things, is that they all point us to God. So if I was to answer the question “What is the objective standard for beauty?” I would say “That which is truth and that which points to God.”

And to me, that can take many forms. 

Why I Am [Not] A Conservative [Anymore] Part 1

The original article made Ron Paul’s skin crawl…

I was looking through some old writings of mine the other day and ran across this little gem written around 2004 or so. If it wasn’t so polemic it would crack me up. Actually it kinda does. I wrote this awhile before I began my “descent” into anarcho-capitalism and it’s neat to see where I was at the time. I’m sure in another ten years or so I will be just as amused at this blog as I am at this little rough draft. For ease of reading I am breaking it up into two parts. I will give my current day responses in brackets.“Why I am a conservative

Recently I have seen conservatives compared to Fascists and Nazis [this is still quite common]. The comparisons made are between our staunch nationalism and our commitment to tradition and the authority of government [when the shoe fits]. That’s where the real comparisons ended. The rest of the comparisons seemed to be a bit on the misinformed, conspiracy-theory-driven side. Big former CEO’s were put in government offices, therefore we have a government which is tightly bound to corporations (which we all know are corrupt and evil). [oh wait, the government is in bed with corporations, hence lawmaking that is clearly biased towards certain companies and industries] The current administration has put people in place who have lied and cheated their way to the top (repeatedly pointed out by liberals but never proven), we have tried to place “bigoted” judges into federal court, we have tainted the government with religious rightism and hatred [yep, yep, yep and this is every administration]. And all of this from the New York Times.
To top it off I find an article describing the “superiority of liberalism” which includes a list of what liberals are: people who believe values and ideas evolve, that the government needs to help the underprivileged, that universal health care is long overdue, that the nation should have a “comprehensive family support policy”, and people who believe in the inherent dignity and worth of every human being. [this is actually a pretty good definition of modern “liberalism” though they don’t actually believe in human dignity, government supersedes all human dignity] The article went on to describe how America was founded upon liberalism and how George Washington was a liberal [this is true, but not that kind of “liberal “] and how liberals have been victorious in every battle they have ever fought. 

Now while that list is impressive, and while I would agree to some extent that our forefathers were pretty liberal for their day, I would like to point out the great failures of the liberals and list a few reasons why I do not consider myself one of them:

Values and ideas evolve: Yes, they do, but not always in the right direction. Rather, ideas change, values do not. The values of this nation, regardless of what they in the left want you to believe, are based on Judeo-Christian principles. Our founding fathers, those rabble-rousing revolutionary liberals that they were, were for the majority a devoutly religious crowd [well, more devout than most “liberals “ today anyway]. They did not fight against the values they were raised with, but because of their values. While God was not specifically mentioned in the Constitution you only have to read the journals and prayers of [some of] the signers to know that they felt it unnecessary to put God in there. Everyone would understand the law of the land to be based in these principles [at least in part].

The government needs to help the underprivileged: yes, the government is here to help protect its citizens and give them the freedom and the rights they were endowed with to get ahead in life, but it’s not here to give handouts to those who deem themselves “less fortunate.” [actually no, the government does not “give” rights, and it should definitely not be giving out handouts to anyone]. I believe we [not government, “we” is a general term for parents, churches, well meaning older folks Etc] need to educate those who are behind in life, we need to give the young urban blacks a better message than “you are oppressed, you will never make it anywhere without government help” or worse “go smack up some hoes, do drugs, join a gang, kill cops, and be bigger than everybody.” [I didn’t stereotype much back in the day did I?] Handouts can only go so far. Education, while not as quick to show results, results in permanent change [especially government sponsored education, how else can you create permanent statists?] . The liberals believe we can help the needy by legalizing drugs (decriminalizing the poor drug dealers) [actually this would help a lot of people and make the drug industry less profitable and improve a lot of neighborhoods], giving jobs to less qualified minorities because of past oppression and primarily because of the color of their skin (which puts them into jobs they are not able to handle) [the government doesn’t “give” anyone a private sector job and definitely should not be in the business of telling private industry what to do], and by giving out food and health care to everyone including the illegal immigrant who doesn’t have protection under our constitution [yep, that piece of paper is what gives us rights and human dignity, if you aren’t in the club, we are perfectly within our rights to strip you of both #Sarcasm] . Now, that may sound cruel, but I guarantee you will see results if you educated the poor instead of giving them a blanket to cover their symptoms [this I still agree with]. As for minorities, I believe this country will be color blind once it stops using color as a leg up, once we take the race box off of college and career applications, and once we finally stop discussing racism as if every white person is a KKK member ready to go out and hang every black, Mexican, or Asian that lives within our borders. Racism is a self perpetuating problem, ignore the few insignificant instances of it and you will prevent the large scale retaliations of scores of white people just trying to say “hey, get off our backs!” [it might help white people a bit if they would stop eyeballing with suspicion every brown person with a Spanish accent and begging for a wall]. “

Come back in a couple of days to see the next section, it’s more fun in my opinion. 

Cognitive Dissonance 

Cognitive dissonance: the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes. 

If you want to boil down much of post-post-modernism into one concise term it would be cognitive dissonance. In a world where truth is relative and reality is what I feel it to be in the moment, it is not impossible to imagine an individual having multiple dissonant beliefs bouncing around in his head. Everyone has cognitive dissonance every once in a while, the problem with post-post-modern CD is that it’s considered perfectly normal and indeed rational. 

If I want to say “A” is both “A” and not “A” at the same time and circumstances then who is the world to tell me any different? 

CD shows up in every political stripe. From neoconservatives who claim to be pro-life but take no issue with drone strikes on foreign people to leftists who claim to be pro body-autonomy but insist that they have a right to the labor or products of others, no one is immune to it. 

One of the reasons I became an ancap was to rid myself of much of the CD I had grown up with. I was very much a proponent of war, but completely in favor of banning abortion. I disliked the use of government force by leftist politicians but fully accepted the same sort of force by politicians more favorable to my positions. 

In a way,  cognitive dissonance is nothing more than pure justified hypocrisy. I can justify any action or opinion if I just just cling to my inconsistent thoughts. I can argue that truth and morals are relative with one side of my mouth while insisting that others must follow my own personal ethics because they are the only correct ones. I can say one moment that there is no such thing as objective morality and in the next express outrage that someone did something I disagree with. 

I used to think that I could reason with these sorts of people. I even tried to be polite and tell them “hey, your arguments have logical flaws here, here, here, and here.” There was no correcting them. They don’t see the illogic of their arguments because they genuinely believe “a” is “a” and also not “a”. 

I have learned to walk away lately. There is great wisdom in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount:

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”

From what I have experienced of late there are a lot more swine than I expected running around out there in social media land. 

Dearest Millennials, A Letter From an Older, Wiser Millennial

“… you are weak, flaccid and unable to handle life’s normal circumstances (like the loss of a political race).”

The Desolation of Your Ideas

Dear millennials,
Post-post-modernism has failed you. Your parents have failed you. Your professors have failed you. You’ve been spoon fed ideas your whole life and no one has taught you to defend yourselves. As such, you are weak, flaccid and unable to handle life’s normal circumstances (like the loss of a political race).

You would do well to embrace the concept that truth is objective and not based on feelings. When you embrace this truth you won’t need safe spaces or days off to cry when someone opposes you. All you will need is a strong defense of truth as you perceive it.

While your perception of truth is subjective,  truth itself is not. Thankfully for you,  in most political matters these days it matters not if you are wrong as long as you can defend your perspective. A strong defense keeps your ideas alive and at play in the world, curling up in the fetal position and crying merely makes you look childish and ignorant.

Stop crying and brush up on your Marx, go read Engels and Nietzsche. Study the life of Che and not just his portrait on your t-shirt. Compare what you read with reality. Make up your own minds about the ideas of these morons. Realize that most of what they spout is feelings-based and indefensible. Understand that this is why your professors couldn’t teach you to defend it.

Then go out and study some real economics and social theory based on objective observation and reality. Read Bastiat, read Rothbard, read Henry Hazlitt, read Adam Smith and John Locke. Read people who took painstaking time to study reality and craft theory that could be tested and tried and found true (or false).

Configure your own perspective based on your observations of these theories, then formulate defenses of your perspective based not on feelings but on objective measurements and your subjective interpretation of the data.

If you create a reasoned defense of your views, I promise you you’ll never need a safe space. You’ll never need a day off to cry about election results. You’ll never fear the ideas of others no matter how absurd they are.

Instead, you can be bold, you can change the minds and hearts of others. You can make the world “a better place” or whatever it is that you younger people are trying to do these days. You may never have your utopia, but at least you will have some people who understand you and want to help you get that much closer to it.

Stop the temper tantrums and pick up a book or three.

Sincerely,

An older millennial who’s sick of being lumped in with you snowflakes.

My Chief End

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Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

That is the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This, I believe, is the Bible’s answer to the commonly asked question “What is the meaning of life?” If I was asked about the meaning of life, that would be my answer. How that answer is applied is a bit more nuanced.

As seen on my definitions page I define truth as “that which corresponds to reality” and economy as “household management”. If I had to apply the first catechism question to my life I would say my chief way of glorifying God is to learn true truth and apply it the best I can to my personal economy.

“True” truth is objective. In our post-postmodern world, most would say there is no truth. To most in our world truth is as subjective as one’s feelings about a subject. As feelings change, so also does truth. This has led to a myriad of confusion on a number of topics, gender and sexuality being two of the more recent hot buttons. Confusion about reality used to be called “psychosis” where now it is often labeled as just another version of reality. Raised in a world where truth is subjective, we are quickly becoming a generation of psychotics.

My biggest earthly goal is to gain the proper perspective of the truth and not rely on my subjective viewpoint of it. This can be tricky of course, as my mind is finite, flawed, and my perceptions are skewed my own sinful nature. As a created being, I will never know the full extent of all truth in the universe, only God can know that. But it doesn’t mean I should stop trying.

Where does one find truth? This is a hotly debated question among Christians. Some insist that truth can only be found in the Bible while others feel truth can be observed in other places. I tend to be of the latter camp.

The Bible contains the only necessary truth for saving the human soul from damnation, but it does not contain every truth or the only truth that man can know. There are some in the Reformed camp who believe that man can know nothing outside of scripture, but I think a basic reading of Romans 18-22 makes this argument mute.

“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”

Man observes nature and self and understands the existence of God, as well as His attributes and nature. He knows God and understands Gods attributes just by virtue of being created in the image of God and in being able to observe creation itself. Man knows before he suppresses, he is perfectly able to discern, he just chooses out of his depravity to suppress the knowledge (this is normally where I point out to Presuppositional apologists that man is “without excuse”, but that’s another topic for another day).

It’s not just the nature and attributes of God that man can observe and understand in nature, it’s anything which God chooses in His sovereignty to allow man to know. For instance: we can know truths about nature, about economics, about physics, about math, and about our physical bodies, all without consulting the Bible. Sinful man may never get a full view of every subject, and our imperfect views may lead us to false beliefs about a topic, but with enough observation it is possible for us to get a workable grasp on reality.

Some would say that our finite minds and flawed thinking prevent us from having real knowledge, but I think it’s close enough that we shouldn’t squabble with semantics. We can know well enough to put our knowledge to good use.  We can understand our physical reality enough to manipulate it for our needs, otherwise we would have never survived life outside the Garden.

Should we rely solely on our observations to comprehend reality? No! Scripture contains enough truth about other matters (besides Salvation) that we can make comparative analysis. When we make an observation about the physical universe Christians can and should consult scripture to see if our observation matches with scripture. If it does not match scripture, either our interpretation of scripture is wrong or our interpretation of what we observe is wrong. In many matters it is impossible to discern which is which (thankfully those matters have little to nothing to do with our salvation, it is quite clear in scripture what man must do to be saved).

For example: the question of creation. Folks will argue endlessly about young earth vs old earth creationism, one side finding irrefutable evidence in the Bible, the other finding irrefutable evidence in nature. While the Bible states that God created everything, it is not specific on the actual process by which creation took its shape. This is a topic for another day, but let’s just leave it with this: either the young earth interpretation of Genesis is incorrect or the old earth observations of nature are incorrect.

My chief desire in life is to find the truth about as many things as I can and live my life as consistently with the truth as I can. This means all matters of my personal economy must be consistent with reality, even if that reality is not observed by the world at large. This has created some conflict in my life. This should create conflict in all Christian’s lives. All Christians are going to live a life that is in conflict with the fallen world.

But what if the conflict comes within the church? What if what I think is the “truth” about a topic is disliked or even condemned in the church? Obviously as a Reformed Christian I have only the Bible to turn to. On many topics it seems the church at large is hasty to adopt the larger cultural perspective. Whatever the prevailing attitude of the world is, so too is the prevailing attitude of the church. In other topics, the church often seeks to distance itself so far from the world that it misses whatever truth the world may actually be promoting.

The truth about any subject will only be found when the church bases its moral attitudes in scripture. I often stop Christians who are railing about a certain topic to cite me chapter and verse. It is truly depressing the number of believers who simply can’t come up with anything more than quotes from church patriarchs. No disrespect to the patriarchs, but they may have been wrong. And until one has at least a tentative grasp of what scripture actually says, he should probably avoid quoting flawed men. If there is a question about a matter, one should first consult scripture, then consult a multitude of sources to explain what he does not understand.

What is my point in all of this?

Seek truth, seek it in the Bible, seek it in nature, and seek it in the wisdom of church patriarchs. Then seek to live your life in accordance with your findings.