Inky Blackness

I’m sorry, is my negativity showing?

Sometimes I lie awake in inky blackness, wondering why I can’t seem to get it right.

Which buttons do I push to get this whole thing to work?

How much do I have to grope around in the night?

Sometimes I wish I was an optimist.

And not just a long term optimist, but one who knows today is OK.

I want to be the optimist who knows he won’t forever be swallowed by a suffocating and inky blackness.

That’s not too much to ask, is it? That’s not a tall order once you are done tackling your anxiety.

Once you kill the thought that everything is not OK. Once you put to death the belief that your needs will not be met.

When those wicked thoughts are in their graves, then comes the optimism, right?

I am optimistically hoping so.

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Anarchy and Hobbes

Since I have free time now, I’ve been able to go back and re-read some of the books that influenced my political thinking. One of these books is “The World’s Great Thinkers, Man and The State”. It’s a compilation of political thought from Hobbes to Marx.

The contribution of Hobbes to this compilation comes from the second part of his work Leviathan:“Of Commonwealth”. In this treatise, Hobbes lays down the foundation on which the State is formed. Basically he argues that in order to live peaceably, natural man must come together in covenant and give up their individual rights to a sovereign who rules as their representative.

He gives a long list of rights to this sovereign, most of which are not rights which individuals have. This begs the question: “How can the sovereign representative be conferred rights which the individual man does not possess?”

The individual does not possess the right to levy taxes on his neighbors to pay for a road or the defense of his personal property. He does not possess the right to censor by force his neighbor’s thoughts and beliefs. He does not have the right to put his neighbor to death simply for disagreeing with him. How does he transfer rights which he does not have to his representation? Surely that representative should be restricted to the same limitations as those whom he represents.

Hobbes argues that natural man is in a perpetual state of war, which necessitates the formation of bodies politic to “keep (men) in awe, and to direct their actions to the common benefit.” It seems to me that he essentially gives to the sovereign the freedom to act as an exaggerated natural man, using violence and war to institute the “will of the people”.

The formation of Commonwealths does not relieve man of the problem of war, it merely elevates war. War is perpetual in the Commonwealth, as the sovereign must use violence and coercion to keep “peace” among the subjects.

Even if the original covenant was made voluntarily, as Hobbes describes it, it surely cannot be binding to future generations of those who did not personally assent to be subject to the sovereign in power. Force must be initiated to keep those subjects in line, force which is not in the rights of individuals to use.

While I concur with Hobbes that natural man is prone to violence, I disagree with the premise that natural man should bind together to give another natural man or group of natural men the authority to wage war for them. It seems predictably dangerous to do so. Concentrating the violent tendencies of natural men into one central power does nothing to end war, it just makes war a regional thing instead of a local matter between individuals.

I believe that a better state of being exists when individuals retain their own rights. Even Hobbes understands that man will cooperate in order to better his position in life. There is no reason to believe man has to centralize power into the hands of one man or group of men. Man cooperates just fine without the use of coercion or warfare.

Anarchy is not lawlessness. It is simply a lack of centralized force. Anarchy does not plunge us back into warfare as Hobbes contends. It places us back into the position we were in prior to forming commonwealths, that is, a state in which we may voluntarily cooperate and form whatever agreements we wish with our fellow men, without coercion.

From my reading, Hobbes makes a better case for why we shouldn’t form commonwealths than for why we should support them.

Learning Definitions

Hey Google, what does ____ mean?

How frequently do you find out you’ve been using a word incorrectly your entire life? For me it was fairly infrequent. Until I started fighting anxiety that is.

Need

Should

Want

Shame

Guilt

All of those words are ones that I had always used without consideration for the real definitions.

You may have noticed that the five words fit into two categories. The first three go together as do the second two.

“I need to do this.” I have lived my life believing so much of what I did was a need when most things are simply induced by my own harsh expectations or those of others. While it is correct to say that a dish needs to be washed, it is not correct to say that I need to do it.

More correctly I should say “I should wash that dish.” It is an obligation of my responsibility to my family to ensure that dishes are clean, therefore I should wash them. But I don’t need to. I won’t die if I don’t.

Want is different entirely. I can want what I need, but wants aren’t needs. I should want what I need, but I am not limited to only wanting what I need. I can want other things. Nonetheless, I need far less than I want, and I want far more than I should.

Now, the last two words are nearly always conflated in common parlance. Guilt is not shame. Shame is not guilt. The two are related, but not the same.

Guilt is a forensic term. It is a statement of fact. “You did the thing.” You are either guilty or you are not. While it may take a jury to sort through the evidence, there should be no doubt in your mind whether or not you did the thing.

Shame on the other hand is how you feel about that guilt. You can have guilt without shame, and you can have shame without guilt. Both of those conditions are dangerous for the soul. One is the main ingredient in damnation, the other is the main ingredient in anxiety. One is cured by the Law and the other is cured by the Gospel. I’m working on the shame problem, Jesus took care of the guilt.

One day I will get my words right. Until then you’ll just have to keep reading these little blog posts.

Take Your Compliments and Shove ‘Em

IMG_20170114_170752_269
Just an average picture of an average guy.

Compliments, what do we do with them? How constructively do we take criticism? What do we do when faced with cricket chirps at our hard work?

As I mentioned last time, I’m slowly learning to like, indeed, love myself. Part of this process is learning to accept compliments, second is learning to accept criticism without magnifying it out of proportion. Third and probably the most difficult is learning how to properly interpret silence.

A few months back I talked about how my anxiety has robbed me of contentment for many years. It has also given me a large sentiment of cynicism. I don’t trust people when they compliment me. I assume that they can’t really mean it. I’m not that great, am I? I’m certainly not worthy of the love of others.

I am though.

If an infinite and holy God can love me, then certainly other, not-so-holy, created beings can love me too. By virtue of being an image-bearer I am lovable. And I can accept compliments about my person, my actions, and my creations, without cynicism or disbelief. Sometimes, I really do good work. I should accept that, and love it about myself.

Also by virtue of being an image bearer can I accept criticism without believing that I am a worthless piece of rubbish. Yes, I am a sinner, and I am fallible, and nothing I can do is perfect, but that doesn’t make me worthless. By the Grace of God, I am not a piece of garbage. Critique should drive me towards better work, and make me strive after perfection, not run from it.

But what about silence? What about the times when no one seems to notice?

I put in effort, I strove for perfection, I did my best.

*Crickets*

That one is a bit more difficult for me. I think silence drives most creators mad. They want recognition, even bad attention is better than no attention.

I have to tell myself that sometimes silence is merely a sign that I am doing just fine. There is no need for critique, but I am not to the level of deserving a compliment. Average-ness is properly met with silence. And average is perfectly acceptable, if one is progressing smoothly within their level of experience. If I paint an average painting, or write an average prose, or take an average picture, or sing an average song, are they not still acceptable?

If I want accolades I should strive for better than average. I should work on jumping out of my level and into the next. And I shouldn’t take silence as critique.

If I am below average I should expect to be corrected; average, an approving silence; above average, resounding praise.

All should be equally acceptable to me.

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.