Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Begging For Reason

This article, by Heather MacDonald, begs for a response which I am only too inclined to give. In her article, Heather MacDonald explains her reasons for believing that if God exists he is an evil God with no love for humanity. On a certain level I agree with her, because I have had my moments of anger toward God. They never lasted all that long, but they happened.

Still, what do you say to a person when they express a response to the idea of God such as the one in this article? She has addressed several arguments written by Christians and shown a well founded contempt for them. To say that God's love is different from ours would make little sense to someone who does not understand God's love. It makes little enough sense to those who have an inkling of understanding. After all, God's love offers us both our free will and His grace. It does not stop evil things from happening on a regular basis and recognizes us as both the cause of our own misfortunes and as evil people. That's a tough thing to hear or understand. People will point out a child and ask how you can call such a lovely and innocent person evil. What do you say?

The train example which MacDonald writes suggests another of those difficult to answer questions. Perhaps it can best be answered by pointing out the Christian belief in eternal life. If you believe that you're going to heaven when you die then you most likely believe that you will pass on in God's good time and not before. A train may take you, or you may die in your sleep. On the other hand, Christians believe it is wrong to murder. Thus, life is precious and death is tragic. This appears to be a dichotomy. Or you might turn it around even more and suggest that since God knows the end from the beginning, He knows when we will die and therefore he is an accomplice to murder. A person can get all tangled up in these ideas and come to the conclusion that either God is evil, or He does not exist. Terrible things happen all the time -- why?

All of this is merely a distraction. God did create a perfect world and we messed it up because He loved us enough to offer us free will. Instead of snatching that free will away and forcing us to live as God had originally intended, He sent His own son to be born among us, live a life like ours, remain perfect and take our wrongdoings upon him in death. It did not end there, however, for that son rose from the dead after conquering death. None of this makes logical sense. But it is the only answer I can give to the arguments at hand. If you seek to turn God into logic, remember that He created that logic. Of course, this is not going to help someone who does not believe that God exists. I have no answer for that.

So still, these questions remain. Our language is finite, God is infinite, how can the one be translated into the other? Christianity is a face value religion, yet there are so many things that are difficult for us to come to terms with. In the end, I am forced to look into the storm with Job and hear the words that God spoke then (Job 38):

2 "Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?

3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

4 "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand . . .

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Matters of Housekeeping

I have a couple matters of housekeeping to point out to my readers. Most of the time I let my blog's structure and template speak for itself, but I think it is necessary to comment on recent events.

1. Minor change: When I post articles that I find particularly logical and intriguing they will be part of the Ah, Logic series.

2. Major change: If you cannot get yourself a blogger identity or are afraid to put that identity on my blog along with your opinion, then you will not be posting comments. I do not care if you want to make an idiot of yourself here, just have an identity when you make an idiot of yourself. I am no longer accepting anonymous comments. I am sorry to those friends of mine who do not have blogger identities. I would remind you that I went ahead and got an identity so that I could post comments on your blog of choice, it's not too much to ask a return of the favor. Also, if you are a friend of mine without a blogger identity, it is not because of you that I decided to change this. Anonymous commenters are almost always spammers. I operate on the basis that if you really want to comment on my blog and to continue doing so, you will get a blogger identity and be something other than an idiot spammer.

Edit: As my friend Little Cicero has reminded me, you do NOT have to have a blogger blog in order to have a blogger identity. More on this later.

Ah, Logic #3

Thomas Sowell tends to make sense. That's why I always read his articles.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Snakes on a Plane (see below) was truly the most fun I have had at a movie since I can remember. I have not laughed that much in ages. It had all the hilarity of a movie that is so bad you have to watch it over and over. It had all the stereotypes that you can expect in a movie like that, yet I found myself enjoying the stereotypes. I shed a couple tears when good characters died. I said "Aww," when the baby was saved from the venemous intruders. I was frightened by all the creepy reptiles. I was horrified by the shocking lack of research into Burmese pythons displayed by the terribly unrealistic, scary scene which depicted one attacking and . . . okay, okay, I know some stuff about snakes, I won't bore you, nevermind. Harumph, on with the movie review. It was a hilarious and strangely heartwarming movie. The script was awesome and the acting superb. The actors had fun and it showed. Samuel L. Jackson had more fun than anyone else in his role.

Speaking of whom, I stand corrected, Samuel L. Jackson actually said, "Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherf------ snakes on this motherf------ plane!" It was the most brilliant and well delivered line in cinematic history. I defy even Charlton Heston could say a line like that so well.

Yup, it's no Citizen Kane, but Snakes on a Plane is a winner in my book.

The Best Weekend Ever

Who's going to see Snakes on a Plane this weekend? Me, me! So, me! This is going to be the best weekend ever! I've read the reviews, critics hate the movie and fans love it. Yup, I think I'll let myself be influenced by the happy public. Besides, who would want to miss seeing Samuel L. Jackson say, "I want these m-----f------ snakes off this m-----f------ plane!" I can't wait.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Work Is Taking Over

I have several new assignments which mean that I do not have time to write on my blog during the day except if I do not go anywhere for lunch. When I get home in the evenings I'm tired and have been on the computer all day doing my job, so I don't feel much like writing then either. I sometimes work on my books, but even that is pretty sporadic these days. Yes, this is not the making of good, interesting and thoughtful blog posts. Suffice it to say that I am not going to be around as much as I would like to be for a while. In a while, people will be properly trained and I will not have to do their work for them, then I'll be more loquacious. This is a short news bulletin for my regular readers information. I'll post what and when I can, be assured.

For now, I'd just like to ask a very important question which you may discuss: Is the glass half empty or half full?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Why Do We Suffer?"

My gravestone should read something like this, "She always knew what to say." It's funny, I never thought it would bother me always to know what to say to people when they're sad or upset or annoyed. Isn't that the sort of person we all want to be? Not me, not anymore. Always knowing how to respond is really just a facade, one that coats the fact that I do not wish to feel too deeply, I do not wish to be affected too much by something like love. Therefore, I do not allow myself to be at a loss.

Watching the movie, Shadowlands, last night caused me to walk through a door -- metaphorically speaking -- through which I do not think I can ever return. Or perhaps I can. The ability of the human soul to return to its prideful ways is unsurpassed. One can be broken completely, yet still, the pride will knock again, asking to become a part of me once more. And in my shallow, foolish ways, I will take it back, almost before it is gone.

Yet for a few hours my pride was broken and erased. For a few hours I existed as nothing but myself. Myself with no facade. While watching the movie, all the suffering I have ever known mixed with my sorrow for the trials of the characters themselves. The question that C.S. Lewis asks in Shadowlands, "Why do we suffer?" kept coming back to me afterwards. I'm not going to say that I know the answer to this question, because I do not. I know the textbook answer: suffering makes us understand happiness; suffering refines us like gold. But those words seem hollow in the face of real suffering.

My aunt passed away about two years ago. She died of cancer after an 18 month battle. As she was my favoriate aunt ever, that was a very sad time. Now, she was a Christian and I knew where she went after death. But somehow, that did not matter at the time. I remember going in to work the day after the funeral. There was this customer whom I had never got along with and she, naturally, chose that day to come in to get some photos copied. As I was helping her copy the photos she started crying. She then informed me that the photos were pictures of her brother who had just died of cancer. Actually, the cancer had been cured, he died from the effects of chemo. She told me that he was a Christian, so he had gone to heaven. I told her about my aunt, and I started crying too. We both said the same thing then, "I know he/she went to heaven and is happy and well now, but why couldn't he/she be with us a little longer and be happy here?" Yeah, that's suffering. The stark reality that you have lost what you are terrified to lose, even though you have always known you would lose it. We simply rephrased the question in our response, "Why do we suffer?"

We suffer because we love, because we care, because we do feel deeply for others. To know the reason behind the suffering is to have a peace that goes beyond words. A peace that exists in such a way that you cannot explain it. However, it is expressed in the tears we let fall for both ourselves and the others we meet who suffer. It is easy to go through life, suffering its trials without understanding and with a desire simply to avoid all suffering. Suffering is bad, or so they say. Yet suffering makes us who we are. For Christians, suffering transforms us into the perfect image of God that we were always meant to be. No, the words that could tell you why we suffer will not come from me, because I do not know the answer to that question in words. I know it in suffering alone, and in feeling the grief that suffering leaves behind, and in leaving that grief behind as I move on to run the race that God prepared me to run.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I Tell Stories, It's What I Do

My philosophy professor in college was a really amazing fellow. He used the Socratic method, perhaps better than anyone but Socrates possibly could. I, however, have a difficult time with the Socratic method when it comes to something as impractical as philosophy. Political philosophy makes sense, it has an application. Philosophy itself is a bit too high minded, even for me. And believe me, I keep my head pretty far up in those clouds. I digress. He was an amazing fellow. The good doctor, was never stressed or nervous about anything. He took in stride students shouting at him, challenging his intellect and authority, being generally rude and (I know this one from experience) crying in his office over a test score. Yes, he was and is an amazing fellow. The most amazing thing he ever said, however, did not resemble the statement that "life is like an effervescent bubble floating on the scum of the Detroit river." Nor was it about Descartes or the utilitarians. The most amazing thing he said was this -- and I paraphrase, "When all is said and done philosophy is meaningless. Instead of talking about this stuff, we should be happy and tell stories."

Naturally, that occurred on the last day of class and put me in a fabulous mood for the next five years to the rest of my life. Telling stories, is what I do! In fact, if you ever meet me, you will probably be overwhelmed by the sheer number of stories I tell. That is how I relate to people, that is how I function. I tell stories to make people laugh, I tell stories to emphasize a point. I tell stories because they make me think. I just tell stories.

A good story can have an astounding effect on people. First and foremost, it can make them laugh if it's funny or cry if it's sad. But a more profound story can bring out the truths of things in a startling way. For example, there is the story or parable of the cave from Plato's Republic. I often go over that one in my mind and consider its implications. Funny that it takes a story to explain how important stories are. For example, in Dosteovsky's The Brother's Karamazov, Alyosha gives a speech at the end about the importance of memories. What is a memory but a story that we keep inside ourselves for the rest of our lives? Note, that Alyosha himself, was changed forever by the short memory of his mother interceding for him in prayer when he was a tiny child. In his speech, he speaks of how we can all become evil people, but the memory of when were good (in this case, mourning the death of a child who never harmed anyone) may someday cause us to become good again. This sounds simplistic: that a memory can cause one to turn one's life around? I agree, but I also believe that it can be used by God to change a person's life.

Stories existed before philosophy, logic or working eight hours a day in a stuffy office. And that is why I tell stories.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I Stopped Watching The News

Recently, I started working out again. This is a good thing because I am always a happier, more well-balanced person when I work out. Furthermore, there's a tv in the weightroom, so I can watch re-runs of Star Trek and Seinfeld (my two favorite tv shows other than American Idol). When I went to the weightroom yesterday, someone had preempted me. She was there, walking on my favorite treadmill. The tv was on and she was watching CNN. Needless to say my light workout was depressing and boring. It has been ages since I took the time to watch the news. In fact, I can honestly say that I watch the news only when I am on a trip away from home and in an airport. At all other times I read the news online.

Today I came across an article that made me remember why I started the practice of reading the news online. Or at least part of the reason. It's the photos. Ever since I was a kid I have not enjoyed watching graphic violence or seeing images of death and destruction. Occasionally, these photos can serve as a grim reminder of the darkness in the world. I would not want to ignore them. Nor would I want to fill my head with them. I prefer movies where the main violence is politely off camera. If it's not, I likely will not watch the movie more than once every 2 or 3 years. I probably will not ever watch The Passion of The Christ again. With news, I can remember a time when the broadcasters warned us that they were going to show pictures displaying the remains of extreme violence. They let people know to get their kids out of the room. Not so any longer. By reading the news, I avoid the disturbing photo and video footage. I can skip some descriptions if I want. Honestly, I think the more these pictures and descriptions have been shown the more I have learned to shy away from them. If it was only once in a while I would not care. But it's as if news organizations feel like they're not getting the basic idea of death and destruction through to us. Instead they have to turn us into manic depressives.

My other reason for reading the news it that I can be more analytical while reading and I get a broader story with more depth. The television gives soundbytes and never tells the entire story. By reading many different articles on a subject I find I can learn more of what happened and construct my own opinion from hearing more than one take. Besides that, reading improves the mind. If you read good journalists you might even learn a new word or two.

When you're tired of watching people cry and die, there's just no better way than reading.


In contemplating the whole Mel Gibson drives drunk and says bad things about Jews event I have formed a conclusion.

I already thought the media had some generally anti-Semitic sentiments. The whole discussion of Israel's recent "disproportionate" response to the terrorist group that consistently kills Israeli civilians tipped me off. Not only is it completely illogical to have a proportionate war, it is completely wrong to report civilian casualties on one side and act like they do not exist on the other, or downplay them to a great degree. Not to mention the fact that Hezbollah often fires rockets from places near hospitals and schools to draw a response that will kill Lebanese civilians.

Anyway, now the media has found a way to draw attention from their own anti-Semitism -- Mel. Thanks for taking the flak Mr. Gibson, thanks for driving drunk and talking stupid. You're a great distraction. Keep it up now, keep talking. As long as they can tear you apart they make it look like they're okay and can go on reporting things the way they always do.

I'm so disillusioned . . .

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ah, Logic #2

Cal Thomas has some interesting things to say about personal responsibility and the things that do matter.

Ah, Logic

VDH makes too much sense to pass up reading his stuff.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Exception That Proves The Rule

Read the previous post. Then read this. There is always an exception. This time it's Jimmy Carter.

People Are Not Stupid

I honestly believe that statement. People are, however, completely illogical for the most part. The two attributes can be mutually exclusive. Stupidity is when you do not learn from your mistakes. Being illogical is when you ignore what you learned from your mistakes. Several case studies can easily confirm these definitions.

A. The Dark Knight Returns and Meets The Gay Cowboy: Currently it is rumored that Heath Ledger will play the Joker in the sequel to Batman Begins. Today I found out that it's not just a rumor, the guy's been cast (if I'm wrong, I'll be the happiest person in the world). Gag me with a spoon. I thought they'd find someone with the talent to play more than one personality to portray the Joker! If you remember the downward spiral of the first Batman franchise then you will remember how terrible the picks for badguys were after the first one. Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face? Help. Then we had Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze. Oh please, does it get any worse? I like these actors, but they are not Batman super villain quality, especially for the parts they gave them. Portraying every Batman villain as a neurotic psychopath is wrong. The Penguin is supposed to be suave and debonaire, a gentleman, a mob boss who receives the stolen goods and resells them, but does not commit the crimes himself (most of the time). He is most definitely not a grotesque, deformed cross between the Joker and the Elephant Man. Mr. Freeze is a manic depressive with a few good one liners. Not a hyperactive freak with a lot of stupid one liners. Thus, the mistake to cast and portray these villains was once made. The mistake was realized and rectified in casting for Batman Begins. However, apparently they did not actually learn from the mistake because they have now cast a one trick pony to play the greatest of all Batman villains.

B. Radiation Causes People To Die: I do not understand how a story could get away with the tired old ploy of people getting messed up by radiation and acquiring superhuman abilities. My co-worker mentioned the movie The Hills Have Eyes, so I looked it up. No, I did not watch it and I do not plan to. I just wanted to see the basic premise. I always thought that the draw in a horror film was the "it could happen to you" factor. Based on this movie's premise I can already say that it could not possibly happen to anyone. There are several reasons for that. First, radiation kills people, it doesn't make them creepy and mutated. At least, not in the way this movie portrays them. Second, any people left would be unable to breed. Duh, that's why they always ask me if I'm pregnant when I have X-rays done. Third, well, why can't we stop using radiation as a cop out for actual research? Fourth, the government does not detonate nuclear weapons in populated areas even if the people refuse to leave (they'd get sued). And lastly, the movie that this is a remake of tanked. Hint, hint, the story is not at all an award winning idea. This is a case of illogic because we have obviously learned a few things about radiation and it has been portrayed in many movies. We're not turning out those weird nuclear scare movies as much and when we do turn them out, they never do well. Still, someone chose to ignore the lessons of those mistakes and make this one.

Now, illogic occurs on an everyday level as well. For example, in my town they do not trim the trees at the side of the roads. Naturally, the trees obscure important things like stop signs. People know this happens. Yet they insist on paying very little attention to where they are going and what's going on around them. To me the obvious response to the tree dilemma is to look carefully when approaching an intersection, especially if there are trees involved. Most people, however, do not bother to look at all. Consequently, they run a lot of stop signs and get into accidents. Or they don't get into accidents, but almost do. Instead of changing their behavior, they go right back to driving around paying no attention to what's around them.

I always liked the Star Trek characters Spock from the Original Series and Data from the Next Generation because they are logical. Spock has a way of putting things that just makes you think. Of course, you end up thinking things like, "No, duh!" But that's still important. In Reunification Part II at the beginning of Season 5 of the Next Generation Spock is absolutely brilliant. No one had to tell him what was going on, he just knew. It's purely logical. He puts everything in such clear cut language that you do not understand why you did not think of it first. Or perhaps you did think of it, and that's why you love to hear him say it. I am convinced that people can be more logical then they pretend. It would help if they learned critical thinking skills in school instead of learning how to regurgitate information. I maintain that all the information in the world will do you no good when you get into a car accident because you did not notice that stupid tree hanging in front of that stop sign. Pause and determine cause and effect, it's really not that hard, it just takes a little logic.