"either"-"or" thinking is the most common cognitive error of our race and should be avoided until circumstances force it upon us. even then it should be distrusted and held at arm's length, not embraced as a friend, but accepted as an unavoidable relative.
when you see someone doing something, and you say: "I can't understand why [person] would do [action]", the next thing you say usually demonstrates your first statement was true. better not to repeat yourself.
expectations are axe wielding executioners roaming our lives. they cut off, up, and down. they cut us and they cut others. the more you have the more you bleed. the more you have the more bloodletting you'll do.
"But these models (models of forecasting financial matters) do not fully capture what
I believe has been, to date, only a peripheral addendum to
business-cycle and financial modelling – the innate human responses
that result in swings between euphoria and fear that repeat themselves
generation after generation with little evidence of a learning curve.
Asset-price bubbles build and burst today as they have since the early
18th century, when modern competitive markets evolved. To be sure, we
tend to label such behavioural responses as non-rational. But
forecasters’ concerns should be not whether human response is rational
or irrational, only that it is observable and systematic." (We will never have a perfect model of risk, by Alan Greenspan, Financial Times Online, March 16, 2008, full text here.)
Greenspan is saying our current market crisis isn't so much a crisis of poor business decisions as it is a crisis of belief. There is no way to rationalize our way out of a recession, we can only believe our way out. Confidence must replace doubt. Doesn't this sound strange coming from the pen of the former chairman of the Federal Reserve? Not really. There is no area of life where faith doesn't play a significant part if you dig below the veneer of day to day babble. Are you afraid of the future? You will make protective economic decisions. Enough of us making self-centered economic decisions (ie keeping our own arse safe & secure) creates more fear. There is less risk taking on behalf of ourselves and others. Goods and services become more scarce and more expensive because of selfishness and fear. Do you want to participate in an economic expansion that will be good for all your neighbors? Believe. Know that you have a Father in heaven who cares for your well being and never rests. Perfect love casts out fear. God loves us. Great economic advice.
"If you love someone, set them free..." (I'm sorry I can't even finish that one. I've got a little bile backing up my throat)
Problem 1 - you don't own anyone Problem 2 - try to imagine someone that is loved and is not already free Problem 3 - if you love you can never set yourself free from its obligations, regardless of what the object of your love does or doesn't do
There is no applause loud enough, that lasts long enough to still our hearts. Applause dies out and we die within. More! More! Bravo! Our hearts cry back to the cheering crowd. More! More! Bravo! But the curtains fall on our moments. It is better to have never tasted acclaim than to be teased like this; to have our souls tweaked; to be reminded of our hunger pangs. The response to this need for recognition is not uniform but it is universal. It ranges from denial to unabashed pursuit. Its found in hovels and in the highest politics. Descartes said, "I think therefore I am," but after we think, before we get to "i am," before we believe it, we look for someone to tell us we are, even if they let us know by abusing us (negative applause). If only there was never ending applause. If only there was indelible recognition...then could our hearts rest? then could we love each other truly? Are we only hungry for the sake of hunger or is there something to satisfy us?
There are some major problems with some commonly held beliefs about dating and romance such as "Find someone who loves you for exactly who you are." problem #1 - you don't even know who you are, do you? problem #2 - who you are today isn't who you'll be tomorrow problem #3 - if the only reason you want someone is because they love you for who you are, you don't love them for who they are
If we were taught the truth about marriage instead of fed poetic sounding platitudes about "soul mates," and love that will last as long as the sea rushes to the shores, the divorce rate would go down. The marriage rate would probably go down too. Marriage is about becoming holy, not happy. Holy, not self actualized. Truly complete. Transcendentally whole. If you want to read a good book about marriage there aren't many choices. In fact there is only one I know of that is worth buying because it doesn't list a bunch of b.s. like the typical self help book in Barnes and Noble or the typical sermon preached in most any church you wander into. You can find it here.
if we thought more about how to sound the truth and less about how the truth sounds, there would be more of it heard in our relationships, politics, classrooms...everywhere, and we would all be the better for it.
In "The Universe Next Door," James Sire defines a worldview as "a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or false) which we hold (consistently or inconsistently, subconsciously or consciously) about the basic makeup of our world." Timothy Keller, giving a talk to lawyers entitled "Reimagining Law" says "just because a person's views aren't organized doesn't mean they are non-religious." I would add, that a well organized worldview, even one designed specifically to exclude the existence of God, isn't necessarily non-religious either.
While each of us is converted to a non-innate perspective on our world, most of us are only dimly aware of that conversion. Most of us hold a partially true set of assumptions about our world and do it semi-consciously and inconsistently. It should be no surprise that those who hold assumptions about the world consciously and (relatively) consistently, while making truth claims, are often misunderstood. But it would be refreshing if those who don't would at least admit their plagiarism of our ideas and their inconsistent application of those ideas.
In a recent debate between Christopher HItchens and a rabbi, Hitchens, an outspoken atheist, illustrates this point. In his 15 minute opening statement Hitchens calls religion a horrible proposition, foolish and ignorant, and in summarizing says he hopes to use the balance of the debate to prove the "wickedness" of the persistent belief in God. While I hold similar views on religion as it applies to humanity's attempt to gain control over the gods, or God, it is impossible to follow Hitchens to his conclusion. It is not possible to call the belief in God (or gods) "wicked" in Hitchens' world. There can be no such thing. WIckedness only resides in the world of the gods. HIs indignation over the effect of religion only proves how deeply moral he is, how there exists something more "right" than religion, something we all should aspire to, find and embrace. And any discussion of what "should be" moves out of the strictly material world and into the spiritual moral world. Whether it is a legal confrontation, a political argument or a simple exchange of ideas between our coworkers or friends, listen closely to what is said. God's words brought all things into being, and you will hear the echo of God's words all the time everywhere.
During the holidays our family observed a ritual that's developed over the last several years; we get together with another family and explore "the city." This year it was Philadelphia. The first day we hit the normal tourist places, the Liberty bell, etc. On the second day my daughter took us on a walk off the beaten path and over to South Street. She told us about a place called the Magic Garden, which is such a hokey name I would usually avoid anything that sounds like it. But she was insistent and has a lower tolerance for hokey than I do, so we went. None of the pictures I'll post below will do it justice, you just have to go. The short story is one of an old man, an artisan, a creator of mosaics, who squatted on an abandoned lot on South Street. It was full of rubbish and junk. He created a garden out of the junk, a garden of terraces and alcoves and stairs. Once he got going he just kept on adding. Although the owners of the lot tried to take it back and complained that it was an eyesore, he would leave. Somehow he found enough money to buy it away from them. Once people on South Street saw the Garden others wanted the artist to come and mosaic their places. Churches and houses and garages and businesses are now adorned with his works. It looks like South Street itself is gradually turning into a work of art. There is a saying which occurs over and over in the work. It is this:
(Art Is The Center Of The Real World - click to enlarge)
I puzzled over this. It sounded true, but it sounded like an echo, not the first note. Later in the morning we wandered through the Magic Garden itself touching the pieces laughing, smiling, enjoying each other and the art. Turning a corner into one of the lower parts of the Garden we came upon an old man. He had kind, mischievous eyes and was sweeping up pine straw from a tree over hanging the wall. Dumping a dustpan into an old five gallon bucket he used for a trash can he looked up and greeted us with the most welcoming smile. It was the artist himself. He was amazing to talk to, remembered our names after one repetition, posed for a photo with us, invited us into his workshop and showed us new things he was just beginning to create, and you could just tell that our enjoyment of his art was his enjoyment of his art too. It wasn't just his, he made it ours.
We met the artisan in the art. He was tending to it, he was creating still more of it. He was the center of the reality of that world. The art was the echo, the artisan the center.
Its great to have your team make a last second comeback, but it would
be meaningless without the real chance, even the knowledge that all was
lost. The victory is only as sweet as the imminent loss was sour.
I love being part of resurrection stories; seeing new life and growth where no one expected it. What I constantly forget is in order to have these experiences I have to be around death a lot.
Men may inconvenience themselves, rising early to watch a star ascend, and many enjoy tracing a star's bright path across a dark sky, but make no mistake, men love nothing so much as the taste of a fallen star.
I once knew a girl who told her boyfriend the exact amount of carats she would accept in the diamond engagement ring she expected to receive. This defined her. She wanted a ring more than she wanted the fiance', she wanted a wedding more than she wanted the groom, she wanted a marriage more than she wanted the husband. But you can't be engaged to a ring, or wed to a ceremony or united to a marriage. The man offered himself in a ring, himself in a wedding, himself in a marriage. She rejected him while accepting all three. She is alone now with her ring and her dress and her album.
God cannot be excluded from a story any more than air can be excluded from a room. The most perfect vacuum chamber and outer space itself aren't so secure as to keep all air out, there are stray molecules here and there in both and they affect the atmosphere. In the same way God is present in every story, acknowledged or not.
The reason you won't find much in the way of great fiction in the world is the same
reason it is so difficult to find a real friends - there aren't many people courageous enough to tell the truth. It takes courage to write fiction. Why? Because good fiction tells the truth. The best fiction is that which unblinkingly tells the story the way it is. The characters don't edit themselves to fit into the right clothes. The dialogue isn't sweetness and light and politically correct. The crisis isn't resolved so that Reader feels better about themselves or the world. If you read great fiction you will find great truth, and, if you are paying attention, your heart will awaken to the sound of courage.
Three kinds of people have no regrets; the perfect fool, the perfectly arrogant, or the perfect. The first is incapable of helping us, the second doesn't care, but the third absorbed all our regrets, and only foolishness or pride keeps us away from life without regrets.
In Philadelphia last week I said these words out loud to my friend and traveling companion: "Lets have an adventure." They were forced words, meant to blunt the fact we were in an uncomfortable spot, trying to find our way and lacking enough information to make good decisions. It was a self pep talk, intended to give me a higher purpose. An adventure, after all, is transcendent. Then we got on a subway packed tighter than Daisy Duke's shorts, rode approximately four blocks, got off to make a change to a trolley which we were guessing would take us the right direction (said trolley taking off so fast once we were on that I somehow managed to smack my front teeth on the handrail - how I did this I'll never know), and came out of the city's underworld into its upper-underworld in the red light district in front of three adult bookstores complete with blinking, posing, flashing neon burlesque figures. It was then we discovered we were not closer to our destination, and had to get our bearings again before moving on. Confused, aggravated, my mouth hurting, I thought I no longer wanted an adventure. Just at the moment I needed transcendence most I fell into the immediate. After regrouping and heading on toward our destination it dawned on me that you can't really choose an adventure as much as you can choose to accept what happens as an adventure. We have the choice of transcendence or immediacy, not the choice of pain or not pain. There is no such thing as a pain -free, convenient, clearly delineated life, there is only the choice of finding something behind the pain, the mistakes, the fog and the confusion. Something higher, something worthy. It took three city blocks to find it again, but I did. Then I could breath again. Then I could laugh. Then I could see what it was about.
Smug, smarmy assuredness over theories is exactly the sort of thing that makes for fantastic, immense, and exaggerated falls from grace. (see Corpernian revolution) Those who hold so militantly to their cherished ideas stumble and grasp on the way down like a B-list actor dying on stage in the worst western ever made. To move oneself firmly onto theory as a life footing, abandoning all acknowledgment of belief is the highest folly a human can undertake. Faith is much surer footing in the end, even if it is an acknowledged faith in a scientific, philosophical or religious theory.
If there are other "intelligent" forms of life in the universe existing on other "habitable" planets, why should they be called alien and we embrace the right to call this world "home"? For that matter why should we decide what intelligence and habitation mean? From the least to the great all humans share a sense of entitlement based on nothing more than existence. Is this feeling we share a reasonable result of cosmic accident or is it an internal reminder of the place given to us by the Creator?
It is universally agreed upon. We need to be saved. We need saving. But what follows is possibly the greatest source of conflict in the world: what do we need to be saved from and what (or who) will save us? Is it terrorism we need to be saved from and military might that will save us? Is it global warming and science? Is is cancer and medicine? Is it international conflict and politicians? Is it hunger and rock stars? Is it hell and religion? Both things are in dispute in every case. Some people reject the idea we need to be saved from global warming and embrace the need to be saved from economic injustice. Some people embrace political saviors and reject the religious. The combinations are endless, the disagreement, fervent. Salvation, it seems, is a messy business. One question that never seems to occur to anyone is this: Why do we need to be saved? There is an assumption of salvation inherent to humanity. We need to be saved. Why? This assumption of salvation reveals two things about us: first it reveals our universal sense that things are not as they should be, and second it reveals our universal sense that some force should be applied to the world to make things right. But under these beliefs there lies an infinitely deep chasm, an even deeper assumption. Why should we be saved? To perpetuate the species? What gives humans the right to claim salvation over against other species? If we are more valuable than another life form competing for salvation, if there exists some hierarchy of worth, where did it come from? And where salvation claims overlap, for example the need for economic salvation competing with the need for environmental salvation, how can one insist upon primacy over the other?
It seems every plea for salvation forces upon us the need to examine the issues of right, wrong, and worth. In a purely evolutionary model of the world there can be no legitimate claims about morality and values. Everything is as it is and will be as it will be. To be saved means to save yourself, whether it is right or wrong matters not. But the world all of us inhabit, the world of necessary salvation, the world where NFL superstar quarterbacks cannot indiscriminately torture and put to death dogs without having their freedom taken away, and the world where victims of rape can be sentenced to the lash for being indiscriminate with the company they keep, our world, is not pure, evolutionary or otherwise. We are tainted with the smell of justice. We are tainted with the notion of salvation. And that smell, that notion, cannot have come from inside this world.