Archive for March, 2008

a spiritual world

March 31, 2008

i don’t usually do stream-of-consciousness blogging but this is an idea that’s wandered in and out of my mind for years.  i want to capture it before it again takes it’s leave.

in the bible the greek word translated spirit is pneuma.  the same word also is translated as wind or as breath.  in old testament the hebrew word ruach is translated spirit, but again is frequently translated wind or breath.

the thing that hangs me up is this; sometimes when the bible uses spirit, it is clearly talking about an entity – for example, the evil spirit in acts 19 that terrorized the seven sons of sceva.  other places, spirit is used to describe personality or a person’s attitude.  examples of this are the “spirit of truth and spirit of error” in 1 john 4:6 and the “spirit of harlotry” in hosea.

if i use the term spiritual world, people think of it either as a religious code word or with a twilight zone spookiness.  in both cases it signals that i’m not talking about the real world, measured and studied by science and observed with the five senses.

but what if i redefine the concept a little?  let’s say that spirit, in the bible, means an unseen force that motivates a person’s actions.  those would include angelic or demonic entities of course.  but it also includes emotion, personality and character – topics that have entire disciplines of scientific study devoted to them.  and it seems like my working definition is in strong agreement with the literal uses of spirit (wind or breath). 

spirit is used over 500 times in our english bibles and about one quarter of them refer to god’s spirit.  is my definition offensive to trinitarianism?  does it change how i understand the holy spirit?  as i’m making my current lap through the bible i’m trying to understand.  if you’ve preceded me been down this path, i’ve very interested in what you’ve learned.

we’re number one

March 22, 2008

us_and_them1.jpgone revelation of psychology and neuroscience has been that our minds aren’t so much computers as they are complex and interrelated subsystems.  the first place this came up was with language acquisition.   we apparently have something like a language module.  we aren’t born knowing a language, but we are born knowing how to learn a language.  during the first few years of life a child effortlessly learns to speak and understand in a way that can’t yet be duplicated in hundreds of thousands of hours of computer programming by very smart people.

i’m reading david berreby’s book us and them – understanding your tribal mind.  he goes to some length to say that grouping people is another of these mind subsystems.  i hadn’t thought of it before but it now seems obvious that he’s right. 

think of all the ways we divide ourselves.  certainly by race (whatever that is), ethnicity (another vague term) and religion, but also by the brands we buy, the sports teams we follow, and all of our interest groups.  i remember distinctly sitting in mandatory high school pep rallies with the cheerleaders shouting “we’re number one”.  all the time i was wondering how many high schools around the country were yelling the same words at exactly the same moment.  how many “number ones” were possible?

and that’s the bottom line, isn’t it?  my race is number one.  my country is number one.  the sport i follow and team i favor and car i drive and drink i drink and people i hang out with and clothes i wear and – basically everything about me – is number one.

like so many things i learn, all this opened my eyes up to something in the kingdom of god.  it’s no surprise that god programmed language into us.  i mean, this is the god who created all the world with a word.  this is the god who is so into communication that he nicknamed his son “the word”.

that we’re pre-programmed to think tribally – to distinguish between people groups – is a little less obvious but makes perfect sense.  god has a family.  he describes himself as a father and us as his children.  he clearly makes the distinction between those who are his and those who are not.  he wants us to recognize our brothers and sisters in his tribe.  jesus stressed the fact by saying if we recognize our natural family above our spiritual family doesn’t have a place with him.

probably we have some room for improvement here.

all the nations will be gathered before him; and he will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (matthew 25:32)

him who overcomes … i will also write on him my new name [i.e.; a new family name] (revelation 3:12)

anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (matthew 10:37)

by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (john 13:35)

perspective on reality

March 14, 2008

i’m a big fan of reality. it’s cool! for purely philosophical reasons i think it’s much more complex than is yet grasped by science. but even with the sense that most of it is beyond my grasp, it’s one of my favorite things. my best definition of reality is a bit self-referent; but still, somehow, gratifying: reality is the way things really are.

another item on my top ten is truth. it’s hard to beat. i hold to what’s called the correspondence definition of truth: the truth value of a statement is based on how well it corresponds with reality. if i say “this brick weighs 5 pounds” and you put it on a scale and it weighs 5 pounds, my statement was true. i realize that language, context and perception are all at play – throwing a trace of ambiguity into the mix. doesn’t bother me at all. in fact, i think recognizing the ambiguity is essential. not that truth doesn’t exist. but knowing our limitations, we need to be humble with our assertions.

i’m reading a book now by a guy who’s clearly intelligent and well educated. what he’s written is significant, relevant, and important. the topic is one i’m very interested in. and yet i find it a difficult read.

i think the problem is the humility issue. after the author has said good things and given great illustrations, he’ll make an assertion that isn’t supported at all. then he’ll move on, almost daring me to disagree with him.

i can’t be too hard on him though – i often see the same arrogance in my own tone. hopefully i edit most out before exposing myself to the world. stinks, nonetheless!


March 8, 2008

i’m not a big entertainment guy. it’s just not something that’s important to me. for example, i’ve never seen a movie with tom cruise; couldn’t even name one; nor could i name any women he’s had relationships with. a few weeks ago i saw his interview video (that scientology has been trying their hardest to suppress) and thought; “this guy’s whack”. that was about all.

this evening, chatting with an internet friend, i found out that he’d grown up near the benedict canyon house where charles manson’s “family” murdered sharon tate and four others in 1969. i’d read the bugliosi book about the murders years ago, i think for a course assignment, but my friend’s closeness to the situation made me want to refresh my memory. as usual, google pointed me to thousands of sites including youtube videos of charles manson being interviewed in prison and at his parole hearings. i mentioned earlier that i’m not into entertainment, and i’d include network news in that category, so the manson videos were new to me (i will say that geraldo was a media whore before media whoring was cool).

maybe it was because i’d seen the cruise interview recently, but a few minutes into the manson vids i thought i saw something. there was a commonality between manson’s affected speach and tom cruise’s. the psychologists would say it was their delusions, a religious person might attribute it to demons or some kind of spiritual issue. but there was definitely something.

so i went back to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and googled “charles manson scientology“. BADABING – 20,000 hits! apparently the book i’d read documented this too, but i probably didn’t even know what scientology was at the time.

so cruise is NOT the best known hollywood celeb of all time to be a scientologist! did you know that mr. manson has received more mail than any other prisoner in american history?

at this point you might be thinking i’m the one who’s delusional. check it for yourself. watch tom cruise in his scientology interview. or even his oprah couch-jumping episode. then watch some of the manson footage. i think the two share something. in fact, i think i could even give the something a name.

on to mccain

March 5, 2008

better huck next time!

i voted

March 4, 2008

at about 5 p.m. today, two hours before the pollls closed, i was voter number 112 in the republican primary in my precinct.  i find that amazing.

huckabee in the primary

March 4, 2008

if you live in texas, ohio, rhode island, or vermont, today is your opportunity to vote for mike huckabee.  why should you do that?  read my blog here.

by the numbers

March 3, 2008

“you can only manage what you measure.”   it’s a ubiquitous concept in modern business literature.  it’s part of our culture’s facination with science: find something to measure, tweak the variables, record your results, maximize your bottom-line.  the concept is oh so apealling.  we apply the scientific method to our businesses, our goverment, even our families.  it feels so objective!  how can you be wrong if the numbers back your decision?

i have a nephew who’s autistic, and i might have a bit of asperger’s syndrome myself – at least it provides a convenient excuse for my lack of social skills.  last week i read a fascinating article in wired magazine which launched me into youtube’s videos about autism.  amanda baggs, featured in the wired piece, is severely autistic with the signature traits you’d expect.  she doesn’t speak, she engages in repetitive motions and sounds, she seems out of touch.   what she does do is type about 120 words a minute.  with a voice synthesizer, a video camera, and an agenda; she’s become a spokesperson for autistic people who’ve had little voice in the past.

i find the whole thing amazing and inspirational.  i have to say that i disagree sharply with some of amanda’s views, but even those places i find her perspective insightful.  i especially appreciated one of her videos titled, being an unperson (below)it’s almost nine minutes, but well worth the time if you can spare it.

amanda illustrates brilliantly the point where measure to manage breaks down.  as soon as any human metric is applied to assess the value of a person, the one applying it has left the realm of science and begun to play god.   such a judgement inevitably leads to deprecation of the person or group considered inferior.   first; “let’s keep them away from our families so they’re not a bad influence.”  then: “let’s keep them from reproducing so they’ll eventually die off.”  finally: “let’s kill them.  it’ll make the world a better place.

this was the science applied in hitler’s death camps, lennin and mao’s purges, the genocides in kosovo, rwanda and darfur.  it was the basis for the west’s eugenics movement that morphed  into the abortion and euthanasia lobbies.  they don’t measure up; let’s get rid of them.

jesus was asked to define a person’s bottom-line responsibilities.  i’m going to paraphrase, but i don’t believe i’m harming the meaning of his response:

value god more than anything else
value your neighbor equal to yourself

not because they’re like you.  not because of their knowledge, skills or abilities.  value them simply because they’re another human being sharing a ride on the same planet.

quoting amanda: “this is no line you can draw and correctly say that on this side lay the real people”


March 3, 2008

if you’re reading this and you’re 18 or over and you live in texas or ohio, remember that tomorrow (tuesday) is the day you go vote for mike huckabee in the primary.  this is a very important vote!  if you support mike and have a few extra minutes today, go to his web site and sign up to make some phone calls.  you can do it at home or whereever.  they give you the list of people to call.  if you have friends or family who could vote for mike, encourage them to do it!

texas independence day!

March 2, 2008

celebrating texas’ declaration of independence, march 2, 1836.  barbeques and chili cook-offs all over the state. 

god bless texas!