Friday, March 18, 2011

Resonance and Truth-

Why do people become Republicans? Democrats? Christians? Buddhists? Why do they adopt particular affiliations associated with things (propositions, statements, ideas) considered to be true or even Truth?

Based on subjective experience and observation, I would contend it is largely resonance. A proposition just feels right. Granted, a portion of the population of humans will investigate propositions and make thought out decisions with regard to those propositions. Most, however, are the consequence of resonance.

Even the process of investigation can be (and probably mostly is) guided by this resonance. This alternative feels better than that alternative. Some might be associative. "My family has always been Republican Democrat Christian Buddhist Insert Your Own Thing Here." Some the consequence of extended hours of diligent comparison.

At some point, however, a decision has to be made. I would contend that resonance is the ultimate deciding factor. A lot of the study associated with this resonant choice becomes apologetics. "I am right and here is why" kind of study and argument.

When you think about it, thinking about it takes a lot of time. How many people have selected their political party through diligent and dispassionate study of all of the available literature? History, opinion pieces, analysis and dissection. How long would a truly exhaustive study of political parties take? Could one actually arrive at an unbiased conclusion and subsequent decision using this method?

How about religion? The complete and exhaustive study of one religion is more than a lifetime worth of work, much less every major religion and then consideration of the multitude of sects and sub-devisions. It might be possible, but I cannot see it being done. I doubt that it has been done.

Amazingly (but not surprisingly) people can be so intense in their beliefs as to die for them. More troublesome, they have throughout history been willing to kill for them. That is some serious resonance.

Discord is a consequence of incompatible resonances. Harmony is the joining together of various resonances in a manner that is appealing. The melding of truths can be discordant or harmonious, as well. Some of us like to believe that there is a conductor for this symphony that is the life experience. Others don't find that idea resonating in their own frequency. They fail to see it as truth.

It does take a degree of faith to believe that the conductor can incorporate the seeming discord into a larger harmony. Evidence often does imply the contrary. Some would argue that it proves the alternative, though I would contend that they have not examined enough evidence. They can't. They are too finite and the problem too large.

But that's alright. I choose to believe that their discord is part of a greater harmony. I don't really have any evidence. The idea just resonates with me. Oh, there are evidences that I also find compatibly resonant, and I will share them with others when opportunity arises. I don't expect to argue anyone into harmony, however.

Harmony is the job of the conductor.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Knowledge, Authority and Truth-

In my youth I pursued Truth, truth with a capital T. My understanding of what Truth might be was understandably nebulous. I was a youth, a young person of limited knowledge and  experience.

Truth with a capital T is truth that is true. It is absolute and stands above time and space and is not touched nor tarnished by either. Kind of like God in the absolute and monotheistic sense of who and what God is. Are. Am, as in "I Am." Which puts Truth with a capital T in the same realm as a transcendent God. Essentially, it is His exclusive property.

That leaves us humans on Earth with limited truth. This is truth that is true, in that it accurately (though finitely) reflects Truth that is absolute. I am obviously waxing Platonic here, except for such points as might be more Aristotelean in nature or not easily placed in either basket.

Now, human truth has for a long time been a matter of authority. Essentially some group (quite often priests of some sort) claimed exclusive stewardship of Truth. They either gained political authority themselves or somehow became the sanctifying agency of political authority, and doled out Truth in one form or another under that authority.

Sometimes independent Truth hunters found a bit of something they called Truth, but the stewards of Truth often took issue with the independents and did bad things to them. Or at least threatened to do bad things to them. Galileo could address this a bit better. Some day I hope to sit down with Galileo and one or two of the Popes, assuming any of them make it into Heaven. I hope they do.

So, we have authority dispensing and defending truth, and over time the independents get out from under said authority and start building new temples and priesthoods. Not that the prior authority structures ever became truly monolithic. They just used their public relations people to make them seem so, and backed it up with a lot of sharp pointy things.

Time passes, and Truth gets broken up and repackaged, at least here on Earth. I assume God has kept His in pretty good order. I have seen only local copies of His Truth, and it has been somewhat tarnished and lost its capitalism. Oh, wrong word that looks right. Lost its capital state, as in capital T.

I still believe that God has Truth. I also don't believe anyone here on Earth has Truth. They just have truth, which is true truth only when it reflects the Truth that God has and we don't. This could be upsetting and distressing, and for me has been upsetting and distressing. However, I really do think God is the best steward of the Truth, and knowing that He has exclusive possession and authority over Truth makes me much less upset and distressed these days.

I suspect that it is my Agnostic past that influences my suspicion of anyone claiming not only to hold the Truth, but to somehow have an exhaustive and exclusive grasp of Truth. Scientist or Theologian, Democrat or Republican, Communist or Capitalist, at best I may grant you some grasp of a minute fragment of what is true. I don't know, and because I don't know I have to assume it is possible that you don't really know, either.

Now my subjective experiences have been sufficient for me to find a balance in what I think and believe and believe about what I think and what I think about what I believe. I have chosen to believe that I am redeemed in Christ, that I have an eternity in Heaven awaiting me following this short experience that is called life. Do I know that it is true? I am not sure. Do I believe that it is true? I choose to so believe.

Having read this far you may have concluded that I am wrong and probably mad. Depending on where you draw the lines, I am. My way of thinking has come to serve me well enough. It keeps me on this side of what I have experienced of madness, and it is a comfortable enough place to be. It is often fun, as well. That may not be particularly relevant but it is rather nice.

So, in my quest I have indeed discovered Truth. It is in the stewardship of a sovereign God, and He permits me a glance now and then. He does not promise me the whole thing, and has over time shown me that I should be thankful for that. I am.

If you wish to discuss any of this with me, I am quite available. Facebook is currently one of the better places to find me. You can also leave me contact information in the comments. Please, comment freely. If you prefer to wait, we can discuss this on the other side of death.

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is sufficient to overcome and triumph over your shortcomings, which are traditionally called sins. You simply have to trust enough to stand before God and say, "I have no excuses. I depend fully on the blood of Christ." I certainly have no other (or better) argument.

I hope to see you in Heaven. The music will be great and the catering superb. I will be hanging out with Galileo and a couple of the Popes. Jesus will probably be telling us just how wrong we were.

I suspect we will be laughing.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Overwhelming Bigness of Everything-

Sometime in the recent past I was watching No Reservations. Anthony Bourdain was in China, extolling the virtues of the roast duck cooked by a man who had been roasting duck since childhood. If I recall correctly, he inherited the roast duck business he ran from his father. Anyway, Anthony was going on and on about how much a man who had been roasting ducks for thirty years would know about roasting duck. How good and succulent and wonderful this particular duck was apt to be.

Thirty years, roasting duck. That would certainly broach the subject of expertise as Malcom Gladwell presented it in Outliers. In that book Gladwell presented the idea of 10,000 hours as the level of time committed to a practice in order to be an expert, a master. Thirty years of roasting duck every day. Yep, I would grant that duck man was an expert on the roasting of ducks.

As I have related before in this blog and some of my others, in my very early youth I developed a passion for knowledge. A passion developed before I realized the challenge of knowing everything. I never lost that passion, but often ran up against the degree to which things were inter-related. A question best answered in psychology would also impinge on aspects of sociology, and require input from archaeology and anthropology and political science.

Overwhelming. I have had periods of despair and depression as a consequence of being so overwhelmed. I suspect I have crossed the borders of madness more than once in my life. I have also touched on the ecstasy of deep intuitive insight. I have know the richness of pursuing a thought or idea through several channels of inter-connectedness to reach a deep understanding.

To choose any one discipline and plumb its depths would be a good thing. A wonderful thing. Many people do so, and some taste from more than one such well. Yet, to so choose is to roast ducks for thirty years. Not a bad thing, especially if you really like duck. Still, there are so many wells and their many more inter-connections. Roasted duck, even masterfully roasted duck, is much better with a variety of side dishes.

And a good wine or beer. Doh! Now we have another discipline; zymurgy. That relates to chemistry and biology and botany, and the many social and economic aspects of beer and wine. They sure do taste good, though.

Especially with roast duck. Mmmm!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Context of our beliefs-

When I was very young the Universe was believed to exist in a stable steady state. Like star stuff floating in a vacuous sea, everything remained pretty much where it was just a short time ago. Oh, there were relative motions, but for the most part it was not going anywhere or doing anything.

At least, that was pretty much what I recall being taught when the matter was approached at all. However, behind that theory was the growing acceptance of an expanding universe. Things were moving away from each other, as if all that is was blown away from some central point.

Of course, a few centuries before that the universe was much smaller. It was made up of various things, such as concentric spheres or a disk floating on the sea. For some it was no more substantive than dreams or illusions, and for others it is turtles all the way down. The universe, or at least how humans perceive it, has changed a great deal.

The universe of my childhood was going to simply cool down and die a very cold death. An expanding universe could die similarly, but if enough matter exists it could stop expanding and eventually collapse into a Gnab Gib. That's Big Bang backwards. OK. I agree it is dumb. However, being over 45 years old I am required to make dumb jokes from time to time. It's the law.

This is all dross and duck feathers to some fundamentalist believers of several major faiths. The universe was created and so-called science is just wrong. For other believers the seeming inconsistency between the universe of science and the universe of faith has to be compensated for in some manner. They may put their divergent beliefs in different compartments in their minds, taking out the one they need depending on what they must think and talk about at any given moment. They may simply appeal to "mystery," and not look too deeply.

I tend to believe that most of us assume that the universe is actually there, in some form. We bump up against it, have our senses stimulated, and draw conclusions. Many of us recognize that there are others similar to ourselves, and we have conversations and sex and babies and ideas and television shows in common with these others. The context of our bumping into each other frames a lot of our beliefs.

I haven't had a conversation with anyone who really believes that the universe is not there. I have had some interesting discussions with people who have a far different perspective on the nature of reality, one or two of whom I was sitting on (in the course of doing my job) while they received the medications that would purportedly aid them in managing their perspectives better. Never with anyone who really believed that they and the universe did not exist.

What would they talk about, anyway? And why? After all, I am not really there in that context. How interesting could I be? Why should they listen, and with what?

In the course of my bumping up against the universe I have come to some conclusions. One such conclusion led to my conversion to the Christian faith. I believe that the God of the Bible is the one true God, a belief I adopted as an aspect of my conversion. I am convinced that the only being in (and transcending) the universe who really knows what is True is that one God.

He has the necessary perspective. The rest of us can learn some pretty cool stuff, bumping around in His creation. We can often draw conclusions from these experiences that are more or less true. We can share these as we bump up against others, and refine our thoughts and ideas and the things we imagine. However, none of us can comprehensively comprehend the whole of what is quite the way God can.

The scope of my own ignorance and propensity for error causes me to grant people a lot of slack in what they say they believe and how they say it. I believe that I am a sinner, that I fail to meet even my own standards of belief and actions, much less the standards established by God as revealed in the Bible. I am an inadequate human being. However, God has provided a sacrifice in Jesus Christ sufficient to make up for those deficiencies, and I believe in the sufficiency of that sacrifice. In Jesus I am saved from the consequences of my sin, my rebellion against God.

I don't know everything. I don't even know a lot. However, if what I just said touched something within you, and you feel a need for the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice, seek out a believer to bump up against you, and give you a new context for your beliefs. Open yourself to God directing your experiences.

If what I said does not spark some interest, then continue your own path of bumping up against the universe. The universe you experience is the context of your beliefs.

To believe is to choose. Choose wisely. Choose well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Anti-lobbyist Lobby. A watchdog concept-

The purchase of politicians is part of the business of Washington D.C., and most other centers of power in the United States. "Contributions" through the lobbying industry seem to be the way of demonstrating membership in the "system." It is probably not far different in essence from the way business was done in Ancient Egypt or Babylon. Oh, some of the particulars are uniquely American, but in essence it is buying an ear. Purchasing influence.

Once a system is entrenched it is quite hard to root out. Revolutions are messy, and most don't really improve the situation. One of the most admirable aspects of our own system is the relatively bloodless changes of power. Unfortunately, our electoral system seems to offer only two flavors, and they are hard to tell apart. Is this vanilla or French vanilla? I can't tell, and it really just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

So, I thinks a bit, does I. If you can't break down the system to overcome the system, why not mimic the system and undermine it? What I propose is a special lobby of sorts. For each professional lobbyist we field a shadow, an individual who will simply report where that lobbyist goes and with whom they meet. Then that information is made public.

This shadow lobbyist doesn't listen in, or do any spy work other than open shadowing. They follow the lobbyist to the big wig's office and just sit in the waiting room. Then they follow the lobbyist when they go out from there to meet another fat cat at a restaurant. Follow. Report. Follow. Report.

This could be a business opportunity for some enterprising American. Hey, if you are lucky the fat cats will buy you off. It could happen. It's a free country. It's even more free for those who have money, of course. If you are scrupulous you could provide a valuable service to Americans who are fed up with things as they are. If you aren't, at least you could make some money.

Just like real lobbyists.

Monday, August 23, 2010


My friends in the Blogosphere and in the realm of Facebook are rather varied. Some among them use titles such as Christian and Conservative. Others are proudly Liberal. There are Libertarians among them, as well as some Democrats and some Republicans. Some are even Atheists. From what I have seen, most are pretty decent people.

A few among them have periodically expressed sentiments I am classing as "Anti-Jihad." Those sentiments include a generalized fear of Islam, a willingness to deny radical Islamic people freedoms, and a vague and generalized tolerance of intolerance. I have viewed a few bits of Anti-Jihad propaganda, finding much of it to be fear-mongering. I think these friends need to engage their more rational selves a bit in considering their positions.

At the same time, I must recognize the existence of Radical Islam in various forms in various places. There is  something to fear, in that it is not clear what the lesser extreme aspects of Islam might do if and when the radicals gain a degree of power. I certainly have not seen a lot of moderate Islamics generating anti-radical press and otherwise saying "These people do not speak for me." These radicals seem to be striving to achieve something, and I am pretty sure it is not the increase of my personal freedom and well being.

There is also a bit of history to recall.  At least a modicum of aggressive Islamic expansion can be found from time to time and place to place in history. On some occasions the use of violence was relatively common! Imagine that! Oh, those Christians weren't very often as saintly as their Saints during some of those eras, but since they gained dominance for a number of centuries it is obvious whose side God is on, right?

What are my friends who express Anti-Jihad feelings really saying? I have seen little in the way of clearly thought out philosophies of Anti-Jihad. Currently it seems to focus on some Islamic body trying to build a Mosque in New York a bit too close to the target of a radical Muslim group we call Ground Zero. Understandable feelings, but not too clear as anything more than feelings.

Those I know who lean toward Libertarian thinking tend to feel that the Mosque builders should be free to go ahead, if they own the property. When you think about it, there is a strong point of argument in this position. Do we want to see denial of rights simply due to political or religious beliefs and doctrines? I would prefer to see reasonable laws and regulations enforced without prejudice in this country. My own liberties would then be protected.

Still, the Anti-Jihad feelings are valid as feelings. If an American chooses to hate all Muslims based on the actions of a few, that should be their liberty. Plenty of people think and feel similarly toward Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, the Irish, persons of Polish descent, males, females and short people. The freedom to hate without any real reason is a genuine American liberty.

So, lets think through Anti-Jihad. Since it is easier to hate all Muslims than to get to know the nature of Islamic peoples and cultures and analyze critically the genuine nature of the Islamic threat, it is probably best to go with that. How to affectively  practice Anti-Jihad might be worth some consideration.

In my response to Anti-Jihad statements I say, "My knives are sharp, when do we begin?" This is actually a point of humor, with an intentional edge. The knife is a personal weapon, requiring the assailant to select the target specifically and engage with immediate physical violence. Also, I don't own any guns. Not that I don't like guns. They are expensive, and I prefer to buy iTunes and ebooks.

The point is, "You have expressed a concern. What do you intend to do about it?" Generalized hating, or even strongly disliking, is easy on the Internet. That is most often all that is done. Some will go so far as to actually back a candidate or political body that capitalizes on the fear factor. I suppose that is not such a bad thing, other than many of those seem to be as bad as the purported enemy. When you think about it, does it really matter who is taking away your freedom once your freedom is lost?

Carrying forward the idea of Anti-Jihad, I would propose that bombing Islamic schools would be one of the most efficient ways to curb the Islamic threat. If you kill the teachers and as many of the next generation as you can, the whole culture would soon be in chaos. Oh, killing the leaders seems to make sense, but they are few in number and can be easily protected. Nobody can protect all of those little children. There are just too many of them.

What about the political venue, you might ask? Hmmm. Well, I suppose if you are politically clever you could design laws that divest the Islamic communities of their rights without risking the rights of other social and religious communities. It has been done at various times in various places. Remember that Austrian fellow who made a bit of a ruckus in Europe last century? He manged that sort of thing. Sort of.

What do I plan to do? I plan to promote liberty for everyone, no matter what their label. I intend to keep my eyes open, and watch for real threats. Anyone who seeks to limit liberty in the name of anything is suspect, and probably the enemy. Even if they call themselves Christian, or Conservative, or wrap themselves in any other title that is supposed to automatically buy my respect and cooperation. My loyalty does not come cheaply, and I will generally require the pig to be removed from the poke before I will even consider buying it.

Oh, and I do have knives. Quite a number of knives, really. I have at least some notion as to how to use them. I also keep them very sharp. Just sayin'.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Industrial Espionage in World War II

This morning I got to contemplating World War II and how the world changed at that point in history. The United States became perhaps the greatest economic power in the world at that point, largely be default. The war was massive, global in scale, and demanded a lot of resources. Being distant from the fields of battle, and being an advanced industrial nation, we were in a position to become the supplier of wartime goods to the rest of the beleaguered world.

I got to thinking on the strategies necessary to defeat the United States under those circumstances. Germany was its own source of production, drawing on the resources of conquered lands. However, the industries of Germany were in constant danger, as that nation was quite in the middle of the fighting. They may have established the fronts far from home, but air warfare eventually brought the battles home.

Japan was isolated,  being an island nation, and so able to remain distant from most of the fighting. England less so, being within striking distance of missiles and aircraft. Japan, however, had little ready access to resources and so had attenuated supply lines, making that nation vulnerable.

Our own isolation was more significant. Nobody was within easy striking distance, and as a nation we were huge. We had a lot of resources within our own nation. Industries were spread out and not easy targets. So, how to attack the United States? Large scale industrial espionage. Slow, stop or destroy the industrial infrastructure to halt the production and distribution of war materials.

The Germans had established groups of people in the United States who were sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Some of them did, indeed, act as agents of destruction and committed acts of espionage. Since I am only recently entered into this line of thought I do not yet know the degree of their success.

The other threat was the body of Japanese in America. More recently come to the United States than the Germans, and more easily identified, they were suspect as a people. Their culture in America was also a factor. Not having assimilated yet in large numbers they remained in clannish groups, huddled in identifiable Japanese neighborhoods. The prejudices of those already established worked against the Japanese in America in many ways.

Additionally, it was a practice of many Japanese families who could afford to do so to send their children back to Japan for part of their education. This at least implied an incomplete loyalty to the United States of America. How many of those children might have been indoctrinated and trained to perform organized espionage in the United States?

Now, if I can come to this conclusion so many years later, what might the intelligence community of the United States waging a war of undetermined outcome have concluded? That they rounded up the Japanese in America and isolated them might more easily be understood in this light. It certainly changed my perspective.

That does not make it any less terrible, taking people from their homes and confiscating their property. It was not, however, without precedent. Look at the Trail of Tears. In retrospect, some policies enacted by the United States have been far from ideal. Had the German people in America been less assimilated and more easily identified, a similar policy may have fallen on them, as well.

I was born slightly after the end of World War II. The United States had been less damaged by the trial, and perhaps made stronger for the discipline of wartime production. As the only industrial nation of significance still standing we had the advantage. I have enjoyed growing up in a rather prosperous era in a nation of great wealth and opportunity.

Many made sacrifices over the years to create that prosperity. Many were sacrificed, to include Negro slaves, displaced Native Americans, and displaced Japanese Americans. I am grateful to all who contributed to the freedom and prosperity I have experienced, whether they gave willingly or unwillingly.

I am not faced with the circumstances that led the decision makers in the United States to rob citizens and resident aliens of their freedom to protect the nation from industrial espionage. However, after contemplating the matter, I am perhaps a bit less inclined to judge them for their actions. Halting a likely enemy from committing an act of war is not a bad decision in times of war.