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Category Archives: Philosophy

Four Boxes of Liberty Redux

I didn’t really care for the visual I created and posted yesterday, depicting the four boxes of Liberty, so I created another one. I thought yesterday’s was OK in depicting the concept, but I used really simple graphics of the boxes themselves. Last night I thought maybe I should use pictures depicting people—at least for some of them. So . . . here’s the new graphic. It’s much larger than the one I posted yesterday.

PS – You can use all of these boxes simultaneously, save for the last one. Even during a revolution, though, civil life has to continue and it’s quite conceivable all four boxes could be in play at some time.

I hope it doesn’t come to that, but I don’t see the Republicans and white supremacists (I consider them synonymous today) just fading away.

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Golf and Cognitive Dissonance | Systems Savvy

I wasn’t sure if I could “re-blog” one of my own blogs using WordPress’s “Press This” widget, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve also updated this post somewhat. I added the flier depicted below, which I found in a box I’ve been holding onto for entirely too damned long, and made some minor text fixes.

One more thing. The situation I wrote about in the original post I’m re-blogging (six years ago yesterday, btw) has likely gotten worse. At best, nothing much has changed.

Seeing what appears to be the recent appearance of members of the Military tending the flag at virtually every golf tournament, I find myself wondering what it says about the direction of our cultu…

Source: Golf and Cognitive Dissonance | Systems Savvy


Dandruff of The Gods

Indoor Aspen Lift Line

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I spent a few years in the business of helping others, shall we say, adjust their perspective. In the late seventies and early eighties I lived in Playa del Rey, California, a small town with an inordinate number of bars squeezed into a couple of blocks less than a quarter mile from the beach.

I frequented one of them more than the others, as it was almost literally across the street from my front door and, in the business I was in, I only needed to be able to get home quickly once in a while. The bar is still there and, if you watch TV, you may have seen it in a few shows. It’s called “The Prince O’ Whales.” I practically owned a stool there and had asked them to carry The Glenlivet when I first started frequenting the place. They were kind enough to oblige me and I have no idea how many cases I personally went through in the few years I spent much of time there.

However, this post has precious little to do with where I lived, how I survived, and how much Scotch I drank in my thirties. It’s actually about an article that was printed in the November 12, 1981 edition of Rolling Stone. It was written by P.J. O’Rourke. If you were an adult around that time, and you’ve not encountered this before, you may really enjoy it; it’s quite funny . . . and mostly (reasonably close to) the truth.

I have searched high and low for a reprint or a .pdf or URL where I could find the article in its entirety, but it doesn’t seem to exist online. Fortunately, I had made a copy of the pages and recently I took the time to re-type the entire article. I thought it was excerpted from his book “Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People,” but it appears the first edition of that book was in the late eighties. Regardless, I have always found O’Rourke’s sense of humor—at least on this subject—pretty damn entertaining. Enjoy!


MODERN MANNERS

Beyond cocktail coquetry.

Cocaine and etiquette are inseparable; they go together like cocaine and, well, more cocaine. But why should courtesy be so important when “Sinus highballs” are passed around? Why shouldn’t we behave the way we behave with other drugs—burrow stupidly in the refrigerator as though we’d smoked marijuana or run naked through the streets killing policemen as though we’d taken PCP? There’s no firm answer: In fact, cocaine would make killing a policeman easier, since he’d be much less likely to turn into a 9-eyed moon demon while we’re trying to wrest the gun from his holster. Yet such behavior could not be less appropriate to the ingestion of “Alkaloid Chitchat Flakes.

Cocaine demands gentility from its partakers, perhaps because it’s such a sociable drug. MDA is a sociable drug, but it makes people so sociable they’ll screw a coffee-table leg. That’s not good manners if the table has an expensive lacquered finish. Or it may be the price of “Talk Talcum” that inclines us to courtliness, though heroin, too, is costly, and repeated use of that turns people into Negroes (Reagan administration statistics clearly show.) Most likely it’s the special magic cocaine performs upon us all that ignites our civility and refinement. Cocaine makes us so intelligent, so quick, witty, charming, alert, well-dressed, good-looking and sexually attractive that it would be unthinkable to be rude under its influence. True, there are exceptions. Cocaine doesn’t always do that to you. But it always does it to me. And that’s plenty of reason for people to behave.

THE FUNDAMENTAL NEED FOR SELF-SACRIFICE . . . AND HOW TO DEAL WITH IMPORTANT PEOPLE

The most important thing to understand about cocaine is, no matter how wonderful it makes us feel or how interesting it makes us act, it is bad for our bodies. This is the basis for all etiquette surrounding cocaine use. And this is why it’s never bad manners to go off alone and fire some “Nose Nikes” and not share them. To risk your own health while protecting the well-being of others is the only honorable thing to do. For the same reason, when offered someone else’s cocaine, you should Electro-Lux as much as possible for their sake. If there isn’t any left to take, they will be less inclined to destroy their mucous membranes, become psychotic, suffer heart palpitations or die from an overdose.

However, for reasons unknown to medical science, there are people cocaine does not harm. Important people who might be able to help someone’s career are never injured by cocaine, no matter how much they’re given. Neither are famous writers or actors or other personalities with whom many people would like to be friends. Also unaffected are extraordinarily good-looking, sexy people. In other words, the type of person reading this article seems to be immune to cocaine’s deadly consequences.

The detrimental effect of a “Cerebellum Blizzard” on others, though, cannot be overstated. There was a washed-up musician who hung around a well-known New York nightspot mooching drugs. He turned into a dangerous psychopath and tried to bore several people to death. My own younger brother took too much of my cocaine, and the result was a painful bloody nose. Another unfortunate case involved a vendor of the item itself. He had, no doubt, sampled too much of his own wares and began to threaten people with violence just because they owned him small sums of money . . . well, relatively small. A mysterious informant—who, honest, felt really bad about it—was compelled to turn him in to the police. (Jail is a famously discourteous place.)

THIRTEEN COMMON PROBLEMS OF ETIQUETTE EXAMINED

1 – How to Serve

Nothing is more awkward than taking out a vial of “Granulated Money” in a bar or restaurant and having everyone you know expect to get some. If you try to pass the “Powdered Trapeze Act” to some people and not to others, you may get hit over the head with a bottle. And that’s bad manners. Instead, excuse yourself inconspicuously, saying something like, “Well, I sure have to go to the bathroom, and so do Robert and Susan and Alice, but Jim and Fred and Bob don’t have to go.”

Parties present the same problem. In the past, such secluded spots as coat closets and dark corners of the butler’s pantry were used for spontaneous lovemaking. Nowadays, these nooks and crannies are crowded with people taking drugs. But there is still charm in an old-fashioned excuse. If you would like to give a “Peruvian Speed Bump” to Eileen, an attractive woman who’s a power in the entertainment industry, but not to her unemployed boyfriend, Mark, you can always say: “Excuse me, Mark, I thought Eileen might like to blow me in the laundry room.”

2 – When to Serve

One of the delights of an “Adenoid Snack” is that it’s appropriate at any time of night or day, often for several days and nights in a row, though perhaps everyone’s favorite moment to take cocaine is right after a great deal of it has been taken already.

An increasingly popular time to make your snout play “Selsun Blue” with the “Dandruff of the Gods” is before an elaborate dinner. This brightens table talk, lets guests enjoy staring at the food and arranging little lumps of it in patterns on their plates, and gives the hostess many valuable leftovers. (An oyster souffle, for instance, can be reheated and fed to the pets.)

Another favorite moment for an “Inca Pep Rally” is the second the dealer arrives with the gram. However, some people find it difficult to figure out when that will be. This is because cocaine dealers operate on Dope Dealer Savings Time, which is similar to Daylight Savings Time. Just as Daylight Savings Time is one hour later than Standard Time, Dope Dealer Savings Time is one hour later than you could possibly imagine anyone being.

3 – What Implements Should Be Used?

There are any number of devices on the market for taking cocaine. Some are amusing or even useful in carefully measuring portions to make sure everyone gets too much. But most sophisticated drug users still prefer the rolled-up $100 bill. Better yet is a $100 bill folded over and placed inside a wallet. If you have a great, great many of these, people will find a way to get cocaine up your nose.

4 – What Else Should Be Served?4 –

Most people enjoy a couple of thousand cigarettes with their “Face Drano.” Other mix “Indoor Aspen Lift Lines” with multiple sedatives to achieve that marvelous feeling so similar to not having taken drugs at all. But everyone, whether he wants to or not, should drink plenty of whiskey or gin. If you smell strongly of alcohol, people may think you are dunk instead of stupid. (Whatever you serve, overflowing ashtrays, wads of bloody Kleenex and empty Valium bottles can be arranged to make an attractive centerpiece.)

5 – Who Pays?

There’s considerable debate about this. Some say the guest should pay for cocaine as a way of saying thank you to the host. Others say the host should pay for cocaine as part of the entertainment. Most people, however, believe society should pay for cocaine by having to watch maniacally self-indulgent movies, fragmented TV sitcom plots and fractured and pathetic live performances by brain-broiled comedians and pop musicians wound up tighter than a Hong Kong wristwatch.

6 – Topics of Conversation

. . . one of the things you’re really getting into is cable TV which is going to be like the rock & roll of the Eighties because everybody’s going to be hard-wired into 240 channels and there’s this huge market for software already which is why you’ve got this programming development deal together that right right now is a class at the New School but is almost sold to Home Box and is going to be an hour a day that’s part news but like part entertainment too like this New Wave group that you’ve already done three minutes on with mini-cam on quarter-inch but you might turn that into a documentary plus maybe a docudrama for PBS because it’s this sound that’s sort of Western Swing but punk but ska which is all in the interview you got with the bass player that you’re going to publish in this magazine you’re starting which will be all the complete cable listings for all of New Jersey with public access stuff that isn’t listed anywhere plus like interviews too and . . .

Just because your mouth is moving much faster than your brain is no reason not to carry on an engaging conversation.

7 – Romance

If you have taken too much cocaine and are unable to become aroused, try talking into your partner’s genitals. This gives a fair imitation of oral sex. However, if you have taken even more cocaine, try not to rape anyone you know.

8 – An Important Question

If a man gives cocaine to a woman, is she then obligated to go to bed with him?

Yes.

9 – Another Important Question

If a woman gives cocaine to a man, is he then obligated to go to bed with her?

Jeeze, I didn’t realize it was this late! I’ve gotta run—gotta get up and go to work in the morning. Plus I feel like I’m coming down with something. Mind if I do another line before I go?

10 – How is a Dealer Introduced?

It can be a problem knowing how to introduce your dealer. Is he a friend? Is he an employee? Or is he a dead pumpkin if he sells you another load of Dexamyl cut with Portland cement? In fact, there’s no proper way to introduce your dealer socially, because no one ever deals cocaine. They just have a little extra. You see, a very special friend of theirs—who was in Peru on different business entirely—brought back, as a personal favor, some incredible rocks, which are also pure flake and happen to be crystals, too (unless this gram-ette of alleged narcotics is so hopelessly filled with muck that it’s indistinguishable from Nepalese temple hash—in which case it will be given an exotic name like “Mudlark of the Andes” and a spurious history having to do with Spanish conquistadors and Indian headhunters). So no one ever deals cocaine, but they’ll give you this little extra they’ve got, for you know, what they paid for it, which is unfortunately $150 a gram, but really, man, this is special stuff, like the Indians used to get by rubbing a coca bush between two Spanish conquistadors’ heads.

11 – Is It Polite to Refuse?

It’s probably not bad manners to refuse cocaine. It might even be very gallant to turn down a spoonful of “Platinum Maxwell House,” but it’s hard to be sure, because, so far, it’s never been done.

12 – What to Wear

Many people believe it doesn’t matter what they wear while taking a dose of “Brain Tabasco.” Some people even take it in the nude (not counting a gold Rolex). But, as in every other social situation, clothes do matter. Richard Pryor is an example of inappropriate cocaine dress. If he had been wearing a nice, conservative Brooks Brothers suit and an oxford-cloth shirt, he would have escaped most injuries. Unfortunately—as is so often the case in today’s increasingly informal world—Mr. Pryor was wearing a polyester sport shirt decorated with Jamaican bongo drummers and dyed in colors visible only to bees. This went up like a torch. Wool, long-staple cotton and other natural fibers have superior flame-retardant qualities.

13 – What is the Polite Way to Refer to Cocaine?

Never call it “tootski.”


The Strategic Complexity Framework – for Dummies

Based on a post from my friend, John Husband, I came across this great article by Vinay Gupta, which simply and (I think) quite elegantly lays out an understanding of an issue I have long sought to internalize . . . but which I’m loathe to claim I actually understand or can clearly articulate. Part of the reason I’m posting this is so I have access to the two simple explanations of the framework. What follows is a bit of Gupta’s post, with a link at the end to the original.

I recently pestered my friend Noah Raford to summarize his understanding of Cynefin and complexity in a single page document. Noah called it the Strategic Complexity Framework.

I, being still a bit dyslexic, can never keep the “simple, complicated, complex, chaotic” thing from Dave Snowdon‘s Cynefin framework straight in my head. And I think about complexity as having three domains (but that’s another story.)

So I’ve taken advantage of open licensing to produce a version of Noah’s Strategic Complexity Framework, called the Strategic Complexity Framework… for Dummies.

A translation guide:
Simple (= Simple): put stuff in boxes.
Hard (= Complicated): build a rocket ship.
Fickle (= Complex): weather, economy, farming.
Borked (= Chaotic): war zones, collapses, volcanos.

There’s a ton of great work out there on the background to all of these models, but I have conveniently filed knobs off. Simple!

Source: The Strategic Complexity Framework – for Dummies | The Bucky-Gandhi Design Institution


Bertrand Russell And Fascism

A friend of mine on Facebook shared the following quote by Bertrand Russell, which was sent to Sir Oswald Mosely in response to a request by Mosely to debate the merits of fascism.

There is no doubt in my mind the Trump administration, and the bulk of the Republican Party that’s currently enabling him, are fascists. They have every intent of restricting our freedoms and keeping us in relative poverty and misery, all so a few may get wealthy at our expense. We must not allow this to happen. We must not give away those precious rights and freedoms we’ve won, and that so many have suffered to gain.

The original anti-fascist movement prepares to disrupt a large Nazi gathering

Dear Sir Oswald,

Thank you for your letter and for your enclosures. I have given some thought to our recent correspondence. It is always difficult to decide on how to respond to people whose ethos is so alien and, in fact, repellent to one’s own. It is not that I take exception to the general points made by you but that every ounce of my energy has been devoted to an active opposition to cruel bigotry, compulsive violence, and the sadistic persecution which has characterised the philosophy and practice of fascism.

I feel obliged to say that the emotional universes we inhabit are so distinct, and in deepest ways opposed, that nothing fruitful or sincere could ever emerge from association between us.

I should like you to understand the intensity of this conviction on my part. It is not out of any attempt to be rude that I say this but because of all that I value in human experience and human achievement.

Yours sincerely,

Bertrand Russell *

* You can find a photo of his letter at: https://flashbak.com/bertrand-russells-delicious-response-to-british-fascist-oswald-mosley-383946/


Facing The Abandonment Issue

In September of 2002, nearly four months after my 55th birthday, I became a father for the first time in my life. I was in China with Linda, who would later take me as her husband, to adopt our Aimee. Actually, since we weren’t married she had to adopt as a single mother and I was sort of along for the ride, though I was all in.

As part of the process, I had joined a Yahoo chat group especially for parents and prospective parents adopting in China. I also joined a group led by internationally adopted adults who were willing to share their experiences, as well as their admonishments.

I was very active for a while and what follows is one of my posts (from October of 2005) that is still being shared every month with prospective parents of Chinese children being adopted by people in the U.S.:

************

Gosh, Gordon. You ask such simple questions. My heart truly aches (along with my head) contemplating what our children will eventually deal with as they grow older and their ability to understand matures and develops.

I agree with you, in that we can’t possibly settle the abandonment issue for them. As you say, they own it and we, at best, are innocent bystanders. (I won’t even discuss on this list what “at worst” might be for fear of provoking a firestorm of protest.) What I think we can do is respect them enough to let them take the lead, by becoming loving, attentive listeners. As they gather experiences and come to realizations about the meaning of their lives, we need to be there for them; nonjudgmental, understanding, and supportive. It doesn’t hurt to read about the experiences of adult adoptees (from their own mouths – or fingers) and their parents.

Even then, we have no guarantee they will be able to answer their own questions, or resolve the issues (real or perceived) they will deal with. As you know, I have been following the discussions on IAT for some time now. It has changed how I view my role as an adoptive parent and, at times, I find myself somewhat uncomfortable with it. I consider the discomfort part of my growing process for, as you also know, it isn’t stopping Linda and I from returning to adopt another child.

I know you and Patti well enough to believe you will give it everything you’ve got (and maybe a little more) to do right by your children. If you haven’t already, you might want to read Cheri Register’s book “Beyond Good Intentions: a Mother Reflects on Raising Internationally Adopted Children.” I hope others will contribute to this thread. I think it’s important to understand these issues as early as possible, preferable before one travels to China.


Jingo Bells. Jingo All The Way

How could I know what country I’m in if there weren’t so many flags flying all over the place? The Urban Dictionary defines “Jingo” as “Someone who is extremely and overly patriotic. Differs from regular patriotism in that jingoism is usually more aggressive.”

Jingoism

My . . . aren’t we exceptional, if we don’t say so ourselves.

Call me crazy, but I find it puzzling and borderline offensive to see flags flying all over the place. Flags are appropriate for military installations, vehicles, and uniforms. Same goes for police and firefighters. Even at schools they make some sense, and I have no problem with individuals flying them from their home for Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, and similar occasions.

But Arby’s? Taco Bell isn’t flying one, though I suppose you could make an argument for a Mexican flag being appropriate. The Hat has no flag pole and neither do most businesses in most any city or town. Flying a flag at a business is, I suppose, up to the owners of the business, and they certainly have every right to do so. I just can’t help wonder why it’s deemed so important to continuously announce one’s patriotism or theoretical love of country. If your flag is bigger than mine, does that mean you’re a better citizen than I; that you’re more enthusiastic about our freedoms and liberties, such as they are?

Also, we Americans seem to have forgotten our flag etiquette. In fact, I’d wager the most of the most enthusiastic flag wavers know the least about how one respects the flag. For instance, you are not supposed to wear it as a piece of clothing. Three people come to mind immediately: Sarah Palin; Ted Nugent, and Tomi Lahren. If you fly one at night, it’s supposed to be illuminated, yet I’ve seen many a home with a flag displayed 24/7, and unlit at night.

I’m not claiming to be more — or even as — patriotic as the next person. What I am interested in pointing out is the hypocrisy of people who wear their patriotism on their sleeve (sometimes quite literally) and lay claim to being super patriotic, despite having neither the knowledge, nor the understanding, of proper respect and etiquette with respect to our nation’s flag. When I think of patriotism, I harken back to what Thomas Paine wrote 241 years ago this Saturday in “The Crisis“:

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

A phrase from Shakespeare’s Hamlet also comes to mind. I paraphrase:

“The Jingoist doth flag wave too much . . . methinks.”

This overblown patriotism they exhibit is hardly convincing. If they were so damned patriotic, so pure in their love of country which — one might be disposed to think — requires a love of its people as well, it should show in their actions and their relationships with their fellow citizens. On the contrary, most of the loudest chest-beaters harbor a great deal of declared animosity to those they deem as “others”. It’s difficult to see that as something American values ought to exalt.

I learned a long time ago the truly strong are humble, reserved, and quick to help, not hurt others. By the same token, the truly patriotic aren’t likely to brag about or hold their love of country as a weapon to be wielded in a culture war against fellow citizens. As an American, I love my country . . . and I love it more than I love any political party, any religion, or any philosophy of governance or economics. As a human being, I love humanity more than my country, but I was born here and I’ve lived here all my life, so it means a lot to me; nearly everything I’ve ever loved is within its borders. Nevertheless, I don’t need to feverishly wave a flag to prove I’m an American. It’s my heritage, and I’m thankful for it, not proud of something I had nothing to do with.

 


Thought On Being Human

Pro tip — You don’t have to know you’re making a racial slur for it to be offensive. If you didn’t intend it to be offensive, it just means you’re a fool, but not necessarily a bigot. Also, negligent is often worse than intentional.


Racism & Bigotry Aren’t Quite the Same

I wrote the following four paragraphs a couple of days ago. Today (8/19/17) I ran them through the Hemingway app, which informed me the text’s readability score was 11th grade. It also pointed out numerous issues to address and suggested I aim for a readability score of 9th grade. I then worked to remove all the issues (well, as many as I thought made sense to me) and was able to bring the score down to 7th grade . . . in Hemingway’s algorithms. It still says three of the 14 sentences are hard to read. I’m adding the second version for readers to judge which they find more readable. Hemingway seems a little harsh. I suppose, if I were writing for the general public, it might make sense to shoot for 9th grade readability, but I’m not convinced it’s what I want to do. What do you think?


Readability score = 11th grade

In May of 1973 I traveled to Cuba with the 6th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. I spent two months, mostly just outside Havana, working and learning as a guest of the Cuban government.

Prior to our departure, we were required to undergo some pretty extensive training in history, cultural chauvinism, and the roots of racism and bigotry. Some of these classes were led by members of both the Brown Berets and the Black Panthers.

One thing I remember well from this training was the difference between racism, which we were taught is systemic and insidious, and bigotry, which is personal and obvious. I have occasionally posted about these differences, but I’m coming to the conclusion that current usage has blurred the distinction between the two. I have also decided maybe I should stop bucking the trend, as I find myself using them somewhat interchangeably as well.

It’s a bit disturbing, as it is ingrained in me that racism is embedded in our laws, institutions, and normative cultural behavior, while bigotry is evidenced by individual prejudices and hatred or fear of the other. Nevertheless, just about everyone I read uses racism for what I would call bigotry. I think I’ve decided to give up worrying about the distinction, though I find it important. Carry on!


Readability score = 7th grade

In May of 1973 I traveled to Cuba with the 6th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. I spent two months outside Havana, working and learning as a guest of the Cuban government.

Before our departure, we received training in history, cultural chauvinism, and the roots of racism and bigotry. Leading some of these classes were members of both the Brown Berets and the Black Panthers.

They taught us racism is systemic and insidious, while bigotry is personal and obvious. I have posted about these differences, but am concluding current usage blurs the distinction between the two. I have also decided I should stop bucking the trend, as I find I use them as well.

It’s a bit disturbing. I know racism infuses our laws, institutions, and normative cultural behavior. Bigotry involves individual prejudices and hatred or fear of the other. Even so, most everyone I read uses racism for what I would call bigotry. I’ve decided to give up worrying about the distinction, though I find it important. Carry on!


Closet Christians

This is the third blog post I ever wrote, published at The Cranky Curmudgeon on February 25, 2006. It reads pretty much like I could have written it today which, when you think about it, is pretty disappointing.


“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6
(New International Version)

I don’t believe in God. I really don’t care if others agree with me. I only care that they respect the relationship I have with the Universe, whether it’s through a God, a group of Gods, or woven between the interstices of the space-time continuum contemplated by quantum physics. I believe that having convictions, and being secure in those convictions, means not needing to be validated by the acceptance of others.

John Lennon - Imagine

Somewhere in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future

I have a little difficulty calling myself an Atheist, only because I can’t prove the non-existence, anymore than anyone can prove the existence, of God. However, I don’t like referring to myself as an Agnostic, mostly because it sounds rather smarmy to me; like I’m not sure of what I believe. Mostly, I like to say I’m a Quantum Gestalt Humanist. You figure out what it means. I need to get to my rant.

How many times during the day, while driving to and from work, grocery shopping, dropping the kid(s) off at daycare or school, etc. do you see either those little fish (some plain; some with the greek letters for ichthus, or fish) or a window decal depicting a little girl or boy, or both, supplicating themselves in the shadow of a cross? What are these people trying to say? Is it meant to be some sort of secret code, so Christians can recognize each other across the lanes?

If you listen to some Christians whine and complain about how they’re persecuted, you’d have to believe this is their secret, vehicular handshake. These people actually think they’re persecuted. WTF? The United States of America is what, something like 90% Christian? They permeate every aspect of society and are represented overwhelmingly in all levels of our government. Christmas, the holiday many of them have taken to complaining is being phased out, effectively lasts for well over 10% of the year, the admonition to wait until after Thanksgiving before decorating notwithstanding.

I’ll tell you what I think it is. I think it’s the very thing Jesus was saying one shouldn’t do in the above quote found in Matthew. I think Jesus knew people whose faith was steadfast had no need to brandish it publicly, as though it were a badge of courage or strength. Indeed, I think those people who feel the necessity of advertising their religion are the least faithful of all.

I’m not exactly a religious scholar, but I think it was Paul of Tarsus who made proselytizing into a competitive sport. I don’t think Jesus would have approved. After all, he was Jewish and Judaism teaches that the most important thing one can do is live a “good” life, that is an ethical, righteous life. It is more important than liturgy or dogma and, therefore, it is one’s deeds, not one’s words by which we are judged. As a Jew, Jesus would not have found it necessary to convert people, or to preach to them. He was a teacher, not a preacher.

I think Paul felt guilty because he had persecuted and killed so many early Christians and, much like Charles Colson or numerous serial killers who, after lives of despicable and heinous acts, find and accept Jesus as their personal savior, he determined to make amends for the damage he had done. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing he repented; only that – like so many true believers – he swung that pendulum just as far in the other direction from where it had been and, therefore, avoided any kind of moderation in his pursuits.

In his book “The Wisdom of Insecurity”, Alan Watts discusses the difference between faith and belief. He posits that belief is rigid and unyielding, but faith is open and accepting. People who feel the need to wave their so-called religious convictions in our faces are believers. Faith is beyond their comprehension, because having faith requires an openness to things as they are, not as we wish them to be. These people, these cross-wavers – at least the worst of them – are certain they “know” exactly what truth is, and they are not shy in telling us where our faith leads if it isn’t in line with theirs.

I really don’t care what religion you are. I expect the same from you. Your religion, your belief, your faith are none of my damn business. However, the moment you start pushing your brand of soap as the only way to be clean, as the only way to live one’s life, as the only way to what you believe is the ultimate goal of our existence on this planet, then you’ve made your religion MY business. You open yourself up for criticism and you deserve every bit of scorn and anger dumped on your judgmental hide.


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