I have said on several occasions that I think that whole fire thing has been a mixed blessing, and I am currently reserving my judgement on the wheel. Ug and I were discussing this in the cave the other day and while some technological advances seem positive, most in the end have downsides.
Fandango’s provocative question for you this week is this:
What do you do for a living? If you are retired, what did you do before you retired? If you’re currently unemployed, what did you do before becoming unemployed?
The short answer is that I am a certified member of the God Squad. I spent four years working with the Navy Chaplains Corps, ten years as a minister, and thirty years or so as a theologian, and teacher of theology and religious studies. While there is some overlap in these roles, I have essentially spent my entire adult life either in biblical/religious studies or working directly in religious roles.
I realise in the climate of today’s world such a career path is alien, if not distasteful to many people, but in the end it is the road I have travelled and I view it not as a job but a vocation.
The power of words is immense. Ideas have the ability to sway emotions, and to spawn their own natural offspring. How one presents these ideas, however, has the power to stifle or to nurture the core message. What is said must have merit if it is to truly have sway, or at least it should be so. But history has shown that golden ideas misrepresented or construed have failed, where ideas bearing no nobility have encouraged crowds to do the unthinkable whether they are from some podium in Munich or in Washington DC.
I value logic. I embrace semantics and philosophical truths. Yet, I have to acknowledge that rhetoric has the ability to obscure truth, to make emotion override reason, and to lead to a lessening of the collective good. That being the case I must respond to Fandango’s question: “In the context of blogging and writing, what do you think is more important: what you say or how you say it?,” that it is how you say it that matters most.
What we write and blog is diminished if our ideas are poorly framed. What we post is as susceptible to dismissal because of “bad writing” as any other form. If we annoy with our grammar, we lose the readers heart. Furthermore, no matter how true our premise, or sound our conclusion, if it offends because of a lack of tact, we have often lost the battle. “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” it has been said. It is here that I risk losing support for my well-considered response by equating my readers with flies. Trust me, however, that you are neither small minded insects, or nuisance-some bugs, but the mirrors of, we the bloggers’ inner voices.
Fandango’s provocative question is: “Is jealousy purely a negative and potentially destructive emotion, or does jealousy have any value as a motivator to drive people to improve themselves?” This really comes down to semantics and what we mean by jealousy. If by the term you mean a possessiveness of things, and especially of people – then it is a destructive thing. To be jealous of one’s partner presupposes “ownership.” Trust and partnership should ideally be the foundations of a relationship, not control.
This does not mean we aren’t hurt if said loved one goes elsewhere for affection, but that is their choice. The third party, however, did not “steal” your love interest. So in that way, Fandango’s “motivator” point may come into play. We should be the best us – if we want to be in a relationship with the best them. But again, this is not ownership, it is making oneself desirable, not the controlling a partner’s life.
If on the other hand by jealousy we mean covetousness or envy, then it still has negative connotations as it can distort our values. To begrudge others possessions (here we are speaking of material things, not people) or position then we are being unfair as they too have aspirations and needs. If we desire another’s attainments and do so without real effort to achieve our own, then it is wrong. While many things in life are finite: gold, etc. They are still abundant enough to be sought after. So in this way Fandango’s “motivator” still comes into play. But empty “envy” which “wants,” but does not seek to achieve; that wishes misfortune on others for our own satisfaction or ends – this is wrong.
By the way, honour and accomplishment are not finite. There is enough honour to go around for those who are honourable.
All in all, wanting to gain something is a motivating force, but it should never be done with malice or at the expense of another.
Is the concept of “you” continuous or does the past “you” continually fade into the present and future “you”? Considering that your body, your mind, and your memories are changing over time, what part of “you” sticks around?
It sometimes feels the Arlo Guthrie was a prophet. The Alice’s Restaurant Massacre of 1967 featured a case of circumstantial evidence, in which a single envelope bearing the name and address of said Arlo Guthrie was discovered under a half ton of garbage. This important forensic find prompted the “takin’ plaster tire tracks, footprints, dog-smellin’ prints and they took twenty-seven 8 x 10 colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explainin’ what each one was, to be used as evidence against us took pictures of the approach, the getaway, the northwest corner, the southwest corner and that’s not to mention the aerial photography!” This of course came before the court where a “man came in, said, “All rise!” We all stood up, and Obie stood up with the twenty-seven 8 times 10 colored glossy pictures, and the judge walked in, sat down, with a seein’ eye dog and he sat down. We sat down.”
Yes, justice can be blind in this way. It isn’t “blind” as in unbiased, but blind as in, “not seeing the what’s really important.” I will not go so far as to say “if we test less we will have fewer cases,” or its parallel, “if we had had fewer laws we’d have fewer law breakers.” What I am saying is that the exercise of, often sensible, statutes is marred by faulty application. What the judicial mechanism prioritises, and therefore applies is often not fit for purpose.
An example of this is the recent lockdown restrictions here in the UK. Covid 19 is a real threat. Fair enough, but a restriction which said that we should be safely locked into our own homes except for getting a single period of outdoor exercise, led to the police fining said exercise-enthusiasts for resting on a bench for a moment after a run. This is a poor example, but it is one of the “forest for the trees” kind of blindnesses I have referenced above.
I will stop my rant here before I even start to ethnic or age-related profiling. But in the end is justice blind? Yes, but not in the way it is meant to be.
Fandango’s latest Provocative Question is, “Are you the same person on your blog as you are in real life? Do you like yourself more in the virtual world than you do in the real world?” Okay, it’s two questions actually, but the answer is the same, as the “real” me is a person I like, even if I do see and (usually) publicly admit his failings.
In my blog – I preach, teach, and at times pontificate. Yes, that is me. My wife used to call me out on it in “real life,” pointing out to me (all too often) that “you are in teacher mode again.”
But my “Sheldon-like pedantic streak is also tempered with some diplomacy, which betrays my actually rather tolerant heart. While there might be “right answers” to objective questions, I recognise the subjective nature of many issues.
I am unapologetic for my Theism, and I wholeheartedly subscribe to Jesus’ testimony that the two greatest commandments are to love God, and to love my fellow humans. That love is not judgmental. I hope that is plain to see in my blog.
One of the readers of my blog recently commented that the viewpoint in some of my recent Covid-19 related posts is pessimistic, but that she could detect an underlying optimism. Here too, I am what it says on the tin. I may as a writer express what many might be feeling at the moment, but I am really an optimist. I really do believe “all things will work together for good . . . . ”
In short, I am the same person in my blog as I am in my “real world” existence, and I get on with that person pretty well.
Fandango’s Provocative Question this week arose from his fascination with the seeming large percentage of Americans that believe in ghosts. My initial take on the rise in people believing in such beings was to muse that there must have been a corresponding rise in the number of tradesmen, particularly builders and carpenters who have refused to enter into the afterlife willingly. This would explain the increase in spirit levels.
Okay, pun out of the way. There are many mysterious occurrences in life. Many of these defy “scientific” explanations. The belief in the supernatural is at the root of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and it shouldn’t be that surprising that people therefore seek a supernatural explanation for these events.
I myself have had some of these experiences. Without labouring the details there have been items that have changed position in the absence of anyone being home, and one occasion when my grandson’s baby-bottle which was left prepared for him found its way into his crib/cot without either me or my wife rising to get it for him in the night.
It is interesting to note that in Matthew 14:26 it says, “When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.” What is clear is that the disciples believed in ghosts. Jesus, however, does not correct them about the belief in such beings, but merely clarifies that he is not one. This cannot in good conscience be used as a “proof” that Jesus believed in ghosts, or condoned such a belief in others, but it does at least show he wasn’t focused on the belief as an error. This may be because there were more important lessons to be taught, but it is still a point to ponder.
I must admit to being a theist, and therefore support the belief in spiritual beings (angels, demons, and God himself), but as far as lingering departed spirits as yet bound for an afterlife, I am admittedly uncertain. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus does suggest a more immediate departure, however.
Humans are in our very nature creative beings. While we are not the only creatures that use tools, we are one of only a few that make tools, and arguably the only species that makes tools in order to make more complex tools. We create art, and think in abstracts. While some species of birds and fish make elaborate nesting displays, these are done with a goal of attracting a mate. We seem alone in making art just for the sake of it, or just for our own edification.
We have come a long way since the harvesting of fire (something else we are probably alone in doing) and making the wheel. While early humans may have wondered at the ability of birds to fly, it led to the inspiration to do so ourselves. It wasn’t necessity that was the mother of invention, it was fantasy and wonder that did in the case of flight.
It is doubtful that many in the 17th Century could have imagined mobile (cell) phones, much less the telegraph. But with the harnessing of electricity, there came a means to create the telegraph, then the land line, then personal communication devices, which seemed only a sci-fi concept in the 1960s Star Trek.
Humans do build on past discoveries, but this not diminish appreciably the ability to finding something “new” to explore or develop. In fact, we even find new applications and purposes for “old” technologies. But we are yet to run out of possibilities. I asked my wife (who was a professional musician) about this once. I asked “with only a certain number of notes, wont we in time run out of new combinations?” Her response was, “not while there are new rhythms, instruments, and harmonic combinations.”
So as Fandango has asked, Are there limits to human creativity? Is it be possible for humans to create something completely novel and new that is based on nothing that previously existed? Or is human creativity just rearranging and building on previous ideas? The answer from my perspective is no – there is no limit to creativity. And yes – it is possible to make something completely novel, both with or without rearranging previous ideas. It’s just a matter of waiting for the right inspiration.