Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Is Unidirectional

This is just one of those abstract logical statements. Nothing mystical. "Good" as an abstract quality, is that to which one is attracted; that which one wants. Even if you want to deny all things for yourself, or if you are attracted to "bad" things, still, that is what seems good to you.

You can travel toward good, or you can be pushed away from it. But your impetus is always in the direction of good. That is an absolute statement, only in that language has a common meaning to people. To say that good is what people are attracted to is to say Good is good, or, "When people make this sound, they are referring to something they like."

I'll leave the abstract meaning of "unidirectional" to your general experience. Good is unidirectional. All that means is that the abstract quality "good" has the abstract quality "unidirectionality." To over 90% of humanity, as I have experienced them, this would be the most boring discussion in the world. If it is interesting to you, I want to get to know you. In fact, I am specially burying this invitation, instead of setting it off in a paragraph, so that only non-bored readers will see it :-).

"Good" as an abstract quality, is a quality that resides in the eye of the beholder, like beauty. I could probably make a good logical argument for that, but I think it is self-evident. I know that legions of theologians and philosophers have debated it for centuries. But without an ax to grind around whose God is the greatest, there doesn't seem much of an argument that abstract qualities exist in some meaningful sense, outside of time, space, and matter. They are part and parcel of the thing they are attributed to; else they are part and parcel of the functioning mind that is attributing them (some are one way, and some are the other.) We think we attribute "goodness" to something we appreciate, when attributing goodness is really just the expression of being oriented positively toward something.

If someone who is a good logician wants to help me clarify my thinking, please, have at it.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I said in church the other day, that I was a prophet. Progressive Christianity sees prophecy as meaning the same as "social criticism." This is the sense in which Martin Luther King is seen as a prophet. It does entail some foretelling of the future, but it is not a magical or superstitious thing.

It is still a big deal to call yourself a prophet, as it is to call anyone else a prophet. It is making a claim of special wisdom. If it gives your ego a thrill to think of yourself as a prophet, then you are probably a false prophet. If you are not aware of what gives your ego a thrill (which is true of all of us, ultimately) then you can really have no idea of whether you are a prophet or not.

What I am really arguing, when I say I am a prophet, is that prophecy has become incredibly easy. Everyone is a prophet, or is about to be - except for the people who are really at the power-mad center of the corporate-political-money-government.

It is all melted together now. Not everyone who has money is political; some just live a nice life. But if you are involved or want to be involved determining how money flows through society (government/laws), you have to be very well connected to sources of money. Large corporations and their owners are, by their nature, interested in controlling the government that regulates the flows of money and benefits of our organized society. They also fill the other requirement, of being well-endowed with money.

Trends have become clear. This is why it is easy to prophesy now. Median wages rose in America until at least the 70's. But since the Clinton years, they have fallen, while the super rich have taken an even larger part of the pie. Connect the dots of increasing environmental damage allowed in the pursuit of energy, impoverishment of American workers, the loss of integrity by the corporate press, and the irrelevancy of elections to policy-making. A great backlash is in the making. It is hard to see how this will be resolved without great violence. The power-mad in America have set themselves on the course of using war to promote their interests, at the expense of other peoples, whose only recourse will be to further violence.

I have faith in the power of faith. I believe that telling this prophecy will cause enough people to believe it, that it will not come true. So, I want you to believe that it will not come true, only if you believe it will come true unless you believe it might come true, and start doing things to stop it. I'll break that down one more time.

I want you to believe there is a danger of immense violence and destruction in our society. I want you to believe that this danger comes from destructive forces that are not now recognized as destructive by a majority of people. I want you to educate yourself about the manipulations of the political system by monied interests. If you believe that and do that, I believe we, as a united people, can stop the violence and mitigate the destruction.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


inward/outward is a project of Church of the Saviour, in Washington, D.C. I highly recommend their emailed daily devotions.This post was inspired by today's.

The whole thrust of having faith is that you understand every experience of life as positive. It is the finest of fine arts. When we experience distress, we know that it often leads to a greater reward, in terms of relief, understanding and mastery. The art of faith is knowing at all times that troubles are temporary. We can use language to refine the skill of maintaining that awareness.

How can we know that troubles are temporary? If you have had a mystical experience of near-perfect peace, you know that trouble has been temporary in the past. However, we can't know the future. We can't know the ultimate outcome of all the happenings we experience.

But one can realize that there is no point in thinking that the ultimate outcome will be negative. That would be to believe that negativity and unhappiness can rule our existence. It doesn't square with our experience up to now (for most of us.)

We can have individualized hopes for the future - hope for some specific thing. And those hopes can be fulfilled or dashed. Faith, on the other hand, is a general attitude. It is a logical response to the unknowability of the future. Does it ever help your life to have a generalized anxiety about the future? No.

The art of faith is learning how to not even entertain the possibility of an ultimately negative outcome. When de Caussade says, "We must realize that it is in order to stimulate and sustain this faith that God allows the soul to be buffeted and swept away by the raging torrent...", one of the things he is saying is, "However bad I/you feel now, it is just an experience that will pass. Remember that." It is an encouragement; and as such is an act of love.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Subtitle Changes

I just realized I have no record of my previous blog subtitles. I kind of wish this blogging platform allowed you to leave old posts in the template they were in when posted. That way, the reader would see what the subtitle was then. That would allow the reader who is catching up, to view the progression of the blog's style, and experience growth with it.

I just don't remember my first subtitle. The second one was, "All I ever really needed to know, I learned from having panic attacks." It was posted on 2/7/2011, and came down today, 4/11/11. The latest one is, "The point of this blog is to have somebody tell me whether I am whack or not. So, get commenting!"

Walking Back the Anxiety

I don't know why I have so much anxiety. It's like PTSD. I imagine it has something to do with brain functioning. People are born with different levels of sensitivity to different things. Neurons fire faster and harder in one area than another. Reflexes are set off more easily. Some such people become great artists and athletes. Some get so overloaded they lose the ability to function at a normal level. When every other thought is, "I'm about to die," you don't have time to think about how to make the color on your palette more beautiful.

Unless, that is, you work through the anxiety. That is why I am so attracted to meditation. By making an effort to empty your mind, you discover the thoughts that don't usually come to the surface, but which often control behavior from the unconscious. If you find yourself frequently anxious in certain situations, for no clear reason, you might discover the reason by meditating. As the meditation unfolds, you may remember a situation in which you got anxious. You don't try to think about the situation, because the point of meditation is to let go of striving, let go of attempts to channel thought in specific directions.

As you sit with the situation, you get the holistic sense of all the feelings associated with it, and all the times you have felt those feelings. And sometimes, you can reach back into one or more of those times, and remember the original traumatic experience that keeps getting triggered. In my case, there is a memory of some harsh treatment of a very small child. Too harsh. It set up an experience of "hell" - that which cannot be endured. It taught the child that hell could happen because of something you did. But you might not know in advance that what you did was worthy of hell. So, when you are thinking of doing something that you haven't done before, and don't know what the consequences will be, you will be very conflicted.

You will have anxiety around people you perceive to have power. You will have anxiety in social settings, and sometimes you won't know why. It feels like your brain seizes up, and can only think about what to do, how to remedy the situation, or how to escape the situation. Until you calm yourself down enough to really look at every thought and feeling, you won't know why your body and mind go into a lesser or greater panic, and whether that is justified or not. Hopefully, you begin to suspect that panic is not justified, long before you have any idea of why you panic.

My whole lifetime has been dedicated (on some level) to walking back my anxiety. Through my long-term meditation practice, with help from loving friends and teachers of co-counseling, I have gained enough serenity to notice - in the moment - when I go into some level of panic (sometimes, not every time). In the midst of those experiences, then, I have some chance of walking back the anxiety of the moment, and dealing with reality from a place of calm.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


I desperately want some people to understand some truths I have started to figure out about God. Logic can actually take a certain kind of person there - it did me. Logic also tells me to try to pass it on, because it is a technique for living more fully as an individual; and, showing people how to live the Way of Christ is critical to our hope for survival as a society.

I'm afraid it may sound grandiose to say that I have figured out truths about God. I don't mind seeming grandiose as far as myself goes, because I am that, and a lot of other humorous-looking things. But I don't want you to think I am saying these things just for the pleasure of saying them.

First of all, religious belief is a practice of setting intentions, and dealing with fear of the unknown. Other beliefs arise because they have some kind of evidence for them. Non-religious beliefs can be ignorant and biased, but the person who believes them, believes he has evidence.

Religious belief is an intentionally-chosen belief. It doesn't seem that way if you are following a religion that emphasizes fear, compulsion and judgment. You may realize (or suspect) there is no evidence for the religious belief that you are forced to follow. Still, the forces - parents, community, inbred fear that prevents you from thinking - seem to restrict your ability to choose your own belief. They are among the biggest obstacles to peace.

Assuming you are able to choose to hold a religious belief, why would you want to? Fear-based religion says you must hold it, or you will be shunned by the community and damned to hell. This is the idea we are called now to let go of. The mystical heart of all spiritual longing is to be free of fear, and free to act. (That is one way to put it.)

So, a religious belief that would answer such a longing, is one that, in and of itself, gives the believer freedom from fear. It can in no way, shape, or form be put into a set of words that will work for everybody. It has to be sought and found individually. This is the meaning of God's injunction against idolatry. There are idols not made of wood, clay, or stone. In fact, any concept, especially a concept formulated in words, which you take to be "truth", is an idol. You must formulate truth for yourself, but once you have grasped the truth, you must let go of the specific formula. A teacher puts out a formula that has worked for him or her, in loving charity, in hopes of seeing joy and enlightenment in the eyes of others.

I said in an earlier posting that, for Christians, "Jesus, save me!" or some similar formulation, is what I call a "salvation mantra." If you are of a Christian background, and you face your deepest fears, chances are, repeating that prayer will calm your agitation. This was a fantastic discovery for me. It was the basis of my faith. I believe that moment wherein I first made this discovery, was exactly what people talk about as a "conversion" or "salvation" experience, like "being saved," as we used to call it in the church of my early years. It requires you to acknowledge that you have no control over the outcome of events, and that nothing you do will necessarily save you. It allows you to let go of worrying about whether you will be saved or not, because there is nothing you could do to change whether that will happen or not. And then - this is key - you realize that believing in the ultimately positive outcome is the only religious belief that will help you in this moment, or any moment. There is good reason never to doubt it, but that reason has nothing to do with evidence.

If your proposed religious belief seems like it ought to be proved or disproved by evidence, then you have mis-formulated it. If you have a formulation that helps you whenever you think of it, you have a viable religious belief.