Archives For About Life

Things I have learned through my sixty odd years of life..

This is a continuation of the post about two distinctive worldveiws so prevalent in our society today. Let me say up front that even with violating my self imposed 500 word limit on posts this will only very lightly touch on the matter of good or evil. Lets pull a couple of quotes from yesterday’s post to concentrate on here.

Still, the distinction is real and important — and its implications touch on areas of our cultural life far beyond criminal justice. It helps to explain, for example, the very different ways that Platonic liberals and Pauline conservatives approach sex — with the former willing to trust in the power of rational sex education to help shape behavior, and the latter much more concerned about their children succumbing to sinful temptation no matter how many rational arguments they’re exposed to. 

SOURCE:  The real fault line in the culture war isn’t race or sex. It’s sin..

Different worldviews depending on whether you are a Platonic liberal or a Pauline conservative is an interesting concept.  I don’t necessarily agree with the liberal/conservative tags added but be that as it may. I will acknowledge that most people can probably be classified as one or the other of these groups. And then there are people like me, and I hope many others, who might look at it from a different angle.

As I always like to point out this issue is not black/white, Plato/Paul but instead shades of both. As the quote from yesterday said it is too simplistic that one view holds people as good and the other as people are evil because they are always sinful.  Let’s look at Paul and his teaching first.

In order to understand the words of Paul so dominant in the Christian bible you must look at his life’s experiences to see how his philosophy was shaped. Paul was first and foremost a Jewish scholar. He was all about rules. Rules on how to live, what to eat, how to pray, rules about everything. These rules are to keep you from sinning. Paul’s education and everything about him was jewish. When he saw his vision on the road to Damascus it made him realize that he had part of  it wrong. But only part. Since he was a very educated man he wrote much about his new-found faith but intertwined it with his jewish beliefs of rules and sin. I am one of those who align with Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts that Paul took the simple messages of Jesus and made them complicated.

Plato on the other hand generally believed in the goodness of man. He believed that this innate goodness came from our creator and was deeply embedded in us. He was more about shedding off faulty traditions than about rules. Plato was a very complicated guy but for this discussion his idea of innatism is at the center.  Innatism is a philosophical doctrine that holds that the mind is born with ideas/knowledge, and that therefore the mind is not a ‘blank slate’ at birth and that knowledge is generally about wanting to become one with your creator. Therefore he, unlike Paul,concluded that man is at his foundation good as it comes from God who is good.

Plato or Paul?  To me these are two different interpretations of how to live our lives. I personally gather some insight from both but probably align more with Plato. As my Quaker friends say I believe that “there is the light of God in all of us” and that light was given to us by our creator. But I also recognize that temptations are always there. So am I a Platonic liberal or a Pauline conservative?  I am a shade of grey somewhere in between.

RJ:

I am bringing over a series of posts for my Sunday entries from my now inactive blog over at RedLetterLiving. This is the second of a six-part series from a year ago about the importance of the Bible in my spiritual life. After a ten-year study I finally understand what millions of other have discovered before me…. It’s all about Jesus, not the Bible…

Originally posted on :

FuzzyWhat About The Bible… ? (Chapter 2)

I know that from all the rhetoric about this topic you are expecting the next word in the title to be “Clear” but actually for me it is “Fuzzy”. I don’t know how many times in my life I have heard the phrase “just study the bible for the answer to your problems. When a child dies from a fall in the bathtub the Christian answer to our total devastation is to “read the Bible”. It is as if we can just randomly open a page and then the tragedy in our life becomes clear.

Lets face it the Bible is simply not the homogeneous document that many want you to believe. When we realize that it is a collection of documents by for the most part unknown authors, who were recording events as they saw them or a story told to them…

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The Thing Is…..

March 15, 2015 — Leave a comment

RJ:

I am bringing over a series of posts for my Sunday entries from my now inactive blog over at RedLetterLiving. This six-part series from about a year ago was what I discovered about the Bible after ten strenuous years of study. I want to say up front so there is no misunderstanding that no, I did not get any personal revelations from God on this topic other than his possible guidance through my study. After ten years I finally understand what millions of other have realized before me…. It’s about Jesus, not the Bible…

Originally posted on :

CB064037What About The Bible… ? (Chapter 1)

I have been spending quite a bit of time lately thinking about the Bible and my experiences with it over the last decade or so. Around 2003 I decided to take up a serious study of theology and in particularly those around the words of Jesus. I naively thought I could get some clear directions for my spiritual life if I just understood why the Bible seems to mean so many different things to so many people. What I have discovered over this period of time awakened me. I did not get the concrete answers I was looking for but I did glean some surprising discoveries.

So, for the next several  weeks I will be spending Mondays on posts about that journey into the Bible. I have always been a little hesitant to voice my discoveries because if they surprised me they might…

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2015-02-13_09-55-29We’re still pretending that we’re inventing a brain when all we’ve come up with is a giant mash-up of real brains. We don’t yet understand how brains work, so we can’t build one.

We bolded that last sentence because it pretty much explains the predicament for AI. Until we more fundamentally understand that which we’re trying to clone, everything else is an impressive attempt up Everest that never totally summits.

This jibes with a sentiment that renowned author and cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter posed earlier this year. He calls current prominent pursuits in the artificial intelligence arena “vacuous”

[IBM’s “Jeopardy!”-winning supercomputer] Watson is basically a text search algorithm connected to a database just like Google search. It doesn’t understand what it’s reading. In fact, “read” is the wrong word. It’s not reading anything because it’s not comprehending anything. Watson is finding text without having a clue as to what the text means. In that sense, there’s no intelligence there. It’s clever, it’s impressive, but it’s absolutely vacuous.

We’ve got a ways to go before machines are truly smart.

SOURCE: Why We Can’t Yet Build True Artificial Intelligence, Explained In One Sentence – Yahoo Finance.

I seem to come across a lot of talk lately about how machines will eventually rule the world and the humans will become obsolete. Having lived a big part of my life in the software development area maybe I understand a little more than most how this worry is very much unfounded. We have nothing to worry about for probably centuries. We simply can’t simulate something we really don’t even understand in the first place. Plainly speaking artificial intelligence is not even yet on technology’s radar screen.

When I first become interested in computer things back in the 1970s I purchased a TRS-80 personal computer and spent hours of my free time learning to program it. It costs a whopping $500 (that’s about $3,000 in today’s dollar). It had 16 kbytes of Ram and a 85k floppy disk (today’s computers have about a million times more memory and storage). But even this gargantuan increase is still not even close to what the human mind is capable of doing.

Even when the hardware finally comes in the neighborhood of our minds we still have to write the programs to simulate our mental processes. That is something we still don’t begin to understand.  We got a long way to go before we have to be concerned with machines becoming smarter than their inventors if that is even possible….

 

 

damaged goodsIn some way or another we are all damaged goods. Yes, we have been enhanced by some life experiences but we are also tainted by others. Whether we will personally admit it or not we all have dark sides. We all have things in our past that we would do differently if we had the chance. In other words we have all had experiences that affected how we look at life.

Too many of my Christian brothers use this fact as a reason to do nothing. The clergy in their pulpits constantly remind them that they are nothing but miserable sinners and God expects nothing from them in their totally rancid condition. They take those words to believe that if they are damaged then all their actions are also damaged. They take the words of the Apostle Paul in a different direction than he, and especially Jesus intended. They use this logic as an excuse for doing nothing to promote God’s love in this world. They throw up their hands and say they can’t do anything to please God so why even try. In fact they believe it really doesn’t matter as he has already reserved a place for them in heaven.

Instead of taking the words of Paul as an excuse to do nothing I cling to the words of Jesus’ brother James when he told us that faith without works is a dead and therefore a worthless faith.  There are just too many that make Christianity a “do nothing” religion. They think if they say the right words they can then sit back and do nothing. They cling to a faith that is very shallow.  They need to come to understand that faith is to be lived everyday of our lives. It is not to be put on a mantle somewhere just to be dusted off and casually view at on an occasional Sunday morning.

The reason Christ wants us to see ourselves as damaged goods is so that we will have compassion on absolutely everyone who we come into contact with. He wants us to love each other unconditionally as he loves us.  He wants us to disregard the smell of that homeless person and treat him with compassion.  He is just damaged in ways other than we are. He wants us to forgive that person who has done us wrong, perhaps even grievous wrong. He wants us to get it out of our mind that we need to kill those who we see as more  damaged than we are.

Being damaged goods is not an excuse to do nothing, instead it is a reason to try to do better and better each day. To become more Christ-like. That is what is expected of us who call ourselves Christians.

Some of us seem to totally lack empathy for others. Sadly the lack of empathy seems to be almost a requirement for GOP candidates these days. I know Paul Ryan who is one of the heroes on the Republican party celebrates his common bonds with his hero Ayn Rand who made it very clear that to her empathy is a severe handicap in society rather than an asset.  Of course the lack of empathy is clearly shown by those who have voted more than fifty time to take affordable healthcare away from millions of our nation’s citizens.

Some among us just can’t or at least won’t let themselves imagine what life would be like if we were in someone else’s shoes….

Let’s get started here with two definitions from Wikipedia:

2015-02-20_11-04-23Imagination

The ability to form new images and sensations that are not perceived through senses such as sight, hearing, or other senses. Imagination helps make knowledge applicable in solving problems and is fundamental to integrating experience and the learning process.

Empathy

Empathy has many different definitions that encompass a broad range of emotional states, including caring for other people and having a desire to help them; experiencing emotions that match another person’s emotions; discerning what another person is thinking or feeling; and making less distinct the differences between the self and the other.

It also is the ability to feel and share another person’s emotions. Some believe that empathy involves the ability to match another’s emotions, while others believe that empathy involves being tenderhearted toward another person. Compassion and sympathy are two terms that many associate with empathy, but all three of these terms are unique. Compassion is an emotion we feel when others are in need, which motivates us to help them. Sympathy is a feeling of care and understanding for someone in need.

Maybe you also can see the perceived link between these two states? I have run across people who just don’t have much of a sense of imagination. Maybe they just have no imagination and literally can’t imagine themselves in someone else’s shoes. Maybe they are unable to conjure up images of themselves in a different life circumstance? Gladly I am definitely not part of that crowd, if it even exists.  I seem to almost live in a world of my own imagination sometimes. I can imagine a world without war and killing. I can imagine a world where religious beliefs are found as a common bond between each of us instead of a reason to hate  and kill someone different. I can imagine a world without the violence of guns. I am a dreamer. Maybe that is how I maintain my sanity in this insane world.