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“We can have no dependance upon that
instinctive, that constitutional goodness
which is not founded upon principle.”


-Dr. Johnson




“The object of war is to enjoy peace.”



This is my first principle. I placed it up front for a reason. Because I typically enumerate aloud these principles daily, in the morning, and I wanted to be reminded of this important principle from the first, from the outset; to make certain I am reminded and predisposed to hold it in my right hand as an instrument in my war against what is not true, to then have at the ready for the subsequent principles; ready to use against them, ready to destroy them if I can, and if they prove worthy of rejection.

     Likewise, do I want this principle in my mind throughout the day. Not as a blunt instrument of indiscriminate damage to what might offend or repulse or stretch the limits of credulity, but instead as a keen surgical tool of extraction, and disposal, or if I cannot remove what has been demonstrated as untrue, then I can at least disable its function, rendering the untruth harmless to myself and others.

     My great goal is to develop and refine this tool such that I can quickly dispatch what has been shown to be false, and to develop such tolerance of the loss of what I love that I can live and even one day die, with no comforting pillow of belief upon which I might rest my weary head. Maybe then I’ll be worthy of a tombstone saying “He didn’t know. But not for want of trying.”

Small truths

Small Truths are used to assemble a weak fortress of certitude around the soft, vulnerable underbelly of doubt. Gather enough of these, and holler the fact of our assertion loud enough, and few will draw near. Our ignorance will remain safe another day, and in plain sight for all to see.

The low road to justice

My own moral paradigm was grounded upon the values of a Christian worldview. Though I was not raised with any religious upbringing, I somehow adopted as true some moral assumptions which are easily traced back to Christian dogma and belief. One of these is the curious idea of vicarious redemption, as witnessed in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the behalf of all of us. This curious concept suggests that a scapegoat, in the form of God's only son, might be loaded up with the sins of everyone and then sacrificed to God as a final, grand and ultimate blood offering; an offering to end all offerings; an offering so great as to wash away the guilt, not only of Original Sin, but of any and all other sins we might perform; and not only for those who were alive in Christ's time, but for every human who would ever exist. Of course, there is a price we must pay to enjoy this blanket protection, a payment in the recognition of Jesus as God and savior, and in the sincere acceptance of His gift. A seemingly small cost for the undeserved gift of absolute forgiveness of any and all sins, no matter how terrible; all sins being washed clean through the simple act of saying yes to God. I was raised to believe this concept was good, and generous, and beautiful, and loving, and just.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave
his only begotten Son, that whosoever
believeth in him should not perish, but
have everlasting life.”
-John 3:16

     This gift might indeed be good for those who receive it, and generous on the part of God, but is it just? I think not.

     Justice is defined as "decisions and behavior according to what is right or wrong" and a just system of morality should demonstrate, foremost, a concern for the well-being of people in accordance with right and wrong. The Bible's old law—the law of Moses—does indeed take a stab at this and probably succeeds when viewed from the perspective of a Bronze Age people trying to codify behaviors designed to produce a more secure and stable society. For this reason, the moral foundations of the Jewish people—and Christians and Muslims as well to the extent that they recognize and observe the Old Law—are indeed just, even if we may not always agree with the laws from the perspective of our own modern values and cultural norms.

     But what about the covenant of the New Testament? What about the deal struck between God and humanity whereby all sins are forgiven for the mere price of acquiescence to God's existence and our overt and willing request of salvation through grace? Is this system in any way just?

The concept of vicarious redemption
utterly erases the Christian value of free
will. For, what good is freedom if every
choice but one leads to salvation?
Christianity then, is bankrupt of justice
at its core.

     God's grand gift of salvation through Christ almost utterly erases the good efforts made by the Jewish people to codify a legal system of right and wrong, complete with consequence and penalties. This is what just justice is. The recognition by people of what constitutes good and bad behavior and then the setting up of a system of jurisprudence to administer the law among the people. Christ's offer of complete forgiveness of all sins utterly bypasses such a system and provides instead a get-out-of-jail free card for anyone willing to pay the price of belief. The system of moral justice on offer with Christianity then, is one in which a serial killer such as Ted Bundy—who murdered thirty woman and girls—is now enjoying paradise in the company of Jesus, while an innocent girl and victim of the Holocaust such as Ann Frank is burning in eternal hellfire. This is not a sound concept or system of justice. And those who adhere to such an offering are doing nothing more than accepting an easy out to the hard challenge of tackling the moral questions of right and wrong in the open and public marketplace of ideas.

Try more. Fail more.

The adage of "better to burn out than to fade away" comes to mind when I think of my friend Eric’s short life. He did burn. He burned bright and fast and was gone through suicide seemingly as quickly as he arrived. Eric tried life. He tried and he found. Only he did not find what I found, damn him. He found something else. Something I did not like or approve of. I thought he had failed. I still think he failed. At first, I thought Eric failed to try hard enough. Though I expect he would tell me that it was me who perhaps missed the mark—though he would never say that, he would just think it. Eric would have some pity perhaps for my conventional views and more complacent ways. He would offer a wry smile at my veiled proposal of long life ahead of principle. He might ask me after my own principles. I wish Eric had I would have seen then I had no real principles at all to stand on at that young age. I do now. And that is why I still think Eric was wrong; because the principles I've acquired are not a perfect match with his; they are close...but not a match. And though I still say damn him for what he did, I do respect that Eric made such a strong and early effort at life and discovery. He got a much earlier start than me—I didn't even have my sneakers laced up yet—and what he found out there sprinting ahead of me was pretty amazing, even if it led him to death. But is it so bad to die for one's principles even if few understand?  I am not ready to answer that just yet, though I suspect it's alright as long as we don't hurt anyone too much on the way out. Eric didn't. It simply hurt to watch him go.

     It might be easier to pass a successful life when our expectations extend no further than our locked front door; or maybe the safe route we always take to work each day; or the place we like to park our car; or the familiar people with whom we spend time; or the one great God which we worship from our familiar pew by the back door of the church. Success is easy then. We have done so well to make success simpler, safe and easy, by keeping it all familiar and close. Familiar and close. What a way to live...

     I knew someone once who tried life and died fast as a result of the things which he found. He failed at longevity. He failed to live many years. What a way to die...

Have you failed more,
Or have I simply tried less?

     But did my friend fail at trying? Is that even a measure, really? Sure, we encourage people to "make an effort." But, do we really want them to make effort at anything or in any direction other than what seems safe to us? Would we tell someone to "make an effort" at taking down our principles, or our system of belief, or the American Way or anything else we cherish as true? I don't think so... We want them instead to make an effort at understanding and abiding these things which we cherish; of coming around to our way of thinking; of installing a good lock on their own front door; of finding a safe route to their job; or a good place to always park their car; or some familiar people to spend time with; or coming to know the same great god we worship from their own hardwood pew near us at the back of the church. Success is easy. Just do things like us and think like we do. Try hard. Try to be one of us. Try less. Fail less.

Try it, perhaps. And then maybe try something else. Try more. Fail more.

What a way to live...

No evil in the stars

Why would God create a universe with evil?

"I form the light, and create darkness:
I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord
do all these things."

-Isaiah 45:7

     What place in the cosmos does evil have in the plan of a loving God? Could not God have schemed otherwise?  "Oh, but evil is simply a consequence of free will" you might say. But could not a loving God then simply create a universe in which free will could be demonstrated without the execution of further evil? "But how could we reject God without doing evil? Is not the very denial of God's gift evil itself?" Why not then simply define evil as the rejection of God and nothing else, and create humans with no more capacity to perform harm that to simply turn away from their creator? Would not free will then remain intact? Would not the test still be valid? Why grant us the further capacity to inflict suffering upon one another without hope of heavenly intervention or immediate consequence? It's as though God either wanted his experiment of free will to play out this way "I create evil" or he simply does not exist, and our conception of God is our own weak explanation for phenomenon we cannot otherwise tolerate or understand.

     Would you found heaven upon the suffering of a single child? I would not. I suspect you would not. I expect nobody would. Then why does God? "Oh, but his ways are mysterious." But could God not have created a universe without this puzzle? What value in making us doubt?

"For God is not the author of confusion."

-Corinthians 14:33

     "But Satan is the author of confusion. It is he who confounds, and his devils which prompt us to evil." Then why make or allow The Evil One? What need of such a being in the heavenly plan of loving salvation? Who would found heaven upon the suffering of a single child? Not I, nor you, nor anyone...nor God Himself.

     Evil is an opinion of the Homunculus, (see my third principle) written in chalk above the seat of reason. It never really exists beyond our thought and discussion. Evil is nowhere in the universe outside our thinking and the agreement we reach with others. There is no evil in the stars, or blowing with the sand, or in an empty cemetery, or before or beyond life. We decide evil. We perform evil. We are both the authors and executors of our every evil act.

To die in doubt

I am today so much less confident than when I was young and beginning to question my certitude. What a blessing, to be sure... What sweet good fortune to grow in recognized ignorance as the years progress. Such wondrous confusion awaits!

The Good Life is learning to enjoy a life of
less confidence in everything but our
honest doubt.

     I would like to die in a poverty of certainty and a great wealth of doubt. Imagine the tremendous good fortune of growing old with eyes ever widened through mounting honest doubt. To feel the tongue slow in it's nonsense wagging over contrived truth, growing still within our closed mouth as we refuse to speak on topics of clear ignorance, holding out to listen instead to the words of those who may know better than us. And what if they don't? What if they know no better—or even worse—than us, and yet they go on speaking. Well then there's always the window at the edge of our room here at the old age home. Maybe we can get staff to roll us there so we can look out? Let the speakers drone on as speakers will. We'll watch the sky and the trees and the clouds and the birds. We'll administer no judgement upon what we see. We'll remain in mute attendance to the orchestration of forces we can barely conceive or perceive. The speaking behind our head continues... But it grows dimmer now... Not just quieter. But dimmer. Like the illumination of a guttering candle. But it's not their light that fails, but our own. And with great joy we might one day reach our end just like this. Passing, swathed in a veil of recognized ignorance, baptized in deepening doubt, unwilling to speak even one feign word of truth in favor of the approaching night.

Small truths

Small Truths are used to assemble a weak fortress of certitude around the soft, vulnerable underbelly of doubt. Gather enough of these, and holler the fact of our assertion loud enough, and few will draw near. Our ignorance will remain safe another day, and in plain sight for all to see.

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