John's Musings
Monday, May 10, 2004
I've been reading the Idiot and came across a fantastic line. At one point, one of the characters says to another character, "You have no tenderness, nohting but truth, and so you judge unjustly." How amazing! It seems to me that, for a real Christian, a real Orthodox, there is no such thing as justice without mercy. I am truly amazed by this notion, and at the same time I take a great deal of heart in this!
Saturday, May 01, 2004
May 1, 2004

"Life is in ourselves and not in the external," writes Fyodor Dostoevsky in a letter to his brother dated December 22, 1849. "To be a human being among human beings, and remain one forever, no matter what misfortunes befall, not to become depressed, and not to falter--this is what life is, herein lies its task." (The Brothers Karamazov, translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, xii)

It has been a long time since I've read the Brothers Karamazov, and I only recall it thematically. The way that some of the ideas are phrased is just lost on me. I sometimes wish that I could write like that. Perhaps I have not suffered enough.

What does it mean to be human? I think that it means to love everyone no matter their situation or disposition. I think that it means to love everyone no matter our own situation. This is only possible with humility.

To love another, one has to make oneself less important than that other, to put the other first. In other words, to love requires humility. This is the way to remain human in the midst of suffering. This is the way of God.

Look at how Christianity sets things out. THE repersentative is depicted as a servant who suffers for the sake of others! That service, that lowering of self, is done for the same people that beat and tortured Jesus. I don't see such a mechanism anywhere else in all of human thought!
Monday, April 26, 2004
I got home tonight and was in an awful mood. This, in spite of taking a walk. After a prolonged struggle (on the part of God, no doubt), I can “hear” Him again. Not that I can make anything out, just that I “feel” His presence. That impression that I used to have of God's imminence has returned. This time, not in conjunction with some extreme psychological stress, but in response to, I think, Dostoyeveksy's writings. I had forgotten how my this drunkard, this gambler, this convict, indeed, this sinner, knew the good Lord. The same one that sought me at seminary and marked me forever with His, what? I cannot describe it, or perhaps I am unwilling to do so... In any case, that same still, small voice, quiet in silence calls. After all, He is my owner, no? If anyone reads this note, it is certainly likely that they will misunderstand of whom I am speaking. Indeed, I do not think that I myself understand. How good is the Lord, and how much I have neglected Him. And yet, and yet...

Perhaps I should return to the beginning. That, will have to wait a bit, though. In the meantime, I will recommend Dostoyeveksy's The Idiot. I was once quite like that main character, and at heart perhaps still am. I am happy at the thought of him, of his simplicity and humility, like the crucified Lord's. Enjoy!
Tuesday, December 16, 2003

So I had to have the 15K service on my car today. Not particularly important except that it meant an extended stay at the Tustin Marketplace. Invariably, this led to me entering and perusing the Tower Records store there. As chance would have it, I saw the Audioslave CD (that I had mentioned earlier that day) on sale. I bought it.

This CD is pretty interesting to me. A lot of near Christian imagery. Before I get to that, though, I have to say something about the music. I like the lead singer's voice (as I did when he was with Soundgarden). Some of the music is reminiscent of Rage, as well - which makes sense given the band's roots in that group.

For my angst-ridden taste (these days), Show Me How to Live really gets my attention. So does Like a Stone, Exploder, Bring 'em Back Alive, and light My Way. For example, the chorus of Show Me is:

"Nail in my hand
From my creator
You gave me life
Now show me how to live"

The last three lines flow in a clear message not unlike that of an existentialist who struggles with the lack of freedom and choice in his own givenness. It's kind of like saying, "I didn't choose to be born." A person may be able to make many choices and decisions, but not about that. Even if a person (God forbid) chooses to commit suicide, this is still in the context of a given reality - that that person exists. So, Audioslave is hitting on a long-standing question that hits most conscious people. What makes it interesting it the lead line, "Nail in my hand." This immediately puts the refrain in a Christian context (I think), and frames the existential question. In fact, there is an implicit accusation that the creator put this nail (a crucifixion?) into the speaker. If I have a chance later, I'll revisit this song including the main stanzas. In the meantime, I'd best be off to do something more productive.
Thursday, December 04, 2003
So, I wanted to put down some epistimological thoughts. That is the study of how we know things. Now, I'll mention again that I'm no professional philosopher, but I do know a few things about mathematics and its application in biology. The way I see the problem is best set forth by example. In regualar mathematics, and often in, say, physics, problems are determined in the sense that if you have enough information to solve a problem, you can. If you don't, you can't. Nevertheless, if you have some information, you can make some kind of inferences, some predictions. This is NOT quantum mechanics, where there are no hidden variables, but the system itself is not deterministic with respect to certain variables. I am talking about something like CHiP assays, where you have to use a small sampling size to get your statistics and then do your analysis on limited data.

What I find interesting is that we function this way in life. We don't have perfect knowledge. One approach to life is to gather more and more information, only making a decision after long and painful analysis (almost a paralysis?) The other way is to follow intuition. This is just a way of using the available - imperfect - data. I don't know which is a better way, since one can leave you missing opportunities, and the other can lead to bad decisions. I guess that I think experience just teaches us where to make the cutoff (hopefully), and that we only know a posteriori whether or not we followed the right course of action. I do know that I tend to act much more on intuition that calculation. Oh well!
Friday, November 28, 2003
I just got through watching Bruce almighty with a friend of mine, and it got me thinking about some old things.

Footprints Commentary

This commentary is from a while back, the beginning of March, 2003, when I was asked to give a talk to a group of Orthodox Christians. The subject was up to me, so I chose an old interest - how to understand suffering. The link above is to a commentary on that subject that began with the footprints poem.

I had known the contents of this outline for a long time, so it was easy to write. I even still agree that we have to be, in a sense, weak so that God can work in us. Where I have difficulty (and hence the subject of recent blogs and thoughts) is that it often seems that difficult times do not end, and that God is not carrying people in the midst of them. That may sound blasphemous, or faithless, but I've never thought that questioning or struggling with one's faith constitutes either (see, for example, Ps. 77).

In any case, I have reached some state of equilibrium with respect to my questioning and questing toward God, especially with respect to the problem of suffering. A friend mentioned that the suffering of others is our opportunity to do good. So, part of the answer to suffering is our action, our use of free will. In Dostoevsky's "Brothers Karamazov", the actions of Alyosha seem to indicate a similar thought. For myself, I can only say that I have reached some kind of equilibrium with respect to my doubts and to my faith. I only hope in time that this "belief that needs help" will yield some fruit, God only knows.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
-- Aldous Huxley

I found this quote and wanted to include it for two reasons. First, I have always liked the insights of Aldous Huxley (I consider "Brave New World" to be almost prophetic in its analysis of our society). Secondly, I think the content of the quote is right on. Many people that I know just chose to ignore facts, whether it pertains to science (Einstein didn't like quantum mechanics, his predecesors didn't like relativite), philosophy (those guys almost invariably just end up contradicting themselves), self perception (often self deception,whether it is about how smart one is, how capable one is, how attractive - look at the Budweiser Mr. Toupee wearer commercial, among others, how stable, etc.) as well as many other examples. I think that one of the functions of Jesus in Christianity is to cut through the illusions that we all have about life, about God, and about ourselves.

Once, a friend of mine told me that I am particularly logical (even for a guy). I don't know how true that is, but I do know that I just look for consistency in my actions. Sort of a variation on the Golden Rule. I don't know. I mentioned, a few blogs ago, how I think that evil has two sources, one of which is due to the excercise of our free will. I wonder if there is a way to tie the notion of a consistent excercise of free will to morality? Pity I never studied philosophy. Or, then again, maybe I am better off continuing with practical solutions to physical problems (albeit at a high level).

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