Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Pastor Warren Dilemma

“A shrewd man has to arrange his interests in order of importance and deal with them one by one; but often our greed upsets this order and makes us run after so many things at once that through over-anxiety to obtain the trivial, we miss the most important.”
-Fran├žois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

"Nil sapientiae odiosius acumine nimio."
(Nothing is so odious to knowledge as too much shrewdness)
-Seneca (Quotation best known from its use by Poe in "The Purloined Letter."


Much is being made about Barack Obama’s choice of Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church to speak at his Inauguration. Pastor Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” a book perhaps best known for defusing a deadly hostage situation (along with some methamphetamine of course) will be delivering the invocation.

(Incidentally, another copy of the book was found in Scott Peterson’s car…)

Pastor Warren is a vocal opponent of gay marriage, you see.

So the far left is up in arms that Obama would give such a closed-minded buffoon a podium at such an important event, and the far right is angry at Pastor Warren for even being seen as willing to stand up in the same room with Obama.

Both are good signs. Because Pastor Warren is the balanced choice. It makes sense that the balanced choice pisses off both extremes.

Obama needs to unite the majority of this country in order to get even a quarter of his agenda done, considering how ambitious that agenda it. This includes recalcitrant Christians that as of this moment are thinking of him as somewhere in between Osama Bin Obama, and Satan.

Pastor Warren, while having the common Christian myopia about gays, and having even publicly equated homosexuality to pedophilia and incest, is still a much more logical thinker than most of his Evangelical brethren, and far less hypocritical. And his church is enormous.

So he is the perfect bridge.

If Obama were to (for instance) speak to Pastor Warren about actually reducing the number of abortions drastically without making it illegal, I think that common ground can be found. And once the administration has Pastor Warren’s “blessing” as it were, a large percentage of Evangelicals will have something to think about. And they just might, too. Also, I do not see Obama ceding any ground to Pastor Warren’s side as regards the issue of Gay rights. He’s already made his move to the center on that issue by not technically backing Gay marriage while supporting Gay civil union with all of the equivalent perks.

Obama is as advertised, we are now seeing. He wishes to be a uniting force. We are not used to seeing anyone like this in American politics. We’re used to hearing people *talk* as if they were like this. Huge difference. The pundits are befuddled. Some of them seem angry and are apparently feeling betrayed. This will pass. He is not even the president yet, and already the country is straining at the bit for him to take over this leaking ship and steer it toward safer harbor. Or more like dry dock. Sometimes I think that some of the talking heads of the news business would like to see the President-Elect storm the oval office and physically decapitate Bush and proclaim himself President now, for the sake of the country of course.

(And oddly enough, looking at all the *horrific* “midnight regulations” that Bush & Co. is passing in their final days of power, they may be right; not that Obama really should behead Bush, but that, if he did, that we would be far better off, and that far more lives and treasure would be saved in the long run.)

If Obama were to alienate the evangelical community as the far left would have him do, perhaps justifiably, they can do a lot of harm to him. As it is, the RNC is already commencing its new life mission, to block whatever they can block, regardless of cost to the country, so as to try to “win” something, anything. They’re in the middle of one hell of an identity crisis, and they are desperate to gain back even a shred of their self-respect. (Perhaps if they acted respectably they wouldn’t lose it so easily) The Evangelical community would work with them against the common foe, as they often have in the past. Soulless people like Tony Perkins would come out of the woodwork and pronounce what is and is not moral to *us God-fearing folk* and would have no compunction in demonizing even a good man if it is in their political best interests. Florid-faced angry Caucasians would be on every television station casting aspersions on the very humanness of the man, spraying spittle sporadically as they splutter their specious spleen.

Pastor Warren is not of that ilk, which is why Obama chose him. He cares about the poor, or actually seems to. He seems genuinely to wish to live a Christ-like life, unlike so many who with debatable accuracy also call themselves Christians. He is reasonable on many issues, and is not an uncompassionate man, from what I can tell.

Now, I do not see Obama’s choice of the man in any way as an indication that he is moving toward the right. I see it as a validation that he will rule from the center-left, which is a far batter place to rule from than we’ve had in a very long time. He will accomplish this by not only creating a spirit of fairness and inclusiveness but also at the same time by, to paraphrase LBJ, having those who would stand outside his tent and piss in, stand instead inside and piss out.

I didn’t see it this way at first glance. It seemed an extreme choice. Pastor Warren after all, from the viewpoint of a gay American, is an espouser of hatred and ignorance. Indeed, his attitudes are appallingly closed-minded in many areas, in spite of his openness in some others. But at least he has his areas of openness. They’re hard to find in the Evangelical community. And it’s the very fact that he does represent or is at least related to by many people that hold hatred in their hearts for Gays and even for Liberals, that makes him such a valuable person to have “on the team.”

If he plays this right, both extremes will come around eventually, at least in part. And the middle will never have a qualm in the first place. So it would produce the maximum best-case-scenario result. Balance.

Obama knows that he cannot please all of the people all of the time. But then again, now that he’s been elected, he no longer has to. This is one tough, balanced, smart person that we’re dealing with here. Get used to it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The "Big Brain" Speculations

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
-Edgar Allan Poe

"In my head I know I'm me; no one else in here to see. But what if my head is just in my head, and everything else, living or dead, is just a dream that we all share? Could you believe or even care, that we're all one, and you are me and we're also all that we can see? Could you believe it, just a bit, that it's all in the head, but the head is it?"
-Saint Brian the Godless

"What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists?
In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet."
-Woody Allen


***

“The Big Brain”

Part 1: The Simplest Explanation for Everything:

What would be the simplest explanation for this universe that would account for the maximum number of observations that we've made of it? I used to ask myself this all the time. I felt strongly that the truth of it couldn't be something that we'd thought of before, since all of those theories have huge holes in them, even science’s theories in a way, though science is the best single way to look at the material world of all so far. But still science sees infinities in time and distance, and quantum paradoxes galore, along with things like the wave-particle duality and entanglement, which are hard to explain. So I thought about it obsessively for years and studied a lot of different sources, and this is what I finally came to think about our universe.

To me it seems that its all a vast mind, or very similar to one. A “Big Brain” with no body required. Or if you prefer, a kind of dream, only not like a “normal” sleeping dream. Now I know that's a hard thing for a Christian, or most anybody, to ever believe. But give me a chance to explain. If you’re unfamiliar with this sort of concept it will certainly appear eminently dismissible, but please bear with me.

Imagine it as if we're all complex thought patterns in a vast mind of some sort. We think of ourselves as matter, and the universe as matter and energy and space and time, but if it were all more like a mind, it negates the problems of the infinite. The universe would be as large as we think it is, and as old as we think it is... The more we looked, the more we'd find, but in a mind this is all interplay of consciousness and not the real traversing of space, so infinity is not a problem... We feel as solid matter and a rock feels hard and heavy, but they're consciousness or thoughts too, but since *we* are as well, the rock feels heavy and we feel solid to ourselves. As we've developed over the years we've formed this vast mind by our subconscious expectations of it, since it *is* us, and all other things as well. Thus it conforms to our expectations of it, follows logical rules, etc. We are individuals, yes, but only at the conscious and near-conscious levels. At the deep subconscious level we all share the same identity, as does everything else, since we're all made of the one thing, mind, in a world of the same. So, the person looking out of your eyes and calling yourself "me" is, at the deepest level, *identical* with the person that looks out of *my* eyes and says the same. God, or the universe, is One, and we're all a part of it, connected at every point. There's only *one* "sense-of-identity" in the universe. That's what that means. We just all have it and each of us thinks it is unique to us as individuals, but it's not. Now if in this vast mind or “dream” you manage to convince yourself that it's all due to an anthropomorphic God up in some nebulous heaven, this reality/mind will accommodate you and give you "signs" that you're on the right track, *even if you are not!* It will give you exactly what you expect it to in your deep subconscious.

(Or perhaps better to say, “our” deep subconscious...)

So this "dream" can be rather deceptive.

If I meditate strongly enough, I get the same types of signs, and I'm not a believer in any God whatsoever.. Strange coincidences, synchronicities, and actual events taking place that related to my meditation... Even at times, wish-fulfillment... You can produce this with prayers, if you *really* believe deeply. It won't matter that what you really believe in isn't true, either. You can pray to a big Shoe in the sky, and if you have enough belief, real-world phenomena can and will occur that seem to be an answer to your "prayers" with no God needed other than this universe, which in it's entirety, can be called God but more accurately is just the mind that we all call home. It's not a human mind, but it's composed of all human and non-human minds and all other things as well.

This seems simple enough to at least visualize if you have an imagination. Now tell me why it can't be true. You can't. Much like God, there’s no way to prove it wrong. However unlike God, there are actual scientific research results that point to it *possibly* being true, that seem to at least indicate that it’s not as unlikely as it seems on the surface. And it explains everything in the world. Not one thing left out. It's the only theory that can even come close to doing that. All scientific problems, the mind-body problem, the placebo effect, miracles, faith-healings, synchronicities, deja-vu, "signs," ESP, clairvoyance, all psychic phenomena including hauntings, and even your faith in your God.

It can’t be proven yet, but it looks like it might be provable in the near future, if it’s true, of course. The beginnings of proof are already there. Look at the quantum realm, with all its strangeness and problems, which vanish if we assume that the universe is all consciousness. But as of right now, it can’t be proven. Not yet. Neither can your God, or anyone else’s, but since it explains not only your God but all others, and science, and scientific fallacies and paradoxes, and indeed all unsolved “mysteries,” and actually even has hopes of being proven in time by science, it’s far superior to any other faith or religion. And it’s simple, when you understand it. By Occam’s Razor, it is most likely to be the correct theory, if you detach yourself from your habitual view of reality and just think of the probabilities from an un-reality-biased perspective.

For me, I was the agnostic almost-atheist that loved science and the scientific method, was completely skeptical of anything that even smacked of the paranormal, then at about age 36 started to get 'signs' or more accurately perhaps jungian type synchronicities in my day-to-day life, synchronicities that I soon realized always related to thoughts expressed when I was in an emotionally excited state, such as when I was joking around with friends. Oh, and since the friends involved saw them too and thought that they were creepy, I know that it wasn't just a delusion. All of this worldview of mine that I have expressed above came about in my mind as a *result* of my having these experiences and then investigating them with various thought experiments as my tools, all subjective of course, but compelling nonetheless. Very compelling indeed.

Part 2: The Design and the Designer:

We're the designer. All of us, together, designed this place, by our very attempts to observe and understand it, from time immemorial. We created the dream-reality within which we now find ourselves. It's not solid, dead matter and energy like we think it is; it's all just consciousness. All that exists is consciousness, a vast sea of consciousness in which we are patterns of consciousness within the larger whole.

The world's far from perfect because the designers are far from perfect.

There's no plan, other than seeking for it to make sense. That's why it makes sense. Because we need it to. That's why it looks designed. And the closer we look at reality, the finer detail we provide for us to see. The more powerful our telescopes become, the larger the universe gets. It's all in our expectations and we fix it in place with our logic and science.

That's where creation happens. In our observations and expectations. In our minds. It's all in our minds, but our minds are all one at the deepest level anyhow, so it all agrees. It has to. We're all one.

I know, I need to take my meds, etc... except that, it is not as crazy as it sounds.

What is this universe, if indeed God does not exist in an anthropomorphic sense and there is no personified creator, and if science has only part of the answer? I mean, weird things sometimes seem to happen that nothing can really explain. Psychic events. Healing through prayer. ESP. Ghosts. Out-of-body experiences. Sightings of the Blessed Mother. Or the devil. Stigmata. Personal "miracles" and occasional contacts with divinity or consciousness or spirit or SOMETHING that leaves us confused or exultant or suicidal.

What is this place? What is the most logical conclusion, when even science seems suspect, at least in explaining some phenomena?

I think that they most likely answer to that it that the entire universe is made of consciousness and not matter as we think of it. Like a vast mind of some kind. Or like a dream, if you will. Not a normal dream, but similar. More realistic, of course, for one thing. More consistent. More painful. More pleasurable.

But a "dream" in whose head? Who is dreaming it?

The only possible answer to that is that we are! In fact, it's a dream without a specific dreamer required, since to think one is required is missing the point of it *all* being a dream, including us. We *all* dream it together. We are the dreamer and the dream. It’s all “One.”

We are “reality-biased” knowing nothing else other than this “consensual” reality/dream, so we “naturally assume” that a body is necessary for a brain, and that a brain is necessary for a mind, because that seems to be how it works here in our reality, but if our reality is a mind or a dream and not a place, then the rest becomes superfluous.

We dream that we are bodies, and so of course we are bodies in our dream.

And since we're the most advanced life form participating in this particular dream, we're the best of the dreamers, the most able to construct a complicated dream like this, one that seems so “tailored” to us. No God required. We did it; as we looked at it, looked *for* it, it all became real, because that’s how reality works. We looked for something, and we dreamt it up as we looked, just in time to see it and think that we had nothing to do with it. The closer we looked, the finer the detail that we created. The farther away in space that our telescopes can see the more of the dream becomes real, the larger the universe becomes. We find new stars, but were they there before we had the telescope to look? What I’m saying is, incredibly enough, perhaps not.

And it's easy to see why some people think that God is real and claim to receive signs and communications to that effect, since if they believe it hard enough, reality will give them false evidence of it being true due to their preoccupation with the subject warping their vision of reality.

>>>UPDATE APRIL 25TH 2009 UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE:

Another way of thinking about the so-called "Big Brain" is to think of ourselves as dreamers by nature, pure and simple, nothing else to us really but that.

I read somewhere the Buddhists have this thing they call "Maya." It's a word that sort-of means the reality that we perceive that is a representation of what is real. The connotation that I got out of it is that all reality is a symbolic illusion, a story if you will. Or a dream; but not like sleeping dreams.

Perhaps we all are dreamer-beings by nature, and we all get to share in one dream and have as many others as we want to for ourselves. We have many dreams but we only have one common "interface" dream that we've all agreed upon is real. In the dream in which we all share and which we all agree is not a dream because it is not like our other dreams, rules have sprung up, because different dreamers had to reconcile and "average out" in order for there to be a consensus on "reality." So what we think of as reality is an illusion, another kind of a dream, but it is the only thing we've got, the only reality that we've ever had, and so we might as well think of it as real. It's as real as anything ever gets.

Oh, and one really important thing about Maya that I remember. The Buddhists have a saying about it.

"Maya seeks to deceive..."

I take from it to mean that since one's expectations can actually to an extent shape the dream as long as no serious conflicts arise, if one allows their expectations to dominate their thought, their expectations will be mirrored by Maya to some visible extent and thought to be proof of truth. Verification. So the religious man has the religious vision, but the vision was provided by Maya and not God, just giving the man what he's obsessed by... I've never expected the answer to the ultimate question to be the Christian God, not since I was a child. It became actually a silly concept in my mind. So Maya gave me a nice, generic, nonsectarian paradigm shift. If it is indeed for the better, then it will be growth. I have hopes. And even some pretty good subjective evidence.

(The only kind possible for something like this)