Archive for February, 2018

The Importance of This Life and This Earth

February 27, 2018

I’m reading “Thus Spake Zarathustra” by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Zarathustra, a philosopher who has seemingly conquered life, descends from his mountain home to give a gift to men. There, he finds a town and begins his preaching. His message is focused on the concept of “Superman”, a state of being that compares to man the same way man compares to apes.

Among the many contradictions he speaks of, this one stood out to me:

Lo, I teach you the Superman!

The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman SHALL BE the meaning of the earth!

I conjure you, my brethren, REMAIN TRUE TO THE EARTH, and believe not those who speak unto you of superearthly hopes! Poisoners are they, whether they know it or not.

Despisers of life are they, decaying ones and poisoned ones themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so away with them!

This rings in me to the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

This teaching has always puzzled me. Isn’t “heaven” supposed to be a distant concept, something other-worldly and not at all connected to the earth? Don’t we die and leave this life and this planet to live somewhere else in the presence of God?

No, that is not what Christ taught. Christ taught with his feet planted firmly on the ground. He didn’t come to rescue the people FROM the earth, but to teach them how to conquer the earth for themselves.

One thing I have learned so far in my short life: We cannot avoid evil. We cannot hope that bad things don’t happen to us, and having happened to us, we cannot hope that it goes away. No, we are served a double portion of evil, and God asks us to devour it, to make it part of us, to consume it and learn to enjoy the flavor of it.

This is the teaching of Christ: Turn the other cheek. Do good things to those that are not good to you. Forgive debts. Turn evil into good in your own life. Then evil will become good to you too.

Christ, the true and living Christ, not the imaginary ones that Christians have invented for themselves which seems more to reflect what they wish Christ was like rather than what Christ was really like, is the Superman. At least, that’s what I think Zarathustra is saying.

And Christ told us, “Come, follow me!”

Then Christ went to be tried in a kangaroo court, got condemned to die, but not before suffering the weight of all sin and error in the world. Before he died, he asked God why he was forsaken. Then he died, descending below the very depths of hell, only to rise as conqueror. Conqueror, mind you, not murderer! Christ didn’t kill Satan and his legions, he forced them to bow to him and recognize him as their Lord and Master.

The Book of Mormon contains warnings about focusing too much on the future. “This life is the time to prepare to meet God” said one prophet, and then a later, his companion expanded upon that: “NOW is the time to prepare to meet God!” Meaning, if you can’t do it NOW, you can’t do it EVER.

If you can’t learn to love life on this earth, what makes you think you will love it in the next earth?

Of course, our prophet Brigham Young told us that heaven isn’t far from us, but that the spirit world is HERE, on this earth. The dying and the dead have not even left this earth! Your death is no release from this planet! And in the scriptures, we read that THIS earth will be changed into the heavenly realm we know as heaven. In other words, we who are saved through Christ Jesus aren’t going anywhere: This is our last stop. This is it. Look around you: This is your future heaven!

And what did Christ promise to those unworthy to live on this earth? “Away with them, who never knew me!” They are cast out, as Zarathustra promises. THIS EARTH is the place for the righteous, not the wicked. We are not strangers here, we are already home. Let us learn to love it.

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Happy 1 Radian Day

February 26, 2018

Tomorrow, February 27th, is 1 Radian Day.

I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out why.

52 holidays a year

February 25, 2018

I once worked for a Jew, who was quite orthodox and serious about his beliefs.

There are two sorts of orthodox Jews, I believe. There are those who outwardly are obviously Jews, and quite extravagant in their observations. Then there are those who you may not even recognize as a Jew unless you knew what you were looking for. They quietly observe their religion as a family tradition that has been passed down since time immemorial, not a collection of writings by rabbis and scholars, an academic exercise.

This friend heard I went to church on Sunday. He said he doesn’t go to church on Sunday, since he is a Jew. I said something to the effect of “So you go to church on Saturday?” He laughed. “No, Saturday is a holiday! We get 52 of them a year.”

Indeed, the root of the word “holiday” is “Holy Day”. The Sabbath, whether you observe it on Saturday or Sunday, is the most Holy of days of the week.

It is a day to rest from your labors. The Jews say if you can take a day off a week from your work, you own your job. But if you can’t, then the job owns you. I ask you: Do you eat to work, or do you work to eat? Do you work for time with your family, or do you spend time with your family so you can go back to work? Do you look forward to Monday or Saturday? Put your priorities in order: Good food and family are way more important than money and work.

It is a day to remember God, and show God that you remember him. God doesn’t get offended except with those that don’t obey his commandments and don’t acknowledge Him. As long as you are trying to do both of those things, you’ll always be on his good side.

It is a day to remind yourself that you are a covenant people. Whether Christian of Jew, God has made certain promise to you, contingent on you keeping certain promises to him. The Sabbath is that day where you get to review the covenant and renew it.

It is a day to remember the creation of the earth. God set aside one day out of seven to rest, to enjoy what he had done. The Sabbath is a day of enjoying the fruits of your labors.

It is a day to render to God your sacrifices. To Christians, God doesn’t demand the slaughter of animals anymore. Instead, he wants a broken heart and a contrite spirit. He wants you to visit the widows and the fatherless, the sick and poor, to show yourself to your own family.

No matter how you observe the Sabbath, we can always do better celebrating this Holy Day. Even if you aren’t religious, it is good to take some time to get your bearings and to enjoy your family and your blessings.

Distractions

February 25, 2018

The technique that democrats most often deploy to win elections is distraction. They would rather have you concerned about minute details and meaningless issues rather than have you think about the weighty and important matters.

If you want to truly debate conservatives, you have to start with your assumptions and beliefs. Without any sort of agreement on that level, there is no debate, there is only force of will. Once you have an agreement on the fundamental beliefs and assumptions, then you can build arguments that persuade with logic and reason, rather than political victories born out of temporary favor of the masses.

So let’s go back to the beginning, and visit the most important assumptions.

The conservative will likely take you to an argument about rights, what they are, what they are for, and what must be done about them. Rights come from God, so says our Declaration of Independence. The rights enumerated there (which are by no means exhaustive) are the rights to “life”, “liberty” and “the pursuit of happiness.” Our version of English misunderstands what sort of “happiness” is meant here. To the Founding Fathers, it was defined to be “material wealth”, so the third enumerated right is the right to “the pursuit of material wealth”, IE, property rights and capitalism.

What are rights? They are positive assertions that you have the ability, no, the duty, to do something. They are positive assertion that others around you must either refrain from certain actions or engage in certain actions.

I like to use the example of the English kings asserting their right to be king. “I am king”, they say, “and so render me your taxes, your troops, and your loyalty.” If no one pays taxes, no one sends troops, and no one renders their loyalty, what sort of king is he? He is nothing but a madman. Thus, the “right to be king” is really the duty of others to acknowledge him as king.

So it is with our rights. The right to free speech is the duty to allow speech, and to speak when necessary. The right to bear arms is the duty to allow others to bear arms, and to bear them yourself.

Notice that when we began our discussion of rights, I said that “rights come from God.” This troubles a lot of people, especially atheists (those who choose not to believe God) or agnostics (those who believe you can’t believe in God.)  To the rest of us, it is an assertion that the rights are not subject to legislation or reexamination. There is no discussion to be had on our rights. Just like the English king will not welcome debate about whether he is king (if you disagree, then off with your head!), we who assert our rights come from God are not willing to debate the rights or where they come from. Indeed, the very act of questioning our rights is a threat to them, especially if they are not immediately defended. We should be just as vigilant about our rights as the Catholic church was in defending itself during the reformation. Any attempt to change it will lead to bloodshed.

But why God? The reason is God is not to be questioned. God is not subject to opinion polls. If we disagree with God, we are wrong, and God is right. If we are on his side, he is on our side, but if we are not, he is not. God is objective and absolute. No one can claim to be beyond God’s reach, and no one can claim that there as a God superior or comparable to him.

When Israel was free from Egypt, the first commandment God gave them read as follows:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

God first declares that he is the reason the Israelites are free to think about what commandments to obey. God isn’t claiming credit for the children of Israel’s existence, but their freedom.

And so his first commandment is “Make me your first God.” Don’t put anything ahead of me, and we’ll get along just fine.

In modern terms, the “god” that freed us may very well have been the God of Israel. Or it may have been our own ingenuity and never-say-die attitude. It could very well have been our ability to say, “Absolutely No” and then not waver in our commitment. If that is what earned our freedom, then it is worthy of being worshiped as a god, and we should never put anything else ahead of it. Indeed, I believe the God of Israel is a God of War, who has waged war, successfully, since time immemorial.

So it is with our rights. We were willing to fight and kill and die back then to get them recognized, so we should be willing to do the same.

But ask yourself this: If the bullets start flying, and you had a choice for a war buddy to watch your back, would you choose the zealous Christian who thinks God is behind everything, and is working for our win, and demands that we do certain things such as fight and die to protect each other, or would you choose the atheist who has convinced himself, logically, that there is just cause for war in the defense of fundamental rights?

I will tell you this: One of the most successful generals in the Civil War was the zealous Christian who fought for the South. His death marked a turning point in the war, a point from which the South could not recover. Whether the writing was on the wall or not, it is clear that when he died, a big portion of the Southern war effort died. Wars hang on belief and hope, after all. Once that is exhausted, then the war is truly lost.

So in the war over rights, which has never stopped being waged, we need the Christian zealots on our side. We need their hope and their belief. We need their bullets too.

Nietzsche’s Ubermensch — an ignorant idea

February 20, 2018

The ignorant idea is mine, of course, since I haven’t yet read Nietzsche.

One of the popular conceptions of Nietzsche’s works is the concept of the Ubermensch, humans who have surpassed morality through their excellence. To men who have superior strength, superior intellects, superior emotional stability, there is no law that can contain them, and so they define their own morality.

This idea isn’t absurd. Consider the game of chess. Which move is a “good” move? Why, it is the move that will help you win the game. To people who win chess consistently, such as Magnus Carlsen, the world chess champion, they know what “good” truly is, and where inferior chess players get it wrong. If Magnus Carlsen says a move is good, who can argue with him, except a superior player? Thus, Magnus Carlsen is allowed to define “good” vs. “bad” when it comes to chess.

Or take physical strength. People who are physically strong get to tell you what to do to get physically strong. People who are not have no opinion worth listening to. Or take the rich: Who has genuine advice on how to become rich: the successful or the failures?

Every aspect of life can be governed this way. The Ubermensch, the people who excel at everything, define what is “good” and “bad”, and no one can argue with them.

Suppose a group of weaklings decide they wanted to tell the Ubermensch what is good and bad, and attempted to enforce their ideas on them. What would the Ubermensch do? At best, they would simply ignore the weaklings, at worst, they might kill them.

Nietzsche was arguing, at the time, against people who set themselves up as judges of Christianity, who taught what they thought was good or evil, and argued amongst themselves while being incapable of anything remotely superior or excellent. They thought they could dictate to superior minds what the limits of morality was, what lines they could not cross, and Nietzsche proved them idiots.

What Nietzsche did not argue against was the fact that people who are superior get to determine what is good and bad. And so, in my theology, Christ, who has not only endured all things but bears them up and has risen above it all, is the ultimate Ubermensch. He and people like him know what “good” and “evil” truly are, and only he and people like him get to tell you what those things are.

If it weren’t for the fact that I believe in revelation, the communication from God to man, then we would be stuck. With revelation, we can engage a superior intellect and gain insight into our own eyes.

Until we can achieve a similar power as Christ has, we should consider ourselves lesser people, and learn at the feet of the masters until we can achieve a similar strength.

But keep in mind what I am saying: I am not saying we should trust solely in the dead words of God in the scriptures, but in the living word of God that comes through revelation. Indeed, is this not what the scriptures teach us to seek out and obtain for ourselves?

True Strength?

February 18, 2018

What does it mean to be strong?

Physically strong people can lift a lot of weight. They got that way by lifting a lot of weight, over long periods of time, carefully.

What about emotionally strong people? They can bear a lot of emotional burden, and they have built up their strength by the same way. They are well-connected, with deep friends who they deeply care about. They bear the emotional burden of life, and not just their own, but their spouse, their children, and their friends and even strangers from time to time. They don’t crack under the pressure. They face life’s challenges with compassion and understanding, not indifference.

Mentally strong people are monsters on the chessboard or in logical debates. They know a lot of useful things, and they know how to use it. They think strategically. They make careful decisions, in a timely way. They got this way by practice and study. They spend a lot of time reading books and putting the principles they learn into practice.

Spiritually strong people are connected with God. They understand that relationship and draw seemingly infinite strength from it. They are not confused by evil and they know how to defend the truth and spread it far and wide. They are a beacon of light. They got that way by devotion to prayer, fasting, and reading scriptures. That, plus years of practice trying to live right.

Let us not neglect any areas of strength. A true man will be strong in all the above areas, impossible to beat physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. They are true superheroes.

A Healthy Society

February 18, 2018

As a mormon, I’ve often pondered on the nature of Zion. In our scriptures, it’s not what you expect it to be.

In one place, Zion is called the “Pure in heart”. In another, it’s the city that Enoch built that was taken to heaven. We are called to build Zion in our homes and in our communities no matter where we live.

Zion is not an imaginary place. As a mormon, I believe Zion is already here, in part, and Zion will physically exist on this earth at some point in time for all humanity.

Suppose that there were an ideal place or society or system of government or whatnot, where everything went exactly according to “The Plan”, as far as I understand it. In such a world we would still have death and pain and sorrow, because that’s part of “The Plan”. We would still have to work. We would struggle with sin and evil. Again, it’s all part of “The Plan”. The purpose of this earth life is not to avoid sadness and sin and other bad things, but to embrace them and learn to live with them. We don’t look to a future where they go away, but where we learn how to overcome them. We mormons are not looking for this world to go away, but instead for a way to deal with this world and exceed its limits.

In such a society, we would still have laws, and we would still have lawbreakers. Of course we would punish violations of the law, according to the law. That is, after all, what law is all about. It’s a promise to punish wrongdoing. We can debate about the nature of law and its purpose and how we should approach the act of legislation, but there is no doubt that there will be a government and there will be a law in Zion. What is the point of a government and the law if there is nothing to do?

In Zion, Christ will be king, and not just in name. He will sit at the head of a government, complete with councils and judges and officers. What form that government will take, I cannot say exactly, but the last time God set his law on earth is recorded in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and that government is harsh and brutal. Under that government, absolute obedience is required, or else harsh punishments, inflicted by the people who you have offended, are exacted. Murder, rape, false prophecy and blasphemy are rewarded with death. Other crimes are punished in kind: If you steal, you pay back and then many times more. Tort law is simple: If you hurt someone unintentionally, you repay them in kind.

And yet, the people choose their representatives. You have captains of tens, fifties, and hundreds. And the judges are made of people locally appointed as well. So it will be a representative monarchy. I think that is the ideal form of government: One where we recognize an absolute, objective power as the sole source of all government power, and where we have clearly and fairly laid out laws, which are enforced not by the government but by the people themselves. And the people elect their representatives.

What about society? In Zion, I presume that people will be free to pursue their fancies, whatever their heart desires. Obviously, they won’t be out to injure or harm each other, but given the tort law that existed in Moses’ time, it is clear that sometimes they will, and they’ll be expected to repay in kind. Those few who are broken and do pursue a course of harm will be dealt with.

Men would be expected to perfect themselves, of course, rather than being put on trial by public opinion. That means a lot. In the church, when someone goes way off the path and starts to harm others, we don’t talk about it publicly, except inasmuch as they offended us publicly. We expect them to work out their crimes with the bishop and God, and whatever the bishop says we accept because we were not in the counseling and councils that considered the matter. Our job, in such a case, is to show love and compassion, and enforce the law.

One key fact of the Zion society is that you don’t accidentally develop a Zion society. You must consciously pursue it. If there is to be a city, I fully expect that those who wish to join it must show a certain level of competence and familiarity with the laws, and then be expected to swear a solemn oath before God and witnesses to keep the law. With such a covenant, you are allowed to enter Zion, but you are expected to be punished for disobedience to the covenant. At any time, you can freely leave, but those who swear falsely, who pretend to keep the oath when they are really violating it, will be punished accordingly.

How do we get to there from here? I have a few ideas.

  1. Vigorously pursue your own life. Make yourself strong, rich, wise, educated, and noble. No one can ever do this for you.
  2. Create a Zion family by treating each other fairly and kindly, but being strict with the law. Take responsibility for your family culture, especially if you are parents. No one but you can fix your own family.
  3. Create a Zion community by treating others fairly and kindly, and being strict with the law. Pursue fair laws that punish the criminals and ignore those who are good. Find good leaders to represent you who have sworn a higher oath to righteousness rather than party loyalties. Do whatever it takes to make your community strong and wealthy.
  4. Center the attention on God and his perfection, rather than selfish pursuits. By focusing on God, don’t abandon the world. The point is not to leave this world, but to perfect it by overcoming it.

If you look at politics today, you see that there are all sorts of forces at work to make the above impossible. Identify them, neutralize them, and pursue Zion regardless. Let me list a few I have seen.

  • Sexual immorality, and a lackadaisical attitude towards sex and marriage.
  • Petty politics, the pursuit of partisan victories at the cost of the good of the whole. Rare indeed is it to find a politician willing to put his career at risk for righteousness’ sake. Some people wonder why Julius Caesar was so well-loved and truly great and inspirational: It’s because he put it all on the line, every day, to do what he believed was best, regardless of the consequences.
  • Pointless bickering over mundane points instead of focusing on what is truly important and seeking to perfect oneself before each other.
  • A lack of religious piety and reverence, demonstrated by our complete lack of education about theology and morality, as well as our unwillingness to listen to such lofty concepts.
  • A devout focus on pop-culture. As a society, we know who is playing in the superbowl or what celebrity caught the headlines in the news, but we can’t quote and religious or moral leader and their cautions and warnings against our current state.

As a final note, let me remind the reader: If we consider Zion as something “over there”, we will never achieve it. We must pursue Zion as if it is here now, and as if it is something that can be grown and achieved in our lifetimes.