Monday, February 20, 2012

Be thou, therefore, a spiritual Bezaleel

Actually, the first sentence, in ancient Syriac, of St. Isaac the Syrian's "Pearls"  says "All the sins of all humankind throughout all time are as but a handful of dust before the divine compassion" (paraphrased from memory) - I was in a Greek monastery with the monk who learned ancient Syriac to translate that book into English and became one of the world's renound scholars of ancient Syriac, Dana Millier. He left the monastery after 20 years, became a professor at Fordham, and my stepson had him for Philosophy 101.  We corresponded a little in email. He kind of remembers me. He is a bit reclusive and does not want memories of those days so much, I suspect. Life is weirdly serendipitous. My other friend from monastery days is still a monk, Fr. Justin, who went to St. Catherine's in Sinai Egypt, the only non-Greek every to be accepted, and he is head librarian (probably only librarian) in charge of electronically preserving the crumbling volumes electronically for future generations of scholars. One of those volumes is the Sinai codex, the earliest know complete Bible in Septuagin Greek in approximate present canonical form, including Apocryphad-Deuterocanonical books.  He emailed me a few times, once to mention how Moses had one chief architect to execute the plans for the Temple, Bezaleel, and one theologian of early centuries counselled some other theologian "therefore be thou a spiritual Bezaleel" MEANING that the plans, blueprints, are laid out in detail, BUT as a Bezaleel one has some license, or necessity, to improvise, interpret subjectively, slightly, BUT one must remain in the spirit of the blueprint, the tradition. And it is oral tradition which is redacted into scripture. Tradition produces scripture. Scripture does not produce tradition.

The Apocrypha-Deuterocanonical books, Maccabees etc, were rejected by Reformation in part because they justified concepts of purgatory and prayers for dead. I saw a court pamplet in NYC which spoke of ones "sacred" duty to serve on jury duty. The word "sacred" can ONLY be found ONCE and it is in the Apocrypha, in Maccabees, where they decided to create a "sacred holiday" to commemorate some event. Ah, the wal

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dissent is not always trolling

I have been blogging each and every day since 1998 and most of it is available on line. It is true that there are people who violently disagree with me but there are also people who see me as a champion of what they believe SO simply because some people might disagree with me does NOT make me a TROLL.  You will remember an episode from The Family Guy where baby Stewied (who may or may not be gay) and Bryan the dog go back in time to Nazi Germany, and grab uniforms to disguise themselves. They notice on the uniform a McCain/Palin button. It is amusing but there is truth in jest. Would you say that The Family Guy cartoon speaks for the progressive left or for the conservative right.   It is important to reallize that not everyone who disagrees with us is disagreeable or a troll.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Power of Ambiguity

The Power of Ambiguity

An author at has raised a question regarding ambiguous

Regarding ambiguity:

A professor once pointed out to me that the phrase "the love of God"
might mean a love which God feels or it might me the love which
people feel towards God and there is even a third possibility which is
rather difficult to explain, but a kind of disembodied love, like an
energy or force, in the sense of the verse "God IS love" (i.e. this sort of
love as an energy or force or field in it's own right, and perhaps as
distinguished from other sorts of love.

The above is an example of a phrase which is ambiguous. I suppose
there are words which are ambiguous, or perhaps we might say

There are statements which are ambivalent. A very famous example
from antiquity is when a king inquired of the Delphic oracle regarding
a war which he was hoping to wage. The oracle answered, "If you go
to battle, a great nation will fall." The king foolishly assumed that the
great nation to fall would be his enemy's nation and not his own.

Ambiguity and multivalence and vagueness are energies if you will,
waiting to be harnessed towards some end. But you must have some
end or purpose in mind, obviously. It is not sufficient to simply
"sprinkle" one's writing with ambiguities as one might sprinkle an
ice-cream cone with chocolate.

Leo Strauss wrote "Persecution and the Art of Writing" to explore the
notion that a writer, for political or moral reasons, might write a work
which has an outer, explicit meaning for the commonfolk, but a
hidden inner esoteric meaning meant only for those equipped to
discern it.

In the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon says, "A word of wisdom, fitly
spoken, is like an apple of gold in fittings of silver." In those ancient
times, an artisan would fashion an apple of gold, and then create a
fine silver screen casing, with the tiniest of holes. From a distance, it
appears to be a silver apple. As one approaches closer and studies
more carefully, a glint of gold is seen from certain angles and one's
curiousity and suspicions are aroused. Finally, after careful study, one
realizes the true, hidden nature of the work, namely, that a golden
apple is concealed inside the silver casing.

One might consider the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam, a poem written in
Persia in a society strictly governed by Islamic laws. If one were to
write an explicit treatise on philosophical or spiritual ideas which
conflict with Islam, then one might face persecution. If one can say,
"well, this is simply a poem" then perhaps more may be "gotten away
with" and certain teachings may escape the attention of the
government censors.

The ancient Greek word "kosmos" has a wonderful ambiguity, in that
it may mean "adornment" or it may mean "universe." We derive both
"cosmetic" and "cosmic" from "kosmos." The ancient Greek word for
"poetry" is from the word "poiesis," meaning "to create." The artist
assumes the role of God and creates a world which is ornamental.

But that world created has its own laws and seasons and physics, and
things are taking place in that world, changing, evolving, approaching
some final state or estate. The Greek word "teleiology" denotes some
end or final estate which involves purpose or intention or perfection,
e.g. the teleiology of an acorn is to become an oak tree. The Greek
word "eschatos" simply means "last" or perhaps "latest." If our entire
universe, through the third law of thermodynamics, winds down to
some lukewarm stew of randomness, and stops there, well that is its
eschatology, but there is no teleiology from our perspective, since
nothing was achieved or gained.

One finds a wonderful ambiguity in the New Testament in the Book of
Revelation. The last sentence of the 6th verse of the tenth chapter, in
Greek, reads "kai xronos ouketi estai" which is literally saying "that
there should be time no longer." The King James version give an
accurate translation. Many modern translations will render this verse,
"and there shall be no more DELAY." The King James translation (and
the original Greek) imply that TIME ITSELF SHALL CEASE, in the sense
that an Albert Einstein or a Steven Hawking might speak of the end of
a time-space continuum, or time at the speed of light, or time at the
first moment of the big bang. If we look earlier in the Book of
Revelation, at chapter 6, verse 14, we see, "And the heaven departed
as a scroll when it is rolled together." So there is actually some basis
for saying that some quantum-relativistic time-space phenomenon is
being described.

For those who prefer the translation "no more delay," then time and
space continue, and the new heaven and new earth and kingdom of
God are very much like business as usual, but perhaps minus various
undesirable things like sin, death, war.

A second marvellously ambiguous word in the Bible is "faith." The
word "faith" (or belief) is referenced only THREE times in the old
Testament, and its first appearance is in the NEGATIVE, in
Deuteronomy, Ch. 32, "Because of your FAITHLESSNESS, my anger
has been kindled like a fire, and like a fire it shall burn from the
highest mountain tops to the base of the mountains and down to the
lowest Sheol (Hell) and shall wither the fruitfulness of the earth." By
the way, this first mention of FAITH-lessness is also the first mention
of Hell (Sheol) and of Fire, but the fire is not causally related to the

The second occurance of "faith" is in Habbakuk, ch. 3 I think, the
famous verse which Martin Luther of the sixteenth century uses to
base his entire theology of "sola fides" (salvation by faith alone). It
reads in the King James translation, "For the just man shall live by HIS faith."

But the Greek Septuagint is very different, reading, "For the just shall
live by MY (God's) faith." Now in Hebrew, the word for faith means
"faithfulness to a binding agreement or testament" (i.e. one is true to
one's word.) This meaning of faith is VERY different from the Greek
word "pistis" which Paul uses in Hebrews ch. 11, verse 1, "Now faith is
the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

The Old Testament stresses the importance of obeying or abiding by
an agreement or promise. In Habbakuk, God is saying that the JUST
person who honestly fulfills the contractual agreement will LIVE (and
not be destroyed) precisely because of GOD'S faithfulness to His part
of the agreement. This is a legal quid-pro-quo, something in exchange
for or expectation of something else. In the New Testament, faith is
a hope or confidence that everything will be "alright" which INCLUDES
forgiveness for shortcomings in the observance of commandments or
contractual agreements. AND, furthermore, we see that the
Septuagint version of Habbakuk includes a verse which is absent from
the King James translation from the Masoretic texts, namely "BUT if
he turn back, THEN my heart shall take no delight in him" (i.e. if the
human being renigs on his part of the contractual agreement or
Testament, then God will likewise renig, and the agreement will be
null and void.)

So, we see that the ambiguity of one or two words can lead to two
entirely different worlds or ways of life.

But, for the writer, here is a problem. The average reader does not
care to immerse themselves in such complexity and speculation. I
see one woman every day who always has a popular paperback
romance in her hands. I once asked her if she had ever read "The
Painted Bird" by Jersy Kosinsky, and she let out a gaffaw and said,
"Oh, a million years ago I read such books."

Perhaps the best audience to write for is oneself, and if others tag
along, well, thats ok too.   

If only THE RIGHT PERSON were in charge!

How many people truly believe that having "the right" person in the White House would make everything a lot better? What would that "right person" do to fix everything?  How many people believe that if only "the right person" had been emperor of the Roman Empire that Rome as an empire would have lasted until today? Just curious.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Re-installing Paltalk on Windows 7

I am still getting used to having TWO users defined in Windows 7, one non-admin and one super-admin.  I had installed in the superadmin account and had neglected to click on the option that makes the shortcut accessible to ALL USERS (because I was not thinking of defining other users) and as a result, each time I installed Paltalk in my non-admin account, I could use it find, but it vanished once I logged off. SO, I had to log in as super admin, uninstall paltalk, download and reinstall, and this time make the shortcut available to ALL users. Paltalk is sneaky and tries to install toolbar and search engine which it did to me once. One must be careful to uncheck those options because is annoying and inferior.

BIOS, Registry, System Restore

Some people REGULARLY reinstall Windows simply to have a clean machine. The first think I did with this Toshiba Qosmio was to spend 2 hours BURNING the 4 dvds with the disk operating system image and a repair utilities disk so in the worst case scenario I should be able to revert to the way the machine was out of the box. Supposedly there is also some way to boot the machine holding down a certain function key and then tell it to REVERT to the factory settings. One think I did learn about BIOS updates is that 1.) there is NO way to back up and restore your BIOS, 2.) you should NEVER attempt to apply a BIOS update UNLESS you are really having some problem that the BIOS update promises to fix 3.) you should ALWAYS choose to burn a bios update cd and never choose the option to do a windows bios update because if the least little thing goes wrong then the machine must be sent back to the factory. 4.) yet the damn Toshiba company will send you a BIOS UPDATE notice so you think it is somethng you ought to do, like the Windows updates from Microsoft.  Oh, also, a restore point does NOT affect the BIOS.  A different topic is registry repair and there are many programs which purport to clean up the registry. One is ccleaner which I have tried on an old XP. It lets you BACK UP the registry so you can restore to it if something goes wrong.  I am advised that it is best not to try registry cleaners. Experts say that you should only modify the registry by hand IF you know exactly what needs to be changed, but to have such knowledge seems to be equivalent to a degree in computer science.

Blocking Tracking Cookies

The purpose of this tutorial is to show you how to block cookies from all sites except the sites where you have log in accounts. You should also read about Flash Cookies below. Blocking adware tracking cookies will give your adware scanner less to do.

Don't let the following scare you into not doing this. It will take an hour or less to do each browser (depending on how many log in sites you have and how fast you can type). But it's time well spent. My adware scanner keeps telling me no adware was found. :)


1. Click the Wrench Icon in the upper-right corner of Chrome. Click on Options to open the Options Panel.
2. Click on the Under The Hood tab > Content Settings button > Cookies.
3. Check the radio button next to "Block sites from setting any data" and make certain the box next to "Block all third-party cookies without exception" is checked. Make certain that the box next to "Clear cookies and any other site data when I close my browser" is not checked. If you clear your cookies when you exit your browser you will always have to manually log in to all of your online accounts every time you restart your browser. If there is a cookie you want deleted you can delete it and leave the rest of them in there.
4. Now click on the Exceptions button. Click the Add button to add a site where you have a log in account. Type it into the Pattern box like "". Some sites might require you to also type in a subdomain like "". Allow is already selected by default so do not change that. Then click OK to save and exit. Keep this up until all of your log in accounts are showing in the box. When you are done click the three Close buttons. DO NOT X OUT OF THEM OR YOUR WORK WILL NOT BE SAVED!

The following has nothing to do with Google Chrome. But since many people have more than one browser installed I thought they might want to benefit from this too.


1. Click on Tools > Options > Privacy tab
2. Uncheck the box next to "Accept Cookies From Sites". Then click on the Exceptions button.
3. In the text box at the top where it says "Address Of The Website" type in the sites where you have log in accounts. You can save yourself some typing in Firefox because the WWWs are the default. Instead of typing "" all you need to type is "". Some sites will require you to type in a subdomain like "".
4. Click on the "Allow" button to allow that site to save their cookies on your hard drive.
5. Keep repeating steps 3 and 4 until you have all of your log in sites in there.
6. When you are finished click on the Close button. DO NOT X OUT OR YOUR WORK WILL NOT BE SAVED!


1. Click on the Gear Icon which is the Tools Menu > Internet Options.
2. Click on the Privacy Tab. Then click on the Advanced Button. In there click on "Override Automatic Cookie Handling". Then click "Block" in both First-Party Cookies and Third-Party Cookies. Leave Always Allow Session Cookies unchecked. Click on OK to save your settings.
3. Now click on the Sites Button. In the Adress Of Website text box enter the domain names of your log in sites. For example, "" or "". After typing in each one click the Allow Button. After you are finished with all of them click on OK to save your settings. Then in the main dialog box click on OK again and you are done. DO NOT X OUT OR YOUR WORK WILL NOT BE SAVED!


Flash Cookies sit in the Flash Player folder on your hard drive waiting for you to delete their normal cookie so they can create a new one to replace it. Kind of evil huh? Well, now that you are blocking cookies from all sites except your log in sites Flash Cookies can no longer do their job. It is pointless to clean them out of the Flash Player folder since they can no longer cause you any problems. You should just forget that you ever heard the name Flash Cookies.  You should be happy there are Flash Cookies in there for your log in sites in case you accidently delete one of their cookies in your browser.

There is an application called "Flash Cookie Remover". It is a Trojan, do not install it!
To further increase the security of your browser their are Ad Blocking Extensions.

Adblock Plus for Chrome is pretty much worthless when it comes to blocking ads. But you can add a filter to it to block over 40,000 malicious Web sites. Adsweep used together with Adthwart extensions are better, but not great, at blocking ads.

For Internet Explorer there is a hack for Adblock Plus. But it is completely worthless. I tested it in IE9 Beta 32 & 64 bit.

Adblock Plus for Firefox is superb. I can't remember the last time I saw an ad on a page or in a video. Plus it also can block more than 40,000 malicious Web sites. The only site I have seen so far that you still have to watch ads inside of videos is

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Religion as Unconstitutional in Politics

I cannot understand why the Roman Catholic Church is involving itself in politics. It is unrealistic to assume that the entire nation will convert to Catholicism. Furthermore it is unrealistic to assume that all Catholics will be devout and follow all the teachings of the Church. The only mention of religion that I am aware of is that "there shall be no religious test." It seems to me that the task or duty of Christianity is to persuade as many as possible in their hearts to do the right thing but it is NOT the place of Christianity to coerce the general public to do what it considers the right thing. Furthermore, an elected politician should feel free to act in harmony with the will and interests of his/her constituency. So, IF the Church threatens a politician with excommunication for voting against Church teaching then this alone should disqualify Catholics from holding public office. Since it is obvious that after 2000 years the Church has failed to convert the entire world and has failed to persuade 100 per cent of its members to observe all of its teachings then how can the Church become a worldwide political force.
It is difficult for me to understand the current controversy over Catholic organizations and employee health benefits which include birth control. I am under the assumption that a huge number of people in the country are unemployed and have no health coverage and those who are employed with some health coverage receive minimum coverage which does not include things like birth control. IF Catholic organizations are employing Roman Catholics then those devout Catholics should not seek birth control. And if some employees are NOT of the Catholic faith then why be concerned about the morality of their private choices. Is there not some compromise which the government and the Church could arrive at which would satisfy all parties. The government could put in place programs to offer reproductive health care to those in need based perhaps on some sliding scale and Catholic organizations could simply save money on the health care which they offer by omitting reproductive health care. It seems to me that the government has bigger fish to fry in terms of economic and environmental problems and foreign policy than to worry about who marries whom or what they do in bed or how they do it.
I had to Google to find this

but it seems to me that Roman Catholics who enter public service are disqualified to serve by this article since they will be pressured by the Church to vote in a certain fashion on certain issues. Furthermore, since the Pope/Magisterium has in theory the ability to enact new dogmatic and doctrinal teachings at any time, therefore one cannot even be certain WHAT the values of a Catholic politician will be since IF Rome proclaims by fiat some new doctrine then the devout politician will feel duty bound as a matter of conscience to obey the Church and ignore the will of the people/constituency.

For many years American political campaigns have focused in part upon the religion of the candidates. Candidates are expected to declare that Jesus is their personal savior and Jesus is the only way to heaven. Is this not in some sense a political test and therefore in violation of the constitution? Eisenhower and Reagan were not religious by nature and merely used religion as a political tool. Eisenhower was not baptized until the week before his first term inauguration simply because Billy Graham discovered that Eisenhower was never baptized. Tell me honestly, which sort of person would you trust more: 1.) someone who only does what is right because they superstitiously believe that if they do not do the right thing they will be eternally tortured in hell but if they DO the right thing they shall spend eternity in the paradise of heaven? OR 2.) an Agnostic or Atheist who does the right things simply because it is the right thing to do and not as a means to some end? The "religious test" which is so obviously in force in American politics GUARANTEES that those elected will be hypocrites who bear false witness to things they do not sincerely believe simply to gain wealth and power. George W. Bush supposedly had a Christian upbringing by his powerful and wealthy family. And yet G.W. went to Yale and joined a demonic secret organization, Skull and Bones, which is so evil that all are sworn to secrecy so that no one will reveal their Satanic ceremonies. So, G.W. proceeds to revel in drunkenness and fornication and ONLY when he is in his 40s, walking along the beach with NONE OTHER THAN BILLY GRAHAM does he have an ALLEGED conversation with Graham about "being right with God" and resolves to address his alcoholism. I say that people with any sort of religious affiliation should be disqualified from holding any public office. Instead look for people who are agnostic and whose life shows someone who behaved decently simply for the sake of being decent and did not don the semblance of decency to deceive the public opinion, meanwhile living a secret, hidden life of degeneracy.
America does not exist in a vacuum but rather in a world filled with many successful stable governments. We should look about and see how some of them address similar problems. Why is it that Europe abhors capital punishment but relegates abortion to a matter of private conscience. Here is one comment from Google Plus to this thread of mine which I reposted there:

Why can't they do like the UK and allow conscientious objection?
There are Government funded family planning clinics that offer advice, contraception and abortion referrals for free.
In a similar situation, UK employers have to offer a pension scheme, but if you don't like their scheme, they can choose from plenty of private schemes out there.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Who Is Saved and Why - 7

Then we have the unique early Greek view of "The River of Fire" which is related to an ancient Zoroastrian view that God is love, that love is fire, and that fire warms and comforts the righteous because of their nature which they have wrought by their freewill actions and choices but that same fire torments the wicked because of the different nature which they have wrought by their choices. In short, heaven and hell are the same place, perceived differently by the righteous and the wicked who see things differently.

This following from Lionel Trilling is important to some of these considerations:

Rabbi Akiba’s meditation on fate and free will: “All is foreseen yet freewill is given; and the world is judged by grace, and yet all is according to work.” – From Lionel Trilling’s essay on Wordsworth.

Who Is Saved and Why - 6

We must return to consider the notion of committing actions which are good or evil, perhaps intentionally or perhaps unintentionally VERSUS having a knowledge or understanding of good and evil and a desire for good, even though at times through error or weakness and temptation we may choose what is evil.  The Book of Job clearly states that each day Job performed sacrifices for all his children JUST IN CASE they may have accidentally committed some unknown sin or transgression.  Ancient Greek Christian prayers from the first century ask pardon for sins both KNOWN and UNKNOWN. If it is the case that the ways and mind of God are higher from human ways/mind than the heavens are from the Earth then certainly it is possible for there to be unknown sins or transgressions.  The New Testament mentions that only one sin is unforgivable namely that "sin against the Holy Spirit" which is never expressly identified. The early Greeks say that the sin against the Holy Spirit is simply
to attribute the miracles of God to Satan, and the attribute to Satan those things which are actually Gods domain, for in such a condition it is NOT the case that any sin could not be repented of but rather that a confused person would never approach God as the source of forgiveness but would only approach Satan, having confused the identities of God and Satan.

Who Is Saved and How - 5

Abrahamic Religions (which include the Zoroatrian influence from the Babylonian captivity of the Jews) are a once-created Universe in which a once born-soul lives one life, dies one death, is ressurrected and reconstituted to be the person they were at death, stands judgment and then spends all of
eternity either in an unending torment from which there comes no possibility of reform, repentance, escape, improvement, or else they spend an eternity in a pointless paradise of bliss in which there is also no point in the sense of making and meeting goals, overcoming obstacles, learning 
new things, teaching, persuading or leaving behind some legacy or tradition; in which there is no hope for advancement or progress, in which there is nothing to look forward too. For many denominations of belief, those who are saved actually BYPASS the judgment process altogether and are saved on the basis that they professed some formula of creed or belief, accepting Jesus as their Savior or accepting Allah as the only God and Mohammad as his prophet.

Vedic religions (from which Zoroastrian was an offshoot) which include Buddhism in its various forms, Jains, Sikhs entertain the possiblity that there is not ONE univers but possibly many universes like many black holes, each containing within an exploding, expanding, big-bang-time-space continuum and universes withing universes within universes, nested inside each other. For the Buddists the soul is the gestalt of "anatman" which is a bundle of conditioned skanda or perceptions and traits.  For Hindus and Jains the Jiva/Atman is no gestalt or collection.  But for all, justice and punishment is an inherent property of actions and choices in the form of karma.  We are conditioned by the karma of our past lives and with the choices and actions or inactions in our present life we weave the karma of our future lives.  But ultimately, at least in Buddhist thought, those who are righteous, the Bodhisattvas, on the verge of leaving the great cycle of birth and death, the ocean of samsara 
of the 10,001 things which distract and cause suffering, who are on the verge of entering Nirvana (Nibbana, extinction) on the opposite shore, OUT OF COMPASSION for all the sentient beings, intentionally retain some imperfection so as to continuously be reborn into the cycle of birth
and death until at last all sentient beings should be delivered from suffering. Thus religions are divided into two groups. The one group is those where only a few are saved (some because of their righteous actions and some because of their orthodox faith) while a vast majority are eternally damned to torment or else simply cease to exist. The other group is where existence and being is a vast machine to perfect all forms of sentient being through endless cycles of rebirth and suffering into a form of salvation or deliverance in Nirvana which ESCAPES the great wheel of birth and death and abides in a state which is neither existence nor non-being, or else, the individual sparks of atman/jiva are reabsorbed into the divine light or Bramhajyoti of the Godhead from which they sprang and that God-head is prior to space, matter, temporality, eternity, being, non-being and is the source of future universes.

Who Is Saved and How - 4

In the Old Testament, God says to Abraham, "Do not worship the stars, for that has been GIVEN UNTO THE NATIONS" which opens the door to the possibility that different people are permitted different standards. After the great flood, Noah is given the Noahbite laws for the nations which contain only five commandments. Moses married the daughter of the high priest of the Medianites who later joined Moses for worship in the wilderness which suggests that there were other acceptable religions for other people. The Zoroastrians, who had split off from the followers of the Rig Veda, and whose language in their Avestas shares many words in common with Saknskrit, preach that each people were given their own religion. In Islam, Mohammad borrows this Zoroastrian concept but adds that all of those religions initially given became corrupt and therefore

it was nessary for God, Allah, to send one final prophet, Mohammad, the "seal of the prophets", to deliver the uncorrupted message of the Qur'an.

St. Paul writes in Romans that when the nations do by nature what is right apart from religion then they have a "law written in their heart." We must question the value, the purpose which eternal torment with no possibility of repentance or reform might serve. It is less obvious that an eternal paradise of pleasures or bliss makes little sense since constant sensation ceases to be a sensation so we would become accustomed to and bored with rivers of wine and honey and a harem of supernatural houri virgins. If there is some supreme omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being which designs the universe then we may easily see aspects of the divine plan in the natural world in the form of competition, natural selection,survival of the fittest and evolution. The Greek Orthodox believe that consciousness is not possible apart from the physical body and this is
why ressurection from the dead is necessary since they reject the notion that a disembodied soul can fly about like some cupid. If wisdom and understanding of justice is MORE important that the facticity or history of one's deeds then such knowledge and understanding requires constant practice and exercise through the trials and tribulations of changing circumstances.

Moses clearly states (paraphrasing) "This days has been placed before you good and evil; life and death. CHOOSE, therefore, LIFE." So we are given free will and it is our free choice to choose which indicates that our understanding of wisdom and our habits of choice define our character and are of greater importance than the audit trail of our actions and mistakes in the balances of justice at some judgment. In the Bookd of Esther, the wicked Haaman is plotting the genocide of the Israelites. Queen Esther's uncle, Mordecai, writes to her (paraphrased) "You have it in your power to choose to help and save your people but if you choose not to then G-d will arrange for the help to come by some other means but you shall not share in the reward of your good work." On the other hand we can plainly see that intellectual comprehension may be necessary but is not sufficient to lead us to the better choice. We all know the dangers of tobacco and alcohol yet our knowledge of the risks
does not always cause us to abstain from behavior which is self-destructive.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Who Is Saved and How - 3

Astronomer Sir James Jeans said that IF the universe is some vast machine to produce reflective, self-conscious intelligence then it is amazing  that such a vast machine should yield so little product.

Looking back at prophet Ezekiel's notion that we are judged by our final state as righteous or unjust, then the question of salvation seems NOT to be so much an adding up in the balace scales the bad things that we have done in life against the good things BUT rather how we have progressed in our knowledge and understanding of the proper manner to live life in a community.  One verse of Jesus in the New Testament is ambiguous in the Greek and may mean either "The kingdom of heaven is WITHIN you" OR "the kingdom of heaven is AMONG you (implying your relation with your neigbors in particular and society in general, and if THIS is true then salvation somehow involves political values.  Rabbis point out that of the 613 mitzvahs of the Toral, 365 negative (though shalt not) and 128 positive (thou SHALT) ... most of those commandments or injunctions have to do with our fare dealings with others. One modern Rabbi states on page one of his book on Jewish Wisdom (paraphrasing from 
memory) "We shall only be judged for 4 things: 1.) Were we honest in our business dealings. 2.) Did we make a sincere effort to bring children into the world, or if that were not possible then to adopt and raise children, 3.) Did we set aside regular time to STUDY Torah (religious/philosophical wisdom) and 4.) Did we hope for and anticipate the Apokastasis-Reconsruction-Tikkun Olam of the world (i.e. that it become a better place.)

Moses Maimonides (Rambam) circa 12th century is considered one of the greatest Talmudic minds of all time. Maimonides somewhere said "Righteousness is not a goal or end in itself but is an exercise or preparation for participation in some higher state of being in a future 

We may have the best of intentions and desire to do what is right but through our lack of understanding we may actually do harm. Conversely we may intent to do harm but unwittingly do something that leads to the good. Joseph's brothers out of jealosy and envy plotted to kill Joseph but 
later decided to sell him into slavery in Egypt.  Through a serious of events Joseph came to by very powerful politically. Then famine struck the land of his brothers. They came to Egypt and Joseph was in a position of political power to save them from the famine.  When they asked Joseph's forgiveness Joseph said "You intended evil but God transformed your evil into good for, because of your actions, I am now in a position to save my kindred from the famine." 

Who is Saved and How - 2

The prophet Ezekiel says that if a man lives all of his life in righteousness but then in his last days turns to unrighteousness then all of his righteousness will be counted as nothing. But if a man lives his live in wickedness but in his last days repents and turns to righteousness then all of his unrighteous will be counted as nothing. So the key to salvation is one's final estate at the point of death.

Augustine and Pelagius debated around the fifth century and for the West Augustine won the debate but 

Pelagius had some interesting arguments. Pelagius argued that each person has within them all that is necessary for them to will to do what is right and to avoid evil. Pelagius points to the passage where Jesus tells the adultress to "go and sin no more" and says that Jesus would not command her to do something which was beyond her abilities. The Eastern Orthodox church always rejected the notion of "original sin" but did believe that all of nature was somehow corrupted and lost its fertility and that the world would be restored at the end in an Apokatastasis 

(Reconstruction, Tikkun Olam in Hebrew) . Pelagius argued that IF it could be possible for the sin of one man, Adam, to condemn all future generations, even those who never heard of Adam, THEN it should be possible for the sacrifice of one man, Christ, to forgive all future generations, even those who never heard of Christ.

Who is Saved and How

Conservative Greek Orthodox (Old Calenderists, a VERY small vanishing minority, who embody early centuries of thought) say that "the judgment of God is a mystery to man.  They see their faith of the first seven ecumenical councils as an ARK or SHIP of salvation, BUT someone adrift on a plank in the ocean may also be saved. Moving to the Zoroastrians whose religion dominated Babylon (King Darius during the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews), the Zoroastrian/Parsi religion is the first to speak of a final judgment, and "a lake of fire" like purgatory, which the righteous find soothing but the wicked find torment... yet all will eventually be saved, perfected (though some as by fire.)  Hindus/Buddhists/Taoists see their cosmology as vast cycles of creation, preservation, destruction of galaxies, universes, black holes, stretching across billions of years. Each soul, atman, jiva (or anatman for Buddhist) is sort of like a spark from the Paramatman light of Brahman and will be reborn countless times until it is purified and reabsorbed into the Brahmajoyti (divine light) .  Plato's Republic speaks of the State or Society as a macrocosm of the soul written in large letters, the soul being a microcosm of the state/society. We can see a certain evolution and perfection of world government over the centuries.  Some religions, including the Abrahamic Judaeo-Christian-Islamic religions see only one cosmic creation, one birth, one death, one ressurection, one judgment, BUT acknowledge the possiblity that many souls rejoin the divinity and become part of the divinity.  Gandhi made a careful study of Christianity while a law student in England but rejected it as a personal religion because he saw the British sin in the most casual of fashions and when he inquired they explained that they are constantly, mystically washed and cleansed and forgiven by their baptismal waters and the substitutional atonement of the crucifixion. Gandhi said "I do not seek merely to escape the consequences of my wrong doing but if possibly I want to extinguish wrong doing at its very source. Both the Protestant Reformation and Islam display a belief that IF one pays lip service to professing certain doctrines then one will be forgiven for an inherently wicked nature. Islam does value orthopraxy (correct action) over orthodoxy (correct dogma.) 

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Arms Race

If the U.S. builds up armaments, defense, military bases, then other nations become angry. If the U.S. disarms and becomes weak, then some other nation will attack. So there is no way to win, to pleased. We are damned if we do and damned if we don't.

Paltalk chat with students in North Vietnam

This morning in Paltalk I spend some time chatting (in voice and typing) with several college students in North Vietnam; one male who majors in business and finance, and one female age 20.  They were very happy because I said that I like and admire the Vietnamese people.  I mentioned that I have a friend, a professor of history, who is teaching about Capitalism.  I spoke about growing up in the 1950s during the cold war fear of Communism.  The woman student spoke of the loneliness of being an only child and how hard she works to please her parents by getting good grades, career and making the right choices in study. I mentioned how in South Korea the students study SO MUCH that a law was passed forbidding study groups (tutoring) after 10pm and that the homework police patrol looking for rooms where illicit tutoring groups are active.  There are some Chinese students in their Hanoi university. These Vietnamese do study some Mandarin but mostly English. 

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Semblance of Wisdom

In fact, I was in a Google "Hangout" with 5 other middle-aged people and someone said "Well, who could possibly remember the quadratic equation" and  I rattled it off from memory. They asked me if I am a math teacher.  The quadratic formula was just something that stuck in my head from high school. 

One day, at a certain job I held for two years, I was in the restroom with a medical doctor, a CPA controller and several other employees. The CPA, an Orthodox Jew, was washing his hands at the sink and the soap dispenser was empty. He mused aloud to all of us "did you ever notice how water seems WETTER when there is soap."  Well, I used to  work in a detergent factory so I know a lot about "surfactants" (surface active agents) which lower the waters natural property of surface tension. I explained how if you go to a pond and see water bugs walking upon the surface tension of the water that if you were to add a detergent then the bugs would sink. Water seems WETTER precisely because the surfactant action of soap  lessens the water's tendency to repel things with surface tension.  Well, this room full of professionals looked at me like I was a prophet or a genius or a wonder-worker.  But it was only coincidence that I worked in a place where surfactants were discussed and that someone happened to pose the question. Had no one posed the question and had I started to explain to a bathroom full of men what surfactants do they would have thought me quite strange.  The semblance of wisdom has something to do with the serendipity of being at the right place and the right time and possessing some knowledge or information that is not commonly known.

Reminiscence on My Education

I can definitely say that from high school onwards, and as early as 6th grade, I was made to feel that it was my duty to come up with insights and understanding and somehow become "wise" and that there was some wisdom to be puzzled out like a grand Zen koan.  Even as early as 3rd grade the "show and tell" period were we had to bring something interesting and say something interesting gave me the notion that I must succeed by saying interesting things and attracting people's attention and admiration.  We were constantly being asked to explain the deeper meaning of poems and novels and to find the causes for historical events.  

All the exams required extensive memorization so naturally I associated education and success with being able to cite from memory such things as the periodic table of elements, atomic weights.  I still remember that the weight of an electron is .00054 atomic mass units. Avogadro's Number is 6.024 X 10 to the 24th power which is the number of atoms or molecules in one atomic weight of a chemical.  

Given the fact that educators cannot forsee how culture and industry will change in future decades it is unreasonable to blame educators for taking the wrong approach in education.  Many people trained as draftsmen and tool makers for the automotive industry and had no idea how industry and the financial climate would change.

I was startled when my high school voted me "class philosopher" .   I did not at that time think of myself as philosophical but obviously many other people did.  I thought it was an amusing joke so I posed for a photo beneath a portrait of Lyndon B. Johnson and the photographer had me imitate the pose in the portrait.

Now, at age 63, I am struck by how much we forget off all that we memorized.   Everything fades from memory if not used with regularity.

During my freshman year at St. John's I actually committed to memory the first five books of Euclid's elements and I would stay alone in McDowell Hall and demonstrate each and every theorem from memory standing at the blackboard with chalk.  I never bothered to tell anyone or show anyone what I could do. I did it simply because I heard that Isaac Newton studied Euclid's elements in that fashion.  

I still like to write and study every day, but I no longer have the energy or ability to do the kind of study that I did in my 20's .

If I had it all to do over

Well, the learning disabilities were since birth.... no way to cure them... just work around them...   No one at SJC did anything with regard to my problem except that Dean Keefer gave me leave to go home for a week or two as I remember.  That entire period was a "dark night of the soul."  The woman who dated me helped to pull me out of my problems.  I cannot say that I ever saw some sinister plot on the part of the College or the faculty. And no one "engineered" my "breakdown" .

I do realize that there are some people who feel a tremendous anger, grudge, whatever, against St. John's program for whatever reason. But I also know that there are far more people who truly enjoyed their four year experience and went on to become very successful doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs.  

Had I attended any other college or university things would have been far worse for me.  I would not have endured the pressure of frequent exams and finals.  My "safety" school was Lycoming College in Williamsport PA which did accept me.  I would have been much less happy at Lycoming.

It is quite true that my St. John's education never gave me any marketable skills other than whatever confidence I gained in writing, speaking, and also undertaking to teach myself things like computer programming. It is equally true that the St. John's experience occupied my mind throughout my life as I learned about Eastern Orthodox Christianity and other religions and gained some conversational fluency in Greek and Russian.  I would probably do it all over again if I were 17 and knew then what I know now.

The only way I could imagine myself doing something totally different and more practical would be if I had majored in bookkeeping in high school and stayed away from any sort of philosophy. And then I would have gone to New Haven College and majored in accounting.  I might have been able to acquire some competency had I started in high school.  For many years, Armstrong Tire company advertised on a huge bill board near the entrance to New Haven College because so many graduates went to work at Armstrong.  But, as we all know, the economy changed drastically and so did the employers and job markets. So perhaps I would have struggled to build up savings for retirement only to see the investments collapse in ruin and most likely whatever Company I joined would not have maintained a retirement plan and would not have survived the economic upheavals.

Would it have been worth it to lead a miserable life of drudgery and boredom simply to secure a financial future (and there would be no guarantee that my efforts would have led to financial security. )

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Does Newt Pick His Nose?

I often listen to Catholic Internet stations as a captive audience because my wife listens to them. Today they were talking about how abortions have been shown to cause an increase in breast cancer.  I suddenly realized that IF studies showed that abortions PREVENT breast cancer then these pro life groups would NOT recommend abortions as a health precaution. Obviously they have some agenda and are willing to cite anything which will persuade people to disapprove of abortion. Someone should coin a term to denote a strategy in rhetoric which PRETENDS to have one agenda (say prevention of breast cancer) but in reality has a totally different agenda. Different example: let's say you dislike Newt as much as I do. Then you are willing to marshal all sorts of arguments to discredit him even if those arguments are not pertinent to his fitness for office.  Suppose you had photos of him picking his nose. Most people pick their nose at one time or another. The key to nose-picking is not to be noticed or get caught. You might then argue that Newt is an unsanitary person. BUT, if you found photos of Newt cleaning and sanitizing things, you would suppress that info BECAUSE your agenda is not really about sanitation but about bashing Newt.

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