Sunday, February 7, 2016

Absolute Morality

Someone mentioned the Mahabharata to me.  

I did not realize that the Bhagavad Gita is a part of this extremely long Indian epic.  The Bhagavad Gita  I have read, I think when we were looking at Gandhi's favorite books.  It struck me at the time, that the morality is something different from what we teach. But I just came across this:

Just as the battle is about to start, Arjuna falters at the sight of his relatives and teachers, now his sworn enemies. He breaks down and refuses to fight. “How can any good come from killing one’s own relatives? What value is victory if all our friends and loved ones are killed? … We will be overcome by sin if we slay such aggressors. Our proper duty is surely to forgive them. Even if they have lost sight of dharma due to greed, we ourselves should not forget dharma in the same way.” (KD 544-5)

Arjuna fears that acting out his own dharma as warrior will conflict with universal dharma: how can killing family members be good, and not disrupt the social order? Herein lies an unresolved conflict in Hinduism between universal dharma and svadharma (an individual's duty according to caste and station in life). A warrior must kill to fulfill his duty, whereas a brahmin must avoid harming any living creature. Even demons have their own castes and svadharma, which may run counter to human morality. One person's dharma may be another's sin. This doctrine distinguishes Hindu thought from religions such as Judeo-Christianity and Islam which teach universal or absolute moral codes.

One person's dharma may be another's sin.

This philosophy explains a few things.

It explains, for one thing, how some existentialist I have met can be so cruel and feel completely justified in it. I have met people who feel justified manipulating and lying because it is somehow part of their calling.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The New Dignity: Gnostic, Elitist, Self-Destructive Will-to-Power / Article

Wow.  Someone is hitting the nail on the head.

But what exactly constitutes this New Dignity? The work of George Kateb, professor emeritus at Princeton, provides a clue. In a book titled Human Dignity,Kateb writes: “Since nature has no telos, the human species is at its greatest when it breaks out of nature.” Human dignity is grounded, according to Kateb, in our ability to defy nature—to go beyond natural limitations and thereby create ourselves anew. Kateb agrees with Sartre: the freedom to “become different through an upsurge of free creativity,” which “can never be conclusively defined or delimited,” is “the philosophical anthropology that underlies human dignity.” This is the meaning of human dignity in a world with no clear origin, no purposeful end, no intrinsic meaning, and nothing real beyond matter in motion.

The New Dignity demands new positive freedoms, freedoms to—to remake our gender, to marry someone without regard to sex or the procreative potential of the union, to choose our time to die and enlist the medical profession in ending our lives, to not only abort a child developing in the womb but also to harvest his or her body parts for commercial gain. It also calls for new negative freedom, freedoms from—from all unwanted pain or discomfort, from limitations on what I can do to or with my body, from language or ideas that offend me or that challenge decisions I have made.


Not only is "relative" morality and oxymoron, "relative" dignity, also makes no sense.

Raising Consciousness--viral video of Manitoba native woman

During the week, I watched a video by a young, female, aboriginal word-artist decrying the violence against aboriginal girls and women.  It moved me to tears.  She will not be silenced, she cries out.

To blame, according to her, was the system, the residential schools, the removal of children by social welfare system, the cultural genocide and loss of traditional stories.


I have not walked in their shoes.  Or maybe I have a little bit.

I have been to a Reserve and to other communities in the North.  The social worker on the Reserve bemoaned mostly the fact that young natives are just passed through the school system without having accomplished anything. Their high school diploma is not worth the paper it is written on and therefore, they cannot succeed at the College and University level.

What bothered me, in the video, was the mention of "pale"-faced children who sleep soundly in their beds.

In Canada, there are many children who are not "pale"-faced, and many others who are poor, and many who have come here to escape war, atrocities, persecutions and genocides.  We, too, were raised by parents who suffered horrors and were never the same afterward.

I know that survival of sexual abuse is one of the most horrible things to live with, disrupting all normal family life, but the continuing cycle of violence in the indigenous communities cannot be laid at the door of the "pale"-faced children.

Once, we were camping at a lake in Saskatchewan and I overheard some young, native girls talking among themselves about some "white" bitch.  It was frightening talk to me. To combat racist remarks and events, I would suggest, at least, to drop the references to color.

The answer, according to the artist, was to be found in traditional ways and lore, the very thing that residential schools tried to strip them of.  Recently, in the news, we heard the demand that aboriginal studies be taught at all levels and in Universities.  I can relate to that.  Why should the languages and the heritage not be taught and preserved?  Some of it will be useful.  Some of it may not be found useful.  That part of it will fall away, perhaps.

When I was up North, the tribe on the Reserve had settled in a place that traditionally belonged to the Dene and had a Dene burial ground.  It was felt that the spirits were still restless and all around.  It was told me by the health workers in the health unit.  Apparently, the health unit was built right on top of it.  I am not sure that this is a very reassuring, progressive or even collaborative thought.

At some point, you have to let the dead be dead, but the murdering must stop.

Here is the link of the video.

Friday, February 5, 2016

"Relative" Morality--an Oxymoron

The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre delves into this problem in his seminal book After Virtue:
“In a famous passage in The Gay Science (section 335) Nietzsche jeers at the notion of basing morality on inner moral sentiments, on conscience, on the one hand, or on the Kantian categorical imperative, on universalizability, on the other. In five swift, witty and cogent paragraphs he disposes of both what I have called the Enlightenment project to discover rational foundations for an objective morality and of the confidence of the everyday moral agent in post-Enlightenment culture that his moral practice and utterance are in good order. But Nietzsche then goes on to confront the problem that this act of destruction has created. The underlying structure of his argument is as follows: if there is nothing to morality but expressions of will, my morality can only be what my will creates. There can be no place for such fictions as natural rights, utility, the greatest happiness of the greatest number. I myself must now bring into existence ‘new tables of what is good’.”

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Drawing, dreaming, voting

Also see Conrad Black on the subject matter:

Honestly,  who can stay out of the theatrics that make up American politics?

What a more painful procedure could be devised?  It reminds me of the "dialectics" with a liberal I have been through.  And yet, somehow, America remains the land of the free, or does it?

One's response to it all, could truly be to bury one's heads in the coloring books.  I don't blame anyone for finding their relaxation in innocent activities.

And still, the coloring books seem like a retreat--a retreat from reading, thinking, researching, collaborating, working, working-through.  Part of me blames it on the Yoga-revolution (again, nothing against stretching and breathing--I have tried it;  it does me good.)  The Buddhist/ mindfulness meditation techniques are good for zoning out and regrouping or even marshaling your resources, but in themselves they don't deploy any energies into useful directions.  They are therapeutic and reactive in a sense, not productive or pro-active.  When we think that mindfulness in itself is going to fix the world or my need or my neighbor's need via whatever conceived cosmic convergence notion, we are taking the easy way out.

I am little too young to have been a Hippie, and in any case, in Germany that movement sort of passed us by completely.  When I was young, there was an art project competition our teacher entered us in:  make a poster with the title "Don't dream.  Do something."

Some people have tried to turn this around.  "Don't just do something.  Dream!  Think!"

I suppose, we need both, and most false dichotomies collapse.  So maybe you can even draw a mandala and then go out and vote for Trump.  Whatever.  Try to think while you color.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Why Protestants can't write / Christian imagination

First, of all as a Lutheran, I am not a "Protestant", and I have never called myself that.  I will happily go by Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical.  Anyways, our understanding is very much not like Zwingli's.  So, yes, Marburg is definitely the place to see the spirits dividing.

With that clarified, let's see what the writer of the article comes down to at the end.

Quote article:

O'Connor once expressed her desire to write stories that would sound “like the Old Testament would sound if it were being written today.” Her sense of what that meant was indebted to the Jesuit scholar William F. Lynch, who argued in his Christ and Apollo that “The opposition here is between Christ, Who stands for reality in all its definiteness, and Apollo, who stands for the indefinite, the romantic, the endless. It is again the opposition between the Hebraic imagination, always concrete, and the agnostic imagination, which is dream-like.”
Approaching the infinite “directly without the mediation of matter”—it describes the “modern spirit” perhaps, but equally and perhaps better it describes the spirit of Zwingli, the Zwinglian spirit that Luther could not recognize as his own. Insofar as Protestantism is infected with various strains of the Manichean virus, to that extent modern evangelicals are incapable of discerning the theophanies that surround us on every hand.
Hence: contemporary Protestants can't write. Blame it on Marburg.

For some reason, we always come to Flannery O'Connor.  It does baffle me a bit. She is said to be indebted to Jesuit scholar William F. Lynch, of whom I have not heard.  My guess is that he is an American.

From the internet:

Secondly, Lynch was suspicious of the Romantic exaltation of aesthetic imagination as something special or as a rare capacity for the privileged few, such as poets and others. Instead, he viewed imagination as incarnational: it is ordinary and universal, indeed our daily way of encountering and creating our lives. He often quoted Martin Buber as saying that the vocation of the imagination is to imagine reality, both disclosing and creating it.

Thirdly, Lynch had little patience with a tendency of imagination that he described as ‘angelic’ or ‘gnostic’. Here the danger was to cultivate unreal fantasies that avoid the drama of life. In Lynch’s words, Christ himself did not ‘march too quickly’ into ‘beauty, the infinite, the dream’, and a genuinely ‘Catholic imagination does not force me to imagine that I must free myself from all human society to unite myself with God’. In the introduction to his 1960 book, Christ and Apollo, Lynch remarked that he had three abiding friends from whom he had learned: Plato, St Ignatius and Newman. They nourished in him a certain compassionate realism. They taught him to distrust any escapist idealism in life or literature or spirituality, tendencies that he symbolised in the figure of Apollo.

Lynch wrote eloquently about Christ as ‘the Lord of the imagination’ and as having ‘subverted the whole order of the old imagination’ that imprisons us. Contemplation of Christ should give us freedom from distorted images of ourselves, whether induced by superficial culture or part of our personal woundedness.

Martin Buber, I know.  
The aversion to gnosticism, I share.
A compassionate realism is a good thing.  Plato, St. Ignatius and Newman, I don't count as close friends.
So much for now.  It's a good subject matter.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Anatomy of a Liberal Seduction

First, he told me how smart, beautiful, charming and such... I was.

Then he told me that he was an important figure, and trustworthy, as per his status and old age.

Then he asked me for my e-mail address, so he could send me a document for my perusal, analysis... since I am so smart, insightful...

Then he suggested reading material for me, since he is also smart, and we are both smart and we could have a fruitful exchange.

Then he told me there was no such thing as simple honesty.

There is no such thing as love, as in 1. Cor. 13, though Paul specifically says that without it, one is only a noisy gong.

Then he said that he would test me and things would get a little rougher.

The dialogue became insulting when he felt like it.

The tone changed at a whim.  I thought it was his med's.

The whole thing was not supposed to be flippant or pointless.

I was not allowed to use the word "supposed to".

I was not allowed to use the informal.

There were a whole lot of things one was not "supposed" to do, say or talk about.  The list is endless.

I was not allowed to talk about Jesus, ever.

I was not allowed to quote the Bible, ever.  Though he could quote the Bible out of context.  That was permitted.

Of course, we could not talk about Mohammed.  Nobody gets to talk about Mohammed or draw Mohammed.

If you believe Jesus or the Bible are real, you are a "Fundamentalist".

Fundamentalist is the worst thing to be.

Morality does not work.  We are beyond good and evil.

Death is nothing.  It's all good.  Don't worry about a thing.

It's great to be inconsistent.  It's great to be ambiguous.

Satan is a good accuser with a worthwhile mission, like Socrates.

Cloak and dagger or hiding in plain view, it's all ok.  Just be a gadfly at all times.

Converse action is the goal of all.

Mocking, provoking, persecuting is all good (or evil, does not matter) as it causes converse action.

It goes on and on and on, endlessly, addictedly, insensibly, hopelessly, depersonalizedly, unhealthily.

Pointlessly.  Meaninglessly.

There is nothing broad-minded about it.

There is nothing liberal about it.

There is no depth to it.

There are no new idea's generated:  heat not light.


Argue--just don't argue with a "liberal".

"If you have to argue with a Liberal--don't."

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Quick Yoga Routine

Someone sent me this link.  There is a quick morning yoga routine, that I have not tried, yet.
I will try it, though.

Usually, when I get to the mat, I don't get done for an hour or so, which is sometimes prohibitive, time-wise.

We'll see what 8 min. will be like.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mary Moerbe has a Blog about Writing / Reformation Hymn Contest

My FB friend Mary Moerbe has a blog about Christian writing titled "Meet, Write and Salutary".

Check it out! --  I will pin it to the side here and maybe I can learn a thing or two.

She has also drawn attention to the Reformation Hymn Contest here.

“We are searching everywhere for poets,” shared Martin Luther in a letter to a friend, “so that the Word of God may be among the people also in the form of music” (AE 49:68).
Centuries later, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is looking for rising, talented writers too! Our hymn competition in honor of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary is your opportunity to create a brand new hymn text that will bless the Church around the world.
- See more at:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The New Atheism Examined

Some true words are spoken here.  I have experienced some of it first-hand, I would say.

There are two hallmarks of the New Atheism which have been there from the start: a rigid commitment to the advancement of scientific rationalism to stamp out any vestiges of primitive superstitious thought and the establishment of a secular agenda. Not merely the “separation of church and state,” but the total isolation of the church from any aspect of the state: hence campaigns to remove plaques with the Ten Commandments from various courthouses, to disallow nativity scenes in public locations during Christmas, to have the phrase “In God We Trust” removed from United States currency, etc.
Of course, laudable or not, religion isn’t just so much garbage occupying the veranda of American soil. It has classically served a function in society, and as it is tidily swept away to the corners, something must rush in to fill the vacuum left in its wake. When one surveys any classic moment of American history, whether it be the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous speech or the words uttered at the moon landing, people have traditionally grounded values in references to God.


Another persistent trend within the New Atheist movement is the threatening treatment that women within that movement have received. In his devastating 2014 expose, “Will Misogyny Bring Down the Atheist Movement,” Mark Oppenheimer details a vast undercurrent of misogynistic behavior present within the mainstream Atheist movement, including the worst kind of chauvinism at Skeptic conferences and cyber-bullying of women and feminists; all of this while the movement, as a whole, pays lip-service to the absolute sanctity of women’s rights. Understandably, as Oppenheimer points out, this has pushed many women away:
“For the past several years, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and online forums have become hostile places for women who identify as feminists or express concern about widely circulated tales of sexism in the movement. Some women say they are now harassed or mocked at conventions, and the online attacks — which include Jew-baiting, threats of anal rape, and other pleasantries — are so vicious that two activists I spoke with have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.”
But perhaps the complaint that has the most considerate of atheists distancing themselves from the movement is that New Atheism tends to caricature and blindly attack that which it designates as a target without any attempt to understand or interact with the ideas. This torch-and-pitchfork waving tendency has a fundamentalist – almost religious – zeal to it which is exactly what these thinkers were attempting to escape in the first place.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Present

Someone gave me a present, a thoughtful present.

As we get older we need less stuff, and we give each other consumables--wine, cheese, chocolate, candles...  And hardly anyone thinks about your interests anymore and what might be a suitable item to provide a pleasure for you (that is not a consumable item).

Well, what did I get?  A young man, a pastor with the first baby on the way, gave me two Moravian hymn books!  Not that I need more hymn books, exactly, but it was thoughtful.  He probably has old hymn books stacked somewhere not knowing what to do with them, but nevertheless, it was thoughtful.

"Thoughtful" is good, something like "prayerful", having spent a certain amount of love, care and seriousness.

Perhaps, I will give him a brand-new Lutheran Study Bible.

Oh my gosh, now you can have it on your I-Pad.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Movie: I will see you in my Dreams

Netflix throws some interesting shows in one's way.  Several we have seen lately deal with the older/aging/dying demographic and their adventures or lack of adventures.  I don't recall having seen movies like this before, either because I am moving into this age group slowly but surely myself, and am now suddenly taking notice, or because we belong to the coming Grey Tsunami and society as a whole is working on this topic.

First I saw the Greatest Marigold Hotel shows, and last night  "I will see you in my dreams".  

There are some extrodinary, experienced actors in these shows acting as the aging population:  Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, Blythe Danner and so on.

The performances are worth watching, the story lines are quite compelling and fresh, the frustrations are familiar.

"I will see you in my Dreams"  I had watched one third through while doing dishes, and got my husband to watch the rest of with me.  He was surprised.  He said for a "chick-flick" it was pretty interesting to him.  (I suppose anything without murders, detectives, bloodshed or car chases counts as a "chick-flick".)

I have a lot to say about it, but I don't have time.  Just one thing.  There is a young man in "I will see you in my Dreams" who wrote the poem and sang the song to the heroine of the show, but he sings out of tune--not terribly badly, but just bad enough to see that he has little practice nor training.  This is a good observation.  The new generation may write its own songs but it cannot sing.  The young man also went to college to study poetry but now he works as a "pool boy".  He feels like a failure but just wants to live a decent life.  Still he wants to find his true, fulfilling vocation.  The heroine tells him "When is that?"  In the end we all get it:  death.  She is joking but Not, no, joking aside.

In the end she is comforted by the song the young poet wrote and sang badly.  But she is comforted by the fact that he performed a simply duty for her in catching the vermin in her house.  Maybe helping an old woman is his calling for today.  Maybe the vermin stands for grief and loneliness.  Grief and loneliness need bearing but they can be ameliorated--maybe by seeing the lost persons in your dreams.  But really?  It that it?  Why do we get attached and then face loss?  Can we live on the memory?

At Stefan's funeral the pastor preached:  you will not be able to live just off the memories.  And indeed, we keep going over memories to a minimum.  The pictures are painful.  The events are hard to digest.