Category Archives: Theology

Mindset

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Mindset by Carol Dweck. It’s a book everyone should read. You’re interested in philosophy, psychology, success, relationship advice, self-actualization, or mastering anything? Yes, you should read it.

It’s made me a student who achieves more and a teacher who has multiplied her reservoir of patience exponentially.

It’s the rare type of book that involuntarily achieves the purpose which most self-help books miserably fail at. I reached that disappointment after going through a phase of reading self-help books voraciously until I realized that the whole point of self-help books was consumerism. In other words, once you’ve bought the self-help book, its purpose was fulfilled. Whether or not you get any value out of the book from that point forward depends on whether or not you’ve effectively bought in to the concepts of the book. So if you’re not hooked after the introduction, the rest is just hogwash. Even ‘good’ self-help books are usually full of claptrap. It’s just an eloquent sort of balderdash which succeeds in giving you warm feelings.

Mindset can’t be shelved among this flimflam of pop psychology that could scarcely score any higher than grade four on the Flesch-Kincaid scale.

The most salient reason why I have been whole heartedly endorsing this book to everyone around me whenever it can possibly relate to the conversation at hand is because of the leaps and bounds it has helped me reach in my personal life (a bit of an ironic phrase – is there any other life that is impersonal?). Thanks to Dweck, and her warm tone with which she makes matters of mentality and achievement clear, the way she elucidates the causation and correlation that spring up between them, I’m now much further along in my sense of self.

Brief interlude: upon giving copious ponderance to what constitutes human personhood, especially in light of fetal and reproductive rights, I’ve come (rather tentatively) to the worldview that personhood, or a sense of self is constructed. It’s created over time, by the individual and their environment. I don’t have this weird need to divide nurture and nature. I don’t know if imputed personhood is anything more than an expression of the expectations of parents and society. In other words, ‘self’ is not the set of expectations that are set for you, but rather how you choose to conform or not conform. You are who you choose to be.

To give a rather relevant example, let’s say a baby is born. The clamor of ‘it’s a girl!’ comes flooding in from all sides is bringing societal expectations of how this new member of humanity is going to be trained to act, and what rights she will be allowed. Pink dresses and hair ties are bestowed upon her by friends and relatives who have been trained into being good consumers and are blindly equating materialism with true celebration. Is this child all the attributes that are being attributed to her? I would argue no, not at all, but they could become a part of her to the extent she incorporates them into her sense of self as she develops it.

I do wonder what would cross her parents minds if they took into consideration that her chances of being of being abused or assaulted in her lifetime are 1 in 4. What’s a parent to do if they realize that their child’s anatomy means that they will probably earn only 77% of what a child with a different anatomy will earn? Alas, I digress.

Future me feels the need to jump in here and stake out the right to change my mind after I know what it’s like to have kids. Speaking of which, when I have kids, I think I’ll wait a few months post-natum before disclosing the sex of my child. It will be a good exercise in ambiguity for all those who will be in my life at the time. Maybe this will be able to serve as a small wake up call that sex and gender mean WAY too much to us. I look forward to a Utopian society where the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ are not code for “shut your mind off now and treat this person according to thousands of years of belligerent misinformation”. A society in which the terms ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ are weightless in conversation due to the overwhelming majority of people realizing that gender is only one aspect of attraction. One is just as likely to be sapiosexual.

Given that these values are quite incompatible with religious fundamentalism, we might be in dire need of a change on that front as well. I wouldn’t advocate for any specific worldview, but what I do push for, is criteria which can be used to measure the soundness of a worldview. Is it ethical? Is it up to date enough to be relevant to a modern, technologically advanced society with more power to do harm than ever before?

You know how after the Paleolithic era, we stopped worshipping the Animal Master (peace be upon him may he live forever. Oh I was late to the funeral? What? He only ever existed in human imagination? And he’s not really there anymore? Huh?) because we were no longer living as hunter gatherers and had no more need of him in our dead animal rites because we simply weren’t killing animals like we were before? Along came the Neolithic age, and we turned to Agriculture and developed a new source of food and a new psychological need for transcendent feelings that would lead us to the idea that we had sustenance from gods who would bless our harvests and gladly scoop up our virgins for fertility rites in brothels. We stopped worshipping the animal master because we didn’t need him anymore.

At the risk of overextrapolation, I would like to point out that we are living in the information age, and if we are still going to choose to worship something, it should be something which advances the development of intellectual and ethical society. When you consider how much harm can be done so easily, you realize that archaic and destructive religious mentalities have no place in modern society.

I won’t endorse atheism openly, I’m a little too demure for that, but I will borrow the words of Paul the apostle, and say, “I wish you all were as I”. Embracing empiricism as a prerequisite for assertions regarding cosmology and biology, keeping self-prescribed dosages of spirituality that recognize the methodological concerns which arise from attempting to define such a term, temporary lapses into pseudo-neopaganism which includes and is not limited to the occasional trundle through Dianic wicca, the episodes therein having been terminated prematurely by an underlying derision of the human proclivity to drawing conclusions where none exists naturally and creating structure where there is none, partaking in well-planned debauchery being highly selective in your choice of cohort meanwhile cultivating an internal condition of compassion which is conducive to the most ethical behaviour patterns is quite a recipe. Such are my current religious views. I suppose you could consider my atheism a religion if you’re the type of magic person whose favourite tv show is off, or you regularly dye your hair bald.

Anyhow, go get yourself a copy of Mindset by Carol Dweck and READ IT!

Skydiving

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I want to go skydiving. It sounds fun. It sounds dangerous. The good kind of dangerous, where you don’t necessarily risk losing your life, but what you do risk losing is your former perceptions of your life.

The only problem with skydiving is this: It’s morally wrong.

It’s prohibited by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who is looking out for you in its benevolence. The same bittersweet benevolence in which it gave us men with good taste in food, wine, and fashion, but that’s besides the point.

There’s a number of practical reasons why not to. You have a lot to lose by skydiving. After a girl goes skydiving, she has renounced the blissful status of never having fallen through the sky. And clearly, the more times a girl goes skydiving, the less of her there is left. She will wither away into nothing and lose her dignity and respect.

Inexperience is golden. Always. The less you have done in your life the more valuable you are. It’s so much better to stay in a childish state, infantilized by your guardians whose job it is to protect your innocence. They’re looking out for your own good. You need to stay pristine so that you will be a good wife when you are given in marriage (given? received? Cool! I’m an object now – awesome!). We know this is your end goal, whether or not you realize it yet. 😉 In other words, you’re far too young to realize how deeply this conservative religious bullshit will have stained you. You simply don’t know any better.

Stay young and innocent, and we will fetishize your stupidity. Don’t get contaminated by the wayward world, and learn to block out whatever threatens your worldview. We’ll gladly turn you into a sterile, angelic sex symbol. You can represent centuries of denial and repression. You’re welcome! Anytime! As long as you don’t expect any form of agency, let’s keep this up.

Inexperience will help you during mate selection later in life. It will help you rely on your spiritual guidance rather than sinful bodily cues like chemistry or rational analysis which might cause you to doubt your faith and stray from the yellow brick road, *er* ahem, my bad, God’s will.

Other virtues of inexperience are submission to the Lord’s will, malleability and lack of autonomy. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to not have your decisions made for you! Decisions made easy! Risk-free! Terms and conditions: you may be subjected to commodification as one of the Elect. Your deity may see you as an object which can easily become a gift to one of his servants. Sounds pretty good, right?

Other practical concerns about the dangers of skydiving is bird shit. You don’t want that all over you, do you? SO DON’T SKYDIVE! (Do I hear the sound of one hand clapping? When only one alternative is given, by very virtue of it being an alternative there must be OTHER OPTIONS waiting to be had. Bird shit deflectors, anyone?).

Obviously no one should skydive – especially not girls, because as the weaker vessels, they are the more vulnerable ones which need to be protected from the big bad sky. I’d never go so far as to say that this strikes me as possession masquerading as protection at all. After all that’d be completely out of character for patriarchal religion…

Well dear readers, if you’ve managed to swim through the sewers full of sarcasm this far, then keep in mind that these are legitimate notions I actually do face, even though it’s 2013 and women can be considered valuable for their contributions to society, their ethics, their brilliance, their problem solving, rather than whether or not they choose to go skydiving. It all comes down to agency. I’ve got two legs, two arms, and a good head on my shoulders. And there’s no chance in hell I’ll sit back and let myself be considered property. It’s all about agency.

I’ll go skydiving when I’m damn well ready and not a second sooner. Or later.

Such a Nice Day

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It’s such a nice day today. The sun is gently coming in my window, and I’m reminded of the words of a Messiah, “the truth will set you free”.

It’s such a nice day to wake up with an uncluttered mind. To remember that your parents tried to raise you to think for yourself, and well, this may not have been what they were expecting.

It’s a nice day to not blame whatever unfair things that have happened to you on God. It’s a nice day to not have to believe you need your head covered for the sake of the angels. It’s a nice day to not believe your chances of salvation were through childbearing. It’s a nice day to not condemn those who wear synthetic fabrics, eat pork, or are attracted to the same gender. It’s a nice day to know I can pull out my lunch and eat with a friend of mine who is Hindu, and not care that Paul tells me not to.

It’s a great day to not feel threatened by science. In as far as science seeks to know the truth, I will remain very fond of it and curious to know it. And furthermore, it’s a great day to not see Adam and Eve as anything more than literary archetypes symbolizing the historical assumption that women are to be blamed for the downfall of the whole human race. That women are more prone to deception than men. Not being prone to deception begins with questioning ill-founded beliefs. And rejecting them when you find them baseless.

And I have only begun.

Big Questions

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The big questions:
What is a good life?
What is truth?
What is God?

The concept of a ‘good life’ varies from person to person. Someone’s impression of what constitutes a ‘good life’ can tell you volumes about them. Some people say fun is the most important factor; others place emphasis on morality. The meaning of life is a subjective question. The meaning can be different for everyone, depending on their values. To me, a good life involves adventure. We are pleasure-seeking beings, and we can enjoy life the most when we are exploring new things. In order to lead a good life, one should make the most of every opportunity they are handed. Life is composed of experiences. Having more diverse experiences enriches the quality of life.

 

Another thing which enriches life is the pursuit of truth. What is truth? This is a question which I have given a considerable amount of thought to. I was raised in an environment where I was constantly being told that only a certain set of beliefs was true. I don’t agree with the notion that truth belongs exclusively to a specific religious group. I think in order to find truth, one needs to explore as many of the possibilities as they can. Truth is a balance of opinions. No one should claim to have the complete truth if they haven’t gotten an accurate picture of the contradictions to their truth. I turn to Hegel’s Dialectic as a good model to demonstrate the intangible quality of truth. Someone’s assertion of what is true operates as the “thesis” and then someone’s contradiction operates as the “antithesis”. Somewhere in between is a “synthesis” of the two which is the truth. The “synthesis” becomes the new thesis and is open to contradiction. The process continues. Truth is a balance. It is defined by people collectively and applies to them individually.

 

Truth applies to people on an individual level similarly to theism. God is personal, dealing with people individually on their level, in their language. Any attempts to institutionalize Him only limits Him. Although attempts have been made to universalise God, e.g., Roman Catholicism as the only religion in 16th Century Europe, people interpret ‘God’ differently depending on their culture, heritage, experiences, and other factors. I have pried my image of God free from the claws of religion. The God I have come to know differs dramatically from the God I grew up hearing about. He is nothing but kind to me. He understands me perfectly. He gives me advice that’s far more sound than I get anywhere else. This is the God I know, and I have salvaged his reputation from the debris of human assumptions.

Seven Deadly Bins

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There are seven deadly bins which you ought not dump your self in. Believe me, I know. I’ve bin there.

1) the Looney Bin.

2) the Has Bin.

3) the Ich Bin Flauschig.

4) the Ich Bin Fleischig.

5) the Should’ve Bin.

6) the Could’ve Bin.

7) the Would’ve Bin.