Anyone who has read this blog for some time knows I hold Aristotle in a very high degree. As such it is always great to see others also acknowledge his greatest work Nicomachean Ethics, which in my mind is the most important book every written in the history of the world. This speech at the American Enterprise Institute about the importance of Aristotle’s works I think is something we should all take the time (it’s worth the hour and a half).
Category Archives: virtue
The great Milton Friedman on the ethics of capitalism.
“We ought not to listen to those who exhort us, because we are human, to think of human things.…We ought rather to take on immortality as much as possible, and do all that we can to live in accordance with the highest element within us; for even if its bulk is small, in its power and value it far exceeds everything.” — Aristotle
Knowledge of Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do. – St. Thomas Aquinas, Two Precepts of Charity.
So I have been looking for the core of conservative belief lately. What is conservative, what isn’t.
Why is this even an important question? Well because the conservative movement is overly obsessed with the idea of what a true conservative is (it doesn’t help when your main opposition is a bunch of blind followers in the Democrat party who will kneel before anyone who promises them more shit, and libertarians* who will promise them pot). Paeloconservatives. Neoconservatives. Fiscal conservatives. Social Conservatives. Compassionate Conservatives. (Hint I consider only two of these terms not be contradictions). It’s a wide range.
And there is no big help when looking to intellectuals. Sure there is Russell Kirk’s famous list of highly dense academic speak, I even used it in Republicans and Reincarnation, but over the course of his career he kept changing the last few points, making it more and more isolationist, and it’s so complicated as to be useless.
Meanwhile, while I love Goodkind’s eleven wizard’s rules, and think them an excellent companion to Aristotelian philosophy, they’re not all that specific.
Then of course you could name certain policies…but that doesn’t work because what is conservative today isn’t conservative tomorrow. Facts of reality change, priorities get shifted…for instance every conservative needs to be a fiscal conservative, however one can still be a conservative and willing to make a deal to that would raise deficit spending when a more important goal is present, say, toppling an evil empire. And real conservatives, love the nature of America to take pieces of every culture and incorporate them into the melting pot of this nation…but right now reality and sanity dictate we need to concentrate on border control and being a little more picky about who gets in.
So the problem I’ve had for nearly a year is to find something that is accessible, adaptable, and always accurate in describing the core beliefs of conservatism. And I just realized it was so bluntly obvious that I didn’t see it (but then again I haven’t seen anyone else talk about it all this time either)..I’ve even stated it, it’s just always been implied.
What are the core values of conservatism that remain the core values at any time any place any situation? The thing that binds Aristotle to Cicero to Aquinas to Locke to Burke to Smith to Adams to Goldwater to Reagan?
The Four Cardinal Virtues and the Three Theological Virtues.
The first four come from Aristotle, the last three from Paul (although I would argue they are implicit in Aristotle if you read all of his works) and they are the basis for the most perfect system of ethics ever created.
Think about it. Liberals only care about results, damn what rights or means you have to violate to create your Utopia (and that’s even before you consider they lack the follow through to do anything); the crazier members of the Libertarian party only care about means and an absolutist idea of right, to hell if you need some minor infringement to make a society properly function or to secure the vast majority of your rights. Only the virtue based ethics of Aristotle deal in the reality of needing to consider ends and means. And this refusal to look at only ends or means is one of the first reasons why the virtue ethics are inherently conservative—conservatives by nature see the whole.
Now let’s look at the virtues themselves.
Yes, Aristotle listed a lot of other virtues,
Sense of Shame
But all of these are natural extensions of the other seven. So let’s go over them and show why they are at the heart of conservatism.
In the order which most highlights the political aspects.
Justice. Conservatives believe in the concept of Justice, that people should be rewarded and/or punished by what they deserve. Merit. Earning. The basis of meritocracy of free market capitalism. This is of course opposed to the liberal obsession with fair. It’s not fair. Things should be fair. Life’s not fair. And of course whereas Justice requires the equality of opportunity and equality before the law, liberals want the equality of fairness where everyone has equal results.
Prudence. While a highly complex concept that the word prudence doesn’t quite convey the complexity for the classical concept, it might be best defined as the knowledge of what should be valued. With Prudence comes the understanding that the only truly valuable thing is Happiness (again I’m using the classical definition of a life lived well) and to value all the subordinate good that are required for Happiness. This includes liberty, because Happiness cannot be achieved without free will, actual achievement. Liberalism values material things and sees no higher point to life other than living, social conservatives only value society and some perverted view of God and not the individual or their happiness
Temperance. Often mistaken for moderation, Temperance is taking the knowledge of what to value from Prudence, and deciding how much you should value it, at what time, in what place and in what manner. In very simple terms this is the pragmatism of what works so clearly Keynesian economic and the libertarian desire to wipe everything out in one fell swoop without letting society adjust are right out.
Fortitude. Again often misunderstood to just be courage, it is more tied into the previous three virtues as the will to do what you know to be right. This throws out RINOs who stand for nothing, and worst of all the politically apathetic who seem to feel that there is no value in anything and nothing worth fighting for.
For purposes here, I am going to take Faith and Hope together because this is the primary difference between paleo and neoconservatives. Paleoconservatives with their isolationist ways at their core are only looking out for themselves (clearly also lacking in that last virtue) but this is also because they do not have any faith in humanity or hope in the inevitability that republicanism and capitalism will spread to everyone.
Love, the last of the theological virtues and what must be required for all stable society. It is the belief that other humans have value and worth, and must be respected and helped when possible. This is actually the basis for capitalism, democratic-republics, friendship and all progress. The belief that human beings are worth it (it’s a belief you don’t find in many political beliefs).
I have no doubt that I will come back to this theme over and over…but it has become clear to me that one or all of these virtues is missing in every political philosophy other than true conservatism.
(This will be the first post in an ongoing series on these virtues.)
*Not that all libertarians are this bad, but you have to admit there is a disturbing high number of single issue voters in your party…and their single issue is one that is really dumb. Of course Republicans have social conservatives who are just as stupid.
**I’m just going to gloss over these for now, don’t worry I’ll eventually have numerous blogs dedicated to this now that I’ve figured this out.
Not sure why, but I’m seeing an upsurge in the frequency of people becoming more hostile about their religion being right and everyone else being wrong (and even for the people who aren’t making a big deal out of it, there is a certain ‘my religion is better than your religion’ arrogance in lots of groups, and it just feels like its getting worse). And I’m not just talking about the psycho-fringe here (or I’m really underestimating the size of said “fringe”). I always find this a puzzling concept. Sure there are a few really insane beliefs out there–mostly the ones that dictate ‘my way or else I’ll kill you!’–but for the most part, most religions all have the same core values and differ only in forms, names, and rituals. And quibbling over these relatively minor issues is pointless. First off most of these people who want to scream for their own religion and no others seem politically motivated (I’ve seen all sides engage in this religious idiocy) given that it only alienates people away from your political causes. Further, reason doesn’t hold this up? I mean, do you seriously believe that God, a being of supposed infinite love, compassion, understanding and wisdom, cares about what ritual you use to get closer to him, rather than if you actually get closer to him or not?
And it’s not just implicit in reason, recent scientific research into reincarnation and near-death experience also demonstrate this. Scientific studies have shown that reincarnation is a fact and that you change from religion to religion based on your life—if that’s the case it can’t be that God loves one religion and hates all others. Similar studies have also shown that during near death experiences everybody goes to heaven, doesn’t matter what their religion is…it’s almost as if God doesn’t give a shit what name you call him by.
So does this mean that all religions are worthless? That there is just God and his children and it doesn’t matter what you believe…not exactly. Now, with that knowledge of near death experiences and reincarnation studies, it seems to be that the majority of religions are correct, that life is a series of rebirths, a progression of lessons and stages of learning all leading to Enlightenment…but that still doesn’t invalidate the idea that you should follow the religion you feel called to. If the soul is on a journey toward Enlightenment, let’s think of it as a journey. For the sake of metaphor let’s say all souls start out standing in the Potala Palace in Lhasa. High in the Himalayas, disconnected from the rest of the world. And you know you have to get somewhere (Enlightenment) you have had it roughly described to you, but you don’t quite know where you are going or exactly how to get there.
How you get there would be comparable to the mode of transportation you take. Some ways like Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, New Age belief and modern Paganism might be equivalent to walking, taking a bike, a boat, a car or a plane*, other religions maybe more like trying a unicycle with a flat tire, spinning in a circle believing you will magically teleport, digging through the center of the earth using a rusty spoon or launching yourself into orbit using high explosives and hoping you land in the right place. ** While in the minority there are religions that are all but useless in all cases…however most religions are more dependent on where you are in your journey. In this example if one religion is equivalent to riding in a car and you’ve hit the Pacific Ocean, it may have gotten you to this point but you need a different mode of transportation (a different belief system) to advance on the next stage of your journey.
Now for the sake of argument in this travel metaphor let’s say that Enlightenment exists at the Devil’s Bridge in Northern Arizona (chosen for the fact that it is beautiful, and the irony was just too good to pass up).
Now to get from our stating place in Tibet and ending place in Arizona there is no way a single mode of transportation is going to cut it the whole way. You are at best going to have to walk part of the way, either take a boat or plane part of the way, and probably have to travel in some other forms of transportation for part of the journey.
Let’s add to the fact that you’re not always sure where you’re headed. Granted as long as you’re moving you may be getting closer, or at least have a better chance to learn where the right place is as opposed to the stupidity of staying still, but that still doesn’t always mean you’re moving in the right direction (as some religions that could be used to progress can be misused to put you further away from God…Westboro come to mind).
You could use this metaphor for a lot of things, and show it flawed in numerous other ways. I just want to show that even on a journey you may use different modes of transportation, as different religions may serve different souls on their journey to Enlightenment.
And my overall point here is that reason tells you God is too perfect a being to care what name you call him by or what rituals you go through to honor him, it’s silly to think that one religion is the right one and all others are false. Yes there are some blindingly stupid beliefs out there, and there may be beliefs that are wrong for you in your life (take a car when you’re on the ocean) but just because your religious beliefs work for you don’t assume they would work for everyone. The most you can do is ask if you find that your beliefs are leading you to God (if they are, bully for you) and if someone else’s beliefs could never in any way, shape, or form lead a person to God (a religion that calls for stoning people in the 21st century for instance) and oppose those vile beliefs will all your heart and soul.
So even if you aren’t decrying that your religion is better than all others, it might also be best to not always believe that (I know some will think I’m only critiquing Christians here, but really this my religion is better than your religion arrogance can be found in almost every religion)…your beliefs may be exactly what you personally need in your journey right now, but don’t believe that your beliefs will work for everyone at every time.
*Try not to match those up, the religions are in more or less chronological order and the modes of transportation are more or less random.
** I may or may not have had Scientology, Atheism, Keynesianism (it denies basic reality so much and requires so much be taken on faith it’s pretty much a cult) come to mind here…oh and I can’t think what religion I had in mind when I mentioned strapping high explosives to yourself…certainly not a religion of peace. Not everyone following those beliefs is stuck at a stand still, it’s just highly, highly unlikely they’re going to be making a major push forward in that life. And this is the balance to an acceptance of other beliefs, admitting that there are some really dumb beliefs out there.
So there appears to be some brouhaha over the newest trailer for Man of Steel. I have seen complaints about this on no less than 3 different political web sites, which seems a bit much for a trailer, but since they want to make a federal case over it, it should be pointed out that their case is baseless. Namely the problem seems to be with the following lines:
Lois Lane: What’s the “S” stand for?
Superman: It’s not an “S.” On my world it means “hope.”
Now the first complaint is that this is changing the story, where it has always stood for Superman. This is a silly claim, especially for a comic book movie, which is based on comic books that have been restarted so many times with so many variations D.C. comics actually had to come up with a storyline about multiple universes just to keep all the versions straight (still didn’t help). When you’re translating a story from one medium to another it’s pure insanity to think everything can remain the same. Further, yes you might be justifiably angry at those changes…but only if those changes make the story worse. The new Star Trek stripped all the good out of the original series and created a cheap sci-fi film that would never have gone anywhere without banking on the greatness of the original…so there bitching about the changes is justified. Conversely, Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy took the Batman story from a more simplistic action/detective comic and created one of the deepest most meaningful films ever made. Those changes made the story better, and so whining about purity of the original story is just bunk. Rewriting stories is a part of literature dating back to when Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides rewrote the works of Homer for stage, nobody in their right mind claims they ruined the stories. Now it may be that whatever changes Nolan and Snyder have made to the Superman myth in this film may make it better or worse, we’ll have to see, but change is not necessarily good or bad on its own.
The other reason this is silly (and keep in mind I’ve never read a Superman comic in my life, and even I could find this out easily) is that in terms of the meaning of the “S” they haven’t really changed anything. In the original film starring Christopher Reeve, the symbol stood for the House of El, the Kryptonian family that Superman is a part of. But what about the “Hope” thing? Apparently some on the Right are having knee-jerk reactions to the word and thinking that this is intended to be a reference to Obama. It’s not. This actually is taken directly from the 2004 comic Superman: Birthright written by Mark Waid (Obama had only come onto the national scene at the 2004 Democratic convention in July, the comic came out in September which means it was probably written well before July). I will shortly come back to why using Waid’s work as a basis for this movie is a very, very good thing.
Finally there are of course the constant complaints still going on about the line from the last movie “Find out if he still stands for Truth, Justice, all that stuff” and how the writers shoved away the phrase “the American Way” and the worry that this will still continue in this film (this of course ignores that the line came from Perry White, the most cynical character in the Superman universe who probably would find the phrase silly).
Well what is the American Way?
Contrary to what many believe, it has nothing to do with land, or resources, or economic success, or military prowess, or scientific achievement. America is America because of our ideals. The ideals of liberty, of meritocracy, that anyone can achieve by their own will. Or as I have stated before:
We’re the nation that fought to create a republic where the haves and have-nots gave equal measure. We’re the nation that fought our own citizens to free slaves. We’re the nation that pioneered capitalism and law that gave liberty and opportunity and progress to more people than any other country in history. We’re the place where “tired, the poor, the huddled masses” come to be energetic, successful and stand on their own feet. We’re the country that conquers whole nations so that others may be free then tries to rebuild them and then leaves without tribute or power. If you don’t think we’re the “shining city on the hill” you don’t know history, philosophy or human nature. We’re not perfect, we’re not always right, but we are consistently the nation that calls for the best in humanity to put down the worst.
The American way isn’t a habit, or a land, or a race, or even the citizens of this particular country, it is an ideal that believes the best in humanity can always rise above the worst in humanity, that the individual left to their own devices will rise to the pinnacle of achievement and not sink to the depth of depravity.
And just in this trailer alone, we see that way, that ideal.
We see it in Jor-El’s statement
What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?
Are you going to tell me a line about how a single individual can rise above the shackles of whatever society throws on them, and achieve because of their own will and merit isn’t at the very heart of America?
Or perhaps Jonathan Kent’s:
I have to believe that you were sent here for a reason. And even if it takes the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.
The belief that life has a purpose. It has been seen in philosophy since Aristotle, but it has never been realized until America. And this quest to find meaning is a personal one, “you owe it to yourself,” not one laden down with obligations to family, or clan, or religion, or state, or culture, or history or whatever other un-American claptrap other nations have followed.
Or perhaps we should go to first trailer, with another line from Jor-El
You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time they will join you in the sun—In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.
Shining city on the hill anyone? The beacon of hope and light that America is supposed to be.
Oh I said “beacon of hope” which brings us back to the symbol and them taking that point from Mark Waid. This is important that they are drawing form Waid’s version. Why? I would direct you to an essay written by Waid in the book Superheroes and Philosophy entitled “The Real Truth About Superman and the Rest of Us, Too.” (It’s an excellent essay which you may want to read.)
The essay covers the thought process Waid went through when the head of D.C. asked him a simple question: “Why does Superman do what he does? Why doesn’t absolute power absolutely corrupt in his case?” He quickly found the stock answer of, because he’s Superman, to be unsatisfying to the employer who was hiring him to revitalize the franchise.
What follows is an argument that references two of my favorite philosophical beliefs.
The first is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Waid starts from the premise that even though an alien, he has the same needs in the same order as any human. Physical needs then Safety needs then Emotional Needs then Achievement needs then finally the need for Self Actualization. (You’ll find that the American beliefs in liberty and capitalism parallel this order of needs quite well). Now for Superman, the first two, physical and safety need, aren’t an issue at all. So that leaves emotional, achievement and self actualization needs. Now he might gain some emotional connections by just being mild mannered Clark Kent, but certainly not achievement or self actualization. Which then comes to a question of how much does he need to achieve…and this is where Waid turns to another idea, a quote in fact (which I’m hoping against hope will make it into the movie):
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” [Italics on the last part added]
It is the realization that Superman is who he is because to do anything less would not lead to his Happiness, and that a central theme of the story has always been that we should all strive to the edge our abilities, as Kal-El does, not just to help others achieve their goals (You will help them accomplish wonders) but to also achieve our own Happiness (you owe it to yourself).
So this is why I’m happy they are pulling from Waid, with the concept of Superman being a symbol of hope, the city on the Hill, because it places the whole story in a very strong and correct footing of spiritual values and Aristotelian virtue based ethics.
Now while Waid, or Marianne Williamson who first wrote this in her book A Return to Love: Reflections on A Course in Miracles, don’t make the connection, it is only through the American Way of personal liberty and personal achievement that we achieve the heights of shining our brightest. So I feel the need to again point out, that the American Way is being championed in this movie already, whether they say the words or not.
Now, no one has seen this film yet, so it could either suck or make the Dark Knight Rises look like an F film student’s half-hearted attempt…or anything in between. I am merely pointing out that the complaints based only on this trailer are completely unfounded. This movie appears to appeal to the best in this story, the core ideals that have let it rise above whatever flaws have plagued the various incarnations over the years.
Okay so several times I have asked what the phrase “Judeo-Christian Values” means and how it is different from the values of other beliefs and religions. I haven’t received many good answers. Yes there are certainly differences between them in the nature of God or in the rituals and the structure of the community…but in terms of values there is little difference…everyone regards the soul as divine in some way* and proper understanding of any of these religions lends one to a virtue based ethics in line with the Classical Realism of Aristotle and Plato. In fact, when you look at most religions there are some pretty strong parallels in all the virtues—some may be more detailed than others in some areas and less in others, but they seem to focus on the same general virtues.
So the term Judeo-Christian values, which supposedly would mean the virtues and ethics this group holds to be good and right and true is just the same as the virtues of every other religion, then it’s not that meaningful a phrase. Yes there are differences between Judeo-Christian beliefs and other religions, but none of these differences have anything to do with the political context of how the phrase “Judeo-Christian values” is used.
The phrase is meant to draw a contrast between spiritual/religious values and those of the secular, progressive, fascist, fanatical sections of society that actually don’t share either a belief in virtue based ethics or have some very radically different values.
So why is this an important point to bring up?
Well because it makes a pretty clear distinction between those who follow Judeo-Christianity and everyone else. Including people of lots of different faiths who were not intended to be alienated. Is this relevant?
Well first off I think it’s a fair statement that the term Judeo-Christian values is primarily used by conservatives. Second I would assume we want to win. We lost the last election by 3.9% points. A 3% shift of the vote would have given Romney the popular and Electoral College vote and about 6 Senate seats (i.e., complete Republican control). So it then becomes a question, is there 3% of the electorate who is religious and spiritual, not already voting Republican, that is not in the Judeo-Christian bracket?
Let’s look at the polls.
So of the “other” religion we have 6% of the nation and of the “nothing in particular” group we have 13.9% of the population. Together they make 19.9% of the population. Common sense alone says that if you have 20% of the country, two-thirds of whom are voting against your party, then maybe if you stopped alienating them with an us vs. them term (or at least picked a new term) you could pick up a few…maybe?
So let’s look at the 19.9% a little more closely. Okay so we can discount about 1% of the “other” group as they are the “religion of peace” and their fairly fascist beliefs are moderately antithetical to conservative principles and the values/ethics being promoted. So we’re down to 18.9% up for grabs.
Now the let’s look at how the remaining 5% of the “Other” and the 13.9% of “nothing in particular.” Now a flaw of this report is that they lump the ““nothing in particular” in with Atheists and Agnostics under the heading of Unaffiliated (but for the purpose of this let’s just assume the numbers are about the same throughout all the unaffiliated, it doesn’t make a terribly large difference anyway). From the data we can see that only about 57% of the Other group and 69% of the unaffiliated are voting for Democrats (trust me the math works). So give or take (you know there are some independents we’re not taking into account) that’s about 12%. 12% that probably share the values of the Christian voters who lean toward voting Republican, but for some reason aren’t voting Republican. Do you think that term “Judeo-Christianity” might have something, even a small part, to do with it?
Isn’t this just a call for political correctness? No. The idiocy of political correctness is saying you have to watch everything you say because it might hurt someone’s feelings. And it is for all levels of life, from the public and political to the personal. I am not saying you have to adjust your personal language or beliefs. This is merely a political reality. We as conservatives have certain values and policies we know will work and better the lives of everyone. Politics is as much about emotion and perception as it is about facts and plans, probably more so. Political Correctness has nothing to do with practical ends, which is why it has to be enforced by the left so viciously else reason would drive most people to that end anyway; what I am talking about is something very different than being PC, I’m talking about selling an idea with very real consequences. A term like “Judeo-Christian values” is loaded from the get go, it creates an us vs. them mentality, at a time when we need more of the people in the “them” category to vote for us. If we switched to using the term “spiritual value” or “God centered” more often, it would mean the exact same thing in terms of everything relevant to politics and ethics, and it wouldn’t emotionally alienate those we are trying to win over. You can still use “Judeo-Christian” if you really feel strongly about it, but do it knowing you’re hurting the chance to actually see your goals accomplished.
Is this stupid? Yeah. It’s silly and ridiculous to think we should have to be this nitpicky about our language and terms to win people to our side. But, the last time I checked we already had reason, logic, facts, truth, plans, and vision on our side. Didn’t notice that doing us any good. Oh, wait this is politics. Stupid thing like word choice do matter. Is it stupid? Yeah, but it’s something you have to do.
But should we end our discussion of this group of “nothing in particular” with just this term? Well that might work towards making in-roads with maybe 1% of those 12%, in-roads that would allow the rest of our arguments to make a difference, and that 1% we get to follow reason would be a third of the way we need to go, but it’s still not enough.
Let’s take a look at some of the actual beliefs of this group. Namely that 25% of them believe in reincarnation (If you assume that all the atheists and agnostics do not believe in reincarnation then it’s actually about 35% of the “nothing in particular” group…or about 4% of the general public.) Further while there is nothing in this year’s report, previous year’s reports showed that a belief in reincarnation was more popular with women, minorities, the young, Democrats, liberals, moderates, independents, and Christians who attend church less often (i.e., the people we need to win over).
So it is safe to assume that most of those in that 4% are not voting Republican.
But they should.
A belief in reincarnation by its very nature lends to long term thinking—the policies I put in place today won’t just affect my children and grandchildren, they’ll affect me over and over and over again. Thus anyone who believes in reincarnation has to believe in plans that aren’t as concerned with momentary problems, but with building long term systems that self-perpetuate and offer prosperity to the most people for the longest time with most chance of growth…that would be the capitalism and republicanism officered by real conservative belief. This is an argument I’ve made before, extensively in Republicans & Reincarnation, and one that we should all make to anyone who holds this article of faith in reincarnation. If you actually approach them on their own terms, and showed that the logical consequence of their beliefs is conservatism, we could get another 1% of that group…which means of the 49% left we only have to convince another 1% and given the abysmal failure of a second Obama term, that should be easy.
You don’t have to agree with people on faith. But you’re not going to convince them on politics if your stance is mine is the only religion worth following by using terms like “Judeo-Christian value.” Say “spiritual values” instead, it means the same thing, it still separates you from the secular liberal base you are trying to show a contrast with, and it may pick up a few votes. And if you’re arguing with someone who doesn’t agree with your religion or your politics, you’ll never convince them to give up a faith because of reason, it just doesn’t work (even if you do show contradictions and put them on the path to agreeing with you spiritually, it will initially only dig in their heels more on every other topic against you)…but if you approach them on their terms spiritually and show them how their beliefs do dictate a conservative point of view, then you at least get something.
*The only two exceptions to this are followers of the religion of peace (Sufis excluded) and atheists.
So, for some reason (I think fear) I’m seeing a rise in the religiously zealous (and I meant that in the most insulting form of zealotry). I am seeing far more people claim such preposterous things such as “True humility is inspired by a knowledge that we are less than God, and will always remain so.” Yeah some psycho wack-job felt the need to tell me that. First off this is just stupid because true humility comes from acknowledging not only your strengths and potential but that of everyone around you, it recognizes that you are not necessarily better than others, but that you are worthy of pride, hence the phrase “Don’t be so humble, you’re not that great.” To just say that you are inferior isn’t humility, it’s self-loathing.
Second of all is this idiotic concept that we are less than God. Why would a perfect being create anything that wasn’t perfect? Why would a being of love create something only to worship it? Why would an all knowing being create something that could only sin and make mistakes? Unlike some people, I don’t believe God is stupid or psychotic, nor does he bear any of the personality disorders we see in people. God would have no reason to create something inferior to himself. Just because we’re caught in the bad dream that is this world, doesn’t mean that in reality we are inferior to our creator. If we were, God would be the worst parent in existence because it would mean he intentionally wanted his children to be inferior to him. A true/good parent only loves and wishes the best for their children and only want to be loved and respected back from their children. Only a sick person would want worship from anyone.
“You have not only been fully created, but have also been created perfect.” –A Course in Miracles, Text, Chapter 2, I:1:3
You, your soul, are a creation of God, it is perfect, and it is divine. There are only three belief systems that fully deny this divinity. Atheism, Islam (except for the Sufi’s), and close-minded Christianity which doesn’t know how to properly read their own book. (And remind me of all the problems those belief systems cause?)
Don’t believe me?
Let’s look at some of the texts throughout the world.
“An eternal part of Myself [God], manifesting as a living soul in the world of being” Bhagavad Gita 15:7
“It is God, and God alone, who has encased Himself as the soul in the many human beings He has created.”—Paramahansa Yogananda, God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
Lesson 35 from the Workbook for Student of A Course in Miracles
My mind is part of God’s. I am very holy.
Even the Buddhists who are agnostic as to the nature of the soul and God, and believe that every living thing has a soul, still recognize the special place the human soul has in creation as the most perfect opportunity to reach enlightenment.
Imagine a wide ocean with a golden yoke adrift upon it. In the depths of ocean swims a single blind turtle, who surfaces for air once every hundred years. How rare would it be for the turtle to surface with its head through the hole in the yoke? The Buddha said that attaining a precious human rebirth is rarer than that.—The Dalai Lama The Way to Freedom
And of course the central line in the Bible that shows this point:
“God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him” Gen 1:27 (New American Bible)
Did you think this was in reference to your physical appearance? That God is a biped that looks like a highly evolved chimp? No it’s in reference to your soul, that the soul of a human being is something divine and perfect. (Even more so for Christians for whom Christ, who is the image of God, (2 Corinthians 4:4) thus connecting the image of God which has already been connected to all humans, but to Christ, and what made Christ special).
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. Every sane religion is based on the idea that the human soul is divine, every religious belief that is at the heart of suffering and misery denies this basic truth.
We are made in the image of God, we are a part of God, and we are divine. We just have forgotten that.
Why do I bring this all up as this week’s mediation?
Because it is falling for this lie of the ego that we are inferior, that we are not good enough, that nothing we can do will ever be good enough, that more than anything keeps people held back. It is a belief that engenders self-loathing, because if you are imperfect what possible reason could there be for God in his perfection to love you, and if God can’t, who can? It is a belief that engenders fear, because if you are not divine then you have no control over your life and your free will amounts to nothing. It is a belief that engenders hatred, defeat, hopelessness and everything that is not God. And if you think that I’m taking these little ideas to an illogical extreme, remember that your ego wants you to take them to an illogical extreme because when you realize you are God and not your ego, you ego will cease to be and you will at once be one with God. And your ego will fight violently to protect the illusion of its existence.
I bring it up, as I have brought it up in various other forms, because the belief that you can with God’s help and the help of beings who are already enlightened (the true meaning of “No one can come to the Father except through me” isn’t a call that everyone should be a Christian, it’s statement that only through enlightenment—Christ-consciousness as some would call it—does one become one with God again) once again regain the self-knowledge of your divinity and return you to your place of perfection as the Son of God.
So for this week every chance you have, remind yourself that you are the Son of God. You are perfect. You are divine.
Or you can pull from this list of mantras from A Course in Miracles:
God is in everything I see because God is in my mind
My mind is a part of God’s. I am very holy
My holiness blesses the world.
My holiness is my salvation.
God is my Source. I cannot see apart from Him.
I am the light of the world.
Love created me like itself.
I am entitled to miracles.
I am as God created me.
I am one Self, united with my Creator.
Yes, theoretically this could give rise to arrogance and pompousness…but you know what, I’m not seeing that as being the biggest problem in the world right now. Let’s deal with the problem at hand.
But if you really feel yourself drifting to the arrogance repeat this one from the Course:
Forgiveness is the function of the light of the world. Let me not forget my function.
That should bring you back to balance.
Do you grok?
Yeah I know I already did a meditation on this. As I’ve said before a lot of these meditations come from issues I’m having or seeing with others…and this is something I have issues with. Admitting you have a problem is the first step.
So let me do a little background that will probably strike a chord with most of you as well.
First off I’m on the internet (and if you’re reading this, odds are you are too). In fact I’m on several avenues. I’m on Facebook and WordPress and Twitter and now Tumblr (what in God’s name was I thinking?). I actually don’t like a lot of this. Yes, I like keeping in touch with friends on Facebook, and coming up with witty moments on Twitter, and obviously I love writing so WordPress is handy too. But (with the exception of the reason I originally got on Facebook) do you know what my primary goal for being on all of these is? Book sales. I view all of it as modern advertising to get my books sales up. And it works, I get more hits from all these sites to my pages on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and AuthorHouse than I do from any other source. It’s marketing in the 21st century. My goal is to become a full time writer (I have plans and outlines for over 20 books, fiction and nonfiction) but I need one of them to take off first.
However to be active on all of these you run into a lot of idiots. A lot of idiots.
And that brings me to the second problem I have that I’m sure a lot of you can identify with. I like to hear opposing opinions, I like to hear someone challenge my ideas with thoughtful arguments, I enjoy argument for the sake of argument and I like to challenge my own beliefs. But people on the internet are so dumb and so arrogant in their idiocy. Their stupidity makes me not want to even listen, and their arrogance makes me want to beat them into a pulp with words. I think we all feel this when being confronted with idiots.
It doesn’t help, as I think I’ve mentioned before, I have three settings: off, polite conversation, and FLAMING SWORD OF TRUTH IN MY HANDS READY TO DECAPITATE ALL WHO OPPOSE ME. (In case you’re wondering I’m very good at not reaching that third level in public, but it’s so tempting on the internet…)
For instance I had two idiots both try and tell me that the philosophy behind communism and fascism weren’t responsible for the atrocities, those governments were just “cults of personality” (2 people actually used that term)…yes, because, Franco, Stalin, and Brezhnev and Hu Jintao are just who you always look to when you think charismatic person who has a cult of personality. And I saw this WTF inducing statement after already responding to two other idiots. (And it doesn’t help that responding to two idiots drove the hit count on my blog up. Neither the thoughtful discussion I linked on my blog, nor the snarky post I initially put up is what brought the viewers; it was the pettier argument that brought them. I’m receiving classical conditioning to give into some of my worst habits.)
Now, I know I need to keep hit count up, I need to stay in people’s eyes, but I also know that arguing with idiots is pointless. It wastes time, it wastes energy and you get more emotionally involved and drained the longer it goes on.
And part of this I think comes from habits I developed in teaching. Yes I am more than willing to debate the nature of Iago, the personality of Heathcliff, the political implications of Enjolras’ speeches at the barricades, and hear all of my student’s beliefs without taking a side. Probably because I challenged them to back up their points whether I agreed with them or not. But on the few cases where I would have a student say something factually incorrect (or in the very rare case of being something just evil like bordering on anti-Semitism) I would shut that down right there and then. I would have to respond and disprove that statement lest it gets spread.
But for me, and I think for a lot of us who get bogged down in these pointless conversations with idiots, I think we all know the power of ideas, and are worried that if you don’t respond to idiots that we are conceding the argument and that idiots are winning and that their ideas will spread and since ideas have consequences that will end in very, very bad things. But here is where the meditation comes in…
Have faith. People who are open to reason if they stumble upon the idiot’s comments will use reason and see the stupidity. People who are not open to reason will never be open to reason. And pointless bickering will not win idiots or the reasonable.
Whenever you start getting into one of these situations, or at the beginning of each day if you’re like me, repeat to yourself:
I can only be responsible for myself. I have presented my ideas. I have responded to the ideas that are worthy of responding to. I will not engage in a pointless argument that will drag me down. People who are open to the truth will find it, and my being utterly petty will not help them find the truth.
Now for me I’ll still comment on a few of the idiots to keep hit count up, but I’m not going to get dragged into the back and forth of arguing with an idiot as if they’re an equal.
“[Adam] Smith noted that in all transactions, both parties come out better for it.”–Republicans And Reincarnation
Okay, first let me say that I’m switching to bi weekly mediations. I’ve been doing this for two year and (taking the few weeks I skipped) that’s about 100 meditations, (That’s a lot of meditations) if you need something to focus on to center your mind, it’s not like they have a shelf life and go bad after two weeks. So rather than keep coming up with stuff every week, I’m going to switch to doing these every other week.
And I think that works out best for everyone, it allows me to take more time to plan these, and you more time to get something out of every meditations.
It’s a win-win. Which happens to be the theme of this meditation.
As many of my more loyal readers know, I am a huge fan of capitalism. And besides the fact that it’s the only system that works and is sustainable, there are all the ethical reasons I support capitalism. One of them is that capitalism is the only system that allows for a win-win scenario. Every honest transaction in capitalism benefits both the seller and the buyer–you both get something you want and you both make your lives better for it. It’s why this system is the only one that creates prosperity, creates wealth, creates ideas and innovation, and creates a better society. It’s a system where no one has to lose. Every other system there HAS TO BE a loser, with liberty and true capitalism the only losers are the ones who don’t engage in the system of free exchange and try to be the most virtuous person they can. It is the system that models the growth of our souls to enlightenment, everyone can get there, but it is only by choice, work and will power they will.*
But one of the reasons I think so many people are opposed to it is because they are stuck in a win-lose mind set. They think that every situation has to have a winner and a loser. If you’re doing better I’m doing worse. In reality this isn’t so. With the exception of the artificial nature of sports, life doesn’t have to be about winners and losers. If one company does well it doesn’t mean its competition must fail, it only means that its competition must adapt, possibly by improving their product, possibly by going in a new direction…and the consumer benefits from both (Microsoft AND Apple seem to be doing well, as well as they myriad of companies that benefit because they do well and the chain of thought goes on and on). Just because you get a promotion doesn’t mean I lost, I now have further opportunities to shine, and I don’t have to feel pressured by the comparison (or a thousand other ways to look at it…a lot of situations come down to how we choose to interpret them and react to them. If you look at most situations as opportunities, you will seldom find a loss).
But let’s be honest, since there are people with the win-lose attitude instead of the win-win attitude, it does spill into our lives whether we want it or not. So we have to show people that there are win-win solutions where we can find them. We have to look for them, we have to propose them to those around us, and we have to convince people. But the first part of this is that we have to look for them. So I would recommend either in the evening to spend ten to twenty minutes reviewing all the situations you had during the day that devolved into win-lose situations (or the morning to look back on the previous day). Look for the ways that they could have been win-win solutions for all involved. Run it through your mind for to see if there were multiple ways it could have been a win-win. And do this not with guilt or self-recrimination. You’re looking at this to get you mind in the habit of looking for win-win opportunities, not to chide yourself for not seeing them at the time they occurred. The only way you’re going to be being to see them as they occur is if your review previous encounters and see what other possibilities were open that you did not see at the time. And, like so many of these meditations, isn’t something you’re not going to pick up immediately. It’s a skill that needs to be nurtured, refined, and practiced before you get really good at it.
Now, I do need to point out that just because you can see the win-win solution it does not mean you can convince others. I remember a time I tried to help someone with a project at work and they incredibly behind on. This person at first attacked me because they saw my attempt to help them get through the project faster as an insult and responded rather angrily with comments like “I said I’ll get it done and I’ll get it done” (even though they were past the deadline) and then told me “if you want to do this all, fine, I would rather be doing something else.” This person saw only the win-lose, either they did all the work, or I did all the work, only one person gets free time (yes this had bled into working on the weekend). It became clear that the win-win of if we both do this we’d both get out of here quickly wasn’t open to this person. So I shut down my computer, went home, and finished the project later that night when the portion I was waiting on was finished. If it’s going to be win-lose, I have no intention of being the loser. And it is at this point that you need to understand if someone makes it clear that there is only a win-lose situation, you should not act like a martyr and think that you should be the one to lose. Like the Constitution, spiritual enlightenment, is not a suicide pact. If it’s going to be win-lose, and you’re tried to make an attempt to show any win-win opportunities you can think of, if it is the other person choosing the losing philosophy don’t let yourself be harmed by it.
So for the next two weeks look for the win-win opportunities and see you can reduce the stress and increase the moments of peace (and maybe even enlightenment) in your life.
*Okay there might be divine grace in there too, but that has no parallel in any economic system…unless we want to get into voluntary charity, which again is a liberty/capitalism thing.
“Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men. It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again.”
Les Mis a movie for conservatives?
But let’s first talk about the qualities of the movie apart from political or philosophical points.
The High Points
This is the play in all its glory. And the play is a truncated version of one of the most moving books ever written. All the passion, all the empathy there. You will cry for Fantine. For Eponine. For Gavrouche. For the revolutionary Friends of the ABC. For Javert. And of course for Valjean. Bring tissues this is movie that you will cry at, a lot.
And this movie has a few truly wonderful scenes that supply motivation that was missing in the play. For instance it has Javert arrive on the same day that Fantine is dismissed from her job, which gives a reason for Valjean not taking a more serious interest in her case.
The movie also supplies little moments from the book that were never in the play, like Grantaire standing by Enjolras at the moment of execution.
I think director Tom Hooper created something truly genius with the live singing way this movie was made…however it appears in the early scenes that there was certainly a learning curve involved in using this technique (I wish this wasn’t the first movie to do it so Hooper could have had something to reference). But for any inconsistency it brings up at some moments, it adds deeply to the rest of the film and emotional impact of the songs.
Anne Hathaway deserves an Oscar.
And Russell Crowe’s singing was a pleasant surprise. He added more humanity to Javert than any actor I have previously seen.
The Low Points.
I feel there was a lot that got left on the editing room floor. At 2 hours and 37 minutes this was pushing it for most movies nowadays and I’m pretty sure if all the little things that were taken out were put back in it would be well over 3 hours. And since Hollywood has no intention of returning to the idea of an intermission (to me this makes no sense as most of the money comes from concessions and if there is a break at an hour and a half we would be more willing to buy soda since we wouldn’t have to worry about running out to the rest room and we would buy food at the halfway mark as we would be hungrier by that point…but at least it seems that way, real data I’m not privy to might show otherwise) they were probably forced to make some heavy cuts to the movie. This creates some odd pacing issues, where certain parts feel a little rushed.
Also, and it may be a personal issue that others may not have a problem with, I was not overly impressed by Jackman’s singing. It wasn’t bad, but I’m used to a deeper more sonorous voice for Valjean.
On the technical points, the movie is one of the best of the year, the acting and visual work was spectacular. The editing needs work (or at least a director’s cut DVD…please.) and the directing while exceptional still could have been just a little better (I think the high cost of production may have prevented doing reshoots that other films might have done)…Hooper gets an A not A+.
The Political/Philosophical Points
Did you know this was Ayn Rand’s favorite book? It was. Kind of puts any thoughts that Les Mis is liberal out of the “obviously” category doesn’t it.
Okay let’s look at some of the points. On their own merits.
“I am the master of hundreds of workers, they all look to me. Can I abandon them, how will they live if I am not free. I speak I am condemned, if I stay silent, I am damned.”
Jean Valjean is a convict, yes. But while that’s all that Javert sees, we’re supposed to see more. We’re supposed to see the successful businessman who not only created a whole industry in a town, bringing it out of poverty and into an economic renaissance, but who also out of Christian charity (not guilt, it should be noted that if you read the book Valjean is motivated by a desire to be a better person, not by guilt about his prior actions) creates hospitals and schools for the poor. In a day and age when lesser writers like Dickens would just recycle the terrible image of the robber baron, Hugo gave us a noble businessman as an example of what others should be. It should also be noted that in a very Atlas Shrugged kind of way, Hugo has no illusions that once Valjean is forced to run the industry and the town is not able to survive in its thriving state without Valjean’s leadership. The book to a great degree, with touches still in the movie, shows that prosperity is driven by captains of industry.
“Take my hand I’ll lead you to salvation. Take my love, for love is everlasting. And remember the truth that once was spoken: to love another person is to see the face of God.”
Further it should be noted what a deeply religious story this story is. It is God and the Bishop of Digne, not government that redeems Valjean. God and faith permeate all levels of this story. Faith ironically is what drives both Valjean and Javert. And it never condemns any form of faith, showing that all those fallen (except sadly Javert, whom I’m sure Hugo would have placed there) together in heaven.
The novel, the play, and now the movie praise faith. It’s a rarity these days in serious well produced films. And given the desperate need for spirituality in our modern world, something like this must be embraced.
“Let us die facing our foe […] Let others rise to take our place until the Earth is FREE!”
And dare we forget that much of the second half of the story is taken up by an uprising by Republican revolutionaries, seeking a return to law and not the capricious whims of a king.
“But, but, but” some liberals will complain. The book is about helping the poor, and how unjust the criminal justice system is. Those are liberal issues. And what they fail to realize is that these are different times and different issues. The poor in 19th century France were starving (a problem with accuracy is that even the slums of France look too pretty in this movie…honestly we wouldn’t have felt comfortable actually watching what the “The Miserable” of 19th century France looked like…it wasn’t quite Nazi Concentration Camp, but certainly not as pretty as this film depicts it), the poor in 21st century America are suffering an obesity epidemic. Hugo critiqued those who were lazy and those who felt entitled. Poverty of the kind Hugo witnessed in France was what he wanted us to feel empathy for, modern poverty would not likely bring as much empathy from Victor. And he would be horrified by the lack of the churches and religion in the government welfare that modern liberals champion. And don’t even get me started on the fact that you can’t compare the legal system that punished Valjean for 20 years and hounded him for life for stealing a loaf of bread to our modern system…yes we have problems, but we have the kind of problems Hugo would have only dreamed of.
“Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free.”
Of course for me one of the most revealing passages in Les Miserable is when Hugo takes a moment to critique communism.
(It should be noted the terms Socialism and Communism at the time do not have the same meaning now…what he calls Communism would be more in line with modern European Socialism…the term Capitalism was first used in 1854, 8 years before Hugo published Les Miserables—it took him nearly 20 years to write—and its usage as a economic system did not begin until Marx used it in 1867, 5 years after Les Miserables was published. So he could never expect to hear him use the term capitalism even thought that seems to be what he’s calling for. He certainly did not have the term cronyism which describes the economics of 19th century France better than anything. So pay attention to the systems and practices he is referring to, not the titles, as he had no access to the title we currently use.)
“The reader will not be surprised if, for various reasons, we do not here treat in a thorough manner, from the theoretical point of view, the questions raised by socialism. We confine ourselves to indicating them.
All the problems that the socialists proposed to themselves, cosmogonic visions, reverie and mysticism being cast aside, can be reduced to two principal problems.
First problem: To produce wealth.
Second problem: To share it.
The first problem contains the question of work.
The second contains the question of salary.
In the first problem the employment of forces is in question.
In the second, the distribution of enjoyment.
From the proper employment of forces results public power.
From a good distribution of enjoyments results individual happiness.
By a good distribution, not an equal but an equitable distribution must be understood. The highest equality is equity.
From these two things combined, the public power without, individual happiness within, results social prosperity.
Social prosperity means the manhappy, the citizen free, the nation great.
England solves the first of these two problems. She creates wealth admirably, she divides it badly. This solution which is complete on one side only leads her fatally to two extremes: monstrous opulence, monstrous wretchedness. All enjoyments for some, all privations for the rest, that is to say, for the people; privilege, exception, monopoly, feudalism, born from toil itself. A false and dangerous situation, which sates public power or private misery, which sets the roots of the State in the sufferings of the individual. A badly constituted grandeur in which are combined all the material elements and into which no moral element enters.
Communism and agrarian law think that they solve the second problem. They are mistaken. Their division kills production. Equal partition abolishes emulation; and consequently labor.
It is a partition made by the butcher, which kills that which it divides.
It is therefore impossible to pause over these pretended solutions. Slaying wealth is not the same thing as dividing it.
The two problems require to be solved together, to be well solved. The two problems must be combined and made but one.
Solve the two problems, encourage the wealthy, and protect the poor, suppress misery, put an end to the unjust farming out of the feeble by the strong, put a bridle on the iniquitous jealousy of the man who is making his way against the man who has reached the goal, adjust, mathematically and fraternally, salary to labor, mingle gratuitous and compulsory education with the growth of childhood, and make of science the base of manliness, develop minds while keeping arms busy, be at one and the same time a powerful people and a family of happy men, render property democratic, not by abolishing it, but by making it universal, so that every citizen, without exception, may be a proprietor, an easier matter than is generally supposed; in two words, learn how to produce wealth and how to distribute it, and you will have at once moral and material greatness; and you will be worthy to call yourself France.”
You will notice he is proposing such things as universal education, due process of law, and property rights. He condemns any attempt for everyone to have their fair and equal share and envying the wealthy. He proposes that people be paid just wages for their work (which was an issue then, not so much now). He proposes to make every man his own master, that everyone may earn wealth. I can’t speak with certainty what political path Hugo would take in the modern world, but I can be fairly certain that if a modern day liberal went back to see him, Hugo would try to slap the stupid out of the Occupy trash. I can also be mildly sure that Hugo might encourage the building of a few barricades against some of the government overreaches of the modern world.
All in all, the story is one of the value of liberty, of the individual, of redemption through works and of God. Those are conservative themes if I ever heard them.
“Do you hear the people sing, lost in the valley of the night
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light.
For the wretched of the Earth there is a flame that never dies,
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.
We will live again in Freedom in the garden of the Lord.
We will walk behind the plowshares. We will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken and all men will have their reward.
Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing, say do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that we bring when tomorrow comes!”
“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek […] to be loved, as to love.For it is in giving that we receive.”–excerpt from the Prayer of St. Francis
For the last two weeks during the weekly meditation we have looked at cutting the etheric bonds that drain us of energy and restoring our energy by taping into the source of all love and energy, God.
However, taping into God isn’t as effective a source of energy as you think it might be. Yes he’s giving infinite love and energy…but while God would fill you with infinite energy…you are not willing to accept infinite energy. How do I know you’re not…if you were really open to it, you would be filled with it and you’d have reached Enlightenment. I have the feeling that most Enlightened beings are not reading the blog of someone who is still trying to figure out everything for himself…no insult to my readers intended, but I think we’re all still working on ourselves, and we probably have a ways to go.
So how do we increase the amount of energy we will let ourselves take in?
The energy of the soul is an odd thing. When it is taken from you by another person it leaves you feeling drained and depressed…but when it is given freely that’s a very different story.
When you willingly and joyfully give energy to another person out of compassion and love it doesn’t drain you at all but does increase the other person’s. In fact intentionally recognizing the connection that we share with all souls helps boost your own energy.
Now theoretically you could send energy and love to every soul on the planet. And again this is what Enlightened souls try to do. However this takes balance of mind and soul which most of us haven’t quite mastered yet…and if the balance isn’t right and the intention isn’t pure, it can quickly devolve into the draining of energy. So for this week’s meditation let’s focus on only one or two people.
Now you’re probably already sending energy to the people you love at a subconscious level…but for the purposes of this mediation let’s try to make this a conscious meditation. Think about the person you care about most in the world and just as you cut cords that were draining you before attach a cord to this person and envision the energy flowing from you to them…(if you’re still a little worried about your energy being drained, first connect yourself to God, and then see yourself as a channel of that love from God to you to the person you care about). Just as with the previous weeks, I promise you will feel refreshed and more energetic and positive by doing this.
Now if the person you care about also does these meditations, it allows for a particularly positive meditation. If you both meditate at the same time and both keep channeling and receiving energy from the other you will find it has the effect of a feedback loop. As the energy goes back and forth it grows more and more powerful with almost no effort on your part.
Now if you feel very comfortable you may also want to extend your cords out to two or three people…but only do what you’re comfortable.
“We have a house in Jersey. We have two kids, Annie and Josh. Annie’s not much of a violin player, but she tries real hard. She’s a little precocious, but that’s only because she says what’s on her mind. And when she smiles… And Josh, he has your eyes. He doesn’t say much, but we know he’s smart. He’s always got his eyes open, he’s always watching us. Sometimes you can look at him and you just know he’s learning something new. It’s like witnessing a miracle. The house is a mess but it’s ours. After 122 more payments, it’s going to be ours. And you, you’re a non-profit lawyer. That’s right, you’re completely non-profit, but that doesn’t seem to bother you. And we’re in love. After 13 years of marriage we’re still unbelievably in love. You won’t even let me touch you until I’ve said it. I sing to you. Not all the time, but definitely on special occasions. We’ve dealt with our share of surprises and made a lot of sacrifices but we’ve stayed together. You see, you’re a better person than I am. And it made me a better person to be around you. I don’t know, maybe it was just all a dream. Maybe I went to bed one lonely night in December and I imagined it all. But I swear, nothing has ever felt more real. And if you get on that plane right now, it’ll disappear forever. I know we could both go on with our lives and we’d both be fine, but I’ve seen what we could be like together. And I choose us.”
As we continue our discussion of movies that show the rich in a positive light we come to one I’ve already covered as a Christmas film…The Family Man. I’ve said a great deal about this movie already.
Most of the movie is our central character Jack Campbell, played by Nicholas Cage, as he adjusts from wealth to middle class living, from single life to be the family man. But one has to remember this movie starts and ends with him being wealthy, really wealthy…Penthouse in a New York high-rise, President of a major brokerage firm, sports car….the whole nine yards of wealth. And he earned every penny of it starting at the bottom and making something of himself.
And besides working his employees hard (which is the idea of Wall Street investment firms, work REALLY hard for 10-15 years and retire rich) there is not a single complaint you could make about this man or his ethics.
In fact Campbell gets into the whole situation when he risks his life to save the lives of others in a corner store from an apparent hold up (it was a bit more complicated, the least of which being that the guy with the gun was actually an angel of some kind (?)testing people’s ethics…this part was never really explained…) so the whole movie occurs because the guy in the upper half of the top 1% is shown to be a much better person with more character than a couple of working stiffs in the movie who fail the angel’s tests. (This actually is even a more rare concept to show that the rich can be noble and the poor without character in the same film, it’s amazing this movie was ever made.)
Now I can already see the objection “but the movie shows he is a better person in his middle class life without all his money.” No…and it’s no for a couple of reasons. The first is that he is hardly poor in his other life, he runs a small business (and is clearly going to inherit said small business), his wife is a lawyer who also works (trust me even a lawyer who clearly works for a firm that takes pro-bono cases is probably making more than the median level of income…and doing that kind of law is what you do when you don’t have to really worry about money). Their kids want for nothing (ballet, violin lessons, etc.). The reason they don’t have every extravagance in life is because they have kids, and kids are very expensive and you will give every dime of disposable income you have to raising kids if you can, not because they don’t have money.
The more important point is that his life is not better because it has less money, it’s better because he has a wife he loves and who loves him and has children whom he loves. That’s what makes his life better. We all want money, but we’d be an idiot’s idiot if we consciously chose money over a loving relationship and a wonderful family. Money just helps it get better (as both I and others have shown money is necessary for happiness).
Yes there are things better than money, but the story of Jack Campbell shows that having money does not make you in any way, shape or form villainous or not worthy of respect. It is what you do that matters, not how much you make.
It could happen to you. Another great Nicholas Cage film (as anyone who watches film knows, Cage films come in two categories and only two, very entertaining and why-the-hell-did-they-make-this-shit?)
I didn’t include this movie in the official list, because honestly 2 million dollars (split two ways) isn’t rich, it’s well off…it’s a safety net not a license to retire. Despite what Cage’s crazy wife thought in the film, it was not the kind of money that allows you to enter the upper echelons of society (even in the early ‘90’s when the film was made). But that’s what makes Cage and Fonda’s characters so admirable, they knew that they still had to work; they knew that money wasn’t the answer to all things, and they knew that money could yield more happiness via philanthropy than through just buying things they didn’t need. So while they aren’t a true depiction of Hollywood showing the reality that the rich are like everyone else, with their good and their bad, it does show that money is not the all corrupting thing most liberals think it is.
Before anyone thinks that this is only going to be a list of movies made before 1970 where everyone in almost every film is wealthy and sporting more liquor than I would possibly know what to do with (don’t believe me, watch a Thin Man movie, fish drink less). But have no fear, this is not just a list of classics…
Take our number #9 pick: Castle and its eponymous character Richard Castle. Is Castle rich? Oh yeah, this bestselling author can buy a bar just because he feels like it or put out 100K just to help get a killer. The man certainly qualifies as rich enough to quit working and still have enough to live comfortably. (Which is arguably what he’s done since he’s now only averaging a book a year).
Richard Castle: Oh, I’ve been kicked out of all of New York’s finer educational institutions at least once. The irony is, now that I’m rich and famous, they all claim me as alum and want money.
Kate Beckett: It is just so rough being you.
Richard Castle: My cross to bear.
And what makes him so great?
Well there is one thing, his clear sense of justice…not just in catching the bad guys but in the sense of that this is a man who digs through old case files to see that the true love of a man who breaks his girlfriend out of jail for a crime
they didn’t commit ends with them being released not both thrown into prison. This is a man who puts his life on the line for friends and never does anything he even remotely considers wrong. (Immature to the nth degree yes, wrong no, and when he has screwed up he is remarkably willing to apologize).
Further, Castle while obscenely generous at times, he also understands the real purpose of money: to use it in furthering happiness. Yes Castle seems like he is irresponsible and devil-may-care…but that’s not because he can’t be mature (he has too many moving scenes with Alexis, Martha and Beckett for it to be that) it’s just that he has earned his second childhood through the hard work of writing over two dozen best sellers. He earned it and he’s going to enjoy it, and that’s more or less exactly what money is for.
Like most good people with or without money, Castle is a good child even to a mother of sometimes questionable skills (while we all love Martha at this point in her life, we all have to admit she was a terrible parent from some of the stories she and Castle tell). But like a good son Castle loves his mother, and for all of his annoyance is always there for her with a shoulder to cry on or a rent free apartment if she needs it.
And of course, forget Beckett and Martha, forget his generosity and devil-may-care attitude, the single most important thing is that Castle is admirable and that he is perhaps the single greatest father in the history of television. The character has raised a mature, self-reflective, high-achieving, self-sufficient daughter who is also well adjusted socially. And it’s just not writers shoehorning these characters in, the writing of the character of Castle is at all times supporting, caring, loving, and encouraging of his daughter and acts in exactly the way you would need to raise and encourage such a young woman. For whatever flaws of ego or clownishness the character comes with, his parenting skills and infinite love for his daughter more than wipe them out.
That is not to say money is a necessity of good parenting (although I think you’re rather selfish to bring a child into the world if you don’t have the money to support it) but the writers of Castle have gone out of their way to show a character who has more virtues than vices (and rather superficial ones as they disappear the second they are inappropriate), and they have made this character very rich without a moment of or scintilla of remorse over his well earned riches.
Simon Tam from Firefly. Yeah, Simon was uncomfortable and out of place. But he gave us his whole extensive fortune for the love of his sister. Have to appreciate that.
“Don’t believe the things
you tell yourself so late at night
You are your own worst enemy,
You’ll never win the fight.”—Ingrid Michaelson, “Parachute”
“You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.” –Swami Vivekananda
“The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.”–Frank Lloyd Wright
“If ye have faith…nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:20)
“For this individual soul is incapable of being cut; and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. This soul is eternal, constant, omnipresent, unchangeable, immovable and everlasting.”—Bhagavad-Gita Chapter II verse 24
For those of you read this blog a lot you know that I have a particularly annoying troll. He doesn’t seem to know very much, but is constantly offended by the fact that I am very confident in my beliefs.
His logic seems to be based on a single quote from a truly hackish pseudo-philosopher he follows religiously:
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.”—Bertrand Russell
My little troll even goes as far to quote on a study that won an Ig Noble award that wasted research time to find out the obvious point that people who are inept at their jobs are often convinced they do a great job, to prove his point.
But Russell is an idiot, for numerous reasons, but in this case for not acknowledging that history is filled with people who were very intelligent who were certain of their beliefs and who ignored the doubts of others and themselves and who went on to achieve greatness and often improve the world. I would say that a general rule of common sense is that if you can easily list off 50-100 counter examples without even thinking to a statement it probably shouldn’t be regarded as gospel truth. And just because you find a study that says the inept are often over confident, it does not follow that everyone who is confident is inept (but you would have to know something about logic to know that).
The fact of the matter is not that the problem of the modern world is that the ignorant are overconfident, it’s that they’re not self reflective. The problem is not only are the intelligent full of doubt but that doubt in and of itself has become a virtue. Why? Well this is the weekly meditation blog so I’m going to give you a spiritual answer: The Ego.
That mis-created part of yourself that keeps you from knowing that you are part of God, that you are perfect, that you are not powerless and able to control your own life.
And as always the ego plays two separate games, offers you two options that are equally foolish. To those who do not want to be self reflective it rewards them by telling them they’re right for not being self reflective—it makes you over confident and uses that overconfidence to keep you from improving. Or if you choose self reflection it brings doubt to everything, it tries to make it appear as if anything you do, anything you say, anything you believe in must be wrong…and if you’re so terrible at knowing anything so must everyone else be incapable of knowing anything (it is this side that my silly little troll seems to live in constantly).
And while my troll seems utterly incapable of learning in this lifetime, I would not begin to think everyone is so far gone into listening to the lies of their ego.
You are put on this planet to accomplish, learn, and the lack of self-reflection and doubts hinder your assignment and improvement.
So how do we counter this?
The first is through self reflection. Complacency and habitual ignorance are not places to be. You must question everything you believe. Ask why you believe it. Ask if you have proof and if that proof justifies what you believe.
The second is not giving into doubt. That kind of constant questioning can lead to frustration and hopelessness. Don’t give into it. Know that you are capable of finding the answer; that your mind and soul are in the end infinitely knowledgeable. And you have to believe that the answer you find is the right one, be open to new evidence or a new way of looking at things, but you must proceed every day not giving into the paralysis of doubt…for in that way madness lies. Sometimes, obviously you’ll have to make choices on insufficient evidence with insufficient time to decide, but you have to go on the best information you have at the time and trust that you made the best choice you could at the time.
Honest self-reflection and questioning of your beliefs are not the same as doubt. Doubt is the belief that you cannot know. Self-reflection is merely admitting that while you can know, you’re human and may be wrong…but you should never assume you’re wrong unless you have not taken time to think about what you believe and have not had evidence to the contrary considered.
Now really this is more a life-long habit to adopt, repeat, and refine. It’s going to take more time than a week’s mantra…but a meditation on it is a good start.
So for this week I suggest two meditations.
The first one in the morning is a mantra:
I will reflect on my beliefs and my choices before I act. I will not doubt my decisions. I will reflect again when I have a chance and see if I made errors or mistakes, and I will not make them again.
The second is at the end of the day to reflect on your thoughts and decisions again. To reflect on their outcomes and where you were right and where you were wrong. Congratulate yourself for where you were right and make a note not to repeat the same mistake where you’re wrong.
This will at least help build a habit that will be a bulwark against the ego’s doubts.