Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Religion Part 7 - The Lord

"And this I believe: that the free exploring mind of the individual is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual." --John Steinbeck
I borrowed that from an email my daughter sent me today.
It's been awhile since I last wrote a topic on religion, April 14 was when I posted Part 6. I had something come to me the other night that seems worthy of discussion so I'm going to attempt to put my thoughts into words.
Several major religions refer to the Lord. Of course, for Christians the Lord is Jesus who sits with God in Heaven. Being from a Christian background, I've heard about this pretty much all my life, or at least as long as I've heard about Santa Claus. More than a few times in church I've had the impression that the preacher was talking about good old Saint Nick and not something real like the Lord. The problem seems to be in my head, though. Nobody else seems to notice any problem with the preachers' claims.
But the other night it came to me what has been bothering me all these years about "The Lord." What I realized was that the Lord of most Christians is just as much fable as is Santa, just as much imagined, just as unreal. I'll try to explain what I mean.
Most Christians see the Lord as a person, or at least as someone resembling a rational person-like being. This person has several key characteristics. He is a he. He is infallible. He is God. He is a being of some sort, a spiritual being. He is the authority for our life. He created us. All of us need to look to His authority to live a righteous life. If we don't accept His authority over us, we are condemned. He is the ultimate "Big Boss Man" over everyone on Earth. I mean, just like you know how Santa Claus is the "Boss Man" at Christmas. You better be good or Santa won't give you what you want.
Although I am a firm believer in reason and truth and a firm believer in Godly reality as opposed to Orwellian-style reality, somehow this concept of the commanding authority of the He who created us just doesn't seem to satisfy my hunger for truth. I believe there is an entirely other way to look at "The Lord" than through this fantasy perspective. This Lord is a little too Matrixy and a little too small for me.
First, in order to see this other perspective, we need to forget the notion that the Lord is a single all-knowing, all-powerful, authoritative being. Note one key word in the previous sentence, "being." There is no rational being which is Lord over us. There is no "Big Boss Man" and no matter what we try to imagine, we can't imagine this "being" into reality. He just won't appear. Someone did appear one time, but he doesn't seem to wish to return and there is far too much controversy over the record of his existence for us to think we know with absolute certainty that he was "The Lord." We only have the Bible to go on and that was put together centuries after Jesus and by The Roman Empire of all things. It laid the foundation for the Catholic Church and who among us any longer trusts that establishment with the preservation of truth? So why would God?
But if the Lord isn't a being, then there is no authoritative person up in heaven dictating with authority the right way for us to live our lives, is there? And if that is indeed the case, then all of us who imagine there is such a heavenly being are living a delusional lifestyle, aren't we? And here we are trying to rule each other's lives through governments established on the basis of this delusion of authority. That is the case if the Lord is not a "being," and He is not.
But all this doesn't invalidate the concept of "Lord." For each of us, there is a Lord. What I am writing is almost beginning to sound Buddhist to me. What I realized the other night is that for each one of us, for every living being, there is a Lord. I do have a Lord. Christianity isn't wrong about that. But the Lord of my life is not the Lord of yours and the Lord of your life is not the Lord of mine, no matter who you are. You can be Billy Graham for all I care and your Lord isn't mine. Crusade all you want, but your Lord will never be mine. He is yours and yours alone and you really should listen to Him.
God is truth, reality, the author of the story. But for everything which exists, there is a need for truth, a need to be written into this story of truth. Truth exists through reason, not by fallacy. The existence of everything depends on truth. Truth is what makes us real.
But there lies within us the ability to practice deceit, to make illusions of things which do not exist in reality appear to be real. Not only can we do that to other thinking beings, we can do it to ourselves. We can deceive ourselves. But in order to do that, in order to deceive ourselves, we need to hide things which are indeed real, indeed true, indeed written into God's book of creation. We delude ourselves. But we can't be delusional and in the presence of God. We have to be either one or the other.
The point here is that if we are not deceitful and thus delusional, we are in the presence of God. There's no other way for it to be. Either we are open to the truth or we aren't. There are no other alternatives. But the problem is that the truth isn't limited to some book we can hold in our hands. The truth isn't limited to the Bible or to the Quran or to any other "scripture." The truth is much bigger, much more inclusive than any scripture. The greatest challenge in life is to come to the point in our life where each of us can see the truth as we encounters it.
Several days have passed since I began writing this post. I am finding that it is not easy to express in words what I am thinking, what I am trying to envision. I was sharing this with one of my sons, trying to show him that I see two different ways to envision the concept of Lord. One is the authoritative being living somewhere off in a place called Heaven. But the other is a more personal concept describing our own personal potential for something. I stumbled for what that something is, but he immediately said wisdom and I think he is right about that.
Again, though, wisdom has these same two sides. A wise man might be a man who knows all the rules of the game and knows how to play by the rules. But a really wise man is one who realizes there is no game and thus there are no rules. A truly wise man is a man who has the capacity to understand the way things are, why things work the way they do, what the natural order of things is, and thus what to expect in the future and how to contribute to life in such a way as to make the future a better place to live in. That is wisdom.
When you have wisdom like that, then you have an authoritative power leading your life. The power comes from the wisdom, not vice versa. When you seek that kind of wisdom, then you find the Lord, you find an inspiration worth living for. You find a future worth building. You find love for God's creation and you find hope for creation, hope and faith in a future where everybody can share the same wisdom you have searched for and found.
That is the other perspective of the Lord. The Lord, for each of us, is the authority over our lives that we find in our own souls when we seek out and find true wisdom, true understanding of the natural order of life. The Lord, for each of us, is the inspirational power truth can have to direct us to love one another, to love God, and to love all of His creation, the reality in which we exist.
What is really amazing is that we can live our entire lives without knowing this.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Rove

Well, it's hitting the news today but it seems that a couple of nights ago the chief White House political strategist stuck his thumb up his ass and then proudly showed the results to a group of conservatives. It's causing quite a stink in Washington. Now for those among you who only are capable of literal interpretations, what I just wrote isn't to be interpreted literally. But for the more imaginative among you, you get the picture.
It seems that with the President's approval ratings in near free-fall, Rove decided that conservatives needed to once again take advantage of the political capital gained by the Bush White House as a result of 9/11 and accuse liberals of not responding appropriately to terrorism. Not only that but he also equated liberal criticism of the Bush Pentagon's virtual war crimes to helping to get American troops killed.
Now I realize that if you are a Bush Republican you will agree with what Rove said and if you are a Democrat you will think it stunk. Clearly, Rove intended it to be no less than that, divisive in a major way. Rove needs Republicans to rally around the consensus if he is to keep his job in Washington. Conservatives need to know that they will be branded as traitors if they turn against the Neo-Con Middle East War.
But Jeeze, Karl, didn't your mother teach you to wash your hands after wiping your butt? You stink!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

When True Might Not Be

So Bush is speaking in Minnesota about how much money the elderly can save under the new Medicare drug plan, when he says these tidbits:
"So this is a plan that says for folks, 'Sign up; you get a good benefit,' "
"This isn't political talk, this is true," he said. "And I encourage people to take a look at this program."
And since signing up can be complicated, he addresses younger Americans with this"
"Do your duty; help your mom and dad," he said. "They helped you; now you help them."
The article I am quoting ends with these two paragraphs:

In general, after an individual pays a $250 annual deductible, Medicare will cover 75 percent of drug costs up to $2,250. The coverage then stops until the recipient has spent an additional $2,850 out-of-pocket, after which Medicare covers 95 percent of drug costs.
Insurers will be able to alter benefit packages even after a senior has signed up. One of the administration's strongest critics, Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-Calif.), said that provision is "the real trap" and "then they're stuck in a plan that doesn't have the drugs they hoped they would get."

Considering the nature of Medicare spending and the "conservative" position on such kinds of spending and considering the projected effects of this Medicare plan on the federal deficit once this plan is in effect, doesn't it make you scratch your head and ask "why?" when you realize that Bush is out on the road selling this plan?
So, OK, let me imagine for a second...
Bush is out on the road selling this plan because it is such a good deal to the nation's seniors. Nothing else. It isn't somehow good for the federal budget and it isn't a boon for the drug companies and the only Bush supporters who will benefit are the seniors who participate in the plan. So it is therefore the "duty" of all younger Americans to make sure their parents sign up for this thing.
And this isn't just political talk, this is the truth!
Ha ha ha ha ha....
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/17/AR2005061701346.html

Friday, June 17, 2005

Subversive Blogging

“The accused, Zhang Lin, used the Internet, overseas radio transmissions and other such media to openly disseminate language that misrepresents and denigrates the national authorities and the socialist system, and which incites subversion of state power and the overthrow of the socialist system under Article 105 of China’s Criminal Law.”
http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/press?revision%5fid=22932&item%5fid=22931

Saturday, June 11, 2005

I Want Names

One of my daily blogs has been discussing an event that took place in Washington yesterday. Wisconsin Representative James Sensenbrenner, House Judiciary Committee Chairman, closed down committee debate and witness testimony covering the move to renew the Patriot Act. After he closed the hearing and walked out, some Democrats and witnesses continued to speak. This event was captured by C-SPAN 2. A couple of videos from C-SPAN appear on this website:
http://www.dembloggers.com/story/2005/6/10/54149/5115
While it is troubling enough to see debate on this issue terminated on the basis that it was critical to the Bush administration, it was equally troubling to me to hear Chairman Sensenbrenner call for a list of names of the librarians who have said they have been asked for library records by police. Although I am in no position to judge, this seems a bit (one-upon-a-time Wisconsin Senator and Commie-hunter) Joe McCarthy-ish to me. If I am not mistaken, doesn't the Patriot Act stipulate that librarians are not to disclose such requests? Is Chairman Sensenbrenner's interest in these names related to a genuine interest in finding if Patriot Act powers are being misused, or is he on a witch hunt, looking to punish librarians who have violated the code for secrecy?
Why is it so common in conservative circles to shut off critical analysis of the Bush Administration, or critical analysis of anything else that conservatives are debating, for that matter? I have heard it done on conservative talk radio for years. I have personally experienced it right here in the blogosphere. Is there something about the conservative argument that won't stand up to the light of critical analysis? Is that the problem? Is it true that the emperor has no clothes and therefore we the people are not supposed to be looking at him?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Turning Back the Hands of Time

In one of the blogs that I read daily, I found this link to a Creationist website:
http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/2.asp
and this quote:
"You see, no matter what is found, or how embarrassing it is to evolutionists' ideas, they will always be able to concoct an 'answer' because evolution is a belief. It is not science—it is not fact!"
If this isn't a reality inversion, I sure would love to know what is...
But in any case, it is interesting that some presumably educated people on this planet really do still believe that the earth and all of the universe were created about 6,000 years ago and that all of the fossil record is attributable to that time frame.
This seems to add credence to the Buddhist theory that we create our own reality.
But in fact, what it really does is it turns back the hands of time to an era when nobody had any evidence that conclusively challenged the literal interpretation of the Bible. It dismisses without comment all of the scientific time clocks. And it does this for only one reason, to invalidate any claim that the Bible is not meant to be read in any other way than literally.
Go for it, you good Christians, you sons and daughters of God. Have your own separate reality. Enjoy yourselves. Worship your holy scripture. But count me out.
Leave me in the one reality that matters, the reality that is the true God. Study all your delusional Pharisees, your gods of knowledge, but be content to keep all of your illusions to yourselves, please. Keep your church separate from our state. Take your churches back in time, but let our nation advance if we so choose. Please? Allow the truth to present itself.
In other news...
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/O/ORGASM_GENES?SITE=ASIAONE&SECTION=HEALTH&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Still Plagued

I am still plagued by a lack of understanding of the duality of standards in conservative political thinking. The book I'm reading, Moral Politics, although very insightful, isn't helping me out very much when it comes to this Machiavellian duality.
Machiavellian: 2. being or acting in accordance with the principles of government analyzed in Machiavelli's The Prince, in which political expediency is placed above morality and the use of craft and deceit to maintain the authority and carry out the policies of a ruler is described
http://www.infoplease.com/ipd/A0524702.html
The problem with the book Moral Politics is that it sticks to the appearance of "morality" in conservative politics rather than dealing with the reality of the situation, the reality that conservative politics today is just smoke and mirrors, Machiavellian illusion. But maybe the immoral nature of conservative politics isn't something that was readily discernible when Moral Politics was written? I'm asking, not saying. Except for those who have their heads buried deep in the sand of denial, the question of the true nature of present-day conservative political leaders is increasingly becoming a part of our perception of current events. The DeLay issue is a prime example, but so was the Guckert/Gannon thing and Spokane's gay-tending gay-bashing non gay-basher mayor. There were Republican leaders haranguing about the Terri Shiavo issue who had pulled the plug on members of their own family. There's even a question of the sexual preference of the leader of the Republican party. And really now, how many Republicans have relied on abortion when there was a real need? Are we to seriously believe that only liberals have abortions?
It dawned on me today that in light of our acceptance of the pedaphilic sexual predator disgrace within the Catholic Church as well as the cover-up of homosexuality within the Republican party, perhaps the real disgrace in the Clinton/Lewinski issue wasn't the possibility that there was illicit sex in the White House, but rather the fact that it involved a woman! Maybe if you're going to do it in the White House, you should have some higher motive than simply male dominance over women, like maybe for instance male dominance over upcoming male Republicans? Granted, I'm merely speculating, not stating any known facts...
But there is this duality that seems to pervade the ruling party in Washington. There is the reality of what is going on, but that reality is to be strictly kept beneath a wall of lies. It is the lies that maintain the appearance of conservative moral uprightness. It's like a ship that's heavier than the water it would displace and is being kept afloat because it is in motion through the water. The truth, if it were to ever surface, is that if momentum were to be lost, the ship would almost certainly sink.
It was the Reagan presidency that gave Republican politics its momentum. Reagan somehow convinced a bunch of us that conservative politics was moral. During and since Reagan, corrupt men have ridden the wake generated by this Reagan illusion. During Reagan there was Iran/Contra. There was Ollie North and the ever innocent George Bush. There was the CIA and their secret illegal activity in Central America. But since Reagan, there has been a parade of corporate-sponsored political swindlers marching to Washington under the banner of moral Republican conservatism. Real Republicans are cowering in the corner trying to figure out how to put an end to this trend, but there is so much momentum from the Reagan era, these real Republicans are powerless to stop it. They realize that if they did manage to stop it, the ship would surely sink from its own weight.
But the thing is, the ship deserves to sink. It doesn't deserve to float. The ship's cargo isn't real morality, it's only power. It's this power that creates an illusion of morality and that illusion doesn't deserve to survive in America. Truth is what deserves to survive. The illusion of conservative supremacy has us on course for a shipwreck.
What plagues me is why so many of us want to be passengers on that ship. Why are we better off to ride on illusion rather than to stand on the shore and observe truth?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Self Righteousness

On page 59 of the book Moral Politics, by George Lakoff (1996, 2002), in a chapter that parallels the language of morality with accounting terminology, three paragraphs subtitled "Self Righteousness" seemed to me to be dropped into the dialog. I quote:

A self-righteous person is someone who carefully keeps his own moral ledger books, who makes sure that, according to his own system of moral accounting, his credits always outweigh his debits. A thoroughly self-righteous person knows neither shame nor gratitude, since he has no moral debts, again according to his own method of accounting.
There are three things that make him not righteous but self-righteous. The first is that he recognizes no moral values other than his own as valid. The second is that he keeps his own books. There is no external auditing. And the third is that he must communicate his moral standing to his interlocutors.
The self-righteous person's superfluity of moral credit is the basis of his discourse. He presupposes his own moral values and his own righteousness as a condition of conversation. The effect of this is that anyone talking to a self-righteous person must either agree with his moral values and act equally self-righteous, or face being put in a morally inferior position in the discourse. This is what makes self-righteous people particularly infuriating to talk to.

First, I have to look up two words here:
Interlocutors: A person taking part in a conversation or dialog.
Superfluity: The state or quality of being excessive, unnecessary, irrelevant.
While I would tend to say that there is self-righteousness in all of us, we all tend to balance the books of our own morality using our own system of values rather than using a common set of values, I think we all have known the feeling of "being put in a morally inferior position" when we hear some people talk. Rush Limbaugh comes to mind here, but so does Dr. James Dobson. In my own personal experience, the group who seem to have best mastered this particular skill are the fundamentalist religious people. If you want to encounter seriously self-righteous people, attend a fundamentalist church.
But the baffling part about that is that the extreme self-righteous don't credit their system of values to themselves at all. They attribute their values to a higher order. Self-righteous Christians attribute their values to the Bible. So how does this idea that the self-righteous person "carefully keeps his own moral ledger books" fit this model of the religiously self-righteous?
This is something I have been wondering about long before encountering this particular passage. I welcome any comments.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Summer Begins in Maine

June 1 was an eventful day here in Maine. In the early hours of the day, springtime happened but by noon it was summer. I realize that might sound a little bit strange, but May was one horrible month this year! At our house we have been keeping a wood fire going in the stove nearly every day and most nights because winter would not let go of its grip. We have had cold, flooding rains repeatedly. Farmers have not been able to work their wet fields and wouldn't really want to if they could since the ground has not been able to warm up enough to start most crops. My lilac bush hasn't bloomed yet. I don't remember a year when it has bloomed this late. I've seen apple blossoms, but further south in the state, not up here in the highlands. It has rained nearly every day for the past three weeks.
All of a sudden, everything has changed. June 1 and 2 were both brilliantly sunny days. Yesterday, the 2nd, the temperature was above 80, some reports even of 90! It doesn't get that hot on most summer days here! I tilled the garden yesterday and mowed the lawn for the first time this year. Although I have not yet been for a swim, I did do some sunbathing which was fantastic! I even have the sunburn to prove it.
Everybody keeps saying the blackflies will be bad this year because of all the cold rain. I know they're bad further east of here, like around Howland, and they are out here too, but they don't seem that bad to me yet. Maybe they are and I just haven't noticed it. I take a mega-B vitamin this time of the year to keep the bugs from biting me. And I do have quite a few bug bites on my arms along with scratches from brush cutting and a wee bit of sunburn.
I used my chainsaw yesterday to cut up a couple of pines that blew down in my racetrack field this winter. I broke the saw but not before getting a couple of nice big scratches on my forearm from handling the limbs. Nathaniel and I did some mowing up on the farm where I would like to set up a few rustic campsites for anyone who might wander in and need a place to pitch a tent. That is one of my plans that seem to get pushed back to the next year every summer. Maybe this summer I'll make some progress on it.
The moose are out on the roads now. That happens every year at about this time of year. I think they are moving around looking for places where the flies won't drive them crazy. But they also are drawn to the salt on the sides of the roads. Salt is used to melt the ice and snow buildup in winter. Come summer, the moose linger and feed on the sholders and ditches of the roads. They'll be back in the woods by late July when the flies are gone.
Today looks like another warm day but more humid than yesterday. There's a huge storm front south of New England that may or may not mess up the weekend. We're all hoping it'll pass to our south and leave us on the sunny side of things for a change.
Let the summer begin!