Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dilemmas


Ok, so I'm running into a bit of a problem. I really want anyone who reads this to comment and tell me your opinions concerning what I should do. I'm genuinely confused.

Over the past, say, five months, a philosophy of life has been brewing deep in my intuition. I don't mean any kind of philosophy that postulates new entities or assumes a new theoretical view of the world, I just mean a practical philosophy of life and truth. It all started when I began studying shame in my Crises counseling class. After I realized that I could peer deep into my soul and change my beliefs in order to foster spiritual health and growth. I started an exercise of thinking through the psychological motifs of shame in my life and I came to realize that my shame had a lot to do with underlying beliefs (which could also be changed). My findings about my psychological interactions with other people lead me to postulate theories about relationships and friendships (the place where shame comes from-- when I say relationships I don't always mean healthy relationships). After that, I started getting more complex in my thought and analyzing philosophy of mind and phenomenology (the study of the conscious experience). Then I encountered Buddhist thought and realized that all of the assumptions and experiences in my life were contingent upon my beliefs and desires. As the INFJ personality type (or, at least mine anyway) is so apt to disbelieve, my experience of reality was not actual reality. I was learning to adjust myself to the truth.

After that, and in the midst of all of this, I realized that my belief in Christianity was, even though I had thought through it and questioned it already, was completely biased. (Even though I had thought I did, I had never actually sought truth. I was just looking to philosophically justify my faith contra atheism). But it hit me over the head that this is not the way to pursue truth. The way to pursue truth is to open oneself up to whatever is true, and seek it from that perspective. So because of that I created a type of philosophy which was oriented towards simply pursuing truth. It is compatible with atheism, agnosticism, and Christianity-- whichever one is convicted is true. I have been using this philosophy (it's "perfected" form was polished off about two weeks before I headed to college) in some general form for about four months.

To be completely honest, I have never experienced something so powerful in my life. This philosophy was simply an attempt of my own to conform my whole self to the truth, through whatever means possible. I created repeating cycles of three day groups of four day systems-- "root" is what I called the period of four days-- in which I practiced intentional consciousness of a certain truth. It has been incredibly effective. It's taken a whole lot of work, sweat, and tears; it's not like there wasn't sacrifice. It's hard to emphasize how adaptive to my life and my personality this philosophy is.

Here's my problem though. I was reading Acts of the Apostles last night and I was very convicted about my mindset. I was reading Stephen's speech before he was stoned to death, and he spoke of the Jews disobeying God, saying "And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands."

The part about "rejoicing in the works of their hands" knocked me over the head with conviction. I know that several times I have become prideful about how "smart I am, that I created such an effective philosophy". Of course, to refute such thoughts, I may be smart but surely I've been given it, and technically smartness has nothing to do with it; I've just had the privilege/horror of suffering through the intense realization that all of life is philosophy and one must struggle to have the correct one. Anyone can do that. In fact, many already have before me. But it suits my pride to believe falsehoods, and so my mind whores with them periodically.

But how can I ever rid myself of the philosophy now? What do I do, substitute it for a different method and then get prideful over that one? Given that this philosophy consists of a lot of established practices and beliefs that have become part of my life now, to get rid of it would be positively irrational. Also, given that I am so subject to following the whims of my emotions and superficial desires, if I did not have some sort of teleology/plan to keep me in check, I would never get anywhere in life. (I'm not driven unless an idea drives me) It's like a man who realizes that he is idolizing his wife. He can't get rid of her-- that would be immoral. But he also can't continue living the way he has been.

I also liken this dilemma to what the naturalists have done these days. Empirical science is a recent human phenomena which has vastly increased our knowledge of the world. In fact, through the centuries that it has existed, it has invoked much excitement, passion, and wonder in those who follow it. It has shaped the mind-set of at least the Western world and is essentially necessary for knowledge about the world. But some have idolized science, claiming that it is the source of all truth, or the domain of all truth, or that we cannot know anything unless science justifies it. This is the sign of a good philosophy gone bad. You can't get rid of science. Medicine, physics, biology, theoretical frameworks, etc. are all incredibly important aspects of our body of knowledge about the world. But you can take it too far. I think this is what I've done with my philosophy.

What I've done is this: Because of my judging function in my personality, my mind feels in utter chaos and discomfort when there is not some underlying instruction or plan which I should follow. I like things to be organized or else I am subject to following and believing my emotions, which are far from accurate. Because of this, I have used the effectiveness of this philosophy as a way to deal with life-- in that I get my comfort from the fact that I have an underlying plan in my life, rather than my comfort from God, and being thankful for what I have. It's like my emotional security lies in it. This shouldn't be the case.

So I have a couple options.

1) I could completely drop the philosophy and just live on conviction. The consequences of this would be to lose the checks I've made on myself for epistemic faithfulness. I would probably end up believing a lot of false things and be spiritually matured in an off-balance way, and I would be influenced by my soul's tendency to follow shame rather than conviction.

2) I could diminish the philosophy to exclude the system of days and "roots" so that I simply live on conviction but still hold onto the foundational beliefs and systems which I have created, which would have the benefit of keeping my beliefs in check, but the consequences of developing my personality in a way which would exclude some of the hard work that could be done during the day/root systems.

3) I could simply recognize that my mind, my brain, and even the philosophy are not my own. They were given to me. The only way the philosophy works is because it has methods that make use of truth, and the truth certainly does not belong to me; I just discovered some of it. This benefits of this would be full control and checks on my believing what is true and developing my personality in a way which is truth oriented, the consequences would be that I am prone to idolize the philosophy because it is so helpful, and I am prone to become prideful because, well, I'm me.  But notice here-- the intention of the actual philosophy was not pride. So if I take the truth-seeking prescribed in the plan, I will not. Other consequences of this may be that I become unwilling to relinquish the philosophy when I must, because God has called me to do a certain thing or so. Again, however, this is not a mandate of the philosophy, just a result of my sinful soul.


Although I want everyone's and anyone's advice, now that I've thought through this, I think I'm going to stick with the third option. My pride and possessiveness of this philosophy are not the intentions of the philosophy, and so I will work to not use it as a source of comfort, but rather a directive for my actions.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Emperor has No Clothes

The more I take time to really think through things in life, the more I realize that the "authorities" I was submitting to are nothing more than falsehoods in disguise. One of the recent things I've been discovering, although it's painful to think about it because it has a nature that is very "thought about thought"-ish, or, meta-cognitive, is blowing my mind.

Have you ever noticed how as humans we tend to have several pressures in our minds which cause us to do or believe certain things? The first is conviction-- this is good. Conviction brings new life, doesn't shame, and funnily can easily be ignored. It is a pressure because when we believe we should do something, there is a type of pressure in our minds towards doing it. The next pressure is something which, though I'm still not certain what it is, I'm going to call "sub-conscious pressure". Let me explain.

What I'm calling "sub-conscious" pressure is a pressure which probably results from the overflow of the subconscious nature of our souls. We have levels of consciousness. The first level is the immediate cognitive awareness. That's what we live in. It's the thought-world which is immediately accessible to us. The next level is a little deeper. Have you ever had a thought-- a happy thought, say--and gotten in a good mood of anticipation because of it, and then when something else later occurred to you, you forgot about the thought, but the good mood of anticipation remained? "What was it I was so excited about" you will say. After thinking about it a little bit more, you remember what it was and your good mood is continued and renewed. But it's not like the thought disappeared from your mind. It just slipped into a lower level of consciousness. That's how we can be in bad moods and have no idea why. You're a lot more complex than you think. Some have organized consciousness into categories, which are the categories I'll use to explain this (the Physical, the Consciousness, the pre-conscious, the sub-conscious, and the unconscious.) Think about this. Imagine that deep in your sub-consciousness, you believe that all cats go to heaven. You don't know why you believe it and you have no reasons for it (the real explanation is that when you were a kid your aunt continually told you that little jimmy-cat was going to see you in heaven with all the other cats some day, and you believed it). If this is the case, then when some people claim that cats don't go to heaven, you'll feel an ideological pressure against this idea. "Of course cats go to heaven! Who would think otherwise?" You'll find it hard to take seriously the idea that cats don't go to heaven because it is so real to you that they do. The sub-conscious has effects all the way into the immediate consciousness-- we just don't realize it most of the time.

Now if we as humans have sinful souls, then we would expect our unconscious/sub-consciousness to be of such a nature that it consists of the lack of desire for godliness and very irrational false beliefs. That's exactly what we've got. But if this is the case, when in our sub-consciousness we lack a desire for godliness, but in our immediate consciousness, we want to be godly, we will have a war to fight-- not with other people; not against other false ideologies, but against the falsehoods in our subconsciousness.

But think about this some more. That means that all the times that we get in horribly bad moods, or when we feel we have to submit to false things because they seem so true (like the idea that we are a certain thing because a certain intimidating person says so), we're not fighting against actually true things, we're fighting against contrary beliefs in our subconsciousness. When we suddenly begin to feel like the peace offered by God isn't really peace-- "there's got to be some catch to this", or "right, peace-- but not really", it is not reality we're submitting to, it's the falsehoods of our subconscious. I was listening to "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis yesterday, and I heard a woman in the story say something along the lines of, "As a Christian.. I certainly I forgive him. But there are some things that one can never let go of." This seems a very human tendency-- to treat beliefs as if they are half-way true. She acts as if, yes, rationally, she knows Christianity is true, but she couldn't really act as if it were true. But it's not as if Christianity actually is half true-- if it's true, it's totally true, and it's our job to conform not only our immediate consciousness to it but our whole self to it. Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." This is a command to conform one's whole self to truth, not just the immediate thoughts. It's a hard battle but more than worth it.

This sheds a lot of light for me: I remember having so many mental battles with this lingering belief that if Christianity were true I would have to be a young earth creationist, which would be incredibly hard for me because of how much evidence there is against such a view. Or the idea that if Christianity is true evolution simply can't be true. I thought I was fighting against some divinely given reality. Nope. It was my subconscious beliefs hanging in there stubbornly. Or the idea that because I am sort of "bracketing" Christianity right now in order to, as objectively as possible, judge what it really is, and whether I really think it is true immediately means I must be going to hell. The fear and irrationality deep in my subconsciousness took hold of the pure possibilities in my immediate consciousness and turned them into a miserable anxiety.

What we must recognize is that our subconsciousness is not Truth, nor is it God. Just because our subconsciousness is "whispering" something to us doesn't mean that God is telling us something. I say this coming from a bit of a jaded and insensitive attitude, because I am very susceptible to thinking this "whispering" is a source of real divine revelation. Well, God has whispered me into a lot of sin and bad decisions if that is the case!  We must judge what is true via our intellect and then apply it all through our levels of consciousness.

So what is Sub-Conscious pressure? It is the pressure we feel as our sub-conscious attempts to contradict our immediate consciousness with painful fear, overwhelming feelings, or logical force. Our job is to submit to rationality, truth, and logic, because if we submit to the overwhelming feelings or beliefs which seem to come out of nowhere and have no logical basis, we only end up submitting to ourselves.


Lastly, this gives us the permission to hold onto truths even when they don't feel true. You know how it doesn't feel true that what that intimidating person said about you doesn't make you who you are? Hold onto the truth-- it's truer than you think. It really doesn't feel true to me a lot of the time that reality is not determined by people. But when I feel like this, it's not like reality is changing, it's that my subconscious is opposing my belief with contrary beliefs and irrationality. My job is to hold on to the truth even when my subconscious contradicts it, in full confidence that my continuing to do so will result in the conforming of my subconsciousness to truth.

Friday, March 16, 2012

I'm thankful for Mental Strength

I feel like a little kid playing with a new toy! Ever since I've really been challenging myself to think extrovertedly, a whole new world of information and awareness has opened up to me. I never understood how people could keep track of so many things outside of themselves in their head-- for instance, pilots. I used to want to be a pilot. But when I realized how many things there are the keep track of, I realized there was no way I would be able to do it. But now that I've forced myself to think in such a way, I feel my mind has become more powerful. I don't want to worship the human mind at all, for surely everything we have we have received, but I'm very thankful for my mind today.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Perspective

There are many different ways to look at the same thing. Life as a whole, for example, can be seen in many ways. It seems there are three main ways to look at it: The victim way, the privileged way, and the oblivious way.

The "victim way" seems to be the one a lot of Americans hold to. The mindset consists of strains of ideas like "Life will always fail you", or "You never get a free lunch". Or, more specifically, it's this type of skepticism towards life which consists of the expectation that everything will fail a person. When something bad happens, these kinds of people are those who say, "I knew it." These are the people who focus on all the suffering in life, all of the imperfection, all of the failure, and say, "see, this is life. Optimistic people are just plain ignorant." Even more specifically, it is a mindset which actively seeks out the lack in situations or the privation in things, and dwells on it. This kind of person is almost always dissatisfied; always looking for the perfect situation but they never find it, because as soon as they do find something, they look for a lack in it so that it will fit their preconception of life. These types of people are usually very good at critical thinking, noticing errors, fixing problems, and improving systems.

The "oblivious" person is a good nature-d person who doesn't think very critically about things and is ignorant about much of the suffering in life and even the bald-faced problems of his or her friends. But even when the oblivious person does encounter a small amount of suffering, he or she still finds a reason to be thankful. This person is very good at encouraging other people, but others of a different mindset find that his or her reason for being happy don't seem good at all, and thus the oblivious person is made to look like a fool with his head in the sand. From what I know, the oblivious nature, upon encountering face to face much of the suffering in life, tends to become a victim type because of being overwhelmed by the power of pain.

The "privileged" view is a medium between the two above. Let's face it. Almost no person is naturally this view. The privileged person is an incisively critical thinker but has a joy lying deep beneath her countenance which gives her the ability to be thankful for many things. The privileged view takes the truth from the "victim" view and the attitude from the "oblivious" view, and brings them together. To the oblivious person, this type would say, "I love your attitude, but you really need to consider that reality is a lot more complicated and broken than you think." To the "victim" person, this type would say, "I see the truth in what you say makes this life negative. But have you considered that bad is only a corruption of good? And for bad to exist, there must be good? Have you looked at your wife, despite her faults, and seen the glory beneath them all? Have you been thankful for the fact that you have arm and leg, breath and beating heart? Have you ever looked into the eyes of a baby? Have you ever seen the sunrise; actually perceived it?"  The privileged view has a lot going for it. I think we should all seek to be it.


I've been thinking about the main truths of this privileged view. Suffering and evil only exists because good exists. Necessarily, so, given that the definition of evil and bad is the privation of a due good. Given that this is the case, I want to shift my thinking. There are so many good things in this life that the bad things don't compare. Dissatisfaction isn't due to external circumstances, it is a mindset. I have taken the path from oblivious to victim, and I feel myself slowly coming towards "privileged". I just need truth to back it up.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Update

Recently I've realized that one of my character flaws has been brought about: Pride. In my conversations with my parents, old friends, and etc., I see this emotional irritability come out when I am made into something less desirable in the ego sphere of human desire-- or, in other words, when I get insulted, shown wrong, slighted, or made a fool of. I can't bear it. It's been easy up at college because all of my friends that aren't my roommates, suite mates, or older friends, are polite to me (I say I want to see their bad sides, for the sake of having deep friendships, but maybe I've asked for too much, or, maybe not), but when I get back home and see people who aren't afraid of losing their friendship with me (or know it's just not going to happen), or just genuinely don't care what I think, I get insulted and made fun of-- whether it's in a good nature or not, it still hurts for some reason.

Now I've talked over and over again about the fact that what people think about me doesn't determine who I am. Of course it doesn't. The idea that who I am is determined by people is ridiculous. But since there are so many dimensions to our souls and selves, often we have a tendency to take one dimension of our existence and think that it says everything about who we are, just because one person brought our attention to it: A track runner says to a mathematician with a low self esteem, "You're really bad at running." The Mathematician feels painful emotions inside consequently, as a result of the fact that he allowed one person's interpretation of his existence to determine all that he thought about himself. That's dumb. He's also really good at math, eats lunch at subway on Sundays, and has hairy feet. So what? No. We shouldn't do that. We shouldn't let what other people interpret us as be our interpretation of ourselves.

The reason I get into all this is because I'm wondering if my anger at these slights is based on a low self esteem or just anger at injustice. At times I feel that I get angry people who ignorantly say something crass about me not because I think it makes me that, but because they have no idea what they are talking about and don't deserve to be saying such things. Or perhaps I get angry because I haven't truly thought about who I really am, and I've been allowing other people to tell me who I am all my life, when it's time for me to decide. I notice that I tend to live often in what the philosopher Heidegger would call the "they" or the world of public interpretedness of reality, rather than living in my own authentic state of being and truth, but that being that case, of course I will become upset when other people say something negative about me. I have to defend my desirability in the ego-space, or, the theyness. But why is it important that I defend my reputation in other people's minds? Is it because I think who I am is dependent upon others' minds? If that is the case, my thinking is horribly flawed. Maybe it's because I don't know what to think about myself. All I know of me is a group of good qualities mixed with a bunch of bad qualities and tendencies. Surely I can come to some opinion of myself without others telling me what to think? Or can I?


Regardless, this has been good practice with relationships. If I can handle this kind of stuff and be calm, surely that's a step towards handling marriage.


I've been practicing my extroverted thinking. It's amazing to me what a flaw I've had. I have such a hard time setting meetings with people and making future plans because my mind has a hard time thinking about these things in relation to other people (which explains the fact that I have an  incredibly hard time coming up with fun dates with girls, as experience has borne out). But as I've forced myself more and more, my mind has opened up into new realms. Also, I have more to write about problems I've discovered in my psyche as a direct result of weak extroverted thinking, including shame, anxiety, lack of thought, and shyness. I can't wait to grow out of this.

I just read a book called, "You're Not as Crazy as I Think" by Randal Rauser. It's really good, and it works to debunk the way humans alienate others of different opinions, how Evangelical Christianity tends to indoctrinate its members, and how we can learn to pursue truth together no matter what worldview we hold. I'm planning on writing a review of it.

Lastly, I feel like I've been growing out of a mindset which has prohibited me from growing spiritually by dealing with certain temptations. All my life I thought that my abstinence from sex outside of marriage, alcohol, and offending other people was just because I was a good person. Well, that's false. It's because I was scared of people and I was a slave to their approval. Now that I beginning to not give a crap about what people think, these things are becoming a temptation. Not that I really want alcohol; the stuff's disgusting, except, of course, a good glass of wine. But I say abstinence for my life, until further notice. The thing is, though, that this is actually a temptation now. I never wanted alcohol before, or let's say I never even entertained the possibility, because then people would disapprove of me. But now I don't care what they think. Every guy naturally wants sex, of course. The problem has become that I am no longer afraid of disapproval of people, so sex outside of marriage is only as bad as the thing itself is, rather than the heap of disapproval that would come from our society being added to it. I would love to say that I trust myself to always feel the infinite importance of faithfulness to one's wife before marriage, but I've really just got to be honest and admit that I'm not always going to be living in that sphere of reality before I get married, and so precautions need to be taken. I need to be very careful around the women I spend time with, not provoking any kind of attraction or unnecessarily flirtatious behavior unless I am planning on pursuing her. With regards to dating and how I'll handle that, well, I don't even know. Cross that bridge when it comes. Drugs have never been a temptation for me; I have no idea why I would ever rationally choose to take them. Also I feel a lot more anger. I don't know where it came from. Perhaps it's that I don't care if people disapprove of my anger anymore.

Yes, I consider this a good thing. If the only thing keeping me from doing all these things was fear of people, that was not goodness, it was fear. I would rather do these things without fear than have fear prevent me from ever doing anything in life. But now that I do experience the temptations, life is going to get tough. I feel like part of me is developing that should have developed three or four years ago, but heck, I'm glad for it!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

INFJ and Introverted Thinking

I've recently realized something that I think is incredibly important to my development as a person. The past week or so I have been distraught about how ignorant I am and how incapable of proper thinking my personality type seems to be. I spend most of my time with my friend Jordan who is a literal genius, and I often feel quite inferior to him with regards to the power his mind has and how quickly he thinks of things that take me a much longer time to think about. I'm ok with it, of course (I think?), I mean, just because you're not the smartest person on earth doesn't mean you can't be a philosophy seeker. But now that I think about it more, I'm starting to think that I have over-simplified the problem.

I am an INFJ/(P on a good day) personality type. I am thankful to be this, because apparently it is least common, and hey, everyone loves to be unique, eh? But like my favorite band Switchfoot says, "Every blessing comes with a set of curses".  The most powerful and unique parts of the INFJ personality type are also the biggest curses for the INFJ in every day life.

These are some of the problems I tend to struggle with in everyday life:

1) I am often so caught up with the theorizing process going on in my head that I am completely oblivious to the external world outside me.

2) Not only do I ignore the external world, but I also ignore all people external to me in my thinking. Oh, I listen to you-- I'll cry with you, I'll care for you. But as soon as you try to start putting ideas in my head or acting as if your ideas are superior to mine, I will reject you and your beliefs. I don't want to hear it-- I've got my own theories and I've thought about them and they work for me. I honestly have a hard time listening to anyone but myself. I don't trust anybody else.

3) I have a very hard time applying what I've cooked up in my head to reality outside me. The extrapolation doesn't seem to catch. I spend so much time in my head thinking about things, gathering information, and making sure it fits inside my theories that I honestly am at a loss for usefulness when it comes to thinking about my ideas like they actually correspond to reality (it's almost as if there is a distinction between the reality in my head and the reality I project outside). Here's a practical example: I'm in a gas station with some friends trying to decide what to get as a snack. I start thinking: "Ok, what do I want? If I can figure this out, I can have a better chance at finding out what I should get. Ok, I only have a few hours till dinner, so I don't want to get anything that would fill me up too... too.. wait, what? ahhh lost the train of thought. Ok, what was I thinking about again?" Repeat two times, and eventually decide to just get what friends get. My mind is just not very good at directing its critical thinking skills towards interaction with the external world-- I want to keep my intellect inside, not expose pearls before the "swine" of the "outside".

I have found an explanation of this. The INFJ personality type has not only Introverted Intuition but also Introverted Thinking. This means that the things mentioned above are exactly what you would expect if one's thinking and intuition are directed towards the inner self, not the outer world. My friend Jordan, who is an INTJ, has an extroverted thinking function, which is apparently the most powerful part of his personality type. His mind is geared for directing his thinking towards the outer world, and so he is one of those people who will automatically come up with practical and penetrating insights about things outside of him without much effort at all. I can come up to him after having thought very carefully about a certain theory of human nature/sin/desire, etc., and when I tell him about it, he asks me, "did you look in any peer reviewed journals, encyclopedias, or read any books about it?" When I say "No", he looks at me like I just claimed I figured out what it was like to walk around on the moon by thinking about it carefully. He is very oriented towards checking his theories with the external concrete facts. I have to say that his personality comes built in with a lot more intellectual humility, and the INFJ personality type can tend to be slightly arrogant.

The INFJ personality type, from what I have observed about myself at least, is typically the one seen as the "dumb blonde", or the one who has no idea what is going on around him or her, or in other words is so preoccupied with his or her head that they're flippant with regards to anything else. At least that's how I've always been my whole life. The reason for this is the lack of the ability to direct the pure genius of the INFJ introverted thinking towards the immediate outer world.

This explains why I have so much trouble with probabilities. Ask me why I know at any given moment there are other people picking their nose on the earth, or and as I look inside my mind to find why I know this, I can't find any reason for it and I really struggle with it.  I have a very hard time grasping concepts as the relate to the immediate external world. Ask me to explain why I hold a certain belief and I have no idea what to say-- it makes sense in my head!

Another interesting fact is this: this seems to explain my tendency towards "faithlessness"-- at least that's what my suite-mates call it. It's my tendency to question everything I encounter. I have a hard time projecting my beliefs onto reality. I think my mind often wants to just allow other people's projections onto reality to take my mind's place, so I can just ride on other people's confidence. It is easy for me to continually resort to examining the nature of an idea because it doesn't seem to be easy to project it onto reality for me, whereas if it were easy for me to project it onto reality, I wouldn't question it so much. But as it is, I have an idea-world in my mind and it is much more comfortable for me to continue analyzing my ideas inside rather than taking them and actively applying them to reality. This means it's time for me to ask myself whether my continual doubts about God's existence are truly rational or whether they come from a flaw in my personality type, or even if they come from sin (I should always be asking myself that).

But here's the part where one has to change. I can't live all of my life like this. Nor do I have to. I know that the human mind is incredibly powerful and adaptive. So this is my solution. If the problem is that I have a very hard time applying my introverted philosophical conclusions to concrete reality, then it means that I need to practice extroverted thinking more. It means that for every 10 minutes of introverted theorizing I do, I need to do at least two minutes of extroverted practical concrete application.

I practiced this today while I went on a hike with my suite-mates from college. It was incredibly hard, and now I realizing how disabling this weakness really is. But I know what I need to do, and I'm resolved to do it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mental Preparation

I have no idea why, but it's always late at night when I can't sleep that I start thinking about marriage. Tonight I was thinking about how painful of a struggle I have had in past relationships with relational jealousy. (aka: some dude's getting friendly with my girl [or it's even possible that he is], therefore my whole world falls apart). Some nights when I create an experimental dating relationship in my mind and construct a scenario in which I would have been jealous in the past, in order to see if I've matured any, I get so overwhelmed by negative feelings that I decide maybe its best I didn't marry anyone. Well, I realize now that's just a cop out. If there's anything worth fighting for it's marriage-- now I'm even more so convinced, after listening to a lecture on the nature of man and marriage by a friar at a Greek orthodox church I went to!

Right then, so now my dilemma is this. Last year at the beginning of the fall semester I promised myself I would date no one for a year. There's simply too much maturing I needed to do, and if I dated any girl I would probably have had a very negative effect on her faith with all of the philosophical dilemmas I had to deal with. The problem is that even though I have matured a heck of a lot since then, I probably have more philosophical problems. I thought I was going to be sound in my faith and looking forward to be a pastor by this time, but rather I have switched my major to philosophy because I've been smacked in the face with the realization how trivial everything else but the truth, whatever it may be, is.  So really, I'm going to have to do more than just wait till the end of this semester. Thus, I have laid forth a criterion concerning things that I will require myself to have done before I even think about dating, rationally, at least (daydreaming can't be prevented).

1. Have a secure worldview. There's no compromise here. I'm not saying I need certainty, or that everything has to be perfect, or that I need to have figured everything out (or even half of everything), or anything of the sort-- really! But there's no way I'm leading a woman down a path of confusion and doubt, unless she chooses she must go herself, in which case I wish to be there to help her, not further her confusion.

2. Make headway into i) discerning the mental cause of why I have experienced relational jealousy in the past, ii) conclude and resolve that I can get over it for the most part, and iii) be making those steps. (I think I've already started satisfying this one!)

3. Think through what on earth a dating relationship even is, and whether this format of romantic preparation for marriage is the proper and most godly way to do things. (is courting better? should I abandon this whole thing and do an arranged marriage?!? America can't determine the way I do things)

4. Understand what it means to make a commitment. (I think I'm really starting to learn this now) Only recently have I realized that I have no idea what it means to love another person. I only know how to need other people. I require myself to have understood what it means to lose absolutely everything to serve another person. That's what marriage is about, isn't it? Realize that in marriage, divorce isn't even an option.  It's not even a thought.

5. Have a plan. I've got to know where I'm going in life and know what I want, and where I'm called to. Will I be a long term missionary? Then I shall not date someone who is staying in the states. The way it looks right now, I want to be a philosophy professor and, if I can, a pastor on the side. But how am I going to do that? Have I thought through all the potential fall-outs, the places where times might be tough? Do I have a plan B? Do I have the guts to be a pastor? It's easy to teach philosophy, but to open yourself up to the unending spiritual needs of other people is a drain on your marriage and your relationship with God. Am I willing to do that?

6. Get a freaking job and pay for your dates, not with your parents' money!


When do I expect these to be fulfilled? Well, I'm hoping "soon and very soon". After this semester I'm going to consolidate all of the things I've learned from philosophy of religion, buy Van Inwagen's book on the problem of evil (which is my biggest problem with Christianity, right now) and dominate the arguments for and against God. Whatever conclusion I come to, I'm sticking with. Right now I think God is more likely to exist than not, but I could be wrong. If it turns out that theism is lacking in any evidence, I'll either find some way to believe in God without any arguments at all, but still in an intellectually honest way, (AKA Reformed Epistemology), or if that turns out to be incoherent, I'll become an Agnostic and become like a Buddhist monk or something, I dunno. Whichever I am convicted to do by the evidence.


All else being equal, this is my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm thankful for mental preparation!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I'm thankful for the Sunrise

This morning I went out to go see the sunrise because I couldn't sleep. (I want to do that from now on, dangit).
It was so beautiful. I felt like I was in Scotland, or Narnia-- or something beautiful. The thing was, it wasn't overall an enjoyable experience. The reason is because half of the time I was ticked off at myself for only caring about appearing rather than being. 

I headed out there and I sat and enjoyed the flowers that were budding on the trees. The birds were singing. The grass was dewy. It was amazing. But I found myself just trying to take a bunch of pictures so I could ignore this longing in my soul to actually be thankful for the things I saw. In my mind I was feeling I would rather have taken some pictures, posted them on facebook, and had everyone think "Oh, what a thoughtful and existential person Evan is, he goes and watches the sunrise. There are not many people that do that" rather than actually come out to actually enjoy it. Who gives a care how many people do it? Who gives a care what people think about me? And isn't it thwarting the very purpose of my going to do it to get attention if the only reason I went was to learn to be thankful for things? If I want to impress people there are plenty of things I could do. I suppose if I did it that way, it would look like I wasn't looking for attention. Ah, but I still was. That's the lovely thing about the truth. It doesn't come and go unexpectedly like emotions! 

Regardless, I still have the memories of the Sunrise, and these I am thankful for. I am truly appreciative that this has become part of my life. The sun is like a big jewel, radiant and benevolent-- giving heat to the earth so that life may thrive. It's like God. I'm so thankful for the sunrise because it's so paradoxical-- it seems like the sun is coming towards me, but in one striking turn of thinking, I find myself realizing that I am, for a moment, rushing towards the sun at around a thousand miles per hour as the Earth spins on its imaginary axis! I have no choice but to encounter it, and nor does the Sun. If you think about it, neither does the Earth. Did the Earth choose to spin? No, but it was probably set in motion by God billions of years ago and has been slowing down ever since. Nevertheless, sunrise, I welcome you like I welcome each breath of air. I need you and I am thankful for you, but I never chose you. Nor did you choose me. But here we are, and now I choose you and I am thankful for you.