Friday, October 23, 2009

in reaching for the past...

Listening to old music this morning and came across an old favorite. How prophetic and rather fitting to a line of discussion I've been having with a friend of mine on his blog.

These are the days of the open hand
They will not be the last
Look around now
These are the days of the beggars and the choosers
This is the year of the hungry man
Whose place is in the past
Hand in hand with ignorance
And legitimate excuses
The rich declare themselves poor
And most of us are not sure
If we have too much
But we’ll take our chances
Because God’s stopped keeping score
I guess somewhere along the way
He must have let us all out to play
Turned his back
and all Gods children
Crept out the back door
And its hard to love,
there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above
say it’s much, much too late
Well maybe we should all be praying for time
These are the days of the empty hand
Oh you hold on to what you can
And charity is a coat you wear twice a year
This is the year of the guilty man
Your television takes a stand
And you find that what was over there is over here
So you scream from behind your door
Say what’s mine is mine and not yours
I may have too much
but I’ll take my chances
Because God’s stopped keeping score
And you cling to the things they sold you
Did you cover your eyes when they told you
That He can’t come back
Because He has no children to come back for
Its hard to love there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say its much too late
So maybe we should all be praying for time
Praying for Time- George Michael 1990


  1. I've long been a closeted George Michael fan. This is one of his slower, sadder songs, and he has several of those that never got radio play.

    I can laud you for your committment to those less fortunate than you, Emily, in the name of your beliefs. But I can also believe that you would be the same person without those beliefs.

  2. Well, this one struck me as rather politically appropo as well. And in this phrase:
    "And you cling to the things they sold you
    Did you cover your eyes when they told you
    That He can’t come back
    Because He has no children to come back for"
    Seriously brought to mind not only the Evangel/Fundi Prosperity Lies- which have NOTHING to do with any premise or command of God- but also the current rise of Agnosti/Atheisic sentiment.
    "And it's hard to love
    there’s so much to hate
    Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of
    And the wounded skies above say its much too late
    So maybe we should all be praying for time"
    And this phrase lends itself to Wars, Famine,
    Crime, Indifference of Government to the plight of the People, Hatred, and general Death of the Planet.

    Now- regarding my commitment to those in need- I don't think I would do this anyway- I do think but by the Grace of God do I. And this is why... (the short version)having suffered roughly at the hands and mind of an abuser, lost three babies I never held (that alone almost left me daft and mute), and now am dealing with an incurable disease that will cripple me before it kills me, I have a much better chance of receding into myself that turning outside of myself to see the needs of others before my own. But that is not a strength I was born with. It is a strength I pray for, and when I am becoming weak I go to God for endurance and proping up. I am NOT a good person, but I want to be. And honestly, I am rather in awe of you and Daniel, who have such an admirable moral code and goodness, without a prop. But where does love come from for you? How did it come to be? What are your moral markers? What are the buoys that keep you afloat in upstanding moral aptitude when so much of the world is covered in iniquity? These could easily be questions for another post, but they do intrigue me.

  3. I admit to being slightly perplexed at your questions, simply because they seem so "you can't be like me."

    I get my same moral markers where you do, I just don't presume they come from a god. I was raised in the same country and culture as you -- even to some extent with the same church programming, but even if I had not, I received the same hallmarks: obey laws; be gentle with the weak; show mercy more often than not. It seems so straightforward to me, with or without a book of rules or dogma.

    While I reject the Judeo-Christian screed (and all religious creeds), there are some universal bits in there that make societal sense. What is called "the golden rule," for one, and it's a concept that is shared by many religions, not just those based on Christ. It's simple social contract stuff, straight out of Rosseau.

    It starts logically for me; from lessons "I didn't like being stolen from" therefore "I won't steal from others," to determining when a lesser evil is better than no action at all.

    My trouble with the belief that one's goodness comes from a deity disavows the role of Self, it demotes a person's responsibility for self, their own essence and choices. If "god" won't give me more than I can bare, if I can give "god" all the bad and the praise, then where is Deb and her struggles and successes? Where is what Deb wants and needs? Does all that get decided by the deity, too?

    If you are but a vessel for god, why can't he do it himself? What game is he up to, making you merely a chalice? And from whence does evil come (when you are bad)? Are you then a chalice for the devil as well? You are just a cup being passed back and forth? It doesn't compute.

    The flip side to that nascent question is also problematic: are you inherently evil? Is the only thing that keeps you good the threat of god? The promise of god? Are you sure you want to argue from that position?

    I trust myself. I know when I've done right and wrong; I know when I'm making the best choice out of some lousy choices. I punish myself and make contrition accordingly, when necessary. That's easy enough to suss out as a mature adult. I will hope to never commit crimes that necessitate punishment by the state; for all other misdeeds, I'm arbiter of my punishment, just as I for my goodness. And just as you are. Your "conscience" is your guide, no? So is mine. They are both rooted in the same place -- the mind and the heart. You just think yours is linked to something other than you. Mine, is not.

  4. Not wanting to perplex you at all. I have questions and repect you enough to ask them. I don't doubt your ability to be good- I just wanted to know what your philosophy is based on. Whether religious "dogma" is myth or fact it still gives good insite to the actions and failings of humankind. You learn ALOT about people in the Roman and Greek myths and the Norse ones as well. Many having similar outcomes. But there are secular philosophies that lend to being kind and caring without the prompting and/or risk of punishment of a diety.
    Just wondering. I appreciate your answering my questions. I know you followed a path of searching and discovery to get to where you are and it kinda fasinates me. Having reached a point to where I am ultimately disgusted with the fundimental/evangelical presence at large- I am on my own quest to find a comfortable hermitage with God.

  5. I think that it is ridiculous to assume a moral code if you do not believe that you will be held accountable to it. Most people who follow the laws of Caesar, follow them only because they are afraid of the consequences if they break the rules, whether that be incarceration, monetary penalties, or even humiliation. It is far more common for a person to follow the rules out of self-preservation rather than a belief in the virtue of the behavior. It is also important to note that there is a vast difference between following a law, and being kind to one another.

    I too have studied Rousseau, and I agree with only some of his assumptions. I think it is perfectly logical to assume that the first guise of government were rooted in family units, formed for common protection.

    However I disagree with Rousseau that man is fundamentally cooperative (and with all his subsequent arguments). Man is fundamentally competitive, and cooperative only when it is in his best interest. This argument is easily made without the influence of any religion or philosophy. Simply study biology. Nature programs every creature to be selfish, as this is the most efficient way to survive, to breed, and to increase the chances of survival of offspring. Nature is nothing if not efficient. If you want to look at a "natural" form of government, study Herbert Spencer.

    Perfect altruism does not exist. If you sacrifice your life to save a friend, or a family member; even though you die, you still have the satisfaction of knowing that your death ensured their life. You gain from that sacrifice. If you donate time or money to help those less fortunate, you still gain. You get to preen in pathetic self-righteousness of knowing what a good person you are, and what a great thing you did.

    If you want to bring religion back into the argument, even the crucifixion of Jesus wasn't perfect altruism. Through enduring that torment, He was able to save those He loved. He suffered, but He gained as well.

    If you don't believe in a God, and assume we're living in a purely physical world, then the concepts of good and evil have no place in that world. If I did not believe in God, I say with no hesitation that I would be a nihilist, and I would have no problem tormenting, cheating, and using everyone around me for my own gain and pleasure. Fear of the law might keep me from murdering, or committing some other act for which being caught would jeopardize my freedom. On the same token, it would be only that fear which would curtail my actions, and not any moral imperative stemming from the "virtue" of abstinence.

    However, since I do believe in God, I acknowledge that good and evil exist. Consequently, I have no problem arguing that people, including myself, are fundamentally evil, wicked, and deceitful. Why would you assume that any thoughtful theist would have this problem? I have met plenty of people, either atheists or believers of some religion, that honestly believe they are "good" people. They are mistaken. Anyone who has not examined his own soul, and does not acknowledge the wickedness therein, is a fool.

    The things God ask me to be are antithetical to my nature: patient, merciful, kind, non-judgmental, restrained, temperate, constant, humble, modest, and charitable. I balk at each, but because I know my weakness, I know when I err. For instance, I am honest, but not always virtuously so; sometimes honesty hurts, and I enjoy the surprise that pain creates. God makes me aware of that pain, that I might control my tongue out of consideration for others.

  6. Furthermore, the only thing that gives us the capacity for good is the spark of life breathed into each of us by God. God indwells me, as He does Emily. Day by day, year by year, I grudgingly offer up another piece of my wicked nature to be sublimated by His goodness. I rebel, I grumble, I hate it because I inherently love to be vain and selfish, to enjoy luxury and wit and meanness, but I assure you the world is a better place because I do. In this sense, yes, I am a chalice for God.

    To answer your questions regarding this, it does not speak to the omnipotence of God. He could easily do anything He wants, so it's not a question of "why can't He do it Himself?" He made us thinking, rational creatures, and gave us each the choice, as you have made, and I have made, and Emily has made.

    He could easily command our devotion, but love freely given is so much sweeter. Can love that is forced even be called love?

    To give an example: I have a cat, and due to his cuddliness and overall cuteness, I really like to hold him. Being solitary and independent, as is the nature of cats, he doesn't share my fascination. Now, I'm bigger and stronger than him, so I could go and track him down, and put him in my lap. It's not what he wants, though, so I would have to hold him down, or cover him up, and in his distress he would struggle and try to flee. We both would expend a great deal of energy, and neither one of us would get any pleasure out of the experience.

    Instead, I have to give him space to do his own thing, and, as much as a cat can, he loves me better for it. There is nothing more satisfying when he hops into my lap of his own free will, and begins to purr and seek affection from me. We are both content.

    It is the same thing with God and people. He seeks our love, but does not command it, for He knows that love without choice is no love at all.

  7. I haven't read all of your comments yet, Lupatria, because they drip with loathing and scorn. I can say this much at first blush, though -- I'm really glad I don't know you personally.

  8. Ok- I didn't read loathing and scorn- but ok. So I'm taking an authors perogative and closing the book on this topic. Corners.

  9. "Can love that is forced even be called love?"

    Can "good" that is forced (i.e. threatened with eternal punishment) be called "good?" Can morality that is forced be called moral?

  10. Whoops! Sorry, Em, I didn't see your post. I respectfully withdraw, if required.

  11. No problem Dan- Actually that is a REALLY good question. And I appreciate it. I have something to say in that venue- as soon as I take care of some office business.

  12. My arguments are quite rational, and your own posts actually support them. The meat of my argument can be boiled down to this: man posesses self-love above all things.

    You say one of your problems with God is that His existence, and will, somehow detract from your individualism. What is that if not egotism?

    Ironically, the reality atheists can't coicide with humanism is that in the absence of a higher power, human individuals mean nothing. You're not important, your life has no significance, and a generation from now it will be as if you never existed.

    Also, the fact that you don't present me with a decent rebuttal, and only resort to an ad hominem attack, demonstrates the combative nature of man.

    Dan, if I do good, it is because I am compelled out of love freely given, and not out of fear of divine reprisal.

  13. Em, I don't know this person; she has inserted herself in a conversation that you and I were having. Be gracious or be gone. She argues many of my own views, as I am an existentialist and see no point whatsoever to this existence, save for the spots of hedonism here and there. SINCE she does not know this, NOR does she care to inquire, she behaves boorishly by not honoring the reality that she has arrived late to our discussion. I *do* see the need for societal contract bounds, especially in the sterile world of cyberspace.

    Lupatria, you contradict yourself. Your original point was "doing good without being held accountable" is pointless, and then you close patronizingly with "Dan, if I do good, it is because I am compelled out of love freely given, and not out of fear of divine reprisal."

    I sure we all feel really loved. So good job. (Sarcasm.)

    I am leaving for a trip late tonight, so I alas have no bandwidth for this rousing game of Tag, You are It. If it continues to boil in my absence, I will wade back into the fray next week. And if not? So it goes.

  14. ok- folks- lets all just take a really deep breath and let ME respond next to everything before anyone else says another word. I CANNOT respond at length right now, but I will later.
    Until then this topic is CLOSED and any other posts will be deleted until I reopen the discussion.
    Thanks to all.

  15. I may postulate later, but right now I'm opening the floor to Dan.


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