Freedom

A lot of asking what is freedom? and a lot of seeing the implications of freedom.

The Experience Machine, the Nature of Reality, and God

Have you heard the thought experiment of The Experience Machine? If not, it’s roughly as follows:

Imagine there exists a machine, such that when you enter it, you experience a perfect universe. Everything you desire, is there. A personalised universe designed to make you as perfectly happy as it’s possible to be. Would you enter? Would you ever leave?

I think leaving would be the right choice. We ought to choose reality with suffering over happy illusions.

But I’m trying to pin down why the virtual reality of the machine is less real, and also less good, than the world outside it, and it’s not so clear to me. It feels real. Yes, it’s not physically real, but what’s the difference between our physical world and the virtual world, that behaves the same?

The best I’ve come up with so far, is this: reality doesn’t revolve around me. It lies outside of me, and isn’t dependent upon my will. It has a life of its own.

And this is infinitely better. Why? Because it makes communion, love and graciousness possible. The machine can provide every pleasure, but not these things, which make life life. The beauty of life is in being intruded on by the Other, giving ourselves to the Other, and both creating/becoming something new as a result. It’s sex, as opposed to masturbation. It’s the Trinity as opposed to the monad.

My questions seem to have found their answers 🙂. Even my next question, which I will share anyway.

If reality is outside of my power, is nothing real for God? Is God alone in an experience machine?

The answer is, that God is Trinity. God is the Lover, the Beloved, and the Fountain of Love between the two, and all three exist only in and as this Love. They do not exist, then love, or exist, then be loved. They love and are beloved and conceive love, from all eternity, and this is what God is.

May God bless you, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

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Philosophy, Truth and Freedom

Everyone, no matter how much or little they are aware of it, lives within a worldview. For the most part, this is inherited from our families, media, and cultures, and accepted without a second thought. And this worldview determines your world, the world that you see and engage with.

But what if your worldview was wrong? You would be wrong about what can or cannot be done, or even worse, what ought or ought not be done. Our illusions enslave us, and we aren’t even aware of it.

And then, what if our worldview is wrong, and the world we’re actually in is enslaving us? We would be trapped in a prison which we can’t even see, because that prison is a part of us.

But if we had the true worldview, which is no longer a worldview, but transcends views to reach truth, then we would be free. Even in the darkest, coldest, smallest prison cell in the world, one who has Truth is utterly free, because they have reality. Their existence and their decisions are in their own hands, and no one can take these away.

‘The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.’

Philosophy is the search for the truth above and beyond all views, so that we can really live in the real world.

Perhaps the worldview we unquestioningly received just happens to be right. Maybe. But we can’t know until we loosen our grip on it, and seek the world that lies beyond the worldview. And we also can’t loosen our grip until we are aware of it.

Perhaps more than any other age in history, we are at risk of being enslaved by our illusions and ignorance, because we are the most distracted age in history. Our education levels are improving, but not for the most important questions. We run the extraordinary risk of becoming both the most educated and most closed minded people ever to exist.

And being closed minded, living in illusions, means being easily controlled, and liable to fall into hatred and evil.

We must all be philosophers. We must insist on truly living – living in truth – and accept nothing less. Everything but truth is nothing, and less than nothing.

The true philosopher is always a revolutionary. If they aren’t turning the world upside down, they are not seeking the truth, but are just shoring up views, and are not a philosopher at all.

But at the end of the philosopher’s journey, philosophy is finished. There is no worldview left to be turned upside down. There is only Truth, that is always upside down, and always right way up.

God bless you 🙂

God loves sinners

God loves sinners.

I think this is a lot easier to accept when the sinner in question isn’t myself. When I’m the sinner, I find it impossible to accept that God really loves me, and can’t help hiding from God and trying to earn my way back into His good graces. Which I also know I can’t do.

Basically, God has to batter me down with His tenderness, to accept His merciful love. It’s impossible for me, but not for Him. The most I can do is ask Him to do this.

When we sin, we are in a state of sin, and live by the logic of sin, which is entirely incapable of understanding God’s grace and mercy. We think God is like us, judging and measuring up and seeking to exploit his friends and crush his enemies. Like Adam and Eve, we hide from God, because love doesn’t make sense to us.

Somehow God breaks through. I am put in His presence, and His merciful love breaks me down. In fact, it crucifies me. The heart of stone is shattered, and I’m set free, made alive again.

But it’s not about becoming “righteous”… In fact, I think that when I’m no longer the sinner that’s being crucified by His merciful love, I’m back in the logic of sin, and will soon commit a sin that makes that clear. Christian holiness is God’s own life in an unworthy sinner, and once we’re “worthy”, we’ve kicked Him out.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen

How to forgive

Recently, I realised I hadn’t properly forgiven some people. I wanted to, but couldn’t figure out how. I thought things like, “I forgive them, but they did still…” I realised that I didn’t really know what forgiveness was.

So I looked to the cross to learn, and there I saw that forgiveness means letting yourself be hurt. Jesus didn’t have to endure the cross, but He did, accepting every blow and every lash, rather than fighting the sinners attacking Him. All our sins are against Him, and so in choosing to suffer our sins, He was directly and immediately forgiving us.

So to forgive, we must allow ourselves to be wounded. Those we must forgive will be the ones who have wounded us, and are wounding us.

I think I had been thinking of forgiveness as being a matter of letting go, but now I think of it as accepting. I can’t just drop my pain, physical or otherwise, but if I accept it, if I say yes to the pain, then I’m free, and the pain, and whoever inflicted it, is no longer an enemy I can’t escape.

It feels pretty great. Unforgiveness creeps up again sometimes, but then I remember to accept the pain, and I’m free again.

And I think that that liberty is a small foretaste of the resurrection.

God bless!

Thomas Merton, St Joseph, and Tyler Durden

I was thinking today about what sort of man I want to be known as. My answer was “strong”. But then I realised, that this is my false self (in the words of Thomas Merton) speaking. How do I know? Because it looks at how I’m seen, not how I am.

I was reminded of St Joseph’s great silence in the Bible. Joseph was a good and righteous man, and didn’t care what others thought. He fathered God, but never made a big deal of it. He simply got on and did his duty, or equivalently, did God’s will for him.

St Joseph is the dreamer, but doesn’t fulfil his dreams by words, but by humble, consistent, grueling work. He never sought glory, but was content to contribute to the glory of God, whether he was seen or unseen. I pray God let me imitate my namesake in this [Ignatius is my confirmation name, and Joseph my baptismal].

I also remembered a very different character, with different wisdom: Fight Club’s Tyler Durden said, “Self-improvement is masturbation. Self-destruction on the other hand…”

I absolutely love this quote.

Self-improvement is masturbation because it’s self-pleasing and doesn’t bear any fruit. It’s infantile and revolting. It’s a waste of life to please yourself by becoming “better”. Stop pleasuring yourself in public!

Self-destruction on the other hand… liberates us. Fight Club is about men abandoning what Jesus calls, “the world”. Tyler Durden is captivating because he’s almost St Francis, who was almost Jesus. He recognises and abandons the emptiness of the world, of the self. But in chasing his self out, he is still stuck chasing his self.

Why? Because he believes God doesn’t care about him; his self is all he has. There is nothing beyond his self to be reached.

But St Francis, (and even more truly, Jesus) can totally destroy his self and be free, because the destruction of his self, through all his mad penances and lifestyle, is in the love of God. The falsehood of the self that Tyler Durden could see so clearly, can only be destroyed by the Truth that is God.

God bless you!

What should government be?

[This post got stuck as a draft and now isn’t very timely. Oh well, better late than never!]

As we approach the general election on the 8th May, I thought it would be good to think a bit about politics. So, let’s start at the very beginning…

Where is authority ultimately from?

Authority comes from truth. Equivalently, we can say that authority comes from God, the author of all creation. We should listen to the truth and to those who instruct us according to the truth, simply because what’s in accordance with the truth is in accordance with our true being. As the (virulent atheist) anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin said,

Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.

This requires humility, because we have to recognise that sometimes, the truth, including the truth of ourselves, is not in accordance with our own wills and desires. At times like this, our desires, if not submitted to truth and reason, actually enslave us, denying us our true dignity and glory.

Today, this is probably not such a common concept of authority. We live in a world that is “post-God” and “post-truth”, believing that these tend towards oppression. Instead, the world believes in desire and force. What’s important is that I claim my “rights”, over against yours. Authority is then just a word for more established power.

Where does government come from?

My guess is, that government more or less grew out of natural structures of authority. At the lowest level, a father is naturally and historically the head of his family, as the one primarily responsible for its defense and provision, and therefore most aware of how to make the best decisions for it. In society at a larger level, say an extended family or a village, a father figure will emerge too; one who is strong, wise, and provides for the people. At each larger level, “father” figures may emerge, as and when groups become more integrated, and need someone to give them unity and provide for the common good.

Of course, right from the lowest level, and right from the beginning, violence ruins this lovely human family. There are bad fathers, bad chieftains, and bad kings, and then there are usurpers, often friends and relatives, who take power for themselves with the best or worst of motives, so that “authority” is rarely held by those who deserve it.

Plato believed that the ideal government was that of the Philosopher Ruler, but that this would degenerate into a timarchy (military/honour based rule, e.g. Sparta, or feudal [Samurai] Japan), which would degenerate into oligarchy (wealth based rule- think of the USA), which then degenerates into democracy (people/pleasure based rule- think of ancient Athens, or Norway, Iceland, or Sweden), which finally degenerates into  tyranny (the rule of absolute violence, and unrestrained desire). I think he was onto something. It is essentially the process of men and societies diverging from the highest good, Goodness Itself, to lesser, more divided goods, going through honour to wealth to selfish happiness to unrestrained desire.

What should government be?

The government’s duty is to serve the common good in accordance with the truth (it is impossible in discord with truth). Therefore, it should be honest; should seek the truth on every matter, with open, humble ears; it should respect the freedom of lower levels of government and society, which are generally better placed to look after their own common good; it should be firm in justice, but double so with itself; it should serve all, and respect all; it should be both strong and gentle; both reserved and courageous; it should be genuinely humble, never glorifying itself, but placing itself beneath others; it should be self-sacrificing and unprofitable; and undoubtedly much more. To simplify, a good government, and the people who compose it, should have all the qualities of a good father.

At this point you’re perhaps thinking this is literally paternalistic government. But the issue of paternalism would actually be an issue in a father too. The problem is the same in both overbearing parents and overbearing governments: both children and peoples need freedom in order to flourish, including the freedom to make mistakes.

Is this realistic?

If we could have a government of saints, absolutely! But saints are hard to come be, and generally wouldn’t want such a position. They know too well, how violence and sin thrive in power, and they don’t seek power, or its prestige and rewards. Their humility keeps them from seeking any position except the least. And the struggle for power, is a struggle, and they do not desire struggle and strife, but love and unity.

Still, it’s good to have ideals to reach for. If you’re in government, be like a good father and you’ll do well. For the rest of us, this can shape our engagement with politics, and perhaps we’ll see a conversion of our government.

palace_of_westminster2c_london_-_feb_2007

 

Finally

‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man Himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.’
[Mk 10:42-45]

Whenever I read this passage, it makes me wonder if a Christian should be in politics at all. I don’t suppose Christian virtue would go very far. After all, the kingdoms of the world belong to satan, and are given to his worshippers [Lk 4:6]. I guess we must engage according to the gospel, and abandon any struggle for domination.

 

Please, share your thoughts! God bless you!

Victorious

The Resurrection should be understood as a challenge to the world. Death has been overcome, and now, the children of God have nothing left to fear. 

There’s a lot to leave us feeling hopeless in the world today. There’s war, poverty, loneliness, abortion, hatred, murder, human trafficking, racism, addiction, euthanasia, exploitation,  ignorance, terrorism, sexual abuse, genocides, corruption, divorce, torture, and the list just goes on and on. We live, undeniably, in a culture of death and indifference. 

And of course, a culture of death requires and creates for itself a culture of indifference. When we’re surrounded by so much death, the easiest way to deal with it is simply to die inside, closing our eyes and hearts. We package away the suffering in little boxes, which we’ll return to occasionally, to cry a little, give some money, and so relieve what’s left of our consciences a little bit. If we let our hearts open to all the misery and death around us, we’d be unable to let it go on. We would be compelled to stand against the forces of death that surround us.

But what use is it? Who can fight against the empire of death and win? Especially when death reigns even in our own hearts?

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUIA! 

You cannot kill a Christian! We cannot die! God is on our side! God has justified the crucified! Nothing can ever overcome the children of God. Nothing can stop the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, we must live in a new manner. The dying things of the world no longer matter. Nothing matters, except the true life we have been given, the life of absolute love, the life of the children of God, the life of heaven. 

Jesus is vindicated, and His way is proven right. And so we can accept Him, His love, His truth, in all His weakness. His death is only half the story. 

And so we can and must walk in His ways, taking up our crosses, the pains and injustices around us, and entering them, transforming them, with a fearless love. Nothing, not even death, can stop the children of God, and that is what we are. 

This is the freedom we must live out in the face of all the death surrounding us on every side. We must live in the victory already won. 
God bless you! Christ is risen!