Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Regarding Personhood

I was writing a post regarding this subject matter, but my mind wandered into another dimension. Gomen. Here is the thing I am refuting: the pro-choice viewpoints on personhood. You see, the whole argument stands on the moral permissibility of an abortion at a certain stage in the pregnancy. The pro-life position, particularly for Catholics such as I, is that a human person is at stake in every stage of pregnancy from conception on and should be given the same natural rights as people who are already outside of their mother's womb. The most basic of these natural rights is the right to life. No one has the right to just take your life, naturally speaking. The death penalty may be applied on certain people, but that is a matter of legal rights moreso than natural rights. In truth, the government and no one else, has the right to take someone's life, though they may deem it necessary to save other people from having their lives taken. Truly, if the death penalty must be applied, it should only be done in extreme circumstances. In any case, all humans have the same natural rights based on the simple fact that they are human. For the pro-choice advocate to be right, everything before having a more recognizable human form in the womb must be a non-human and therefore cannot be afforded the same natural rights as everyone else. This would mean one cannot conflate abortion (at that point, at least) as a murder. Murder, after all, is the taking of a person's life. That is why it is wrong. They harmed another person, something that we should not do. If abortion is not that, then it is not a murder. I believe differently for both logical, scientific and religious reasons. For the sake of brevity, I will focus on the logical and scientific aspect: it is illogical, and rather silly, to insist that a baby is only a baby when it is accepted or has reached a certain state of maturity. It simply does not make sense, if you're truly being sensible and open-minded. Since all pro-choice people cannot agree on when the growing "little one" (read: fetus) reaches the plateau of personhood, I will focus on the following: 1.Physical maturity is the measure of personhood. There is a certain stage of physical development where a being will possess all, or at least most, of the qualities that we can recognize in living human persons. To respond to this notion, I would first like to note that such standards of personhood appear to be very arbitrary. It is just as arbitrary to insist that people in "primitive" societies are not persons because they lack certain trappings of our "civilized" society. They are savages or mongrels, certainly not people deserving of our love and respect. Three common standards of (arbitrary) personhood are as follows: 1. Brain activity 2. rational activity 3. personal activity (meaning the ability to engage in the human world with the 2 previous activities and to be alive in general) For #1, the response is obviously: what sort of brain activity is necessary for personhood, and why is brain activity even necessary for personhood? Some people will bring in argument number 2 at this point, but others will say that certain points like the ability to feel pain, or something of the sort. It should go without saying, but there are many different creatures who possess brains and therefore possess brain activity. Can we call them persons as well? What would that say to our eating them? Clearly, no one is clamoring to say that other animals are persons. That just doesn't make sense. They may then say, I mean human persons need a certain amount of activity to be considered human. This again does not address why brain activity is important to being human and leaves the door open to a wide variety of questions: does the brain activity need to be willful--and so on. Upon dropping general brain activity, a person may fall back on rational brain activity, the ability to choose, plan and other activities. Here the fetus would cease being a human person, because their brain activity is not yet equipped to do so. It is not until outside of the womb that they become persons with rational (though limited) abilities. This is, once again, a curious line to draw. While it is true that humans possess reason, what with being the "rational animal" and all, they will possess it at different capacities during their lives. Some people may, in fact, no get very far in their rational growth, or rationality may deterioate due to dementia. Most people would agree that an infant is not fully able to rationalize anything, in fact we know that the brain goes through developmental stages where such things become more and more possible. A 3rd year old's reasoning is no where near that of a 10 year old's, much less an adult. Did that child become MORE human as their grew? Is there a distinction to be made in regard to having the possibility of reasoning and the actual ability to do so? If there is, then it would seem to follow that we become more human as we grow and lose our humanity as we get sick, old or die. Clearly, a patient suffering from Alzheimer's is losing their grip on their humanity, not just their mind, if you take that distinction to it's logical conclusion. Furthermore, what does this say about people with different intelligences? Am I superior in my humanity because I can reason well and a friend of mine cannot? I would say that that idea is ludicrous, and many pro-choicer's would agree, but it does not follow from their argument. Now, they could try and back track, eliminating a distinction between possibility and actuality. This actually would serve as a way for them to corner themselves, because the growing child is filled with possibilities that are actually probabilities. If the child is carried to term and successfully delivered, then the child will engage in rationality more and more. This would mean that they were human from the start, with the same possibilities. The final argument combines the other two and runs into the same issues. The line eliminates many people whom we might consider human beings, the comatose or person with down syndrome. They cannot participate in the larger society very much due to their condition. They are in possession of a human body, but not in possession of humanity through some logic loop. At least, that would be true if the idea is carried to its conclusion. If you are a human only when you can do certain things that other humans can do, then we each have varying humanity. It's hard to argue for equality under the law if this is true. Why should people who are less human than others get the rights of those who are more human? If a person loses their humanity, they lose the rights that came with their previous station. Having shown the absurdity of those arguments, I would like to provide an alternative. Here are my basic points: 1. we have scientific verification that, upon conception, there is a new, growing and living "thing" within the woman who gets pregnant. 2. There is no way that these newly formed cells are going to change into the cells of a dolphin and produce a freak dolphin/human baby. 3. Even at its earliest stage, the developing creature is a human creature. 4. All humans are persons by virtue of their humanity. My first point is simple: once the sperm fertilizes the egg, a new genetic structure is formed, a combination of the parents DNA. The new creature is neither its mother nor its father, but a result of "two becoming one" and is therefore an individual. If everything goes like it should, the fertilized egg latches onto the uterine wall and continues the process it had already begun. As the cells continue to divide, they end up becoming a fetus and then later a newborn infant. This is not a process that we can consciously stop without committing a heinous evil. Does the creature LOOK human? No. But, since when does disfigurement (for whatever reason), lessen someone's humanity? Why then should being in an earlier stage of development matter? Some children will have troubles in their development and develop certain traits that make them appear different from other people, and I would still say they are human, just as we would say about any child with down's syndrome. Some things, unfortunately, went wrong in their initial formation, thereby making it difficult for them to engage in all that their humanity has to offer. That circumstance does nothing to diminish their humanity, their personhood. In the end, people are constantly developing, even while we are old and we therefore are not doing anything that much different from when we are just a fertilized egg. The difference is only in degree. Just as a young child cannot lift 100 pounds, a developing fetus can lift nothing. Neither is less for their lack of their ability, and they both may very well gain that missing ability later through practice. My second point is that the fertilized egg is a human egg and the sperm cell that entered the egg, whilst unfertilized, is a human sperm cell. The DNA that is created at that moment is human DNA. All of that combined tells us that the creature that is developing is of the species homo sapiens. Without direct intervention from an outside source (like the ooze in ninja turtles), the creature will develop more and more fully take on the bodily form of humans we all recognize. There is no change in species: a human fetus is a human fetus, a chimp's is a chimp's. Since being of the species homo sapiens makes you a human, you are a person. simple. The third point is along the same line: it is not going to be a surprise that a human child is born, though we may be surprised by its gender, if we so choose. A human birth is what expected and it would be awkward if a woman went to the doctor and laid an egg. The developing creature can be nothing but what it is: human. The fourth point is an assertion. Basically, it is based in the belief of natural rights--the rights given to all persons. being a human means being a human person and their humanity is never in question. I'm clearly delirious. Here's a final metaphor: what is the difference between that fertilized egg cell and the singularity that started the big bang? Nothing beyond scale. The Big Bang brought forth matter from that singularity and that could not have happened if it was not already there, that is: if it was not already in it's DNA, so to speak. WOOT! *sleeps*

Thursday, March 21, 2013

On Love

I have not written on a blog in ages. This is due to the fact that I am realizing, more and more, that I do not enjoy blogging all that much. It feels quite constraining, even though I make posts that are often long. I would rather write books and take my time than just writing stream of consciousness writing that I will never edit. In any case, I felt the need to write this particular blog because...well, I am not sure really. But, I guess I want to get my thoughts down on this particular subject considering how part of me is still heartbroken over last year. I'm not planning on promoting this, so if you're reading this. Welcome haha. Anyway, I have been leafing through "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis and decided to read the segment called "Proof of a True Lover." It was and is of particular interest to me, because I am naturally inclined towards romantic entanglements and the Church and Scriptures often refer to our reconciliation as preparing for a wedding feast. A wedding, you'll recall, is what our culture considers the summit of our expression of romantic love for another person. In fact, a wedding is actually a completely different sort of event, an event that you are not allowed to remain unchanged by. A fairly wise protestant minister I know once said that a marriage is two funerals and one resurrection. This is what proponents of "traditional" marriage are fighting for and, it is this disconnect in our thinking that makes the conversation as contentious as it is. The wedding is merely the start of the romantic adventure, the prelude to an ongoing battle against the forces of evil, if you will. I'm not really wanting to focus on marriage here, however. I want to comment on this particular part of the passage in question: "Christ: My child, you are not yet a valiant wise lover. Disciple: Why, Lord? Christ: Because with a little adversity you leave off what oyu have begun and eagerly seek outward consolation. valiant lovers of God stand firm in time of temptation and pay no attention to the deceitful suggestions of their enemy, the devil. When all goes well with them, I please them; and so do I please them when things go wrong." This passage really strikes home with me because it is how I have seen romantic love for a long time, and it really does parallel our relationship with Christ. This is why, I believe, marriage is a sacrament in the Church. You truly do learn more about loving Christ, and living for Christ, when you join in matrimony and attempt the same project with an imperfect human person. The fact that Christ is perfect is probably one of the biggest deterrents, because we become aware of our faults in His presence. People do not want to believe that there is anything wrong with them in any sense. We see examples of this in other matters of life, but I want to keep this focused on romantic love and was is called Charity (caritas). With our spouses, or significant others, we encounter the good and bad within ourselves. We encounter the fact that, if this marriage/relationship is going to work, we need to change. We need to start with the "Man in the Mirror," if we want this world to become a better place. A good marriage takes work, and a lot of that work is going to be working on yourself and how you relate to your spouse. That said, I think that that very same deterrent for Christ is part of our issue with marriage, family, and our spouses. No one wants to change or to admit that a trait in their character is flawed. We want to be perfect, an inborn desire that should--hopefully--spur us on toward Christ. So, we lie to ourselves and put everything else on the other person. Well, a lot of us do. Considering my childhood and natural temperament, I tend to assume that it was ALL my fault, even when I know that it makes no logical sense. It is something that I am working on, and I've gotten a lot better on admitting to the flaws of both myself and my significant other. My last relationship ended before we really got to put any time in. She came in suddenly, with overtures. I was shocked to find out the way we could talk about so many things that I could only really hint at before. We both fell swiftly into love with one another. Honestly, she may have pushed harder initially, in the sense that she was often the first to make those deep statements of love at the beginning. That usually was enough to prompt me to admit to my own feelings toward her. We truly seemed marriage material, just like that. However, marriage requires death. A relationship that is going toward that goal, the goal that is a new beginning, needs both people to be willing to sacrifice. In the end, I was willing to do that and she was not. She sensed everything was not perfect, which I would have already admitted to, and detached herself in order to make a break for it. It was too much, too fast, and it was frightening. I cannot blame her really, I've had similar freak outs. It has resulted, often, in missed opportunities that I can never retrieve. Who knows where I would be without that scamper from something real. Anyway, she let her thoughts turn outward and looked for greener pastures. She was already doing this well before she broke it of, but kept up appearances. She seemed pleased with me, though she was admitting to being a bit smothered. I was trying to accommodate her and backing off. You see, I had no realized that I had begun to hold on so tightly. I saw this more clearly when she was gone, but I still firmly believe that those issues were all fixable, if she was willing to work on it with me. I was willing, she was not. When things were not perfect, she reached a point where my particular differences or foolish moments were no longer pleasing to her. She was not pleased with me, when things were bad (though they really were never that bad for us). There were other outside issues she was dealing with and I think that put even more pressure on us. That said, while I believe myself to be a valiant lover in my romantic relationships, I am not yet a valiant lover of Christ. I love Him, sure; but, I tend to do the most foolish things when I feel like He is withholding something or treating me poorly. I do this for many reasons, but the only pertinent one is my humanity. Things are not as they should, and we all know that deep down. We all manifest our sin differently, but it is sin just the same. That is something I need to be much better on, because I know that my help, and my everything, are ultimately found within his Sacred Heart. So, I pray that I am more romantic toward my relationship with the Lord from now on. I've run out of momentum and I think that I got everything down that I was thinking. I was most concerned with the search for greener pastures. I merely hope that we all learn to follow through, one day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Is a Relationship?

It has been a while, but I figure now is a decent time to break my blog silence (though I really just want to get into writing books). I recently got into an argument with my Protestant mother about what it means to have a relationship with Christ, she contended that the "forms of worship" do not mean you have a personal relationship with Christ. What she implied is that my desire to do Catholic devotions is not a sign of a personal relationship, when I contend that it cannot be anything but that. All relationships have rules, you do not act the same with EVERY set of friends. You do not treat your parents like they are your friends (if the relationship is in its proper place). The list goes on. Therefore, I see the "forms of worship" as merely relational rules. These "forms" are how we worship and relate to God. Worship itself is a sort of relational thing. To adore anyone or anything you have to have some sort of attachment to it. You must be oriented to it in some way, that is you must have some sort of relationship with it. I think my mother was using a very narrow definition of relationship that she has not really questioned (which is mostly fine, as my walk is not her walk). A personal relationship with Christ seems to mean, and I might be over simplifying here, that you need to be freestyle praying all the time, not doing things ritualistically,and actively engaging in your relationship with Christ. The problem here is that Christ even gave us guidelines for how we were to pray. This was not to say that we could not make prayers off the top of our head (in fact, most of the used prayers in the Church were originals at some point). Rather it was done to help us see one specific way of relating to God and thus Christ. The Lord's Prayer reminds us to put our wills aside and try to line up with our Lord's. The institution of the Eucharist was the same thing. "Do this in memory of me." Before the Last Supper, Christ said that his followers, those that would be saved, needed to eat his flesh and drink his blood. He also made sure to make sure they were taking this rather literally. When he instituted the Eucharist, he gave Christians a way of further relating to him. We receive His Grace through this an other sacraments. The fact that it is a ritual is neither here nor there. If God is our creator, as we Christians believe, then there is surely a specific way of relating to Him that we must follow. We are not supposed to make up things every day and always change our approach. This does not mean that there are no developments or changes, but these are revealed over time and must be revealed to us by our Creator. If He wants to change our methods, He has to let us know somehow. Let's look at it this way: I am a twenty something. I am now, basically, an adult. This means that my relationship with my parents and other elders has had to change in many ways. However, it would be unwise for me to assume just what I was supposed to do in these situations. Suddenly using first names with people I had called mister and missus would be jarring and probably not appreciated. God is, of course, different in many ways, but that does not mean that He does not tell us how to reach him. For years it was through the Jewish temple system and He honored those pagans who sought him and tried to live uprightly. Their relationship was mysterious in the fashion that they had no idea what they were looking for, while the Hebrews had a God who revealed himself to them over time. After Christ, the Father revealed himself to the Gentiles. Through Christ, the Father helped, Jews and Gentiles alike, learn a new way of associating with Him. The relationship itself and its external aspects changed at His behest. So, it appears that ritual is one important way we associate with God. Protestants still do this. As is general worship when we are alone, or when we show someone true love. Protestants do this as well. Just because I have ritual does not mean I have no personal relationship with Christ, it just means that my relationship is different than a Protestants. Still, we ALL have rituals, so that that thought is silly. Having form prayers is helpful when you are under duress or when you are tired. It gives you something to say when you may not have the words. There is a place for freestyle prayers, but using form prayers is not the worst thing in the world. It may seem like it is not heartfelt, but that is not necessarily true. Ritual and form can become stagnant, we are not creatures that persevere very well in such manners. However, it does not follow that the rituals and forms themselves are what is the problem. We are amphibians, as C.S. Lewis once said. Therefore we are affected by our moods, bodily states, and other factors. We inhabit time. Things becoming stagnant does not even mean that you have lost your relationship with Christ, lukewarm though you may be. Your relationship can be damaged or in jeopardy, but that does not mean you do not have one. Finally, having rituals does not make a relationship impersonal. We can have secret handshakes and whatnot with our friends without making the relationship less personal, why would ritual necessarily do that with our relationship with Christ? Anyway, I am le tired. Later. Z

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Unwrapping Part I

Unless you already know me, you likely do not know that I've had a fairly rough upbringing. It is hard to tell sometimes because I have a strongly phlegmatic temperament. For those not in the know, this means that my actual reactions are very slow and reserved. Not in a shy sort of way, but I just process things more internally than it seems (I am an ENFP, though my extroversion is not way higher than my introversion. Thus, the deeper thoughts are rarely revealed while the less serious thoughts are revealed almost immediately in an extroverted fashion). Here's a prime example: I'm likely to say some sort of dry humored quip in response to someone making fun of me, without truly expressing whether or not I was hurt about it. I've even gone as far as feigning hurt to repel the hurt. I likely felt and reacted quickly, internally, but I certainly did not express what went on inside of me. So, here's the deal: I was abused verbally, emotionally, and sometimes physically by my father. However, I did not really fully acknowledge that I had pain from it until many years later. I tend to just pick up and keep going, ignoring the internal issues. I never revealed my less than ideal family structure to anyone for the majority of my life. I went through a lot of changes at the end of my junior year in high school, that made me want to open up. Unfortunately, that lead to a lot of over-sharing on my part. Particularly, when I was in a romantic relationship. I just spewed all the negative, questionable, and bad things about myself (mixed in with good stuff) all at once, at the beginning of the relationship. This is a habit I only really started acknowledging the problem. I never realized I was doing it and did not think it was wrong. After all, the relationship is something where two people are to know each other fully. Marriage is two becoming one. I have approached romantic relationships in a wholly irresponsible way. However, I am learning, and I believe that my time alone will help me get a better grip on these things. I recently broke up with my girlfriend, she initiated. The first night, I was completely devastated. But, I am starting to see it as a blessing, because we were not in a healthy relationship. Well, at least not a wholly healthy relationship. There was a lot of good there, but the bad parts were particularly cancerous. So, here is the biggest lesson I learned in these past couple of months: people are gifts that need to be unwrapped slowly, quite slowly. This feels completely counterintuitive for those of us still in our youth. Hannah once reminded me that I was still young, and she was right. There are plenty of "old soul" aspects about myself and my tastes, but I still can make careless, youthful mistakes. I, we, made plenty of those in our relationship. I won't go into details on her side of things, but our mutual lack of experience, and my apparently false understanding of my previous experiences lead to things moving way too fast and us never getting the chance to enjoy each other--I mean really enjoy each other. Our love was speedy, we enjoyed the countryside like we were in a ferrari instead of on a tandem bike. We were in jets and unable to even make out the beauty in full way. She is, and always will be, an incredible, unique woman; I am an interesting and unique man. There was a ton of potential, but our rapid sharing and the speed of things kind of made things self destruct. There is, of course, no way of telling if things would have turned out completely different; but, the gift of hindsight, has highlighted a lot of what I did wrong. For every good thing we did, there were a host of bad things we did--mostly unknowingly. I still think there is a ton of potential; but, now that it is over, I think it best for me to stay single until I am stable. If we ever meet again and are both in a place to do things well, that'll be great and I'm open to it. But, that cannot be my goal for working on myself. I want to just be healthy in general. I'm, thankfully, in therapy and figuring out a lot about myself. There are plenty of unconscious behaviors I have due to my upbringing. I don't realize they are there, but I think I figured out one of the biggest ones. I figured out why I rush. You see, I often thought I could not do anything right. This effected me,. as I grew older, in a number of ways: stopped taking my schooling seriously, never fully tried, lost my drive, and rushing relationships. Additionally, the duration of most of my relationships was a month or less; so, the tendency to rush was exacerbated. I wasn't even aware of that until now. Thank God for clarity. I thought I could not do anything right because things I did were never considered good when it came to my father's evaluations. It was never just good. I could have handled it better, I think, if the approach had been: "This is really good. But, let's see how we can make it even better," or something in that vein. I may have taken it just as badly, as I am fairly sensitive to criticism, but I think opening with that first statement helps a great deal. Eventually this seeped into how I do things. Additionally, my early life was colored by the fact that my father was in and out of my life--and the fact that most of our interactions felt frightening to me. The former part is the most important here though, he was gone--often. Being a child, I could not completely understand that it was partly work, partly problems with him and Ma, and partly his not wanting to deal with his own problems. I can see these things now, but that is beyond the reach of a child. I am not yet sure how I processed it, but I know I had to be conflicted with how I both loved and was legitimately afraid of him and his reactions. There had to be relief mixed with guilt of that relief and terror. That conflict became buried in my psyche and would manifest itself in odd ways. In relationships, it eventually meant that I would over-share. I mean this in all relationships. I would give away too much of myself too quickly. In my romantic relationships, this meant revealing things that did not need to immediately be revealed. This, I am starting to see, puts a lot of pressure on the relationship. Doing this meant that the person who normally would reveal themselves slowly, do so as quickly as I have; the seriousness of the relationship is ratcheted at an extremely high level, causing worry; and, forcing the party not ready for the seriousness (read: both parties)to blind themselves to certain issues, placing a huge chink in the armor of the new love. To conclude, this is why I vow not to do that again. First of all, it fits my temperament better and drains me less. Second of all, it would put undue pressure on the success or failure of a relationship. Thirdly, both my significant other and I can have the great chance to unwrap each other shortly. A star takes a long time to become what it is. The materials are all there, but the star does not appear immediately. Relationships are a bit like this, and we can only appreciate starlight because the forces of the universe took their time. It is there that I will stop. I'll go into unwrapping more a bit later. Zaire

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cliches Christians Use Part 1

My girlfriend actually posted an interesting article on her facebook. The link is here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christianpiatt/2012/07/ten-cliches-christians-should-never-use/ It highlights cliches you often here Christians spouting in various situations. I find a lot of it quite true, as someone who dislikes cliche; but, some of it misses the point of the statement. In the comment, there are some other cliches that were mentioned, "love the sinner hate the sin" being one of them. I will pay special attention to dealing with that issue after responding to the original list. First of all, let me highlight the well-made points. The following ARE, in fact, terrible cliches (some of them strictly because I am now Catholic): -Everything happens for a reason -If you died today, where would you spend eternity -He/She is in a better place -Can I share a little bit about my faith with you (when done in extremely early encounters) -Will you come to church with me on Sunday? (similar reasoning) -Have you asked Jesus into your heart? -This could be the end of days -Do you accept Jesus as your personal lord and savior? The others either are really silly or completely miss the point of the statement. However, let us first look at: "Everything happens for a reason." Here the blogger actually partly misses the point. I agree that it isn't a comforting statement and that, truly, a lot of comforting does not require words. However, someone saying to a woman who has been raped is not asserting anything that doesn't make any sense. Of course there is a reason for everything that happens, be it due to cause and effect or simple free-choice. The statement is not comforting simply because it misses the entire point. There is always a reason for something, and most would agree with that; but reminding someone who has suffered trauma of any kind that there was a reason it happened is not the way to comfort them. I understand, and hope the blogger I'm responding to understands, that the person who says this is trying to infer some divine plan in the whole thing. However, that is not something they can directly note or define. They should never presume to say it. It takes a bit of gall, though they may not notice it, to claim insight into the divine plan behind something that has befallen a friend or neighbor. The simple truth of the matter is: the world is full of people and people can be quite wicked. They will have reasons (unless severely brain-damaged) for doing whatever wrong they do, but that neither makes them sensible or obviously connected to the divine plan. Additionally, that phraseology commits people to a completely predestined view of the world. A sensible person can accept that some stuff as being inevitable. They could have been born with a defect or had a horrible accident that literally changed their minds into something unrecognizable. Those kind of things, you generally have no control over. You also cannot control your genetics, though you certainly can control how you approach life once getting knowledge of these genetic possibilities. However, a lot of stuff is inevitable simply because of the choices you make. It was not inevitable that I would fall in love with my Alma Mater, Baylor University, upon my first visit to campus; but, it certainly was inevitable that I would attend there after having made my choice to go to there while on that campus visit (note that there are some things that could have happened inbetween that perhaps changed that; but, all things being equal, it was inevitable). Perhaps a better example would be found in drunken driving. People know it is dangerous and are warned constantly about those dangers, and yet find themselves doing it anyway. It is unavoidable that the possibility of an accident increases with your impairment. It isn't a fact you can change. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, including the ones saying: making that lane change is a poor decision or slow down, fool. You are more likely to be risky while drunk that much has always been sure. Thus, the dangers of being drunk. These are simple matters of fact (again, there are variables that may help or hinder your chances; that's why I used the increase in probability of an accident as a example. We have studies that demonstrate this). However, the belief that everything is inevitable ignores the fact that we clearly have free-will. If you do not believe me, become a teacher. The students are not automatons that just respond to outside stimuli, they are living beings who make choices just like you and I. Sometimes, that choice is to be disrepectful and to bring my righteous indignation and doom down upon their heads. I can, of course, choose not to do that; after all, I have control over how I chose to behave or react later. Gut reactions defy this, but you CAN reign yourself in. If people actually indulged every gut reaction, I am sure that there would be even more violence than there is already. So, what does this mean for my main point? We do not know the future and cannot know that there was a plan behind this sin, whatever it may be. It is far more sensible to admit that inability than use this cliche phrase and note that God can turn terrible things into something good. Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and make even the worst pain into something glorious (C.S. Lewis). Pretending otherwise is little to no help at all. Instead, LOVE that person and provide yourself as the "hands and feet" of Christ. Next, how do we view "do you know where you're spending eternity" or any variant of that question? This runs into a similar problem to the previous cliche, namely: the fact that we cannot, for sure, know the future. At best, we can make an educated guess. This is the Catholic view of it; it isn't set in stone, but you can reasonably guess where you'll end up if you have been keeping track of your relationship with God. DO you have unconfessed sins? Have you been obstinate and refuse to give up a particular sin? You're likely not in good shape. If you are making actual efforts to improve, you're probably okay, as that demonstrates faith in a far truer since. This isn't the assurance that Protestant churches claim they have, but it is more sensible. There are still many choices to be made in life and it makes little sense to believe one choice made long ago, for whatever reason, has completely sealed you off from becoming doomed. If you make choices that constant pit you against what that choosing of Christ requires of you, unrepentantly, then you probably are not in good shape. Here I could go into mortal vs. venial sin, but that would be too much. Additionally, as the article I'm responding to say, this reeks of using God as a get out of jail free card. That can work at a conversion right before the end of one's life, but most of us have plenty of living to do. The assumption of being completely saved and needing nothing else is actually going to do more harm than good in the long run. What is there to strive for when one is not endangered? That fact that life is full of various dangers is partly why people have achieved anything (actually I would venture to say this is the main reason). Realizing that you are on a journey and having a ending place for this journey will make you more watchful. Things can go wrong on an adventure and it is not good for you to help those things along. You have to find the problems and fix them. That "get out of jail free" mentality was a large part of my conversion process. That mentality eliminates true conversion. So, in summary: We cannot really know where we will end up in eternity, but can make decent guesses; also, that knowledge can be very detrimental to your spiritual walk as it eliminates the necessity of the whole "walking" part. "He/she is in a better place" has exactly the same problem, except the educated guess come from observation etc. Remember, there HAVE been full saints before. Not every man was heading towards purgatory or needed a quick scrubdown before entering those holy gates. We don't know the resting place of any soul for sure (excepting, perhaps, those who are saints) and are failing to help by saying this to someone. The two questions that pertain to getting someone to church/mass or sharing one's faith have the exact same problem, when approached in a particular way. These statements are the equivalent of an emotional dump on a person you just started dating. A habit of my own I have been slowly breaking with Hannah. The difference is mainly that the later tends to be more negative and the former tends to be a good-hearted attempt to help...someone you hardly know. You simply cannot assume that you know what a person needs when you've only just met them. These questions are best after having formed some sort of relationship. Get to know them, love them. This is the way to help. They'll note your loving care and the fact that you actually are attempting to get to know them. These "tactics"can lead to a more open heart for those two questions to actually have some effect on. Love your neighbor. Have you asked Jesus into your heart? This phrase also has the distinct smell of the whole "get out of jail free mentality" as it is often followed with the statement: once you do, you shall be saved. Again, and this may just be me being catholic (which I hope it is), I think that this is a poor understanding of the Christian life and leads to more paralysis than striving. While there are people of this ilk who do strive for heaven, it is more of an accident, since their philosophy/theology does not truly allow for it. Remember: it makes no sense to strive for something you've already achieved. Any improvement after that is likely going to be for pride's sake, which cannot be too safe. "This could be the end of days" signifies a misunderstanding of the book of Revelation. Knowing the history and context of the book works wonders. That said, we run into the whole cannot predict the future thing with the harsh statement of "no man will know the day or hour" of Christ's return. His return represents the end of this Creation and the process of remaking all that was good, but it isn't nothing we can predict. Early Christians learned the hard way, they sometimes adopted rather unhealthy practices because they thought Christ's return was soon to come. Best thing to do here is not try to predict when He is coming back, or you'll look like that random guy who predicted everything would end next year. Also, you'd likely be a Jehovah's Witness... The final phrase is "have you accepted Jesus as your lord and savior." Here I mostly agree with the authors assertions, but think he misses part of the point. There is actually no equivalent to a lord in our western world, so his thinking about the word lord being archaic and easily misunderstood makes little sense. Also, there are dictionaries. Secondly,people tried to elevate Jesus to the role of "King" in contrast with the dominion of Rome and thus a revolutionary. They did not try to make him a lord. Additionally, historically speaking: a king is technically above a lord (uses promises to get the lords to do things). In any case, he rejected the sort of revolution that the Jews assumed was to come when the Messiah came. Is not most of the Gospels spent showing how people misunderstood things--including the disciples? Also, Christ refers to himself as lord quite a few times. The time I can remember at the moment is: not everyone who cries out to me 'lord, lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven. He accepted tributes and acts of worship. He accepted people having faith in Him. He did this for one of two reasons: 1. He truly was or believed he was the Son of God/God or 2. He was a madman who was not a servant of God but himself. Finally, I find it interesting that we gloss over the more violent words and imagery that Christ used, such as: being a sword that separates or being the cause of hatred between even family members. Pigeonholing Christ into a convenient box does damage to those who cannot understand and fails to realize that Christ's message was complex. He took many moments to explain to just his disciples what he meant. He knew he would be crucified and go back to heaven, so he took the time to try and explain something that is not wholly simple. Christianity is not a connect-the-dots but rather a harrowing adventure tale where anything can still happen and things can get foggy and complex. Trying to wholly simplify the Faith into maxims and the like doesn't do its justice. How odd is it that God allowed himself to feel as we often feel? How crazy is it that Christ apparently resurrected from the dead? Let's remember the complexity and see the beauty of it all. In my next post regarding the blog I mentioned earlier, I will address the quotes I wholly disagreed with. -Zaire

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pushy Veganism and the Like

I have a beef, you guys. 

I am consistently irritated by philosophies that go to far into one direction and stop making sense. One such example of this are pushy vegans/vegetarians. There is even a group on facebook that wants to extend the idea of murder into ALL killing of animals (so it appears on the page). This is a notion that simply makes no sense. 

What specifically is murderous about killing another animal for food? Don't misunderstand me, there are instances where people do actually murder animals, like the bunny seen on fatal attraction, but it does not follow that any killing of an animal is murderous. Why? Because you simply do not extend the same distinction to carnivorous animals. What makes a human so different from a tiger in this regard? Think about it, the prey animal is alive (often enough) for longer stints than animals killed using human implements. Not all kills are clean, but humans are actually better able to do that than most species.

If a tiger or cheetah are aloud to devour herbivores, why can't humans? Don't try and say that it is HOW the kill the animals (though there are things that make sense in that thought) because most deaths are going to be painful in the animal world. Nature is not kind. Seriously, it isn't in the least. 

In nature, animals are killed in many and varied ways, often painfully. In nature, animals kill other animals all the time and we are not trying to turn tigers and polar bears into vegetarians. If you're going by the gore, a seal clubber produces just as much blood as a polar bear (though the animal is far less shredded when beaten to death). It cannot simply be the pain and gore that are the problems.

I'm willing to concede that animals have souls in a far more limited sense than we do. This may sound terrible, but humans are different from other animals in a great many ways. As with most things, it isn't the similarities that matter, it is the differences. Where humans differ from other animals is far more important than the similarities, in this case pain, soul in some sense of the word, and feelings. 

As far as the animal kingdom go, humans are a strange phenomenon. We make art, we use thought when making out buildings, we develop better tools etc. We are the crazy ones. The is something that is above or, in the least, not normal in the existence of human life. 

Turtles are not likely having existential crises or fighting someone because someone talked about its mother. Tigers are not either. Animals, while filled with life and soul, are of different stuff than us. Yes, they have emotions and can feel a lot of the same things, but it isn't exactly the same in every way. Animals are far more tied to their instincts than we are. We can choose our own course, but it isn't like there are Ape colleges or dolphins capturing humans for an underwater LandWorld. Let's just face it, humans are different.

That said, humans are omnivores (though they do not have to be). Humans, moreso than any animal, can adapt to the food that is available to them. A tiger cannot likely become a vegetarian and nourish itself properly. Its stomach is built to handle raw meat, not vegetables. Killer whales are not often in waters that even have a lot of vegetation and similarly built in such a way that meat is the way for them. A human's digestive system can handle so much more. Much like bears, humans can eat most anything and they do. Since humans are like this, it makes sense for various peoples to prefer different foods for various reasons (religious etc.), but it does not make sense to think that eating meat is necessarily wrong. If other animals can eat meat, why are we so different? If other animals cause pain, why are we so different?

Bear in mind that I, in no way, condone mistreatment of animals; I just think that the line for mistreatment is in a completely different place than pushy vegans/vegetarians say it is. Is it wrong to train dogs to fight and drown them if they don't perform? Surely. Is it wrong to club a seal just to club a seal? Yes. Is it wrong to (as a I saw on a comic on that group site) boil your cat to make sure that your water isn't scalding hot for you? Of course. But, one cannot just use a broad brush and paint any situation where an animal is hurt or loses its life as a case for murder or moral wrongness. Not all cases where such things occur are as these people believe. 

Here is another point: if you are equating humans and other animals in terms of morality, then the times when you allow other animals to do something "murderous" should be allowable to humans, no matter what the method is, teeth, fangs, or musket. If a wildebeest can end the life of a lion to protect its young, so can we. If a lion can end the life of a gazelle for nourishment, so can we. That is all in simply thinking that humans and animals are equal. The pushy vegans/vegetarians are trying to equate us with pure animals and hold us to a standard that is clearly not natural.

Let's look at nature again: dolphin males regularly rape and badger females for sexual pleasure. They will go as far as killing a calf to make the mother receptive. Would this be acceptable for a human? no way, no how. Dolphins also regularly kill sharks for fun and don't even make an attempt to use the carcass for anything. If it weren't for animals that can survive off of such a thing, the thing would wither away. That's a waste of a good shark. 

What I am trying to say is that, they need to make up their minds. If we are the SAME as other animals, their arguments fail for sure. If we are different, then they need to find a way to tell us why an animal life should get the same consideration a human life does. Why should I not eat that delicious baby gazelle; nature certainly does not prohibit it because prohibitions are a human invention.

I am done for tonight, and I hope this makes sense. Again, there are times when were ARE mistreating animals, but we cannot say it is mistreatment because they are the same as us, the similarities are nice, but we are still QUITE different. In the areas where we are similar, it is perfectly acceptable to take the life of another animal. I'm not talking about hunting for sport and not using the animal in any way, I'm talking about milking a cow or killing it to eat it. These things are not wrong (there are ants that raise aphids like farm animals for slaughter) in nature and do not appear to be wrong when looking from outside of nature. Their rhetoric and arguments need to change. Goodnight.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Punished With A Baby

I just saw a delightful piece of Pro-Life propaganda. I'm pro-life, but it was still propaganda. Stop acting like it is a dirty word!

Anyway, the sentiment was that President Obama would rather his grandchildren aborted than his daughters become responsible mothers. This was drawn from a statement when he said "I would never punish my daughters with a baby," a couple years back. The conclusion drawn is the most extreme one, and probably not what President Obama meant while pandering to another political lobby. But, still, the line of thought is inherent to saying one's daughter's having a baby is a punishment for poor decision making (you should have had a condom!!!).

I say that he probably didn't mean such things because he seems to be a kind-hearted man, a rather weak one in my opinion. After all, he is a politician. Before someone goes crazy, I do not think that ALL politicians are weak, but rather that they are prone to certain weaknesses that come with the territory of having to have people like you to stay in office to do anything at all. Keep in mind, that none of this would be this way without Andrew Jackson and the like. Jefferson believed in the people, but was still an elitist and felt that people who were trained to do so should run the government. That's the whole purpose of the electoral college etc. Additionally, the president was not the most powerful position initially. Again, that is something that happened due to Jackson's presidency. But, I am not here for a history lesson.

The point is, with the popular vote actually being important these days, politicians have to walk a fine line. In general, most will not go out right and say certain things unless it is too their advantage. Politicians tend not to be built for any real conviction or, if they once were, shed that ability for the sake of office.

In this regard, I can say that Obama was being rather brave. The topic of abortion is a hot button issue, and going out right for abortion as a President, is a rather big deal. He's still wrong, but even the Russians love their children, right?

In any case, like most politicians, I am willing to wager that he has maybe had one introductory philosophy class (okay, so this entire section of this blog was kind of ad hominem. Forgive me, but I cannot trust politicians and I am hoping that will become more evident later. This can also be considering poisoning the well...but, anyway). As a novice philosopher, he surely does not easily come to the logical conclusions of what he says. Richard Dawkins is a brilliant bioligist, but a failure as a philosopher because he does something similar.

Essentially, what we are dealing with is a form of sophistry, that has only become necessary because of how our government works. In a monarchy, there isn't much public opinion can do unless it spawns a revolution. In our government, it can be near about everything. A president cannot continue for another four years if the public opinion has generally swayed away from his favor (though, there are exceptions). So, President Obama is participating in sophistry and poor philosophy.

Here is what he is missing, his statement does imply that he would rather his daughters have an abortion than carry the child to term. His assertion additionally implies that pregnancy is a punishment for poor planning. Actually, it goes beyond simply implications and veers directly into outright saying that it IS a punishment.

Now, I could say, 'how can he say that, pregnancy is so natural,' but that would not be the best argument to make. After all, a lot of things are natural but really dangerous and detrimental to human life and aspirations. For example, there are natural things like cancer, HIV, or the flu (which isn't really a thing apparently...). These are things that do harm to human life, but occur in the natural world without human assistance. They just happen.

On another point of view, sexuality is natural, but what sort of sexuality is good is often up for debate. How are we to tell what natural things are GOOD things? Well, by using our noggins and doing the noodle dance, of course.

In older societies, let us not forget that they were societies, this was discovered by using what we term as natural law. Essentially, it is looking at the world as it is and looking for the ends, or teleology, that natural things appear to be oriented toward.

For sex, people thought, 'what is the teleology of sex?' In the end, an overwhelming majority decided that sex was for procreation and some felt for unity as well. So, what is a good sexual act? It would appear to be one that has, at least, the possibility of producing children, which societies cannot continue without. You have to replace all the old people, you know! Silly old people.

So, let's look at it that way. Pregnancy, what is the purpose of it? What is its teleology? Obviously, pregnancy works within sexuality to produce the next generation. Its purpose is to bring new life into the world to replace the old (in the simplest terms). Without pregnancy, mankind was not going to survive. This clearly means that pregnancy must be a good thing! Why else would there be fertility banquets and deities?

However, despite most of the world agreeing with this thought, there have ALWAYS (abortion isn't new people) been those who find particular pregnancies to be highly inconvenient or unfortunate for various reasons.

Can a pregnancy be inconvenient? Certainly. Can it be unfortunate? If it is doing what it should do and producing life? Not in my opinion. Not in any understanding of its teleology can it be unfortunate, unless it turns out that life isn't good and we need to avoid having children.

Parts of our society (and parts of others) are of the belief that unfortunate, as well as inconvenient, pregnancies can occur. To alleviate what they see as a problem, they feel abortions should be allowed. After a while, our government agreed and we got Roe v. Wade. This is kind of the result of the feminist movement which, in part, advocated for women to gain more control over the whole birth thing.

While I find portions of the feminist movement spot on and good (such as the fact that women CAN do a lot of things like men can and should get paid the same to do the same work), but this is where things get a bit dodgy. For one, what does it mean to have control over one's reproductivity? Does it necessarily lend itself to the ability to terminate unwanted pregnancies or children? Does it necessarily mean that women should take a pill that effectively eliminates (sort of) their ability to have children until they desire? Does it have to mean that children are a burden and should be prepared for as one prepares to do something burdensome? You know, with a big sigh and the pulling up of one's britches as you dig into the life of parenting.

I think it is in the control of reproductivity where we have gotten confused and off-track. This is also tied in the unfortunate tendency of certain feminists trying to advance women by making them into men. Let me explain:

When I say that some feminists try and make women into men, I mean that they try to eliminate ALL distinctions between the two sexes. Is it really so bad that men and women ARE, in general, built differently? Their development is divergent, it makes perfect sense to insist that men and women are different creatures that lend themselves more towards certain things than others.

Men hunted because they were built for it, and women cooked because SOMEONE had to. It was not necessarily oppression. Just because some men have used it as such does not mean that's how it started or how it ever should have been. Women did "women's work" because the men had work of their own to attend to. Men passed down their "man skills" to their sons and women passed their "lady skills" to their daughters. This was not done with the intent of placing a glass ceiling over the life of their progeny, but to keep people going and to help them know how to do so.

Nowadays, it is quite true that this distinction is far less necessary. But, is that a completely good thing? The old shape of society tied men to work in such a way that, their not working eliminated their worth as a person. Even a woman who works will consider her husband (though not always) a deadbeat if he is not working as well. For whatever reason, whomever works outside of the home forgets that the home is its own work and is just as honorable. For years, it was just ungrateful men who took their wives and their wifely duties for granted. But not, it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to consider her husband a deadbeat for not having a job. I could be wrong about this, but I get the feeling that, even if they are working and make enough for the whole household, a woman desires for her husband to be working, too. There is something odd about a man sitting at home and being with the kids all day. Is it a bad thing? No, but it is still treated as such because people cannot seem to get past this idea of being in the home as being the same as being in a prison.

Let's be real, when has a woman throughout the whole history of mankind been chained to the kitchen? When you go to someone's house, where the traditional mold is in place, does the house more reflect the woman, or the man? If you mess up the house, who is more likely to beat you? The entire home was the feminine domain and it was an incredibly important job. The entire early childhood of every child depended on the women folk (and let's keep in mind that families were less fragmented). The village raised the children, but a lot of preliminary and extra work was done by the mothers, grandmothers, and elder sisters of said children. Did this mean that mean could not do such things? No. But, it also does not mean that the person at home is doing nothing, no matter who it is. Both parties, truly, are at work. Just because it is not work as we seem to recognize it today, does not mean that it isn't work and certainly does not mean that it is worthless. Let's get that out of our heads, now.  It is ruining families.

That said, there are things to be said for the traditional model, like it was done with some thought to natural law. In general, women are more attuned to the whole child-raising thing. There are hormones and various other things that are not conscious to the woman, that lead them down the road of desiring motherhood. Fatherhood, has always kind of been less like that. There are genetics involved that make men kind of want to do it with every pretty lady, but we can say that men become more into fatherhood (if things are going well) once the child is conceived. Think about every cute pregnancy movie you have seen where the father is a daft, affable fool who just wants to help his wife.

Why would we take pictures of us next to our significant other's bulging belly? That isn't terribly sexy by today's standards. Then again, today EVERYTHING has to be sexy, but that's for another post.

Is it sexist to say that one sex/gender tends to be more attuned to certain things than another? No, it is simple observation. Is it bad to recognize that some children are naturally better at somethings than others? Is it bad to note that some people can do almost everything well, while others cannot? No, it just makes them different, and all of it is beautiful. Please, let's revel in the differences between men and women.

That said, it is OBVIOUS that each sex/gender is going to have exceptions. Should the exceptions be attacked? No. Since our society is supposed to be freer, people should be able to make such choices. If someone wants to be a mother sooner rather than later (when it is healthier to do) is she necessarily throwing her whole life away? Even if they never got to do everything they dreamed of doing as a child, is having provided someone with a life and helping them grow a waste? Where are our priorities?  Is not a quality life better than one filled with crap that probably won't make you happy? Have we not learned from movies like CLICK!?

Alright, so I digress and got a bit silly. My point still remains. If men and women were supposed to be exactly the same, it seems like both should be able to get pregnant, instead of just one. Seahorses (horsi?...i wish) live like this. There are plenty of asexual species with little individuality (just as there are many species who sex that have little individuality).

As it is, men and women are different. Let's celebrate that.

Now, I went through all of that to get here. Woman are the ones who can get pregnant. Women are the ones who have a certain level of oneness with the child before it can enter the world as a visible child. She shares her meals, anguish, and womb. The child is literally two in one, but only the mother gets certain privileges.

This makes me think of a Bill Cosby joke. He talks about raising his boy and the boy gets really good at football. The father, of course, taught the boy all that. But, when the big moment comes and the son is under the spotlight, all he says is 'hi, mom.' The father is important, in a different way, but kids tend to be more attached to the one whose breasts they suckled and who, more often than not, held them.

In all previous ages, the mother was the one who was there more often. Now, it can be the opposite, and should the man be penalized for that? I think not, that is TRUE SEXISM.

That still isn't what I want to say though. Brace yourselves, it is going to get worse...

Let me get back to what I started with, the idea that pregnancy can be a punishment. How can life be a punishment? Your body producing another human is terrible and ugly? How far we have fallen.

Pregnancy is natural and produces the greatest good most humans can think of: simply being alive. We need to change our thinking on this. Treating children as oppressions is not going to end well for anyone.

Do we really want women to have control of their reproduction? Yes and no. We need to stop acting as though reproduction is a one person thing. That's what we have done by separating sex from its natural consequence (in the sense that it means a result). It is simply about pleasure in our culture, the baby is an accident more often than not (at least that how it seems to be treated). We have forgotten that the pleasure part is probably (even on a natural, evolutionary view) there so we WILL procreate. The pleasure is not the most important part, as wonderful as it is.

We need to bring the man and the woman together to truly control reproduction. The Church has a method, it is called Chastity. Chastity is not just abstaining from sex. It is an entire system that engages all people. Nothing is truly private. How you do things in private are going to reflect how you do them in person. This is a simply truth.

If you are participating in infidelity, the family you leave behind, the woman you do it with, and even your social circle are affected. Particularly, when you get found out. When it is exposed, you see the effect of your once private actions. Things come out into the light eventually, why spend time hiding things in the dark? Your actions are going to make you treat your friends, children, and wife differently. Don't bring up excuses for your actions. There's always a reason for an action. Let's take some responsibility.

Chastity is found in fidelity, discipline, and love in its truest sense. The desire for the betterment of the beloved. You give up something you want for the sake of something even better.

In the world of chastity, a child is a gift, a reward. It is as the child should be. Behavior and the like are not what the child ARE, the little human animal does not yet know the way to be and must be shown the way. The child is a story that is just beginning. Nothing is yet set in stone. The child represents possibilities and those can be good things! Why are we so cynical? Why is a bit of trouble so terrible for us?

Forgive me, I am passionate about life and its goodness. I am someone who has suffered greatly in my own way, but can you not look at the sky and be lifted just a bit? Lift up your eyes, humans can be so much more! Why should we allow what is imprinted on our DNA dictate everything about us? Where is our choice? Liberals, who are often pro-Choice, tend to contradict themselves when they assert that people are born a certain way. There is no choice in that universe, how can you say you support choice? People aren't even allowed to choose not to engage in all of their desires without being accused of not being true to themselves.

Who are we to say who someone is, we silly, half-hearted creatures? We can only say who they are to us, and nothing more. Who they are is going to be up to them. We can only say who someone was in retrospect. You have to take the whole body of work. You can't stop at that one, awkward, experimental album. You can't stop with that loss in the NBA Finals. Fall down seven times, stand up eight. That is what makes us human, we are not stuck being what we were born as. A dog will always be a dog; a man who behaves as one, need not be.

So, I say we learn to use our choices properly. Law in no way inhibits one's choice. Otherwise, there would be no murders, thievery, or deception under oath. Making abortion safe and easy is not helping the women who get them (as a sidenote: most abortions are not done because the mother is in danger physically). It is crippling them. Making them unable to make choices. It gives them some license to be less careful because it views something they should be able to cherish is a problem to be solved. Pregnancy should be a joy, whatever the inconvenience. New life should be loved at all costs!

Teach our children how to use their bodies properly, teach them that they hold the power to give life and they should be careful. Be disciplined, learn charity. Know that it is beautiful, silly, powerful, and dangerous. Know that we have to make tough choices to refrain from certain actions for the sake of wisdom.

Alright, I am off my soapbox. The point is, the Church is right about what would solve the whole problem. It is the Church that is for choice and affirms that we are free. We are not a system or stuck in a system. We have choices to make.