Friday, August 15, 2014

Rambling Thoughts on an Atheistic Naïveté

One of the several podcasts I enjoy listening to is the excellent and thought provoking “Mission Log.” Devoted to exploring the “teachings” of Star Trek in broadcast order, they recently made it as far as “The Next Generation.” A thoroughly Secular Humanist slant pervades the podcast (as it does much of Trek) and I constantly find myself frustrated with the way they try to achieve a Christian Ethical Ideal in the absence of the basis of those ethics. (That basis being outside, divine assistance and Grace.) That is the nature of SH.

In a recent episode, they made a typical claim that exposes what is (to me) a naïveté of humanistic atheism. Referencing a moment in Star Trek where life is respected and defended, they said, “I would like to think that everyone on Earth right now would make the same choice…” And this as multiple wars rage while they record their show!

The ultimate naïveté of Secular Humanism is not simply the failure to see humanity as broken as it is, but rather the failure of those individuals to see their own capacity for evil. They see humanity as essentially good, and that our/their own ideas of goodness are enough to make us good. What they fail to see is that their best possible scenario (as unachievable as it is) is still a mixture of good and evil. However small the mixture of evil is, it will still gum up the work of their envisioned utopia.

There is a fundamental mistake in our understanding of our knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was really more of a Tree of Experience. With our simply having known Good for a time, it does not follow that we understand a Good and certainly not a Best. We can recognize Good, but can’t hope to replicate it alone. Secular Humanism deludes itself into thinking that it can achieve the Good of the Christian ethic and ideal without Christ. It has the benefit of observing an example, but hopes to replicate it without the very ingredient that makes it possible.

The best examples we have of Good in this world—and even they are flawed—are the examples of the Kingdom of God as seen in the 2,000 years of Christianity. Secular Humanism itself could not have come into existence without that history. And those examples are flawed because they are a mixture of forgiven sinners living (and failing) in Grace and unredeemed people using the Church as simply a human, cultural, and religious institution. Humanism can replicate behaviors, but only at best achieve an approximation to church failures without the element of Grace. The want to toss out human religion (with reason) but ignorantly also toss out the Divine that makes any true Good possible.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pasteurization

(Poetry Scales 17)


The milk has soured, of that there is no doubt.
Forming chunks,
Emitting aromas no one should abide.
Cheesy clumps,
Floating here and there and sticking to the sides.
The milk has soured.

Due to the hour, you drink straight from the jug.
In the dark,
At two AM without turning on a light.
Not so smart,
When you’re half a sleep, but thirsty in the night.
The milk has soured.

As bad as rotten milk is, what follows is worse:
Blowing chunks,
Emitting most of dinner, all of dessert.
Phlegmy clumps,
Belched eruptions of acidic spews and squirts.
It doesn’t happen.

The milk has soured. You can’t even taste it.
Back to bed,
And back to sleep; your perspective having turned.
Curdled dreams,
You think your nightmares are normal, even restful.
The milk has soured.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Ficciones" by Jorge Luis Borges (Part 2)





The second half of Borges’s “Ficciones” was originally a collection of stories called “Artificios” (1944). It collected six stories. Borges added three stories in a later edition bringing the grand total for “Ficciones” up to sixteen. The second half is (for me at least) a little less inspiring and impressive. Here they are briefly summarized:


Funes el memorioso

Borges recounts a fictitious encounter with a man who remembers everything after hitting his head. This curse of a gift causes the man to go a little bit crazy and Borges introduces some of his novel thought concepts such as a numerical system where every cypher has a randomly assigned name (a completely useless system).

La forma de la espalda

The story of how a man got a scar on his face. This story is unremarkable, except that it plays with our expectations based on how stories are narrated. Post-Borges, readers will likely anticipate the outcome of the story, as we are used to unconventional narrative styles.

Tema del traidor y del héroe

A dense investigation into the death of a national hero that turns out to be an elaborate play designed to simultaneously punish a traitor and provide a heroic martyr to the national cause (both of whom are one in the same man).

La muerte y la brújula

A detective story where the investigator is manipulated by the villain, who knows the sleuth has a propensity to look for patterns even where there may not be any.

El milagro secreto

A man sentenced to execution is granted an extra year of life by God to finish his masterpiece. The only problem is that only he is witness to this miracle, living the entire year consciously in a split second of frozen reality. Sounds more like a punishment than a blessing.

Tres versiones de Judas

A scholarly essay describing three fictitious heretical texts that all attempt to give Judas the real credit in the redemptive plan of God. Varying degrees of arguments that fail to understand good in the absence of evil; or “evil is a necessary good” confusion.

El fin

An ambiguous little story that is even more difficult to understand for the majority of us who have not read the Argentine epic poem that it references.

La secta del Fénix

A study about a secret society that differs from the general population in no way other than the practice of a secret ritual. It is a bit of a riddle to which there have been several explanations suggested. It is most likely about sex.

El sur

The story of a man who nearly dies (or perhaps does so) after a random and silly accidental bump on the head. In the story the man suddenly recovers and, upon his release from the hospital, heads to the south where he experiences a much more dramatic (and for him, heroic and meaningful) death.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Oubliette

(Poetry Scales 16)

Playing with its new, Deluxe Castle Play-set,
A child found a door in the floor of the keep.
A miniscule, unmarked, windowless, chamber
Intended to imprison blackguards and thieves.

Needing a victim to justify the find
It locked away the sweet little doll princess.
(Never intending to use her anyway,
Next to dragons and knights she seemed quite senseless.)

The problem was that the little doll princess
Had for a crown, mommy’s favorite diamond ring.
Inside the promptly-forgotten Oubliette,
It did practically—and truly—cease to be.

Practically while the child never remembered
To release her once her sentence had been served.
Truly, because the castle some years later
Went to rest in a landfill quite unobserved.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"The Book Thief" (2013)

When you entertain a story about Germany in the late 1930s, narrated by death, you know going in that you are in for a depressing tale. “The Book Thief” does not disappoint. There is little uplifting or encouraging to be had. And with takeaways like: “I am haunted by humans.” or “I see their ugliness and their beauty and I wonder how the same thing can be both.” You aren’t going to get much in the form of the encouraging or inspirational.

That being said, we need constant reminders of the worst in human nature and in particular the evil that humanity embraced under fascism. “Doomed to repeat” and all that, you know. And this is a beautiful adaptation—and a faithful one—of a beautiful story designed to remind us all of the attitudes and fears that drive us to those evils. So, my recommendation would be to check this film out if you haven’t seen it. Or better yet, read the book then watch the film.

But beware, it is not a pleasantly beautiful story.

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