Sunday, May 29, 2011

Family and the Meaning of Life

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Achilles in Hyde Park (made from melting down Napoleon's cannons at Waterloo)

Why Family is Really, Really Important (Even Compared to Work)

In Homer's Illiad, Achilles is given a prophecy by his mother: go to Troy and die in glory, or live a peaceful life with your family in obscurity. It is the quintessential question for an ambitious man. Do you sacrifice your family for your career? I had always been of the opinion that Achilles, who chose honor over peace, chose rightly. But a few weeks ago, I had an experience that made me reconsider.

I had been home studying for the big mid-med school exam (USMLE Board Step I), and I had been having a wonderful time. I had great conversations with my brother and I shared most dinners with my parents. I was able to help out with some of the work that my dad was engaged with on our new family farm. One morning, I took my Bible and my breakfast outside. I sat on the back porch of my home, and, for no particular reason, I was overwhelmed by a deep peace. I thought, “This is what it’s all about: living life with one’s family.”

Family in the Bible

The Family is a critical part of God’s plan throughout the Old and New Testaments. From Genesis One up through the Epistles of Paul, human marriage and family is perhaps the most important metaphor for understanding God’s relationship with Man. It was not good that Adam was alone; he could worship God, but had no equal, no one by his side. So God created Eve. And from Eve, all the families of the earth were borne. God works through Abram to found his family, and then through Isaac’s and Jacob’s families. Throughout the Old Testament, God is comparing Himself to the husband and Israel to the bride. Jesus uses the family and the metaphor of marriage time and time again. The metaphor is given central importance in Paul’s writings, particularly in Ephesians, and said to be the way we come to understand God's relationship to us.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

I’ve been busy with many noble projects throughout the world ([chest puffed] if I don't say so myself). I thought that these were really what we should keep busy with while on earth. But I realized something: that my medical work and work for the poor should not be done. Not morally, but cosmically. My leaving home is a necessary evil. There is some greater evil, Poverty or Sickness, which calls me from my home, and so I rightly leave home to go fight. The shift in my perspective is in the permanence of fighting. I never appreciated that Sickness was a fleeting thing, that there will be no doctors in the Resurrection. I have been like a man who hears of a threat to his land, who takes his sword and goes off to war to fight for it. My epiphany was that my sword will one day be beaten into a plow because there will never again be a reason for me to leave home. Man’s destiny is domestic. Peace will not pass away. I saw my primary identity as a man going off to fight, not a father reluctantly drawn from his home.

While living at home, I realized that I have grown in various virtues. I’ve notice myself being more friendly, more bold in my relationships, and paradoxically, more ambitious in my community outside the home. Reflecting on the changes, I think that these changes came from my being more secure in my identity: I am the son of my father and mother; my role is to honor them, and to grow as a man in strength and goodness. They love and accept me, and support me in whatever I aspire to do. This was all true before living at home. But living at home has made that a daily reality. I can run on my own for a long while, but visiting home recharged me, giving me greater assurance of who I am and what I ought to be doing.

I am even beginning to think that, on the basis of these last two months at home, the spiritual and emotional benefits of living in a home with a family make a man even more productive than he would be; that is, though he spends fewer hours working outside the home, by his increased virtue, he accomplishes more. This is largely true historically: almost all great men were married.

Living near enough to a father and mother who love me is nice; but what if I established my own home and had that assurance perpetually? And what if I could give that assurance to another person, a wife who I loved like myself? And what if, by her, I could raise up children who would know they were loved as surely as they knew the sun would rise? How much more could we all love God and love our neighbors from so wonderful a sanctuary? I saw in that moment the great importance of establishing a home of my own.

Wonderful Dependence

It’s hard for a strong, proud person like myself to admit that my confidence could be increased by living with a loving family. Shouldn’t I be able to hold my identity in any circumstances, with or without human love? Theoretically, perhaps. But Man was designed to live in a family, and so it should be no surprise to see even myself, an independent, world-travelling, doctor-to-be operating better when living with my family.

With my recent breakup with Wisdom*, I’m still looking for someone. But I now have a new criterion. Previously, I was seeking a woman for companionship; I wanted someone I could pour my love into. I also wanted to find an ally; I was seeking a woman to who could fight by my side outside the home, for it was battles away from home which I had always valued most. And I still want these things. But now I realize that it is at least as important that she be my partner in establishing a family. I used to think that a family was something that was just going to happen; my wife would mostly take care of it while I did the important stuff outside the home. Now I’m beginning to see that a family is the greatest thing I could help to build.

Nothing has changed except my perspective. So I suppose that means everything has changed. My career ambitions and professional interests remain unchanged. I still expect that I will be called away by many worthy causes, and my honor will compel me to leave the home. But now, it will now be with some reluctance.

*She really was quite intolerable. I just talked to Folly (we didn’t do anything), and I didn’t hear the end of it. You’d think Wisdom would be more secure. She said it wasn’t a matter of her security, but of my commitment to our relationship. She’s really jealous. Folly is so much fun to be around, and now that I’m single again, I’ll probably be spending more time with her. And it turned out harder than I expected to be with someone so smart (or at least who thinks she’s so smart). Is it really reasonable that I’m the wrong one every time there’s a disagreement? Shouldn’t we at least split the blame sometimes? My parents told me to never date non-human girls. And, as always, it turns out they were right.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My New Girlfriend

I recently started seeing someone, and I'm very excited. She's also very happy about the relationship, and so we decided to make it Facebook official. Like any good news, I can’t help but tell people about her wherever I go. Since I am a Blogger, I’m going to tell the world about how great she is!

The first thing I have to say about her is that she is beautiful. It's hard to make objective analyses when you're in love, but how I see it, she is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. I know that a spiritual person would list all the spiritual things first and then only at the end, if pressed, confess to beauty. But I can't, because she's that beautiful. Instead of just listing her colors which anyone can do, I'm going to try to give an analogy. I see in her face a light like a diamond. Like a diamond, her face glitters in the sunlight; every angle and every moment shows some new beauty I had missed before.

And another thing that shouldn't matter (but it does): she's rich. But not Old-Money-rich. By her brilliance and her shrewdness, she has become rich. And you all know how much I love an entrepreneur. Though it's just a perk, I've been living like a rich man since I've been seeing her. She has a good perspective on money, too: it is fuel for Kingdom work. The impact that she and I can have will be extended because of her wealth.

But the greatest thing about her is her mind. Wow! What she talks about just constantly blows me away! Before her, I thought I was smart. Natural science, philosophy, theology, anything! She knows about everything! And she doesn't just know about it, she understands it deeply, weaving all subjects together into a beautiful tapestry! She has incredible insight into how every science and realm of knowledge fits together in God's plan. I hope you can forgive my nerdiness, but I can't help it: she is doing with everything what Maxwell did with Electromagnetism.

I could listen to her words forever. Her voice is like a song, the song of a Seraph, and draws me ever into new truth. Every day I am with her, I see God afresh. As I spend time with her, I see more clearly my faults and where I disappoint God. And with her, I have been inspired as never before to bring my life completely into line with God’s Law. But she doesn’t drain my spirit by nagging; she does just the opposite. Hearing her voice gives me vibrancy; I live with more boldness and richness knowing she is mine. When I have a rough day, or when something bad happens, it doesn’t matter as much because whatever it is won’t stop me from looking on her beautiful eyes again; trouble seems to be less troublesome because I have her.

She is a very strong woman. Previously I didn't know if I wanted to be with someone so strong. But I have realized that her strength is not one of domination; it is a strength that gives me strength. I am not dominated by her, but empowered. It is like the strength of an ally, not a commander. Despite her high intelligence, she has a sincere heart for those who aren't as smart. She's constantly teaching and giving people the level of truth they can accept. But woe unto you if you mock her! Someone tried to attack one of her ideas by a stupid joke; I was immediately filled with anger that someone would attack my girl, but before I could say a word, she was already tearing him to shreds with such viciousness that he won't soon forget it. And I saw the look in her eye when she did it: she enjoyed it. And it made me think, with all my ideas of manliness and protecting women: who is protecting whom?

It has not been very long, but I feel close to God when I am close to her. It's a wonderful feeling, one I've never had before. It is the assurance that I am with the right person. When we embrace, I am in the presence of God; when we kiss, I am drawn up to Heaven's throne room. Intimacy with her is a holy thing, set apart from normal experience. Nothing I could ever have wanted compares to her. Some might say that it's premature to say this, but I intend to make her the principal thing in my life. I love her. My heart is clear. I love her. And I hope that we will be together forever.

The hardest thing for me to overcome in this relationship is her age. She’s quite a bit older than me. I just turned 26, and she has been established from everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth. But as it has been said (and I believe): love knows no boundaries. A 14-billion-year age difference shouldn't matter when two people really love each other.
Oh yes. And I forgot to tell you her name. Her name is Wisdom, and I hope that she will be mine forever!


I hope that you can forgive me this little deception (not a lie, because it’s mostly true :); read it again and see!). I was reading Proverbs comparing wisdom to a woman and a relationship. I read the book as if it was for the first time; a truly fresh perspective. Then I thought that I’d be able to get other people to see it the same way if I played a trick on them on Facebook. By this trick, I could give my friends and family the gift of a fresh perspective on Proverbs and on Wisdom.

So now you’re in on the secret! If you’d like to play along, please post “I’m so happy for you!”s on Facebook. Otherwise, if you want to be a humbug about it, please feel free to post all humbug comments right here on Arena-Man (or email me).

Proverbs references that inspired this:

4:8 Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.
3:15 She [is] more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.
4:7 Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [therefore] get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
4:5 Get wisdom, get understanding…
3:13 Happy [is] the man [that] findeth wisdom, and the man [that] getteth understanding.
8:18 Riches and honour [are] with me; [yea], durable riches and righteousness
 8:5 O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.
1:22 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?
1:26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;
8:23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
8:30 Then I was by him, [as] one brought up [with him]: and I was daily [his] delight, rejoicing always before him;

Monday, May 16, 2011

Required Reading for a Christian Worldview

In my last post, I gave some general advice to men and women going into secular colleges. Here are some specific resources that have helped in my personal development of a Christian worldview and an apologia (a defense) of the faith.

Required Reading/Listening/Visiting
If you had 15 hours to steel your mind against false ideas, I’d recommend preparing with the following. Many of these resources could be studied, and read or watched many times without exhaustion.

Mere Christianity – An incredible perspective on Christianity, summarizing the major doctrines of the faith in everyday language. He is able to communicate the truths of Christianity in English that doesn’t take a lifetime in Sunday school or a seminary degree to understand. His style is incredibly useful in learning how to communicate with nonbelievers. (~8 hours)

John Lennox and Richard Dawkins (the existence of God and miracles). Dawkins is probably the most famous living Atheist. This may be the best example of how to have a productive friendly conversation with an Atheist that I’ve yet heard. (~1 hour)

William Lane Craig vs. Bart Ehrman (the historicity of the Resurrection). Ehrman is probably the most famous skeptic of the Resurrection. This is a masterful debate that shows a powerful argument for the Resurrection and how to argue forcefully against the Resurrection-As-Exaggeration argument (~2 hours)

William Lane Craig vs. Christopher Hitchens (the existence of God). Hitchens is probably the second most famous living Atheist. Hitchens presentation is very typical of what to expect when talking with a convinced skeptic. Craig responds as he always does: with precision and force. (~2 hours)

Veritas Forum – Lectures by top Christian thinkers from every field. Explore this site, especially as it pertains to the field you are interested in (or classes you are taking).   (~1 hour)

Blue Letter Bible – For the serious Bible student. You can have access to lexicons, different translations, and commentaries. (~1 hour)

Other Helpful Resources
Everything by CS Lewis – Study him. He’s answered most of the major questions we struggle with today. My favorite nonfictions in order: The Four Loves, The Abolition of Man (on education), The Problem of Pain, God in the Dock. He also wrote awesome sci-fi: The Space Trilogy. It’s also definitely worth it to read (or re-read) the Chronicles as an adult. You probably missed a lot as a kid J.

Orthodoxy - GK Chesterton. This book profoundly affected me. It's Chesterton's walk through the reasons why Christianity appealed to him, and he comes up with several really powerful reasons that are quite unique.

Learn the Bible in 24 Hours (Purchase .  Stream Online) - Chuck Missler. A series of 1-hour talks that are aimed to give a strategic picture of the Bible. It has been incredibly helpful in my coming to see the Bible as an inspired whole.

Love God with all Your Mind – JP Moreland. An incredible book on how we need to engage our mind to properly love God will all of ourselves. It gives very practical ideas on how to do this.

The Two Tasks edited by William Lane Craig. A series of essays on why Christians really really really need to succeed in the University.

The Reason for God by Tim Keller, 2008. This one is really good at answering modern objections and questions by a pastor working in NYC. It's very readable (i.e. the first quote in the book is from Darth Vader).

Ravi Zacharias. An Indian Christian philosopher. Google him; all of his stuff is great. "What Does it Mean to be Human" (here) is a good place to start. He’s especially good against Pantheism and pluralism. Here is a talk on Pantheism/Eastern though (Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4), and one on Pluralism (Part 1 Part 2).

How a Christian Can Thrive at University

It was Youth Weekend at our church and we celebrated the youth groups with a special emphasis on the graduating Seniors. I remembered what a challenge college was for me spiritually. I have friends who went in solid Christians, and came out secular (and remain secular to this day). It’s not a friendly place for Christian thought. Thinking of these young men and women preparing to go into college, it got me thinking: what advice would I have liked when I headed to UCLA?

Find solid fellowship
Make this a priority. It is absolutely critical that you have a solid community to support you through this time. I don’t care how strong you think you are, a secular university can tear you apart without fellowship. If you prefer an on-campus fellowship (sometimes called ‘para-church’ organizations), there are usually plenty to choose from: Intervarsity, Navigators, Campus Crusade (and others). If you want to worship with more than just students, get plugged into a local church. Many people do both. Whatever you do, find strong community. Also, if you have strong Christian friends from high school, make it a point to stay in touch. Continue to hold each other accountable at least until other accountability partners are found.

Study your Bible
This is basic stuff, but don’t forget about it. John Lennox, an Evangelical and Oxford Mathematician told a group me and a group of graduate students to know our Bibles as well as we know our professional fields; a Christian neuroscientist should be as sophisticated in his knowledge of Scripture as he is of the brain. STUDY your Bible and find people who can help (including fellowship). Also, this is the 21st Century. Find Bible teachers online who you like and study under therm. I was greatly helped by Chuck Missler (, especially his “Learn the Bible in 24 Hours”) because of his scientific perspective and how well he’s able to show the beautiful connections in the Scriptures. I’ve also heard Ray Steadman’s “Through the Bible” is a solid series. The Internet is a big place; find someone whose teaching style speaks to you and learn from them.

Read and listen to Christian thinkers
There are three paths for your mind: 1. Apostasy. You may find the claims of Christ unbelievable and reject Him. I have seen this happen to solid Christians. 2. Split Mind. The path of a clear majority of Christians at the secular university is to quarantine Christianity from the rest of their thought. They may deny the existence of the soul, the creation of the universe and the possibility of freewill Monday through Saturday, but start believing in them again on Sunday without even knowing they’re doing this. They are not morally split (i.e. sinful 6 days a week); but mentally split. This is the wide road; this is the easy way. But your mental life is robbed of the vitality of the Gospel and you have no sure defense against a catastrophe of doubt. The third way is by far the hardest: 3. A Living Christian Worldview. You will be alone. In your classes, you will probably be the only one with a Christian worldview. You might even be the only one in your small group thinking about how to understand all of the world from a Christian perspective. You’ll need to work harder than all the other students to learn both what the professor believes, but also what Christians believe about the subject. And this goes for nearly every subject.

To follow this third way, you’ll basically need to get a minor in Christian Thought. Organized programs like this don’t exist yet (to my knowledge); you’ll need to teach yourself. Set aside time to listen to and read Christian thinkers. Make it a habit to listen to Christian lectures when you’re at the gym, or walking to class, or driving places.  You live in a time in history when you can be lectured by the greatest minds who ever lived, living and dead. Read Christian thought in your field.

The secular university is a fire. It has consumed many faithful people. But if you stand firm through it, you will be tempered. The purest gold must pass through the hottest fire. I grew an incredible amount in my faith while at UCLA, more than I could have imagined growing. Though it was very difficult, and there was even a time when I feared I would leave the faith, God delivered me and I am stronger because of it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Deuteronomy on How to Fight a War and Save Trees

Biblical Draft Dodging
People who 1) have a newly built house 2) have a newly planted vineyard 3) are engaged, should not fight when there is a war. They are exempt. How’s that for a generous draft policy? But what about cowards, people who were afraid to fight. What kind of terrible punishment would God heap on them? “Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart” (Deu 20:8). Nothing. He can go home. Imagine what the Vietnam War would have looked like if we obeyed such a law.

Biblical Conservation

“When you besiege a city for a long time, while making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them; if you can eat of them, do not cut them down to use in the siege, for the tree of the field is man’s food. Only the trees which you know are not trees for food may you destroy and cut down, to build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it is subdued.” –Deu 20:19-2

To my knowledge, this is the first conservation law on record. The Israelites, no matter how desperate the fighting got, could never chop down a single fig tree, not if the entire siege depended on it. The interesting thing about this conservation law and what makes it different from others is that it’s not motivated by concerns about biodiversity or inherent value of nature. The reason for the law was practical use in nourishing humans, ‘for the tree of the field is man’s food.’ It’s not an endangered species that would prevent a new development: it’s a fruit tree. Imagine being able to prevent a development company from leveling your property by having an apple tree planted in your front yard.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

How to Run a Theocracy - Introduction (Part 1)

Pretty much the most passionate Lady Justice I've ever seen (and probably appropriate for Deuteronomy).

A Few Insights on Political Law in Ancient Israel from Deuteronomy

I just finished reading through Deuteronomy this week. And wow! What an interesting book. Now, Deuteronomy is called such because it is the ‘second law,’ essentially a sermon by Moses about the Law from God.

Now, there’s a lot in the book that I expected:  a lot of commands against idolatry, a recounting of Jewish history to that point, warnings about disobedience, blessings for obedience, etc. But I came across a few laws that I had either forgotten about or never really registered before.

When interpreting the Old Testament, especially a book of the law, it’s important to remember that Christians are no longer under the law. We can learn from the law, but we are not to obey it.

The other thing that makes interpreting Deuteronomy difficult is what it says about God’s character. The New Atheists are fond of pointing out how Yahweh is a moral monster for doing the things that He does and commanding as He does. I don’t have space here to defend all that God did in ancient times, but I will at least counter this particular argument. For an Atheist to argue that Yahweh is immoral, he must put judge Him by something else. He must call upon something transcendent to Him, namely some kind of Moral Law. But then it must be asked, “You’re an Atheist who denies transcendent entities; how then can you call upon a transcendent entity called ‘The Moral Law’ to disprove one called ‘Yahweh’? The Morality of the Old Testament is a valid question, but one that only really can be asked by someone who believes in a transcendent Moral Law, namely Theists. Maybe I’ll give a defense in a later post.

For the purpose of this post, I will assume the Justice and Goodness of Yahweh, and I’ll explain how I read Deuteronomy (i.e. the following is my speculation, not Christianity). In His Goodness, Yahweh condescends to humanity. And He must condescend to Humanity wherever it is if He is to relate with us. If He were to relate to an ancient group of people, He must come to them on terms that they could understand. He gives laws that are relevant to the situation His people will be in. Christianity was to be an entirely different sort of thing than the congregation of Israel. Literal idolatry needed to be hit and hit hard in 1500BC, but it was spiritual idolatry that has largely been the temptation the last millennium or so. God gave Moses laws that were applicable to the ancient world, giving them all the truth they could bear but no more. Many of the laws seem silly to us because we don’t face the same problems. Many of them seem draconian because we have more ‘humane’ methods of punishment.

What Deuteronomy gives us is a model society, one where everything is in proper proportion. For example, they executed adulterers, idolaters and murderers. We’d look at this and say, “How vicious!” But it tells us that, in God’s eyes, these three things are all in the same category: capital crimes. In the twenty-first century, we may be more able to show grace because of several thousand years of human advancement (through God’s continued teaching). Punishment of adulterers by stoning is not a universal moral law; but the categorical seriousness of the offense is.

In the next posts, I’ll share some of the interesting stuff I found in Deuteronomy and what it might teach us.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Against Bigotry: A Way Forward (3/3)

The Way Forward
Rob us of this power! Break the psychic chains! This may be news to you, but you can choose your thoughts. Remember your thoughts last time you heard a slur against you. You were probably angry. You probably recalled other times when this happened to you or to your friend and family. For example, a black person might have heard something racist and thought, “What a filthy racist! Whites like that have always been oppressing us! We haven’t had a chance since we were enslaved and brought over here. Since we were ‘freed,’ we’ve not had Civil Rights, justice in the courts or the same chance at jobs; the police are always hassling us, just like Rodney King. Just like at Tuskegee, we’re just animals for them to experiment on.” If you think this, you’ll experience anger and hopelessness. You will have rage against your hateful master. And you are playing exactly into the hands of the white oppressors. You are rehearsing and thus reinforcing the very thoughts you hate, impotent thoughts, weak thoughts, uncontrolled thoughts.

Imagine if the black person instead thought, “Poor ignorant person. I forgive him because he probably doesn’t know how rich my culture really is and what heroes have come from it; if only he knew of the courage of MLK, or the ingenuity of George Washington Carver, or the tenacity of Fredrick Douglass. I hope that I can be more like them, and that we as a race can follow their examples.” If you think this, you’ll experience peace and hope. You’ll have pity towards one inferior in morals and knowledge. By forgiving the bigot, you’ve defeated him. Your thoughts are directed inwardly on self-improvement, and you might use the insult as a reminder to grow. If you are able to direct your thoughts away from rage toward forgiveness, you will utterly turn the designs of your enemies on their head.

It is politically expedient to be so vulnerable, at least in the short term. Using the sympathy of good people as a weapon is effective. By putting your throat deeper under the boot of your oppressor, you can gain sympathy (Kobe) and even defeat enemies (Alexandra). But at what cost? At the cost of having your throat truly under your oppressor’s boot.

A person will never be free until her mind is free. And minorities have been persuaded that freedom of the mind, the freedom to laugh at the racist, to smile at chauvinism, to snicker at homophobes is impossible. But this is a lie. Break the psychic chains. Spit out the poison of revenge and forgive. Clean out the festering wound of un-forgiveness and let it heal. Throw down the whip with which you torture yourself. Though it will cost short-term political leverage, roll out from under the oppressor’s boot. Tear control of your mind away from the Illusionists who have cast a spell on you convinced you that you are powerless! Then, perhaps, we might be a step closer to the vision of Dr. King: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Supporting Martin Luther King Jr. Quotations

How do we love our enemies? First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive...Second, we must recognize that the evil deed of the enemy-neighbor, the thing that hurts, never quite expresses all that he is...Third, we must not seek to defeat or humiliate the enemy but to win his friendship and understanding.

Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity.

There will be no permanent solution to the, race problem until oppressed men develop the capacity to love their enemies. The darkness of racial injustice will be dispelled only by the light of forgiving love.

Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.

Supporting Desmond Tutu Quotations

Without forgiveness, there's no future.

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.

Forgiveness means letting go of the past.

Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing

Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering--remembering and not using your right to hit back. Its a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you dont want to repeat what happened.

Supporting Nelson Mandela Quotations
If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.

Men of peace must not think about retribution or recriminations. Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.

When I was walking out of my compound for the last time, I said to myself, they've had you 27 years. If you hate them when you get through that door, they will still have you. I wanted to be free, and so I let it go. - Nelson Mandela (as reported by Bill Clinton)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On Wizardry and Bigotry: Why Minorities Should Chill Out (2 of 3)

Power Over Minds
Oppressors through the ages have sought for what whites, straights and men now have: the ability to open a deep wound in the soul of another with a single syllable. Back when we wielded physical whips, we had to exert ourselves to inflict pain, but not anymore. Whites have laid down the whip, but have taught blacks to whip themselves. Even the most ambitious KKK grand wizard could not have imagined so terrible a fate.

The vicious shrewdness of the oppressors has been to harness the corrosive power of hatred. I once heard someone describe revenge as a poison you take hoping it will kill your enemy. And the oppressors have convinced the oppressed to be drunk on the poison. Past injustices are always at the tip of the tongue of any minority group. Wounds were indeed given, but they were not cleaned with forgiveness and allowed to heal with time. Instead, the grit of bitterness remained in the wound, infecting it; the festering wound is left hidden in the darkness and uncovered whenever proof is needed of the guilt of the oppressor.

So long as minorities believe that the majority has psychic power over them, that we can injure with our words, we can. If every time I use a racial slur, I cause you psychological trauma, then I have more power than a plantation owner. But is this power irrevocable? Have the dastardly deeds of the white race finally resulted in ultimate victory? Permanent or not, it seems clear that I (and my kind) have achieved terrible power over minorities.

Part 1 - Background on Wizardry

Part 3 - The Way Forward

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On Wizardry and Bigotry: Why Minorities Should Chill Out (1 of 3)

Background on Wizardry
In ages past, we have been told about the power of the great wizards. In battle, they would wield tremendous power and be an incredible (though sometimes uncontrollable) asset to any king’s army. They would work through spells, spoken words that had magical power far beyond the simple air vibrations of normal speech.

One set of wizards I want to tell you about is the Illusionists. They were all, like great wizards, able to cause incredible pain with a single movement of their lips. Their enemies, sometimes in the millions, were cut to the heart, immediately experiencing fear, rage, and pain. As if playing with marionettes, they squeezed the adrenal glands, releasing stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. As if with a million electrodes, they zapped the fight-or-flight centers of the brain, activating the autonomic nervous system. Then the real power of these wizards began. The wizards’ words summoned memories. The victims relieved experiences of oppression and weakness from their lives; some even experienced the oppression of strangers, dead ancestors, or fictional characters. Under the powerful spell, the pitiable victims rehearsed thoughts of weakness and fear, again and again and again. These wizards are Illusionists, so their power is not over the physical world; these are just illusions. But those who frequently fall under their spell would begin to believe their charms are irresistible, and so stop resisting; they would believe that the illusions are reality, and so they become reality. Thus is the power of the Illusionist.

Kings and rulers coveted this power. They could command men by force, coercing their bodies, but they could not control men’s mind. The Illusionists, it seemed, could do even that. In actuality, they could do no such thing. A man’s mind cannot be controlled, but only persuaded. And so when he is persuaded that the Illusionist can control him, he behaves like it does. It’s a subtle point, but an important one, especially for a person trying to resist Illusionists.

Why this background on Wizardry? Because there have been a few cases of Wizardry recently that have upset a lot of people, so I thought it important to give you a recent history on the subject. In the past few months, there have been two very notable Sorcery incidents that have really got people upset.

The wizards who caused the disturbances (or more accurately, the Illusionists) were Kobe Bryant,  Alexandra Wallace and most recently, the SEAL team that killed Bin Laden. All of them used their magic to inflict terrible pain on untold millions of Gay, Asian, and Native American people, respectively. 

For those of you who don’t know, Kobe Bryant made a ‘homophobic’ remark. He’s been fined $100,000 by the NBA, and has made public apologies. The Lakers are now getting involved in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community to show they really do care (i.e. as penance for Kobe). Alexandra Wallace made a video making fun of Asians in the UCLA library. She caused so much pain in the Asian community that it provoked death threats and her ultimate withdrawal from UCLA. In discussions I had on the subject, a lot of people believed that the reactions against her were just: she hurt Asians, so she deserves to be hurt. And last but not least, the SEAL team that killed Bin Laden codenamed the operation "Geronimo." As reported in the ABC News Blog:
On Facebook, on Twitter, on Native American websites, in local newspapers, and in what appear to be countless conservations on reservations and in schools across the country, Native Americans are genuinely hurt and puzzled by the choice of “Geronimo” as a code-name for either Bin Laden or the mission to take him out.

Part 3 - The Way Forward