Archive for October 2018

Balancing Act   9 comments

October 22, 2018

Do you believe everyone deserves a second chance?

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Ouch, hit me where I live why don’t you?

It’s that loaded word, you see – EVERYONE.

Do I think EVERYONE deserves a second chance? Oh, my!

As a born-again Christian, I am grateful for the uncountable “second” chances God has given to me to recognize His guidance and obey His will. I haven’t always “deserved” them. So, if I received forgiveness and a second chance, doesn’t everyone deserve forgiveness and a second chance? Well, the Bible doesn’t say we “deserve” forgiveness. In fact, it’s very clear that we don’t deserve forgiveness in our own right, which is why God Himself stepped down into human history as Jesus Christ to die for our sins. God forgives us because He loves us and He doesn’t want any of us to perish, but that forgiveness is a testament to His grace, not our worth.

The Bible is filled with stories of sinners given a second chance even when, by God’s rules, they didn’t deserve it. Adam, Cain, Moses, David, Solomon, Jacob, Rahab, Gomer, Paul, Peter, Japhthah … the Bible is a book of second-chance heroes. God is a God of second chances.

Charles MansonBut step down to the human level and ask, does everyone deserve a second chance from their fellow human beings, who are, collectively, a damaged and undeserving species? I still say, “Oh, my!”

My conundrum is tied up with the very clear Biblical admonition that we are to forgive those who hurt us 70×7, which is a Hebrew term that means “uncountable”. Seriously, don’t do the math. Just accept that God wants those He has forgiven to forgive without limit.

I try to live my life accordingly — to afford others a second or third or a million chances. I forgave my parents for the rather dysfunctional way they raised me and, in doing so, discovered a wealth of quirky human drama that I now appreciate in my writing. Brad and I would have divorced decades ago if I didn’t follow God’s guidance on this … and if Brad didn’t also, because I am far from perfect and he has had to give me multiple chances too.

I forgave Nora, my mother-in-law, for telling huge lies about me that had the police on my doorstep. I treat her nicely, I take her to lunch, I am her legal guardian and she’s invited to Christmas dinner. On the other hand, I don’t allow her to live with us again because I don’t want to go through another mess like that one. To be fair, I could probably be talked around, but my husband is adamant that his mother will never live with us so long as she is capable of dialing a telephone. Giving someone a second chance doesn’t mean you don’t set boundaries to avoid a recurrence of bad behavior.

I think society is incredibly judgmental and abusive to people in that we maintain open public records that forever mark a person as “less than.” We have a friend who was convicted of manslaughter 20+ years ago and we believe he deserves a second chance. It hurts us to see when people continue to “hold him accountable” for something he can’t change, after he’s done his prison time and parole, paid reparations to the family, built a business, and raised two wonderful children with his wife. It’s as if everything that he has changed is worthless. At what point has he earned a second chance? Well, there are those in society who would say he never can earn a second chance, and they’d say that if his crime had been selling a baggie of weed instead of getting drunk and driving.

He’s just one example among millions in a country with the highest incarceration rate in the world and it is not to our national credit that we do this. People should be allowed a second chance after they’ve paid their debt to society. We have created a permanent underclass through our judgementalism.

This is why I am generally opposed to the death penalty. I think most people deserve a second chance just because I think all humans are depraved and, there but for the grace of God, it could be you or I condemned.

On the other hand, there are some people — a relatively few somebodies — who I don’t think deserve a second chance because the risk of allowing them to go free is too high for others. Serial killers, mass shooters, some pedophiles, paranoid schizophrenics with a history of going off their medication and being violent toward others during those un-medicated periods … they are my stumbling blocks. In theory, I think they “deserve” a second chance as much as anyone, except that the risk of the harm these people can do to others is simply not worth our forbearance, so in practice, I don’t believe they deserve a second chance.

So, everybody deserves a second chance, except ….

Oh, for the eyes of God, so that I might know the future outcome of giving everyone a second chance.

 

 

It isn’t a Revenue Problem!   Leave a comment

Posted October 18, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Do You See the Matrix?   Leave a comment

I don’t generally watch TED Talks. They just seem slick and superficial to me. I prefer to read and the only visual media I really interact with is long-form discussions similar to what Jordan Peterson, Dave Ruben and Joe Rogan do. But Brad enjoys visual media, so sometimes I’m in the room when he’s consuming them.

Thus, I watched this TED Talk by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who has researched morality and culture for 30-odd years. He’s spent a large pat of his career trying to understand and explain the foundations of human morality. Not too surprisingly, he’s noticed that humans often struggle to agree on what morality is. It’s to his credit that he hasn’t thrown up his hands in disgust and walked away from the topic.

During a TED Talk that I think is a few years old, Haidt shared his discovery that human beings don’t begin as a blank slate. I know … that’s contrary to common mythology, which Haidt calls “the worst idea in all psychology.” According to Haidt, humans are born with a “first draft” of moral knowledge, possessed of innate but malleable sets of values “organized in advance of experience.”

If the slate isn’t blank, then something is on it. What?

These are not new concepts to Christians. The Bible has asserted for time immemorial that mankind is created in the image of God. Since God is a Spirit and doesn’t have a body, this is not a physical image, but a spiritual or moral one. So, this Ted Talk didn’t surprise me in the least, though it may have come as news to Haidt and his team.

To find out what is on our moral template, Haidt and a colleague read the most current literature on anthropology, cultural variations, and evolutionary psychology to identify cross-cultural matches. They found five primary categories that serve as our moral foundation:

1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and community. (As a Christian, I suspect it’s part of the innate code God gave us before the Fall).
2) Fairness/reciprocity: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, when Haidt reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, his team emphasized proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives.
3) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
4) Authority/subversion: According to Haidt, this foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions and it underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions. (I attribute it to our original relationship with God, now damaged by the Fall.)
5) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions…just ask vegetarians and athletes).

Haidt found that both conservatives and liberals recognize the Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity values. Liberal-minded people, however, tend to reject the three remaining foundational values—Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation—while conservatives accept them.

I was so stunned by overhearing that as I wrote in the living room while Brad listened to the video, that I watched it again — twice. That’s a striking difference, which helps explain why many liberals and conservatives in America think “the other side” is delusional.

Now, a lot of liberals will contend that the three extra values are not proper morals at all but base human traits responsible for xenophobia and religious oppression. Haidt rejects this thesis. Through a series of historical illustrations, psychological studies, and cross-cultural references, he explains that many liberals often fail to appreciate a timeless truth that conservatives usually accept: order tends to decay. (If that sounds familiar, google the Second Law of Thermodynamics.)

Haidt isn’t suggesting conservatives are superior to liberals. He’s actually pointing out that conservatives tend to value order even at the cost of those at the bottom of society, which can result in morally dubious social implications (or, as Brad pointed out, more robust church charity programs). In contrast, liberals often desire change even at the risk of chaos and the associated damage that accrues from it. A friend I shared the chart with pointed out that it makes conservatives look like the more open-minded ones, which is an interesting take on the usual condemnation.

If your head is exploding, you might want to reach for the duct tape. You can certainly refuse to accept Haidt’s explanation of moral reality. The human inclination is to believe in one’s own understanding of morality, and many people will live their entire lives without seriously attempting to understand their ideological counterparts, but of course Haidt (and I) don’t recommend living in reality bubbles.

“If you think that half of America votes Republican because they’re blinded… then my message to you is you’re trapped in a moral matrix,” Haidt said. “You can either take the blue pill and stick to your comforting delusions. Or you can take the red pill, learn some moral psychology, and step outside your moral matrix.”

So what to make of all this? I found Haidt’s explanations pretty insightful, but I already knew it. He was just catching up to writings from Francis Schaefer I read 30+ years ago or with the Bible itself which was written millennia ago. But for those who like their cultural and philosophical analysis to be more timely, it certainly helps explain America’s  current contentious culture. Intelligent and reasonable people will have a difficult time agreeing on anything if they view the moral underpinnings of society through vastly divergent lenses and it is no stretch to contend that American liberals have largely abandoned the latter three values (exceptions exist, of course), or that conservatives are highly influenced by them.

If you really hate this theory, it may just be evidence that you’re living in a moral matrix of either stripe and you might need to take the red pill to wake up and see your neighbor as he truly is rather than in the role your worldview has cast him into. And, maybe, having done that, we can sit down to coffee and have a pleasant conversation in which we discover that we can find common ground if we’ll just stop totally rejecting what the other person sees and believes about reality.

Open Book Blog Hop – October 15th   1 comment

Stevie Turner

This week’s topic:  What are the 5 most beautiful things in the world?

This is an easy one for me.  Here are my 5 beautiful things – possibly a bit different to what you were expecting:

1.  To love that special somebody and be loved by them in return.

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It’s quite awesome.

2. To hold your baby in your arms when you’ve just given birth.

Yeah, mostly for the ladies, this one.  You men will never know that feeling.

3.  To see a lonely elderly person’s face light up when you walk into the room.

Hope somebody walks into my room if I’m ever in that situation.

4.  To be free of debt.

What a joy it is!

5.  A stunning view shared with a loved one.

Sam and I can sit in silence on the Isle of Wight and gaze at something like this:

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Where do you see beauty? …

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Posted October 15, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Finding Beauty Where Others Might Not   1 comment

via Finding Beauty Where Others Might Not

Posted October 15, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Isn’t It Lovely?   9 comments

October 15, 2016

What do you think are the 5 most beautiful things in the world?

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I think the world is an amazing place filled with so many gorgeous things that it will be hard to whittle it down to just five.

But here goes … the top five more beautiful things in the world in Lela Markham’s view.

#5   There is something premordial about a fire burning in a contained fashion. We have a woodstove. There is the warm spicy scent of dried birch mixed with the evergreen scent of the spruce that forms the starter bed. There are deep dark caves in the coal bed and licking flames in the new wood which is slowing withering to black. Heat spills off the sides of the stove, wrapping its loving touch around your legs and lulling you into a state of relaxation.

#4 A baby’s eyes haven’t been used yet They’re wide and innocent and they expect everything to be good. That wears off over time as they interact with the reality of the world we live in, but don’t you just wish you could bottle that essence?

Image result for aurora#3 There’s a creek at the bottom of our cabin land, but you can find this anywhere there are creeks that run over rocks. Our rocks are mica-inflected and so as the sun shines through the water and touches the rocks, sparkles dance all around and make me smile.

#2 Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, specifically the movement called “Ode to Joy”. It makes me think of sunlight through birch trees. Birch trees are amazing — they have different characteristics winter to summer, but sunlight treats them well in all seasons. The images that flicker through my mind as I listen to Beethoven include sparkling trees and sunlight through bird trees and ….

#1 Aurora. You might have expected that since it’s my screen name “Aurora Watcher”. Sweeps of colors dancing across a velvet black sky, racing from horizon to horizon in sweeps of celestial grandeur.

 

Posted October 15, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Candace Owens: Voice of a Generation   Leave a comment

I apologize for the boring white dude at the beginning, but if you get through that, it’s well worth listening to Candace’s speech. Lela rolled her eyes at the Trump endorsement at the end, but the rest of it is an extremely important message that anyone who wants to understand the world as it is today ought to at least listen to before they reject the message out of hand. Brad

We Don’t Live in a Crap World   Leave a comment

Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. (Gandalf, The Hobbit)

World PovertySo after watching American liberals scream hate speech at each other for a few weeks, I (Brad) am reminded of why I don’t pay a lot of attention to politics. Lela does, but she has gotten so she thinks it’s all a bunch of hooey. I prefer not to pay much attention because I prefer not to be angry over things I can’t control. If you haven’t figured out that you don’t actually control politics yet … well, you don’t.

There’s this belief these days that politics is the only way to keep evil in line. We must confront power with power, right? I think Gandalf had it right when he suggested the opposite is true.

So, if you’ve been busy screaming shit about each other, maybe you missed these five human achievements while you were driving the poison koolaid of Washington politics.

  1.  The World Bank reported that the number of humans living in extreme poverty dropped below 750 million worldwide. The Wall Street Journal reported that this is the lowest figure since the World Bank began collecting such data in 1990. That’s GREAT news, but if you were busy trying to analyze the body language of Brett Kavanaugh, you probably missed it.
  2. Scientists found a way to use spit (yeah) to predict heart attacks and strokes. Researchers at Queen Mary University London and Imperial College London announced a breakthrough in gene research that will allow them to identify patients genetically predisposed to high-risk blood pressure conditions through a simple spit test.

“This is the most major advance in blood pressure genetics to date,” Professor Mark Caulfield, of QMUL told The Sun.

The technology will enable doctors to more effectively identify, educate, and treat high-risk patients, reducing the number of heart attacks and strokes.

3. Our oceans may be getting cleaner sooner. The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organization that uses new technologies to rid the oceans of plastic, announced the beginning of a two-week trial phase in preparation for its anticipated cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

“Consider it a final dress rehearsal before the main performance: cleaning plastic from the ocean,” said officials with Ocean Cleanup, a privately funded initiative.

Oceanographers claim plastic in the world’s oceans represents a “global threat” by carrying toxic pollutants into the food chain and endangering some 600 marine species. It also looks really gross (see below).

4. A big solar power breaththrough? I’m always skeptical of these because I live in Alaska where we experience a severe shortage of solar anything in the winter, but it sounds cool. Solar power has yet to become an affordable and efficient energy source. But there’s reason to believe that could change.

University of Cambridge scientists recently claimed they made a significant breakthrough in their attempts to find new ways to harness solar energy. The breakthrough reportedly involved splitting the elements in water—hydrogen and oxygen—”by altering the photosynthetic machinery in plants.”

Yeah, even as a master electrician, I won’t pretend to know what that means, but it sounds impressive. You can read more about it here.

5. New data show life expectancy is rapidly increasing in Africa. A new UN report shows that residents of sub-Saharan Africa are living much longer than they were a mere two decades ago.

People in the region, The Guardian reports, “can expect to live for 11 years longer than the generation that went before them, new statistics show.”

The increase in life expectancy in Africa is linked to the stunning growth of its middle-class in recent years, one of the greatest stories of our age.

It’s not that I don’t think the Supreme Court and the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation isn’t important, but that there is nothing you or I can do about it, so why are we wasting our time and raising our blood pressure freaking out over it. It just creates acrimony, bitterness, and antagonism. It’s a bunch of tyrants scrabbling for control of the monopoly of force (yes, Lela, I do so listen to you).

Contrast that government spectacle with free markets — people working together willingly, exchanging stuff each other, and solving problems.

Entrepreneurs are “ordinary folks” (to get back to our Gandalf metaphor) who go mostly unseen. They aren’t politicians, bureaucrats, or Supreme Court justices, but they are the ones who actually improve our world and really keep evil at bay.

Available for #Preorder #discount   1 comment

Book 4 of Transformation Project, Day’s End, is available for pre-order, to be launched in mid-November. If you buy it on Pre-order before November 10, you’ll get it $2 off. And watch for free days of Life As We Knew It and sales of Objects in View and A Threatening Fragility during this pre-launch month.

Is it Time for the Great Dissolution?   Leave a comment

Image result for image of national secession as a divorceHello. This is Brad. Lela is editing a book preparatory to launching in November. After spending the last few weeks watching Americans scream at each other, I received this funny in my email, sent to me by a friend with an odd sense of human. We don’t know where it comes from, but it’s funny and it makes a point that maybe needs making in these days of hate and rage.

Dear American liberals, leftists, statists, social progressives, socialists, Marxists and Obama supporters, etc:

We have stuck together since the late 1950’s for the sake of the kids, but this latest election has made me realize that we should get a divorce. I know we tolerated each other for many years for the sake of future generations, but sadly, this relationship has clearly run its course.

Our two ideological sides of America cannot and will not ever agree on what is right for us all, so let’s just end it on friendly terms. We can smile and chalk it up to irreconcilable differences and go our own way.

Here is a model separation agreement:

–Our two groups can equitably divide up the country by landmass each taking an appropriate portion. We’re happy to give you New England and the West Coast. The good people of New Hampshire obviously will need some time to pack up and move to flyover country, and we’ll give the tenured professors in university towns ample time to relocate in your share of the country.

–We don’t like redistributive taxes and the IRS, so you can keep them.

–You are welcome to the left-wing judges and the ACLU.

–Since you hate guns and war, we’ll take our firearms, the cops, the NRA and the military.

–We’ll take the nasty, smelly oil industry and you can go with wind, solar and biodiesel.

–You can keep Oprah, Michael Moore and Rosie O’Donnell. You are, however,  responsible for finding a bio-diesel vehicle big enough to move all three of them.

–We’ll keep capitalism, greedy corporations, pharmaceutical companies, Wal-Mart and Wall Street.

–You can have your beloved welfare grubbers, food stamp recipients, homeless, hippies, druggies, and illegal aliens.

–We’ll keep the hot Alaskan hockey moms, greedy CEO’s, and rednecks.

–We’ll keep the Bibles and give you the networks and Hollywood.

–You can make nice with Iran and Palestine and we’ll retain the right to invade and hammer places that threaten us.

–You can have the peaceniks and war protesters. When our allies or our way of life are under assault, we’ll help provide them security.

–We’ll keep our Judeo-Christian values.

–You are welcome to Islam, Scientology, Humanism, political correctness and Shirley McClaine. You can also have the U.N. but we will no longer be paying the bill.

–We’ll keep the SUV’s, pickup trucks, and full-sized luxury cars. You can take every Subaru, Volvo, and Prius you can find.

–You can give everyone healthcare if you can find any practicing doctors.

–We’ll continue to believe healthcare is a product of the marketplace and not a right.

–We’ll keep “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “The National Anthem.”

–I’m sure you’ll be happy to substitute “Imagine”, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, “Kum Ba Ya” or “We Are the World”.

–We’ll practice trickle down economics and you can continue to give trickle up poverty your best shot.

–Since it often so offends you, we’ll keep our history, our name and our flag.

I’m from New Hampshire. I grew up there. So I’m going to argue for it to remain with the red states. And, I think Alaskans will demand visitation rights with the Subarus. But otherwise — yeah, it’s about right.

When a marriage devolves to this much vitriol, it really is time to consider dissolution before and as an alternative to a murder-suicide.

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