Simulation Theory

It is said that the space between a right-wing conspiracy and its confirmation is about three to six months or thereabouts. It does not take long between something being voiced as being extreme and being vehemently denied to the inevitable walkbacks about it not being a big deal anyway and it being admitted and even bragged about by the people responsible for it. Over and over again we have seen this happen, to the point where it has greatly diminished the respect that many people have for those organs of the press that have sought to suppress this truth because of how offensive it is to a great majority of people not only in the world but even in the United States. One cannot do with boiling a frog too quickly, before it is ready to accept the current thing as acceptable.

One of the ways in which our current age has shown itself to be a time of crisis is the way that elites and their grip on the world is breaking down. Whether one sees that in the rise of entertaining figures in seeking political power in countries like the United States or Ukraine, for example, or in the seeming inability of economic and political and cultural elites to demonstrate empathy with the suffering of the people as a result of the misguided behavior of those in charge, who appear to want ordinary people to suffer and to be content to live in luxury without any apparent concern for basic issues of food, shelter, and education for the unwashed masses, it appears that there is a glitch in the simulation, a failure on the part of those who hold and seek power to act in ways that preserve their power.

Such glitches in the system tend to occur in time of great crisis. When people seek power because of what it can provide them rather than on how they can serve others, this creates obvious difficulties, but yet we see these difficulties everywhere. Over and over again we see people become wealthy through public service–or even the attempt to win office as providing opportunities for grifting. Similarly, we see people with obvious mental disorders (who often brag about their supposed neurodiversity) seeking the position of authority as a teacher to gain the support as well as to corrupt youth by setting them against more conservative parents and engage in immoral grooming behavior. Likewise, we see companies bow to the pressure of radical political groups and actively seek to alienate large amounts of their customer bases, thus sabotaging their own profitability in the pursuit of intangible and largely worthless “social capital.”

What is it that prompts this disconnect between the power that people seek obviously and openly, and the total lack of competence or even interest in knowing how to govern and rule effectively, how to serve the interests of ordinary people, or how history provides plenty of evidence for the pattern of failure that inevitably follows when rulers forget to at least keep up the act that they are engaged in public service? While it is certainly a truism that our age has grown increasingly hostile to the cultural, historical, moral, and philosophical traditions we have inherited from the past, and shown hostility even to the value or idea of the past as a model for the present, it is nevertheless striking that those who seek power seem so incurious about the basis on which that authority rests in their heedless and headlong attempt to rule and ruin all possible social institutions. Searching for power while being uninterested in how it can best be maintained and respected and honored is a self-defeating task, and to do so threatens the willingness of people to give legitimacy to any people who act in such a fashion.

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Album Review: The Dream Academy

The Dream Academy, by the Dream Academy

The eponymous debut album of the Dream Academy has gifted music with one sublime and beautiful and deeply melancholy song, “Life In A Northern Town,” whose harmonies and message reflect a sense of nostalgia about a past that was lost between the 1960’s portrayed in references to the Beatles and JFK to the 1980s when the album was itself made, and make sense as an ode to Nick Drake. Yet while the group produced three studio albums between the mid 1980’s and the early 1990’s, they remain remembered largely for their one biggest hit. Given my retrospective interests, I was suggested this particular album, and it is worth wondering, is the Dream Academy worth listening to apart from their biggest hit? Is this a group that deserves a deeper examination or is their bit hit a fair representation of all that they had to offer? Let’s see.

The Dream Academy begins with the aforementioned “Life In A Northern Town,” which is a gorgeous song full of yearning and nostalgia. This is followed by the single “Edge Of Forever,” which is a love song that also plays to that feeling of nostalgia and yearning in a relationship that appears to be in a state of crisis. “(Johnny) New Light” gives a dream-like story song full of intriguing backing vocals and powerful instrumentation, especially percussion that, once again, is somewhat focused on looking back at the past. “In Places On The Run” provides intriguing instrumentation to a song that seems to reflect again back to a past filled with flight and exploration at the boundary of dream and nightmare. “This World” offers a poetic description of the unpleasant nature of “this world,” with the moody lyrics somewhat undercut by the beautiful instrumentation. “Bound To Be” is an upbeat song of appreciation of love and appreciation for a loved one. “Moving On” provides another gorgeous song, this one about moving on, where the peaceful music and somewhat anxious lyrics are in tension with each other. “The Love Parade,” the other single album, has dreamy harmonies and an optimistic message about love. “The Party” offers beautiful instrumentation but a singing approach that does not feel particularly festive and lyric that seem rather gloomy, ending with music from other songs from this album. The album closes with “One Dream,” which is a short song expressing what the narrator hopes to enjoy and avoid.

While all of the songs on this album are pleasant enough to listen to, this album is not nearly as good at it could have been with a bit more variety in the music and some better singing and songwriting. This album is definitely a vibe, if your vibe is for gentle songs with hints of woodwind and brass instrumentation that usually have a low tempo and a bucolic, peaceful approach to them. The group’s lead singer/lyricist, though, sees fit to fill this album with songs that are somewhat gloomy or anxious or in general a bit sour. While this song does have some standout tracks, “Life In A Northern Town” obviously, as well as Edge Of Forever” and “Bound To Be,” most of this album does not rise to those heights, and as a result it is an album that can be enjoyed when the mood is right but it unlikely to be an album that one returns to often.

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The Worth Of Fellowship

Yesterday, we had the chance to listen to the delayed message by the incoming president of our church, and it is easy to see in retrospect why it was that the Home Office wanted us all to listen to the message. It was a subtle example of how to provide marching orders as well as to give a reason why it is that he was able to so quickly gain a majority of ministers within the Council of Elders supporting him. One thing I noticed and was particularly interested in was his reference to the acceptable service of membership as including attendance. Now, attendance has at least two meanings, but the meaning of attendance referring to the service that an attendant does depends on the attendant being present. Our service depends on our availability and our presence in some fashion. This was a very clever point to make, and I was impressed to see that kind of dual meaning implied, as a way of properly hinting that for us to do our acceptable service to God and to others that we must first be present in the lives of others as well as in institutions. We cannot fulfill our duties if we are not present in the places where those duties are done. This hints at further discussion of the importance of that fellowship, especially in dangerous times like our own.

It is interesting as well to contrast this discussion with the discussion that has been taking place with regards to the current Speaker of the House, who has been denied communion as a result of her steadfast support of abortion, which is a mortal sin according to the Roman Catholic Church. It is always intriguing to see the response that people have to churches undertaking their authority to deny fellowship and communion to people as a result of their sins. After all, churches have the authority to deny or accept fellowship to anyone they want to on their terms. That is a right that all groups have–to decide who to allow in and who not to. There is, to be sure, a certain amount of pain that comes with social rejection, but whether or not we appreciate being rejected, groups have the right to decide who represents them well and who does not. To the extent that such judgments are merely social in nature, the freedom of association includes with it the freedom to deny association to people on whatever grounds suits them. In this case, the current Speaker of the Houe has obviously promoted behavior that is (properly) judged by the Roman Catholic Church to be a mortal sin and the church and its officers have the right to deny communion on those grounds. To the extent that a church’s decision has value, when that denial is made for what are obviously just and reasonable grounds, it ought to lead us to reflect on our behavior whether or not we are living in accordance with our professed beliefs or not.

Fellowship is an important aspect of life. Fellowship can come on many grounds. For example, I yesterday I had several conversations with one of my fellow members of the congregation where I attend, and it was funny to reflect upon several of the ways in which the grounds of fellowship could be found. For one, we both arrived and left services at the same time, having both been stuck in the same traffic (which itself as a source of friendly conversation, since we both wondered what possessed ODOT to close two lanes of traffic on US 26 in the middle of the day to pave lanes around OR-217). Later conversations involved his new job, our shared struggle with gout and how it affects our mobility, and the subject of education, and even mutual friends that we had from a previous place where both lived. One of the joys of fellowship is recognizing that one has a lot in common with other people, and that recognition of commonality depends on being able to reach out and communicate with others and the comfort to both be oneself and the interest in others to seek out how others are. Even in a time like our own, there is a great deal of worth in fellowship, not least when we consider how isolating our times can otherwise be.

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Death On A Gravel Road

In the world of gravel biking, a world I did not know existed until yesterday, a middle-aged woman who is dating one gravel rider has been arrested for murdering a young woman who is also involved in the same world and was in Texas for a race earlier this month before being gunned down. Details are, at this point, admittedly a bit thin on the ground, which makes it unclear how it is that a world so obscure that most people have never heard of it was able to generate enough hostility to lead to a murder. What is clear, though, is that human beings as a whole have a long history of violence and that this violence is often turned against others.

There are people who tend to believe that the remote past was an age of peace that was then spoiled by civilization, but if we look back in remote history, we can see that the tendency for violence goes back a very long time. Two examples should suffice. In a cave in Iraq, there was a skeleton seen as Neanderthal that became the oldest yet known cold case when it was found that he died as the result of what appears to be a throwing spear wound that could have come (from what we know at least) only from a group of sapiens in the area who had apparently adopted spear throwers at that particular time. Similarly, the last known skeletal remains of a being known as homo erectus on the island of Java appear in the same site with evidence of cannibalism and head-hunting. Ancient mankind was no more irenic than contemporary mankind.

We have typically thought that contemporary mankind is inclined more to peace than was the case in the past, but it does not take a long time to demonstrate that while we may not always be engaged in violence against other, that we nevertheless retain the capacity to be violent under certain circumstances, and that when those circumstances are met, the violence that was absent for some time becomes more obvious. Generally speaking, we see violence tends to be focused on others who should, in more sane and reasonable times, be seen as fellow insiders. If we are seeking power and dominance, any one who rivals us, rather than being seen as a peer, will be seen as a deadly enemy to be crushed, and this hostility will tend to ramp up the reply that the others have to us, even if we may not admit to ourselves who instigated the hostility.

I have long been a witness and even a participant in such acts of hostility, and it has long struck me that there is a ready tendency in the part of many people, including myself, to see the presence of the other as threatening, and the willingness to take serious and hostile steps to purge spaces of such people. This tendency appears to be a very old one, going far back into ancient history, and it is unclear how it is that such a thing would be overcome and whether it would be a good thing, in fact, to overcome this tendency. The capacity for reasoning and communication that we undoubtedly have comes with it the reality that this reasoning and communication may be used for evil purposes. Any power that can be possessed by beings who are, as we are, a mixture of good and evil, will be used both for good and for evil. Any effort to keep beings who are inclined both to good and evil on the straight and narrow then requires regulation and policing, whether self-control or external placed, and this will require some sort of coercion to be undertaken against evildoers. One wonders how early this was recognized within our history.

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Album Review: Turn Back The Clock

Turn Back The Clock, by Johnny Hates Jazz

It is rare when an album helps to create a new subgenre of music. It is even more rare when this album remains relatively obscure decades after it is released, and it is even more rare when the artists who help to create a genre are as unaware of what they are doing as was the case here. I have written about Johnny Hates Jazz before, but it bears repeating that a band named Johnny Hates Jazz was fundamental in the creation of the smooth jazz subgenre of music. How a band was unaware that it was making jazz music while claiming to hate it in their name is striking. The group is best known for their smooth song “Shattered Dreams,” one of my all-time favorite songs, but the band’s music was far deeper than this song. Is it a worthy if obscure classic, though? Let’s see.

The album begins with its big hit, “Shattered Dreams,” and this song of heartbreak still holds up more than 30 years later, a real standout track. “Heart Of Gold” continues the jazzy instrumentation and tells a story about an indiscreet but genuine young woman, a hooker with a heart of gold. The title track follows, with a smooth beat and a feeling of nostalgia that really hits the spot sometimes. “Don’t Say It’s Love” gives a mid-tempo tale of a relationship that has fallen apart due to infidelity and cruelty, a companion track to “Shattered Dreams,” it seems like. “What Other Reason” deals with the frustrating reality of only one person wanting to fight to save a troubled relationship. “I Don’t Want To Be A Hero” tells a story of someone souring on sacrificing themselves for their country given the horrors that result from trauma, an unusually catchy song about being a conscientious objector. “Listen” gives a jazzy exploration of someone whose changeable moods are easier to take when she communicates what is in her heart. “Different Seasons” then gives a reflective and melancholy perspective about the cruelty of missing a partner. “Don’t Let It End This Way” is a jazzy tune about a breakup that seeks to deal with reality but change the way that it is happening. “Me And My Foolish Heart” closes the original album with a gorgeous and melancholy song about reflecting back on the mistakes one’s heart has made in love and relationships. The next five songs after this are 12″ dance remixes of Shattered Dreams, Heart Of Gold, Turn Back The Clock, Don’t Say It’s Love, and Me And My Foolish Heart that give longer dance-appropriate versions of the album’s songs, and an unreleased version of Turn Back The Clock that is a pleasant demoish version.

It is really surprising to me that the group Johnny Hates Jazz were not aware that they were making jazz music with this album. In listening to this album nowadays, with the passage of time, it is clear that this album is truly a smooth jazz classic. Perhaps in the late 1980’s, when this album helped to create smooth jazz as a viable subgenre and radio format, this was less obvious. The group may have only thought that they were playing sophisticated pop, not realizing what made it sophisticated was precisely the jazz elements that were included, especially in the instrumentation. There isn’t a dud here on this album–even if every track is not as good as songs like “Shattered Dreams,” “Heart Of Gold,” “Turn Back The Clock,” “Don’t Say It’s Love,” “I Don’t Want To Be A Hero,” and “Me And My Foolish Heart,” that still makes up more than half of the album, and the rest of the songs are at least solid tracks that are worth listening to and appreciating. If you like the sound that this album provides, there is a lot here to appreciate, and certainly enough to make it worthwhile to see the rest of the band’s body of work–which includes four studio albums, a best-of collection that includes material from their first two albums, as well as a live album.

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On The Discussion Of Internal Logic To Outsiders: Part One

I was asked some time ago by an online acquaintance of mine why I have the belief system that I do. I have always found it difficult to understand why other people have the belief systems that they do, and have always been aware that the reasons that are convincing to us are not always convincing to others. Nevertheless, being a person who thinks it is important to discuss reasoning, I think it is worth at least providing some of the context of why it is I have the worldview and belief system that I do. In particular, I would like to comment on two different sets of reasons, first, the context of how it is that I came to acquire my belief system, and second, what sorts of things helped to confirm and solidify that belief system as I got to be older, because I believe the two aspects of this are very different.

While at first glance my own personal background would not appear to have been conducive to a worldview that believes in divine providence, in many ways, my own experiences are the precise opposite of those whose thinking about the problem of evil, and that is worth describing at least a little bit. There are a great many people in the contemporary world who believe that the existence of evil is somehow something that speaks out against the validity of the religious worldview. On the contrary, the problem of evil speaks out most eloquently against the human replacements to a faith-based worldview. The horrors of communist or fascist rule witnessed in the last century or so do not contradict in any way the worth of God’s kingdom. What they do contradict is a belief in the worth of government to serve as the ultimate and highest authority. The only way that justice can be attained in this world, the only way that we can speak out against evil in high places, is to call upon a higher and more godly authority than we see in this present evil world and in the melancholy course of human history. We cannot be the source of truth or justice or righteousness, and our governments certainly lack the moral authority to serve in that role, as do any human institutions made up of fallible and flawed human beings like ourselves.

Where people are good, they are good not because of their own imperfect nature and trying to live according to the holiness or goodness that is supposed to be within them, but rather because they have sought to live in accordance with an external truth that they govern and restrain themselves by. It is these external truths that tell us to do what is difficult, what is often unpleasant and sometimes demands a great deal of sacrifice from us in search of long-term goals, the development of a code of honor, a good reputation with others, as well as future success as a result of having paid one’s dues and overcome one’s own native folly or weakness. When one does a comparative study of the proper way of living, one finds a certain consistency of these views across many different cultural traditions. To be sure, as human beings societies and institutions and individuals have fallen short of these noble standards. But what is striking is how similar the ideals are–being generous-minded and merciful to others, being honest, being humble, foregoing immediate selfish pleasures for long-term benefit, refraining from doing to others what causes pain to ourselves, treating others how we would want to be treated, honoring our parents and others in general, and so on. The wonder is not that we are so bad at living up to our ideals, but the fact that we have ideals that we strive towards at all, sometimes at considerable cost to ourselves.

What I found, admittedly by accident and in a highly idiosyncratic way, was that we do not have a problem of evil in our existence so much as a problem of good. It is little surprise that in a world made up of selfish and evil creatures like ourselves that there is a great deal of evil. What is a surprise is that despite the unpromising nature we have, the bad examples we grow up with and around, and the general wickedness of authorities in high places, that we strive towards the good at all. It is little wonder that we are unjust; it is a wonder that all of us, even people who are spectacularly ill-equipped to find justice, still seek and long for justice. It is little wonder that we fall so short of truth; it is a wonder that even our most corrupt regimes in this world strive to have ministries of truth to struggle against deception, even as they are the most prominent and powerful purveyors of misinformation and deception that exist. The fact that we find it necessary to pay lip service to virtue when we are so completely unable to attain it suggests that there is truly some sort of ultimate good and some sort of noble standard that we ought to aspire to, and that this goodness must be found outside of ourselves because it certainly cannot be found within us. A key element, it must be admitted, in my own development of my worldview is a high degree of pessimism about human nature, both my own and that of humanity at large. Not having the luxury of living under the illusion that human beings were basically good and noble, I was left seeking goodness and nobility in another place other than the deceitful human heart or corrupt human institutions where people tend to find goodness. The options that are left once those two things are removed as possibilities is greatly limited indeed.

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Album Review: Dream Into Action

Dream Into Action, by Howard Jones

When I was a teenager, I found a tape cassette of this album in a thrift store near where I lived and found it to be an enjoyable listen. It’s been a while since I listened to the album and I was reminded of its existence (and greatness) by a recent video from the Professor of Rock, though I thought it would be good to listen to this album again, and perhaps add Howard Jones’ classic studio albums to my list of material to listen to as part of a career retrospective. Whether or not I ever get around to that larger project, this album is itself fourteen songs long, and a significant amount of them became hits in the UK, United States, and other countries, including songs that I have talked about here in some detail like “Things Can Only Get Better” and “No One Is To Blame,” a remixed version of the latter which became a top 5 hit in the United States in 1986. Is this album good listened to it nearly 40 years after it was released in 1985? Let’s see.

The album begins with “Things Can Only Get Better,” an early single from the album that was a smash song, which expresses a certain sense of optimism in the face of difficulty. “Life In One Day” reflects a wise determination to live life gradually rather than be in an impatient hurry, and it was a moderate hit in many places. “Dream Into Action,” the title track, discusses the way that people engage in great effort to live out their dreams and plans and turn them into reality. “No One Is To Blame” provides a sober and reflective view of the tension between human longing and its often painful and unpleasant consequences. “Look Mama” is a somewhat resentful song about dealing with overprotective parents and reflects the limits of Jones’ wisdom in dealing with previous generations and accumulated wisdom. “Assault And Battery” is a rather ominous reflection on violence and suffering, a beautiful and dark album track with a children’s choir. “Automaton” reflects on the relationship between man and machine and is another solid album track. “Is There A Difference” demonstrates once again Howard Jones’ hostility to tradition and his view that those who follow the ways of the past do so without reflection or consciousness, misdiagnosing the reasons for the suffering he abhors. “Elegy” is a melancholy and reflective song that reflects a strong sense of world-weariness. “Specialty” is a message song about the uniqueness and specialness of others, most likely the intended audience of the songs. “Why Look For The Key” is a story song that reflects on the resentment and unhappiness of a young man who seems compelled to seek to understand his unhappiness. “Hunger For The Flesh” is a rather melancholy and gloomy song about human longing and desire. “Bounce Right Back” is a quirky and upbeat story song about a strange encounter with someone seeking to dispense of wisdom. The album then ends with “Like To Get To Know You Well,” a successful single and soundtrack pop song about the desire to get to know someone one is becoming attracted to.

Ultimately, Dream Into Action remains a worthwhile album to listen to and a New Wave classic decades after its release. Tonally, it has a strong U-shaped melodramatic mood with its best and most upbeat songs at the beginning and end and moody but still excellent album tracks in the middle. If there is one area in which Howard Jones falls short it is in the mood of resentment that is behind his lyrics in many of the songs. While Jones accurately captures the mood of wistful longing that has long characterized Generation X music–something that one can find in music like John Mayer’s “Waiting On The World To Change,” which has a similar mood to much that can be found here–he falls short when it comes to understanding the past and assigning blame for why the world is the messed up place he found it. Let us hope with some time that Jones himself has come to better understand his complex inheritance and come to some insight of how it is that the young are quick to blame those who are older for what is wrong with the world, not realizing that what is wrong has been wrong for a long time and is wrong inside all of us, something each generation seems to have to learn on its own.

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Fragile Identities

One of the most striking aspects of contemporary identity politics is the fragility of people who engage in it. Traditionally speaking, at least, there has always been a wide difference between identities that were self-chosen and those identities that were chosen by others. The reasons for this are not hard to determine. Outsiders choose names, sometimes with pejorative meanings, based on what they view as being distinctive about a given population, while insiders give themselves nearly uniformly positive names based on their own superior knowledge about what gives the group its coherent identity. One of the most intriguing patterns that one finds is that people will often define themselves as some sort of “people” and define outsiders in ways that subtly indicate that they view outsiders as being less human than insiders. All of this has gone on for thousands of years and across the world, suggesting some sort of common human psychology for strongly distinguishing between insiders and outsiders and even priding oneself on one’s inability to distinguish others except by their alien nature, tendencies which have survived in our language in words like “barbarian” and in exonyms like the Berbers of North Africa and the city of Berbera in Somaliland.

What is it that makes contemporary identity politics different? Among those differences is the fact that there is a growing hostility towards exonyms at all and an insistence that other people use the self-chosen names and identities of people. This has understandably led to a lot of backlash, because people choose some identities for themselves that are woefully inappropriate and at huge variance with the external reality of their existence. Most of the time people, and I will include myself in this, do not particularly care what people think of themselves or call themselves or pretend themselves to be. Our disinclination comes from being asked to or expected or demanded to go along with whatever idiotic and demented self-delusion that other people have. And it is this which is precisely the problem. Few people care or have any interest in what people call themselves, but have a problem going along with it if it does not make sense.

And yet, what we see in the contemporary world is that there are sanctions that come to people who fail to use the pronouns or to recognize the identities that other people claim. If people claim to be onion-gendered because, like Shrek, they have layers, people not only wish to claim that identity but wish for that identity to be recognized by everyone else. Not only that, but they are offended if other people show anything less than rapturous approval for whatever identity choice they make. If they want to consider themselves a neptunic cat-gender or a cake gender with whatever pronouns they wish, it is not enough merely to claim that identity but that it must be recognized by everyone else as well, and not with any sort of disapproval at the lunacy or stupidity of what is being claimed. This, rather than presenting strength, is presenting a great deal of fragility. If we are strong in our identities, it matters not what other people claim.

Traditionally, identities have tended to have been claimed by insiders for the benefit of other insiders, people who naturally would be in approval of those identity claims. What outsiders thought was quite irrelevant. If a particular fashion was popular among an elite, it mattered little what uncultured barbarians and savages thought about those fashions, because they were outsiders and their judgments and opinions were irrelevant. In stark contrast to that, today’s fragile would-be elites care deeply what other people think about their idiotic fashions, and demand that everyone toe the line with whatever they wish to consider themselves, regardless of how wacky it is. This is demanding a great deal more than humanity in general is willing to portray. What is less clear, and is worth investigating, is why it is that contemporaries are so fragile when it comes to their identities? Why is it that people who were once content to have their own identities around those who would agree with them and cheer them on now demand that everyone go along with them? What made people unwilling to accept disapproval and criticism? And how can this thin-skinnedness be reversed?

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It’s Not Hard To Be Humble

One of the most important aspects of life is the ability of dealing with external authorities. And, similarly, one of the most worrisome tendencies of contemporary life is the growing lack of interest of people in having authorities that are outside of themselves. It is not as if external authorities are necessarily perfect, but their value is that they provide us with an external check on our behavior that holds us accountable and gives us a perspective outside of ourselves. Yet our general tendency to wish to avoid this sort of insight makes us vulnerable to a great deal of self-deception because we cut ourselves off from that which looks at things from a different angle than we do.

The value of other perspectives does not depend on those perspectives being right in any way. There are a great many perspectives that are absolutely wrong, but which are still worth knowing about and respecting. If someone completely misinterprets our behavior, as happens from time to time, this experience ought to be a salutary reminder to us that we in turn may misinterpret the behavior of others. I think most of us, if we are being sincere, will admit that there have been times in our lives where we have misjudged the behavior and mindset of others. I know I have, personally. And the reminder that we are in fact fallible is a very worthwhile reminder to have. Even where other people do not respect our opinion, the fact that we can recognize fallibility as a characteristic of human judgments and prejudgments, including our own, gives us an advantage that others do not have. This advantage, as it happens, is one of humility.

Why is it a benefit to be humble? The reason, most simply, is that we have much to be humble about. Recognizing how easily and how frequently we go wrong keeps us from developing the arrogance that makes it hard to recover or grow from mistakes. To the extent that we recognize that our reasoning and knowledge are often faulty, we can avoid cultivating the self-importance that encourages us to engage in confirmation bias and in the rejection of what is useful about the perspectives of others. Even where others misjudge us, or where we may misjudge others, the reality of that perspective lets us (and others) know that something is wrong with matters of presentation and understanding and explanation, and this allows for the possibility that a mistaken view can be corrected by further evidence.

If we believe that we are never wrong, we will not take the steps of gaining insight and further information that will make us right. Quite in contrast to the popular nostrums of our age, it is not what is within us that gives us wisdom, but that which is outside of us. Our age encourages people to focus on what our heart says–our hearts are deceitful and easily deceived. It encourages us to neglect the importance of thinking with an eye towards the future or an understanding of history, but it is thinking about things in the long-term and with an eye towards history that allow us to differentiate between that which is a short-term good and that which will be vindicated by the verdict of future generations, if we expect to have any. It is not our inflated self-regard that makes us brave and heroic, but rather our willingness to submit ourselves to the cross-examination of a candid and critical world and to the verdict of God and history. In humility there is reflected glory, but in arrogance there will be no glory at all, only shame.

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Leaden Feet

Most of the time one only cares about a lead foot when it goes one into problems. I did a fair amount of driving yesterday, most of which were at pretty high speeds, but managed to avoid any close encounters of the state trooper kind. Even with my foot being slightly leaden, I was far from the fastest car on the road. Yet even without the obvious nature of a problem, I noticed something that bothered me a bit, and noticing patterns before they become too problematic is something I try to do whenever possible.

When I was leaving Salem on my way back home last night, there were two things that bothered me about the experience. For one, I found myself feeling particularly hurried without a reason. This was something I noticed on the way to Salem as well, and even the way to services. To be sure, I did not travel either to services nor to choir practice with an abundance of time, but in neither case was I in any serious danger of being late, indeed in both situations I ended up with some time to spare. Yet even without being in a hurry or even feeling as if I was under a lot of time pressure I still acted in a hurried sense. We tend to like to think that we act in a certain way because of the pressure of exterior circumstances, or perhaps a mistaken understanding of those circumstances, but there are occasions where one acts hurried even consciously knowing that one has “plenty of time,” within ordinary circumstances. I wondered why this was the case.

Similarly, I was a bit concerned about my tendency to feel particularly anxious in the midst of traffic, even when it is moving at a high speed. To be sure, I do not feel I drive particularly dangerously when anxious. If my fast twitch muscles tend to work well, I do not find myself being particularly reckless, and this is definitely a good thing. But it does not feel good to feel anxious, not least because it is hard to rely on other drivers behaving in a sensible manner. If one could be confident in what other people were doing it would be far less stressful, but one cannot assume that others will follow at a safe distance or know what late they should be in, and this causes obvious difficulties in getting into a good flow.

Finally, there was something I noticed, namely that I like to drive with a certain touch. I like to know that if my foot feels a certain way that I am going a certain speed. What clued me in that my feet were feeling particularly leaden is that I was going five to ten miles an hour faster than I wanted to go, thus leading me to have to slacken off a bit and let things coast back to where I wanted them to be. I’ll have to see if this is something that tends to happen only on longer days when it comes to driving or if it is something I will have to keep a closer eye on.

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