Monthly Archives: January 2009

Truth: Revisited

Posted  by Mike

When we sense that we are on to Truth, sometimes we get a feeling that is something like what we have when we see a beautiful sunrise.

What is this rather intangible thing that we call truth? In an earlier posting, I wrote about aspects of truth which I called established truth and emergent truth (I used the term “awakening”) in relation to science, ethics and morals, and religion.  Dave wrote about truth in relation to personal responsibility.  What does this word “truth” mean, and what do we mean when we use the word?  The dictionary (OAD) defines truth as, “The quality or state of being true: he had to accept the truth of her accusation,” which doesn’t help us very much.  So if we look up “true,” we find, “In accordance with fact or reality…rightly or strictly so called; genuine…real or actual…accurate or exact.”  Examples the OAD gives include, “A true story….” “Of course it’s true!” and “That’s not true!” All of these definitions seem to relate to a comparison between what is said or known and an other “something” that is being used to compare it with.  And when the word “true” is used, the implication is that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the two.

What is this other “something” that is used in comparisons related to what is true?  Of course it will differ in every case. In one example above: “He had to accept the truth of her accusation,” the comparison is between what was said and what had actually occurred in the past. With “In accordance with fact or reality,” we are comparing something again, with something  known or observed.  If we talk about “real or actual,” the comparison aspect gets a little fuzzy, but again we are talking about comparing against an ideal.

Sometimes we get the idea that truth is absolute or completely objective.  We have notions that as an ideal it is real, tangible, and doesn’t have it’s subjective aspects.  Plato’s “ideal forms” Platon.jpg never existed in reality.  His simple ideal forms were things like “circle,” “square,” and “triangle.” They were abstract, imagined, just as mathematics is abstract, though like in mathematics what is indicated can exist in reality.  For example, we can have representations of circle, square, and triangle, but we can never represent in reality the exact form.  In mathematics, if I say I have five balls, the concept is abstract, but I can have five separate objects.

What is my point?  It’s obvious, I’m sure.  Truth is an ideal, but to think that we can always, often, or perhaps even ever capture it is unrealistic.  As with Plato’s ideal forms, an abstract notion of truth can be useful as a goal that can be sought and perhaps approached, but like parallel lines extending to infinity, we will never converge with it.  I think that’s okay, though. In many cases we can circle around it and nudge it just a bit, so that we end up feeling comfortable with what we’ve got. Just remember, we don’t have absolutes or total assurances here.  But the feeling that we sometimes get when we are close can be satisfactory, like that beautiful sunrise or sunset.  Sunset in Coquitlam.jpg

“Chase after truth like hell and you’ll free yourself, even though you never touch its coat-tails.”    Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) 

“Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”    Andre Gide (1869-1951)

 

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The Pride and Prejudice in Evolution

Posted by: David

I’d like to look at evolution based on why it enflames human sensibilities rather than looking too much into the details of the phenomena. The reason why few understand evolution is because of pride and fear in the human heart. Let’s borrow from Jane Austen and call it a pride and prejudice.

Giraffe im Krugerpark in Südafrika

Giraffe im Krugerpark in Südafrika

First let me define evolution as I understand it in one sentence: Evolution is the process whereby a natural system becomes its archetypal form. For instance, the archetypal form for a grazing animal that feeds on the tree leaves is the giraffe morphology. The archetype exists prior to the existence of the giraffe. Throughout the ages, the giraffe morphology has evolved and disappeared from the fossil records from within different groups. We can apply the same principle to all biotic and abiotic forms of existence in the entire universe. It can be applied to you and your body. It can be applied to the earth. There is even an archetypal you and your evolution is the process of you becoming the archetypal you. You, the earth, and the giraffe were defined as archetypes before the beginning of time.

I’m sure I’ve already enflamed some of you, but bear with me. Without getting into more detail on the process, I’d like to look at the psychological response of two sides of the evolution debate. I’ll start with the Christians, since I’m a Christian.

Within some circles of Christians, there is an established group-think that if one doesn’t read the Genesis Chapter 1 and 2 literally, where it ‘should’ be read literally, then one is distorting the Word of God. When we think this, we are being prideful, because we are saying that my interpretation or my circle’s understanding is correct and this places us in a place of power over another, and ironically over God. We may be just going along with what we are taught, and that may not be prideful, but it is prejudice. In this case, we are evaluating (placing judgment) something based on our fears rather than what we know in our heart. The root of prejudice is always fear. It may be a fear of not belonging to a group or it may be a fear that God will strike us down for not thinking correctly. If it’s the former, then so be it. It’s vanity to want to be accepted by others at the expense of truth. If it’s the latter, then we need to get to know God better. We will find out that God is gracious and merciful, especially when we tell him that we don’t understand something. We are not judged based on things we don’t know. However, we are judged by the standards that we expect of others, or place upon others.

In other Christian circles, the opposite is going on in order to please society, “what scientists say is fact.” Their pride and prejudice is getting the best of them also in a similar vein: vanity of the ego and fear of being an outcast.

Now, let’s move on to the general atheistic Darwinian. Sorry about the long term here, I needed to specify the perspective as closely as possible; there are all sorts of variations amongst Darwinian perspectives. Generally, it’s easy to see the pride and prejudice in this group. The prejudice is the most clear. There’s a prejudice toward the exclusion of God as driving force behind the process and a reluctance to ascribe a plan to the outcome of process. The prejudice (once again, a ‘pre-judgment’) is that God is not the impetus, which colors the final analysis. I must add that I believe that the deeper motive here again is fear: “If there is a just God, then, oh, no,” says the unconscious, “I’ll be convicted of this or of that.” In this case, the atheistic Darwinian cannot add God to the equation or the ego would be squashed. But once again, if the atheistic Darwinian would try to get to know God, then he would find the God of grace and mercy.

The ego is also to blame for the pride within this perspective. Man and his innovation must be the first to contemplate evolution. The “it’s mine” concept. So, here again, pride colors and distorts truth.

Mostly though, the whole evolution debate is a red herring. It keeps us fighting and that’s the best way to obscure the truth. During any fight, each side obscures their individual error, and both sides also do an excellent job of concealing and burying the truth that the other does hold dear. Yes, both the atheistic Darwinian and the Genesis-literal Christian have truths to tell. The atheistic Darwinian is witnessing a process of unfolding within the natural world that is very true and very real. The Genesis-literal Christian understands deeply that God is the ruler of a just universe and that he has designed the archetypes before the beginning of time.

But by burying the other side’s truth in their pride and prejudice, each group limits the others ability to see the wonders of God’s creation. We are observing, feeling and perceiving beings. We can understand joy. Besides beautiful human relation, nothing gives me greater joy than looking closely at God’s creation. Why does it give me such joy to think about how ginger is related to a banana or how relatively unchanged a species of fern has been for millions of years or how I am evolving to become the “me” of God’s planning? I cannot fathom.

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Established Truth and Awakening Truth

posted by Mike

I suspect that truth in all areas is a lot like scientific truth.  Truth in science has been and is a gradual acquiring of knowledge about the world (the universe and life).  I have recently been reading the essays of Stephen Jay Gould, the paleontologist and zoologist.  He wrote monthly essays for over 20 years for the publication, Nature.  His articles deal primarily with biological and paleontological topics, but he ranges over the spectrum of scientific issues, and in addition writes about ethics, morals, literature, and a host of other topics.  Gould was a Darwinist by persuasion and he often states that his primary love in his field is scientific research.  His essays are like little gems of information and new learning for the reader.  Gould himself reports that in writing each essay he himself learns much more about his topic, that each essay has its own awakenings for him in coming to understand the world and life on it a little bit better.  His creative approach to writing also  enlarges what we understand as “truth,” for ourselves, a little in each essay.

So I use the term “awakening truth” for scientific truth [one might also use the term “emergent truth”].  It is not static, but continually developing and enriching, when science is allowed a relatively free environment in which to work.  We have other “truths” in our experience.  Some would say we have ethical and moral truth, judicial truth (the U.S. Constitution, for example) and religious truth.  From what I see of these other truths, they, too, are flexible and change over time, reflecting new ways of thinking and seeing in these admittedly relatively stable systems.  There are some who believe that in some of these areas truth is firmly established.  I think we should be very wary of such thinking, as the realities of life are never static; conditions, cultures, and social needs do change over time and need to be reflected in cultural values and institutions.  Social and cultural change for the better has often been stymied in the past, not uncommonly for centuries, by those who were bent on maintaining established truth and who resisted those who were seeking awakening or emergent truth with the threats of exile and death by fire.

“…to those who know me only through these essays, ….Who can surpass me in the good fortune they supply; every month is a new adventure in learning and expression…I could not dent the richness in a hundred lifetimes, but I must simply have a look at a few more of those pretty pebbles.”   – Stephen Jay Gould, The Flamingo’s Smile

Stephen Gould died of cancer at the age of 61 in 2002  
[photo by Kathy Chapman]

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“What is Truth?”

Posted by: David

To answer this fundamental question, let’s return to the idea of our outer lives as projections of our inner lives.

In this day and age, there’s a deep reluctance to ascribe objectivity to the world around us. “Truth is as variable as the tides,” might be a saying of a post-modern coastal tribe. There would certainly be some truth to that saying since tides are very real indeed—what Mike is calling awakening truths. But the post-modern variable truth is only a reality of the human perception. Truth in its most universal form has nothing to do with variability; truth has to do with clarity. Our reluctance to believe in a universal truth is because we project our inner lives onto the universe. Our inner lives are very messy and befuddled, which is how man sees his world.

In Richard Dawkins’ book “The Selfish Gene,” he described all life as having a tendency toward selfishness which is what he believed the evolutionary process to be. But I think this is his biased projection of man’s selfishness onto the universe, rather than a reflection on objective reality. Naturally, man wouldn’t have seen it any other way. Our vision of reality is colored by our selfish ego.

To analyze reality, we must first have clarity within our interior thoughts and feelings, because it is inside of us where we make decisions. We make our choices and those choices spread outward into our outer lives. Clarity within is essential before we can make judgments on reality.

The Blame Game

When we understand the exterior world as a projection of our interior lives, we also protect ourselves from the blame game. No longer will we say: “Look what cards I’ve been dealt,” “See what life has brought me,” and “How could it be my fault, look at my circumstances.”

My dad said something that helped me when I was in my twenties that I’ll never forget. He said that the first step to healing is to first own 100% of one’s problems. He was so right. When I have trouble with someone, I should own 100% of the problem. When we see the world around us falling apart, we should own 100% of the problem. I’m not kidding here either. We should own 100% of the problems in our families, in our town, and in our world.

He would say that I’ve taken his pithy advice a bit too far, but I don’t think so. The outer world is a projection of our inner lives, not only us as an individual, but us as a collective unit. We are not disconnected from the world, and thus, the world’s problems are our problems. We are blood relatives to every last human out there, from Mr. Sentenced-to-Death-Row to Hitler. Even though my umbilical cord was severed after birth, I still have a fundamental connection to everyone who has lived, is living and will live. We are a part of the family of man no matter how much we try to isolate ourselves from others. Someone has to take ownership of the sadness and pain; it might as well be me and you. This is what Jesus did on the cross. In his innocence, he took the blame for the family of man.

By taking 100% ownership of our problems, we take responsibility not only of our own problems but also the problems of others. As the responsible party, we can ask for forgiveness which is where healing and redemption begins. In the prayer Jesus taught us, he didn’t tell us to pray, “Forgive me for my trespasses.” He taught us to pray, “Forgive us for our trespasses.” The family of man is one body. If I strangle someone with my left hand, my whole body is blame, not just the left hand. What is so marvelous about this is that in our Just universe we have the ability to intercede for the rest of the body. We can stand on the rule for others. We are 100% guilty, because we are of the same body. Yes, you are a blood-relative of Saddam Hussein.

Make Way for the Truth

What does all this have to do with truth? In order to see the truth within the reality of the universe, we must make way for the truth. The big lie must be revealed within us. The big lie is that I’m not responsible. It’s not my fault. I didn’t have anything to do with what happened in Gaza. I didn’t put Jesus on the cross.

However, as a part of the family of man, I did nail him to the cross. And what I allow to go on in my head today does affect reality. My mind and body are totally interconnected with the rest of the humanity. To begin seeing clearly I must clear out the lies within—the only place that I have control. Jesus said, “First clean the inside of the cup, so that its outside may also be clean.”

Truth, untruth, a-truth, relative-truth or whatever type of truth that you see in our outer lives is a projection of our interior understanding of truth. The way we see and interpret the world is directly related to what goes on in our inner lives. When we lie to ourselves, the lies multiply externally to us. Truth becomes obscured and reality begins to seem variable. But we have control over the big lie, the small lies and the white lie. We can control whether or not we lie.

Why do we lie to ourselves? We lie because our ego’s existence depends on a contrived-sense of individuality. The ego must project itself as the all-powerful ruler of oneself. It cannot allow itself to bleed into the rest of humanity. It would then cease to be a solitary unit. To prevent death, the ego must falsely preserve a notion of independence. The ego argues to the mind and body, “No, it couldn’t be your fault,” “Yes, you were right to take that course of action,” and the most deceptive self-preserving argument of all: “Don’t worry, the ends really do justify the means.”

However, by accepting responsibility for 100% of our problems, the power of these lies is broken, the truth begins to shine within us, and the truth of the universe becomes more transparent. When we take on 100% of the guilt, we also find out wondrously that we have been pardoned 100% through Christ’s payment. Our conscious is cleared and life begins.

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Secular Christianity

Posted by Mike

It does sound like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? And yet, I expect that we have more secular religious people around than you’d might think. Just recently we had in town  representatives of an organization of secular Judaism. They were in the process of developing a congregation in the area, so that non-believing Jews would be able to get together and benefit from their traditional culture, religious services, and liturgy, without the necessity of having to believe or accept the basic theology of the religion.

 I think there is a natural human need for the spiritual, for respectful ritual, for recognition that there is more to life than we can see and touch, a need for community and sharing, respectful awareness of this “spiritual other” that is variously defined by religions. It seems to me that this natural human need is what we can call the need for the religious. I suspect that many observant Christians, when questioned closely about the theological basis of their practice, would feel uncomfortable with such questioning and change the subject rather quickly, that the real basis for their practice is the sense of community they derive, the emotional comfort of their attendance, and the structure that it gives to their moral and ethical life, that the theology and beliefs are quite secondary and unimportant to them. I understand that this would not be the case with many other Christians, especially evangelicals, but could be expected within the congregations of the more mainstream Protestant denominations and Roman Catholics.

 We do have at least one secular religion in this country, Unitarian Universalism. Unitarianism is an effort to see the value in the positive aspects of all religions, and to incorporate those in religious service and practice. It draws on multiple religious traditions and encourages members to seek their own spiritual path. Some people may confuse Unity with Unitarianism. Unity attempts to separate the teachings of Jesus from his alleged divinity and to focus on his teachings and the positive value of those. Unity does see God as “the source and creator of all.” So Unity could not be called a secular religion.

Are there secularists in the other major religious traditions, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist? I have no expertise to speak with assurance on that issue, but expect that we would find many. People want the connection with a religious community with which they share culture in common, but often they want to believe what makes sense to them, not what an authority expects or demands. I’ll just give one example of someone, in an unusual position of authority, who has uniquely solved the problem for himself. John Shelby Spong is the retired Bishop of the Episcopal Church Diocese of Newark. If you read his books, it is clear that John Spong does not believe in Christian theology, that he doesn’t believe that Jesus was divine, that he doesn’t believe in the virgin birth or in Jesus’s bodily resurrection, or in the reported miracles of Jesus. But he makes it clear that Jesus’s teachings, the liturgy, and much of the apparatus of religious practice is vital and necessary to him and has benefit for the practitioner and her or his community.

 Bishop Spong seems clearly to be a secular Christian. It works for him. It likely works for many others, but they are sort of “undercover.” It might be a healthy “opening” process were the mainstream churches to welcome all to join their practice of spirituality, with no qualifications regarding what one must believe, and with only the behavioral qualification of appropriate behavior, and respectful honoring of the great unknowns of the universe.

 

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Everyone is an Artist

Posted by: David

Let’s return to the idea of our minds, our awareness, our thoughts and our inner lives as a force. This force moves our bodies and causes us to act in ways that mirror the thoughts that flow out of our minds. In many ways, these thoughts become manifested in reality, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly.

Franz Marc, Füchse, 1913.

Franz Marc, Füchse, 1913.

Art is a good example of this. In particular the work of the Expressionists, Modern and Post-Modern artists, the inner thoughts of these artists are revealed in astonishing ways. The truth of their minds is made manifest in reality. These are direct examples of how the mind’s imagery can be turned into reality.

Sometimes suffering or beauty can be hidden or indirectly available in the artist’s work. The scene might be of pain, yet the meaning behind the artwork is a beautiful statement of unconditional love and sacrifice. Tears are just as easily shed in joy as in pain. The opposite is also true.

Most of us aren’t really that aware of what our minds are clutching during our days and nights. And we also aren’t aware that every one of us are artists. Our minds are made manifest in our work and actions.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

 

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Monica’s Wooden Rule

Posted by: David

“In her dream she saw herself standing on a sort of wooden rule, and saw a bright youth approaching her, joyous and smiling at her, while she was grieving and bowed down with sorrow. But when he inquired of her the cause of her sorrow and daily weeping (not to learn from her, but to teach her, as is customary in visions), and when she answered that it was my soul’s doom she was lamenting, he bade her rest content and told her to look and see that where she was there I was also. And when she looked she saw me standing near her on the same rule.” (Confessions, Book III, 9.14).

Saint Augustine writes of a dream his mother Monica had. The dream represents her life and her work on behalf of the spiritual debts and guilt incurred by her son. In the dream, Monica learned from a joyous, bright youth that her prayers for her son were significant in paying for the spiritual debts of her son. Saint Augustine was side-by-side with Monica on the rule well before Saint Augustine devoted his life to Christ.

Guilt and debt are the tightest of bedfellows. We cause others to feel guilt in ways that are not even remotely obvious, yet are clearly destructive to our lives as well as those we cast our guilt towards. We usually pass the guilt out to our most kindred people. In doing so we subconsciously and manipulatively use it as a tool to strengthen bondage, yet ironically it isolates us from them.

Likewise, the debts we charge others not only superficially places us in power over them, but it also impoverishes them financially, spiritually and/or emotionally. It binds us to them and them to us. And no one is greater than the least in a relationship. If part of a whole is impoverished, then the entire whole is impoverished. It doesn’t work the other way around either: the least is not as great as the greatest.

The reason for the impoverished state is that the relationship is in a state of stressful tension. The impoverished segment wants and needs to pull away, yet the debtor calls in the debt that he is owed. It’s self-consuming. It is death for both parties because of the interconnectedness.

It’s also a vicious cycle. As we feel the guilt (the reality of owing), we are required to pay back our loans.  To pay back our loans, it requires us to find our payment from elsewhere, so we manipulatively (consciously or subconsciously) create guilt with others (usually the closest and easiest prey, maybe, say, a spouse) so we can keep paying off our debts. There’s no filing for bankruptcy in the emotional world either. It doesn’t work that way.

We can place people in debt through lending of wealth, status, sex, emotions, trust and even a simple look. This is not only how the power-hungry, charismatic cult-of-personality takes power, but it is also how marriages start and friends form. None of us are innocent of using guilt as a manipulative device.

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.

1 Corinthians 4:4 

Although we may not be innocent, we can have a clear conscious. We do that by releasing our debts and asking for forgiveness. Both must be done in tandem. However, this is a Catch-22. We can’t just release our debts because all of us are connected with the same chains-chains of debt and guilt. I am connected to you and you are connected to me. We’re siphoning to and from each other. I can’t release my chains because I owe someone else. The chains I have attached to you must feed the one that I owe and so on. I’m bound by this web of guilt and debt. It is a law as strong as gravity. It’s impossible to let go of the chains unless we know that our debts have been paid for.

But we can drop our chains in the light of knowing that our debts have been paid. This is what the Cross of Christ is all about. Our chains of guilt have been severed by innocent blood paying the debt in full.

We are free to be free. Now what we need to do is to start severing the chains that bond us through our guilt burden on others—no more glances, no more “you owe me” consciously or subconsciously. We are free to free others. We have the key and the key fits all of our locks, and everyone else’s too. We are free.

We can even release guilt when we are bound to others. In fact, we should do this while bound to others. Many others still need our ‘cash flow’ to pay off their debts. They don’t realize that they are free and so are still paying the loan officer. If they don’t take it from us, they’ll take it from someone else and incur more debt. It’s best to take it from someone who won’t ask for it back, none of it, spiritually, emotionally or physically. When we’re truly free, we have the supply. This is what Monica’s dream meant for Saint Augustine. This is what Jesus means for us.

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What does “hope springs eternal” mean?

Posted by: David

Just yesterday, I was thinking about why things grow and why things die based on the idea of awareness as a force. Yes, I understand Biology 101: things grow because they take in the necessary chemistry for growth and things die due to various reasons. But I was looking further than this. I was looking for a universal reason. I was thinking of things such as trees and humans, but I was also thinking of things such as planets and galaxies. Don’t worry. I won’t presently go off in the direction of stellar bodies. That would certainly get us sidetracked.

So, what’s your general vision for your life? Can you remember back to that general vision about life that you had when you where a child? That’s certainly a difficult task for most of us, and in fact, it might not be possible based on our personal pattern of brain development and also simply due to our current state-of-mind. But I expect that many children have a general awareness of life and growth that drives them into adulthood. Of course, I’m generalizing. There are certainly children that die young who have had a deep sense of life and growth and there are elderly people that have a general sense of life and living that is held to the grave. These exceptions only emphasize what I’m trying to say.

Yes, in biological terms life might equal a beating heart and death might equal no pulse. However, when I talk about life, I’m speaking of a vigor and vitality, a sense of life and growth. In regards to death, I’m talking about a sense of futility and purposelessness as being the driving factor that points us toward a death more real than the ‘no pulse’ type of death. These are mindsets, perceptions and states of awareness common to us all.

Since I’m beginning to feel that a person’s central awareness is a fundamental force (an actual force) that drives a person’s actions and life, it seems to follow that this force is what drives a person toward life or toward death. This force drives us onward in our existence. Since I don’t believe that ‘no-pulse’ equals death, this force drives us beyond the grave.

This force is generally one’s present mindset, present awareness, and present perceptions of life. What is your present mindset?

This is why hope is so essential. Hope is the mindset of life. Life is eternal, otherwise it wouldn’t be called life, would it? “Life” cannot die. The opposite mindset is the mindset of death. Fortunately, death is able to die and when it does it becomes life. 

Many have been on their deathbeds and at the moment of death been in the mindset of life. And there is where they truly discovered what hope springs eternal meant. We can do the same without being on our deathbed. And there we find vitality, joy, truth and love.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

1 Peter 1:3

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A Just Universe/Unjust Universe?

Posted by Mike

Is the universe just or is it unjust [or is this title just a vehicle for my musings]? We humans think in dichotomies much of the time; likely too much, as thinking that way abstracts information from the whole of reality and conceptualizes in ways that at times leaves the baby out as well as the bath water. Part of the problem, of course, is that, for us to use our thought processes, it is necessary for us to abstract and conceptualize, using information that seems to us, based upon our experience, most useful. Virtually all of this process of perceiving, analyzing, thinking, retrieving from memory and integrating to current perceptions, and conceptualizing occurs automatically, outside of our awareness. And the process is generally so rapid that we are able to quickly have a perception, then make a decision, then act. At times we do think on things — ponder — consciously using our power of thought to process perceptions, memories, and conclusions so that we end up with deliberate conceptualizations. And these are those that are generally about matters that are more subjective than objective, such as opinions, values, conclusions, decisions, rather than about things that we can touch, see, or hear.

What exactly does one mean by “justice?” It’s an abstract term; you can’t see or touch justice; it has to do with the reasonableness and fairness of outcomes. The word is derived from the Latin “jus,” meaning law, or right. And it means being fair and reasonable. “Just” is defined as “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair [Oxford American].”

So, let’s segue back to the case of the universe. If we narrow that down a bit and talk about the “natural world,” it gets us back to the arena that we actually know something about, the earth and its constituents. Immediately I think that the concept doesn’t apply, that the natural world doesn’t operate that way, that “justice” is a concept made up by humans to reflect a feature of human behavior, not operations in the natural world. Maybe, however, if we look at the animal world, at our nearest relatives, the mammals, or even the primates, does justice apply? Primate society is tribal, like human society, and has many features in its social apparatus that are similar to what we see in human society: there is sharing, quid pro quo relationships, dominance, submission, acting out aggressively. But would we ever talk about the presence or absence of justice in primate or other animal relationships? I don’t think so. They are just doing what animals do, sometime engaging in complex social behaviors, but is “fair and reasonable” ever an issue? I doubt it. I suspect that being fair and reasonable is likely unique to humans on this planet. We don’t know for sure. For all I know, pods of whales or dolphins are breaking through the barrier of reflection at this very moment and learning what it is to be fair and reasonable, or already have, for that matter. The concept also has something to do with withholding personal gratification and allowing the other to benefit from the delay. We humans have learned to do this, to disregard personal power in a situation and defer to the other on the basis of “fairness.” [it’s interesting how the more we seek to understand the meaning of words and concepts, the more complex and full of meaning they seem to become – is it possibly because all subjective abstractions have a “deep structure” that is impenetrable, perhaps something like the “felt meanings” suggested by Carl Rogers (?) – language being inadequate for ultimate meanings].

Conclusion: The universe is neither just nor unjust. It operates on what we call “natural laws”; I guess we would include the laws of the physical universe (physics) and the law of “action and reaction through time.” It may not be just, but it operates with regularity, with occasional bumps that man has not yet been able to predict or control; bumps on earth like hurricanes, vagaries of the weather, volcanic eruptions, slidings of techtonic plates. There are obviously bumps out there in the solar system and within the galaxy; but I have no expertise to be able to speak of them. Though there may not be justice in the natural world, there is regularity and consistency generally speaking, and we can take comfort in that. There is no comfort for the wildebeest fording a river full of crocs or for a late flying robin in the North, finding itself with no food to eat and freezing temperatures. There certainly is a lot of pain and suffering in the world, for creatures besides humans, but it is not because the world is unjust. It is because it is the way it is, nature is consistent in its gifts as well as its withholdings.   To a large extent, we can count on it remaining so for a while.

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Questioning Questioning Authority

Posted by: David

To question authority we use our minds, knowledge, consciousness and common sense as a litmus test of justice in a particular social system and the authority in power. But is this really necessary since injustice is found in all societies? There seems to exist systemic injustice.

All human systems of society are unjust in different ways. The authority of that system simply reflects the relative justice of that system. When you question authority, you’re questioning the relative justice of the system as a whole since the system is closely integrated. The leadership is not separate from the rest of social system. They are one. If the body is just, the head will be just. If the body is unjust, the head will be unjust. I don’t think there’s a middle ground. Something is either just or unjust. There’s no sorta-just social system.

But “if your enemy is hungry, feed him. For if he is thirsty, give him a drink. If you do this, you will pile burning coals on his head.” Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. Every person must be subject to the governing authorities, for no authority exists except by God’s permission.

The reason these sentences were all blended together by Paul in the sequence he used is no coincidence. He recognized that by submitting in goodness to the governing authorities (potential enemies), you pile burning coals on their heads. The reason for this has to do with the nature of justice and how perfect that justice is (i.e., there’s no sorta-just system). If only a fragment of justice comes in contact with an unjust system, the unjust system will be burned and/or transformed so that it can handle being in contact with the just system. Because justice is either just or unjust, that which is unjust cannot exist in the presence of that which is just. The two are like oil and water. Justice is that perfect; it cannot be tainted with injustice.

Counterintuitively, the way to restore justice in an unjust system (in which I’m including all social systems) is not to rebel. It’s to inject it with true justice. The initial injection was Christ. Practically-speaking for us, restoring justice involves: humility, mercy, love, justice, hope, submission.

Yes, all current authoritative social systems are corrupt. In a sense, there’s no real need to question them, because they are all corrupt and unjust in different ways. However, if one rebels and takes over an unjust system, it always takes unjust means. Just one innocent life cut short, just one shout in anger, and just one contemptuous thought makes the rebel unjust. This same type of rebellious take-over was completed in 1776, 1865, 1945, and 2003—not to mention any other seemingly-good historical changing of the guard.

That may sound hopeless, but it’s really not. I may not have faith in socially-conceived systems of justice, but I certainly believe that the universe is run by a just God. Thus, there actually is a deep justice in this world, deeper than any socially-conceived justice system. And that system of justice is not only available in some heavenly realm in the future. That system of justice is available right now.

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