Aquinas – Great Books

 I f17504670_10212490444366365_1820437480093864198_oinished this from my Great Books reading list, yesterday.
It has some very interesting ideas on Eternal, Natural, and Human law. A few I completely agreed with and some were outright strange.
I had a difficult time comprehending at first, but I googled “aquinas reading guide” and found an article online that really helped. Once I started using their tips and stopped trying to read each article straight through, it was much easier to follow.
I did not read the whole five volumes, just these sections on law. Six hundred years old and still relevant to arguments being made today.

MLK, Jr. Book

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I finished reading this today. While I admire the man and the movement he helped get going, I have to admit after reading this I agree with him on fewer things than before. I do not agree with the idea of a “social gospel” in the New Testament and I believe there is a fundamental difference between the way Gandhi promoted and used non-violent non-participation and the way he used it. I do agree with his sentiment about the Vietnam war (and war in general).
I was a little disappointed because the book is not an autobiography, but an edited collection of his private writing 30 years after his death. I don’t think they should have called it that. I would have looked into it more and bought another book if it hadn’t been recommended to me.
Take aways? As always, I need more information. I’d like to learn more details about Gandhi and India, why MLK was killed, black opposition to his methods, what life was really like around the country before the CR Act, and three more books have been added to my reading list. And I need to read something from Mandela and Malcolm X. Is there nothing definitive out there? Is there one book or line of reading that will get me to an answer? Of course not!

Star Wars & Philosophy

I’m reading “The Ultimate Star Wars and Philosophy”! I so love this series of books.

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” We’ve all heard Yoda say that a thousand times! We love it because it is true. The cycle repeats itself daily all over the world. But how do we stop it? Hating the hate, being angry at angry people isn’t the answer. Light and love are.

We find the fear and bring it into the light and we are no longer afraid. We love that which makes us angry for showing us there is a problem. We examine ourselves and that around us for the fear and bring it out into the light. Hate is suffering because it is in contrast to nature and cannot survive in the light. Hidden fear and anger feed hate and keep it alive.

Anakin finds that the Tusken Raiders have tortured and killed his mother. He has feared her loss and is afraid for his future without her. He does not reflect on why they may have done this. He responds in his fear and anger and does more damage to the world.

Obi-Wan fears to find what the record will show about who killed the younglings. Once he knows he could have reacted to that fear and anger toward Anakin and gone to kill him. It’s what Anakin expected. He stops to reflect on what he might have missed, where he and/or Anakin went wrong and goes to Anakin to try and save him from further damage.

We can use this example. When we see hate and anger, we can stop and reflect on how that person came to that point and do our part to bring the anger and fear out into the light and be healed with love and compassion.

This, my friends, is why the Star Wars story is still being watched and built on. I have to admit that I have my doubts as to what Disney will do with it, though.

Twelve Hours

March 22-8pm (at the computer)

I’ve felt more and more as if I’m walking around inside The Matrix. I hear people talking, I read people’s posts, and I feel how panicked and worried people are. Then I wonder if it’s all real. The school thing comes up a lot and I’m having a very hard time putting it into words. The construct of school is not real. This idea that your children will lose in life if they don’t do well in school is not real. We’ve been living outside the matrix for a long time now. I’ve become good at using the words people inside use that make us look like we are doing what they are doing but I want so badly to just tell them we aren’t. I want to scream it sometimes! You don’t have to get your kid to use whole sentences by the time they are 3. They don’t need to read fluently by 5. You don’t have to force them to take music lessons or finish a dance class they signed up for. They don’t need to take algebra. You don’t need to be mean and harsh to teach them discipline. You can just live happily and joyfully together, trying new things, discovering the world, working and playing together. The matrix isn’t real! There is no spoon!

When I do have these moments, when I actually say, no my son doesn’t go to school at all, we’ve never taken a class. They repeat back to me, oh you homeschool. Well, sort of. How do you get them to…? That’s what I mean. I don’t. I don’t demand their attention. I don’t force them to read. I don’t enforce strict rules. I treat them as fully formed and functioning people. I help them as I would anyone else. I am kind and generous as much as I can be and they return the favor.

This isn’t coming out right.

March 23-8am

So I sat down to write in my journal this morning, still struggling with the Matrix idea. I feel like I’m walking around in this world with the key to happiness in my pocket. I keep trying to offer it to others and they don’t want it. I want to yell at them, “I have the answer! Listen to me!” As I wrote that down I started to see something. Do I have the answer? For everyone? Or just for me? The odds are that I don’t have the whole answer, only the key to my own personal happiness. Maybe it’s just arrogance that makes me walk around thinking I can solve other people’s problems, I can “wake them up”.

When Neo took the pill and was released from the matrix, he walked through the fantasy world wanting to start a revolution that woke people up, right now and all at once. He was advised that it wouldn’t be wise. Maybe it would be too painful. It may cause more problems than it solved. Maybe people need to wake up on their own terms, at their own time, for their own reasons. What can I do? I can be here with love and patience, waiting for them to show signs of awakening. I can support them and encourage them as they find themselves and make better lives for themselves. I can say, “Yes. That cat did just walk by again. It wasn’t just in your mind. I wonder what it means?” And I can leave them alone to find their own happiness for themselves.

Thoughts and Opinions

I’ve been hearing that Bill Nye isn’t really a “scientist” lately and decided to look into it a bit. My first reaction when I saw him on the news being asked questions about global warming was, “Why are we asking a children’s television character about science issues? Why not just trot Captain Kangaroo out or ask Mr. Rodgers for therapy advice?” But then I thought, well wait, maybe he is a scientist and the children’s show was just a way for him to make money. Maybe he got his Ph.D. in physics and then decided to pay off his loans by creating a wildly popular tv show to educate middle school kids about science. But from what I’ve found, that isn’t the case. He has a B.S. in Engineering (and we all know how Sheldon feels about Engineering) and six honorary degrees in science. That doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t act as a scientist or that we should disregard his opinion completely. He may have very interesting insight and ideas, but he isn’t the authority here. His opinion about science matters is probably just as good as my teenage son’s and I trust him to tell me the truth mostly because he isn’t on TV telling me that he’s a scientist and that I should believe what he says because he’s researched it. I’m considering looking more deeply into how he became a children’s science show host because I find that kind of thing a bit fascinating, but it may be a while before I get to it. For now, I’m going with the opinion that TV news shows actually did ask Bill Nye “The Science Guy” serious questions about global warming because they (and he) believed that the general public would think, “Hey! That’s The Science Guy! He taught me about the mechanics of flight and Newton’s Laws when I was 12. He must know more about global warming than I do.” What bothers me is not that the news brings him out as the authority to ask, but that so many of us would not question it.

Ruler or Ruled

Is humanity naturally authoritarian, or is it a learned behavior? Are we more inclined to accept authority now than we used to be? These are the things that I wonder while I’m reading Thomas Aquinas’, “Summa Theologica”.

“Whether it was useful for laws to be framed by men?”

“But men are more induced to be good willingly by means of admonitions, than against their will by laws. Therefore there was no need to frame laws.”

“On the contrary, Isidore says ‘Laws were made so that in fear of them human audacity might be held in check, that innocence might be safeguarded in the midst of wickedness, and that the dread of punishment might prevent the wicked from doing harm.’ But these things are must necessary to mankind. Therefore it was necessary that human laws should be made.”

This is exactly what my son and friend were arguing about yesterday. He says anarchy is possible. She says it’s crazy, mankind would destroy itself if we didn’t submit to a ruler.

Aquinas is saying that some people will not leave others in peace, so we must make laws so that they will live in fear of punishment and behave. So a man that would hurt another, be shunned by his fellow man, risk being killed himself in an anarchic society, for being a thief or otherwise disagreeable; this same man will behave for fear of being punished by law? I don’t think so. You’re only making life more difficult for everyone else. The real bad guys will do it anyway. And now you’ve created a class of people (people that also have the tendency to be jerks) that are allowed and expected by the population to rule over the rest of us. It just doesn’t make any sense, unless you believe there is a class of people with better sense, a group of people that can’t be jerks because they have either evolved into better humans or have been chosen by God to rule over the less than desirable general population.

And then I ask my friend, which one do you believe? That God has chosen our leaders or that one group has evolved? And then I ask, which end are you on? The rulers or the ruled?

Listening & Learning

My son’s conversation on Facebook with an adult friend of mind has me thinking about a lot of things. First of all, I’m always proud to watch him express himself through writing online. I’m finding out a lot about his way of thinking. It’s fascinating to watch him interact with people that have radically different ideas than his.

The other thing is what do people mean by “anarchy”? They seem to think it means chaos or a lack of any kind of rules. It doesn’t, though. It means no rulers. There are natural laws and rights that every human being has. These are commonly known as “just” laws, laws regarding property and personal rights. But any right I claim ends where another’s’ right begins. I do have the right to my own property and person, but I do not have the right to someone else’s. Why is that so difficult to see? I have the right to live and go where I please, but I do not have the right to take something from someone else to do so.

My thoughts are that most people are greedy and selfish. That’s a natural state. People make up the government that you vote for. They are human beings just like you. When we vote for a certain person to make and enforce rules, we’re only giving one small group of people the legal right to be greedy and selfish and the rest of us must shut up and tow the line. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I don’t know all the details about how an anarchic society would work. It’s never been done. But what we have right now and what our country is becoming isn’t working for very many people, is it? We need to re-think some things. Right now all we have is two or three groups of people standing on opposite sides hurling insults and feeling superior. All the signs point to more anger and feelings of oppression building up until it results in violence. More people need to stop, read, discuss, listen, and learn from each other. More people need to take charge of their own lives instead of voting to make others do it for them.

The positive note is that it seems my sons will be part of the solution in the future. It gives me hope to see them so calmly and logically argue their points, all the while researching and reading and really listening and trying to figure out what people are trying to say. And they are so much better at it than I am!

On that note! I’m reading a book called “How to Write a Paragraph” along with the next in the series “How to Read a Paragraph” from the Foundation for Critical Thinking. Maybe in the near future, my writing will actually flow and go somewhere. Here’s to hoping!

Kids These Days

I often hear people complain about the state of communication in the world. You know, “Does anyone know how to effectively communicate anymore?” “Doesn’t anyone know how to have a conversation in person?” And then I hear those same people blame this on smartphones. “What will kids be like if they’ve grown up using smartphones instead of talking to each other?”

But wait a minute. I’m fairly certain that it is people around my age complaining about other people around my age, and we didn’t grow up on smartphones or even just plain old cell phones for that matter. The wide use of smartphones has only been going on for the past ten years or so. Could it be that something else is to blame for our lack of communication skills?

I look at it this way. I got my hands on this new technology later in my life, not too old to be able to use it and adapt my ways and not too young to live the rest of my life as if it has always existed (like I do with microwaves). Yes, sometimes I have a hard time balancing my usage. I’m fascinated with the idea that I can communicate with so many people from all over the world so quickly and at all times. It’s a tad overwhelming. I’m learning new rules of etiquette and adapting old ones. We all misunderstand each other quite often. I mess up and overreact to things and lose track of what’s happening right next to me because I’m busy reading about what my friend in Switzerland is doing today. It’s new. I’m excited. I’m learning. We’re the problem on the internet. Not the kids.

The kids are growing up with this technology. They use it and adopt all the rules and etiquette regarding it as second nature. The same way they learned to use their limbs to get where they wanted to go and words to get what they wanted verbally. They will have no problem in the future, that is, with smartphones anyway. They live it. They understand it in the context of their lives, not ours.

Should you not let your child have a smartphone? That’s up to you. My kids didn’t have one when they were tiny because they weren’t widely used yet. They did play with my cell phone and make pretend calls to Grandma by flipping open repeatedly and jabbering into it. A land line phone is a complete novelty to them. They can’t imagine not being able to make a call to anyone, anywhere, at any time. But they did get a smart phone when they were about 12/13 years old. We found some that were cheap enough for us to buy. They could make calls but the “smart” part only worked when they found WiFi (which is everywhere really). It was the cheapest way. We’re not made of money!

They are 15/16 years old now and have shiny new smartphones with unlimited data. It’s more expensive but we found a way to swing it and let me tell you how awesome it is to have a “google duel” in the middle of a movie or event. No one can pull a fast one around here. Who’s that actor? Was he in that other show? What year was that? Is that historically accurate? What is the atomic weight of Beryllium? It’s endless and a lot of fun, not to mention educational and mind-expanding.

Does my son spend an inordinate amount of time texting his girlfriend? Yes. In terms of my teenage years, it’s the same as when I sat on the phone with my boyfriend listening to him play a game with his brother while I was traveling with my family. It irritated my mother to no end, mostly because she really would have liked to use the phone herself or maybe have me participate in family activities. But I was becoming my own person, looking out into the world instead of back into my family and their inane card games and spaghetti dinners!

When I talk to my kids about how I feel like I’m using my phone to communicate too much or that I spend too much time on Facebook trolling what others are up to and getting angry about it, they look at me like I’ve lost my mind. One of my sons told me that my Facebook feed doesn’t have enough funny stuff on it. It’s filled with news outlets, writers, and education things. He added some pages that he finds hilarious. Unfortunately, I don’t always get the joke and it makes me feel a little old but I laugh anyway and “like” the ones I get. Until he showed me, I didn’t even know there were pages that just put out funnies, like the funny pages only better! I found some that were more my speed. The point is that they don’t use the technology like we do and they don’t worry over it either. They see things and move on. They know how many different versions of every event are out there. Heck! They can post their own if they like. They comment here and there when the mood strikes them. They post their own things, or not. They all use it their own way. We could take some lessons from them for sure.

Our kids are doing what we all did growing up, leaving the family behind. They just do it differently now with high tech gadgets that are integral to life now. Yes, you can live without a smartphone but, like living without chocolate, I don’t recommend it. It really isn’t much fun. “Save a tree! Use Google Maps!” and “Wikipedia” is the better than any two shelves full of thirty-year-old encyclopedias!

We need to focus on ourselves. If we feel like we aren’t communicating with those around us, maybe we need to change something. Maybe we can ask a friend for a lunch date, put away our phone and talk about what’s been going on? Maybe we can call our Mom and ask her how she’s doing? Maybe we can write a letter to an older family member that really doesn’t understand this whole Facebook thing. Do something to communicate with others they way you feel they want to be reached and you’ll find that life is still basically the same, just with better toys that can order your lunch before you even get to the restaurant!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Thoughts

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! I’m not Irish or Catholic. I don’t really drink a lot of beer, and corned beef and cabbage grosses me out. But I do like St. Patrick’s Day! I like Irish accents. I love the way they talk. It fascinates me. One of my favorite movies is “Darby O’Gill and the Little People”, which reminds me to get it out and see if the family wants to watch it tonight. They probably won’t. They are really enjoying Star Trek Voyager right now. But I digress, as usual.

I posted a link to one of my very favorite St. Patrick’s Day videos on Facebook today. It’s from VeggiesTales and my kids used to find those videos SO funny! It was a short video in one of the longer ones. The tale of St. Patrick! Of course, it’s a Christian kids’ show so it’s not “history” but it is pretty funny. The boys loved his original name and they ran around calling each other “Pig Boy” for days.

But here’s why I’m writing about it, finally. I watched it this morning for old times sake and found the treatment of the Pagan natives a tad condescending. I remember that coming up when we watched it years ago. The boys thought it was just crazy, people worshiping twigs and rocks! But they found nothing odd about the young man that prayed 100 times a day and brought food to people like “magic” through prayer. I bet that would seem a tad on the crazy side to people not familiar with Christian beliefs. I guess I just thought that it was rude to talk about other people’s beliefs and culture in such a demeaning way and I don’t think it would bring many people to Christ by talking this way. But, in the program’s defense, it is a Christian kids show. It’s not supposed to be high art or critical thinking. But think about it. What does that teach our children? If my children had watched that video alone or with a group of other kids without an adult around, I think they would have taken the message that the Pagan people were fools and the Christian guy came to wisen them up. I wouldn’t want my children to have that idea at all. We approached it another way.

Since I was there watching with them and they asked about those crazy twig worshipers, we were able to talk a bit about it at their level. I told them that all humans were created by God, even the “twig worshipers” among many other peoples and religions. Everything looks crazy from the outside when you don’t really know much about it. From the video it looked pretty kooky to watch St. Patrick pray over 100 times a day. I mean, who’s he talking to? Doesn’t he think God might be busy? But to us, those that know God is infinite and wants us to acknowledge him at every turn, it doesn’t seem so strange. I didn’t go into Jesus and the crucifixion at the time. They were young and didn’t need to know violent truths just yet. But we can imagine what kind of crazy that can look like to someone outside the faith! “Wait. They killed your all powerful God?! WTF?!” It’s complicated and something most of us take on faith and try to comprehend with our puny minds a whole lifetime. But it IS strange on the surface of things, much like many religions and cultures look to us.

Here are my two cents on the subject, from a Christian perspective. It probably will sound condescending and rude to a Pagan but that’s ok. I’m doing the best I can to understand all of God’s people and creatures and I’m bound to make mistakes. Hopefully, I can err on the side of love and peace.

All people attempt to explain the world around them. To all human minds, the world seems very complicated and after some thinking seems to have some sort of order. All humans wonder, “How did we get here?” and “Why are we here?” I don’t know why God doesn’t just reveal His true self to the world and end the argument once and for all. Maybe that would ruin the fun of being human. Maybe it would terrify us out of our minds to know for sure, to see the real God. There’s a great story about a sparrow freezing in the snow that illustrates the concept so well. You can read it HERE.

So a group of people see nature continually cycling through seasons and begin to think there is a source behind this. They, without being able to see the source, know it’s there and worship it. As Christians, we believe there is a source as well. We also believe we know what that source is. Are they worshiping the creation or the creator? I don’t really know. I’ve never really asked. From what I’ve seen, I guess I assume that no one believes the tree itself is sacred but what it represents is. As Christians, I don’t believe the paper book we call a bible is sacred but I do believe that the source that wrote it is. I do not worship the bible or my necklace with a cross on it. I worship the creator that I know in my heart is there behind those things, as well as the seasons and earth.

My guess is that we have a lot more in common than we think. Will I go to my Pagan friends and tell them they are wrong? No. I won’t. Will I tell them about Jesus if they ask? Yes. I’ll love them and walk with them as Jesus did. My job as a Christian is love mankind as God does, the best I can. It’s God’s job to change their hearts towards Him. It’s mine to get out of His way. By treating other humans and their beliefs as silly or foolish, we put a barrier up between us. It’s pretty hard for others to see the love of Christ in me if I have a wall around my heart.