Sunday, 31 August 2014

Why were we born in particular times and places, to particular parents?

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How can this question be approached? The question of why I personally was born in a particular time and place and set of circumstances?

The question can only legitimately be asked after the religious and metaphysical questions have been answered in principle (what might be termed the 'metaphysical set-up') - I mean questions such as how 'I' am constituted (what combination of factors went into me); the nature of God, the purpose of reality, and so on.

In other words, to some extent this question answers itself - and the degree of specificity with which it answers itself is also a part of the metaphysical set-up.

So, my conclusion is a matter of establishing bounds, each of which constrains the answer to come extent.

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1. The specificity of my situation is not random - it is inconceivable that the situation into which I was born could be a matter of indifference to the God in which I believe; therefore my circumstances do - in some way and to some extent - embody divine providence.

2. I chose, or consented to, the circumstances - in some way and to some extent. It is inconceivable that my situation would have been forced-upon-me by by loving Heavenly Father. At the most basic level I chose to be born - chose mortal incarnate life (this is part of Mormon doctrine) when I could have remained an unincarnated pre-mortal spirit.

3. Yet, I did not choose everything that happens to me in life; because my life is open-ended, it is not a mere unfolding of pre-determined, pre-destined events. For example, other-peoples' choices and how they affect me was not fore-known, and therefore the consequences of other people's choices could not be chosen by me. I could choose and consent to only some aspects of the basic situation of my life - not all the microscopic details of life.

4. Also, I could not choose the specific consequences of my own choices - especially since my own choices are often sinful. But even if they were not, choices are made on the basis of incomplete information and have many unanticipated consequences and interactions.

I also chose, therefore, to deal-with in-principle the unknowable unfolding consequences of my own choices - rather than choosing the specific details of what will, in fact, contingently happen to me.

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In sum, there are bounds that indicate to each of us some idea of the extent to which 'my particular life' has been chosen and is meaningful.

We know that on the one hand Life is not random, and on the other hand that life is not determined.

Beyond that there is need for a guidance system to deal with the specifics and unanticipated aspects of life as it actually unfolds.

No matter how much we do know about the original and primary reason for our life and its purpose, this cannot be enough for the actual living of life.

This 'guidance system' to navigate through unknown and unknowable contingencies - is certainly one of the most important things in life: it is, indeed, pretty much indispensable.
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Saturday, 30 August 2014

There are no skeptics, there are no moral relativists

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That's it - really. Very obviously not - I'd have thought.

So why do we persist in taking these fools at their own valuation?

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Friday, 29 August 2014

Holiday snap - Me walking the oldest path in Europe

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More at: http://notionclubpapers.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/my-recent-inklings-pilgrimage.html
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Patriarchy, Feminism and Complementarianism defined - the ultimate nature of the relationship between men and women

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1. Patriarchy: Men lead. In all situations in private and public life, it is right and necessary that men take leadership. The male sex is primary; therefore, in an ultimate sense, society and reality should be, and will be, organized around the needs of men.

2. Feminism: Women should be privileged. In all situations and circumstances in private and public life, it is right and necessary that women are privileged. The female sex is primary; therefore, in an ultimate sense, society and reality should be, and will be, organized around the needs of women.

3. Complementarianism: Men and women have distinct roles and responsibilities. In some situations it is right and proper that men lead and are privileged, in some situations that women lead and are privileged.

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Due to its unfamiliarity, complementarianism requires further explanation:

The sexes are complementary, two different parts of a single whole. But not two 'halves' whatever that might mean - rather, two different but necessary elements.

Complementarianism entails that each sex alone (and therefore, each individual person) - while it can survive (for a while), is in some ultimate (metaphysical) spiritual sense incomplete; and the fullness of spiritual development therefore requires both sexes (and therefore at least two persons - one man and one woman) in a dyadic fashion.

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Note that I utterly reject the meaningfulness and possibility of Equality of the sexes - because Equality just-does mean Sameness - and the sexes just-are Different (or else we would not be having this discussion).

(In fact, not just sexes but people are different. And people who are different deserve and require different treatment. 'Sameness' is never more than expedient, contextual and approximate.)

I know that sameness is not what Equality is 'supposed to' mean; but I am saying that this sameness is, in fact, what Equality does mean - or else sometimes Equality is just an alternative word for Feminism.

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Other (more subtle, more nuanced) meanings of Equality cannot be held - the other-meanings will be too slippery, they will inevitably slide-into the meaning 'sameness'.

Equality is a falsehood, a fake abstraction, and to impose Equality is impossible - therefore Equality is evil in practice, because it is false, and to impose falsehood is impossible, and to try and impose an impossibility is necessarily to do evil.

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=equality

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Both Patriarchy and Feminism are ultimately accepting that one or other sex will dominate overall; and the disagreement is over which sex will dominate; and which will be (therefore) subordinate.

History tells us that (like it or not) Patriarchy is socially-sustainable, for many dozens of generations, for many thousands of years.

Feminism is, by contrast, very recent, with only a few generations track record. But objective social analysis over the past century or two shows us that Feminism is parasitic, uncreative, self-destroying as a general policy - hence it is unsustainable over the long term.

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Therefore,  Patriarchy, Feminism and Complementarianism are, I think, the only actually possible relationships between the sexes - and, of these, only Patriarchy and Complementarianism are viable.

The question then is, of Patriarchy and Complementarianism , which is true and which is best?

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If the relationship between the sexes is to be anything more than mere social expediency (something that can be wrangled-over and experimented-with indefinitely) then we need to look deeper into the justification for social arrangements - to ask 'why?' - and this leads back as far as the mind can reach. 

My argument here is that Complementarianism is true and right; and I can argue that this is backed up by historical evidence (but this depends on how it is interpreted) and also that it feels right (but others may feel differently). The only decisive kind of argument is one based on reality: are men and women really complementary, or not?

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Until Mormonism, Complementarianism lacked an explicit metaphysics, theology and philosophy. Mormonism has thrived for eight generations and seems to be well set, but complementarianism does not have the long track record of sustainability which is seen for Patriarchy.

However, I suggest that Complementarianism does seem to be an unarticulated 'norm' towards which Patriarchy tends in actual practice.

I mean by this that the religion, the ideology, the law, may be Patriarchal - asserting male domination in every situation - but under stable conditions and with social development, tacitly but effectively women come to dominate some areas of life; and this can be seen as validating the reality of Complementarianism.

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The most important question about Patriarchy and Complementarianism is: which is true? Is it that men are naturally leaders and naturally dominant in all situations; or are there domains in which women are naturally leaders and naturally dominant?

And - given that various social arrangements are possible - what is the Good, right, and proper form of social arrangement? Specifically, what is the best social arrangement from a Christian perspective?

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Ultimately, this refers back to the ultimate purpose of human life, both to salvation and also to the possibility of what is variously termed spiritual progression, theosis, sanctification - which is the divinization of Humankind, to become Sons and Daughters of God.

For mainstream Christians, from this ultimate perspective, Men and Women are interchangeable; either a man or a woman considered in isolation can be saved, and either a man or woman can in isolation go through the fullest process of divinization.

More exactly, for (most) mainstream Christians, there is no pre-mortal life, so sexuality is only an attribute of mortal life - people are born either a man or a woman; but in eternal life sexuality is stripped away and people are neither men nor women.

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So, for mainstream Christians, sexuality is a temporary expediency, not fundamental, not structural to our divine natures - indeed sexuality and sexual difference is a rather negative, earthly hence not-Heavenly thing. This ultimately accounts for the chronic negativity Christianity has displayed towards the body, sexuality, marriage and family - so powerfully documented for me in the works of Charles Williams - and the tendency to give highest status to the solitary celibate ascetic.

For mainstream Christians, social sexual arrangments are merely a matter of expediency - and considerations of expediency lead to Patriarchy.

It is NOT that the social structures of Patriarchy are actually based-upon and built-upon the ultimate structure of the mainstream understanding of the Christian religion - but rather it is that Patriarchy is socially expedient compared with Feminism, and mainstream Christianity does not conflict with this.

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But for Mormons the situation is different. Men and women can be saved individually to eternal life and can undergo very considerable spiritual progression; but to attain the very highest level of divinization requires the dyad of a man and woman together in a celestial marriage.

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/on-reality-of-complementarity-of-sexes.html

Thus, for Mormonism, sex is is not so much biological as metaphysical: part of the very structure of reality. Sex goes back to pre-mortal life, to pre-existence. Indeed, it (probably) goes back to before we were made spiritual children of God. So the eternal seeds or potentialities which were 'pre-spirit-human' were either male or female.

The implication is that Mormonism does conflict with Patriarchy, and does imply by contrast a system which treats the sexes as complementary.

Mormonism fundamentally contradicts the kind of Patriarchy which has been seen in human history (and including sometimes in Christian history) and which is argued-for by some modern Christians where all men dominate all women, and all women are submissive to all men, in all circumstances.

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The situation envisaged by Mormonism is complex and contextual - but the basic complementarity is between (male) Priesthood and (female) Motherhood.

In practice, on earth and during mortal life - not all men are priesthood holders, not all women are mothers; and it is conceivable that men might be called mothers or be made to function biologically as mothers, and women might be called priests and enact priestly roles; but in reality and in principle and ultimately and over eternity - these are the proper and sexually differentiated roles of men and women.

Social organization ought-to reflect the difference; and men ought-to dominate those aspects of life pertaining to priesthood functions, while women ought-to dominate those areas of life pertaining to motherhood.

The precise definitions and details of what this complementarity of Priesthood and Motherhood means in practice and how it may be implemented are not important, and indeed are not prescribed - what I want to clarify now is that this is an example - it is the primary example - of complementarity.

No doubt there are others.

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

George Orwell intended and expected to be buried in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne

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Today I found the grave of George Orwell's first wife Eileen - which is in St Andrew's cemetery in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne (the suburb where I live). It was a plain stone that merely stated her name, dates (1905-45) and that she was the wife of Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell was a pseudonym).

What was interesting was that the inscription filled only the top half of the stone - the lower part being blank, and it seems clear that the bottom half had been left to receive George Orwell's name. Therefore, at the time he ordered the stone, it seems Orwell did not intend to re-marry - and that he did intend to be interred with Eileen in Jesmond.

However, apparently, he became so lonely after Eileen died that he proposed to several women until one accepted him - and he remarried in late 1949, virtually on his death bed. Orwell died of tuberculosis aged 46 less than four months later; and shortly before the disease became curable with triple antibiotic therapy.

Orwell was then buried in Oxfordshire in a place with which he had no connection - supposedly because none of the London graveyards had any space and also, I imagine, because his new wife did not wanted him buried with her predecessor, as originally planned...
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How to live in Mouse Utopia: Terminal Phase - Hope-full-ness and Pessimism

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How to live in a society already stagnant, nihilistic, purposively-dysfunctional, demotivated; and apparently doomed to mega-collapse?

This is a burning question!

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Some advocate that modern life should be a case of "Do not go gentle into that good night; rage, rage against the dying of the light" - in other words, we are obliged to expound (presumably in the mass media - so that as many people as possible should get to hear about it) loud defiance of inexorable material, social and psychological collapse.

Despite that this activity is believed to be futile - but which we supposedly ought to do anyway, just in case our best calculations are off and our warnings may be heeded?

Or should it be a case of being as unworldly as possible - while yet doing one's loving duty to some others, whom life has put in our orbit (in full awareness that this strategy almost certainly cannot succeed in its own objectives except on a small scale and temporarily, in the face of inexorable overall societal material collapse)?

Should Life be a case of living for the here-and-now, doing whatever duty is placed in front of us (and damn the probabilistic consequences) - of short-termism. Or should it be the opposite: always do the right thing as if we had forever to do it? Absolute and uncompromising long-termism?

(Something could be said for each.)

Should we focus on the past (as a time when people were certainly smarter, more creative and also more virtuous). Or should we focus on recognizing and encouraging the best on offer around us? (Something could be said for each.)

Or maybe made-do-and-mend and simply hope for the best? But no: Man absolutely needs purpose or else he will despair.

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The 'trick' is to be realistically pessimistic about what will happen; and hopeful at the same time: to be pessimistic about the probabilities, yet never to despair (because there is much we do not know or wrongly assume we know, and new things may come from unexpected places)?

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That is the way we would like to become. But what do we actually do?

The answer is not easy - is not meant to be easy - and there is no one answer. So there is not much scope for criticizing the specific strategies of other people - so long as they are both realistically pessimistic about probabilities and at the same time hope-full.

From this large strategic field Our Lives must be sub-created - each life by each person using his own actual abilities and from the materials actually available; and in light of what each person discerns is the best course.

Also, we must - we simply must - have faith that the materials for this decision, and the wherewithal to judge our environment and discern our path - are indeed at-hand, available, find-able. That there is a path, the path is for us, and we can get onto that path.

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A Christian knows that Our Loving Father and Creator would not leave us without sufficient guidance and sufficient strength to find a good-enough path - our path: if only we choose to turn and walk with hope in the right general direction.

This has always been the case; and the impending collapse of Mouse Utopia does not fundamentally affect it; any more than living-through the utter catastrophe of the Black Death - when half the population of England was killed by Plague over a few decades in the late 1300s - affected the fundamental paths and performances of those great, humane Christian poets Chaucer, Langland, and the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. 

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Data on the Black Death:
http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/was-black-death-necessary-cause-of.html

Mouse Utopia is following on from:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/more-thoughts-on-mouse-utopia.html

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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Ordination of women to Christian priesthood

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Official arguments on this topic - which in recent times has been and remains one of the litmus test issues of Christian churches (an issue which divides institutions, which defines ideologies, which encapsulates positions) - tend to be abstract and resolutely to avoid ad hominem, personalized, individualized evaluations.

Understandably so, since this is one of the hot button topics with potential to generate hatred, resentment and destruction.

But such abstract arguments rapidly become incomprehensible and unconvincing - and unsuitable for making important choices. Indeed, abstraction is a way of reducing the emotional temperature - but carries with it the cost of reducing the relevance and clarity of any conclusion reached. Abstracted debate may be calm and reasonable - but abstract discussions also tend to be interminable and ineffectual.

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In practice, we must make judgments as best we can - we have to take sides (because 'not taking sides' on this issue is in fact to take the side of ordination of women to the priesthood).

And since we can perceive people but cannot perceive ideologies (cannot perceive complex webs of abstract principles) - then we do need to judge the individuals (as best we may; knowing that our personal judgment is not the same as divine judgment - yet that we necessarily live and die by our personal judgments).

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On that basis, my judgment is that argument in favour of ordination of women to the priesthood is never made by 1. serious real Christians who 2. believe in the reality of the priesthood.

Although the first part covers most of the advocates, the second part is extremely important and neglected; because there are serious real Christians who do not believe in the reality of priesthood - and who are therefore not-against/ or in-favour-of women performing the duties of a pastor. 

Especially, some Protestants are of this type - they do not distinguish a priesthood, do not distinguish 'ordination', perhaps do not distinguish 'a church'. For them, Christianity is about individuals, not an organization (not even a divinely-sanctioned organization); and therefore the issue of 'ordination' is merely one of church order, of functionality, of the matter of the expediencies of organizing an implicitly secular institution - and therefore there is room for legitimate disagreement.

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But among those serious real Christians who believe in the reality of the priesthood there is unanimity on this issue.
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Note: Of course, some specific person may self-identify or strategically present-himself as being a serious real Christian, when judgment suggests that he is not; and that he is instead primarily operating on the basis of some other 'ideology'. Likewise, someone may say that he believes in the reality of the priesthood, but observation suggests that this is untrue. Such falsehoods and errors are not necessarily matters of legalistic or logical 'proof'; but are nonetheless very obvious to common sense and personal experience; and it would be extremely foolish to ignore them. Certainly, such obviously-fake pseudo-exceptions do not refute the above thesis.   

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The novels of Barbara Pym - an overview

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I do not read many novels these day; but I do read and re-read the 'comic' novels of Barbara Pym (1913-1980).

She is a discovery of the past fifteen or so years, and an absolute delight to me. I would not say that the books are in any way 'essential reading' or an exceptional source of human wisdom - but they are worthwhile stuff; and people who like this sort of thing will find them the sort of thing they like.

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In an obvious sense, Barbara Pym writes about the world she knows, and the people she knows, a world which is now gone - but is English, upper middle class, genteel and based-around the Church of England (although aware of the decline in that institution, so that it is inhabited mainly by spinsters and elderly women, and celibate clergy).

So it is a world of vicars and curates, Parish meetings and jumble sales and church festivals, discussions of High Church ritual (incense, robes and the like) - a world firmly based on church life but yet a world with very little real Christianity anywhere (I get no sense at all that Barbara Pym was a 'genuinely religious' person)^.

It is also a world of scholarly activity - on the fringes of academia: journals, editors and their assistants, typing, proof reading, index-making - and especially of anthropology (Barbara Pym was assistant editor of an anthropology journal).

Also a world where people have learned and quote poetry, English lyrical poetry, and use this to express their deepest emotions.

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So far this sound terribly staid and conventional, and it is; but what is very unusual is Barbara Pym's built-in assumptions about men and women. She was unmarried, but apparently had several sexual 'affairs' as an undergraduate in Oxford and at other points in her life. She also moved on the fringes of a homosexual subculture which intersected with High Church Anglicanism.

In particular, Pym seems to assume that women are mostly attracted to men's looks (in the same way that men obviously are usually mostly attracted to women's looks). So her books always have a handsome but vacuous - often charmless and inept - man around whom various women are buzzing.

The heroines generally despise these handsome men, but seem helplessly attracted - and often marry them, or seem just about to marry them, as the book ends - providing the semi-romantic structure of the basic comedy plot.

Also, there are no children in her novels, and indeed a positive hostility towards the idea of children.

All this is very a-typical for women - and particularly of women of Pym's station and era.

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Strangely, this oddness about men and children was a factor from the very early novels, written in her early twenties. Some Strange Gazelle has as the central character a (very nice) middle aged spinster who has spent her whole life helplessly in love with a handsome senior clergyman that she met while an undergraduate at Oxford University (he is now her neighbour, and married to someone else). This 'Archdeacon' has no attractive qualities, except his looks and good education; he is dull, selfish, unromatic - but she wants merely to serve him in little things.

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Anyway, the best of Pym's novels are those she wrote before 1970; the later ones I find unreadable.

The early ones are fresh, lively, and somewhat broad in their comedy - with the characters being somewhat caricatured; but very well worth reading nonetheless. They are Some Tame Gazelle, and the posthumously published Crampton Hodnet and Civil to Strangers.

The very best are Excellent Women, Less than Angels, No Fond Return of Love and (posthumously published) An Unsuitable Attachment.

These all have really likable heroines (those of EW, NFRL and AUA being strikingly similar - rather 'plain' but pleasant-looking, dowdily dressed, socially anxious and over-sensitive to suffering; compulsively helpful and full of good works); with eccentric (but realistically so) casts of characters, great genial good humour, and close observations of the minutiae of life.

Jane and Prudence is a bit below this level, with rather annoying eponymous central female protagonists, and a rather intrusive and jarring 'anti-men' undercurrent. And the least good of these novels is A Glass of Blessings which is written in the first person by a vacuous and un-Pym-like 'glamorous' heroine.

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I could not honestly recommend Barbara Pym to many people, she must surely be a minority taste - and I realize how unappealing these novels sound in summary! Nonetheless I personally find them a sheer pleasure to read; and as soon as I have finished going through them, I look forward to the next re-reading.

As a measure of how much I like them, I have read all the novels twice to my wife at bedtime (so clearly she loves them too) - in addition to several private (silent) readings and listening to a few as audio-books.

In fact, it was an audio-book of No Fond Return of Love, borrowed from the library, which began the whole thing...

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^See also: http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/was-barbara-pym-christian-or-subversive.html
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Bed and Breakfast - small is beautiful

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I would advise any non-British who visit this country (if possible and convenient) to stay in 'Bed and Breakfast' accommodation, and not an hotel - because (and obviously I am generalizing from my personal experience) the people who run B&Bs are such decent and pleasant folk that it is an enhancement to any holiday.

Although they presumably make a living from it, the cost of staying in a B&B is so modest for what it entails, and the breakfasts are usually so delicious and lavish, that I think it is mostly a wish to meet a range of people and give them an enjoyable experience that motivates B&B owners. At any rate, they always seem to enjoy chatting and finding-out about their guests.

To stay in an hotel is usually an experience of alienation - bleak, impersonal, mechanical - whereas to stay in a B&B is often to have your belief in the goodness of individual people enhanced.

Perhaps this is one reason (in addition to its natural beauty) why Keswick is such a wonderful holiday place - because its accommodation provision is dominated by scores of individually owned B&Bs; each with a different character reflecting the owner's.

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/on-other-hand-magic-of-keswick.html

But I have been in B&Bs in several and wide-spread parts of Britain, and they share this homely and human quality.

Small is beautiful!
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Note: On the whole the best B&Bs are those that do nothing else - B&Bs attached to pubs or bars are a lot less good, on the whole - and those attached to other businesses like farms may lack focus and attention to detail. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Charles Williams and the mythologizing of everyday life

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http://notionclubpapers.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/the-nature-of-charles-williams.html
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An insightful, heavily-referenced discussion of sex difference in intelligence

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http://www.sciencevsfeminism.com/sex-differences-in-behaviour/general-intelligence/
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"Good at multi-tasking" = "Unable to concentrate"

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The truth-inverting concept of 'multi-tasking' proves to be a major nuisance in modern life; in encouraging what is already a big problem of short attention span, distractability, not to focus, inability to attend, failing to be here-and-now and living in real-time.

Multi-tasking might have a reality in terms of someone who is simultaneously able to perform multiple skilled processes in parallel.

In this sense, Glenn Gould the great pianist was described as able to do more than one skilled task at the same time, each at a very high level; and this goes along with this unsurpassed ability to play the different voices in a fugue (or other polyphonic, contrapuntal form of music) as if each had independent existence.

Yet when Gould was aiming to attain the very highest level of skill - as when performing a piece for a concert or recording - he was totally wrapped-up in it; such that he seemed to be entranced and oblivious. No multitasking there!

For lesser mortals there is much greater need for unitary concentration, for focus, in performing a difficult task. And if this is lacking - then the task is being done sub-optimally.

In practice, when people claim they are multi-tasking they are simply allowing themselves to be distracted - and accepting the necessarily lower level of performance which results.

(Thus social networking while attending a lecture, or listening to loud music on headphones while studying for a test, or browsing the internet while watching TV - and so on.)

And when women claim (as they so often do!) to be better-at-multi-tasking; insofar as this claim has any meaning at all, it merely means that women are (by and large, and leaving aside pathology) worse-at-concentrating - for which there is a great deal of anecdotal as well as statistical evidence.

Highest performance entails greatest and most sustained focus: the ability to concentrate is an ability, not a deficit.
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Further reflections @: http://addictedtodistraction.blogspot.co.uk
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Sunday, 24 August 2014

Strategies for the (re-) enchantment of everyday life (The concept of Paradise)

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Modern mainstream everyday life is experienced as dull, literalistic, prosaic, trivial, meaningless, dull, confrontational... an iron cage, as Weber described it

On the one hand is the psychologically-crushing conformism of work; on the other hand the pointless, momentary, emotionally-manipulating distractions of leisure.

We crave a life that is mythical, poetic, truthful, virtuous, engaged; a life of growth and yet bliss; a life stretching-ahead with development yet satisfying here-and-now ... we crave Paradise (leaving aside Heaven, for the moment)... yet I think it fair to say that most people have difficulty in conceptualizing Paradise in any coherent way.

Such Paradise as we can know is individual and idiosyncratic.

For someone who loves poetry it may be like living inside poetry (where words and phrases and chunks of experience mean so deeply and complexly, and everything harmonizes and unfolds organically).

Or living inside any form of active artistic creation - standing at a confluence of past and future; referencing back to predecessors, building structures and meanings; engaging and enriching; pointing forward to future possibilities...

Or a life inside science; in that world of sunlit cool perfection and insight, of understanding unfolding upon understanding - the heart-leap of discovery and the clinching satisfaction of proof - endless horizons...

Or myth. To live inside myth may be to perceive that all the minutiae of life are bound-up into a story that has special significance - an unarticulated and perhaps un-articulable sense of inevitability and rightness - felt below explicit consciousness - maybe dread-full or maybe exhilarating but always significant.

Or a mini-world of human relationships bound by love - to be inside such gatherings of love, and to participate in their change and growth - to join in the reciprocity and exchanges of love.

From such microcosms we may be able to - we ought to - extrapolate Paradise; which is our proximate hope for eternal life (and Heaven lying beyond).

A concept of Paradise enables Hope - and Hope (and only Hope) enables us to get past some (ideally all) of what life throws-at-us in the way of the iron cage - or maybe even by perceiving that there is organic life outside the iron cage, to escape and inhabit (for periods short or long) that better world.
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Note added: I should not fail to mention that we can Hope for Paradise precisely because we have known Paradise. This is why Paradise is not experienced as wishful-thinking, nor as something just 'made-up' - but as a species of discovery. Before this mortal life, as spirits, we actually experienced Paradise. If things go well in this life we may know better than Paradise - or we may simply return to Paradise, but enlarged. Or, and this is the risk - we may choose to reject Paradise and become self-exiled as defiant despots of our own hellish domain. Or, and this is the ultimate Hope, we may eventually choose to go beyond Paradise - with all that that choice may entail. At present, I personally cannot see or aspire beyond Paradise; but I perceive that Paradise gets its meaning only from what lies beyond.  

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Charles Williams takes classical theology to the limit

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Unfortunately, I cannot find an online copy of Charles Williams essay "What the cross means to me" - which is published as The Cross in the selected essays entitled The Image of the City edited by Anne Ridler, 1958. 

But I have seen several scholars represent it as Williams deepest, most heartfelt and most characteristic essay on theology - the fruit of a life-time of study and intense reflection on Christianity.


It is a rigorous and unsparing, indeed shocking, following-through of the implications of classical theology - and God's omnipotence. Here are some edited excerpts:


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The original act of creation can be believed to be good and charitable; it is credible that the Almighty God should deign to create beings to share His Joy. It is credible that He should deign to increase their Joy by creating them with the power of free will so that their joy should be voluntary. It is certain that if they have the power of choosing Joy in Him they must have the power of choosing the opposite of Joy in Him. 


But it is not credible that a finite choice ought to result in an infinite distress... that the Creator should deliberately maintain and sustain His created universe in a state of infinite distress as a result of the choice.


This is the law which His will imposed upon His creation. It need not have been.


Our distress then is no doubt our gratuitous choice, but it is also His. He could have willed us not to be after the Fall. He did not.


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Now the distress of the creation is so vehement and prolonged, so tortuous and torturing, that even naturally it is revolting to our sense of justice, much more supernaturally. We are instructed that He contemplates, from His infinite felicity, the agonies of His creation, and deliberately maintains them in it. The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together. 


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Williams confronts head-on the implication that (in its classical theological interpretation) Christianity attributes all the evils of the world to God, and the vast and (it is said) infinitely-prolonged suffering of creation is to be attributed to God as well. 


(In the sense that the sufferings in Hell of those who have chosen wrongly are here assumed to be infinitely prolonged.) 


*


For Williams, it was not ultimately acceptable to attribute evil and suffering to Satan and demonic activity - since although the 'War in Heaven' was absolutely real to Charles Williams (indeed a matter of direct daily experience), this situation of spiritual conflict between good and evil had also been set-up and sustained by God, and was equally His responsibility. 

This is merely the stage-setting of Williams argument. The focus and conclusion of the essay is that despite all that can be said against the Christian concept of God; at least, alone of all gods, the Christian God subjected himself (i.e. Jesus Christ) to that same justice which He established. This self-infliction of divine law is (but only this, and only just, we sense) regarded as sufficient to justify Christian justice. 





But the sense of outrage at the nature of this divine justice is there, and is the most striking thing about the essay.

The sense that God, surely, 'ought to' have annihilated the souls of those who chose against Him; rather than maintaining them eternally in torment.


"He could have willed us not to be after the Fall. He did not."

*


This essay of William's made a strong impact on me, because he follows through the implications of divine omnipotence so thoroughly and unsparingly - for example, pointing out that (according to mainstream Christian theology) the tree from which Christ's cross was made, and the nails driven into him - the instruments of torture - were, from the beginning, brought into existence in full knowledge of the purpose to which they would certainly be used. 


Williams implications are, I think, a correct, honest and necessary following-through of the implications of that standard, mainstream, classical philosophical Christian theology which goes back to the early church Fathers - very early in the history of the Christian church; but not back to its very beginning and the time of the Apostles: there is little or nothing of this kind of theology clearly or explicitly recorded in the New Testament.  


I therefore now read Williams essay as a reductio ad absurdum of standard, mainstream, classical philosophical Christian theology. And since, although this type of theology has been usual for maybe 1800 years of the history of Christianity, and among many of its greatest exponents - and it not therefore to be written-off lightly - it is not a necessary part of Christianity; because we don't see it in the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles or the accounts in the Epistles. 


*


So, I interpret Williams great essay as an unflinching and insightful and true account of Christianity as it emerged in the form which - historically - became dominant. And Williams found that he could, albeit only just, endorse Christianity thus emerged and conceived.


But Williams did not - here - consider the possibility that these major difficulties were historically contingent, that they were additional-to, and not an intrinsic part-of, the mode of Christianity described in the Gospels and for the Apostolic era.


*


The Good News is that a rigorous and unflinching Christian does not have to accept the very-nearly-intolerable situation described by Williams. 

For what is to me, clinching evidence; just contrast the (joyous, hopeful) feeling you get from reading about and thinking about the life and message of Jesus Christ in the Gospels... with the bleak and transfixing horror from contemplating the implications of  standard, mainstream, classical philosophical Christian theology with its model of salvation-damnation and its description of Hell. 

Why Williams did not consider that the fault lay in later developments of theology rather than Christianity itself- or did not take it seriously - is a topic for another essay. But to reject standard, mainstream, classical philosophical Christian theology and to return to the plain and commonsense mode of thinking of most of the New Testament seems to me like a fair and proper and rigorous way-out from the impasse Williams described so memorably and chillingly. 


*

Charles Williams (not CS Lewis) may have presided over Inklings meetings 1939-45

*
http://notionclubpapers.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/evidence-that-charles-williams-presided.html
*

Friday, 22 August 2014

Warnie Lewis's evaluation of Charles WIlliams

*
http://notionclubpapers.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/warnie-lewis-on-charles-williams-and.html
*

How to argue - the outcome-comparative method ("And then what? Compared with what?")

*

The proper way to evaluate an argument in real life situations is to accept the validity of premises (provisionally) and follow them through to their conclusions - then to evaluate the premises in light of the conclusions by comparison with the outcome of other premises.

In other words - two maxims are combined: "And then what?" followed by "Compared with what?"

On the lines of: "Assuming this is true; then what it implies is that... Whereas if this is true; it implies that..."

*

The outcome-comparative method is is contrast with the usual method of arguing-against; which is to reject premises on absolute grounds, as being biased or incomplete (but then all premises are biased and incomplete...).

And to argue-against using absolute standards: when if an argument has any (apparent) flaws, by abstract and impartial standards, then it is rejected (but then all arguments are flawed).

*

The point is that the premises you already believe and argue from may be more biased and incomplete than the premises you are evaluating; the argument you have already accepted may be more flawed than the argument you reject - and this will become apparent further downstream, when the consequences are compared.

*

The usual methods of arguing are simply pseudo objective, pseudo-rational excuses for holding-onto what we already believe, or changing our beliefs to whatever we happen to want to believe; methods to ensure that any other arguments (and I mean any other argument) can be rejected, without any problem whatsoever.

The usual methods are, in fact, characteristic of 'clever silly' people; and perhaps become more common with increasing cleverness.

Most typical is the person who prides himself (preens himself) on being rational, logical, skeptical, evidence-based - but whose opinions are effortlessly dictated by the zig-zags of fashion, group-think, status-seeking and psycho-social expediency.

*

One big difficulty in doing what I recommend is that bad arguments typically obscure their premises, deny their true premises, or present false premises. The real premises may be very obvious - but will seldom be explicit.

Indeed, people will tend to state as premises what are in fact their conclusions - or state as premises what are actually their intentions - their hoped-for outcomes.

So the outcome-comparative method is not instant, not easy, nor is it uncontroversial; and it may be actively confrontational, since it entails disbelieving other-peoples' accounts of their beliefs, and telling others what they really believe.

This doesn't matter when thinking in private, but in public discourse it can be problematic. But of course, in the end, real-thinking is something that everybody has to do for themselves.

Or not.

*

It is therefore often necessary to infer the premises of an argument which is being evaluated; and to check whether this fits with what people actually do, how they actually proceed. And ignore what they say they are doing.

I have noticed that argument in the usual style of argument pretends to objectivity, while in practice enforcing the most extreme subjectivity. It prevents a person from ever getting to the point of making an overall comparison of the arguments in the sense of how they work-out in their consequences.

In other words, the usual style of argument serves permanently to block even very clear and obvious truth and reality.

IF, however, you can get past the usual method, and compare the outcomes of rival premises, then things are, sometimes, very much clearer and comprehensible.

*

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Tolkien a lunatic? Some would say...

*
http://notionclubpapers.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/was-jrr-tolkien-lunatic.html
*

Beauty as an index of the *quality* of Goodness

*
Following from:
http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/beauty-as-index-of-godliness.html
*

Beauty has quantitative and qualitative aspects.

The Beauty of a great Gothic Cathedral such as York Minister



 is quite different from the Beauty of Briggflatts, the seventeenth century Quaker Meeting House:



Both are very beautiful; and the Beauty of each indicates - because it derives from and is an expression of - the nature of the devout Christian denomination from which each was sprung.

The richness, complexity, intellectuality, hierarchy, formality of Medieval Western Catholic Christianity (conceived in the 13th Century) - compared with the simplicity and plainness and clear-burning individualistic intensity of early Quaker spirituality.

So the Beauty of the best buildings is a precise-but-incomplete picture of the faith which enabled that Beauty to be achieved.

*

The best of modern Christian spirituality is - in my opinion - to be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; however I have not personally explored or experienced any of their meeting houses or main Temples (analogous to cathedrals) in the way I have explored the two examples above.

But I would say that it looks from photographs as if the most beautiful of Mormon architecture reflects the quality of the LDS faith as precisely as do the above two examples.

It seems to me that the best Mormon architecture is as exact (albeit incomplete) a picture of the faith as are York Minster or Briggflatts - and therefore the gives us a picture of both the quantity and the qualities of the best Christianity which is attainable in the modern world.

*

To make a comparison between denominations using Beauty as an index, it would be necessary to 'control for' time and place: modern conceptualizations compared, and in the same locations.

There would be one question of which was the most beautiful, but the other and equally important questions would refer to the nature of Beauty, the distinctive quality of Beauty.

(For example - it is when a building is conceptualized that is most relevant and revealing - not when it is completed. Creation is very different from implementations; creation is very different from copying.)

So the comparison would need to be modern US Mormon architecture (or other form of production) with modern US Catholics and Quakers - and would involve an empathic feeling as the basis of comparison.

I think such a comparison would bring out and clarify many of the active and operative qualities in these denominations - their biases and incompletenesses, as well as their strengths and depths.

*

The same matter of quality applies to the Beauty of women.

Of the four beautiful females described in Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien - the richest and deepest Beauty is ascribed to the golden-haired wise and ancient elf women Galadriel who represents Morning - as she was born in Valinor and came to Middle Earth as one of the first High Elves; and also to the dark-haired and younger Arwen (in some sense reincarnating Luthien) who represent the twilight of the High Elves in Middle Earth and the mixing of elves with Angels and Men.

There is also Goldberry - wife of Tom Bombadil, who has Beauty of a different order: more earthy, spontaneous and primal - as befits a (probable) nature spirit (the spirit of the river, of water).

Eowyn has the fresh, ephemeral, immensely-courageous yet near-despairing beauty characteristic of Mankind - she is probably the most intensely beautiful of all these women: with the brief and burning intensity of a flame.

*

Properly understood; the quantity of Beauty is a measure of Goodness, and the quality of Beauty is an index of the nature of Goodness - and when comparing Beauty with Beauty, quality is often the more revealing comparison.

After all, if something is Beautiful, that is enough; and there is something wrong about applying a ruler to actual Beauty, or trying to put real Beauties into rank order.

*

JRR Tolkien - an "unfortunate" man? (in 1936)

*
http://notionclubpapers.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/tolkien-most-unfortunate-man-according.html
*

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Beauty as an index of Godliness (and goodness)

*

Wells Cathedral, Somerset

Since Beauty is as aspect of The Good, then it is an index of Godliness - no less than virtue.

And the creation of Beauty is something very special.

By and large, modern Man sometimes inhabits beauty:


[Merton College, Oxford - from The Meadows]

But cannot match the beauty of the past.

Well, so be it. Modern Man is not as Good as men of the past were Good - nor is he as intelligent, nor as creative; so he cannot match such Beauty.

*

But what modern Man does is revealing of the state of his soul.

Modern man, sometimes from spite, but sometimes from ingrained active evil (from having come to believe that ugliness is beauty, and beauty is kitsch) does not even try to create beauty. Rather he sabotages Beauty by juxtaposing ugliness, and destroys Beauty where he dares; and makes ugliness by which he reveals the true state of his soul.

The soul-crushing vileness, the nihilism of the modern built environment - its architecture, the planning, its aspirations - is an index of the true state of modern man.

The proliferation of concrete and glass office block in drab colours, with no windows and open-plan design is a precise image of the souls of the managers, the bureaucrats, the politicians, the planners and architects who designed and built it - just as the Cathedrals and Colleges of medieval England are an exact image of the souls of those who wanted and made them.

*

Modern Beauty is not so rich, deep, intense or satisfying as ancient Beauty - how could it be? - there is at best in our work a lightness, a sunny-coolness, a child-like naivete...  yet a society lives in the creation of Beauty and there is a perennial freshness in any genuine and heart-felt attempt to Make Beautiful Things whether they are pictures, movies, poems, stories, pieces of music, of buildings.


[Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne]
*

I find it nauseating that the anti-Good inhabitants, the thieving, monopolizing colonists of ancient and religious Beauty, appropriate and exploit it for their ugly, lying and wicked programmes. 

When the secular Leftist occupiers of the English Cathedrals and Colleges, built in the past and on devout Christianity, advertise their destructive agendas using the prestige and awesomeness of Christian creativity; they boast of that which they despise in order the better to subvert traditional values and true religion. 

They do not own Beauty, they are not even trying to make Beauty - they are a bunch of pirates, looters, carpetbaggers; who regard Beauty as - at best - a resource to be mined; and at worst and increasingly as a backdrop to gleeful vandalism. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

How people get trapped by the meaninglessness of their lives

*
The things people do to avoid facing up to the meaninglessness they are afraid of destroy their possibility of finding meaning.

From a comment by Adam G

http://www.jrganymede.com/2014/08/18/the-fear-of-the-wicked/
*

The asymmetry of religious and secular politics

*
 A religious politics is one that tries to establish the conditions necessary for the practice of - and beyond that the thriving of - its religion. And the religion provides the meaning and purpose of life.

By contrast, secular politics has not meaning or purpose - it is a means not an end, and it is a means which denies the reality of ends.

In practice, therefore, secular politics never stops, it just keep on expanding - secular politics is totalitarian by its nature. Yet this totalitarianism is not about meaning or purpose - it is about means to an end which is denied.

So, secular politics might be about freedom (or equality) - but cannot answer the question 'freedom for what' (or equality for what?) - but must assert that freedom (or equality) is in and of itself good, and that there cannot be too much of it - so everything is about wrangles over whether or not policy x truly increases 'freedom'/ 'equality'.

Politics becomes a fight over definitions, and definitions are arbitrary and incomplete and biased - yet definitions direct policy because there is nothing else to direct it. So with secular politics there is a totalitarianism of definitions which, actually, nobody believes in - and the only alternative is another set of definitions.

*
(And this model itself contains the definition of 'religion' - a real religion is one which can coherently, without leading to paradox, provide meaning and purpose to politics. SO the traditional monotheistic religions are religions in this sense, while ideologies such as communism, fascism, socialism, liberal democracy are revealed as not really being religions.)

Monday, 18 August 2014

A deep aphorism

*
From Lord Vader (!)

Happiness consists of joy and sorrow, while unhappiness consists of pleasure and misery.

http://www.jrganymede.com/2014/08/18/happiness-is-joy-and-sorrow/
*

The Old Straight Track

*

When I read Alan Garner's Moon of Gomrath fantasy novel

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/review-of-alan-garners-weirdstone-of.html

it was about 1974 - and therefore the wonderful description of The Old Straight Track was something arcane.

The end of the book referenced this idea to Alfred Watkins book of the same name; and my history teacher told me that the OST idea was unproven, but not disproved either.

*

The OST idea was that English people of ancient prehistory, probably neolithic, had made long distance, straight roads across the landscape, using a simple surveying method requiring just sticks - and navigating from one sacred point of high ground to another.

These points could be identified by the presence of ancient landscape features such as burial mounds, stone circles, and - it was said - the site of old Christian churches (which were assumed to have been built on these same sites).

The tracks could therefore be located using 1 inch to 1 mile maps (supplemented by two and a half inches to the mile detailed maps) - by trying to find straight lines that joined ancient landscape features, especially on hill tops.

A minimum of three 'points' was needed - but the more the better. Then you were supposed to walk the track, preferably with a camera, to look for other features and assess plausibility.

*

So I started hunting for Old Straight Tracks, using an Ordnance Survey maps of the Mendip Hills in Somerset - I just found this actual map a few days ago, and it is covered in neat pencil circles drawn with a compass around ancient sites and churches, and with a cross-cross of straight pencil lines trying to join them. The Mendip Hills are extraordinarily rich in these sites, so I managed to find a few possibilities.

What is interesting about this episode are the negatives.

I was looking for prehistoric Old Straight Tracks - and not 'Ley Lines'.

I don't think I had ever heard of Ley Lines. But Ley Lines are not exactly the same as The Old Straight Tracks, as originally described by Watkins; because he was talking about roads, while Ley Lines were/are conceptualized as primarily energy/ spiritual phenomena.

*

The second negative is related to this. My Mendip map included Glastonbury, and it would now seem blatantly obvious that Glastonbury - especially the Tor - ought to be a major focus for Old Straight Tracks or Ley Lines - yet I did not circle it!

This is because in the middle 1970s, Glastonbury had not become the nationally/ internationally known focus of New Age people and ideas it has since become. Or more exactly, the status of Glastonbury as a spiritual/ religious centre was only just coming out of a rather low ebb of a few decades - because it had been well known in the 1920s and 30s as evidenced by the early Glastonbury Festivals of Rutland Boughton and associated mysticism, and the great mega-novel A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys - but both of these were pretty much unknown (The reviving Picador paperback reprint of GR came only in 1975).

*

So my annotated map of Old Straight Tracks is something of an historical artefact. If it had been done just a few years later, I would have had to accept a spiritual dimension (or baggage) along with the Old Straight Tracks, and I would probably have assumed that any valid STRs in Somerset would be converging-on or radiating-out-from Glastonbury.

By the way - I personally no longer think it plausible that the ancient English did use straight roads, and in official circles the idea is nowadays generally regarded as untrue and having no significant support.

Which is a bit of a shame. However, among the New Age spiritual folk, in the form of Ley Lines, OSTs are sometimes a major focus of belief; and are referenced in dozens of books as the major theme, and hundreds or thousands of books as a significant phenomenon - being applied internationally and not just to Brtain.

'Ley Lines' is now almost a household word - albeit in a rather low status and 'flaky' kind of way.

So Alfred Watkins speculations have been a spectacular success - but in an extremely different domain of knowledge from that he envisaged when he wrote The Old Straight Track in 1925.
*

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Dreams as another world

*
Subjectively, phenomenologically, dreaming mostly seems like another world.

To drop-into a dream is to drop into an on-going' narrative - something which was already-going before I began to dream it, and which continues after I waken.

Also, dreams usually feel like another time, another place, and without connection with my waking life except for it being 'me'.

(A few dreams are connected with waking life, but these are rarer and seem to be shorter and less complex - the kind of dreams I get when frequently dozing and waking.)

In commonsense terms, dreams feel like the mind goes somewhere else - moves in space and time, in dreams I am both a time traveler and a place traveler; in other words that experiences of 'shamans' are the normal experiences of dreams.

(This sounds much more exciting than it really is. My major experience of dreams is boredom and futility - just b&f in other times and places.)

*

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The basic set-up of the modern world: isolating people, inducing them to yield to temptation, then ensuring that they do not repent

*
The basic set-up of the modern world has been well-designed to induce people to choose their own damnation - which is actively to reject the salvation that Christ has already won for each of us.

It is not easy to do this, because any and all sins can be repented, and in that sense anybody can be saved.

Yet it certainly looks as if a lot of modern people do not want to be saved - that they will reject salvation because they have been persuaded that good is evil; and vice versa.

*

The situation is most extreme among the ruling elites. And the situation is mediated by the Mass Media.

The basic set-up is to ensure that young people leave home without getting married and without any commitment to the church - that they leave home, typically to go to college - and that the environment they live-in is meaningless, purposeless, and lacking in any real human relationships.

Instead, there is a pleasure-pain axis of discernment - and an expectation that those who are of high status are those who experience pleasure; and high status pleasure is mainly about sex, travel and intoxication. 

*

When somebody leaves home to go to college they seldom have any commitment to the subject they study - in fact they study a smorgasbord or smattering of subjects which by definition cannot have an overall meaning. So work is ruled-out as a source of meaning and purpose. Work is meaningless and merely passing exams and getting grades does not substitute - that cannot possibly be the primary focus of a life.

*

And because marriage is ruled-out, and celibacy is despised, there is no meaning to relationships except pleasure - at least diversion, but the aim is ecstasy.

So the sexual life becomes a purposeless, meaningless search for emotions - fighting against the tendency of humans to habituate to pleasure - to get used to pleasure and stop responding.

Thus relationships become serial exploitations - perhaps mutual exploitations (that is supposed to be the 'moral' type of relationship), perhaps attempts to get what you want - a lot of it and frequently and with variety - without giving anything away (this is the high status form of modern relationship).

*

Travel has become a vital part of the currency of modern youth life - it offers variety, stimulus, it promises to overcome habituation - and it includes hope of sex with new people and of intoxication without consequences. 

*

Sex and travel are rare, expensive, hard to attain (which is why they function as status symbols) - and because euphoria is available in bottled form and as pills, intoxication becomes de facto the actual aimed-at hope for more and more people. People spend their lives anticipating obliteration of their own self-awareness, and recollecting previous successes in this area.

But it is difficult to make this out to be a high status and admirable thing to do, but fortunately the mass media have provided the necessary resources. And so long as intoxication is fun, and no higher purpose than fun is regarded as real - then intoxication becomes a kind of bottom-line.

*

So, modern people live in an environment in which they are:

1. Existentially alone. Not married and no family, no (real) friends, no church, not even any aim to get these.

2. In a world where the highest value and hope is to travel, have sex with multiple desirable partners, and beomce intoxicated.

3. In sum - they are empty yet surrounded by temptations, utterly isolated, and having no reason not to yield.

In a nutshell, everybody does yield - sooner or later: 'everybody' falls into this hedonic and meaningless and purposeless life.  

*

AND THEN, the mass media does its most important work, because none of this would matter if it was repented. If the futile, comfort- and sensation-seeking life was recognized as evil and rejected.

But what actually happens is that the futile life of desperation is depicted as good, cool, fun, the best - in a million media outlets.

So to recognize futility and separation as evil; and to restore meaning, purpose and marriage and family relations as the proper purpose of earthly life and religion as the proper purpose of mortality; is regarded as the only real evil.

In sum, the basic set-up of the modern world is that the evil, futile, meaningless life of self-subversion is depicted as good; and therefore the only recognized evil is to subvert the life of self-subversion.
*

Friday, 15 August 2014

Discernment, or the inner guidance-system - knowing the right thing to do, and when we are off-course. Predictive and corrective guidance

*
Discernment is the ability to know the right thing to do - in fact to know the right thing and distinguish it from wrong things: especially wrong things in disguise. Discernment can be imagined as our guidance-system.

Many traditional Christian denominations and churches are set-up on the basis that we will be taught the right things, and given good advice, by those in authority - so the guidance system comes from priest and pastors - and sometimes from Kings and judges too.

But the modern world is characterized by the fact that it is precisely those in authority who are most deeply wicked; who are teaching the wrong things, giving bad advice (advice to be bad), and punishing good behaviour - they are not just muddling-up the right and wrong things, but deliberately reversing the labels...

And the modern world is huge, noisy, distracting, and the good and the right are mixed with, and almost lost in, much larger quantities of their opposites.

*

So the modern condition is characterized by a greater-than-ever need for a guidance system; while at the same time traditional guidance systems have been subverted and sabotaged.

One single source of guidance is inadequate, because all guidance is general and imprecise, and there will always be ambiguities and uncertainties when specific situation are tested against general rules.

The inadequacy, insufficiency, distortedness of trying to be guided wholly by list of laws and rules should be obvious; and furthermore it is anti-Christian to suppose that our job in Life is merely to obey - it is not.

We are each of us persons - hence unique; and our main job in Life (having accepted the reality and Goodness of God) it is to chisel-out our our own 'salvation', that is to follow the path of theosis, sanctification, spiritual progression or deification - towards the goal of becoming Sons of God and able and worthy of living with and communicating with God - person with person.

So in pursuing this complex path through a complex world; we need a multi-level, multi-step guidance system - and, luckily, we have one:

*

Knowing God's nature

If we have a reasonably clear understanding of the kind of person God is; what he is like and what he wants from us, and the attributes he most values in us (love above all, intelligence, strength, creativity etc)  - then this provides the general background and basis for our guidance.

In particular, God being our loving Father and we his children whom he wants to raise to be Sons of God and 'divine friends' - this understanding rules out a lot of false, deceptive and just-plain-mistaken teachings.

Then we communicate with God by prayer.

*

Knowing God is in us

If God was out there, and could only reach us by the normal methods of communication - then our situation would be hopeless.

But God is within us - he has planted a glowing coal of His divine nature in each person.

Once we know this glowing coal of divinity is in each of us, we can learn to feel and abide by its guidance - with attention to its promptings, through quiet contemplation and listening, by sensitivity to intuition sent from it, by meditation.

*

Our free will, agency, autonomy operating on personal revelation

Personal revelation can be grounded in firstly the faith that God is a real person and also within us, and knowing the general direction of God's wishes and hopes for us; and secondly recognizing our own radical autonomy to decide what to do about this.

We know something of God's nature, and we feel something of God in us - and then we are able, and indeed we must and do choose either to recognize God's will, and ally ourselves with Him in His hope for us and for the world - or we oppose it.

*

Synchronicity

Synchronicity is one important but neglected mode of personal revelation.

(Is you, here, now, reading this an example of synchronicity?)

Meaningful, enlightening, and Good coincidences occur and show us the proper or best path life lays before us through the world.

Representing fate, destiny - all these in a wholesome sense because always entailing and requiring our personal choice, decision, whether or not to follow this path.

Good choices are rewarded: when synchronicity is recognized, and when the decision is good, then Life becomes enhanced, infused with a kind of 'magic'.

The channels of communication between ourselves and God open-up, and our path becomes clearer both before and behind us - as if lit by an inner glow.  

*

Personal Revelation

Personal revelation (God's multi-modal communications to us, personally, for our personal guidance and benefits) takes us from the general to the specific. Takes us from the general knowledge of the kind of thing we must do, and must not do; to specific personal guidance about what exactly we must do, or not do.

*

We have a superb, flexible, infallible, guidance system!

But, typically, Life is trial and error, and discernment works by zig-zags.

We are engaged with Life, and we make mistakes and we sin due to ignorance, weakness, short-termism - and deliberately too, as an act of defiance.

But as we err and sin - we also discern our sins and errors, and can repent them, and repudiate them. Almost certainly, we will not be able altogether to stop making mistakes and stop yielding to temptations - but that is not what is asked of us nor what we are equipped to do.

We are equipped to try our best but make mistakes, to try our best but yield to sins - and then for discernment to make clear to us what we have done, so that we can (and do) know what was good and what we must repent.

*

So, our guidance system will lead us to good choices, but it is not perfect and neither is our will; and then the guidance systems will discern what has happened, and reveal our situation so we can do the right thing.

In sum our guidance system - like all sophisticated and really-useful guidance systems - has a predictive element which tells us what to aim at and do; but also a retrospective and corrective element: which alerts us when we are aiming off-course or have travelled down a wrong path and points the direction to get back on course or states the need to stop, turn around and retrace our steps.

*

(When I say corrected, I do not mean reversible - because once done mistake and sins, like everything else, are permanent. But by the atonement of Jesus Christ, repentance negates any and all sin. Thus - the major function of discernment is not avoidance but repentance.)

*

Our guidance system is therefore superb and infallible when taken as a whole and understanding its proper function - including both the predictive but also the corrective elements as back-up. 

We will make mistakes because the predictive element is imperfect, and we will make mistakes because of our imperfect and sinful nature and the difficulties of our situation - but these mistakes will always be detectable and correctable because the back-up element is an intrinsic part of the guidance system.

*

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Electronic amplification and imaging interpose between lecturer and class - therefore lecturing is better in real time; with living voice and hand writing, without microphones or slides

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Lecturing should be like theatre - not cinema.

The best way to lecture is in real time - as one person to others, in the same room, in direct sensory contact, and with the living voice; and writing in real time on a black- or white-board; therefore not through a microphone; not using slides nor other pre-prepared material.

Electronic amplification and imaging interpose between lecturer and class.

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Can you imagine sitting talking to a friend or family member, and that family member was talking to you through a microphone, so that you heard only their amplified voice! Imagine how that would distance the other person from you even if they were sitting right next to you.

Consider the difference between seeing a person on something like Skype, and in real life?

And with writing there is a difference between somebody writing you a note - here and now, done for you - and handing you a printed leaflet which they prepared earlier.

And there is a difference between looking at that note as it is sitting in front of you, and seeing an image of that note - enlarged on a screen, several or many yards away.

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The technologies of imaging and amplification interpose between one person and another - they just do; always they block (to some significant extent) direct, real time, here-and-now interaction.

Somehow, this even applies to electronic books or readers such as the Kindle, when compared with paper copies. It just does - even despite that in theory the electronic page looks almost like a printed page.

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To some extent we can be-fooled and can fool-ourselves that electronic reproductions are 'the same' as direct perceptual contact - but only to some extent.

If we use electronic media to experience reality, it sets a cap on the reality of real life. When lecturing is an electronic experience, then there is a cap on its perceived reality.

Electronic amplification and imaging interpose between lecturer and class, therefore amplification and imaging should if possible not be used; and if amplification or imaging must be used - then it should be acknowledged that these technologies are necessarily diminishing and sub-optimal.

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The epidemic of 'antidepressant'/ SSRI-triggered suicides by hanging: hidden in plain sight

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The suicide by hanging of Robin Williams while (reportedly) being treated for depression brings this to mind, Williams apparently following the similar and very rare suicide method used by Mick Jagger's girlfriend, L'Wren Scott.

http://wp.rxisk.org/mothers-little-poisoner/

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The overall suicide rate is going down, but the rate of suicide by hanging is going-up

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2859465/

There is a stereotypical pattern of SSRI triggered suicides - which used to be rare but is now becoming much more common:

http://davidhealy.org/left-hanging-suicide-in-bridgend/

On March 17th L’Wren Scott hung herself in her Manhattan apartment. She hung herself from a door handle. Hanging with your feet or body on the ground is a classic antidepressant MO when it comes to suicide. Hanging in this way led Pfizer to claim that Matt Miller, a 13 year old boy, hadn’t committed suicide but had died from auto-erotic asphyxiation gone wrong. It has led people in Bridgend and Wales to speculate on the influence of Satanic cults to explain the rash of bizarre suicides there. What happens is this. Antidepressants trigger thoughts of self-harm. These thoughts can vary from the mild to the malignant. The drugs can trigger thoughts like this in perfectly normal people, who have rarely if ever thought of harming themselves. Partly because these are such unfamiliar thoughts, someone like Matt Miller, Yvonne Woodley or L’Wren Scott can play with them by attaching a noose around their neck and leaning forward to see what it would be like. But leaning forward like this can put pressure on the carotid bodies, cause a person to lose consciousness, slip forward and asphyxiate.
From http://wp.rxisk.org/mothers-little-poisoner/#sthash.pwEs4jZy.dpuf

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The rate of prescription of drugs as a whole is going down, but the rate of prescription of antidepressants (SSRIs and similar) is going up, and probably faster than any other  major group of drugs - despite its being three decades since their introduction.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/20/antidepressant-use-rise-world-oecd

This is almost-certainly due to drug dependence.

It is difficult to stop taking SSRIs after taking a significant dose for several months to due withdrawal effects - which may be severe.

http://www.benzo.org.uk/ssri.htm

Therefore, once people have been on SSRIs for a while, they tend to stay on them forever.

Prescriptions for SSRIs therefore accumulate: each new antidepressant user tending to become a permanent user, each new prescription for antidepressant tending to become a permanent prescription.

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(To summarize a lot of literature) SSRIs overall cause, and do not prevent, suicide.

Suicide rates are known to be high in people with moderate to severe melancholia/ endogenous depression - but these severely depressed people are very rare (less than one percent prevalence) and almost always treated as hospital inpatients; and SSRIs are ineffective (they do not work) in inpatient, endogenous depression.

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In practice SSRIs are given to a large group of about 15 percent of the population outside of hospital, in general practice and outpatient psychiatry - people who suffer unpleasant symptoms such as anxiety, worry, severe and unpleasant mood swings, chronic unhappiness, guilt and so on - people in distress but people who continue to live at home, continue to look after themselves, often continue to work.

This group of SSRI-users do not intrinsically have a raised suicide rate - if they were not taking drugs, they would be no more likely to kill themselves than normal controls.

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It is thoroughly established that SSRIs increase suicide rates.

http://www.healyprozac.com/

This was known during their pre-marketing trials. It is officially acknowledged that SSRIs should not be given to children and young people due to increased suicide risk

http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm096273.htm

There are plausible pharmacological and psychological reasons to explain why SSRIs can trigger suicide, and these symptoms have also been found when healthy volunteers take the drugs as well as among patients with psychological symptoms.

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So, SSRIs do not prevent suicide, and they are only useful in a group of people who do not have a raised risk of suicide; but SSRIs are dependence-producing and prescriptions are growing faster than any other major drug, and they do increase the risk of suicide and the suicide is often of a violent, unusual, impulsive nature (most stereotypically casing death by asphyxiation by hanging from a kneeling position) and the suicide may be out-of character for that person, and indeed comes out-of-the-blue.

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In conclusion there is a very high visibility epidemic of what look-like SSRI-triggered suicides, now becoming visible among the rich and famous who are reportedly being treated for depression, and who kill themselves violently and unexpectedly; and yet this epidemic is hidden in plain sight.

It as if we cannot believe that a drug prescribed officially and with good intentions cannot do harm!

It is as if we assume that powerful, mind-altering, dependence-producing chemicals are necessarily innocent until proven guilty - merely because they are prescribed by a doctor!

Indeed these antidepressant-triggered suicides are generally spun into indicating the need for even-more antidepressant treatment - more treatment to 'prevent' the suicides which were actually triggered by antidepressant treatment.

The situation is Kafka-esque: the more treatment-triggered suicides, the more demand for treatment - the more suicides... 

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The bad news is that suicidality is also a probable side effect of some other types of antidepressant as well as the SSRIs; and also of the antipsychotic/ neuroleptic/ 'mood stabilizer' group of drugs - which are heavily and increasingly prescribed(in multiple combinations - often five drugs together!) for the vaguely-defined pseudo-diagnosis of 'Bipolar Disorder'.

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The take-home-message is that all powerful drugs have serious possible risks as well as bad inevitable side effects - and all psychoactive drugs create dependence.

Therefore they should only be used carefully (prepared to stop at signs of trouble, or when not clearly effective), at as low a dose and for as short a time as possible; and when the hoped-for benefits outweigh the certain risks - which, in practice, means only when the psychological illness is severe, debilitating, incapacitating.

And (in general) drugs which cause severe definite present side effects and have dangerous risks and cause dependence - should not be used on the excuse of 'trying to prevent future problems'.

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