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My sometime friend "Ed" is not a Feeler, but he goes to church and hears all the Feeler stuff they preach from every pulpit in America. You can't fault him for trying to believe it. He said something "from his heart" in a difficult situation, but it did not address the problems. His heart was not in it. I mentioned that "the heart is deceitful above all things" (from the prophet Jeremiah), and his reply astonished me. He nullified Scripture by calling it "old covenant thinking." I know there are people who only read the last 25% of the Bible (some only half of that), but I'm not one of them. Perhaps (in their opinion) somebody forgot to inform the Apostle Paul before he wrote to Timothy that "all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." Jesus must have been mistaken when he declared that "not one jot or tittle will pass away." I prefer to side with Jesus and Paul and Jeremiah against the Feelers.
The movie also surprised me. The husband flew out from New York and did the same gentle vulnerable act and won his wife back. It was a moving scene, very Feeler. But they did the right thing, which is so unusual. Usually the heart wins. This hard woman softened and blossomed under the Montana sky, and your emotions wanted her to end there. But the heart is deceitful.
Ed is trying to do the right thing, but he doesn't know what it is.
The Feeler pastors in the pulpits do not teach their congregation how to
read the Bible for what it says, they expect the people to accept their
Feeler sermons as gospel truth and hopefully to believe -- not find, because
not there -- but believe it's in the Bible. The pastors ought to know
better, but that's what they got in seminary. The right thing is not what
the heart wants to believe, but what the Scripture actually teaches. The
heart is deceitful, who can know it?
It occurred to me as Trudy was telling me about her troubles with Helen, that Helen mistreats her mother because Trudy allows it. Relationshipism is selfish, and Trudy is unwilling to give up (or even risk losing) time with her granddaughter, and as a consequence she is unwilling to tell Helen "Not on my watch!" This is very selfish, the violation of the Second Great Commandment (2C), because the best interests of Helen, if Trudy truly loved Helen as herself, would be more confrontational. Helen would get over it. She does not stay angry long, and she needs somebody to tell her this is inappropriate behavior. Trudy does not love and respect Helen enough to do what is best for her.
It won't happen. As a result, Helen has learned that witchy behavior serves her own selfish behavior, it is positively rewarded, so she continues to be ever more witchy. I said all this to Trudy. I'm not a Relationshipist. Trudy needed to hear it. She acknowledged it was all true, but "I could never say anything," she admitted. And that is why Helen is witchy.
When I found myself in the same situation as Trudy (different kind of
relationship, because I have no daughter), unconditional affirmation (Relationshipism)
Confrontation is called for. Maybe I have less to lose than Trudy does.
I hope that's because my first priority is to God, and not to any person
like Trudy's daughter or granddaughter.
Last night the beauty of the First and Second Great Commandments (1+2C) opened up to me like a rare blossom. I have long had an appreciation for what Jesus taught as a complete summary of God's Law, but suddenly I saw it as so simple, so comprehensive. 1+2C implies every other moral obligation of mankind. That's not new with me, Jesus and Paul both said it. The new insight is that there are two matching comprehensive vices: pride and selfishness. Pride is the negation of the First Commandment (1C), and selfishness is the negation of the Second (2C).
Spiderman 3 tells us that you can make right choices -- and he's right. Right choices always conform to 1+2C. The problem is that most of us -- including Spiderman in the movie -- are proud and/or selfish some of the time. Some people are proud and selfish all of the time. But you can choose to do good. It's a choice. Rightly or wrongly, we make that choice all the time. After a while the choice to do evil gets stuck, but that's a different story. Forgiveness cancels past karma, so you can make right choices again.
I see a lot of anger in the world I live in. 1+2C explains anger, because anger is the expression of pride. Our educational system teaches self-esteem (another word for pride), and then we are surprised at the epidemic of uncontrolled anger? The Bible tells us to get rid of anger. It's not an emotion over which we have no control. Either we feed it by pride, or we get rid of it by obedience to 1C. I guess there is a place for righteous indignation, but I don't see much of that. Most of the anger I see is over the violation of rights, and rights are about pride, pure and simple.
Most churches teach a deviant form of Christianity I call Relationshipism. It's not truly Christian, because Relationshipism is selfish and proud. Relationshipism looks at my interaction with other people; 2C is only concerned with the other person's benefit. The beauty of 1+2C is that it does a pretty good imitation of Relationshipism. There is a significant difference, but Relationshipists will not see it. That's because Relationshipists are selfish; they are looking at their own benefit, and 2C offers it. Reciprocity is required for "relationship" but 2C works unilaterally (and therefore is not contingent on another person's moral compliance). Furthermore, if both parties practice 2C, then you get "relationship" for free. That's why the Bible teaches 2C and not the false god of "relationship".
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Part of my strategy for surviving inflation on a fixed income (it hurts us worst) was to move some or most of my assets out of the bank and into the ground. I bought a mortgage last year, but that's not nearly as valuable as a house. One of my favorite lines these days is "The Lord doth provide." Indeed He did. Houses are cheap this year.
I looked at the former owner's tax bill, and noticed the assessed value is nearly twice what I paid for it. Every other house I have ever owned was assessed at a small fraction of what I paid for it -- I suppose so the homeowners won't come complaining about the assessed value. I called the Assessor's office to see if I could get it reassessed at something closer to market value. They weren't helpful. I can't say I blame them, Iowa is a blue state, then need lots of tax revenue to pay for all the services they presumably provide. Maybe I will make it back up when I sell. I hope that will also cover a huge plumbing bill.
More recently I am becoming exposed to the receiving end of that same pride. Some of those people with different priorities, the ones who are good at what they do and not so good at what other people do, they tend to degrade or ridicule the differences. Several times this year -- sometimes aimed at me, sometimes I'm only a bystander watching somebody else get the shaft -- I have seen this hostility and disrespect.
When there is no respect for the other person, there can only be hostility. Maybe it's OK to disrespect the Enemy and his eager followers, but when it's directed at a family member or fellow believer, Bad Things Happen. One of those bad things is that the hostility triggers an automatic hostile reaction. Because of that reaction, it's exceedingly difficult to turn off the hostility once it has started. Both parties must want to make nice. Children in a family environment, and employees in a workplace can be forced to stop the hostilities; otherwise apparently nobody -- especially not both at the same itme -- wants to give up their right to be angry, and ultimately their right to the pride of superiority.
Thinking about my place in one of these engagements, I want to do my part at cessation. Thinking positive thoughts about my attacker is rather difficult, but at least I can grant him the right to his priorities. If I am more logical than he is, it is because thinking is hard work and takes a lot of concentrated effort. People mostly don't volunteer for the job. My opponent in this case must spend 40+ hours earning his sizable salary and maintaining his family; he also spends a lot of time doing volunteer work in connection with his church. He cannot do an honest job at all those tasks and still have time left over for thinking hard thoughts. And that's OK, that's the situation God put him in. I'm in a different situation, no local family, insignificant charity volunteer work, and no salaried employment. I spend a lot of time in unstructured software development, and I have a lot of time left over to think about hard problems. If I get better results from my thinking than he does, it's not because I'm morally superior, only that I had the time to do the work and he didn't.
Sooner or later, I need to be in his shoes. Maybe not with a high-maintenance family situation, but I do need a paying job. When I get it, the time I have for hard problems on the side (such as posted in this blog) will probably go away, or at least be greatly diminished.
Life goes on.
Today I learned a new way tapes are superior to DVDs. My sister had bought a floor demo TV a couple years ago. The remote was lost and the dealer never made good on his promise to replace it. So she took me to Wal-Mart to buy (and then program) a universal remote for it. She claims to be electronically illiterate, but I think a PhD in this stuff almost failed also. No matter, I did get it working. The purpose for this $10 gadget, I was told, is that DVDs won't play without it. Multi-part serials will only play the first episode from the TV control panel; all the rest of the story requires a remote to access and select from the menu. It may not be the fault of the media, but only tape players are smart enough to know what you want to do when you insert a movie into the player, which is play the movie, and they do that. Only tape players let you skip over the commercials and the vanity logos. Only tapes let you stop in the middle, turn the whole bugger off, and then come back next week (after viewing three other movies) and resume exactly where you left off. Or leave it on the shelf ready to view at the end of the 10-minute commercials sequence, where the movie actually starts (many of the movies I get from the library are preset there).
The problem is that DVDs are cheaper to manufacture, and (at least for
now) command a higher price. And because they are more easily damaged and
less viewable thereafter, they also represent a higher incidence of replacement
sales (read: more profit for the vendors). Gresham's Law (bad money drives
out good) therefore applies. Soon there will be only low-quality DVDs (or
even worse, Blue-Ray) available and no tapes at all. That's already true
at the library my sister patronizes.
My joy tends to dissipate when I discover that they did not understand what I wrote.
Four years ago somebody -- let's call him "Dan" -- put me onto the tax protest movement. He was arguing that there is no legal basis for the USA income tax. The arguments are bogus, and I fully answered them in "The 861 Tax Question" posted four years ago. In researching that topic, I found a lot of people (including "Dan") blindly copy-pasting each other's arguments without comprehension. There was a recognizable pattern.
Somewhat later "Dan" again came to me with a bogus argument that the income tax is "stealing" and therefore unjust, and I wrote another essay "Law & Justice" to answer the justice question. It also linked to the "861 Tax" essay as relevant (the same litany of objections).
"Dan" eventually left off arguing tax matters with me. Maybe he outgrew his love of money, or maybe he got tired of losing, I don't know. More recently another person -- let's call him "Don" -- read my "Law & Justice" essay and sent me a long compilation of the same copy-pasted tax protester arguments. Did he really read my essay? I can't tell.
"Don" claims to be a Christian -- he even gives lip-service to the realization that Jesus is not your Lord if you do not obey his commands -- so I invited him to explicitly agree to accept Scripture as authoritative. He did. Unfortunately, Don is illiterate, or at least has a reading comprehension problem. He can read the same Romans 13 text in the same Scripture I read, then make what appears to be a minor wording change that has the effect my friend Phil describes as "propaganda is 99% truth mixed with 1% lies to produce something that gives an impression 180 degrees away from reality."
It might be that Don's mind is deceived by the love of money, or by the Father of All Lies, so that he cannot know the Truth. That would have a similar effect to ordinary illiteracy -- except that illiteracy would give random results all over the map; Don's arguments are consistently directed toward nullifying his obligation to pay taxes. You cannot get that kind of consistency from such a disparate agglomeration of contradictory arguments unless it points to a hidden agenda (the one point in common). There was a reference to the lack of credibility of such argumentation in my "Law & Justice" essay, and I reminded Don of it, but he chose not to reply to that point. That's part of the agenda test: people who are interested in Truth do not so quickly walk away from lost causes, but rather seek to understand exactly why they lost that one.
When Don started misrepresenting what I was saying -- including my direct quote in his next line -- it became clear that debate with Don was hopeless. There is no basis for debate unless both parties speak the same language and agree on the basic meaning of English (or whatever language) sentences. It is possible that I could have misunderstood the Bible text; it happens (not often: my professional specialty is correct semantics), but there is no way I could have misunderstood what I myself was saying, repeatedly, using many different ways to say it. Don obviously was the one with the reading (or intentional misrepresentation) problem. If he can't understand what I'm saying, it's no wonder he also got Scripture and the USA law wrong.
Don called this misrepresentation problem (his word was "logic" and he was trying to pin the blame on me) a "show-stopper" and I agreed. Whether it was his misrepresentation or mine, the show stopped.
If we cannot agree on what the text actually says, then we have
nothing to discuss, because I always argue from the primary documents:
Scripture if you are a Christian, or the US law and/or peer-reviewed research
(whichever is relevant) if you are not. But we must be able to agree on
what it says. Don could not allow that to happen, probably because he knew
he would lose the debate.
The real cause of the problem: [David Li's copula formula] "was making people so much money."
Any honest Christian not blinded by the love of money (few though there be) recognizes that as a -- perhaps the -- fundamental problem. The bond market is a zero-sum game, so if you are making a ton of money, somebody is losing money at the same rate. It turned out in this case to be the same banks who thought they were making it. The losses were merely delayed.
Many years ago sci-fi novelist Robert Heinlein coined the prescient word TANSTAAFL ("There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"). It still applies. The article points out that banks and investors and insurance companies balance risk against premiums or interest rates; the problem, they neglected to conclude, is when the risk appears lower than the rates.
WIRED went on to argue their proposed "Roadmap for Recovery": Transparency. That's a synonym for telling the truth, and it's a Good Thing, commanded by God, and I'm all for it. But it won't cure the problems that lead to meltdown, and it would not have prevented this one. Again, the proof is right there in front of their noses, in the article. In 1933 FDR signed into law the Securities and Exchange Commission and the transparency it requires of American companies. All the information is there, but inscrutible. WIRED author Daniel Roth wants that to be formatted in some standardized way, so that it can be crunched by anybody. And if you believe that, I have some swa-- I mean Florida beach-front property to sell you.
"The human heart is deceitful above all things," the prophet told us, and "desperately wicked." I first heard the term "creative accounting" many decades ago. It astounded me at the time -- how could plain numbers be creative? -- but no longer. "Figures don't lie, but liars figure." Nevermind what formatting tags the government forces onto industry, they will find ways to hide their deceptions. Enron filed all the required SEC reports, but it took a person inside the company who understood what was going on to expose the chicanery. The beauty of the CDSes and SDOs that led to the current financial collapse is that nobody understood them. A few people did, and warned of the danger, but the love of money exceeded caution.
That's an important observation. More transparency (meaning more available data) only means that the greedy dishonest executives must work harder to hide their shenanigans. Transparency does not prevent dishonesty, it only makes it harder to see.
It gets worse. Author Roth wants to be "giving the financiers [meaning
everybody] the ability to evaluate every aspect of the loans: location,
proof of income, interest rate, appraisal value, and so on." Did you catch
that? The only thing missing from this personal data is name and Social
Security number -- but those are easily mined. Correlated to public-record
property tax rolls, you have names; every bank by law already has
your Social Security number, and if you ever read the fine print on those
they are required to send you each year, you know that every one of them
of them. They won't tell you that to your face, and they bury the operative
words in the middle of six pages of tiny, obtuse but benign-sounding legalese,
but there it is, in every single one of them. Do you really believe that
the defenders of personal privacy -- no doubt including also WIRED
editors -- will be swift enough to patch that gaping hole in their Maginot
line before the SEC blitzkrieg rolls over it?
The reviews never mentioned (or at best glossed over) the theme that got my attention. They thought it great comedy. I guess I don't laugh much at people's misfortunes. The movie contained a subplot involving another woman. I do not condone the kind of thing the film smirked at, and it did not actually happen in the movie either. But it was entirely avoidable. The movie was based on real-life adventures told in the book by the same name (which I did not read), but the reviews say the other woman is not in the book. Despite that it's fiction of the worst kind, there was a sense of resonance.
The guy really had no romantic interest in the other woman, his wife only assumed it. But he could have done a better job of keeping her in the decision loop, so she could know what was really happening instead of fabricating malice. His go-it-alone character flaw played out over and over in the movie, often for laughs. I did not laugh. I guess I'm too close to that problem in real life.
The Apostle Paul invites us to look forward to a time when "I shall
know fully, even as I am fully known." No more bad assumptions destroying
relationships. "Even so come, Lord Jesus."
Fortunately, there are a few good people in this country who won't let a creep like that succeed. Some of them wear badges. Unfortunately, they are few.
The story is classic rugged American individualism -- except that the John Wayne / Clint Eastwood guy happens to be female. These movies succeed because the ordinary guy triumphs over all odds and over an abusive system, solely on his (in this case, her) determination and self-reliant violence. We want to see ourselves in those shoes.
But it's fiction. First, the system is never as bad as the movie paints it, never as bad as we think we see ourselves in. Second, and more important, we are not super-heroic. Nice 110-pound moms cannot train in one month to beat up and kill (with her bare hands) a guy twice her weight in his own home. And if she did, maybe she might get off -- the guy really did deserve it -- but technically it was premeditated murder. You don't overcome evil with bigger and badder evil.
You overcome evil with good. This is what I keep telling myself. God is Good, and God is in charge. That's why these things only happen in the movies. When he said, "I pay the bills, so I get to make the rules," I wanted her to reply, "Some of the rules are made by Somebody else."
Convincing myself today that God is in charge is taking rather
more effort than usual. That bothers me.
It's fiction, of course, and I think I would have chosen a different
verb than "bore" for that circumstance, but the line resonated with where
I am. It was indeed fiction. A classic Feeler chick-flick, the story went
on to put the lie to their memorable line, and all relationships were restored
(or replaced). As far as I can tell, that only happens in the movies.
I thought it remarkable that so many of them featured a theme of unemployment and hunger. "Depression era," I thought. Oh wait, the copyright dates on these were 1923 and 1924 -- during the boom before the 1929 crash that began the Depression.
It now seems clear to me that most of these flics were proof-of-concept technical exercises: color in 1939, sound in 1930, and animation in 1923. They lacked the editorial oversight that makes a story upbeat (and therefore marketable). Like religion, feel-good movies (such as John Wayne) sell a lot better than an honest (but sour) look at life. But these ended up on top. The cat's name "Felix" is Latin for "cheerful".
Jesus said we would always have the poor among us. The spending binge
currently going on in Washington is not going to solve our economic problems.
Unlike many Depression flics, these early Felix cartoons had him solving
his economic woes by ingenuity and American pluck, not by government handouts.
That is still true today.
The facts don't support the theory of descent from a common ancestor. I have been asking for 30 years now, and the evidence just isn't there, only rumors. And games, designed to "simulate" what their programmers know can't happen. Notice that "design" is something done by creators -- including, but not limited to, God.
The title on the article in PCW is "An Innovative Game With a God Complex."
The reviewer (and/or his editor) obviously understands what is going on.
This first happened about ten years ago. I was teaching an adult Sunday School class on praying the Psalms, and we came to Psalm 34. There is a lovely Stuart Dauermann song setting the words of this psalm to music, so I asked the pastor's wife to come in and play it for us. She's an accomplished pianist, and although she had never seen the piece, she picked it right up. Except, unlike the worship service where her playing leads the congregation, she was slightly behind my singing. She expected me to lead! So I did. Soloists generally lead their musicians, and Patti knew to do it that way. I don't normally sing solo in public, so I didn't understand the protocol until it was thrust upon me.
This happened again this week. Well, it started a month ago, when I recognized that I was again guiding the interaction unknowingly, and the other guy was following. I called it "CopyPastism" when I understood what was happening. I was responding to him, and he was copy-pasting me. It was up to me to break the circle, so I did. I never would have expected a "J" personality (they usually tend to be control freaks) to cede control to me, but that's what happened. It takes conscious effort on my part to provide good direction, but I guess I can do it when needed.
It just feels weird.
Since no union speaks for my interests at the so-called collective bargaining
table, the service fee does not pay for any service I want nor have use
for. Therefore it amounts to a "cost of doing business" like income taxes
-- except that taxes are paid to a God-ordained government, while this
is paid to a private organization of known disreputable morals, sort of
like "baksheesh" (bribes) in Pakistan. At the very least I can write it
into the contract they require me to sign agreeing to paying the service
fee. And petition the Department of Labor (which oversees such things)
for representation more suitable to my interests. As a "laborer" subject
to a collective bargaining agreement, I would have that right. If I get
hired, of course. As if.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things. Php.4:8 [NIV]A few weeks ago I consciously renewed my 3-decade-old resolve to think affirming thoughts about people.
It has curious implications. Like this last Sunday...
One of the pastors has mentioned me by name from the pulpit several times, always in a context of me correcting a moral lapse of his. So this week, when I heard my name, I physically cringed. I knew what was coming.
I gave some thought to what to do about it. I could just quietly take my lumps and (equally quietly) resolve to be more effusive in my affirmation. Is the only remarkable thing about me that I criticize him? Otherwise, why would he remark on it? Or I could also confront him with his violation of Jesus' command to tell the "brother" his fault in private before going public in church. Fortunately, I waited...
I think slow. Sometimes it takes me several days to understand the full implications of some event. Today I made the connection with my resolution -- the other side of the coin, that is. Obviously I need to be less critical.
The flip side is that there is a positive light to see this event in. I was mentally criticizing him for impropriety, but he probably thought he was offering me public praise for helping him out. Nevermind that everybody in the pews -- Relationshipists all of them -- would see the reported event as disaffirmation. Relationshipists are like that: everything is understood as criticism unless it is explicit praise, and even some explicit praise is taken as criticism. But this pastor is not by nature a Feeler; he would not understand something so subtle unless he put some effort into it. He tries hard to be a good Relationshipist, but you can tell that he works at it; it doesn't come naturally.
Anyway, I now honestly believe this pastor intended to be praising me from the pulpit. I can believe it. I choose to believe it. Believing it rescues me from falsely accusing him in yet another criticism for him to remark on in public. Actions have consequences, and my good choice here, my conscious decision to prefer affirmational thoughts about him (and about everybody else too), that choice helps to implement better relations all around.
It happened again yesterday in a different context, different person.
Now I just need to get my default reaction under control, so the default
is positive and affirming. With God's help, I can do that.
She had a problem beyond her perceived ability to cope. That's a tough situation. She asked me for advice, but I had none to offer -- except for a verse in the same chapter, slightly past where the devotional reading left off, 4:19. "God will supply your every need..."
Technically it's Paul's response to a financial gift from the church in Philippi, but I don't think it does disservice to the whole teaching of the Bible to read it in a broader sense: "God will supply everything you need." Otherwise, how could God be just?
So did God lie? Or was He mistaken about her needs? No. God supplied her needs. Not everything she asked for, not everything she wants, but everything she needs.
Sometimes God gives us the pieces and we are expected to put the parts together. She wondered if that might be the situation, that she had not done her part of the job. I don't know about her, but if she in good faith has done everything she knows that she can do, then the rest is up to God, and today's devotional applies after all. There is no need to beat ourselves up over what we cannot control.
I don't know if I got through to her, but when I'm in a difficult situation, I refuse to accept guilt for what is not my fault. Maybe I screwed up (it happens), look at it, and if there is a problem, get it fixed. If there is not a problem I can fix, then accept what God is going to do.
In her case, I'm sure God gave her this very difficult situation because she is the most qualified, most conscientious person I know who could handle it. And if God never expected her to succeed to her own high standards, if failure was in fact what God allowed for His own purposes, she needs to accept that she gave it her best shot.
And thank God for the opportunity to serve. That's the hard part, when
it looks to you and me like failure. God knows otherwise.
I call the alternative group-think that comes out of factory education "Copy-Paste thinking" or simply CopyPastism. You see, you copy, you paste it unthinking into the next opportunity, whether it fits or not. Thinking is hard work; CopyPasting is easy.
I enjoyed programming on the Mac these 24 years. Instead of rewriting (and rethinking) everything, which was my habit the previous 20 years, I just copied large chunks of similar code and pasted it into the new location, making minor changes as needed, and often failing to make the needed changes. I call the program bugs that come out of this process "copy-paste errors". They are tolerable because they are numerically fewer -- but much harder to find -- than typing errors (which the compiler usually tells me about). Re-inventing the code is a lot more work, but it produces much better results. The Mac giveth, and the Mac taketh away.
One of my friends has been trying to sell me on the virtues of unix in general, and Apple's OSX in particular. Before they went with unix, Apple had a long-running campaign promoting the slogan "Think Different" (maybe they still do, but I don't see many Apple ads). It was significant ten years ago, because the Apple system was different. It was truly WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), no command line anywhere, all data directly manipulated. It was wonderful, and attracted a great following of creative people, all of them independent thinkers like myself. But it did not appeal to the CopyPastist masses, so it lost market share. Apple abandonned it and went back to the prototypical CopyPastist system: Unix.
I mention my friend, because one of his arguments for unix is that the command line saves on re-inventing code. I would agree, sort of, except that the command line itself is a continual re-invention of program code. In the Mac, all that is buried in the system, there is no continual re-thinking and re-typing over and over the same lines of program code (also known as command lines), just a quick click and a drag. It's even faster than copying and pasting. 20 years ago PC magazine compared the performance of the Mac to IBM (command-line) systems. The users uniformly reported the PCs were faster, but timed tests consistently showed the Mac was 10% faster. The article went on to speculate that the Mac was so easy to use, people spent a lot of time waiting for the computer to work, while on the PC they were so engrossed in planning and executing their tasks that they did not notice the passage of time. I suspect that two computers were comparable in actual execution speed, but that extra think time required by the command line physically slowed the total job time down. This is still true today, but Apple sells computers to what people think is happening, not what is actually going on.
So CopyPastism is actually a good thing, provided you have a good model
to copy. Unix unfortunately isn't, but everybody copies it anyway. It has
something to do with the way the academics became sold on unix, so all
the eunuchs coming out of the CopyPastist universities also are sold on
eunuchs -- I mean unix. Same sound, same idea. Because Bill Gates is a
consummate businessman with an honest desire to serve his customers, and
because the original Mac was in fact faster, the Windows operating system
slowly lurched in the direction of the Mac, leaving unix in the dust. Except
now with Bill gone, that motivation is gone. Whatever.
The title theme is about cutting away everything that interferes with the competition, in this case timed linkups in parachute jumping. Team members were expected to give up their day jobs, their family, hobbies (except jumping), everything. Even sex with team members was forbidden. The team leader could see when his team members had other agendas. Curiously, only one of the IMDB reviews made mention of the title theme.
I first saw this competitive effect in the 1972 Winter Olympics Grand Slalom. Some skiers were in perfect control all the way down; others were out of control, and wiped out before reaching the bottom. After a while you could predict which ones would make it, and which ones would wipe out, just on the basis of their flailing arms as they rounded the early gates. Pretty soon here came a guy who was obviously out of control. Every gate was a near loss. But he made it to the bottom. He also had the fastest time. Perfect control added fractions of a second to the time. A race car driver wants his engine to blow up -- just after he crosses the finish line. If it blows up before the line, he loses; if it doesn't blow up, he could have pushed it harder, gotten a little more speed. I heard that fighter planes operate on the same basis. In every competition, the winners are the ones with total dedication, right up to the edge of self-destruction.
Jesus demanded that same dedication of his followers. That's what the First and Great Commandment is all about: cut away everything else -- money, hobbies, even family (relationships: see Luke 14:26) -- only God matters. In the movie they had a false god, but they understood the principle. The people who run the American churches today value relationships more than God. Or maybe even slightly less, but they have not cut it away. The people of Samaria [2Kings 17:33] had that problem, worshipping the true God, but mixed in with their own paganism, "both/and." God does not want a mixture of Himself and paganism, both hot and cold (that is, kind of lukewarm); that's puke [Rev.3:16].
Total commitment. Everything else must be cutaway.
The guy who was in that spot the day I decided to change, he chose to park 2 places up from my new place, just as he had been doing when I beat him to the old place. It seems he didn't want that corner place at all. Nor did the guy who was in it 3 weeks before that.
I don't read minds, of course, but as far back as I can remember I have from time to time noticed that people tend to do what they see me doing -- not because they want to do it, but only because I'm doing it.
I can remember 30 years ago, the IEEE Microprocessor Standards Committee (among other things, they were responsible for the floating point standard that every new computer now uses), we had regular meetings at a restaurant in Silicon Valley. Before the main course arrived, I would eat the bread and drink the water. Nobody else ate bread or drank water -- except at my table, everybody did. I often got up and traded bread baskets and water pitchers with the other tables. It didn't matter which table I sat at, nor who else was there, only at my table everybody ate bread and drank water.
Am I the only person able to think for myself and make my own decisions?
If everybody decides to do what I'm doing solely because I'm doing it, and if (like the bread rolls in the basket, or the corner parking place) there is a limited supply of resources to do it with, then there is going to be competition for those resources. Are they doing it for the competition, the thrill of victory?
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered,I only did what I said I would do, and I thought they* agreed to it, but what anger came back!
or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared. Prov.22:24 [NIV]
Perhaps they were expecting only blessings unmitigated with commitment or effort on their part, or maybe they did not think through the complete implication of what I was promising. I don't know, and they aren't saying. The upside is that they are in another state and not talking to me now, so I don't come under the direct influence of their infectious anger. It's their problem, not mine.
It's getting hard to find people who control their own temper.
It can be done. A few years ago my friend told me of his former roommate who had a serious anger problem. The condition he placed on him for staying was that he controlled his temper -- and he did! Unfortunately, he failed to make it a lifelong choice. He even failed, a few years later, to recognize that his new wife implicitly had the same condition for being his "roommate". I don't condone divorce over such faults, but I can't say I blamed her.
Solomon had it right when he advised us to avoid people given to anger, but it gets lonely sometimes.
* I use the modern (and also ancient) English-language "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun for persons unspecified, even if only one such person is being discussed.
Instead I observe that the particle movers need an absolutist view of facts about the real world. If they are wrong about the facts, if they confuse facts and opinion, then they don't get paid. The other category is essentially paid for their opinions. If those opinions are wrong, if the opinions don't match the real world we all live in, well, they were already paid, so it's of little consequence to them personally. This tends to breed two very different views of truth. C.P.Snow called it "Two Cultures".
The politicians and marketing people, teachers and entertainers, people paid for having and promoting opinions, they become what has been called "post-modern". They start to believe there is no such thing as absolute truth, but that people invent "facts" to promote their own power agendas.
The technologists and the farmers and truckers -- and yes, computer programmers -- the people who get paid to move particles around, there are no post-modernists among them, at least not in their line of expertise. Your and my opinions about how much fuel it takes to drive fruits and vegetables from California farms to New York groceries are completely irrelevant, all that matters is the reality, the physics of hydrocarbons mixing with air inside small steel enclosures and causing wheels to turn. Computer programming is more subtle: we can invent virtual reality that exists only in the electrons flowing around computer circuits and lighting up phosphors on a CRT screen, but our inventions mean nothing at all if we fail to obey the absolutist physics of those electrons and the computers they run in. There is no place for opinions in the code we write.
Science is an interesting anomaly. Some scientists deal with particles or aggregates of particles. They are called physicists or chemists or medical researchers or geologists. Others -- cosmologists and paleontologists -- deal in opinions. Curiously, even the opinion-driven scientists still believe in absolute truth.
One of my regular readers admitted to being post-modern. I'm not, but
it got me to thinking. It seems to be a mirage of their own making. Real
people live in a real world with real facts, where opinions and interpretations
about those facts are irrelevant power-mongering. All the really matters
are the real facts.
Guys tend to want to see action, excitement, loud noises, fast chases, blood and things breaking, adrenaline stuff. Watch any Bond flick. Yeah, naked women (sex) seems to be a part of it too. Less sex in the recent Bond flicks, probably because teens have more time to spend money on movies than adults do.
Women prefer romantic things, guy gets girl and they live happily ever after.
Christmas movies are chick flicks. So "Christmas Comes to Willow Creek" definitely was a guy gets girl and they live happily ever after kind of movie. No loud noises, very little fisticuffs (mostly standing up for the defenseless -- which is a virtuous thing), lots of reminiscing about past conversations gone sour.
Christmas movies also have childhood wishes being realized. Christmas seems to be about childhood, and all the adults in these stories have some inner child who was unfulfilled, and by the end of the movie, everybody gets their longed-for Christmas gift. Very "happily ever after". Willow Creek was no different.
The ultimate Christmas gift is of course the Incarnation, God giving the gift of His Son. The Feelers want to believe that is unconditional, no repentance needed, and everybody lives happily ever after. The actual Bible story is somewhat different, but that is not my point today.
Today I'm wondering if I can successfully write a story that appeals to this personality type. As part of my research I'm also reading Jan Karon's At Home in Mitford, which is that kind of story, full of warm fuzzies. It's slow going for me. We used to call it "schmaltz." The library has a special "inspirational fiction" section for books like this. I'm not sure I can pull it off. You have to believe in something to write credibly about it. The real world doesn't work that way, and guys mostly know it. The critics rave over fiction that depicts unredeemed human depravity the way it really is, but patrons don't buy it.
Anyway, I'm still trying to get my head into that warm fuzzy space.
It's quite a contortion.
And I parked in the far corner spot in the church parking lot. Except I learned I had to get there early to get that spot. No problem, getting there early has other advantages, including stress control. I guess other people like that corner place, too. One of my correspondents described it this way: "I compete to win." Me too. Or rather, I used to.
The "Couch Game" competition changed my perspective. I began to see competition as an intrinsic violation of the Second Great Commandment, which is to "love your neighbor as yourself." If you want to win in a zero-sum game (which means that the other team loses), then you are not loving the other team as much as you are loving yourself. If you are in it only for the sport, and you really don't care who wins, that's a different matter. Except for a brief moment when I got caught up in the Couch Game, I really didn't care who won.
Now I found myself competing for that coveted corner parking place. And winning. But I failed often enough to see it was a competition. I arrived 5 minutes later than usual a couple weeks ago, and there was another car in my place. Obviously it was a competition, and I lost.
This week I found a different corner place, one that nobody else had been parking in.
The best win is when nobody loses.
You also can't blame Obama, who isn't even President yet, and who only promised to carry on the failed economic policies of his predecessor (see "Change? What Change?" last month). But the talk of nationalizing major industries -- already begun with mortgages and cars -- reeks of the policies that brought the former Soviet Union to its demise. And the deficit spending already begun under Bush cannot help but result in runaway inflation. That mostly hurts people on fixed incomes (like me, today -- but I keep hoping to change that).
Fortunately, the American people are a fickle lot. When this recent policy begins to show its inevitable failure, we will pretend to be conservative for a while, four or eight years from now.
Even more fortunately, God is bigger than the economy. The majority
voters don't know it, but I do.
Later this year
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