I just turned 50, and as I get older, I realize that more and more things about the culture and economy I live in are inauthentic, twisted, harmful, deceitful, erroneous, ignorant, ineffective, inefficient, or just plain stupid. So I reject them. Yes, yes, I understand that this is the point where many aging men edge over that slippery slop to become “old codgers”, but I refuse to go there. I refuse to invest the remainder of my life in sulking about what is wrong with the world. Instead, it is my rightful aim do two things:
- to solve problems and
- to leave the place better than I found it.
It seems the more I learn—the more I study and dig and research and do the math—the more answers and solutions I come up with—that harder it is to find anybody who gives a damn about any of it. I have learned that I can solve a lot of problems. Indeed, I have solved a lot of problems—even things that other assume are impossible. That’s the easy part, actually. The second of my goals, however, is considerably harder because it doesn’t just depend on me. Indeed, there is a very serious problem with making the world a better place than I found it: We live in a world that does not seem to want to be better.
Sure, everybody’s griping about something or other—which fact might suggest to the casual bystander that these people do indeed want things reformed—yet they are all also seen to be contributors to the very quagmire about which they gripe. And there’s your problem.
When you work to find answers that nobody cares about—to solve puzzles that nobody else is working—that’s a pretty lonely business. I can certainly see how old men who don’t even try to solve anything turn into old codgers, but now I’m starting to see how even the few diligent puzzle-workers could end up being old codgers, too. It’s because of loneliness and the demoralizing realization that practically nobody cares. And in no place is this truth as painfully obvious as among most of those who say they care. Sure, they can say it, but I’m looking right at their hole cards, seeing by the reality of their circumstances that it is just a bluff.
I guess I’m a “divergent” of some sort. Funny, but I grew up going to the same churches as everyone else, where I was told, like everyone else, that I should love the Bible. So now I love the Bible and I have worked to solve a considerable many puzzles that often come up in the normal course of church business, yet nobody is interested in the solutions. Where did I go wrong? I guess I didn’t realize that I wasn’t really expected to love the Bible after all. It was just empty talk.
And I went to the same elementary schools, where they taught me that I should have a great appreciation for heroes who would risk themselves in order to oppose injustice and tyranny. Where I went wrong, however, was that I never figured out that it was supposed to stop merely at appreciation; somehow, what little Jack got from all those lessons is that we should be heroes today, too. What was I thinking?!
As a result, there have been several chapters in my life where I took a stand against what I could demonstrate was wrong—and found myself standing alone or nearly alone as everyone else rushed to restore the sanctity of silence at the altar of the Status Quo.
I have been abandoned by the very world that got me started in this direction.
How ironic is that?
Or, alternately, I was handed the answers by a world that didn’t realize the usefulness of the answers it already had.
Again, how ironic is that?
While tens of thousands of problem-persistent preachers get paid to spin their exceedingly popular messages, there is simply not a sufficient market from which to gather a salary for mine: authenticity. And while many will be elected to public office this election cycle by popular support, nobody wants what I want: actual reform in accordance with fact and logic and principle. Indeed, when I write one political post, some friend shouts, “Jack for President!“, yet when I write the next, equally as logical and factual, he is certain that I am an idiot and promptly forgets his former euphoria.
It’s a counterfeit world where appearances are all that matter to most. They wear their labels—things they fancy, like “Constitutionalist” or “Christian”, yet they don’t really care whether they turn out to be authentic representatives of those labels or not. Not really. And silly me; look how often I have taken the time to point out the ways in which one’s behavior and his label do not match. And when I do, how often is the correction heeded? Sadly, it happens almost …… never.
Yet that’s another idea I got from Sunday School—that our labels and our reality should match. Apparently, some Sunday School axioms are like reference books in the library; they’re just for looking at while you’re there, and not for taking with you. But I must have missed that memo, and nobody searched me on the way out of Sunday School to be sure I was not managing to sneak out with the lessons still in mind.
So where does this leave me? Depressed?
No, not depressed. But I must admit it’s quite a drag to live in this culture. Life would be lots more fun if it were filled with life-long learners who share my paradigms, and who could be counted on to be working the puzzle, too. I would be thrilled to find that my friends were doing their own work, and had learned things yet new to me. What a glorious synergy that would bring!
Maybe, somewhat—at least at moments—but mostly frustrated over the senselessness of it all, and feeling sorry for people who are trapped in their own double-mindedness.
I figured out three years ago that the basis of our problem is that people do not routinely use epistemic rationality in all their thinking. (Epistemic rationality is thinking/deciding/believing that deliberately jibes with reality—mapping onto the real world accurately.) This explains why a guy thinks it’s a mortal sin for that nasty Demublican Party to violate the Constitution, while he views his own Republicrat Party’s violation of it to have been defensible since it was “for a good cause”. This is why you can’t reform anybody’s political thinking—because like a 7-year-old constantly changing the rules to his own advantage while playing Go Fish!, they think in whatever way is necessary to maintain their existing beliefs—however smart or stupid those beliefs may be. Nobody ever taught them to think responsibly.
And God help them when people like this get hold of the Bible. They don’t care what all it says; they just care if they can find nuggets here and there that seem to suit them—at least when snatched from their context into this make-believe context of the modern-day 5,000-branded monster called “The Church”.
So what am I going to do now?
I’m going to finish writing my book this year: Reality-Based Thinking: How everyone—including you—can think better. And then I’m going to write a companion study book because I’m utterly convinced—and please don’t tell the churches this—that the Bible is packed with information about the kind of high-end thinking that God expects from righteous people. And whaddayaknow, that thinking has features such as responsibility, fairness, logic, evidence, diligence, comparison/contrast, truth/honest/reality, self-discipline, and so forth—just like epistemic rationality. That book will be entitled What the Bible Says About Thinking. In short, it will consist mostly of a boatload of excerpts from the Bible, highlighting these various aspects of godly thinking. It’s ironic, of course, because all those passages are already quite available in the Bible—the same place I’ll be getting them from—so basically, it looks like I’ll be pulling them out for people who are too apathetic on the subject to find them for themselves. But I have in mind also the potential reader who has decided that the Bible is probably stupid because he sees too many “Bible believers” acting stupidly. Perhaps he will find the title intriguing.
Further, I have in mind for this book the reader who finds himself alone at church—believing that things should be rational in a church culture that is often irrational.
So that’s what I’m going to do now. I’m going to finish these books and self publish them and see who all they might help. And that’s a far cry from wasting away my latter years as a crotchety, old complainer. If I can help even ten people, I will have truly helped them with the most fundamental lessons of life–things I have learned the hard way. They will be grateful for the help, and I will be grateful for their company.