Category Archives: Philosophy

What Should Be Done?

Let us observe some things about ourselves in how various people among us might answer an overarching question about how to fix a society that most would agree is seriously ailing.

QUESTION

“What should be done about the mess we’re in?”

ANSWERS

SAM: “Pray about it.”
TED: “Throw the bums out of office!”
RALPH: “We need a good man in the White House.”
THOMAS: “We need more unity.”
ROBERT: “Put prayer back in the schools.”
ART: “Vote Republican.”
NED: “We have to get serious about protecting the environment.”
MIKE: “We need stricter regulations to keep big business in check.”
ANTON: “Back the Blue.”
ANSLEY: “Vote Democrat.”
ZANE: “Nothing. Just be at peace.”
WILLIAM: “Lower taxes.”
SAMUEL: “Raise taxes.”
PAUL: “More government programs.”
NATE: “Smaller government.”
FRANK: “Homeschooling.”
DAVE: “Increase spending on Education.”
CHARLIE: “Overthrow the government.”
FRED: “What this country needs is Jesus.”
GARRISON: “Promote diversity.”
HOWARD: “Term limits.”
IRWIN: “People need to get more informed.”
JAMES: “Less talk; more action.”
KERRY: “We need to bring back the great American work ethic.
LARSON: “Restore respect.”
MANNY: “Get rid of religion.”
NILES: “Start prosecuting people in office who break the law.”
OREN: “Put Fox News out of business.”
PAT: “More hate speech laws.”
KELLY: “Get rid of CNN.”
LAWSON: “Put Zuckerberg in jail.”
MARTY: “Break up Amazon.”
MOE: “Bring manufacturing back home to America.”
MUNSON: “Gun control.”
GEORGE: “Stricter health laws.”
CARSON: “Bring back $1 gas.”
KARL: “Free college tuition.”
WALLY: “Defund the police.”
XAVIER: “End racism.”
ALEXANDER: “Make it easier to vote.”
ALLEN: “Voter ID.”
BARRY: “Tort reform.”
DANIEL: “End the Fed.”
FREDDY: “Get rid of internal combustion engines.”
HARRISON: “Get back to the Constitution.”
LENNY: “Get rid of the Constitution.”
ANDY: “A one-world government.”
BRADY: “Anarchy.”
KELVIN: “Diet and exercise.”
MALVIN: “Yoga/Meditation.”
MAURIE: “STEM.”
OLLIE: “Can’t we just get along?”

This could go on and on, but I think this is a good enough sampling to get a feel for how varied might be the responses.

Surely, some of these are great ideas. And surely, some of these are terrible ideas. Almost all of these, however, are grossly over-simplified and/or over-generalized ideas, and this speaks to what I had mentioned above, regarding what we could learn about ourselves (either as a society, or as individuals) by observing how we tend to handle such questions. And surely, we’d learn just as much by observing how we tend to handle the more fundamental question: “Just what is the biggest problem in our society?” Indeed, I would expect a lot of people to answer the first question without first exercising the cognitive due diligence of defining just what mess we’re trying to fix in the first place. Yes, we can be that sloppy in our approach to thinking through such things!

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a few days, just to highlight how we’re “all over the board”—like what you’d see if you were to throw a dozen darts at a dart board (unless you’re excellent at darts). I don’t want to get off into the weeds of the details, but I will say this much. Let’s look at Sam’s answer at the top of the list: “Pray about it.” And then let’s ask Sam, and everybody who agrees with him, “OK, and what result should we expect to see from that?” And in response to that, I would expect that group’s answers to be “all over the board”. Is this me saying that prayer is bad? No, this is me wanting more than just a pat answer.

Or with Ted’s answer (“Throw the bums out of office”), suppose we were to ask this question to everyone who agrees with Ted’s go-to solution: “After throwing the bums out of office, what would be the next step necessary to produce a substantial improvement in things?” And while we might get some simple answer like, “Put good candidates in their places”, we’d find on follow-up questions that Ted’s group might be “all over the board”. For example, let’s ask them “OK, what makes a good candidate”, or “How can you actually get a good candidate elected in this day and age?”

This is what I mean by over-simplification. So many of these answers are just something to say. They’re not well-considered strategies; they’re just something to say—something to tell ourselves—something to tell others—something, perhaps, by which to pretend that we’re not as clueless about what goes on as we actually are?

So I thought that in this post, I’d put myself on the spot, as it were, and take my best stab at answering the question briefly—with no particular plan having been conceived in advance. So, here goes:

QUESTION (restated)

“What should be done about the mess we’re in?”

JACK’S ANSWER

Well, the mess we’re in is actually an aggregate of a lot of messes running at once–and that mess certainly includes the trouble caused by all our different ways of identifying causes and effects, and of differentiating between what is true and false, and between what is effective and ineffective. If there is some sort of fundamental cause underlying the overall mess of things, wouldn’t it have to lie in what the typical human does in his or her mind? So, shouldn’t the remedy have something to do with improving how we think, decide, and believe—with how we manage what goes on in our minds?

In short, we need some way to become better at being humans—better at how we manage ourselves and our relationships with others, and our habits of dealing with one another, whether in friendships, businesses, or government. I have seen people who believe any of the particular answers given on the long list above, yet who do not seem to think it’s very important to be learning how to be a better human themselves. But think of the irony that Ted should be adamant about throwing the “bums” out of office, but not about avoiding being a “bum” himself—or that Pat is adamant about “hate speech”, but is not concerned with the fact that he he himself says hateful things about people he thinks are immorally intolerant of others.

If we can’t find a solution for our own selves—for what goes on inside—then is there really any reasonable hope for fixing things on a grand, societal scale? And can you really fix anything overall without having to improve the behavior of individuals? Why, then, would we reach any other conclusion than that each of us should fix him- or herself?

And we tend to have more problems than just one. Cognitive miserliness and moral miserliness are two huge ones—the result of which is often observed in hypocrisy, which is a plague upon our culture. If we were to improve just 50% in these things, it would make a tremendous difference in our society.

The way I see it, this is our work, whether we do it or not. It is so easy to fall into the trap of fussing about what’s so wrong with everyone else, or, perhaps, quietly stewing over it, rather than fixing what we could manage to fix in ourselves. And surely, many fall into the trap of wishing that someone else would come fix their hearts and mind for them—doing for them what they could do themselves if they thought it were worth the effort to learn how and to do it. This is why so many over-invest in the hypothesis that man is an utterly-helpless worm that has no ability to do or think or want anything good, but must have all goodness divinely instilled into him by God.

But here’s something ironic: Even the people who buy into that notion—who claim that any good that resides in them must be the fruit of God’s own doing—seem to settle for so very little of that fruit, when, to hear them talk about it, God is this ever-flowing font of goodness, freely giving of himself and his riches of virtue to all who ask. Why, then, do they not to get themselves some more of that? Must God also make them ask for more—them being unable to desire and request more on their own?

Well, it that were the case, then how would we escape the conclusion that whatever is wrong with us—whatever is not yet fixed in us—is ultimately God’s fault, and that we ourselves must be blameless?

And I know a lot of people that seem to operate quite like that—even though I could not imagine them admitting it in words even in a thousand years of operating that way. They just don’t seem to want to be accountable for themselves. And yet even so, they are quick to stew or to fuss (or both) about how other people ought to be doing a better job in their thinking, deciding, believing, and doing. So, it would seem that the folks I’m talking about really do believe in personal accountability after all, except in their own cases. And what could be a more quintessential exercise in hypocrisy than that?

When I read the Bible, I see God holding a lot of people accountable for their choices. And I suppose I have taken the same view—that it is right to hold us accountable for what we choose, and to judge us by the same standards by which we judge others. Indeed, if that were unfair—if our standards for others were unjust—then why are we using those standards ourselves? If it is good for the goose, then why not for the gander?

But that’s an examiner’s question, and not the question of the cognitive/moral miser. And that brings us back to the problem I’ve been getting at—that not enough of us are duly concerned with how we manage things inside. We get upset for how other people’s mismanagement of themselves hurts or inconveniences us, for sure, but we give ourselves a pass far too often for causing similar troubles to this world ourselves.

There are a lot of front porches in town that need sweeping. Shall I sit in the dust on mine, and complain about the neighbor’s laziness?

If there is some answer that’s more fundamental than this one, I have yet to learn it. And there’s a great gradient—both in politics and religion—spanning between those who care nothing about principle, and those who care about it with great diligence. The masses, however, rest in the middle of that gradient, and sort themselves out left-and-right, with none of their camps being very accommodating to the ones who care the most about getting things right. They all cheat. They all cut corners. They all deny, from time to time, the principles they otherwise seem to be interested in promoting. And yet they all expect their members to be more loyal to the group than to their own continuing maturation in principle and practice. The most diligent of people don’t seem to do very well in those groups.

And these are the groups who, generally speaking, run the country and the churches and the schools and the companies and the media. And most of these things are designed to thrive within the status quo, and are not interested in meaningful reform. They are a lousy hope in the hunt for a cure to what ails us, then. Generally speaking, they are deeply committed to mediocrity, and not to excellence—to what is popularly acceptable, and not to what is true. They are not the answer that they hold themselves out to be, and that so many wish they were.

I think the answer lies in the question, “What kind of people are we?” and its sister, “What kind of people are we willing to become?”

I could say without reservation that Fred’s statement (above) is right: “What this country needs is Jesus.” But the catch is this: Which Jesus is Fred talking about? Is he talking about the one in the Bible, who held people to account and expected much from them, or the one that’s so popular in the churches today, who gives people a pass for their choices and slathers them with a “grace” that basically says “Your choices don’t matter, as long as you choose to maintain a minimal belief in the fact that, ‘Jesus is Lord’.”?

Who among us can be flawless? No one. But the question that drives me is this: Who among us can be better than he is?

This, we could do. This, we should do. And this, widely-adopted, would change the world.

These Final Days of the United States of America

A non-Republican, non-Democrat perspective.

by Jack Pelham

Globalists (by which term I mean Communists) have been slowly chipping away at the defenses of the United States for a very long time. They promised back in the 50s to do it, and if you read their long-known strategies, it’s scary to see just how much they’ve accomplished since then.) America has grown dull, however, and relatively few among her see these developments as particularly alarming—yet–even though elected officials from both major parties are complicit in this subterfuge.

Yes, it’s that classic frog-in-the-slowly-heated-pot thing, where they play the “long game” against us, working under the radar of our awareness so that they don’t overwhelm our ability to keep pretending that things are pretty much OK. America has had her alarmists, of course, but she has not listened, and is still not listening. And so, she is about to learn the hard way, and history may well write “They told you so” on her headstone.

Continue reading These Final Days of the United States of America

But WHICH Reality?

In my frequent discussions about truth/reality, I’m often asked a question of this general sort:

“But which reality? The one about how things actually are, or the one that people perceive or believe?”

It’s a very common point of confusion in our society, yet to me, the difference between the two is like night and day. The definition of reality that I use goes something like this:

Continue reading But WHICH Reality?

They Tell Me Not To Try

They tell me not to try—
That I’m wasting my time.
But someone tried with me,
And I am the better for it.

They tell me it’s hopeless,
But I’ve experienced successes myself.

They tell me the people won’t listen,
But I listened.

And after a while of hearing such things,
He who says them begins to seem to me
The stupidest of all—
He who dares to declare for others
A fruitless future
When God himself—
The greatest wisher ever for the good of man—
Has still left them alive
To live in this world of possibility
Yet another day.

The naysayer thinks himself enlightened,
Yet cannot see the darkness in his outlook.

But I will speak to him of it.
I’ll push back for his good.
I don’t believe the others can’t change—
Nor that he himself can’t change
This darkened outlook.

Perhaps he’s mad because
I won’t give up like he has.
Or perhaps he’s simply forgotten
And needs a friendly nudge to remember.

If he sees that they are wrong
Not to listen about other things,
Perhaps he’ll see that he’s
Been so stubbornly wrong himself
Not to listen about this.

So don’t tell me that people can’t change—
That grandest excuse for mankind
In all of history.

Has there ever been a bigger lie?

I know it is a lie because
I have changed.

There’s too little hope in this world.
But I still have some.
And I still remember where I got it.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

The messy particulars of this world are quite tiresome to the mind. Many, therefore, opt for a strategy of ignoring the messes, so as to enjoy themselves better while they are here. But disengaging the mind like this is also the cause of many such messes, as mindlessness is quite high on the list of why things go wrong—and in practically every area of life.

Ironically, much seems to come down to whether a person is willing to deal with the reality of messes or not. The ones who’ll roll up their sleeves to deal with things also happen to be the ones who are somewhat less apt to create such messes themselves. But the ones who opt to ignore as much of the mess as they can are the ones who end up causing many of the messes that plague us.

Perhaps ultimately, it is a question of why we’re here and what this world is all about. Those who think they’re here primarily to enjoy the experience will have quite a different view from those who think we are here to learn and to better ourselves–or to help others–or to seek God–and so forth. And when in a bind, it’s that latter group–and not the enjoyment seekers–that seem more likely to be able to help.

The enjoyment seeker often gets mad he’s in a bind that he can’t manage to ignore—and when he needs help, he often needs the help of someone unlike himself; he needs the help of someone who is accustomed to working with the particulars of reality, as opposed to ignoring them.

We Sang “Jesus Will Fix It”

We sang “Jesus Will Fix It”,
As if fixing broken things
Is indeed the right thing to do.

But looking back,
I can see that we didn’t really care
All that much to have everything fixed;
No, what we wanted more than that
Was simply to have a way out.

We wanted to be snatched from this world
Into the other one—
Delivered from its evils
And perils
And aggravations
Into boundless joy and glory—
And to let Him do with the rest of this world
Whatever He would do with it.

We even thought it unspiritual
And worldly–
A needless distraction–
To get our hands dirty with
The world around us.
But I can’t help but think now
That we were freeloaders,
Not lifting a finger to
Protect the body politic
That afforded us so much freedom.

We thought it work for civilians,
And not for us soldiers of Christ.

Now, don’t get me wrong,
For we helped the poor
And the children,
But we did not take a stand
To fight the corruption–
And often, not even the corruption
In our own number.

I suppose we thought Jesus would fix that, too–
Or rather, simply deliver us from it.

What seemed so great a religion,
We used to shield us from
Plain, everyday responsibility.

And I regret that.



The Strange Limits of American Civic Involvement

I’m not writing to create a full essay on American civic behavior, but rather, to point out just a couple of curious things. I posted meme pictured here on Facebook this morning, and then had further thoughts about it that seemed worth sharing.

Let me start by repeating in my own words what a friend replied. He said that we have many rights that are worth defending, but that the 2nd Amendment protects our option to defend our rights with force if necessary. And indeed, I have heard such statements before. So I replied with something like this, which I have since amplified after further reflection:

Continue reading The Strange Limits of American Civic Involvement

Lying to “Justify” Negative Attitudes Toward Others

Once upon a time, there was a fox who could not reach the grapes he wanted. As he reflected on the scenario, he was dissatisfied with the truth of the matter: that he was unable to find a way to get the grapes. So he lied in order to “justify” himself to himself. He declared that those grapes (that he could never taste) were sour. And he did this with no evidence whatsoever that the grapes were indeed sour. It was an irresponsible, irrational, and dishonest assertion about the grapes, but maintaining his own arrogant self-view was more important than maintaining the truth.

And why am I reminding you of Aesop’s “Sour Grapes”? It’s because some people do a very similar thing when they find themselves in conflict with other people. What they want is to be validated by others, and when they don’t get it, they get angry. And then they feel a need to “justify” their anger and their negative attitude toward the others. And I put that word in quotation marks because very often, they cannot really justify it. Rather, they pretend to justify it.

Continue reading Lying to “Justify” Negative Attitudes Toward Others