nolongerinbetween

Archive for September 2021

I hated him when I was a child. The Oedipus complex might be just a crappy theory but in my case it sort of fitted right: I wanted him out of the picture. I wanted the abusive progenitor to leave. I was anxious when he was around and relaxed when he was away at work. Heaven for me was a place where I could be only with my mum and my siblings, away from his intrusion and abuse. No father at all was better than a lousy father. I hated his strength and the power he had over our lives. I owe him my incessant obsession with injustice and ethics.

Later in life, I got to love him. At some point, like in a videogame, he lost his magical powers. He became weak, debuff, diminished, shrunk, beatable. The mighty Samson morphed into an oldster. His reign was over. In addition to him getting old, something else happened. I also got older and came to realize I am no saint either. Despite my attempts to be totally different from him and not forge myself in his image I found out I could be abusive and tyrannical as well. I can be my father. His convoluted moral DNA runs through my veins. This didn’t change or excuse his parental failures, but it changed my perspective. He was finally relatable and lovable. He was finally just another troubled soul failing to do right. He was finally a good father. The prodigal father came back home and reconciled with his son. And then he died. He finally got out of the picture. The circle is now complete.

Happy Birthday dad and rest in peace. You’ll be dearly missed.

Advertisement

God doesn’t reveal himself to us. When you are a child and you have no concept of a god, he doesn’t introduce himself to you from a burning bush or a whisper in your dream. There’s no thunder, no lightning, no rapture, no vision, no tongues of fire, no doves, no pillars of cloud guiding you, no descent from Heaven or chorus of angels at your confirmation ceremony. God doesn’t deliver himself to you, he is delivered to you by your culture and community where you grow up. And more than anything, God is given to you by your parents. As a child you don’t have a direct access to God but through an intercession. Your parents stand between you and him. In the absence of any epiphany, they have to speak for him, and few parents realize what a huge responsibility that is. Few parents understand what’s at stake when they pass on their religious understanding to their offspring. When your child embraces or rejects God they don’t embrace or reject God but your version of it. They react to an image of him. They react to your projection. Your understanding of God facilitates or obstruct their access to God.

I too got the first idea of God planted in my head by my dad and I struggled with that version my entire life. In our home, he was the religious patriarch, responsible for our catechetical instruction and the version of God that was spoon-fed to me was a mere caricature. Half based on the biblical lore and half based on his limited understanding. Half monster and half angel. It took me a while to realize that I found myself in a sort of a straw man situation. Since our initiation into divine is done by proxy not by God himself, we can end up addressing or fighting not the real God, like Jacob, but a defected replica of him. Whether you eventually accept his dominion or reject it is neither here nor there, but you have to make sure you do this to the most accurate description of him. As far as I am concerned, I ended up questioning any description of God predicated on biblical understanding. And since I used to blame my dad for poisoning the Christian well for me and for being a stumbling block on my path to faith, I should now let him off the hook and forgive him for his poor delivery of God. In all fairness, it wouldn’t have made a difference. Any version would have missed the mark. He can now die in peace, without any sense of failure for not delivering the Almighty God to his son. One less sin to atone for will hopefully make his already horrendous transition to eternal demise easier.

At the first sign of intellectual dishonesty when talking to someone just run. Run like your life depends on it. I learned this lesson the hard way, after allowing too many people to push my buttons and drive me insane with their disingenuity. No more. The age of martyrdom is over. If you think they actually lack depth not honesty, then you can carry on and hope for the best. At the end of the day, we can all be stupid at times and we could do with some help to overcome our blindness and limitation. But if it’s a clear case of dishonesty and lack of integrity then do not waste your breath. Cut them loose.

My zero-tolerance approach is based on the following understanding: the statements contained in a back-and-forth exchange with someone vary in difficulty and complexity. We could say, for the sake of argument, they range on a scale from 0 to 5, where 0 is simple and 5 complex.

If you don’t find common ground on something complicated sitting at the top of the scale (4-5) that is perfectly understandable. At the top you’ll find competing truths, multifaceted realities, complex theories, conjectures, opinions, value judgements, predictions etc There is enough room to entertain different opinions. Exempli gratia. One might hold the opinion that the Swedish social democracy is better suited to make people happy than the American capitalist system, while someone else might think the opposite. One might think religion does more damage than brings benefits and we should break free from its grip while someone else believes it’s beneficial for our society and we should try hard to preserve it. One might think marriage is a religious institution sanctioned by God and so allowing gay people to marry would be a violation of his design, while someone else might think marriage is just a civil institution, a mundane architecture and so subject to change, if we decide to go that way. One might think that we need to do something radical to stop the global warming, even at the expense of our welfare, while someone else might think our human race can eventually adapt to the challenges and changes ahead of us, so any drastic measures would be unwise. These are competing truths. They are all legitimate to some extent. Even if they are eventually wrong, they are not straightforward wrong. Given their complexity one can entertain them without causing uproar and outrage.

At the bottom of our scale though (0-1) there are simple statements, hard facts, small bits of information that cannot be refuted. Inferential bricks. Simple atoms that cannot be broken down further. Paris is the capital of France. The Earth is not flat. Light travels faster than sound. The first crewed mission to land on the Moon was American. This is not a pipe. Trump is a patent liar. Palestinians don’t have full control of Gaza after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal. Rape is morally wrong. The glass on the table is red. Biden’s withdrawal plan from Afghanistan was a mess. Oil is thicker than water. While Ebola kills more than 60% of its victims and Covid-19 kills less than 4%, the latter is trickier because it doesn’t usually kill the hosts and so allows the virus to circulate undetected and spread across the world with greater impact. Lies are predicated on intention. Corelation is not causation. Kidnapping people and turning them into slaves is morally reprehensible. Smoking can cause lung cancer. It’s raining. Luther was profoundly anti-Semitic. There are more right-handed people than left-handed. etc

Now. In these simple cases, there’s no room for disagreement, for alternative facts, for competing truths. No let’s-agree-to-disagree crap. No grey area. These are not controversial issues but self-evident truths or truths where general consensus is well established. If you happen to come across someone with whom you don’t have a common understanding at the bottom end of our scale, where things are simple and non-controversial, then you should leave. It’s either stupidity or intellectual dishonesty and you are just wasting your time. If you don’t have a shared reality for simple unequivocal things there’s no chance you will find common ground further up on the scale for the more complex ones. If someone starts distorting simple hard facts to accommodate their beliefs it’s time for you to pack and leave. Distorting reality is off limits. If he says the Earth is flat, Trump is not a pathological liar and the chair is a lamp leave him be in his surreal distorted world. Don’t engage him in conversation any further. He is toxic. You won’t be able to reason with him no matter how hard you try and you’ll end up banging your head against the walls. Just run away and save your sanity. Protect yourself from the violence that comes from pride, stubbornness and intellectual dishonesty. Protect yourself from insolence and inferential abuse.


Blogs I Follow

literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.

literatura e efortul inepuizabil de a transforma viaţa în ceva real

The priest: Aren't you afraid of hell? J. Kerouac: No, no. I'm more concerned with heaven.