The Gospel of Victory

(First order of business:  The King is born, long live the King!  But read on)

Over at Jr. G.  they’ve started categorizing some posts with a tag I heartily approve of:  “gospel of victory.”

It can be hard to remember, but “gospel” means “good news.”  And that good news is: we’re going to win.  Cleanly, triumphantly, gloriously, and unambiguously.

Pay no attention to empirical evidence suggesting otherwise.  Life is too short to count anything that happens in it as more than an anecdote.

Accepting ultimate victory as the null hypothesis—something to be believed until disproven—throws present obstacles into perspective.  “The problem” is rarely just the problem.  Tiger parents don’t worry about their child being denied by Harvard because they want their child to learn surrounded by ivy, but because they see Harvard admission as a determinant of future success or failure.

Remove that threat, by remembering final victory, and setbacks and sacrifices shrink in significance.

“Son,’he said,’ ye cannot in your present state understand eternity…That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why…the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven, : and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.”

If the present can reach back into the past, I see no reason the future shouldn’t reach back into the present.

Heaven Cannot Be Graphed

This is because it keeps leaping to new and richer axes.

Eternal life means having time to read forever (as new books are forever being written)—but no one in heaven actually does this, or not JUST this, because books are not meant to just be read, but to complement an actual life.

Eternal life means having time to explore (and renovate!) the universe forever—but no one actually does this, or not JUST this, because it is soon found that exploring and renovating are components of the good life, rather than comprising it.

Eternal life means having infinite progeny, worlds without end—but no one actually does this, or not JUST this, because joy requires much more than numbers.

And lest you imagine that it’s just an ever-accelerating parade of Kuhnsian paradigm shifts, leading to future shock—all of this is measured and evaluated in terms of relationships.

There are many different infinities, indeed an infinity of infinities—the natural numbers, all the real numbers between 0 and 1, the set of all possible books, the space of the universe, all possible paintings—but some of them are better and richer than others.  It would be a poor life indeed (though infinite!) that consisted of counting the natural numbers.

Heaven is to our conception of it, as the set of all books is to the set of natural numbers.  But more so. And the gap is ever widening.

How To Get Along

Over at Jr. Ganymede MC has posted an interesting modest proposal.  I don’t have much to say about the content itself, but I want to draw attention to G’s reply to another commenter:

The story I read wasn’t about women submitting to men. It was about upper-middle class people “submitting” or adapting to their lower-middle class spouses.

That word “adapting” is important.

If we think of human society as a collection of biological machines, each with their own needs, and able to produce certain outputs, then a lot of things become clearer.  You wouldn’t pay your electric bill in grain, you wouldn’t put cat food in your gas tank, and you wouldn’t try and make your dog subsist on lettuce.

Nobody thinks that electric companies, cars, or dogs are “broken” because of this.

Yet we do exactly this to men and women.  What man among you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Yet when young men and women ask for mates, don’t we give them products of a factory intended to produce academics and corporate drones?


Meaning

I came up with a definition for a well-tuned system in the last few years:  one that wastes nothing, wants nothing, and is contributing to some larger goal outside of that system.

I think this is also a good definition of a system that has meaning.  Being a part of this system necessarily means your contribution is needed and valued (nothing is wasted), and that you’re having your needs met, and you can see your contribution as part of a larger effort toward a worthy goal.

Does that sound like a hard system to construct?  It is, frankly.  A lot of moving pieces, each with their own needs and outputs.  Matching and tuning them so that they feed each other, in the correct amounts, and keeping the system such that it is net-positive, is really hard.  Change one piece, and there will be cascading butterfly effects through the system.

One way these systems form in the real world is under evolutionary pressure.  Harsh conditions leave little room for waste and inefficiency.  Animals are beautiful because they are functional:

leopard

jellyfish

Praying_mantis_india

What happens if you take away the pressure?  Maybe invent a bunch of appliances, removing the need for a lot of the work one gender used to do.  Raise the general standard of living such that a high income is no longer quite so obviously necessary, or even necessary at all.

Here’s my theory:  winning WWII and the fruits of modern civilization gave us a choice on how to spend them:  sex or status.  We largely chose, and choose, status.  Since the family is the bedrock of civilization, this was…less than a good move.

(By “sex,” I mean much more than intercourse; I mean sexual polarity, or “the way of a man with a maid.”  Gendered traits.)

Reading through MC’s post, what jumped out at me was my meh reaction to Ben Haight.

“But I don’t want to hear another word about next year’s election for as long as I live. Is that alright?”

Ben laughed nervously, “Yeah, that’s OK, sorry for boring you. What should we talk about instead?”

Beeeeeeeeeeetaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Oh, sure, if you’re a normal person not playing PUA status games, and you bore someone, sure, go ahead and apologize, whatever.  But why even talk about the election at all?  Did he really think beforehand, “What would add value to this girl’s life—I know, I’ll talk about arcane political stuff!”?

Having the urge to do that, and not doing it, is the beginning of what adapting the pieces to fit looks like.  It’s what not filling your gas tank up with cat food looks like.

Ben thinks he wants status, because he’s had it for being smart, and who doesn’t like status.  But what he really wants is sex (he’s a dude), but he’s embarrassed by this and won’t admit it to himself (everyone else was too embarrassed to encourage him to seek it, but they err).  And certain things—keeping up on politics, for instance—are great for status, and horrible for sex.

This is easy to miss, because anyone around this space knows that status is an attraction factor.  But it’s one factor—to steal from Donal:

Looks – Athleticism – Money – Power – Status

Is Ben dressing well?  Is he in shape?  Does he have control over his finances?  Can he exercise control over his environment?

None of these really matter for status in rarefied circles, which are all about thought (Flatter yourself, reader, that you’re as high it gets here on earth, merely by reading this blog.  Good show!  I say!).

There’s a tendency to regard personal attractiveness as a selfish thing.  And it can certainly be used that way.  But it can also be a gift.

Are we giving our best to each other?

All-Powerful Losers

Consider the term “xenophobic.”

If you’re some kind of nerd, who knew Greek and Latin roots (see?  Nerd!), you might combine xeno (“alien”) and phobia (“fear”) and conclude it meant someone afraid of aliens.

But any reasonable member of enlightened society knows that it actually means hate.

 

Now, here’s the dilemma: if you demonize someone, that is, make them look like a demon, and ascribe to them hate, well, you risk making them look powerful.  Demons!  People, like, make pacts to serve demons!  We don’t want that!

But on the other hand, if you mock someone, and ascribe to them fear, you risk arousing people’s natural sympathy, and prompting the question, “What are they afraid of?”

The solution we have arrived at, of course, is to muddle the definition, and jump between the two  as convenient.

 


 

If you’re unclear: this is a bad thing to do—first, because it’s uncharitable, and second, because it rots your brain.  You can only say things for so long before you start believing them, so if you spout lies, you become ignorant.

And that’s never a good thing for the long-term.

The Interestingness Bar Has Been Raised

“I get theories like some people get headaches,” I told a friend a few minutes ago.  Well, I got one, and now I’m writing it down.

Why do we even interact with other people, amirite?  Empirically, the answer seems to be “Because you have to.”  Take away that need—that is, introduce Amazon, Netflix, and working from home, and someone can exist in a crowded city for days without talking to anyone.

I mean, c’mon, reader:  I’m more interesting than your next-door neighbor, right?   Plus I never ask to borrow anything.

That we can meet our needs without our neighbors means our neighbors can meet their  needs without us.

Thus the bar for “getting people to spend time with you” has been raised.  You are competing with Netflix, Amazon, and any of a million wonderful, great, fun, but nevertheless competing-with-you hobbies that our modern bounty has made accessible.