You should read it.
In our zeal, we sometimes find ourselves saying things like, “The Gospel is not about your personal happiness.” We do this to urge obedience, and, overall, I think we should keep doing this.
However, it’s something of a simplification of the truth. The truth is: the Gospel is about our personal happiness. God loves us, and wants us to be happy. The problem is that this is often rationalized to: “If it feels good, do it.”
Here is the actual, complicated but full truth: The Gospel is about your happiness. However, you are not in charge of it. Your job in the Gospel basically comes down to: obey, and surrender. What happiness you find in the way is yours to keep, and with good will. But you are not aiming for “a full life,” or personal fulfillment. You are to lay up treasures in heaven, rather than on earth.
So, we need to be good at taking long shots.
And since we’re all about learning from the world here at CB, we’ll take a page from those other constant long-shot takers, gamblers. And the first rule of gambling is:
Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose.
Well now. This puts us in a quandary. The Gospel urges us to take long shots, and because they’re long shots, we’ll most likely lose—so how to deal? The answer is: be able to afford it. Turning the other cheek will get you hit a lot—make sure you have some antibiotics and bandages at home.
If you tithe, or give to charity, that does not absolve you from being wise with your finances. As everyone knows, giving money away is not a very good method of holding onto it. The windows of heaven are promised, yes, but they might not come in time to pay the rent. So: save. Be prudent. Have a reserve.
And, back to the sexy focus of this blog (as you can see, I am not above drawing the reader in with sex and money): don’t be nice to women if you can’t do it out of charity. Better to avoid them completely. Rather, you should build your emotional reserves. Sleep enough. Eat well. Save some money. Exercise. Don’t gamble with your rent money.
Because I’m all about bragging, I’ll just say it: Mormons are probably better singers than you.
(What a DHV!!!!!!!!!!!!)
But seriously. We have this whole program for kids 3-12 called Primary (same meaning as in “primary school”) on Sundays, and most of what kids do is sing.
So yeah, I’m an OK singer, since I went through the whole deal. By this I mean: I’m way better than someone who “doesn’t sing,” and way worse than anyone who’s had, you know, professional training.
Anyway, after church today there was one girl trolling around for people to join the (short-term) choir. They’ll perform next week.
“We need men,” she said. “Come sing with us. We’re practicing right now.”
Unbeknownst to her, I had an agenda. I had to go talk to this one other girl, about this thing. I generally enjoy singing, but, you know, marriage mandate to fulfill.
“I might come, but not right now,” I said. “I can’t promise anything.”
“C’mon,” she wheedled. “Come sing with us.”
“Sorry,” I said.
She left in defeat. I left and took care of my agenda. Business thus concluded, I found the choir and sat down, sang, etc. So it worked out for our choirmistress after all.
This sort of thing happens often: we sacrifice something, only to gain it back, or to get something better.
This is certainly a good description of Abraham’s relationship with God. Abraham had been prophesied to be a “father of many nations,” and his wife had conceived a son in her extreme old age. All this must have made it not only heart-wrenching, but it must also have seemed treacherous of God to demand the sacrifice of Abraham’s only son. But hey, it worked out for him.
The willingness to go first is the only thing that will solve the (myriad) prisoner’s dilemma(s) we are all collectively in. It is the right solution; it is also risky and dangerous. Count the cost, and learn from the world, but make sure you’ve got your accounting right.
One of my favorite movies is The Last Samurai. It’s the fictional depiction of a late 1800’s American mercenary who hates himself, takes an assignment in Japan to hunt down samurai, is captured by them, and manages to quell his inner demons and find peace.
There is a lot worth thinking on this movie. But in this post, however, I want to focus on awareness of one’s death.
Katsumoto: You do not fear death, but sometimes, you wish for it. Is this not so?
Katsumoto: I also. It happens to men who have seen what we have seen. And then…I come to this place of my ancestors…and I remember…like these blossoms…we are all dying.
I have been struck lately by how much of the Savior’s teachings, while on earth, could be boiled down to “Accept reality.” To be aware of the distant when contemplating the near, and the near when contemplating the distant. One reality of unknown distance, with which we must all contend, is death. You will die. I will die. It could be later today. It could be tomorrow. It could be in fifty years. But it will happen.
The reason this is so important to understand is that an awareness of one’s death clears the mind wonderfully. It sweeps away any pretense that much of anything we do matters that much.
Accepting death intellectually does not change our fallen, fearful nature. But it does allow for a certain detachment from the world, and it teaches us that the only true hope is in Christ. And it allows us to be grateful for and focus on the present, which is the only time anything happens anyway.
We should be asking ourselves continually: given that I have an unknowably finite amount of time on this earth, does what I am doing make sense?
Whatever we do, we must be willing to accept the consequences.
That’s what you want: a system. Why? Because you’re a nerd who likes and responds to systems and lists.
I’ve talked before about nerds. We’re going to explore nerds for a bit; by so doing, we’ll learn more about ourselves, and about whores.
First: why are nerds male? Or rather, why are males nerds? Why does someone become a nerd? Socially, it’s no fun to be a nerd. So why do it?
The reason is power.
The goals of science have been enumerated, in order: “Observe, explain, predict, control.” Science is a path to knowledge, and knowledge is power.
There are different kinds of power, of course. There’s physical power, from just being strong. There’s financial power, from controlling a company.
But, in the end, companies fail and the human body is finite. Knowledge is the real thing. God is Omnipotent and Omniscient, and couldn’t have one without the other.
Hence the nerd obsession with techne. A nerd is much more likely to want to learn a martial art than, say, boxing. The foreign suggests hidden knowledge, while the domestic is presumed to be well-known.
Humans in general like to know the rules. We all like power. I am no exception; look at the title of this blog.
The core of knowledge that leads to power is: if this, then that. If we can build a chain of those rules from something we can do (this) to something we want (that), then we have power over that.
This even applies to humans. We are not so free-willed and unique as we would like to believe. I recently talked with a guy whose company installs special software on websites. As customers visit the site, the software analyzes their pattern of clicks, and calculates the precise moment and amount such that if offered a discount, the customer will buy something (as opposed to not buying something). They’ve had fantastic success.
It’s important to note that these customers are not being suckered. They are making entirely rational choices. Their choices are akin to: would you prefer to have $100, or $5? You’d probably pick the hundred. Myself, I would too. And so we find ourselves both a)not idiots, and b) very predictable.
This is good. Our universe has laws, and we need to be good at adapting to them to survive.
However, that very adaptation can be our downfall. Suppose that one morning you awoke to find a bag of money on your doorstep. It contains $1000. You are surprised and overjoyed (I would be). You send a notice to the police perhaps, because you’re a good person, but they can’t find the owner.
Then the next week it happens again. And the next week, and the one after that.
This goes on for years.
Sooner or later, you’re going to start spending it. If it’s reliable enough, you’ll likely start to, well, rely on it. It’s human nature. Perhaps you buy a house and have a mortgage.
Then one day, in the bag, along with the money, is a small package. There’s a note requesting that you deliver it to an address in your town.
Maybe you’re suspicious. Maybe you open the package to see what’s in it (nothing). Maybe you refuse to deliver it.
Next week comes, the bag of money is there like always—but there’s also another package, and a note to the effect that if you fail to deliver this one, the money will stop.
And boom! Now you’re ensnared. Keeping your house relies on keeping the money coming in. But keeping the money coming in means becoming an errand boy for the Mob.
All this without a single gun waved in your face. You brought it on yourself, really.
But that’s what most people would do. This works in the real world, after all.
Just because you’re getting something out of the transaction, doesn’t mean it’s a good situation. Here’s another, cruder one: I wave my gun in your face, and you can trade your wallet for me not blowing your head off.
By behaving rationally, we make ourselves predictable. By making ourselves predictable, we make ourselves controllable.
If the money were given, no strings attached, then there’s no threat to it.
This is the model of how husbands and wives are to behave toward each other in myriad things, but for the moment we’ll focus on sex. Both spouses are to be sexually available to each other at all times, whether the other “deserves” it or not.
This is also the model for our obedience to God. We are to obey Him in joy and sorrow. We are not to use our obedience as a weapon or a bargaining chip (the two are the same), i.e. “if I get that promotion then I’ll tithe.”
A whore is someone who takes a non-transactional relationship—marriage—and attempts to make it transactional. With professional whores this is explicit and has a well-defined price tag; with amateurs there are a lot more emotions and justification going on. But the two are the same.
With their excessive focus on the Law, the Pharisees hoped to control God. When a wife uses sex an a weapon in her marriage, she is hoping to control her husband, just as it says in Genesis.
This is understandable. We try to control God because we’re scared and we don’t trust him; the same is true in marriage. But just because it’s understandable doesn’t make it right.