Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thoughts on dating

As many people who decry selfishness when seeking a companion all who participate in this ritual are guilty of this crime or, if not, they should be.  I can think of no other ritual that is by it's very nature an exercise in selfishness.  We must forgo the needs of others and focus entirely upon ourselves if we are to find a companion that we will find endearing to the end.  All things are cherished more if there were effort to obtain them.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Black and White mind

In all religions there are zealots. In fact, one could argue, that the more structure exists within a particular faith the more zealots tend to appear. This is understandable since societal acceptance is often not found for the individual and a certain degree of misery must be endured. Peace and comfort is found in the rules and laws found within the faith and therefore they judge themselves based upon those rules and laws, for what else can they use to judge?

My daughter was baptized recently. It was a great experience. My daughter is perhaps the happiest person on the face of this earth. Friends and family showed up, some from out of state. There were were almost even tears of joy at a testimony of how wonderful my daughter is and how much joy she brings to their lives. She brings quite a bit of joy to my life as well. However, at one point during the ceremony the Bishop of her mother's ward said a few words of which one sentence was, "it doesn't matter that we understand the rules, as long as we follow them we will be happy." When I heard that statement I felt like standing up and announcing that he was absolutely incorrect. Why then would we have thousands of pages of doctrine if all we needed was a few sheets of rules? I pondered his statement a bit and came to some varying conclusions that I wish to share.

I have found that not everyone has the capability for deep thought. I think it is possible, however there are those who find great comfort in being told what to believe. I think at certain times in our life, either we are too busy to ponder or we have lost confidence in our own thought, that we may seek the comfort of adhering to the thought of others. For these people the Bishop's premis is correct to a certain point, "follow the rules and you will be happy." For these people, however, they see much of the world through the rules they live by, for how else can we evaluate those around us if all we know are the rules? Hence the lens they see the world is one of black and white. We begin to evaluate people by if they adhere to the rules or if they do not. I, at one point or another, fell into this trap as well. Perhaps not to the same degree as others, but I can recall judging others based on their adherence to the laws I chose to adopt.

I cannot subscribe to the notion that a black and white lens brings true happiness because very few can live within the confines of the law without sin. If sin exists in ones life, then what? Often people hide that sin for fear of being judged according to the way they have judged or because the indoctrination they received created such fear that that any admittance of substandard behavior would surely yield some kind of excommunication. When sins are hidden they often get worse until at some point they can no longer be hidden. Often at this point the offender becomes frustrated with the black and white notion of the law and rebel. It is the same with children who are raised with parents who create a strictly controlled childhood environment. These children often leave home prematurely and have strained relationships with their parents, which is quite similar to those who rebel against the confines of black and white thought. There must exist an equilibrium between the law (control) and grace (acceptance and understanding). True happiness cannot be obtained through simple adherence to the law, for eventually we will fall short and we find that we cannot reconcile ourselves to the law.

I want to also mention that there are those who subconsciously know they fall short of the law, but compensate by minimizing their own faults and being an expert at identifying the faults of others. Their expert ability is derived from their own experiences. They fail to give others the grace they so longingly want, but cannot give because of their own love of the law. Their self-confidence wanes and is replaced by pride. Unfortunately, we often regard these people as the "most faithful" and are deceived into missing the very meaning of Christ's existence. Oh what a tragedy this is! For the meaning of Christ's existence is a path for those who fall short of the law, but we must have the law in order to fall short of it. It is the reconciliation that is of great beauty.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

An Introduction to the MBS model

I have always found it valuable to see the world through various mental models. In essence this is what education does for us; teaches us to see patterns in the world around us. Regardless of the discipline the student learns to see the world around them through certain patters, or mental models, in order to make order out of chaos and through that order make positive improvements in society or our personal lives. For example, one who studies history begins to see certain patterns in the rise and fall of civilizations, a student of music can recognize sounds by classifying certain notes and patters, a business student sees patterns and models in business, psychiatrists, sociologists, etc. I do love education. So it makes sense that someone like me would adopt some model to apply in the world of dating.

Dating is such an arduous task for me. I do enjoy meeting new people, however there is something different about dating that is challenging. How do you find the right person? What qualities am I looking for? Oh, I can list them out as we must on dating websites, but the crux of the matter is that lists simply don't capture all that we may find desirable. Someone who we think may be compatible by their bio often isn't because the bio can't explain the soul, who they are. I therefore created a model that was probably used by billions of people in Asia before I was born, but it is unique thought to me and I feel quite good about it. My friend down in the Los Angeles whom I shared this with calls it the MBS model, which stands for Mind, Body, and Spirit. Allow me to describe; our lives are comprised of three basic elements:
  1. Mind - this is the mental self. What kind of education do we have, the desire to continuously learn.
  2. Body - this is their physical body. Is there a desire to improve ourselves physically What kinds of activities? Are the activities more of a social event or are they geared at actually improving the physical self. Is this something that is innate within us or do we simply exercise to meet a mate. Dietary habits are part of this as well. Anything that directly affects the body belongs in this category.
  3. Spirit - this is the spiritual self. I took a gander at the dictionary and it wasn't very much help in clearly defining this term. I define this as one who seeks peace with themselves and the world around them. A spiritual person does not necessarily mean a religious person. Religion is a means to spirituality and one's spirituality can dictate their chosen religion, but they are quite different. Most of this blog will focus on this area because it is this area in life that is so often challenging for people. There are a great many religious people, but far fewer truly spiritual people.
To use this model it is important that we honestly assess ourselves. How do we rank in each of these areas? Do we seek education in various areas or are we plugged into the television set continuously? Do we try to eat healthy or is our favorite dining at Taco Bell? Do we try to understand the world around us or do we simply watch Fox News and find peace blaming our current circumstance in life on the liberals or terrorists? Most importantly, is there balance between the entities? For if we are out of balance then we cannot be truly at peace.

This model is fairly simply to apply when evaluating others. A simple comparison to see how the other person compares is usually sufficient. The problem, however, is in application. This is a deeply personal matter that is individually tailored to where we are in life and even where we are in dating. For example, I recently met someone whom I find attractive physically and spiritually. Physical compatibility was one of my key requirements, however I am finding that the spiritual connection is what is most important. I am not certain if this is something that just at this point in my life or if it is something that is longer term, however my comfort is here. Perhaps it is because for me I am not able to share my life with someone and it creates a bit of discomfort. That discomfort creates an emphasis on the spiritual side. As comfort is regained will more emphasis be placed upon other components? Perhaps. I think many other members of my gender may have desires that don't include a walk, watching a sunset or sunrise from atop the mountains, or a simple Sunday drive. For any guy readers out there I like intimacy as much as the next guy, however for me I see intimacy as more of an expression instead of a simple satisfaction of carnal desires.

An Observation of Success

I was a youth leader years ago. I had the the fortunate event of riding the bus with one of the youth who I led years ago. He is now 24 and going to the University of Washington. We had a great conversation on faith, spirituality, and even dating. There is always a bit of trepidation on what information to share because our youth leaders always have a special place of authority in our hearts. We often respect them and look up to them sometimes even more than our own parents. So, I pray that nothing I said could lead someone down the wrong path. However, during this conversation I remembered a few things that I considered during my time in the military many years ago. It was one of the items that brought me to my faith, a faith that is perhaps one of the most restrictive of faiths. It is the notion that in a general sense those who subscribe and adhere to restrictive faiths are rewarded the most temporally.

This notion is not founded on any scientific research, but purely on empirical evidence collected over the years. One of the most glaring examples of this is when we examine members of the Jewish faith. For centuries the Jews have been associated with being doctors, lawyers, and essence some of the most successful people in our society. Some of our smartest scientists have been Jews. Likewise Mormonism has created some absolutely marvelous works in North America. As a people they settled most of the intermountain west and as individuals they are involved with government and exist in many high paying professions. Devout Catholics and "Christians" often carry with them positions of authority in our society as well. It seems that there is somewhat of a correlation between societal acceptance of our faith to our temporal success.

I have pondered this a bit and after living as a devout man of religion for more than a decade I can say that there are many reasons for this. Some may simply state that "God blesses us for our obedience". This is true, but it still leaves one to question how God is blessing us, does He magically put thoughts in our brains so that we behave differently? Or perhaps does he use more natural, psychological means to create those blessings. Can they be replicated outside of a religious context? I can't answer all of these questions in a single blog post. However, I will state that I believe that he works more in line with natural means. I will use Nietzche and the discussion of misery in my previous post to give my general hypothesis.

Members of faiths who are outside the mainstream must in some way justify their existence, prove to themselves and the world that their path is worthy. In a larger context Jews were shuffled around Europe for many centuries, which ultimately resulted in the holocaust. Mormons endured mobs and many crimes against them, while Catholics also endured a period of ostracism and even ridicule in certain areas of our country. Under such difficult challenges a rational person would ask why someone would voluntarily adhere to such a faith, for why would one voluntarily put oneself through misery at best and in the worst of circumstances death? In my case my choice of faith was the cause of much consternation in my family which resulted in many conversations on why my choice of faith was wrong and that I was "going to hell". As tragic as this may seem to many, it provided great value in my life in that I needed to prove that my path was a worthy one.

In my previous Nietzche post I mentioned the concept of misery. It is the enduring of self-sacrificing misery that causes us to grow, to develop, to be exalted above our peers. When we conform to the mainstream we find ourselves in a state of mediocrity and eventual decline. This rule applies not only to individuals, but to societies as well. It is those individuals who subscribe to non-mainstream beliefs who find themselves driven, to one degree or another, to excel beyond their peers. Once more, those who adhere to these non-mainstream beliefs tend to bond together in society creating more of a fraternity. We see this pattern in various ethnic communities in our country as well.

I could expound on this conversation a bit more, however my eldest daughter is feeling a bit sad that I am spending time on this computer instead of with her. Alas, my daughter must win.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nietzsche - Part 1

I don't know about other divorced guys, simply because I don't belong to any kind of support group. In some way the whole support group concept doesn't seem very manly anyway and I like to think of myself as a manly sort of guy. Perhaps then it is our egos that makes us so susceptible to life's challenges. A topic perhaps for another day.

Today, however I wish to discuss a bit of Nietzche. I have been reading a bit of "The Dawn of Day" of late. Of course you may ask, "What kind of moron would read Nietzche when going through a divorce?" I would respond that it is a rare moron that would do so, for it is this moron that tries to find meaning in misery. The contemporary man would latch on to the concept of misery and state, "what is so miserable about being divorced, for you are now a free man able to set your own course and find new ports of call." Ah! True indeed! But I am no contemporary man. A topic perhaps for another day as I sidetrack myself.

Nietzche, Section 77 states:

THE TORTURES OF THE SOUL - The whole world raises a shout of horror at the present day if one man presumes to torture the body of another: the indignation against such a being bursts forth almost spontaneously. Nay; we tremble even at the very thought of torture being inflicted on a man or an animal, and we undergo unspeakable misery when we hear of such an act being accomplished. But the same feeling is experienced in a much lesser degree and extend when it is a question of the tortures of the soul and the dreadfulness of their infliction. Christianity has introduced such tortures on an unprecedented scale, and still continues to preach this kind of martyrdom - yea, it even complains innocently of backsliding and indifference when it meets with a state of soul which is free from such agonies. From all this it now results that humanity, in the face of spiritual racks, tortures of the mind, and instruments of punishment, behaves even to-day with the same awesome patience and indecision which it exhibited in former times in the presence of the cruelties practiced on the bodies of men or animals.

Section 45 states;

A TRAGIC TERMINATION OF KNOWLEDGE - Of all the means of exaltation, human sacrifices have at times done most to elevate man. And perhaps the one most powerful thought - the idea of self-sacrificing humanity- might be made to prevail over every other aspiration and thus to prove the victor over even the most victorious.

Nietzche needs to smoke that weed a little while longer. On the one hand he criticizes Christianity for the misery of the soul, but earlier in the text he acknowledges self-sacrificing humanity as a means of exaltation. Could one reasonably conclude that one who wishes to be exalted would indulge themselves in some misery causing self-sacrifice? I would think so.

Consider this in another context; an athlete who trains for some great competitive event will place his or her body in considerable discomfort, or misery, for months or years to prepare. The result of that physical misery is that the body becomes tuned and prepared above those around him so that it can perform at the event. One could say that his or her body becomes exalted. Likewise, the great mind which derives unique and important thought for our society undergoes a similar process. Through tribulation of study and repetition the mind absorbs concepts and knowledge of past minds until at some point it is able to stand on its own and build upon that knowledge to create a new, unique thought. If if were not for that mental discomfort that unique thought could not be borne and the mind exalted.

The spirit is no different than the mind and body; without misery it cannot grow and we cannot be exalted. The more we are exposed to that misery and overcome the pangs of submission to desire, the stronger we become spiritually until at some point we become somewhat numb to the effects spiritual misery. During the journey we may falter, however if we do not lose hope and continue our efforts in ernest then Christianity affords grace. It is here where we see that the law, and the misery derived within, exalts man, however grace provides hope if our misery becomes to great to bear.