I talk to the physical manifestation of the conceptualization of my wife (and get advice about asking her for advice)
One of my favorite concepts about the human mind is the idea of the human mind as an operating system for the brain, just as Linux is the operating system of the computer that I am writing this on.
This concept is a whole mental toolkit, with fascinating rabbit trails relating to almost any issue of the mind and brain. Mental problems, for instance, could be caused by single component hardware failure (traumatic brain injury), system wide hardware failure (biochemical imbalance), operating system failure (neurosis), or application failure (disorders that have limited “system wide” problems, but effect certain tasks deeply, such as phobias.)
Within the framework of popular computing, avatar has different meanings depending on context. The word is borrowed from Hindu, where it means the physical incarnation of a deity. In online forums, an avatar can be something as simple as a picture. This picture represents the user in someway. In 3D online games the avatar is the player’s body in the game’s universe (metaverse). Both of these qualities represent the avatar as a representation of user within the system.
However, unique to advertising, an avatar is a program which interacts with people. Often, avatars in the context of advertising are called bots. If you would like to talk to one, Ikea has famous avatar named Anna. In the first 2 cases, the avatar was a user of the system. Anna, however, is the system, or at least a part of it. So an avatar becomes any human faced set of code, regardless of whether the input and output functions of said code are controlled by a human mind, or a mechanical one.
Today, I was lying in bed after my wife had gotten up. I was not quite asleep, but neither was I fully awake, which, often as not, results in a unique dream state. (I should mention before I explain all this, that I am an extremely lucid dreamer. I often interact with people in my dreams with both me and the person I am dreaming about understanding that I am dreaming. This one was a little weird even for me, though.) I was simultaneously dreaming of speaking with Becky and hearing her real, non-dream voice from downstairs. I found this disconcerting and asked my dream wife what was going on.
“Oh,” replied dream Becky, “I’m an avatar of Becky. The real Becky is downstairs. I represent every thing that you know about Becky, accessible through a normal conversational interface.”
“So,” I asked “Technically you are me, in the sense that you are my memories of Becky?”
She frowned. “Yes, technically, I am you, or at least of you, but it’s best if you think of me as Becky, because if you think of me as you, then I cease to be an incarnation of everything you know about Becky and just become the form of Becky. I can’t provide you with her unique perspectives. I become a projection of yourself into Becky’s form, rather than Becky’s form projected onto your understanding of her identity.”
“I get it,” I said “By having you as an avatar of Becky, it gives me a second way to access Becky’s mind when I need her perspective and she’s not available.”
“Right,” said dream Becky “Of course, I can’t give you her real perspective. It’s not telepathy or anything. If she’s available, by all means ask her, but if you are deployed to forward base or something, you can ask me.”
I thought about this for bit. “But if you are the sum of everything I know about Becky, then I already have access to all the information that makes you. To access you, I need to be in a dream state, whereas to access your constituent data I only need to concentrate for a moment when fully awake.”
“Well, first of all, I can provide you the information in a much more intuitive, conversational manner, “ she said. “Further, since a dream state is more relaxed, I can often give you more accurate information. If you deeply desire to do something that you need to ask Becky about, that desire will cause distress. When you access her/my data intellectually, your mind will color how you conceptualize Becky to bias the resulting conclusions to cause less distress. By taking the time to be relaxed enough to be in a dream state you get marginally less data mined information. Thirdly, I offer a unique service if you are mourning.”
“What’s that?” I asked surprised.
She explained, “If something happens to real world Becky that makes her totally unaccessible, ie death or coma, I can provide a way for you to interact with her. In the coma example, I can provide you with the parenting advice you need to raise your daughter without Becky. When you hear of a deceased spouse visiting someone in a dream thats an avatar like me.”
“So what you are saying,” I began, “is that anyone I know well, exists in two states. The real world state and the pretend state?”
She responded, “Pretend isn’t quite right. When you play Star Wars Battlefront you aren’t really a Storm Trooper. There is no reality in which you are a Storm Trooper, but the ones and zeros of the Star Wars Battlefront game are as real as you are. While I am not strictly speaking, real, the biochemical interactions that create and define me are real and objectively verifiable.”
And continued, “More correctly, all human beings react both with real people and with their avatars in their respective minds. When you and real Becky fight about something it is often because one of you does not meet the other’s expectations. I said one thing, Becky said another. You are angry because the real me outside your mind did not respond the same way as the real me in your mind.”
I was dumb founded. “So this explains why humans believe in an immortal soul even though there has never been any evidence of it? If something happened to real world Becky, I would still run into you from time to time. To the non-skeptical this would imply a visit from the afterlife.”
“Exactly, “ she smiled. “It actually explains a whole a whole slew of paranormal phenomenon: ghosts, doppelgängers, messages from the afterlife, etc. And might even offer insight into mental illness. What do you think would happen if your own avatar was based off of a false concept of self?”
I thought about it. I really had no idea, though I agreed it was a fascinating question and worthy of further thought. “I don’t have any idea, Becky.”
Avatar Becky smiled coyly. “Then, I can’t either, silly. Time to get up.”
I woke up, and went downstairs to tell Becky how smart she/I is/am.
So, recently, I’ve been reading military history and tactics again, inspired partly by my nightly reading of the the Air Force PFE study guide (Promotional Fitness Examination). I’ve run into this gem of a term “asymmetric warfare”. A quick pursue of the Google News showed 51 entries under the title “asymmetrical warfare”. All I can say is this: What a crock of crap.
Wikipedia defines “asymmetrical warfare” as:
“…originally referred to war between two or more actors or groups whose relative military power differs significantly. Contemporary military thinkers tend to broaden this to include asymmetry of strategy or tactics; today “asymmetric warfare” can describe a conflict in which the resources of two belligerents differ in essence and in the struggle, interact and attempt to exploit each other’s characteristic weaknesses. Such struggles often involve strategies and tactics of unconventional warfare, the “weaker” combatants attempting to use strategy to offset deficiencies in quantity or quality.” This is in turn quoting Robert R Tomes, a Senior Adviser for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. (Say that 10 times fast.)
The Air Force defines asymmetrical warfare this way “Asymmetrical warfare is based on countering an adversaries strengths by focusing on its actual or perceived weaknesses.”
The first problem is the very phrase “asymmetrical warfare”. Terms have implied meanings that they smuggle in with their overt meaning. For example: pro-life and pro-choice. By overt meaning we could also say pro-life and anti-life (or even pro-death) or anti-choice and pro-choice. But people who identify with the pro-life side resent the heck out of being called “anti-choice” Just as people on the pro-choice side resent the heck out being called “anti-life”. So both define themselves with “pro” statements. They say what they are for rather than what they are against. In this way, both terms smuggle in the idea of what should be, according to their respective believers.
The phrase “asymmetrical warfare” sneaks through the back door an idea, and that idea is that warfare should be symmetrical, a basically fair contest between two basically matched adversaries, much like say, formula racing or boxing. In some forms of formula racing, every driver races an identical car with identical engine. In fact, the engines are sealed, and if at the end of the race the seal is broken, the competitor loses the race and may well be kicked out of the racing league. In boxing, competitors are matched up in narrow and rigidly controlled weight categories. The purpose in both cases is to limit the role which technology, and genetic luck play in victory, ensuring that the contest is between how much heart and skill the competitor has at the expense of any other characteristics.
The problem with applying this to war is: war is not a game. If a race car driver loses a race, or a boxer a match, he remains able to fight again. In fact he will often use the knowledge of his defeat to compete more successfully next year. Warfare offers no such grantees, quite the opposite actually. No less a expert on the subject than Genghis Khan said “The greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters.” And by “gather into your bosom” he meant rape to death the ugly ones keep the pretty ones as concubines. (Other translations of this quote say “ravish” rather than the bowdlerized “gather into your bosom”.)
The second problem is more clear from the Air Force definition. “…countering an adversaries strengths by focusing on its…weaknesses”.
Um… isn’t that what warfare is all about? What do you think every successfully concluded war in history was about? Begin with Alexander the Great. When he had his point leaders take battle axes (not a common weapon in the middle-east) to attack the enemy’s elephants by severing their trunks and destroying their legs, wasn’t that asymmetric? When the English decimated the French by striking them with longbows while staying out of French bow range wasn’t that asymmetric? When the Prussians had quick loading needle guns against the muskets of their enemy wasn’t that asymmetric? When the French had recoil absorbing cannons (they keep aim between firings) and their enemy had none, wasn’t that asymmetric? When the Germans had the Blitzkrieg and the Allies didn’t wasn’t that asymmetric? I could go on with these polemics but I let me get more specific.
The German Air Force was quite good at first. The Allies could only attack with precision bombing if they were willing to take large causalities. Studying the nature of modern war, they decided the most valuable possible target would be ball bearing plants. (Almost all modern machinery needs ball bearings. This was a logical and effective strategy.) Well, by the argument of symmetrical war, the British should have left those ball bearing factories alone. They should have stood by their guns, stayed on the battlefield and lost in gentlemanly and symmetrical way.
So this carping about asymmetrical warfare is totally bogus. In fact, I think its pretty much clear that the way wars are won is by achieving asymmetry. Let me say that again for clarity. The key method of victory is discover and exploit asymmetry. Only a fool or a mad man would fight a war in such a way that gave his enemy a fair chance at victory.
In fact, I put forward this idea: The greatest single impetus to the evolution of warfare is the desire to achieve asymmetry.
So now I need another explanation of where this asymmetry BS comes from. I think it comes from xenophobia. Its not labeled “asymmetric” when we use semi-autonomous robotic planes to shoot bearded goat herders on camel back. But when they use cell phone bombs to hit our trucks, well that’s just plain un-American.
Now, let me add my usual qualification here, I’m not saying that the terrorist are right, or that we are wrong. I don’t want to live in a world with terrorists. I may not always agree with the way we fight them, but I agree whole heartily that they need to be fought, and like any good service member in a democracy’s military, I can put my personal preference aside to fulfill the oath of enlistment that I took. That’s not with this is about at all.
I am more saying to the American public at large: xenophobia isn’t cool. Stop complaining about asymmetrical warfare. Warfare is supposed to be asymmetrical, at least if you want to win, and they want to win as badly as we. The side the finds and exploits asymmetry the best will win. Period.
Once upon a time, Sunday morning was a hectic time for me. It was a time to get shaved, get dressed, hurry through breakfast, and get to church. Becky and I gave up on going to a church building Sunday mornings about a year ago. We still fellowship with people we love, which of course was the point of the commandment, but that is a blog for another time. The point here is that Sunday morning is a delightful time of lolling in bed, munching toast, and taking the time to really talk to each other.
If there is a better feeling than lying around indolently on a big, puffy quilt with the most beautiful wife in the world, I can’t imagine what it is. We talked about how things would have been different if only we had met sooner. We’ve been married for 6 years now. One of my only regrets about our marriage is we had to wait so long to meet, fall in love, and marry. If we could have met at 15, we could have gotten married at 16, and then, we would now have been together for 11 years. Since the last 6 years have been the best in my life, the idea of having another 5 on top of that is very attractive to me.
We’ve talked about this before, but today I said something that hadn’t previously crossed my mind, or at least I hadn’t spoken it to her. My wife, you see, is quite curvy. I mentioned to her that when I thought of her at 16, I thought of how much fun her uniquely curvy 16 year old self would be in bed. And she said…
“Really? When I think about being in bed with you at 16, I mostly think of you not knowing what the hell you were doing.”
That, ladies and gentleman, is the difference between men and women.
So the other night, my wife and I stayed up late talking. First, we talked about the choice I make everyday to ride my bike to work or not. Usually I do ride it, which means that I ride 6 to 7 miles there, then back at the end of the day. I don’t always, I had a touch of sun stroke today and asked my wife to pick me up. The 0630 ride being a good deal more comfortable than the afternoon one.
Choice is funny, though. When I lived in Kansas City I lived significantly closer to my job, but I refused to ride a bike. We desperately needed money, yet I insisted on driving my car the 3 miles to work everyday. Now, we don’t really need the money and I ride. When we don’t feel like things are being forced upon us, it is so much more personally rewarding to do them. So then we began discuss the failings that we were having at that time.
I guess I thought I was entitled to car. So I had a car. We lived about 2 miles from a grocery store, and about three miles from work. We had no reason whatsoever for a car, yet I had a full sized pickup, which got about 12 mpg. I had an apartment. And I had debt. Up to my eyeballs.
I look back, and what I should have done is soooo obvious. I should have moved in with my parents. I should have gotten a job working nights in Des Moines. I could have rode into work with my dad. I wouldn’t have needed a car, and my room and board would have been about $100 dollars a month. I could have paid down my debt, then began to save. Within a year or two we would have been OK. During that time we could be searching for the perfect place in Des Moines to live. But we didn’t. We were too proud. Of what I am not sure. The image that we could take care of ourselves, I guess. I say image, because obviously we could not take care of ourselves, we were making one crappy decision after another.
But why were we there in the first place? I had failed college. Was this my fault? Absolutely, and at the same time no. I really did do my best at the classes I had been assigned (it wasn’t good enough). However, I didn’t choose my classes. I blindly accepted that whatever the nice lady told me to take, I should take. I didn’t know my limitations and I couldn’t be bothered to learn them. (This leads to one of my favorite quotes [which is on my facebook page as well as other blogs]: If you insist on being an ignorant ass, you will be consistently rewarded with failure. You have no right to decide the performance of something you cannot be bothered to understand.) I did my best at classes that I did my worst to chose. I wouldn’t trust a cell phone salesman to tell me what I need. I wouldn’t trust a car salesman to tell me what I need. Yet I trusted a complete stranger to sell me an education.
Then, to top it all off, I did something really, really sick. When I failed out, I blamed God, but not blamed God in a manly, angry way. No, I blamed God in a sort of half-assed wussy way. I said that it was his will. That he called me out of college to minister to the church in Kansas City.
My brother in law is a radical believer. He yells at people who say that God lead him smoke pot, get drunk, and punch strangers so that His glory could be revealed. He says “God didn’t give me a great testimony. God saved me from my testimony. What sort of God would beat me up just to look cool?”
In similar path to being saved from your testimony he had this to say:
“Believe with your heart in power of God to change things, but work your ass off to change them.”
So, this blog becomes yet another midnight confessional. Oddly, even though everyone reads this, this is just for me:
I accept full responsibility for my failures. No devil made me do it. No “will-of-God” bologna. No “the-sin-of-X-was-controlling-my-life” BS. Nope. One person failed Israel Walker. And that person was Israel Walker.
But you know the funny thing about choice?
It doesn’t have to stay that way.
Ok, note one: stereotypes generally have a basis in reality. Note two: Western fundementalist Christianity stereotypically has a paradigm of the pursuits of man as a disease. Whenever I talk to my Christian friends I hear something like this:
Fundamentalist: “I just haven’t been spending enough time with the Lord.”
Me: “Well, what have you been doing?”
Fundamentalist: “Well, I’ve just been so busy caring for people and providing for my family’s spiritual and physical needs.”
Me: “That’s bad?”
Fundamentalist: “Well, I really let those mundane things distract me from the pursuit of the Lord.”
See? The things you do are bad. Working, talking to friends, making love to your wife, these things are all good things, but not as good as praying.
Its seen like this: A spiritual hierarchy
(1.) The inner spiritual quest, things like meditating and general religious feeling. (2.) The outer spiritual quest, things like fasting and prayer. (3.) The inner physical quest, to eat healthily and exercise. (4.) The outer physical quest, to have a roof over your head and car. (5.) The inner social quest, to be a good friend. (6.) The outer social quest, to have good friends.
If you are a Christian fundamentalist, you must never depart from this. It is never OK to go to the gym instead of pray (putting 3rd in the 1st spot) but it is OK to move away from your friends to live in a better house (putting 4 ahead of 6)
I say, bologna. There is no evidence of any of this in the Old or New Testaments. So many of my dear friends beat themselves up because they don’t enjoy number 1, but do enjoy number 6. They chose celebrity witnesses like King David, or Jesus and say “Oh, I am not doing what I am supposed to be doing. Because my life doesn’t look like that.”
This always reminds me of the example of playing guitar. I have a guitar. I enjoy my guitar. From time to time, I take it out of the case and sing silly songs to my daughter, or bawdy ones to my wife. The fact that I am not Eric Clapton doesn’t keep me up at night. I could practice 8 hours a day for the rest of my life and NEVER be as good as Eric Clapton.
Sometimes I like to throw around a basketball. I am terrible at basketball. Again, I could have started playing basketball when I was 4 and been playing 8 hours a day ever since. And I still wouldn’t be as good as the worst college ball player around.
But I have an invention notebook. I’ll bet you there isn’t anybody in the NBA that has notebook of inventions. And I’ll be Eric Clapton can’t design his way out of wet paper sack.
If you believe God doesn’t make junk, then you must believe he made your desires with a purpose. I don’t spend any large amount of time in prayer and meditation. Unlike 5 years ago, I don’t feel bad about that anymore. I designed a jet motor that has no moving parts. I don’t know if it works yet because I haven’t prototyped it yet, but dang it, I designed it.
Is God more glorified by one man’s prayer for the salvation of 10,000 people than by one man inventing a vaccine that saves 10,000 people? I think not. Everybody is different, and God made them that way.
There is NO spiritual hierarchy. Stop living by a made-up moral code that says the things you like are crap because they are not “spiritual.” Do you think that which brings you joy flows out of nothing? What is the spirit but the summation of our joys? The peace and satisfaction I get from putting things in my invention notebook is just as real, just as spiritual, and just as holy as the joy and peace that a mystic gets from praying, a pastor from pastoring, a lover loving, father fathering, or a mother mothering.
The spiritual hierarchy is a lie. A lie created to divide people into spiritual haves and have nots. I for one will have no part in it.
So I did some patent research on my engine (that doesn’t have moving parts) no one seems to be working on anything even close! I also (due to time and money) figured out a yet cheaper way to handle to important methods of construction. I am seriously, like THIS close. We could be a week or so away from a prototype.
So for English I had to write one of those “who I am and where I came from” papers. I talked about my childhood a bit. I’ve an odd relationship with my childhood: My parents were pretty different. They made an interesting home life for us and all of us kids grew up a little confused about our place in the world. Through it all, I think they meant well, though. Yes, they held some odd viewpoints and values, but I think that they did everything they did because they really loved us and wanted the best for us. I think that’s why we all turned out OK.
But as anyone reads this blog or knows me understands, when I was kid I thought I had all kinds of problems. As a young adult my biggest problem was all the problems I thought I had. (Which disguised the fact there were actually somethings I could work on, but I wouldn’t find that out for years.) But as a 14 year old I was a bundle of insecurities and self loathing.
So, when I was 14, I visited Emmaus Bible College where my sister was a freshman. I met a lot of people there, but most importantly for this story, I met Jason, Tyler, Sarah, and Paul. Jason is still one of my closest friends, a crazy home experimenter and hacker. Paul is also still one of my closest friends, my go-to-guy for anything I need career advice on. While I was finishing high, school Tyler and Sarah fell in love and got married.
My senior year of high school I was dating this girl from my hometown. One night I had a vision. I saw her getting pregnant and us buying a house behind the window factory, where I was would live for the rest of my life. That didn’t appeal to me. I had around $4000 I had saved up throughout my short life. I had been alternating between wanting to use that money to (1.) buy a used airplane and teaching myself to fly or (2.) going to Pittsburgh, legally changing my name, and inventing a new life for myself free of the constraints Christian living. Both had problems: if I bought the plane, I would not have enough money to leave home. I would have to stay with my parents “forever”. (Forever being more than 2-3 years to an 18 year old.) If I moved to Pittsburgh and started Me 2.0 I thought I would probably do such crazy sinful things that I would kill myself because of the guilt (or at least that was the plan. I was 18, don’t judge.) If I went to Pittsburgh, I was going launch into crazy orgies and stuff, if I stayed home I was going to start sleeping with my girlfriend. (My apologizes to the good people of Pittsburgh. I don’t know why as angry young man, I fixated on Pittsburgh and not New York and LA like everyone else who wants to leave a small town and go to the big city. I don’t know why I thought orgies would be particularly available in Pittsburgh either. ) Either way, I was getting laid and feeling icky.
But I had a third option. I could take my $4000 and pay for one semester of Bible college. It was the path of least moral failure. But I still didn’t feel really good about myself. We went around the auditorium and said why we had come there. Everyone said “To learn more about JESUS!” I knew for a fact at least one of the guys on my floor was there because his parents told him that if he went to a year of Bible college they would give him a Jeep Wrangler. So when it got to me I said “I’m just here to meet a nice Christian girl and marry her”. Now this wasn’t strictly true, I was there so a girl back home didn’t get pregnant, but I really didn’t mind the image I thought this gave me, and I was uncomfortable about lying about Jesus. Lying about God to impress your friends just seemed (and seems) like a really awful idea.
Well, it turned out, not surprisingly, the guy who went to Bible college so he wouldn’t join (or start) a sex cult in Pittsburgh was NOT really cut out for Bible college. I met a girl there who was much life myself (named Lydia): a basically kind person who life had beaned her with a series of complicated hard to deal with things. In that environment of judgment, conformism, and emotional and sexual desperation we found each other and leaned on each other to survive.
And the person who was a life line to us: Sarah, Tyler’s wife. Now, I’d known Sarah since I was 14. She’d come to Emmaus with her own story of what she wanted to run away from (something I would not find out until years later) and when she had met geeky, awkward, bespectacled me, I reminded her of her brother Paul. So she was really nice to me. She was always really happy to see me and listened to all my silly talk warmly. Gentle reader, do you remember when you were 14? How would you have felt if an attractive, street smart, 20 something women treated you kindly? If Sarah had told me to cut my right arm off and give it to her I would have.
Well, then I was 18. Sarah opened her home to Lydia and me. She trusted us, listened to us and gave us a home. That last bit is more important that you can imagine. Both Lydia and I had good reasons to never want to go back home. We both had loving parents who meant well but just didn’t get it, and “Christian” friends who characterized the Sanhedrin a lot more than the Son of God. (Her more so that I. Everyone has a different burden to carry, I’d be lying if I said hers wasn’t heavier.) Sarah’s house was warmth and honesty and openness. It was the place we could go and be our real selves instead of the Christian selves we had to be at Emmaus. Sarah was my hero.
When I broke up with Lydia I was so ashamed. I was ashamed of what I had done. I was ashamed of what I had not done. I was ashamed of breaking up with her in the first place. I was ashamed that I hadn’t done it sooner. And I didn’t want to go to Sarah and Tyler’s house anymore. They had seen me as my most honest self: a good man but not a Christian, desperately lonely, easily hurt, and high strung. Every time I saw them, it was like looking into a mirror of who I really was.
But not who I wanted to be. I wanted to be Amazing Christian! I wanted to love Jesus so much that I didn’t sin anymore. I wanted to be GOOD man. I wanted to be rich, or have the capacity to be so and not take it because I choose poverty out of love for Christ. I wanted to be the best Christian in the world. And every time I looked at Ty and Sarah, I saw the people who saw what I really was.
So, gradually, I stopped calling. Stopped dropping in. I moved. They moved. Time passes.
Now its 2008, nine years after I left Emmaus. I don’t want to be Amazing Christian anymore. More than not caring if I meet the churches ideal, I now consider meeting the churches ideal a moral failure in and of itself. I find that I really care about the people that loved me back then.
So I called Tyler and Sarah up. Sarah answered. We talked. She’s having some problems. She had rough life physically and emotionally when she was a kid, and those scars run deep. Sarah’s strong, she’s holding up. And Tyler is a good man, always was. He takes good care of her.
But they could have had one more friend helping shoulder the load. One more person to listen. One more person to cry with. And I pushed them away. On purpose, because horror of all horrors, they saw me for what I was instead of who I wanted to be.
So, to Sarah and Tyler, Anna and Joe, Ben and Heather, Scott, and anyone else who I have forgotten, or purposely not put on this list due to its public nature.
Thanks for trying, and I am sorry I pushed you all away.
Why do people take a compliment and put “You think you’re so…” in front of it.
You think you are so smart/hot/funny. I mean don’t you want to be smart, hot and funny? I know I do. If fact I think I AM smart, hot, and funny. But there is no safe answer.
If I say “yes, I do. Thanks for noticing.” they get mad
If I say “When have I ever said that I was that?”they get mad
If I say, “Sorry, I try to consider myself as stupid, ugly, and boring from now on” they get mad.
If I say “Only compared to some people” they get mad
If I say “Well, yes I do. Do YOU think that you are stupid, ugly, and boring? No? See, why would I?”
I think next time I will just cry. I’ll hug my knees and rock back and forth and say “Mommy said I was the smart one. Mommy said I was the smart one!” Until they put their hand on my back and then I’ll yell “DON’T TOUCH ME, STOP TOUCHING ME!” Then I’ll run sobbing outside crying “Stop looking at me!”
Or maybe not. Any ideas?
So, I finished reading The Story of Christianity by Justo L. Gonzalez. This is the early Church History text book of the Bible college several of my friends went to, Forerunner School of Ministry. It was good. It just very honestly went through the issues and the happenings in plain language. When there was controversy, Mr. Gonzalez excelled at telling the two sides and explaining why one side believed one thing and why another side believed another.
Church History is probably not something you learned in Sunday school as a kid. I’ve met few people who really know about it, perhaps the Protestant schism from the Catholics has something to do with this. Protestants can sometimes struggle to trace their past back to through the Catholics, particularly if they are raised as a rightist Protestants who believe the office of the Pope will the tool the Antichrist will use to imitate Christ, which I was.
So, reading Justo Gonzalez was good for me, tying together a lot of bits and pieces that had floated through my somewhat wikified mind, as well as expanding on the very sketchy foundations I learned in Christian high school, but saying it was “good for me” doesn’t mean it was fun for me. My dad used to enjoy eating those canned Vienna sausages until he worked in a packing plant. Seeing the actions that made the responses that made the traditions explained what the Protestants were protesting against, and in turn created the Protestant traditions, makes Christianity look pretty, well, ugly.
For my concerned readers I must place my usual disclaimer here: I’m not saying that the teachings of Christ are ugly. I’m saying that studying church history has given me a new understanding of the modern traditions, ideals, teachings, and ways of the Church have absolutely nothing to do with the teachings of Christ. They a have a lot to do, however, with pyramid schemes, organized crime practices, and confidence tricks.
There is a hierarchy of truth in the introduction to narratives. Its starts with research papers and biographies, then based-on-the-events, then inspired-by-the-events, then finally, grabbed-from-the-headlines. “Grabbed from the headlines” basically means “the following is in some shallow way related to a selected parts of third hand information about something the story teller cannot be bothered to research or present deeply.” It is that level of truth following, or perhaps below, which is reserved for the church.
My mistake the “oh what profit that Galilean fable has brought us” is bologna. It has been thrown around so many times with “sources” of the other times that it was said cited as the source, that it appears to be true. But it is not. That Catholic Church has always claimed that this quote was falsely attributed. There exists such a quote but it is from a fictional parody that has been falsely identified as a historical document.
This page tells the story of this bogus quote, and I guess I can put myself in ranks of 2-bit skeptics who cynically assume that since the quote fits the personality of the Pope that is is true. It’s not. I apologize, it was sloppy research.
However, the charge that he was a homosexual stands
(1.) G. A .Cesareo, Pasquino e pasquinate nella Roma de Leone X, Rome, 1938
(2.) “He was appeared highly effeminate” Catholic Encyclopedic 1917 (and all proceeding versions)
(3.) C. Falconi, Leone X, Milan, 1987
As far as him raising money by selling indulgences, I shouldn’t really have to cite that, as it was why Martin Luther nailed his thesis to the door . You find that in any history book. But particularly paragraph 15 of the Catholic Encyclopedia article on pope Leo X also puts it quite clearly. I prefer to use Catholic sources to make statements about the Catholic church.