Monday, January 31, 2011

Denying the Cat

I was reading this morning from a book called Hiding From Love. I haven't gotten very far in the book, but I made it to the third chapter. The book suggested that the world is not the way that it was supposed to be; it's not ideal. As the book put it, "this wasn't plan A." It struck me as a very Arminian way of looking at things. But then again, is it? It got me thinking.

The Ideal:

On some level, we all believe in "the Ideal." What is "the Ideal?" The ideal is the way which we feel that things should be.

This is a moral ideal. When we do not fulfill the moral ideal, we feel guilt or shame -- unless of course, over time we deaden our conscience to those feelings. When others do not fulfill the moral ideal, we feel angry perhaps, or else we forgive them, and we contemplate whether justice or mercy should be dealt to them. We would not "forgive" someone if they were not "in the wrong." What is "in the wrong" but an evidence of some sort of "right" that the wrong isn't? That "right" is part of "the Ideal." A system of moral imperative; that is part of the Ideal.

This is a practical ideal. When a loved one dies young of terminal cancer, when weeds grow in the backyard, when a tire goes flat -- we feel that ideally this shouldn't have happened. Ideally, in a perfect world, there would be no need for the curse. This curse is a punishment, a necessary part of life at this point, but what is "punishment" but practical consequences of distance from "The Ideal?" If the pain WERE ideal, then it would no longer be considered a negative, and therefore no longer a punishment.

For instance, consider the phenomena of optimism. How do you know that you are being "optimistic" when you say that a trip will go smoothly? Is this not a reference to the fact that we all subconsciously understand that "ideally" trips are helpful and not harmful? What is optimism, if not hope for the ideal? What is pessimism, but expectation that life is not ideal? Either way, there is this understood premise that one circumstance is more Ideal than another. If you say that a particular romance will end in happy marriage, and you call that "optimism," is not the implication that the Ideal ending to righteous romantic longing is fulfillment of that desire?

When we show love to other people, we mentally refer to "the Ideal" in order to determine how to show love. Why do we try to offer medicine and aid to those who come to the hospital? Because somehow we feel that the Ideal is for people to be physically healthy. Why do we give to "charity?" Because we feel that love prompts us to expend effort to help people become closer to that Ideal state.

The Ideal is not one aspect alone. The Ideal includes not only emotional and practical ideals, but also as mentioned before, moral ideals. All of those aspects of the ideal make up "THE Ideal." (I refer to one aspect of the Ideal as "ideal" and I refer to the totality of ideal aspects as "Ideal.") This Ideal is written on the hearts and consciences of every human being. One of my favorite Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs refers to this Ideal in this way:

This night - we pray
Our lives - will show
This dream - He had
Each Child - still knows

We are waiting
We have not forgotten

Ah yes, that claim right there: the dream that each child still knows, that Ideal, is the dream that "He" had. And who is He? The Son of God. What does the song mean, in the lyrics "this night we pray [that] our lives will show this dream"? Very simply, it means that we ought to shape our lives to match the Ideal that God has dreamt up. If we are inspired by righteousness, by God's ideal, then on a practical level we will aspire to live in harmony with that, even when it means making costly choices.

Denying the cat:

"The strongest saints and the strongest skeptics alike took positive evil as the starting-point of their argument. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do.

The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat." (Chesterton's Orthodoxy)

I had to throw that quote in here just to explain where I got this concept of "denying the cat." You see, the fact is, real life is a far cry from the Ideal. "Ideal? What is this 'Ideal' you speak of?" Every salesman telling a bald face lie, every sock that disappears in the dryer, every women who is devalued or taken advantage of, reminds us of this discrepancy between the Ideal and the actual world in which we live and breath.

So how do we explain this discrepancy between reality and the Ideal?

There are many explanations, but one explanation which I do not find plausible in the least bit is the simple denial of this discrepancy.

You see, once you admit a discrepancy between the Ideal and Reality, then you have a problem. Once you know that there is a problem, perhaps it might bug you that this problem exists. Perhaps this annoyance will lead to the search for a solution, but it is an annoyance.

Denial #1 - There is no Ideal, everything has a different ideal.
This objection states that the ideal tomato is not the same as the ideal laptop, and therefore the concept of an ideal applies to every situation individually, but there is no one Ideal which includes the Ideal of everything, since what may be ideal for one entity may not be ideal for another.

From a Biblical perspective, though, in which all beings need God, and God is not only capable of meeting all the needs of the creatures, but also loving (desirous to do so) and has no needs of His own, there does exist one Ideal which is Ideal for every entity all at once. The true Ideal includes the ideal tomato, the ideal laptop, the ideal person, and the ideal world - all at the same time, nothing is lost.

Denial #2 - We often are wrong about what the Ideal is, and therefore it's just a figment of our imagination and is not an objective fact.
For instance, a child may think that eating more candy would be ideal, but a parent knows that such a reality would not actually be ideal. Take this one step further, and one can argue that everything we think ideal is just based on our limited perspective.

Again, from a Christian perspective, although we never know everything perfectly, we do believe there is objective truth. We are often wrong about what truth is, and that does not at prove that truth does not exist.

Denial #3 - Reality IS the Ideal.
All of our moanings and complainings about how people "should act" different, or qualms with death and curses - all of that is because the Ideal contains us believing the Ideal is not ideal and then some of us come to new understanding and contentment that this IS the way it all should be.

Evolutionists, for instance, take the path of the third ideal. There is no fall, no sin nature; everything is as it should be. The selfishness and killing and disease is all part of the Ideal system which promotes only the survival of the fittest. Suffering and even immorality, then, is ideal - as a part of their complete Ideal.

But if this is ideal, how can they complain if their wives cheat on them? Or if strangers kidnap their children? Is that not also ideal? Is there not nothing better than this? They complain about their proclaimed Ideal, and therefore contradict themselves.

For a more sharp contradiction, though, some Christians claim that reality is the Ideal because God has willed it. Not holding to the belief that God could allow something that He does not want to happen (for indeed, if anything happened that God did not "want" to happen, how would He be Sovereign?), some claim that God wants sin to occur.

Do you remember that song which mentioned "this dream He had?" By this logic, this reality we see around us full of blasphemies and darkness, this IS the dream He had. This is what He wants, and there is nothing more Ideal than this. So what is the contradiction here?

  • If suffering is ideal -- being part of the Ideal and being desired by God qua the end He has in mind -- then we should not complain about it.

  • If sin is ideal -- being part of the Ideal and being desired by God qua the end He has in mind -- then we should not complain about it.

  • If sin is ideal -- being part of the Ideal and being desired by God qua the end He has in mind -- then God would not speak against it.

If God speaks against something, then by definition it is not Ideal, for who determines the Ideal but God Himself? Now, you can have a good result even when the means are not ideal: some pain helps us to grow. But you cannot have the totality of the Ideal if there is one aspect which is not Ideal. This is the essence of "Ideal." Ideally, we would all be perfect and grow without needing discipline and suffering.

If God calls one aspect of the ideal an "abomination" to Him, and abominations are not ideal, then there is a problem. If God complains about an ideal part of the total Ideal, then part of the Ideal is not truly Ideal. And if the Ideal is not Ideal, then the very concept of an Ideal is a contradiction. Furthermore, if the concept of an Ideal is not a true concept, then we have no basis on which to define optimism, help, or morality.

The Discrepancy:

There is gap between what we righteously hope for, and what actually occurs. There is a gap between the ideals put forward in the Scripture and in the Laws of God and the actions of men around us. There is a gap between heaven and earth. There is a discrepancy between the way things ought to be, and the way things are. This gap between the way things ought to be, and the way things actually are, ought not to be. The world not being ideal is not ideal. Those who say it is ideal for the world to be less than ideal do not understand the concept of "Ideal."

If there is anything in the world about which God says "This is an abomination," then the world as it is must not be what God views as the Ideal for this world. If we ask "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," we confess with our mouths that heaven is closer to the Ideal than this earth is - that God's Ideal is more closely followed there.

We are called, here on earth, to personally aspire closer and closer to God's Ideal. How will we be able to pursue this ideal, or a life of good works pleasing to God, if we claim that God wants sin and that sin is also ideal (an aspect of the Ideal)? If we believe in the sin nature, and affirm the doctrine of the fall -- the classic Christian explanation for the discrepancy -- then we cannot also affirm that the way the world is perfectly the way God desired it to be. And if we cannot affirm that the world is now ideal, then we must hold to the belief that God allows the world to to vary from his desired Ideal, for some reason.

Whether this reason be that God desires His own glory, or that God desires "true relationships" with His creatures, it must be clear that God, in allowing the world to be less than ideal, acted intentionally. It must also be clear that God allowed this fall from the Ideal and did not indeed desire this fall from the Ideal, or else, again, the fall would be Ideal, which leads to contradiction.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just Another Goat

Give me a torch and I'll burn the world down
But not until I rescue you
From this life of molten despair

You call it hope, and I call it pain
We'll meet in the middle
Someday when the puzzle pieces fall from the sky

The souls are crushed when truth rains down
Is there no hope?
And so signs off. . . just another lonely goat

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Train Wreck

The following is an excerpt from a book, written by comedian Bob Newhart, entitled I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This. Enjoy:

Ed and I rooted through the agency's sound-effects records used for television commercials. We found a nice recording of a train crash. Using the train crash as the blow-off, or sound effect, we worked backward and wrote a routine. The entire story led up to this climactic sound effect, such as Ed playing his typical straight-man interviewer and me as Gasper Hollingsferry, the head train-switcher and dispatcher at the Central Shipping Yard.

It went a little bit like this:

Ed: "Say, I've noticed that there's a temendous amount of buttons and panels, and, of course, as I look out here through the windows and into the yard, I see these miles and miles of track crisscrossing each other, how do you keep track of all of them, Mr. Hollingsferry?

Bob: "Well, it's mostly about trial and error. I took me about four weeks to learn. After the first week, you find you make quite a few mistakes. Then the second week it's less, and the third week it's less, and by the end of the fourth week, you got the yards down pretty well."

Ed: "It seems to me an awfully dangerous way to go about teaching a switchman his business. You don't have any supervisors? You don't have any textbooks?

Bob: "Well, we tried textbooks. We used both methods. It's sort of expensive, but when you see the cars strewn all over the yard like that, it makes quite an impression and you very seldom will switch them onto that track again. We find it's the best method."

Ed: "That certain is interesting."

Bob: (Aside to Ed's crew) "Uh, I thought I told you guys you're gonna have to keep your wires and cords off the tracks. We've got trains coming through here daily--"

Ed: "Well, speaking of trains, sir, I'm sorry to interrupt, but down here on the main track it looks to me as if those two trains are going to crash."

Bob: "Yeah....Those two'll crash."

Ed: "You say those two are going to crash. Aren't you going to do anything about it?"

Bob: "No, I never got a D-07 on those trains."

Ed: "A D-07, sir?"

Bob: "That's a form we have whenever they find a mistake and we switch a train onto the wrong track, as these two obviously are. We're supposed to get a D-07. I can't touch these levers until I get a D-07."

Ed: "Well, sir, you mean to say that you'll sit here without using the handbrake to stop these two trains from crashing?"

Bob: "It's not my fault. It's someone in the main office."

Ed: "I fully realize that, sir....So you mean to say you are going to sit here and do absolutely nothing?"

Bob: "If we were to do away with the D-07, as you're obviously suggesting, we'd have nothing but plain chaos..."

(A loud crash is heard)

Ed: "Well, thank you very much, Mr. Hollingsferry. We now take you back to your announcer."

And the routine fades out to the sound of flames crackling and chaos.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How to Escape the Whirlwind of Stress

Now, in America, it seems to me, many people go around being stressed all the time. I'm not one to try to dictate what other people should do with their lives, but it seems to me that most people who are habitually stressed do not enjoy that particular aspect of their lives. The people who push themselves a little and then get to relax enjoy a balanced life. But sometimes, after having to push ourselves hard and long enough, we forget. We forget how to relax, and we forget how to let go of the stress we carry with us. Even stressed people know how to have fun, but do they know how to relax?

Stress gets a bad rep, because people are always complaining about stress, but I think that stress is more like salt. A little bit is good and even needful; it can be beneficial and helps us to carry on our lives with vigor and determination. Then again, if you pour a cup of salt into the soup, suddenly the whole thing is ruined. Similarly, when stress takes over your life, it no longer fulfills it's proper function, and instead can become a devastating force that you can't shut off. Stress is designed to help us focus, but too much will destroy any potential for focus.

To illustrate the point, I will refer to bizarre medical phenomenon. Short term stress, which can be good for you in many situations, goes from your hypothalamus to your sympathetic nervous system, to your adrenal medulla, which releases catecholamines into your system, resulting in increases respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, dilated pupils, and the like.

Long term stress takes a completely different route: this endocrine pathway involved the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal cortex. It all results in the release of ACTH, which makes the adrenal cortex release corticosteroids into your system. Notice: corticosteroids is different from catecholamines. Too much of the corticosteroids on a habitual basis just tears down your body, and generally goes around wreaking all sorts of havoc, which I will not get into now.

Point “Illustrated”

Anyway, coming back from that drawn-out example, I maintain that it's very important to be able to turn stress to the “off” position once in a while. Having threads of thought that you can never turn off in your head is a good sign of over-stress. You see, we all have threats of thought open in our mind most of the time. However, they are easy to close, unless they are reinforced by stress or worry. A calm child "sleeps like a baby," because they have no cares and worries that they hold on to. They find security usually in the adult caretakers, and are fine with everything just fading gently from their mind as they fall asleep. If you thought about buying mustard later, and you don't write it down, it is easy to forget because probably it doesn't have any real worry or stress attached to it. If you are having a hard time closing a "threads" of thought in your mind, I would say it most always is a sign of stress.

So, what do you do with stress? I don't know what you do. I only know what *I* do with stress, and I am more than happy to tell you all about it. Therefore, I have below charted what I do with stress. It is relatively exhaustive, and so I outline the process briefly, before diving into the full description. Now, if you don't have time to read the whole blog, I would recommend just skipping to the description of the 8 types of stress, because that's totally the most fascinating part of this written piece.

What to Do:

  1. Figure out the stress
  2. If legit, resolve or make plan about it
  3. If still feeling worry, it's a feeling
  • If it's a feeling:
  • A - Identify feeling
  • B - Transform feelings
  • C - Check for worry/stress, repeat if necessary
  1. Implement pop-up blockers
  2. Strengthen "Relaxing" muscles of your mind

[Note: Those last two should be labeled "4" and "5" but this program is refusing to accommodate that option.]

That's the short version. What follows is the long version. You'll like it. I promise. Even if you disagree, you will enjoy how interesting it is, and it may even cause you to have deep and profound thoughts of your own.


In case of stress, follow this awesome and effective procedure:


Figure out what type of stress it is. What type it is will determine how you will be able to deal with it. Different causes means different possible resolutions. Oftentimes, after looking through all the types of stresses, you will be able to identify which ones you identified with currently. This will often help you narrow down the negative feelings that are causing the stress, whether it is fear, confusion, dislike, or pain.

Types of stress: External pressure and Internal stress

External Pressures: Happens mainly TO you

A - Physical pressure (Like carrying a backpack puts physical pressure on you)

B - Pain/Discomfort Avoidance pressure

  • Current (Your hand is bleeding - this puts pressure on you to do something to make it better)
  • Future (A pencil is flying through the air in your direction - this puts pressure on you to move to avoid pain)

C - Interpersonal Pressure (Another person feels pressure and they transfer this pressure to you, usually using words, or facial expressions)

Internal Pressure (Stress) Happens mainly IN you (and many times is our response to external pressure)

  • A - Stress is often simply the pressure that we put on ourselves. This can be good, it's what gets us out of bed in the morning, etc. However, beware to avoid pushing yourself to do more than you can, or it became anti-productive bullying.

    B - Being in a situation you actively hate or dislike causes tension

    C - Having a double mind (I want to go, I don't want to go) causes internal tension

    D - Hate/Bitterness/Unresolved pain is tension you carry around with you like a backpack forever. Thus the expression that "hate is like taking poison, and expecting your enemy to drop down dead."

    E - The over-achiever mindset will produce constant pressure. This is mainly based off of shame, which is also dissatisfaction with self. Such a person, without realizing it, will often put constant pressure on themselves to do more, or better. Now, this actually cannot be resolved with just "transforming feelings," but must go deeper than that. It goes back to being able to receive love from other people, knowing how to give love, and actually loving yourself.

    F - Fear is based of pain avoidance pressure, and is among the more strong forms of stress and can cause crippling tension

    G - Hope is a "pulling" pressure, not a "pushing" pressure. Hope will make you fly. A very fun pressure/tension that causes action. Usually not even counted as stress. However, when used without the context of immediate enjoyment, it can cause unhappiness (but not stress, so much)

    H - The desire to internally be immune to pain; becoming "bulletproof" puts on you the constant tension of being "strong and tough" even in situations which do not require that extra energy.


Stress is usually based off of reality. If you are stressed about homework, it usually is because if you don't do homework, something bad will actually happen to you. So, having recognized the stress, and before trying to make the stress go away, you must take advantage of what stress is designed to do: motivate you! Plan and take action about the situation.


If you make a plan and are still worried, think and perhaps update the plan. Perhaps you are trying to do more than you realistically can do, while maintaining your status as a happy, healthy person. In that case, perhaps your plan should include how to achieve your survival goals without overworking yourself. If your plan is great, and well thought-through, and you still feel stress than you are putting an unhealthy amount of pressure on yourself, and must go on to be able to resolve it. If you are mentally satisfied with your plan, but are still feeling stressed or worried, then you no longer need to deal with your thought processes, but need to deal with the emotions and feelings involved. How do you do that? I'll tell you!

What To Do With Those Feelings:

A: Identify the feeling. As I mentioned before, there are several different feelings that cause stress. Perhaps you have one that I haven't even listed. Either way, try to figure out what it is. It isn't enough to think of it as a "bad" feelings. One must be able to know the exact shade and feeling that particular "bad" to be able to deal with it. I personally have lists of feeling words that I can go to for reference. Perhaps I should list those in a blog, I don't know.

B: Calm and let go of those feelings. I didn't say "get rid of" them for a reason. Trying to make them go away is actually counterproductive. You must become closer to them in order to calm them, and when they are calmed, the feeling will just naturally fade away. Here is a brief description of a technique you can use to do this:

Transforming Feelings:

  1. Recognize each feeling as it rises
  2. Become one with the feeling, and accept that it is part of you (not saying "go away" but more like "Aww, I feel the same way")
  3. Calm the feeling (not avoid, but comfort. As you would comfort a child - not intellectually, but emotionally)
  4. Release the feeling (After calming, fear won't overwhelm, smile & let it go)
  5. Look deeper (and correct inaccurate worldviews)

[Note: even when fear is irrational, always be kind and gentle. Never call self "dumb" for feeling scared.]

C: Check for worry/stress, repeat if necessary. You may have resolved one negative feeling, but still have another, etc.


Even once you have a great plan for handling the situation beautifully, and have calmed your negative feelings, interrupting thoughts will occasionally just pop into your mind. This is not pleasant, and will happen less and less as focusing and letting go of the other thoughts and feelings. However, if you are just beginning to use these techniques, it will happen quite a bit, to the point that you may feel discouraged about the process as a whole. However, this is a natural thing that happens. We are creatures of habit, and just as you must go to chiropractor many times to realign your neck, because your neck muscles want to return to the position they had been in, in the same way, your mind will want to return to it's normal operating procedure. This is actually a physical reality, just like your neck. So having a good plan, and after calming your feelings, you must have some sort of "Pop-Up Blockers" in your mind to deal with the inevitable pop-ups that will come.

Mainly, what you have to do is see those feelings as employees, or servants. They will bring you a document. Perhaps your caring and diligent employee Fear will bring you a document outlining the risks of a particular endeavor, and end the document will the request that you do not take that action. In a kind and grateful way, for he is after all just trying to look out for your well-being, you must firmly tell Fear that you have thought about all that information and have still decided to take that action, regardless of those risks. Then, in a firm and paternal way, you must tell Fear to leave your office so that you can get back to work. You see, Fear makes a wonderful employee, but a dreadful boss. You may also think up your own favorite ways to mentally block these pop-ups, but the one I just described is the one I use. I recognize the feeling behind the thought, and gently but firmly address it as its superior and dismiss it.


The "relaxing" muscle in your mind - that is to say, the part of your mind that you use to relax and calm yourself - is essential, and yet very underused by many people, and therefore often not that strong. The more you are able to relax your mind, the better you become at it, and the easier it seems.

Additionally, if you think of your mind as a rubberband, you will quickly perceive that if you always keep it tensed, it will lose its elasticity. You must relax it in order to maintain its functionality. Think of it even like hammering a nail. If you bring the hammer down once and put pressure on the nail, it will only go so far. To make it go further, you must take the pressure off the nail, and then again put pressure on. The retreat is as important as the rush of pressure. Through all of these analogies, I hope to show you that in addition to the above mentioned techniques, you must also relax at other times, as a habit. I cannot stress the importance of this step enough.

Americans, as a whole, have forgotten how to relax. Even in their vacations, they stress themselves. Sometimes it is good stress, like skydiving or whathaveyou. But it is not true relaxation. I have listed a bunch of relaxing things to do below, and if you think of additional things, you can add them to this list. However, be careful that things you add to the list are truly relaxing, and not just fun or exciting. For excitement and often fun is the opposite of relaxation. To excite is to stir up, but to relax is to calm down.

Now of all the things on this, there is one that I must most strongly recommend above all. If you were only to do one, I would have to insist that this be the one. And if you were not to do one, I would be quite confident that you are doing yourself a disfavor and undercutting the rest of this whole process. It's so important, in fact, that it's actually one of the ten commandments. The is this: Take a whole day off every couple weeks, no pressure, not even fun pressure. A whole day off. 24 hours. No work. Not even a little. No obligatory activities. No being around people who stress you. It's a challenge actually. It is unexpectedly hard to relax your mind for a day, but I assure that it is essential and is very key!


Random Relaxing Things To Do:

-Watch a snowglobe


-Listen to melodious music

-Watch the waves at the beach

-Watch something else repetitive

-Listen to rain or waterfalls

-Play with a pet

-Sing in the shower

-Draw or paint random stuff

-Draw Smileys :)

-Take a whole day off, no pressure, not even fun pressure

-Meditate on something good (Like Scripture)

-Drink Hot Chocolate

-Chill in a hot tub

-Classical music in the background