*we put the "mmm" in communism


This is the personal blog of Tim. Here, Tim writes on anything he has enough inspiration to finish a post on. That usually ends up being matters of science, pop culture, technology, religion, and philosophy.

This blog is around nine years old, which is over a third of Tim's current age. Back in 2003, it was called "Of Tim: Tim's life - or lack thereof", and it was as bad as you might expect the blog of a freshman in high school to be. Tim hopes that his writing is a little better, these days.

Tim welcomes any input that you, the dear reader, might have. Comments are very much appreciated, especially if you have a dissenting opinion. If you'd like to learn more about Tim, you might want to see his facebook or google+.

Also: Tim is a very avid consumer of various sorts of music. You may be interested in his playlists!

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Does purpose come from meaning?

Or does meaning come from purpose?

Meaning: the personal force that encompasses that which we love and hate. A meaningful event is such because it holds power to influence that which we care about. Meaning is an attribute of external objects.

Purpose: the intended direction of personal action. The driving force behind everything we do. Purpose is an attribute of internal choices.

My gut wants to say that the reality could be both - but I am having trouble reconciling the problems. I do, however, see clearly the conundrum of my faith, in this context.

God gives me purpose, but not meaning. The world gives me meaning, but not purpose.

I love dearly that purpose that God has shown me, but I fail to see how it is worthy with how meaningless it feels so far. The world, likewise, is showing me what it is to be human, what it means to be this incredible structure that I am - but the world has yet to show me anything beyond self-destruction in its ways, defeating the very purpose of life.

Watching Iron Man made me think a bit about what modern guys idealize. Tony Stark achieved his lifestyle through intellectual mastery - with his mental faculties, he obtained fame, fortune, and sex, the pinnacle of what the world considers valuable goals. But these forces are so fleeting - so ultimately meaningless. They are their own meaning. Pleasure for the sake of pleasure.

Which brings me to question the power of purpose in faith. Is it all just purpose for the sake of purpose, just as the world is meaning for the sake of meaning?

I crave, I crave, I crave!
posted by MC Froehlich at with 1 Comments
doctor, heal thyself
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Once upon a time, stories of demons, angels, and miracles excited me. They spoke to the reality that I was taught of, but had never seen. They hinted at something beyond my own experience, a plane of nature that I would be forced to regard with fear and reverence. A shard of that remains, but it lies defeated after little nourishment over these past few years.

On my last day at L'Abri, my Swedish tutor asked me if I ever prayed. I told him no - it feels a useless activity. I have yet to see a tangible response. I might as well talk to a wall, and in fact, that is what I used to do, from a literal standpoint. He scoffed and asked if I believe in God - which I do. What kind of God do I believe in, then, that I do not pray to him, my perfectly good and all-powerful creator?

Sources are everything. Many, I believe, find their source of faith in anecdotes of old women rising from the firm grip of death. That shard within me yearns to have my belief confirmed by a lovely story such as this. But I cannot escape the fact that leaping for miracles is a wholly useless activity. It defies logic, progress, rationality - if we were so impatient as to pass off our ignorance as miraculous, we would be nowhere and a half. Praying for miracles is, I believe, a mostly foolish activity. Miracles are, by nature, the exception. To expect the exception is poor faith, to say the least.

All that to say, I wonder what my source of faith is. My faith is tremendously weak - I know, I understand, but my belief sees a paltry level of realization. Having walked away from anecdotal evidence and hand-me-down stories, I am left with frustratingly little - a handful of people I admire, and a book of eerily accurate wisdom about human nature and the surrounding world. The moments where I can only say "I don't know how I know this to be true" are becoming more frequent, and this endlessly vexes me. I'm tired of uncertainty. I'm tired of being unsure. Yeah, Crede, ut intelligas, but that whole belief part isn't just a choice. It has to come from somewhere.

Where the fuck am I supposed to derive my beliefs, with so little to trust?
posted by MC Froehlich at with 1 Comments
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In my first week at L'Abri, I became consumed with developing a model for human interaction with supernature. This was a result of being introduced to the transcendentals (truth, beauty, goodness), and my fascination has since not waned.

The model, as I last touched it, was as follows:

RATIONAL: Father - Truth - Faith - Mind
EMOTIONAL: Son - Goodness - Hope - Heart
SPIRITUAL: Spirit - Beauty - Love - Soul

supernature <--------------------------------------> nature

1) Truth: that which is worthy of faith.
2) Goodness: that which is worthy of hope.
3) Beauty: that which is worthy of love.

4) Faith: our mind's attempt to interact with truth.
5) Hope: our heart's attempt to interact with goodness.
6) Love: our soul's attempt to interact with beauty.

7) Mind: our best tool for understanding truth.
8) Heart: our best tool for understanding goodness.
9) Soul: our best tool for understanding beauty.

To test the accuracy of this model, I also attempted to switch out the transcendentals and their corresponding verbs with their opposites.

Truth :: Falseness
Goodness :: Evil
Beauty :: Corruption

Faith :: Distrust
Hope :: Despair
Love :: Hate

Falseness - Distrust
Evil - Despair
Corruption - Hate

There are a few more dimensions to this model that I can't do with text, so if I have any luck at resurrecting my skills of an artist, I'll finish my explanation with that.
posted by MC Froehlich at with 2 Comments
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For the first time in seventeen years, Russia paraded its ICBMs through Red Square.

Nationalism is not an ideal I've ever adhered to, nor do I think it common among my peers. As far as America goes, for the past twenty-or-so years it's been out of date. Unnecessary. Ignorant. A symbol of insecurity and misplaced values.

For America, this can be partially attributed to the over-use of national symbols; the flag and the anthem have lost any real meaning as they get waved and sung at every chance. The pledge is so pervasive that it's nothing but tired phrases. In fact, it would be safe to say that many Americans really just don't like America. Between inferior social services, a recessive economy, a president we can't feel proud of, a war we can't support, there isn't much to feel good about. At best, it's home, and many people spend their time admiring other countries, where the grass is obviously greener.

I've struggled with how to think about America. Nationality not a part of an American's identity. It seems nothing more than arbitrary. Why should I care about "my" country, just because I was born here? Why should I serve a country that has not served me, and shows no such potential? At the same time, I recognize that a nation cannot be successful without people that do care about these questions.

As I think about China and Russia, I sort of start to understand why they've gone with the military/authoritarian state model. A nation full of critics and complainers produces nothing. They solely consume, and live off the production of others. Silencing the critics frees up a lot of wasted time and resources, even if it means running over a few innocent students with a tank. In a nation fighting tooth and nail to climb up the world ladder, freedom of speech is a small price to pay. Lincoln certainly thought so.

I think often about the state of other people in other countries, and in the past. Modernists love to praise how advanced we are and how far we have come, but I find it hard to believe that on the whole, people are significantly happier than they were 100 years ago or 1000 years ago. Although I don't think happiness is purely relative, I do wonder at how happy I think I am, or how happy the people around me think they are. On the whole, people don't seem to know what makes them happy, and I cannot see a long future in store for a nation that is so self-absorbed, trying to figure out what new forms of consumption will make them happier.

Yet still, I value the choice to determine my happiness. Action finds its value through choice. I can't say there is no meaning in actions we do not choose, though - which is what confuses me about all this. Are Russians as happy as Americans? Do Russians think they are happier than Americans, despite the oppression of the Kremlin? Are the Chinese happy despite the censorship of their government, knowing that their military is invading an innocent and defenseless country?

Looking at it like this, I find it hard to complain about the problems of my own country, but it doesn't induce pride or security; more like a relief that the problem of unhappy realities is universal. Ignorance of those realities is, of course, bliss - which is what censorship in Russia and China is all about. But if ignorance is what is required to be happy, then I don't think I want that.

Ultimately, I can only come to the conclusion that happiness is not an end worth pursuing. That is not to say I shouldn't do what makes me happy, but I don't think my life should be finding its value in happiness. I can only see that as leading me down a path of ignorance, or a path of futility.

Thus, it makes sense to me that nowhere in Truth, Beauty and Goodness is happiness guaranteed.
posted by MC Froehlich at with 0 Comments
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These are two forum posts I made recently as an attempt to answer the question "Is God good?".

March 23:

Before we can answer the question at hand, there must be some definition of terms, as it were. Particularly, God, and goodness.

Who is God?

These might seem obvious or repulsive, but these are the assumptions that allow us to begin to answer this question:

- God exists. If God does not exist, then he is nothing but a psycho-social phenomonon. A figment of history's imagination cannot be good.
- God is the creator of the universe. What point would there be in investigating, questioning, or worshipping a god that was not responsible for the world he presides over? Within this assumption, there are hidden two more points - particularly, God's omniscience and omnipotence. If God is the sole creator, then he knows his creation perfectly, and has perfect control over it. I should insert a note that I see absolutely no reason why God couldn't have crafted the world within its own mechanisms - those being the Big Bang and Evolution.
- God is knowable. This is what Agnosticism and Deism deny, as well as to a lesser extent, Islam - that God avails himself in certain ways to enable his creation to have relationship with him. He must be knowable, if there is to be an answer to who he is. Otherwise, we're just making guesses and assumptions.

The catch is that God's existence and his knowability, in and of themselves, say absolutely nothing about his character. But before we talk about God's goodness, we have to define goodness, as well.

What is goodness?

The trouble with defining a term like goodness is the presence of its polarity, evil. Humanity has the consistent problem of mixing the two up, whether purposefully for personal gain, or accidentally via the human tendency towards imperfection and mistakes. If we say a human is good, we do not mean that he/she is incapable of evil, but that on the whole, they seem to prefer goodness. If God is good, it has to be in a higher sense, because of God's aforementioned nature.

In order for goodness to have any meaning, it must be more than a cultural/sociological concept. That is to say, goodness must be absolute, regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status, culture, and so on. I should backdrop this by noting that this is not an attempt to give meaning to morality - I believe that meaning is self-evident and intrinsic for all human beings. How that is expressed and altered varies between people-groups, but the absolutes never change.

I can't really imagine defining goodness without invoking the other two transcendentals - truth and beauty. The three are inexorably linked to each other - where one appears, the other two are also present, whether apparent or not. That which is true and beautiful, is most definitively good. Now, the whole of human history has been spent waxing and waning over trying to pin down what truth, beauty, and goodness really are, and dare I say that nobody's made a whole lot of definitive progress. That doesn't mean that it's useless to try to find out, but I think that the problem lies in separating them out. They belong together, they thrive together, they enhance one another, they define one another.

What, then, is God's relationship to goodness?

Christianity's answer to this question is that he is perfectly good - incapable of evil, and therefore the penultimate embodiment of goodness. The same can be said of beauty and truth, I believe. But there's problems that immediately come to mind, just by looking out the window and seeing the world that God has created. This world is not perfectly good, and a perfectly good creator would not make an imperfect creation. This, quite distinctly, is the problem of evil, or of suffering (since that is evil's most direct result).

Yet still, alongside Christianity's answer is the claim of exclusivity. That is, that our souls are immortal (persisting beyond death), and that we will be judged for our choices and actions (or lack thereof) upon earth by God. The most universally popular conception of the consequences therein is heaven and hell. Heaven being the reward, hell being the punishment. But therein lies many problems:

- Why would a good god demand the loyalty of his creations, under threat of eternal damnation?
- Why would a good god demand loyalty but never reveal himself to so many of his creations?
- Why would a good god create people just to damn a shitload of them to hell?

And all the while, God has created a world chock full of suffering and pain, an imperfect world, created by a supposedly perfect creator.

Even if you acknowledge the existence of God, why would you want to worship a god like this?

I have my answer, but I'd like to hear other thoughts first.


"Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other." - John Calvin

God's goodness demands that he be knowable - if his goodness cannot be seen, then what use is it? Morality is a concept of movement, of action. That which does not move cannot be moral. That which has no will, cannot be moral. Indeed, morality can be applied only to creatures of choice. If God is good, that means he is choosing, he is acting, and he is acting out that goodness in an active way. If he is good, then that goodness can be known.

Where is that goodness?

My greatest vexation at this juncture is that the objectivity of goodness versus the subjectivity of experience. No person experiences everything in the same way, nor are the experiences we face exactly similar. This is, in essence, the problem of epistemology. Knowledge is not equal, nor is our understanding of that knowledge. Many philosophers have spent their whole lives seeking to find the solution to what knowledge really is, and Plato probably got about as far as anyone else might have hoped. His theory of "Justified True Beliefs" is what tends to dominate current thought, most visible in the realm of hard sciences.

Modern society has more or less reduced knowledge to facts - only that which can be proven and observed. Yet that does not match our reality. Very little of what we do in our daily life has much of anything to do with this kind of knowledge. We do not love our parents (insert loving relationship of your choice here) because of any knowledge we have gathered, and we do not know they love us. These are not objectively provable aspects of our reality, but that does not make them any less real. That knowledge is, in the end, is up to us.

The verb I'm hinting at here is faith. No, I am not saying that the answer to the question of "Is God good" is "If you have faith in him". That's a foolish and self-righteous answer with no reasonable justification. One rather famous Christian paraplegic, Joni Eareckson Tada, has shared letters from other Christians telling her that "If her faith was strong enough, she could walk again". Please do not interpret me in that way. What I mean here is more in line with something St. Augustine once wrote: Crede, ut intelligas - I believe, in order that I may understand.

Hebrews 11:1 - 1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
James 2:14-19 - 14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

Faith is not a rebellion against rationality. It is not the enemy of thought, nor the denial of experience. It's not sticking my fingers in my ears and humming a mantra. It's an action. It's a response. It is, I believe, the supreme way of understanding our world. When faced with the goodness of the world, I can only understand that goodness through faith. Goodness, Beauty and Truth lose all meaning without faith. They become nothing but shells of a concept, a mystical feeling that comes and goes. The more faith I hold, the more I experience these things within my life. No, it is not because God is rewarding me for being a good little boy - it's because they were already there. It doesn't make the presence of evil, corruption and falseness disappear, either - those are forces greater than myself, and to think I could stop them is foolish.

Goodness is not something we can find from an armchair. It will not jump out at us from the television, nor will it consume is as we play video games. If you wish to see the goodness of the world, then you must first believe it is there to be experienced.

As for heaven and hell?

If there is Goodness, there is Justice. In a world where evil exists, that evil must be brought to justice, if goodness is real. Unfortunately, I believe there to be a large amount of misinterpretation as to how this justice will be played out. I do not believe in a heaven of such mystical proportions, of streets made of gold. I do not believe in a hell of fire and flames; in fact, with the exception of Revelation (a book rife with bizarre metaphor and symbolism, fitting given the similar nature of Genesis), the Bible makes very little allusion to such a place. Jesus does indeed say the life comes only through him - and I cannot disagree. The only afterlife that makes sense to me is an afterlife with God. If, indeed, the problem with our reality is separation from God and disobedience towards him, the solution is union and obedience. If that is the reward, then the punishment could only be complete separation from God. Annihilation, oblivion, nothingness. If God is good, and he is just, then the punishment for failing to follow him will be just.

I cannot know the answers for what life lies beyond this one, or who will be where. Simply put, that doesn't matter. If God is good, and he does indeed love us, then I need not worry about the eternal fate of those who might never have heard of Jesus. Any implication otherwise - that God is most certainly damning billions to hell - is nothing but a self-righteous and pompous claim made to spawn guilt and fear. Yet, I do believe that our actions have eternal meaning, that what we do matters both in this life, and the next. Evil cannot happily coincide with good.

Faith in God's goodness resolves the anxiety of, well, his goodness. If he is good, then he will be good, and that is the truth of the matter. I can only understand myself. My fate is my responsibility, not anyone else's.

And the problem of pain?

I will be blunt and honest: I don't know. I don't understand how a good God could allow a father to rape his daughter in a cellar for 24 years. I don't understand how a good God could allow 15,000 people to die at the hands of a cyclone. I really do not understand why God would allow his creation to cause such incredible levels of malevolence against one another. I cannot see the reasoning behind it, I cannot understand it. It just doesn't make sense to me.

However, I am faced with terrific accuracy with which the Bible explains the problems of this world, and where they started. I cannot escape the truth of Jesus' message, nor can I ignore the power of that truth in my life and the lives of others. Faith does not make pain go away, and I despair over those that seem to believe it could. Faith is a response to truth. It is not a means by which we improve our lives, but a reaction to both the good and the bad of life.

Is God good?

I believe he is. I don't believe it every day - my faith is as imperfect as I am, and it truly is a constant struggle. Fortunately, God's goodness does not depend upon my faith. Rediscovering my faith is something I do quite often, and it usually does not take long before I'm faced with something awesome and terrible to behold, a truth which demands my response.
posted by MC Froehlich at with 1 Comments
absolutely not
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"Yeah, I was at a study center for philosophy, basically."
"Philosophy? I love philosophy. Just the other day, a couple guys were talking about string theory - man, that stuff is fascinating, all those dimensions and stuff? Really intrigues me."

Sometimes I get the feeling that people just don't want to know any more than they already do.
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about time
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A collection of American evangelicals have drafted what's being called an 'Evangelical Manifesto', condemning the divisive politics of faith among the Christian right and left.

"The declaration, scheduled to be released Wednesday in Washington, encourages Christians to be politically engaged and uphold teachings such as traditional marriage. But the drafters say evangelicals have often expressed "truth without love," helping create a backlash against religion during a "generation of culture warring."
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role models
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Some day, I hope to drag myself home.

When I get there, I want to be hunched over. I want my arms to move with a heaviness that treats the air is if it were water, yet bound by the full wrath of gravity. I want my shredded clothes to reveal the countless wounds I've sustained. I want my skin to be hidden behind layers of blood, of dirt, of burns, and of frostbite. I want my joints to wobble like I'm just learning to walk, and I want them to creak like rusty hinges, as a constant reminder of the miles I've put on them. I want to look at people as if I were unaware of their presence, as if I might walk straight through them. I want my eyes to speak determination, but my eyelids to blink in the slow, heavy manner that says I am on the cusp of a dream. I want to be at the point where I couldn't take another step, because my legs just wouldn't have the strength to put me that far. My journey will have gone exactly as far as it was meant to have taken me.

When I get there, I don't want anyone to speak. I want my appearance to speak more volumes my tongue could, and I want their curiosity to be satiated in the visual presentation of my journey, and I want them to draw their own thoughts and conclusions. I want them to understand, without being made to. I want there to be no mistake in their minds about the truth of what is presented before them.

Do you understand?
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