My home is not a place, it is people.

I tried to comment on this article directly but I am Blacklisted! Actually, it's probably not me but someone in my office - we're all on the same IP address. I mean why would anyone blacklist me? I'm as sweet as pie! Am I right? Hello? Anyone?

The Emperor of Ice Cream has written an article that I find wonderfully interesting and I thank him humbly for writing it. You can find it here: http://www.joeuser.com/index.asp?AID=147928

My response is as follows:

An amazingly insightful article. There are many of us who suffer in one way or another from the idea (to put it simplistically) that "something is wrong with Mother Culture". But how to describe this to the masses when it's a vague feeling at best that is difficult to put into words? I suspect that people who don't have this feeling probably won't "get" your article, which is not to say those people are stupid. On the contrary, I think they are lucky!

Anyone looking at my life from the outside would ask me "What the hell is your problem. You've got it all! What are you whining about"? Well obviously having the things I have are less important to me than having a life with some "meaning." Where does one find meaning when the purpose of our lives has been reduced to "buy house, get job, get married." That can't be all there is.

But wait, I'm getting sidetracked by my whining - again. My husband believes it's all about "pre-emptive death." One must die to themselves before they can take up the burden of living. I'm not going to be able to explain this correctly or eloquently, but perhaps you understand what I mean. Like this girl who needs to shuffle off her physical body before she can be in touch with the spiritual (the divine), each of us needs to have a death so we can stop worrying about death and get on with the business of living. Like people who have a near death experience and find their view on life altered forever.

I hope this makes some kind of sense. Thanks for the article.


Comments
on Mar 23, 2007
I like the phrase 'pre-emptive death'. If I understand you and your husband correctly, what you are talking about is 'death to the self'. That might be taken by some to mean suicide - it actually means the opposite, living a fuller life. And you're right: a life that consists of mortgage payments, the job, and all the rest of the dull gray round of life, is not much of a life at all. Death to the self means being able to free yourself of the tyrrany of desire. Too often it's been misunderstand as the death of desire - and so far as I'm aware the only thing that is completely without desire of any kind is a corpse.

Imagine there's something you want. Something you want to so bad it hurts when you think about it - and because you want it as badly as you do you think of it all the time. Now imagine this something you want is bad for you, possibly even very bad for you. Knowing how bad this something is makes no difference. You still want it and you still want it all the time. This is the tyrrany of desire, and all too often it prompts people to actions that ultimately destroy them. Think of the Evangelical Minister who recently was caught with his pants down in the company of a male prostitute. Up until that moment his wife and family, his congregation, would not have remotely suspected him of frequenting seedy motels in order to have homosexual sex and get stoned. Had you asked them, I'm certain they would have said he was the least likely man in the world to do such things.

Yet in his confession to his congregation he was reported as saying that there was a 'black, foul' part of his life with which he had struggled unsuccessfully for years. He was made subject to the tyrrany of his desire, and not all his faith could free him from it. And in that he confirms my own experience. Of all the useless deities there ever were, who yet managed through good PR to convince fools on earth to believe in it, the worst and most useless of them is that paltry figment of the imagination of a sunstruck, desert-dwelling tentmaker - known to the world as Jesus Christ the Son of God.

In all the years that I was a born-again hell-fire-and-brimstone street-preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ I never once witnessed or received a single here-and-now-real-world consequence for all my ardor and faith. Not once. And just like that hapless Evangelical, no matter how I prayed, and beseeched, and grovelled, my homosexuality was never taken from me. I was as much a subject to the tyrrany of that desire as he was. Unlike him, I freed myself, not from the desire itself, but from its control over me.

I died to it, by which I mean that I first realised it to be mine (not an attack of Satan, or witches, or any other of the bloody nonsense that was presented to me as a 'spiritual diagnosis' of my condition). There was no one involved in my wanting sex with another man but me.

Next, to borrow an expression of the Christians, I repented. Having realised the desire to be mine I refused to act on it; and I refused to let the flood of homosexual images that inundated me from the moment I recognised this desire as mine to deter me. There were days I repented 10, 50, or 100 times in a day. Until in the end I controlled my desire, rather than it controlling me. I used the same technique to 'cure' myself of panic attacks. Every time one of them occurred I told myself "this is a panic attack. Not a heart attack, not a seizure; a panic attack. And I'm the one who's panicking. So now I'm gong to stop."

To die to a thing you separate yourself from it. You recognise it as a part of you, accept it as a part of you, and refuse to be made its subject. You are Prince over your life, and no one else. Nothing rules you in this sense unless you want it to. And if you have to die a hundred times a day you die a hundred times a day until the desire that has you enslaved serves you instead of you serving it.

You other point has to do with meaning in life, and I'm afraid I can't do much to help you there. There has only ever been one meaning to my life and I take no credit for its discovery, since I have had faith in God since I drew my first breath, almost. My question has always been 'Who is God?' not 'Does God exist?' As I say, I take no credit for that. It seems as natural to me to have faith as it does to have air fill my lungs when I breathe in. Why should I question the existence of air?

However, if you go back through my other articles, I think you'll find that my God is not the God of many others, nor are Its ways their ways.

And I like that just fine.

I'm glad you found the article interesting.
on Mar 23, 2007

I will c/p it to Simon's thread if you don't mind

I don't mind, and thank you! I was pretty sure it wasn't me.

being able to free yourself of the tyrrany of desire

Now that is well-put, and yes is a factor in what I am talking about. You mention faith and God quite a bit, and to be honest those two things simply haven't had much of a place in my life and therefore don't enter in to my search for deeper meaning, or "freedom from the tyranny of desire." I was never deeply faithful, and I was never rabidly atheist. My particular quest has always been for "the meaning of life" which, if I understand it correctly, will always be a fruitless hunt. I think the generally accepted idea is that you create the meaning in your life, it isn't supposed to come from outside. I have not been very successful in creating this meaning for myself.

I had a lot more to say, but it's Friday evening and apparently I've lost the ability to think straight. I do appreciate your response to my comment, and as soon as my brain is working again (bottle of wine should do it) I'd like to respond to your comment with the attention it deserves.

on Mar 23, 2007
I hope this makes some kind of sense.


I know what you mean; I couldn't agree more.

I think the generally accepted idea is that you create the meaning in your life, it isn't supposed to come from outside. I have not been very successful in creating this meaning for myself.


That has always been a challenge for me as well. After years of reading and much navel-gazing on the subject, I came to the conclusion that the meaning to life is happiness. Yes, I can see you are all awe struck with the profundity of that insight. However knowing that isn't particularly useful unless you know what true happiness is and then how to make it apart of your life. Not a particularly easy task, at least for me anyway.
on Mar 25, 2007
To: Cordelia

Talking with Sabrina this morning I mentioned that the word 'Tyrant' originally designated, in Ancient Greece, a 'sole ruler' - one who ruled without the legitimacy of transferred power (they were often aristocrats who had seized power but whose rule benefited, and was acknowledged to benefit, the people).

"The word is neutral, has associations with wealth and power and can therefore be synonymous with expressions like basileus, 'king'. For example, the oldest known use of the word tyrannos is a fragment by the poet Archilochos describing king Gyges of Lydia (ruled 680-644)." WWW Link

Equally, in 27BC Julius Caesar was proclaimed by the Roman Senate as 'perpetual dictator', dictator being a legitimate political office. While the evil connotations of the word go back to the first 'democratic' thinkers of ancient Greece (who conceived of the tyrant as their anti-type) there is nothing in the word itself that implies that a 'tyrrany' is necessarily harmful.

To one extent or another we all experience the tyrrany of desire - and it's right and natural that we should because we learn who we are, at bottom, through what we desire and through the lengths we are prepared to go to in achieving that desire.

We are embodied beings, and embodied beings are desirous beings because the chief quality of the flesh is to make demands. Much of the philosophical/theological history of the West has to do with Christianity's demonizing of the flesh and its demands, leading to the division between body and spirit/mind. The intellectual/spiritual passions came to be thought of as naturally directed towards God, the 'lusts of the flesh' as naturally directed away from God. Christians seem to forget very readily that, even in their own dogmas, Jesus was regarded as both perfectly man and perfectly God at the same time.

My particular quest has always been for "the meaning of life" which, if I understand it correctly, will always be a fruitless hunt. I think the generally accepted idea is that you create the meaning in your life, it isn't supposed to come from outside. I have not been very successful in creating this meaning for myself.


Very few people are, which is why religion persists, much to the disgust of atheists. As I've said elsewhere, I have little sympathy for atheism, because I've never had cause to question the existence of God - though for many years I vehemently denied that existence as a kind of revenge for my condition. If the only way I could 'strike back' at God was through denial of Its existence, then deny It I would. And there have been many occasions when I have believed myself to have been abandoned by God (in the days before I came to the conclusion that no one is ever abandoned by God for the simple reason that God chooses not to make a direct connection to us, which therefore can't be 'abandoned' because it never existed in the first place, because God no more cares about us than we do about the fate of a virus).

To me it seems transparently obvious that God is, and is the author of all things. My question has always been 'what is the nature of God' not 'does God exist'. Of course God exists, in the way that a painter or sculptor exists in relation to a painting or sculpture.

If I've mentioned God and religion to a great extent in this discussion it's because my view of the world, and of the development of the West, is inseperable from my religious sensibility; and because the history of that development is inextricably bound up with the theology of the Roman Catholic Church and its development.

No one can find a meaning to your life except you. But to look exclusively within yourself for that meaning is self-defeating. Even to say "I need a meaning to my life" is to imply that that life is insufficient in itself to justify its own continued existence. That being so, to look exclusively to your own life for its meaning is to look toward something implicitly acknowledged to be incapable of supplying what's needed. Faith comes from within - but its object is always something greater than and different to its source.

on Mar 25, 2007
To: Abe Cubbage

After years of reading and much navel-gazing on the subject, I came to the conclusion that the meaning to life is happiness.


If that were so then most people would live and die without their lives having anything other than fleeting and intermittent meaning - because, as we all know, happiness doesn't last.

Happiness is an epi-phenomenon, an accidental event or process in the course of the dis-ease of life that has no necessary or fundamental connection to that life. If you wish to make happiness the meaning of your life then you have as you say to find 'true' happiness, the kind of happiness that doesn't retreat in the face of circumstance.

Does worshipping a God (or in my case an Angel) make me happy? Not in itself. In many ways it brings peace of mind, which is a source of happiness, but that too, if I let it, can be disturbed and even dissipated by circumstance. Personal happiness is, to me, too fleeting and too readily changed into its opposite, to be a stable source of meaning. Nor do I believe in a 'true' or unchangeable happiness, because the objects that seem to make people happy are in themselves constantly changing and liable to pass away: passionate love affairs that end in disdain, families that collapse, success that vanishes in an instant, wealth that is consumed and dissipated. There's nothing new under the sun, and nothing certain under heaven - except that one day we will all die.

And the question we all end up asking is - is the measure of meaning I have accepted for my life sufficient to let me travel to the unknown country from which none have returned (unless you believe as the Christians do) with a quiet mind, a mind at peace with itself? That, to me, is the truest test of any 'meaning' our lives may hold.
on Mar 25, 2007
"If you wish to make happiness the meaning of your life then you have as you say to find 'true' happiness, the kind of happiness that doesn't retreat in the face of circumstance".


I wouldn't advocate that a person strive for happiness as you just defined it, since it defies the human condition.

"Personal happiness is, to me, too fleeting and too readily changed into its opposite, to be a stable source of meaning."


Happiness isn't necessarily so fleeting; it's a state of mind that can be chosen under the most extreme of circumstances. As for a "stable source of meaning", what exactly constitutes that?

"Nor do I believe in a 'true' or unchangeable happiness, because the objects that seem to make people happy are in themselves constantly changing and liable to pass away: passionate love affairs that end in disdain, families that collapse, success that vanishes in an instant, wealth that is consumed and dissipated."


"True" happiness necessarily must be adaptable because our lives, and our perspective on it, is a never-ending process. Happiness doesn't come from the objects you mention, that is why people who look to them for happiness are inevitably disappointed.

"That, to me, is the truest test of any 'meaning' our lives may hold."


Agreed.
on Mar 25, 2007
"Of course God exists, in the way that a painter or sculptor exists in relation to a painting or sculpture."


I'm a bit surprised to see you making this argument. How do you defend it?

"No one can find a meaning to your life except you. But to look exclusively within yourself for that meaning is self-defeating. Even to say "I need a meaning to my life" is to imply that that life is insufficient in itself to justify its own continued existence. That being so, to look exclusively to your own life for its meaning is to look toward something implicitly acknowledged to be incapable of supplying what's needed. Faith comes from within - but its object is always something greater than and different to its source."


How is the object of faith different and greater than its source? It seems to me that human action and belief confirms that there is no separation.
on Mar 25, 2007
To: Abe Cubbage

I wouldn't advocate that a person strive for happiness as you just defined it, since it defies the human condition.


However knowing that isn't particularly useful unless you know what true happiness is and then how to make it apart of your life. Not a particularly easy task, at least for me anyway.


The latter statement strongly implies that you are doing what, in the former statement, you say 'defies the human condition'. Of course it defies the human condition: I said as much myself.

How is the object of faith different and greater than its source? It seems to me that human action and belief confirms that there is no separation.


Faith, even when directed toward the 'God within' is directed toward something greater than oneself (or it would not be faith in a God) and something Other than oneself - even the 'fragment of God' considered to be the God within is Other than the believer, in the sense that divinity, even while within the believer and of the believer, is considered to be a different form of consciousness - God-consciousness - Other than and greater than the consciousness which activates the believer on a day-to-day basis.
on Mar 25, 2007
To: Abe Cubbage

I'm a bit surprised to see you making this argument. How do you defend it?


How do I defend the statement that God exists? I don't. My days of proselytizing are long gone. How do I defend the statement that God is like an artist and that the creation, all of it, is a work of art (rather than a work of redemption or salvation)? 'Defense', here, seems to mean a 'proof'. I have no proof. To me the position simply seems a more coherent explanation for the appearance of both good and evil in the universe; an explanation that doesn't resort to the simplistic dualism of Christian eschatology.
on Mar 25, 2007
"How do I defend the statement that God exists?"


I wasn't asking for a defense of God, but of the argument. When I woke up this morning it occurred to me that you may not have been making an argument; you were describing your own internal rationalization. Now I see that the later was the case.

"The latter statement strongly implies that you are doing what, in the former statement, you say 'defies the human condition'. Of course it defies the human condition: I said as much myself."


There is no need to imply, since I have already stated that the type of happiness I'm advocating (and practicing) does not defy the human condition.
on Mar 26, 2007
I think there are two types of people, those who have to experience for themselves and those who can have things that happen to others hit home with them. I am the latter. I've never had to make the mistakes or experience the "pre-emptive" death myself to have the same effect.

I have also always looked at life as a series of deaths and rebirths. The creature you are as an infant is gone when you are born into toddlerhood, then that person gives way to the preschooler, and so on and so forth. I think a great deal of unhappiness comes from people mourning certain "lives" in their life instead of looking forward to the opportunities in the "lives" ahead.

I, for instance, truly think that one of the reasons I had a 3rd child at 36yrs old was that I wasn't ready to let the "new mommy" life go yet. I'm pretty sure I am ready to say goodbye now and move on to the "me" life. I am looking forward to a new phase where I have time for myself. My body (what's left of it) will be mine again. I won't mourn my previously lives, I will look back fondly but not mourn. Mourning is where the unhappiness lives.
on Apr 19, 2007
On the other hand, I am tempted to laugh you to scorn


Laugh away. I will take you to task any day on who knows true happiness between the two of us.

ll your husband to fix JU so I don't have to sign in twice.


I don't tell my husband to do anything. Report your problems to tech support please.
on Apr 19, 2007
I appreciate that LW. I guess I'm just feeling particularly sassy today. Ashley slept through the night last night, 12:30-7Am, so I am feeling like I can take on the world today.

I did mention it to Brad. Just please understand that this site is pretty low on priority since Brad and Co. are swamped with work that pays the bills right now. I will do what I can to try to influence change though.
on Apr 19, 2007
(With apologies to Cordelia for the mini-hijack.)


ditto on that.
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