OK, That title was the bait, now time for the switch.
I decided to try something a little different with the way I discuss things and wrote this monologue as I thought it up. As with any free writing exercise, I started typing and didn’t stop until I was done; essentially producing a stream of consciousness diatribe. It’s guaranteed more invigorating than a nice cup of tea (once you’re down to just the leaves)! Anyway, I didn’t change any words since finishing. I only added punctuation, edited spelling, etc., and inserted links for your browsing enjoyment.
The government is a paradox. It’s meant to rule over worldly mundane matters and so a government by its very definition is secular, yet it is through this tool that we are able to do God’s work. Consider what Hobbes said about life, that without government life would be nasty, brutish, and short
. The government is the result of a community banding together to rule over earthly matters together for the benefit of all. Because the presence of a government coordinates things, brings about order, and stuff like that our lifespans increase. There is more safety, in theory, and we can better reach out to those around us to do God’s work. When a well-maintained government is in place, our lifespans increase and when we are older, we are wiser. When we’re wiser, we can better advise those younger than us on how to live a proper life. When we are old we have both experience and authority, and the older we are the more experience we have. By creating a government to rule over worldly matters, we are assisting spiritual matters. When you have the stability that comes from a governed society you have innovation. The Romans had the aqueducts and the Arabians had glass work. Throughout human history the needle is always moving up. First there were the roads, and then there was travel by horses, and then there was steam communication, and then there was the telegram, and then there was the telephone, and then the computer and then the internet, and then the World Wide Web. All these thousands of years have led us slowly, yet surely, forward toward all the benefits that we have now. Thanks to the existence of the Web, we can now disseminate information globally. Anyone who can read and has access to a computer with a dial-up connection can read the Bible. There are more Christians alive today than there have been throughout the last two thousand years combined.
This would not have been possible without us dwelling on earthly affairs and keeping ourselves safe from those who would harm us, and, as Hammurabi said
, to create a rule of righteousness in the land, so that the strong should not harm the weak. But in order to do this, we have to have that enforcement, provided by our militia, and the military. Herein lies another contradiction, for in keeping a well-regulated militia we must take up arms against our neighbors when they threaten our safety. Jesus said
“Do not resist an evil man. If any man striketh thee upon the right cheek, turn to him the other.” To support the military is to support those who fight in order to protect our freedoms out of their own goodwill and selflessness, yet it also means that we are to support those who would take another person’s life without a second thought. And are we to protect our families by subduing those who threaten their life and limb, yet in the same breath proclaim that life is an inalienable right? It is a paradox that we should consider it necessary to protect ourselves with firearms, yet preach against violence. Yet if it were not for the willingness to take up arms against threats, then we would not be allowed the freedom to do so if we chose. If the Libyan people
had not drawn their guns, they would still be under the oppressive rule of Qaddafi. Thus—at least it seems so—we must sacrifice a part of our spiritual purity in order to ensure the continued enjoyment of the freedoms that God gave to all men and that governments are charged with preserving
So peace is also a paradox, for the threat or execution of violence is what preserves peace. The philosopher Aristotle said
“We make war so that we can have peace.” Vegetius said
“Si vis pacem, para bellum.” Thousands of years later George Washington
echoed these sentiments by saying “Being prepared for war is the most effective way to ensure peace.” The peace of God surpasses all, but the peace of Earth is fragile and subject to the most transient of temperaments. In order to maintain the peace of Earth, we must maintain the elements of war. To keep something earthly, we must exercise something else earthly. It’s like, if you tell a lie, you have to tell more lies to maintain it. If you want something earthly, you have to keep being earthly to maintain it.
But if it were not for looking toward earthly things, we would not have the luxury of taking care of spiritual things. Buddha said
“To keep the body healthy is a duty, otherwise we cannot keep our minds strong and clear.” If not for sweating inside a stuffy building during the summer, the US’s founding fathers would not have written the constitution that properly limits the government’s power, keeping us safe from tyranny. In a manner of speaking, the government is like the body, which must be taken care of with the fruits of the earth before the spirit can have time to flourish. If the government continues to exist the needle will continue to move up. We will continue to live longer, God’s word will continue to spread and be taught (provided we don’t let such a freedom be denied us), and the general quality of life, that thing most conducive to comfortable invention, will rise.
But why should the standard of living go up? We are too rich. We have every physical need taken care of
and we want for nothing. We are lazy, practically useless, and entitled. If you do not have a car today, you are considered below the curve. If you do not have a washer and dryer you are poor. If you do not have a refrigerator, your dietary options are severely limited. But there’s the thing. If not for the invention of the refrigerator, many people would have died of food poisoning in the last century. If not for modern technology, non-perishables such as canned foods and packaged dry foods would not be an option. If not for non-perishables, truly poor persons would surely starve to death. And this brings us full-circle. If not for the success of a worldly, concerned-with-matters-of-the-physical society, we would not be able to feed the hungry. And it is impossible to think that God or nature should want for the hungry to be unfed just because the idea of government is inherently ungodly. The farmer who has his hands down in the muck and mud provides food for others, and in providing a necessary service he does good in God’s eyes. And the capitalist, by ensuring that everyone is able to afford their necessary food, does just as much good.
But as I was saying firstly in the last paragraph, the innovations of society force us to be rich. In some cities you can live without a car, sure. But in most places you can’t. And heaven forbid that you choose to not have a house. There’s a guy who lives in a cave
and he seems happy, but that is almost unheard of in this day and age. Why is it that, in order to function, you have to have luxuries? Basically what I’m trying to say is that it’s hard to be focused on spiritual matters and improve yourself on the inside when an entire commercial society is shouting at you to improve your outside. The government, being made up of the people, responds in turn by setting minimum standards of poverty and digitizing everything. It can be sickening, tiring, to live day in and day out in a society that was built on the back of greed, while simultaneously feeling defeated because you realize that if not for such greed, you would probably be coughing up your lungs and dying in a gutter somewhere. And then what use could you be to anyone? How could you do God’s work—or indeed, anyone’s work, when you are a victim of a poor, wretched civilization?
We have the printing press because of a safe society that was protected by knights from bands of roving robbers. But does that mean we should all be a part of that society? Surely there must be some way that any one of us can reject the worldly matters and leave them to someone else. After all, if only one per cent of us choose to be vagrants like Jesus was, traveling and preaching the word and doing good while caring not for matters of the worldly or of the government, could not the other 99 per cent handle that stress? I’m just wondering that to myself. I don’t think it would work because it’s unheard of, just like that fellow in the cave, and society wouldn’t know how to deal with it. I mean, if you have a disability there’s paperwork and accommodations to be made and it’s all ready because having a disability is not unheard of and society has a whole infrastructure set up to accommodate you. But to live outside of normal society and to care not for worldly matters? That is unheard of. How would society welcome you? How would they be able to communicate with you if you don’t have a smart phone? Our entire modern society is built on memes of cats
. You can’t just ignore that and expect to get away with it.
So what to do?
-Join a convent and forget about the world outside. It doesn’t matter anyway.
-Kill everyone else. Just leave your car running until we all die of CO poisoning.
-Escape into a fantasy world inside your head.
-Make a fictional society where the government is not a paradox. Somehow.
-Go to the bottom of the ocean and build a new world called Rapture
-Go to Mars and start your own colony where all of your loyal subjects are cats.
Actually, that last one was perfect. Become the King of Martian Cats.
-Written January 17th, 2013
This rant, by the way, is a taste of what goes on in my brain, all day, every day. When I was waiting in line at McDonald’s once, my mom saw that I looked pensive and asked me what I was thinking about. While still staring off into space, I calmly answered “The effects of nanotechnology on child-rearing.” She wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. I can assure you that you do not want to be me. The voices! The philosophical, inquisitive voices! Make them stop! Always thinking and pondering and wondering and pie! Mmm, pie. Pie pie pie. Piiiieeee. Peanut butter bacon chocolate. Oh, yes! Gasp! Eureka! Chocolate peanut butter cheesecake! Surely a food so wonderful could not exist within the realm of man, could it? The very universe should be torn asunder by its awesomeness. This I must meditate upon.
Update, January 31st— After some additional thought, I have concluded that a good, although not perfect compromise is to have a government that only dwells on earthly matters as much as it should. Socrates once said that philosophers are closer to death than anyone else, because they focus on their minds and spirits, only taking care of their bodies because it is necessary; meanwhile, brutes focus on their bodies, filling themselves with wine and song and all other things at their whim, and shun spiritual pursuits such as the search for truth. A republic such as the US has a government modeled around the idea of freedom, which is a spiritual concern. Notice how almost everything having to do with the so-called “American Way” is intangible. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are all ideas. A socialist government such as the USSR, on the other hand, is centered entirely on material. Everyone has the same wealth. Everyone has the same property (that is to say, none). Everyone is allotted a loaf of bread and state-issued boots. Everyone receives the same free, low quality healthcare. It’s quite ironic that for all the Soviet talk of a greedy, capitalist America it is actually a socialist society that is terribly materialistic. I think it’s very telling that in focusing on intangible matters, a capitalistic society ends up having both liberty and bread. True equality comes from equal protection under the law and equal opportunity to succeed. Whether we choose to be greedy or not is up to us. Young persons tend to be more liberal because they are idealistic and think that providing equal measure of wealth will lead to prosperity (which is impossible) instead of poverty (which is invariably the result). As Cornel West said, “Too many young folk have addiction to superficial things and not enough conviction for substantial things like justice, truth, and love.” Plato warned against the young being involved in politics because they were idealistic and more vulnerable to the charms of charismatic dictators. That’s right. I went there. Please hold all impotent rage until the end of the ride. Moving on…
When decrying our bloated standard of living, it was rather naïve of me to suggest that the only two possibilities in life are a lavish, spoiled people; or starvation. We can all make the decision to have as much or as little as we can afford (or not afford). Actually, the more stuff we have, the less happy we are and the happier we are the longer we live, and right there is an example of how focusing less on the earthly will benefit you physically (in contrast to before where I said that focusing all on the earthly will help you out). That misapprehension can be attributed to my current immaturity. I’m only 22 years old–I still have much to learn. In essence, the less we choose to have, the better. The more we choose to give others (e.g. innovations, new technologies, apple pie) the better. In the end, the best situation is where we choose to live a dignified life of simple poverty, but are rich because of what others give us. I suppose a perfect world would be simultaneously capitalist and communist, but a perfect world would have no such terms for economics systems, nor would it have any government to regulate it. In reality, I can’t honestly say what is the best way to go. Maybe join a sect of monks in the Alps. I hear they’re beautiful this time of year. Actually, I’m really starting to like that King of Martian Cats idea.