April 30, 2010

Parting Thoughts

No, I'm not planning on going anywhere. But I've been thinking about my final moments. Don't worry, I'm not going to get morbid on you. It's just that since my father died almost fifteen months ago, I've thought more about such things.

I don't want my last words to be something hurtful shouted in anger, even if the recipient richly deserved them. Nor do I want them to be something inane, like, "I, uh...huh...what?" It's unlikely that my last words will be from the stupidity hall of fame, such as, "I bet this will be a world's record!" Of course, there's not much point in going around worrying about it; whatever happens, happens. The best I can do in that regard is to simply watch my speech and ask for God's help in that regard.

Just as a side note, the last words of atheists are often full of fear. No, not all of them. It's just that there is quite a contrast with the last words of Christians. I'm not trying to prove a case here, but it's something to think about.

For my last actions, I've fantasized about being a hero and sacrificing my own life to save others. Unlikely, I know. I don't want my final act to be having a heart attack doing something shameful in a Polynesian massage parlor and then people I cared about would have to deal with it. Also highly unlikely. Again, I don't want it to be something stupid, like forgetting to check before I cross the street and get nailed by a bus. No, I'll just go about my business, doing what I do and trying to do my best.

Since I'm active on the Internet, I think about my last post. It will probably be something inconsequential. However, I have stated some thing in no uncertain terms about the truth. In fact, I have thought, "If that was the last thing I posted, I would be pleased about it", because it will probably be there for a while. Nothing is online forever, but I can hope that the good things that I have written, things that would please God, will be around for a long time and possibly minister to others. "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10.9, NIV) Well, I have made my beliefs known several times — and just did so again.

My main point is that I have to live according to my beliefs so I can please God as well as be a good friend and partner to others.

April 28, 2010

Time Wasters: Arguing

Buon giorno. I like an argument as well as the next guy. No, not the kind that we have now, with put-downs, contradictions and vindictiveness. The kind I like is the "classical" argument, with presenting positions, proofs, rebuttals and the like in a structured environment. These are stimulating and have intellectual value.

It is indeed unfortunate that those have to be scheduled and do not happen spontaneously.

Modern arguments are a waste of time, especially in certain situations.
  • With the boss
  • With the police
  • With your spouse
  • With your children
  • With your spouse's children
And so on, and so on...

The worst argument is with Satan. That's right, you heard me, Poindexter! What, you think you've never argued with the devil? Well, when you know what is right and you talk yourself out of doing what is right, that is one place. Another is when someone is trying to convince you to do something that you know is wrong when you already know what is right.

In Perelandra, by C.S. "Jack" Lewis, a woman is being told to go against an edict. The man that is trying to get her to go against her instructions is badgering her on and on. She's engaging in the discussion instead of ending it. That's how you lose arguments! I have seen people lose to their children and to Satan (sometimes, it's both in the same body, capice?) because they keep the discussion going.

"What happens when you keep going, Uncle Bob?"

Glad you asked.
  • Your resistance is worn down
  • You get confused
  • Your opponent gains time to think up more arguments
  • You lose sight of your original purpose
  • You forget that the whole thing should be simplified, you need to stick to your principles and obey your conscience (God's leading)
In other words, when you're trying to do the right thing, do it! Don't discuss, rationalize, make excuses or whatever. You know that's right, so do it! Don't prolong the discussion with useless arguments. Stick to your values and do what is right.

April 27, 2010

Spiritual Minimalism

First, I have to tell you where this Weblog is going overall.

I do not know.

The primary purpose is to be multi-faceted with an occasional emphasis on political matters. I will not specialize in those (or in other things) because I believe that it would get boring to both you and to me.

Regular readers may have noticed that there have been some changes in my subject matter and writing style. That is because there have been changes in my life, and I am returning to my Christian roots. A renewal, so to speak. Some things must be changed, others given up, still others need to be brought into my life, or at least, given more priority. Nobody should expect me to be a shining example of saintliness because I still have a long, long way to go.

Also, I am making up for some lost time, getting good Bible teaching and letting the political input wait for a while. It won't be forever, but I do not feel that I should be making time for that. People who read my articles for political content, do not despair because it will return. I just do not know when, capice?

What does that have to do with "Spiritual Minimalism", Cowboy Bob?

It is a very natural tie-in. I've been exploring Minimalism as a philosophy, but will not be able to become a real Minimalist in the traditional sense. Instead, I am reducing the clutter and the unnecessary things that I have accumulated over the years in what feels like lifetimes; I was a different man when I owned this, another man when I studied that, yet another when I was into...

Opening up boxes or seriously looking at things on shelves naturally brings back memories and some of the desires that I had. I had to "get real" with myself and admit that things are doing me no good being in boxes, and I will not live long enough to read all of the books that I accumulated. Much of this was the desire for knowledge that will always be with me. Nevertheless, I managed to give several boxes of books away to the local library.

I will have to find homes for other things as well.

Some people caution me about getting rid of things, that they "might be valuable". That is part of the reason I have had problems, because of "potential resale value". Too much trouble, especially if something is questionable. Hanging on to sentimental things? They have been in boxes for years, so obviously, they are not that important to me (thank you Peter Walsh for that insight).

This is all a part of reducing the clutter for both me and for a Minimalist. It takes honesty and introspection. The essence of Minimalism is to cut down on the clutter because it takes away from y0ur time, costs you money, takes up space, draws your affection so that you love stuff instead of people and relationships. In and of itself, this process is somewhat spiritual.

It becomes more spiritual when you make a commitment to Jesus. Yes, I did use the "J" word! People are afraid that if they become serious Christians, that they will have to "give up" the things that they like. Perhaps that is so, but also, some of the things that are given up are done out of habit and not because they honestly give pleasure. Giving up things, cutting away the nonsense that is unnecessary or even harmful, will make room in your spirit for better things to take up "space".

Let me give you some more from my own experiences. Books that I gave away were from failed attempts at expertise, and that just makes sense. Other books were occult, and I am destroying those because I do not want other people to be diverted from the truth. For this reason, I also destroyed my Tarot cards.

Getting rid of the spiritual "clutter" that distracts you from spiritual truth and things that you should be doing gives clarity of mind and peace in the spirit. At least, that is what is happening with me lately. Physical Minimalism is a great illustration for spiritual Minimalism. I recommend cutting away the things that weigh you down and getting in line with where God wants you to be.

April 26, 2010

Invalid Comparisons

Neil's place of employment has been a source of articles for me on what is wrong with Big Corporate America. Mind you, I have nothing against big corporations or the rich, because poor people cannot provide jobs. I object to arrogance and stupidity in high places, however. The very rich and the very powerful tend to get arrogant and act stupidly. It's almost humorous, except that they hurt people and tell them that they are helping them.

In this case, Neil's huge employer had a presentation for the employees. (You know, the "human capital" that gets used up and then discarded.) There was a list of the benefits that are given. In order to pad the list and make themselves into heroes, the bosses listed "benefits" that are required by law in the first place, and also benefits that are given by practically any sizable employer (such as having Christmas off). In other words, Neil wanted to ask (but did not dare), "So what are you doing that's different? What makes you such a special employer?"

One thing that they dwelt on was their health insurance. (Neil doesn't take it because it's crap, and it is better for him to get insurance from his wife's employer.) They compared themselves to other businesses of a similar size and nature. What they did not do that I can see are actually asking their employees what they think of the insurance, and also check to see what other companies (especially the ones that are rated as "best places to work") are offering their employees. No, it was a mutual congratulation festival.

I had a couple of Bible verses come to mind that fit very well here.

"Are you going to give us a lesson from the Good Book every day now, Cowboy Bob?"

Nope. People don't come here for sermons, so I'm not going to do much of that kind of preaching. At any rate, this is very relevant.

Anyway. 2 Corinthians 10.12 (NIV) says, "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." That means if people are comparing themselves with each other, they can look good. But if they compare themselves to a higher standard, they look foolish.

For instance, some of my guys here were comparing themselves to each other while lifting weights. Yeah, they're all pretty strong. And then someone came in who can do serious weightlifting. Once he started with his amazing feats, my crew clammed up and found something else to do because they saw that they had nothing in the presence of someone better.

Here's another one: In Galatians 6.4-5 (NIV), we read, "Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load." In this case, someone is comparing his work to a higher standard.

My advice to Neil's employer is to do some serious re-evaluation instead of self congratulation. Compare yourselves to a higher standard instead of to similar employers, and you'll see where you come up lacking. Also, get some input from the people you depend on to do the work!

My advice to people is similar: Before you get smug and proud of yourself, compare your work or accomplishments to a higher, true standard. After all, there really is "always room for improvement".

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