R. Justin Shepherd | PART-TIME PUNDIT


Systems Contingency
17.August.2007, 11.10 am
Filed under: faith, marriage, Uncategorized, work

My Mac has had these features for three years now.I’m a Mac person. So are a lot of my friends, colleagues and readers. Generally, I like Mac’s programs (iPhoto, Mail, etc.) and the simple, intuitive nature in which they work. I use Mac’s Safari browser for most of my Webbing, and it generally keeps me happy. However, for some reason it just doesn’t know how to deal with my blog posting—video links, for instance, never work if I compose my blog entry in Safari, though there are at least five other problems I’ve run into.

So I use Firefox to post (I’m using it now), and it generally does what I want it to do.

Now Shelley is a PC person, and in fact we just bought a new Compaq laptop for her, and it’s running Windows Vista. Of course, it comes setup with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which I’ve always found to be the worst browser on the planet. But the new look of Vista—along with all the Safari features that the Big M has ripped off—reassured me, and I didn’t install anything else.

So, I arrived at home yesterday to find Shelley irritated over her attempt at blog posting—via Internet Explorer—on the family blog; basically, the formatting of the pictures and text wasn’t coming out anything like the preview. I immediately said, “Let’s download Firefox,” and she, frustrated, said, “Well, we’ll do it when I’m done, but I’m gonna fix this now because if people look at the blog I don’t want it to be all jacked up.” So I went ahead and fixed my lunch, while she continued to post, evaluate, edit, repost, and so on, adding minimal hard returns and such to try to get the alignment corrected.

It was at this point that I wondered, “How can we possibly be so different?”

In my mind, it would’ve made more sense to stop editing and just download and install Firefox—a task that later took me less than 3 minutes—and then use Firefox to edit the blog. What was the likelihood that anyone was going to look at the blog during that 3 or 5 minutes of bad alignment, whilst Firefox was being installed? Virtually none, I think.

All this to say: Other people are often the biggest stumbling block to my faith. I have no doubt whatsoever of a creator; I know enough about the history and origins of the Bible to trust it. But every time I deal with someone (anyone) who acts in a way that’s incomprehensible to me, I have the strong urge to turn individualistically new-age: Is all this a dream, and I’m the only real person? Is it some sort of cosmic challenge, in which I’m tested on my dealings with people whose entire way of thinking is (to my mind) broken? The difference in thought I’ve mentioned may not seem significant… but what about the many employees I’ve had, to whom it hasn’t occurred to change a light bulb if it burns out? The reporters who don’t understand why “The festival included many activities, like ring toss, face-painting, etc.” gives the impression that the festival didn’t actually include those activities? The Dairy Queen employee who wouldn’t make my wife a Mocha Chip Blizzard® because it wasn’t on the menu, despite the fact that they had all the ingredients?

I have a hard time believing these people are real in the sense that I’m real. I can understand differences of opinion on politics, religion, art, music, etc. But I really can’t fathom that so many people would operate in such senseless ways. It causes me a lot of grief, really, and a lot of wondering what God is up to, exactly. Were I to meet him, maybe I’d get the same vibe from him.

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3 Comments so far
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Beware of gnosticism. and the Cartesian Coordinate System. Both are as old as sin, because they ARE sin!

Comment by Derek

Good post, btw.

On a more serious note, looking back to high school, I’m pretty sure that Rene Descartes was the first philosopher I ever read. In his “Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy,” he toys with a very similar idea to what you’ve imagined here in your blog: that you are truly alone and every other person, animal, object in the world you see is merely a figment of your imagination, or at least of someone else’s imagination who is “testing” you. As a high schooler reading this, it had a profound effect on me, and for years afterwards I would lapse into this understanding whenever I would see people as ephemerally as someone passing on the street or driving by on the interstate. I thought to myself, “That person doesn’t exist. I invented him.”

But unless we want to believe that God is a Grand Trickster, we have to reject this concept as wholly egomaniacal, and perhaps even as a form of escapism in which we want to rationalize away the frustrations we encounter in daily interaction. Hence my facetious mention of the Cartesian Coodinate System, which obviously I don’t think is Sin or sinful, but since it originated from the same man who was bold enough to think for a time he was the only human existence, I figured I’d joke it up a bit.

The reference to gnosticism wasn’t a joke. Gnosticism is something we learn about in bible classes and tend to think died out in the early centuries of the modern era. But this isn’t true. While very few people would claim themselves as Gnostics, I think Gnosticism has won a much deeper battle for survival in that it has infiltrated our present understandings of life and faith. While not exactly the same, Intellectualism I think is a derivative of Gnosticism, in that we quietly believe that those who don’t “get it” as we do must be doing something wrong or not loving God in the right way. This is a very dangerous mode of thought, for we silently (sometimes w/o realizing it) begin to siphon out the goats from the sheep based by the standards of our own intellect, logic, common sense, what have you. But this is not the mind of Christ, which accepts and embraces people for who they are because Christ does just the same, regardless of how repugnant their sin or stupidity may be.

I’m not really sure what you mean by getting “the same vibe” from God. The same vibe as…? As from the people you feel aren’t as real as you? Or the same vibe you feel in the form of grief, anxiety, etc.? “Were” you to meet him sounds very much like you never expect to. Only I believe when we do meet God, then questions will no longer needed to be asked, for though “now we know in part, then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known.”

Comment by Derek

Yeah, obv. I don’t really hold to what I’m saying. To be clearer: I don’t actually believe it, though I do feel it often enough.

Isn’t it interesting how our feelings will overcome our intellect? It’s true in matters both virtuous and vile… Despite my knowing the homeless man will likely use my dollar for ill, I give it to him nonetheless… and despite my seeing a dollar fall out of some man’s pocket a few steps ahead, I just pocket it and walk off, though I know I shouldn’t. Basically what I’m getting at is that our instincts have a lot more sway than we think.

My own adolescent conviction was that a man lives his life over and over again until he gets it all “right”… I’ve always suffered an extreme amount of deja vu, at least weekly going through something I’m sure I’ve lived before. I don’t actually believe that I’ve lived it before, but I sure do feel it, and such strong feelings can overwhelm mere beliefs quite easily.

The comment on God and a vibe was meant to mean: God probably looks at me, wondering how in the world I come to the conclusions I do, the actions I take, etc. I feel sure of it. Granted, he knows my heart more than I. But I wonder if even he isn’t surprised at some of the things we do.

Comment by rjustin




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