Sunday, May 22, 2011


Been really busy.  Sorry for the lack of posts.

So, Captain America continues on his ever-raging battle against the Evil Enzo.  By trying to take my kids away - by trying to be substitute Daddy. 

So, this time of year my kids have a lot of field-trips and stuff from school.  Because I work and she really doesn't, the Ex would go on most of these in previous years.  I was OK with that, because I work for my family, and going to work is part of me expressing my love for them.  OK.  Well, so a couple of weeks ago she informed me of one my son had.  I probably couldn't get out to do it, since it was all day.  I didn't hear another word about it.  Come to find out that she didn't go, either, or just send him with another parent.  Nope, she called Captain America to take him. 


Then, this past week when I had my kids they were both acting kind of uncomfortable and I asked them about it and they said that he's over there almost every day and it is making them uncomfortable.  The ex even has him be the one who tucks them into bed and gives them their good-night kiss.  Which is so totally beyond any and all aspects of appropriate that it boggles the mind.  No, not that she would have someone else do that job - she was always too lazy and too busy with facebook to bother doing much of anything.  But that he would do it is surprising. 

So, yeah, I'm dealing with that. But life is just that special.

So, my friend who was once my girlfriend that I talked about in the previous post and I talked last night about religion.  So, OK, her mom was a nut-case, and the way she pushed religion on her daughter really messed her up - and, not surprisingly, part of her reaction as an adult was to reject pretty much everything religious.  But she knows I care a whole, whole lot about my faith.  We were talking about that when she mentioned that, in discussing me with her similarly-non-religious husband his comment was, "He's, like, genius-level smart and very educated.  Why does he still believe that stuff?"

Don't worry, the questions were asked to me in a very respectful fashion.

Still, is there a more important question to be able to answer?

I won't give you the entire answer here, because we talked for a long time, but in discussing part of it I had some interesting thought that I thought I'd share.

So, there have been a LOT of extraordinarily intelligent people in history who have also been very deeply religious.  Three of the people I consider in the top 5 most intelligent people in history - Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Sir Isaac Newton - were all very Christian.  So, being a person of faith puts you in good company when it comes to intelligence.

Of course, when you say that a lot of people today would say, "Yeah, but they lived way back then.  Today, we know so much more..." 

But do we really?  I'm an engineer.  I work on some of the most bleeding-edge tech there is.  I also study history.  And I truly think we've lost a LOT more over the last few centuries than we have gained.

I mean, sure, we can hop in a car and drive to a grocery store for twinkies.  Yay, technology.  Yah, convenience and luxury.  But all the electric lights and airplanes and nuclear weapons in the world don't make us, as a society, any closer to actually appreciating truth than our forefathers.  In fact, if we look objectively at our culture, I think we are far, far, far less able to recognize much of anything as True and Beautiful.

The church I attend still does all it's readings and prayers in 17th century King James English.  Beautiful language.  The language of Shakespeare.  To many today it just sounds old fashioned and stupid and it become nearly incomprehensible.  But actually study the language - it is a LOT more sophisticated a language than what we speak today.  In comparison to it, 21st century English has devolved almost back to mere grunts.  We are losing the ability to speak, or at least to speak with any sort of complexity or nuance.  The language itself is collapsing.  Orwell said that if you don't have a word for a concept you can't think of that concept.  What about when the entire structure of the language makes it impossible to form certain thoughts?

Truth and Beauty.  We live in a cultural wasteland.  Has there been anything really worth reading written in the last 100 years?  Has the English language known any true poets in the last 200?  Have there been any real and true artists?  My ex loves old movies - "Singing in the Rain" is both her favorite and Captain America's, too - and the other day my daughter asked me what my favorite old movie was.  I thought about it and said, "I don't have one."  The question assumes that there are films deserving of becoming "classics" and to be remembered, and I simply don't consider film to be an art form at all.  Sure, it can be entertaining, but entertainment isn't art.  Art is about a connection with Truth and Beauty - and it is art that is worthy of being remembered. 

And don't get me started on music.  Bach vs Ke$ha.  Any questions?

We live in a cultural wasteland.  We consider Shakespeare extremely high art - and I certainly do, too, because I absolutely love the Bard and his works - but in his day his plays were considered crass entertainment for the masses.  Same plays.  The difference?  Their society still had and recognized true art.  We have nothing.  So, what was low art for them is high art for us - because WE have devolved. 

But most importantly to this conversation is philosophy.  To us, philosophy is something kids who don't want to actually put out any effort in college study.  It's only for the most useless of academics.  Too bad, because philosophy is important because it governs how you think.  Not that people don't have philosophy - we still think - but people aren't aware of it as a discipline, and so their thoughts are disordered and contradictory and meaningless and they don't even know it. 

Even the most educated and important among us suffer this.  After all, science is, itself, governed by a philosophy - a philosophical system that combines rationality with empiricalism.  Read Karl Popper some time and you'll see how deep and complex the philosophy of science is.  Yet, most of our present-day scientists not only don't actually KNOW the philosophy behind their own discipline of thought, the very thought that there IS a philosophy behind it would be a foreign and probably offensive idea.  Yet it is.  This disconnection between the experts in a field and the philosophical underpinnings of that field are largely responsible for most of the nonsense that gets passed around today in the name of "science." 

So, all this to say, when those of the present day dismiss the faith and knowledge of extraordinarily intelligent people from the past as just superstition, they are arrogantly assuming that because we have more technology then they did that we know ALL things better than them.  But being able to build machines doesn't correlate to actual knowledge of the truth.  Deep and real increases in the knowledge of how the physical world works does not imply real actual increases in the ability to discern what it means.  Our forefathers knew a LOT more about that.  Their culture produced works of great art simply because they were more in tune with Truth and Beauty.  They knew philosophy because they knew it was important to know HOW to think before you try to think - or at least before you claim that you know better than anyone else.  No wonder our language is devolving, and removing even the ability to express nuanced and careful thoughts.  No one has used those facets of the English language in centuries. 

So, no,  I think we very much can listen to the wisdom of the intellectual greats of the past.  Our world may have things theirs did not, but theirs had a lot that ours does not - and what we've lost is, at least as relates to this question, far more important than what we've gained.


  1. I have a quote from Francis Bacon hanging on my study wall -

    "A little knowledge inclineth men's minds to atheism, but depth of understanding bringeth them around to religion."

    So the 'New Atheist' types of our day are really just shallow, however 'Bright' they count themselves as being. . .

    As re Newton, his Christianity was really more Arian than orthodox, but his thinking was certainly shaped by Christ and Christianity, however poorly conceived. . .

    And I've always been told that the King James was intentionally written in 'popular-level' English of its day, and not in what was considered 'exalted' language, so as to keep it accessible to 'common people and shoemakers'. . .

  2. Have you ever read CS Lewis' essay 'On the Reading of Old Books'? I'm guessing you'd like it a lot (I first encountered it as a preface to an edition of St. Athanasius On the Incarnation. . .

    And as to CA and your kids. . . I suspect it'll have a fairly limited shelf life. Most guys have a pretty limited tolerance for looking after Someone Else's Kids. . .

  3. While I appreciate what you are getting at here, I'll have to respectfully disagree with... Well, with the whole bulk of your post (apart from the beginning and the end, I suppose -- the stuff about CAPTAIN AMERICA! with your kids is pretty heartbreaking).

    I'm not even sure where to start. Shall we discuss art and poetry? The KJV of the Bible? Or the original classical Hebrew language, which only had a tiny fraction of the number of words that our English language of today?

    I get what you are saying. But I think there are countless things of today worth my attention. Authors that have made me stop and think and question my world view. Musicians that have moved me to tears. Filmmakers that have used gifts and talents to make me laugh or sit in awe at their talents. Art that I, personally, see all around me. I don't see the same cultural wasteland that you do (except maybe K$sha -- I'll give you that one).

    As for philosophy, I can at least sympathize with anyone that studied it in college and then tried to find a job -- I have a liberal arts degree myself. :-)