July 06, 2011

Judging Not, Why Not, Why & So On...

Partly this is folk wisdom, something we intuitively recognize as the kind of balance we expect in a properly run universe. It's being presented in that light: "for whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt to you in return."

One way this was explained to me: When Adam and Eve made that bad decision in the Garden... There was no criminal intent; they'd been incapable of knowing what they were doing or understanding the consequences. What the problem was, as Raymond Smullyan put it: "The fruit in question was poisonous and the effects last many generations."

We see the effect in operation right away; Adam and Eve discover that they're naked; and they try to hide. The next symptom, when God asks about it, is that Adam puts the blame on "The woman You gave me" (& shouldn't God have been more careful whom He introduced to him?), while Eve in turn blames the snake. It was simply not possible... for anyone to live in that state of mind, without eventually turning the same attitude towards themselves. Death is not a punishment, then; it has become as necessary for us as sleep.

And then Jesus comes along. He says "Judge not," and means it non-judgementally. He is proclaiming a no-fault, harm-reduction universe, for anyone willing to live in such a place.

And we fight the idea! It undermines everything human beings stand for! It's not fair! We've never lived that way; and we don't know how!

What was going on in the last show you watched, the last story you read? The last news you read or watched? Was somebody being bad? I can be pretty confident that someone was. It's hardly entertainment at all, without somebody milking our indignation somehow!

Could we give up judging, if we really wanted to? When anyone meets someone new-- They generally want to know, "Is this person likely to bite? Can I be sure it isn't?" Some people can't make that kind of evaluation: to recognize all the kinds of people who might do them serious harm, whether from malice, indifference or ineptitude-- and that's not a condition to envy.

But does trying to make those evaluations-- make anyone safer? A friend of mine, in jail for civil disobedience, started talking to the other prisoners-- and told me, afterwards, "I'd always been afraid of the wrong people."

Jesus was continually talking with those wrong people, but came to grief from all the "right" people.

Many suburban rattlesnakes in California... have degenerate, vestigial rattles. People have been disproportionally killing the ones whose rattles worked properly. So far, overall, the human success rate at assuring our own safety has not been good.

I'm leaving it up to God. Yeah, if I hear people outside sounding angry enough, like somebody could get hurt, I'll call the police. And pray, for everyone involved. It's not like I think it's a functional system I'm calling in...


At 2:41 p.m., Blogger Random Arrow said...

Thanks for the note on Smullyan. On how intent and motive enters into the measure (Luke 6:38, ‘metron’).

This calls for my awareness of my intent and motives in judging. Considerable activity of the Holy Spirit is a prerequisite to get through my defenses here. Measures of mens rea in my motives ought make me pause and consider. How would I feel with malice coming after me?

How would an intuitive sense about a properly run planet look if the earth spun on an axis of unmeasured malice? – especially if I’m in charge of the spin? – with every increasing day and generation amplifying the non-comedic version of Measure for Measure of increasingly poisonous effects?

If death isn’t punishment in a world of unmeasured malice, then eternal life is – “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’"(Gen 3:22).

Death of sleep is mercy. A blessing. Eternal life, the curse. Until better times.

Yes. Entertainment milks indignation. Classic art milks indignation classically. Why not milk it right? – “Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! – and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!"

And down I go. My malice and whale in tow.

Jonah, vomited back up? - a merciful judgment on God’s part? – to let him live? – only for Jonah to go harpooning again at the gourd? – is God an approximation artist in such measured judgments?

Considering a jail story of my own. Need to think through a little confidentiality.

News to me on Californians victimizing the wrong snakes. Ones with properly working rattles. Do California- protected kangaroo rats know these differences?

True. The system is dysfunctional. Questionable at best. I need to refresh my recall on the argument (Gigerenzer ca. 1996?) that the environments of hunter-gatherer populations yielded information about poisonous and non-poisonous foodstuffs to humanoids in rather statistical presentations - if intuitive. There are bound to be errors.

You can leave it up to God. Not me. I’m playing god for awhile on the foodstuffs of Greenspan’s poison virtue ethic statistics of rational self-interest. I’m feeling strangely Melvillian thinking on Greenspan. Sort of a tingling sensation.

Maybe I ought take measure of my malice and join you in prayer? – is that enough?

At 4:22 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

If the true laws of the universe are more literary than quantitative... this riff ought to conjure up something; I'm not sure what as yet.

Rattlesnakes presumably don't consult game wardens. What they do notice are ground squirrels... (This is actually relevant while we're considering prophets...) The snake hunts by being quiet and waiting for something small, warm and tasty to dash by. Young ground squirrels would be just the thing, except that older squirrels tend to be immune to the poisons of local snakes, good at evading their strikes-- and contentious about territory. When a snake moves into an area heavily populated by ground squirrels, as I have it, an older ground squirrel will start following him around, continually yelling bad words in squirrelese, so that the snake can't get any privacy. No one comes by for dinner; so the snake goes off looking for someplace where there's less chatter.

Disfunctional systems. Back when I was doing a local street paper, the police shot a crazy homeless guy to death, right across the street from where the Ecumenical Council had met for lunch, where several of them witnessed the incident and got righteously pissed! He'd been waving a palm branch, hit a local resident, made the cops nervous. Similar incidents happen way too often, usually without the benefit of clergy, and I was finding out about them. Most of the cops I actually met were well-intentioned, and more inclined to talk than shoot; but I know how wrong things can go if the wrong one shows up in the wrong mood.

"Intuition." The brain has various possible settings. Some are optimal for accounting, selling things on loan to people who can't afford them, carrying on an eat sleep drink screw eat sleep etc existence without thinking about it too much. And some are better for emergency use. If your hunter-gatherer band starts getting short of food, having to fast a little: You start to get a little stoned, a little more alert to small details, larger patterns, dreams, etc. Lack of sleep can do it. [Edison is supposed to have occasionally practiced a twilight sort of consciousness, sitting with a handful of ball bearings held over a bucket, so that whenever he relaxed into actual sleep he'd drop them and wake up again.] Some psychoactive drugs, plants etc affect the same settings. Meditation can do the same, only more gently. Optimal for routine life is not the same as optimal for matters that transcend that.

At 5:41 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

So far I haven't been able to adequately address your observation that there's something crazy-making, even crazy, about trying not to judge.

Decades ago... I went into a friend's place where everyone was hanging out together, just as one of their friends was leaving. His vibes were murderous; we didn't say anything to each other but my instant impression was telling me: "Don't mess with this guy; don't cross him in any way; don't even hang out with him if you can help it." A few years later he went hitchhiking with the wrong young woman, killed some guy for his car, went to prison for a long time. His old woman friend was still writing him; he'd sent her a drawing that she'd taped to the door, and one time I looked at it and was overwhelmed with how sensitive the guy had to be to have made anything like that. I'd never caught on to either of those sides of him, either the capacity to kill someone in cold blood or the sensitivity; let alone realized you could have both in the same person.

It would have been crazy, to pretend that the guy wasn't dangerous.

It would have been a much more "normal" sort of crazy-- to imagine that he wasn't a human being, more like me than I like to think.

At 2:05 a.m., Blogger Random Arrow said...

“... If the true laws of the universe are more literary than quantitative ... this riff ought to conjure up something; I'm not sure what as yet ...”

Perhaps maths as metaphors? - metaphors following along after literary properties or powers composing the universe? – the rest of language as metaphor as well? – composing? – something like that?

I cannot close the deal mapping all language to metaphor. I think in that direction. But don’t really know. As for mathematics, I’m heart-bound to Wigner (“Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences”) finding mathematics unreasonable in the sense that we have no known reason for its effectiveness in the natural sciences. I consider Wigner at his best in that little essay because he laid aside his otherwise neo-Platonic predilections and did not import them into his opinion, that is, he did not insist that the universe itself is formally mathematical in nature, despite his hunch that it might be – a reserve and humility on Wigner’s part in saying we don’t really know why math works. That’s my feeling. I stop short of the Platonic deal. I felt that way before reading Wigner. He summed it up. The pack has moved on a bit. Whether mathematical physics overcomes Godel seems an open question. Perhaps Wolfram’s new kind of science will take hold – the bouncing around of things. I otherwise stay at home with Wigner. Math works. Beats me why.

Point of this ramble is to say I’m open to exploring a literary character to the big picture. The possible combinations seem as limitless as human imagination in all of its forms of art.

So please do “conjure up something.” And conjure as liberally through Luke and the prophets as you like.

My questions or my sometimes playing a bit of an interrogator are likely less adversarial than for clarity.

Conjure away.

I want to preserve the other themes. Interesting all.


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