Parties, Purchases, and Peace

Disclaimer: This post is from the archives, and may not represent the current views of the author. It also may not be at all interesting to read. Continue at your own peril!

I’ve had a few jumbled thoughts knocking around in my mind for the past few days. Bear with me as I get them out and into writing; they may not all make sense, and they are only marginally connected, but hopefully by writing this I can perhaps make some sense of it.

1. I feel like I’m on the verge of something big. Ever since I left Christianity, I have been searching for who I am. My faith was so intertwined with my life that there was a great deal of damage done when it was ripped out. I thought I had essentially figured out who and what I was back in high school, but now I find myself having to go through the process all over again, trying to define what I am and what I am not.

I went to a party last night at the house of one of the girls I work with. It was certainly an interesting night. Things started off pretty normal, and other than the fact that I didn’t really know anyone there, it was decent. Then, as people got more progressively drunk, it got crazier. They had water guns that they were spraying each other with. That got the floor really wet and slippery, so then they started throwing water onto the floor to slide around on. Of course, the next logical step was to put some dish soap on it, and then put a tomato in the microwave to watch it explode. Wait, what? Yeah, it was interesting. I felt sort of removed from the whole situation that was playing out around me; I mostly just stood there and watched the descent into chaos. It was mostly perpetuated by the girl that was hosting it and her brother, so it was “okay” (it wasn’t a bunch of people trashing someone else’s house, in other words…it was the people that lived there trashing their own house). At one point in the night, someone took off the door to the oven – it was done to provide a shield to block water gun fire, but still – and I was sort of alarmed when some of them went out onto the deck and started spraying WD-40 onto a tiki torch to create a flamethrower. Alcohol + fire = not good. All in all, though, nothing terrible happened, which was good.

But anyway, I say all this not to pass judgment on the party, or on the people there. I really don’t care about that. I can’t and don’t want to control their actions – I can only control my own. But I think I realized something last night. I’m no longer “that guy.” It’s taken me a very long time to actually realize it. But I used to be the guy that would do the stupid things that people told him to do. If someone said to go do something crazy, I’d usually do it. I mean, I wasn’t a total idiot about it, but in the interest of having a fun time, I’d often do it. But I realized that I’ve completely mellowed out now. Instead of luging on a skateboard down a street, I curl up and read philosophy books. That’s kind of a big difference. But for a long time, I thought it was just a problem of not hanging around exciting people anymore. Now I realize that it’s just my own personality that has completely changed. I watched people slide around on the floor having a fun time (which of course, is not a bad thing), and I did nothing. I stood and watched it. And I talked to the other people watching it as well. I just realized that I now value a deep conversation more than I value going and doing something crazy. And while I think that tends to be a good thing – it often leaves you with fewer scrapes and bruises – that’s not my point. My point is that now I realize that I am no longer who I was back in high school. And that is a strange thing to think about.

2. Recently I bought myself an iPod Touch. It actually was a very tough decision for me to make. And it wasn’t because of the cost – I had the money, I had the desire, and I would get the use out of it that would justify spending the money. No, the reason that this decision was so tough was because I realized that it was a moral decision as well as a financial one. I realized that for the price of a $300 iPod, I could feed, clothe, and educate ten children for a month, or one child for almost a year. I realized that the convenience I received to listen to music anywhere was bought at the expense of a child or children somewhere else. And when you view the decisions you make in this manner, it makes it very, very difficult to be a consumer.

I am still not entirely comfortable with my decision to actually purchase it. I am fully happy with how it works and functions, and it certainly is handy. I suppose I essentially justified it in my own mind because I haven’t really figured out what sort of moral obligations I have to children in Africa. I haven’t really settled on a system of ethics that I think makes the most sense, and without that, I can’t really evaluate the morality of my actions. If it is immoral to buy an item at the expense of giving the money to the poor, then we should all be selling the majority of what we own. Do we need more than one set of clothing? Do we need a computer, a phone, an education, a car, a DVD collection? Can we be justified in buying these things before everyone else in the world also has the opportunity to do the same? I don’t know. I really don’t know the answer to this question. Part of me says no, we can’t – but part of me senses this as too extreme. I need to figure out what system of ethics I will subscribe to before I even can hope to answer this question to my own satisfaction.

But I do have one further observation on this. I have begun to realize that morality is more than just “Don’t murder, don’t steal, be nice to people.” That is essentially what most people think of morality, and it is what many forms of Christian doctrine would tell us as well. We don’t normally think about kids in Africa when we go to the grocery store and contemplate whether to buy individual ingredients or a packaged, ready-made product that is more expensive but more convenient. I have realized that almost every decision we make, and almost every action we take, has moral implications somewhere – especially in the light of poverty. And that is something that the limited confines of rule-based Christian ethics lacks. I’m not saying that all Christian traditions ignore this – many, especially the more humanistic ones, do take it into account, and that’s great. I’m just saying that it is something we must all wrestle through, regardless of whether it appears in the Ten Commandments or not.

3. The reading for my class on Evil this week was a passage from a book written by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk. Much of what he wrote centred around realizing the connection we have to everything else in this world – other people, animals, and nature – and putting aside ideology in favour of living peaceably. This latter concern got me thinking about the rhetoric that flies back and forth between theists and atheists. What if this is the wrong approach? I mean, I value truth, and I recognize the importance of truth, but this seems to be more of a Western mindset. We have embraced the methods of science, but other cultures, especially in the East, have tended to embrace a mindset that leans more toward right living rather than knowledge. Perhaps they got it right, and we got it wrong. I don’t know. But I ended up with this question – which is more important: understanding the nature of reality, or living peaceably with each other? I know these two are not mutually exclusive by any means, and I would say that we need both – but in the case of conflict, which one should win out over the other? I am not sure I know what the answer to that question is.

On the one hand, our emphasis on truth has brought us many wonderful things. When we evaluate the world with a scientific mindset, we end up with amazing descriptions of how it works. We’ve come up with things as a result that humans even 100 years ago could never dream of. But on the other hand, an emphasis on truth brings inevitable conflict. When none of us have perfect knowledge, disagreements arise over who is “right” and who is “wrong.” However, when the emphasis is on right living, and being in harmony with those around us, truth takes a backseat. Harmony brings us less knowledge, but more happiness. So in the case where these two goals collide, which one should take precedence? Should our aims be toward truth, or harmony? Traditional Western religions tend to say that truth should be primary – that we are right and you are wrong. Wars have broken out over such things. But Eastern religions tend to say that harmony should be primary – that it does not matter who is right or wrong, but rather who is living at peace with themselves and others. In some ways, I find that more satisfying. In other ways, I find it intellectually dull.

So there you have it. Plenty of questions, with few answers. I did take a walk tonight (in between points 2 and 3) to mull over some of the thoughts in my head. I went to the park near my house, and then to the creek. I watched some ducks with their little ducklings swimming down the creek. I saw a dragonfly flitting about. Whether I felt at one with these things, I can’t really say. But somehow it reassured me that the world will keep on existing while I figure these things out. And for now, that’s good enough for me.

4 responses to “Parties, Purchases, and Peace”

Cori-Beth

You have done so much growing and growing up since you have gone to University! How proud I am of you that you didn't get involved with the drunk "idiots" at the party. There is fun, and then there is down right stupid drunk fun! Although, you did say that the sister and brother were the instigators, so, to each, his or her own! As long as it wasn't their parents place!

How sad it is in Western Christianity and religion as you stated that we have gone so far to say that "we are right and you are wrong". That is why we have so many denominations in the Christian faith alone! Why can't we all just get along?! That would be too easy, wouldn't it?! The Eastern religions put Christian's to shame in North America with the amount of "prayer times" that they have. If only we could learn from them! Shame on me, myself for not getting this at times!

Again, I would like to say how proud I am at how "grown up" you seem to have become! You are wise beyond your years and your parents should be very proud of you as well!

Your big cuz,

Corinne

Cori-Beth

Should have also said that getting drunk does not look like fun! Nor should it be! It just looks down right stupid!
Well, there's two more of my cents!
Corinne

feeno

Jeff

Good stuff. It leaves me with a lot to think about. First of all while you are still young you should go out and have fun. Take advantage of your youth and enjoy parties. Whether you go to just chill, or decide to slide around floors with soap and water on them. That might be one way for me to get my girls to clean around the house? But if they started making flame throwers I would have to draw the line there. hind sight being 20/20 I wish when I was your age I had the wits about me to be the "cool" guy at the party just chillin' with a cold beer. But as it was, I was the loud doofus who proudly took my shirt off trying to pick fights and act tough and cool while wearing a lampshade on my head.
We all grow up sooner or later. Maybe you haven't changed but have matured.(Like Cori-Beth says).
You know the scripture…when I was a child I acted like a child, when I became a man I put away childish things…

Your I-Pod dilemma is a tough one.
One good thing about the Church is that when I give money to a Missionary I know where my money is going and what for. When I am taxed in here the good ole USA for the "poor" they see very little of that money. Let's say your $300.00 I-Pod money was earmarked for some Govt. welfare program, the people who actually could use that money, might get about 50 or 60 bucks. The rest goes to the bureaucrats and red tape BS set up by A Govt. who only wants to get bigger and bigger.

I do pay my taxes. But above that I know some of my tithe goes to many parts of our globe to help those needy. And also I try to help out at a local mission here in a neighboring town.

None of that BTW makes me special or even a good person, just letting you know whats up. But you could always work a couple days a month at a mission or soup kitchen. Even if it is Christian based. Or adopt some kid for $20.00 a month? But ultimately where do you draw the line? I know I eat to much. Spend money on cigars and an occasional adult beverage. One thing in my favor is I'd be happy in a pair of cut off sweat pants and a T-shirt forever. But should we not go on vacations, buy boats go to the movies etc.? Tough questions indeed.

My daughter is your age and she is very concerned for the poor around the world. She buys her clothes from Goodwill or places that match her purchases to a charity. She goes on many mission trips to impoverished areas etc. But, here she is a 21 year old girl with a car and money for the movies and money to go out with her friends and going dancing all while getting a 100 thousand dollar education. I love her, but she is still naive to poverty. And once again where is the line we draw?

"Understanding the nature of reality" V. "Living peaceably with each other". I will murky the water even more. 2 verses from James have been popping into my head lately, and it happened again as I read this. I'm paraphrasing… but " True religion before God is taking care of widows and orphans(living peaceably) and then in James it says " What is life, it is a vapor, you are here for a little while, then you vanish".(understanding the nature of reality), I know that will differ with each philosophy.

I know you've been busy with other things lately (wild parties?) as I've missed you at DC, but I haven't been over there a whole lot myself.

I haven't said anything to you, but I may have some fun news for you in about 2 weeks or less.

Talk to ya soon. Peace be with you. feeno

Jeff

Corinne: Lol no kidding! Although my views on alcohol have changed a fair bit as of more recent times, I still would much rather have a deep conversation with someone instead of creating an indoor slip 'n' slide. I mean, that can be fun, but there are plenty of ways to have fun…

Yeah, it's certainly interesting to see the differences between Western and Eastern religions. Buddhism, of course, has its own sects as well, but to my understanding they get along fairly well. I think they see it more as two ways of looking at the same thing. That's somewhat how Christian denominations look at things as well, but their focus on "right" and "wrong" (in the sense of true or false) is much more apparent. Whatever you may have to say about the legitimacy of it, I certainly find it interesting. Anyway, thanks for the comments and the compliments 🙂

Feeno: Haha yeah…well I'm trying to enjoy my youth while I've got it. I've been trying hard to be alright with trying new things – not so that I give into peer pressure, but just so I no longer get into the habit of saying "no" to everything unfamiliar. Anyway, I still don't feel mature…lol I still feel like I'm back in high school. But I guess every once in a while I get that realization that I've turned into a boring adult. Scary!

Anyway, your thoughts about taxes are good ones for sure. I don't have a problem with government attempting to help the poor (not in principle, anyway), but generally NGOs do a much better job at it because they don't have the red tape that you're talking about. And of course, helping out at a soup kitchen or whatever is a great idea. I used to sponsor a child, but I've since changed my donations toward a more general charity called Action Against Hunger that seems to me to deal more comprehensively with the problem of hunger/poverty. My thoughts have been taking me toward a less consumerist approach to life, and while I haven't fully settled things, right now I'm just glad that I spend very little of my income on luxury and convenience items. That, at least, lets me sleep at night. It's true though – most of us here have no idea what it really means to live in poverty. Even the homeless here in North America are much better off than the poor in developing countries.

Lol well it sounds like James seems to be merging East and West, then! Haha well…like I said, these aims aren't mutually exclusive. I think it's important to be right, but it's also important to live in harmony. I just don't really know which should take priority, at least on important matters.

Anyway, yeah I've been fairly busy and distracted, and haven't been to DC a whole lot. When I've been over there, I've just been skimming over some of the posts. They seem fairly uninteresting recently. I'm sure it will pick up soon enough though 😛 Haha catch ya later!

Jeff

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