vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
In response to this comment:
I’d be very interested in the atheist-to-orthodox “take” on this sort of discussion.
I'm not even sure if I count, since I was brought up as a Christian before I became an atheist (de facto in my teens, explicitly in my twenties), but it did get me to try to articulate just what might've been going on in my head in the months leading up to my visit of St. John of Shanghai Orthodox Mission on the evening of February 1, 2014.*

Read more... )

*a date that I've always remembered as January 30 or 31 until I checked the day of the week just now. The reading of the life of St. Brigid I remember more distinctly.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
First, a passing thought:
A good design is seamless, unified, harmonious, whole. A bad design is fragmented and arbitrary, its elements stuck together ad-hoc with no consideration as to how one flows into the other. When the intelligent design researchers (and what they do is genuinely, legitimately research - I say this as a barrister and solicitor) look for signs of design, the usual formula is to isolate a harmonious design, deny the existence of its effective cause within creation, and conclude therefore that God must have done it. This is to deny that the effective cause is part of the harmonious whole, and to claim that there has been some kind of unnatural severance within creation. In other words, the signs of flaws and corruptions of the unified design of the original. If these are the signs of the Designer we seek, then that designer is not the One who designed causation for our use, Who is everywhere present and filling all things, Whose designs are at all friendly to us.

And now, have some cave worms (note: taxonomically not worms) to cleanse the palate.

According to this study, if you're white, male, well-educated or in the scientific "in", you are more likely to believe GMOs are safe. Or, rather, distrust increases the further you move out of this inner elite circle. There appear to be no controls for socioeconomic class. Am immediately reminded of Lewis' critique of Man's power over Nature being ultimately the mere power of some men over others.

Relatedly, I'm not the first to compare our economic system to a Paperclip Maximizer. The only real debate is just what is analogous to paperclips - mammon itself, or consumer products.

And now for some less short-form reblogging...

Fr. Stephen Freeman posts a trilogy of posts about sex and gender.

In case the blog is ever moved and the pictures are lost again, here are the pictures the accompany each:cut for spoiler - their best impact is when you read each article itself )

All three are well worth reading. That said, one quote struck me in particular:
In all discussions of our gendered existence, Christians must remember that male and female are eschatological images – they are images towards which we are moving, not givens according to which automatically live. The male who is not self-emptyingly male, is not yet what he shall be nor what he should be. The female who is not self-emptyingly female, is not yet what she shall be nor what she should be. And, of course, our situation is still more tragic and broken. For some, the experience of the energies of our nature is changed – whether through the brokenness of genetics or nurture. They are not yet what they shall be nor what they should be. We share a tragedy that is common to all humanity.
This is incomprehensible without an understanding of what Blessed Mother Maria Skobtsova was getting at in her reflection concerning the emulation of the Mother of God. It also provides, in my experience possibly for the first time, a framework for how we should approach masculine and feminine identity and prescription, in a way that finally relates to the theology of kenosis and the Cross (beyond the way in which all suffering so relates).

This leaves, of course, the content open: just what is male and what is female kenosis? Mother Maria's analysis is tantalizing, providing enough to offer a start to the dialogue but leaving nothing close to a clear, yes-no-depends method of recognizing either or both in another.

I'm starting to understand how Thomas Aquinas felt.

One possible answer: the distinction, outside of biological functions, is more descriptive than prescriptive in that if we simply follow the Way the means of that expression will make themselves known. But why then are there any commandments aimed at consciously maintaining the distinction?

Then Dana comments on Part 3 referencing a book called "Flight From Woman", and another hint suggests itself: every known effort to create a genderless society has only succeeded in creating a misogynistic society. Whatever the reason for it, it just happens that in our civilization the male is unmarked and the female marked, and to try to reform society such that everyone conforms to neutral the obvious thing to do (given the mindset of the revolutionary who is typically also an iconoclast) is to purge that which is marked. The requirement to maintain the distinction - especially in the New Testament where the early Church was going up against the gnostic heretics - may be (inter alia) a safeguard against that evil, which would be toxic to (again, inter alia) anyone who would otherwise have sought salvation through the feminine route.

I say "anyone" at the end of that paragraph. I do not believe in a strict individual (lit. individuus) binary where being on one side on one thing necessitates being on that side on everything else to the exclusion of the other. To believe in such exclusion would be to deny that any woman can carry her Cross, or that any man can be pierced to the heart by the sorrows of another - a denial both theologically monstrous and obviously untrue in experience. One of the most liberating and beautiful things I've found about Orthodoxy compared to Western theology is that to say X is Y is not to imply, in the absence of a genuine contradiction, that X is not Z.

But then how are we by (prescriptive, theological) nature male and female, but not all androgynous (~male and female created He every one of them~)?

Perhaps to all these statements should be added "without limitation", as the lawyers do. Are we each created, then, to find only the highest fulfillment in only one of the paths, however great our works may be down the other? We might, instead, speak not of paths but aspects, or abilities and potentials, or differing gifts of grace, or even statistics in an RPG (tempered, of course, by the constant remembrance that without God our works are nothing).

Or perhaps another test question is: which is worse off: a woman devoid of the feminine and a man of the masculine, or a woman devoid of the masculine and a man of the feminine?

I offer a very crude example.

The former (failure of own gender's virtue):
  • a group of men. One suffers emotional turmoil. The others lash out angrily and bitterly, say all manner of evil against whoever they feel may be responsible, fail utterly to bring consolation or solve the problem.
  • a group of women. One suffers emotional turmoil. The others do not know how to handle it and leave in shame.

The latter (failure of other gender's virtue):
  • a group of men. One suffers emotional turmoil. The others do not know how to handle it and leave in shame.
  • a group of women. One suffers emotional turmoil. The others lash out angrily and bitterly, say all manner of evil against whoever they feel may be responsible, fail utterly to bring consolation or solve the problem.

If both are equally bad, then this gives us no reason to believe that humanity is not fulfilled by total positive androgynity; if the former is worse, then that supports what we are taught.

This is increasingly becoming a matter of "I'll know it when I see it", without any ability to formalize what is going on. The Thomist understanding frustratingly remains.

Will hit Post for want of a logical conclusion.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
The main difference is that his is actually worth reading. (If somewhat bare of Heavy Weapons Guy references, but that's probably related.)

Two articles worth mentioning:
A ‘free’ China, for him, is emphatically not ‘free’ in a bourgeois capitalist sense, nor even ‘liberated’ in a Marxist sense. It’s fascinating to see an intellectual, reckoned a ‘leftist’ in Chinese discourse, defend certain non-teleological and anti-modern Confucian political ideas and understandings as necessary for China’s continued ‘modern’ reform and development. Dr. Wang himself is likely quite aware of the irony; the reason he eschews the term ‘left’ to describe himself, after all, is because he feels a terminology imported from a Western revolutionary context has very limited traction in a Chinese one. ...

My own interest in China stems from the fact that an immensely long body of civilised tradition – a body which goes back, with few interruptions, for 3200 years – is brought into a constant, disruptive and disorienting contact with the most frantic, brutal and unvarnished forms of modernity. And unlike in other nations – like Japan or Korea – no serious attempt is made to paper over or downplay or explain away these violent juxtapositions. No soothing political noises are made to the effect that one can have a society grounded in Confucian values that is at the same time fully integrated into a value-demolishing global economy. Tradition has not yet been reduced to an ersatz of itself in the service of modern ideologies.
This dovetails well with some cultural observations I've made myself over the years, including where Chinese capitalism seems to avoid certain Western vices while exacerbating a few others. (Glaring example: the sometimes hilarious disjunct between the concerns of modern, updated Canadian estate and family law, the product of two generations of jurisprudence from post-industrial, post-sexual-revolution liberal gweilo litigants, versus what goes on on the ground with the majority of Chinese clients of similar socioeconomic status.)
Like Solovyov, Mencius recognises that human beings have the distinction of moral feelings to separate them from animals. And Mencius’s account of the ‘four beginnings’ bear an uncanny resemblance to Solovyov’s basic moral feelings. Mencius’s ‘sense of shame’ (xiu’e zhi xin 羞惡之心) and Solovyov’s are identical. His ‘sense of compassion’ (ceyin zhi xin 惻隱之心) is directly analogous to Solovyov’s moral feeling of ‘pity’. And his ‘sense of modesty’ (cirang zhi xin 辭讓之心) is somewhat culturally-coded into a Chinese mentality, deferring honours and rewards out of a knowledge of one’s place in the social fabric, but there’s enough of an analogy within that cultural coding to be drawn to Solovyov’s feeling of ‘reverence’ to be, at the very least, interesting.

(this last one is not the best quote by a long shot. The entire thing is well worth reading.)
vaecrius: A stylized navy blue anarchy sign juxtaposed with a pixellated chaos symbol made to resemble a snowflake. (anarchy and chaos)
describe 2 people marooned together and their relationship after 5 days, 5 months and 5 years, in 300 words.

Read more... )

(originally posted on tumblr; posting here for archival reasons. another take by [personal profile] vorzac, sans 300-word limit, here; [personal profile] helarxe's fulfilment of both of these here)
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
(Just as I attempt to start preparing this to post on DW, a courier comes in to pick up a cheque for these guys - the motto is, of course, a play on moving mountains, while "move mountains" is itself a priest spell from the original Exile series that... well, let's just say it gets you into houses to let you move things out of them.)

Context: I've got stewing in the back of my mind (and a few text files in my hard drive) for a while now an idea for a reboot of Jeff Vogel's Avernum setting, with a mind to play up all the wonderful and utterly missed and squandered opportunities at exploring the ecological and cultural ramifications of living in such a completely different environment as a magic-powered endless underground maze. The gameplay, if I ever got to that point, would be a very random roguelike with very little in the way of game-stat optimizing or trying to "win" things by clearing everything (in fact you would be ostracized by everyone for wiping out all large animals in a cave, for example) - the exact polar opposite of the sort of games Spiderweb make, so there would be no competition. (EDIT: And quite possibly Linux-only, to underscore the point.)

One recurring feature of the Exile/Avernum games' magic system is to have 2 classes of spells: "mage" spells that rely on your usual fantasy magic; and "priest" "spells" that... well, mechanically they are identical to mage spells except in the particular effects available, though they are described as prayers rather than incantations. You run into occasional NPCs who explain certain points of doctrine, but as far as I've ever played this has had no systemic effect on the spells available and the general feel is as though one bought a church, removed all the icons, replaced the crosses with ankhs and never opened the books except for a couple fake props where the viewer never even gets a fleeting glimpse of the contents.

I figure if I ever get this underground-roguelike-Avernum-knockoff game off the ground, I should probably do something along these lines, but with more meat to it. So... )
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
Progress is, in many ways, a modern myth and a rhetorical device by which Modernity doesn’t have to give a reasonable account for its failures. Everything’s in progress so no matter how bad we’re doing, “we’re improving.” And, as we’ll see in an article I’m working on now, everything that doesn’t agree with this is simple “like something out of the Middle Ages…” That is, able to be dismissed as not even belonging to our own time period.

This technique was used repeatedly by the colonial powers in order to justify their wholesale rape of other cultures – and continues to justify the wholesale rape of many traditional cultural values in our own land. It should rightly (and accurately) be compared to the repeated 5-year Plan justifications of the Soviets, for whom wholesale slaughter and genocide could be justified by Marxist progress. The Brave New World has almost destroyed the inhabited earth several times within the last century.

We had plagues and infections. Now we have obesity, diabetes and cancer.

We had cripples and the lame. Now we have crippling debt and the overqualified unemployable.

We had slaves that we owned and had to feed and care for. Now we have indentured workers who have no ability to exercise their theoretical choice to stop working, that we have no responsibility for and can throw away at any time - rented from no lessor.

We had soldiers who would burn down and depopulate inconvenient villages for us and send the survivors into slavery. Now we have corporations and gentrifiers who enslave first, and backhoes and law enforcement to do the rest. (Admittedly, the killing is now kept to a minimum, or at least a reasonably slow trickle.)

We used to live at the mercy of the weather and the elements, which at any time may destroy all that we hold dear. Now we live at the mercy of stock prices, market forces and the politics of government regulation.

We used to live in regular dread of famine. Now we are in danger of the entire world becoming unable to produce food and we don't feel a thing.

And now an idea for that far-future thing:
ancient alien race lives for tens of billions of years fleeing dying star after dying star, with only survival in mind. they attack earth, and capture a saint for interrogation. they torture him to death over the course of a year trying to get "the truth" out of him, about what humanity "really" is, and the result drives the torturers insane in a reverse Lovecraft scenario. someone picks up the transcripts and disseminates them to all public channels, sending ruin among the stars as the ancients destroy themselves in a nihilistic orgy of violence. we take their ships and infrastructure, learn to replicate it and use our newfound habitable planet indices and FTL travel to colonize the galaxy. we never learn how the FTL actually works and after the initial wave there is a gradual deterioration until everyone is isolated again.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
When one undertakes to examine Scripture in an idle, intellectual way, he creates hatred and quarrelling. Why? Because the intellectual approach to Scripture does not help us turn and reflect on our sins, but instead makes us focus on problems and concepts related to the study of Scripture – as a result our logical and intellectual faculties are aroused to no real purpose. “Knowledge” by itself adds nothing. On the contrary, it encourages the cultivation of the individual and his private sense of things; it fosters the self-sufficiency of his own personal opinions, which he then seeks to justify and impose on others. This kind of approach to Scripture immediately places you in conflict with others; it opposes your will and opinion to theirs, prompting you to disagree and argue with them, and to make enemies of your brothers. Filled as I am with my own opinions about things, I am not able to receive anything from God.

[…]It’s one thing to read Scripture because you want to collect information, and another thing to read it because you want to acquire its true content, that is, the Holy Spirit. This kind of knowledge is the life of God (cf. Jn 17:3), the entry and extension of God into our life; it is God’s descent and dwelling among us. We can judge whether or not our study of Scripture is authentic based on the number of tears we shed when we study. To be sure, I can also read Scripture without shedding tears, and without a strong sense of my sins, but with the hope that God’s grace, through my reading of Scripture, will break open my hardened heart. Read Scripture, then, but don’t forget about your sins and reduce Scripture to an object of intellectual inquiry, for at that point it ceases being the word of God and you start seeing it as something human. The criterion for your study should be this: the way you read the Bible should bring peace to your heart, communion with God, love of neighbors, and the consciousness of your own sinfulness: the recognition of how unworthy and ill-prepared you are to stand before God.
Elder Aimilianos, On Abba Isaiah

Bonus link: The Star by Arthur C. Clarke.

At first I thought it was a refutation, then a hypothetical refutation, a what-if. Then a story, if the ramifications are read backwards from what is implied (and there is no inherent reason in the facts presented to go in either particular order), of redemption. On further contemplation I feel this to be nothing less than an icon of the Cross.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
Some contextual points on Hong Kong.
  1. Hong Kong was a fishing village on a goddamn rock when it was annexed by the British in 1842. The population grew and exploded during the 20th century as a result of a number of factors, but a huge one is the creation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). During the Chinese civil war and subsequent purging, thousands fled the violence by escaping to Hong Kong — including both sets of grandparents in my family. One was a Western car dealer in Shanghai; the other was from a landowning family. FWIW, I still have some distant relatives from the latter side in China. I have no living relatives in China on my maternal grandparents’ side. Everyone was killed.
  2. Throughout the 20th century, Hong Kong flourished, grew, and developed a distinctive culture and economy. I’m not saying everything was rosy as an English colony. I’m saying the culture and economy are real and independent from China.
  3. The events of Tiananmen may seem like they were a long time ago, and have entered history as the kind of event that’s lost its shock over time. But twenty-five years is a short time for many Hong Kongers, and Tiananmen’s outcome was far from predictable at that time. Remember that Tiananmen was only eight years before the handover. Imagine watching the coverage that summer and knowing that was to be your government soon.
  4. All of this is to give just a bit of history as to why I and many others say: Hong Kong people do not consider themselves to be the same as mainland Chinese. When I say I’m from Hong Kong, I mean that. It is not the same.

A Real Look Into The Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution.
I’ve had so many concerned friends from around the world recently message me, concerned for my safety in Hong Kong. This post is to show my dear friends, and those from around the world what its actually like here in Hong Kong at this moment.

a word from Gary Pollard
Start with this: that the parents or grandparents of almost every Hongkonger came here to escape the politics and chaos and lawlessness of mainland China.

Today, they look at a local government made up almost entirely of people chosen for their loyalty to the PRC, irrespective of their ability or their personal ethics. Almost every government minister has profound “communist” sympathies or former DAB or “leftist” connections. Some are not so “hidden” Communists. That is the only reason they are there. It feels to many Hong Kong people that they are trapped, ruled by these people. No one voted for them. When the public DID vote a prominent leftist out of the Legislative Council, the Chief Executive just appointed him to the Executive Council, which has MORE power. Screw your democracy.

That would not seem so bad if the Legislative Council could impose any restraints on the government. But too few observers understand or care that the Legislative Council is half made up of functional constituencies who are either kowtowing to Beijing or to big business. There is a split voting system where legislation must be passed both by geographically elected legislators and these special interest legislators, who are basically lobbyists. The public did not vote for them, but they can veto ANY legislation aimed at controlling the government or supporting grassroot interests.

How do protesters stay in contact with each other when the government has shut down or censored Internet and mobile networks? Simple: You don't use either.
Meet Open Garden's FireChat, the messenger app protesters in Hong Kong have been using to circumvent government attempts to prevent them from organizing by blocking social networks like Instagram. Instead of relying on a single website or government-controlled networks, FireChat uses a technology called mesh networking for its "Nearby" chat mode.

‘Against My Fear, I See That You Hope’: A Professor’s Open Letter to Her Hong Kong Students
I am inspired that you are making the student boycott your own. Earlier I had written that you were inspired by May Fourth and the awakening of social consciousness. But observing you I have come to realize that this interpretation is far too simplistic, that initial reportage did not give you enough credit for both adaptation and innovation. Some have invoked May Fourth, and some—like Longhair when he spoke to you—lectured on Gandhi and Martin Luther King. No doubt their examples have inspired you. But reading the Chinese University boycott magazines and your reportage in Ming Pao, I see that your examples are recent and cosmopolitan. You are looking to 1968 in Paris, the 2011 Chilean student boycott, and 2012 in Quebec. You self-consciously organized the preceding campus meetings to follow Quebec, to be as democratic as possible, to give each of your classmates ownership. What I thought had been naïveté was a careful imitation of a model you had identified to be successful. So, though elements of your protests may have historical roots, I salute you for seeking a new model for Hong Kong, one which—your leadership tells us—will influence student movements to come.

Things that could only happen in a Hong Kong protest
Apologising for the barricade you put up
An entrance to the Causeway Bay MTR station was barricaded and emblazoned with signs shouting out for democracy. In the middle was a small cardboard sign - also written by the protesters: "Sorry for the inconvenience."
and the "violent", "extreme" contrast.
vaecrius: A stylized navy blue anarchy sign juxtaposed with a pixellated chaos symbol made to resemble a snowflake. (anarchy and chaos)
[2016-01-06 Before reading this it might be better to read Jack Monahan's "refrigerator box" essay which is much more informative.]

From the sighting and aiming discussion here a few things occur to me:

Iconic representation

Icons and all the talk about making present, etc. never made any sense to me until I saw some comment about someone watching a "cradle" Orthodox believer pray to one, and the whole exchange(!) looked like they were having a conversation with a person standing before them. At once it all clicked: the skewed perspectives of various objects, far from being a matter of failing at mere "representation", were required for the full presentation to the viewer to address specific requirements for interacting with what was portrayed on the 2-dimensional space. Things are deliberately moved aside or extended or not foreshortened, or viewed from a different angle than something right next to it, to reveal that which if you were physically there you'd be able to see with no more than a very simple, unconscious movement - the top of a book being opened, the objects on the surface of a table, the hand of a person holding a heavy object. The entire image - and each portion thereof - is made not to reproduce the mechanical light-impression of the physical presence, but as an interface.

It also explains why I've always preferred Doom and Quake's centered guns over the angled views of later FPSes: while more "realistic" in the sense that the side of the gun would be a closer approximation to what you'd see from either eye while the weapon was pressed to your shoulder but before you started looking down the sights, it permanently blocks your view of whatever is below you to your right - something you would be able to see in meatspace with minimal effort by as little as a slight turn of the head, an action that probably should not deserve its own keybind.

As applied to my so-called "realism" Doom mod, unlike most shooters with such aspirations I keep the crosshair rather than sights - which crosshairs, as crude approximations of sight pictures, only (but always and automatically) appear wherever looking down the sights would be an option in another game. The weapon sprite itself is kept as out of the way as would remain faithful to the original aesthetic. No more than movement of the eyes, or at most a slight turn of your avatar's direction to move either sprite or crosshair out of the way, is required to look around. The ultimate result is a double view of your weapon with a large gap in between that you would never see in real life, but which allows the viewer to extract information with no more effort or artifice than if the object had been physically present in the viewer's own equivalent space.

The "drone effect"

Which takes us to the next great hazard in "realistic" first-person shooting. You have a mouse and keyboard. This gets rambly fast. )
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
This is a profound psychological violence here.
How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.
--"On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs", Strike! Magazine, August 17, 2013
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
The best stupid pun ever.

But I don’t want to stop there. There a few deeper and more mysterious applications of this. The Lamb slain at the foundation of the world as a type of evolution.

That said, another, biologically more, philosophically less cf. colonials: more* ambitious take on the Nth Men story.
(Also he has thought out giant spiders :O :O :O||||~)

*2014-08-21 EDIT: The more I think about it, the more I think Bogleech is right. This is better in every way: humane where MAM was profoundly misanthropic, humble where F&LM was arrogant and certain, hopeful even in death where MAM and F&LM are ambivalent. This is what science fiction ought to be.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers:
The holy Fathers were making predictions about the last generation. They said ‘What have we ourselves done?’ One of them, the great abba Ischyrion replied, ‘We ourselves have fulfilled the commandments of God.’ The others replied, ‘And those who come after us, what will they do?’ He said, ‘They will struggle to achieve half our works.’ They said, ‘And to those who come after them, what will happen?’ He said, ‘The men of that generation will not accomplish any works at all and temptation will come upon them; and those who will be approved in that day will be greater than either us or our fathers.’

Abba Copres said, ‘blessed is he who bears affliction with thankfulness.’
Building on this. A speculation on a buildup to the great apostasy.

tw: rape, depression, violence, body horror, middle eastern politics )

Clearly something is not being mentioned here, as it is of course much easier to paint Hell than Heaven. I must take some more time to think about this, but it is my intention that the Church is to be noticeably present throughout, if only as a very quietly hummed ison.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who had an inordinate amount of money, far more than anyone knew or could imagine, and for which he had no use. And there was a tiny island nation where he did some business, and there a great multitude ended up owing him much money, though he had no use for these debts and did not care to collect on them; and yet The System these many debtors slaved under could not forgive these debts, and though the man thought they were worthless paper this multitude could not save, or buy or sell or trade, for their debt was great and all that they earned was siphoned off by collectors who charged exorbitant fees and interest, and interest on those fees, and fees for calculating that interest, and so on, such that the man never saw any money from the multitude while the collectors grew in power.

And one day this man said, Enough! and purported to breach his contract with the collectors, and they sued him, and he filed a reply that admitted all the facts and contested none of the relief sought, and the collectors won default judgment and added him to the list of debtors. And at the first payment hearing that man agreed to pay, and received void cheques for a direct deposit; but when the payment came, the amount was so enormous that the flood of cash destroyed the entire nation's economy and sent it into chaos, and there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth, and many fled in vain to the outer darkness; but the man took hold of the entire System in his hands, and ruled as a benevolent tyrant, such that any who believed and switched over to his new system should never be in debt again.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
An Orthodox Christian Exposition of Islam
Truly il miglior fabbro, compared to my shoddy attempts at conveying the comparison.

tl;dr if you take Orthodox Christianity and replace the guts with all the guts that were rejected by Orthodoxy, while keeping all the trappings of Orthodoxy that aren't directly contradictory to the newly implanted theology (e.g. icons versus wholly transcendent, never-incarnate God), you basically end up with Islam.

A good deal of Protestantism (including what I've rejected in the past) goes the same way with the same replacements, but inherits radically different trappings. If Orthodoxy is Wolfenstein and Calvinism is Doom, then Islam is Map31 - old look and feel, new engine. (The analogy breaks down, obviously, when the "new engine" is the one with less features, functions and versatility.)

(That said, it's definitely worth a read if you have any interest at all in either Christianity or Islam. Also the reference to the Christian God as Allah in the end is, intentionally or not and at least to the eyes of this Western-raised near-English-monoglot, a brilliant inversion of the technique used in the Beatles' "My Sweet Lord". [2014-07-21 Prompted to re-read b/c of this. Definitely intentional given the progression from "God/Allah" to "Allah" alone.])

It occurs to me that one of the big rebuttals to the Protestant argument about the "fall of the church" also applies here: how did two movements so removed from each other in space, culture and time end up with such similar, independently arrived at conclusions, unless there was some kind of truth to it? But the analogy stops there: the "fall of the church" usually is in reference to preceived additions - Trinity, icons, liturgical tradition - but what we're looking at here is deletion in a sincere attempt to fit everything into a rational, logical order.

- The Trinity contradicts itself and borders on polytheism, so let's remove it. It is beneath God to come down to Earth as one of us human scum. (In Islam from the start; eventually you get more unitarian groups from the Protestant tradition)
- This old verse says no graven images, so let's get rid of all images.
- We need to standardize everything, so let's make "The Book" binding (no pun intended) so that everyone's reading the exact same law-reduced-to-writing and everything not in that book is treated as hearsay and optional, unreliable apocrypha.
- The wrathful, vengeful God of the Hebrews looks all wussied up in the New Testament, so that is clearly a later deviation. Let's go back to being sinners in the hands of an angry God.
- If God is all that is good, then things are only good because God wills it to be good. Therefore, any "moral compass" we may have in our hearts is only a temptation and a passion.
- The last 3 points, if taken without a deep underlying faith in the starting assumption of a loving God, strongly imply that we need to be as harsh and unforgiving as possible, to be maximally true to God's divine image. (cf. Westboro; Taliban every sharia jurisdiction that isn't actively trying to soften its image for some material or political gain/survival)

(also new tag for Christianity-related posts)
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
Missionary Secrets 5: How to fruitfully insult the Prophet, or: what every proselytizer in a traditionally Christian-privileged country will get wrong if they don't go out of their way to try to get around this problem.
First, you need to earn the right to be heard. Say you're in Cairo, for instance. Demonstrate a knowledge of the history of the place. Show that you know a lot about Egypt and the people there. And this is the hard part: you actually need to really know this stuff. You really need to know about Chalcedon and arrival of Arab Imperialism (ie, Islam) and the Fatimids an Mamlukes an so on. You need to show that you know about the contemporary challenges faced by Cairenes: that Egypt imports more than 50% of its wheat, that the currency has become very weak, and so on. You also need to show that you know more about the Qur'an and Islam than your hearer. Not in a pompous, bossy way of course. Finally, you need to be able to do all of this by mostly asking questions and (really) listening to their answers (and really caring about what they say--there is no substitute for sincerity).

And seeing something like this from a missionary in public is surprisingly inspiring. We are saved in our weakness but too often do everything in our power not to boast of it.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
[2014-05-16 EDIT]Well that was spectacularly dumb of me. $1k/mo for everyone in Canada is thirty-plus billion a month not year. That said, if we took all our fossil fuel subsidies and gave it all to the poorest 25% of the population, that actually does net roughly $1k for every man, woman and child every month.

As a thought experiment as to what might conceivably work around here.

Every man, woman and child gets $1000/mo, non-taxable.
No questions asked. No rules about how to spend it.
You don't get it if and while you're in jail.
This is on top of our current health care system, but should replace many other tax breaks and support and industry subsidies and whatnot.
It is an opt-in system and you must apply for the payment each calendar month. You may apply on behalf of an incompetent dependant, or some other person who lives with you OR is a family member and has previously signed their consent in person.
Right to each payment expires after the end of the given month.
Must do this personally, with exceptions for armed forces and diplomats and similar.
Everyone must have 1 morning off from work per month to do this. A person who causes a missed payment will be fined triple the amount.
25% non-refundable income tax credit for payments unclaimed, which can be transferred to a family member or a corporation of which one is a shareholder, but you must claim the credit for the year of the missed payment.

This is $30 billion in payments before admin costs (and tax breaks).
Compare for baseline. How much lower can we go?

As a very rough budget:
Rent (or $1000 CAD
Food: assume $30 daily budget for each person. 30x30=$900
(But if you can cook, that's closer to $600.)
Electricity: $100
That's $2000 right there. Add another $100 for telecommunications and "other".
If a typical household has 3 individuals, that's $700.
Total cost is $21 billion.
Allowing cooking, that's $18 billion.
Hopefully any unit so shitty that it doesn't have a stove will go for less than $1000 per month.

Possible horrible exploits:
- keep people locked up and take their money.
(this kind of fraud happens for other things too.)
- pop out lots and lots of kids.
(presumably our laws against parental neglect still apply.)
- impersonate someone.
(admin can keep better records. obviously vouching must be allowed.)
- use the money for...
(this is a feature not a bug.)
- government-side: misuse those records.
(how much worse is this than income tax?)
- force people to stick together.
($1800/mo to every single person is simply not going to happen. Limiting it to per household would create the opposite incentive which is far more perverse.)

I know this

if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.


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