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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Information Overload

A lot has been going on in the news about drugs and addiction, though I don't think much of it is a surprise, really.  The sad drudgery of modern life wears on, grinding us down into the fine dust that we came from.  It is all very sad.  

We live in an era of wealth without beauty.  All of our treasures are ugly.

With all of the luxuries we have, we are still stressed out, as this article points out.  We are overloaded with information.

Think about it: we are expected to know everything these days, and we do certainly have more facts and easier access to them than we ever have.  So, we demand of one another far more knowledge than has ever been required of humanity before.

Think about it: the average fifth grader has more scientific knowledge than Isaac Newton or even Louis Pasteur.  If you could send that child back in time, he would be teaching college at the doctorate level based on his rather limited understanding of today's world and his school curriculum for that age.

Yet, we demand more and more.  If you don't know something, you are automatically labelled 'ignorant' or lazy.'  You had better jump on the internet and find out.  We must know everything about everything.

And so we are stressed, and our minds go wound up.  Then, we wonder why so many people indulge in alcohol and drugs.

It used to be thought that college students drank because they were away from their parents.  While that's a contributing factor, I think the real appeal of it is far more practical: you need to be able to shut your head off once in a while, and alcohol is a great way to do that when you have not been trained to do it otherwise.

We don't teach people how to manage their minds and their racing thoughts.  Thinking is encouraged, but like an engine that constantly revvs up, eventually it burns out.  The child prodigy who gets his doctorate at 14... where is he when he's 40?  Most don't learn how to succeed.  That's left to lesser minds.

Meanwhile, we are finding that young people have a harder and harder time coping with the pressures of the 'know everything' culture.  They have become emotionally fragile, in large part because the new parents 'shield' their children from negative feedback in the hopes that they will absorb more data.

But, when they discover they are wrong, suddenly their world (which defines itself by the ability to always know the most and thus always be right) comes crashing down.  They can't handle and go into anxiety mode.

Suddenly, that 'bong,' filled with either beer or cannabis smoke, becomes one of the few escapes from the stresses of the Unknown and the minor failures of the day.  For some, it is the only escape.  Porn does much the same thing without many of the nasty side effects of a night on the town. 

One of the first things that converts struggle with in Orthodox Christianity is the vast aras of knowledge that seem 'unknowable' or 'off limits.'  There are 'Mysteries,' which sound like an intriguing invitation to be defeated through better research.  Of course, if there were source materials on these Mysteries, then they would not be so mysterious.

So, converts buy books and try to read, but what good does it do?  Many of them burn out after only a few years in the Church because they keep getting a 'denial of service' when they seek to know what they have already been told is unknowable.

The lack of clarity on so many things in the Church drives converts crazy.  They can't just be in the Church... they have to think about it and understand it.  All of it.  This, of course, is the real problem.  They discover they can't know it all, and that becomes a 'failure' of sorts.  They fail to understand, and thus they also be to be 'part of' of the Church from their perspective.

Knowledge is the key to everything so they think.

Sobriety is largely about acknowledging that you don't know everything, nor is it even to be expected.  It is about, first and foremost, existing.  We don't exist very well these days.  Think, yes.  Exist, not so much.  Existence is almost accidental.

The addict knows that too much thinking is as dangerous as too little or none at all.  By learning to accept the Mystery of Life, one's need to over-think decreases.  We don't need to use to slow down the whirling thoughts in our minds.

If we are going to preach the Gospel in this new era, the first thing we will have to do is preach against over-thinking and the dangers of Information Overload.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Embracing a Negative Message

Yes, it has been a while, hasn't it?
To be honest, I'm overwhelmed with lots of small things that add up to one big thing... I call it the 'Blob.'  It's just a big blob of half-completed tasks, partly from my own sloth and partly from the broken promises of others.  Oh, well... life is never easy.
What I have been thinking about lately is how we have taken a culture of unbounded criticism and created an environment where people have begun to embrace all that is negative.
It used to be that criticism was always done in the face of self-confidence, like a counter-weight to pride and vanity.  But, what happens when the pride is gone?  All that is left is the barrage of complaint and fault-finding.
This is what you get in religion, where people are constantly complaining about the world or humanity or religion itself.  Then, when the criticism 'wins' the debate, it refuses to stop.  It just keeps coming, and soon it destroys what it once sought to correct.
It becomes constant dissatisfaction and pessimism.
There are people who are not able to handle both value and criticism.  They want it 'all-or-nothing.'  Outsiders here the criticism of Western culture from Westerners and believe the bad is the totality... and then you end up with radicalism and ISIS/Daesh/Al Qaeda.
When everything is bad, we end up prisoners of rage and depression.  That's why those movements eventually become rape-factories and feeding frenzies of oppression.
I'm talking politics, but I am also talking daily life.  When you teach kids that their societies are nothing but 'evil' and you make 'good' so totally abstract that they can never really experience it, get ready for substance abuse and other forms of 'escape.'
The phenomenon sweeping the world right now is dissatisfaction, one that has come with the 'Critical Theory' movement.  Everything is endlessly analyzed, and examined, and critiqued... often without the benefit of the 'whole picture.'
So, we end up fretting endlessly about food ingredients and how everything causes cancer... and forget that humans are living longer than they ever have.  In fact, some say we now have too many of them, but then we run around and save them from diseases and famine.
Contradictions, yes?
We have become lost in the details of criticism.
So we are miserable.  The blob I fight with is a tightly-knit organism of details that disappears only when I step back and get some perspective.  That's what I'm fighting with right now.
I refuse, however, to embrace the negative.  I believe the world is good, that it was made good, and no amount of human sin can change that.
That's the source of my hope: that the God who is good made all things good.

Friday, March 13, 2015

"Secular Parenting" and Parasitic Atheism

Of course, the Los Angeles Times is giddy about the 'Good News' of secular parenting.
We have seen studies that have also shown us that gay parents are actually better than heterosexual ones.  Yes, it seems that liberation from 'traditional morality' and the confines of religion are absolutely wondrous!
Well, that's until you look at the details, and by that I mean the ones all around you.  The ones you are not supposed to talk about.
You know, like the record levels of divorce.  Must be fun times, eh?  How about use of psychiatric medications and treatment?  Addiction, a favorite of this blog, seems to be blooming... can we blame religion for that?
Interestingly enough, the featured expert does mention that later in life those raised without religion do tend to go looking for it or something like it. 
There are other studies that indicate the opposite: religious families tend to have lower levels of social problems than children raised without a serious religious practice at home.  While kids in the typical parish do have problems, as a former substitute teacher, I can say I'd prefer to be in a Sunday School classroom than a secular one any day of the week.
It is stupid to suggest otherwise.
What they are looking for is how the kids answer the questions posed to them, hence the 'attitudes' they are measuring.  They are not really examining the things kids won't say in an interview, nor are they looking at the plain evidence around us.
Secularism demands obedience just as much as religion does.  Certainly, Orthodox Christianity does have a whole list of 'freedoms' one gives up to follow Christ.  There is a difference in emphases, and on the whole a secular interviewer will find far more positive answers from a secular-minded child than a religious one who has not been raised with the vocabulary of the Secular Elite.
But, even then, we ought also consider some of the underpinnings of the secularism preached in this article.  Tolerance?  Since when is that a 'secular' attitude? 
From the article-
For secular people, morality is predicated on one simple principle: empathetic reciprocity, widely known as the Golden Rule. Treating other people as you would like to be treated. It is an ancient, universal ethical imperative. And it requires no supernatural beliefs. As one atheist mom who wanted to be identified only as Debbie told me: “The way we teach them what is right and what is wrong is by trying to instill a sense of empathy ... how other people feel. You know, just trying to give them that sense of what it's like to be on the other end of their actions. And I don't see any need for God in that. ...

“If your morality is all tied in with God,” she continued, “what if you at some point start to question the existence of God? Does that mean your moral sense suddenly crumbles? The way we are teaching our children … no matter what they choose to believe later in life, even if they become religious or whatever, they are still going to have that system.”
So, the question then comes down to this: what do you do if the child/adult decides to question the premise of empathy?  What if they decide not to care about others' feelings?

Is that uncommon?

There's the logical weakness, for which the seculars have no answer except the brute force of handcuffs and prison bars, which is also a contributing factor in why we have so many people in prison.  Secularism in schools has weakened the religious side of culture, and brought forth a generation of weakened religious people.  Prisons are filled with failed religious practices and failed religious people. 
You can mock them, much as secular elites do.  Or, you can think about how much better they would be if they actually followed the religion that they appeal to after they get caught in the grips of life.
Whereas Christianity tells man that, whether he 'gets caught' or not in this life, he will still have to answer for his crimes, the secularist must be caught now.  Kids, and adults, figure that one out pretty quick.  That's why atheism as a political force quickly devolved into a regime of murder.

The Golden Rule itself was not invented by atheists or secularists.  It comes from Christianity, though the Christian is the one that stands out: whereas the 'Golden Rule' is usually about reciprocity, Christianity actually calls us to lay down our own lives for the sake of others.

You don't find that in secularism the same way.  Yes, secularism demands 'sacrifice,' but it does not demand love for one's enemies.  To test this, just ask a secularist to love a 'racist' or a 'religious homophobe.'  After you scrape the secularist off of the ceiling, you will get the picture.

The truth is that secularism is 'parasitic,' in that it still requires people to be informed by Christianity in order for it to work.  You are free to choose to ignore the Divine commandment so long as not too many people around you do the same thing.  Once the scale tips towards every person deciding how others feel and how he will or will not meet those feelings, the more the system breaks down. 

Religion waits for no man, and so we have a safeguard against the self-contemplation that leads to narcissism and myriad of problems we have right now... especially loneliness.

Another meaningful related fact: Democratic countries with the lowest levels of religious faith and participation today — such as Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Belgium and New Zealand — have among the lowest violent crime rates in the world and enjoy remarkably high levels of societal well-being.

Yes, all success stories... up until you read the news.  Birthrates among these wonderful secular nations are plummeting.  People are lonely and depressed.  Suicide is high, and that evil 'racism' that secular people here in the US are concerned about is woven into the very fabric of their cultures (follow the ethnic riots and tensions in Europe).

The only way this article makes any sense is if you just obey the secular Party Line.  Obey, don't question.  Religion is bad, period.  We are better for not believing.  Question them, not us, because we are smarter and better.

Of course, in the end, when your 'kid' is high all the time and living in the streets, you'll demand he go to treatment... and he'll start hearing about God.  They you will probably just revert to the second line of defense of Western secularism, called the ABCs... Anything But Christianity.

You still need Him.  We all need Him.  His love is the very fabric of the Universe that holds it all together.

Meanwhile, the way is wide to secularism.  March through its gates, and enjoy the fruits of our modern paradise.



Monday, March 9, 2015

Sober Living House

So, if you are curious, that's what I've been really thinking about during my post hiatus.  It isn't enough just to post blog entries.  I'd like to do something more.
So, I'm listening to people who are 'in' the treatment world, and most will tell you the bigger challenge is getting the newly-sober through the first year without a relapse.  It means teaching new life skills and getting through mankind's oldest enemy (even older than the devil)... time.
We need time to learn and to grow.  The problem is that time moves at its own pace, both too fast and too slow at the same time.
Once you have spent the big bucks and gotten your 28-day 'treatment,' where will you go?  Most people go back to the people and places that were part of their addiction.
Sober living houses are not treatment, but a place to start living a sober life.  Wouldn't it be great to have a sober living house that is Orthodox based?  There would be access to Orthodox chaplains, prayer service, education... a place where one can get a spiritual and religious boost in addition to having a supportive, drug/alcohol-free environment?
Of course, this means not only finding a sponsoring agency (I'm talking to one, so we'll see), but also finding donors and volunteers.  Once it gets off the ground, it isn't expensive... but buying a house in the Los Angeles area is.  Yet, I think it can be done.
There are enough resources in the area that residents can get the support and guidance they need, plus there are opportunities to find work.  Once we get one going here, I'm sure there will be others.
What do you think?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Yes, I am still alive...

Well, it has been a long time since I posted here.  Judging from the occasional emails that come in or the comments that aren't spam (oh, boy, there are a lot of spammers out there), people are still reading the >4 years worth of almost-daily posts.
I stopped posting because of two reasons: one, I felt like I was starting to repeat myself; and, two, my life is unmanageable.
As to the first, I am working on some new theories, but I'm not entirely comfortable with speaking them aloud until I've had more time to examine the evidence.  Until that happens, what I have to say I have already said.  You may like it, or you may not, but it is there for the world.
As to the unmanageability of life, it is just that: I am stretched too thin.  I have young kids and an old body (thank you, modern life).  My health is as neglected as the fixer-upper house that constantly challenges me to learn new skills in construction and repair.  All of that with a moderately-sized parish with its own unique set of demands.
I have not given up on the message, but the messenger himself is weak.  The vessel is more than cracked... it is worn out.
That does not mean that I have utterly surrendered.  My priorities are to get my family through the next few years and my house in a more livable condition.
At the same time, I am gradually collecting information on what it would take to start a long-term, Orthodox-oriented, sober-living house.  We're talking about a post-treatment home where a group of sober Orthodox Christians can live and work. 
Sobriety (and one could include abstinence from all manner of temptations, including crime) is often defeated by returning home and finding all the well-worn paths just as they were left.  Old friends arrive on the doorstep, and the siren-call of the old life is often too much to bear.
Sometimes, a 'geographic' is exactly what the newly-sober needs to get on with life.  When your home is a tomb, life requires you to move out of the cemetery.
Of course, it takes money to get something like this going.  And, money requires willing partners, and those partners need a plan.  That's the tough part.  There is not precedent for it, and no existing infrastructure.  It is something new.
Please pray.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

'Spice' Hits Russia, and American Legalization Starts to Crack

The Vice Channel is reporting that the 'designer drug' known as Spice has hit the Russian streets.  Heroin is doing what it has done in the US: the bad effects are becoming widely known and unpopular, so as the users die off, new ones are less likely to get started.
Spice hit the US streets a few years ago, but its 'bad trips' have helped curtail its abuse.  Besides, with marijuana legalization basically a reality in much of the US, pot is still a much more attractive alternative.

Of course, Russia is also fighting an additional battle, one that we in the West are also dealing with, but in a different way.  If you watch this RT video, you'll notice one of the dealers has a 'Salafi-style' beard:
Russia has a large Shia Moslem community, which the Saudis have spent years infecting with Radical Sunni (a.k.a. Salafi, Wahabi, etc.) Islam.  Saudi success meant years of conflict in Chechnya.  If these guys are Salafis, then chances are they are tangled up in Russia's own 'War on Terror.'
Of course, the Great Legalization Crusade in America is happening at a time when, as the same channel reports, the Dutch are gradually shutting off the spigot on marijuana:
The rest of Europe is tired of dealing with the expenses of Holland's permissive attitude.  There is also the growing sense that the time to play is over as the 'guest workers' are gradually becoming a force of their own to be dealt with and, after this summer's race roils in France, Sweden, and Italy, Europeans are beginning to realize that they might have to come back from holiday and start doing something about their culture of infertility.
As for the US, Colorado is already starting to have its regrets over the legalization process, which now has a majority of the consumption not in cigarettes and pipes, but in 'edible' forms to avoid the nasty smoke.  Attempts to stop the distillation of marijuana have been stymied, and for good reason: the only reason anyone uses marijuana is to get high.  Again, that attitude with any other drug, or alcohol, would get you public consternation.  Here, we accept that it is nothing but an intoxicant.
While other states are toying with legalization, the fervor is over as other states see Colorado's problems.  Already, people are now worried that these edible marijuana products are going to end up in Halloween treats for children.
Is that far-fetched?  With so many people hyping the benefits of marijuana, even for children, how many people out there might try to 'share the benefits?'
The mental illness of the drug world is tragic.  We will just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

'The Pill'

Yes, I am still alive.  Doing a lot of thinking, which actually is not as conducive to writing as much as one might expect.  In this format, 'thinking out loud' can lead to all kinds of mostly-permanent problems.
The internet has its own 'permanent record.'  And, particularly these days, few humans seem to possess the 'mercy gene' which allows for minor foibles to go unpunished.  There is a totalitarian mentality these days, perhaps mostly because we are so much more afraid of the world than we were before.
However, that's not what I'm posting today.  Rather, a reader of this blog sent me a very interesting article:
Of course, it contains all of the usual bromides... the 12 Steps are too hard, the overall success rate of AA is only 5-8%, etc.
Another bromide is that 'harm reduction is successful with heroin addicts.'  That should be rewritten to say that harm reduction is successful at making addicts slightly less of a public nuisance.  They are still addicted and are not free.  It is like having padded manacles or gentle slavery. 
So, a pill is developed that will 'help' reduce the effect of alcohol, thus reduce the amount of drinking.
I swear these folks have never talked to an addict.  It isn't about the drinking.  Or the using.  It is about the suffering.
Sure, the pill may reduce the effect of alcohol, particularly on those alcohol abusers and hard drinkers that get carried away like the way many people lose themselves occasionally at the dinner table.  That's not addiction.  It is gluttony.
The addict will find a work-around.  Sure, he may stop drinking with the pill, but watch his pantry or his computer screen or his bank account... the addiction moves into another activity that releases the endorphins and 'relaxation response' that drinking once did without the pill.
Addicts don't need alcohol to get high.  They just need a high, and they can get it lots of ways.
Heck, I've seen raging alcoholics give up their drink overnight and remain on a rage bender for years.  yes, there's another pill for that, and soon our friend can take a whole pantry of meds and literally fry his liver doing what the 12 Steps do organically.
Maybe that can be AA's new message-sharing strategy-
The 12 Steps are the Green way to recovery.
Yes, I am kidding.
Sure, the recovery rate in AA is low... because the meetings are open and most people take years to get to a point of willingness.  AA is meant for the 'hopeless alcoholic,' not the newbie abuser with plenty of spunk and lots of ambition.  Read the histories written by Dick B. and you will see that AA has changed dramatically in that respect.
The 'pill' does not rebuild the relationships broken by addiction, nor does it cure the inner suffering the Steps address.
No pill can replace the healing of repentance and conversion.  No pill can make your amends for you.  No pill can replace the sense of God's love and mercy.
No pill can make you Sober.