Music Monday: What is this?

This is, easily, the weirdest song I’ve listened to in the last four years. Based on the comments section, it appears that the song has a fan base among the marijuana smokers, or as I call them to save syllables, ‘dopers.’

 

Anyway, if want some more standard fare, I recommend this:

 

Classifying What Speech is Free

In an NYT piece, Lisa Barrett argued that:

By all means, we should have open conversations and vigorous debate about controversial or offensive topics. But we must also halt speech that bullies and torments. From the perspective of our brain cells, the latter is literally a form of violence.

But I would suspect that most people who accept her argument also tend to accept that freedom of expression applies to art, public demonstration, flag burning, and anti-Christian rhetoric of the sort utilized by atheists and hard-line feminists.

For instance, I would suspect that ‘from the perspective of our brain cells’ people who love their spouses being told that they are a part of an oppressive and regressive system called the patriarchy fell attacked. I also suspect that people who vote republican being called ‘Nazis,’ with the implication that they are morally reprehensible and ought to be destroyed causes them distress ‘from the perspective of their brain cells.’ 

 

Why is Covetousness Idolatry?

In Colossians 3:5, Paul equates covetousness with idolatry:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

Why?

Well, in Genesis 1:29, man is given explicit permission to eat any plant.

In Genesis 2:16-17, God forbids consuming one fruit (incidentally, the eating of animals is not prohibited, not is their use for sacrifices).

So in the whole field of potential possessions, man is limited. Why? Because to limit man’s desires implies that they are not meant to receive total fulfillment in created things (Ecclesiastes 2:9-10). Man’s desires are functionally infinite (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The created order is simply not suited to the vastness of human desire.

Covetousness is the notion that created things are the primary point of human desire. It arises from the attempt, whether implicit or not, to fill the infinite void in the human soul with the limited field of creation.

When God placed limits on consumption in the garden, the lesson was, apparently, that humanity cannot possess all of creation and the attempt to do so results in futility and meaninglessness.

And so coveting, by replacing God with created things, is idolatry in a way that other sins besides actual idol worship are not.

Thoughts on Strength Training For Women

A friend recently asked if I could help her design a strength training program (and I just finished). And while I made one for my wife and made jump/chin-up/and general strength programs for clients in the past, I still just felt the need to look more into the research on women’s health issues and the relationship between those issues and strength training. Of course, the general benefits of the iron pill still apply.

Here’s the basic formula:

Perfect form + reasonable exercise choice + progressive resistance + rest and calories = strength gains. 

But many weight lifters, male or female, don’t want strength per se. Men will want bigger arms, women bigger glutes or “toned arms.” 

While trainers should take these considerations into account in program design, general human improvement is the goal of any training program. I would say that personal trainers ought to follow something like ‘help people be happy‘ as a first principle.

Here are some difficulties faced by women:

  1. 40% of women in the United States are obese. Obesity is associated a host of mental and physical health problems. It is associated with social issues as well, specifically perceived attractiveness to both men and women. Weight gain happens so frequently in college, that it has the nick name, “the freshman 15.” That period of weight gain frequently continues through middle age. Equally dangerous is being thin but having a high bodyfat percentage. This is known as being skinny-fat.
  2. Roughly 25% of American women use prescription medication for depression, anxiety, and other psychological problems. Women disproportionately struggle with depression for a host of reasons, one of which may be physical weakness. In fact, women are twice as likely as men to be depressed.
  3. Women disproportionately develop osteoporosis.
  4. Women can become pregnant, which is physiologically and psychologically stressful. Not only so, but a large percentage of women simultaneously want to become pregnant at some point but delay pregnancy into their thirties or are obese, both of which decrease one’s chances at becoming pregnant.   

Now, here is what some research says about the effect of strength training on these difficulties:

  1. Strength training is a remarkably effective intervention for obesity and body composition. Improvement in body composition is important for those who are obese and those who are ‘skinny-fat.’ In this sense, strength training contributes to cardiovascular health, decreased cancer diagnoses (cancer increases in obese individuals), perceived attractiveness (strength training can decrease waist size and increase hip circumference, thereby moving the Waist Hip Ratio between 0.65-0.75 which is apparently the gold standard in terms of cross-cultural attractiveness and perceived fertility), fertility, and several other markers of general well-being associated with a healthy BMI and body composition. 
  2. Exercise generally both aerobic and resistance training in particular have “a large and significant antidepressant effect in people with depression.” One intriguing theory is that depression evolved as a bargaining tool for resource acquisition during periods of physical weakness. And while I make no recommendations about health or drugs on this blog, in the case of depression
  3. Resistance training improves bone health in young adult and post-menopausal women.
  4. Strength training improves markers of physiological and psychological health in post-partum women. Strength training before and during pregnancy, especially when combined with aerobics  is associated with a host of benefits. These benefits include: decreased time in first stage of labor, decreased back pain, lower incidence of gestational diabetes, healthier weight gain, heavier babies (good or bad?), less time off work for pain, lower incidence of preeclampsia, and increased cardio-respiratory fitness. For obese women, exercise generally, is associated with proper regulation of ovulation, though overtraining can have a negative effect on fertility. Also, progressive resistance training may contribute positively to an total treatment program for PCOS due the association of PCOS with insulin resistance.

Strength training has an almost panaceaic quality for several of the problems faced by women as throughout their lives.

 

 

 

 

Music Monday: When Bastille “Can’t Even!”

When I heard this song the other day, I thought it was a parody:

How can you think you’re serious?
Do you even know what year it is? 
I can’t believe the scary points you make 
Still living in the currents you create
Still sinking in the pool of your mistakes 
Won’t you stop firing up the crazies? 

 

This reminds me of Paul Graham’s wonderful essay What You Can’t Say. The very idea that ‘what year it is’ should determine what can, can’t, should, or shouldn’t be said is about as unamerican and certainly as illiberal an idea one can imagine. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from his essay:

We may imagine that we are a great deal smarter and more virtuous than past generations, but the more history you read, the less likely this seems. People in past times were much like us. Not heroes, not barbarians. Whatever their ideas were, they were ideas reasonable people could believe.  

Self-Esteem

A former student sent me a link to a video about self-esteem last week. She asked for my comments. I finally made time to watch it today. Here’s the video:

 

Matt Walsh is certainly correct here. Confidence, defined essentially as known competence in the face of difficulty is superior to self-esteem (see note below). 

But I was asked, why I do not know, for my thoughts. William James defined self-esteem with this equation:

Self-esteem, in this sense, is inevitable. It is impossible to be void of self-reflection to the point that you never compare your level of success to your pretensions. For James self-esteem is your pretension (an ideal vision of yourself) compared to your attainment. Spiritually speaking, this is most fully explained in Romans 7, but Galatians 6:4 puts it most concisely (and more positively):

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. (Galatians 6:3-4)

For the Christian there are two challenges when it comes to self-esteem:

  1. Determining whether our ideal self is a realistic portrayal of our potential based on our understanding of Jesus Christ and our personality, circumstances, and calling.
  2. Making the wise choices necessary to make progress toward our ideal self.

If you confront those challenges and always recall your admiration of Christ and your confidence in his ability to accomplish what he says he will, then I suspect you’ll be in good shape:

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)

So, “do good things, and you’ll have all the esteem you need.”

Note: What I don’t like about Walsh’s video is that Walsh criticizes a theoretical construct (self-esteem) with a colloquial one (confidence). Note Albert Bandura’s distinction between confidence as a general term (the word Matt uses) with self-efficacy, the definition of which, Matt uses for confidence:

Thoughts on the Trees in Eden

In Genesis 2:9, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil are both “in the midst of the garden.” That’s not a literary happenstance. Proverbs 3 makes a startling connection if you keep Genesis 3:6 in mind (the tree was desirable to make one wise): 

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. (Proverbs 3:13-18)

Finding wisdom is a tree of life. 

In terms of what the trees are representations of in our own daily experience I am not quite sure why the trees are in the same place (or are the same tree?). But in Proverbs, wisdom is a tree of life. Maybe something like self-consciousness of death is wisdom but also catastrophic from the point of view of personal experience? I don’t know. 

Jung and God

In Man and His Symbols, Jung attempts to tackle the topic of religious experience:

Christians often ask why God does not speak to them, as he is believed to have done in former days. When I hear such questions, it always makes me think of the rabbi who was asked how it could be that God often showed himself to people in the olden days while nowadays nobody ever sees him. The rabbi replied: “Nowadays there is no longer anybody who can bow low enough.”

This answer hits the nail on the head. We are so captivated by and entangled in our subjective consciousness that we have forgotten the age-old fact that God speaks chiefly through dreams and visions. The Buddhist discards the world of unconscious fantasies as useless illusions; the Christian puts his Church and his Bible between himself and his unconscious; and the rational intellectual does not yet know that his consciousness is not his total psyche. This ignorance persists today in spite of the fact that for more than 70 years the unconscious has been a basic scientific concept that is indispensable to any serious psychological investigation. (92) 

As interesting as Jung’s interpretation of the rabbi’s quote is, I find the quote itself more interesting. Why don’t we have direct experiences of God? There is no longer anybody who can bow low enough

The New Testament says this:

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6b)

And, interestingly, so does the Old:

And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”
(Numbers 12:6-8)

But Moses’ experiences with God are not even mediated through dreams and riddles, but through a direct conversational experience that the Bible says is unparalleled (Exodus 33:11)

But the nature of our experience of God is not what concerns me (we cannot decide how God will communicate with us). What concerns me is the mode by which we receive communication from God, and the rabbi said to humble ourselves. And over all, I think that this is right.

Now, of course, we’ve got to humble ourselves before God in the way in which God has revealed himself, but the facts of God’s revelation (Scripture, the resurrection of Jesus, the church in history, etc) are not self-evident to all. But I would suggest that whether you’re a Christian or just somebody who really wants to understand the core of reality, the first personal step is to humble yourself

Note

Jung is right. Christians can use the Bible as a barrier between themselves and God. Jesus warned the Pharisees of this exact danger:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
(John 5:39-40)

You can rely so thoroughly on the faith experience of the characters and writers of Scripture that you never place your faith in God or practice the teachings of Christ. 

But he’s not totally right. Scripture does provide truths about God which register on the moral, logical, and mythological levels and it is meant to do this. The Bible itself is clear that God doesn’t need the Bible to communicate to us. But history has shown that when the Bible is interpreted as a witness to Jesus Christ, it provides a sure guide to God. 

 

Review: Baby’s Very First Library


Got this for my daughter. Don’t be fooled. It’s not a book. It’s a series of books starting with Baby’s Very First Bedtime. 

The adventure starts at night with the moon. This is fitting as reality seems like a dream. Am I awake, sleeping, in between? These experiences of the transcendent and the transitory are fundamental to being human! The story also includes toothbrushes, a trip to the stars for future scientists, self-referential breaking of the forth wall, and finally the exhausted protagonist going to sleep.

The next book is about mealtime, as though the young dreamer escaped from the prison of reality into a dreamscape of delicacies and delights. From this book a child not only learns implicit information about the life-cycle of many creatures starting with an egg and growing from there, but encoded in the story is a deep reflection on etiquette and nutrition. For instance, the only food that is shown eaten is a cookie, but only one bite is taken, indicating that the other foods, untouched (unbitten) by processing are a healthier choice. The bowl appears before the spoon. Portion, serve, then eat. Indeed! And endless abyss of learning and leisure awaits!

The third book, “Baby’s Very First Animals Book” opens with a bang. It juxtaposes nature’s sweetest animal (the lamb) with its most violent (the penguin…seriously look up penguin gang behavior…or spare yourself and don’t). Next it shows the mouse and the cat, rabbit and lion, monkey and chicken, duck and dog. Each showing the Jungian dualities within each of us, our ego must choose between persona and shadow…whom do we choose to be? In this book you find Nietzsche and The Iron Giant rolled into one mega epic.

For the finale: Baby’s Very First Colors Book. Here baby learns that all things end. The sun comes up, just as the moon in the first book. But two of the characters, ice cream and snow man must melt in these conditions. This is sad, but it reminds us that joy is fleeting in most conditions. The story ends with a beautiful fish being hunted (haunted?) by a black cat. Does it pounce? We’re left with a cliffhanger. Why? We must choose. Our children must choose how the tale ends each day of our fleeting lives, as we, like snowman, may melt at any instant!

Five out of five stars. Would read again! Bravo!

Btw, my wife sells this brand of books here:

https://m.facebook.com/Usbornewithavery/?ref=bookmarks

A brief spiritual exercise from Genesis 1:26-31

In Genesis 1, the Lord makes the world insofar as it is experienced by humanity, as a place he considers good and very good. It is a composition of chaos and order and more fully, in Genesis 2, God makes a Garden to demonstrate to man how, as a being in his image, to subdue the earth in a way that brings more potential out of it rather than ordering it in a stifling way (think of a garden with no bugs…super orderly but no fruit!) or leaving it to pure chaos (a field with no edible food for humans, but covered in fire ants and fleas hiding in the weeds).

With this in mind, I think part of being God’s image is asking at the end of our days: “Can I look at what I’ve made of this day and say, with honesty, ‘this is very good?'” And if you can’t, then revise yourself.

Jonathan Edwards had a practice like this, though it wasn’t explicitly based on Genesis 1:26-31:

41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.

 

Psalms 34:11-14 Genesis 1:26-31
Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
(Genesis 1:26-31)