Marcus Aurelius’ Questions for a Strong Mindset

Marcus Aurelius - Project Gutenberg eText 15877.jpg

What am I doing with my soul? Interrogate yourself, to find out what inhabits your so-called mind and what kind of soul you have now. A child’s soul, an adolescent’s, a woman’s? A tyrant’s soul? The soul of a predator— or its prey?[1] -Marcus Aurelius Med. Bk V, chap 11

One of the most valuable exercises we can perform is to determine the content of our thoughts and the state of our souls.

With the four questions above, one of the greatest mindset writers of all time, Marcus Aurelius, helps us to determine if our mindset is strong or weak. 

Remember, strength of mind is a virtue.

  1. What am I doing with my soul?
    For Aurelius, this question means am I cultivating virtue, learning to be tranquil, understanding nature, conforming to it, and achieving the goals I set?
  2. Do I have a child’s soul, an adolescent’s, a woman’s?
    In other words, “Is my soul adequately developed for who I am?” If a man, do I shirk responsibilities like a child? Aurelius would have believed in traditional gender arrangements. So, if a man, do I fear battle? If a woman, do I think as a man who is more willing to fight than to care for my children and home?
  3. A tyrant’s soul?
    A line in the gospels helps us understand this. Jesus said that his followers should not “Lord it over” one another as the leaders of the nations do. Do I require that I get my way from everybody? While this may make one feel very powerful when it works, the decisions of others are the worst of things upon which to rely. Can you have virtue and tranquility if you possess the soul of a tyrant? Can you even have strength?
  4. The soul of a predator or its prey?
    This is particularly helpful in a culture that seems to reward behaviors of submission and retreat.[2] People don’t want to be weak and often to mask weaknesses will engage in self-destructive rather than self-constructive behaviors. Are you a predator that overcomes obstacles to seek the good? Or are you the prey that waits for problems to come your way? Are you bold as a lion or do you refuse to move forward because you fear the lion in the streets?[3]

 

References

[1] Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations: A New Translation (Modern Library) (Kindle Locations 1357-1359). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[2]

 

[3] See Proverbs 22:13 and 28:1.

Wisdom Wedneday: The Evil Woman in Proverbs 6

Pro 6:23-35 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, (24) to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. (25) Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; (26) for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life. (27) Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? (28) Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? (29) So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. (30) People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, (31) but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house. (32) He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. (33) He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. (34) For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. (35) He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts.

There’s a myth that persists in the minds of young men. I call it the “perfect princess” myth. I talked about it in a post on the forms of lust a few years back. The myth is that men are bad bad bad and women are good good good. On any evangelical reading of the world and of Scripture the truth of the matter is that hearts of men and women are sick and evil (see Romans 3:23).

The myth often holds tightest in the minds of young men who obsess over women who have no interest in them but in many cases will use them as a sounding board for their frustrations with other men (husbands, boyfriends, etc), free food, or even financial support.

The author of Proverbs was aware of these dangers. As an aside, before it was an internet meme, I knew a guy who found himself in the “food zone.” The food-zone is the relationship space you enter when a spends non-romantic time with you for free food. The author of Proverbs would say that preying on a young man’s affections for free food is evil. But he would also say that the young man is just as evil for refusing the see the truth in the hopes of having his far-fetched desires for affection fulfilled. The “I can fix her/him” is a powerful narrative in the minds of the lonely.

Image result for "the foodzone"

The book of Proverbs warns young men here that such feelings of wanting to rescue such women are actually sinful because behind them is ultimately a desire (on one or both ends) to commit adultery. The proof is that when such a relationship reaches a sexual peak, nobody will sympathize when consequences occur. The attitude, the sneaking, the wishing, etc are all wrong. What’s funny is that I’ve heard this passage called “sexist” because it calls a woman evil. But at the heart of it it’s a warning to young men that evil women exist and that the innate desire to be with such women is itself evil.

Note: Observe that the evil of this character in Proverbs 6 is a particular type of evil. When the Bible says that all are sinful it doesn’t mean that all commit literal adultery. So the “evil woman” here is a particular kind of person for young men to avoid. It’s not a call (as I’m sure some monks have interpreted it) to avoid all women all the time.

 

 

 

Foucault the Resentful

In an long interview, two of my favorite authors/speakers discuss the problems of academia, particularly the adoption of Lacan, Foucalt, and Derrida as heroes:

 

Peterson’s interpretation of why intellectual elites (Paglia calls them midgets), influenced as they are by Foucault act as they do is beautiful (6:42). He essentially says that the motive force in academia is resentment virtually anything that implies merit or competence!  

Coincidentally, I just read a chapter in Hadot’s Philosophy as a Way of Life where he rather politely abuses Foucault’s misreading of the stoics. Foucault claims that the stoic notion of cultivating the self is a form of pleasure in one’s own self. But the very letter of Seneca from which he derives this view eschews self-admiration for precisely a form of contemplating ‘the best version of the self,’ or rather meditating on a transcendently transformed vision of the self in order to more fully pursue that vision. It appears to be precisely what Peterson claimed, resentment of any notion of merit or competence. 

Here’s what Seneca actually said about contemplation of the self in order to find joy:

“Real joy, believe me, is a stern matter…But it is hard to keep within bounds in that which you believe to be good. The real good may be coveted with safety. Do you ask me what this real good is, and whence it derives? I will tell you: it comes from a good conscience, from honourable purposes, from right actions, from contempt of the gifts of chance, from an even and calm way of living which treads but one path. For men who leap from one purpose to another, or do not even leap but are carried over by a sort of hazard, – how can such wavering and unstable persons possess any good that is fixed and lasting? There are only a few who control themselves and their affairs by a guiding purpose; the rest do not proceed; they are merely swept along, like objects afloat in a river. And of these objects, some are held back by sluggish waters and are transported gently; others are torn along by a more violent current; some, which are nearest the bank, are left there as the current slackens; and others are carried out to sea by the onrush of the stream. Therefore, we should decide what we wish, and abide by the decision.”

I sympathize greatly with the stoic vision of joy, though I think that it too thoroughly eschews the pleasures of sense and their role in flourishing, but for Foucault to intentionally misrepresent that as finding pleasure in the self instead of having an aesthetic view of the world. 

Brief thoughts on McKnight on Pennington on the Sermon on the Mount

Scott McKnight read J. Pennington’s book, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing, and while he liked the book, he found the argument for a virtue ethics reading of the Sermon on the Mount helpful, but not totally convincing. This doesn’t surprise me, McKnight wrote a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount that rejected any attempt to do what Pennington’s book attempts to do. 

As an aside, in his book on the Sermon on the Mount, McKnight wades briefly into the deep waters of philosophical ethics and utterly dismisses the arguments made by Kant on the basis of their being “leveled” by Stanley Hauerwas (ha!): 

“Kant’s statement of the categorical imperative is an attempt to free us of the need to rely on forgiveness and, more critically, a savior. Kant’s hope was to makes [sic] us what our pride desires, that is, autonomous.” 

I’m all for pithy dismissals of academics and dead people whose influence has gone on too long. But this doesn’t refute deontological ethics or the need for a categorical imperative (for instance, Christian theology must admit of at least one naturally available law of conscience: do what God says). Hauerwas just states Kant’s alleged intentions without any evidence that Kant thought or felt this way! For instance, if I intend to over-populate the world to destroy the human race by famine, and therefore, devise great anti-abortion arguments, they are not thereby refuted if Stanley Hauerwas tells everybody what my journal or his crystal ball says my true intentions were.

On to McKnight and Pennington.

Here are McKnight’s criticisms of the ‘virtue ethics approach’ used by Pennington:

So, while I would agree with the general description of virtue ethics he offers, the question for me is Whether or not Jesus taught that habits form a character that form a character-who-acts virtuously. I don’t see that habit of thought for Jesus.

 

So, too I can agree with this in general but I wouldn’t put the emphasis on what he does: “Namely, the Sermon is offering Jesus’s answer to the great question of human flourishing, the topic at the core of both the Jewish wisdom literature and that of the Greco-Roman virtue perspective, while presenting Jesus as the true Philosopher-King” (36).

 

Thus, too, I don’t agree: “Thus, to conclude this discussion we can arrive at an important point and depict this dual context intentionally. The point is that both of these contexts overlap in their goal of and emphasis on whole-person human flourishing, but the basic orientation of the Sermon is first and foremost that of the eschatological story of Israel, the coming of God’s reign/kingdom with Jesus as the King. This redemptive-historical perspective greatly shapes and modifies the virtue vision of the Sermon relative to its otherwise similar approach in Greco-Roman philosophy” (38).

 

So, to the point directly: Pennington finds Solomon or David behind the Sermon more than I would and he does not find Moses enough. Nothing is more clear from Matthew’s text than Mosaic themes in 5:1 with 7:28-29 and the whole — yes the whole — of 5:17-48. Not enough Moses, too much Solomon/David, and too much Aristotle. My contention is the Sermon has three plus more angles: an ethic from Above (God’s revelation as with Moses), an ethic from Beyond (eschatology of judgment/prophets) and an ethic from Below (wisdom tradition), plus christology and plus ecclesiology and plus Spirit.

 

A few thoughts:

  1. Regardless of New Testament background, if virtue ethics is true and philosophically demonstrated to be true, then that is the ethical context of humanity and therefore the proper mode of applying the Sermon on the Mount to life if it is accepted as true on the basis of its divine source. And so regardless of whether Matthew or Jesus had the Aristotelian background of virtue ethics in mind, if such a theory of human flourishing is true, then it provides a thought-space within which to interpret a divinely provided summary of ethics. 
  2. It is important to see Moses in the Sermon on the Mount (obviously), but it’s equally important to see Moses as a literate Hellenized Israelite Christian might have seen him. Philo and Josephus saw the way of life exemplified and taught in Moses’ life and law as the exemplary life of a philosopher.
  3. I would add that neither McKnight nor Pennington see Abraham enough in the Sermon. Jesus is presented as ‘the son of Abraham.’ How does that theme appear in the Sermon? I suspect in Jesus sharing a blessing with the world as Abraham was promised his children would do, and going back to Matthew 4:1-17, by being a light to the gentiles, in particular Jesus is a light of truth about the true nature of righteousness. And Abraham was also read by Philo as an exemplar of the philosophical life. Matthew doesn’t have to mean this for the resonance to be present. And Philo’s views weren’t novel. The letter to Aristeas shares similar concerns and predates Philo.
  4. In McKnight’s book Kingdom Conspiracy, he defines ‘kingdom of God’ as basically the church: a people with a king and laws. But if that’s true, then in Aristotle’s taxonomy of politics and virtue, it is only natural that an ethos of a sort will arise from and is exemplified in the laws of a kingdom. And so this provides some coinherence of ideas between the New Testament and Aristotle.
  5. It’s well established that μακαριος is synonymous with Aristotle’s eudaimonia by the writing of the gospels. 
  6. The Old Testament itself treats flourishing as something like contemplative action oriented toward God which leads to prospering/blessedness over time, especially Psalm 1. 
  7. In ancient writings, claims of divine revelation were frequently written/interpreted as a form of philosophical discourse. Parmenides is the paradigmatic example, having written little over a century after the time of Isaiah. Socrates and Heraclitus did the same. Stephen Clark’s work Ancient Mediterranean Philosophy or Yoram Hazony’s Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. And it is in the case that several Jewish works from just prior to and during the time of Jesus and the New Testament authors (re?)interpret the Old Testament as a book of philosophy: Sirach, Wisdom, and 4 Maccabees all come to mind. 
  8. Finally, nothing in McKnight’s approach comes close to negating an Aristotelian synthesis, aside from McKnight’s insistence that it does. If Jesus’ ethic is ‘from above, from beyond, and from below, what prevents us from learning from Aristotle, and empirical psychology/social psychology about the nature of habits and their acquisition in order to help us become the sort of person Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount? This is what Aquinas was attempting in all of his writings, but McKnight hardly interacts at all with Aquinas, which makes sense because books cannot be infinitely long.
  9. The apparent stoic influence on the New Testament is well documented. This could be because the authors imbibed from stoicism or because the moral universe they inhabited was so thoroughly influenced by a stoic virtue ethics that they simply wrote that way. This cannot be left unsaid in a discussion of the role of human flourishing and virtue ethics in the New Testament. 
  10. The New Testament simply doesn’t have to utilize the language of philosophy to answer philosophical questions. I’ve hinted at this twice above, but I felt the need to be clear. 
  11. Finally, by the time of Justin Martyr the Christian lifestyle and thought world was considered ‘the true philosophy.’ The question is this: was this a natural development from the nature of the source material or was it imposed upon Christian discourse by the apologists? Some confirming evidence is that some recent scholars interpret Jesus as a cynic philosopher (he was obviously more than that and also probably was not self-consciously attempting to be that).  

As an aside, I’ve only skimmed a prepublication copy of Pennington’s book. So I don’t know if I agree with his whole argument. But I certainly see what he generally says is in the Sermon on the Mount in there. I recommend his article Resourcing a Christian Positive Psychology From the Sermon on the Mount

Hugh Hefner and the Problem of Sexual Non-Polarity

Ross Douthat opined on the death of the arch-pornographer:

Hugh Hefner, gone to his reward at the age of 91, was a pornographer and chauvinist who got rich on masturbation, consumerism and the exploitation of women, aged into a leering grotesque in a captain’s hat, and died a pack rat in a decaying manse where porn blared during his pathetic orgies.

Hef was the grinning pimp of the sexual revolution, with quaaludes for the ladies and Viagra for himself — a father of smut addictions and eating disorders, abortions and divorce and syphilis, a pretentious huckster who published Updike stories no one read while doing flesh procurement for celebrities, a revolutionary whose revolution chiefly benefited men much like himself.

That’s a great paragraph. Hefner contributed, in his own way, to the dissolution of the very foundation of American culture that made innovations like spaceships, smart phones, and breast implants (central to his lurid industry) possible. But to refer to him as “a father…of eating disorders…” is ludicrous.

There is almost no research literature supporting the claim that media portrayals of thin (or overly thin) women influences eating disorders. Women weigh, on average, as much now as men did in the 1960s, and men are fatter too! Just looking around in the 1940s-1980s one would see more thinner people than one would likely see on television now. So, unless Douthat wants to argue that publishing air-brushed photographs of women with low BMI causes mass binge eating disorder, that element is flatly false. 

It matters that it’s false. Implicit in the idea that media portrayals of thin women create disordered eating is the notion that the male preference for certain body-types in their sexual partners is a form of exploitation and oppression (see The Feminine Mystique). 

But Hefner, for all his evil, didn’t create sexual preferences any more than 50 Shades of Gray did. He exploited them.[1]The idea that the general male sexual preference for reproductively viable partners is a uniquely evil invention of the modern American man is a pox on our modern worldview that contradicts biology, the history of literature and art, as well as an implicit attack on the value of sexual polarity in the first place. Douthat, apparently buys into that.

Hefner’s influence is so rotten, not because his wares imply the notion that a beautiful woman can catch the eye of a man and procure resources from him, that’s part of what marriage is! Instead, Hefner’s whole industry is so dastardly because it exploits sexual polarity in order to undermine it all together. How? When sex is reduced to actors acting and individuals watching, the immediate motivator for sexual reproduction and competition is rendered void. When men who have normal sexual desires find themselves more motivated to masturbate to porn than to make money, invent the future, and raise families, civilization loses. But not only does civilization lose, when men and women do not engage in the dance/war of dealing with the fact that they are practically different species from one another, they lose an essential component of meaning in their daily existence. 

The economic, individual psychological, and evolutionary results of a vastly pornographic culture are worth further reflection in the future.

Camille Paglia, who wrongly assesses Hefner as a positive influence on our culture, has a much more realistic and controversial read on the allure of pornography:

The unhappy truth is that the more the sexes have blended, the less each sex is interested in the other. So we’re now in a period of sexual boredom and inertia, complaint and dissatisfaction, which is one of the main reasons young men have gone over to pornography. Porn has become a necessary escape by the sexual imagination from the banality of our everyday lives, where the sexes are now routinely mixed in the workplace. 

 

With the sexes so bored with each other, all that’s left are these feminist witch-hunts. That’s where the energy is! And meanwhile, men are shrinking. I see men turning away from women and simply being content with the world of fantasy because women have become too thin-skinned, resentful and high maintenance. 

And American women don’t know what they want any longer. In general, French women — the educated, middle-class French women, I mean — seem to have a feminine composure, a distinct sense of themselves as women, which I think women in America have gradually lost as they have won job equality in our high-pressure career system.

She’s probably right, but I’ll add two thoughts.

First, Hugh Hefner and those like him, by providing a fantastical world of unattainably attractive women has contributed to the collapse sexual polarity. Why be masculine if you can simply image having sex with the sort of people you wish loved you? And why by gracious and feminine when men live in pornworldtm

I would add that men themselves have become too boring, Christina Hoff Sommers wrote about how the public school system has contributed to this. But that is its own problem. To be a safe and good husband/father entails a bit of boredom, but to be too safe is to invite less attention from women [unless you’re tall or rich]. It’s stormy sea, but honestly it’s one that people have navigated in different ways that have been fun and fruitful for thousands of years. 

The question is this: what could you do to extract yourself from pornworldtm on the one hand, and utilize sexual polarity to enhance your virtue and sense of meaning on the other? 

References

[1] The research on sexual motivation vs sexual orientation is interesting. Here are a couple of paragraphs from a recent attempt at a theory of sexual orientation:

“…In our understanding, not all stimuli that are perceived as sexually arousing necessarily correspond to a sexual orientation. Instead, in terms of the chronophilias, it seems useful to differentiate between a relatively rigid sexual orientation for specific body schemas (in terms of sexual attractions as opposed to sexual behaviors and/or identities that are to a much larger extent malleable by cultural and social norms/expectations; Bailey et al., 2016) and relatively incidentally acquired (for lack of a better term) sexual motivations based on experiences of sexual arousal or gratification contingent to certain stimuli…

 

…If it was an evolutionary successful strategy to seek fertile females, modules that direct sexual attraction to visually accessible indicators of reproductive maturity and fertility should have reproduced with a higher frequency than others. As youth or maturity are social constructions rather than perceivable characteristics of potential mates, these modules should be sensitive to easily perceivable features…

 

Nevertheless, to fully understand why so many men turn out to be teleiophilic and heterosexual, it seems reasonable to assume that at least some of the building blocks of this sexual orientation are pre-discursively determined. [I know in academia you can assume nothing, but how was this not obvious?]

To the surprise of no sane individual, on a planet where seven billion people exist by means of sexual reproduction, men appear to be evolutionarily hardwired to be teleiophilic (attracted to the sexually mature) heterosexuals who prefer visible cues of reproductive fitness. But within the confines of sexual orientation, variances of sexual motivation occur due to choice, enculturation, and so-on.

The insidiousness of Hefner’s influence is not in that he created a sexual preference for certain alluring features (obviously, he sold what already interested the sort of people who buy porn). Instead, he contributed to the transformation of sexual motivation toward masturbation, which makes the hedonic release of orgasm easier than the process of finding a mate and setting out on life’s journeys together. Masturbation was always available, but in a more secular culture it is no longer associated with shame which might lead to trying to find a mate. It also never used to be performed in the context of access to millions of pornographic images and videos. As mentioned above, this deadens one’s sense of meaning on the individual and civilizational level. Hefner contributed to that. 

The rise in weight [from food availability and mass binge eating] and the consequent decrease in reproductive viability of men and women in the United States is an entirely different issue and to imply that sexual attraction is not tied to reproductive cues in the absence pornography is wishful thinking about the most fundamental market place.

 

 

William Briggs and Monty Hall

William Briggs explains the solution to the Monty Hall problem:

Many of you will already know the answer, but read on anyway because it turns out to be an excellent example to demonstrate fundamental ideas in probability.

Incidentally, I just did this yesterday to a group of surgical residents [this was in 2012]: you might be happy to know that none of them got the right answer. One even insisted—for a while—that I was wrong.

That last line is so frequently a problem with academic types. They’re born with above average IQs and they’re used to being the quickest wit in the room. So when they’re presented with obvious reasons that they’re wrong they simply infer that their interlocutor is wrong or stupid. It’s one of the reasons I hate being around academics, they rarely discuss to discover the truth but only to air their opinions.

Anyway, go read the whole article. When I used to teach statistics and probability, my students always found their minds blown. 

 

Pornography is Cultural Subversion

While at the most obvious level pornography exists as either an alleged celebration of the human form or as a trangressive method of making money by playing on a constellation of psychological issues: insecurity, loneliness, depression, and our need for immortality, the genre is less obviously meant for something else. Nate Abrams (a Jewish author) wrote:

Extending the subversive thesis, Jewish involvement in the X-rated industry can be seen as a proverbial two fingers to the entire WASP establishment in America. Some porn stars viewed themselves as frontline fighters in the spiritual battle between Christian America and secular humanism. According to Ford, Jewish X-rated actors often brag about their ‘joy in being anarchic, sexual gadflies to the puritanical beast’. Jewish involvement in porn, by this argument, is the result of an atavistic hatred of Christian authority: they are trying to weaken the dominant culture in America by moral subversion. Astyr remembers having ‘to run or fight for it in grammar school because I was a Jew. It could very well be that part of my porn career is an “up yours” to these people’. Al Goldstein, the publisher of Screw, said (on lukeford.net), ‘The only reason that Jews are in pornography is that we think that Christ sucks. Catholicism sucks. We don’t believe in authoritarianism.’ Pornography thus becomes a way of defiling Christian culture and, as it penetrates to the very heart of the American mainstream (and is no doubt consumed by those very same WASPs), its subversive character becomes more charged. Porn is no longer of the ‘what the Butler saw’ voyeuristic type; instead, it is driven to new extremes of portrayal that stretch the boundaries of the porn aesthetic. As new sexual positions are portrayed, the desire to shock (as well as entertain) seems clear.

 

Abrams goes on to ask what reason, if any, should anybody be ashamed of such a cultural influence. 

It would appear that pornography is not just a nihilistic use of pleasure to cynically pursue profit from the chronically lonely and undersexed, but it is (for some) a mode of cultural subversion in a ‘spiritual battle.’ The problem with secularists who engage in spiritual battles is that their lack of belief in spiritual things does not nullify the negative effects of “winning” on the side of evil. 

To win the spiritual battle against Christian-values/Christendom in their American iteration by using pornography has all of the measurably bad effects porn has. I think the one positive thing that porn has allegedly accomplished is that neighborhoods with higher porn consumption supposedly have less sexual assaults (it’s a study I’ve heard cited but have never found). All of its known effects and qualities: lower libido, social isolation, wrong sexual expectations, being generally disgusting, and requiring the enjoyment of the debasement of others are all observably bad for individuals and civilization.  

Anyway, American Christians should think of porn this way: it’s an attack on your soul, it’s a mocking of the past that brought you into existence, and it’s an attempt to cancel your continued influence on the world after you die (by dissolving the structures meant to help you raise a family). 

Porn sucks. Subverting the goods of civilization sucks. And I don’t believe in associating norms and self-mastery with authoritarianism. 

Let Your Light So Shine

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

Question:

Doing your good works ‘before others’ so that they will glorify God seems to be a bit narcissistic on the surface. “Do your good deeds in such a way that people notice them and glorify God,” why should we be so sure that others notice us and attempt to parse out our motivations?”

Answer:

The solution is in the metaphor: Nor do people light a lamp and hide it. The Christian is somebody who does good deeds in such a way that their left hand is unaware of what the right hand does. In other words, they so habituate themselves to be generous that they just behave generously. So back to ‘do your good deeds before others.’ A candle doesn’t know (as a human would) that it’s a candle. It just makes light. Jesus is saying something like this, “Do your good deeds so un-self-consciously that you even do them before others and like a candle that people light so that the room will be seen, your works will bring attention to the goodness of God.” It means something like that rather that, “go around doing things to attract attention to yourself and then claim to be glorifying God.” It means exactly the opposite of what Jesus criticizes in Matthew 6.

There was Ash

I prefer my songs to tell stories and it’s even better if whole albums can do it. For this very reason, one of my favorite bands is Murder by Death. Below is an album that is inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, but the protagonist is fairly evil and vicious. There are timestamps for the songs. I highly recommend “Ash,” but they’re all good.  

Their albums appeal to me because they tend to take epic tales (Dante, Milton, and Homer) and set them in small town North America. The dust, heat, and violence of the tales reminds me of stories shared around fires with my extended family as a boy. 

1. Comin’ Home 03:35 2. Ball & Chain 03:02 3. Rum Brave 03:06 4. Fuego! 04:11 5. Theme (For Ennio Morricone) 02:49 6. A Second Opinion 03:19 7. Steal Away 02:05 8. Ash 03:32 9. The Black Spot 03:21 10. ’52 Ford 02:25 11. Spring Break 1899 05:56

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: