Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, and Death

A few weeks ago Chester Bennington, the front-man for the genre bending group, Linkin Park died, apparently having committed suicide.

When I was in high school I really loved every song but one on their first two albums Hybrid Theory and Meteora. And in those days of music pirating software like Kazaa and Morpheus, I was able to discover older versions of hits like In The End with significantly superior lyrics that may not have been as interesting to a mass market audience.

The weird thing about Linkin Park is that they were a staple in weight rooms and gaming dens alike. But admitting you liked them in public was like admitting you liked Wrestling, Nickleback, or Dragon Ball Z. But everybody knew that millions of people liked these things, but somehow it was weird to like them in public…even if you knew that all the jacked guys in school listened to them, too.

I did watch wrestling and I know an unusual number of ex-addicts (usually alcohol) who found Dragon Ball Z’s main character Goku to be archetypally important for overcoming their problems. So, yeah, I like Dragon Ball Z, too. And frankly, Linkin Park had enough awesome songs with sci-fi themed music videos to be a legitimately awesome band. Though, you probably only liked them if you programmed computers, played video games, or lifted weights in high school.

Here’s my favorite Linkin Park and Dragon Ball Z music video:

If you want to be less of a goober and weirdo, here’s the version of that song with alternate (superior lyrics). It deals with the struggles of seeking to be an independent thinker:

Lyrics:

It starts with one
And multiplies ’til you can taste the sun
And burned by the sky you try to take it from
But if it falls, there’s no place to run
Crumbling down, it’s so unreal
They’re dealing you in to determine your end
And sending you back again, the places you’ve been
And bending your will ’til it breaks you within
And still they fill their eyes
With the twilight through the skylight
And the highlights on a frame of steel
See the brightness of your likeness
As I write this on a pad with the way I feel
Hear the screaming in my dreaming
As it’s seeming that you’ve played your part
Like you’re heartless, take apart this in the darkness
But I know that

Chorus :
I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

I’ve looked down the line
And what’s there is not what ought to be
Held back by the battles they fought for me
Calling me to be part of their property
And now I see that I get no chance
I get no break, fakes and snakes
Quickly lead to mistakes
And as the tightrope within slowly starts to thin
I can only hope that they close their eyes
To the twilight through the skylight
And the highlights on a frame of steel
See the brightness of your likeness
As I write this on a pad to the way I feel
Hear the screaming in my dreaming
As it’s seeming that you’ve played your part
Like you’re heartless, take apart this in the darkness
But I know that

Chorus :
I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

I’ve put my trust in you
Pushed as far as I can go
For all this
There’s only one thing you should know
I’ve put my trust in you
Pushed as far as I can go
For all this
There’s only one thing you should know
I’ve put my trust in you
Pushed as far as I can go
For all this
There’s only one thing you should know

Chorus :
I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

 

Journalism: A lost art?

I was looking up some of Will Gervais’ recent work on atheism (has in the past published on why even atheists dislike athiests, heh).

One of the articles that popped up was a salon article about his recent work about the apparent prevalence of atheism in the United States. In the final paragraph the author remarked that, about Trump:

As with his other attempts to turn back the clock in America, President Trump’s remark in his inaugural address about joining all Americans together with “the same almighty Creator,” threatens the intricate and varying histories, beliefs and ways of being that are present in this country.

But Trump is a guy who, if ever, only took an interest in God very recently and has made no moves toward a theocracy in any policy.

The article had an awesome title portending the rise of hidden atheists within evangelicalism, “Trump Evangelicals face a growing number of ‘hidden atheists.'” I had hoped for an article about atheists going to church or something (of course this was Solong magazine).

I am aware of several atheists who are willing to participate in Christian culture if it means not submitting to a Muslim culture. I heard one atheist put it this way, “What if the choice isn’t between atheism and Christianity, but between Jesus and Muhammad?” But the headline had nothing to do with the article. The current religious demographic is the same as it was during the election, which means that with the current atheist population, Trump won. So if “Trump evangelicals” are facing “hidden atheists” I don’t know in what sense, if any, that is significant. I’ve known several atheists at most stages in my conscious memory. When I was a kid, I temporarily thought God made no sense because a giant man-in-space couldn’t see both sides of the earth simultaneously. Atheism, particularly of the uncritical sort, is as common as hammers.

Anyway, I applaud the author for trying to apply the findings of #SCIENCE to a topic not addressed in the original piece, but the remark I quoted above is essentially a non-sequitur in relationship to the Trump quote, the numbers cited, and the headline. Why? One, a president (Trump or otherwise) using the vague language of American civil religion is hardly an attempt to threaten the beliefs of atheist Americans. Even the phrase “almighty creator” can be vague enough to be endorsed by Christians, Muslims, or atheists who think the universe generates life through random processes (incidentally, it’s atheists I know who dwell within the darkest corners of the neo-reactionary movement, not the Christians…so I’m interested to know what atheist support for Trump actually looks like despite the left leaning tendencies of atheists).

Two, Obama had several similar references to God in his two inaugural addresses. Here’s one:

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.  This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.  This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall; and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

Oh no, the president threatened the stories of atheists by claiming that their confidence in American ideals is theologically rooted!

Anyway, I’ll get around to making a post about atheists being disliked, but for now, at least I found one more barely readable article written to the glee of the internet about how one last thing might spell the end of Donald Trump’s campaign.

Eating Meat is good for the environment?

I mean, of course it is. Farming animals requires ecosystem maintenance, whereas vegetation farming on mega farms is simply a process of ecosystem alteration through a process of chemical fertilizing, mass pesticide promulgation, and government subsidizing of non-ideal plants in regions hostile to their growth. Dr. Eades, over at protein power has a great post about this:

Human herding mimics the ‘herding’ done by large predators in the wild. That replicating natural herding creates the richest soil makes sense given that grasslands, large herbivores, and carnivores all co-evolved. Just as with diet, the closer we come to what the forces of natural selection designed us to eat, the better things work.

Here’s a Ted talk he posted about it by Allan Savory:

Jesus and Conservative Family Values

I saw a goofy journalist on Twitter claim, in essence, that Jesus opposed “conservative family values.”

Leave aside for a moment that Jesus wasn’t much of a screamer (Matthew 12:19-20).

As an experiment let’s see what the gospels related concerning Jesus’ views about the topics of conservative family values:

Marriage/Celibacy/Divorce

Matthew 19:3-12 ESV
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Non-conservatives outside of the group that identifies as asexuals are typically astounded any promotion of intentional celibacy. Similarly, non-conservatives overwhelmingly support no-fault divorce. Jesus utterly rejected the ancient equivalent. Jesus also endorsed sexual dimorphism as the divinely instituted rfoundation of marriage.

Children

Matthew 19:13-15 ESV
Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.

Jesus, who taught that the kingdom of God was the highest value, made it clear that it was meant for children. In other words, Jesus supports the having of children, through the means mentioned in marriage.

Parents

Matthew 15:3-6 ESV
He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

Jesus says that honoring mother and father extends to financial care in their old age. He then claims that any tradition or practice that gets in the way of doing so constitutes rejection of God’s word. This is so, even if that practice is explicitly connected to worship.

Jesus’ Teaching Goes Beyond

Now, Jesus’ teaching goes beyond conservative family values. But he’s certainly not opposed to marriage, having children, raising them to live in God’s kingdom, or even going to work to support your family (which he did). He goes beyond when he said to love your enemies and choose moral rectitude over family loyalty, but Jesus never contradicts family values. He actually makes them harder.

Gary North on Training to Lose

Gary North wrote an article in 1980: Training to Lose, in which he observed:

The athlete has to train before he enters the race. He must discipline his body and his will, in order to be fully prepared for the exertion of the contest. The contest has winners and losers, and the Christian is not supposed to be a loser. This means that he must enter into the contest with self-confidence, enthusiasm, and a strategy for victory. He is not to spend time looking over his shoulder to see how far he has come from the starting- point, or how well his competitors are doing. He is to look straight ahead at the finish line, pacing himself so that at the end he will have spent all of his reserves. He should give the race everything he has– emotionally, physically, and strategically.

 

If we look at modern Christianity, we find very little of this sort of training for life’s race. Christians act as though victory is achieved passively, as it the race were not worth training tor, as if the hope of victory were not part of the motivating factors in running. If we were to regard modern Christianity as a training program, and it lite were viewed as a race, how would we judge the success of the program? Would we conclude that modern preaching has raised up a generation of skilled athletes who are ready for the competition? Or would we have to conclude that the program has produced a lot of overweight, under-motivated weekend joggers who would collapse half way to the finish line?

I fear that North’s criticisms are right on.

 

Cro-magnon vs Cro-Ipod

Geoffrey Miller offers this thought experiment on the differences between ancient and modern life. While I enjoy the trappings of modern life, thought experiments like this make it easy to see how much of it is contrary to human nature (in an Aristotelian sense):

Consider the average Cro-Magnon of thirty thousand years ago. She is a healthy thirty-year-old mother of three, living in a close-knit clan of family and friends. She works only twenty hours a week gathering organic fruits and vegetables and flirting with guys who will give her free-range meat. She spends most of her day gossiping with friends, breast-feeding her newest baby, and watching her kids play with their cousins. Most evenings she enjoys storytelling, grooming, dancing, drumming, and singing with people she knows, likes, and trusts. Although she is only averagely intelligent, attractive, and interesting, most of her clan mates are too, so they get along just fine. Her boyfriend is also only average, but they often have great sex, since males have evolved wonderful new forms of foreplay: conversation, humor, creativity, and kindness. (About once a month, she hooks up secretly with her enigmatic lover, Serge, who has eleven confirmed Neanderthal kills, but whose touch is like warm rain on Alpine flowers.) Every morning she wakes gently to the sun rising over the six thousand acres of verdant French Riviera coast that her clan holds. It rejuvenates her. Since the mortality rate is very low after infancy, she can look forward to another forty years of life, during which she will grow ever more valued as a woman of wisdom and status.

 

Now consider the average American worker in the twenty-first century. She is a single thirty-year-old cashier, who drives a Ford Focus and lives in Rochester. She is averagely intelligent (IQ 100), having gotten Cs in a few classes before dropping out of the local community college. She now has this job in retail, working forty hours a week at the Piercing Pagoda in EastView Mall, fifty miles from her parents and siblings. She is just averagely attractive and interesting, so she has a few friends, but no steady boyfriend. She has to take Ortho Tri-Cyclen pills to avoid getting pregnant from her tipsy sexual encounters with strangers who rarely return her phone calls. Her emotional stability is only average, and because Rochester is dark all winter, she takes Prozac to avoid suicidal despair. Every evening she watches TV alone. Every night she fantasizes about being loved by Johnny Depp and being friends with Gwen Stefani. Every morning she awakens to the alarm clock next to the fake Chinese rubber plant in her six-hundred-square-foot apartment. It wears her out. Thanks to modern medicine, she can look forward to another forty-five years of life, during which she will become ever less valued as an obsolete health-care burden. At least she has an iPod.[1]

There’s a synthesis, but what is it? Miller’s account doesn’t reckon with the possibility of objective meaning in life from religion or with morality. But nevertheless, the apparent gulf between the two lives he describes is vast. And while it’s easy to claim that one is painted in a negative light intentionally or that we have no idea that any ancient woman lived the life he describes, both accounts are plausible. I’ve know of many people living the unhappy version of the modern life he describes. It’s not beautiful and from a purely naturalistic standpoint, has very little meaning.

References

[1] Geoffrey Miller, Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior (New York: Penguin Books, 2014), 20.9 / 758

Nobody’s Job: Civilization

A few weeks ago, I posted that civilization is everybody’s job.

Bruce Charlton claims the opposite in a remarkably pessimistic post:

However; ‘civilisation’ is (quite rightly) nobody’s priority to sustain – not least because it is a by-product rather than a strategy; and is anyway a very long-term and remote problem – so it will always be made a low priority in competition with so many others.

I think, on one level, my post and Charlton’s are reconcilable. For instance, I think it is true that happiness is man’s chief end, but I also think that ‘seeking happiness’ in itself is simply a bad idea. Happiness is found indirectly as it is an activity in accordance with virtue, a sort of combination of present experience, total quality of life, and committing oneself to one’s personal work in a virtuous way. But we still must acknowledge that it’s what we seek and define it well lest we indirectly foil our pursuit of it. Similarly, civilization isn’t built by the person growing a garden, living in doors, or being polite at the super market. But it isn’t unhelpful to have in mind that if the majority of people never do either, then civilization cannot exist.

Virtual Reality is dangerous?

While I’ve only used it once, the virtual reality revolution in gaming seems like an anti-civilization time bomb. The people who tend to use it will be young men with high openness to experience and intelligence. The more immersive it becomes, the less frequently men with those traits will reproduce, etc. I quipped in college that sex robots would be supremely dangerous for that very reason. Too much television may already have had some negative effects on American culture.

In the mean time, scientists may have found this problem with VR:

In Mehta’s studies, he and his colleagues built special setups with tiny treadmills that the animals could run on while exploring a virtual room. The rats appeared to behave normally in the setup, but when the researchers looked at the animals’ brains, they “found really surprising stuff,” Mehta said.

For example, in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in mapping an individual’s location in space (as well as many other functions, ­including memory, learning and dreaming), 60 percent of neurons simply “shut down” while the animals were in virtual reality, Mehta found.

And it gets worse. Many of the neurons that don’t shut down show abnormal patterns of activity. In the real world, these neurons create a map of space, but in the virtual world, “the map of space is totally destroyed,” Mehta said.

Mehta suspects that the part of the brain involved in keeping track of an animal’s location is so fine-tuned that it “expects” everything to be in sync. “I believe that’s why these neurons are shutting down” in virtual reality, he said.

But is it bad for the animals that the hippocampus shuts down in virtual reality? “We don’t know the long-term consequences,” Mehta said.

“When millions of us are using virtual reality 6 to 7 hours a day,” he said, “we may want to look [into] it, given that it’s such a big change.”

Now, there was a great deal of scaremongering amongst pundits in recent history over violence and sexism in video games leading to violence. Research has shown this link to be false. It could be the case the virtual reality is similarly innocuous in the final analysis. I’m not opposed to video games, nor to virtual reality. They’re less time consuming for casual users than sports television and probably less emotionally distressing.

Intellectual Weakness

Nobody wants to be weak. Weakness leads to losing.

Weakness leads to resentment.[1]

One of the most uncomfortable forms of weakness intellectual weakness.

There are many ways to overcome this problem, but the first is to read.

The abysmal truth is that few read before or during college:

“The desire to appeal to incoming students who have rarely if ever read an adult book on their own also leads selection committees to choose low-grade “accessible” works that are presumed to appeal to “book virgins” who will flee actual college-level reading. Since common reading programs are generally either voluntary or mandatory without an enforcement mechanism, such “book virgins” have to be wooed with simple, unchallenging works. This was our conclusion two years ago: the lay of the land is still much the same.”

If you want to get ahead in life, at least ahead of yourself, read. If you read you can:

  1. Get inside the head of somebody smarter than you. (Have you written a whole book?)
  2. You can empathize more effectively.
  3. You can learn new skills.
  4. You can acquire great examples for action, thought, and virtue.
  5. You can avoid the brain rot of emotional eating or over watching television.
  6. You can understand the foundations of your culture and rescue you father from the underworld.

Footnotes

[1] For the Christian, weakness can be a form of power, insofar as that weakness is one that the Christian has tried to overcome. In that sense, Paul the apostle can speak of his preference for weakness. This preference is not, even in context, an excuse for low-effort, shoddy thinking, or laziness in general.