Topics: Motivations

Reasons behind why we do things


Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

About three years ago, I had a very bad church experience. It colored how I thought about church for a long time after – that it was corrupt and imperfect, an entity that detracts from a person’s thriving spiritual life. However, I realized the other day that I have completely recovered from my anger towards all churches.

What was the thing that helped me?

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Philosophy does not exist in a vacuum

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Johnny had a great post over at TheFireSermon regarding how we should approach the big philosophical questions. In a book he sites, there are two general kinds of approaches, both relating to a person’s temperament: tender minded and tough minded.

Those who are tender minded are, Intellectualistic, Idealistic, Optimistic, Religious, Free-Willist, Monistic, Dogmatical. The tough minded are, Sensationalistic, Materialistic, Pessimistic, Irreligious, Fatalistic, Pluralistic, Skeptical.

To me this is a great direction, and my interest would be to further break down the sources of a person’s temperament. Where does it come from? How is it formed? Read the rest of this entry »

Intellectuals are all talk

Monday, April 9th, 2007

To paraphrase Bill Cosby in “Bill Cosby as Himself”:

“Intellectuals are people who study and read books about what other people do naturally”

I usually lose 2-3 hours a night (after I hit the sack at midnight) thinking deeply about something.  Here’s what keeps me up at night about being kept up at night: What’s the difference between the non-intellectual and the intellectual? Well, one person can defend what they believe better, but what good does that do the world? It seems that if deep thinking has any use, it must lead to action. If all I do all day is think but never act on my thinking, what difference have I made than the person that just does good naturally? If I pound my head over the sovereignty of God vs. the free will of men, but a Calvinist friend is out helping the poor in a soup kitchen, in the end, who is the better person? The one who acts, not the one who simply thinks or talks. Christ says much the same thing when speaking to the religious leaders of the day.

The one thing about people who are legalistic (have a billion rules about what is wrong to do) is that for all their excessive, non-biblical moral rules, they ALWAYS have license – areas of their lives that are grossly amoral. In other words, they are compensating. Christ made this apparent to the religious leaders – they where hellfire sure to tithe down to the leaf of every herb in their personal gardens, but failed miserably to live up to the much more important things – practicing justice, mercy, and faithfulness. “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

About a year ago, I decided that I am prime pickings to be a Pharisee. Its not a matter of attitude, it’s what you become by default if you love learning and studying spiritual things. I now have three whole shelves dedicated to Bible commentaries and philosophical books. Every new book I buy and place on those shelves is another nail in the coffin of who I am becoming if I am not careful. Even the Apostle Paul warns about this before he talks about Love in the famous love chapter quoted in most Christian weddings – Knowledge puffs up. So here’s the damning equation: Love of learning leads inevitably to pride which leads to inevitably to a self-centered life.

Here is what I am prone to do: I sit at my desk or chair with a great book, and my wife works downstairs with the chores of cooking and cleaning and looking after our now two children. I am reading a book on how to be more like God. For God sake, the stupidity! A more godly thing to do would be to go down to her and help her with the dishes and cooking the meal and watching the kids. I just did it again today. I played a video game where I am the hero out to save the world, (which is a great boon to my heart) but in real life, I sit at my computer for hours while my wife who has to nurse our new baby and cook dinner for our hungry daughter. I’m too busy pretending to be brave and helpful to a fantasy world to help even my wife a little in the real one.

I said my wife has done a lot in our community and church and work – its very true. Here’s the funny thing – she really beats herself up for not being spiritual and regularly thinks she’s a terrible Christian and looks to me as being the ideal. I just want to cry when she says that. I’m more to be pitied than to be looked up to. After 7 years of marriage, if she doesn’t see it that way (the hypocracy) then she probably will soon. I’m trying to shape up before she looses more respect for me πŸ™‚ Thankfully, I have a very gracious wife. I’m more critical of myself than she is.

Intellectuals are like legalists, they overcompensate for something they lack elsewhere. Legalists lack morality in some secret or subconscious area of their lives, Intellectuals lack action.

When I talk about action, I’m not talking about gigantic crusades to change our nation or culture. I’m talking about what matters – loving your wife, looking after your elderly neighbor, spending time with your children who are here today and gone tomorrow. I’m talking about unimportant things like doing the dishes, telling your wife you love her, taking out the garbage, cleaning up the house, helping her make dinner. What is the spotlight for except to inspire the best of us to do the smaller things that are the most important, that keep our families alive, that in turn keep our communities alive, that in turn keep our society alive?

I am probably being harsh on intellectuals (meaning I am being really harsh on myself). Maybe I’m the only self-centered intellectual around. But hey, if we love thinking so much and reading about stuff, how about we think about this: stop thinking and start doing. After you’re done doing something, you’ll suddenly have more to think about than you ever dreamed. I accidentally did something once, and can say it was wonderful from personal experience. πŸ™‚

The inner self

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

I finally got around to doing some diagrams about how I see my inner self (the spiritual person) and its different parts. I have written extensively about this in previous posts, but since I am a designer more than I am a philosopher or psychologist (I studied all three in college), I wanted to draw it out in a diagram. So the inner self, in its most basic form, seems to be composed of 3 elements – my heart (the real me) and my two influences, my self-destructive nature (selfish nature) and my conscience (my self-preserving nature). Below shows a diagram of each.This is a study that is very important to me, and is one of the main reasons why I started the weblog (among others). For my working theory is if I can understand the inner self (starting with me as the primary subject), its components and their makeup and interactions, I will better understand the reality of further circles of influences (personal relationships -> community -> society -> time period -> existence) But it all starts with how a single person works, on the inside. Below is the diagram that represents basically the entirety of all the philosophy, psychology, and spiritual reading and thinking I’ve done on the spiritual human being in the past 20 years.


At first glance, you might see this and immediately think of the iconic demon and angel sitting on a person’s shoulder whispering in their ear, but bear with me! There’s a lot more to this diagram and the thinking that goes behind it.

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Motivations behind the switch…

Monday, February 5th, 2007

Bored in Vernal posted a great question in response to the Risk and Proof post: Is a person who has had a religious experience with a God in one tradition justified in looking into other religions… here’s my best crack at an answer that is more exploring the issue than actually answering it πŸ™‚

What was the motivation for pursing another? If a person had real communication with a God from one faith tradition, why leave (or wander)? First of all, it might be easy to leave or look around because the God of one seems to be a similar God in another (such as is the case with Catholicism, Protestant Christianity, Mormonism, and Islam) – Every one of those faiths seem to believe in the same God of the Bible, but differ radically in the details. But even if the leaving is easy and would not be considered “adultery” in the OT sense, why leave or look elsewhere?

I guess there is a sense of studying other religions just to understand them while still believing in your current one, and this can’t be wrong, but what if one were actually trying to find truth in them. Even in this sense, it seems to me that there are certain truths found in most religions – such as certain virtues of martial fidelity, the view of life as sacred, not to steal or testify falsely in trial, etc. So in other religious that have a different God-like entity entirely – such as Buddhism or Hinduism in contrast to Judeo-Christian religions, some things are still the same.

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Dear God?

Friday, October 13th, 2006

*faith-based discussion removed on Oct.17th*

I recently listened to a song by Sarah McLachlan called “Dear God”, and I must admit, I was really confused. Can someone explain this to me? Anyway, here are the lyrics:

Dear god,
Hope you got the letter,
And I pray you can make it better down here.
I don’t mean a big reduction in the price of beer,
But all the people that you made in your image,
See them starving on their feet,
cause they don’t get enough to eat

From god,
I cant believe in you.

Dear god,
Sorry to disturb you,
But I feel that I should be heard loud and clear.
We all need a big reduction in amount of tears,
And all the people that you made in your image,
See them fighting in the street,
cause they cant make opinions meet,
About god,
I cant believe in you.

Did you make disease, and the diamond blue?
Did you make mankind after we made you?
And the devil too!

Dear god,
Don’t know if you noticed,
But your name is on a lot of quotes in this book.
Us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look,
And all the people that you made in your image,
Still believing that junk is true.
Well I know it ain’t and so do you,
Dear god,
I cant believe in,
I don’t believe in,

I wont believe in heaven and hell.
No saints, no sinners,
No devil as well.
No pearly gates, no thorny crown.
You’re always letting us humans down.
The wars you bring, the babes you drown.
Those lost at sea and never found,
And its the same the whole world round.
The hurt I see helps to compound,
That the father, son and holy ghost,
Is just somebody’s unholy hoax,
And if you’re up there you’ll perceive,
That my hearts here upon my sleeve.
If there’s one thing I don’t believe in…

Its you,
Dear god.

So what am I confused by? Well, the song, on the surface at least, is about a beef the singer has with God. So far, that makes sense, but the confusing part here is that she doesn’t believe in God. By the song’s bitter and angry tone, it obviously isn’t a parody about the ironic nature of an imaginary loving God in an awful world, nor is it just an intellectual look at the ironies of a non-existent God, it is an angry song about an imaginary God. That’s what confuses me. Why is anyone angry at a God who doesn’t exist? I must admit that I am not too good with understanding poetry or song lyrics and must turn to others who know better than I to understand, so I am hoping someone will help me here.

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The self-preserving nature

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

I’ve been thinking about the players of my inner life for days now. I’ve been trying to figure them out and what role they play. The self-destructive nature, my spirit, my self-preserving nature, the conscience, the will, etc. There are so many pieces, and I might be missing some, but I want to at least try to make sense of it all. For today, I want to settle on one piece — the self-preserving nature. So far I have determined there is a self-destructive one, so I believe it is reasonable to assume that we also have a self-preserving one, or else we would have died out as a species a long time ago. Read the rest of this entry »

The “selfish” nature

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

In previous posts, I’ve been talking a lot about what I call my selfish nature. I describe this nature as a force inside myself that is decidedly against my spiritual well being and the good of others. However, I was thinking that to describe this nature as selfish or self-centered is not quite accurate. What activities are self-centered or selfish? I have always associated selfishness as being a bad thing, but being self-centered is good in a sense. If I’m hungry, I take care of myself and eat. If I’m tired, I sleep. If I am cold, I get a jacket. If I’m exhausted, I take a break. So far, these things are good. Read the rest of this entry »

Purpose of philosophical thinking

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

As I mentioned earlier in my previous post, the active study of the spritual life in a philosophic manner has many traps and dangers. So what am I to do?

Many of my friends who I admire greatly see this failing in people like myself and simply veer towards anti-intellectualism in spiritual matters. They don’t respect the scholarly community, and mainly get their input of spiritual truth from pastors. Adopt a simple faith they say. Just believe what the pastor says to believe. I understand their reasoning – people who doubt, question things, or think deeply about spiritual issues can often have less then perfect motivations that will lead them into spiritual danger, but I’ve been given a brain to think with, so I’m going to use it. I’m keenly aware of the dangers (see my last post). Willful ignorance does nothing to improve my life. Why turn the direction of my spiritual life over to others to control? Of all things in life, should this not be entirely my responsibility?

The answer may reside in my understanding of the purpose of philosophy. Here are some thoughts on that subject, some from Epictetus, some from James, and some from myself. Note: beware of that last group… πŸ™‚ Read the rest of this entry »

Pitfalls of philosophical thinking

Monday, August 21st, 2006

When searching for truth, like any other endeavor, you need a good tool. I’ll use an analogy of removing a tree for this. Philosophy is my tool to discover spiritual truth like a chainsaw is my tool for cutting down a tree. Philosophy, like a chainsaw, can be quite dangerous to me if I don’t use it properly. It’s good to understand the dangerous of this tool before jumping up and using it. Why? Becuase if I don’t pay attention to its use, and understand its inherient dangers, I can seriously injure myself. This is not to say that philosophy itself is dangerous any more than a chainsaw sitting on the ground is. It has potential danger, but it requires kinetic energy (me) to interact with it for it to become dangerous.

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Regarding material possessions

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

As a Christian, I often hear of a philosophy that states we should spend more time with our spouse and God, and secondly, our immediate family, and thirdly, friends and extended family. They are very important in our lives. Careers (this means being a pastor, elder, deacon, or missionary as well as an engineer or designer), money, vacations, cars, hobbies are not important things. I believe there are very good intentions behind this philosophy, but it seems off to me. LetÒ€ℒs examine this philosophy. Read the rest of this entry »