My Search for Meaning:

September 3, 2012

Pete’s Personal Philosophy Paper

Here is the conclusion of the matter:  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment; including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.   -Solomon (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Ever since I began to think for myself, I’ve been searching for some kind of meaning in life. Coming from a modest but comfortable background, I was never spoiled by material things, but I never really knew what true poverty was either. Life was often mundane, so I found myself escaping through imagination and comics and later through horror and suspense novels. My parents had taken me to church when I was a child, but as soon as I was allowed to, I stopped attending, rejecting what I considered to be a dead religion. I never stopped believing in God, even in one who was good, but I felt that each person must find their own way to Him. In high school, I rebelled against most forms of authority and became involved in drugs. I was heavily influenced by music and poetry, and I continued to search for meaning through these new outlets. Jim Morrison, of the Doors, led me to William Blake and Fredrick Nietzsche and I eventually found Fyodor Dostoevsky. I began to see life as absurd and meaningless; however, I felt that it was our responsibility to give it some kind of meaning; I felt we all had a piece of God in us that called us to find our place in the world. Thus, I began to look for mine.

Around this time a very good friend of mine stopped getting stoned with me. He said that it was all about meeting Jesus. I laughed about it at first, but we continued to be friends and I saw that he really was different; he had acquired some inner peace that I couldn’t relate to. We had many deep talks and debates, and I began to read the Bible again to search for answers. It wasn’t too long before I no longer had the need to self-medicate. I found my own inner peace with Jesus. I discovered that Christianity is dead when it is seen as a religion, but that when you discover the Creator of the universe wants to have a relationship with you, it opens up an entire life of possibility, of adventure, of love, and of meaning. My relationship with Jesus is what determines how I view human nature.

I believe that everyone is conceived in a state of conflict. We are all made in the image of God: We have a desire for purpose; we want to be good; we want to love and to be loved. Yet, we all also possess a sin nature that we are conceived with: We are all selfish; we are all about pleasure, even at the expense of others; we deny responsibility and pass the blame along to someone else. These two aspects of human nature, what the Bible calls the spirit and the flesh, are constantly at war with each other. Which one wins out on a daily basis is determined by individual choice. At any given moment in life, we respond to our environment either through that God-like part of man, or we respond in selfishness and self-preservation.

Our choices are the result of both nature and nurture. I believe we are born with the personality tools and talents to fulfill a genuine need the world has. We have purpose, we even have some kind of destiny, but we also have the free will to deny our purpose. When we seek to fulfill that purpose, when we put the world’s, or others’, needs before our own, we are responding in the spirit. When we choose to only serve our own means, we are responding in the flesh. Even though we are born with this purpose, our environment is usually what teaches us what to do with it. Many people are born into hostile situations in which survival becomes their highest priority; others are born into healthy families that live and teach selflessness and purpose. So, we are born with gifts and talents and leanings toward certain beliefs, but our environment shapes how we decide to use what we are “given.” Environment doesn’t, however, have to determine who we are. We still can choose to be good (or bad). One of my favorite lines is from a children’s movie called The Iron Giant. A large robot falls from the sky, but has lost its memory. It is, at first, benign, and it befriends a boy. However, the robot was designed for warfare, and when it is attacked, instinct kicks in, and the robot begins to destroy everything in its path. The boy is able to get its attention and at a very emotional moment he states plainly: “You don’t have to be a gun. You can choose who you want to be.” The robot begins to fight his natural instinct of war, and ends up sacrificing himself to save the community (1999). In the same way, we have the responsibility to follow the spirit (selfless nature) rather than the flesh (selfish nature) no matter what environment we are shaped by. There are multiple examples of persons who have overcome adversity to become heroes and others born into all the comfort and support one could ever need who live at the expense of others. The choice to “do the right thing” is a daily struggle for all people.

Metaphorically speaking, we are all three people in one. There is our selfish and base nature that seeks only pleasure. There is the godlike selfless part of us that seeks to fulfill our purpose through serving others. And there is the person existing in the here and now caught between the two. Every time we make a choice out of selfishness, we move closer to our base instincts, yet pleasure is only momentary and can never be fully satisfied; therefore, if we seek to fulfill life through pleasure we will never find peace. Every time we make a selfless choice, we move closer to the spirit and fulfillment; true fulfillment is found in giving and having a purpose that meets the needs of others. However, no one can be good all the time, and often the attempt to be a good person can lead some to feel guilty when they make mistakes, or some will justify their bad choices and become judgmental of others; either way, they are in a state of dissatisfaction. It is impossible for a human to exist in a constant state of fulfillment. The closest we can get is a simple satisfaction while we all experience the highs and lows of existence. The key to consistent satisfaction is accepting that we have the potential to sometimes go to the highest level of goodness, yet we are also faced with the truth, that under the right (maybe wrong is a better word) circumstances we are no better than the worst of criminals. We need to always strive to be our best, but always be aware of our weaknesses so we can avoid them. We need to live in the moment, and decide for the here and now what choice we will make. The more we practice making good choices, the easier they become and we find a greater sense of fulfillment. The more we practice making bad choices, the easier they become, and we find ourselves never filled, never satisfied.

It is my personal belief that there is only one way to find true peace between the flesh and the spirit, and that is through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Believing in the power of his self-sacrifice for humanity enables us to live under grace, so when we do choose to be selfish and serve the flesh, we can be easily forgiven, and quickly move back into living for our purpose in life. Believing in the power of Christ’s self-raising from the dead gives one the advantage of receiving the Holy Spirit of God which empowers the human spirit to deny flesh and make the right choices. A nonbeliever can live righteously and practice good choices and find some times of fulfillment on earth, but as stated earlier, none of us can be fully good. Only God can be good. Without Jesus, we can’t reach our full potential in this life, and we won’t make it to everlasting peace in the next life.

I can’t pinpoint one psychological theory that supports my view of human nature on its own, but there are a variety of characteristics from a few that can easily be integrated together to form a solid base for me to work from. Of the theories I’ve studied, Adlerian Theory was the first one that really appealed to me as something truthful. I fully agree that the conscious is far more important than what is going on in the unconscious. I believe that exploring the unconscious can be a useful tool, even a doorway, into understanding what a person’s issues may be, but it is in a present state of consciousness that we live and deal with our issues, and that should be where we find practical solutions to cope and find healing.  I also agree that what we do with what we are born with is central to getting better. We do not have to be defined by our past. Additionally, I believe that all behavior is goal oriented, but we may not be fully aware of what our goals are, or the best way to achieve those goals. I think Adler’s theory of our need for significance and social connection is probably his most important contribution. I believe the two are dependent on each other. When we master a skill that is needed in society we feel valued and important. That leads to self-confidence, and others respect us for our abilities and for who we are, so we develop a social network we belong to which gives us a sense of meaning.

The search for meaning has been such a large part of my personal journey, there is no way I can ignore Existential Therapy. Much of my favorite literature was written by existentialists, but most of the literature focuses on the absurdity of life and states that life is essentially meaningless. It was very refreshing to find that Victor Frankl used the same ideas in his work to help people find meaning. I love his statement: “Man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked…by life” (1963). This puts the responsibility on us to find our meaning, to find our purpose. We can look into the past to see what brought us to this point, and we can consider where we want to be in the future, but ultimately it is the right here and right now that we are exist in, and we need to be the ones who put meaning into this very moment: Carpe Diem.

Showing someone they need to find meaning in life is relatively simple. Most people already consciously year for meaning. Finding out how one individually fits into the great scheme of things can be a bit more complicated. Because so many of us live in a state of selfishness, there are many of us walking around damaged and unable to take risks. How can people find their place or purpose in life and additionally find the confidence to take the risks needed to achieve mastery and social connection? The answer may be found in combining Rogerian and Reality Therapy. The need for genuineness and empathy is essential for any real relationship; since all people have a need to become socially connected, we must find someone who is an example of a genuine, caring and understanding person. He must be a safe and trustworthy person. This is the most difficult in life, isn’t it? I have personally found these relationships in the church through Jesus. It is important to realize, that no human is perfect and able to be fully trusted, but we must learn to both accept grace and forgiveness and offer grace and forgiveness in our relationships with others. It is only through a relationship with Jesus (the only man who was and is perfect) and following his teachings that I have been able to do so.

It isn’t until an individual learns to trust, that he will be able to truly find meaning. This is when the techniques of Reality Therapy come into play. Each individual needs to focus on current behaviors and learn to see the consequences of those behaviors. This most often occurs through open and honest relationships with those we can trust. The next step is for the individual to understand that his behavior is chosen, and therefore, he can choose to behave in a way that will more effectively reach his goals of finding meaning. It must be emphasized that we can control our thoughts, and our thoughts lead to our actions and feelings. I believe the most important part of Reality Therapy, however, is making a plan. Once we see a need for change, we can be at our most vulnerable, and that is the time we need someone to help us step up to make the changes. However, it must be a plan that the individual takes ownership of. If others are over involved, the individual is not really taking responsibility for his life. Once he finds small successes in a few areas he will begin to develop a new pattern of thinking, and begin to make good choices on his own that build purpose and contribution to the world.

Although I often fail at my attempts to make good choices, I try to live my life by the values I have been taught by Christ through his Word and through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Once I gave my life to Jesus, I set forth on a path of self-discovery through the renewal of my thinking. As I began to deny my desires to put myself before others, and I sought to love my neighbor as I love myself (Matthew 22:39), I was able to see how the gifts and talents I possessed could fill needs in our world. Once I stepped out and took risks to help others, I began to develop stronger relationships and now have many concentric circles of friends and family that I can trust in and rely on when the randomness and seeming meaninglessness of life can drag me down. I am always striving to do my best, but it has been a long arduous journey and many of my choices have not always been positive. When I do fall into selfishness, I rely on God’s mercy, and I get up and continue on my way. Life is a refining process. The Bible states that “we move from glory to glory, and little by little the veil is removed from our faces” (2 Corinthians 3:18). In other words, when we make the choice to live righteously, by God’s grace we are able to become better people and gain more understanding of our purpose in life through our ever-increasing knowledge of our Father and Creator.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”   -Jesus Christ (The Gospel of John 3:16-21)

Peter L Richardson
10/16/2007

References:

Brothers, Warner. (1999). The Iron Giant. Burbank: Time Warner Company.
Christ, Jesus. (~30). The Gospels of Matthew and John. Judea: The Holy Bible.
Frankl, Victor. (1959). Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Washington Square Press.
Paul, The Apostle. (~55). The Second Epistle of Corinthians. Some Roman Jail: The Holy Bible.
Solomon, King. (~930 BC). Ecclesiastes. Israel. The Holy Bible.

Digging for Truth:

January 14, 2012

          Thoughts on Evangelism

The Sower, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

The Sower, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Every man and woman will be called to give an account of the life they lived. Each individual person in history is responsible for the choices they each made in life, in particular, the response to God’s call to receive forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus. But how responsible are we who believe for delivering the message? Is it possible that people I have known, and even loved, will experience hell because of something I did or because of something I didn’t say? In the great commission, Jesus has called us to be his witnesses. We are called to go into all the world and proclaim his truth. I tend to think of this calling as something like a courtroom drama: As a witness, I am called to the stand to give my testimony, and I take an oath to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Whether or not the judge, jury, media and public all believe me is up to them. I did my job and gave witness and their fate is now in their own hands. But the question that often haunts me is how reliable is the witness?

Recently, I was thinking about the fruits of the Spirit Paul lists in his letter to the Galatians, and it occurred to me that truth was not mentioned as one. I found this peculiar, and as I began to ponder I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me: “It’s because I AM the truth.” I thought about this, and I believe it goes deeper than Jesus’ statement, “I am the way, and the truth and the life…” (John 14:6). All the fruits of the Spirit are actions, things we should be doing as result of the Holy Spirit living in us and guiding us to the truth. The ebb and flow of life causes us to move in and out of different kinds of action in various degrees; sometimes we are called to love, sometimes we are called to be gentle, sometimes we are called to forbear trials. But the Truth is a constant. It just is or it isn’t. Jesus calls himself “the” truth, and he calls Satan the father of lies (John 8:44). We can choose not to accept the truth; we can choose to believe a lie, but that does not change what, or rather who, the truth is. I can believe water is dry all I want, but that doesn’t change the truth that it’s actually wet. As the scriptures proclaim, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  And that is where the fruits of Spirit come in. If Christians were actually living by the guidance and the actions of the Holy Spirit; if we were actually doing love, peace, kindness, goodness to others on a consistent basis, would the world trust our testimony as witnesses for the Truth more? Bringing the lost into the kingdom of heaven starts with our testimony, but it doesn’t end there. We are also called to be harvesters.

I think sometimes Christians look at the wickedness of the world and rather than be witnesses of the truth, we instead choose to become the judge and jury. Out of fear of our own corruption, we place judgment on the lost and lock ourselves behind stained glass windows and Christian contemporary t-shirts and CDs. Our lives cease to give witness because they become symbols of judgment to the lost. We use the words of Jesus to justify the reaction of the people who reject us: Well, the word says the path to destruction is wide, but the way to life is narrow, and not too many choose it, but I’m sure glad I did! (Matt7:13-14). But how are we to know who will or will not be among “the few” who find their way? The Apostle Paul was so unlikely to believe in Jesus that after he dramatically found the Truth, most of the believers thought he was trying to trick them so he could persecute them (Acts 9). When Jesus declares himself as the Truth, he also states he is the only way to he Father. Could it be the metaphor of the narrow road and small gate to life simply means that Jesus is the only way? But back to fruit. 

Two chapters later (Matt 9:35-38), Jesus also declares, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few,” and then he tells his disciples to pray to God to send out more workers. This sounds like there’s a plenty big harvest that current workers in the kingdom of heaven need to be bringing in. So what is this harvest? How does it grow? And where does it come from? Think of how farmers get a harvest in the natural world. They till the ground, they plant the seed, they water the seed, God makes it grow into mature plants that produce more fruit with more seed, and in the right time they collect a bountiful harvest fit for a feast. Paul states, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are Gods fellow workers; you are God’s field…” (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).Even though a farmer in the natural can’t make seeds grow into mature plants; it still takes some work on the part of man to produce a good harvest, and when he does so, it even takes work to bring in the bounty. Our job as Christians is to do the same kind of work to bring in the lost.

First, we must till the ground. We till ground by proclaiming the word of our testimony. We speak the Truth, and we speak it boldly and confidently, though also with love and humility. The Truth is the most absolute thing in the universe. It cannot be broken, so it is the tool needed to till the fallow ground of the souls of those who are lost. John Milton says, “Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?”  Jesus is also called the Word of God (John 1). It is essential for a Christian to study the Bible and to know it, and to be in relationship with it, because the Bible is the Word of God which is Jesus, and when read with humility and with intention of communing with God, scripture becomes a source of wisdom, love and life because God is the source of all those things. So we get to know the Truth and we proclaim Him and we till the ground of the community of souls living around us. Tilling the ground is essential for making good soil for seed to grow in, consider the parable of the sower: worry, deceit, and lust for material things keep a soul’s ground fallow, “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23, italics mine). Later Paul says, “How can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news’” (Romans 10:14-15). However, if the farmer only tills, he will not get any fruit. Sowing must be done.

This brings me back to my original verse:But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). We are called to sow the seeds of the fruits of the spirit simply by doing the actions of the fruits of the spirit: We show kindness to others, we bear trials with patience and peace, we show love even to our enemies, when someone strikes out at us, we are gentle in return, we are faithful and trustworthy, we are full joy even in the midst of tragedy because our hope is a real and genuine hope, and it is this fruit that is proof that the Holy Spirit is real and he has joined himself to us. We sow the seeds of the Holy Spirit in others by living our lives in the maturity of character his influence creates in us. Just as an apple seed will grown into an apple tree under the right conditions, so kindness begets kindness, love begets love, joy begets joy. However, just as a farmer needs to do more than till the soil, only sowing random seeds rarely produces mature Christians. Consider the words of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army: “To get a man soundly saved it is not enough to put on him a pair of new breeches, to give him regular work, or even to give him a University education. These things are all outside a man, and if the inside remains unchanged you have wasted your labor.” The soul must be tilled with the Truth before the fruit of the Spirit can take root. But neither can the seeds grow without sunshine and water.

Consider the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). He called himself the living water and declared that if we drink his water, we will never go thirsty. In our modern society, it is hard to imagine what true thirst really is, but consider how amazing a drink of cool water is on a hot and dry day of hard physical labor. Jesus offers us this refreshment to our souls. Jesus also declared that he was the light of the world (John 8:12). His light gives us understanding and it enables us to see clearly his truth verses the lies and corruption of the devil and the world and even the lies that we tell ourselves. His light exposes our sin and allows us to deal with it and get healthy. We can only live in the light of God and only drink from his springs if we live in the presence of Jesus. The only way to live in the presence of Jesus is to know him intimately and invite him into our daily lives. We must seek to have a relationship with him and choose obedience to his way. When souls tilled with Truth and rooted with seeds of the spirit see how living in obedience to God brings blessing to those who do so, they will seek to know the Giver of Life. Think of how important the combination of water and sunlight is for life on our planet! For seed to mature and bear fruit it is essential that it get the proper water and sunlight. In the natural world, farmers cannot control the rain or determine the amount of heat and light from the sun, but they can direct a watercourse within reason, and they can position certain types of plants in the best place to receive the amount of light needed for that specific plant. Likewise, we must choose to be in relationship with Jesus. God provides the light and the water, but we must choose to position ourselves take in the blessing.  

Science can teach us something of the process of photosynthesis, but it does not really help us understand the mystery of a seed becoming an abundance of fruit that feeds the needs of many, and that one of those pieces of fruit produces an abundance of seed to bring forth more fruit. So it should be for the believer and the harvest. A man’s soul hears the Truth, and his fallow ground is broken up; he feeds on the fruit of a believer, and he begins to produce the same fruit and longs for the source of it; Godly men and women share the power of God at work in their lives, they demonstrate the blessings of obedience to God; his soul is refreshed by the living water and the light of understanding comes upon him, and soon the seed that took root grows into maturity. The harvesters accept a new brother into the family of God, and he begins his own sowing and reaping for the kingdom of heaven. It seems to me that the church in our society is in somewhat of a drought. Some of us till and till and break the backs of those who long for the fruit of God, but look for it in other places because they only know a God of wrath and judgment, while others spread their seed all over, but because of fear of offending their fellow man, they never speak of the Truth who is the source of their seed. If the American church was truly living in relationship with God and becoming mature and healthy through the light of understanding and the purifying waters of life, it’s a good bet we would be a whole lot busier with the harvest.

Peter L Richardson
12/31/11-1/1/12

 

“These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do; One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you…”
                         -Nancy Sinatra

In 50 years women will rule the world. I first noticed this disturbing trend while teaching one of my honors classes. As I looked around during a debate all I could really see was soft skin, big bright eyes, and hair flowing from all angles of the room. Each side took their stance and began their arguments with poise and grace; the pitch of their voices rose higher and higher as the debate raged on. Pastels and perfume crowded my senses. The sugar and spice estrogen in the room was so thick, my head started to spin. 

“Where are all the boys?” I wondered. I had completely lost track of the debate. I didn’t know which side was winning; I didn’t care. All I could think about was why wasn’t I hearing nary an adam’s apple among all this talking? Of course there were a few males bedecked about the room; but none of them seemed to have an interest, much less an opinion, about whatever human issue was the focus on this unit’s debate. Were they silent because there was so few of them? And why were there so few males in an honors class anyway? Upon closer inspection, I found that not only were there less males in my honors classes, but the majority of the females outperformed every one of them. In each class the top student was a female every time, and she was usually ahead of the males by a significant number of points. I raised my concerns in the faculty lunch room and found the trend was happening in all subject areas!

We have generations of history that proves men are intellectually superior to women, so this can’t be an issue of man lacking the ability to rise to the occasion. I had to discover what the cause of this mental impotence could be. I interviewed several of my male students and the conclusive evidence is as simple as it is disturbing. They were just lazy: “But Mr. Richardson, I don’t feel like doing that much work!”  “But why should I worry about it? My mommy does everything for me anyway!” “But I don’t have time to do any work! I have to play Madden and World of Warcraft!” These young men were adamant that their time was somehow used wisely and they shrugged me off as some old curmudgeon who was outdated and antiquated. Women who are dissatisfied with their male bosses taking credit for their ideas, and their male coworkers making more money for less work need not be frustrated much longer. They need only wait for this generation of VPs and CEOs to retire or die.  There will be few males, if any, competent enough to take their places.

Who is to blame in this disturbing trend of male incompetence? Obviously not men! The feminists have taken the feminine out of female, and as a result men are left emasculated. What started as liberation has become full blown revolution! It started subtle, but women have slowly been taking over for decades now. It began with an infiltration of the universities. While most men were out doing physical labor and fighting in wars, women slowly began to over-populate the institutions that shape the next generation of world leaders. I remember an incident in the 90s on the campus of University of Delaware when I ignorantly committed a heinous crime against women. I was exiting a dormitory and I held the door open for the person behind me. She grabbed it out of my hands and snapped, “What? You think I’m too weak to push open a door?!” She muttered expletives as she walked away. I was dumbfounded. I was frozen in speech and in step. Women have crossed the line of gaining equality with men to becoming exactly the same as men in everyway. Think of Angelina Jolie. The truth is, girls that kick ass are sexy. Guys line up in droves to see this female action hero of the new millennium, but gentlemen, what are you going to do when your woman is able to kick your fat couch-potato-ass? Are you ready to be the mansel in distress? Are you ready to be dominated and tied to all four corners of the bed? Perhaps I’m overreacting: Only men watch those movies anyway, you’re probably thinking, chick still just dig chick flicks! Not so anymore. Take a break from the Xbox 360, and flip through the cable listings. Look at the Lifetime Channel: “Television for women, by women.” The sappy chick flicks are steadily being replaced by Resident Evil and similar movies with a heroine that is as hard and bad ass as any man ever was. Take a look at the content of the popular series, Sex in the City. If you could stop paying attention to Kim Katrell’s boobs for a minute you will see that these chicks are just men without penises. They live out every male’s fantasy as they move from lover to lover without consequence. No more girls crying at the bedside, they are the one’s sneaking out in the middle of the night these days. No more worries about inconvenient babies in the age of easy access abortion! But what if she wants a baby? Consider Jennifer Aniston’s new movie, The Switch.  What’s the point of getting a man involved in the first place? Kids don’t really need a dad anyway. They just sit around, drink beer, watch sports, play video games, and search online porn (What? It’s not cheating, if there’s no physical contact, right?). Gentlemen, how did we get to this point? It is not an easy pill to swallow, but I may have the answer.

Consider this: Single Moms and Sugar-Ma-Mas. Gentlemen, while you thought you have been riding the gravy train, the fact of the matter is that women have gotten used to living without your help. Single Moms have had to learn to cope and survive without any help from “dad.” They have found out they can have successful careers, and even though daycare is raising their children, it’s better than dealing with some inconsistent bum who doesn’t show any of them any affection anyway, or worse, spends his time abusing the ones he supposedly loves. But some guys still know how to “treat” their women. They got game where it counts and they make their women feel like natural women for at least 10 minutes at time. They take pride in all the Sugar-Ma-Mas they acquire. More and more these men are becoming dependant on their Sugar-Ma-Mas. These young boys spend all day smoking weed and playing Call of Duty instead of discovering their own call and stepping up to their own duties. They think they live the thug life, but they wouldn’t survive without the naïve and generous resources of their multiple female partners. The truth is, men, you simply aren’t needed anymore. What is the result of this disturbing trend? If nothing is done to turn the tide, I predict that within one to two generations the male species will be reduced to slaves and pets whose only real value will be for grunt labor, physical pleasure, and sperm donation to keep the earth populated.  

But gentlemen, before you punch a hole in the wall, or lose yourself in a stupor of alcohol, or begin to passively aggressively ignore your partner, fear not! I have a solution! I have spent much time observing the situation and there is only one course of action that can be taken. Women have spent the last half century learning to how to fill the manly roles you abandoned, but they still have one fatal weakness. They still are not immune to emotion. Men, the secret is simple. Talk to them. Ask them how they feel, and really listen to the answer. Women will let you into their deepest darkest secrets if they sense they can trust you. But to listen, you must be present. Tell your homies you gotta go. Get off the streets, stop dealing drugs and get a real job. Show your woman you can be relied on. Turn off you Xbox and do your homework. Begin to work your way back into the universities. Learn the pride and self-respect of accomplishment. Learn the art of Chivalry again; regain your strength and manhood. Use it to protect her and not to abuse her; open up the door for her and pull out her chair. She secretly loves it, but fears giving you that kind of power. Show her you can be trusted with power by being man enough to share that power in equality: Be vulnerable with her. Show her you will love, honor and respect her for who she is and not just use her for what she can give. Take back the children you spawned and be a father to them. Teach them to be responsible adults. Teach your sons how to respect themselves and how to respect women. Teach them how to love a woman and not just use her for a cheap orgasm. Teach your daughters how to love and respect their future men. It is a simple task: just be a man that your daughter can love and respect. Show her how she should expect to be treated by her man through the way you treat her mother.

Gentlemen, with these simple steps we can turn back the tide and restore balance to the universe. Only you can accomplish this deed! Only you can make the difference! Only you can make the change! The only way is to be there for your children so you can influence them the right way. The only thing that should stand between you and your child is death. Think about it. A day where every child has a father and a mother who loves him and teaches him how to give instead of take. Every child living in security knowing that both parents who conceived her have her back and will encourage her to reach her fullest potential. It is possible, but only if today’s men step up.  

“It seems to me that it is men more than women who today have to become knights and honorable. If enough honorable men stand up, that’ll be a quiet revolution. That’ll produce stable families and stable children who will take over the world.”  -Peter Kreeft, http://www.worldmag.com/articles/16886

Peter L Richardson
8/16/10

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever…I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you…Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”  The Gospel of John 6:51-56

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The Gospel of John 1:1

A while back my son woke up earlier than usual and he caught me reading my Bible in the early hours of the morning.

“Dad, I know the Bible is important, but why do you read it everyday?” he asked. “I mean, seriously, you should have a pretty good idea of what’s in it by now!”

I was glad he asked, but he took me off guard and I found myself giving him a knee jerk answer that was more religious doctrine than truth, “Well, son,” I began, “the Bible itself teaches us to. In the Old Testament, God says that ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ The Bible is God’s Word, so we literally need it to survive spiritually, just like our physical bodies need food on a regular basis to survive.”

“But why everyday?”  He replied, “Don’t you learn enough from church every week?”

“It’s like this,” I said, “church is more like a weekend feast or party. We can go more than a day without food, but we are weaker without it. It is the same thing with what God teaches in his Word. If we only fill up once a week, we lose strength throughout the week. We need a daily reminder of the right way to live, and the more you read, the better you’ll be able to understand Sunday sermons, or witness to friends who are seeking or challenging your faith, and even to judge false teachings. When Jesus told us to pray for ‘daily bread,’ I think he meant more than just food.”

“Oh,” he pondered for a moment, “Well, speaking of food, I’m pretty hungry, can I get some pancakes?”

And that was the end of that conversation. I’m not saying I told him anything wrong, but I stopped short of the genuine reason why I read my Bible everyday, and why it’s the first thing I do after I get out of bed. 

Many people see the Bible only as a book of rules to live by, full of stories about people who are just examples of what we should or shouldn’t live like. They consider the Bible to be a blueprint of how you are supposed to live your life: If you just follow these rules then you should get good results and end up generally happy. I agree to an extent, but if you stop there, it really doesn’t matter what religion you follow. If your goal with Christianity is simply to live a good life and follow the rules the best you can, then you really don’t know what the Bible teaches, and your faith is stagnant, dead and useless.

Consider this. Think about a historical figure you admire and respect for whatever reason. He could be a fierce warrior, she could be a gallant queen, or maybe a simple person of good character who was in the right place at the right time and changed the course of history. Many of these people have written their thoughts down and published them; many witnesses of their time have written their testimony of when they met so and so. The more we admire a person, the more we seek to read about them and want to get to know them. The Bible, at its simplest level, is a document about a Triune God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is His proof of existence. It is His thoughts about philosophy, psychology, government, love, and life in general. It tells the story of how he interacted with the world in the 6,000 or so years of history it covers. In it, this God claims to be Creator, and he tells us how he expects us to act and teaches us things about faith and forgiveness. How is this book proof he exists? How do you know Julius Caesar existed? Or Plato? Or Homer? The further we go back the less reliable the witness, right? But let’s take this analogy a bit further. Let’s say one day an ancient library is uncovered, and someone finds letters from your favorite historical figure. Amazingly, these letters are addressed to you! How could this person know about you before you were born? This is what the Bible is in addition to a Rule Book, or a collection of stories and poems; it is a letter from the God of the Universe to you. It is a letter He has written to all of his children. He wants you to know who you are and what your heritage is. He wants you to discover what the meaning of life is and what your individual purpose in all of it is. You may ask, aren’t these letters still just rules to live by? What makes them so personal?

Consider this. Think about a woman who loses her husband in war. What do you think her greatest treasure will be? It will be his love letters to her, the things he left behind that reminds her of the bond and connection they once shared, and even still share. Jesus gives us the metaphor that he is the groom and the church is his bride. It is a classic love story of the knight in shining armor riding on a white horse to save the damsel in distress from the evil dragon, except in this case the dragon thought he killed the knight. But our Savior is not just a great man who died for his beliefs or a cause that was greater than him. No, our Savior’s death was the cause he came to fulfill, because he was the only one worthy to take it on, and the only one who could defeat the very death he allowed himself to endure. Our Savior has risen from the grave and is alive and well and longing for the day he can be reconnected with the bride he loves so deeply. When you open your heart to it, the Bible is a collection of love letters God has written to humanity, to his children. When you study the words of God, it is like studying the desires and thoughts and words of your lover. A man in love will do anything to please his woman; he knows what kind of flowers she likes, he knows the way she takes her coffee, he knows her pet peeves and seeks to avoid them. It just the same with God. He already knows us with an intimacy to the core; he longs for us to know him. The more we read his Word, the more we learn of him. Just like a woman falls deeper in love with a man who proves to know her, and seeks to please her, when we actually follow God’s word and trust him and seek to live righteously, it brings us to a deeper intimacy with him. But this is still not the deepest level the Bible offers us. Letters are good, but without experiencing the man behind the letters, you can’t really get to know him. You can’t have true intimacy with a book. There is more God’s Word has to offer.

Consider this. The Bible is more like instant messaging than letters from a distance. The Bible is the Living Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This means that we can interact with scripture: we can question it, seek deeper understanding, and ask for greater wisdom. How is this possible? You cannot talk to a book. But this very book teaches us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The Gospels teach that Jesus Christ is the very Word of God that spoke creation into existence, that raised Lazarus from the dead, and raised himself up, and yes, that inspired the prophets, priests, poets and apostles that physically wrote down the books of the Bible. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

When you read the Bible, you are actually interacting with a Person. It is a two-way conversation. The words you read are coming straight from the Lord; they are his thoughts, desires and hopes he longs to share with you. And your response is instantly known by him. If you scoff at him, he will draw back, not in fear, but out of respect for your individuality and free choice to do so. You will not be privy to deeper revelation. If you seek to follow his advice, he will strengthen your spirit and resolve; if you seek more revelation he will quietly speak to you. When you sit with the Word of God open, and read the words on the page, you are literally sitting with God. It is a relationship as much as the one you have with your wife, your kids, and your best friend. You can speak to God just the same. Consider when you spend time with others; does everything you say have to be a request? Don’t you tell your wife things about yourself that no one else knows, simply to share your heart with her? Don’t you ever sit quietly with your kids, or better yet, play with them, and there need not be words, just the sharing of experience? Don’t you ever just joke around with your best friend, just for the fun of it? God longs for you to share yourself with him and for you to let him inside of you. Sometimes reading the Word will result in more wisdom and maybe even inspire a teaching or word for someone else. Sometimes we will get comfort in tragedy; a word of encouragement can literally feel like a hug from God. Sometimes he will give us direction for a certain circumstance or situation. Sometimes, and more often than not, it’s just a simple conversation that can be full of joy and laughter; it is about spending time with each other and getting to know one another. As Creator, He knows all humans beings inside and out, but he does not force us to know him; he gives us free will. The depth of intimacy between you and God Almighty depends on your desire to know him. He calls us to seek for him. He created us to long for truth, and only he can provide that truth, because he is the Truth. The revelation of the great mystery of the ages is simple: God loves you and wants you to love him back. Now the response to that should radically change your life, but the Truth itself is simple to grasp. That is why many men and women who consider themselves wise by the world’s standards never find him, they can’t accept a Truth so plain, and likewise, why many more simple men and women have discovered the profound mystery of life, and sleep in peace at night.

This why Christianity has been called: “a relationship, not a religion.” Instead of just following a group of rules and doctrines that have been passed down over the centuries, a true Christian has a genuine interactive relationship with his God. The Bible is a key part of that relationship. It is through the Bible that we learn the language and character of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27).This takes time, but just as with any other relationship, the more time you spend with a person, the more intimately you know his/her mannerisms, patterns of speech, type of character, etc. Having knowledge of the Bible will guard you from being deceived by other voices disguising themselves as God (or some form of wisdom), including your own.

This begs the question, “What about those people who don’t have access to a Bible?” Obviously, they will lack wisdom and intimate knowledge of their Creator, but they can still have a relationship with God. The Word frequently says that creation declares the glory of God, and the Apostle Paul makes the argument in Romans that the combination of nature’s splendor and the moral law of right and wrong that is written in everyman’s heart (in other words, his conscience), reveals the existence of God, and they should seek to know him through him that revelation. It is a mystery we cannot understand in our current fallen state (at least the understanding has not been revealed to me), but God says “If you seek for me, you will find me” (Deuteronomy 4:29 & Jeremiah 29:13), and Jesus later says “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Throughout the ages, men have longed to know truth; what they are really seeking is Jesus. I believe Truth-Seekers who are not yet Christians are closer to God than many in the church who claim to know him. The Bible says, ergo God says, “If you seek for me you will find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” For the seeker who is honest and genuine, God will make the path to the Truth, to Jesus, clear in some way.

Additionally the question must be asked, “What about the thousands of people who claim the mark of Christ but don’t really seek to know him?” Their Bibles and Christian paraphernalia are on display for all to see, but a close inspection reveals a thick layer of dust. Those who just consider the Bible to be a book of rules and guidelines and nothing more can fall on either side of the narrow path. Either the rule of law becomes so strong for them they loose all compassion for others, or they, in their lack of knowledge of God’s character for want of relationship, pick and choose what rules and doctrines aught and aught not to be followed. They refuse to admit sin and repent of it; therefore, they try to manipulate the Word to fit their human perception, rather than let the Word renew their mind and bring them closer to the divine. As the Apostle Paul says, “These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom…but they lack any value…” (Colossians 2:22-23). These men and women who come to church week after week and honor God with their lips but not their hearts are in for a shock at the end of this age. Unless they change course, they are destined to hear from our Lord, “Get away from me, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). To put it in human terms, it is like the parent who makes no effort to know his child and suddenly is shocked when she ends up pregnant or in jail; it is the husband and wife who sleep side by side night after night, but never locked together in love, and one is shocked when the other suddenly leaves or is caught cheating. With no communion, there can be no intimacy. With no intimacy, there can be no real relationship. With no relationship, there is no salvation. 

So the simple answer I wish I gave my son is this: “I read the Bible everyday because I want to start my day spending time with my Creator and Savior; I love being taught by my Heavenly Father, and I long for personal intimacy with the Lover of my Soul. It is not a task; it is a joy and an honor. I am pleased to be with him, and it is time well spent.”

Peter L Richardson
8/11/10
*This one’s dedicated to Angie, a fellow lover of God’s Word.

For skeptics and doubters that the Bible has any validity at all, both historical and spiritual, check out the 8/15/10 teaching, “How can the Bible be trusted,” from Pastor Dan Betters of Stone’s Throw Church:

http://ax.itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/stones-throw-church-audio/id379274171

http://www.stonesthrowchurch.com

The Mind Forged Matrixes

August 10, 2010

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.
     -William Blake, “London” 1794 AD

“What is truth?” –Pontius Pilate, ~33 AD

Each one of us lives inside the Matrix. We are all born into a world, a place we cannot define, a place we do not understand. We come into this place with a certain amount of programming already installed. We are born with characteristics, natural inclinations towards likes and dislikes, certain abilities, and certain weaknesses. Then we are given information; we are taught what is right and what is wrong and how to be good subjects. In order to survive, we must learn what it is we should believe and not believe about this world we are born into. Yet this Matrix is not a computer program, it is not an elaborate deception made by evil machines who long to rule the world. The Matrix is our Ideological State Apparatus: The reality we are born into, the world of ideas that we inherit from those who have gone before us. The French philosopher, Louis Althusser, who coined the phrase, Ideological State Apparatus (ISA), teaches that our ideas are given to us by society; in other words, our understanding of the world and our beliefs are simply a result of what time and place we were born into. Society dictates what is good and bad and we are being good subjects if we follow whatever the norm is, but if we deviate from the norm in anyway, then society will brand us bad subjects. On the surface level, I agree. However, this theory reduces our existence to something less meaningful than I would ascribe to humanity. If our ideas, our understanding of reality, and our values are simply mental Matrix’s, “mind forged manacles,” if you will, then everything is completely relative. There is no truth. There is no center. This theory is unacceptable to me. Of course, we are then confronted with: “What is truth?” There not sufficient time to tackle that in this essay, but I can say, along with the X-Files creator, “the truth is out there.” How do we know this? Simply because the X-Files is so popular, because of all the different ISA’s that exist and have existed and will exist in this thing we call life, this understanding of reality. We are programmed to search for truth; we are created with a longing in our hearts. Our spirits, if I may speak bluntly, long to find and know our origin, our creator, our purpose. If truth is relative, then whatever ISA anybody was born into wouldn’t matter to him or her. Yet, look at how many “bad subjects” we have breaking out of what has been given to them as reality, as “truth.” Man is searching for meaning in life.

Despite whatever Matrix we are born into, whatever ISA we inherit, we are not forced to accept our mind forged manacles. We have the ability to learn and to grow; we are able to make choices that affect ourselves and those around us. The consequences of our choices reach much further then most of us would like to believe. For better or for worse, we shape the world around us. We often like to blame our problems on a God we claim does not exist, yet whatever it is that created us, whatever programmed our basic instincts and abilities, also gave us the gift, or sometimes the curse, of choice. Free Will is the bottom line. At a certain point in life, any man or woman who seeks to do so is able to move beyond his/her ISA and begin to shape the reality around that surrounds everyone in his/her sphere of influence.

In the movie, The Matrix we are in the meeting room of Morpheus and Neo. Morpheus is about to disrupt Neo’s understanding of reality. Neo is about to discover the truth. Morpheus asks Neo if he believes in fate. Neo’s reply is, “No, because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.” There is high irony here because Neo is, in fact, fated to be “the One.” Yet also we are about to discover that in reality, Neo is incubating in some pod along with the rest of the majority of humanity. He has no control over the fabricated world that is before his eyes. Yet he is in control of his mind. It is a paradox of a truth we are faced with in our own reality. We are all given talents and resources, some more than others, which shape our life and give us purpose. Yet how far we carry out what we have been given to add to the world is up to us. We are fated to certain paths, yet we decide whether or not to follow the path. Even within the Matrix Neo heard the calling in his heart; he was the one who decided a career in computer programming; he was the one who decided to stay up late into each night searching on a computer that didn’t really exist for some truth out there; he was the one who decided to follow Trinity to Morpheus, and he was the one who decided to take the Red Pill. The choices he made shaped the world around him. He even shaped the “reality” within the Matrix. 

Our reality is real. We are organic, everything dies ands rots and gives nutrients to the earth; we spill our seed into each other, both plant and animal, and more of us are born. What separates man from plants and the rest of the animal kingdom is our higher consciousness, our ability to reason, to act out of self-will, in essence, to make choices. Trees grow and even the most intelligent of animals only live out of instinct. You can train a dog to be very faithful, but it is acting out what it’s been trained to do. Other than pro-create I don’t believe that humankind will ever be able create this kind of higher consciousness; what’s called Artificial Intelligence. But what if we could? We have often fantasized giving machines the ability to think for themselves, yet we always end the story in some kind of disaster. In He, She and It, Marge Piercy creates a cyborg through her characters Avram and Malkah. Yod was the tenth attempt for a successful cyborg; all other attempts had failed. It is interesting to note that Avram worked on his own with the previous nine, but it wasn’t until Malkah’s input, and her feminine side was added, that a successful conscious was able to be made. We are born from a man and a woman joining together, Yod was in a sense, Avram’s and Malkah’s son. If there is any good example of being brought into an ISA, it is with the cyborg. Here is a full grown, fully conscious individual that has had downloaded into it all the information its creators wanted it to have and programmed it to act the way they wanted it to act. It has been made for a specific purpose, and, the best news is, if it decides to become a bad subject, a certain code can be spoken, or a button pushed, and it’s destroyed! But Yod surprises everyone. He is able to think past his tasks and what he’s been programmed to do. He is able to learn and to grow as a person, to make choices of his own free will. He is even capable of love, as his relationship with Shira represents. It is not an Ideological State Apparatus that keeps Yod in his place and experiencing the world with even more freedom, but it is a Repressive State Apparatus in that Avram has the ability to destroy him at any moment. Yod finds a way to overcome his state by self-sacrifice. Yod makes a conscious judgment based on moral beliefs he has developed as a result of his own experience, and with his death he ends the possibility of the making of anymore like him; a person owned, a slave. He valued this act as more important than his or Avram’s life. It was a decision he made on his own. Is this not the cause of rebellion in countless Repressive State Apparatus’s—oppressive governments—which have gone too far to infringe upon human rights? Yod was a revolutionary. His actions changed the course of history. He shaped the world around him. How more so, we as real-live-individuals, not cyborgs neither characters in a novel, how much more are we responsible to change our world? To search for truth and discover what is right and what is the right thing to do? We have suffering in the world, yet we have the capability to change our course by the choices we make.

When we are confronted with truth we have two options: We can either accept it and deal with the consequences or ignore it and continue with business as usual. Truth is revelation. When something we have been ignorant of is revealed to us it usually provokes some kind of response. The majority of “subjects” remain ignorant to the state of affairs outside of their personal lives. They are content, so they are unconcerned. They move about day by day accepting whatever ISA they are given; they are happy in their Matrix. These people are simply ignorant of the truth. It is those who are confronted with a revelation of what reality is, and yet they choose to remain in ignorance, who are the true “bad subjects.” They are aware of a problem, yet they have not the strength of mind to fight for what is right and bring freedom and salvation to whomever may be enslaved. To be in ignorance is a shame, to choose ignorance is a complete lack of character. This is Cipher’s character in the Matrix. When the truth is a hard reality, is it better to ignore it and stay in a comfortable zone? Some would argue so, but Cipher takes it a step further and chooses to sacrifice his crew and what they believe in for his own personal comfort, a chance to return to the ignorance of the Matrix. This is what many of us do in life. It is often good to escape into novels, movies and many forms of entertainment, but how many of us live our lives through them? How many of us choose to spend time with people who don’t exist rather than our own families and neighbors? Our society offers us a variety of Matrixes that we gladly receive in order to stay ignorant. They are safer; the less intimate we are with others the less risk of pain they may cause us. In He, She and It, Piercy describes the area of the Glop, a futuristic third world slum. It is a place, much like our present day slums, full of corruption and violence. The solution for many of the Glop’s residents is to use Stimmies, a type of virtual reality that is purely escapism. Stimmies numb the pain of real life as the user literally experiences life vicariously through others. Yet there are those who are choosing to organize the Glop and fight against the corporations who are abusing them with their power. Which is better? To live in a fantasy world or to live a difficult life well and bring good to others in the process? 

The only good option with truth is to confront it and deal with the consequences that it brings. It is each person’s responsibility to find truth out, and when the revelation comes, to act on it. True good subjects do what needs to be done to bring others to truth and free them from deception. Once Neo is freed from the Matrix, he becomes aware that Morpheus thinks he is “the One.” He is supposedly the fulfillment of a prophecy made that one will come to set the human race free from the machines—an awesome responsibility. However, the oracle tells Neo that he’s not “the One.” But in an attempt to save Morpheus’ life, Neo discovers new abilities he has within the Matrix. In a radical revelation of life inside the Matrix, he believes the concept: “There is no spoon.” He grasps a kind a faith that enables him to manipulate the false reality of the Matrix. His mind is freed from its manacles and he is able to see the Matrix for what it is. He is able to radically shape the programmed world around him with seemingly supernatural abilities. When Neo questions the prophecy that he is not “the One,” Morpheus responds with, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”

We fulfill our destiny not by being told what it is, but by simply making the choice to live our lives to the fullest extent. Neo didn’t act out of a belief that he was “the One,” but rather rose to the occasion and did what he considered the right and best thing to do; he was willing to risk his own life for his friend, for what he thought was best for humanity. Only then did he discover his true potential, and once he gained confidence in who he was, he flourished under it. Cipher never realized his full potential. He chose ignorance instead. He died in his fight to return to “bliss,” yet his personhood had already been sacrificed.

We can be given guidance along the way, oracles and such, but it is only by truly living out our lives, that we will reach our fullest potential. We are born with talents and weaknesses, we born into different circumstances in life: some very negative, some very positive. Yet there comes a time when we reach a place we can choose and decide to break free from our mind forged manacles. We can honestly look at our ISA’s, judge them, and discern where they need changing. By our choices we change the Matrix which we live under. This affects the Matrix of everyone else around us. If we choose to live our lives to their fullest potential and do right, we will disrupt “the mind forged Matrixes” of all our neighbors. Our very existence will confront them with truth. But it is their own choice whether they will remain ignorant, or let the truth set them free. As Morpheus told Neo in his training, “I’m trying to free your mind, Neo, but I can only show you the door. You’re the one who has to walk through it.”

Peter L Richardson
12/16/2002

Works Cited:

Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological Sate Apparatus .” Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays . New Left Books , 1971.

Piercy, Marge. He, She and It . The Ballantine Publishing Group , 1991.

The Matrix. By Wachowski Brothers. Dir. Wachowski Brothers. Warner Brothers . 1999.

SUNGLASSES

June 30, 2010

“Now go out and get yourself some big black frames with the glass so dark they won’t even know your name, and the choice is up to you ‘cause they come in two classes: Rhinestone shades or cheap sunglasses…oh yeeaahh!…oh yeeaahh!…oh yeeaahh!”  -ZZ Top 

Sunglasses. If you’re an American, you wear them. Even if you don’t wear them often, you at least own them. So, they must be very important, at least very useful. Given their popularity, sunglasses are obviously very essential and must fulfill some need that mankind had been lacking until their creation. We are lucky to be Americans, lucky to be a part of the Western World rather then live in some country where you don’t see sunglasses as often. Otherwise we’d have to somehow make it through each day with out these handy little tools. But what exactly are sunglasses used for? What do they do?

To answer that we need to first consider what glasses are. Glasses are the mother of sunglasses, they were created first, and they essentially help you see. Two lenses held together by some metal or plastic that are rested on the brim of your nose with a little help from the poles that are attached and rest on your ears. When age gets the best of you and your vision begins to fade, or if you are born with bad vision, just go to the eye-doctor and he can adjust the lenses to your needs and you’ll be seeing clearly in no time. It’s quite a miracle! Glasses have been keeping intelligent people from becoming blind beggars for hundreds of years. Sunglasses are simply glasses with dark lenses; the best part is you don’t have to have poor vision to use them! So why use them? To block out the sun, that giant globe of light in the sky that helps provide life to our entire planet. They keep the glare out of our eyes. When our pupils are just not able to constrict enough, you can pull out your handy pair of sunglasses, rest them on your nose and in moments you are able to see again. You look that mean old sun right in the eye and… Well sort of, they’re not that good. Unless they’ve got UV protection! This is a danger that we are all in need of protection from, even though we really don’t know much about UV rays, scientists have determined they will burn your eyes out and give you skin cancer, and the intelligent people of our day wouldn’t lie. So we purchase the more expensive pair and we can ride down I-95 South from Wilmington (which really must be heading West) right before dusk with full confidence that since we have our sunglasses on we aren’t going to go blind. And who knows how many accidents have been prevented from wearing sunglasses and blocking out glare?

But other then these extreme moments, do people really need their sunglasses as much as they are wearing them? Walk down any American street, even when the weather is considered only “partly sunny” and you’ll find that most people are wearing sunglasses. Corey Hart even wears his at night; however, to this day, it’s not quite clear why. Consider how many different types and styles of sunglasses we have now! What is this phenomenon? Why are people so worried about their eyes? Are they that delicate? And shouldn’t somebody clue in those who aren’t wearing sunglasses? Perhaps they can’t afford them? Maybe the government should start a new program handing out sunglasses to poor people and educating the public about the dangers of UV light! Or maybe there is some other ulterior motive that causes these people to wear their sunglasses, even on a cloudy day.

Perhaps we can find out if we look at some of the different types of sunglasses. We have to start with those huge things that only old people seem to be wearing. These are large, dark, see-through plastic cases that fit over an entire pair of regular glasses, they make their wearers look like some kind of cyborg and only serve to make old people seem even more scary to little kids. Aren’t the elderly aware of clip-ons? Clip-ons are what they sound like, they are two flimsy lenses that clip-on in front of our regular lenses. However, most people under the age of 45 will chose to purchase a whole different pair of prescription sunglasses.

Prescription sunglasses are available in almost as many types of regular sunglasses. We’ve got sports wear; these are usually flashy and multicolored, and they look like they are somehow aerodynamic. They come with straps because in the fast paced world of sports they might fly off or your face. Mostly surfers and skiers who really need them for their work wear them. Ocean and snow are both forms of water and water reflects light, so it is essential that they avoid as much glare as possible. An intelligent consumer would want to purchase these, however much they may cost, because they are worn by someone to whom sunglasses are essential, they obviously will be the best kind. Never mind that intelligent businessmen will pay famous sports stars lots of money to wear their products so those intelligent consumers will then go out and purchase them.

Speaking of businessmen, what type of sunglasses do they wear? Sleek, modern, efficient looking lenses are the order of the day for professionals. These babies are durable, flexible and lightweight all at the same time!  Sunglasses are essential for these men and women because they tend to work in Center City where all the high-rises are made of glass and with out their sunglasses they may become disoriented from the reflecting light and not be able to find their way back to their clients.

Compare these to the wild and crazy types of sunglasses that the less important people on the streets and in the bars are wearing. These are the kind of glasses that can be found on Elton John’s dashboard and the more eccentric the better. Like all the other types of glasses, these are clearly only used to portray a type of image to everyone else. They are a mark of identity. They are saying to the world “This is the type of man or woman I believe I am, or at least I pretend to be!” Specific sunglasses enhance any aspect of a person’s personality that he/she thinks is cool. When people put on a pair of sunglasses they tend to strut their stuff a little bit more. They become just a little more bold and daring. Admit it, when you put on your sunglasses, and I know you have them, you think you are cool. At least a little more so then when you take them off. But how did wearing sunglasses come to signify coolness in a person? It’s simply that our modern day outlaws wear them: rock stars and movie stars.

Anyone who watches the movies knows that if a star wants to operate in normal society they need to disguise themselves so as not become run over by their fans. How do they do this? Well, according to those same movies, they simply put on a pair of sunglasses. Never mind the thousands of photos we’ve seen of them wearing sunglasses and looking cool. But this brings us to the real reason that Americans find sunglasses so appealing; they are masks. No one in our society can really allow anyone else to know who we really are, and our eyes are the windows of the soul; aren’t they? It is just safer to keep them covered. It’s not always a negative thing, sometimes we don our sunglasses and we become the Lone Ranger or El Zorro and we can save a damsel in distress with more confidence and boldness. Sometimes we are just trying to hold back the tears and the dark covering allows us some more space. Yet, some men use the covering to obtain more freedom to watch; while some women need sunglasses to cover up the damage done by a jealous man. Whatever the reason, ours is a society where everyone has something to hide, and sunglasses are just another expression of the many masks we wear to cover up our souls and to block out the glare of truth. Because when our eyes are used to darkness, the glare of light hurts, and when we are used to living in a lie, the light of truth hurts our souls the same way.

Peter L Richardson
October, 2002