There’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time that I started thinking was important to share. If you agree, I encourage you to repost or print out this post to share with others, especially at church. I was mulling over these principles from a Christian perspective, but they can be made to apply to any theistic religion.
It seems sometimes that the world is spiraling faster and faster out of control with hate and greed – and of course no one listens to me. People seem to be perpetually at each other’s throats, verbally at least, if not always physically. The world is in trouble. It seems that we should be trying to do at least something, even if only to speak out. There are principles that we once knew but many seem to have forgotten, and I believe that from time to time we need to be reminded.
I don’t normally approve of mixing politics with church teaching. This is not only because it may cause division in the church, and may violate tax law, but because it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the very essence and definition of government. God’s Kingdom is a kingdom of the heart, interested in straightening out our personal spiritual lives and our relationship to God, freeing us from sin so that we may then decide how best to arrange public affairs. God exhorts us to love one another, but he does not tell us what the penalty should be for a second violation of microwave oven manufacture safety regulations. The Bible is a bit short on details. When he came to minister to the Jews, Jesus did not overthrow the Roman Empire to make things right. He came to show everyone – Romans and Jews alike – how to be free of our sinful nature so that we would have the ability to work out an equitable political arrangement among ourselves.
There have been those who think little of The Gospels because they did not speak against the evil of slavery, which was common in that part of the world in those days. I believe the reason is that when we love one another, who is officially considered to belong to whom becomes a moot point. Indeed, if slavery were abolished – as it was abruptly in the Confederate States of America – without love first taking root, the cure may be worse than the disease, including poll taxes, segregated facilities, fire hoses, dogs, bombings, and the Klan.
There have been times when God officially endorsed a new government – but only as a concession to sinful human nature. Before Israel’s first king – Saul – was anointed, God warned that a Kingdom was not what he had in mind for his people. Through the prophet Samuel, he warned, “The king will draft your sons into his army and make them run before his chariots. Some will be commanders of his troops, while others will be slave laborers. Some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, while others will make his weapons and chariot equipment. The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own servants. He will take a tenth of your harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. He will want your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves.”
Luther, Calvin, Augustine, and others understood this dichotomy: that the Kingdom of God exists among and through us while the Earthly kingdoms are still here, and that we fight not flesh and blood, but “principalities of the air.” When directly asked whether it was right to pay taxes to The Roman Empire, Jesus only said to give to Caesar what belongs to him, and to give to God what belongs to him, leaving us to work out ourselves who is owed what.
Once this principle is understood, that God’s Kingdom exists in parallel to human governments, the true nature of government becomes obvious. Government is not sacred, but is a tool of the community, composed of our fellow human beings and equals, to be altered as we see fit. It does not rule us, but rather we rule over it. Put this way, we see that government is not here to protect us from ourselves, as if others know better than we how to run our lives, but only to protect us from each other, so that we may each have the opportunity to run our own lives. This is something that those whom, in the name of our protection, insert themselves into our private decisions by force of law need to be reminded of from time to time.
The very essence of government, without which it could not exist, is rule by the use of force. Because of this, all government activity, no matter how well-intentioned, and no matter how beneficial, is at least somewhat evil. The trick is in balancing competing evils against one another, recognizing trade-offs, remembering that there is no perfect government, and being aware of diminishing returns as government programs reach their maximum effectiveness. This is something that those continually pushing for the creation and expansion of government agencies and programs need to be reminded of from time to time.
I have to share with you today a short paper written by one of my favorite historical figures. It touches upon much of what I have said already, and more. This paper speaks of man’s relationship to God, and of how God respects his children enough to grant them certain freedoms, even when he knows we will misuse them. It speaks of human dignity and the value of life. This paper establishes the concept that right and wrong exist independently of whether any human entity, government or otherwise, recognizes the fact. The paper goes further to speak of man’s relationship to his fellow man, claiming we should treat others as we would like to be treated, with respect and as equals, refraining from the use of force, and that no one should have absolute rule over another. The author of this paper understood that governments exist to serve the community, not the other way around, that all governments are evil, and that no government is perfect. The author of this paper also understood that without the use of force, there can then be no protection from the use of force, and so while governments are evil, governments are also necessary. The author of this paper understood that a people can be enslaved just as well by a lack of laws, than by the laws themselves. The author of this paper valued prudence, and realized that since no government is ever perfect, it behooves us to choose our battles carefully and let some things go. This is something that those blindly opposed to all government activity need to be reminded of from time to time.
This paper is often considered a political document, and therefore unfit for inclusion in church teaching, but I disagree. It endorses no specific policies. It says nothing of the definition of marriage. It says nothing of whether we should belong to NATO or the UN or both or neither. It says nothing of what the top income tax rate should be. Indeed, it is a religious paper, covering the relationship of God and Man, and of Man to his fellow Man, both of which are certainly within the purview of the church to teach. It is not exclusively Christian, but it is certainly not atheistic. Any religion that teaches and values the authority of God and the dignity of human beings should have no quarrel with this paper. Because this paper does not aim to push any particular political agenda, but on the contrary embodies rebellion against the very idea of serving a political agenda, insisting instead that politics should serve us, I claim that it is the least political document ever written. I cannot overemphasize this point: this is the least political document ever written; it is religious, and every church, mosque, and synagogue should be teaching it – not just across this nation – but across the world.
And so, without further ado…
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Repost as desired.
Anyone can make a math mistake and not feel particularly bad about it. They either catch it later or accept it when someone else points it out. Many people seem almost proud to be bad at math. When they mistakenly conclude that 19+19+15= 33 because they forget to carry the two into the tens column, they do not stubbornly insist that 9+9+5= 3, or that 18+5= 3, or 18= -2, or 9= -1 or any other absurd statement that can be derived from the original mistake. Instead, they accept it when they are shown the truth.
Morality is different. While we might all agree on the morality of actions under very simple circumstances, when things get complicated the underlying truth can be obscured and we can make a mistake. Instead of accepting correction, most people hold tightly to first impressions. Then they build on these foundations.
Is this because it is considered that wrong moral beliefs make us a “bad person” while incorrect math beliefs simply make us bad at math, but likely talented in other ways?
Above all other political issues, freedom of speech must be protected, because without speech we cannot organize, educate ourselves, or advise each other on how to vote. In a democracy, it is the voters that are in charge and we need to be able to make informed decisions. To lose speech is to lose it all.
Above all other political issues, the right to bear arms must be protected, because with no physical means of defense, all our other rights are protected only by the goodwill of the officials currently in charge – goodwill which has already been proven to be in very short supply. To lose our weapons is to lose it all.
Above all other political issues, American sovereignty must be protected, because Americans will know better how to regulate Americans than some foreign power we cannot control that does not share our culture, economic interests, or form of government. This also means we need to control our borders and immigration, become energy-independent, and take care that too much foreign trade does not expose us to economic disruption originating outside our jurisdiction where we cannot control. To lose our self-determination is to lose it all.
Above all other political issues, the environment must be protected, because if the ecology suffers, we lose our food supply, we lose our oxygen supply, erosion increases, and the climate changes. When no human can survive, no human institution can survive either. To lose the biosphere is to lose it all.
Above all other political issues, health care must be made affordable, because without our health, our finances suffer, our education suffers, our family suffers, and…everything collapses…hmmm…
“Above all other political issues” can apply to almost anything.
The original video was slightly too long for my webhost to handle, so I clipped off the beginning where I explain the differences between science, math, and faith. The whole video can be seen on YouTube.
Considering what has been going on recently, I thought it was important that I say something: Two things can be true at the same time. This is a theme that runs through my life. I am often caught between two positions or two factions that are both right and both wrong – and so everyone hates me. This is especially true in the current war between the police and Black Lives Matter.
Anyone who actually watches the news already knows that the cops are jerks. It isn’t simply the ratio of bad cops to good cops, which is debatable; the problem is much deeper than that.
To illustrate what I mean, I need a few examples. It is entirely possible that I have been misinformed on the details of these events, but that isn’t important because I’m only using them to explain principles as you shall see in a moment.
The first event occurred in New Hampshire. I heard that in attempting to arrest a suspect at a gas station, the police threw flash-bang grenades at his vehicle. I know that if I was suddenly surrounded by explosions and fast-moving armed people shouting at me, I would assume that I was under attack by those wishing me harm and would have nothing to lose by fighting back. In this situation, as everyone should have predicted, the suspect shot back at the police, forcing police to return fire, who killed him and his girlfriend and somehow missed hitting the baby in the back seat and everyone in the surrounding neighborhood. If they had simply cut off his exits and invited himself to surrender, things might have gone differently.
I have also heard of many cases, such as the recent one in Kentucky, of cops storming into houses with guns drawn and the homeowners being charged with attempted murder for firing at the cops. Common sense dictates that even if the intruders identify themselves as cops, this is likely to be missed in the chaos. Common sense dictates that these could also be fake cops since it has happened before that imposters have robbed people. Common sense dictates that these could be crooked cops sent by an organized crime syndicate or a government-turned-tyrannical, since those things have also happened before. No-knock warrants terrorize even law-abiding citizens, since it has happened before that police had the wrong house and they have been known to cover up their mistakes with lies. When police put people into a legitimate self-defense situation, no one should ever be charged with a crime for killing them.
Note: There are probably rare times that it is worth the risk to do these things, and I’m not saying that the cops should necessarily always be charged. All I’m saying is that the accused must not have resisting arrest, assault, murder, or attempted murder added to their charges, since it is possible none would have happened if the police had acted differently.
That these mistakes sometimes happen isn’t the real problem. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people and things are bound to go wrong sometimes. The problem is that other cops, their supervisors, and their allies support these types of actions. I even heard Brandon Tatum, former cop, say on Dave Rubin’s show, The Rubin Report, that cops need to enter unknown situations with their weapons drawn for their own safety. That’s insane! By the same logic, I should point my gun at the police during routine traffic stops just in case they get out of hand. “Keep your hands where I can see them and no sudden movements,” I should say. Somehow, I don’t think it would end well for either of us.
Idiocy doesn’t even begin to describe it. There can only be one explanation: Brandon Tatum is a very evil man. I’m through messing around pretending that all ideologies are equally valid. The gloves are off. If you advocate for the police to be allowed to do these things you are evil incarnate. It isn’t just that a minority of fringe wackos like Tatum support these ideas. The problem is widespread. Even people I know support them.
People also tell me that I must always do whatever an officer says and sort it out later in court if it was wrong, but this is completely unreasonable. I can’t be unkilled or uninjured later in court. I can’t get my moment of indignity back later in court. It isn’t “resisting arrest” if I am rushed and grabbed without warning or explanation and I instinctively pull away. It isn’t “disobeying a lawful order” if the order is so preposterous that I assume I must have misunderstood and seek clarification first. Yet there are those that blame anyone who does not immediately follow orders and place zero blame on the one giving the orders.
Deaf people cannot always understand orders. Mute people cannot always answer questions. Blind people sometimes bump into officers. Autistic people are highly sensitive to touch and sometimes misinterpret social cues. Schizophrenics are sometimes paranoid and nervous. Claustrophobic people might not want to be cuffed and placed in a vehicle. Cops should be trained how to deal with these people, but it seems many cops don’t even have the basic social skills of a kindergartener.
The problem isn’t just “police brutality.” It’s all the lies and minor injustices done. It’s false traffic tickets. It’s that the judicial branch is often biased in favor of the police. I have no idea how to behave around police. The news tells me there are imposters out there, so I should never give out my license or anything with my address on it to anyone I can’t verify has a right to it. At the same time, lawyers tell me to never utter a word to cops because they can twist my words around to make me look guilty, or claim I slurred my words in order to accuse me of intoxication, but how can I verify their identity without talking to them? At the same time, advice is circulating that if I have a gun on me, the very first thing I need to do before anything else is announce this (by talking) and allow the (possibly fake) cop to disarm and search me so I don’t get shot. There is literally no way to win. There is no way to stay out of trouble.
Lawyers tell me that I have a right under the first, fourth, and fifth amendments not to answer questions or volunteer information about what weapons I might be carrying, yet I have heard countless anecdotes of people “remaining silent” who were detained, arrested, and even ordered out of vehicles they were not driving for failure to identify. I was taught in school that America is a nation of laws and it is laws we are to obey, not the whims of government agents, yet as an adult I am told that police have huge leeway in managing emergency situations and that any disputes must be handled later in the rigged courts or at the ballot box where I am repeatedly outvoted – and this is assuming the ballots were counted fairly.
Police have also abused me and people I know. When I checked up on an old friend I was very concerned about, those around her started harassing me. I considered reporting them to the police but wasn’t sure their behavior quite rose to that level. While I thought it over, she went to the police first and accused me of harassing her! Without ever reaching out to me to get the whole story, the police chose their side and actively constructed lies to hurt me. They searched completely unrelated public posts of mine, construed them as veiled threats against her, and showed them to her, knowing perfectly well at the time how mentally unstable and paranoid she was already. I could no longer report that I was harassed to the police because they had already chosen sides and I believed they would use any words I spoke against me. The court did not allow me to make a defense and the judge ruled against me even though what the police falsely claimed happened didn’t even fit the legal definition of harassment in that state.
Furthermore, when I complained to the police chief, they brought charges against me again – claiming that my complaint was a roundabout way to contact my accuser in violation of the court order. The entire department is corrupt!
For months, I wondered if the next step was for them to claim I violated the no-contact order so they could drag me out of bed in the middle of the night. They had already lied once, why not again? I worried over everything I posted online, thinking it could be construed as a threat. I wanted to be a writer. How could I ever promote my fiction books or my non-fiction blogs safely? Since what happened to me was so lawless and so detached from truth, I fully expected that if I submitted to arrest, the cops might beat me or kill me in custody and then claim I started the fight. Why would I ever submit to arrest? What do I have to gain? What do I lose by fighting back? Considering that I had reason at the time to believe my ex-friend was suicidal as well as paranoid, and the court system had already failed me, it would not have been unreasonable to go full vigilante after these cops and stop them by any means necessary. I would be doing the world a favor.
For years the story has been burning to get out of me, but I held back from going to the national press only because I didn’t want to hurt my ex-friend who is as much victim as perpetrator. I have also been told by well-meaning but misguided individuals that any public mention of the incident will only invite further abuse and also prevent anyone from hiring me because hiring managers and the public at large are predisposed to believe the police and predisposed to believe women. So be it. I refuse to work for cowards who won’t stand up for truth. You don’t deserve me.
People are now saying “defund the police,” “abolish the police,” and “abolish the courts.” It sounds crazy – and it is – but they have a point. If you lived in a city with cops so corrupt that if you called them for help with an intruder you were as likely as not to be mistaken for the intruder, or as likely as not charged with an unrelated crime, or as likely as not to just have them not show up (this has happened to people I know), you might think you were better off abolishing the police and taking your chances with the criminals. What loss is there if they don’t even show up half the time?
Some people say we should reform the police rather than get rid of them entirely. I agree, but people have been screaming for reform for years. The system and its countless clueless allies have resisted change. You can’t blame people for wanting to tear it all down. Maybe recent events will be a catalyst for reform. I hope so, but it could also be used as an excuse for police to crack down harder.
There is nobody in the country who hates the cops more than I do. Nobody has more reason to be angry than I. The protestors and I have the same enemy. The problem is: I’m the wrong color.
Why are so many black people so stupid to think they are the only ones with problems? Don’t the lives of the homeless matter? Don’t the lives of ex-cons matter? Don’t the lives of the unborn matter? If you have a job (or at least had one before COVID-19 hit), you are doing better than I am right now. If you have your own room and your own bed, you are doing better than I am right now. If you have more than one friend, and those friends live in the same state as you, you are doing better than I am right now. If you have ever had a girlfriend or boyfriend in your entire life, you are doing much better than I have ever done.
I’ve been bullied and treated as different my entire life. I’ve been a victim of prejudice for being male, for being Christian, for being single, and treated rudely many times for reasons mysterious to me. For all I know, it might have been for being white. I once lost my home and thousands of dollars in investment because of a crooked judge. I’ve been charged with a pretend crime by crooked cops. Twice patrol cars have slowed down while passing me as if I was being profiled somehow. I’ve been robbed at gunpoint. I’ve been fired from jobs twice for no fault of my own. When I was a child, my father was passed over for a job because of affirmative action, fired from another job over a false charge of sexual harassment, and evicted without mercy for being one day late on rent. Where is my white privilege?
I know that many if not most black people have things very tough, caught between failing schools, limited economic opportunities, drug problems, gang warfare, and corrupt police. I sympathize. I’d like to help, but we can’t work together so long as your loudest voices perpetuate an us versus them mentality. Black Lives Matter has made all white people the enemy.
Black Lives Matter is a black supremacist group and I can prove it: On more than one occasion, their leadership has prematurely taken sides in high-profile shooting cases before all the facts were in and solely because of race. They held a rally where whites were told not to attend. They have waged a war of words on their own allies who agree and sympathize when they innocently state in support that all lives matter. The only explanation for this can be that the Black Lives Matter leadership believes that only black lives matter. They should change their name to Only Black Lives Matter.
By bringing race into it, Black Lives Matter clouds the issue and prevents unity. One prone to conspiratorial thinking might think they are working with the cops. That some police have started kneeling to them isn’t helping. That in many cities rioters were released while those merely defending themselves from being beaten or killed by them were charged isn’t helping either. Our legal system is completely arbitrary at this point. Either way, so long as Black Lives Matter dominates the conversation, I can’t help you.
Whether you are black, Hispanic, Native American, or whatever, renouncing Black Lives Matter (and Antifa) is the first step you have to take if we are ever going to fix this. Making enemies of the white majority is a sure way to get crushed. Remember, there are white supremacists out there too. Black Lives Matter is the best recruiting tool they have.
There are people now saying that white silence is violence. While not strictly true, they have a point. I think we do wrong not to speak against evil when we see it. This is why I’ve been speaking out my whole life against cops, government in general, and partisans that would pointlessly divide us along racial, religious, or even sexual lines. I’ve written books. I’ve written blogs. I’ve invited anyone who will listen to talk politics, but nobody listens and some of them tell me I have white privilege and thus have nothing to say worth listening to. What difference does it make if I stay silent?
One thing I have observed in life and an idea I have been repeatedly exposed to is that one’s social environment has at least as much to do with one’s behavior as one’s innate nature. Sociologists suggest that putting people in jail might be a less effective way to prevent criminality than making sure people grow up in a healthy home environment, have plenty of legal opportunities for advancement, and are kept away from the influence of those who are already criminals. There are even those that have suggested that labeling someone as deviant in some way can cause that person to internalize and even embrace the label, becoming set in their deviant ways, and that if we instead cast their past behavior as an aberration from an otherwise clean record this would be less likely. This is called role theory.
I know that there are times I have been tempted to be rude since all my efforts to be polite were getting me nowhere and I was being accused of being rude anyways. I figured there was no loss to my reputation if I became what they said I was. Social environment matters a lot. I’ll recount three examples from my life:
One: When two of my coworkers failed to get along, management stuck me in the middle of them since I seemed to get along with almost anyone. However, because I was now in the middle, I had to interact with two troublemakers while each of them only had to interact with one of me. Thus, I was in twice as much conflict. Management soon forgot why I was put there in the first place and started seeing me as the problem.
Two: One of my coworkers often stood in the corner when there was nothing to do. I noticed that my other coworkers simply assumed he was lazy and would not help. Whenever a task appeared, they would do it themselves, grumbling all the time about the guy in the corner. When multiple tasks appeared, they simply worked harder. In contrast, when I was alone with him and something needed to be done, I simply left half-finished items near him. He was slow to respond, but soon enough he stepped in to help without being asked. He didn’t see a point in working when others were handling things so well and he couldn’t easily insert himself into the fray.
Three: I also notice that I joke less when there is someone else in the group to fill that role. The class clown is not always the same person; it is merely the funniest person in the class. How talkative or reserved I am changes greatly depending on who I am with. In school, I used to think I was introverted until I discovered that I could be quite extroverted in the workplace. The venue makes a big difference.
Instead of being quick to judge, maybe we should take note of the situation others are in and walk a mile in their shoes.
When was the last time you were labeled as something you weren’t?
English is an often-inadequate language. One word can mean so many different things. This is especially true with the word “fair.”
According to some, an economic situation is fair so long as the participants are equal under the law. The laws are to be followed by all without exception. Those equally guilty are punished equally. The innocent are left unpunished. Each individual has the same amount of representation, the same rights, and their testimony counts the same in court. Everyone is equally taxed and equally regulated regardless of who they are. Everyone is kept safe as much as possible from theft, vandalism, extortion, and fraud.
According to others, being equally free from interference in our economic activities is not enough. We must also be free from the consequences of the freedom others have to govern their activities. To be fair, there must be no monopolies or collusion. Those institutions that do better shall not take advantage of their new status to undersell their competitors only to raise prices later. Sellers must not use their freedom to sell to whom they want to discriminate against those of certain races or creeds. Buyers must not use their freedom to shop where they want to do the same. Enforcing this kind of fairness necessarily diminishes the first kind.
According to others, it is not enough that we all be free of discrimination and collusion. We must all have the same starting point. No matter the economic means of our parents, we must receive the same education and be given the same amount of seed money. We must also be served the same level of health care throughout our lives so that we differ only in our competence and work ethic. Since the seed money and cost of education must come from someplace, in practice it means that the state discriminates against the most productive members of society by interfering in their economic activities. Enforcing this kind of fairness necessarily diminishes the first two kinds.
According to still others, none of this is enough. Fairness only exists when all outcomes are equal. Those who work hard, those who are lazy, those who are intellectually gifted, those who are mentally retarded, those who follow all the rules, those who actively fight against the system, and all those in between are guaranteed the same wage. That doesn’t sound fair at all.
Finally, “fair” can also mean a carnival. This is the best kind of fair.
The universe is a wild and fascinating place of wild physics, wild geology, wild chemistry, wild biology, and even wild psychology. Science often violates common sense.
I have written before on the rarity of common sense. Many people believe whatever they are told even if it violates everyday experience and basic science I have known since elementary school.
Rumors abound that the LHC might accidentally create a black hole that will destroy the world. It’s hard to see how. Gravity is proportional to mass and the LHC deals with only nanograms at a time. Any black hole would be tiny and tug with no more force than the matter it collapsed from. The danger of black holes comes from their small size allowing one to get closer to the center of gravity than one could an object of lower density, but since fundamental particles might be infinitesimal points (this is how they are treated in mainstream models, i.e. not string theory), they might already be black holes. I’m not worried.
One area full of wild claims is psychology. Psychologists jump to conclusions without data, assuming people secretly racist when the test results might simply show that people are aware that racism exists, or assuming young children can’t think symbolically when their behavior could equally be interpreted as play. Sometimes I think all psychologists are insane.
I am generally more understanding than the average person. I accept people who are shy because I recognize that I don’t always feel like being put on the spot either. I accept people who are emotional or have depression or mania, because I’ve had different emotions and moods before. I accept people with attention deficit disorder because I can sometimes be distracted too. I accept people with obsessive-compulsive disorder because I know what it’s like to settle into a comfortable routine only to have things change. I believe I understand both liberals and conservatives more than they understand each other because unlike the average person, I actually listen first before I close my mind. If there is one thing I have a hard time understanding, it is why some people have such a hard time understanding.
Still, I find some claims of handicap so ridiculous that I literally can’t believe them. They do not pass the test of common sense. I can only conclude that people with these conditions are faking it.
The Man Who Forgot How To Read:
I once read about a man who had a stroke and could no longer recognize objects by sight. He could see and navigate just fine, but he could not know what he was looking at until interacting with it using his other senses.
I don’t get it. If he couldn’t tell by looking at it whether a patch of color was a vertical wall or a horizontal golf course, how could he navigate? Is it possible he simply had difficulty putting words to things, but could recognize what they were just fine? But if that is the case, why could he no longer read? I don’t need to know the names of letters to tie them to sounds or tie words to meanings. Unless I have completely misunderstood, the mental condition described here is internally incoherent and inconsistent. Logic proves that it cannot be true.
I have also heard of people born with aphantasia who can see, navigate, and even recognize objects by sight, but do not store visual memories and are incapable of imagining visual stimuli. They record representations of three-dimensional spatial relationships as strings of words.
I don’t get it. Words alone cannot capture the meaning of a three-dimensional space without the spatial meanings of those words being previously known by demonstration. I can explain how to build a castle using only text by including words such as “angle” and “length,” but if one doesn’t already have an understanding of such concepts, no amount of words alone will ever teach them. To know what an angle is, is to think visually. To know what a length is, is to think visually.
I have also read about a woman who had a stroke and could no longer see motion. To fill cups without overflowing them, she had to draw marks on the sides. When the liquid was above a certain level, she stopped pouring.
I don’t get it. Why use visible marks when she could just as easily imagine one just below the top of the cup? It sounds like she was perfectly capable of seeing the liquid at one level and then later at another level – but seeing a difference in space over a difference in time IS seeing motion! Velocity equals displacement divided by time. What am I missing here?
I have heard of some people born with prosopagnosia who can easily recognize patterns in general, but cannot recognize faces.
What? This just raises too many questions. What qualifies as a face? What separates them from other patterns? Spiders have eyes and legs all over their cephalothoraxes. Do they have faces? Squid have eyes on the sides and move with their tentacles trailing behind, where the beak is hidden. Do they have faces? Do clocks have faces? Do mountains have faces? Doesn’t one already have to be fairly good at pattern recognition to know whether something is a face or not? What causes “faces” to then be shunted over into the dysfunctional part of the brain while “non-faces” are kept for further analysis? What happens if one sees such a realistic photo that for just a moment they recognize it as a real face and their brain stops processing it? Do they never realize that it is just a photo? If these people are really so good at recognizing other patterns, can they cure themselves simply by thinking of everything as a non-face?
After a particular type of stroke paralyzing the left side of the body, some people develop anosognosia. Thus, they are unable to see the left side of objects. This does not mean they see nothing in the left half of the visual field; it means that even objects completely contained in the right visual field will still be subdivided such that they do not perceive their left sides. Supposedly, they are completely unaware of the left side of anything, including themselves. They are known to eat only from the right side of plates, fail to see the pencil in their left shirt pocket when looking in a mirror, and get caught on doorframes when they forget about the existence of half their body!
This condition is really weird and it raises a lot of questions. At what level do they subdivide? Given two plates of beans, do they eat every bean on the right plate and none on the left? Or do they eat the beans from the right halves of both plates? Or do they cut each bean in half and eat only the right sides of each? If the beans are replaced with asparagus, is the stalk seen as a separate object from the crown, or is the entire shoot seen as a single object? Since any object can be arbitrarily subdivided into smaller objects all the way down to the limit of visual resolution, how can there be any consistency in what people see and how they behave? It is meaningless and random.
I have been told that those with autism are unable to form a “theory of mind” of themselves or others in order to predict human behavior, yet are average (or even above-average) when predicting other systems. Those with autism are good at computer programs or physics but not psychology. I have many of the same problems with this description of autism that I do with prosopagnosia.
What qualifies as a mind? Doesn’t one have to understand a phenomenon really well first before figuring out whether it is mind-based or not? Also, how is it possible not to know your own thinking when you’re the one doing the thinking? That’s crazy talk. Are all psychologists insane?
I literally can’t believe any of these conditions are true as described. Logic compels me to reject the notion. You might as well ask me to believe in square circles. There is no doubt in my mind that somebody is lying. I don’t have much patience for this nonsense.
Of course, many people would see me as an intolerant jerk. This brings me to consider another disorder: What if I have a mental condition that blocks me from imagining and accepting such things? After all, I have immense trouble trying to visualize complex motion in four or more dimensions. Most people find it hard to grasp the notion of non-Euclidean geometries, higher dimensions, and the “spin-node network” of quantum loop gravity theory. Some people can’t bring themselves to believe in aliens, ghosts, or God. If it is possible for those with anosognosia to be ignorant of their own ignorance, what might we be ignorant of? Higher dimensions? The Silence? Could we be surrounded by angels and demons who watch everything we do? Can I really trust my own logic? My logic says yes, but that’s exactly what I would expect my logic to say.
In any case, anyone who can entertain the idea that these people might be telling the truth should also be open to the idea that my condition is just as real. For the sake of fairness, anyone asking me to have patience with these people should also have patience with me for not having patience. I can’t help it.
Common Sense Not Common
Common Sense Often Wrong
Aspberger's Is The New Drapetomania
The Undiscovered Mind
One thing I have observed in life and conversation is that many people are confused about the difference between wants and needs. They do not seem to realize that those words only retain distinct meanings within narrow contexts wherein all the actors already have broad agreement over which is which. The terminology cannot simply be carried over to new conversations.
In the general case, all needs are need-fors. A need must have an object. For example, one might need a bridge for crossing a river. One might question whether they truly need to cross the river, and whether they might find other means of traversing it (e.g. a boat), but this does not make the need invalid. If it were so, then no need could pass this test. Even in the extreme case of having needs for living (e.g. air, water, food) where no substitutes will suffice, one could always ask whether one truly needs to live.
All needs are wants and all wants are needs. Wanting a set of roller blades on one’s birthday can also be equally thought of as a needing a set of roller blades for going roller blading, or needing a present for preventing disappointment.
The difference between wanting and needing is only one of relative importance. There is no strict line between them. The terms only make sense when there is a large gulf of importance between two sets of desired conditions. In those rare situations, the less important conditions are called wants and the more important conditions called needs.
So don’t tell me I don’t need cake!
Sometimes people remember things differently from others. Sometimes people remember things differently than the official record. I’ve had such experiences going back into the 1980s. It has been a running theme in my life. I’ve also observed others when they were surprised to see reality itself collapse around them. It is the most disconcerting experience there is. I even published a fiction book (The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship) about this exact phenomenon, calling it fifth-dimensional shift. Future stories on the same subject are already planned.
Here is the blurb: This is the story of a man named Nate who finds himself living in a psychiatric health care facility. He does not remember how he got there, but as he starts to remember things from his past life, he realizes that the universe has changed dramatically since he was young. A story of childhood nostalgia, sometimes comically illuminating the differing perceptions adults and children have of the world, The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship is also a journey through the memories of a man for clues as to the real reason he is where he is. Filled with tension between opposing claims of the ultimate reality, this is a novel that will keep the reader guessing until the end. Read more.
Very recently, I encountered a trending topic called the Mandela effect. It was first described when a woman reported that she was certain she had heard on the news that Nelson Mandela had died in jail in the nineties and was very surprised when he was later elected president of South Africa, alive and well. Since sharing her story, millions of others have reported the same experience, as well as numerous other cases of remembering things differently, such as the existence of movies that never existed or other celebrity deaths that never happened.
These people have discussed possible causes for this phenomenon, including blaming particle accelerators for causing them to somehow jump from one parallel universe to another. Many report only experiencing the phenomenon since 2012 and believe that something new is happening. That so many people are apparently noticing it for the first time is most likely a confirmation bias. They are looking for examples, even if only subconsciously. Similar situations happening to them in the past may have simply been explained away as their bad memory, or the assumption that it was the other person that was wrong.
While the alleged cause is very suspect, one cannot deny that the Mandela effect is a real phenomenon worthy of study. That so many people can be so certain of the same version of events both proven false and remembered differently by others says something truly profound about the universe, even if it only says something profound about human perception and memory. That is part of the universe, isn’t it?
Whatever the cause, before we can begin studying just what the Mandela Effect is, we first have to study what it isn’t:
Misheard Or Misread
Sometimes the reason our memories don’t match reality has nothing to do with fifth-dimensional shift or flawed recall. Sometimes the information was misheard or misread in the first place. Many Mandela effect examples have to do with lyrics of songs changing, but it has long been known that people mishear lyrics all the time and this was never thought of before as anything unusual. To see what I mean, just go to YouTube and search for “misheard lyrics.” You will be amused for hours. Setting words to music necessarily changes their pronunciation, leading to errors. That sounds are misinterpreted should surprise no one. In fact, some artists are known for being unclear.
Even in cases where a word sounds as crisp and clear as anything, people can still hear it differently. We all have different ears. This is how some people are able to hear the name “Laurel” while others hear “Yanny” on the same tape, even though Yanny and Laurel sound nothing alike. How much easier it is to hear “the neighborhood,” when Mr. Rogers says “this neighborhood.”
Vision can also be tricked. Several years ago, when I still worked at McDonald’s, they released a new burger called the Big’N’Tasty. Within days, customers began asking for it by name, even reading it off the menu, as the Big Nasty. I noticed that the prominent placing of the “N” and the small and off-level “T” made it very easy to misread. The situation soon got so bad that we all stopped bothering to correct people, allowing the misperception to persist. It would not surprise me if this became the next example of an alleged Mandela effect. The problem isn’t memory, but visual misperception.
Even in cases with a picture as crisp and clear as anything, people can still see it differently. We all have different eyes. This is how some poeple are able to see a blue-and-black dress while others see a white-and-gold dress. How much easier it is to miss that I misspelled “people” in the previous sentence or that Febreeze is actually spelled Febreze.
Before moving on, I should probably point out that people do not always see what they expect to see. Sometimes things jump out and get noticed precisely because they do not fit expectations. I also know people that seem to have great difficulty using context to fill in the gap in a sentence when they miss a word, even when what they claim they heard me say is almost exactly right (such as “nuclear bond” instead of “nuclear bomb”). This makes this a very complex phenomenon that cannot be explained away as quickly as the skeptics would like or confirmed as quickly as the believers would like.
Sometimes information is not forgotten as much as it is simply completely missed in the first place. It has long been known that humans are terrible at paying attention. When told to watch a video of a basketball game and count the number of times the ball changed hands, participants in one study never saw the man in the gorilla costume that walked through the middle of the game. While this represents an extreme case, none of us pay attention to all of our surroundings all the time. We focus on one thing at the expense of another. This sort of misdirection is exactly how magicians and pickpockets make a living. It has never been thought of as the Mandela effect before.
It is also possible to see patterns that aren’t there by missing all the counterexamples that would disprove it. In order to make sense of a messy and chaotic reality, historians necessarily impose a narrative on history, selecting only the relevant facts. Politicians cherry-pick only those examples that support their claims. Stereotypes exist when counterexamples are not noticed. One has to be careful that they aren’t missing the bigger picture.
Nobody Told Me
Other times we miss commonly-known things not for lack of attention, but because nobody told us, probably assuming we already knew. Some people call this the everybody-knows-it-but-nobody-thought-to-tell-me phenomenon.
This has happened to me many times before. Just imagine my shock in my late twenties when I learned for the first time that gypsies are a real, living people group and not a bunch of magical monsters in the same category as witches, fairies, vampires, zombies, and dragons. With all the stories out there of them cheating people with magic, selling cursed objects, and putting hexes on everybody, nobody thought for a moment to tell me that gypsies don’t actually do any of these things and might even be offended at the insinuation. Just imagine if there were stories of African-Americans flying around at night, drinking blood from sleeping white women. It would be called the most racist thing ever. We would never hear the end of it.
I don’t think this is something I would have forgotten. Nor does it prove that I have jumped universes. It just means that I was previously uninformed.
Other times, we are not only uninformed, but misinformed. Not one of us can know everything from personal observation. The majority of our knowledge comes from others, whether from friends and family, school teachers, books, or the news media.
Thinking that Nelson Mandela or Billy Graham had died and being surprised when they die “again” does not mean that one has false memories or that history has changed. It might mean the news got it wrong. They do that sometimes. It was because Alfred Nobel’s obituary was accidentally printed while he was still alive that he decided to start awarding the Nobel prizes, so he would not be known only for inventing dynamite. It happens.
People are misinformed about all kinds of things. Just go on YouTube and search for “ten things you think are true” or “ten things people believe about” and see how many videos pop up. There are whole YouTube shows and television shows devoted to this type of thing. It has never been thought of as the Mandela effect before. It’s just fake news.
I remember being taught that NAZI was an acronym, each letter standing for a different German word. I was even told at one point what the four words were, but I no longer remember. Now, I am told that it is merely an abbreviation for the first of the six words in their full name. I also remember being told that Earth day was always on April twentieth and that this was Hitler’s birthday (only later becoming associated with marijuana). Now, I am told that Earth day changes from year to year and that April twentieth is actually Stalin’s birthday. I just assume that somebody made a mistake in the chain of information transfer, not that I’m misremembering things or that history is changing.
Note: In doing my final, last-minute research for this post, I now hear that Earth day has always been April 22 and that this is Lenin's birthday.
I remember being taught that the great lakes (Superior, Huron, Michigan, Eerie, and Ontario) were the largest in the world, but there are lakes in Africa, Russia, and three lakes wholly in Canada that are bigger than some of them, while the Caspian Sea is bigger than all of them. It is probable that I either misheard or that my teacher misspoke, meaning to say that the great lakes are together the largest freshwater system in the world.
There are also examples of Bible verses supposedly altered. Isaiah never mentions the lion lying down with the lamb, though many people (including myself) remember it that way. The actual passage is as follows:
“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard and the goat will be at peace. Calves and yearlings will be safe among lions, and a little child will lead them all.” – Isaiah 11:6
The lion is mentioned, but it is the wolf that lies down with the lamb. When I first heard of this Mandela effect, I assumed that Isaiah must say it elsewhere. Searching through the entire book, I also found this:
“The wolf and lamb will feed together. The lion will eat straw like the ox. Poisonous snakes will strike no more. In those days, no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain. I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Isaiah 64:25
There is still no phrase with the lion and lamb lying together, but I know I’ve heard it somewhere! What I (and so many others) are probably remembering is our pastors (or somebody else) misquoting it, not from our personal reading. Having already read the passage, we know what is being referred to when we hear the misquote, but can’t remember for certain whether the exact phrase is in there. When people begin to quote others who are quoting others who are quoting others, it isn’t long before the incorrect version is everywhere and so everyone knows it that way. It’s not that history changed or we remember incorrectly; it’s that we remember correctly something that was incorrect to begin with.
While this explanation does raise the question of why it is that “lion and lamb” caught on so much more than “wolf and lamb,” there is probably a good reason for that too. Perhaps it is because Jesus is referred to as both “the lion of Judah” and “the lamb of God.” This might have created an association in the mind making one version easier to recall than the other, but I really don’t know.
Right All Along
Then there are the cases where we have been right all along and the fake news is what is being reported now. As the Mandela effect becomes more widely-known, trolls and hoaxers have started reporting untrue things as the current truth so that even those who remember it correctly will think history is changing. One video I saw reported that Fruit Loops had become Froot Loops, while another reported that Froot Loops had become Fruit Loops! I went to the store to check; it is Froot Loops. More than one video has reported Captain Picard to keep and carry a large crystal in eighty different episodes of Star Trek TNG. Only two scenes are ever shown in these videos and one of them I recognized and was able to find elsewhere on YouTube, sans crystal. Comments left below showed a mix of opinions. While some claimed that they just went back to watch and the crystal did not exist, others claimed that it did, and the majority believed the claims unquestioningly, some using this as further proof that history is changing, and others using it as further proof that people easily miss seeing things and have terrible memories. In this case, neither is true.
Temporal Changes And Spatial Changes
Sometimes things really do change and there is a record of it somewhere – even if you can’t find one easily and someone tells you it has always been the new way. Companies really do change their logos, the highway department really does change exit numbers, politicians change their positions on the issues, cultural mores evolve, big countries split into smaller ones, and smaller countries merge into big ones. It happens. You’re not crazy.
Other perceived changes might be regional, meaning you’ve moved to a new state or are hanging around a new circle of friends with different backgrounds. One thing I’ve observed in life is that most people assume everyone thinks just the way they do. We all live in tiny bubbles of isolation and are surprised the rare times our lives cross with those with different morals, slang, and ideas of common sense.
In elementary school, I was taught how to spell potatoe by remembering the mnemonic: pot-a-toe. The textbook we used had a little picture of a toe growing in a flowerpot. My sister was taught the same way and remembers the same textbook. Later in life, I was told this was wrong; potato does not end in e. Did my sister and I have a shared false memory? Were we from another universe? No, as it turns out, “potatoe” is a regional spelling variation often used in the New England region, though it seems to be rapidly going out of style now.
When I grew up, “wicked” was used as often as the word “cool.” In fact, they were almost always used together, as in “wicked cool.” Whoopie Pies were as universal as Twinkies. Moxie was as universal as Coke and Pepsi. That people from outside New England aren’t familiar with my slang or snack food doesn’t mean I come from a different universe. Some people say soda; some people say pop. Some people say crayfish; some people say crawfish. Others say crawdads. I was always told that while espresso was spelled “espresso,” it was still pronounced “expresso.” Only later did I find that this was the minority position. I never interpreted any of this as history change or bad memory.
Definitions are also a source of endless confusion and strife. Words I have used my entire life are suddenly misunderstood by people who are equally confusing to me. All across the internet, people debate the meaning of the word “ironic” and whether water is wet. All this means is that every generation learns language anew and that education is imperfect. This doesn’t mean the universe changed. It doesn’t prove fifth-dimensional shift.
Suggestion And Conflation
Once we have weeded out the vast majority of examples easily dismissed with mundane explanations, we start getting to the more interesting cases. Some of these can still be explained away as memory being influenced by suggestion or conflation.
Many years ago I saw a movie called Rush Hour, starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, but I rarely pay much attention to actor names. Some time after, I saw Dogma, starring Chris Rock. For a while, Chris Rock was everywhere on TV and Chris Tucker was nowhere to be seen. Since Both of them play similar types of characters with similar voices, mannerisms, and high-strung personalities, and since they look very similar and have very similar names, I got them mixed up. Years later, I was surprised to learn that it was not Chris Rock in Rush Hour, but some other guy I knew nothing about. In this case, the conflation hypothesis is so compelling that even the tiniest bit of uncertainty in my memory causes me accept I must have been wrong.
The same effect is probably in play when it comes to the non-existent Jiffy-brand peanut butter. Many people remember a brand of peanut butter called Jiffy, but do not remember Jif. I think the reason is almost obvious. Jif is not a regular word, whereas jiffy is a unit of time, and therefore more familiar to most people. The existence of oil-change chain Jiffy Lube and Jiffy-brand pancake batter reinforces this. Also, there are similar-sounding peanut butter brands Skippy and Teddy, thus causing people to associate words of the same structure with peanut products, reinforcing the mistake further.
Note: I remember Jif very well because I remember hearing the commercial catchphrase “Choosy moms choose Jif,” so this example does not pertain to me.
Then there is Darth Vader’s famous line, “No, I am your father,” which many people remember as “Luke, I am your father.” The reason for this also seems almost obvious. To make clear who is speaking outside the context of the movie, many people would have included the name “Luke.” Over the years, after hearing it so many times, people would conflate one quote for the other and “remember” the name in the original. Those individuals who watch the movie again might not even notice the discrepancy and mishear it just as they mishear lyrics.
Note: I remember hearing about this being an often-misquoted line since many years before the term “Mandela effect” was coined, so I was tipped off early. I also avoided being confused because I never realized that when I heard others say, “Luke, I am your father,” that they meant it to be an exact quote from the movie rather than merely saying something that Vader would say. After all, people these days parody Batman by attaching the word “justice” to everything, without ever meaning to make a direct quote.
It Never Made Sense
Sometimes people not only remember things a particular way, they also cite reasons why it must be that way, arguing that it makes no sense otherwise. While I am more inclined to believe someone with reason and logic on their side, I know from experience that the world does not always make sense.
It was only in my mid-twenties when I learned that most of the world’s population was lactose-intolerant (as adults). This made no sense to me. If it were true, then lactose intolerance should simply be called “normal” and what previously had no label should be called “lactose tolerance.” This is why I was at first skeptical of the new information.
It was only a few years ago when I heard that Easter and Passover were not going to fall in the same month. For my entire life, my understanding of the symbolic significance of Easter was that it happened at the end of Passover. Just as the angel of death passed over those houses in Egypt that had lamb’s blood on the doorframes, so to the wages of sin (death) would “pass over” those that had been washed by the blood of Jesus (a.k.a. the lamb of God). The “last supper” Jesus had with his disciples happened during Passover. Other holidays are celebrated on the day of the month the original events supposedly occurred, such as Christmas (always December 25) and Independence Day (always July 4). I believed that for Easter to take place on a different date from year to year meant it must be following a different calendar, and I had heard that the Jews use a lunar calendar, so it all kind of fit. As it turns out, holidays don’t have to make sense either.
Looney Tunes has always been Looney Tunes, not Looney Toons as many claim to remember it. The fact that Toons makes more sense than Tunes, since it is a cartoon and not a music program, means nothing. I remember it as Tunes so well because it struck me as so odd. I’m always noticing things that no one else does.
That the girl in the James Bond film Moonraker never had braces as many remember does not mean history is changing. That her sudden attachment to a stranger with metal teeth makes no sense cannot be used as evidence that it must have once been different. Movies don’t always make sense. Heck, even in the real world people do crazy things sometimes.
Whether we misunderstood or were mistaught, over the years a belief can be supported by other facts that only make it stronger. Other people who also misunderstood or were mistaught can back our belief up. This does not mean it was ever true. Rhode Island is not an island. Steely Dan is not one person. When we discover we were wrong, it does not mean fifth-dimensional shift, and it does not mean our memory is bad.
Finally, now that we have eliminated all that the Mandela effect is not, we can discuss what it is. There are times in my life that I have had a very strong memory of something that I was absolutely certain of, as well as corroborating memories that would have made no sense if the first memory were not correct, in ways not easily dismissed by any of the methods previously described. When told I am wrong, it can be very disconcerting, to say the least. It has happened to me and I have seen it happen to others.
When I was young, I disliked all melons. Watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe were all disgusting to me. I also didn’t like turnips, sweet potatoes, or Brussels sprouts. On the other hand, I liked eggplant, but it made my gums itch. I also liked spinach, but it made my teeth squeaky. All this was well known in my family since the earliest days. Recently, my father said something to the effect that he remembers that it was cantaloupe I liked except that it made my gums itchy. I corrected him, and he conceded he was not sure. Days later, he starts telling my grandmother the same thing. Afterwards I corrected him again, but this time he was absolutely certain and insisted that I was the one misremembering it. I would know! It’s my mouth! Worse still, he told my mother and she backed him up. Because I hate arguing, I dropped the whole thing, but I did later text my sister for an opinion. She backed me up. Only after I reported this to my parents did they begin to waver a bit in their certainty.
I used to work with a very difficult person. To explain what he was like to my coworkers, I made up a story as an example of the way he behaved and what my difficulty was. I made clear that the specific events never happened, but that they were representative of the types of things that he did on a regular basis. Some months later, my coworkers began citing my story as if it actually happened. Since I was the one who made it up, I remembered it not to be true, but they all now had false memories of actually witnessing the event! Even stranger, they remembered it slightly differently than I did, blaming me for the situation with the difficult person!
One time I entered my kitchen to find my sister eating the very last of the ice cream. “When did we get ice cream?” I asked. I had not had any of it and never knew it was in the house. My parents told me it had been in the house for several days. I opened the freezer. “Where was it?” I asked, expecting it to have been tucked away in a corner where I might not have noticed. Instead, they point to a spot right in front – a spot I know it could not have always been in since I had been in the freezer earlier that day for some sausage and could not have reached it without first picking the ice cream up and moving it out of my way. When they continued to insist it had always been there, I just dropped it. This incident was the first time I became aware that I had a reputation for missing information and not noticing things, but the truth is that others miss things at least as often as I do. At least, I remember others missing things as often.
Another time I was reading a science fiction book published in the thirties or forties. Coincidentally, it was about travelling to parallel timelines wherein history had run differently, including the migration and divergence of the various human races. The main character was of a race that did not exist in our universe and I remember the book describing him as resembling a Hispanic with red hair. I wasn’t clear on what exactly that meant, since Hispanics are so varied. I read through the entire book trying to picture the character as a Hispanic with red hair only because that was how I remembered the book describing him. Not one week after I finished reading the book did I hear on the news that the “Hispanic” designation was not invented until the seventies by the Richard Nixon administration (my father verifies this). I immediately remembered the book I had just finished reading was published long before that. Something didn’t add up. I went back to find my proof but it had vanished! I ended up rereading the first half of the book searching desperately for the word I knew to be there. It was not a word I would have made up myself. First, I don’t think in those terms; I tend to use sets of attributes to describe people rather than vague racial categories. Second, Hispanics are such a varied group that the term is nigh-meaningless when it comes to appearance. Third, the short description I did find in the book didn’t quite fit my idea of what a Hispanic was. Where did my memory come from?
Then there is the difference between the standard phone layout and the standard calculator layout. I remember both as being that of the standard phone layout. I make regular use of both and would definitely have noticed if they were different; I would have constantly hit the wrong buttons. Oddly, the ATM follows the phone layout, which is good since I remember my PIN as a shape rather than a number (It’s faster that way), even though my mind associates money and banking more with calculators than the phone. Wild.
Then there are the Berenstain Bears. I remember strongly always having trouble remembering how to spell the name. Was it Berenstein? Was it Berenstien? Was it Berenstine? Was it Berensteine? I had likely heard of similar names, such as Frankenstein or Einstein, but I had a very hard time remembering how to spell their names too, often writing Einstien or even Einstine. If the bears’ name had always ended in “stain” this would have been impossible. “Stain” is a word I was very familiar with and would have been noticed and remembered. I used to call my sister Kristen “Kristain” to imply that she was a gross mess (I was mean). Other people might be misremembering Berenstain as Berenstein because they heard it spoken on television more than they had read it and the memory of the assumption of spelling from the sound might be overriding the memory of actually reading it, but I never heard it on TV! I only had the books! I don’t even remember a television show! There is NO WAY it has ever been spelled Berenstain before!
These examples of the Mandela effect cannot be easily explained away like the majority can. Since I had the Berenstain books myself, it can’t be a case of fake news. It’s not likely I repeatedly misread the name over and over, since when I was trying to remember how to spell it I would have paid careful attention. I would not have simply seen what I expected to see because I had no expectations. There is no other family of anthropomorphic mammals with a similar name to conflate it with to confuse me. In addition, loads of other people agree with me that the name has changed!
I’m not the type to remember things poorly. I have a stronger memory than most, who are often surprised at what I retain. I always did well on school tests where I only had to regurgitate facts I had been told. I can multiply four-digit numbers in my head, which requires remembering what and where all the other digits are as I process one at a time. I am always tying connections between different memories, allowing me to reconstruct whatever escapes direct recall. I also tend to remember the sources of where I might have read something, including the side of the page it was on and what room I was in when I read it. This allows me to go back and evaluate the reliability of my source if the facts are ever questioned. While these powers have diminished slightly with age, they are still pretty good.
Even my weak memories are often right. After completing a very large order working at McDonald’s and clearing it off the screen, two more items were added, causing the whole thing to pop back up. I immediately saw what was new to the great surprise of my manager. Another time, I accidentally cleared an order off too quickly before I had read it. Before I attempted to dig into the computer memory for confirmation, I tried to focus on the image I had seen as a whole and then pick out the words. I was right!
I’m not the type to get fact and fiction confused, either. While my mind is full of fictions, whether things I have read or things I have written, I can always remember which memories are real from the “stamp” on them. Fantasies have a very different quality of feel to them, even when they are quite realistic fantasies. They get labeled differently. This is how I am able to remember whether some obscure marine invertebrate is actually a real animal that lives on Earth or whether I read about it in somebody’s speculative evolution project. I have NEVER mixed things up.
I embrace uncertainty. I’m not the type to jump to firm conclusions to ease the discomfort of not knowing. I am happy to admit when I don’t know something. My faith and my doubt exist side-by-side. While I too thought that Sally Field was Sally Fields, I’m really not sure. It’s easy to mix something like that up. I too thought that Pixy Stix were Pixie Sticks and Funyuns were Funions (others remember Pixie Stix and Funyons), but I don’t know. I remember teal being a yellow-green color, but I accepted my mother was right about it being a form of blue-green when I double-checked my crayon box. I’m not the type that feels certainty about everything, so it stands to reason that when I am certain about something, there must be a good reason for it.
I am also relatively immune to groupthink. I am always taking controversial positions and standing alone. Suggestion doesn’t affect me much. When I watch “ghost investigation” television shows, I am always struck by how completely unintelligible sounds that are probably just the house settling are heard as words by some people, who reinforce each other’s impression of which words they were while I still can’t hear it even when they replay the tape. I’m not totally immune to suggestion, but my resistance is pretty high.
If I were as open to suggestion as some people, I would fall for more of the alleged Mandela effect examples, but many of them do not apply to me. For me, “dilemma” has always been spelled “dilemma” and not “dilemna,” as some remember it. I remember all the continents always being exactly where they are on the map today. “The Thinker” has always had his hand on the chin. “Sex And The City” was never “Sex In The City.” I never even watched the show, but I vaguely remember an obscure event at the RNC many years ago when one of the Bush daughters told a joke about her grandmother (Barbara) thinking that sex and the city were things people did and not something people watched. For the joke to work, the word must have been “and.” The Mona Lisa was always known for her smile – though to be fair, it isn’t much of a smile. “We Are The Champions” never ended with “of the world.” Yes, I know it sounds like it should be there, but that it seemed conspicuously missing based on how the rest of the song goes is exactly why its absence was noticed and remembered by me.
It is clear that this is a real phenomenon not already described by known science. We either need some new psychology or some new physics or something. That cannot be denied. What is controversial is when people start assigning causes and drawing conclusions. Just because there is no physical evidence yet to convince others of the phenomenon makes it no less real to those who have experienced it themselves. That this has happened to me necessarily makes me less skeptical of others’ claims. I have never seen nor heard of either the movie Shazaam or the movie Kazaam, but those who remember watching both tell me that they have distinct memories of debating which was better, and thinking Kazaam was a rip-off of the earlier Shazaam while they were watching Kazaam for the first time.
Also, that this has happened to me makes me wonder whether some of those other examples easily dismissed might be valid after all. How many other things in my life can be explained in terms of the same phenomenon? When I am talking with someone and we suddenly find that we disagree on the subject of conversation, giving different context to my words and allowing for misinterpretation, is that the same thing? When people are suddenly mad at me for no reason and I never find out why, is that the same thing? That so many of these examples were able to escape my detection for so long makes me believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg. How many other things do I remember right now that are wrong?
Before we even begin to speculate on causes we would do well to remind ourselves of Occam’s razor: When confronted with two models that equally fit the evidence, preference should be shown to the one requiring the least number of new propositions. In other words, we should attempt as much as possible to explain the phenomenon within established science before resorting to brand-new theories. However, when this fails us, we would also do well to remember Sherlock’s maxim: When the impossible has been eliminated, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth.
There is no known natural mechanism that can cause certain small parts of the universe to change, along with paper and digital records to match, and some people’s memories but not those of others. The closest thing I can think of is quantum tunneling, but it doesn’t really work here. With quantum tunneling, there is always a non-zero probability of a particle formerly observed in one quantum state (such as location, excitation level, or direction of spin) being found in another. It means that individual protons might suddenly find themselves several nanometers away. With greatly diminishing amounts of probability, they may even find themselves several light years away, or all the protons in one atom might be found scattered all over the galaxy, or the entire atom might leap together to the new location intact, or an entire object of quintillions of atoms might leap across the universe intact. While it is possible for the ink molecules on every bag of Funions to change to read Funyuns, it is much much much much much more likely for just a single bag to change, or for the letters to change into something unintelligible, or for the bag to simply develop a hole or become radioactive. Since the synaptic connections between neurons responsible for memories take up very little mass, it is many times more likely for the brains of millions of people to quantum tunnel into a state with identical false memories than for all the bags to change. For all the company records to change along with the bags without all these more likely things happening requires additional explanation beyond simple quantum tunneling.
Ian McFadden of Surrey University might have brought us one step closer with his theory of quantum evolution. He proposes that systems as large as genes and the proteins they code for might remain in superposition long enough for them to tunnel into other states and that there exists a bias for these states to be biologically useful. To apply it to even larger systems, such as our snacks, it means that all Funyun bags remained in a superposition between Funion and Funyun, along with all the records until “observed,” and there is a bias for the letters to be legible. The problem with this is that such large systems have no way of staying in superposition for long without interacting with the environment in some way, requiring that they be in either one state or another. The only way out of this is for the environment (including billions of people) to also be part of an even larger superposition, lasting until somebody takes a “measurement.”
What is a measurement and what constitutes an observation? This is the biggest unsolved mystery of quantum mechanics. There are literally over a dozen interpretations of the data. Some suggest humans are somehow special, being more than a sum of atoms subject to the same laws as those they observe, and are uniquely able to collapse wave functions. Others suggest that wave functions collapse when the energy difference between two states becomes large enough to produce one graviton worth of gravitational radiation. Others suggest that we live side by side with other versions of ourselves making the same measurements with different values. None of this explains the Mandela effect or how it is that only some people see it and not others.
If on the other hand it is true that people can jump from one parallel universe/timeline to another, it raises the question what happened to the versions of themselves in the destination universe? Do they switch places? Does it cause a cascade across all timelines? Can bodies and other objects jump universes as easily as memories? What does this mean for the conservation of matter? Do sets of records ever jump universes, thus conflicting with other sets of records in the same way that human memories sometimes conflict with the memories of other humans?
If the universe can have multiple histories, with some parts of it failing to match other parts, could this explain why we find some evidence of a young Earth (polonium radiohaloes) and some evidence of an old earth (isochron dating)? Then again, could it be that the Earth simply popped into existence fully-formed?
Others suggest a conspiracy of either government agents or large branded companies. Is it possible that a world-wide conspiracy exists to change all the official records, including sneaking into people’s homes to remove their old Shazaam videos, controlling every company and government agency, and not one whistleblower has come forward? How is it even possible to coordinate that many millions of people? Does this mean that my family and coworkers are in on the game since we often disagree in our recollections? For what end? What purpose can it possibly serve? The conspiracy theories are the silliest of all!
While probably ninety percent or more of alleged Mandela effects can be explained within known psychology, some of them need a little more. Some suggest that people are just randomly certain sometimes and then construct elaborate false memories to alleviate the cognitive dissonance when shown wrong – but the only evidence of the memories being false is that they do not match the official records, which was already a given. By calling the phenomenon “false memories,” psychologists give it a name while explaining nothing. It proves nothing. How and why do false memories occur?
While it might make sense to consider other people to have false memories, this hypothesis is ultimately self-defeating and unscientific when applied to ourselves. It is unscientific because there is no way in principle for it to be tested. No matter the results of any experiment, we can never be sure by the time of publishing our conclusions that our memories of the results are still valid. If false memories can strike anyone with such certainty and clarity as to be undetectable, there is no way to do science of any kind at all. Everything must be doubted!
Doubting our own memories is completely self-defeating. To doubt our memories, we must also doubt our memories of the chain of reasoning that first caused us to doubt, meaning we might have been right all along after all! For the same reason, there is no purpose in doubting our senses or our ability to reason. It can serve no function.
If I really took this idea seriously, I could not finish writing this post. I could not be sure of what I had already written and what still needed to be said. I would question whether any of the examples I cite ever occurred or whether I’ve made up this whole phenomenon. I’d question whether I even have a blog to post to. If you really took the idea seriously, you could not be certain that this isn’t your blog and this isn’t something you wrote. You’d have no idea whether the world outside your office or bedroom really exists, whether there is anyone out there to share this with, whether you have a job to go to or where it is you work, whether you should put milk or laundry detergent on your cereal (Which one is it that does a body good, again?), or whether you have ever really met before that person you recognize as your spouse/sibling/friend. Mistrusting memory makes it impossible to function.
If the level of certainty and existence of corroborating memories are truly unrelated to the probability of being correct, then there is no point in being sure of anything before we make a decision. Why ever double-check our math if it makes us no more likely to be right? Why not build bridges with mismatched bolts, arrest the wrong suspects, and rush across the street without looking both ways? Seriously, why bother?
Since we can’t apply the theory to ourselves, we also cannot apply it to others. By opening the door to the possibility of others being affected, we must admit it could happen to us as well – unless we can come up with a theory as to how we alone are immune. For these reasons, the false memory hypothesis is completely illegitimate an answer – even if true. There is no way to study it. It’s a total non-starter.
Whatever is happening, the best way to deal with it is probably the same. Just go with the flow. Deal with the world as it is rather than as it should be. Don’t let the past control the future. Do you remember struggling with addiction yesterday? Maybe in this universe you never had an addiction! Start over. You remember always struggling with finances? Maybe in this universe you are both lucky and hard-working! Don’t give up! Frustrated with the political situation? Remember that no matter how bad it gets, it can still change for the better, just as no matter how good it gets it can still change for the worse.
Remember, the wisest man is the one who knows he knows nothing.
For more information, visit DebunkingMandelaEffects.com
Common Sense Often Wrong
Everything I Know Is Wrong
Models And Reality
The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship
Sometimes we must go backwards to go forwards.
Chocolate chip cookies were invented by mistake. They were a failed attempt to make chocolate cookies, but Mrs. Toll made the best out of the situation and introduced to the world a new favorite.
Sometimes when doodling alien creatures I mess up. When this happens, I can usually think up a way to salvage the picture and make it more interesting than it would have been originally. Could those stray marks on its back be gills? Genitals? External parasites? Some of my most creative ideas have been mistakes.
The ancient Israelites failed to take the city of Ai because of the sin of one man. Once dealt with, they attempted again to take the city, pretending to retreat and leading the enemy into an ambush. Winning this way would have been unlikely had they not lost the first time.
When I was nineteen I unwittingly insulted a friend of mine and she was rude to me in response. Unable to bring myself to apologize first, she did, I returned the favor, and our friendship was stronger after that than it would have ever been otherwise.
When things go wrong, don’t be discouraged. Instead ask yourself, “If this had been my plan all along, what would my next step be?” There is a way to fix any mistake. All things can work out for good. Even when we fail to do this, God can fix anything. It is never too late.
So, if your current situation had been your plan all along, what would your next step be?
Disclaimer: The following is my analysis based on dozens of books and magazines I have read and pieced together over the years. Most of the concepts I’ve never seen related together before. Most of it I think I understand pretty well, but I have been wrong before. Some of it I know I don’t understand. Input and corrections are welcome.
No one likes to die. Humans take grand steps to avoid being killed. Most religions hold that some form of consciousness outlasts the death of the body and that the soul lives for eternity. How might such a thing work? It would seem to violate physics.
Medical science may one day progress to the point that the physical body can be protected from aging and almost any disease or injury. It might also be possible to upload copies of our minds onto more durable, artificial bodies, or onto multiple, wirelessly connected bodies in case one of them is completely obliterated by a bomb or something. To avoid supernova-sized catastrophes, our bodies could be spread across multiple star systems. This way, something of us would always survive.
If possible, these methods might keep us alive for billions of years. However, we would eventually run into the problem of entropy and heat death. One day, all useable energy will be gone; everything will be homogenous and uniformly heated. Then nothing will ever happen again. By carefully slowing our rate of energy consumption, we could theoretically extend our lives indefinitely – but could our state then legitimately be called life? Awareness requires thoughts, and thinking uses energy. Slowing our energy consumption also slows our thinking. It is not enough for us to live forever in time on a finite amount of energy if our thoughts also become finite.
No one really knows how consciousness works, but one Scientific American article I read long ago suggested that thought rate was proportional to the volume of the brain, while energy use was proportional to the surface area, meaning that we could in fact experience an infinite number of thoughts on a finite reservoir or energy – albeit at a progressively retarded rate. This is very encouraging.
Unfortunately, there was a catch. Heat loss is also proportional to the surface area, meaning that a continually-running brain will heat up. It must be periodically shut down so it can cool. Since the rate of heat dispersion depends on the difference in temperature with the surrounding environment, as the brain uses up energy, the universe will become even closer to equilibrium, and the cooling time will become progressively longer. This requires some sort of “alarm clock” to wake the brain at the appropriate time and no such mechanism is 100% reliable. Given an infinite amount of time, it would eventually fail us and we would never wake again.
There are other limits on time as well. In accordance with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, there is always a non-zero probability of measuring any object to be in a different position than where it was previously measured to be. On the scale of atoms, this manifests as a lot of “jumpiness.” On the scale of people, planets, and galaxies, it means that given enough time there is a statistical certainty that one day they will simply leap across the universe far away. It is much more likely still that only small parts of them will be similarly transported, which in the case of humans can be deadly (imagine if your heart suddenly vanished). This is called quantum tunneling. On infinite timescales, the entire universe could suddenly pop into a different configuration, with a new arrangement of matter and new laws of physics. There would be no way to survive.
There are also limits on space. It is not good enough that we have an infinite number of thoughts if we do not retain them as memories. Is it really life to just have the same two thoughts over and over? What are we if not our unique path through history? If the original body is not important, and memory is not important, what is to separate us as individuals? Otherwise it could be said that we have survived so long as someone else survives. Who is to say it isn’t us? Memory storage requires space. Even with combinatorics, infinite memory storage requires infinite space.
Even assuming the universe to be infinite in volume, we know from observation that it is expanding. Matter is thinning. The farther away a galaxy is, the faster it recedes. Galaxies far enough away recede faster than the speed of light. Light from those galaxies can never reach us even in principle. Nothing can go faster than light in space (the receding galaxies are following the flow of space, not moving in it). This means that an infinitely-sized (or at least continually-growing) brain will eventually be pulled apart by the expansion of the universe and its various parts will lose contact with each other. The only ways around this problem are to use faster-than-light communication (impossible), reverse the expansion of space (good luck with that), or to find ways to store ever-more information in an ever-smaller volume.
Unfortunately, there is a maximum limit on how much information can be packed into a given space. Counterintuitively, this limit is proportional not to the volume it is packed into, but to the surface area of a sphere with that volume. It is called the holographic bound. Holograms have some weird properties. Information in holograms is spread around such that a small part of the hologram can be used to recreate the whole picture – though at a lower resolution. They are also able to hold in only two dimensions the information to recreate a three-dimensional image. I don’t understand very well myself how this works, but it is made possible by quantum entanglement. Since every particle in the universe has interacted directly or indirectly with every other part, in a sense the entire universe is entangled and therefore should also have holographic properties. This is why some physicists have suggested that our four-dimensional spacetime might be a “simulation” running on a computer in a three-dimensional spacetime. Thus, the amount of storage space available is proportional to a two-dimensional area and not a three-dimensional volume.
Probably not coincidentally, the holographic bound of a cache of information is the same as its Schwarzschild radius. Information is stored on matter and increasing the information density to its maximum can only be done by increasing the density of the material. Squash a material enough, and it will collapse into a black hole. The volume of a black hole is not proportional to its mass, but rather needs to be ever larger with every addition to still be called a black hole. A black hole with the mass of the Earth needs to be roughly the size of a golf ball and therefore very dense, but a black hole the size of the solar system need be only as dense as water. The observable universe is so big that to be a black hole it need be only as dense as roughly what we measure it to be. We might be inside a black hole now! To retain an infinite memory, we must grow an ever-larger brain that also grows ever-thinner to prevent gravitational collapse.
Even assuming we find a way to halt the expansion of the universe or a way to send signals faster than light in order to keep different parts of our brain in constant communication (or both), we will eventually run into a math problem. Any finite set of matter only has so many possible configurations. Given an infinite amount of time, something must repeat. Given an infinite extension in space, this means our superbrain will be filled with copies of the same sequence over and over. Some of these sequences will be whole universes just like ours and contain fully functioning organisms with brains themselves – believing themselves individuals distinct from their surroundings. Maybe that’s what we are. Maybe we are already part of a superbrain that has already lived forever.
Related Post: Where Is Heaven?
“…Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” – Hebrews 9:22
I have a theory that the real reason for Jesus being crucified was not that God demanded blood in order to forgive us of our sins, as I have always been told. It seems to me that a loving God would simply forgive us anyway (though he may still punish us lightly for our own good). I know that I have loved others like this, and I very much doubt that my love is greater than God’s. I think the cross was meant as a message. If God simply forgave us and then told us we were forgiven, we would not have believed him, but if God proved his love by sacrificing his own life, it makes his message much more believable. It also creates an example to be followed. We cannot become loving without first seeing an example of what true love is. When the bible suggests that repentance is necessary for the forgiveness of sins, I suspect that “forgiveness of sins” actually means our forgiving ourselves (and each other) and accepting that God has already forgiven us. In other words, the life and death of Jesus was a “word” from God declaring his love.
“In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God.” – John 1:1
What do you think?
Please read this through and tell me what you think.
In the past couple decades teaching others to practice optimism has become extremely popular. There is a lot of good that comes from being optimistic. It can give people the energy to solve and overcome problems, whereas pessimism can cause one not to even make the attempt, thus ensuring failure. There are also rare cases when a pessimist may involuntarily self-sabotage out of fear even when they do make the attempt. Even while a problem remains unsolved, an optimist will feel better about the future than a pessimist, making the problem less of a problem. However, I see these days more often than not that optimism is misapplied and only makes situations worse.
It is fine to dream of the great, bright, fantastic future, but if you don’t remove the obstacles in your way you will never get there, and you can’t remove obstacles you won’t acknowledge the existence of.
I find that self-described optimists often refuse to even listen to the potential challenges to their plans. They tell those who bring attention to problems that they are simply being pessimistic. Optimists believe everything they think of is perfect. When they push through their plans without vetting them, they only make things much worse. They don’t worry about it; they just come up with even worse plans to fix the new problems they just caused. This is true in business, churches, and especially in government.
There has to be balance. Optimists see within every failure an even greater success, while pessimists see within every success an even greater failure. They are both right; time goes on and the string of successes and failures never ends. Too often optimists treat their plans as if they will permanently end our problems, while pessimists hold out for a perfect plan that will never come.
Positive thinking only takes one so far. You can choose to ignore your problems for only so long before they will make themselves undeniable. Eventually one has to have a genuine solution.
I once too fell victim to the illusion that my emotions could be controlled. Whenever confronted with an unpleasant stimulus, I quickly told myself that I was too strong to be bothered, that there are always ways to fix problems, and I reminded myself of everything good in my life to take my mind off it. I told myself that things would be better in the future. I was better than anyone I knew at “seeing the silver lining.” As the years passed and my problems remained unsolved, I found that my continual efforts to control my emotions were only serving to remind me of why I needed to control them in the first place. The more times my rosy predictions failed to pan out, the less I found myself believing my next predictions in spite of my best efforts. I simply couldn’t keep up anymore and I was completely worn out. I later learned that the path to healing is first not to deny reality and to allow myself to be upset sometimes. This is only healthy.
One can choose to avoid that which he dislikes, but one can never choose what it is he dislikes. One can never choose to be happy.
Optimists say, “You can’t control every situation, but you can control how you feel about the situation; you are in charge of your feelings.” There is a grain of truth to this. After all, you can pound a rock with a hammer all day long and the rock will never feel a thing. This is because a rock has no nerves. However, if you pound on a puppy with a hammer, the puppy will feel pain. It is not your actions alone that cause the pain, but the combination of your beatings with the way the puppy’s nervous system is designed. In other words, the puppy has only himself to blame. This is exactly how most optimists talk.
One need not be physically beaten to feel pain. Because humans are designed to connect with others, they inevitably feel lonely when they are unable to do this. It is a fundamental need. As often as not, I see positive thinking used as an excuse to bully others. I have known bullies to verbally abuse others only to turn around and blame the victims for their feelings, adding insult to injury.
Complaining is good. Complaining makes others aware of problems so that they can be fixed. Complaining allows us to vent so that we might better endure. Complaining about our common struggle is how people bond. Don’t complain about people complaining.
Obviously there are some who complain too much, keeping the attention on themselves and away from the good news that might lift people up, but in my experience it is those that complain about other people complaining that complain the most by far. There has to be balance. I have met many who are so sensitive to hearing bad news that they hear it when it isn’t even said. It is impossible to have a normal conversation with these people for long before they start angrily lecturing about the dangers of negative thinking and making everyone else feel bad for having legitimate problems that they were already dealing with quite well. There is nobody more negative than a positive thinker.
Sympathy is a basic human need, but when people are attacked and their problems belittled it only makes them feel worse, which will only make them more desperate to get sympathy somewhere else. Sometimes those who seem to complain too much only do so because they were first attacked for only complaining a little bit. After years (or even decades) of abuse, they become very needy people that will not simply get better overnight. They need more help than even they know.
Sometimes people need to vent. When people feel they have been listened to, they are able to be much more patient. This is one of the reasons we have free speech in the United States. If people are prohibited from expressing frustration verbally, eventually it will be expressed physically. This is true in the workplace, family settings, school, and in politics. The only way to prevent the use of “second-amendment solutions” is by the tireless pursuit of first-amendment solutions.
There is nothing more discouraging than yet another word of encouragement when a hardship has persisted for too long.
When someone says, “I can’t do it,” they are rarely being pessimistic of the future; they are usually just expressing their frustration of the present. However, this is all it takes for the optimonsters to strike. So often I see people encouraging/bullying people into being more optimistic and less pessimistic. They act as if they think they are helping. Some people actually thank them for helping. I wonder, though, what if we actually helped to solve the problem? We may not be able to solve everything, but what if we at least listened and gave advice? What if we at least did something nice for someone or told them some good news to help make them feel better while they suffer? Getting after people for expressing themselves doesn’t help.
Points to ponder:
“Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well.,’ but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” – James 2:15-16
We are told if we want something to go out and make it happen, but for those things we want and need the most (love, respect, understanding) there is nothing we can do. Love is by definition that which is freely given. If it could be earned or compelled, it would not be love.
There are some things that one can never achieve, yet the optimists keep pressing us to try. They are incapable of understanding that some things should not be attempted and they never listen. Even of those things that can be earned, it does us no good to earn them if we are continually cheated. You can’t force customers to buy no matter how good your product. You can’t force an employer to hire you no matter how excellent your qualifications. You can’t force your crush to like you back no matter how true your love. Life is already too frustrating to also have to listen to the cheerleaders on the sidelines telling us to go out and make it happen, blaming us for our problems and doing nothing to help. Sometimes there is nothing more to do.
Optimism And Religion:
The optimonsters are even more dangerous when they use religion. In Christian circles, we are told that our prayers will not be answered if we ask with a doubting mind. We are told that God wants to grant us our desires and if he does not it must mean we didn’t have enough faith. In other words, the reason you have trouble is that it is your fault. What do you do if you need more faith? Pray for it, of course – this leading to an insidious feedback loop of despair when one realizes that they doubt whether they will ever have enough faith. What sort of a God who loves us enough to die for our sins would then demand faith from us in order to meet our needs?
Among those with new age tendencies, they speak of the law of attraction, of positive visualization, and of “vibrating on the same frequency” as that which you want to come in to your life. This is nonsense. I don’t blame anybody for falling for this; it takes years of testing and a very open mind to be sure it doesn’t work. I am sure it doesn’t work. The best things ever to happen to me and the worst things ever to happen to me both came as complete surprises; I neither visualized them nor prayed for them. At the same time, those things I have visualized and prayed about for decades have still failed to pass as of this writing. Positive visualization is complete nonsense.
These have been my experiences with the subject. Tell me about yours. Who do you know that uses optimism to cover for their lack of empathy?
“I and the father are one.” – John 10:30
There are religions that stress the importance of striving to do great things for God, trying to earn his favor and following the rules in order not to anger him. It puts all the credit (or blame) on the individual. This worldview leads to despair when we cannot measure up and haughty pride when we do.
Then there are religions that stress the importance of “letting go and letting God” take care of things, remaining humble, and continually trusting the almighty to protect and provide. This worldview leads to laziness and ignoring the call to do good deeds, to take risks to be part of God’s work, and to bear spiritual fruit in order to display God’s glory. It allows God to perform showy miracles, but prevents him from showing the most important (and in some ways the most spectacular) miracle of changing the human heart.
What both of these worldviews have in common is the assumption that God and the believer are distinct individuals. When you understand what it means for God to live through us and in us, you understand that we will never be forsaken, but that results still require action.
Points to ponder:
“I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me…” – Galatians 2:20
“…I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” – Matthew 25:40
It is a noble thing to want to do good and avoid evil. It is a noble thing to want to stop sinning. The problem is that most of us build up our fear of being bad (or fear of the consequences) or our pride of being good to motivate us. The problem is that pride and fear are also sins. Fear means we don’t trust God to protect us and pride means we don’t trust that God is the source of all good in us. Building up these sins can only lead to more sin (and its outward manifestations) in the long run.
God is greater even than your drive to sin. Every sin you commit he allowed you to commit. He will take care of it if you let him – and if you sin by not letting him work, he allowed you to commit that sin as well. It is hard to wait for measurable results, but sometimes the only way to stop sinning is to feel the resulting pain first. I know this from direct experience. Believe me, God is going as fast as he can and working harder than you ever could or would. Just be patient and have hope – and if you cannot be patient any longer and have run out of hope, this too God is working to fix.
There is nothing wrong with listening to a theology lecture, but one of the things that annoys me most about church is how hard it is to connect with others and listen how God has moved in their lives. I once went to a church wherein each member was able to bring a story, a verse, or a song that meant something to them. I think there is a need for that sort of thing, yet I’ve never found anything like it since. Instead, one guy stands up front and tediously drones on about something I already know. If examples of God’s activities are ever given at all, they are from thousands of years ago. What is God doing today?
Many churches have programs to feed or clothe the homeless, but do nothing to serve the lonely or the discouraged. Don’t people want to encourage each other, celebrate good news together, and mourn bad news together? Isn’t that what church is really supposed to be?
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.