Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
January 21, 2004
And now, what you've all been waiting for...
Category: Meme … Serious

Brief notes: Finished yet another SC feature; began drawing Krang (looks pretty good so far...); made significant headway in the story by realizing that the last part that I wrote needed to be excised. Every line that I write follows the one before it, so if a series of lines are off, like walking up a staircase in an abandoned building, eventually I reach a boarded up door. Now that I've discovered that, I'm heading back down the staircase, and hopefully things will go more smoothly. Also, I've had this quiz window open for ages, so let's post the results and get it over with...

what flavor pocky are you?

[c] sugardew

That said, it's time to give a proper reply to Dawn Eden's recent blog entry entitled "Go Wes". I really like the title. 🙂 I may end up addressing the quotation from C.S. Lewis during the course of this response -- and in any case, religion will certainly come up -- but I want to begin my reply on a more personal note. I've been up all night, so it may not be the most coherent of pieces...but it should be readable. Hopefully I'll say something interesting, at least...

Dawn writes, "As I've mentioned before, I would characterize Wes as a seeker of truth. Although he strongly questions beliefs of Jews and Christians?and uses his knowledge and experience as a Yale philosophy major to back himself up?he strikes me as being much more open-minded than most people who fall into the category of atheist or agnostic."

Dawn also writes that I strongly question the beliefs of Jews and Christians, which is true. But as anyone who reads the blog (or knows me) will notice, I strongly question everything, from politics to machines in TMNT episodes to the prevailing ideologies of seasons of Buffy and Angel. And as far as religions go, my studies haven't been limited to Christianity and Judaism; I took a course on Japanese religion in which various schools of Buddhism were treated extensively, too, and an Apocalyptic Religion class that dealt with a number of interesting groups... Suffice it to say that I think that constant questioning of things is the only way that, if we cannot discover the truth, we can at least hope to approximate it.

On a related note: Last weekend, on Saturday night, it snowed, so on Sunday morning, instead of driving to her church, my mother opted to stay in and listen to a sermon on the radio instead. As her bedroom door was open, and as the sermon was rather loud, and I was in the hallway photographing scenes for SC (the hall's open space works well for that sort of thing), I caught a great deal of it. And in the course of the sermon, the preacher said:

No matter how in-telligent they may seem... no one is intelligent who does not seek God.

I think there's something to that. Of course, I would replace "God" with "truth" -- the two terms may very well be synonymous, but I'm not quite sure of that at this point. I'd like to find out, though, which is why I keep questioning. So that was an interesting statement. However, what came before it was, I thought, rather disturbing:

Preacher: I knew a girl who thought she was smart. One day she marched right up to her mother and said, "There's no such thing as God." And I tell you, her mother loved her enough to BACKHAND her in the face! And she told her daughter to say, "In my mother's house, there is GOD."

Congregation: AMEN!

Preacher: Now I ask you, did you have a mother who loved you enough to BACKHAND you in the face and say, "In this house, there is God"? To BACKHAND you in the face???

Congregation: AMEN!


Congregation: AMEN!

Granted, those are probably not the exact words the preacher used, but they fairly accurately capture the spirit of his sermon -- and he was definitely repeating, "BACKHAND IN THE FACE," and the congregation was definitely responding with, "AMEN!" That's the unsettling part. And then he said, "No matter how in-telligent they may seem... no one is intelligent who does not seek God." To seek God (or truth) is one thing, but to be physically beaten into submission is quite another.

So when I hear sermons like that, and when I encounter the thoughtlessness and, for lack of a better word, evil -- I wasn't at that sermon, but just hearing it caused me to envision the church scene in Little Nicky -- that can result from Christianity, and any religion, in the hands of a depraved "believer," I understand why people strongly oppose religion. It may even be argued -- and convincingly -- that "religion" as it is in this world, for all of the charitable acts that can be attributed to religious organizations, ultimately does more harm than good. But I also think that to turn away from the subject of religion would also be to turn away from the things that really matter -- that have to matter, if anything else does. Wittgenstein observed that ethics -- "the enquiry into what is valuable, or, into what is really important, or ...into the meaning of life, or into what makes life worth living, or into the right way of living" -- "if it is anything, is supernatural." And I think that's right. (I may criticize various religions, but I'm not arguing against the existence of supernatural beings, objective values, etc. -- I'm just questioning whether the particular "answers" offered by the religion sound quite right.) So if we hope to find any semblance of true meaning in this world, or in our lives, we cannot turn away from these issues, and we especially cannot let ourselves be discouraged by those who have never looked for truth, yet claim to have found it. The search for truth is an active one, and -- at least in this world -- it is ongoing. So I question, or try to.

In an e-mail response, I jokingly replied that this quality -- the "hunger for truth", as Dawn put it in her first post in which I was mentioned -- is a prerequisite for the Philosophy major. I added in a subsequent e-mail, "Admittedly the term 'open-minded' makes me kind of nervous, though -- not because of how you've used it but because I hear it most often in the derisive comments of relativists (which have been directed at me more than a few times)."

Still, I'm glad that Dawn didn't mean it in that way, and it's always nice to hear someone say something positive about my philosophical efforts. Presently I don't have any quotes on hand containing the exact term "open-minded", but what follows is a sample of the kinds of comments with which I am usually met.

From a recent AIM conversation: Spare me this self-righteous claptrap. ... Fuck you and the high horse you rode in on. ... You're so fucking corny. ... You just want to hear yourself speak, and you even don't realize how mundane your musings really are. I've heard all this bullshit before a thousand times, and it's really not enlightening anymore.

A quote from a response to an editorial I wrote for "The Voice", a Yale student publication for which I was a staff writer, read: Mr. Dennis needs to make an effor to join us here in the 21st century, and maybe try to relax a little. He's been riding that high horse pretty hard, and that cannot be good for his sperm count.

By the way, those quotes are from Yale students.

And last night, following the State of the Union address and the Democratic response, I watched an episode of "Two and a Half Men", since I was too lazy to change the channel and since, in the first few minutes of the episode, a relevant exchange caught my ear:

Charlie: When I say, "I understand," it doesn't mean I agree. It doesn't mean I understand. It doesn't even mean I'm listening.

Alan: Then why do you say it?

Charlie: Seems to make people happier.

This, unfortunately, is true, except where I am concerned. I have had many conversations with people in which they will say, "Yes, I agree," and then go on to voice something that is completely in opposition to the argument that I voiced. I point this out to them; they say, "Yes, I understand," and repeat the process, until eventually they get angry and select a few words for me from their handy lists of insults. But ultimately, I care for more valuable things than happiness, or even friendship -- at least, this shallow kind of friendship evinced by saying, "I understand," when one doesn't, and "accepting people for who they are" when one knows they could (and perhaps should) be better. And if we disagree on an important issue, and I appear to be in the wrong, you do me a disservice by simply "accepting me for who I am" if who I am is someone who mishandles important topics. I'd prefer that you discuss the issue with me and really listen to what I'm saying. Critique my words. Etc.

But, quoting from that AIM conversation: Since I thought you're my friend, I thought I could say it without you judging me. ... You're not interested in being a good friend.

I responded:'s funny that you mention "friendship" -- as "fucking corny" as I may be, I do you the service of responding to your points seriously, and civilly, if not always in the most "respectful" manner. But I don't go calling you "fucking corny" and I don't refer to your points as "self-righteous claptrap".

I question, and I judge -- I think that making judgments is inevitable, necessary, and good (how can you call yourself a friend if you don't deem that person to be somehow worthy? and doesn't that require judging the person in some respect?), so we should see to it that we think about our judgments and try to judge rightly, whether we're judging people or TMNT cartoons. (Obviously, some judgments are more important than others; still, all of them can be great mental exercise.) It seems that even the non-religious are fond of quoting, "Judge not, lest ye be judged first" (Matthew 7:1, also Luke 6:37), and admittedly I am not fond of this quote, at least the "judge not" part -- for how can we do otherwise? I have no problem, however, with being judged myself, and every word I write is submitted for your scrutiny, if not your approval. We cannot have a dialogue if you don't examine and judge my words, which entails judging, in some respect, me. So judge away; afterwards we'll have a dialogue about it.

But spare me comments like the following, also from that AIM conversation: The only reason you're so philosophical ... is that you don't have a girlfriend, and you're lonely.

Yes, that must be it. (So don't feel too bad, Dawn -- maybe loneliness will guide you to the truth, or keep you informed, if you've already found it.)

Kind of got lost, there...I hope there was something in there worth reading. Let me know...?

-posted by Wes | 12:16 pm | Comments (0)
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