Category: Theoreticals


**What follows is the result of unease. A spontaneous reflection on observation. Wondering what happened to the vagabond? Read on, friend. It was in this moment that I realized the vagabond was gone.**

I began this blog as an experiment in some respects. I had no real intention of making it any more than it was destined to be.

So much has changed (the words of a million introspects across our world) since I began this frame for words.

The dark man in jeans and brown fleece jersey is jumping and dancing as if he really is happy. The music doesn’t judge him as it does me, I suppose. I find myself reading Pathfinder, Candle in the wind, and other posts from my past.

He’s jumping side to side now as the masses wale out the words on the screen. I think I’m the only one sitting.

He really seems happy, that man over there. In the isle. He’s clapping his hands.

I’m typing a message on my cellphone. Legs are crossed and I wonder if the usher notices how out of place my frown is. Why is his face so blank? She must ask herself. Except she doesn’t look at me.

Purple backdrops, flashing greens and blues. A man on stage who sings with passion. His face is illuminated in the spot-light. I can see every move he makes. His expression is sincere.

What does he look like when he is alone at home later in the evening, I wonder. Is he still smiling then? Does the dark man keep on dancing?

What about me – do I keep the same blank expression once home and alone? In the dark of my apartment, without purple lights to flare my emotions?

I think I mostly do – but it’s not as if I want to be this way.

No longer am I the vagabond. But did he die or is he merely dormant – or maybe I left him in Thailand, left him to wander the streets of Bangkok till the day he dies – having already died to me.

Who am I now? No longer a vagabond or a traveler or a wandering pathfinder. No longer a missionary or a dreamer. Not a romanticist or a student.

Now just a steel ball in a glass-cad maze, rolling this way and that. A rolling stone gathers no perspective. Or so they should have said, not while rolling in a maze at least.

**An inner dialogue whilst sitting in a church one day.**

Vagabond obituary

The vagabond is dead. May the sudden haste at which this news arrives find forgiveness, readers. For swift was his demise, and in irony, as with the slow passing of time, the slow fading of his weathered face found its end in one frantic moment at the end of a sentence.

The vagabond was a man of the mind, born of it and defined by it. He was spiritual and sincere. He was fearful and free. He was designed on a question, and he was murdered by its answer.In his place must rise another, though none can take his place. Though another will use his platform, his words will linger on. As will his soul where he was left. As a specter on the streets of Bangkok forever. I will miss him.

**To my frequent readers, I apologize for unfulfilled promises (such as part 2 of my short story which was supposed to follow my previous post – like 6 months ago) and ask that you check in here again some time to see what is comes next – out of the ashes of the vagabond‘s demise.**

** A note from the vagabond: I posted a flash science fiction piece here a while ago. I ended up liking it somewhat and decided to try and expand it to 8 or 9 thousand words. I eventually finished it about a month ago will be posting it in small chunks here for the coming month or two as I go through and edit it further. The following section is a rewrite of that which I posted before, followed by some new stuff. Thanks for reading… **

Under This Dome of Pretence

That’s the way it was with him. Always running, never fighting. “Welcome to Lat Khean” said a sign standing to one side against a backdrop of empty sand and sky. He was on a slow march over the eroded path which rose and fell over the landscape. He wasn’t sure what made the cities like Lat Khean so appealing to the masses of other settlers of this graveyard planet. He savoured the depth of disgust he had for them as he lifted his foot off of the terra in a puff of light yellow-brown dust. Locke lifted his eyes from the patch of ground immediately before his feet for the first time in a few indiscernible hours to inspect his surroundings more closely. He was looking for the glint, the glint which would guide him like a directional star, toward his object of hate, and his mantle of redemption which lay somewhere inside it. The sharp light from the low-lying sun which dominated the sky above with its immensity made it difficult to see as the photons bombarded Locke’s eye’s with too much brilliance for his unmodified eyes to handle. The rays refracting off of the desert around him had him squinting so hard that his eyes were almost closed. He knew more from his experience than from his observations. The stretch of empty desert behind the welcome sign didn’t fool his subconscious. His quickening heart beat was an observable measure that told him he was headed toward more than just dry landscape and sizable craters though this is all one less experienced would find if approached with an un-searching eye.

Locke dug his hands into his worn pant pockets; the memory of where precisely he had put the crumpled piece of paper had escaped his tired mind. The bits of lint left over in the depths of his pockets drifted off with the hot breeze as he pulled the softened from age paper into the harsh sun to look at. “Lat Khean, Soi Sam, tell them Joe sent you” said the paper in faded ink. He flipped it over, “Soi 4, Sala Daeng”. Locke stumbled onwards; searching for the glint of the glass like city dome he knew had to be appearing soon. He glanced back down at the patch of yellow dust before his feet because his eyes were sore from the brightness of the day. The reflection off of its gleam made him close his eyes momentarily and he felt his steps take him left of his intension as his tired body groped for balance without guiding sight. The few seconds of relief were bliss as his headache eased in the dark behind his eyelids. He flicked a hydration capsule into his mouth and it exploded into liquid as he bit down.

When he opened his eyes again the brightness was intensified until his pupils constricted again and he reduced his eyes to slits – barely open, but open enough to catch the glint he had been searching for. The city dome was just ahead. Locke pulled on his cloak and let the sleeves run back down to his wrists. 20 minutes later he glanced back over his shoulder, he was approaching the now obvious dome ahead. His fear of heat stroke now eclipsed completely by his peaking agoraphobia. The translucent invisibility of the dome from far was an obvious distortion of light from up close and octagonal grid patterns on the hazy dome criss-crossed across its surface. Locke paused where the yellow path he’d been on for 3 planetary days met the dome. “Joe sent me” he croaked into the hard glass-like surface before him. There was a pause and then a ripple in the dome propagated from a point on the surface before him and he stepped forward, ducking his head through the rippling wall…

Locke’s left arm twitched and he gave it a glance, just before his body slipped through the surface of the shimmering dome, to ensure none of his ill acquired tech was showing beyond his sleeves. Lat Khean’s air-conditioned atmosphere met his bone dry skin with a cool embrace, wrapping him in a moist body wrap due to the psychrometrically cooled air. As if the atomic weight of the heat itself was lifting off of Locke’s shoulders, he stood up straight, but what truly greeted him this side of the dome was an old hated companion. A featureless face in his subconscious, a personality behind his eyelids who would look at him out of a crowd of blank faces. The voice was always a whisper in his ear – you’re a coward it would say Run home to where it’s safe. He didn’t want to be in the city but circumstances were no slave to his desires and his past had forced him to travel the 200 miles to Lat Khean, this serpent pit of poisoned motives and poorly disguised intentions. But this was for her… and so he had no choice.

He felt as if there were knives poking at his heart, he knew the feeling well, it was the anxiety he felt for the people he would soon have to handle. Locke sunk into his coat and tried to avoid the eye contact of the impending crowd he had emerged into this side of the dome. “Cities…” Hespoke it like a swearword under his breath. “People…” he swore again.

“Keep walking, head down, breath slow…” he told himself as he moved past the congestion of conversing people.

Locke glanced backwards at the dome and then moved forwards again noting the tall skyscrapers surrounding him. He was moving through a bustling crowd of Lat Khean’s people on the sidewalk of a dirty street. He moved past street stalls selling tech, food, and many nefarious items for which he had no desire. He was single minded and moved deliberately, not even pausing to acknowledge the hawker’s calls of promise telling him that “I have all you need just down this soi”. Locke needed to get through this mess of people and find Joe before one of the knives poked a hole in his pounding heart. The signs on the side walk guided him through two lefts and a right, down a flight of eroded stairs and then up to a wooden door in a graffitied wall. Locke hit the intercom button and waited.

There was a commission inside, behind the door. Footsteps and gun fire, Locke jumped aside and the door burst open like a crate of fireworks, the wooden door splintered sending planks, cement and bricks exploding in all directions, except in the direction of Locke who stood with his back to the wall adjacent the now gaping hole with his eyes and fists clenched shut.

Next, people exploded out of the hole in the wall and Locke opened his eyes just in time to watch two men and a lady, follow each other in a staccato blistering sprint out of the charred hole. The last in the line of three out of the graffitied wall paused momentarily only to slip a glance through her visor at Locke, before putting her head down and recommitting to the chase. Her face was hidden but to Locke it almost appeared as if she was considering approaching him instead of disappearing with the others, why had she paused when she looked at him? Almost as if she had recognised him. The way she moved… Locke almost felt the same way about her, but he was left behind, surrounded by a pile of rubble. The girl and the other runners had disappeared into the street.

 

** part 2 will follow next week, come back if you found this vaguely amusing**

To all of my itinerant readers, an explanation for my absence. Here are a few reasons for the long break in my posts (three months).

1) I started a new job as a mechanical engineer/software developer for an energy engineering company. My time and energy has been absorbed in learning my new trade. I decided during my adventures in 2012 that I wanted to be a programmer and a software developer. I have thus spent large portions of my creativity and energy in learning C#.Net; SQL; Visual Basic and a myriad of other languages whilst I attempt to create software to perform optimization in the context of simultaneously linking up a machine control software and a fluid mechanics solver for real time application.

2) The vagabond settled down to a stable job and home, this prompted much thought and existential wonder as to whether the vagabond was still relevant to his identity. The answer is yes – since I still remain spiritually vagabond. This spiritual vagabond ethos still very much applies to my world and context.

3) I was writing and attempting to finish the story I started in this post: The man with the iron fist which has subsequently been renamed as “Under This Dome of Pretence . I finished the first complete draft of this short story 2 weeks ago. I will contemplate publishing sections of it here.

I have added a new post below and thus the vagabond is back:

For a long time I have considered myself an introspective person, and I have attributed what wisdom I posses to this attribute. Others have noted before me that the self is the greatest opportunity to understand the social world and its behaviours for the reason that the self is always around to be observed. In fact of all people, we cannot escape only ourselves. Of course any scientific observation of an n = 1 sample group may be questioned – but we can escape this paradox if we apply experiment on what we have discovered through introspection to others in our world. Social experimentation. Interaction with people as a way to prove hypotheses of human behaviour theory.

I have been considering self-control and the role and extent of autocracy of the personal will on one’s own behaviour. As such I began looking for research material on the subject, which lead me to BF Skinner and the work I will start to summarise and perform exegesis upon below.

But first a short word on Burrhus Frederic “B. F.” Skinner:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._F._Skinner

B.F. Skinner – Harvard Professor of Psychology

 B.F. Skinner was an american psychologistbehaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher. He was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974. Most notably, Skinner invented “radical behaviourism” and even more interestingly the “Skinner Box” or what is more officially called the “operant conditioning chamber”:

 “The box had a lever and a food tray, and a hungry rat could get food delivered to the tray by pressing the lever. Skinner observed that when a rat was put in the box, it would wander around, sniffing and exploring, and would usually press the bar by accident, at which point a food pellet would drop into the tray. After that happened, the rate of bar pressing would increase dramatically and remain high until the rat was no longer hungry.”

Credits to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._F._Skinner

Now some thoughts on the book itself.

Chapter one has some interesting ideas. It begins with the question “Can science help?” and goes on to elucidate on the goods and bads of the scientific era (these past few hundred years) in which there has been an exponential increase in scientific discovery. Skinner’s position is that natural science has developed so fast as to leave the science of human nature behind – thus causing imbalance in our world.

Humanity develops its understanding of technologies which have major effect on our social world and it discovers and defines laws and relationships in the natural world by which we can predict the effects of natural processes (enabling such things as atomic bombs and aeroplanes through nuclear fusion and fluid mechanics in aeronautics) but we do not apply the same drive and energy into discovering and defining the laws and relationships in the world of human nature with which we could predict the outcomes of our scientific creations (such as Hiroshima, 9/11, etc).

Skinner goes on to argue against those who rebel against the idea that human behaviour can in fact be understood through defined laws and relationships. On a side-note, it amazes me that the world has come so far and yet our common understanding of human nature is still mostly agnostic. We all agree on principles such as gravity but we don’t all share agreement on what motivates human decisions.

Why is it that advances in the hard and pure sciences such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology are pursued so vehemently and yet the very thing that drives those motivations and the thing that will inevitably make use of them remains esoteric? Psychology, philosophy and religion have much to say on these questions, but their consideration is diminished in light of technological advancement. Perhaps science will slow down in a century or two and a renaissance like age of psychology, philosophy and religion will emanate instead. The utopian satirist author Samuel Butler plays on this idea in his novel Erewhon, where ‘the instruments and products of science were put into museums – as vestiges of a stage in the evolution of human culture which did not survive.’

The question still remains however, is human nature subject to behavioural theory and prediction? What percentage of human behaviour is a categorical response to external stimuli and what percentage is not? Experiments like Skinner’s box and Pavlov’s bell suggest some relationship. Skinner’s next chapter begins to dig into this “Science of Behaviour” as he tries to show the extent to which the study of people’s actions are subject to the same methodology as is used in the hard sciences.

I aim to determine from his theories the relationships between and key principles behind free will and self-control.

Lastly, here is a brief interview with Skinner:

We are all in a contest of who can shout the loudest. In Thailand there is a bird that lives its life in the cage of its enthusiastic master. It is called the Nok Krung Hua Juk – the Cage Bird Head Mohawk (a loose, literal translation as close as I can figure).

As I walk down a small, busy soi with my friends and colleagues Sam speaks to me in sincere elucidations. I step aside as a pickup drives past, dodging the Thai kids playing football on the street, the motorcycle scooters cruise past and I take a moment to covet the cool wind that one enjoys on a motorcycle ride in the Bangkok heat. Sam’s speech pauses and his eyes dart leftward as he makes the translations to English in his mind – he tells me about this eccentric and bemused local bird. His father  from the South of Thailand used to own one he tells me. It has since been given to Sam’s friend owing to the erratic, high attention, maintenance required of those who indulge themselves in the fringe hobby which gives such high value to the bird. “10 000 baht”, Sam goes on to say when I ask him of the birds value. “In my home town you see the owners on their motocycle with their bird-cage in one hand” Sam tells me. These birds take part in the sport of Bird Shouting – where they are pitched against each other in featherweight exhibitions of their vocal prowess.

A lucrative and more or less illegal gambling ring of old men and bird hobbyists surround the cages as they ‘shout’ at the top of their lungs – both the old men and the birds – aiming to see who can shout longer and harder through their wooden cages.

“What do you call it? Ha ha – like walking your dog – walking their birds? But it’s on a motorcycle so – riding their birds?” Sam muses as he explains some of the nuances of the business. “They need to improve the bird’s voice” he says. “They have to get used to all – all the … all -”
“all the noise and busyness going on around them” I complete his sentence, his 2nd language momentarily failing him.
“Yes, so that they can improve their voice”

The gambling rings in Thailand are a sight to behold. The best example I’ve personally witnessed being those old laughing and jeering, cheering men of Lumpinee Boxing Stadium who watch and gradually get louder and more cacophonous as the Muay Thai fights edge closer to their final-round conclusion. Many who visit the iconic fighting stadium for the first time note that it’s almost more entertaining to watch the boisterous, leather-skinned gamblers than to watch the two bare-chested men in the middle trade teeps and jabs and knees and elbows, jostling for position with the noise of their own heart pounding in their lungs harder than the stamping feet of the crowd, or the drone of the gyrating ceiling fans.

Well the birds, the Nok Krung Hua Juk-s need to get used to this commotion otherwise they’ll lapse into a quiet and shameful silence as their foe shouts them down and their pleading owner counts his last handful of cash disparagingly.

Then it struck me like a Muay Thai knee, as I listened to my colleague Andrew and a yellow-toothed old Thai banter about property prices behind me and the birds chatter at each other across the soi – I realised that we are all somewhat like this Nok Krung Hua Juk. We all need to find our voice in the commotion that would unsettle us and quiet our resolve. I have been like this bird repetitively in my life. Now more than ever – because now I must return to my home country and start the next phase of my journey unto an occupation doing something I deem meaningful.

This time in South East Asia and the hard and noisy years before have been my time on that motorcycle with my Master – the time draws ever nearer when I must enter the ring and use this voice my experiences have given me. I’m sure we are all the same in this – we need times of commotion and noise to give us a voice. We also need a trustworthy master to take the handle bars and guide us through the noise and then when we are loud enough, to put us toe-to-toe against the sort of challenges that make lives worth living, and metaphors worth making.

Everyone wants to know more about my travels and experiences in Asia, why haven’t I written so much about this specifically? Maybe I feel as if there is too much pressure, there is so much to write about and I have felt that I could not possibly do justice to the experience of it all and so have shrunken away from the task. No more though, I must and will share these experiences and they will shine through for what they are. Onwards then:

One of the first experiences that I must share is the experience of isolation. One of the reasons that I was comfortable with going on this long, interesting and new adventure on my own was that I thought myself to be one of the best subtypes of personalities to handle being alone and isolated for long periods of time.

I am an introvert and a thinker meaning that I spend most of my time, even when in my home country on my own digesting what my senses and intuitions have told me through the day. After a long day at work or varsity I have always enjoyed retreating to my own lonesome space to relax. Often during university vacations and school holidays I would almost entirely disappear in the eyes of the public – even somewhat to my closest friends so as to totally escape for a time while I ‘recharge’ mentally and spiritually (and sometimes physically). Thanks to a functional family and great social network (not twitter or facebook, the irl one) I am also no social recluse or am I otherwise socially dysfunctional, I just seem to enjoy being alone between social encounters more than most of (or at least half of) the population.

Not everyone could be a hermit or manage living alone in an isolated setting, I figured that if anyone could though, it would be me. This in part gave me the confidence to go on this Asia trip on my own – I was also interested in testing this theory out.

Now two months later I believe I have tested the theory out to at least some extent. I must explain the type of isolation I’m talking about here though, I am not far away from people, all I ever need do is stand on the balcony of my apartment at almost any hour of the day or night and I can see people moving about, so it’s not difficult to find people. Only one main thing separates me from these people though: language – English vs. Thai. I had expected there to be a second separating factor namely ethnicity, being a farang, a foreigner with curly hair and differently shaped face, however this has really not bothered me or seemingly any Thai people. We all seem to get on fine.

I am also not isolated from new friends and caring people, my missionary work colleagues have been the most welcoming and friendly people one could ever hope for when abroad, often translating and writing down meal orders for me to help me get my food, helping me when I was sick with a light case of bronchitis, referring me to attractions and teaching me how to use the taxis and trains when I first arrived. These new friends have made the difference for me and had I not had them the isolation would have been too severe.

The real isolation I am talking about comes through on the weekends, when I don’t have like-minded friends (and girlfriend) to share things with. I’ve found that the old saying really is true that nothing is fully enjoyed until it’s been shared (hence the facebook and twitter, etc. phenomenon). Even for the most reclusive introvert, a fair portion of the enjoyment of any thing or experience is in sharing it and one’s joy in it with someone, more so if they are like-minded and enjoy it as well.

I was fortunate to start dating the illustrator last year and since most of this year has forced us into a long distance relationship, we cultivated good communication habits early, speaking on instant messenger apps everyday and using google and skype video and voice call software once a week or so. She has been my greatest link to my home and my support system simply through the consistency of our communication (and her affection). Continued contact with my family and my good friend TUE on messenger apps and email have been significant in keeping me happy as well. It is so so key, I have found, to stay connected to the people that made you who you are.

The first major take-home I’ve gained from my adventure so far is the importance of friendships and relationships. Smart people like Viktor Frankl and Jesus and Ravi Zacharias have said this before me and now I must attest to their absolute truth in this – that relationships are a KEY factor to human happiness and purpose. Frankl includes the experience of love (importantly both given and received) as one of the 3 things that gives a man purpose in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. Jesus’ teachings and those of the apostles who spread them have their foundations in the relational nature of mankind, even depicted in the relationship of God as three persons in one – God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus being the same spiritual entity but having a relationship nature as well (mind melting stuff). Zacharias includes relationships among the 4 things one needs to be happy (also included in this list is a sense of wonderment – hence the popularity of movies and fantasy and fiction).

What do I miss most about South Africa? – my girlfriend, friends and family. Thankfully my girlfriend will be here to visit me and help me enjoy all there is here in just 1 weeks time. And TUE may possibly be visiting in November.

If I were to define myself with a single word, I’d hardly pause before making my choice: ‘Introspection’. I feel that this is often my greatest strength, and a great vice at other times. It’s hard to say sometimes whether it’s a good or a bad thing. I have spent the past 2 months more introspective than anything else. What being in this state means though is that everything I think and do remains internal and this is a vice to the blogger. I was struck by the thought today that no thought, not matter how grand, is worth anything in the end if it remains uncommunicated. More so then for the less grand thought, which may take on some worth when it is taken outside of the singular mind and put into the public domain. This last thought prompted me to try and take what has been going on in my world over the past 2 months and put it down through the keyboard before me.

What follows is an attempt to take as many of my thoughts and experiences and the information I’ve consumed whilst being overly introspective and put it down in a code widely used and recognised as English characters and language (an old fascination of mine is that we as humans can so effortlessly interpret alphabetical code on the fly).

I have gone through a few obsessions over the past 2 months, one was the careful watching and analysis of debates between the most widely known Atheists in the world, known as the four horsemen of the New Atheism and numerous Christian opponents. The four horsemen being Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett. The two Christians opponents were William Lane Craig and John Lennox. I watched many debates available online between these characters taking careful note of the arguments and pausing the videos every now and then to think about my response to questions and attacks and to think about what questions I would raise. What I love about these debates is the iconoclastic intellectual ballet it produces as two above average intelligent and well educated gentlemen engage in a careful but instinctual battle of minds. Testing the steel of their minds against each others, as I watch I can almost literally see the concepts dancing around as if a great ballet in my mind (another facination: the connection between dance and combat/marshal arts – enter capoeira). These debates also show that no single-disciplined approach is sufficient to explore the topics of metaphysics, one needs biology, mathematics, physics, psychology, chemistry and philosophy. However I believe that philosophy has the greatest hand of all of these academic offerings in answering these questions. Physics may be the ‘hardest’ of the sciences (psychology being the ‘softest’) but Philosophical ideas such as logic govern the most fundamental laws of physics.

One can find a very good list of debates free on the web here. I encourage you to take a look. These debates and arguments will seldom convince anyone of either stand point but what they do do for atheists and christians alike is to show that there is a deep integrity to the belief in the christian God, which has become the trend to deny allegedly in lieu of science.

In summary, some of the outstanding moments from these debates:
1) Richard Dawkins admitting to John Lennox that he was wrong in his book (The God Delusion) and in fact the Jesus of the bible emphatically did exist.
2) The late Christopher Hitchens being unable to offer a single refutation of any of W.L. Craig’s arguments for the explicit existence of the christian God through 3 rounds, ending in his forfeiting of his final chance at rebuttal/response to Craig.
3) Sam Harris adopting a fallacious stance of hostile ad hominem in his debate with Craig and again not responding to any of Craig’s arguments. I also seemed to me that he took a disrespectful stance of below the belt tactics, trying to shift the focus of the debate to topics and ends not helpful to the audience or his opponent. It seemed to me that he simply stalled the entire debate away.
4) The absolute refusal of Dawkins to ever debate Craig 1 on 1, this decision put him into a storm of hate mail and public slander from his atheist colleagues in Oxford and abroad. There is a summary of this story on YouTube here.

The next of my obsessions is still strong. I have been consuming a steady stream of documentaries on topics ranging from The cannibalism of ex-soldiers in Liberia to the Scientific truth behind losing weight to the truth behind Bodybuilding. I returned to the productions of my favourite Gonzo Journalist, the well known Louis Theroux from the BBC. I first discovered his documentaries when I happened to be up at around 10pm on a holiday night. A Louis Theroux documentary was showing, I think it was on “The most hated family in America”, it turned out to be a Louis Theroux festival and so I watched documentary after documentary until around 5am the next morning. I discovered this past month that there are a wealth of free documentaries available on the web, here are some of the best websites to access them in order of preference:
http://www.documentaryheaven.com
http://watchdocumentary.com/all_documentaries/
http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/watch-online/
http://www.documentarywire.com/watch-online/
http://www.documentarytube.com/
There’s even a great android app that I make a lot of use of available here.

Some of the highlights:
1) In the cannibalism of Liberia doc (available on YouTube here) the documentary takes a sudden unexpected (even to the makers) turn when they become captivated by the intriguing redemption story of General Butt-Naked. A man who once notorious in Liberia, used to fight naked with his men as he and his followers believed that this combined with the execution and consuming of an innocent child would make them invincible. He describes to the cameras how he used to sit on his ‘throne’ beside the dirty street with his troop crouching around him, he would capture an innocent child and cut open their back and pull their heart from their living body and share it with his men. At this point the story suddenly takes a turning point when he describes the moment he stopped these practices. He says he had just finished this ritual and his men were out collecting water, they were almost back when he heard someone calling his name from behind him “Butt naked! But naked!!”. He turned around and saw a man and a woman in white, the light was radiating though the man and it was “as bright as the sun”.
This man said to him “my son, why are you slaving?”
Butt Naked thought to himself “I’m not a slave!” and replied “In this whole territory I am the king, I’m supposed to be a king!”
and the man said “you’re right in saying that you’re supposed to be a king, but you’re living like a slave”
Butt Naked replied and said “I don’t understand what you mean”
and the man said to him “I mean, repent and live or refuse and die”.
The man and woman disappeared and he went into battle but his pistol didn’t work and he “was afraid for the first time”. Now words by themselves don’t mean much but the documentary changed direction now and followed General Butt Naked. At the time of the documentary he was now not a general anymore but a caring missionary, travelling around preaching the gospel and running a shelter for former child soldiers. Honestly coming across as a gentle and honest man. He was transparent about his evils but clearly ashamed of them and no longer held in guilt by them, redeemed. He had also been exonerated and forgiven of his war crimes by the country. Draw your own conclusions but it sound like he had a run in with Jesus like Saul in the the book of Acts in the bible. It’s a story that is hard to ignore.
Skip to 32 minutes to hear this story first hand.

image

General Butt Naked interview

** end of part one. See next post for more thoughts.

This post is a follow up to my last post on depression about a month ago. I felt that neither was it complete nor was it an satisfactorily accurate reflection of my thoughts. I realised that discussion or conversation may be the best arena for the topic rather than singular treatises.

So accordingly, this post includes a guest appearance by my good friend TUE over at theurbaneagle.wordpress.com. We have both battled bouts of depression at times and have both given a crack at understanding it. TUE first posted about it here in depression and faith part one. TUE’s post is well written and I recommend reading it.

The conversation below is transcribed from the comments in my previous post (you may want to read said post if you haven’t already though it’s not essential). I will update it as and when the conversation continues.

theurbaneagle:

I think there is complexity in this subject that will dip into the nature of sin, the nature of the promises of God, the interpretation of Biblical suffering and the understanding of the intersection between body and soul.

For example, suffering is known to not always be the result of sin (, but suffering/stress increases cortisol which over time makes one feel depressed via direct action on the brain. People who commit suicide have real, observable anatomical changes related to hormone and brain function from depression. One can then ask the question at what stage does the spiralling levels of cerebral serotonin become medical depression, and furthermore whether treating it is then a spiritual or biochemical issue. This needs to be raised because then treating depression with antidepressants is sin. And if it is not sin, does that mean that there is a true medical adjuvant to grace?

This is a difficult topic for many people. For example, can people post head injury be Christian? Does this mean that the linked aggression and depression issues are sinful? Or is it linked to suffering for God’s glory? What about severe hypothyroidism or diseases of excess cortisol?

There must clearly be a holistic model that first clearly defines aetiology, as in underlying cause. And sin must be included true. But in that should there be complexities linked to godly suffering and the normal physiological response, and also the role of the abnormal physiological system causing depression isolated from the above aetiology. As far as I see it, if you link the factors you would find that some depression is medical, but can be exarcerbated by a sinful response. Some suffering of godly origin can be exacerbated by a sinful response. Some suffering for one’s good will cause a natural physiological response akin to depression that forever molds one’s brain and experiences into becoming who God wants you to be. And like you mentioned, some depression is of a direct result of the sinful nature. This same process can obviously be dealt with in a sinful manner by the believer. There is overlap and I think valuable nuances?

You must be commended for tackling such a loaded, candid and complex topic. These are just thoughts from a fellow traveller and thinker.

(And scripture does clearly have the command “be joyful always”. So I cannot disagree with the picture you have painted. I am merely attempting to integrate my own thoughts.)

thevagabond:

Ok, let’s see. It’s taken me a month to distance myself from the topic so as to come back and respond to your comments. They are very good comments.

I must try to clarify one thing: I believe that it is sinful to live in depression, but depression most certainly is not a punitive result of sin. This is a complex but imperative distinction. What I mean is that all depressions are a result of the attribute of sinfulness belonging to this messed up world (think: death, violence, crime, etc.), but they are not a punishment from on high.

Perhaps an example will best illustrate my point:

My best friend dies in a car accident and in the mourning I fall into a deep and dark depression. My best friend’s sister mourns and is desperately sad, but never falls into a lasting depression. It appears to me then that I am mentally less healthy than the sister. Why am I less mentally healthy and more prone to depression? Any number of reasons including my biology, past experiences of evil, my own masochism. Whatever the case – there is some ownership that I must take in my condition. Even if it is biology – it is *my biology. What I am saying then is that the first step to recovery is taking responsibility even for the failures and weaknesses that are not directly my fault.

This is complicated and I continue to wage war against my inability to express it properly.

On the biology and anti-depressants as either substitutes for grace or their sinful quality:
Anti-depressants could never substitute grace, and grace couldn’t substitute anti-depressants either… Grace is not the mechanism of healing, it is simply an avenue to psychological peace, a peace that may result in seeking out a psychotherapist and medication such as anti-depressants. Grace does not heal it provides freedom to be what you be, even be you depressed.

Grace didn’t heal me. It gave me peace enough to look into what I needed to change in my perceptions and world to achieve joy again.

Head injury people and other disorders/diseases should be looked at in the same way. What grace does for all of these people is say to them (even if they don’t understand it) that despite their condition (which is a result of a broken world) it is ok and they are accepted for who and what they are anyways. Medical care does this intrinsically when the doctor doesn’t blame the person or look down on them but accepts them as what they are (definitive grace) and offers them the mechanism for healing.

I won’t respond to the rest of your comment just yet because I believe I have shifted what you will understand to be my standpoint. Please respond accordingly with the same or new comments.

theurbaneagle:
Thank you for the detailed answers. It is a loaded and incredibly deep topic. One that is also impossible to separate from personal experience. When I tried, I found myself too ignorant of the depths of the biology, psychology and theology which intertwines and somewhere snakes its way through highest truth’s treacle.

Can’t add much to this brother, your thoughts continue to be valuable to me and I’m sure to others.

** Writer’s note: for at least 3 years I have wanted to pen some of the thoughts that were resultant from my struggles with depression in the past. I have literally thousands of notes scrawled all over the place from during and after those periods of depression all representing bits and pieces of the over all understanding of life, pain, happiness and meaning. The subject matter and the thought in it’s entirety was always too large for me to sit down and write about. I have managed to begin to collect and make these thoughts tangible though, the full account will only come out in time in numerous writings, but here for a start (I am pleased to have made) is the first. Regard it for what it is, beware of the presuppositions you encounter it with in your own mind and read it to the end or parts of it will be misunderstood.** 

What to do with my life… a question that makes my heart faint and threatens my happiness within seconds of beginning to stroll down the path the thought takes me on. I write from feelings of anxiety and fear that I must battle fervently for the sake of my happiness which I owe to to God and myself as a Christian. One of the rules of being a Christian that people forget concerns happiness. We are obliged and we have a duty to be happy or at least not unhappy, or rather a better word would be ‘joyful’ despite any circumstances and irrespective of our surroundings. There is a story related through a letter from Paul the apostle to the church in ….. of a group of christians who are said to have rejoiced in their persecutions. Their homes were ransacked and they were saddened and hurt by it but remained joyful.

There is an interesting duality here in the underlying life of a true christian. Christianity recognises that there can be sadness alongside joy. I have not come across any other teaching or philosophy that recognises this as yet besides those of christianity. I have experienced this duality of emotion for myself and this gives me confidence in my belief in it’s truth because I can not deny my own personal experience, knowing that I am not delusional or psychotic as some might suggest in offense of these assertions. There have been times when I have been sad and not at all joyful. At these times it would seem that there was none of the duality of which I speak – only a double portion of sadness perhaps, something deeper than mere sadness in fact: depression; despair; despondency. These feelings I would argue are unGodly feelings not acceptable to God. What this means then is that times of real depression (psychologically recognised depression) are also times of sinfulness in the person who is depressed. This thought needs patience and tact to deal with though for what needs to be understood is that being depressed is not usually the abject fault of the person who is depressed. In fact it is usually mostly the exact opposite and the very core and poison of depression is this; the state of being unable to change one’s own fate and the feeling that one could not have avoided it. The feeling of helplessness; the inability to pull oneself out of one’s own shadow of despair or to have avoided the initiation or continuation of it’s vicious cycle.

These thoughts come from someone who has been clinically depressed and recovered twice in his life time. Once as a sub-10 year old and once as a 21- year old. Here is what I believe in light of what I have said thus far stated clearly before I explain myself more precisely:

I believe that it is sinful to become depressed and it is a sinful way of life to live in depression and hence one should realise one’s deserved fate: to face judgement for this sinfulness.

but…

…and here is the definitive and most important point following this assertion: details forthright, God forgives those who surrender to the realisation of their guilt and who repent and he gives them the power to change their lifestyle and world such that they may find freedom from the depression they have acknowledged their guilt for.

Let me attempt to build upon and clarify these above remarks. I believe that the perfect person (who would be a perfect christian) would be able to fend off and avoid depression despite their circumstances and the events that may afflict them. Even with depression – a disease that seems to attack and take over a life with almost no fault of the person being afflicted, the person does have some ownership in the situation. Though this ownership may be very small – if they had spent their entire life being perfect, praying continuously, preparing their mind and heart tirelessly in all they did and had they been setting their mind on the things above (God and His consciousness of reality – this being the knowledge that all will turn out for good in the end), if they had done this, no matter their situation they would not have fallen into depression.

The first step out of depression for an imperfect person then is the realisation that one has some ownership in one’s situation. The realisation and acceptance that “I am guilty and this is partly my fault” is important and difficult and possibly very painful. The second and more important step out of depression is realising that this is ok and normal – that it is a worldwide truth that is true of every human being that has ever been. The depressed person should realise that to have ownership in this failure to be joyful is part of who they are as a human being, just like everyone else. This step leads to the next step which sets the first wrungs of the ladder out of the ditch of depression in place because the next step is very good news. The news is that the very one who set the standard (God) by which one must judge oneself a failure has long ago set out a plan to forgive the failure and sin of depression as well as bring the depressed person out of the depression they have ownership in through this forgiveness. This is possible because this forgiveness is that which provides opportunity for the one who does the forgiving (God) to provide the power needed to break free from the clutches of the depth and darkness of depression. Since it is God who set the standard by which one must condemn oneself – God himself is only free to help one out of depression once the crime and sin of falling into and living in depression as been forgiven and eradicated.

Freedom from deserved guilt is the first step on the ladder out of depression.

So I found that my realisation and acceptance of responsibility for my part in finding myself in my sorry state of depression became the very mechanism by which God’s forgiveness could rescue me from my depression and sin. In Paul the Apostle’s letter to the Roman church he speaks of this paradox when he talks of how the law came first to point out the sin which only gave more life to sin, being hidden beforehand… but it was only after this stage had been set that Grace, which could only come once the life of sin was brought to light through the law, could take its place in the centre of this stage and put the imposter (that is sin personified) to death and bring the life of forgiveness and positive change (redemption) to the forefront.

So if depression is ungodly, what about sadness? Does christianity disallow one from feeling certain emotions? No it does not, but a dichotomous duality (a duality that consists specifically of two different components) must exist. If there is sadness, there must also be some happiness or joy as well to parallel it. Part of being a christian then is to not let oneself fall into depression, and if one does, to fight and work hard to get out of it and attain joy within the duality again. A christian should strive to keep a sense of joy as one of the feelings in their duality of emotional existence. The other feeling can be anything as long as it is justified within the scope of the teachings of Jesus. Sadness at one’s home being ransacked or destroyed. Anger at the injustice of losing a loved one. (as a side-note, some emotions that are difficult to justify within the scope of Jesus’ teachings: fear; jealousy). These are all ok and good to feel. Part of being a mature human being and part of being what God intended us to be is to feel, to not become a Stoic or a robot. We must have hearts that bleed but countenances that are joyful. 

** Writers note: if you have read this far, my congratulations and thanks. This has become one of my longer writings and longer than I prefer for this medium (blog) so I have ended it here. More will come at a later stage. Peace.**

Jack Figure (aka Jeremy)

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