Category: Theoreticals


* writers note: this is simply a section of writing a produced half written to myself a week ago. I could have adapted it for the blogosphere audience but decided to leave it as it is because any delays might become permanent as I tend to procrastinate such administrative edit-like practices. It also introduces a few ideas that I don’t conclude. I’ll get to them another time.*

This morning I am fasting until supper time, I sit now in the cafeteria area at st. Andrews village where we are staying and holding school for the Vietnamese kids. They are not what I expected at all – I thought that they would be poor kids taken out of poverty like the one’s I spent the first half of the year working with, they showed up last Sunday with Galaxy tablets and iPhones, gouchi bags and DC shoes and so my perspective changed – welcome to first world missions. Most of these kids are from high class families in Vietnam, one of the kids that I am personally responsible for as an example has a father who owns a hotel on the beach front of Ha Long – the biggest tourist destination in Vietnam. He showed my a picture on a post card:

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There is a range though, Andrew (I’ll call the youngest kid Andrew as a code name) doesn’t seem to be as well off as the rest of them. He uses a cheap little Nokia cell phone, his parents may have sent him off with it as opposed to a more expensive phone, but I doubt it. He is a total technogeek. All of these kids are, but about 30% of them are in deep, not daring a trip to the bathroom without their tech in hand. Andrew is a fascinating little 11 year old though. I’ll get back to him but first I must mention Douglass (another code name). Doug is also an 11 year old but this is a troubled kid. A friend of mine also ministering as a missionary here is convinced he’ll be a ganglord with a baseball bat leaning over a disloyal worker in a basement one day later in life if he carries on on this path we’ve intersected him on. He seems to lack a conscience and is totally self involved – meaning that he will do all that he can get away with. He erupts into a vicious grin once in a while after he has just teased some other kid or somehow managed to inflict pain upon someone else. A few times I have arrived and found him grinning next to some kid with a sad expression. Doug laughs as he explains to me in broken English that “hahaha, no nothing happen ha ha *insert Vietnamese shouting and pointing in a mocking fashion towards the sad kid* ha ha, nothing happen”. We’ll continue to try and show this kid love and discipline.

*Writers note: these are all great kids though and let it be known that I grew very fond of them all and am eager to watch their progress through life. Many of them have really great potential and I was privileged to be a part of their journey in reaching it.*

Journal 2012-06-12
I spent time in the Buddhist tooth relic temple today in Chinatown. This was the first Buddhist temple I’ve ever been to. I was politely asked to remove my hat as I approached the inner doors by a guide lady. She couldn’t speak English but the hand gestures were clear enough and she smiled with her eyes when I removed my hat and stuffed it into my back pocket.

I took many photos, it was difficult to do so though because of the strange lighting. Most of the temple is dark with bad lighting of the overwhelming- red and gold in the architecture and statues of the 100 Buddhas around each of the 20 or so larger Buddhas. Then there is a very large Buddha guarded on either side by golden guard statues with angry expressions and angry weapons in their hands. This big Buddha is completely gold in colour with a hand raised as if to bless those in the room and a smirk to rival any other. There are lights shining brightly onto this Buddha from all directions reflecting off of the statues gold with the effect that any attempt at amateur photography yields only an overexposed blur. I’m sure they do this on purpose.

I had a long conversation with a serving lady in the temple who has been a Buddhist for about 15 years. She tried a few Japanese religions before becoming a Buddhist. She said that she had been searching for happiness and truth (in her own words) and truth (which was implied – being the foundational aspect of Buddhism – the search for and ascent unto pure truth). She said that she had found all of this in Buddhism and that she had a sharper and quicker mind since becoming a Buddhist. I smirked inside as she begrudgingly and slowly attempted to put this idea of her quicker mind into words.

Half way through our conversation she stopped and stepped aside to help a young man in a trendy blue v-neck and a backpack to a little red card which he then wrote the names of his family on (5 Mandarin symbols). He took the card and placed it amidst flowers at the base of a little glass lantern and she instructed him in placing it upon a table where it joined 25 other lanterns – “he is acquiring a blessing for his family” said my guide lady friend as she returned to me, having observed that I waited for her and for this little ceremony to be completed. As I enquired more of her and her religion she invited me to study more on the topics I asked about. I told her that I had been searching for the same things as her – “peace, happiness and truth but that I had found it in Jesus Christ” and that I believed there was some truth in Buddhism but it wasn’t all true, as opposed to Jesus’ teachings. The conversation continued and she invited me to the library upstairs where they keep literature and the teachings of the Buddhas. There is also a monk scholar there who she recommended I speak to. I hope to take her up on this suggestion. I would like to hear what a fully fledged Buddhist has to say on matters of truth and spirituality.

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**Writer’s note: What follows are some thoughts directly transcribed from one of my favourite moleskin notebooks that I carry around and record my thoughts, questions and ideas in and in italics are my current thoughts on the transcription. These are mostly curiosities that may or may not end up as longer posts in the future. I have a stack of molskins, the following excerpts are only about 30% of one of them. I hope to use more of them with more finesse later.

I am curious: what was the attitude of the early christians and general educated public (pre-Athenasias) toward the scriptures (before the canon was constructed)?

I realise that a rational belief doesn’t quite cut it for tough situations. A purely rational belief doesn’t go far enough, only a belief coupled with faith goes far enough to bring relief and peace when we run into trouble too big for us.
** I have been slowly reading through Romans, and chapter 7 specifically from the message version comes to mind with regard to the comment above.

Why is it that I continue to go to church at all? To continue to be encouraged to believe.
** A friend of mine TUE and I call ourselves and others like us coffee-shop christians. The kind of christian that often doesn’t feel comfortable in a normal Sunday church service. I realise that church serves (among a few others) the following purposes:
– fellowship: being in contact with other believers who can support and understand your world view.
– edification: being put into contact with good solid teachings on the fundamentals and complexities of the christian faith.
– service: being in a community that helps to put you to work practicing your faith so as to have a well rounded faith – practical and theoretical for the sake of a respectable (and not hypocritical) pursuit of truth.
– preaching: a place to preach the truth of Jesus Christ to those who have not yet heard or grasped it so that they might begin their own pursuit of it.

What this year has taught me (2011):
– I am smart; I enjoy teaching; I like robots; I miss fighting; I like assignments not tests; faith > belief; I can do this romantic relationship thing.
** I doubted for a long time whether I was actually capable of maintaining a mature and good romantic relationship. 9 months with theillustratedwriter.blogspot.com have taught me that I can.

On post FINAL DESIGN dissatisfaction: one has to learn to focus on the things that one has done right. You can’t; and it’s too easy to focus on the mistakes. Even though there are so many things that are/were correct.
** A note on human nature I think. Surely this must be adopted into any successful human philosophy – obtaining the ability to consider the mistakes and dwell on the successes instead of the opposite. Does Christianity preach this? I think so – the concept of the grace of God deals with this.

Below are my notes from the planning for the predating outing on which I hoped to impress the illustrator:

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** it worked

How to write music? What way works for me? Do I start with guitar or words?
** I must still discover the answers to this. I only have one song with both lyrics and words. The words came after the music. A lot of acoustic guitar (as opposed to electric) and practice with singing this year (2012) has helped a lot.

Humility = accepting other people’s flaws.
** Not one’s own.

On challenging people to improve upon a flaw: this is good but making them feel bad is not alright. Maybe it is? But how do we/I balance this art? Show acceptance? How?
** This is a question that should come up for any leader. Part of the answer may be found in Hebrews 12 with regard to discipline being painful for the moment but reaping the final result of righteousness.

Humility, shyness and fear. How are they related? Shyness – there is pride in this too.

Should we be careful to have less regard for people as well as more regard for God. Are these directly inproportional?

So what if you gain the whole world (like professorship and academics) but/and lose your soul? Do I follow Wilke or Ingles or Jesus?

Some thoughts on meaning in life:
Ravi:
– Wonderment
– people/friends/family

Frankl:
– love of a person
– hope for a future something
– an activity to keep one occupied
(All of these are items based in the future)

** CS Lewis: Don’t be too concerned with the future or the past because neither exist such that one may be lead astray from reality based truth. What about time transcendent truths (those which are based in the future but we know them to be true now) like Frankl’s hope and Ravi’s wonderment? These become present tense. Hope of a future something is only edifying then when it is an assured hope. Christianity calls faith “the assurance of what is hoped for”.

The role of relationship? A helper. Someone to pursue life with.
**A partner in the pursuit of all life has to offer.

Notes from Thesis work in Mechanical Engineering final year:

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The end of the world: should we fear it as christian?
** I am still unsure of the answer to this. We should be nervous but confident. When the day comes we will be in awe. Neither/both fearful and full of joy. Our Lord and saviour will be returning – but we will face judgement in the face of his glorious and frightening perfection. Judgement founded on grace toward us who have come to him in need though. So awe rather than fear I think.

This school can be a major challenge at times. The word ‘challenge’ is a euphemism of course – sometimes it can feel like a nightmare. Schools like this feel like black holes sometimes, just sucking up the light you bring without compassion or mercy.

The latest struggle has been to simply have afternoon classes. The first quarter went very well in terms of classes in that I was able to give classes three times a week every week to the grade 10s, 11s and 12s. With much discussion and observation I tried to diagnose the situation in the school with regard to maths. The school had come to us reiterating again and again that maths maths maths was really the key problem here. Their other subjects were ok, maths was the real need.

So the problem has always been simple. The situation and ‘why’ behind the problem has been more complicated. This is always the case though – finding problems with the world and ourselves is easy – but determining the practical ‘why’ behind the problem is hard. Root cause analysis is difficult. It is the only way to truly solve a problem though.

So the first ‘why’ that the teachers and I came to agree on was that the basics were a problem for the students. They still needed to grasp those foundational concepts of negative numbers and integers and even basic arithmetic. One afternoon class I stopped in abject frustration and went through this with the top class in the school – Grade 12A:

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Board work (c) JSB

So despite the depth of this problem, it gave purpose to my lessons in the first quarter – knowing exactly what to teach them. I drew up worksheets with problems designed to guide the students into understanding. These went down very well and I was encouraged numerous times as I would literally see the moment when the concepts would click in the minds of students who had been blind to them for so many years.

Now this quarter has been a little different. I came back from the holidays after the first quarter with a lot of enthusiasm to really do things well – but I was stopped right in my tracks. Something was getting in the way of all of my classes – the reason for which I only discovered 2 weeks ago. It turned out from a conversation I had with a teacher who I have befriended at the school that there was trouble from the government after the results from the first quarter. All of the teachers giving matric subjects were tasked with coming up with some kind of plan to fix the situation. Most of the teachers’ plan was to have more after school classes – at the times when I would usually give my classes. So the problem was simply communication. Now I have no quarrel with these after school classes because it’s a great thing. Teachers taking more responsibility for their job and working at getting their students to where they need to be, but I wish I had been told earlier so that I could have made alternative arrangements and not been in the dark wondering why things weren’t coming together for so long.

After I found this piece of information out I started thinking of a new plan and came up with this:

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Maths Poster (c)

In speaking to teachers and students I came upon another major problem and ‘why’ behind the maths problems in the school. Students in the area have struggled to find a safe and dedicated place to do their homework and studying. The idea dawned on me that we needed to try to create a studious atmosphere where students could come and spend time in their books and get assistance from myself and the other VET volunteers (my colleagues) not only in Maths but in whatever work they were working on. The second problem has always been communication. In the first quarter, the only way to get students in your class was to chase them down and struggle and fight to remind them of their class that afternoon. We needed a better, clearer and less time consuming way to communicate with the students. This poster would do the trick. Finally, we needed a venue for this initiative. The Media Centre is a classroom that once looked like this:

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and that now looks like this:

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Kwa-Dinabakubo Media Centre (c) JSB

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Kwa-Dinabakubo (c) JSB

There was still one problem though that put this new plan of mine on hold. Chairs. We had managed to organise tables, we had painted the room. We had cleaned it. We had managed to get some encyclopedias and build a few bookshelves – but we didn’t have chairs. There could be no class until we had chairs. I put a status up on my personal facebook as follows:

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and God provided. The next day or a few hours later I received an sms from a generous person offering to donate R1000 toward chairs for the media centre! I promptly got onto the internet and made a search for school chairs. I came across an advert on Gumtree and got into contact with the seller who I negotiated with and with a discount and an extra R100 of my own I came away with 30 second hand school chairs. With a rented trailer and a borrowed car (with a tow hitch) I delivered the chairs to the school and finally the classes could begin!

Yesterday (May 29) I finally made copies of the poster and pasted it up all over the school. The idea for this class to be held at 15h30 was so that the class wouldn’t get in the way of other classes held by other teachers and also so as to act as a deterrent to all except those students that wanted to come and work. That day many students showed interest and that afternoon our first three students showed up to work and ask questions. Finally – I could assist and teach some students once again after more than a month of struggling against the system in this rural environment.

Today though I must confess that I am frustrated and a little put down. We arrived at school today to find more than half of the posters that I had put up torn down and defaced. Why would they do this? One puts in so much effort only to have it thrown back in the face. Of course I understand that students will be students and that the environment of violence, disrespect and hopelessness around them all inspires such acts of insolence – but still, this is demotivating.

In any case I will not be deterred and I will not be stopped, I fight for principles far above those which try to destroy our work and so as I write this today at 13h20 on 30 May, our class will go on and students will be helped. For the glory of God who inspired all of this and who has helped to make it all happen.

Peace. Jeremy (aka Jack Figure)

* Note from the Author: these are merely my thoughts. Some of them not put together or explained all that well. Read with grace.*

Readers, supporters, friends, family, internet trolls: I am off on a journey to South East Asia. Welcome. Here are my thoughts:

The idea snuck up on me like a ninja in the night. I’m not sure when I first began to dream of travelling to the East. It may have begun when I read a book by Sam Sheridan who travelled across the globe learning the fighting trade. Boxing in the USA, Brazilian Jui-jitsu in South America, wrestling in Russia, Tai Chi in China, Muay Thai in Thailand.

It may also have been the Kung Fu movies I love – crouching tiger, hidden dragon; The forgotten kingdom. It may have been spurred on by my love for martial arts and my training in Kickboxing (etc).

Mostly though – I think it was a fascination with their philosophy. Eastern philosophy has something to it that it’s western cousin just can’t quite capture. Something spiritual, something beyond logical constructs which paradoxically form illogical constraints that dull the honest search for wisdom. A wisdom beyond ontological argument and Niche scepticism. Eastern philosophy at it’s best is the oasis in the desert of the western paradigm.

Now I stand ready to take this single step so as to begin my journey of a thousand miles. Confucius would be proud. My visa is in the works, my airplane tickets are bought and payed for, the money I’ll need for this mission is raised… Just one month from now, I am off.

I will be travelling with my own philosophy into a completely new world drenched in the philosophies of a different sort to those I’ve grown up around. My philosophy is a christian one. The philosophy as taught by Jesus of Nazareth – as such; I go with a mission to make His glory known, simply through living as a man moved by His truth, glory, love and hope. I will be involved in education in Singapore and Thailand through local churches and mission organisations. In Singapore I will help to teach and influence Vietnamese School students and in Thailand I will offer myself as an aid for Thai students to learn conversation skills in English.

There is more though.

I think I have one very specific calling (among others)- to write. Not necessarily right now (I am not wise enough or skilled enough just yet), but one day – I must fulfil this mandate to write of what I discover – mixing experience, philosophy, apologetics, politics, history, science, technology and theology. I must discover the essence of Buddhist transcendence and Hindu fragmentation and learn to apply Christian truth to Buddhist culture and Hindu practices. If Jesus isn’t applicable in all places – he isn’t applicable at all. I must learn and apply different perspectives, like filters, to this analysis of Christ and his message so as to free my philosophy of the peripheral and base it on the essential. I believe the whole truth is right here in the bible – but it is clarified when one applies and examines it across contexts – therefore I must make an effort to experience other contexts. I believe the truth of the gospel is applicable to all people and across all contexts – but to demonstrate this I must widen my understanding of the world and it’s people. I feel as if God has something to show me, some story for me to discover and some perspective to gain from which to write about it. To a large extent that is what this trip is about. An investment into preparing myself for the work I must do for the kingdom of God and for the kingdom of the world as time takes me on this train ride onwards through my life.

“Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.” – Confucius.
“And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil” – John 3v19.
“Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying “I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life”” -John 8v12

Please stand with me in prayer and support as I go off in this light to discover and learn;

Regards,
Jeremy (aka Jack Figure)

* Note from the author: this note talks of topics not yet fully resolved in my own mind, and may be retracted or edited in the future, please approach it with due grace. It covers sensitive topics and I have somewhat skirted around a few areas related to my arguments. Sometimes in searching for truth one must abandon comfort and force oneself to begin to form an opinion and this is my public attempt at doing so *

I work in a field that I enjoy where I can also make a difference in other people’s lives – and I do this from the perspective of my life philosophy – which is based on the teachings of Jesus. I am no militant evangelist but a philosopher and a man in search of truth, so when I come across a person in a distressful situation – I give encouragement and advice based on the philosophy I live by – sometimes this means advising people to seek God

This is the premise from which I understand evangelism at this point in my life. Evangelism is such a dirty word these days. Understandably so. Most evangelism – or at least the type that most people (of whatever persuasion) are exposed to is a closed minded endeavour to bully or provoke a listener into abandoning all they have ever known for something alien and seemingly harsh.

When the message of Jesus comes across as unfairly harsh and closed minded I believe something has gone wrong in relating it. However – there is danger in avoiding this line of thinking too, and I come now to one of the toughest questions in christiondom today:

Can I be a christian and open minded at the same time? Does being a christian mean that I must close my mind to whatever else and become what I protest to hate: closed-minded?

What do you think? I think we tread on sensitive ground and a part of me wants not to go on exploring this question for fear of the stern words I may receive. A quote comes to mind though:

“There is nothing so self defeating as a question that has not been fully understood when it has been fully posed”: Ravi Zacharias quoting CS Lewis

What this statement gets at is that the inquiring mind must first set adequate and appropriate foundations and devices in place before attempting to answer profundities with due eloquence and sensitivity.

It is important to realise that one does not sacrifice open mindedness by holding onto certain philosophies and ideas. Every person has a perspective from whose balcony they look upon the world. Without a perspective that one firmly holds onto, one is blind. And to be blind is to be closed minded.

What I have come to believe is that though it requires a delicate application of wisdom, one can in fact be open minded and hold on to one specific and exclusive perspective or philosophy simultaneously – on one condition:

The exclusive philosophy to which one holds must allow for the free will of others and hold that each individual is only responsible ultimately for them self.

Where evangelism seems to go wrong and cause hurt is where the evangelist denies the free will of him he evangelises and wrongly assumes a greater responsibility than he is fairly due for the listener’s life and beliefs. I believe that when correctly done; it is the role of the evangelist to provide and present argument, persuasion, doctrine freely as being what he believes. He should do so with conviction and passion – for passion is stirred by true belief. But – this is where his responsibility ends. He may even pray for the patron of his conversation but he must leave it then to them to ponder and act or act not.

Within the christian worldview – what follows humane and godly evangelism is a matter between God and an individual.

Being open minded means accepting that people believe what they believe – it does not mean rejecting what you already believe or feeling under obligation to reject it. One should be ready to give a thought to someone else’s beliefs and weigh them up against their own but refusing to adopt someone else’s beliefs does not make one closed minded.

Jesus was sure and uncompromising in who he was (God incarnate) and in what he believed to be true, and he stated it in no uncertain terms – but he was open minded, listening to the arguments of others before questioning them and stating his own.

If  being a christian did in fact call me to become closed minded and bigoted it would in fact be a case of “Missionary Impossible” for me.

It is from a careful, confident and open minded approach like this that people become receptive to arguments on matters of such sensitivity and importance, approach people in any other way and you will misrepresent the gospel and our God – for our God is one of love, compassion and wisdom, as well as of justice and holiness.

I think that a life well lived is one in which someone seeks God and finds peace in a life given over to Jesus. Heed my words, I believe them to be true and critical, but take it upon yourself to bring them further or leave them here.

This write up will simply entail my thoughts on the book rather than comprehensively review it. The first thing that came to mind after completing the book was that it should have ended a few chapters earlier than it did. Dick finished the more interesting story line and then spent the remaining two chapters on some of what I felt were the weaker elements of the book. Of course this is a subjective opinion and there are PKD fans and critics all over the world that would heartily disagree with me.

The second thought that came to my mind was a realisation of just how brilliant Asimov and Clarke were. Here is PKD at what may have been his best, yet compared to all of the Asimov and Clarke I’ve read it just seemed shallow and unconvincing. There just wasn’t the same feel of universal completeness or intelligence in comprehension that I’ve come to love in Asimov and Clarke’s writing. Possibly though – Asimov and Clarke (of whom I am a big fan) have ruined me for a lot of other sci-fi simply due to their brilliance.

However, ideas are the medicine on which I depend to make my life more than a repetitive, existential procedure, and PKD put some great ideas in this novel:

1) Mercerism: a new order of religion. Technology and psychology combined and synthesised – Technopsychology/Psytechology is what I call it. Based upon some transient being called Wilbur Mercer who in a Buddhist sort of way helps all humans to come together to share their pains and joys using their ‘Empathy box’ in the accent unto true enlightenment. There are a few interesting thoughts on sacrifice in here too. This surreal part of the society in PKD’s book is worth a look.

2) The Mood Organ: Here is a truly interesting and surrealistically succinct commentary on the human experience: this mood organ. When connected up, the mood organ introduces whatever mood one desires into one’s Psyche. Coupled with being an alarm clock, this piece of technology is truly brilliant. Simply set it for setting 481 “Awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future” and 5am and you wake up to this mood even at so early an hour. This whole idea really got me thinking – especially in light of the Stoicism I recently wrote about. What happens to a world in which everyone only ever feels what they want to feel? Is this Utopia or does it turn to Distopia when the balance of good and bad in the universe tries to correct itself?

3) Organic Androids without Empathy: PKD’s androids are organic contraptions with a life span of 4 or so years. The engineers of the time had conquered all scientific and biological aspects in the creation of these beings except for cell reproduction – meaning that the organic machine would simply wear out, break down and fail after around 4 years. The other interesting part of PKD’s androids is their one major disability – a complete lack of empathy. This disability becomes all the more contrasting and important in the age of Mercerism – a religion based upon the experience of empathy.

4) The name of the book: In a world where almost all animals have died it has become a social imperative for people to keep and take care of animals (animals like sheep for example) with which they can practice their empathy. This has become such an integral part of people’s lives that people even dream of having an animal of their own if they don’t already have one. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep then? No, I don’t think they do.

The book reads quite easily and I did enjoy it the whole way through, I also respect and admire PKD and was very pleased to finally read this iconic book that I’ve heard references to so often.

Brilliance of prose: 6/10
Ideas and ability to inspire: 6/10
Comprehensiveness: 5/10
Storyline: 6/10
Value to vagabond doctrine: 7/10
Total: 60%

Athens. Greece. Philosophy. Socrates. The Areopagus.

Do any of these words illicit interest? For me, ever since I was a small boy, these words have held interest with me. It began when my mom read me bed time stories from a book of Greek myth. The stories of Zeus and the Olympians, Heracles and the acts he had to perform to become a god. Minotaurs and Centaurs, Icarus, his wax wings and his genius father the inventor.

I was reading a little bit of the book of Acts in the bible this morning and came across a fascinating little section of the book narrating the time that Paul was in Athens, atop Mars Hill. The Hill renowned in Greece for it’s religious profundity. Atop this hill was another place called the Areopagus. This was my kind of place. This was a place where people would come together to do nothing other than to tell or hear some novel, new thing. According to verse 21 those that went there were accustomed to hearing new things and speaking of new ideas. They also served coffee and had a wide array of books on philosophy, theology, apologetics, science fiction and fantasy.

They didn’t have the coffee or books in reality, but if this place was around today it certainly would. The Diogenes club from the Sherlock Holmes books. The Exclusive books and attached coffee shop. A place for intellectuals to meet where ideas were held in higher regard than almost anything. A place where intellectual soliloquies were the currency and wealth was in the mind/imagination.

These were the people that hung around in the Areopagus. People well versed in the ideas of the time and the philosophies of the day. Two of the philosophies represented here when Paul arrived were the Stoics and the Epicureanists.

Stoicism: In this philosophy the perfectly reasonable intellectual person will never suffer emotional hurt because all emotional hurt is due to not thinking correctly about something, making unreasonable rationalisations. The perfect Stoic would use his intellect to avoid all emotional pain.

Epicureanism: In this philosophy, ultimate meaning and purpose is similar to hedonism but with the additional desire of reaching an existence of physical painlessness.

I think that we find a lot of Stoicism in our world still today, especially among Thinkers: Scholars, academics, intellectuals. I have realised that I was a Stoic long before I knew there was a system of thought called Stoicism. This system of thought holds that if someone where to attain perfect intellectual judgement when considering all things in the act of introspection, this someone would never be subject to emotional hurt and pain.

What do you think of this?

Here are my thoughts:
1) I believe it to an extent, however, I am a cynic in that I do not think anyone can actually achieve this state of perfect intellectual judgement.
2) I actually believe that experiencing hurtful and painful emotions is part of the human experience. I read a lot of Isaac Asimov and the one aspect that often highlights the difference between human and robot is our subjectivity to emotional influence. He who feels no pain is simply not human.
3) I believe that sometimes the correct thing to do is to feel emotional pain. I believe that it may be unpleasant but truth is avoided when emotional pain is avoided. Sometimes the truth is painful and one has not fully grasped it if one has not felt the pain of it. Poverty or violence to a loved one: if there is no emotionally painful response to this – something is wrong. In fact one might realise that this person has not truly experienced the truth of real love.

Historically the Stoics and the Epicureanists were strongly opposed to each other. In the story in Acts, the Epicureanists and the Stoics both oppose Paul and seek to hear his arguments for his belief system. Many years later most of the followers of Stoic thought and Epicurean thought would be persecuted and destroyed through the unholy work of the ‘Christian’ ruler Justinias I. In the story, Paul did not try to destroy or persecute them, he simply raised his objections with their thoughts and proclaimed his own thoughts. Many, the bible says, were convinced and converted to Christians that day, and the others, Paul left in peace for God to deal with in grace, hope and love.

These were my thoughts this morning.

In the quest to develop a vagabond doctrine: an all-inclusive and honest set of beliefs and philosophies with which to view the world, one must make use of many other people’s already well developed thoughts and discoveries.

I have said before that all of us, every conscience person on the planet, must in the end subscribe to someone else’s views and teachings. Even if the person whose teachings are followed didn’t necessarily teach anything per say – for in this case the person’s actions were the teachings and the teacher’s world view and perspective are clear to those who would observe. The book of Ecclesiastes said it first when Solomon wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. I once read that the human mind is actually incapable of true creation from nothing. I read that when we dream, we in fact only piece together new things, situations, scenarios out of sliced up bits and pieces of things we have seen and touched, heard, smelt and tasted in our waking life. It is the same way with our philosophies and world views. No man has ever come up with something completely new all by himself. Though we may be presented with new theories – such as Freudian psychology or Lutheran theology – these theories themselves are merely bits and pieces of other’s philosophies and ideas sewn together into a new coherent whole.

We are all mosaic artists in reality. Creating a new picture out of innumerable others. Individual fragments may be so small that they are no longer even recognisable and can no longer be traced back to their origin, though when we look at a mosaic today do we doubt that each piece had a different home before they took their new place in this new picture before us?

Frankenstein Theology. This is why it can not be that someone simply follows their own beliefs and has no philosophical father whose example they follow.

It seems to me that most people only finally figure out what they actually believe at an advanced age. This is part of the reason that it is the elderly who usually have wisdom to speak into situations, the wisdom of experience that comes with age includes a well defined philosophy. It has been said before that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God. Another way to say this would be to say that the beginning of wisdom is a fully defined worldview (in the case of this saying the world view is a healthy fear of God). So if the first occurrence of a fully developed system of thought is usually only ascended to around one’s middle-age years what do we do up until this moment of illumination and enlightenment? For 20-30 years during which we have not developed our own beliefs fully enough to identify them truly as our own one will usually esoterically piece together a world view out of other people’s beliefs. Much care must be taken in this process however for when building up one’s worldview out of many other’s a real danger of contradictory thought arises. An esoteric compendium of thoughts that has not yet matured into wholeness will usually fall subject to the danger of combining something like Stoicism with Epicureanism, or Universalism with Calvanism – such that one cannot find peace or fulfilment in the satisfaction of one’s core beliefs due to the contradiction in life purposes proclaimed in each system of belief.

There is only one wise way to spend this time of premature philosophy so as to avoid the calamity of contradictory beliefs – to avoid an ugly and nonsensical mosaic (to build upon the metaphor): choose and depend upon a single source of philosophy.

What is my choice? I decided a while ago that Jesus Christ would be the single person I will follow. This does not mean that I do not maintain an open mind in my continual search for other sources of truth though. The search for other sources of truth should testify to the teachings (and teacher) you follow, either accrediting them (and the person who taught them) or discrediting them. It has been my experience that Jesus’ teachings have only ever been accredited by the truths I have found in other sources. Every thought that I have come to believe is truthful, I have subsequently, after careful study discovered within Jesus’ teachings, these truths having only been highlighted through someone else.

I believe that Jesus’ teachings are all inclusive of every true philosophical thought, but also that these truths are often hidden and only become visible through the ministry or teachings of someone else.

Frankenstein Theology. Except Frankenstein looks like Jesus.

I began to work in Kwadinabakubo Secondary School just 3 weeks ago now. I hoped to be like Keating from Dead Poets Society. I think I am making head way.

First, an introduction to Kwadinabakubo Secondary School. One eventually gets used to saying the name, though it took me a few weeks. I have discovered something interesting about the rural third world, something old school and satisfying: when one is curious about something these days one need go no further than a simple Google search and the information is yours. In the third world however, you don’t get people with blogs or websites, so the information just simply isn’t on the net.

Crazy right?

Hence the resurgence of journalism. When Google fails, interviews become your search engine. Having just read an Isaac Asimov Sci-fi detective novel, I can’t help but feel a small sense of adventure when I seek information in this way. In any case, I digress, what I’m getting to is the meaning of the name of Kwadinabakubo Secondary School. When Google searches yielded nothing helpful, I began asking people in the area about the name. It turns out that the name comes from a traditional Zulu chief who ruled the area long ago. His name was Dinabakubo, translated literally as “To anger someone”.

So back in the history of this place was a boy who made those around him angry, yet rose to power and ruled an entire district. I hope I discover more about this story.

The school is a government township school, meaning that poverty grips the school with a corrugated iron fist and it shows. The school grounds are classrooms scattered over fields of knee-high overgrown weeds, sparsely interrupted by patches of red KwaZulu-Natal dirt. The kids adhere to a relaxed school uniform regulation, wearing as much of the uniform as they were able to acquire for themselves. Gray long pants and a white shirt, every 5th kid with a tie, every 10th with a school jersey and every 20th adorning a blazer. In classic South African style however, every kid has perfectly shined black school shoes. Every kid has a cloth they dearly guard and pull out at each available moment, placing each foot on a ledge to maintain that shine, ankles exposed, I’ve only seen 2 pairs of socks so far.

There is no bell and when the government disallowed corporal punishment, they put no alternatives in the hands of the teachers meaning that if there were a bell it would scarcely mean anything to the hoard anyway. When I first arrived, I though it was break time, but this is simply how things go all day in Kwadinabakubo. The problem is mostly with the teachers though. The kids are in class when their teachers are there, but my oh my how the teachers adhere to African time…

I am one of three volunteers who are working with CAPRO here with this mission to the school. I am joined by Ayanda and Sinesipho who teach English, they are beginning to set up a literacy program where they can identify and help the students who have managed somehow to hustle their way thus far through the school system thus far without being able to read/write/speak/understand english

I am teaching Mathematics. I am loving it. I can honestly hardly contain my excitement and enthusiasm following most school days. I have become that guy that loves his job. I always wondered if that was too high an aspiration to aim for, but here I am, each day as I walk from my final class over the weed patches, black-jacks clinging to my jeans, back to my car, I grin with a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. I am working on the front lines for God, I am living out what I proclaim to believe (the teachings of Jesus), I am shaping young minds, I get to talk of interesting things all day and thrive off of a dynamic environment.

The beauty of a public/government school to someone like me is that I am free to do things my way:
– One must rely on an ability to think quickly on one’s feet, the labour of detailed planning is made unnecessary by the chaotic freedom in a school like this.
– The dynamic environment is extremely stimulating, being forced to juggle mathematical concepts, 40 different personalities, an improvised lesson and discipline all at the same time. One must constantly seek to hold 40 people’s interest, maintain order whilst allowing the small amount of chaos that catalyses the learning process and make sure to teach from the perspective of those whose attention one holds, one must teach and explain to their level.
– I absolutely thrive in this chaos.

The privilege of seeing that spark in the eyes of a kid as they suddenly grasp something that has been a mystery for years is invigorating. As they exclaim “oooooooohhhh!” and suddenly the motivation is shrugged off and they attack the next problem on the worksheet with new confidence. Knowing that you have just made an irreversible difference in a kid’s life like this is special. And I won’t grow tired of it quickly.

As relationships with the kids grow, other opportunities open up too, I shared a very enjoyable conversation on religion, apologetics, practical philosophy and Jesus with two matric kids just the other day.

Please leave any comments or questions you may have, I will respond as soon as I can,

PEACE.

Jack Figure (aka Jeremy)

I’ve discovered a few blogs of people similar to me, and with ideas similar to mine. People that are further along the path I too am on. Finding people like this and their blogs does two things for me, first: it makes me feel a little threatened – so strong is my desire to do something new, to do something groundbreaking, to capture that most illusive of abstractions: something wholly unique. Something that I can truly say that I created. Created. What an evocative word for me.

To be a creator.

This is something that thrills me, that stirs up passion in my soul, to be legitimately called a creator would be divine. Artists, revolutionaries, game-changers these people are creators. God is a creator, this is why I worship him,

“Why worship the crea-ted when one can worship the Crea-tor?” she said one day as we slowly paced along the streetlight lit pavement alongside Duxbury Street, Hatfield, Pretoria. Conversations on religion, philosophy, love, tears, tragedy, truth and mystery fresh on the mind,

“Why did you stop with the wika?” was my question. Because wika is no creator, just a plagiarism of true power, true creativity was her answer.

When I find that yet another idea of mine has already been done, when I find that someone else is already 30 years down the path I hoped to one day pioneer, it ceases to matter all that much that the pioneer who has preceded me is confirming the relevance, the greatness of my idea, or that I have a kindred spirit out there joining me in my cause, because my idea is no longer original. I… am no longer original.

So the quest for a new idea begins afresh. Maybe this shouldn’t be how it is though. Maybe I’m looking to the originality of my ideas too much for my value. Maybe I need a pride check, maybe I should seek acceptance and value in something else. Fundamentalist chirstians would answer this question with “God” – in a real world like the one outside of home-group does this answer hold up to the curse we live in though? Probably. But let’s not be crass with our platitudes, even right answers can be the wrong answers sometimes – check your relevance. Simple answers don’t work in a real world when they begin to approach ignorance.

Ignorance of the reality of the difficulty with which we must contend as we aim to make the simple truths these fundamentalists proclaim without the temperance gained through the acquisition of the perspective of those weighed down by the reality they can’t ignore.

The second thing finding these people and their blogs does for me comes after I reconfigure my system and find value somewhere else. Once this is done and my value as a human being is no longer dependant on this idea of mine being wholly original I feel my quest is affirmed.

And so I push on.

Jack Figure (aka Jeremy)

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