Tag Archive: fallen nature


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.**

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:

* 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.

Have you ever heard of the story of Pandora’s box? Well for your convenience:

(text taken from http://myths.e2bn.org/mythsandlegends/textonly562-pandoras-box.html)

In ancient Greece there were two brothers named Epimetheus and Prometheus. They upset the gods and annoyed the most powerful of all Gods, Zeus, in particular. This was not the first time humans had upset Zeus, and once before, as punishment, he had taken from humans the ability to make fire. This meant they could no longer cook their meat and could not keep themselves warm.

However, Prometheus was clever and he knew that, on the Isle of Lemnos, lived Hephaestos, the blacksmith. He had a fire burning to keep his forge hot. Prometheus travelled to Lemnos and stole fire from the blacksmith. Zeus was furious and decided that humans had to be punished once and for all for their lack of respect.
Zeus came up with a very cunning plan to punish the two brothers. With the help of Hephaestos, he created a woman from clay. The goddess Athene then breathed life into the clay, Aphrodite made her very beautiful and Hermes taught her how to be both charming and deceitful. Zeus called her Pandora and sent her as a gift to Epimetheus.

 

His brother Prometheus had warned him not to accept any gifts from the gods but Epimetheus was completely charmed by the woman and thought Pandora was so beautiful that she could never cause any harm, so he agreed to marry her.

(Lefebvre, Pandora 1882)

Zeus, pleased that his trap was working, gave Pandora a wedding gift of a beautiful box. There was one very, very important condition however, that she must never opened the box. Pandora was very curious about the contents of the box but she had promised that she would never open it.

All she could think about was; what could be in the box? She could not understand why someone would send her a box if she could not see what was in it. It seemed to make no sense at all to her and she could think of nothing else but of opening the box and unlocking its secrets. This was just what Zeus had planned.


(http://nwso.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Pandoras-Box.jpg)

Finally, Pandora could stand it no longer. When she knew Epimetheus was out of sight, she crept up to the box, took the huge key off the high shelf, fitted it carefully into the lock and turned it. But, at the last moment, she felt a pang of guilt, imagined how angry her husband would be and quickly locked the box again without opening the lid and put the key back where she had found it. Three more times she did this until, at last, she knew she had to look inside or she would go completely mad!

She took the key, slid it into the lock and turned it. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and slowly lifted the lid of the box. She opened her eyes and looked into the box, expecting to see fine silks, gowns or gold bracelets and necklaces or even piles of gold coins.

But there was no gleam of gold or treasure. There were no shining bracelets and not one beautiful dress! The look of excitement on her face quickly turned to one of disappointment and then horror. For Zeus had packed the box full of all the terrible evils he could think of. Out of the box poured disease and poverty. Out came misery, out came death, out came sadness – all shaped like tiny buzzing moths.

The creatures stung Pandora over and over again and she slammed the lid shut. Epimetheus ran into the room to see why she was crying in pain. Pandora could still hear a voice calling to her from the box, pleading with her to be let out. Epimetheus agreed that nothing inside the box could be worse than the horrors that had already been released, so they opened the lid once more.

All that remained in the box was Hope. It fluttered from the box like a beautiful dragonfly, touching the wounds created by the evil creatures, and healing them. Even though Pandora had released pain and suffering upon the world, she had also allowed Hope to follow them.


(http://nwso.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Pandoras-Box.jpg)

This story has always struck a chord in me. I’ve always found the Greek myths to hold so many truths in the form of true reflections on the real nature of humankind. Remember my last post? Can you see why Zeus, Athena and all the rest are not truly God’s at all, but just children with super powers. People just like all of us, but with super natural ability. This makes them superior to us physically, but certainly not morally and not spiritually and not emotionally. Could you really devote an existence to worshiping such a being? One so seemingly irrelevantly more powerful? Someone who can fling lightning bolts at you but is less mature? Surely not.

Myths such as this point out to me the in stark contrast the dire state of humankind’s moral condition. The christian bible talks of the fallen nature of man. I have always thought of this condition when thinking of Pandora’s box. Adam and Eve fell to curiosity and pride in the garden of eden and unleashed evil upon the world. Just as Pandora did. God had a plan however and HOPE and love also suddenly had an opportunity to show their power. The key difference here is that God/Jehovah did not instigate this situation but was forthright with Adam and Eve from the beginning: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” unlike Zeus who tricked and lied to Pandora.

The hope and love in our story takes the form of Jesus and his sacrifice to alleviate humankind (or at least those of humankind who accept Jesus) from the evils of this world infested with famine, disease, poverty, pain, suffering and all things evil. As Paul puts it in Galatians: “This present evil age”.

I’m afraid I got sidetracked onto a bit of a tangent, and so Music has not yet shown itself in this post as the Title may have suggested it would. My next post will be part two, with music as the topic.

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