06 November 2016

Comments Fall on Deaf Ears

I feel the need to reveal something to those who comment on my posts here:  I don't read them.  To be more honest, I actually CAN'T read them.  That sounds weird, so let me explain.

I wrote some time ago on the subject of internet comments and the fact that I had turned this feature off when I began using Blogger some six years ago.  As time passed, several features have been added to Blogger and I was put in the position to have to re-enable comments to make various features work as intended.

I still feel the same way about comments - I don't really want them. I try to keep commenting features disabled to avoid the inherent rudeness of giving the impression that I encourage comments when I actually don't want them at all. A strange thing happened though - commenting here on my blog is still enabled, but it is broken! I couldn't see people's comments even if I wanted to do so (which I really don't).  However, I see statistical evidence that people leave comments that I simply am unable to see. I can only think that people consider me a terribly obnoxious jerk for not acknowledging any comments.  I am sure there is plenty of evidence of my inherent jerkiness, but I am actually not displaying this in relation to the unseen and therefore unanswered comments.

I am surely able to be contacted, if you really feel the need and want to be encouraging. I don't make it easy but it can be done.  Just don't suppose you are talking to me via blog comments as it doesn't work.  May the bear yet save the world by finishing me off.

05 November 2016

Perhaps a More Clear Perception of the Ultimate Judgement

I am going to reiterate, yet again, that although I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and the basic outline of the afterlife that it espouses is the basis upon which I draw, I cannot say that what I present below is either factually true or an accurate depiction of the official LDS conception of life after death. I just love coming up with fresh ways of disclaiming everything I say!

I got so excited about sharing my thoughts of the telestial (lower), terrestrial (middle), and celestial (higher) rewards that God makes available to us that I forgot that I am describing the after-life out of order!  These rewards come at the far end of a rather drawn-out after-death process.

I think a lot of things I was taught in relation to the after-life were allegorical, especially if it is drawn from biblical descriptions. As an example, the whole concept of Hell was apparently based on a burning canyon of refuse a bit away from Jerusalem that was pretty nasty to behold (smell) and into which some people might have been thrown if the authorities didn't like them. It would be a great way to display the idea of hellish punishment to people who cannot be convinced to be decent otherwise. Christians believe in Jesus and Heaven and I hear that slightly more people trust that there is a Satan and a Hell. For my part, I think there is a Hell as well, but probably in a way that is different than most, but I will save that for another post.

When the term "Judgement" gets used, I think of a courtroom and I imagine a lot of other people do as well. There are lawyers, one defending you and another prosecuting you, bringing in witnesses and evidence either for or against a happy result. There is also a judge that we are told will be so correct that we cannot offer anything but ascent to his decision. Christians hope Jesus, as the defense lawyer, will do them a good and merciful turn. however, it seems the idea is something akin to the picture below - good folk going to some nice place and the bad folk being dragged off to a horrible punishment.

One view of Judgement, complete with effeminate angels and disgusting demons that might be jerking or alluring you toward Heaven or Hell.  I don't really know why everyone except the apparent workers are naked - perhaps they need to go shopping and haven't had a chance yet.
Is Judgement just an abstraction like Hell, to help us be concerned about our future and put out the noble work needed to justify a good verdict? Personally, I can definitely see this analogy being employed by a kind God who is trying to convince his more unenthusiastic children to live a better life. He isn't clear about specifics but the possibility of an adversarial and unpleasant court scene may turn a few heads and hearts for the better.

For all we know, Judgement will be an interview between God, the Savior, and the individual being judged, where we are shown how we REALLY are.  Can I be honest here? A lot of people think they are really wonderful (far more so than you or me), sycophantic people have sung their praises, and they think they deserve a wonderful reward beyond what their true natures justify. For instance, a lot of politicians probably fall into this "swelled-ego" category.  On the opposite side, some people think very much less of themselves, distrust most praise (I do this to an unhealthy level), and will think they deserve far less than God does.  Sometimes God needs to build our perceptions up, other times he needs to cut us down to true size, to help us see ourselves clearly. In my view, Judgement is all about finding such clarity and, once we see ourselves as we truly are, we will choose which glory fits our then clear perception best and God will simply concur.

I hope as I explored the differing rewards in past posts that I didn't give the impression that any of the three were comparatively bad - to my thinking, they are all wonderful in the eyes of their future residents and are deserving of the appellation of "Heaven". I also think that God is not disappointed in a person who lived and chooses the middle or lower glory. Everyone has their personal preferences and puts forth effort toward the glory that they authentically desire.  Of course, God encourages everyone to strive for the highest reward and assures us that each of his children have the capacity to attain the best - I think it really is dependent on the resolve and diligence of each person and what they REALLY WANT as displayed in thought and deed during their life.

That is what I think the Judgement will be like.

In grand backward order, I will move on, in a future post, to talk of heaven and hell, paradise and prison, rest and punishment, all terms for the same condition that actually occurs BEFORE Judgement.  Stay tuned.

31 October 2016

The Limitless Potential of a Celestial Labor

In the previous installments of this series of posts on the Plan of Happiness and the different "glories" to which one can aspire, each had a short descriptor: the telestial was a state of "no consequences" and the terrestrial had "no responsibilities". Now, I will attempt to describe the highest or "celestial" reward which I have chosen the phrase "no limits".

I can't find a cute description or picture for the celestial reward - there is very little recorded about it. It is compared with the light from the sun as compared to the light from the moon (representing the middle reward). Brighter! Warmer! Bring sunblock?
As I have described each reward, one may have noticed that the lower and middle rewards constitute a freedom "from" something: a condition where something that was undesirable in mortality is no longer present. The telestial glory eliminates culpability for actions. The terrestrial eliminates the need for further toil. These are often portrayed as the most unwanted elements of life on earth and, in the biblical creation story, were described as the major features of existence after our first parents were cast out of the Garden of Eden.

The celestial realm is, at its very heart, open-ended and definitively earns the title "no limits". Although it also provides the better circumstances of the other glories, such as an impervious body and a lack of physical wants, it also features the continuation of the liberating aspects of mortality. The celestial people can continue to learn and to grow, access limitless materials and form them as they desire, and develop as was possible on earth. The pinnacle of this endless growth is the ability to spend one's eternity parenting and nurturing other souls toward the same abilities.

It is difficult to imagine what a celestial existence will be like, which makes it quite different from the other rewards. In many ways, it will be a refinement of the life celestial-oriented people live now - in whatever form that takes. As broad and deep as human experience can be in mortality, celestial people will have similar circumstances, though both more broad and more deep in scope. It will really be without the disabilities that limit one's capability to reach their potential in life.

In the lower glories, one essentially trades continuing development for a claim to some exemption from it. For many people who focused attention on the trials of mortality in a "glass-half-empty" way, the conditions of the lower kingdoms are a wonderful prospect. If one was constantly worried at the prospect of "getting caught" doing some forbidden activity, the telestial is a permanent exemption from this - nothing is forbidden in a circumstance where everything regenerates and one has no access to tools or ability that cause harm to others and their environment - the proverbial "rubber room". For terrestrial folk, the trade-off involves the acquisition of an eternity of leisure without guilt over not doing more. In both the lower and middle glories, each person's focus is on oneself and the selfish desire to make their own life more carefree at some point.

The celestial person chooses to continue activities begun on earth in a grander arena, in a "glass-half-full" manner that seeks to ultimately fill all cups to overflowing. Christ and his prophets alluded to this often in their pleas to put other people's needs ahead of one's own. The act of helping another to develop to their potential is the ultimate Godly labor.  It is definitely work, though a most satisfying and worthy expenditure! It constitutes a depth of effort and a breadth of love that the best we can do in life can only serve as a prelude. Celestial glory is a desirable eternity for those who did what they could in life and show promise and a longing toward doing so much more once the limitations of mortality are lifted. The old adage is true: the reward for hard work is more work - celestial types actually find this concept appealing!

In a subsequent post, it will be interesting to think about the idea of "Judgement" which can often be viewed as unpleasant. As expected, my personal view of this might be different than most. Stay tuned!






23 October 2016

The Gated Retirement Community of Carefree Terrestrial Rest

My maternal grandmother (Gran) was a good Christian woman. She believed that her afterlife would be filled with harp-playing and quietly praising Jesus while floating in a cloudy heaven, protected from the riff-raff by an ever-vigilant Saint Peter who ran a portal called the "Pearly Gates". It was her Christian duty to denounce The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) (to which her daughter and grandchildren had converted) and to fib to her friends and family that my mother and her children (including me) actually went to another congregation of Gran's chosen non-LDS denomination because of Sunday timing preferences.

Again, Gran was a good woman and accustomed to hard work, likely a product of her upbringing in the highly religious and relatively hard-pan frontier of west Texas and eastern New Mexico. She never thought much of her progeny's religious choices, but she was kindly and loving regardless. I knew her primarily in her retirement, where she was an industrious cook, always had a nice car, a nice home, a big TV, and had resources enough to eat in restaurants regularly. My early view of what constituted a proper conclusion, and hoped-for afterlife, was something along the lines of what my grandmother enjoyed in her latter years.

In this promised continuation (previous post here) of philosophical visits to different levels of "glory" or "kingdoms" that one might aspire to for an afterlife, which I interpret from the Mormon Plan of Salvation, I now consider the middle or "terrestrial" reward. (Please understand that what follows is my personal concept of the afterlife and doesn't necessarily reflect the doctrines of the LDS Church.)

If you think of what my grandmother believed about heaven and her life as I perceived it as described above, I think that is an apt concept of what the middle reward will be like. I will go on a limb here and estimate that most Christians aspire to this middle glory as their version of "Heaven". This concept goes approximately as follows:

Picture in your mind a very upscale retirement community. People play golf, they grill and pursue pleasant hobbies, the place is maintained perfectly, and you don't have to lift a finger to make it happen. You worked all through a good life and this is your reward - not having to work anymore! Alternately, you can think of an never-ending tour on a cruise ship - everything is already paid for and you can just relax and recreate forever.  To people who toiled away for most of their lives, a pleasant retirement in their autumn years and an eternity at rest sounds just divine, doesn't it? Where the catchprase for the telestial (lower) reward was "no consequences", a simple description for the terrestrial (middle) reward might be "no responsibilities".

There was an entertaining display of genteel and light-hearted Christianity in the original VeggieTales video series. The following snippet showcases my perception that the terrestrial glory would be very familiar to residents of gated retirement communities.



I don't want to make anyone who achieves a terrestrial glory feel bad about it - It is a very good reward that follows a life of basically doing good. Of course, I have alluded to the fact that there are three basic glories to which one can aspire alongside God's marvelous grace. The highest "kingdom", known as the celestial, has a description and posting of its own that is soon to come.

16 October 2016

An Eternal Groundhog Day of Telestial Hedonism

You remember that funny and touching Harold Ramis movie Groundhog Day? Phil Conners, played by Bill Murray, lives through countless renditions of the same day. Philosophers, theologians, and psychologists have cheered the movie and its message (intended or not by Ramis and Company) for all sorts of reasons, from the idea that we should "live in the day" to the benefits of the concept of reincarnation.  In that grand tradition, I offer my own take on the premise of the movie and how my wonderful wife helped me see such things in a wider context.

Mormons believe that God has a plan for us, often called the Plan of Salvation.  The official plan from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is HERE and my own interesting adaptation can be found HERE. (Please understand that what follows is my personal concept of the afterlife and doesn't necessarily reflect the doctrines of the LDS Church.) At the distant "end" of this salvation process, every person is sent to a "kingdom" or "glory" that they earned through their thoughts and doings while on Earth, combined with the grace of Christ. There are three basic glories - The telestial, terrestrial, and celestial. I am going to reserve any comment on the high (celestial) or middle (terrestrial) kingdoms for now and focus our attention on the low (telestial) one.

The telestial kingdom is the catchment glory for people who don't merit a better kingdom - the bulk of the population of the Earth throughout time will end up there because they didn't put forth much effort toward getting a better reward. Every kind of low-life and scum will be there alongside the lazy and those who never got around to being particularly decent.

Can you see the character of Phil Conners in that description?  I'm not talking about the one at the end of the film who had finished his development program in piano and tire-changing.  I am talking about the guy who, in the company of Ralph and Gus, made this realization early on:
Driving with a Phil unconcerned by consequences




Phil: What if there were no tomorrow?
Gus: No tomorrow? That would mean there would be no consequences, there would be no hangovers. We could do whatever we wanted!
Phil: That's true. We could do whatever we want.


Behold!  The ruling attribute of the lowest glory! From the most powerful ruler to the most powerless serf, the telestial man has the same desire - they want an existence where they can do whatever they please and suffer no consequences.  Like the Groundhog Day movie, these people want to wake up to each new day as if the gluttony, pleasures, and pillaging of the nights before never happened.

LDS teachings also say that every person will be resurrected after their mortal life ends with a glorious body that has no pain or sickness and will never die again. Likewise, I believe these "kingdoms of glory" that I spoke of before will be similarly indestructible, worlds that cannot be ruined or destroyed.

Imagine the possibilities! Your rotten neighbor steals all the apples from off your trees every night, but you don't care because the apples are regenerated every morning. You can go to the mountains and burn down the forest that surrounds you and no one bats an eye because it will be regrown in the blink of that eye! No consequences. It will be a dream-world for those who choose to practice no self-control - the telestial people.

Of course, God will not be trusting anything he truly values to such people, so there will likely be nothing particularly worthwhile on such worlds. For instance, God will not trust such people with treasures like children so he simply removes their ability to procreate, leaving a favorite activity from mortality (unbridled sexual pleasure) without any of the responsibility (parenthood). Again, such an afterlife is a "heaven" for those who love their vices more than anything else but hate the aftermath.

Please remember that this is the lowest glory that God offers. There are better glories to be sought for, but a person needs to be able to forgo a future of telestial hedonism to have them.

Coming up, I will describe my take on that middle or terrestrial glory.  Stay tuned!

09 September 2016

Luna Lovegood is a Happy Person. Would You Like to Be as Well?

My wife and I have read through the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling. It was the first time for me as I avoided it during its publishing heyday. It was good together time for us and ended up being quite thought-provoking for me, which was a surprise.

For instance, I particularly enjoyed the character of Luna Lovegood. She is a transcendent person already in her teens, rising above the pettiness of her cohort, speaking truth and kindness when everyone else choose the paths of covering their egos and nursing their hatreds, wearing their hearts on their sleeves. She will tell you what you need to hear in such an unassuming way that it bores into your soul past your typical defenses. Luna was almost ethereal yet unbendingly upbeat compared to those around her, reliable in her honesty and thoughtfulness. I consider her an excellent role model.

Luna, as a character, represents one of those people that it is an uplifting experience just to be near. Although she is initially odd and off-putting, she ends up being the greatest of friends. I wouldn't mind being such a person.

Wouldn't you rather be like Luna?  She is happy almost all the time, forgives everyone, and always looks on the bright side, even in the dungeons of life.

It brings to mind the story of Glenn Beck and the Amazing Mr. Plastic Man, who helped the talk-show host desire greater happiness and a way to get it. Not surprisingly to me, it came through the restored gospel as taught through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which, like Luna Lovegood and our own Psychic Proximity Principle, is often viewed askance. Worthwhile relationships and pursuits are often seen that way in the beginning.

Perhaps you are searching for something that you lack - true happiness. You have a good chance of finding it in the path followed by Luna Lovegood and the Amazing Mr. Plastic Man!

14 August 2016

The Freedom to Choose, Abortion, and a Warning

If you haven't already noticed, I am a classical liberal in my political bent and I most greatly appreciate the political philosophy of the late Harry Browne, who was the Libertarian Party candidate for POTUS in 1996 and 2000. Although I support many of the principles of the LP, I am not a member nor do I particularly support the ideas of Gary Johnson or Bill Weld.  However, I tend to vote for libertarian candidates when I am given the option because I want to record my desire for very small government, greatly expanded liberty, and the original intentions of the writers of the founding documents of the United States of America.

Given all of this, my attitude about much legislation these days reflects a desire that federal governments not be run by zealous social engineers of any stripe, right or left.  Individual choice is good and should be given as free a rein as possible.  Although children should be beholden to their parents until they reach maturity, adults should be primarily beholden to themselves and have very few compulsions placed upon them by external forces such as government.  Adults should be able to choose their own actions insofar as they do not curtail the choices of other adults.

Everything above summed up:  Choice is good.  Additionally, I have a personal attitude that Abortion is bad.

The practice of ending the development of new human life, except in cases where the life of the mother is gravely threatened, is an evil thing in my eyes.  My desire is that the rather flippant aborting of new life, often with the excuse of inconvenience or "symbolic" assertion of women's rights, become more and more rare.  It seems I am not going to get my wish in this case given the current social climate, but I will keep stating my stance on this subject.

Although I think abortion is an odious act, I also think that each person involved in a decision to abort or not should be able to choose their actions in relation to it. If a woman wants to abort, that is her choice to make. If the doctor involved doesn't want to perform this abortion, they also have that choice and a more willing practitioner could be found. If the biological father is an adult and desires to curtail the abortion and take responsibility for the birthed child, that choice must be considered as well and the justice system may need to be involved to resolve any conflicts over the shared pregnancy (the woman didn't conceive without help!) and its outcome. As (potential) children are beholden to their (potential) parents, principles of choice dictate a rejection of any appeal to the "rights of the unborn" in a purely pragmatic sense in this case - the waters are muddy enough.

I repeat, I think abortion is an evil thing.  However, people have the right to choose to be a party to abortions.  Further, I really hope that these people will choose not to pursue abortions, especially as an answer to relatively small embarrassments and social inconvenience. This is a very serious decision to make, often wrapped in large emotional and religious consequences and associated responsibilities.

I view very dimly those who "promote" abortion for any reason beyond a clear threat to the individual woman's life. Any coercion used to encourage an abortion impedes a woman's ability to choose their acts in full understanding of their culpability. Legislators that authorize the use of public funds to subsidize abortion and its promotion are just as liable to consequences as direct promoters. Funding for abortion services can, with greater integrity, be raised from sympathetic donors with full understanding of the activities being funded.  The act of taxing people opposed to abortion for its subsidized provision is, at its heart, unjust and foul. The tenets of liberty are offended by the forced subsidy of abortion by those who oppose the practice (ala Obamacare).  

Women still have choice - one can choose not to have an abortion.  Sadly, forces are working diligently with the young, the poor, and the troubled (feeding on ignorance) to convince them to hate children (Baby Think-it-over), to have (protected) sex like drunk monkeys (I apologize if I offend monkeys), and to abort every "unwanted" (actually every) conception. These are veiled cousins to the old eugenics and sterilization programs that tried to eradicate "undesirable" groups, like blacks. Such abortion promoters are actually enlisting each woman's help in the destruction of her own culture, race, and society!

May I offer a warning to my Judeo-Christian/Islamic friends?  God is really weird about a few things - one of them is taking human life. He punishes "fooling around" with non-productive sex and aborting sexual "accidents" just as strongly as he does murder.  If your spiritual leader is too shy or liberalized to say so, I will: You put your soul in serious jeopardy through the flippant disregard for God's stance regarding intimacy, conception, childbearing, and human life.

You can choose to honor life and use your procreative powers appropriately. You can stop supporting abortive practices yourself and implore others to do the same. The point is that we don't use instruments of force, like government, to make others do things in a fashion that pleases us.