Four dead-end roads

How to arrive at a truthful and (if possible) joyful life? This is
justifiably the desire of humans, and it’s my desire. I tried several
ways:

  1. Child-like accepted faith. I accepted to have found
    truth and a joyful life through Jesus, without thinking about it. This
    failed when I began to think about it in ~1996.
  2. Intellectualized fundamentalist faith. I was absolutely
    convinced to have found truth and a joyful life through Jesus, as I
    collected and thought about and accepted all the fundamentalist’s
    arguments for believing in Jesus. This failed in beginning 2005 when I
    realized this had shifted me to a legalistic, joyless, strained life
    with deliberate but not necessarily true convictions.
  3. Experienced faith with emotions. This was the best time
    yet: I got to know Jesus in a totally different way as a loving,
    gracious friend and saviour. Along the way, I throwed out many
    legalistic and otherwise strained convictions and wrote about that. But
    the best thing was that I experienced God personally in concrete ways,
    including some few supernatural experiences that I accept as genuine
    even today and honest, precious relationships to friends. That was
    really a time of joyful life … it ended in first half of 2006 when I
    experienced God no longer in these ways and then started to question
    the genuineness of some of these experiences, and the validity of my
    emotional reactions to them.
  4. Demystified history-backed faith. The following time was
    filled with many philosophical considerations about God, genuine
    experiences with God, valid emotionality etc.. It resulted in throwing
    out many opinions I once held and now recognized as non-genuine,
    mystical and religious … as documented in my blog articles. The
    result was an intellectually justifiable faith in Jesus, and if only as
    the basic conviction that Jesus is the Christ if there is any God
    at all
    (which is also
    faith
    ). My faith was now founded in the historical facts about
    Jesus and the hope to find contemporary miracles of God in the Second
    Acts project (see my article “My
    vision for my life, as a mindmap
    “). This ended on Tuesday
    (2007-11-13) when I realized that this course would lead me neither to
    joy nor truth: it is the stressful, self-navigated philosophical course
    of a desparate seeker, therefore something that excludes joy; it also
    excludes joy as it would not lead to any new experiences with God,
    emphasizing thinking so much, not doing; and it would not lead to a
    confirmed conviction of truth in the short run, as Second Acts is
    rather a long-term project.

Fifth start: Jesus-led practical faith with experiences

My above mentioned human desire for a way to truth and life is
acknowledged by Jesus as he promised all three: “I am the way, and
the truth, and the life.” (John
14:16 ESV
). Jesus even promised to be the way to truth and life
himself – which is the new idea for my fifth start: to let Jesus be the
way. Another way round: if there is an Almighty,
there’s no need for me to live this stressful seeker’s life, as God is
then able to lead me to truth and life anyway; and if there is no
Almighty, there’s also no need to live this stressful seeker’s life, as
there’s nothing to be found.

Now, what shall this analogy mean to “let Jesus be the way”?

  • Stop to find out yourself. That is, at least for me,
    stop the current habit to philosophize, as it makes stuff really
    complicated and mostly joyless. The only alternative to excessive
    thinking is to start doing something. Which will also result in more
    practical articles in the future.
  • Expect God to navigate your life. That does not mean to
    just sit and wait, but to stop worrying where all this will end. As,
    such worries are implied in a self-navigated life: the problem is
    navigation when you neither know where to go nor how to get there.
    Letting God navigate, however, implies to not expect him to adhere to
    your own plans (as I proudly did with my agenda how to find truthful
    and joyful life). But you can trust him to strictly adhere to good
    plans 🙂 Only if you let God navigate, you’re going to make
    experiences with God; when deciding all for yourself, you’re going to
    make experiences with yourself.
  • Expect God to find ways to answer your questions. I
    won’t accept
    unjustified a priori statements about God and how he wants to navigate
    my life, and also, I won’t return to finding out myself about God and
    how he wants to navigate my life. But I expect that God will find ways
    to show me the truth about him and how he guides people, in a way I can
    justifiedly accept.
  • Expect God to find ways to confirm himself by experiences.
    Philosophy shows what could possibly be true, but one needs
    to experience facts to know for sure. But, stop searching those facts
    yourself, as that’s stressful and joyless. Personally, I expect God to
    show himself in my own practical life … and  to let me know what
    he does currently in this world. Wherefore I want to pursue this Second
    Acts idea further, but in a not-so-desparate way, expecting God to
    correct it or make it succeed.
  • Find your flavor of a lively, relaxed, simple relationship to
    the Father, Jesus and the Spirit.
    There’s no need to dig up again
    legalistic or fundamentalist  practices of faith, but you need a
    pratical faith to get out of the theoretical realm. See below for
    concrete ideas. Whatever form you choose, put emphasis on a proud-free
    relationship that has room for collecting concrete experiences with
    believing God.

Caveat: these elements of “letting Jesus be the way” may sound as if
one should expect an immediate, 24/7 relationship with God. This is not
the case (see my article “The
third way of life in this world
“). You can expect God to
navigate your life, but it is unclear in what way and when you can
expect this. You’ll have to try yourself. From my experience I conclude
that it can be very different form immediate, audible or visible words
😉

Practical ideas for practical faith

As said, you’ll need to let God choose the experiences you make in a
radical-practical faith that’s led by God. All we can do is to durnish
an environment that fosters practical experiences with God. Here are
some ideas, but as I’m right at the beginning I’m quite clueless and
would appreciate any additions. What is very obvious is that practical
faith needs practice: thinking and talking alone has neither power nor
effect. One cannot learn how to live with God practically from
philosophizing and blogging (as in my case).

  • Fill the day with people. Whatever filled the day that
    was not practical faith, it is worth to be replaces by just that: by
    the simple and beautiful activity of having community with people
    sharing practical Christian love and building authentic relationships,
    which is very precious. One practical idea: when living alone, one
    might move to a flat-sharing community.
  • Collect some inspirations for outer forms. The goal of
    every outer form of faith is to support and foster the practical
    relationship with Jesus. You may look for new forms if you find
    inadequate what you know; for example, look at some things
    the emergent church movement does. Any outer form that supports even
    such basic things as memorizing what you know to be true is worth to be
    considered. This may include appropriate dealing with music and lyrics.
  • Find your positive access to the Bible. Whatever problem
    you may have with the Bible (or, more precisely: human conceptions of
    the Bible), it is the most important document for the Christian faith.
    Therefore, face your problems and find for yourself how to dig up that
    buried treasure. I once made good experiences with the four gospels,
    getting to know Jesus in a new way. And with changing the translation
    … . Also, I made the experience that faith can become quite arrogant
    and overcomplicated if one forgets the basics … which are spoken
    about in the Bible.
  • Collect your prejudices against God. After a frustrating
    period, it might be a good idea to find out what exactly is ones
    frustration now. That avoids an overall, diffuse disclination and
    fosters to consciously lay down these issues and try to learn about God
    anew.
  • Invest into honest, authentic friendships. This
    includes: daring to trust without fear, daring to be open and really
    (!) honest about yourself, daring to be interested in other people (not
    just their abilities or gifts), daring to enter a dynamic relationship
    without knowing the direction, talking about
    unconvenient matters, daring to struggle with each other (in a
    constructive way) and learning to do so.
  • Start to believe again in everyday life. Pray and
    believe, as those who do not pray won’t receive. It might be a
    difficult time to learn why so many many prayers do not get answered
    and what God really wants, but without starting to pray one can never
    arrive at positive experiences with God’s gifts.

Start date: 2007-11-16
Post date: 2007-11-16
Version date: 2007-11-16 (for last meaningful change)

Introduction

Some of my previous articles contained experimental thoughts about
the nature and relationship of human spirit and body. Namely:

They were good for
nothing more than to question our traditional conceptions, to catalyse
thinking in new directions. These thoughts have developed somewhat
further now so that I’m able to present a consistent hypothesis here.
This will hopefully the last post about this topic: I think I’m
satisfied to know one possibility how to harmonize the
neuropsychological and the biblical image of humanity. I don’t need to
know if this possibility is correct … and I cannot, lacking the
resources for the necessary experiments. So, after this article I’ll
turn to some more practical topics.

My motivation for thinking about the body/spirit relationship was
that it really bothered me to know no explanation for the seeming
contradiction between modern neuroscience and the biblical concept of a
human “spirit” … I am not willing to believe biblical content at the
expense of scientific integrity, and I am not willing to mistrust
biblical content based on preliminary scientific results. So I am happy
to offer my harmonizing hypothesis here, and I am curious whether or
not it will
prove valid while science develops further in the next years.

Spirit: a phenomenological definition

How to define “human spirit”? A first shot would be: spirit is
“intention”, either body-less or abstractable from the body. Or: spirit
is an intention generation system (a “mind”), either body-less or
abstractable from the body. But it’s not that easy, there is much
confusion what abilities are attributed to the spirit and what not.
Also, the “spirit” concept is mainly used in areas with low overall
affinity to scientific thinking, e.g. in Christianity. Here, some
people might say spirit is “the ability to communicate with God” or
only “the knowledge that there is a God” which animals have not. Other
Christians might attribute typically human abilities (like semantic
language, rational thinking etc.) to the spirit. Again, others think
the spirit is mainly a “higher quality, immaterial cybernetic system”,
opposed to soul (with emotions) and body (with biochemistry etc.), and
argue that man has to seek “living out of his (renewed) spirit” to be
holy.

To get out of this confusion, this article takes a simple
phenomenological perspective: all or some differences between higher
animals and humans are attributed to the spirit. Because people (esp.
Christians) agree at least in this point that animals do not have a
spirit. This definition is enough for the purpose of this article.

Hypothesis presentation: brain-powered human spirit

The intuitive Christian conception of “spirit” is probably: it is an
entity, it is the center of a person, it is made of non-material
substance, it does not die, and it is able to communicate with my body
or at least my brain. This conception comes probably from the idea that
Genesis 2:7 implies that God imparted something divine (i.e.
non-material substance) to man at his creation, and that this is being
made in “God’s image” (Genesis 1:26 WEB), contrary to animals:

“Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and
breathed into
his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
(Genesis
2:7 WEB)

Now, neuroscience seems to indicate that all of human’s mental
capabilities are brain capabilities (see the justification below),
among them rational thinking, semantic language and all other
differences to animals. So, no non-material spirit is needed to explain
the differences between animals and humans. Wherefore, then, do we need
the concept of a “spirit” at all?

The hypothesis introduced here is this:

“Human spirit” designates the brain capabilities that
distinguish
humans from all animals. So, human spirit is materially implemented in
the brain, but there is also something like “immaterial spirit”,
sharing comparable attributes but a non-material implementation.
Material
and immaterial spirit are functionally compatible to some degree, e.g.
they can communicate with each other.

To prevent misunderstandings: in this hypothesis, “spirit” is not a
later introduced abstraction
to verbalize the perceived differences between humans and animals, but
an intentionally created “thing”: created by God, who created the
differences between humans and
animals to resemble the differences between God and creatures.

What is new in this hypothesis is to view “spirit” as
implementation-independent: it might be implemented in material
substance (as with humans) or in non-material substance (as with angels
e.g.). This central idea is justifiable from the purpose the creator
God intended for this world (see below), and it allows to harmonize
neuroscience and the biblical concept of “spirit” and a “spiritual
world”: it is in harmony with the (probable) result of neuroscience
that man is made from matter and nothing else, and with the biblical
message that man has a spirit and that there is a non-material,
spiritual world out there.

Hypothesis justification

Being the image of God demands for a brain-powered spirit

Let’s question the intuitive conception of “being created in the
image of God”, which is something like: because God is an immaterial
being, man must have an immaterial component, too, that is, the human
spirit. However, how about this view:
man is God’s image not in the abolute sense (i.e. compared to God) but
in the relative sense (compared to this world’s nature). To be God
implies to be strongest of all, yet the bible says that angels are
stronger than men – therefore, man cannot be the image of God relative
to the spiritual world. Yet man is the image of God relative to this
world, which he was told to subdue and have domion over (Genesis 1:28).
Probably it is in this sense that the bible calls us “Gods” (Psalms
82:6).

If this conception of being the “image of God” is correct, it does
no longer necessarily imply that the human spirit is made of the same
immaterial substance as God’s. The human spirit is the image
of God’s spirit: it is a spirit relative to the material world
around him, but the image of a spirit relative to God. As with other
images, there is likeness but also reduction implied: a photography
reduces a four-dimensional world to only two. Relative to the material
world, some higher brain
capabilities qualify as “spirit” (as they
enable language, ratio, …) and give the attributes of a “God of this
world” to man, as it enables men to have dominion.

It seems that God intended this disconnectedness between the
material and the immaterial world, creating the material world as an
independent, four-dimensional image to view at it and be glad. To grasp
it in concepts of physics, the material and the immaterial world might
be said to be parallel universa, (nearly) completely disconnected from
each other. Only if man is in such a “universe of its own” that exists
independent from God’s concrete intervention, he qualifies as the god
of this area, i.e. the image of his creator God. This kind of demands
that man is completely made from material substance, to uphold this
disconnectedness from the immaterial universe.

The difficulties of spirit/brain interaction demand for a
brain-powered spirit

If one assumes that the spirit is a separate entity from the body,
one
has to assume an “interface”: something that creates the undissolvable
link between an individual spirit and an individual body. As a
atom-by-atom copy would be connected to a different spirit, this
connection cannot have a material implementation, i.e. one assumes that
a supernatural element is implied in the body of every human being.
That’d be an inconsistency in God’s creation, a nasty flaw, from an
engineering perspective. So it should be assumed that nothing of a
person would exist if the body would not exist.

And another indication that the human spirit is brain-powered: the
alternative would be a brain-spirit interface. Brain injuries which
affect typically human (“spiritual”) capabilities like language show
that these capabilities are distributed all over the brain. Which
implies that a non-material spirit would have to
interact with the brain as a whole. This however is really improbable,
as one would have to assume then that spirit can interface with all
kind of matter (as the brain is no special matter).

And another reason: brain injuries that affect small areas of the
brain can result in losing spiritual capabilities like language. Which
means that a brain-powered spirit would probably consist of a
relatively small area of the brain; the
description of this small structure might well fit into the believed 3%
of DNA
divergence between humans and modern apes. Remember that the spirit is
not detectable from a specific outward form of the body or one of it’s
organs, it just enables beings to use their limbs and organs in more
complex ways. The spirit is better software (in the sense of: control
ability) for an otherwise identic body. Even better, it is
self-learning software and probably loaden with emergence, that is,
it might be a really compact piece of
DNA that describes it.

Hypothesis application: implications on various phenomena

  1. Sleep. If the spirit would be a non-material entity, one
    would have to assume that awareness of self continues while the body is
    asleep. This is not the case, which indicates that the spirit is
    brain-powered, and sleep means that the brain area for creating
    “awareness
    of self” is put into another mode of function.
  2. Coma. If the spirit would be a non-material entity,
    awareness of self and spiritual activities like thinking sould continue
    even if the body is in coma or vegetative state. But he have no
    indications to think so.
  3. Metal handicaps. This could be explained as a defect of
    the material part of the brain-spirit interface (assuming the spirit is
    a non-material entity) or as a defect of the brain itself (if the
    spirit is assumed to be brain-powered). Occam’s razor
    advises to use
    the most economic explanation, and this is to postulate that all mental
    human capabilities are implemented in his brain, not in a immaterial
    spirit.
  4. Heart vs. head. If human spirit is
    brain-powered, there cannot be
    a qualitative difference between “heart” (in the imaginary sense of:
    the center of will and direction) and “rational thinking”, as
    both are brain capabilities; at least there cannot be a qualitative
    difference out of metaphysical reasons. However, currently many
    Christians assume rational thinking to be of lower quality.
  5. The social gets important. If the human spirit is
    brain-powered, the social area is related to the spirit in the sense of
    its emergence.
    Therefore, it could no longer be justified to view society with all its
    complicatedness as “unimportant for spiritual / Christian matters”. As,
    society would belong to humanity just as the brain does. Things like
    social atmosphere, room atmosphere, optical impression etc. could no
    longer be completely low-valued out of a priori reasons.
  6. Humans have no supernatural abilities. With a
    brain-powered spirit, it would be sure that humans cannot have
    abilities that transcend the laws of nature. This would, for example,
    change the view of prayer: prayer is no “direct spirit-to-spirit
    communication” with God, but normal, materially implemented talking (as
    we do with humans) or thinking. It would reach God only because God, as
    an omniscient being, perceives all that happens onn earth.
  7. What is original sin? If the human spirit is implemented
    as a brain capability, then original sin might be nothing that is
    passed on by inheritance, but by learning from other sinners.
  8. The homogenous conception of man. Often, it is argued
    that the Bible does not teach that human’s are made from separate
    components (like the trichotomy of body, soul and spirit) but that all
    these are only aspects of an integrated whole. If however man would be
    made up of an immaterial spirit and a material body, this exegesis is
    difficult to apply. With an brain-powered spirit it is easy, however:
    humans are made of matter and matter only, and the body is indeed an
    integrated whole where each part affects each other.
  9. What is being filles with the Spirit? Being filled with
    the Holy Spirit changes people’s behavior, as reported on many
    occasions in Acts. From the perspective of a brain-powered spirit, this
    would be supernaturally caused, (temporary) changes in the programming
    of the brain, or functional equivalent to that.
  10. The body is not the shell. If the spirit is implemented
    as a brain capability, the body is much more important than it is to
    those who think their body is just the “shell” they will leave back
    when they die. Dismissing these thoughts will lead to a new awareness
    and appreciation for one’s body: “I am what my body is, not something
    that dwells in my body.”
  11. Creating new people. If the spirit is brain-powered,
    then the procreation of a human being happens completely in the
    material realm. Because there is no necessity for an act of God, like
    “creating the non-material spirit”. This is a really cool implication,
    as it says: God created man as an being that independent that man is
    able to re-reate himself without the help of God. Which would mean, God
    gave man the true ability to create, making him a true image of God
    also in this sense. One can sense the parents marvelling at the ability
    to create in tehir likeness just and God created them in his likeness,
    when the first man and the first woman created a son:

    “In the day that God created man, he made him in God’s
    likeness. He created them male and female, and blessed them, and called
    their name “Adam,” in the day when they were created. Adam lived one
    hundred thirty years, and became the father of a son in his own
    likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” (Genesis 5:1-3)

    But this implies also a great and awesome
    responsibility: humans, not God, are the reasons why new humans come
    into existence. And it demystifies our conception about our own origin:
    we are not as we are “because God created us as we are”, with all
    attributes and abilities, but because of natural and random effects
    occuring during the recombination of chromosomes. Else one had to
    assume that God creates animals the same way, i.e. by directing the
    only apparantly random recombination of chromosomes.

  12. Who is Jesus? According to the biblical records, Jesus
    proclaimed to be the Son of God, i.e. God himself. Which implies that
    he cannot be just an ordinary man, as he had a preexistence as an
    immaterial, spiritual being (as “God is spirit”, John 4:24). Therefore,
    the process of incarnation is something supernatural, but compatible
    with the ranges of above mentioned hypothesis: it would be an
    implementation change, from a non-materially implemented spirit to a
    brain-powered spirit, transfering some or all mental attributes.
  13. Heaven and earth als parallel universa. One can
    understand the biblical concept “earth” as the material universe
    (including our material world and us humans with our brain-powered
    spirits), and one can understand the biblical concept “heaven” as the
    non-material universe where God and the angels dwell. Because they are
    disconnected with respect to the natural laws, it is impossible to
    assign a relative location to them. God promised to create once a new
    heaven and a new earth, and that resurrected believers in Christ will
    then be in “heaven”. Which is quite interesting, as it says that they
    will be spiritual beings “like God’s angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).
    This is compatible with the hypothesis that the human spirit is
    brain-powered: it is implemented in material substance now but might
    get re-implemented in non-material substance later, thereby retaining
    all experiences and memories.
  14. Intended closuredness of the material universe.
    Traditionally, it is assumed in the Christian faith that the creation
    of angels and the creation of the material world has some connection to
    each other. This is easy to justify if humans are spiritual, angel-like
    beings, but placed in a body. But if they are totally material beings
    however, as argued here, there is not necessarily an intended
    connection between the two universa. That is, it could have been
    totally against God’s will that non-material spirits like Lucifer
    interfer with the material world, as they did. It was possible however,
    as the non-material universe seems to be a “superset” or in another
    sense the mightier one.
  15. Recognizing God within people. A brain-powered spirit is
    the “programming” of a person, inclucing character, intentions,
    attitude etc.. God, also having a spirit, also has character,
    intentions, attitude etc.. Which makes it possible that these (holy)
    attributes of God are, by God’s power, presented in the life of humans,
    to hint people towards God. And these hints would be justifiable: they
    mean something, but perhaps they are not obvious in some situations.
    Whereever people change in character, intentions, attitude etc., it is
    a change in spirit – effected by education or perhaps through the Holy
    Spirit.
  16. What is possession by spirits? The Holy Spirit does not
    make people possessed, but offers an undirected, positive force that
    people can use to want and do good. Demons however want to possess
    people, that is, completely control them. This implies a supernatural
    genesis: a non-material spirit controls the body of a human. The
    results however would be completely in the material realm, that is, a
    change in the programming of the brain. The possibility of possession
    (when affirmed) shows at least that spirits are compatible with each
    other with respect to interaction, and the respective implementation
    would not matter.
  17. Immortal experiences. Humans learn things in this world.
    This would have no value for eternal life, however, if all our
    experiences would get lost upon death. They would, if only a
    non-material spirit would survive while all our experiences and
    memories are stored in brain. But they do not, if humans have a
    brain-powered spirit, implying that all experiences belong to their
    spirit and are resurrected with the spirit. Just as software can be
    copied to a new computer. The value of generating our “software” in the
    tedious process of learning in this world rather than by creatio ex
    nihilo (also possible)
    is this: in the latter case, the result would be identical, but the
    facts would be different, as no history is implied which would
    attribute a worth to the “software”.

Discussion: advantages, differences, difficulties

Of course, this hypothesis is just a first draft and nothing one
should follow as a “new belief system” (beware, readers!). It’s just
meant as a set of experimental thoughts to foster reconciliation
between the scientific and the Christian image of humanity. As a draft,
it contains several difficulties and open questions. The following come
to my mind, and you may add your own below:

  • Jesus said that his words “are spirit” (John 6:63). This cannot
    just mean that these words are “information”, as this wouldn’s make
    them different from human words. Perhaps he uses “spirit” (in the sense
    of: from the Holy Spirit) do designate the quality of his words, as
    opposed to human “fleshly” quality?
  • How to explain inner impressions from supernatural sources
    (images, dreams, visions) in this theory? This implies to find
    authentic and trustable accounts of such impressions.
  • How to place the biblical concept of “flesh” into this
    hypothesis? According to the Bible, spirit and flesh are opposed to
    each other (Galatians 5:17): does that mean the Holy Spirit as a
    person, or the human spirit? In both cases, what is “flesh”, as it must
    have functions in the same are area as spirit, or else it couldn’t be
    opposed to spirit.
  • Postulating that there is a non-material spiritual world out
    there demands to search for verifications, e.g. finding trustable
    accounts of miracles etc..
  • How do education (of the human spirit) and spiritual influence
    (from the Holy Spirit) relate to each other? One proposal would be:
    education is a law-like force, using pressure and expectation, and is
    therefore unable to create “wanting the good” in somebody. While the
    Holy Spirit (functionally equivalent to a changed programming of the
    brain) gives just this: an undirected force to want what is good.
  • There is no indication that angels are made of the same
    “spiritual” substance that God, is it? They might just as well be a
    created universe of their own, not God’s “natural” living place since
    eternity, but the place he chose to dwell. However, this article assume
    yet that angels and God are related by substance.

Start date: 2007-11-04
Post date: 2007-11-15
Version date: 2007-11-16 (for last meaningful change)

Smooth societal life. People striving for survival won’t understand this: living a highly civilized lifestyle deprives of life. Within this lifestyle, I don’t have any intensive experiences. That is, I can barely distinguish between my   “experiences”. That is, I have no experiences at all, just everyday life. That way, people don’t feel alive, as they cannot recognize from their experiences that they are living beings. The fact that such a culture often tries to tie up every aspect of life adds to this excessively boring, vigilant coma like state. For example, in Switzerland and Germany, everything is poured into concrete by an enormous amount of laws and regulations, until nearly every degree of freedom is missing. The upside of this state is: you don’t have to bother for survival, for the next day or anything else. The system does it.

Smooth spiritual life. It seems to me that an analogous development took place in the spiritual life of many Christians who live in such a culture: their faith got “domesticated”. The typical Christian lives a very adapted life, including a house, a car, a career, womb-to-tomb security and good social status. Filling the life with such stuff was only possible by getting rid of all risky behavior, including the expectance of miracles. Because we do not risk anything, nothing happens: our spiritual experiences got levelled down so that strong, obvious experiences are no longer possible.

Radical life. Life was not always that boring and meaningless as in this kinda society where radical lifestyle is rare and unwanted. Christianity started as a radical grassroots movement, and it was even dangerous to be part of it. But whenever domestication creeps in, visions are displaced. The smooth kinda lifestyle I criticize above are reconized from the lack of visions. Visions are always risky business: you cannot know if you’ll have success. Therefore, visions are incompatible with a security-oriented, smooth (and boring) life. One should define: revival is when new visions arise, i.e. conceptions of what should or could be.

Practical radical life. Now I’m going to awake the longing for radical, non-boring, not-everyday life in me and my readers. Radical life must be practical radical life, not just a collection of impractical radical thoughts. I have to  admit that my vision for a mobile, high-power, intentional Christian community of about 10 friends is something beyond reach at the moment … it’s impractical at the moment as there is no handle to start it immediately. Therefore, here are some other suggestions how to start living out your newly found radicality immediately.

  1. Stop theological discussions. Theological discussions (e.g. about the nature of the Trinity) are implicitly never radical, as they cannot be put into radical practice. Concentrate on living (ideally, like Jesus did, of course 😉 ) if you want to be radical!
  2. Radically change your use of time. To be radical, radical changes of personal lifestyle are needed. A good point to start is to use one’s free time for radically different things. For example, to give up one’s hobby of computer programming and start caring more about one’s friends.
  3. Make relationships risky and dynamic. Security-oriented, superficial and dissembled relationships are a result of living a smooth life without risking anything. To change something, you need to risk something. The  relationships to your friends are a good starting point: risk something for the better. This might result in hurts, misunderstandings and other difficulties, but at least something happens now! Which implies the chance that your relationships might get better.

Add your own thoughts, folks!


Start date: 2007-11-04
Post date: 2007-11-12
Version date: 2007-11-12 (for last meaningful change)

If you like being creative, you add additional problems to your
life:
how do you manage your ideas, how do you sort and archive and utilize
them efficiently? I’ve discussed this topic lately and promised there
to write something about my current style of idea management. So, here
it is.

Principles

  1. Esteem and cherish your ideas. If you don’t, you will
    become less creative. If you do, your creativity rises. You do so by at
    least writing down all your ideas, even those which deem you
    nonsense. And by publishing those ideas on the internet which don’t
    seem fit for any other utilization. As known from brainstorming
    techniques, filtering ideas too early blocks good thoughts to arise and
    being uttered.
  2. Divide into ideas you pursue and those you don’t. Time
    is a rare resource, so don’t give yourself to the illusion that you can
    put more than 5% of your ideas into practice. After the initial idea
    came to you, decide if you want to pursue it or not. Those you want to
    pursue will be put into documents where topically related ideas reside
    and begin to form a “grand whole”. Those you don’t want to pursue are
    best put into a simple chronological document.
  3. Freely you got, freely give. It is totally
    understandable that people are hesitant to publish their precious ideas
    to everybody – just as with stuff you have lieing around, it might come
    the day where you need exactly that idea. From experience, I can
    contribute that this day never comes: with most ideas, it is obvious
    right away if you have a realistic chance to utilize them commercially.
    If this isn’t the case, there’s no harm in publishing them: you can use
    your idea anyway, sometimes even commercially, just not for
    patenting it. Ideas did not cost you anything, they came to you … and
    by publishing “unneeded” ideas on the internet, you give people the
    chance to find an inspiration or idea they need.
  4. Accept work in progress. Idea management can become a
    stressy issue if you are perfectionist and want all your ideas reside
    in perfect verbalization and perfectly elaborated. But memorize that
    your idea documents are mainly meant to keep you from forgetting about
    them … those ideas you eventually put into practice don’t need
    documents anyway, as they became real and tangible. Even documents with
    orchestrated collections of many ideas are better seen as “draft under
    development”, as it takes too much time to keep up higher standards of
    order. I made good experiences with using a paragraph style for to-do
    sections, placing in them just notes to memorize later what I mean.
  5. Avoid redundancy. Every idea has its perfect place …
    some in the chronological archive of ideas you don’t pursue, some in
    other documents, depending on the kind of idea. Under all
    circumstances, avoid redunancy: no idea should go to two places, as
    later additions to one copy would create inconsistency.
  6. Use multiple forms of note-taking for different situations.
    Of course, the ideal way is to immediately store the idea in the place
    where it should go, but this is only possible whenever you sit in front
    of your computer or have your computer nearby. For situations where you
    are on the road or in other people’s home, use a PDA to take quick text
    notes. Be disciplined and do not use handwritten notes, neither on
    paper nor on screen, except for diagrams – as you’d need to transcribe
    them later. For situations where note-taking must be very quick, use a
    digital dictaphone – you need to transcribe your audio notes later, but
    at least your ideas did not get lost.
  7. Let ideas mature. Among those ideas you want to pursue
    will be some that can be orchestrated to bigger ideas. These ideas deal
    often with issues in your areas of special interest. It is a good idea
    to be patient (even for months, sometimes years) before putting ideas
    into practice, as it happens more often than not that your initial
    ideas are overthrown by revisions or revolutionary ideas. Before
    starting to realize your ideas, overthrowing can be done with ease and
    relatively effortless.

My current technical implementation

My system currently consists of the following components. I must
admit that it is a rather improvised system far from working really
efficiently, and I hope to replace this system with one that is
designed from ground up. But anyway:

  • PC. I use a notebook, so that I can type ideas directly
    into the right place even when I’m in other places for some days,
    taking my notebook with me.
  • PDA. I use a Sony Clié PEG-TG50 (at eBay for 50-60 EUR
    currently) to take voice and text notes on the road. I experimented for
    some weeks now what is the best solution, and arrived at this: where
    necessary, I take voice notes and tranfer the .wav files to a folder on
    my PC’s desktop for later transcription, which might be delayed for
    some days or weeks; where possible, I take text notes, using the to-do
    list of the PDA for that. Compared to the text note program of the PDA,
    this has the enormous advantage that synchronizing (better: moving to)
    with my PIM software at the PC creates tasks there. That way, I never
    forget to move the text notes to the right place. By the way, I use the
    Linux software kontact from KDE as PIM software, with korganizer for the
    to-do list part. I tried the Gnome alternative but found no better
    solution than kontact yet.
  • Inventions log. All the technical ideas I do not want to
    pursue go to a simple text file. It has no formatting as it does not
    need this: that’d complicate idea logging and perhaps take so much time
    that it is no longer fun to record every single idea. I publish my
    inventions log from time to time on the internet as PDF and text files.
    The first publication was done in my blog in the post “Read
    these 1364 inventions
    “. I know that there are web portals that are
    much better for making your inventions known, but again: if I had to
    enter every of these 1300+ ideas into a web form, it’d be no longer fun
    and I’d probably stop collecting ideas.
  • Tasks. All ideas for things I want to do go into my
    kontact to-do list, including all ideas I want to realize (or at least
    references to them). The most efficient way to order them is not to use
    categories (to much clicks …) but instead, to start the task title
    with a hierarchical, colon-separated list of keywords. Then, simple
    alphabetic ordering of the taks gives a good topical overview of what
    tasks are open yet (and don’t have a due date assigned). In my case,
    task titles might start e.g. with “Homepage: Blogging: Blog-Post:
    […]” or “Homepage: Blogging: Software: […]” or “Computer: new
    installation: […]” or “Fitness: […]” or “Job: […]”. Whenever I
    decide that I don’t want to realize a specific task any longer, it
    becomes a subtask of the task “idea store”. That way, it’s out of my
    way without deleting it.
  • Blog post drafts. Many of my ideas deal with upcoming
    posts for my blog. I collect them in the description part of tasks in
    my kontact to-do list. When the  draft has matured and integrated
    many ideas already, I write the post, reordering and reworking the
    draft content and then publishing it. I found it a helpful practice to
    verbalize as much as possible as tasks in kontact’s to-do list. This
    makes it a central and general solution and you need to search in fewer
    places when you don’t know where a specific idea has gone.
  • Mindmaps. Mindmapping software was introduced to me by a
    brother of mine, and I became a big friend of it. I use the software freemind, a very well
    developed and efficient tool with good import and export filters. All
    things that are just considerations and information but no concrete
    tasks go to mindmaps. Currently, I have the following mindmaps:
    • identity mindmap (who I wanna be and have some day, and the
      long-term steps in that direction)
    • ideas around intentional community
    • job organization
    • mindmaps for concrete jobs I’m involved in
  • Computer FAQ. When working with computers, it is very
    handy to document solutions you’ve found, including command snippets
    for later copy&paste. I think that a simple text file that contains
    simply a collection of questions and answers is the most efficient
    alternative to use here. To find a solution I once worked out, I use
    the search function and type in a specific keyword.
  • Specific realization documents. While realizing bigger
    ideas, you need more specific means to orchestrate your thoughts and
    ideas. What is adequate here depends completely on the kind of ideas
    you’re working on. Try to find a ergonomic, single structuring element
    to be used for the whole document – this makes it easy to insert new
    thoughts and ideas. One example: I’m currently developing a personal
    equipment that contains everything necessary from IT to clothing, in
    most lightweigth and compact form. The structuring element I use for
    this document is a commented packaging list.

Towards the ideal system

You see that my current idea management system is quite heterogenous
and unintegrated, and therefore not really efficient. There is an idea
in my mind how this could change, but I’m not aware of any existing
software that I could use for that purpose. Here is what it would need
to do, in my opinion:

It is a general “think support software”, providing all the
externalizations which help in intensive brain work. Especially, it
must allow to work on many larger ideas at the same time, adding to
them whenever new thoughts arise, over an extended period of time. This
system should need no synchronisation at all, i.e. you’d take your one
and only PC with you everywhere you go. That’s possible with an UMPC. The software would
provide a generic management of idea artefacts, including voice, text
and graphic notes, and would offer “pipelines” to convert / transcribe
and move the fragments until they arrive at their destination places.
You could use even very short, previously unuable free and latency
times to do your idea management with that software, so idea management
would not add more stress to a busy life. To that end, the software
must be freehand usable, e.g. by voice commands, voice recording and
speech recognition when driving car. And for those people who are
engaged in writing scientific texts, a literature management system
needs to be included, featuring the documents in full-text, digital
highlighting etc..


Start date: 2007-11-11
Post date: 2007-11-11
Version date: 2007-11-11 (for last meaningful change)

When talking about Jesus, many people seem to think that his death
is a quasi-mechanical payment for people’s moral debts of people. As if
God would kep an account for every person’s deeds and it needs to be in
balance in order to go heaven … and as if Jesus would’ve come to pay
the debts by his death, for all these accounts.

What is embarassing here is the idea that God, as an infinite person
with emotions, would retract to numerical accounting when it comes to
determining people’s righteousness. Instead, I currently think about an
alternative analogy, and would appreciate every thought about its
validity:

Might it be that Jesus’ death is in no way a mechanical payment, but
rather an expression of emotion. Namely, an expression of God’s
infinite love for people. Just as Jesus said: “Greater love has no one
than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” (John
15:13 ESV
). As an expression, it is no payment for debts, but
something symbolic, something that has a meaning and wants to say
something. Namely, that God invites all people to come back to him and
be forgiven all their moral debts. God will not even count them.
Numbers do not matter for a character filled with love and grace … .


Start date: 2007-11-11
Post date: 2007-11-11
Version date: 2007-11-11 (for last meaningful change)

Just a quick shot today: when reading Wikipedia on History
of evolutionary thought
one might get the impression that
evolutionist thinking pre-dated detailed “implementing” concepts of
evolution mechanisms. One might even suspect that evolutionist thinking
is implemented by means of various such concrete explanations of
evolution mechanisms, just as according to time and circumstances.

According to the above cited article, modern evolutionist thinking
started in the 18th century, i.e. it is a product of the Enlightenment.
The first explanations given for the underlying mechanism are
overthrown today (namely, Lamarckism) but
evolution lives on. One might say, it is true and the true mechanisms
have been found out … or it just acquired new, yet unquestioned
explanations.

I’m not going here to deal with the concrete contemporary
explanations for evolution. But I want to question whether it might be
that philosophical determinedness led us to generate such explanations, rather
than that pure interest led us to find
them. I fear that evolution is a philosophical
concept of the Enlightenment that might one day turn out to be as
primitive and absurd as other philosophical thoughts of these ages. For
example anthroposophy, homoeopathics, mormonism and the fourfold
division of human temperaments. I fear that evolutionism has
contemporary followers and contemporary verbalizations and apologetics
which all don’t change the primitive basis.

I’d like to see some studies that indicate to what degree human
societies are able to find out and acknowledge truth (at least truth
that can be found out) – and to what degree bias, deception and
delusion are stronger. I suspect devastating results, and that the
mechanisms of deception and delusion can be both the misuse of
authority (as found in religion) and revolutionary thinking (as found
in Enlightenment-style naturalism).


Start date: 2007-11-09
Post date: 2007-11-11
Version date: 2007-11-11 (for last meaningful change)

There are quite a few reasons why people may resolve to not enter partnership, temporarily or permanently, with respect to one concrete or all potential partners. One reason is that somebody might find he or she is not the type of person who finds satisfaction in partnership, marriage and family life. Another typical reason is voluntary celibacy, for a time or life-long, in the sense of “giving priority to one’s relationship to God”. Staying away from partnership however does not mean to be alone, or to be confined to same-gender friendships only. Cross-gender friendship is possible, but it’s not easy to stay away from flirting and partnership. Here are some thoughts that might help:

  1. Avoid exclusivity. Marriage adds uniqueness (of relationship character) to a friendship, i.e. marriage is friendship plus exclusivity, and that’s it. This exclusivity is rooted in the exclusive character of sexual intercourse. Therefore, in a cross-gender friendship, avoid exclusivity of social intercourse to stay friends. You do so practically by having multiple cross-gender friendships of comparable quality, i.e. by not allowing one to be your “special
    friendship”.
  2. Have common friends. So the typical setting is a group of friends coming together. This avoids the friendship to be mainly of one-to-one character, as this would shift it into proximity of partnership.
  3. Don’t set goals for the relationship. Friendship is something “superficial” in the sense that friendship can never be a goal to reach, it is in all cases a later conceptualization of a pre-existing relationship quality that developed unconsciously. A friendship is what it is and develops as it does, without designs and plans and pre-defined directions. If one however sets a goal (like: reaching absolute trust) one formalizes (or: reifies) the relationship, giving it way too much importance. One could even define: partnership is a reified friendship. For example, agreeing on a binding character implies a formalization (“reification”) of the relationship. Which is the reason why engagement and marriage transform friendships to partnerships. Even talking about the friendship and even thinking about it too much implies a reification and therefore shifts it into the direction of partnership.
    Lovers talk about their relationship, but friends are just friends. There is no such thing as “friendship” to talk about!
  4. Don’t speak about the relationship. People think that, in good friendships, one can talk about everything. And they mean everything. This is true, with one exception: in a cross-gender friendship, don’t talk about your
    friendship, if you want it to stay a friendship. The reason is: cross-gender friendships are “latently extendable” , i.e. friends might become couples. If you don’t want this, don’t talk about this or the relationship gets instantly a
    “flirty touch”. This is even more obvious when you talk about the possibility of entering partnership – regardless whether you say that you do or don’t want this, you find yourself in the middle of flirting and relaxed friendship has gone. Friends are friends, but partners agree to be partners. Agreeing to be friends is an oxymoron.
  5. Use talk for purposes, not for one another. Lovers are important to one another foremost as persons (cf. also your bible: I Cor 7:33-34), while friends are important to one another foremost as partakers to fulfill a common purpose. So lovers talk to get to know one another, and friends talk about a common purpose (and alongside, get to know each other better). To stay friends, talk like friends do.
  6. Have a common orientation that’s not your relationship. Whereever one enjoys a social relationship, concentrating on one another seems a very obvious and promising idea. Just, it shifts a relationship from friendship to flirt and partnership. So in cross-gender friendships one needs something outward to jointly concentrate on. Proper alternatives must be interesting, meaningful and promising. It can be a goal for third persons or a group of persons. It cannot be a personal problem of one of the two friends: while it’s fully o.k. to help each other in these, they cannot serve as the relationship’s focus, as it is equivalent to focus on each other as
    persons.
  7. Act thoughtlessly. Too much thinking blocks cross-gender friendships, as centering attention on thefriendship itself rather than an outward goal shifts it in proximity of partnership. So it’s better to act in such a friendship without much thoughtwork, even if this produces some added errors and hurts. But it really is better that way: errors and hurts are correctable, while otherwise the whole friendship is at stake. Acting “thoughtless” implies to talk about personal experiences and problems naturally, without thinking previously about the possible effects on the relationship.
  8. Accept the non-binding, non-exclusive character of friendship. Friendship and partnership are distinguished by the non-binding resp. binding character of relationship. Both has its upsides and downsides, and
    first of all, you need to know what you want. Then, if you want friendship, get accust omed to the thought that your cross-gender friendship might cease or practically end, e.g. by moving to another place. Preparing for the potential end of the friendship implies to use “redundancy”: you need to have multiple friendships of comparable quality (i.e. also, multiple cross-gender friendships). Then you are mentally able to let go; while you’d stick to a single cross-gender friendship way too much, making it practically a binding friendship, that is, (pseudo-)partnership.
  9. Assume that your friend can live alone. A friendship is a latently transient relationship, so do not make it a binding, undissolvable one by assuming or producing dependence, or by showing or accepting possessiveness.
  10. Train a kind of friendship that won’t be affected by one friend entering partnership. You train this by training your character: train to be not overfocused on your later spouse, but get accustomed to the thought of having friendships in parallel to your marriage. In case of cross-gender friendships, the relationship should be with the couple as a whole, of course, to prevent mistrust. Especially women have problems to continue other relationships in parallel to a partnership, in many cases ending all friendships in favour of a newly started partnership, entering a degree of dependence that’s not healthy in all cases.
  11. Utilize oppositeness of lifestyle and character. Cross-gender friendships get easier if the friends have lifestyles and characters which are incompatible in a partnership setting. That is, lifestyle and character should be so different that none of both can imagine to live together all life long 24 hours a day. While both enjoy the temporal community of friendship, of course. Such circumstances foster great relaxedness in dealing with each other: something that would be explicit flirting in other circumstances is now just kindness

 


Start date: 2007-08-09
Post date: 2007-11-04
Version date: 2007-11-04 (for last meaningful change)