In Third Way style, the way to approach Christianity would be this: accept the Gospel as a trustable message based in traceable history; but do not interpret reality based on this message except where there is no unvcertainty how to interpret reality; there are really few cases where there is no uncertainty, and among them those where God’s contemporary activity has been tracked by scientific and / or good journalistic methods, so that trustable reports are the result. Which is the focus of my Second Acts project.

For this, it is necessary to develop a interviewing and text analysis system for detecting “non-sober religious activities” like scams, self-deceit and mental illness. Even good parts of sermons belong to this non-sober interpreting of what’s happening in the world. And even good parts of Christian activism (like peace activism in the leftist scene) belongs here, because it has no chance to have a lasting, meaningful effect except by a miracle (which does not happen either). This kind of stuff is far too numerous among Christians, and has to be filtered out to get trustable reports. For example, this non-sober text shows what has to be filtered out: “Needing help in covered up murder of one of Jesus’ musician freaks–in California“. And, this kind of stuff discredits Christianity in the eyes of non-Christians.

The key is the insight that most of the “Christian culture” and “Christian lifestyle” today cannot be derived with good certainty from the Bible, and therefore is a non-sober religious interpretation of the Bible where it is claimed as biblical. It is simply not justified. Even the Christian notions of the personal “Bible time” and personal “community with God in prayer” seem to belong to this, as this cannot be found in the New Testament. (But I need to check again.)

What also has to be filtered out by these interviewing and analysis techniques is the “human component”: it is apparent that human motivation, human enthisiasm and the like makes up for a good part of what is necessary for Christian organizations to be operational. Whenever something like large meetings arises (for instance the “24-7 Euro Gathering”) it is a hint that some human motivation is at work, desiring greatness, magnificence, significance. There will be many other hints like that.

During the last week I learned two important things. First, real desperation is one of the worst imaginable conditions. (To the extent that I speculate: being stuck in desperation forever could be said to be “in hell”.) Second: thinkers are more prone to fall into desperation, but there are learnable mental management techniques to guard them.

The problem that thinkers face is this. As thinkers, they are inclined to solve unsolved questions, and most are also inclined to constantly think about their own lives (what to do next, how to lead a meaningful life, how to make the best decisions, …). Now a thinker might come into a desperate life situation (which could be defined as a calamitous situation that has no way to end except by living through it for its full normal duration). Such a situation poses a question that cannot be solved, namely, how to end it more quickly. Which means that the thinker person will think about it without finding a solution, and keep thinking about it. The other reason to think about it is the thinker’s habit to think about his or her own life; again finding no constructive quicker way out, keeping thinking on it.

Now the constant thinking about a desperate life situation causes despair. Which seems to be a psychological mechanism: keep thinking some thoughts for long enough, and they will become a “self-reinforcing” set of thoughts. After they did, you cannot simply stop thinking them (because you won’t get the idea to do): these thoughts think themselves on and on, as one thought triggers another (and more than one) of the same style. External events (like a phone call from a friend, a day of intensive work, some hours of sports) do normally break such self-reinforcing thought cycles, but thinkers often have less of such events, and those that are present might be too weak to break the cycle, as intensive and long thinking, and the time they already exist, created very forceful thought cycles. If the strength of these thought cycles is above some threshold so that the individual cannot help itself out of them, this is called “depression”. Sorry about this lay experience-based psychology … I have no better words or theory for that currently.

Now thinkers normally assume that their desperate emotions (in its extreme, depression) are simply a result of the desperate situation they are in, and see no reason to stop thinking about that situation. They might even intensify that, to finally find the solution and make their way out. However: their too much thinking about their desperate situation is what causes their desperate emotions. That is the central insight in this blog post.

Once a thinker did grasp that insight, several pragmatic rules and tips for thinking follow from that with ease:

  • Think about the next step to go, and focus on it. Even if you have 100 steps to go until your desperate situation is finished, the next step only is what can motivate, because it is reasonably small.
  • Place a nice activity after the next step, to support its motivating power.
  • Also do focus on the even smaller detail steps in your work: to get these done does also motivate, and motivation is good for mental well-being. This is even true if these detail steps are part of your desperate situation, in that they do not have the intended good effects (like earning you money or what else you need). Getting a step finished is a motivating thing in itself, even if taht step has very little meaning in a broader context; that seems to be a mechanism of psychology which can be leveraged here.
  • Get “consumed” by the work you must do, for some hours, by keeping the mental focus on the work itself, not on the “meta layer” that tells you why this work is nonsense and having to do it means your life is deperate. Because, concentration on an activity keeps you from thinking these desperate meta-level thoughts, and not thinking desperate thoughts is key to the mental management of desperation.
  • You are “safely allowed” to think about your desperate life situation, but only for some moments to draw some logical conclusions; do not think about this stuff so long that a self-reinforcing thought cycle is started. The first warning sign seems to be: if these thought start to affect your emotions, stop thinking them for the time being.
  • You can experiment with various means of distraction to keep you from starting to think unhealthy stuff again. This can include listening to music while working, doing sports, doing activities that consume all the concentration, socializing with people, etc..
  • Remember, desperation is a mental state, not a physical.

So one has to manage ones own thought life to stay mentally healthy. Which is an observation with various implications:

  • There is a limits to rationality, in the amount of rational thinking that a human being can bear. Rational thinking does not happen in free space, but in the “human ecosystem”; and because of psychological mechanisms, rational thinking does affect emotions, as does every kind of thinking. Which means that rational thinking has non-rational side effects, and to prevent unhealthy side effects, there is a pragmatic preemptive limit to rational thinking. There is also a factual limit: if you allow your rational thinking to drive you to deepest despair, you deprived yourself of the ability of rational thinking. Because despair is a precondition that taints and prohibits truly rational thinking.
  • Many people need to start thinking, not stop it. Thinkers are a small minority. Most people are not endangered by depression due to thinking too much about their life situation. They are more shallow-minded people, and unconsciously engage in many activities that keep them away from thinking about their life situation: they engage in short-term “fun” activities like socializing with people, making flat and bromidic jokes, taking drugs etc.. All of which also influences the relationship between desperate facts and emotions as advised here, but before these people even started to realize the desperate facts. They might have nothing more than a vague idea of it. Those people rather need to start thinking, because there are many non-desperate situations about which something can and must be done, and this they miss at the same time. They must start to think about not knowing the meaning of their life (including, not knowing where they do come from: their Creator); they must start to think about the lack of deep, authentic community with people in their life, their excessive loneliness.
  • Can mental management techniques be compared to substance abuse? I would argue, no. It is true that both influence the way how facts affect emotions, detaching emotions from facts in some way. Substance abuse is frowned because of its unhealthy short-term and long-term side effects; in spite of that, some of the same substances are used for medical purposes like palliative medicine. In analogy, I would compare mental management techniques to the carefully considered use of medicine. While the same techniques can also be used to totally numb the desire to think rationally about ones own life, as is the case with distraction techniques in people who need to start thinking yet (see above). Just as palliative analgesic like morphine relieve of unnecessary bodily pain, the “medical” use of mental management relieves of unnecessary mental pain. And just as a certain amount of pain is needed to guard the body against injuries, a certain amount of mental pain is needed to move out of calamitous and meaningless life situations. Do not use mental management techniques to kill that “good mental pain”; just to prohibit unhealthy self-reinforcing thought cycles. Also, be always aware that you are on some kind of “mental medication”; as only that awareness makes it possible to stay emotionally authentic.
  • Why is mental management not taught anywhere? This should be a field of deeper research, and then a part of general education. There is physical education in school, which is about learning how to deal with ones own body. Why is there not mental education?
  • The narrow Christian viewpoint towards such depressive thinking should be rethought. That viewpoint is mostly some variation of: bad emotions are a result of “egoistic, self-centered” (and hence sinful) thinking and that the solution would be to “give it to Jesus”, to “focus ones thoughts on Jesus” and the like. This does indeed help on many occasions (as people stop extensive thinking about a personal desperate situation), but both the diagnosis and the therapy seem to be screwed up. The diagnosis is wrong because it is the wrong explanation: this problem is not about “sinful” behavior, but about doing a right thing in unhealthy amounts. The therapy is wrong because it does not relate to the real problem, which is “how to deal with desperate situations”. While it is always a good idea to pray about a situation, and also pray for help, there seems to be no general promise of relief of the calamitous facts. And the content of the “Jesus-focused thoughts” does not help here either: it’s about the hope of resurrection and a happy afterlife, but that is a quite abstract, long-term hope that does not relate to the struggles with daily calamities. So, focusing ones thoughts on Jesus is just another method of distraction here (and is effective as such, but just as effective as other methods). There seems to be no factual reason for criminalizing mental despair as “sin” in Christianity. To the contrary, there is some advice given by Paul to slaves in NT times, which comes close to this “don’t think abut it much, don’t let it bother you” solution we presented here: “Were you a slave when you were called? Do not let that bother [lit.: be of interest to; annotation] you. Of course, if you have a chance to become free, take advantage of the opportunity. For the slave who has been called in the Lord is the Lord’s free person. In the same way, the free person who has been called is Christ’s slave.” (1 Cor 7:21-22 ISV).

Now this is quite a personal post, but just as a side effect; I hope it helps some thinkers who struggle with desperation while thinking abut desperate situations.

And has too many meaningless details.

Look at this well-known YouTube clip and you will know the impression I got:

Source: Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years.

When looking at women, everything is a little bit more colorful, but the essence is the same:  She takes a photo every day : 200.

And if you want to use a symbol, use an apple: Rotting Apple (Mould).

Here is Sadness. Pure Sadness.

People have speculated (also before the movie “Matrix”) if this world is actually a simulation. It is said that, if one finds a “limit of resolution” in physics, that might be a hint that this world is indeed simulated. Now the quantization of energy could actually be this limit …

When taking this idea theologically, it is easy to get on the idea that we “are simulated by God”, either by being run on some external machine that God created, or by being a thought of God. This idea would explain how miracles are possible: these might happen if God modifies the current state of the simulation. However, this idea is quite demanding: it needs a “hyperversum” with powerful physics that can run such a mega-simulation, and the attributes and physics of that universum (in which God would be living) would be utterly unknown. Also, we would have no idea of the substance of God, or how he can interact with us (his “simulation”).

But here is a new thought. Not just we, but also God might be “simulated”. Now of course this word loses its meaning if everything is “simulated” (what would be the real thing then?); one should say instead that there are pre-existing, eternal law of physics that can be compared to the laws needed for information processing, i.e. they would work as a processor. And everything that “is” would be a “program” running in this processor, including God, and us.

It seems that this model can explain everything (it even can explain everything that can be ever imagined, which could be thought to be a problem, but is rather a necessity as God is omnipotent). Some of the consequences:

  1. God would be the “eternal, and only eternal” program running in this processor. As both God and the processor are eternal, it is conceptually better to say that God includes also the processor (which is an idea near to pantheism, but here, compatible with the personal God of the Bible). See also what Paul once quoted: “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28).
  2. God would be the only “omnipotent” program. A program running in a special mode, comparable to a kernel.
  3. Because everything imaginable can be expressed in information (see e.g. fiction), everything is, in principle, possible if physics is just information processing. Which is the explanation for every kind of miracle. The normal course of the world would however be guided by a program, which limits possibilities to some orchestrated set of concepts, just like every program does (this time, resulting in the physics we know).
  4. This also conforms to the Bible teaching that God is a spirit (the “logos”: something immaterial that is mainly about information), that demons are spirits, and that human beings have a spirit.
  5. This also conforms to the findings in psychology that mental illness like depression seems to be a “self-supporting / self-stable / self-reinforcing” set of thoughts that one might have started by thinking them too much at one occasion. This would be a malicious “sub-program” in our model here, comparable to a computer virus. And it would be not really different from a demon (which might be an “unerasable, self-transferring, non-replicating malicious program”); this is supported by the fact that both these self-supporting thought cycles and demons have the same effect, that is, mental illnesses.

This new idea that both we and God are programs in the same “processing universe” is preferable to the idea that we are thoughts of God, because of Occams Razor: we need much less concepts in the new idea.

I just read an insightful comment on

Traditional fascism demands order and submission; modern fascism flatters the individuals, furthers the illusion of freedom and self-determination and controls the people mostly nonviolently by conditioning them.
(Tina, comment #111 on “Geht’s noch tiefer” on; translation by me)

Why do I post this? I think I got ensnared by this conditioning “new fascism”. My last two years have been about money (working as a freelancer). And the longer this goes, the more about money, and the less about real life. I feel that it makes me dumb, non-creative, conformistic, … . A major sign of this is that this blog has been quiet for so long … “no time to think about life, too busy living”. Huh? Stop this …

Each individual person can do nothing better than to find and use the best epistempology (a method for determining truth) for which he or she has the resources to use it. As this will return the best possible results, while even better but utopic epistemologies return no results at all.

Therefore, people in ancient cultures (before using exact science was possible in societies, because of economic restrictions) could do nothing better than to employ historic documents, traditions and faithful witnesses to determine the truth about God. The same applies to developing countries today.

Also today, as and as long as an individual has no practical access to using scientific methodology when it comes to questions about God, the best thing is to apply the ancient’s epistemology. It’s not as good, but at least can be maintained by an individual person.

Which means: as long as I cannot execute my Second Acts project (to quasi-empirically collect facts about God’s contemporary activity), I should (and also I am epistemically allowed to) believe in Jesus Christ because of history, traditions and own (not exactly recorded) experiences alone.

Many people like to be free and independent. Some even to the degree that they prefer self-employment over the security of employment, and friendships over the reliability of long-term pair relationship. Of course there’s always the danger of loneliness, but also always the benefit of flexible, agile, simple living. You gotta agree with only yourself if you want to cancel your job, sell your car, move abroad, travel for years or anything like that.

With one exception. If you’re Christian, you entered a relationship to Jesus. You’re no longer totally free and independent. Instead you will now want to act in a way that you know is compatible with Jesus’ values and ideas, or ask Jesus if some decision is o.k., or what he proposes.

Even “worse”, this kind of dependence will not cease for all eternity. But as every kind of relationship, this can also be a highly valuable experience that you’ll never want to miss again.