Musings on Belief and Free Will

Christians often say that God does not reveal himself because he wanted people to have free will.

It may sound cynical, but given how many believe in spite of evidence, I somehow don’t think God revealing himself will turn everybody into the mindless automatons who have no choice.  Plenty of people reject evolution despite all the evidence.  Plenty of people believe in all sorts of conspiracies despite the evidence against.  People tend to believe in their religion and reject the other one.  People reject their creator all the time.  How many children get pissed off at their parents and never speak to them again?  Don’t underestimate mankind’s ability to ignore something that’s right in front of their eyes.

There are many also who would be still skeptical.  “Why don’t you have a beard?”  “I thought you were supposed to be a dude?”  “You’re not as white as I thought you would be” “This is some sort of a trick.”  Hey, maybe that skeptic would be me.  I mean if God did reveal himself, I’d have to have a good talk with him before I’d start fawning over him. I mean the dude would seriously have some explaining to do.  Is he just supposed to be so amazingly delicious that I have no choice but adore him?  It sounds like I am losing more than just my free will, but my rationality, my curiosity and the essence of who I am.

So God, if you are out there…let’s have a look at ya! 😉

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What is not life?

A charming blogger I follow who is full of sharp wit, emotional depth, and genuine kindness recently posted a poem called What is Life?  Her answers to that question follow and are an enjoyable read.  Someone in the comments of that post asked the question, “What then is NOT life?” and that question had me thinking.  So I thought in response to her poem, I would write a quick one of my own, which is not nearly as clever or humorous, but hopefully at least makes you ponder the question that I did. 🙂

What is not life?

It is not straight lines,

From http://www.smscs.com

It is not absolute,

It is not nothing,

It is not one truth.

It is not an ideal gas,

It is not constant,

It is not always visible, heard or felt,

It is not just about you

It is not probable,

It is not in equilibrium,

It is not predictable,

It is not perfect.

It is not disconnected,

It is not small,

It is not for the faint of heart,

(And…in the vast depths of time of this universe),

It is not long.

Love and the Future

Lately and perhaps not surprisingly with a newborn in my arms I have been pondering love again.  This, in addition with a psychology class I sat in on last semester about the subject, and some other articles I read recently, has led me to feel like exploring my thoughts a little.  Not too long ago I was conversing with a fellow blogger who posted some writings from a Buddhist about love that said something to the order of “true love can only exist in the present”.  As I paused for thought, I appreciated the truth of those words in an ideal sense, but it struck me as not how love seems to

From www.mindbodygreen.com
From http://www.mindbodygreen.com

work.

When I’ve fallen in love before, and others that I’ve talked to share similar experiences, thoughts of the future seem to go with it.  I often described it as painting pictures in your mind.  You fall in love, you start to see happy times, future celebrations, children, growing old together.  These pictures seem extremely vivid.  Like memories you’ve built on events yet to happen.  From a biological sense this seems to make sense because that is how love should work.  Love builds attachments, and attachments in this world give you strength.  If love did not make us feel this way it seems like we would lose an important part of what love is really for; to give us companionship and togetherness, and increase our chances of survival in a world filled with uncertainty.  Feelings of security and visions of the future seem so tangible to me, I wonder if it is true to others who have been in love.  Nevertheless, if you could truly stay focused on the present, maybe this could take away much of the pain when a relationship ends.  And I think sometimes this is why a relationship ends.  You focus on the future that you take the other for granted in the present.   And the loss of a relationship leaves you with vivid visions of events that will now no longer take place.  Those events are in your memory and I’ve always felt that recovery from a relationship literally requires erasing those memories.

As I look at my son in my arms, I am filled up with love.  Of course this also makes sense from a biological standpoint.  I think the love of a parent in animals is somewhat proportional to how helpless they are when they are born.  Human children are completely helpless such that any indifference on our part would lead to less care and more infant mortality.  Some creatures have the ability to “hit the ground running” parents are protective to a certain degree, but especially if you are born prey, the kid has to kind of take care of himself a bit too and learn to run as fast as possible.  Love comes in many forms and certainly the love for one’s child is different than romantic love, but  I started to ask myself, what is that I love about my son?  If asked the same question about my wife I could point to a large list of qualities in her, I could recount numerous wonderful memories and happy moments. There are of course physical attributes too as a basis for attraction. The love has a clear basis.  No quality is perhaps unique in her, but all together she certainly is unique.  The fact that I love her is not surprising, and the fact that there aren’t others out there who I might love or have loved her is not surprising either.  But as I look at my son I wonder what is it based on other than a biological drive to love my child.  I find him beautiful of course.  Every parent finds their child beautiful.  Once again if we didn’t, we might be less likely to want to take care of them.  But he has no personality to speak of.  He hasn’t been alive more than a month yet and we have few memories together at all.  We have nothing in common except some DNA.  We can’t really do a whole lot together.  It is a purely one sided relationship.  We give and he takes.  If this were anybody else, friends would say,” you need to get out of that relationship.” Lol

I then read a story about someone having twins prematurely and losing one of them and of course I naturally thought about how I would feel if

My wife and our son
My wife and our son

my son were to die.  Of course it would be grievously painful, but I thought to myself what would I be grieving about?  If I lost my wife, the pain of numerous past memories and a deep sense of loss over qualities she possessed that I would no longer be privilege to would flood my mind for many years to come, in addition to the loss of the future I dreamed of us having together.  It seems that if I did lose my son the majority of my grief would be grieving the loss of his future.  For as someone in love with his child I see a future filled with vacations, camping trips, teaching him science, helping him with homework, going to graduations, seeing him grow and hit milestones in his life as we all do.

The future is truly uncertain and so loving only in the present seems wise in some respect, but I’m not sure it’s possible.  I think the best we can do is try not to build those hopes and dreams so solidly that we allow them take different shapes.  Nevertheless a part of me feels like the love I have right now for my child seems less solid somehow because it seems largely based on a feeling completely intangible and dreams of the future.  However, I know that as he grows and I spend more time with him it will simply gets stronger and I know that as we do build more memories and I do get to know him as a person that I will be more and more in love with him.  Given how much I love him already the thought of that fills me with nothing but pleasure.  That is at least one vision of the future that I can hold on to without fear.

Unhealthy thoughts

A friend of mine gave us this adorable little lumberjack outfit as a gift for the birth of our child.  It’s probably going to be a year or so before he fits into it, but he is going to look so cute when he is wearing it.  In my mind I was picture how handsome he is going to look and then all of a sudden I was thinking how adorable he would look in all sorts of outfits.  He’s such a beautiful baby.  I wouldn’t be surprised if professionals wanted to take his picture.  He’d become a baby model.  Then I started picturing him as this little toddler, hair-styled, posing for pictures in magazines and advertisements.  The world confirming how beautiful my child is, and me feeling good the whole way.  Then I started imagining become all self-centered and narcissistic about his looks and this horrible teenage model who all the other kids hated, and I was the cause of it all.  Then all of a sudden the metaphorical sound of a record scratching occurred in my head, and I was like “Whoa, where did that come from?”

For a second I got inside the mind of those crazy parents who rear their children to be in beauty contests, or TV children from the outset.  Maybe in some ways that was a good thing as I always like to try to understand people, even where what seem like a ridiculous and foreign notion comes from. Then there it was, popping into my head though I was diametrically opposed to such practices before having a kid.  Well I still am, but I think I saw the beginning of the reasoning.  Love is a strange thing.  If you’ve fallen in love before, you know that you sort of just expect everyone else that you know to love that person too.  Maybe the love I feel for my son is making me want others to love him just is much, which neither practical or realistic.  But that is probably a more innocent explanation.  Individuality takes time to develop in a new life.  Somewhere around 6 months a baby will realize that it is a separate being from the mother.  They learn individuality from watching their parents of course, so even individuality is something that is learned through others.  In the time before they see themselves as extensions of their mother.  I pondered that perhaps the relationship works both ways.  It’s something that I have noted before having a child perhaps, but didn’t really understand.  How long does it take parents to not see children as an extension of themselves?  For some parents it seems to never end.  As a professor I have had to deal with many parents who will not let their child make a decision for themselves even though they are college aged.  It is clear to me that the mother who enters who daughter into beauty pageants from the age of a toddler is clearly not respecting the individuality of the child as is doing it for themselves.  Parents who force their kids into one profession or another also are projecting their wishes on their child.  So I thank those unhealthy thoughts for putting what I knew in my subconscious into my conscious that I better always remember to respect the individuality of my child.  I still can’t wait to see him in that lumberjack outfit though. 🙂

The Ethics Of… Being Entitled to Your Opinion

As always, excellently argued and wonderfully expressed.

The Ethics Of

Every time a new set of migrants moves into Australia, every time the gay and lesbian community makes a statement, and every time a religion figure says something idiotic, the same phrase gets trotted out again and again.

I’m entitled to my opinion.

Whenever there is a clash of values, this seems to be the standard defense. These are my opinions and I’m entitled to them, regardless of what you might think of them. Just because they are different to yours doesn’t mean they’re any better or worse.

So what if that guy disagrees with climate change? Everyone’s entitled to their opinion! Who are you to say your beliefs are any more valid than someone else’s? If a Muslim woman wants to wear a hijab, then that is her right and you can keep your arguments to yourself.

Or as a certain, highly influential entity once said: Thou shalt…

View original post 1,290 more words

Parinternetiatrician

The internet gets a lot of flack these days.  And why shouldn’t it?  It’s destroying the fabric of modern society.  I know it to be true, because some very important people have blogged about it and I have watched some of their news reports on YouTube.  It’s always tough to stay current with these issues when you have a social media addiction.  I’m trying to not let it stress me out though. 🙂

Seriously internet and social media haters.  You’d be at least half as popular as you are now if it wasn’t for that massive exposure the internet gives your un-researched and unsubstantiated nonsense.   You can be addicted to a lot of things, some are far worse than others.  And “Experts” are always worried about addiction in kids.  Music, video games, drugs, sex, violence, texting, etc.  Right now my kid is pretty addicted to breast milk.  It’s ALL he eats.  I’m a bit worried.  I figure with enough things out there to get addicted to, at least there is choice.  At least theirs diversification in the things they are addicted to. 😉

Of course, I don’t think the internet is a bad thing, and to be quite honest it has been the greatest companion through this whole baby thing.  I want to of course make it clear before I say anymore that I am not suggesting the internet is any kind of substitute for a doctor in any way, shape or form, but let’s face it, there is a lot of stress to this process, and as a whole the information that is available on-line helps.  A lot.

In an effort to confuse you I’ll start of negating my previous statement, by saying that I was a bit annoyed at the internet at the beginning of the

From see7aa.blogspot.com

pregnancy.  A lot of information out there seems focused on worst-case-scenario things without giving you any sense for what type of probabilities we are talking about.  For instance when my wife was feeling incredibly thirsty in her first trimester, several sites said “this is normal” (good), “not getting enough water can cause deformation in your babies limbs” (scary).  I mean what the hell people? How often does this happen?  How little water was the person getting?  I’m yelling at my wife “Drink water woman…limbs are deforming!!”.

Okay so it takes a little time to get used to the tone of information on the internet.  Once you get used to it, you realize that it is really just trying to help you.  “Here’s what you should do take care of yourself, and here is what CAN happen if you don’t”.  When it comes to having a baby, erring on the side of

From thetvchick.com

caution isn’t a bad thing, and I had to remind myself how inaccessible such nutritional and pre-natal care information would have been 30 years ago compared to now.  Of course back then they would have given you a pamphlet.  Does anybody seriously read pamphlets though?  They are small, recyclable, and look so much better folded then unfolded.  Unfolding something is messy.  Nobody wants that.  What people want is a search engine where you can just type in “I’m pregnant.  Why am I so thirsty?”  Web pages don’t fold.  They have links.  “Yes Mr. Internet (or Ms. Internet) I would like to know more about the importance of water to the build up of blood, amniotic fluid, and nutrient flow to the baby”.  Click.  Brilliant.

Baby merchandise.  You need to get stuff for your baby.  But what stuff?  What’s really important?  In a consumer driven society there is no question companies prey on our fear of ruining our babies lives and thus convince us to buy the most ridiculous things and pay a lot of money for them.  The internet can save you money.  It’s a huge marketplace, and thus competition drives prices down.  It also allows you to read a large quantity of customer reviews.  It appears that a lot of people have babies.  It tells you if you really need something, or if you don’t.  If you want to go green, organic or whatever you can find it on the internet.  If you suddenly become concerned because you never took a baby CPR training class, you can find a YouTube video on it.  How do I swaddle my baby?  How do I burp it?  What are some good songs that I can sing to it?  Can I hire someone to sing them for me, because I can’t sing?  The answers are on the internet.  All of these things can be easily ordered on the internet with a click of the mouse as you quickly vomit into the pail next to you because of your morning sickness.  Wandering around department stores, or Wal-mart can make you nauseous enough, and they typically don’t put reviews next to the items you are looking at on the shelf.  Only the price.  Thank you consumer friendly internet!

The internet is also your friend in other ways.  Let’s say you are just walking along, you’re pregnant, and all of a sudden your wrist hurts like a bitch.  So you think to yourself well I’ve known a lot of pregnant people in my time and their wrists seemed fine.  I must be defective and I’m going to bring doom to my baby somehow.  You get a bit anxious.  So you go on-line and you find a forum where it’s a whole bunch of women talking about their hurt wrists being pregnant.  Bam!  Instant group therapy session.  You are not alone.  Others have had the problem.  This is what they did.  This is something you can try.  This is something to talk to your doctor about.  Again, the internet doesn’t replace your doctor, but there can be a big delay between you experience something or having a question, and calling your doctor and waiting for someone to get back to you.  It can be stressful wondering if something is really wrong?  Should my baby be sneezing?  Why is his eye crusting up?  Is this normal?  Is it the plague?  OMG please don’t let it be the plague?  I thought the plague was over.  But there was that rat yesterday…it’s the plague.  It’s got to be the plague.  Tell me internet is it the plague?  It’s not the plague?  This is common?  Happens in 20% of newborns?  Clogged tear duct?  Oh that doesn’t sound so bad.  Panic attack quelled.  It can be easy to think that any little thing is not common or that it’s a sign of something serious.  You will be hard pressed as a parent to find a question that hasn’t already been asked.  A baby3million times.  And you will be comforted just because at the very least you will know how much you should actually worry. or how aggressively you need to try and contact your doctor, or whether you should go to the emergency room.  I would say that if the question you have hasn’t been asked before you probably need to go to the ER, or run a spell check on your question., or check your internet connection.  Most people out there are just like you.  They get a bit worried over small things, and even that you are not alone. And they are responded to by well meaning, experienced parents who politely share their experience with you.  Sure a few people on their blame your baby’s problems on Obama, but those people are few and far between.  If you are still confused at the end of the deluge of internet information, the doctor is still there to call.  But just knowing other people are experiencing what you are is such a great help.

So we can criticize this culture of instant gratification, but you know what, some things can’t be instant.  Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that everything can be instant and you’ll be fine.  For instance babies still take about 9 months.  So thank you internet!  I appreciate you.  You’re not all pornography after all.  Who knows what else might be contained within your four walls…hmmm…that doesn’t sound right.  Actually what is the internet contained in? Hmmm…question for another blog. 🙂

 

Monster Trucks and Big Guns

There is nothing like the having a child that teaches you more what a woman goes through, and reminds you what you don’t.  I’ve spent most of my adult life becoming aware of the position of privilege I enjoy as a man in a patriarchal society.  The hardships that women face when it comes to unwanted advances, objectification and legislation of their bodies, being judged by appearances over the content of what’s inside, and of course the even harsher realities of domestic abuse and sexual violence.  But having journeyed with my wife through pregnancy, birth, and caring for a baby the world couldn’t seem more upside down.

In my new favorite book series, The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss he describes a culture called the Ademre.  In this culture they are not very sexually conservative.  Sex and love are separate and so sleeping around is no big deal.  As a result of this lifestyle they have not made the connection that a man is associated with making children.  Women think they just sort of “get pregnant”, because there is no monogamy.  As a result they think other cultures who think there is such thing as “fatherhood” are silly.  I know this doesn’t sound very convincing to you, but the book takes place in a non-modern society so you can’t do any DNA tests or anything, and you just have to read it to know that it’s very hard to find a  hole in the reasoning.  The main character of the book who is male cannot either and feels extremely frustrated that he can’t convince the woman that men play a role in making a child.  Both my wife and I feel even uncomfortable reading that section, because men feel so diminished that you actually start to feel bad for men.  That’s some good writing Rothfuss!  And I know that is his intent.  To make you feel uncomfortable. (as an aside, I think finally figured out the hole in how a culture could not develop in such a way, but that’s for another time).  My point in this preamble is that through pregnancy up until now it is pretty clear, how little I have to do with creating life.  One microscopic sperm out of millions, and my part was over.  Life grows in a woman and then after its out she feeds it!  Amazing!

Her body changes.  She feels the motion of the baby inside.  She feels the baby leave her body.  Her hormones are jacked up the whole time and even now.  Her need for attachment through breastfeeding.  There is just a very clear biological change every step of the way, that my body does not go through.  Watching even just how amazing she is right now, and how in control she is in taking care of this child, for something she has never done before is just phenomenal to see.  The hormones get strong sometimes, and she cries sometimes because she feels the slightest failure in breastfeeding, or if she accidentally scratches him or something, but she is amazing.  And then their is the pain in giving birth.  A pain unlike I’ve never seen her go through before.  She tried to be brave and go without the epidural to begin with.  Neither of us are believers that natural childbirth is necessary or anything, but I knew she would want to test the waters.  Had she been able to go into labor naturally and do the things that are supposed to help in dealing with the pain of contractions I believe she could have done it, but regardless women have been doing this for a couple hundred thousand years and here we are today.

She has been the star of the show, and I a supporting actor.  Now before men reading this get up and arms, let me say that, there is no question that this child will do better the more adults it has in his life, and that two people can better care for the child than one.  And an equal partnership will be not only be a great advantage to the child in raising, but give him an excellent example to look up to when he forms his own relationships with others.  Whether they be friendships or romantic relationships, regardless of his sexual orientation.

What inspired me to write this post is, how is it that we live in a patriarchal society?  Why am I am not the one fighting to assert myself as an important gender?  How can any man not come to realize that women are absolutely amazing?  Is it just because of our physical strength?  This seems like a poor answer, but possibly.  One biological aspect that I know men feel in regards to birthing is fear.  Fear that their offspring are not their own and are less likely to care for the offspring as a result.  Is this fear so strong that it has led to the control of women and their bodies just to make sure that we can guarantee that the offspring she has belongs to us?    Given that we evolved in social groups, that had community support to help raise children, even this seems like not a very good answer, but possibly.

But then I wondered if it isn’t all just overcompensation.  The fear that we might not be really that important after all and thus we assert ourselves the most.  We joke all the time when we see a guy drive down the street in his loud and chrome fitted truck with giant wheels …”What’s he compensating for?”  What if it all this is just men trying to make themselves seem more in control than they really are?  More powerful than they really are?

Some questions to think about.  This man has to go feed his child some breast milk his wife made and stored in a bottle while she catches up on some much needed sleep. 🙂