Archive for July, 2008


Friday, July 25th, 2008

So I was talking with a four year old the other day, and we’ll skip any direct discussion of how that compares to talking with God or with any of his vocal admirers. This particular child was holding a toy that caught my interest and I asked if I could see it. He turned me down flat. Just said no. So I put on my best sad face, because I’ve often found playing on the empathy of small kids to be a useful tactic. And not too surprisingly, this time it worked. But before it worked, he laughed. Not a mere chuckle but a full on laugh.

My apparent misery struck him as funny.

Now I’ve noted before Robert Heinlein’s observation that all humor is based on someone’s misfortune, but it had never quite struck home to me before how innate that is to us. This child of four showed me just how early that develops.

I asked God why this is apparently bred into us and he said that it’s to give us perspective. First we learn to laugh at other people’s pain, then we can see that it’s okay for them to laugh at ours. From there it’s just a tiny step to being able to laugh at ourselves and our own pain, and if we can laugh when it hurts, we can make it okay.

Flip Ya For It

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Quick, think of a number. Now what did you just do? Did you pick a favorite number? A lucky number? Or did you pick one at random? And if you picked one at random, was it really random, or was it the result of your subconscious mind picking a favorite number or a lucky number?

And is that what it’s like in the universe? Is it all really God’s plan or is a lot of it just her flipping a mental coin, rolling a mental die?

She tells me that a lot of people have thought that, over the years. In fact, that’s really the reason why so many religions emphasize prayer. The idea is that if we reach a crossroads and we decide which way to go by flipping a mental coin, that maybe God does something similar. And if we don’t always go with a true random number but many times go with a number that we favor or that we’ve just heard a lot recently, well maybe God will do the same thing. So if you can get your prayer into God’s head just before she decides if today is your day, maybe she’ll unconsciously decide things your way.

I asked her. She says it’s an interesting theory, but don’t count on it.

One Foot in Heaven

Friday, July 11th, 2008

What does it take to get into Heaven? That’s one of the big questions for the Christians. As a matter of fact, if you look at it a little more expansively it’s their biggest question. The more expansive look would be to assume that what it takes to get into Heaven is to please God, and therefore, asking what it takes to get into Heaven is asking what it takes to please God. What question could be bigger to one of the faithful?

I was thinking about that, but somehow I got my thinking all turned around and started wondering instead, what is Heaven? See, I was wondering what made it worth it. If someone is not naturally inclined to do those things that would get them into Heaven, what would make it worth going against their nature? And, conversely, might there be aspects of Heaven that would make someone that does, by their innate nature, do the right things, prefer not to get in?

Take Hitler’s mother. What if she had been a really good person and wasn’t at all at fault for the way her son turned out? Say she had lived a good life and was a cinch to get into Heaven, but didn’t want to spend eternity without her son. Could God really allow her to go to Hell just to be with her son? Surely it would be cheating to put an imitation of her son into Heaven to be with her, but wouldn’t it be even worse to let him into Heaven just because she needed to be with him? So aren’t these mutually exclusive choices both wrong? And what if you extend that out? Say Hitler’s mother was just a little bit responsible for the way he came out, but her mother (Adolph’s grandmother) needed her in Heaven to feel at home there? Would that make enough difference to get Hitler’s mom in, but not enough to get Hitler in? And then what would the cutoff be? And would grandma be allowed to leave after she got in when it turned out that her daughter was enough to blame for how Hitler turned out that she wasn’t going to get in no matter what?

I tried explaining this all to God, but he just told me that the mortal mind really wasn’t capable of understanding what Heaven really was, let alone where the line was for what would just barely get you in.

I think that boils down something like when Hitler’s mom would say to him, “because I’m the mom and I say so.”

Independence Thoughts

Friday, July 4th, 2008

One of the most celebrated documents in United States history is the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps it’s most celebrated sentence is: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Now a lot of Americans think that those rights are the law of the land, but that’s not the way it is. What the Declaration says is that those rights are so innate that we don’t even need laws to protect them; they are are so much a part of us that any law that did not respect them could not itself be given any respect. It’s that whole “unalienable” part.

As to the “endowed by their Creator” part? God points out to me that everything we have is ultimately, in some sense, endowed by her, so that phrase doesn’t really add anything. What it really is, is just a flowery way of talking and a bit of slight of hand, where they appeal to a higher authority as the source of something as sort of a way of saying, “Hey, it’s out of my hands. If you have an issue with it you’ll have to take it up with God, not me.”

So how does she feel about it? Well, she seems to think of being credited with giving us life, liberty and the right to pursue our own happiness as a lot better than most of the things people like to attribute to her.