Monday, April 28, 2008

freedom?

I feel like a crazy person tonight. I think Naseem is also crazy. The end. I just thought I should warn you.

So who wants to hear about the orphanage? I don't even feel like writing actual paragaphs composed of actual sentences, so I think that I might just resort to a Top 5 list. Ready?

5. Taryn's birthday: Naseem and I had the world's worst day off on Saturday (don't ask, I'm still bitter) but it was redeemed by Taryn's birthday dinner; almost all the staff got to go out to eat and have cake. Maybe cake doesn't sound like a highlight to you, but then again, maybe you aren't as pathetic as me.
4. Dolphins: Today Naseem and I got to watch some dolphins jumping and flipping around. They were cute, but not as cute as Naseem and me. Trust me.
3. We changed all of Scott Kenneth Peckler's Facebook info. It was priceless. Did y'all know about his pasion for unicornios? Check it out. It comes highly recommended.
2. A Christian school on the island has offered to take Kerry, Nolan, and Sarah to school...starting sooner rather than later. This isn't set in stone for sure, but we are all crossing our fingers that things will work out. I think it would be so helpful for them to be in class with other kids. It would definitely be hard because they are so behind but I'm not sure I have much faith in my own ability to handle learning disabilities, so I would be grateful to have them in the hands of someone who can work with them more practically.
1. Brandon doesn't live here anymore. I don't mean to include this as the number 1, best thing (because I wish this could've been a good environment for him), but it certainly is relevant news. He had a freak-out the other day in which he physically drew blood and he was given one more chance before he was sent back to live with his mom; obviously he acted out again and he and his mom packed his things and that was that. A lot of thought was put into this decision: it wouldn't have happened had everyone not thought that Brandon's presence here was not beneficial to his well-being and was detrimental to that of the other kids.

Ok, so now I want to spend a bit of time discussing something I've been thinking about a bit lately. I'm reading THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand, for which Scotty has already judged me, but whatever. Anyway, so in this book, Ayn Rand puts forth the idea that the way man achieves greatness is through his own selfishness; in other words, man's ego is the fountainhead of his profound achievement, therefore success and selflessness are mutually exclusive. Rand exposes two kinds of selfishness: the honest, personified by the hero Howard Roark, an architect who builds for himself and does not care for the rules which society dictates, and the dishonest, manifest in Roark's rival, the wildly successful Peter Keating who, despite his mediocrity, has cheated and manipulated his way into society's upper eschelons. The honest sort of selfishness leads to true success, whereas the latter leads only to a superficial achievement, despite the fact that this is the success which society glorifies. So, is this true? Is the only way to "succeed" to put oneself and one's ambition ahead of everyone and everything?

My initial reaction was to fight this proposal but then when I thought about it, I suddenly found myself in her camp. Sure, to succeed--and here are the key words--by society's standards, it is inevitable that one must place himself first...because that's how society operates. Right? The world helps those who help themselves (but in THE FOUNTAINHEAD, this is only to an extant: society rejects those they fear for their reckless innovation), and those who cannot or do not help themselves are allowed to be cast aside. This is not my own personal view--to adopt this credo is to deny a basic tenet of Christianity--but I sort of feel like this is what is preached by the prosperous. Sure, humanitarianism is a fad right now, but for the most part, the idea of the inherent importance of selfishness is certainly underlying the actions of a broken world. I think that to see this is to identify correctly what my dad calls "the bogus world system." This is what the world teaches, but it is not what the Truth is. We are fallen and broken and thus enslaved by an innate selfishness. The world tells us: don't sacrifice your dreams, do what makes you happy, etc, etc. These are wonderful adages and not ones to be dispensed of before analyzing, but if these are taken to the extremes, as we tend to do, then suddenly "don't sacrifice your dreams" becomes "sacrifice everything for your dreams at any cost." And if you do that, well, you'll probably make it, whatever "it" may be.

But is it worth it? From a Christian standpoint, the answer is a resounding no. We, if we are rightly pursuing a theistic worldview, place value not on our worldly success and wealth but on our bounty through Jesus Christ. According to the world's standards, however, it's worth it to give up everything to achieve greatness, even love, even beauty, even community. In THE FOUNTAINHEAD, a girl gives a little speech about she cannot possibly do something she loves or even be in love with someone because she would then owe the world something: she would be dependent on the world not to take away who or what she loves; therefore, she would be enslaved by her hope, relying on her selfishness as her sole rescuer. She can destroy that which she loves because to have it would destroy her freedom. She must disregard the world and focus solely on her own needs in order to survive. Isn't this what we tend to do? I've mentioned before our flirtation with destruction and how it makes us feel alive, how it proves the mannishness of our humanity; this seems an extension: if we hope for something, we are trapped by our desire, thus we become held captive, so we destroy to prove simply that we can. We tell the world, and this includes the marginalized, that we are too busy getting by or too caught up in the whirlwind of our achievement to care for it. All that matters is, essentially, ourselves. (Here, some may argue that because this world system is inherently corrupt, we are given a "get out of jail free" card: we cannot fix it so why bother? Wouldn't it be better to expend our energy on something that offers material gain? Yes and no. It is true that we cannot fix the world, but we are called to care for it, to act as stewards and caregivers, and to serve is the best thing we can do).

I would like to argue that selfishness is not a freeing thing, but rather something that enslaves. I see where we could pass it off as freedom--it is liberating to disregard what the world teaches as truth, but this is where it stops. Selfishness holds us captive in the respect that we become prisoners to our own worldview. When we can no longer look past ourselves, the world suddenly becomes a lot more limited and thus our ability to be relevant for the Truth fades away.

I believe that to be free is to hope. We have been given freedom in Christ: we have been give the ability to hope for a different world, a kingdom, a place that is not governed by the bogus world system. Not to have hope is to be imprisoned by fatalism.

Ok, I hope this has made sense. I keep feeling like I've missed a few crucial points and I'm sure once I exit the blog, I'll remember what I was going to say. Then the internet will go out. Then bugs will bite me and the ceiling fan will probably fall on Naseem. That's just the way life goes around here. Hope all is well Stateside.

Peace,
Alison

20 comments:

Jason Raschen said...

Thanks for the warning.

There is a lot of truth in what you are saying or trying to say.

There is also truth in the saying, “When God gives you lemons you find a new God!”

Personally, I have found that selfishness works to a degree. However, I also enjoy helping people. So there is a paradox.

The question you ask, “Is it worth it?” is a good starting point. Define “it” and then define “worth” and then you go from there.

Matt Davis said...

If there is truth in that saying, it would assume the existence of multiple gods, which you have capitalized to indicate their authority. But who among such a crowd has supreme authority if all are capitalized gods? Never heard the saying before, though.

I think Jesus capitalized best on this topic, Alison, when he said that "when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing." This of course calls into question whether or not it is even remotely possible for you to give, as a broken sinner, altruistically. Is it possible to give in such a way as to not expect a reward of any kind, even the reward of "feeling good about yourself for having done something nice for someone else"? Or is there a cultural sense of "do not let the hand of justice know what the hand of mercy is doing"? Bruce Ellis Benson lays out this topic wonderfully in "Graven Ideologies." I'll have to let you borrow it, Alison. He discusses the moral economics of the BWS (using, e.g., Greeks, Kant, et al) and then introduces the way of Jesus.

The way Ayn Rand proposes carries, to me anyways, these hints of Nietzschean "over man" philosophy, wherein the self-absorbed life is touted as stronger. I sincerely enjoy that Abe Lincoln once said that while force may be "all-conquering," it's victories are "short lived."

And I don't know where I'm going with this anymore so I'm going to stop while I'm behind.

ryansupak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ryansupak said...

Rather than rewrite the long-ass post I accidentally deleted, I'll just say I used to be such a big fan of AR I was gonna name my daughter Ayn.

***

That being said, the Bible says "love your neighbor as yourself".

So, Christian philosophy acknowledges what AR and Rush Limbaugh would agree with -- that people are naturally motivated to take care of themselves like no other -- but it also proposes that selfishness and selflessness ought to exist in some sort of balance.

$0.02,
rs

ryansupak said...

yo Scott, if you are reading this, what is your problem with AR (besides the militant atheism and doctrine of selfishness)? ;)

DW said...

Ryan, could you expound upon the idea that selfishness and selflessness need to exist in a balance? I am afraid I will be unable to leave off the selfishness in this life but the goal would seem to be to subjugate that yammering voice to the one that invites me to "consider others as more important" than myself. I am just wondering what you are thinking of...(this is an honest question...i.e. no sarcasm here.)

ryansupak said...

I feel like "love your neighbor as yourself" is a command that takes into account the way people really are: extremely selfish.

The assumption that everybody is abundantly, intuitively capable of self-love (no snickering, peanut gallery!) is built into one of the biggest commandments we ever received.

Or, to put it another way, if we didn't love ourselves, we wouldn't have to love our neighbors at all -- but we'd still be keeping this commandment.

hth
rs

ps - dw, do I know you IRL?

alison and naseem said...

dw is my mom.

karatechop said...

Truthiness cannot be found in nature. It's not a natural phenomenon. I mean, where there's truth, there's fire and no level- headed Mormon is going to get tuberculosis from that!

KABOOM! said...

"karatechop" - you are an idiot. Alison spends a lot of time on this blog and you are ruining it for her. RUINING IT. Her mind is like a steel trap, buddy, and when she sees your post and figures out the hidden meaning she's going to be M-A-D.

karatechop said...

Just because the Easter Monkey hides hotdogs behind the sofa, it doesn't mean we can't all still hunt for eggs. That's the tradition, People!

alison and naseem said...

who are you people...?

ryansupak said...

Those people are a single person, and that person would have everybody believe any worldview not based on scientifically verifiable evidence is as absurd as the stuff in their post. (So, the contents of their post is no more or less absurd than the stuff we're theorizing on here.)

Did I win the prize? (More importantly, am I a totally edgy intellectual now, too?)
rs

************************************** said...

Alison,

I would have normally read all of the post, but I got distracted, so here I am posting on your comment section. I think to paraphrase Jesus that in order to gain one's life one must lose it, and the last shall be first and since this Jesus guy who was the greatest became the least sets up the Christian Paradigm which is totally counter-cultural to the world's ideology. Ayn's philosophy crumbles in light of mutual cooperation i.e. trade and the like being a greater force in success for everyone, I understand the dilemma that trade can be detrimental, but thats because its not cooperative and humans are kinda wicked. To truly get ahead one must be willing not be complete selfish is what I'm trying to say... its late and past my bed time,

Have a beautiful day Alison and Naseem

-Dudley

alison and naseem said...

here is what i have to say back to karatechop/kaboom. bonus points if you know the original context. enjoy...


Science, on the other hand, has to assert its soberness and seriousness afresh and declare that it is concerned solely with what-is. Nothing – how can it be for science anything but a horror and a phantasm? If science is right, then one thing stands firm: science wishes to know nothing of nothing. Such is after all the strictly scientific approach to Nothing. We know it by wishing to know nothing of Nothing.

karatechop said...

Ali, only a good country person would know the answer to your question. If you would've spent a little more time in the decompression chamber with Steve and Ned, you would realize that.

High five!

KABOOM! said...

I want a seal who can bark my name.

I don't know Butchie instead!

alison and naseem said...

i didn't know you were from cincinnati....

DW said...

Alison, that comment just shows me that you were raised right.

Luke said...

I would like to argue that selfishness is not a freeing thing, but rather something that enslaves. I see where we could pass it off as freedom--it is liberating to disregard what the world teaches as truth, but this is where it stops. Selfishness holds us captive in the respect that we become prisoners to our own worldview. When we can no longer look past ourselves, the world suddenly becomes a lot more limited and thus our ability to be relevant for the Truth fades away.

What does the world teach as truth? You seem to assume that the "world" has a coherence to it. I argue that it does not. It is a panoply, a cacophony.

I agree, however, that -- generally speaking -- we become prisoners to our own worldview. And this goes for Christians as much as anyone.

Can a Christian see a non-Christian as loving and selfless? I mean really loving and selfless, in the proper senses of the words, as a Christian would define them? If so, what might motivate such a loving and selfless non-Christian? It might just be possible that he can recognize what it means to do -- nay, to be -- good, and act on it. And if it is possible for him to do and be good, and to hope that others may do so as well, can that person be free, by your standards?

If he can be free, what need has he for Christ?

One final thought: If a Christian cannot see beyond his own worldview, how can he keep his own ability to be relevant for Truth from fading away?