The First Manifestations of Logos

One of the first things that a newborn learns is that its voice, its cry, can affect the world and bring something broken back into alignment. I’ve been present for the birth of eight babies, including one that I caught in the bedroom of my home before emergency personnel could arrive, so I can say with reasonable certainty that the first thing a baby does when it exits the womb and enters the world is cry. And if it isn’t crying something is wrong. The cry is the best means to bring air, wind, breath into the baby, and that breath is vitally tied to the baby’s life, it’s survival. Interestingly, whenever the bible presents us the word “spirit” the literal word that is used in both the Greek (pneuma) and Hebrew is a word that means wind or breath. That spirit or breath is tied to life, and from the very first moments of a baby’s manifestation in the world the connection between human breath life and spirit is glaringly obvious.

But going further down this path, the inevitable thing happens when that baby’s cry, it’s voice, is manifest, is that things happen—things that make things better. The cry brings effect, and how long does it take the baby to learn this. Seconds, minutes, hours? It can’t be longer than that. Or is it built in, rather? Even if it is “built in” you can bet that the baby adds conception and understanding to this system almost immediately. Again, eight episodes of observation and participation have taught me this.

A baby exists in paradise. That is it’s baseline default condition—a beautiful, walled, protected garden where all needful things are provided without work. A place without sin, malice, time and any meaningful opposition. Certainly that is the case in the womb, and for some time that will be the baseline condition outside of the womb. Observe a newborn baby nestled into its mothers breast, drinking the milk of human kindness, and try to convince me that that baby isn’t in paradise—it’s not going to happen. It’s absolutely unaware that surrounding it is a fallen world where suffering, death and pain are the baseline conditions, but the baby will become conscious of itself and that fallen world soon enough.

And so perhaps it should be no surprise that the means to eventually deal with that fallen world is manifest in the baby’s first moments following the womb. We learn that in the beginning was the Word, the “logos” in Greek, and by this logos, the word of God, things come into being, chaos is turned into order, the unorganized is organized. God said “let there be light, and there was light.” And so it is with us, the children of God, who although not God, nonetheless contain God’s image. And something of the divine logos seems to be the nature of this image.

The baby cries, the baby manifests its voice, and something happens. The universe springs into action to the baby’s voice. There is nothing more irresistible, more unavoidable and captivating than that voice. The baby’s baseline condition is paradise, but once the baby leaves the womb the baby learns that paradise can be breached—the cold frigid air of a changed diaper, the loving “pokes” of a curious brother or sister, the rumblings clogs and pressures of a digestive system in development. But through the baby’s voice paradise can be restored, chaos can be made into order, stormy seas can be made calm again through the logos’ command of “peace, be still”.

Of course, the baby’s voice is just a tool of the logos, not the logos itself. If the baby’s vocal chords didn’t work, there would be other ways of manifesting its voice into the world. The baby needs to learn this first lesson of lessons because eventually it will awaken to a higher reality in which it’s eyes will be opened to the fact that paradise is in fact not the baseline condition of this world. This is a world where everyone has to run as fast as they can just to stay in one place. A world where if you want to suffer, all you have to do is just sit around a wait for a few minutes.

But that’s where that the development of that first gift in paradise comes in. For even in a fallen world, the logos nevertheless operates as it did in the previous state. Potential things, better things, can be imagined, and through the word, the voice of a person, those potential things can be pulled into existence, and the fallen world made a little better, a little nudge toward the heavenly world. The manifestation of the logos can take many forms—the spoken word, the written word, the mathematical word, the word manifest in art and imagery, dance, facial expression, action, and on, and on—and it is those who have learned to imagine yet unobtained states of being, and then do the work of pulling those better-imagined states into existence through the word, through the logos that they first manifest in the arms of their mother—it is these people who are responsible for incrementally, stone by stone, building the kingdom of God on earth.

The “Metagame” is Another Finger Pointing to the Moon, Not the Moon Itself

To begin to understand the metagame, the first thing to realize is that to call it the “metagame” is just a tool pointing to a complex concept that doesn’t quite lend itself to the words we have available to us. You could call the concept something different, and I probably will over time. For example, another way of explaining the metagame would be through the framework of stories. In one sense, it’s useful to see human life as composed of games, but it’s also useful to see the world as composed of stories. So another tool to get at the underlying concept I’m trying to point to would be to articulate something amounting to a “metastory.” A common Buddhist saying says that you should not mistake the finger pointing to the moon for the moon itself. When I use terms like the “metagame,” it’s simply as a temporary tool to point to something for which I don’t know an adequate all-encompassing term. I see too many people get so attached to specific frameworks that authors and thinkers have come up with, that they limit themselves by not being able to break out of them and see how other frameworks (other sets of tools) might be pointing toward the same thing. One of the best ways of seeing if you understand a concept is to try to explain it using a different set of images and tools and words than the ones you originally had the concept explained in. As I explain things, I’ll try to make it a point, to use a variety of images and even terms for the same concepts, and I’ll try to make it a point to point out when a term I’m using is pointing to something which I’ve tried to describe using different terms or images.

The Metagame

06 Dec 2018

One way of perceiving life is that it is a series of games. There are all kinds of games taking place simultaneously in life. The game of getting good grades in school. The game of keeping your body healthy. The game of progressing within your company. The game of social standing within your peer group. Each of these games has a general set of rules by which you play the game and skills that must be developed to be proficient in the game, along with rewards for obtaining degrees of competency within the game. It’s good to be moderately good at a large set of these games, and some are almost essential, like games related to health, but getting to the top levels at one or a few of these games is the usual way of gaining status, respect and wealth in this life. There are endless games in which you will gain a certain degree of respect by getting near the top of the hierarchy in that game. You could get to the top of the game in a certain academic field, in a particular trade or craft. You can even gain status by getting to the top of a hierarchy in literal, not metaphorical games. For example, you get quite a large degree of status and wealth if you climb so high in the hierarchy of competence in the literal game of basketball that you are drafted into the NBA.

But lying behind all these endless varieties of games is a more foundational game which I like to refer to as the metagame. “Meta” means “beyond,” so the metagame is the game that lies beyond all the other games. The metagame is the game of games. It’s the one that matters most. To win at the metagame is to win the whole set of games. In the game of Quidditch found in the Harry Potter universe, there is the game that most people are playing, and then there is the game that the seekers play. The seekers are those who are most agile and adept at flying. The seekers try to catch an elusive flying ball made of shiny gold. If they catch it, they don’t just win a point, they win the entire game. The seekers play the metagame. 

I’ve come to believe that successfully playing the metagame is more bound up with a sense of meaning and satisfaction than any of the other particular games of life.

How to Answer the Question: What’s the Right Thing to Do?

05 Dec 2018

When you’re trying to decide what the right thing to do is, a powerful guiding exercise is to ask yourself a series of questions. You can begin by imagining someone who really cares about you and your wellbeing and asking what they would want for you in a given situation. That may give you some possibilities. Then you can ask yourself if that would really be the best thing for yourself not just today, but extended into the future. In other words you can ask if it’s the best thing for you in the long run. Then you can begin asking yourself of the possibilities that remain if they would be good for your closest loved ones as well—not just today, but in the long run. Then you can expand out from there and ask what would be the best thing for your extended circle of family and friends, and on from there to at least your neighborhood and community, but you can go as far out as your city, your state and maybe even your country.

Things that are right will tend to be good at all of these levels, not necessarily in the short run as many right courses of action have painful short term consequences, but what’s right has this tendency to work out best for all your circles of influence in the long run. If you try to employ this exercise, it’s not as if you have to proceed in such a linear fashion. What usually occurs is that you have a bit of a discussion with yourself in your mind where the spirits of these different factions—your family, your community, etc.—may take turns making the case for whether a course of action will be beneficial for them in the long run or not.

One recent example of how my wife and I applied this kind of thinking to lead us to a specific course of action was when we were trying to decide whether we should rent or sell our current house when we purchase a new house. Initially there was much to say for the fact that renting it would be the most advantageous course for ourselves. But as we began to consider different circles of influence we could see that it would be best for our neighbors and community to make some improvements on our house and then sell it, and not to open it to renters. Because we valued our relationships we had forged with our neighbors and community we could see that this course of action would be the most appropriate course of action to honor and maintain those relationships, which led us to realize that these relationships and our reputation was ultimately more valuable to us in the long run than the benefits of renting the house. Hence, in the end we found the arrangement that was beneficial at all levels of our influence.

To be sure, it can oftentimes be difficult to find a course of action that is simultaneously beneficial (or at least not harmful) to all your circles of influence, but I’ve found that with sufficient creativity (and creativity is often key) it is nearly always possible. This shows that morality is tied up in our relationships with others, most likely because our existence is inextricably tied up with others. From the moment of our conception and birth, our life is bound up with others in ways that are unavoidable, so it makes sense that moral decisions would have to be made with all our ties to others weighing into the consideration.

Two Approaches to Religion

04 Dec 2018

There is a fundamental difference between religious people that has to do with the manner in which they see their own religion and other religions. Some religious people see religion as a set of facts or acts that they must adhere to (believe in, have faith in) or engage in order to gain some type of salvation or heaven. These types of people are generally hostile to differing religions because the logic of their position is that only one set of facts can be the correct set of facts, or only one set of acts can be the correct set of acts. If their set of facts and acts leads to heaven, how could it be that another set of facts and acts in another religion would also lead to heaven. So these types of people generally have an express or hidden hostility toward other religions. You can see this kind of hostility between different Christian churches that may overwhelmingly share the same underlying principles but differ in some small degree with regard to specific beliefs or acts.

Then there is another type of religious person who sees everything contained within a religion—the beliefs, the stories, the images, the rituals, the commandments, as a set of tools to bring them closer to God, closer to the ideal, and help them become as much like this ideal as possible. For these people religion is a process by which to reach higher human understanding and progress. One result of this is that they are less prone to believe that heaven lies in some other realm and is obtained by a set of prescribed beliefs and acts in this world, but rather see heaven as something that can be built here and now, little by little, through the processes found within religion. These people also generally have a much more favorable view toward other religions because they recognize that nearly all religions share in this goal of furthering the progression of man. Because different religions have specialized in different ways to bring man closer to the divine, a person of this religious proclivity is generally interested in learning as much as they can about other religions out of a recognition that any additional tool to help one draw closer to God is to be sought after, not feared. These kinds of people may feel that their faith tradition offers superior tools in the progress toward God, or perhaps offers the best tools for their own personality, but they have a respect for any tradition striving toward an ideal, and have an open mind for any additional concept that can be learned to further that progress toward the ideal. 

I see the second approach to religion as vastly superior.

My Pop and Bro Pilot a United 787 to Osaka (much sushi consumed)

My Dad and brother are both United Pilots, and through a series of fortunate events they were able to accomplish my Dad’s long-shot dream of being able to fly the same plane, the 787, and the same trip together. This is a story about living the principles of manhood over the long haul of decades dedicated to a craft and a meaningful purpose.

Warrior (movie/film) — Men Taking Responsibility

The movie Warrior is one of my favorites, top 10 for sure. This is my video essay about it. It’s a manly man’s movie, but it’s got a lot of heart and a lot to say about manhood and how to be a man. Especially about the value of taking responsibility, despite arguments to the contrary.

Ideal Manhood to the Bottom and Back — The Story of Joseph of Egypt — Gladiator Pt. 3

Podcast:

28 February 2018

In the second act of the movie Gladiator, we find the character Maximus at the lowest point imaginable. His jealous brother Commodus, who idolized him, sought to destroy him and everything he valued, rather than learn from him.

Maximus is beat down and we question whether the former ideal man still lives within him.

Maximus: “That man is dead, your brother did his work well.”

And yet, when pressed, aspects of his former character awaken, and just as before, those around him, can’t help respect that which commands respect.

Having to construct himself anew, Maximus initially lives merely for the ideal of survival, Maximus is made to fight in the gladiator arena, where his supreme competence once again becomes apparent, and people again rise to their feet in honor of that supreme competence. Maximus despises what he’s being made to do in the arena, and calls out the crowd for their warped taste for blood, and still, they cheer him.

Learning that his capability could earn him the chance to be presented in front of the emperor, now his hostile brother, Commodus, Maximus’s ideal turns from survival to revenge.

As word of his ability grows, admiration begins to grow, in the men around him, and even in the youth, such as the nephew of the emperor.

This is the story of Joseph of Egypt, the story of how when you try to destroy the ideal man and even thrust him into slavery and the lowest dungeon, an eventual  and inevitable collision of opportunity with competence will rocket him back to the top, because of a certain attitude that kind of man possesses toward life.

Maximus’s achievements place him right back before the emperor Commodus, who is unaware he still lives, and Maximus considers killing him, then and there, to achieve his vengeance, but his principles awaken and get the best of him. Instead, he lives according to his ideals, and lets the consequences follow, just as before.

As the deadened parts of his character begin to resurrect, everything begins to restore itself. Men honor Maximus wherever he goes. And his motivations slowly transform from seeking vengeance to the nobler pursuits of sacrificing himself to the higher ideals.

Commodus is incensed with internal conflict and rage. He plans a final manipulation where he mortally wounds Maximus before pretending to challenge him to battle in the arena to prove his strength and valor and gain the admiration of the people.

But Once again Commodus misjudges the nature of being, he misjudges the ways that the ideal man has contracted with being with a certain attitude, that in the long run, however unexpectedly, ensures him the favor of life.

Both Commodus and Maximus suffered tremendously in life. Both Die at the end of the story, as we all will. But Commodus dies having lost everything he ever valued. While Maximus dies having gained all he ever valued. What was the essential difference, the key of wisdom separating these two opposing brothers?

“If things are not laying themselves out for us as they should be, then we cannot curse God, we have to look to ourselves. Well, and you think, ‘why not curse God?’ Because maybe it’s his fault. And that’s a really good question.

One of the things I’ve tried to figure out over the last 30 years is, well why not just curse God? Because there is this arbitrary element to existence, and we are vulnerable, and there is plenty of suffering and things are unfair. There’s problems, right? There’s injustice and unfairness and all of these things, and endless suffering, so why not just lay it at the feet of God? (Whether or not God exists in some sense or not, by the way, with respects to the metaphysics of this particular discussion, is not relevant. The point remains the same either way.)

And the answer is, as far as I can tell, is that if you refuse to take on the responsibility yourself, and you attempt to lay it at the feet of either society or being itself, then you instantly start acting in a way that makes everything much worse—not only for you, but for everyone else and maybe even for being itself. It’s not helpful.

Now if you decide that it’s you, you’ve got the problem, maybe that’s not even true. Maybe you are someone who’s being tortured by the bet between God and Satan, and too bad for you if that happens to be the case.

But it still seems to be the appropriate thing, for a human being who’s standing on his or her own two feet, in a proper manner, to take the responsibility on for themselves, regardless of the counter-arguments that might be made against it. And that’s really something.”

—Professor Jordan Peterson