It's been too long since the President's State of the Union Address for this to be considered very relevant (it's certainly not timely), but I wanted to briefly admit that I actually agree with the President on some areas he feels the country needs to improve upon in order for us to remain competitive in the global community.
Innovation: I agree. I think we've always been a country that has enabled those who want to dream BIG do so. We've enjoyed a few hundred years of some of the most innovative ideas known to mankind and I think that our national, state, and local policies should be structured so that they encourage, rather than discourage, ideas and innovation.
Where we disagree is how to encourage and invigorate innovation. I don't think that nationally funded government research projects are the answer. President Obama seems to think that the private sector doesn't see R&D as important. I disagree. I think they'd spend a lot more time on R&D if we'd keep them out of the wings of Congress (aka, get rid of the Lobbyists) and force them to be productive and competitive again. Instead, they lay about in the halls of Congress steering policy instead of productivity.
I'm anti-business. NO! I'm very keen on the free market. I just don't think you can call it a free market if Big Business has the ability to hold our country hostage to the idea that they are "Too Big to Fail...". I disagree with big businesses being allowed to gain the ear of Congress and manipulate them into laws that make innovation and competitiveness more difficult for everyone (except big business). The repeal of a lot of regulation and restriction would encourage smaller businesses- local businesses- to become more innovative. The repeal of some regulations would actually devastate some of these "too big to fail" businesses and remove the stranglehold that they've created over our National Policy.
Education: I agree with the President here, as well. I think we've got a terrible situation on our hands in the United States. We need to improve our education system. This is one reason why my wife and I aren't interested in sending our children to public school.
But, I'm not certain the the Federal government needs to be in the education business. I think the businesses of America (and the world) should have more to say about what they need and how they think we can get it. I think we need to look into encouraging businesses to invest in the workforce (not taxed into it). When the baby-boomers are gone from the workforce in a few years, I think businesses across the country are going to be struggling to find the talent they need and very quickly there will be an incentive in creating a more talented pool to choose from.
Infrastructure: Oddly enough, most people think that Libertarians are anti-roads and law enforcement? I'm not. I agree that the infrasturcture of our country needs to be improved. Our airports are awful. Our roads stink. So do our rails.
But I also don't think that we need to push the country further into debt in order to fill in potholes. Again, I think there are more creative ways where businesses and other private investors help pick up the tab (of their own will) rather than creating national spending projects.
So, all in all- I actually enjoyed the vision that the President cast. I think these three areas of innovation, education, and infrastucture are very profitable and beneficial paths that we should pursue. I'm just not on board with the implemenation methods that he's suggesting to accomplish these tasks.
"What's this war in the heart of nature? Why does nature vie with itself, the land contend with the sea? ls there an avenging power in nature? Not one power, but two?"
- Private Witt (The Thin Red Line)
* * *
This opening line of questions frames the entire experience of 'The Thin Red Line' and makes me wonder if the movie is really about WWII or if it's much deeper and more meaningful than the story of American soldiers taking an island in the South Pacific.
Of course, these thoughts comes not only from watching the film but also reading through The Thin Red Line (Philosophers on Film). Between the two, I'm blown away that a movie has this much potential meaning packed into it. I say potential meaning because I'm taking away insights cast through the filter of a bunch of philosophers who had nothing to do with the film itself. They may be far off course from the original intent of the film. In fact, there's a good chance that the director didn't have much more in mind than making a movie about war. But whatever the case, this film has given an awful lot of philosophical and religious fodder to academics, and I'm enjoying the experience of borrowing the ideas of other people and wrestling with thoughts that are much bigger than my own.
A question that's bugged philosophers for some time is 'why is there something rather than nothing?' This is a difficult question because there IS something, and so we can't even begin to fathom that there could be a situation where there is nothing.
Why do we exist?
Why does God exist?
Why is there something, rather than nothing?
I've been listening to Herbert Dreyfus' lecture series on Fear and Trembling by Kierkegaard on the way to work over the past few weeks. He's quite a good lecturer and I'm not only intrigued by his insights into the content of Kierkegaard's most famous work, I'm also blown away by a few aspects of the lecture that seem to be present in front of me in my every day life.
I want to give additional time to these ideas and mill them over in my mind for a bit, but I also feel the need to write some of them down lest I forget them.
Reconciling Universal and Subjective Ethics
According to Dreyfus, Kierkegaard's makes an interesting differentiation between the Universal Ethic (a Greek ideal) and the "Suspension of the Ethical" for those who are engaged in an Unconditional Commitment (a Judeo-Christian ideal). The reason this concept stuck out to me, personally, is that living here in the West, I've grown up in a culture that straddles these two concepts. We value both conformity and individuality simultaneously.
I heard a joke a few years ago that summarizes this experience pretty well (I think I saw it on a t-shirt): "I want to be different, just like everybody else."
We live within this duality in a lot of different arenas- one that's specific to my experience is my religious/spiritual life. Over the past few years I've attended "Christian" conferences, events, or church services where the speakers have made a very strong argument for Absolute Truth and Absolute Ethics (which is more Greek/Rational) even in the midst of our Judeo Christian tradition (which is based on Revelation/Subjectivity).
Now, I know that comment regarding absolute truth and relativism is sure to get a lot of resistance, so let me clarify it a bit more before I'm pounced upon for abandoning my faith. Kierkegaard reestablished a very clear historical perspective that the concept of Absolute Truth and Rationality are Greek- not Christian. It's Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (Greek Philosophers) who responsible for the idea of a Universal Ethic. Now, it's true that their influence permeated Western Christianity to the point where Augustine, Kant, Dante and other Christian philosophers all adopted a very Absolutist attitude. And with that sort of thinking affecting early church reasoning and writing, it's also true that we've been impacted (in the West) to the point where we don't have a clear understanding of the original Judea-Christian ethic, which was very personal and subjective. But there are still small semblances that remain, even with our viewpoint washed thoroughly with the Socratic Method.
For those of us who are engaged in an Unconditional Commitment to God, there are instances when we may be called to do something very personal to our own experience rather than the requirement of all. We ask “what is God's will for MY life” rather than merely His plan for the Church/collective; a hint that we care about the very personal/subjective nature of our relationship with God. And there are even times when we may find ourselves being required to do what which is "outside" of the Universal Ethic. One instance that Kierkegaard explores in Fear and Trembling is where God requires Abraham to murder (sacrifice) his son- a universally unethical, immoral act which would be sin for him to enact in any situation other than the one he's presented with.
Luckily, we know the end of the story- God provided an alternative sacrifice (a ram) in Isaac's stead. So, for us, it's a little easier to rationalize the instance. He wasn't really forced to act out the murder/sacrifice. But for Abraham, trekking up the mountain with his boy by his side, wrestling with the knowledge that he was about to kill the offspring who had been promised to him- there was a clear problem. Although the Universal Ethic says that it's wrong to kill- especially wrong to kill your children, God had revealed an instruction that usurped the Ethical. And in Abraham's Unconditional Commitment to God, he was ready to do the unthinkable. And this was accounted as Faith.
That said, it's actually Revelation rather than Rationality that we adhere to as the Ultimate Right for the Judeo-Christian Ethic. The problem for us is that it's a rather difficult concept to reconcile with the claims of "Absolute Truth" that are proclaimed by most prominent Christian leaders in the world today. They seem contradictory. And they are. They are birthed out of two traditions that have shaped our thinking here in the West.
The only way I can even come close to reconciling the two is in this:
It seems that the only exception to the Universal Ethic is when Revelation clearly counters it. But Revelation never comes from the individual. It always comes from outside of the individual- either from God or from the consensus of many individuals. This said, individually perpetuated murder is still Universally Wrong. If God clearly commands a death, perhaps it could be said that the individual is no longer driving the choice- it's being delivered to the individual from an outside force greater than the individual. So, Abraham in this case would not be violating the Universal Ethic of self/individually perpetuated murder. Likewise, an individual jailor who flips the switch on an electric chair is not a murderer even though a prisoner dies by his hand for a jury of peers may come to consensus that the person's life should be taken. This Revelation or outside opinion has not violated the Universal Ethic, but enhanced it and made the way for exceptions.
I don't know that this is what Kierkegaard has in mind. He believed that it's an individual's unconditional commitment to God (or to ideals) that allows faith to suspend the ethical. But I think my way is a better reconciliation of these two ideals.
I live in the paradox, as Kierkegaard did, and I want it both ways.
Last night, Beth and I decided to attend Northland Church again (for the second week in a row). I'm really glad that we did. It was inspiring to say the least.
At the beginning of his sermon, Joel Hunter (the senior pastor), ascended the stage and revealed that it had been a very difficult week. His granddaughter has been in hospital due to brain cancer. He was noticeably shaken as he related the story to the congregation.
Two things really struck me about what he said.
He began by telling us that he's been praying for his church all week because of the situation. "Although our family is under a lot of stress," he said, "we're confident that our God is a God who heals. He may wish to heal her physically here on earth, or he may choose to heal her completely by bringing her into His presence. But either way, we're confident that God will do what's best for our family."
If that weren't enough, he continued...
"Our family is under stress, but we are not shaken. But that doesn't mean that everyone who goes through something like this isn't. In fact, I know that Satan would like nothing better than to use something like what's going on in my family to shake you to the core and cause you to question God's goodness and mercy. And so I've been praying for you this week. I've been praying that your faith will be strengthened whether you're dealing with your own personal pain or if you're seeing pain in the life of a friend or a pastor."
And that's about when the tears began to creep into the corners of my eyes and my throat got that feeling... you know, the one where you're on the verge of sobbing.
Why was I suddenly about to burst out crying?
Well, I was in the presence of a man who is so in tune with the church he shepherds, that even his own very personal pain is a cause to pray for and encourage his flock. Instead of being more self-focused, he became more other-focused.
That said, I think we've decided to put some roots down at Northland. Mainly because we both want to learn from a man like that. And, honestly, I want to be like that, too.
I’ve decided that I’m going to enjoy movies a lot more if I only grade them on the way they draw me into the story.
“Inception” gets an A. I saw it last night with Brad and I was really sucked into the story from beginning to end. I don’t have any idea what happened. I was lost for most of the movie. I don’t feel anymore “unlost” by the end. But I was riveted from beginning to end.
Could I find problems, loopholes, directing errors, poor acting choices, etc.? I’m sure.
But getting sucked in for the ride is what makes good entertainment.
So I’m going to leave it at that.
I was humbled to discover that I'm featured on Weebly today!
Humbled, because I haven't blogged enough lately to make me feel like I live up to my old slogan: "your daily dose of philosophy, politics, and religion." (so I changed it)
About a year ago I took a job where I was training every day- giving thoughts, feedback, and coaching to new sales and service reps with Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and it drained my ability to do the sort of research and planning it takes to actually articulate thoughtful posts each day. I wasn't able to put the time and dedication into it as I had in the past without regurgitating things that no one really wanted to hear about again. Then, last November our second son was born and it became even more difficult. I realized that the most important thing outside of working wasn't coming up with new thoughts and ideas, it was spending time with the two most terrific kids a man could hope for.
Thus, my posts have become very few and far between.
And while it makes me sad that an area of my life that I'm VERY proud of and excited about has had to take a back seat for a while, I think it's actually proof that I've been growing. You see, my wife told me a few months back that she thought I was a much more selfless person than the man she married, and I honestly wasn't really sure that I could put my finger on what she meant. Today, I figured it out. If this site- which is my pride and joy- can be placed aside in favor of my wife and my two kids, then I feel very good about my priorities.
In fact, the place in life that I find myself a part of right now is in some ways the end game of this entire blog anyway! For what else are Philosophy, Politics, and Religion good for if not to point us toward a life worth living.
I think I've found that. My life is very worth living.
If I to spend too much time here, crafting my ideas on what the good life means and why it's so great would actually diminish the enjoyment that I'm having right now. So while I've enjoyed that many of you have stopped by today to view my blog and figure out what's happening in my neck of the woods- I need to make it clear (mostly to myself) that this site is going to be somewhat bland for the next couple of months/years. There are two little boys and an amazing woman who have captured my affections and chronicling my own ideas on God or Life cannot come close to the thrill of loving them.
Have fun on your journey!
I hope to hear from you soon.
When you murder a man and he comes back to life a few days later and interposes the following:
"I still love you and I'll be patiently waiting for you to open yourself up to a relationship with me."
I believe that's a God worth having.
Two days ago, I wrote a post that became more thought provoking than I had originally considered. It got me thinking about the "Consent of the Governed" and what that really means. Here are some thoughts from Thomas Jefferson (I posted these in the comments section of my previous post):
"Government exists for the interests of the governed, .... There is an error into which most of the speculators on government have fallen, ... Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. ... A court has no affections; but those of the people whom they govern ..."
From a libertarian perspective, this has always been used to argue for limitations on government- since powerful governments are often oppresive governments. But what if the governed ACTUALLY want intervention, regulation, and control? What if the governed don't consider these things oppressive, but liberating?
If consent is given to totalitarianism or facism, does the government have an directive to respond accordingly?
I was reading a book called "Super Freakonomics" by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner last week. There is a passage in the chapter called "Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance" where the authors come out and admit that one of the unfortunate things about terrorism is that they win even when they lose.
So the other day, when some guy tried to blow up a plane- I was primed to be looking and thinking about what this guy's actions would cost the American People. What would the event mean for the rest of us?
You see, terrorists are able to put us into a position of irrational fear. Irrational fear is the sort of thing that makes people willing to give up rights in order to secure freedom.
Try to board a plane this holiday season and watch out- you'll be searched and frisked and scrutinized up and down all because some Nigerian man who claimed to be working on behalf of Al Qaeda FAILED to blow up the plane he was on. FAILED. Yes, we have to put up with a loss of freedom simply because he attempted the attack.
Don't get me wrong, I want to be safe and I'm willing to give up some of my rights in order to ensure that people aren't blowing each other up. But I'm wondering if a better way to stick it to these hoodlum terrorists would be to bask in the glory of Freedom rather than allow even their failed attempts to transform us into a Police State where everyone is safe but no one is free.
Nathan Key likes to think about faith and philosophy and talk about it with others. He lives with his family in New Hampshire. He doesn't always refer to himself in the third person.