St. Augustine, freedom from the slavery of the flesh

Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.

~ St Augustine of Hippo.

Now, I’m going to expose a bit of my weakness here. Some of you may be more familiar with the story behind St. Augustine’s early life and his latter conversion into Catholicism than I am. For those who aren’t he was one of the foundational saints of Catholic theology. Arguably, he’s one of the most foundational and important figures in modern western Christianity short of Sts. Peter and Paul.

It is known that he led an incredibly hedonistic lifestyle. In fact, the prayer above is connected to his activities early in his life. It is said that he was given a “divine command” from God to take up and read. In the process, he realized the folly of his ways and the source of much of his unhappiness; Self-centered hedonism isn’t a goal worth striving for. He said that Romans 13:13-14 guided him in this enlightenment.

13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

~ NSRV Romans 13:13-14

It is essentially, the prodigal son story with St. Augustine, his debauched/licentious lifestyle during his 20s and his full conversion. His realization of greater things than just consumerism and individualism. This revelation leads to further spiritual growth and creation that many people today could learn strongly from.

I feel though that the lesson is 3-fold.

  • Satisfying the flesh will never satisfy the soul.
    Perhaps this message should be broadcast loudly, if only to overcome the MTV, ET Tonight, and regular commercial drone that the hedonistic excess is the only way to find any happiness is to feed that hedonistic urge.
  • You can always come back from any extreme.
    Who can blame people for trying out things they are told is wrong. I know when I was a toddler I stuck a hanger in an outlet, knocked over a dresser nearly onto myself, and did some other serious damage. All of which were actions I completed after being told not to. Sometimes though, that is how you learn. It is easy to justify terrible actions especially when those actions feel good.
  • You can be a slave to the flesh as much as you can be a slave to another person.
    Freedom from slavery includes freedom from the slavery of the flesh. Addictions, habits and consumerist drives are all fully capable of making us slaves to ourselves. Talk to a drug addict who has learned this and it becomes a lot easier to question whether you find true happiness in something or whether you are just succumbing to physical urges.

That physical urge is the problem. It leads to the hedonistic treadmill. Once you get a little, you simply want more and more, ironically leading to a little more happiness in the short term, but far less happiness in the long.  My generation was taught that it’s all ok, go with the physical urges, you were born that way, it’s “natural”, it doesn’t hurt anyone. Yet, that just feeds this treadmill. We cannot mature and start to nurture the next generation or the future until we get over it.

There isn’t any big picture when there is no reason to believe in anything more than extreme individualism. When there is no big picture, there’s no way to accomplish anything that matches the big picture, and there’s no way to better yourself since much becomes “I was born this way.”

We can all work together to build this new world, but first we need to stop concentrating on the little pieces and start putting together some big ideas. Something enough of us can get behind to be willing to sacrifice the individualistic hedonism in order to support creation.

The more you read, the more you see most obvious truths could be very wrong.

The Politics Book (© Dorling Kindersley)

I have been reading way too much of late, and I started to come to a weird and disconcerting conclusion. Many of the ‘truths’ that I read every day may not actually be the end of the story.

Truths like: Democracy is the best of all bad systems of government; Capitalism allows people to be most free, which then is also assumed to be a good thing; People should be free to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t immediately harm anyone who is alive right now, by some definition of alive; Anything which cannot be put into a test tube, Erlenmeyer flask, or reproduced in the lab doesn’t exist.

We are told as soon as we start school that these are obvious facts, that anyone who thinks the opposite is deluded or confused. However, we aren’t ever given anything but explanations that require other more hard to believe axioms to get there. If we question people about these beliefs too much, we get more heat than light as their anger rises at the sheer thought of questioning these fundamental “common sense” truths.

But why not? Haven’t we got to where we were because we were willing to question the prevailing common sense of the time. Heck, one of the most prevailing “truths” that is drilled into our heads is to question authority – sometimes to our own detriment.

I’ve grown up in a society saturated with the idea of relativist morality, political correctness and social hedonism. Democracy, unregulated capitalism and scientific realism all are the foundational philosophical structures behind these ideologies. Unfortunately, unlike previous generations which accomplished great successes by working together. Instead, the consumerism we are surrounded with places our societies in an individualistic hell. Hell ceases to be other people, and becomes not being able to ever work with other people effectively.

What other options are there? Well, if you read you’ll learn that a good number of the historical ones used weren’t the terrifying disasters you’ve been led to believe. In fact, many of the myths that prop up our society start to fall down really quickly. Instead, you find out that we are flailing in the air as much as anyone else. Which is an incredibly freeing, if frightening revelation.

This is not the end of history, not by far. If anything it is another coda to the continuing saga of man. It is our choice whether to give up the future by succumbing to hedonistic individualism, or to build great things once more by shattering the myths that hold us back.

Moderates, madness and the march to extremism.

Anyone who has been watching the world crisis is probably well aware of the extreme unemployment issues among the youth in Spain and Greece. Spain, I believe has been formally past 50% unemployment for a while. Greece is the same, or will be there shortly with the current trends.

First, I want to clear up some common misconceptions I see on blogs and in the media. Unemployment is not a measure of how lazy a country is, nor is it a measure of how little work needs to be done. It is not a sign of lack of supply. Unemployment is, simply put, a measure of how many people want to work who cannot. It is a measure of how much wasted productivity a country has. It is a measure of how little demand is coming from those who have the largest percentage of the capital.

Greece and Spain have not run out of stuff that needs to get done, stuff that can be effectively done by these unemployed young adults. However, they have no political impetus to employ them and the owners of capital are not willing to put their money into action. What’s worse is that this ideology of letting an entire generation be lost to austerity is being done under the guise of being “moderate.”

This is madness.

The only people who benefit from austerity practices are the rich. Upper-middle class and down get more benefits from government investment in times likes these than any other group. Roads, education, public infrastructure are all things that contribute immensely to both allow further investment and encourage economic spending.

Even something as stupid as building follies is smarter than trying to save money for a rainy day. Money, at a government level, isn’t something that needs to be scarce at a government level. When the government spends money, the people they spend it on are employed and thus able to spend it themselves on local businesses and organizations, providing more work and encouraging more economic growth. Those who are deeply in debt are able to start paying it off, so even the rich get benefits by earning their interest rather than losing money to bankruptcies.

Yet, this austerian moderatism fever has overwhelmed Europe and even floods strongly into Canada, with Alberta, a province that is doing well, refusing to invest properly into the LRT expansion in Edmonton that would benefit a significant number of folks in the capital region.

Now, this isn’t going to happen here, but when the mass of umemployed, hungry people who want to work but simply cannot find it remain so for long enough, you get political problems. The government usually becomes corrupt simply because those who would be involved for checks and balances don’t get involved due to lack of money or time, and the general population starts to agitate for change – any change.

If the pain suffered by the masses is blamed on moderatism, if austerity isn’t recognized for what it is; essentially an extremist position by those in wealth to prevent any wealth transfer to the underclasses, even if those in the underclasses are not directly deserving of this suffering; then extremism becomes a real option.

We seem to have forgotten this problem in the western world due to the extreme success of the Keynesian policies from 1945-1970 and the fact that it took almost 40 years for the gains from those policies to wear off. Now, though, you see it again, in Spain and Greece. I have friends in Spain who otherwise are reasonable, ordinary folks who are stating they want communism because it would be better than what they have. I have contacts in Greece who, in their minds, give very convincing arguments for why they support the Golden Dawn, a extreme fascist party.

And all of their arguments come down to one thing; they want to work, they money is clearly there but it seems to be not being spent at all, and the government is so corrupted by the large money brokers that they no longer represent the masses of the country. The masses who want those roads built, who want those public transit systems created, who want to be educated so they can better contribute to the world economy.

The masses who are starting to rise up and demand that if the current system no longer works, then it’s time for a new one.

The madness of these moderates is going to be the source of the fall into extremism of their own system, and I fear that extremism will spread across Europe very quickly if it shows the slightly sign of success.

Suggested reading:

6 rules you should follow to practice safe web surfing.

People who have sat down at my compute to use it on the web discover very quickly that I run a tight ship. I view surfing and the work I do on the web similar to how many people view sex. If I do a lot of it, with a lot of unknown partners then I’m taking on considerable risks; Thus, I have to either protect myself accordingly or I have to not be so promiscuous, and promiscuity is so much funner on the web.

With this mentality though, I’ve been able to avoid a computer virus or spyware for a very long time and I have only a few more complications when surfing the web than the average user. After having to recover friends and coworker computers time after time when they get a virus, and not just viruses they’ve downloaded via trojans, and being worried crapless about new viruses like the bitlocker virus I think it’s time to explain the 6 techniques and tools I use to perform safe computing. Continue reading