On ‘Meditations’ Book 3…

Verse of the Day:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
~ Philipians 4:8 ~

Continuing my reading in Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, I came across this…  actually before that I’ve got to say this before I forget… this guy is not a good writer – I can find no rhyme or reason to the division of books.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy what he’s written, but it’s like the guy just wrote down a bunch of thoughts as they came to him without thinking about how they fit together; naturally some of them flow into others, but that’s not a prevailing theme.  Though, apparently after reading up on Meditations itself, this book was just him writing things down for himself during different points in his life – not intended for a wider audience.  I guess I can get that -I just don’t appreciate it, he really should have been more considerate of us though.  Now, onto something from Book 3:

Never esteem of anything as profitable, which shall ever constrain thee either to break thy faith, or to lose thy modesty; to hate any man, to suspect, to curse, to dissemble, to lust after anything, that requireth the secret of walls or veils.

Again, some really good advice from centuries ago.  Being a man that subscribed to Stoic thought he’s bound to have a few well-reasoned thoughts as seen above: and generally speaking I’m all about removing as much emotion from decision-making as possible (I realize I may not be normal), but some of his reasoning just doesn’t fly, people being the emotional creatures they are.  Part of this reminded me of something Robert E. Lee wrote to his son(?) at one point,

You have only always to do what is right. It will become easier by practice, and you enjoy in the midst of your trials the pleasure of an approving conscience.

Throughout history, a lot of wisdom comes down to paying attention to your conscience – the silent voice our Creator gave our souls to remind us the difference between right and wrong.  It’s acknowledged by both Christian and secular alike; maybe we should pay attention to it, foster it – and by doing so make the world a better place.

That rambling aside – have a great Labor Day weekend!

Let Me Explain Myself…

Well…  I think I have kind-of-sort-of fleshed this out.  That is not to say this is an all-encompassing, all-inclusive list of everything I believe; rather it should provide a general understanding of the prism through which I view the world and its going-ons.

understand

First off, as a Christian I have accepted the fact that I am first and foremost one of my Creator’s most prized creations.  Having said as much, I must also acknowledge that I am a sinner, a deeply broken person: I swear too much, drink too much sometimes, and too often do things that break my Father’s heart.  But He is a forgiving God, so full of grace and compassion, that even while I continue to disappoint Him He knows I’m trying (sometimes harder than others unfortunately).  Something I hope is evident to my neighbours, but I fear too often is not…  It’s a life journey though, and with His help I’ll get where I need to be – because He lives.

Because of my faith, I know there are two things I must do: love the Lord – and by doing so follow His commandment as best I can, and show His love to my fellow man (note: this is especially hard to do during my commute).
Now, how this applies to my views of governance and the nature of man’s relationship with earthly powers and such may differ a great deal from many of those who would naturally assume I agree with them, while at the same time reinforcing other beliefs that others may find stereotypical.
I believe that humankind is the pinnacle of Creation here on Earth; we hold a special place in God’s heart and His plan.  I believe we have been given dominion over the earth and all it contains, and we should be wise stewards of what we have been given.  More on this later…

Secondly: I was born a citizen of these United States and I embrace my identity as an American whole-heartedly.  This nation is possibly the best experiment in governing theory that man has ever conceived, and more good has been done for mankind through the auspices of the US than any other man-lead endeavour in my not so humble opinion (my opinions are often anything but humble, just ask around). 

And lastly… Actually – before we get to the lastly – a slight disagreement I have with a lot of people on my side!
While many would argue that the US was founded on Christian principles, I assert that is to ignore the Revolution was in direct conflict with the precepts laid out in Romans 13 and ignored the teachings of Christ.  Despite that, once Revolution succeeded, the United States was indeed founded on principles that are deeply rooted in the Christian tradition.  And based on its founding, I find myself to be a Federalist: I believe in the American system of Federal government as proscribed in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights; I am convinced we are stronger together than as separate States and that the untitled.pngFederal Government has duties that are best left to its purview – common defense, interstate commerce, post office (though today maybe not really?), infrastructure, etc.  And as such, I understand the powers of (the Federal) government are, and of right, ought to be limited in scope and in size (something both parties of governance have forgotten).

Also if Chicago has a sports team, I’m probably a fan – except for the White Sox.  This will probably pop up from time-to-time, like if the Cubs are on a playoff run I’ll probably spout off.  And if the Bears by some miracle make it anywhere near the playoffs… well, you probably don’t have to worry about that too much.  Another also!  GO COUGS!

Now! …lastly we get to my defining what it means to me to be conservative.
Just as I believe humankind is the pinnacle of Creation here, I believe the individual is the sacrosanct expression – taking that into account I also hold that individuals are not complete without community and relationship.

That being said, here is where I deviate from what most conservatives would declaratively state: while I believe the individual is of paramount importance in God’s eyes, of all the Rights that mankind supposedly has – I can only find a singular God-given one, possibly two: in all my studies, the only Right I find guaranteed by my Creator is the right to choose to do what is right or what is wrong… to do what my God calls me to do, or to do what man says I can do…  That’s the only definitive Right I believe is God-given…  There could be an argument made that the right to be born is God-given as well, but since the Fall – I’m not so sure: with that caveat – it is still a right I will fight for till the day I die.

Since I’ve stated that I don’t presume most Rights are God-given, I should take time to note that despite my misgivings there – I feel the Rights listed in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are important, integral parts of a society seeking to protect and foster individuals and civil society.  It should also be noted that almost all Rights elaborated on in the original Bill of Rights were negative Rights, and the positive Rights that were included were put in place to prevent the government from abusing its powers.  I contend the Rights outlined in the original Bill of Rights and other Rights that have been added are correct and necessary reactions to injustices; whether they be known historical injustices or injustices practiced in this country – wrong was done and corrective actions were taken to right those wrongs and/or to prevent them from happening here/again.  To me Rights should almost necessarily be negative ones, and the only positive ones should be implemented to ensure protection from governmental abuse – I have very little stomach or patience for those “rights” people argue should be that would require forcing others to do things they otherwise would not do.  President Lincoln once said, “The legitimate object of government is “to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they cannot, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves.”” and I agree… to a point; but a legitimate object of government is not to do that which people do not feel needs to be done, or that people choose not to do – people should be responsible for their own lives and choices, and communities should step in when there is a perceived need to the extent they can.

To be a conservative, one should accept the simple premise that government is ill-suited to doing that which we as people should and could be doing.  I accept that for the most broken and needy there should be a safety net (however we have far exceeded this mandate, and our posterity will pay dearly for it), but strongly feel that the government most definitely is not to be in the business of solving the world’s or society’s ailments.  The American experiment is one in which the people did not desire a king over them to provide for them as the Israelite’s did, but desired first and foremost freedom – the freedom to do and be and say whatever they wanted to within the confines of the well-understood Judeo-Christian morality the colonies were well steeped in.  The government of America’s founding was not meant to be a provider for those in want or need; rather it was meant to be a protector for those who wanted or needed to make a better life for themselves (I fully acknowledge there are disparities and dark spots in America’s history, and that it did not protect all equally for a good portion of time…  But we did eventually get it right, I’d like to think).  I think a government that de facto protects individual’s Rights while leaving them to their own designs is the best environment for people to become and do what God wants them to (granted it’s even better in a society rooted in Christian mores with strong communities, but you can’t force that on people and still be free…).  I maintain that while individuals are that most important creation – that when facts and figures come into conflict with feelings, facts and figures are all that matters; this is an important tenant for public policy that I think passes to the wayside far too often.

And now…  with that abrupt and awkward ending, I think I’ve gotten most of it out there.  Now, we can move onto… other things…  Later on…  For now, I’ll leave you with this:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

~ Philippians 4:8 ~

That First Post…

What am I doing?  Why am I doing it?  And who am I anyways?
All important questions to answer if I’m going to do this right I guess.  Any time one ventures into new territory they should definitely declare the causes which impel them to the…  Anyways, I’ll give an overview here and follow-up in a day or so with a paradigm-defining piece so you’ll have a general feel for where I’m coming from.

What am I doing?

In the simplest terms – I am thinking out loud.  I like to pontificate about a good many things, so I might as well spend that time attempting to define for you (and to no little extent, myself) what I think and why I think that way.  Hopefully I am helping you see another point of view, maybe I am at least enabling you to understand another point of view, mostly I hope I am challenging you to think critically about topics – and that you will in turn challenge me to do the same.  I hope to cover the gamut, from my personal beliefs to my views on governance to issues of the day to how the Bears/Cougars/Cubs/Blazers are doing to what movies I’ve watched and what books I think you should read to what astronomical event/scientific discovery has caught my attention.

Why am I doing this?

Well, in this uncivil era where voices struggle to be the most strident and most provocative – civil discourse and explanations of one’s reasoning become more and more imperative.

While others strive to drown out opposing views and disdain those who disagree with them – I feel the need to critically examine my beliefs, and then to make sure my opinion is known.  This is not to say that a scathing exposition won’t be warranted from time-to-time; I can almost guarantee there will be more than a few – but I will try to focus rather on the positive…  if I can…  I swear I’ll try.

I also need an avenue from time-to-time to express myself personally and politically, and believe this may be the most appropriate venue – I’m almost always better at the written word than I am verbally; I am much more able to express myself and make sure my reasoning is sound when it is on paper…  or the ether of the internet…  maybe it will get lost in the cloud, who knows.

And who am I anyways?

No one of consequence, that’s for sure!  🙂

Just a normal guy – I’m a middle-class 30-some year old male.  I have a degree in public policy that I put to work doing…  absolutely nothing with public policy!  Money well spent, I tell you. (Note to anyone not in college yet: get a STEM degree!  It’s much more sensible and will probably pay off a lot more in the long run)

Once a child with delusions/dreams of grandeur – I wanted to be President.  Since then I have sizably downgraded those – from President to some State office, to maybe some local office, to working on campaigns and donating for/to people I believe in, to just wanting to get through one day without hearing histrionics on the news about some policy something or other.

* I think that is an imminently more reasonable dream; and yet, it seems so unattainable at times! *

I identify myself as a Christian, a family man, and a conservative – but that is something I’ll get into in  another post;  I strive to be as diverse as a modern-day renaissance man could be with interests that include the theater/performing arts, literature – classic and new, religious theory/study, fiction and non-fiction, politics (theory and practice), the sciences (astronomy in particular), history, and sports (some would say I identify too closely with my teams at times); and I try to be as involved in my community as possible through my church, volunteer opportunities in the community, and civic engagement.

Last year I took time to identify the verses in the Bible that spoke most to me and I would seek to have best define me; I also compiled personal vision and mission statement.  I’ll include them here, and maybe if I’m not living up to them you can help put me back on the right path.  🙂

Life Verses

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

~ Philippians 2:1-4 ~

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

~ Psalms 139:14 ~

Life Quote

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

~ George Washington ~

Vision Statement

My vision is a world where the people that come in contact with me know that I am a Christ follower; that my nephew and those around me can look to me as a role model; that I am a positive influence on the people around me; where my relationships with my family and friends are strong; where my co-workers know they can depend on me to do my work capably; where I am viewed as a leader in my community and give back to it regularly; where I make a positive impact in my community and make it a better place for the future; where I am ever-inquisitive and ever-learning; and where I do all of this cheerfully.

Mission Statement

In my life I will make time daily for prayer and study so that I can grow closer in my relationship with my Creator; I will take more care of my well-being – both physical and mental – by being more careful of what I say and do; I will strive to be a better example to those around me; I will take time each week to build stronger relationships with my family and friends; I will organize my days – both personally and professionally so that I maximize my time and my talent (while maintaining flexibility when the need arises); I will find more opportunities to be involved in my community through service; I will make my voice heard in the community on the issues that matter to me; I will always seek to learn more about this grand Creation; I will find time every day to be thankful for something/appreciative of someone/encouraging to someone; and I will do all this with the joy of my Creator.

It seems to me that covers everything for now…  I’ll catch you on the flip side

Thanks for taking the time to check me out.  If you ever have questions or comments, I look forward to hearing from you – the one thing I ask is that we all remain on-topic and civil.