1 Corinthians 13 (IV)


reLOVEutionAfter my explorations in the realms of magic, (false) scepticism and the defence of the middle ages it might be time to go back to writing about the Christian faith, and so I continue my meditations on 1 Corinthian 13. In this post I continue with the second part of the chapter, in its entirety. We could pause at every single line too (and you can do that on your own if you want), but I’m just going to let this part speak:

Let’s read this, and try to understand what Paul means here:

Love is patient,
love is kind,
it is not envious.
Love does not brag,
it is not puffed up.
It is not rude,
it is not self-serving,
it is not easily angered
or resentful.
It is not glad about injustice,
but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

Take time to read every line slowly and to let it sink in…

But what does it mean? We don’t see this kind of love in our lives. Sure, it means that we must strive to love this way (helped by the Holy Spirit), even if this kind of love will not be perfect in our lifetime. It is meant to grow into perfection, since the only way to be in ‘heaven’ in eternity is to actually be able to ‘love our neigbor as ourselves and God with all of our mind, soul and strength’.

So there’s more to it than a description of ‘ideal love’ that only exist in some kind of Platonic ‘world of ideas’ of which we only see a dim shadow here and now.  There is also more than our human love in the most ideal circumstance.

Darin Hufford in his book the misunderstood God says that those are the characteristics of God, since 1 John says that God is love. This view might be challenging to some, but it is not too big a stretch to make: Why would the Love of God be less than what the apostle writes here about love? It would be utter nonsense to assume that God, who is said to be Love, would ask us to love more than He does himself.

So the love God has must go beyond the ‘love your enemies, bless those who hate you’ of the sermon on the mount.

So let’s read the verses again, and now focus on these characteristics being the characteristics of Gods love for us. For me, you and everybody… What does this mean? What are the consequences?

Radical, isn’t it?

PS: Please don’t start discussions here about Gods love and Gods judgement as if those were 2 different things. If God loves His Creation and His Children, God will probably need to get very angry when the things He loves get destroyed… And things need to be set right. Sin is a very destructive power that needs to be dealt with… But all judgement is rooted in love. If anyone does harm to your children and creation you would get quite angry too..

No, the ‘Islamic State’ isn’t medieval.. (it’s even worse: it’s modern!)


Someone on facebook linkkromzwaarded to an article from the Guardian about the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (formerly known as ISIS, and still called that in the article), the Islam-based terror organisation that reigns over parts of Iraq and Syria and has committed atrocities against humanity. If found it very interesting in making some connections that are easily missed, giving some historical background on modern Jihadism and deconstructing some of lazy assumptions that are often parroted in the media.

The Islamic State is one of the things dominating the news nowadays, even though they seemed to come ‘out of nothing’. They are a threat to our modern way of thinking and living, and tend to be quite absolutist  in their enforcement of what they consider an ‘Islamic state’ to be, in such a way that those who are not considered part of their particular type of Islam do better run away as fast as they can when the IS comes near…
And that category does not just include Christians (the Orthodox Churches of Mesopotamia are (were) among the oldest Christian communities on the planet), Yezidi and ‘heretic’ Shiites and more mystically inclined Islamic followers of Sufism but also anyone who doesn’t agree with them, even if they are as much of a Sunni Muslim as they are.

Some people like to call the things the IS does not only barbaric but also ‘medieval’. Which totally ignores that the worst things that are generally seen as ‘medieval’ are actually from the renaissance (like the European religion wars, the extreme witch hunts, …) But since most of us do are not very historically-minded and believe the englightenment-myths that the medievals believed in a flat Earth (almost everything believed in the Ptolemaic round-earth geocentric model) or that medievals had no place for reason. (Anyone who has read the scholastics will know that a lot of medieval thinkers were closer to excess rationalism than to shunning reason.)

But there actually is not much that can be called medieval (in an Arabic or European sense) about the IS. They are much more (post)modern with a lot of modern Western influence, and the IS  actually could never do what they do without the modern mass media for example. Without the internet and our  sharing of videos they couldn’t have had the effect on the rest of the world that they do now. For anyone who knows even a little bit about history it’s very clear that the IS is not really going back in time to reclaim something very old, (they wish though)  but something new and unique that can only exist in this day and age…

We also should watch out about being too categoric the link between IS and Islam. Yes, IS claims to be Islamic, but so do a lot of the people killed by them. Saying that the IS or any violent group is ‘the real Islam’ and that Islam is nonsense and dismisses all those Muslims who do not agree with IS at all as bad Muslims. (It only affirms the validity of IS anyway…)
On the other hand, saying that IS has nothing at all to do with Islam is also nonsense. They do claim to represent Islam and at least base themselves on a faulty image of Islam. even if they would be excluded as heretics by all other muslims, then it’s still nonsense to say they have ‘nothing to do with Islam’.
The Jehovah witnesses might not be considered as inside of Christianity, but to say that they have nothing to do with Christianity is just nonsense…

But there is another source for the IS, and modern Jihadism as a whole, that we might not like to see. Note the second word in the name ‘Islamic State’. The idea of the absolutist modern nation-state is as central to the IS as Islam is.  The earlier mentioned  article from the Guardian that inspired this post has the very interesting title “Isis jihadis aren’t medieval – they are shaped by modern western philosophy” and as sub-title “We should look to revolutionary France if we want to understand the source of Islamic State’s ideology and violence.”

For those with a short memory, the French revolution is not that long ago, and brought us the guillotine for those who disagreed, and brought on the modern absolute state which differed enormous from the way politics were done before that time.  Those were violent and barbaric times, in the name of progress, science, the enlightenment, and all that yadda-yadda… (Yes, the guillotine was seen as progress too, a new and modern way to execute people with superior technology…. Beheading might be barbaric, but it’s in no way incompatible with modernity!)

It needs to be said very clearly: contemporary jihadism is not a return to the past. It is a modern, anti-traditional ideology with a very significant debt to western political history and culture.

When he made his speech in July at Mosul’s Great Mosque declaring the creation of an Islamic state with himself as its caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi quoted at length from the Indian/Pakistani thinker Abul A’la Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami party in 1941 and originator of the contemporary term Islamic state.

Maududi’s Islamic state is profoundly shaped by western ideas and concepts. He takes a belief shared between Islam and other religious traditions, namely that God alone is the ultimate judge of a person, and transforms this – reframing God’s possession of judgment into possession of, and ultimately monopoly of, “sovereignty”. Maududi also draws upon understandings of the natural world governed by laws that are expressions of the power of God – ideas at the heart of the 17th-century scientific revolution. He combines these in a vision of the sovereignty of God, then goes on to define this sovereignty in political terms, affirming that “God alone is the sovereign” (The Islamic Way of Life). The state and the divine thus fuse together, so that as God becomes political, and politics becomes sacred.

Such sovereignty is completely absent in medieval culture, with its fragmented world and multiple sources of power. Its origins lie instead in the Westphalian system of states and the modern scientific revolution.

The absolute power of the state (here mixed-up with the sovereignity of God) is indeed completely foreign to the medievals, who had different spheres of authority that were often competing. The middle ages in Europe did have a constant battle for power against the Pope and the kings and emperors, because they both wanted power, and every lower feudal lord did have their own sovereignty in their little part of the world. Nothing like the absolute modern state or the even scarier theocratic version of IS was conceivable to them.

Which is the reason that the French revolution tried to erase all religion, because it could not tolerate another source of authority apart from the State like the Pope. Or even God.. The proclamation that ‘Jesus is Lord’ if understood properly is problematic in the modern absolutism, but since most people spiritualise that it’s not such an issue right now. The communist regimes of the 20th centuries did the same thing and tried to ban all religions, sometimes with a lot of violence.

When we mix this modern absolutism of the State with an Islamic theocracy, we get something like the IS:

In revolutionary France, it is the state that creates its citizens and nothing should be allowed to stand between the citizen and the state. That is why today French government agencies are still prevented by law from collecting data about ethnicity, considered a potential intermediary community between state and citizen.

This universal citizen, separated from community, nation or history, lies at the heart of Maududi’s vision of “citizenship in Islam”. Just as the revolutionary French state created its citizens, with the citizen unthinkable outside the state, so too the Islamic state creates its citizens. This is at the basis of Maududi’s otherwise unintelligible argument that one can only be a Muslim in an Islamic state.

Don’t look to the Qur’an to understand this – look to the French revolution and ultimately to the secularisation of an idea that finds its origins in European Christianity: extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the church there is no salvation), an idea that became transformed with the birth of modern European states into extra stato nulla persona (outside the state there is no legal personhood). This idea still demonstrates extraordinary power today: it is the source of what it means to be a refugee.

It’s probably because we don’t understand the middle ages very much (how can we, every Hollywood movie about that time is filled with contemporary modern though projected back upon the past) that we associate this stuff with the middle ages. But it’s much closer to us, closer than we like.

Also note that the use of violence by the IS is not medieval, but very modern, postmodern even, since it is used as a means of worldwide propaganda through the postmodern means of the internet.

I will close here with the conclusion of the Guardian article, which is very important. The IS wants to be seen as a continuation of older forms of Islam, but we should not validate those claims. Their ‘caliphate’ (as well as that of Boko Haram in Africa) is no return to the caliphate of the earlier days of Islam, it’s something completely new that they try to validate by using that name.

Central to Isis’s programme is its claim to Muslim heritage – witness al-Baghdadi’s dress. Part of countering this requires understanding the contemporary sources of its ideology and its violence. In no way can it be understood as a return to the origins of Islam. This is a core thesis of its supporters, one that should not be given any credence at all.

 

Charles Fort as the ultimate free thinker…


charles Fort“So, by the damned, I mean the excluded.
But by the excluded I mean that
which will some day be the excluding.
Or everything that is,
won’t be.
And everything that isn’t,
will be
But, of course,
will be that which won’t be”
– Charles Fort

I’ve written before about ‘anomalist’ Charles Fort as a required reading for thinking people. He was a ground-breaking writer about the paranomal, who also had a very interesting philosophy of how the world works. I don’t agree at all with either, but he’s still very interesting to read. What also can be said about him is that his work does not align with any tradition (let alone the dominant paradigm of his time and culture).  So if such a thing as a free thinker exists, Charles Fort is one of the best examples I have ever encountered.

Some people right now do seem to have a very weird idea of what a ‘free thinker’ is. Basically for them its just someone who agrees with everything they believe and aligns with a very strict line of rigid enlightenment thought that denies all the supernatural and treats ‘science’ in the same way as some religious fundamentalists treat their holy book. (Which is completely the wrong way anyway and a modern phenomenon…)
But let’s not even get into this kind of freethinkerism. Anything who puts a lot of rules rules up to define what ‘free thought’ and what is not is lost in Orwellian Newspeak at best… A lot of things can be said about ‘new atheism’, but calling them and their very strict tradition ‘free thinkers’ is just a tragic illusion…

A free thinker (if the term has any meaning at all) is an original thinker that is not at all invested in affirming any existing line of thought. A real free thinker is not bound by any tradition, and will most probably come up with ideas that shock everyone. He or she will say things that no-one wants to hear, and he or she will not be listened to by most people.

A real free thinker is often a lone heretic.

In some times and cultures people like that get executed, because they can be considered dangerous and become persecuted, since they do question every basic assumption. They show that there is no reason to take the dominant paradigm for granted, whatever it is that the majority believes. Which is always risky…

So, there is a role for free thinkers that makes them incredible important. They are heretics like I said. They are the ones that plant seeds to break with the traditions that have hardened and might be completely beyond criticism sometimes. Even if we can’t follow them, they still should help us to see that our certainties are very relative. And they are ironically the only possible starting point of new movements, new traditions. They bring on renewal and reformation, and are agents of change…

Does this mean that ‘free thinkers’ will be right all the time? Not at all. A lot of them will be completely wrong, while a lot of the people inside of certain traditions will often be much closer to being right. Some of them will just be full of wacko nonsense even. Some others do have the gift of seeing what’s wrong but not really a clue about a more valid alternative. But even those freethinkers should not be ignored. Questions should be allowed, answers should be questioned.

To use Forts terminology, the ‘damned’ should be acknowledged and their existence affirmed.

There is an interesting paradox here though: a real free thinker will remain alone. A follower of a free thinker is just a follower of someone elses though, and will never be a free thinker. From the moment people start following him you get a second generation of thinkers that build a tradition around him, and the real freethinkerism is lost already. People will build a system around the ‘free thinker’, which will end up having walls, and some kind of orthodoxy that decides who does and dos not follow the original guy. And in this stage even schism can come up, and other interpretations, and so on… You can even get a reversal, in which the original consensus becomes ‘damned’ and excluded, and what once was an alternative proposed by a freethinker is now the rigid orthodoxy, which in most cases means that there’s progress in certain ways, but in other ways things have been lost too in the new dogma…

The stage of a free thinker can only last for one generation, for one single individual even. A group of agreeing freethinkers is an oxymoron (or at least a statistical improbability as they should come separately to the same conclusions) and a tradition of freethinkerism is even more a contradictio in terminis… Or like I said, delusional Orwellian newspeak…

The view that by definition free thinkers are right while the ‘bad’ traditions are wrong is very naive and not very realistic. (Are there really people who believe that you can say ‘follow your own reason’ to everybody and then have everybody come to the same conclusions as they do themselves? Are people so delusional?) It is as nonsensical as the opposite idea that the traditions are right and the freethinkers are always wrong. Every tradition has good and bad points, and the free thinkers often (in the positive cases) are the ones who see the bad points, the blind spots, or the unintended consequences of a line of thought that end up somewhere horrible…

Let’s take Charles Fort for example. His thoughts are completely out of the box sometimes. He does not seem to follow any dogma of his culture (including the ridid rules of freethinkerism) and sometimes comes to conclusions that make one genuinely scratch his head… But their originality alone shows us how much our way of thinking is pigeonholed into very rigid paths.

That’s why we need free thinkers

(And why we need to read people from other times, other cultures, and expose ourselves to as much diverse views as possible! The dominant paradigm is always way too narrow to give us a balanced outlook on reality…)

Our nonmagical modern world as the biggest magical trick ever…


This nextgargamel post fits well into my infamous occultmergent series. It will actually just delve deeper into a weird paradoxical thought that I posted some months ago on my fiction blog Oranderra (which is mainly in Dutch, here are the English posts). It is just some weird out-of-the-box theorizing for fun, and very un- and antimodern probably. Which fits very well in my year of demodernisation too. Don’t take all of this too literally as ‘this is exactly what happened’ though, it’s just one of my wild thoughts that might be complete nonsense…

The original paragraph that I wrote went like this:

If we assume that the world is more ‘magical’ than we see, and that a very strongly projected will does really have some power that some could call ‘magical’, could the projected will for centuries of a whole society to live in a non-magical world that’s only materialistic/naturalistic, (magically) create a world in which the more magical side is gravely suppressed?

If this is so then the non-magical modern world is the result of an unconscious magical effect…

So what on Earth do I mean here?

Let’s first just come out (with no surprise here to any regular reader) as a believer in what could very unrefinedly be called ‘magic’. I mean with this doing things that go beyond our current understanding of science and technique.
On the other hand, this does not at all mean that all fictional magic can exist though, just as a lot of fictional technology does and cannot exist either…
I don’t claim to know that much about it, but having power over the world around us through ‘paraphysical’ means is something that exists. Most of us Westerners don’t do this kind of stuff or believe in it, and those who do generally don’t walk around with a T-shirt that proclaims ‘I can practice magick’ (that’s not a spelling error btw, but that way of spelling the word comes from Aleister Crowley, and some people ‘into it’ still use it for a specific type of magic). I’m not too sure either it’s that healthy to mess with sometimes too.

Btw, belief in magic exists in a lot of cultures and tradition,  and it exists in the bible too (even if we distinguish it from miracles), as well as in our our history and still exists in certain circles, like those people from whom I borrowed to use the spelling ‘magick’. (Yes, I do know people on Facebook for example who claim to practice it for example) But it is a part of the world most of us are not very in touch with.

Let’s go back to my original statement. The reason we live in such a nonmagical world as moderns itself is the result of a very strong magical effect… I know this is a strange line of thought, so maybe I should explain it a bit more.

The idea of a strongly projected will having power does exist in many forms in many traditions (new thought, ‘the secret’, name it and claim it prosperity gospel, chaos magick sigils…) I’ve written about that in another post for those interested.

If you believe enough in something, you can make it happen… If you project your will strongly sometimes what you want to happen has more chance to happen. And like I said in my already mentioned post, the line between magic and prayer can be thinner than we like sometimes. And the line between psychology and magical effect is very blurry too when it comes to the effect of positive thinking.

Let’s add one little note here that can be easily overlooked though, which is that even if magick works it’s still not all-powerful nor infallible, and will often only the chance of something happening. And to have great effect you need to put in a lot of power. Magic(k) if it exists does not mean ‘anything is possible’, but it is still part of the paraphysical part of our ‘natural’ world, and it has to follow a lot of ‘natural laws’, whether we know them or not. If magic is real it will actually be as limited as technology, only with other possibilities and limits…

Collective groupthought already has a strong power, even without creating thoughtforms like egregores. So if we go back to our example, the effect of the projected will (even unconscious) of a whole continent for a long time can be expected to be quite strong. We enlightened Westerners tell ourselves we live in a non-magical world. There is no magic. We don’t see magic.

There is only what we want to see…

I believe this  does have effect. It might form a strong barrier between us and the paraphysical realm (and to God too even in a way), which can be a protection but it’s also impoverishing our outlook on our world.
(I’ve heard people from elsewhere who were afraid of the magical world in very specific, and I don’t believe all of it was superstition. Even though the problem with the invisible world is that it’s very hard to make out what’s real, what’s exaggerated and what’s superstition. Both the ‘witches’ and the Christians that are against them in certain parts of Nigeria are quite scary to me for example)

But even without that layer of overt magic the effect is there anyway: Even the collective self-hypnosis without external effects would be quite strong… So even just staying inside the domain of psychology it would still be very powerful. We want to live in a reduced materialist world, we will just see a reduced materialist world around us.

Also, confirmation bias is very strong here… Scientific-minded people will not even consider data that does not fit within their worldview. People will just ignore things that do not fit with their worldview, and only stick with what fits into their world. Any worldview works as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Every worldview is protected constantly by the people whose world depends on it…

So, what do you people think? Am I babbling nonsense or onto something?

peace

Bram

 

We’re one, but we’re not the same… (or how different identity doesn’t have to mean violence!)


krishnamurti
I regularly see this quote together with this picture on facebook, sometimes in certain groups, sometimes posted by people on their wall. It’s from the Indian Spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986), the guy on the picture, and it interesting to ponder about for a moment, so I’ll give it here:

When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”

Did you read it and take your time to think about it?

Interesting quote, and good one to investigate the complications of this line of thinking. I can already say that completely disagree with it, and I do think there is something very dangerous in this line of thought.

It is true that people regularly do use their identity to separate themselves from the rest of mankind, and that can easily lead to violence. I completely agree that this is a problem.

Where I completely disagree is with his solution and conclusions. Krishamurti seemingly wants to erase all identity because the violence lies in accepting that we are different. This will never work, since we ARE different already, and we can never be the same. That would need denial of both our indentity and that of the other, and does only erase ourselves.

People in Belgium have a different culture from people in India. We don’t have to hide that. Christians and muslims and hindus believe different things about God. We should not ignore that. We all look different, have different styles of clothes and hair and music and so on.

We should not ignore our differences. I’m not even sure it would lead to less violence. And besides, we do not have to be all the same. We have to understand and celebrate our differences. The problem is not that we are different, the problem is that we are stupid enough to think that differences have to lead to violence. Difference is actually not something that we need to overcome to find harmony, but it is essential. To quote Dolores Nurss one of my facebook-friends who is a lot wiser than me:

“The problem does not lie in there being Self and Other. The problem lies in assuming that Self and Other must conflict. Separation is indeed an illusion, but another name for Illusion is Art. The story of separation opens up a space for love.”

Surely we should be ‘concerned with the total understanding of mankind’, but we do have an identity, and everybody is different. There is no neutral, and every view is from a certain point of view. We cannot have a total view, and will never be unbiased. (No matter how much we tell ourselves and other that we are!) Our identity will always influence our way of interpreting the world and react towards it.

The total understanding of mankind will be an understanding of all men together or it will just understand nothing and project some pseudoplatonic ideal unto ‘man’ that is just made in the image and liking of whoever came up with it. We cannot understand mankind apart from all our differences…

Erasing differences, especially if we want to replace them all by some superior neutral position we think we have becomes only one more exercise in violently trying to take away the identity of the other and put our own in its place. But if you’re convinced of your own ‘neutrality’ as most moderns are you aren’t even able to see that.

Take for example the modern approach to religion that way too often just ends u up in saying ‘all religions are essentially the same, and they ultimately have the purpose to teach this one thing, which almost always is the thing the speaker himself does believe… How can this not be self-deceit. The religions are not the same, cannot be the same, and just saying they are all the same does not take them serious at all.

Differences do not have to lead to separation, they are just needed to be able to be together as a whole.

Every ecosystem on earth consists of a lot of very different species. All of them are different, all of them are needed. And then there are different ecosystems too. All kinds of differences. And yes, nature is more violent than rational beings created in the Imago Dei are supposed to be, but even in the violence of nature there is harmony, and the differences are needed. (Think also about what Paul of Tarsus says in the Christian scriptures about the church being a body, and every bodypart being needed. A body cannot be only eye or only nosehair…)

The story of separation opens up a space for love.”

That’s also why the trinity is such an interesting Christian doctrine: 3 persons in one Supreme being, being one and three at the same time, completely relational and loving towards each other in perichoresis.

And this caleidoscope of diversity is part of the Christian vision. All of it is to become part of the Divine Vision. In the last book of the New Testament, John the revelator describes a very diverse crowd:

9 After this, I saw a large crowd with more people than could be counted. They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood before the throne and before the Lamb. They wore white robes and held palm branches in their hands, 10 as they shouted,

“Our God, who sits
upon the throne,
has the power
to save his people,
and so does the Lamb.”
 
So all races, tribes, nations and languages are welcome, as they are before Gods throne. They don’t have to become something they are not. God does not want everyone to become like Westerners or American or moderns or medievals… God loves the diversity.
 
God loves the unfolding diversity of creation, and of humanity. We don’t have to be the same, don’t have to become the same. We don’t have to be molded to some ‘neutral’ standard that is illusory anyway.And we definitely do not need to let our differences lead to violence and separation.
 
That is an insult to creation…
 
What do you people think?

10 books that stayed with me throughout the years…


This was a Facebook meme, but since things disappear faster into nothingness on Facebook than on this humble blog I will post it here too in an ‘extended remix’ with some description for each book in the top-ten.

This was the original FB meme, stolen from a FB friend -I wasn’t tagged myself-:

In your status, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. These are in no particular order. Tag 10 friends, including me so I can see your list.

So I made a list of 10 books that stayed with me. A very diverse list:

Astrid Lindgren – Ronja Rôvardotter
RonjaOne of the books I remember from when I was a child, and one that I’ve reread several as an adult. I also own the Swedish series on DVD.  A story about a young girl living in a magical forests, 2 competing clans of robbers, and love and friendship. You should just read it.

Franquin – Guust Flater (Gaston Lagaffe) series 
Comic series about the completely un-heroic office helper Guust, who is also a crazy inventor.  Maybe I’m too much like him sometimes.

David Wilkerson – the cross and the switch-blade
As a pentecostal kid I read a lot of Christian books, a lot of which I’ve completely forgotten by now and which would not interest me at all anymore. But this story about an American rural preacher who goes to the gangs of New York to preach about the love of Jesus to the unlovable whom no-one wants will always stay with me. It showed me something bigger than this world, and bigger than the meaningless priorities of humans. It made me go on a search for what it means to love God above all and love my neigbor as myself, a search that isn’t finished yet…

Antoine de St-Exupéry – Le petit prince
Not much comment, just read it, if you can in French. If you don’t understand why I like it there’s no way I can ever explain it..

J.R.R. Tolkien – the hobbit
Yes, I like fairytales, and I like ‘the hobbit’ a bit more than LOTR, although that’s very brilliant too. Not much explanation needed I think.

David Quammen – the song of the dodo
This is also a book that everybody should read. About the scientific field of island biogeography, evolution and extinction. But also filled with very interesting anecdotes about weird species, strange scientists and the life story of Wallace, who was working on the same theory of evolution as Darwin and possibly was kind of ripped off by him.
One of the few books I read about evolution in my teenage years that were fascinating (The other one would be Stephen Jay Goulds ‘Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History “, both are much more convincing that any 6-day-creationist I’ve ever read.)

Bill Watterson – Calvin & Hobbes series
Another comic, and one of the most brilliant ones ever made.

C.S. Lewis – the abolition of man
A lot of Lewis’ books stayed with me, but this weird, sometimes almost unreadable philosophical tract might have had even more influence on me in the end than the others. It put things into words that I felt but could not name. But the guy has written a lot of stuff that has influenced me a lot. (The thing I disagree most about with him is gender roles though). It’s probably Lewis who has helped me to not get too modernised..

Shane Claiborne – the irresistible revolution
And here we enter the new millennium, and my clumsy search for love that is more real than anything we can make up as humans.  I was deep into investigating Christian anarchism for a while (Ellul didn’t make this list, but het would be in a top-50).  Shane Claiborne, a dreadlocked new monastic was a bit more practical and down-to-Earth. He also is an amazing storyteller and one of the other examples of people who have sparks of the ‘love that is bigger than anyone we know’ in their life.

Terry Prachett – small gods
Terry Prachett is unique as a fantasy-writer. His books are completely weird sometimes and you shouldn’t take anything serious, way too funny and very intelligent. A lot of stuff to think about though in this one that really expanded my way of thinking about the spiritual world. (And the concept of slavery). Not for anyone with no sense or humour or for anyone who’s easily offended.

Strange and slightly inconsistent list  now I come to think about it…

Note that I wrote the title in the original language, no matter in which language I read the book. Several of them I have read in 2 languages anyway.

Note also that they are more or less in the order that I read them in my life, and that  I’ve read all of them  except for 2 in for the first time the last millennium. The exceptions are “the irresistible revolution’ in the ’00’s and ‘small gods’ in the ’10’s.

And lastly note that I did include comics but not the bible -don’t ask why-, and only added one book/series per author, otherwise it would have been mostly Tolkien ans Lewis. Runner-ups would be more C.S. Lewis books, The Lord of the rings, the Harry Potter series, the ancient epic of Gilgamesh, the Edda, the Flora of the Netherlands and Belgium, Karl May’s Winnetou I, some Brian McLaren and Neil Postman’s ‘amusing ourselves to death’.

And oh, the hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy.

Strange how no book originally written in my own language ended up in the list.  English, French, German and Swedish but no Dutch. I have to think about what exactly that means. I’ve read a lot of interesting Flemish books as a kid (René Swartenbroekx, Jan Terlouw, Thea Beckman, …) that I might need to reread; But they didn’t stay with me.

Also, 9 women and one man. None of my big Ursula Le Guin books made the list for some reason .

so do you have an interesting list?

peace

Bram

Abundance is the enemy of capitalism…


Today I’m going back to the subject of capitalism being the antithesis of Christianity… I read a blog comment that made me understand something that I’ve been trying to get into words for a while now. It is probably related to my never-finished series about Christianity and capitalism, although I wasn’t planning to write on that topic right now. The blog post was called ‘Is Capitalism Un-Biblical’ by Christian Piatt. I do believe it is, but there wasn’t that much in the post that was very new to me although it was not a bad read at all. The question itself is very ‘duh’ to me, I’ve never believed that capitalism was compatible with Christianity in the first place, and I’ve never trusted it more than the atrocity that communism became in the 20th century either. But there was a comment by someone called ‘belovedspear’ that made me connect some dots:

A peculiarity of capitalism is that abundance–those times when creation pours out God’s bounty–is a disaster. Take this year’s corn harvest, for example. It’s been a bumper year, with tremendous yields. That means wreck and ruin for farmers, whose crops won’t sell for enough to pay off the debt-loads on their half-million dollar harvesters. We human beings are such strange, strange creatures.

Christianity sees abundance as a part of shalom, or a very holistic state of peace with God, and everyone and everything else. Part of that shalom is an economy of abundance, in which everyone has enough.

Our current system (that I call ‘capitalism’ here by lack of a better name) built on ‘the logic of the market’ does the opposite. not only is ‘scarcity’ the basic idea behind it, but it also has the worst way imaginable to handle abundance. The idea that everyone has enough is actually destructive to the capitalism that we have today.

A very big evil is that if we do have abundance, the market goes bad, like the commenter describes. If farmers produce too much of something, what one would expect is that either it would be stored in some way for years of less produce (think about the biblical story of Joseph) or distributed to those who need it, or used for something else or… So that that abundance can be shared as a blessing.

Nope, abundance is a curse for the market and sharing would be a sin…

So what we actually do is to destroy it because the market demands so.

Perfectly good fruit, milk, crops, whatever, is destroyed every year here in the EU because of technicalities about price and markets. And all the while other people are dying of hunger on the same planet.

And we call ourselves civilised people and think that we’re so much smarter and better than the people before us…

I’ve always seen this as evil. I’ve only never before today made the connection with exactly how antithetical all of this is to the biblical idea of abundance.

Anyway, destroying anything that is good because of market technicalities is ridiculous, anti-christ (and anti-humanist) and more than very bad logic. It’s idolatry. The value of the goods is less important than the ideological idols of ‘the market';  and its supposed rules which become more important than anything. And so everything else needs to be sacrificed because of these abstract rules that only exist in the realm of the abstract and the ideological, and will only manifest themselves in the real world if we believe in them and want them to be true…

The idea that anything should be destroyed because the market ‘demands it’ is an abomination, and a sign that all this worship of this all-important market entity is not compatible with commons sense or Christianity. It is idolatry of the worst sort!

No matter how much people you quote and how much theories you make to defend this weird evil, it won’t fly. It’s dangerous nonsense, as dangerous, destructive and irrational as the idea that whatever god wants to have human sacrificed. Destroying good things because ‘the market needs it’ is a a sacrifice, and an insult to creation and humanity. And one of the signs that we are not smarter than people in any other time who had lots of other dumb ideas…

But on the other hand, the geocentric Ptolemaic cosmology has never hurt or starved anyone… A lot of the ‘unscientific’ ‘superstitions’ are completely harmless, while this kind of nonsense destroys good things, and human lives.

What do you people think?

shalom

Bram