How to use this blog

For full effect, it is important to start with the earliest entries and work your way through the exercises to the most recent.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Music

The last topic to be discussed in this blog is the subject of music, its power, limitations, and dangers.  The key to understanding the importance of music in the spiritual life is to understand the relation between emotion and reason as guides.

We begin with the assertion that music speaks to both the rational and the emotional mind but more to the emotional mind.  No long discussion is needed here, because it is self-evident.  For example, consider that music can be either cynical or naive.  It can be sentimental, nostalgic, wistful, bitter, joyful, peaceful, sorrowful.  And it can be beautiful.  Music creates mood.  Music also tells a story and can create ideas, but the primary focus is that music relate ideas to emotions.  For that reason alone it carries a great weight.

Music's mathematical nature should not be mistaken for reason and listening to it should not be mistaken as a rational exercise.  Enjoying patterns is not the same as rational activities like analyzing patterns, developing new patterns, elaborating on existing patterns, etc...  though it may help.  Music may even occupy a space in the mind, suppressing certain thought processes.  Listening to music is an activity that can suppress the inner dialog and captures the listener.  This is evident in the fact that the listener is not content merely to hear the music, but is impelled to sing or hum along.  I can not think of any other art form that engages the audience so naturally and universally.

Music can be both good and bad.  Music can be prayer, it can be meditation, it can serve as a backdrop for reflection.  It can lead us towards a proper mindset, increase our sensitivity to the needs of others.  Rationally chosen, music provides relief to Falzhaefengilt by greatly reducing the complexity of the spiritual life.   As such it soothes and dulls the pain of self introspection.  To this extent, music acts as a medicine.

The danger is music can also act as a drug.  Music can provide distraction, it can make us turn inward, it can cause despair, frustration, and mistrust.  Modern musicians sing with most meaning when they sing of their own emptiness, longing, and regret.  Music offers a kind of commiseration but it does not offer a cure.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Transforming Falzhaefengilt: From Hypercrisy to Reflection

Thus, it is apparent that Falzhaefengilt can, if understood, be made to work for us.  The emotions we feel: happiness, sadness, loneliness, anger, frustration, and so on are wordless indicators of our condition.  It is not completely accurate to say they are products of the subconscious because some, especially the higher ones, are products of our rational thought process.  They are not, therefore, bad. They do not need to be suppressed.  Instead, they often simply need to be unraveled.  Like a knot, it may be necessary to tighten them up a bit before they can be loosened.

The power of the rational mind over our emotions is something which seems to be absent from the noosphere these days.  Desires are there to be scratched, guilt to be ignored, anger directed, etc...  It seems to me that rather than letting emotions control our actions we should instead let our higher rational functions do the directing and our emotional state providing the intuitive information that alerts us to potential problems, potential solutions, and confirms us in our actions.

Before looking at the good-side of emotions, consider that the problem with our emotions is that they often lead us astray.  For example, when we are insulted we react by becoming angry.  This anger is satisfied by retaliation.  The retaliation is often worse than the original injury and escalates conflict, and upon reflection leads eventually back to guilt.  Feelings of guilt are mixed with embarrassment and shame that are held in check by becoming withdrawn.   Taking a cue from Yoda, we see that there is a sequence of progressing from negative emotion to negative emotion.  Being withdrawn leads to loneliness.  Loneliness to self-pity, self-pity to resentment, resentment to sarcasm, scorn, bitterness.  Someone ruled by emotional impulses is someone who lacks self-discipline and self-control, which is the surest means to happiness.  Surrendering to emotional responses clouds the judgment and leads to an unhappy life.

Yet, emotions are natural and they are useful.  Clearly the positive emotions, specifically feelings of compassion allow us to interact with charity and build relationships.  Feelings of awe and wonder provide transcendent moments that allow us to sense the presence of eternal things.  The negative emotions also serve to inspire us to take action against injustice, sometimes they soften us and make us more receptive to the feelings of others and to our own needs, especially needs for friendship, love, community.  They alert us to our own deficiencies which include our hunger for God.

The problem posed by Falzhaefengilt is that it is a kind of negative feedback on charitable actions, and that seems wrong.  Charity should make us feel better about ourselves and inspire joy, shouldn't they?

No.  Not necessarily.  A charitable act may be a means of grace, by which your heart is softened and you become more attuned to God and this may not be emotionally pleasing.  Reflection, which is primarily a rational activity, is the proper response to Falzhaefengilt and all other negative emotions.  By reflection, negative feelings are transformed into more complex positive emotions such as humility, peace, and genuine repentance.




Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Contrasting Examples 1 and 2

Having formulated a proper understanding of Falzhaefengilt we can now properly identify the spiritual underpinnings and determine if there are issues.  This is most quickly exhibited by contrasting examples 1 and 2.

As noted in example 1, the central motivation was compassion, which is good.  Compassion takes us out of ourselves and makes us consider the needs of the other.  Once understood, the answers to the questions posed become very simple.  To act compassionately towards someone in need is always good.  To recognize your own prejudice is also good provided you don't confuse an action of compassion with an attempt to relieve "bourgeoise guilt."  Recognizing your own fallen nature is good.  Asking someone to pray for you is good provided it is humble and not pretentious.  The opportunity is also a chance to deepen your charitable instincts.  But what is best is when the motivation is directed outward.

Example 2 is not so easily understood.  Certainly Falzhaefengilt is at play but there are more troubling spiritual issues.  Was there too much identification with the angry father?  Was this done out of contempt or compassion?  Was it actually an attempt to inflict shame on the angry father -- in other words an attempt to let him know you saw what he did and embarrass him in front of his children?  These questions need to be explored.  The attempt to flee in this case might have been done out of honest shame for an outwardly charitable action that was actually not done in charity.

The consequences of a charitable action are not always clear.  It is more likely that the end results are good though the motivation was flawed.  Reflection on our motivations is important so that we will to do good and not evil, but it is not the final step we need to take.  Ultimately we can only conform our will with our actions by directing both towards the good of the other.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Example 2: Revisited


(1) Would you have done this if it was a McDonald's instead of a Chick-Fil-A?
No.  You expect behavior like that at a McDonald's.  Chick-Fil-A patrons are supposed to represent the salt of the earth.

(2) Why did you pay for his food with cash?
Because cash is more personal, is anonymous, and feels more real.

(3) Why did you drive off so quickly as if you were running away from scratching someone's door?
To ensure that I could not see his face and that he would not have noticed my car when he was aware of what happened.

About the father and his family?
(1) What was the political persuasion of the man behind you?
Most likely a talk-radio republican.

(2) What do you think the reaction of his boys were when they heard this?  Did they think better of their father or worse?
Bemused.  Worse.

(3) What do you think the reaction of the father was?  Did he feel better about himself or worse?
Unsettled.  Worse.

(4) Did he "pay it forward too?"  If yes why?  If no, how do you think he felt the next time he went to Chick-Fil-A?
Probably not.  Worse.

(5) Did he tell his wife what happened when he got home?
Yes, he would not have been able to stop himself and he knows his kids would tell her.

About the cashier?
(1) What was her feeling when you paid it forward?  What does she think about Chick-Fil-A?
She thought it was an act of charity.  She thinks Chick-Fil-A attracts good customers.

Now read the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:3-13)

Questions:
How do you think the steward, clearly aware of his own dishonesty and corrupt motivations, would have reacted to the commendation of the master at the end of the parable?
(a) With self-adulation?  After all, he is pretty clever and it's good the master recognized it.
(b) With guilt.  He does not deserve the praise of the master.  He is dishonest.
(c) With incredulity.  The praise is meaningless.
(d) With repentance?
The answer is (c).  He is not a charitable person by his nature and cannot understand generosity except in terms of what is mutually beneficial and he can only be charitable with someone else's property.