A wee discourse

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the current U.S. political scene, and am disturbed by the way in which religious principles get maligned by both parties.

A little background on me: I’m a mormon, and I have what mormons call a “testimony,” which means you’ll hear me stating my belief in pretty strong terms. I have a fairly simple, Sunday-school-esque belief that there IS clear-cut right and wrong. I also believe that just as God would have us choose the right, Satan would have us choose wrong (Sunday-school-esque, remember?). And in order to accomplish that, Satan needs to make good things look bad, and bad things look good.

He’s done a great job of that.

Consider for a moment the Christian principle of altruism. The Ayn Rand institute (an institution for which I have a lot of respect — one which does a lot of good) published the following in Philosophy: Who Needs it:

Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice — which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction — which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of good.

The context here is that suicide bombers (among others) are maniacs, and that the principle of self-sacrifice is what enables them to, well, sacrifice themselves for what they see as a higher goal.

Fine. While we can probably agree that suicide bombings are “bad,” if not outright EVIL, it’s not the principal of self-sacrifice or altruism which is at fault. Fault lies in PICKING THE WRONG HIGHER GOAL.

My point here is not to discuss self-sacrifice. It’s to use this as a model, as an example for cases in which both the Left and the Right have taken bad activities, and smeared not the activity itself, but one of the good principles used to justify that activity.

In short, just because an Evil person does an Evil thing and justifies it in part with some ideal, principle, or meme does NOT mean that the ideal, principle, or meme is Evil. What has REALLY happened is that a Bad Thing has been mixed with some Good Things, and one or more of the Good Things look “guilty by association.”

C.S. Lewis described this process really well in The Screwtape Letters. Don’t go thinking that I’m being all original here, because for the most part I’m not.

Another example, this one much more commonly used: The crusades — there are those who say that because Catholicism and Christianity were used to justify the crusades, Catholicism and Christianity are Evil.

You might as well say that because sex was used to create so-and-so (insert name of your favorite target of vilification here, but don’t use Hitler or you’ll be accused of invoking Godwin), that sex is evil.

Upshot… I remain convicted of my religious beliefs, even in the face of evidence that those selfsame beliefs get used as justifications for evil acts by other people.


Okay, let’s try out the name thing…

Sandra and I decided to apply LJ-only nicknames to our kids to facilitate story-telling without using their actual names…

Sandra and I sat down to watch “Big Fish” after putting the kids to bed. (note: I cried. Not ONE helicopter chase.) During the first Town of Spectre scene the baby monitor alerted us to the fact that Gleek was calling. Sandra took care of her, while I paused the movie.

20 minutes later, Gleek’s up again… this time she’s UP up, or rather DOWN up, having come downstairs to the kitchen in a sleepy, grumpy state. I offer to help her, but she wants nothing to do with me. Won’t even let me pour the milk. Sandra tries to give her a cup, but Gleek insists on getting her OWN cup, doesn’t want a glass, has to be a CUP — YELLOW, and the yellow one is dirty. So Sandra passes it to me, I wash it, slide it into the cupboard as Sandra carries Gleek the long way round, and lets her fetch her own cup. Gah. The machinations we contrive in order to appease this three-year-old girl.

She ended up waking one more time before the movie’s end, and Sandra explained to me that she’d spent a lot of time out in the sun today, and was probably genuinely thirsty every time. Well DUH. Little 35-pound body doesn’t have nearly the stores of liquid it needs, and when you try to pack it with fluids you end up in the bathroom at 3am.

End story.

Okay, that felt reasonably natural, replacing my child’s name with the name of a fictional monkey. In fact, I’m probably too comfortable with it.

To bed. There’s cartooning to be done tomorrow.

Much better…

Had a nap, slept off the sugar-crash. It was a good nap. It put the agonizing disc-golf-plus-long-commute into the “yesterday” category, where I no longer need to care about it. I headed downstairs, scanned all of this week’s artwork, while bantering with the #schlock_mercenary crowd at irc.nightstar.net. I touched up the scripts I need to draw today and tomorrow, and began pencilling.

I got interrupted a couple of times — Sandra hauled the youngest downstairs for his goodnight ritual with Daddy. Mostly it involves sitting in my lap dancing to whatever I’ve got playing. This time it was “Whisper” by Evanescence. Then the 3-year-old came down and sat on my lap for HER goodnight ritual — sitting in my lap and watching the Spider-Man 2 trailer.

Just so you know, I won’t be using the kids’ names in public journal entries. Sandra and I can choose a life of relative celebrity, but the kids aren’t old enough to make that choice yet. If I refer to them as #1, or #3, you’ll just have to piece it together and know that it only happens that way in public. At home they have real names, not numbers (unless they’ve been naughty.)

And now, back to work.

Creekside Disc Golf… GRRRR…

I had been looking forward to Friday afternoon for much of the week. I’d scheduled some time with guys at work to drive up to SLC (45 minutes north) to the Creekside Disc Golf Course in the Holladay township/city/precinct/whatever.

The course is pleasant enough. There’s shade, there are some tricky drives and some shots over water. My game was WAAAY off, though. I ended up at 13 over par, with an asterisk where I was 10 feet from the pin on the wrong side of a wall of trees and just gave up and called it five strokes. By the end of the game I was tired, upset, and ready to go home…

… and staring at a southbound Friday afternoon commute out of the Salt Lake Valley.

By the time I got home I’d decided to stop off at Albertson’s and buy a little can of Nesquik. I haven’t had that stuff in months — it’s addictive, and I worked really, really hard to kick that addiction, and I was in such a pissy mood after two hours of bad frisbee followed by another hour of lousy commute that I decided to binge.

Bad Howard.

The good news is that Randy is coming to town tomorrow, and he can help me finish the stuff off. I bought the LITTLE can, so between the two of us and the kids it won’t last long. Hopefully I won’t even go into withdrawals next week.


Writer, Illustrator, Consumer