Moral Nihilism

A response to Chapter 20 in The Fundamentals of Ethics by Russ Shafer-Landau

What I find to be interesting is that, in light of my own religious explorations, I end up leaning more towards moral nihilism than most other moral theories in the book. Shafer-Landau calls it cynical; I think that it’s honest. We can’t prove that there is a moral structure; I think that it is very enlightening about our nature that we try! I do think there is a reason that humans are so drawn to “morality” but I think they are misguided. In a world without God, the moral nihilist is correct. Only in a world with God can moral theories be “on to something”- they’re searching for I AM. And because moral theories tend to strive to prove morality without I AM, I become disinclined with them; they take the place of gods, offering explanations for phenomenon.

Here is my religious Error Theory:

  1. There are no moral features in this world. There is the divine nature of God, and there is the counter-nature of sin. (See The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis for a picture of this: wholeness vs. emptiness. A blade of grass in Heaven is infinitely more substantial than all of Hell put together.) However, if we do not believe that there is wholeness in God, then our actions and feelings about things are more or less arbitrary. There aren’t “moral features”; things are what they are; when it comes to us, we are either striving for wholeness or allowing ourselves to crumble into emptiness. Striving to be “moral” doesn’t make a difference.
  2. No moral judgements are true. Even if our intentions are ‘good’ (to our relative standards), they can still have disastrous consequences. There is none righteous, no not one. We have our feelings about things (expressivism), but that’s it; there are people who get giddy over a murder and others who get thrown into a spiral of depression. There are those who would kill and feel satisfaction and those who can’t even place a mousetrap. How can we say who is in the right if ‘right’ does not exist?
  3. Our sincere moral judgments try, and always fail, to describe the moral features of things. Perhaps this is because we are limited as humans. Morality could be within the order of the universe; “behaving morally” could be our phrase for saying, “fulfilling one’s purpose in the universe” in the way that animals, seismic plates, and red wood trees fulfill their purpose. They abide by an order. But all these words are just me trying to figure it out; I’m a corrupted human. I can’t possibly say what is right or wrong. But I have within me a compass, and I- along with most humans on this planet- have a certain sense that there is something much more than our mere material existence. Moral judgements are man-made rules that often fall short or downright fail at achieving their intended goals- that is if morality is real. If it isn’t real, of course our sincere moral judgements always fail to describe moral features of things.
  4. There is no moral knowledge. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some perfect system that we could tap into and understand exactly how to live life? Unfortunately, according to the error theorist, there isn’t. According to the Christian, it’s not about your own ability to figure out a God; he is infinite. However, understanding that there is literally nothing that we can do that is “perfectly moral” within his eyes (the perfect observer?), alleviates the responsibility to gain all the moral knowledge. We do hold a responsibility to develop our relationship (such as you would with any friend) and learn about the divine nature of God. This is how we can live a fulfilling life on this planet, even when we face adversity. The development of this relationship allows us to be real, like the velveteen rabbit. It isn’t the rabbit who is important in himself, but the love the child has for him that makes him important. It isn’t about a hypothetical moral knowledge: moral knowledge does not exist. What does exist is being.

I don’t think that morality is fiction in the same way that fairies are (or, might be); I think it really is like mathematics. God is not illogical and moral theories attempt to understand his nature, even if those writing the theories aren’t acknowledging his existence at all. Just like math can give us a faulty image of the universe (such as when it provided a very logical formula demonstrating that the earth was in the center of the galaxy), ethics can present a faulty image of the nature of God. Perhaps this idea counters much of what I just said above- which kind of goes to demonstrate the point that we always fail at this kind of thing.

Expressivism states that moral claims are how we demonstrate our feelings towards something or another, as well as how we command others to act or reveal a plan of action. We can have confidence in our “morals” without having to assign them objectivity in the way that water is objectively wet. One of the contradictions Shafer-Landau discussed was Amoralists, who believe in something strongly but don’t act. I’d like to argue that a person could believe strongly in something but not have the means to abide by it; they could be struck with lack of funds, or even laziness. The other day I made eye contact with the Salvation Army guy outside the Walmart. We smiled at one another; his smile was so warm and inviting and I felt this urge to go talk to him. He is human, I’m human, and I do believe that part of our purpose in life is to really embrace connecting with other people. However, even though I had the urge, that day I continued to walk to my car. The next time I went to Walmart, I did put a few bucks in my pocket to put in the bucket; I walked up to him, tossed in my dollars, and started up a conversation. It felt really good to follow through with my conviction; it felt really upsetting to not the first time around- I was being “amoral” according to my feelings.

The bit about moral judgment was a little confusing- I will say, way back when I took a US Government class where we learned that humans present reality with bias. It’s best to present as much evidence as possible in a court of law because human testimony can be flawed; our personal bias goes so far as to distort details and change things without us consciously knowing that we’re doing it. Hopefully we are all trying to tell the truth but at a certain point, who actually knows it and can see through all the details? I think that perhaps this could be a counter for this counter.

The arguing logically bit about morality counter I’d like to reference back to the earth in the center of the galaxy argument. Will we ever have true premises when it comes to morality if each action is relative, not just within each situation but within the individual feeling-based conscience of the actor? Also, not many are arguing gravity. Maybe real substantial truth is able to stand for itself with such grit that the fact that we have “logical arguments” about morality demonstrates that it doesn’t have substantial evidence enough to back it up.

Ethical Relativism

Responses to Chapter 19 in The Fundamentals of Ethics by Russ Shafer-Landau

“The worry, specifically, is that moral skepticism – the denial of objective moral standards- is correct, and that morality therefore lacks any real authority.”

But skepticism and denial lack moral authority as well- there is no authority. Denial doesn’t mean that something is false- oftentimes, “to be in denial” means that a person is not accepting something that is very much tangible.

“Objective moral standards are those that apply to everyone, even if people don’t believe that they do, even if people are indifferent to them, and even if obeying them fails to satisfy anyone’s desires. Moral claims are objectively true whenever they accurately tell us what these objective moral standards are or what they require of us.”

How do we know when they’re accurate? I suppose through cause and effect; children are constantly testing the principles and boundaries of their actions. Even through young adulthood, we push the boundaries. I’ve wondered about this myself; there were things I did in my early twenties that I felt no remorse for then that I regret very much now that I’ve gained some life experience and maturity. I don’t believe this is due to upbringing; I think it’s due to a point in my life when I was brought to the painful realization of just how consequential my actions were, even when they didn’t seem inherently wrong. My actions that didn’t harm me had the ability to harm another person. One could say, the hedonist in me wanted to sleep at night instead of tossing and turning wondering what could’ve been- but I wouldn’t feel guilt should not empathy be such a prominent force. Empathy forces a person to feel things that are uncomfortable, painful, and depressing- not in its entirety, but it does seem to be counter productive to the agenda of selfishness. But does this experimentation prove objectivity?

Ethical relativists claim that morality is a human construct: we made it up. But why would we make up something so self-defeating and why do we feel empathy? But let’s flip this: mathematics is a construct designed by humans to understand the order of the universe, build within it, and other things. Morality, then, would be a construct designed by humans to understand the feelings within us- the desire to hide from God after biting into the fruit of knowledge.

But, societies and individuals have different moral standards: according to Ethical Relativism, there is no correct set of rules; a culture that kills a rape victim for honor is no more correct than a culture that leaps on the opportunity to defend the victim. How can two cultures that are so opposing in their values both be absolutely “whatever, a-okay, no one is right or wrong because those are also just constructs”- language itself is falling apart; we can throw out the word “correct” and replace it with, “it is what it is”.

Does this mean we feel differently- that our internal compasses all point in different directions? A man whose daughter was raped would sleep like a baby after killing her for honor just because of his culture, while another man would have to hunt down the rapist and beat him senseless in order to get any rest again- it’s hard to believe the first father could even exist. I could get into population control conspiracy theories: I heard one that Somalian women are made to cover themselves to hide their identity. The purpose: if they have no identity, they can’t express individuality, and they can easily be controlled. I don’t enjoy this train of thought, but I am starting to believe that we tend towards behaving more like computers than not; it’s possible to condition and to program mass amounts of people. The Nazis are an obvious and overused example of this- the Jews in the concentration camps are another. Shave their heads, take away from them any form of self-expression, give to them a number instead of a name- dehumanization is another program that can be installed within us through the codes of fear, propaganda, discrimination, ego- etc. These can appeal to our base natures in both senses, to install in us the belief that we are something or are not something and install in us what to believe about other people. And yet, those who survived held onto the part of themselves that was opposite to the computer; their wills could not be programmed.

“If our species ever becomes extinct, morality will cease to exist.”

In a godless universe, yes. But all of nature abides by order; the deeper we indulge in the physics of that order, the more beautiful the mathematical equations become. Why would an arbitrary universe hold aesthetic? Morality is the equations which explore the metaphysical order of the universe (which, actions create reactions; we can test ‘moral theories’ throughout our lives.) All the material world, whether conscious or not, does what it is supposed to do; maybe no humans would be around to jot down moral mathematics but, once again, mathematics is only a man-made- construct to understand things. The things it describes proceed to be without it. They are not contingent on it.

“If morality is in the eye of the beholder, then everyone is seeing things equally well.”

Are they? Eyes can be flawed- eye doctors aren’t around without reason. Also, the number of times that I have walked straight into a pole demonstrates, at least to me, that even good vision can miss important details. So if we’re comparing morality to eyesight, then we need someone with perfect eyesight (the ideal observer) to determine these things. We physically exist in a structured environment: we don’t see things how they are as soon as we pop out of the womb; we need to wiggle around, crawl, fall, and touch to interpret the physical boundaries of our world. This is similar to morality: we’ve got to experiment with it in order to understand it’s structure. This is how an individual in Nazi Germany would be able to bypass the installation of brainwashing programs and continue to see things as they really are: that there were humans being killed and persecuted for no legitimate reason. The iconoclast is the hacker- he is outside of the Matrix.

Let’s say that everything I’ve discussed up until now is bullsh*t. The equivalence of each societal or individual moral code (they say moral equivalence but is there anything moral when it’s all just structures? Moral doesn’t mean anything. There is no such thing) would mean that, should one society believe another society is deeply flawed in their programming (like Americans felt towards Muslim extremism in 2001), they would need to embark on a war for moral cleansing. There will always be contradiction, and if we can’t accept that there is any real, solid, provable way that we ought to engage with our existence, we’d have to expect that either nations would be self-actualized about the arbitrary natures of their ethics which would prevent them from forcefully spreading their preferred “moral” order, or, they would feel especially empowered to spread it, and do away with other societies who opposed it, as well as subcultures who opposed it- moral cleansing could be used to wipe out religious groups in China who oppose an atheistic state, for example. Or, to wipe out native tribes when the conquistadors came to America. Unless, within the arbitrary moral order was some sort of clause preserving humans for the sake of their humanity- perhaps we could still be regarded as valuable for the sake of ourselves even if morality is arbitrary? But acknowledging the infinite value of human life is not necessarily conductive to brainwashing programming- I don’t think it would contradict ethical relativism though because it confirms moral equivalence. But if we have moral equivalence, and are equally valuable, would that also prove that our emotions, pain, joy, passions, thoughts, experiences, all the things that come along with being human, are also equivalent and thus shouldn’t be overlooked or violated when determining arbitrary actions? Or maybe we hold an equal lack of value; humans and societies are equivalently meaningless. Beings are not meaningful because they are moral; morality is a meaningful system because beings are valuable. It has no value in and of itself because it isn’t real in and of itself- we are.

The Danger of Altruism

The idea that it is impossible to have a truly selfless action plagued me when I first encountered it. For some reason, I felt such a strong denial that it could be a true statement- dare I even say, ‘self-righteous’?  For, that statement stung me in the core of everything I had been taught about trying to live a selfless life; especially with growing up in the church, this statement seemed to blatantly oppose my belief system to the core. Wouldn’t Jesus want us to be altruistic? Now that I’m older, I’ve seen people persecuted and psychologically forced down because of the so-called altruism of others. I’ve also had time to make realizations about my own selfish nature that make me question whether selfishness really is strictly a bad, nasty thing to be avoided. I’d like to discuss how owning up to the fact that I do things for the sake of myself, and that others do things for the sakes of themselves, could provide a stepping stone to order and clarity.

Altruism is a trap in which humans are given this opportunity to help other humans- other humans who they may perceive need the help, because they are less than. I hope that this isn’t always the case, but in the perspective that we are naturally self-important (and perpetually in denial of it), there is a good chance that it is. When a poor human is perceived as less than, the “altruist” perceives himself as helping the person by giving him food or money. In doing this, he is reinforcing this idea within himself that he, the altruist, is the solution to the problem, and in that, denies the poor man the autonomy of self: that this poor man also makes decisions based upon his self-interest. Say the altruist decides that he wants to end poverty and has a perspective that those in poverty are less than himself: this can be a very slippery slope. Let’s talk about cats.

We got a cat shortly before the Covid lockdown. She was a craigslist cat, and her owners were so desperate to get rid of her that they almost forgot that they put her on the site for $20. We didn’t know their true reason for getting rid of her; they claimed it was because the dog was jealous, and we quickly learned that they lied. This cat was LOUD. She would scream all night, and she would go through phases of rubbing her lady bits on everything. We realized pretty quickly that she wasn’t spayed- or, I realized it- my boyfriend thought we got a dud. However, because it was lockdown, and getting a cat spayed is an elective procedure, we had to ride out the chaos. During this time, however, I began to really love this cat’s passion and vigor; she was the most annoying, but she was also adventurous, clever, strong, lean, friendly, and absolutely wild. She had this liberty that I hadn’t seen before in a pet; she wasn’t tame. And I became scared that if we got our cat spayed, it would take away that wild animal within her, and all of her beautiful selfishness. She would lose the fundamental biological reason of life, to meet some rugged tomcat out in the wilds, and to carry on her genetic code. She would lose her spirit.

And then my boyfriend got her spayed.

She’s still got her spirit, but her tiny frame has gotten a bit thicker, and she is definitely more domesticated. She doesn’t hold that same drive and passion. Cats eat birds and squirrels; they can be terrorists creeping through the thresholds between mankind and nature. Litters of kittens are vulnerable to snakes and coyotes or grow up to be strays without a human companion to protect them. Us humans don’t like seeing a dead cat on the side of the road or find out that the litter of kittens has been devoured, because we see cats as domesticated animals. We want them to be safe, so we stifle them. We spay and neuter them so they won’t produce babies, to save ourselves from the heartbreak of something bad happening, or to save ourselves from the natural desire to take in a litter of kittens and then place them, when the kittens shouldn’t be our responsibility any more than a nest of squirrels. We keep the cats locked inside when we know they’d be much happier to be let out, to explore the land, meet other humans, and fight the neighborhood cats.

Which brings me back to the altruist, who sees his life as better than that of the poor man and wishes to domesticate him. Not for the sake of the poor man but for the sake of the altruist. Had there never been a poor man to begin with, say, if the man’s mother decided not to have him, that would be even better, for the world would have one less man living in poverty. The altruist does not believe that the poor man can make decisions that will change his own life; he does not believe that the poor man is selfish and is capable to make his own decisions. The altruist would do much better for himself to acknowledge that he is being selfish; it would allow him more clarity within his actions, and it would allow him to see the poor man as selfish as well. This puts them at more of an equal standing.

Many of us know the metaphor of the good wolf and the bad wolf; you become the wolf that you feed. Each wolf is symbolic of one of our “selves”; whichever wolf we feed the most is determinant on how our character will develop. Self-consciousness is an aspect of selfishness: we must strive to be aware of how our decisions impact other selves and, should we listen to our conscience, we will have the guidance to direct us to have a self-interest that aligns itself earnestly to the good of others in respect to their autonomy. This also leads me to think of Ayn Rand’s novels- although there were many times in which I disagreed with her characters over matters of conscience (Dagny is a homewrecker), her point that a society of strong, autonomous selves fighting for their personal gain, while respecting the rights of others to do the same, is stronger than one where humans, even those who do not feel the call, are made to cater to those who’s self interest is not yet conductive in a beneficial way. Perhaps altruistic folk should back off and allow the needy to be self-reliant, then the needy would have the freedom to chose which wolf to feed. A person has no need to make this choice if both the wolves are getting fed for him. However, there are times when a person can’t fend for himself well enough to survive- let’s talk about cats.

Cats get hit by cars; should you be taking a walk and see a cat almost get hit, the beautifully selfish thing to do (if you love cats) would be to try to remove the cat from the situation. You might, so selfishly love this cat that you endanger yourself in the process, which would greatly hurt those who loved you, but also save the cat’s life. However, if you respect the cat, then you will acknowledge the cat’s autonomous self and understand that it is not then your responsibility to bring that cat home and keep him locked in your house as to never almost get hit again. That would ruin the cat’s life and would be feeding your bad wolf. Realizing that it is your selfish bad wolf (that wants the cat to be safe at no matter the cost to your home or the cat’s livelihood) that would be fed, instead of your selfish good wolf (that wants the cat to live), allows you to direct your selfish nature for what will truly be beneficial to itself, and for the cat’s selfish nature as well.

As for the religious bit: we are one human race; as we trace our ancestors back, it becomes more apparent that we are from the same family. To quote the Beatles will add a little clarifying color: “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Because of this, it benefits us to help one another out: in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, Jesus conveys to a Jewish lawyer that even if someone is of completely different ground than he is, is outside of his tribe, and completely disregards his traditions- that person is still his neighbor. This perspective teaches us that we shouldn’t view people’s status based on our arbitrary differences (whether a person is a millionaire or whether they only posses a few dollars in a can is an arbitrary difference in the eyes of God); we should view them as individual selves, and we should love them because they are our neighbor (as opposed to tossing them change because they are a needy bum). This is different than altruism because it acknowledges that we are designed to have relationships with one another in order to live a good life. We wish to have selves that reflect the image of God, and we understand and respect that God gave us free will and autonomy. A poor man has just as much power within himself to become whatever he would like to and the altruistic man has no legitimate reason to doubt the poor man’s ability. There should be no condescension in their relationship; should the richer man chose to feed his selfish good wolf, he will see the ability within the poor man and offer him a career. Should the poor man wish to feed his selfish good wolf, he will already be on a search for one of those, unless he has found deep purpose and meaning where he is at in present, for which the rich man would respect. They could, should they be seeing one another as neighbors instead of seeing one another in the arbitrary lens of social statuses, become friends and learn from one another, furthering their ability to see truth and feed their good wolves. God has designed us ‘selves’ that benefit directly from reflecting him; it is selfish to want him, and within this godly selfishness, our actions benefit other selves in a unifying way. But we’ve got to be selfish to do it!

I hope that this provides some sort of case for psychological egoism and I’m sorry for being super anti-altruism. The plight of a mother giving her last bit of food to her child appears altruistic, but is it not for love that she does this? Her return on investment is to continue to be able to fill her life, however long it is, with the ability to love her child. Without the child, she is alone; and unless her bad wolf has become more powerful than her biology, her loving drive to keep her child alive even for the sake of herself is a natural phenomenon. We even see this demonstrated in nature, where mother elephants defend their babies from lions. There has even been an instance of a baby elephant defending his mother from tourists, which seems to line up well with the natural urge to punch someone when they crack a particularly mean mom joke. Hopefully I’ve provided an adequate argument to support how, even outside of a religious context, being honest about our psychological egoism allows us the clarity to truly benefit our lives, and as a result of benefiting ourselves, others will benefit in return, so long as we are actively taking our wolves into account.

An Essay on Natural Law

Human Nature provides the basis for morality, claims the theory of Natural Law. This is generally a theistic position; without deriving from a higher consciousness, it seems that Natural Law would have to be amoral.

It is interesting that there is any debate about where morality derives from at all, when morality pushes humanity to pursue and train themselves to act in a way that seems contrary to the instincts that often times benefit their own selves. A moral code would incline a person to take a smaller portion of food so that another human could have the larger; how does that benefit the first person on a carnal level? Without this moral code, the first person would act in a self-seeking way, because his most base instinct is to survive. So, the fact that somehow there is an ancient Law of Nature to be debated- the fact that we have this drive to ponder the philosophies that oftentimes push us to discomfort- seems odd- unless there really is something innate that as humans, we have been provided a code, beyond the carnal drives of survival and procreation, in which to strive.

That being said, I would argue that survival and procreation are too primal to even be considered when it comes to the “moral” aspect of the Law of Nature as they are closer to the carnal instincts of animals than of higher purpose; if this is the case, than contraception and homosexual activity are distracting to the argument. Suicide is self-murder and murder falls into the category of moral code. The person with the drive to end his own life should seek either a chemical remedy to fix his animal self, or he should explore his life and his purpose and attempt to dedicate his time to noble pursuits; if not to make himself happy, then to carry the rest of his life out to perpetuate good. But that’s not what I want to write about; the chapter wasn’t about suicide.

I’d like to now talk about David Hume’s argument: because morality cannot be proven in a conceptual or in an empirical way, then moral knowledge is impossible. Shafer-Landau then goes on to write, “If Hume is right, then no matter the number of descriptions (of heinous and violent actions) we pile on, logic will never tell us which moral conclusion to draw from this evidence.” This sparked a question: how is logic different than morality? Is logic empirical or conceptual? Is the fact that bachelors are unmarried males a statement of logic? No, it’s a material fact: a conceptual truth. It doesn’t need to be rationalized to be true. Is the fact that David Hume was never married a statement of logic? No; it’s an empirical truth. It doesn’t need to be rationalized to be true. Something can be logical without being moral, as can something be moral without being logical. However, they are both used to describe the ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ behind an action. We can take Shafer-Landau’s quote and modify the last bit of it to read, “Morality will never tell us which logical conclusion to draw from this evidence-” because the person who committed the violent action wasn’t acting morally. He may have had a logical reason for doing what he did, but would his reason be logical to another human? When he is taken to court, there will be two sides presented to a jury based on two different logical arguments. And yet, it isn’t logic that is the basis for the argument for the Law of Nature; it is morality. Pencils dropping is my go-to metaphor: if I drop a pencil, it will fall. To argue the material physics of the thing is pointless. Most arguments happen because people perceive things in a different way from one another; there are nuances behind human actions. If there are nuances, then human actions (though the actions themselves are physical) have a force behind them that is metaphysical, and it is the metaphysical nature behind the action that provokes its nature.

OK. So, there are two natures: our animal nature (which includes our drive to survive and procreate- amoral nature), and our higher (human) nature, which is where such drives beyond the instinct for survival are located. If the Law of Nature is correct, then these higher principles should be innate, however, the tendency to fall short of the Law of Nature is much more frequent than the inclination to act morally. In fact, it seems as if we must deliberately work to meet the Law of Nature; dare I even say, to reach for it! And yet, morality has engrained itself throughout our cultures and traditions, within our minds and our hearts, with such a strong grasp that here we are taking an Ethics course in the year 2021. This concept of morality has not gone away though out the course of human history and human evolution. We’ve become less hairy, there are babies born without wisdom teeth, and we still cling to this philosophy. How can the Law of Nature innately exist in a world where we, as humans, innately fail to meet its standards? The only explanation I can think of (although I would be open to a counter argument) is that, originally, we were, and still are, designed to meet its standards. Yes, I did say designed, by an ultimate creator, higher consciousness, prime mover, programmer. We were modeled to reflect the image of God. However, somewhere along the span of time, we fell. This Law of Nature is still within us, and it is still innate, but the Fall is innate as well. It happened, like a pencil dropping from the grasp of one’s fingers to the floor. Fortunately, unlike a pencil, we have life, so we can strive to reach and to climb; unless we find a way to cloud our eyes, we do have the ability to look up and see the Being whom we are to emulate. The moon is the moon, but only when it reflects the light of the sun are we able to clearly see it. When a person reaches for the Law of Nature to direct his actions, it is clear to others that he is doing so, unless they have hidden themselves deep in the shadows of the Cave.

Morality, and the lack there of, are both recognizable to an animal that is designed to meet the standards of morality, however, stray far enough into the Cave and even the reflections of light from the Cave’s mouth will fall to darkness. A man can do whatever he wants when he cannot see the Light; he becomes blinded to the higher reality of his actions within the cool and comfortable darkness of his own selfish instinct.

(based on Chapter 6 of The Fundamentals of Ethics by Russ Shafer-Landau)

Hello, Hedonism

A response to Chapter 1 of The Fundamentals Of Ethics, by Russ Shafer Landau

The questions, “What is the meaning of life?” “Is there purpose to it all?”, and, “Why are we here?” have enhanced humanity’s plethora of world views, establishing paths that have allowed humans to see themselves and their lives as “valuable”. Hedonism is a more materialistic, individualistic philosophy on how to find that meaning; I personally see it as an intellectually lazy argument and a cop out answer in the search for true joy (which is not always going to be in the format of a serotonin boost.) It states that we should strive for happiness for the sake of the happiness itself, and although I have no issue with happiness, the route seems too broad to be honest. For example, a psychopath could find a great deal of happiness in the incident of running over a turtle with his car. Hedonism would state that a man who finds joy in running over turtles ultimately is going to have a better life (or at least for that day) over the man who is apathetic to the event, and certainly more-so than the man who broods for the rest of the day in remorse over the turtle he murdered on his drive to work. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but the search for happiness is the mission of the individual, and for a person who enjoys many things, there will be a plethora of happiness opportunities available for them on the table.  

A vegan activist would find the turtle killing psychopath a problem, and proceed to fight against animal cruelty. This may bring that vegan some satisfaction, in the personal knowledge that they actively fight for a cause, but how much happiness, as opposed to stress, derives from their activism as animals will be perpetually slaughtered as long as animals exist? Can the activist truly be happy in what they do? Or does the psychopath experience a truer sense of inner peace, being unable to feel the remorse for his actions? 

“There are many paths to happiness,” claims Hedonism. She (the philosophy), goes on, “Just because *you* found inner peace meditating with a Buddha doesn’t mean scrap for me; I find my own happiness in the strip club.” 

I’d then ask Hedonism, “What happens when you drop a pencil?” I’d like to think she’d say, “It falls down.” Then, I’d genuinely want to know why she believes that this happiness, that supposedly is so meaningful, has so many routes to attain it, whereas with anything else that is justifiably real in life abides by very strict rules and principles. She would probably reply something sassy, “A pencil could land on a table, a chair, or on the floor; I suppose that’s your metaphysical answer. We all strive for happiness and we land on different things,” to which I’d say, “Yes, something could interfere with it’s craving for the center of the earth and prevent it’s true journey, tricking it into believing that it’s made it to its final destination. It rests on the table; perhaps that is it’s strip club. It’s superficially happy for now, but it wants to be much deeper than that. Eventually, and hopefully, what it lands on will crumble before it does, and it can continue that descent; suppose the pencil deteriorates first, though? Wouldn’t it be a shame if it never completed it’s journey, and never found that true happiness?” 

Hedonism rolls her eyes at me. “Happiness is a matter of personal choice. If we are deliberately using our will, we put ourselves through a series of experiments throughout our lives which lead us, ultimately, to what our individual source of happiness looks like. It’s not going to be the center of the earth for every pencil.”

“Then why do the pencils fall straight down?” I question.

“Humans are much more complicated than pencils,” Hedonism says, bringing us out of the metaphor.

“If we are so complicated, then why are we putting so much value on one emotion?” I snap back, “Because you’re right. We ARE more complicated than pencils.”

She glares. “Look, bub. Who’s happier? A man who enjoys what he experiences in life or a man who doesn’t? It comes down to that, really.”

“I’ll give you that, Hedonism. It’s the man who enjoys what he experiences. A miser doesn’t have a great time in life. That’s well and true. But, if that’s the only standard of existence- enjoying oneself- what makes the meaning of life anything more than perpetually seeking a serotonin drip? And why bother making these grabs at happiness when you could take ecstasy til you plot? What makes a junky’s life any less meaningful than the life of an actor, musician, philosopher, or athlete?”

“Perhaps you’re getting stuck on the meaningful bit, no? I never said anything about meaning or purpose.”  

“So this whole conversation is for naught?”

“I’m going to go to the strip club. I’ll see you later.”

“But I was leading up to- perhaps the meaning of life is about relationships.”

Hedonism shakes her head. “Girl, we’re not talking about relationships. If those make you happy, be my guest. If they make you upset, then why are you bothering with them?”

“I thought philosophy helped a person see that you can’t find happiness in money and sex, and right now that’s what you’re going off to partake in. How can you credit philosophy for seeing beyond the glitz and glam, to see what will truly make a person happy, and then deny that there is depth beyond the pencil landing on a table instead of falling into the center of the earth?”

“Well happiness doesn’t always come as easy as a lap dance. For example, I go to the gym and burn my arms out, not because it makes me happy in the moment, but because I know I’ll be happy when I am in a better state of health. There’s depth to that. And I study religion because I know I’ll be happier when I feel more spiritually in tune.” 

I raise my eyebrow. “…you study religion?” She begins to speak and I cut her off, “Biologically, unless you had a chemical imbalance in your brain, working out typically makes the average living creature happier. That’s materialistic happiness. But, you’re studying religion?”

“Every religion leads to the center of the earth,” she says, bringing the metaphor back.

“But they’ve all got quite a few differences, Hedonism.”

“There are many ways to happiness.”

“But religion isn’t all about happiness; a lot of religions place a great emphasis on suffering.” 
“If suffering makes you happy-“
”Hedonism, back to the metaphor. The center of the earth is the center of the earth; it’s not a different place that each pencil is traveling to; gravity is calling all of them to the same destination. I believe that you are misguided; you think that happiness is the final destination- that happiness is the center of the earth. But I think that there is much more depth to the situation than that, because happiness is a shallow and fleeting emotion. If every pencil was meant for it, than you wouldn’t have pencils that had chemical imbalances. You wouldn’t have pencils who find great meaning within their suffering. You wouldn’t have pencils that dug their way through that table-“

“Pencils can’t dig through tables.”

“But a human can pick up a pencil and hammer it into that table til it pokes a hole through it or even just push it off the table—“

“Hold up are you talking about a divine consciousness? Prime mover? God? Is that even part of the conversation? This isn’t in the textbook.”

“You’re the one who practices religion; you brought it up.”

“Only in a way that makes me happy. The table my pencil is lying on is my religion. The moment it stops making me happy, I’m out,” Hedonism chimes with a grin. 

“I still think that you’re a cop out and won’t bring true joy,” I mutter, to which Hedonism replies, “I really don’t care.”

The two of us agreed, however, that this conversation made us both pretty happy, as it was mentally stimulating and fun.

Free Will vs. Predestination

Of course, I start a blog, write two essays, and abandon the thing for the next month and a half. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been on my mind, or that I haven’t had any ideas on what to write, but it does mean I’m more fuzzy on the details now than I had been before, on this topic. It also means that I took more time to gather details. 

But here is the question (as it is probably made obvious from the title): how can free will exist within the same realm of predestination? First, as we know God to be omnipotent: an all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful God, I’d like to start off by defining predestination, as I know it to be: there is a destination for each person. We go where we are meant. 

John Calvin took this to an extreme, claiming unconditional election-

“By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.” (Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapt. 21, Section 5)

So, according to him, it seems that our fates are sealed: there are those who were chosen for eternal life in Heaven, and those who were destined for Hell, and that’s the way God wants it- which is a concept that I’d like to argue in this piece; obviously, it’s a discouraging philosophy. And, with what we know about mankind, humans are oftentimes wrong. Calvin didn’t come to this idea in any unbiblical sense, however, he came to this conclusion based on his interpretation of the scriptures. In this exploration, we will use Romans 9, in which Paul directly mentions “the elect,” Paul writes:

“Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father,  our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad- in order that God’s purpose in election might stand:  not by works but by him who calls- she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” (Romans 9:10-13)

Calvin’s interpretation seems very obvious in those verses; Esau didn’t seem to have a chance in the matter at all. His fate seems determined from the start: he was not elect. The other scripture we’ll explore is, what seems to be, the deliberate damnation of Pharaoh:

“It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I may display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” (Romans 9:16-18)

Romans 9 is a very interesting text, and it’s understandable why Calvin interpreted its message in such a way to prove that God deliberately chooses whether a person’s soul ascends to Heaven or descends to Hell. In Exodus 9, God describes how he has, in fact, raised up Egypt and Pharaoh in order to destroy them as a demonstration of his glory. Does this eliminate Pharaoh’s ability to have a change of heart? Where is Pharaoh’s free will, the one he inherited from the decisions made by early man in the Garden, and how does it play out in this scenario? Did God create a soul with the purpose of being damned? 

I wonder if it is not God deliberately creating Pharaoh to be damned, but God knowing his heart from before creation. He understood that Pharaoh would perpetually put himself over God’s will, no matter what divine wonder he witnessed. God does not force us to come to him, but rather he deliberately tries to push us into that direction. He shows us himself and hopes that we come. And yet, because he is omnipotent, he knows which ones of us will not come- no matter how hard he tries. God tried harder to sway Pharaoh to himself, perhaps more obviously than with most anyone else in the Bible, knowing that it was impossible to reach Pharaoh’s heart. He yearned for Pharaoh’s soul as much as he yearned for David’s, and for the Samaritan woman’s at the well. But he also knew that, through his grasps for Pharaoh’s heart, he would lead the people of Israel out of captivity. It is not by works but by him who calls, and God knows who will call out his name. God knows who will come to him sincerely in their heart. Even when Pharaoh let the Israelites go, his words did not hold sincerity and he followed them with his army to bring them back to captivity. Perhaps, on the predestination note, God (knowing Pharaoh’s heart from the beginning of time) allowed his birth to be within Egyptian royalty, instead of in another place. He knew this would not only give himself the opportunity to demonstrate his love and power for the Israelites, but would give him the most obvious opportunity to witness himself to Pharaoh. 

How does this relate to Esau? There is an impulsivity within the self that seeks the material. Esau sold his birthright in a moment’s notice to his brother Jacob for some food to nourish the body; as soon as one plague let up, Pharaoh retained the Israelites to keep them weak, and to utilize their labor- only, as we know, to be hit by another plague. Neither Esau nor Pharaoh pursued the longer lasting satisfaction that derives from obeying the will of God; because of this superficiality and their materialistic values, Jacob was put before Esau in the eyes of God, as was the weaker nation of Israel over Egypt and Pharaoh. God understands the lessons of history before they occur in our timeline, and utilized his understanding through the Bible to provide his perspective and truth to his people. 

Romans 10:21 references the prophet Isaiah, where we learn God’s unwillingness to give up on us, even the most hardened hearts,

“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ All day long, I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations-” Isaiah 65:1-2

So, can predestination and free will coexist? I believe so. I believe that God has a will for everyone to come to him, and give him their hearts and faith. He wants to transform us all into his sons. But God is a realist; as a being who knows all, it is impossible for him not to be. Our actions and our lives are merely the reflections of the states of our hearts. We can decide whether to be receptive towards his renewal; it is up to us, not God, whether our hearts remain hardened or whether they receive him. God fights for all of us with infinite passion, however, he also has the infinite insight on how our free will plays out within our lives. He allows each person the position in life where they can shape the lives of others and, despite their own darkness and rebellion, be utilized as a tool to demonstrate his love and desire for our souls.

I could be wrong, and this opinion has been sizzling this way and that on the back burner of my mind for some time now. It’s apt to change, and I’m apt to write another essay when it does. One of the exciting aspects of Christianity is that because the mind of God is infinite, our studies of him can never cease. Like in physical science, we will have theories that will be proven more true over time, and theories that will fall through with further testing.

Adjusting my view

“Defund the Police” is one of the major sentiments of 2020 into 2021, with good reason. Police and civilian tensions have been going strong ever since the dawn of time, when a group of people were put in a position to “uphold the law,” which thus elevated, in the eyes of mankind, the “law” above the individual, and the “upholders of the law” also above the individual, and in many cases, above the “law” itself. 

I had an empathy for the police at first. It seemed like Derek Chauvin’s highly publicized killing of George Floyd had defined the entire national sentiment for the officers of the law. I had to wonder, why would people hate cops so openly, yet call them immediately when a crisis occurred? That’s hypocrisy; Americans are cursing themselves through shitting on the moral of the police. And, while listening to the trial, it almost appeared that Chauvin was innocent; he used a restraint tactic that had been approved by the Minneapolis force. Floyd died from a fentanyl overdose. Case closed; can the riots stop now? 

This leads to the question: why was there so much fentanyl in Floyd’s system? Could it be because George Floyd, and many people that he knew and loved, had been in a similar place before with the police? Maybe it’d be easier to risk eating the drugs than dealing with more things lined up on the rap sheet when they threw the book at him. Because, as I’ve heard a police officer say before, “We use whatever we can hoping something will stick, so that we can catch the bad guy.” 

“The bad guy”.  Aren’t we all that person, in the eyes of God? I’m not trying to dismiss Floyd’s past, but let’s take his past actions and compare them with what the police do on a regular basis. Police drive through lower income neighborhoods, pulling people over for minor offenses, hoping to score a bust. I know this, because I live in a lower middle income community. The first time that I was pulled over in my neighborhood, I hadn’t fully stopped at a stop sign. The cops let me go with a $10 fine for not having my insurance on me (God forbid my boyfriend walked down the road to give me a copy), but also informed me that the neighborhood was dangerous and they were looking for criminal activity. If they had known I wasn’t a “criminal”, they wouldn’t have wasted their time- but it is like fishing, for them. I was but a bottom feeder cat fish to get thrown back, and they were preying for a snook.  

The second time that I was pulled over (seconds from our home), my boyfriend was with me. He had, moments earlier, cracked open a roadie and taken a swig. Before I get into my story, which I’m sure is unfortunately relatable to many people who have dealt with the police, I want to tell you the lesson the experience taught me. This experience gave me clarity to the word “systemic”. The color of our skin, white, probably more or less helped us in our scenario, but our car itself was targeted for the neighborhood we were driving in, which, as the cop from before had informed me, is known for criminal activity. I’d like to demonstrate how a higher police presence combined with human error and minor traffic violations could lead down but one vein of a systemic oppression of people, amongst other things. Criminal activity isn’t just happening in low income neighborhoods, but they are the prime communities that get the rap for it. They’re easier targets and can’t afford the same lawyers; with a higher police presence, more people will get caught, thrown in prison, and then have their lives altered to make it more difficult to change route. Police have now removed the breathing room a person has to change their life path, whereas in a richer community, these petty crimes are easily escaped from; either because they didn’t have police choking them out, or they could afford a good lawyer.

Back to the story; here is my own context: my boyfriend and I had finally gotten to a point in our lives where we could begin chipping away at our debts and put somewhat real food on the table. Our move to Florida had dug us into a deep hole of debt, which had grown massively due to the fact that our money had to go to keeping ourselves alive. And now, we were finally stabilizing, and feeling somewhat human again. We were driving home from our jobs, and he cracks open the ever smelly, nauseating Cranberrita and takes a sip. And that’s when we saw the car in front of us do a U-turn in the middle of the road to get behind our vehicle. To make the story short, we were pulled over for a headlight; we scrambled to hide the roadie, I reached into the back to grab breathmints, the cop thought I was going for a weapon, cocked his gun at us, called other cops to the scene, they searched us (which involved a lady cop going under my bra) and searched the car for drugs, found the roadie, let us go (I took the fall for the roadie as the passenger), and found the whole entire scenario hilarious. They were laughing about it; meanwhile, the rest of my month was screwed. I couldn’t preform well at my workplace, or even interact normally with others, because my whole being was unsettled. And now that I’m contemplating it again, I’ve realized, two other things could have happened. My boyfriend could have been shot and killed (the cops were laughing because of this), or we could have had the book thrown at us, because of the alcohol on his breath (how did that first cop not smell the Cranberrita?) and an open container in the car- and that would have ruined us. This incident, because we had been caught, would have set us back so far, and all the blood, sweat, and tears would have been for nothing, because of a little, after work, premature crack of a beer. And, because the cops did not see us as a human. They saw us as a fish; they saw us as potential “bad guys”. The cop approached our car under the assumption that we WERE bad guys. In fact, he probably wanted us to be those “bad guys”; it would have been great for him, and his quota. But I won’t make assumptions. My question is, how could the other cops have been so jaded, as to find this initial police officer’s mistaken paranoia that could have cost us our very lives, to be funny? 

This incident is nothing compared to what others go through all the time; even my boyfriend said that the cops behavior towards us was docile, compared to what he’s experienced before. Once a person has been legally labeled a “criminal”, the chances for them to clime their way out of the hole- get hired at a well-paying job, get out of debt, provide adequately for their families- lessens significantly. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t take responsibility for their actions, or work harder to find another way, but when it’s a matter of putting food on the table and keeping a roof over your family’s heads, a person does what they have to do. A father does what he has to do. That father then gets caught by the police, who see him as a snook, or a shark, or a tuna- they see him as a “bad guy”, they dehumanize- violate- him as they drag him to the cop car, throw his body on the hood, handcuff him in front of his family, and cart him away to the station: if he makes it through the whole interaction. As if, because they are the “upholders of the law”, they have the privilege of treating this man like an animal; worse than an animal. They have the privilege to beat into him their idea that he is nothing. Because the “law” means more than his life, his family, his story. The “law” is their excuse to hunt down and traumatize. The cops are either jaded, sadistic, or narcissistic; I believe in many cases they are all three. As a result, the people are traumatized: it’s a natural reaction to feel a shiver down your spine when a cop pulls up behind you. This reaction has been programmed within us, to protect us from lions and tigers. The cop is the new tiger, and tigers were not designed to protect humanity. “Protection” is not what their claws and their teeth are intended to do. 

As a result of the anxiety wrapped up within our subconscious, and the depression that comes from getting stuck in life, many people are now hooked on anti-anxiety medication, anti-depressants, and street drugs. These make the world go around by their own methods; police are, I’d like to think, supposed to direct society in a way opposite of this darkness. But, through murder, imprisonment, harassment, bullying- I could go on, they push people further and further into the epidemic of sin. Sin has claws of its own, and will ensnare anyone in its path; the number of victims grows and grows each day as more people are pulled over for minor crimes and have the full force of the law slammed into their gut. PTSD is a real disorder which the cops (seemingly) have no issue handing out. They have (seemingly) no issue deepening the inner chaos within another’s soul, and through that, they do just as much damage to the communities they claim to “help” as does the crime itself. If we all deserve the fires of Hell, then those humans who “enforce the law” deserve it all the more, for they are capitalizing on the struggle of others. They shove others down in order to step their way up. George Floyd would be alive today should the police not be so associated with trauma. Does breaking the “law” give one human (flawed in the eyes of God) permission to violate another human (flawed in the eyes of God)? Isn’t dehumanization towards any person flawed, not only in the eyes of God, but in the eyes of man as well? And aren’t those who go on websites to watch others get murdered and destroyed “perverted”? Wouldn’t acting on those things be even worse than merely watching a recording of them happening- wouldn’t that person be a pervert of the worst sort? What distinguishes the actions that the humans (called cops) take on other humans as heroic, rather than a deep rooted perversion?

Should we want the best for everyone, punishment is a necessary force. But acknowledge the humanity and treat with respect those you attempt to punish, for you are no better than they are. And should you not regard their humanity, there should be punishment for you as well. And hopefully, our nation’s steps for change within this system will be fruitful.

I know that I’m not the most “educated” on this subject. I’ve never been an “SJW” as they call it; I’ve never been to a rally or protest. The only thing I have is my own experience, and I apologize ahead of time for that; this is, unfortunately, a conclusion that I’ve only recently come by. I’m also open to any criticisms; I’d love to understand a cop’s perspective on this (if they even want to talk to me, after I called their people “perverts”) but I’d like to think I’m already aware of it. I respect that their job is complicated and involves a lot of nuance that I couldn’t understand, and should I be in their shoes, I wouldn’t know how to react to the majority of situations in which they find themselves. But, that’s also why I wouldn’t consider myself to be a great candidate for that profession; I do expect more of those who deem themselves capable of mandating justice.

Finding The Logic within Forgiveness

“The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then, suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true… Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible?”  –  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 7: Forgiveness

Goodness, there are so many roads I could go down with this quote. C.S. Lewis proceeds down the route of slippery slope: hatred starts with one’s enemies, then eventually this negative complex sneaks its way into their personal relationships, with their friends, with their families, their selves, and even with God; he writes, 

“We shall insist on seeing everything as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed forever in a universe of pure hatred.” 

What a state to live within! I have to admit, there are certain figures, especially in the political climate, that I’ve actually dreamed of horrible things happening to. Never, ever do I dream of harm done to regular humans, but as for those who hold power and influence on our regular human lives? Absolutely, and I’m certain that I’m not alone in this sick fantasy. In a climate as divisive as the one we’ve got today, it’s very easy to stick a notable, influential figure into a box and label them a demon. 

This hatred of another human being, no matter what crime against humanity was enacted by whoever is your choice target to hate, is absolutely harmful and toxic to us as animals, both on the spiritual and the material plains. It’s a known fact that holding a grudge increases stress levels, which then proceeds to flood our bodies with cortisol. So, perhaps, if holding a grudge, or “hating” a fellow person, is the sickness (and offense caused the hatred), than forgiveness must be the cure. It’s fine to despise the actions of another person. But in the action of hating them as a being, you are destroying yourself by entertaining that hate, and what substance (or lack there of) will your own being be consumed with then? Forgiveness holds a key to, within this material world, health and longevity, as well as inner peace. I’d also like to think that clarity could result from the ability to separate the action from the being. (I’d also like to direct the reader to A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle to better understand the fulfilling nature of Love; perhaps those who are truly acting evil are lacking substance, and perhaps if you love them, you can partake in the metaphorical effort to shove marshmallows of love down their throats until they become agreeable and whole again.)

Possibly, humans are comfortable having a personified image of a sin. Throughout history, there have been many gods, goddesses, and spirits that embody certain traits, such as war, fertility, love- even drunkenness. Perhaps subscribing ideology to a face is a cheap way to- inspire? To have a war, you must have something to fight against, and it’s easier to fight an individual than a whole concept; as Guy Faux has pointed out, ideas last forever. On the contrary, subscribing ideology to a face promotes the opposite as well: a hero. A face for the movement.  A figure that, through his or her own personal strength and dedication, sheds inspiration and courage unto their followers, who subscribe to the same doctrine. 

That second bit is beyond the point which C.S. Lewis was making, within the short Chapter 7 of Mere Christianity, titled “Forgiveness”. So, back to his point, which was somewhat of a ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ message: I suppose it’d be good to make the distinction between man and his action, or even ideology. No matter who holds the face of the moment, there will be people who hate them, and there will be people who love them, but we are furthering ourselves deeply from the true nature of their beings: where they are human. We all mess up (and even have the capacity to deliberately chose wrong to the point of nihilism), and there just isn’t  anyone who’s correct about everything. There’s a certain self righteousness that clasps the hand of hatred; we can feel a little better about ourselves, knowing that, “I would never commit that sort of atrocity.” We look down upon others without mercy, yet the human condition inflicts us all. I believe mercy is a value, and yet I’d shrug it off if a public figure whom I didn’t agree with died suddenly from heart failure. I’d like not to be this way, and seek to amend my heart, yet the heart is wicked. Unfortunately. Through God’s grace, human beings are mutable. Our condition… not as much.

I’ve got to end with the last bit of the chapter, which provides ample reason why I find it logical to deepen my own relationship with God. C.S. Lewis writes,

 “Perhaps it makes it easier if we remember that that is how He loves us. Not for any nice, attractive qualities we think we have, but just because we are the things called selves. For really there is nothing in us to love: creatures like us who actually find hatred such a pleasure that to give it up is like giving up beer or tobacco…” 

Perhaps we’d find more enlightenment if we ceased the hate. Perhaps we wouldn’t feel the same fear, nor the stress, from knowing that there are others working against us and our ideologies. And, perhaps it would help us to find the nuance, sos that we could work together towards actualizing truth within our world. For, if everything could be contradicted by sophistry, then why do we put so much stress into hating others, simply for their different opinions and lifestyles? It’d all be up to interpretation anyway. No, when we learn about genocide, we understand that it is devastatingly wrong. We may have different views on how to prevent further tragedy, but we agree on the premise, because we are sensitive to a moral code: there is a darkness, and there is a light. We feel impassioned for that light, yet if hate is involved, we shall perpetually have the blurriest of vision when that light is turned on. If we quit demonizing our peers, and learned to love the human while sticking to our truths- well, we’d at least stop being so stressed out. We’d live longer, be stronger, and become much more, perhaps, united on a human level, if not in ideology. And most of all, it would become more clear to us when we are wrong, through a heightened empathy for others. We are commissioned to love others because they are selves; there is no reason higher to merit that love, and likewise, there is no lower reason in which that love should be taken away.