Tag Archives: Love

The Zero Sum Game of White Supremacist Love

KKKThis post is an analysis of the statements made in the comment sections of my previous two blog posts Deconstructing A Radically Autonomous Box of Subjectivity Part I and Part II by the self identified white supremacist Christian named Thordaddy. For the record I self identify as a Roman Catholic Christian but not as a white supremacist. The particular comments I would like to analyze in this post are the ones he made pertaining to love with specific emphasis on the Greatest Commandment which is to “[l]ove the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and the Second Greatest Commandment, to “[l]ove thy neighbor as thy self.” (MT 22:36-40).

Thordaddy has repeatedly taken the position that the Second Greatest Commandment does not instruct a Christian to actually love his neighbor as a general proposition but rather to love his neighbor only to the extent that he loves himself. Accordingly, if a person does not love himself he is under no obligation to love his neighbor. He uses this as a license with the blessing of Christian dogma to hate his neighbor if he so chooses. I find this to be a rather unique and novel interpretation of the commandment chiefly because, it has been my experience that with the exception of Thordaddy alone, all Christians seem to agree that there is an underlying assumption imbedded within the Second Greatest Commandment that a person would naturally love himself.

Moreover, Thordaddy’s interpretation of the Greatest Commandment is logically inconsistent with his unique interpretation of the second great commandment. His interpretation of the Greatest Commandment is to give all love to God such that there is no love remaining for the self and less still for the neighbor. In other words he sees love as a zero sum game in which there is a finite amount of love to go around and if all of a person’s love goes to God there is none left for anyone else. I would argue that the plain meaning of the Greatest Commandment speaks to the intensity of love and not to the percentage of love available. Furthermore, Thordaddy’s interpretation of the Greatest Commandment eliminates the need for the Second Greatest Commandment. That is, it would not make sense for Christ to specifically emphasize the Second Greatest Commandment in the gospels if the Greatest Commandment effectively rendered it moot.

His unique interpretation of the Second Greatest Commandment is made more peculiar still by the fact that he is obsessed with the concept of the (presumably sinful) act of self-annihilation which he seems to take delight in accusing other people of committing. I asked him point blank if he loved himself and he repeatedly dodged this question which surprised me. I would think a person who feels so strongly that the act of self annihilation is so morally wrong would naturally love himself. I assume, however, that he does not want to admit to loving himself because by his own logic he would then be compelled by the Second Greatest Commandment to also love his neighbor. In this light, his reluctance to admit to loving himself seems to prove that even he is dubious of his unique interpretation.

The final piece to this puzzle involves progeny. He has repeatedly argued that the use of contraception is an act of self-annihilation because it prevents more of the self from coming into the world. I asked him why he would want to bring more of himself into the world if he did not love himself. To this question he made the surprising response, “because we love our children.” This would imply that he sees his children as distinct entities separate from himself. But if that were the case then how could he at the same time see children as “more of himself” brought into the world which are frustrated through the use of contraception and which is therefore labeled as self-annihilation?

Thordaddy makes one seemingly legitimate point that the commandment to love thy neighbor involves a reciprocity between self and neighbor. Let us overlook for the moment this is logically inconsistent with his asserted right to hate his neighbor because he does not love himself. This concept of reciprocity seems right in that one should not be compelled to love another person who is actively hostile to him just because that neighbor lives near him. In fact this belief would require a certain love of self as someone who did not love himself would not logically be concerned with others who did not love him. In fact, if he truly believed himself to be unlovable on some level he would agree with his neighbor who held the same feeling in his heart. However, assuming (as most people logically would) that a person did love himself in some capacity he would also want neighbors who were not actively hostile towards himself. For this reason, although Thordaddy choses not to admit it I believe he does actually love himself. He perhaps loves himself to an unhealthy degree in that he cannot love other people who do not resemble himself which is the definition of the racism that his self described white supremacy refers to.

Indeed it is a twisted web that Thordaddy has woven for himself. Put another way, Thordaddy has constructed a radically autonomous box of subjectivity in which he can sit and believe that what he subjectively feels to be true is in fact objectively true for everyone. The fact that no one else seems to believe (or has ever believed) what he believes particularly with respect to his interpretation of the Greatest and Second Greatest Commandments seems to confirm this.

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My Life is Not About Me

galaxyI have heard several times lately from several different sources the message that my life is not about me. When I hear a message repeated over and over I tend to think I am hearing it for a reason. Maybe the universe is sending me a message because I am ready to hear it. Or perhaps the message is constantly out there but because I am ready to hear it, I am more open to it and so I do hear it. Both are possible but the common theme between the two is that I am ready to hear it.

This message that my life is not about me is usually conveyed in a religious context and I take it to mean that rather than my life not being about me, that my life is about God. But what does it mean to live a life not about the self but about God? I think it is clear that a person who lives a self centered life does so because he is motivated by his ego. The ego desires comfort, safety, wealth, power for its own aggrandizement and protection. It is distrustful of others, jealous, racist and acts from a place of fear ultimately. By contrast, a person who lives his life according to God’s plan will discard these egocentric qualities and motivations. This is where faith comes in because to do this requires a faith that ultimately all will be well and taken care of despite not keeping a constant fixation upon things being well.

It seems clear to me that God is not ego. What is a little difficult to pin down is a more positive definition of God. But this makes sense in that God is infinite, eternal and beyond comprehension. Naturally an entity fitting this description is beyond definitions and labels. Faith comes in here too in that it takes faith to relate to something that is so intellectually un-relatable. At the same time God is love (1 John 4:8) and thus God is completely relatable because love is relation itself. Clearly Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians is the opposite of ego:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor.13:4-7).

It also seems to me that God is both an “other” and at the same time intimately connected to me. God is an “other” in the sense that He is beyond all comprehension and I am not. Therefore the two of us are different and separate. However, there is also the sense that I came from God and have a connection with Him. In this sense living a life according to God’s plan might be the same thing as living a life in accordance to the will of my true self, which is the part of me that is not ego.

This Lent the message that my life is not about me has been made abundantly clear. I was all set to begin Lent when the sudden death of a family member disrupted everything. This event told me my life is not about myself because I cannot control or predict it. Because I cannot control or predict my life there is someone or something else in control that is not me. To the extent that I try to control or believe I can control my life I am acting in a manner that is contrary to reality which is always destined to end in failure.

God is eternal and as such, God’s plan is eternal. By contrast, my mortal existence is definitely not eternal (as was powerfully demonstrated by the death I just experienced). Accordingly, any plan that I come up with for myself is finite and not like God’s plan. Anything material (e.g. wealth, possessions, health, racial identity) is likewise not eternal. It seems to me that any sort of desperate clutching to these things would be contrary to God’s plan.

It also seems to me that if one adopts an attitude of surrender to God’s plan that a tremendous burden will be lifted. Jesus himself said that his “yoke is easy and his burden is light.” (Matt 11:30). But the question naturally arises, how can one know what is God’s plan? I think the approach to this question is to avoid those things that are definitely not God, like ego. Moreover, it seems logical that if one is acting in accordance with his true self that he will experience a lightness of spirit and an ease of action. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he describes the fruits of the spirit as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal 5:22-23). Clearly these are not the fruits of the ego. And I suppose faith must again come in to play in determining what is and is not in accordance with God’s plan.

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Face My Shame

In order get out of the hell of my job I had to get laid off.  I was too ashamed to quit with all the bills I was responsible for and the family I had to feed and clothe.  If I quit my job simply because I found it unsatisfying I would be irresponsible and undisciplined.  But, if my job could kick me out of our relationship I could tell myself and the world that it was not my fault.  I would avoid the shame of being irresponsible. And so I self-sabotaged until it happened.  I put less effort into my work.  I did not learn the million rules to the document review that bored me to tears every day.

Passive aggression is the primary tool a shame-based person has to get what he wants in the world.  To come out and claim what he wanted would be selfish, childish and undisciplined.  To be honest would risk hurting someone else’s feelings.  To the shame-based it is always better to employ a strategy of plausible deniability.

Once I left my job I found myself in a position where, if I chose to, I could finally begin face the issue of shame in my life.  But, in order for me to finally face my shame I could not do this through passive aggression.  I had to face my shame honestly.  For me, that meant I had to go back to the source of my shame, which is my parents.

This sounds condemning and critical from a shame-based perspective because shame cannot admit its faults.  That is too painful and opens itself to attack.  In a shame-based world there is no mercy or forgiveness.  There may be the pretense of mercy because to be unmerciful is shameful but below the surface were truth resides there is none.  All mistakes, faults and flaws are punished and leave a permanent mark that can never be erased.  So for me to say the source of my shame is my parents is very difficult.  To say this is being ungrateful for all the good they did for me.  To say this is to be disrespectful to my parents, which is something that a good son would not do.  To say this would hurt their feelings and would be selfish of me.  All these moral precepts were instilled in me by my parents.  All these precepts (whether true or not) are my shame’s way of keeping me from facing my shame.  So, in order for me to face my shame I had to see clearly and honestly what my parents had done to me.  In order to do this I had to see clearly and honestly that this shame did not come from a place of love.  That is not to say that they did not have love for me but rather the shame they instilled into me did not come from love.

Of course I did not know any of this before my wife, our two daughters and I moved in with my parents.  But I was in a position to find out.  I had finally reached the rock bottom of my shame.  I was 39 years old, unemployed and living with my parents in my childhood home.  I was so humiliated that I was laid off and could no longer afford the mortgage on my house.  I was so ashamed that my wife and I were not getting along.  I was so utterly ashamed that I could not afford to buy my kids the things and the lives I thought they should have.

I had hit rock bottom and there was nowhere to go from there but up.  To go up from there, however, required effort and understanding.  Thank God I received the teaching that gave me the understanding.  Thank God I developed the courage to put forth the effort and truly face shame.

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Meditations on Mercy

Be merciful, therefore, even as your Father is merciful.  Do not judge, and you shall not be judged; do not condemn, and you shall not be condemned.  Forgive and you shall be forgiven; give and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they pour into your lap.  For with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you.

Luke 6:36-38

At the beginning of time the entire universe was compressed into a singularity.  Everything was intimately unified.  This was the garden of Eden where God and man lived together without shame and God and man (and the garden) were one.  But within this singularity there was an impulse to separate, to experience individuality.  Call this impulse the serpent.  In order for the serpent to affect its desire it had to convince more of the singularity to join in with it.  So it tricked Eve to eat of the Tree of Life.  She did and convinced Adam to eat of it also.  Their eyes were opened, they became ashamed and covered their genitals with fig leaves and they hid from God.  The singularity exploded.  This was the Big Bang.  The universe expanded at an accelerating rate.  There was separation but it was no longer perfect.

And so we now find ourselves on this Earth at this unique point in time.  We are all a piece of God from that original singularity.  Some of us are more aware of this than others.  We all possess a nostalgic yearning to return in some fashion.  Again, some more than others.  And even ourselves are divided.  There is the part of the mind that wants pleasure, and safety and wealth and power.  There is the part of the mind that tells us not to give into those desires.  There is the part of the mind that observes these other two parts and is aware of itself when it does not sleep.   Perhaps it is this last part of the mind where the nostalgic yearning resides.

I have found that judgment goes both ways.  If I judge other people it was because I was judged by others and I judge myself with constant criticism.  But if I learn to be merciful to myself I can begin to be merciful to others.  This does not happen all at once.  But with effort and mercy from others it slowly begins to happen.  And the acceleration of the universal expansion begins to slow.  And mercy and forgiveness beget more mercy and forgiveness measure for measure.

Because even in this state, within this seemingly infinite expansion of the universe the totality of all that comprised that initial singularity exists.  That is God.  We are each a cell of organism called God.  From the perspective of one cell, the entire organism is a mystery.  And yet each cell contains a strand of DNA which in turn contains the blueprint for the entire organism.  How much more vast is the seemingly infinite universe than a seemingly finite organism?  How much vaster and incomprehensible is the mystery?

If God is love then it is God that binds us together both with others and ourselves.  Love, the binding agent, is the recognition of the self in others.  It is the flashing memory of the singularity before the separation.  This is why you must forgive the other and forgive yourself.  This is also why when you forgive yourself and you forgive others, the others forgive you and themselves.

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How to Love Yourself in Four Easy Steps

Separation of Light from Darkness ( )

Separation of Light from Darkness ( ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone has darkness and lightness.  If you feel judged all the time this judgement comes from inside of you.  That means you are judging yourself.  There may be other people judging you as well but the feeling of being judged comes from within.  The part that judges you is the darkness.  This part does not love you.  However, if feeling judged makes you feel bad then this means there is also a part that does not like being judged.  This is the light and is the part loves you.  I believe the light is your “true self”.  The darkness came from the outside world and was internalized.  The darkness is not your true self but pretends to be and if you are not aware of it then you will believe that it is your true self.  In this state of affairs you feel judged and you believe whatever is judging you is right to do so.  In order to love yourself this state of affairs must be dismantled.

 

Step One: Separate Yourself From the Darkness

 

To gain separation from the darkness you must become aware of it.  You must accept it as a part of you but also know it is not truly who you are.  To become aware of the darkness you must start with the intent to become aware of the darkness.  That is enough.  Cultivate this intent.  Take time each day to intend to do this, as a meditation.  Soon you will recognize when you become self critical, judgemental, jealous, resentful.  When this happens say to the darkness, “I see what you are doing.”  The more you do this the more you will become aware of the darkness and the more separate it will become from you.

 

Step Two:  Cultivate the Light Within You

 

There are many ways to cultivate the light within you.  Probably the most powerful way to cultivate the light within you is to forgive yourself.  This may be hard to do at first.  Here is how I started to do this.  I would always remember embarrassing events in my life and literally cringe.  This would happen several times throughout the day, every day.  I decided to let myself off the hook for these situations.  I allowed myself to remember these situations and love myself nevertheless.  I would say, “I can love myself through this.”  There are other ways to cultivate the light.  Make a list of 10 things you are grateful for (I have James Altucher to thank for that), do something whole heartedly, allow yourself to enjoy doing nothing or something you really want to do and meditation are all things that I have found will cultivate the light.

 

Step Three: Learn to Trust the Outside World

 

I learned this lesson in a men’s group.  The facilitators were therapists trained in the Gestalt body centered technique.  One session was particularly powerful for me and I broke down sobbing.  This would normally be a pretty humiliating situation for me.  But the group supported me and did not judge.  This was a key moment in my journey towards trusting the outside world.  I certainly have much further to go.

 

Step Four: Learn to Not Need the Outside World’s Approval

 

Ultimately, whether the outside world judges you or loves you, what really matters is that you love yourself.  There will always be judgemental people but if you can be there for yourself and support yourself through it that is the way out.  For me it is a long journey.  It comes in very small doses and I have a way to go, but I know there is truly a way out.

 

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