I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Get Rid of Your Alarm Clock!

I would like to start a national movement - no, make that an international movement - to get rid of the alarm clocks.

Over the course of the last few months I have found that I have conditioned myself to wake up at just the right time. Now, this is odd, because I never thought I could live with out an alarm clock to wake me up in the morning. But it seems as though the internal clock of my body is operating on an amazingly accurate level of sophistication. Typically I wake up within 10 minutes of the time I need to get up (usually about 10 minutes early). Sometimes I find myself waking up a few hours before I need to get up, but for me this is nothing unusual. Even when I still used the alarm clock I found myself waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning, and I would usually just go back to sleep. Well, same deal now, only I don't need the alarm clock to wake me up. My body just knows when I need to get up.

What about when my time frame changes? What if I need to get up later or earlier? Well, to date I have had no problems with this. I have always woke up in time, even when the time I need to wake up changes. As I mentioned before, I wake up a few hours before I need to get up and my body just seems to make a mental note that I need to wake up. For example, let's say that I need to wake up at 9:30 AM instead of 7:00 AM. Well, I might wake up at 6:30 AM and then my body just knows that it only has two hours of sleep.

But here is the best thing about it: NO MORE JARRING NOISES. No more jolting or disturbing sounds that rattle my system and almost give me a heart attack. My body knows when to wake up and so when I wake up I am more refreshed. Now, if I don't get enough sleep I will still be tired, but on a normal night when I get sufficient sleep I feel like my body wakes up gradually rather than with a sudden jolting alarm ring.

Have I stumbled onto something here? Are there scientific studies that back me up on this? Can everyone get rid of their alarms? Or is it only a select few of us that can live without that annoying beep?

Let's start a movement!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Waiting on the World to Change

There is a song that I like a lot and it's entitled "Waiting on the World to Change" by John Mayer. But I confess that I'm a bit confused by the message. First, John says that he and his friends are being wrongly perceived as not standing for anything. The problem, says John, is not that they are not standing for anything, but simply that they lack the means to make any significant change. "It's hard to beat the system," says John, "When we're standing at a distance." So, they're waiting. Waiting for the world to change.

One of the things John and his friends want to change is to bring their neighbors home from war so that their neighbors do not miss a Christmas. So, presumably, John doesn't want any war in the world. Or, at least, he doesn't want anyone he knows to be a participant in any war - at least during Christmas!

Ultimately the song concludes with the reminder that one day John and his friends will be in power, and at that time they can make all the changes that need to be made. The "system" will be their system and they can do things the right way.

Now, I'm assuming that when John Mayer talks about "me and all my friends" he's talking about our generation. I say "our generation" because John Mayer and myself are close in age and a part of the same geneartion - Generation X as we have often been called over the years. This is a generation that often gets labeled as not believing or standing for anything. A generation somewhat apathetic in many regards.

Being a member of this generation I can relate to the apathy. I can also relate to feeling like "it's hard to beat the system," and feeling dissillusioned and disenfranchised. All of this I understand. But what I don't think I understand is how anything will ever change simply by waiting. Granted, John Mayer may be implying in his song that we will kick it into gear and make a difference once we get in to power, and that we really ought to make a difference in the meantime, but still....aren't we putting a little too much stock into "the system" and having too little faith in the actions of the individual???

For example, if you want to eliminate homelessness you could march on Washington and, of course, you could wait until you had the political power to outlaw homelessness, or you could simply wait on the world to change. But doesn't it make more sense to put your old jeans on, pick up a hammer, and head over to Habitat for Humanity to volunteer?
And if you want to eliminate hunger. Do we wait for the world to change? Do we wait on the government to solve our issues? Or do we head over to the soup kitchen and sign up to help feed those in need? We could wait for the world to change, or we could actually make the world change - one life at a time.

Of course, our generation really isn't interested in the hard work to make real and effective change. We would rather complain about politics or sit around at home and blog about how bad things are. But this just points to the primary problem that we have, which is that we believe we are entitled to possess everything without having to work for anything. It seems all too easy to blame the system for our problems and use this as an excuse to sit around and blog about what we think is wrong with the world. And all the while we're waiting. Waiting on the world to change.

John's MySpace - where you can play the song:
(It really is a good song!)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Which historical lunatic are you?

I'm Joshua Abraham Norton, the first and only Emperor of the United States of America!
Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

Born in England sometime in the second decade of the nineteenth century, you carved a notable business career, in South Africa and later San Francisco, until an entry into the rice market wiped out your fortune in 1854. After this, you became quite different. The first sign of this came on September 17, 1859, when you expressed your dissatisfaction with the political situation in America by declaring yourself Norton I, Emperor of the USA. You remained as such, unchallenged, for twenty-one years.
Within a month you had decreed the dissolution of Congress. When this was largely ignored, you summoned all interested parties to discuss the matter in a music hall, and then summoned the army to quell the rebellious leaders in Washington. This did not work. Magnanimously, you decreed (eventually) that Congress could remain for the time being. However, you disbanded both major political parties in 1869, as well as instituting a fine of $25 for using the abominable nickname "Frisco" for your home city.
Your days consisted of parading around your domain - the San Francisco streets - in a uniform of royal blue with gold epaulettes. This was set off by a beaver hat and umbrella. You dispensed philosophy and inspected the state of sidewalks and the police with equal aplomb. You were a great ally of the maligned Chinese of the city, and once dispersed a riot by standing between the Chinese and their would-be assailants and reciting the Lord's Prayer quietly, head bowed.
Once arrested, you were swiftly pardoned by the Police Chief with all apologies, after which all policemen were ordered to salute you on the street. Your renown grew. Proprietors of respectable establishments fixed brass plaques to their walls proclaiming your patronage; musical and theatrical performances invariably reserved seats for you and your two dogs. (As an aside, you were a good friend of Mark Twain, who wrote an epitaph for one of your faithful hounds, Bummer.) The Census of 1870 listed your occupation as "Emperor".
The Board of Supervisors of San Francisco, upon noticing the slightly delapidated state of your attire, replaced it at their own expense. You responded graciously by granting a patent of nobility to each member. Your death, collapsing on the street on January 8, 1880, made front page news under the headline "Le Roi est Mort". Aside from what you had on your person, your possessions amounted to a single sovereign, a collection of walking sticks, an old sabre, your correspondence with Queen Victoria and 1,098,235 shares of stock in a worthless gold mine. Your funeral cortege was of 30,000 people and over two miles long.
The burial was marked by a total eclipse of the sun.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Pearl of Great Price

The Pearl of Great Price
A short story by Jonathan Erdman

The fantastic is generally that which leads a person out into the infinite in such a way that it only leads him away from himself and thereby prevents him from coming back to himself…
But to become fantastic in this way, and thus to be in despair, does not mean, although it usually becomes apparent, that a person cannot go on living fairly well, seem to be a man, be occupied with temporal matters, marry, have children, be honored and esteemed – and that it may not be detected that in a deeper sense he lacks a self. Such things do not create much of a stir in the world, for a self is the last thing the world cares about and the most dangerous thing for all for a person to show signs of having. The greatest hazard of all, losing the self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all.
- Søren Kierkegaard The Sickness Unto Death

Religion is the opium of the masses...
- Karl Marx

Chapter 1

The elevator capsule came to a stop and the thin but virtually indestructible ivory colored doors smoothly parted at the center. The two riders exited the capsule as their warm and genial conversation became audible in the now empty hallway of the offices of PFR-Checker, a medium sized logistics firm towards the outskirts of the city of St. Augustine.

A woman stepped into the hall, slim, attractive and professional in her late twenties. Beside her a young man who, interestingly enough, fit the same profile. They soon finished their brief but very cordial conversation and the young man, John David by name, turned to the left while the woman parted to the right.

“Enjoy your jog, Mr. David,” said the woman as she allowed herself a glance at him with the briefest expression of interest. “It’s a lovely day.”

“Thank you, Deena,” replied John David. “I will. And best of luck on the Highland’s Project. There’s no one better for it than you.”

"Well, your too kind,” said Deena, raising her voice a little as they had each started walking the opposite direction.

“Oh, no!” was John David’s hearty rejoinder. “Everyone knows this!” his voice was now noticeably louder to cover the distance that separated them. He was smiling now as he turned towards the exit.

After a few more steps Deena turned down one of the halls and noticed John David’s back as he was disappearing down the hall. She allowed herself a few moments to notice him. Tall, intelligent and warm, he was a popular young member of the Company. His strides were long and purposeful, but at the same time there was a certain easiness about him that seemed to convey the fact that he was prepared to stop and engage anyone who might cross his path. On this particular day he was wearing a close fitting white shirt. It was a comfortable short sleeved shirt with a blend of cotton and silk that fit him well. His pants were loose and comfortable as well – comfortable, but not casual. He was well put together, which certainly seemed to describe all aspects of his life.

As John David walked down the hall his thoughts began to shift from the work and people of the Company to the enjoyment of the jog that was soon to follow. As he thought about his run he could suddenly feel his feet. He was wearing a very stylish black loafer that he had recently purchased from his favorite clothing store. The shoe was light, and fit his foot like a glove, better than a glove.

He was now at the exit and activated the sliding doors with the combination of his key card and a scan of his thumb print. These kind of security precautions were a rather curious measure these days considering there is little to no crime in most parts of the world, especially St. Augustine. Nonetheless these precautions still remained these last few centuries. Crime still occurred in some parts of the world, albeit on a small scale, but security measures were only precautionary in most areas.

John David exited the building and took a breath of the fresh afternoon air. He stopped short for a moment and took another gulp of the delicious day before continuing on. He was on his Exertion. Every worker these days, without exception, takes sixty to ninety minutes for exercise each workday. This is what is called an Exertion. As everyone knows, and as it has been proved over and over again in research studies, physical fitness is absolutely indispensable for one’s mental health, work productivity, and overall well-being. John David had always enjoyed his running, but these days it seemed an even greater necessity in addition to being a pleasure.

At John David’s recent “Meets” he had described having a sense of “restlessness.” The Meet, as it is called, is a weekly meeting with one’s Personal Physician of Mental Health (PPMH or simply “doctor”) in regards to general health and well-being. A PPMH is the most prominent of all physicians, and will only rarely change over the course of a person’s life. It is the best case scenario to have the same PPMH from the cradle to the grave. A person is often referred for Meets with other specialized mental health doctors, but all decisions on mental health begin and end with the PPMH.

A person’s life literally rests in the hands of their PPMH as much as anyone else. In today’s world people are evaluated by their PPMH in infancy and parents are thoroughly instructed on all the proper techniques of childcare for their particular child. Psychology is unique to the individual and the environment in which one finds himself or herself is unique for that person. This is why a PPMH is necessary to guide one through life and thoroughly explore the self.
Furthermore, and this point must be emphasized, the life of psychological health is available for all – all ages and all people. No class or race of people are left out, everyone enjoys the goodness of mental and emotional well-being. And so it follows that all people enjoy the good life.

These days in all civilized parts of the world, which is the majority of the world now, psychology and mental health is the primary health care need. It is now simply taken for granted that the primary health need for a person is psychological. Any supposed “suspicion” of psychology is quite literally ancient history. It is similar to the ancient suspicions of science and technology: The more people were able to see the advantages of science and technology to make their lives better the less their suspicions became.

Similarly, as people began to see the benefits of being thoroughly “psychologized” suspicions of psychology disappeared and psychology was simply embraced as a part of life. And so psychology is now as integrated and as essential as the wheel. It is now indispensable and simply a part of the fabric of culture and society in a way similar to computer devices. Of course, computer devices also had their own hurdles to overcome in the early days of suspicion, and it was much the same with the “psychologization” of humanity. This, of course, was partly the fault of psychology itself. In psychology there were mistakes and embarrassing errors that had led to misdiagnosis or pure speculation in the same way that technology and science had its own share of blunders in its early days.

And the more psychology became crafted and fine tuned the more people could see the benefit it could bring to their lives: Stable family relationships, greater self-knowledge, a better feeling of the self, and the list goes on. But the greatest of these benefits, of course, was greater work-place productivity. Greater productivity eventually led to more stable economic situations worldwide. Economic stability, amongst other things, led to peace on a global scale and the elimination of poverty and hunger. These had once been simply the lofty goals of dreamers who called themselves “humanitarians.” But now these dreams were a reality, and it was because of centuries of psychological research and integration.

Mental health is now the right of all citizens. Besides, with all of the economic blessings that society has reaped from psychology it was a bargain price. Peace on a global scale, harmony with one’s neighbor, the elimination of world hunger and disease – these are the things that always held humanity back from its full potential. The training and developing a grand force of psychological doctors was a very small price to pay for such things.

This society in which John David lives is a good thing, but this goodness has been a part of the human race now for so long that things like “hunger” or “poverty” are no longer even a memory. They are only academic subjects now for discussion only. No one knows anything goodness and mercy.

In light of its greatness and the prosperity of humanity it is little surprise that psychology is now the staple of society. It is no longer a speculation; it is now the unquestioned given. Psychology is science. And, in all actuality, it is better than science.

[chapter 2]

The Pearl of Great Price - Chapter 2

the ongoing saga of a religious quest...

Chapter 2

John David stepped into a shuttle that was a part of the public transportation system. He began a genuine and genial conversation with an older man for the short, five minute trip to the park.

In this day and age there are few places that a person can go without encountering enjoyable company. After generations of counseling people simply know how to relate with one another. People understand the nature of human relationships and the art of resolving conflict before conflict reached fever pitch. But, of course, when you have a complete understanding of yourself then you know how to respond and react to situations that could arouse anger, fear, anxiety, etc. Emotions never simply happen – everyone knows this! Through a complete understanding of the self one can understand the source and cause of the emotions.

As John David stepped off of the shuttle and began walking in the direction of the park he reflected on his recent Meets and his description to his PPMH of his feeling of “restlessness.” Over the course of his life he had met, periodically, with various psychological doctors who specialized in various aspects of psycho-spiritual phenomenon. Everyone deals with the psycho-spiritual realm throughout their lives, John David perhaps a bit more than most, but certainly not so much as to imply that he was anything less than in perfect mental and emotional health.
The field of psycho-spirituality is the area of psychology that deals with what the ancients called “spirituality” or “religion.” John David recalled discussing some of his religious feelings with the specialist. But the truth was that he had no “feelings.” He only described it as a feeling because the doctors could deal with feelings easily enough. Feelings can always be classified and diagnosed. The roots of feelings can be discovered and the result can always be directed.

As he was walking towards the park he reflected on the fact that his “restlessness” was not really a feeling at all. No, not at all. The term “restlessness” was just something rather vague he had invented because he knew that it was something that could be directed and controlled by his doctors. His description of restlessness, then, was perhaps more of a diversion. He seemed to have a talent for diverting people away from his core, and in this day and age it was no small task to divert one’s PPMH.

But this so-called restlessness was something far more intangible than a feeling. It was really something he could not define. Well, he could define it, if he wished. He was sure that his physician could do that. Everyone had the best lives that they could possibly have these days. And John David was certain that he could also have the good life. And yet there seemed to be a certain, indescribable pull towards something less than good. There was a strange fascination in the unknown that attracted him as well.

In short, it seemed to him as though he possessed a feeling that was not a feeling. It was a restlessness that was not restlessness. It was a paradox and a mystery. It was irritating and it was frustrating.

John David could see the locker rooms of the park coming into view as he walked along the sidewalk. He was in the heart of the city now. Like all cities St. Augustine had long ago replaced their broad, one-way streets with walkways and a wide variety of trees, flowers, and other beauties of nature. During busy times, like the present lunch hour, the streets are filled with people coming and going. And yet there is still something that was comfortable about it.
The people of St. Augustine, not unlike other cities, are focused and productive. But they are also emotionally centered and intellectually stimulating. This is not one of the cities of olden times – cities like the ancient New York, Tokyo, or Los Angeles of the twentieth century; cities that moved at break-neck speeds and teemed with ulcer-infested workaholics. The people of St. Augustine are stable people who are focused and engaged with work and careers that they feel passionate about. They work with people who are equally passionate, and they always work within a management structure that is fair, positive, and rewarding. It is the best of capitalism. It is the best of socialism. And it is, quite simply, a beautiful world.

John David was alone now, in a secluded corner of the locker room. He was seated in an ergonomically correct chair in front of a locker. He bent over and began pulling on the devices of his running shoes in order to adjust the shoe so that it was tightened around his foot – tight and yet still comfortable. He was moving rather mechanically and not really paying attention to his current task. When he finished with his running shoes he remained slumped forward, but raised his head up just enough to rest his chin and face in his hands. With his head resting in his hands and his elbows resting on his knees he suddenly found himself deep in thought. He was staring intently ahead at nothing in particular, the sharp features of his face forming an intense and troubled look. It was at that moment that he believed very strongly that he had a choice to make. And, he thought to himself, it was a very terrible choice.

On the one hand he could embrace his paradoxical feeling that was not a feeling. Or he could simply explore it, deal with it, and go on with living a good, deep, and satisfying life. To embrace his feeling that was not a feeling seemed to be the terrible choice. The other choice was the manageable and safe choice. The terrible or the safe – that was the choice.

He leaned back for a few moments and then rose up and stood. He walked over to the mirror on his way out to the park and stared intently at his face. He smiled to himself as he realized what he was doing. Over the years he had developed the odd habit of staring at his face in the mirror with a searching gaze, almost as though he were searching out his own face to find something. It was in the morning, when he first would wake up, that he would perform this strange little routine.

Like most quirks and personal idiosyncrasies it was something that he had never thought of as odd, in fact he had hardly noticed it at all, until Kristen, a former girlfriend of his with whom he had lived with for almost a year, had caught him staring at himself. She had walked into his bathroom and was slightly startled at first. She didn’t say anything in particular, but her sparkling, light blue eyes had opened wide as the expression on her pretty face quickly began to change from surprise to amusement. He had noticed her by then and smiled, himself, as he realized how silly the whole scene must seem to her at the moment. He smiled, but turned his head slightly away feeling a bit embarrassed, remaining at the mirror where he was leaning against the marble of the extended sink area.

Embarrassment was something she rarely saw in him, and so Kristen began to approach. She was beautiful and barely dressed now, only in her underwear. Her dark brown hair was falling over her face in that messy and unkept morning look that has the charm of being completely unique at the beginning of each and every new day.

She leaned and rested on his back as she wrapped her arms around his body. She starred into the mirror at him, giving him an admiring look. Her blue eyes were now curious and playful as she smiled again and patted him on the stomach in a teasing way. “Do you like what you see?” she said, referring to the moment she found him starring at himself. “Yes, I do,” he replied. He was starring back at her now. As he had spoke he had raised his eyebrows in a devilish way and had fluctuated his voice in such a way that she suddenly realized that when he said “yes” he was referring to her. She smiled and the two just looked at each other in the mood of the moment.
He felt good when he thought back to that time, and he smiled. It had been one of those small and quirky moments of life in which he had learned something trivial about himself. And so he exhaled a breath of satisfaction as his mind found its way back to the current moment. He noticed the dark, black hair of his head cut long enough to rest against his dark eyebrows. He had just had his hair cut the day before.

Gradually he returned to his thoughts of the restlessness that was not restlessness. It was something he had never quite encountered before, but at the same time it felt very familiar, such that he was not surprised by it at all. It was like a brilliant musician who plays his instrument for the first time: It is completely new, but strangely familiar.

And so he made an unconscious decision in that moment. He would follow the mystery and paradox even though he believed he would be turning his back on much of the goodness that life had to offer him. Somehow he knew that to embrace this thing would be his undoing.

[Chapter 3]

The Pearl of Great Price - Chapter 3

The ongoing saga of a religious quest...

Chapter 3

As John David jogged he had a certain comfort in having made a decision, even if he wasn’t quite sure what that decision would lead to or where it would take him. But regardless of the outside world, when he jogged he was in a different dimension.

He was running on the trails now, weaving his way through the trees and the bushes and brush of the forest that covered many miles within the park.

He took his time when he ran. He preferred a steady pace and a long job rather than a short
sprint. As his body began to establish the perfect rhythm he began to completely lose himself in the beauty of the trees and trails of the park. He felt his body move and his feet beating against the trails and the ground. His body responded to the trails in the park and he began to lose himself as he began to focus more, now on the steady syncopated rhythms of the jazz giants from ages past.

As he was running the music seemed to soak into his very soul. It was the music of the ancients, the classics of jazz, that swept John David’s whole being away to another planet – another solar system! Sometimes it was the vulnerable ballads of Miles Davis with his ability to simultaneously play something so perfect and yet so incomplete that he absolutely forced you to enter into the music and finish it yourself. A music that seemed to speak to something so deep that it almost seemed that the technicalities of the music didn’t even matter.

Or it might be John Coltrane with his ability to single-handedly surround the fortresses of your soul with sheets of sound. The music was raw and it was polished, all at the same time. It was free and spontaneous and yet it was still so perfect and coordinated: A group of musicians in dialogue with each other. But it was the sheer force of Coltrane, his passionate energy that ultimately made his music truly timeless.

And so John David slipped away.

Only a few blocks away from the park was the University of Saint Augustine. The lecture in progress was in regards to the Literature of the Twentieth Century and the particular piece under discussion was Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

University education in the arts is centered on a multi-form approach that utilizes skilled lecturers, small group discussions, individual tutoring, and independent investigation and research. All lectures are delivered with great skill and are highly stimulating. This is due, in part, to the high skill level of the lecturers, but also to the fact that technology has the ability to amplify main points and highlight key thoughts by appealing to the senses of sight, touch, sound, and even smell. For example, the room is actually colored, ever so slightly, according to the speaker’s tone. The room is also very subtly scented in accordance with the manner in which the lecturer is delivering the speech. The main points appear on a student’s screen and allow them to type their notes as the Professor moves through the lecture. To the left of the student’s notes the words and sentences of the lecture appear only brief seconds after those very words are spoken, and the words always appears precisely as they are spoken.

“Therefore, in today’s age it is a new world, but certainly not Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World,” the Professor’s voice resonated. He had turned 118 years old only a few days earlier, and would be semi-retiring in a few months. The typical lifespan for a male in the St. Augustine geographic area is 147 years.

“We have, many centuries ago moved beyond the model of simply making a person feel good,” he stated, speaking the last two words in a deliberate manner.

“Ours is not a doped up, overmedicated society,” he allowed himself to chuckle ever so slightly. “Drugs are used to control, of course, but they are always used appropriately, and the fact is that drugs are rarely needed at all because society has produced people who understand themselves.”

The Professor was on the last point of his outline for this particularly engaging lecture, and had drawn his audience into his subject matter by emphasizing his words in a measured and reflective manner. His voice was intelligent and insightful, but at the same time it had an almost musical quality to it. The Professor’s words were spoken almost as though he were the master of an instrument, with each note being played in such a way as to move the hearer into the heart and soul of the sound. It was stimulating.

“We know how to control unhealthy addictions,” he continued. “And we don’t need to control additions because we can understand the cause of addictions and hence we can stop them before they start. We know how to develop relationships that are both stable and meaningful. In short, we have both passion and stability. We do not have to choose. Our world is no strange, science fiction novel. It is something simple: A thorough understanding of human behavior.”

The Professor was now nearing the end of the final point on his outline. “Science and technology cannot save the human soul. This we know. Salvation comes from true knowledge of self. With true knowledge of the self and how the self is engaged in its society we no longer need to make strange speculations. And so, over the course of human history, psychology gradually replaced philosophy. Humanity has the solutions for living in our world. There is no need for the theologian because humanity can cope – we can cope and we can flourish.” The Professor paused with his arms half extended.

“The study of things like theology and original sin,” he continued, “are reserved for an academic study of the history of human thought. Sin is now the curious metaphor,” he paused, “that the ancient peoples had invented to explain the abnormal – to explain that which we did not understand. But who needs wild, religious speculation anymore? Who needs such lofty, metaphysical rhetoric when you have the answers to humanities “deepest” needs? These so-called deepest needs are now understood. It was coping with the everyday issue of real life that has provided the real answers: Coping and flourishing. After generations of psychological research and counseling humanity is finally at the point to research her highest potential. Gradually, over time, the Genesis curse has been reversed, and we have finally returned to Eden.”

The Professor paused for the brief applause of appreciation, and then proceeded to summarize and conclude the lecture.

[These are the first few chapters of more to follow...stay tuned...]

Monday, July 10, 2006

Woman dumps still-married man, keeps the ring

NEW YORK - A woman who found out that the man who proposed to her was married can keep the $40,000 engagement ring he gave her, even though she was the one who broke off the relationship, a judge has ruled.
Parker, a mortgage broker, dumped Callahan after finding evidence on his computer that he had been trolling for women on the Internet and after learning he was married, her lawyer, Kevin Conway, said Friday.
Callahan, who works in the financial services industry, sued in July 2003 to get back the ring — or alternatively $40,000 — and his personal property. While the judge allowed Parker to keep the ring, he ordered her to return Callahan's personal property.
Callahan's lawyer said his client had not decided whether to appeal.

Maybe crime does pay...

COLUMBUS, Ohio - An organization that operates a crime tip line received a $31,000 donation from a man in a prison.
Michael Spillan, 39, is serving a four-year sentence at the Noble Correctional Institution for planting a bomb on his front porch and trying to frame his son-in-law, as well as for unrelated convictions for theft and forgery.
He and his wife, Melissa, donated $31,000 to Central Ohio Crime Stoppers on Thursday after two tipsters complained they had not received their reward in the case of an Ohio State University student whose body was found near a reservoir weeks after she disappeared in August.
The suburban Gahanna couple made the donation because they "feel strongly about the importance of Crime Stoppers and people who commit crimes being punished," Melissa Spillan said.


A consumer Christianity or a comprehensive way of life?

Good link on Christianity and consumerism:

When we approach Christianity as consumers rather than seeing it as a comprehensive way of life, an interpretive set of beliefs and values, Christianity becomes just one more brand we consume along with Gap, Apple, and Starbucks to express identity.


I'm not sure who or where this is from, but here it is.....

Five Surgeons are discussing who makes the best patients to operate on.

The first surgeon says, "I like to see accountants on my operating table, because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered."

The second responds, "Yeah, but you should try electricians! Everything inside them is color coded."

The third surgeon says, "No, I really think librarians are the best; everything inside them is in alphabetical order."

The fourth surgeon chimes in: "You know, I like construction workers...those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over.

But the fifth surgeon shut them all up when he observed: "You' re all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There's no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains and no spine, and the head and the ass are interchangeable.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Aletheia Project

Welcome to The Aletheia Project!
A list of essays and resources to facilitate informed discussion on the nature of truth from a variety of perspectives.

About the Aletheia Project
Purpose: Facilitate informed discussion on the nature of truth from many different perspectives.

The Links of Truth - A variety of good web resources on truth.

Recognizing Truth - Can we recognize truth on a non-intellectual level???

Greg Koukl on Truth - Koukl (from Stand to Reason) came to Grace College and Seminary and I had the opportunity to hear some of his thoughts on truth and briefly interact with him.

Truth Seeker - What is a truth seeker? A few points for discussion.

Is Truth Relative or Absolute? A few discussion points.

A Theology of Truth - A few brief thoughts on a theology of truth.

The Use of Aletheia in the Gospel of John - This essay is exegetical, but with an eye on philosophical concerns.

Aletheia and the Correspondence Theory of Truth - An academic paper that examines the necessity and sufficiency of the correspondence theory of truth in light of aletheia in the Gospel of John.

Truth Dichotomy - An academic essay linking contemporary philosophy of truth with the Gospel of John.

About the Aletheia Project

This little corner of my blog is dedicated to truth-talk. I have listed some essays here that might help guide the discussion on truth whether it be from a philosophical perspective, biblical perspective, or from a cultural perspective.

The purpose of the Aletheia Project is simple:
Facilitate informed discussion on the nature of truth from many different perspectives

Questions and discussion points:

  • What does the Scriptures have to say about truth?
  • Does truth have an “essence”?
  • Is the question of truth a meaningful one?
  • How does a person’s view of truth impact their lives?
  • Does our culture’s view of truth impact the way we live or the way we perceive the world?
  • Is it possible to know truth?
  • Is it meaningful to have a debate on “absolute” vs. “relative” truth?

Discussion about truth is more necessary than ever in my own tradition – conservative Christianity. Brian McLaren in a recent Christianity Today article questioned the value of discussing absolute truth in contemporary evangelism. Doug Groothuis in Truth Decay proclaimed that the correspondence theory of truth is the only biblical view of truth. J.P. Moreland in his plenary address to the Evangelical Theological Society in 2004 declared that not only were postmodern views of truth and knowledge “confused,” but he went on to say that postmodernism, itself “is an immoral and cowardly viewpoint.”

I was cruising in my car recently and heard James Dobson on the radio discussing a recent poll that very much disturbed him. I do not recall the exact statistic, but it was something to the effect that a majority of Christians do not believe in absolute truth. This baffled Dr. Dobson so much that he was having difficulty speaking or saying anything. He clearly could not even begin to conceive of any Christian not believing in absolute truth, and he seemed reduced to lecturing his audience about how important absolute truth was. One of the things the Dobson reaction illustrates, I think, is that there is a broad gulf of understanding between the varying viewpoints. If someone like Dr. Dobson has a hard time understanding the thinking of a majority of Christians, then clearly there is a great divide.

In the philosophical world things are just as diverse, perhaps more so. There are traditional robust theories of truth, which themselves are diverse: The correspondence theories, coherence theories, pragmatic theories, etc. There are deflationary theories that question whether it is appropriate to talk of truth even having a nature. Recently there have been various advocates of pluralist approaches to truth. And add to this certain “existential” theories of truth, like Kierkegaard or Heidegger where truth is defined in terms of the subjective state of the individual, not in terms of an object to be defined. This is to say nothing of Nietzsche’s perspectives on truth.

The essays, resources, and any ensuing conversations of the Aletheia Project are dedicated to intelligently discussing the question Pilate asked so long ago: What is truth?

[Back to the Aletheia Project main page]

The use of aletheia in the Gospel of John

This is a summary of the use of alehteia in the Gospel of John. The method is exegetical, but with an eye on the philosophical concerns. As such I see it as bridging the gap between exegetical and philosophical studies on truth.

There are many good and worthy contributions that assist us in understanding the use of alētheia in the Gospel of John. Among these are the commentaries of Johannine scholars who contribute to our understanding of alētheia by placing them in their textual and cultural contexts. Also, there is the study by Anthony Thiselton, which is perhaps the landmark study of alētheia. In light of the alēthic biblical scholarship to date the present study does not claim to add a great deal of original exegetical insight. Rather, the goal is to build on the exegetical work of previous scholars, particularly Thiselton, to provide a summary of categories that would be useful to the current philosophical and theological discussion on truth. So, while there are many profound resources currently available on a biblical study of alētheia we are seeking, in the present analysis, to build a bridge between the biblical world of exegetical studies on alētheia and the philosophical world of truth-talk.

The reason for the selection of the Gospel of John is that for John alētheia is a critical part of the theological development of the Gospel and shows up in the midst of key passages. In the Christological theology that is arguably the book’s dominant theme we find that the Christ is the self-proclaimed “way and the truth (alētheia) and the life.” (14:6) When the Christ speaks of the Spirit we find that alētheia is used to describe the “Spirit of truth” (14:17, 15:26, 16:13). Alētheia is also a useful apparatus in the dualism that is so often commented upon: When Christ says to Pilate “everyone who is on the side of truth hears my voice” this continues the dualistic motif that separates those who embrace the Christ as coming from God from those who reject him.[2] Of all the portions of Scripture that utilize “truth” the development in the Fourth Gospel seems to be, by far, the most extensive, and the development that has the most philosophical ramifications. For this reason the Gospel of John is an important starting point for anyone interested in developing thoughts on truth in the context of Christianity...[3]
[1] Anthony C. Thiselton, “Truth,” New International Dictionary of NT Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978).
[2] Crf. 1:10-12 in the important prologue and 8:42-47. The chapter 8 passage will be developed later in this paper.
[3] Morris comments on the importance of alētheia in John and also recounts the frequency of its usage concuding, “Plainly, this concept matters to John.” Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing, 1971), 294. For more on the significance of alētheia in the Gospel of John also see S. Aalen, “Truth, a Key Word in St. John’s Gospel,” in Studia Evangelica (ed. F.L. Cross; Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1964), 3-24. In reading Aalen’s essay it becomes clear that the alētheia concept is a “highly developed one” and critical part of John’s Gospel and Johannine theology.

For full text .pdf file:

Comments welcome.

[Back to the Aletheia Project main page]

Truth Dichotomy

This essay examines certain philosophical trends in truth-research in light of the Gospel of John to ask the question of whether it is possible that truth has many forms (polymorphous) and also question whether truth has an "essence."

In the present essay we are taking note of a dichotomy that has taken place in philosophical research and reflection on the nature of truth. This dichotomy is between what we will call the analytic project, which looks at truth as an object and what we will call the existential project that focuses its attention upon the subject and the subjective process. We will take particular note of Kierkegaard, who provides us with the most emphatic declaration of this dichotomy.
After exploring the nature of this dichotomy we will turn to the Gospel of John for a summary analysis of the use of avlh,qeia. We will note the highly developed and philosophically pregnant use of this term in the Gospel of John and make a few, brief observations germane to our topic. Armed with the alēthic concepts of the Fourth Gospel we will then be ready to transition into our last point, which will be to question whether this dichotomy in philosophical truth-discussion is legitimate, desirable, or even useful in our development of a philosophy of truth.

Find the entire essay here:

This essay is being submitted to publication. Comments are welcome.

[Back to Aletheia Project main page]

Truth Seeker

A few scattered thoughts of mine on what a truth-seeker is.

Is a truth-seeker someone who "follows truth wherever it leads" as Groothuis suggests? Truth for truth's sake?
Or is truth more holistic?
Is a truth-seeker really a God-seeker?
If we are not God-seekers are we really truth-seekers?


[Back to Aletheia Project main page]

A few brief words on a Theology of Truth

I would like to very briefly discuss a general direction for developing a theology of truth. The purpose of discussing a theology of truth, as opposed to a philosophy of truth is that a theology of truth will be developed within the context of a Christian worldview. As such, a theology of truth will take seriously the biblical account of truth, and will also quite naturally incorporate truth-talk into the work of evangelism and missions.

As I see it, there are three main areas that are addressed and help to define a theology of truth: the biblical testimony, philosophical discussion, and the cultural climate. I would like to briefly discuss each of these in the hopes of providing a general outline within which intelligent conversation can take place within the Christian community on the nature of truth and its place in the mission of the church.

The first issue that is addressed in a theology of truth is the biblical witness. This I see as the examination of the Scriptures to determine what we can say about truth. Generally speaking, there seems to be two dangerous extremes when looking into the Bible. The first is to not take seriously the witness of Scripture. In this case the revelation of God is treated far too casually and the Bible is seen as outdated and unable to really speak to the contemporary situation. On the other extreme are those who take the Bible seriously, but try to make it speak on issues it does not speak on. For example, in the past, there has been a tendency to look for a “biblical” view of truth, or to look for the “biblical” view on anything. The problem with this approach, however, is that the Bible may not speak to a particular situation and, as such, we may end up looking too deeply into certain passages and assuming that these passages speak to our issue when, in fact, they do not.

In regards to the issue of truth the danger of looking for a “biblical” view of truth is that it simply does not exist. What I mean by this is that there is no one, common element that we could apply to every use of the biblical word(s) for “truth.” Even in the Gospel of John, where truth is used more frequently than any other book in the New Testament, the word “truth” takes on different forms. So, rather than look for one, unified view of truth it may be more appropriate to look at the biblical views of truth. The goal in doing this, I believe, would be to take note of how the Scripture presents truth to us and perhaps also to note what it does not say about truth.

The second area of concern for a Christian theology of truth is to seriously engage the philosophical developments of truth. In the last hundred years or so there has been a great deal of philosophical writing and research on the nature of truth. We have seen the development of the correspondence theory, the coherence theory, pragmatist theories, various deflationary theories of truth, existential theories, and more recently various pluralist theories of truth. An investigation of these theories reveals a wide range of thinking and a many very diverse approaches to the subject. Exploration into the philosophical theories of truth can help to sharpen our discussion on truth and help guide our thinking.

If we find ourselves investigating the Scriptures and also engaging the various philosophies of truth the next question that naturally arises is: What is the relationship between philosophy and the Bible? This is a rather complicated discussion, and there will be different answers depending upon which issue is being discussed. In relationship to a theology of truth I believe that the relationship is reciprocal. That is, our study of Scripture will inform our philosophical investigations and our philosophical investigations will inform our study of Scripture. Our study of Scripture must inform our philosophy if we are at all serious about the Bible being the revelation of God. But anyone who reads Scripture will naturally do so by using their minds to think and to interpret. When we use our minds to think and interpret we are simply doing philosophy. As such, as we study philosophical theories of truth – both Christian and secular – we sharpen our ability to think and interpret Scripture.

The third area of examination for a theology of truth is the cultural. How is “truth” used in culture? What is the reaction to “truth”? By answering these questions I think that we will then be able to examine how our biblical and philosophical conclusions on truth will apply to the mission of evangelism.

In recent days there has been a great deal of debate amongst Christians regarding “absolute” and “relative” truth. The debate here is whether truth is objective, universal and fixed for all time and for all people, or if truth is relative to a specific culture or social setting. And yet I believe that as we seriously examine Scripture and think critically about these terms we may find that these distinctions are less important than we have made them out to be. For example, there are clearly truths of Scripture that are fixed for all time. These primarily relate to God and to the revelation of Jesus Christ. These are absolute claims. And yet on the biblical account there is also a very temporal dimension to truth. Truth must be lived. Truth must be proved in one’s life. Truth, in fact, seems to be about a person’s relation with God through Christ. And, so, perhaps the distinctions between “relative” and “absolute” might give way to a holistic theology of truth that recognizes the validity of the absolute and temporal perspective.

Regardless of where one falls in this debate it is critical to examine one’s theory of truth in light of contemporary culture and the presentation of the Gospel in that culture. It is also important to ask how a theology of truth impacts life and how our theology of truth impacts ourselves.

As such, we have our three components of a theology of truth: the biblical testimony, philosophical investigation, and cultural considerations. A Christian worldview will seek to engage the issue of truth on these three playing fields.

[Back to Aletheia Project main page]

The Links of Truth

The Links of Truth

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Some excellent articles on truth. The best truth-resource on the web…well, besides my site!
Axiomatic Theories of Truth
Coherence Theory of Truth
The Correspondence Theory of Truth (aka the Doug Groothuis View)
The Deflationary View of Truth
The Identity View of Truth
The Revision Theory of Truth
Tarski’s Truth Definitions

Chuck Colson
A few paragraphs on the knowability of truth from a cultural perspective

A blogger addresses the value of truth in “Gimme some truth”

Doug Groothuis
In “What is Truth?” Doug argues for the correspondence view of truth against relativism and pragmatism: http://www.leaderu.com/theology/groothuis-truth.html
“Staying True to Truth” – Cultural/Christian perspective on truth.
Doug’s article “Why Truth Matters Most” online. Originally published in JETS.

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
A good introductory article on truth: http://www.iep.utm.edu/t/truth.htm
The Prosentential Theory of Truth – A deflationary-type view of truth

Soren Kierkegaard
“The crowd is untruth!” – An excellent essay by SK
Doug briefly blogged on it here: http://theconstructivecurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2005/10/against-crowd-soren-kierkegaard.html

Michael Lynch
An important philosopher of truth – A “Pluralist” view of truth. He is editor of one of the best anthologies on truth (The Nature of Truth). This is his home site with a few very useful essays.

Scot McKnight
A brief blog entry on postmodernism and truth

J.P. Moreland
“Truth, Contemporary Philosophy, and the Postmodern Turn”
This is a reprint of Moreland’s address at ETS in 2004. I have referenced this a few times in my essays.
Here is a very brief essay on truth:

Wiki always has something to say: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth

Kevin Winters
A series of blog entries on Heidegger and truth – this link is for the first in a series of blogs. Kevin’s blog primarily explores Heideggerian issues.

Please leave comments on other recommended Links of Truth. It would be nice to have links from many diverse perspectives. Any blogs or research you have written is welcome as well.

[Back to Aletheia Project main page]

Truth - Relative or Absolute?

Is truth relative or absolute? A few discussion points

These terms (“absolute” and “relative”) are vague and very unhelpful
What do we mean by “absolute” – that truth never has a reference point that is relative to the individual? And what do we mean by relative – that if we wake up in the morning and do not like the fact that “it is raining outside” we can immediately change the statement to “it is not raining outside” and that the weather will change accordingly?!

These terms set up a false dichotomy
They are meaningful enough to communicate something, but vague enough to confuse the issue. As such they force us to choose a side based upon our rejection of something, i.e. “I don’t want to be a one of those crazy post-modern types, so I think truth is absolute.” These terms often force a debate based on the perceived shortcomings of the other side and the use of stereotypes to categorize the other side. The terms are loaded with baggage. We see this every election year in the political system.

These terms seem to encapsulate the worst of the spirit of two ages: Modern and Postmodern
The Modern era seemed to be obsessed with the search of the absolute, unchanging, and timeless ideas. The Postmodern seems to be obsessed with its own narrative and historical situation. To speak of a dichotomy between “absolute” and “relative” seems to focus upon the extremes of each of these methods of thinking.

An exclusively Absolute truth is unable to see the person-relative and time-relative nature of truth
What good are absolutes if they do not touch time? Yet as soon as the absolutes touch our world they are relative to a given situation such that, if that situation had never occurred, then truth would not exist in that context. Even a traditional correspondence theory would recognize that truth is relative to the reality it expresses. Truth is relative to the person or situation being described, i.e. “the frog is on the log.” Truth, in this instance is relative to both the frog and the log.

An exclusively Absolute truth would seem to have a difficulty dealing with the variety of ways in which “truth” seems to be used in Scripture, particularly in Johannine literature.

What does “absolute” actually mean???

On the other hand…If truth is completely reduced to my own whim then we would be reduced to complete absurdity.
If even the most committed relativist, let us call him Bob, crosses the street at the same time that the bus is roaring by then the statement “Bob was squashed by the bus” is true for everyone – especially Bob!

What we see is that truth seems to have many forms and that in each of its forms there is an element of the “absolute” and an element of “relativity”:

  • Absolute in the sense that I cannot determine, at my own whim, my own truth such that I would be able to say either “there is a hair in my food” or “there is not a hair in my food.” The reality of the situation holds regardless of what I may or may not wish to believe.
  • Truth does seem to hold a relative element in terms of an action. I get this from the Gospel of John (3:21) where we find the expression “doing the truth.” In this passage truth is an action. Truth has ethical ramifications. We encounter truth in the decisions we make to act.
  • And truth also seems relative to the individual. Ex. in John 18:37 of those who are ‘of the truth’ and ‘no truth in him’ of 8:44. Also see Kierkegaard’s notion of truth: “in the mouth of this or that person something that is truth can become untruth.”[1] And “the inwardness of the existing person is truth.”[2]
  • Truth is relative to our relation to the Divine, but also absolute in that the Divine is eternal and will never perish.

In theology as well as philosophy one must be ever cautious of the dichotomies that one sets forth because these dichotomies lock one in to certain possibilities.
The dichotomy of “absolute” or “relative” might lock us in to undesirable situations. If we are relativists then we are absurd and are not honest about the fact that we live according to absolutes. If we are absolutists then we are in danger of failing to see that truth touches the temporal world and that truth is always relative to people or situations. If we are absolutists then we may lose the ability to capture the ethical and existential aspects of truth that we see in the Gospel of John, for example.[3]

The “Relative/Absolute” distinction must be abandoned in favor of a more holistic view of truth that is more aware of the subtle nuances of the various forms of truth.

The Absolutist might reply that I have missed the point:

  • We (the Absolutists) are not trying to say that truth is not relative in some way to the temporal world, rather, we are trying to prove that truth does not depend upon the whim of each individual. The person cannot determine, willy-nilly, what truth is for himself, and thus spin out into utter relativity and complete irrelevancy.
  • But the Absolute/Relative distinction does not help in getting to the concern of the Absolutist. So, the above objection goes to my point: Let us define our concern and not confuse and convolute the issue by using obscure terms like “Absolute” and “Relative.” Let us recognize both the absolute and relative nature of truth and then, from that point, we can express our particular concerns more precisely (i.e. that truth is not to be determined at the whim of the individual’s personal preference).

The distinction between “absolute” and “relative” seems to be vague and unhelpful. They are terms that come loaded with baggage. Unless these terms are more clearly defined it may be better to conduct the truth-discussion on other grounds.

[1] Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, Vol. 1, Translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992), page 202.
[2] Ibid., p. 205
[3] See my Truth in the Gospel of John: A summary of key alētheia passages useful for philosophical discussion at www.theosproject.blogspot.com.

[Back to Aletheia Project main page]