Anyone who has had the misfortune to wear an eye-patch for a while has experienced a loss, even though they still have the vision of the other eye. It is the loss of depth perception. In a sense the differences in vision between the left and right eye create something neither eye has all alone: “Depth”.
I can remember fooling around with this phenomenon, as a schoolboy. We would do things like dribble a basketball with one eye shut, or play catch with one eye shut, or even try to bring our index fingers together with our elbows bent and one eye shut, and we noticed how simple tasks were much more difficult and required far more attention. Things also just plain looked different. For example, as a basketball neared it did not look “closer” so much as it looked “bigger”.
I think my awareness of this phenomenon was heightened because our old, Victorian town-library had a dusty drawer in a back alcove holding some old steroscope viewers from the 1880’s, and masses of cards holding double-photographs that one put into the viewers.
These devises, high tech for their time, puzzled me, for I didn’t see how they worked. The two photographs on the card looked exactly the same, yet when you looked through the “glasses” you only saw one picture, and it had sharp and clear distinctions in terms of what was near and what was far away. This seemed a bit magical. Even when I was told the two pictures were slightly different, and looked at them more carefully, I couldn’t detect the differences, (and I thought I was highly skilled at picture-puzzles that asked me to spot what was different between two pictures, or a group of pictures.) The sense something magical was occurring remained.
Perhaps it was the sense that magic was involved that engrossed me in the differences between what my left eye saw and my right eye saw. For example, if I closed my left eye, and lined up my thumb to cover the face of the clock across the room, and then closed my right eye and opened my left eye, my thumb was no longer covering the clock. When I shifted my thumb so it covered the clock using my left eye, and then shut my left eye and opened my right eye, again the thumb didn’t cover the clock. So which view was the correct view?
What was really odd was that, when I attempted to solve the situation by opening both eyes, I saw double, with one thumb over the clock and another thumb to the side of the clock. Because seeing-double was a bit disconcerting, I focused on the thumbs and they came together and became a single thumb, but in the background the single clock divided and became two clocks. It was obvious the way we view things was not simple. And then it became even more complex. If my own two eyes couldn’t even agree, how much greater would the disagreement be when other eyes, in other skulls, become involved?
This was made especially clear to me because the clock involved in my experiment was the clock on the wall of the math classroom. The teacher’s view was very different from my view. Where I viewed a very boring teacher and even duller blackboard, she viewed a very inattentive boy giving a thumb’s-up to the clock on the wall for a prolonged period of time, winking constantly in a slow squinting way, first with one eye and then the other.
In a more perfect world something magical might have then occurred: The two views might have meshed and “depth” might have been revealed. The teacher might have politely asked me what I was doing, and, rather than be sullen, I might have innocently and honestly answered, and the class might have shifted naturally and gracefully from being about the area of a rectangle to the subject of depth perception, but my world was less than perfect. The teacher was dealing with a baby-boom classroom of 26 students, and the teacher asked me what in Sam Hill I was doing, which was less than polite, and my response was to become sullen, silent and defiant. Sad.
Sad but no reason to resent. Schoolboys and schoolmarms are always at odds, with different views, yet they can disagree with love, as occurred within the relationship Mark Twain describes between Tom Sawyer and his Aunt Polly.
In my past posts I confess I’ve been rough on schoolmarms. But they were rough on me, as a lad, as they failed to recognize I had, (if not exactly genius), a sort of strange gift when it came to the study of differing views, whether they be two eyes in a skull, or two people in the same room, and also a focus on the strange thing called “depth” that might arise from the coexistence of such double vision.
I think this gift was encouraged because my father was a brilliant, attractive, loving and lovable man, and my mother was a brilliant, attractive, loving and lovable woman, yet they divorced, (with the help of unenlightened psychiatrists), in a non-violent but unbelievably ugly manner. I’ll skip the details, but they were an example of two views that fail to create “depth”. The differences they developed were worse than those between your left eye and right eye, after a quart of whisky.
Even when parents divorce on so-called “friendly” terms, their children undergo a hellish schism, (albeit sometimes unspoken), for the parents are both, in a sense, stating “my former spouse’s views cannot be borne,” and the child is then put in the shoes of deciding which parent’s view is the correct view. These are heavy boots to walk in, for spiritual Commandments do not command, “Honor one parent but not the other”, and the child’s heart secretly loves both parents, even if one parent is a saint and one is a beast (which is seldom entirely the case, as the mad cannot exist without the maddening.)
I was fortunate, because besides my parent’s example of a non-marriage I had grandparents who had a beautiful marriage. My grandfather had announced he was going to marry my grandmother when he arrived home from grade school at age eight, and for over eighty years they worked together like a right eye and a left eye, overcoming all sorts of trouble while staying in harmony and in love.
To some degree my grandparents seemed illogical to me, for my grandfather did not seem as lovable as my father seemed, and my grandmother did not seem as lovable as my mother seemed, yet my grandparents achieved what my parents failed to achieve. So one day, with the brash, foot-in-mouth audacity of youth, I asked my ancient, recently-widowed grandfather, “How’d you and grandmother stay married when Mom and Dad couldn’t?” To my surprise a thundercloud of anger flashed across his brow.
I very seldom saw the slightest trace of anger in my grandfather. His rare expressions of displeasure were more prone towards frost than towards fire. As an engineer, he didn’t like incorrect calculations or sloppy science, and occasionally I rubbed his fur the wrong way because I loved to talk about the latest scientific discoveries I had come across, (which in some cases were new to me but not new to the old man), and sometimes my enthusiasm was so great my science was sloppy. Even then he often would look more amused than annoyed, and simply ask me a question. But one time my sloppiness was so great it was basically dyslexic.
On that occasion, during a discussion about New England forests, I said most species of willow were at the southern border of their range while most birches where at the northern reach of their range. The opposite is true, and a look of immediate disapproval flashed across his face. (As an Eagle Scout he’d known most birches were northern species while most willows were from the south ever since he was twelve years old, and I think I also knew as much, but was simply being sloppy with my thought.) (When a writer makes such a huge, dyslexic mistake he issues a correction after his article is published, but my grandfather was an engineer, and when an engineer lets such a dyslexia slip by, a building can crumble, or a bridge can fall, or a dam can can give way.)
The effect of the change of his visage from benign pleasure to abrupt disapproval was powerful. He did not have to say a word.
To see this change occur again, when I asked why his marriage worked and his son’s hadn’t, shocked me, for I hadn’t made a statement but instead had asked a question. However perhaps I inadvertently had made a statement: “Your son failed.” In any case, my question demanded an answer, and his answer was three gruffly spoken words: “We had faith.”
Now I can kick myself for not asking follow-up questions, but at the time his expression made me aware I was probing a sore spot, and I sat back to think. His three-word-answer gave me a lot to think about.
One thing I contemplated was the pain a parent feels when their children don’t follow their advice. Each generation thinks it is seeing things for the first time, and is somewhat surprised to, later, discover their parents were once young and walked the same planet, and even made the same mistakes. It is even a greater surprise to study history and to read of someone arriving at the same conclusion as your “new discovery”, two or three thousand years ago. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
One sameness is that naive children tend to take a condescending view of parents, and to think it is parents who are naive. Even when they think their parents are good people, and honor them, they tend to think their parents have lived sheltered lives, and don’t know about the harsh and ugly realities they’ve discovered, and even that parents need to be protected from ugly truths. This idea, (that parents are foolish), gives the young an excuse to disobey parent’s advice, and it is only then, through disobeying parents and consequently learning things the hard way, that the young become aware that perhaps their parents were not so foolish. However youth’s rebellion is painful to behold for the parent, and is especially painful when the child suffers something the parent escaped, such as divorce (or death), which has no clear remedy.
To me this again seemed like two views, a right eye and a left eye, the view of “innocence” and the view of “experience”. While the elder usually likes to think his or her view has the “depth”, (and quite often it does), it cannot be stated as a rule that elders are always wiser, for sometimes the young have experiences elders don’t.
Initially, as a teenager-hippy, I was quite convinced I was on a frontier my parents knew nothing about. This was in part due to my attraction to Jimi Hendrix’s music, and the album “Are You Experienced“. The idea, encouraged by the Harvard pseudo-scientist Tim Leary, was that LSD was a new “wonder drug” like penicillin, only it effected spiritual consciousness rather than the body alone. Leary even had the audacity to pose sitting cross-legged, as if he was a spiritual master from India, and he basically discouraged communication between generations, stating that “caterpillars” (elders, or “the establishment”) couldn’t understand the language of “butterflies” (the young, radical and “advanced”).
I wasn’t entirely trustful of such gurus, for not-entirely-high-minded reasons. Tim Leary taught at the same college as my father and stepfather, and his habit of drugging and sleeping-with the daughters of other professors did not go over too well, especially with teenaged boys like myself, who never like men old enough to be their fathers hanging out with the same girls they themselves drool about. Because Tim Leary turned forty when I was only seventeen, he himself was the very elder I was suppose to distrust. And then, when I was still seventeen, Jimi Hendrix died in his own vomit. I had reasons to distrust distrusting.
I then had the good fortune to attend a school far away from sex, drugs and hippies, where I had my mind crammed full of the works of great English poets, and learned dead people, far older than I was, could offer inspiration. Rather than rejecting the views of others I developed a thirst for the views of others. This opened me to the views of people who had tried drugs and rejected them. For example, when studying what Native Americans had to say about the hallucinogen peyote, I chanced upon the words of a chief who had initially been very impressed by peyote and promoted its use, as founding member of the Native American Church, but who later discouraged its use, stating, “Peyote is a trickster.” I renounced drugs at age nineteen.
I had a great desire to avoid the sort of divorce my parents had experienced, and to instead experience the marriage my grandparents were still experiencing (when I was nineteen). I developed the annoying habit of asking my parents questions about things they didn’t want to talk about, like a young, pestering psychiatrist. Both my parents used the exact same words to dismiss such questioning: “That’s all water under the bridge.”
Rather than discourage me, my parent’s unwillingness to look backwards made me feel like a detective attempting to solve a mystery which guilty suspects don’t want to talk about. I became aware people “put things behind them”, but that such things tend to continue to influence them from behind, like a ghost tapping them on the shoulder. I became a complete pest, when it came to nagging others about stuff they might have in their subconscious, and spent time rooting about in my own dream-world, when I likely should have been spending time getting a Real Job. (The subconscious will come along with you, if you get a job, and you can then work on it midst real-life interactions, which often offer spiritual insights which meditating-all-alone can’t.)
It took time, but one thing I became aware of was that my parents were not as naive about sex-before-marriage as I had assumed. This was definitely not something they wanted to talk about. I didn’t mind so much that my father apparently had been a sort of Don Juan, (for men somehow were seen as being heroic for being as unspiritual as James Bond), but it came as a genuine shock to realize my mother had boyfriends before my father. She never spoke about them, but I asked who certain sailors in old photographs were. One was an English youth who likely died on a torpedoed ship on the arctic sea-route to Russia, and the other was an American who may not have died; he may have stopped writing because he found topless Polynesian women under the palms of the present-tense more appealing than a woman from a cold landscape of the past, but in both cases the letters to my mother abruptly ceased. The “happy ending”, which occurs in romantic novels, never happened, and my mother was perhaps made cynical.
Sixteen million served in World War Two, mostly men, of whom many were teenagers. Where my grandfather had served overseas in World War One, America’s involvement in that war was brief, (largely the second half of 1918), and my Grandfather was an already-married man with a small child (my uncle) at home, and remained faithful. Perhaps it was a bit much to ask unmarried teenagers to be equally chaste, when sent far away for year after long year, (sometimes December 1941 into 1946). Despite songs such as, “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree With Anyone Else But Me“, many men received letters from childhood sweethearts who couldn’t wait, and the etymology of the phrase, “A Dear John Letter”, suggests it originated during World War Two. Therefore men also had reasons to become cynical about a “happy ending” being a romantic possibility, either because of their own shortcomings, or their sweetheart’s, or both.
This made me aware my parent’s generation had disillusioning experiences of death and desertion that my grandparent’s didn’t, which may have resulted in distrustful cynicism that in some ways explained why nearly half of their generation’s marriages failed, while my grandparent’s didn’t.
As I played the detective further, I chanced upon another reason, involving a great-grandfather I never met. In his latter years my great-grandfather exhibited some symptoms which might (or might not) have been indicative of tertiary syphilis. This would have given my grandfather a very good reason to remain faithful.
Even if my grandfather’s reason for fidelity had been based purely on a fear of syphilis, (highly unlikely, because he first was enchanted by my grandmother at age eight), or even was based on some other fear, such as the fear of going to hell for adultery, (also unlikely, as engineers take a very pragmatic view of the future), the simple fact remains that he remained faithful to his marriage vows. My parents didn’t. Therefore he was more of an authority on faithfulness than they could ever be, and knew more deeply about the “depth” that two “eyes” have, when they work together, which cannot exist when each “eye” (or “I”) is alone.
This inevitably brings up a sophist argument I often heard when young. Namely: If one gains great depth from one woman, wouldn’t one gain greater depth from ten? And even greater depth from a hundred? Why limit yourself?
The answer seems to be that a rock does not gain depth by skipping like a stone over the surface of the water. To gain depth it must sink, but sinking involves being “in over your head”, which is exactly the point at which many a Casanova says, “Thank you, Mamn”, and heads for the hills.
When I first held my newborn children and grandchildren, one sense I had was their souls were utterly “in over their heads”. They were only good at sucking, (and not all that good at that, during Hour One, when first faced with a nipple). They sucked at everything they attempted. If they tried to scratch their nose they punched themselves in the eye. And even their eyes sucked at seeing, and couldn’t even focus correctly. They had every reason to cry, but the fact they cried showed they had faith someone would answer, and we did our best to see to it their faith wasn’t broken. And midst this good fortune of cuddling and coddling and pampering and petting, (a sort of “happy ending” at the very beginning of life), their two eyes learned to focus and work together and become able to see “depth”.
By now some readers have likely caught my drift, and have suspicions about what I am driving at, which is that marriage involves the same dynamics. My conclusion is derived from a lot of hard thinking my grandfather caused me to do, when he stated his marriage with my grandmother worked over eighty years because, “We had faith.”
One thing I have had the challenge of dealing with, (because I run a Farm-childcare), is children who have had the misfortune of having parents who couldn’t keep the faith. Often addiction is involved. The baby cries, but the mother is unconscious. The baby suffers neglect, and often it is the grandparents who step in and attempt to help the neglected child. But in one tragic case the loving grandmother, over-stressed, dropped dead of a heart attack in the kitchen, and the child was home-alone with a corpse all day before the grandfather came home. I can’t imagine the poor toddler’s trauma. The uncomprehending, desperate child, not quite three, basically trashed the house trying to get the dead grandmother’s attention. And it was only after all that trauma that the child, still in diapers, was brought to my Childcare, and I was basically told to keep it happy.
I do my best, but trust is like a light-bulb. If you want it to work correctly, it is far better not to break it in the first place. (I’ll leave the details of dealing with such traumatized children for some other post. For the time being I want to stick to the subject, which is trust.)
The fact remains, if you want light you need an unbroken light-bulb. It is extremely difficult to glue together and mend a broken light-bulb, but that is not a proof that light bulbs can’t work. My point is that we should stop breaking light-bulbs, if we want them to work. In like manner, if we want faith to work, we should stop breaking it.
In some ways our eyes are more faithful than we are. Your right eye does not distrust the left, and the left does not distrust the right, and together they produce depth.
Sadly, in current politics, the right does distrust the left, and the left does distrust the right, and the result is not depth, but the utter shallowness we call “stupid”.
Happily, deep down, America, as a whole, has not entirely subscribed to such stupidity. In a difficult-to-explain and non-intellectual manner we just plain don’t like being stupid.
Sophists, on the other hand, with the slippery intellectual grease of snake-oil salesmen, make it seem easy and wise to be stupid, and scorn trust and faith as weakness. They scoff at tradition, calling it oppressive, old-fashioned, and “the establishment”. Consequently they deny themselves the benefits of “depth”, in exchange for the nothings of gratification, (stuff like sex without children, or eating only to vomit, or power without love, or breathing without life). In a sense sophists give up on that which is wholesome, in favor of becoming the walking dead, or, in the tale of Pinocchio, donkeys.
Nothing makes me cringe quite so much as looking back and seeing times I deemed myself sophisticated, especially those times I bragged about it, and, when I recall the times I took such arrogance a step further and mocked the unsophisticated, I want to writhe. I want to cram such errors behind my back, but they then become ghosts that tap me on the shoulder when I least expect it; prods from the subconscious; inadmissable influences.
At the start of marriage one often feels they have left sadness and loneliness behind them, and have stepped irrevocably forward into the bright uplands of a honeymoon. All the ways which the cruel world wounded one and broke one’s faith dissolve into amnesia. Basically one’s faith is restored by the rapture of love.
However that is only the beginning. Because marriage involves nakedness, nothing can be hidden, and buried influences reemerge. Like a soldier experiencing battlefield flashbacks long after the guns have gone silent, bad habits reappear, cravings reoccur, and restored faith gets challenged. One sees things they didn’t suspect in their spouse, and things they thought they’d outgrown in themselves. Then the honeymoon is over and the real work begins.
Marriage therefore becomes a most ambiguous situation. On one hand it restores our faith, while on the other hand it involves nakedness that brings up the buried influences we least want to come to the forefront, because they once shattered our faith. In essence faith is at war with lack of faith; the two things cannot coexist.
Marriage can then involve some terrible quarrels, when it seems lack of faith is winning. One sees their own weakness exposed and loses faith in themselves, and sees their spouse’s weaknesses in glaring light, and loses faith in them as well. At which point one wonders, “What is there left to have faith in?”
This is a critical juncture, for if one bails on the relationship (and I confess I have bailed from some relationships even when I had no parachute), one loses the chance for “depth”. The right eye has gone rolling to the east as the left rolls west. Rather than the restoration of faith one sees the shattering of faith continue, perpetuating the very thing one wants put behind.
“The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
In order for a marriage to survive the passage through such critical junctures the spouses must do an illogical thing. They must have faith despite proof there is no reason to have faith. One has lost faith in themselves and lost faith in their spouse, yet continues to have faith. How can this be possible? It can only occur if there is a third thing to have faith in: Not the husband and not the wife. But what is it?
It is invisible. But consider depth perception. Can you see it? The right eye can’t see it. The left eye can’t see it. Yet it exists.
To have faith in something you cannot see, and do not yourself possess, stretches the credulity of many past the breaking point. They mock faith like a teenager mocking a child’s belief in Santa Claus. What they fail to see is that they are in a sense crippling themselves, and that it is not those who they call foolish who are the fools. They are depriving themselves of “depth”, and in doing so are actually guilty of perpetuating iniquity.
In fact it takes three to make a marriage work. What is the third thing? It doesn’t really matter. People give It different names, “God”, The Word”, “Abba”, “Love”, “Truth”, “Commitment”, “Power”, “Creativity”, and in this essay I call It “Depth”. But the important thing is not the label we put on It, but the fact It exists, as a beautiful depth that is all around us and is utterly free.
Considering It is completely free, and has amazing benefits, why don’t people grasp It? It is due to distrust. The sophists of the cruel world have broken the trust of millions, if not billions, until all carry baggage, which they want to leave behind them but which stays glued to their heels like a shadow.
You can’t run away from a shadow. Yet what man allows himself to be pushed around by his shadow? The way to deal with a shadow is to expose it to the light. And strangely, this is exactly what marriage does to people, rummaging through the baggage of their past. At its worst marriage revives the worst of a dead past, but at its best it dissolves the past so it can be truly dead, and rest in peace, and be a ghost no longer.
How is this possible? The process is often complex, involving more tangles and snarls than a child’s fishing line, but consider the simple, amazing process of dropping a grudge:
For weeks, months, even years one walks about with a disagreeable expression, carrying a heavy burden and thinking vengeful thoughts, due to a painful event, even when the event’s antagonist has long forgotten the offense, or didn’t even notice they offended in the first place. The one bearing the grudge is more burdened than those they snarl at. But then a merciful dawn breaks and one tosses the burden aside and lightly walks relieved and smiling. What has happened? One has experienced a “change of heart”. The light of love and forgiveness has melted away a shadow. (Simple to say, but sometimes hard to do.)
When one has faith in faith, one is allowing a Third Thing to intervene in the endless differences which arise between two eyes, which cannot help but see differently. Rather than disagreement the discord becomes harmony. Such harmony can seem completely miraculous, at times.
As soon as I use the word “miraculous” I know some are putting up their guard. Such people have often scientifically tested to see if miraculous stuff could possibly occur. As a youth I knew a fellow who once asked God to prove He existed by cancelling school the next day. God may have proved He existed, but perhaps the school He cancelled was in a town three thousand miles away. In any case my friend then became a sort of schoolmarm, and flunked God for failing to pass his test, and then became determined to be an atheist ever after.
To some degree I can empathize with such disbelief, because the engineering pragmatism of my Grandfather runs strong in my veins. But in another way, as a writer with a poetic streak, such disbelief leaves me incredulous. This involves my grandfather’s statement, “We had faith.” Even among engineers belief can have a power that scorns disbelief.
How is this possible? It is because we have progressed a long way, (hopefully), from the people 2000 years ago who needed flashy miracles in order to believe. By now we should have learned, and no longer need a “sign” such as walking on water, or giving sight to the blind, or healing cripples and lepers, or raising the dead, or turning water to wine, or yourself dying and then walking about afterwards. All such glitter and flash is unnecessary for us “evolved” people, 2000 years wiser. By now we should be able to have faith without such miraculous distortions of Creation, because they are apparent in Creation itself.
Even sophists see the miraculous beauty of nature, (though they often immediately want to either buy it and fence it off so others can’t have it, or to make a national park out of it, where they are the rangers free to walk where they will, while all others are illegal trespassers beyond stipulated paths.) However sophists fail to see the same beauty in mankind. Sadly they too often see their fellow men as “overpopulation” and seek a “remedy”, oblivious of the genocidal horrors this “final solution” might unleash. What they fail to have faith in is a beauty already apparent, to those who use both eyes.
If one refuses to use both eyes one can miss the depth of depth-perception. Even if one “shares” in a manner that “takes turns”, first seeing with one eye and then seeing with the other, one remains blind to what two eyes see when working together. In like manner, if one “shares” power, first with republicans and then with democrats, one misses what they’d have working together. In a sense one prefers to be blind, unless one chooses to “love their neighbor as themselves”, or even to go a step further and “love thy enemies”.
In a modern sense, what is miraculous isn’t physical things like walking on water, but rather is depth-perception. Why? Because there is a reaction to every action, and, to those sophists who are convinced such things are impossible, the natural “reaction” of depth-perception appears like a divine “response”, which is not allowed in their world-view, because they have no faith in faith, and think they are smarter than the fools who expect a “response” to faith. However a perfectly ordinary and pragmatic thing, such as depth-perception, only appears impossibly miraculous to sophists who insist upon using only one eye. To more ordinary folk it is everyday.
To a person with a life-long eye-patch who had no depth-perception, faced with planning a route through a series of obstacles near and far, the route through the obstacles would be be made more difficult because he would not know which way to swerve to avoid the near obstacle, nor when to swerve the other way to avoid the more distant obstacle. To such a person, the ability of a person who has depth-perception, to whom it is common sense when to swerve one way and then the other, appears a miracle. It would look like the person with depth-perception was receiving “advice”. And they would be correct. Perhaps the Almighty is not responding in a booming baritone, and indeed the Almighty may be utterly silent, but the person utilizing depth-perception is “receiving” something the people who scorn such efforts are blind to, and to whom such a “reception” seems a miracle.
Sadly, the sophists tend to dismiss the depth-perception which others have and they lack. They have another word for “miraculous”, and it is “impossible”. Dubbing faith impossible bolsters their disbelief. With cyclops-vision they see those who see differently as “bumpkins” (and many other degrading terms.) Even more sadly, often the disdained bumpkins possess great, innate insights, but are told over and over they’re ignorant. The irony becomes sublime when, because bumpkins often gain their insights because they listen respectfully to others, they heed the bad advice of sophists. Then it is more than a case of the blind leading the blind; it is a case of the blind leading the sighted. But the tone-deaf can only teach one with perfect-pitch to sing for so long before their advice falls flat.
Some sophist scorn of bumpkins has elements of truth. For example, sophists may point out some poor are just as tempted by corruption, but are only faithful because they can’t afford prostitutes. What they fail to see is the reward the poor gain: Blessed are the poor. Even if the poor only remain married because they can’t afford two places and can only afford to pay the rent for a single shack if both work, they accidentally learn about teamwork.
Spirituality learned as a matter of survival is still spirituality. Sailors together on a ship at sea in a storm don’t have to particularly like each other to see that if they don’t work together, one manning the sails and tiller and one bailing like crazy, then they both will die. In such a storm the “third thing” the two eyes gain by working together is life itself, and, after the storm is survived, when the winds die down and the sun breaks through the clouds, the sheer joy of being alive can enliven the sailor’s faces with laughter, and even though they still don’t particularly like each other they strangely don’t dislike each other quite so much. They have learned they can count on each other in a storm, which is the germ of growing “faith”. This is a useful analogy for the storms of marriage, (although I wouldn’t advise telling your spouse they are like a storm at sea).
One thing gained from storms at sea is a contradiction; one has gained the right to humbly swagger. One has the awareness of the power they were up against, and that they are lucky to be alive, yet one also has greater confidence (which is another word for “faith”.) One has a growing certainty that, should the horizon darken with a second storm, they can count on their shipmate and their shipmate can count on them. What they survived once can be survived a second time, and due to this confidence they are less likely to turn tail in panic, even though they know the danger. Not that they rush ahead foolishly, or don’t stay in port as a hurricane approaches, but they are able to face storms when storms cannot be avoided. And sometimes staying in port is ignominious timidity: Though nothing is certain in life, to get anywhere in life one needs to set sail. In like manner, if one wants marriage one has to display the courage to ask for it.
One strange quality of sophists is that they are certain some things are impossible because they themselves have never done them. Perhaps due to fear of the deep blue sea they stayed home and never set sail, and chose to dwell in the musty Mom’s-basement of academia, where they put themselves forward as authorities on sailing and sailors despite never having set sail. They state certain things are impossible which I know are possible, because I did them, as a crazy teenager.
For example, I read the work of one academic who based his history of mankind’s seafaring discoveries and advancements on the premise Man had an aversion to going to sea, suggesting men only learned to sail because they were driven to do it by dire emergencies. Fishermen only fished because they faced starvation otherwise. As I read on I felt a growing sense of incredulity, and in my imagination I pictured the author as a frightened professor, creeping about the dim hallways of a college, clinging to tenure and pensions as a way to be “secure”, and appalled by any suggestions he go out adventuring into the fresh air and ride a heeling sailboat on a tossing sea. Because he lived a timid, indoors life he saw all mankind as being that way, seemingly unaware that, for some boys, it is the classroom that is appalling. To some schoolboys, being “secure” is stultification, and “adventure” is their delight.
In Truth the two extremes are like two eyes, and wisdom lies between them. Midst a storm at sea, a warm, dry bed is appealing, even as, to a man long bedridden, a storm at sea has great charm. Neither the timid schoolmarm nor the reckless schoolboy has an exclusive monopoly on Truth, while Truth embraces both views.
But in the end, when push comes to shove, action teaches more than inaction, in terms of faith, and this is one reason an illiterate bumpkin can be wiser than a college professor. Action involves venture, “Nothing ventured nothing gained.” And perhaps the greatest gain of all is faith.
One reason the poor are blessed is because for them every day can be an adventure, like a storm at sea. Danger is always present. In the morning the poor may not know where their daily bread is coming from, yet they go stand with others seeking “spot labor” because that is their only recourse, just as a sailor bails like crazy because that is his only recourse. They know they might not find work and might go hungry, just as a sailor knows the ship might be swamped and he might swim, but they do what they have to do, and when they find just enough work to buy just enough bread, they gain a pleasure in their evening repast which a sophist, eating at a fancy restaurant, cannot conceive of. Why? Because the bumpkin eats full of faith, while the sophist all too often eats because he has made a mockery of faith.
Midst the storm of poverty the poor often must rely on each other, which leads to them counting on each other, which leads to the burgeoning faith called “confidence”. The sophist is also aware of confidence, but utilizes it in the manner of a confidence trickster. They deem faith a weakness and seek to exploit it, shattering faith in the process, but calling the people they have shattered “suckers” and “chumps.” Therefore they stand in stark contrast to all that creates faith, for the person ripped-off by a confidence trickster is a person who has had his faith destroyed.
As an aside I should note that the word “sucker” is derived from a baby’s sucking, and a small child’s tendency to suck their thumb, and is therefore “sucker” is used to call an adult excessively naive and innocent, but in a degrading way. Where Jesus said it was a good thing to have the faith of a little child, sophists sneer at the idea, and think it is wiser to become distant from such faith. The way to get ahead, they seem to think, is to steal candy from a baby. So what if the baby cries? If their conscience bothers sophists they say, “Go away, kid. You bother me.” In essence, they are dependent on faith, for without it they cannot exploit it. But they have no faith in faith. Only “suckers” have faith, in their view.
Their view is devisive, for it is blind to the views of the people they exploit. Rather than people you can count on, they are people who you can’t count on. They separate themselves and ignore the concept, “United we stand; divided we fall.”
America, despite allowing the freedom which allows snake-oil-salesman and other confidence tricksters to ply their wares, seems to have faith in its foundations; the very bedrock of its landscapes seems inclined to free people from their past, and to shepherd people’s thought towards contemplating what Power it is that actually frees us. The Founding Fathers of the United States thought long and hard about what promotes freedom and what promotes slavery, studying European nations and Native American confederations, and concluded the myopic view of a tyrant lacked not merely peripheral vision, but a mystic depth-perception which a single-sighted cyclops lacks.
As an alternative they proposed the radical idea that a single leader was not a good idea, and that it instead might be possible to form a better government wherein all citizens had a say. Statements we take for granted, such as “all men are created equal”, actually sent shock-waves through the world, and awakened a somewhat mystic and ancient idea which stated that, when people worked together, a Power greater than the sum of all the individuals became involved, a “depth”, a One out of the many.
The Founding Fathers had no idea if their idea would work, and would be amazed to gaze ahead 200 years and see the power their idea unleashed. Yet in a sense it is not such a radical idea. It simply extends the idea of two eyes creating a depth perception neither eye has, until it says the same thing about millions of eyes.
Christianity uses the analogy of a gathering of believers being a “body” and individual believers being “parts”, (the hands, feet, heart, liver and so on), but freedom allows more. If one is free one can move from group to group, and be whatever fits, here an anus and there a heart. What stays the same is the reality that a Third Thing embraces all the parts, and comprises the “life” of the body.
What seems most important is to keep ones faith in that Third Thing, whatever name you chose to give It. Keeping the faith involves a lot of work, as in the case of caring for a helpless baby when it cries out in faith for help. The benefits of keeping the faith are not always immediately obvious, and the sophists will claim there are none, and will claim it is better to break the faith. Faith faces constant challenges.
At times I look at the history of the United States and see a naive and hopeful people traipsing about in a world full of cynical sophists, getting constantly slimed and sometimes maimed. From the get-go a “Land of The Free” represented a standing challenge to all who don’t share such faith, and who instead favor some form of oppression. There are those who would be quite happy to see the American Experiment ended, (or at least altered beyond recognition). In the face of such opposition we constantly are sending our young off, full of idealism, into situations that test and sometimes shatter their faith. Considering the Byzantine craft and wickedness of the foes of freedom, and the naivety of Americans, Americans should be long gone. But a Third Thing reaches down from heaven and gives us a hand, or so I seem to see.
(For example: There is no way Washington should have been able to survive the faith-crushing collapse of 1776, manifesting as his army’s retreat from New York City to Valley Forge. For another example: There is no way it should have been possible for the United States, with its devastated fleet, to face the faith-crushing might of the Japanese navy and sink all four Japanese aircraft-carriers plus a heavy cruiser, in the Battle of Midway. And so on and so forth.)
Perhaps the most horrible battle and most unlikely survival was our battle with ourselves, called the Civil War. As many died in that terrible slaughter as in all our other wars combined. How the nation’s faith survived such trauma amazes me.
Yet now, as I look around and read the fake news, I have the queasy sense we are flirting at the precipice of a Second Civil War. The two eyes are failing to work together, the two spouses are heading to divorce, and I am strangely like my Grandfather, my brow clouded with a thundercloud of anger, growling “We Had Faith”.
“…It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
I likely sound like a gruff, old coot, but when I was young I would not have to tell anyone the above was from Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” of November 19, 1863, because schoolmarms drilled it into my skull. Now the same schoolmarms seemed cowed, and in some cases seem afraid to even mention Lincoln’s great speech, because someone might be offended that it has the word “God” in it.
In a sense our nation is under attack by an onslaught by sophists who have such a profound lack of faith it is dizzying. There seems to be nothing they don’t dare to distrust and dismiss; no history they don’t revise, until the very foundations of our freedom is doubted. Sounding like lawyers midst a divorce, every negative event in our past is magnified, ever good belittled. And what do they propose, to replace a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, with? Basically, when you examine their proposals carefully, they propose the tyranny of a bureaucratic oligarchy, which has no real belief the people deserve the liberty to rule themselves, and instead scorns the people as imbecilic nincompoops in need of their guidance.
One thing I’ve been amazed by (so far) is the restraint the public has displayed when faced with the offensive provocations of such sophists. Some groups, such as “Antifa”, even state in writing that they want to cease all attempts at civil discussion and to instead to start a civil war, (which is to break the faith neighbors will be neighborly), but the people they intentionally antagonize have (so far) simply wiped the egg and paint and piss (and even blood) from their faces, and have refused to be silent while refusing to be violent. Attacked for wearing a red hat, they continue to wear red hats.
Quiet people refusing to be silent, in the face of rude sophists attempting to shout opposing views down, is a brave attempt to continue a dialog with people who don’t want to talk. Sophists see no profit in discussion, for they cannot imagine there is anything to be gained by talk. They cannot conceive of a depth-perception called “faith”, because they have small and narrow minds that can’t see beyond a single point of view. It is for this reason Antifa likes to portray itself as “the resistance”, and “antifascist”. After all, everyone knows that the “fascists” were the bad guys, and the French “resistance” were the good guys. They like to see things in simplistic back-and-white, and the possibility of a Third Thing is quite outside their ken. Therefore to quietly continue a dialog is actually a weapon against their state of mind, and can even increase their rage. Why? Because the very existence of a dialog involves two views, two eyes, and creates the Third Thing which, if not actually hated by sophists, they are in very bad terms with.
Quiet explanations may not fit our usual idea of what a “weapon” looks like, but they can be very effective, especially when you get a young radical away from his support-group of a roused rabble, and can talk one-on-one. In such situations it can be very helpful to puncture the balloon of arrogant ignorance with a question, such as, “Are you familiar with the atrocities committed by the anti-fascists in the Spanish Civil War?” Or, “Are you aware of the so-called “purges” enacted by anti-fascists in the Spanish Civil War, and how many anti-fascists were executed by their fellow anti-fascists?” Or, “Did you know that George Orwell’s cynical attitude towards the politically powerful, that manifests in “Animal Farm” and “1984“, is derived from the fact he joined the anti-fascists in the Spanish Civil War, and was willing to sacrifice his life for them, but only just barely escaped being executed by anti-fascists by the the skin of his teeth?”
No, forget that last question. It has far too many words, for a situation where it likely will be difficult to get a word in edgewise. It is likely better to keep things simple, and ask, “Have you ever studied the Spanish Civil War?” More than likely they haven’t. (Though they may nod, it only means they have a vague knowledge that the event happened.) After you depart, they may dig deeper, and have their eyes opened.
If you ever wanted a reason that it is far better for the left eye to get along with the right eye, or that a civil war is a disastrous choice to make, the Spanish Civil War is a very good reason. What is saddest to see is how close they were to working things out just before the war started. The tragedy is how evil the world then was to Spain. “Outside Agitators” inflamed disagreements towards discord, as “Peacemakers” stood back and professed it was a virtue not to get involved, and failed to resolve disagreements towards harmony. The “Outside Agitators” were Hitler, on the side of the fascists, and Stalin, on the side of anti-fascists, and neither man is known for putting too great a value on a human life, especially when the life is a far-away Spanish life. Between a half-million and a million Spaniards died. Surely it would have been better to continue dialog. This should be especially clear to anti-fascists, because the result of bleeding Spain dry was that the anti-fascists lost.
But sophists seldom study history, and when they do it is in a most unsavory way. They seem far more interested in “Outside Agitators” than in “Peacemakers”, more interested in those who shattered faith than in those who kept faith, and more interested in those who briefly profited from discord than in those who suffered to bring about harmony. They seem far more interested in Hitler and Stalin than in great artists, composers, saints and prophets. Their fascination seems to be, “What did Hitler do wrong?” and “What did Stalin do wrong?” and “How could I avoid their mistakes, and do even better than Hilter and Stalin?” This seems like a strange definition of “better” to me.
This strange definition of “better” arises because, basically, you are dealing with a cyclops. In a way you are dealing with a pirate with an eye-patch, (not meaning to offend people with eye-patches.) The sophist’s eye-patch is an intellectual eye-patch. People, even pirates, with physical eye-patches can still see with depth, just as blind men can still say, “I see.” However an intellectual eye-patch uses only one eye and willfully refuses to use a second, and thus cannot have access to the third eye, called “faith”.
The awareness that you are dealing with a terribly handicapped person is a second “weapon” one can use. Why? Because, if you value another view, you are basically sympathetic and empathetic, even to the degree where you value the sophist’s view. However the sophist lacks such empathy and sympathy. This creates an unfair situation where you are back on your heels while the sophist is on the attack. You are fostering faith even as the sophist seeks to foster doubt. If you think you are on the same page, the sophist will win, for it is far easier to break a promise than to keep one, and therefore all a sophist needs to do is break faith and he has won the argument. He has proven faith is a dumb idea, and it can be crushing to face such evil logic. However everything changes when you understand you are not on the same page. Once you understand you are dealing with a dreadfully handicapped person with an intellectual eye-patch, you are not crushed and are able to keep your poise.
Another weapon to use against the Antifa-mind-set is pity. Pity defuses the anger one naturally feels when attacked, by utilizing the powers of depth and understanding. Like Christ on the cross, or Steven while being stoned, such depth basically pities the ignorant for being so ignorant, for the ignorant miss seeing so much that is beautiful.
However tolerance has its limits. To refuse to fight when ones self is attacked may be the brave deed of a spiritual hero, but to stand by when women and children are attacked is the deed of a coward. I have a dread Antifa will use this to eventually provoke the violence it desires, and history demonstrates that, once the madness of Civil War begins, it can get very bad, very fast.
I personally loathe the possibility of a Second Civil War, for it would involve terrible suffering that is completely avoidable. However I am forced to consider such a possibility, due to the sheer folly of certain sophists. They are unaware of their illogical thought, and the gigantic hypocrisy they enact. (One example of hypocrisy, which strikes me as humorous, is that some doddering hippies who once chanted, “Make love, not war” now state “Make war; Don’t love.”)
But now I’ve gone and done it. I’ve used the four-letter-word “Love.”
At this point I have to confess to you that, as a grandson with engineering in my blood, Love is a mystery to me. It doesn’t seem to enter into the mathematical calculations of an engineer building a bridge, however, at the same time, as a writer with a poetic streak, I sense Love is behind all the mundane stuff engineers must be truthful about. For example, consider the Law of Gravity. (You probably won’t, to the degree I have.) Gravity is a beautiful creation, when you think of how it holds creation down to earth, and therefore gravity can seem an expression of the Creator’s Love.
Because engineers must be pragmatic and down to earth, they are spared the seductions that lead to the downfall of writers like myself, and all sophists. To some, hypocrisy and double-speak might lead to fame, fortune, and political power, but when you try to build a bridge using hypocrisy and double-speak, the bridge collapses into a pile of rubble. Truth matters. Therefore engineers are blessed, because they are spared a lot of the delusional crap that goes into becoming a sophist. In like manner, the poor are blessed, because they are spared delusional crap. They do not put their faith in the delusional crap sophists put their faith in. (Funny how sophists have a sort of faith,even when they mock it.)
Even when you’d rather have your head in the clouds, it is an annoying but good thing to be brought to earth. But what I find most odd is that being down to earth, and dealing with Truth in its most earthy manifestations, is a gateway to the clouds.
In this essay I’ve tried to be like an engineer. I’ve tried to be mathematical. I’ve tried to show, in a action-creates-reaction way, why faith is good, and how growing faith can be a logical action-create-reaction process. I confess to having a little pride about hitting upon the example of how faith grows, when two men who don’t like each other must rely on each other, at sea in a storm. But as I did this I had more faith in mathematics and cause-and-effect than in the real Reason to have faith.
It is Love. It is the one thing I can’t claim to understand in the slightest.
Love is part of depth-perception. How can the left eye have it, all alone? How can the right eye have it, all alone? Only Love can bring such disparate views together and create such a magnificent thing as depth-perception.
The really difficult thing to be pragmatic about, from an engineering standpoint, is that somehow adherence to the truth can result in a reaction that seems impossible, in terms of the actions that preceded it. Truth inspires seemingly doomed men to attempt desperate deeds, which some would call suicidal, and it changes everything. Victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat.
An example is Washington crossing the Delaware. In the eyes of sophists that was the suicidal action of a doomed man, and its success was due to sheer luck, yet the deed changed the course of human history.
Due to my engineering background, I cannot accept the idea of “sheer luck”. No bridge is ever built on “sheer luck”. Therefore I dig deep and study history.
Few sophists do this to the degree I do. In fact, rather than study the different views offered by the past, sophists prefer to revise the view until it fits their view. Currently sophist’s revisionist history likes to portray Washington as a sleek, racist, white-skinned slave-owner who owed everything he had to exploiting the common man. In actual fact he had “bet the farm”, putting everything he had on the line, in support of the common man’s liberty.
Where his troops could look forward to their enlistments being up on December 31, 1776, and to leaving the miserable conditions at Valley Forge to return to their warm farms, Washington could not return to his plantation. The British would hunt him down and hang him. By all appearances he had bet everything on a lost cause.
In actual fact Washington’s leadership had been masterful, in that he even had an army (albeit perhaps only until December 31). He had extracted his troops from defeat after defeat without surrendering, to such a degree that the British referred to him as “the old fox”, but wars are not won by retreating. And retreating does not win one much support.
When Washington looked south for support he received little food, money and supplies from the rebel leadership, some of whom were on the verge of panic. When he looked north for General Charles Lee to rush to his aid, he learned Lee distrusted his leadership and wanted to supplant him as chief commander, and rather than rushing was dawdling, unwilling to waste his fresh troops on Washington’s lost cause. With even his troops on the verge of departing, Washington had nowhere to turn for support but up.
There are few prayers by ordinary men so often depicted by artists, perhaps because there are so few examples of a prayer separating the dark depression of abject despair from the white light of victory.
Of course, to my engineer mind-set what happened is a practical sequence of events. A surprise attack on Christmas was a smart decision. The risk of transporting an army across an ice-choked river was a smart decision. Attacking from the north when the wind was from the north and full of sleet was a smart decision. But the attack was no matter of sheer intellectual armchair speculation; it took balls, and it took faith.
One thing I often wonder is whether Washington saw a copy of Thomas Paine’s broadsheet, published in Philidelphia just two days before he crossed the Deleware, which begins, “These are the times that try men’s souls…”
It is good to look back and see how faith can be the hinge that swings men through dark times when despair and panic whisper in one’s ear. Where the sophist calls faith an illogical thing, it can be the only thing, and is definitely part of the action-and-reaction that shapes world events.
(Of course, there are certain coincidences involved which can seem like the Hand of God. For example, what ended General Charles Lee’s dawdling and hurried his troops south? The capture of Lee himself, as he dawdled in a tavern miles behind his troops, by twenty-five British troops on horseback. This event is nothing a engineering mind-set plans for, nor even hopes for. Not too often is a general of thousands captured by twenty-five. But it solved some of Washington’s problems to be rid of the man, though Washington did not plan it, and it occurred due to “sheer luck”.)
It is the element of “sheer luck” that I find most impossible to explain, using an engineering mindset. Of course it makes sense that if you do the right thing, the right thing will happen. However when one opens the door of faith and is drenched in an unexpected streaming light of kind compassion, the intellect cannot help but be taken aback. When one turns on the light-bulb of faith, one expects only light; it is the Love that surprises.
In the end, that is the “weapon” sophists cannot stand up against. We may be mere ants, but are friends with an Elephant.
Stand by the Truth, and the Truth will stand by you.