The Philosophy of Big Goals and Tiny Steps

Every night, I walk my dog around 12am.

I pulled a red leash from the closet, bent down to my knowing dog, and clasped it onto her collar. She danced around me as I fidgeted with the brass lock, trying to work my way out the door without tripping over dog, leash, or anything in between. When the door swung open, I felt an immediate drop in temperature. Without the incessant beating of the sun, the night air felt almost cool to my exposed skin.

About halfway through my walk, my dog wandering off in pursuit of quality grass to contaminate, a little object cried out for my attention from the pavement. There it was, a perfectly round acorn, brown rocking against the black. But there was no wind. In fact, there was a distinct lack of any movement. Except for the intrusive rummaging of my dog’s nose and this small acorn, the world lay completely still.

Spinning around its center, a little green cap on its head, the acorn rolled until it hit a crack in the road. For a moment, it stopped, as if considering how to get over or around the crack. But then, instead, it did neither and moved with the crack, trundling on its merry way until the crack ended. When it had made its way to the end, the acorn moved upwards. And beneath it, pushing with a fierce determination, stood a tiny armor-plated insect working tirelessly to lift something thirty times its size.

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The Parable of the Good Syrian

On one occasion, a well-respected evangelical minister and lawyer stood up to question Jesús. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

The minister answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesús replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesús, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesús told this story:

“A homosexual was getting off a bus, when he was attacked by unidentified domestic terrorists. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead and homeless on the streets.

A Republican, conservative pastor happened to pass by, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

So too, the deacon of a large church, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Syrian refugee, as she traveled, came where the man was; and when she saw him, she took pity on him. She went to him and bandaged his wounds, sharing her own water and food. Then she gave the man her own bike, brought him to a shelter, and stayed with him and took care of him.

The next day she took out all the money she’d made working as a waitress over the weekend and gave them to the shelter’s supervisor. ‘Look after him,’ she said, ‘and when I come back next week, I will reimburse you for any extra expenses you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the terrorists?”

The minister replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesús told him, “Go and do likewise.”

This is a reworded version of Luke 10:25-37 for anyone who wants a different perspective on the story (keeping the social context as consistent as possible). For more fun times and good stories, look up Jesús’s Palabras Rojas as written in His best-selling series, The New Testament.

Stop Trying to “Make America Great Again”

I don’t want to tell you who to vote for, mostly because I know I’m tired of being told how to vote.

Not voting for Trump is not a vote for Clinton. Not voting for Clinton is not a vote for Trump. You know what’s really a vote for a candidate? When you actually take your pen and fill in the dot that says you have chosen this specific person to represent you as your President of the United States. We need to stop pressuring people into choke-swallowing this “lesser of two evils” notion. Saying this only makes your average citizen either more likely to accept a worse candidate the next election, or to lose all hope and not vote at all. Besides, we have created enough division and made too many decisions out of being scared or angry. We don’t need another reason to dull our personal consciences.

If you do decide to vote for one of them, be my guest. I might not agree, but I completely understand why. Depending on what is most important to you, either one of these candidates could be a colossal disaster compared to the other. But please don’t follow the examples of our good talking heads on the pseudo-news media outlets and excuse, validate, or normalize these people’s actions, words, and choices. This epidemic apathy is what led us to having these kinds of choices as our nominated candidates in the first place.

This election is the result not just of two corrupt individuals, but of the radical, polarizing created by desperate parties; the complacency of a nation and its acceptance of degenerating standards; both the intentional and unintentional refusal of the church to be a refuge of both love and reason; and the innate nature of sin in each of our lives.

So does that mean we shouldn’t vote?

I don’t personally agree with abstaining (and if more than the average 40%-ish of America had voted, we’d probably not be in this situation), but I can’t honestly blame you if you decide to opt out of this election. I really can’t. I also don’t usually agree with third party votes, but an adherence to conscience can be a more meaningful act than a compromise of morals. Besides, if the two parties are really this corrupt and obviously broken, then it seems like a good time for a new (hopefully less extremist or sold-out) party to take the mantle sometime in the next few decades. But that can only happen when it pulls enough of the vote from the two primary parties.

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22 Years: A Collection of Hamstrung Decisions and Consequences

On one particular blustery, summer morning, I raised a tiny fist and knocked against my mother’s bloated stomach. “Hey, Mom,” is what I’d have said if I could speak, “You’ve had me holed up in here 9 months now. You can let me out now.” Unfortunately, parents don’t understand non-speak, so I knocked harder. When that didn’t work, I kicked. That’d get her moving.

To my disappointment, they responded with loud shouting and some strange high-pitched howling noise. Downright terrifying. Somehow through the noise and the buzz and the very dangerous driving, I’d been brought to a birth center.

“What kind of injustice is this? From one prison to the next. I’m not a convict, Mom, I’m your son!”

In indignation, I refused to come out. If I had to come out, they’d have to yank me out with Dad’s crowbar or something. I’d show them. Dad was no handyman. Maybe he helped me enter this womb, but he sure wasn’t gonna get me out.

So it was, that I was born just before midnight, kicking at a midwife’s face with a permanent frown etched onto my face. From the day I was born, I displayed my disapproval with this thing they called Life.

“Can’t have that,” my old man said, and he took his finger and pushed my bottom lip right back into my mouth. Soon as his finger was gone, I pouted at him again. “Miguel, you look like an old man.” (Wouldn’t be the last time he said that.)

Naming me before we meet. Very bold of you, mon Parents.

Later I learned how to lisp out my full name, Miguel Santiago Flores. They named me for two things that  would define the rest of my life: Miguel was Spanish for Michael, which is really more of a question than a proper name. The question, “who is like God?” The easy answer, “no one.” But I don’t do easy.

Santiago was also Spanish, stood for “Saint” James. It was the only inheritance I took from my Filipino great-grandfather, but I like to think it’s because I had something in common with one of the Bible’s first amateur wrestlers. My middle name would be the first of many dislocated shoulders.

Flores was another for “flowers,” but I was determined to be the cannibalistic sort with the teeth that bit at any fingers daring enough to poke me (Sorry, Dad).

Essentially, I was born stubborn. Today I’m not much different.

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The Parable of the Madman and God’s Not Dead: The Burdens and Responsibilities of God-Slayers

Nietzsche1882 In his book, The Gay Science, Nietzsche attempted to prove that mankind has slain God in a narrative called The Parable of the Madman. I posted it below for those of you who aren’t familiar with the piece.

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!”–As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?–Thus they yelled and laughed.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him–you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us–for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars–and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”

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Till We Have Faces: the Greeks, the Barbarians, and Us

51s+tqDETlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I recently finished reading Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, the retelling of a classic Greek myth taken from the Metamorphoses or “The Golden Ass.” If you are unfamiliar with the story of Psyche and Cupid, here is a nice walk-through. In this narrative, we watch as Psyche’s beauty stirs up the jealousy of the goddess, Venus; Cupid saves Psyche out of love; the lovers are torn from each other by the jealousy-hate of Psyche’s sisters; the trials Psyche overcomes at the hand of the gods; and the eventual reunion of Psyche and Cupid. The allegorical fairy tale-myth is a fascinating and well-known example of the marriage between mortal flesh and the divine.

In TWHF, however, this popular story is told not from the perspective of Psyche, but predominantly from the perspective of her older sister, Orual. Lewis’s reasons for doing so can be understood at the very end of the book:

The central alteration in my own version consists in making Psyche’s palace invisible to normal, mortal eyes. . .This change of course brings with it a more ambivalent motive and a different character for my heroine and finally modifies the whole quality of the tale. I felt quite free to go behind Apuleius, whom I suppose to have been its transmitter, not its inventor. . .[In] relation to my work, he is a “source,” not an “influence” nor a “model.”

Till We Have Faces (p. 313)

The story of Psyche and Cupid was a story that haunted Lewis for decades; he questioned the rationale behind the characters’ decisions and believed that the obvious answer lay within the visibility (or invisibility) of the house of Psyche’s hidden love. Thus, with this central change in the story, Lewis explored the character of Orual and the relationship between the mortals and the gods. Continue reading