Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Saturday, June 08, 2002  

Droid vs. Clone
John McGuinness at Man Bites Blog has an interesting thought on both the movie and the idea:


"Everyone's racing to point out how Attack of the Clones doesn't say anything about the theraputic cloning debate, but I think it does.

I couldn't help but think that it was no major loss if one of the cloned soldiers got killed. Somehow, his origin diminishes my perception of the dignity and sanctity of the clone's life. Maybe the problem's with my perception, but I can't help but think that advancements that lead me to regard life as cheap are a good thing."

I saw the movie recently and had mixed feelings about it. It is maybe the second best of the Stars Wars movies, but that's not saying a lot. Anyway, I noticed that we (the audience) doesn't give a darn about the Clone soldiers (faceless, yes) even though they are the good guys, the good side in the movie. John noticed this, too, and wonders if their manner of creation diminishes their humanity. I think it does. The way they are described and presented, anyway, does do that. They are treated entirely as disposable things, no different than the droid army they face. We never consider the clones as fully human, but as purely expendable. (Of course, in all the Lucas movies we never see the Storm Troopers as anything but faceless expendables.)

This is hardly an argument against cloning in the current debate - "Hey, dude, didn't you see Star Wars, man? Who cared about the clones there? Nobody, dude. So don't you see, cloning is bad, man, it like, makes people into machines, ya know?"

But it is a curious experience. Thanks to John for the thought.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:59 AM |

Friday, June 07, 2002  

A Zero Sum Movie

This review at NRO illustrates my points about the movie (here) - The Sum of All Fears - perfectly. It is bad, bad, bad!

posted by Mark Butterworth | 2:54 PM |

Thursday, June 06, 2002  

A Dilemma - What to be or what not to be? That is the question.

Robert Bauer (link at right) aka HokiePundit is wondering again. Here's my thoughts:

I'm not sure that Jesus or his first disciples are really advantageous role models. (Wait for the howls of protest to die down, Mark.)

Let me put it this way - if Jesus' program was that we should all abandon ordinary lives and walk around without sandals, a second tunic, staff, or pouch proclaiming the kingdom of heaven - then we're all in trouble.

Jesus apparently said a number of impossible things when we see them as prescriptions rather than descriptions. Many of Jesus' sayings can only work or apply in the kingdom of heaven - the next and perfect life. For instance, give to whoever asks without return; if a man asks for a shirt, give him your coat also.

We can do these things, but only to a relative extent. If someone asks me for my car, I'm not going to give him my house, too (or my car, either). But in heaven, I can trust in a new and perfect world - want my house? It's yours. Need a shirt? Here take my coat, too. Anything you see that you like, I would be honored to give you. Nothing is withheld.

So Jesus was describing heaven, not earth as we must now live in it. Even all the saints generally end up with "stuff". If not property in their own name, in their group's name. Look at the wealth of the Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits, Benedictines, etc.

I would not discourage anyone from seeking the cross of a vowed life in community (or as a hemit), but family life is a crucible, also. Yet, Paul is right - the cares of the world and responsibility for others tends toward making the faithful divided (not so much in loyalty) as in attention. The work of faith is prayer. It is prayer which makes us develop. (No, I don't mean constant repetition of Hail Mary's either.) Prayer requires devotion - time to practice it. (Which is why people absent themselves from felicity awhile - become monks and nuns - to get time to pray and work out their salvation.)

Therefore, it stands to reason that family life and financial occupation tends to rob a disciple of time for devotion. (And a practicing or regular sex life really does bring the spirit down to a more earthly posture. A sex life makes one less spiritual in nature - in this world. Not to sound too New Agey, but sexual activity does draw energy away from spirit and attaches us more strongly to the sensual. It seems to release energies and desires that would otherwise go toward prayer and introspection. A person just having engaged in sex may be joyful, thankful, and gracefully thrilled, but he or she is not really prayerful - not in the sense of being worked upon by God for transformation or the seeking of insight into his mysteries and nature.)

The way of faith is a way of reflection and introspection. A working life does not make that impossible if one is single (monks and nuns work, after all). One can also have a family, and live a reflective, fruitfully prayerful life, too. But it is very difficult (if not impossible) for one to do both and advance in their faith by much.

Thus, it helps to be rich or independant in means if one wants a family and to follow Jesus. (Even ministers have this problem - hence celibacy in the Catholic Church).

Life is Work

Then there is the further task of learning a trade of one kind or another. That requires great devotion also, if one wishes to be good at something, particularly if one's trade is creative and complex. Excellence (greatness) is required of us by God, and to become excellent demands intense effort and devotion. As such, attention to work will adversely affect a family life, if one is serious about wanting to become excellent in his field.

So a young person has three great conditions before him or her: 1) Learn a trade; 2) form a family; 3) serve God - work (minister), study, pray.

I have no idea what Robert's strongest preference or inclination is. A lot depends on how much suffering can one endure. Life without a family can be unbearably lonely. We were made, after all, for society and human intimacy; and as animals, the lack of such produces severe emotional agony unless God consoles us and mitigates the sense of loss and heartache.

That's one major reason we see so much alcoholism in the Catholic priesthood along with sex scandals and financial theft. (One big secret the Church is hiding is the level of alcoholism among priests, and how that breaks down inhibitions and leads priests to indulge their sexual desires.)

And so, serving God is not necessarily rewarding and satisfying - it's a very lonely profession. For Protestant ministers, also, I think. Most such servants do not fare well or advance far in faith, I fear (to stress the alliterative).

Most marriages, though, are not especially happy either. There are certainly many happy moments in the best of marriages, but the sad fact is that communion between men and women in this world is not absolutely possible - and so we substitute commitment for communion (and much good comes of it) but satisfying intimacy remains elusive. Having loved ones around us helps deter loneliness, but does not entirely eliminate it.

Greatness at work, though, is the least good of all good things, for work desires recognition in some important respect - either financial reward (a measure of value), fame and reputation, or delight in what goodness flows from it for others sake (such as in good works of charity which make one feel good or art which lifts spirits up).

Tough Love

If one values comfort over crucifiction, I suppose one would choose the family and work life - the safer course - although there are certainly no guarantees about that (but odds are determinative). If one chooses the radical course of risk - you can be guaranteed you will suffer a great deal, and likely end up a lonely, embittered fellow.

What I would keep in mind, though, is what Jesus said. "Seek first the kingdom, and all these things will be added unto you." In other words, God knows what you need and will give you everything if you are patient and devoted to following the course of faith (and knowledge of God). It's worked for me, for the most part.

The crunch is that how do we determine where to start a course of risk which places our trust in God?

It starts with a dream of the person you would most like to be in twenty or thirty years. Once you have an image of the man or woman you want to most resemble, you then figure out the best starting point on the journey to being that person - and then you start.

In your image, don't include a mate, children, or position in life. Only consider the exact kind of person you most want to resemble - and then figure out where such a person would begin his career of becoming such a wonder.

If you do that, God will show the way or place to start - and it will all feel natural, commonplace, and relatively easy.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 8:04 PM |

Tuesday, June 04, 2002  

Heaven to Betsy

Roy at Dispatches from Outland (link on right) has a beautiful exposition on the nature of the kingdom of heaven as a message and not merely about a messenger. Here are two paragraphs:

This is a great paradigm shift: "The cross act was first narrowly interpreted as mere vicarious suffering and then mistaken for the whole of the redemptive action of God. Christ's life and teaching were therefore noessential to the work of redemption and were regarded as just poignant decorations for his cross, since his only saving function was concieved to be that of a blood sacrifice to purchase our forgiveness." (p. 36)

The message of Jesus was of new life; this includes but is more than forgiveness of sin. For early believers, resurrection was the central fact of the Gospel, not crucifixion. It proved the reality of new life in God's kingdom. Life = Salvation (see John 10:10, 1 John 5:12, Eph. 2:5)

In a number of recent discussions with Catholics, I keep coming up against this wall of belief that implies - me and eucharist and that's all I need; that's how the job gets done.

Many ignore the fact that Jesus had no need of the Eucharist and managed to work his way inside the kingdom of God and into the heart of wisdom. He preached repentance, forgiveness of sins, and the Kingdom of Heaven adding a number of cautions and helpful hints.My experience is that people get a whole lot farther with that Jesus than the dead guy on the cross in frozen agony shouting out in silence - I did this for you!

John is right when he says that unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it will not bear fruit; but I do not believe that Jesus was a suicidal fanatic who planned his own death (and sought it out) in order to prove a point (and win Lordship.) We may sympathize with his agony and passion, and even feel guilty about it since we're the same kind of people who did him in; but his living message ought to be more important than his death and resurrection. That is what he lived for, after all. To talk to people about goodness, truth, reality, and being; wisdom, hope, charity, and faith.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 8:07 PM |

Monday, June 03, 2002  

The Sum of All Fears - Proves to be true. All my fears about this movie were realized. It's terrible.

As a way of avoiding the seventh Laker-Kings game yesterday, I went to the movies. I'd read Clancy's book years ago, then heard how they'd changed the story and feared they ruined it. Then a local reviewer gave it high marks.

Tom Clancy was listed as an Executive Producer (a job description I've never heard explained. Get a title and pocket a bunch of money for doing nothing?). Well, Tom watched his story castrated, gutted, and made ludicrous.

I won't give details of plot away except to say it makes no sense. I don't recall the original story very well except that Arab terorists get their hands on a lost Israeli A-bomb and get it into this country and explode it. All I recall is the race to catch up to it before it goes off - ohh, too late; so sad.

In this movie, the leaders are idiots and surrounded by idiots who all shout bomb them! bomb them now! Although Ryan (terribly played by Affleck in that he's not believable as a former marine, Phd. in history, or very intelligent seeming) has crucial information, which he got from one government agency, and relayed it to the CIA, but no one seems to be able to inform the President (or notices) that they have solid facts for him to base decisions on. The very moment he needs the best communications, he goes incommunicado in rage. No one can reach him with any facts of the bombing (except our hero eventually in the most absurd way).

The explosion of the A-bomb is way cool and believably frightening (echoes of 9/11 give it power), but we see little of the actual destruction or loss of life (and at the end of the movie it's all a picnic on the White House lawn as if Baltimore, a mere few miles away, were not in smoldering ruins).

A Russian commander, bought and paid for, sends off a fighter wing to attack with no one in higher command noticing. Lots of things like that occur. This is an incredibly stupid movie which makes no sense in the least as plot. Granted that any contemporary thriller has to contain some improbabilities to launch a plot, but this is not a launch but an abortion. It's bad, bad, bad.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 8:01 PM |

Sunday, June 02, 2002  

Not Gene nor Bruce

I once read about a study which hypothesized that homosexuality was caused by an imbalance of hormones in the womb. Too much testosterone and female rats were homosexual. Too much estrogen and male rats were homosexual. I've never seen any follow up studies to this one I read about.

One interesting aspect of this if it happened to be determinative is that it would make homosexuality curable (perhaps) by monitoring hormone levels and compensating for imbalances with some type of therapy.

No parent except a twisted one has ever wished their child to be born a homosexual, and so it is a condition that would be wiped out (or made extremely rare) by advanced societies. What would advocates do then? Proclaim a war on medical technology that would make homosexuality extinct?

If I did some googling, I wonder if I could find reference to any such study as I recall reading?]


A little research reveals this article saying: Prenatal hormone exposure also has effeminizing or emasculating effects on rats. In one study ( 5 ), adult male rats displayed lordosis (the typically female act of submitting to being mounted) if they had been castrated at birth and perinatally injected with estrogen ( see figure 3 ). These rats' chemical make-ups therefore differed from normal male rats in two ways. First, they were deprived of the appropriate amount of testosterone which would have normally been produced in their testes during infancy. Secondly, the amount of estrogen (a primary female sex organ) which the rats were given would not have come close to the amount of estrogen naturally produced in male rats.

"Normal male rats displayed normal mounting behaviors as adults, regardless of whether or not estrogen was administered. The male rats which produced testosterone appeared to be "immune" to the estrogen injected into their systems. Only the castrated rats (whose bodies had no testosterone) were affected by the estrogen. Thus, one can deduce that the presence of sex hormones appears to determine certain sexual behaviors in rats, particularly in relation to mounting or attempting to be mounted. "

"The research team of Vom Saal, Grant, McMullen and Laves ( 10 ) offers another potential cause whose basis is also rooted in prenatal hormones. Fetal female rats were seen to have higher levels of testosterone if they had been situated between two male embryos in utero . The reception of testosterone from adjacent brothers was enough "to alter (a female rat's) behavioral phenotype"( 10 )."

This article - Why Am I Gay? - is a more accessible compendium of various theories, research, and animal behaviors on the subject.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 2:43 AM |