Finding A Better Way: ‘Clear Thinking’ On The Election

photo-1454705337505-6568e503db44I had a Twitter conversation today that made me realize I was arguing from a point of weakness–where I didn’t have the upper hand. Since I wasn’t able to find a point of strength, I called off the verbal sparring match.

‘My candidate is bad, but your candidate is worse, and here’s why,” so far, has not led to any productive conversations. I learned a few things about my candidate that weren’t good–but I already voted for him in the primaries, and haven’t wavered from my support, for the most part. So anything good I hear about Trump already reinforces how I feel, and anything negative I hear about Trump, I typically chalk up to bad media coverage, of which there has been plenty. That’s my habit. Occasionally I’m surprised by a bit of journalism–actual effort into being impartial messengers of facts–even if it’s against my candidate. Such times are few and far between.

In other words, I am not operating from a position of reason or impartiality. So I’m looking for a better way.

I can’t say in good conscience, ‘Well, you have your candidate, and I have mine,’ because I don’t believe they are equally good. I believe Hillary Clinton would be devastating for the country–but I can trot out as many facts as I want, and they won’t convince someone who has already decided for Hillary (or not-Trump). Trump is a flawed candidate, but I still see him as the best bet for a variety of reasons, none of which will convince a Hillary voter.

What else is left? I can set up a sort of strawman argument about ‘the undecided voter’, but I don’t really believe that such a creature exists. Everyone loves to think of themselves as objective and rational. I think that’s a fantasy, and an unhealthy one, to boot. I’m leaning more towards Scott Adam’s assessment that ‘undecideds’ are simply Trump voters who don’t know it yet. Or, at least, I’m crossing my fingers.

So what can I do in this situation, as a believer and a Trump supporter, to legitimately add something of value to conversations? Trolling the trolls is a guilty pleasure of mine, but when I run into the occasional thoughtful soul, how can I help? Pretending to be nonpartisan or objective would be lying to you, and telling lies doesn’t help anyone.

An Irritatingly Practical Take on Scott Adams’ ‘How To Fail at Almost Everything And Still Win Big’

9781591846918_custom-550e5a01fbd83824c7be8bf5c59523b8586e2afb-s6-c30I just finished How To Fail at Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, by Scott Adams (yes, the Dilbert guy, or as I like to think about him now, the Persuasion Guy).

Since my recall isn’t perfect, I decided to share the concepts that I remember from that book–stuff I’ve already internalized and implemented to some degree. Maybe this will help you. If not, in my mind, I got invisible karma points for writing something on my site.

Insights I gleaned from the book will be in bold face, so you know what to expect.

Systems

First, systems. Goals are for losers, systems are for winners. If you have a goal such as, ‘I will lose five pounds in six months,’ that is a goal and will fail because humans have a limited supply of will power. If you can find a way to take will power out of the equation, and a way to convert your goals (‘lose weight’) into a maintainable system (‘be active every day’), you are on your way to success.

I have a number of pounds to lose for my ideal weight. But goals don’t work, and going to the gym by myself sucks. So I took will power out of the equation: I signed up for a martial arts class.

The reason this takes will power out of the equation is that it is scheduled: I know on Monday, Wednesdays, and Saturdays that that is my time to go to martial arts class.

This also adds a shame element: I know that if I’m not there, my instructor will ask where I was. If I tell him, ‘I felt lazy, so I stayed home and learned my class changes on World of Warcraft,’ that I’m going to feel ridiculous.

The other thing I know is this: when I go to class, I will feel good because I spent an hour hanging out with winners. When I see the instructors, who are black belts, demonstrating their takedown methods, I look at that and a system is formed in my mind: if I stick with this, ‘that will be me someday.’

Something that also helps is that everyone there is encouraging when I try something, no matter how bad I look doing it, so I keep my fat ass in motion, even though I look like an elephant learning ballet.

Hacking My Brain

Scott Adams calls humans ‘moist robots’: when you add an input to a computer and you will get a predictable output. If I add good food to my body, get enough sleep, and maintain a positive mindset, I will feel great and have energy. The opposite is predictable.

Another point: If I add a new skill, I double my chances of success exponentially, and luck has a greater chance of finding me. I didn’t understand this step when I first heard it, but it ‘clicked’ this morning that I was already doing part of it: reading and listening to audiobooks.

 

There are a number of notable books I’m reading right now: besides ‘How to Fail…’, there’s Gorilla Mindset, which also involves practical psychology, two G.K. Chesterton books on theology (Heretics and Orthodoxy), and Musicophilia, which I picked up at the library–psychology plus music equals some serious win.

All of these books I am reading will help add new skills to my life. I expect that reading and applying these principles will make me more marketable and eventually happier.

Health and Happiness

Apparently our health and happiness are intertwined. Martial arts–pushing my body to near-breaking point and building up physical and mental discipline–will certainly help. I’m also prioritizing food based on whether it makes me energized or sleepy. I was doing this to an extent before–I’ve determined protein from red meats, peanuts, and steamed broccoli help give me energy and they boost my creativity, whereas salads put me right to sleep and cause gastric distress. I don’t know what the long-term effects of a mostly-protein diet will be. I do know. however, that weaning myself off of fried foods is helping (the more you eat fried food, the more you crave it, and fried food makes me need a nap afterwards).

I now eat dark chocolate just about every day, as it’s a healthier substitute for candy, which I used to constantly crave, and Scott Adams says he eats it, so I can blame him if I feel like I need to. 😉

Of course, I’m still taking and adjusting my medicine as my doctor prescribes, in order to keep my emotions steady. If you’ve never wrestled with a panic attack or sudden-onset, non-situational depression, it’s no fun at all. I expect the need for medication will decrease over time as I become more healthy, but if not, that’s all right.

Conclusion

I believe this book will prove to be one of the more life-changing books I’ve read. I’ve learned quite a few practical things from it, and I expect to recall more as time progresses. Highly recommended.

Some (Probably) Unhelpful Observations On White Tribalization

I couldn't find a picture that perfectly represented whiteness, so here's a lumbersexual.
I couldn’t find a picture that perfectly represented whiteness, so here’s a lumbersexual.

Not too long ago, I read an article, which I forgot to bookmark, on why white people shouldn’t tribalize. I skimmed the article, and when I found it to be a meaningless bit of political correctness, quickly dismissed it. But the idea did stick in my head.

I’ve been in quite a few different Christian circles during my years of Charismania, and one of the more strange and amusing things I’ve heard is Christians saying that they have found their ‘tribe’. The handful of times I’ve heard the phrase, it’s been white American Christians who said it, and it’s always been funny to me.

This idea of ‘white tribalism’ has always struck me as weird. Is there a such thing as white people forming a ‘tribe’, like Africans, Native Americans, or other cultures? It’s a funny idea to play with in my head, like an irregularly-shaped bit of sanded, colored glass. Those of the ‘politically correct’ persuasion will say that such things sound like the KKK. I just think it sounds weird.

The only time I find the paradigm of ‘tribalism’ halfway useful is when I hold it up as an abstract idea against the metaphorical background of Christianity, specifically the Body of Christ–and when I look at the Body, I don’t see a ‘tribe’. In my emergence from Charismania towards Anglican orthodoxy, I’ve found that being united with others of ‘every tribe and tongue’ a much more useful idea than being a part of an isolated ‘tribe’. Israel was a nomadic tribe before the Tabernacle of David and Solomon’s Temple, but once Christ came, did Christians become nomads? I think Christians became a family, God’s family, and when they attempted to institutionalize Christianity, things went seriously awry. Where Christianity became compartmentalized (cloistered), it became useless. Where denominations were formed, wars started, either physical or ideological or both, and resulted in nothing good

It’s hard for me to take white or black supremacists seriously any more, because I understand their paradigm to a degree, but find it completely useless. Biologically, I am a person of English and Irish descent, so I have fair skin that burns easily, and I live in America. I’m angry at the American government, and I’m voting for Trump. But I don’t identify with ‘white people’, per se, because ‘white people’ is such an odd term. It brings up images of 1950’s nuclear families or ‘white trash’, both of which don’t describe me at all. I think of myself as either an American, or a Christian, or an Anglican. Playing around with different labels for myself is a fun thing, because I’ve never found one that adequately describes me. I think that might be a providential thing.

I feel sorry for those who don’t feel like they have a tribe, or a culture, especially white American Christians. Christian orthodoxy, for me, has been a journey into the Body of Christ, an entrance back into true Christian culture. Where I felt disconnected before, the weekly participation in the Sacraments and the daily conversation with fellow Orthodox Christians (those of Catholic and Anglican persuasion), along with the musings of writers such as G.K. Chesterton, have made me feel connected again, part of the Body, part of the Vine again. I think that’s the way it should be.

(In writing this article, I attempted to find a way to extend it to apply to unbelievers, but couldn’t find a way to accomplish that. I guess you can form whatever groups you like, but I don’t think you’ll find any deep, lasting, heart satisfaction in any ideological other than that of the family of God, the mystical body of Christ. Any other paradigm is subject to the changing whims of man, tossed about on the seas of moral uncertainty.)

Rooting For The Home Team (How I Talked Myself Out of Schizophrenia)

photo-1417716226287-2f8cd2e80274Note: This article is about mental health. I am not a doctor. Anything you will read here is from my personal experience as an ex-crazy and should not be taken as a recommendation. I urge you to seek a medical doctor if you are dealing with similar symptoms. 

Someone thought a Twitter observation I made earlier today was good. Since I agree, I’ll re-post it here:


image backup

For the longest time I wondered why I heard voices in my head, telling me to do weird things–nothing harmful, but strange. I did have the desire to kill myself for a long time, a desire that mostly disappeared back in 2007 at a church revival. But I would hear things in my head, grandiose ideas like forming a company or a church or whatever, and even though I was nearly too loopy to remain employable, period, I thought it was the voice of God, or (the discouraging voices) the voice of Satan, and so I was an utterly miserable person. Continue reading “Rooting For The Home Team (How I Talked Myself Out of Schizophrenia)”

White Guilt and White Privilege Is Virtue Signaling, Self-Centered, Racist, and Is Not Helping Anybody

photo-1437125827287-55d26ddee785A former cult I used to go to–it calls itself a ‘house of prayer’, but it’s a cult–is brainwashing all of its people to speak about white privilege and white guilt.

Every single one of you white people who are spreading this lie of white guilt and white privilege are racist as hell. You’re self-centered jerks who are virtue signaling. ‘Look at me! I’m not racist!’

You are not helping.

Why the hell are we not listening to the words of Martin Luther King Jr.? He had his own problems, but dammit, this is essential.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

NOT BY SKIN COLOR. BY CHARACTER.  NOT BY SKIN COLOR. BY CHARACTER.  NOT BY SKIN COLOR. BY CHARACTER.  NOT BY SKIN COLOR. BY CHARACTER.

How many times should I say it? How many times are we going to listen to the lies of groups like Black Lives Matter?

Black Lives Matter is racist as hell. Supporting Black Lives Matter is racist as hell. Saying Black Lives Matter is anything but a bunch of troublemaking terrorists is racist as hell.

White guilt: Racist as hell. You’re focusing on skin color. You’re continually apologizing because you feel guilty. Your feelings of guilt ARE NOT HELPING.

White guilt says, “Look at me! I’m not racist! We’re sorry! Look as us!”

You aren’t helping black people one bit.

You want to know how to help? Get the hell out of your comfortable homes, stop hanging around your racist friends, black or white, and help. Stop spreading these lies of white guilt. Saying ‘sorry’ for something that happened 100 years ago or 1,000 years ago, DOES NOT HELP, unless you are actually doing something.

There are plenty of inner city ministries you could help with. Go feed the poor and the hungry. Move out of your comfort zone. Oh, here’s an idea: realize that there are many, many poor people who are not black. White people are poor. Indians, especially (Native Americans), have been treated terribly for years. But apologizing doesn’t help. DO SOMETHING.

Stop voting for Democrats–they’re racist as hell, and Democrats only want to keep black people poor. Democrats always destroy inner cities. Detroit was destroyed by Democrats. Flint, Michigan—destroyed by Democrats. The KKK was formed by Democrats. They have always been racist. Get off the Democrat plantation.

White people: Shut the hell up with your white guilt. Stop it. Saying ‘sorry’ doesn’t help. Don’t vote for Hillary, she’s a liar. Don’t vote for third parties, you’re wasting your vote. Vote for Trump. You think he’s racist? You’re feeding on media lies. Look up Mar-a-Lago. Stop being racist yourself. Stop being stupid.

White privilege and white guilt is virtue signaling. It doesn’t help one bit. It is self-centered and a lie from the pit of hell. You want to help? Give to the poor. Stop focusing on yourself.

What ‘Clear Thinking’ Means

While I sort through various mental detritus, I thought I’d take a self-serving moment to define what this blog is about. (And what’s more appropriate for a self-serving post than a self-serving song to go with it? ‘Stephen Stephen’ by The Apples In Stereo isn’t about me, but it is a catchy song, and it spells my name the same way I do.)

‘Clear thinking’, the phrase you’ll see across the header of this blog and my social media accounts, is something I strive for. It doesn’t mean that I necessarily have clear thinking on all things. It’s just easier to say than ‘striving for clear thinking’. But having lived through nearly four decades, being on the recovering end of a nervous breakdown, and having the perspective of a former Charismatic and Republican, I think I have a few things to say about Jesus, politics, and mental health.

Every week, it seems, I will get into verbal fights with others on Twitter, mostly with liberals, occasionally with liberal Christians (the most contradictory and annoying creatures on the planet). They call me names and I’m not always polite in return. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find confrontation like that fun, on occasion. It adds spice to an otherwise boring life. And in the end, I hope that my arguments are persuasive. Jesus didn’t mince words when talking to the Pharisees about their hypocrisy and lies. I’ve been ‘mincing’ less and less lately. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s necessary in order to wake people up.

Politics

You can vote for Hillary if you want to. The Democrats are determined to destroy this country by replacing its native population through amnesty, welcoming every Third World person into our fold. They are determined to take our Second Amendment rights away, which means that when said immigrants become violent, as statistics prove, that we won’t be able to defend ourselves. And Democrats are determined to remain in power forever, by ensuring that far-left Supreme Court justices can strike down any law or restriction put in place to curtail the moral rot that has infested our nation.

You can vote for Trump. He will likely come in like a wrecking ball–sorry for that image of Miley Cyrus–but he will shake up establishment rule and most likely guarantee a different future for our country–and just about any vision for this country is better than Hillary’s. Making America Great Again is much better than Making America Even Worse.

You don’t have to vote if you don’t want to. #NeverTrump-ers are delusional, as is anyone who claims that Trump and Hillary are the same. (They’re not.) But believing lies–or telling yourself lies–enough times will convince you that the lies are true, and you have the right to be an idiot.

Jesus
This isn't me.
This isn’t me. I wouldn’t mind if it was, though.

As a Christian, you can continue to do nothing about the moral rot in our country. You can continue, passive, while liberals take away our rights. You can continue, idle, while Christians are murdered in the Middle East. I, for one, cannot stand being idle–but I don’t know what to do about these things. I honestly have no idea. But I know things can’t continue as they are.

You can continue to live in doctrinal error. I left the Charismatic movement–anything claiming to be ‘Spirit-filled’ or ‘independent’ or ‘non-denominational’ or ‘prophetic’ behind, and became an Anglican. I wanted roots in a lasting tradition passed down from the Apostles, the Nicene Creed, the Sacraments like communion, and grounded in Holy Scripture. While I recognize that Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodox churches are probably closer to the mark, I’m not ready to give up the link to Protestant theology. We’ll see what happens. All I know is that I’ve found a home in the Anglican tradition, and I’m much happier there. I feel like I’m putting down roots, instead of the feeling of not being connected with the Body of Christ. It’s a wonderful place to be.

Mental Health

I used to be really, really messed up in the head. It was undiagnosed and untreated mental illness that led to my nervous breakdown a few years back. I didn’t know how to ask for help, and when I did ask for help, the church we were going to would try to cast a demon out of me, then treat me as a second-class citizen the rest of the time. I didn’t know why I was depressed and wanted to commit suicide for so long. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me–why I felt like I was constantly being torn apart from the inside–until my doctor put a label on it: anxiety. I never would have known.

Throughout the experience of my breakdown and subsequently working with family and counselors to putting the pieces back together, I’ve learned a few things: besides the fact that being mentally ill sucks, I find that many, many people in the Church suffer from mental illness, and they don’t know it.

They act weird not because they have a demon, but because they have bipolar disorder or another chemical imbalance. I’m not ruling out the existence of demons–certainly the Bible has a few things to say about them–but I think that the vast majority of cases where someone is called spiritually oppressed is actually untreated mental illness. There’s a stigma attached with mental illness. Nobody wants to be around a crazy person, even in the Church. It’s my job, my responsibility, to help shake things up, to get people in the Church to realize that these people need help, and that casting out a demon and calling them fixed, or keeping these individuals out of sight of the public, isn’t going to work. I am working on myself so I can not only become an authority on mental health, but also to get the people skills necessary to persuade others that it’s vital for these individuals to get treatment–they don’t just need sympathy, but they need to get their lives back so they can life happy, healthy, and productive lives.

Conclusion

This is what clear thinking means to me: a progressive revelation of who Christ is, understanding humanity, and understanding myself. In order for me to promote clear thinking, I have to become clear in thought myself. I can’t say that I’m ‘there’ yet, nor do I believe in this lifetime that I will ever truly reach a ‘there’ (we’re always learning!), but I believe that I will progressively become a more knowledgeable person and will be able to help others who are in need. That’s another part of clear thinking: knowing that something needs to be done, and knowing how to make it happen.

Fire In The Bones, or How I’m Defeating Writer’s Block

photo-1445820258694-73a1d5609fb9It feels so good to be writing again. Writing, for me, is more than a hobby, it’s a passion that I am completely miserable without.

I found this tweet by Eugene Peterson (most notable for the popular Bible paraphrase The Message) to be quite agreeable:

eug

The language ‘fire in the bones’ comes from Jeremiah 20:

If I say, “I will not mention him,
    or speak any more in his name,”
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
    shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
    and I cannot.

The best hobbies are the ones you’re passionate about. Try a lot of things, and if you find one where your personal energy levels are raised, go after it. My ‘thing’ is writing. If I’m in a good mood, there’s a creative spark there, and if there’s the creative spark, I can write all day long.

I find that I am at my most creative when I’m happy. There’s a chapter in Scott Adams’ book on happiness. The whole chapter, indeed, the entire book, is great, but here’s a tiny snippet:

Let’s start by defining happiness and agreeing on what causes it. My definition of happiness is that it’s a feeling you get when your body chemistry is producing pleasant sensations in your mind. That definition is compatible with the science of happiness…

Based on a lifetime of observation, my best estimate is that 80 percent of your mood is based on how your body feels and only 20 percent is based on your genes and your circumstances, particularly your health.

While Adams discounts antidepressants because of their side effects–and believe me, I totally understand that–I’ve found them to be necessary in my life in order to function day-to-day. Apparently I have a chemical imbalance that causes me to be depressed and anxious as a baseline. It doesn’t help that my diet has been poor and I’m far too overweight, but I am gradually improving my diet and exercise habits. Long-term, I expect my mood to get better as a baseline so that the medicine will work better. Perhaps someday I won’t need medicine at all, but I don’t condemn myself for needing it. Apparently many, many people are on some sort of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication. I’m just one of many.

When I’m miserable, I find that I can write occasionally, but the times where I’m most miserable are generally my least productive times. Through this blog, I genuinely want to help people, and if I am just posting depressing stuff all the time, how will that help anyone? But if I can post scripturally sound articles that come from a place of emotional balance–a place of strength–then I can genuinely help people.

I encourage all of you–especially Christians–that if you’re not happy, that you work out why you’re not happy. Get a physical. Talk to a doctor. Talk to a counselor. If your baseline reading in life is ‘unhappy’ or ‘depressed’, there is something wrong. People of a creative bent–and I believe everyone is creative, but some folks don’t know it–will always be unhappy if they’re not creating. And if you’re unhappy, I believe you’ll ultimately be less creative, in a long-term, positive sense. We all know plenty of stories of unhappy creative geniuses who died of drug overdoses because of their misery. Perhaps if they were physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy, they would have been happier, and they would have lived longer, even more creative lives, producing artwork out of that happiness that made others happy instead of depressed.