Why Good Things Happen... At All
Likewise the flusteration and doubtrage when the blue meanies seem to triumph -- for nothing provokes doubt more than the appearance of injustice. Justice is implanted in our hearts, but only the childish, the stupid, and the left (I repeat myself) imagine that perfect justice can be achieved on earth.
But most people ask the wrong question, or look out the wrong end of the teloscope. As far as we are concerned, the question is not why good things happen to bad people, but why good things happen at all. Of course pleasant things must happen, but good things ought to happen, and the world of the ought begins where natural science ends -- the latter of which deals with the is only, and even then, the manner in which the Is appears to our senses.
Thus, if one is a flat cosmos materialist, then there is no mystery, since the only question is why pleasurable things happen, and pleasurable things happen because certain subjective sensations were selected by evolution in order to tell us when we are engaging in some life-enhancing activity that increases our chances of passing on our genes, like bashing in someone's head when they don't see things our way, or raping the next attractive woman who comes along.
But every conscious being knows that the moral order cannot be reduced to neurology and genes, any more than a great work of art can be reduced to its molecular components. Thus, if one is a materialist, then one must necessarily be a cynic, as the cynic is able to see through the naive people who believe in a fixed moral order. The cynic knows that these people are just fooling themselves -- or worse yet, just trying to manipulate and control others -- and that good and evil cannot actually exist.
Deep -- or even not so deep -- down, we all know that there are objectively bad behaviors, which negates the materialist's frivolous argument, but this has no impact upon him, since for him truth cannot exist either.
If the materialist is intellectually honest, he will have to acknowledge that Bach was just a musical con man, what with his sinister idea that the purpose of his music was to reveal the divine order, or that Abraham Lincoln was just a tyrant and demagogue who used the slavery issue to consolidate presidential power in unprecedented ways, or that Christians only pretend a fetus has some intrinsic value in order to gain control over women's bodies.
O, what is a troll but the lice on Bob's transdimensional vapor trail? But enviously suckling on the creativity of another feels good, so it must be right. We wouldn't know, but biting ankles must feel like an accomplishment to someone who has never seen a calf, knee, or thighbone.
Now, as far as we can tell, one of the intrafamilial squabbles between Judaism and Christianity -- but not really, as we shall see -- is over the value of action in isolation from the state of the soul engaging in it. We have heard Dennis Prager (Medved too) speak of this on numerous occasions, that in Jewish thought, the overriding concern is the value of the action, not the motivations of the person engaging in it. Thus, bad people can do a lot of good. "Charity and pride have different aims, yet both feed the poor," say the rabbis.
There is obviously some real truth to this, but I think that overall, taken in isolation, this is a morality intended for an earlier age. It is certainly not invalid, but incomplete for the spiritual aspirant who wishes to ascend beyond moral convention toward the source of morality itself.
Clearly, Judaism was a covenant with a people, a collective. This is perfectly appropriate, being that the individual as we understand it simply did not exist at the time of the Jewish revelation, which we believe was vitally necessary in order to create the context for the interior individual to later emerge.
This is not to say that the Jewish approach is negated by Christianity. To the extent that it is "transcended," it is only because it must be included in the Christian approach, just as Jesus said, i.e., that he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.
In our view, truly fulfilling the law would be to merge action and intention, heart and body, spirit and letter, words and music, man and God. There remain Christians who emphasize works, others who emphasize faith, but to the extent that we wish to become "perfect," there should really be a marriage of the two.
Nevertheless, man's capacity for autoflimflammery, or pulling the wool over his own I, is more or less infinite, so it is morally perilous to operate without the sort of external guide rails provided by a revealed moral code filtered through contemplative generations of The Wise.
Or, as Rabbi Zimmerman expresses it, To live outside the law you must be honest. Virtually all people need to be shown the good before they can see and know the good -- even though the good must already be "inside" in order to recognize it "outside." A life spent contemplating the Law in the manner of a Jewish sage no doubt has a transformative and purifying effect on the soul, for as the Yiddish saying goes, Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.
I can see how this operates in real time, since my five and a-half year old attends a Catholic school where his fresh dough is being baked in a really wonderful way.
This has direct relevance to our discussion of free will, for a good action that is forced is just as servile and unfree as a bad action, just as a dog that is trained to assist a blind person isn't really "choosing" the good. The dog could just as easily transfer its loyalty to Kim Jung Il, assuming he didn't eat it first.
Similarly, memorizing truth in a rote fashion can never be the same as possessing wisdom, no matter how true. To quote another rabbinical quip, "he falsifies who renders a verse just as it looks." Indeed, "for every answer you can find a new question." Thus the ironyclad Bionic adage that the answer is the disease that kills curiosity.
So intentions do matter, especially when it comes to the modern self, which is much more "interior." In a way, this is more challenging than merely engaging in outwardly good deeds, for it adds a whole new world in need of purification and sanctification.
For no sooner had this new interior self emerged, than a whole host of new evils flooded into the psychospiritual world, or at least exacerbated the old ones. With the modern self came the appearance of the kind of unlimited evil we witnessed in the 20th century, and which we now see in Islamofascism. Islam becomes combustible when merged with certain "ideals" imported from the modern West, among them, fascism and scientific technology. Imagine if, say, the ancient Mesopotamians had had access to weapons of mass destruction, and not just the modern ones.
Bolton agrees that "physically similar actions can differ internally." Perhaps most importantly, "the actions of conscious agents owe so much of their true nature to the beliefs and intentions with which they are performed." And it is on the level of intention that the Law (discussed yesterday) really becomes apparent and that "like attracts like."
This is why people are not united by common actions, but by a common spirit that draws them together into the same spiritual attractor. Even the blatantly anti-spiritual left operates out of a debased spiritual attractor that will be well familiar to Raccoons. We understand them perfectly, but they cannot understand us.
In turn, this is why there is a "culture war" in America, and why the frumpy no-labelists who complain that there is "too much divisiveness" are missing the whole point. John Edwards is correct: there are two Americas -- the material flatland of his Marxian fantasies, and the real one. In his world, theft is moral because it is detached from the moral order that he doesn't recognize to begin with. Which is how he became wealthy.
Bolton says that it is on the interior plane that we will especially see the effect of the Law, as we attract people and things into our life which share a similar "spirit."
For example, Raccoons who "stumbled" upon this blog and to its community were actually drawn here, "attractor to attractor," something that becomes increasingly clear as one's internal attractor develops in time. Why the trolls are drawn here is a different matter entirely, although for some, there may actually be a latent good spirit that was attracted here but which is concealed by their envy and intellectual deadness. For them there is hope yet, so long as the pilot light isn't extinguished.
Bolton goes on to emphasize that "interior" does not necessarily mean "private," and that the interior does affect the exterior:
"By virtue of the Law, actions and orientations are never merely private, despite appearances. Consequently, a manner of being which deepens the relation to God and universal values, and so identifies with a more concrete reality, thus interacts with the ambient world simply by being a part of it. This is to be the instrument of an action of presence which necessarily attracts proportionate positive action from the world, and so liberates potentialities within it which increase its order and stability."
Which is why the rabbis teach that a minimum of 36 righteous souls in each generation is required to sustain the world. Yes, that's all it takes to keep all the leftist do-gooders in check.
When the great Tao is forgotten, goodness and piety appear. --Tao Te Ching