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Don’t assume.  Assumptions make an ass out of you and me.

An old saying and one I have used a time or two. However, there is a problem with it.  It is impossible to live a life free of assumptions. Making assumptions is a constant in our lives –assuming that the person approaching the red light as you go through an intersection is going to stop, assuming your spouse is not going to slip you poison in your meal, assuming the person you are next to in the produce aisle of the grocery store is not going to pull out a knife and start stabbing you, assuming that gravity is going to work as it always has as you walk, assuming that you will wake up tomorrow and that the laws of nature are not going to suddenly change and what once worked no longer does.  Even science is based on assumptions.

So, instead of condemning all assumptions what we should be doing is taking a look at what constitutes a good assumption, a bad assumption, and how to use assumptions responsibly.

The first thing to realize is that there is one way both good and bad assumptions are the same.  Both can and will be wrong at times.  The difference here being that good assumptions will be wrong much less often than bad ones .

To illustrate how good and bad assumptions differ, I am going to use a real example from my own experience.  A person I know believes that I think all white conservatives are Christians.  So,why does he assume this?

Mike Pence

His primary piece of evidence is that I assumed that he was a Christian.  And I did, in that he is correct.

Now, he is also white and very, very conservative, two pieces of information I also knew.  From that, he assumed that I believed that all white conservatives are Christian.

However, I would point out that this was his assumption, that I was using his being white and his being conservative to conclude he was Christian.  It was a wrong assumption though.  Instead, this was my assumption process on this:

  • We live in the United States. Most Americans are Christian.  The last poll I saw had about 75% of Americans stating they were Christian.  Sixty two percent claim membership in a church organization.  Just from that alone, the odds favor those assuming that any particular American is Christian.
  • During our many conversations he expressed support for many positions held by conservative Christians. For example, a strong opposition to abortion. Other areas included a belief that the whole trans movement was ridiculous and wrong. Support for bakers who refuse to bake wedding cakes for gay couples.  And others.
  • This person believed in Intelligent Design. Again, a widely held belief by many conservative Christians.
  • Now, he also supports separation of church and state in the schools. But, I know of other conservative Christians who do the same.
  • In regards to abortion, gays and trans, and Intelligent Design, other religious groups also hold those same beliefs. But, I knew from our conversations that he was not Muslim and not an atheist. Which meant he was most likely either a conservative Christian or Jew.  And given the numbers, Christian was the most likely.

This is what I would call a good assumption.  Several accurate facts that work together to support that assumption; the first hallmark of good assumptions.  It was wrong though and he told me so (remember what I said above about how even good assumptions can be wrong).  When he told me he was not a Christian I changed my belief due to the new information.  I would say that although my assumption was wrong, I was not wrong to make it initially.

But this example also illustrates the responsible use of assumptions – being willing to change them when new information comes along.  This is another hallmark of good assumptions, the willingness to change them if new information comes along.

Now, with this person, I explained why I had thought he was a Christian.  Despite this, he did not change his assumption that I did so because he was a white conservative.  Instead, he introduced a second data point.

We had been discussing how child marriage is not just a Muslims thing, but happens here in the US too.  Among Christians. And is legal all too often.  I mentioned a state that had recently voted against banning child marriages.  I can’t remember which one other than it was a southern state – so, lets just say it was South Carolina.

He accused me of believing that I thought that the Christians did this because the representatives were white conservatives.  Yeah, I know. Kind of my reaction too.

Now,  I will admit it was an assumption that those voting against eliminating child marriage were Christians..  But it was based on the fact that:

  • This state is a very religious state, Christian religion being very strongly predominant.
  • I know that the vast majority of elected officials are Christian – both at the state and federal level.
  • From past history and my readings, I know that those who do not want a lower limit set on when a girl can marry tend to be both conservative and religious, including Christians. With this is the fact that of the religious groups supporting this, none has as much sway and power as the Christian groups.  .

The above seemed like the basis for a good assumption. However, when challenged, I dutifully went and looked at the religious affiliation of every state representative who voted against limiting the age of marriage.  This is the third trait of good assumptions, the willingness to check them out.  And this time, when I did, guess what?  My assumption was valid. They were all Christian.

So, this was the supporting evidence given by this person for thinking I believed all white conservatives are Christians.  The problem with his assumption are:

  • I never mentioned race at all in any of this, which makes his inclusion of white in this rather puzzling.
  • My basis for both believing this person a Christian and for believing that Christians voted against limiting the age of marriage were not based on them being conservative and white, but upon the facts that I already mentioned above.

In other words, the basis for this person’s assumption were not firmly grounded.  It was a poor assumption.

I went over this with him at the time.  And then I added the final fact showing that this assumption of his was wrong.  I have personally known and have read the writings of white conservative atheists.  I mentioned names of some of these, and even showed that there were white atheists who voted for Trump.  Given this, how could I believe all white conservatives are Christian when I know of white conservatives who are atheists, and have personally known some for literally decades?

Despite this, he persists in believing that I think all white conservatives are Christian.  A trademark of those who make poor assumptions, and then hold them poorly.  Irresponsibly even.

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Recently I have noticed something that various disparate groups have in common:  climate change deniers, Biblical literalists, creationists, Constitutional literalists,  and most recently, Trump supporting conspiracy theorists.

While I am sure that they may share many traits in common, the one that I am looking at now is their belief that there is a plain and simple way to read words, even words grouped together in sentences and paragraphs and pages.  That such meanings are obvious and that anyone who doesn’t see the plain and simple meaning is either blinded by their own ideology or do not want to admit they are wrong.

going up or down

Going up or coming down?

This was brought home to me by my recent discussions with a Trump supporting conspiracy theorist.

Now, this person would and does say they are not a conspiracy theorist, that they have laid out the facts and timeline and are following clear and obvious facts; and that it is only my desire not to admit mistake or commitment to a certain political and social beliefs or hatred of Trump that prevent me from accepting what is obviously true.

The facts for the most part consist of words arranged in sentences, and statements reported in the press.

This person claims that the sentences’ meanings are obvious.  However, when I look at imagesthem, I see other possible explanations besides the one this person prefers. Of course, mine are wrong and just justifications and excuses and speculations while theirs are factual and actual.  I, obviously, do not want to admit the truth.

This person believes in literal meanings.  They believe it for the Constitution.  And for this.  They think that there is one and only one way to understand these words.  Never mind that they are often devoid of context that would help make the meaning surer and clearer.  And by context, not only the other words before and after, but also situational context.  All of that makes a difference.  But, not to Trumpian conspiracy theorists, creationists, biblical literalists, constitutional literalists and climate change deniers.

I must say though that this makes their arguments much easier for them.  Instead of trying to evaluate the situation and context of those words when challenged, they just say that it is obvious and no interpretation needed.  Just a plain and simple reading of the words.

Consider this though, that even when speaking to each other we often have to explain or say again in different ways; we misunderstand or don’t understand clearly what is being said.  There is at least a little back and forth, questions and answers.  And this is with the benefit of being able to hear tone of voice, see facial expressions and body language.  How much greater a problem is this lack of understanding with the written word?

Some things to consider for those who think that words do not need to be interpreted, that their meaning is plain to see, and that you are a fool blinded by ideology or ignorance to think differently.

The Bible is an atheistic book.  The Bible says so.

What is the one plain meaning of the word bark?  Or nails? Or Jam? Or stool?  Or….

Here’s a good one, showing how when words are woven into sentences and those sentences then applied to others and then to the world, there is not a simple and plain meaning.

“To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

So then, what laws are necessary and proper for carrying out “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States”.  Plain and simple still?

Or what constitutes a religion, with all the Constitutional protections granted such things?

indexThe list goes on and on and on.  And it goes on because the idea that there is one plain and simple meaning that can be agreed upon by all reasonable persons is largely a myth.  There are few such things, especially when you move beyond simple descriptive statement such as red and blue (although even there are differences when the colors start to shade).

You can get agreement with most reasonable person on many things, but, usually there is discussion and sometimes debate beforehand.  You do not usually get it straight off the bat – unless of course, you limit the circle of those who are considered reasonable to your own.

Which, of course, brings up the question of what is a reasonable person?  Anybody care to provide their interpretation?

 

 

 

End Note Not Really Related to the Subject Above, But Thought I Would Toss In Because I Wanted To and Found It of Interest. 

The  Trumpian conspiracy theory is getting large, convoluted,  and very interesting.  It would be more interesting and less concerning if our President were not a member of it.

However, it now includes, from what I can figure without doing more in depth research, a story of President Obama hand picking his successor, Hillary, and, through cheating, getting her the Democratic nomination and then working to discredit and do in Trump – with the help of a “weaponized FBI and intelligence agencies” and most of the mainstream media.  Recently I saw where John McCain has now been included as part of this story.  Why it missed its timing in regards to do in Trump with the Russian story I am rather unsure of.  But, it includes a cast of President Obama (master manipulator and the most corrupt President in history), Hillary (no more need to said about “Killary”), Lynch, Comey, Bill Clinton, and many others, including McCain now apparently.

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There are two things I note about most of the most fervid Trump Supporters – their short sighted impatience, and their fantasies.  It is something that I see again and again, and something I have to remind some of these fervid supporters of when I engage them (and which they promptly then ignore or forget – which means I could also add in the short memory of such supporters).  So, now to take each topic in order.

ON THE SHORT SIGHTED IMPATIENCE OF SOME TRUMP SUPPORTERS

By short sighted impatience, I mean that whenever we point out that something is not good, if the sky doesn’t immediately fall down and the fires of hell roar up to meet the falling skies, they laugh and mock.

“Hey, I thought you said the stock market was going to crash”President Trump Holds 'Make America Great Again' Rally In Iowa

“I thought you said our economy would be in ruins.”

“I thought you said that America would collapse.”

And so forth.

Now,  I am going to speak for myself (obviously), but I think most liberals and rational people would agree with what I say.  I never once said disastrous results would happen immediately.  In fact, I explicitly said in one to two years.   And so far I will stand by this – although truth to tell, I thought Trump would have yanked us out of NAFTA by now and be well on his way to a protectionist policies and actions.  He has made some significant movements that way, but not as far as I had thought he would.

But, it has only been one year.  And, as I said, I have seen movements and actions trending that way.

And here’s the thing.  The vast majority of human disasters do not happen immediately.  Events lead up to them and create the conditions for such to occur.  For example, our recent Great Recession was caused by many factors – international trade imbalances, lax lending standards and lack of adequate regulations on entities such as banks and other financial institutions, as well as US government housing policies.  I would add that President W. Bush’s tax cuts and Iraq war also contributed to the recession and caused us to increase our debt more than we would have otherwise to get out of it.

So, many things contributed to this disaster.  And each thing came about at different times, and none of them immediately caused the disaster.

So, no, I did not think that once Trump was sworn in that everything would suddenly fall apart.  For one thing, we were in a very good place economically and in the world.  Good foundations take time to wreck.

The same with the tax plan.  Yeah, I know most people are going to see some money back.  That is not the problem.  The tax plan is not going to help our economy much, if at all, and will be a long term problem.  Not to mention the basic issue of its lack of fairness. But, in the immediate future, for at least the next one or two years, probably a few more, not much is going to happen due to it.

So, short sighted impatience.  If it doesn’t flop immediately then we are chicken littles and rabble rousers and gloom and doomers.

No, not really. But, we can see the signs and events happening that will lead to a disaster.

Trump and company are harming our alliances.  And our reputation in the world.    That is a set up for something bad to happen.

And all the workplace safety regulations have improved safety and reduced accidents and deaths, and all the environmental regulations being cut so that now we are in more danger from toxic wastes, and other environmental hazards.  Keep in mind, not saying that they will happen immediately.  But, they will accumulate and have a cumulative impact.

Trump and company are busy eliminating any and all regulations that protect us – regular people – from big business.  And protect the United States from major economic problems, such as what happened during the Great Recession.  Has it happened yet?  No, of course not.  Never said it would.  But, the pieces are being put into place for such things to happen.

So, for any fervid Trump supporter who may be reading this – drop the” all is good now”.  That is not evidence against us since we are not talking about an immediate right now effect.  What we see are the building blocks of disaster being put in place.  And so often, disasters are just a numbers game.  You can do something unsafe and get away with it – for awhile.  But do it too often, and it will catch up to you.

Trump and company are increasing the odds that bad things will happen, both politically, in foreign affairs, socially, and economically.  The signs are there for those who look – and they are not that hard to see.  But, soon, in a year or two, they will become very much clearer.  Although I fear that during this time the fervid Trump supporters will come up with a conspiracy theory to blame it on.

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FANTASIES OF MANY FERVID TRUMP SUPPORTERS

It seems that many of the fervid Trump supporters just cannot understand why so many are so strongly against him.  So, rather than deal with the reality that Trump really is the worst president that the United States has had in modern times, and possibly in all of our history, they create fantasies about why we don’t just adore him, or at least give him a “fair chance’.

The first fantasy is that we were just upset that Hillary didn’t win.  In other words, we were sore, pouty losers.  I haven’t seen that  one as much now as in the  past.  So, good.

This one though is the one I see most often, because it is the one most often tossed my way.  They seem to believe we are offended by his fucking language.  Or that he is not eloquent.  Or that he is not polished.  In other words, they have created a fantasy of us as being weak willed nitwits who are just offended at Trump.

Now, I will admit that I am offended at Trump. But, not for the reasons they say.

I really don’t care if he used shithole or shithouse in that meeting.  I am not offended by those words.  I know of at least two very good Presidents who cursed quite often.  I am however offended at the lack of  knowledge and the prejudice his question conveyed.

While it would be nice to have an eloquent person as president, there have been many very good presidents who were not eloquent.  So, I am not offended at Trump’s lack of eloquence.

Election Protests WisconsinI am offended though at his ignorance and that he seems to believe he is not ignorant.  His lack of knowledge of government and policies and of the world are appalling and dangerous for a President.  His lack of awareness of his lack of knowledge means that he is not even going to try to learn.  That, I find offensive in the extreme.

I am not offended at his rough manner. There have been good presidents in the past who were rough.

However, I am offended at his lack of feeling for others – his mockery of those with disabilities, his attacks upon military members who disagree with him, his racism, his treatment of women.

And I am offended at his lack of morals.  I do not expect presidents to be pristine and pure.  But I also expect them to not profit off the government in the manner that Trump has been doing.  I do expect them to avoid conflicts of interest, which Trump does not.

Finally, politicians will lie.  It comes with the territory and to be honest, some of it is necessary for being a successful politician.  A totally honest politician is one whose career is going to be very short and very ineffective.

However, I do expect them to be honest most of the time.  And to correct obvious misstatements.  Trump is not and does not.  He has taken lying to new heights and never ever apologizes.

In short, I  know that there have been presidents who are rough, not eloquent, commonly used rough language.  While I might prefer differently, that is not why I am so utterly opposed to Trump and appalled that he was elected president.

No, I am opposed and appalled because Trump is the most incompetent president we have had in my lifetime, and quite probably in the history of the United States.  I am opposed and appalled because Trump is an immoral idiot who thinks he is God.  And because this God has such a delicate ego he is in constant warfare with a significant part of the American people.

So, if you disagree with me – fine.  Do so based on the reality of me, based upon what I actually say, and not your fantasy of me.

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Let’s face it, humans are usually shallow in their thinking and in their arguments.  It is something inherent in being human. This is especially evident when trying to defend a strongly held belief, position, or person.  And it is even more evident when that belief, position or person is wrong.

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One example of this shallowness is how often we only look at the form and not the content. We see some points of similarity and ignore the even more points of dissimilarity, the differences that make a difference.

One example of this is how often I have been told by Trump supporters to get over it.  That I sound just like they did when Obama was President and that now I know what it’s like to have someone you don’t like in the White House.

Now, on the surface, they are right.  I am complaining loudly and long about Trump and his actions.  Just as they did about President Obama.  We both complain and shout that Obama or Trump is going to ruin the country, do in our rights, and harm our standing. The form is the same.  However, the content is different.  In other words, the specifics of what was said matter and not just that they both are proclaiming doom and gloom.

President Obama did not confiscate all guns.

President Obama did not invade Texas under the guise of a war game.

President Obama did bring the country out of a recession and left it in much much better condition than we he started.

Trump has caused the US to lose the respect and trust of most of the world.

Trump has caused global tensions to rise.

Trump has rolled back civil rights protections for the gay and transgendered community.

Trump has cut back on environmental regulations that protect us and keep us from becoming what China is now trying to get away from.

Trump has worked to improve the wealth of the already rich.

Trump has shown himself to be just as much a liar as president as he was as candidate.

Now, I freely admit that some of the things I have said have not happened yet.  Emphasis on the  word yet.  I have said for most of these it would take one to two years before it would be obvious enough for all to agree.  Trump is not even one year in, so give it time.

Oh, and the investigation that I said was justified and which was blown off as so much nothing – well, it seems as if it was not nothing but very much something. And that too is only in its beginnings.

Now, I should mention that this form matching doesn’t have to be a point by point match as in my above example. Sometimes it can have just one point in common and it will be loudly proclaimed to be the same. Of course, this not only ignores the content, but also the many differences in form too.  And the space left from ignoring all of this – the content and the other aspects of the form – is then filled with baseless speculation and, often, lies – the stuff of conspiracy.

 

Saying that since Hillary had contact with the Russians for the dossier then that is the same as Trump’s staff contact with the Russians.  Never mind that the Russians came calling direct to the Trump campaign, Hillary’s was through the research of a firm paid to do research.  Which means that in Trump’s case the Russians controlled the information. In Clinton’s case, not so much.  And that is just one difference in the form and content.

emptyOr trying to equate Trump’s administration problems with the Russians to Hillary’s uranium scandal.  The only point in common is Russia.  However, Trump’s administration has been shown to be active with the Russians. In the Uranium one, not so much. They ignore the fact that this decision was made by a committee of which she was just one member. And the fact that most of the time, if not all, she had a representative attend and vote. And that Canada had to buy off on it too.

 

Don’t remember seeing all of those items in regards to Trump’s staff dealing with the Russians.  Which is why now you are getting those blanks in the form that I mentioned earlier filled in with a grand conspiracy theory.

So, the form may be very similar, but content matters more.

Something to remember the next time you have two people shouting outside your window at 2 am.  Before calling the police on both, listen to what each is shouting first. For the one shouting that the Ice Cream King will leaving his home on the moon and landing on your house – yeah, go ahead and call the cops. And check to make sure you windows and doors are locked.

For the one yelling, Fire, Fire, you may want to pause and consider their words. Especially if you smell smoke. Look beyond the simple, the superficial, the shallow.

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What does the word father mean?  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary (slightly paraphrased), a father is:

  • A man who has begotten a child.
  • God, the first person of the Trinity
  • Forefather, such as the founding fathers of the United States.
  • One related to another in a way suggesting that of father to child.
  • An old man – used as a respectful form of address
  • A pre-Scholastic, a Christian writer accepted by the church as an authoritative witness to its teaching and practice – called also church father
  • One that originates or institutes, such as the father of modern science.
  • Source, such as the sun, the father of warmth and light.
  • Prototype, such as the father of all libraries in the country,.
  • A priest of the regular clergy.
  • One of the leading men (as of a city) – usually used in plurals such as a council of the city fathers.

Wow, so many meanings embedded within one word.

words-at-work

Now, those wedded to the idea a person can read the words of a tract, book, articles, manuscript, religious work or political document and understand exactly what it means, will, upon seeing where I am heading with this, point out that while the word father does have many different meanings, which meaning being used is usually made obvious by the context of the word.  In other words, the words around the word help define that word.  And to an extent they are right.

However, words are not only understood as an abstract intellectual concept. In fact, most of the time they are not. People insert meaning  and values to those words.

For example, what a father is will be something quite different  for a woman who was raped and abused by her father since she was a young child versus what it will mean for a young man who had a loving father who played games and helped with homework.  Which means that how a person understands a word within a given sentence embedded within a paragraph that is part of a page which is just one page in an article or a book and all of whose words influence the meaning and understanding of that particular word is going to also depend on that individual’s own feelings and emotions in reaction to that  particular word.  And let us not forget, that each and every one of those words influencing the understanding of the word in question is also being interpreted and understood by that person’s past too.

Put that way, it is really rather amazing that we communicate as well as we do.

And all of this Is happening before we start applying that rather abstract understanding of a word in a passage in a paragraph, etc to real world questions and problems.  Thou 24stephensWEB-facebookJumboshalt not kill seems simple enough commandment when seen on a page, but what does it mean when faced with a 220 pound six foot man with blood in his eye as well as on his clothes wielding a machete?   What about a person running away from you with your money and jewels when you have a gun in your hand?  What about if you accidently kill someone by stumbling over your untied shoelace, bumping into that person and causing her to take a header down an up escalator?  Is that still a sin?  Or even a crime?

To avoid spending too much time and way too many thousands of words, let me just condense it to this: how we understand words, especially words that are accompanied by a great many words, and even more so when those crowds of words have to be applied to the world, are only partly objective. They also have a large subjective element to it, a subjectivity that is dependent upon a person’s:

  • Parents
  • Personal history
  • Education
  • Culture
  • Society
  • Political economic status
  • Own readings
  • Friends
  • Acquaintances, both of the friendly and not so friendly sort.
  • Movies
  • Music (one person I know was greatly affected by John Denver’s songs, another by Pink Floyd’s)
  • And anything else

So, to cut to the chase since I am now  trying to keep these blogs at 1000 words or less, what does this mean in regards to a definition of religion?  Which is, after all, the title of this blog.

A religion can be and usually is defined by its sacred works and doctrine. However, this never quite seems to nail it down. Take a look and you will find a great deal of variety within even a small seemingly well defined group of believers.  Even the most uniform of them will disagree on some issues. And some will prove to be more amenable to different understandings than others.   Which is strong evidence against the idea that there is some plain and literal reading to be had, and for my own view is that, while there are objective limits, they bracket a wide range of subjective understandings and interpretations.

For myself, I have read many works taken to be sacred by different religions – the Tanakh, Bible, Quran, Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching.  In every  one of the works I have read I found things I considered good and things I considered bad. Some of these were very very good, and some were very very bad.  How these often conflicting passages are understood and applied to the world is very dependent upon how a person choses to understand them.

6259220Given this, I think the most practical and relevant definition of a religion is that a religion is what its followers make of it – both as a group and as individuals within that group.

 

I believe that the most practical definition of religion is a religion is what its followers make of it. What they make of it is, of course, influenced by the history of that group, their society, other aspects of their cultures, geography, political and economic realities, and so forth.  To get even more basic, religion usually differs even between members of the same group, so that more properly a religion can be said to be what a follower makes of it.

For example, Rais Bhuiyan, the lone survivor of an attack by a man intent on getting revenge for 9/11, suing to prevent the killer’s execution because he believed the Qur’an required him to forgive.

Harman Singh, a Sikhs required by his religion to not take his turban off, taking it off and using it to help a young boy hurt in an accident.

And the list goes ever on and covers every variety of religion, and non-religion – Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Wiccan….

For me, I believe that often the most important definition of a religion is what does that person or group make of their religion. It is why, although very important, a particular religions sacred scriptures and doctrine are, to my mind, of secondary importance.

 

 

 

Well dang. 1,174 words.

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One of my pet peeves are people who believe in the literal meaning of almost anything. The argument is that people know what the words mean so there is no excuse for not understanding the clear and obvious meaning of whatever. Where I live the Bible and the Constitution are the most common items where this belief holds sway.  But it can hold true on other topics and areas too.

Just recently, a person used this argument on me in regards to the U S. Constitution. What follows is what I said to this person, in a slightly more organized and cleaned up (grammar and spelling, not what you are thinking) version of that response.

 

DictionaryYes, words do have meanings. However, when those words are applied to specific situations, fuzziness results. For those interested in science, consider it sort of a reverse quantum effect where instead of becoming more defined when measured or looked at, as happens with atomic particles, words become less defined and more fuzzy.

To illustrate this, let’s take a non-political, non-religious, and, hopefully, non-controversial example – colors. Haven’t most of us at some point disagreed with someone on the color of some object?  Is that dress red or pink, or is that car black or grey or Color testspossibly dark green. Some of you may have, at one time or another, looked at one of those  color perception tests where they lay out a large array of color circles– say blue on one end and green on the other with small differences going on in between. At what point do you say this circle is blue green, or that one green?  Yes, people can agree on the definitions of words, on the definitions of colors, but once you start applying that definition to what people are looking at, disagreements come about.

And that is the crux of the issue. Yes, people understand the dictionary definitions of words. But, in applying those definitions to the world and that understanding fuzzes.

It gets worse.

Words make sentences. Sentences make paragraphs. And paragraphs make pages.  Each rise in the number and ordering of words also increases the complexity of the meaning of those individual words since each word is modified and changed by the other words around it.   Because of this, when these masses of words are applied to the real world, greater fuzziness results.

Now, when talking about the Constitution, people who make this literalist sort of argument often also say that the reason people do not read the words as written is due to an agenda or politics or being lazy and not wanting to go through the process that the founders of this country created to change the Constitution.

However, these people never seem to consider the fact that the actual men who wrote Constitution-1250x650the Constitution disagreed, often strongly disagreed, on what those words meant and how they should be applied to real world situations.  One of many examples of this was the creation of a national bank.  Alexander Hamilton believed it to be Constitutional.  James Madison believed it to be unconstitutional.  Yet both men were there and helped in creating the Constitution. This fact alone should be strong evidence that it is not just a matter of reading the words and following them.

For another example, read a good biography of George Washington, especially his years as our first President.  He frequently worried and discussed what this or that passage of the Constitution meant and how it should be applied with his staff and advisors.  Although composed of well defined words, their meaning was not clear and simple to him. And he was the President of the Constitutional Convention.  Again, strong evidence that it is not just a simple matter of reading the words.  Words become fuzzy when applied to everyday life and reality.

This means that a person’s views of the world – of law, of the issues, etc. – are going to play a role in his understanding of what the Constitution means and says in regards to this application of its words or that application of its words.  There is no way it cannot.  But, and this is also important to understand, this does not mean that anything goes.  Fuzzy is not the same as having no shape or form.  A fuzzy boundary is not the same as no boundary.  Fuzzy means that the edges of meanings of the words are not clear and sharp and distinct, but are, instead, vague and blurred. This becomes even more true when they interact with the fuzzy meanings of other words.  In other words,  there is a great deal of room for honest disagreement and dispute.

As a final example of this fuzziness, let me use this a bit of this person’s own words in his comment to me; “we the people”.

This is a phrase used many times by people all along the political and social spectrum.  And each word of this phrase is easy to understand. And even the whole when looked at abstractly can be reasonably understood. But then try applying it to the real world, as I did with this person.

“What does that mean?  Do you include those who believe and think like me?  Or just those who think like you?  Do you mean everyone, rich and poor, educated and non-educated, communist, KKK member, John Birch Society, farmer, scientist, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, and Jew?  Or is its meaning more restrictive?”

Puzzled

 

I am sorry sir, but your meaning is not clear.

 

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I have been told I do nothing. That while on Facebook I talk about changes and issues facing our nation, that all I do about them is blog. I write the write but don’t do the walk. Usually this is when someone is in heated disagreement with me on an issue and are looking for a way to put me down, and minimize what I do.  Which, along with my experiences during Hurricane Harvey, got me thinking, and so this blog.

For myself, my critic is partially right. I don’t do any big earth shaking , country roiling , state rattling deeds. My words and actions are not going to inspire any great movements, or even any memories that will outlast me by much.  Which makes me just like most people.

However, that does not mean that what we do does not make a difference, or that the difference we make is unimportant.  In fact, one way of viewing this makes what we are doing the most important thing possible.

I know that when I view the actions and policies and statements of those who can influence and change the state, the country, the world, the bottom line of my evaluation is how will it affect people. Not people as a massive group, not people as an idea, but people as individuals. As persons.

And it is at that level that everyday people can and do make a difference.

Just a reminder 5

Stopping to help a person with a flat. Seeing a person struggling with a load and offering to help carry some of it. Pausing to let another driver in during heavy traffic.

Small things, everyday things, but they make a difference to that person at that time. They set a tone for our neighborhood, our town and help create our society.  Some examples that I personally know about during our time in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

A neighbor with a well has run a hose from her house for everyone to use since our city water is currently contaminated.

When out scouting for food and water, and too often standing in long lines, people share information and suggestions. There is water to be found there, that street is flooded, avoid it, this store is open until then, that one is not, etc.

People using grocery carts to take their water and food to their car returning that cart to those waiting in line instead of putting them in the parking lot cart corrals since there are no carts at the doors.

A co-worker with a swimming pool letting people know if they need water they can come get some from his pool – this was when we had no water, contaminated or clean.

On the neighborhood website, people in our addition offering help- from going to help clear the fallen tree, to passing on info about where to get water. One guy’s house flooded and another neighbor went right over with heavy duty vacuums to help clean the mess.

One woman got caught away from home when her street flooded and she couldn’t get back in. There was a litter of puppies trapped in her yard.Another woman managed to get through the water to the pups and rescue them.

And of course, this does not include the many people with boats and jet skis who rescued people from flooded homes.

Small things really, overall. Things that will be not only be soon forgotten, but are often not even covered to begin with. But, they helped someone, and made a difference for individual people.  Such actions not only create the bonds of a society, bonds which are essential for the survival of any society,  but are also the result of those bonds.

And this happens everyday everywhere in the US (and the world). It is not limited to times of disaster. Other examples from my life, my wife’s life, and from friends.

Having a stranger stop to help fix a flat on a rental car during a wet night in the middle of nowhere.

Providing a place to stay not just once, but twice to those displaced by tragedy .this-beautiful-random-act-of-kindness-was-photographed-give-this-awesome-guy-a-like-for-caring

Providing first aid to those injured by a tornado that was still there.

When seeing a man who had enough money for a gallon of gas but not enough to pay for the gas can the gas station insisted he had to buy instead of borrow – buying the gas can and the gas.

Paying the difference for a person in the grocery costs at the store when they were short of money.

Helping a neighbor look for a lost pet.

Along with other drivers who stopped, pulling a young man out of a car that had flipped just before it caught on fire.

And the list goes on. Nothing that by itself will change a nation. But done by the tens and hundreds of millions each day, they help cement the bonds of society. In all of the above, there was no concern about the person’s race, religion, gender, employment, or politics. Just a person in need.  And a person willing to help.

So, while it is well worth the time and effort to try to influence the ones who can shape and shift the country, to join together with other like thinking people to advocate and to press for needed changes, you and I can still make a difference on that most fundamental level, the person.

And as for my blog.  Well, even if I can just influence a couple of people with one or two of my blogs, cause a couple of people to think, or maybe even act, that would be enough. Especially since from small beginnings such as this, things can grow and grow large enough to make the bigger differences that so impresses people. But, probably not. And if it does wind up making a larger difference through a chain of hundreds of people, I will probably never know. And that’s OK.   I am fine with the small.

So, no, no earth shaking differences. Just small ones. And usually not original either. In Just a Reminder 2fact, the ideas embedded within my words here are not new, and have been expressed many millions of times by others.  But, then, perhaps they need to be. Just as a reminder.

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