A Penny for Your Thoughts

There is an old saying, “A penny for your thoughts,” which was usually uttered to somebody who was in deep contemplation.  It might be “a hundred dollars for your thoughts” today.  Typically, our thoughts are kept to ourselves since they are not meant for public scrutiny.  Some thoughts may be so mysterious, provocative, and controversial that we would not reveal these thoughts for anything less than a million dollars.

I never had significant control over my thoughts.  I can remember when I wanted to beat others up.  I can remember when I wanted to have sex with beautiful women that I saw.  I can remember when my thoughts were outrageous, but fortunately I never acted on many of my thoughts.  I felt that I was better than others who lost control and committed murders, rapes, assaults, burglaries, and other deranged acts.  However, I really was not better than anybody else, because I had given in to deranged thoughts.

In the Beatitudes found in Chapter 5 of Matthew, Jesus emphasized that we must have clean thoughts.  I always believed that if I believed in God and did not, in fact, commit adultery or other bad acts, I was a good person, who would be eligible for God’s kingdom.  But Jesus said that lusting for a woman is committing adultery in your heart.  This goes beyond being saved by believing in Jesus as the sacrificial lamb for our sins.  This goes beyond being saved by doing good deeds during our lives.  It reaches into a completely new zone where only a small percentage will tread.  Jesus instructed us in Matthew 7:14 that only a few of us will find this narrow path to Heaven.  Only those few with clean thoughts will pass through the gate.

I would guess that all of us have allowed our emotions to invade our thoughts.  We all have been angry at some point during our lives.  I know that I have been, especially when I have to scream “representative” a hundred times in order to talk to a person on the phone.  But Jesus said that anger could place us in jeopardy of not reaching the kingdom.  Jesus appears to be telling us that our thoughts will be our primary activity after we die.  Our thoughts may be the pathway to everything that happens to us from our death through eternity.

So, let’s stop and think about what Jesus may have been trying to say.  We know that when we die, we will either be thinking or not thinking.  Jesus appears to be saying that all of us will continue thinking whether we believe in God or not.  Those of us who are thinking bad thoughts will be judged accordingly.  Probably there will be just a few of us who will be thinking good thoughts, and these will have a better chance to pass through Heaven’s gates.

It actually makes sense if you think about it.  If you are still thinking at death, your thoughts will be what take you in whichever path you follow.  If your thoughts are clean, then you will take the high road; but if your thinking is faulty, then you will be on the low road.  And the scary thing is that your good thoughts could turn into bad thoughts at any time during the process.  By linking and unifying with God, you will have the best chance to stay on the right path.

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

One of the major complaints from atheists, agnostics, and even religious people is that God should not allow bad things to happen to people, especially good people.

Now, I would like to start our investigation into why this is a ridiculous complaint.  First of all, bad things happen to everybody, whether they consider themselves as good or bad.  And why do you believe that you are a “good” person, anyway?  If you consider yourself as being a “good” person, you are certainly less than humble, and most likely your pride has taken you to the “bad” side.  In other words, there may be no “good” person on our planet.

Perhaps, you would like to change the title of this article to “Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen, At All?”  This certainly avoids the difficult proof that you are a good person.  It focuses on God as being the culprit who allows bad things to happen to all of us.  We certainly cannot accept any of that blame!

Well, this takes me to my second point.  God, the Creator, more than likely, does not exist in His creation.  One of the few scientific laws is that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed in our universe.  In other words, creation occurred outside the boundary of our closed universe.  If all this is true, God can only create outside His creation.  And it is likely that God does not want to intervene or interfere in the evolution of His creation.

And my third and final point is that there should be consequences for “bad” people.  Why would God need to change that?  My guess is that God created the universe with “free will” and He allows us to make poor choices every day.  He does not prevent us from making bad decisions and also experiencing “bad things” because of those decisions, and most likely God will provide additional consequences outside the universe, if we are lucky enough to enter His kingdom.

Asking for relief from “bad” things that will happen to you is the same thing as asking for forgiveness for future bad acts.  It is a bit premature to request avoiding consequences in advance of your committing sins.  It is a much better act to thank God for the “bad” things that happened to you, hopefully making you a better person.  And also thank God for the “bad” things that will happen to you, reminding you to avoid those bad choices.

All this is the preliminary stage during your life, leading to the final judgment.  And again if “bad” things happen in the afterlife, then I will accept that as my fate because I was a “bad” person during my lifetime.

Now, many Christians will say that I am not a Christian because I believe that we all will face a day of consequences for our poor choices.  Christians say that Jesus died for our sins forgiving the bad decisions that we made during our lives, giving us safe passage to heaven.  I believe that too, except I must add an adjective… “…giving us safe passage to the first heaven.”

I am a Christian existentialist.  I believe that Jesus died for our sins so that we could enter the first heaven, which probably separates the believers from the non-believers.  Unfortunately, as Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 12:2, there are three heavens.  The Bible is very clear about there being a Judgment Day with consequences, which probably will be associated with one or both of the other two heavens.

Free Willy

In 1993, “Free Willy” erupted on the movie scene.  It was a story about a young boy who befriended a killer whale, who was going to be killed by the aquarium owners.  The boy risked everything in order to set the whale free.

Free will is something that we all have.  We sometimes take it for granted.  Many times, we misuse our free will.  Sometimes, we even forget we have free will and we just march along behind the crowd without giving any thought to our reasoning behind the choices we make.  So, it is time that we risked everything and freed our will.

It is only when we recognize and fully appreciate our choices in life that we are truly free.  The majority of people get stuck in a rut of everyday work and everyday home life.  They become robotic in their movements and thinking, if you want to call it thinking.  A better phrase is “mind numbing.”

In the big cities, most people just follow the crowd into the subway going to work, walking along the busy sidewalks, pouring into crowded elevators, and sitting down at an office chair in a cubicle with harsh lights overhead.  In smaller cities, most people grab a cup of coffee, drive the same streets to work, park the car in the same spot, and greet the same people the same way in what may be termed a “Groundhog Day.”  Do any of these people appreciate their choices in life?

Even when the light bulb comes on and we make conscious decisions, what is good and what is bad?  Ethical enlightenment shines brightly on free will, but we still will make decisions that may be considered as bad by society or by laws or by family and friends, or even by us.  If you are simply following guidance from others, including parents, peers, or society, you are not making personal choices.

Although this statement may be controversial, I believe that we must commit sins and sink to a depressed state as part of the process of attaining freedom.  Certainly, being trapped in a lifestyle of evil and regret or even being trapped in society’s drudgery and daily grind is like being a slave to sin.  Freedom is a personal decision to stop making bad choices.  In order to do this, we must think outside the box without even touching the box.  Your thinking must belong to you and you alone.  Your decisions must belong to you and you alone.

Since I have never met anybody who hasn’t sinned, everybody has made poor decisions.  The first step is to admit that you have a problem.  Leave your excuses in the box that you are not touching any more.  Now that you are outside the box, face your frailties and weaknesses with a stern self-discipline that will not give in to temptations.  It is the awareness of sin and the appreciation of your control and power to make good choices that leads to exercised free will.  It is when you free your will.

We make decisions based on many things:  peer pressure, society, laws, family, how we were raised, our experiences, our personal desires and needs, and our personal moral fabric.  Many professionals argue that we make decisions based on genetics, while others maintain that we make our choices based on our experiences.  Nature vs. nurture.  As a practical matter, it doesn’t matter.  It is probably a little of both, but the bottom line is not nature or nurture.  The bottom line is you choosing what you want to do and then doing it.

Now, the tougher question is:  What is good and what is bad?  And who makes this call?  Well, I believe the answer is that you do.  Your peers, family, and society can go to hell.  It is your call based on what you think is right and wrong.  Now, it may be true that some people are so mentally disturbed that they truly don’t know the difference between right and wrong, but you do know the difference.  So, you should be held accountable for your selections.

What do I mean held accountable?  Do I mean by police and society?  Well, in some cases that is true, but I am talking primarily about how you think about yourself and your decisions when you look in the mirror at the end of the day.  And not all people will react the same way.  Some criminals have hardened their hearts to making bad choices.  But, they too will be held accountable some day.  But held accountable by whom?

Well, society and its laws may provide consequences if they are ever caught.  But I am talking about significant punishment after death.  How do I know there will be consequences?  Well, I don’t, but I do know that there must be a reason why we are the only animal on the planet with free will.  It would be absurd if we were provided free will and there were no consequences.

We have little control over the objective world, but we can make good decisions in the subjective world.  The journey to understand our inner self is very important because that may be all we take with us if we are still thinking after death.  Your free will may be put to the ultimate test in the afterlife.

For example, what would you do if you were offered a pain-free afterlife if you participated in torturing other souls?  You might even justify this based on your belief that the other souls committed worse sins than you did.  But if your conscience allowed you to do that, you might find yourself in Hell.  In order to travel through the afterworld, you will have to unify your self-discipline and thinking with the Creator.

Even if you die and that is the end (in other words, you are not thinking), making good choices will improve your life and the lives of others in the world.  It is a good thing no matter what, so there is no downside to making good decisions.

Walk a Month in Their Shoes

It might prove interesting to live another person’s life for a month.  I wonder what it would be like to move from your comfortable three-bedroom suburban home into a one-room apartment with a common bathroom that you share with three other tenants.  Would your new neighbors consider you an easy target for robbery or rape?  Would you be able to survive for a month?

With drugs and alcohol in widespread use, society’s protections are breaking down even in the suburbs.  But moving into a neighborhood with very high crime and drug use will raise red flags even higher than you could have imagined, coming from your middle-class background.

Now, liberals might say that this is exactly what you need to experience for empathy, while conservatives might say that this is exactly what you need to experience to throw these people in prison.  However, the truth is more likely that you need to experience this new type of living in order to understand why you are not liked.

We typically want to be liked, so we work hard to be kind and generous, expecting the same treatment in kind from those recipients.  But after living in the seedy side of town for several weeks, you will come to resent those who live better than you do.  And if they come into your neighborhood with free food and warm clothing, you will see some of them patronizing you.  Instead of liking them, you will despise them.  They will appear to act like they are better than you.  That does not leave a good taste in your mouth.

If you walk a mile in a poor person’s shoes, you will return home with blisters because your feet probably weren’t tough enough to use their cheaper shoes.  And if you see others walking with better shoes, you will not be happy for them.  You will dislike them and their shoes.

So, what does all this mean?  Well, perhaps it simply means that good people on earth should not expect those who continue to commit sins to like them.  Why should they?  The good people remind them that they are leading a bad lifestyle.  And since the bad people may have an ugly future ahead in the afterlife, they should at least have the best of times on earth during their lifetimes.  They should be able to sin as much as they want on earth, because if they are already sentenced to be punished after death, the consequences will not be that much different by continuing their sinning.

And sinners should be able to torture and make the good suffer on earth if the opposite applies after death.  Why should the good get the best of both worlds?  If the good go to Heaven and the bad go to Hell after death, then the bad should be able to experience Heaven during life and the good would experience Hell as long as they live.

And please understand:  I am not saying that is the way it should be.  But  I am saying that if the good stood inside the shoes of the sinners, they might have a completely different perspective of how bad people view good citizens.  They not only don’t like them, but they sometimes want to hurt them and make their lives miserable.  Walk a month in their shoes and you may find out why.

So, why should the sinners stop sinning?  If you have committed sins, it may even be easier for you to continue committing those same sins and even higher sins.  So, why stop?  Well, I suppose that the best answer is because none of us know what happens after death.  The best case for a hardened criminal is that nothing happens at death.  Everything just stops.  However, that is not likely in a recycling universe that has no end.

So, assuming that something happens when we die, what could it be?  Well, most likely we will still be aware of our surroundings.  It probably will be different than what we experience during life, but we may still be thinking.

And if we are still thinking, what will we be thinking about?  We probably will not be distracted by television, family problems, work issues, spousal demands, or whatever else fills your day.  We may be thinking about all the bad things we did during our lives.  Thus, if we had stopped sinning, we at least could feel good about ourselves.  And of course, if we believed that Jesus died for our sins, then we might not think about them at all.  Quite frankly, many Christians would still regret and recall their sins.  It is natural to carry remorse for your bad acts.  But you should still turn all your sins over to God and thank Jesus for His sacrifice.

Even if you gave all your sins to God and did not recall the bad choices you made during life, you would still have to appear before your Creator on Judgment Day.  Nobody knows how this judge-alone trial will proceed, but there most likely will be consequences.

So, the bottom line is that we all should examine ourselves and not our neighbors in order to prepare for both the rest of our life and our afterlife.  It is much more important for you to walk a month correctly in your shoes.  And however you walked in the past may have consequences, but you can minimize that punishment by the way you walk in the present and future.  And if you unify with God, you can walk with God.

 

 

 

 

Introspective Thinking

Have you ever stopped to think about how you are thinking?  It is really quite unique.  Your senses detect everything going on outside you and bring it back inside you for evaluation.  For example your eyes view the world like you are watching a movie.  Your seat in the theatre is somewhere inside your body as you watch the events play out on the big screen.

Your thinking is also somewhere inside you.  It is not surprising that we are focused on ourselves.  Everybody else is outside our movie.  They are actors, and we are the primary customer.  The price of the movie ticket is our life, so we expect to receive the rewards and benefits from that payment.  Other people don’t view life from our perspective, so we are more important, of course, from our standpoint.

When we look in a mirror, we see ourselves more as an actor than as a paying customer, but our thinking is still generally focused on us as an individual, who is more important than the rest of the world.  But what is the reason behind this introspective thinking?  Some people may ask why do we even exist?  It seems that nobody has an answer, but logic tells us that free will is given to us as part of our internal perspective on life.

We make choices every day.  Many of our choices are made to improve our quality of life.  Some of our choices are very poor and lead to consequences during our lives.  Others are bad selections that will have to be dealt with after our lives are over.  Many hope that there will be no afterlife since they don’t want the consequences.

However, it is more likely than not, that there will be something waiting to judge us since otherwise, free will and introspective thinking are quite absurd.  There would be no reason for them.  Otherwise, we would simply react instinctively like others in the animal kingdom.  If our universe has design, free will has to have some reason in the grand design or it makes no sense.  Why are we the only animal with introspective thinking?  Why are we given the freedom to make decisions if there are no evaluations of those selections?  There is no logic for free will without consequences.

Even though quantum mechanics centers on chance activities, our visible world that tests our free will is based on measured decisions with consequences.  For every action or choice, there is an equal and opposite reaction or consequence.  This does not appear to be the case in the quantum world, which provides many opportunities in its game of chance.  But quantum mechanics does not negate God and consequences.  In fact, God could have created the quantum world to keep our universe recycling for eternity, which could be a punishment, in and of itself.

How do I know that afterlife exists at all?  In other words, how do I know what happens when the movie of our life is over?  Will I still be sitting in the seats in a darkened theatre?  Or will the projectionist start another movie?  Or will I walk outside into another world?

Quite frankly I don’t know, but I am reasonably certain that if our thoughts do not end with the movie of our life, then there will be consequences.  How will the consequences play out?  Again, I don’t know.  We may be thinking in a dark, empty theatre, punishing ourselves for all the bad choices we made in life.  Or we may be starring in a new movie, being punished through a process of reincarnation.  Or we may meet the Projectionist or the Creator, who has consequences awaiting us.  But as long as there is any chance at all for their being consequences, then we should work harder on making good decisions.

Good and Bad

What is good and what is bad?  The answer may vary from society to society or culture to culture or even person to person.  However, most of us have a pretty fair idea of what is good and bad based on our instincts and experiences.

Yet, our species delivers the best and worst of all in the animal kingdom.  It is remarkable how the same person can be exceedingly good for a moment and, in the next second, extremely bad.  What causes Homo sapiens to flip flop between these extremes, sometimes without a transition?

One theory is that our emotions carry us back and forth from one extreme to the other.  If we do not control these emotions or if we have mental issues, such as being bipolar, this can happen quite often.  Most citizens attempt to moderate their emotions during good times, but this can change when times become difficult.  This can also change when people give in to temptation.  For example, a man who led a boring life with his wife found a more exciting woman at work.  The man would do everything good that he could for his wife, and then he would run to his extramarital affair without breaking stride.  How could the same man do good and bad?

There are cases of next-door neighbors, described as quiet and passive, who turn out to be serial killers.  Even though these are the exceptions in society, we still find many people who are nice and generous, who turn into angry, hateful citizens with little warning.  That is why it is very dangerous to rely on just dating for a few hours, several days a week to tell you all the need to know about a person.  You have to live with that person 24/7 in order to find out if they have a good-to-bad switch.  Alcohol, drugs, money, and sex are some of the typical triggers for the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde complex.

Other animals do not appear to have these emotions that drive us to extreme positions.  Fear, envy, love, lust, anger, and hate are just some of the far-flung emotions that drive us to doing things that we normally would not do.  Let’s examine a man who becomes obsessed with a very attractive woman.  He might initially have been afraid to talk to her, so he may have watched from a distance.  Then he may have envied the gentleman who dated her for a week, but he might have loved her once they stopped dating.  This love may have turned to lust as he thought about what he wanted to do to her.  Then he might have become angry because he could not have her, which could have turned to hate when he decided to kill her.

So throw emotions on our free will to make choices and it is like throwing kerosene on a fire.  Homo sapiens are different from other animals in that our decisions are clouded by emotions.  Most animals act on instinct and primal needs to obtain food or procreate.  People are all over the board, depending on which emotion is pushing the action.

Q. Why can’t we exercise more self-control?  A. Probably, because emotions are similar to drugs.  They take over your mind and body, pushing you into taking extreme actions, usually bad.  The best approach is to “just say no to emotions” when they first pop up.