Jason M. Wester

Jason M. Wester
Birthday
June 24
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My views are mine and mine alone. I reserve the right to be wrong, and I stand to be corrected. I appreciate honesty, authenticity, and independent, informed thinking. I try to enjoy the little things, but I'm not very good at it. My site is http://www.jasonwester.com

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AUGUST 15, 2011 9:16AM

I Believe In Reality

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Author's Note:  the following essay was written for submission to the thisibelieve.org archive.  This is the full version of the essay.  Submissions to the archive must be much more concise at about 500 words.

 

Remus and my girl
 

 

I believe in reality, but it seems silly to state such an evident belief.  After all, everyone, at least in some sense, believes in reality.  Most people realize that jumping off a skyscraper will result in one becoming painfully, if briefly, acquainted with hard concrete courtesy of the forces of gravity and electromagnetism.  In case you missed that day in science class, gravity is the force that carries one to the bottom, and electromagnetism makes one go splat.  Most of us understand that we are constrained by the laws of physics.  Most of us agree that there is something called reality. 

My mother, ever endeavoring to challenge my reality-based perspective, believed that once my first child was born I would be struck by the “miracle” of childbirth.  But after witnessing the birth of my two children, I see it as anything but miraculous.  I know that those children were formed when my sperm penetrated my wife's egg inside her fallopian tube, creating an embryo.  I know that embryo gestated in my wife’s uterus for nine months.  And when it was time to give birth to those girls, I saw blood and goo.  I heard screams of pain and I watched my wife struggle to expel those babies from her body.  And when they emerged, they were covered head-to-toe with a white greasy residue and a black tar-like excrement oozed from their anuses.  Far from miraculous, childbirth  was about as real as it gets.  No romance, no television-style gloss: childbirth is bloody, messy, gooey, dirty, and real. 

After my first daughter was born, the nurse took her to a table and cleaned all that residue off of her, swaddled her in blankets, and handed her to me.  I held her in my arms, saw her with my own eyes for the very first time, and I fell in love with her.  My heart filled the universe with its love.  And I realized, right then and there, that the stakes were different now.  I wanted something that I knew I could never have:  I wanted my daughter, beautiful and perfect as she was in my eyes, to live forever. 

I endured over a year of existential crisis from that experience.  I was overcome with the knowledge that, despite my wishes, one day she would die.  I struggled with accepting that reality.    I began to understand why people have the concept of heaven in the first place.  Millions and millions and millions of mothers and fathers have faced the very same realization.  They held the most precious thing in their arms and they wanted that precious thing to never die.

Today she is four-years-old, and she loves zombies (no doubt due to the influence of her old man).  We sit together on the sofa and watch zombie movies, and while we are watching them she will, during the particularly scary parts, scoot as close to me as possible, hug my arm with all her strength; we huddle together and comfort each other.  When the movie is over, we might play zombies before we go to bed, (she does a particularly convincing and cute zombie walk,) but, to my surprise, she doesn’t worry that a zombie might jump out of her closet.  She knows zombies are not real. She knows that, without my having told her, zombies are just made up to scare us, and being scared is part of the fun.

Almost all of us can make that distinction between fantasy and reality, so I am continually perplexed about the one area in which people seem to let fantasy dominate their thinking despite what their common sense tells them about what is real and what isn’t.  When people talk about life and death, the conversation often turns to fantasy.   On the subject of death, many people, perhaps the majority of people, pour their thoughts into wishful thinking, as if wishing alone can undo or reconfigure reality, make fantasy real.  They believe that death is not death. 

That sentiment is ubiquitous in our culture in the euphemisms people give to death, especially in the phrase “passed away”, a phrase that, whenever I hear it, sounds like scraping fingernails across a chalkboard or hearing my own voice in an audio recording.  Implied in those words is that death is not death, that people somehow do not really die when they die, but instead they move on to another realm of life.  If people pass away, they do not really die.  There is no such thing as death. 

Except there is.  Last year, I buried my beloved dog, Remus. He was the dog I always wanted.   He was a 20 lb. Boston Terrier that defied his small size.  He could do every trick in the book:  sit, down, fetch, play dead, speak, and he could catch a Frisbee.  People often marveled at the speed of this tiny dog as he chased down a Frisbee, jumped and snatched it out of the air.  He was full of life, intelligent, and he loved to be with me.  He was always by my side. 

When Remus turned 9 years old, his spine became grotesquely curved, and he became gimpy on his hind legs.  Of course, being that he was a well-loved dog, as soon as I noticed his symptoms I took him to the vet, where he was X-rayed, poked, and prodded.  The doctor found that he had a spinal defect which had been with him from birth.  As a spry young pup, he managed just fine, so I never had reason to notice it, but now that he was hitting his golden years, it had caught up with him.  Aside from experimental and prohibitively expensive surgery, nothing could be done.  The doctor gave him less than a year to live. 

A month or so later, Remus degenerated to the point that he could no longer support himself with his hind legs at all.  His appetite dwindled to almost nothing, and he lost so much weight that he was literally only a skeleton of his former self.  His moans and groans left no doubt that he was in pain.  I did all that I could do.  I gave him the medicine he was prescribed, and I put bacon grease on his food to make it more appetizing, but nothing seemed to help.  One night he pulled himself around in circles, as if he didn’t know where he was, and he wouldn’t be still, as if he was looking for something.  When I held him in an attempt to calm him, he yelped in a way that I’ve never heard before, nor will ever forget.  I realized he was looking for a way to stop the pain.   

Then came the clarity of knowing what I could do, the only thing I could do, to help him.  He had to be put down.  It was time.  I had done everything I could to prolong his life, but he came to a point at which I could no longer prolong it without his agony.  I had the odd experience, for the first time in my life, of knowing that the only loving thing to do was to have Remus killed. 

After an awful night spent listening to his gut-wrenching yelps, I took off work the next day, and my wife and I drove him to the vet’s office as soon as it opened.  On the cold steel examination table, I laid Remus on his side, and I kissed him, told him that I loved him, and that I always would.  I told him what I’d told him a thousand times before: You’re a good boy.  You are the dog I always wanted.  I love you. 

My wife Crissie did the same, and she held his head in her arms as the vet injected the lethal cocktail into his IV .  In seconds, with the stethoscope on his chest, the doctor told us his heart had stopped.  He was dead.  His pain was gone. 

I had bought a small duffel bag and in it I placed his favorite toy, his Frisbee, and the doctor placed him in the bag, zipped him up, and carried him to our car.  I drove his body to my parent’s house in the country, where at the edge of the yard I dug a three-foot grave and buried him.  Crissie took a chunk of stone and wrote Remus’ name on it with a permanent marker.  We cried and hugged each other. 

Crissie wanted my then three-year-old daughter to be shielded from that experience.  I wanted to her be there with us, to see the life leave Remus, to see that dead is dead so she would have no illusions about it.  She argued that we should shield her from that information at three years old, and I acquiesced.  But, had she known the relentless amount of questioning that would obsess our daughter over the next few weeks, I think she would have chosen to do it my way. 

“Where is Remus?” she asked, and without even thinking about it, when she asked me that question, I replied “He’s in doggie heaven.” But as soon as I said it, I regretted it.  It did nothing to answer her questions.  She wondered if she could visit heaven and see Remus again.  When is he coming back from heaven? Where is heaven?  What does heaven look like?  Why can’t I go there?

 Doggie heaven.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Wouldn’t it be great if Remus were in doggie heaven catching golden Frisbees and barking at the heavenly doors when someone rang the heavenly doorbell?  He was a good dog.  The best.  He was obedient.  He never ran away.  If ever a dog deserved to go to doggie heaven, it was Remus.  It is a happy thought.   But it is pure fantasy, and I would wager that almost everyone will agree with me on that point.  There is no such thing as doggie heaven.  When dogs die, they die. 

I wanted to teach my daughter the truth, so I took it back.  I said, honey, heaven is something people say to make people feel better about death.  When Remus died we all got very sad, so pretending he moved on to doggie heaven made us feel better, but there is really no such thing as doggie heaven.   Remus has gone back to the earth.  He died, so I buried him in the ground.   He’s decomposing under three-feet of dirt.    His atoms are moving on, to compose other things.  We will never see him again, but we will remember what a good boy he was. 

Then I showed her a dead beetle on the porch.  I said, see how this beetle doesn’t move anymore.  That’s because it is dead.  It will never live again.  Remus is just like that beetle.  He is dead. 

She understood.  Remus was gone, and he was never coming back. 

I can hear someone say, but what is wrong with the fantasy?  If it gives people comfort, what is wrong with it?  If it helps, it helps. 

No doubt about it, reality can be hard.  When one removes his wishful thinking, he has to confront cold hard truth.  He has to accept that death is death.  He has to accept that one day his existence will end.  But on the other hand, one has to take the bad with the good.  Life can also be amazing, filled with wonder and awe and love.  Filled with beautiful babies, smiles, kindness, and pizza.   

When we pour our thinking into fantasy, even with the best of intentions, aren’t we cheating ourselves out of a genuine opportunity to come to a better understanding?  Aren’t we deluding ourselves by hiding from reality?  Isn’t it preferable to be bold and aspire to strength and to accept the struggles with life, and death, as they really are? 

I believe that pretending death isn’t really death cheapens life.  As far as I can tell, we only get one shot at this thing called life.  And accepting that, I am giving life more meaning, more importance, than it has when fantasy dominates.  I become determined to be a force for good, to leave a legacy of goodness.  I become inspired to realize my potential.  I am more likely to love with all my heart, to savor each slice of pizza, to put my all into this life, not some fantastic and dubious afterlife.  I am less likely to waste time.   I am less likely to tolerate nonsense and more likely to pursue my passions.  If I just go on to people heaven, then all I really have to do is meet whatever religion’s requirements to get there, and then I’m done.  Aspirations, drive, determination, charity, love, professionalism, are moot.  The fantasy inspires the ultimate selfishness.  All that matters is that I get to heaven; all other considerations are irrelevant. 

Accepting reality means I no longer have to waste my time wishing that my daughters will live forever.  Instead, I can pay attention to them now and delight in watching them grow into women.  I can give them my all and teach them to live as though their lives depended on it.  Because it does.  We have to make this life count because it is the only life we will ever have. 

 

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I couldn't agree more, and I couldn't have said it any better. Simply beautiful. And *real*.
Thank y ou. This is the most beautiful and lucid piece I read here in a while, and it is very true to my heart.
A great piece of writing. I have a similar experience with a pet dying, and chose to end her life myself- an incredibly difficult but very necessary thing, given the circumstances. My children accepted the death of their pet with grace, and didn't need to be comforted with silly stories about "doggie heaven". Children are wiser than we think.
I am not sure I completely agree with your point of view. That said, this is an excellent piece of writing and is a great basis for leading an exemplary life, here, now and once and for all.

rated and regards
Echoing Terry W......Simply beautiful. Thank you for your clear eyed writing.
This piece is absolutely beautiful. You capture the balance of what my husband can never seem to properly express when he tells people he doesn't believe in heaven. Just because of that belief, it does not mean one does not find life beautiful. To most people, they day to him/us "how depressing." You defy that logic. So well done. You also put a few tears in this preggo mamma's eyes when talking about your daughter's birth. Thank you for such a fabulous read.
I can't say how much I appreciate the positive comments, which I didn't really expect. Thanks to all for reading and commenting.
This was a fantastic piece of writing from beginning to end. I wish that more had read it. As a therapist and as a human being, I've found that much of what I/we suffer with is the constant wrestling we do with Reality. And it's a silly waste of time because Reality always wins, always. Our stories can make us suffer more, or in the cases you were referring to, keep us in denial. I spent much of my life believing in an afterlife and finding false comfort in it. And I agree with you 100% on every beautiful life affirming point you made. I now only know that this is the only life I have or ever will have. While it makes me sad because I'm so greedy for life, my life is much more full since I adopted the stance, "I don't know." I wouldn't be so presumptuous to say that there is nothing else, but based on what science teaches us, it would be more than prudent to assume this is it. And if there's a surprise? Well good, I love surprises. Again, great writing. R
It was a very good day; a pivotal day. The day I stopped teaching them I began to learn from the teachers I had birthed. I am a student once again and thirsting for more than I can retain in this one lifetime. They began as mine; seeking approval, knowledge and joy. Now, the pleasure is all mine.
No, Jason, you are incorrect. There is a Heaven; and all dogs go there.

Why is it that you remain so fond of Remus? Aren't these emotions real for you, your wife and your daughter? Aren't they just as real now as when he was alive?

As you noted, all of his tangible remains are rotting beneath the soil you placed on top of them. However, it’s not these cells, jointly or severally, that you loved while Remus lived; and, thus, it cannot be these dead tissues that you continue to love after his death. Yet, that’s all there ever was of Remus relative to what your five senses could detect.

No, you loved something about Remus that was intangible. This part has survived and remains for your family to remember and to cherish. How is it that you are so certain that what you could never touch, see, smell, taste, or hear, but what you nevertheless loved, in Remus isn’t resident somewhere else other than your memory?

Trust me, you aren’t certain.

You aren't ever going to be more certain about the absence of this 'other place' than my offering is going to convince you of its presence. Yet, you deny its potential reality on the basis that it isn't detectable, when what you loved, and love, about Remus was, and is, similarly undetectable.

In several ways, your daughter seems to have deduced this aspect of animal existence. For example, she knows that zombies aren’t real. When the movies end, and the zombies are destroyed, repelled, frozen, or otherwise rendered static until the next installment, she doesn’t grieve for them, she doesn’t care where they are, and she doesn’t want to go see them.

This is because she never detected a part of a zombie to which she was connected as Crissie, she, and you were coupled to Remus. For all you know, even if zombies knocked on your real door tomorrow, your daughter might be more scared of their actual presence, but no more attached to, them than she is when she views them in the virtual movie world.

Yet, your daughter was perfectly ready to believe you about Remus in Heaven, even when it was clear to her that his mortal parts were no longer alive.

In denying this concept to your daughter, you may be shielding her from something that is as real as anything on a spiritual plane can be. You may be denying her the mechanism by which she can be hopeful that you and Crissie continue to exist in an afterlife during the grief that she will feel when her parents die.

You might remove from her the motivation to respect life that is deformed like Remus was, disabled like Remus became, or burdensome like Remus imposed. You might deprive her of any ability to recognize that what we love in others can never be physically sensed, yet survives death unaltered.

You would do all of this through an insistence that what remains of Remus is nothing more than a common memory. Perhaps you don’t know better; but I am guessing that your daughter does.

What remains is the argument that all dogs go to Heaven. This is true because what dogs offer their masters is given without condition, without reservation at any time, and without regard for themselves, ever.

Canines have a capacity to give to us what we cannot give to any of our peers, no matter what our relationship with other members of our species. This defect in humans opens the gates of Hell for us. This perfection in dogs guarantees them their place in Heaven.
marykelly, I think "I don't know" is an honest position, and I'll use that to springboard into my response to UncleChri: You are right, I lack absolute certainty with regard to heaven, just like I lack absolute certainty with regard to Valhalla, fairies, and unicorns. I can never be absolutely certain that the above do not exist. I just think the existence of the above is highly unlikely because I see no compelling evidence for their existence. But you are right, I cannot be absolutely certainly.

And, ironically, neither can you. The language of certitude you use suggests you feel very certain: "There is a heaven." Perhaps you have evidence that I haven't seen. I would ask you to present that evidence so that I can consider it and perhaps revise my opinion about the nature of reality.

Mind you, magic will be unconvincing. Some invisible, "intangible" for which there is no proof will not suffice. I need hard evidence.
Jason,

Thanks for responding.

Perhaps I should be grateful that you admit the possibility of a Heaven, no matter how unlikely. However, billions of us do not use the word ‘uncertainty’ to describe things hoped for or our evidence of things unseen.

What I will remind you of is this: you have hopes. In every case where your hope exists, it is tied to something yet to be detected. Who hopes for what he already experienced?

You already have a strong belief in things for which you lack “hard evidence”. Why then resist such belief in Heaven?

You already fix your desire for, and belief in, what is to come, not on what you can deduce as “hard evidence”, but instead on what you can never reduce to anything concrete. You already know that what is seen in any instant, period, or epoch is temporary. You already know, that no matter how long you live, that there is a far greater permanence associated with what is to come, than there is with what has already been seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched. If you didn’t believe or realize this before, then Remus taught you that.

The question now is simply whether you are willing to extend that belief into the time after your mortal remains, or those of Remus, cease to live.

Consequently, I would suggest to you that my view is less dualistic, more consistent, than your own. Both is us share a strong belief in things unseen. Your demand for “hard evidence” is hypocrisy, given what you believe in, and hope for, now.

Let me leave you with this: the absence of Heaven means that there was never a Saint Nicholas. The absence of Saint Nicholas means that there never could be a Santa Claus. The absence of Heaven means that there never could have been a Saint Vincent de Paul, either then, or now. The absence of Heaven means that there never would have been a Salvation Army.

In fact, the absence of Heaven implies the absence of charity, Hell, or anything other than basic animal instinct. Without Heaven, you would just have us and the governments we form to regulate ourselves. Personally, I can’t imagine many things more depressing.

So, there is no magic here. I swear to you that my fingers never left my hand as I typed this memorandum to you. No levitation was involved in drafting this brief.

For more, I’ll see ya in church, eh?
UncleChri: I'll be blunt, all of the above reads to me like so much nonsense. Just utter nonsense. I can't even address your points in any kind of substantive way because they seem to me nonsensical.

You make far to many assumptions with regard to my position, which is consistent in that I don't have to assert things I cannot prove. My beliefs are all, every single one, rooted in reality, and I can give you good reasons for everything I hold as a belief.

I can, further, tell you exactly what would make me change my beliefs. I can give you the conditions that must be met; therefore, I am open to whatever evidence one can present that meets that criteria. If there is a heaven, for example, I need to know where it is. If it exists, it must exist somewhere. So where? Is it in the sky, beside the moon? Is it the center of the galaxy? Is it in some parallel dimension as described by M-theory?

The thing about faith is that it is the belief in things that don't really exist. What conditions would make you abandon your belief in things that don't really exist? I know the answer: None. No amount of evidence or argument would make you admit uncertainty. Therefore, we have nothing to talk about.
One more thing, Unclechri, and honest question about consistency: What supernatural claim can you reject, and on what basis can you reject it. It just seems to me that if you are willing to believe things without evidence, to be consistent means you have to accept practically any assertion as at least potentially viable. Do you believe in astrology, or homeopathy, or VooDoo, or the power of crystals, etc. All of those things have exactly as much proof supporting them as the existence of a Heaven, and many proponents to boot.
Interesting read, although some of your points I disagree with, wildly.
By age four, reality is not a fixed state, judgment is not made by logic. The perception of reality and logical thought and judgment doesn't come into brain development until age seven-ish.
Your child really does not know zombies don't exist, she is trusting what you tell her. Her thoughts will still allow belief in whatever she is exposed to.
Zombies? Age four?
As for the life questions, do you believe scientists when they tell you electrons exist? Yet they are subatomic-- you have not seen one-- they have no known components or sub-structure.
Also, by the law of conservation of energy: sources of energy cannot be created or destroyed, they can only transfer between entities.
By the law of conservation of mass: mass cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred between states.
Who's to say when we die our mass and energy are gone, destroyed, not transferred to another state of being?
Not scientists.
Jason,

Either you concede that your hopes, for your daughter, for Crissie, for youself, are as real as anything else in your life; or I concede that we have nothing further to discuss.
A child at age 4 is perfectly able to distinguish real from fantasy. They know their dolls are not real people, for example, but that doesn't stop them
from pretending they are real. You are right that children are suseptible to believe what adults teach them, and if they are taught to
know real from not-real, they understand that concept quite well. (which is also why religious people indoctrinate their children from birth. They know
that once they teach a child to believe in ridiculous things, they will believe ridiclous things for their entire lives, in most cases).

Scientists have oberved electrons, and that data is freely available to anyone who seeks it. Are you suggesting that I have to take the existense of
electrons on faith? Seriously?

Our energy never dies, that is sure, but what makes you think our consciousness makes such a transfer?
My hopes are real. I concede that. I don't know what that proves, since I know my thoughts and emotions are functions of my brain, (which will no longer be real once that brain ceases to function) but I will readily concede that my hopes are real, at least as functions of my brain.
It is brain development stages I refer to-- it is known that until age seven, the logic and reasoning to firmly place reality does not develop. You can argue that with the experts if you wish.

I commented about scientific existences of things unseen and the laws pertaining, that we all take as truth, myself included.
"Are you suggesting that I have to take the existence of
electrons on faith? "
No, I did not.
My point was, even in the scientific realm there exist un-observable-to-the-naked-eye particles/waves, quarks, atoms, that we all trust as true reality.
I also have trust scientific experiments are accurate...until another scientific breakthrough tells us, oh we now know a new truth.
The point to my response is there is "reality" that is nebulous -- such as electrons, or a particle that becomes a wave and back again, scientists say they are not even observable objectively -- and that there exist scientific laws stating the non-destructibility of mass and energy, and confirming the transferring abilities of said substances into different states of being.
Who's to say what new truth about that will come to light, scientifically, that will be the new 'reality' ?
I am not arguing this as a point of religious faith, that would be pointless here, nor my interest.
I do appreciate the wildly varying, some completely un-observable except by reaction in surrounding elements, levels of reality in science.
Maybe to keep it real, when a beloved pet dies, it's not a fantasy to say that beloved pet's mass and energy are not destroyed, that they have transferred into a different state of being.
As science also says thoughts are energy, and there is a proven lightening of the mass of the body upon death, it would follow that our consciousness also abides by the laws of conservation of mass and energy and are non-destructible, just transferring into a different state upon death.
It is possible, sure, but that is a far cry from judeo-christian heaven, or doggie heaven for that matter.

More likely, once our physical processes stop, so do we.
A beautiful piece of writing.

For myself, in terms of reality, I'm simply not wise enough to know what that is. I recognize that it changes constantly. I know there are some solid parts I can point to and say, "There is reality." But, honestly, for the most part, unless it's an extreme example, like your zombies, I've mostly noticed reality is subjective. That is, reality of many parts of life varies from person to person. Even the table I'm looking at isn't exactly the same as the same table when someone else is viewing it, really.

I don't mind that, honestly. It keeps things lively. It's why I'm so fascinated by quantum theory and other crazy parts of scientific inquiry. Also, that variability of reality makes me wary about saying my reality is the only one. I do hope

As for death, well, I guess if there is an afterlife, we will all find out. If there is not, we won't know. I guess we'll all find out eventually. I'm okay with that, which is fortunate, since I don't have a choice.
“My hopes are real. I concede that.”

Jason,

Let me start my final comment to your post with my compliments on your submittal to the thisibelieve.org archive. Obviously, I don’t agree with much of it; and now, apparently, you don’t either. Therefore, my first hope is that it did not make it to NPR’s on-air publication of some of these submittals.

It’s not that I wish you ill. Instead, it’s that I encourage you to keep thinking.

By this, I do not mean that you should think randomly or outside a logical structure. Nor do I wish for you to meditate in ways that are divorced from facts or your common sense.

Instead, I wish for you to reason well. America needs citizens who can analyze.

Men who could rationalize this world on many levels founded our country. Research of their various lives and writings will, I believe, convince you that many of these men were smart; perhaps what we might consider geniuses today.

They thought deeply and with objective purpose. They thought about practical things in practical ways. They understood the benefits of the larger view and the dangers of the smaller view.

In my opinion, there aren’t many in America today who can reason as well as most of our founders could. The absence of such talent has had predictable results.

As a national community, we have lost much of the common awareness we once possessed of the fundamental concepts upon, and objectives for, which this country was established. Men like Jefferson sought to specify such ideas in the Declaration of Independence. We are disconnected from the principles Madison and his colleagues sought to incorporate in our Constitution and its first ten amendments. Not much contained in either of these two documents is well understood by many Americans these days.

Within these losses lie the seeds of America’s decline, if not its destruction. This is perhaps now becoming evident to many. Perhaps it is becoming evident to you.

===========

What attracted me to your post was its title. Had men like Jefferson thought as you, then it seems that only things that can be detected by man’s five senses would have been important to them.

After all, the concept that all men are equal is not capable of being tasted, felt, smelled, seen, or heard. For that matter, neither is the notion of Heaven.

I am not going to insult you by asking whether you believe that Jefferson, or its original progenitor, discovered the inalienable rights by the moon or under their respective beds. I am just going to presume, until I read something else from you as willfully ignorant, that you now recognize that other things can be as real as those things for which there is the “hard evidence” about which you have so adamantly written.

With this new understanding, I urge you to expand your thinking beyond the materialistic. I urge you towards an understanding that what is most important to a nation, a city, a family, our Earth, or humankind does not lie solely, or even mostly, on the secular or temporal planes.

Our founding fathers understood this. In general, Americans today do not.

========

Don’t feel bad about all of this. You are not alone in your attempts to think within the confined spaces you do. In fact, much of what passes for Liberal thought these days operates within the same small areas your blog post does.

This is why the Left never can associate the current political debate about abortion with an implicit violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Restricting reasoning to the worldly makes it impossible for the Left to develop options other than having government legislate, regulate, or opinionate on our morality.

And, this is why you don’t allow your daughter, or yourself, permission to ponder the existence of Heaven. I would like to suggest that contemplating the reality of hope would likely, perhaps inevitably, lead you to the eventual contemplation of the reality of Heaven.

Good luck.
Jason,
Teaching a 4 year old a belief anyone can grasp easily is fine. At that age either explanation is sufficient because the child will not spend any time in deep philosophical reflection.

Trying to have a reasoned conversation with Chris is somewhat the same in that either explanation will not result in any displays of deep thinking.

Of the 2 situations, the 4 year old is the preferred choice. It's better because, while there's no deep thinking, there's also no bloviation, condescension and logical incoherence. Nor is it likely to result in a laughable, intentionally-off-point-as-I-have-this-shtick-I-do mini-lecture on The Founders -- a subject about which Chris knows almost nothing.

If you can get past the frustration to gain mild enjoyment from the show, you might ask Chris to offer an explanation of his abortion-Establishment Clause statement. It doesn't make sense to me, and I'm betting the explanation wouldn't as well.

If not, at least observe Chris isn't slow in all areas, as going from dead dog to aborting leftist in 3.25 comments is Ferrari-like acceleration...from a cerebral Yugo.
It's a clinic on bloviation and condescension, no doubt. I have been put in my place.
Oh yeah? Well...

I believe in miracles
I believe in a better world for me and you...

Sorry, couldn't resist.
Fantastic piece, I'll be linking to it and sharing it through social networking. Your thoughts on accepting life as a finite resource and how it makes you appreciate it all the more are so true. The desire to leave behind a legacy of goodness and to help others seems to be the goal of the hoops religion pushes on its believers in some instances, so I often wonder why believers have such a desire to change in us the few aspects where we differ from them. I accept and admire my Christian friends who buy into the teachings about stewardship of the Earth and see this as a call to protect the environment... I see no reason to argue the motivations with them as long as they are behaving in the same ways I find logical for other reasons. However, despite the fact you express love of your children, compassion for other living things in general, a desire to improve yourself, leave the world a better place and to be charitable it seems the religious (to cast a very large net) are not pleased with this because you have not taken on their belief in an afterlife or their acceptance of a particular deity. Why can't they just say... "Hey, he adheres to a lot of what I see as righteous and good" and leave it at that?
@ UncleChri... Wow. What are you talking about? You tried to take Jason's statement that hopes are real into the basis of your argument that all "real" things are not tangible? I think you need to find a new angle. We all agree there are things which are important or have an impact that are not "physical" in nature; however, to say "aha, you believe in an idea, therefore you should believe in my idea" is nonsensical. Your idea of cognitive dissonance is truly warped.

@JustThinking... you are not really. All of the examples you mention (quarks and the like) are known, or theorized to exist based on observable reaction and phenomena. The ability to parse something out or to see it with the naked eye is not part of my definition of reality, nor is it a requirement for me to accept a concept such as heaven or god into that reality. I would not need to see God or heaven to believe in it, but I would have to be shown something that indicates their existence beyond another terrestrial's belief in them. If there is a god, there must be physical phenomena affected by him that cannot be explained in any other way, right? If there is a heaven and we have "souls" then there must be some way the souls transfer to heaven. Where is it? What is the source of locomotion? You made reference to the 21 gram theory, which is a farce. Please share a reference to a reputable source who believes today that the mass of the body decreases at the instant of death. Energy and atoms remain in other forms, but there is no reason for us to suppose this arrangement allows for an eternal consciousness. I do like the thought though of conservation of energy and plan to comfort my children about death by teaching them we are all made of star dust and will one day return to such.