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Monday, 12 June 2017

An Infernal Line of Reasoning.

A note before I launch into this: what I'm talking about is a super-controversial issue. I expect that many, if not most, people will read this and disagree with most or all of what I'm saying. But I'd appreciate it if you could not just shout hate, and rather give a reason for what you think or feel. That would be great.

So the other week, I finished listening to the audiobook of Inferno, by Dan Brown. (Yes, it references Dante's Inferno quite a bit.) It's the one that relatively recently got turned into a movie. Don't watch the movie. People have various attitudes towards Dan Brown books, but I'm a bit of a history buff, so I love the detail. I also loved how in this book, there were more turnarounds than you could poke a stick at. Classic drama. (One of the reasons that the movie fell through was that they really only included two of them, whereas the book had easily half a dozen or more.) Also, by the end, you were able to empathise with the supposed 'villain/s'. Which I rather appreciate. There's a bit too much hate that goes around.

Here is where I'm going to be doing a massive spoiler for the book, so if you don't want that, stop reading and go watch something else. Or read the book and come back. Not the movie, they changed the ending for it. Yes, they actually changed the ending. That's how bad it was.

Okay. If you're still reading, I'm assuming that you're okay with massive spoilers for the book.

Throughout the book, there are big hints at disease and epidemics. References to the Black Death. Biohazard symbols. The World Health Organisation. Plague masks. The whole idea is that Langdon and his partner are racing to stop someone from releasing a plague that will go global, and wipe out some percentage of the population - the idea being that the humans left surviving will then be able to thrive, because there will be less competition for resources. The analogy is used of the Black Death preceding the Renaissance. So the whole time during the book, you're given these grisly images of disease, death, horrible pain and global panic.

But right at the end, this virus (because it is a virus) is actually revealed to be something very different. It's a sterility virus. Mass Effect players, think genophage, but not quite as bad. Essentially, 1 in 3 people, for the rest of time (unless a cure is devised) are rendered completely infertile. Works on both males and females, and it's suggested that because of the brilliance of the person that engineered the virus - and the fact that they committed suicide - it is going to be extremely difficult, maybe impossible, to come up with a cure in any near future. As an aside, they don't manage to stop the virus from getting out, basically because they got their dates wrong - so it's gone global.

A couple of people in the book have a very immediate and visceral reaction to this virus. They hate the idea of it, think it's horrible, and do anything that they can to stop it. But others - they see it as a clean answer to many of the problems that we face in the world. Overcrowding. Pollution. Resource depletion. Food scarcity. Poor health in some areas. The simple fact is - if you have a lot less people living on the planet, suddenly, many of these problems become much more manageable.

Strangely enough, I finished that book thinking - well, actually, that would be a great idea. Overcrowding has been in the back of my mind ever since I read a comic of Mandrake the Magician, where he met someone who had time-travelled back from a future where they had serious overcrowding; to the point where they had people who's job it was to cull the population. Now, I don't know if we'd ever quite get to that stage. But certainly, in many places, you have a lot more kids being born than people are able to take care of; because of lack of contraception, or lack of education, or lack of wealth or health, or any number of other reasons. And there are so many kids that are orphans, or waiting for foster carers, or that are just left, because people can't care for them. And I don't think that's really okay.

Now, don't hear me saying that we shouldn't have kids. Or that everyone should just stop having sex! Like that would work. I'd be the last person to say that. I've been aching to have kids for a long time. But, although I know I'd enjoy having my own child - I also think I'd really love adopting children, and being able to provide them with parents. I think that would be super-special too. And yes, it would be hard. And sad. I know there are a lot of people that would find it particularly difficult - guys that see themselves as having their masculinity robbed from them, or girls being broken over not being a mum to their own kids. Though perhaps some would be glad to not go through all those pains of giving birth....but I'm straying well into the territory of things I know nothing about.

I don't really know. I think it's an interesting topic to think on. Because our population is skyrocketing, any old graph can tell you that. Growing at an exponential rate. And as it grows, so do so many other issues. And most things on this Earth are finite. Some are a bigger finite - but almost all will run out, one day. And if we don't look to solving that issue soon, it's going to come back and bite us on the bum before we know it. That's my thoughts, anyway. You can feel free to disagree.

Difficult Virtues

I turn 25 later this year.
Which makes younger me rather sad.
Because younger me thought that by now,
I would be married,
and have kids.
That I'd be a dad.
And I'll admit,
that every time I get to play with younger kids,
it's both a great joy and sadness.

A great joy,
because I'm doing
what I wanted to be doing.
A great sadness,
because it's only for a moment.
These aren't my kids.

And sure.
I don't have to deal with the crazy hours.
The various bodily fluids.
The noise.
The tempers and complaining.

I'd take it all in a heartbeat.
Just to be a dad.
But it's not the sort of thing that you can short-cut.
You can.
But I'd rather not.

It's a virtue.
That is difficult.
Sorry younger me.
There's rather a ways to go yet.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Some Recent Notes.

Thought it was time for another post. I have a specific one I want to do, looking at a book I read recently, but I think that will be for later.

I still haven't talked about SWF, so I'll do a section on that here. Then there's a few other things happening that I thought I'd chat about.
The Sydney Writer's Festival was quite a bit of fun this year. I got to do a lot of the school days and children's events, which I hadn't before, so loved that :) Went around a bit, as well - was at the wharf (Walsh Bay), of course, but then also at Campbelltown, and out at Penrith, and had an early day helping at the office, which was cool. Had one day that I was helping an older lady, and got to sit in on her events - which was awesome, because they were both sold out before (so I wasn't really sitting, but you know) - and they were just really interesting. One was a panel on the attitude towards immigration in Australia; they talked a bit about how we're quite unique in that we're an island continent, so we can completely control who comes and goes by sea. Also had a bit of the flavour of the old 'White Australia' idea. Essentially, they - and pretty much everyone else in the room - felt that the government had a pretty terrible attitude towards immigrants and refugees/asylum seekers. Agreed. The second one was more historical - someone talking about their book on the Byzantine Empire, and particularly Constantinople; which I found quite interesting, because I'd just been reading Inferno (incidentally, the book I want to do a post on), that included a section on that. So that was cool. I rather enjoy history.

So. Recent bits and pieces.

I've become the worship leader for the PM service over at Cobbitty Anglican, which is significantly awesome. It's the sort of thing I've wanted to do for ages, so really enjoying that. It's also quite a smaller team, and a congregation size that's quite familiar for me, so a good place to start. Looking forward to seeing how that grows :)

I've been working on an idea for a board game, that I'm calling Septimus. I wrote about some of the backstory here, and you can see me talking a bit more about the design of it here. I'm getting pretty close to having the first draft done; over the last little while I've been getting it ready for printing, so that I can start playtesting. That's going to be fun :D But I've really enjoyed designing the different bits for the game, and figuring out how it's all going to work together.

I've also just gotten the final bits of video from my album launch back in September of last year, so I'm going to be working to get that released and out to people as soon as I can. Then I can think about getting the next album recorded....really looking forward to that one :) I might be biased. It is an album about love, after all.

I've been invited to be the speaker for another Cru Camp, happening in the first week of the holidays. It's a study skills camp for year 11s, and they've got a special keynote speaker coming in on the first day - Deng Adut. You might not know the name - but you'd probably remember his face from the new WSU ads. So if you know someone who's in year 11, definitely encourage them to go along! We're also looking for some teachers who can help tutor different subjects and such. You can see more details about the camp here.

While I don't have a job at the moment (apart from the one at the church, that is - but that's just a few hours a week), things are starting to look up. There are more possibilities opening up, more opportunities, more doors that are starting to open rather than be closed. And exciting ones! The hard part is always deciding which ones to take....

But yeah :) Though things have been tricky this year, I think we're heading towards a turnaround. And I can't wait :)

Sunday, 4 June 2017

An Argument For A Loving God.

I realise that I haven't gotten a post up for SWF yet. Hopefully that will be soon. But had this thought, so figured I'd write it out.

One of the big arguments that is given against the Christian idea of a loving God is the prevalence of suffering and pain in the world. If God was so loving - wouldn't he do something? Seems to be the basic idea, or something akin to it.

It's something that was tackled by John Dickson, in If I Were God, I'd End All The Pain. Definitely recommend you having a look at his argument at some point, because it's quite simple, yet I think quite strong. But I want to have a look at a different angle.

Let me ask you a question. Do you think that people are loving? On this earth - do you think that there are people that show love? Or even just one person - even just one person, that you would describe as loving? I think that most of us would say yes, we believe that either people in general, or some people at least, are loving, to some degree. A few more than others, perhaps. Mothers, or doctors, or firefighters, maybe.

Okay, then. Let's assume - for the sake of argument - that there is a God that has created everything. We take that as a given. And we take, as a given, that he has created us. We also take as given that he existed before anything else. (It's okay if you don't think that these are the case. Just using it for this point here for now.)

Now, a question. Can you create something - when you have never experienced it yourself? If you told a person to paint a tiger, if they had never seen or heard of one - how would they? If you told someone to make a sphere, but they didn't know what one was; could they do it? And similarly, if God did not know love, if he was not a loving God - how could he create loving people?

This, for me, doesn't make sense. How could an unloving God create people that are loving? How could an uncompassionate God create people who are compassionate? How could an apathetic God create people with empathy? I don't think it's possible. If we are all of these things - then God must demonstrate these at an even higher level than us. So, in a sense - the fact that we are asking why a loving God doesn't end all the pain, shows that God is loving. Because we are asking that question out of our own desire to help, out of our compassion and empathy and love.

It's quite possible that this isn't a watertight argument. I've just thought of the example of A.I. - if we can create A.I. that exceeds our own level of thinking, couldn't God do the same with human emotions? And perhaps it's possible. But I think there's a big difference between creating something that exceeds you at something you possess, that is better than you at something; than creating something that has something that you do not, that you are unaware of and have no knowledge of.

Please, feel free to discuss this - but nicely! :)