Eleven twenty. I’ve managed to absolve myself for a little guilty pleasure I had last night. I’m always on the edge of quitting the church for its condemnation of sin, when to a great extent what constitutes a “sin” is arbitrary. If it doesn’t harm anybody, then people should be free to pursue their happiness. I don’t believe in moral absolutes, these rules imposed by an untouchable lawgiver… but now I’m sounding kind of like my brother. If everyone were a libertine, it would be a chaotic world, a place without laws we agree on. It’s a useful thing to have a conscience… and then it’s a good to take a holiday from it occasionally. According to Shakespeare critics, order is restored after we plunge into mayhem temporarily. I guess it depends on common sense, when you have any.

Years ago I used to get drunk on weekends and watch Dateline NBC on the tube. It would always upset me because this sort of journalism merely pandered to people’s feelings of moral outrage and disgust, which I believe was very irrational and contrary to what I learned in college. In particular it went against the Ethics of Spinoza. He totally de emphasized the sentiments of disgust and anger in human beings, saying that we must keep a level head in matters of justice. I had a friend who disagreed with my pacifism and with Spinoza. My brother’s morality was passionate and vindictive, like watching Oprah boil with resentment. He admitted that my point of view was rational but he didn’t share it. I’ve never been an emotional thinker, which puts me in a lonely minority. I’m cool with that.


Mind Food

Quarter of midnight. Church this morning was average. Before service, B— opened up to me a little in the foyer about her job. She told me about a second grade teacher she knew who was arrested for pedophilia. I wondered a bit why she was telling me that. I guess it was because the incident had disturbed her not a little. Maybe she needed reassurance. The news didn’t ruffle me at all, but my humanism knows a broad scope of experience. The great novelist Henry James had a lust for young boys, never acted upon of course, but acknowledged to himself as being a part of his soul. Everybody has something like that, however we may obscure it from ourselves. It can be a shock to discover it, especially when we can put a societal label on it and condemn ourselves. Usually we will be our own worst critic. It is said that no individual is innocent, therefore what kind of position are we in to condemn other people? Spinoza had some amazing insights about crime and punishment. Above all, he impressed me with this quote: “Things are not more or less perfect according as they delight or offend human senses…” And when an offender is apprehended, he is to be turned in to the proper authorities, but without a feeling of moral outrage. In other words, it shouldn’t be like the yellow journalism I used to see on Dateline NBC, stuff that panders to the deplorable need in some people to work themselves into a moral frenzy. Thus I guess I felt like sermonizing a bit to B— on the spot, but instead saved it for material for this post.