Thursday, December 27, 2018

Sampling the Spherical Model 2018

For the last post of the year, I thought maybe I ought to do another “best of” collection. When I checked, it looks like I haven’t done one since 2015. I’ve done the occasional “what is the Spherical Model?” type of post—which I’ll probably do for the first post of 2019, if you’re wondering. Anyway, I don’t think I want to go back further than just 2018 for this “best of” post.

Jordan Peterson
screen shot from here
It was January 2018 when I learned who Jordan Peterson was. My studying his speeches and book started with the interview he did with Cathy Newman, which got so much media attention, because she seemed so incapable of understanding what he was saying:

“So, what you’re saying is…”
“No, I didn’t say that at all.”
Several dozen times. Anyway, that got my attention, and I started listening to his talks on YouTube. Eventually I bought and read his recent book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, which I think ranks as my favorite read of the year.

A quick search shows I mentioned him in 19 posts, or about 20%. That’s a lot of influence on my thinking. Thomas Sowell gets more mentions on this blog, but I started referring to him from the beginning. This year I only found seven Thomas Sowell mentions.

There were some themes—ideas that came up multiple times, sometimes with some crossover:

·         Truth, Reality, and Civilization
·         Feminism
·         LGBT Issues
Thomas Sowell
screen shot from here
Other issues pop up as well. So, what I’ll do is list the most-read pieces of the year—plus maybe a couple I thought should be. I’ll organize loosely by subject, and I’ll highlight some of the Jordan Peterson or Thomas Sowell influenced posts, and other bits of information about some of the pieces. There’s more here than you’re like to wade through. But I hope you’ll enjoy sampling some of what was going on in 2018 at the tiny think tank that is the Spherical Model.

Truth, Reality, and Civilization

Telling the Truth   May 24, 2018  (Jordan Peterson; this is also on LGBT issues) 
Who Is Telling the Truth?   September 27, 2018  (on Kavanaugh hearings/Ford accusations) 
Truth before It’s Too Late  October 4, 2018  (Jordan Peterson) 
Speak the Truth and Play Fair  February 12, 2018   (Jordan Peterson) 
Pareto Distribution  January 29, 2018  (Jordan Peterson; most read piece this year) 
Diversity Where It Matters  February 5, 2018  (Thomas Sowell) 
Malevolence   February 15, 2018  (Jordan Peterson is briefly mentioned; Florida shooting) 
Basic Building Material for Civilization   April 16, 2018  (some Spherical Model basics) 
Class, Culture, and Moving Upward   May 3, 2018   (on JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy) 
Population, Urban Thinking, and the Vote    May 14, 2018   (on the Electoral College) 


Feminism Does Women Wrong  January 18, 2018  (Jordan Peterson) 
Long Bending Arc   January 22, 2018   (abortion) 
Feminism Turns Women into Bad Men   January 25, 2018   (Jordan Peterson)  
Mature Conversation    April 5, 2018    (Jordan Peterson) 

LGBT Issues

Reality Is Kinder    March 15, 2018    (Ryan T. Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally
The Virtue Signaling Religion    March 19, 2018    (Gordon B. Hinckley’s Standing for Something
Normalizing Has Already Crossed a Line  July 30, 2018   (normalization of sexual perversion)        
Normalizing Has Already Crossed a Line, Part II: Heteromorphism   August 2, 2018 
Normalizing Has Already Crossesd a Line, Part III: Change Is Possible   August 6, 2018 
Change Is Possible   September 24, 2018   (Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, Jr. on reintegrative therapy) 
Which Is It?    November 29, 2018   (Jordan Peterson; gender pronouns) 

Other Subjects
Linda Nuttall
Spherical Model writer

Scary Guns   February 19, 2018            
Where They’re Planted     February 1, 2018   (immigration) 
About Me     April 2, 2018    
Scouts and Honor    May 10, 2018   (Girls in Boy Scouts)
Self-Hatred Isn’t Virtuous     August 16, 2018   (love of country) 
Disparate Impacts     May 7, 2018    (Thomas Sowell’s book Discrimination and Disparities
Economic Schools    November 26, 2018 (Thomas Sowell is mentioned, among other economists) 
Sowell Food for Thought    December 6, 2018 (updated version of Discrimination and Disparities

Monday, December 24, 2018

Wise Men Seek the Light

Two thousand years ago, wise, learned men searched the skies until they saw the long-awaited star. And then they followed it to the source of all light and wisdom. Wise men today still seek the light and follow the star.

That was the theme of this year’s Christmas card. Since my first grandbaby was born, I have been using the grandkids as part of a nativity scene for the Christmas card. Some years are more challenging than others. For example, the year I wanted Mary and Joseph to have a real donkey. The donkey we were able to use was feral; he held still only with bribes of many carrots. To be honest, Mary nor anyone else could have ridden that donkey to Bethlehem.

This year I wanted wise men and a camel, but I had no idea how to accomplish that.Then, a few months ago Mr. Spherical model obtained a green screen for some videos he’s making for the business. And that opened up possibilities.

Mr. Spherical model had traveled to Saudi Arabia about five years ago for business, and had done the tourist thing of riding a camel. There was a good snapshot of him with the camel kneeling down to let him off. I thought if we staged him, in thobe (Saudi clothing he got while there) and added the grandkids visiting at Thanksgiving in kingly outfits bearing gifts, in such a way that it would look like PaPa was still on the camel, and the children were in front of it, we could use the green screen and photo editing.

Mr. Spherical Model on camel in Saudi Arabia

I don’t really know how to do photo editing, beyond a few very basics. But I figured I could learn. I had planned to use Mr. Spherical Model’s lighting set up and my camera. But he insisted his camera was high resolution and would work—and would have the advantage of showing us pretty immediately afterward on his computer if we had everyone placed the right way.

I took just a few photos with my camera, from right next to his, just to say I did it. Because the project is supposed to be my effort, and it turned out I wasn’t doing anything but dressing the kids and trying (a very big job) to get them to focus on the task long enough to get it done. Son Economic Sphere was manning the computer, so they could take multiple shots one after another as Mr. Spherical Model came to sit on the chair that was a bit too low. That way they could choose the shot that turned out to be just the right height.

Unfortunately, since he had used that camera mainly for video, and wasn’t very experienced with still photos, he made a mistake in setting the resolution. It had plenty of pixels, but the final looked pixelated to me. And the royal wise men didn't look very happy about reaching their destination.

This was now a week after Thanksgiving, with no chance to re-shoot. I wondered if the resolution would be good enough when printed as a small snapshot for the card, but I didn’t like it.

So I took a look at what was on my camera. There was a single photo in which no one had a tongue sticking out. I thought I’d give it a try. 

This is the best we had to start with.

I used various online tutorials to learn how to turn the background into an even green screen, separate the image I wanted, and combine that image with another photo—and then get them to be sized to match. I’m sure it’s pretty basic stuff for someone who does this all the time, but I’m a novice.

Anyway, despite the panic I felt about all my plans going awry, we got something acceptable. The original snapshot isn’t quite as clear as the three wise men I added to the scene. But it will do for our very amateur purposes.

The thing about life is, there are a lot of things beyond our control, no matter how well we plan. I’m learning, maybe more this season than ever, to just do what I can and then trust. God smiles on me when I am trying to do something good and giving.

The other message with this card is, “May you find the light you seek.” And I send that message to you this Christmas as well.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

On the Side of Reason and Science

In Canada, the courts ruled that protecting the wishes of LGBT people is more important than protecting the inalienable God-given right to religious freedom. 

Trinity Western University
image from here
It was about accreditation of a Christian university, Trinity Western University, which has students sign an honor code that they will not have sex outside of marriage. (The Christian university I attended, BYU, here in the US has that in its honor code.)  And they define marriage as between a man and a woman. So, homosexuals who aren’t married are treated the same as heterosexuals who aren’t married. It’s unclear whether any “married” same-sex couples wanted to attend the Christian school but felt excluded by that honor code.

Lower courts supported the school’s right to set its behavior code according to the religious beliefs of the institution. But the high court disagreed. Here’s how the high court stated its reasoning:
"The [law society of British Columbia, which denied the accreditation] has an overarching interest in protecting the values of equality and human rights in carrying out its functions. Approving or facilitating inequitable barriers to the profession could undermine public confidence in the (law society's) ability to regulate in the public interest."

Meanwhile, remember Jack Phillips, the cake baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding, whose case went to the Supreme Court? Even though SCOTUS ruled in his favor, the state of Colorado is after him again. This time it’s for refusing to make a cake celebrating a person’s “transition” from male to female. 

Jack Phillips
screen shot from here

The first ruling was narrow—about the state’s stated prejudice against him for his religion, quite specifically. So, they’re at it again, and this time claiming it’s about him discriminating against a person. Granted, that’s what they said the last time. He didn’t actually discriminate against anyone; all comers could buy what he was willing to sell. But he was unwilling to make and sell a product that celebrated something against his religious beliefs. This was in character for him; he also refused to make Halloween-themed products and a variety of other messages he found offensive.

So, the Supreme Court spent an inordinate amount of time talking about what was a cake  and what was a message. It was twisting what he was doing to be about the people—whom he served in every other way—instead of about the message. A cake that celebrates a same-sex “wedding” is not the same thing as a cake that celebrates a traditional, real wedding. It was always about the event.

So how are things different this time? The Court says he’s discriminating against people. As First Assistant Attorney General LeeAnn Morrill said in court: "If you make product 1 for customer 1, you must make product 1 for customer 2."

But Jack Phillips didn’t refuse to serve the customer, who was transgendered; he would have sold any product on hand, or products for other purposes. He only refused the particular request for a cake that celebrated changing genders. Again, a cake celebrating a birthday or a graduation is not the same as a cake celebrating what can be seen, quite literally, as body mutilation.

In other words, the state is attacking Jack Phillips again for his religious beliefs. The only difference might be if they refrain more carefully from saying so.

In both of these cases, there’s an assumption being pushed on society, using the courts as well as media, to insist that religious freedom is a “license to discriminate.” 

But when you get the emotional hand-wringing out of the way, the discrimination is decidedly against religious people. And activists for the LGBT etc. group are not looking for equality; they are looking for special prominence, promotion, and power.

A few months back, Tucker Carlson interviewed a woman who was pressing for parents to stop having boy or girl babies, and just have “theybies,” non-gendered until the child is four years old or so when the child then decides what it is. Carlson says, “We acknowledge biology and nature as real. Right?” The woman doesn’t actually respond to reality; she just keeps insisting it’s irrelevant: “It’s just a little human.”

Tucker Carlson (left)
screenshot from here

Yes, it is a little human. But humans, as other species of mammals, come in two sexes, biologically determined. Maybe the reason (and let’s use that word in its full sense) the woman looks foolish is because she denies reality and claims that will make society better.

In all these cases, someone is denying science and nature. And the side recognizing the common sense of science and nature is being vilified as bigoted. Those claiming to ask for “fairness for all,” through SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) laws penalize people who believe in biology—and common sense.

And, let's be clear, religious believers are on the side of science and reason.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Inborn Love of Freedom

In a conversation earlier today, a friend posited the idea that wanting freedom might be an inborn trait. His story was about the Reivers, a border people between Scotland and England, mainly from around the 1300s for several centuries, who were among his ancestors. These people didn’t like being beholden to distant monarchs—who often used them, one against the other, in border disputes. Instead, these people claimed the right to rule themselves.

The painting "Auld Wat of Harden" by Tom Scott
image from Wikipedia

And later, a number of their posterity—including my friend’s ancestors—came to America seeking freedom. As he tells it, about half the warriors in the Revolutionary War were of Scottish heritage, many from this border area of the Reivers. So they naturally understood and wanted freedom--and maybe those who came from them do too.

I hadn’t heard this little bit of history before, so I came home and looked them up on Wikipedia.  Sometimes referred to as Border Reivers, they were a somewhat unruly bunch. Some monarchs encouraged and supported them; others tightened rules on them.

Either way, the term reivers means raiders; they raided and stole cattle and other property wherever they felt entitled or thought they could get away with it. But there had to be some order, so they set up their own laws, called March law or Border law. These were tribal people, divided by family, or clan—the terms family and clan were used interchangeably until around the 19th Century when convention gave to term clan to Highlanders and family to Lowlanders. Every clan, or family, was represented by a chief, or warden. They felt family loyalty much more strongly than they felt loyalty to king or country.

19th-Century print of "Reivers at Gilnockie Tower"
image from Wikipedia

My friend had mentioned that many family names of our Revolutionary War fighters show up again and again, such as Armstrong—as in astronaut Neil Armstrong. So I looked up some of the names. Here’s a partial list.


I’ve known people by most of these surnames. My own heritage is well over 50% Scandinavian, but the next biggest portion is probably Scottish. I didn’t find my direct line there, however. Still, if I did, I’d feel like it partially explains the seemingly inborn drive for freedom I have.

Back in 2003, George W. Bush gave a speech about believing all people long to be free and rule themselves. And it rang true to me. Seeing circumstances play out, however, it looks as though many people in the world value other things—power, status, security, ethnic loyalty—more than they value freedom. I don’t know if it’s because they aren’t accustomed to it, or aware of what it feels like or how it must be tied to personal responsibility. How could a person prefer to have someone else rule them, to make decisions about their life, and how they’ll spend it—and how they’ll spend the fruits of their labors? Aren’t there “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”?

I know far more about what I am good at, what I want to do with my life, and how I want to spend my money than anyone else—let alone a faraway bureaucrat who hasn’t even met me. That seems so self-evident to me that I’m puzzled when it isn’t obvious to others.

But maybe there are two types of people:

·         Those who want freedom to ________________.
·         Those who want freedom from ______________.
The first want freedom to do, to live, to spend, to decide. Those are the real freedom lovers. And maybe it is inborn; I’m exploring that as at least an influence. There may be some credence to it. Malcolm Gladwell has a chapter (chapter 6) in his book Outliers on people from honor societies—and how they behave even centuries after being taken out of that milieu. There’s good and bad about them. And J. D. Vance talks about the Scottish heritage people who settled in middle America, often in Rust Belt states, mentioning some of the same good and bad. But along with whatever else, there’s a stubborn independent streak. The Trump campaign understood and tapped into that worldview.

And then there are those who want “freedom” from want, from worry, from risk, from hunger, from need. And those are the ones who look to some ever-present nanny-type entity, such as a monarch, a dictator, an expert, to govern and decide in such a way that they don’t have to think about it or worry about how to solve their own problems.

This second type are the ones falling prey to the socialists—who are offering free stuff. Relief from worry about healthcare costs, or education costs, or getting a job, or consequences from bad choices.
Where do these people, of this non-freedom-loving type, come from? Is the lack of longing for freedom inborn in them? Or do they develop that out of fear and occasional failure? I don’t know. When they show up in Texas, we don’t look at their family name so much as where they came from—and we can probably see them coming from California, New York, Washington, DC, or some other enclave of socialistic tyranny.

My guess is that there is some nature and nurture involved in the love of freedom and independence. Even among those who have it, it can be lost—by losing hope, and giving in to fear, self-pity, and indulgence. But I also think it can be gained by people who experience the misery of being controlled and find that they do indeed “yearn to breathe free.”

I would rather we awaken people to their longing for freedom without all of us having to go through the deprivation of it that socialism makes inevitable to every people who give in to it.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Remembering 41

There were many memorials this past week, honoring George H. W. Bush following his passing at the age of 96. I don’t have much to add to all those. Just a few personal notes.

I hadn’t thought that much about it, but the elder Bush was a Houstonian, so people here have kind of a claim on him. The Houston Chronicle included multiple sections related to honoring him—I imagine more than any other newspaper in the country.

George H. W. Bush started his political career as the county Republican Party Chair. I wasn’t here then, but I’ve frequently met the current HCRP Chair, so it makes President Bush seem historically very accessible to us grassroots types.

some of the inserts in the Houston Chronicle, December 9, 2018

The train that carried him from the Houston funeral to the final resting place in College Station, a couple of hours to the northwest, where the Bush Library is located, passed through town. The schedule was published, and people came and stood along the tracks to get a glimpse along the way. I didn’t make it, but I had friends who did. Facebook was full of posts with people waiting, then catching photos and videos of the train going by.
4141, the George H. W. Bush memorial train
carrying him to his final resting place,
photo from Mark Ramsey's Facebook page

I didn’t ever meet George H. W. Bush, but I did get to hear him speak in public. It was a dozen or so years ago. I was helping a banker write his life and work story, and he invited us to an event with dinner and speeches, related to a literacy charity. The crowd was not one I am typically part of, and I remember feeling a little bit uncomfortable (maybe frumpy), but also honored to be generously included.

George H. W. Bush was a speaker. It was a casual speech. He spoke to several hundred people as though he were talking with a few friends on someone’s back patio. He was pleasant, good-humored, and effortlessly comfortable—making us in the audience feel that way too. I think that is genuinely how he was.

One thing he was known for was his Thousand Points of Light, encouraging people to work to improve the world wherever they are. He used the phrase in a couple of speeches, and then it became a foundation to honor significant community service. My father-in-law received a Thousand Points of Light award the year he retired as a special education administrator in an elementary school district—where three people were required to replace him. I remembered being surprised that the awards the former president had made happen actually came to real people working in their communities.

He had an exemplary marriage and family. Many people mentioned his going to heaven where his wife, Barbara, who passed away just months ago, was waiting for him along with their daughter Robyn. In this age of #metoo, one note I saw mentioned that Barbara was the only woman he had ever kissed. With their children running state and federal governments, it could have been about power. But when you look at their personalities, you realize it’s more about public service. His son, George W. Bush (Bush 43) gave a touching eulogy, clearly heartfelt, honoring a father whose love he felt and love in return.

Even those who didn’t always agree with the elder Bush’s policies agree that he was caring, considerate, gentle, and decent. We would be much better off if that were the legacy more of us were living to earn.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Sowell Food for Thought

Another Uncommon Knowledge interview with economist Thomas Sowell came out this week, coinciding with the updated version of his book Discrimination and Disparities. There’s always wisdom that comes from listening to this octogenarian (I hope he lives at least another 20 years). Some of the stories I’ve heard before. I’ve read his biography. But some of it is new, or clarifying because of current data. He’s big on finding evidence from the data.
Thomas Sowell, on Uncommon Knowledge
screen shot from here

He has added a new chapter to the book, and here’s an example quoted from that:

The poverty rate among black married couples has been less than 10% every year since 1994. As far back as 1969 young black males whose homes included newspapers, magazines, and library cards had similar incomes to those of their white counterparts. Academic outcomes show a pattern of disparities similar to the pattern of disparities in the amount of time devoted to schoolwork. Apparently, lifestyle choices have consequences.
Host Peter Robinson asks him about that:

PR: So this is the constrained vision once again. Welfare state, that’s government; we don’t rely on that. Affirmative action, government; we don’t rely on that. We rely on hard work. We rely on the institution of marriage. That’s correct?
TS: Yes. In other words, these things— I don’t think it’s the marriage as such or the library cards as such; it’s that there are lifestyle choices that have been made. And the comparison I made was between—if you look at the poverty rate among blacks, it was at 22%, and among whites it was 11%, but among black married couples, it was 7.5%. So they not only do better than blacks as a whole; they do better than whites as a whole. So it’s lifestyle choices.
That’s not something we hear in the news, or from mainstream opinion commentary.
new edition, with new chapter

Thomas Sowell talks some about minimum wages. That was a particular interest of his, back when he was working on his PhD, and was still a Marxist, but was academically committed to empirical data (which, of course, is what led him in the opposite direction of Marxism so many decades ago). When he tried to get data from one department of government to another, he couldn’t. There was a sense that people’s jobs—in the government—were at stake if evidence showed, as some believed, that higher minimum wages led to greater unemployment.

Of that experience he quips:

I worked in the US Department of Labor, and I began to realize—well, a number of things—that the government is not simply the personification of the general will, like Rousseau or others would say. The government institutions have their own institutional interests.
His own life example about the minimum wage was as a 16-year-old high school dropout, when he got a job as a Western Union messenger, delivering telegrams on a bicycle. The minimum wage for the job, as set by the US Fair Labor Standards in 1938 was 40¢/hour. But by 1948, when he got the job, he started at the bottom, getting paid 60¢/hour—the going rate to get the workers, rendering the minimum wage irrelevant.

But then “compassionate” government stepped in to “help” by raising the minimum wage. The result is that 20 years later a black kid (or for that matter a white kid) can’t get a job.

Sowell and Robinson spend some time discussing the difference between the “constrained vision” and the “unconstrained vision,” from an earlier book, A Conflict of VisionsConstrained means that you pay attention to reality. Unconstrained means there’s an assumption that good things happen all by themselves, but if bad things happen there’s some institution to blame—even maybe civilization itself. 

So, when there’s disparity, there’s one side that looks for data and evidence to compare one approach to another (the constrained side). And then there’s the side that assumes there’s racism or some other social ill at fault (the unconstrained side).

Most of the time, in our country today, disparities are not racially caused. He talks about another possible effect contributing to poverty:

TS: Wherever you look around the country, around the world, you find people that live up in the mountains poor and backwards. Even in the richest country, including the United States. I believe the poorest county in the United States was in a mountain community which was almost 100% white.
PR: Somewhere in Appalachia? West Virginia? Southern Ohio?
TS: Yeah. And men in that county had a life expectancy ten years less than men in a county in Virginia.
PR: And the unconstrained vision says, “Lets fix that. Surely we can pass a law that would improve that.” And the constrained vision says, “Well, now, wait a moment. If people who live in isolated pockets in mountains are poor and backwards all around the world, and we see this pattern over, and over, and over again, maybe there’s something very deeply rooted in reality about that that is hard for us to get at.” Correct?
TS: Yes.
Robinson reminds him of a recent column in which he challenged Nicholas Kristoff, a New York Times writer who thinks whites should pay reparations for the legacy of slavery.

PR: Kristoff had ascribed the gaps between African Americans and whites in America—gaps in wealth, gaps in educational achievement, the usual gaps—to, and this is a quotation from Kristoff: “to the lingering effects of slavery.” And here’s Tom Sowell:
“If we wanted to be serious about evidence, we might compare where blacks stood 100 years after the end of slavery with where they stood after 30 years of the liberal welfare state. In other words, we could compare hard evidence on the legacy of slavery with hard evidence on the legacy of liberals.”
And so there it is. Life is hard; you use the word hard. You use the word serious. You use evidence. Tom Sowell is a man of the constrained vision through and through and through. Correct?
TS: Yes. Part of a vanishing breed, I might add.
There are a couple of times in the conversation that charter schools come up. They’re educating better than children in privileged areas are being educated. And they’re not getting the cream of the crop; they’re allowing students in by lottery, without even looking at they’re academic history. But they do have high expectations, and they don’t tolerate nonsense.

Near the end they cover charter schools in more detail. Robinson points out that Democrats—and he can’t remain nonpartisan about it—prevent quality education for those that need it. And Dr. Sowell agrees:

TS: That really is one of the moral outrages, that for many kids who come from a very poor background, and whose parents might not have had much education, a decent education is the one thing they have to have to have a better life.
And these schools have been absolutely spectacular. The charter schools. The successful ones. Now there are some that weren’t, but— For example, a few years ago on the New York statewide math test, there was an elementary school, grade 4 I believe, in Harlem, whose students passed those tests at a higher rate than any 4th grade kids anywhere in the state of New York. I mean, we’re talking Scarsdale, Radcliffe, places like that. The Success Academy schools as a whole, their students pass both the math and the English statewide tests at a higher rate than any school district in the entire state of New York.
The vast majority of the kids in the Success Academy schools are either black or Hispanic. If you look at the five highest scoring school districts in the state, in terms of the percentage of students who pass the math or the English tests, their average family income ranges from four times that of the kids in the Success Academy schools to more than nine times the family income of the kids in the Success Academy schools. And yet, the Mayor of New York is doing his darndest to put a stop to the expansion of these schools in general, but his special ire is aimed at the Success Academy schools. And this is happening all across the country.
PR: Because they make the teachers unions look bad, in the public schools? What’s the political motivation? Why would Mayor de Blasio have it out for the charter schools such as Success Academy?
TS: Well, the teachers unions are the major reason. And we talk about the money they contribute, the votes they contribute. What’s happening, again, not just in New York, but other parts of the country, including California, is there’s all kinds of chicanery to prevent the charter schools from expanding. That’s why you have tens of thousands on the waiting list. It’s not that the charter schools aren’t willing to expand, but every conceivable obstacle is put in their way. Because, if you let that go at the natural pace, it would be very hard for public schools to compete.
There it is again: something about that government institution having its own institutional interests—apart, and probably in conflict with the stated goal.

What’s missing is a search for—or even a valuing of—evidence, or truth. The current rise of socialism’s popularity is an example—51% approval from those in the 18-29 demographic, according to a recent Gallup poll. How can that be?

TS: Yes. Socialism is a great idea; that does not mean it’s a great reality. One of the things that disturbs me tremendously is about this enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders and socialism at a time when people are literally starving in Venezuela, an oil rich country. And they’re breaking into the grocery stores to try to get food. And they’re fleeing to neighboring countries, most of which are not all that prosperous themselves, but at least you don’t starve to death in them. And none of that makes a bit of difference. I don’t think most of the people that are out there cheering for Bernie Sanders have given a thought to Venezuela.
PR: To the evidence.
TS: That’s right. To the evidence, yeah.
So that’s one theme for this conversation: get the evidence, so you know what you’re talking about.

And this is another common Sowell theme:

TS: In the government you have surrogate decision makers, and they cannot possibly know as much as the individuals whose person decisions have been preempted.
The third would be about lifestyle choices:

PR: Tom Sowell’s view is, get an education, stay married, and do your job, roughly?
TS: Yeah.
It sounds like what we’ve been saying here for years. If Thomas Sowell agrees with us, I think that means we’re on the right track.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Lighting the World from the Inside Out

This year’s Light the World campaign is underway, started by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but intended for everyone during this Christmas season. It’s about service—or whatever else brings light and goodness, in mostly small ways, to those around us. Last year there were daily ideas, something like doing a good deed each day. It’s a different way of giving than the hectic Christmas shopping way.

This year the calendar for Light the World has a weekly focus. Week one, going on right now, is about the world, globally. Week two is about your community. Week three is about your family. Then week four is about your personal faith.

calendar available here

I like how the direction draws closer and closer to home as we celebrate Christmas. I think this will help me feel the meaning of Christmas—and the way Jesus gave, personally, with loving kindness.

Looking at the order, from global to local to personal, I’m reminded that one of the 12 Rules for Life that Jordan Peterson talks about goes the other direction. It’s “Rule 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.” While the direction is opposite, I don’t think we’re really in disagreement. Both of these are about making little improvements where we see a need around us.

The Light the World campaign is about service, about doing good. Dr. Peterson’s approach is actually about where to start your criticism, and advises starting with yourself and cleaning up what you can close by first. He begins this chapter with some of life’s awful things, pointing out that there are two ways to respond: vengeance or transformation. He covers Tolstoy, Nietzsche, and Solzhenitsyn, before getting to this advice:

Clean Up Your Life                                                                               
Consider your circumstances. Start small. Have you taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to you? Are you working hard on your career, or even your job, or are you letting bitterness and resentment hold you back and drag you down? Have you made peace with your brother? Are you treating your spouse and your children with dignity and respect? Do you have habits that are destroying your health and well-being? Are you truly shouldering your responsibilities? Have you said what you need to say to your friends and family members? Are there things that you could do, that you know you could do, that would make things around you better?
Have you cleaned up your life?
If the answer is no, here’s something to try: Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong. Start stopping today….
Stop acting in that particular, despicable manner. Stop saying those things that make you weak and ashamed. Say only those things that make you strong. Do only those things that you could speak of with honour….
Don’t blame capitalism, the radical left, or the iniquity of your enemies. Don’t reorganize the state until you have ordered your own experience. Have some humility. If you cannot bring peace to your house, how dare you try to rule a city? Let your own soul guide you. Watch what happens over the days and weeks. When you are at work you will begin to say what you really think. You will start to tell your wife, or your husband, or your children, or your parents, what you really want and need. When you know that you have left something undone, you will act to correct the omission. Your head will start to clear up, as you stop filling it with lies. Your experience will improve, as you stop distorting it with inauthentic actions. You will then begin to discover new, more subtle things that you are doing wrong. Stop doing those, too. After some months and years of diligent effort, your life will become simpler and less complicated. Your judgment will improve….
Perhaps you will become an ever-more-powerful force for peace and whatever is good.
Perhaps you will then see that if all people did this, in their own lives, the world might stop being an evil place. After that, with continued effort, perhaps it could even stop being a tragic place. Who knows what existence might be like if we all decided to strive for the best? Who knows what eternal heavens might be established by our spirits, purified by truth, aiming skyward, right here on the fallen Earth?
Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.
It’s another way of going about it, but I think the message is pretty similar: look around you—and within you—and find some small thing to improve. That’s how you make things actually better.

There’s an old phrase: “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.”[i] Those are the words of a wannabe world changer who can’t even handle close interpersonal relationships. Changing the world doesn’t work on a wholesale level. It’s not even done readymade. It has to be individually tailored. One person at a time, starting with self.

In the Light the World campaign, even the suggested global ideas are personal small acts you can do, like learning something or listening to someone. I think that’s the right way.

As with lighting one candle from another, once you have yours burning brightly, then you can help light others—and magically there’s no loss in your light. There’s just more total light.

If we can think about that and try it out for this month, while we’re celebrating the birth of the actual Light of the World, maybe it will become a habit. And then we can become “an ever-more powerful force for peace and whatever is good.”

There’s a short video for each week this month. Below is the one for this first week. I love the juxtaposition of the small acts of service we do, and the acts of service our Savior did as our example.

[i] I saw this attributed to Albert Einstein, but I’m uncertain about the accuracy. A variation, using “mankind” in place of “humanity,” is said by Linus in a Peanuts cartoon by Charles Schulz.