Monday, January 26, 2009

The Inner Ring

In this article, Lewis talked that there is always an invisible system exists in every kind of community (society). The rules of these systems are undefined. It is very hard to understand those rules if you are a so-called outsider. But once you enter into the community. The invisible rules will begin to appear. Basically, we call the community the inner ring, and its system the second or unwritten systems as Tolstoi called.
There is a clear boundary between the inside and outside. However, it is hard to define the exact borderline for the ring. “People think they are in it after they have in fact been pushed out of it. Or before they have been allowed in; this provides great amusement for those who are really inside.” Somehow, as an insider, the man will feel a sense of satisfaction and pleasure even though they were asked to do more work than the outsiders. I myself am an example. I am an international student committee member. When I told my friends that I had a meeting at 3:30 and I had to go, I felt like that I was a useful person.
If the man doses not know how to control this kind of feeling, the Inner Rings will be potential to be a dangerous thing. As Lewis said, “I am not going to say that the existence of Inner Rings is an Evil. It is certainly unavoidable.” According to the nature of human sin, a man will soon become to be proud of himself and loss his rules played in this moral society. “A thing may be morally neutral and yet the desire for that thing may be dangerous.”
I have to confess that I totally have the same feeling, which Lewis has described) that I would feel happy when people ask who I am. Indeed, most of times I wanted them to envy or admire me. There is an interesting invisible way to get pleasure from Inner Ring. One way is to make the entry test tougher. That is to be “mean” on the next entrant. Or at least, it should be harder than the previous one. Because of this, we can always see students around campus working on their resumes. The entrance interview has become harder and harder these days.
However, human is not always satisfied with what they have. Once they got the pleasure, their pleasure can barely be with them since he had already got the desire job. Human will rise up another desire to go into some other inner rings. As long as we are sinful, we may never be able to feel content. But if there is no exclusion (outsiders), there won’t be any inner rings. So don’t always bother yourself if you can’t enter into some sort of inner rings. Because without outsiders, no one can be in an inner ring.

The Problem of Pain

The day before I read this article, I was talking with my friends about human suffering when we had breakfast together. Is suffering a good or a bad thing? Most people would say that, of course, it is a bad thing. I did think so when I was in high school. Indeed, as I mention in the first blog. I suffered a lot during the time when I transferred from one culture to another.
The problem of pain for human is more likely be explained as suffering. It is necessary for human to suffer, especially for non-Christians. At this point, I don’t mean that non-Christians deserve to suffer a lot because they don’t accept God. Rather, it is an effective way for non-Christians getting to know God through sufferings. For most of students in Calvin College, they may grow up in Christian families and were educated to know that there is a God since they were very young. But as a Chinese, culture influence made me feel very uncomfortable to believe in a religion. In China, we were educated to look down on those people who have a religion belief. Chairman Mao (Mao Zedong) ever said that it is an excited thing to fight with God. He said that he knew God didn’t like Chinese because we were communists. Of course, it is not true. But since everyone was obsessed about him during the Cultural Revolution, people believed in his every single word. Being brought up in such an environment, we read Bible stories as legends. The promises in the Bible are more like the fairy tale’s “live happily ever after” which can only existed beyond human’s imagination.
If you want someone to believe in God, you have to let them experience God. One of best way to experience God is through suffering. If a man is satisfied with everything, he is less likely to accept God than a poor farmer who has lost everything in a flood. I don’t remember the exact Bible verse, but Bible did write about that it is much easier for a poor man to believe in God than a rich man. The poor and rich do not only apply to people economically, rather, it also apply to the spiritual life. When a man feels his heart is empty, he will automatically seek the comfort from anywhere.
If I can understand English very well and have a good communication skill when I came to United States, I would not find my Christian friends. When everyone was ignoring us, they came to me and helped me go through the toughest days in my life. At that time, I complained a lot. I didn’t know why God gave me such a difficult time. For two years, I hide myself from other people as possible as I could, since I didn’t want to lose face because of my bad English accent. There was one time when my family was encountering a financial problem. I still remember my dad came to my room and told me that he may not be able to afford my college if this situation continues on. The last two years was miserable, but it did let me gain a lot of life experience. I learnt how to be independent, and I got to know God.
So I did believe that suffering is part of God’s plan. The Bible says that human can (only) determine their own courses but God set up the important steps. If I didn’t have a tough life in the past, I might not accept Jesus since I would be so satisfied with my life. And, according to Chinese TAO (which Lewis mentioned in his “Abolition of Man”), everything in the universe has its opposite. If there is no dark, there is no light. If there is no miserable life, there is no happiness to compare to. I knew it is not easy to live through on earth; I am more desire the life in heaven. Since I know how hard life can turn to be, I learnt how to cease today’s happiness. God has his own plan on everyone. Even though if you are suffering right now, don’t complain, because, God must have his reason. The best thing is waiting for you in the future.

PS: For the question whether God can feel us suffering or not. I do believe that he can. God sent his only son on earth to save us; Jesus came to earth with a human form and was died on the cross. If God is not suffering with us, how can you explain those sufferings that Jesus had tolerated? How can you explain the trinity where father, son and sprit belong to one? If God can even suffer with us, why are we still fear suffering?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rabbit? Man!

By far, this is my favorite essay.
Lewis started his essay with a question, “Can’t you lead a good life without believing in Christianity?” I’ll explain my understanding later. I really like the way Lewis organized his writing.
At first, he talked about the different views of Christians and non-Christians. From a Christian point of view, a man can only gain happiness when he is walking and working on the road that God has prepared for him. Any “walking aside” may lead to an unhappy ending. However, a non-Christian is more materialistic. He won’t mind to work in the dark as long as he obtained what he called “good” things. In his world, happiness is only judged by either “good” or “bad”.
Even though sometimes when Christians and non-Christians have common goals, their fundamental beliefs will differentiate their goals (purpose) eventually. A Christian is more considered individual development. On the other hand, a non-Christian (Materialist) is more interested about the benefit of majorities
Objectively, we can not judge whose belief is right and whose is wrong. Both of them have their own reasons about their beliefs. However, this is not the problem which Lewis addressed at the beginning. Christians and non-Christians have made their mind on whether they should believe in God or not. Only those who are not sure about their beliefs ask question which Lewis mentioned beforehand. “The man who asks this question has heard of Christianity and is by no means certain that it may not be true.” It is understandable that a man is questioning his beliefs in the beginning. But it is not right for him to just ignore his problem. At the middle of his “pilgrim process”, he decided to stop seeking the truth. For him who asked the question at first, it seems like he doesn’t want to admit that Christianity can lead him a better life than non-Christianity. “He is like the man who won’t look at his bank account because he’s afraid of what the might find there. He is like the man who won’t go to the doctor when he first feels a mysterious pain, because he is afraid of what the doctor may tell him.”
Now let’s go back to the beginning, when Lewis wrote, “One of the things that distinguishes man from the other animals is that he wants to know things, wants to find out what reality is like, simply for the sake of knowing.” If you give a carrot to a rabbit, it just eats it; if you give the same thing to a man, he may wonder and “want to know” what ingredients are contained in the carrot. A man without intention to seek truth is like the rabbit. He doesn’t desire to find out whether Christianity can lead him to a good life or not. He is in a state of honest ignorance rather than in a state of honest error. You can not blame people, such as J.S. Mill, who had indeed thought over the questions. At least, they had made their mind. Nonetheless, honest ignorance is the reflection of worry, hesitation, cowardice, and laziness. I think that’s why at the end of the essay, Lewis appealed us to let “all the rabbit in us [is] to disappear-the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit.”
At the end, from Lewis own opinion, he admitted the idea that “reaching a good life” should be based on Christ. With sole human beings, we can only reach a certain level of so-called happiness, but we can not go further. However, with God, we can achieve the true happiness that a doubted man can never imagine.
So whenever we have problems, question them and try our best to find answers, don’t act like n almost-broken branch which is always dangling on the tree, and being blown in the middle of the air.

"Abolition of Man Ch3"

The Abolition of Man
As I read Chapter3 of this book, I began to fear our own beings. We seemed to be more and more distant from nature. According to Lewis, if this trend continues, human will finally cut their own posterity.
At the early time, because human didn’t have much technological skills, they deal with nature more than they deal with science. But as the modern technology developed, human become more depended on new technologies that make their life much more convenient.
Based on the fact, humans think that they are growing more powerful by possessing the skills of living a high-quality life. However, if we view this fact from another angle, we can possibly discover some disadvantages. At the very beginning, people invented many new things based on “nothing”. They had a wider space to invest their thought. But as time went by, people began to find and set up the rules of the world. Their next generation adopted those rules, and used them to develop new technologies. We think we are smart to make life more and more easily. Actually, we are losing our talents of invention. Because we have already got so many inventions, no one would bother to reinvestigate in those old inventions. Or, in other words, we are becoming lazy not because we want to be lazy but we are allowed to be lazy. Assume that if we become lazier generation by generation, human beings will eventually lose their ability to investigate any new things. We said that we conquest nature; in fact, it is the Law of Nature conquests us. When we loss all our abilities, we have to surrender to the nature. We are polluting our environment everyday, but the poisonous chemicals we dumped into the river are causing disease to human themselves.
When we are in absolute control of the nature, it is the time when nature will revenge on us. It is the day when Jesus Christ will come and save all of his believers. (I am not sure if that will be the time for Jesus to come, but since it is the time when human can not control themselves anymore, Jesus will come again and redeem us.)

Redemption Ch4

In the beginning, when Adam and Eve ate the fruits, they should heave died. However, since God loves his people, he clothed his sinners (Adam and Eve) by garments, which symbolized the mercy of God. For the following stories, God gave aged Abraham his son and guided Moses to lead Israelites out of Egypt. The Bible told so many stories about how graceful God is to his children. Even though we are keeping breaking his law, God is still holding his covenant with us. Later, he sent his only son Jesus to the earth to save our falling lives through his (Jesus) flesh and blood. God let his only son suffered on earth in order to deliver the message from heaven and prepare the coming of his kingdom.
I like Calvin said that “Jesus Christ did not rise alone. He rose as the head of a whole body of people elected to have faith in him” We don’t need to die physically, since Jesus has died for us. “All that he possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him. When we believed in God, we are not feeling alone anymore. We are in a union.

As everyone can imagine, there is a long distance between earth and heaven. It is so hard for human to go to heaven without any help. However, Jesus came, because of our sin, he died for us on the cross; the cross became the bridge between heaven and earth. If we want to go to the heaven, we must walk through the bridge. In other words, we have to believe that Jesus Christ came to earth in human form and saved us.
For each Christian, we all agree with this concept. But dose that mean if once we are baptized, our sin is forgiven and we can do whatever we want to do now? As Plantinga said, “God doesn’t save people and then cut them loose to do what they want, because without the guidance of God ‘doing what we want’ is a recipe for failing right back into slavery.” There are some “Christians”, they tried so hard to please God before they got baptized. However, after the baptism, they stopped going church, refused reading Bible anymore. They thought they were saved; after they were saved, they can do whatever they want. They thought no matter what happen later, they would go to heaven for sure. From my understanding, redemption is a life-long process for every true Christian. Jesus Christ is not a tool to save people. It is not like a can opener, after you opened the can, you threw it away. Rather, we should use our faith which was given from Jesus Christ as a weapon to defend us from Devil. When we say that we are saved, we say that our minds are saved too. We get a new mind with Jesus Christ in it. We think in a new way to serve and honor God through our whole life. Redemption is not instantaneous, it is constant.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Eros? Venus?

Actually, I would like to say that I really learned two new words today.
Eros = Love between Man and Women
Venus = Sexuality
Before I read this chapter, I never thought about this topic. In China, parents never taught this to their children. In our biology class, teachers skip the chapter which talked about sexuality. But, C.S. Lewis’s writing about Eros (pure love) and Venus (sexuality) is really interesting.
In his writing, he explained the sexual experience can occur without Eros. However, Eros includes sexual activities.
In old times, young couples got married by their parents’ will. Some of them never met each other until they went to their marriage bed. There was no love growing up between them. But because the fear of God, they obeyed his words, (“Be fruitful, and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” Genesis 1:22), tried their best to “make” as many children as they could. Or, sometimes, we can explain that the Venus occurs depend on the human instinct instead of love (Eros). Most times, Eros only happened after several years of marriage.
In Lewis’s opinion, Venus should happen only after a couple falls in love. However, someone such as George Orwell, prefers the pure sexuality, or physical sexuality without Eros. If a guy wants only to have sex, he goes and picks any women on the street. Nonetheless, after the fruition, he simply abandons her. Why this happened all the time? As Lewis explained; because the sexuality happened without Eros.
“Now Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman.” Compare to old times, in the modern world, in most cases, sexuality happened after the “real” Eros. When a man fells in love with a woman, he is more concerned about the woman herself instead of her gender. But when the love (Eros) reaches a certain level, both of them began to have sexual desire. Having sex became a need-pleasure at this time. They are in love so deeply so that they want to be each other. As Charles Williams said, “Love you? I am you.”
There is distinction between Eros and Venus, when couples have Eros, they focus on each other; they express their love romantically. However, when couples have Venus, they focus on having the sexual pleasure in order to satisfy their own desire; they express love physically. Maybe, I want to say, in conclusion, Venus is more selfish than Eros.

The Road to Happiness

This is the first speech that I listened from the beginning to the end without missing any words. It is just wonderful
We were made to be happy.
As a Christian, we should know that happiness is a natural product of Christianity. God wants us to be happy in him.
The speaker talked about the relationship between happiness and fluency. To be happy is to make you life fluently. People are happy when they feel everything is going on fluently in their life.
If you are always worried about something, you are not fluent in your life. When you are fluent, you are neither self-centered (too confident) or self-conscious (less confident). If you really enjoy the life, you will loss yourself instead of think about “self”.
Little children are always happy because they often wonder around. They ask a lot of questions that you never think about. Why is the sky blue? Why is the lavender purple? Always ask questions will make people happy since they will have the hope to get an answer.
People feel happy when their skills meet their personal desire. In other words, when you are working on something, you are actually enjoying your work. You work “fluently”, so that you are happy.
However, it is impossible to not suffer any sadness in one’s life. When the speaker talked about this issue, she explained it as that sadness is the stairs which assist us to move on to an upper level of happiness. When we are encountering difficulties, we challenge ourselves to solve the problems. When problems are resolved, we are happy again. The quality of happiness we possessed is much better than the last time we got it.
There are two things that can cause unhappiness. They are “a sense of order” and “set up too many rules”. We always like to arrange our life in an order. We follow our daily routines. If we don’t finish our homework on time or we get up late in the morning and miss breakfast. We become upset; we feel a sense of disorder. Then, we feel like that life was chaotic. Also, when we are setting up so many rules for ourselves, we are more likely to break them than those people who set up fewer rules. And when we broke our rules, we felt disappointed about ourselves. Neither of the two situations will lead us to happiness.
So how can we obtain happiness? As the speaker said, happiness is equal to consideration of present. Why should we worry about past? It has become history. Why should we worry about future? For it is not coming yet. All we can do at this moment is to cease the present.
Like what I wrote in my last essay, I was always worried about my future. It made me depressed and felt disordered. But after this speech, I think I realized my weakness, I always want to finish the present work, and then start my “real life”. But I never thought about that I am having the real life right now. Right at this moment, right at this college.
Last night, I prayed for God. I hope I can be settled back to peace again. I asked God to tell me why I was depressed yesterday. And, he just answered me today. I didn’t know we have to listen to this speech today. He talked to me thorough the mouth of the speaker. So what should I worry about, God is always giving me the answer. All I can do right now, is to keep praying and honor him, and BE HAPPY as God made us to.