Friday, May 13, 2016

Sticks and Stones, Poopy-Pants!


We all know the adage that sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us. We also all know that the adage is a load of crap. Names do hurt and yet we often teach our children that names are meaningless--and we say so with full assurance that we are right.

This morning, my 8-year-old daughter was nearly in tears because her 5-year-old brother called her "poopy-pants." Poopy-pants? Really? You're upset because a 5-year-old called you poopy-pants? My sage advice was that he's a 5-year-old and is obviously rather foolish and thus his words are nothing to be offended at. Would I be offended in the slightest if some 5-year-old called me poopy-pants? Of course not! It is absolutely ridiculous and I know darn well that my pants aren't poopy. There is no pain there whatsoever.

On my drive to work, however, wondering why children have to be so ridiculous, I got to thinking about the names that would offend me. If someone called me a name at work, assuming they meant it and used something a bit more mature than "poopy-pants," I would indeed be offended. But why? I would be flustered at the very least even if a stranger called me a name and even if I was not to blame for any wrong accused of me. But why? I think the answer is because I see such people as near equals to me. I am just some random guy and they are just some random person.

On the internet, I am just as much a random troll as the next person and so we equally take offense at name-calling. I have since learned to brush much of it aside, but I do so by recognizing that they are beneath me. They are non-intellectuals who resort to name-calling for lack of sufficient intelligence to formulate a proper argument. This line of reasoning did not come naturally, of course, and it is by no means an easy thing to master. It is too easy to see any person on Facebook or on forums as an equal and we have no real means to distinguish.

The reason it hurts when an equal (or a superior) calls us names is because we put some amount of trust in their perception. We may not believe them, but we may wonder, consider, and ponder. With enough names, we begin to identify with the ill-will and believe something is indeed wrong with us. Anyone beneath me could not possibly hurt me with names unless I just happen to already agree with them and they simply remind me. My 2-year-old loves to say "Daddy's MEAN!" whenever she does not get her way. I know I am not being mean and thus it does no damage coming from her. If my wife, on the other hand, tells me that I am mean, I am likely to take heart or else be offended that she might not see me in the light of my obvious perfection.

So I have three take-aways from this. The first is that "poopy-pants" from a 5-year-old might very well be painful to an 8-year-old sibling. As far as they are concerned, they are equals. They are both children under the reign of the parental units as much as my coworkers are equals to me under the reign of our boss. Age is not so much important.

The second take-away, is that we might want to be more conscious about to whom we are giving power to insult us. If we take offense, we are indicating that such a person is our equal or superior. Do we really believe this to be true in every case? Personally, holding to the wisdom that is in peaceful communications, I can easily see any other person as unwise who might call me names rather discourse congenially. They prove themselves beneath me by their own utterances thus providing the perfect excuse to shrug them off as fools. Again, easier said than done, but this is, after all, the exact advice we give our children who are far less mentally stable than us. Or, at least, they should be less stable than us.

Thirdly, we should be more careful with the names we call others. If we are name-calling our equals or those whom we hold power over, our words carry a significant weight. We might as well hit such people with a hammer. If a long-time friend starts calling me names, it is certainly going to hurt. If my boss calls me names, you can bet I'm going to feel squished, tiny, and meaningless as a bug under foot. Words hold power, but generally only against those to whom one already holds some form of power or equality. Names only lack power when they come from below which is how we, as parents, see insults such as "poopy-pants" coming from our 5-year-old or the kids on a playground. But such fiery arrows of the tongue are devastating when coming from above and quite painful when coming from a friend or equal. To a child, there is no one below. All names thus hurt but nothing hurts more than the disapproval of a parent. I guess I owe my daughter an apology for invalidating her pain.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Can Thoughts Be Criminal?



I had always taken the idea for granted that "if one looks lustfully at a woman he has already committed adultery with her in his heart." I similarly saw hatred for someone as an evil in and of itself even if no crime was committed based upon it. I certainly never meant to indicate that people should be locked away for such things even if we could read their minds, but it seemed obvious that one should not do such things. I am now re-evaluating these ideas. Are "thought crimes" really all that bad?

It shocked me when someone considered Jesus' quote of mental adultery as being a ridiculous thought-crime. The idea that a god might care about our thoughts and consider them crimes seemed like a rather novel idea to me and yet others considered it quite repulsive. Should God not judge the heart and intent of a person? I originally understood such adulterous thoughts to be an indication of a person's heart and thus whether or not that person was good or bad. If we envision intimate relations with someone else's wife, is that not a terrible thing to imagine? Does that not indicate our heart is crude and corrupt? Would it not eventually lead to a debased mind and terrible acts? I guess I cannot say, actually. I have certainly had similar thoughts in my own mind on occasion and yet I have never done such a thing. I have never mulled such things extensively, however. If done regularly, does one begin to obsess and thus perform? Or is the evil only in the initial intention to act which is entirely apart from the thought itself? Is such a thought ineffectual if the thinker never has intention of making such a move? Perhaps it is nothing more than media with the screen being our mind and the actors being those we know.

If we consider our media, we see depictions of fantasy violence and sexuality all the time. We each have our own limits, but do such limits mean anything about the person? Personally, I draw the line on violence when it comes to torture or extreme gore. I had often considered such people who could enjoy Raiden's finishing move in the video game Mortal Kombat--where he saws his victim in half vertically right up through the legs while he or she kicks and screams--as an aberration of humanity. I presumed it required an awfully debased mind to take joy in such things. To joy in suffering is the worst of evils; who could do such a thing? And yet, I can take joy in a movie depicting war, and I can play games where I run around shooting people in the head without so much as blinking. Someone can easily say about me that I take joy in death and war. In real life, of course, this could not be further from the truth. I hate war and death. So how can I take joy in the game? Well, they are only images to me. They are not real in the slightest. Torture, however, becomes real to me even when merely depicted with images.

Torture happens to real people and I abhor such an idea. People also get shot in the head, of course, but death is far nicer and happens to everyone while torture is an inexcusable evil. When you die, you feel nothing, but when you are tortured, all you can do is hope for death. I do not want to think about, be reminded of, or consider how one feels who is or has been tortured because it makes me sick to my stomach and cry in sorrow within my mind. Maybe other people are less empathetic and depictions of torture do not become so real to them. Does that make them a worse person? I guess I have no idea. I presume plenty of people enjoy grotesque games and movies and yet might donate to different charities while holding a principle of no harm toward others. Does the media we consume truly matter? I often feel like it does, but does it truly?

If our choices in media do not matter, do our thoughts similarly not matter? Can we think highly of a person who might envision a coworker being hit be a car while they look on and laugh just like a movie might depict? Is that not a crime to take joy in such murderous thoughts? What about envisioning a sibling being squished? Or a spouse? Our own child? Can we envision running someone through with a sword or lobbing their head off while not feeling guilty as if committing a crime in our mind? What about raping someone? Is nothing off the table of acceptability? Is it truly nothing to be repentant about to envision such things for the purposes of entertainment and joy?

I have not really made up my mind yet. Such "media" in our minds seems terrible to me and still shows what manner of person we are from my perspective. But if our actions always demonstrate only love and peace without a hint of such a play being rehearsed in our mind, could it truly be said to indicate our character at all? Our character should be defined solely by our actions, should it not? I would like to think that the manner of person we are should be entirely defined by our actions, and yet I get an uneasy twinge when thinking that someone might be kind to me while secretly despising me and envisioning my demise. Is there not something to be said about such a slimeball? Perhaps what should be said is that such a person's character is exemplary for behaving rightly despite thier mind rather than thinking ill of them having done no wrong in action. I still have yet to make up my mind on all of this. Perhaps there is yet another aspect I am missing and have not yet considered fully to tie this all together. What makes a thought so wrong in my mind if there is no physical act to make it thus? Perhaps it is due solely to the culture in which I grew up. A culture which threatens eternal fire for those who commit crimes of thought. Or perhaps there truly is a deeper method by which we might define our character. I just don't know...