Monday, December 11, 2017

A hidden sort of Christmas

I love getting ready for Christmas, the figuring out what decorations to put up, setting up my cooking schedule for festive dishes, picking out the best present I can for everybody. But this year health issues in my family mean I'm hardly doing anything for Christmas. In fact the only decoration I have up is a nativity scene that you can hardly see because there is no good location to put display it.

Of course I'm sad at the situation that is causing me to not be free to focus on the season, but I also just miss the fun, creativity, and beauty of doing an elaborate Christmas.

But I look at that nativity scene crammed in that little wedge between all the life things I need to deal with, and I think of that first Christmas. God put on a spectacular show at a historic location, announcing the coming of the Messiah. But He was also content for Him to be laid in a manger. And He certainly didn't need human effort to pretty things up before He could go to work.

God didn't and doesn't need the masses to look at Him, nor to get buy in from the powers that be, in order to change the world. The Christ who came at Christmas did concentrate on surface appearances or start at the top of human wish lists. He went right to the heart of the problem, to the breach between man and God, and made peace there. Only then did He send messengers to tell the whole world of His gift to them.

So I can have my Christmas hidden in chaos of issues, and know that God is not dependent on human circumstances, and He can be working powerfully wear things don't look neat and tidy to us.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Why the NFL plays the national anthem.

Yesterday I was talking about the #takeaknee with a liberal friend and got asked “Why do they play the national anthem at football games anyway?”

Well today I was reading the description of the loyalty moral foundation in Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind.” Here are a couple of quotes from that that show what caught my attention:
“Much of the psychology of sports is about expanding the current triggers of the Loyalty foundation so that people can have the pleasure of binding themselves together to pursue harmless trophies. “
“[The Loyalty/betrayal foundation] makes us sensitive to signs that another person is (or is not) a team player. It makes us trust and reward such people and it makes us want to hurt, ostracize, or even kill those who betray us or our group.”
It strikes me that if a bunch of people are going to get together for the purpose of getting their loyalty emotions all riled up, at least some of whom will be rooting for different teams, it’s a good idea to remind people that really we are all part of one meat-team, America, and we don’t actually want to kill each other.

Football is all about an Us vs. Them dynamic. Us will Drive through Them, Score over Them. Us will Hit, Block and Tackle Them. It’s about getting your blood pumping and getting the ready-to-do-battle adrenaline rush. It’s about putting mental energy into imaging applying your Team’s strengths to the other team’s weaknesses so your team can WIN! At least that’s what it’s about for the people who pay to be there or to watch, the fans. For player, owners, and officials it may be about making money, but they can only make money if they generally deliver on that Loyalty trigger that the fans are paying for.

So football games are an unfortunate context for any protest that looks like a rejection of loyalty to team America. Questions of back suffering or police fairness are going to get swapped by a visceral “Are you Us or are you Them?” question.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Google Manifesto

I'm not a Google employee, but most of my professional work is in support of Google’s business. I am very disappointed in the firing of James Damore and very disturbed by the reasons given for it.  The statement: "To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK," shows an unconscious narcissism that amounts to a delegitimization of huge swaths of human experience. Saying that the Damore memo is "advancing harmful gender stereotypes" is deeply devaluing to women.

Women are people too,

not perfect porcelain dolls sitting untouched in the box. We have faults. Even if variation between groups was entirely random we would expect each group to be the worse in some comparisons. To say it is "harmful" to acknowledge that women as a group have fewer members well suited to certain jobs is harmful to the right of women as a group to be regarded as human, with all the guaranty of imperfection that humanity implies.

Women are people too,

But we are not men. we are different and our preferences can be valid. One of the things I hate about feminism is how feminists are always assuming men's preferences are right. If you surveyed people on the choice between happiness and loving relationships vs. money and power, very few would say it’s always better to choose money and power. But when feminists realize there is a trade off going on between money and life satisfaction, suddenly the one men are taking, money, is assumed to be the better bargain. Why not even consider that women are making smart choices and getting the better end of the bargain? When it comes to Google, I think there is a considerable hubris in their expectation for how normal it will be to be interested in computer programming. Why should it be shocking that women disproportionately prefer to be pediatricians rather than programmers. I see nothing either immoral or shocking in that preference, even when it is wide spread across a group. But Google seems to imply that there is something so horrible about this choice that it must be hidden.

Women are people too.

We can deal with the truth. We can deal with logic and arguments and people who disagree with us. Even when the truth initially hurts it is better for us in the long run to know the truth. I'm much more thing oriented (vs people oriented) than the average woman because I have Autism. And I'm a little more people oriented (vs thing oriented) than the average person with Autism because I'm a woman. And there is nothing wrong with either of these orientations. It is useful for me to know this about myself and for those around me to acknowledge it. Now, I'm much less eager to seek out stress than the average woman or man because I have Autism. I'm fairly good at coping with this, but it could still be an issue for some jobs. It would be no favor too me to pitch me into a job I could not succeed at. Some people, for reasons more of politics than of science, still deny that biology plays a part in the difference in male and female personality distributions. But it is quite clear that there is a biological component to the issues that persons with Autism have with stress. There are definitely factors that make me biologically less suited to high stress jobs. Does that lower my moral worth? Does that make me less human? Does that mean all Google employees must shun me and wall me out of their conscious awareness? It shouldn’t mean that, because even when there are facts that aren't fair people should be able to deal with those facts. When there is an idea we don’t like we should be ready to confront it, rather than acting like a Victorian lady demanding that table legs be called limbs least she be reminded of biological realities. If the idea that women are more neurotic is false, it’s good that those who hold it discuss it openly, so that good information can change their views. If a manager is concerned that female employees might be unhappy to be put in high stress positions, it's good if he can openly ask them about their preferences. Everyone loses if a set of common beliefs are pushed underground so no one can check if they are true or ask if they apply to an individual.

Men are people too,

and to deliberately discriminate against them on the basis of their sex is unfair and it undercuts the rationale for opening professions to women in the first place. It artificially creates difference and distinction where it does not need to be. Men and women will end up on different tracks so there can never be honest comparison between them. I feel that hurting men just for being men is wrong and I don’t want to be a party to it.

I'm one of those women not hired by Google. I don't have a fancy college degree. While I did a little bit of coding I never pursued it with single minded obsession. I might have learned to be a moderately good programmer if I could have started in an entry level job, but Google outsources the basic programming tasks to foreign workers.

I'm glad to have a job that let's me support my family. I do good work that increases utility in the world. But my satisfaction in my work does go down a little bit knowing that the company I work in support of thinks acknowledging the existence of people like me is a firing offence.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Something to identify with

Democrats are the party of taking from the rich and giving to the poor. It makes sense that they would be the party of the poor and that is how they have often been seen. But lately they have had less success attracting working class voters, particulate white ones. I want to explain one reason that might be.

The messages we get about how others perceive us can have important effects on our psyche. If we continually hear that the world at large considers us bad or evil or unimportant or that we shouldn’t exist, it’s  going to have a negative effect on us. The sensible thing to do is to move away from the community that is giving you these messages.
But many of these messages about us are not likely to be from close acquaintances that know us personally. Instead they will be from culture leaders that tell stories about various types of people, and we will feel the judgments of types similar to us as judgments of us.
Culture leaders naturally develop political view points and they clump together based on political views. Which clumps of culture leader voters regularly listen too will have an important effect on how they vote. So frequently talking about types that a voter can identify with, without psychological harm, is going to be an important part of keeping voters. So here are all the types I know of that a poor or working class person might identify with.

Salt of the earth types
                They may not have riches or fame, but at least they have moral value. They work hard and pay their debts even knowing they will never really make it. This steadiness provides the stable base for the whole nation. They’re the moral heart of America, so their values are more important than those of the decadent jet-setter types. Identifying with this type provides a sense of moral uprightness that overrides any sense of economic underachievement. Anyone who tries to be a good member of their can identify with this type, even if they don't succeed in having it together. Democrats have been allergic to promoting and praising this identity type because it seems to be against progressive social issues, but it might be worth it to try re-working it.

Sturdy independent types
               Their skills may not earn them much in the labor market, but they don't need the labor market that can make every thing they need for themselves. They can grow their own food, fix their own snow mobiles, and built their own shelter. Identify with this type can give the sense of pride that you can "look the whole world in the face because you owe not any man," regardless of your actual debt situation. Anyone who is improving their self reliance skills can claim this identity, even if all they have so far is a small container garden and a try at canning. Democrats have been wary of high lighting this type because it goes against the idea low incomes are a horror that require emergency action and also because the full blown version of the life style often involves guns and killing your own meet. But really the heroes of this type are often old hippies other being in touch with nature types. I think this identity type is ripe for big tent Democrats to embrace.

Up and comer types
                  They may not have much now but they are going to work hard, save, and be clever about money. Some day they are going to be middle class, if they get a lucky break maybe even well to do. Identify with this type can give a sense of worth and potential, that you are in control and will be someone people look up to. Anyone can identify with this type by forming an intention for future action regardless of they are now. Democrats really want to cultivate this identity type, but there's a problem caused by the way the human mind defaults to framing the "take from the rich" part of the Democratic program. The natural assumptions of our mind are that taking equals punishment and that the person being punished is bad. The person who is already rich can say, 'I'm ready to pay my debt to society and be forgiven,' but the statement doesn't really apply to identifying as actively trying to commit the punishable offence. With more awareness this is the problem Democrats might overcome this issue.

                 They are poor because some evil force that they were helpless against put them it this position. They have a moral claim on good people for help to get out of this situation. This identity gives you a since of righteousness and deservingness but it can be frustrating if you have to stay with it year after year. Anyone can identify with this type by identifying a villain that did this to them. Democrats often use this type as part of motivating help for POC and other minority groups. But they often do this by contrasting problems others face with the image of whites going there life on the easy setting. This idea can be comforting to rich whites as it means they didn't really mean to commit the punishable offence, it just happened to them. But for poor whites it means they don't qualify as victims and their is only one option left:

            If this is the only option available to someone in Democratic communication, then even if democratic policies would benefit this person, the damage this person would take (from listening to a lot of Democratic communication and thinking of Dems as reliable) may outweigh the benefit. But all the other types I know of in Democratic discourse require some sort of success or elite status before someone can identify with them.

            Democratic thinkers can come types poor people can identify with and use them as supporting characters is stories and incidental examples. The type examples don't have to be exclusively or even primarily white, Democrats just have to make sure that no part of there message excludes whites from the type.
             To win votes you needs to help voters materially without tearing them down psychologically. I think providing opportunities for positive identification will let Democrats do this without changing their policy positions.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Poverty and skin in the game

      Thinking about some of the subtle issues with being poor. One of the things I've notice is lacking in poverty is the possibility of BECOMING poor. Its already happened, so you don't have to guard against it in the future. Even I, who am poor only in the most relative sense, don't have a gut feeling of there being farther to fall. My mind has me in its bottom category, so I don't have that sense of being at risk of losing my socioeconomic status. There is a certain freedom in nothing left to lose, but also problems. Specifically there is a lack of motivation, especially for maintenance tasks. Putting work into keeping my car or my kitchen clean, making an effort to maintain my health or my relationships, doesn't have the psychological reward contributing to a since of status. This lack of skin in the game about my own life leads to poorer day-to-day decisions.
        This is a problem of poverty that can't be solved even if we ever could find a way to solve poverty. What ever the lowest socioeconomic level is, this will apply.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Chess set

This is a chess set I made as a gift.It's slip cast from a commercial mold and then I hand painted each piece to be unique. It took pours to get all the pieces for a complete set. I would sit in the garden and watch the little bunnies as I cleaned the unfired clay after I took them from the mold. Then I would paint a few at my desk after work each day.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Bible Study on Mind of a Maker

It was seeing a mentor of mine created a Bible study from a book of sermons that inspired my passion for teaching Bible studies. Later she taught me things like time management and other practical skills that helped me as a Bible study teacher, but that fire of enthusiasm for sharing spiritual insight has always been of central importance to me as a teacher.
     I had always loved Dorothy Sayers' thought, especially the deep insight into the nature and character of God she displays in Mind of the Maker. I began to see the possibility of using it as a Bible study by adding specific Bible verse to study that showed the general biblical concepts Sayers was referencing. As I worked on this dream over a number of years I added other helpful features to my fission until I had created a study guide with everything you could need to turn Sayers' book into a group Bible study. I'm very proud to have published A Study guide on Dorothy Sayers' Mind of the Maker, and I hope it will be a help to fellow Christians in finding insight into God given creativity and into the mystery of the Trinity.

Friday, February 17, 2017

being brought to maturity

Luke 12:25-28

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

I got my flower arrangement a few days ago the lilies in were closed buds. But now the lilies are opening up and they are lovely. The white and pink tiger lily also smells amazingly wonderful. It feels like catching the sent of that joy that heaven can create. Its remarkable how a this flower can transform like this, going something plain to bloom into such amazing beauty. And these are cut flowers, they are already doomed, removed from their roots and plants. Today I sniped off the bottoms of the steams that were starting to she decay so that those flower could keep drawing up water and delay wilting for a little longer.

God still allows them to come to maternity and show the glory they have. Tonight I am doing a Bible study about how God will brings us to maturity, and that maturity means we will be perfect in Him. As I get older it is easy to think of maturity in terms of signs that my body is wearing out and will one day break down and loose functions. But God values maturity. I should be reaching forward to what is ahead and pursuing the prize He has promised. (Phil. 3:12-16) These lilies remind me of how wonderful God's vision of something brought into full bloom can be. In just a little time these flowers will wither and be grown away. How much greater than this beauty will be the eternal blooming that Christ has in store for me. Yes, I still have a lot of imperfections now but:

We know in part and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside.
           - 1 Cor. 13:9-10

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Life filled with Love

Today is Valentine's Day. It is also my father's birthday.  He passed away a number of years ago, and there is the potential for pain there. I had a wonderful day, with a surprise delivery of flower from my husband.
As I staged a picture of the flowers that were delighting me, I noticed how nice they looked with a photo of my dad and me at my baptism. 
      Then tonight I was going over 1 John 3:21-23 in a Bible Study I am doing. And I was thinking about a life of pleasing God and following His commandments. About His commandment to love one another. And I was struck by what a wonderful live God is offering us here, a life filled with love. Not a life filled with a need for people to love us and a need to collect trophies of that love that compete with others. Not a life filled with collecting public virtue points to prove that we love others so that we will be worthy. But a life filled with mutual love based not in ourselves but in God. This life of love sweeps away all imperfects in our love or others or in circumstances because the wellspring of this love is from God, and it carries all before it. 

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.