… The Lizard Queen’s Own Personal Brand of “Enlightenment”:
The whole idea of “Enlightenment” ultimately is using one’s reason to question traditional ideas, traditional ideas, but the call for using one’s noggin is certainly older than the French or even the Scottish version (both 18th century constructs to address a certain historical context). Plato’s Socrates comes to mind. Aristotle, too. But pre-Christian philosophers aside, there are just some things one has to take on faith, that is, as givens or axioms, whether one is religious or not. Some folks take space-time as a given, and they reason from there. Some folks take the family unit as a good thing as a given and reason from there. Even Descartes, “I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am” takes as a given “I” as a real entity. So, in any logical chain or reasoning, one has to have certain prime givens, axioms, that you just have take for granted before you can even start. In other words, there are just some things you can’t prove because, logically speaking, you have to start *somewhere*. You say, “I believe this — so where can we go from here?” There’s nothing *unreasonable* about doing this. Even in simple math, you just have to accept the real existence of “1” before anything advanced like “1+1=2” makes any sense. Of course, somebody could always disagree with your axiom, in the existence of “1” and its properties, but your logical chain that bases itself on the existence of “1” becomes dead in the water.
So, my lovely readers, please follow the advice of that Romantic poet, John Keats, and willingly suspend your disbelief in my axioms because, well, I have to start somewhere in my logical chain of reasoning.
My axioms come from many sources, thanks to my background as a child of Filipino immigrants, as a Navy brat, as a product of the American public school system but tracked as gifted/honors/college-bound from the second grade, as a cradle Catholic (but a Catholicism brought over by 16th century Spaniards and made to ferment in the Philippines), and as a product of a strong Catholic-libertarian strain in the English Department of the University of Dallas, a Catholic liberal arts school, and the “Great Works of the Western World” type program that they had and still have over there. Two sources become clear: I like being a Catholic Christian. I like being an American. And I don’t see those two sources necessarily contradicting each other.
So, some of my axioms are religious, some political, all contributing to TLQ’s own personal enlightenment. It works for me, makes the world a whole helluva lot of sense, and actually gives me some peace of mind (with echoes to that other connotation of “enlightenment” for my Buddhist friends). So, here goes.
1) God created everything, including us, and it’s all good.
2) We human beings were created equal with God’s gifts of our life, our liberty, and our pursuit of happiness.
3) We lived and used our liberty to choose to pursue one obvious happiness, that is, God, but, free-will is sticky and mysterious. We’re made to stand with God — but we’re free to fall away from God, too, to get distracted, ferret-like with what God created and forget that behind all of that is God. So, like the kid sticking his finger in the electrical plug, we zotted ourselves and, metaphorically speaking, kept sticking our fingers in that electrical plug because we got *stuck*, still having our life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, but aiming them at lesser, shallow things, at lesser, shallow goods. “Evil” then isn’t a thing that exists but the improper orientation of our God-given gifts toward lesser things.
4) God became a human being in order to show what an unstuck human being was like. Mary, conceived immaculately — without sin — is like unfallen Creation, and Jesus, born from unfallen Creation and conceived by the Holy Spirit, is like unfallen Adam, ensouled by God in the original Genesis account. Jesus is the new Adam. But he doesn’t get stuck because his free-will is divine, that is, is always pointing to God (like the original unfallen Adam’s was) with no risk of falling away from God because, hey! He *is* God (totally unlike the original unfallen Adam).
5) He suffered and died for the species-inherited sin of the genus homo sapiens because He himself is homo sapiens, but, being God, his redemptive death didn’t redeem one individual (himself) but redeemed his entire species, homo sapiens. The exact how is unknown. The effect seems to be increased hope for those who believe this.
6) One doesn’t have to be Catholic to believe in all of the above, but being in a Christian denomination that has a *long* history of keeping records, lesson plans and study notes of its teachers, ministers, disciples, so to speak, certainly helps.
7) Once redeemed, human beings, basing their behavior on Christ’s model, can help each other to pointing away from evil things and towards good things. One example of that is Beatrice and Dante in _The Divine Comedy_. Dante was so far away from God that, at first, he’d only follow a pagan poet as his guide to God. But then his love for Beatrice became his guide to God, if only in his thought, “Thank you, God, for giving me Beatrice’s love!”
8) This follows the two Great Commandments of a) loving God with all you heart, mind, and soul, and b) loving your neighbor as yourself. The social synthesis is by loving your neighbor, you love God. And, as we’ve seen in Jesus’ sacrifice and prayer, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do,” your neighbor isn’t just your friends and family and people that you like but also those who consider you their enemy because, in God’s eyes, we are all equal. We share the same species-ladened sin, we share the same joy in the redemption, we share the same divine gifts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
9) In founding America, the Founding Fathers, but especially Jefferson, recognized the divine origin of those gifts, and, in the political, social, and economic sphere, called those gifts “unalienable rights.”
10) From those three rights, he derived the conclusion that human beings in consensus (because they are equal in God’s eyes) have the power to create a tool that will secure their God-given rights, and that tool is called “government.”
11) Since people are the toolmakers, then they can change or get rid of that tool if it is broken, that is, fails to secure those rights; so, people also have the right to change the form of their government.
12) Peacefully, that change is called voting in and running for elections. Not peacefully, that change is called revolution and civil war. But it’s best to do the former before you ever do the latter.
13) Of all of those unalienable human rights to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, and power to change one’s government, the most important is liberty because what makes uniquely man is his liberty.
14) For, in creating, only three things have free-will: God, the angels, and man. It is our loving use of our free-will, our liberty, which makes us in God’s image, makes us not unlike angels. It is our horrible abuse of our free-will, our liberty, which makes us like beasts, makes us not unlike demons.
15) Part of our creation is having dominion over the earth, but dominion as seen in unfallen Adam and Eve, who took care of the earth, the plants, the animals, and each other — in other words, good, faithful caretakers of the earth and helpmates to each other. We mucked that up (see axiom 3) but, post-Christ, we’re regaining our orientation back to taking care of the earth (all of it, not just America) *and* each other (all of us, not just Americans because Christ didn’t come to redeem just Americans).
16) In America, following Jeffersonian principles, individuals should first try to solve private and local problems themselves, on the private citizen level, and then, slowly, move up the political chain of local, grass-roots level, town / municipal level, county level, state level, and, lastly the federal level. This works fine if everybody on all levels remember axiom 15. When too many levels are weak and/or corrupt, then expediting to the federal level may be the best way (like the Civil Rights actions of the 1960s), but that should be an exception, not the rule.
17) The federal level is good for very expensive, infrastructure-type services, like the Center for Disease Control, allocating of funds for the Interstate Highway system, allocating of resources for the US military branches; and for enacting foreign policies, like international trade agreements, negotiating treaties overseas, etc. In other words BIG and BASIC things.
18) Everything else the federal government ought not micromanage, respecting the individual liberty of the citizens to pursue their life and their happiness, while, at the same time, the citizens accept the responsibilities that come with those rights (i.e. axiom 15).
19) God can get good, even in the midst of evil. Likewise, human beings can use their free-will rather *badly* and yet some good will come out of it; paradoxically, as seen in Christ’s death, some kinds of good can *only* occur after much evil has happened. This is not a pessimism but the greatest kind of optimism there is.
20) The fact that the United States of America still exists, even though nothing like it existed before, nothing’s quite like it now, some nations are even *better* at representative government than the USA, Americans can be argumentative, selfish, greedy, corrupt, lazy, whiny, murderous, oppressive (even to themselves) and wasteful, and many other things awful things that are true — in spite of all of these things, immigrants from all over the world still come to America; this is an example of axiom 19.
21) The separation of church and state is valid, true, and sound. “State” — a broad word, which I take to be “government” — exists to secure our human rights, absolutely speaking. “Church” — another broad word, which I take to be “faith in a given religion” — exists to give its member certain religious axioms by which to inform how to live, make choices, pursue happiness. Church and state do two entirely different things, and mixing the two only creates a two-headed monster in which the human rights of non-members of that church gets violated, contradicting the function of “State.” Combining the two leads to the disappearance of State and the emergence of a church masquerading as a state, which violates axiom 15. For example, the cause of a Christian to do acts of charity to her non-Christian neighbor may stem from her church, but it is a grave act of uncharity to *force* her church onto her non-Christian neighbor as a condition for that charity; she is violating his human right to liberty. This is true for the zealous atheist as well, whose atheism has become a church and the atheist a self-righteous evangelist.
22) Good foreign policy keeps Axioms 15 and 21 in mind. Human beings must help each other, locally and abroad, but forcible religious conversion in the name of God sullies God’s name, He who gave us our liberty.
23) Axiom 22 is not easy; thank God for axiom 19!
Okay, I think that’s enough; I actually have more, but I’ve exhausted myself, after working on this for over three hours. Wow. I think I need to do dishes now…