‘I Think, Therefore I Am’ For Dummies

I was at my gym yesterday and saw something hilarious.

Now, understand, I was laughing in sympathy with this poor woman [nearly] as much as I was laughing at her.

A beautiful Porsche convertible parks right in front of the gym and an attractive woman gets out.  She did not appear to be the result of a ninth generation of inbreeding by any means.  I assumed she was coming into the gym (after all, she parked right in front of the front door to it).  But instead, she starts walking around the building.

Not yet wanting to do my next set of grunting while repeatedly lifting a heavy object for no particular reason, I’m watching her walk around the gym.  ‘Where in the world is she going?’ I thought.  There isn’t much for a fair distance down the road.  There does happen to be a liquor store nearby; maybe she’s planning on getting soused before her workout?  We’ve all got our “unique” (that’s another name for “weird”) routines, after all.

Well, that wasn’t what it was.  Instead, she was just trying to find the door.  She’d somehow not seen the double glass doors that were nearly directly in front of where she’d parked and had instead walked over to the fire escape exit on the opposite side of the front of the building.  She pulls on the door several times and discovers that it is locked on the outside.  And then amazingly continues walking on further in the wrong direction around the side of the building.

At this, one of my friends runs over and taps on the glass.  He points to where the door is.  She sees him.  She appears to understand.  She turns around and starts heading in the correct direction toward the door. But she still doesn’t quite get it right.  Because there’s another set of doors between the main entrance and the fire escape that has never once been opened the entire time I’ve been a member of the gym.  That’s where I always park my motorcycle, in fact.

So the woman is now standing in front of these doors – which she’d walked past the first time – trying to figure out how to get around or climb over my motorcycle.  My cruiser bike is eight-and-a-half feet long; it completely blocks the doors that remain shut whether I’m parked there or not.

Greg to the rescue again.  He again runs over and taps on the glass.  At this point the woman simply has no clue what to do.  So he actually proceeds to run over to the doors and opens one of the them for her.  Which I believe I mentioned was nearly directly in front of where she’d parked her Porsche.

You might ask where I was when this poor woman was in distress and Greg was valiantly trying to guide her into the gym.  Why, I was laughing like a hyena, of course.  And I’m a chronic sufferer of the debilitating handicap of not being able to laugh hysterically and do anything else at the same time.

The attractive woman who had driven up in the beautiful Porsche and did not look at all like the ninth generation of inbreeding finally made it through the door with the most sheepish look in the world on her face.  And I’m just smiling innocently and sweetly at her with – it is my hope – only the barest hint of “Must… not … burst into laughter…” look on my face.

She still wasn’t through wandering the wrong direction, I couldn’t help but notice.  After making arrangements to do her workout at the front desk, she zigged when she should have zagged and wandered into the free weight pit on one side instead of the lockers and cardio area to the other side.

Ah, the tenuous grip we have on our dignity.  So difficult to erect, so easy to dismantle.

Okay, I might sound a bit cruel here.  But I’d just had a conversation with one of the pastors at my church that ought to explain why I viewed this woman’s travails as so hilarious.

This particular assistant pastor has his hand in a cast.  Why is his hand in a cast?  According to his explanation, “Because I’m stupid, that’s why.”

He had managed to get overly excited and slammed his hand down on a table that he’d forgotten was there.  And the final score was table one, hand zero.

Trying to cheer him up, I recast the story of the woman caught in adultery for him.  In this version, it was about the woman caught in the act of being stupid.  And the mob was just about to stone her for stupidity when Jesus showed up and said, “Let the one among you who has never been a bonehead cast the first stone.”  And of course, everyone in the mob, having themselves been a bonehead, all put their stones down and absent-mindedly wandered off wondering what in the world they’d been doing just before they’d picked up those rocks.

Rene Descartes came up with the expression that led to the explosion of Western philosophy: “Cogito, ergo sum.”  Or, “I think, therefore I exist.”

There’s just one problem with this formula, however: namely, few if any of us humans really do ever actually think very dang much.  And if we have to think in order to exist, well, you can understand why our species is in so much trouble.

There’s a story about Descartes.   After writing down his most famous thought, he went to a tavern and celebrated by having a few tankards of ale.  When the barkeep asked him if he’d like another, he said, “I think not.”  And then he dematerialized.  It’s probably not true, but it seemed worth telling.

Anyway, how many of us humans actually THINK?  For 99.999% of the human race, if somebody recited Descartes’ formula and claimed, “I think, therefore I am,” a spouse or family member would deny the first premise – “You don’t either think!” – and blow their whole argument for existing away.

Yes to existing, a big fat NO to thinking.

So it occurred to me that we humans need to re-write the “I think, therefore I am” formula to match our actual experience.  So here is my version:

I can’t say I actually think, but I do stupid stuff all the time for which I constantly suffer the consequences.  Therefore I exist.”

Okay.  It admittedly lacks the punch and pizzaz of Descartes’ version, but it does have the virtue of being considerably closer to actual reality.

For the record, I write certain information on my hanging wall calendar.  Well, I forgot to turn over my calendar from September and wrote events on Wednesday’s and Thursday’s slot on the calendar.  Which is to say I basically entered appointments for September 31st and September 32nd.  Fortunately, I ran out of empty spaces for September or I likely would have just kept going to September 33rd and beyond.  I mean, you’ve got your Mayans who were able to develop and maintain incredibly sophisticated and accurate calendars even back in the stone ages, and then you’ve got people like me…

Well, at least I didn’t break my hand this time.  Although I did once cut off part of my right index finger in one of my more brilliant attempts to refute Descartes’ formulation: no, I don’t think, but I’ve got to exist in order to cut off my danged finger, don’t I?  So nyah nyah nyah, Rene Descartes!  Whose the dummy now?

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8 Responses to “‘I Think, Therefore I Am’ For Dummies”

  1. dog walker Says:

    I like it that church men go to the gym. My gym could do with a few more of them. Churches that I have been to could do with a few more as well. I got this weird image of church people. On Sundays their sacrament is to sit down at a potluck and gorge themselves. Their bodies go to pot just as fast as those of beer drinkers. I think that a good bit of my antipathy towards church originates there. Here are all of these guys that love the Lord and that are going to heaven but they sure are saddling themselves with a burden of early suffering.
    I used to go to twelve step.
    All of those guys convinced themselves and each other that they would die miserable deaths if they ever drank again. But look at them, half of them smoke fiendishly and the other half can’t push away from the table. They are still going to die miserable deaths of self induced malady… and probably ain’t gonna have any fun.
    Anyway, here I am hijacking your thread again. The upshot is that I still read pretty much everything you write.
    I am looking for a philosophy that works for a guy who is pretty much disgusted with more than half of the population. I like God and Jesus but it don’t look like I am ever going to grow up to be very mature in that. I hope I get to go to heaven. If love and tolerance is a requirement I might not get a very high standing. Some religions believe that there are ranks and hierarchies in heaven. Might be comforting to a guy that thinks he might barely make it in.
    I don’t know. I ain’t drinking as much as I used to. I am kind of able to prioritize my fitness goals. As cynical and as bitter as I am, believe it or not, I am kind of having fun.
    Sometimes I have fun… therefore I am.

  2. Michael Eden Says:

    Anyway, here I am hijacking your thread again.

    dog walker,

    Not this time. I didn’t really have anything in mind but what I thought was a funny story. Here is where the writer dies and the reader is born, because here I’ll gladly let somebody else interpret the meaning of my gibberish.

    I completely agree with you about the perception of “church people.” It’s one of the things that motivates me at the gym: I’m named after the archangel, and I’m going to LOOK like him.

    There’s a truly false view that has been created by Hollywood culture: on the one hand, you have the “beautiful,” cool people who are all liberal and they’re out partying, etc. And on the other side you have the ugly people, the losers, the people the liberals wouldn’t want. And of course being losers and having nowhere else to go, they go to church and become conservatives (and haters because after all, they’re envious of the beautiful liberals).

    Bunch of crap. I’ve seen crowds of liberals and they are NOT “beautiful” in any way, shape or form. And dang, there are some beautiful conservative women.

    My church has two congregations, Anglo and Hispanic. The Anglos are decidedly older. Most of them are “snowbirds,” living in the desert in the very nice winter months and going east when the desert is a scorching desert. Now, the Hispanic congregation is decidedly younger and for the most part year-round. And hot dang a lot of those younger women are GORGEOUS.

    You also make a great point about the alcoholics. They trade on addiction for another. That’s the way it usually is for people with addictive personalities: you hope the new addiction you replace your old addiction with will be healthier. I would submit that at least they have their MINDS when they’re chain-smoking, which they lose when they’re binge-drinking. But it’s not like they give up booze and turn into Jack LaLannes is it?

    The biblical worldview separates “the god of this world” – that’s the devil – and the Creator God. And the god of this world has blinded people’s minds so that they cannot see.

    Here’s a link that lists passages about being like the world: http://www.openbible.info/topics/being_like_the_world

    There’s the way of the world and there’s the way of God demonstrated in Christ. The thing is, God the Father doesn’t WANT you to be like the world. He wants you to be like His Son. If you’re truly sick of the world, there IS an alternative.

    And through Christ – and ONLY through Christ – we can overcome the world: http://www.openbible.info/topics/overcoming_the_world

    I have spent a good share of my life examining worldviews, philosophies and religions. And I declare that the Judeo-Christian worldview is the ONLY one that stands. The problem of secular humanism/atheism is the twofold dilemma of 1) absurdity of such a life without God, as all meaning, value and purpose in human life vanishes and 2) absurdity of morality as anything but “Darwinian morality” where the strong crush the weak. How were Joseph Stalin or Chairman Mao bad atheists?

    I realized when I began to search that if there were no God, I could do ANYTHING. Literally, I could be a good Darwinian atheist and be a RAPIST. I could also be the next Hitler and exterminate an entire group of people whom I declared to be “inferior” in Darwinian/genetic terms.

    And there would be no God to tell me I was wrong.

    And why should I give a DAMN what society says to the contrary when “society” is nothing but a bunch of sheep or a bunch of cows dominated by a bunch of politicians who are demagogues and liars???

    You start looking around, and REALLY looking, with a mind that is resolved to following the ANSWER wherever it leads. And you end up following Jesus Christ.

    Now, I know what you mean about being disgusted with “church people.” I’ve learned this by being part of the church: there are a whole bunch of hangers-on, and there are a few who are tried and true.

    You go to any Christ-believing Church and you will find that the so-called “80/20” rule is true: 20% of the people do 80% of the work. If it’s not true, then it’s only because it’s TEN percent of the people doing NINETY percent of the work.

    You know what? I’m one of the ten percenters. I’m tried and true. I’m devout. I put my money where I say my faith is. I’m out in the fields working.

    I smile and wave at all the people as they stream in and then stream out of the church on Sundays. Many of those people won’t touch their Bibles again until the next Sunday when they haul it to church again. But the people I love and fellowship with are those other ten percenters. They’re my people. I love them. And they love me. We count on each other and we respect each other. Because we know what one another truly stands for.

    That’s my gang. We’re the warriors. We’re the fighters. We’re the helpers. We’re the ones that everyone else counts on.

    We’re part of one another. We’re a family in the sense that in a real, functioning family everyone pitches in for the good of the family.

    And the only way that somebody really becomes part of that kind of group is if they SERVE.

    Here’s an analogy for you: it’s like being a soldier. You can be in an army and wear the uniform, but don’t ever expect to truly bond with the front-line troops if you’re not with them fighting on the front lines. But when you’re in that group, you’ve got the support of a brotherhood that you know you can count on because you’ve seen them risk their lives for you before.

    The kind of Christianity that Jesus showed us when He came as the way, the truth and the life is RADICAL. He said NO ONE gets to the Father except through HIM (John 14:6).

    He said leave EVERYTHING behind and follow Him. Jesus didn’t want half-assed disciples.

    If you want to understand just how RADICAL Christianity is, just picture yourself dying a horrible, torturous death to save your enemies. Because that’s what Jesus did on the Cross.

    Now please understand, I’m not talking about going to heaven because of your works. Unless you lived a perfect life and never ONCE violated your conscience even ONE time.

    There’s only one man who ever “worked his way to heaven,” and that is the Man Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that you can only be saved by Him through what He did in your place on the Cross. He took the blame for you and died the death that you should have died in your place. But you have to ratify that in your own life by making a personal decision to accept Christ’s salvation and accept Him as your Lord and Savior.

    Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” but verse ten goes on to say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

    True Christian faith is faith that WORKS.

    The Christians that I count on – and there are a DOZENS of them in my church – are the ones who received their salvation, became new creatures, and really took their new life in Christ seriously.

  3. dog walker Says:

    ???
    http://www.beliefnet.com/Inspiration/Angels/2008/12/8-Ways-to-Recognize-Archangel-Michael.aspx

  4. Michael Eden Says:

    dog walker,

    As a Michael, I enjoy the thought of striving to look and act like the archangel.

    But pray to him? Nope. He’d be the LAST guy who wanted to be prayed to. Because he’s a hero heroically serving his God, which is what the archangel would have us all do.

    The day Michael – at least I believe it will be Michael – walks up to Satan with a great chain in his hand and kicks his ass silly and then sideways and binds him and throws him into the pit for a thousand years, I hope they hand out popcorn for that show.

  5. dog walker Says:

    I was just being silly with that link. Hope you realize that.
    But I was wanting to clarify on my Jack La Lane-ism or “beauty” of the fit body… I am not so much about the vanity as I am about the healthiness. Somehow I think God gave us these bodies not so much to stare at in the mirror but some how to enjoy and nurture. Like a shiny new red bicycle. I don’t think he would appreciate it if I left it out in the rain or dipped it in salt water surf and never rinsed it off. I had a preacher one time tell me a day or so before Thanksgiving … “… and remember gluttony is a sin.” Yeah right. Listen to me. I just finished a bag of potato chips.

  6. dog walker Says:

    I don’t know. You say that true Christian faith is a faith that works. I kind of believe you and I’ve either heard you say it before or I am sure I heard it elsewhere. You talk about being out in the field. You talk about serving.
    Ugh, I look into my soul and I don’t see any genuine inclination along those lines. I don’t get along with people. I am either antisocial or possibly sociopathic. I meet a lot of people and I just don’t care what happens to them. Well maybe I wish they would grow up but I know better than to think that I could change them. Or even make myself attractive as an alternative. They have already rejected everything I think is cool.
    So I get to thinking about this concept of predestination. Some people look deep into their souls and just don’t find it. I used to say “them” when I thought that I had found it. Turns out all I was doing was faking it and I wasn’t much good at faking it.
    So out of those 80 percenters, the worst of them are the fakers. Did I say “them?”
    Predestination… some people aren’t going to find it even when they are surrounded by it. It isn’t that they don’t want it. It is just a failing of genuineness in their character. “Them, their, they” heh!

    The gym… sometimes people freak out or comment when they see me go through my cardio workout. They think I am off the deep end or not staying within the confines of age appropriate. Someone spawns a conversation about heart attack. In the ensuing conversation I’ll remark that I’ll take a heart attack over cancer any day. So I can talk about crafting my health and fitness but am I also crafting my death. No I guess it is God that gets to pick that path for me.

    Heh! Spin class… they probably have them at your gym. That dumb lady was probably going to one. If you do spin like you are serious, you can run your heart above 90% for 50 or 55 minutes. That ain’t the girly-man exercise that some would make it out to be. There is a guy in my Sunday spin class that is 94 years old… and he ain’t no slouch.

  7. Michael Eden Says:

    dog walker,

    We’re all wired differently, and God can use all of us with all of our peculiarities. Not only in spite of them but because of them.

    Antisocial. Well, I’m pretty high on the antisocial thing, myself. I TREASURE my “alone time.” I usually do end up having fun at parties and events, but I dread going and frankly don’t want to leave my “fortress of solitude” until the last minute. And people wear me out. I literally get tired being around people in a way that I don’t get tired being alone.

    I could do better at being one of the “people who need people” (lyrics borrowed from the Barbara Streisand song) and have gotten better. With a long, looooong way to go. But then again, my contentment with being alone in a room is what allows me to write.

    In other words there are different ways to reach people.

    You say:

    Well maybe I wish they would grow up but I know better than to think that I could change them.

    Here’s the thing: you’re right. YOU CAN’T change them.

    But God can. And I know He can because He has changed me so much.

    My church just had a mission trip to Ensenada, Mexico. The woman at my church who is spearheading it has quite a story: she was married to a Mexican drug cartel member who was THE biggest drug dealer in the city before being deported back to Mexico.

    Now she’s married to a Christian who coordinates the mission trips.

    But guess what: she never divorced. She’s married to the SAME MAN.

    Because that drug dealing gang banging thug accepted Jesus Christ after his devout wife had prayed for him for years after she herself became a Christian and left “the life” of the cartel. Both of their lives were just miraculously changed.

    There are SO many stories just like theirs, dog walker. Just like mine.

    Sometimes I think for all the miracle of the creation of the universe out of nothing, the creation of all time, all matter, all energy and all life from NOTHING but a Word of power pales only to the even more staggering miracle of God’s changing of a human heart from what it was to what it becomes when His Son comes into that life. I get the feeling you can understand why I say that.

    People like you and I – for reasons I’ll get to below – look down on the people whose lives don’t show such transformation with contempt. But even with them: what would their lives have been like without Jesus being in it at all? And while they could live a whole lot better, the answer remains: a whole lot worse. Because Christ changes every life He enters.

    As for the gym, you and I have one thing in common: we’re both extreme athletes at our “advanced ages.”

    You do bikes, I do weights. If we trained each other, we could take turns making the other one puke.

    Just for bench press, ONE of the THREE chest exercises I do, I added up all the weight times all the reps times all the sets in my last workout. I lifted a total of 20,905 lbs bench pressing in just one workout. I add all the other three chest exercises and all the weight I lift and we get into serious tonnage. My heaviest weight – after doing several warmup sets, is 335 lbs. But I do two sets of 12 with it. And then I do 315 for as many reps as I can get. And I can get a LOT of reps. Then I do it again. That’s after the warmup sets with 135, 185, 225 and 275 followed by a set of 12 with 315. I get up from the most intense sets of bench and people are wide-eyed with a “holy crap!’ look on their face. That 20,905 lbs does not add in the weighted bar dips I do next or the flys I do or the incline bench presses I sometimes do. And the thing is I can come back in a couple of days and do that same beast work again. And then come back the next week and do it twice more again. And again. And of course I don’t just do my chest; I do legs and back and biceps and triceps and shoulders. Think of the tons of weight a hard core weight lifter lifts! And then factor in what an “old man” I am. I put the young punks to shame.

    In a way, I’m nothing special. I’m not a professional athlete. I don’t enter competitions. Never wanted to. I compete against ME. I want to beat my own expectations. I want to conquer my perceived self-imposed limits. I want to actualize my vision of myself for myself. But as a weight lifter it’s easy for me to look around and see that there’s nowhere near one percent of the population that’s built like I am. It’s just that rare to see another guy whose built like me. So I’m still elite and I like to feel elite.

    That’s the “loner” thing too. I’m not satisfied by what satisfies “normal” people. “Normal” people don’t impress me. At all.

    I’ve got a vision for what I’m seeking to accomplish and I have the resolve to see that vision become reality. How many people are there who can say that these days? I do NOT go into the gym with a stupid smart phone and sit on a piece of equipment and poke keys and then smile as I read some idiot’s text and then poke more keys. I go there to do a job and I do that job. And please try to stay out of my way when I’m doing it, fwiw.

    That may be why we understand each other, dog walker.

    I never felt more let down than when I heard about Lance Armstrong’s fall with PEDs. And that is because I admired that guy more than I’ve ever admired any athlete. The Tour de France is a practical demonstration of who is willing to physically suffer more while gutting it out. These guys riding up a damn mountain are amazing.

    Of course ALL of those guys are using drugs. You’ve GOT to to compete at that sort of level, just as you’ve got to use drugs to have the kinds of gargantuan physiques that characterize professional (or even amatuer) bodybuilding. But it was awful the way Armstrong went down.

    Anyway, I just mention Armstrong and the Tour de France to highlight the fact that I understand and respect the kind of drive that you have to have to do what you are doing at the level you are doing it. It’s a very different sport, but you’ve got to have the same resolve. It’s not about how you feel, it’s about overcoming how you feel with your resolve to accomplish what you set out to accomplish. If you’re feelings get in the way, well, that’s just too damn bad for your feelings.

    Your soul wants to climb the highest mountain even if you’re riding up a 180 degree incline; mine is to pick UP that mountain. You’ve got to have a rare degree of resolve to keep pushing yourself to get anywhere near those mountains that guys like us live on top of.

    And if there’s nobody else on that mountain, well, that doesn’t stop people like us. We’re very content being at the top of the mountain looking down at all the “normal” people. It’s how we’re wired.

    So, to put those two seemingly very different thoughts expressed above (faith versus athletic performance), the kind of people we want to be in our respective sports is the kind of people Jesus wants us to be in our faith: the resolve to follow Jesus through the most radical course of life that there is.

    Read Hebrews chapter 11 and then read the first several versus of Hebrews 12 to understand. The verse that most pops out to me is Hebrews 11:38, where Paul states after describing the suffering of Christian saints declares, “the world was not worthy of them.”

    And the world is NOT worthy of them. No way. That’s why God is taking us out of it to a better place.

    People look at the Christian life and see “wimps” and it’s because they’re too blind and too depraved to understand: a Christian life truly lived for Christ puts a Navy SEAL to shame. But again, I don’t care what “normal” people think. Because what they want is so trivial it’s largely contemptible.

    You’ve got that potential in you, dog walker. But it’s even HARDER than your bike routine or my weight lifting routine. You can’t do it on your own because it’s IMPOSSIBLE to do on your own. It’s the kind of radical performance that only God can perform in you and through you.

  8. dog walker Says:

    I will read that Hebrews over the next couple of days… I’ll write a report on it…
    Forthcoming …

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