New translation of St. Maximus the Confessor’s Ambigua

by Andrea Elizabeth

by former Harvard professor, Monk Maximos of Mt. Athos.

Robin Williams said (on Inside the Actor’s Studio) he hopes to hear God laughing in heaven

by Andrea Elizabeth

So, Robin gets to the pearly gates and St. Peter says, “Don’t you know suicide is a mortal sin and you can’t come in?”

“That’s ok, I’ll just sit out here and tell jokes.”

“They have to be pretty good, or we’ll send you away.”

“Did you hear the one about Chaplin, Groucho and Costello trying to get in the Pearly Gates?”

“Probably not your version”

“You wouldn’t let them in till Costello cried, “Hey, Abbot!” and St. Gregory of Nyssa came up and said to open the gate.”

La Mork de Robin

by Andrea Elizabeth

So sad about Robin Williams. What if he’d found Orthodoxy? I read one quote that he made during his 20 years of sobriety (’86 – ’06) where he said he was the same a-hole sober as he was when not. That reminds me of the week I spent with a clean house chart. It didn’t fix me as much as I thought it would. Life isn’t just fixing problems. We fix problems to be made fit for something higher. I hope he finds it now, please Lord.


the first and last bachelorette

by Andrea Elizabeth

that I ever want to see. Not to mention the bachelor shows. It is the Hunger Games where people watch heart break and devastation for fun, aided by a too cheerful, but paradoxically sympathetic host. At first I sort of thought it could work despite the contrivance because of how Nick and Andi seemed to be able to find something real, but I guess having to consider 25 and then ditch 24 guys takes it’s toll on a person’s soul.

In the beginning it seemed the disappointment wasn’t warranted in the rejected guys who didn’t really spend that much time with her. But towards the end, it really seemed that she was leading the final 3 on, but especially Nick, whom she encouraged more than anyone. The way she suddenly turned icey cold on him that last day took everyone’s breath away. She had a lot more conscience with Chris, but I guess that last bit of goodness wore off too. It’s not healthy to string that many guys along at the same time, and to seriously consider 2 or 3 right before getting engaged. It’s pretty gross, actually.

survival of the fittest

by Andrea Elizabeth

To the atheist, evil = suffering. To the Christian evil = sin, and suffering is the consequence of sin. Then the atheist asks, why do innocent children suffer?

Firstly I would say that suffering can be seen as a merciful deterrent to doing destructive things like not eating, getting too close to fire, or staying out in the cold too long. Doesn’t seeing a suffering child motivate us fix what ails him? If there were no suffering, people would die from neglecting themselves and others.

Secondly, if morality comes from God (I’ll lazily posit that as a given), then why should the atheist concern himself with virtues and vices? Isn’t the honest atheist one who uninhibitedly avoids pain and pursues pleasure without conscience? If power feels good, he should intimidate and lord it over others with the best of them, for example. Why should an atheist be conscientious at all? Unless it is a means to get more of what he wants. But some people get pleasure out of making other people happy, so the atheist wouldn’t act in a uniform way.

The evolutionary theory of survival of the fittest does not look out after the weak. If that is the case, why worry about whether weak things suffer and die? Unless they think that the survival of the fittest scheme is evil. I bet strong atheists approve of it, and weak, trounced-on atheists disapprove of it because they have suffered under it, and therefore they strike God from the record books.

So if survival of the fittest is a godless scheme, those who take advantage of it must not be Christian. But should the strong not compete, for example? Aren’t they lording it over the weak if they win? I suppose it depends. If they are defending the weak, then they are using their strength well. If they are taking advantage of the weak, then they are misusing it.

What are worthy things to defend? Truth, honor, beauty, life, faith, hope, love, righteousness, health, peace, innocence, excellence etc. One would think that good triumphs over evil, and I am wondering if this is true only if the strong hold these good, but fragile things up. Isn’t God himself upborne by the angelic hosts? But who gave the angels the strength to do that?

Divine right

by Andrea Elizabeth

Reading about Oliver Cromwell is contributing to my running inquiry into revolutions. I know history is complicated, but I wonder if basic philosophical precepts have guided it.

Seems to me the Protestant Reformation was the beginning of popular uprisings, followed closely by the 1600’s English Civil War which was the precursor to the American and French Revolutions, and which pretty much marked the end of monarchy in the world. The events around the Magna Carta in the early 1200’s could be seen as the end of absolute monarchy as it was the beginning of parliament where the nobles could thwart the king, which they apparently did since William the Conqueror. I also read that his reign was the beginning of the castle age, which fortified the nobles, as far as I can tell.

Still, monarchs up to Tsar Nicholas II, believed themselves to rule by divine right. It seems that even though this belief eroded among the people, there was enough support for it till recently, and even a small remnant probably remains for Queen Elizabeth II. What I don’t understand is why monarchs did not have this same respect towards each other. Why would a divinely appointed King invade another King’s divinely ordained realm? Doesn’t seem very faithful to their calling to me.

Unless they actually believed in survival of the fittest, which is either an atheistic or Calvinistic doctrine, instead. This brings me to my next post.

stray cats and alcoholics

by Andrea Elizabeth

The other day a stray, skinny female cat showed up on our front porch. We have four cats already, so I told my daughter to just give her some dry food and water, but that we can’t do anything more for her than that. A couple of days later during the early morning, we heard lots of cat distress sounds under our window. My husband thought that the female cat will now have babies. Then the next day a big, mean-looking male cat strutted across our back porch and brazenly looked in the window.

At first I was filled with guilt for not taking Priscilla in and having her fixed when she had asked for help. I felt it was my fault that she now would have to fend not only for herself, but for her babies. I thought that Priscilla and I had lost, and that Bluto had won, and was triumphantly gloating in my face.

Then I thought of how perpetrators of crimes gloat. I guess they’re the ones that say Aha! Aha! in Psalms. But the Psalms also say don’t be upset when sinners prosper in their way. Being upset does a lot of damage to our souls. Reading Psalms is a nice way to work through it.

Monday I listened to the first half of the Diane Rehm show on new treatments for Alcoholism, and at first I was caught up in the terminology and the ways of determining the stages of admitting one has a problem. Then when Ms. Rehm cut off a guest and he protested, I started paying attention to the dynamics between the guests. I bet all of them are recovering alcoholics themselves, or were maybe children of alcoholics. I got the impression that they had worked hard to overcome dysfunction, but that underneath they were still upset. It seemed that when there was tension over the unfairness, that each also began taking on the roles that individuals in families take on to cope with dysfunction.

I think these roles are a perceived fix to being upset or panicked over not having supportive relataionships. They are quick fixes to prop themselves up when the someone is taking a wrecking ball to the family. They can’t let things just lay around broken, and they are very upset. They can’t cope with how upset they are, so they desperately try to fix it or some other exaggerated response.

So here are these adult, functional professionals who are still upset and acting according to their childhood habitual way of problem solving. They should probably admit they have a problem and read the Psalms.

Vessels of wrath (cont)

by Andrea Elizabeth

Last night we saw Prisoners in which 2 young girls are kidnapped and one father, Hugh Jackman, and the heretofore undefeated detective, Jake Gyllenhaal, go after the perpetrator. The two messages are, if you are really trying to get the bad guys you’ll become a vigilante; and losing your child will turn you into a monster.

Why does it feel good when someone will break the law to stop a slippery criminal? Neglecting to get a search warrant because you’ll otherwise miss your chance is the most common example. Search warrants are to protect the innocent, but really it just says, we trust a judge to decide these things more than the cop on the street. There’s not really a perfect law to keep bad things from happening in such cases. Maybe that’s why it feels good. We trust good people more than good laws. And someone who takes the risk of getting in bad trouble sacrifices himself for the victims.

As for the monster part, even before that point was made clear, I thought that the horrible grief sort of gave the characters an excuse to either check out with drugs and alcohol or to become uninhibitedly angry, which is pretty scary coming from Jackman, not so much from Gyllenhaal, who generates more sympathy. I don’t think the worst tragedies inevitably and deterministically turn people for the worse, but they do make the slope pretty slippery, and it’s pretty hard to navigate your way up to higher than you were before. I hope it’s possible, however.

current thoughts on providence

by Andrea Elizabeth

It is an interesting question, how do free will and God’s providence and sovereignty co-exist?

My current thoughts are that God places highest priority on our free will. There are natural laws and other rewards that contribute to positive and negative reinforcement for the types of decisions we make and act upon. God’s number one will for all of us is that we will become one with him in theosis. Most people ambivalently want and don’t want this because there are hard steps to take to get to that blissful state. I am thinking that every step towards God that we agree to leads to a softer heart and often more difficult steps. Every step away, and indecision and procrastination are most often negative votes, contributes to a harder heart and often easier steps. Going down is easier than going up. One reason I admire athletes, is that they are not afraid of difficult, painful steps.

I guess I’ve already explained how God hardens people’s hearts, making them become vessels of wrath, which I believe are used to provide difficult steps for those seeking a tougher workout in order to have their hearts softened and thus conformed to God’s.

example: glutton, with either jealous malice or ignorance, offers (hopeful) ascetic rich food, who gets stronger by either saying no thank you, or more humble by either not wanting to rub it in the offerer’s face and eating a small amount with him, or yeilding to temptation and realizing his own weakness and dependence on God’s mercy, which will hopefully make him more resolved in the future when he realizes the emptiness of the temporary satisfaction. The glutton will become angry and resentful at the temporariness of the satisfaction and will escalate his efforts to maintain it by seeking more and more thrills in quantity and quality, which will make his heart harder and harder.

observer effect

by Andrea Elizabeth

They say observation causes phenomenal changes on the thing being observed. So even flies on the wall have a butterfly effect, as it were.

In quantum physics and in Schrodinger’s box, they say things exist in multiple places or states until they are observed. While classical people say the cat is either dead or not dead even before this is known, I will submit that things need to be known and that this has an effect on the thing waiting to be observed. Yes, when we travel to a “new” moon and find a “new” hill on it, the hill will show signs of age, but since it is now a mapped hill, it will exist in a different state.

But this is all in your mind. It is an observer-oriented paradigm, and not an ontologically independent philosophy.

No, it is a relational paradigm. No man is an island. Neither does one man exist only in the mind of another man. But one man’s existence is very much dependent on being known by another. If he is not known, he will exist in limbo, an unsteady state.

Let’s say that’s true. But doesn’t being known by an unstable person also introduce instability?

Yes it does. But surely closure is possible. This is why the nuns pray for those who died alone in a field, or fell off a cliff, or were lost at sea. Somehow this brings those poor wandering souls closure.

Does the closure depend on the stability of the nun?

Somewhat, but they guard against it by saying, “and for those who have asked us to pray for them, unworthy though we be.”

Then how can they bring closure, and an unstable person can’t?

Because they are doing it in obedience, humility, and in love. The unstable person is the murderer who seeks chaos. I saw a true cold case show about a man who murdered his ex-wife in front of his identically twin brother, who did not help her, and then hid her body. I believe her soul did not find rest until the twin, moved by thinking of how she looked at him for help before she died, finally confessed what happened, bringing closure to her look. Her brother in law went from unstable non-support to stabilizing in that moment. And his act had to be demonstrated, believed and acted upon by the detective who couldn’t let the case stay cold. Then she could rest in peace.


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