Being Human, as imagined by a non-human

In the Star Trek franchise, specifically the Next Generation series, there’s an android character named Data. Through the whole series, his (Data’s chosen pronoun) goal is to become human. His character develops or displays many human traits, such as loyalty, love, curiosity, etc.

In one Star Trek movie, he is offered the ability to have human skin, and human sensations. He says he was “tempted” by the offer, for about .068 seconds, “an eternity for an android”.

It’s interesting that Data was tempted, that is, that someone tried to tempt him at all. This is no doubt intended to show some more ways that he is at least partly human.

At one point, (avoiding a spoiler), there’s another “Data” being reconstructed from, um, spare parts. Start the cycle over again – reincarnation?

The thing about SciFi is that it can wobble in its ‘core beliefs’; it’s universe of ideas can be fuzzy at times, perhaps counting on the short memory of its readers/viewers, or perhaps suggesting an “evolution” of its ideas. Believe in anything, whatever makes you feel good at the moment, whatever is ‘useful’ for the story.

I used to love SciFi until the day I finally realized it was based on secular humanism – specifically that mankind’s great brains and iron resolve can solve all its problems.

Well, not quite. In every SciFi story, there is at least one human flaw – usually greed or the hunger for power over others – that gets in the way of, well, “perfection”. That makes for a more interesting story – conflict, and the need (again) for the good qualities of people to overcome their obvious flaws – but it destroys the concept of human perfection. These characters aren’t quite there yet.

Data is exceedingly strong. His brain is lightning fast. He is impervious to many of the fanciful SciFi ‘radiations’. If damaged (injured) he can be somewhat easily fixed (cured). All goals that humans have.

But he is tempted, tempted to betray his friends and the principles he holds – in this case, duty, honor, self-sacrifice for others – for the ‘pleasures of the flesh’.

 He is thus, human.

And “who will deliver me from this body of death?”

The Apostle Paul said “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

God’s Spirit gives life (letter to Romans, eighth chapter, verse 2.)

Being a Manly Man

Manliness seems like a silly subject, studying it seems almost self-defeating, like bragging about how humble you are. You either are or you aren’t, if you have to talk about it, think about it, maybe you aren’t.

But if you expand the scope of the idea, you may be on to something. That is, define manliness as things a man is expected to know how to do, not just be, then it might be worth studying.

(Note: If you want a more thoughtful discussion, I highly recommend Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. I'm just having some fun here. )

It used to be that a boy learned manliness from his dad, from listening to, responding to, but mostly just by watching his own father. Sometimes the other men in his life, uncles, grandfathers, the coach, the pastor, would fill in, add to the fundamentals.

Those fundamentals were sometimes profound: treat elders with respect, never think of hurting a woman, be responsible for your own stuff. But sometimes they were more elementary: how to tie a tie, how to change a tire, how to start a fire, how to talk to a woman on the first date. (No kidding, try those links.)

The website The Art of Manliness is working on finding that balance between the fundamental and the elementary.

Recently they published “16 Ways to Become a Better Man in the New Year” (Get an alarm clock, read a book a week, Call your mom once a week, Fast one day a month, etc.).

Another great set of pages - Riddles, and Jokes for Little Kids:

“Why do fish live in saltwater?”
Because pepper makes them sneeze!
“Why are giraffes necks so long?”
Because they have really smelly feet!"


And then there's  Knock Knock jokes for kids:

"Knock, knock
Who’s there?
Spell who?

“Knock, knock
Who’s there?
Hatch who?
God bless you!”

There’s even some Cool Uncle Tricks, like How to Bounce a Dinner Roll (off the floor, supposedly).

Not too long ago, how to roll up your sleeves, probably something you never thought about. Tons of how-to's on weight-lifting and exercise.

I recommend signing up for the weekly newsletter. There’s some fun stuff and serious stuff, and just getting the email reminds me to think about things like this. Last week’s edition featured Creating a First Aid Kit, an article about packing Survival Food, the above mentioned “Be a Better Man” article, and a quick pic of a Dopp Kit (origin of the term here):

Dopp kit

Trust and Mistrust

Lifted from a post on the Ace of Spades website, quoting "Needle Points", by Norman Doidge - a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and author:

As of a September 2019 Gallup poll, only a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic, Big Pharma was the least trusted of America's 25 top industry sectors, No. 25 of 25. In the eyes of ordinary Americans, it had both the highest negatives and the lowest positives of all industries. At No. 24 was the federal government, and at No. 23 was the health care industry.

These three industries form a neat troika (though at No. 22 was the advertising and public relations industry, which facilitates the work of the other three.) Those inside the troika often characterize the vaccine hesitant as broadly fringe and paranoid. But there are plenty of industries and sectors that Americans do trust. Of the top 25 U.S. industry sectors, 21 enjoy net positive views from American voters. Only pharma, government, health care, and PR are seen as net negative: precisely the sectors involved in the rollout of the COVID vaccines. This set the conditions, in a way, for a perfect storm.


What distinguishes the courageous person from the coward is not that they don't worry or fear, but that they can still manage to move forward into the dangerous situation they cannot avoid facing. All of which is to say that the presence of anxiety alone is not dispositive of sanity or insanity: It, alone, does not tell you whether the anxiety is well or ill-founded. The same goes with distrust. Sometimes distrust is paranoia, and sometimes it is healthy skepticism.


Emphasis mine.

I keep adding to this post as I read the article. Here the author quotes Tocqueville for a "way out":

For Tocqueville, "the tyranny of the majority over the minority" is the ever-present danger in democracies, the remedy for which, John Stuart Mill argued, was a protection of minority rights, and, above all, the right to continue speaking--even if a majority opinion seemed to be crystalizing. Mill in the end was influenced and changed by Tocqueville's notion of the tyranny of the majority, and pointed out that the tyranny unique to democracy gave rise to "the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion" in the social sphere, in our so-called free societies. It moved him to write his great plea for free speech, in On Liberty:

Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. . .

Bad PR

You're the President of the United States, and you schedule a talk to the nation for 10 am. But you delay.

The talking heads on the news channels then have time to criticize over and over and over what you are about to say. They show picture after picture of how bad things are. All these words and images are sinking into the expectant public before you even speak.

Good PR.
Within seconds of the scheduled time ("Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States"), start your speech. As soon as you are done, the people tune out and never hear a word of the negative press or see a single horrible image.

Today. Speech scheduled at 10. No sign of President at 10:28

(talking head just said last time, President was about 45 minutes late. Heads continue to criticize...)

(People start to wonder, is there something wrong with the President?)

10:41 People start to turn away, walk away from speech. Was that the intent all along? Did you (handlers) really not want anyone to hear the President speak?


10:48 "just got a two minute warning from the White House"

10:50 He appears. Does anyone still care?

Mary's Song, by Luci Shaw

Just stumbled on this lovely Christmas poem by Luci Shaw. Amazing.

Mary's Song
by Luci Shaw

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest...
you who have had so far
to come.) Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled
a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.

His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by dove's voices, the whisper of straw,
he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
all years.
Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

A Message to the Cabinet - re. 25th Amendment

Stop pretending. Stop hiding. We the people are in grave danger. We don't even know who's really running the Executive Branch of the government - certainly not someone who was elected.

Remember this line, spoken to Jack Ryan in Clear and Present Danger?

"You took an oath, and I don't mean to the National Security Advisor of the United States, I mean to his boss, and I don't mean to the President, you gave your word to his boss, you gave your word to the People of the United States...your word is who you are."


Edith Alberta Burke

Edith Burke

From the website, a picture of a very unknown soldier, Miss Edith Alberta Burke, a missionary in China, Egypt and Sudan.

The website notes “Khartoum has a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery, as well as a civilian one. Here, the tombstone of one very late missionary, part of an army not well regarded nowadays but perhaps overdue for a reappraisal."

(Edith Alberta Burke – missionary – China, Egypt, Sudan, 1871 to Sept 27, 1964)


Miss Burke died at the age of 93, and, despite lots of research, I’ve not been able to find out anything about her.

But that same day, the Warren Commission issued its report saying that President John F. Kennedy was killed by one man, Lee Harvey Oswald.

The Viet Nam continued. On Sept 27, a raid rescued 60 Vietnamese hostages.

The day before (Sept.26) Gilligan’s Island had premiered.

The day after her death, Harpo Marx died.

Which event do you think registered more attention in Heaven?

Jesus Argues with the Pharisees. John 8.

Jesus: I am the light of the world.

Pharisees: You bear witness about yourself. That’s not true.

Jesus: It is true. My witness is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father bears witness about me also.


Jesus: I go to my Father.

Pharisees: Who?

Jesus: You don’t know him


Jesus: I am going away.

Pharisees: Is he talking suicide?

Jesus:  I am from above. I am not of this world. Unless you believe I am he you will die in your sins.

Pharisees: Who are you?

Jesus: I told you already. When I am lifted up you will know that I am he. I do what pleases the Father.


Jesus: Abide in my word, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Pharisees: We were never slaves. Abraham is our father.

Jesus: All who commit sin are slaves. You say you are offspring of Abraham, yet you seek to kill me. Your father is the devil.

Pharisees: We weren’t born of immorality. God is our father.

Jesus: If that were true you would love me. You are from your father the devil, not God. I came from God and I am here.


Pharisees: You are a Samaritan and have a demon.

Jesus: No. And if anyone keeps my word he will see never see death.

Pharisees: Are you greater than Abraham, who died? All have died.

Jesus: My Father glorifies me - Abraham rejoiced to see my day.

Pharisees: You can’t have been seen by Abraham. You are not possibly old enough.

Jesus: Before Abraham was, I AM.

Reading Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell, in Blink, tells of a marriage counselor who evaluates a couple's chances of success by examining their facial expressions when they are just chatting together. His team does 'thin slices' - fractions of a second - and categorizes what they reveal about the person's feelings at that moment.

The counselor says he can often evaluate a couple’s chances based mostly on four factors: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt, with the most important being contempt. He “has found, in fact that the presence of contempt in a marriage can even predict such things as how many colds a husband and wife gets; in other words, having someone you love express contempt toward you is so stressful that it begins to affect the functioning of your immune system.” (p33)

Interestingly, he says, “For a marriage to survive, the ratio of positive to negative emotion in a given encounter has to be at least five to one.” (p.26)

Gladwell examines how we make snap judgements, in the blink of an eye, and how those judgements are often, surprisingly, valuable. 

Experts can evaluate something in a few seconds, literally less than two – they would just “know”, for example, that a sculpture was a fake. Trained classical musicians can tell whether an auditioning performer is any good almost instantly.

Snap judgements can also mislead. Gladwell cites several incidents of tests showing how prejudices can taint a person’s evaluation. People in stressful situations can sometimes see things (a dangerous person, a gun) that aren't there – but they were expecting to see those things.

And an autistic man watches the movie Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and completely misses the drama in the key scenes because everything looks equally important to him. That is, the faces of the actors don’t mean any more than a light switch, or paintings on the wall, or a brooch. We can all sometime be autistic in this way, Gladwell says.

Gladwell notes that sometimes prejudices jump in and cloud evaluations. That is apparently why most orchestras now do “blind auditions” where great care is taken to make sure nothing of the performer’s non-musical characteristics are revealed – not their sex (no sound of high heels is allowed), their race, nothing. If the performer coughs, they’re sent back to the end of the line since the cough could reveal their gender. Since this was implemented, the makeup of orchestras, (percentage of women, for example, went from 5 to 50).


Gladwell says a partial answer is, “On straightforward choices, deliberate analysis is best. When questions of analysis and personal choice start to get complicated – when we have to juggle many different variables – then our unconscious thought process may be superior.” (p267)

He realizes, he says, “this is exactly contrary to conventional wisdom”. (p267)

It’s a partial answer because it’s just too complicated. Sometimes we need a mix of careful evaluation and feeling in the gut (my term, not Gladwell’s).

And when it’s important we need to be careful of our prejudices, and figure out ways to edit them out – like the blind auditions. He suggests, for example, not having defendants actually in the courtroom, so jurors and judges can escape their tendencies to snap to the wrong judgement.

A fascinating read. Recommended.