Monday, January 25, 2010

Individuality Is Real

Earlier today, I was reading a a piece which asserted that women are all the same. In the second part of the piece, 11minutes explained how he had come to the realization that no person truly is unique. In his own words:

It was then that my idea of being a unique individual crumbled. If there was anything that I would have used to "prove" that I am different form anyone else around me, it would have been the one way in which I (thought) I expressed my youthful individuality: my eclectic collection of music.
And it had failed.

But accepting that you are just one of the many, replaceable as any other individual that lives and has ever lived is just part of the realization. The even bigger, more shocking insight is gained by realizing the lack of uniqueness by those who surround you
While I do partially agree with 11minutes concerning one point that he is making, namely that people often aren't as unique as they think they are, I strongly disagree with his stance that no person is a unique individual. He points to the similarities between him and others as evidence that there is no ultimate difference between his personality and that of other remarkably similar people. I don't deny that there often is broad overlap in the aesthetic tastes of similar people. I don't deny that there are certain types of people in the world. However, even a 99% correlation between individuals wouldn't deny the existence of unique personality, or the possibility of offering a unique contribution to the world. My argument isn't one that is intuitive, so I will use several examples. A surface analysis would suggest that 1% divergence is a very small thing, and not statistically significant. However, I would suggest that even a seemingly small divergence can lead to a monumental practical difference.

While it was originally suggested that chimpanzee DNA and human DNA have a 98.6% correlation, newer findings suggest that there is actually only a 95% correlation. Yet, that 5% difference makes a world of difference! That 5% difference is the difference between surfing the web and splashing around in streams. It's the difference between enjoying hot fudge sundaes and eating bananas. It's the difference between wearing a nice tuxedo and being eternally naked. It's the difference between sleeping in a queen-size bed with soft pillows and colorful comforters and sleeping in a fresh bed of leaves every night. That seemingly small number makes a world of difference! I'm quite glad for the 5% of my DNA that differs from that of a chimpanzee.

Similarly, the moon is about 238,857 miles away from the earth, and has a diameter of 2,159 miles. Both of those numbers are exceedingly important. If there was even a 3% variation in the size of the moon or in the distance of the earth from the moon, life on earth would be unsustainable. If the moon was larger or closer to the earth, tides would be so forceful and wild that constant tsunamis and flood would be the default state of our planet. The violent motion of the oceans would make earth uninhabitable for humans and animals. Alternately, if the moon was smaller or further from the earth, the movement of the ocean would be too weak; all bodies of water on earth would become stagnant and toxic. Even a small variance would have huge results!

In the same way, the existence of a strong correlation between individuals doesn't negate the importance of the differences between individuals. While one might have strikingly similarly tastes in music to another person, no two people produce music that is quite alike. There was only one Beethoven. That he might have eaten eggs for breakfast, had an alcoholic father and played viola might make him superficially similar to any number of viola-players. However, no other viola-player with an alcoholic father who ate eggs for breakfast has left such a powerful musical legacy. His music is quite distinct from that of his contemporaries, his predecessors and even from those who have created music in the time since his life. That he might bathe or enjoy a good book says very little about his uniqueness as an individual, or his uniqueness in contribution to the development of western music. The differences, though perhaps few in number, are not insignificant or unimportant. Small differences often make a difference that isn't small.

Similarly, one might note the vast similarities of C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien. They were both distinguished authors, professors at Oxford University, and well-known Christians. Yet, the modern literary world would not be the same if it were missing either one of them. Neither of them is, as 11minutes describes, "one of the many, replaceable as any other individual that lives and has ever lived." The similarities between the two neither negate their individuality as persons, nor negate the criticality of both of their literary contributions to our world. Fantasy fiction owes a great debt to both the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings series. Both of them have made lasting contributions that extend well beyond the scope of literature. Modern Christian thinking owes a great debt to the profound observations, thoughts and allegories written by C.S. Lewis. Fantasy lovers and gamers of all sorts owe a great debt to the archetypes developed by J. R. Tolkien, as he further refined and expanded the world of mythical creatures and imaginary races. The differences between the two men, though perhaps only superficially small, have a dramatic and pronounced impact on the uniqueness of their respective contributions to the world. Neither of them is replaceable.

If brevity did not forbid, I could provide thousands more examples that clearly depict the importance of small differences. That all women have a lot of similarities does not justify the claim that women are all the same. They aren't. If there exists even a single difference between any two people, they are sufficiently unique enough to make meaningfully different contributions to the world. Therefore, I would declare that what makes us most different as individuals is often the seemingly small things that are easily overlooked. Each of us has potential to impact the world in meaningful and unique ways. Small differences between people really aren't small at all. Individuality is real and it is significant. To the degree that we turn a blind eye to the real differences that set us apart, we limit our own potential and we miss out on glorious aspects of the people around us. Diversity is a beautiful thing worth celebrating precisely because every single person, snowflake and flower is different in some real and meaningful way. Beauty lies in the subtle details that often are overlooked or unnoticed. Let us live our lives with our eyes wide open, and with our hearts ready to celebrate those small and seemingly trivial things that make a world of difference.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fairy Tales and the Dangers of Hypergamy

The other night I was relaxing at a coffeeshop, drinking some tea and reading some fairy tales. Currently, I've been making my way through Grimm's Fairy Tales, a collection of popular Germanic tales which was originally published in 1812. One of the tales that I read really struck me with the applicability of its truth to the modern audience. It is a tale of the dangers of female hypergamy when combined with arrogance. It is a tale of the effectiveness of Game in opening the eyes of a woman to a more accurate assessment of herself. It is a tale of the effectiveness of patriarchy in curbing the harmful excesses of women blindly following their hypergamous instinct. Without further ado, I offer you the story of King Thrushbeard:
King Thrushbeard

A King had a daughter who was beautiful beyond all measure, but so proud and haughty withal that no suitor was good enough for her. She sent away one after the other, and ridiculed them as well.

Once the King made a great feast and invited thereto, from far and near, all the young men likely to marry. They were all marshalled in a row according to their rank and standing; first came the kings, then the grand-dukes, then the princes, the earls, the barons, and the gentry. Then the King's daughter was led through the ranks, but to every one she had some objection to make; one was too fat, "The wine-cask," she said. Another was too tall, "Long and thin has little in." The third was too short, "Short and thick is never quick." The fourth was too pale, "As pale as death." The fifth too red, "A fighting-cock." The sixth was not straight enough, "A green log dried behind the stove."

So she had something to say against every one, but she made herself especially merry over a good king who stood quite high up in the row, and whose chin had grown a little crooked. "Well," she cried and laughed, "he has a chin like a thrush's beak!" and from that time he got the name of King Thrushbeard.

But the old King, when he saw that his daugher did nothing but mock the people, and despised all the suitors who were gathered there, was very angry, and swore that she should have for her husband the very first beggar that came to his doors.

A few days afterwards a fiddler came and sang beneath the windows, trying to earn a small alms. When the King heard him he said, "Let him come up." So the fiddler came in, in his dirty, ragged clothes, and sang before the King and his daughter, and when he had ended he asked for a trifling gift. The King said, "Your song has pleased me so well that I will give you my daughter there, to wife."

The King's daughter shuddered, but the King said, "I have taken an oath to give you to the very first beggar-man, and I will keep it." All she could say was in vain; the priest was brought, and she had to let herself be wedded to the fiddler on the spot. When that was done the King said, "Now it is not proper for you, a beggar-woman, to stay any longer in my palace, you may just go away with your husband."

The beggar-man led her out by the hand, and she was obliged to walk away on foot with him. When they came to a large forest she asked, "To whom does that beautiful forest belong?" "It belongs to King Thrushbeard; if you had taken him, it would have been yours." "Ah, unhappy girl that I am, if I had but taken King Thrushbeard!"

Afterwards they came to a meadow, and she asked again, "To whom does this beautiful green meadow belong?" "It belongs to King Thrushbeard; if you had taken him, it would have been yours." "Ah, unhappy girl that I am, if I had but taken King Thrushbeard!"

Then they came to a large town, and she asked again, "To whom does this fine large town belong?" "It belongs to King Thrushbeard; if you had taken him, it would have been yours." "Ah, unhappy girl that I am, if I had but taken King Thrushbeard!"

"It does not please me," said the fiddler, "to hear you always wishing for another husband; am I not good enough for you?" At last they came to a very little hut, and she said, "Oh goodness! what a small house; to whom does this miserable, mean hovel belong?" The fiddler answered, "That is my house and yours, where we shall live together."

She had to stoop in order to go in at the low door. "Where are the servants?" said the King's daughter. "What servants?" answered the beggar-man; "you must yourself do what you wish to have done. Just make a fire at once, and set on water to cook my supper, I am quite tired." But the King's daughter knew nothing about lighting fires or cooking, and the beggar-man had to lend a hand himself to get anything fairly done. When they had finished their scanty meal they went to bed; but he forced her to get up quite early in the morning in order to look after the house.

For a few days they lived in this way as well as might be, and came to the end of all their provisions. Then the man said, "Wife, we cannot go on any longer eating and drinking here and earning nothing. You weave baskets." He went out, cut some willows, and brought them home. Then she began to weave, but the tough willows wounded her delicate hands.

"I see that this will not do," said the man; "you had better spin, perhaps you can do that better." She sat down and tried to spin, but the hard thread soon cut her soft fingers so that the blood ran down. "See," said the man, "you are fit for no sort of work; I have made a bad bargain with you. Now I will try to make a business with pots and earthenware; you must sit in the market-place and sell the ware." "Alas," thought she, "if any of the people from my father's kingdom come to the market and see me sitting there, selling, how they will mock me?" But it was of no use, she had to yield unless she chose to die of hunger.

For the first time she succeeded well, for the people were glad to buy the woman's wares because she was good-looking, and they paid her what she asked; many even gave her the money and left the pots with her as well. So they lived on what she had earned as long as it lasted, then the husband bought a lot of new crockery. With this she sat down at the corner of the market-place, and set it out round about her ready for sale. But suddenly there came a drunken hussar galloping along, and he rode right amongst the pots so that they were all broken into a thousand bits. She began to weep, and did now know what to do for fear. "Alas! what will happen to me?" cried she; "what will my husband say to this?"

She ran home and told him of the misfortune. "Who would seat herself at a corner of the market-place with crockery?" said the man; "leave off crying, I see very well that you cannot do any ordinary work, so I have been to our King's palace and have asked whether they cannot find a place for a kitchen-maid, and they have promised me to take you; in that way you will get your food for nothing."

The King's daughter was now a kitchen-maid, and had to be at the cook's beck and call, and do the dirtiest work. In both her pockets she fastened a little jar, in which she took home her share of the leavings, and upon this they lived.

It happened that the wedding of the King's eldest son was to be celebrated, so the poor woman went up and placed herself by the door of the hall to look on. When all the candles were lit, and people, each more beautiful than the other, entered, and all was full of pomp and splendour, she thought of her lot with a sad heart, and cursed the pride and haughtiness which had humbled her and brought her to so great poverty.

The smell of the delicious dishes which were being taken in and out reached her, and now and then the servants threw her a few morsels of them: these she put in her jars to take home.

All at once the King's son entered, clothed in velvet and silk, with gold chains about his neck. And when he saw the beautiful woman standing by the door he seized her by the hand, and would have danced with her; but she refused and shrank with fear, for she saw that it was King Thrushbeard, her suitor whom she had driven away with scorn. Her struggles were of no avail, he drew her into the hall; but the string by which her pockets were hung broke, the pots fell down, the soup ran out, and the scraps were scattered all about. And when the people saw it, there arose general laughter and derision, and she was so ashamed that she would rather have been a thousand fathoms below the ground. She sprang to the door and would have run away, but on the stairs a man caught her and brought her back; and when she looked at him it was King Thrushbeard again. He said to her kindly, "Do not be afraid, I and the fiddler who has been living with you in that wretched hovel are one. For love of you I disguised myself so; and I also was the hussar who rode through your crockery. This was all done to humble your proud spirit, and to punish you for the insolence with which you mocked me."

Then she wept bitterly and said, "I have done great wrong, and am not worthy to be your wife." But he said, "Be comforted, the evil days are past; now we will celebrate our wedding." Then the maids-in-waiting came and put on her the most splendid clothing, and her father and his whole court came and wished her happiness in her marriage with King Thrushbeard, and the joy now began in earnest. I wish you and I had been there too.
Though published 200 years ago, this tale is remarkably relevent to today. Though in this story, only the princess holds herself in higher esteem than she ought, in modern America many women consider themselves "princesses" and are proud and haughty enough that no suitor seems good enough for them. Though the hypergamous impulse itself, desiring to marry a man of equal or better social class, is not intrinsically a bad thing, when combined with pride, it is horribly destructive. The rise of feminism and the over-glorification of women has put our society in precisely such a position. Even last week I was talking to a middle-aged fellow who has to clean the dishes and do the vacuuming because his wife is incapable of satisfactorily completing simple domestic chores. In many ways, modern women have less to offer in a relationship, and yet are extremely arrogant and self-deceived about their desirability. For this very reason, numerous secular men are actively avoiding marriage. This tale speaks truths that we all need to be taught or reminded of.

Also well depicted in this fairy tale is the cure for the deadly combination of pride and hypergamy. The princess was humbled and returned to a right state of mind as a result of the direct intervention of two men. The first man, quite obviously, is King Thrushbeard. He was truly an alpha male. King Thrushbeard is kind, goodhearted, wealthy, respected, humble, musical, creative and wise. He never condemned the princess for her pride or became defensive at her insults. Instead, through his words and actions he helped her to see the truth about herself. He was firm, he was assertive, he was authoritative, and yet he loved her truly. That is a beautiful example of the redemption that a goodhearted, wise and dominant man can bring. But, there is a second man who was instrumental in the restoration of the princess. Her father, the King, played an indispensible role in her humbling. While he clearly wanted the best for her, she was too blind to see her own problem. It wasn't true that no suitor was good enough for her. It was only true that she undervalued many of her suitors because of her arrogance. Her father intervened directly by giving her in marriage to the first beggar that asked. Fathers play an instrumental role in shaping the lives of their children. In a patriarchal society, the father is the head of his family, and his word is law. The kind but firm leadership of the King was a necessary part of the restoration process. In today's world, too few daughters obey their fathers, and too few fathers are bold enough to command respect through their words, actions and presence. This is a twofold problem. If men were again taught to be strong, wise, relational patriarchs, both of these problem swiftly vanish. As it stands in today's society, those women who are infected with the debilitating combination of pride and hypergamy will spend their days continually searching for the ever-elusive "Mr. Right," completely blinded to the simple truth that they would eventually reject him, even if they find him, because of their haughtiness.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Two Prevalent Forms of Reductionism

As humans, we conceptualize our world. Since reality is as vast and complex as it is, we create mental categories and models to explain how our universe works and how we should function within it. Both categories and models are very useful, and both are indispensible for finite creatures capable of abstraction. However, due to the fundamentally limited nature of models, sometimes we overlook or ignore crucial information. The best models in any area of life are the ones that reduce a given interaction to a comprehensible series of components, while still retaining all of the critical elements of the interaction. The falling of an apple, for example, involves a vast number of physical interactions. However, such an interaction can be nearly perfectly explained by the Law of Gravity, which describes the physical attraction between objects. Though wind, friction, chemical reactions and intervening objects may alter the way an apple falls, gravity alone is able to explain the vital component of how and why an apple falls to earth. That is an example of a sound and pragmatic model.

Reductionism, on the other hand, is an attempt at explaining an interaction which ultimately leaves out one or more vital elements. It results in models that lack sufficient explanatory capacity, due to overlooking, ignoring or denying applicable truths. Any reductivistic paradigm, then, is a worldview that overlooks, ignores or denies vital truths. While this might seem like a purely academic topic, the forms of reductionism that I wish to discuss are anything but pedantic. In particular, there are two forms of reductionistic thinking that have major practical implications and impact numerous aspects of life. Of these two forms, women have a tendency to lean towards one sort of reductionism, while men are more inclined to lean towards the other.

Yesterday night, I was spending some time with a new friend that I just met. Alex is currently doing a bit of substitute teaching and is contemplating pursuing a teaching credential. We were chatting about some of his classroom experiences and he noted how superficial many kids are today. Often the seemingly smallest things that he did, said or even wore would profoundly impact his students' perspectives of him. One day he walked into class and several of the kids made remarks about his Converse shoes. They viewed him as a cool person, simply because of the shoes that he wore. In another classroom, upon entering he was immediately barraged with mostly innocuous questions (and a few less-innocuous ones). When one girl asked him if he was married, he held up his hand and asked, "Do you see a ring on my finger?" He didn't answer the question directly, since he felt that it wasn't really any of his students' business. Immediately, a few of the kids lost respect for him and commented about his answer being "all snooty." Alex and I then began discussing the possible reasons for why kids are so superficial these days. Attitudes and perspectives never emerge in a vacuum. They are always learned.

The reason some kids are very superficial is because they have adopted a form of reductionistic thinking that isn't confined to hall of high schools. Our culture, in many ways, has become very superficial. Many people view style and image not merely as important, but as nearly all-encompassing. This is Stylistic Reductionism. It is pervasive. It is a horribly flawed way of seeing the world, that leads to poor ways of interacting. You see this form of reductionism is the very ways people enslave themselves to social status, whether by wearing the latest clothes, driving nice cars, opting for endless cosmetic surgery operations, continually seeking high-status romantic partners, and refusing to associate with lesser-status people or social outcasts. In this sort of worldview, image is king. How one appears is more important than who one actually is. Public perceptions are more important than character. Presentation is far more important than substance. If someone doesn't seem attractive and interesting enough, then they aren't worth talking to or spending time with. It is a world of snap judgements and endless comparison; life is a perpetual masquerade. This is Stylistic Reductionism. In its overglorification of image and appearance it overlooks the necessity of substance.

The other form of reductive thinking, which is embraced by a very different sort of person, is Substantive Reductionism. It is the polar opposite of Stylistic Reductionism. Some people view image, appearance and style as completely unimportant. Instead, what matters is the essence of someone or something. A person's inward character is all that matters. Just have good character, and be yourself. What matters is simply how something functions, and not its aesthetics. You see this form of reductionism in people who are completely unconcerned with appearance, whether by dressing in a sloppy or frumpy manner, walking around in public with poorly groomed hair, having mannerisms that betray an indifference to how their actions are words are perceived, leaving their houses cluttered and messy, speaking articulately but seeming distant and unengaged with their body language, having their desks piled with reams of papers, and lacking an appreciation for art or beauty. In this sort of worldview, image is irrelevent. Because of that, there is little consideration given to social status or even social perception. People with this sort of thinking often have some difficulties in every area of life, whether in job-seeking, in dating, in fitting in with social groups, or anything else involving people. They also often lack an appreciation for aesthetics, and therefore miss out on an entire section of life. This is Substantive Reductionism. Its overemphasis on substance and the genuine essence of a thing or oneself leads to imbalance and completely overlooks the importance of style.

As it nearly always is, truth is a balance. Yes, it is true that image matters. Yes, it is true that substance matter. To focus solely on image is to become superficial and lose connection with oneself and the people in one's life. To focus solely on substance is to ignore the vital importance of grace, beauty and social tact. Those who embrace Stylistic Reductionism focus so much on status and appearance, that they often lose parts of their soul in the process and are unable to connect deeply with others. Such a person becomes a Chameleon, easily adapting to the present social group and conveying precisely the desired image, but never being true to the image conveyed. It is an eternal deception. Those who embrace Substantive Reductionism focus so much on being genuine and true to their ideals, that they often alienate others by expressing controversial opinions or judgmental thoughts without considering whether it is the appropriate place or time to express them. They are often unaware of the messages that their words, actions, posture and tone conveys to other people. The fact is, most people have a tendency to lean towards and value either style or substance more than its counterpart. Yet, the ideal perspective is a balance of the two which rightly recognizes both the importance of subtance and style, realizing that it is crucial for there to be a correlation between how something appears and how it actually is.

In many ways, Game Theory is a recognition of the Stylistic Reductionism of modern women. Women, being more naturally socially aware, have a greater tendency to embrace Stylistic Reductionism. They are very concerned with how they appear to others physically, intellectually and socially. Even their purchases are often heavily influenced by the desire for social approval. They care not only about who a man is, but how he presents himself and how he is perceived. One of the central truths offered by Game Theory is that women are, by nature, hypergamous. Their attraction for a man, whether a complete stranger or their husband of many years, is directly influenced by how he is socially perceived. Women want to be with a man who has status. Women want to be with a man who is respected as a leader of men and who is desired by other women. Hypergamy and valuing social status, image, appearance, style and connection are all good things. Stylistic Reductionism, however, is a perversion of those good things. Women are naturally hypergamous, but they are not naturally Stylistically Reductionistic. That is a new and infectious strain of cultural disease that permeates modern America because of the philosophical relativism of the day, which undermines and even denies substance, and because of the pervasive nature of visual media, which glorifies image through its ceaseless use of photo and video. We are an image-driven society, which apmlifies and distorts the natural propensity of women to be image-centric and status seeking. Such reductionism is one major pitfall that modern women incessantly tumble into. It is good to value status and social approval, but it is very dangerous to overvalue status and overlook the criticality of essence.

Similarly, Game Theory is an antidote to the Substantive Reductionism of modern men. Men, being more naturally logical and analytical, have a greater tendency to embrace Substantive Reductionism. Men are often more concerned with solving problems, overcoming challenges, and figuring things out than they are worried about connection and social perceptions. How it works is always a more pressing question than how it appears. What you are doing with a person is more pertinent than how you feel about whatever you're doing. Because of that, men often don't focus as much on aesthetics or appearance, either in their manner of dress, in their workspaces or even in their homes. Men tend to be either simple and conservative in how they dress, or somewhat sloppy and disheveled. A few of my younger brothers look more like ragged waifs than well-dressed boys, simply because they aren't concerned with how they appear. Likewise, in dating, many men think that just being a nice guy is enough to win a girl's heart. They properly recognize that character and heart are important. However, they also fail to recognize the importance of how they dress, how they present themselves, their body language, how they interact with people, what stories they tell and/or any number of other social behaviors. Game Theory is something that is developed by men to help other men become more socially aware and improve their ways of interacting with other. By studying Game Theory a man can understand the messages that are being conveyed by how he interacts with others, and can learn to read other people better. This is something that many modern men desperately need, especially because of the decline of patriarchy and the lessening involvement of fathers in the lives of their sons. Modern men are not taught to have a holistic worldview that recognizes and values the importance of image, social status, personality and style, in addition to the importance of character and essence. This directly affects men's success in numerous arenas of life.

Given that all of us have a tendency to overvalue either style or substance, it is critical to be aware of our own internal biases, so that we can avoid imbalance and the negative consequences of living a life of imbalance. While Stylistic Reductionism is more commonly a feminine mistake and Substantive Reductionism is more commonly a masculine error, there are certainly some men who overvalue image while neglecting essense and there are some women who overvalue functionality at the expense of beauty. Wisdom dictates that each of us should be aware of our own imbalances and seek to temper them by choosing to embrace a balanced perspective. Both substance and style are vitally importance. What a person or thing is, does matter. How a person or thing appears also matters. We must be sure to keep both in mind at all times. It is not enough for something to be good or to be true, it must also be beautiful. It is not enough for something just to be beautiful, it must also be good and true. Reductionistic thinking is very easy to do. But a proper model of our world acknowledges and appreciates the importance of both appearance and essense. Women are glorious because they do value status, image, appearance, and beauty. Men are glorious because they are practical and value the substance of people and things. Yet, we must be vigilant in order to avoid overlooking, ignoring or denying the truth and value of the other.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Magic Is Everywhere

Magic is something that I ponder a lot. I ponder it and look for it, because I cannot escape the fact that magic is everywhere. Our world may be a reasonable and rational place, but it is not a cold, static, necessary world. It is a wondrous and surprising place which is inescapably full of life, mystery and beauty! Whether you are a hardcore atheist or a devout believer in the biblical creation account, the life, magic and mystery of our universe is unavoidable. When I speak of magic, I'm not just referring to that which is caused by supernatural forces. Instead, I mean that the present state of things is other than it might be, and that in many cases it is a wondrous and awe-inspiring state. I mean that though something may not be irrational or unreasonable, that there is always something fundamental about every person, preference or object which has no finally explicable reason.

It is for this reason, that G.K. Chesteron writes that fairy tales are, in many ways, more rational and reasonable than modern science. In his book which I so dearly love, Orthodoxy, he writes:

It might be stated this way. There are certain sequences or developments (cases of one thing or another), which are, in the true sense of the word, reasonable. They are, in the true sense of the word, necessary. Such are mathematical and merely logical sequences. We in fairyland (who are the most reasonable of all creatures) admit that reason and that necessity. For instance, if the Ugly Sisters are older than Cinderella, it is (in an iron and awful sense) necessary that Cinderella is younger than the Ugly Sisters. There is no getting out of it. Haeckel may talk as much fatalism about that fact as he pleases: it really must be. If Jack is the son of a miller, a miller is the father of Jack. Cold reason decrees it from her awful throne: and we in fairyland submit. If the three brothers all ride horses, there are six animals and eighteen legs involved: that is true rationalism, and fairyland is full of it. But as I put my head over the hedge of the elves and began to take notice of the natural world, I observed an extraordinary thing. I observed that men in spectacles were talking of actual things that happened--dawn and death and so on--as if they were rational and inevitable. They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as necessary as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not. There is an enormous difference by the test of fairyland; which is the test of the imagination. You cannot imagine two and one not making three. But you can easily imagine trees not growing fruit; you can imagine them growing golden candlesticks or tigers hanging on by the tail. These men in spectacles spoke much of a man named Newton, who was hit by an apple, and who discovered a law. But they could not be got to see the distinction between a true law, a law of reason, and the mere fact of apples falling. If the apple hit Newton's nose, Newton's nose hit the apple. That is a true necessity, because we cannot conceive the one occurring without the other. But we can quite well conceive the apple not falling on his nose; we can fancy it flying ardently through the air to hit some other nose, of which it had a more definite dislike. We have always in our fairy tales kept this sharp distinction between the science of mental relations, in which there really are laws, and the science of physical facts, in which there are no laws, but only weird repetitions.

In fairyland we avoid the word "law"; but in the land of science they are singularly fond of it. Thus they will call some interesting conjecture about how forgotten folks pronouced the alphabet, Grimm's Law. But Grimm's Law is far less intellectual than Grimm's Fairy Tales. The tales are, at any rate, certainly tales; while the law is not a law. A law implies that we know the nature of the generalisation and enactment; not merely that we have noticed some of the effects. If there is a law that pick-pockets shall go to prison, it implies there is an imaginable mental connection between the idea of prison and the idea of picking pockets. And we know what the idea is. We can say why we take liberty from a man who takes liberties. But we cannot say why an egg can turn into a chicken any more than we can say why a bear could turn into a fairy prince. As ideas, the egg and the chicken are further off from each other than the bear and the prince; for no egg in itself suggests a chicken, whereas some princes do suggest bears. Granted, then, that certain transformations do happen, it is essential that we regard then in the philosophic manner of fairy tales, not in the unphilosophic manner of science and the "Laws of Nature." When we are asked why eggs turn to birds or fruits fall in autumn, we must answer exactly as the fairy godmother would answer if Cinderella asked her why mice turned to horses or her clothers fell from her at twelve o' clock. We must answer that it is magic. It is not a "law," for we do not understand its general formula. It is not a necessity, for though we can count on it happening practically, we have no right to say that it must always happen. It is no argument for unalterable law (as Huxley fancied) that we count on the ordinary course of things. We do not count on it; we bet on it. We risk the remote possibility of a miracle as we do that of a poisoned pancake or a world-destroying comet. We leave it out of account, not because it is a miracle, and therefore an impossibility, but because it is a miracle, and therefore an exception. All the terms used in the science books, "law," "necessity," "order," "tendency," and so on, are really unintellectual, because they assume an inner synthesis, which we do not possess. The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, "charm," "spell," "enchantment." They express the abitrariness of the fact and its mystery. A tree grows fruit because it is a magic tree. Water runs downhill because it is bewitched. The sun shines because it is bewitched.
In this manner, we can clearly see that nearly everything in life is quite magical. We may ask why grass is green, and if we do, we may be able to explain how it comes to appear green, but we can never say why it is green. At the end of every chain of "why" questions, there always is a point at which we must say simply, "It's magic." Why is ours a heliocentric planetary system, rather than a geocentric one? Whether you suggest that it was designed by a creative and intentional God, or by random chance at the hands of impersonal natural forces, it is still is something that has no necessary answer--only a magical one. Why do anteaters have such long tongues? God would say He created it that way because He wanted to. An impersonal universe wouldn't say much at all, but Richard Dawkins would certainly praise the universe for its marvelously rich design.
All the great religions have a place for awe, for ecstatic transport at the wonder and beauty of creation. And it's exactly this feeling of spine-shivering, breath-catching awe — almost worship — this flooding of the chest with ecstatic wonder, that modern science can provide. And it does so beyond the wildest dreams of saints and mystics. The fact that the supernatural has no place in our explanations, in our understanding of so much about the universe and life, doesn't diminish the awe. Quite the contrary. The merest glance through a microscope at the brain of an ant or through a telescope at a long-ago galaxy of a billion worlds is enough to render poky and parochial the very psalms of praise.
Yet, often as we age we lose the wonder that is properly felt at the recognition of the magic so completely encompassing our lives. Why do I even exist? It's magic! Why do I love pomegranate frozen yogurt? It's magic! Why is the sea so beautiful, vast and untamable? It's magic! Why is there such a thing as music? It's magic! Why do I have a nice apartment that I enjoy living in? It's magic! Why do I have as many fun brothers and sisters as I do? It's magic! Why are there two very different genders? It's magic!

While Richard Dawkins' faith may be misplaced, I completely admire his perspective. When he looks at the world around him, he sees the magic that is inescapable, joyous and uplifting! He is rightly filled with an awe of nature! Even lacking a belief in a glorious Creator God, Dawkins revels in God's fantastic creation and declares that it all fills one with ecstatic wonder, beyond the wildest dreams of saints and mystics. Unfortunately, most moderns have lost this sense of childlike delight in the magic of Nature. Whether our imaginations have become dull through the constant pressures of life, whether we've believed the pretty lies that there is nothing extraordinary and nothing special in our world, or whether we simply have lost touch with our world because of distraction, the truth is that magic is all around us, just waiting for us to open our eyes and see it. If only we opened our eyes to see beauty, if only we opened our ears to listen to melody, and if only we opened our hearts to embrace that astounding refrain of nature, we too, would cry out in joy and delight! The saints and mystics saw the magic, and it inspired them to create art. Maltbie Babcock, a 19th-century Presbyterian minister, penned the words to the famous hymn, This Is My Father's World:

This is my Father's world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father's world,
the birds their carols raise,
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker's praise.
This is my Father's world:
he shines in all that's fair;
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father's world.
O let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!
Or, stepping back in time a few thousand years, we have the immortal words of King David, the poet and mystic, found in Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.

In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.
Its rising is from one end of heaven,
And its circuit to the other end;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
The wonder and beauty seen by these men is inescapable. They are men filled with delight and wonder whenever they look at the physical world! But, we've lost that wonder. We've lost that delight. We've lost that childlike jubilee. We no longer see the magic. Yet, it's there. It's waiting to be found. Simply opening up one's mind is all that is needed to begin to glimpse the beautiful magic of our world, of the trees and flowers, of our mothers and father, of our wheeled transports and wireless devices, of our lover's faces and all our favorite places, of freshly-grilled sandwiches and delectable fruit salads, of friends and coffee and wintry weather. Though Chesterton wrote his book one hundred years ago, even today there are still spectacled men walking about, who speak about biology as being something entirely devoid of magic. Yet, it's impossible to say that biology isn't magical when it is an irrefutable and incontrovertible fact that magic is everywhere. His assertion speaks very little about biology or our universe and, instead, speaks a great deal about his limited and imagination-less perspective. He writes that there is nothing special about women, despite the fact that they are the ones who bear babies. To him, nothing is magical, nothing is special. While he is correct that women aren't more special than men, he is quite wrong to say that there is nothing magical about women. Life itself is magical! Women are magical! Men are magical! Babies are magical! Biology is magical! Human biodiversity is magical! For the sake of avoiding one error, he commits a far worse one, causing him to miss the beauty and magic of all of Nature.

Let us always be mindful of the magic that surrounds us everywhere. Let us allow our hearts to be filled with gratitude as we appreciate the little things in life, as we notice the subtle details, and as we observe those things that we would normally miss. There may a leprechaun beneath a leaf, or perhaps something equally magically, like a rock. There may be a fairy hiding just out of sight, or a delightful person that we might fail to see unless we are watchful. Those who don't see magic completely miss all the wonders of life, simply because they aren't looking for it. Those who are watchful and vigilant cannot help but see enchanted creatures, spellbound objects and charming people everywhere. With a childlike perspective, all the magic that is around us can easily be seen. Without it, we miss out on the greatest wonders in life. To be fully alive, we must live life and see the world not only through the lenses of the intellect, but also from the window of the heart. We must experience the beautiful! If only our hearts will return to fairyland, we will see that fairyland is never something we grow out of, it is only something that we lose sight of.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thoughts About My Father - Part 2

Continued from Thoughts About My Father - Part 1...

My other favorite memory of my father is from my early adulthood. My father was the sort of person that you felt like you fully knew and yet didn't know at all. He's the kind of person that, while you might know who he is, you never felt that you knew who he used to be. His life, as a story, was one that was largely untold. That is the reason why this is a memory that I cherish greatly.

When I was 17, I graduated from high school. Now that I was finally entering adulthood, I was beginning the journey of figuring out who I was, what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to be. After completing high school, I decided to go on a mission trip to Romania for about three months. My experience in Romania is a vast story of its own, but, in short, it was one of the most painful and lonely periods of my life, while simultaneously being one of the best periods of growth in my life. I hated it, and yet the whole experience strengthened me far more than I could have imagined that it would. Upon returning from Romania in early December, I spent a couple of months at home with my family. Not long after my return, I distinctly remember my father telling me that he wanted to spend some time with me. Being such a rare occurence, I was delighted to have the chance to spend some time with my father. We planned to go and take a hike together on Saturday morning. I wasn't sure quite what to expect. I figured that mostly he would want to hear about my trip to Romania. In any case, I was excited that my father wanted to spend time with me.

When Saturday morning came, we drove to a spot that I knew of in some hills nearby. Neither of us had hiked at this particular park before, so we figured it would be a fun adventure. The weather was neither especially ideal nor particularly foreboding. Light grey clouds covered the sky uniformly and the air felt refreshingly cool. My father and I donned our sweaters after parking the car and began our hike by heading off in a randomly-chosen direction. He was curious about my trip to Romania, and so I recounted my European adventure to him in vivid detail. Then, he began to tell me about a trip he took to Europe in his young adulthood. At one point he had become fed up with life and decided to travel across Europe to see if he could find himself and find any meaning to life. As we hiked, he told me all about the many experiences that he had on his trip, about all the train rides, about all the places he stayed, about all the people he met, and about all the adventures he had. But, it didn't stop there. Not only did he tell me what he did, he shared a bit about what he was thinking, what he was looking for and what he found. His trip across Europe was more of an existential quest for purpose, meaning and answers than it was a mere vacation. What he was looking for wasn't something geographical. In one of the countries he visited, he met some young people, stayed with them in a youth hostel and, through them, found that Jesus Christ was the answer that he was looking for. That part of the story I had heard before, but in hearing more about his journey and the despair he felt, the conclusion of his quest made much more sense to me than it ever had before.

By this point, the clouds were getting a bit darker and looming closer to earth. We had hiked to the end of the park in one direction, and were following some other paths across the tops of various hills. But, my mind was hardly on where we were going. Instead, I was enjoying getting to know my father. As we walked on, he shared more about his life as a teenage and as a young adult. Since I was starting to learn to play guitar, he told me about the time he played keyboard in a rock band when he was young. That was part of his life that I knew very little about, especially since by the time I was born, both my mother and father were convinced that rock music was demonic. As a beginning musician, it was fascinating to hear him share tales of his own musical days, what led him to pursue music, and what his experience of being in a rock band was. We had a rational, adult discussion over whether rock music is truly something that is innately evil, or whether it is something that can be used for either good or evil. He also told me about his dating experiences before he met my mother, and how he had approached relationships. His lack of success with women in his early adult years was something that contributed to the sense of disconnectedness and despair that led him to go to Europe in search of himself. He told me about his own father, and how little his father interacted with him, when he was young. We talked as we hiked, and the hours flew by. Next thing I knew, we were returning to the car and heading somewhere for lunch.

The entire morning was a beautiful blur. For the first time in my life, I actually felt that I had began to understand my father. Prior to the point, I had always seen him as distant, detached, busy and impersonal. Up until that Saturday morning hike, I never felt that I really knew my father. But, that morning, I felt that he really had opened up to me and shared parts of himself with me. Just hearing his stories and experiences helped me to connect with him in a whole new way. After our hike, when I looked over at my father, I didn't just see my father. I saw another human being. I saw someone that I could relate to. I saw someone who was real, who was imperfect, who wrestled with real issues, and who had found some answers. That was the first day that I began to really see him as a father. Even as I write this, I cannot help but feel that our connection that morning went far beyond a mere intellectual exchange of information. That was how we normally communicated. Most of our conversations were very businesslike. But, during that morning hike, we connected not only intellectually, but also emotionally and spiritually.

My father is still an imperfect person. However, this memory was a huge milestone in our relationship, and it is one of my most treasured memories of any time I ever spent with my father. For those few hours, I felt valued, I felt important, I felt that I mattered to him. During the course of those few hours, I connected with him more than I had in the previous 17 years combined. He opened himself up to me and shared his heart with me. I treasure that. I love my father--not because he's perfect, nor because he's a great example. Instead, I love my father, because he is a real person, and because he is a good person. Beneath his tough exterior, there is a man who is real, who feels, who wrestles, who seeks and who hurts. Though he is relationally clueless, he has a good heart. He loves truly. He lives a life of conviction. He loves his family. That day, I felt, in some small measure, that he actually loved me. That day, I finally caught a glimpse of who my father was. I will never forget that morning hike.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thoughts About My Father - Part 1

Last night, I went to bed a little bit on the early side, but I wasn't feeling sleepy yet. Somehow, while lying there, I started thinking about masculinity, and about how I've grown as a man in the past two years of my life. After thinking about the various ways I've growed and matured, I suddenly felt an urge to read a chapter of The Way of the Wild Heart, a brilliant book on masculinity, written by John Eldredge. Three years ago was the first time that I read both Wild at Heart and The Way of the Wild Heart. While I didn't fully grasp the entirety of what John Eldredge was trying to convey, I certainly knew that what he wrote resonated deeply with me. He writes a lot about masculinity, about the masculine journey, about how a boy becomes a man and about how a man comes to know deep down that he is a man. He writes about the plight of modern America due to the lack of strong fathers who lead their sons and teach them how to be men. His words resonated with me then, even though what he wrote about seemed new and unfamiliar to me.

As I picked up the book and began to read, this section really stood out to me:
A boy has a lot to learn in his journey to become a man, and he becomes a man only through the active intervention of his father and the fellowship of men. It cannot happen any other way. To become a man--and to know that he has become a man--a boy must have a guide, a father who will show him how to fix a bike and cast a fishing rod and call a girl and land the job and all the many things a boy will encounter in his journey to become a man. This we must understand: masculinity is bestowed. A boy learns who he is and what he's made of from men (or a company of men). This can't be learned from the world of women...

When I was young, my father would take me fishing early on a Saturday morning. We'd spend hours together out there, on a lake or a river, trying to catch fish. But the fish were never really the issue. What I longed for was his presence, his attention, and his delight in me. I longed for him to teach me how, show me the way. This is where to drop that line. This is how you set the hook. If you can get a group of men talking about their fathers, you'll hear this core longing of a man's heart. "My father used to take me with him out in the field." "My father taught me how to play hockey, out in the street." "I learned to frame a house from my dad." Whatever the deatils might be, when a man speaks of the greatest gift his father gave him--if his father gave him anything at all worth remembering--it is always the passing on of masculinity.
Reading that passage got me thinking about my father. What memories do I have of him, that I really cherish? What were the most meaningful times I spent with him? In what ways did my father teach me how to be a man? I pondered this question a bit, and had quite a few thoughts. The truth is, my father is not a very good father. By that, I don't mean that he's bad or evil--I just mean that he is very bad at being a father. He had no idea how to lead well, how to connect well with his wife and his children, and how to teach us about life. He was, and still is, an unfinished man, who never fully grew up into being a man. While he is very competent in several areas of life, he lacks the strength and confidence that he needs to be a fully relational man. Because of that, I have very few significant memories of my father at all. Probably all of the most defining moments I had with my father, positive and negative, number less than ten. Yet, there are at least two memories that I have of my father that really instill me with respect for him.

The first memory isn't a single memory--it is a series of memories. I don't remember precisely when it began. I know that at least from 1994 onwards, there was something my father did almost every morning.

During the week, he would come into our bedrooms just a little bit before 6 every morning, and rouse us from our sleep. Only half-awake, my younger siblings and I would grab our comforters, climb out of our bunk beds and slowly shuffle down our long hallway towards the "Big Room." In the Big Room, we had an old upright piano, two couches, one loveseat and a long, dark-brown coffee table in the middle of the room. Seating was available on a first-come, first-serve basis and so whoever actually arrived in the Big Room could always take the most desirable seat. This always mattered somewhat, since there were a good number of us (I have ten siblings). But in the winter, this was a much more pertinent fact, since we had a centralized furnace, which had two floor vents that pumped warm air into the room. As nice it feels to sit on a couch with a comforter, it feels even more amazing to sit right next to the heater vent and enjoy fifteen minutes of wondrous warmth. Since there were only two of them, in the winter it almost became a race to get the furnace seating. The instant father woke any of us up, we would leap out of bed and fly down the hallway in hopes of getting one of the two furnace seats on the floor. While in the winter people would come quite swiftly, it wasn't always like that the rest of the year. Sometimes it would take up to fifteen minutes for my father to get us all awake enough to actually arrive in the Big Room. Often there would be one or two stragglers who had fallen back to sleep or who were having troubles bringing their blankets down the long hallway.

After all of us were situated in the Big Room, father would pass around a stack of Bibles and then sit down on one of the couches with his own Bible. The Bible that he had was larger than any of ours, and it had a well-worn black cover, with his name engraved on it. My father would say a word of prayer, and then open up God's Word and read whatever chapter we were currently up to. Typically, we would systematically read through a book of the Bible. Whenever we finished reading any book of the Bible, my father would choose a new one for us to read. His favorite book to read was Proverbs. He liked it because it had precisely 31 chapters, and because it was filled with practical wisdom. He always read slowly, clearly and deliberately. Every few verses, he would stop to ask a question or two. His purpose in asking questions was twofold. First of all, he wanted us to be actively listening and actually learning from whatever passage he was reading. Secondly, asking questions was a great way to help keep us from falling asleep. When it's 6 in the morning and you're sitting on a comfortable couch with a warm blanket, it's quite easy to drift off to sleep. Sometimes, rather than ask a question, he would stop reading and explain a little historical background on whatever verse we had just read. With the Proverbs, he would sometimes stop and share a short personal story or anecdote to illustrate the usefulness of a particular proverb. I especially remember how vividly he warned us about surety and debt. This morning ritual we always referred to as "Bible Time." It was a family tradition for years.

For some reason, that is one of the memories of my father that I most treasure. There are several things that I really appreciated about having Bible Time every morning. First, father always wanted to read the Bible to us because it was something that he himself loved. I never had the feeling that this was just for our good. He awoke us every morning to read the Bible with him because he enjoyed reading the Bible, and he wanted to share something that he loved with all of his children. He never did it out of duty, because he had to. He just wanted to. He loved reading the Bible, and he loved reading it to us. I felt included in his life for those 30-45 minutes every morning. Second, I really enjoyed it whenever he would stop reading a passage and explain to us what made those verses so important or meaningful. Whenever he shared a personal story, it not only helped the passage to make more sense, but it also gave us a brief glimpse of what sort of person he was. Third, not only was Bible Time one of the few times when I felt that I was part of my father's world, but Bible Time also was one of the main ways he provided direction and guidance for us. He read the Bible to us not just because he enjoyed it, but also because he wanted us to learn God's ways and to live in accordance with the teachings of the Bible. Regardless of how much direction he directly provided to us through other interactions, we always knew that he wanted us to follow God. He showed us the path that we should walk in.

That is one of my most cherished memories of my father from my childhood. I really admire him because he shared that part of himself with us, his children. I respect his dedication to teaching us truth, and showing us the path that we should walk in.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Incidence of Cuckoldry in Large Families

Earlier this week, Alkibiades posted a little blog on the probability of cuckoldry. Using a simple mathematical formula, he calculated the odds of a child being born as a result of a woman's sexual infidelity, and created a table with the statistical likelihood of a man being cuckolded, based on number of children in his family. Here is the final probability table:

1 child = 10% or 9:1 odds
2 children = 19% or 4.3:1 odds
3 children = 27% or 2.7:1 odds
4 children = 34% or 1.9:1 odds
5 children = 41% or 1.4:1 odds
6 children = 47% or 1.1: odds
7 children = 52% or 0.9:1 odds
8 children = 57% or 0.7:1 odds
9 children = 61% or 0.6:1 odds
10 children = 65% or 0.5:1 odds
Immediately after looking at his model, something struck me. For any model to be useful, it must bear some correlation to the real world. To the degree that a model correctly describes what is actually seen in the world, the model has validity. If a model makes predictions that widely diverge from what is actually seen, then the model is rejected as being unreliable. Now, from a mathematical standpoint, if one accepts that there is a 10% for a single child to be conceived by another man, given the promiscuity of modern men and women, then the rest of the table is mathematically sound. However, though the model may be mathematically sound, it's simplicity is also its downfall, since it does not align with the evidence of reality.

While I might be willing to trust the reliability of the table up through four children, I believe that there is a significant factor that changes the likelihood of cuckoldry for all families that have more than four children. My first question in looking at this table was to ask whether it matched my experience of the real world. As I have ten siblings, my mother gave birth to eleven children. If you use Alkibiades' model to determine the probability of cuckoldry with eleven children, then you will find that it would predict a 68% chance that one of my siblings was conceived due to sexual infidelity. I know for a fact that this is not the case. Now, it is certainly possible that Alkiabiades' model is correct and that my father is simply a lucky man, who happened to get lucky despite the fact that his outcome was statistically unlikely (32% chance). But, I have an alternate explanation.

My conjecture is that the sorts of women who are likely are be sexually unfaithful are also the sorts of women who are less inclined to have more than four children. The corollary to such a conjecture is that those women who choose to actually have five or more children are more likely to be sexually faithful than those who have four or fewer. I have a couple major reasons for this conjecture. Based on my anecdotal experiences, I have noticed that large families (5+ children) both tend to be more religiously devout and tend to be much more likely to homeschool than smaller families. This twofold difference leads both to a greater likelihood of sexually faithful behavior due to a wife's character and moral standards, and fewer opportunities for a wife to be unfaithful given the amount of time that is consumed in homeschooling her children. As such, these sorts of women both meet fewer potential seducers, and are less likely to commit adultery with any potential seducers they do meet.

Now, conjecture is of little value unless it actually matches the evidence of reality. As such, I have wracked my brains and spoken with several people in order to determine how many large families we knew, and what the actual incidence of cuckoldry is in such families. While it is still a relatively small data pool, I have come up with a list of 9 large families that I can confidently declare have zero incidences of cuckoldry. There is one family with 5 children, one family with 6 children, two families with 7 children, three families with 8 children, one family with 9 children and then my own family with 11 children. Now, Alkibiades' model would predict that about 5 of these 9 families should expect to have at least one incidence of cuckoldry. There is only a 0.07% chance that all 9 families will consist of legitimate children, if his model is correct. Yet, they all do consist completely of legitimate children. This fact alone calls the validity of the model into question. Similarly, though there are some large families that I do not know for contain zero illegitiate children, there are no large families that I can think of (nor has anyone I've yet asked) that actually do have one or more children as a result of sexual infidelity.

Now, my purpose in writing this is not to criticize Alkibiades' model, but instead to help refine it. In his blog post he specifically notes: "Of course these computations assume that all women have the same chance of cuckholding, but I’m sure there are good women out there." While that disclaimer would seem to be a minor footnote, I think that because of the real-world difference seen in those women who have five or more children it seems to be a fairly major oversight. As such, I would postulate that a model that better fits with reality would be a cuckold probability chart akin to this one:

1 child = 10%
2 children = 19%
3 children = 27%
4 children = 34%
5 children = 30%
6 children = 25%
7 children = 19%
8 children = 13%
9 children = 08%
10 children = 05%
11 children = 03%
12 children = 02%

Readers: Of course, to test the validity of such a model beyond my pitifully small collection of anecdotal data, more reliable data is needed. I have been searching for sociological studies on large families, and data on the actual number of large families in America, sorted by number of childen, but have been largely unsuccessful. As such, I welcome any data that you can offer, either of an official sort, or even more anecdotal data. Do you know any large families who have one or more illegitimate children? Do you know any large families that you are certain contain no illegitimate children?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Woman's Antidote to Aging

Given that we live in a world of continual physical decay, aging is something that all women eventually have to face, and something that many of them fear and fight to avoid. For a short period of time (from 16-26), a girl can enjoy looking her best, but from that point on, it's a downward trend. Even with an excellent diet and exercise routine, time is an unpreventable thief that steals her beauty continually. Five years later, she lacks the same beauty and luster that she once had. Fifteen years later, her body has deteriorated even further and her complexion has begun to lose its softness. Twenty-five years later, she already retains only a fraction of what beauty she may once have had. Time is never merciful. For those women who place much confidence in their physical appearance, aging is one of the very worst things that can possibly happen to them.

However, there is something that can make a woman more beautiful over time, even as her physical appearance fades with the passing years. This realization struck me just a few days ago. On Sunday morning, I arrived at church quite a bit early and seated myself in an empty row near the front. A few minutes later an elderly lady in her late 70's, accompanied by her husband, seated herself next to me. Physically, she wasn't much to look at. She wore a simple blue dress and a cute hat on her head. She didn't wear any makeup, and her face had plenty of wrinkles. But her face, wrinkled as it was, had a sort of sweetness and serenity written on it. Just to make small talk, I wished her a happy new year, and asked how she was enjoying 2010 so far. Her reply was one that was filled with so much gratitude, peace and joy. She told me how thankful she was that God had given her another glorious year of life. We just talked briefly, since the sermon began not long after, but I had the most unexpected realization as I was talking to her. While physically, there was nothing especially impressive about her, as I heard her speak, I began to see her as beautiful--she had such a sweet spirit, such a heart filled with love for God, such a graciousness of manner, and such a presense of mind. Old as she was, I could sense so much life and beauty in her soul.

This is the Biblical antidote to the aging process. In his first epistle, Peter writes to women, "Do not let your adornment be merely outward--arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel--rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." (1 Peter 3:3-4) Peter speaks directly to the deep desire of women to be beautiful. Aging is inevitable and unavoidable. A woman will, without fail, become less physically beautiful over time. However, inner beauty is something that is not subject to physical decay. Inner beauty, stemming from the soul of a righteous, gentle and peaceable woman, is something that is thoroughly incorruptible. A physically beautiful woman is certainly glorious to behold. However, physical beauty is something that is primarily a matter of good genes--it's a tribute to God and to a woman's parents, but not to a woman herself. Inner beauty of the soul, contrarily, is something that is not innate and is not solely a matter of genes. A woman who has cultivated an inner beauty has something that will not fade, and that is a tribute both to her effort and to God's glorious work in her heart. That is something to be proud of!

As such, though it is certainly good for women to dress well and enjoy their physical beauty, especially when young, cultivating an inner beauty of the soul is a necessary pursuit for any woman who wishes to retain her beauty or become more beautiful over time. A heart that is full of love, compassion, care, generosity, peace, mercy, and gratefulness is a beautiful heart. Strangely enough, such a heart even noticably preserves physical beauty as well. And that is what I saw when I spoke with Edna on Sunday. Time had stolen all the beauty it could from her, and yet she was still beautiful. When the worship band played their songs, she raised her voice in song and raised her hands in love for God. Her love for God, her love for people, her love for music, and her appreciation of life were unmistakable. She was beautiful!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Three Game Mindsets

Fundamentally, there are three different paths that can be taken, in the area of romantic relationships. This is true of all people, whether simple or wise, brilliant or clueless, well-versed in Game Theory or utterly unaware, whether single or married, whether religious or agnostic and whether male or female. Each path offers various ways to reach each goal, although some are more effective and intentional than others. Game Theory, in so much as it offers truth about the male and female natures, the present sexual and relational markets, and practical strategies for both men and women to maximize their attractiveness, is valuable for all people to know and it is practically useful for people who seek relationships. Fundamentally, the three mindsets towards romantic relationships are: a long-term centric relational mindset, a short-term centric relational mindset and a romantic-avoidance mindset. I will briefly explain what each of these fundamental approaches is, what matters most to the sort of person in each group, and mention several well-known internet writers who operate according to such mindsets.

Long-Term Relationship Game
People in this category are seeking deep, rich, fulfilling lasting relationships with a person of the opposite sex. In their quest for love, they seek out a potential mate who is a high-quality person all-around, and not merely sexually attractive. The centrality of developing and enjoying a holistic relationship with a real person is at the forefront of an LTR-centric person. Such a person recognizes that communication, dedication, sacrifice and hard-work are needed to develop a rich and fulfilling relationship, and is willing to work towards that goal. While many men have varying success in long-term relationships and marriages, a man who effectively applies Game Theory in his relationship, by being a strong leader, embodying masculine character traits, and being in a relationship with a high-quality woman, will consistently reap the benefits of a strong and satisfying relationship.

There are a few prominent Gamers who focuses their energies on developing lasting relationships and benefitting others. Dave In Hawaii, Obsidian, Cless Alvein, and Alkibiades are fairly well-known ones who spring to mind.

Short-Term Relationship Game
People in this category are primarily seeking casual sexual relationships, either for just a single night, or for a period of several weeks, months or years. These sorts of people are looking for physical chemistry, sexual attraction, excitement, amazing sexual encounters and sometimes variety in partners. The character and personality of potential mates is not especially important to the Short-Term Gamer, since all relationships are intended to be fairly short, and all partners are completely fungible. Concerning self-development, men who seek short-term relationships work to maximize the effectiveness of their Game by practicing sparking attraction as quickly as possible. Women who seek short-term relationships try to maximize their raw sexual appeal and appear as physically attractive as possible. The Sexual Market, which consists of all people seeking casual sexual relationships, is an extremely competitive and cutthroat market, where generally the best men are extremely successful, and those with only moderate Game reap substantially less gratifying results. The objectifying nature of the worldview that necessarily comes with an emphasis on casual sex often leads such people to assign numerical values to the sexual attractiveness of a person. Here is Roissy's Sexual Market Value test for men and for women.

Of the three categories of Gamers, most of the best known and most popular ones are Short-Term Gamers, who seek casual sexual relationships and primarily pursue personal pleasure in relationships. Roissy, Roosh, Tyler Durden, Talleyrand and Krauser are prime examples of people with this mindset.

Romantic Relationship Avoidance
People in this category have decided that, either permanently or just for a period of time, they do not want to pursue any sort of romantic relationship. This does not include people who want to be in a relationship or desire sex but are unable to attract a suitable partner. Instead, this only includes people who voluntarily and intentionally have chosen not to pursue romantic relationships. There are many various motivations for such a lifestyle choice. For some, they choose not to pursue relationships because they value their freedom and independence too much to be willing include someone else in their world. For some, they renounce romantic relationships for the sake of a higher cause, frequently a religious one. For some, they are sufficiently dissatisfied with the present selection of people in the dating market (Relationship Market and/or Sexual Market), and therefore they have decided that pursuing relationships simply isn't a worthwhile use of time. Besides these three, I'm certain that there are many other motivations for adopting a relationship avoidance strategy.

While this is a relationship mindset, in one sense is an anti-mindset of sorts. The sorts of people who intentionally aren't pursuing romantic relationships also are the sort of people who either write about other things, or who don't state their relational stance publicly. As such, there is no one that I can conclusively link to as holding this mindset. I can however, link to some prominent people who write some excellent commentary on the current state of the dating realm. Novaseeker, Anakin Niceguy, and Snark are some who spring to mind as offering solid social commentary without strongly showing an inclination towards either Long-Term Game or Short-Term Game.