The Soulfies and the SelfOwn

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Once upon a time there was a normal girl who lived in a nice neighborhood and went to a good school. In fact, I think you might know her, or at least you know someone who does. She had a dog, two cats, some goldfish, and climbing tree. Her porch hosted sunsets in the evening and the stars twinkled between her strawberry curtains where her mother kissed her every goodnight.

Life was good for this little girl, and she was happy; mostly, except for one thing: this little girl really wanted a cell phone. Her friends had cell phones. And data plans. And Wastebook accounts. And InstaKudo accounts. And. And. And. Her friends posted pictures of their epic adventures in Suburban Teenager Land so that all of Family-and-Friend fandom could tap their pictures and pithy statements with clicks of approval. It was wonderful, with a simple snap of the lens both Grandma Sarah in Seattle and Aunt Gertrude in Corpus Christi could both instantly know and approve of the cream in your coffee and the color of your sneakers. The little girl wanted so much to be caught up in this interconnected world wide spider web, but her mother and father would only give her a flip phone. It was awful. The only thing you could do with the flip phone was make phone calls.

That particular morning, was a very normal day:  sunny with a high of 72 and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich were all that was expected. The little girl zipped up her backpack and headed off to school. She was walking down the sidewalk path  when she was surprised to see a silver slithering off into the bushes. Of course, all normal little girls are intrepidly curious adventurers, so the little girl followed the silver slithering to a hollow dead tree on the outskirts of the park.

“Did your mother really say that a cell phone would not be good for you?” the silver slitherer asked the little girl.

“She said it was not necessary to be so focused on promoting my external self-image,” the little girl paused and scrunched her nose as she tried to remember the rest of what her mother had said. The slitherer had such large engrossing eyes.  “Mom said, “I would be happier if I focused on building my self image from the inside out by concentrating on learning useful information and playing active outdoor games.’”

The slitherer made a wheezing sound that the little girl assumed was laughter. “And you really believe that? Of course she wants you to think that. That’s how grown-ups make themselves look good. They don’t go to school anymore, so they have to show off their children’s achievements in order to make their friends like them.”

The little girl had never thought of it that way. It sounded true. Mostly true, anyway. Did her mother really feel that way? The slitherer must be very clever to have noticed that.

“Here, I have something special for you.” coaxed the slitherer. And from a hole in the old dead tree, he produced a smooth shiny cellphone with a silver emblem of a bitten fruit on the back. Take it. It will make you wise. You will see all the things your mother wanted to keep from you.” The slitherer coiled its body around a dry bone of a branch and whispered in the little girl’s ear. It is called a SelfOwn and you can take pictures of yourself with it, but not just any pictures. This takes Soulfies which make you appear more vibrant than any other little girl in the world.”

The little girl touched the slender silver box. It really was pretty slick, but when she looked up the slitherer was gone. The phone was innocuously off. It certainly did not look magical. It looked like any other well packaged piece of asian made electrical fodder peddled en masse under the yellow BestLie logo. The little girl tossed the silver box in her side pocket with her eraser caps and last week’s squished science flashcards.

 

 

Half way through math class, when the little girl had all but forgotten the morning’s adventure, the SelfOwn seemed to come alive with cheerful blinking, its chipper vibrations clearing the little girl’s thoughts of conversion factors and unit ratios. “Just one peek,” she thought. “What is that phone doing?”

It was an invitation to set up an account with Wastebook, the most popular social media site. There was a list of her acquaintances who already had Wastebook accounts who had sent her invitations to view their Wastebook pages. It seemed simple enough. How did this program know she she knew all these people? “Hmmm,” she thought “I just have to take a picture of myself and then I will have my own account.”

After class, the little girl was in the bathroom. She pulled out the silver SelfOwn, turned the camera to her face, and snapped a picture. Wow! Neat!  It was her in the picture, but it was different. Her hair has smooth and two inches longer. Her nose looked a little smaller (the little girl had always thought her nose too large), and her flesh was uniform in color and lighter. This camera takes great pictures! What did that slitherer call this? Soulfies! That’s right. The little girl took nine more pictures, each one looking a little better than the last. She admired them for awhile, before realizing she had completely missed fourth period. Had she really been in the bathroom that long? She tossed the SelfOwn back in her bag, and busted out of the bathroom. P.E. was next. If she hurried she could catch up with the other kids changing into their P.E. uniforms. Her friend Ericka was walking down the hall. The little girl called out a hello, but Ericka walked right into her. “Oh! Wow! I’m sorry. I didn’t see you!” Ericka exclaimed.

“That’s ok” I just wanted to say hi!” The little girl said. “Hey I’m on Wastebook now. Look me up. Ok. Bye!”

The little girl hurried off to P.E. No one seemed to notice her. She usually had a group a chattering girls she like to hang out with, but it seemed that people did not see her until she was right in their face. It was not until the last period and at least 25 Soulfies later that the little girl realized she was disappearing. Every picture she had taken was more beautiful than the last, but with each one her own real self was became a little more transparent. She could hardly see her own self in the bathroom mirror. Only her eyes remained. They seemed to float on their own.

“What have I done?” the little girl wept. “The slitherer! It tricked me.” When the little girl stopped crying all the other children had gone home from school.

___

The librarian was completely preoccupied in reading CS Lewis’s The Last Battle and did not notice the pair of sad blue eyes come floating through the door. The little girl was through crying and determined to resolve her dilemma, and like any kiddo her age with a question went straight the the search engine, Oracle. She typed “SelfOwn Transparency Syndrome” and hit the “Scry” button. Nothing. Just some some pages written in Russian. Maybe Russian or Tibetian? “Hmmm. What’s happening to me?” she tried to say, but with no mouth her words were only on her head. She got up and stretched her nonexistent arms and walked down a row of books. Mythology. Double Hmmm. A book caught her eye: The Complete Fairy Tales by George MacDonald. She ran her “finger” down the book’s spine and touched… a Tail!!! She pulled the little tail and sure enough it was attached to a fairy which flapped out of the book’s front.  In addition to a long tail the fairy had floppy doggy ears, kitty whiskers, and a face straight off a baby bat. The fairy was most properly offended at being dislodged in such an undignified manner and exclaimed, “What is the meaning of this!” at such a volume that the librarian who was quite used to book magic turned a page in her own volume and called out, “Go back to bed, it’s lights out time!”

The fairy could recognize enchanted little girls the way kindergarteners can recognize the ABC’s. It could also hear her mouthless talking. She was hardly able to explain her cellophane self before the fairy had pulled a dusty leather bound version of Anecdotal Antidotes of the Mythologies off the shelf. Let’s see he muttered mellifluously as he thumbed through the alphabetized entries. “Here it is.”

“Here’s what?” cried the little girl.

You have what is refereed to in the DSM-IV (AKA Diagnoses of Spiritual Mishaps version 4.0) Disappearance related to SelfOwn use associated with Soulfies. It says when the SelfOwn “takes” a Soulfie it really is taking a piece of your soul every time. It says with continued use the soul eventually disappears into a collectively approved super-identity with a hive mentality and the person is left as only a shell of themselves.

“Oh no! That’s terrible.” The little girl cried. “Does it say what I can do to reverse the effects? This is a book of antidotes! Right?”

“Yes. Yes.” said the fairy, “Settle down. I’m getting there.” He coughed. “Ahem, It says you must bury the SelfOwn in the soil where it came from and eat its fruit”

“What is that supposed to mean?” The impatient little girl felt that this was no time for more cryptic lore.

“Well, I’m sure I don’t know.’ I’m just a library fairy,” the library fairy retorted. “But I do know that once one gets started on something the end becomes clear in the middle.”

“What are you saying?!”

“Heroes are never privy to their happy endings. That privilege is reserved for the author. All a hero knows is that they have to try. So go bury the phone.”

A heavy mist was thickening the air around the dead tree when the little girl found arrived there under the darkening sky. She obviously did not have a trowel with her, so she dug with her hands and a mechanical pencil. The SelfOwn was alive, buzzing and blinking in cathodic revolt. The little girl was afraid the noise would summon the slitherer, but if he was there he remained shadowed, her simple resistance causing him to flee.

The little girl stood back and looked at the tiny mound of soil, displaced by the buried SelfOwn. Nothing. “This is ridiculous. What am I doing?” She looked at the place where her mind thought her hand should be and cried. Her tears dropped straight through her hand spot and landed on the mound. Then a strange thing happened. A light pierced up out of the ground from the mound at the base of the dead tree. The light was followed by a vigorous thick green shoot which branched out in all directions, and red flowers exploded onto the branches which thickened and drooped into fresh fruits. The little girl picked one of the fruits, and it opened into two parts, revealing, where seeds should have been, a pair of glasses.

The little girl woke the next morning in first period, still invisible and still clutching the glasses from the magic tree. Class was buzzing all around her. Of course, no one talked to her. “Here goes nothing!” the little girl said to herself, and placing the glasses on her face she found she could see through other people’s eyes. She looked at her teacher and realized with some surprise that her teacher had worked late into the night preparing this morning’s lesson. She knew her teacher was excited about the material and nervous that no one else would care. She looked at the janitor collecting trash in the hall and realized that this was his second job that he worked so that his sick wife would have the health insurance she needed. She looked at the popular cheerleader girl who sat in the front row and knew that she was terrified of people knowing that she came from a family struggling to make ends meet. She looked at the big bully boy who sat in the back and felt his sadness for the absence of his father. The more she looked through the glasses that showed her other people’s perspective the more real her own soul became, and as her heart traveled back into the realm of reality, her face not only became visible, but it glowed increasingly with its very own unique beauty.

A beast does not know that he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast, the less he knows it. – George MacDonald

 

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The Absurdity of Morality as a Moral Standard

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I was asked by a very intelligent friend where the Bible lays out basic standards for Christian behavior, which is an awesome question, and I had to think about it, so this post is for you, my love:

In general, pagan humanity compares themselves one to another in an attempt to measure their own moral aptitude. Humans judge their own conduct based on the perceived attitude and actions of those around them. This parallel system of comparison has been called by the old church fathers “self-righteousness.” Self-righteousness is a weed-like plant that can grow in a variety of different habitats. Middle-class America judges amongst themselves differently than death row inmates judge amongst themselves but anyone in either situation can claim that they are “good” based on the perceived lower caliber of  “goodness” in their particular cohort. For example, a man may find himself anywhere along this continuum:  “I do not drink. I never will. Alcohol makes people drunk and I will not be a drunkard,” “I have a serving size of wine with dinner every night. This is good for my heart and makes me healthier than those who have no control or those stuck-up abstainers,” “I drink a six pack with my buddies on the weekend, but I am in total control,”  “I drink all the time at home, but at least I can still make it to work regularly,” “I can’t pay the electricity bill this month, but at least I’m not on meth,” and so on ad nauseum. The middle-class American  decrying the income of the top 10% as immoral, never considers that his own access to education, clean water, and housing, places him in a category of decadent affluence compared to most of the world. He would not dream of depriving himself of his own comforts in order to aid humanity. He just thinks that others, probably the government, should redistribute other people’s wealth. It does not matter which direction you turn, you can always find someone – whether you admit it or not -that you think is not as good as you. The problem with using other people’s morality to calibrate your own morals is that you can’t calibrate anything on a changing variable and man, being finite, cannot physically compare himself to the universe.

The Christian world view, and the one that I think makes the most logical sense, is to compare oneself to God, realize one’s own moral poverty, and accept the sacrifice of Christ as sufficient propitiation to rectify the bent soul to its Creator. When we calibrate our morality to the standard of morality laid out in the Bible, it is plain to see their is none righteous, no not one, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The Psalmist says, If you, O Lord, kept a record of our wrongs who could stand? In this light, we understand that no one can live up to the requirements of the law. Therefore, something else must be a substitute. Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. In the beginning, this blood came from animal sacrifice, YHWH fashioned clothes from animal skins to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve and accepted the sacrifice of Abel but not of Cain. This redemptive work was completed by the bloody passion of Christ. Christ did not come to condemn the law but to fulfill it.

God sees not as man sees for man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. God looks at His redeemed creatures through the lens of His Son’s blood (as already perfected)  and He calls them through His blood (as being perfected). We shall be made like Christ by being like Him in His sufferings. No one becomes more like Christ by trying, this is the path of self-righteousness, but in the same way that silver losses its dross in the fire, Christians are made like Christ through trials and persecutions. Parallel comparisons are meaningless in the light of perpendicular comparisons.

However, moral improvement is not the goal of Christianity. It may be seen as a symptom of the process in the same way that a man’s nose will stop running once his body begins to heal from the flu, but it is not the high aim. The purpose of Christianity is for bent fallen creatures who value the self as supreme might go against their nature and value the Creator more than themselves, the creature. Every time a soul chooses Christ over the Self the progress of the Fall is reversed, and morality happens as a byproduct. It is not by works that we are saved but by grace. It is important to note here that grace is the work of God and not man. We can only choose Christ over the self because of the redeeming power of the cross. Christ’s death was like the death of a seedpod that sprouts up new life wherever the seeds have fallen. Without His death, we are dead soil, and as being dead are quite unable to choose anything besides death until the seed comes.

So why should we not sin all the more so that grace may abound? Because we cannot. We can grieve and quench the Spirit, but He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it. If salvation was truly a work of God at the start, He will see it through to completion. Apostasy on the deathbed only proves the conversion false. It does not prove God false. Let God be true and every man a liar.

And so we continue in the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, not aiming for morality lest we wind up in hell with all those other moral people, but rejoicing in His work in us.

Because men and women are different and are best suited to different roles, the Bible puts forth different standard for what God’s work looks like in men and women. A standard for men seeking to grow in maturity, can be found in 1 Timothy 3. Someone might say these are the requirements for men who want to be church leaders, but I would argue from the lesser to the greater that anyone with the Holy Spirit aspires to help their fellow weaker Christians further up and further in, and therefore any Christian man is a leader. A standard for woman is found in Proverbs 31:10-31. There are many excellent commentaries by other more intelligent women on this segment, so I will not do it the injustice of trying to unpack it, but I do think it is interesting because it focuses on a woman’s role in the home and workplace. Advice about what she does in church is quite conspicuously absent. I might be treading into some dangerous territory, but it is possible that the reason so many men are not interested in church attendance, is because it is so heavily dominated with feminine influence.

So the work of God, and not morality is the standard to which we must adhere. Our own attempts may make us “moral” but only in comparison to other “immoral” beings. Virtue is expressly not the goal nor the means of obtaining the goal, it is a representation of the private work of a personal God. The goal is to be Holy as He is Holy, and that only happens after we die, just as the original Seedpod died. We go further up and further in because there is no place else to go.

 

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