Compassion does not have to come from God

Smaller Hands help

 

They say that the best way to start writing is to read something you disagree with. I’ve found that to be very much true.

For instance, I read this article criticizing Sam Harris’s book called Letters to a Christian Nation. Harris argues that we don’t need religion to justify compassion. And the author disagrees. He makes the common Christian argument of “How can there be rules without a rule giver?”

” Francis Schaeffer said that secular man can only live in the lower storey (secular world) by borrowing from the upper storey (spiritual world). In other words, atheists can only talk about ethics because they are immersed in a social structure sustained by the “mythology” they reject. They borrow ethics from God and then claim that these ethics exist without a transcendent law-giving God to uphold them. What the atheists cannot explain is how they justify their ethical standards.”

Secular ethics has been around for a long time – starting from Aristole and virtue ethics, to Jermey

Bentham and utilitarianism, to Immanuel Kant and Kantism. Ethical rules can be created and enforced by humans beings upon themselves. Francis is like a big-time businessman asking why people volunteer their time and energy for free.

For me, the point of compassion comes from the idea that if we can recognize that we do not enjoy being in pain, or being humiliated or starved or killed, and we can recognize that other human beings have brains and bodies essentially like our own – that they are at their core, like us. If we can do that, they we must do our best to make sure that these other human beings can also avoid negative experiences and move towards a higher and better life.

None of this requires a God.

What does it mean to have a higher and better life? Each person is their own judge of that. I want to see our world flourish – by individual choice and collective support. How are those ethics?

Glory – a poem

Glory

This is a poem acheiving and experiencing glory in one’s life. I think it is something that many people (especially men) aspire to achieve in their lives and many do – to varying degrees. It came to after listening to the theme from ConAir – a decent action movie where Nicolas Cage actually looks pretty bad-ass. It also comes from my excitement about the quickly-approaching NCAA mens gymnastics championships – and my inability to compete at them. And finally, yes I watched the Spartans fight the Persians in 300 – the greatest man-movie of all time in my opinion.

Andrew Jackson Statue

Glory

a tall walk of long strides
his gaze dead ahead
triumph coursing through veins
this day is his, forever

knowing that from nothing
with just his iron will, he forged
something great
something worth remembering

he walks a lonely path
worth the while
to stand alone in the sun
one moment of light

most can’t choke the bitter gruel
of blood and sweat
they don’t deserve to taste
sweet, sweet glory

A Swift Kick in the Butt

Kick in the Butt

Growing up, I’ve wanted to be many things: archaeologist, astronaut, scientist, science writer. But I never really wanted to be a doctor. It was stagnant, it was done for the money, and most importantly, my mother wanted it. So I fought against it. Yet I ended up majoring in Biological Sciences, where everyone either goes on to Medical School or graduate school in a bio-related field. But I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Sure, I had some ideas, but it was hard to figure out who would be paying me to do these things.

Then I saw Paul Wise speak at a SAID dinner, and he changed my mind. He said that if you work in any policy related field, you have to have “statistical compassion”. You’ve got to feel just as good about seeing a drop in child mortality rates late one night, as you would after saving someone’s life after an 8 hour surgery. I realized that I needed that hands on experience.

I want to help end poverty. But I want to interact with the people I’m trying to help as well. So I want to go to medical school, get an MD and a Master’s in public health and work in international health and poverty relief. I want to work in a clinic in a 3rd world country. I want to make those people healthier with my hands, and with the programs I start and the policies I help draft and implement. I want them to have a better life.

Now that is the goal. To get there I have to do a lot of things. Namely, get my GPA up. It currently stands at a meager 3.3, which is not going to cut it. So it’s time to buckle down and hit the books like I never have in my academic career.

I always laughed at the super grade sensitive, over studying premeds. But now I have become one. But I know why I’m doing it. Not for the money, not for the prestige, not because mom wants me to do it.

But because there 29,000 children under the age of 5 who die everyday due to malnutrition and preventable disease. (unicef)

I will not stand for that. And so I study. It’s time for a swift kick in the butt.

A New Kind of Academy

Imagine a college where students get a rigorous, top-notch, all-expense paid education, in the tradition of military academies. But instead of years in the military, graduates would repay their education in public service – be it local, state, or federal government.

This amazing school is becoming a reality, thanks to Chris Myers Asch and Shawn Raymond, and their project: The United States Public Service Academy. Their idea has become a congressional bill and will be introduced next week by Senator Clinton, along with another Senator and 2 Representatives. This is very impressive from 2 thirty-somethings who did Teach for America together, especially since they first came up with the idea less than one year ago!

That is one impressive display of resourcefulness, gumption and passion.

I know you all are dying to help this project out, so here’s what you can do: if you are high school student, college student, or recent grad, express your support for this awesome bill by “signing” the letter and mailing it to

asch@uspublicserviceacademy.org

It’s so easy and this is such a great cause.

Dear Members of Congress:

We, the undersigned, are high school students, college students, and recent college graduates in the United States, and we are urging you to support the Public Service Academy Act. We think the U.S. Public Service Academy is the kind of school that young people would love to attend. If the Academy were around when we were applying to college, we would have applied to attend. We need to build it for future generations!

Signed,

______________________________

________________
(Name)
_____________________________________
(City, State)

Simps, Improv and Education

I just came back from a show by the Stanford Improvisers (SIMPS) called “Phantom of the Improv” at the Pigott Theater. I watched 8 members produce a improvised, unrehearsed 50 minute Broadway-style musical called “The Ballet Class” (the title was selected through many audience suggestions and subsequent voting)

It was incredibly fun.

I love sIMPs shows: they are funny, musical and surprising. This show was the best entertainment I could recommend to anyone. The songs were catchy, the actors were funny and real, and the plot had a great ending. The story was basically about a school where a new kid gets into trouble on the first day with a “bad kid”, then joins the homeroom art project of “expressing yourself” with two other students who learn ballet. The bad boy is eventually convinced to join the project as well and give it a chance. Continue reading…