Perceptual Surgery

Ref: Genesis 3:24; 2 Timothy 2:15 and Hebrews 4:12

Self-regard is one edge of the sword. I don’t take myself seriously in part because I don’t take fallen humanity seriously. Cynicism is a sword that works best when it cuts both ways, and even better when the sword is forge in the fires of God’s revelation. Then it becomes Holy Cynicism.

Jesus talked and thought in terms of compassion for the sheep; He spoke in terms of being their Shepherd. As any shepherd could tell you, the majority of the flocks seldom take an active interest in anything beyond the narrow range of things sheep do: eat and make more sheep. But in every flock there were always just a few sheep that acted like pets, cleaving to the shepherd with some affection. Such are humans. Most are herded here and there according to the Shepherd’s intended outcomes. So we have learned not to take seriously human politics in the sense that we are wholly cynical about the claimed intentions. Those few who really understand know better than to get lost in herd identity, because despite the limits of the parable, He promised some of us could become shepherds alongside Him.

The parabolic image of Shepherd and sheep only stretches just so far, but the resulting Holy Cynicism offers a very broad scope. Indeed, you see it everywhere you look. Our Sister Wildcucumber rightly noted in the comments to yesterday’s post about education being equivalent to torture that it was a dark teaching. It reflects the justified cynicism toward Western Civilization and all the resulting abuse such a culture heaps on humans. In some ways, we could suggest that micro-management is the trademark of the West. I was attempting to trace the biblical logic how people came to micro-management.

Just because we have some grasp of how things work doesn’t mean we have any justification for trying to exploit that knowledge. All the more so when our knowledge is based on utterly false assumptions about what makes things important. The Tree of Knowledge is a symbol for being one’s own god, deciding what is good and right in this world while cutting off all reference to the One who made this world. Frankly, the only reason I delve so deeply into such exercises of biblical logic is to expose deception and give you a chance to evaluate how you might change the path your mind takes in organizing and implementing your obedience to Our Creator. We can’t fix the insanity that characterizes our dark world of lies, but we can begin turning our steps toward the light.

Let me give a concrete example: I have written quite a few articles that were published in other places regarding the moral necessity of meeting the user’s needs in computer technology. You and I as computer users are caught between those who want to exploit our human frailty for profit and those who simply want to build their own egos. That is, commercial software is largely an attempt to capture the user for exploitation. So we say that if you use Windows, you are the product being sold to Microsoft’s business partners. Mass marketed software actually shapes the broad expectations of the consumer market by creating an environment where a wider range of human activity is simply ignored.

If you use Open Source, you are choosing to feed the egos of little godling geeks accountable to no one. Open Source is developer-centric. The developers explore all sorts of directions that nobody else can imagine wanting. Only rarely do Open Source ideas scratch a real itch that draws the consumer market by offering something people didn’t realize they really wanted. Instead, we have a chaotic mix of developers each insisting that their unique vision of computing nirvana is the only thing you should want. They want to micro-manage your computer use by forcing you to accept their divine output. How could you possibly want anything else? “I left that feature out because only idiots want to do that.”

Nobody is user-centric.

Of course, it’s not hard to explain this dilemma through Holy Cynicism: Merchants are all about human materialistic tendencies, both their own and that of others. They attempt to herd developers by offering decent pay for something developers genuinely love to do, but harnessed to merchant plans. Open Source takes away the merchant management but leaves the developers in charge, who as a class are so freaking twisted and abnormal that the resulting software is only slightly safer to use than commercial software, and at that only because it’s open to inspection. With marketers you at least have the leverage of being a consumer and if enough consumers are unhappy, the merchants will make adjustments. Open Source developers usually flip you the bird if they bother acknowledging you at all.

So if I tell you that the vast majority of computer users prefer a simple UI in tones of mostly gray and blue with rather squarish simulated 3D shapes, you aren’t surprised that commercial software tends to follow that trend. Nor are you surprised that Open Source does almost everything except follow that trend. Most Open Source developers are openly hostile to ordinary user sensibilities. By our good fortune, most projects do attract a few kind souls who attempt to ameliorate the hostility and their stuff is exceedingly popular, much to typical developer disgust. What makes one a talented developer requires a certain degree of perversion, particularly in their attitude of punishing ordinary users for being ordinary. There is some geek resentment that we exclude them from our social circles while using their talents. What makes someone fairly ordinary keeps him from having any interest in learning to develop software.

It’s just vaguely possible that some day a project will arise in the Open Source community that would seek to restore some leverage to typical users, but only when the mass of users are forced to switch to Open Source for some unforeseeable reason. Meanwhile, our best hope is the relative safety of merchants trying to market Open Source software; as you might expect, the Open Source purists generally hate those companies. You can never possibly get everything just the way you like it, but to the degree it matters to your divine calling, you’ll invest the energy to become more expert at choosing and making adjustments. Trust in God to fix things He said are not in your domain, and make the most of His blessings.

And it requires a little Holy Cynicism to see through the hyperbole of my characterizations, too. I’m trying to point out trends that most people wouldn’t notice because they keep thinking in terms of specifics. Again, there’s the Western tendency at self-deception in pursuit of concrete facts without the moral overview from revelation. But in the end, there’s really very little we can do to change those broad generalities. Because we are the sheep who prefer to hang close to the Shepherd out of a strong affection, we have to understand something of His thinking in order to avoid getting under foot. The whole point is that we consciously cooperate with His intent.

So we don’t take it as a personal affront when people act out of their fallen nature, any more than we should take offense when our flesh refuses for unknown reasons to go along with our convictions. Reflexes take some training, and that usually comes with a few painful failures. Don’t get all wound up if someone hates you, Jesus said, when the real problem is that they hated Him first (John 15:18).

About Ed Hurst

Avid cyclist, Disabled Veteran, Bible History teacher, and wannabe writer; retired.
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