Must sleep.  Can’t sleep. Must process.

Base premise: ancient world based on Honor/Shame explicit.  Modern world:  still based on Honor/Shame, but mechanism is hidden, occluded, considered alien.

Samurai Face World:  Honor is gained by playing your role well.  “Know your place.”  Hindu beggars crippling themselves to be better beggars is a sort of self-parody of this.  In general, though, slaves should be good at being slaves, masters at being masters, and so forth.

Modern World:  Read on some dating advice blog ages ago (with ties to the Pick-Up movement) that step one for introverts is learning social interaction, and step one in that is picking some public activity (like buying a shirt) and treating it like a role:  you are the movie extra known in the script as “Shirt-Shopper #1”.  Concept: play your role well, and you cease to be creepy (remember:  the site was giving dating advice).

Side note:  Vehemently reject the ends pickup artists pursue.  Gained respect for their concepts after watching 17 Again.  Movie mocks pick-up by having the heroe’s side-kick strike out when he attempts ‘peacocking’:  dressing and acting garishly to attract the interest of a hot girl.

I laughed too.  “Ha, ha, what a dope.  Women don’t fall for that.”  A year or so later, I reflected that my first girlfriend was an 8, easily the cutest girl in the choir, whereas I, physically, am about a 5, but I got her to fall head over heels for me by wearing a cloak and swooping up and down hills.  Joke is on the writers.  Peacocking works at least some of the time.

Thinking over my life, I could have probably had a hot girl on my arm 90% of the time.  I actively passed over several opportunities because I judged them not conducive to my future goals (or my religious beliefs, more often).  Peacocking works almost every time, at least for me.  OTOH, I didn’t know I was Peacocking — there was a level of authenticity born from the fact that it wasn’t actually an act.

End of side note.

Main point:  Honor is accrued by assuming an accepted role within your range of available roles, and playing that role well.

This becomes the foundation of one’s authority in human matters.

“Nerd-in-a-corner” is an accepted role for tech-types and accrues honor in accordance.  That is, my word has weight among nerds; particularly those who crave tutelage in the skills I possess.  A message board moderator will come to me for animation advice; a Pixar dude will not.

For a person of the world, this will suffice.  I am not of this world.

I have, or ought to have, a role within a church body.  Which, in turn, requires playing a “church-goer” or “church-member” role.

Part of my Monday schedule was to be devoted to spiritual pursuits.  A ‘tithe’ of time and creative effort.  A YouTube catechism or some such.  Let each give according to his gifts.  If he teaches, let him teach.  & c.

Part of the issue is this concept of renewal:  studies in efficiency and productivity show that a person who does not devote time to spiritual pursuits is less productive than a person who does (even if the religion is false.  Calling Axiom.)  In theory, I would be a better writer/coder/whateverer for spending time working for a transcendent cause.

I would call it the classic mistake of monasticism, but that would be unfair to the monks who, at the very least, ministered to one-another.

God will bless my spiritual gifts or he will not.  If he does, will it not be within his designated matrix?  So let me lay aside thoughts of an animation series; if that is where God wants me to go, then I shall find myself there by following his road.

Thus, if I am to be the person God intends me to be, I must be rooted in a church.  Thus, I must wear the hat of the church-goer or church-member, and so far as my morals permit (and they will probably permit far), play the role to the hilt.  I will then accrue Honor in accordance to my performance, and from there, my contribution will flourish or not.

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in the favor of God and men.  Far be it from me to attempt otherwise.  (He also retreated into the wilderness from time to time.  But for now, let us focus on what we are neglecting rather than what we are overdoing).

This, in turn, leads to several other conclusions.

  1. I need to attend a church within my effective range, so that I can be available for socialization opportunities outside of regular church-attendance hours.
  2. I need to develop some social skills outside of the set useful for my professional aspirations.
  3. To the hilt.

Ad capulum.

I think I can sleep now.

Honor and Shame 1: Foundation

One of my favored pet peeves is the fact that most of the modern world and all of the ancient world lives/lived under a paradigm of honor and shame that is ignored and marginalized in the modern west.  A good way to think of it is to mentally compare a medieval samurai or ninja to a modern American, and examine how alien their viewpoints are to each other.  This is especially apt because the concept of honor with the samurai is associated with saving or losing ‘face’, e.g. bolstering or undermining one’s public image.

This dichotomy in worldview is a huge blind spot in most theologies.  The people who wrote the Bible were much closer to the samurai in outlook and attitude than to us.  Now, part of Western culture is a result of how Jesus actively worked against the samurai viewpoint, so in some respects this blind spot is the result of moving (or trying to move) closer to the Truth.

But the “trying to move” in parenthesis pretty much expresses my view of the experiment.

For an example, I give you this parable:

What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Many a modern Christian may wonder what the point of this parable is.  It’s so obvious.  Why was it even included in the Scriptures?

It was included because it was written in a world of Samurai Face.

First, understand that there were few-to-none opportunities for privacy, and in the ancient world it was assumed that just about any interaction in a story was in public unless there was very good reason to believe otherwise.

From the samurai point of view, the first son behaved more honorably than the second because even though he had no intention of obeying his father’s will, nevertheless he did not cause his father shame by disrespecting him in public.

Jesus’ audience was in the place of the first son.  The tax collectors and prostitutes to which Jesus refers had acted shamefully, thereby publicly disrespecting God, but later repented and tried to do his will.  Jesus’ audience, however, behaved like the first son, not seeking the will of God, but not publicly disrespecting him either.

Because making someone who is not your enemy lose face is the greatest crime in Samurai Face World, the second son is by ancient standards very evil indeed, whereas the first son is not particularly evil.  Jesus, however, is saying that God is concerned not with face, but with actual obedience.  In other words, with guilt and innocence.  Like the West.

Here is another important distinction between the cultures:  honor and shame is more culturally important than innocence and guilt to Samurai Face World, but in the modern West, we hold innocence and guilt to be more important.  This is a direct result of how our culture grew in earth tilled by the gospel.

But the seed is not the plow.

A few more examples, and then the zinger.  First from Matthew 6:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”

Here, we are told not to seek honor from men, so that we may receive honor from God.

Now Revelation:

The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Here we are told that those who do well in God’s work will be given very public power and honor.

Another from Revelation:

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The final judgement is a public judgement.

One more, from Luke:

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Notice in these examples that Jesus is appealing to Samurai Face World in its own terms.  The first undermines the persistent concept in Samurai Face World that that which is not seen does not count (what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas) not by saying that it is our actual deeds that matter — in the first example, the trumpet-wielding charity, like the ninja charity, is still giving to the needy — it is whether we are seeking honor from men, or from God.

Similarly, the last example specifically appeals to our desire for honor in order to encourage humility.

Jesus undermined the effects of the Honor/Shame dynamic, but he did not undermine the concept.  Put another way, he did not go around preaching that honor and shame were meaningless and it is with guilt and innocence that we should be concerned, but rather he said that what mattered was our honor and shame before God, or rather, our honor and shame when all of our deeds are made public.  Instead of saying “You say ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I say that what you do is important even if no-one will find out,” Jesus says “Everyone will find out.”

This may seem a rather minor distinction.  Guilt and innocence are for all practical purposes identical to shame and honor before God.  But I find the distinction important for the following reason:

It is my contention that the reason the honor/shame dynamic dominates almost every culture rather than the innocence/guilt dynamic is that honor and shame are more fundamental truths, and are therefore wired into the human psyche, whereas guilt and innocence are not.

Once more, for emphasis:

Honor and shame are more fundamentally true than guilt or innocence.  Guilt and innocence are, in other words, a flavor of honor and shame rather than independent realities.  The most foundational flavor, but a flavor nonetheless.

Honor and shame are wired directly into the human psyche.  Guilt and innocence are not, except inasmuch as they can be translated into honor and shame.

It is this fundamental paradigm shift — seeing the world through the eyes of the samurai — that allows one, in my opinion, to finally begin to understand the human heart.  Naturally, if we looked at the western world as a samurai who had grown up in feudal Japan, we wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it.  But as Westerners, if we can move back to the honor/shame paradigm, put on our Samurai mask, and look through those eyeholes, many things that are confusing will become clear.

If guilt and innocence mattered more than public face, groundless insults wouldn’t sting.  But they do.

If guilt and innocence mattered more than public face, celebrities would not be important.  But they are.

Elections are won or lost on face.  Lovers are chosen or disregarded on face.

People kept their pants on when promiscuity was shameful, and dropped them the moment the shame started to shrink back under the relentless assault of the sexual revolution.  Divorce rates were low when single mothers were regarded at best with suspicion, and often as morally bankrupt; divorce rates are high now that single mothers are held up as heroes.  To bolster my hypothesis that the relationship is causal, I would like to point out the little-known fact that the overwhelming majority of divorces are initiated by women.

When it was shameful to be a working old maid, women who wanted to work became stay-at-home moms instead.  Now that it is shameful for a women to care about her children more than money, many women who want to be stay-at-home moms head off to college and to the workforce instead.

The truth is that we all live in Samurai Face World, but in the West we have papered it over so effectively that the truth which drives our actions and chooses our paths is completely hidden under a thick layer of common knowledge.

This hypothesis will be the foundation of several of my posts in the future.