What Judas Said

04.28.2022 /

“Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?… Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.”

Why does Jesus say “Thou hast said” in response to Judas (and Pontius Pilate too) asking a question? It makes more sense for him to say “thou hast said” in response to them, well, saying it – affirming that it is he (Judas) who would betray Christ.

I think the answer is in the Greek.

An alternate translation (and better in this context) of εἶπεν Μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι ῥαββί would be:

“Judas said, “Master, it is I…is it not? He said unto him, Thou hast said.”

Judas said “It is I…” that’s why Jesus can respond “Thou hast said it.”

English questions flip word order “Is it i?” vs. “It is I” which makes these little moments from our Lord less comprehensible. When Pontius Pilate says, “You are the king of the Jews…?” Jesus says, “You said it.”

The question is formulated as a declarative statement, to which Jesus replies, “Thou hast said.”

Your Books Determine Your Life (and Podcasts too)

04.25.2022 / Personal growth

Here’s the argument in outline:

  1. Our thoughts determine our lives.
  2. Our thought patterns (habits of thinking) predominate over one-time thoughts, or thoughts that still take effort to think, because habits are effortless.
  3. To make a life change, we must make a thought change.
  4. To make a lasting life change, we must make a lasting thought change, i.e., form new habits not just one-time thoughts.
  5. The best way to take control over a thought is brute force. The best way to form new mental habits, however, is to read a book or listen to a podcast or hear a speaker… to “outsource” the thinking effort to that other source, over and over, until you internalize it.
  6. In this way, your books determine your life! (And Podcasts too)

Some comments on each point:

1. Our thoughts determine our lives.

Not in a particularly mysterious or magical way, but as a simple matter of cause and effect.

Your thoughts are the first step (the first step in your control at least) in a long chain of cause-effect events that result, over time, in the panorama of your life: your emotional state, your level of wisdom and knowledge, the quality of your relationships, your possessions or lack thereof, your living situation, job, hobbies, entertainment consumption, food and diet and exercise habits, sleep habits, and so on.

The way it works is this: what you think about, you (eventually) do something to bring about in your life. Bob is in his current profession because he studied people in that profession, studied that profession, contemplated it, thought about it, for months or perhaps years and thus brought it about that he eventually became a member of that profession. Anne has her current weight, clothing style, level of health, etc., because she thinks certain thoughts over and over about how she wants (or doesn’t want) to look and feel.

2. Our thought patterns (habits of thinking) predominate over one-time thoughts, or thoughts that still take effort to think, because habits are effortless.

Successful people think about what they want and how to get it, most of the time. – Brian Tracy

Naturally, one thought doesn’t necessarily make a huge difference. (Some do.)

But habits or patterns of thought that recur in our minds tens, or even hundreds, of times per day, have a firm and sometimes invisible impact on our actions, feelings, and relationships.

Repeating a phrase hundreds of times is usually referred to as ‘meditating.’ But we are all meditators. The difference is some of us have chosen our mantra, and others have them formed into us by our parents and society.

Once formed, at a young age, habits are self-activating.

Our habits are largely formed (i.e., in childhood) before we are aware and self-conscious that we have thought patterns (i.e., as teens). By this time, they are virtually effortless. They operate on their own steam.

3. To make a life change, we must make a thought change.

Taking responsibility for our thoughts is the first step in taking responsibility for our lives.

For example, the recurring self-critical thought, “I’m not good enough”, playing on repeat hundreds of times a day, can lead a person to try and prove themself over and over, to the exhaustion of himself and the annoyance of those around him who either already believe in him (making the ongoing “proof” unnecessary) or don’t believe in him (making the “proof” appear desparate and tone-deaf).

Noticing this thought, and firmly committing to counter it with a thought like, “I’m not the greatest, but I’m not bad either. I am who I am, by God’s grace” is the beginning of radical transformation.

4. To make a lasting life change, we must make a lasting thought change, i.e., form new habits not just one-time thoughts.

Countering the negative thought every time the initial self-critical thought occurs means that we must be vigilant, alert, awake, aware, and on guard. Successfully countering a negative thought a few times will be a relief to the psyche. But doing so every time (after many weeks or months of practice) will transform the self.

5. The best way to take control over a thought is brute force. The best way to form new mental habits, however, is to read a book or listen to a podcast or hear a speaker… to “outsource” the thinking effort to that other source, over and over, until you internalize it.

The question then becomes, which thoughts to counter? And what to counter them with? This is where outside sources come in.

Reading a book automatically replaces my own train of thought (originating within my own heart) with the train of thought of another (originating in the book).

For “book” you treat it as a variable and can replace it with podcast, lecture, song, conversation, internet article, etc.

By reading books, I can not only learn how and whether to replace my negative thoughts with positive ones, I can more scientifically and surgically decide which thoughts bear replacing and redirecting and what exact thoughts should take their place.

For example, “I’ll just play one more game” or “I’ll just read one more page” or “I’ll just watch one more video” are thoughts that have lost me – in aggregate – thousands of hours of sleep (1-4 hours of lost sleep, times thousands of nights I’ve done this to myself). It took me a long time to realize the source of my suffering the next day: lack of sleep caused: lateness to work, groggy, careless, grumpy, overeating, negative. After realizing the source of all this unhappiness was my lack of sleep, and the source of my lack of sleep was the tempting thought “just one more”, I began to counter this thought. But with what!?

I found a podcast that deals with addictive behaviors that helped me understand. Now, I simply think, “I feel sleepy. I’ll lay down and listen to a story.” I can listen to a story. I can even listen to this podcast at night, in bed, instead of engaging in addictive behaviors, and thus losing sleep.

I’ve begun listening to the Philokalia. By reading about the amazingly pure and humble lives and hearts of 20 or more saint-authors, I am hoping to purify and humble my own heart. Even when I don’t succeed in this, the constant contemplation of their words and the prayers they recommend are an investment in future growth.

6. In this way, your books determine your life! (And Podcasts too)

So the practical conclusion is this: pick up a book like the the Holy Scriptures, Philokalia, the Lives of the Saints, the Way of the Pilgrim (Orthodox), or Practicing the Presence of God and Imitation of Christ (Catholic) or Whole Duty of Man and Fairie Queen (Protestant) and let them start the chain reaction today, resulting (over time) in increased communion with God. (Advanced step: read one of each of the above, and notice/compare the difference in your thoughts and the difference in your life, to help you decide where to invest more time reading and hence letting yourself be formed.)


03.07.2022 / Personal growth

People love to collect things.

Professional collectors exist for coins, records, cars, art, antiques, World War II memorabilia, books, rocks, dead bugs, celebrity signatures, and just about anything cool you can mention.

Other collectors who are more eccentric, idiosyncratic, or plain weird collect wild animals, pencils, unopened Coke bottles, back scratchers, Troll dolls or just about anything you can mention.

But normal middle-class people who are not intentionally creating “a collection” of things will tend to accumulate piles of stuff. Perhaps batteries, sci-fi novels, DVDs, empty containers, firewood, hoodie sweatshirts, or high heels, golf clubs, pool toys, or potted plants are taking over your house and your life.

The causes of overaccumulation are many:

  • fear of letting go.
  • “I might need that one day.”
  • “I paid a lot for that.”
  • “Someone could use it.
  • Greed
  • “Acquisitiveness”, that nice useful old word for the excessive tendency to acquire material things

Minimalists push against the natural human urge to collect things. They urge us to keep what “spark’s joy” or to keep to a set number of clothing items.

Our Christian moralists such as St. John Chrysostem and St. Paul teach us to share what we have (share from our need but share especially our excess) with the poor and needy. There is a bias against accumulation and therefore against collection. “Possessions can be justified only by their use.”

In order to address the concerns of both minimalism and charitable generosity, I’d like to propose creating “uncollections.”

An uncollection is simple: it’s the smallest stable number of objects, for a particular class of object, that you can keep and use. Uncollections are intentional little pockets of minimalism that, combined, can grow to create a lean, healthy, charitable lifestyle.

For example, an uncollection of books could be the smallest set of books you can read and re-read, with profit, for the rest of your lives. Could you do it with 30? With only 100? Make your starting list and try to trim it.

An uncollection could live inside of a collection. For example, you may choose not to get rid of all 500 of your books, once you have curated your uncollection of 30. But you have learned something important about your own taste and priorities, and perhaps developed a more detached attitude toward the rest.

An uncollection of clothes is those 30-50 items you regularly wear. Give away the rest.

An uncollection of dried goods consist of the food you and your family need for a week, or a month, or a year. Set a definition, work within it, and then evaluate.

An uncollection of office supplies would be the pens, pencils, paper, stickie notes that you actually use. Get rid of the rest.

An uncollection of bath toys (for those parents with small children) would be the few toys the kids actually use on a weekly or monthly basis. Store-and-rotate – or get rid – of the rest.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

MacIntyre on Virtue

02.05.2022 / Philosophy

My first attempt at a dissertation chapter turned into a master’s thesis about Alasdair MacIntyre.

I didn’t use it for the dissertation, except in bits. Who knows but maybe it’s good as it is for another purpose!

Read it here

Wheel of Time First Impressions

12.17.2021 / Culture

The Wheel of Time is not half so bad as I feared.

In the age of Star Wars Episodes VII and IX, one can never get one’s hopes up about a new show.

I started the Wheel of Time as a junior higher, and finished it as a graduate student.

In between finishing book 7 and book 8 of Robert Jordan’s fantastical, overly sexual, fetishistic, militaristic, amateur epic, I had read Anna Kareninna, War and Peace, become Orthodox, gotten married, had a kid, moved across country, written my own book, and more. It was “a minute” as the kids say.

The made for TV adaptation promised to be dismal. It was stuck in development hell for many years.

The finished product however is amazingly good.

Aside from the woke nonsense, which is excessively stupid and unnecessary, the core elements are there.

Thankfully they corrected a lot of Jordan’s OCD repetition and found the core of a compelling Hero’s Journey centered around a Christ figure overcoming Satan.

Give more

12.16.2021 / Personal growth

(Not advised to pick more than two at a time)

  1. Give more than you get in return.
  2. Work harder than you are paid to work.
  3. Express more gratitude than you immediately feel.
  4. Forgive before the other person apologizes.
  5. Listen longer than the other person demands to speak.

Report back in 3-4 weeks!

Notion (part 1)

11.23.2021 / Personal growth

It’s been one full week into August Bradley’s system using Notion.so to organize my daily tasks, weekly and monthly projects, and long-term goals, outcomes, and lifelong commitments.

I must say I was more productive than previous weeks but more importantly less stressed and less overworked at the end of a good day.

My projects list is organized, and manageable for the first time in, well, ever.

I have all my projects categorized and tagged by priority, by due date, by whether or not it’s started, by “do date” (date when I choose to do it even if it’s not “due”), and my own numbering system. I have 36 projects in total which sounds like a lot, but a “project” just means any task that is two or more steps to complete. And these projects span from today to June. So having them all laid out and broken into actionable next steps allows me to work steadily (be the tortoise!) on the most important ones, because I should not wait – and it quiets the less important or future-dated projects because they can wait.

This could be huge.

My daily to do list (“TO DO TODAY”), on the other hand, is auto-populated each day with the tasks I’ve defined before had as “to do that day.” My to do list has a drop down for “today,” and “tomorrow” and “next week” and then a calendar view. The calendar view is a game changer because I can pick a day (say, 7 days from now), schedule a task, and when that day arrives it autopopulates on my “to do today” list. No transferring from Google Cal, no using two to do lists, etc.

I’m still learning his system for keeping notes and “mind vault” but we’ll see if it helps too.

Reflections on Chesterton

07.16.2021 / Culture

I’m on a quest to read the complete works of Chesterton.

A foolish errand. But even he wrote a “Defense of Rash Vows.” https://www.gutenberg.org/files/12245/12245-h/12245-h.htm…

I think I’ve read all his novels.

In graduate school, for about two years, I had to drop my Books to Read list and focus only on philosophy. This was a hard sacrifice. I gave up fiction for the first time in my life. After the pain subsided, I reintroduced Chesterton only (Librivox free audiobooks) because reading him restores my sanity. Graduate school is not a sane place. And Chesterton is cheaper (and more effective) than most therapy.

But after the novels, you get into Chesterton’s vast ouevre: essay collections, short stories, poetry, biography, literary criticism, and philosophy. Where to start?

I worked through them all. Eventually, after finishing the novels and books… I had nowhere to turn.

I started on his essay collections: Alarms and Discursions, the Defendant, Tremendous Trifles. I wasn’t super excited about these because I thought they were “second best” to his full novel or book-length works.

Then it struck me – the obvious fact – that Chesterton is an essayist. Even his best novels (Man Who Was Thursday, Ball and Cross, Manalive, etc.) are a series of short stories.

Father Brown is precisely a series of short stories.

Chesterton is a short-form writer. That’s who and what he is. Decades of journalistic writing formed him irrevocably into such. Now I see that Orthodoxy and Everlasting Man are a series of essays. It’s obvious once you see it but I didn’t before.

So now, as a matter of responsible literary criticism, I have to go back to his essay collections and judge them as his primary and preferred medium.

Alarms and Discursions. Tremendous Trifles. The Defendant. All Things Considered. These are the water in which Gilbert is the happiest fish.

Given all that – and you may freely disagree thus far – I ask myself: Which is best? As of right now, I think Tremendous Trifles is the best thing Chesterton ever wrote.

I will always cherish Man Who Was Thursday and Orthodoxy. Don’t get me wrong: they are world-class works. They light me up and restore my sanity.

But Tremendous Trifles is perhaps the most Chesterton-y piece of Chesterton I’ve come across.

It smacks you upside the head with his wisdom, humility, wit, and pithy humor. Each essay, revolving around the theme that small things are great, crashes upon the imagination like wave after wave of the ocean until you wonder why you never knew it before – and then convicts you of the answer: your pride. You did not see the greatness of small things because you (wrongly) assumed you were bigger than them.

I do hope that our separated Roman brethren will canonize Gilbert Keith, and not just because of his middle name.

Finally, I recommend to you, dear reader, the Surrender of the Cockney, which I shall be trying to apply to my life in this new season: I shall try to see my new city (Riverside) as a bumpkin would see it: with awe. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/9656/9656-h/9656-h.htm…

The Imprinted Passion within a Dream

12.31.2020 / Philosophy


Here’s a weird phenomenon: we remember how we felt about an event better than we remember the event.

Dante says in Paradiso Canto XXXIII:

As one who sees within a dream, and, later, the passion that had been imprinted stays, but nothing of the rest returns to mind,

The phenomenon appears after reading books, seeing movies or plays, attending plays or concerts, visiting friends, and so on. We remember the single emotion – like a color – that is “imprinted” on the memory, and we use that single memory as a shorthand for the entire experience. If the memory is good, we say something to the effect that, “That movie was great!” (or that party, that concert, that conversation, that book, etc.)

I remember loving “The Green Mile.” Not having re-watched it for many years, I currently have no idea what it was about or what happens or why.

I remember loving Avengers: End Game. Don’t remember what happens.

I loved The Rise of Skywalker. Don’t remember what happens.

Rise Of Skywalker Review

12.20.2020 / philosophy

+— title: The Rise of Skywalker Mostly Wins layout: single share: true header: image: http://www.keithbuhler.com/images/banner-buhler-report.svg share: true comments: true tags: [culture] categories: [Culture] excerpt_separator: Read the rest...


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