For our honeymoon my wife and I spent some time in Thailand, including a memorable few days in Khao Sok National Park. The fact that it is a man-made reservoir didn’t alter the beauty of the area, and we had a great couple of nights sleeping in a small floating hut, followed by a night sleeping 50 feet up a tree while every primate in the park stopped by and had sex on our roof.

While we were there we went on a walk through the jungle. Aside from the creepy leeches that, despite lacking any apparent sensory organs, would unerringly hunt us down wherever we stopped, one of the highlights was seeing a tarantula spider in its natural habitat. Our guide evidently felt that our enjoyment of said arachnid would be enhanced if he poked it with a stick. This seemed ill-advised to me, and while I hadn’t at that time started to use Californian surfer-speak in the post-ironic way I now do, had it been available to me a hearty “Dude! You’re poking the deadly venomous spider!” would have fairly represented my thoughts.

Thinking back, I’m inspired by our guide’s spirit of adventure (though I still feel obliged to point out that he was, like, totally poking a poisonous spider with a stick!) And having read a fair amount about environmentalism, and also a certain amount about both Christianity and Christianism, it feels time to make a bold assertion that I can try to follow up in later posts.

Before I do that, though, a little reasoning. My understanding of Christianity is that the core concept is to believe that salvation can be found only through belief in God as manifested through his son, Jesus Christ. Forgive the questionable wording there, it’s the idea that counts. Many things I’ve read suggest to me that this idea is literally it, that you could theoretically do anything you wanted, however vile, and so long as you still held this belief you would be welcomed into the presence of God. But at the same time, if you do truly believe this idea then certain activities become essentially untenable. It’s almost the reverse of the ‘No True Scotsman‘ fallacy; it’s not that a ‘true’ Christian wouldn’t commit some depraved act, rather that it’s almost impossible to contain a true belief in Christ alongside the desire to do such things (we’ll ignore for a moment the fallen nature of man).

So there are certain things that could reasonably be expected of a Christian, even though there isn’t an absolute mandate for any one of them. A significant one of these, perhaps one of the central teachings of Jesus, was taking care of those less fortunate than you. This caring can take many forms, and there is very legitimate debate about how much an individual could be expected to do. For example, it’s not expected that all Christians sell all their possessions and wander forth to minister to the common man, but neither should they live as they wish without a thought for others.

Clearly that gives us a lot of leeway, and that’s before we get to political and economic ideas about what actions actually benefit the less fortunate best (trickle-down economics, socialism, libertarianism, etc.) But it’s clear that there is a line somewhere, however blurry and indistinct, beyond which a Christian should not stray. As a fun effort to define that line, therefore, I hereby assert that if you own a Hummer you are not a Christian.

The thin polycotton line

Sometime in the last week our household passed a significant threshold. Claire had commented on several ocassions (and I think you know what I mean when I say ‘several’) that she didn’t have enough clothes. At the weekend, in part to rectify this, we hit the mall for a good Anglo-American shopping spree (i.e. low in price, high in volume). Thus it was, at the start of the week, that Claire complained that she didn’t know what to wear because she had too much to choose from.

I fear that the line between these two states is vanishingly small, in fact so small as to display quantum physics-like properties, in that the act of observation causes it to change. Certainly we have no way of knowing when we are at the line, only when we have passed it. Unfortunately I suspect it does not have one of the key characteristics of quantum physics, namely the quanta. While light can only present itself in discreet units, the demarcation line for too much or not enough is measured in fractions. For example, were we hovering on the insufficient side of the line, the purchase of a short-sleeved T-shirt may still leave us lagging our desired goal, while the accrual of the same T-shirt with long sleeves would push us beyond the mark. Staying with our physics theme, I suspect further that the apparel boundary exhibits signs of radioactive decay; what yesterday was a surfeit of choice becomes tomorrow’s barren wasteland of sartorial options.

Naturally I have a solution for this problem: The regular purchase of small quantities of extremely skimpy foundationwear. Allowing for very fine adjustments of our position (see the rich bounty of double entendres I leave for you to pick up!) relative to the feast/famine fashion line, but regular top-ups will help keep us there over time. You may easily think I have my own motives for such an arrangement, but I hope that reflection on the argument laid out above will convince you that I am thinking only of my dear spouse’s emotional wellbeing.

And I leave you with a new phrase for the fashion physicists out there: The Apparel Boundary, being that point at which one has sufficient clothing to make a suitable choice for all ocassions, while not so much as to overwhelm.

Wherein Paul gets all philosophical-like

Last night there was a funding drive on PBS involving Andrew Wyle (I think – the spiritual leader fella). On it he said something very profound, yet also very shallow, and I’m trying to work out which side of that I come down on.

He related a small lesson he learned from a teacher of his (I had the impression it was a spiritual teacher rather than an educational one). The teacher advised him not to worry, because there are only two situations you can worry about. First there are the ones you can’t control, and there’s no point worrying about those, because worrying won’t change anything. Then there are the ones where you do have control, but you don’t need to worry because you have control!

Simple, really. And something I’ve tended to live by I think. But there are times when people get overwhelmed, even me! And I’m wondering if that’s because they’ve lost sight of our little truism, or if the truism isn’t all that true.

Clearly it is very normal for people to get overwhelmed, maybe when things are going badly at work or home, or just when they are busier than normal. It’s also obvious that people differ in this regard. Some can cope with anything, others are fine at work, but can’t deal with stress at home. And some people are almost disabled with fears about things that are either routine, or just won’t happen.

I’ll ponder more later…

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