Jon Aquino's Mental Garden

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Is God fond of us?

Last night I was at a coffee shop with Mila and in the course of our conversation, she mentioned that "God is crazy in love with us." Father Dave said something like this a few weeks ago as well. My question is, is it proper to think of God as being deeply or "crazy" in love with me? It "would be nice", but I haven't heard or read this viewpoint from an authoritative source.

Is God vengeful or loving? This question disturbed me, so I have spent the past three hours this morning Googling around for something, anything, that can help me to come to grips with this question. Is he both? Check out the famous icon of Christ Pantocrator below:

Christ Pantocrator

Note how the left half of the face is gentle and the right half is stern, representing his human and divine natures. I like the gentle side but am a bit worried about the stern side.

Many Christians intellectually believe that God is unconditionally loving, but in their hearts they believe that he is stern and vengeful. Here's a not-bad article that I came across on the subject. Google also linked me to an excerpt from the book What Catholics Believe which asks, "How can a God of love also be a vengeful God who demands suffering of his son?" It then starts to get good and talks about the parable of the prodigal son, but then suddenly, page 59-61 are not shown in this preview.

Another book I turned to this morning was Good Goats, which was recommended to me some years ago. One idea from it that rings true for me is that God loves you at least as the person who loves you the most. Nice idea, right? I can believe it, but unfortunately the book is spoiled by some ideas that strike me as heretical, at least to a Catholic - it questions mortal sin and hell, which are traditional Catholic teachings, and this despite the authors being Catholic. So I needed to look elsewhere for answers.

Long story short, I finally turned to Pope Benedict XVI's 2006 letter Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love). It is a long letter, but I needed to read it this morning. I was getting confused by all the various viewpoints on the question, and I needed something authoritative, a dose of sanity. I won't go into detail here (if you have the same question as me, go read it - it's great), but below are some highlights:
  • While "God is the absolute and ultimate source of all being", he is "at the same time a lover with all the passion of a true love".
  • "Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa."
  • "This divine activity now takes on dramatic form when, in Jesus Christ, it is God himself who goes in search of the “stray sheep”, a suffering and lost humanity."
So my understanding now is that, yes, it is proper to view God as being "a lover with all the passion of a true love". Not the "puppy love" that the words "crazy in love with us" may evoke, but the deeper love that is more like that between husband and wife. Have I fully figured out what the love of God is like? No. As Augustine said, "If you understand it, it is not God." Is God vengeful? Maybe, in an odd, roundabout way - he can get angry (as husband and wife can), but he also provides a way out. Do I fully understand this? No. But I'm a bit more at peace with the idea of God being a lover, with the image of marriage being a key to understanding it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rembrandt's painting "The return of the prodigal son"

You gotta love Rembrandt's painting, "The return of the prodigal son". That's the elder brother peeking around the column in the background.

Rembrandt-The return of the prodigal son

Henri Nouwen has a highly reviewed book about this painting and the parable behind it. I haven't yet read the book, but it seems to be about moving from being the prodigal son, to being the elder brother, to being the welcoming father.

The Compleat Gentleman: 10 Favorite Quotes

There is a book called The Compleat Gentleman (2009) on what it means to be a gentleman. To be honest, I found a good deal of it boring, but it did have some good bits. Here are ten of my favorite quotes:

1. "He is a man who stands up for others - sometimes even for his enemies - often when those others have no clue that he is there for them."

2. "Most of the time a gentleman is just a mild-mannered fellow whom folks may take for granted. But when the job of saving the world comes up, there's a change in the man."

3. "There is simply no substitute for strength of character, and in boys, or men, this requires two things increasingly rare in our time: knowledge of the past and a vision of the future."

4. "The process of character development begins and matures in the home."

5. "Protect the weak and less fortunate."

6. "He is also a man of silence, a man reconciled to his own death."

7. "A gentleman is dedicated to the virtue of goodness. He believes he ought to do the right thing."

8. "He respects her, listens to her, and does all that he can to give her what she desires. This is true in terms of her existential ambitions, and it is equally - if not especially - true of her physical needs."

9. "Some of the most important things about a man are the things he keeps from most people all the time and from those closest to him until the time is right."

10. "'A gentleman,' Confucius said, 'is distressed by his own lack of capacity; he is never distressed at the failure of others to recognize his merits.'"

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Canada Food Guide

In Canada we have something called the Canada Food Guide, which recommends that each day, adult men have 8-10 "servings" of vegetables/fruit, 8 of bread/rice/grain-products, 2 of milk/alternatives, and 3 of meat/alternatives.

Reading this makes me realize that my bachelor's diet of Mr. Noodles, eggs, and cereal is not enough. I'm definitely going to be changing how I eat to be healthier and more in line with this guide.

Are you making sure you are eating healthy?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

10^24 (a trillion trillion) = number of stars in the universe = number of atoms in a cubic foot of air

First, go look at this picture of a tiny patch of the sky at night. Be amazed: those aren't stars – those are galaxies.

Consider that there are estimated to be a trillion (1012) galaxies in the universe:

And that each galaxy contains about a trillion (1012) stars:

So how many stars are there? About a trillion trillion (1024):

This is hard to imagine. In our everyday experience, do we ever come across a trillion trillion of anything? Actually, yes – there are about a trillion trillion molecules in a cubic foot of air:

Another way to remember this is that it is roughly the same as Avogadro's number (about 6x1023), or the number of atoms in a gram of hydrogen atoms.

(Pondering immense quantities like these can make an atheist or a theist out of a person, the latter particularly if you accept Aquinas’s proofs that God is, among other things, existence itself.)