Sunday Sermon: A Tao For One

I was fortunate to grow up almost completely irreligious; I’ve never felt a need to replace some “lost” faith or to seek my meaning in the gift of the gods. Reading a lot of history as a kid teaches you that the gods elevate and destroy everyone more or less randomly. Epicurus was right – if they exist, their affairs are complex and elevated enough that they’re more or less irrelevant to us.

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Sunday Sermon: Asceticism

When someone says “Epicurean” what comes to mind? Usually, it’s hedonism – life spent in the pursuit of pleasure. If we were raised in a christian tradition, we might even hear “Epicurean” as slightly louche or sexually promiscuous. Epicureans, many of us think, are the sort who wear velvet smoking jackets and snort cocaine off the upturned buttocks of prostitutes.

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Sunday Sermon: Military Glory – Heroism

I grew up reading feats of military derring-do, and watching films like “Seven Samurai” and “Harakiri” – books and movies about martial glory and the character of the warrior. I noticed early on that a big piece of military glory and heroism is the stand against great odds – the acceptance that one’s mission will probably cost one’s life, but that’s a secondary concern: doing the right thing matters more. I read a lot about the samurai and bushido, and I always deeply felt the distinction between katsujin ken (the life-giving sword) and setsunin-to (the life-taking sword). Somehow it all ties together in my formative anarchy as part of something basically anti-authoritarian, because the authority and the establishment usually are the “powers that be” against which the life-giving sword must work.

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Sunday Sermon: Shooting Back

(Content Warning: war, death)

I’m going to begin today’s sermon with a transcript from a podcast I recently heard. It’s David Wood, speaking at Politics and Prose on “What Have We Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars.” Wood’s view is that wars can cause “Moral Injury” – a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder to our sense of right and wrong. The bit that stuck in my mind, which I went back and replayed and bookmarked, was an example that he gave – an example that is very typical of the experiences of many soldiers:

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Sunday Sermon: Military Honor

[Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t seen Seven Samurai, I am going to drop an important plot-point. And what’s wrong with you?]

I grew up reading about feats of derring-do, famous last stands, and martial arts philosophy. My favorite movie was, and remains, “Seven Samurai” by Akira Kurosawa – it’s an extended meditation on the different aspects of military honor, courage, despair, humor, and the fleeting moments of peace that warriors can occasionally snatch out of the mud and blood and awfulness.

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