Over the Hills and Far Away

I recently discovered the singer/hury gurdist Patty Gurdy. Originally part of the band Storm Seeker, she seems to be striking out on her own. I’ve really been enjoying her songs on YouTube, and I’m particularly fond of her cover of a Storm Seeker song called The Longing:

However, the song I want to talk about is Over the Hills and Far Away:

It’s extremely reminiscent in theme of the Johnny Cash song The Long Black Veil, though I don’t know that there’s any influence:

Either way, it’s very interesting to compare the two songs. And despite the similarity of subject matter, the biggest difference is what kind of song they are: Over the Hills and Far Away is a (sort-of) love song, while The Long Black Veil is a tragedy.

This is of course facilitated by the different penalties for the different crimes. In The Long Black Veil, the man is accused of murder and his refusal to provide an alibi results in his execution, while in Over the Hills and Far Away he refuses to provide an alibi for a robbery and consequently is sentenced to 10 years in prison. This enables the latter to have the theme of eventual return, and it’s this theme which turns the song into a love song.

Which is unfortunate because the man should not return to the arms of his best friend’s wife. He should stay out of the arms of any man’s wife but even more so those of his best friend’s wife. In the song where the adulterer died, it becomes possible to take it as a simple tragedy where he was not directly punished for his adultery, but none the less was being punished indirectly because his adultery prevented him from proving his innocence. He got what he deserved, if indirectly, sort of like the plot of The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Unfortunately that sort of interpretation isn’t possible for a man who doesn’t understand what he did to be wrong (only socially unacceptable). But I find it interesting that the woman sings a song about adultery as a love song and the man sings it as a tragedy. This touches on a theme I’ve noticed in stories written by women: a man is so captivated by a woman’s beauty that he’s willing to destroy himself (and often her) because of it. This isn’t a universal theme, nor anything like that, but I’ve noticed that this is a common theme in material that I didn’t usually read until recently.

There’s a lot to say about the theme of a man so entranced by a woman’s beauty that he becomes a monster, which alas I don’t have time for now, but it is an interesting question to ponder how much the becoming a monster is intrinsic to the fantasy or whether it’s a way of defending against the accusations of wish-fulfillment which the story would be accused of if the woman’s beauty captivated the man and helped him to overcome his vices and become a saint. That latter one would be a very good story, though.

Sometimes People Surprise You

Human beings are, obviously, very complex creatures. For any given person we deal with, we understand them to a degree, but only so far. And then on top of that they have free will and can choose to do things contrary to their nature. So we’ll never fully understand another human being—on this side of death, anyway.

Having said that, sometimes when people do things we thought they would never do it becomes clear that we misunderstand people’s motivations and thoughts. This happened to me recently with the YouTuber Logicked. A while back, as a joke for the beginning of Deflating Atheism’s 2,500 subscriber special livestream, I collaborated with Rob to make a satirical sketch with the premise that the YouTuber atheist “Rhetoricked” was criticisng the livestream before it even happened. The video on my channel where I put it up included a few minutes of context if you haven’t heard of Logicked before:

Just a few days ago, he made a serious response video to my comedic sketch! Here’s the description:

Missing the Mark is still mad that I didn’t like a few dumb things he said, so he parodied my videos in an evil beekeeper costume. I’m sure it will be a deeply honest representation and not remotely hypocritical.

For the record, I wasn’t mad. I found the idea of him making 3 videos criticizing things I said in the Deflating Atheism 1000 subscriber special—which was a hangout among friends just chatting, having fun, and reminiscing—to be a little absurd, and since my sense of humor tends towards absurdism, I decided to add to the absurdity with a comedic sketch on the Deflatheism 2,500 subscriber special. I actually didn’t expect him to watch the video. Or, really, for all that many people to watch the video. Livestreams rarely get all that many views and though it would probably be reasonably popular with my scubscribers—all of my Just For Fun videos are—I don’t have all that many subscribers (at the time I uploaded it, I had around 1500).

Anyway, I never dreamed that Logicked would do a response video to it. And yet he did. Being that wrong means I need to rethink some things. But first, I’ll explain my reasoning:

First, Logicked rarely does response videos. Full disclosure: I haven’t actually watched more than two of his videos in their entirety (one about me which I responded to in two parts, and an early, very short one in which he’s tempted by some sort of devil in exchange for subscribers). But I skimmed the titles and also searched on YouTube and he’s got the word response in something like 2 other videos besides this response. His videos are almost entirely critiques. That is, he takes videos which weren’t about him and then criticizes them. So this was just atypical.

Second, his YouTube channel is a business for Logicked. Keeping on-brand is good business. Giving free air-time to people criticizing you is not a good business practice. This is summarized in the phrase “never punch down”, though people have been using the phrase “punching down” to mean other things, so it might perhaps be best summarized as, “never give publicity to critics who can’t hurt your bottom line on their own”. Now, as several friends of mine have pointed out, judging by his comment section, Logicked’s core fans are several dozen light bulbs short of a full picnic basket (i.e. they’re not intelligent), but core fans typically draw much of their energy from peripheral fans, and peripheral fans are the people more likely to be swayed by criticism. Not that any one act of criticism will hurt all that much, but why take unnecessary risks with your primary source of income?

Third, the draw of YouTube atheists is the air of superiority which they assume. They are basically selling confidence. I described this in my video The Value of Atheist Hacks:

And it seemed to me that on some level Logicked understood this because by sticking to critiques he maintained his position of superiority from which his viewers could derive vicarious confidence. Doing a response video puts him in a position of equality with me. He can maintain as superior a tone as he wants in the video, but fundamentally in a response he is defending himself rather than being on the attack. Again, this isn’t going to change anyone’s opinion of him drastically—and certainly not consciously—but it comes back to the question: why take unnecessary risks with one’s primary source of income?

Being a professional YouTuber is a one of the professions in which a person is being professionally popular. Being popular—even with a sub-group—is not an easy thing to do. Humans are incredibly fickle creatures. The mob which one day shouts “hosannah!” may be shouting “crucify him!” the next week.

There’s also just the fact that as a professional YouTuber, Logicked needs to be charismatic, and seeming thin-skinned is very un-charismatic. And giving a serious rebuttal to an obvious joke does seem very thin-skinned.

Now, the problem with taking chances is not that they always go wrong, but you become vulnerable to two things going wrong at once. And that’s where the bad stuff tends to happen to people—when two things go wrong at once. And that’s why people with responsibilities like a wife and child tend to avoid risks. This way when the bad stuff that you can’t control happens, you’ve got a chance you can survive it without taking any damage.

And I thought that Logicked knew all this. And maybe he does, in which case there was some other force in his life which resulted in this very odd action on his part. For example, it could be that Max Kolbe is right and atheists are all narcissists. An older version of this would be Saint Thomas More’s maxim, “The devil, that proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked”. (It should be noted he was comment on prayer, as the beginning of that quote is, “Prayer makes mock of the devil”.) I would still need to personally be a little important to Logicked, though, and I really doubt that I personally matter to him at all.

It’s possible that the parody was too spot-on and since it was public he felt embarrassed, but the thing is, it wasn’t a very spot-on parody. I was just being silly—which I think is very obvious from the costume I used, as well as how over-the-top the things I said were—and obviously played very fast and loose for fun. I don’t think that anyone could take the specifics of what I said to be a cogent criticism of Logicked.

It could be that Logicked is desperate for material and is confident in his ability to pull off seeming thick skinned and just having fun. Of the ideas I’ve seen, this may be the most likely.

Whatever the answer, it is clear that my misprediction of his behavior means that I misunderstood him. By which I really mean people like him, since I don’t know much about Logicked the man. It’s important to be able to recognize these signs of being mistaken and learn from them both with less confidence in predictions as well as in needing to do further research in understanding human beings.

Without Midwits, Geniuses Would be Useless

Over at Amatopia, Alex wrote an interesting post called, The Curse of the Midwit:

One of the worst things to be is a midwit. And I am one. Let me explain what I mean by “midwit.” I have seen the term used many ways, and they boil down to these six points: Someone who is not as smart as the truly intelligent, but is of above-average intelligence, Who wants other […]

As usual, it’s a post worth reading, but Alex only tells half the story. He talks about the dangers of midwits but every danger is just the flip side of a virtue. (Of a natural virtue, specifically. The natural virtues are things like intelligence, strength, physical beauty, health, and so on; they are distinct from the moral virtues like courage, self control, etc.; which are again distinct from the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.)

In short, Alex leaves out the virtue unique to midwits. Now, in what follows I’m going to paint with a very broad brush because I don’t have time to give a full description of the hierarchy of being, so I ask you to use your imagination to fill in all that I’m going to leave vague.

As I’ve said before, God’s fundamental theme within creation is delegation (technically, secondary causation). He doesn’t give to each creature everything he gives to them directly, but instead gives some of his gift to other creatures to give to their fellow creatures on his behalf. Through this He incorporates us into his love of creation and into His creative action. But within creation, this theme of delegation echoes. Instead of one intermediary, God orders the world so that there are several intermediaries. He spreads the love around, as it were.

The part of that which we’re presently concerned with is that it is not (usually) given to geniuses to be able to give their knowledge to the great mass of humanity directly. And since it is (usually) not given to them, they generally can’t do it. When a genius speaks to a common man, he’s usually quite unintelligible. If the common man knows the genius to be a genius by reputation, he’ll assume the man is saying something too genius for him to understand, rather than to be raving nonsense, but he will typically get about as much from it as if the genius was raving nonsense. This is where the midwits come in.

A midwit can understand a genius, but he can also speak in ways that common men can understand. Thus God’s knowledge is given to the common man not directly, but first to the genius, who gives it to the midwit, who then gives it to the common man. Geniuses need midwits at least as much as midwits need geniuses. In truth, all of creation needs the rest of creation since we were created to be together.

Of course the distinction of men into three tiers—genius, midwit, and common—is a drastic oversimplification. In reality there are levels of midwits and levels of geniuses, each of which tends to receive knowledge from the level above it and pass knowledge down to the level below it. For example, Aristotle would have had the merest fraction of the effect he has had were it not for an army of teachers, down through the millenia, who have explained what he taught to those who couldn’t grasp it directly.

Of course in this fallen world every aspect of this can and often does go wrong in a whole myriad of ways. And Alex is quite right that midwits can be very dangerous when they consider themselves geniuses—or really, any time that they’re wrong—because the sacred burden of teaching the great mass of common men has been given to them. Midwits have the power to do tremendous good, which means that they have the power to do tremendous harm.  But the tremendous good which midwits were given to do should never be forgotten just because many of them don’t do it.

Thinking about Hell

One of the questions within Christian theology is how many people (i.e. human beings) will end up in hell? There is no definitive answer. While there are people the Church knows to be in heaven (canonized saints), there are no people which the church definitively knows to be in hell. As such, it’s theoretically possible that the answer to the question of how many people wind up in hell is zero.

Theoretically possible, but not very likely. A bit of experience with humanity suggests that the number is definitely higher than zero. And our Lord Himself spoke rather more often about the narrowness of the gate to heaven than about anything which can be taken to be about universal salvation. Which is why many pre-modern scholars such as Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Augustine held that most people would be damned.

There’s a lot one can say on this subject, but it’s not really what I want to talk about now. Instead, the thing I want to talk about is how poorly suited to this subject human reason is. And the problem is that, as far as nature goes, we should all go to hell. That heaven is not devoid of human beings is super-natural. It is mercy surpassing justice.

And because it is not a natural state, but a super-natural state, which we are in, our intuition is pretty much useless on the subject.

Christ Change the World Twice

There were two ways in which Christ utterly and completely changed the world forever.

First, by the incarnation, Christ forever elevated the status of matter. No longer could matter be looked down upon as something unworthy of spirit, because God took on a body.

Second, by rising from the dead Christ defeated death. No longer is death the victor over life; now we can say with the Apostle, O Death, where is thy sting?

I find this interesting because human reasoning would tend to expect the savior of the world to change the world in only one way—by saving it. Elevating its dignity as well seems like too much to ask.