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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

50 Truths

As I approach my 50th Birthday, here are 50 things I believe to be true:

1.  Nothing is free.

2.  This too shall pass. 

3.  Everything is authentic.  It may be mis-advertised, but it is what it is.

4.  There is an inverse relationship between how creatively a child's name is spelled and the likelihood that the child will graduate from High School.

5.  The greatest privilege a young human can be afforded in this lifetime is to be born to, and raised by, his or her own married mother and father.  Any cultural trend or political policy which decreases the number of children who are afforded this privilege should be opposed.  

6.  If you start a sentence with the word "Whereas" or "While" you are about to write a sentence which is too long and will need to be split into two sentences.

7.  Good mechanics, good lawyers, and good doctors, make most of their money from people who should have hired them sooner. 

8. Power corrupts, and tends to be welded by the incompetent.  

9. Most legislation is stupid, unconstitutional, overly expensive, geared towards special interests and therefore in violation of equal protection principles, and likely to do more harm than good.  The best legislators are those unsung heroes who have spent most of their time blocking bad laws, rather than worrying about the much less important task of passing good ones.

10. Having what you believe to be high-minded political opinions does not make you a virtuous person, nor excuse you from the real-world work of becoming a decent human being, treating others with respect, and living by the same rules of kindness and integrity as everyone else. Ditto for your wealth, your athleticism, your talent, your good looks, or your intelligence.  If you believe otherwise, stop it.  

11. Human nature is such that every society will eventually fall and fail and topple, either to foreign invasion, or to internal conflict and revolution, or to unsustainable public expenditure and corruption, or to apathy and dissolution. No tribe, no city-state, no nation-state, no empire, has ever put off this fate forever.  But some societies, which are especially unfortunate or whose leaders are especially corrupt or unwise, get there more quickly than they have to. The best that can be hoped for is some lengthy and relatively stable duration between a nation's dawn and its death.  If you live in a time and a place which is mostly peaceful, mostly prosperous, and mostly free, then gratitude for the past and pessimism about the future are both appropriate.

12. No one will ever care about someone else's well-being and happiness as much as that person's mother.  

13.  The charge to you will always be more than the provider's cost.  Where there is no competition, the gap between the cost and the charge will be larger.  Where the government provides, the gap will be largest.

14.  Government subsidies cause exponential inflation.  See skyrocketing college tuition rates. Ignorance by the consumer of the actual price being charged also causes exponential inflation.  See skyrocketing health care costs.  Ignorance by the consumer of the price being paid, coupled with government subsidies, causes exponential inflation cubed.  See, anything the government claims it is providing you for free. 

15.  Think twice before doing business with a company that has the word "Honest" in its name.

16.  Nature abhors a vacuum.  A society's values, legal and political traditions, and cultural customs cannot be negated without being replaced.

17.  Correlation does not necessarily equal causation.  

18.  Wealth is not necessarily a sign of virtue or competence. 

19.  Aristotle was right about the golden mean: finding the proper balance and median between excess and deficiency, is the key to everything.

20.  Most stupid ideas are good ideas taken too far. Every virtue, if taken to an excess, becomes a vice.  Every truth, over-extended, can become a falsehood. 

21. Inequality is the price of liberty.  Totalitarianism is the price of equality.

22. Human beings come in two sexes.  Not one.  Not twenty-seven.  Two. These sexes are objectively and scientifically determinable, based on one's chromosomes.  They are not "assigned" and are not subjective and are not capable of being altered via cosmetic surgical intervention.  Our society's recent decision to deny these fundamental scientific truths, and the harshness with which any dissent from the new unscientific orthodoxy is punished, proves that the story of The Emperor's New Clothes was one of the wisest parables about human nature ever written.   

23. Men and women are very different.  Men and women are pretty much the same. 

24. Change should not be confused with progress. 

25. When the Judge agrees with you, sit down and shut up. 

26.  We will sometimes experience the same petty emotions when we are 17, 27, or 77 years old, as we did when we were 7. The difference, hopefully, is that we have learned not to throw a tantrum, so people will think we are mature.    

27.  A calorie may be a calorie may be a calorie, but I've never had to start attending Weight Watchers because I'd been eating too many fruits and vegetables.

28.  The scientific method is an incredibly powerful tool for unlocking certain kinds of truth and developing certain types of technology.  It does not and cannot however answer the questions of ultimate meaning and purpose.  

29. You will never be as great as you could be, at anything that you do for some other reason than the intrinsic love of the intrinsic value of the thing itself.

30.  Most of us judge other people in accordance with our own strengths.  Thus, the rich tend to be appreciative of wealth, the athletic tend to admire athleticism, the intelligent are impressed by intelligence, and so forth. If we can break free of that tendency, the range of people whose gifts and talents we can appreciate and admire will grow exponentially. 

31. It's a good idea to understand the basics of how aperture priority mode and shutter priority mode work on your camera.  

32. It is hard to be depressed when you are busy, and have people to see and things to get done. 

33.  Science is performed by humans, and its results are reported by humans, which means it's just as prone to error and politicization as any other human endeavor.  Take nothing on faith except Faith.  At least half of what you read "studies have shown" will be wrong

34.  People who talk during plays and movies should be given a fair trial before they are shot. 

35. Blessed beyond measure is the person who can look in the mirror and say "I love what I do and I'm really good at it."  

36. Everything is more fun if you have taken the time and made the effort to get good at it when it wasn't fun.  

37. We would all love to be trust fund beneficiaries.  But when two 45 year-olds meet at a reunion, one of whom has been taken care of, and one of whom has grinded away, paying their dues to become quietly capable in their profession, the latter is going to be the happier and more confident person. 

38. If you sometimes don't recognize the people on the magazine covers as you are standing in line for the cashier at the grocery store, and are often unsure who they are, or why they are famous, you are doing something right. 

39. Believers tend to be happier than atheists.

40. The educated tend to be happier than the ignorant.

41. The married tend to be happier than the single. 

42. People who read tend to be happier than people who watch television. 

43. Participants tend to be happier than spectators. 

44. The gainfully employed tend to be happier than the unemployed, even when the unemployed have generous means of support. 

45. The talented and the skilled tend to be happier than the untalented and the unskilled. 

46. When a society stops believing in God, it has about 125 years left before its expiration date.  When it stops believing in free will, it has about 50 years left before its expiration date. 

47. Money spent on experiences is better spent than money spent on things. 

48. Nothing will cause us more joy, nor bring us more sorrow, than our relationships with others.  So it's a good idea to keep in contact with your friends; to write a thank you letter to someone who mentored you or taught you or coached you or led you when you were young; to volunteer in ways that allow you to play those roles for others; to go on dates with your spouse and to invite family members to dinner.  If you don't have time for these things, why wake up in the morning?

49.  Selfishness is the root of all evil. 

50. Morality means treating other people as ends and not as means.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Books Read in 2016

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (Penguin Random House Crown/Achetype 2012).  Audible. 4 stars out of 5. 
A book that criticizes some of the modern trends I find most maddening, and also vindicates my entire way of being.  What's not to like? Key Quote: "Any time people come together in a meeting, we're not necessarily getting the best ideas; we're just getting the ideas of the best talkers."

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Barnes and Noble Softcover Classics edition.  2 stars out of 5.
An evil fable.  I was surprised how little plot there was. If you know the main idea, which almost everyone does, there's really little need to read the book, which doesn't offer much story beyond that main idea.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury Trade Paperback 60th Anniversary Edition. 5 stars out of 5.
A re-read of an old favorite.  It's interesting how at different ages and different times in my life the same story seems to mean different things to me.

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 1955) Kindle.  5 stars out of 5.
The best biography of C.S. Lewis is his own memoir of his conversion from Atheism to Christianity. Key quotes: "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.  There are traps everywhere . . . .  God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous." "The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation."

Tour of the Jungfrau Region.  A Two Week Trek in the Berner Oberland by Kev Reynolds (Cicerone Press 2012)  5 Stars out of 5.
A book for dreaming.

Walking in the Bernese Oberland.  Over 100 Walking Routes by Kev Reynolds (Cicerone Press 2015).  4 stars out of 5.  
The book which taught me to seek out Oeschinensee.  Key quotes: "With the classic trio of Eiger, Moench and Jungfrau as its most iconic symbol, the Bernese Oberland hosts some of the best-known mountains in the Alps.  Rising out of lush green meadows they tower above chalets bright with geraniums and petunias; a stark contrast of snow, ice and rock against a kaleidoscope of flower shrub and pasture; an awesome backdrop to an Alpine wonderland." "Every corner of the Berner Oberland range has its own touch of magic."

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic 2016).  Hardcover.  3 stars out of 5. 
An enjoyable Potter-world take on the classic Butterfly Effect time travel plot device (the best version of which is still to be found in Ray Bradbury's classic short story "A Sound of Thunder.").  As a book, it's a fun way to spend a couple of hours, but not likely to pass the test of time in the same way as the novels.  I suspect it's better as a play and would like to see it someday.

Flashpoint, by Geoff Johns, Andy Kubert, and Sandra Hope. Paperback Edition Graphic Novel (DC Comics 2011).  3 stars out of 5. 
Another take on the butterfly effect story.  In some ways better, and in some ways less so, than Rowling's version.

The Life of Greece, by Will Durant (Simon & Schuster 1939) Audible Edition (Narrated by Stephan Rudnicki).  5 stars out of 5.  
To be ignorant of "Greek thought and life, and of the arts in which the Greeks expressed their thought and sentiment," is, in the words of Charles Eliot Norton, to remain "ignorant of the best intellectual and moral achievements" of the race of man.  If this is true, then it is truly tragic that Americans no longer know what we should about ancient Greece and its key personalities, because the ruthlessly utilitarian nature of our educational reforms for the past century have cut us off from our heritage as the heirs of Western Civilization.  Reading this book is one way I have tried to remedy this deficit in my education, and to restore that which was stolen from me by John Dewey.
The book is magnificent, not just for the history it covers, but for the way that Will Durant has with words, and for his aphoristic asides on the inevitable patterns of history ("A nation is born stoic and dies epicurean." "It is as difficult to begin a civilization without robbery as it is to maintain it without slaves." "Around every Rome hover the Gauls; around every Athens some Macedon.")
The Audible Version, read by narrator Stephan Rudnicki, one of my favorites, who also reads several of Audible's versions of Orson Scott Card's books, is amazing.  The book led me to believe this: There are no new or modern ideas.  Every idea I have ever heard or read, about philosophy, literature, parody, satire, humor, art, science, medicine, atheism, politics, social science, economics, etc., can it seems be found, in its original and nascent form, in the writings of some ancient Greek.  Nor are there any original ways for a society to commit suicide.  Every version of societal decay and dissolution and fall from prosperity and prominence has been reenacted hundreds of times before in the various epochs of the hundreds of city-states of ancient Greece.  All that is wrong with America today might be remedied if we knew enough about this history to heed its warnings.  But we don't.  So we won't.
Key quotes: "Excepting machinery, there is hardly anything secular in our culture that does not come from Greece.  Schools, gymnasiums, arithmetic, geometry, history, rhetoric, physics, biology, anatomy, hygiene, therapy, cosmetics, poetry, music, tragedy, comedy, philosophy, theology, agnosticism, skepticism, stoicism, epicureanism, ethics, politics, idealism, philanthropy, cynicism, tyranny, plutocracy, are all Greek words for cultural forms seldom originated, but in many cases first matured for good or evil by the abounding energy of the Greeks."
"All of the problems that disturb us today --the cutting down of forests and the erosion of the soil; the emancipation of woman and the limitation of the family; the conservatism of the established, and the experimentalism of the unplaced, in morals, music, and government; the corruptions of politics and the perversions of conduct; the conflict of religion and science, and the weakening of the supernatural supports of morality; the war of the classes, the nations, and the continents; the revolutions of the poor against the economically powerful rich, and of the rich against the politically powerful poor; the struggle between democracy and dictatorship, between individualism and communism, between the East and the West -- all these agitated, as if for our instruction, the brilliant and turbulent life of ancient Hellas. There is nothing in Greek civilization that does not illuminate our own."
"Individualism in the end destroys the group, but in the interim it stimulates personality, mental exploration, and artistic creation.  Greek democracy was corrupt and incompetent, and had to die.  But when it was dead men realized how beautiful its heyday had been; and all later generations of antiquity looked back to the centuries of Pericles and Plato as the zenith of Greece, and of all history."
"Historians divide the past into epochs, years, and events, as thought divides the world into groups, individuals, and things; but history, like nature, knows only continuity amid change: . . .  history makes no leaps."
"Equality is unnatural; and where ability and subtlety are free, inequality must grow until it destroys itself in the indiscriminate poverty of social war; liberty and equality are not associates but enemies. The conentration of wealth begins by being inevitable, and ends by being fatal."
"Forced to choose, the poor, like the rich, love money more than political liberty; and the only political freedom capable of enduring is one that is so pruned as to keep the rich from denuding the poor by ability or subtlety and the poor from robbing the rich by violence or votes.  Hence the road to power in Greek commercial cities was simple: to attack the aristocracy, defend the poor, and come to an understanding with the middle classes."
"Man became free when he recognized that he was subject to law.  That the Greeks, so far as our knowledge goes, were the first to achieve this recognition and this freedom in both philosophy and government is the secret of their accomplishment, and of their importance in history."
"Science and philosophy, in the history of states, reach their height after decadence has set in; wisdom is a harbinger of death."
"No great nation is ever conquered until it has destroyed itself."

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro (Simon & Schuster 2010).  Trade Paperback Edition.  3 Stars out of 5.  
I remember walking into a music store in Provo Utah shortly after it was revealed that Milli Vanilli were not really singing on their CDs.  Scratched and destroyed CDs of their music were hanging from the rafters, donated by outraged one-time fans.  I found this perplexing.  I was not a fan of Milli Vanilli, but if I had been, would the music I liked somehow become less likeable, the tunes less hummable, the hooks less engaging, because Milli Vanilli didn't sing them?  Somebody wrote that music.  Someone sat down and played the tunes, or at least programmed a synthesizer to do so.  And somebody went into a recording studio somewhere and sang the songs.  If you were a fan, wouldn't the proper response to the discovery of the fraud be to keep listening to the music, while demanding to know who really crafted this music, so you could buy that anonymous person's next, no-longer anonymous, CD? If scholarship decides that Rembrandt didn't paint one of his famous works, but a student probably did so, why does the painting's value decrease?  If the painting was at one time highly regarded, isn't the painting itself still worthy of appreciation on its own merits, for whatever artistic talent it displays, regardless of whose talent was thereby displayed?
Most of those who contest that Shakespeare wrote his own plays do so on the grounds that the plays are so well-written that the man from Stratford was not possibly sufficiently educated or experienced in the ways of court to have done so.  But I wonder, if a majority of scholars were ever to decide that Shakespeare didn't write the words, what would happen to the reputation of the plays themselves? Would they suffer in popularity and eventually be forgotten, like so many other works from that same time period?  This book, alas, does not address that question.
It does, however, address another question which I find equally intriguing: the psychology of conspiracy theorists, who, I have often noted, tend to know far more about their own theories than they do about the official history (and the evidence for the same) which they are challenging.  This is as true of moon-landing deniers and JFK-was-killed-by-the-CIA claimants as it is of Shakespearean authorship question devotees.
The book gives us a historical blow-by-blow of the rise and fall of the Bacon partisans and then the Oxford partisans, and their attempts to win legitimacy for their theories that Shakespeare's plays were written by someone else.  It's a fascinating story, that says more about the philosophical movements of the eras in question ("Higher Criticism" of biblical studies in the Bacon era, and Freudian psychology in the Oxford) than it does about who wrote Shakespeare.
The author does eventually get to that question, in a final chapter which (Spoiler Alert) argues that only Shakespeare could have written Shakespeare (although he collaborated with other playwrights, a common practice at the time, on at least one early play and two or three later ones).  The main evidence for Shakespeare's authorship, in addition to the historically impossible hurdles to alternative theories, seems to be (at least in Shapiro's telling) that his plays were so clearly written with specific members of his company in mind, whose physical characteristics and acting ability (as well as language and singing talents) would need to have been intimately known to the author of the plays, ruling out anyone who wasn't a member of the company, at the time the plays were written and first produced. This theory is backed up by Shakespeare's habit of sometimes mistakenly writing the name of the intended actor for whom the part was written, in lieu of the character, a mistake which sometimes was repeated in early published versions of his works. This renders fairly ridiculous the manner in which Oxford partisans breezily overcome the fact that he died before many of Shakespeare's plays were ever staged, by contending that they were written before Oxford's death, and stored up to be staged later. Ridiculous: the actors who appeared in the plays match the members of the company when they were produced, and many of the parts were clearly written with particular members of the company (active at that specific time) in mind.
A fun book, the last 75 pages or so is all you really need to read if you want to know the basics of the case that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.  


Currently reading:

After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre

The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright

Presence, by Amy Cuddy

Seven Men, by Eric Metaxas

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Is Natural Beauty an Evidence of God?

This is the view of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, as seen from just outside the largest church building in the car-free hilltop village of Wengen, Switzerland.  

Lauterbrunnen was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien's Rivendell, and this view of it is, in my opinion, perhaps the most beautiful view on planet earth. But then, I am partial to Switzerland.  

Near the Church stands a plaque containing a written prayer, composed by one Arnold Lunn. [Endnote 1]

I won’t attempt a word for word translation.  But the gist, if my rusty LDS Missionary German is still any good to me at all, is essentially as follows:  The author and offeror of the prayer thanks his dear Lord for the beloved mountains of his youth, the call of their peaks and the tracks in their snow; for the friends who were the companions of his youth, and for his other blessings.  But most of all, he thanks the Lord for the ongoing revelation he feels he receives every time he views the beauty of the mountains around him, the timebound beauty of which strengthens his faith in the eternal beauty of God, which shall not end.  

I love this little prayer.  Indeed, just the word timebound (“zeitgebund”), was worth the journey to that Church, almost as much as the view.  What an incredibly great word, especially when placed in juxtaposition to the word eternal (“ewig”), to describe that not bound in time: so much more evocative than “temporal” or the German “zeitlich” into which it is generally translated.  But I mainly love this poem because, like Lunn, whose faith in eternal beauties was strengthened by their earthly counterparts, I see evidence of God’s design when I am confronted by natural beauty.   

I can already hear my more scientism-oriented acquaintances raising their objections. [2] The beauty of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, of the entire Berner Oberland which surrounds it, is, after all, wholly subjective, and therefore presumably has nothing to teach us.  What’s more, everything which Lunn found so strengthening to his faith in God has a non-religious, natural explanation.  The valley of the Lauterbrunnen was carved by a glacier in the last ice age. The hills and the alps which rise above that valley arose through tectonic forces. The waterfalls which grace the cliffsides are the inevitable result of the water cycle in action: As the winds of Europe hit the Swiss Alps, they release the moisture evaporated from below and snow it upon their lofty peaks, where it melts into the waterfalls, as the melting water seeks the sea through the force of gravity. Every disappointed Zermatt tourist who has ever cursed the cloud blocking his view of the Matterhorn has seen this process in action.  While the water cycle and its ongoing recycling of fresh water is incredibly important to human and all other forms of life, and while perpetual waterfalls are a lovely way of being reminded of this important natural phenomenon, it is, after all, a natural phenomenon, and the waterfalls are, in the end, merely places where lots of water happens to plunge over a cliff, on a journey to the sea no more or less important than that of any other water taking any other route.

And I get all of that. I understand (not well, but in its basic fundamentals) the science.  I even understand the social science, political and economic, that explains why the citizens of Lauterbrunnen built a multi-story automobile garage for the tourists to utilize, and then put grass on its roof so it wouldn’t spoil those tourists’ view.  

Nevertheless, I cannot look upon the Lauterbrunnen Valley without persisting in my belief that I am seeing the handiwork of God.  The same is true of many other natural scenic wonders which I count among my favorite places on earth, both in Switzerland, and in the American West: Appenzellerland; Ebenalp; Seealpsee; Hoher Kasten; Oeschinensee; the waterfall in Yellowstone; Red Rock, on the Western side of the Las Vegas, Nevada valley, in the morning when the sun is shining on its red and white and vermillion colors; Zion National Park; Mount Timpanogos.  Like C.S. Lewis, who defended the objectively sublime nature of waterfalls in his masterpiece, The Abolition of Man, I just can’t bring myself to look upon such beauty and see only an uncreated place, exhibiting purely natural phenomena, and of purely utilitarian interest.  

Or if I can, I can’t take the next step.  The bottom line, for me, is this: I could perhaps believe, if I absolutely had to, that a place like the Lauterbrunnen Valley might come to exist for purely natural reasons, which neither require nor allow for any explanation involving any metaphysical agency or intent or design.  But what I can’t believe is that such a place would haphazardly come to exist in the same Universe where someone like Arnold Lunn, or myself, could also, equally haphazardly, come to exist, and, looking upon the Lauterbrunnen, would call it beautiful.  Indeed, it is not so much that it is impossible to conceive of the Lauterbrunnen Valley in a Godless universe.  It is, rather, more so, that it is impossible for me to conceive of a Godless universe whose inhabitants have a word which means “beauty.” The Lauterbrunnen Valley may or may not evidence the design of God, but poetry about Lauterbrunnen surely does.  

Endnote 1: I assumed Lunn was a local boy, but Wikipedia advises he was the inventor of the slalom ski race, founder of the Alpine Ski Club which encouraged skiing in the Swiss Alps, a youthful agnostic who later wrote defenses of the Catholic faith, and an anti-Communist writer for National Review.  No wonder I loved his written prayer, it's as though two of my favorite writers, G.K. Chesterton and William F. Buckley, were combined into someone who also loved two of my favorite things in the world: Switzerland and Snow-Skiing. 

Endnote 2: For the difference between science and scientism, see The Restitution of Man: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism  by Michael D. Aeschliman.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Brief History of Western Civilization and Its 20th Century Suicide

@ 2100 BC Abram becomes Abraham, covenants with God.

@ 2000 BC forward: Abraham's grandson Jacob's name is changed to Israel, he fathers 12 sons, including Levi, Joseph (father of Manasseh and Ephraim) and Judah, who become the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel.

@ 1450 BC forward: Moses liberates the Israelites from Slavery in Egypt and delivers the Ten Commandments, Torah written.  Old Testament begins to be written.

@1010 forward:  King David reigns in Jerusalem. First Temple in Jerusalem built.

931 BC King Solomon dies. Israel splits into two kingdoms.

721 BC Assyria conquers the Northern Kingdom of Israel and its Ten Tribes.  The remaining Israelites in the southern Kingdom surrounding Jerusalem, consisting of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and the Temple Levites, eventually come to be known as the Jews. Further Old Testament histories written, which will become the fundamental narratives of the Western World until the 1960s A.D.  Implicit in these histories is the idea that history is not merely circular, but progresses and advances; that God created humans; that God is our Father, and that individual humans therefore have divine individual worth and purpose.

480 BC Greece's unlikely victory over the Persians at the Battle of Salamis, after an earlier, similarly implausible victory at Marathon, paves the way for Greece's Golden Age, and makes a future Western Civilization version of Europe, rather than an Eastern or Zoroastrian version, possible.

@ 320 BC Aristotle produces the Nicomachean Ethics, describing the virtues based on the reasonably ascertainable purpose or end (telos) of a man. Though based on reason, rather than revelation, Greek philosophy implicitly agrees with the religion of Israel that human beings are created and have, in philosophic terms, the ability to instantiate their rationally discernible purpose, or, in religious terms, the ability to fulfill the measure of and reason for their creation.  This idea of man having a purpose, or telos, will remain central to Western thought until it is challenged by philosophers during the Enlightenment, and by the masses in the 1960s AD.

@146 BC Rome conquers Greece but adopts Hellenic philosophy as its governing culture.

@146 BC Rome destroys Carthage.  This lack of external opposition proves unfortunate to Roman unity, and leads to class strife and internal disunion at Rome.

23 BC After crossing the Rubicon, Julius Caesar establishes a military dictatorship. The Roman Republic becomes the Roman Empire, led by military dictators beginning with Julius Caesar, and then Augustus Caesar, giving us the name of the 7th and 8th months, and establishing the basic plotline of George Lucas's Star Wars movies.

April 6 (March 25 on the Julian Calendar) of @ year 1 AD: Jesus born.

@ 30 AD  Jesus teaches the Sermon on the Mount, which becomes the fundamental text of Christianity until the Nicene Creed, and which teaches that we should address God, in prayer, as our Father.  Christ's other teachings include the Golden Rule, to do unto others as we would have done unto us. Christ teaches his followers to spread Christianity through evangelism, not the sword.  They sometimes get that right.  Christianity adds new virtues: faith, hope, and charity, to those spoken of by the pagan philosophers.

@ 33 AD Jesus crucified and resurrected.

@ 36 AD forward: Paul's conversion and ministry.

70 AD Romans sack Jerusalem. Jewish Diaspora begins.

70 AD to 300 AD Christianity spreads throughout Roman Empire. 

1 AD to 500 AD Basic elements of Judeo-Christian Western Civilization fused together, including the three-legged stool of Judeo-Christian Biblical Religion, Greek Philosophy and democratic ideals, and Roman Law.

312 AD Constantine gives Christianity favored status in Roman Empire.

325 AD Nicene Creed.  Creedal Christianity replaces biblical/revelatory Christianity.  But on the bright side, establishes and maintains (with some unfortunate losses) the essence of the Bible, which becomes a guiding text of Western Civilization until the 1960s.

476 AD Fall of the Western Half of the Roman Empire.

610 AD forward: Establishment of Islam and Publication of the Koran.  Islamic Jihad spreads the religion of Mohammed throughout the East via the sword.  Soon the religion and its Jihadists come to a Europe struggling to move from the dark ages to the middle ages.

732 AD Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer) wins the battle of Tours against Islamic Jihadist invaders, making the continued existence of a Judeo-Christian Biblical Europe possible.

1265-1274 AD Thomas Aquinas writes the Summa Theologica, incorporating Aristotelian Philosophy with Roman Catholicism.  The idea of man's and nature's telos, or designed purpose, remains central to Western thought. 

1400-1900 Western Civilization's 500 year great rise, from the Middle Ages to world supremacy: Increasingly technologically superior Europeans begin to migrate to, colonize, and settle throughout the world, spreading Western languages, religions, and philosophies with them.

1350-1400 Italian Renaissance.

1453 Fall of the Byzantine Empire (i.e., fall of the Eastern half of what was once the Roman Empire).

1492 Spain ousts the Moors.  Columbus discovers what Europeans regard as the New World.

1492 forward: European colonization of the New World.

1517 Martin Luther posts the 95 Theses. Protestant reformation begins.

1588 England defeats the Spanish Armada.  Spain in decline.  England and France in ascendance.

1750 to 1850: The Age of Enlightenment.  Scientific Method replaces religion as dominant method for understanding the world. Reason displaces revelation.

1776: America's Declaration of Independence

1789: America's Constitution and Bill of Rights.

1830: Restoration of Biblical / Revelatory Christianity.

1830: Pure and precious truths removed from the Bible are restored through the publication of the Book of Mormon.

Late 1800s.  Educated Europeans cease believing in God and cease believing in any telos.  The entire premise of Western Civilization, which has guided Western thought for 2,500 years, namely, Aristotle's telos, and revealed religion's belief in a Creator who created us for a divine purpose, which allows us to fulfill the measure (or telos) of our creation, is replaced by a worldview in which human beings have no telos, and are no more than a part of a natural order which can be entirely explained through causes and effects which are completely haphazard and natural and non-directed, and are not the result of any outside agency or design, but which have no design, purpose, or meaning. (On the bright side, the Enlightenment does eventually give us a cure for Polio, put a man on the moon, and allow us to livestream Netflix and play videogames with really cool graphics--whether these advances are worth the cost shall, however, remain highly debateable.)

1886.  Nietzsche announces that God is Dead, because educated people don't believe in him anymore, and publishes Beyond Good and Evil. Nietzsche's basic philosophy, which comes to be adopted by most of Western Civilization is predicted and summarized in 2 Nephi 2:13 and Alma 30:17. It is the polar opposite of anything written in Aristotle, the Hebrew Bible, Summa Theologica, or the Book of Mormon. There is no telos.  Therefore, there is no virtue.  Therefore, there is no good or evil, only power, and those who are willing to obtain it.  Nietsche predicts the coming violence which will shake Western Civilization as it moves into a new phase of history based on his philosophy, and the total eclipse of all values represented thereby. 

Late 1800s to early 1900s.  Western man, having rejected God, tries to "find something other than God which will make him happy." (C.S. Lewis.) Various alternatives are proposed, including fascism, nationalism, socialism, Marxism, Fabianism, Nazi-ism, etc.  G.K. Chesterton points out that it is the doctrines of Christianity which have allowed freedom and liberty to be enjoyed in the West, and that none of these isms will credibly replace it.  But despite being a best-selling author, his critics do better in the polls.

1914: The new isms which have replaced God begin a war, and the post-Enlightenment, non-telos believing Europeans go to the "Great War" with each other, thus beginning Western Civilization's post-Enlightenment 20th Century suicide, in a culture beyond good and evil, enjoying the total eclipse of all values.

1916: Millions of Europeans slaughter each other in the Battle of the Somme, and other WWI battlefields, using the weaponry made possible by their own advanced technologies, thus continuing Western Civilization's post-Enlightenment 20th Century suicide.

1918.  The Great War ends.  The unfair treaties imposed upon the losing nations set the stage for:

1939-1945: WWII, which continues Western Civilization's post-Enlightenment 20th Century suicide.  The Great War is renamed "WWI".  Millions of Europeans are never born, because their fathers and grandfathers never returned from the battlefields of WWI and WWII to start a family.  How this impacted 

1948: Iron curtain descends.  Israel established.  UN Created.  Post-WWII international monetary system established, and the other elements are put in place for:

1948 -1989 The Cold War.

1956-2015.  War - weary atheist Europeans trade in Christianity for socialism and stop having children, thus continuing Western Civilization's post-Enlightenment 20th Century suicide. They soon realize that being cradle-to-grave dependents of the State requires workers and that they don't have enough workers, since they stopped having children.  Thus they look to neighboring countries where men and women are still procreating, from which new workers can be imported, and they then begin inviting massive numbers of Muslims, who are still having children, into their countries.  The ancient Greek soldiers who fought at Salamis and Marathon roll over in their graves. Thus continues the 20th Century post-Enlightenment suicide of Western Civilization.

1960s: The stupidest implications of the non-telos world take root in the Sexual Revolution.  Between 1960 and 2010, America will see its out-of-wedlock birth rate rise from 5% to almost 50%.  Welfare spending explodes in response to (and as one of the causes of) this phenomenon.

1970 to 1979.  America's welfare rules subsidize illegitimacy.  Illegitimacy rates continue to rise.  Weird.

1973: Roe v. Wade

1980: God gives America one last chance.  Reagan elected.

1989: Reagan's policies win the Cold War, usher in 25 years of economic prosperity.  Americans celebrate by resuming and continuing the stupidity of the 1960s.

1996.  Tom Wolfe publishes his article, "Sorry but your soul just died" in which he predicts that some new Nietzsche will soon arrive to announce that agency is dead, as educated human beings no longer believe in free will.  It's a telos free world indeed.  Wolfe also predicts that the world-war era violence which shattered the world as it descended into an "eclipse of all values" once it stopped believing in God, is nothing like the coming eclipse of all values which will descend upon us once we stop believing in our own agency. So we have that to look forward to.  

1992-2000: News media make sure Bill Clinton gets the credit for the Reagan policies which continue to bear economic fruit throughout the 1990s, which credit Clinton uses as cover to sexually exploit women while keeping his poll numbers up.  The same feminists who regard Clarence Thomas as a sexual predator for having allegedly once used the phrase "pubic hair" in front of a woman, love Clinton despite the number of women who credibly accuse him of sexual assault and rape.  They also love his wife, who is in charge of the goon squads which silence and intimidate his victims. Go figure.  It's a telos-free world.  The only thing that matters, as Nietzsche or Korihor would say, is power.  One Time Magazine reporter, Nina Burleigh, explains that she'd be happy to give Bill Clinton oral sex just to thank him for keeping abortion legal.  This may seem an odd statement for a woman who describes herself as a feminist, and therefore allegedly pro-woman, to make.  But remember, it's a telos free world.

September 11, 2001.  World Trade Center and Pentagon attacked by Muslim terrorists.  Americans learn that history has not ended after all. Worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor.

2000 to 2010: Massive immigration from third world allows the electorate in America to be transformed from the type of electorate which would vote for Reagan, into the type of electorate which would vote for Obama.  Twice.  The pitch to immigrants apparently goes something like this: "Come to America.  We are more prosperous than the country you are fleeing.  But you don't understand why, do you?  Good: Once you get here, vote for the same policies that made your home country a third-world hell-hole.  They will magically work here, even though they didn't work in your home country."  This sales pitch apparently works, not just for immigrants, but also for America's own citizens, most of whom are too uneducated to have the slightest idea of why America works and Venezuela doesn't.  Some blame Teachers' Unions for the ignorance of the American electorate.  Others blame Videogames and Netflix.

2012.  Sam Harris publishes "Free Will" fulfilling Tom Wolfe's prediction, and announcing that agency and free will are illusions.  Thus, argues Harris, violent murderers and rapists should not be held accountable for their conduct, as they had no choice but to act the way they did.  Republicans, however, who continue to believe in free will, should be held accountable for holding such a dangerous belief.  Apparently, this lack of accountability thing can only be extended so far.  Which leads us to the "total eclipse of all values" which Tom Wolfe said would come next . . . . 

2013.  Schuette decision upholds the equal protection clause, and rules that, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's case law allowing affirmative action as an exception to the equal protection clause, States are not mandated to discriminate against white males.  The Obama appointed Justices, however, dissent, and, led by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, argue that the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution mandates that white males be discriminated against by State governments.  Welcome to the total eclipse of all values. 

2015: The Obergefell Decision.  The Supreme Court puts an exclamation mark on the sexual revolution, which has done so very much good in the world, and furthers the total eclipse of all values, while officially announcing the era of the Post-Christian West, by announcing that men and women are indistinguishable and interchangeable; that the pre-political institution of marriage is a creation of the federal government; and that the authors of the 14th Amendment secretly included a provision, in invisible penumbra ink which only the very wise can see, mandating that every State in the Union recognize the union of a man and a man as a marriage.  And also that a tail is a leg and a triangle can have four sides if the Supreme Court says so.  And also that children don't fare best with both a mom and a dad and anyone who says otherwise is guilty of a hate crime.  The citizens of the nation react by enthusiastically telling each other: "The emperor is fully clothed!  No, really, he is, he is!" "You don't see his clothes?"  "You must not be as virtuous as me.  You must be a bigot.  Come now, just agree with me that the naked emperor has clothes on, and you can be virtuous too!"

2016.  The Governments of Europe allow a million Muslim refugees to enjoy residency within their borders.  Thus continues the post-Enlightenment suicide of Western Civilization in Europe.  Charles Martel and the soldiers he fought with at Tours roll over in their graves.  Some of the Muslims have a deeper sense of irony, and a longer view of history, than the European Governments have.  They resume their jihad, which was not, after all, ended by Charles the Hammer, but merely delayed and interrupted for all these inconvenient centuries.  They begin to terrorize the local populace, secure in their understanding that European societal suicide continues apace, and that the future belongs to the fertile.

2016.  Even as socialist economies the world over, from Venezuela to Greece, are collapsing, millions of American Millennials enthusiastically embrace the candidacy of an American Socialist, who runs on a platform of "What has never worked anywhere, will surely work just fine here."  Americans are not sure where blame should be placed for the utter idiocy of their Millennials.  Some blame the Teachers Unions.  Others blame Netflix and videogames. 

2016.  Americans' two major political parties nominate for the office of the Presidency the two worst and most unqualified and corrupt and narcissistic candidates in the history of the Republic. Many are baffled as to how this could have happened.  Personally, I blame cable television. And Nietzsche.   There is no telos, and therefore all that matters is power.

2024. U.S. Constitution amended by the U.S. Supreme Court to guarantee free food, free healthcare, free minimum income payable by the government for all citizens, and free education through graduate school to all Americans.

2030.  China demands that all future U.S. debts be secured, via deeds of trust against federal and state owned property, U.S. military equipment, and all U.S. and state infrastructure.  President Michelle Obama reluctantly agrees, as there is no way to keep her campaign promises of  honoring the new constitutional amendments for free stuff and a minimum income, without running up additional debt, which China will no longer grant on an unsecured basis.

2032.  Chief Justice Sotomayor announces, under the now prevailing doctrines she first described in her Schuette dissent, that the equal protection clause requires that only non-whites will be allowed to vote in the next several elections, until further notice.

2036: Chelsea Clinton, although not herself allowed to vote, wins the nomination of her party (known as the Black Lives Matter Party) for the White House by promising to give the Southwestern United States, including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah, back to Mexico.  

2046: China forecloses on the $125 trillion in U.S. Debt which it holds. Allows America limited sovereignty but only over its own domestic affairs.  Takes over all military equipment, all national parks, all infrastructure, and all federal lands.

2075.  The West is dead.  Europe is 90% Muslim.  America is still allowed some degree of political sovereignty by China, which is exercised under the control of a single political party known as the "Black Lives Matter" party, which holds regular public executions of white police officers.  The history of the rise and fall and death of Western Civilization would make for a fascinating book.  But no one cares enough to write it, let alone to read it.   What's on Netflix?