Do we know anything?

I had a girlfriend in high school, Michelle, that said to me, “Your problem is that you believe everyone should think the way you do.”

She wasn’t necessarily being mean or snotty when she said this, but making an observation of one of my many character flaws. Over 40 years later and often remembering her words, she proved to be an intuitive young lady.

Pride—the wrong kind—is one of the worst and most destructive of character traits, for both a nation and its individual members; it’s listed as “numero uno” among the list of the seven deadly sins. Throughout my life, I have pondered its negative effects on my own life and in the lives of others.

The opposite of pride is humility, and I’ve always desired this virtue in my life but realizing it is not one that is either easily or quickly obtained in this life. I believe we are born with the vice of pride in our inner beings and must learn to be humble. Certainly no one has to teach us to be proud and arrogant; being humble, on the other hand, does not come easy and only seems to come when we are faced with situations that prove to us our abysmal imperfections, character defects, weaknesses, and limitations.

Pride—the wrong kind—is one of the worst and most destructive of character traits.

Most have heard the phrase, “Ugly American.” It is a decidedly negative description of the behavior of Americans too often manifested when we are visitors to other countries and has often bothered me. To be fair, the citizens of other countries who have been blessed with unfathomable wealth also are guilty of the same behavior, but it hurts and embarrasses me to be guilty of this disgusting vice.

I’ve learned, though, that advancing age, with all of its setbacks, disappointments, failures, and failed dreams, can provide those of us who struggle with pride some desperately needed perspective.

One of the many eye-opening events in my life that brought this needed perspective came when I began to seriously become interested in cosmology and began contemplating the mind-numbing size of the Universe. Most of know the Universe is gigantic, but it was only when I seriously began to think and visualize how big the Universe truly is that a revolution began happening in my thinking.

But what tipped me “over the edge” as far as realizing how little mankind actually knows was the Hubble “deep field” and “ultra deep field” photographs. Learning about these two photographs and the back stories of how they came to be changed my life-long perspectives on the extent to what mankind actually knows. And when we truly understand these photographs and what they actually mean, one conclusion is unavoidable: we truly know nothing. And this shook my world.

Ultra Deep Field

I clearly remember the first time—not that long ago—when I watched a video that told the remarkable story of how that tiny speck in the night sky was chosen by one scientist for Hubble to focus on: he wanted to have Hubble focus on one of the darkest portions of the night sky that seemed to contain little, if any, galactic activity.

And the results changed our view of the Universe as well as disrupted my own viewpoints on faith. For as I looked at that blown up speck in the night sky and realized there were at least 10,000 galaxies contained within that tiny portion, it dawned on me that, no matter how much knowledge man has managed to accumulate throughout our existence on this planet, in comparison to all the other galaxies we could see or calculate being out there, we know nothing—absolutely nothing at all. Perhaps even less than nothing.

What did this mean, then, for the Bible? It meant that whatever knowledge or wisdom it contained, it seems to be—in general—relevant to only what has happened on our tiny insignificant planet floating around in the infinitesimally great expanse of the cosmos. Isolated only to Earth, what possible eternal truths could we count on that would apply to those other portions of the Universe? Probably very little, if anything at all. Our understanding of the Bible—and, in fact, all other holy books—is relevant only to this small isolated planet that is completely swallowed up by the vastness of the Universe.

Even if the Bible is 100% true—even if all of the other “holy books” together taught absolute truth—combined together they all add up to nothing as far as the information we have about God, ourselves, heaven, eternity, our souls, an afterlife, etc.—even less than nothing.

If we take all the sand grains on earth and pile them in a heap, a gigantic, towering mountain, Earth would maybe represent one single grain of sand as compared to all the other stars and planets in the known Universe. Current estimates of the amount of galaxies (not planets or stars) in the known Universe are anywhere between 100 billion and two trillion. And all of our knowledge, wisdom and learning adds up to nothing in comparison to all the knowledge, wisdom and learning of these other grains of sand.

This was a life changing revelation for me that reverberates even to this day. One of the things it did to my thinking is this: I really don’t know anything, and whatever I might happen to know, it amounts to nothing.

This humbled me, taking the wind out of my sails for my arrogant, life long beliefs that I had opinions that mattered. My opinions, even if they are true (and I cannot definitively state they are), are insignificant to the knowledge and wisdom that the Universe must hold.

Today (April 18, 2022), I watched the video posted above once again. Beginning at timestamp 2:42, the video shows an animation of traveling through this tiny portion of the galactic area shown in the Ultra Deep Field photograph. We slowly pass through vast spaces containing stars and galaxies. Each of those galaxies contain perhaps hundreds of billions—perhaps even trillions—of stars and planets. Just one of those galaxies we pass by would take hundreds of thousands of lifetimes and even more to explore if we had the capabilities to do so. Just one galaxy. And there could be two trillion of these galaxies out there, and possibly many more.

The mind is unable to comprehend this; it is impossible, beyond our ability. If we are unable to comprehend merely the size of the Universe, how much more incomprehensible can we understand all the knowledge and wisdom in that same Universe? Again, we simply cannot because it is impossible for us to do so.

What has this done for my thinking? At the very least, it has humbled me. It proves to me that I do not know anything. To believe I am able to authoritatively speak on any spiritual subject—or perhaps any subject, for that matter—is a foolish endeavor. I would be self-deluded in doing so. The best I could present myself to others on any subject would be as an infant still learning to crawl.

My learning of the incomprehensible Universe is humbling, showing I am wholly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. This awareness is causing me to hit the pause button, to reevaluate my life and belief system because I realize, in the final analysis, I simply don’t know anything.

My attitude on spiritual beliefs should never be a dogmatic assertion of “this is the way it is” or “in this book is the pure knowledge of God.” Rather, the best I can humbly say is “this might be so—maybe.”

Michelle was right. She loved me enough to tell me the truth about myself and presented that truth in a gentle—even humorous—way. So subtle was her rebuke that I do not believe at that moment she was chastising me; I was so dense and uncomprehending of the meaning behind her words.

“Know theyself.”

A Son I Would Be Proud Of

Conservative writer/commentator Matt Walsh is a young man I admire.

Updated April 10, 2022

I never knew my mom and dad on an intimate, personal level. Both were abusive parents (my dad much worse than my mom) who never should have had children and left a legacy of wounded, dysfunctional, and substance addicted children behind them as part of their dark heritage.

Admitting this, I understand that I share half of my DNA from both of them and, for better or worse, I am like each of them in at least some respects—hopefully only the positive and redeeming ones and certainly with none of their egregious and, in some respects, evil ways.

Now in my early sixties and understanding the sand in my hour glass is rapidly depleting, I find it regrettable on some levels I never had the chance to get to know the type of people my parents were. Of course, I know they were not good people, but cruel, uncaring, lacking empathy and wisdom, and terrible parents. This admitted, it still would have been illuminating to know them on deeper levels to understand why they became the kind of individuals they turned out to be. Understanding who our parents were helps us to understand who we are.

For example, were they Democrats, Republicans, or non-political? Where did they stand on abortion? Civil rights? What kind of childhoods did they have? What were their hobbies and interests? Who or what inspired them? These kinds of questions and so many more are forever out of my grasp to learn (both died years ago), and though I might have an inkling of where they stood on these issues, I cannot be 100% certain, which, in the final analysis, is a loss, on some levels, for understanding who I am and the kind of soil I sprang from.

It is my belief that all children should know who their parents are: what they think, why they believe certain things, where they stand on the great issues and questions of life, their childhoods, etc. As mentioned above, children share half of their parent’s DNA and knowing who their parents are (or were) and the molding process that made them the kind of individuals they became is an important knowledge base for their own identities and belief systems.

I know my dad liked baseball because, during baseball season while we were living in Crystal Lake, Illinois, he often had the tv on to watch the Chicago Cubs playing. But this fact doesn’t satisfy, for me, my desire to know who my dad truly was outside of the fact he liked baseball. And since I never cared for watching sports, this tidbit of information means little because I can’t necessarily relate to it except on a superficial level.

But if I had known other things about my parents, for example, the kind of books they read, the radio and tv stations they listened to, the clubs they were a part of, the churches they attended, the friends they hung around with, the extracurricular activities they enjoyed—all of these would help “fill in the blanks” of the kind of people they were and what molded and shaped their characters and world views.

Regrettably, my father was not a decent man. He did horrific and criminal acts against his children, and this part of his nature has made it difficult for me on some levels to either want to find out more about him, even if that knowledge would help me in possibly understanding myself.

I know a smattering of some of the items I mentioned above that my mom and dad participated in, and though this provides me a bit of detail on the kind of people they were, it is not sufficient to knowing them on an intimate level.

Which brings up Matt Walsh. Here is a young man, now in his middle thirties, (today is March 4, 2022) who, for his youth and relative short life experience, is someone I greatly admire. In fact, I admire him so much that I would consider it a great honor to have him as my own son.

Below is a video of Matt offering advice to people who posted their questions on Slate’s website:

Walsh is a conservative Christian who I was first exposed to through his blog. Then, he was in his late 20’s, and it is hard for me to take too seriously the views of anyone so young and inexperienced. It’s not that young people cannot accurately opine on any different number of subjects (because they certainly can and do on a regular basis), but their young ages usually mean their views have not usually been refined through the hot fires of life (unless they have fought in wars, for example).

In general, especially here in America, young people are so coddled and blessed with an abundance of material possessions, technological gadgets, food, entertainment, etc. that it is hard for them to truly understand the deep meanings and complexities of life. Yes, I know there are many exceptions one can point to, but I’m referring to very broad generalities concerning the general public.

Walsh, though, is now gaining in years and, by extension, life experience. He is maturing in his views and now has at least two children. This in itself, being married and raising kids, is a learning and maturing process all in itself, and now, Walsh has years behind him in both categories.

I have followed and read enough about him over these years to know where he is coming from, and I like and enjoy him both as a person and a conservative commentator. But it was only when he went “live” on his Daily Wire program platform that I began to appreciate another aspect of him I never realized before: his dry sense of humor.

Walsh uses his dry and sarcastic sense of humor in a manner that I never knew he possessed. And his personality—his sober, grave demeanor—is another big plus for me when it comes to appreciating what he has to say. Personally, I cannot stand silly, immature men who appear on news programs or Youtube videos and act like fools: making stupid faces, acting feminine, trying to be funny while lacking in comedic talent and timing, etc. Walsh is nothing like this and his manliness and sobriety is a trait that resonates with me.

But his dry, sarcastic sense of humor helps soften what can sometimes appear to be a hard and overly negative edge to people who possess similar character traits of seriousness. I find myself often laughing at his presentations, knowing what he is saying is exactly opposite to what he actually believes. It’s quite refreshing and effective.

Interestingly, conservative Ben Shapiro, the founder of the conservative Daily Wire, who I also admire, has a similarly sober demeanor but lacks the deadpan humor of Walsh. Having both these conservative and serious personality styles but possessing different deliveries makes the two commentators more interesting to listen to.

Do I believe everything Walsh or the Daily Wire believes? No. I like to envision myself as a conservative free thinker and have learned to take much of what either conservatives or liberals say with a grain of salt. Both camps contain truth, and though I believe the conservative camp is much closer to my overall belief system and reports the truth more accurately, I’m not naive enough to think they are right in everything. Wisdom is to take most everything with a bit of skepticism because each viewpoint has their own agendas.

Yet Walsh is a young man I would be proud to have as my son, someone who accurately represents my belief system and who conducts himself in a manner that I would want a son to portray in his daily life, both in public and in private. In him is an authentic glimpse of the kind of man I myself am.

Walsh’s viewpoints on life, politics, and morality closely align with mine. Throughout his writing and broadcasting career, he has been an outspoken opponent of abortion, a world-wide evil that, for most of my adult life, I strenuously fought against and publicly condemned. Here is video he did where he speaks against this barbaric and cruel practice in America:

Another aspect I greatly admire of Walsh is his willingness to publicly swim against the tide of the prevailing cultural norms and boldly speak against them. This is not an easy thing to do and those who take a public stand like he has means his life becomes a target for counter attacks, abuse, ridicule, death threats, and other forms of violence and discrimination. I’m sure he has lost many sleepless nights after receiving death threats via email, text messages, and late night phone calls. Bolding standing up against evil exacts often painful rewards that not many are able to consistently bear.

Will Walsh change his views as he matures? Undoubtably. Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” It’s possible Walsh could completely change his views 180 degrees; he could become a flaming liberal. But for now, I can heartily endorse and recommend him.