Are you happy? If so, why?


Real Clear Science notes that conservatives are almost always happier than progressives.

"It may be one of the most surefire findings in all of social psychology, repeatedly replicated over almost five decades of study: American conservatives say they are much happier than American liberals. They also report greater meaning and purpose in their lives, and higher overall life satisfaction. These links are so solidly evidenced that, for the most part, modern social scientists simply try to explain them."

As a conservative, I find that yes, I'm happy. I'd rate myself maybe a 7 of 10 on the happiness scale. Why am I happy? A few big items come to mind:

  • Faith
  • Marriage
  • Kids
  • Avoidance of drugs
  • Personal agency
  • Recognizing beauty in the world

It's possible to be happy without these things. And yes, not all conservatives are happy: too many of us are glued to the outrage-inducing Fox News, too many of us get caught up in dark conspiracy theories that, even if true, bring no real benefit or joy to life.

By contrast, these happiness factors are often undermined on the left: atheism, hookup culture, drugs, celebration of sexual deviancy, racist-under-every-stone, climate doom, assuming the worst in people, valuing people by race/class/gender rather than merit.

Faith

God really exists, there is meaning to life, morality is absolute. God cares about humanity. God has a direction and plan for us. When we die, we will be with God. 

And one day, God will raise us from the dead and we will live with him. 

This contributes to my happiness.

Leftism undermines this factor of happiness by its inherent secularism and embrace of atheism. As the Real Clear Science article notes, progressives tend to be far less religious than conservatives. What a dark and depressing worldview: we have just 70 odd years to live, many of them in fragility and suffering, in an ultimately meaningless and random universe where morality is entirely subjective. For the atheist, there is no ultimate justice, and wicked people can escape judgement. In the atheist worldview, the Josef Mengeles of the world got away with their crimes, never facing ultimate justice.

It is harder for people with such a worldview to be generally happy.

Marriage

I am happier being married than being alone. I feel loved and cared for. I have a person to go through life with. I feel fulfilled and happy because of my wife. 

It's possible to be happy without marriage, of course. But marriage sure helps. Even with all its troubles, tends to make people happier. It has made me happier.

Leftism has undermined marriage by promotion and normalization of sexual deviancy. Hookup culture  and the sexual revolution claimed to empower women, but in reality has harmed women. Even some secular feminists are speaking out:

"I used to believe the liberal narrative on the sexual revolution. As a younger woman, I held the same opinions as most other millennial urban graduates in the West. I conformed to the beliefs of my class. 

Of course freedom is the goal, I thought. What women need is the freedom to behave as men have always behaved, enjoying all the pleasures of casual sex, porn, BDSM, and indeed any other sexual delight that the human mind can dream up. As long as everyone is consenting, what’s the problem? 

I no longer believe any of this. 

I’m not a religious conservative. I’m a feminist, and I’ve spent my entire professional life working on the issue of male violence against women—first in a rape crisis center, and later as a journalist and a media relations director for a legal campaign against sexual violence.

It’s precisely because I’m a feminist that I’ve changed my mind on sexual liberalism. It’s an ideology premised on the false belief that the physical and psychological differences between men and women are trivial, and that any restrictions placed on sexual behavior must therefore have been motivated by malice, stupidity or ignorance."
- Loise Perry, I'm 30 and the Sexual Revolution Shackled My Generation

Hookup culture has produced people with many sexual partners but little commitment. Why would men commit when they can have the all the benefits without it? It appeals to men's basest sexual instincts. But it does not product happy men or women.

Another feminist writes,

"I’m grateful for the ability to control my reproductive cycle and make my own money. But that freedom has come at a price. The dark side of the sexual revolution is that even though it liberated women—unyoking sex from consequences has primarily benefited men. [...]
I know regretting most of my sexual encounters is not something a sex-positive feminist who used to write a column for Playboy is supposed to admit. And for years, I didn’t. Let me be clear, being a “slut” and sleeping with a lot of men is not the only behavior I regret. Even more damaging was what I told myself in order to justify the fact that I was disposable to these men: I told myself I didn’t care.

I didn’t care when a man ghosted me. I didn’t care when he left in the middle of the night or hinted that he wanted me to leave. The walks of shame. The blackouts. The anxiety.

The lie I told myself for decades was: I’m not in pain—I’m empowered.

Looking back, it isn’t a surprise that I lied to myself."

-Bridget Phetasy, I Regret Being a Slut

Hookup culture creates men who won't commit and women who are valued only for their sexuality. For both men and women, this subtracts from well-being and long-term satisfaction in life.

Leftism through its sexual revolution has glorified sexual deviancy -- anything outside traditional heterosexual marriage, really -- and any detractors are demonized as puritanical kink-shamers. In embracing these forms of sexuality that are outside of traditional marriage, leftism tends to produce fewer happy people.

Kids

One of the greatest joys in my life is having kids, raising them, watching them grow up, spending time with them. Kids are awesome! I am definitely happier having kids.

When I was 19 years old, I married my wife and adopted my son. I remember calling my dad freaking out a bit, "I have no time to myself anymore!"

It's true: when you have kids, you cross this big adulting chasm from "everything I do revolves around me and my interests" to "OK, I have to take care of another human being before everything else".

This is a huge maturity and growing-up stage in life. And it has produced a great deal of long-term joy for me and billions of others.

Yet many people refuse to take this growing-up step for dubious reasons.

Leftism has in some circles claimed that having children is actually evil because it contributes to climate change.

But the reality is, having kids is an important part of the human experience. It's a commandment from God. It forces you to grow up. It forces you to take care of another human being; prior to this, your whole life is concerned with taking care of yourself. These growing pains are a part of growing up; missing this opportunity stunts special growth and maturity. 

Avoidance of drugs

It seems to me drugs trade longer-term joy for short term pleasure. Not unlike porn, really. For many people, drugs are a coping mechanism that makes them forget about problems in their life. For others, they're just temporary pleasure but produce no long-term joy or fulfillment, and may even subtract from it.

Some folks tell me this is only true of harder drugs, but I suspect cigarettes, marijuana, and alcohol also fall into this category, too. 

A recent post by financial blogger J.D. Roth documented his journey from goody-two-shoes rule-follower to daily marijuana user to addiction, damaged relationships, coping, and finally, deliverance from the drug:

In late 2016, when I first began experimenting with pot, I maybe used it once a week. Instead of drinking on a Friday night, I'd get stoned.

The frequency with which I used pot increased over time.  [...]
My pot use crept from once or twice a week to almost every single night. It took a couple of years to get there, but get there it did.

By the time the pandemic hit, I was a daily marijuana user. If you've been reading me for a while, you know that this was also around the time that my mental health problems peaked. (Shocking!) [...] And as 2020 arrived, the depression became coupled with anxiety. Oh, how much anxiety I had! It was dreadful. It prevented me from accomplishing even basic tasks.

But the worst thing was that I'd become stupid. I've always thought of myself as a smart guy, a guy who likes to read and think Deep Thoughts and have complex discussions with friends. But I was becoming dumber and dumberer, and I could sense it. I truly began to panic once I realized that I was losing the ability to write a coherent article or essay.

For me, writing is life. Writing is how I process my thoughts and feelings and the world around me. If I can't write, I'm crippled. The pot was leaving me wordless and broken.

But I didn't know that the pot was taking away my ability to write. I didn't know that the pot was making it tough for me to read. I didn't know that the pot was exacerbating my depression and causing my anxiety and turning me into a bitter old man. I couldn't see the source of my problems. All I knew was that these things were happening, and I hated it. To cope, I got stoned. Again. And getting stoned just made me more anxious and stupid. 

-J.D. Roth, Marijuana and Me
The left has pushed for more and more legalization and easy access to drugs, despite it hurting many people's long-term happiness. You won't find many fulfilled, happy drug addicts and alcohol abusers. 😊 Even if that drug is tobacco, marijuana, alcohol, or other lighter drugs.

For generally happiness, I recommend avoiding all of these. I've avoided all but alcohol, and the few times in my life I've abused alcohol, I've regretted the foolishness it brought on.

The more I avoid these, the happier I am.

Personal Agency

I am happier because of my conviction that I am in charge of my own destiny. If I want to make money, I work harder and learn more. I'm able to better myself through my own efforts. 

I believe everyone has an opportunity to succeed. And in the West, the opportunity to succeed is more available than ever before in history. 

I'm not anxious about inequalities in society; "the poor will always be with us."

Rather, I'm more concerned about equal opportunity than equal outcome. I am convinced that a person who works hard and excels at what he or she does will have a productive life, even if they were at a disadvantage due to race, gender, minority status.

In my own life, I have worked hard, continued a culture of learning throughout my life, continued to strive upward, and have seen the benefits: I can comfortably provide for me and my family of five.

This personal agency -- a sense that society is not locked into failure by race, gender, class, minority or economic status -- increases my happiness. It applies to me personally: I can go higher if I work hard, continue learning, and continue personal growth.

But folks on the left are unhappier here because they're fighting a battle that cannot be won: equality of outcome, or what the left calls equity. 

It's a losing battle because there will never be equality of outcomes; people are not the same. The man who refuses to get a job will never have the same outcome as a hardworking man. (Going back to my faith, "If a man refuses to work, neither should he eat.") Each person must decide to work hard to succeed; government agencies and corporations artificially propping up one group over another will not work in the long run and ultimately undermines personal agency.

Moreover, attempts at forcibly installing equity, such as colleges favoring African Americans over Asian Americans, creates a kind of reverse racism where not all people are equal and they are judged by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character or their merit.

Feeling empowered to succeed on through your own personal agency and self-determination, without assistance from government or corporation, contributes to personal happiness. The left disagrees, and is unhappier for it.

Recognizing Beauty in the World

Is the world filled with systemic racism? Are your neighbors and family a bunch of redneck hick racists? And are they unconcerned with the impending doom of climate change? Are they a bunch of breeders who are hastening the destruction of the planet by their recklessly large families?



If the world all around you is horrible and depressing, you're probably not going to be very happy.

In contrast, I recognize that the universe is vast and beautiful; it fills me with awe. There's more beauty in nature than in the most fanciest monument humans have created.

I cut out of my life sources of negativity, and this usually includes TV. I generally avoid watching news shows because CNN and Fox and their ilk are intended to provoke shock and outrage. They usually succeed. This subtracts from recognizing beauty in the world as they make our neighbors into enemies.

I fundamentally disagree that society is systemically racist; there are individual racists, yes, but racism is on life support. (And, God instructs us that all humanity is created in the image of God, so racism is a stench in God's nostrils.)

On the political left, all opposition is framed in a very negative light, often labelling opponents as SIXHIRB (sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, islamophobic, racist, bigot). If you view half of your neighbors and family as irredeemably evil people, that will hurt your well-being and happiness. 

I've aimed to do better in my life. I often remind myself, "Yeshua [Jesus] would wash their feet too." People are messy, messed up, some of us are truly evil, and yet, still loved by God. As the Hebrew prophets record God's remarkable statement, "I don't desire that any man should die...therefore, repent and live!"

I'm not a doomsdayer, and this helps with my happiness.

On the religious front, I disagree that the world is doomed; Messiah came to save the world and not condemn it.

On the secular front, I disagree that the earth is doomed because of climate change. Even if our computer models of climate are accurate, I am convinced humanity will rise to the occasion to tackle the challenge. And it's worth noting that environmentalist doomsdayers in previous generations were misguided false prophets, falsely predicting the end of the world due to overpopulation, lack of food, "new ice age", and other events that failed to materialize.

Just a few failed predictions from the environmentalist doomers of yesteryear.


I believe that humanity is making progress: technologically, medically, morally. War is illegal and far less prevalent in the past. Genocides are prevented. Slavery is illegal and almost non-existent. Abortion is receding. We have giant air-conditioned throne rooms that drive or fly us to far away distances. We have better medicine to tackle disease and prevent suffering. We have technological progress that lets me talk to all of you instantly. Thanks to technology, only 1 in 10 people are living in extreme poverty, compared to 9 in 10 at the beginning of 20th century.


My view of progress is also informed by the Bible: 

The wicked will be cut off,
But those who wait for Lord will inherit the earth
Yet a little while,
And the wicked will be no more
See beauty in the world. Recognize things are getting better and not worse. God is perfecting it all, despite what humanity does. Think on these things.


This increases my happiness.

Summary

I can't speak for all conservatives, but I am happy primarily because of my faith, my marriage, my kids. It also helps that I've avoided drugs, I believe in personal agency, and I recognize beauty, goodness, and progress in the world.

You probably don't need all these things to be happy. But it helps.

Are you happy? If so, why?

The Jerusalem Temple According to Dall-E

Dall-E 2 is the state-of-the-art artificial intelligence (AI) for image generation. You describe in a sentence what you want, and Dall-E will create an image for you. 

Here are some fun examples:

"An astronaut riding a horse in photorealistic style":

"Llama in a jersey dunking a basketball like Michael Jordan, shot from below, tilted frame, 35°, Dutch angle, extreme long shot, high detail, dramatic backlighting, epic, digital art":

"Spiderman reading the Bible, comic style":

"A bowl of soup that is a portal to another dimension, digital art":

Impressive technology from the brightest minds in artificial intelligence.

I enrolled in Dall-E's private beta a few weeks ago and recently gained access. With access to Dall-E, I thought it'd be fun to do some Biblical images, see what fantastic scenes this AI would put together. 

I've seen some beautiful paintings of Jerusalem and the Temple by Alex Levin; might Dall-E do something comparable? I tried out some text prompts and some image prompts. Here's what Dall-E created for me:








Whoa - fascinating, isn't it? I really like those first three.

Some observations.

First, Dall-E seems to think the Temple is always on fire. 😬☠ 

I figure there are two potential explanations for that. First, there are many art depictions of the Romans destroying the Temple, and those often include the Temple aflame. With Dall-E trained on images from the web, it assumes the Temple should look like it's on fire.

Another possible explanation is that even for art depictions of the Temple where it's not being destroyed, there usually still is fire and smoke: on the altar in the courtyard. 

The AI doesn't understand what needs to be on fire, so it just haphazardly puts fire and smoke around the image.

But a pleasant side-effect of all this fire is, it looks like the fire of God's spirit. Some friends commented on these:
"This one doesn’t scream fire to me. It almost reminds me of an artist's rendering of the Holy Spirit around the temple."
"This one is rather beautiful. More like God's glory surrounding the Temple."
"This one reminds me of the pillar of fire in the wilderness"
"At first glance, I totally thought that was just a depiction of the temple filled with the Shekina"
Another observation: Dall-E seems to think that the Temple utilized Greek architecture, even though the Temple predates Greek architecture by several hundred years. I am thinking of those free-standing columns that show up in some of the images that scream "Greek" to me:

For frame of reference, the real Temple looked something more like this:



Which, to be fair, may have had decorative or even supporting columns, but not likely the free-standing columns we know from ancient Greece, e.g. the Athenian temple:


My explanation here is again the training set of images. 

Dall-E was fed millions of images from around the web to teach it what things look like. The web is populated firstly and primarily by Western culture, especially folks from the UK and US. Greek architecture is big in the West, and thus it shows up in the pseudo-mind of our AI Dall-E.

Fun stuff!

Messianic Chords now works offline

I recently updated MessianicChords.com to work offline. 😎 If you're not familiar, Messianic Chords is the place you go for lyrics and chord charts for Messianic Jewish music.

The way it works is, any chord chart you view while online is automatically available offline

For example, if I navigate to Lamb - Dancing in Jerusalem...


...I can then access that same chord sheet while offline:



In fact, even while offline, I can still search, browse, filter, and do all the things you'd expect. Here's what it looks like if I'm offline and searching for "dancing":

It'll find any chord charts matching "dancing" that I had previously viewed while online.

This works on your phone, too! You can try it out by going to Messianic Chords, clicking one or more chord charts, then putting your phone in airplane mode. Once in airplane mode, you're offline, but you can still navigate to messianicchords.com and access any chords you previously accessed while online.

Offline access is super useful for when you have little to no web access. I added this feature because of a personal need: I was heading out to Proclaim Music Fest last month where there's little to no cellular service. Since I wanted to play some tunes for the Lord, I added offline capability to Messianic Chords so I could take my chord charts with me. Maybe it's useful to you too, fine reader.

If you're interested in the technical side of all this -- websites that work offline are rare and kind of an oddity! -- you can read more about this over at my technical blog.