Pic of the day: Enjoy this computer-generated picture of an interracial couple. Not that I explicitly mention that anywhere in the text. It just fit the spirit of the day.
Well, that was a learning experience. I'm just not sure WHAT to learn from it.
I've mentioned Jehovah's Witnesses from time to time. I think they are wrong in various things, but then again who isn't? Of course the problem is that they really really think they are not wrong in anything. But that is not unique to them either. It's just that they think very differently from the average, so it kinda stands out, and they don't exactly hide themselves, so they kinda stand out.
I first got my hands on some of their literature when I was just a kid. A couple times in my lifetime they must have made their way to our outlying farm, which is no small feat. The irony is that I've never had a visit from they after I grew up and moved to more urban areas. But I do meet them in the city occasionally, wandering the streets looking for people who lack the Watchtower and Awake. Not daily or weekly do I see them, but it's more than once a year, at least lately.
Before that, I met them when I refused conscription. Norway has (now in theory, then in practice) a conscription-based military, in which all young men were required by law to spend a year getting instructed in how to serve the army. Physical exercise, weapon use, how to avoid getting shot, stuff like that. My father and my oldest brother had refused to take part in this, as did I. The two other brothers had gone through with it, like most normal people do. Be that as it may, Jehovah's Witnesses don't serve in the army. They would rather die (and this occasionally happens, though not in Norway. They are just imprisoned here). There was a small band of them when I was processed for forced work as an alternative to army service. (The Norwegian expression literally translates as "civil service", but this means something else in English. In my case I worked at a home for alcohol addicts, which wasn't as strenuous as running around in the woods, but lasted some months longer. I did not mind. I thought it was good to weed out the people who are just lazy.)
Since the Witnesses were dealt with harsher than the rest of us – they refused to be under military command in any way, even doing peaceful work – I did not get to know them all that well. But they seemed earnest people and not as crazy as rumor will have it.
As the years wore on, however, I started to understand the rumors. The Witnesses I met in the city did not strike me as particularly bright. Of course, most people don't strike me as particularly bright; I was kinda spoiled growing up in a genius family. But this went beyond that. Some of them were just too timid for me to assess at all. They would just try to get rid of a Watchtower and get away from the scary human. (Given that I'm the kind of person toddlers and sparrows run up to, I'd say that's rather timid.) But the ones who actually did say anything ... well, it might have been better if they didn't.
Actually there were at least two exceptions to that. But still, the majority as far as I could observe, lacked basic people skills. That's harsh coming from me. I lack basic people skills. But I don't run a script when talking with people. I don't look at my watch when someone is asking me a question, then continue to talk about whatever I wanted to say. That is just rude. Also I don't try to convert people to Christianity without being able to find key events in my own Bible. I had to help one of them locate the place where God presents himself by name, such as it is, when talking to Moses. This is the very thing that sets the Witnesses apart, this particular verse which they claim is more or less an order to use God's name rather than just his title like most of us do. It would be kinda like a mainstream Christian not being able to find the Resurrection in his Bible. (Actually I think I had to help one of them with that too.)
Without analyzing it in great detail, the impression left on me was that a disproportionate number of them were below average intelligence. You could argue that of course they were, what intelligent person would believe that the planet was covered with water during the Bronze age and only 8 people survived? But a fairly long life has taught me that people are very good at keeping faith apart from the rest of their lives. And I believe some pretty weird things myself. Also a guy such as Ray Kurzweil seems to honestly believe that people can live forever – or at least thousands of years – thanks to technology. That's every bit as crazy as anything the Witnesses have ever come up with, if you ask me. But the guy is also one of the greatest inventors of our age. So just believing things that are obviously not true doesn't mean you are stupid. Still, it is normally possible to know when people are stupid, with the glassy eyes and the disoriented expression and the limited vocabulary. And the treating people as Non Player Characters, I guess.
The years passed, and today I finally realized that there may be a reason. (Since I had met a few quite bright Witnesses, I thought it couldn't just be the religion.) I was on my way to the dentist during work hours when I saw one of them. And I realized that since I met these people in the city where I work, not in the suburbs where I live, they were roaming around during work hours. This is a pretty good hint that they were not working for some reason.
They could of course have taken the time off to be a missionary. The Mormons do this – the Latter Day Saints as they call themselves – but they also come across as professional salesmen. The Witnesses I had met did not. I really don't think they could graduate from any kind of missionary school. More likely they were unemployable due to low mental function. Lots of people are, but lots of people spend their days trying to make life nice for themselves rather than sacrificing their free time to save souls. So while the other slightly retarded citizens sip their coffee at a nearby cafe and talk in hushed voices about how bad it is with all those immigrants, this small minority walks around pushing their small magazines so you can't avoid noticing them.
I thought this was quite nice. It kinda explains why I meet so few intelligent Witnesses: They are working most of the time, and I am working most of the time, so we don't have much chance to meet.
I wrote briefly about this in my LiveJournal. My probably best LiveJournal friend was extremely offended and will most likely never read my journal again, much less talk to me. I knew he had some kind of connection to them, but I did not think he actually was a Witness. He was, not that I would have written it any differently if I knew. I tell what looks like the truth to me. I am always open for corrections. But I am not open for rewriting reality. As in, there does not exist any retarded JW's because my friend is a JW. Uh. There exist retarded almost everything, it's just that most of them don't try to save souls by giving away small pieces of literature which they probably don't understand themselves.
I hate to lose friends. I'd hate more to lie, or gloss over things. And I hate when people identify with a group, because at that point they essentially die as far as I am concerned.
I am a Norwegian. I was born here, as were my ancestors. I like it here. I have actually never been outside Norway... not from principle but from convenience. But that doesn't mean that I particularly wish for Norwegians to win gold medals in skiing or become chess grandmasters. I hear about it when it happens, but it doesn't affect me emotionally. Nor does it affect me when one of my countrymen gets drunk and goes crazy aboard a plane, as occasionally happens. I suppose Swedes and Finns do that too, but we don't hear much about it. So what? There are good and bad people, smart and stupid people, and only marginally more of one type here than there. In fact, the good people are not always the same as the smart ones. Or even the sane ones.
I am a Christian, of sorts. A heretic for sure. But I'm certainly more a Christian than any other religion or lack thereof. That doesn't mean I identify with the many Christians who have gone around persecuting people through history. I don't even really identify with the saints, although I admire them. But they are them; I am me. I understand that in America these days there are famous Christian preachers who pray to God to punish the gays with death. As if God doesn't punish us all with death at some point in time. I see sometimes non-Christians point out these preachers as examples of Christians. Does that offend me? No. If people are obsessed with it, it is probably because they are trying to hide some fault of their own. But just pointing it out on a suitable occasion? Go right ahead. It doesn't rub off on me, because I'm not them. As the Bible says: Each of us shall account for ourselves.
You'd think that after all these millennia, we would be able to transcend group culture and become individuals. It is the most important task for us today, I think. As long as I yet shall live, I will not identify with any group. And in the end, should I have the time to reach that far, I will not even identify with myself. I will just be, I will just live, I will just do; not defend, not explain, not save face. Obviously I have not come quite that far yet! But that is what I am aiming for. And should it cost me my friends who I love and admire, I will grieve as I do today, and move on without hesitation.
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.