|Archive list for "recent thoughts"
"The fool who persists in his folly becomes wise" --Unknown
The posts towards the top are more recent. So as you read, it is like travelling back in time...
|Internet Dating; meeting Jacque
Is internet dating possible?
So, a few months back my friend Staks convinced me to sign up for an account on myspace.com, which I did. I didn't pay much attention to it at all, not really being fond of these types of dating, friendship, and networking types of sites. One day while I was not feeling particularly well, I saw a friend request from this girl in West Virginia. I accepted, and sent her a quick IM just to say hi, because she said to do do on her profile. The next day we talked. We talked for hours. The next day we talked...for hours. We talked for nearly two weeks, every night, until I was convinced that I needed to take a trip down to West Virginia to meet this girl.
So I took a couple of personal days and went down for a 4 day weekend. I was nervous, very nervous. I was also excited, because I knew I had met someone special. The only question was whether I would pass the friend test, as well as to see what kind of chemistry we would have. As I crossed the state line I got more nervous. As I approached her building I got even more nervous, but hid it well.
We hit it off great, and we are still together today and thinking long-term. The details of those plans are not yet set, but I am sure she'll be a part of my life down the road. Sometimes you just know, I suppose.
Her name is Jacque. She is a thespian, a singer (which means she loves to join me during karaoke nights), and is all-around wonderful (she's blushing as she reads this, being self-conscious as she is). I have been happier than I have been in a long time, and I am very glad to have met her. Which is not to say that I wasn't happy before; I was happy, but I still was missing romance and all of those cheesey things. I'll let you all know when a date is set.
Post-election Rampling; King George I still reigns, morality is the word of the era, apparently--11/7/05
Well, now that the long-awaited election is over, I suppose that we still have to deal with the Bush Administration for 4 more years. I'm going to not rant about that, as it will not do any good.
However, the big surprise of the "value voter" issue has brought up an important question being dealt with by commentators on the various sides of the issue. First of all, this issue of values bringing out lots of evangelical voters was not a surprise to me or tomany others that I know. It was somewhat surprising that they came out in the numbers that they did, but the fact that they existed was of no surprise for me. I've been noticing the growth of the evangelical movement since I was in college, and have been concerned about the effects it would have since. Now we are seeing the consequences in the political power that the Republican Party has gained by allying themselves with the Christian Right.
Now, I'm all for allowing Americans practice their faith as they wish, so long as they allow others to do so, and they don't manipulate pseudo-history in convincing so many that this country was founded upon Christian foundations that the secularists are trying to rewrite. The fact is that this is just false, which is obvious to anyone who has researched the founding fathers and their struggle to create this union of states. Here is one example of what I'm talking about.
So, with this divide over what is moral, and with Democrats, Atheists, liberals, and others scratching their heads over how to articulate an ethic not based upon the evangelical Christian model, I have become motivated to re-write my earlier attempt to define a secular morality based upon a rational ethical principle. When I first made this attempt, it was a term paper for a graduate school class, and it does not make as much sense out of context with the issues we discussed in that class. So I will take this paper of mine as a basis for a new paper I'll write that begins with the problems, and offers a solution that I hope some people can use in this debate.
It will take me some time to do a little research and get some feedback from drafts before I publish anything, but within the next few weeks I should have something to put up here. Until then, I will leave it at that.
Pre-election rambling about the rise of the evangelical Christians--8/30/04
Anyway, things have changed a bit. I moved back into Philadelphia, for starters. The election campaigns are heating up, especially now that the Republican National Convention in going on. The Olympics were, well, Olympic (I had a chance to watch some of them since my summer job ended right as they began, and I had a few days off).
I have been active in FSGP recently, trying to promote the separation of Church and State as Thomas Jefferson articulated in his various documents. While I respect people's right to be religious, I have an issue with when this agenda is promoted as part of official government agendas, which seems to challenge my ability to be secular in the US. The fact that our current President is a born-again Christian, supported by various (socially) conservative Christian groups, does not help this struggle.
As part of this struggle I tried to articulate my perspective on atheism in a short article concerning what atheism is for me and what it can be for atheists as a group or for others who wish to understand this godless perspective. To read it, simply click here. Hopefully this will help better explain, to some at least, how I came about this point of view, and better show why I think this issue is so important today.
Briefly, I think that the issue of atheism is important not so much because I think everyone should be an atheist, but because I think that anyone should be able to be an atheist without feeling out of place in this culture. Here we are in the most powerful nation in history, and we have loud voices screaming for Creationism ("intelligent design"), Biblical literalism, and "family values." This fundamentalist perspective on religion is creating a larger rift between two very different worldviews in Western culture--particularly in the United States of America.
And it's not that I completely de-value religion, as it has had, and still has for many, a great positive influence on many people. It's that, as Karen Armstrong says in her book The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism (which I highly recommend), when pre-modern religiousity confronts modernity, something very dangerous can emerge as a result. If there is to be any place for religion in our future, which there very well might be, it must radically alter itself or this clash of worldviews will spill more blood. Conservative religious people in this country do not have to become atheists, but they really need to understand what atheism is. And, on the other hand, there are also many an atheist, agnostic, and secular humanist person who needs to better understand why people are religious. (I do think, however, that atheists and their ilk tend to understand the religious community more than the other weay around; at least generally).
All I am promoting is education; we need people on all the various sides of this issue to converse in a less disingenuous way. Being somewhat cynical of people, I don't think it will, but that will not stop me from trying, along with many other active atheists and freethinkers, such as GAMPAC, which grew out of the efforts of groups such as FFRF and American Atheists.
I would ask that you familiarize yourself with these groups yourself, and if you feel like I do, help out in some way by finding a local group in alliance with these national organizations.
Becoming Greek, defending gay marriage, etc--2/12/04
Since I graduated with my MA, I have been looking for a job in my field, but have had a bit of trouble. So I have been working and trying to pay bills and so forth.
For a while, I had strayed from one of my great joys--writing. Since I stopped writing my weekly column for the Quad at WCU, spending an hour or so each week thinking a topic through and getting it written, I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it. The other day, while glancing at the Philadelphia craigslist, I saw an ad for writers needed for a new website, Rawstory. I sent the guy an email, and started thinking about what I would write about. The result was some thoughts on the current issue of gay and lesbian marriage that is being discussed all over the various media. I posted a copy of it on this site, but hopefully it will be up at rawstory.com soon as well. We'll see. In the meantime, here is a link to the article.
I just figure that it will give my unique brand of insanity to a few more people, as well as give me projects to work on (as if I didn't already have a tight schedule.
In other news, I have just so very recently (as of this past weekend) been initiated into the international fraternity of TKE. The whole experience has been great so far, and I am very impressed with the fraternity and the opportunity it will give me. I am serving as a province advisor for the Liberty province, which includes a number of chapters in the Philadelphia area. It will allow me to assist in the development of maturing guys, in stages of life I have been through. And I know the stereotype of the 'frat guy,' and all the associated criticisms that come with fraternities, but I appreciate the values that Tau Kappa Epsilon is trying to show to these guys and I'm hoping that I might be a positive influence on these guys, as well as learn from my brothers and maintain great friendships with them. So, here's to all the Tekes out there, especially those in my province; I'll be seeing you.
Finishing mt Masters Program and the role of science in philosophical discourse--6/20/03
I finished my MA program, which includes the Masters Thesis that I referred to here before. I was pretty pleased with it, although I feel like it raised so many issues that I could have dealt with better or in more depth. I I do anything with the document in the future, I will have plenty of room for it to grow. For now, I'm content to take a break from any projects of this size.
I've been thinking more and more recently about the role of scientific research in some philosophical discussions. One of my favorite topics of discussion is the philosophy of mind; what consciousness is, the nature of experience, etc. But many philosophical pursuits of this field tend to remain somewhat distant from the findings of neurology, neuropsychology, sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, etc. It seems that the traditional concepts of 'mind' or 'soul,' as being somehow not physical, are much harder to defend in light of what we know so far about how the brain processes information. I don't know a great amount about the brain either, so I am equally at fault in talking about such philosophical questions with relative ignorance of the relevant information. It is, at this point, nearly impossible to hold that the mind has nothing to do with the the functioning of the brain.
There are a number of "philosophers" who do keep in mind current understanding of brain functions in developing their theories of consciousness and the like--people like Daniel Dennett for example. But I think that much of the future of such questions are going to depend much more on scientific research rather than phenomenological work. The steps that phenomenologists have taken thus far have been fascinating and very useful, but there is only so much, I believe, that a thing can know about itself from its own subjective perspective. There is a difference, I think, between a thing seen from its own perspective (that is, what it is like to be that thing) and the perspective of that same thing as from the point of view of another thing. This is basic perspectivism, as advocated by philosophers such as Nietzsche, but the implications lead us towards needing to lean more on empirical or "objective" evidence; objective because it is a perspective of a being from the perspective of another being.
And while this difference is essentially a misconception--the difference is merely one of perspective, and not of actuality (whatever that means)--the difference is epistemologically and metaphysically significant. But for more about the metaphysical significance you will have to look at my thesis. Anyway, just some food for thought there...
One semester left, and a thesis proposal--1/14/03
Ok, one semester left. This semester's adventures will include a seminar on Nietzsche as well as writing my masters thesis. That as well as the many philosophy club activities here at WCU will keep me busy. The topic of the thesis will revolve around something I thought of while reading Alfred North Whitehead, but is really derivative of a thought I've toyed with for a few years. Essentially, I want to explore how the mind acts to percieve the world in terms of distinctions, or what Whitehead would call relations. Essentially I've noticed that everything we can think comes in terms of a context or a relationship to other things we can also think of. Those of you familiar with Hume will recognize the issue of how we deal with impressions and how we can combine impressions to create new ideas. This is part of what I am talking about, but it goes much deeper. Essentially I want to explore whether these abilities to distinguish commonly leads people to conceieve the world in a dualistic way, and whether this view of the world is valid.
The main problem is this; if the wrld is not dualistic, then are we capable of concieving of it truly as monistic? And if we are not, how can we approach showing that the world is not dualistic--for example, that there is no separation between body and spirit or 'soul'?
By using the metaphysical approach of Whitehead from books such as Science and the Modern World, Religion in the Making, Process and Reality, and Adventures of Ideas I hope to utilize process philosophy to help demonstrate that we either can show the world to me monistic or we at least have justification for holding dualism, as well as it's many religious implications, suspect.
This keeps in line with my attempt to deal with the socio-political-historical-psychological phenomena of religion. I hope to illuminate, or at least lay some groundwork for illuminating, that the reason so many people accept religious positions based upon a dualistic model of the universe (soul/body, heaven/hell, etc) is due to the way we tend to see the world. Further, I wish to hold these views metaphysically suspect. Perhaps, if I feel I can work it in, I want to try to approach a way at looking at religion, spirituality, and perhaps God in a different way. If successful, I hope that I will give some reason for questioning traditional religious ideologies, helping my quest to rid the world of the problematic ideology of Christianity in its fundamentalist form...but we all know that what I say in my thesis will will have little to no effect on people who will consider it the wisdom of a man "divorced from God." Whatever.
Besides that, I hope to continue enjoying life as much as I can. Maybe the Philadelphia curse will finally be lifted and the Flyers will do well in the playoffs as well as the Eagles, less than two weeks away from a possible Superbowl win. So, go Eagles, or something... [well, so much for that]
Two semester down, Christmas, and the winter solstice--12/18/02
Well, I was quite busy over the last semester, thus the long delay in updating the site. I'll have three new papers up for people to read as well as, a bunch of columns that I had in the school paper. Yes, I now have a column in the illustrious QUAD. Another rwason for my postponed update was my inability to access my yahoo account for a couple of weeks, which made it impossible to check email as well. So, after having read more than 50 emails just a little while ago, I decided to spend some time writing to you, my imaginary reader.
You know, the past couple of years I decided to forget about the whole Christmas thing and asked that I not receive nor give gifts for the holidays. I feel that it would be hypocritical of me to accept Christmas presents when i am not only technically Christian, but anti-Christian. But, alas, my family has ben stubborn and I still receive gifts (though very few). But it is more than my religious issues with the time of year, I also feel that the commercialism so popular this time of year is unhealthy. I recognize that in the interest of a healthy economy, we need to all go to malls and buy each other gifts, but on another level it feels like whatever meaning this time of year can salvage is partially lost in the obligatory and stressful nature of the cultural tradition of gift-exchange.
This brings up the obvious question: what is left to salvage of the meaning of the holidays? Well, I am all for people getting along, seeing friends and family, and being generally jolly and content. Ideally, this would be something practiced all year, but I'll take it only part of the year if I can get it. So, despite the higher rate of drunk-driving, suicide, and familial awkwardness I say enjoy the holiday season as best you can, and I hope it will continue throughout winter and Spring (into summer...ok, I'm reaching now).
And since it is only a few days from my writing this, I'll wish everyone a happy winter solstice. As the light comes back into the world (as the days start to get longer again) remember that this is the real significance of not only the "Christmas Tree" but the Yule log as well. This is not to forget the imagery that Christians use for Christ as the light coming into the world. And you wonder why Christmas is so close to the traditional celebration time of the solstice. Despite the fact that it was the only time of the year when the early Christians would be left alone by the Romans (they were too drunk while celebrating Saturnalia), it it also meshed with the many Germanic solstice festivals that included many images that Christmas utilizes today.
So, as you celebrate (or not) this season (yes, I know, I am too late to address Hannukah), remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Another semester and the appreciation of rain--8/28/02
Another semester is upon me, and I enter into it prepared to continue my academic success. I am living in the "South Campus" apartments now with 3 other guys, all undergrads (upperclassmen). It is my first week of classes so I can't say much about what I think so far; that will have to wait until next update....whenever I get around to that...
Anyway, right now I have no burning questions of a philosophical nature at the moment, so I'll spare the world that part...for now. I willshare this though. Last weekend me and a couple of friends from York College (old roomates) had quite an experience. The three of us--Steve, JV, and myself--went up to JV's house to spend some time together. It was an overcast and cool day overall, but we decided to take a walk. About, I guess, a mile down the road it got much darker and the thunder started up. Now, keep in mind that we are in bumblefuck, with nothing but trees and the occasional residence around us. We start to feel a light rain and decide it is time to start walking back. Within 30 seconds, not only is it pouring, but winds have now picked up and lightning is striking not so far away. a minute later, we are caught in one hell of a thunderstorm; drenching rain, loud thunder, lightning striking very close. After we are completely soaked, I decide that this experience is not much fun, but then I had a change of mind. I thought 'why does this suck?' and I really didn't have an answer. I was not afraid of being struck by lightning, I was not particularly annoyed by the rain (by that time, I was getting no wetter), and in fact the feeling of rain hitting me was kind of nice, being that it was rather warm. So, I decided I was going to run. So I took off, and sure enough both of them were running with me. I was having the time of my life just running through this thunderstorm. When we finally got back to the house, we put our clothes in the dryer and put towels on in order to spend the rest of the night playing games and watching some TV. Overall, it wasa classic day, and I won't soon forget it. I highly recommend running in the rain, although perhaps not while there is lightning striking...
This is a big change from the Shaun that once walked through the rain with a girl he was interested in, hating every moment of it. I only suffered through it because of that girl. Of course, that rain was cold, and perhaps that made some difference, but at that time any rain annoyed me.
Well, once I get a handle on the subjects of the Philosophy of Science, Wittgenstein, and Existentialism (the three classes I am taking) I might have more of substance to say here. In the mean time, enjoy the end of the summer, and take a walk, run, or sprint in the rain before it gets cold.
Denver, simplicity, and complex questions--7/15/02
How things change....
Well, denver was nice, but I was not there long. Things didn't work out between me and Amanda...oh well, life goes on. I helped my parents move into there new house right outside of West Chester two weekends ago, and last weekend we threw a house-warming party that was awesome. I got myself pretty liquored up and saw a bunch of people I like to see, and a couple I have not seen in a while but still like to see anyway. Right now I am doing a lot of nothing because of this whole denver thing. It broke up my summer and is making it difficult to find a job for 6 weeks or so until classes start at the end of August. Anyway, the house is really nice and it is only a couple minute drive from where I will be living next semester, so I'll be using the pool and the other space in the house to entertain occasionally, I think. Denver was nice, but i missed Philadelphia. And now that I live in West Chester, I still miss it, because it now takes me 45 minutes to get there...I am really more of a city person.
I was supposed to have been gone over this past weekend due to helping a couple friends--Infidel?/Castro!--with a road show. That would have been cool, but a couple of their gigs got cancelled so the road trip was also cancelled. Bummer, that is just what I needed too, a road trip. But I did get to see them in Philly Friday night at the Trocadero along with Eulogy, Suckpig, and Stinking Lizaveta (who rock really, really hard, by the way--I recommend seeing them if you can). Despite minor "technical difficulties" the show was very cool, and I enjoyed the night. The rest of my weekend was pretty uneventful.
So, what do you think, Is life simple or complex? I realize the material, cultural, psychological, etc complexities make it seem immediately evident as complex, but I wonder if there is nothing to the idea that there is a simple basis for it all; something that, if understood and utilized, would make life simple, and not worthy of ulcers. I bring this up because it was pointed out to me that my view on life might be too simple, in that I have this idea that if there is a problem, all you have to do is focus on the cause and work on fixing it instead of getting all frustrated and so forth. I am a fan of patience, although I don't always practice it well enough. And it seems that if you approach everyday life with thoughtfulness, attention, and patience, you will find that the problems of everyday life will become more clear and simple, rather than stumbling blocks. I imagine that these thoughts might have led me to start reading Leon Trotsky's Problems in Everyday Life, as well as my reading it has brought some clarity and focus to the issue for me. This, and reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States have inclined me towards thinking about Socialism and Communism recently. One thing I truly do not understand is the automatic and reactionary response people in this country have with Communism, especially among my parent's generation. Although I find issues with some of the basic metaphysical assumptions of Marxist thinking, I appreciate the value of what people like Trotsky and Marx have to say about exploitation, alienation, etc. I don't know if you feel it, but I feel, while dealing with people around me day-to-day, that something is seriously wrong with the business world here. Perhaps it is something that not everyone experiences, but when I am at an interview or applying for work, as I have been doing, not only do I feel like 'why would anyone want this job?' but I sense something fake and disturbing about the business interaction between workers and managers and the like in this economic structure. Perhaps it is my flaw to think that whatever you are in your personal life, you should also be in your public and professional life--to a significant degree at least--in terms of personality, outlook, and interpersonal communication...or am I being to simplistic?
What would be more disturbing is if the people I meet in business are actually like that on the "off" hours--which means that perhaps I am more different than many people than I originally thought. Which brings back the original issue of simplicity. It seems that either the many types of people, outlooks, and so forth make the world a hopelessly complex place. With all the different views on religion, politics, and so forth it might seem like the differences in the world might even be complex to the point of being irreconcilable. But what if there was some simple truth of basis to it all that most people either misinterpret or miss altogether. It might be that case that some understand some of it, so some might be more right than others ("we are all equal, but some of us are more equal than others" as someone said to me once) or that we are all equally and infinitely wrong.
I think the reason I was criticized is that I tend to view the complexities as irrelevant, and that the goal of my life is to enjoy what there is to offer here to the best of my ability by trying to appreciate the simple pleasures. Things like good food, friends, sex, music, sunsets, the sound of rain, and sleep are things I enjoy very much, and try not to allow the absurd complexities of life weigh me down. True, you will find me arguing with people about metaphysics or religion, but I don't allow the issues to bog down my every day living, I simply allow myself to enjoy the search--whether it be reading, thinking or arguing--while trying to continuously improve myself, take criticism, and move on.
But I am forced to conclude, for now, that life is complex. If it were not, I would not feel the need to try to simplify it. The very fact that I must try to avoid complexity and fail so often is only further proof of complexity. But I'll still enjoy the simple pleasures.
One semester Down...5/27/02 Well, a couple weeks or so has passed since the semester ended. I earned a 4.0 this semester, so it appears that I impressed someone (when you are critiquing my essays, remember that :P ). I really think you should read my term paper for my ethics class though, as I think it was particularly interesting. You can find it in my essays section, under "Relativism Revisited." I have always been somewhat of a relativist, but I believe I may have found some kind of philosophical systemization for relativism. I would also like feedback on this essay (as well as the others). If you like, you could even give me ethical problems that i might try to challenge my system with, to test it out.
On the less philosophical side of my life, I have been spending a lot of my time recently with a wonderful and beautiful woman named Amanda. She just graduated from West Chester University with a degree in Philosophy (yeah, I know, I said this would be less philosophical...). She was in a coupleof my classes this semester (West Chester sometimes combines upperclassmen with grad students for some classes). We have bee having a great time together,It is truly a great shame that she will be moving to Colorado in a couple of days and leaving me behind. I hope that she is successful in all her adventures there, and I hope she decides to come back soon. In any case, I will miss you Amanda.
Also, my parents will be moving to West Chester in about a month. It seems they are following me because they will be living only a few blocks from where my apartment will be next semester. This means that I will be saving some money on food (lol) and I will be having friends over to their place (which has a pool and a hot-tub--oh yeah...). Seriously though, it should be a great summer, as I am planning a nice house-warming party for a bunch of people around the 6th of July. It will feature, hopefully, Infidel?/Castro! and Deep Six, playing live for us. I am inviting everyone I know and like, so if you live in the area and you are reading this, chances are you are invited (interpret that any way you like).
Also, I will be working at a summer camp near West Chester this summer--Arrowhead Day Camp. It will keep me busy as well as put some cash-money in my pocket. I plan on doing a lot of relaxing and reading this summer, but I don't know how much I plan to update this page, so you might not hear from me until late August or so. Until then, I await Amanda's arrival here tonight, as I would like to enjoy our last couple days together. So, until later, take care all. Enjoy the summer.
Reflections half-way through my first semester at graduate school--sometime in March 2002 Now that I have been in class a few weeks and am getting used to all the work we are given again, I am feeling pretty good. My classes include Philosophy of language, Process philosophy, Ethical Theories, and a seminar on Plato. All my classes are night classes, so my days are pretty empty. Also, they are all on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, so I will have long weekends. However, I still work part time with an afterschool program, watching and playing with kids.
I have been introduced to the strange yet compelling depths of Alfred North Whitehead's Process philosophy, and find it stimulating thus far. I have even added my most recent paper about the process of how we develop a mind using terms from Whitehead's Process and Reality. Not a favorite book, due to its difficulty to read, but worthwhile (I won't be adding it to my favorite books list). Feel free to navigate yourself to my essays section and check out my latest work, and be warned that I will be using unfamiliar terms in this paper (they are Whitehead's terms)
But, concerning Process Philosophy in general (for those that are familiar with it) what, besides Whitehead's use of it, necessitates that concept of deity in process philosophy? Could these processes of prehension of actual entities, feelings, etc be interpreted in terms of atheism, if one wanted to?
What is even more interesting is that many process theologians, in being theists (which is in itself easily defendable, but not necessary, as I stated), tend towards Christian theology--trying to interpret Process in terms of the Christian message. A book for my class, Searching for an Adequate God: A Dialogue Between Process and Free Will Theists, demonstates this point very clearly. My professor, Dr. Hoffman, sees many similarities between Buddhism and Whitehead, which I find feasable and interesting. However, I do not see why contemporary process theologists tend towards Christianity. I'll leave it at that, for now.
Lost love, 20/20 hindsight, and the importance of revolution--12/17/01 I have been staying up very late recently. As I write this, 3:30 AM approaches, and I will not wake until noonish. I tried to get to sleep earlier, but thoughts keep my awake, even while very tired. Thus, I wll keep my thoughts short for now, and will probably continue this tomorrow. I feel like I have many unresolved issues in my life that I am unable to deal with right now. Lost loves, loneliness, and a child given up and missed.
I often wish I had a time machine. It is frustrating when someone you care about more than yourself not only does not reciprocate the feeling, but often forgets that you exist. It is my fault, I suppose. I needed a break from her those years ago, I didn't realize what I had given up. I do now. Not that the experiences I gained from doing so were not important, only that the frustration I have stems from the knowledge that I was unable to be with her as we were then, but she is unwilling now because I let her go, and because she has been subsequently hurt since--and not just by me. I know, you may not have a clue who I am talking about. That is ok, it is enough that you understand that there is nothing I would not do to go back in time for one day, so that I could enjoy what I had with her, because I didn't appreciate it then. I know, I know...tell her this. I have, and it helped not at all. My thoughts tonight, as recently often, lie with someone I miss, and who does not seem to miss me.
I also wonder if I should have not opted for adoption, and raised my daughter as best I could. But the mother, a friend still, is with someone else pondering engagement, marriage, and family. It seems absurd to me. It is not that I don't think she should marry, just that she should not marry him. Ah, it matter sto me not, as long as she will find happiness. It is strange how the people that seem the stongest to you are often not. Still, there is hope for us all, I suppose.
I read a new book the last couple of days. I really liked 1984 and Brave New World, but now that I have read We, I appreciate where these two books received their influence. Yevgeny Zamyatin is the name of the author, and I suggest it to you all. But it reminds me that all things have sources, causes. In much the same way as Zamyatin argues that their is always revolution, it seems that these revolutions must count back as well, to some beginning. And if there truly is no end to revolutions, and that ideals are only preventing the next from emerging as efficiently, then why do we so easily revere patriotism and doctrine? It seems that the human species has much learning to do.
And what about that beginning? What was the original revolution? Or would it simply be volution? Creation? Or perhaps even this first was the effect of the last. I'll let Zamyatin do the talking here:
Human history ascends in circles, like an aero. The circles differ--some are golden, some bloody. But all
are equally divided into three hundred and sixty degrees. And the movement is from zero--onward, to ten, twenty,two hundred, three hundred and sixty degrees--back to zero. Yes, we have returned to zero--yes. But to my mathematical mind it is clear that this zero is altogether different, altogether new. We started from zero to the right, we have returned to it from the left. Hence, instead of plus zero, we have minus zero.
Zamyatin is onto something here. I am not sure exactly what it is, but it seems to me that he understands that with the cycles of history, while they return to a beginning (a "revolution"), something truly new has begun. It is new even though it has a cause, a before, a past. Thus, nothing is truly independent, except for that theoretical Prime mover. But as Stephen Hawking has been known to theorize, even our Big Bang had to come from a "Big Crunch" of some prior universe. Perhaps the only constant is change--cause, effect, renewal.
Perhaps that is the answer; that with these losses of mine there is really a new beginning, a revolution of my own little world. Or perhaps it is that I should hope that the future will hold revolutions in how I relate to those who I once related differently. Perhaps it is both. Perhaps I am tired and am beginning to sound very cliche and amusing. Perhaps. And perhaps cliches are cliches for a reason...
A course in What?--11/3/01
Here's a thought: If the world didn't exist--that is to say that all physicality was an illusion--then where would the illusion come from. I mean, if the only thing that were real was the mind, and perhaps the collective mind, then how would the idea of the illusory world ever be conceived of unless it was somehow actually real, even if it was only part of the mind. In other words, if the things around me are only illusions and have no actual reality outside of my projecting them around me, then where would the ideas come from? I am sure you are wondering where such an apparant non-sequitor would come from; I was talking, last night, with a man who had been influenced by a book called "A Course in Miracles" where he was discribing the idealistic monism of the belief-system. I was trying to demonstrate philosophical reasons why ideal monism didn't make sense, and thought I would share a very simplistic version of my argument here. Essentially, his answer was that the illusion comes from the ego, which ultimately derives from the separation from God. Now, ignoring the apparent Neoplatonic/Gnostic ideology imbedded there, I still have to ask how this even apparent separation could even be conceived of. There must be some being that conceives of the separation or the separation has to be part of the shared mind of what he called "the holy spirit." The latter being a contradiction while the former is a strange twist of Cartesian philosophy which seems to support the existence of the self again, this time as a critique of idealistic monism a la A Course in Miracles. This reminds me of that diatribe I went on a while back about the lack of dualism, but in a non-physicalist/non-idealist manner which, I believe, avoids this problem of perceiver/perceived--the old problem of I and Thou that Martin Bubor brought up so long ago. . It's in the archives below, somewhere.
National Tragedy, death, and birth--9/17/01
Well, the last week or so has been very trying for many of us throughout the world, for us US citizens in particular. But for me, it has been more than terrorism and thoughts of war; it has also been new life and loss. There are certain things that happen to us in our lives that change us permenantly, one of those things happened to me over the weekend--I became a father. Now, unfortunately, the mother is my ex-fiance so it created a delicate situation. We separated months ago for reasons that are not relevant here, and kept in contact since then. At first, the plan was abortion, and saying that now makes me feel sick to my stomach because I would have missed holding my newborn daughter for the first time. I may be biased, but I believe that she is the most beautiful thing in the world (see for yourself). The decision to give her up for adoption was not easy, especially after seeing her, but I believe it was the best decision given the circumstances. Lack of love for her is not a reason, as both her mother and I were very distraught by seeing her go. The fact that her parents--me and my ex-fiance--are not together, is a reason. Another is my lack of financial ability to provide for her the way I feel she deserves, the same for her mother. And last, the adoptive parents; I am very thankful that these wonderful people are going to raise her. It is obvious that they love her very much, as they have been waiting for the day that they would have a child for many years. She will have a wonderful and full life.
The point of this? This is a very significant event in my life, and I doubt that a day will go by that I don't think about it and wonder how she is. In other words, it has changed me forever. For one, I am sure that when I am more prepared for it and I have someone in my life to be her mother, I know that I could not allow myself to miss the joys and pains of being a dad. Also, it made me look at women in a different light; while I think that I have had respect for women, now I will look at a woman and think about how this person is somebody's daughter. I know the way that I love my own daughter, and I would never want to love any woman less than their father would or less than I would love my own daughter.
This, as well as recent events in New York City and Washington, has given me a clearer and more intense view of life. It shows me that life is valuable, and that we shoud be seizing each day with vigor and energy. This is a very difficult mantra, but one that I will try for even in my state of sadness due to missing my daughter and the state of this country. Also, it shows the value of respect for people in general, which I always try, and sometimes fail, in showing. And because these experiences are not mine alone, I would urge others to consider this way of looking at the world. I know that there are many people in this world that have little respect for others, and many who do not give as much as they can to understand and respect each-other. I can only hope that people will begin to learn how to do these things without having to suffer any more losses in order to learn.
This makes me think about the reaction of people in this country to the tragedy that occurred last Tuesday. Why must a terrorist act have to occur for people to become willing to help each other? Why does our so-called natural tendency towards generosity only surface when the worst situations surface? This US culture, although multi-faceted, in very selfish and competative to the point of being sometimes exploitive. So when you hear that we should be trying to return to normal to show the terrorists that their efforts cannot stop our way of life, perhaps you should consider a few things. Is it that the terrorists hate freedom or is it that our culture has negative effects that make certain cultures irate with us? Should we merely be striving to go back to normal or perhaps improve ourselves and our culture? Yes, we should try to deal with terrorism and protect our country, but at the same time we should take these recent events and use them as a wake-up call for ourselves and our culture. I believe Gandhi said something to the effect of this; be the change you want to see in the world. I would add that first you need to accept that you and your culture may be at fault in some way, and that change may be necessary.
Diatribe on the state of the higher educational system--8/27/01
I was thinking about the college I graduated from last year (York College of PA), and how it seems that the more time went by, the less it seemed to care about such things as liberal arts, intellectualism, and philosophy in general. I believe that the President of the College was heard saying that he could not see how philosophy could be marketable, thus he didn't see the value in it. And surprise, surprise....when the head of the philosophy dept retired, he was not replaced. Granted, the head of the Humanities dept. is a Doctor of Philosophy, and a very good teacher, but it was just a sign that philosophy was being slowly put aside. The school did hire a new philosophy professor--he is a recent graduate of the graduate program at West Chester, which I found interesting considering that I am considering attending that very program, but he only teaches one class. Also, as I began my senior year in 1999 I noticed that I would not be able to take either more Latin or to begin ancient Greek, as the professor who could teach both was "let go" due to the "lack of need" of such a teacher. I know for a fact that there were enough students interested in both languages (especially Latin) to justify keeping him around. As a very close friend of mine has been known to say, it seems that more and more colleges are content to focus on teaching students how to work for somebody else. This is fine in itself (this is my addition, not hers), as this is what most people will do anyway, but isn't there more to education than getting a job?
I am not sure if this trend is due to the lack of interest on the part of students in general concerning the more "classical" modes of higher education--such as philosophy, languages, and literature--or if it is the schools trying to capitalize on the money they can make from students, thus keeping the curriculum to a minimum. My feeling is that it is both; a viscious cycle that has been going around since the beginning of the last century, if not earlier. I think that this trend was significantly aided by the evolution of mass media that has taken much of our attention away from books, conversation, and the use of our imagination to entertain ourselves and each-other. The warm glow of the fire around which our ancestors once sat to tell stories has been replaced by the colder glow of the boob-tube.
Not that I or most people are immune from it. I watch television on occasion. I enjoy the Simpsons and a good hockey game. I will occasionally catch a random movie on Comedy Central or even a sitcom on a Tuesday (for example) night if I have a headache or lack on inclenation to read or go out. But it seems that many people are bitten by the television bug, almost addict-like tendencies of the daily fix. Perhaps I am exaggerating...I hope I am....
I conclude with an urge to read a good book soon if you have not in a while. Try something out of my books section of this site, perhaps you might just learn something (or at least be amused by my reading habits).
Misanthropy and other fun topics--4/19/01
This is not so much a recent thought as it is a re-kindled one. Imagine this: All of a sudden, and the same time all over the planet, every human being shares a single consciousness. We share the culmination of all experiences, perceptions, knowledge, etc for, say, 5 minutes--maybe even as long as an hour or two. For those familiar with Star Trek, you will recognize the Borg influence here, and everyone else is probebly thinking I am talking about some Swedish thing...
Anyway, the thought is this; what would happen after this link was severed, after our individual consciousnesses were reset to their "normal" setting? I ask this with a number of things in mind. One is the impact of things like philosophical questions of mind. How would such an experience act as a shared test or data set for learning more about what perception is, and how it may differ from one person to another. What will it do for the world's religions? What happens when the world's faithful come into contact with the knowledge of skeptics and when skepticism comes into contact with religious experiences? What happens when the Hindu views the faith of the Christian and Moslem at the same time as their own? What happens when the ignorant and philosophically blind are faced with existential experiences of those that are aware of a different perception of the world? What happens when a sheltered and innocent mind--say that of a young teenager or child--is exposed to the pornographic thoughts and desires of a sexually compulsive mind? What happens when We know all the truths behind every conspiracy, ad campaign, and secret goverment experiment all over the world?
Now that I have opened up a very large can of worms, I would like to offer some thoughts, but not about all these questions. What struck me as very interesting to think about here is what will happen when certain people who are not learned, experienced with depth of thought, or intelligent, come into contact with the mind that sees the world through different eyes. I see the world through different eyes than most people. I am not easily fooled by attempts at subliminal or associative ttechniques used in advertising, I don't participate in much popular culture, I prefer reading to television (unless hockey is on...then it depends on who is playing and if it is the playoffs or not), etc. What happens when the average Joe or Jane on the street, who has almost no experience with philosphical thought, ideology, etc is suddenly aware of what I and other philosophically minded people are aware of? (I know that they practice some philosophy, but they are not aware that they are doing it, or that other ways of thinking exist, generally).
I think there are some possibilities that deserve attention. One is that they might simply go partially, and perhaps simply temporarily, insane. I think, for a little while, we all would. But I wonder if it would be played off later as some kind of dillusion or dream. I wonder if most would just try to forget that it happened and move on with the daily routines. What if it was for a day or a week? what then?
Another possibility is that it could lead to some world-wide scientific-religious-spiritual-psychological revolution. Wait, we are talking about human beings here--they would probably respond thus; well, that was interesting...what's on TV? Ok perhaps this would just be the typical American response, or am I still being pessimistic about human potential? Anyway, a few helpings of food for thought. I might try to tackle these issues at a later time. Shaun
In response to this, someone said that she thinks that people are already generally aware of things, but simply don't care. Apathy, the American motto. Along the same lines, another friend said that I am underestimating people's sophistication, and. Perhaps these ideas should tell me that perhaps people are aware, but they just don't care. What can I do about it, right?
I am not so sure. I still think that most people are in a lot of ways unaware, and that perhaps this ignorance is due to apathy. Yes, I am sure that there are also many people who are somewhat aware but apathetic anyway, but i still agree with my old Latin teacher that "the masses are asses." So, until I can talk to the average Joe or Jane on the street and not be stifled by their complete lack of coherent, intelligent, or even existent thought, I will still be somewhat pessimistic about people. So, all of you out there, prove me wrong...please!!!
Work ethics, epistemology, and logical fallacies, oh my!--4/7/01
Does anyone else feel that something is wrong with the idea of a corporate job that we get up and go to every day? I would not be able to take it, it would drive me insane. I identify with that guy in the movie "Office Space." I am not sure if I would concede that we were not meant to work in little spaces, as the movie said, because that implies there is some purpose. I cannot say whether we have a particular purpose or not, it seems that our ability to know things cannot penetrate that kind of thing with sufficient certainty for me. That is another problem that I play with, certainty of knowledge--epistemology, essentially. I am willing to say that I can't know anything absolutely, but this always leads into epistemological nihilism, and it really leads nowhere. So, as a good friend said to me once, let's just accept that and move on to talk about things anyway. But the problem is, where is the line at which it is acceptable to talk about uncertainty? What is the point where we, in a discussion of this sort, don't just concede lack of knowledge and accept common assumptions and actually discuss the epistemological issues? In other words, what is the most basic level of the discussion where skepticism is worth discussing?
I know many people will very rarely utilize skepticism. Others only use it towards things they have already rejected, but will refuse to consider it as a tool to evaluate their own ideologies. Some don't think that there is really an issue; that what we see is really what we get, and to think that we somehow cannot perceive correctly is just to doubt--it could be doubt of God's gift to perceive for some.
For me, the larger issue is where we believe things due to experience, but do not consider that our interpretation of them can be doubted. A common example, in my experience, is the argument that "I have a personal relationship with God, thus the Bible/Christian theology is true." Now, I am not arguing that the Bible is false, but I am trying to point out a common logical inconsistancy that people use. This is not a stab at Biblical Christians, because Moslems, Hare Krishnas, Atheists, Pagans, etc often use the same logical structure to their arguments. The example just happens to be the most recent in my experience. My point is that we must consider that although what we experience may actually be there, how we interpret it in relationship with a larger truth or idea may not be. It is a simple point that most can understand, but it is something that we should keep in mind in our own thinking as well as in our critiques of others. And yes, I think that it is ok to critique others, as long as it is done respectfully.
We make many choices in our lives that will often effect more than we realize at the time. Now, you will have to forgive any demontratable lack of coherence because I slept a grand-total of 2.5 hours last night. I am kept awake thinking about what I am supposed to be doing now. I know that mistakes I have made in the past are done with, and that is not the cause for my sleepless nights--at least not directly. It is the rememberence of things past (to borrow from Proust) that makes me think that perhaps I should be paying more attention to the present and its consequences.
I recently moved back to Philadelphia due to what I thought was a sufficient cause. The details, even an overview, are not relevant to this train of thought, but the fact that my whole lifestyle has been turned upside down is relevant. When your life suddenly takes an unexpected turn, it is at first simply numbing. You are not fully aware of the change at first. But as time goes by you begin to notice the things that are not there anymore, and you begin to wonder where it is going; when will be the next sudden change. The fact is that we never know. There are some changes that are planned, and the circumstances are similar in terms of adjustment, but it is particularly interesting to look at the possibility of the unexpected. On one level, it is scary, yet on another, it is almost adventurous. It seems that we, I at least, need to remember that the world is sometimes unpredictable. But this unpredictability is only really noticable when we are so used to predictability, which many of us are. (Ok, brace yourself, I am reaching into the cliche cabinet...). We need to stop being so predictable, I think, and follow the words that are the slogan of those that live and breath adventure; carpe diem.
For those unfamiliar with any Latin, it means 'seize the day.' Perhaps we are too careful in general. Not that we should disregard any measure of pre-thought or safety, but that we might want to stop worrying so much about the little things, and just enjoy life. Not every once in a while, not on Friday nights, but as a way of living. Generally, I would suggest that if you are going to do or be something, then be it. If you are a Chrisian, don't just be a Christian on Sunday morning. If you are going to be a writer, write! If you are going to be adventurous, and you want to enjoy life, don't set aside a week or two here and there to do it, just do it all the time.
Spring is here, and this is the time when people begin to go outside more, fall in love, start getting back into shape, etc. This is great and I look foreward to it all, but do it all year not just in the Spring. Do you notice--especially all of you from medium/large cities--how little people actually talk? Sometimes, if I am online at night I just find people and try to talk to them. Generally, I am not really that much of a "people-person," but I like to see what people are thinking, why, and what they do. I do this just to have a basis for comparison. Frankly, I don't like many people because it seems that thinking has become a lost art. People believe things without really thinking about them. In essence, people are too predictable. I have to ask myself; has it always been that way, or has something gone wrong to make this world inproportionally anti-intellectual? Here are a few quotes that I find relevant to this issue:
"people demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought, which they avoid" --Soren Kierkegaard
"In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are, in almost every case, gotten second-hand, and without examination." --Mark Twain
"Whenever people agree with me, I always feel I must be wrong" --Oscar Wilde
Well, it seems that not much has changed since these writers have lived and breathed. This last one is more misanthropic than I would go, but it shows the distain that some thinkers have had for the rabble, or even other thinkers. It says to the world, "you are stupid, thus if we agree, I must have erred. Well, now that I have gotten all the misanthropic thoughts out of my head, I am going to take a nap. Don't get me wrong, I like people. Sometimes I just wish that more people were willing to put more effort into thought and self-awareness. To borrow from KRS-ONE, its all about health, wealth, and knowledge of yourself. Shaun
I have been playing with the idea that the dualistic conception of the universe, which has played a very large part of Western religious and philosophical traditions, is due to the way our brain works. Now, I am not a neurologist, but from what I understand our brain functions in a somewhat binary sense. It means that we kind of comprehend or create meaning by setting things in relation to one-another. If this is so, I was considering that this process eventually tries to create a kind of distinction or contrast between concepts. Thus, we conceive our world dualistically.
Now, this does not mean that the world is not dualistic, necessarily, but it could mean that if the universe was not dualistic in an ontological sense, then we may not be able to be aware of that lack of dualsim, at least in normal consciousness. This reminds me of the Gnostic teaching that essentially says that the world was divided as soon as the first disctinction was made, and that the ultimate goal is to destroy this distinction and reestablish unity. In essence, it is saying that we should all be trying to become one with God. This should ring a bell for any Buddhists or Vedic Hindus out there, as well as Christian who have similar soteriological goals of atonement.
My thought eventually led me to the idea that maybe, just maybe, the universe was actually monistic. Now, this in itself is not shocking, but what if it was not materialistically monistic or even "ideally" monistic. What if the dualism that we perceive is true, to a point? What I mean is this; perhaps we do perceive the universe relatively correctly. That includes those who see spirit and divinity and those who are physicalists. What this might mean is that those things that people are sometimes arguing about--whether there is spirit and matter, only spirit, or only matter (or perhaps a triad?) are all essentially right, but only because that is the only way we can perceive it. Everyone is capable of conceiving of what we call spirit and matter, but perhaps some people, for whatever reasons, don't believe in one or the other for religious/philosophical reasons. But perhaps they are both actually there, and they are part of the same thing, same whole. Perhaps they just appear different to us because we can only perceive reality in a skewed sense. Essentially, spirit and matter are part of the same one thing (now you see why I like Spinoza so much) but that either we only perceive some things correctly or fully, or reality exists on different levels, even though all the levels are essentially the same substance. This could be compared to the theory about planes of existence and their relations to our various chakras, it could account for Neoplatonic thinking (which argues that things are real or divine/godly in degrees. They are ordered into a hierarchy and what is further away from god/"eternal ground," to borrow from Tillich, is what is less real.
For the atheists out there, don't think of it as a deity as much as some fundamental essence to what reality is. In fact, in my many discussions with atheists, I have determined that much of their arguments against god can simply be alleviated by not assuming a definition of God that one tries to prove or disprove. If we think of god as something essential or fundamental, like the Tao or even the "force," then perhaps theism is not so far off." That is all for now. Shaun