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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mousetrap

 This was originally written a year ago.

The painted face, how real, how fake
Always tempting to say real, how much justice
In calling it more false than words.
It is but a painting

Aided by painted tongue
And painted praises
And painted company
And painted needs, belongings, emotions….

Palpable falseness….
To free reality from the hyperreal map
To tear it asunder and liberate the face
From its imaginings, its comfortable, pretentious smile

I remove the painting from upon the wall
From its high place and call it false
Then I point to the window it covered and say "Ah-ha"
The window be falsely colored, show me the color of the real world

I will not be made the fool.
Not by my fellow men, not be play upon like a pipe
Not contorted into a soulless machine made only to work endlessly
And produce more work for tireless tired generations to come sadly into being.

I do not open said window;
I tear it from its foundations
Climb the wall to oh glassy window which had been placed so highly.
The walls have ears but no mouth unlike the false face.

They hear without listening. The painted face spoke without speaking.
I must liberate myself, not be claimed by the wall.
I must remove the painted face, but not let its sticky surface capture me
And turn me into another false idol.

I will liberate myself through the hole I created.
No longer will false exercises hold me so tightly.
If I am to participate with the wall or the painting forever from my leap outside,
It shall be on my terms.

So I say unto the hearing wall, "Adieu!"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Values and Science

Many would have us believe values either come from religion or are baseless. In this post, I have several quotes about the negative response of that view. In Motivation and Personality, A. H. Maslow, a humanist psychologist, wrote:
This chapter [Higher and Lower Needs] will demonstrate that there are real psychological and operational differences between those needs called "higher" and those called "lower." This is done in order to establish that the organism itself dictates hierarchies of values, which the scientific observer reports rather than creates. It is necessary to prove the obvious because to many still consider that values can never be more than the arbitrary imposition upon data of the writer's own tastes, prejudices, intuitions, or other unproved or unprovable assumptions. (146)
Malsow is still relevant today. David Foster Wallace mentioned Maslow's value theory in April 2001 edition of Harpers, saying:
A true Democratic Spirit is up there with religious faith and emotional maturity and all those other top-of-the-Maslow Pyramid-type qualities that people spend their whole lives working on. (41-42)
Democratic Spirit aside, Wallace mentions religious faith among qualities to which people dedicate their lives. Wallace is only half right in his description of Maslow's pyramid. On one hand, Maslow said:
The higher the need the less imperative is for sheer survival, the longer gratification can be postponed, and the easier it is for the need to disappear permanently. (147)
Religious faith does postpone gratification, supposedly until after death. It is not necessary for survival unless the culture threatens violence or death for heresy or apostasy. Under this light, Wallace may have correctly referenced Maslow with religious faith, but Maslow also said:
The casting out of values from psychology not only weakens it, and prevents it from reaching its full growth, but also abandons mankind either to supernaturalism or to ethical relativism. (146) 
Religious faith would be an appeal to supernatural ethics as a guide, while Maslow, a humanist, rejects that as abandoning mankind. 


Albert Camus in his Myth of Sisyphus claimed that the leap of faith is philosophical suicide. Not only suicide was a problem, but the leap of faith justifies human suffering and injustice through theodicy. Camus was on the side of humans against the human condition. The difference between Maslow and Camus is that Camus has self-realized ethics (e.g. "I choose to live; therefore, I place a value on living.") while Maslow finds them with science. In The Rebel, Camus wrote of his down-to-earth ethic:
“They [the early nihilists of Russian socialism] called themselves materialists; their bedside book was Buchner’s Force and Matter. But one of them confessed: ‘Every one of us was ready to go to the scaffold and to give his head for Moleschott and Darwin,’ thus putting doctrine well ahead of matter...Doctrine, taken seriously to this degree, has the air of religion and fanaticism” (155).
“Therefore they [the early nihilists of Russian socialism] do not value any idea above human life, though they kill for the sake of ideas. To be precise, they live on the plane of ideas. To justify it, finally, by incarnating it to the point of death...We are again confronted with a concept of rebellion which, if not religious, is at least metaphysical. Other men too, consumed with the same devouring faith as these, will find their methods sentimental and refuse to admit that any one life is equivalent of any other. They will then put an abstract idea above human life, even if they call it history, to which they themselves have submitted in advance and to which they will decide, quite arbitrarily, to submit everyone else. The problem of rebellion will no longer be solved by arithmetic, but by estimating probabilities. Confronted with the possibility that the idea may be realized in the future, human life can be everything or nothing. The greater the faith that the estimator places in this final realization, the less the value of human life. At the ultimate limit, it is no longer worth anything at all” (170). 


A debate that happen October 5th between Sam Harris and Mark Oppenheimer, they discussed whether religion was a force of good in society. Mark Oppenheimer took the positive and said in his opening statement:
Religion responds to a deep, satisfying human need for ritual. And it often organises the human quests for ethics and meaning. To think about the common good, the purpose of life and how to live, it has proven useful to use religious stories or theology.
 Later Oppenheimer ends his argument with:
Finally, religion is fun. As a philosopher might say, it generates utility. Not everyone will enjoy reading religious books, or singing hymns, or puzzling over theological puzzles, or hunting for Easter eggs, or hearing a great sermon. And in a free society—the best kind—nobody has to. But for people who do enjoy these things, religion is certainly a force for good.
Sam Harris took the negative and said in his opening statement:
The important question is whether religion is ever the best force for good at our disposal. And I think the answer to this question is clearly “no”—because religion gives people bad reasons for being good where good reasons are available.
Harris ended his speech with:
What a person believes about the nature of reality matters—even when he or she is engaged in so simple a task as feeding the hungry. And wherever one finds unjustified beliefs appearing to bring benefit to humanity, it is generally easy to think of a set of justified beliefs that would bring greater benefit still. This is not an accident. Staying in touch with reality is rather useful. Which of the world's faiths can honestly claim to be doing that in the year 2010? 
I have provided different opinions, and I am convinced that secular morality is the way to go. There is still debate what kind of secular morality should exist. Of course morality should be reality-based, but can science determine it? I like the existentialist self-realization model but I am open to the arguments of Maslow and Harris. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I want to be, but I am

I am young.
Evil harms me; tears blind.
I want to be mature,
So I do not cry.
I am strong.

I am old.
Evil harms them; eyes see.
I want to be human,
But I cannot cry.
I am weak.

(Just a reflection piece)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sappy Weekend post #2

It is Saturday again, and I am a-thinkin about creators, performers, and happiness.

I do not believe in a creator but many creators. Those who write, who make do-dads, and who provide that which makes us happy. Though some creations come from nothing but the creator's self, I prefer creating from what already exists that way I am thankful to those who provided the resources for my little creations. The best way to be thankful is to be happy. Those who thank the creators have returned the favor. For myself at least, to be thanked wholeheartedly motivates me to create.

Performers inspire emotions in an audience. If the performance is good than the audience should leave feeling that they have spent their time wisely. A good performance is based on a kind of wisdom, which I cannot explain without seeming sappy. Performers are like creators in the sense that they connect to those who benefit from their work.

I make my life performance where I connect to those around me. Nothing is worse to me than giving someone a substandard time. Whether it is by being annoying or long-winded, these bring resentment, the opposite of thankfulness. A performance-based morality where one aims to improve the lives of others through consciousness and wisdom of acting properly. When one knows who ones audience is and how to act, that person is capable of doing good. A Christian may say who is your neighbor, and I say who is my audience, who do I affect.

Creators have a bit more solitude. They may never see or hear from those who benefit from their work. Hard as it sounds to be a creator, this added dimension has its blessings. The creator may actively search out his readers or fans. A creator may be happy knowing his work continues to help those after he has died. He may even create a new universe in his work that has a happy ending and let meaning escape into it. This escapism would allow the creator to be able to handle his own mortality if the universe he creates has this eternal happiness. Their are also selfish reasons to write articles and make toys, which is just part of reality I have to accept. I personally want to know what others think of my work in the sense that I will improve it to ensure a good read. The greatest sadness of such a route is that not all can be please by one person or by my messages. Many people also have to find happiness themselves; in there case, my work is powerless.

Well, a strange piece on my thoughts this weekend.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My philosophy…

My philosophy…

Life is a story with no main character, no clear beginnings and no clear endings.
If I explain who I am I could discuss my parents and their parents and so on because that is very important to the question: who I am. What makes Socrates so important is his impact on history from his death onward.

There are things you are never prepared to hear in your life like: “You have cancer.” You will be thrown into a world you no longer understand. I have only felt that anxiety when I had the mindset that the world decides my fate. Acceptance transforms us from victims of change to citizens of change. Our stories are what we make in life and will become meaningful once we know ourselves.

Truth with a capital T belongs to humans. It is the truth we make through imagination and living our daily lives. When a Truth becomes real to oneself, it is a story. A Truth may be falling in love or standing up after falling down. But remember there is no ending, so the happiness and sadness must be taken as it comes.

I cherish my sadness. I can barely remember when I last cried, but I can feel the sadness I hold from knowing stories of this world. I fancy myself an information broker of sorts. I have learned a great deal in my short life that I feel a bit old. I share sadness with the people in silence and in conversation. Though I may express a lack of knowledge regarding the heart, I am coming to terms with a human Truth of being in a world which has told me its fears but I have yet to tell it I understand.

It is the job of the writer to hear the world and tell its stories. I have stories of all shades of emotion, but I still am learning them as they unfold in the lives around me. Telling the world its stories is my thanks to all that live. Sometimes beauty really is beauty even if one cannot make it into something other than poetry.

Philosophy means love of wisdom. There is place for philosophy of the ultimate nature of reality and room for how life is lived. I do not blame people for not loving wisdom. There is much to love in this world, so much for the better.

Vanity has its place. I have one vanity in particular. I want to smile when the day comes that I must die. This does not mean I will not fight against the injustices of the world. It is probably because I feel lucly to have lived despite the plague.

This is our philosophy I believe.