Archive for the ‘Humility’ Category

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The Great Gig in the Sky

June 9, 2009

“I think its time we compiled a list of places that we shouldn’t go.” – Maximo Park.

So here I sit, listening to Pink Floyd and Jazz music. I mindlessly go from thought to thought, and occasionally write. Yet as each thought rises from my mind it becomes too vague to exist outside me, and it dissipates. To grasp at it, is to destroy it outright, to let it go, is to let it drift away into the abyss of the physical world. I am here again, at the point I always come to, the point of reflecting on the mirror’s surface, the knowledge of knowledge, the knowledge of self.

In the name of unquenchable desire for knowledge many realms of thought have been explored and perhaps invented using this vague ancient defense as validation. Yet, as we focus our telescopes on the sky and trail our microscopes across strange alien fungi, we forget where knowledge comes from, to where it goes, and why we desire it to begin with.

We desire knowledge because we desire things like us – we desire ourselves. This is why we cherish such qualities as freedom and equality – the ability to make one’s self and to make others be like you. The greatest scientific discoveries in the world have always been immediately followed with questions that escape the realm of science. Until recently, this was a shame to even scientists.

Yet, this post is not an attack on science (like most of my others), it is instead an attack on everything – perhaps out of some metaphysical angst that must manifest itself as anger in order to make my feeble flawed soul feel empowered like some ancient Greek warrior. But none the less, I lash out violently at the entirety of my generation, in the process scourging myself.

How oft I failed to stop and understand my own argumentation. How oft have I walked the tight-rope between logic and emotion claiming clemency from either attack on the basis of its counter point. I am, after all, a lingual illusionist. The David Blaine of philosophers. The Criss Angel of poetics. Have I garnered anything but applause from my audience, who seeing the trick are convinced of magic, yet go home knowing that it can’t be true – despite any emotional response.

Just like everyone else when I finally settle back upon myself I cannot put a finger on where I am. (Anyone who tells you differently is one of two things. A liar, or an idiot). Yet, like most people I still claim a ‘selfhood’ to which I am obligated to be ‘genuine’. The tension between these two ideas gives the birth of such beautiful concepts as freedom, free will, and choice. I am concrete that changes. The result is the amazing ability to stroke the passions regardless of logic, and then collapse back into a world of 1+1 justifications. Proof. Poof.

The greatest pleasures arise from this tension and furthermore by this tension is magnified like an echo chamber. This equality of opposites within our souls allows the passions to win just often enough to make us miss it when its gone. Then in its victorious return it is all the more glorious. Furthermore, I am not entirely sure that this is a necessarily bad thing, but rather a misdirected good. Part of me wants to embrace this passionate side and perfect its music – while another part, the equality of reason, demands I embrace something “higher” – an emotion that is not without its own pleasure.

The result of continued friction and tension is, of course, orgasm. The release of the self in favor of one or the other. In the release there is always simultaneous guilt and pleasure, immortality and death, love and hate. The person is either truest or most false in the midst of this orgasm wherein the ‘pure’ form of the two sides is most dominant. But in so doing, in so stepping into purity, we have betrayed the things that got us there – the tension of two opposites. So have we become more pure by dissolving one side in favor of the other – or have we become less human because we have too much clarity. Perhaps we add this to the list of places we shouldn’t go. Perhaps we draw a map and mark it with an x. Perhaps we just sit here and listen to The Great Gig in the Sky.

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Midnight Contemplations

April 17, 2009

Why do we waste our time talking about a ‘perfect world’ when such a thing cannot be imagined?

I have grown so tired of theories that attempt to remove complexity, remove contradiction, and by doing so, remove humanity.

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The Valiant Never Taste of Death But Once

March 30, 2009

“I do not fear death. I fear that I may somehow inadvertently or purposefully bring it about.” – My paraphrasing of Timothy Holmes.

I wish I could take credit for this extreme lucidity and eloquence when I responded to the same question… I cannot. Though I did answer the question in a similar way: “No I do not fear death. I fear the deaths of others”. I for one have always confronted the idea of death with more curiosity than fear – even the darkest hours of my atheism whereupon I still agreed that the deaths of my loved ones was far more painful than my own death.

This question did arise rather suddenly and externally when myself and Mr. Holmes participated in an interview wherein the subject of death was discussed in relation to spirituality and politics. It is important, beyond the urging of my words, that we understand the entirety of modern politics is based around death and the complete desire to avoid it at all costs. Beginning with Machiavelli, and then Hobbes, and finally with Locke the idea of death becomes the foundation of rights. Natural rights flow from the nature of death.

Death’s introduction to the political order makes any answer extreme. Since our idea of life, and it’s rights, are based on death – killing becomes either grim natural reality or perverse execution. In reality it is neither.

“Death is the respite from life. It is possibly joyous and maybe even preferred.” (again another paraphrase – Tim please send me the actual quotes if you can remember them and I will errata this entry). Death as respite is something I could never believe as an atheist (though many have tried to put forward a similar concept). This understanding does come about it is in the esoteric writings of select secular philosophers who then get misquoted and misunderstood by others. It is equally important that we understand that such a concept can never be the popular understanding of the masses in a secular state.

This is not a defense or justification of religion – it is reality. The post-enlightenment birth of secular states coincides with political revolution based on the concept of death. The two need each other. If we are to understand death in a Hobbesean or Lockean way then we must see it as flowing from nature and to be the subject of reason. Thus the state shouldn’t indulge itself in the particular mythologies of churches. Thus we arrive at our modern state.

Modern religious freedom creates an accepting environment by refusing to have any religious beliefs. Thus when confronting issues of death the state must make decisions without metaphysical guide posts. This has a tendency to make the regime either act too brutally or too late. Almost every war since the Enlightenment has been a total war, an ideological war, and a devastating war. The wars have been so gruesome that even the “good guy’s” virtue was often clouded or downright abandoned. America entered the war late to save American lives – then they ended it early by dropping two nuclear weapons. Again to save American lives. Here is not the time to discuss just war theory but it is important to point out this phenomenon historically.

But here is the not the time to talk about such politics either. It is the time to point out the reasoning of a secular state. Reason, as it turns out, is no different than blind faith. It indulges itself, justifies itself, and is often used to do all sorts of bad things. Is fighting over democracy abroad any different than fighting for the glory of God? Our love of democracy is based only on post-enlightenment reason that is ultimately based on a new death theology.

What I am about to say is perhaps the most extreme thing I have ever committed to public dissection. Perhaps death isn’t all that big of a deal. Perhaps life (as we know it) isn’t all that big of a deal. It seems the greatest virtues eventually push individuals to put their own lives out of the picture. Ultimate humility, ultimate courage, and even ultimate justice sometimes demand a lack of regard for one’s own life. We are going to die. So don’t waste time fearing your death but rather fear you have not lived. Fear that you will die alone sitting watching the TV. Fear that you will have never changed another person’s life for the better. Fear that no one will mourn your death.

This idea is also dangerous. For once you realize the meaningless of death you no longer have the whip of the slave driver. The clear direction to the stars is cut short of its gravity and you’re left to drift in an apparent void. The temptation is to dive into meaningless and arbitrary faith – do not do this. This is not a justification for such irresponsibility. The fight is hard and it may flirt with that old slave driver like a mistress. It may find the bitter sting of the whip pleasant and what was once your master is now your ally. This is the most tempting and problematic effect of this new belief – one that for ages lead antiquity to the heights of greatness.

In the end, it is most likely our proximity to death that allows us to transcend and understand the things beyond our body. Only in the comfort of science could we embrace cold unfeeling atheism. Only with the soft despotism of the television could we finally give up the freedom we fought for. Only in the age of medicine and health could we devote our lives to living healthily only to realize too late that we never did anything with our 75 years. This proximity fueled our pre-science ancestors in the Renaissance who watched a great empire fall, a plague strangle Europe, and a 100 year war over a holy land they’d never see. They saw it every day and they clawed with clenched hands at the dark sky to let some light through.

The enlightenment itself started in the mild rumblings of an Earthquake in Lisbon. Such tremors have shaken the world and crumbled entire foundations. We now fear death or worse, we ignore it. But why? For what good does all this fretting and worrying do? Do we not shake the earth so badly that the ghosts of Lisbon pity us? Do those wraiths sit somewhere beyond it all fearing that one day they will be thrown back into a body and reintroduced into the fear of our skin? Perhaps I will ask them when I meet them. Perhaps they don’t even know the movement that started in their name. In which case I won’t tell them, I won’t make them worry about us, I’ll just ask about the weather or how the weather used to be.

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Absence From Those We Love Is Self From Self – A Deadly Banishment.

November 20, 2008

People, despite the desire of the misanthrope, are defined and made individual precisely because of others. Independence, as we come to find through age, means depending more and more on a select group of others. This selection must be more narrow than everyone but more than nobody but, besides that, we know little about the best possible form of communication with each other. We are born into relationships, flourish in relationships, are educated in relationships, grow old in relationships, and everyone wishes to die in the arms of those who love them. That group of lovers might be small or large, but everyone wants someone to love them.

This may seem relatively obvious and I hope it does. You see, like most foolhardy scholars I aim toward developing an ontology that I can live my life by but more importantly I hope to show others a better ontology (preferably my own) in hopes to contribute back to the web of relationships that brings me here. The above paragraph can be considered a thesis – the thesis of human relations as the core of individuality. It seems obvious to most humans but has certainly taken heavy criticism throughout the years. Both the adherence and the rejection of such a thesis finds its roots in the natural contradiction of the human person – a contradiction I have alluded to over the past year in this blog and hope to elucidate here.

Man desires to be with others but also desires to be chosen from the group as an essential component. That is to say that every person identifies themselves with a group but desires that from among that group they are special, perhaps talented, gifted, or great. Every person desires to be more than simply a member of any group and often this desire turns against the group. The easiest way for man to ascend is to force other people under their foot. Hence we arrive at the struggle of history. It is the tension between individual and group that drives history.

Yet another exception with undoubtedly more to follow. Not only to we expect ourselves to be special and among the horde an exception but we also think such (or at least desire or even expect such) from our lovers and beloved. An example, no matter how childish, is the “my dad could kick your dad’s ass” playground argument. Though neither boy has knowledge of each other’s father, nor do they most likely understand the level of kick-ass-ness of their own, they have set forth a parameter that they hold to be other parameters and above all others in that category they have placed their father. This complex doesn’t stop at childhood physically speaking, though one could make the argument that this particular trait of humanity might only exist in the childish in spirit. This same principle arises in culture in nationalism, patriotism, and even racism (but that is a whole different can of worms).

The question at stake behind all of this is… what is selfhood? Such a question escapes every form of investigation except introspection and finds most of its answer tied to the question “who am I” or even “what am I”. Such investigation eventually leads one to the idea of a self and also the idea of what a human is writ large. Yet, since our self is very affected by our history, introspection takes us to a point wherein we begin to make assumptions based on personal experience about other people that we identify as human beings. The question then asserts itself that maybe there is rather little that actually binds us at all – perhaps we are unique and that is actually very horrifying.

The truly unique are without companion, without understanding and cannot be understood, they have neither contrast nor compliment, and are completely alone. In our case, if we are unique, we are unique individuals with physical symmetry. That is to say our bodies do not reinforce this assertion and in fact forces the opposite conclusion very often. Our bodies are not unique; they are different, but not unique. They have contrast and compliment, we all understand those physical processes, and bodies are not alone. In fact they come from two other bodies and usually join to other bodies as life goes on. Bodies are what we hold in common.

Thus we arrive again to the question. Introspection leads one to discover the ways in which we are particular, unique, and special (perhaps only for ego’s sake) while our bodies drive us toward neediness for others. So what is individuality? What are we? In what ratio do we find true humanness – whatever that means. Very often our resources are divided between goods of the body and goods of the soul – which do we tend to and when? Why do we feel alone? Why don’t we love everyone automatically? These are questions without answer and constitute the entrance to a highway of my theory. Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Things That Increase My Hope For Humanity Part I

September 19, 2008

Setting: Starbucks, late afternoon \ early evening, a mother and daughter are waiting for their drinks. Daughter is yelling things.

The mother says: “Honey, you can’t just say that. Words are important. Just because you’re joking that doesn’t give you the right to say it.”

Few people I have met defend the important use of language like this. Perhaps it is because she is a mother. I wonder if she follows her own example away from the children. I think as a society we need to push this issue more though. Far too many people get away with “I was just kidding” to mask a deep seeded dislike or inherent implied insult. Jokes, after all, are based in reality… and so are words. Would it really tax our brains that much if we made an effort to use words more appropriately?

Disclaimer: I am not saying that humor isn’t important, nor that one SHOULDN’T tell jokes, but that saying “I was only kidding” shouldn’t be a scapegoat when someone’s feelings are hurt. I am merely advocating a responsible use of language.

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Let Every Eye Negotiate For Itself and Trust No Agent

April 17, 2008

Why is it that when crisis occurs everyone who comes to help uses it as a stage from which they can promulgate their own cause? Even worse than this is that they genuinely feel that they are helping by slathering their ideological DNA over the issue until its cause, effects, and origin are obscured to all those concerned. In this age we cannot help others without helping ourselves – for this is the meaning of ideology.

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Education

February 20, 2008

It is everyone’s right to be educated. But it is the responsibility of the educator to know when to teach someone the truth, and how much of the truth they can handle at that moment.