Posts Tagged ‘Sartre’

The Pros and Cons of Che Guevara

January 30, 2010

Hey, it’s Che Guivara – In 1959 Guevara adopted formally the nickname Che and was granted honorary Cuban citizenship. He was visited by such intellectuals as de Beauvoir, and Sartre who saw in him the “most complete human being of our age”.

Before he was shot, Che said: “The decisive moment in a man’s life is when he decides to confront death,” Guevara once said. “If he confronts it, he will be a hero whether he succeeds or not. He can be a good or a bad politician, but if he does not confront death he will never be more than a politician.”

Tish (a friend on Facebook) comments:

I don’t think Che was such a good guy. He was a murderer:

And even the article you reference says: “Guevara opposed the right of dissidents to make their views known even within the Communist Party itself” And he calls Stalin a friend… Stalin murdered more people than Hitler. Huh? He was a murderer, by… his own words: “To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary…These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the pedagogy of the The Wall! (El Paredón)”

William replies:

I was not aware that Americans feel so strongly about murderers or about suppressing dissident viewpoints? I honestly do not believe that America will survive its current enemies unless they become a little less squeamish about the taking of human life and a lot more murderous. Was Truman a murderer? Was Nixon a murderer? Is Bush a murderer? When we are killing for a worthwhile cause we consider our actions noble and heroic. A college student in India taunted me saying “Oh you Americans must REALLY hate Che.” I said “On the contrary, we love such colorful figures and wear tee-shirts emblazoned with their image. As a matter of fact we love a figure such as India’s Phulan Devi the bandit woman whom the government never defeated.” He was not too happy when I threw Phulan Devi in his face. I watched the

    Motorcycle Journals

which seemed to portray Che in a positive light. For centuries now people have admired the murderer Caesar and the murderer Achilles. I imagine there is no shortage of cultures in this world who see USA as a monster and would rejoice at America’s annihilation. Who is a monster and who is a superhero depends on how you define evil.

Murder is the art which keeps a roof over our heads. Some murderers are more charismatic and lovable than others. Hannibal Lecter would not be so popular if we did not secretly admire something about his character.

Consider DEXTER as a current anti-hero role model

Dexter, the protagonist (played brilliantly by Michael C. Hall) is a serial killer, but he only dispatches murderers. He is eradicating deadly monsters, but he is not doing it out of a love of justice, but because HE is a monster as well who must have an outlet for what he calls his “Dark Passenger.”

The question then is: is there a line somewhere that cannot be crossed? After all, Dexter does wrong, but he only does it to people who the audience is made to feel deserve it. Could a show be made about a serial killer with no redeeming qualities at all? Could a drama be a hit if it were to focus not on gray anti-heroes, but on absolute villains?

Dexter is not the first murderer to get the audience on his side (Hannibal Lecter did that, too) but he is forgiven his faults because fans of the show know what he’s dealing with and maybe some small part of them wishes they could take vengeance on those who are evil.

Rommel, the Desert Fox, has much to be admired. He treated his prisoners humanely. He ignored orders to persecute Jews. Rommel failed in an attempt to assassinate Hitler. Hitler admired Rommel so much that he allowed Rommel to commit suicide rather than be charged and executed.

The history of humanity is the history of murder. The first crime in Genesis is Cain killing his own brother, Abel.

We glamorize people who embody some quality that we admire and make them into a hero. The touchstone of heroism is when a movie is made or a book is written which gains a lasting audience in history. We are all murderers at heart. We spend our spare time watching entertainment which teaches us 10,000 different ways to kill someone and get away with it.


Why Should We Write?

January 30, 2010

Two Facebook friends say that readership must be the main motive to write and readership results only if one writes something great or something controversial.

My reply:
Controversy becomes dated and is short-lived. Nowadays only historians discuss the Teapot Dome scandal. Besides, we should write for ourselves primarily. Readership should be secondary. Writing is an extension of oneself; an alembic which concentrates our ideas and feelings into the meta-person of our authorship. Salman Rushdie observes that each novel takes on a life of its own. Camus calls posterity “a paltry eternity.” Harper Lee was “a one book wonder” (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) who has remained silent ever since. Socrates says that misology is closely related to misanthropy. Sartre wrote an essay about “why we write.”


Sartre says, of style, that “[e]veryone invents his own, and one judges it afterward. It is true that subjects suggest the style, but they do not order it. There are no styles ranged a priori outside of the literary art”.

Sartre claims that “the function of the writer is to act in such a way that nobody can be ignorant of the world and that nobody may say that he is innocent of what it’s all about” (ibid. 321). Sartre here seems to be implying that there is some sort of truth which the author has access to which is conveyed to a reader through the medium of fiction (for how can one alleviate anothers ignorance without having some access to truth?).

Sartre makes a distinction between two different ways of artistically portraying objects: (1) as signs (that is, representations of ideas) and (2) as things (where we focus on the thing being portrayed as opposed to what the thing symbolizes). For example, we may consider a flower. One may either consider a white rose as a sign of fidelity, or conversely, one can consider the rose as a thing in itself; one can become lost in the texture and shape and sensation of perceiving a flower.

Prose,” Sartre says, “is, in essence, utilitarian” (ibid. 316). Prose is meant to get things done; it’s meant to be an action in itself but it is also meant to be a catalyst for further action.

“The writer can guide you and, if he describes a hovel, make it seem the symbol of social injustice and provoke your indignation” (ibid. 306) such that you are moved to act. That is the purpose of prose writing, according to Sartre.

Camus said that “a novel is never anything but a philosophy expressed in images. And in a good novel the philosophy has disappeared into the images. But the philosophy need only spill over into the characters and action for…the plot to lose its authenticity, and the novel its life”


I’m a writer. I write every day of the year. Even when I have no pending client work cluttering my desk, I never allow the sun to set without the jotted thoughts of my day, for the best moments of each earthly orbit should never be abandoned. Of course I carry my own quirks and struggles. Writing isn’t always as fluid as I like, clients aren’t always as easy as I hope, and my string of successes and mountains of money are no doubt a tad late to the party. But I would never call myself tortured. Writing is expression and I’ve found myself fortunate enough, midway through my third decade, to find the pleasure of doing it for a living.

The Socratic Method

November 20, 2009

William: you know, love and deep friendship is definitely possible in cyberspace
William: you and I, Steve and you, are proof
William: me and Krishna, me and Geetanjali

Aida yes

– Friday November 20 2009, 04:57 –

William: lunch time?
William: I am now in my beloved Ubuntu operating system

Aida I just had lunch
Aida today is weekend
Aida how are you?

William: went to sleep at 9 pm and woke up at 3am

Aida wow

Aida what time is it there now

William: excited to be making progress in learning Linux
William: almost 5am in New York. What time is it there in Iran?

Aida it is 1:30 pm here in Tehran

William: did you have lunch

Aida do you know how I can use Socratic method?

Aida yes I did.

William: you mean, you desire a tutorial in use of socratic method

Aida yes

William: i would liken it to Zen Buddhist Koan method

William: which means that books which instruct in Koan, give insight into socratic

William: in a nutshell: Socrates has TWO nick names in the dialogues

Aida I want to extract the truth in myself and people without offending them and as if they have discovered it themselves

Aida yes?

William: one is NARKE which means sting-ray, it is where we get our work NARCOTIC

William: because Socrates NUMBS his interlocuter into APORIA, which means cul-de-sac, no-way=out

Aida haha

William: he does this by a technique called ELNENCHYS, which means refutation
Aida refutation?what is it

William: and it is part of a process called DIALECTIC which Plato likens to a weavers loom with WARP AND WOOF, threads at 90 degrees
Aida what is warp and woof

William: ok… hypothetically, lets say that YOU are prepossessed or convinced of some position

William: it might be regarding a medical treatment

William: or, political issue

William: or whatever

William: so, by means of dialogue, question and answer,

William: i maneuver you into the position where you contradict yourself

William: and i help you to reach a BLANK WALL, in which you suddenly FREELY admit to yourself and others that you did NOT really know what you took for granted

Aida can we practice that

Aida but what if am smart enough?

William: now, socrates is also called MID-WIFE

Aida I know

William: in the sense that he helps people GIVE BIRTH to understanding

William: but, there is a joke in plato about WIND EGGS
Aida yes?

William: IN nature there are times when a bird does lay an empty egg
William: which has nothing but air inside

William: but it is also a pun on FLATULENCE
William: in other words, if someone is full of shit… they give birth to fart
William: so, it is a bit of platos humor

Aida haha

William: now, the very best way is to actually read the dialogues

Aida but socrates thinks we are all full of wisdom but we have forgotten the truth we carry

William: one brief dialog with Meno, Socrates attempts to prove that mathematical knowledge is inherent even in an uneducated slave boy

William: so, Socrates takes a slave boy, and questions him about a geometric issue of triangles
William: socrates seems to demonstrate that, through eliciting questions, the slave boy arrives at the true answer….
William: for Socrates, this means that the soul has pre-existence…
William: otherwise where would such understanding come

– 05:07 –
Aida interesting.
Aida do you think he is right?

William: second, Socrates (plato) sees geometric and mathematical truth as EXISTING as IDEAL FORMS (eidos) or plural EIDEI

William: WELL, this is very interesting, Einstein and Kurt Godel were friends, and mathematicians

Aida yes?

William: Kurt Godel passionately believed that the elements of number and geometry had some real existence in another dimension

William: whereas, Einstein saw them as ad hoc tools

Aida what is ad hoc?

William: and not having any sort of Platonic existence as ideal forms

William: ad hoc is latin for TOWARDS THIS END OR GOAL

William: IT is a contrivance or tool, a means to and end, and once the end is acheived, the tool is discarded

William: Wittgenstein speaks of this in Tractatus

William: Wittgensten says that we construct a LADDER of sorts, which is some ad hoc method, for us to ascend to some higher plane of understanding, and once we arrive, we push away and discard the ladder

William: same with Mahayana buddhism….

Aida we invented geometry and numbers etc

William: Samsara is the 10001 things in life which mess our minds…
William: the VEHICLE or boat, is a contrivance of ideology, which helps us arrive at the other shore

William: but ONCE WE ARRIVE we leave the boat behind
William: the boat was not the end, but only a means to an end

Aida yes

William: one sees this symbolism in Homer, when Odysseus is advised to take a ships oar (for rowing), place it on his shoulder

Aida but it mattters a lot in the beginning

William: and begin a pilgrimage to some distant unknown land

– 05:12 –

William: he is told that eventually, someone who has never seen the ocean will ask him what that strange object (the oar ) is

William: when THAT happens, then he must plant the oar in the ground, and make a sacrifice, and he will be purified

William: now, of course, Homer is mythos,…. but the story is very useful for us to understand the ad hoc nature of language and axiomatic systems

Aida I dont understand

William: and, sometimes, we make the error of seeing THOSE as an end in themselves, with a substantive reality

Aida why should he plant the oar
Aida and how he will be purified

William: well, the oar is a TOOL, which is only useful at sea, to propel a ship

William: but, in a desert, it is useless

Aida yes

Aida like religion which is useless in this century

William: so, in life, and in cultures, we often see that individual or even nations, cling to something which was really meant as a transitional tool

Aida yes

Aida like money ,,,

William: for example, in pre-history, before writing, there was only discourse and oral tradition

William: around a campfire

Aida how exciting

William: THEN writting was devised

Aida else I could talk to nietzsche and plato

William: THEN, the liveliness of the tradition kind of DIED, as the redacted and codified text became something SACRED in itself

Aida they dont move around my campfire

William: which is a form of idolatry
William: and your example of money is excellent
William: in pre-history, no money, but communal tribal survival where there is no concept of private property
William: and the SHARING means survival of the small struggling group or species
William: THEN money as coins of precious metal is devised

Aida but lets not get distracted from our aim which was to learn socratic method
Aida but lets not get distracted from our aim which was to learn socratic method
Aida dialectics.

William: then, love of people is replaced with love of money, and people become a MEANS to an end , rather than an end in themselves

William: now, Kant says that once people become only a MEANS to an end, that is the source of the unethical

– 05:17 –
Aida I wonder if there is an end even.

William: and Azar Nafisi, in “Reading Lolita in Tehran” offers the notion that the Iranian Govt. does to its people what the old man in Lolita, Humbert Humbert does to little Lolita

William: namely, he OBJECTIFIES her

William: she is no longer a person, with a life of her own, to be nurtured

Aida what do you mean objectify

William: but instead she is an object, a possession, for him to hold on to for his own gratification

Aida yes men usually think that way of their wives

William: when we love another in a non-erotic sense, as a parent for a child, we are not selfish, we endeavor to lead the child to INDEPENDENCE, which naturally involves their distancing themselves from us

Aida they forget they are similar human beings who have to live their lives.

William: to lead a life of their own

Aida well usually parents cant take that independence without suffering

William: that is why in old testament bible in genesis, in early pages, it says that the children leave the parents and cling to the new spouse

William: so, what we selflessly love, we are willing to give up one day, for the sake of their independence

William: but a selfish love is treating person as OBJECT for our own needs, and so, we do not EMPOWER them towards independent self-hood
Aida yes..I always thought what is the use of me getting mom sacrificed her life to prepare everything that is needed for my growth?and development and what is the point of me leaving her
William: a modern expression of socratic method is exemplified by that one psychotherapist, i will think of name in a minute, who wrote “On Becoming a Person”

Aida oh
Aida is it a book

William: he developed a technique of REFLECTING back to the patient, like a mirror, what the patient was really trying to say.

William: i think i must google on his name
Aida yes please
William: Carl Rogers

– 05:23 –
William: and his technique is Rogerian

Aida aha

William: in otherwords, often, in discourse, we do not really LISTEN well to the OTHER person

William: we are anxious to express our SELF , our own notion
William: BUT, if we become Rogerian, we act as a MIRROR, for that person to explore their true feelings

Aida that is true.I talked with my boyfriend today. and realized myself doing that.

Aida so he got bored and left.!

William: we reflect BACK to them, in slightly different words, what we perceive them to say

Aida I usually try to be the mirror.but sometimes I like to be seen find myself in others

William: AND we act in a positive manner, as if we agree, as if they are really helping us to understand something

Aida yes perfect

William: but in reality, we are allowing ourselves to serve as a kind of SCAFFOLDING to help them construct their own edifice or building of self

Aida true

William: but you see, a builders SCAFFOLD, the bars and ladders that allow the builder to scale the walls and roof of the structure

Aida but the problem is

William: they are AD HOC

Aida usually people do not talk what we like to talk about
William: and when the edifice is finish, the scaffolding is dismantled and perhaps discarded

William: well, you see, for example… with you and me….. you suddenly ask about socratic method

Aida how can we lead the conversation to some meaningful subject
Aida yes.but you are my type.

William: so, i transform myself into an instrument , a tool , which can possibly help lead YOU to your own conception , understanding, of socratic method

William: but, to be such a teacher, a socratic teacher, requires the ability to shift into a selfless non-egoistic mode

– 05:28 –
William: i must take one minute to refil humidifier for wife, and give her pill for thyroid be right back

Aida sure

William: back, quick like a bunny

Aida hi

Aida is she fine?

William: Bertrand Russell commented that all of the history of philosophy is but a footnote to PLATO

Aida what does it mean

William: she wakes up, takes thyroid med, sleeps for an hour more, and then she can eat

William: well, it is very helpful to read Bertrand Russell’s History of Philosophy

Aida yes am reading that

William: to gain grand overview of western philosophy

Aida I have read half of it

Aida but then decided to read each philosopher

William: now, Russell means that, in essence, Plato posed everything, every problem, issue that the next 2500 years has attempted to address
Aida about him there first and then his works

– 05:33 –
William: and he is quite correct, regarding the west

Aida that is perhaps true

William: BUT, One cannot make the same claim about EASTERN, buddhist, hindu, taoist, philosophy

Aida why not?

William: now, one CAN claim this about Arab Islamic thought in the sense that they were heavily influence by Aristotle, and preserved the greek writings for the west

William: ah, hmmm…. well, that would take me some time to put into laypersons terms

William: the DIFFERENCE between platos west, and the east, likes hidden in the understanding of JAIN philosophy, and taoism

William: as two repositories

Aida i dont know much about eastern philo

William: BUT, east and west come together in 20th century with the workers in relativity and quantum

William: as a matter of face, on physicist, a personal friend of einstein, designed his own heraldric emblem based upon the YIN YANG symbol

Aida yes?

William: and, during the lifetime of einstein, kurt godel, max plank, heisenberg, and the other fellow whom i forget, with the yin yang heraldry

William: they debated about the eastern vs western ways of understanding reality,….

William: so for first time in history it came together
Aida interesting

William: one may also gain insight into the merging of east and west by reading the writings of… oh my, i just had his name, aha…. Radhakrishnan

– 05:38 –
Aida is he indian?

William: who was a prime minister of India, but also, a consummate scholar of both eastern and western tradition

William: yes, an Indian scholar, prime minister for a period

William: i have a collection of modern essays ABOUT the works of Sarvapal Radhakrishnan

William: you see how my memory skips like record with a scratch
William: that is why google helps so much

William: like, i google on “the making of a person” and come up with Carl Rogers name

Aida your memory is amazed

William: i cannot retain everything at once
William: no one can

Aida true
Aida am reading about how to improve memory
Aida how to use mneomonics?

William: it has to do with something called MULTIMIND which was coined by Robert Ornstein, a researcher into the psychology and physiology of consciousness, in the 1970s along with Charles Tart

Aida how can you have a multimind

William: you see, in the human brain, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny
William: so, we have multimind structures, from very primative to most advanced, and they are multitasking

Aida what do you mean by ontogeny and phylogeny

William: so, at same time as we philosophize about ethics, another part is a neanderthal seeking food, violence

William: ok,… consider the development from embryo to child to adult

Aida yes?

William: each stage of development in womb, the ONTOLOGY or becoming… emulates the evolutionary PHYLOGENY

William: kingdom, phylum, class , order family genus species
William: which is Linnaeus
William: in the 17th century

William: and, curiously , it resembles certain operating systems and sofware products

– 05:43 –
Aida ontology means development of the person?

William: which of necessity, preserve backwards compatibility to earlier platforms

William: well, ontos means being existence palpable reality
William: logos means reason, understanding , expository expression in language

William: so the logos of the ontos , is an account of BECOMING
Aida and phylogeny is?

William: in platos Timaeus, BECOMING is the middle ground between non existence and BEING

William: phylos is a family or tribe

Aida interesting!

William: but, first are ancient seas, with millions of years of lightening striking the chemical laden waters
William: until, organic compounds form
William: and those begin to acquire a behavior, like a meme, to replicate
William: and those become bacteria, which is quite different from a nucleated cell
William: the bacterium has no nucleus but had the ribosome directive activity

Aida yes and

William: so, right now, we use the various classes of bacteria, as laboratories to understand synthesis

Aida this is ontogeny?

William: but the ONTOLOGY, or evolutionary development, over eons
William: produces various levels or phyla of organisms

William: and in the GENOME study, we can quantify the similarity and different

William: BUT, each new stage, bears deep within the markings, the heritage, of earlier stages

Aida this is not true

– 05:48 –
William: so, for example, in the brain, the Limbic SYSTEM is VERY PRIMITIVE, and yet it is perhaps there that our moment to moment experience of consciousness is SYNTHESIZED

Aida there are differences between procaroytes and eukariotic creatures

William: aha, but, it IS true, and as long as you embrace the resistance, and say that it is not true, then you have an empediment to the understandings

William: yes, but ALWAYS, there is some common precursor

Aida no I mean it is not that they carry the primitive state forms

William: just as there is common precursor to human and neaderthal

Aida but that they have things in common

William: i was trying to remember the procaroytes aud eukariotic terms
William: regarding bacteria…

Aida am confused what was the main track

William: now, everything boils down to the big question, is reality ultimately digital or analog

William: which hinges on HOLISM vs REDUCTIONISM

William: holism says that the whole is GREATER than a sum of the parts, and that cognitive analytical axiomatic analysis will never breach the gap
William: wherease REDUCTIONISM is that the whole is PRECISELY the sum of the parts, and that through analysis, we can ultimated digitize everything precisely
William: descartes dreamed that one day there would be an equation for a tree

Aida yes. he believed in reductionism

William: hegel dreamed of an END TO HISTORY, which means ABOSOLUTE KNOWLEDGE where they succeed in string theory AND CAN ultimately express symbolically what is happening in the ontology of being

William: so, from big bang beginning, to final heat death of maximum enthropy

– 05:53 –
William: where nothing further can happen, because thermodynamically there is no more potential energy
William: you see, life lives upon negative entropy
William: entropy is a measure of disorder

Aida yes

William: a crystal is a highly ordered structure with potential energy
William: when crystal is disolved, energy is released
William: it also gets into Carl Jungs monograph on The Nature of the Psyche
Aida yes

William: can you not post for one minute, until i say hello, i have one system message

Aida how can you correlate all those things
Aida sure


William: you see,…. discourse and writing itself is an artificial PROJECTION of a multidimensional process of multimind, into a linear discourse of axiomatic precations

Aida talking to you is like reading a james joyce novel
Aida one needs some big refrence book to see what your words are reffering to.

William: so, in an aristotelian syllogism is A implies B, implies C….. emplies Z, ergo, Q.E.D. (quod erat demonstrandum) we have demonstrated what was to be shown

William: that is LINEAR

William: but, my mind, my understanding, is not linear, it is many many things at once

William: my 60 years of experience
William: sO, If you mathematically project a 3 dimensional shape onto two dimensions

– 05:59 –
William: you have something you may graph and use as a tool, but it is DIFFERENT from the original object of three diminsions under consideration
William: BUT, suppose we seek a model of some economic phenomenon, or some metabolic phenomenom,…. it may have 10 or 20 dimensions
William: but, we cannot deal with 10 or 20 dimensions at once
William: so, we seek an axiomatic model, as a tool, which allows us to deal with it
William: but, you see, our moment to moment experience of CONSCIOUSNESS, IS A Process of data reduction…

Aida yes

William: we selectively ignore a myriad of external and internal experience, to focus on our discussion, or an opera…. or ball game

Aida yes

William: BUT, when that funciotion of brain BREAKS DOWN and we are overwhelmed simultaneously of ALL sensations
William: then it is madness
William: it is psychosis
William: i am forgetting better word
William: it is the stage beyond nurotic
William: neurotic
Aida nervous breakdown!
William: well, yes, psychotic… better yet SCHIZOPHRENIC

Aida yes.psychotic

Aida what was the exact name of the book of carl rodgers?

William: a neurotic person understands whee and who they are, but, the overemphasize things which are unimportant, and they are caught in a circle of repition, like a broken record

William: carl rogers “on becoming a person”

William: now, carl rogers had one psychotic patient….
William: he merged so closely with her, that HE began to suffer psychotic symptoms
William: and he speaks of that danger

– 06:04 –
William: aristotle said the one unique characteristic of being human is MIMESIS, we love to IMITATE
William: and that allows us to adapt
William: we BECOME Like fish with scuba, and like birds with plains
William: planes
William: but what is our virtue, and makes possible survival in diverse ecological niches
William: can also be our enemy

Aida how can we distinguish ourselves from our enviroment

William: whenever we become locked into one mode, even when changing circumstances demand a shift in gears to some opposite mode

Aida and how exactly know what we say or do is beloning to us and not external words.

William: each of our faculties has a positive necessary function, fear, desire , lust, hunger, weariness
William: but, each can become imbalanced and become pathological
Aida I wonder how one can generate new ideas out of nothing.
William: if our species did not have an overwhelming sexual dimension, we would not have survied for 500,000 years

Aida yes.

William: BUT if we cannot bridle the sexual side, then we cannot be doctors or lawyers of professors
William: similary if we bridle or suppress TOO Much, then that becomes a patholgy

Aida why not?

William: think of anorexia
Aida it takes time?

William: a virtue of moderation taken to an extreme which becomes a pathology

Aida sorry got disconneted

William: there is a healthy place for anger, it is a useful tool for survival, and even for healthy function society

Aida I wonder how can one balance all those elements
Aida make balance between*

William: but, when anger becomes unconrolled, then it is destructive, and also, it becomes an END IN ITSELF rather than simply a means to an end

– 06:09 –
William: so, the whole greek thing was, balance, moderation, the MIDDLE WAY, the mean between the extremes

Aida for example………I was thinking to acheive what I want to in my life I dont have time to get married and have children etc

William: so, it is like the goldilock fairytale

Aida what is it

William: one bowl of porrige is too hot, the next is to cold, and third is just right

William: goldilocks

Aida oh

William: and the three bears

Aida yes
Aida aha yes
Aida it was funny story

William: it is a childrens story , but it illustrates balance, moderation, in a simple way

William: no matter HOW Complex something is, there is always some simple model or parable to illustrate it

Aida yes a guy asked his class why should she rest in the bears house after eating porridge etc

Aida a student said…to commit suicide!
William: and a parable or a sufi teaching story, is a tool to reshape our mind to better comprehend the REAL problem

Aida hey wait a second

Aida can we study a problem of me

William: well, again, WIttgenstein reachs the higher plateau, and then kick away the ad hoc ladder which helped him to get there
William: you see, bible, koran, vedas, and roman law, are all ladders which help us to evolve to where we are

Aida are you listening?

William: BUT, at some point, we must let go, and adopt something that suits TODAYS
William: oh, the problem of you
William: well, i see you from a great distance, and have my theories
William: but, i may be mistaken
William: for example your boyfriend, now ex, was a ladder which helped you to make a certain life transition
William: and it was positive
William: BUT, if you stay with that, it becomes counterproductive

– 06:14 –
William: a ladder which serves its purpose and one point, becomes a crutch, if we do not let go

Aida but I havent said my problem yet

William: so, say your problem

Aida but you do not listen…

William: i was speaking of my perception of your problem
William: so i am listening
William: you ask me to address grand issues of all history
William: i cant go to warp speed, and easily put on the breaks

Aida yes but then you disconnect from me.

William: i am listening

Aida and then you forget am talking to you.

William: well, it depends on how dear the topic at hand is
William: to you
William: i am listening now

Aida yes the topic is dear.

William: state your problem

Aida but you forgot we wanted to practice socratics dialect and not a one way speech

William: your NEXT problem

Aida ok now my turn!

William: well, you MUST carefully read all the dialogues, and study what Socrates is doing

William: and ask questions

Aida but you leap from one subject to the other and I get confused
William: but, what is the life circumstance in your life where you desire to use socratic method

William: because, my mind works as it does, multidimensional
Aida and lose the track of our subject

William: and i try to project it to linear
William: for you

Aida it is interesting.. but at the end you have said too many beautiful statements but we cant reach the end

William: plus, you must understand, i can afford the luxury to be multidimensional ME, because long ago I gave up the chance to be a directed and disciplined YOU

Aida we can not have a meaningful conclusion of what was said.
Aida am not disciplined

William: well, you must understand, discourse has its limits, the next stage is writting essay or book

Aida that is my problem
Aida I have too many interests

William: SO, if you could have lunch with Pplato himself, it would NOt BE as good as reading Plato’s republic

Aida and want to understand too many things

– 06:19 –
William: because, a writer, SPENDS YEARS, distilling everything into one book or essay

Aida yes I read his republic

William: so, at any given moment, the author is LESS than his work

Aida but I am talking to you now.and not reading hid republic

William: and he at times STUDIES his own work
William: because it has become a scaffolding which surrounds the cathedral

Aida can I ask something

William: he constructed it, true, but he must climb about in it,…. he cannot be everywhere at once, on the dome, and at the windows

William: yes
William: ask

Aida which methods you think works best being multidimensional and gain a little of everything or being one dimensional and going in to depth of one subject only?


William: you confront your own frustration

Aida since I have this problem…………………

William: you see, i cannot give you a Sitaram pill, to swallow, and instantly become 60 yr old sitaram

William: yet, when we approach a teacher, that is what we desire
William: which is only natural

Aida in order to improve in my studies………..I have to put all the time I have on studying medicine

William: now, what is your precise roblem
William: exactly, at each moment in our life, we GIVE UP 1000 possible futures, in order to actualize only ONE

Aida but I love to learn …I like to read philosophy and psychology and history and art I like to paint and practice my violin

William: so, successful life, is a process of data reduction
William: success is a process of intentional failures

Aida but if I do that I wont be able to organize my studies to the level that I could continue them the way I desire.

William: we give up chance to be a ballerina or concert pianist, in order to be physician or politican

Aida but I can not do that..I mean I can not be a physician only

William: and as physician, we give up chance to be surgeon or anestheosiologist, in order to become our one specialty

– 06:24 –
William: lets say nephrologist, or cardiovascular
William: or neurologist

Aida I want to understand life

Aida and it is not all written in medical books

William: it is division of labor
William: well, you want to be , what do the call it, POLYMATH

Aida yes and unfortunately I want it to be perfect.

William: actually, though i sounds blasphemous, you want to be God, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent
William: now, that is a GOOD desire, for it is a desire to perfect oneself

Aida I mean I want to be the best I can be in my job and also in whatever am interested in
Aida but it contradicts…I mean I can not focus on everything and be perfect in them
Aida yes I cant be god..

William: we desire ALL that is good, but we must make choices, and settle for what is reachable, achievable, based upon our own gifts and shortcomings, and the age and society and technology in which we live

Aida and I reproach myself of not being able to be one

William: so the woman who wrote Pride and Prjudice, Jane Austin, had to be content with paper and quill and ink
William: no word processor, no internet

Aida we make choices but we do not know if they are the best ones

William: and she had to make do with a patriarchal society, with victorian morals, which frowned upon the woman author

Aida for example I can put time to succeed in my career only and study and study
Aida and of course it is a precious career
Aida but I worry to lose my human side and goals and become narrow-minded and lose insight about why I am doing my job

William: there is a story about a donkey, who is surrounded by many different buckets of grain, delicious,…. all at an equal distance

Aida why am living it
Aida or giving life back to people

William: but because the donkey cannot decide which is best to approach
William: he sits there, hungry

Aida yes am the donkey

William: because to chose any one bucket, is to give up and ignore the others
William: now, diffeent story,…. thee are many piles of hay, and many hungry cows
William: but, there is also a dog

Aida I dont sit there but I go toward each for a while and then doubt!!!
William: the dog cannot eat the hay

– 06:30 –
Aida and go back to the other direction

William: but the dog is selfish and barks at all the cows, to keep them fromt he hay

Aida haha

William: so, you are caught in an existential trap
William: which you may explore with Kierkegaard and Sartre and Camus

Aida yes I recognize myself while reading them

William: Sartre speaks of the young man, in war torn france, who is his mothers only support, but his friends join the underground resistance
William: he is damned whatever choice he makes

Aida I really worry not to live my life they way I want to lead it
Aida yes?

William: if he stays to care for mother, he is unpatriotic bastard who does not joint his comrads in underground resistance of nazis
William: but if he is patriot, and good comrad, his is bastard to abandon his poor mother

Aida yes

William: so, damned if he does, and damned if he doesnt
William: so this is the BIND…

Aida I feel that way

William: i forget the best term

Aida bondage?

William: but the schizophrenice is a pathology which seeks to escape from the intolerable DOUBLE BIND

William: ACTUALLY, when i was only age 4
William: i noticed the dog in the next yard, on a chain
William: i realized he was in a double bind

Aida how come?

William: but i could not put it into words
William: well, he wanted one thing, but the chain kept him back
William: he had two directives, mutually exclusive
William: lets say, his job is to chase way the intruder

– 06:35 –
William: but, when he runs to do that job, the chain chokes him and pulls him back
William: so, my mother was placing me in a similar bind
William: and i told her about the dog

Aida wow
Aida how cute

William: i exlained to her that she was doing to me just what the dog was in
William: but, she could not catch the analogy

Aida how could you do that in age 4?

William: because, SHE had two conflicting goals to place upon me
William: well, that was how my mind was…

Aida how exciting

William: also, i heard someone say “time passes QUICKLY when we have a pleasant passtime, but SLOWLY when we have an unpleasant task
Aida yes
Aida can I ask something?

William: SO, i thought they meant quite litterally that TIME itself changes
William: but listent
William: I DID AN EXPERIMENT at age 4
William: at nap time, i took my most favorite book, whcih was soft blue colors, about virgin mary

Aida are you sure it happened then

William: and looked at it
William: yes, positive
William: and while i looke at the pleasant book, i tried to judge the speed of time
William: then i switched to my LEAST favorite book, a harsh red on fireengines

Aida wow

William: and as i looked at that, i tried to sense the slowing down of time

Aida how?
Aida haha

William: but, i realize that one could not detect the change in time
William: so, that was my existential experiment at age 4

Aida wow very impressive

William: so, you see, such Sartrean things are innate in the human mind
William: because, i was illeterate, i couldnot read
William: and there was no telivision
William: and only music on radio
William: so i could not have overheard
William: and the people around me did not read or discuss such matters

Aida so how could you measure couldnt read the clock

– 06:40 –
William: BUT, the point was, i constructed an experiment
William: i attempted to measure

Aida yes .very unbelievable

William: but, yet, not uncommon
William: Ramanujan was a poor boy in india with no schooling
William: he found a handbook of mathematics, no proofs, just the formulae
William: and he independently PROVED, and derived all the equations

Aida is it possible?

William: Ramanujan died in his 40s

Aida do you think we all can do that?

William: but he was one of the greatest minds in NUMBER THEORY
William: and number theory is called the QUEEN of all mathematics

William: number theory involves statements like, all prime numbers

Aida can I ask you something ?again

William: and greater and lesser infinities…
William: yes

Aida now that you are 60 …do you think you lived your life and gained what you wanted to?

William: so, you see, at 4, i was like socrates slave boy in the Meno
Aida did you reach where you wanted to reach
William: well, i had many blessings
William: i never knew war or hunger and had good health and dental care
William: i had luxury of liberal education

Aida no I mean human achievements……..

William: and freedom from constraints of professional requirements like university
William: i did not have to “publish or perish”
William: i had my own printing press and soap box of internet

Aida but didnt you want to do that?

William: well, it HAPPENDED…
William: i didnt set out to be this or that
William: opportunities arose and i chose them

Aida I mean when you were 30
Aida what did you think of your 60
Aida what you wanted to gain and you gained it or not?

William: of course, i had notions of goals, but that was an illusion
William: well, what i did gain was the opportunity to become what i am
William: you see, and acorn is not an oak tree

Aida how do you feel now that those goals arent fulfilled?

– 06:45 –
William: yet, its essense is an oak tree
William: so, we BECOME what we are
William: an infant is not Bertrand Russel, or Walt Whitman, or Barack Obama
William: but, it is a seed containing that ultimate personal
William: so we become what we are
William: by labor, chance, circumstance, serendipity

William: if one reads the Nobel acceptance speech of Hemingway, and then of Faulkner

Aida and if we dont become what we wanted to become do we feel we wasted life?

William: who were always lifelong enemies

Aida I really worry to waste my life

William: as they embodied literary values / goals which were diametrically opposed
William: then one sees how their life unfolded
William: and the extent to whcih they were fulfilled
William: and the extent to which they were frustrated and failed
William: and throw in F. Scott Fitzgerald

Aida yes?

William: so, in that limited literary context, one may explore the drama of the very question which you pose, about the individual as the pass through life

William: making choices….and with each choice, giving up forever a 1000 possible futures
William: to actualize ONE future
William: and it is an act of faith

Aida and you know then we are not sure we really made those choices.freely

William: we cannot know, at the moment that we risk our lives to cross a berlin wall
William: we cannot know whether it is our doom, or our salvation
William: BUT, even inaction is an action
William: if we do nothing, that too is a choice, and has consequences

Aida so you do not regret for whatever choices you made?

William: if we are the donkey who never approaches one of the equidistant food buckets
William: well, i often think about these things

– 06:50 –
William: and, i could choose to mourn and have regrets
William: but yet, what I became, Sitaram, was a unique opportunity


William: to say and do things at a stage in history when no one else could afford to say and do those things
William: without suffering consequences
William: because i was no one, there were no constraints

William: imagine you are rev. Billy Graham, or he Dali Lama, or Pope Benedict, but suddenly you walk along a beach one morning with Mic Jagger
William: and you suddenly are inspired by some truth that Mic Jagger possesses

Aida who is Mic Jagger?
William: Mic Jagger is a successful rock star singer
William: and age 70 he still belts out songs like age 20

William: and he embodies wild rebellion
William: but, because you are Dali Lama, or Pope, you are CONSTRAINED to be true to what you embody

William: otherwise, millions become disillusioned, and you give up your special persona

Aida haha

William: so, your very success, in being what you have become, is a chain, a limtation

Aida true

William: so, you are not totally free…

Aida that is true

William: there is a part of me which feels talented to explore in writing my sexuality
William: BUT, if i do that, i become branded as a porn writer
William: so, i give up what i have as Sitaram

Aida aha

– 06:55 –
William: and, the author of Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, gives up is persona if he begins to write as I write
William: so, whatever ladder we climb to reach whatever cloud or plateu
William: we must KICK AWAY that ladder, so we lose our precious ladder

Aida yes

William: PLUS we are stuck one the top of Everest, but we cannot not be on top of Killimanjaro, or Madderhorn, or Grand Titons

William: so, there are many heights, many depths, but we must choose one…

Aida how do we know it is the right one

William: but in one Psalm in bible, it says, “I go up to the highest moutain and Thou are there Lord, so I go to the deepest ocean, and Thou are also there,… and whereve I go, I cannot escape you, but neither can I join with you and unite with you in an absolute fashion

Aida or there is no right or wrong path

William: but, it is all realtive, sujective, contextual
William: i cannot tell someone to become Sitaram, they must become THEIR OWN Sitaram

William: which may be very different from me, but it is all essential

William: That Argentinean writer.
William: Jorge Luis Borges

Aida yes?

William: writes a story about an orthodox man, who spends his life chasing and persecuting an Heresiarch
William: a leader who teaches heresy
William: finally, he captures the Heresiarch, and execute him
William: the, he too dies, and comes before God

– 07:00 –
William: only to learn that, for God, both HE and the Heresiarch, are important components of some much larger organism
William: some much larger being…. and BOTH are essential
William: just as in musical harmone

William: the three notes of a chord are DIFFERENT,
William: yet in combination, they become something beyond themselves

Aida superhuman?

William: a Neapolitan sixth is a major 7th chord build upon the flatted second note of the scale of the piecee
William: so, it sounds as a profound punctuation
William: discordant, yet, making a point
William: so e.e. cummings speaks of “the dilemma of flutes”

William: it comes back to Platos analogy of Dialectic being the weavers loom
William: there is the WARP, the treads running vertically
William: and the WOOF, whcih run horizontally
William: and the SHUTTLE which weaves in and out,….

Aida ?

William: and it s a continual process of SEPARATING and CONJOINING of opposites
William: but the product is a TAPESTRY
William: and the tapestry on one side, depicts a picture
William: but on the back side, is all loose threads
William: there is a famous tapestry from the middle ages
William: depicting the norman conquests
William: or, the prehistoric cave paintings

Aida yes?

William: my vision, my view, is based upon these 60 years

– 07:05 –
William: but, it is unique to me…
William: to share it, you would have to be me, to have lived through the 50s and 60s and 70s

Aida what is unique?

William: MY view, my understanding, my contentment, my frustration
William: same with Hardy “Jude the Obscure”, same with V. Woolf and “Orlando”
William: I couldnt remember yesterday that the Novella was “Orlando”
William: but i saw the book this morning on my shelves

Aida yes?

Aida and
William: someone said to Helen Keller (the blind deaf from birth) “life is filled with suffering” and she answered “BUT it is also filled with the OVERCOMING OF SUFFERING
William: so, as lincoln said “each person is about as happy as they make up their mind to be
William: cognitive therapy “is my cup half empty or half full”

Aida true

William: in highschool, had i known what i know now, i could have rejected liberal arts, beecome an accountant CPA, and perhaps been wealthy, financially secure
William: but i would not be able to speak with you today of these matters
William: now, perhaps, some of my thoughts will live on for 1000 years

– 07:11 –
William: and become a part of something much larger

Aida yes.I wouldnt talk with you now if you were an accountant
William: but, had i become wealthy accounant,… at the end… my house would be sold, my art collection,…. relatives would take the inheritance, and perhaps it would ruin them, they might become gamblers or alcoholics
William: NOW, what we have discussed these past years…..become seeds which i plant in tehran, and seed which you plan in new york

Aida maybe you would go to different museums around the world and explore more
William: so, perhaps that grows in the next generation, to something that works a lasting peace an harmony
William: between our cultures
William: so, are we being wastrels, with empty talk, idling our time
William: OR, is this the most essential dialogue
William: which will build something enduring, like the Great Wall of China, which is the only man made structure which is visible from outer space
William: and yet the Great Wall itself is crumbling….
William: and Venice is sinking


Aida it is essential at least to me

William: because like every good ladder, and every seamans OAR, there comes a time when it is pushed away, or planted in the ground and sacrificed
William: so, like shakespear says in Lear….. we are on the stage for our hour, and we rant as a mad man, with great sound and fury
William: and it passes away, as the tinkling of bells and the sounding of brass symbols
William: Hegel saw Napoleon one day, pass through a town , in all his glory

– 07:16 –

Aida yes?

William: and yet Napoleon had his Waterloo
William: so, we play roles, and in the end, all passes
William: Solomon’s wisdom – THis too shall pass

Aida what remains then?

William: the riddle “what is the ONE THING i may say to you that, if you are sad, you shall become happy, but if you are happy, you shall become sad
William: the answer is “This too shall pass
William: sickness passes, health passes, poverty passes, wealth passes,
William: nothing endures

Aida life passes.

William: yet, if it were not for constant change, there would be no drama

Aida so it loses its meaning.

William: and we draw the meaning of our life from that drama
William: without failure, there can be no victory
William: yet victory carries failure within itself like the seed which carries withing the oak tree

William: such is life
William: but, we have some good conversation
William: there is a cartoon of Charlie Brown from Snoopy, Charles SHultze
William: wearing his baseball cap and catchers mitt
William: never winning a game
William: always the losing team
William: but he grins, and says, we may not win many games, but we have some great conversations

Aida haha


Aida I enjoyed talking with you
William: so, have i helped a little

Aida yes very

William: yes, and I cannot be me without questions like yours
William: every answer is meanings outside of the context of a question

Aida thank you for sharing time!

William: and thank you for asking

Aida it made me relieved so much.

William: yes,….. therapeia, in greek, is a process of maintaining balance, and realieveing pressures

William: or releasing pressures
William: kind of a discursive acupuncture
William: one, a patient said to his therapist, whatever shall i do when you are no longer around

Aida yes?

William: the therapist (Sheldon Kopp) said, by then you shall become YOUR OWN therapist, and internalize these discussions

Aida ok I have to become my own therapist now!

William: just as, even when our parents have passed, we leave a room, and hear our mother or father say SHUT OFF THE LIGHT
William: CLOSE THE DOOR, you dont live in a barn
William: we internalize

Aida haha

William: we become our own parent our own teacher

Aida our own lover and friend

William: our own judge jury and executioner/jailor

Aida and child

William: yes, that oo
William: that too

Aida I always find myself guilty and execute myself

William: yes, but then, the next day, you give birth to yourself again and like the Phoenix arise from your own ashes

Aida I have to find another judge within me!

William: but, if you were not driven by that torment, that suffering, you would not struggle and strive up the mountain

Aida now I have to do something with my life uncle wiggly.

William: your Sisyphean task
William: you ARE doing it
William: you are exactly as you SHOULD be at any given moment

– 07:27 –
William: that is the message of the Bhagavad-Gita
Aida yes., in a more practical passive now.

William: and various eastern gurus

Aida only mentally active

William: the saint, the thief, the tyrrant despot, the prostitute, the scientist, the politician the lawyer

Aida have to form the thoughts and give birth to ideas and then act based on them

William: each are what they should be, at that moment

Aida ah that is beautiful message

William: unravelling the karmic knots of many previous existence

William: without hitlers opression we would not have things like Viktor/s Mans Search for Meaning

Aida haha

William: or that movie… now i forget the name AHA SCHINDLER’S LIST
William: the movie about the man who saves all the jews
Aida I was readiung the search for the meaning
William: all i can think of now is jacobs ladder….
Aida it really made me I couldnt continue
William: but that is not the movie
William: it will come to me
Aida now you take care of yourself and hug concordia for me
William: sams message, jacobs ladder
William: ok…. yes.

Aida love you !
Aida you helped me gigantically

William: luv you to very much, my daughter
William: but, in a pinch i would marry you, if it made sense, ha ha

Aida thanks..take care@}

William: a means to an end
William: a ladder to that cloud

Aida am no good wife.. I have no time

William: to be kicked away

Aida yes

William: but, it would be a marriage of celibacy

Aida I prefer to be your niece

William: much like my current one

Aida be well !!

William: you too sweet heart
William: in love, we become what is needed by the other
William: but when we love ourselves properly, then we become what we need when we need it

– 07:32 –
William: and then move on
William: now, run along
William: and play nicely

Doomed To Be Free

September 13, 2009

Sartre, on page one of “Being and Nothingness” states that we are “doomed to be free” since the very act of giving up our freedom would require an exercise of freedom.

We see freewill choice throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

God presents all of the creatures to Adam for Adam to name, and for Adam to choose a suitable companion. Of course, Adam finds no suitable companion amongst the animals. Only then does God place Adam into a deep sleep, curiously reminiscent of surgical anesthesia, and creates Eve.

We hear Moses saying to his people in the wilderness, “This day I place before you life and death. Choose therefore life.” But it is still a choice.

The sons of Aaron choose to offer “strange incense” which has not been authorized by God, and the earth swallows them up.

Queen Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, sends word to her saying “You have it in your power if you choose, to help your people. If you choose not to, then God will arrange for the help to come by some other means, but you shall not share in the reward.”

When the archangel Gabriel comes to the virgin Mary, he essentially offers her a choice, and waits for her answer. Only when Mary answers “so let it be unto thy handmaiden”, does the power of the Most High overshadow her and work the conception and incarnation.

Even Jesus says “No man takes my life. It is given to me to lay down my life, and to take it up again.”

8th Grade Existentialism

August 25, 2009

Written: Sat Jul 13, 2002 9:03 am

When my stepson was in 8th grade, I saw a copy of Camus’ novel, “The Plague,” on his desk, and I was startled to think that such a book was required reading for an 8th grader, so I asked him “are you reading this for school?”

He became alarmed and said “Is it a bad book?” (he was worried that it was something he shouldn’t be reading).

I said, “No, it’s a fine book. I’m just surprised if they require you to read it.” He explained that it was not required reading. He simply chose it on his own because it seemed interesting.

He then asked me “What is surprising about an 8th grader reading Camus,…. what sort of writer is he?”

I said “Well, Camus is an Existentialist of sorts.”

Then he asked, “What is an Existentialist?”

I answered, “Aha, that is a very interesting question! Let’s look up Existentialism in the encyclopedia. But I guarantee you that when we are done reading the article, you will see that basically, it will say that it is hard to define Existentialism.”

We read the article on Existentialism together, and when we finished, he agreed that it didn’t really explain what Existentialism is.

I tried to explain, “If you keep reading lots of books by
Existentialists like Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, etc., then, very slowly, you will perhaps change and see the world through the eyes of the Existentialists, and you too will be Existentialist in your thinking. Similarly, if you read lots and lots of Plato’s dialogues, you will possibly slowly change and begin to see the world in Platonic terms. You are
Roman Catholic and have always gone to Catholic schools, so you see the world through the eyes of Catholicism.

So, then he asked, “Well, is that GOOD?” (i.e. is it good to see the world through the eyes of Existentialism.)

I answered, “It is not a matter of being good or bad, as if there is only one right way to see the world. BUT, I will say, it is far better to see the world through SOME kind of eyes, with some kind of perspective, be it Existentialist, Platonic, Roman Catholic, etc., then to not look at the world at all, and go through life with your eyes closed.”

That was an eighth grader’s first venture into existentialism.


The Dead Baby Factory
(poem based on an actual event with my step-son)

I remember how easily you laughed.
You laughed at the drop of a hat.
You laughed at the slightest thing.
When I was 49 and you were nine.

The TV groaned as usual.
The newscaster spoke of tragedy.
The death of many infants:
A pharmaceutical error
In quality control.

The TV voice
Repeated ad infinitum:
Dead babies….
…Babies dead
….Babies died

You starred blankly,
Immune to daily tragedy
Frankly, in a trance.

But I began to sing a silly song,
and dance a senseless dance:

“Oh, the dead baby factory,
Crunch those babies,
Grind them up,
Squish them,
Scrunch them…”

You laughed until you cried.
You rolled upon the floor
Beyond control.

Life is senseless.
We are senseless too.
We laughed ourselves senseless.

The more I sang and danced
The more you laughed.
Because you laughed,
I sang and danced all the more.
You doubled over
Rolling on the floor.

Laughter, song and dance
Until you pee your pants.

Human life IS, in reality,
A “Dead Baby Factory”,
Except they age the product
Until it’s slightly elderly.

With Ernest and Julio Gallo
We can say:
“We sell no wine before its time.”
But today we are having a special:
Buy one baby,
Get two free.

The shortest verse in Scripture:
“Jesus wept.”

And, as we danced and sang,
Those babies resurrect
And sing and dance with us
Clapping and keeping time.

Macabre or debonair?
I guess you had to be there!

The tragic and comic blur.

And there we were,
Lost in a moment of childhood,
Forever found,
Throwing humor
Against horror
And winning,
Sartrean humor
Against the anguish
Of senseless existence.

And there we ever are
In that lost and found collection
Realm of the trans-eternal
Moment of recollection
In life’s department store.

We are there right now,
Staring the Void in the face,
Beware be damned!
And back it stares at us and grins
And grimaces
With fun-house mirror faces.

We dance and sing with Nietzsche.

Well, why not?
Life is peachy!

– written (5/06/2003)

What Is Freedom

August 9, 2009

Viktor Frankl states (in “Man’s Search for Meaning”) that our final freedom, which no one can take from us, is how we choose to REGARD our circumstances. Freedom is a word which has many different meanings in various contexts, but does not imply absolute freedom. Sartre in the opening pages of “Being and Nothingness” basically says that we are doomed to be free, since to totally give up ones freedom would require an exercise of freedom. Read (or re-read) Camus’ novel “The Stranger”, and think about the limited freedom of choices which the protagonist Merseult has at each stage in the story.

Aristotle talks about “anangke” or necessity. For example, as a sphere increases in size, the surface area increases as a function of the SQUARE of the radius, while the VOLUME increases as a function of the CUBE of the radius, which means that a cell cannot grow to the size of Cleveland, because the ratio of cell mass to cell surface becomes at some point too great to allow for metabolism.

Curiously, the Qur’an finds the notion that God can be limited even by God’s own decrees to be unacceptable. Hence there is one verse (Surah 2:106) None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten but We substitute something better or similar; knowest thou not that Allah hath power over all things?

One can see how this notion of an unlimited freedom of God can become a “sticky wicket”

By contrast, the Judaeo-Christian scriptures describe a Deity which chooses to be self-limiting (e.g. “for God cannot lie” and “I have sworn and shall not repent”, etc.)

“Freedom” suffers from the problem of “qualia.” For example, it is fine to speak of a red flower or a red wagon or a red sunset, but when we attempt to abstract to a notion of “red in itself”, or to further abstract to “color” then we run into philosophical problems.

Abraham Lincoln wisely observed that “in a conflict, each side asserts that they have God behind their cause, but they should rather ask whether they are on God’s side.”

I saw an “independent” movie (Indie) about a young German-American who decides to move to Germany after WWII to help with the reconstruction. He asks a Catholic priest there, “Each side prayed to God, but God cannot be on BOTH sides.” The priest mentioned that verse “ye are neither hot nor cold so therefore I spew you out of my mouth”, hinting that possible God views each soul’s motivation on an individual level, and not on the basis of Yankee/Confederate, Allied/Axis, etc.

The devil is in the DETAILS. There is a story about a man who is taken down to hell and given a vision of what hell is. He sees a long table loaded with delicious plates of food. People are tied to their chairs, each with a very long spoon tied to one arm. They are starving because they cannot put the food on the spoon and get it to their mouths. Then the same man is whisked up to heaven and given a vision of heaven. He sees the same long table and the same people tied to their chairs with the same long spoons. But each person is dipping his spoon and feeding the fellow across the table. Both heaven and hell have the same limitations, but heaven is more pleasant because the people there choose to work with the limitations in a less selfish fashion.

When the wise Solomon wrote “There are ways which seemeth good to a man, but the end thereof is death” he was speaking directly to YOU. When the Prophet Jeremiah wrote “all of your righteousness is as a filthy rag” he was writing directly to YOU. When Jesus said in that parable “go away, I never knew you” he is speaking to you.

Indie just means it was an artsy obscure movie with a kind of existential theme, so mainstream Hollywood would never touch it. And you would only see it on cable channels that feature such obscure films with existentialist type themes. You have probably seen “City of Angels” with Nicholas Cage, but you never saw what it was based on “Wings of Desire” (Himmel Uber Berlin) by German director Wim Wenders staring Peter Falk.

Jallaludin Rumi said “There is a place beyond the notions of right doing and wrong doing. I shall meet you there.”

The first Sufi Martyr, Hallaj, as he was led to the gallows for execution, for blasphemy, said to his orthodox Sunni executioners, “If I had had YOUR experiences, I could do no other than condemn such as I to execution for blasphemy.”

But if you had had MY experiences, you would have no other choice than to exclaim as I did “I am one with Allah”.

if you had led my life, and had my experiences, you would see things as I do. If I had led your life and had your experiences, I would see things as you do.

Yet we are both, in a sense free, but at the same time, we are both in bondage.

Do you want to become as I am? If yes, then I ask,

Do you want me to become as you are?
If yes, then I ask again,

No two people share exactly the same belief in God. Jefferson wrote that in a letter to a friend. There are upwards of 1 billion Roman Catholics, which means that there are 1 billion different notions of what Roman Catholicism is. Many are troubled by notions of clean and unclean; right and wrong; them and us. And you are not alone. Many in America are troubled by the same thoughts, questions.

For an American were to read Salman Rushdie’s novel “Satanic Verses”, it is very unlikely that they would understand what Rushdie is trying to do, because you have not grown up in a culture of pluralism and syncretism where Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam have co-existed for millenia and have given rise to such hybridization as Sikhism and Sufism. Most Americans cannot understand such a book. They have not lived on a diet of Bollywood “theological” movies about the Hindu scriptures of the Ramayan and the Mahabharata. I have experienced all these things for years, and so I can understand Rushdie. If you did what was necessary to understand Rushdie as I do, it would involve transforming yourself into something totally alien to what you are, and perhaps something un-American (not in the sense of McCarthyism, not in a bad sense). The majority of the world is un-American in a way that Americans find difficult to understand or accept.

It is not a matter of finding all the answers (which is a vain Sisyphean task), but rather to stem the flood of questions. Don Quixote never slays the enemy or finds his Dulcinea, but yet reaches a point where he ceases his wanderings and quest. Every question conceals a quest, and quests often lead to violence and confrontations.

You have succeeded in provoking thought. This is just the sort of dialog I look for. And it is like a mental exercise for me, gymnastics if you will.

Notice how doctors and lawyers always speak of “the practice of medicine” and “the practice of law.”

Certain things are never a destination but are always a process or exercise.

What we are doing here is similar to Zen koan practice. There are many books on koans, but one in particular, “The Iron Cow of Zen”, by Albert Low (published by QUEST no less) is a very good illustration of what we are doing here, and how Eastern philosophy deals with the human problem in a very different fashion that Western philosophy.

It is good that you ask such questions, and that you are looking about, willing to consider unlikely answers from very different traditions in distant lands.

Your mind is open. Your openness to all these ideas is a tremendous freedom in itself.

If you take a look at Plato’s Republic, which is a long dialog, something like ours, which Socrates has with some friends, you will find what is called “Plato’s Cave Analogy” which is a sort of parable that Socrates tells to illustrate what is involved in the problem of comprehending reality. Many people are bound in the cave. They cannot turn about but must stair at a wall. There is a fire behind them which casts shadows on the wall. (Its sort of like that movie, Matrix). One fellow frees himself, and exits the cave into the sunlight, to see reality in itself, rather than the shadows of illusion. He feels compassion for those still in bondage, so he returns to the shadowy world of the cave, and attempts to free the others.

My Saturday Chat in IRC

August 9, 2009

IRC Undernet #philosophy (written around the year 2001)

I spent many hours today in IRC philosophy chat. Here is my side of the conversation. There were 10 or so people posting at any one time.

I was just searching on Nagel and found this statement: “Philosophy is in general not a primary inquiry into the nature of things. It is a reflection on the conclusion of those inquiries that may sometimes terminate, as it did in the case of Spinoza, in a clarified vision of man’s place in the scheme of things.”

Philosophy is concerned about truth, but come to think of it, so is poker.

One must know how to live, financially, nutritionally, educationally, etc… there are skills to living a life. Some are more successful, while others are less successful, or perhaps complete failures.

If we know all sorts of things, intellectually, but do not have the skills or wisdom to care for ourselves prudently, then, we are in trouble.

I am just thinking that philosophy must or should have something to offer the ordinary person for the task of living.

Someone asks “how can you know if you are an intellectual?”

I reply:

Carefully analyze the newspapers you read and the magazines you subscribe to and, if you cannot find your bookshelf, well, you have some evidence right there! Mark Twain once said that a classic is a book everyone wants to say they have read, but no one wants to read.

Nagel wrote : .I believe that there is a necessary connection in both directions between the physical and the mental, but that it cannot be discovered a priori.”

I just realized something very interesting. Aristotle says that human nature LOVES to imitate things (“mimesis”.) Now I see something Nagel said. He argues that people can have good reason to commit acts that benefit another without the expectation of benefit for oneself and without being motivated by factors such as sympathy. – Nagel

So, here is what I just realized: that through mimesis, vicariously, sometimes we act in such a way as we WISH we would find others acting. so, vicariously, we satisfy ourselves by becoming that person we wish to encounter.

I realize that I have done that many times in my life.

We intuitively know that there are various curious rocks on Venus, Mars, and other planets and moons, which exist, and pass through hour after hour for millenia. Yet no one will ever see them. How is their existence similar to or different from, say, Napoleon’s existence?

Now, none of you have every seen these rocks of which I speak, nor have any of you seen Napoleon, or even a photograph of Napoleon.

Perhaps Mars and the other planets are a hoax. How could I prove to you otherwise?

Perhaps Napoleon is a hoax and never really existed. Can you really prove that Napoleon existed, and lost the battle of Waterloo?

Yes the word “Napoleon” unquestionably exists, and an idea of Napoleon exists in your minds, which you can recognize subjectively.

Ideas have existence, and words which point to them have existence, so perhaps existence is a matter of words and ideas, thoughts

Here is experiment: hit your thumb with a hammer, and then debate the existence of your thumb and the hammer.

Perhaps you have never hit your thumb with a hammer. and perhaps you refuse, saying that it will hurt. but how do you KNOW that it will hurt, if you have never tried it?

But, does not such inference presume existence.

So, our notion of existence is, in some way, the product of faith.

I am thinking right now of Hume’s gap, that no “IS” ever implies an “Ought” and Hume awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumber, so Kant claimed.

Even more interesting than the question “what is existence” is the question “what is non-existence or nothingness?”

Sartre said that if it were not for non-being, then reality would be such a plenum, such a fullness, that there would be no room for freedom.

Did Sartre have a happy life. If Sartre were given the choice to relive his life, would he choose to change anything?

He was immensely popular in France. His funeral procession had 50,000 people

I once hypothesized that any advanced race would have to be pacifist, and benign, or they would have destroyed them selves long ago with their technology it seems obvious to me that there must be some relationship between technological power, and non-violent values; that an excess of power, and a deficit of benevolence, spells extinction.

One military leader once observed that we are technological giants and ethical infants.

We have advanced in science so much, in the past 200 years, but emotionally, we differ not at all from Homer’s Iliad. How strange that this should be the case!

Mr. Eastman, the founder of Eastman-Kodak, learned, in old age, that he had a fatal disease which would involve immense suffering, so he wrote a note saying “my work is finished” and shot himself.

He made the decision to choose the time and manner of his death.

He was a very successful business man, a philanthropist, and considered very sound in mind.

I think Camus said that “the most important philosophical decision is where or not to commit suicide on any given day” (paraphrasing from memory.)

One of my fellow students at St. John’s Annapolis (great books program), became a physician. Last year he and I had a debate about physician assisted death. He was against it, and I was in favor.

His objection was based on a religious belief that were he to assist in death, that he would personally suffer guilt/blame for his actions.

I presented him with a powerful argument in favor of assisting, based on his own religion. But he said my thinking was twisted.

The objection to “pulling the plug and tubes” is that death by starvation and dehydration, is undignified.”

I asked an agnostic secular humanist physician (a nephrologist), his opinion, and he smiled and said, “an overdose of morphine has the same effect as unplugging, so what is the difference”

Regarding my school friend, now physician and devout Christian, I pointed out how Christ himself, according to doctrines, assumed the sins and guilt of all mankind, past and future, and suffered in their place, so therefore, he as a physician, should not hesitate to assist in death simply out of fear that he would incur some karmic consequence of guilt or sin.

But he gasped and said, “oh how twisted your reasoning is!”

Rev. William Coffin was despised in the 1960s for his anti war efforts, but before he died recently, had been acclaimed as a hero for many of his positions. I imagine Rev. Coffin was a decent fellow in spite of his religious side.

Religious orientation is analogous to sexual orientation. one cannot fairly stereotype or profile someone on the basis of either orientation.
Mathematician Allan Turing helped win World War II by decoding the “enigma machine” that the Nazis used to encrypt messages. But he was a practicing homosexual, was persecuted as a security risk and ate an apple dipped in cyanide to end his own life.

Turing was no more to be despised for his sexual orientation, than Rev. Coffin for his religious orientation, in my opinion.

And certainly, Kierkegaard had a religious orientation, and yet contributed to Existentialist thought, as perhaps also did Blaise Pascal.

There have been recent articles to the effect that there may be a “religious” gene as well as a “sexual orientation” gene.

I say that if readers/students have maturity, then they may study any writing whatsoever, whether religious or secular, and take from it what they find of value, and discard what they find superfluous

My father, a veteran who landed at Normandy on D Day, despises William Sloan Coffin, calling him a traitor, and he despises homosexuality, so he was upset when I pointed out that Alan Turing, a gay man, helped win world war II, with his skills in cryptology

Then, I pointed out that technically, George Washington was a traitor, in the eyes of the King of England, and I found a proclamation declaring Washington a traitor my father was really displeased with that

Jane Fonda accompanied Wm. Sloan, and Dr. Spock (the baby expert) to North Vietnam… and there were bumper stickers popular that said

“I ain’t fonda Hanoi Jane”

I believe in memes.

I suppose atomism was a meme, which gradually, over the millennia, became documented through experimental evidence

A meme is a pattern which dwells in the substratum/matrix of the minds of a generation, such that each individual is one cell in the meta-mind which holds the meme thought and, the meme evolves and changes over the centuries.

If you observe my posts carefully, you will notice that I almost never address any individual directly, or attempt any argument with an individual.

It seems that the most important attribute for survival is adaptation in a species, the ability to change, and the genetic shuffle is like a random number generator which produces a host of imperfections, but once every century or so, produces something superior for a new change in environment.

The moderator posts this topic for discussion: Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.

I wonder if “one-up-man-ship” is central to the personality of the wise
or, do they rather have more equanimity, and stay in the background, making observations and writing?

Whom would you classify as wise in the 20th century?

Wm F. Buckley? Bertrand Russell? Sartre?

A professor’s dilemma of “Publish or perish” seems to fall on the side of “having to say something.”

Is it possible to consider someone wise, and yet disagree with their conclusions, or is it more often the case that the people we call wise are also the people with whom we agree?

It is noble to be able to admire “the enemy” for that which is truly admirable.

In Homer, each side of a conflict seemed to truly admire the bravery of their enemy, and honor and respect them when they fall in battle
the same was true in World War I, among the fighter pilots, who gave the fallen enemy a magnificent funeral.

Bravery in particular is a quality we can admire in an enemy.

There is a true account of some American Indians, who rode up to a hill top, and gestured to the soldiers in a fort, to lure them into an ambush from which they could never escape.

All the soldiers were killed by the Indians, but there was one unarmed soldier who carried and played a bugle (for the battle call.)
With only his bugle as a weapon, he fought so valiantly that, the Indians, once they killed him, covered his corpse with a buffalo skin
whereas, they dishonored and mutilated the bodies of the other soldiers.

We are inundated in media entertainment with so many valiant fight scenes between adversaries representing abstracted “good and evil” that, perhaps the habit of admiring valor in an enemy lives on in the human heart, since the times of Homer’s epics that which we repeatedly choose for entertainment certainly is some kind of barometer or measure of our inner values.

I grew up in the late 50’s, and watched many a “Lone Ranger” “Hop-a-long Cassidy” and “Roy Rogers” episode, and never realized until it was recently pointed out to me, that they never once portrayed a villain being shot and killed.

Consider IBM’s “deep thought” machine, which was pitted against a world chess champion, and won, but IBM was rather secretive, and refused a rematch.

Kasparov played against the computer, here is an account
“deep thought” was renamed “deep blue.”

Excerpt: Deep Blue was now capable of examining and evaluating an average of 100 million chess positions per second.

Machines of necessity resort to “brute force” methods to solve/succeed.

In the convention of mathematicians around 1905, one of the problems cited as a challenge for the coming century was the 4 color map problem, to prove that any map could be made with only 4 colors.

Someone solved it using certain brute force computer techniques, and mathematicians criticized the proof for being too inelegant

I just found this very interesting time-line of mathematics in Wikipedia while looking for the 4 color map problem

1900, Hilbert lists 23 math problem challenges for the 20th century to tackle we should attempt to produce a similar list of problems in philosophy, perhaps

1976 – Kenneth Appel and Wolfgang Haken use a computer to prove the Four color theorem.

The four color theorem was the first major theorem to be proven using a computer, and the proof is not accepted by all mathematicians because it would be unfeasible for a human to verify by hand (see computer-assisted proof).

The perceived lack of mathematical elegance by the general mathematical community was another factor, and to paraphrase comments of the time, “a good mathematical proof is like a poem; this is a telephone directory!”

I mentioned last week that aesthetics is sometimes a consideration in mathematical proofs.

We are considered “gentlemen” and our technologies produces “brutes”. I find that intriguing.

I was very fond of a notion, which I presumed my own, that inside each black hole is another big bang expanding time-space continuum, and all such black holes represent a “multi-verse”. But apparently
apparently Stephen Hawking demonstrated that it would be impossible for such to be the case so, I am “back to the drawing board.”

In the late 60s at St Johns, when I was required to read the Iliad, I became enamored of the battlefield scene commonly referred to as the “aristeia of Diomedes” I think each of us, on some level, yearns to be the protagonist in such an aristeia (burst of excellence), if not in battle, then, perhaps academically, or in literature.

Perhaps the pursuit of knowledge and education should be more impersonal, less egocentric.

Yet, such ego is encouraged by prizes like Nobel, Pulitzer, and our educational and grading systems, the popparatzi of ideas.

Popparatzo was one photographers nick name in “La Dolce Vita”, it means mosquito (singular.)

There is a poignant scene in the movie, where a father adjusts mosquito netting over his small children. I felt symbolically, to protect them from the evils of media voyeurism which can sometimes cause fatalities, as we have seen graphically demonstrated

I recently subscribed to “The Atlantic Monthly”, and there is a column there about grammatical correctness, and various other issues.

Someone, living in a senior center, complained that a popular movie was rejected for viewing, because it contained the “F” word.
But, here is what I found significant in the reply: The reply of the magazine stated that we, who view media entertainment, are essentially “voyeurs” who want to see into private lives and conversations

I think that notion of us as a society of voyeurs fits in with some points about popparatzi, and tabloids.

But then Heidegger describes man as that voyeuristic creature who beholds Being “reluctantly” disrobing.

Well, it is possible to see philosophical inquiry as a tad voyeuristic.

Quite naughty, don’t you think!?

I have wondered if “being, reluctantly disrobing” has some connection with that short story “Bartleby the Scrivener.”

The un-lived life is not worth examining, as psychologist David Viscott points out.

Loaded statements are what differentiate the “poem” from the “phone book”

Nietzsche seems to load his philosophy with a lot of drama, more so than other philosophers.

I made up an interesting test question scenario once: Imagine, a powerful genie appears and gives you 10 minutes to make a choice (and you MUST choose or suffer worse consequences)…
choose between two different lives to be born into…

One life is long, but quite boring, a farmer let us say,… with family and children, nothing dreadful happens, nothing exciting either, and he dies in his sleep in his 90s the other life, is sort of a Humphrey Bogart life, say, in the French Underground Resistance….
One suffers greatly, but enjoys intense pleasures, dies young, a martyr, but a celebrated hero.

So, each must explain why they choose as they do.

Aha… but, part of the scenario I paint is that the family is neither loving, nor hateful, but just “blah”

The long life gives you simply “long life”, with no extremes of pleasure or pain.

I suppose the point of my test question, is how much do you value plain and simple existence, living, without the drama, the tragedy, the comedy?

To argue that the scenario might be otherwise, is to entirely miss the point of such what-if scenarios.

If a geometer says, “imagine a point in a plane, and a line not passing through the point” and you argue “well perhaps there are some other planes over here, with different points and lines” … well you miss the point of geometry!

Its like a game, like chess.

You accept the nature of the board, the pieces, and you play by the rules. The life and writings of Hemingway, as only one example, illustrate someone who makes the Humphrey Bogart choice.

One of Hemingway’s sons, after the suicide, said “He would have made a nice old man. But he could not figure out how to be an old man.”

Now, there is one scene in “The Painted Bird” where children lie upon the railroad tracks, and experience the train, and death, rushing inches above them the author says “only in those moments would I feel truly alive.” – Jerzy Kosinsky

Oh… listen to this…. I once had a question about “free will” and I downloaded an entire novel from Tolstoy (or was it Dostoevsky), into a word processor, and did a text search it was very fruitful but…. like that computer solution to the 4 color problem… more like a phone book than a poem.

Last week, I downloaded all of Plato’s Republic, and search in a text editor for “the art of”

and yet,…. my endeavor of minutes was no different in its result from the endeavor of someone in the 19th century, who had only reading, and notepaper, at their disposal.

Now, the argument of mathematicians AGAINST the computer proof of the 4 color problem, is that no one can manually verify all the millions of calculations… but rather, we simply take it on faith that the computer and the programmer have done their jobs whereas, in my case, of the string search, someone may verify the passages I have found, or read the entire book to find additional passages.

Andrew Wiles had a mistake in his initial publication of the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, and had to rework the proof over several months, until it was error free.

I suppose, just like the criteria of the experimental methods, that a result be reproducible so, others achieve the same result
time and again.

Well, Wiles was only 10 when he first learned of the Fermat problem, and aspired to solving it, which took 30 years he mentions that his wife never knew him at any period when he was not engrossed in the problem. He told her of his project several weeks after the wedding
so, he must have had a lot of emotions, hopes and dreams invested it the success of his proof they say that Hilbert’s tombstone has the epitaph, “We must find the answer, we SHALL find the answer” (or succeed, I forget the exact words) but, imagine how Hilbert felt when Godel proved that there must be mathematical truths which are not provable since Hilbert asserted “if something is true, it must be provable.”

One might perhaps discuss the aspect of personal emotional involvement that a philosopher has in his philosophy, I suppose
I mean, if we were truly, objectively, concerned only with what is true, then we might be quite happy to be refuted, if we were given something more true as a consolation prize

It amazes me how Sartre abandoned his own brain child of Existentialism when it was at a height of popularity, and he might have enjoyed the lecture circuits.

And, didn’t he reject the Nobel prize or some prize?

Sartre seemed quite immune to the siren call of popularity and praise.

but, not good for you, only good for him not “good for us”

I simply take your words at face value “good for him”, and try to understand what such a response might mean sometimes, people say “good for him” in the spirit of that fox who thought the grapes, just out of reach, must be sour.

Yes, “bully” has a much different tone a better choice

Smacks a bit of the Roosevelts, but a better choice

Jacob Kline was at St. John’s in the late 60s, a Greek scholar. He made a big point about the first word of Plato’s Republic, “katabenein” (I WENT DOWN to the Piraeus)

Kline claimed that the choice of this one word set the stage for the end of the Republic, the myth of Er, and the descent into the underworld

Someone claimed that Plato had rewritten the first page of the Republic 50 times, to achieve such effects… but I have no way to know if this is apocryphal.

Anyway, people like Kline, and Leo Strauss (Persecution and the Art of Writing), made a big deal about this sort of subtle interpretation.

The word Katabenein indicates a “going down” or descent

Leo Strauss took the example of Solomon’s metaphor that “A word of wisdom fitly spoken, is like an apple of gold in a filigree of silver”
The topic appears to be about writing (I just got here).

So that, at a distance, to the general public it appears to be a silver apple, but, as you draw close, and inspect, you see a glimmer of gold, and finally, you recognize the reality, of something concealed
the book was Strauss’, but he and Kline were buddies.

I am simply pointing out that there was one school of thought which laid great importance to very subtle observations.

One scholar there, a Latin/Greek scholar from Heidelberg, Gisela Berns, did her thesis on Lucretius’ “De Rerum Natura”, and actually counted all the words, to find that the midmost word was “nature.”

Well for example, if an author simply dashes off a page, and writes a book quickly, then, it might be doubtful that they were intentionally weaving all sorts of subtleties, for the reader to uncover.

BUT, if one could know that an author, (James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake) for example, labored over each sentence, with many drafts, then the notion that such subtleties are intentional on the part of an author would be more credible.

I have already answered that once.

Repost: BUT, if one could know that an author, (James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake) for example, labored over each sentence, with many drafts… then the notion that such subtleties are intentional on the part of an author would be more credible

For example…. Death of a Salesman was written in 6 weeks, and Red Badge of Courage was written in a mere 10 days…

So, it is less believable that the authors, in such a brief time, wove such intricate and subtle meanings into their works.

BUT, Annie Proulx spent 6 months on her 30 page short story, Brokeback Mountain, and she admits that she could write a novel in 6 months.

So, one naturally asks the question, what is an author up to when they spend an inordinate amount of time writing something that is very short.

Of course, it is possible that the subconscious is at work, investing subtleties in a work , but that is a very Jungian point of view.

Milan Kundera complains that “critics discover other people’s discoveries.” We might ask whether the same complaint might be lodged against those who write commentaries on the philosophers.

That is exactly what Kundera objects to, that the life of the author is something separate from his work.

He explores that in his novel “Immortality”, in which Hemingway and Goethe become best friends in heaven, and peer down to see the mischief of critics who continue to comment on their works.

I feel that a comedian/director like Woody Allen is brilliant, yet I know people who refuse to watch his movies because they object to the scandals in his personal life.

Yet, perhaps if we knew something about Shakespeare’s personal life, or Plato, we could have the same sort of objection… but they are shrouded in the mystery of antiquity.

F. Scott Fitzgerald may have come close to writing the “great American novel” but he was such a tragic alcoholic and spendthrift.

The other day the wheel was mentioning Nagel. Google reveals that Nagel wrote about “moral luck.”

One example is that painter who abandoned his family, and went to Tahiti.

google on “moral luck” Nagel

In other words, if a scientist divorces his family, to gain more time for research, and comes up with a cure for cancer or aids… then this is called “moral luck” since there will be people who will look the other way at his immorality, because, the end justifies the means.

But for every such lucky artist or scientist,… there are hundreds or thousands of others who are “morally unlucky”, since the do their misdeeds, but produce nothing to make amends.

Imagine if Einstein were not of Jewish ancestry, but had been a Nazi, bent upon destroying what he considered an enemy nation, and hence pursued relativity solely for the purposes of making possible an Hiroshima.

Without Einstein, perhaps Hiroshima would have been impossible, but then, perhaps someone else would have come up with the technology.

I agree with Jung that matter has a “tendency” to produce psyche. One may see this in the theories of organic molecules forming in the prehistoric oceans on a cooling young planet.

ONE PERSON ASKS ME: Are you something of a panpsychist then?


Our society and education conditions us to desperately search for some Greek-sounding technical term, and , once we have found that buzzword, and attached it to something, then we have achieved understanding, and earn an “A” for the marking period.

If you really want to know what I am, you could read everything I have posted for 10 years, and I am sure there would be no one word to describe it, any more than there is one word to describe any of us

And if you aren’t truly interested enough to read everything and know what I am, then, why ask?

We will all be dead and forgotten in 100 years or less, what difference does it make, my particulars… or you persuading me of something, or me persuading any of you…

But, if mankind exists in 100 years, then people will still be discussing Sartre, Plato, Shakespeare, and their likes.

When two individuals argue, one trying to convince the other, or disprove or refute the other, i see it as pointless, since mankind in several thousand years of culture has not come to unanimous unilateral agreement upon any significant issue (except perhaps, number theory, atomism, energy and the like) why would I want to limit myself by some label of an -ism or -ology, and why would I want to label anyone else, since most people here are probably young, and will change much during the course of their life.

I think labeling with buzzwords is a bad habit instilled in us by an educational system of multiple choice testing it.

I mention ideas…. things which i encounter in my reading, few of them are MY ideas, most of us speak of very little which is truly our own. And one can search on ideas like Nagel, Jung, etc. and read up on it, and form your own notion of what something is or is not

What I am or am not has little to do with anything of real importance.

One of my pet peeves, is that one should “address ideas, and not individuals” but, i think our education and society conditions us to crave “one-up-manship” and confuse debate with discourse.

I will give you a prime example. last week, there was something in here that I found annoying, i.e. i found it an unproductive theme to harp upon. And in PM, one person asked if this does not mean that I am “a skeptic”, because I showed my disagreement…

Well, I feel it is simple-minded to search for some buzzword label, to attach to someone, such as “skeptic”

I explained (I shall clean up my language here) that “poo stinks”, and
asserting that poo stinks does not make me a skeptic… it just means i have some common sense.

Actually, the issue had to do with someone who said “axiomatic” in every other post.

But, I have no desire to argue I have no desire to convince others, except possibly, in values which I see as an impediment to learning
i see the desire to defeat others in debate and consider it some kind of intellectual victory, as a mistake, a confusion.

It would only make sense if one could point to an example of one idea (not scientific or mathematical) which came to be unanimously accepted by all peoples in all places.

For me, debate is a form of violence. I can simply express my ideas, and name books or links to articles if someone feels like reading they will read.

If they want to form some different idea from mine, altogether different, then that is their freedom

Imagine yourself on a “ship of fools”, and you take a year to convince all of them something, and you become their leader, then, is all that consensus and agreement proof that you have found the truth?

Speaking of the metaphor of a tennis ball, I once made up an examble of a game called “goodminton.” Badminton has the goal of knocking the birdie out of flight. and scoring a point

But in my “goodminton” game the object is to keep the birdie in the air as long as possible. Iimagine a Thrasymachus trying to play a game of “goodminton”.

In the interests of “goodminton” I try never to address an individual, never to nitpick on their spelling or grammar, never to attach a label to them, and a host of other things i suppose, so that “the byrdie stays aloft.”

It is easier to destroy than to create.

it is easier to object, than to explore, extrapolate, improvise, conjecture.

When you attempt to conjecture, you crawl out upon a limb, and attract all those who only care to criticize and refute. Yet you will notice that the addicts of refutation never really produce some interesting hypothesis or conjecture, or a body of writing somewhere to read because they fear falling victim to their own tactics.

Just like war, a necessary evil

But, refutation has never produced universal accord on any none mathematical/scientific issue.

It seems that religions argue more than any other arena of inquiry, yet you seem to imply that lack of refutation leads to religion.

Then why do various sectarian group perennially try to refute each other>

There seems to be lots of sectarian violence, for decades, in Ireland, and now Iraq.

It seems simply foolishness to claim that matters of faith are free from disputation or refutation, simply because one assumes that there is no arbitrary laboratory for conducting experiments.

Centuries of violence, and centuries of medieval disputation, show otherwise.

Stop and think how the study of comparative religions can be likened to the study of chess. The board and its pieces have no meaning, but there is a logical movement and history, almost like a mathematics. The same is true of the history of religious thought. One might be a student of comparative religion, not be religious or spiritual at all, and study the “geometry of arguments,” so to speak.

I have spent much of my life studying just that but, the rules of this channel against religion make it dangerous to mention the word at all…

Although, ironically, quite ironically, someone might be here hour after hour, day after day, saying essentially that “religion is nonsense” and they would not be reprimanded or in violation of the rule against religious talk I mean, if you spend a lot of time saying “religion is nonsense”, you are in effect discussing religion.

Regarding that “geometry of comparative religion” I can point out the most intriguing thing I have discovered as a difference between the god of the old testament and the god of the Koran.

The Koran asserts that God is not bound even by his own pronouncements, but can revoke and repudiate anything, whereas the essence of the old testament is that God cannot lie, and is bound by his own decisions this logical difference seems to me quite rich in philosophical possibilities aha, ABROGATE, that is the word i was seeking.

The Koran claims that God is so powerful that he can abrogate or nullify and command or statement precisely, not omnipotent, if self limiting but, the alternative is total capriciousness.

In effect, each religion is like a geometry, with certain assumed principles, definitions, which reasons from those assumptions to arrive at certain conclusions.

Its a long story, not every question has a one sentence answer.

At least, a one sentence answer that is adequate and does justice to the question.

I want to tell you a true story from my life that is very amusing, and has a philosophical lesson in it I think. I would like to hear it. My wife is from the Philippines, and I am non-Asian. She took me once to a Catholic pentecostal-style revival, where the lay preacher and everyone except me, is Filipino Now, I am old, and walk with a cane, … so the speaker asks me to stand up and asks me if I would like to be healed, and free of my cane I said “No” and everyone was thunderstruck and asked me “Why not” I explained that I see some purpose to old age, sickness, and death, and have no wish to escape the natural process, which is truly how i have felt most of my life.

I once discovered a glaring oversight in one papal encyclical which advocated the elimination of world poverty… namely, one verse where Jesus says “… for the poor shall always be with you”

And, that phrase, interestingly is echoed by Moses, when he forbids gleaning fields he commands to leave tidbits for the animals and poor people “who shall always be around” medical science dreams of eliminating disease, yet viruses and parasites evolve resistance to drugs (consider the malarial mosquito).

And communist Marxist ideologies dream of eliminating poverty and class distinctions but, we have seen the economic failure of such societies i know one Russian American who would fly in Russia in the 1960s, and mock them for having “first class” when they boast a classless society.

At the end of Goethe’s Faust (part II), Faust undertakes a project to “reclaim land from the sea” and build some perfect society…

But, his whole bet with the devil is this, if EVER there comes to Faust a moment, where he says “thou art so fair, linger”, then Faust loses and the devil wins

Is this “the best of all possible worlds”? Can we improve it? Or will we destroy it in our attempts to improve it?

Someone once said to Helen Keller “The world is filled with suffering” and she answered “But the world is also filled with the overcoming of suffering.”

If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.

Engineers have devised a plan to preserve Venice from the oceans destruction,… but it would take 30 years to build no regime/party in Italy stays in power for more than 2 years, so none would support a 30 year project… because it would not benefit them in the short term

This aspect of human nature is precisely why there will be no improvement, even when it is technologically possible if you concentrate on the sea level, you miss the whole point of the example there was a one hour documentary about Venice, and the engineering proposal.

There was another hour long PBS documentary on the tower of Pisa, apparently, yes, they made progress.

Different example of the problem of human nature…. American business was criticized in the 1980s for only looking down the road one year, at the bottom line of the financial statements, and the stock market, while japan was positioning itself for 30 or 60 years down the road.

If we were to clearly see the destruction of mankind, 1000 years in the future, and clearly see a plan to avert it which would take 100 years of hard work and sacrifice, many would say “why bother, since I shall not be around to suffer the calamity.”

There would be a minority of idealist activists who would champion the project…. and a majority of people who would be apathetic.

There is an ancient story about an old man in his 90s who is out planting a bread-fruit tree which will take 100 years to mature and yield fruit a passerby sees the old man and tells him he is such a fool to plant the tree, since he can never live to taste its fruits
the old man explains that he does it for future generations, as his forefathers planted such trees for his enjoyment in his lifetime

Basically most people are selfish sh!ts, but they prefer to use rhetoric to justify why their position is perfectly reasonable.

It is such a relief to pronounce oneself utterly blameless.

That movie “paying it forward” is so clever. the teacher asks each student to come up with some idea that will change the world.

So, the one kid comes up with the idea to benefit one person, but require them to “pay it forward” by benefiting THREE others, and placing them under the same obligation. Of course the story must end with the martyric death of the young hero-protagonist.

If it is true that we owe a debt to our ancestors, then who can we possibly repay, other than future posterity.