Tuesday, September 23, 2008

teach the controversy (but try a few others too)

The phrase "teach the controversy" has gained considerable currency in the media lately, and usually refers to differences between evolution and creationism. While some controversies are real, others are created where in actuality no controvery exists. But whatever. So, without promoting any single viewpoint on the issue (anekantavada, gotta love it) I would like to present two additional perspectives on life, one from St. Francis (cue music from Enigma - "Return to Innocence"), founder of the Franciscan Order, and another from Mikhail Bakunin (cue Mussorgsky - "Pictures at an Exhibition"), Russian revolutionary.

First, the Friar:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

And next the anarchist (from "God and the State"):
The idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, both in theory and practice.
Unless, then, we desire the enslavement and degradation of mankind... we may not, must not make the slightest concession either to the God of theology or to the God of metaphysics. He who, in this mystical alphabet, begins with A will inevitably end with Z; he who desires to worship God must harbor no childish illusions about the matter, but bravely renounce his liberty and humanity.
If God is, man is a slave; now, man can and must be free; then, God does not exist.
I defy anyone whomsoever to avoid this circle; now, therefore, let all choose.
(Um, Voltaire, a deist, was a bit more charitable.) Aha! The controversy: How could anyone fault St. Francis for such noble sentiments, which have been embraced by many from AA to Mother Theresa? And what of Bakunin? Surely he has found some reason to express these thoughts.

Wherefore the difference? Can none say?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Critics, flowers, and violins

Critics are everywhere! No one can escape criticism! Two thousand years ago there were critics, one thousand years ago there were critics, five hundred years ago there were critics. Today there are still critics. By way of example, in the late 14th century Jeong Dojeon felt that Buddhism would "destroy morality and eventually humanity itself", so he wrote a book outlining why it was bad. If you aren't familiar with Buddhism, let me introduce Charles Muller. Professor Muller is your average scholar of East Asian thought who works at a university in Tokyo. He has translated a number of Buddhist texts into English, including the Diamond Sutra. His translation is interesting in that it seems obvious what he considers to be the essential teaching of this particular sutra, namely the following lines:
All conditioned phenomena
Are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, a shadow
Like the dew, or like lightning
You should discern them like this
I'm guessing that Jeong Dojeon doesn't fully agree with this sentiment, as romantic as it sounds. Somewhere in his book he probably says it isn't right to think of everything as an illusion, in fact it is plain stupid. Or something like that, after all he's a Neo-Confucian and they have a different way of seeing things. I don't actually know what he says, but whatever he says I am sure it sounds smarter than that. The Buddhists might counter (if they ever did counter him) with something about infinite regression, or maybe they might say that... well they might say a lot of things. It is interesting to view an argument when you don't have a dog in the fight.

But as for me, I like critics, in fact they make me excited! Seriously, always have. My position: If you think I am wrong, then tell me and be honest please. How can I ever improve if I continue to be wrong? Wouldn't you want to know if you were wrong about something? That is why I like critics. Shouldn't everyone? Yeah, when you prove that I am wrong, I will flinch slightly at the sting, I will lick my wounded ego, but then (and this is the crucial part) I will get back on my horse 'cause I can take it. My sacred cows might not fare as well though.

Why should women get to claim all the symbols that are delicate and beautiful, such as flowers and butterflies, for their own? 'Cause you know, sometimes I feel like a flower, or a butterfly, or maybe a butterfly on a flower. It's like those big buff guys who have a tattoo on their shoulder that says "mom", because inside, they just want a hug. On the other hand, I like big scary animals too.

I drempt I played a violin, but instead of drawing a bow across the strings to produce sound, I used another violin. Now that I think about it, wouldn't that be hard to do?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What election? -- Task lists

On November 4th there is one candidate you won't see on the election ballot. That candidate is "none of the above". In Nevada (of all places!), one can select "None of these candidates". Why not have this option available nationally? Right now the next best option to this is voting against the candidate you like the least, as opposed to actively endorsing someone you do like. But this is not an encouraging situation. Disillusioned voters should have a clear and unambiguous choice available to them, eh?

There are many effective ways to delay getting stuff done. One of the more popular of which is to create a task list. Anecdotal evidence on the interwebs suggests that these lists are simply more time and effort than they are worth. Having earned my black belt many years ago in the fine art of procrastination and the allied skills of deceiption and redirection, about a week ago I decided to make a collosal task list of my own big enough to eclipse anything of the kind I have yet made. It gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction to see what I haven't done yet - there is a palpable feeling of untapped potential. It doesn't matter than I don't know when I will become fluent in a foreign language, be able to play a guitar like The Edge, or create a monumental work of art. I've carefully noted each of those on my task list along with about ninety other things. It's not pedantic (though I'm not ruling that off out of hand). Honestly, brainstorming my future goals is kinda cool and fun.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

To be a satirist

"I must answer my calling to be a satirist!" I wonder if anyone ever woke up to that realization. I think rather that they fell into it as the most expedient method for conveying a message and getting a reaction from people who are otherwise unreactive to a more conservative treatment of the subject. Either that or they are all just too chicken to say what they really think! But personally I am no fan of the dark side of humor. It's distasteful, and it creeps me out. I prefer good, clean, simple jokes, like "There are three kinds of people in the world: those who can count, and those who can't." LOL! Who gets tired of that? And besides, can you name even one famous satirist?

There are actually discussion lists on the web where people get together and debate theories of humor. A quick glance through a few of the posts at one of them led to a simple definition: humor and the vocalization of laughter are most easily understood as an aspect of play, the function of which (need I name one?) is to improve survival in a competitive world.

I've been getting some flack for my "nutritional anthropology" posts. Now some of the highest praise this blog has received were because of those entries, but if you thought those were bad, you should've seen the ones that I deleted!

On a more serious note, I just learned that I can build a house out of fungus. Ecovative Design is a company formed around the invention of what they have given the name "greensulate". This is great news. I will be the first to welcome and help usher in the great Fungal Awakening that awaits us in the 21st Century. Applications in the field of construction are only the beginning. We have yet to realize the true promise held in the complete integration of fungal technology across the wide spectrum of human activites. If you think I am kidding, just ask yourself when the last time science hasn't made good on it's predictions of the future.