Category Archives: Philosophy

Philosophical topics and rants.

Preconceptions and Misconceptions

Recently, I’ve begun to wonder how much of what we take for granted isn’t rooted in fact.  If we look back even 100 years, what seemed like solid science then (Black people have smaller brains, anyone?) is now obviously, and hilariously wrong. It took them until the early 1900s to figure out that if you stick a vibrator in a chick’s vagoo she feels better. What got me thinking on this, is that until recently I thought Death Cab for Cutie was absolute shite. And then I actually heard one of their songs. And now I love their music. It makes me think about what other great music I’m missing out on. And then I got to thinking, what if it isn’t just music?

About a week ago I heard a negative review of Gnome Shell (Gnome Shell is the window manager planned to be released with GNOME 3). I watched a video and thought it looked pretty cool. So i installed ubuntu 9.10, installed gnome shell, and fired it up. And i swear to god it is the coolest thing ever. When it is finished, I honestly can’t say I’ll use anything else. And previously, I’d sworn off all things Linux forever. With good reason, too. Gnome 2 is absolutely awful when compared to osx leopard and windows 7.

Take from it what you will.

I almost make it.

If you are like me, you too are almost good enough. You have a dream. You have goals. And right now, you are not making real progress. You are surviving.

If you are like me, they told you that you could be anything you set your mind towards… and then never lifted a finger to help you find your calling; only two shoulders and raised palms from shrugging off the question nobody can answer for you.

If you are like me, you have squandered opportunities some would kill for. Not necessarily through carelessness, although that played a part. But because you didn’t know any right way to succeed… or where to turn for answers.

If you are like me, you’ve found an entry-level position with a soul-crushing company. Perhaps it’s not even your first. But you aren’t worried about finding anything better… not really. Not anymore.

If you are like me… you have lost that spark of hope. That belief that life can be better. It’s not because the news is horrible, though that is a piece of it. It isn’t even that you don’t make a difference in the world… because you do, in small ways, in personal ways… although it’s not enough.

I lost that spark of hope in four pieces. I failed college. I lost a job. I couldn’t learn to write a novel in two years time. I was passed over for promotion at a temp job so someone less competent, but younger, could turn to me for questions about the job I should have.

You may have lost it in other ways. But you are like me in more ways than you would like.

Someday… we will do something about it.

For today, we survive.

Perception

In your mind you feel cold,
in your eyes you see frost.

In your mind you feel hot,
in your eyes you see waving air.

In your mind you feel the evil in the world,
in your eyes you see the blade penetrate your heart.

In your mind you feel love,
in your eyes you see love enveloping the world.

Which do you want?
Which do you choose?
Which do you see?

An Atomic Existence

Have you ever wondered the things your eyes have seen, when they weren’t your eyes? The atoms that build them flowing through the universe since the beginning of time, or if time is non-linear – infinitely. The star they were born in is long dead by now, and they’ve been everywhere throughout the universe, your eyes have seen everything. Yet they can not show you what they have seen, for they can not perceive their surroundings. Unlike yourself. You’ve been lucky enough to have been born as an organism. A piece of the universe, like the stars and the planets, but with absolutely no explanation of your existence. If the atoms you were built from could show you what they have seen, could you perceive it? Would your capacity to understand and to interpret their reality be advanced enough to process the infinite stream of information tied to the atoms? Are we as a part of the universe old enough to even begin to understand the reason for anything? An infinite amount of human races in an infinite amount of universes, all having pondered the purpose for our existence, yet no conclusive cause exists. Do we even want to know? And would knowing make us better for it?

Just something thats been buzzing in my head for a few days. I think I’m going mad, but that might be fun. Who knows?

EOF

A few haiku I wrote

I wander into
A room full of people who
Know him but not me

It takes a village
The old proverb tells us
But that’s subjective

I go out walking
And stop and smell the roses
What else do you want?

It smells like urine
In the park you don”t go to
The homeless folks park

To exist or not?
Raised by hamlet, who really
Has the right answer

Where are your weapons?
The general asks us poor
We can’t afford them

To look into the
Depths of another mans soul
Is not for the weak

Tread lightly around
Lions and Tigers and Bears
During the winter

I feel like breaking a pattern today (In other news, CAKE!)

Notice the lack of alliteration?
Today, I got a cake. The details are non-critical, but I got a cake, and I shared it with people because I can’t eat an entire fucking cake by myself. It was good cake. Chocolate with this semi-mintish frosting, and m&ms on top. I lacked eating utensils, so most of us ate with our hands. Quite honestly, it’s the best way to eat cake. Fuck this slices shit.

Also: ReactOS and Haiku

Two open source operating systems I’ve been following for a while now. Haiku is quite a bit further along, but their goal is far less ambitious. Just thought i would give a heads-up to anyone looking for an OS in a few years.

On Drowning…

Do those who have tasted death no longer fear it?

When I was very young, I drowned while in a pool with no lifeguard on duty. There was only one other person in the pool, and my grandma was on the side watching.

I don’t remember feeling any fear or anxiety about dying during or afterward. As it happened, the other swimmer happened to be a lifeguard.

Strange how things work out…

Life went on as usual, but somehow was more vivid. I became more observant. I remember watching trees and bushes move with the wind, not trying to understand, but to see it for what it was.

I feel like somehow this is part of why I don’t have the drive for material goods like most people do. I don’t see the point in collecting anything that will be gone when I am. Or at the very best, useless to have collected. I merely seek to be enjoyable. My grand ambition is to enjoy life.

I think I do alright.

Why We Do What We Do

A question far greater minds than my own have tried to answer, to be certain. Never-the-less, as the clock approaches midnight and I stay up futilely hoping that my internet connection will increase ten-fold so I can install Dragon Age tonight rather than tomorrow afternoon, I feel inclined to tackle it. A lot of people would probably say semi-random signals fired in our brain. However, I refuse to subscribe to that philosophy. The Humanists have part of it right, in that we do what we do because it makes us feel good, but that isn’t all of it. I’m inclined to think we do what we do because we can’t decide what we want, and so we spend our lives groping in the dark for what it is that we want, with how good it makes us feel sort of like a game of Hot & Cold, but never really getting even close to it. I’m certain some people have, but they’re few and far between, and often start religious movements trying to tell other people what they’ve found. In the long run, I think everyone’s form of self-realization is going to be different, as unique as people are. Now, I’m going to go to sleep, because I think it will make me feel good. And that’s about the best any of us can hope for.

A world with technology

I must start by offering my condolences to Jezza for the temporary loss of his Internet. Clearly the stresses of this event have warped his mind into the belief that a world without technology would be anything but a nightmare. Certainly, in this increasingly hectic modern world, it is worthwhile taking the time to contemplate one’s surroundings, and even occasionally vacate oneself from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but to eschew technology all together would be utter madness.

Meeting a friend in person is only a superior experience to contacting them technologically due to the comparative infancy of the technology and the sophistication of our senses. Given the current developments in processing power, eye-mounted displays, neural interfaces and associated technologies, it’s not unreasonable to expect that within 10 years one will be able too talk to a friend as if a very convincing facsimile of them were in the room, and within 20 the avatar representing them will be indistinguishable from the real thing.

It may be true that, in the event of a return to a primitive society, many of the larger problems facing the world would dissolve away, but this is only because they would be replaced by much more immediate personal perils. It is folly to suppose that a lack of technology would also remove social inequality- if anything, it would accentuate it. The physically strong would be able to rule over the defenseless weak, and tribal power structures would quickly emerge, with or without the existence of money. Money is merely a convenient fiction to facilitate easier bartering. The physical goods or labour that it represents will still exist (at least, the non-technological ones) and will still be able to be used to exert power over others.

As Jezza correctly states, there would be war and disease, but I suspect he underestimates the scale. Peace is largely predicated on economic interdependence- if I have goods that you want, and you have goods that I want, it’s far more efficient to trade them rather than fighting over the matter- but without the technological advancements that support that interdependence (ships, planes, the internet, etc), the largest societies possible would be small regional affairs and the lack of modern food production techniques would see billions starving to death. Without the spread of education that technology facilitates, future generations would swiftly become superstitious and fully embrace the tribal lifestyle, leading to widespread conflict. Those who were merely wounded in the tribal wars could look forward to a slow death from a minor wound infection, or from slowly bleeding internally. The ones lucky enough to not be wounded could expect to live to a ripe old age of 30, whereupon they would die from a kidney stone growing septic. I humbly posit that yes, this would be “so bad”.

It is a commonly used fallacy to assume that the rate of population increase necessarily means that the world is being destroyed. As we further master our technologies, we devise methods for feeding more people using less land and water, for generating power for our cities in a more efficient manner, and for spreading knowledge of these advances.

I’m not arguing, of course, that technology is perfect, but so far it has managed to solve far more problems than it has caused, and indeed allows us the opportunity to engage in these sort of idle metaphysical musings. Our new developments will doubtless bring more problems in the future, but I anticipate these to be, on the whole, less severe than the problems that the developments were designed to solve, and the new problems will almost certainly be amenable to further technological solutions.

There’s a Shameful Train a-Boardin’

The Public Shame Glory Train is now departing.  First stop: Griekspoor & Border.

When you’re nine years old, $80 is a lot.  When it’s $80 for your birthday, that’s awesome!  One young Miss Marissa Holland received two gift cards for her birthday and went out shopping, probably thrilled to have her very own money.  Being a kid and possibly not thinking clearly in all the excitement (or at all, but she’s 9 and this stuff happens) she sat them on a store shelf.

Enter the swoopers: Tina Griekspoor and Evelyn Border, 35 and 56, respectively.  They saw these gift cards on the store shelf, with the child’s name on them, and did what they felt was right- paid for their shit.  How awesome is that?  Not very.  Worse, they went back and tried to purchase MORE things with the child’s gift.  Really?

It may not have been the smartest thing for the girl to do, putting the cards on the shelf and not in her pocket but we have no idea what prompted her to do that.  And remember, she’s nine.  I think, however, we can safely say what prompted these two ladies to snatch her gift cards, however, and in that we can see they had no shame.

Well, didn’t.  Thanks to some creative adjudication, Griekspoor and Border got to be the stars of the show and receive the shame they so desperately lacked.  The two of them, a mother and daughter sad-sack show, got to stand in front of their local courthouse in what is apparently the center of town holding signs which read “I stole from a 9-year-old girl on her birthday!  Don’t steal or this could happen to you!”  For 4.5 hours they held up these enormous signs with their six-inch-high letters, and Marissa’s mother drove her past so she could see not only the women who stole from her, but the price one pays when public shaming is at work.

Whatever happened to public shaming?  When did we become a society which is afraid to make people feel that they should be ashamed of themselves and what they’ve done?  Whenever public shaming happens it’s somehow seen as a big deal.  We can look at the Korean Train Dog Poop Girl or the more recent Rotten MySpace Mom cases and see where public shaming is as effective as or more effective than anything which can be done by law.  Do you think Griekspoor and Border would have changed their ways if they didn’t have to spend half a workday in the middle of town telling everyone they are heartless gift-snatchers?  I doubt it.

Some people are against public shaming.  In the case of Dog Poop Girl, people decried the release of her information into the public sphere.  No, it most certainly was not right to harass her family and tell everyone her business.  At the same time, however, the right of the public to bring shame to someone who doesn’t have it for themselves has long been upheld.  Dog Poop Girl gave less than a fuck about decorum or anyone’s health or even the right of her fellow riders not to slip in a pile of dog crap, and for her clear demonstration that she has no shame, the internet brought her some.  Lori Drew, who with not a drop of self-control precipitated and participated in a charade which sent a young girl to take her own life, was similarly exposed and shamed by the internet.  You may argue whether the young girl in question was already messed up or whatever.  That is hardly the point.  The point is that Lori Drew, a grown-ass woman, knew better.

Public shaming has had a long and storied history throughout the world as a way to punish without removing someone from society.  The idea is that if you can’t access your inner shame before you do something stupid, society will help.  It’s one thing to do your crime in secret and even to go to jail for it.  That’s a function of law and order, but unless you’re all over the papers nobody has to know what you’ve done.  In public shaming, however, your name and face become synonymous with whatever careless, antisocial act you have perpetrated and now everyone knows what you’ve done.  Worse, they all know you don’t know how to act.  They can avoid you.  They can talk about you.  They can mock you, point and laugh, they can choose to pity you or to avoid you altogether because now they know what kind of person you are.

There’s hardly any way of getting out of that.