Saturday, April 28, 2007

There are more things than are dreamt of in your philosophy

I think that title, incidentally, comes from Shakespeare somewhere. Anyhow, what I mean to say is that, "Everything is exactly as it's supposed to be, and it could not be any other way." This is kind of my personal philosophy. That thought came to me one day many years ago, and instantly it seemed to me to be absolutely true. Philosophy majors, and others I guess, think about such things, sometimes with great consternation, and I too had struggled with the great metaphysical ideas; who are we, why are we here, what is our purpose, do we have free-will, and so forth. Wittgenstein largely cured me of those non-question questions, though. This thought may have come from something I had read at one time, as surely I am not the first to have thought of such an idea, but as I remember it, the idea seemed to have more fallen upon me straight out of the blue sky one day. That's what seemed to lend credibility to it, a truth that I had not invented, but which made an unexpected appearance to my mind one day, for no particular reason. I've been reading some Kurt Vonnegut lately, and he expresses much the same idea; things happen as they do, because the moment was structured in such a way. It seems so fatalistic and deterministic to think in such a way, and philosophers as well as most others have recoiled from such an idea, with its implications of a mechanistic existence in which we all go through the pre-proscribed motions. It all seems to justify such things as evil, and terrible events, as just, inevitable.

I don't think so though. For every evil which exists, you have people in resistance to that evil. That also, is exactly how it's supposed to be, and it could not be any other way. Every tragedy has its response, good or bad, or indifferent, which when it occurs, could not have occurred any other way. Therefore, it's useless to fret over the past; if only I had done this instead of that, made this choice instead of that one. You made the only choice you could have, because the moment was structured that way, and anyhow, as Jesus himself said with regard to the future or tomorrow, it is pointless to worry about that, because the worries of the present moment are sufficient to the day thereof.

This probably isn't an, "everything happens for a reason" notion, though. Because I think that many things happen for no reason, they just happen. They happen because the moment was structured that way, which may have been without any reason to it. This also seems to indicate though, that we do have the power to shape the future, in the present. Some people will believe that, and follow through on it. Others will think that this is futile, and refuse to believe they can create the future. And all of it, is exactly how it's supposed to be, and it could not be any other way but so. Kurt Vonnegut summarizes these thoughts nicely on page 209 of "Slaughterhouse Five", in a well-known and time honored aphorism, which goes:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And Wisdom always
To tell the difference

And I wrote this, because it could not have been any other way. The moment was simply just structured that way.


Kurt Vonnegut, a human being...

I've been thinking lately about how this country has allowed itself to come to its present state, where we attack innocent nations, where we imprison innocent persons in secret jails around the world, and where we allow a president to contradict our traditional democratic system of checks and balances, and who in effect now rules by dictat, or signing statements, circumventing Congress and the will of the people time and time again. How has all of this come to pass, especially with regard to the past six years or so? I think I may have come up with the answer, and it is: Delusion. Look at the facts (delusional folks, create a new delusion here). Lied into an illegal war. No hard evidence ever offered for the "threat" put forth by Iraq, because no evidence existed, because Iraq was not a threat. "The Terrists", as the fearless one calls them; who are they, where are they? Are they everywhere, even under our beds? Are these guys anything like "the Comminists", who seemed also always on the verge of taking over, of invading us from Third World poverty outposts like Vietnam or Nicaragua? Yes, Americans love their delusions; we love to tell tall tales about ourselves (the good), and everyone else (i.e., the bad). And we love to live within our delusions; it's really the only way to explain how a verbally challenged, gentleman's C student, and the real powers behind him, could have ever gotten ahold of the levers of power in this country, and held onto them. He could not have done it all by himself. He needed the support of those who believed, delusionally, that he was a "good Christian", simply because he proclaimed himself one. That talking in a twangy voice some how gives one "homespun credibility". That a Christian would or could or ever be directly responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 persons (and yes, those Crusaders of old, were deluded too). Living within a delusion allows one to do terrible things, and claim that they're really quite wonderful things.

I've been reading a work by Kurt Vonnegut, who died recently. He was a POW in WW II. Of the Germans. Like my uncle. He experienced directly the power of a national delusion gone terribly insane. And thinking. About Christianity, about how the teachings of Jesus have been warped to serve power. About the delusional followers of this new (or not so new?), false brand of Christianity, and their role in our current state of affairs. And about the Buddha, whose teachings, so similar to those of Jesus before those were later warped and twisted very early on, is many times shown in the pose of the Lotus Position, seated cross-legged with one open hand in a teaching pose, and one hand layed over a knee with index finger touching the ground. This means that all of what he is about to teach, is grounded in the Earth, and of the Earth, and from the Earth, and not from the Sky or from some other otherworldly realm. The true, original teachings of both Christ and Buddha, were meant to clear away delusion, I believe, not to create them in the interests of power.

Sinclair Lewis, the author of "Babbitt", wrote that when Fascism came to America, it would come as a Cross, wrapped in a Flag. In other words, it would be a uniquely American brand, not German, and not Japanese. I would only add to that that it will finally come when the people have allowed themselves to become completely overtaken by their own delusions, delusions that are without the benefit of terra firma to hold them up. To put everything beyond the veil, even one's own sensibility, I think, is just asking for trouble.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tragedy At Virgina Tech

This past week I've been reading and following everything on the Virginia Tech shootings, and especially on the person responsible for the tragedy, Cho Seung-Hui. I've also noted in some of these news reports that many in the Korean community here as well as in Korea feel a sense of responsibility, because the shooter was Korean-American. I've known Koreans in my life due to my past study of Tae Kwon Do, and they are an interesting and remarkable people. Their ethnic sense of their "Korean-ness" is probably stronger than perhaps almost any other ethnic group's concept of self-identity, due to aspects of their history, geography, and culture, and therefore having that insight, I can see where many in the Korean community might instinctively feel a sense of collective shame over this terrible event. This is one instance though, where being an American allows me to offer a perspective that is quite the opposite of this. At least with regard to this particular event, I have heard no condemnation of Koreans because of what happened at Virginia Tech. It had become increasingly clear toward the end of this week that Cho Seung-Hui was suffering from probably a number of mental issues, some perhaps biological in nature, and having that compounded by contexts where it seems he was ridiculed or made to feel "set apart" because of these issues, which I believe most likely had a strongly genetic or deterministic component to them, was unable to contain his rage and pain any longer. That, is not the fault of an entire ethnic community, but rather the tragedy of the greater community at large, which apparently missed so many of his previous cries for help.

Many of these type of instances seem to be occurring not in America's inner cities, or other considered stereotypical centers of violence, but in the more well-to-do suburbs or now on prestigious campuses, which are fed from these communities. These suburbs and campuses are very homogeneous in nature, very well off, very white (with "honorary" status for some minorities, as long as they aren't "too" minority), and very much places where if one does not fit the "template" of these communities, there can be a price to be paid. A popular catch phrase from such communities is "Work Hard, Play Hard", and many from these advantaged places can in fact embody such self-agrandizing or superficial concepts. There, however, really does need to be some more self-examination as to why these tragedies seem to occur over and over in places of privilege, rather than "where you might expect them" to occur. Maybe some of these booze binging centers, such as our own flagship university, University of Colorado at Boulder, are not entirely the centers of the "best and the brightest", but perhaps as well the centers of advantaged and overprivileged children of greedy, ambitious parents? I know that's a controversial statement, especially right now, but then again I've seen and experienced such places, so I can offer an opinion from personal experience. Maybe when such institutions and communities as these finally truly make an effort to become more heterogeneous in nature, more inclusive of all people, and all types of people, they can then begin to educate themselves to the notion that diversity is in fact a strength of a community, and that those who are "different", for whatever reason, deserve the support of their given community rather than their ridicule or condemnation. Only a diverse community could have helped Cho Seung-Hui, and prevented this terrible tragedy, as someone from amongst that multitudinous diversity would have had the courage, capability and compassion to reach out in a significant way to such an obviously disturbed young man. But when everyone is the same, doing the same, being the same, all even living out the same catch phrases such as so-called "working hard and playing hard", struggling desperately to fit the template and be anything but "different", Cho Seung-Hui is probably the last guy you'd want to be hanging out with. Yes, he did a horrible, horrendous bad thing. I suspect however that people with mental illness exist in all levels of our society, and we really do finally need to begin to take a serious look at why these events seem to happen where they do, and don't seem to happen where we "might think they would".

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Office


"world's best boss"

Does anyone else love this show? I love "The Office"! This is the only TV show that I definitely make sure to set aside TV time for each week to tune in to. Anyone who has ever worked in an office environment (or almost any work environment for that matter) will immediately recognize many of the scenarios which play out at the Dunder-Mifflin Paper Co. (what a name!). My favorite character used to be Michael, the out of touch, clueless boss, the perfect combination of complete ignorance and supreme confidence all in one package. Recently, he burned his foot at home on his George Foreman grill (because of the necessity of having freshly cooked bacon grilling by his bedside immediately upon waking in the morning), which turned into an episode on disability and how he know knew what it was like to be a disabled American, which of course he tried to then educate the office about, complete with pictures of Franklin Roosevelt and Helen Keller hanging on the conference room wall during the said eduational session. I think though, that now my favorite character is Dwight K. Schrute, office sycophant/crazed fanatic. He reminds me of someone I once worked with, albeit only with a slight tinge of "Dwightness". Last week, he pepper-sprayed the warehouse worker/boyfriend of receptionist Pam, as the warehouse guy charged into the office to beat up Jim, another love interest of Pam's. It seems that Dwight had under his desk not only pepper spray, but Chinese throwing stars, numbchucks, and a variety of other potential lethal weapons, which as (self-appointed) office security monitor, he felt necessary to have in his possession. I believe that at one time Dwight held the title of "Admin. Assistant", however when Michael was not around, he would proclaim himself to be the Assistant Administrator, the difference being, I would guess, at least in the realm of around 20 to 30,000 dollars. Dwight was recently fired by Michael for a series of perceived disloyalties which turned out not to be true, and a new sycophant took his place who seemed to drive Michael just crazy. Michael eventually hunted down Dwight at his new environs, Staples (complete with his red Staples pullover shirt) and asked him to return back to the office. It seems, as Michael turns to the camera to explain in this mockumentary style televison show, that he preferred to have someone sucking up to him that really did love him, rather than just your run-of -the mill ladder climber, as his office suck-up. It was one of the few touching moments in a show chock-full of laughs.

They haven't revealed Dwight's political leanings, as of yet, but for some reason I am absolutely 100%positive, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Dwight voted for George W. in the last election, and probably has a GWB sticker on the bumper of his restored 1987 Trans Am. It would just make perfect sense, given the combination of fanaticism, conservatism, and just plain'ol crazy-ism, that he embodies. Dwight, you are the man, but of course, you already knew that!