Society, Education, Interactions and Fear

Starting around the 30 minute mark....here is my interpretation.

Neural exercises for physical and mental health, such as playing music and physical play. And a big part of play is social interaction. This will change physiology and psychology.

But the current educational system has thrown out pe and music and inserted iPads and laptops.

I am torn on this point, since I am often a bit of a loner and dislike forced social interactions that I feel are artificial. But maybe part of that is just because I never developed those social skills. AND perhaps society's social interaction models are inadequate.

And at around the 40 minute time he comments on how fear drives so much of people and politics.

Very interesting stuff.


Meaning and Certainty

Today I want to bring together three thoughts
(another poorly written essay with questionable coherence)

  1. Confusion of “Meaning” in life causes a longing for certainty
  2. Certainty by definition removes confusion and ambiguity
  3. Anger fills one with confidence and dominance

I believe it is in the nature of our human brains to look for patterns and order in the world around us. My armchair anthropology sees this pattern recognition as an evolutionary plus, from hunting, to fighting to figuring out agriculture. It gives us an edge in survival.

BUT, we try to take this wonder of cataloging and systematizing and apply it to emotional or psychological causes. So we move from “why do I also see deer at this spot now and how can I find it next time” to “there must be a reason the deer exist” (I know that was a little weak, but I'm still fleshing this out)

So there is “meaning” in how the physical world works and it is discoverable precisely because it is physical. But things like the “meaning of life” are less clear. Partly I think because there is an inherent imprecision in the nature of language the people usually ignore.

In any case the thing is, since this deeper meaning is not obvious the choice is to acknowledge the unknown or see an answer and accept it as an explanation. Like we accept the explanation that the moon controls the tides even though very few of us really understand the physics of gravity in a scientific sense.My point is not to question gravity and the tides, but to point out we often accept as truth things we really don't really understand.

Salafists, Khorchide explains, divide the world into good and evil, pious and non-believers. They offer orientation and cohesion to young people struggling to find a direction in life. (from Der Speigel)

Basically accepting any well defined world view from scientific materialism to radical fundamentalism we find THE answer to life, the universe and everything. Even if we don't know the details we have solved the fundamental puzzle of why we are here. If it feels good the solve the daily jumble or sudoku, imagine how great it is to know you have the answer to life itself.

So in the modern world where there are clear examples that the barbarity of past times is not necessary, why then are political and religious extremist not happy and satisfied with “knowing” the answers to the deeper or bigger question? Why must people become so angry when other disagree with them? And more amazing still, why do some have such a need to attack and kill?

I suggest it is the simply the joy of anger. That and the feel good time of righteous indignation. If one really gets riled up, and you KNOW you are in the right, MAN that can feel great.

Now, to bring it back to the start. What if “The World” IF it has any “Meaning” requires us to let go of trying to define what that meaning is. So paradoxically “meaning” of any substance comes from not forcing your brain onto the world. Rather you accept the world and along the way it defines you instead. You are part of the world and vice versa. ….No that is not quite right.

I slipped into myself without even realizing it. I was trying to precisely say what the meaning of life was. I don't think it can be done.

Maybe it is that if we ask for meaning we are asking the wrong question. When it is all said in done, humans evolved as a social animal even if we have many individualistic tendencies. There will always be a tension and really it is when we can look at each other without meaning and see we just a bunch of humanoids and life really would be better with a bit more compassion no matter what the other person is doing.

(I know I made a bit of leap with the compassion thing, but I wanted to get it down on virtual paper)

.  .  .  .

An analogy would be to try to analyze poetry with mathematics. In some cases it can be done (most obviously in Haiku structure), and may even be reasonable for considering a poem. BUT even if the structure has a "structure" we don't read poems for that, we drink them in emotionally, not mathematically.

and this from a guy who has problems appreciating poetry. But in a way when one finally does break through to me it seems all more remarkable.

.  .  .  .

From a Der Spiegel article on why children of Kurdish immigrants to Germany go off to join ISIS

He believes that many Islamic State supporters in Germany have limited interest in Islamic issues. Instead, he argues, they view Salafism, a particularly reactionary movement within Sunni Islam, as a kind of counterculture. "Salafism is a product of modernity," Khorchide says. He describes it as being similar to radical youth movements seen in many other societies. Salafists, Khorchide explains, divide the world into good and evil, pious and non-believers. They offer orientation and cohesion to young people struggling to find a direction in life.


An article about Edward O. Wilson and his definition of meaning

In ordinary usage the word “meaning” implies intention, intention implies design, and design implies a designer. Any entity, any process, or definition of any word itself is put into play as a result of an intended consequence in the mind of the designer. This is the heart of the philosophical worldview of organized religions, and in particular their creation stories. Humanity, it assumes, exists for a purpose. Individuals have a purpose in being on Earth. Both humanity and individuals have meaning.

There is a second, broader way the word “meaning” is used and a very different worldview implied. It is that the accidents of history, not the intentions of a designer, are the source of meaning. There is no advance design, but instead overlapping networks of physical cause and effect. The unfolding of history is obedient only to the general laws of the Universe. Each event is random yet alters the probability of later events. ...

Whether in the cosmos or in the human condition, the second, more inclusive meaning exists in the evolution of present-day reality amid countless other possible realities.

Within groups selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, but groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals. Or, risking oversimplification, individual selection promoted sin, while group selection promoted virtue. So it came to pass that humans are forever conflicted by their prehistory of multilevel selection. They are suspended in unstable and constantly changing positions between the two extreme forces that created us.

We will find a way eventually to live with our inborn turmoil, and perhaps find pleasure in viewing it as the primary source of our creativity.


from a self help business website I stumbled upon that kind of started me thinking in the way

It was obvious that the person yelling was frightened but was not going to admit to that. You see anger often makes people feel dominant because it raises endorphin levels. That’s why anger is such a powerful drug. The term endorphin rush is sometimes used in normal speech to refer to a feeling of wellness caused by exercise, danger or stress.




I really believe that human beings can be taught to love what they do not love already and that the privileged moment exists for all of us, if we let it. Letting art is the paradox of active surrender. I have to work for art if I want art to work on me.



Posting Goodreads Just have some thing to put here

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or SucceedCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think Diamond gives a pretty even handed account of the way societies fail (and how a few succeed), and I don't think any world view he has skews his research. Although if you love the Montana wilderness and marvel at its beauty you almost inevitably come down on the side of environmentalists wanting to preserve that beauty. Is that a bias, or just a recognition of reality?

Anyway, a good book but maybe a bit too long. He tries to offer some cautious optimism at the end but for the most part it is an emotional beat down. The history of it all is very interesting, but usually it involves tales of how people are short sighted and just plain too arrogant to imagine things might go bad. And the modern tales of Rwanda with its Malthusian dilemma is horrible.

If you follow politics even only slightly you know big business and the republican party in particular, hate regulations and always feel individual rights (or more precisely, big corporation rights) have a higher value then environmental concerns. Yeah, yeah, I know, the Democratic party is not much better, but at least occasionally they sound less strident.

Anyway he says things like this...

“The challenge of deciding which of a society's deeply held core values are compatible with the society's survival and which ones instead have to be given up.” Pg 410

“the remaining solution to the tragedy of the commons is for the consumers to recognize their common interests and design, obey and enforce prudent harvesting quotas themselves”. Pg 429

I just don't see ANY nation, state or even a group of people of any size honestly looking at the way things are, and changing core values. It just ain't gonna happen. Maybe my pessimistic view skews my interpretation...but I doubt it.

The bad times may not come in my lifetime, but it seems they are going to come some time.

“So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish ”

View all my reviews


Neil deGrasse Tyson - addendum

So I read this book about Narcissism called The Life of I by Anne Manne. I found this one bit about some well known Physicist who are repeatedly used by Climate Deniers. She was trying to understand why these few science guys would ignore all the research....

"The culture among physicists, studies have found, requires a macho (or highly competitive and confrontational) style of self-assertion, even bravado, while disdaining and being contemptuous of the work of others"

It just reminded me of Neil deGrasse Tyson telling me how stupid I was. And I started thinking the quote kind of applied to NDT.  There is a bit of confrontation in his Cosmos presentation and from his philosophy comments he certainly is contemptuous of the work of others. So maybe it is just a Physicist thing.

I found this interesting blog post contra NDT and Tyson actually replies in the comments section



You Are Not What You Think You Are

"There is, it seems, no mechanism in the mind or the brain for ensuring the truth, or at least the veridical character, of our recollections. We have no direct access to historical truth, and what we feel or assert to be true...Frequently, our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other, and ourselves—the stories we continually recategorize and refine. Such subjectivity is built into the very nature of memory, and follows from its basis and mechanisms in the human brain. The wonder is that aberrations of a gross sort are relatively rare, and that, for the most part, our memories are relatively solid and reliable."

"We, as human beings, are landed with memory systems that have fallibilities, frailties, and imperfections — but also great flexibility and creativity. Confusion over sources or indifference to them can be a paradoxical strength: if we could tag the sources of all our knowledge, we would be overwhelmed with often irrelevant information."

Just another thing to remind us that the world and ourselves are not what we think."Reality" is not what we remember. Or maybe it is only what we remember (perhaps erroneously) that becomes what is real.

Thank you Oliver Sachs, for breaking another bubble



Video I just want to remember


Random thougts

Neither is conservatism a makeshift fusion of capitalists, Christians, and warriors, for that fusion is impelled by a more elemental force—the opposition to the liberation of men and women from the fetters of their superiors, particularly in the private sphere. Such a view might seem miles away from the libertarian defense of the free market, with its celebration of the atomistic and autonomous individual. But it is not.

When the libertarian looks out upon society, he does not see isolated individuals; he sees private, often hierarchical, groups, where a father governs his family and an owner his employees.


More on feeling old...and mental bomb shelters

 I have very few friends or acquaintances my own age or near it. Though I am usually ill at ease in the company of elderly people I have the greatest respect and admiration for two very old men who seem to remain eternally young and creative. I mean [the Catalan cellist and conductor] Pablo Casals and Pablo Picasso, both over ninety now. 

Such youthful nonagenarians put the young to shame. Those who are truly decrepit, living corpses, so to speak, are the middle-aged, middleclass men and women who are stuck in their comfortable grooves and imagine that the status quo will last forever or else are so frightened it won’t that they have retreated into their mental bomb shelters to wait it out.

Henry Miller


 I love that phrase "mental bomb shelters"


Effort, More or Less

I know it happens to everybody, it is inevitable, obvious...but getting old(er) is kind of strange. You spend 55+ years of your life pretty much with out thinking about it and then, BLAMO..you have to worry about being in shape, or high Blood pressure or digestion or whatever. THEN you find you really do have to worry about such things.

I first started Aikido just before I turned 50, and while I was obviously not as robust as some younger people, there were actually a few times when I wore them out before myself. BUT, just before I quit a few years ago, I noticed my stamina was not what it once was and it seemed to take more to keep the weight off. And then I quit for almost 2 years.

Even after a few week of returning to Aikido I felt an improvement. But this Sunday I felt a cold coming on and by Monday after work it was bad enough that all I wanted to do was go home to sleep. Tuesday, the same. It just seemed my body was really old and tired. What a drag.

By today I felt a bit better but I was a little scared I would poop out mid class. But I felt I needed to clear out my lungs, so I rode around White Rock Lake. Not as strenuous as Aikido but enough to reassure me I was on the mend.

So why do I bother to even mention it? I guess I am trying to reassure myself that I am making an effort.


The podcast where Neil deGrasse Tyson calls me an idiot

Tyson sweepingly dismisses the entire history of philosophy. Actually, he doesn't just dismiss it. He goes much further — to argue that undergraduates should actively avoid studying philosophy at all. Because, apparently, asking too many questions "can really mess you up."

Yes, he really did say that. Go ahead, listen for yourself, beginning at 20:19 — and behold the spectacle of an otherwise intelligent man and gifted teacher sounding every bit as anti-intellectual as a corporate middle manager or used-car salesman. He proudly proclaims his irritation with "asking deep questions" that lead to a "pointless delay in your progress" in tackling "this whole big world of unknowns out there." When a scientist encounters someone inclined to think philosophically, his response should be to say, "I'm moving on, I'm leaving you behind, and you can't even cross the street because you're distracted by deep questions you've asked of yourself. I don't have time for that."
"I don't have time for that."

OK, he doesn't single me out by name, but since I think Zen is intriguing and may point to the fallacies of conventional thought, AND the mere idea that you should “examine yourself” like philosophy, makes it something worthing of study...NDT tosses aside like a rancid piece of meat.

From this podcast we now know NDT is insistent there is only ONE correct (and Rigid) way to look at the world. Why is it so hard for people to say...”well I don’t get it, but if you want study philosophy, Zen, poetry, pottery or whatever..knock yourself out”

No, he as to tells how stupid we are all for not thinking exactly like him.

Personally I think it is Backward looking not Forward looking. He cannot just revel in the coolness of Science, his view of science is only important because it is not..well, something else. So, he has to dump on people who think there are other things of interest, especially bad is Philosophy. But why stop at philosophy, remove poetry, fiction, and drama since it delays your progress. Screw it, why not just burn the books you don't like.

Strangely he is actually a fundamentalist in regard the religion of progress. Anything that interferes with this goal is detrimental. And it is really an unquestioning acceptance of own world view

The thing is he is taking techniques from science and applying them to the different area of an interior life.

Plus he has only disdain for Philosophy and Zen, but they are not like fundamentalism trying to declare what science is.

NDT feels self reflection and any examination is pointless and in fact dangerous


Pindar Says...

Become such as you are, having learned what that is 
 - Pindar

This could be pithy wisdom or something so vague it can mean anything.

Right now I think it is a cool variation on "Know thyself".

Or maybe that living is a process (becoming) and the trick is to not be pulled into somebody else's idea of what is the "right" way to live.


RELAX...Don't Do It

3rd class of Aikido since my break. On the first night I think I hurt, if not tore, some abdominal muscle. On Monday I discovered that when I did a forward roll it hurt like heck across a line in the area a few inches below my navel. BUT if I really relaxed my abdomen it was totally OK. I had the same problem tonight. So when like a novice I tensed up on a back roll, I felt the pain. And it was only when I paradoxically forced myself to relax when I was tense...I really did relax. And it mostly worked.


Yet another new beginning

Another birthday. That makes it seven years of blogging. And I saw on the internet that blogging is dead now, so I hope it doesn’t apply to me.

So what does it mean? You know I may be old enough that I will chuck the whole “meaning” thing anyway. For some reason now the meaning of "meaning" just doesn't seem as important as it once did.

I guess I decided to go back to my roots, so tonight I went back to Aikido after being away for more than a year and a half. Sort of a birthday gift to myself.

It physically took a lot out of me, since I am older, fatter and lazier than ever. But if you excuse a short break I took, I made it through the class. As of now I am planning to return.


Cat Stevens: And that is why Rock and Roll is a pile of crap and not really worth anything.

OK, this is a “pet peeve” of mine, If you think it is OK to kill somebody because of what they write, sing, or whatever, I think you are full of shit.

And if you give explicit, complicit or implicit, assent to said action, you too are full of shit.

Rock and Roll, Punk or whatever, it should mean standing up to “the MAN”

I am not a musician, critic, hip, with it, cool, or anything...but even I know any kind of rebellion means standing up to convention. And if you accept rewards from establishment entertainment on the same stage as somebody who says, or refuses to deny it is wrong, to kill somebody for a novel....well then you have no rebellion, ethics, rightness, goodness, or I don't know what.

I watched the Rock and Roll hall of fame enroll Cat Stevens....and nobody said a thing about how he says it it fine to kill someone because of a novel. So screw you all, Bruce Springsteen, Hall and Oates, Nirvana, and especially Art Garfunkel. You either praised him, or said nothing while you got your gold.

Screw you and your freakin' rock and roll. It turns out it was a bunch of crap anyway.


Things People Ignore #1

Just so I have this reference

At a pivotal meeting of the highest officials in the Reagan Administration [on June 25, 1984], the President and Vice President [George H.W. Bush] and their top aides discuss how to sustain the Contra war in the face of mounting Congressional opposition. The discussion focuses on asking third countries to fund and maintain the effort, circumventing Congressional power to curtail the CIA's paramilitary operations. In a remarkable passage, Secretary of State George P. Shultz warns the president that White House adviser James Baker has said that "if we go out and try to get money from third countries, it is an impeachable offense." But Vice President George Bush argues the contrary: "How can anyone object to the US encouraging third parties to provide help to the anti-Sandinistas…? The only problem that might come up is if the United States were to promise to give these third parties something in return so that some people could interpret this as some kind of exchange." Later, Bush participated in arranging a quid pro quo deal with Honduras in which the U.S. did provide substantial overt and covert aid to the Honduran military in return for Honduran support of the Contra war effort.
The Iran arms-for-hostage-deal was also illegal--or so Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger thought. At a December 7, 1985 White House meeting, Weinberger argued the Iran missile deal was wrong and criminal, according to his notes of the session. Weinberger pointed out to Reagan that selling missiles to Iran would violate a U.S. embargo on arms sales to Iran and that even the president of the United States could not break this law. Nor, Weinberger added, would it be legal to use Israel as a cutout, as was under consideration. Both Secretary of State George Shultz and White House chief of staff Donald Regan, who were each present, agreed that a secret weapons deal with Iran would be against the law. Reagan, though, insisted on proceeding, noting he could answer a charge of illegality but not the charge that he had "passed up a chance to free hostages." Weinberger then quipped, "Visiting hours are Thursdays"--meaning the deal could land someone in jail. After the meeting, Regan told Weinberger he would try to talk Reagan out of the deal. He failed to do so. 




More of Believe It Or Not

Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them.
p. 52–3 The End of Faith by Sam Harris

Religion is now widely defined by scholars and judges alike, in functional rather than substantive terms. Instead of focusing on some creedal criterion such as belief in God, we look for family resemblances. Do the works of Ayn Rand function like scripture for atheists?According to one common formula, members of the family of religions typically exhibit four Cd: creed, cultus, code and community.

...In fact atheism is more doctrinal than any of the great religions. By definition, atheists agree on the dogma that there is not god...belief is their preoccupation...pg 323 God is Not One by Stephen Prothero.

I am still playing with the idea of man as Homo Religiosus...or at least seeing similarities between the “Angry Atheists” and traditional fundamentalists. From the quote defining Religion above I image a determined Atheist would be pretty put out since it makes a world of difference that their NON-belief is the TRUTH while the religious person's belief is at best wrong headed and according to Richard Dawkins a “lethally dangerous nonsense”.

BUT, the thing is the fundamentalist feels exactly the SAME WAY, except it is their belief that is OBVIOUSLY the truth. So both camps respond with the same emotional pattern.

This is of course a horribly broad oversimplification, and I am just turning the notion over in my head.

Note: I read that Sam Harris feels the above quote is less offensive with more context. But that is also how violent fundamentalist feel. For them the context makes the violence acceptable. In both cases you don't kill people for what the do,  you kill them for what they believe, because they think they know what "they" do later.



Gödel ..

He showed that a formal arithmetical could not be demonstrated to be consistent from within itself. His fifteen page article proved that some mathematics could not be proved – that whatever axioms were accepted in mathematics there would always be some truths that could not be validated. Then there is Neurath's Boat. Nuerath was an antifoundationalist: he believed that knowledge has no secure substructure. By way of illustrations he used a nautical simile: “We are like sailors who have to rebuild their ship on the open sea, without ever being able to dismantle it in dry dock and construct it from the best components. Pg 163

I just wanted to remember this, because even though Gödel is impenetrable to me, this make sense to me.


New Thoughts Are Sometimes Old Thoughts

Well...the new idea I was trying to figure out yesterday, I actually discovered was better said by somebody else. This time by Aldous Huxley. Although to be accurate it is more likely his is just flat out a better idea and I can only hope mine was at least somehow similar.

Here is the quote,

Every fully developed religion exists simultaneously on several different levels. It exists as a set of abstract concepts about the world and its governance. It exists as a set of rites and sacraments, as a traditional method for manipulating the symbols, by means of which beliefs about the cosmic order are expressed. It exists as the feelings of love, fear and devotion evoked by this manipulation of symbols.
And finally it exists as a special kind of feeling or intuition — a sense of the oneness of all things in their divine principle, a realization (to use the language of Hindu theology) that “thou art That,” a mystical experience of what seems self-evidently to be union with God.

The ordinary waking consciousness is a very useful and, on most occasions, an indispensable state of mind; but it is by no means the only form of consciousness, nor in all circumstances the best. Insofar as he transcends his ordinary self and his ordinary mode of awareness, the mystic is able to enlarge his vision, to look more deeply into the unfathomable miracle of existence.
The mystical experience is doubly valuable; it is valuable because it gives the experiencer a better understanding of himself and the world and because it may help him to lead a less self-centered and more creative life.
 The bold section almost, a little, addresses what I was trying to say. It is a search for or recognition of a sense of "oneness" of all things, and it can develop into a religious path or a science path. And the other bit is that both science and religion have a cultural and emotional aspect that needs to be recognized and one must be sure not to confuse the two parts of each approach.

But what of the Atheist? They may very well suggest there is no yearning for connectedness, and sinse it cannot be measured, it therefore does not exist.

Sort of tweaking Wittgenstein's statement "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence." to something like "That of which we cannot speak, does not exist"

It is already getting late, and that is about all I can come up with tonight.

"What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence." ― Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus . -- By the way, about all I know about the guy is this one quote.

The Huxley quote I found here


Thinking a New Thought

In response to a comment I was thinking people of faith had to admit that at the core it was illogical and they should accept it. Then take the next step and go beyond it, to what I can't say. Then I figured I had to counter to the atheist with something like they had ll ti

But that wasn't quite right.

I happened to glance at a book by Eric From and he was saying the problem with the modern world was it encouraged a passive approach to life. And I think that may have been what I was looking for.

Any intentional way of living is a religious approach, whether it is the atheist, christian, Buddhist or whatever. The point is it doesn’t rise the religious when it is just a passive life. Whether it is science or church or whatever it is the “active” that starts conversations, not end them.

It's a start...


OK. My friend on his tumblr has some harsh words for Creationist and religion in general.


Anyway it got my mind going and this is my riff of a reply since tumblr restricts how long a comment can be, so here goes. It is all off the top of my head so it is obviously not really thought out.


Smart religious people don’t put so much stock in myths like this. They find ways to still believe their religion while not ignoring science. Most, I think, compartmentalize the two competing world views, which I find a bit psychotic at best and intellectually weak and dishonest at worst.  The ones who are both smart and honest discard their religion, or become deists or something similarly vague.

It seems to me that your argument really means that a smart religions person an oxymoron. No? And from that I deduce there is a problem in definitions, how do you define religion and smart?

I'll set aside the smart thing because...well I ain't so smart. SOoooo...My current improvisation is that religion is not a thing but a force that is is an integral part of the human Psyche. Of course if you are a total empiricist, the human psyche is as much a phantom as religion and is another stupid human vanity. But if we accept it then the thought experiment progresses.

I posit that Religion is something important to humans and no matter what, it comes out in some form. For instance I once read that the “Beat” experience of the the 1950's was not a literary or philosophical expression but a religious one. And the same could be said of the Punk world. Both were an attempt to access life at its core. Not a concept or even an idea, but the experience life itself. Pure living.

I once heard someone say the “enlightenment was like falling in love” . The point is almost everybody has experienced falling in love, and it is something that defies logic. So if you only accept logic you deny love, religion and ultimately anything not measurable.

The deal is there are not two opposing world views, there are thousands of different world views from wildly different people trying to figure things out.

So is life more than simple calories and creature comforts? Are all metaphors for living, “just” metaphors? Are things like poetry and literature actually humans taking a stab at understanding themselves and others, or just an entertainment?

I saw the HPO show “Questioning Darwin ” and I like that one scholar said if Darwin met some creationists he would not rail at them but talk to them and try to understand. I see that as the real point. Not rating who is smart and dumb but understanding why they think that way and what they get out of it. AND perhaps are we falling into the same patterns?

But that is just an offhand riff I came up with after reading your tumblr.


I think this comes back to my  Grand Theory of Everything, so I didn't want to drop it.

Ref#...I forget


A Rorschach Test Kind of Book

Deep RiverDeep River by Shūsaku Endō
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles 1 Corinthians 1:22-25

I wonder at the faith and Christianity of Shusaku Endo a thoughtful, reflectfull Japanese Christian. Did he feel as at odds with his faith and heritage as the central character, Otso, of Deep Rivet?Did he feel himself as outcast as Otsu who identified with the lowest caste of India?

I will draw a conclusion that Endo found the essence of Christ in the suffering sacrifice rather that the victorious resurrected champion of the prosperity gospel. I think Endo saw “true” Christianity in the comfort of the poor and meek.

I think more people would NOT like this book than do. In Endo's world the avenues of success only bring a hollow happiness. In my (American) world the general feel I get is that the Christianity brings a victorious uplifting life full of prosperity. Endo would have none of that. For him you only get to the truth by embracing the poor and outcast.

So....do you think this life is a project of empirical pluses and minuses and the point is to end up with a positive when you die? And the “authentic” life is one that discounts anything that is not measurable, and religion is at best an illusion and at worst the bane of humanity?

If so, this book will be nonsense to you.

Are your religions beliefs secure and do they provide reason and stability that explains everything? If so, this book will be nonsense to you.

There are a number of “themes” involving connecting with something. First, for Otsu, is the notion that Christ is found most clearly in the rejected. Which leads him, as a Catholic priest, to be shunned by his order and end up adopting the clothes of a Hindu untouchable who's only task is to carry other discarded, poor, and dying people to the river Ganges just before they die.

And then there is this idea that our existence is actually a river of humanity and we are all trying to connect with it. I think Endo is saying we use most of our energy avoiding the very things that really do give us the connection to everything else we need.

For Miss Naruse she wants to experience actual love, not the kind that is actually a role that people adopt with enthusiasm.

For Mr Kiguchi it is honoring his fellow Japanese soldiers who suffered a burtal retreat in WWII in Burma.

For Mr Numada it is a mystical connection with nature embodied by a Myna bird.

And finally for Mr Isobe, he is only recognizing his connection with his wife after she dies after telling him to look for her to be reborn somewhere in the world.

If I was to write a high school report about it I think I would come up with something about the Deep River of the the Ganges is much like life itself. And that the road of death Mr. Kiguchi was on is also much like life itself. In that we will all die sometime.

If you are sure of yourself, in your belief or non-belief...then you will think this book is nonsense. But for those of us you inexplicably think what the world tells us about itself is most likely wrong...well, you might end up loving this book.

After living nearly five years in a foreign country, I can't help but be struck by the clarity and logic of the way Europeans think, but it seems to me as an Asian that there's something they have lost sight of with their excessive clarity and their over abundance of logic, and I just can't go along with it....in the final analysis, the faith of the Europeans is conscious and rational, and these people reject anything they cannot slice into categories with their rationality. Pg117

But an Asian like me just can't make sharp distinctions and pass judgment on everything the way they do. Pg118

Every time I look at the River Ganges, I think of my Onion (Christ). The Ganges swallows up the ashes of every personas it flows along, rejecting neither the beggar woman who stretches out her finger-less hands for the murdered prime minister Gandhi. The river of love that is my Onion flows past, accepting all, rejecting neither the ugliest of men nor the filthiest. Pg 185

The Onion had died many long years ago, but he had been reborn in the lives of other people. Even after nearly two thousand years had passed, he had been reborn in those nuns, and had been reborn in Otsu. And just as Otsu had been taken off to a hospital on a litter, the nuns likewise disappeared in the river of people. Pg 215

View all my reviews

Think about it more, I guess it really isn't A Rorschach Test Kind of Book, but my thinking is aside from how objectively good or bad the book might be, it is the reader's world view that will determine what they think of it.


iTunes es Muy Mal

Up to Lección Doce with Assimil...

Things I either never knew or forgot...

esos coches – how did I forget “esos” for those? I remembered it as aquellos.

Tanto mejor for so much the better

al contrario for on the contray (obvious, that one)

Vosotros habéis  conocido a su hermana

has ido – gone
has venido – come

Not that anybody cares, but I now officially hate Apple products. Today I wanted to listen to the lesson I was listing to earlier on my iPhone, suddenly it whipped through each “song” of that CD on the iPhone, put a red square next to it and then I could not play it.

So I tried a music album and the same thing happened. Most others worked but, well I was ticked off. It took me the better part of an hour to get all the stuff back on. So I can conclusively state Apple = BAD


New Day, Nuevas Palabras

Yesterday I flew through 2 more audio units in the Pimsleur CDs which makes 2 CDs done. I know all the words but I still occasionally stumble in coming out with the right response (even when I already "know" what to say).

But it does make me think that these first 8 CDs will not cover that much material and then I will have to find the rest of the set at another library or find used copiers somewhere.

And I got through lesson 5 aka as leccion Quinta, of the Assimil book and audio. Assimil is a French company and I gather they are a popular in Europe, so the the audio uses a Castilian accent with the lisping C. VERY strange to hear since every other experience I had in learning Spanish has been with the New World correct accent.

I hear the lisp but respond as if I was from Mexico, plus the dialog already has some vosotros thrown in. Which I knew about but I have never actually seen it in a beginning lesson.

Other new things in Assimil...

Qué Tal estás? - Of course I learned Qué Tal,but I don't remember tacking estás on afterwards

Tenía ganas de verte - I may have learned about Tenía ganas in the past but totally forgot about it meaning to desire something. I only remembered Quiero.

Deberías trabajar menos - It must be a common phrase, but I had to google it to figure out what tense Deberías was (conditional). And that is only on page 13.

Yo conozco a un médica - If I knew about using "a" after conozco, I had forgotten.

One other thing, it is odd that the Pimsleur at this beginning stage never uses the form of YOU, while the Assimil never uses the Usted form.


Video Blog #1

My intro to this new attempt at learning Spanish. Here I try to continue blogging, but is blogging still a thing?


¡Vamos a ver!

This week I think I will have another crack at self taught Spanish. This time my main tool will be Assimil Spanish with Ease and as a backup I checked out Pimsleur Conversational Spanish 8 CD set from the public library.

This weekend I had to work on Saturday and during a slow spot I somehow landed on the Pimsluer website. To hear them talk about their product, the Pimsluer method was almost magical. 8 or 9 years ago I was on an Italian jag and used their Italian cassettes for a while. I later took a few semesters at the local community college and liked that quite a bit. Anyway, I knew the Pimsluer method was not a sure fire ticket to success. BUT I remember it being at least OK and it probably helped me when I took my classes.

Sooo, then I remembered hearing good things about Assimil when I was thinking recently about trying Italian again.

That said, and without really thinking about it, I decided to take another stab at Spanish. I've already started listing to Pimsluer, 2 lessons so far, while I wait for the Assimil to arrive.

Just to establish the starting point, I've periodically attempted Spanish over a few decades so this is nothing new. Back in 1990 I spent 2 months at a language school in Mexico and that helped, and I sort of think the only real way to learn a language is to live there and be forced to learn it to survive. BUT I won't ever have that chance, so one does what one can.

Will I stick too it or will I fall off the learning wagon? Will it last a week? Month? Six Months? Longer?

¡Vamos a ver!


This Is Art

This is Art (because I said so)
"...here's another level at which I would like to say that much more profoundly; it's something I didn't talk about at all because it's a difficult issue to explain. What is cultural value and how does that come about? Nearly all of the history of art history is about trying to identify the source of value in cultural objects. Color theories, and dimension theories, golden means, all those sort of ideas, assume that some objects are intrinsically more beautiful and meaningful than others. New cultural thinking isn't like that. It says that we confer value on things. We create the value in things. It's the act of conferring that makes things valuable. Now this is very important, because so many, in fact all fundamentalist ideas rest on the assumption that some things have intrinsic value and resonance and meaning. All pragmatists work from another assumption: no, it's us. It's us who make those meanings" - Brian Eno's big theory of Culture

There is a debate in Mathematics philosophy whether Math is something ”out there” and mankind is slowing discovering more and more and more of "Math", kind of like mining a rare metal. And the contrary view is that math is a man made thing; more concisely put by asking “are new mathematical truths discovered or invented? ”

The discovering approach is usually referenced to Plato and his notion that there is an “ideal” somewhere (I never investigated enough to find out where) and the other is...when the non-Platonic view.*

Anyway, even though I a not a mathematician I vote for the non Platonic view AND I think it applies to cultural opinions. I suppose people will acknowledge tastes in art and music change over time, at least in theory. But often if you don't agree with some audiophile on some band, or an ardent movie buff on their top 10 list, you find their opinions presented as fact.

I think strongly held views on the arts are actually adopted as cultural identifiers and there is meaning attached to the opinion that ties the believer to some other group. So if, back in the day, one was a huge Wilco or Flaming Lips fan, it meant something much more than you like the music. Yet for the fan, the “goodness” of a band or artist is felt and discussed in terms of its quality as if it was assayed from some nebulous yet consistent standard of goodness. And all of that is a declaration that they are not Whitney Houston or Madonna (to keep the references in the same era) fans.

And it is my contention the notions of good or bad in the arts is determined by implied group identified with that fan-dom. Not that every opinion has a social club, rather culture and the arts are human inventions and their “quality” although felt to be unassailable could just as well be deemed trash in some sci-fic like alternate universe.

The downside for me is it means I have to admit somebody like Leroy Nieman could be the pinnacle of fine art instead of the nauseating hack he is in actuality.

All that said, it raised the question what constitutes “Quality”? I seem to recall that was addressed in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Maybe I will get around to re-reading it after 30+ .years

Ref #5 Brian Eno's non-Platonic view of culture





*My Contribution to the philosophy of math debate

Oh yeah, Brian Eno's big theory of culture prompted my Grand Theory of Everything


The impossibility of True Conversation

( This will be a little disjointed and very  imprecise, but I wanted to get it down before I forgot...)
noun: conversation; plural noun: conversations
the informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.

I once had an online discussion with a tea party conservative, and found that I could never get him to admit something he wrote was incorrect. Not the big stuff like how world economics works or what was the best way to provide health care.

For example he said “Nobody can afford to have a business in America today” and “Everybody wants to government to pay for everything”. All I tried to do was point out the both he and I had jobs so obviously business could exist in America (and he had started his own home rental business on the side). And I said that I never wanted or asked the “government” to buy my meals, my car, my…whatever and that I was sure he didn’t expect it either.

I was objecting to his rhetoric not his views, but when I pointed out I had, again in my mind, conclusively countered every point (there were others that I have since forgotten) all he replied was that I only proved myself wrong and went off on some conservative tangent. Keep in mind I never challenged any political or philosophical belief, but I just pointed out what I thought was imprecise reasoning

More recently I read a blog where this very intelligent blogger seemed very angry that a Peta ad used animal rights compared to slavery and mentioned respecting MLK as some sort of springboard for animal rights by saying animal “feelings” should be considered. And all this really bothered her.

I commented, and simply pointed out that acknowledging animals have feelings doesn’t mean you have to go full-Peta.

Then she said since she grew up where people were hungry she could not fathom the idea that animals have feelings, and the whole notion was "kookie". Apparently animal feeling was a sore subject with her, so I left it at that.

It is just one of my many quirks but the logic here bugs me; there are people who are hungry, therefor animals don't have feelings...well, it just doesn't make sense. The two are unrelated.

You can then say it doesn’t matter or that is just the way the world is, but to deny something not because science or observation and instead because of something totally different...I can't help but notice. But for her it is so clear it isn't worth thinking about. (Then again maybe I am the obstinate one, but I felt any further discussion would not be productive)

I’m not trying to promote animal rights here, I’m just saying if you have ever seen a dog wag its tail, a cat scream or hiss, it seems pretty obvious animals have feelings and emotions of some sort. It doesn’t mean they are the equal of humans, rather it is not all just human anthropomorphizing.

I am really not brooding over fleeting Internet exchanges....I guess what I am trying in the above anecdotes is show that in each case the other view makes no attempt to understand my points. And even denies the possibility I might have even a weak “argument”. And any gently offered criticism is totally ignored, as if nothing had been said.

So....true conversation rarely happens because people take in the world and order it in ways that reinforce their existing understanding of things. Alternate views are either not recognized at all or labeled kookie and dismissed with no possibility of consideration at any level. Plus we tend to only talk to people like ourselves so the odds of having a friendly argument are actually pretty rare. And of course extreme political opinion on TV or the Internet would harden any opinion.

This is a little messy but I think it is somewhat explained by “associative coherence” and “the mechanism of substitution.”

All the below is from the Brain Pickings article...


 This leads to something Kahneman has termed “associative coherence” — the notion that “everything reinforces everything else.” Much like our attention, which sees only what it wants and expects to see, our associative memory looks to reinforce our existing patterns of association and deliberately discounts evidence that contradicts them.

 “That will very often create a flaw. It will create overconfidence. The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence [but] of the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct. Quite often you can construct very good stories out of very little evidence. . . . People tend to have great belief, great faith in the stories that are based on very little evidence.”

Most treacherous of all is our tendency to use our very confidence — and overconfidence — as evidence itself:

“What’s interesting is that many a time people have intuitions that they’re equally confident about except they’re wrong. That happens through the mechanism I call “the mechanism of substitution.” You have been asked a question, and instead you answer another question, but that answer comes by itself with complete confidence, and you’re not aware that you’re doing something that you’re not an expert on because you have one answer. Subjectively, whether it’s right or wrong, it feels exactly the same. Whether it’s based on a lot of information, or a little information, this is something that you may step back and have a look at. But the subjective sense of confidence can be the same for intuition that arrives from expertise, and for intuitions that arise from heuristics. . . .”

ref #4: “associative coherence” and “the mechanism of substitution.”