Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dear Reader

I feel accountable to you. And I've let you down. I'm sorry. I'll admit that I get all kinds of ideas for posts when I'm driving but then I get home and sit down at the machine and lose everything that was rattling 'round in my head. So let's be completely random for just a moment:

For some people, the words that they already have a quite enough. They get the things done they need to do for the day. They can buy their beer and Ramen noodles, pay their bills, and watch TV. But for others, myself and most of my friends, we need new words. And I'm not really sure how we're going to accomplish expressing ourselves without reworking our lexicons. I have an idea that if we learned a few new languages we could somehow find 'le mot juste' within one of those. While I'm sure that onlookers will view us with contempt as we switch back and forth between languages, my ultimate goal is that we move our society along in a more meaningful direction. So fuck 'em. (How's that for common everyday words?)

My Beautiful Secret Holding Bird/Girlfriend said that we need a new word for saying "I love you. I'm sorry. Thank you." because those words have become overused and therefore almost meaningless. So I set to work. We're currently trying to get the word 'louethia' into circulation. Now I didn't do any etymological research. I didn't try to be all scientific about that shit. So this word may not stick but we're trying it. The wonderful thing about this word is that it is certain not to get overused just yet (since we just made it up!) because it shouldn't be. It's usage is for very specific occasions. When it is used, there should be weight and purpose.

Along similar lines, may we talk about what love actually is? We throw this silly word around so much and I have really become aware of its usage as a way to circumnavigate an actual apology: "Oh, you know I love you." To which I reply "Is that so? Well then why do you only tell me so when you've wronged me(even if it was superficial)?" I'm not saying that we should go around telling people that we love them all the time. That would get tiresome. And how! But how about we use the word when we actually mean it? When someone does something good for you or just tugs at your heartstrings with their actions, make it a positive reinforcement. People really like knowing why it is that you feel the way you do about them. "Why do you like me?" Instead of having to make a list--although those are fun and, I think, meaningful--just catch them at those beautiful moments. For instance, last night I missed out on the opportunity and I regret it. Hanging out on the porch, patio, veranda, promenade, drinking wine and smoking cigarettes(among other things ;), laughing and not really talking about anything of any particular import is sort of a dream of mine. When I am old and no longer running around trying to arrange the rest of my life, this type of thing will be why I get up from my afternoon nap.

More about love to come...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Square One

We humans have a great advantage over the other animals on the planet. We have a collective memory through our writings and memes that we have been able to build upon for thousands of years allowing us to continue press on with our search for the Big Questions. There have been many of these questions that have been answered, however unsatisfactorily, throughout the ages. The important one that must always remain in the front of the skeptic's mind: "Yes, but is it true?"

We, especially now, live in a world which inundates us with information. We are constantly grasping for a greater understanding of everything from economics and psychology to politics and biology. For the most part we can rely on those that lead their fields in discovery because once they think they've found something, they run it past many others in their fields so that they may be checked just to make sure their observations weren't biased or mere mistakes. The great thing is that they still don't get too offended when we say "I don't understand." If they're true to what they do, they are happy to explain, often starting at the very beginning and leading us along the paths of discovery by the hand.

We should be proud of our heritage of curiousity. We should embrace our fellow humans who have come before us and challenged the status quo when it didn't match up with their world views. This is even true with those who were wrong. Somethings necessarily have to be hashed out in reality in order to test their viability. I, for one, am thankful for failed experiments as much as I am for the ones that worked. How many different materials did Edison try for his light bulb filament before he found one that was safe and reliable?

He tested the carbonized filaments of every plant imaginable, including bay wood, boxwood, hickory, cedar, flax, and bamboo. He even contacted biologists who sent him plant fibers from places in the tropics. Edison acknowledged that the work was tedious and very demanding, especially on his workers helping with the experiments. He always recognized the importance of hard work and determination. "Before I got through," he recalled, "I tested no fewer than 6,000 vegetable growths, and ransacked the world for the most suitable filament material."


Maybe you aren't smiling like I am, but I find it wonderful that he knew it would work if he could only find the right one.

And when I read this passage in a letter written by the fascinating SciFi writer H.P. Lovecraft, I could not help wanting to stand up and say "Sir, will you please count me among those?"

You are forgetting a human impulse that, despite its restriction to a relatively small number of men, has all though history proved itself as real and as vital as hunger--as potent as thirst or greed. I need not say that I refer to that simplest yet most exalted attribute of our species--the acute, persistent, unquenchable craving TO KNOW. Do you realise that to many men it makes a vast and profound difference whether or not the things about them are as they appear?

And this is the case for so many people that I find around me. We just want to know. We have a desire to find out that which is true and that which is false. And some make arguments for falsehood saying that despite their lack of Truth, they give us comfort. Well, so does alcohol but that doesn't make it the most healthy habit does it? Would you stumble around content and ignorant? Ignorance is bliss, so they say. Then we read Voltaire. Oh dear, sweet Voltaire, how we wish you were here now.

A condensed version of the story The Good Brahmin(borrowed):

"I wish I had never been born!" the Brahmin remarked.

"Why so?" said I.

"Because," he replied, "I have been studying these forty years, and I find that it has been so much time lost...I believe that I am composed of matter, but I have never been able to satisfy myself what it is that produces thought. I am even ignorant whether my understanding is a simple faculty like that of walking or digesting, or if I think with my head in the same manner as I take hold of a thing with my hands...I talk a great deal, and when I have done speaking I remain confounded and ashamed of what I have said."

The same day I had a conversation with an old woman, his neighbor. I asked her if she had ever been unhappy for not understanding how her soul was made? She did not even comprehend my question. She had not, for the briefest moment in her life, had a thought about these subjects with which the good Brahmin had so tormented himself. She believed in the bottom of her heart in the metamorphoses of Vishnu, and provided she could get some of the sacred water of the Ganges in which to make her ablutions, she thought herself the happiest of women. Struck with the happiness of this poor creature, I returned to my philosopher, whom I thus addressed:

"Are you not ashamed to be thus miserable when, not fifty yards from you, there is an old automaton who thinks of nothing and lives contented?"

"You are right," he replied. "I have said to myself a thousand times that I should be happy if I were but as ignorant as my old neighbor; and yet it is a happiness which I do not desire."

This reply of the Brahmin made a greater impression on me than anything that had passed.

Will you join me on a quest for what is real? Let us go, then, you and I...

Friday, May 8, 2009

I'm a Liberal (again)

So the other day, when describing myself as liberal, Papillon said that it's funny I should use that word because it's a word that religious people use and since I'm not religious, why should I use it. Well, in short, for lack of a better word. Also, it is a relative and comparative term. But can I use that term without it being relative? Can I just say "I'm liberal" without defining conservative? Let's see what the dictionaries have to say:

New Webster's Dictionary
a. Generously ample; profuse; favorable to reform or progress; not too literal or strict; free.--n. One who advocates great political freedom

Merriam-Webster's Online
1 a: of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts b archaic : of or befitting a man of free birth
2 a: marked by generosity : openhanded b: given or provided in a generous and openhanded way c: ample, full
3obsolete : lacking moral restraint : licentious
4: not literal or strict : loose
5: broad-minded ; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms
6 a: of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism

*note that the 3rd defnition and the only seemingly negative one is labeled as obsolete. hmmmmm

See also:'s much too long definition

So, yeah, so far so good, right? Would anyone say that they are opposed to reform or progress if pressed on the issue? "Oh, yeah, we could stand for a little change here or there." But we will bother to make the change? Will we stand up for the change? Here's one that I found fascinating when Googling "what it means to be liberal". It's the Wikipedia entry for a History of the term "liberal" . Just some pieces of this article:

...a long history in the English language with the meanings of "befitting free men, noble, generous"...

The first English language use to mean "tending in favor of freedom and democracy," according to the OED, dates from about 1801 and comes from the French libéral,...

Classical liberalism is an ideology that includes limited state intervention of macroeconomic infrastructure. Classical liberals such as Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin supported state intervention of infrastructure.

Now, I don't know about you but I have no problem being free, noble, or generous. Nor would I be upset if someone accused me of being like Thomas Jefferson. That guy was fucking awesome.

But so far we've been rather vague, using generalities that would be tough to nail down. Do liberals have any tenets, credos, etc.? Well I think spiderleaf over at Daily Kos did a pretty good job. I'll grant that this post is a little old--oh teh internetz don't forget--but that doesn't make it any less useful(funny how I considered something from 2005 "old"). Here are a few points from the post What it means to be a liberal:

I believe all people were created equal and deserve equal protection under the law.

I believe every person has the right to knowledge (i.e. a good education)

I believe we have a duty to protect the less powerful among us.

I believe in freedom of speech and expression, no matter how painful.

Again, I almost defy anyone to argue with any type of strong position against one of these. I think we liberals are getting very tired of being vilified because of our oppositions. We're trying to take stands here. Stands that we view as being vital and crucial to the better-working of the society in which we've found ourselves. We have open minds about a great number of things and find ourselves willing to consider but we have to draw lines somewhere. Like, for instance, here, in the sand. Liberals were the ones who opposed hanging witches, the buying and selling of human beings, taxation without representation, absolute monarchies, genocides, making people sit on different sides of the diner based on their skin colour, limiting an individual's right to practice her religion(or non-religion), telling a woman her "role" in the household, and burning books. Anything else you'd like to add?

Another article I found, also titled What it means to be a liberal, by Geoffrey R Stone makes a list of the ten things that many liberals will probably agree with. He prefaces by saying that "not all liberals embrace all of these propositions, and many conservatives embrace at least some of them." Mr. Stone, perhaps conservatives who find themselves agreeing with a majority of these should rethink the label they give themselves. Again, it seems that the word liberal has been given a negative connotation for quite sometime now and it's about damn time that liberals stand up and say "Enough!"

Now an argument, perhaps, would be to say that liberals are taking a stand of moral superiority with an arrogant attitude about the whole thing. To that I would reply yes. Seriously, what's the point in arguing your side if you think it's an inferior position to begin with? This is the reason that people get into arguments: each thinks s/he is right. Which is fine but then we have to get down to the basics and bases of our positions. The whole debate on torture that's raging across the information superhighway is a very good example. Some people think it's okay and some don't. And of course, those that don't get very adamant about it:

He says "It's wrong. That's it.----It doesn't matter. We don't do it."

And I say "Preach it, Brother!"

Ahem, sorry, I didn't mean to get off on a rant. But you can see how it evolves now, right? It's funny how this liberal POV tends to make liberals seem as if they're attacking when I think the word 'attack' carries such a violent feeling with it. How about pointing out? Drawing attention to? Disagreeing with?

Remember our initial question? Can the adjective 'liberal' be used without being a relative and comparative term? *sigh* No, it seems. How can you advocate progress or reform if there is nothing to progress from? So are we, as liberals, okay with that? Since I'm forced to be relative we should touch on the other terms. The ones we're comparing/contrasting. Okay, check this shit out. It's Merriam-Webster's Thesaurus entry for the Near Antonyms and Antonyms of the word 'liberal':

Near Antonyms hard, rigid, strict; doctrinal, dogmatic; bigoted, intolerant, narrow-minded; reactionary
Antonyms conservative, conventional, nonprogressive, old-fashioned, orthodox, traditional

OUCH! Seriously, someone wants to be the opposite of liberal?

Post Script-Papi, this is not meant as an argument. Merely a clarification. :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm Electric not Blind

My house got zapped last night so I had to run to the hardware this morning and grab some fuses so that I could be connected to the world again. First of all, the hardware was one of those old family joints where you can barely get down the aisles and the old guys are drinking coffee and moving real slow.

On the way back to the house, I was behind this car that had about a dozen bumper stickers supporting blind people and their dogs. ?!?!?!?!? One thing you don't want to run into on the road: A blind driver.