Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Senator Durbin broke Godwin's law with his nazi comparison. It doesn't matter whether his remarks have any merit, or if he was misconstrued.

"If I read [an FBI agent's report describing detainees...as being chained to the floor without food or water in extreme temperatures] to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime - Pol Pot or others - that had no concern for human beings."

Once he mentioned Nazis, the argument was over, and he lost. You can rightfully accuse this administration of a lot of wrong doings: lying about the reasons for his war, poor or no planning for the aftermath, creating an environment where soldiers are encouraged or at least feel free to torture prisoners, profiteering. But to call them Nazis is unjustified and damaging to the integrity of our system and diminishes the reality of the holocaust. Supporters of the war seized upon his violation of Godwin's Law, and any merit to the mistreatment of prisoners claim is completely buried under the barrage of outrage.

We have soldiers who do nasty, horrible things, and there's pictures to prove it. But you can't make the case that it's systemic problem. We should continue to express our outrage against the torture; it's not consistent with the American ideals. We must acknowledge the sincerity of the beliefs of the supporters of torture and war; they think it's necessary for our security. They're not proponents of genocide, and to call them such is unwarranted insult.

Sooner or later, I sure hope we wake up and realize the conflict is, to a great extent, about the disparity of wealth.

spelling error corrected 6/29/05

Monday, June 27, 2005

Thanks Fred

I appreciate Fred mentioning me in his blog. I also appreciate his rational, respectful commentary on local issues and his own views. I prefer those who are thought provoking to those who are emotion provoking.

I started this blog as I mentioned in my first post "I came here hoping to read blogs, but being too lazy to figure that out, I ended up creating my own blog." I was looking for the blog referred to in the Times Standard that rightfully chastized a blogger for misusing an article.

I'm using this blog as an opportunity to improve my writing skills. It's also motivated me to read more and think more and to consider differing viewpoints. I do believe that J.C. Licklidder would be proud.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


If you've ever read The Lathe of Heavan by Ursula K. Le Guin, it'll be easier for you to understand how maintaining conviction of belief is a constant challenge and stuggle for me. I can go through an entire day holding a firm belief. But once I sleep, the belief can vanish.

This is a nice feature when the belief involves paranoia, which I'm prone to. It's nice to wake up the next day and not think SBC is refusing to switch the phone into my name because somebody in the government has altered my records in retaliation for a letter I wrote the president. As if I were important enough to matter to anybody. Perhaps paranoia is when your brain makes perfect sense out of nonsense. For me, at this (st)age, my thoughts are rarely controlled by the paranoia, it's my emotional state. I feel that it's true even though I don't think that it's true. Usually, once I sleep, it stops feeling real. Without exertion of effort, the feelings influence my choice of actions, and I say and do weird things.

When it's resolve to take some action that will improve my life, it's really frustrating for the resolve to vanish with a night's sleep. This is why my album isn't done. I'll have complete faith in my writing, then next chance I get to work on it, my own words are meaningless. One day I'll take a strong position on an issue, and formulate a statement. The next day I'll read it, and want to dispute my own claims. It's not the ideas that betray me, it's the feelings. I'd really like to trade my emotional circuits in for a less fickle model.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Their God is a deadbeat dad

The way the evangelicals tell it, God is our father. They don't ever seem to mention our mother, so even though we are made in His image, we don't seem to have any of her features. Basically, this version of Christianity puts forth God using a dead beat dad model. He's our father in heaven, but there's no child support check, no visitations, no joint custody. I've often wondered (ok I really haven't), if The Bible is God's holy word, how come He never does any readings and book signings? Why, he can send His Son to die, but not to read a few chapters to His loving fans?

For more on the idea

the ethic of self interest

I wrote in my philosophy that the space between your fingers is as much a part of your hand as the fingers are. By cultivating this understanding, you expand your self concept, your concept of "I." In David's blog, he posts, Ethics: Self-interest. It's a pragmatic ethic, but it's moral quality depends upon the individual's concept of self. In the extreme case of the APD, there is almost exclusively a self interest with virtually no moral quality. White (or any other racial, religious, or philosphical) supremacy members have as their core ethic self interest. To believe that our kind is superior to your kind justifies lynchings, bombings, church burnings, and plane crashings. While these groups have an expanded version of self--me and those like me--they are extreme and not supported by reasonable people. It is not them I wish to address. "Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone. " Ayn Rand But I'm so intensely bothered by their existence I couldn't refrain from mentioning them.

It is those who disregard unacceptable consequences to others to promote their own self interest that I would hope to persuade to expand their self concept. When Andrew Carnegie tacitly approved the The Homestead Strike incident, he was certainly acting in his own self interest. Three pinkertons and seven laborers died because Carnegie, through Henry Clay Frick, didn't want to negotiate with workers who were acting in their own self interest. If Carnegie and Frick were to have pondered deeply the truth of the space between the fingers, they would've understood that the interests of their laborers were in fact in their own self interest. Carnegie did indeed understand the value of benefitting the masses when he founded the Carnegie Corporation. He championed the rights of workers, but crushed their unions. This is the danger of an ethic of self interest when the concept of self is too small. A corporate giant like Carnegie couldn't exist without a labor force, and yet he kept their wages low, and was willing to allow murder to get rid of a contract that essentially was profit sharing. The workers at Homestead received pay based on the current market value of their work. Why would a man who would give away a fortune for the public good, who would publicly praise workers rights, allow a murderous stoppage of reasonable worker demands? Because his belief in the ethics of his own self interest overrode his other beliefs when it came time to pay, a NIMBY reaction, workers rights, but not from my bottom line.

The larger your concept of self, the less harm you're willing to do. When a self interest ethic leads to me and my own and screw you mentality, then it is of low moral quality and harmful to collective society. The illegal dumping of toxic waste to circumvent the expense caused by environmental laws serves the self interest of the offending company, but what of the mentality of the truck driver who opens the spout? If you never personally have to drink the contaminated water, even if someone else does, have you served your self interest? Does he think, screw them damn moonbat environmentalists, I should be allowed to do what I want and keep the profits? In the case of the whistleblowing truckdriver, he thinks he has a responsibility to his community to not potentially endanger their health. He realizes he is more than himself and more than an employee of a company, he is a member of a community, and possibly he realizes he is a mammal dependent upon an environment, and a healthy environment provides a higher quality of life. Dead fish and burning rivers don't make for great vacations. He has a larger concept of self, and his ethic is of high moral quality, and he does the right thing, he blows the whistle which actually puts his self interest at risk.

It is the action of those who understand the space between their fingers that reduces suffering.

" I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together..."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

My philosphy

If your looking for some simplistic explanation of my philosophy that you can get in soundbite form, I belong to an obscure Bhuddist sect of which there is only one member.

If you have the fortitude to ponder and not get sucked into preprogrammed reaction, please read on.

The books that have most influenced my beliefs are: The Book (on the taboo against knowing who you are), Alan Watts; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig; Be Here Now, Ram Das; and The Tao Te Ching, Lao-Tzu. I was raised protestant, in the Church of the Brethren. I did the ritual of accepting Jesus as my personal savior, and I cried when I did. Very interesting. I tried to devote myself to the Bible and Christianity, but as I grew, I couldn't reconcile the paradoxes inherent in that belief system. I began to ponder life through a goofy little idea called biorhythms. I've since grown out of such silliness and now say that it's like trying to predict the minute behavior of a chaotic system--give it up. But it was a turning point in my thinking. I began to perceive the world as a pulsating energy mass of never quite the same but repeating patterns. The above books gave form to these perceptions, allowed me to articulate them as a belief system.

First and foremost in my beliefs is, to paraphrase Alan Watts (or whoever he stole it from) "the thought that I am thinking is just another thought." The sensation of separateness is an illusion, an incredibly wonderfully real illusion, but it is an illusion. One way to understand this to explore the biological nature of consciousness. Thought, awareness, perception, are all created by the interaction of chemicals, receptor sites, pathways, and other mechanisms of the nervous system. In the mind of the schizophrenic, realities can be perceived, and they are real, but only to the mind of the schizophrenic because of some imbalance of chemicals produced by the body. Take it even deeper, to the atomic level. All of these mechanisms of consciousness, and of the world consciousness perceives, are in turn the product of the interplay of neutrons, protons, electrons, energy fields, probability patterns, and other terms from quantum physics. You think that you are this being perceiving an external reality, and please continue to do so. But also try to realize that it's all a vibrating dance of energy, and your sense of being separate from what you perceive is just a trick of the light. The space between your fingers is as much a part of your hand as the fingers are.

Exploring the mechanisms of self awareness can leave me feeling cold and detached. This is where Pirsig's model comes in to play. In ZATAOMM (I think you can figure it out) he describes classical and romantic knowledge using a train metaphor. Classical knowledge is the train itself, the track the train is on, all the cargo on the train, all the parts, fuel, oil, and all the principals and laws that make those things work. Romantic knowledge is two milliseconds in front of the splash guard as the train races down the track. Classical knowledge is taught in school, studied in libraries, preached from pulpits, explored in laboratories, is in the realm of reason and logic. Romantic knowledge is intuition, excitement, it is Bhudda nature, bliss, orgasm, the Tao, experienced in the perfect guitar solo, the brush strokes that separates Van Gogh's work from mine. Romantic knowledge is difficult to quantify, and is perhaps the antithesis of quantification. You have to sense it pre-thought, an anxious free anticipation of the reality that's about to manifest. To maximize your potential, be a perpetual student of both classical and romantic knowledge. To make music with programmable equipment, one must have an understanding of the equipment and it's programming language, classical knowledge. One must also have an "ear" an "feel" for "it," that which separates quality music from the mediocre and worse, romantic knowledge. Classical and romantic knowledge are two complimentary models of understanding the nature of existence.

If you become aware that existence is an illusion, then you risk the danger of existential despair, or worse, post modernism. Actually what is worse is the development of amoral behaviors. If it's an illusion, does it matter if you rob, cheat, steal, lie, kill, rape? Yes, obviously there is something the matter with these and other anti-social behaviors. We form social contracts and pass laws against them and maintain systems of justice to deal with them. Moral sense is built into the illusion. It's important to accept that it is a very real illusion. It's a live interactive play in which you are a performer, and so is everybody and everything else. It is not being filmed for later viewing, nor will it play again. For the individual you, what you refer to as me, it's a one time deal, and the only way to exit the theater in which it's playing is to shut down the mechanisms of perception, commonly referred to as death. Until you die, consider the illusion real. So why develop awareness of the illusion at all? Because of an incredibly complex process called choice.

"But we already know what you are going to do, don't we? Already I can see the chain reaction: the chemical precursors that signal the onset of an emotion, designed specifically to overwhelm logic and reason. An emotion that is already blinding you to the simple and obvious truth..." The Architect (Matrix Reloaded)

I believe that we do have choice, but that choice is limited by many influences including "...the onset of an emotion...". You are a boat on the river of life, and fate is the current of the river and the wind. Choice is the rudder, the boom, the oars. In order to have choice in life, you must manifest as a being that can trim the sail or turn the rudder or pull the oars of your boat. Choice is a limited activity. You can't choose what happens, but you can choose how you react. Choice is an attitude. Another way to discuss choice is by exploring the nature v. nurture debate. What choice you have is dictated in part by your biochemical makeup. If you have a mental illness, your choices are different than if you are a gifted prodigy. The blind have different choices than the deaf. Whatever the nature, it's the nurture we must focus on if we're to have any influence on the illusion. You have to believe that you can change, or you will sabotage any effort you make in order to change. To manifest the being that can steer the boat of your life, that is an important purpose of having a belief system. Get in touch with the true nature of the character that you are in the unfolding story of life.

Some closing thoughts. For the simple dogmatic approach, which is often handy, I use a Bhuddist model. Life is suffering, (but also blissful). Desire is the root of suffering (but also of bliss). Releasing attachment to desire reduces suffering (cultivating healthy desire increases bliss). The way to release attachment to desire (and cultivate healthy desire) is the eightfold path. But being rather lazy, I have a one step eightfold path: do the right thing. If you pay attention, you know what's right. I recommend a scientific method approach to paying attention.

For the less dogmatic approach, don't oversimplify anything. Moral certitude is as dangerous as amorality. You really don't know much of anything for certain, but you must usually act as if you do. It's a high-wire balancing act. Proceed as if you won't fall off, but constantly, and as automatically as possible, adjust your balance. Read, write, talk, think, explore, experiment. Be willing to discard anything and equally willing to hold onto it with fervor, whatever the need may be to the best of your present ability.