So, getting ready for divorce is an ongoing process. We had another "couples therapy" session last night--although it's already a bit of a fait accompli we find it useful to talk about things in that kind of setting.
On my over I was listening to some Christian (oh, err, "Family") Radio, which is kind of how I keep tabs on the American fundamentalist right. And to be fair, some of the shows on it talk more sense than others. But it made me realize that I do have some "old school" ideas about marriage. Two or three years ago I was definately in the "marriage isn't that different from being shacked up" camp, and I guess that's still pretty true on a day-to-day basis. But now I realize that it really taps into this unusually strong sense of commitment I have...I'm a guy with relatively few moral absolutes, but keeping to commitments is one of them. I accept that there are going to be some marriages that are so fundamentally messed up, abusive and what not, that they should be ended, but Mo and I both agree we didn't have that kind of problem...and I believe in the power to self-direct personal growth, and that one of the points of something like a marriage commitment is to provide a shelter for the tough times, to give people a chance to make changes that need to be changed. I really don't put much stock into that whole "well I've just grown apart" shtick. (Or for that matter Mo's "well I just didn't know enough about myself to make that kind of commitment back then" or whatever it is she was saying last night.)
But who knows. My views of couplehood might be skewed from the norm in other ways that make it easier to hold those opinions. Like, I see it as a partnership that ideally provides satisfaction an support on a few different fronts (emotional, physical, financial, karmic) but has this central role of being a support for the rest of what makes life interesting and fun and worthwhile. In that way, I see couplehood as almost as much of a means as an end. (Hmm, getting back to the Christian Right view, they probably would say the same thing, but as a support for kids and family rather than making life "interesting and fun".)
One random idea from last night: maybe I should look into joining Mensa and seeing if there are any cute brainy women there. I wonder if they're arrogant, or just fun and self-deprecating about the whole enterprise.
Funny of the Moment
Bill noticed that long-time favorite Gone And Forgotten has reviewed a few new comics. Funny stuff. If you're in a hurry just check out some excerpts and commentary from the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe - Deluxe Edition.
Essays of the Moment
Two articles from a solidier in Iraq, Mr.M Returns Live And Redirect From Iraq and one really dark followup on the "cartoonish buffoonery" that goes on there. The first article expresses the opinion that the war is justified by how awful a regime it was, though I do have to wonder, there are awful regimes and terrible conditions all over the place, aren't we picking and choosing our battles anyway?
Quote of the Moment
"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"
--Albert Einstein (4 comments)
Animation of the Moment
My cold, cold drive to work this morning would have been so much more tolerable if it was in this Mazda autobot. Admittedly, merely a computer animation (and in a car that doesn't seem to have much in the way of passenger seating) but still a bit hypnotic to watch.
The page it comes from has some random backstory about it: "The TRANSFORMERS® RX-8, is a TRANSFORMERS ALTERNATORS vehicle that combines the spark from an AUTOBOT solider with 100% pure MAZDA ZOOM-ZOOM." ("Transformers Alternators". Maybe they could throw in a few more electronic part names, like if there's a rebellion maybe they'll be the "Transformer Alternator Resistor" and if you're talking about a robot that can do, like, a LOT, it would be a "Transformer Alternator Resistor Capacitor"....) Good to know that the protection of the planet is in such good hands, but if this the team up with Mazda and the Autobots to avoid Cosmic Rust, I wonder what would happen if McDonald-Douglas starting building robot bodies for the Decepticons?
Watch the skies.
(Heh...what if, like, 747s were Transformers? For some reason I imagine them as being these really big, dumb lumbering guys...)
Pseudo-Intellectual Ramble of the Moment
I've been e-mailing with a friend (about Mensa) when I started namedropping the "theory of multiple intelligences"...she asked what it was and I wrote the following...maybe someone out there will find it interesting.
It's a kind of self-evident idea: most people know that you can be smart at one thing (like taking standardized tests ;-) and dumb at other things, but we still tend to measure smarts on one scale and call that "intelligence". The theory of multiple intelligences just says that there are different ways of being smart, emotional and what not...
Actually I just realized I've been using the term loosely... A google search came up with
which lists 8 specific ones:
Linguistic intelligence ("word smart"):
Logical-mathematical intelligence ("number/reasoning smart")
Spatial intelligence ("picture smart")
Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence ("body smart")
Musical intelligence ("music smart")
Interpersonal intelligence ("people smart")
Intrapersonal intelligence ("self smart")
Naturalist intelligence ("nature smart")
At one point back in school, when I was still using the term loosely, I thought there should be a similar concept for art and literature. It was in an early black literature class, and I was noticing the circles some of the academics were running in to justify studying some of these novels that really weren't "very good"; schlocky and corny, knockoffs of the white novels written at the same time. But they were worth reading, because of who wrote them and when they were written. I realized a "theory of multiple intelligences" would do well to analyze what makes a given work worthwhile.
And what I thought is it doesn't have to preclude pointing to some things as "great works", it doesn't have to be some egalitarian equality of all books; even a dimestore trashy romance is "good" at provoking a certain response in its audience, via titillation and/or something emotional; it just is more likely to be bad on the other fronts. A book by your eight-year-old is unlikely to be a breakthrough work of genius, but it will mean so much to you because of who wrote it. Things that are great, that inarguably deserve a prominent place in "the canon", on the other hand, are much more likely to be effective on a bunch of these hypothetical levels, and that's why we consider them great.
Link of the Moment
Mars Vs. Earth Probes ("As you are well aware, Earth is currently the underdog in the solar system division in the Expensive Hardware Lob. For every piece of hardware that returns useful information from the Lobbee's planet, the Lobber scores a point. For every piece of hardware sucessfully thwarted by the Lobbee, they score a point.") -- so far Mars is ahead, 20 to 16. (Though if you just count the good ol' USA, our record is 10 to 5. Dang Russkies!)
News of the Moment
if the northeast cold snap does cause blackouts...man, that will be very, very bad. What a nightmare....I keep thinking back to this old Barney Miller episode where there was this guy who was kind of a prototype for the Y2K folks who came later, except his deal was converting all his paper money to gold in preperation for the coming ice age...if changes in climate patterns are making this kind of North Pole blast more likely...ugh!(7 comments)
Is it just me, or is it a little difficult to talk trash about television without sounding a bit too elitist? (The whole Onion Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn't Own A Television effect...)
So anyway, I still have this sniffle, and my upper back/shoulder has been hurting for a couple of days, so I thought last night I'd go ahead and catch up on "Top Chef", which is about the only thing I've been purposefully tuning in for over the past year, other than sports. (Though I have been enjoying some TV-on-DVD series that Miller and FoSO have been setting up, like "Supernatural".)
|Circa 1992ish, on Marnie's Family PC|
It kind of scared me how little thought I was doing, how I was just kind of absorbing. I mean sometimes I'd have a critical thought about the program, or work to pick up some detail of a commercial, but mostly... bleh.
This isn't meant to be critical of people who do dig TV... I know there is a lot of nifty stuff on, and it can actually be a useful form of relaxation, one of the easier and more interesting ways of getting to an alpha wave state, for what it's worth.
In Middle School and I guess before, I watched a LOT of television, the TV would be on from the end of school until bedtime. (I'm not sure if I'd be multitasking with books or legos or not then.) In upstate New York there were years where clever channel surfing would let you watch an entire evening of MASH or Benson. Those times likely helped shape me as a person, at least a bit. I don't feel I'm very good at developing stories, coming up with narratives from scratch... could being fed all those shows have something to do with it?
Quote of the Moment
"Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye."
--Bill Hicks... of course I saw this Slashdot fortune right before the night of Top Chef, so it may have influenced my observations a tad.
My Mom sent me a link to this Christianity Today review of "The Faith of Scientists: In Their Own Words", edited by Nancy K. Frankenberry.
A bit of background... my folks are ordained ministers in The Salvation Army. For those who don't know, it's not just Red Christmas Kettle, Thrift Stores, and/or Food Assistance, but a group (like the "Save a Soul Mission" in "Guys and Dolls" that was based on it) that took the metaphor of a "war against Sin" a bit overly literally, to become something that feels like the (unarmed) paramilitary wing of Methodism...
Interesting... odd that with the page itself, it's almost tough to figure out the actual book they're reviewing.
My UU Science and Spirituality group hears quite a lot from Goodenough... which is funny, between that name and "Frankenberry" I'd almost think someone was pulling our collective legs... (I almost wanted to use the UK "taking the piss" but I couldn't quite use that w/o the distance of quotes, but it's a very useful concept that doesn't translate exactly.)
UUSS-types talk a lot about transcendence and emergence; there's a scientific observation about how very complex systems can emerge from relatively simple rules, how you can't really know how a brain works - much less a mind - just by a "forest for the trees" inspection of neurons, etc, and will kind of try to stake their sense of spirituality in that kind of "bottom up" approach rather than the "top down" idea of most Abrahamaic traditions.
In this country, it's kind of odd. There have been all these waves of fundamentalism, and it's those waves, much more so than the "clockmaker God" that many of the "founding fathers" embraced, that is in conflict with science. A literalist interpretation of the Bible, one that doesn't accept it as poetry or as a text rooted in and for a people who had far fewer tools to understand and analyze the world in the way that science can, is kind of a brittle thing, because if you put all your eggs in one spectacular immutable and divinely-protected basket, and then some corner of it - say, like Genesis as a 6-24-hour-day creation, starts to look unlikely, you have to adopt positions that are essentially untenable. (Either God set out to plant a lot of fossils etc to fool scientists and demand faith despite that, or it's a conspiracy of the labcoat and field researcher crowd, etc etc)
And also a faith that demands exclusivity - as many say Christianity does with Jesus "no one comes to the Father but by me" - has to explain why ITS supernatural worldview is correct as opposed to all the other ones. It was a thought like this - specifically the "problem of all those pious moslems" and the realization that, if I had had whatever the Arab parallel of my S.A. upbringing is, than I would probably be striving to be as good a Moslem as I was a Christian then - that largely provoked by crisis of faith when I was 16 or so. (Since then I've also had a bit of an interest in Christian Apologetics when it tackles this issue set.)
It's a problem a lot of the hardcore Atheists have, actually. And for them, Fundamentalist Christianity acts as a bit of a strawman. And I agree with those who point out that hardcore Atheism can be followed just as dogmatically as any attempt at "faith"
My mom response was as follows:
Hi, again, and thanks for your thoughtful response. I appreciate the carefulness of your thinking. I've never been a Biblical literalist, but neither have I felt the need to try and parse out its contents by literary definitions. If Jesus did actually say "No one comes to the Father but by me", I've often wondered (with apologies to Bill Clinton) just what the definition of "by me" is. Does it truly mean only through acceptance of Jesus Christ as personal savior does a person , or might it mean that as the mediator between God and humankind, Jesus is the judge of all humans, but that his "judgment" is not exclusively based upon a Christian confession? My bottom line is that I don't have to make that decision.....I need to live according to the light that I have been granted. And that's Biblical, too.So, feel free to weigh in with comments, obviously trying to be respectful of other opinions and outlooks
plowing through my "all good mp3s sorted by track #" CDs. The track 12s were good and funky, but 13-14s start scraping bottom a bit.
Joe Jutras grows 3/4 ton pumpkins on a including "ground bone, blood and fish". Do we really want to give these things a taste for blood???
he who teaches history is doomed to remember it --2008.11.30
Happily transferring voice memos into ToDos etc. The iPhone really is the jesusphone, the second coming of palm.
Live so that the evidence if your death is found in the memory stick of your digital camera --2008.12.22
"it's raining men" - their bruised and broken bodies scattered across the landscape, denting car hoods and punching holes through awnings...
RIP Senator Pell... sounds like a truly great politician and man.
JZ has adopted a very teeny-bopper-ish "I know, right?" form of affirmation, half-serious, half-in jest. It's catchy! "I know, right?"
"I think you enjoy sprint retrospective notes a lot more than I do." -Scrummaster Heather to me. She might be right-secretary mojo go go go! (5 comments)
Reading John Lienhard's Inventing Modern. It's one of those books with a giant scope, but sometimes you're not sure if the particular artists or creators discussed are the true central figures of Modern or just people Lienhard finds interesting.
In the book he quotes a WW2 movie that quoted a bit of Faust: "Linger a while, thou art so fair". In an anecdote he has put on the web as well as in the book, he discusses how that line resonated when he decided to accept a position in Houston, paradoxically after witnessing a moment of almost surreal beauty in his beloved Kansas. The enecdote is worth reading.
He attributes the ideal to the Romantics:
Goethe was a Romantic poet, and this was a primary Romantic sentiment. A driving restlessness is the mainspring of the creative person. Faust hurls his challenge at Satan: "When did the likes of you ever understand a human soul in its supreme endeavor?"I think there's also a bit of the Eastern caution against over-attachment to the transient beauty of this moment. Of course, there's a longstanding Western ideal of turning one's eyes and heart to matters of Heaven "where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal", but you know, I think the Eastern interpretation catches the mixed feeling of that moment, more fully recognizes the divided heart we can have at this time, the legitimacy of that beauty of the world around us, not just the need to not let that beauty sway us from what needs to be done.
The line is so powerful because it asks for a respite; a time to hold time still. Only the context holds the tragedy of the condition, the need to move on.
Blog of the Moment
Slate is hosting a new blog The Happiness Project. I think I'll start keeping up with it for a while.
harveyjames 44 minutes into 2001? So what was that, like the space stewardess shuffling around the circular walls->floor?
"Linger a while, so fair thou art" --Faust. Lienhard show it as a warning lesson against over attachment to transient beauty.
Reliability is one of the finest of all the virtues. But I need to learn to relax and not fly off the handle when it's not there.
Humans see in stereo, but I think that implies that nothing is in perfect focus. We don't notice, because seeing is more like thinking.
cracked Generation Gap: 30-somethings maybe played TMNT on NES, 20-somethings know their names / colors / weapons / personalities.
Bush: "I believe this- the phrase 'burdens of the office' is overstated." I believe this- that Bush believes that. http://tinyurl.com/7ozmcl (1 comment)
"On Valencia Street, I look out the window at the hipsters on their fixed-speed bikes. The tight clothes, the tiny hats -- their major struggle as a generation seems to be reducing drag. As if success in life requires being ever ready to slip through a narrow opening."
--Scott Hutchins, "A Working Theory of Love". Cool quote, though I'm a little mixed on hipsters as a term these days.
http://kottke.org/14/01/the-sum-of-all-positive-integers Good lord. 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + .... ends up equalling -(1/12). If you ever wanted to make a philosophical argument that math doesn't describe our world, start here.
Thoughts I've been having lately:
My mom and I were corresponding about an old vacation video I had recently unearthed, and when I talked about my discomfort at being such a graceless, attention-seeking adolescent, my mom wrote:
I so wish you could be more understanding of your adolescent self. That's the real key....you were an adolescent and your actions then belong to that stage of development. You've grown into maturity with so so many positive attributes that were somehow cooked together from those years. Plus, you've carried into adulthood a lot of the creativity and risk taking that many adults leave behind.
I've been thinking a lot about my "creativity and risk taking". In most ways, I'm not much of a risk taker, because I live in this weird fear of being held account to some authority, sometime, somewhere, some voice that will point out "YOU CHOSE POORLY AND NOW THINGS ARE BAD AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD". So, I don't proactively choose much. And I don't judge much, or at least not casually, because then I'd be responsible for an opinion that could turn out to be wrong. I guess to the extent I seem like a risk taker, it's in not really caring if I got put into certain categories by other people... I've always had more interesting things to worry about than if I was a dork, that battle was probably already fought and lost. (Or won.)
There's that (often misattributed) quote by Marianne Williamson "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." that I've been mulling around. The thing is, on an abstract, intellectual level, I know some things are impossible. You can take the series 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 +.... for as long as you want, even forever, and you will never ever get to 3. The AI research Marvin Minsky mathematically proved (citation needed, couldn't find a good reference) that a type of neural network some other folks were working on would never, ever be able to differentiate certain types of visual patterns.
So how important is the impossibility of things to real life? Should I try to just label it a meaningless, abstract theoretical? Do I use the concept as too much of an excuse to continue my life's pattern of being a local optimizer, preferring to build in small steps rather than make grand sweeping changes?
relevant cartoon from http://tumblr.tastefullyoffensive.com/post/73422091488
Well, surprise is only one factor; but more irritation, and frustration.
I'm probably making a similar fallacy in terms of "why isn't everyone more like me?" but...
I realize now that Thursday's annoyance is an echo of what started me down my path to skepticism. (Personal testimony ahoy!) I remember it quite distinctly; I was at a summer music camp run by The Salvation Army in the very early 1990s, and I started to think about all the devout moslems in the world. I mean there I was, a literal son of a preacher man (sweet-talkin' optional), trying my darndest to be a good Christian, but if I had been born the son of an Imam, wouldn't I be striving just as hard to be a good Moslem? (This was combined with a sense of suspicion about the clockwork nature of the tearful repentance and mini-revival 'altar call' that would occur the Sunday at the conclusion of this particular camp, but never the Sunday at the beginning. It seemed like the spirit would move in more mysterious and less predictable ways than that, and that some large measure of psychology and manipulation was actually to thank. Or blame.)
I think the teenage years are a natural time and place to have this kind of realization, and the rebellious attitude to be able to act on it. And yet it is not nearly as widespread a changeover as I would have expected, or preferred.
(I'd love a world with more
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.")
The 3rd pillar of doubt was the feeling that I was still living a "sunday school" life, following my church's precepts against drinking etc, and (if memory of the timing serves) making my cautious steps to exploring connections with girls guilt-ridden and tentative, but many of my peers in the church, seemingly not even struck with the conceptual doubts that I was having, also seemed to be having a ton more hedonistic party fun than I was, and not recognizing a discrepancy. (Or being able to make up for it at that aforementioned 'altar call') I found that kind of picking and choosing, accepting the comfortable and rewarding bits of faith and the promise of eternal life, leaving aside the less pleasant rules and regulations, kind of repulsive. (Apparently I absorbed some very puritan protestant principles!)
Maybe some of my ability to stray from the fold comes from a position of privilege, like Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" My high school years seeds of doubt were able to blossom into "not going to church every week" sprouts in college, and I suppose that reflects both the shelter college provides, as well as the lack of a sense of threat from "The Others" to keep me towing the line.
Over the years I've mellowed a bit, I suppose, and thought about how brittle the faith was I had set up for myself. My parents were pretty liberal, given that they were protestant ministers, and so even before this teenage turning point I had made efforts to see, say, Genesis as a poetically phrased recapitulation of planetary formation and evolution. I guess being smart enough to see that those efforts at reconciliation with this particular flavor of faith were local-environment driven, but not wise enough to accept that dichotomy and still look to the moral and spiritual heart of the Faith of my Fathers, stunted spiritual growth in me. And these days, it's the lack of meta-awareness and tendency to cling to some flavor of literalism that keeps me away from traditional faiths.
A few times I've seen thing that pointed to my experience being a bit provincial; I don't remember the names, but there was one online series of articles from an (ex-?) priest about his time in the seminary, and his claim that a lot people in that role have also shaken the literal parts of their belief, and also how the monks of various "incompatible" faiths seem to understand each other a lot more than the ministry. Also, there was a liberal Archbishop from England (sorry I don't have better citations for these) who said something like "well, of course the resurrection of Jesus isn't literally true, but it still is a story, of God's love for his people, that is at the heart of our faith". That sort of blew my mind at the time (probably mid to late 20s) and pointed me to think about the "Great Revival" roots of my protestant culture. (Hmm; might not be technically accurate, given The Salvation Army's English origins, but close enough.)
Over the past few days I've been thinking about the term "Cosmopolitan" (too bad the name has been so claimed by the magazine!) What a crying shame that rather than increasing our exposure to different outlooks and upbringings, to break through the bands of geographical distance, the Internet and other advances in the specialization of media are so used to gather together in increasingly tight virtual enclaves, enhancing our ability to make little echo chambers of like minded folks (freed from the old constraints of geography)
In the end, a seemingly utter and widespread world wide failure to "walk a mile in the moccasins" of other faiths is a tremendous deficit of empathy, or even self-reflection, and is the catalyst for so much of the damage religion provides, when it has potential to do so much good.
- You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, "Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way."
- You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
- You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
- Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
On some levels the rules' concept is appealing, but also - unlikely, I guess I'd say, for people who have are arguing sincerely. If you could whole-heartedly restate your partner's (or as the rules put it, "target's") view, you'd pretty much have to be believing it yourself. That "Thanks, I wish I'd thought of putting it that way" bit is also weirdly condescending - your displayed mastery of the domain is such that your "target" will humbly thank you for your cleverness of the restatement? For something that you still don't believe? What kind of insincere sophistry is that? Like a suit of armor, I think this kind of steelman will ring hollow.
My erstwhile buddy didn't really grasp my objections until he listened to Hannibal Buress on the Sam Harris podcast. (Admittedly Buress might be a little drunk, but I appreciate his sincere points) Around 29:00 minutes in, Sam Harris says
Here's a bet, here's a bet: I could summarize your view of me in a way that you'd agree with. You couldn't return the favor. You want to take that bet? I'm absolutely sure I can articulate how you view your side of the conversation in a way that you'd sign off on. I have absolutely no faith that you could do the same for me. That's a problem, we're not successfully communicating.My buddy had an even strong reaction against Harris there than I did, that he saw Harris using the "I can see your side" concept as a bludgeon.
My counter-proposal was "spongemanning". The best we can do is try to absorb the other person's argument, then wring ourselves out, restating the argument as best we can, and have our partner comment on the drippings, to see how much of the salient info we had actually taken in. Spongemanning offers more substance than the superficialities of steelmanning, and it is more respectful than steelmannings "anything you can think, I can think better".
At its very best it invites participants to think about where their partner is coming from, and what are the headwaters of their current flow. (At the risk of straining the wet metaphor.) One of the few things I like about Ayn Rand is her alleged greeting of "What are your premises?" It's rather belligerent, but it gets to the heart of why sincere people who keep faith in the methods of rationality and discourse as a way of understanding the universe can still disagree... they have different starting assumptions and then differing concepts on what is best prioritized in life. By trying to absorb what your opponent is saying, you might better identify and catalog those sticking points - fundamental areas of disagreement where "agreeing to disagree" isn't throwing out the whole kit and kaboodle.
Behold: the spongeman! (With normal, double-tube-shaped pants)
I just found out the music composer for the new Mario/Rabbids crossover is named "Grant Kirkhope". That's a sentiment I can get behind.