Sunday, August 14, 2005

insert witty title here

heh, i know that this is a philosphy blog but i just wanted to say that i can't wait to get back to school. i'm so psyched about this next year and about life. also, check out Bloc Party and the Editors if anyone is into indie rock. look out for a real post next time ;)

Monday, August 08, 2005


It seems to me that people in general have developed quite
an apathetic attitude towards their fellow man. This attitude
even often borders on billigerance. Easily observed in global
issues, what I am focusing on more is the obersavtion on a
local scale. In what people say, how they act, look at others,
drive their cars, and so on, all point to the surprising conclusion
that there is a mentality that is uncaring towards others.

The real question is why do people not care and even furthur,
should they care? I believe that the latter question is more
easily answered and as such, I shall start there. Simply put,
humans have congregated into great communities out of an
instinctual longing for company. It has also been realized,
over the year by people, that more people can complete big
tasks easier and in a faster fashion. Big tasks such as
irrigation, walls for defence, and mass farming are beneficial
for everyone in the area. This need for others readily lends
support to the idea that caring for others is essential in
working with others, for who would work or live with an
asshole? Caring for others means that people will get along
and work together better for the benefit of the whole.

This being said, why has it occured that people are now
overwhelmingly uncaring? It seems as if I have come upon
a split in my discussion. There are two different worlds
in which caring can be exhibited, the professional and the
social. Professionally, it is quite easy to see why it pays
to be kind towards others. Socially however, is where my
original train of thought was headed.

There are now incredible numbers of people inhabiting this
planet at six billion plus. Most people talk to and meet
many strangers throughout a week's time. Why care about
someone you are never going to see again? Indeed, why even
care about people who live halfway across the world? People
do not seem to care because they fail to realize that we
all affect one another. And this affection is very important
given the fact that we inhabit the planet, such an increasingly
confining sphere.

This "bubble consciousness" is the root of apathy. People do not
care about what happens outside of their little bubble because
they do not believe that anything will affect them. It is only
when actions tend to become extreme that people will take notice.
However even such notice will not lead to caring as people are
unaware of the causes of such extremes. Is it perhaps easier
to hate and lash out than it is to accept and understand? This
is a thought with which I cannot be complacent.

to be continued maybe

Saturday, August 06, 2005

faith discussion (from a friend's facebook wall)

Well, since I haven't posted too much lately, I thought I'd put up this discussion I've been having on one a friend's wall and I thought was pretty interesting (I even color coded the posters: ) I went ahead and included the whole discussion, so it's a little long, but I think some good points are made toward middle and the end. Feel free to continue the discussion with comments if there's anything you might want to add.


Question of the...

"Is faith a principle of condemnation?"
It´s fairly obvious to me that people can have genuine faith in Jesus, or their parents, or that the Qur´an is true, but can we have genuine faith that Jesus is NOT christ, or that the qur´an is NOT true?. Is faith always a positive force or can it be a force for negativity?

That depends on the "faith" we're discussing. Are we talking about purely religious faith or simply a more general faith? Religiously, I think that faith often does imply negatives, at least about everyone else's faith. The Qur'an (I believe) states that Jesus is not Christ, so in order to have faith in the Qur'an, I would think that you would have to hold a similar faith in the fact that Jesus is not Christ. If we're outside the bounds of religion, then I think it's even easier to see negative faiths. After all, I might say that I have faith that the sky will still be blue tomorrow. By the same token, I could say that my faith rests in the fact that the sky will not be yellow tomorrow. ~John

It seems to me like John's talking more about belief than faith. Faith is different from belief in a fact, even a religious one such as "Jesus rose three days after the crucifixion." When we say someone has faith in the truest sense, we mean that they are in touch with what it is to be human, with what is beautiful and meaningful in life. To say we have "faith in Jesus" or the Qu'ran or whatever simply means we understand how this idea or message has put us in touch with that quality that gives meaning to our lives. So when I say "I have faith in Jesus" I mean "I understand that Jesus through his resurrection into the living Body of Christ shows me what is meaningful to my life." This kind of faith is something we all have hopefully experienced at some point in life. Christopher Alexander talks about this quality in his book The Timeless Way of Building: "When we know those moments, when we smile, when we let go, when we are not on guard at all -- these are the moments when our most important forces show themselves; whatever you are doing at such a moment, hold on to it, repeat it -- for that certain smile is the best knowledge that we ever have of what our hidden forces are, and where they live, and how they can be loosed." I think "hidden forces" is a good description, because people are born with an idea of what these moments are, of what is meaningful to life; it's just a question of not letting them get covered up by other things. Faith in its truest sense is the positive act of searching for and holding on to those "most important forces" that give beauty and meaning to life. – Tom

In a way,I must admit, I feel guilty for having brought up such a semantically ambiguous topic. After all, people in different faiths (me as a Mormon as much as anyone) have entirely different definitions of what the word "faith" actually means. Still, hopefully we can come to some intuitive or telepathic mutual understanding of the term, since supposedly we have all experienced faith in our lives. Perhaps we can thus approach agreement.

John, I feel obligated to disagree with you. The Qur´an does indeed state that Jesus is not the Christ. However, I don´t think that having faith in the Qur´an implies faith in Jesus not being the Christ. Having faith in the Qur´an would rather imply that you don´t even Consider that Jesus is the Christ (since to do so would be grave blasphemy in the Muslim tradition). Having faith in the Qur´an might lead you to Disagree with Christians, or even kill them (if you interpret it particularly messily), but I don´t think that it means that you shape your own faith as an inverse to theirs. Rather, your faith must remain independent from theirs. Then again, I don´t really think that Islam and Christianity are any more than superficially different...

Tom, I think I must (vaguely) agree with you.

In my own religion (perhaps I ought not call it a "faith" for the moment) faith is referred to as the "principle of power" that makes active living possible in all animate beings. As such, it is not only faith in the sun rising that tells me to get up in the morning, but also faith in my own capacity that allows me to physically move my own body, and faith in the inherent meaning of my current lifestyle that motivates me to continue studying and questioning. Faith, in my own sense, is that separates the sane man from the insane: a man with faith can continue.

In this sense, it´s rather significant that people often use the word "faith" to refer to their religious affiliation, rather than "church" or "religion". To affiliate oneself with the Christian faith, for example, would be to be motivated to continue progressing through the intended Christian paradigm, including cuiltivating humility, learning, obedience, and (above all) peace and love. Your membership doesn´t motivate it, but rather your faith.

In my own opinion, faith can only be a principle of progress. Since I consider myself (more than anything else) a Christian, I consider this path to include only positive views of the world and mankind. The principles of love and peace (only deeply held principles because my faith has assimilated them into my worldview) leave no room for condemnation. I find that if faith is a shield (as biblical sources suggest) then to focus on things that are not true (that is, things towards which you do not want to progress), even for the brief moment that it takes to disclaim them, is to lower the shield. If faith is a path leading up, condemnation is a descent.

I don´t exactly know where in this analysis to place the criminally malicious, the killers and faith-destroyers out there. Any suggestions?

I disagree with the idea that there is no room for condemnation. To hold a faith in something requires a faith that other things are not true. If I state that "God is Love" then I also firmly believe it is untrue to say "God is Hate." Furthermore, if comdemnation is bad, then how do you reconcile conflicting faiths? Personally, I am not comfortable with "Well, that's what you believe so it's ok for you." At least, not on big differences. (I realize I may be pushing this more theological than you'd like. If so, feel free to pull it back.) –John

I´ll create a whimsical analogy, since I can´t think of any other way to respond. Suppose faith is like reaching a hand out to touch a particularly beautiful flower (or better, lowering your nose to smell it). In my view, to condemn something (or someone) is more like retracting your hand from a thorn. That is, it is cowering back, retreating from an unpleasant object, standing away from it. One is love and one is hate. Love and hate both occupy the mind sufficiently that i´m not sure it´s possible to do both at the same time. –tristan

I don't agree that hate and condemnation are the same. I can condemn behavior or thoughts without having necessarily hating them. –John

John, I don´t know whether you´re right or not. I´ts awfully hard for me to draw a line between hate and condemnation, but it doesn´t necessarily mean there isn´t one. I do think I can say that they are similar. The reason I use them as synonyms here is that hate and condemnation are both methods of focusing negativity on something.
In a way, they exalt the negative as the defining feature of the subject at hand. In this sense, I think hate and condemnation are equally unproductive. I have no idea how I reconcile the fact that I am in effect condemning condemnation. Help?

Can faith be a source of condemnation? Alright words can take on many different meanings, so first I want to establish the difference between genuine faith and “false” faith in a social belief. Okay, let’s suppose that there is a real God in whom we can have genuine faith. Someone in 16th century England might say “I have faith in God” and they might really have genuine faith in God and be inspired to live a loving and creative life. Just as easily though, they might say “I have faith in God” and use that as a reason to burn someone for “witchery.” In the same way a Muslim today might say “I have faith in Allah.” It might be that they have come to know this real God, or maybe it is just their belief in their social conditioning that they are really talking about. My point is that a person’s words do not really tell us anything about their faith. As far as I know, the only way to tell about their faith is through their actions (as discussed in previous posts).
Tristan, about condemning condemnation. Of course, to condemn all types of condemnation would be a contradiction, but remember we are just talking about condemnation in the context of faith. Condemnation cannot come through faith because, as you said, faith is always a positive, building force. Therefore “condemnation through faith” is a false concept. Surely we should condemn what is false, right? Shouldn’t negativity be focused on something that is false? But, John, is it faith that is condemning what is false? Isn’t it always something else that does the condemning? Isn’t it logic, and not faith, that tells us “God is not hate”? Faith shows us what faith is, not what faith is not. –Tom

teehee, you boys are gonna love me, cuz i'm not gonna nearly address all of this. i just wanna submit my opinion that you don't necessarily have to condemn something that's false...can't it just be false? and besides that, i'm not entirely ready to concede that we can always *know* if something is indeed false...but i'm willing to discuss it :-d

love and kisses,


I agree that we cannot know whether somethings are false or not, but I think we probably should go ahead and condemn what we do know (through logic) to be false. One reason to condemn the terrorist bombings, for example, would be that 'condemnation in the name of faith' is false. It just seems to me that what is false always serves to deceive or destroy in some way or another. -Tom

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Summer thoughts

Habits spring from our desire to be active. When asked what we’re doing, people often might reply that they’re doing nothing, but really there is no such thing as doing nothing. The truth is that people have a need to always be doing something. This realization helped me to really feel more in control of myself and what I do. I didn’t really have a job this summer, so I spent a lot of time playing games and stuff like that. At first, I didn’t really understand what was driving me to play certain games, but the game would stay on my mind and I would eventually give in to the urge to play it. Sometimes I would waste hours mechanically trying to achieve one little goal within the game without really even being aware of it. I see now that I was often playing it out of habit rather than choice. Remembering that it's just a game and trying to focus on what makes the game fun allows me enjoy the game as a whole a lot more.

If you’re going to do something, make sure that you are fully engaged in it. What I mean is do not let your activity get stuck in a cycle. This is not to say you always have to be trying new things; on the contrary patterns of events form the foundation for many life’s activities. The difference is that patterns always involve stabilization or creativity, while cycles go from one extreme to another. With cycles (such as the one I just described about mechanically try to do one thing within a game for hours) you go through phases where a certain activity dominates your life, and then later you just want nothing to do with that activity, which eventually takes you back to the beginning of the cycle. I highly recommend reading Christopher Alexander’s The Timeless Way of Building, which gives an excellent explanation patterns present in the world, and listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, along with this analysis, which is about the cycles of isolation we are in danger of going through in life.

Something I wrote earlier this summer, and think it's worth including:

To love someone does NOT mean trying to end the causes of their suffering. Yes, that can be an important part of it, but if that’s all you’re doing you are missing the whole point. Because YOU cannot truly end the suffering of someone else. For a long time, it seemed that a “good” life would be one in which I lead some kind of movement that would achieve some profound effect in the world; that would eliminate the cause of a lot of people’s suffering. But really such a movement is not possible, because the true cause of people’s suffering is in themselves. I know it sounds heartless to say that given the horrible conditions people face in some parts of the world, but it is key to realize the truth in this statement. You may feel bad about the poor quality of life in Africa, but realize that people are still miserable growing up in middle class families in America. Yes, it’s important that we try and help those in Africa, but realize that doing so will not put an end to those people’s suffering. What’s even more important than helping to end those horrible conditions is to try and reach people as they really are, and not just some preconceived image we have of them.