Thursday, March 25, 2010

Philosophy: It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt

I've never studied philosophy but I always thought I should. For someone who paid tuition to make smoke powder blow up in flashpots and learn how ladies' gloves were made from the skins of mice in the Elizabethan age, philosophy seemed like the natural next step in a progression toward an all-encompassing knowledge that was simultaneously quite useless. But just because I never studied it doesn't mean I don't consider myself something of an expert on the topic. After all, I have access to Wikipedia. Duh.

Philosophy, then is:
the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.It is distinguished from other ways of addressing fundamental questions (such as mysticism, myth, or the arts) by its critical, generally systematic approach...The word "Philosophy" comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία [philosophia], which literally means "love of wisdom."

I do love that wisdom. Watching Jeopardy all the time!

So having now given myself a thorough understanding of the topic, I am prepared to hold forth and present my profound thoughts. Ahem.

It seems to me that in developing a perspective on this whole life thing there are two paths from which to choose:

  • Path A: Destiny. Fate. All things happen for a reason whether it can be understood or not. In fact, understanding is not in play - it's a faith-based organization, and maybe, if we're good, we understand the ending as the credits roll.
  • Path B: Random meaninglessness. Chaos. Nothing means anything, nothing matters, we're all just collections of molecules cursed with consciousness.
  • Path C: There is no Path C because I just said there are two paths from which to choose. Why are you even reading Path C? Can't you focus for even a minute?
The whole destiny and fate approach has a number of attractive aspects. A large foyer, for example, and hardwood floors,cathedral ceilings and two-and-half baths and plenty of lawn out back for the dog. A comforting space where there is always the aroma of fresh-baked bread and six or seven glowing sunsets a day.

Random meaningless, meanwhile, is a leaky basement apartment where the radiator bangs and the windows don't close all the way because the walls are crooked. The people who live upstairs from random meaninglessness wake you up in the middle of the night with their loud coupling and you only get mail that is not intended for you.

Destiny and fate has the whole "butterfly effect" thing going for it - every missed bus changes your life.

Random meaninglessness just says "Fuck, I missed the bus" and goes back into the bar for another beer.

Destiny and fate says "There's no point in striving because whatever is going to happen to you is going to happen no matter what you do."

Random meaninglessness says "There's no point in striving because whatever is going to happen to you doesn't matter anyway."

This is starting to get depressing.

So I call for a Path C. (Yes, I know I denied Path C earlier but how about a little forgiveness here, ok? I'm doing my best.)

Path C says there is some absolute truth, and it comes from the heart and not from the head. The heart feels the right and the wrong. Choices matter. Path C says you are, in fact, the captain of your soul and whether or not you miss that bus is really a choice you make, whether you know it or not. Path C says only people who discover that things are going really well are likely to say "this was meant to be" and people who are hosed think nothing makes sense. Path C says everything we do has a motivation, an intention and a meaning - based on choices we make minute by minute. Path C says you own your happiness or lack of it.

Guess it's just as well I didn't take those philosophy classes. Tonight, at least, it all seems sort of simple.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A fat kid's random stale cookies

When I was a kid there were always sweets in the house. Ice cream in the freezer, always. Those great big Hershey bars, the kind about four-by-six inches, stashed in a drawer or "hidden" in an electric fryer that sat unused on top of the fridge. And a cookie jar of some sort, on the kitchen counter, with some low quality and half-stale Fig Newtons or Nilla Wafers or some such. I knew where all the sweets lived because I was both a curious and fat kid. I made it my business to have a basic rolling inventory of everything that was in the cupboards, pantry or refrigerator. I think a "keep it away from the pudge" policy was the reason they were always trying to hide the good stuff. But being a sort of Sherlock Holmes of desserts, I sniffed it all out.

That cookie jar, however, was always my last resort. If there was only one sort of crappy, cheap cookie in there, that might do in a pinch. But there was a tendency for two or three kinds of crappy, cheap cookies to end up in there together, and their smells and flavors would inter-marry, and that was not a palate pleaser even for a fat kid. A sugar cookie should not smell like a ginger snap - a Nutter Butter should not have a coconut flavor - the race mixing of the cookies was morally objectionable.

All of this is by way of saying that a pastiche, a potpourri, and pot of leftovers, is often not all that tasty, and this blog post is exactly that kind of pot of leftovers. You have been duly warned. These are my Random Loose Ends.

Update on New Year's Resolutions

Here it is March already. 2010 is one-sixth over. You're probably wondering how the fat kid is doing with the old resolutions. So here's where I stand: I have been 100% successful in stopping saying I will cut down on drinking, and I have followed through on my pledge to get up every morning and give serious consideration to a strenuous workout. I have also had complete success in giving up eating baby seal meat, and I have totally said no to necrophilia. On the downside, I have not fulfilled my pledge to get a prominent tattoo that says "Be Kind, Rewind." But there's still five-sixths of the year left.

Wearable technology observation

With a small cringe for fear of offending, I would like to quietly suggest that the wearing the earpiece-cell phone thing 24/7 is really 2008 and it's time to let it go. It just didn't catch fire like you thought it would, bunky, so you look like a nimrod. Let's move on, ok? I know, I know, you are saving a lot of time and effort reaching into your pocket, purse or holster to get your phone out all the time, but only television directors and dispatchers and air traffic controllers really need a semi-permanent headset situation. I mean, how many urgent business deals are you making during the recession? And you were never really that important anyway, were you? (At the same time, as soon as they come out with the fully implantable cell phone, cut me open and stick it inside my head. Give me a little set of buttons behind my ear. Hands free, and I'll never have to worry again about watching my fancy phone drown in the toilet.)

The many names for one's thing

They say the Eskimos have a hundred - or a thousand, or a million - words for snow. Snow is very important to them. Frogs, if they had a language, would have a hundred or a million words for flies, I guess. So if there is some thing that has lots of different names, it must be important. That's why, I think, there are are so many different names for the naughty bits. Most people can, without hesitation or a Google search, reel off 10 or 12 terms that equate to penis, and perhaps an equal number for vagina. I find this intriguing, but I can't quit figure out how to get some blog value out of it. Stay tuned. Maybe we'll have a contest. First prize can be a jar full of stale Fig Newtons that smell like Snickerdoodles.

Lastly, two random cheap laugh photos that came my way. I share them because a cheap laugh is still a laugh.

Ok, I don't know who this guy is, where he is, or what the fuck he's thinking, but if Conan the Barbarian got in a time machine and popped up in a park in Milwaukee in July, and then tried to find some clothes to blend in with the locals, it might look a little like this. I can't help but think that even though no one else in the photo is looking at this guy, there all are talking about him. And not admiringly.

I think maybe this picture came with the caption "Excited about the weather?" I wish I could improve on that, but I can't.