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26 April 2006

Kierkegaard on religion.

More ideas, or guidelines, paraphrased from Kierkegaard as I learned in the course PGTL. Kierkegaard had a strong belief in Jesus. The first paragraph below is one of my all time favorite ideas.

Reason must be used to its fullest in order for us to experience that reason will not get us there [to the answer of the meaning of life]; we must use reason to its fullest in order to discover that the idea that we can find the meaning of life from a rational standpoint does not make sense. You have accept that belief in God is irrational, and then make a leap of faith and believe that God exists.

The Christianity that is the way to the meaning of life is offensive to our human reason. If you think that the reason you believe in Christianity is because it makes sense, you have misunderstood Christianity.

Even if you walked next to Jesus and talked to him, you would be no closer to him, know him no better than a human being can know him today.

Only individuals can know God, institutional settings falsely hijack the soul and they give us a false sense of reassurance, they don't enhance our soul and our quest for meaning in life.

Even if our life ends with death and we would never be again, there is still the notion that there is a kind of objective immortality: though we die, we could have least have known what matters.

26 April 2006

Unhealthy relationships.

"I used to get drunk to get my spark
And it used to work just fine
It made me wretched but it gave me heart
I miss Jimmy like I miss my wine."

-Shawn Colvin, Facts About Jimmy.

25 April 2006

Kierkegaard on Who You Are.

Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher who lived in the first half of the nineteenth century. He is often referred to as the "father of Existentialism". Kierkegaard's philosophy focused on the individual, and he set stages that each person must go through to have an authentic and genuinely meaningful human life. I don't agree with everything that he says, but I like some of his ideas.

Kierkegaard paraphrased:

You judge yourself in terms of the ideal person that you think you are, saying, "that's who I must be", and you feel that you have to live up to that idea. (This is at the beginning of your journey.)

You must be fully integrated if you are truly to have found yourself. You might think that you are a certain person, but if you are unable to act and live as that person, then that is not who you are.

If what you do doesn't make you one with yourself, if it doesn't integrate you, then that probably isn't who you are, if you are at odds with yourself, then you have to look further.

The pursuit of self continues and continues until you become the person that you really are.

20 April 2006

Nietzsche insights.

Nietzsche finds philosophy's guidance not through systems but through isolated and usually disconnected insights. Here are three:

Real maturity is to capture the playfulness, the kind of innocence and ease that you had as a child at play.

The thought of suicide helps us through many a difficult time in life. You can lose the sense that you want to live, but you don't act it out.

There are no moral phenomena, only moral interpretations of phenomena.

19 April 2006

Nietzsche's not so bad.

I had always associated Nietzsche with negativity, nihilism, the idea that life has no meaning. I was wrong, there is a lot more to Nietzsche than these simplistic interpretations.

Nietzsche, in Eternal Returns, tells us to say yes to the totality of life. If time is infinite, and matter cannot be destroyed, and everything is made up of bits of matter, then everything that is happening now is going to happen again and again and again: "eternal returns". If we are to be fully human, and fully embrace life, we will say yes to life in the following way:

"If we experience eternal return we are embracing that this life - as it is now, with its pain, suffering, regret, joy, horrors, celebration - is so precious that we would be willing to live this life an infinite number of times."

I have thought about this a lot. I would live my life an infinite number of times. Life is that precious. Remembering the doctrine of eternal return helps me get through dark moments.

Another idea that came through PGTL is that each moment is infinite. Right now is an eternal moment. Right now is our eternity, it is all that we know, and it stretches as far back and as far forward as we can perceive. I add on to this the idea that we don't have to die to enter eternity, we have our eternity right now. (I am not sure which philosopher brought this idea to the course, I didn't write it down as I listened to it and I can't find it in the outline.) I like thinking about the concept of eternity in each moment.

18 April 2006

A Sea of Questions.

Wednesday, April 12. I just finished the Teaching Company course, Philosophy as a Guide to Living (PGTL), by Stephen Erickson. I have so many ideas running around in my head and so many blog drafts on my desktop that I need to stop listening to courses for awhile and write down some of these thoughts. So we might see a flurry of blogs from me, inspired by ideas from PGTL, plus courses I listened to several months ago, and a few books that I am reading.

The first twenty-three PGTL lectures discussed many different philosophers' thoughts on the meaning of life and on what it means to be human. As I put lecture twenty-four into my CD player, I wondered if Prof. Erickson would wrap it all up and tell me the meaning of life. But he didn't, and by this last lecture, I didn't really expect him to. Throughout, he carefully gave us a lot of information, but not his judgements on that information. He gave us guidelines from several sources, and we can pick and choose our favorites.

In lecture twenty-four, he acknowledges that he is leaving us in a sea of ideas. I think of it as a sea of questions.

One point in particular that I like from this last lecture is this: Prof. Erickson spoke that philosophy, at its best, asks questions; institutionalized religion, at its best, gives answers. Some people are happy to be given answers by a religion, but as I've already stated in my blog, I am an atheist. I ask questions, and expect my outlook on life to always be in flux as I find new questions and see new answers. I've always been this way, now I understand and accept myself a little better. I don't care if anyone else makes the decision to believe in God, that's up to them and has nothing to do with me.

The course ends with a look to the future, with ideas familiar to me from years of both following the biotech field and from reading science fiction. Erickson quotes the Hebrew Bible, the book of Job: "We are on the wings of the morning". In 2006, it is too early for humans to see what kind of a day it will be. So many changes are sure to come as biotechnology advances. What if we can enhance different of our faculties? Modify our intelligence? Augment our senses? Eliminate any desirable urges? Live very long lives? What then will it mean to be human?

A sea of questions to ponder in the wings of this morning.

wings of the morning
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05 April 2006

The M&Ms of life.

I've been working out regularly since I joined a fitness center at age 23. The main reasons that I work out are that afterwards, my mind is clearer, my body is more limber, and I feel less stress. Still, sometimes it's hard to get myself up and going. If I think about it, I'll come up with excuses:

*I could skip it and do some work instead
*how boring watching the minutes pass
*how the heck am I going to get enough energy to make my body do that hard work and move fast enough to get my heart rate up

So I don't think. I just grab my iPod and heart rate monitor and go.

After the first few hard minutes I always find that I don't want to be anywhere else. Movement and Music, the M&Ms of life. I have often thought about how much I enjoy something as basic as moving. I am neither a dancer nor graceful, so I when I say "movement" I am referring to walking or jumping or running around.

Music makes me want to jump around. Music calls up emotions and memories of old times. Music lyrics often speak to me (not a surprise if you've read any of my other blogs). I read a short SciFi story about how music is emotion, and a couple of my Teaching Company courses mentioned this connection as well. But analyzing these connections might take the fun out of it. Enough said.

An example of a typical workout:

I'm warming up on the stair climber and Stairway to Heaven kicks in and my thoughts turn to how a stairway to heaven ties into the morning's lecture from PGTL (philosophy as a guide to living). I am also gleaning enjoyment from the fact that the sounds I am hearing were digitized from our very own vinyl record that we bought in the 70s - the wonderful pops and scratches! I doubt that anyone else in the rec center is listening to anything like that on their iPod. Then Bruce Springsteen's Pink Cadillac comes on, pure fun, I bounce along, remembering actually seeing a pink cadillac back when I grew up, near Hollywood, cruising Van Nuys Boulevard. A few more tunes and I'm pushing my heartrate up to my max and virtually singing at the top of my lungs with Maroon 5 - but no! It's time to quit and go to the resistance machines. Dang.

Pink Cadillac

I found the above photo on the web, hope they don't mind. Click on read more for the (partial) lyrics of Pink Cadillac and more (stolen) photos.
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