Saturday, April 28, 2012

What Step Have I Taken?

Every day, at the end of your day while you're in bed, ask yourself what you did that day to advance yourself in a goal. It does not have to be the same goal each day, just so long as it is a goal that you find worthwhile.

Upon answering that question, you will be able to determine whether or not you should consider the day a waste. If you have successfully played your game that day, then you can sleep happy in the knowledge that you're an active player and have made progress that day. If you have not, then you can enter into a stage of introspection where you can try to think of something that seems worth pursuing to you or think of what keeps you from playing your chosen game.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Hermit Blogger

If you look around, you'll notice that there aren't a lot of comments around these parts. There's a reason for that: no one reads this blog. Not that this is peculiar, mind you, what's peculiar is when a blog actually does have an audience. 

There are a few perks to being a blogging hermit: I can say pretty much whatever is on my mind with the understanding that I will never have to defend it, I can post on a variety of topics that have no common thread among each other, and I can post on matters of public and private interest with no regard for the distinction between the two. Of course, though, the very fact that I'm a blogger instead of a diary-keeper implies that I want my thoughts to be read by other people.

And I do. I do want people to read them – not to such an extent that I'm actually willing to go out and advertise – but to such an extent that I occasionally sit here and look at my blog and contemplate the fact that I'm missing out on one of the most critical factors in trying to be any kind of a thinker: the critic. As it stands I can post udder idiocy, and no one will point it out. I do not even have anyone to point out that “udder” refers to mammalian mammary glands whereas I meant to use the word “utter” in the previous sentence. I lack the gaze of other people as additional reference points to judge the quality of my logic and thought processes.

Some days I prefer this. Sometimes I want to be able to post whatever I am thinking about without regard for quality or concerning myself with writing in a way that's suited for public consumption. This is, first and foremost, a place for me to develop my thoughts. And solitude is important for the development of thoughts, otherwise you run the risk of having all your fetal original thoughts aborted by bloodthirsty critics. But once the thoughts are developed, you can only measure their worth by letting critics try to chop them up. Therefore, this is information I cannot acquire.

For the time being, I think I prefer my isolated little corner of the web. Eventually, though, I need some thoughts to fight for their survival – or I'll never know if they have the tenacity needed for anyone to rely on them at all.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Smallness of My World

When I was about seven or eight years old, I found most breads to be bland, useless filler in otherwise good meals. Bread was just the stuff that kept your fingers from being covered in peanut butter and jelly, not to be desired in itself with the notable exception of garlic bread. Whenever my family went to KFC for dinner, I was given a biscuit. It was different from most bread, it was doughy and crumbly and had a slightly different taste and texture. I did not really like it, but I always ate it. It had such a difference compared to other breads I knew, that it took on a spiritual significance to my little seven year old self. Every time I ate it, it made me think of the Last Supper; when I thought of that biscuit and the connection my childish mind made between the crumbling bread and the bread that Jesus broke, eating that biscuit was like taking part in a ritual that no one else knew was going on.

When I was a little bit older, I, like a lot of my generation, was hooked on anime due to Cartoon Network's Toonami. I don't know what other kids were like, but I know that I was mostly a dipshit who's little obesity-fighting heart would just start a-fluttering whenever I saw Goku blast someone away with a Kamehameha. And that's what a lot of the anime they showed (or at least the anime I liked) was about, either Dragonball Z fighting, giant robots, spaceships, or some combination thereof. There was one moment in all this that could capture my attention and give me a spiritual moment. One anime played its credits over a series of pencil drawings that were unrelated to the show itself. The drawings were beautiful to me, featuring young women in various fantasy or sci-fi settings with no explanation beyond what was in the drawing itself. Over the drawings, a soft song sung in Japanese played. The whole credits sequence was outside of my teenage American male existence; and it had an otherworldly quality to me. The images could not be fit into any narrative, and the song was nonsense-albeit lovely nonsense-and it made me feel like it was a glimpse into another world.

The most recent example I can think of occurred for a week or two back in college. I had just lost my faith in Christianity and was trying to figure out what was now available to base a worldview upon; I tentatively investigated Judaism. Early in the morning, when it was usually cold, I would be in prayer and anxiety with my Tanakh open. I would go into the kitchen and make myself a mug of peppermint tea. I never really drank tea prior to this, and my soda-ruined palate needed two large spoonfuls of sugar before the stuff was sweet enough for me to drink. But I would sit at the table and sip this peppermint tea, and once again I felt like I was sampling something from another world. The tea was not that great, mind you, but I had never before drank something with a mint flavor. Mint was for candy and toothpaste, but here I was sipping hot, sweet mint water. Before I let the pressures of school occupy my mind too much for me to make time for the little ritual, drinking that mint tea with my Tanakh open gave me a spiritual experience that made me feel like I was sampling the kind of drink a shaman or a medicine man would brew.

And yet, when I became I teenager I realized that KFC is just a fast food place that adds a cheaply made biscuit to their meals so that you get 180 bonus calories. And when I became a high schooler I realized that, yes, there are other languages in the world and their pop music happens to sound exotic to my American ears. And even as I was having the experience in college, I knew that there was nothing special about my tea, it was a mass-produced product purchased in a brightly lit grocery store alongside a wide assortment of alternative options. With a little time I no longer felt as if any of these products actually contained anything otherworldly: they were all a part of my world, no stranger than French fries, Britney Spears, or milk.

In those times, in those places, they gave me a sense of the mysterious and the mystical because they seemed alien to the mundane workings and objects of my world. Not because of the products themselves, but because of the smallness of my world. Once my world broadened a little, they lost that mystical flavor. We do not feel anything mystical about those things that are a part of our world - only about the otherworldly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Understanding Text

I suppose that to understand a writing, a speech, or any other work of language is simply to understand the vocabulary and grammar that it is written in. Once you understand what the words mean and how they relate to one another, then you understand what is being communicated.

Is there anything else to understanding a work than understanding its vocabulary?

How Much is Human - Conservatives and Liberals

This is certainly not an absolute statement on the differences between liberals-broadly defined-and conservatives-broadly defined, but more of a general trend I've noticed in their respective worldviews.

In the course of speaking and thinking, a conservative is more likely to appeal to the immovability of reality. You can see this in conversations about gender, morality, poverty, or human nature. You can more easily imagine a conservative ridiculing someone transgendered for trying to go against the facts (the penis or lack thereof), about morality as something one "goes back to" rather than something that adapts, that poverty is just a result of the nature of wealth - haves and have-nots, and that things like war and crime are inevitable because of the way people are and the most sensible approach to such things is superior force and retribution because anything else does not deal with the way humanity actually is. A conservative is more likely to suggest an approach to life that says most of life is out of our control and all we can do is try to be good and excellent people in our role and leave the universe to work according to its motions. The rules are fixed, things are the way things are, and to act otherwise is to ridiculously try to live against the facts.

This leads to an increased reverence for tradition, traditional morality, and tradition beliefs because this worldview produces a disinclination toward the destruction and recreation of existing institutions and practices. It tends to view existing institutions and practices as just being sensible and moral ways of interacting with the facts of reality.

Liberals on the other hand tend to appeal to the human influence in how we make sense of the world. They are more likely to say that gender is a human construct, that morality can be changed and tailored to fit our needs, and that poverty can be eliminated or minimized by the ordering of society. With regards to human nature they often times take a similar approach to conservatives and say that it just is the way it is, but there seems to be a greater optimism that all we really need to expunge the less desirable aspects of human nature is increased education and knowledge, thereby bringing things back under our control. They too appeal to the facts, but they typically appeal to the facts to destroy something human so that they can build something new in its place. They place more of life under human creativity. A liberal approach to life is more pluralistic, if some given aspect of life is defined by the human mind then they are likely to leave each person to use their mind to create their own definition.

From here, liberals can adopt a method of creative destruction. Human Construct X leads to Undesired Side-Effect Y. By appealing to the real facts behind Human Construct X (the indifferent facts of nature, presumably as revealed by science) they "disprove" the validity of the Construct and are now free to substitute a new Construct or allow for a pluralism of Constructs.

I wonder how much of the differences between the two groups, at least in America, is reducible to the question of how much of life is of human origin.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Did it Again...

First it was World of Warcraft....

Then it was The Wrestling Game....

Then it was Erepublik....

Then it was The Lost Runes....

Now the smartphone has been introduced into my life, and I find myself perpetually tied to Tiny Tower.

Between Tiny Tower and constantly trying to at least get the Badge of the Day on Kongregate every day, I am never going to be a productive human being.