Thursday, November 29, 2012

So Much Repetition

Sometimes you'll find a thought, a fantasy, or a project large enough to capture every free thought that you have. Your mind will seem to be constantly playing thoughts with the same flavor; you can savor the productivity and the love that's involved in that kind of single-minded pursuit, but at the same time it is easy to begin wanting change for change's own sake.

Especially because at some point the thought will creep into your head whether or not the thing you are focused on actually deserves that much attention. It is here that you have to be cautious - there's going to be an impulse that says it's best to cut your losses and find new mental territory to dwell in for awhile. As with most impulses, there's no clear correct response. Shifting up focus keeps you well-rounded, but staying the course allows for the possibility of reaching an emotional height.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Self vs. Other

I imagine my body and I imagine the surrounding landscape. I observe the sensations of the body, but the landscape I observe only through the impressions it leaves on my senses. The body I call Self - the landscape I call Other.

Go back further. I imagine my mind and I imagine my body. I apprehend the thoughts of the mind directly, but the sensations of the body must be made conscious for me to apprehend them. The mind I call Self - the body I call Other.

Deeper still, the thoughts come when they want. The mind works, what is conscious becomes conscious without any input of mine, and the thoughts pop up. The mind I call Other - what then is the Self? Only the perception.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wonka the Individualist Ideal and Wonka the Broken Recluse

The fundamental difference between Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka and Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka is their relation to the rest of humanity. 

Gene Wilder's character has attained a kind of superiority, has ascended to a height compared to the rest of us. He acts with full understanding, nothing occurs that is outside of his control or too overwhelming to deal with (see: the Slugworth subplot), and the o

ther characters act to prove themselves to Wonka. The disasters that befall the children are indications that they fail to live up to what Wonka needs in a replacement; when they leave Wonka hints that they may be a little wiser, that is, their encounter with the factory improves them as people. Charlie is only given the factory when he demonstrates that he would not harm Wonka even when it would benefit his family.

Wonka is an individualistic ideal. He shuts himself off from humanity and becomes someone great. He is at no disadvantage, his quirkiness is a manifestation of the fact that he is satisfied in being himself and feels no need to conform to whatever might be expected of a business of his stature or a man of his age.

Johnny Depp on the other hand is a broken man. Depp stands apart from the rest of us, but at a disadvantage. He is different from the rest of us, but his difference is a result of his estrangement from his father, there is no indication that he could have lived as a normal man and instead chose to remake himself. His quirkiness arises from not understanding himself or the world around him. He is a great chocolateer, but in almost every other area he is broken.

The children in Depp's factory are being subjected to punishment because Depp does not trust them and expects them to fail (as Charlie pointed out, the Oompa Loompas seemed to have practiced the songs that correspond to each child's catastrophe), Depp.merely wants whichever one is the least worst to be his heir. The children do not leave Wonka in any way improved - two of them walk away disfigured. When Charlie chooses his family over Wonka, it shatters Depp's perception of the world; Charlie is the teacher rather than Wonka. He had no understanding of his importance or the extent to which he and his craft are valued. Depp in fact needs Charlie to show him that his individualistic existence and his art as a chocolateer do not fully satisfy him - he must be reconciled with his father and he must find a family (which he finds with the Bucket family).

Happiness Tethered to Desire

If we imagine a man who wants nothing, do we imagine a happy man? Or if not a happy man, a man capable of happiness? What is happiness apart from a man's desire?

Of course we can define happiness in different ways, which means that there are possible definitions of happiness that do not require desire. Instead, lets focus on our gut understanding of happiness, the kind we inherit from culture and biology prior to reflection.

With that foggy notion of happiness, is it possible without desire? Is it possible without wanting something? I do not think I can conceive of it.

It may be pointed out that if we conceive of happiness this way, then we can conceive of a negative happiness as well, what would probably be called suffering. Suffering that would also depend upon desire. By wanting and having our desires frustrated we would experience pain.

To opt out of the game and try to quiet one's desires so that all suffering is manageable would also be to deny ourselves happiness. Happiness, under this conception, carries the risk of greater suffering. Is there a way around this? Would we really be better off escaping the risk of suffering? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Best of Christianity and the Bible

Just as a general impression, it seems to me that the things most lovable about Christian thought are things that one has difficulty finding in the Bible. I could point to C. S. Lewis as a possible embodiment of this: his ideas make the world a very exciting place while also providing us a fear and a comfort in God. But when you read Lewis you have to wonder what his ideas are rooted in. Surely scripture is a part of it, as well as Anglican tradition, but, again as a general impression, it seems as though most of Lewis's thought is based upon what keeps Lewis comfortable and engaged.

But, then, it is just convention and tradition that elevates the Bible so high that we regard it as the only appropriate foundation for Christian thought.

How can we regard the Christian thinker, then? I suppose we must regard him as any other thinker. His work is an amalgamation of what he finds beautiful, what he finds useful, what he finds necessary to support the former, what appeals to his biases, what draws him out of himself, what he was educated into, what he must rebel against, what makes him feel strong, what makes him feel safe, in short, what he can live according to.

But what then is Christian thought? Orthodoxy can only exist in a relative sense. Define "good thought" and then you can compare your definition to whatever someone offers for consideration. But then, they can merely reject your definition. Sound doctrine, orthodox thinking, this is merely the attempt to align one's thoughts with an arbitrarily grasped form of truth.

Which is probably why the best Christian thought seems to depart so far from what we could reasonably derive from the verses that inspire the thought - because the scripture is a trigger, but the individual and the totality of his life provides the content.

As an atheist, I say that this shows the unreliability of all religious orthodoxy. As one who is and probably always shall be interested in becoming a theist, I say that this, coupled with a kind of determinism, is the nature of revelation.

Friday, November 9, 2012

They Come and Go

Just try keeping track of all the little observations and questions that pop into your head in the course of a given day, particularly if you keep any kind of blog. Little ideas pop up, and if you don't feed them, they fade right back into the obscurity of your mind. 999 times out of 1000 they are completely mundane ideas that interest no one except yourself and yourself only because of a self-interested bias, but the question is should you go out of your way to feed them or only let the useful ones - the ones that regular recollection and employment ensure are not forgotten - occupy head space?

I keep this blog specifically because I like feeding those ideas, but I would not necessarily recommend it to everyone else.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Conception of Despair

If we conceive of human beings as lacking unity, of having a divided nature that may or may not be united in its ends, if we conceive of value as consisting of whatever individual humans happen to love and desire, and if we conceive of happiness as a kind of satisfaction or indulgence of our loves and desires, then I propose a conception of despair.

Despair is the state one gets into where one or more deep fragments of one's nature desires what conflicts with one or more deep fragments of one's nature. The result is that harmony and satisfaction becomes impossible: every indulgence is simultaneously a wound and every satisfaction simultaneously a poisoning. Happiness eludes a person in such a state because their loves and desires cannot be altogether taken care of.

What hope would there be in such a situation? So far as I can see, only a self-recreation could save such a person. They would require a new nature so that they would love differently.