Thursday, April 18, 2013

In the Face of a Mystery

In the face of a mystery, I can not give an answer. Before a dilemma, I can not choose one horn or the other. It seems that doing so misses the truly remarkable point: that a mystery exists here.

If I understand Wittgenstein, his position was that mysteries occurred from the misuse of language, of applying concepts incorrectly and looking from the wrong point of view. The correct answer was to look at the situation differently until one found a perspective where the mystery dissolved into thin air and one could move on.

I am not there yet with Wittgenstein, either because I shall eventually regard Wittgenstein as wrong or because I have not yet fully seen the merit of his method. For me, at least at this moment, mysteries are places to stop and stare and wonder why we can not advance knowledge there. The method that I would use there is to stop and jot down the different possible positions one could take in the face of a mystery, and then consider why it is that one of them is not clearly true.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mr. T, a Tall Height, and a Wide Horizon

I have wondered before which is better: devoting your time to one pursuit and reaching a height, or devoting your time and effort to several different directions so as to be a well-rounded person. I usually choose not to provide an answer to the question and try to always affirm that both possibilities are desirable and that the key lies in finding a balance between them.

Well, today I read this.

A T-shaped man has two characteristics. First, he has a depth of knowledge and a focused expertise in one skill or discipline. This characteristic is represented by the vertical stroke of the T. Second, he has an interest in and a willingness to use a broad range of skills and disciplines outside his area of expertise. This characteristic is represented by the horizontal stroke of the T. A T-shaped man is, in short, a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of one. (See what I did there?)

This is one possible balance to strike when considering which direction to go in. He advocates (putting it into the terms that I typically use) reaching one height and then having a familiarity with the surrounding landscape. This allows for mastery and versatility at the same time: ensuring that you can collaborate easily with others but also ensuring that you have a valuable skill that you can be considered an expert in.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Writing With the Pretentious Dial Turned Way Up

Oftentimes I will write something and, upon reading it, realize that the style in which I write is completely inappropriate for the setting that I write it in. Blogs are conversational, they aren't meant for proclamations from the mountaintops (I proclaimed from the mountaintop).

I try not to ever write in a way that is unclear to me, which I take as what pretentiousness essentially is. When your writing escapes your own understanding, then you are being pretentious. Also a shit.

Yet upon reading my writing sometimes I get the feeling that I naturally think in somewhat obscure statements. In fact, I do not think that this is particular to me, but is in fact how most of us think whenever we think for ourselves. We usually have to do some light translation to make our meditations fit for public consumption. I rarely actually go through this step, instead posting it while it is still written in the language of a private writing. It is for this reason that I think there is a disagreement between my style and my substance.

My writings are blogs written half in the style of doctrine and half in the style of personal explorations and inquiries. At the same time a blog is essentially written for other people. This is where the disagreement lies. The result is a blog that comes off intentionally obscure - therefore pretentious - therefore shitheaded.

Well, shitheadery happens.

Here's a video featuring the words "vagina blood fart."

The Persistent Self

Where is the self? Upon asking this, you will want to look for something persistent and unending. Hence we come to Theseus' Ship. With all of our parts shifting and changing, in what sense is there a true me?

I say, only in passing, that the relation between what you are in this moment and what you were in the past is different from, say, what you are in this moment and what a rock sitting in your garden is or what you are in this moment and what Socrates is. There is a lineage that your present flesh sits in that also includes your past selves: they are more self in the gamut of self than, say, other people or inanimate objects. To say that your present self is identical to yourself at age five, though, I must say is incorrect; I suspect that any search for some enduring part of you that has endured over the years will result in disappointment.

Rather than searching for a self by checking the past and then checking the present for some commonality, instead I say that the self endures by being ever-present. Where is the self? The answer is always "here." When is the self? The answer is always "now." You will never find the self "there" or "then."

To illustrate this, I merely ask that you re-experience a moment from your childhood. Immediately you will either conjure up a memory from childhood, if you do not see through the trick and immediately say that it is impossible. Memory is a kind of scar; you can never re-experience the past, all you can do is examine a scar that exists in the present. The experience is past and is gone because there is no self in the past to perceive the events that took place, without the scars of the experience it would be as though the experience never occurred.

Some have said that it is memory that gives rise to the illusion of self. Memory-phenomena gives rise to the illusion that there was a commonality that existed in the past that continues to exist today. I say, rather, that memory provides a much more modest illusion: the illusion that we experience the past rather than experiencing only the present.

Self is perception; perception is now; now is always.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

At the Crossroads of Dissatisfaction and Sloth

There exists a particular kind of despair in the world: not a very intense one nor (usually) a very long lasting one, but one that crops up from time to time in life. That despair is the feeling of lacking the energy to do anything challenging or requiring ones attention, but also being unable to get any significant stimulation or satisfaction from the old and familiar. Moments of this kind of despair are moments of the most pathetic feeling boredom: you're bored because the old stuff ain't interesting and you can't be bothered digesting any new stuff.

I'd like to offer a reasonable solution to this problem: perhaps the answer is to muscle through the lack of energy and force yourself to learn something new (this has never worked for me); perhaps the answer is to take a deep breath and put on an old movie and force yourself to appreciate what you already know (again, this has never worked for me). Frankly I've never found a solution except to wait until either the jadedness passed or you get some vigor back.