Thursday, April 29, 2021

Philosophy and What It Means to Me

Philosophy and what it means to me is this week's topic, suggested by Sanjana, the youngest member of our blogging group.

The word "philosophy" is derived from Greece. It originates from the words "philein sophia," which mean "lover of wisdom". "Phil" is the prefix that relates to love, while "soph" is a word root that means wisdom. Therefore, the word "philosophy," like the original Greek, means "lover of wisdom or knowledge." The Cambridge English Dictionary says philosophy is the use of reason in understanding such things as the nature of the real world and existence, AKA the meaning of life.

There is an interesting list of the supposed major philosophies on the meaning of life from the last 5000 years or so in a blog called Adioma. Check it out - maybe one of the philosophies listed is the same as or similar to your own.

You may even find that no single philosophy is all-inclusive and you find yourself a combination of two or more. In a world as complex as ours, it actually makes the most sense to me. While one's outlook on life is primarily defined by a single philosophy, snippets of others are recognizable. I find myself being a subjective, modern humanist according to the list of philosophies offered in the posted link - a combination of subjectivism and modern humanism.

Many people I know consider themselves Christians - theists in the philosophies listed. Then there are the logical positivists - the folks who believe life has no meaning until you give it one, and boy do they like to argue with those determinists that say everything is predetermined. Those damned hedonists are always too busy partying heartily to even join in the conversation. Maybe the absurdists are right and we should all just stop trying to find a meaning and just live.

Yes, folks, it is my belief that philosophy is all firmly etched in water. Do any of you spend much time looking at philosophy? Did you ever answer that question I posed last week- the one that asks if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it does it make a sound? Philosophy discussions tend to be similar to circular firing squads. I tend to take the easy road - treat people the way you want to be treated - well unless you are a sadist. You make your own choices in life and the meaning of your life is up to you. Unless, of course, you are a huge Monte Python fan.

It might look like I don't take philosophy seriously. The truth is, I am not a huge fan of the discipline if you can even call philosophy a discipline. My degree is in political science - an oxymoron of the highest order. Too often, philosophy discussions in my observation turn into exercises wherein people try and impress each other with how many classical philosophies they can name and compare. To me, that is like only considering classical literature real literature. IMHO there is no better observer of humanity these days than James Lee Burke, with Dana Stabenow a close second. They happen to be primarily mystery authors.

In all seriousness, if discussions about philosophy and the meaning of life cause a surge in polite discourse and actually get people talking to each other, then let the conversation begin. That would certainly be an improvement over the current divide.

That ends my quick take on Sanjana's suggested topic. Be sure to take a look at what  RamanaConrad, and Sanjana have to say on their respective blogs.

See ya next week, same bat time and same bat channel.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Doing the Wrong Thing at the Right Time

This week's topic, doing the wrong thing at the right time, reminds me of the mind games college philosophy professors used to play back when I was a student. You remember them - things like if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? Right and wrong are even more nebulous.

Right and wrong are relative terms. Being precise in their definition is often difficult, perhaps even impossible. You might even say or think there is no absolute right or wrong in this world. What is most often the basis of "right" is religion. Right is what a given society determines to be moral, just, and legal. That leaves wrong things to be those things that are not in accordance with morality or the law.

So, in relation to our topic, Ramana has proposed doing the immoral or unlawful thing at a time when it is determined to be moral, just and legal. Is there a right time to do the wrong thing?

In a world where there is no absolute right or wrong almost anything is possible. People with strong religious upbringings will most typically do the right thing. Unless, of course, like  religious right here in the USA, they choose to support  amoral, falsehood-based policies and practices to pack the Supreme Court with conservative justices to facilitate overturning existing law with which they disagree. Apparently, everyone has a price. I myself find little if anything done by radical Muslims to be moral, just or legal. There are many more examples.

For a long time climate change was laughed at and considered folly by conservatives here. Several consecutive years of radical temperature change, extended drought and the great state of Texas almost losing its electricity grid in an exceptionally cold winter seems to have awoken a few to reality. Climate change is the right thing to address, so can there really be a wrong time for that discussion?

Man's contribution to pollution? One of the unadvertised benefits to the pandemic we have been enduring is cleaner air. Why? Travel has been severely restricted. There's that nasty science bugaboo raising its head again. Can there be a wrong time for that discussion?

The wrong thing at the right time has been justified for centuries when the outcome is considered positive - in other words, the end justifies the means. It's what Arthur got wrong with Camelot - might for right. That is really no different than might is right.

Considering the high regard in which science holds evolution, we can easily conflate might makes right with the survival of the fittest. Is that always correct? I think not.

Thomas Jefferson had an interesting take on religion and Jesus. The "Jefferson Bible” was created by Thomas Jefferson in 1820 as a collection of the Biblical teachings of Jesus that he found sound, with passages that Jefferson found unreasonable, such as miracles and the resurrection, removed. To me, it is a humanist view of Jesus. Strip away the magic from Jesus and the Bible reveals a real guidepost for life.

We all have the capacity to choose right over wrong. We do it daily in our lives. Many times we habitually do the right thing which helps maintain stress levels. Imagine how you would feel if you actually had to ponder every decision you make daily. Turn left, turn right, stop at the sign, and so on. Habits can be a good thing. Sounds like a 9AM naptime to me.

Since there are no real absolutes, you could be forced to do the wrong thing at the right time quite often. Take each action as required. It is all about perception and as long as your moral compass, be it god-based or humanist, leads you down a sound moral path, I suspect you will be just fine.

That's my quick take on Ramana's wrong thing at the right time conundrum. Be sure to check what Ramana and Conrad have to say. We'll see you next week, same bat time and same bat channel.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

How is today's world compared to the 21st century you imagined as a child?

 As a child in Colorado, my view of the 21st century was shaped by what I saw in the movies and on television. I saw some of the old Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials and my favorite at the time- Jet Jackson, Flying Commando. Jet Jackson was actually Captain Midnight with a different title and sound dubbed. His sidekick, Ichabod Mudd (with 2ds) was the same in both incarnations. 

Then, of course there was Forbidden Planet, a big budget Hollywood movie that I remember seeing at the drive in.

Forbidden Planet introduced us to Robby the Robot and futuristic flying machines and space travel. Alas the special effects were in their infancy and it would be years until things got really interesting.

It wasn't until the TV show The Jetsons that real speculation about life in the future would be seriously imagined.

As you can see, we are light years away from the Jetsons' flying car and Orbit City. George worked a two hour workweek and complained about being overworked. Interplanetary travel? Tesla is working on it. Robotic maids? We are making great strides in robotics. Much of what the Jetsons predicted is on its way.

Flat-screen televisions  and tanning beds were predicted by the Jetsons. The show was canceled after 24 episodes because there were not enough color televisions in homes. Only 3% of homes had color televisions at the time. We did not get one until the first time the Oakland Raiders made the Super Bowl (1967).

Science fiction literature and Star Trek and Star Wars became prime predictors of future life. Not surprisingly, Star Wars and Star Trek focused on military technology. Our war machine is very efficient and we have kept it very busy. Lasers, satellites, and cloaking have all advanced.

Technology these days is about what I expected it to be. We are geeks at heart, I suspect. Rather than active  physical play, kids gravitate to the latest technology. Texting has largely replaced conversation as a means of communication. Interpersonal communication and conversational skills are severely lacking in my opinion. Nearly half of our population chose to support the verbal flatulence and belicose ramblings of an amoral, pathological liar. Our interpersonal discourse is at the lowest levels in recent memory. I most definitely expected better of us. I do not see the divisions in our society going away any time soon. Ayn Rand would be delighted at the degree of selfishness rampant in our selfish society. And yet, we see random acts of kindness regularly. So maybe there is hope for us yet. Only time will tell.

That is my quick take on Conrad's suggested topic. Be sure to check what my compatriots Conrad and Ramana have to say on their blogs.

I'll see ya next week, same bat time and same bat channel.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Has the Pandemic Wrought Any Positive Changes?

With all we have been through in the last year, have any of the changes been positive?

That is this week's topic. Initially, I confess that what immediately leaps to mind is being cooped up in this trashy trailer park for a year and there sure as hell is nothing positive about that. Frankly it is still too early to assess the positive effects of the pandemic. Upon further reflection, though, it has not all been negative.

Many people have been exposed to working from home for the first time in their lives. It is something I have taken for granted for years. My late wife Lynn was home based for years and I spent most of the last ten years at my namesake RadioShack woking from home. I was substantially more prdouctive working from home. Why? Simply because my dog Ginger and I had no water cooler conversations. I was mindful of the fact my boss was doing me a huge favor staying home and caring for Lynn. 

Then there was my commute - dodging an overly affectionate basset/collie mix hound walking  down the hall. On a bad day that took at least 45 seconds and surely beat the hell out of taking the freeway.

I have to think many companies have discovered in the last year that having some employees working from home is a good thing. Hopefully it will become a permanent option. I see it as a net positive for companies and the family life of employees (especially when the kids return to school in the classroom).

For the last year there has been a reduction in CO2 emissions - in fact in general global greenhouse emissions have dropped because of reduced travel. That is not likely to continue long term but it has been a very good year and surely adds credibility to the notion that we humans are the cause of much pollution with our burning of fossil fuels. It should be a huge impetus for new green product development.

Cleanliness - both personal and disinfecting our environments has become second nature to most of us. Save for mask-wearing, it is likely to remain a good habit for us. 

Are you interested in what psychologists think? Psychology today published an article with 30 positive factors - 30 Ways the Pandemic Has Changed Us for the Better.

These are but a few of the positive changes that have come about because of the pandemic.

My optimistic angel has gotten stronger of late.

We have much to overcome. We here in the USA stand at the brink of a second civil war as we look ahead at finishing the racial issues we left incomplete in the sixties. It isn't going to be easy, but we are backed into a corner and as Japan discovered in WWII, the sleeping giant has been awoken.

That is my take on this week's topic. Be sure to check what my compatriots Conrad and Ramana have to say on their blogs.

I'll see ya next week, same bat time and same bat channel.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Most Heartbreaking Thing In My Life Right Now

Entering your septuagenarian decade is a good news/bad news proposition for most of us. We have reached the age where members of our families are no longer with us and some of those old friends we have had since childhood also are no longer with us. We have become those grandparents that we so fondly remember, even though I suspect we all feel younger than our mindset for grandparents. Our topic this week is "The most heartbreaking thing in my life now".

I have narrowed that to two things, the first being personal - the fact that my daughter has Huntington's Disease - the disease that killed my late wife Lynn. Jamie is on a nearly identical trajectory with the disease as Lynn was. Unlike Lynn, having gone through this once with her mother, Jamie is actively aware of what her future holds. I assure you it is not pleasant. There is a treatment in development that could be very helpful called CRISPR - where the defective gene is snipped and removed, thereby eliminating the disease. Duke University in North Carolina is a major player and we are searching for a trial group but have been as yet unsuccessful. Jamie is doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances but there are good days and bad - most typically revolving around our relationship. She struggles with the knowledge that each of her three children has a 50% chance of having HD. 

The other most heartbreaking thing in my life now is the condition of my country. The complete lack of civility in our discourse and the fact that a pathological liar, amoral sociopath has the  attention of nearly half of the population. We have devolved into a society where half of the population embraces the lies and bizarre conspiracy theories of QAnon. The religious far right embraced the lies and conspiracy theories to allow the Supreme Court to be stacked with conservative chistians.  Their hope is to advance their anti-abortion agenda. But, worst of all is the realization that all of the work done on  civil rights matters in the sixties is unraveling before our very eyes. GOP-controlled state legislatures across the country are passing voter registration laws with the intent to suppress the votes of minorities. One state has passed a law making it illegal to supply water to persons waiting in lines to vote. This was done 4because the GOP still supports the notion that Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump thanks to the allegedly fraudulent votes of vast numbers of black voters. Race attacks against Asians are on the rise because of the ranting of some folks that China is responsible for the pandemic that has claimed over 500 thousand Americans, even while claiming the pandemic is a fraud and the death figures attributed to it are a lie.

Gun rights supporters have convinced their multitudes that the government is after their guns - all because there is a call for real background checks for gun purchasers. The recently deposed president worked enough of his followers into a frenzy that there was an armed insurrection on January 6. We are teetering on the brink of a second civil war. The politics of obstruction rule the day in both houses of congress. The GOP still supports the notion that Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump despite the conclusion of Trump's own appointed investigators that the election was fair and not fraudulent.

The browning of America is a terrifying thought to the apparently vast numbers of white supremacists suddenly appearing out of the woodwork. That points to some rocky roads in the future. Although I feel bad we seem to have left so much of the race issue left incomplete, I confess I am glad I will not be here to witness the next 40-50 years. I am, however, cautiously optimistic that things will work out for the best. 

That is my take on this weeks topic. Be sure to check what the other members of this little blogging group have to say. I'll see y'all next week, same bat time and same bat channel.