Category Archives: Philosophy

Bill Murray is Sisyphus

It’s obvious if you think about it.

Given Albert Camus’ quote: “one must imagine Sisyphus happy”, we might consider that quote in light of the movie Groundhog Day staring Bill Murray as “Phil Connors”, the lead, who eventually embraces his predicament (after what must have been years of struggle) and commits himself to his repeated, yet futile, daily ritual.

Sound familiar?

Mr. Camus tries to teach us that in the face of pointless repetitive striving, it is in the act of striving that one must find happiness. That with Sisyphus, laboriously repeating his effort to roll a boulder to the top of a mountain — only to have it roll back to the bottom, if one could imagine him happy, that he had a attained a sort of nirvana.

And more importantly, if Sisyphus could be happy in such a frustrating and pointless task — so could you.

Enter Bill Murry as Phil Connors. He, like Sisyphus, is trapped in a never ending repetition of enduring the same task day after day, for a theoretical eternity. At first he’s incredulous. Then avaricious and mischievous. Then manic followed by despondent. And then, accepting his fate, and having found no solace in all his prior approaches, resolves himself to strive for excellence, not only in the task at hand — of living this one day, but in his endeavor to be a good human being. And in being good, being happy.

Although King Sisyphus was basically a bad dude, nothing in his mythology tells us he should be admired, in the end, if we can accept Camus’ rationalization, we might find peace, if not happiness, in our daily work-a-day, repetitive lives — by imagining Sisyphus happy.

And, if Phil Connors can, through his exhaustive experiments and examinations of his options, also finds a sort of happiness as he pursues excellence of self  and humility in his acceptance, that if he, like Sisyphus, can be happy — then so can we.


Of labels and classifications

“A young black man walks into a store…”

Why does he have to be black, or white or Asian or Hispanic or…? Why can’t he just be a young man who walks into a store? Why do we have to label people?

Why does he have to be young? How about “A man walks into a store…”

Even that sentence has classified our protagonist. Why does it have to be a man?

“A human walks into a store…” What? Now we’re prejudice against animals?

“A sentient being walks into a store…” Whoops, we’ve got still one more bias to eliminate — walking.

“A sentient being enters a store…” There. Now we’ve eliminated our biases. Well, most of them… Sentience? Is that a bias? Are we favoring beings that can think? Or move?

My point here is that biases, prejudices, labels and classifications are required — at some level. But where do we draw the line? At what point do our bias-agnostic intentions become absurd? Surely there are divisions that make sense. But what are they?

So far in this simple exercise we’ve reduced our biases to the absurd. But what if we expand them further? “A shirtless, mentally handicapped young black man with one arm, who hasn’t eaten for days, stumbles into a store…” As a story teller, perhaps this description fits our needs.

But as a reporter — explaining a robbery — perhaps such a sentence crosses into bigotry. Should a reporter call out the race, age, gender or disability of the accused? Under what context does information descend into prejudice? Should we try and refrain from attaching labels to people when we describe events and situations?

I personally would like to, and in fact, try to avoid race, religion or culture anytime I describe someone. To me a person is just a person. It’s hard mind you. And I slip, often. But to me it’s a worthy effort to change the way I label or classify people.


Wealthy dream of wealth?

When I dream I dream poor, struggling and oppressed. I’m floundering in some quagmire or combating assailants who are set to deride and abuse me. Not always mind you, but mostly.

I never dream I’m powerful. Or privileged. Or special in anyway.

Do the wealthy dream they are wealthy? Haughty and elite? Do they strut around in their dreams giving orders expecting them to be obeyed? “Remove that filthy animal from my sight — at ONCE!” “I would never be seen wearing THOSE shoes…” “Is it possible for me to get ONE GOD DAMNED SLICE OF CAVIAR TOAST WITHOUT SOMEONE SPITTING ON IT?!”

People’s life stations must surely influence their dreams. Their environment providing the context of who they see themselves as when they dream.

Or does media, their reading, their daytime dreams and hopes influence them more? “I vow to be the best TSA Agent in the airport today!” And then dream of foiling a bombing attempt…

I never seem to dream of success. There’s always contention with my efforts in my dreams. You? Do you dream of a life of luxury and ease? Or what?


Memento homo

Memento homo

Remember the man, for he is mortal.
Remember the man, for he shall pass.
Remember the man, for he tries valiantly.
Remember the man, for naught will last.


The Ultimate Bite

Humans are driven, in part, by their appetites.

And by that I mean their actual, “damn I’m hungry!” appetites.

The eating of food, driven by myriad biological, social and situational factors, is “supposed” to fulfill that single requirement of nutritional satisfaction. But, as we all know, it rarely does. Satisfy that is. Why is that?

We’re not, hungry, per se. But we’re not quenched, or complete, still a bit hollow. We, somehow, after countless bites of pasta, pizza, steak, seafood, cheese, fruits and veggies, and countless culinary offerings, are still unsatisfied. Unfulfilled.

Again, why is that?

Perhaps it’s because we’ve just not experienced, during our spate of hunger satiation, the ultimate bite.

What is the ultimate bite? Imagine a mouthful of a little sweet, a little sour, a drop of bitter, a dusting of salty, a shimmer of savory, a layer of unctuousness, all wrapped up in a instantly dissolving film of umami. Mix in a bit of chewy, a dripping of slippery, a crack of crunchy and skurr of silky smoothness.

That is the ultimate bite. The complete and total appeasement of our culinary desires. All of our food wants — bundled into a single life-affirming bite. True manna from the heavens.

Gulp!

Now, what if such a thing existed? What if we could create, or find or evolve such a all-satisfying sundry? How many would you eat? My thinking is that, although such a creation would fail to provide you that ghrelin suppressing sensation, with just a single bite, if you finalized your meal, ANY meal with a single ultimate bite, your hungers would be calmed, placated, your hunger would finally be satiated.

So often our desires drawn from the world twist themselves morphing into accessible solutions; food as a solution, not to dietary needs but to any lack in our lives.

But what if the ultimate bite could provide that perfect flourish, the last scrumptious morsel that would seal off our desires? In food it might be possible. In drink? What about in life?


YODO

I was thinking about that acronym YOLO (you only live once) and wondering if it actually embodied what most people who claim it as their war cry think it embodies. Sure, ultimately, we (theoretically) have just one life to live, but is that really what the emotion is when such people raise it up to drive them forward into adventure or adversity? I rather think that living is done in bursts.

“We really lived it up last night didn’t we!”

“That camping trip was really livin’ it!”

“Surfing those big waves I felt so alive, I truly lived that day.”

It seems to me that YOLO is rather misleading — at least in the way it is used — that is, like a charge into battle, a statement of resolve and commitment (or capricious surrender?). And so, I thought a more accurate acronym would be…
YODO: You Only Die Once.
Now THAT is accurate (as far as we know).

Hmm, then again, the Hindus might argue with me questioning who the ‘you’ was in YODO; is it you this single instance, or is it you the spiritual ‘soul’ or mystical entity that will cycle through this and then an infinite number of universes?

And so my mind began to wander, as it does, and I stepped back from the finality of YODO and considered the concept of Love.

What? Yeah, I know, cynical Anonymole, you think about Love?

Yes, off and on throughout the ages I have pontificated this aspect of humanity. From it, if I open up my mind to its widest possible extent, I can envision a threadbare theory where Love, that nearly inexplicable emotion or state of mind, supersedes the  Universe itself. Yeah, deep I know.

If the powers of the Universe, the four binding interactions of physics: gravity, electromagnetic, and the strong and weak nuclear, are the framework, the fabric on which matter and energy and life are sewn, Love seems, at times, to transcend these forces. Now, I’m generally of a mind that we’re just bags of chemistry bobbing and bumbling along with inverted chaos somehow coalescing some semblance of rational order out of the mix-up that is the Universe, but, for a moment I wonder what might extend beyond this wholly rational view. And the only nuance of existence that comes to mind is Love.

Love, it feels, can reverse entropy; can last for ages; can blast through all lost hope; can elevate us beyond existence. If anything in the universe might be a candidate for transcending the Universe I would have to pick Love as the one.

So, yeah, YODO. I’m 99.999% sure. But there’s that .001% that I just can’t seem to quit. I don’t know why. I guess I’m just a romantic at heart (at least a .001% of one.)


Complexic

We live in a world of opposites, black and white, up and down, in and out, over and under, but with an infinite array of variations between. Grey, the blending of black and white on a continuum of scale, is the perfect example. Things are rarely black or white, but grey.

What about simple vs complex? Is everything a mixture of the two? Something is rarely only simple just as it might be singularly complex. Or more accurately, something simple to you might be complex to me.

There’s a word we hear often which many people use incorrectly: simplistic. Often when people call something or some process ‘simplistic’ what they are generally applying is that they thing the subject is simple — to them. Simplistic is much more insidious. Its origins are strange, having to do with plants, but today, simplistic generally means that you’ve assigned a theory or answer that OVER simplifies the solution; so much so that that your solution is now wrong, or at least incorrect on certain levels.

I think of simplistic as ‘simplifying to the point of error.”

Today, as I thought on this for no other reason than my mind does such things at times, I thought that everyone’s interpretation of the world — everything in the world — contained a degree of simplistic reasoning. To make our way in the world we must assume much. It’s just the way it is. We assume carrots are good to eat and most people’s assumptions about that would be simplistic. When we think we know something we undoubtedly only know some of it, rarely if ever *all* of it.  At some point our understanding of a thing will drift into the simplistic realm.

As I contemplated this I imagined the opposite of this. If a thing had so much white in it and so much black then it was grey. If we think of white as simplistic treatment, what would be the black side? I went searching. Nothing came up. So I dreamed up a new word: Complexic.

If simplistic meant simplified to the point of error then complexic might mean complex to the point of perfect understanding.

If the world if full of opposites, simple to complex, and our understandings of the world fall on a continuation between those two, at some point our knowledge or beliefs shift from simplistic to simple to complex to complexic. That is:

  • Our understanding is primitive to the point of being wrong.
  • Our understanding is simple but not wrongly so.
  • Our understanding is thorough, absorbing the complexity of a subject to where we generally understand it quite fully.
  • Our understanding is so complete that, for this topic, we’ve reached what we might call a topical nirvana, masters of the subject.

Do you have a complexic understanding of something or some process in the world?