Category Archives: Philosophy

Learning to drive

There are three parts to learning to drive:

  1. The Law!
  2. Situational awareness.
  3. Physical interaction and muscle memory.

As I considered these (more on them later), in my endeavor to teach my children how to drive, I thought about that number — three.

And how curious it is and how it might represent a balance between so many aspects of life.

Jessie posted an article on argumentative discourse where there were three factor that comprise a good discussion 1) episteme, 2) eunoia, 3) parrhesia.

There’s the three branches of government: executive, legislative, judicial.

Three parts to the Holy Trinity.

A three legged stool is the most stable of simple structures.

We’ve got, beginning-middle-end, birth-life-death, three-wishes, the troika, and the three languages on the Rosetta Stone. Just dozens and dozens of references to the balance of ideals, concepts, strengths, forces all done so through the juxtaposition and interaction of three.

What three lobed thing, in your life, your universe, means something to you?

But back to driving…

First, we must learn the law. Knowledge of what is legal, or not; how to treat the road signs, the road-lines, the signals and public alerts and indications — the rules of the road — all of this must be learned and memorized so that you can know how the other two factors should be situated.

Second we have situational awareness. Within the framework of the law, we have what is going on around you *right now*. Are there cars, people, animals around you. Are you driving on a curvy, straight, slick, gravelly road? Are you going too fast? Too slow? How’s the light? Are you getting tired? Everything that makes up the environment of your driving experience.

Thirdly there is the actual interaction with the vehicle. Some people rarely think this is a thing to learn — or at least to spend much time on. But in my mind this must be the very first thing you should learn. The car becomes an extension of your body. When it accelerates or screeches to a halt, you feel it in your body. When you go too fast around a curve, the centripetal force alerts you to the danger. When your wheels start to slide on ice or snow or hydro-plane, you feel that instant queasy, fair-ride feeling of lost control. How hard can you slam on the breaks? How does it feel to power-slide? What does it feel like to hit a deep pothole or get lifted off your seat during a gravity escaping leap over a country hill? Such things must be learned by your mind-body. These are not conscious parts of driving. These must be subconscious reactions that your body takes over when your mind is freewheeling in chaos.

Three parts to driving. Three parts to conversation. Three parts to government, and a good milking stool. “Three shall be the number. And the number shall be three…”


Influence, impact, effect

A time ago, don’t ask me when, we, Martina, Jessie and I, were talking about UBI – Universal Basic Income (okay, we weren’t specifically discussing UBI, but near enough), and Jessie mentioned that she thought the struggle of the classes was power based. I, offhandedly, read through her comment not really having any reply at the moment (not that I didn’t reply, mind you).

However, on retrospect, I circled back to that theory: empowering all of us, giving each of us agency to affect our own lives, enough such that we can witness and claim responsibility for the changes, this would be a good thing. And that’s noble and admirable and, if it could be done (like in the Scandinavian countries) then maybe that’s the answer.

What prompted this latest doffing of words was thinking about myself as the curmudgeon that I’ve become. Yes, I’m a self-professed stick-in-the-mud, the proverbial “get off my lawn” old man with suspenders and a cane (well, maybe not the cane, um, or the suspenders). But I’ve grown less and less tolerant of fools over the years. And here’s the thing; Martina talks about criticism (here) and I wonder:  perhaps there’s simply some aspect of influence here. A “hey, he looked!” type behavior humans crave. More generally, we humans want to know we’ve impacted our world, left a mark, had an affect, effected others — in some way.

With criticism, that affect is negative (generally). With a curmudgeon like me, just seeing the teenagers flinch, that’s a kick in the pants, now isn’t it? (I don’t really do this, but I know you know someone who does.) The thing is, we crave influence. We yearn for self induced change in the world. Poke this thing and it cringes. “Hmm, I feel a little better (although it may not).”

All of social media is focused on this. You post a woodgiewoodgie (whatever to wherever) and what do you expect? A response of course. Trolls post the most foul and incendiary tripe. Why? For impact, for a response: “They — anybody — replied, responded, grimaced, smiled, screamed, cursed, cried, cheered!”

Do we crave power? Or influence?

And, to bring this back full circle, (circles in circles), is there a means to alter the economics of countries such that we provide for expanded influence, agency in how we govern and direct our own lives? Maybe, however a UBI’esque effort comes to be, if we provide every human the ability to change their lives –however they care to — maybe that will be enough.


ADD and the argument

I’ve run in to a few people lately who are, I believe ADD (attention deficit disorder), who have a hard time maintaining a level head during a discussion (argument).

These people, during a discussion, tend to interrupt and inject their immediate interpretation of my exposition without hearing the entire theory (or at least most of it). They tend to take bits of the explanation, in isolation, and react to them as if they were stand alone parts rather than to wait for the full explanation to resolve itself into a cogent presentation.

And because they interject with their half interpretations, they are incapable of understanding the bigger picture that is in the throes of being laid out. They often take offense at the segments of the theory, create ill-conceived rejoinders to them and fail, in the end, to come to view the theory in its entirety.

And so I wonder: are people these days, who more and more are afflicted with varying levels of ADD more and more incapable of participating in arguments coherently?

If one cannot hold in one’s mind the parts of an argument, setting aside one’s biases and prejudices — for a time — and put one’s opponent’s “hat” on, as it were, can such a person ever be made aware, fully, of another’s perspective?

I find discussions with such people to be vexing to the max.

So much so, that I’m unsure as to how to make them see my side of the story.

Do I sit calmly and listen to their argument and the evidence set forth? Yes. I can do this, trying on the hat of their position. I settle it here, then there and before I can set it aside and then begin to explain how their hat may or may not fit — we immediately enter into this argument-interuptus. And, of course, because they can never fully understand my side of the story, they either win by default, or storm off in contempt at my trying to expose my opinion in the most plain and simple manner — to no avail.

ARRGH!

 


Are you overwhelmed?

I’m overwhelmed.

Are you?

I’ll bet you six copper pennies in a can of Coke that you thought to yourself:
“You’re damned right I’m overwhelmed.”

But who wouldn’t be overwhelmed by today’s onslaught of pointless, blathering, necessary, important, useless, whimsical, inane, senseless, critical STUFF?

JUST, JUST STOP ALREADY! BAHHHHHH!

*Sigh*

Alright, here we are, dealing with so much information, this constant inundation of news and memes and tropes and updates and “hey, look at my cute dog wearing Lady Gaga outfits” and the ice is melting faster than we thought and you need to try this new tech gizmo and, well, you get the picture. It’s too much. In fact…

It’s overwhelming. And not only that — hey, look at you reading this! Just one more thing you chose to do out of the tens of thousands of things you could be doing — yet you chose, for probably some faulty reason, to read this. Thanks. No really, I realize this is trite and utterly anonymous, but just know, I feel your pain. And you reading this, well, it’s a solid. Really.

And to pay you back here’s a picture of a porpoise doing a head stand on a trampoline floating in the Gulf of Mexico… Naw, I’m just joshin’ with you.

Now tell me this, wouldn’t you really (*really*) just like to have, perhaps 100-200 people you paid attention to. JUST THEM. ONLY THEM. Like they were your village, and you could do your thing, and they’d do theirs, and once or twice during the day you’d hook up with a few of them and say hi and how-ya-doin’ and later, in the evening, you and a bunch of them would walk down to the river, or the town square, or the communal pasture and just rest there, leaning on a fence post, sipping a beer, just chatting about the day and the people around you and the small corner of the world you live in? And that would be your day…

Wouldn’t that be nice? And by nice I mean better? Like WAY better than this pressure you feel every time you find yourself online, checking email(s), facebook, twitter, instagram, the news (ugh! the news), and all the tiny micro-shit that just keeps pounding on your consciousness?

The world invades our lives. It feels like ALL OF THE WORLD is now invading our lives. And I’m tired of it. I’m half disgusted, half encouraged, half enraged, half sympathetic — I’m pulled in dozens of ways. And I know you are too. And I wish I had an answer to assuage all of this anguish and stress and anxiety. But I’m sorry. I don’t. Here’s a video of a bunny sleeping with a fox in a kennel and aren’t they both darling?

Oh shit, I’m sorry. You see what I mean? This crap never ends. Well, here’s hoping I didn’t extend or heighten your level of angst. Because, you know, that would just add to my own exhaustion, and I’m already…


Save the Holocene!

Save the Planet? Bah! Save the Holocene maybe (for a while).

Humans have enjoyed a stable planetary climate system for 11,000+ years. In fact, without the Holocene we wouldn’t be here as we are, the dominate species. But the Holocene, if you examine its traits, is truly a blip (or non-blip) in the massively variable history of the planet’s climate. Humanity will NOT be able to save the Holocene regardless of any effort put forth to maintain climate homeostasis. (Note the ~logarithmic scale in the below image. The important parts, for us, are in blue.)

All palaeotemps.svg

From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_temperature_record

No one could look at that chart and not come to the conclusion that, “whoa, we’ve had it so nice lately…” (Lately being relativistic.) So, of course we want to keep our streak of good climate luck going. Humanity has never had it so good. But let’s put this into perspective shall we? Whatever humanity does or doesn’t do, in the long run, the planet’s climate will change. We can look back on our 11,000 years of spring like weather with fondness, but let’s be real, in the grand scale of things, shit’s gonna get weird — someday.

This might sound like I’m an AGGW denier, or contrarian at least, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Humanity is ABSOLUTELY the cause of the planet’s recent climate warming. And we will no doubt be the cause of the 2-4 degrees Celsius rise in the coming century. And… that rise will no doubt cause untold changes to the world’s ecosystems. But, only one without perspective could look around and think that what we do today, or tomorrow, or never will truly change the planet’s trajectory through its future history.

Sorry, but given humanity’s proclivity for really poor decisions, unless some benevolent globally powerful General Artificial Intelligence comes into being and helps us figure out how to build fusion energy systems, or rearranges the entire planetary economic system such that the current oppressive inequality gives those millions of hidden poor and starving geniuses the wherewithal to create planetary wide systems for energy, clean water and food production — well then, I don’t really think a little global warming will matter all that much.

But, to step back from that precarious, contentious edge just a bit, these thoughts are neither here nor there.

For no matter what you do, your impact on the Universe will be whatever it is you think it should be — and, more importantly, your choice of impact is what you will live with.

In the end it won’t matter to the Universe. Because, you know, nothing matters to the Universe. (And to compare your lifetime with that of the Universe’s, is, like zero vs infinity…?) But that’s not the point, which is, only those things that matter to you — matter. Epicurus – eat your heart out!


Why Owners and Workers?

Owner : worker

How long has it been this way? Always?

Why is our relationship to each other in regards to producing goods and services organized this way?

Is this hierarchy the root cause of inequality?

When did I become subservient to you? When did your needs become more important than mine? When did my children, my home, my well-being assume to be lesser-than than yours? Is this some extended form of patriarchy; the father in charge, and the sons (and daughters) accepting less or portions of the harvest, the land, the wealth?

When the first merchant-like person requested help from their neighbor, to make pots or plant grain or chop firewood, did that person not consider that both he and they were equals? Or did that person, upon that singular act: “Do this for me and I will reward you,” create the first class system?

And have we lived this way ever since?

Capitalism, the outgrowth from such a domination hierarchy, and its founder, Adam Smith, seem conflicted:

“Labour was the first price, the original purchase – money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased.”

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

Above, from those two quotes, Adam Smith both acknowledges that labor is wealth and, from my mind, should be treated equally as wealth. But then assumes that the merchants, who must hire the laborers, do so not in recognition that labor is wealth, but in order to leverage that labor to their own interests.

The fallout from this relationship, today’s corporatism, has turned the worker in to a puny commodity, one which is denigrated and slighted, so much so that they lose all power in society. Only the owners, the capitalists shall be granted voice and power in this wealth based society.

From this we get the incomprehensible inequality we have today. The capitalists own thousands if not millions more wealth than the workers on whom they have depended, in a word, exploited.

Could we have built any other type of system — from the start? Could that first merchant-like person have not said: “Do this and I will reward you” but “We’ll do this together and the both of us shall be rewarded.”?

Could Adam Smith not have reinterpreted his beliefs such that:

“The price of labour shall be the price of ownership where all who struggle and persevere shall benefit from their toil.”

Or, “It is from the understanding that all who endeavor at a goal be it animal husbandry, brewing, or baking shall be rewarded with not only the fruits of their labour but ownership in that which their labour supports.”

Could these not have been the way we moved forward as an economically driven species?

Could we ever redirect our trajectory toward such an equality oriented system?


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.