Saturday, September 13, 2008

Juggling=transcendental truth

I was talking to a friend yesterday about life, the universe, and everything and she mentioned that she was taking a yoga class (a university course). I said, "That's cool, but what's with the lacrosse balls?" She then replied that she was trying to learn how to juggle. I said, "What does juggling have to do with yoga?" She then said she didn't know, but that she had to learn for the class. I proceeded to question the logic, so she then blurted out, "It's transcendental." To which I responded, "WHAT?! Juggling is transcendental? Who told you that? That's crazy."

Or is it? Maybe juggling is the one thing I've been missing in life. Maybe juggling is what will help me discover that higher philosophic truth that has been alluding me all these years. Maybe juggling is that one small piece of the puzzle that Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, and Heidegger missed. I should have known. 
By throwing balls (or any other object) in the air we focus not on a single ball, nor on all the balls, but on the action of maintaining the balls airborne. We must focus, but not too much. We need to see the whole and the parts - simultaneously. It is a hermeneutical circle. To understand the whole we must understand the parts, and the meaning of the parts in sequence. Wow. 

I bet that juggling is only the beginning. I bet that there are amazing truths to be discovered in playing catch, jumping jacks, doing crossword puzzles, or eating oatmeal. And, now that I know the sources of all meaning, I can finally write the definitive work on universal truth. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

Genuinely Calculated

There are a lot of fakers out there. They put on a facade that they care, or that they don't care, while inside they feel conflicted. However, for all the superficiality out there, we should not confuse good calculated planning with insincerity. It is possible to be genuine in our calculation.

In fact, if you really care about an issue you probably should think about what you are going to say. Maybe even write it down. But, at the same time, I see the value of speaking from the gut, off the cuff. But neither method is an absolute indicator of heartfelt sentiment. This is because, often times our gut speaks what our mind would not, and in the converse, our mind speaks often what our gut would not.

This brings me of course back to politics, and more specifically politicians. There is nothing wrong with being coached on policy that you believe in so that you say what you want to say. However, it is bad if you are being coached to say something 'politically correct' when you don't agree with it. 

In Palin's interviews with Charles Gibson so far, you can tell she was coached, and you can see sincerity. However, she does come across as conflicted. This however, is not entirely her fault. Gibson asks tough policy questions (that would most likely not be asked to Obama or Biden as flatly), and is trying to paint her a certain way. Asking whether she thought Iran posed and 'existential threat' to Israel, Mr. Gibson tried to imply with follow ups that she would be hawkish. Palin repeated that she believed Israel is within its right to defend its sovereignty from a legitimate threat. She at no point claimed that the US would get involved, but didn't say it wouldn't either, and, given the delicate nature of the situation, it was the correct response. 

This brings me to a problem with these candid interviews. Regardless of who is being interviewed, there are certain questions that cannot be answered yes or no without limiting the ability of the state department in its negotiations, and putting our foot in our mouths. The issues, as much as they might seem black and white to some, are grayer than that. Trying to force a candidate to respond in an ideological way does not seem like a very revealing way to explore character. The best response therefore, in my opinion for whatever candidate would often be, "I cannot say exactly what position we would take at this time, because I do not have the full intelligence reports in front of me." Then of course, if given a more solid hypothetical, I could answer. For instance if Mr. Gibson were to say, "Let's say we knew 'x', would you do 'y'?" Then it would be easier to come up with a good specific response. When questions are to the point, but general at the same time, they are misleading and unenlightening. That is why hypothetical questions are good, because they provide a narrowing and also reveal the person being asked.

I know Gibson is being put in a difficult situation in this interview, but that is always the case with news reporters. They need to keep their opinions in check, remain objective, but get the goods at the same time. They have to tiptoe, and they have to be rough. It's a difficult job, but he knows the right way to do it. Having not seen the entire interview I cannot condemn and I cannot say I approve. So far my position is mixed. Gibson treats Palin with a certain condescension, like when he asked her if she was ready to be President. Palin said yes, 'without blinking' and Gibson then said that she then must have been showing hubris. But, at the same time, the initial question is absolutely fair and necessary. His further conjecture however, was perhaps not quite so journalistic, and showed bias, as did much of his demeanor. However, at the same time Palin's referring to Gibson as 'Charlie' to create a more comfortable intimacy that never existed to begin with didn't work either.

So, I suppose all I can do now is watch and see what happens tonight.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Do you eat rocks?

Here are some strictly hypothetical questions for you:

What if rocks tasted good and had nutritional value? Would you eat them? Would you grind them into powder and pour them on your cereal?

Some rocks of course, are edible, and nutritional, but the taste leaves something to be desired (that something is probably real food). However, the rocks that you can eat do not by any means taste good, and if they are eaten whole, they'll be the last thing you ever eat (teeth are nice to have, but rocks and teeth don't get along as well as they should).

Whether you think eating rocks is a bad idea, good idea, or something you are currently doing while reading this, you have at one point or another eaten rocks in your life. The denials have started. But really, you have. Every time you have a beach picnic. Every time you eat near dust, and whenever you have a vitamin, or vitamin enhanced orange juice or cereal. The first two seem obvious, but the second two not so much. The fact is, zinc, calcium, copper, iron, etc. all come from rocks, and get into our food. With good and bad results. The Romans liked rocks with lead in them, and even made pipes out of the stuff. 

So be careful when eating rocks. You can't avoid eating them, so just be careful. And eating them is sometimes just as rewarding as throwing them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The World doesn't elect America's President.

You know what I just love? Don't answer that (that could lead to a number of crude responses). I love the media's use of polls. The media loves them. Politicians love them. Or, they hate them. If the poll says what they want, they put it on the front page. If it doesn't, it gets put in the classifieds. Well, a recent poll that has no relevance at all says that the people of the world want Obama as President.

First off, just a little FYI to media people who thought that poll somehow mattered, this is an AMERICAN election. In this election, who matters are the AMERICAN candidates, and what the AMERICAN people want. 80% of the French want Barack (This picture of Barack comes from the French magazine Le Monde

Well guess what France, you can have him after the election, if he defects and becomes a French citizen, but for now, we decide. Obviously the percentage is just as high in Kenya, but once again, Kenya is not the US, and neither is Russia, another country that also wants him to be President.

And, if it weren't enough that we have to hear about how the rest of the world wants to run our country, the beleaguered British PM Gordon Brown praised Obama's charisma and economic platforms, in a time when his party is anything but motivated. He claims that he has not endorsed Obama, but in the article that was written by one of his party's junior staffers, there was no mention of McCain. Seems like a 'not so discreet, under the table, while handing the goods to the wrong hands' type of endorsement to me. 

At any rate, while some may argue that the Presidency of the US is a global issue, because we are the world's lone superpower (excluding an emerging China, and a resurgent Russia), the fact remains, that the responsibility and privilege to elect OUR head of state, does still reside in the hands of the American people, and not in the world's hands. It is not the United States of the World. But the United States of America. Now let's stick to the issues, and let America figure out its own domestic affairs (I know we don't always let the rest of the world do it, but if I were president, sovereign states would remain that way under most conditions, and as far as I know the US is a sovereign state).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Read. It's good for you.

All I do is read. 

When I'm done reading, I pick up another book and read. After my reading for classes is done, I read the economist, online articles from Drudge, the London Times, or ESPN (for fun mind you).

Often times, before I go to bed, if my room mate (my brother) is still doing stuff, I pick up another book or article that was sent to me by a friend, or quite often, my grandmother. 

So, what if I were illiterate? My life would be impossible. Meaningless. Futile. My life to this point has largely been defined by what I read, how I read and interpret it, how often I read it, and what I write and speak about in regards to that reading. I'd like to think I'm expanding my mind. Reading is like a drug that opens the mind, activating dank, dark, unknown corners of the cerebrum. And if that's truly the case, my brain is as open as the internet in Amsterdam (as compared to the internet in China). 

I am 100% certain that my future career will only require more reading, so I might as well learn how to overload the system now. Send me your summer reading lists, class book lists, favorite novels, poets, etc. and I will read them and give you 'Cliff's Notes' like synopses free of charge (Don't worry if you're reading selection is dry, I read anything, from boringly elitist ramblings of wanna-be philosophers, to telephone books and encyclopedias).

Monday, September 8, 2008

I'm inflammatory

It was Sunday. I was en route to a dinner with friends, and my friend Bob* was on his cell phone. I overhead him saying, "Oh, yeah. I know. Well Michael's right here, you want to talk to him? Ok."

So I get the phone. It is Bob's and my mutual friend Georgina*. We dispense with pleasantries, then I say, "I read your blog all the time." To which she replies, "I read yours sometimes, but it's really inflammatory." Then she said, "Come to think of it, you're pretty inflammatory, and I don't know why I'm saying this, but yeah." So I said, "Could it be because we're on the phone and you can't say it to my face?" To which she said, "I think that proves my point. I don't think I could say it to your face."

So I'm inflammatory. I get that. In some ways that is fair. Everything I touch burns. It's a general statement, but it could easily be agreed upon by more than one person I'm sure. So not long after the phone call, I thought of how I could maintain my newly discovered 'inflammatory' status. Well, the most obvious thing is to react adversely and take the opposite position on anything and everything anyone around me says, and then do all that is humanly possible to get a rise out of them. But I think it would probably be even more fun to be literal. I could let out my inner 'Pyro' and burn things. Now that would be fun.

But before I indulge in either of those possible methods, I would like to break down my own psyche for the average reader. I am a student of political science, philosophy, and I love good arguments (not screaming contests, but methodically logical/sometimes flawed discourse), and debate. For example, to this point in college I have taken three parliamentary and world debate classes, and I am currently taking a class on Alexis de Tocqueville and another class on the philosophy of the social sciences. What that entails is a lot of reading, digestion of information, and then a careful, logical, analysis, often followed by discussion in class. Now this discussion is not heated. I in fact find it quite easy to detach my emotions and biases to look at the merits of the arguments. Philosophically I like to deconstruct arguments and poke holes in them, putting forth my best critiques not to detract from the other side, but to understand it better. If I do not put forth a good argument, I expect my fellow students will find its flaws and help reconstruct or negate it thoroughly. Again, it's hardly personal. In order to get the best feedback and counter-arguments, I have found that I need to put forth a good, well-conceived argument of my own. 

Now here's the problem. With this mindset, often times I take umbrage with friends, colleagues, and family members when they put forth weak arguments. I sometimes unwittingly offend, because I'm trying to understand their argument, and so I question, and even brashly challenge their line of reasoning. But instead of getting it handed to me, and hearing a good argument in return, as I would with my political science/debate/philosophy student colleagues, I get a flustered response and often times extremely bothered friends or family members.

So I am a confrontational person. I know I should let more things go, and remove myself from the philosopher/debater mindset sometimes. But, for now I think I'll just light things on fire, and apologize with a bucket of icy water.

*note: real names not used to protect the people who think I'm inflammatory