Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Wordy Goodbye.

It feels odd to think that this will be the last blog post for class. As the class really begins to hit a stride with more people grasping the content and applying it to their life experiences and views, we end so abruptly, or anti-climactic, like a crescendo that never rises. It is a shame, however, when put in context to the magnitude of the subject matter, it is hard to imagine it ending any other way. Though it is a shame it must come to an end, that end is met with a content feeling as the experience was enjoyable.

There were two specific instances in class that were rather flattering and admittedly more eye opening than I really would have anticipated them to be. They both apply very much to the content of our final class as well, which I do feel brings that crescendo up an octave, though still not to a climax. At one point in class, while I was explaining how the language used between Sartre and Heidegger on being-with-others and being-for-others explained the content more explicitly than perhaps noticed, Thad stated that he “loves hearing me talk.” I wasn’t certain of the sincerity at first, as I wasn’t sure I heard it correctly. Then he made it clear that I heard him correctly and it was not facetious, but sincere. The second came at the end of class when I went to thank him for the experience and say goodbye, he said something I find both very flattering and rather humorous. He said “it was a pleasure to have you in class…… I’m not sure why you took the class as it seems like you already took the course before.” Now, before I tie this into our discussion of bad faith and being-for-others, I need to give a little back story of what brought me to the class.

I am an engineering major and received my associate degree in IT Networking Security, after switching my major from Music Business/Audio Engineering. I chose this course because I needed an upper level elective, and I needed a fun course I knew I would enjoy to offset the stress sure to come from the heavy load of coursework I placed on my shoulders this semester. I have discussed tragic experiences of my past in class, and to a large degree in my posts. I have also stated that it lead me to question many things about life at an incredibly earlier age than is typical. I was never explicit with what it was that I studied however. In regards to philosophy and existentialism, these were not the books I was researching. I spent most of my life reading religious doctrines such as the bible (Old/New Testament, ANKJ, NAB, etc), Masoretic Text (Torah, Tanakh, Nevi’im), Islam (Qur’an), Mormon (Standard Works), and the Book of the Dead (among a number of others). Aside from very dry religious doctrines, I also read many books on psychology, evolutionary sciences, social criticism, political criticism/studies, religious criticism (Sagan, Dawkins, etc), and religious propaganda (ala Kent Hovind). Who I am philosophically derives from my studies of these various books, years of religious discussions/arguments, reflection of the events of my life, conversations of the life of others, and an almost constant internal discussion of life and existence. Over time however, the discussions became more bothersome than interesting as the problem of one’s age became obnoxiously apparent. Others my age hadn't given the subject much thought and had a tendency to either show they had no interest to do so, or simply became instantly defensive the second a belief or view was questioned. Those older than myself either paid no mind to my interest as I was “too young to understand such a topic”, or fell into the same defensive nature as described. To find someone who had equal care for the subject matter became too time consuming when combined with working 2 jobs and narrowing the things in life I was passionate about so I could focus on something to essentially become my “career”, to use the word more loosely than the definition. Around this time, a lot of people began to question the topic more seriously, and wanted to talk of the subject more often. Being that I was still young, and most of the people around me also were, existentialism was constantly thrown into the topic forcibly (though not always) and described in a manner that seemed as though the authors were simply bloating concepts that seemed obvious and simple with overly complex language and guide maps of understanding in order to mask the lack of understanding of the concept they were preaching. Obviously, it caused me to shy away from existentialism entirely as I felt I was past debating the obvious from pseudo-intellectuals that cared more about others acknowledging their “unique” intellect and foresight in order to qualify their existence (the irony is not lost).

With all of this being said, I feel it is probably apparent to anyone who was interested in my points during class, has read my blog or who has had discussions with me, that I have a very Nietzschean point of view. So it should be no surprise who my introduction to existentialism was. While I did not study philosophy, it is almost impossible to study religion and not come across some amount of philosophical texts. Nietzsche was someone I noticed was quoted incredibly so, and his quotes seemed to have more applications than really possible; as those quoting had a tendency to be polar opposites and the words were clearly out of context, as the words seemed to resonate my own views regardless of how bastardized the context seemed to be, or clearly was. So, I decided I would read one of his books and see if I had been wrong about existentialism all along. When I was 27, 3 years ago, I read my first existentialist book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I absolutely loved it! It was filled with so many ideas and concepts that mirrored my own, only put in such a beautiful and eloquent prose that it remained an echo in my brain for months. I then realized that my notion of existentialism was incorrect, when applied to the authors. It was simply the people who truly didn’t grasp the intent and meaning of the authors that confused the content and worded it in a manner that made it very undesirable. From here, I studied a number of other mainstays in the proverbial existential must reads. With that said, I must add that it did not alter any of my views or beliefs, perhaps in regards to strengthening my views, however it did not have the impact on my life that so many other people tend to have when they really delve into the content, because I had gotten there on my own much earlier in life. I felt that I truly did understand the content. I never really had to re-read the material and struggle with it in order to get it. I felt that my history on the subject of existence was far removed from most other people, so my mentality was more on par with the authors than the audience (in most cases).

I fully understand how this may imply an egotistical context, however I can assure you that is not at all the reality. To any who have read my previous blogs, I hope it came through very clearly how much of my life I have dedicated to the subject of existence and meaning, and also how important the discussion is to me. As discussed in class during the topic of being-for-others, Thad beat me to the punch when he said that we all care about the judgment of others and in some manner live according to this. It seemed that more people than I expected did not agree with this. I am not among that group. Everyone in that room made the choice to go to college in order to get a degree so they can begin careers. Well, college is not required to learn a skill or trade. With the internet and incredible access to learning material, one could easily use their off time from work to master a skill or trade. However, we all chose to get a certificate that shows someone else that we are qualified to fill a position over someone else who does not have that certificate and also put ourselves in great debt in order to have the opportunity to outshine other people.

To conclude my history of self-studies and personal reflection with why these seemingly small compliments were actually extremely flattering and met with a very strong feeling of pride, I say be empathetic. To come to conclusions to concepts you figured out on your own by studying material that did not present the questions being discussed in the same context by dedicating much of your life to the subject matter. Then to have someone else who has also dedicated much of their life to the subject matter, loves the discussion as well, has a very deep knowledge of the works in question, and a Ph.D (as stated, that does matter to me, as it shows a passion), to view the amalgamation of my experiences, the choices I have made from them and the conclusions I have drawn from them in a manner he felt qualified the exchange of those compliments. That absolutely meant a lot to me, and most certainly added qualification to the light in which I view myself. Of course, this is also because through the semester, he provided his insight and views of the concepts very well and typically stated ideas that I felt were well thought out and I mostly agreed with. This earned a great respect of him philosophically and intellectually for me. Had I disagreed with him because I felt his thoughts were not thought out very well, perhaps just regurgitating the opinions of others, his compliments or grievances really would not have held any weight, as I would have felt no respect for him intellectually (not necessarily personally). As my judgment dictates what and who I apply value to in this life, so does the judgment from others upon me. My “self” is my responsibility, and even though others also shape my being, I am the person I am because of the perceptions I have allowed to define who I am from others, as well as from myself, and those all derive from the choices I have made within the confines of my attributes of birth.

I say thank you to Thad for structuring the class so well and creating a very open environment for the discussions. Thank you to everyone who regularly participated, and others that simply had interest and took in what they could. Hopefully you all enjoyed the experience as much as I did.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Emotions, The Crutch Of The Special.

The extreme views on emotions is something I always find incredibly interesting.  As I mentioned in class, this is an area I am very familiar with myself for many reasons. When I was a child I grew up in a poor household, moved once a year for that reason, was in a school cafeteria in 1st grade with half of the school (grades 1-5, mixed) with me when a tornado hit the school cafeteria killing some and injuring very many in rather horrific fashion, dealt with verbal abuse regularly; the point being, it was a rough time and caused a few issues to say the least. While it lead to a rather early interest in philosophy and religious studies, it also lead to a lot of self-reflection and self-evaluation. Like most people in these situations, I had a lot of anger and was not shy about letting it out when something “triggered” it. I saw therapists, but was left with a bad view of those in the practice, however I hated feeling on edge about the most idiotic things. At this time, I realized something else about myself that showed an interesting contrast the caused me to question how much of my anger and helpless feeling to it was actually my own doing. It always bothered me when people told me how “they couldn’t imagine……” about watching friends die in such a manner as an adult, let alone as a child, and that just seemed ridiculous to me. I was afraid, sad, in disbelief, but mostly, I didn’t want to die and I didn’t want my friends to die either. Really, that was it. I have seen a lot of footage from documentaries that showed images that were equally, and often times far more graphic, than the things I saw that day. I am aware that others have as well. I knew of empathy and thought it was something very common among us humans, I quickly found out that this was not so. People had to willfully choose to ignore empathy and essentially single out themselves and others to allude to some disconnect that is just impossible to mend between people. I still find that to be true to this day. I still listen to endless arguments that they don’t choose, it is just simply not possible. To this argument and answer I say simply, and belligerently, not only is that incorrect, it is incredibly small minded and outright lazy; an excuse.

Now, how does this correlate to my initial point of my seething anger and temper? That is simple, how could I so easily see how people were choosing to disregard the existence of empathy, and yet say my own excuses about my “uncontrollable” anger? I have never liked hypocrisy, and seeing that in myself when I was 11 is an odd thing to explain. When you are so young and ask these questions, you tend to be met with a condescending notion from pretty much everyone, and not having the internet (this was around 1991) made resources scarce. So, I read what books I could from the library, friends parents, friends, but mostly I just put myself on trial (not maliciously) over all of my choices. Through this I found that “controlling” the anger was complete non-sense and nothing but an excuse itself. I had no such chemical imbalance that caused a retardation of my mental functions, no mental behavioral disorder at all, in fact, an incredibly minor amount of people actually do in comparison to those who do not. All I had was a jitteriness and a tendency to lose my place and zone out a bit/become very tired (later classed under ADHD, another topic entirely) most likely due to seizures from PTSD from not dealing with the issues of my childhood when they should have been. Still, those issues I managed to work with and understand them as they applied to my daily choices. Why did I have to “control” this magical thing that simply existed? I found that answer was very straight forward and inescapable, I didn’t. In fact, I couldn’t. It only existed where I applied value and chose to be angry towards because I valued the opposite of what was occurring and in the “trigger” moment, I chose to become angry. While it took quite a while to come to truly accept this truth and then embrace it, however I did shortly before I was 17. To say this improved my life is an understatement. Realizing that while I have confines of birth that align a certain parameter to my physical capabilities, mental capabilities, health, etc, I also have more capabilities and potential to fill those confines with because I know that I am not in dispose of any mythological leash that dictates who I am beyond that of a minor chemical and electrical confine whose parameters I test daily without my choices.

To say that accepting full responsibility for your life is a difficult thing, is to miss the absolute stunning beauty and incredible joy of life.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Death, The Neutral Inevitability.

Death, possibly the topic most feared, revered, discussed and ignored on the subject of life. Few people tend to appreciate the weight carried by ones view of death. It can break friendships, cause family to stop talking to one another, incite violent events such as a fight, wars or even taking one’s own life. However, it can also bring people together, cause enemies to see eye to eye for the first time, create understanding or cause one to bring life into this world. This is generally because, how one views death often determines the path they choose in life. What religion they choose to believe, or not believe, or were born in to and how that view causes them to view death, ultimately comes from the finite life we know we have and that looming notion of its end becomes something we must put in perspective. Some claim acceptance, yet do nothing but avoid actual reflection of “life and death”, supposed faith/and supposed lack of faith for these people often become a crutch that allows the avoidance. I will gladly go a step further on this and say that belief in that of otherworldly existence in and of itself is a complete avoidance of truly contemplating death and the inevitability of it, what it means, how it shapes, or has shaped you. Any notion of eternal life defies death and is to disrespect this life that will end for all of us I believe, which in part is a problem I do have with Heidegger’s philosophy on this matter. Similar to issues I have had with Kierkegaard. I agree with their points, angers, views on how people disregard various aspects of life with complacent behavior only to engage an aspect of that themselves, that being faith in a God and heaven. My larger issue is that of heaven more-so than a “God”. In class, I stated that I believed Heidegger’s view point on “why do things exist?” was a more personal point than that of Camus’ question of “does life have meaning?”, and I stand by that. Does life have meaning can be altered by “why do things exist?”. In fact, most discussions I have come across of this nature, people find that answer of themselves based on why they believe things exist. I do not believe I have ever seen the opposite to be said however. My point being, I do not believe “does life have meaning” effects “why do things exist”, I believe it is instead a symptom, or rather, an after effect of one coming to terms with what they believe as to the point of “why do things exist”. I believe that is the deeper personal question and point, as that has been the driving force behind most, if not, everyone’s view of “does life have meaning” of the many discussions I have had or read of. I believe that life has absolute meaning, because we exist for no reason of omnipotence, only from a “cold” calculative reasoning of events.

While I don’t want to die, like most people, I do respect death and appreciate the greatness that is life I am able to experience every moment I am aware because I have not and cannot experience death. I also appreciate the existential test of eternal recurrence from Nietzsche in this situation as deep contemplation of deaths inevitably leads to deep contemplation of life, and I do not have any aspects of my life I would be ashamed or regret living again. I believe that while I have made many mistakes, had choices where clearly option 2 was better than my option 1, I am proud of the person I am today as a result of those choices. So again, while I do not want to die, I know that I have done well with my life and would not die feeling as though I had wasted the life I have had. I believe my dasein would complete.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Where Goeth The Ubermensch?

Of all the major philosophers, Nietzsche is the most enjoyable to read for me. His lust for life and appreciation for every breath he breathes jumps out of every page with the passion of his points. Unfortunately, I often find that people greatly misinterpret his words by getting hung up on a single notion that avoids his points entirely. Two glaring misconceptions are of him being a nihilist and a pessimist. Why? I would relate it to an issue I also find very common in comedy, whether it be with stand-up comedians or comedic authors, is the use of double entendres, sarcasm, and ironic musing. These expressive tools seem to be incredible variables of interpretation that most simply pick pieces of the point and construe their own definition of the joke. George Carlin was a master at crafting jokes with such incredibly specific language and silences that seeing him live was like listening to one of the most amazing concertos ever composed. Yet still, many in the crowd would laugh at punch-lines that were, quite literally, them. It was something that simply didn’t make sense to me. These jokes weren’t ones that made jest of the idiotic things we all do, or those character flaws we hate but can take a step back to laugh at; these were points that attacked the views that defined these peoples entire existence and outright said ‘You are stupid as are your views’. So I would listen to what people said, or have discussions with others, and primarily found that people literally made their own jokes from portions of his, leaving out what should have caused an internal or external conflict. They would write off his attacks with “he is a comedian” or simply disassociate those parts. In the next breath, they would condemn politicians, news anchors and people for unbelievably minor attacks in comparison. While I have many theories as to why they do this, I don’t know the reality of where this disconnect exists, but I believe it is certainly routed in a form of denial. I bring this up because Nietzsche’s work has parts that are written from different perspectives, and can easily be taken out of context or incorrectly as the "punch-line" is being ignored. I believe people do the same with Nietzsche as they do with Carlin, or religion; they pick and choose components of the work to create their “Nietzsche”, which tends to be something very different from the original. While this is a common occurrence in arts, politics, philosophy, I feel it is usually not to the same degree. I had hope that it would be different in class than in general, however I feel that many still did just that.

Understanding master morality and slave morality is important, however it seemed that the majority of the material focused on “slave” and “master”, and how the slaves had morals as they were the opposition of the immoral masters who are simply tyrants of evil. I do not miss the irony of my view of the situation and material in question either. To summarize the concept, for the sake of time, master morality and slave morality are not classes, they are mental guidelines that one sets for themselves due to one’s own biology at birth and/or nurture of upbringing; two types of moral compasses based on what righteousness you apply to your life. This with the concept of will to power (not will to might) is often misconstrued I believe. The will to power is, while ever changing through his work, the progression is that of self-mastery, not dominance of all and tyrannical dictatorship. This is where I wished we could have gone into the concept of the ubermensch, or over man. 

To me, this was one of the most important prose to understand Nietzsche. It defines what he means by eternal occurrence which is living your life in a manner you would happily say “yes, I would live that life over and over again”. It shows his optimism and fear of the possibilities of evolution, as well as his point being that it is something in our control as it derives of our choices in life and our passion for life. You see this with the contrast of the ubermensch and the last man. The ubermensch is simply the idea Zarthustra presents, one he presents as an optimistic future of what man can become. He is happy, loves those who love themselves truly, not egotistically, those who give nothing to others and expects nothing from others because the fruits of their labor provides as does that of the others. This man has a virtue, not virtues, he hones his craft to master his virtue rather than distract himself with many. He gives his life to this virtue thus becoming his destiny (create your own destiny). He is generous, by his own nature, not because he seeks it. He has no interest in a life beyond, but cares to have his feet grounded on the Earth, and loves this planet of life unconditionally! Most importantly, he is not the ubermensch, he is man that loves life, creativity, self-mastery, and understands that the ubermensch is simply the idea of greatness, not the goal, as Zarathustra later alludes to when he realizes a number of his own mistakes such as living in the past. The last man is the warning, the lazy being that simply exists because “I am” (utilitarian criticism). No aspiration, no care or passion for experiencing life. He is the goal of the homebody, the talentless and simply “empty”. He does not see this world, but looks beyond it while he dies on this world and gives nothing to this world. The idea of the ubermensch is the spirit (so to speak) of master-morality, while the last man is life without master-morality. The slave-morality is the herd mentality of the people who laugh at the concept and ask to be the last man; it is the device that leads to ruin. These are leaders, nobleman, the faithful, etc; not slaves.
  Seeing these points make clear the concepts we seemed to get stuck on in class, which lead us to a continuous loop of misunderstanding. Will to “power”, is not simply “might is right”, it is self-power, or self-empowerment. It is understanding the confines ("fate") of your birth and upbringing and using the tools you have to master a virtue you love, to love every breath you have and cherish the moment, to seek knowledge and become who you are. His praise of Johann Von Goethe throughout his writings shows his adoration for the importance Goethe put in his craft and how much of himself he gave to his virtue, his art. Strength, and physical strength are but parts of the whole, not the whole.

I don’t criticize for the sake of degrading the efforts put in, or to discredit or belittle; quite the contrary. I do so because I love the beauty of Nietzsche’s prose and think it is a travesty if the beauty is missed. I wish others to see it in the proper light, that being a work of optimism, self-empowerment and an undying love for life (for so long as one is remembered). This can be done even if you don’t agree with his points.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Was Kierkegaard Truly The Person He Claimed, Or Simply A Projection Of What He Wished Others To See Him As?

In terms of Kierkegaard’s view of subjectivity and passion and how they are essential to the “existence” of a person, to generalize the complexity of the whole as a means to lead a point, is a point of view that I could not agree with much more than I do. My complication of enjoying the arguments of Kierkegaard has never come from his views of how one should arrive to decide who they are, or that of the lack of passion that derives from birth entitlements, status, or simply any sense of self that derives from the occurrence of birth. In most every regard, I agree with his points of essentially deciding who you are from an inward perspective. I find conflict in the fact that his leap of faith concluded in a continued lateral stagnation of remaining Christian.
Perhaps this will be seen as simply attacking the fact that he did not renounce his faith, or that enlightenment and an honest inward view of self can only conclude in ones loss of faith. In that regard, I can only say it is entirely wrong in my intent, and hopefully that notion is let go while reading this in order to see this point from my intended meaning, rather than one of face value perception.
Through all of his works that I have read and studied, Kierkegaard is very open to criticize faith and state how most are not of true Christian faith as it comes with no internal conflict, subjective decisions of the morality they choose of the life they live, a complete lack of passion to truly care about “what” they believe life, morality, or simply faith is. Does one simply argue their faith in god because they can provide self-formulated “evidence” of the existence of omnipotence? Does that prove one has faith? Simply put, no. He screams against the notion as it lacks any inward anxiety of personal struggle with a true faith, a true personal relationship with “God”, one derived of your own decisions of what life is from how you perceive morality and experience.
Why does this raise my ire of his points which I agree with in terms of subjectivity bringing you to your own path of how you view life and death and what meaning you apply to where that path leads? Simple, I never felt he showed his anxiety or passion beyond simply proving he was a true Christian as he understood a philosophical approach better than “Christians”, as well as the Dialecticians such as Hegel (or Hegelians even). I always find, when I read his work, I agree with his points of an inward life, and the paradox of faith, I even agree with the leap of faith; yet I still feel such a massive disconnect with his passion. It took a few readings before I could accept this unsettling disconnect, as I had no issue that he “leaped” into the arms of his “God”, I had a problem that it is never clear what inward anxiety separated him from those he criticized and very heavily chastised or belittled for their birthright beliefs. Obviously he had inner turmoil, Fear and Trembling leads to his, more than likely, mimicking of the story of Abraham with his then wife to be Regine Olsen by sacrificing what he loved most in an earthly regard in order to devout his entire being to the love of his “God”. A true showing of faith. However, I see only a child born of a “cursed” father because of his (the fathers) sins against god (child out of wedlock, lords name in vain as a child, etc) who instilled a heavy religious mindset and spent his life flagellating himself for sins to a possible greater degree than his father is implied to have done. I see someone who shows more a fear that he is not devout enough, than someone who gave an honest subjective view of self in order to ever actually have a “leap of faith”. To make the point simple, I believe that while the views and critiques Kierkegaard proclaims are mostly fantastic, and a very good perspective when the subject of self and personal meaning is at discussion, I do not believe he was at all different from those he showed such a heavy disdain for. I feel of what I have studied thus far only show a man who has done an amazing job hiding his own fear of death and possible religious doubts behind a passionate wall of finger pointing and angst.
Again, I still have more to study, and perhaps others could guide me down a path of research that may shed some light on this being incorrect. However, I have been searching his works, and I have yet to find anything that shows me his faith was truly derived from a personal relationship from his own struggle with faith and self in the first place, beyond that of essentially being “more” of a “true” Christian. That bothers me.