The Beginning of The Unbearable Lightness of Being

No Comments »

The rest of the book is good, but I’ve always especially loved the very beginning of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Thought provoking:

The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other
philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that
the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum! What does this mad myth signify?

Putting it negatively, the myth of eternal return states that a life which disappears once and  for  all,  which  does  not  return,  is  like  a  shadow,  without  weight,  dead  in  advance, and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime, its horror, sublimity, and beauty mean nothing. We need take no more note of it than of a war between two African kingdoms in the fourteenth century, a war that altered nothing in the destiny of the world, even if a hundred thousand blacks perished in excruciating torment.

Will the war between two African kingdoms in the fourteenth century itself be altered if it
recurs again and again, in eternal return?

It will: it will become a solid mass, permanently protuberant, its inanity irreparable.

If the French Revolution were to recur eternally, French historians would be less proud
of  Robespierre.  But  because  they  deal  with something  that  will  not  return,  the  bloody
years  of  the  Revolution  have  turned  into  mere  words,  theories,  and  discussions,  have
become lighter than feathers, frightening no one. There is an infinite difference between
a Robespierre who occurs only once in history and a Robespierre who eternally returns,
chopping off French heads.

Let us therefore agree that the idea of eternal return implies a perspective from which
things  appear  other  than  as  we  know  them:  they  appear  without  the  mitigating
circumstance  of  their  transitory  nature.  This  mitigating  circumstance  prevents  us  from
coming to a verdict. For how can we condemn something that is ephemeral, in transit?
In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the
guillotine.

Not long ago, I caught myself experiencing a most incredible sensation. Leafing through
a  book  on  Hitler,  I  was  touched  by  some of  his  portraits:  they  reminded  me  of  my
childhood. I grew up during the war; several members of my family perished in Hitler’s concentration camps; but what were their deaths compared with the memories of a lost period in my life, a period that would never return?

This reconciliation with Hitler reveals the profound moral perversity of a world that rests
essentially  on  the  nonexistence  of  return,  for  in  this  world  everything  is  pardoned  in
advance and therefore everything cynically permitted.

If every second of our lives recurs an infinite number of times, we are nailed to eternity
as Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. It is a terrifying prospect. In the world of eternal
return the weight of unbearable responsibility lies heavy on every move we make. That
is  why  Nietzsche  called  the  idea  of  eternal  return  the  heaviest  of  burdens
(das schwerste Gewicht).

If eternal return is the heaviest of burdens, then our lives can stand out against it in all
their splendid lightness.

But is heaviness truly deplorable and lightness splendid?

The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in
the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body.
The  heaviest  of  burdens  is  therefore  simultaneously  an  image  of  life’s  most  intense
fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real
and truthful they become.

Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar
into  the  heights,  take  leave  of  the  earth  and  his  earthly being,  and  become  only  half
real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.

What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?

Parmenides  posed  this  very  question  in  the  sixth  century  before  Christ.  He  saw  the
world divided into pairs of opposites:

light/darkness,  fineness/coarseness,  warmth/cold,  being/non-being. One  half  of  the  opposition  he  called  positive  (light,  fineness,  warmth,  being), the  other  negative.  We might find this division into positive and negative poles childishly simple except for one difficulty: which one is positive, weight or lightness?

Parmenides  responded:  lightness is  positive,  weight  negative. Was  he  correct  or  not?

That  is  the  question.  The  only  certainty  is:  the  lightness/weight  opposition  is  the  most  mysterious, most ambiguous of all.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

2Pac Evolution

No Comments »

2Pac broke out on the national scene in 2001 and died in 2006. First songs off his albums:

2Pacalypse Now, Young Black Male:

Strictly 4 my N.I.G.G.A.Z…, Holler If Ya Hear Me:

Read the rest of this entry

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

apathy

No Comments »

I abhor apathy, but there it sometimes is. It is difficult to care. Not only do you need to care, you need to vet what to care about. Bleh.

That said, I am in favor of caring and all the vetting that entails.

Anyway, this is where the Cranberries and NWA cross paths in my listening:

  • Cranberries: “Unhappiness is when we were young and we didn’t give a damn”
  • NWA: “See, I don’t give a f***, that’s the problem”

Both see apathy as a negative.

The Cranberries, “Ode to My Family:”

 

NWA, “Straight Out of Compton:”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

C.S. Lewis on Forgiveness

No Comments »

“Mere Christianity”, Book 3, Chapter 7:

Select quotes:

Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. “That sort of talk makes them sick,” they say. And half of you already want to ask me, “I wonder how you’d feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?”

So do I. I wonder very much. Just as when Christianity tells me that I must not deny my religion even to save myself from death by torture, I wonder very much what I should do when it came to the point. I am not trying to tell you in this book what I could do—I can do precious little—I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.” There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly dear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it. What are we to do?

It is going to be hard enough, anyway, but I think there are two things we can do to make it easier. When you start mathematics you do not begin with the calculus; you begin with simple addition. In the same way, if we really want (but all depends on really wanting) to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo. One might start with forgiving one’s husband or wife, or parents or children, or the nearest N.C.O., for something they have done or said in the last week. That will probably keep us busy for the moment. And secondly, we might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbour as yourself means. I have to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself?

The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker.

If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything—God and our friends and ourselves included—as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

Now a step further. Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment—even to death. If one had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy. I always have thought so, ever since I became a Christian, and long before the war, and I still think so now that we are at peace.

Food for thought, no?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Memorial Day 2104

No Comments »

So Monday is Memorial Day. I saw a blog post I can’t find right now that really summarized my sentiments. Basically, it was like, it’s wonderful to have a 3-day weekend this time of year. Get your grill out, drink some beer, go water-skiing if you happen to have a lake and boat available, but recognize how free you are and that you are standing on the shoulders of tremendous sacrifice to allow that freedom. This is my other favorite blog post of the day:

… I will stand in awe of the willingness displayed by 407,316 ordinary men and women who left their homes and paid the ultimate price to ensure that fascism did not engulf the world and lead to the darkest time in history. The everyman of WWII is an amazing concept, yet that is how it has been throughout history. Just plain folks doing their duty.

I will reflect on how 33,651 Americans passed the torch of freedom from their failing hands to a little country called South Korea, proving that they may look different and speak what to us is a very strange language, but they are no less deserving of freedom than we. …

More at Ace of Spades HQ

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

More on May 6th Bloomington, IN Primaries

No Comments »

After posting about the upcoming primary, a friend pointed out the GovTracker site run by the Bloomington Herald Times. However, they don’t seem to have consolidated the options, so I thought I’d do that here. There’s more on the site, but it’s often uncontested races, etc. So here’s this.

9th Congressional District

Democratic

Republican

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

On the Nature of Hell (Assuming There Is One)

No Comments »

The concept of hell must be tempting to even atheists. Not necessarily the eternal pitchforks and fire but some kind of justice for things not accounted for here, for example the child molester who lives a life of luxury and is loved by the masses and dies peacefully. Where is the justice there?

So I was intrigued by this article in The Week, “What Christians get wrong about hell“.

He basically starts with:

Jumping off from a handful of Gospel passages in which Jesus Christ speaks about “eternal punishment” for sinners in the afterlife, these believers conjure visions of a cosmic torture chamber in which those who reject God or commit grave sins without repentance are subjected to endless torment as punishment for their transgressions. It is a ghastly analogue to equally crude and comical visions of heaven as a place where the righteous are rewarded with angels’ wings and an eternity of harp lessons.

which he contrasts with:

Which is why the most theologically cogent view of hell found in classical Christianity maintains that it is the state of mind (or soul) of someone who is alienated from God. Living a life that is out of harmony with God is painful, and to die and be confronted so decisively with the error of your ways — to be made to see that you made a wreck of your life by separating yourself from God, and to have to learn to shatter your pride by reforming yourself in his divine presence — is, one imagines, excruciating. But it is intrinsically painful, not externally imposed by torturers in some fire-and-brimstone-filled dungeon.

I certainly agree that it is extremely un-Christian to relish envisioning your enemies or others in eternal torment, which is why I’ve always been gripped by the film Jacob’s Ladder, which (spoiler alert) tells the story of a dead person working through his demons before ascending to heaven. So Hitler may be in heaven now, but he had a rough time getting there and has learned the error of his ways. This type of universalism is tempting, and may be accurate, but portions of scripture seem to indicate otherwise. For example:

“And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire,” (Matt. 18:8).1

I’ve tried to get around this by defining eternity as a state of mind, commonly known as impatience, which may be correct, but assuming there is unequivocal eternal damnation, how would a Christian view that? In Mere Christianity (PDF), C.S. Lewis tries to address the issue (page 40 in the PDF):

Again, Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false. Now there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going to live for ever. Perhaps my bad temper or my jealousy are gradually getting worse —so gradually that the increase in seventy years will not be very noticeable. But it might be absolute hell in a million years: in fact, if Christianity is true, Hell is the precisely correct technical term for what it would be. And immortality makes this other difference, which, by the by, has a connection with the
difference between totalitarianism and democracy.

He also addressed it in The Great Divorce (wikipedia):

The narrator inexplicably finds himself in a grim and joyless city, the “grey town”, which is either hell or purgatory depending on how long one stays there. He eventually finds a bus for those who desire an excursion to some other place (and which eventually turns out to be the foothills of heaven). He enters the bus and converses with his fellow passengers as they travel. When the bus reaches its destination, the passengers on the bus — including the narrator — are gradually revealed to be ghosts. Although the country is the most beautiful they have ever seen, every feature of the landscape (including streams of water and blades of grass) is unyieldingly solid compared to themselves: it causes them immense pain to walk on the grass, and even a single leaf is far too heavy for any to lift.

But my favorite quote (page 48 of the PDF) is:

And that leads on to my second point. People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, “If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.” I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself.

Is there eternal damnation? I think there is to those who choose it. Is there some sort of heaven/hell/purgatory/reincarnation karma beyond this mortal coil? I think so, I think it makes sense.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Bloomington, IN Primary May 6th, 2014

No Comments »

Be there or be unpatriotic. On May 6th, you get to decide which people within your selected party will go against the selected people from the other party.

Quick poll: Who is your choice for County Recorder? Point being, do you even know who is running or their positions? Doesn’t matter in the primaries this time, as they are both running uncontested (in Bloomington, IN), but the principal stands.

This has been a concern of mine for a while, the going into the voting booth not knowing for whom you’re actually voting,  the voting for someone because you like the sound of their name (I’ve done this) or what their name implies about their ethnicity, gender, etc.

That’s where the idea of informedelectorate.net came about. Although the site currently focuses on the acts of current federal and state legislators, the goal has always been to focus on local over federal and (hello?) elections, which involve candidates not in office.

Hence, I was thrilled to discover monroecountyvoters.us, brought to you by Linda K. Robbins, Monroe County Clerk. Sample ballots page.

The republican ballot only has three contested positions; the democratic, four, but vote anyway. I’m going to start researching my options.

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

State Taxes

No Comments »

Created an interactive state map using the D3, d3-tip, and jQuery libraries and the GeoJson encoding format. I took a lot from the book, Interactive Data Visualization for the Web.

statetaxesIt uses data from a Mercatus Report to show the tax burden per capita of various tax instruments. It’s a lot of data, so can take a while to load and works best for me in Chrome.

Not sure if it would be good for policy making, but it’s interesting and fun.

Check it out.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

AGW Policy

No Comments »

Fine. The anthropogenic climate change debate is settled in the direction of assention.

Now that that’s settled, what policies did you have in mind? Or were you just looking for a conclusion so you could hand it over to government to solve for you?

Do you turn out the lights when leaving a room you don’t soon plan to return to? Do you compost or would you if you had the opportunity? Do you generally bring your groceries home in re-used bags?

These questions of environmental stewardship are irrelevant. Consensus uber alles.

Here’s the WaPo mocking the Farmer’s Almanac prediction of a cold winter in the midwest (egg meet face) in August 2013:

If you believe it, residents of the Plains to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast may want to start stocking up on warm weather gear, snow shovels, and salt right now! The Farmers’ Almanac is calling for a “bitterly cold” winter for much of the region.

“Yes, the Farmers’ Almanac believes that the “days of shivery” are back,” says the Farmer’s Almanac press release.

For the record, it’s 17 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing off and on in midwest Indiana.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather