Monday, October 3, 2011

Your Philosophical Interlude of the Day

This is an excerpt for a paper I recently had to write for a college class. There's nothing funny about it, except perhaps for the fact that I got a B+ on it. What would be even funnier is if you actually read the whole post. :D

Taking the rise of science and technology in our society into consideration requires us to examine whether its progression has been beneficial to us, in the realms of our species as a whole, in our social circles, and in our individual development. It is important to note that, regardless of what we conclude in this regard, the technological progress of history will endure. Despite protestations we have, however logical or impassioned, the course of the future will be plotted even if it’s without our participation. Based on the present time, it seems that the future will be defined by developments in science and technology. While our past was classified by wars and carved in the visages of the proverbial “great men of their time,” our future will be characterized by the advances in medicine, communication, transportation, and business. The person in our country today that doesn’t boast a presence in the virtual reality of the Internet is viewed as abnormal, and in the future, the integration of technology with our everyday lives will only become more apparent and intimate.

In the vein of communication, technology’s usefulness is undeniable. Because of social networking sites, mobile Internet browsing devices, and many other fascinating developments, the United States is becoming an increasingly global society; an entire world of commerce and education is at our disposal, matching with opportunity the effort any citizen is willing to yield. Interacting with inhabitants of the world demands that we think and act in a way that will benefit not only our country, but all our allies. This incentive breeds an intriguing union of ambition and caution that can steer decisions to benefit the people as a whole. A difference in culture stipulates mutual civility, cooperation requires tolerance, and the interdependency and common goals of nations should bring about peaceful resolution of conflict.

The present era has been deemed the “Information Age,” which would seem to denote a society inundated with knowledge and could reasonably be assumed to contain a dizzying number of scholars—the mysteries of physics, astronomy, math, poetry, and literature have never been more easily accessible to the common man. However, with the advent of immediate knowledge has come immediate entertainment as well. Education is paradoxically hindered by the convenience of obtaining information. It can be reasonably argued that the availability of information discourages, or at least does not facilitate, the need to retain knowledge mentally. When one is presented with the choice of obtaining wisdom through books, lectures, and notes, or the opportunity to simply carry a device that will do your thinking and answer your questions for you, convenience almost invariably triumphs. To be comfortable is the objective; to be empowered or enlightened is secondary.

In addition to the paradox of convenient information, the rise of science and technology has permanently altered the face of social interaction and relationships. On the front of social networking sites, such as Facebook, psychologists have discovered that these mediums can lead to depression when users replace meaningful face-to-face relationships with the website. The reason cited is that people primarily use social networking sites to reflect the best or most intriguing aspects of themselves while failing to mention the frustrations, pain and insecurity that so often mark our existence. This, in turn, convinces the user that their negative emotions are somehow unique and therefore isolated from others (American Psychological Association). For adolescents, romances are defined by Facebook—the present age has introduced an entirely foreign world in which the ebbing and flowing of one’s love life is apparent for everyone subscribed to its activity. Our lives have never been so public. While this frankness may allude to the days past that Rousseau refers to with sentimentality—where, “…our mores were rustic but natural” (Rousseau 4) although “At base, human nature was no better, but men found their safety in the ease with which they saw through each other” (Rousseau 4)—it also breeds the tragedies of exploitation. The private affairs suffered in silence or forgotten for their shame are immortalized in Twitter updates, YouTube videos, and photo albums. This generation is the most carefully recorded one, but perhaps the thoughtless exhibition of our lives has led to its gradual degradation into shallowness and futility.

This expansion of science and technology into our lives and the accessibility of information are comparable to Condorcet’s idea of equality in instruction. Ages past, such as pre-Reformation Germany, knew a distinction between educated and uneducated: the informed knew how to obtain, interpret, and apply information, whereas the uneducated had no such opportunity or skill. In a world where answers are only as far away as the nearest Internet connection, education is theoretically equal. However, these developments have not necessarily profited democracy, especially among people, because it has bred the dependency that Condorcet so adamantly argued against. The opinions of many in politics, for example, are not based on study; rather, what has been edited and diluted into five-second sound bites and Wikipedia articles.

Advances in science and technology have had an indelible impact on our society, many in a positive sense, and has indubitably put us at a disadvantage in other areas. In any case, the society of progress that Condorcet, Rousseau and, to be frank, all relatively optimistic scholars imagine, will never escape our minds. Perhaps a day will occur in humanity’s future when it will not escape our grasp either.

Friday, January 14, 2011

May the Force Be With You

It's been many moons since I posted, Blogger world, but my biweekly hour of meditation seems to have gotten a little longer than intended. Don't worry, though--I've been thinking about you...the whole time. Hee hee hee

I often sequester myself in one of those sticky booths at my local McDonald's and pretend like I'm not staring at people. My cover is maintained because this McDonald's boasts a unique feature: David's "Wisdom Wall," that is to say, the wallpaper is littered with these adorable little motivational adages. Among my favorite are "Don't get on the bandwagon until you can play an instrument" and "If something is wrong and you do nothing, you just created a new standard."

Phrases like these intrigue me. Do you know anyone that truly did anything amazing as a result of one of these quotes? In my experience, when I hear something like "The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible," (Arthur C. Clarke) my imagination sets to work for about 2-3 minutes on its practical application. Words like "clever" and "pragmatic" come to mind. I pour a cup of tea to appear more intelligent.

Then I forget.

The next time one of these adages will come to mind is when you are throwing it out at someone in a difficult situation, in an effort to be genuinely helpful. Nothing says "I care" like being able to tell your friends: "Don't take my word for it. Aristotle said that," or, even better, "Remember that scene in The Office that was just like this? And then Jim, who is clever, pragmatic and helpful said..."

The simple fact of the matter is that when people are faced with an opportunity for real greatness, or equally as likely great failure, they usually call on a fortitude within them worthy of a new motivational poster rather than relying on an inventive little zen phrase that has about as much philosophical sway as a Gummy Bear.

This is true for the brief moments of authentic opportunities to overcome, but for those day-to-day complaints, what are we to do for our loved ones that come to us for advice?

Simple enough. Merely bloat their situation out of proportion until they call on their fortitude muscle (allegedly between the third and fourth ribs). For example:

YOUR CHILD: I want to register for the Science Fair but I'm really nervous!
YOU: You pathetic ninny from Bogus-Town! I'd be nervous too if my science project and fashion sense were as lacking as yours! I would rather take on an army of crazed zombies trained in the ancient art of jujitsu and haiku! You would have to be Isaac Newton's elbow hair to succeed! You know, people have a name for someone like you. You know what it is? Fart-face! Ha ha! If you want to register for that science fair, you've got a battlefield of loneliness, isolation, and rejection ahead of you! Plus no one will like you!
YOUR CHILD: know what? I can do this! (dramatic orchestra begins to play and child storms into lab)
YOU: Ok! Love you sweetie!


Whatever you're going through today, peeps, you can do it!

Oops, I smell funny!


Saturday, November 20, 2010


Not surprisingly, I'm a person who is easily fascinated. The world is always showing off new stuff to me that leaves me totally in awe.

Unlike many of my other characteristics, I think this one is something everyone should have a share of in their lives. I mean, I can barely turn my head before I find something new to dazzle me.

For example--

That lumpy mass of tissue in your skull is sending electrical signals across synapses to different lumps of tissue and causing you to comprehend what you're reading, and have conscious thoughts about it. Consciousness is being regulated by chemicals and electrical signals.

Men can sprout hair from their faces.

There is a common domesticated animal that you probably refer to as a cat, or a kitty. However, it is also known as a gato, a katze, a kotka, a kočka, a kat (in two languages), a pusa, a kissa, a γάτα, a macksa, a köttur...
A القط
A кошка

...and the list goes on. (Bless you, Google Translate).

Humanity has changed so little that there are books written up to 2,000 years ago and more that still touch our hearts.

I've been given ways to interact with my world. I can touch it and smell it. I can hear the sounds it makes.

To express that something is amusing, people open their mouths and say "Ha" in consecutive sequences until they are not amused any more.

There are people that understand math so well, they can teach it to other people.

Adults with masters' degrees can be dense and foolish and out of touch with the world, but a child can bear the wisdom of God in their mouths without even realizing what they've done.

Children are entertained by colorful drawings moving across a television screen (especially if they have high-pitched voices).

Women are entertained by hanging shiny pieces of metal from their earlobes.

People take wild shrubbery from their yards or local hardware stores, put them inside containers, and place them inside their houses so that they can be observed by the people living there. No wonder the houseplants are plotting against us.

Anyway...the world is awesome!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

As Joy Fades, Humor Rises

This story begins in a dimly lighted church sanctuary, where a bedraggled team of musicians rallied their last ounces of strength to carry on into the night. They had been practicing for a concert every week without wavering, and this final practice, the culmination of all their hope, had endured for nearly four hours and driven most of the team unto exhaustion. Happiness, that capricious and feeble partner, had deserted them long ago. Some had resigned that their death would take place that exceptional twilight. However, the fate of the concert—and perhaps the world—lay in their aching hands.

They were a motley band, led by a young man of unmatched stature no older than eighteen. He bore himself with all the calculating nobility of manhood and the unfettered, wild ambition of youth. The band had grown closer in skill and purpose under his thoughtful tutelage. While he was a deeply respected leader, he sacrificed whatever was required to pursue his cause with every piece of his heart—even the affection of his followers. They had learned to not stop at what they were able to do; but to do whatever was necessary.

As vigor and optimism faded with the night, one man— a trumpeter and a beloved father of three dignified sons—turned his thoughts to his youngest child, who was scarcely more than an infant. He approached their leader.

“I have to go change a dirty diaper,” the father stated.

The leader glanced at him with concern and replied, “I didn’t know you wore a diaper.”

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Shout-out to Team Jacob

Top: What Taylor Lautner looks like present-day.
Bottom: What Taylor Lautner will look like a few decades from now.

Just wanted to remind you.

Was that mean? Oh gosh...I'm mean, aren't I?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Luke the Barbarian

If for no other reason, you should read this post because one of my sixteen-year-old buds gets completely owned by an old German lady at McDonald's. Talk about the tensions and mysteries of humanity...

This should be preceded by saying that Luke, the sixteen-year-old, is completely kind and chivalrous. I appreciate Luke; what makes this story so ironic and funny is that the one time he slipped up, Fate was there to give him a vigorous noogie.

Once upon a time, Luke decided to spend 72 hours awake for the fun of it and the elite glory of being able to claim he had done so. At the time this story occurred, he had been awake for 32 of his allotted hours. In brief, he was exhausted. He, his brother (my Levi!), myself, and another young gentleman that was to join him on his somnolent journey congregated at McDonald's for a short quiescence. There was general fun at McDonald's. Then we decided to go to the library. (Fun fun fun!)

This is where the tense complications take place: We're headed out the door. If I remember all this correctly, I walk out, Luke and his friend come out next, followed by an elderly German lady wearing a track suit, while Levi holds the door open for us all (win!)

The woman stops Luke and the other young man in their tracks and gives them a pretty epic speech that goes something like this, just to cover the high parts:

"To be a gentleman means to be gentle to all men, women, and respect the elderly. When there is a woman coming through the door, you do not walk in front of her. You hold open the door for her and let her go first as he did"--(gestures to Levi. Double win, dude.)

The speech went a little longer and Luke stared at German track suit lady numbly with bloodshot eyes. He listened very attentively, respectfully and also looked a little frightened, and, needless to say, I was about to lose it. Levi and I made an escape towards the car as the German accent faded out of earshot.

So, to review the scores:

Luke's Friend--Fail
Luke--Epic Fail
Grandma--Epic Win

Monday, August 9, 2010

Special Days

There are some events in a young girl's life that they never forget--and leave them changed forever.

For instance, the time about three years ago when all the people on our dirt road decided to get together for a "block party." What this meant was that, since our house was located on this road, we were qualified to attend a gathering of lonely, socially deprived people, sitting in lawn chairs, holding styrofoam plates of food, staring at each other with hungry eyes. I'm what you would call an introverted person. I was dragged to aforementioned party whimpering just moments after my teddy bear was ripped from my fingers. A flogging or a bath in warm acid would have been preferable for me. We drove a few miles down the road to the destination of our party. I watched the billows of dust rise into the air behind our car and hoped that my dread was unfounded.

All I'm gonna say is that I hate it when I'm right.

A few minutes into our visit, I met a very sweet and ambitious elderly lady who determined after our brief exchange that I was her grandson's soul mate. We spoke for several minutes about how ravenously wonderful and attractive her grandson was, as well as how compatible I would be with said Prince Charming (the fact that I owned an ATV sealed his heart).

P. Charming showed up about an hour later. How can I describe him?
About 5'8. Oily. Relatively overweight. Oozing with bad attitude.

We were introduced and Mr. Charming looked at me as though he would enjoy seeing lightning bolts strike me in the face. Apparently this was not the first time Grandma had played matchmaker for him and he didn't like the look of me or my face. He took one look at me and found something else to do. I praised God as he escaped me, to the chagrin of his grandmother.

The funniest part of this story is when Grandma tracked him down and spoke to him very forcefully and aggressively. It was undoubtedly about me because immediately afterwards he gave me a withering death glare and returned to his friends.

My evening culminated in a vigorous game of "Gotcha" with the golden retriever chained up in the backyard.

Of course, there are other memorable days in a young girl's life. Like the time when I learned that my brother and I had been using the same toothbrush for some weeks without either of us realizing it.

When your routines never cross, bad things can happen.

Bring it on, life.