Any misspelled words or grammatical errors on this site are provided only for effect. Views expressed here are strictly those of the author, as opposed to being from his pet iguana. We reserve the right to add new letters to the alphabet or alter the time-space continuum as we see fit. Your presence at this site is a complicit agreement to these conditions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What is Sense? And In What Sense?

1 comments (add more here)
Don't you think it’s a waste to paint cars that will be used for crash tests? Maybe I don't know enough about the intricacies of paint, but it doesn’t seem like the paint job is going to affect anything substantial during tests, so save the expense right? There must be some good reason they do it. There better be, or I’m gonna be miffed. (miffed is when someone is perturbed in a way that no one takes too seriously, and it eventually blows away with the passing wind, though you still wish to be recognized as objecting to the situation)

Ultimately, though, I want things to make sense. Well, I don’t exactly expect quite everything to make sense, but just a lot of things, and if I see too many things that aren’t making sense, it worries me that there could potentially be an overabundance of senseless things, becoming a slippery slope of nonsensicalness into utter oblivion — as the mind carries itself away to ponder. Then what are you going to hang onto? I think a comfortable ratio for sensible and senseless might be in the range of about 3:2, using more realistic expectations of the world.

There is admittedly something psychological about being over or under 50%, so if the senseless gets into the majority, it will result in some stress on my end. It’s a curious phenomenon how we like our odds to be better than 50-50. And yet it’s kind of arbitrary when you think about it. If the chances are that it will happen more often than it won’t, then we look at that as an ideal. 40% seems to be more like a failure. But who really defines that? What if 40% gets the job done in the long run? Do we really need majorities? Maybe to help us feel good for a while about what we’ve done. But I think if you show up and make a good run for it, you can be happy about that even if it didn’t happen a preponderance of the time. I doubt that life has to follow some cosmic scale where opposing forces are weighed to see which occurs more.

In that light, I’d like to present a group of suggestions to start us on our way, and feel comfortable adding in your own. Fortunately for us, discussion is still freeware.

Things that make sense:
• Blueberry pancakes with plumes of steam emanating from them. How can you go wrong there?
• The glee of an infant, oblivious to the world and just happy about life.
• The changing of the seasons. Somehow, it all resonates. It speaks to us directly, without involving the middle man of analysis. They serve as a wonderful metaphor for all of existence.
• That life has purpose. It’s not so much that I want it to have a purpose, but that it screams that it does.
• The smooth texture and luscious taste of chocolate. It never goes out of style. Thank you, cocoa gods.
• Dreams, even though their meanings are not often evident. They make sense on a deeper level.
• A well-worn friend. Like a broken-in baseball mitt that can take anything you throw it.
• Laughter. It almost universally brings us comfort to speak that language when the others are less accessible.

A lot of other things make sense, too, but they come and go, and right now they’re elusive.

Things that don’t make sense:
• Why mornings have to be at the first part of the day.
• Why the Obamas’ dog would be newsworthy. This is journalism?
• Time, as well as the absence of time. (figure that one out)
• How computers really work. I don't really think anybody knows.
• How Larry King ever became an interviewer. Maybe it’s his rawness that helps people relate. But I could ask better questions while half asleep. Perhaps that’s his secret…
• Why somewhere along the way we lose that special thrill that comes with being a child. We trade it for what? Responsibility? A worthy trade-off, though not as immediately exciting.
• Why candy bars have nutrition information on the wrapper. Who are they kidding?
• When the word 'kiosk' came into prominence. Was I asleep for too long?
• Emotions. I guess that’s why they're emotions.
• Failing to adopt the metric system. Base-10. Learn it, love it.
• Why we look tireder after a nap than before one.
• Why society punished itself with a five-day work week and only a two-day weekend. We had the choice! It was up to us. Given carte blanche, we humans opted for just two days to take a break. Man, we blew it! I wish I’d been there at that summit. I would’ve filibustered that one.
• Screaming or whooping by the audience as a form of acknowledgement for a singing performance. Two words: what and ever.
• Why people say they’re giving 110%. I thought 100% was plenty, not to mention the maximum possible. 110% isn’t reality, it’s just fantasy.
• Why we don't talk more about how wonderful someone is until after they die.
• Stocks. I’m still not convinced that it isn’t all a ruse, and I’m being duped. Something along the lines of lock, stock, and barrel.
• The bulk of children’s programming. Although I may have merely gone past the state of amazement that they’re still in.
• The bulk of teenage programming. The teenage years are tweenage years anyway, so who can expect much coherence out of them?
• The speech patterns of some people. I don’t think these people realize how they’re talking. We can’t take you literally, because you literally litter your literacy with alliterations and silly syllogisms. Listen to yourself! Take out the filler.
• Why juries are made up of amateurs, and the professionals who don’t determine the verdict have the advantage to use learned tactics on them to persuade them that the professionals know better, so then why don’t the professionals just figure out if the defendant was guilty or not guilty?
• Why people believe someone when they admit they were lying. If they really are a liar, how do we know which is the lie?
• Why a stapler always runs out right when you need to staple something.
• Why it is that people who have the nicest lawns use them the least. What a waste!
• A radio advertisement for vacuum cleaners said their model has the suction capacity of a category 5 tornado. And why would I want this in my living room?
• If a book needs to have someone write a foreword to legitimize the book, why that person doesn’t just write the whole book.
• Why we pay all our bills according to how often the moon orbits around the earth. How unimaginative is that? Does the moon determine how long it takes for us to recover and spend again? Personally, I'd like a little more time to mentally regroup, but that’s just me.

OK, I’m seeing a pattern that there could be an overwhelmingly greater number of things that don’t make sense, so then what do we do? I think as human beings we somehow attempt to fill in the gaps with trivia, and count each piece of trivia as a form of knowledge that supposedly makes sense, as contrived and synthetic as it might be. But if we know it's contrived, then who are we fooling? Is there an emperor in the equation somewhere whose clothes we admire that much?

What if a lot of things aren’t supposed to make sense to us, and we’re spending more time hunting than gathering? What if the chaos is meant to be chaotic, and we’re not supposed to clean it up? What if we’re too tidy for our own good? That makes sense, right?

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Most Cherished of Registers

4 comments (add more here)
Making lists is kind of a pastime for me, although I decided this time to make a list for a different reason than just to compile something. This one was for my own self, not to publish, comprised of all the personal acquaintances I’ve most admired over the years. I won’t be naming any names, but I just wanted to comment on the exercise itself.

Looking over the couple hundred names or so made me realize how many good people there are out there, and how different times of my life have been scattered with folks like this. I’m sure many on the list would be surprised to know their name is on there or that I even noticed.

But what’s important isn’t specifically who’s on it or who’s off. There are no awards to give out here. And after all, a list can be an arbitrary standard to set. For example, I deliberated over several names of people I admire quite a bit, and left many of them off the list in an attempt to keep it semi-exclusive (narrowed down to a couple hundred!). I didn’t want it to be everybody I admired, but more of those who had something extra. And it can depend on the mood at the time. Wistful? Nostalgic? Delicate? Spunky? Machiavellian? Erstwhile? Take your pick.

Some, I could only remember the first names of. And I’m sure more people will come to mind from my past. All in all, a very nice stroll down memory lane right up to the current intersection I’m in.

The list doesn’t include my family line, which would consist of immediate family members, along with parents, siblings and grandparents. Family is pretty much a special category. But extended relatives and everybody else are fair game. Gotta have a little fun with your acquaintances, right? Otherwise they might get stale. :)

The other point is that it’s not necessarily some great honor for people to be on this list, rather the honor is all mine to have known people of this caliber to be able to put them on a list at all. My life is all the richer for sharing in experiences with them. I think, wow, if they can put up with me, I guess I’m not all that bad.

There are people on the list I’ve barely known. One I met for only a day, but they still made a lasting impact. Some I’ve never talked to, though I’ve been around them. Some I’ve only known through the internet. Some I’ve never had a conversation of a personal nature with. Some I’ve tried for years to find again, with a few of them popping up recently. Some I might hear from every few months. Some I might bump into a few times a week. Some moved away and I miss their presence. Some I wonder where they are today. Some have passed on to the next life. Some are quite young. Some are still fitting into their skin and it’s fun to see their growth. Some might not think to give me the time of day, yet I still appreciate what they represent. Some I have no categories for — they just are, and that’s kind of neat too.

Making the list was energizing. As another name would come to mind, I’d think, “Yeah! Got to add them!” And it would make me feel grateful to know them. And it’s also fun thinking about people behind their back...

I would’ve liked to have known a lot of these people better. Alas, there’s not often as much time as you would like to create. Lives have a way up being filled up near the brim, with little margin to squeeze more in. But we take what we can get and hopefully have some time to reserve for truly sharing in the company of those we’re drawn to.

We’ve also got our online worlds which fit into the mix, which are quite fascinating. I can size each of my friends into little squares for safe keeping, send out group messages, check in on the chatter between them and others, ignore them for a few days if I’m so inclined (for all they know, I’ve flown my Lear jet up to Nova Scotia — to see the total eclipse of Mars or something), send them bits and pieces as they’re ready to digest, and just carry on like it’s one continuous party. And stuff. Or at least that’s one theory.

On this subject, in the foreword of a social media book written by someone else, Anthony Robbins had this to say: “Technology has given us so many ways of communicating, but are we truly connecting or just corresponding? Are we adding people into our lives who share our values or merely collecting a list of profiles? Are we deepening relationships or just maintaining them? As much as we want to nurture every relationship, advances in technology have given us access to more relationships and less time to deepen them... Your relationships are as strong or deep as you choose to make them. If you spend quality time in your intimate relationships, if you connect with your families and your friends, those relationships will flourish. If you don’t reach your family or friends, those relationships get stripped of the substance and texture they deserve.”

Some good food for thought there. I wish I could carry Anthony Robbins around with me all day. Well, he’s bigger than me, so maybe on a baggage cart. He’d come in handy a lot. And he’s got a lot of fun stories to tell. I’d have to weigh that against dealing with the added paparazzi, but I could probably handle it with sunglasses. At any rate… I think the internet can provide the illusion that quantity is akin to quality. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that while technology can facilitate social constructs, it can’t very well increase their rate while done en masse. Some things just have to be done at a deliberate pace.

In some utopian dream, it would be nice to be close friends with everyone, where we all meander about in some elaborate ancient Greek backdrop, endlessly feasting on grapes straight off the vine while getting lost in scintillating mythological conversation. Although back here in reality (that jerk you felt was it biting), things don’t work quite that efficiently. Not even if you grow your own vineyard.

If you tried to be everybody’s friend, you’d come across to most or all as impersonal and therefore artificial, because friendships need to have real time and effort invested in them and not merely lip service. In the midst of a potpourri of friends to choose from, maintaining genuine depth in some of them is vital. Someone should write all this down somewhere.

I don’t need to get all psychological about this (especially this late at night). My aim is to put the concept out there and let people cogitate over it in their own situations, being grateful for your friends, knowing that I’m grateful for mine, that sometimes the twain shall meet, and then singing the obligatory rendition of Kumbayah at the end. (I prefer the more rousing version by Guadalcanal Diary from their album Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man, fittingly the final track on the album)

So, what makes a good friend? I suppose there are as many varying attributes as there are friends. Examples of a friend that stand out to me are:
• Someone who changes the way you look at the world or yourself.
• Someone who shows you kindness and caring.
• Someone who teaches you life lessons.
• Someone who is just being who they are.
• Someone who has something to share.
• Someone who there’s just something about that wins you over.
• Someone who you’d like to be like.
• Someone who’s simply pleasant to be around.
• Someone who can pull a smile out of you that you didn’t know was there.
• Someone who understands you.
• Someone who accepts you for who you are.
• Someone who’s uniquely themself.
• Someone who sees things in you that others don’t.
• Someone who believes in you.
• Someone who challenges you to become better, and inspires you to want to.

A friend doesn’t need to have all of those traits — even one or two can be very welcome. And I’ve been privileged to know people who run the gamut on them.

So if we were to make a toast, here’s to friends past, present and future. May we all be so lucky... May we treasure our friends, may we be good friends, and if at some point down the road we happen to find that utopian dream, I’ve got dibs on one of the hammocks in the shade.

Dance Like Nobody's Watching

Philosophy Soccer