Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Everyone is Religious.

 Religion is the basic human experience. The only reason one may not think so is because they are not aware of the underlying assumptions we have of the world.

Most people who live in our culture think of religion as something resembling Christianity. They think it involves worshiping supernatural or divine deities and adhering to strict behavioral and moral codes. While many religions do have these traits, the basic underlying definition, “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe” ( is broad enough to encompass all humans. Who doesn’t have beliefs pertaining to the cause nature and purpose of the universe? Atheism, agnosticism, and scientism, although considered to be irreligious, are very religious. Why? Because they have beliefs about what is the cause and nature of the universe. One might object and mention that someone like an agnostic or an atheist has no faith/belief in anything. But they do. For instance, an atheist affirms that there is no such thing as god. Atheism is: (1) a stern belief that god doesn’t exist and that the universe was not created by (2) a faith that there is no god and never will be any god (3) the belief that the purpose of the universe is not determined by a god. As one can see, atheist has its own beliefs and assumptions.

But one can argue and point out that the atheist got his information through empirical scientific findings, not tradition and/or scripture. While this is true we must ask: what makes empiricism a more valid way of getting knowledge? (This happens to be scientism’s main belief/faith) If what makes empiricism valid is the fact it deals with the sensory realm we can all experience, we must acknowledge that there is no empirical evidence for this assumption. That is, there is no empirical fact that tells us that empiricism is the only valid way of receiving knowledge. Scientists favor empiricism because they intuitively feel it to be the best way of gathering data, yet there is no experiment or test which will objectively tell them that empirical knowledge is the only valid knowledge. This feeling that empiricism is the only valid way of obtaining knowledge is the underlying assumption that is taken for granted.

The same thing goes with agnosticism. It claims to be “unsure”-this is the cornerstone of the belief system. Agnostics sternly believe that it is impossible or unnecessary to know about god. This assumption, no matter how reasonable it may be, is still an assumption that is no more valid then the assumption that one can know about god.

Thus, we are all religious because we have belief systems about the universe (no matter how insignificant one may feel them to be) which are derived from the underlying assumptions we have about the world. And these assumptions are inherently all equal to each other (some may being more useful in precise circumstances and for particular people, based on what they understand as useful). Nevertheless all these assumptions, Christian, atheist, logical positivist (scientism), etc, all are of equal weight and should be seen as so. Religion is what makes us human. The fact that we all come up with ideologies about the universe is central to our everyday experience. Therefore religion is the basic human experience. We are all religious.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Love, Drugs, and the Meaning of Life

Most today would say that true romantic love doesn’t exist. They say it’s not true because the feeling of passion and interest one has for another while “head over heels” is a biological reaction that has no real connection to the person. Instead that feeling is created by the idea that someone has opened themselves up to you, or it can be pure physical attraction. Therefore, the feeling inevitably fades with time. Any lengthening of the relationship is due to children or economic issues. Eventually the person learns to “put up” with the other.

So a lot of people are privy to this and they date around for the fun of it. All the while knowing that any feelings that develop are to be ignored and not pursued. What results are relationships that are superficial and shallow, only maintained because of the shared feeling of passion or romantic love. So it’s as if the two persons understand that these feelings of wanting to be with the other are not genuine, and as a result they are doing it just for the thrill or pure feeling of it. This desire for feelings brings us to our next focus, drugs.

People use recreational drugs for the feeling of it. They understand that the feelings they get from the drug are not genuine- meaning that they wont last and are shallow. This is exactly the same case as with love. People fall in love with one another but all the while aware that it is superficial. So one can see how taking a drug and playing the field or dating for the fun of it are one in the same as they both are done to get some shallow feeling.

Some claim that the meaning of life is impossible to know. That may be the case, but it is equally true that there is a true meaning to life. With that said I think the meaning of life is satisfaction. Now how does that tie in with what was stated above? If what we all want out of life is satisfaction then these actions like dating for the fun of it or using drugs are valid ways of getting that. But one I believe is more honest then the other.

I believe that recreational drug use is more honest then dating for the fun of it. Because although the people maybe in agreement about not letting the feeling get too strong, they nevertheless eventually do, causing some horrible and confusing emotional disasters. On the other hand, drug use involves no one else and it is completely sincere. You can’t lie to the drug, nor can you upset it. You must only respect its power to enslave you and work according so that doesn’t happen.

In the end, my point is that if all we want out of life is to feel good, then we must acknowledge this: We can’t use other people’s feelings to create feelings for ourselves. If one wants to muddle themselves up in a relationship for the sake of superficial feelings then so be it. But if they want to be honest about what they want, then recreational drug use is a valid choice.

Sure it may seem taboo and even wrong to suggest that recreational drug use is more moral then fooling around, but when taken into consideration the lies, lack of respect, asymmetry in feeling and emotional upheaval of shallow relationships, one can see how the fact that drug use only involves that one person, makes it a more ethical choice, because any mistake will effect only that person; thereby upholding the ideal of liberty. This is unlike a relationship which has two or more people’s feelings hang in limbo. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Trying to be yourself?

Most would agree that each person has a true personality that is unique to only their self. Yet we can observe that each person’s personality is an amalgamation of several others. So for example, we can say that someone gets 40% of their personality from some person and 30% from another person and another 30% from someone else (in actuality it would be much more complicated then this, but for sake of argument lets make it simple). Nothing out of the ordinary so far right? Lets take the next step. Let’s think that for every part received from someone else, that piece is also an amalgamation of who knows how many other parts, and those parts are also amalgamations- this pattern repeats forever. So any one piece is really not one thing. So when we said before that one person has 40% from someone, that percentage piece is really not from that one person, but from an innumerable number of influences and sources. Therefore, we are made up of many other people, but those pieces are not whole but instead have no definite boundaries. There is a direction from where the piece comes from- the person of influence- but what comes to you is not just that one person, but all those influences that go back forever. So the makeup of your personalities are not from anyone really, but rather you are a unique expression of a specific ratio of influence streams(the direction of influence you get from people) which culminate in your self. Thus, yourself is really no self but almost all selves (if you consider the fact that we all were once in the same small group of early humans) because that stream of influence stretches back forever and to everyone in the past. So that self of yours is the self of humanities collective stride. The only reason you are different from others now, is because the different streams of influence have culminated in different people in different ratios. So to analogize, its all the same water, but going through different streams. The water comes from the same place and is made of the same stuff. It only takes on different shapes and different directions. We can see this in our physical appearance as all humans have the same parts but in different proportions. This is also parallel to atomic structure, being that what makes atoms different is the ratio of electrons they have. So to recap, our personalities are made not from different people per-se, but the streams of influence which carry along these traits from person to person, each self submitting something to be passed on to the next person. Therefore we can understand how we are all connected and expressions of the same basic stuff. So being yourself really would mean to be like many other selves and not just your single self (whatever that means).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Does beauty fill your stomach?

Human behavior is pretty varied. Yet in the end, we are organisms with the sole intent of keeping homeostasis. So with all the weird and wonderful things we do apart from the rest of nature, how exactly does beauty fit into the maintenance of an organism? This is the time when the evolutionary psychologist steps in and answers, that we enjoy physical beauty because people with symmetrical features are a sign of good reproductive health.
So, because people with symmetrical features have better health then less symmetrical ones, the preference for symmetry spills over into the world and creates art, expression and the like? Case closed? I would ask, what about Dionysian-esque or asymmetrical art forms? Even a lot of east Asian Buddhist and Taoist poetry refer to things that are free flowing, without order, or without apparent symmetry as having beauty. Therefore, how do we account for these non-symmetrical kinds of aesthetics? I wildly speculate that there is another factor influencing human behavior that is not explained by the Darwinian paradigm. Dare I say it, something resembling platonic forms but perhaps more like archetypes, that do not stem from natural selection but from something transcendent to nature? Perhaps…

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Who was it that had their head in the “clouds” again?

Realists and Idealists. When these terms are applied to generations it is usually thought that older generations are realists (conservatives) and the younger generation are idealists (liberals). Yet with some thought this is not the case, it is in fact just the opposite. The younger generation is often accused of idealism mainly because they want to change the system and that is seen as an ideal in of itself. However, what the older generation misses is that by trying to conserve a kind of paradigm, they themselves are supporting an abstract ideal. While on the other hand, the younger generation is just reacting to the present world which is more real than any idea of the past. Therefore because of the older generation’s drive to preserve a system which is modeled on the past they become idealists, while the younger generation are realists because they are reacting to what they feel in the here and now.
Who was it that had their head in the “clouds” again?