What is it, when does it form, how does it change us?
Please ruminate and share your thoughts on this matter.
Labels: self awareness
The thing about Free Will is that it's suppressed. Very few people take advantage of this power that resides in each and everyone of us. Instead we choose to "justify" our choices with excuses or influences as though we lack the ability to oppose them.
I resign myself to the fact that there is a contingent of our society; nay our world; which are born mentally defected or deficient to have Free Will (but having working closely with those types of people in a multitude of ranges of severity, I offer this up only in fairness to debate and not necessarily of personal belief) and as thus you can argue they do not have it.
But I speak of the majority and most of them are too lazy, or irresponsible to accept that they control their own choices or actions. The simple fact that there are outside choices and influences that are related to each and every choice or action we make is irrelevant. I am influenced each day to drink water by being thirsty, but I make the choice to drink it. I could easily decide not to do this and it would be my decision, and even then there may be mitigating factors that I have considered in my choice not to drink water, but again the choice was ultimately mine because I have the Free Will to make that choice.
To believe that we no longer have this power is to fall into the category of the lazy, unproductive, and cancerous part of society that is afraid of the shadows on the cave wall and do nothing of note.
There is someone I have been lucky enough to stumble into in my life. She is one of those people who makes you feel better about the world. She makes you feel important even on your worst day. She brings light to those around her. She has been like this as long as I have known her and she now faces my worst nightmare. She has Lou Gerhig's Disease. She is no longer able to bathe herself, walk, put in her contacts, or even brush a hair from her face, and it's only going to get worse. As slowly becomes completely paralyzed, unable to communicate with the world and make her needs known, she will still have her mind. She will still have choices. She gets to choose how she views the world.
This week my someone I know called to say she was raped at the hand of her father when she was 4 years old, and this abuse continued again when he re-entered her life at 8 years old. She suspects her mother was aware that this had happened and was then given everything she ever wanted stemming from her mother's guilt, at great peril to those around her, which was actually equally paralyzing. This is a life shattering event. It shaped her view of her relationship to men in such a way that her step son now needs counseling. It shaped her world view in terms of adult responsibilities that she is once again staring homelessness in the face with kids in tow for the second time in the last 3 years. I can't even begin to imagine what kind of devastation those events have meant to her. Yet, she too still has choices.
Yes, our lives are shaped and formed by those events around us but don't tell me free will doesn't exist. Without free will, what's the point? Without it we are reduced to a simple phenotype.
My friend is more than what her disease confines her to. My other friend is capable of rising above her circumstances. Free will is the beauty in horrible situations.
Free will.....the idea that we can make a choice... seems false to me.
The world is made up of so many contructs, contexts, and binary opposites... it seems we are all in a grid, and that each decision is not only a limitation of everything the world has to offer, but also a mere step into a new part of the grid. Like a gamepiece on a gameboard of the matrix of imaginary numbers... ah, finally the relevance of the graphs in math class....
This grid is a matrix, made up of everything: culture, context, social determinism, evolution, ego, humanity, nature, and so much more. It's all laid out, like a chess board, or a choose your own adcenture. Each adventure may seem unique, but your options are laid out before you and limited by your life circumstances.
It may seem that your choices are your own, but they are merely your scantron answer to the multiple choice question that the grid has laid out for you.
Of course, our will and our choices are separate matters entirely, and it also seems that our will is governed by the same laws of physics as our choice grid is. Each decision we make is a rejection of everything else, and another adhesion to the principles of choice.
We choose from what we know, and what we know is governed by this grid or matrix, that is made up of culture, gender, family, learned behaviors, nature, etc...
And so our will, it would seem, is an illusion of choice, as we cannot create something original, or free of context, and we do not live in a social vacuum, so this will never change.
Free Will is a fallacy, I never win at chess, and I hate math.
That is my answer.
The problem with "free will" is that it is not technically free.
Decisions cannot be made that are free from the influences of God, our environment, or others.
There is no such thing as free will, only influenced will.
There also seem to be some entries missing... again, sorry... if you still have yours and find it missing, please pass it along. I'd be happy to post it where it belongs!
And remember, you can always click on an image to view it in larger scale!
New answers to old questions are always welcome, but they will be posted in between the current questions. Please email them to me when completed. Thanks.
Thank you for playing!!!
Faith is a belief structure. Without faith, your world is shifting and unstable where you can no more trust what you see and hear than an out of control schizophenic. I do have faith in my alarm clock, in my husband, in that the sun will rise tomorrow. I have faith that the tested and retested laws of science are likely to remain the same tomorrow, but the possibility of things changing exists. These are things that my daily living experience shows me to be true.
For many people their belief structure includes things beyond their daily living experience. Faith is an explanation for something that cannot be shown. Most typically this faith is what their parents taught them, and/or the majority of their surrounding community taught them. How do you know that Allah, God, Jesus, Zeus, or whomever exists? Because of Faith.
I understand how people get to this place. I am frustrated when people accept whatever their belief structure is without sticking a probe in it all directions.
Without this probing, people accept dogma as their faith and I am baffled by what some people lay claim to due to as a result.
Somehow faith can be twisted around to allow one us to lynch another, to crash a plane into the twin towers, to accept money from the destitute for a Christian roller coaster park and a lap of luxury, or to blow yourself up in a crowded shopping center. Of course these are extremist versions of faith in motion, but they are supported by hundreds of smaller faith based misguidance resulting from people not probing.
I got an e-mail this week from my aunt who is a holy roller. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if she was friends with the people who were in the Jesus Camp movie. She forwarded me this e-mail...
Subject: Obama.... Life Story
This is very interesting, please take a few moments and read it.
Who is Barack Obama? Something that should be considered when you make your choice.
If you do not ever forward anything else, please forward this to all your contacts... it is very scary to think of what could lie ahead for us here in our own United States... better heed this and pray about it and share it.
We checked this out on 'snopes.com.' It is factual. Check for yourself.
Who is Barack Obama?
Probable U.S. presidental candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama Sr., a black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white Athiest from Wichita, Kansas.
Obama's parents met at the University of Hawaii. When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced. His father returned to Kenya. His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a RADICAL Muslim from Indonesia. When Obama was 6 years old, the family relocated to Indonesia. Obama attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta. He also spent two years in a Catholic school.
Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim. He is quick to point out that, 'He was once a Muslim, but he also attended Catholic school.'
Obama's political handlers are attempted to make it appear that he is not a radical.
Obama's introduction to Islam came via his father, and that this influence was temporary at best. In reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct influence over his son's education.
Lol Soetoro, the second husband of Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, introduced his stepson to Islam. Obama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta.
Wahabism is the RADICAL ISLAMIC teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world. Since it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to down play his muslim backgorund. ALSO keep in mind that when he was sworn into office he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Koran.
Barack Hussein Obama will NOT recite the Pledge of Allegience nor will he show any reverence for our flag. While others place their hands over their hearts, Obama turns his back to the flag and slouches. Let us all remain alert concerning Obama's expected presidential candidacy.
The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level - through the President of the United States, one of their own!!!
Please forward to everyone you know. Would you want this man leading our country?... NOT ME!!!
I had faith in who the audience was and what the nature of this e-mail was before I even read it. It fit in with my belief system due to my past experience. It also fit in with my belief system that of the slew of people that it was sent to, few would question it's authenticity, so I took it upon myself to set the record straight and called this propaganda for what it was. I heard back from one person who only said,
"I really don't know WHO to believe... out of control."
I have no understanding for belief systems that are not put under a microscope, for people who have faith in something because that is what their ancestral line brought them to. Faith without seeking is scary.
FAITH is humanity, unencumbered.
FAITH is a box of toothpicks, and it is necessary.
We believe what we see, what can be proven, and what has been passed down.
The rest of life, death, and the universe is understood through belief structures that
(1) are passed down (religion, superstition, covenants),
(2) created en mass (cults, new age beliefs, politics), or
(3) via the individual (ideologies, choices, meditation).
This is done to bring us comfort, and a sense of understanding of the 'unknown' factors that exist in our world. We are driven by both fear and tradition to FAITH, and in some cases these ideas are needs.
They are the stilts upon which we build our homes, with our foundations and our families firmly settled upon them, where we expect them to remain strong, and unwavering.
Toothpicks. Both as frail and as strong as they are necessary, and universal.
And with the Gods of others, many will pick their teeth.
The culmination of all the definitions for "faith" I could find = “to trust or believe without reason”.
I have a tough time separating faith from reason. I have faith in reason. I also have reason in faith. I have reason to have faith. Remove reason from faith and you have an ignorant child, remove faith from reason and you have an ignorant adult.
I believe that “faith” and “reason” are different, yet interlocking, parallel and equivalent ways of knowing.
Everybody has faith in one form or another and to differing degrees - whether they admit it or not [faith in their spouse, their drugs, their alarm clock, their deity, their insurance, themselves, etc.]. This gives evidence that we are not hard-wired to have tunnel vision to make decisions simply based on tangibles and reason alone. We use faith to trust, to a degree, those things which are out of our immediate control. Faith is part of the checks and balances of one’s internal government. Reason is that faculty of mind that is able to judge things whether they be true or not. You cannot reason with an unreasonable person and it is unfair to have a war of wits with an unarmed person. Reason has become a prejudice for the ignorant, the worst form of prejudice because reason is the only instrument for liberation from prejudice. To believe that we are to have faith and not reason is to have a theology of ignorance. The fact is that reason and faith validate each other.
Most associate faith with spiritual or religious beliefs that extend beyond this life and world.
"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" -- Hebrews 11:1
Faith in an unseen noun or verb can be construed as a comfort and a gift – or dismissed as a placebo meant to lend a false sense of well-being or illogical consolation. Either way, faith exists for the benefit of the faithful, just as a judgment occurs for the benefit of the judged.
“We look not at things seen, but things unseen; for things seen are temporary, but things unseen are eternal.” -- 2 Corinthians 4:18
Regarding faith as it relates to belief in God, some have it, some don’t. I possess it. I have faith in many things, but the biggest avenue of faith that I have is in the love of God and the Truth of the eventual universal salvation of all.
"The Father has given ALL things into the Son's hands" (John 3:35) and so "ALL flesh shall see the salvation of God" -- Luke 3:6
Faith is one of the many internal compasses that help steer people’s decisions and disposition in life. The power and size of the compass depends on the individual and their thoughts and experiences as is the state of faith being gained, maintained, or lost.
I have many reasons for why I have my faith and how my faith has evolved.
I think a role of faith should be to use reason to ask more questions in order to enhance both our reason and our faith, to seek inner chambers within ourselves that are in need of occupancy and to attempt to make a greater connection to that which is known but unseen.
"In the end there are three things that will last: faith, hope, and love…and the greatest of these is love." --1 Corinthians 13:13
My Faith Sherpa is on my right, my Reason Sherpa is on my left. One without the other is a tough climb.
What is the role of faith?
To Attempt to Survive
Obligation comes not from existence
But a sense of self and who you are.
I feel obliged to have some self respect then follow the golden rule...in that order, otherwise you'd hate for me to do unto you if I think shit of myself.
Given that I am, I am obligated to preform two simple duties:
- Recognizing my own mortality I find it my responsibility to procreate and keep my line within this existence.
- I must strive to leave to world in better condition than I have found it. I need to pass this along to those I bring forth (from my loins as it is) and instill in them the skills and talents to continue my program and mission.
Although my obligations, as they appear above, seem simple on the surface, their execution requires a complex set of actions, thoughts, and connections.
However, all those people doing what they choose require a code of ethics to govern behavior, so that one person's bliss does not create another's hell. In a loose sense, laws try to do this, but I think this question begs a deeper meaning, and while I cannot speak for others, I will do what I can to explain what that responsibility is and how it works in regard to our existence.
1. The golden rule is always a good one. But beyond kindness and respect, there should also be a withholding of judgement, and a deeper sense of empathy. Yes, that person can be a bully, but why do they behave that way? What is it inside of them that is hurt or broken that requires them to lash out in such a way? We are nothing so much as we are severely human. And we should consider, when acting with others, that pain is at the root of almost all negative behavior, and I believe we should all try to be more sympathetic to one another for that reason. We all have pain, and we are all capable of forgiveness. This simple concept could change the world.
Kindness, after all, is being nice to someone who doesn't deserve it. That moment of respect may be the thing to change the course of their day, or even their life. Our responsibility as humans is to be kind, respectful, honest, and fair, whenever possible.
2. I try to help whenever I can. I wish I did more, but my selfishness is great, and our culture makes it difficult to do more than work, sleep and consume. It really takes a concentrated effort to do your part to improve the world, and I truly respect those who do. Volunteering, protesting, recycling, using enviro friendly cleaners, whatever you can do, must be done.
3. We should take care of one another, and the planet. We spend so much time in social gridlock that we forget to take time to really connect to one another, and without that strength of connection, the relationship suffers. All relationships contain love, but many could be much deeper, fulfilling, forgiving, and powerful. One such powerful relationship can change your life and you should spend your time seeking these masterpieces of human interaction.
4. I believe we should Choose. Live with purpose. Do not waste the choices and opportunities given to you, but spend your time accumulating experiences, exploring who you are, seeking to understand the motivations and behaviors of others, and moving through life with our eyes up, on the prize, and not down, at our map.
5. Live forward. The past may have built us, and it may hurt, but learning to forgive yourself and others can be the most powerful thing we can learn. So get on it, and get help if you need it, but life should be experienced as unencumbered as possible. Live forward.
6. Support human rights. Abuse of power is rampant, and should be punishable by Guantanamo standards--especially when it comes to politics and foreign policy. Use your politics to make the world a better place. It isn't a perfect system, but it is all we have, an your voice should be heard-- unless you are a fundy or a republican. Then you don't count on the grounds that your IQ is lower than a carrot. These carrots can be executed in Texas. Case in point.
I took a shit today in the cleanest, safest drinking water that man has ever known. While two thirds of the world lives on less than a dollar a day, I spent 1.97 on a casual cup of thin black coffee and let it get cold. I look at my carbon footprint, crushing the earth under the tonnage of my commute, of my casual vices, and I believe, for a moment in bigfoot. The wild parts of my country have been roped off as eco amusement parks, and I have the good fortune to enjoy them on a lark instead of having to attempt to eek out a strained and exhausted living toiling in the soil until my stooped and weathered back breaks under the weight of too many years, and I lay dying face down in the dry, eroded gray dirt of subsistence farming. Instead I may decide today to cook with fresh fruits and vegetables from a dozen different nations, each picked and shipped hundreds or maybe even thousands of miles to me. I may cook them, or simply let them spoil in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator because I decide to go out instead. Out, to a restaurant where undocumented workers will avoid my eyes as they scurry about, sweating in the kitchen, sweating as they bus tables and wash dishes, wondering if they will have enough time to get to their second job tonight, wondering if the boss will try to stiff them again, and desperate to scrounge enough money together to feed their wives, their children, their mothers.
In the absence of these pressures, I am allowed a life of near perfect historical luxury. I have abundant heating and cooling that I control on a whim, personal property, protected, safe, and private. I have, for the sheer hell of it, animals that eat and drink better than most people on the planet, and I keep them as pets for no other reason than I enjoy their company. I am opulent, and this is the first and most fundamental fact of my existence. I was born into a level of comfort and wealth that most of the world will never know, and to this I owe a tremendous debt. What terrible hubris it would be to accept the gifts of my fortune and to not make every effort to use these advantages to transform myself. I have an obligation to kindness, since I have no excuse to be cruel. I have an obligation to generosity and charity. I owe a debt of patience, of humility. I owe it to myself to grow intellectually. I owe to my friends and family and neighbors the sweat of my brow at their request. I am obligated to honesty, to work, to a striving effort in all the things I do. I am obligated by the fact of my existence to attempt in that life to live a life of exemplary character and uncommon strength, since in this life I have no excuse otherwise. As I lay down every night on the soft pillow of benevolent comfort, I know that I am obligated, to assist where and when I can, to inspire, to lead, and to teach, so that the good fortune of my chance existence is never wasted.
Obligation as a sense of duty, relates only to the social realm in my personal view, as it is not a necessity. Necessity relates only to the physical needs of existence (involuntary breathing, eating, drinking, expelling waste, sleeping). A person’s sense of duty is only as strong and as detailed as their social awareness and willingness to serve themselves, others, their world. As a person who exists, I can only speak for my own obligations, as the spectrum of obligations range from person to person and their shades of gray vary.
I feel obligated…
To speak my mind.
To actively pursue God.
To actively love those who love me.
To try and answer questions like this.
To passively love those who dislike me.
To help those who cannot help themselves.
To explore as much of this world as possible.
To work honestly and diligently for the betterment of my microcosm.
To use my creative gifts to produce as much meaningful art as possible.
To contribute to the direction of my country’s government by casting my vote.
To exercise and eat right to keep my body as healthy, strong and attractive as I can.
To contribute to my local, state and national economy by purchasing goods and services.
To be or not to be, that was and, for many always will be, the question. One of the most basic metaphysical presuppositions is that we are, that we exist. Given then, this assumption that we are, what obligation(s) if any does the act of existence create?
Power by its nature must include two components. First, there must be a person or body which acts. Second, there must be the subordinate party which is acted upon. Power implies action, be it through physical, economic, political, emotional or other means. Power then exists as a function of its own exercise. That is to say, there can be no power which does not act, and so, in turn, there must be a subordinate body which is acted upon. It is the presence of this subordinate body that, by virtue of its existence, creates an obligation for the powerful. In social situations, that responsibility is easily understood as part of a larger social contract. In order for people to function together in a cohesive society, the greater abilities and possible privileges of the powerful must be tempered by a responsibility for the care taking of the subordinate body upon which it exerts its force. Power without temperance is tyranny and injustice, which in addition to being morally objectionable, are historically untenable and, in relative terms, short-lived. All societies inherently recognize this, and establish systems of law and order to codify and restrict the use of power by the powerful. In consideration, nearly every act of violence, aggression, and illegality are the results of unrestrained power, power acting without the reasonable restrictions of responsibility. While there is often a disconnect between those who have power and the incumbent responsibilities that power engenders, there is nonetheless a responsibility, social in the larger sense, and moral in the individual.
In fact, in order for one party to be responsible for and have a responsibility to another, there must exist a power dynamic which favors that party who is to shoulder the responsibility. One cannot be responsible if one lacks power. Children, who have very little real or acknowledged power are not generally held responsible for their actions until such time as they are able to gain a sufficient mastery of their environment and sentient self control, that they can be deemed to make conscious and active choices over their environment. Responsibility exists because one party has first the ability to affect the world, and second because he or she has the obligation to do so. Therefore, the root and cause of responsibility presupposes power, and the two are inextricably linked.
Questions then, of the dynamic between power and responsibility are questions of degree. If we accept that power exists because of its ability to affect subordinate parties, that responsibility is derived from positions of power, and that a key component of both power and responsibility is the obligation owed by the powerful to the subordinate, then it must be clear that as the relative distance between the powerful and the subordinate increases, so too does the level of moral and social obligation out of which responsibility is created. Those with the greatest power to affect the lives of the lesser have an obligation to that power. Those who choose to shirk this responsibility are doomed to vilification by an unforgiving and watchful populace.
There are a few basic laws that govern life as we know it. One such scientific law states
Power = work / time.
The relationship between work and responsibility directly involves work. If you don't put in the work, you don't get power.
Take for example the nationalistic flavor that was pervasive in the U.S. a few years ago. There was a plastic American flag stuck in every chemically treated lawn and a sense that people were trigger happy to nuke those responsible for 911. It was just the climate the administration needed to convince the world to take on a nation that had nothing to do with 911 and paint anyone who thought otherwise as a traitor. So we hit them with the "shock and awe" campaign and the grand finale of firebombs made short work of taking down an internationally disliked dictator. What followed was neither shocking nor awe inspiring. There was little put into the grand plan beyond nuke 'em and take 'em down. Now we are left in a bumbled mess all because no one put in the work needed to equal that level of power.
This little essay follows that rule. What I had imagined was more powerful than what is appearing on the page. I did not put in the work necessary for it to be well thought out and cohesive, thus it does not convey the power that I had imagined initially. The relationship between power and work is inescapable, whether it be a little essay or national policy. It is our responsibility having had the birthright of this wonderful and powerful nation to put in more work for our birthright than Paris Hilton has done with hers.
The phrase has changed throughout time, but with each of its incarnations it shares the commonality of being a tool. Although we’ve become most familiar with the Stan Lee version, more important and famous figures have also uttered this phrase such as Churchill, Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy. If I were less lazy, I could pull out the quote from the book of Luke in the Bible.
What I believe to be the superficial heart of this quote, regardless of its form, is that you (being either a single person or a “body” of people such as a group, organization, or nation) have a responsibility to your fellow man to act in the best interests of humans as a whole. In other words, your abilities, wealth, resources, or power must be used to serve the ideals and needs of a society.
It’s a beautiful sentiment, but at the same time it is also propaganda, sour grapes, and an excuse. The true intent of uttering this phrase belies an action that has taken place, or is about to take and its purpose is to placate the masses. Churchill warned us after Great Britain became a second class power in WWII that we would now be responsible to the world with our great power, but you can argue that England’s plundering of the riches of developing nations had ended, and seeing that the US would be stepping into their former role, he spoke from the position of a bully that had finally found someone he couldn’t beat.
Whether it was Lincoln justifying the new bloody new style of warfare the North was utilizing during our Civil War or Kennedy acting humble on the eve of taking the reins of the world’s most powerful nation (and potentially inspiring Stan Lee’s writing in Spiderman) I would argue that this phrase marks the exact opposite of the message it stirs within the masses; that liberties, lives, fortunes, and wealth are about to be taken and consolidated into the hands of the few.
In an age in which we can no longer handle the speed in which our technology advances and we slowly lose our freedoms to paranoia, guilt, and misplaced acts of patriotism I hope that I do not hear this spoken by someone with power.
Hunters search out the meek, and powerless for food.
The animals on the top of the food chain are often the best fed.
Power commands order, rule, and discipline within animal tribes, and in social contexts.
Power, it seems, rules all. And by it’s nature, is good, and necessary for the propagation of species, ideas, and social norms.
But Power can also create inequity, injustice, and a stripping of individual rights. The Patriot Act, for example, as well as the entirety of the Republican Party and their proposed legislation.
Allow me to defer to the earlier question on social responsibility (Question 14.0)…this is not an easily understood concept.
Clearly, responsibility is subjective. In the first days of holding my newborn son to my breast, I felt the weight of the responsibilty of raising him ‘right’—another subjective term. I can only do the best given my means, beliefs, intelligence, and opinions to do right by him, and all of those things might be exactly wrong for his own human needs. But since I am in power over him, he will get what I am doling out whether he likes it or not, because it is all I have to give, and I am in a position of power over him.
Fundamentalist nutters will create more nutters, and many are happy to be given what is regurgitated to them from their parents, but many are not. Does responsibility extend to exposing your children to more than what you know, or believe in? Or is it irresponsible to not show your child the path you believe to be correct, righteous, and prosperous in life? Hmmm… not so easy.
The male lion is powerful, mighty. He protects his turf, and his harem from predators with his size, and his dominance ensures the survival and abundance of the family. His responsibility is to his family, and he makes sure they are safe. But he is lazy, and often fat. HE can nap up to eleven hours of the day, and make the female lions raise the pups, and hunt for the family. IF he were human, those ladies would not have that.
Once again, the relationship between these two ideas shifts…
I think Power is important, and responsibility is slippery. But you shall never separate the two.
"With power comes great responsibility" is horseshit. We can hope all we want that those in power will act responsibly, but it will never happen. Responsibility is remembering to pick up your kid after school. Power is being able to send your maid to do it for you.
I dislike cops, not because of some anti-authoritarian motives, but because I distrust them. I don't really believe that many cops become cops for the "greater good," or that those who do maintain that mindset for very long. At base we are all just people, people who want to live the way we want to live. A cop becomes a cop in much the same way that a plumber becomes a plumber, or a writer a writer. They choose to be. This choice (in present-day society) hands over the moral high ground to the cop in the hopes that everyone else will live a happier, safer life for it. And (sometimes) we do.
Part of me wonders if the price of this transfer of power is that occasionally some dude gets hit with a tazer at a political rally, or worse, someone gets beaten up or gunned down for a reason that in no way fits with the punishment...
Should we accept this? Should we demand more from our authorities? Or should we banish them altogether?
On Power and Responsibility
We all know the old adage that with great power comes great responsibility, but what exactly are those responsibilities? Recently, a young man at a John Kerry speech was tazered, creating quite a controversy. Some thought the police acted appropriately, while others felt that the tazing was an abuse of power.
Clearly, we require those with power and in power to behave judiciously. There is a clause somewhere in that great social contract which basically states that just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Where and how are these lines drawn between power and responsibility?
What is the relationship between philosophy and science?
Reality is created by the sy(mpto)stems of our faith, by the mainaence of our memes, by the keen observation of our wise men, their wonders passed down as by an oracle to be taken as the new faith. How do I know that the earth is round? By the same means as our forefathers may have believed it flat. I was told of its rotundity; I have accepted the facts of my world as a thousand articles of faith, and to that faith I have committed my life. Of course the Earth is round, a thousand trusted sources have told me this, just as I am told that the smallest unit of indivisible matter is an atom. While it may be possible for these things to be proven, the question of my faith in them remains. Why do I believe these things and not others? What grand love of a thousand toothpicks remains the deep and abiding bedrock of my existence? I am a man built upon the assumption of my masculinity, defined by its opposition to femininty, and deeply troubled by the asexual. Reality is defined by the same mechanisms as its maintenance. Our world is known through the relationships we establish with those we trust, with those we do not, with the things we can see, hear, feel, taste, and touch. I believe that cyanide is poison, but I have never seen a man die from it, nor have I tasted its almond scent, pungent with the flavorful odor of death upon my lips. A leap from this and I believe in Japan, Australia, Europe, history, Rhode Island, quantum physics. I believe that E=mc2 even though I have little or no ability to grasp even a moment of its explication. We are not so far removed from Beowulf. Our oral traditions are not so aborignial, not nearly so honest, and no more verifiable. I do not know how my car works, either on a mechanical, chemical, or atomic level. Does this prevent it from starting? Of course not, no more than I am prevented from spending money for lack of economic understanding, or enjoying the weather for deficit in meteorogical familiarity. . The truth of the world supercedes us, it outstrips and outpaces each moment of our understanding. It has been said that there is now more information available in libraries than it is possible to read, process, remember, and understand. The truth of the world is not the acquisition of information, but access to it, and the faculites to contexutalize, order, and eliminate the extraneous. What do we choose as real? Ultimately, it comes down to the body, as all things must. Reality feels right. The rest is only the truth.
Truth is a conclusion
Drawn like a poison
Determined by observation
Connected by thoughts
Expressed by words
(Ab)Used by language
Influenced by Culture
Informed by History
Written by Sides
Taken by Tyrants
Supported by Belivers
Resting finally on the bedrock of Faith.
And this is the pathway to enlightenment?
Conclusions are logical
That is they require belief,
Fundamentally in Good old
“If A and B, then C”
the math of logical extension
deduction, abduction, induction
tools of the mind
developed because if something then something else
always a search for that movement
for that something else
Always this desire to put the period at the end of the sentence
Drive the spear into the side
A demand for what we call evidence.
Conclusions are spuious at best
Facts determined by observation.
Funny that cows and philosophers spend so much time ruminating.
Observations limited by our limits
Limits of observation
Limits of machines
Limits of time and history and belief
Observations reduced and fallible.
Facts are disproven by other facts,
Now we have new conclusions
A new end,
An endpoint a new middle.
Facts as ideological constructs are thus temporal
Facts are not to be trusted, snake oil salesman of the grandest sort.
Periods must be erased
The well refilled
Truth is a construct
Rather than a reality
Reality is thus also a construct
And so there goes cause and effect
Cause and effect is an idea
A romance based on logic
The apple fell,
Not because of gravity,
Not because at all.
The apple fell.
There is no past which has passed
Then which is provable as having taken place outside of now
There is no history
All photos are cropped
All accounts are second hand
First hand having been handed over to the present
And the present jealously guards his time.
If we seek to prove that because A then B,
We will only fail.
All we have is B,
A is an assertion, a guess, a construct, a decision by those in power
That “A” upon which the burden of causation rests doesn’t acutally exist.
A is not.
There has only ever been “B”
There is no “A,” only the assumption of “A,” the desire for “A,” the forgotten remembrance of “A.”
“A” is a funeral card.
We make the links
We remember the dead.
Never because “A” then “B”
There is only “A” (perhaps) and “B”
Because is the formulation
A desire to understand
But I’ll tell you this much is true,
I want to die in the summer.
Your house is on fire, your children are burnt;
All except one, and that's ragged Anne
and she's crept under the warming pan.
Good afternoon. I am your wonderworker, gentlemen and
ladies. Base truth turns to gold beneath my touch.
Actually, I am Theo Giroux, your new instructor for
this lovely autumn term. Before we start, let me
anticipate certain questions: first of all, this
class is not an introduction to the more mundane forms
of lying. The sales lie, the virginity lie, the love
lie, and other lies made tedious by their economic
necessity are covered in Ellen Whitsy's Intro to
No ethical cud-chewing allowed. No barbarous
insistence upon precedence or data. In my class,
thinking on one's feet is emphasized over an
accumulation of debris. Lying is like lighting a fire;
you need only to rub two facts together, then blow.
Like filaments of raw silk in water, the constricted
truth loosens and the individual strands spiral to
heaven quicker than any earthly prayer or cry. Lies
are powerful, terrifying in their beauty. Consider
Medea's gift to the new wife: a golden Colchean tangle
that, grazing the skin of the princess, bursts into a
fireball. Her old father runs crying and the flames
blaze higher, fusing king, princess, crown and robe
into a glassy black stump, white twigs of bone.
What do the palace attendants breathe the next
morning? A peppery ash that was once royal hair, a
greasy smudge in the shape of a human hand. The
golden robe itself lies unharmed, glowing warm;
perhaps it frightens you.
Then go. I have nothing to offer you.
But if you are eager to know the substance, stay
awhile. This is an advanced studio class in
fabrication. Not on fabrics, literally, but the
ability to weave a gorgeously dense, spot-proof lie.
Weave the shimmering lie that is rich with undertones,
subtle allusions, whose tail and head are
indistinguishably woven into the concrete links of
history and circumstance. A lie that coils in upon
itself, which, when pushed, can collapse into a domino
line of smaller winking lies that bear each others'
weight and settle into liquid plausibility. A lie that
can run a million miles beneath the same sun and never
tire, never weaken into doubt.
A lie which stretches to envelop the fantastic and
improbable while evoking the one intimate detail that
will plant the obstinate seed of credibility within
the mind of the listener. Now let's begin with a brief
review of key points.
First, you must always keep a clear head. Lying well
is like counting cards, almost impossible. If you
realize that you are not capable of remembering all
your lies, practice with simple ones and keep a
notebook. Do not try anything elaborate and keep away
So Rule One: be capable of distinguishing between
truth and lies-- your own, of course. Once you lose
this, you lose your only advantage.
The only exception to this rule (and remember that
lying, like English grammar, is full of holes) is the
historian. He creates history, his problem lies in
how to defuse the competing versions of his story; a
wonderful movie you may wish to see upon this dilemma
is Kurosawa's Rashomon. Besides the historian, the
salesman may also, within his own mind, blur the
distinctions but here my point is demonstrated: he may
tell his customer that the product can be immersed in
water, but if he actually did this himself, he would
suffer electric shock. This habit may also ooze into
his personal life and he may make use of lying to his
wife, his children.
These sorts of people are not adepts but addicts, lead
singularly cheap lives, and are not respected by their
The second rule is probably obvious by now: never lie
to anyone precious.
This is not because the fabric will eventually tear
but because it creates doubt in your own mind. The
golden rule works in insidious ways: you think people
treat you the way you treat them. Therefore, to lie to
someone you love will create the doubt within your own
mind that others are lying to you.
And this state of tenuousness, it has been proven over
and over, cannot be sustained.
You go mad without trust. Amidst the vast and rich and
icy network of fish that you net, there must be a
buoy, an island, a haven, to which you can go
immediately and recuperate. Lying is a difficult
endeavor although many go into it out of personal
weakness. This is why the advanced courses require a
mental examination as a prerequisite. We can't play if
some of the marbles are missing.
Ah, but then who do you lie to?
In the spring of 1967, as I was boarding a ship, an
accident occurred onboard and we were left stalling on
the ramp for over an hour; it was raining lightly so I
put up my umbrella. Then I realized that it was
dripping on the coat of the lady beside me so I moved
to the edge of the ramp and thus fell into a
conversation with a tall, melancholy looking man who
asked me, between spurts with his aspirator, this
Who do you lie to?
Rather flustered, I answered: those who need to
believe, of course. He then touched my sleeve,
briefly circling his fingers round my upper arm as if
he were measuring something. Through the cloth, I
could feel the cold emanating from his hand. It was so
cold that I thought he had poured lighter fluid on my
arm: it was the same swift evaporation, the cool that
stings like a cut.
Letting go, he asked, Who needs to believe?
Why did I say that? Many people don't need to believe
in anything at all. An aspirator works whether you
believe in it or not. Belief is unnecessary to most
things. I felt his hand on my arm again, cold,
tapping. He stared at me as though he were looking
through me, then, tilting his head far and above, he
covered his mouth, sucked in, exhaling onto the grainy
Without even opening his eyes, he said, And what after
you've burnt all your bridges?
I lit a cigarette, blew it in his face. I'll find
other things to burn.
He took the hint, and eased his way back to his
luggage and wife. I completely forgot about this
until several months later, when I was paging through
a magazine: it was unmistakably him, though a bit
younger, more poised, pipe in hand. The smaller photo
beneath it confirmed my suspicion: the woman that he
had been with was not his wife.
The name he had given me was not his real name.
And what was that pipe-- a prop? He died so young:
only sixty-five. A man with a bad conscience.
Rule three--do not repeat yourself unless the person
Rule four--Do not overemphasize. A lie should always
emerge as a response rather than a statement, offhand
rather than didactic. The pleasure of the lie is
veering the conversation in a dialectic method towards
your lie. Therefore, it is always a long nudge
rather than a coup. Somebody, give me an example,
' I have a daughter in the sixth grade. '
'You have a daughter. Really? In the sixth grade? My
daughter is a year older than yours but Jeanie was put
back a grade because, well, let's face it, she's no
genius; Couldn't add to save her life. Takes after her
mother, most likely.''
Note how bitterness often exudes a whiff of truth.
Five--Do not appear overconfident. It breeds
resentment. Do not appear hesitant. It engenders
mistrust. The appearance of honesty is an art that has
often been relegated to the realm of naiveté when it
is actually the fine balance of shrewdness and trust.
Look a person straight in the eye.
Six--Always start from a moment of truth, meander,
and end with a factual statement.
For example: Did you know that today is the fiftieth
anniversary of the death of the radiant Madame Curie
who discovered a rare, phosphorescent metal and died
of it? She was born in 1867, and died at the age of
sixty-seven. She is a woman of precision. Pravda's
reporters exhumed the corpse and found her body
unfolding like a night-blooming cereus: her face was
entirely unlined and her nails had grown a eighth of
an inch. Now riddle me this: if the half-life of
uranium points to the inevitability of lead, how did
Madame Curie's half-life of thirty-four years
foreshadow Manja Sklodowska becoming Marie Curie?
Names are fascinating--I've spent the last two summers
working on the Ellis Island archives.
Now at which point in this statement do truth and lies
When do they converge?
Look at my tongue: the Pentacostal flame that dances
on the tip: Pravda is Russian for truth. Truth is an
eighth of an inch too deep.
There are other points, numbering in the hundreds,
that we will add onto these during the course of this
term. Lying is like Chess; is it the Gambit, the End
The strategies differ accordingly. While doing a brief
overview of How to Make, How to Present and How to
Correct the Lie, we will be focusing most of our
energies on examining failure; after all, the
potential for disaster is omnipresent and what we must
do when a lie fails is of larger immediate consequence
than what we must face if it succeeds. We will be
armed with certain foolproof methods of escape, both
derisive and offensive, as well as occasional forays
into historical case studies of endlösung: the
collective amnestic, schizophrenic, and, ever so
briefly, violence in the hearth and home. At the end
of this course, no truth shall evade us unscorched.
And the tourney?
Yes, of course: each year we have a tourney between
our department and the logic department and, as you
all know, we have won the tourney seven years running.
That's because their greatest theoreticians, their
prize plums,--the philosophers--are devious little
weasels; there is no objectivity possible in their
Also, guerilla warfare is superior to organized
warfare simply because it does not adhere to a fully
known set of rules; it cannot be anticipated. I will
emphasize this again and again: Rely upon instinct;
run with it. The best liars are not the organized ones
but those who, familiar with the terrain, rely on
inspiration and whim. Never be heavy-handed or adopt
a logical manner; it is wingfooted Mercury and not
Apollo who fashioned the lyre.
The last week of the semester will be spent on two
things: the philosophical necessity of lies in our
society and how to detect a lie. People shall work in
pairs to ascertain the amount of truth in one another.
It is rather subversive since we are going to now
analyze and dissect our own motives and techniques,
the underbelly of all our ventures into this field.
When people lie to us, what are we to do?
It's inevitable. You can't completely immure yourself
from pain anymore than you can predict the future. In
wartime France, the exquisite stained glass of the
cathedral at Chartres vanished. Once the bombings
ceased, the stained glass reappeared, burning in all
its glory. It was a different sort of miracle: the
villagers had painstakingly dismantled each of the
windows and buried them separately.
We too need only to secure the parts that shatter; the
rest will endure somehow. That is why we must
understand who we are and what we are made of. I
advise you all to buy a full length mirror, open your
mouth wide and see who's in there. I once saw an eye
peering out at me. A tawny yellow eye, gleaming,
A paper, twenty pages, will also be due at the end of
the term, and the topics will be discussed with your
preceptors. Any more questions?
Well then, let's end with a game of darts to see what
you've retained from your last quarter with Prof.
1. If you are Theban and I am not, which of us is
2. What are the three forked and unforked lies in our
3. In your expert opinion, who is the father of lies?
4. Is the examined life worth living? What role do
axiomatic lies play in this statement?
5.What is the relation of lying and truth to
happiness? Which is nearer?
6. Are lies undoable?
7. Are lies remarkable?
8. Is trust expendable or can we burn it like a dollar
9. Is it necessary to conserve our lies or is the
10. How could you lie to me like this? What have I
done to you?
When you've finished, hand in the papers to the person
right of you. If you are the person at the farthest
right, gather the papers and place them on the ledge
of the window. Let the breeze fan these oracles onto
We shall meet again on Wednesday. It is wan autumn
itself, and no Indian summer. Already autumn. Really
lovely weather, too lovely to stay inside. Class will
be held outdoors beneath the riotous foliage. I shall
not be present. Attendance is not required. You are
on your own. The tangibility of lies nets the
intangibility of desires. Go now. I am going to go
lie down in the next room. I am feeling sick at heart,
collapsible. It's the weather, the violent change in
the leaves; everything is gold and yellow--it's
barbaric, unsettling. The barometer says a storm is
stirring; I can feel it in the moistness, in the wind;
I can see a blackness in the sky blotting out the
blue, extinguishing the sun. This morning, my
physician saw dark clouds as well: on my X-rays, the
backbone appeared as a white fusion of molten glass
from which ribs pulled outwards and curved into a
fragile, unearthly cathedral of light. But above, an
enormous black stain smeared the plate: this was my
Why is it so dark? I asked.
The radiologist shrugged: Sometimes it is, sometimes
it isn't. I tap my lungs occasionally, you know, and
I think that I have been exposed too long to this. My
teeth and clumps of hair will fall out, my cell count
dwindle and my skin turn black beneath my fingers;
truth, repelled by my cynical exterior, is now gnawing
me hollow. I have here in my pocket the perfect
specimen of a nut: large, brown, glossy, but, when I
crack it open, look: nothing but a giant, pasty grub:
Is truth ever bearable? Shall we give it a go? Let's
use the example of the daughter again: I lost my
daughter yesterday. I lied to her. It was a terrible
mistake. Is this believable? It's worthless as it is:
it needs more texture, more cruelty, a touch of viva
voce from which it springs up as searing as the moment
when one first sees, in the face of one beloved, the
childish features that have long laid dormant: a
wavering, singed smile.
I'll tell you about my daughter. Last Saturday, I come
home from work and I catch her on her way out: she's
dressed up in a fringed skirt, pearly pink lipstick
and drop earrings; the earrings are her mother's. Her
hair is newly cut at a slant. How do I look? she asks.
You look -- I venture, then drop my voice, exhaling
softly. Why? Perhaps it's the earrings: I'm under a
spell and I do things against my will. Or perhaps it's
simply my nature; it's what I do well.
Stop it, she screams, You're trying to make me crazy
aren't you? Why can't you ever say anything nice to
me? You probably drove her crazy too. You think I'm
going to run away, don't you? Why don't you just say
it? You hate me. Just say it. I hate you too. I wish
you were dead.
It's not true, I say quickly, Don't be angry. I love
you. I just -- can't help it. It's what I am.
What is the relation of lying and truth to happiness?
Which is nearer?
I reach out to still her, to calm her, to shut her up,
to still her dry heaves and hiccuping. The neighbors
call. I don't say anything and eventually they hang
up. She's stopped crying. Already there is a silence,
a sudden drop in temperature.
Do you want to know what happened?
The moisture of her breath freezes into a glittering,
suspended mass of metallic flecks, and her hair
stiffens into dense clumps of shining wire. Gold
rivets her spine and she stands upright, solid, limbs
outstretched in a dull, reflective sheen. Her
breathing comes quick and shallow. A whimper. And then
it's over. Various doctors have examined her; they
took samples, careful shavings. An allergic reaction
to loss? Haemorrhage? Jewelers are already offering
But there is still hope: her arm moves
imperceptibly--a few degrees each hour. This morning,
I heard her sneeze, pause, then sneeze again. Last
night, as I carried her up to the second floor, I saw
that her skin had a rosy incandescence: just as there
veins of gold in the earth, there were veins of blood
discernable beneath the gold. The metal was warm to
An afterglow trailed behind us, encrusting the carpet
and stairs with a thin river of light that pooled at
the foot of her bed. I leaned over and cupped my hands
in this pool. My fingers glistened but the light pulls
away. When I put my head down to drink; the river
vanishes, the lights go out. For a few seconds, I saw
her shaky amber outline, then a thick unbreathable
blackness filled the room. I was suffocating; on all
fours, I found my way to the door, then to the stairs
then to the entrance where I lit a match and another,
to watch the boards rippling in a reddish heat,
turning into gold for hours and hours.
One, two, three--
Snap out of it.
I have no daughter.
How do you define reality?
He stood behind Adolf with the baton in his hand. This was the moment, and yet he hesitated. He had killed hundreds of people for money; he had even killed several in the flux. However, he had never killed anyone this important, anyone so integral to the collective consciousness, anyone so viciously evil.
It was against the law to alter in the flux. Time guardians traveled throughout history, hoping to stop any activity that could lead to a radical change in the future. He had been traveling in the flux for twenty years though, and he had ways to deceive the guardians. Killing someone in the flux led to your own erasure, they would travel back and poison your parents to prevent your birth. He did not fear this in the least, and this did not make him pause.
He was an assassin, and he was paid well to exterminate people. He would always avoid the reasons why the person was being killed, the reason didn’t matter. He didn’t try to justify his work; it was just a job to him. Instead he would throw out that portion of the dossier, it just made his job harder if he got to know them.
But there he stood, masquerading as a prison guard in the year 1923. He was alone with the future fuehrer and would be able to kill him in seconds and easily make his escape to the device. This however, was not a dossier that he could just throw away. This was the most famous killer of all time, a man responsible for millions of deaths, and a man that he knew through history. One could not live in a world and not know who Adolf Hitler was. It was the knowing that made him hesitate, but there was something else that caused him pause.
The man who hired him was an old Rabbi. He was so old in fact that his grandparents may have been in the death camps. He gave him the money, set him up with an untraceable device, and gave him some parting words that were echoing in his head. “You don’t even need to think of it as an assassination, think of it as your social responsibility.”
The phrase would not leave him. Was it really his social obligation to destroy someone who would kill others? Is social responsibility as simple as the golden rule, do onto others you would have them do unto you? Or is it a more complex shade that uses the silver, do unto others as they do unto you? Or is it more selfish like the iron rule, do unto others before they do unto you? How did this act fit into each of those rules?
One could argue that this is the golden rule; you are doing an act that would help save millions of lives. But if you take this in a strict sense, you would not want to be killed and therefore would not commit murder. He thought about the golden rule only briefly, because that rule didn’t fit with his worldview, let alone this act.
Is it silver, he thought? The world is full of killers and death. If we were to do unto other as they do unto us then everyone would punish those that wronged them. Is this not preemptive punishment? But the silver rule is reactive, not preventive. The iron rule was the only that fit.
He tightened his grip on his baton and thought while Adolf wrote. Hitler was working on Mien Kampf, and engrossed. He thought again that maybe the Rabbi was feeling guilty and tried to moralize his actions by placing it in a moral construct. He nodded and then knew that this had to be why he likened murder to social responsibility.
The club came down with a sickening thud, and continued for several swings. The blood splattered on the walls and on the paper Adolf worked on. His lifeless body collapsed without struggle. There would be no holocaust. It was a comforting thought for the assassin as he faded from existence. His great grandparents would never meet now that his great grandfather did not need to flee to Greece to escape the invading Nazi army.
From a man on the street, black, disheveled, thin, “My man, my man, can you spare a dollar? C’mon I’m just hungry, man; I just need a dollar, c’mon man, just a dollar whaddya say?”
The response from the propositioned, also a black man, heavy, immaculately dressed in an obviously well tailored grey suit, “Sorry my brother, I haven’t got anything for you right now.”
From the housing, sustenance, and employment challenged beggar, “Every time one of my people calls me ‘brother,’ they hurt me. Every time man.”
Why didn’t the obviously well-off man give to the man he so casually called brother? Why did he use the term brother, and why does that term hurt the beggar each time he is called by it? The answer is one of perceived community. Sure, we would all like to nod our heads, solemnly asserting the wisdom of helping your fellow man, of feeling like we have to ‘give something back,’ of, in short, being our brother’s keeper. But the truth is, we could give a shit about our brother if he isn’t part of what we see as our community. For some, our communities are rather expansive. These are the genuinely good people who donate their time and money with jobs and actvism doing ridiculously altruistic things like the PeaceCorp and Teach for America and Greenpeace. For most of us, our community is limited to the loose network of friends, family and coworkers whom we identify with in a substantial, and most importantly, regular way. Would we turn down our best friend if he asked us for a dollar? A meal? A place to stay? Of course we wouldn’t, and to do so would seem unnecessarily cruel and injust. We feel a sense of responsibility to these people because they are like us, and they are humanized by their proximity.
So, maybe you give your dollar to each beggar in the loop who asks. Do you give them five dollars? A thousand? A meal, a place to stay? Again, the level of responsibility we feel for our fellow man is based on how much we can identify with him or her, how close into our inner circle they can penetrate, how safe we feel around them, and how easily we can walk blithely by. There is no real question of social responsibility, only one of community. To whom are we beholden? Who are are brothers that we will keep? Only those few we really see and hear and know. It has been said that it is hard to hate a man once you know his life’s story. I imagine it is equally hard to ignore a man on the same grounds, which may be why it is so easy not to hear the cries of the wounded, the screams of the oppressed, and the soft moans of the desperate.
We have no urgency
Only the frantic hurry of the
The unquieted mute
We have no urgency
We can not make allusions
I do not share your history
I am not your brother
And I am not your brother’s keeper
And whatsoever I do unto the least of you
I have not done unto me
We fear reprisal
But we do not believe in consquence
It’s sixty degrees outside
Seventy two inside and somewhere else it may be raining fire
Or showering forgiveness
I will never know
I only know the news
Reports of the new
The now reported as a when
There is no acknowledgement of history
Every moment a moment of past
I am not your brother
I share only because I have learned
And I have learned what I was taught
I have spent time on credit, with no hope of paying it back
I am in debt
I am temporally bankrupted
I have been tying up shoelaces and loose ends,
Trying to keep it neat
Trying to keep it real,
To make it real,
Keep it under wraps
I am on top of things
Even as they pile up
Reborn and then remixed
I sit upon my gold
Evea as it seeps into my pores
Like a reverse Midas
I am poisoned by it
Determined to push ahead.
I don’t know what you mean.
I don’t understand your allusions,
Your sly references,
Your witty rejoinders
I am not in on the joke
I only laugh because I am afraid.