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Talkin' 'Bout the Splendour of the Hoover Factory
It's Not a Matter of Life of Death, But What Is? What is?

I was planning to write about my thoughts on the passage by G. K. Chesteron I read last night, but I'm too tired to do so.  In any case, it pretty much explains itself.  What I would add to it, however, is that there are far too many people today who are guilty of what Chesterton is describing -- both on the left and the right sides of politics (among other matters):

Now what we observe about the whole current culture of journalism and general discussion is that people do not know how to begin to think.  Not only is their thinking at third and fourth hand, but it always starts about three-quarts of the way through the process.  Men do not know what their own words imply.  They come in at the end of every controversy and know nothing of where it began or what it is all about.  They are constantly assuming certain absolutes, which, if correctly defined, would strike even themselves as being not absolutes but absurdities.  To think thus is to be in a tangle; to go on thinking is to be in more and more of a tangle.  And at the back of all there is always something understood; which is really something misunderstood.
These days, there is too much Ideology and too little Philosophy -- with the former being what one thinks and the latter being how one should think.  To have and ideology without a good sense of philosophy is similar to deciding where to travel without the use of a map.  Added to this, one might say that the traveler hasn't even done his own research into discovering just what he would like his destination to be in the first place.

Instead, the traveler asks complete strangers -- who may either be unscrupulous or just plain stupid -- where he should go.  When the stranger points a certain way and says, "Over there," there's no further questioning of the stranger.  The traveler takes the stranger at his word.  The stranger may even offer to give the traveler a ride, at which point the traveler may discover that he has either been kidnapped or has been following a fool all along.

In any case, the traveler will have wasted his own time, which is the equivalent of saying he has wasted a portion of his life.

This is one thing that frustrates me about Atheists (In this case, with a capital 'A'.) They'll often repeat quotes from their copies of The Atheists' Bible which they'll use to argue that God doesn't exist.  The problem with this, however, is that their assumptions are usually based upon half-truths that are presented as whole-truths; and whenever this is done, intentionally or not, deception is the result.

Whenever a person unintentionally deceives another, he is guilty of naivety.  Whenever a person intentionally deceives another, he is a liar.  No matter, however, if the deception was intentional or not, the object of the deception has been wronged.

Here's a common example:  "Hitler was a Catholic," is often repeated among Atheists.  "He was?" an astonished lister might reply, "Then obviously Catholicism leads to Fascism, therefore, Catholicism is dangerous."

But is this really true? After a lot of "trainspotting" of various Hitler quotes, Cecil Adams says in his column
"The Straight Dope" what to me seems to be the best explanation on this matter:

It seems Hitler, like many modern-day politicians, spoke out of both sides of his mouth. And when he didn't, his lackeys did. It may have been political pandering, just like many of our current politicians who invoke God's name to gain support.

Also, it seems probable that Hitler, being the great manipulator, knew that he couldn't fight the Christian churches and their members right off the bat. So he made statements to put the church at ease and may have patronized religion as a way to prevent having to fight the Christian-based church.

Adams then goes on to make a point when further demonstrates the absurdity of this particular debate tactic:

As for your chat-room experiences, well, my friend and source David Gehrig noted that Hitler still sets the gold standard for "easiest rhetorical cheap shot." He related a comment from Usenet that there is an empirical law: As a Usenet discussion gets longer, the probability that someone in it will compare someone else in it to Hitler asymptotically approaches 1. In other words, atheists looking for a quick cheap-shot may claim Hitler was a Christian; similarly, Christians looking for a quick shot may claim he was an atheist. Know what? Hitler was a vegetarian! Oooh, those evil vegetarians! He also recommended that parents give their children milk to drink instead of beer and started the first anti-smoking campaign. (So by the "reasoning" used in these types of arguments, if you are truly anti-Hitler, you should smoke heavily and only give your baby beer!) Better watch out, though he was an oxygen-breather, too! In other words, does it really matter whether Hitler was an atheist or a Christian or whatever? Just because somebody may hold a particular worldview (along with other views) doesn't make him a spokesman for that view, or even remotely representative of others who hold that view. No matter how his madness is painted, he was still evil incarnate.

To summerise:  Many of today's proponents of Rationalism don't even know how to utilise Reason; so before we buy into their belief systems, we should take those systems for a bit of a test drive to see if they hold up.

And should that vehicle ever break down -- even after twenty years of successfully driving it -- it should be abandoned in hopes of finding a vehicle which will not break down.  After all, we all have a destination we wish to reach; and as Chesterton would say, preferably the right one.

Current Mood: hungry hungry

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I have been thinking a lot about friendship lately and about how (if all goes the way it should) even though our visible bodies may be deteriorating slowly as time goes by, our souls should be growing more and more beautiful; and the latter is what is more important of the two.

It, to put it into academic philosophical terms, is a matter of form and content. While our bodies may represent the form into which our souls are poured -- the cup, if you will -- our souls represent the wine in the cup.

This made me think of a beautiful song by Richard Thompson which I've written about before. It's beautifully minimalistic, and I've reproduced my entry on the subject unedited below:

[from 13 Apr 2005]
Before I go to sleep, I can't help but post the lyrics of one of Richard Thompson's new songs. As I've mentioned before, I think that the definition of poetry is doing a lot with the least. I used to be into the epic, but now I'm really into minimalism.

'First Breath' is a beautifully mournful song; and since most of the lines contain only two words, more emphasis is placed upon those two or three words as Thompson slowly sings them out over the 4/4 time.

First Breath

Let's love
What's left.
Last dance,
First breath.

New friends
Hard won;
Old hearts
Shine on.

The frost is cruel
And fades the sign
On that little place
That I call mine.

Let's love
What's left
Like new born
First breath.

Old stars,
New shine.
Old cup,
New wine.

Sun rise,
Moon glow.
We'll know.

Inch by inch,
Word by word,
The lock is sprung
That caged the bird.

Let's love
What's left.
Last dance,
First breath.

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Current Mood: tired tired
Current Music: Richard Thompson -- The Old Kit Bag

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Last night, I had a discussion about crime in the Research Triangle and how it differs from city to city; and how much safer I felt in Raleigh as compared to Chapel Hill. During this discussion, I discovered that my roommate's friend Kelly and I lived in the same apartment complex in Raleigh -- Trees and Leaves.

Kelly mentioned how bad that neighbourhood was getting and I agreed. Then, during a Google search of Trees and Leaves in Raleigh we discovered that just one month ago a woman had been stabbed to death there with a knife and a screwdriver.

It became all the more chilling to me when I realised that the flat in which the woman was murdered lived was literally next door to my old flat. Less that two years ago, I moved out of Trees and Leaves.

I'm glad I did. I don't know how well I could take having heard someone so brutally murdered. I have such a hard time coping with ordinary life as it is.

My prayers go out to the victim and the family members of all those involved. I know it must be harder on them than I could ever imagine.

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Current Mood: shocked shocked
Current Music: Elvis Costello -- Punch the Clock

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Earlier today, I a co-worker of mine brought up The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) which got me thinking about Wes Anderson's use of symmetry in his works. My co-worker mentioned to me that he didn't notice it and asked me where it was used.

"Where? How about in virtually the whole movie," I said.

"Really? I wonder if it was intentional."

"Oh yeah," I said, "One can't use that much symmetry in a movie without it being intentional."

When my friend asked me what the significance of all the symmetrical shots was, my explanation went roughly like this:

Symmetry indicates Order. As an aesthetic, it became popular in the eighteenth century during what we commonly refer to as the Age of Reason. It was a time when we in Western Civilisation seemed to think that the Universe is an orderly place which could be understood completely through science.

After a couple of hundred years, however, we've realised just how complex the Universe is. It's so complex, in fact, that it can become overwhelming. Still, as humans, we need to feel as if everything is in order. It's a tool we use to help us cope with the Chaos of the natural world.

This tool can, however, when taken to extremes, become oppressive. That's what is so terrible about totalitarian regimes. They demand such extreme order that humans are not allowed to be human beings.

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Two stills from Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

One gets this sense when watching Life Aquatic. The characters are in such need of order in their lives, which Anderson communicates to the audience in shot after shot of symmetrical compositions. After a while, however, one gets the feeling of oppression from so much symmetry.

(Notice also how in Anderson's movies, there are characters who place a high importance on wearing uniforms. Once again, this indicates the characters' need for a sense of order.)

While order has its place -- it's a useful tool -- we must remember that order alone is a machine which utilises logic to help us. What happens when humans get thrown into a machine of oppressive order, however, is we become its slaves.

Stanley Kubrick demonstrates this superbly in his films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Below, notice the still of the Discovery spaceship. In the composition of the shot, we see the ship itself in the background. The colours are black and white. Now, notice what the astronaut is wearing in the shot. Once again, black and white. Here, Kubrick is suggesting that the human being has become part of the spaceship. One almost forgets, even that there are three other humans in this shot. They are all in cryogenic stasis, so they show no signs of their humanity whatsoever. They have essentially become just parts of the ship.

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Still from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

It's no wonder that HAL, who is described as the perfect computer -- a computer who seems to show more emotions than the humans themselves -- decides that these humans must be deactivated because he considers them to be unreliable parts. This fact is mirrored in the way that the humans consider HAL to be unreliable and are simultaneously trying to deactivate him.

We must not let ourselves become slaves to rationality alone anymore than we should let ourselves become slaves to the machines we invent. That is why, in my belief, Reason must be tempered with Love. It is the only way in which we are going to be able to preserve our humanity.

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Current Mood: hungry hungry
Current Music: Warren Zevon -- Sentimental Hygine

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