Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Marcus Cicero had an interesting way of describing a human being's attempt to grasp and gain knowledge. He said to think of your left hand and your right hand. First, feel the right hand. That is the sensation that is the bedrock of all knowledge: the senses. Second, feel the right hand beginning to form a fist. That is the grasping at understanding, or the ascent to knowledge. Third, squeeze the right hand fist tightly into a ball. This is your comprehension of ideas and facts. Last, true knowledge comes when you firmly grasp your right fist with your left hand and join the two together.
Cicero, like John Locke, believed that all knowledge comes to us through the senses, it is not innate to us. But our senses are configured in a way that allows us to use the data they collect in unusual and creative ways, this is called reason, centered in our brain but not exclusive to it. In Cicero's analogy, this is the left hand grasping the right:the force within us that orders the facts and ideas we perceive, our Reason.
In this light, we might say reason is simply another form of sense like touch, taste, sight, or smell. But it is the sense that integrates all the others when they arrive in our bodies. For instance, when we hear music why don't we just hear a jumble of sounds? What is it that perceives patterns in the sound that move us to tears, anger, love, or war? It is not the ears, they are merely the conduits. What perceives or "senses" the pattern in the sound is our reason, which is centered primarily in our brain but also partly in our heart. This is why our heart rate can rise when we hear music we enjoy, or hear the voice of someone we love.
Now think of a night sky in the country filled with thousands of stars. What do our eyes perceive? Thousands of dots of light. If we simply believed our eyes why should we assume that they are anything else but little lights in the sky? If a dog or cat looked skyward at night and saw the same little lights what would he/she think it was seeing??....little lights, nothing more. For us, a being that is also human, our reason tells us something about those little lights is more interesting than what we simply see. They must be gods, or planets or stars or something. That part of our reason is called our imagination.
So we see that our reason and imagination are simply the same perception in different forms. Our reason in its pure form is the ability to see or detect patterns in sight, sound, etc. Our reason in its Imaginative form is the ability to discern the possibility that a pattern may exist even when we do not see it. Related to this, it is also the ability to CREATE patterns that do not exist yet. This is called art. It is our reason, through the power of our imagination that allows us to be creative, to create patterns......in painting, architecture, music, politics, business, cooking, writing, medicine, acting, engineering, computer science, or any number of human endeavors.
Discovery and invention are the healthy children of reason and imagination. It is not necessity that mothered invention but imagination. Indeed, we often imagine a necessity to justify an invention. We seek to cloak our passion to imagine in the proper homespun of utility while secretly sporting the more garish garments of whimsy and spontaneity of which our imagination adorns itself.
So, imagine this: was fire discovered or invented? Of course both. We discovered that it existed through simple reason that it might be useful to us and not simply something to avoid. But we invented those uses through our imagination. The fire did not create its uses, human beings created uses for fire through imagination. Imagine that next time you are roasting a marsh mellow by a campfire.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Friday, February 24, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Here is a piece of writing I wrote just after I found out my grandmother Adele O'Grady had died of colon cancer in Dec. of 1995. I was 23 so its written a little bit raw but its ok. I stole the title from Proust cuz I knew he couldn't stop me :)
I was nervous. This was unusual because I was never nervous around my Grandmother. I looked down at my trembling hands as I tried to light the match to ignite the fire in the little fireplace in my Grandmother's room. She wanted me to build the fire because light and warmth reminded her of life. I hated myself because I didn't know what to say. I could tell that she was uncomfortable as well. I finally lit the fire and rose to sit by Grandmother's bedside. I looked into her eyes and she looked into mine and we both knew that both of our lives were going to change very soon. She was going to die and a large part of me would die with her.
Every time we had talked in the past we almost always talked about the future. We talked about everything from politics and world events all the way down to how cute one of her many newborn grandchildren was. (she had fifteen of them!) But tonight was different. Tonight the future was too frightening for either of us to contemplate. Tonight we both felt we were at a dead end. This was the first time I had seen her since I had learned she would die soon. The colon cancer had spread to her liver. It was just after Thanksgiving 1995 and I was home to visit my family in Salinas. I stared at the little fire raging and dancing and held Grandmother's hand as we wept as never before. I thought about the central role my Grandmother had played in my life and how this centrality created the idea in me that she was immortal. By her actions and by her philosophy she taught me that life is fleeting and meant to be lived. I remember so many facets of her life and beliefs that she held which were at the forefront of my life and taught me this notion.
One big part of my Grandmother's and my life together was travel. She and I traveled widely together. Both my mom and dad have MS and usually are physically unable to travel so my Grandmother would take me about to various spots of the world. One trip in particular I remember most vividly. It was in July 1984 to Washington DC. I remember my older brother Mike and three of my cousins Caitlin, Nicole, and Troy also came along. I was eleven and extremely excited because it was my first trip to the east coast. The city was sweltering hot and alive with blooming color splashed in brilliant sunshine. My young mind and imagination were ignited by what I saw. I had always been interested in history and politics but this trip brought my interest to a deeper level. As we visited all the monuments and the Capitol and White House the truth was driven home to me that real people built this country and real people serve it. The politicians of today are debating the same great philosophical principles that giants like Jefferson, Hamilton, and Lincoln debated. Issues involving justice are timeless and constant. The trip showed me the common threads throughout the history of our great country. Most importantly it instilled in me the belief that I could help shape the history of the country, that I could have an impact. I still believe this today.
Another way that Grandmother shaped my life were the family get-togethers at her home. The biggest of these were on Christmas. Being in Grandmother's house around Christmas was being in a cocoon of light, warmth, and love. On Christmas Eve all of us would have dinner at her house. My Grandmother always cooked in bulk. She had a huge kitichen and she utilized every nook and corner of it. There was not just one entree but three:prime rib, ham or turkey. There was not just one kind of bread but three:white, rye, or wheat. To top it off there was not just one luscious pie but many:pumpkin, strawberry, chocolate etc....just in case we were not full....(well, we've always had cholesterol problems!) During dinner our volatile, tumultuous, yet somehow happy family would sit around some large tables and stuff ourselves like Greek epicureans. There would be myself, my brother, and my mom and dad at one part of the table. Then there would be my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Mike and my cousins Troy, Nicole and Shane at another part. In another corner would be my Uncle Tom and Aunt Deidre and cousins Megan and Annalise. As well at the table would sit my Uncle Pat and their wives and ex-wives Jenny, Vicky, Patricia, Jenny, and Jeanne (like a mafia family, one can marry in but never really leave :) and their eight children between them.
Presiding over this wacky, boisterous clan my Grandmother ensured all got enough to eat and especially drink....we are Irish AND Hungarian. After dinner we would waddle to the massive living room and listen to my dad or Tim play the piano, light a fire or just sit around and tell dirty, raunchy jokes for a few hours. (we kicked out the Puritans long ago :) The next morning on Christmas the living room would be sheer bedlam as every greedy O'Grady raced to tear open the gifts under the tree. The floor looked like a confetti parade just passed. Often some of us would go to the backyard and play nerf football on the lawn. These family parties were my Grandmother's reason for being. She was exultant and proud of her family. She loved all of us and we loved her. That love bound us together as a family. We all pulled for one another and knew someone gave a damn about us and wanted us to succeed in life.
My Grandmother was central to my life as well through her guiding philosophy. She instilled in her children and grandchildren a belief in boundless opportunity. There was no excuse for failure in life and she expected and knew that all of us would succeed by having goals and purpose. She wanted me to use the boundless opportunities I was given to fulfill my own expectations. I know that I will never live up to all those expectations but I will always try to because of what my Grandmother taught me.
As I sat that night next to Grandmother's bedside I thought of these things and many more. We didn't say a word to each other, we just squeezed hands and watched the fire dance until it waned to embers. I let go of Grandmother's hand and raised up and kissed her on the cheek and told her that I loved her. She said that she loved me too and to never forget that. I gave her hand a final squeeze and she gave me a knowing, caring smile. My Grandmother, Adele O'Grady, died two weeks later in the same bed.
My Grandmother was a central figure in my life for twenty-three years. She was a steadfast rock in the roiling waters of my life. She was a harbor of refuge. But with her death I finally realized what I know she tried to teach me by her life. Every thought counts, every smile, every laugh, every hug or cry. Every moment in this tumultuous, exhilarating, sunburst of light we call life, counts.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Friday, February 10, 2012
This is an excellent synopsis of the current broad economic crisis simmering in the US and outside it. If you want to cut the intro crap, the lecture starts 8 minutes in..... Would you want to be President at the end of this year or in 2013?? Good luck BHO, Mittens, Rick Saintorum or F Newton.....lots of luck, gonna need it....plus about 10 trillion more worthless, inflated dollars :) To sum up.....we are up the Creek of Defecation :( this lecture was in 2010...and no kiddies the situation has not improved....the debts are about 20% higher actually because derivatives have continued to explode upward...the bomb is increasing its yield. Its only a matter of when it goes off.....
This video encapsulates into 3 minutes just about all that many of us find enraging about the current culture and state of affairs in the country using criticism of the TSA's violation of the 4th amendment as a starting point. Got news for ya....we aren't just a bunch of legalize Marijuana people (although that would be nice :) We read.....and we think.....and we argue back now.....and we increasingly VOTE.....this is social satire no doubt but there are serious arguments and thoughts behind it....just calling people names is not an argument and won't cut it anymore....fight our ideas, if they are so easy to refute you will eventually win.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
I like this because its not some focus group where people tell the puffed up bloated millionaire moderator what they think they are supposed to say or some BS about what "feeling" they get when they look into Willard Romney's eyes or whatever bullshit. This is straight from the people.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
The beginning of the war is not being televised.
Language, like any other technology, is shaped by its use. Used mindlessly and thoughtlessly it will cease to enhance thought but will truncate, limit, and inhibit it.....so baby let the words flow from your mouth and pen and keyboard!!! :) and if you run out of words then rip the Face off of FaceBook and expand your vocabulary including my own :)
Sunday, February 5, 2012
A short informal talk on the Decline Theory of History and its relevance to the world today. The quote I mention at the end is from Herodotus in his "Histories" not from Thucydides in "The Pelopennesian War" (Thucydides was more practical :) but the point is the same.