Saturday, December 1, 2007
The Cost($) of Entertainment: With the salaries of professional athletes approaching astronomical levels, it makes me ponder what can be done to rectify the gross inequities associated with the entertainment industry. First of all, we need to recognize that those of us who purchase any sort of cable package contribute to the augmentation of professional athletes' salaries. In purchasing such cable packages, we are effectively giving the cable corporations the financial power to wield prime time contracts with both college and professional sports teams. And it is primarily these large television contracts that pay for the high salaries of professional athletes. But what would we do without cable t.v.? Good question! Prior to the late 1970s, people somehow survived with less than ten channels. Aside from the role that cable television plays in the growth of salaries, sports like Major League Baseball do a terrible job at balancing revenues and leveling payrolls. Teams with rich owners in large markets have a clear advantage over small market teams. And since there is no salary cap to provide some stability in the turbulent baseball market, it becomes difficult for fans of a team like the Kansas City Royals to maintain a positive outlook.
Friday, November 2, 2007
The Street Light: There is little doubt regarding the importance of electricity in the industrialized world. It powers our lights, computers, televisions, refrigerators, and even toilets. Yet one cannot help but wonder about the potentially harmful environmental effects that the production of this electricity holds in store for future generations. For example, when a person walks into a bathroom and finds an electric-powered hand dryer, one might think that by not using a paper towel, he is saving a few trees. Upon further investigation, however, this person will discover that the energy required to operate that hand dryer is on par with the logging of a few trees. The point being, man encounters a seemingly lose-lose situation when he attempts to come to terms with his sophisticated, postmodern way of life. A solution to one problem only precipitates another problem further down the road. On a philosophical note, though, the street light offers a rather majestic image to the postmodern eye insofar as it encapsulates and symbolizes the effort by mankind to light the ever-darkening path of progress. And as Louis Brandeis once said, "electric light [is perhaps] the most efficient policeman."
Monday, October 1, 2007
Neither/Nor: No matter how one analyzes the mystery of life, it always comes down to choice. For some people, especially those living under destitute conditions, it becomes difficult to see how free will and the act of choosing play an integral role in their lives. Like the ominous hole pictured above, which ironically enough is the entrance to the radioactive waste site known as Yucca Mountain in Nevada, Christ tells us that many will strive, but few will enter the kingdom of life everlasting. And much like the narrow door to salvation, one must at some point loathe not only his own existence, but also every person and thing he encounters. This kind of elemental despair is important for it constitutes the first step in a Faith building process that ought to continue throughout life. When faced with a challenging decision, man should be adamant in saying that he wants neither to make a choice, nor to deal with the consequences of not making a choice. Yet choosing not to choose is the greatest risk of all. Therefore, employ the divine right of free will appropriately and never under any circumstances decline to exercise it.
Monday, September 3, 2007
The Faith of the Oppressed: In the forgotten lands of the third world, people struggle to survive. Seems obvious, right? Well, according to the Group of 77 as recognized at the United Nations, the growth of a country's gross domestic product (GDP) does not tell the whole story. Take the nation of Mexico for example. Its GDP has been growing steadily over the past few years, and yet some seventy million Mexicans live on five dollars a day or less. As evidenced by its burgeoning GDP and seemingly destitute population, the wealth in Mexico is clearly concentrated in very few hands. And although Mexico is not a member of the Group of 77, it certainly qualifies as a developing nation. Aside from these rather horrendous economic realities, the people of Mexico remain ardently devoted to their Faith, which for the most part, constitutes Roman Catholicism. Karl Marx once said that "religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature," and nothing could be further from the truth in the country of Mexico. Sure, a vast majority of the Mexican people are oppressed, but they do not fill the void created by oppression with religion. The Faith of the oppressed Mexicans is so great that it surpasses any attempt at personification. Besides, the secular progressives, which tend to pervade the industrialized world, could all learn a valuable lesson from the oppressed people of the third world.
Friday, June 1, 2007
The Taoist Doctrine of Wu Wei: What is meant by the Taoist doctrine of Wu Wei? By most scholarly accounts, Wu Wei translates from traditional Chinese to English as "without action." Arguably the most fundamental tenet of philosophical Taoism, the ultimate objective of Wu Wei is to fashion the human condition according to the Tao. For the most part, the Tao is the Way to Virtue, which is marked by its steady and unwavering nature. The Tao can also be appropriately equated to the notion of Being, as espoused by pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Parmenides. Being and the Tao are unformed, ungenerated, and unchanging. In effect, Wu Wei is the vehicle through which one travels down the Tao. Given its widespread prevalence in the classic Taoist text of the Tao Te Ching, Wu Wei constitutes a central pillar of Taoist thought. As for the author of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu, he most likely proclaimed the doctrine of Wu Wei in an effort to help common Chinese people understand the inherent value of what is not. Therefore, Wu Wei adequately testifies to the idea that inaction is often just as important as action.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Becoming the Buddha: Siddhartha Gautama did not necessarily become the Buddha overnight. Born in 563 BC along the Indian border in what is now modern-day Nepal, Gautama appeared to have it all. His father was a feudal lord who made every effort to shield his son from the drudgeries of life including disease, famine, and poverty. Yet one day in his twenty-ninth year, Gautama decided to leave it all behind and seek enlightenment in the forest. For six years, he searched the forest, encountering everything from ascetic Hindu monks to the evil one known as Mara. It was during this time that Gautama famously sat under what is now known as the Bo Tree and meditated for seven days and seven nights. His meditations were brutally interrupted by Mara who tempted Gautama with fame, greed, and lust. Gautama, needless to say, resisted all of Mara's temptations, and therefore, reached enlightenment. For the next forty-five years of his life, Gautama embarked on a mission to bring enlightenment to all those who sought it around India. His Four Noble Truths and Eight Disciplines subsequently became the basis of a reformed version of Hinduism known as Buddhism. Yet in 483 BC, at the ripe old age of eighty, Gautama died of dysentery.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
The Fall of France in 1940: What brought the nation of France to its knees during the months of May and June in 1940? Was it poor military planning or rampant political strife? Given the plethora of evidence ranging from Paul Reynaud's letters to F.D.R. or Maxime Weygand's memoirs, it's plausible to conclude that France's fall was the result of weak leadership in both the military and the government. Upon further investigation into the topic, however, one might understand the causes of France's demise to go far beyond weak military/political leadership. Focusing on the failure of French military doctrine in 1940, it is fair to assert that France's downfall essentially stemmed from trying to fight to defensive war in a foreign territory, namely Belgium. To make matters worse, Belgium had declared itself neutral in 1936, as the Nazis marched into the Rhineland. The neutral status of Belgium therefore presented France with numerous diplomatic and political barriers that she needed to circumvent in order to properly fortify against the encroaching German Army. In addition to the various obstacles thwarting France's defensive efforts, the French Army possessed rather outmoded military tactics (no mechanized divisions, slow tanks, etc.). In short, the French High Command was preparing the French Army to fight the First World War all over again.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
The Banality of Evil: The concept of evil is rather banal by its very nature. On the whole, man seems to consistently fail at recognizing the commonplace and mundane features of evil in the postmodern world. In her 1951 masterpiece entitled The Origins of Totalitarianism, political philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the phrase "the banality of evil." Arendt argues that the political ideology of totalitarianism was essentially born out of an unfortunate combination of anti-Semitism and imperialism. Taking this novel thesis one step further, Arendt demonstrates how the second-class stature of German imperialism led to the development of anti-Semitism as a viable political option. In effect, Germany became jealous of the vast foreign empires built by the British and the French. As a result, she looked for a scapegoat to placate her imperial woes. The Protestant Nationalists in Germany naturally pointed to the Jews as the reason for the country's problems. The German Jews were for the most part seen as a nation within a nation. This idea was especially prevalent in the southern German state of Bavaria where the National Socialist (Nazi) movement began during the 1920s.
Friday, May 18, 2007
The Hindu Doctrine of Maya: What is meant by the Hindu doctrine of Maya? Although the word Maya literally translates from Sanskrit to English as "illusion," it surely does not imply that man is to view life as some kind of optical error. For the most part, it is fair to regard Maya as the world experienced through the senses, or what Immanuel Kant would call "empirical knowledge." The knowledge that man obtains through sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing can be considered empirical for it is acquired a posteriori or after the experience occurs. Even so, Maya ultimately proves its worth by making known the notion of a deeper, inner reality that exists behind the world of illusory appearances. According to religious scholar Huston Smith, Maya often succeeds in seducing man by making the world of appearances much more attractive than it really is. As a result, man becomes attached to all things material, pleasurable, and earthly. For if man cannot part with his worldly desires, then Hinduism purports that he will be reincarnated so as to try again. In this sense, Maya can be thought of as a psychological construct whereby a qualified, provisional reality exists for man insofar as he accepts what appears to him as being wholly authentic.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The Nature of Evolution: Evolution is becoming an increasingly optional process these days. That is to say, mankind must engage in a whole host of things to initiate the evolutionary system behind all living things on Earth. The schematic demise of the environment coupled with the preference for profit over conservation merely spells disaster in the long-term. Indeed, we know we're doomed on Earth one day because the Sun will cease to burn. But evolution used to be a consistent and involuntary aspect of human existence. Now it is nothing more than a by-product of mankind's divinely bestowed free will. In effect, man has the ability to choose whether or not he wishes to participate in the unification of humanity's consciousness (evolution). According to French Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, evolution marks an ascent toward consciousness. And the hyper-personal area where the ultimate unity of consciousness occurs is what Teilhard referred to as the "Omega Point," which for all intents and purposes, is God. Therefore, evolution does not happen to individuals but to mankind as a whole. And it's only through a collective merging of thought and consciousness that man will be able to achieve an eternal evolutionary future.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
On the "Land of Confusion": And hence, I ponder, what is the land of confusion and where does it exist? The land of confusion is a place characterized by bitter political partisanship, mass consumption, deindustrialized cities, overpopulated towns, rising costs of living, environmental neglect, out-of-control inflation, and high unemployment. With all of these negative "things" working against humanity, it makes one ask why. Why birth? Why money? Why cars? Why planes? Why trains? Why boats? Why clothes? Why washing machines? Why food? Why drinks? Why music? Why dance? Why drugs? Why fashion styles? Why sex? Why computers? Why logic? Why math? Why science? Why cancer? Why suffering? Why pleasure? Why history? Why memories? Why vanity mirrors? Why highways? Why trees? Why animals? Why life? Why humans? Why fish? Why water? Why recreation? Why sports? Why Renaissance art? Why entertainment? Why hamburgers? Why rush hour? Why countries? Why nationalism? Why languages? Why backyard barbecues? Why televisions? Why shave? Why haircuts? Why Church? Why religion? Why schools? Why jobs? Why marriage? Why children? Why family? Why friends? Why lakes? Why oceans? Why rivers? Why mountains? Why Earth? Why Sun? Why Moon? Why space? Why death? Why Resurrection?
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Why not?
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Why not?
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
On the Eternal Return: And hence, I say, the eternal return marks a fundamental feature in all forms of life! It is a process whereby man will ultimately return to the place from which he originated. This process is characterized by things endlessly repeating throughout time. The roots of such a concept can be traced back to the days of ancient Greece in which the Pythagoreans sought to examine the possibility of the universe as a finite entity. For the most part, the Pythagoreans believed that the universe contained a limited amount of matter. As a result, they concluded that it could not be expanding continuously. Today however, modern physicists like Stephen Hawking assert that the universe is constantly expanding. Aside from the scientific implications of eternal return, Friedrich Nietzsche brought an entirely literary perspective to the doctrine. On the whole, he claimed that time is merely a construct of the human intellect, and therefore, it should not be considered in all matters pertaining to life and death. Eternal return does not evoke the reincarnation of rational beings but rather makes note of the possibility that time will eventually return you to your starting point. When time is viewed in a linear fashion, it effectively shuts out the notion of the eternal. And yet, eternal return attempts to eliminate the distinction between the temporal and the eternal by teaching man that time is in fact cyclical.
Friday, March 16, 2007
On Overcoming Fate: And hence, I ponder, how does man overcome his fate? Ever since the days of ancient Greece and its deterministic mentality, fate has played an important role in the religious and cultural experience of mankind. One such example is the concept of predestination in the Protestant (Christian) sect of Calvinism whereby man is called to the Earth to do a specific duty in life. Likewise, Calvinists believe that man's afterlife condition is also predetermined. In other words, life (and afterlife) for man has already been preordained and there is nothing he can do to change it. On the whole, it's fair to say that man is inherently fatalistic due to the predetermined circumstances that dominate his being-in-the-world. His class, religion, race, location, and family are established by the time he's born. After recognizing the limitations placed upon man at birth, he must bow down to the ways of his ancestors and the workings of the world for they will teach him how to act. At some point, however, man must destroy the customs he has acquired for they will only hinder his future progress. The final step in overcoming fate involves becoming profound. Man must therefore grow down in addition to growing up. And once man has struck this impeccable balance, he has forever broken the chains of his self-imposed triviality.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
On the Consequences of Being: And hence, I say, the consequences of Being are grave! Man must be wary of his actions for they will eventually affect his future state of Being. Likewise, man ought to be wary of appearances for they are merely manifestations of Being. As a result, appearances tend to mask the deeper, inner reality that exists within us all. This inner reality is motionless for it is the Truth and as such it is unwavering. Being is and nothing is not. The ultimate reality therefore is not something but someone and as such He is a manifestation of the divine. To think and to be are one and the same. Therefore, the temporal (thinking) side and the eternal (Being) side of man are synthesized into one wholesome thing. This thing can be understood rationally as a free spirit which seeks to embrace his naturally endowed right of freedom. And when man fails to fully recognize his eternal side, then he is said to be in despair; or if taken in a theological sense, he has sinned. To alienate the free spirit from the thinking Being is to separate the elements of man that make him whole, and thus, man has fallen into sin by splitting his Being into two halves.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
On the Philosophical Imperative: And hence, I ponder, what is the philosophical imperative and why is it a necessary component of life in the postmodern era? The pursuit of wisdom is marked by various obstacles. In order to truly pursue wisdom, man must detach himself from everything that hinders him. That is, man must come to terms with both the temporal and eternal elements of his Being through a systematic inquiry into what it means to exist in the world. This systematic inquiry into the true nature of things can otherwise be called the philosophical imperative. Derived essentially from the philosophical body of metaphysics, the philosophical imperative insists that man must address the fundamental questions surrounding his being-in-the-world. In an effort to engage in the philosophical imperative, man ought to study philosophy since it teaches him not only how to think but also how to be in the world. Moreover, given that philosophy expounds the true nature of things (manifestations of the divine) to man, it therefore teaches him why things like phenomena occur the way that they do. And yet, philosophy remains the only field of study dedicated to uncovering the ultimate truth about human existence. Hard sciences like biology, chemistry, and physics only go so far as to discover what appear to be rather menial and random truths about the larger concern of humanity itself.
Friday, February 23, 2007
On Social Consciousness: And hence, I say, the social consciousness of a community marks the way in which a community will develop! It is a perpetual process that requires much time! People must be fundamentally committed to the societal structures of their respective communities in order for the social consciousness to spawn! The social consciousness is not something predetermined. In fact, it is a product of human actions, which stem from human choices. Every individual choice made by a particular person in any given communal setting constitutes a little piece of the social consciousness in that community. And since the world is constantly becoming smaller through technological advances in communication and transportation, the inherent worth of every action and choice made by a person is becoming increasingly important. Most people would like to think that societies are improving all the time. Yet the fact remains, improvement must come at the expense of something else. For example, if man were to build a road through a forest, he would be improving communication and transportation lines at the expense of the environment. Now it appears that the economy and the environment are diametrically opposed to each other. One day, an adequate balance will be struck between these two entities.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
On the Prospects of Progress: And hence, I ponder, what are the prospects of progress? Is mankind perpetually improving or disimproving over time? And what does science offer humanity that art does not? I say art is the manner through which man separates himself from the things that hinder him. Science teaches man by dissecting things while art teaches man by assembling things. Both science and art are necessary tools in the realm of human progress. However, it is science which holds the capacity to be truly destructive and for that reason, art proves superior. Assuming that man has a limited but innate will of infinite merit, I conclude that mankind is generally improving over time. This improvement will necessarily entail an enhanced moral disposition. All rational beings will therefore arrive at the same conclusion concerning morality insofar as their ability to reason will lead to the creation of more wholly egalitarian societies. The type of government required to foster this improvement of mankind most certainly has to be a republic, because as Locke saw it, republics were the only proven protectors of natural rights like life, liberty, and property.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
On the "Realpolitik": And hence, I say, the Realpolitik is the manner in which all countries pursue their respective national interests! Basing public policies on power rather than ideals is the only practical response to the issues of the postmodern world. The Realpolitik gives man a clear sense of reality, which in turn, provides workable solutions to problems facing societies at large. The political ideology of realism (Realpolitik) has been around since the beginning of human civilization. In particular, the Romans represented a prime example of how realism worked in ancient times. Whenever they wished to achieve a collective goal, the Romans simply used brute force. Octavian and his Pax Romana reigned over the Roman Empire with realist policies. And yet, probably the best modern example of the Realpolitik was Bismarck's Germany in the late nineteenth century. Bismarck skillfully employed realism to pursue the German national interest while simultaneously providing a bulwark against chaos in the general European theater. His diplomatic endeavors, such as the Congress of Berlin in 1878, were central to the prospects of peace in Europe. Today, Germans remain heavily indebted to Bismarck for the privileges they enjoy on the world stage, as the country started its path toward acquiring the greatest concentration of wealth in the world.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
On Mutual Liberty: And hence, I ponder, what is meant by the term mutual liberty? It would appear on the surface that mutual liberty goes hand-in-hand with republican ideals. Mutual liberty is when every individual in a community has the opportunity to take part in its civic activities. Another way to look at the concept of mutual liberty is by accounting for the collective free-wills of every rational being in a community. But can mutual liberty occur in reality? Well, the most proper occasion for mutual liberty is in a community governed by the consent of the governed, i.e., a republic. And it is only in a republic where members of all political factions can participate. It has been said that a republic is the form of government which divides people least. This statement pertains greatly to mutual liberty. Unlike positive and negative liberty, mutual liberty encompasses all citizens. It makes no distinction between political preference and social status. Mutual liberty pervades all sectors of society, from the homeless man on the street to the premier of the state. It is the process through which a general sense of morality gets exerted on the widest range of people in any given communal setting.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
On Kierkegaard's Stages of Life: And hence, Kierkegaard states that life is a series of stages! From birth to adolescence, man is mostly in a state of relative unconsciousness. He is ignorant of the consequences associated with his actions. He is inexperienced. He is juvenile. However, as man enters adolescence and continues to grow, he slowly becomes aware of his existence as a Self. A Self is a free spirit with the ability to create. This ability to create constitutes art and it is art which separates man from his otherwise self-imposed triviality. Man then becomes aware of his appearance and how and why it will change over the course of his life. This period of realization can otherwise be called the aesthetic stage, and as such, it's the most inauthentic form of self-awareness. Many people never make it beyond the aesthetic stage because appearance is the most central element of their existence in this world. As for the people who conquer their aesthetic preoccupations, they will proceed on to the ethical stage. This stage is marked by holy matrimony or the conscious giving away of oneself to another in the form of an all-encompassing love. The final stage of life is one of Faith. Few people enter the true Faith stage because it entails holding oneself up to the scrutiny of God just prior to death.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
On the American Dream: And hence, I ponder, what is meant by the American Dream? Is it more of an ideal or a reality? For most Americans, the Dream contains a threefold purpose relating to economics, politics, and society. With economics, Americans wish to attain a level of comfort through financial stability. In many ways, the economic side of the Dream embodies the notion of what it means to be an American, and thus, it serves as the most important element. This claim can be made because without financial stability, the political and social meanings of the Dream become less pertinent. No man is going to think about abstract concepts like equality and liberty unless he first has food in his belly and a roof over his head. And therefore, economics remains the most fundamental interest of all Americans aspiring to capture a little piece of the Dream. Jefferson first constituted the Dream in the Declaration of Independence. Yet when one considers the 'peculiar' institution of slavery and its lingering vestiges (Jim Crow), the Dream loses its potency. It would take the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. to reconstitute the Dream for both the 19th and 20th centuries respectively.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
On Historical Antiquity: And hence, I say, historical antiquity has taught postmodern man many valuable lessons about how to live! Not all was lost when man transitioned from the ancient to the modern. Since the Greeks and the Romans tended to live under a system of hierarchical morality, they were able to fashion highly efficient societies given that the responsibility of the whole rested only with a few. The ancients recognized the fundamental inequality of all mankind, and thus, they systematically limited the freedom of certain peoples. Upon further investigation into the notions of freedom and equality, many people will come to the conclusion that these ideas embody large hindrances to human progress. In reality, most people are not capable of handling the responsibility that comes with freedom. Today, postmodern man cherishes the equality of all mankind, and therefore, he works to protect the freedom of every individual. And yet, the central question remains, how did the ancient values of hierarchy and inequality become so inverted by the time of postmodern man? Many would say the answer to this question resides deeply rooted within the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
On the Evolution of Language: And hence, I ponder, how is it that words have changed over time? Much like humans, the languages that we employ as a means of communication and expression have evolved with time. Meanings, sounds, and structure all tend to comprise the most fundamental changes that have occurred to languages. New words are born and old words die, but for the most part, many words simply morph. The meanings of words often evolve and when the linguistic phenomenon known as "semantic change" happens; the ideas that the words reflect change as well. The sounds of words also change with time and when the linguistic phenomenon known as "phonetic change" occurs; languages tend to diverge from somewhat common ancestral roots. For example, English is a Low Germanic language that broke off from its Germanic origins around the fifth century AD. The last basic area of language evolution concerns the linguistic field of morphology. This body refers to the physical changes that have happened to the structure of words over time. That is, morphology regards the addition and subtraction of various prefixes and suffixes to words as they evolve over time.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
On the Divine Dialectic: And hence, I say, Faith is the most important element of human existence! It is the most divine and evolved idea in the human realm of thought and as such it is so powerful that it becomes difficult to speak of or even describe. It is the sixth sense and by far the most solid component of the irrational side of the human experience. It begins precisely where thinking ends, and thus, it comprises the most terrifying feature of life in general. In fact, most people tend to avoid any confrontation with Faith. These people are often referred to as Agnostics or Atheists not simply because they refuse to believe or oppose the notion of a supernatural Being, but rather they have not yet come to terms with their own Faith heritage. And yet, the meaning of New Testament Christianity (LOVE) has become so incredibly skewed in recent centuries that it is hard to blame the Agnostics and Atheists for not facing Faith with a more open-minded approach. The real question then becomes how to call Christians back to a more genuine form of Christianity, i.e., the Christianity that existed during the first three centuries after Christ's crucifixion.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
On Communal Fraternity: And hence, I ponder, what does it mean to live in communal fraternity? Is it to live in a community where every one recognizes fundamental human rights? Or is it defined by the Faith you hold and the income you earn? For some, the only basic human right is the right to live, which encompasses the right to preserve one's life through morally acceptable means. Expanding upon this notion, however, the Marxists teach us that there are more fundamental human rights than the simple right to live. In the former Soviet Union, for example, citizens were guaranteed a job, an education, and healthcare. Granted, the quality of education and the subsequent job/healthcare it led to were not always up to the Soviet citizen to decide. Therefore, the government directed the individual where to attend school, work, and receive healthcare. By many Western standards, the lengthy extent of governmental oversight in its citizens' basic affairs would be considered undemocratic, and thus, the Soviet experiment with full-fledged communism can be perceived as a failure. In fact, Russia was one of the last places that Marx would have anticipated a communist revolution, as the means of production were non-existent and the working-class conditions were not ripe.