Posts Tagged ‘philosophy

30
Dec
09

Time and Life Part Four: Seamless but Marked

I was struck by two seemingly contradicting definitions of time:

a. A nonspatial continuum in which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future

b. An interval separating two points on this continuum

The first definition talks about a continuum, which means “a continuous extent, succession, or whole, no part of which can be distinguished from neighboring parts except by arbitrary division,” while the second mentions an interval or separator. Ah, time. Continuous but divisible, seamless but marked. Now come to think of it, we can theoretically mark time by the infinitesimal fraction of the second to end up with the continuum again.

I read somewhere about how change in the life of a subatomic particle or the sun hardly matters to a human, because one is too fast and the other too slow to affect him or her. Conversely, the changes in the life of a person are insignificant as far as the sun or the subatomic particle is concerned. As such, I guess change only matters if we can practically observe it.

Like the changes that happen in a year of one’s life. Certain events must have occurred that are significant enough to be noticed. If these changes turn out to be generally desirable then we can say it was a good year. If not, perhaps it’s possible to zoom out to include a wider scope and see if it was a relatively good half-decade. Or to look through the seasons and into the days. Surely there must be moments worth remembering, memories we can feed on during times when life doesn’t seem so good. After all, it’s just a matter of how we mark time.

Happy new year!

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06
Nov
09

Time and Life Part Two: Slipping Through My Fingers

In Part One we took an impersonal approach on time and life so this time we’ll try to add a little emotion. I’ll do my best not to sound too cheesy though, just enough that the guys would suffer through it while making the ladies smile. Okay, here it goes.

A few days ago I heard the song Slipping Through My Fingers by Abba. Now I’m not going to talk about the movie Mamma Mia lest the guys start packing but rather about the lines from the song and how they relate to time and life.

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while

Ah, a mother watches her young daughter leave for school every morning and gets a bittersweet pinch in the chest each time.

The feeling that I’m losing her forever
And without really entering her world
I’m glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl

I guess sooner or later we will lose everything forever, every single thing dear to us. With this we should be grateful for every shared blessing and cherish it as much as we can even if we cannot really enter our loved one’s world.

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it

Nostalgic as this may already seem, how sad it would be if these experiences never happened at all, or if one is unable to connect with her own daughter:

Do I really see what’s in her mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
She keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

But do we really need to see what’s in a loved one’s mind? To you freethinkers out there, did you love your parents less when you became ‘enlightened’ and you started to think of them as less enlightened than you? Of course you’d love them more if they opened their minds, but just because they didn’t when you did doesn’t mean you loved them less.

Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake, I let precious time go by
Then when she’s gone there’s that odd melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt I can’t deny

Hmmm…breakfast is a wonderful time for bonding but unfortunately both mother and daughter still have their minds dozing in dreamland, and it is only when one has left that the other realizes what was just permanently lost.

What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
Well, some of that we did but most we didn’t
And why I just don’t know

Ah, the could have beens. It is often said that regrets on the things we did can be healed by time, but regrets on the things we did not do will haunt us forever. Mark Twain said something similar to that.

At this point the chorus about trying to capture every minute is repeated. Surely there will be moments really worth capturing – by engraving them in vivid memory or by literally taking a picture – to preserve and immortalize them, as the song’s last lines suggest:

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time

Ah, time. It does things to us, to life. Life is at the mercy of time. And while life is personal and always longing for itself, time is neutral and unforgiving. However, life is also a cycle of birth and death, and linear time is needed to keep this cycle going.

With the psychological arrow of time we remember the past but not the future. And with this time has a given us a very generous gift: memories. And although life cannot survive the funny tricks of time, our memories often do.

inner minds


25
Oct
09

As The Mind Speaks

There are two ways to write (actually there could be more but I only know two): structured and streams of consciousness. Structured means the writer already has the key points – the plot – in his/her mind, and all he/she has to do is fill in the gaps and make the necessary connections. Streams of consciousness, on the other hand, means writing in real time along with the thought process, narrating the thought even as it is forming in the writer’s mind. And with this the writer doesn’t know how the story will develop and especially how it will end. It just goes.

Right now I’m going with streams of consciousness because I don’t have much points in my head. Well I guess the points will just flow as the fingers hit the keys one by one, somehow independent from the conscious mind. I guess here’s one point: a seemingly empty mind can still speak. Now the question is, will it make sense? I guess that depends on what it is empty of. If the mind is empty of everything, it will not make sense if it speaks at all. But with a mind merely clear of distractions and prominent thoughts, one can reach into its deepest recesses and uncover buried treasures. Now the trick is to make sure the treasures don’t fall off on the way to the surface, otherwise it will only be very old dirt coming out of the elevator shaft.

Now what buried treasure could there be left in a mind that has already spoken quite a few times? Let’s see. Ah! How about this: I think the buried-treasure analogy can be augmented with a seed-tree metaphor. Bits of information (seeds) are planted in the brain and they grow into trees of wisdom that often intertwine with one another. This way there will be a renewable source of ideas.

Ah, ideas. One cannot easily force them to take form. Sometimes they start off as small and very fragile sparks that hover just above the floor of unconsciousness. Somehow they need to stay low for a while as they try to grow into steady flames able to withstand the winds of criticism at higher altitudes. Every once in a while an idea gets so refined that it attains the status of an ember where criticism can no longer douse it but fans it into a fire instead.

On the other hand, there are many ideas that should have been quickly extinguished with a single blow of reason. Sometimes, however, the mind itself acts as a barrier to protect these faulty ideas, nurturing them into powerful zombie-like ideologies that just wouldn’t die. These zombies even succeed in biting living human minds and turning them into zombies. Then one day the zombies become the majority, and those individuals who attempt to rise above them are in for some trouble.

Gah! I really find it disturbing when I let my mind wander into streams of consciousness mode and it ends up in an allegory of some controversial topic. I guess I’ll shut up now and try to dig another treasure next time. inner minds

12
Oct
09

Time and Life

What is time? Does it exist beyond the beginning and end of our universe? From the point of view of the universe there was no time ‘before’ it expanded from a singularity and there will be no time ‘after’ it collapses back into a singularity (that is, if it collapses back). But what about from a hypothetical point of view ‘outside’ the universe? Is there ‘time beyond time’? Ah, things too heavy to ponder on a Monday evening. How about we set that aside for now and shift to something more within our purview. Let’s talk about life – and ‘time beyond life’.

About 14 billion years ago, time began along with the Big Bang. That means we never existed for 14 billion years as far as the universe is concerned. We were practically dead. But then we are born and we live. And at the end of our lives we will become exactly what we were for the past 14 billion years: non-existent. Or will we?

While the term universe is often confused with space, it actually means space and time or the totality of space and time from the Big Bang to whatever scenario the universe ends up to. The universe isn’t just the entire space at this very moment in time; it is the entire space for all the time it exists (note the present tense exists – the universe is present at every minute of its life). And so even after we die, as far as the universe is concerned we will always exist at a certain point in time and space. Points actually, one point for every infinitesimal fraction of every second of our lives.

But then the point is, as far as we are concerned we cease to exist after we die, unless there is indeed life after death. But if there is none, then those we leave behind – our surviving families, friends, and those whose lives we’ve touched – their memories of us will be the only witnesses to our existence. And after they too will all be gone, only the universe will have a record that we once lived.

And if the universe would one day cease to exist, I wonder if there is something beyond to observe all the events from the universe’s birth to its death, capturing the universe’s life and every life it supported – and how each of those lives struggled for survival, evolved, and lived; each joy and each suffering, each triumph and each defeat – immortalizing everything in a ‘time beyond time’. inner minds

01
Oct
09

What It Means To Be A Storyteller

Storytelling is one form of art that transcends medium. Whether in books, ballads, plays, or movies – even in sculptures, photographs or paintings – someone is telling a story. Someone is talking of life. Not Life on a grand scale but life in bits and pieces; seemingly mundane moments that give us glimpses of a bigger picture. Fleeting and ephemeral, once captured by an artist they are immortalized and frozen in time, lending themselves to be shared with other lives as well.

While different stories have vastly different scopes, the time it takes to tell a story somehow falls within a relatively narrow range. Most books have a few hundred pages and most movies last a few hours, but the stories they tell could either cover decades of world history – or a single eventful night in the lives of two people. And yet a beautifully told story is never a page too long, never a minute too short. It’s just as it should be.

Since storytelling time is limited, the story has to be compromised between breadth and depth. Naturally, epic tales cannot get too much into the individual lives of the characters, just as love stories seldom wander far beyond the interaction of a few people. But the storyteller somehow manages to piece the two together in perfect balance of breadth and depth, the former a background of the latter. And while not every second of the story can be told, the storyteller speeds up time and slows it down at just the right moments so that precious minutes are neither wasted nor skimped.

Imagine telling the story of a certain civilization and how it came about. If one were not to miss out a tiny detail, the story could not be finished within the listener’s lifetime, and so the trick is to secure only the salient points. On the other hand, a story that takes place within a shorter time than it takes to read it has to have something really interesting to sustain the reader’s attention. If every single moment, every spoken word is worthy of mention, telling the story will take just as long as the story itself. Now put every deep emotion, every unspoken thought, every subtle gesture, and there you have a story bigger than how it would have been in real life. inner minds

25
Sep
09

Our Last Summer

We had a drink in each café
And you, you talked of politics, philosophy
And I smiled like Mona Lisa…

That was from ABBA’s Our Last Summer, a song which tells of a woman’s precious memories of Paris a long time ago. Wow, imagine having a drink in each café – that’s practically bar hopping – with someone you really like, and then you talk about politics, philosophy and stuff. Alcohol loosens the tongue and the conversation unfolds naturally. Looking at her, you know from the intensity of her gaze that she is listening to every word you say, and from her quiet smile you can see that she likes what she’s hearing.

 
I was so happy we had met
It was the age of no regret
Oh yes, those crazy years, that was the time

 

Ah, the ‘immortality’ of youth. Living for the present, where each passing moment is all that matters. Carpe diem!

But underneath we had a fear of flying
Of getting old, a fear of slowly dying
We took the chance
Like we were dancing our last dance

Imagine the feeling when you know in your heart that you may never get this happy again. When you connect with somebody at an extraordinary level. When it seems that together you can take on the world. When you could even say something as cheesy as, “I could die this moment because this is the closest to Heaven that I’ll ever get.” And no matter what happens afterward, this moment will be your own happy ending.

And now you’re working in a bank
The family man, a football fan
And your name is Harry
How dull it seems
Yet you’re the hero of my dreams

 

Ah, so they didn’t end up together after all. But this only makes that ‘last summer’ all the more priceless, because it will never happen again – except in her memory, where it is immortalized, frozen in time.

And that is called Life.

I can still recall our last summer
I still see it all
Walks along the Seine,
Laughing in the rain
Our last summer
Memories that remain
 

inner minds

20
Sep
09

Among Great Minds: A Humbling Experience

The interesting minds (those worth the time to try to understand) are those that encompass the ‘measurable’, consider the immeasurable, know the difference, and can discuss both with equal aplomb, like Stephen Hawking. – INTJ Reb

Being in the presence of minds vastly greater than our own can be a rather disconcerting experience, especially if it comes to the point where there is nothing left for you to say other than what has already been said. I’m not talking about technical subjects like engineering and math because it takes years to study those, nor of the latest developments in science because one can easily google them. I’m talking about philosophy.

While science derives facts based on observation and math in studying the physical/natural world, in philosophy facts are based on pure logic to understand existence in relation to less tangible things such as beauty, emotions, and the supernatural. (Source: intjforum.com)

Ah, logic. To grasp the unobservable, whittle it down to bite-size chunks and then turn it into a meal digestible by the mind. Here the playing field is leveled because education and acquired knowledge do not count, and all that matters is pure brain power. And here I am greatly humbled by minds that already have logical answers to questions I haven’t even asked.

I admit that I am a proud person in matters concerning intellect. I try to never lose an argument by not taking a stand that cannot be defended while manipulating my opponent into taking an extreme position that would saddle them with the burden of proof. I always play it safe by sticking only to what we ‘know’ and pointing out what we don’t.  I always say that science can only deal with theories that are testable, and scientific theories never become facts.

So when debating with an atheist about the existence of God, while I am a believer I sometimes say that we really don’t know. There is evidence both for and against the existence of a Creator, but there is no proof for either position. Evidence causes us to believe; proof causes us to know. Science, except perhaps in the field of mathematics, cannot really ‘prove’ anything – science can only disprove.

And I guess here lies the point where the atheists and deists part ways. While both rely on science, logic, and reason instead of authority, tradition, or dogma as bases for the formation of their beliefs (note: beliefs, not knowledge), when science can no longer gather the necessary empirical data because such data is sitting at the other side of the space-time boundary, philosophy comes in. However, beliefs based on philosophy are generally ‘inferior’ to beliefs based on science. But for as long as logic and reason are applied, these beliefs can hardly be called irrational. And yeah, atheists (even the ‘weak atheists’ who do not say that they ‘believe there is no God’ but rather that they simply ‘don’t believe in God’) do have a belief too: that either the universe had always existed eternally or was an accident in nature. Now this belief is definitely not based on empirical evidence but rather on…come to think of it, what is the basis of this atheist belief?

This ‘play-safe’ attitude of mine is sometimes the very thing that limits my mind from expanding into uncharted territories, especially when my intellectual pride is at stake. I am quite ashamed of this and I envy people who are willing to stick out their necks, like this someone who wrote in a forum:

The only reason I’m not an atheist is the unverifiable and unjustifiable and unreasonable reason that I’ve experienced God (or thought I have as some of you might want to put it). There’s no proving it – I can’t – but it’s what I know to be true. And to not believe will be to lie to myself. (Source: filipinofreethinkers.org)

 

I had written something similar to this before (I called it ‘Grace’), but that was in this blog and not in a forum. Perhaps later on when I’m more ‘intellectually mature’ I’ll take the plunge into the physically unknowable, where discussions are based on pure logic, and where I have to say the things I ‘believe’ (not ‘know’) and defend them – along with my pride.

Some minds do not want to wander into things that are ‘untestable with current proven instrumentation’. Others are capable of going to those ‘untestable’ areas, and still maintaining a discipline that studies ‘physical fact’. When you go into an area that is ‘untestable’ (I don’t consider logic a valid test, either, as it is a man made construct, and unproven at the extremes of experience, just as is ‘time’), you may find that the ‘minds that will not wander and do not want to conceive of something more’ violently and/or vociferously disagree; they have accepted and clung to ‘I don’t want to deal with that, so here’s where I stand’. There are those that cling to ‘logic’ as their last bastion of consideration, as well. Now, their stance upon the ‘proven’ is like religion to them, and we know how controversial religion can be.

 

The interesting minds (those worth the time to try to understand) are those that encompass the ‘measurable’, consider the immeasurable, know the difference, and can discuss both with equal aplomb, like Stephen Hawking. (Source: intjforum.com, posted by INTJ Reb)

inner minds




Attempts at uncovering the underlying simplicity beneath apparently complex concepts as well as the core complexity within seemingly straightforward issues

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