Monday, December 25, 2006

The Falsehood Of Absolute Truth

Another Distraction – Sort Of…

This is again another partial disconnect from the current thread, but it does do much to lead into the next part – and since it took up my available non present wrapping un-wrapping time today, I am putting my full reply here to a discussion begun on One Cosmos. The original comment by Integralist can be seen towards the bottom of the comments on Gagdad Bob’s One Cosmos.

In response to my negative reply to his earlier comment regarding the desirability of integrating Postmodernism with Classical Liberalism, Integralist said...

OK, so let's drop the formal, historical postmodern schools of contextualism and hermeneutics and go back to that basic Greek idea (“… if horses had Gods, they’d undoubtedly be very Horse-like…”). That's much simpler and I prefer simplicity, especially when my understanding of hermeneutics is more of the "gist" rather than the ins and outs.”

I’m with you on wanting to keep it simple, but attempting to separate a discussion such as this from an historical perspective, is to cut yourself off from the lessons available in the history of ideas, and condemn yourself to repeating them. And I gotta warn you, that the intellectual path you’ve put yourself on is in my judgment repeating a doozy of an error. I predict that it guarantees an ever increasing complexity in your thought, by way of an increasing separation from reality, and a resulting need to paper over, or overlook ‘details’ in order to preserve appearances. This is so, because the implications inherent in “Absolute Truth vs relative truth” (similar to what Kant put across as necessary and contingent truth), foretells a course doomed towards making particular assertions over principled applications.

I read in your comment:

We cannot speak Absolute Truth. We can only speak our highest vision of Absolute Truth, which is--and forever will be--relative. Relative to who we are at the time we experience and express it. Our relationship to Absolute Truth, to God or Spirit or the Mystery or simply Life, changes. Just as everyone reveres some kind or aspect of God, they just have a different name and conception for it.”

This idea of Absolute Truth, and relative truth – it is what raises my alarm bells right from the start. To my mind it mistakes the nature of truth. While I think I understand the intent behind it, intention is not enough, application and action are necessary, and there you must shall fall short. What I think that you don’t realize is, that by the very nature of accepting the idea of an “Absolute Truth”, that is in itself an assertion of the existence of static unchanging, and ultimately disintegrated truths.

To say something is true is to say it is true in relation to a multitude of attributes.

“The I-ness, as I see it, is Absolute Truth: it is the only aspect of experience that is without a doubt: I am.”
That was the starting point of Descartes as well, which not surprisingly was also the starting point of the stream of thought that led to PostModernism. But think about what you use to even express that statement “I Am.”.

From my earlier post“Spreading the Flames” :

“The first false trail began with the false start made by Descartes, who in trying to find a foundation from which thought could begin thinking from, thought that by resurrecting the Cogito Ergo Sum, “I think, therefore I Am” that it would be just such a position. What he didn’t see, was that a mind that held itself to be the root of reality, in actuality pulled its very roots out of reality, and set them floating about in a haze of its own creation. You can’t get to “I Think…” you can’t even get to “I”, to the idea of Identity – something unique and differentiated from other Stuff, without first having had experience of a larger reality from which to begin differentiating entities, and yourself, from.

But as the history of Modern Philosophy demonstrates, thought cut free from reality must rapidly lose the ability to Reason with a capital “R” ... These floating thoughts must, and did, tilt into a method which was no longer self correcting, a method which asserted whims and increasingly erratic emotional and irrational systems and declarations, through thoughts wholly unmoored from reality."

All of which is to say that by starting with your own thinking as the foundation for all of your thoughts, is to disconnect your thoughts from the Reality you are seeking. Thinking is relating perceptions and concepts at every level, it is a massively integrated continuum, and the basis for how our conceptual minds function – our modern notion that we can compartmentalize our thoughts, our actions, our desires – is a conceit of huge proportions.

Coming from your starting point, “I Am”, or “Cogito Ergo Sum” you will soon find yourself coming to the point of accepting or repeating Kant’s categorical imperatives – an attempt to declare certain invariable, never changing Absolutes. But the very nature of reality, down to the sub-atomic level, is relational. Truths are only true in relational to the surrounding reality, and the desire to fix a truth in stone and port it about to where ever it might be fun to trot it out, would make it separate from reality (an impossibility), and no longer true.

Because you are then disconnected from the context of reality, which is the only proper starting point, until you grasp that the world does not begin with you, but you with the world – until you realize (“make real” in your mind) this – all of your thought will be cut off from reality. I do realize that the intent of your statements is not this, but it reaches no further than intent, and intent isn’t enough – it needs to manifest itself in the actual action of your thoughts, in order to be… well, true.

"it is the only aspect of experience that is without a doubt: I am.

Perhaps, but it is a result of a process, not a point to claim to begin from. It is based on prior actions and integrations of reality from which the very ideas & words used to assert it are derived from, and which lead a sentient being to be able to grasp that they are “I AM” (that I am), and only in relation to what you are not , and that both and all do exist.

We cannot speak Absolute Truth. We can only speak our highest vision of
Absolute Truth, which is--and forever will be--relative.”

With hermeneutics I don't think we need to go as far as extreme postmodernism does: there is no reality, only interpretations; all cultures and ideas are equal because all are based on nothing.”,
,unfortunately they, the portion you like, and the portion you shun, are both direct and inevitable results of thoughts flowing from the starting point in thought from which they began.

And here is where you give an example of this:

“But are either ideas--that the stapler dropped on your toe hurts or that property rights are a necessity of freedom--truly absolute? That is, are the true in any time, any place?...”

Here is set up the unattainable goal, with the implication therefore that we can only trust in Absolute Truths which exist only in some higher realm unattainable to us, and also the implication that we are only able to deal in it’s poor relation, the knock-off ‘relative truth’.

“(For would that not define absolute truth: that which is true always and
everywhere?). I would say no. It is easy to think of situations where neither is
true. Of course that doesn't take away their contextual validity.”

Here you have an interesting take on attempting to have your cake and eat it too, appealing to both absolutes and contextual validity, but both serve to establish the inadequacy of any appeal to ‘real’ truth, leaving us only with approximations and compromises. In effect, you contextually discard reality!

To speak of truth, is to speak of something being true in relation to something else (many something’s), all of which is related within a wider context. But here, relation and context, do not diminish Truth – making it less than some revered “Absolute”, but instead serve to energize it through proper identification of what exactly it is, what truth refers to, what the process of identifying something, anything as true – Is.

Bear with me for a (long) moment as I grab a relevant quote from another post "Would you trust the liar who tole you he was going to lie to you"

“One way Kant attempts ..." (this) "... is with his extensive use of “necessary" and "contingent" statements or truths. The classic example of "2+2 equals Four is a necessary truth", and that there can not be round squares - because we cannot imagine (hear Descartes echoing through here?) it otherwise. Their
purpose is to trick you into looking so closely at the particulars, that you
miss the sleight of hand removal of the wider context within which they both
reside - all issues of the molecular structure of water and your experiences of
life here on earth, in reality, are removed from your consideration by the
Kantian 3 card monty player who says "But Ice sinking in water, is merely a
contingent truth, because we can easily imagine ice sinking to the bottom of a
glass of water.", as he whisks reality, unseen and out of your attention, off of
the table without your even relaizing it.

It is as if they are stymied by anything deeper than the perceptual level concept. Circles & Squares are too two dimensionally defined by their appearance for even them to deny. But anything whose conceptual depth is deeper than those 2 dimensions, and their conceptual grasp is strained, their mental gripping power too weak (Hume suffered from the same lack of conceptual gripping power 'Principle'? Too darn heavey) like an Ostrich, they seem to think “If I can’t see it’s properties, it
must not be important”.

What that actually means, is that they've divorced their thoughts from having any connection to the real world. They've lost the understanding that reality IS. Things are. Squares are 4 sided objects where each side is of equal length - in that the length of the sides are all properties of a square, in the same way as the properties of Ice are just as integral to it. Just as they like to rip the meaning out of a word, while cherry picking it's desirable connotations to be used regardless of it's actual meaning - they do the same thing when having you imagine Ice as having the "look" of Ice, maybe being cold also, but then scrapping away all the other properties of ice such as being lighter than water. Ice is Ice - it is defined by all of its properties, you can’t separate its buoyancy from its temperature, its essential properties are reflective of what it IS, you cannot pick and choose them.

Whenever you hear them talking about whether something "could be true or false in some other universe", you should reject it outright as the worst of hypothetical garbage designed to divorce truth from that which makes it true, divorcing mind from body, thought from reality. Whenever you hear them start “Imagine a universe where…” they are not only going to play “lets pretend”, but then try to convince you that their conclusions formulated in their pretend world should take precedence over yours, and then even that their pretend world is more real than the real real one we live in. It is the source of all of their 'errors', and their disappointment in, and neurotic rejection of Life, and which can be seen in their art, literature and failed
The point is that to exist, is to exist in reality, which is to exist within reality wherein all things are contextual. A small glimpse of the contextual implications in the statement of a stapler falling on my toe will hurt, is to say by implication that an object released here on earth’s surface from a stationary position whose surroundings are not themselves falling through the air, with no intervening or restraining obstructions to impede its velocity, from a height of 3 feet to fall upon my bare toe, which is also stationary upon a solid surface, un-numbed by any medications and while the owner of the toe is wide awake, will cause sufficient discomfort to be described as pain.

Notions of Absolute Truth can’t cover even a simple situation as this, because it would attempt to cover every conceivable detail, which is always alterable, and so invalidated, by adding or subtracting just one detail – that is the brittleness of Absolute Truth, at best it can be no more than a detailed description of one partial & isolated incident.

This is not the stuff our minds are designed to work with. What our minds are designed to do – is to operate by reference to concept and principle primarily, adorned with as many perceptual details are necessary to the present purpose. Any seeking after, or even worse, attaining to “Absolute Truth” would not be a blessing to the human mind, but a hindrance. Absolute Truth rooted in massive amounts of detail, with no measure of what is essential vs non-essential would be less than a thought, it would represent a state of unthinking.

Thinking, grasping truths, consists in relating essentials only, and discarding the non-essentials as extraneous ballast. If you don't toss them overboard, you'll never get off the ground.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

But Then Again...

On the other hand, I can't leave it at that, it's Christmas Eve, tomorrow's Christmas Day the ultimate day to celebrate being born again from above... so,

Merry Christmas!!!
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!!!
;-) - (-:

A not so Merry observation on the eve of Christmas (and a temporary diversion from the current Post-Series[which should continue tomorrow.]

Cultural Heroes

I take culture, and in our case especially Pop-Culture, to be the representative expressive display of all that the dominant philosophy of the time values and aspires to.

A not so complete sampling of other cultural (not religious, but current cultural ideals) heroes of the past have been Achilles, Pericles, Alcibiades, Alexander the Great, Cincinnatus, Augustus [a centuries long break] Charlemagne, King Arthur, Isaac Newton, Shakespeare, George Washington, Rousseau, Lord Byron, Thomas Edison, Cyrano de Bergerac, John Wayne, FDR, James Dean, JFK, Jim Morrison, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lechter. An interesting list. Selective to be sure, but I don't think unrepresentative as to the fondness of their times.

Modern philosophy being ruled still - in disarray for sure, especially since the fall of the USSR, but dominant still, by the current end-point of Marxism - Postmodernism. And so modern culture, especially pop-culture, self-evidently shows itself to be the direct descendent and expression of postmodernism. I recently [actually less than recently, about an hour ago] strolled by [in my own basement] a TV broadcasting a show on cable 'Celebrity Resume', that quizzed contestants about what actors were involved in what TV shows & movies, well known or unknown - trivia. The content - certainly worthy of some commentary - isn't what caught my eye, at least not beyond an eye-roll.

What did catch my eye, were the contestants, and the staging, and the lighting.

Lit from below so as to cast their faces in shadow, with camera angles and backlighting to accomplish the same effect as stage and lighting directors seek to accomplish in horror movies, and/or in any setting where menace is desired to be conveyed (keep in mind the nature and subject of the show - entertainment trivia - remarkably, someone actually made that choice, but again, not the point here)

The contestants, several at any rate, were dressed in fashionably thuggish attire, most with disturbing tattoo’s creaping [yes MS Word, I know that’s misspelled] out from their sleeves and up through their collars and on up and around their necks.

Basically, the mood achieved, as has been the goal of most pop-culture for the last 70 years, has been that the edgy, the dangerous, the bad guy; as cool, worthy of emulation, in spirit if not deed.

Why would that be?

Think about it, why would that be held up as an ideal?

What is such an ideal - the reality behind the ideal - what can such a person (by way of their image) be counted on to be even remotely possible or able to, accomplish in life? At the best of expectations, they might - after being turned at the last moment by an Holywood style epiphany - might be useful in defeating an enemy. But then what? What can they accomplish?

At the core of their projected image is the threat of destruction and violence - not in the defense of Values, such as with the Military (Note the image of the Ideal Marine in a recruiting poster - clean, sharp clear lines in face and dress, self control and order dripping from his pores and manner - utterly at contrast with that of a thug), but only of violence and destruction being trained on those defenseless against them.

An Ideal producing nothing, creating nothing, expressing nothing (nihilism) but menace.

Ask yourself what a philosophy must have as its goal, for this to be its commonly understood expression? Modernity IS a child of the Enlightenment, but there were two strains of the Enlightenment, and after a promising start by my favorite (the English branch), the other strain (French fried) is currently ascendant over the other - at least in modern culture. To see the contrast in another way, imagine offering two contrasting positions to aim for, one of the English Enlightenment, the other of the French Enlightenment.

What We Need Is A Good One-Handed Culture

Picture standing there side by side as representatives of the popular cultural ethos & ideals of each - on one hand:

  • George Washington, a man preeminently representing Character, integrity, ability, trustworthiness and judgment - of quite plainly representing Truth, Justice and the American Way -

juxtaposed on the other hand with:

  • Hannibal Lechter representing menace, fear, destruction, unlawful murderous uncontrolled rage and someone possessed with an abundance of culturally bestowed 'Cool'.
These truly are our choices before us. You can try to dissemble, avoid and excuse - but they remain representative Icons of the directional compass of each culture.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Glamorous Thoughts - What Are Words For part 2

What is the relationship between thoughts and words?

Everyone knows that a proper sentence is supposed to convey a complete thought – but can a complete thought only be conveyed, or received, via a properly constructed sentence? I think all artists inherently know that the answer to this is No, thoughts can be conveyed rather nicely, even powerfully, with or without the assistance of words. Any sculpture or well conceived painting can give proof enough of this.

Have you seen the movie 'Saving Private Ryan'? There are many powerful scenes in it, but I’m not talking about the carnage of the battle scenes, but merely the opening scene of the aged veteran shuffling, speechlessly, unstoppably up the path to the cemetery at Normandy, his family following behind, a little confused and even concerned for the elderly gent. The American Flag fluttering in the breeze – its appearance somewhat silvered in the glare of the sun and the rows of headstones, rippling in the breeze. The old man pushes on, breathing heavily, almost sobbing until finally he stops at the grave of a comrade... dead for decades, surrounded by so many others....

I don’t know about you, but I was already choked up at that point and the movie hadn’t even really begun. No words. But the essence of a soul wrenching task, of incomparable sadness, grief, loss, even guilt is conveyed just through imagery.

But no words.

So, what gives? We all know we need words, but why? To do what for us? Why do we go to school (for our purposes here, lets assume the schools are worthwhile)?

No doubt that Communication is Immensely improved by the use of words, no doubt... (really no doubt? Hmm) but that is not their greatest value to us; I have become quite sure that that is not the reason why we a species have struggled to build the languages and vocabularies we have today, not to mention those we've lost in the past. These languages that are always growing, re-focusing, ever changing – alive like us, alive through us, are not cheifly for us to communicate to each other, or at least that is not its essential purpose and value to us.

Now there’s no need to worry, I’m not going to go off on some newagey “feelings! Nothing more that fee-eelings!” tangent. There are few people I know who are more convinced of the necessity and crucial importance of words, and a well defined philosophy to structure them within, but this question needs to be considered.

What is the relation between Thoughts and Words? Not in an wackademic sense, but in the sense of a living word within us, inspiring us, guiding us for good or ill – what is the nature of that relationship between Thought and Word, and what does it mean to us and to our lives?

There are many, many things which words can do and accomplish for you, but of those things only a very small few of them are what Aristotle would call essential to their identity, and I think that not having their essence identified, is detrimental to your thoughts and mine, and our ability to use words effectively, and to ward off their being used ineffectively. Strangely enough, it is seeming to me that the ineffective use of words can be far more dangerous than even their intentionally malicious use.

A couple of days ago over in the comments section of One Cosmos, Commenter in Chief, Will, pointed out that Grammar and Glamour have a common ancestry. A site “Word Detective” goes deeper into this relation:

"Glamour" and "grammar" are essentially the same word. In
classical Greek and Latin, "grammar" (from the Greek "grammatikos," meaning "of
letters") covered the whole of arts and letters, i.e., higher knowledge in
general. In the Middle Ages, "grammar" was generally used to mean "learning,"
which at that time included, at least in the popular imagination, a knowledge of
magic. The narrowing of "grammar" to mean the rules of language was a much later
development, first focusing on Latin and only in the 17th century extended to
the study of English and other languages.

Meanwhile, "grammar" had percolated into Scottish English (as "gramarye"), where an "l" was substituted for an "r" and the word eventually became "glamour," used to mean specifically
knowledge of magic and spells. "Glamour" was then introduced to English (by, among others, Sir Walter Scott), and took on the meaning of "enchantment," and later "alluring charm" and our current "exotic and fashionable attractiveness."

This relation bears some further investigation.

Now I won’t go in depth into another myth just yet, but just to gloss the myth of Hercules and the Hydra, is I think of particular note here. A thumbnail view is that Hercules was tasked with a number of labors, tasks to accomplish, one of which was to kill the monster we know as the Hydra. This was a beast with numerous viscious heads which, once cut off, grew two more back again in it’s place. Hercules and his friend Iolus soon discovered that if you cut off the head and immediately burned the wound with Fire, the head could not grow back again, either alone or in pairs. Soon they hacked off and burnt the flesh of each writhing neck, leaving the immortal head at their center which Hercules swept off and buried under a massive Rock. The blood of the Hydra, which was poisonous, Hercules conserved and dipped his arrows in it, for possible future deadly use.

At one level of this Myth there is the adventure story, and also a lesson that you need to get to the root of a problem, not just attack its effects, and the hint that you can use an enemies tricks, poison, against other enemies, if you are careful and clever. There are many ways of interpreting this myth, some Christian interpretations have been of the heads standing in for the phases of the moon and pagan activities forever assailing you until you renounce the beliefs at their center.

At another level, the Hydra can be seen as the cardinal signs, the need to not fight the sinful act itself- for if you take away the wine, you will surely find the whiskey, or though you stop sleeping with your secretary, you may wind up with your neighbors wife; but that it is necessary to change your flawed thoughts at the root of their 'sin', the need for Values, for developing a strong and sound Character, and then and only then, the sinful head will no longer grow.

If you persist in right behavior, in strengthening your Character, eventually you will arrive at the central head, and with that one cut off, though its original sin is immortal – if you bury it under a heavy rock of wisdom, you may escape its clutches, you'll never be completely safe of course, but free none the less. And there is also the knowledge that the essence of those sins, the life blood of them, those can kill - and if you allow the thought and conduct that fosters them to continue, or to deal in them yourself, they will produce death and destruction on their own.

Then there are also the well meaning dolts who helpfully offer up explanations such as “The Hydra probably was a giant squid, whose tentacles could have appeared as multiple necks and heads to primitive men, and in the telling the tale grew”. Again, these types are as deluded and senseless as those who believe that Hercules actually physically fought a 9 headed Hydra which grew more heads back as he cut them off.

Now here we have one tale, one seemingly flat narrative, but with many thoughts able, and even competing, to be conveyed through it – by way of what? It’s words? Not directly, not solely through the words alone, but through the imagery painted with the words, and that imagery... well there in lies much magic. As Will, the enforcer and (nominated) poet laureate over at One Cosmos pointed out the other day in the comments section of One Cosmos, “...The medium through which a "glamour spell" travels must be metaphysical in nature, even if the glamour is not spiritual per se...”

In other words, these 'words' of ours are magic, there is something in the structure of words, that allows meaning at the metaphysical roots to be conveyed, and that meaning is able to travel... from the source, into your mind... and with an internal meaning of its very own (perhaps dependent on your internal meanings), independent of the words which spawned it, directly and deeply, into your heart.

I think that that medium is something that exists not only in the relational realm of Idea and Thought and Word, but in their unlabeled, and little defined, nature – that nature that nearly leaps out of the glowing embers of a campfire as a tale teller spins a story of adventure, fear, danger and quest. It is also the nature that lurks behind words and phrases of many meanings, words and phrases which actors and supreme court justices can use, or be used by, to sway us, to hide our most precious values and freedoms from us (and even themselves) right before our eyes.

I’ll take a look at that labeling, non-labeling and mis-labeling system we employ daily, and how it weds thought to word and to poetic image, next time.

To be continued... soon.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

What are Words for? - What Are Words For part 1

A condescending manner and a blizzard of words and jumbled meanings.

Justice Stephen Breyer was on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace 12/3/2006, giving an interview and in my admitedly hostile opinion, very aware that he was Giving an interview, an audience to his Wiseness; Wallace questioned him about the wisdom of some of his rulings. This passage from the interview that asks him about his ruling on campaign finance law, I think sums it up well:

“...say that these campaign finance limits, what they are doing is they are
telling a person that wants to give 20 million dollars, that he can’t finance
all the speech he wants. Doesn’t that violate the first amendment? That’s a
slogan. Why? Because think about it, think about that first amendment. It was
done, enacted, passed to help our country, of now 300 million citizens to run
fair and free elections.

Freedom of speech was passed to enable fair and free elections. The
very point of speech in an election, is to get a message across, and that may
mean in part that you don’t want one person’s speech, that 20 million dollar
giver, to drown out everybody elses. So if we want to give a chance to people
who have only one dollar and not 20 million, maybe we have to do something to
keep that playing field a little more level, in terms of money. If you accept
that at all, you’ve suddenly bought in to the proposition that there are 1st
amendment interests on both sides of this equation – and once you’re there, you
see this problem as complicated, and once you see it is complicated, you begin
to factor in to what extent do we defer to congress and the answer is going to
be quite a lot, but not completely. See what I’ve done? I’ve showed you how to
go back to that quote – I‘ve used that word purpose to help me in a case where
the language isn’t clear, where the history isn’t clear, where the tradition
isn’t clear, where the precedents aren’t clear, but we have to decide how in
that realm of ambiguity to apply the value that’s permanent and always there, in
free speech, to a modern, difficult situation.”

The first switcheroo we have here, quite horrifying in a Supreme Court Justice, is the redefining of the meaning and purpose of free speech. To say that it’s purpose is to run fair and free elections, is breath taking. The original purpose of the free speech amendment was to protect the right of individuals to express political free speech, to freely engage in expressing political ideas and in debating them free from the fear of regulation and penalty from the Gov’t. While that will certainly have an effect on elections, to say that it’s purpose is to assure free and fair elections is appalling, and completely subverts the meaning not only of the first amendment, but of the constitutions itself.

The next switcheroo he makes is to equate fair with equal. That nobody has a right (remember this is a supreme court justice speaking – when he implies rights, it is significant to your future) to have more influence than anyone else. Here he seeks populist approval by dirtying the idea of a particular istance of free speech, by painting it with the soiling brush of “millions of dollars”, but it will be used by those saying that just because a majority of people reject a view [socialism, capitalism, or insert your bogey-ism here] for instance, is no reason that it shouldn’t have just as much say as say, individual rights.

Then he moves to muddy the waters to cover his tracks, to misdirect, confuse, obfuscate what he’s actually just done. Despicable.

But this isn’t what I want to talk about, it is merely a common effect of it. What? Before getting to that, lets take a quick look at the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.

It seems that ancient Athens was having to pay a tribute to the distant imperial Minoan King Minos of several of their young, who he would cast into the dark labyrinth beneath the palace of Knossus, to be killed and eaten by the Minotaur, the half man-half bull monster that lurked within the mazes of the labyrinth.

Theseus the newly returned son of the king of Athens, resolved to be one of the next payment, and to kill the Minotaur, or die trying. His father was against his going, but even worse than his going, he couldn’t bear the thought, couldn’t bear the forseeable tension of seeing the ships eventual return and having to watch their slow return over the horizon, waiting for it to land to discover whether he was successful or killed, so he asked Theseus to raise a black sail if he lived.
Ariadne, daughter of Minos, fell in love with Theseus gave Theseus a golden thread, a way to find his way back out of the labyrinth to her (she thought) after killing the Minotaur. He thanked her and took her thread with him as he went into the labyrinth, deep into the winding passages of the maze. Deep in their darkness he did find the monster and he killed the minotaur, and his mission accomplished, he followed the thread back out of the labyrinth – but not to the completion of his original purpose, not to return to Ariadne and marriage and a future together; instead he abandoned her alone on an island and returned alone to Athens. Also on returning to Athens, he forgot to change his sails to signal his Father that he was there and alive – and his Father thinking his newly found son to be dead, threw himself from the cliffs to his death.

Theseus accomplished the particulars of his task, he entered the labyrinth, he killed the Minotaur, and made it back out alive, but in so doing, somewhere in that dark labyrinth or in killing the monster, or in the process of doing both, he lost not his way, but his purpose. He followed the golden thread of truth back out of the darkness, but he forgot to return to its source. He forgot love, appreciation, a future united with that source that made his survival possible. In so doing he also forgot his past and the new found future it promised too, and it became dead to him as well.
This is a myth, and as with all good myths, it holds more truths within it than any will likely ever discover. It also holds a snare for to twin fools, one twin who believes that there was a half-man, half-bull creature that actually lived and breathed called a Minotaur, and the other fool is the one who complains that there couldn’t really be such a creature as the Minotaur, a half man, half bull. Literalists and those in opposition to literalists, be they Fundamentalists and Atheists, or insert your ‘favorite’ here, nearly always both miss the Truth by equally wide margins.

There is also something missed, however, by those who read meaning into the poetry of the words – the golden thread being truth, Ariadne love and promise, the Father past & destiny lost... there is also a meaning, a spell a magic that lives in the story itself, not in its words alone, but in the poetic imagery as a whole that is contained in the entirety of the tale. We in the West, I, often become so enraptured in Words, that we lose sight of not only what they are for, what they accomplish – but also of what they are not, and what can be accomplished without them, or even with them when used in opposition to their meanings.

We forget that words are not needed to tell stories. Words are Not needed to communicate. In the Pacific Islands there are Hula dancers who can tell entire, intricately woven stories, entirely in the form of a dance. Yes, we can say that that’s only possible, because the people are already with the story and the words that make them, but there is more to it than that.

My next few posts have been rattling around in the overworked underslacked crooks and crannies of my head for quite some time, resisting my intermittent attempts to put them into words. Then they began to kind of spill out in a disordered fashion, and I’ve been unable to put them into any order; until last night when the dim bulb lit above the ol’ noggin, and I think I see the way to do it.
It’ll take a few posts though, the good news is it’s mostly written. The bad news is it’s a bunch of Words, and I’m not entirely sure just what Words are for. We’ll see if we can figure it out over the next few posts.

What are words for...Gazing into a well worn fire, a thick bank of orange embers with old and fresh logs blazing atop them, the night dark around you, stars and moon pale rivals to your Fire; what is it you do looking into that fire? What do you imagine to be the difference to be between you now, and them then, five, ten, fifteen, twenty thousand years ago? Our ancestors? Were they like us? Did they have the potential to be like us?

Are we like them?

You stare into the fire and think, and converse in wonder about your lives, and you tell stories. I’ll bet that even before there existed a large vocabulary, the stories were told still, relying heavily on motions and pantomimed enactments, and I’ll be that their story was conveyed even so – the action, the pain, the quest, fear and triumph – thoughts were transmitted from one person to another, even when the supply of words was thin.

What did those first words do? What are words for? What are words? What are words relation to you, your thoughts and your soul? Why do we need them if communication is possible without them? There are many things which words can do, in song, in giving greetings, relaying how many deer were killed in the hunt, etc, but I think that all of these are just nice to haves.

Words real purpose are much narrower. And stories, and fires purposes are much, much broader.
To be continued... tonight, tomorrow... soon.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thanks to the Millitary

I don't have the time to do it justice, but on this day in particular, December 7th, 1941, I say thank you to all those who have, are and will, serve in the Millitary of the United States of America; putting their lives at risk to defend the Nation that makes my families lives possible - not our toys, but our Lives.

Thank You.

P.S. - Should have a new post up this weekend, sorry for the lack of Posts, a lack of slacktime gives little opportunity for writing.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The One in the Many… many… pieces.

The details flood in, syntax changes, new methods & properties, a completely new and jarring look - I've got a high level understanding of what the overall concept is, but connecting the, at this point, still nearly senseless flood of particulars to the sensible comprehensive conceptual plan, is slow going to say the least.

Every skill and understanding you've developed threatens to be washed away in the riot of unfamiliarity.

Focus in, then withdraw and reflect - it is only just beginning to start to integrate... not unlike a few scattered pieces of a puzzle that fit together, amongst the senseless spray of pieces across the table - the thumbnail picture there before me, the full sized pieces a disintegrated mess. Slowly they come together, then one piece links another couple pieces, soon the border of the puzzle is laid, and then more and more, the particular pieces reflect the larger picture and established the pieces, and the picture comes together more and more.

I'm talking about a new (to me) programming language and application architecture, but of course I am also talking about the horizontal and the vertical. The only way to unite them is to do so step by step, in the face of the multitude of horizontal particulars that threatens to swamp your united mental picture. You look at the randomness of each piece, and it is so obvious that there is no way that they are related, you feel foolish thinking that they could form one picture, one concept, one truth.

You have to hold on to the One, you have to know that without the One, there is no many - and also that the One requires the many to become One. Focus in on the pieces - you must do so, or you get no grasp of their form. But then you must also sit back and reflect on the whole, you must keep that image intact, until you begin to see the many within the one.

The plan comes first - a high level integrated view of the world, it seems sensible and you buy into it. Then when it comes time to apply that understanding, you find that your high level understanding begins to crumble on contact with reality. You're mentally assaulted with a myriad of pieces, seemingly completely separated in time and place, and only very slowly are you able to tie them back to your larger world view. With diligence and reflection, the pieces come together, the concept takes shape in the particulars of your life, what seemed separate, shows itself to be in truth fully integrated into all the areas of your life.

Learning requires an idea to be planted first, then particulars to be examined, and slowly fitted together and integrated into a working whole.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The joke is that they happen simultaneously, they both come first. Yes, that IS Truth. And they rely on each other together to exist at all. As it is above, so it is below.

One of the things that drew me to programming was its many resemblances to philosophy, the mind and life. It still keeps me going, even when it makes me question every confidence that I've formerly felt, and to re-confront every fear that abounds in uncertainty, certain only that following the plan will eventually relate the pieces into the overall picture. The uncertain chaos will continue to fade, and understanding will set it in, and soon after foresight and familiarity will return as well as the Many become One… once again.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Prayers and Politicians

Well the cold & flu medicine is finally flushed out of my system, the regularly recurring gloomies have come and gone again, and its probably as good a time as any to address such timely topics as prayer and politicians.

Yesterday's election has brought out all of those who declare the sky's falling, who make urgent calls for prayer to fix the country, and even doomsayers declaring the coming of a new dark age falling upon us as we speak.

Not to minimize the current situation, but people - get a grip!

As to prayers being needed to right the course of the gov’t, IMHO those who indulge in prayer in order to change the world, to cure their friends boils, cure cancer, turn away hurricanes - or to reprove God for failing to handle things in a proper manner... you're all seriously missing the point of life, free will, the Universe and everything in it. Do yourself a favor and buy some nice magic wands and herbs. At the very least, you'll then at least have a certain pride of ownership & much more flashier and entertaining prayers to harangue the big guy with.

Now I do not intend to denigrate anyone’s belief in God or Prayer, I think that beyond the glib assertions of either the religious or the atheists, there is far deeper value to both God and Prayer than most imagine. But IMNSHO (In My Not So Humble Opinion), the purpose of prayer is to contemplate the state of your own soul, to seek after God's influence within your own soul, not to nudge him awake to the fact that you disapprove of the shoddy work he's currently doing in the universe.

I think that if there is a God, it's highly likely that God is pretty well pleased with the universe in all of its dimensions - those we can see, and those we can't see. If he was clever enough to, and went to all that bother, to design quarks, neutrons, atoms and solar systems to operate over the course of trillions of years; then causing all of those carefully crafted creations to suddenly shift in their properties and courses in order to satisfy the momentary whims of some shortsighted creation who haven't even figured out how to master their own free will over the course of a few decades of life - such fervent wish lists are probably not going to be a really big factor in the cosmic game plan.

In short, Metaphysicians, heal thyselves!

As for the likelihood that we are witnessing the onset of a dark age whose end will not be seen in our or our great-grandchildren’s lifetimes - Ladies and Gent's, that's been the constant case for at least 50,000 years! As possessors of Freewill, we are always faced with the consequences of our actions, and if we act foolishly on a consistent basis, disaster will follow. But to think that the immediate results of one dissatisfying election are going to have THAT catastrophic an effect is more than a bit hubristic its own right.

First off, we are living in the most prosperous time that has ever existed in all of the history of humankind, and we in the United States of America are blessed with the ability to affect the course of our nation through our choices and actions.

Remember to keep things in perspective, if the Dem's do get their way, it'll take a year or two to really louse up the economy again, and as for the rest of the culture, it will slide only so far before the electorate swings back the other way again. As far as the glass being half full or half empty, about the only thing you can really say about it, is that it is a Glass, the rest relies on people’s ability to perceive the glass, to understand that it can be filled or emptied or grasped according to how they exert their own free will in their own lives.

Folks, this is the way the country works, BY DESIGN, when the people lose confidence (wisely or unwisely) in those governing them, they vote them out. This is (still) a free country - that means that good and bad decisions will be made by, to and through the gov't. I have posted this poem here elsewhere before, so I won't post it again, but Rudyard Kiplings "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" sums it up - fools only learn by burning their fingers, and lessons forgotten have to be relearned.

I do realize that we face dangerous times, and much hinges on the choices we make, but keep in mind it was just a short time ago that hundreds of thousands of people were wiped out in an instant by a tidal wave. That kind of thing happens, and will happen again; at least the dangerous times we face politically are open to being affected by our choices, as opposed to sudden death dealt out by the shifting of tectonic plates or the trajectories of asteroids.

We are most assuredly going to have hard times coming, and we are going to have good times coming too - there will be scandals and there will be good times, and there will be disasters as well - in short, life will happen and we will respond or react to it as best as we are able, and no politician or prayer is going to change that.

Politicians are NOT ever going to fix things! At best they can make the ride a little steadier, but they can't fix anything, because when you come down to it, it is US that makes it work, or not work. Nobody can FIX anybody other than themselves. The closest you can come to affecting others is through education - and I don't mean accumulation of diplomas. Until the people again get wind of the existence of Education, and educate themselves again as to the pursuit of Sweetness and Light, there will be no political solutions to anything, only larger and smaller swings of the pendulum in one direction and then the other.

I believe that Prayer is also NOT ever going to FIX things out there in the world. If it does anything, it is a way to deepen your consideration of your own deeply held principles and convictions in relation to a wider perspective, the God view of life - and so it enables you to strengthen your own inner understanding of your place in the world, and with that, the strength of your convictions and wisdom will follow.

As I've also noted before:

In our sleep,
pain which cannot
falls drop by
drop upon the heart until,
in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.
And in the end, as creatures of Free Will, that is all that can and should be asked and hoped for.

Jon Cary's’ assertions to the contrary, Genghis Khan is not here amongst us, and even if Genghis and his buddies are somewhere out there in the world - so are we! If you want to change the world, deal in Ideas, put in the hard work of understanding them, discuss them with others - Educate each other. The one thing the world has NEVER had before, is the ability of nearly anyone to do just that, and on the unimaginable scale we have today, with the ability to do so with anyone anywhere in the world, at any time of the day or night via the blogosphere, and anyone else can see and participate in the same discussion.

Even here on my own tiny little corner of the blogosphere, I've had people in the last few days looking in from around the USA, and Canada, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, India, Australia - folks, never before has such a thing been possible, for ideas to be exchanged, contributed to and improved upon simultaneously around the world. Beneath the hype of the Internet, I think that that single development is absolutely world shakingly huge, and surprisingly little understood.

Do you want to save the world?

Then slow down, stop trying to FIX someone else, and Think. Discuss ideas with others, seek to understand what is Good and True, and live accordingly. If the world can be improved, THAT is how it is going to happen, and once sound Ideas are understood, the rest will follow, and without such understanding, nothing else of lasting Value can or will be accomplished.

Think about it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Those Dead White Guys of olde, are they still relevant? Their answering laughter is thunderous. The more I wonder, the smarter they get, these people that haunt our libraries; the dead men, dead and buried, dead and gone, who still rule us today more thoroughly than any tyrant could ever hope to.

For example, Euripides wrote Medea, one of his more disturbing plays, of Jason, the hero of the Argonauts, and his wife Medea who helped him escape with the golden fleece from her Father - both now older and fallen on hard times. He thinks to solve their situation by planning to marry the daughter of King Creon, putting Medea and their children temporarily aside 'for the improved standing and good of all'. She deals with their problem by bringing horrible death to his new betrothed and to King Creon, and most horribly of all, to their children.

From the ending of the play after Jason has discovered the children’s death, and she is being borne away into the heavens in a chariot of the gods, they harangue each other endlessly:

JAS. And thou thyself grievest at least, and art a sharer in these ills.
MED. Be assured of that; but this lessens the grief, that thou canst not mock me.
JAS. My children, what a wicked mother have ye found!
MED. My sons, how did ye perish by your father's fault!
JAS. Nevertheless my hand slew them not.
MED. But injury, and thy new nuptials.
JAS. And on account of thy bed didst thou think fit to slay them?
MED. Dost thou deem this a slight evil to a woman?
JAS. Whoever at least is modest; but in thee is every ill.
MED. These are no longer living, for this will gall thee.
JAS. These are living, alas me! avenging furies on thy head.
MED. The Gods know who began the injury.
JAS. They know indeed thy execrable mind.
Meo. Thou art hateful to me, and I detest thy bitter speech.
JAS. And I in sooth thine; the separation at least is without pain.
MED. How then? what shall I do? for I also am very desirous.
JAS. Suffer me, I beg, to bury and mourn over these dead bodies.

each accuses the other that "it was YOU!", not seeing that from the perspective of the chorus and the God, the truth is that it was THEY that did it. Once upon a time, together, they slew dragons, they were Heroes – now, what they had done, and who they once were together are forgotten. Euripides continues:

JAS. But may the Fury of the children, and Justice the avenger of murder, destroy thee.
MED. But what God or Deity hears thee, thou perjured man, and traitor to the rights of hospitality?
JAS. Ah! thou abominable woman, and murderer of thy children.
MED. Go to thy home, and bury thy wife.
JAS. I go, even deprived of both my children.
MED. Thou dost not yet mourn enough: stay and grow old.
JAS. Oh my dearest sons!
MED. To their mother at least, but not to thee.
JAS. And yet thou slewest them.
MED. To grieve thee.
JAS. Alas, alas! I hapless man long to kiss the dear mouths of my children.
MED. Now them addressest, now salutest them, formerly rejecting them with scorn.
JAS. Grant me, by the Gods, to touch the soft skin of my sons.
MED. It is not possible. Thy words are thrown away in vain.

Each is intent on the cause and the fault of the other; one who had done the deed, one who had ensured that it would be done. Each talk past the other focused on their own parameter of hatred and justice - different as can be, and yet but two parts of the same soul, parted and grotesque.

For that is what I think Medea is about, Jason, the calculating taker of step after step up the stairs, and the visionary Medea who takes the entire staircase at a bound, but now off balance carreening wildly about - the particular and the whole, each necessary to the other, but now separated by divided vision, and their separation is a bloody wound, raw nerves and pain to both, united no more. The One, divided and at odds with it's once one self.

Do we not do much today that resembles this?

Think of the 'art' that currently plagues us, the stylization of ugliness, a disharmonic, separateness is its hallmark. Pieces of this and pieces of that, thrown together - find any tattooed fool for a glaring case in point. This art doesn't unify, it separates, it discolors, it unbalances - and its companion adornments of body piercing with chunks and hoops of iron struck through the wearers flesh, it mutilates what was once wHoly.

There is an irony here lost on both the artiste's and their patrons, and that is that I don't think that most of these adherents grasp this wider perspective precisely because their vision has been hauled down from the heights, and pressed into the horizontal particulars before their faces.

They don't see a whole that is divided, they see only parts which they adorn and prop up to be 'admired', pieces... many pieces, quantity in place of unity, juxtaposition over integration - the result of their unknown philosophy, their faces pressed up so close to the trees that the bark is wedged between their teeth, their eyes unable to see around the width of the tree filling their vision, the very existence of a forest is to them but a scoffed at rumor. But even to these people, what pieces of wholes they do retain, they retain within them still.

The further irony is that the "Modernist" artiste’s, who do realize that they are assaulting unity and beauty, don't realize the way in which their 'fans' don't grasp their point. They think that the public is just too stupid to grasp their intent, but they don't fully get the idea behind the publics missing the pointed ideas behind their "art", the public only thinks that it has found a sophisticated way of engaging the target of the ‘art’, which unbeknownst to them, the artiste is attempting to destroy.

As an example of what I mean, one review I saw of Warhols Marilyn Monroe canvas, the one that had three images of her churned out upon it, and odd colors washed over the surface, was that it was depicting the effects of machine upon nature, and so illustrated the worthlessness of art, and of the West in general, etc.

But what the reviewer and the artiste don't seem to get about such awful 'art', is that most people on seeing the images they present in their pieces, they still manage to mentally leap to the actual objects that these images spring from - physically or conceptually; whereas the artiste seems to think that all art and interpretation of art, begins and ends with the images they use, but it is only themselves that they impress with their extremely tortured trails of 'thought' which they see as being truly 'Deep'.

They think that those horizontal images they distort are somehow entirely separated from that conceptual entity they originally derived it from. When they slap Marilyn Monroe upon a piece of clapboard, and splash pastels over her, they think that they've succeeded in destroying her. But what they don't get, is that when most people see the Marilyn canvas, if they’re not repulsed by the presentation of her remembered beauty, they use the 'painting' to mentally travel to that still whole mental picture they have of her beauty - they only see a 'unique' way of displaying her, they don't disassemble her in their minds in the way that the artiste intended, to them she is still whole.

Or at least for some, in part - for now. The patrons are still primitively seeking after Art, the unifier, the giver of meaning, but they are given only this particularized 'art' instead, and it doesn't unite, it doesn't soothe, it only excites. And excitation always requires more and more to sustain itself, more quantity and more jolt to each dose to be felt at all. This 'art', it does batter away at Sweetness and Light, and inexorably beauty is divorced from unity, quantity buries quality, concept is separated from fact, the Vertical is severed from the Horizontal, the eagerness for the perception of style and respect does eventually erase all style and deliver respect only from those who don't know what it means - and finally meaning separates into mere facts, suitable only for hurling as weapons for breaking, not building.

Jason continues as Medea disappears into the sky:
JAS. Dost thou hear this, O Jove, how I am rejected, and what I suffer from
this accursed and child-destroying lioness? But as much indeed as is in my power
and I am able, I lament and mourn over these; calling the Gods to witness, that
having slain my children, thou preventest me from touching them with my hands,
and from burying the bodies, whom, oh that I had never begotten, and seen them
thus destroyed by thee.

But old Jove, the One in the Many, is not deceived by either Jason or Medea. Those who were once One in Love, divided from each other, willingly, and purposefully, and in so doing wrought pain and suffering upon all that their division rent apart. The Chorus answers:

CHOR. Jove is the dispenser of various fates in heaven, and the Gods perform
many things contrary to our expectations, and those things which we looked for
are not accomplished; but the God hath brought to pass things unthought of. In
such manner hath this affair ended.

Our 'art' finds its way into our aspirations and our lives; our elections tomorrow are more cases in this point. The Leftists are so focused on their horizontal goals of regaining power, and thwarting Bush, that they are most willing to distort their vision by any particular perceived offence they can gin up into a scene between themselves and their Media.

The Conservatives have fallen to their folly of trying to retain high principle through the mediation of horizontal power grabs. Small gov't, secure borders, Righteous War staggering under Medicare bribes, multi-culti bribes, and International-PC-Relations bribes in order to secure power, and so of course they fritter it away.

The leftists with their particulars at the expense of any soaring vision, the conservatives with their soaring vision pinned down with their particulars as butterflies to a display board - truth and unity forgotten by each, and repelling each other just as a magnet when broken in two can not be forced back together, the once common center now become two oppositely polarized ends.

A Greek tragedy in deed.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Make The Doppleganger Wait

The following is from a letter I wrote to my oldest son a couple years ago when I went home to see my Grandma once more before she died. It came to mind today as a weeks worth of flu drugs are finally draining from my brain, there’s still the flat dead feel inside my head that I often get when I break down and take cold/flu medicine. I’ve never been one to take much more than a throat lozenge because most med’s seem to really throw me for a loop, and that sensation put the point of this letter into my mind – the doppelganger that seems to be within each of us, ready to take the controls should you let them slip – always ready to slip between you and yourself.

I'm sitting by the barbecue at Grandma Jeane's house - fresh from the pool, and the afternoon desert quiet. Grandma Ebbie is close to 104, and closer still, to being no more. This morning I saw her for the first time in over a year, and her arms are no thicker than my index & middle fingers twined, her hair snow white, and thin as blown snow, and the oddest thing, was watching her slip into and out of her face.

I sat by her as she woke, and she was no more my grandma, than anyone else passing by on the street - in fact less; her neck & face twitching with primitive animation, little of it human, and less of it anyone I knew.

Then as her eyes began to blinkingly recognize that someone was sitting next to her, you could see Her trying to reclaim her body... moment by agonizing moment of wearisome attention... fleeting and halting, but persisting. She began by "Who are you"... Who? I have a grandson? Are you Mason? Brother?... She and her humanity slipped out, and the bodies default reflexive animation let her rest, and then she made an effort to come back again... "I have a Grandson that lives far away..." "Who are you?" "Van? Who'is Van? Are you in college?" and slipped off again, and then another charge at retaking herself, and back & forth for about 30 minutes.

And then I saw Grandma slip into her face. It was the oddest thing, her lips lifted up, her eyelids drew down a fraction and her cheeks bunched "Van... it's good to see you... are you here?". For the next half hour it was much the same style repeated "Are you in college? Or Do you live here? Followed by a few minutes of recognition, and back at the time-phased questions again, but now not the primitive default life working the face and keeping the body alive, and keeping the controls for Grandma ( or keeping her from them?), but yielding their face to her with a simple blink, and Grandma was back. Her memories scrambled, her sense of her place in time non existent, but She was there all the same, and recognition and delight in her voice at the mention of Ryan, Chad, Rachel and Carol, and a glittering as she craned her neck to eye the slideshow of pictures on my laptop of the faces that attend those names.

She got a little bit better in the afternoon - maintaining a grip for about an hour, then slipping back again, and fading for the remainder of the weekend.

It got me thinking of what an immense stretch of time she has covered, what a unique thing a person is, or can be, aside from merely human, and what it means to be either. It also got me thinking, that we all, every moment of our lives, invisibly and almost imperceptibly even to ourselves, have to engage in that same battle for control of ourselves, as your Grandma was visibly engaged in.

When your Grandma was born, the Train was still the fastest transportation on earth, airplanes were unheard of, electricity and telephones only rumored, and the century the 19th. She's seen the coming of Modernity, Movies, two world wars, Airlines, Spaceflight, Computers, the internet, and an absolute transformation of culture which marked someone of age when she was a child, their bearing, beliefs and attitudes, from someone of our time, as distinctly as if they were from Ancient Greece or Victorian England.

What those differences are, and whether Pro or Con isn't the point I'm after here, but only that a Human being, someone who has shaped and claimed their self, and what that means, and the uniqueness & significance of it, is what I'm after - and what it means for you.

Modernity, Movies, two world wars, Airlines, Spaceflight, Computers, and the internet, are not what make us who we are, or that make us anymore or less worthwhile or significant. In short: The differences between Togas or shin length shorts - Papyrus or HTML - don't mean a crap.

The choices that you choose to make, rather than to default to, Do.
You are at the age, where you are emerging from childhood, and into the character which you will essentially define as you, for the rest of your life. You are also at a time when you don't yet have the habits or experiences which you will use to shore up, define and further shape You into the self you will come to be able to map yourself out to others from.

By that I mean, you have yet to have those defining moments where you can say to someone "See, I did this, then, and for this reason, and so, as you can see, I am like This." You may already feel it, but as of yet, you have only a limited Proof of it, and the self assuredness that it establishes and demonstrates.

However, it will be those choices yet to be made, the experiences stemming from them, and the beliefs which they will cement into the structure of your life yet to come, that will define you, and mark you as you, to yourself, and to those around you, for the rest of your life.
What I want to say to you most of all out of all of this, is that you will always have the moment of choice throughout life, of whether to actively engage yourself, and uphold what can be the integrity of your life, a life that You have Created, through an unceasing procession of individual decisions in the heat of the moment, to choose your life.

Either that, - or as is more often the case with most, to yield their life to that primitive animation, the default life, which exists in us all, but is not Us, it's a doppelganger - a thing that bears our face, but not our soul. It is a choice-less default of energy that will readily accept the reins of your body at anytime you wish to casually stand aside and let it move you along. It knows the trick of your words, and has access to the snapshots of your memory, and is always eager to DO as the heat of emotion urges, but never with regard to what You would do, were you in it's place, as indeed you should be.

Will you always successfully choose to make that choice? Not likely, I at least can't say that I have always successfully made the choice to choose, but I flatter myself to think that I have been more successful than most, and have been forthcoming in admitting when I haven't, or in admitting that although I chose, I chose unwisely.

If you give it consideration, I think that you'll find, that in choices of Should you do something, of Right and Wrong, the Natural is almost never the right choice. The Natural Choice, is that of the animated doppelganger within us all, eager to gain the controls you let slip. But it is so much less than us, and when we negligently let it at the controls, we almost always lessen ourselves; in our own eyes, and in the eyes of others.

I think that it is important to note, that everything we have, either trivial or significant, is the result of our unnatural choices. Language, Invention, Art, Civilization are all the result of a seemingly infinite string of decisions against what comes naturally; and Civilization is the result of a Herculean effort of it's members to remember and pass them on, which have separated us from the Natural realm of the animal, and transported us into the realm of humanity - and it is far better than the life of the natural animal we originally were.

You can see the effects among us, of those who've let the Natural Choice substitute for the Right Decision. Those with drug problems, those that cheat in their relationships, those whom you're never sure you can trust, those who steal, abuse others, murder - what they all have in common, at that crucial point of decision, each of them made the choice to let themselves do what comes Naturally, yielding to the urge of the moment instead of doing what they knew they should do. And you can surely verify from your own experience, as I can, that everyone of them surely knew it was, if not Wrong, at least that it was not Right, at least at the beginning of building their string of actions become habits, that they were still able to make the distinction.

People know when they are making excuses for doing what they shouldn't. Eventually they may pile those excuses up so deep in their own minds, that if they studiously avoid letting their thoughts linger on their excuses, they can avoid facing the truth about themselves directly, but I suspect that there is always the echo of the life they've thrown away sounding throughout their every moment, annoying or tormenting them, as the degree of the case may be.

Religion has one thing right, there is an all seeing, ever present deity mindful of everything you do, but it's not some bearded guy on a throne in the clouds, it is you. And as the person who tried to escape their life by globe trotting the world said, "It was no use, everywhere I went, there I was". You can't escape yourself. You can however lose yourself, by ceding the controls to the easy, the Natural choice of the Doppleganger within you; and with each of those slips, the Doppleganger gains a stronger hold on the controls of your life, through those unwise actions become chaining Habits.

You build Habits, not only consisting of actions, but also habits of thinking - or not - of ceding the choice to be Human or Natural, and you can see the truth of this in the face of any addict as they come out of the influence of their drug of choice, see the consequences of it, and frantically swear "Never Again!", and note the absolute fear and loathing they feel towards themselves in the next instant, as they try to hide from the fact that they know that they no longer have the strength to completely get their life back from the Doppleganger within them.

And so it is that I've irritated you by saying, that Everything you do affects everything you want to do, and your ability to do it.

I may be staggering all over the map here. I know that I am.

My point is that to be someone worth being, is the result of a never ending string of decisions, usually of choosing not to do what is easy, natural, and momentarily satisfying to one urge or another, but instead, Thinking and Choosing to do what you determine is Right. You need to know that although the Right Choice isn't always the one that will give the immediate sensation of pleasure, it is at least the one that is far more deeply satisfying, and which will give a satisfaction that lasts far beyond the moment. And won't spawn an unceasing echo through the years of your life, an ever present torment of "I should have done! I could have been!" Happiness is not a never ending string of pleasurable sensations, but a sense of satisfaction with your decisions, a peaceful sensation of your soul which accompanies you whether in luxury or poverty, and without which no luxury can ever give any satisfaction. For proof, ask Marilyn Monroe, or Elvis, or John Belushi, or Kurt Cobain, or... The list goes on and on.

It's important to know that some of your decisions will be wrong - there is no avoiding it. The only way to never make a wrong decision, is to never make any decisions; to shuck your clothes, forsake your humanity and dash off into the forest to bark at the moon.
It is that realization which lies behind the myth of an Eden lost to the Apple, and behind the idea of original sin.

You have everything you need to accomplish anything you want. You could be a President, a Titan of business or Sport, or the best Iron Worker in town, or the best Dad who happens to do something for a living. What you choose to be doesn't matter (except of course, to you), but that you choose to Be, does. Even success doesn't matter - it's certainly desirable, and Rightly so!, but it doesn't itself make one person better than another, or more at ease within their own skin. Success doesn't mean only being successful at what you were doing, but at who you were being.

I have made a lot of decisions that didn't turn out successfully, I've taken a lot of unwise risks, that didn't pan out - dropping out of college to be a musician didn't put the odds of success in my favor. I did however understand the consequences of my choice (as best as any 20 year old can understand them, which ain't saying much!) , and I had enough confidence in myself to believe that if my roll of the dice didn't come out in my favor, that I'd be able to pick myself up, pick a new course, and, though I'd be several years behind everyone I knew, I'd make it work out.

I chose what I needed to choose to be comfortable with being me, and I still think it was the best choice. Incidentally, I even think that not having won the gamble was for the best, especially when I look at you and your brother & sister. Know what you value, and value it.
Over the last couple months, you've increasingly begun responding to being asked or told to do something, with either a calm "Ok", or an "Ok, but would it be alright to..." which is the mark of someone who is becoming their own person - maturing, laying claim to their lives.

Nurture that sense, that action of asserting your reasoned control over yourself, that is you becoming you, and it is of the most dire importance to your life that you do so. It is after all possible for a person to be alive, but no longer living, no longer being the active force within themselves. The doppelganger will wait a hundred years, but it will also be quite happy to step in and take over a person’s life before they’re through living, the person that always gives in to their emotional reactions, who flies off the handle, who drinks to handle the pressure – to the doppelganger these are all the sound of the reins dropping, and it is eager to pick them up if you let it.

Make it wait. A hundred years is too soon, make it wait.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Blogodidact - Blowing in the wind of my sneezes

Aside from various other useful excuses, I've been down with the Flu (Achoo! sniff...shiver & shake. groan).
Flu shots? I don't need no stinkin' flu shots(Achoo! sniff...shiver & shake. groan).

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Return to Deep Thought

Chaos & stress at work has cut down on my blogging time (looks like it may be looking up, we’ll see), but I finally have the time to finish up some house keeping rebuttals of Deep Thoughts rebuttal of my rebuttal on his series on Distributionism, which I think will clear the air of our butting heads over economic policies.

I think the outstanding issues between us are on concern about Gov’t programs, the niceties of upgrading your job skills vs “living Wages” and Corporations and policies regulating them.

Concern about Gov’t programs
I had questioned the wisdom of advocating and taking part in Gov’t tax incentives & training programs, which Deep Thought replied in part with:

Therefore, I think that supporters of Distributionism (as well as our allies in the realms of Libertarians, Objectivists, and fiscal Conservatives) should push for serious tax breaks for small business owners, even to make small businesses tax-free. I feel the same way about job training; federal job training has been around for a long time and will not vanish overnight.”

Well there is of course a difference between advocating something as an ideal policy and advocating something as a change in existing policy –with that in mind, having the goal of turning existing bad policies towards ‘less bad’ policies with the eventual goal of discontinuing them altogether, then I have no other objection to his position on such programs.

The niceties of upgrading your job skills vs “living Wages”
One Part I do have an objection to, I’ll get right out of the way:
But I must say, Van is a bit, uh, blithe about the whole idea of ‘if your job only earns you ¾ of what you need to live, get another job for the additional ¼ and look for the skills to get you out of it’. Ya’ think? Of course, where they are to find the time for further education while working at least 1 ½ jobs can be a bit of a puzzler, I suspect.”

No, I’m not blithe about it at all, only experienced. When my wife and I married and moved to the Midwest, we knew no one, and had no money, she was pregnant [we found out the day before our wedding - somewhere in between our engagement and marriage, God, ever the wry comedian, turned our plans to hold off on having kids for two years into a punchline ;-) ] which made our only source of income – her job as a flight attendant – very tentative, and I, having played in a band for the duration of the 80’s, had no marketable skills other than looking and sounding good on stage.

I had selling Real Estate in mind, and so while working as a minimum wage leasing agent I studied and passed my license exam and sold Real Estate in my ‘spare’ time. While I did pretty good, we soon both realized that my wife was completely unsuited to living on a commission only pay scale lifestyle. So I spent the next 4 years, the worst of my life, working in retail.

I tried several side jobs (which didn’t work out) while working my job and being Mr. Mom 3 days a week. I finally found a better paying sales job, but then discovered computers, and realized that THAT was what I should be doing. That meant taking a very difficult step down the pay scale ladder before being able to step up it again in a field I felt I could excel in.

Over the next two years I spent every waking moment available, studying, learning, taking exams, practicing and studying some more. I carried 500 page “Database Theory and Development” and programming, and then “Object Oriented Programming” language books around with me everywhere I went, on the off chance I’d have a moment to read or quiz myself. I carried them - to the movies (reading while waiting in line. Seriously. Hey if you’re going to become a geek, you might as well behave like one), at dinner, in between scrubbing the kids in the bath, at picnics and visiting friends, I carried one of “My Mistresses” as my wife called them, around with me, and when home if not studying, I was practicing on our new IBM PC (my taking us into debt to buy that PC is still a sore point between us!) until I finally was able to gain the skills and certifications I needed to get into, and rise up into a better paying line of work.

It was extremely difficult and stressful for all of us, but it was necessary because our income and condo were only ¾’s (at best) of what was needed for us to make ends meet.

I don’t say the comment “blithely” at all. My wife is currently working as an Lpn nurse at 1/3 of the pay she made as a flight attendant for TWA when that unholy mix of Corporate action and Political Intervention resulted in TWA vanishing, and all of it’s employees being double dealt into being laid off. She finished an 18 month crash course at the community college last year to earn a degree and become an Lpn, and while working she’s also back at college at nights working towards an RN certification, so she can get closer to the income she had enjoyed, and we relied heavily on, for 17 years at TWA.

I don’t say it blithely at all, and I have no stomach for anybody who whines about it being too difficult, that Gov’t should help them, hand them up, etc. My vision goes red, and my fingers threaten to smash the keys through the body of my laptop and into the tables finish when I hear people suggesting it can’t be done, or that Gov’t should step in and help. It is precisely BECAUSE of the programs that Gov’t has enacted to “step in and help”, that our taxes (directly and indirectly) cut into our income so much that it has become so difficult to have a single income household to begin with.

Deep breath. Deep breath. Deep breath…. Ok, I’m fine now.

And one other comment where I asked about what “capitalism failures are they? When?”, Deep Thought responded with “Uh…. The ones you just mentioned. Van just wrote that laissez-faire Capitalism “…ignores the fact that it will inevitably bring disappointment and ruin to many people, as well” and that this empowers demagogues to take advantage of that to undermine the rights and freedoms of people. That is what Belloc was discussing in the Servile State, Chesterton in What’s Wrong with the World, etc.

Well, there is not, cannot be, and never will be an economic system that preserves the rights of individuals and eliminates the downside of risk, that is a part of life, and as Deep Thought says he rejects the idea of Utopianism – well, attempting to establish a policy that eliminates the downside of risk in economic ventures - that strikes me as an attempt at Utopianism. Perhaps that is a slight exaggeration, but in terms of the principles involved, only a slight one.

At best, informed close associates or neighborhood investment clubs could be formed for the purpose of aiding each other – but even that would be Very risky to the relationships.

Clarifying My Premises
Since most, if not all of the rest of Deep Thought’s and my disagreements seem to revolve around our definition of Capitalism, this may be a good time to pause and define our terms. The short Oxford Dictionary defines Capitalism as “economic system with ownership and control of capital in private hands”. I would add my understanding of it to be a system which results from the Political recognition of, and defense of Individual Rights and the Property Rights which are essential and central to all Rights.

From that point of view, I balk at the idea of economics being seen as a tool to be used towards attaining Happiness. Economics is useful as a forecasting tool, and tool to help ward off policy errors that might intrude into the economy. I don’t consider economic policy to properly be a set of active policies at all, but only a warning system against the intrusion of bad law.

With that said, the focus of my comments on Distributionism may stand out more clearly; you’ll find me objecting to anything that either is, or can be used as a tool for putting intrusive governmental policies and laws in place that will violate Individual rights in the name of ‘economic policy’.

Also, to restate it again, I think Distributionism as Deep Thought sees it, is more a set of advisable economic practices for private individuals to voluntarily adhere to, than any kind of proposal for establishing a new Gov’t Economic ‘Policy’.

On Corporations and policies regulating them
Deep Thought and I also come to friction on the subject of Corporations. A corporation, a large one, almost by definition contains rank upon rank of middle managers, partially involved workers pushing papers, docs and policies here and there, and somehow around the fringes, they manage to contribute to the production of the corporate product and profit.

Undoubtedly it contains waste, but cumbersome as it is, it is an organization that has yet to be improved upon for most practical purposes. When an organization plan is achieved that is demonstrably more efficient than that of the gigantic Corporations, rest assured, the Corp’s will die, and quickly.

IMHO, one cue towards what may come to be their eventual replacement I think may be seen in, of all places, Hollywood!

Look at the credits at the end of a movie, either produced through a studio or an independent production, and you’ll see hundreds of names and companies that are involved in the production of the product, the movie; few or none of whom work for the Production company itself. They are brought into the project of ‘building’ the movie, as needed in real time, they work together as needed to contribute to the product, receive their pay (or percentage agreements), and separate again from the Production company – which itself may consist of two or three Producers and their secretaries, at the end of the project. Of these numerous people & ‘Companies’ (most of whom which are almost the pure definition of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurialism) they may work together this one time, and never again, or repeatedly over the course of the next several movies. The individual companies in these credits may even be working together on several different movies at the same time!

No predictions, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Our I.T. Dept’s partially approach this method, but only on the level of moving individuals in and out of positions, the departmental bureaucracy lives on. Because the Corporate body as it exists today breeds waste and inefficiency, I have little doubt in saying that they will one day cease to exist, as soon as it is figured out how to accomplish what they accomplish now, but better and more efficiently.

However I reject any notions of penalizing Corporations for their legitimate practices, or anything resembling Trust Busting, totally and completely. When you hear of such actions being proposed, you might want to consider, though not essential to the principle behind them it is instructive, are they designed to protect the consumer, or the competitors? Who benefits by passing laws that prevents a corporation such as Standard Oil, or Microsoft, from charging less for their product? Of course their success makes it more and more possible for them to push their economic weight around and cut better deals for themselves. What of it? To what purpose do you wish to make it possible for some companies to be successful at charging more for a product than the bigger ones are capable of charging less for?

As a side note, when Microsoft became a target in the 90’s of Anti-Trust laws over Internet Explorer (which those of us who were involved in the business at the time of the judgment against them, suspect as being the true initial pop in the dotcom bubble), the suit was instigated by AOL, Netscape, Oracle and SUN – the most closed systems, anti-software integrating, over controlling of ‘partners’ Corp’s in the business, who thought nothing of getting big brother involved in helping them to control the market where their own abilities were woefully insufficient. These are companies that actually practice every strong arm tactic, policy, and quest for world domination that Microsoft is only accused of. They hate MS because it achieves all that they desire and aren’t competent to do themselves. That scenario is, and always has been, the soul of Anti-Trust actions.

Deep Thought opines “And if a corporation is large enough, it can enter new markets and use its economic resources to do the same to more and more fields of transaction. Think this is loopy? Look at Standard Oil; in the 1880’s began a decades-long practice of coercing shippers to give them discounts and to increase shipping prices for competitors. Soon their control of transportation allowed them to literally dictate oil prices to oil producers in America, demand further discounts on their own shipping costs and ‘rebates’ (i.e., kickbacks) from the artificially-high shipping costs they demanded for their competitors, and other such actions. Using this clout, they also gained very effective control of steel production and, eventually, railroads. This was an especially good idea – by controlling the steel industry, Standard controlled the cost of railroad tracks and cars. By controlling oil, they controlled the cost of fuel and lubricants of the railroads. When they moved into the railroad business it was a foregone conclusion that they would dominate it shortly.”

To which I say - Good!

As long as the Corp gains NO legislative/regulatory political power, and uses no PHYSICAL force; and threatening to no longer do business with a company, or convince other members of their supply chain to not do business with their company DOES NOT qualify as Physical Force – it is negotiation, though hardball, true, it is still a legitamate part of the process of making agreements.

What is the principled difference between such hardball tactics on the part of Corporations, and your trying to wheel and deal at the local service station by saying “Look I’ll let you put a set of your top tires on both my and my wife’s car, but if I do, I want you to throw in a alignment check and road hazard on all the tires of both cars, for free, other I’m taking my business across the street to Big Bob’s place and you and your mechanics will not see any more of our regular business”?

In any essential principle, there is no difference, and any interference or intervention in that negotiation, is a violation of the Individual Rights of both parties, and of the principle of the Individual Rights of all.

Again, who is it that such laws are intended to protect, consumers or competitors?!

Analysis by economists then and now agree; Standard Oil began as more efficient than its competitors, which allowed it its initial rapid gains. Once it reached its height, however, its efficiency began to drop. In the end it was less efficient than its (few remaining) competitors (or, in some ways, no more efficient than the others).” Well some economists then and now may agree, but it might be helpful to mention the many who do not, Henry Hazlitt, George Reismann, Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, Walter E. Williams, Richard Salsman, Andrew Bernstein…. The list can go on and on.

So, I have no problems with a monopoly of efficiency – after all, a more efficient competitor will eventually come along. But I have issues with coercive monopolies. I have yet to meet a Conservative who likes coercive monopolies, but I also rarely find a Conservative who will admit that large firms can establish a coercive monopoly almost as easily as a government can. The result? I prefer small firms to large ones.”

I’ve consulted at massive corporations, large companies, and smaller firms, and I too far prefer smaller firms to larger ones. But I DON’T want to have having anything to do with politicians or judges in attempting to reduce (or increase) the size or scope of any private business venture.

For those who do advocate having their congressmen restrain capitalism’s excesses, may want to consider that it was a republican, a business ‘friendly’ conservative, who created the first Anti-Trust law, the Sherman Anti-Trust act in an attempt to get competitors to ‘make nice’, completely blind to the fact that he wasn’t just forcing business’s to make nice, he was driving a serious fracture into the pediment of Property Rights, and Individual Rights. It paved the way for all the destructive policies and programs of Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, Hoover and FDR. It has laid the foundations for making it conversationally respectable for politicians and judges to consider whether or not private individuals have a right to retain ownership of their property, when others want to use it “for the common good” to make more money for themselves and the cities tax receipts.

And for the record, if Mom & Pop shops can out maneuver, and deliver more valuable services for less than Wal-Mart and the other big corporations can – then I am thrilled for them, and root for the fall of the wasteful Goliaths.

The subject of Wage Slavery sent Deep Thought into an explanation which included “Face it – public schools suck. They are more and more divorced from providing a practical education while they continue to tighten their focus on indoctrination. The result is a populace less and less able to actually become entrepreneurs, forcing them into a spiral of jobs that pay too little for them to live one, resulting in debt resulting in…. Well, you get the idea. The end result is an entire class of people who cannot do that most basic of things – be self-sufficient.”, to which he will get absolutely no argument from me. The latest part of my series on the slide of modern philosophy into the dumper, What never was and never will be (I’m still recovering from re-reading Descartes, Rousseau, Hume, Kant & Hegel, I need a bit more of a breather before getting slimed again by diving into Marx & the deconstructionists’) traces the slide of Education from a process of making one fit for Liberty, into the muck of drowning children in a drudgery of training for skills in ‘basic minimum competency’.

Regarding Guilds and Unions, I personally don’t think that anything other than a professional organization for specific artisans is going to be successful, but with Deep Thought’s clarification: “When you can join any union, no union, or drop out of a union when you wish it means that the unions are forced to do what they are designed to do – help workers. If they do a lousy job, people leave them. If they try to wring concessions from management that makes the business less competitive, they are going to go away pretty quickly when the other unions and the independents oppose them.”, and also his statement that “The goal of Distributionism is to use the voluntary actions of individuals to ameliorate these negative effects in a manner that not only remains Capitalist, but has competitive advantages.”, then I’ve got no further argument against his presentation of Distributionism, and I look forward to again reading Deep Thought to help me get deeper into my thoughts.

As my current thrill ride through the world of Capitalism smoothes out, I’ll be back to my regular (?!) postings ASAP.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Redistributing my thoughts on Deep Thought (The inevitable post 'midnight post' revisions have been made)

Deep Thought took me to task recently for my comments on his series on Distributionism, suspecting that I had skimmed his posts and commented on what caught my eye. I did not skim them, but I promised him that I would reread his series and either take myself to task if I had been in error, or better explain my comments on his posts.

Before I get going again, for the record, Deep Thought is on my Blogroll because I look forward to reading his posts, and even on the rare occasions that I disagree with him, such as this, there is still much to be gained from a good disagreement – a focusing and clarifying of your own understanding, that you're hard pressed to get from anywhere else (certainly not from arguing with moonbats!).

I have reviewed Deep Thoughts postings again, and although my evaluation stands, I also reread my posting, and I must confess that I am guilty of not making clear where my criticism of Deep Thought ended, and where that of worse views picked up, leaving the impression that some of my sharper comments were directed at his posts – which they were not intended to be.

My only defense is that my three part posting was originally one posting, and as I turned it on, it took several minutes to post, and seemed hopelessly long for anyone to bother reading. So I did a little quick slicing and dicing, to rearrange the post into three separate posts, and it lost some in the doing.

If brevity is the soul of wit... I must painfully admit that I haven't yet learned the art of being brief.

I did manage to leave in one reference to “As advice, some may see some value in this, but as Economic Policy? However holy the intent, I can’t see any ultimate destination for these good intentions, other than a new Utopian hell on earth” – but even with that in consideration (you know I'm in trouble if that was an example of calmness and courtesy), I didn’t adequately point out that Deep Thought explicitly denounced using Governmental force to bring about any portion of Distributionism. It was a case of my rushing on to the rest of the post, and not comparing what I had in my head, and what I had on the ‘paper’.
For that, I apologize to Deep Thought.

However, my objections to the implications of Distributionism are real, to what I see would soon be sneaking in through the sidelines and back door, if it were made an official economic policy.

Again, the fact that Deep Thought explicitly states his opposition to state redistribution, interference, etc and for objecting to such for the right reasons, to my mind, absolves him of any and all of the darker implications which I think would have to result from Distributionism being implemented. And again, it is mostly towards the implications I see as being inherent in Distributionism, rather than any direct intent of Deep Thought's posting, that most of my comments are directed towards.

Part of the reason I see trouble coming in through the back door, are the tools that Deep Thought see’s as being used as incentives for Distributionism.

- Tax credits & Gov sponsored job training. For a State to have enough largess in their tax base to spare on social engineering (tax breaks) implies Income Tax, which to my mind is one of the big three (Income Tax, Federal Reserve System, Welfare & regulatory systems) physical realities behind all that has fallen in our nation today.

- “Microloans to such organizations could be subsidized by government agencies” is just a cloaked method of socialist redistributionism.

- “I was surprised when Fr. Neuhaus, whom I normally find to have a very informed opinion, dismisses Distributionism as not having anything to which to attach policies or platforms in the political arena. America has; a Small Business Administration that promotes small business; farm co-ops, credit unions, consumer co-ops, and business co-ops like ACE hardware on almost every corner; a history where the Grange movement held strong, if brief, political influence over national politics; a growing concern over the impact of large enterprises like Wal-Mart and Microsoft of the well-being of the average person; and a rather large (and growing) government job training program.” Which I take to mean that having a Small Business Administration, government sponsored jobs training and a growing concern over a growing Wal-Mart, are signs of optimism and hopeful solutions in the making; but I emphatically believe that these are not part of a solution, they are instead part of the problem! Anytime that Government steps out of its role of ensuring that rights are not infringed, upholding law and order, and defending the interests of the Nation, moral and physical disaster is in the making.

I also have my doubts about a wider scope being attributed to an economic policy, than is proper to its function. The Goal of Economics is not happiness, but production; it is philosophy and ethics that point towards happiness. Economics should of course be compatible with, even complimentary to the goals of philosophy - which as Aristotle says, is happiness – but Happiness is not the goal of Economics, producing, distributing and managing wealth, is the goal of Economics. “Their goal is to create a community where the members avoid the excesses of materialism”, but I think that the only defense against materialism is an education which better teaches what is truly valuable in life, and that again is the job of philosophy, not of economics.

Some other points of concern are:
- “Deal as directly as possible with the producer/end user” … is of course a wise policy when it saves time and effort to do so, but there are many middlemen that do give significant savings in time and effort, and so are worthwhile. Super markets are an excellent example of middlemen being valuable services provided to consumers. Most Mom & Pop stores are not. Wal-Mart is a time saver, visiting all the mom & Pop stores you would need to in order to quickly pickup the products that can be found at a single Wal-Mart, would be a massive time waster, and the expense would more than likely be higher.

In fairness, Deep Thought does say that if middlemen are adding value, then use them – my reaction may be more to an overall tone I perceive (especially concerning expanding corporations and Wal-Mart) which makes me rise to imaginary bait, than a direct quote by Deep Thought on this. I see Corporate consolidation as usually being a good thing; the reason it is done is to increase productive efficiency and profits; and if it is done poorly, it too will collapse or be broken up, so that eventually the frozen productivity that had been locked up in inefficiency and waste, can be thawed & released from its parts once again, back into the wider economy.

- “All men have a right to private property, just compensation for their goods and labor, and to enter into business agreements of their own free will” Unfortunately I do not see that this will protect property rights and ensure fairness, but instead only serve as a mandate for those people in power, to demand that their constituency have property, then some property, then some minimum amount of property, then an increased amount of property - and agitate to get government programs established to distribute it. Property Rights are not to be violated, but they aren’t to be awarded either, they flow from the nature of being human, they are not bestowed or granted.

- “, a man who produces goods or commodities must be paid a just amount for those items.” No, he must be paid what someone is willing to spend and which he is willing to accept – nothing more. More means waste, regulations, and agencies and bureaucratic regulatory law.

-Deep Thought makes a reference to “Wage Slavery”, and that is a term that just gets my hackles up. It has its most common origins as a Marxist concept, intended to obscure the fact that the employer/employee relationship is freely kept and for mutual benefit. A so called “living Wage” cannot be the goal of a business. A desirable product at the most appropriate cost is all that can be expected. If the people working at such jobs need more, they must find other sources of income, or put another way, if they are only able to produce ¾ of what they need as income from their job, then they need to seek the remaining ¼ elsewhere and probably should be looking for ways – new skills, education, to make possible a change of their main productive skill.

Deep Thought supports the creation of Guilds, he raises most of the objections I would raise at such organizations, but I don’t see that they are as easily solved and dismissed as he thinks possible. One key concern of mine, is that If the workers of Guilds are allowed to set prices, that means that prices will be artificially high, such as Detroit's automakers were in the 70’s, and then soon some one, such as Japan, will come along and see that costs are indeed too high, and they will take that opportunity to do better work for less cost, and once that happens those workers and Guilds are going to be seen as Fat fast, and then cut off ASAP.

Another concern is that if the Guilds are allowed to set prices for their members, they derive defacto governmental power, making them more equivalent to Unions, and that type of group power being used to make decisions ‘for the good’ of its members – no matter what they might feel is fair and proper, I think must lead to eventual corruption.

And while I’m at it regarding Union’s - whatever their motive, the worker who endorses old style Union thugery & blackmail to boost his wages and benefits for skills that any experienced teen could perform with minimal instruction, gets no sympathy from me at all when he inevitably finds himself laid off. If he spends his dishonestly acquired ‘generous’ time off doing something such as hunting instead of improving his productive range of skills, he gets what he deserves when the auto plant collapses due in large part to his Union thugs demands.

Regarding Usary, Deep Thought allows that
- “A lender may charge reasonable fees for a loan or for exchanging money. A lender may charge a reasonable penalty for a late payment”, but my obvious question is, as determined by who? Of course you should shop around for the lowest rate, assuming you have the time and credit score to make such a possible lower rate seem attainable. But such rates should not be determined by anyone other than the parties involved, otherwise it is wasteful and unfair and unjust to all parties involved.

With Distributionism, Deep Thought notes that some,
- “…argue that interest rates should be extremely low (on the order of 1-2% at most) and, especially for home loans, others argue that no interest is acceptable at all, only fees.” , to which I again have to ask how is anyone, other than the lender, to determine that?! Is some regulator seriously in a position to tell someone who is putting their capital at risk in a loan, that they have determined what its worth for the lender to make the risk? I can just picture it 'We have thoroughly examined all situations you lenders may find yourself in, and feel you are safe and secure at this rate. Lend everything you've got. Now. Doan worry aboud dit'.

Again though, for the most part Deep Thought promotes Distributionism as more of an ethical practice, which if emulated (aside from the concerns above) would be for the most part a positive step, certainly an improvement over the state of our current mixed economy. As an ethical practice willingly subscribed to, its adherents are free to practice it and with my blessing, may it help ease the sharp edges of life lived in freedom.

I would just note that it is difficult to ease those sharp edges without changing their shape and damaging the overall integrity of the structure. Sharp edges may be just as necessary, as are disappointments and occasional punishments, are important parts in learning to improve yourself through the school of hard knocks. A last note along those lines:

- “Laissez-faire Capitalism is an argument that “Selfish, unjust actions lead to altruistic, just results… eventually.” This is typical of conservative views, which I think undermines us in so many ways. Being able to do what you see fit because it is right to be able to – that will produce the most wealth and value in the end, but that is a non-essential side effect, and ignores the fact that it will inevitably bring disappointment and ruin to many people as well. It is that ignored last part, which those demagogues lurking out there, looking for an in, will inevitably use in an attempt to cast the first part as 'an unmet promise', a tool, to put governmental power into their hands to “do good’.

- “…It goes on to point to the continued failings of unfettered Capitalism and the need to always remember the inherent worth of the individual and the need for solidarity.” What failures are they? When? Deep Thoughts own postings illustrate the immense success of capitalism and the unprecedented benefits to all the world resulting from it – the so called failures of capitalism, come from non-capitalist measures mixing in improper features, economic regulation chief among them.

There is, admittedly, a harshness associated with capitalism, a harshness which I am in the process of experiencing a taste of it myself at the moment – our CIO has been sacked, our projects restructured, and I’ve got to learn and become proficient in a new programming language lickety-split, or I’ll be out the door as well.

It is harsh, life is harsh – Black & White is harsh and it is only through the painfully slow process of earning and saving your wealth that we are able to soften the edges a bit and provide some cushion and comfort for ourselves. As I see it, any attempt at artificially creating that cushioning through the power of governments ability to rob Peter to pay for collective Paul, or even worse, to force Peter or Paul to act against what their own judgment tells them they should do - will be doing no one any favors in the end. If we want our Ends to be Just, our means must be Just, anything else is necessarily using the Ends to justify the Means, and that will most certainly be a bitter end for all.