Monday, December 1, 2008


I have never been particularly religious. My family was not particularly religious, except perhaps for short periods at various times in various individual lives. I did not grow up with a particular religious slant.

My father was a professional educator and held his profession in high esteem. I grew up in the 60's, an era when science was given great weight in education. I valued science as a model of how we should think, and desired knowledge in a way that was probably religious in nature. However, God was not a common subject in the course of my growing up, and not often on my mind.

Even so, in some early day of my life I one night felt the vastness of the universe and the smallness of my place in that vastness, and cried out for God to love me. I experienced a warmth of love in that moment. It was a childhood epiphany.

It did not send me off on some grand quest, or cause me to commit my life to some great cause. It was just a moment in my life. A profound experience, and one that remains clear after a great many years. However, it is still only one of many experiences that made up my early days.

My second epiphany occurred years later. I had abandoned finding meaning and purpose for myself through endless acquisition of knowledge. I was on a spiritual quest, seeking some idea or experience that would define my life and give it purpose.

The path I was following was a self-made path. I had learned that elements of the Hindu faith were among the oldest know religious beliefs, and so I was trying to acquire knowledge of these beliefs through reading Hindu literature and practicing what I could learn of Yoga through books. I was opening myself up to mystical experiences that were not defined by reason alone.

During this time I was exposed to the witness of a fervent Christian. He had a depth to his belief that was greater than I had seen in other Christians. After months of talking and listening, he took me to a church.

Foreshadowing my epiphany and subsequent conversion to the Christian faith was a period I refer to as a pursuit by the Hound of Heaven. It was like God Himself was herding me toward the Christian fold. I tried to evade through argument and periods of drug and alcohol use, but it proved to be not enough to escape the Hound of Heaven.

Thus I found myself in a Christian church, surrounded by Christians and their doings. In that place a great golden light just beyond actual seeing flooded the church, and bathed me in a warm glow. It was like my childhood epiphany, but many times greater. I sensed a vastness and agelessness and a depth of love greater than I could grasp or express. It was something I simply had to accept, or reject.

I accepted. Not being particularly religious nor particularly fond of religious motions I continued my spiritual quest as a personal journey. At times I have shared in fellowship with other Christians, but I never fully accepted the culture. It did not seem necessary.

I still value reason, and think it should be applied to all learning and experience. However, neither my reason nor the reason of others is sufficient to judge all things. I continue to embrace mystery as a valuable part of all that is, as well as such knowledge as I have acquired and such knowledge as others will share with me.

Over time I have studied several systems of theology, and had fellowship with many different Christian groups. Ultimately I have come to the conclusion that our reason is an aspect of our faith, it is not the whole of our faith. Our relationship with God is dynamic and experiential. It is informed by customs, traditions, doctrines and most importantly the Bible. However, what is most real at any moment for any believer is the experience.

Epiphany is not the normal mode of experiencing God. Though I have had two such experiences, it is a tiny part of my overall Christian experience. It is a tiny part of my human experience. Important, defining, but still just a part.

These experiences have informed my approach to evangelism (sharing the faith with those who do not yet believe) and interacting generally with other people. I cannot expect, much less demand, that others follow the same path I have followed. No, I can share my experiences, share what I know, and even offer advice and encouragement.

In the end I can simply be part of their experience, found on their own path. I can afford to be genuine, rather than a "fake" Christian. That means that they will see that Christians are not always nice or pleasant. I certainly am not. By being myself just as I am in my place along my path I can be available as an element in the experiences of others.

It is quite possible that I shall be some other person's epiphany.

Not likely, but with God who can say?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Building Economic and Social Models-

Occasionally I spend some time speculating about how the world will be in the not-too-distant future. At times my intuitive speculations work out. I foresaw the period of economic stability in the 1990's, and was actually surprised that the bubble burst so far from the turn of the century. We had five more years than I anticipated.

What was my prediction based on? Mostly my understanding that people don't really want to mess with something that is working well at the beginning of a period of prosperity and stability. I remembered the periods of inflation and shortages of fuel and some items such as sugar. Most people making decisions were familiar with those things, as well. Huge interest rates, big swings in the market.

I think that most of the people monkeying with the system gave up after those volatile times, and the economy was permitted to flow more naturally and freely. As it stabilized and some emergent technologies began to integrate into the general flow of the economy, nobody wanted to do anything particularly radical.

Perhaps the best example was when the Republicans pretty much reelected Bill Clinton for his second term. Not that anyone was actually thinking that Clinton was responsible for the period of prosperity. Just that nobody wanted to alter things too much. Don't mess with it. Let it grow naturally.

So, we had a good run. However, it became comfortable enough for some people who made a crap load of money in this period to try to turn that crap load into a shit load of money. Monkeys. It finally tipped a bit, and other monkeys put in their hands to get a piece before it all fell apart.

Of course, emerging economies such as China and India had a significant impact as well. It shifted the demand side of the equation and certainly opened things up for speculation. The comfortable became uncomfortable, and they began trying to control things. Too many monkeys.

Along with this is the unknown element of multinational corporations. People could no longer align their interests simply along national lines.

Add to the mix the massive flow of information across the Internet. Not just "things I want to know" information. Money. Property. The blurring of the lines between virtual worlds and the world we perceive as real. Information is power, but power flowing out of control is chaotic. It is explosive.

While I truly believe in Libertarian principles, I recognize that they won't really form the foundation for a model for societies or their economies. I will continue to promote liberty, because I see it threatened. However, the Libertarian model really won't work.

I really can't come up with a model. The world has become smaller even in my individual experience. In recent years I have interacted with people around the world. I have touched and been touched by people in distant lands and different cultures via the Internet. Each day, as I reach out through the new media, I am changed and being changed.

A small world does not really allow for great personal liberty. In this I think Japan is a model. A large population living in a limited space created a culture that is not particularly Libertarian. It is a culture that is ruled by conventions.

That being said, Japanese people have found ways to be creative and inwardly free. I do not know how to think and feel Japanese, so I really don't know to what degree an individual living as a member of that culture might long for and realize personal freedom. Still, when I look upon that culture from outside I see things that look like individual expressions of personal liberty.

I don't think Japan is our model, however. Nor the changing cultures and economies of Europe. American culture has a large influence, but it is not big enough for the world. For all of our American bluster and shared egos, we are not sufficient. The Neo-Cons are wrong in thinking that America should dominate the world in this century. We are not big enough.

No existing nation or culture is big enough. This is a huge shift, and nobody really has a model that is comprehensive enough to represent what is going on in the world.

I will keep watching, and keep thinking. I may not have a model, but my intuition tells me that things will be exciting.

Exciting, in the best and worst senses of the word.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Gentle Marxist-

Some years ago a friend of mine, Mike Wilson, invited me to come and visit his philosophy class. The class had a Marxist coming in as a guest speaker. Mike and I had spent much time in discussing our Christian faith and what kind of philosophy might come from that faith. He respected my opinions and even more he valued my questions.

Questions have always been my strength. I tend to be good with questions, especially questions that would lead myself as well as the person I was questioning toward deeper understanding of ourselves and our subject matter. Mike wanted to bring this strength into the class and see what happened.

A large part of what happened was me probing gently into the nature of this man's Marxism. He was a gentle soul, and truly believed that Marxism offered a step forward out of the selfishness and emptiness of our current society. I used my questions to aid him in clarifying his position.

His Marxism was remarkably pure. Most of the expressions of Marxism since the days of Marx have been modified forms, often brutal. I do regret I cannot recall this Marxist's name, but I cannot. To me he is the Gentle Marxist, because of his choice of how he was spreading the Marxist doctrine.

We both agreed that Marx considered his social and economic model to be an evolutionary step in human development. A kind of economic Darwinian evolution. We also both agreed that no state in our present world had really "matured" (in the Marxist sense) to be ripe for true Marxism. We even both agreed that the Communist states then in existence were not truly Marxist states, but something else entirely.

This Gentle Marxist was working in adult literacy. He was using the same tool that Christians had used in advancing Christianity. The power of the written word. However, instead of teaching literacy using the Bible he was using the teachings of Marx. He was acting in kindness and a genuine belief that he was laying the groundwork for the coming Marxist revolution.

To be quite honest, I understand the drive toward true Marxism under the circumstances Marx described as catalytic to the revolution. Great wealth held by few who dominated by using that power and repressed the working class. Such a circumstance would demand some form of revolution, and an ideal state such as Marx's pure communism would be a fantastic alternative.

Unfortunately, I do not believe that humans are on the verge of a great evolutionary step, and that this evolution would lead to a pure communist state. Even under the circumstances that would bring about the worker's revolution the workers remain selfish and imperfect. They would ultimately seek their own good over the good of the masses, and some would seek more than their share.

The Christian doctrine is of humanity in need of redemption. We do not need an improved economic model, we need a fundamental change of our sinful nature. We need the salvation that is in the completed work of Christ on the Cross, not a redistribution of wealth. We need people motivated by the love of God, acting out that love in whatever economy they might happen to live within.

I sometimes wonder if the Gentle Marxist I met that day might have eventually come to embrace the Christian faith, and experienced a shift in his philosophy. Several of the Communists I had previously known had done so. Would the zeal survive the transition? It doesn't always.

The Gentle Marxist did set a valuable example. He was meeting real needs, and sharing his philosophy as he did so. He was acting as a secular evangelist. The best Christian evangelists generally act in the same way. Meeting needs and sharing Christ. Many other Christians fall far short of the example of the Gentle Marxist. That is quite sad.

I am not sure that the economic model under which we live is particularly important. More important is freedom. Freedom to think, and freedom to share thoughts. Freedom to meet needs and have needs met. In an environment of that kind of freedom the love of God could be freely shared. An economy that allowed for such freedom could be lived within, no matter what name it held.

In the end the Gentle Marxist and I found ourselves in two different philosophical camps. Religion in general and Christianity in particular do not fit within the teachings of Marx, and so a true Marxist must oppose such philosophies. Our Gentle Marxist ultimately could not allow the freedom of which I just wrote to stand.

That said, it is not the communist economic model that is a problem but the opposition of Marx to religion. In that point there is conflict. Indeed, the problem with the economic model is not a failure of the model itself, but the selfish nature of humans. Without compulsion they would not hold to the altruism of mutually shared resources. Always there will be the feathering of nests.

Like Plato's Philosopher Kings the voluntary communists of Marx's philosophy sharing the means of production and the fruits of labor equitably is nothing but a dream. Humans are flawed individually and corporately, and in need of redemption and resurrection to make them whole.

Only Jesus Christ offers that. I hope our Gentle Marxist finds the way.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bogeymen and Socialism-

The term "socialist" has recently been cast as an aspersion on Obama during these later gyrations in the campaign process. It is said much like calling him a "bogeyman." I am not particularly surprised by the use of the term "socialist", but am somewhat fascinated that it can be a term that serves to strike fear in people.

I must assume that those who fear and loath the term "socialist" must somehow identify themselves with capitalists. In the United States these terms are generally used as antithetical to one another. That is a logical way to deal with the terms, but the emotional identification with capitalism I find surprising.

Most of the people at whom the term "socialist" is being cast for emotional impact don't actually practice capitalism to any real degree. Most are citizens who are working within the existing system to make a life for themselves. Many use resources (such as roads and electrical power) that are partially or wholly socialized without any real thought to the matter. Why, then, is the socialist a bogeyman in their eyes?

I am inclined to believe that capitalism and the prized liberties of Americans are closely linked in the American mythos. Since socialism is antithetical to capitalism it must also threaten liberty. It therefore is anti-American. Ergo, if Obama is a socialist he is anti-American. Hence, working class Americans who don't significantly practice capitalism still identify with capitalism as a root of the liberties they enjoy. They may thus be influenced away from supporting Obama because he is now perceived as a threat.

Obama has become a bogeyman.

While casting aspersions may be a viable campaign tool, it does nothing for clarifying for Americans the culture in which they live. Most social orders in our world practice varying degrees of socialism. It is practiced to some degree in this country. The degree will vary over time, as people and organizations respond to changes in the world.

The dynamics of a system that can adjust to changes in the environment are signs of health. The question is not whether Obama is a socialist. It is whether or not Obama's policies are the right dynamic for our system in the current changing environment.

I presently don't really care. I want change. I do not think the current dynamic is right for our continued survival in the changing environment. Obama represents change. For me he is a convenient force that can be applied to the system to change the system. Once the direction is changed we can adjust the course.

One term of Obama may be sufficient. Two may be too much.

To use a colorful expression often used by a wino I once knew, "I don't give a flying rat's ass" about the degree of capitalism or socialism applied to the system. I simply want a system in which I can live with reasonable freedom and security. For me that would be weighted toward optimal freedom. Security need only be the power to keep what is mine and do with it what I choose.

I don't need people trying to frighten me with bogeymen. I need real information for making real choices.

Obviously campaign rhetoric is not a valid resource.

Influence or Regulation?-

As a Christian and a Philosopher (to whatever degree I am much of either) I have considered my place in society. As either (or both) I impact my world with what I say and what I do. I hold that what we do rises from what we truly believe.

Some of my fellow Christians are activists. They intentionally act to influence our society to become more consistent with Christian principles. I cannot fault them for zeal and active endeavor to realize such ideals. Yet in my own life I chose not to strongly associate myself with these people.

The problem for me is in believing that the best Christian influence is through regulation. Ultimately I see such activism creating a Christian culture in which Christians are comfortable, but non-Christians are likely to be uncomfortable. This would drive unbelievers to move away from such environments, and the influence of Christians on non-Christians would become less by virtue of that distance.

I also often find that the culture of Christians tends to be narrow, shallow and lacking in interest. It need not be so, yet in areas where American Christian culture has deep roots there is often a distinct provincialism. There tends to be a failure to interact with ideas, since so many living together think much alike.

This kind of culture would offend the part of me that is the Philosopher.

For me an ideal culture would be diverse in thought and action. Regulation would be minimal, and ideas and beliefs would be free to interact in an organic and catalytic fashion. It is more of an environment of Influence rather than Regulation.

I cannot help but feel that ideas thrive in environments of freedom and diversity. While tight regulation may make some people feel secure, it seems repressive to me. Freedom on all levels of life allows for freedom of thought.

Such must necessarily be difficult for orthodoxy. To hold believers to beliefs that are consistent with Christian doctrine in an environment of free thinking must necessarily present a great challenge. Yet the opportunity for those believers to interact with unbelievers is much greater in an environment of free thinking.

Or so it seems to me. My love of freedom does not require the abandonment of order and discipline. Indeed, these are needed even more in a realm of great freedom. They are, however, freely chosen and adhered to, rather than simply regulated into being.

So I would say I value Influence over Regulation in the exchange of ideas. It must be what I truly believe, because it is how I live.

Same Sex Marriage-

I consider this in the specific a moot point. The real issue, in my mind, is having the government involved in marriage at all. I have not researched marriage, so I am largely expressing an uninformed opinion. My impression, however, is that marriage is a personal and religious issue.

It seems to me that a great many of the cultures of the world have marriage as a social institution. It may vary somewhat, but it essentially is a bond between two people within the context of a religion and a larger social order.

How such a social institution is the business of government evades me. Perhaps I will one day study the history, if it ever grabs that much of my attention.

It does make sense for government to be involved in marriage if the church and state share a lot of responsibilities and authority. It would be my guess that this is the manner in which the American government became involved in marriage in America.

If marriage were not entangled with government I don't believe that same sex marriages would be as large of an issue as it currently seems to be. Part of the contention (besides some valid moral arguments by the various parties) is the larger issue of fiscal impact on society as a whole.

Were marriage not entangled in government this would simply be a social issue between factions.

I really would prefer that government not be so involved in our personal lives that marriage and how we define our families would be a matter of policy. Government would oversee shared infrastructure and management of some shared resources. Marriage would not fall under those umbrellas.

Government makes sense in managing things like roads and sewers. Leave other matters to the individuals and the institutions they form when they join freely together.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Victory in Iraq-

Bush, and now McCain/Palin have constantly beat the drum of "victory in Iraq." I have not yet seen the Bush criteria for victory. They seem to think that exporting a Western style democracy to that state will be the victory.

I am no expert in international affairs, but I do have experience with human interactions and criminal gangs. I have observed things I attribute to a tribal psychology to these groups. I may be wrong, but I did find some support in this web site. It relates to Somalia, another place America got involved in tribal issues and military engagement.

Generally, as long as a tribe exists there is a shared identity. Only the benefit of the tribe is important. The individual is not important, and other tribes and individuals are not important. To bring the tribe in line with some presumed higher purpose will require either constant violent shepherding or the destruction of the tribe.

If you have not yet read the article, please do so. It is not long, and expresses what I have intuitively held since we began our war in Iraq.

Iraq is not, by the nature of its population, a single national entity. It is an area on the face of the earth in which several tribes exist. We have accomplished what little has been accomplished entirely by force. Our strength is greater than their strength, especially since they will not readily unite even to drive us out.

They do, however, have patience. Their conflicts have gone on for many generations. They can wait until we eventually go away, and then return to the conflicts that have been their tradition. They know that we will eventually go away.

There is no victory in Iraq, unless we are willing to join one faction in genocide against the others. We will not do that, because it is contrary to the nature of our way of thinking.

It wasn't always. We nearly decimated the Native American populations. Again, by superiority in numbers and better technology. I have to wonder how the matter of westward expansion would have been handled by modern American politicians.

So, since we won't kill off the people living in the place called Iraq and claim the land as our own, we should just leave.

It will not be a defeat. For a defeat to exist there had to be the prospect of victory.

Since victory can easily be a matter of definition in a situation like this, we can draw a line somewhere that we have already crossed. That line will define our "victory." Let the Iraqi people evolve their own democracy when they are ready. Or not.

Then we can get the Hell out of there, and begin cleaning up the crap we have at home.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ivy League Leftists and Neo-Cons-

I have been poking about a bit, trying to get a more solid grip on the lovely title "Ivy League Leftist." Mostly because I had heard the term used as a pejorative aimed at Obama. Because he was of the Democratic Party (left of center) and graduated from Ivy League schools (perceived as the home of left-leaning educators) the term was applied to get reactions from those hearing it who perceived themselves as conservatives.

Essentially, an inflammatory term intended to manipulate emotions, evoking generally negative feelings and applying them to an object (Obama, in this case) to make that object less attractive.

The term Neo-Con (new conservative) was intended for use like that. Somehow it was embraced, and some web sites use the title proudly.

Generally I have perceived the left-leaning of the Democrats and the right-leaning of the Republicans as only a few degrees from center. Of course, this requires some kind of political continuum in which to view the objects under consideration. I can't see this as a line, necessarily. Indeed, I can't ever seem to find a visual to use that really applies in any meaningful way.

These parties have to come together with common goals, but are not as homogeneous as portrayed. As a Libertarian I learned that there are Libertarian elements within each of these parties. They are "working from within." That's great, for those who are Libertarian and can live with the significant compromises necessary to live in those environments.

I am glad they are there.

I know there are some pretty radical leftists wandering around in the Democratic party. I am not so sure of the Republicans, though the degree to which some of them list to the left might make it seem so. Ultimately, they are bodies in which compromises are generated in the form of policies and political goals. They each comprise a spectrum, and they both face the same challenges that face the nation.

Often I see them as two flavors of vanilla ice cream. Not the same, yet not all that different.

Neither one seems bent on loading us all into a hand-basket and sending us on a journey. For the most part, they express good intentions. They will probably fail at most of what they do, and that failure might be the best thing for us all. They have been largely failing for over two hundred years, and from my perspective things are not that bad.

Here's to another four years of muddling on.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Interesting Times-

I will forewarn you, readers. I am going to address partisan politics. I have seen some people get upset on other blogs when that happened. However, if you are reading something with the title Philosophy on Purpose you ought to expect politics to come up from time to time.

I visited Repicheep just a bit ago. I had not been there in weeks. I added his blog to my list of Following so I don't neglect a place I enjoy visiting. Repicheep expressed some strong support for McCain for President. Good arguments. Considering all that I have read and know, people who vote knowledgeably for McCain are not making a bad choice.

I am not voting for McCain. I shall vote for Obama, hoping that his victory shall put the brakes on and change the course of this country. I shall vote for him only once. I shall hope to see him out of office after four years.

I do not want "more of the same." Heinous and criminal things have taken place in the course of the Bush administration. He failed to take the nation in a viable direction, even when 9/11 gave him the potential to make great strides. No, he laid the foundation for a potential economic disaster through short-sightedness and bowing to the wealthy.

He did right going into Afghanistan. An open assault by a known enemy is an affront that must be answered by force. How it has been managed since then I do not support, but the initial response was right and good.

Manipulating that 9/11 event into justification for an entirely separate protracted war with no defined parameters for victory was criminal. Diminishing the freedoms of Americans in the name of "security" was criminal. Lying constantly and deceiving the American people was criminal. That he did so in a misguided belief that this was all good for America is tragic.

I do believe that Bush holds this course because he truly believes it to be the right course for America. I also believe he is fundamentally wrong.

McCain has sufficiently expressed his support for that course to convince me that his tenure as President would just get us in deeper. There is no victory in Iraq. No matter what we do that nation will fall into squabbling factions once we leave. Any unity they seemingly had in the past has been held by force. They will play along to get us out, then fall on one another to see who is strongest.

On to the Ivy League Left. Obama is the one left standing, but Hillary Clinton is also such a creature. I need to study these people, for I don't fully grasp what makes them tick. I understand Leftists. I have met screaming Communists, and evangelistic Communists. I have known many Socialists. They often have high ideals, and most are well-meaning people. They were all working-class people. How the Ivy League went Left I do not fully understand.

The problem I have is not with the ideals, but with the fundamental error of believing that the government is the best medium for bringing them into being. People should feed, clothe and care for themselves as much as possible, in an environment of freedom. They should not need nor desire to have the government do it. They should not be compelled to have the government do it.

Why vote for Obama, then? To begin dismantling the machine Bush and those he truly represents have been creating. Fascism may be to harsh for the direction they have been heading, but I have not seen an expansion of freedom and opportunity for the common American resulting from the present course.

It has long been my belief that the greatest strength of our system of government has been the ability to keep any one group from having power long enough to really mess things up. If nothing else, we have the option of throwing out the incumbents and altering course. Our system seems to allow this with the least fuss and bloodshed, relative to the many systems functioning today.

I long for less government and more freedom. I would love to vote Libertarian once again this year, but the need for change is too great for making statements or gestures with my vote.

This election I vote for Obama, in order to dethrone Bush. Even if his name is McCain, I would not have Bush for another four years.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Changing boxes-

We need categories in order to think about things. Things need names, and they need a "box" to show their association with other things. I say "things" even though ideas are also objects of thought. It is a simpler way to think about thinking, and ideas as objects is not an unreasonable concept.

So we put things (and ideas) into boxes. A particular thing might fit into quite a number of boxes, each box lending an element of understanding regarding that particular thing.

Political and economic ideas fit into boxes. Sometimes we confuse the box for the thing, and I think our understanding becomes muddled as a result.

As a Christian I adopted some ways of thinking that were different from my native thoughts. I adjusted my old ways based on the authority of the Christian teachings to which I had chosen to submit myself. Sometimes I adopted the American Christian cultural biases along with the more objective Christian truths. I rarely did so intentionally.

It was by virtue of this that I became a Republican for quite a number of years. Many conservative Christians with which I associated tied the Republican agenda closely to the fundamental truths of the Christian faith. I early on found flaws in this thinking, and never was fully able to embrace the Republican Party as a result.

Strangely enough, I was associated with the Christian Left at one time. I have always had sympathy for the idea of an ideal communism. It is efficient and fair, and I like that. However, any examples of Communism I have ever seen have been far from efficient or fair, and often were worse in their corrupt forms than other models being acted out throughout the world.

The association was never official, nor was it really mine. Others made the association based on my expression of the belief that the hungry should be fed, and that all people should be clothed and sheltered. I think that these are good things, and right. However, I am not Left enough to adopt the belief that government is the proper medium to provide them.

Indeed, I have never had a strong trust in government. I recognize the need of regulatory bodies to keep people from injuring each other and taking unfair advantage of those who are somehow weak. I do not necessarily believe that the government is the medium through which all people should receive all good things.

Governments tend to become corrupt, either from self-seeking people taking control of them or from age and ossification. They are not really the ideal medium for compassion. They serve well in regulating and enforcing, but generosity is not an inherent characteristic of such bureaucracies. It seems that those bodies that seek to be all to their people demand much in the way of reduced rights and freedoms in exchange.

Over time I have come to the conclusion that a minimal government is best. Let it be charged with whatever regulations and enforcements are necessary to keep people from injuring one another and some means to protect the weak from oppression. A nominal regulation in guiding people in settling conflicts seems necessary, but it should be quite carefully managed.

I believe that optimal freedom for individuals is best for all. It allows even the Christian freedom to live as they chose, and to share their beliefs freely. The Christian beliefs would have to compete in an unregulated marketplace of ideas, of course. I don't see that as problematic. In a truly open marketplace ideas that are strong would thrive.

The compassionate would be free to exercise compassion, unhindered by needless regulation or the compulsion to support some inefficient bureaucracy. Those who are less compassionate would not have their resources stolen by a system engineered to enforce compassion.

So I believe. Unfortunately, my former associates the Republicans (not without compromised assistance from the Democrats) have embroiled my country in a fruitless war. This election I will be supporting the Democrats in choice of leaders, though I do so with trepidation. I am convinced that the war must end and have a slightly greater hope in the Democrats doing so than the Republicans.

That being said, I am not jumping into their box for more than the act of voting. I see the Democrats as inclined toward creating that benevolent and intrusive government I despise. Republicans have proved intrusive without the benevolence, except for a soft heart for the wealthy. I would cast them all aside for greater freedom and less government.

Though I think in boxes, like everyone else, I recognize that life is not so neatly packaged. I am open to changing boxes, either to gain a new perspective or to bring about some desirable result.

The boxes are a tool for thinking, and should liberate thought. When they serve to confine and control, it is time to change boxes.

Government and trust-

I grew up in the 1960's. Turbulent years. Years of change.

My father has always been an American patriot. He instilled a respect for an idealized America that I adopted readily. He grew up in difficult times. Turbulent years. Years of change. My father loves his country, and has always had hope for the future.

The idealized America I learned to love was not just a fabrication of my father's experience. It was sculpted in the 1950's. Post World War II America, on top of the world as a consequence of changing events. Growth and prosperity. A time of reformulated identity.

I grew up in the 1960's. There was a war in those days. A protracted war in a distant land. I grew up with the growing belief that the country I loved intended to gather me up and send me to that distant land, to kill and probably be killed.

Needless to say, this challenged my love for my country. It did not destroy that love, but it did change the nature of that love.

I joined the Army in 1972. I had no other solid prospects, and it seemed wise to go into the inevitable with some degree of control. I had trouble in those days seeing past my probable death in Southeast Asia. It impacted my capacity to dream of any kind of future.

I did not go to Viet Nam, and I did not die there. I fought the Cold War in Germany, and on the whole it was a good experience. However, I had lost my trust in the government of the nation I still loved. I was proud to have served the people of America, but I was not sure I felt that way about the government I served.

The years between then and now have been filled with challenges to that love of country. I still believe our system of government is one of the best in history. It is not, however, the unsullied gift from Heaven that the glorious 1950's painted.

There were lies then, and there are lies now. People have died as a result of the lies. Sacrifices offered by the rich and powerful in the name of a Great Nation. Sacrifices they did not have the right to make, even though they were rich and powerful.

I am still idealistic enough to believe that a nation founded on lies is unworthy of the trust of its people. I am still naive enough to believe that a little gained by truth is better than a lot gained by lies. I am wise enough to know that we would not survive long as a nation if those who governed were so rigidly idealistic.

The realities of the world demand compromise, and compromise always diminishes ideals. Yet to abandon ideals is to yield to a pragmatism that will spirals down into a meaningless existence. It devolves into a mindless cannibalism devoid of purpose.

Perhaps that is the purpose that government ultimately serves. It is a system by which we act out the struggle to rise above the chaos that is the absence of ideals. It is constantly compromised, and always falls short. In falling short, however, we still rise above the chaos.

The ideal government can be trusted. A government compromised by lies cannot be trusted. However, even a compromised government can stand above the chaos of the absence of ideals.

I will never again trust my government. However, I need not abandon that government, for in the course of governing much good is done. It is imperfect, and bears constant watching. It requires constant attention, and over time it can be made better. The ideal of truth can still be the goal toward which I will move the government of this nation, to whatever degree I can as a simple citizen.

It would be nice to be able to trust our government, but we cannot. The history of lies denies that trust. We can strive to make it better. We can hope for a day when such trust is warranted.

It is hard for an idealist. We have so far to go.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Four Square and my World View-

I entered the American public school system in the late 1950's. Most of my education took place in the 1960's. One of my earliest life lessons came early in those years.

At recess from classes we went to the playground. Painted on the surface of the tarmac were squares. Probably twelve to fifteen feet to a side. Each square was divided into four equal lesser squares. The game was played with the ubiquitous red rubber ball.

A player stood in each of the squares. The lead player would establish the rules of the game, and then bounce the ball to another player. That player would return the ball or send it to another player, according to the lead player's rules. Children wanting to enter the game would line up along the side of the major square. When a player missed the ball they were out, the remaining players advanced one square, and the next player entered the game.

That is the idealized version. Unfortunately, it was played by humans. The lead player was, in those days in my schools, generally a dominant female. She would always assume the lead, and place her friends in the remaining squares. She would often adjust or interpret her impromptu rules to keep herself and her friends in control of the game.

This was my introduction to human social games. I did not like it. Generally, to become the friend of a lead player required a certain devotion that I never really comprehended. After trying this game, and some of the others, I eventually gravitated to the far side of the field. I just hung out there, watching the other kids play or looking out through the fence.

I apparently do not have a strong social need. More than one person has observed, "Mike, you don't need people, do you?" It is true. That need is small in me. So, I failed to learn a lot of the basic social games that were taught unofficially on the playgrounds of my schools.

Nature, or nurture? I can't really say. I always come to the conclusion that it has to be both, and the dominance of one over the other is not consistent from person to person. Anyway, I elected quite consciously to not learn a lot of the social games. The few I played were conducted with such a cynical twist that I was not really playing those games, either.

Antisocial? Not really. I have come to care for some people quite strongly. More like asocial. The inherent need was not strong, and I think that the need drives the games. My conscious decision to avoid or abandon most of the human games shaped my world view.

What is your Four Square influence? Have you identified it? How has it impacted your world view?

Philosophy. On purpose.

Friday, August 29, 2008


I must admit I haven't made much of this wonderful tool. Here I have the Internet as a place to play with my philosophy, and little has happened.

Part of the problem is Real Life. I have living issues to deal with, and don't find the time for fleshing out my philosophy. I have changed to the night shift, and that is impacting my time and energy. I am working or resting from work, and constantly adjusting to this night/day living. I haven't found my personal cycle in these hours, and as a result I haven't much focus or energy.

A big part of the problem is me. I recall in my youth being fascinated by the trappings of science, and thus thinking I wanted to be a scientist. However, the vague desire was not sufficient to drive me to learn HOW to be a scientist. I just liked science "stuff." I liked the impression I had of science and scientist, not the actual science.

Science is hard. Like any field it requires dedication and effort and time. I did not have enough dedication to commit the time and effort.

Philosophy attracted me, as well. To think great thoughts, to know things in depth. However, again I did not have the dedication to put forth the effort and time.

I have proved to be an intellectual wanderer. I drift from one thing to another, reading and studying and observing. However, I don't do it systematically, or consistently. I do it in passing.

There is so much to know, and so little time. It is a bit like my hunger to travel. What is on the other side of the horizon? What might I see? I long to travel like that, but to do so is to give up the place I now live. I would not have the depth of knowledge of a place. Similarly, with the intellectual wandering I do not gain the depth of knowledge of a field of study.

At one point in my life I was trying to study philosophy, and also learn how to become wealthy. My desire was to gain enough wealth to care for my young family so that I could focus on studies. However, becoming wealthy is hard. It requires dedication and effort and time. Since wealth was not really what I wanted, I did not do that well.

I have done little. I am a bit of a drifter in everything I do. I wander from one pretty idea to another, but never stay long. My mind is a butterfly, but lacking the purpose of even a butterfly.

Still, this blog exists for a purpose. To explore and give flesh to my personal philosophy. Perhaps, over time, something of worth will collect here.

Time will tell.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Answers to Prayer-

One of my work associates is a follower of Shamanism. She is an intelligent and articulate person, and did not fall into this pursuit lightly. It is a genuine belief, and one she pursues with diligence.

She shared one of her books with me. It was an interesting book, as it was essentially a book of testimonials by believers in the ways of the Shaman. It had an amazing parallel to Christian testimonials to answered prayers. Indeed, other than a few words now and then that reflected the true roots of the beliefs of those testifying, it could be mistaken for a piece of literature from contemporary Christian culture.

I simply found it curious. I could see how someone inflamed with an anti-Christian bias could argue that it was evidence against the existence of the Christian God. I could see how an insecure Christian could experience doubts about the Christian faith, seeing that such experiences as answered prayer occurred in beliefs quite contrary to what is Christian.

When I examined evolution I saw something similar. Perhaps not a true parallel, but still an example worth considering. The evidence presented in favor of evolution was the significant similarity of human DNA to the DNA of a chimpanzee. How could one not conclude that both humans and chimps were descended from a common ancestor?

Again, the anti-Christian would readily load this bit of evidence into their God-busting cannon. Again, an insecure believer might experience doubts about the Christian faith. How can these things be, in a God created world?

That, however, is precisely the point. Is it unreasonable that God, in His creation, would use similar patterns in the elements of His creation? That is simply good engineering. It is simply good design. So, we should not be surprised to find parallels in DNA patterns. DNA as a building block is obviously part of God's design, given the assumption and belief that God exists and is Creator of all that is.

As to answered prayer? God created this world, and he created people to live in this world. Our interactions with that creation will be similar, whatever we believe. The degree and form of direct intervention by God is an unknown. Though He has the power to interact with His creation in any manner He sees fit, it is quite obvious that His interaction is quite subtle except for a few rare occasions.

He does not move mountains if allowing a pebble to follow its natural course will adequately execute His will. Not only is He an excellent engineer, He is also quite adept at being God.

Much of what people perceive as answers to prayer is simply pebbles following their natural courses. It should therefore be no surprise that a Shamanist would perceive answers to prayer much like the Christian does.

God may execute His designs according to His own wisdom, and extends His grace to whom He chooses. We may attribute what we experience in His creation to whatever and whomever we like. Answers to prayer are not proofs of the existence of God, nor are they the foundation of true faith.

The book my Shamanist friend shared with me was a curiosity, and very interesting. I am glad she shared it with me. It gave me something to think about. It will be interesting to see what others who find this blog might think, as well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Full Belly and Sound Sleep-

I have been on the night shift (again) for only a few days. However, I have spent probably about half of my working life on nights. I don't mind it, and sometimes like it. There are times, though, when I am a bit tired.

Though we can adapt and train ourselves to live in the night, we seem to be more naturally day creatures. I refer to our species. Probably due to our natural equipment. We don't see particularly well, so more light is good. Our sense of smell is not particularly keen, so we often use our eyes to sense danger. Night is something we can do, but not always well.

Tonight I am not much of a philosopher. I am a bit tired.

I have sometimes said that it is easier to be a liberal on a full stomach. I don't recall reading that anywhere, but it probably belongs to someone else. Liberal attitudes seem to rest more easily on the shoulders of those who are comfortable and have the leisure time to feel guilty about it. Others must have noted the same observation. Whether or not they did, I would contend it is true aside from who might have first made the observation.

To be a philosopher may well require at least a fundamental level of comfort, and I would contend that a decent amount of sleep would be a good idea as well.

Oh, maybe a touch of deprivation and some sleepless nights could contribute to a sound philosophy. The belly knows its own philosophy, however. Hunger can dictate some very strong conditions.

A fuzzy head does not produce particularly sharp thoughts, either.

Hopefully future nights will offer richer thinking. Tonight I am hardly here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Serendipity Scholarship-

In line with my idea of learning often being catalytic, I have a concept of serendipity in learning. It is the form of scholarship I often practice. It is openness to learning, and a willingness to follow untrammeled paths. It is willingness to allow the course of inquiry to be directed by the unfolding of your life, rather than the dictates of a regimen of learning.

The modern era of connectivity is a grand place for the serendipity scholar to live. Connectivity is the set of tool that allows serendipity to become the essence of the scholar’s life. Using these tools the scholar can follow inspiration and curiosity as they occur. If that freedom does not exist, the scholar can make meaningful notes that easily become active study when time and other resources are available.

I practice this serendipity scholarship, using my various tools. A thought comes to mind, and if I am not immediately able to follow that thought I have my phone. I can make a voice recording on my phone, and refer to it later or even send it to myself as an email. If a photo will help, I can take a photo with that same tool and store or forward the image for later use.

The computer connected to the Internet is the central tool. Following a moment of inspiration, or following up on a recorded thought, I can begin researching. I can find photos, articles, organizations and individuals. All are resources. Even busy individuals can be accessed by email. Not everyone, of course, but a surprising number of knowledgeable people will respond to a clear, concise and polite email.

The many Wiki resources provide a fabulous wealth of information. Wikipedia is an essential tool, and many specialized areas of interest have a Wiki site of their own. With most articles containing hypertext, the next leg of the intellectual journey can be just a click away. A wealth of literature and a crowd of individuals are just a finger’s motion away.

Wiki resources should not be relied upon exclusively. These are sources of information provided by and edited by contributors. Accuracy is achieved over time, as others shape the articles in the Wiki resources. Unlike more formally published resources, there are no official checks for accuracy. While fresh and dynamic, Wiki resources are at the same time risky.

As the Serendipity Scholar explores, seemingly random ideas and events take on amazing degrees of connectedness in the online realm. Following a whim can lead to a wealth of knowledge. It may not serve as a course of training in a particular field, but a life of Serendipity can be exciting and adventurous.

Of course a lifetime of following such connections with whatever tools are available can have an impact on your life. My nickname among my work associates is “Doctor Lockridge.” I have been dipping into the pools of knowledge so often and for so long that I have a bit of knowledge about a multitude of things. Where I don’t know, I have a very good idea how to find out.

This was once referred to by a friend as “Doctor Lockridge’s Wading Pool of Knowledge.” broad, but not too deep. I think it was intended as a good hearted insult, but the description is apt and I have adopted it. It is a mental image that begs for a caricature.

If you love learning for the sake of learning, and knowledge as a thing in itself, intentionally adopting Serendipity Scholarship can be quite satisfying. You may already be a Serendipity Scholar. Now what you have been doing has a name.

Catalytic Learning-

I think a lot about learning. I am interested in the acquisition of knowledge. I am also interested in how we know what we know. The mechanics, and what happens beyond the mechanics.

This affects how I think about teaching. I have great respect for teachers. Professional teachers and those who are teachers by accident or nature. Incidental teachers and lifelong teachers.

Educational systems are difficult to manage, but must be managed in some way. This leads to interesting applications, phenomenal successes, and occasional disasters.

I have to reflect on an imaginary scenario that has often come to my mind. A little schoolhouse in the Midwest in the latter part of the 1800's. Children compelled to memorize the capitals of states and nations they would never visit. Places far away that, in their era, would not impact their lives in any way.

The exercises were intended to exercise the mind. They also provided a way of measuring how much learning had taken place. The content and state of another person’s mind is impossible to know without some kind of exchange. These exercises provided ways to measure the success of education as an institution.

These educational institutions have existed in various forms for centuries. They go through changes, of course. They struggle to succeed and remain useful and current. It is a difficult task, and my respect for teachers is extended to good administrators for making it work to some degree. It is not an easy task.

What these institutions fail to provide for is the person who is wired differently. Not all humans have mental systems that absorb and regurgitate information on demand. Unfortunately, it would be a Herculean task for administrators to fund and manage a system that meets the needs of every individual. That ideal is far from reality.

So, these strange individuals get pushed to the edges of the educational system (whatever that happens to be in any given time and place.) Out on these frontiers these people cultivate new cultures. For those who succeed, it is good. Failures, however, get pushed farther and farther out.

I will deal with my idea of frontiers in another entry. For now I will get to my point.

I would contend that the mind exists in conjunction with a biological organ, the brain. The mind is a consequence of the function of the brain. Data passes to the brain from the senses, and affects the brain in various ways. Only one of those ways becomes stored information.

I would also contend that this process is more analogous to catalytic chemical reactions than to physical constructions. Just like the catalyst entering into a chemical solution and causing a reaction and subsequent change in the state of the solution, stimuli enter the brain and can cause similar changes of state.
We now live in a world that has become grossly interconnected. Information flows at up to the speed of light. Our intake and interaction with the stimulus of information is slower, but from a historical perspective it is now very fast. It will grow faster over time.

Not only is there speed, but volume. We are not far from the point where we will be virtually interconnected with everybody else. That is a lot in the way of stimuli.

This is both good news and bad. For those living on the edges, the stimuli they needed to grow will be abundantly available. For those living in the old ways of thinking, of simply storing and regurgitating information, it will be a challenge. The machines will do most of that for us. Such people will be challenged to find a new place for their old skills.

Institutions founded on trying to control the availability of information and the uses to which information is applied will find that control eroding. The institutions will have to adapt or become useless anachronisms.

For those of us who value thought and expression on an individual level, this will be a very exciting time. Stimuli will be everywhere, and the results will be wonderfully unpredictable.

For those who like structure and control, these will be very scary times.

My vision is not Utopian. One of the consequences of these changes will be violence, destruction and death. Not for everyone, but there will be cataclysmic events in various places as a direct result of the shift in how humans interact.

There will also be beauty and wonder beyond our present imagining.

Get ready. These shall be very interesting times.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The American Perspective-

I really have no idea how to view the world other than from the grossly independent American perspective. I exist at the end of a line of genetic and social development that culminates in the strange land called America.

In reality, it is the United States of America. Perhaps it is somehow indicative of the American perspective that we have preempted the titles "America" and "American." Canadians are Americans. Mexicans are Americans. Uruguayans are Americans.

But none are Americans like Americans are Americans. I am an American, and really can see myself as nothing else.

One of my readings in recent years touched on what I think may be the root of the intense independence and individuality that is America. Our nation came into being, a transplant of the British Empire. A strong body of educated people formed this country with a structure that grew out of that empire, but embraced from its very beginning an ideal of independence.

Working with established forms of government and economics, that body built the beginnings of a nation. With a sound foundation, that young nation went forth to encompass a great area of land. We had several things others had not had before us. A mature foundation, and room to expand.

Consequently, the free thinkers always had a place to go. The spirit of independence and self-reliance had a frontier. For those with the necessary temperament, this was freedom with a capital F.

The more significant consequence of this freedom to "move on" was the creation of a robust middle class. Even laborers could simply choose to "move on" if the circumstances made life where they were living intolerable. In lands of developing industry where that freedom to "move on" was restricted, a vast pool of cheap labor (and resulting hoards of poor people) came into being.

Not in America. If things were not to your liking, you could "move on." Starving in a city is not much different than starving on a frontier. What was there to lose?

Consequently, many people had a degree of wealth, a strong sense of independence, and considerable freedom.

It has been like this for generations. Though we now have filled much of the land that made the freedom to "move on" possible, the spirit is still strong. We see the rest of the world from this perspective of individuality and freedom. It is an American Perspective.

Because the world grows ever smaller due to changes in the technologies of travel and communication, this perspective faces challenges. Challenges, and inevitable changes.

I really cannot speculate as to how this will work itself out over time. My thoughts go first one way, then the other. The ever increasing population of humans fill the available spaces and tax the available resources. This indicates a trend toward restrictions on individuality and freedom. Yet the existence of a new space, cyberspace, hints at liberation and expansive creativity.

What shall we do? What shall come of all of this?

I don't know. I do know, however, that even these words shall build what is to come. Words that spring from an American Perspective.

My Libertarian Leanings-

At times I have referred to myself as a Mercenary Anarchist. This is a reference my work in corrections and my personal libertarian leanings. Though I lock people up according to law, I don't always believe in those laws for which they are locked up.

I do, however, believe in law and order. Just not a lot of it.

Many of the people I lock up are incarcerated for drug related crimes. I believe that laws protecting persons and their property are necessary. I do not really think that the elaborate and expensive drug enforcement current in our society is similarly necessary. However, the laws are not difficult to abide by. I do not have a particularly difficult time earning a living locking up people who elect to be stupid.

I would eliminate most of the laws regulating the drugs and their marketing. Simplify the system to protect children from predation and easy access, and eliminate any laws that simply relate to drug possession and sales.

On the other hand, prosecution for behavior related crimes would not be mitigated by drug use. Being under the influence would not provide any form of excuse. The choice to use any drug would encompass any consequences of that choice. Laws protecting persons and property would be firmly enforced.

All other laws would be assessed and simplified, as well. Regulation would be minimal, and freedom maximized.

I realize that this is all a pipe-dream.

It is such because of the various natures of people. Some have a temperament to regulate. Once they have regulated what is minimally necessary to insure free human interaction, they will continue to find things to regulate. It is the fundamental compulsion of who they are.

These people make use of a valuable resource. The people with a temperament to enforce. Unless it is taken to extremes, this is a useful pairing. The regulators regulate, giving the enforcers something to enforce.

It is easy to see how this can cascade out of control. More laws. Laws that are well intended, but become complex and sometimes contradictory. More enforcers to enforce the expanding number of laws. All of this creates a greater overhead for regulation and enforcement. The cost of the system grows ever greater.

At this point in my life, I live and work with the enforcers. Most are dedicated and do a great job. However, most do not think much about the laws they enforce. Since more laws feeds the need to enforce, they are often supportive of the regulators.

Everywhere I have lived the regulators have held power by permission of the people being regulated. Over-regulation is at least slowed and minimized by systems that allow for the removal of regulators that become unpopular. That would include regulators that do not control their enforcers.

Still, I see a continuous expansion of regulation in the world in which I live. This is contrary to my love of freedom, and the consequential aversion to regulation.

I have no real hope of seeing a world of true liberty. Perhaps that is not really possible, given the nature of humans.

I must adapt to ever growing regulation, and seek to exercise such liberties as I can.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

True Agnosticism

At around the age of fourteen I flirted with atheism. I did not hold to that position for very long, probably due to an innate sense of integrity. I knew that I perceived the reality in which I lived from a finite perspective. I simply could not know enough to make the absolute declaration that God did not exist.

It was at that point in my life that I adopted an attitude of agnosticism. I recognized that I did not know if God did or did not exist. I eventually expanded that philosophy to become what I referred to as True Agnosticism. This became the starting point of my spiritual quest.

Keep in mind that I was still a child at this point in my intellectual growth. I had thought through the implications of science. I loved the trappings and language of science. The romance of science. However, the limits of time and space denied me the prospect of answering my deepest questions through science. Science defined the how of things, but did not often touch on the why.

I wanted both.

So, I approached the world in which I lived with as few preconceptions as I could manage. I tried to be a blank slate, awaiting some spontaneous automatic writing to inform my carefully cultivated ignorance. I also tried to eliminate my emotions as much as possible. They appeared to me to be irrational, and inclined to inform my experiences in ways that were not conducive to gaining knowledge.

Of course, I was just making my best guesses as to how to “build a philosophy.” I suspect that such is pretty much the way it is done if you don’t have a master to follow.

As a True Agnostic, I determined the best way to examine systems of thinking and believing was by acting as if I believed the basic tenets of that system. I first attempted to explore Hinduism. Unfortunately, the same limits applied. I was young, and I was finite in time and space. Still, I preceded as best I could in my blindness and ignorance.

During this unguided period of exploration I moved from place to place. While my personal focus was a vague quest for “Truth,” I was also compelled to live a human life. I lacked a guide, and was in many ways floundering in a great and confusing sea of possibilities.

In the midst of this turmoil I made the acquaintance of a follower of Jesus. This happened at a strange confluence of human events that became known as The Jesus Movement. I was ripe for evangelism. Christianity was on my list of systems to explore. As a True Agnostic I adopted the Christian beliefs as they were explained to me.

Over time, as I explored Christianity doctrinally and historically, many of those beliefs became my beliefs. However, I never adopted the evangelical culture as my own. I recognized many rifts in the overall Christian system, and again faced the daunting task of sorting it all out as a finite being.

It is still something I wrestle with.

In retrospect, my greatest error was adopting the preconception that human emotions were bad and to be eliminated. Granted, they are complicating. However, I have come to recognize that we are largely emotional beings, and stunting my own emotional growth was neither healthy nor was it profitable.

True Agnosticism is a valid perspective in that it recognizes the value of ignorance. If we begin with the statement “I don’t know” and move honestly forward from there, we can gain knowledge with perspective. Ignorance establishes a baseline.

True Agnosticism may be adopted at times to assess our own preconceptions. If I drive myself back to ignorance, and move carefully forward, I can more honestly assess what I believed to be true before I began examining my experiences.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of True Agnosticism is that it compels honesty. We really don’t know much, and assessing what we think we know from a baseline of “I don’t know” can show up the weak points in whatever belief structure we are currently living within.

Is True Agnosticism a good way of thinking for everybody?

I don’t know.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Design II-

Engineering is closely related to science. Indeed, as an engineering technician I worked at one point for a man holding the title Scientist. I am aware of a philosophy of science. If there is a philosophy of engineering, I have yet to see it. So, off to Wikipedia I go. Yep, here it is. Amazing.

Design is inherent in the task of the engineer, and so there must be a philosophy of design. Ah, here that is. Aesthetics is an element of design engineering, along with a design that suits a purpose and performs a task or set of tasks correctly. My thought is that the ethical element of social influence should be an element of design.

In particular, making things as comfortable and user servicable as possible. That would be attention toward access of parts and assemblies, and the various ways such assemblies go together. Plumbing, electrical, or simply a matter of structure. The design should also account for adaptability to special needs.

Automobiles seem to be designed foremost with aesthetics and intangibles in mind, with the focus on the sale of the machine. Ease of maintenance and repair is not always foremost in the design. As a result the owner cannot assume a lot of the repair and maintenence tasks without ultimately defering to a specialist. The specialist often faces a daunting and unpleasant series of tasks performing many repairs and upkeep tasks, due to the design not taking their needs into account.

Houses are often the same. Plumbing is hidden away, and so difficult to access. Electical elements are not always easy to access without much effort. The repair and maintenence are not high on the list of design considerations. I would contend that the aesthetic demands that establish these tastes are driven by the upper class in society, where maintenence and repair is religated to a lower class and can be simply paid for. The lower classes are stuck with these sensibilitied they inheret (and perhaps even intentionally adopt) from the higher class.

This is, of course, a speculative contention on my part. I am, in essence, expressing my own values which tend toward easy owner maintenence. My own life philosophy places value on simplicity and designs that empower the owner of an artifact to keep and care for it themselves. I recognize that my own values are often at odds with the society in which I live.

This does reflect the fact that there are social and ethical elements in philosophies such as the philosophy of engineering and the philosophy of design. Aesthetics, economics, marketability, availablility of resources. Many factors that don't necessarily come readily to my own mind.

My own longing is for a philosophy that contributes to autonomy and individual empowerment. I want to be free of the aesthetics of the wealthy. I want to live in a user servicable world.

That is the essence of my philosophy of design.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Design and social strata-

I know by reading that the social divisions in England were quite strong, and even in the early and mid 20th century there were abundant evidences. It reflects even in such works as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Though the relationship between Frodo and Samwise is relatively close through the course of the adventure, there remains the sense that Sam is in a separate class. This, a fantasy in an imaginary world still reflects something of Tolkien's culture.

In the United States we do not have as strong a sense of social class defining us as persons. However, the service jobs tend to still be looked down upon by "professionals." I have done some of this service work, having been a janitor at various times in my life.

I was thinking on how such things as plumbing in our modern houses may well reflect a lack of regard for plumbers. When plumbing was a new thing, it was added to houses on the outside. That, of course, was necessary. Accessible, easy to work on. I have to imagine that the exposed plumbing was a point of pride for the new owners.

Sensibilities changed. It would be more attractive to place the plumbing inside the walls on new houses. It would be less apparent, and look better. However, now the task of plumbing was more difficult. This, however, was a lesser consideration. Plumbers were "working class." They were paid to bend and crawl to do their work.

Or so it seems to me. It is quite possible to design things to be easily serviceable. It is quite possible to respect the professional that must perform the services. After all, they really are

Of course, I have an ulterior motive for such changes in design. User serviceability. I would love to have my plumbing and electrical be modular and accessible. I could then do the work myself. The same with the design of my car, and other elements of my life that can wear out or break down.

In the end, perhaps I have the least respect for professionals. I would rather keep my money, and be able to take care of the things in my life myself.

Young philosophers-

I was poking about a bit in cyberspace, and came upon a question in someones space regarding her son. He was interested in becoming a philosopher, and she was inquiring about the prospects for employment. In philosophy, that generally means an academic career.

Sadly, I could find no way to comment as a guest on that particular forum. It is an exhausting prospect, signing up and logging onto all of the many forums out there just to make one comment. However, her question is one dear to my heart.

So, to answer, I recommend that her son pursue the dream. In the days when I became an adult there was a glut of professors, courtesy of the Viet Nam war and student deferments. Since philosophy is a huge subject, never-ending, it allowed students to ride the deferment train a long, long time. So, I faced a world in which there were a lot of competitors for the few philosophy professorships.

It was not necessarily a mistake on my part to turn from the dream of becoming a philosopher by profession. However, I do think that we pay a very large price in forsaking a dream. Dreams are vital to the soul, to the essence of each of our individual beings. Forsaking a dream is sacrificing a part of oneself. That sacrifice should never be made thoughtlessly. If possible, it should never be made at all.

Pursue the dream, young philosopher. Be flexible, be creative, but do not forsake the dream. Attend to the practical, but never let it overwhelm the dream. There are a thousand little deaths down any other road. Seek life. Follow the dream.

Carbon footprint-

I actually awoke this morning thinking about carbon footprints. What my dream must have been I do not know. The idea was in my head upon waking, and I immediately began writing about it in that very same head.

On the matter of my blog compulsion I wrote a quick blog this morning on blogoholism. That, however, is something else.

Carbon footprint. A really good idea. A way to quantify something that is otherwise rather nebulous. It is a term that paints a picture in the head of the reader.

Already I see changes. Some have come over my lifetime. I still recall the “Don’t be a litterbug” jingles and advertisements of my youth. I remember observing the visible change as the amount of debris along highways diminished in my growing up years. It stuck, at least with me. I would have to make an effort to cast trash on the ground. I WON’T be a litterbug!

I have long believed that changes in cultures come about largely due to economics. Granted, the litterbug campaign was a successful political ploy to alter the culture. However, many government manipulations fail or go astray. No, change will be driven by money.

The cost of gasoline is going up, and will not come down. This is due to other parts of the world finally advancing into modern economies. The demand is up, but the supply is limited. Add the complication of the politics of use of resources and the situation insures higher gas prices.

For nearly a hundred years our culture has grown and been fed (literally and figuratively) on fossil fuels. Now that will change.

Yuppies going green won’t really change it. Composting systems in up-scale New York apartments won’t do anything in itself. People converting fuel burning cars into electric cars, doubling the expense (or more) of the vehicle won’t do anything in itself. However, they will drive changes in technology and the availability of that technology by spending money on green things.

As these new “green things” become more common, the price will drop and they will be integrated into our way of life.

Our big, sloppy carbon footprints will eventually become smaller and cleaner. Will it be enough, soon enough? I don’t know. I do know that the potential for profit will drive people to innovate. When the cost of doing nothing becomes great enough, even the least motivated members of planet Earth will get moving.

You will be able to track them by the ever shrinking carbon footprints they leave behind.

Monday, June 9, 2008


My experience in the blog realm thus far have been quite interesting. The way I think has changed a bit since I began blogging.

In the past I filled my mind with conversations with straw men. These were images in my mind of people with whom I would like to converse, but did not have the convenience of their actual presence to permit me to pontificate. They were straw men, or perhaps more properly straw people.

Since they lived in my mind, they always responded well to my thoughts and ideas. They asked the right questions, and never interrupted. They always recognized the genius of my thinking. As a result some of my thoughts became well developed, and I had a good idea of what I thought on various subjects.

So, having inner dialogues has been a rather normal thing for me.

Now there exists a medium into which I can inject these thoughts, and there exists the possibility that someone else will read them and respond. Actual people, rather than the virtual straw creations living in my head.

You see, the weak point of living in your own head is the lack of ideas and opinions from others to shape your own ideas and opinions. It is a hothouse of ingrown concepts. Concepts that may have validity, but are undeveloped and stunted due to lack of outside influence.

What have I learned in the blogosphere? Well, one can continue this inner dialogue as a monologue, but the influence of others can still be lacking. Why? Because it is still just pontificating, it is still just rambling.

Oh, there is the benefit of having to write down the ideas. That does help. They have to be written with some kind of structure, as if someone else must read them and understand what is said. However, it is still just ideas going forth.

Having enough ego that I want my ideas to go forth, I write and post them. Now, I face the problem of how to get others to read them.

Here is where things get interesting. In order to get read in the blogosphere, you have to read. You have to read, and comment. You have to interact with people!

In the ancient days of straw people, I did not really have the venue for pontificating and receiving criticism of my thoughts. In the blogosphere, however, there are real people! I can conveniently interact with multitudes!

That is what I am learning to do. I may still be rambling, but now there is a chance I might get somewhere.
Anybody want to buy a set of well-used straw people?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Truth and Integrity

I have generally held that truth and integrity are correlated terms. I have thus assessed the organizations and people with whom I have been associated by this perception of correlation. However, one of my coworkers said that he did not believe this correlation to be true. I found this to be interesting, since he is one of the people I work with who generally exemplifies the correlation of truth and integrity.

This presented a challenge to examine my thinking on the matter. A cursory examination of the reference to truth as noted above (follow the link) presents the complexity of the issue.

If I say that I will do something, and then do not do what I say, I damage my integrity. My word is less reliable, due to my own inconsistancy. It is not so much an issue of truth, as a matter of consistency and reliability. The reason I fail may be due to unforseen circumstances, rather than a deception. I prove unreliable, but not untruthful.

If I claim to be one thing, but in reality I am something else, I damage my integrity and violate truth. A person, a people, or an institution which is not consistent with truth and integrity cannot be relied upon. They exist as a deception, an intentional departure from truth and integrity.

Perhaps it was this distinction that my coworker recognized. There are times when the best of us use deception for a higher purpose. The lie is perceived to be the higher moral choice. Thus, though truth is violated, integrity is maintained.

Integrity is strained, however, when the justification for deviating from the truth is weak and self-serving. Integrity can be eroded to a meaningless term if it does not maintain a strong relationship with truth.

Truth and integrity are correlated terms, but not equivalent terms. Like many such words they work together to describe the relationship between ourselves and each other. They help to describe the relationship of ourselves and the world in which we live.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Philosophy of-

Many years ago I discovered a group on the early Internet called the History of the Philosophy of Science (HOPOS) news group. I was just exploring some news groups in the wee hours of the night as I tried to stay awake at work. I made contact with some very interesting people on that site. I still don't know how I was able to join that group. I probably just got missed and somehow authorized.

There was a lot of traffic between these high-level academician. Not a lot of argument or discussion, but much communication. I even participated a few times, though this was a far different world than the one in which I lived.

I had not realized such a field existed. I knew about science and scientists. I knew about history and historians. I knew a bit about philosophy and philosophers. This, however, had some very interesting implications. There was a separate field of philosophy that related to science. In addition to that, there were historians who studied the history of the philosophy of science.

I found this fascinating. A field of scholarship defined in such a way. I wondered what other fields had defined philosophies, and histories of those philosophies. How did they originate? How did they develop?

Since that time I have discovered interesting little niches in academia. The University of California at Santa Cruz has a clutch of scholars dedicated to Charles Dickens. These scholars coordinate with similar enclaves in other universities around the world. All of this energy focused on a popular writer from another century and another land.

Science as a field grew over time. The philosophy upon which modern science is based also developed over time, and helped shape the future growth of science. It makes sense that the development of this philosophy should have a formal history. Knowledge of that history would inform and shape both the development of science and the future of the philosophy of science.

Any other field of human endeavor could be similarly defined by a history, a philosophy, and a history of that philosophy. It is unlikely that most fields would be formally defined and studied in this manner, yet it is interesting to see that at least informally most fields develop in this way.

There would probably not be a very large amount of money available for scholars working on the history of the philosophy of tatting, but it seems a sure bet that both the history and philosophy exist informally in the minds of those who tat.

It almost seems worth writing the grant application, doesn't it?

Monday, June 2, 2008

How I am doing this-

I find that I wish to express myself sometimes where I cannot post to any of my accounts. A dilemma for a mind that is ramping up to Internet speed. So, I create my little essays in files on my thumb drive using whatever computer is available. It is a dream world for a lifelong thinker.

If that is not enough, I can make mobile notes on my phone. Imagine that! I can record voice messages to myself, and even email them to me! If you are young enough not to see how wonderful this is, try to imagine what it must have been like when the idea of electric light was just getting started.

"Martha! Would you look at that! Just turn a switch, and you have light! No dipping tallow to make candles. No more kerosene. Just turn a switch!"

"Oh, Tom. How you go on. This will never catch on! I've had enough of the fair. Let's hitch up the buggy and go home."

So, I am collecting essays, keeping them short. I post them as I can, but not too quickly. Time to think, and savor the experience.

Time to hitch up the buggy and go home!

Truth and truth

I recall in my youth feeling a compulsion to learn the Truth. Being young, I saw truth as an entity, a self-existent thing which defined and gave order to the world I faced as a child. The Truth (with a capital T) existed outside of the world. It was incorruptible, and always true.

Lacking a religious upbringing, my Truth occupied the place of God. I was just a child, and unable to think through what my compulsion caused me to believe. What I find fascinating at this later point in my life is how perceptive I was. The equation of God with Truth may be found in Judeo-Christian literature.

Later in life (though still in my youth) I comprehended the limits of my ability to accumulate knowledge. I was on a quest to find Truth, yet knowledge alone could not be the path. I had not the resources within myself to accumulate enough knowledge to verify the Truth. I little realize how quixotic this quest actually was.

Most probably I was compelled to this quest by my childhood insecurities, a strong intellect, and an appetite for knowledge. I longed for a world that was clearly defined, safe, and secure. However, I was perceptive enough to see beyond the security and safety of my family. I recognized that the world was large, confusing, and quite unsafe.

It was my good fortune to have a solid family in which to wrestle with these insecurities. There was moral consistency in my early experience, a model that developed into a strong sense of the value of integrity. Unfortunately, I seem to have been born with a romantic and idealistic nature. I expected the real world to reflect my internal concepts of Truth and integrity.

As I became an adult, I sought reasons to hold onto my childish longing for Truth. No longer able to rely simply on the acquisition of knowledge, I entered into a spiritual quest. I thought to examine and practice the many religions of the world. How, I was not sure. Yet I intended to try.

Reality intervened. In those days there was a protracted war, and to feed the need for bodies the government could then draft soldiers. Since quixotic spiritual quests are notoriously bad careers, and I faced the probability of being drafted, I joined the Army. Not your usual path for a pilgrim, but one that seemed right.

I selected Hinduism as my first sample. I read the Bhagavad Gita (ref.) and began practicing Yoga. I recognized the difficulty of creating my own path to the knowledge that I was seeking, and was often frustrated by the lack of guidance. I was quite unsure of my way, but was compelled to try.

During this time I was exposed to a Christian. Lawrence Lee Clark lived his Christian beliefs as no other person I had met. He was challenging and compelling. I began examining the Christian faith, as it was one of the systems of belief I had purposed to examine. Unlike my self-styled Hinduism, here I had a guide.

I was eventually converted to the faith, accepting Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour. I accepted the Christian God as the One True God. I continued my studies in that belief.

The Christian faith does not have only one presence on earth. Though the faith is in One God, the expression of that faith is quite varied. I adopted the belief that God would guide my quest, recognizing that exhausting all of the knowledge of the various expressions of Christian faith would exhaust me. Better to trust God to guide me.

At this present point in my learning, I would contend that Truth is the Divine perspective. It is how God sees creation and the things within that creation. A thing is true to the degree that it agrees with the Divine perspective. This sounds quite simple. I don’t think it really is.

How does one get the Divine perspective? In the Christian system of belief the source of the Divine perspective is the Bible. However, the Bible is not exhaustive. It does not contain all knowledge. It is the revelation of God, but it is limited. It is what God has elected to reveal of Himself. It is true, but not all truth.

Our perception is limited, and so our knowledge of truth will necessarily be limited. Yet truth can be known, at least in part. A dilemma, and not the only one in contemplating the relationship of man and God. As in all areas where our limitations as finite beings come into play in such things, I believe we depend on the grace of God to carry us through.

How, then, does this reflect on truth and integrity in our daily lives? My testimony here simply reflects the value I place on truth. I do not perceive it to be malleable, a thing to be bent and stretched to suit my purposes. I have integrity when I am consistent with the things I believe to be true. My integrity is diminished when I deviate from my own truth.

Note I say “my own truth.” Not the Truth. My truth necessarily deviates from Truth, due to my finite limitations and my own moral inconsistency. This lack on my part, this inability to bring my truth into line with Truth, is the gap overcome by grace. God is adequate where I am not.

I am content with that.

Philosophy on purpose-

I have been blogging for less than a year. I am really just getting started. However, I have kept a written journal for over thirty years before I started writing out here in cyberspace. It seems that I am expanding, seeking ways to get my thoughts "out there."

From my youth I have been a philosopher. A lover of knowledge, and a big fan of thinking. It has been such a habit that people have referred to me as a philosopher without my outwardly encouraging them to do so. It is my manner of speech, my modes of thought, and my perspective on life. I have been a philosopher on purpose.

The changing world has given me a most amazing outlet for expression. The Internet places my thoughts "out there" where everyone can view them. The only requirement is that I write them down and post them.

My first blog was a venue for my short stories. They languished in a drawer, and when I learned to blog I found a place for them to be shared. Then I began a blog on barbecue. I was just beginning in the art of serious barbecue, and I wanted to share my adventure step-by-step.

This, however, is bigger. I will be expressing opinions and playing with ideas. I will be doing this "out there" where others can read and react. This particular blog will be low-key, in that I won't promote it and play the "blog-game" of trying to get more hits than anyone else. These will be thought seeds scattered to see what grows.

I shall be posting many of these little essays on However, I know that MySpace is blocked in many places that Blogger still might be reached. So, I scatter the seeds a bit more widely.

In the days of my youth I sought a philosophy that encompassed everything. I have learned that systems of religion and philosophy are worth studying, but none seem to be the all-encompassing manual for living that my naive younger self sought. However, that does not stop a philosopher from thinking and studying and building a personal philosophy.

Indeed, the idea of building a philosophy on purpose is quite appealing. So, here I begin.