What is love? (part II)

11 Sep 2008 In: FIRESTARTER

"Traditional" marriage is supposed to express love also, from what I've read. However, I suspect those who believe this haven't actually read the religious texts describing what they believe traditional marriage is. Marriage in the Old Testament isn't the loving union of a man and a woman. It's the union of a man and a woman, and another woman, and maybe another as well… and don't forget all their handmaids, too — they all belong sexually to the man as well. Sometimes if the man dies it's the union of the formerly married woman with the deceased man's brother, to keep all the property within the family… so I guess you could consider it the union of a family and a woman instead?

Go read the Bible's New Testament sometime, and you'll find not only is the wedding ceremony a later addition to the list of church rituals, but also the Apostle Paul is downright patronizing about marriage, as a second-best substitute for permanent celibacy:

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What is love? (part I)

10 Sep 2008 In: FIRESTARTER

Originally posted February 2004

Credits:

Thanks to the myriad folks I've known through my life, and (for varying reasons) to Barry, Guthrum, Carl, George, Ian, Lou, especially Bob… and life in general, for this article.

Random thoughts in the traditional month of Love…

Some time ago I tried defining love, in discussion with some folks I knew. We came up with some interesting dichotomies. I've also listened (sometimes with great bemusement) to a lot of women and men over the years, discussing their husbands, wives, and intimate friends. I have what I think is a working definition of Love, but I know it isn't for everyone. It's initially easier, I think, to define what love is not. You can also skip that depressing realistic part, and just read about what I think Love is.

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This is a class assignment to critique Huber's article "Biodiversity vs. Bioengineering?" solely on the issue of whether the use of deception was sound argumentation technique. Huber's short but fascinating article appears in The Environmental Predicament, shown to the left.

From the article, I quote the most personally relevant portions:

[T]here are still transcendentally important esthetic reasons for treating life here on earth with gentle respect…. We should revere life on earth not because we expect it will profit us economically, nor because it is very likely to cure cancer, but because life is a good that requires no further justification….

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Conclusions

Gathering together all the ramblings and data we've gone through so far, we can now hopefully reach some useful insights on dealing with issues such as these (Note: please consider the pronoun 'you' to be a general reference term for myself and any readers): First, let's state the goals for which we performed this thought experiment:

  1. To remain honest in day to day life, and
  2. To recognize and avoid lying and liars

Second, here's the basic information we've come up with:

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The previous post related just a few examples I've personally experienced, of course. I'm sure there are many more psychological avoidance techniques which can be bent to their cause: to always get their way. If there are problems in their lives, it simply must be someone else's fault — never their own. If there are people who are less than flattering to them, it must be due to jealousy or spite — never because the criticism is constructive or deserved. They are masters of ignoring or avoiding the consequences of their actions, even if the only way to do so is to perpetuate their own mistaken self importance. It's a little… sad, a little pathetic, to watch their constant bemusement as to why they constantly run out of friends every two years or so… assuming they allow themselves to remember that clearly.

There is a phrase in philosophy, which I rather like and aspire to: "The unexamined life is not worth living." To those who deceive themselves regarding being the center of the universe, this phrase is apparently not just utter nonsense — it is greatly to be feared and avoided. Their most important goal is to absolutely never attempt the philosophical goal of knowing oneself — to emphatically not think about what the terrifying, liberating truth actually is.

Whew! The above is a tough issue to write about, since it usually involves painful emotional escapism when you stumble across it. However, let's get back to our original experimental question: is lying involved?

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What's been written before is all fine and good, but these examples are also pretty clear-cut. Let's try a slightly more ambiguous real-life situation. What do you say when someone asks you the dreaded question: "Does this make me look fat?"

A personal belief I feel needs saying:
anyone who is foolish enough to ask this question of any but the closest and dearest of friends is either just asking for hurt — or making unreasonable demands on your friendship!

The easiest answer to this question is not to answer, and hope they accept that as sufficient reply… but unfortunately that silence would fall squarely under the previous definition of lying. It would seem, therefore, some answer is required. However, absolute brutal truth (assuming the garment in question does indeed make them look fat, and they're looking only for reassurance it does not) probably won't serve you any better in this circumstance. What works for both a kind and a truthful answer?

I tend to live in blue jeans, and so my reply is usually along the lines of "Oh, I couldn't possibly answer that — I'm no good at that clothes-horse stuff." It's true (alas! ;-), and it's not unkind. Also, anyone can come up with variants on that particular theme (i.e. why you personally couldn't possibly answer) which will work just as well.

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Parameters of the Experiment

What are the real-life situations I've been involved in, where the reality of falsehood impacts violently with the potential for honesty? So far I've seen two issues, which have appeared repeatedly and in varying forms. One of them got me started on this line of thought, as it was very obvious and occurred quite recently: someone remaining silent or speaking vaguely, in order to give a particular but non-truthful impression. The second issue is also one I've seen occur repeatedly: someone believes something which is untrue, and passes that information on to you.

Examining the Data

Issue I

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Originally posted January 2004

Thanks to Bob, Lou, George, Eric, & Ian, who helped make this a better article.

I also extend an (admittedly somewhat grudging) 'thank you' to life in general — were I not exposed to the bad as well as the good, I would not be able to try constantly to improve myself. Sometimes it's very hard, or not much fun, but I think (I hope!) it's worth it to keep trying.

Michelangelo's motto works best for this, I think:

"Ancora Imparo"
(Still I am learning)

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Originally posted April 2004

Thanks to George for making this a better review, as he always does.

Books of historical fiction are based, in varying amounts, on the reality of the past. However, the lack of good record keeping, coupled with the problem of information conservation, has left us more often with mysteries than fact.

Art history is an excellent example of this predicament. Probably the most famous of these little mysteries is "Who was the Mona Lisa?" A less well known, but equally compelling question concerns the identity of the young girl in Johannes Vermeer's famous painting 'Girl With a Pearl Earring.'

The Book

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Book review originally posted June 2004

With thanks to Guthrum, oddly enough, who showed me loving horror didn't mean you were one. ;-)

King has actually written two books here. One is a surprisingly candid review of his memories of childhood and young adulthood. The other is about the craft of writing, and it is followed up with an equally candid examination of his almost fatal accident in 1999.

In some ways perusing someone else's memories, good as well as bad, is almost embarrassing, voyeuristic. You feel faint shock or horror at the grinding poverty, you guiltily try to remember if you were one of the abusers of the odd-kids-out in school, you read between the lines of his life experiences and wonder if this or that dreadful occurrence became part of one of King's books.

In other ways it's almost a relief to discover other people have the same feelings and concerns, albeit on different scales, as you had. Oh, good, someone else despised the popularity contest of high school! How nice to see you're not the only one who's had a half-guilty love affair with good writing all their life. What a relief to discover someone else who realizes memory is but chemical reactions in the brain, constantly being re-learned — who remembers montages of scenes, rather than gleefully reciting every teacher they'd had since kindergarten.

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Bestiaries depict mythical, moralizing animals, but are also potential allegorical sparks that can bloom into brilliant mental bonfires. My bestiary is this mythologizing animal's fascinated exploration of beauty & meaning in the wonder of existence -- in the hopes of inspiring yet more joyous flares of intellectual passion.

Enjoy!

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