Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Reason to Be Alone

When people hear the word "loner" a usually negative connotation is summoned to mind: people who stay within their houses nearly every waking moment, seldom ever to come out; detesting people within their private minds and outwardly actions. But I protest and say there are very good reasons for why a person would want to be alone, as concretized in an incident that happened to me today.

I was walking towards the parking lot after having exited my college pavilion when I noticed a crowd of people walking towards me, obviously intending to go into the building I had just left. As a customary act of benevolent politeness, I held the door open. When the man furthest ahead of the crowd approached me he muttered something inaudible, yanked the door from my hand, and then disposed of something in the trash can behind me. It was an act of pure malice, for he could have walked an arc around me, a detour that would have set him off his course by mere inches and decreased his efficiency by a fractional part of a second. Given his state of being and of his teeth I assume he doesn't live a very pleasant life, but such a malevolent act will not lead to his permanent satisfaction, but rather continuous strife with himself and the world.

Luckily the man behind him had seen that I had been forcibly removed from my post at the door and resumed the favor for me. However, that did not immediately remove the mood of malevolence I had held towards the malicious man, for I wished him ill. But then again, if he continues to act like then ill shall continue to follow, and so he will need no help from wishing on my part.

It is for this type of person that one would find it not merely desirable, but beneficial to partake in the life of a loner. The consistency in regards to how often one achieves personal values determines one's overall sense of life (the constant emotion), and if one regularly deals in loss of value, such as with that malicious man who threw my act of benevolence in my face, then one could develop a sense of life that is inherently negative. My choice to be a loner is due to the fact that I live in an area where people have a predominantly indifferent or negative sense of life and because I go to college in an area where people are not only predominantly negative but are ready and willing to also commit acts of malice. If I recall correctly, the community college a few miles away regularly witnesses gunfire.

If I were to subject myself to and interact with these people on a consistent basis then certainly my benevolence would fade. I would not feel like being kind if it were to provoke anger rather than a likewise emotion; I would not feel like being polite if it provoked impoliteness more often than not; I would not think highly of mankind if the men that surrounded me were a worthless bunch. The thing is, I do not currently harbor these feelings or thoughts, and I actively work to prevent myself from doing so by maintaining my self-peace (i.e. self-esteem) and by being very careful and meticulously judgmental about whom I allow in my life.

I do not really enjoy being alone, usually only after I had been in a crowd for a long period of time, but if one is surrounded by bad people then George Washington's saying rings true: "'Tis better to be alone than in bad company."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where Life is Worth Living

Recently I have had the misfortune of my seasonal job as a park ranger for a nature preserve come to an end for the winter, though it's likely it's ending permanently due to my local politicians actively working to dismantle the park, so it's back to searching for employment. I had forgotten how difficult this is. Adding to that difficulty is the fact that I live near the worst parts of Michigan; I do not live in Detroit, but I will say that it certainly isn't unreachable by an afternoon's drive. But I must not lose hope: with the loss of hope comes the loss of resolve.

However, while seeking advice as how to properly seek employment someone expressed astonishment at my living in Michigan and advised that I move out as soon as possible, something that has deeply resonated with me. I had given such a thought entertainment before, but seeing this course of action in light of my future prospects made me feel the idea deeply resonate with my emotions more intensely than it had before. It is true: given the present circumstances things are going to get worse. Michigan faced depression while the rest of America faced a recession. Michigan will have a depression within a depression if America goes into a depression. I'm not sure if there are any applicable economic terms that describe the situation that would occur in Michigan if America were to go into a depression within a depression. Under the guise of trying to be helpful our politicians (my local ones I mean) make things worse and worse. They certainly have not been idle in their destruction in the past year, as my documentation can profess.

Here we have nearly endless examples. Remember the law that prohibits shutting off utilities in homes during the winter months, which leaves open the possibility of people stealing utilities and driving bills up (and perhaps companies out of business)? What about the fine that punishes home security companies for problems that have little to no control over and charges them in a fashion geared towards producing revenue for the government? There were also the considered newspaper bailouts, which would do nothing since demand is shrinking for printed news. Let us not forget the perhaps most inane proposal: the proposition of destroying parts of cities as a way of improving the economy. And so on, with future examples yet to come.

What these examples have in common is that they are all instances in which politicians claim they will be enacting this type of legislation for our good and then proceed to cause problems that accomplish no good for anyone. What scares me in principle is that I may be made to fail in my endeavors by things outside of my control. Failure as such doesn't frighten me given that I am entirely responsible for it and am able to take corrective action or am at least able to learn from it, but if my politicians continue to insist on taking more and more of my responsibilities out of my hands and into theirs it rapidly deteriorates into the case that somebody will cause me to fail and allow me little possibility to correct my situation no matter how much knowledge I gain of taking proper actions. The way it goes with politicians today is that they cause problems, evade that they are the cause of those problems, and then take further actions which cause further problems, thereby keeping the politicians' constituents in a constant state of failure. I wouldn't want to live a life that wasn't mine to maintain, for good or ruin.

The effects of such legislation are more directly perceivable in the population that has to endure them. It is becoming more and more seldom that you would see a person that is happy in my area: people are either visibly discontent, indifferent, or indeterminate (considering the amount of evidence required to be able to make an objective estimate of someone's sense of life). When I walk into some businesses I feel deceived in a way, for the establishment has smiling well-dressed people pictured on its online application and much emphasis is put on doing an exemplary job, but when I arrive on its premises I see miserable employees that seem to be held to mediocre standards. I would love to be held accountable to the rough standards indicated in the application process, but I often wonder as to the actual nature of the hiring practices of my local businesses.

And let us not ignore that a miserable populace makes for a less than choice range of options when it comes to choosing associates. My associates tend to be irrational, dishonest, and unhappy people who blindly follow what's popular, long-established, or the strongest whim. You will perhaps be most familiar with the specific group that harangued me about Man X. The root of my frustration in dealing with such people lies in that facts (1) they do not exercise or respect reason in their actions and thinking, and (2) they therefore cannot be dealt with by a process of reason (i.e. in adversity it's impossible to sit down with them and "work out our differences"). Such people are unpredictable in what instances they will choose to evade and what ideas will evoke what particular emotions. For instance, one day while breakfasting at someone's house I was asked to close the blinds somewhat since the sun was shining intensely on the floor. I had no idea what difference it made so I asked why and was told that prolonged exposure of the sun on the carpet would fade its color. Having never heard such a notion before I asked the person how he knew of such a thing and instantly his anger was provoked. "Ben!" he yelled. "It's common knowledge! I just know!" I have struck a cord of uncertainty, and he refused to support his claim, instead resorting to intimidation and a claim to innate knowledge, nothing a rationally certain man would resort to. To this day his claim remains unproved and unsupported; he won't have any of it when I try to explain his errors, just like the people with Man X did when they refused to acknowledge my arguments.

Obviously I would have little to lose if I were to move. I won't miss the politicians usurping my responsibilities and control over my life, and I certainly won't miss the unhappy and irrational people that support these politicians.

What's to gain? Everything. I have been daydreaming about this: waking up for work in my own apartment, studying late at night in my own apartment for college courses, being responsible for my own sustenance at every meal, being responsible for all the cleaning, paying my own bills with my own earned money, decorating exactly as I want, associating with whom I choose -- I am not adverse to the idea of being entirely responsible for myself, I relish the thought. I feel uncomfortable when other people cook for me (excluding restaurant cooks) and I hate it when I'm offered money I didn't earn and don't need. Even paying bills doesn't bother me: the bills I pay are for products and services that I want and need, and am very willing to pay for even if it means draining my bank account every billing period. (I do mind, however, paying taxes, as it is money taken without my consent, used for purposes I do not approve of, and in the end benefits no one. I could have done so much more with that money, which will now instead be lost forever.)

Given all this, the advice-giver has convinced me to change my course of action: As soon as I can establish the funds and the means of sustaining myself I will move from this state. Since my politicians refuse to see the true nature of their actions, things are certainly going to get worse and the population will continue to suffer. I don't think I can prosper and be happy in a state where my property is so heavily taxed and the people have no living fire. I have reenrolled in college now, so I'm going to finish a semester or so first before I seriously detail a plan for moving.

As of yet I don't know where I would like to go (perhaps Texas?), but certainly not here. Not in a place where life takes backseat to some thoughtless bureaucrat's morality.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Beautiful Philosophy

You know who I find to be a perfect example of a beautiful woman? Kari Byron:

Though I have to say what makes her so appealing to the eye (to me) is not her physical characteristics solely, but that it seems, assuming she portrays herself first-handedly, that her body is the perfect presentation of her spirit. She is made pretty not entirely by how she takes care of her body but by how she lives her life; her life is reflected on her face.

Ever since I've read the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, the story where a boy prevents himself from aging by passing on his physical degeneration to a portrait of himself, I have been taking greater care to notice how people's lifestyle takes a toll on their body. My observations so far indicate that the ugliest people tend to also be the unhappiest. Even if they manage to keep their body looking youthful and handsome despite their psychological states, they render themselves unattractive by their actions.

What kind of philosophy a person advocates has a dramatic impact on the life he lives. It will decide the courses of action he will choose, what emotions he will feel toward certain things, how healthy he will be mentally, what habits he will establish, whether he assumes responsibility or not, and so on. Ultimately, what kind of philosophy one advocates will decide whether one will achieve life and happiness or failure and misery. A good philosophy offers guidance in life whereas a bad one is useless. Degrees can be employed here: the better a philosophy is, the more useful it will be in offering guidance in choosing courses of action and achieving happiness; the worse a philosophy is, the more useless it is in offering guidance, and can only lead to misery if put into practice.

A good indicator as to what kind of philosophy a person holds and adheres to is his sense of life: the more consistently happy he is, the more justifiable will be our assumption that he is adhering to rational ideas to some degree; the more consistently miserable he is, the more justifiable will be our assumption that he is adhering to irrational ideas to some degree.

This is why Kari Byron interests me so much: she smiles not for the camera, but for the enjoyment of her own work, and she is not some idle host for a television show, she is an active participate, every bit as capable of physical and technical labor as that of her coworkers. She seems happy to be alive and is competent at her work.

I say with no exaggeration that I see fewer and fewer beautiful women each day. It is a painful sight to see a woman who has put forth effort to take care of every detail on her skin, only to have the whole of her beauty ruined by her mindlessness. I used to think that women who posed for photos with the ugliest of men (soul and out) were setting up some kind of Beauty and the Beast contrast, but I see now that their willingness to associate with such men indicates they are both alike in mind.

Oh well. All you need is one beautiful woman to know that beauty is still in the world.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Life in October So Far

Aside from the fact that it is my birthday month and beholder of one of my favorite holidays, I have been having quite a good October so far.

Today my copy of Fat Head and The Twilight Zone: The Complete Definitive Collection arrived in the mail, and for purchasing them rewarded me with five dollars worth of credit for its collection of downloadable videos, which I used to download episodes of my favorite comedy series, Monk. Also to look forward to in the mail is the arrival of my favorite periodical, The Objective Standard. Two nights ago I had the pleasure of learning that my favorite educational program, Good Eats, will be having its season premiere this coming Monday (which refutes my thought that the show had been cancelled) and will be running a two-hour special on Saturday night. Tonight my second favorite educational program, Mythbusters, is having its own season premiere.

Things to look forward to further in the month: the purchasing of Snow White (Walter Elias Disney is one of my heroes), the coming of my birthday, and the celebration of Halloween.

Life isn't worth living unless you keep in mind that which makes life worth living.

Is life worth living? Well, I can only answer for myself. I like to be alive, to breathe the air, to look at the landscape, the clouds, the stars, to repeat old poems, to look at pictures and statues, to hear music, the voices of the ones I love. I enjoy eating and smoking. I like good cold water. I like to talk with my wife, my girls, my grandchildren. I like to sleep and to dream. Yes, you can say that life, to me, is worth living.-- Robert Green Ingersoll

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Those Insignificant in Life

Kevin W. from Wisecracks and Wisdom provides this short little rant about the evasive mentality some people have in the medical care debate:

I'm on one hell of a ranting mood today—the point of no return has been passed. I am so sick of all these absurd ad-hominem accusations by those wanting to enslave the doctors of our country saying anyone who opposes their whim is racist, scared, It is mind-boggling to me that these people can't even fathom that someone could be opposed to them on principle (i.e. disagrees with the very premise of their argument—if you can even call it an "argument"). At this point, these people are either appallingly stupid (in which case it would be dangerous to keep them in power) or they are blatantly intellectually dishonest (a term which I would not even be allowed to use were I a Congressman). [Emphasis added.]

Though my intention today is not to comment on medical care; I have done that extensively over at my brother blog. Instead, I would rather comment on the type of mentality that Kevin points out, the mentality that cannot fathom other viewpoints than its own. Regretfully, I know and experience it all too well.

One of the difficulties in my present life, if you can even call it a difficulty now that I have done further thinking on it (more on that at the end), is that some people often disapprove of my unwillingness to associate with certain people, my reasons being ethical reasons. To cite a concrete example, there is one man (we'll call him Man X) who I will not deal with since he:

  1. Ruined his life by making bad choices, and holds other people responsible for it;

  2. lives his life moment to moment based on the range of his emotions;

  3. consistently brings injury upon himself and expects other people to take care of his ills;

  4. despises other people for their well-being and verbally abuses them if he deals with them enough, and

  5. evades any negative attribute of his character, and so is destined to stay frozen with his current self.

When I myself have dealt with this person, I have been yelled at for not considering his troubles above my own, or not bending to his whims in general; have had my property taken or used without permission, have experienced flash rages set off at random, and so on. It is obvious, given this character, that when dealing with this person I have nothing of value to gain, material or spiritual (especially spiritual). By removing this person's presence from my life I have made gargantuan leaps in health, both mentally and physically. Obviously, I shouldn't deal with this person. Obviously, it would be morally wrong for me to deal with this person since not only would I be giving up every advantage I gained by disassociating with this person, it would be unjust: I would not be treating this person as they should be and deserved to be treated (i.e. not at all). If I did deal with this person, not only would I lose by dealing with the person himself, I would have to deal with the emotional scar of labeling myself an immoral person.

You would think, after having been presented with an outstanding array of negative character traits, that to disassociate with this person would always be the obvious choice to all people, right? Nope! This is, in fact, the one decision I constantly get harangued for; harangued because the people disagreeing have the mentality that Kevin described above and refuse to practice justice.

The people who disagree with my decision present to me the following argument: I should associate with Man X since it would be right for me to associate with Man X. Why is it right? "Because it's right," they would say. How do they know it's right? "Because," they would essentially say. "Because" how? "Because." Their argument is a non-argument; it is merely an assertion of a held belief that was derived from feelings, feelings they know are valid "because they feel it." [Not actual quotes.]

When I argue against this viewpoint it always follows the same formula:

  1. Person A asserts that I should associate with Man X since it would be right for me to do so, and that I'll be the bigger person in the process and will better achieve happiness.

  2. I point out the negative characteristics of Man X, point out that I haven't gained much, if anything, by dealing with him in the past, and assert that morality is otherwise: that I am being the bigger person by not associating with him since I'm practicing the principle of justice, the principle of judging men according to how they act and treating them accordingly. If I wish to be happy, then this person must not be dealt with.

  3. Person A restates his conclusion unchanged and calls me stubborn for not adhering to it.

After a few sessions of this it dawned on me: these people aren't open to debate about basic principles; they but merely put on the facade of being open to argument, ignore the other person's explanation, and then express how their emotions are self-evidently the path to the truth. When I speak to these people they hardly ever address any one of my points; in fact, they often act as if I've never spoken at all. These are the people who cannot fathom any other viewpoint and so think someone is joking or not being serious if they say they hold differing ideals.

Furthermore, these particular people have proven themselves, by their own words, to be immoral evaders. Nearly every time I bring up Man X's negative characteristics they either explicitly tell me to evade them (which would be unjust and immoral), dance around the issue with a perceivable sense of guilt, or grow silent since it is impossible for them to refute or debate the points. (Though it does not silence them forever, for in a few weeks time they regain the courage to confront me with their same arguments, only to be silenced by the same objections or my refusal to deal with them.)

Dealing with this on a consistent basis I can see how Kevin W. could be put into an angry enough mood to want to rant. And for a time I did get very frustrated with having to deal with this, with no chance of convincing the other person otherwise (and their having no chance of convincing me either). Then, last week or so ago, I made the realization: How can I take these people seriously? Not only are these people trying to persuade me by means of their emotions, intimidation tactics, and enticements to mystical happiness (by dealing with a person to whom unhappiness is literally the only possibility, and who despises other people's happiness), their whole life is a testament that they know worst, as they have failed to achieve their own happiness (and yet think they can give me advice as to how I should pursue mine), regularly maintain or lose crumbling relationships, and so on. How can I take seriously the claim that their judgment is superior to mine when in action it is proven otherwise? How can I take seriously people who are impotent to deal with reality and therefore are not fit to live on this earth?

And the answer is: I shouldn't take these people seriously, and neither should anyone else. These people compose that which is the insignificant in life. The significant in life is the good and the pursuit of happiness, not the evil or the impotent. Except in contexts where it would harm your well-being, the bad should not even be given consideration.

Keeping this realization in my conscious memory has virtually erased all my frustration in dealing with people with this type of evasive mentality. It helps me fully feel the effect of the conclusion that these people are insignificant: that they do not matter in the long-run of life, that their judgments upon me do not matter, and that they have little to no power to hurt or stop me. When I deal with these people now I either feel mildly irritated, indifferent, or even amused. Having fully comprehended the extent of their willingness to evade, I simply try to cut off the conversation as soon as possible so that I can get back to living. Living requires that one not spin your tires in the mud.

From now on I'm going to shrug and let these people hold onto their beliefs. They are, after all, doomed to failure. Even though they may not believe in justice, reality will not fail to give them their share.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Everything's Amazing; Nobody's Happy"

While it may not always be the best strategy in pursuing mental health, it can do some good once and a while to step back and look at what progress has been made, lest it be unappreciated.

From now on I'll be sure to take such notice. It's amazing how much easier life can be made by making such acknowledgements. Sometimes at work I get frustrated with the laborious nature of some of my job tasks, say taking a shovel to go do some digging. Then I think about what effort it took to invent the shovel, and what things would be like without it. The work doesn't bother me after that.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Platonists in the House?

The book I have been reading lately is The Ominous Parallels by Dr. Leonard Peikoff, and so far I have to say I'm intensely impressed. I should have picked it up sooner.

The premise of the book is that the ideological framework (or, the ideas) that gave rise to Nazi Germany is now present in American culture, and is, as a result, moving the country towards a totalitarian state. Dr. Peikoff sets out to prove his argument by citing the specific philosophic theories that were endorsed by the Nazis and showing how they necessarily translated into and served as the justification for the genocidal and economically destructive actions of the Nazi dictatorship.

I am only in the third chapter, but already I am enthusiastic enough to give it my recommendation. I wonder, however, if this book has answered this one question that has been bothering me for several months.

The question that has been on my mind for the past few months is how the politicians of our time can move forward with a course of action that is so massively unpopular when, as per the nature of a democracy (even though we are supposed to be a republic), they are supposed to yield to popular opinion. My original theory was that the size of government has increased to the point that the most despotic-minded politician has inculcated within himself a master-slave mindset and so acts accordingly by pursuing his own ends despite of the protests of his constituents. Reading TOP, however, makes me cast doubt on this.

One of Leonard Peikoff's explanations as to why the Nazis continued to pursue their goals with total disregard for the disasters that they were causing is that they held onto Plato's "Two Realities" worldview. Plato gave forth the theory that there are actually two realities: one reality in which everything is "perfect", and the other reality, the one we live in and perceive, is but an imperfect reflection of the perfect one. Everything we perceive, the trees, people, lands, and et cetera are all reflections of something that is totally different, literally unimaginable for humans, in the perfect dimension.

People in specific, according to Peikoff, are regarded in Plato's theory as multiple reflections of something that is only a single entity in the perfect dimension, so what may appear to you as multiple autonomous persons are really reflected cells of the "Entity" in the other dimension.

Also, Plato stated that knowledge of the perfect dimension is available to only a select few people (philosopher kings?) by some means of the sorts (of course emotions) and that they should have the right to rule over the masses that are ignorant of such knowledge, that only the select few are the "true voice" of the Entity in the other dimension.

In practice for the Nazis this means that they viewed the sacrifices of their own constituents as merely sacrificing a few "cells" and that they had to right to do so since they were the chosen ones with knowledge of the other world and were thus the true voice of the will of the Entity, despite the illusion that the cells were protesting against such actions. One could almost say they may have viewed the extermination of the Jewish as the removal of a cancerous tumor in the Entity.

This philosophical worldview, of course, is nonsensical and arbitrary. There is no evidence in reality that would give rise for the theory of there being two worlds. This originated as daydream and is to be dismissed as a daydream.

However, I wonder: Is the Two Realities worldview by Plato shared with our present politicians? Are there Platonists in the White House?