Black and White World

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

I’m not attempting to ascribe a single variable to significant systemic problems, but I’m confident that there is a causal relationship between our now hyper-neoliberal cultural and many of the recent ills of our time.

To me, it seems that neoliberal culture has ushered in a period of significant instability, precariousness, disconnection, and uncertainty; and in doing so, we are now running at base-level survival mode; we are now going about our day-to-day lives with the greatest amount of existential anxiety and fear.

This psychological instability perhaps explains the kind of extreme racial conflicts we see, the rise in zealous weapon advocates, and fanaticism of all sorts, the increase in violence, scapegoating, tribalism, Brexit, and even Trump’s popularity.

Much of the globe is now violently attempting to paint the world black and white and cling to their tried and true worldviews since neoliberal cultural has given us such uncertainty and insecurity and conditioned us to see the planet and its people are disposable.

Adventures

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

My area of interest and the subject I incorporate into all of my classes is mortality studies; it’s an interdisciplinary examination of death and dying. Throughout my years of study in this concentration, the most profound lesson I’ve learned is the vital importance of relationships and life experiences; these, if unfulfilled, are the two primary regrets Hospice nurses claim they hear from their dying patients: “I wish I spent more time with friends and family, creating relationships and acquiring more life experiences.”

One may think to study mortality is morbid, unhealthy, disturbing, or perhaps repugnant, but it’s thoroughly life-affirming. Reflecting on death forces one to live not only more deeply, but with more passion, authenticity, and immediacy. Life becomes an emergency when one becomes acutely aware that life is in fact finite.

For me, life must be one of adventure, a series of adventures–as one ends another begins. With the conclusion of an adventure, we are forced to go back to our automatic routine lives. Time passes, and the telomeres rooted on our chromosomes continue to wither away, and we grow old.

A somewhat troubling but crucial practice is to meditate on our future deathbed scene, to contemplate what we might think about as life begins to fade. You won’t think about all the hollow material possessions you’ve gained and lost throughout life, all the time wasted laboring to impress everyone but yourself, all the wealth you’ve saved and lost, all the times you’ve realized crises were merely trivialities, all the hours spent working, running on that corporate hamster wheel, trying to get ahead in a spiritless rat race of robots.

You’ll think about all your adventures. You’ll remember your adventures and the friends with whom you shared them. And you’ll remember all of your subsequent adventures. And eventually, sadly, you’ll take your last breath, having exhausted your mortal coil, having overdosed on life experiences.

The German philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche developed an idea he called Eternal Return. It’s a thought experiment that hammers the notion of living passionately. Nietzsche instructs us to imagine that as we’re dying, a demon appears at our deathbed and proclaims that we are condemned to relive our lives over and over and over again in exactly in the same manner we’ve previously lived it–repeating all the slings and arrows, all the miseries and misfortunes, and all the glories and adventures.

Nietzsche forces us to ask ourselves, “how would I respond to this demon?” Would I rage against the dying of the light, kicking and screaming, thinking of reliving all the hours spent watching television, marinating on the sofa, and working at a job that neither offers meaning to my life nor fulfills my personal desires? Would I be terrified of reliving all the life I’ve wasted continually? Or would I respond with a Dionysian fervor, “relive my life in the same way over and over again? Yes! Again and again, it is!”

We must have so many adventures that when it’s time to lie on our deathbeds and Nietzsche’s demon appears to declare that we’re doomed to relive our lives over and over again for eternity, we can respond with sincerity and confidence, “Doomed? I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

One of Charles Dickens’ colorful characters said, “we’re all fellow passengers to the grave.” Let us all have adventures together before we reach our final destination.

Stranger Things and Psychic Discovers Behind the Iron Curtain

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

For Fans of Stranger Things:

I just finished one hell of a bizarre read–Psychic Discovers Behind the Iron Curtain by Sheila Ostrander. In sum, shortly after the launch of Sputnik, the Soviets began experimentations in psychic phenomenon for military purposes. The U.S., after learning this information, quickly followed with their own “Eleven-like” experiments.

Probably the most disturbing experiment the Soviets did involved killing baby rabbits to illicit a response from mother rabbits on submarines. Since communication between Russia and submarines was only possible when the submarine was at water level, and therefore vulnerable to detection, the Soviets believed that the supposed psychic connection between a mother and baby rabbit could relay messages to submarines deep under water: “If the mother shows signs of distress, surface and launch the missiles.”

One has to wonder how they could believe such things, but we still have people who believe the world is only 6,000 years old, crystals can cure anxiety, cards can foretell the future, and so on; I guess not much has changed.

Territoriality is Great for Fat Cats

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

I’m curious to learn how Trump apologists will defend the section on “territoriality” in Trump’s new tax plan. This section omits taxation on profits made by large corporations from their overseas companies, thus providing greater incentive for corporations to move production overseas. “Territoriality” seems completely counter to the slogan “Hire American, Buy American” along with many of the hollow promises Trump has made to blue collar workers. And what happened to the promise of heavily taxing businesses for producing overseas?

Current Climate Agenda is Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

The saying “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” relates well to our current ruinous climate agenda. One theory claims that the saying originated from the time when family members would bathe using the same bath water: the head of the house would wash first, using the cleanest water; followed by the males of the household; then the females; and lastly, the children. Though this theory may be incorrect, it seems an apt portrayal of generational climate terrorism, where future generations will be forced to suffer from the disastrous climate policies of previous generations—future generations will be obliged to endure the “dirty bath water” produced by their elders. It’s surprising that more parents aren’t vocal about climate issues: it’s your children who will inherit a suffocating planet.

Horatio Alger Delusion

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

I’ve always felt that arguments challenging any form of social aid spring from pure self-righteous delusions. These challengers are hasty to claim that no one has ever helped them, so they have no cause to help others. Let us set aside that as Americans, Americans should be compelled, even if only slightly, to help fellow Americans in need. Better yet, let us set aside that as citizens of the world, everyone should be obliged to help fellow global citizens. Let us set aside ideas of international obligation, compassion, and interconnectedness—that we are in fact not islands unto ourselves. (more…)

Book Review: Leon Trotsky and the Organizational Principles of the Revolutionary Party

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Faithful to the core values of Bolshevik ideology and the crusade to free the working class from their exploitative captivity, Trotsky worked tirelessly to orchestrate the global overthrow of capitalism. After Lenin’s death and Stalin’s aggressive usurpation of the Russian revolutionary party, Trotsky was marginalized and scapegoated by the very party he helped establish. But devoted to Lenin and the fundamental values of Bolshevism, Trotsky continued the struggle for proletarian liberation from afar. With his meticulous attention to organizational structure, he educated and counseled the revolutionary parties of the world on developing coalitions that would prove successful while not falling victim to the kind of tyranny found in Stalinist Russia.

It is Trotsky’s organizational structure and its necessary elements that Dianne Feeley, Paul Le Blank, and Thomas Twiss outline in Leon Trotsky and the Organizational Principles of the Revolutionary Party, a text composed primarily of Trotsky’s own prose. At the outset, the reader must bear in mind that Feeley, Le Blank, and Twiss’s compilation was written in response to problems within U.S. revolutionary organizations of the early 1980s, a time when the same organizational offenses and tense and disorganized political climate experienced in Trotsky’s own day were being encountered once again. This text serves to educate, recapitulate, and disseminate Trotsky’s core teachings and argue for a return to these teachings to correct the problems faced within the U.S. revolutionary party. (more…)

The Stoic Practice of Negative Visualization

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017
I just finished reading about negative visualization. We’ve all heard the saying directing us to simply “be satisfied with what we have.” That’s a difficult undertaking and even more difficult to always hold in the forefront of one’s thoughts.
 
The Stoics advocated the practice of negative visualization: look at all that you have and meditate on the possibility of losing these things: possessions, job, appendages, abilities, your life, the lives of others, and so on. By meditating on potential loss and not on future gains (accumulating more things after older things lose their novelty), one can combat insatiable “hedonic adaptation” and find some rest from desiring more–find some contentment.

(I used to be terrified of losing an appendage. Not anymore. Thanks, 3D printing!)

Abortion in the Bible

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Using the Old Testament’s commandment “thou shall not kill” as one’s premise against abortion is flawed, and it’s beginning to drive me insane.

First, the Hebrew term for “kill” in this commandment is “ratsakh,” which means “illegal killing.” So, killing within the bounds of Hebraic law is permissible. In the Bible, other than in the name of justice, the premeditated murder of another human being is considered illegal, and according to Numbers, the punishment is either death or life imprisonment. The key term in the previous sentence is “human being.”

What does the Bible say about a fetus being a human being? The Bible discusses the fetus in only one section: Exodus 21. This section discusses reprisal for a woman who miscarries after being struck. Whoever caused her to miscarry must pay a fine—not execution or life in prison. A fine, as we read in Leviticus, is the punishment for thievery or the like.

Drawing from Exodus and Numbers, then, we can see that the biblical writers did not consider a fetus as a human being. A fetus is regarded by these biblical writers as a possession or even a bodily appendage, and not a human being since a fine is the only punishment for the fetus’ destruction. If the fetus was treated as a human being, the punishment, as we see above, would be either death or life imprisonment.

I’m perfectly okay with people being against abortion, but I’m not okay with people drawing from a book they’ve either never entirely read or don’t fully understand.

Nature and Our Holidays

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Many of our holidays originated from symbolic interpretations of seasonal and astrological phenomena. If we were to gradually incorporate nature back into these holidays—or at least acknowledge our holidays’ earliest connections with the cosmos—I wonder what kinds of changes we would see in how people experience the nature world and our relationship to it.