Category Archives: philosophy

Contradictions

You know what a contradiction is, don’t you? It is whatever comes out of your wife’s mouth whenever you make a statement asserting that whatever you said is factually true. She will promptly and always explain to you how wrong you are… loudly… and in great detail. No matter if you happen to be provably right or not.

What’s that, you say? I’m wrong about that too? Of course, I am, dear. I only deserve the catfood cookies.

The fact is, if you raise your hand and give the teacher the correct answer often enough, you get a certain reputation amongst your classmates. Instead of continuing to call you, “dumbhead,” or “stupidhead,” or the simplified form of “caca-poo-poo-head” like they endearingly call everybody else, they begin calling you pejoratives like “Einstein,” or “Brainiac,” or “Supernerd, taah tah taaah!” And they begin pointing out in detail everything that is wrong about you. How you dress… how you talk… especially how you laugh. You have become the enemy. You must be contradicted.

“You are wrong, Mickey!”

“So, I get to be Dumbhead again?”

“No. you are still “Supernerd, taah tah taaah!” But you are wrong. We all think so, so that must be right.”

The truth is, Life itself is a contradiction. Considering the violence and hostility of the physical universe towards life, it is a miracle that anything at all is alive in the universe. The chaos of everything guarantees that if you are born into the miracle of life, then at some point, caused by a nearly infinite variety of possible aids to chaos, you will die. Order is whittled away into chaos. Civilizations fall eventually. Things die all the time.

But if all order must, by physical laws of the universe, be broken down into chaos, then, how is it that we have any order at all in the first place? Where does order come from? I’d give you a possible answer. But I would just be contradicted by the majority

Except for fundamentalist Christians who would say, “Let me think for a moment about why you are still wrong… and then I’ll tell you what I think the Bible says about why you are actually still wrong.”

One thing about being “only book-smart, but without common sense” that makes being contradicted all the time worth it, is that the more challenged the answers you come up with are, the more deeply you dig into them, and the more of a real-world understanding of why I am wrong about everything begins to make a bit more sense. Or not. Because I’m probably wrong in your estimation anyway.

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Softer Sunday Symbolism

Yesterday I was walking the dog when I was approached by a man and two women in the park. They were Jesus pushers. As a nominal Jehovah’s Witness, I am not supposed to have anything at all to do with such folks. They admired the little four-legged poop factory that I was walking. They listened patiently to the story of how we rescued her as a puppy in the middle of the street as cars zoomed past. They wanted to know what breed she was, and how we came to own her and love her. And then, they wanted to pray for me.

Jesus pushers! Just like the door-to-door work the Witnesses do, they want you to learn to pray their way and believe their truths.

I shared with them that I was a Christian Existentialist, and that could easily be interpreted as saying that I was an atheist who believes in God. And I admitted to them that I have a personal relationship with God and talk to him constantly. I admitted that in hard times I don’t merely rely on science for comfort. I do know what grace really means. “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me,” says the Psalmist David. (The shepherd uses the rod to guide the flock and the shepherd’s crook to rescue the stranded and endangered one.)

It is not in me to turn away true believers, even if I cannot accept the tenets of their faith. I let the Witnesses down. But I am no more a Witness anymore than I am one of whatever flavor of fundamentalist Christian they are.

So, they prayed for me… my poor health, my financial difficulties, and my little dog too. Their prayers touched me. Though I believe they needed the prayers more than I did. They were proving their faith to their God after all.

My own faith, my own spirituality is fundamentally simpler than theirs.

I am a part of the universe, and the universe is all that is relevant, all that there is. The universe is God. And I know my place in the universe. It is as simple as that. When I die, I will still be a part of the universe. I don’t need to live forever. Death is not the end. But it is not the end because when you finish reading and close a book, the book does not cease to exist. Past, present, and future are all one. The book can be opened again.

I appreciate that they wanted to offer me “the good news” and give me comfort. But I don’t need the forgiveness of sins they offer. I have forgiven myself, just as I have forgiven all who have ever sinned against me. I am at peace. Life is good while I have it. I thanked them and wished them well.

And that’s what Sunday means to me.

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The Puzzle of Life : Conclusion

I began this little seven-part essay quest a week ago when I was feeling my mortality. My mother is in hospice care, being kept comfortable as both her heart and her kidneys are failing. My marriage is dissolving. I am entering the fifth and final year of my Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, and even though I’ve paid off 80% of my debt, the odds are still against me. Even my ten-year-old dog is in poor health. I felt the need to make my peace with the world. So I addressed five questions with a mostly un-serious tone but some real philosophical underpinnings.

Here are the key questions.

  1. Have I lived a life that makes me worthy?
  2. Is the world going to survive long after my life is over?
  3. Does anyone really deserve love?
  4. What is destiny? And what does luck have to do with it?
  5. What is true?
Putting the puzzle pieces together naked in front of a haunted house in Winter.

So, I will now give you a cheat sheet to show the answers so that you don’t have to go back to those other six essays and… you know, read and think.

  1. I am worthy. But only because everyone is born worthy and I, unlike Hitler, didn’t do anything during my lifetime to negate that worthiness. I was not a serial killer, not a child molester, not a major polluter like Exxon, not a politician like Ted Cruz, not a lawyer, not a nihilist, not a Nazi, and not a lot of other bad things either… including not a talking-during-the-movie audience member… an unforgiveable thing to become. I am also not Ted Nugent, Bill Cosby, or Harvey Weinstein. But maybe I am a little too judgemental.
  2. The world might survive, by which I mean biological life-forms will still exist after corporate greed and wicked billionaire Bond villains wipe out human life. But the cockroach people who arise after us will have to face these same puzzle-questions in their lifetimes. Individually. And with humble clarity of self-reflection.
  3. Everyone who is worthy deserves love. Even Hitler had love. And there is a lot of love in my life beyond mere romantic love which is fleeting and fickle.’
  4. Destiny is a human idea caused by certain religions with demanding and punitive gods. The real world does not work that way, as near as I can logically figure it out.
  5. There is no absolute truth. There is only a number of truths that we can pursue and refine our understanding of with the scientific method to be as close to the truth as is humanly possible. Which, on a universal scale, is not very possible.
The laughing blue faun in my pictures represents satire and parody.

So, what’s the point of all this? Well, that’s a good question. It is a series of self-reflective essays filled with lies, deceptions, misperceptions, and dumb jokes. It is all about self-soothing and messing around with pictures and ideas. But thinking about who you are, what you are, and why is an important function of a self-reflective life. I can’t imagine living an unexamined life. For me that would be Hell. And I don’t believe Hell exists. Even stupid people think about stuff. And I am not suggesting I am the proof of that last sentence.

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The Puzzle of Life 5 : What is True?

One thing that I am pretty sure of is that Mickey has no idea what is really, fundamentally true. Is it possible that nothing actually is?

Of course, I have to acknowledge this weird old foofy guy. It is true that I am thinking right now, in spite of what my critics may tell you. And as I am aware that there is thinking going on, then I can be fairly certain that I do, in fact, exist.

So, since I exist, this is probably not a soap-bubble universe that could go “Pop!” at any second. But I can’t be sure. My eyes repeatedly lie to me. That has to be what my repeated sightings of the ghost dog in our house is all about. All of my senses lie to me in various ways. The world could all be a dream that I am having as some kind of Olympic-level super-sleeper. Apparently I am such a talented sleeper I can even dream about sleeping.

Of course, since I am willing to pretend that reality is real, there are some things I can do to help myself detect what is most probably true.

Any statement presented as truth needs to be backed up by evidence in the form of verifiable facts, reported and repeatable experimental results, reliable corroborating testimony from verifiable experts, or other scientifically significant correlations with proven facts. For example, “Mickey knows a lot of big words.” This is proven by the first sentence in this foofy paragraph.

But even science doesn’t yield perfect truth. In fact, science operates completely through distrust of the facts and trying to the extreme-est degree to disprove everything it already knows. Back when gravity was understood to be a process where demons invisibly flit around sticking people’s feet to the ground, an angry little antisocial pervert named Isaac was sitting under the apple tree. An apple fell and nearly hit the dyspeptic little caffeine addict on the head. He grumbled a bit about future generations probably defaming him by retelling the story with the apple bouncing off his large-brained nerd-head. So, he determined that if they were going to tell it that way anyway, he would link it with his discovery of a mathematical description of gravity. He sat down at his work table and invented calculus so that he could describe in mathematical precision how the moon was constantly falling towards the earth at the same rate as it moved around the globe of the Earth thus keeping it in orbit. And he proved as well that the apple falling to the earth and missing his head was subject to the very same equations.

But Newtonian mechanics and gravity were only theories. That means that it accounted for the visible effects of gravity, but did not completely answer every associated anomaly. So, then there was this goofy little Germanic guy named Albert who fled the Nazis and had extremely bad hair days and liked to stick out his tongue when photographers pointed their cameras at him. He was well-known for having lots of thought experiments involving fast-moving street cars and their headlights, associated somehow with shrinking rulers and mismatching alarm clocks. And he designed an Astronomy experiment that proved the planet Earth could bend starlight. And then he showed the world how his slowing clocks and speed-of-light street cars actually gave a more thorough description of how the theory of gravity works and called it Relativity.

So, scientific truth is always changing. In fact, it is always moving upward as one scientist stands on the shoulders of the previous scientist, and then another scientist climbs up on his shoulders to reach even higher. Stephen Hawking even climbed up on Albert’s shoulders in his wheelchair.

So, what is actually true in the puzzle of life? Nothing at all that the little liar named Mickey can tell you. You really need to decide what is true for yourself,

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The Puzzle of Life 4 : Destiny?

Is there an outcome in our lives straight ahead that can’t be avoided? Is there predestination? Or do we have a choice? And if things are totally random, how can someone like me even exist? I was born in a blizzard. My high school graduation on the football field was interrupted by a sudden thunderstorm and downpour, causing a sudden and chaotic relocation to the school auditorium. i have actually lost a coin flip 12 times in a row, narrowly avoiding the unlucky number thirteen. I even lost the most embarrassing strip poker game of my young life.

So, what is destiny?

As an Existentialist, I can say with some certainty that I believe this statement is true; “Existence precedes essence.”

Of course that means you are now thinking, “What the hell does that mean, you goofy Mickey, you?!”

So, here it is; A cadoopa-keeloopa does not exist. But if I build a complex machine out of tinker toys and Legos that uses a green plastic flag to knock over a chessboard where I am losing a game to the Grim Reaper, and I then name that machine, “cadoopa-keeloopa,” it suddenly exists, and it’s essence of cadoopa-keeloopa-ness has been established. That makes perfect sense, right?

Of course, it doesn’t! Not in the case of considering destiny.

How do you prove that destiny has existence? To know for certain what is going to happen, you must first wait for it to happen. The event that happens is existence. How do you prove that no other happening could take place? The puzzle pieces are designed to fit together in only one way, right? But anybody who has ever done a jigsaw puzzle knows that you can complete the puzzle no matter what order you use to put the pieces together. Someone putting together a 500-piece picture of Michelangelo’s David will invariably start in the middle, putting together David’s penis first and his face second. And those of us who think less logically will start with the corner pieces and do the outer edges first. And no matter the first steps, or the middle steps, you end up with the same picture at the end.

Argue the matter with me if you dare, but we are born, we piece together our lives step by step, and when the picture is complete, we die.

So, Destiny is an essence without a provable existence. God has not fore-ordained any conclusion. A jigsaw puzzle will show you the complete picture on the cover of the box. But God doesn’t put any picture for reference on the box our lives come in. That would be proof of destiny. He doesn’t even provide the box for all the pieces. So, there is no set outcome to our lives on Earth.

Which is a good thing for me. As I have told you. I am one of the unluckiest men to ever live on this planet (and not be wiped out by misfortune in childhood.) So, if God gave me a puzzle box with a picture on the top, I would invariably be missing at least one piece. If not a dozen.

So, the shape, size, and outcomes of our lives have nothing do with destiny. The picture that takes shape as we put together the puzzle of life is completely in our hands. At least the part of it that isn’t someone else’s picture made from someone else’s puzzle pieces. And we all put it all together as willy nilly (or even Milly Vanilly via lip-syncing) as is humanly possible.

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The Puzzle of Life 3 : Who Deserves to Be Loved?

As a public school teacher I have seen sweet-natured fatherless children, basically unwanted and deprived, become successful adults leading the way for others into a better future. And I have seen entitled wealthy children grow up to do one terrible thing that caused them to become a social pariah who basically lost everything they ever had in terms of the love and respect of others. So, is love something that has to be earned? And its opposite, hatred, is that deserved?

This little naked imp, Mickey by name, believed he secretly deserved hatred for about twelve years. He apparently felt if his terrible secret ever came out, even thought he did not allow himself to remember it during the years between the ages of ten and twenty-two, he would instantly become hated by everyone who knew. He couldn’t stand the thought of anyone seeing him naked. He couldn’t even comfortably receive a hug or a kiss from his own mother, let alone anyone else. It was because he had endured a session of forced testicle-twisting torture while being warned not to cry out or scream for help. He was told it would only get worse and no one would hear anyway. And it lasted for what seemed forever. And now that the terrible secret is right here written clearly in words, he still prays that you won’t hate him now that you know.

But I can tell you truthfully from my own life experience that what you think you deserve is not always what you truly deserve. Nobody deserves to have happen to them the thing that happened to Mickey. That is why it is considered a crime in our society, even if it is a crime that often goes unpunished, as it did in Mickey’s case. To be fair to Mickey, if he had ever heard that what happened to him ever happened to someone else by the same criminal, he would’ve spoken up no matter what the cost. Protecting others from what is undeserved became a theme of Mickey’s life as a teacher.

So, how does one go from deeply disturbed self-hatred to believing one is worthy of being loved? See the picture of the little naked faun? That’s Radasha. He’s the part of Mickey that knows what it is to enjoy the sensual side of life. Mickey kept a secret part of himself worthy of love in his imagination. It was a part of himself he could secretly talk to about girls and sex and love… and why you shouldn’t kill yourself to put an end to the pain…. and that there is hope in the future for knowing love again. Real love.

And Mickey learned along the way that showing love to others, especially selfless love that helps them more than it does you, the giver of love, is like giving water and sunshine to both the weeds and the flowers. You won’t believe the beauty you get from the multitude of things that blossom and grow. Dandelions are weeds. Thistles will flower. And Mickey can testify that classrooms are like gardens. They can be mostly weedy patches at the start of a school year, and grow into lovely flowerbeds by graduation day.

So, does anyone really deserve love? At the start I believe everyone does. Of course, that is Mickey talking, and he has already proven to be an unreliable narrator who doesn’t himself see the greater truth in the overall story. But at the start they are all worthy of love. And what they do with that is up to them.

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The Sedentary Stradivarius

The greatest tragedy known to man is the finely-tuned instrument that is merely sitting, barely active, when instead it should be soaring to heights never seen before.

It is a real shame that so much of human endeavor is bent towards the accumulation of wealth… And when the lucky few reach the pinnacle of that wealth-acquisition, measured in billions, they choose to hoard it and salt it away for their own exclusive use rather than solve problems like poverty, hunger, ignorance, pollution, violence, and want. The act of creation, being musical, artistic, literary, or profound, is given so little value that the idea of the starving artist is an idea that exists in every head.

I fear that far too many people don’t t truly understand what value means. For life to be worth living, you have to have priorities that justify mankind’s very existence. Surely we were not created… by either God or an indifferent random universe… to merely exist like the blue-green lichen that graces the bark of a rotting stump, or to elect Donald Trump as President just so we can see smarty-pants liberal elitists chopped down by a corrupt plague of racist frogs. The tragedy lies in the knowing… or the not knowing.

Perhaps you recognize Beethoven’s 9th Symphony when you hear the Dah-Dah-Dah-Dummm! of death knocking in that familiar musical phrase. But do you recognize the pastoral beauty of the sunshine-and-rain-filled 5th Symphony? Or have you heard the sorrow and the striving of daily life in the city streets depicted in the 7th Symphony (offered above)? If not, why not? How can you listen to any of it and not hear the many underlined reasons that it is considered among the greatest music ever created? And that by a man who was mildly insane and eventually stone deaf, unable to hear his own music anywhere but in his imagination?

I have reached a point in my life that I cannot do much beyond sit and think such thoughts. I am limited in how I can move and what work I can do by my ever-more-painful arthritis, stinging me in every joint. I am also limited by lack of money in where I can go and what I can afford to do. But I refuse to be that finely-tuned instrument that does not make much in the way of music. Hence, an essay like this one today. It is me, using my words to the best of my ability, to fill the sky with hopelessly beautiful attempts at making the stars twinkle.

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The Puzzle of Life 1 : Am I Worthy?

Have I lived a life that makes me worthy?

As I set out to make a case for myself on this key question of Mickey’s very existence, I have to admit first that several important terms need to be defined.

Fotografi efter blyantstegning udført ca. 1840 af N. C. Kierkegaard

The definitions I am going to rely on owe a lot of their cow-poop qualities to this foofy guy. His name is  Søren Kierkegaard , the frakked-up father of existentialism. You may have noticed from the picture Mickey stole from Wikipedia that he doesn’t smile much. There’s a good reason for that. Although he was a nominal Christian with a sort of faith in that religion, he was beginning to despair about juggling so many atheistic philosophy knives inherited from the philosophy-mountebanks known as  Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and  Immanuel Kant, Those extra-foofy guys kept coming up with foofy arguments that made the ridiculous things that church-type people rely on to keep them comfortable in the face of the fact that, if you are alive, then one day you will die, less and less believable in view of… you know, logic. So, since those philosophy knives kept falling and cutting into things with foofy precision, the rules of juggling had to be compromised.

Here are the terms that need to be defined;

Objectivity – means it has the quality of being firmly rooted in facts only.

Subjectivity – means, forget the facts, do what makes you happy

Foofy – means goofed up by an inexplicable addiction to philosophical ideas.

Kierkegaard decided, being the morose monkey-flinger he was, that foofy questions should rely more on subjectivity than objectivity. When it comes to the Meaning Of Life, there is no objective answer to the question. So, Søren decided that to get an answer, he could just make something up. This is why Existentialism basically argues that to find a purpose in life, you have to define that purpose yourself. Meaning is what you say it means. You get to have your own way, or you can throw a foofy fit.

Have I lived a life that makes me worthy?

Well, everybody gets to subjectively state what it means to be worthy. So, most people will say they are worthy and their friends are worthy, and mostly everybody else is worth only cow poop. And existentially they are not wrong.

But I am also allowed to say that I am worthy. In fact, I can legally declare that everyone is born worthy. And only a minority of people live lives filled with so much bile and hatred, thievery and knavery in their daily deeds that they deserve to burn in a Hell that I firmly believe cannot exist.

My conclusion has to be, even though it is only subjective and not provable by science, that Mickey has lived a life that makes him worthy.

That’s in spite of the fact that Mickey has said some incredibly stupid things in this blog. And he has been a nudist, a Jehovah’s Witness, and a middle-school English teacher, all things that Catholics, Republicans, and certain middle-school students believe sincerely belong in the hottest regions of Satan’s kingdom having to be lectured by Rush Limbaugh about free-thinking and fiscal responsibility while cockroaches and Banko Merricka lawyers chew off his fingernails and toenails.

But he has taught kids to read and write for 31 years and is proud of that fact. So, his worthiness is not wrong… at least according to Søren..

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The Puzzle of Life

Life is littered with a multi-headed mystery to try to solve by the end.

Yes, as I continue to age nearer and nearer to the ultimate darkness at the end of my story of life, I am using everything in my considerable experience and acquired wisdom to solve several key questions.

Here are the key questions.

  1. Have I lived a life that makes me worthy? (Worthy of what doesn’t really matter.)
  2. Is the world going to survive long after my life is over? (By which I mean life on Earth, particularly human life.)
  3. Does anyone really deserve love? (Particularly me.)
  4. What is destiny? And what does luck have to do with it? (As one of the unluckiest people ever, this concerns me.)
  5. What is true? (This is a big one.)

So, my plan is to write 5 essays. I will try to solve all of these big philosophical questions in a 500-word essay each. I know that makes me sound like an idealistic idiot. But, realistically, I know that may be a the answer to 4 out of the 5 questions.

Yes, I am putting puzzle pieced together in front of a haunted house while naked in winter.

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Irreverence

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It is a difficult thing to be an atheist who believes in God.  Sometimes it takes an oxymoron to find the Truth.  And you often have to go heavily on the “moron” portion of the word.

The thing I find most distressing about faith is the fact that those who have it are absolutely convinced that if you don’t agree with them and whatever book of fairy tales they believe in and interpret for you, then you are not a True Believer and you do not have real Faith.

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I remember being told by a Mormon girl in one of my classes that I was her all-time favorite teacher, but she was deeply distressed that, because of my religion (I professed to be a Jehovah’s Witness at the time) I was doomed to burn in Hell forever.

Hey, I was raised in Iowa.  I have experienced minus 100 degree Fahrenheit windchill.  I am among those who think a nice warm afterlife wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

But I am no longer actually a Jehovah’s Witness.  So I guess that helps with the whole Hell-burning thing.  The Witnesses are a religion that claims to understand the Bible is full of metaphorical truth, and yet insist that it is literally true.  They don’t believe in Hell, which, honestly, is not actually mentioned or explained in the Bible as we have it now.  But they do believe your prospects for eternal life on a paradise Earth are totally contingent on knocking on doors and telling other people that they must believe what you believe or experience eternal destruction.  I have stopped being an active Witness and knocking on doors because I got old and sick, and all the caring brothers and sisters in the congregation stopped coming around to visit because number one son joined the Marines, and the military is somehow evil hoodoo that cancels out any good you have done in the past.  Being a Jehovah’s Witness was really hard work with all the meetings (5 per week), Bible reading (I have read the entire Bible two and a half times), door-knocking, and praying, and you apparently can lose it all for saying, thinking, or doing one wrong thing.

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According to the Baptist preachers, Jehovah’s Witness elders, religious zealots, and other opinionated religious people I have known and dealt with in my life, if I do not believe what they believe and agree with them in every detail, then I do not know God and am therefore an atheist.  So, okay, I guess I am.   If I have to be an atheist to believe whole-heartedly that everyone is entitled to sincerely believe whatever the hell they want to believe, then I’ll wear that label.

On a personal note, my favorite verse of the Bible has always been 1 John 4:8,  “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.”  That is why I claim to be an atheist who believes in God.  I know love.  I love all men, women, children, animals, sunrises, artwork, paintings of angels by Bouguereau… everything that is.  And I even love you if you exercise your freedom to tell me, “Your ideas are totally wrong, and you are going to burn in Hell, Mickey, you bad guy, you!”  Mark Twain always said, “I would choose Heaven for climate, but I would prefer Hell for company.”  I am not going to worry about it.  I will be in good company.  Some things are just bigger than me.  And trying to control things like that is nonsense. Sorta like this post.

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