Category Archives: Philosophical

These blogs deal with my personal philosophy. If you have anything to add, I would appreciate your thoughts, even if it’s disagreement.

Back from the deep end

Let me tell you about the most obnoxious person I’ve ever met.  He liked to argue, and he always had to be right.  He could combine words so well, even clear-thinking people with perfectly sound minds would become unsure of their position.  He was a troll and a bit of a bully, and he was headed down a path that could only end in loneliness.  That person, as you may have already guessed, was me.

I’ve been paying close attention to the Elliot Rodger incident that happened last weekend.  I’ve seen all of his videos, including the chilling final one where he discussed his “day of retribution”.  As I listen to what he has to say, I can’t help but recognize a little of myself.  I wasn’t as crazy as he was, but who knows what could have happened if I had kept going on the way that I was?

To clarify things a bit to certain people who might be reading this, I no longer label myself an anarchist.  My anti-government ravings were not well thought out and the product of a lot of very misplaced anger.  I wasn’t wrong about everything, but anything I was right about, I was right about for the wrong reasons.  I don’t think totally throwing out the government is a good idea at all.  People need to come together, not split apart.  Peace can only be achieved by people listening to each other.

It’s so easy to go through life without considering yourself from other people’s points of view, and it seems like most people do that.  They react to things without thinking, they misunderstand, they get angry, and they seek satisfaction rather than resolution.  I don’t want to be like that.  I’ve managed to take a look at myself from the outside a few times in my life, and about a year ago, I did it for the first time in quite a while and realized that something was seriously wrong.  I had forgotten to value my relationships.  I saw valuing the opinions and feelings of others as a weakness.  Then Michelle reminded me that only from the outside can you get an accurate overview of what most people see when they look at you.  I silenced my ego, I opened my eyes, and my world changed for the better.

It does you no good to go around hurting people and cutting yourself off from caring about the suffering you cause, because as humans, we need each other’s help to have a happy life.  Societies thrive on harmony.  Productive members of society are the ones who facilitate harmony through peaceful interactions.  That’s what I want to do.

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They ruined Sid’s life

I’m talking about Toy Story again.  In the first movie, Woody breaks what seems like the most important rule that toys have and talks to Andy’s sociopathic neighbor Sid about his mistreatment of toys.  Sid’s toys, desperate to end the abuse, were quick to agree to Woody’s plan.  Surely no one would believe Sid when he told them that toys are alive.

But what is learned cannot be unlearned.  Once Sid knew that all toys are actually alive and have feelings, his life could never be the same.  The audience is supposed to laugh triumphantly as the brat gets his comeuppance, but if you think about it, realizing that toys are alive is a huge thing.  Sid could not have possibly known that he was doing harm to sentient beings.  Sure he was a horrible child with deep emotional problems, but what Woody did to him must have tipped him over the edge.

Woody didn’t simply have a chat with Sid Phillips.  He got the other toys to surround him and put on the most frightening display they could come up with.  They didn’t just want to let him know he was hurting them.  They wanted to scare him.  They wanted to punish him.  They wanted to scar him for life by letting him in on a secret that nobody else knew and that nobody else could possibly believe.  They’d have been far kinder if they had simply killed him.

Striking a better balance

This is something I handwrote more than a year ago.  I read through it a few days ago thinking that it was probably some stupid thing that I don’t agree with any more, but it’s actually quite good.  Here it is.

——————-

For a long time, I have thought of the purpose of my life as being to spread a message.  I thought this even before I really had any idea what that message could be, and I continued to think it when I thought my message was something that I now understand to be incorrect.  I’m not saying that I understand completely what my message is now or even that I think of my life in that same context any more.  What I do know for sure is that I’m ready to share a message, or at least to begin.

I don’t know how long it will take to convey this message, but I won’t rush it.  It’s too important to rush, and I have to figure out how to translate it into a form understandable by anyone.

To sum it up, my message is this: The only true understanding is a logical one.  To explain it, I have to first explain what I understand of emotions.

Emotions are a part of the brain, and all animals have them.  They are necessary for survival on both an individual level and a species level.  Happiness serves as positive reinforcement to cause us to continue behaviors  that help us to survive.  Sadness is negative reinforcement, getting us to discontinue behaviors that hurt our chances to survive.  Fear helps us to escape danger.  Anger helps us fight when we need to.  If we don’t listen to our emotions, we miss out on cues to take actions that are important to our survival.

As advanced and intelligent as we are, human societies are dominated by emotions.  All art is meant to stir or evoke feelings.  When we look at or talk to each other, we can’t help but share how we feel.  Everything we want is to fill an emotional need.  Even the desire to live is an emotional one.  Without feelings, there is no point in living.

To understand the reasons why people behave in manners that they do, one has only to understand the emotions that each behavior stimulates.  All behaviors can be assumed to be geared toward obtaining rewards, avoiding punishments, or both.  Survival itself can fall into either category, but most often it is seen as a reward because only while alive can future rewards be enjoyed.  A life full of nothing but punishments is a punishment in itself.  Anticipation of such a life is a major factor in the decision to commit suicide, though many people have done it in anticipation of rewards in a life beyond the current one, and  many people continue living lives full of punishments due to threats of greater punishments in a life beyond the current one.

In any case, the pattern of obtaining rewards of positive emotions and avoiding punishments of negative emotions can be found at the root of every human action, decision, intention, and reaction.  With this understanding, everything people do makes sense.  But within this explanation are further explanations that allow us to not only understand human behavior but also predict and control it.

Toy Story: The Dark Truth

There once was a toy cowboy named Woody who was the favorite toy of a boy named Andy.  He enjoyed his position and used it to justify reigning over the other toys as leader even though they barely respected him.  One day, Andy got the latest fad, a toy called Buzz Lightyear, who, unlike every other toy ever made, didn’t know he was a toy.  Normally it took a long time for the inevitable process of insanity to take hold, but Buzz had it built right in.  Woody was insanely jealous, but at first his reaction was mild.  He tried to put Buzz in his place with ridicule and bullying, but Buzz was far too self confident and delusional for that to work, so Woody eventually attempted to murder him by pushing him out a window and framing one of his fellow toys, an innocent radio controlled car named RC.

The murder attempt was fairly successful.  Buzz did indeed fall out the window, but it didn’t go as Woody planned.  He was caught, and the other toys seized the opportunity to overthrow their leader and toss him out the window as well.  Only one toy, the girls’ toy Bo Peep which Andy played with for some reason, tried to speak in his defense, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.  They were too enthusiastic about finally having an excuse to get rid of the arrogant Woody.

Though he was angry at the assassination attempt, Buzz refused to retaliate, and he even accepted Woody’s “help” to get back to Star Command, which was actually just a trick to get them both back to Andy’s room.  In the process, Buzz’s delusional bubble burst, but he quickly came to terms with reality and worked with Woody on a plan to escape Andy’s sociopath neighbor Sid and return to the far-too-preoccupied-with-toys Andy.

With no help from the other toys, and in fact one attempt by them to kill Woody just before he and Buzz succeeded in reuniting with Andy, the two unlikely friends came back to their human friend.  Buzz even foresook the company of the other toys in the moving van to land in the luckily open sunroof of the car that Andy rode in, perhaps because he realized his station over them, or perhaps in recognition of their shabby treatment of Woody.

This is Toy Story.

The tragic existence of Buzz Lightyear

In the first Toy Story movie, Buzz Lightyear starts out thinking that he is a space ranger, which I guess is like a cop on a much larger scale.  He has trouble accepting the fact that he is just a toy and that all of his memories of “academy training” are false, but he comes to terms with it amazingly quickly.  He skips over some very important questions that he really should be asking, such as…

Does this mean I’m not a person?

Toys are inanimate objects, not people.  They don’t have rights, and their owners are under no obligation to treat them with consideration or respect.

How can I move?

During the movie, Woody advises the panicking toys in Andy’s room to save their batteries, suggesting that they run on battery power, but Woody is made of cloth and wood, and the majority of Andy’s toys are likewise not battery powered at all.  People are powered by the conversion of ATP into ADP.  What animates the toys?

Who am I?

If all of Buzz Lightyear’s memories are false, then so is his personality.  As a space ranger, Buzz felt compelled to come to the rescue of anyone in need and deserving of it.  After he found out the truth, he stayed that way, but why?  Freed from his delusion of being a space ranger, Buzz became free to develop his own personality, so why didn’t he explore that?

Am I immortal?

Woody was made during at least Andy’s mom’s childhood, if not earlier.  As she stated in the second movie, he’s an “old family toy”.  That means he’s quite old, though he shows no signs at all of aging other than a bit of wear and tear that is restored during the second movie.  This seems to suggest that as long as they don’t break, toys are immortal.  They have to deal with their kids growing up and abandoning them, and it causes them the same grief that a human immortal would go through seeing their loved ones die.  You see this in Jesse.  The prospector was driven insane by sitting unbought on a shelf, trapped in his original packaging for all those years.  It seems that insanity is a common affliction among very old toys.

Did the other toys experience false memories when they were first made?

This isn’t as crucial of a question as the others, but Buzz should really be curious about this.  He was made with a backstory, which he believed completely.  Not all toys have a story attached to them, but Woody does, and he doesn’t seem to remember it at all.  In the second movie, it comes as a surprise to him that there was a show and merchandise (which strangely wasn’t alive like all the other toys) dedicated to it.  Did he used to think that he was a real sheriff?  If he did, why did he forget?  Will Buzz lose his false memories as well?

I could probably go on, but I won’t.  The existence of living toys in Toy Story raises many philosophical and practical questions that I would love to see explored in a more adult oriented Pixar movie.

Marriage

I was talking to an old friend (she’s not old, we’ve just known each other for a long time) last night about her fiancee, which led us to the topic of marriage. I asked her what she thinks marriage is, and she said it’s a commitment to be with someone even when you don’t want to any more. Those weren’t her exact words, but it’s what I got out of it. It’s taking your feelings at the beginning of a relationship and betting your entire future on those feelings never changing. I think I have a good idea of why a person would do that to himself/herself. Society expects it of us. It is considered virtuous to commit to one person and wrong to spread your love around.

I can see the reason for some of this. We live in a world of sexually transmitted diseases, and limiting your number of sexual partners to one is a way of quarantining yourself and your partner. But doing this isn’t about being with who you want to be with. It’s about keeping yourself safe.

Living this way will make you unhappy at some point because feelings change. You don’t stay in love with someone for very long. The brain chemicals stop flowing, and you’re left with a relationship you don’t want to be in any more. Marriage is supposed to be a way for people to force themselves to stay in these stale relationships, but it doesn’t really work because there’s divorce. Approximately half of all marriages in the united states end in divorce, and it’s a messy situation because the partners mesh their lives together so much and come to depend and count on each other. You can’t count on someone when your relationship with them is based on an emotional connection because you can’t count on your emotions to remain constant. You can only count on you being there for yourself.

So what is the alternative? If you go by the opening theme of Married With Children, love and marriage go together like a horse and a carriage, but you can love someone without being married to them. Lots of marriages end because the people involved fall in love with other people. It doesn’t mean they are bad people. The mistake was committing to a marriage in the first place, and that’s simply a mistake caused by a lack of experience. When you have a favorite food, you may want to eat it for every meal of every day, but you don’t because if you do, you’ll get sick of it. The same is true of your favorite song. So if there is someone you love and want to be with 24 hours a day, I say pace yourself and don’t spend as much time with them as you want so you won’t get tired of them. Love other people as well, and let those you love love other people. After all, nobody owns you, and you don’t own anybody else. Just make sure you get yourself checked out regularly for sexually transmitted diseases, have the results on hand whenever a relationship gets sexual so you can show your partner that you’re okay, and make sure you inspect the results of your prospective sexual partners. If people just allow things to go naturally and conduct themselves with common sense, relationships can go much more smoothly and end much less messily.

Last Two Weeks

Well, week and a half. I got another bullshit email from J.C. today. Here’s what it said:

Title: MORNING DUTIES
Text: TURN COMPUTERS ON
TURN RADIO ON IN MAIN COMPUTER.
NEED TO CHECK WITH US WHICH ADS TO PUT OUT.
NEED TO HAVE GOOD TILES ON ADS
THANKS

This was after he already said these things to me earlier, which was unnecessary even then. Here was my reply:

Next week will be my last week here. It’s been interesting working with you.

I considered writing out a long thing about how much I don’t find messages like that motivating, but then I decided that something short and decisive was the best response. No, I don’t have another job lined up because I hate jobs. J.C. said he doesn’t want me to leave, but I’m not staying if he’s going to keep trying to pressure me to do more than I’ve been doing. I told him that I can’t do any better than I already am. I’m doing my best, and if that’s not good enough, he can find somebody else. I guess there’s a snowball’s chance in Hell that I might stay, but I fully intend to quit and try getting my photography thing off the ground. Or something. Maybe I’ll do nothing and be a bum. Maybe I’ll jump through a sunny watering pickle and smeezeguard the wrong blangerang. I just know that I’m not going to let anyone stress me out. No job is worth it.

So buy some prints.