Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Day

For one of the world's most famous revolutions, I will mention two points that I have always pondered about those who have "granted us our freedoms". This goes for any Independence Day, of any country.

First and foremost, I am not one to believe that those who fought for the freedoms that we enjoy today did so because they were more concerned about me, living hundreds of years after them.

I think they were more concerned about themselves, and rightfully so. I think you would be a fool not to be. After all, you are the one having to live with a tyrant, not me - a person not yet even born centuries later!

Certainly, future generations were considered. I think that is only natural. But to fight in a revolution ONLY for future generations...? I find that to be unrealistic and the result of an idealized, high school History lesson. These men had their own lives to contend with and I have no doubt that those lives were the main reason for their fight of freedom, with our lives existing hundreds of years later, being a secondary consideration.

Secondly, I think it is incorrect to assume that I did not have freedom until they gave it to me. I come to this conclusion from one, simple question: Who owns freedom?

What gives governments ownership of freedom? What gives revolutionaries ownership of freedom? What gives constitutions ownership of freedom?

Nothing actually gives any of those entities ownership of freedom. Freedom is owned by no one.

Governments, revolutionaries, and constitutions do not own freedom. Neither do you nor I. Nothing owns freedom. No one commands it. No one rations it out. It is limitless and does no one's bidding. The moment I choose to be free, I am.

I need no permission to think what I want to think, to say what I want to say, to own what I want to own, to go where I want to go, or to do what I want to do, until I begin to infringe upon someone else doing the same thing.

Contrary to popular, idolized (but misunderstood) belief, freedom IS free. It comes with no price other than my choice to follow that path. No one gives it to me. It gives itself to me, when I allow it to. I am the only person who can grant me freedom.

The confusion sets in, I think, because there IS always some asshole out there who is going to try to prevent me and you from making that choice because he or she focuses on the external, compensating for their weak internal focus, whether it's a neighborhood bully or the king of a nation. Those who have given their lives for the freedoms I enjoy today prevented this from happening as much as possible.

Simply put, they did not give me freedom. They made it easier for me to make this choice - a choice I can make regardless of circumstance (though harder for me to do under some circumstances, which they have made easier for me) - a choice that exists outside of their control and ownership - a choice that only I can make.

For this, I honor them.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Leonardo da Vinci Quote

"You can have neither greater nor lesser dominion than that over yourself".

Whether Da Vinci really said this or not, I think these are wise words. So many people focus more on what is external to them and their lives - that which they cannot really control. Then, there are others who relinquish what they can control - what is internal to them and their lives - to others, as if others knew best for them. Neither scenario seems to work very well, in the long run.

I think there is a good possibility that every war, every injustice, every abuse, every "grand scheme" to make the world a better place, every mistreatment of any animal, all needless destruction of the environment, every religion, every philosophy, every ideology (including Scientism, as opposed to Science), all politics, most morals, most ethics, most blogs, most forums, claims of right and wrong about things that affect only one person, and most expectations of etiquette could be the result of a desire for some form of control outside of ourselves and immediate lives.

And as one can see, these controls don't always work so well, since much of the world is in the shitter. Perhaps that is because we do not really have the power to control that which is external to us and our immediate lives.

Likewise, every depression (except those caused "naturally"), every reactionary response, every complaint, every suicide attempt, every willing dependence on anything, all lack of meaning, every shun of responsibility for choice, and every assumption of being owed something could be the result of ignoring what we have the power to control - ourselves and our immediate lives.

That's not even counting the willingness to follow and obey everything listed in the previous paragraph of external controls simply because it is "accepted" that this is "the way" (nevermind there is no "way") or "the fact" (nevermind that "facts" change constantly). Again, so much of the world is in the shitter, so is abandoning internal control doing us any good?

Alas, I don't think it can be said that all of the world has gone to pot. There seem to be many people in the world who are happy for a variety of reasons that please them.

I wonder, however, if this is due to those people considering those things good for them but not expecting everyone else to make the same assumption for themselves, letting everyone else make that choice for themselves. These are the same people who might realize that the internal and personal life is theirs to control, not someone else's, and that which is external to their immediate life is something they have no real power over.

Perhaps, as Da Vinci might have said, you can have neither greater nor lesser dominion than that over yourself.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Socrates Quote

Socrates is quoted as saying:
"An unexamined life is not worth living".

But if a life is spent examined, then is it lived?

If not, is that a life worth living?

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Rest is just Sand

This has been around the Net for some time, it seems, but I think it is worth another trip.

"A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions - and
if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life could still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else - the small stuff. 'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

'Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.'

'The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.'"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Day

Today, we have a
holiday that celebrates things that pull the wool over people's eyes, whoopee cushions, fake murders, alien invasion hoaxes, and gum that turns your teeth black, among countless other possibilities!

Anything that can be considered a joke, a prank, a hoax, or a straight-up misrepresentation is fair game on this day and any fool not sharp enough to catch it before it smacks them in the face is fair game in this game.

As much as I like to have fun, I am remarkably passive on April Fool's. This is because I prefer to sit back and watch the madness unfold as if I was tossing back some bar-b-que nuts and cold ones at a spectator sport of another name.


Again, exactly.

In watching this day unfold from afar, what I see are huge swaths of civilization simultaneously teaching the rest of civilization, as well as themselves, some lessons of potentially great importance and I think it's a beautiful sight.

April Fool's is the one day a year that much of society seems to wake up from a coma-induced existence by having displayed right in front of it's face that perhaps what you previously thought is not the way things really are, no matter how sure you once were.

People all over the planet, on this day, are seemingly reminded that the unexpected and the unknown can exist and these things don't seem to be controlled by anyone because even the prankster can be pranked.

This is a time when you can be reminded that you probably don't have a monopoly on the truth. People might also be reminded that neither the unexpected nor the unknown (the same thing, I think) need be things to fear and, instead, could be generators of a wonderful thing called possibility.

That's a pretty intense wake-up call, if you ask me.

Then, as if that weren't enough, there are those who the workings of April Fool's have no effect on. Have you seen them? These are the people who always see right through the bullshit. The prank goes nowhere with them, if it even starts at all. I'm guessing these people have a lesson for us too.

How is it that see through this stuff? Were they constantly picked on by an older brother or sister? Maybe. Or, maybe they have made it a habit to always question things and keep a discerning eye. And there you have something else April Fool's might teach us - the lesson of questioning - the value of questioning everything, lest you be made a chump at the whim of someone else who thinks they are in control. This might also lead into the value of curiosity.

As such, I think April Fool's Day is extraordinarily useful and very much underrated. I think it needs to move up a few rungs on the importance ladder, maybe even pushed up to somewhere near the top.

Wasn't the Renaissance Age itself based on the value of questioning and denying that all truth was known? Wouldn't we still be in the Dark Ages without the Renaissance? Were the Dark Ages a good thing? Either way, my point is April Fool's Day seems to make sure we don't forget this these things, whether it was intended to or not.

The greatest April Fool's joke of all might be that it's no joke at all.