NYC Grad

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Please Knock!

A friend has made the remark that my thread leading from thought to faith was… soulless. Hmm. My faith life certainly doesn’t seem soulless. 

This thread wasn’t meant to be a formula for faith. Faith comes as a gift as far as I can tell. I think I just wanted to follow a single strand of thought, almost as a test, carry it step by step and where does it lead?

For me, the change of “what?” to “why?” is all about the purpose and meaning of life. I completely understand why different cultures develop complex structures of faith. But I am not persuaded to become a believer by logic.

I believe in a personal relationship. I believe in God as the ultimate creator, patiently creating a path that leads back to Him. He gives us free will to challenge us. We are not robots, we come to Him with choice, making the journey sacred with truth. 

It hasn’t been a straight path back to Him. We have acted on our own understanding far too much, and it has led us astray. But we have also used evidence, the sufficiency of evidence, to provide choices that have brought peace and comfort. 

For those who have a built in “why?” there is an answer. The scripture of “knock and the door shall open” is not just a quaint saying. It is a key to understanding. 

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The Bullet

(The following was an early post that just disappeared, got misfiled, or simply lived in the ether. I knew I had written it, but I could not find it.  Today I found it, so I will post it on this thread and later place it as a page. It was good to read it again.)

It was during that winter break that my friend Obert came over with his brand new western style .22 caliber pistol, and suggested that we go target shooting. All we had to do was to find some empty land out in the county, near the bay, and we could plunk to our hearts content. My father had given me a .22 Ruger revolver several years earlier, and a real nice leather rig to carry it in. He had purchased a .38/.357 Ruger at the same time. So we packed up the weapons (even the .38), purchase a half-dozen boxes of ammo and headed to a secluded part of the bayshore.

We parked as close as we could, and then hiked over several hills until we reached the railroad tracks and the shoreline just beyond. We knew this area well because several months earlier I had borrowed my father’s Landcruiser and we had driven all over the hills four wheeling. Obert’s Ford station wagon was limited to the dirt parking lot.
We reached the tracks and there was a natural little cove that had a small pond created by the winter’s rain. It was a nice secluded spot where the sound of gunfire would reflect out to the bay instead of the nearest house, which wasn’t that near in any case.

The pond was typically muddy at the edges, tule rimmed, and with dozens of floating bottles. Perfect! All we had to do is augment the debris with as many cans and bottles that we could find and we had a target range. After several minutes of scrouging and collecting everything in sight, we hurled the entire mess into the pond.

There was very little water visible as everything was one compacted mass of floating garbage.The pond was actually in a depression several feet below where we stood at the edge.
Soon we were loaded up and firing at random cans, filling them with enough holes to send them to the bottom. We saved the bottles because one accurate shot would eliminate them completely. Periodically we would fire my father’s powerful .38.

After a long time we were down to the last rounds of ammo, a strange mixture of .22 shorts, .22 regular, and .22 long rifle. Coincidently, we were also down to the last few floating bottles, we generally waited for each other the finish loading then blasted away until it disappeared. Then we ejected the shells and reloaded the scrap ammo.

I had reloaded faster than Obert and was waiting for him so we could fire on the last bottle. I noticed one last half submerged can, and thought I would quick draw to see how fast and how close I could place a bullet.

A typical holster rig has a leather thong tying the end of the holster to the leg. This thong helps keep the holster ridged so when you pull the revolver out it the holster doesn’t jam the action and twist the pistol awkwardly. My Ruger was a single action, meaning the hammer must be pulled by the thumb to a full cock position before the trigger is pulled. 

Everything must be perfectly timed; draw the weapon, cock the hammer, aim the barrel, and then pull the trigger. Things can go very wrong if you get things out of order. Now, I had probably practiced thousands upon thousands of times, with no bullets in the gun, and I had even done this hundreds of times with bullets. However, this time I had failed to tie the holster to my leg.

The holster twisted and the barrel got caught causing the whole gun to twist in my hand. The twisting of the gun caused my thumb to slip off the hammer before it was fully drawn back so it fell back to the chambered bullet. Normally this might not have had enough force to fire the round, but this time it did. The bullet fired, the barrel was pointed directly at my leg but still in the holster. 

The lead penetrated the holster leather, then went through the belt part of the holster, then went through the last fold of the holster leather, that’s a total of three thick pieces of leather. The bullet kept going and went through my corduroy jeans right between the ridges, then entered my leg muscle only to hit my thigh bone, break up into six or seven pieces and bounce lower into my thigh muscle. All this happened in an instant. And of course I didn’t know any of this at the time.

All I knew was that I was focused on the can, I drew the gun, I heard a noise, and then suddenly I was flying forward through the air in a huge somersault, landing on my back in the mud several feet below me with my feet in the pond, and my gun still in my hand. I was very confused, how did I get down here? The gun went off and maybe the recoil hit my leg, knocking me off balance? That seemed unlikely, but here I was in the mud and I couldn’t move my right leg. After several seconds I thought the worst and called out to Obert telling him, “Obert, I’m shot!”

I twisted around to see that Obert was still putting the last rounds into his gun. He looked over to where I should have been, and seemed confused because the sound of my voice was coming from somewhere else, and then returned his focus to loading his gun. “Obert, I’m shot!”, I repeated.

He finally looked down into the pit to see me lying in the mud spread eagled. “Um, no you’re not, I didn’t hear anything!”

For a split second this comforted me, perhaps I wasn’t shot, maybe I slipped. But I had heard the shot. “Besides, where is the blood?”, he said. That’s right, there was no blood! At least I didn’t see any blood. Maybe I was knocked down? That didn’t quite explain why I couldn’t move my leg. “You’re not shot!”, Obert declared once more. Not willing to argue with him, but I did ask why was I lying in the mud? That did seem to raise a question so he responded, “So where is the hole?”

Good point, where was the bloody hole, or the bloodless hole as it may be. I looked and couldn’t find anything. I couldn’t move my leg, there was no pain, it was just completely disconnected, brain signals couldn’t get through, it just lay there, I could feel things, I could wriggle my toes, but I couldn’t move it at all. 

I removed my holster and belt. Once I inspected it I could see the hole through three thicknesses of leather, my stomach felt I little queasy. I suppose I was still hoping to find a flattened bullet stopped by that last thickness of leather, but leather isn’t bullet proof, not even for small .22 caliber bullets. It was in my leg. I still couldn’t find any blood and I still couldn’t see where the bullet went through my pants. “Okay, maybe the gun fired in your holster, but you just got knocked down there. I still say you are not shot!”, Obert repeated a third time.

Maybe I wasn’t! Only one thing to do us pull my pants down to check my leg. Kind of hard to do without being able to move my right leg, but I rolled around and slipped my pants to my knees.

Checking my thigh I saw a small round hole rimmed with what looked to be charcoal, seeping just a small amount of blood, no more than a scratch worth. “See,” I yelled triumphantly, “There’s the hole!”. 

For a moment it was more important that I had won the argument, Obert brought me back to reality by asking if there was an exit wound. I had heard about how small entrance wounds could be and how huge the exit wound might be. I quickly looked at the inside of my thigh. Not knowing the exact angle I didn’t know exactly where where to look, it was possible that it was further down but also possible that it was further up. I really didn’t want it to be further up.

I couldn’t find anything and was a relief, except now I had a vision that the bullet was still in my leg, and we had to make a fire, heat up a pocket knife and cut it out. Or maybe, just go to the emergency room. First I had to get my pants back up and Obert had to drag my out of the pond. “Obert, get me out.”

It seemed like a normal request, but I could see that Obert now seemed unsettled, he was suddenly dancing around, moving his weight from one leg to the other. The reality was that his friend was wounded, lying on his back in the mud, and he had to do something. He had to drag me out, carry me with all the weapons over several hills to the car, and then drive to the hospital. Or maybe, just maybe, he had to go to the bathroom. It was the latter. I waited in the mud.

Soon, Obert was dragging me up to dry ground and jointly we were pondering his ability to carry me over several hills to the waiting car. Not good, the hills were steep and muddy. There was a road next to the train tracks that fisherman used and perhap track workman, it wasn’t very wide and it was full of potholes and water but if the gate was open Obert could drive several miles north and get access to the road.

It was a lot faster than dragging me over the hills. It was agreed, he would try to find the access road, and if he found the police he would have them unlock the gate.

So, I was made as comfortable as possible, some mud scraped off here and there, and Obert strapped on all the weapons and headed over the hill towards the parked station wagon. As he calmly walked away I was thinking how lucky I was that it wasn’t my father’s gun- that .38/357 magnum would gave blown right through the right thigh, breaking bones, tearing flesh, blasting through the main artery on the inside if the thigh, tearing through the artery on the left leg, smashing the bone on the left leg, then leaving my bone and perhaps hitting Obert who was standing next to me. If it had been my father’s gun we might both be bleeding to death in thus mud hole.

Thankfully, it was my .22 and perhaps the round was a tiny .22 short, not much power and maybe the bullet was just under the skin. My mother used to tell me about the time she accidently shot herself in the right foot while squirrel hunting with my father. It was a .22 as well, and it cut through her bootlaces right where they crossed and entered the top of her foot, but didn’t go through the sole of the boot.

My father took her to the doctor and they removed the boot and he probed the wound trying to find the bullet. It was very painful and he couldn’t find the bullet because it went entirely through her foot, but was stopped by the silk stocking that she wore. She used to show me the scar. Now I had one just like it on my thigh. Visions of a heated knife or a stainless steel probe was still in my future.

Suddenly, I snapped out of my thoughts and saw that Obert, was still calmly walking to the hill. “Obert, I’m shot. You can run if you want.”. I knew he was trying to stay calm and collected, but I wanted out of there. Then Obert was at a semi run heading for the hills. I looked near the top and I could a man apparently walking his German shepherd. it was clear that in several minutes he would meet Obert climbing up.

The distance was too great for me to hear anything but the dog’s barking, but I could see that Obert was gesturing to me and perhaps the distant parked car, and then he pointed to the road next to the railroad track.

Obert was asking directions. Now, in general that is not bad thing, but I had driven with Obert for years in lots of strange places. Acting as navigator I calmly gave drections, “Turn left here! Right at the next stop!” And almost half the time Obert would follow my directions. The other half he would do just the opposite, suggesting that perhaps he was dyslexic, but now that I think back, there were plenty of times that he just plowed straight on so, maybe the left/right confusion is not accurate. He was just…Obert! I was doomed.

Now he was getting very accurate, lengthy directions, with lots of arm waving and pointing from a man with a dog. I wanted to scream “Go find a policeman!”, but I wasn’t sure I could be heard. I knew in my heart that it would be hours before I’d see Obert. Perhaps I would be dead from internal bleeding. Could there even be internal bleeding in the leg? I didn’t know.

Eventually Obert disappeared over the hill and the man with the dog came down the hill, and I expect he was coming over to aid me in some way. Naturally the dog got to me first but not before he waded through the muddy hole and pond. Max was his name and he stood over me panting and dripping swamp water for several minutes before his owner came up.

I was wrong about the aid, the owner stopped about twenty feet short, and then whistled for the dog, and then threw a ball. After several minutes of throwing the ball he said, “Yeah, when I was younger I used to come down here to shoot.” He never even looked at me when he said it, in fact he was moving away towards the bay while continuing to throw the ball. I just looked at him and then down the tracks in the direction where I had hoped to see my rescue. Except by now I thought that Obert was lost in the maze of streets near the tracks in the next town. 

It would be dark before he came. There was also some considerable pain went I moved, not that I had any control of the actual leg, but if i raised up to see down the road then sharp pains would register from some unknown place, which might be my right leg.

There was no question that I was not going to hobble out of here on my own. Periodically Max would come over with the ball and drip swamp water on me.

Minutes passed. More minutes passed, almost an hour later I heard a rumbling down the road. A vehicle was coming at high speed, pounding and bumping it’s way next to the railroad tracks. I could see that the man, and the dog, could see what I still could not see. It must be Obert, it has to be him. Then I saw the trusty old Ford enter my field of vision, drive straight on past me, and head further down the tracks. Just like that, he was gone.

No, wait, he slides to a stop, spins the car in reverse, turns around and pulls up near me. Obert then calmly gets out and walks around to where I was sitting. “Okay, let’s get going!” My hero then picks me up and carries me to the passenger seat only to find the door locked, and the keys still in the ignition. So, he sets me down, calmly walks around to turn the car off and get the keys. Back around on my side, he unlocks the door, swings it open then turns to pick me up. That’s when Max, remember Max? Max then jumps into the front seat, dripping his swamp water and barking. The owner was several hundred yards away, walking slowly in our direction. 

Obert set me down once more and moved to drag Max out of the front seat. Max moved willingly and Obert came back to pick me up, preparing to set me down on the damp swampy seat, except he couldn’t, because Max had already jumped back in. Perhaps he was tired of playing ball and wanted a ride home. Fortunately the owner had now come and could keep Max from jumping back in. “I see you found the gate, lucky that it was open,” he said.

Yeah, real lucky. Finally Obert got me in and then he climbed into the driver’s seat. All we had to do is start the car. That again would normally be an easy process. For some reason I have never had friends with cars that started reliably. Michael had a Studebaker that would never start until I opened the glove compartment and sang “Maria” from West Side Story. It’s true that the old Ford was warm and had just been running, but there was always the chance of flooding out. It didn’t, it roared into life and we were soon bumping and sliding down the road.

I was grabbing my leg to hold it still through the bouncing, but I didn’t have quite enough hands to keep me from sliding around around on the wet, muddy bench seat of the Ford. another odd thing about the Ford. it actually had ants, somehow surviving in the eco-system of the floormats. At some point I was sliding into Obert, and then just as suddenly bashing back into the passenger door.

Splashing through the various mud puddles were throwing great gobs of mud and debris on the hood and windshield, and it was getting difficult to see around the little mud islands. I was just thinking that it would be good to wipe them off the windshield when I realized that it would probably blank out the entire view. 
Obert was saying that he wasn’t going to stop to find a policeman, that he intended to drive straight for the emergency room. I nodded and just then noticed Obert reaching for the windshield wiper knob. Before I could say anything the screen was entirely brown, with not a hint of daylight. We both screamed loudly to roll the windows down. Obert leaned out the left side, and stuck my head out the best I could on the right.

Somehow between the yelling and screaming we kept the vehicle in the center of the road until we got to the pavement where we had to make a right turn onto the paved city street.

Fishtailing and sliding around the corner we maintained our heads out the window, but for safety’s sake Obert begin pounding on the car’s horn at the intersections.

A quick stop at a gas station failed to clear the windshield, so we determined to drive the several miles to my home to pick up my mother, to provide insurance information for the trip to the emergency room. Obert furiously pounding the horn at every intersection. Oddly enough we attracted no police because we were looking forward to an escort.

Soon the mechanical connection of the horn gave out under the abuse, the horn’s button detached and under the spring’s pressure it flew at Obert’s head, just missing his eye and landed deep in the back boot. The spring was just dangling out of the steering column like a decapitated jack-in-the-box. Oh yeah, and the horn was stuck on, loudly proclaiming our presence to all within several miles.

Once at the hospital, we got into the emergency and the professionals took over while Obert went back out to the parking lot to disconnect the battery.

I was first sent to have an x-ray, and then I was preparing myself for the probe and the hot butcher knife. Waiting in the emergency room, laying on my back I began to think about what had gone wrong, how was I going to explain this to my parents and friends, and what the hell was that blood doing on the ceiling tiles?

After the police discovered that I was not part of a gangland shooting I was left to explain to my parents how I came to be shot, and to prepare them for a son who will likely have his right leg amputated. We waited for the doctor for almost an hour.
Finally he came in waving the x-ray and he said with a calm but defined voice, “You’ve been shot.”. Yes? “and the bullet has bounced against the bone breaking up in five or six pieces spreading throughout the leg muscle.” Yes? “And perhaps in twenty or thirty years the shrapnel will work themselves to the surface and you’ll scratch it with a fingernail and pullout a piece of lead.”

Yes? No hot knife, no bloody painful probe?

“Go home and see your family doctor in a couple of days.”
What? I couldn’t believe it. I was shot and they couldn’t do a thing. I had more care given when I had the flu. So, nothing to do but go home.

By the time college classes started I was walking like a duck with the aid of a cane. It took several months to have full control with no pain. I’m still checking my leg to see “shrapnel”.

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Why?

So this is the third post that attempts complete this thought thread. 

A very good friend has been consumed by God thoughts nearly all his life. The nice thing is that at times he is focused on his thoughts about God, then he shifts to thoughts from God.

So, does God think? Well, God is alive, so God thinks! Almost a guarantee that we can hardly fathom His thoughts. 

What does that mean for us? I’ve already suggested that once our basic thoughts are structured, that free thought expands and creates more room for free thought. With enough free thought we move from “what” thoughts to “why” thoughts. 

Fortunately for us, we have captured hundreds if not thousands of our attempts to know “why” to various things. 

We want meaning to the things we think about. We witness that each year, just before the snow, there is fruit hanging low in the trees. We can just accept the witness, or we can dig deeper with “why” to discover the growing cycles, the fertilization, the flowering stage, the fruit bulb below the flower, and finally the Harvest. 

When we ask “Why?”, we don’t naturally say “it doesn’t matter, or even “I don’t know, and I can’t know”. We actually muddle ahead and seize on the best possible explanation. 

We assume that we are the first living creatures to consider “why”. The question has generated tales of the world sitting on the back of a turtle as he wanders through the cosmos, to the world being under the authority of a group of gods that are assigned to issues of love, war, planting, seasons, and even death.

The question of “why” does not leave the option of “I don’t know”. We must dig deeper, even if we land on a turtle. 

When “what?” turns to “why?” we generally propose an idea that makes sense to us. We observe a drought (what?), and then we make a connection to reaction.

When a friend injures or insults you, that friend suffers your rejection. You no longer offer him a refreshing drink, you no longer respond to his requests. The friend is shunned.

So we see the drought and we connect the dots. We have angered the god of the harvest, or the god of rain, or perhaps even both!!

So we bring gifts to change their minds. We offer prayers of repentance. Yet we still know that God’s thinking and God’s timing is not like our own. We presume that God understands the difference, so we continue to pray. 

Is it too much of an assumption that most of the “why?” lead to religious ideas? When stumped, why don’t we simply say we don’t know, why do we flee to the spiritual. 

Apparently it is built into our DNA.

The best guess today is that 2/3s of the world are religious. The hard core atheists have numbered anywhere from 2% to 20% of the world’s population, and the balance is either undecided or agnostic.

What is true is that some cultures have demanded faith as a condition of citizenship. Even so, I think the percentage ratios have been fairly steady through the ages, with many folks declaring faith in public, then denying it at home.

2/3s of living humans respond to the question of “why?” with a basis built in faith. History tells us that various systems have been selected. There are high school and college courses in Contemporary Religions that detail the differences.

It’s like we agree on the need, but what manual do we choose to follow? For a time it was a Pantheon of gods that provided guidance, then that was replaced with four Gospels and the Son of Man, the Messiah. It seems to be easier to attract new believers from previous belief systems. 

This is where I stand. I believe God created us all. I believe He has been patiently guiding us, gifting us, with abilities to partially see the Plan for our lives. 

We use our logic, our linear thinking to take us so far, then we use or abstract thinking to take a leap of faith, finding that God catches us with outstretched arms. 

The “why?” Is now satisfied. 

The issue before us now is “What next?”

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What then?

If Life Thinks, what does it think about (other than food, or not being food) ?

On the probability scale, it would be thinking about experiences that are disabling, because in the extreme, those experiences could lead to death. 

So, thoughts about where food can be found, thoughts about strategies that will not make you food, and finally, thoughts about safety.

Well, that pretty much takes up my day currently. You would think that after a million or so years we wouldn’t have to think about these things anymore. I suppose we don’t worry very much about being food, unless you are camping or surrounded by vampires, so that’s good.

It is my theory that all complex thinking can only occur when you are not thinking about food, not being good, and safety. Considering that the three basics are always with us, our complex thoughts are squeezed in between. Sometimes, this is described as Maslow’s Theory of Self Actualization. I’m a bit suspicious of the title “self-actualizing”, but the graphic visual is engaging, foundational items allow things to placed upon them in a pyramid fashion, with the pointy top labeled “self actualized”. Very linear and architectural. Not sure it is an absolute picture of reality.

Let’s say that we have just eaten our fill, before we are hungry again, and before we are concerned that we might be eaten or that we are in danger, we get a few moments of free thought. That’s when complex thoughts take over.

Perhaps we use the time to perfect our grunts and finger pointing to sounds that mean, “throw the rock at the coconut on the left, so we can eat.” It’s still thinking about food but it is more complex and ultimately more successful, so language is encouraged. 

When language is developed there is even more free thinking time. Walls around our village keeps the predators out, we worry less about being food. The free thought time is expanded. We create tools that are extensions of our physical bodies, and that enhances our safety, we discover medicine to help with our accidents. Our lives are extended. Extended life gives more free thought.

Moving from picture thoughts to language thoughts is not a simple task. I like to link it to the process of moving from concrete thought to abstract thought. Some might also link it to going from instinctual to premeditated. Primordial thought may be instinctual, but it is still thought. It is very fast thinking based on action and reaction. If it isn’t fast enough, you are hungry, you are food, or you are disabled.

The real benefit of pre-mediated thought is breaking free of the speed factor. There are circumstances that cannot be successful because we can never be as fast in the moment. Premeditated thinking is a work around. It is similar to winding up a spring slowly and patiently, then all the power is released at once by simply pressing a trigger. So the solution is faster than instinct, and possibly more complex, like a Rube Goldberg device of falling dominos, rolling balls, and tipping levers.

Ultimately our free thought time moves from the “what” to the “why”. Why are we the only living creatures that asks “why”? (The first thing to note is the basis of that thought. Interspecies communication is not well developed. We don’t actually know the thoughts of other living things. We only see the action/reaction if we are lucky. Anthropomorphizing is always a danger.)

For the sake of argument, let us posit that we are the only creatures that ask “Why?” How did that happen? It may a natural next step, like the three year old that repeatedly asks “Why?” when told to do something. Or it may be the next step allowed by extended free thought time. The child of abstract thought.

Life thinks= What?

Free thoughts= What then?

Forms questions, and demands answers.= Why?

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What?

I recently had a great conversation with a new friend that took me down some old familiar “rabbit holes”


What is thinking? What thinks?

Charles Fernyhough wrote an article in Psychology Today, Aug. 2010

“Thinking is an active process intimately connected with language.”

“It seems to me that there are two common usages of the term. One holds that thinking is everything that the conscious mind does. That would include perception, mental arithmetic, remembering a phone number, or conjuring up an image of a pink unicorn. On this definition, thinking simply equates to conscious cognitive processes. I think this definition is too broad, and we make more scientific and philosophical progress if we tighten it up a bit. ”
“So my narrower definition of ‘thinking’ goes like this. Thinking is conscious and it is active. It is the kind of cognitive process that can make new connections and create meaning. It is dialogic: it has the quality of an internal conversation between different perspectives, although the ‘give-and-take’ quality of external dialogues may not always be immediately obvious. And it is linguistic: verbal for those of us who use spoken language, visual for those of us who use sign language to communicate with others and with ourselves. ”

Wow, that is a lot to process. I like the idea that makes a direct connection to language, but only if broaden “language” to “thought pictures”.

In a previous blogpost titled “Pictures Worth Words”, I scratched the surface of thinking without words. It most certainly can be done but it takes supreme effort to be good at it. My example of heading to the refrigerator to look for food is a good example of the failure of this type of thinking. 

So I am still searching for the best definition, the one general definition that covers all bases. 
ictnz.com is a website that has collected a number of definitions.
“I believe that thinking is, at its most simplistic, where an individual, in reaction to a range of stimuli, starts a process that modifies or strengthens their world view, beliefs, opinions, attitudes, and behaviours.” 

Umm, okay, good start! Still too general.

Some other definitions are:

* The process of using your mind to consider something carefully; “thinking always made him frown”; “she paused for thought” 
(wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)
Nope!

* Thought or thinking is a mental process which allows beings to model the world, and so to deal with it effectively according to their goals, plans, ends and desires. Concepts akin to thought are sentience, consciousness, idea, and imagination. 
(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking)
 Nope!

* Thinking is an internal mental process that uses information as input, integrates that information into previous learned material and the result may be knowledge or may be nothing. Problem solving, planning, information integration, and analysis are four kinds of thinking.
(home.earthlink.net/~ddstuhlman/defin1.htm)
 Possible! Missing the motivation that keeps it going.

* Cognition, mental action or activity, mental viewing; see “Recognition.”
(miriams-well.org/Glossary/)
 Nope!

* As used here, thinking refers to low-amplitude verbal operant action, generally subvocal speaking; an “inner” response or chain of responses.
(members.aol.com/JohnEshleman/glossary.html)

Huh?

Classic Western Philosophy

Cogito ergo sum[a] is a Latin philosophical proposition by René Descartes usually translated into English as “I think, therefore I am”. The phrase originally appeared in French as je pense, donc je suis in his Discourse on the Method, so as to reach a wider audience than Latin would have allowed.[1] It appeared in Latin in his later Principles of Philosophy
Haha! Sure, throw in an ouroboros arguement for clarity. There is an even more obvious flaw. Stating that because you think, therefore you exist may be foundational, but it implies that your existence is dependent on your thinking. 

The flaw is that billions of objects exist without thinking. In the great division between existence and non-existence, thinking isn’t the determinate factor. Yet, it does seem to apply to humans. We think, therefore we survive and get to say “I am”.

So how about this, “Thinking is the activity that staves off death!”. That certainly works for humans and their thought processes. It tends to work for everything that is alive. I would venture to say that no created life has a built in code to terminate their life immediately. It would be safe to say that all life uses sensors to find food, simultaneously using sensors to avoid being food. In both cases there are decisions that must be made. Decisions that are made badly are joking called, the Darwin Award. A failure to use thought that immediately causes termination of life.

There are some that would say this is low level thinking. I think this is exactly the opposite. The highest level of thinking preserves existence. Whatever it takes, in order to be able to say, “I am” .

Do all animals thinks? Do all plants think? What about fungi and viruses? Gosh, I’m of the opinion that the thoughts look different, but I do believe that there is thinking going on. 

So the simplest answer to the first two questions, “What is thinking?” is “Thinking is life.” And the second question, “What thinks?” Is “Life thinks!”

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When Politics Divides Families

The polarization of American politics is not a new thing. A casual study of history reveals a number of eras where the ends of political views caused much grief. The rule of dinner-time conversation, “no politics, no religion” didn’t come from a vacuum. It came from much hurt. 

I also came from a time where the distance between parties was almost civil. Hot debates on the floor, but dinner dates that evening. A compromise was not an agreement with evil, it was just a slight shift of perspective. 

That cycle has passed. We are deep into another cycle where the sides are radical.

How much does politics reveal the inmost character, the thing that counts, the thing that your life stands for, the very core of your beliefs?

Let’s take the opinion that it is an imperfect perfect picture, but true enough that it is representative. What happens when the leaders of politics take a direction that can be seen by some into questionable areas?

More to the point, areas that have not been traditionally questionable, but over time have developed as questionable. 

Our country has been torn apart on the issue of slavery. A political view for some, a religious view for others, and an economic view for the lofty thinkers. How can a family stand with all the differences? There really is no room for compromise.

If the differences between political parties is just big government versus small government, or differing views of state’s rights, then the different views are not personal. 

When the difference is personal then associations are strained and even families are torn.

I don’t know that anything has been studied in Germany about families concerning the acceptance or rejection of the Nazi party, but I can imagine that there must have been some rending here or there. It wasn’t an issue of nationalism or the belief in the benefits of fascism.

Today, there is a great tide of shifting opinion on immigration and borders. Sound bites that have morphed into some sort of proof one way or the other. When I hear the same words repeated over and over it gives me pause. 

At one time it seemed simple. There was a border that defined a country. When other people envied the life of the people in that country, they gathered an army, invaded, and conquered. Or they lost. 

Today the invasion is without weapons, it is just people leaving something bad, and going to something hopeful and good. At one time it was the strength of American, the great melting pot. 

The countries of Europe have experienced something similar, except there has been significantly less melting. Whole sections of cities have changed under the influence of the immigrants. Local culture replaced by a foreign culture. And by the way, in many cases this was legal and even encouraged by the government. 

Two views come from this. 1. A broad, open border, acceptance of new citizens. 2. A narrow nationalist view of self-defense and protectionism. 

It then becomes an argument over fear and compassion. It’s the classic dilemma of the bomb shelter. You have planned for water/food/and shelter for your family to survive. But now in the crisis, do you open the doors for your neighbor? What does that say about you as a person?

In the sinking of a ship, do you continue to let drowning, innocent people into your lifeboat until it is no longer a lifeboat. Each person that you refuse to save has an impact. Your children may never see you in the same way.

We pass laws as a nation, yet through compassion we ignore some of those laws. Yes, there may be other agendas at work, most certainly if people can exploit they will exploit. But are we willing to lose a part of our humanity by ignoring a human need?

I remember reading a short story based upon the exploding population in China. This was back in the day of the Cold War when the menace of Communism was real. 

There was real fear when spy satellites confirmed a massive building plan of Chinese aircraft. It seemed as if every village in China had an plant building bombers. 

The US reaction was swift. We built interceptors, jets that would engage them mid-pacific, shoot them down into the ocean. We built missile systems to remotely blow them out of the sky. 

The Chinese kept building, it became obvious that the planes were not going to be able to return. All the fuel would be used to get over the United States. 

Fine, we said, we will still shoot down anything that crosses our line. 

The day came when thousands upon thousands of planes took off from mainland China and headed east towards the US continent. 

A few aircraft carriers near China sent their jets to engage and destroy. When the wreckage was investigated they didn’t find bombs or nerve gas. They found Chinese families packed into the planes, each with a simple parachute and a small bag of provisions. 

Approximately a billion of unarmed Chinese were invading the US without weapons, ready to parachute in to the Golden Country. 

With that event we were changed. We either became mass murders or we became Chinese.

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