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Brud and La: Certain Things to Be What They Are Have to Be Messed With

Brud: Good to see you, La.  What brings you to CVS?

La: I am buying dental floss and also reflecting upon the nature of things.

Brud: How goes it with those two activities of yours?

La: As for the first — pretty well.  I have elected to get the store-brand floss to save money and to avoid flavoring, since I prefer the cleanly flossed taste of a healthy mouth, and if I end up tasting my own blood due to untreated gingivitis that will simply spur me to more dilligent flossing in future.

Brud: That sounds like a sound decision.  Does a similar soundness apply to your reflections, or do they cause you more trouble?

La: I am afraid they cause me more trouble, because I am puzzled by the old puzzle, namely: how can I know what the world is like?

Brud: I guess the ordinary means of sensing it and thinking about it seem insufficient to you?

La: They do.  It strikes me that my senses only tell me about the world as it is when I sense it, and my thinking only tells me about the world once it has been mangled by the crushing and slicing of my very partial and biologically determined and passionate thought. What to do?

Cashier: Do you have a CVS card?

La: Yes. (GIVES HER THE NUMBER)

Brud: It occurs to me that your assumption is that the way things are is the way they are before they have been messed with.  Pristine and intact.

La: I so assume.

Brud: And this assumption is far from correct.

La:You astonish me.  How so?

Brud: Your teeth are not as they truly are unless you brush and floss them.  Your teeth only get to be healthy teeth — which is their true and proper estate — if you mess with them, bother them, and interfere with them.  Similarly a human infant left alone to its own devices does not become human.  Rather it swifty maddens, then perishes.  To flourish, it needs to be cuddled and cooed at, fed and fondled, in short — interfered with.

La: A paradox, Brud, is it not?  These things only are what they are when we change them into something different?

Cashier: (HANDING HIM RECEIPT) You have five dollars off your next purchase.

La: Great.

Brud: It is a paradox when you state it like that, but once you apply the flossing and brushing of your care to it you see that it is eminently sensible.  The world without our interference is no world at all.  If we add our vigorous jostling it grows into a world; and if not, not.

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Four Castles, Five Secret Societies, Three Wizards

In Haute Zulu there are four castles: the Castle of the Giraffe, the Castle of the Hippopotamus, the Castle of the Cape Buffalo and the Castle of the Wind.  People meet and trade in the market, but they sleep alongside each other every night in their castle.

People sneak out at night, some of them, to be initiated into secret societies.  These secret societies are the main way that people in the different castles learn to know and trust each other.  Honestly I think I trust people in my secret society in a way I don’t trust people in my castle.  The castle is all about money really and pooling resources, but in the secret society I am able to be who I really am.  I share my soul  The secret societies are named Star, Moon, River Brothers, Ultimate, and Protectors of the Mother.

In my secret society we drink a lot and box each other too.

There are three wizards whose identities are secret because they only reveal themselves when they are wearing masks.  Four different secret societies claim two of the wizards, the wizard in the bison mask and the wizard in the mask of darkness.  Obviously two of the societies are lying.  The third wizard has different masks on different occasions and we believe he does not belong to any secret society.  Probably not more than one out of twelve of us are in secret societies.

Deep down we are all the same, or so say our chiefs.

 

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A New Epicurean Argument Not to Be Troubled by Death

Epicurus offers the following argument that it is irrational to be troubled by death

a)death is non-existence

b)you didn’t exist before you were born

c)you’re not troubled by (b)

d)so you should not be troubled by (a).

Here is another argument which I think works as well.

a)death is non-existence

b)you don’t exist in many different places.  That is you have one body, you are not a person with multiple bodies, there are not numerous clones of you running around.  You exist in a single space rather than multiple spaces.

c)you are not troubled by (b)

d)you should not be troubled by (a).

 

Three questions:

(1)Is it true that my spatial argument and Epicurus’s pre-existence argument live and die together?

(2)Are these two arguments valid?

(3)If they are not valid, which premise is invalid?

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Bet Your Life

If you want to know if you believe something look at the kinds of bets you are willing to take.   If you are wearing an expensive suede suit that will be ruined by rain, and you don’t want it ruined, and you go outside without an umbrella, you believe it will not rain.

If you want to know how much you believe something look at how much you are willing to bet.   If you go out in a cotton suit that will cost ten dollars to clean but you are unwilling to wear the suede suit you think there is a chance it will rain.  If you won’t even go out in the cotton suit, you are much more sure of it.

A rational person changes his beliefs based upon the success of his bets.  So for example if weather.com tells you when it will rain, and following weather.com helps you place successful bets — i.e. you take the umbrella when you need it and not when you don’t and you don’t ruin your suits too often — then you will trust weather.com.  If believing the labels on your suits that say “safe even in rain” turns out to lead to your suits getting ruined, in the future, if you are rational, you will believe the labels less.

Sometimes we make decisions in which we bet our whole lives.  These occur in two contexts, dramatic and undramatic.  A religious Muslim who allows herself to be martyred rather than eat pork is betting that obeying the rules of Islam is more important than her life.  That’s dramatic.  But likewise someone who spends his whole life working at a boring job for a law firm in order to put money in his mutual fund is making an undramatic bet, namely that this is the best way for him to spend his life.

By the nature of things these bets cannot get adjusted in a rational fashion, because we only get one shot.  We can’t try being Muslim once, die, then try being a kaffir once, die, and see how it worked out.

Maybe though Life or the Universe is the one making the bets, using our lives and decisions as the game pieces.  The priest of Hera, Heracleitus, seems to have believed something like that when he said:

αἰὼν παῖς ἐστι παίζων, πεττεύων· παιδὸς ἡ βασιληίη.

In English:

A lifetime is a child playing, playing checkers; the kingdom belongs to a child.

Did he mean a game with perfect information, like checkers?  Or something played with dice?

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Political Joke

With the rise of populist authoritarianism in the US I decided to see if I could come up with a political joke.  Here is the joke.

Donald Trump and colleagues are lying about Russia, about whether or not they met with officials from Russia to help interfere with US election and get him elected.  I know from elementary school that when people lie about something there are two explanations.  Either they have done something really bad and don’t want to get in trouble — this is most of the time.  And, very,very rarely it is because they are planning a surprise party.

President Trump — which is it?

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Should I See John Wick?

If you had only ninety minutes left to live, would you see John Wick?

No.

So you would not devote 100% of your remaining life to seeing John Wick?

No.

What if you had 90 minutes times a hundred left to live — i.e. 9000 minutes.  Would you spend 1/100 of your remaining life on Earth seeing John Wick?

No.  I would rather talk to friends or hang out with animals and nature, or try to make the world a better place.

What percentage of your life should you spend seeing movies?

I’m not sure.  I heard about a guy once who spent 100% of his life seeing movies.  He was really rich and had a disability and his family hired directors to make movies exactly designed so he could get the best out of every second of life in terms of meaning and pleasure and beauty.  And then there was this other guy who spent none of his life seeing any movies or reading books — he just talked to friends and and hung out with animals and nature, or tried to make the world a better place.

Who was right?

I’m not sure.  They teamed up to defeat a criminal syndicate that was trapping sexy girls inside sapphires, but then somebody wanted me to do something and I didn’t get to see the end.

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Interesting Definition of “God” by Pascal

“We naturally believe we are more capable of reaching the centre of things than of embracing their circumference, and the visible extent of the world is visibly greater than we. But since we in our turn are greater than small things, we think we are more capable of mastering them, and yet it takes no less capacity to reach nothingness than the whole. In either case it takes an infinite capacity, and it seems to me that anyone who had understood the ultimate principles of things might also succeed in knowing infinity. One depends on the other, and one leads to the other. These extremes touch and join by going in opposite directions, and they meet in God and God alone.”
Blaise Pascal, Pensées

This quote can be rephrased as a definition of God as follows.

God is by definition the only thing in which the extremes of our understanding of things smaller than ourselves and things larger than ourselves “meet”.  In other words is your understanding of that which is smaller than you and your understanding of that which is greater than you meet up in a context that explains both, that context is by definition God, and if your understanding of X is not of a context in which your understanding of that smaller than you and greater than you meet up, then your understanding of X is not an understanding of God.

Questions remain.

  • What is understanding?  Is it the same as mastering something?
  • How does understanding infinity lead to understanding the ultimate principles of things?
  • How does understanding the ultimate principles of things lead to understanding infinity?
  • What does it mean for extremes to touch?

My guess would be the ultimate principle has something to do with how our need to understand and the things we understand are made for each other.  On this view we have an infinite need to understand and there is an infinite universe that both satisfies and frustrates our need to understand.  So understanding the infinite number of things and the infinite number of possible questions and interpretations leads us to an understanding of the ultimate principle — that our soul’s need of mystery and mystery itself were made for each other — and vice versa.

And whatever context explains both the infinite mysteriousness of life and our quixotic need to comprehend this mystery is what is referred to as “God”.  But you could call it “chicken soup” for all it matters.

 

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Marguerite of Porete’s Response to the Current Political Disappointments

This soul says Love takes no account of shame, honor, poverty, wealth, anxiety, ease, love, hate, hell or paradise. This soul has become nothing. She possesses everything and possesses nothing. She wills everything and wills nothing. Knows all and knows nothing. This is a gift from God. Reason responds increduously; How can this soul will everything and yet will nothing? Love answers; This soul wills nothing, for her will & desire are dead; but the Will of God wills in her.

MdP had to deal with very sub-standard political arrangements too.  She was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church.

Don’t get hung up on the word “God”.  What she means is the ultimate reality of which we are a part, an ultimate reality that we cannot conceptualize or understand.  We can get out of our own way and become an expression of the best aspect of this reality that surrounds us, creates us, and subsumes us.  Then we know no fear because there is nothing to be afraid of.

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Come Mr. Talisman, Talith Me Banana

In goetie a three-fold distinction is made in human endeavors viz.

the action of spirit upon spirit or DIVINATION

the action of matter upon matter or ALCHEMY

and the action of spirit upon matter or the fabrication and utilization of TALISMANS.

A TALISMAN is any physical object or collection of objects that have been rendered an expression of meaning or a receptacle of meaning by the activity of human will.  Or equivalently any material object that has been rendered a vehicle for spiritual action.

Depending upon whether one is a wizard, a mystic, a philosopher, a poet, a statesman, or a warrior one’s talisman will assume a different form.

The Great Talisman of the Philosopher is an entire well-lived human life, the talisman of the statesman is the state, the talisman of the warrior a weapon etc.

In traditional Jewish sadhana the mystic covers himself in a divine hug of light every morning, this being the “talith” or fringed garment, hence the expression Talith Man.

The PIMANDER MANUSCRIPT describes the fundamental “steps of the wiseman” as being loving, hiding, seeking, discovering, forgetting, meeting, friendship, castle, robe, lips, eyes, tongue, mask, and chalice.  Each of these has a corresponding talisman.  The 14 “steps” multiplied by the 7 “paths” yields 14×7 or 98 talismans.

The two missing talismans according to the sufi sages (missing from the perfect decade of decades or 100) are the sun and moon which symbolize the acknowledged and unacknowledged aspects of life, day and night, the logic of dreams and the logic of waking.

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Juanita & Carol: Can Someone Else Die Your Death for You?

Juanita

The special thing about death is nobody else can die your death for you.

Carol

I don’t know if that is special, but I don’t want to argue with you.

Juanita

Why?

Carol

Because arguing may cause our positions to solidify and we may lose the truthfulness that comes from a flexible position.

Juanita

Perhaps.  But it could be that the unit of truth for human beings is not one person holding one belief but two or more holding opposing beliefs.  If that is so, and the unit of truth-holding is a set of individuals, the clarity of that group may well be advanced by each person within the group holding as strong and sharp a version of their opinion as they can.

Carol

Or it might not be, it might in fact be that the best way for a group of people to reflect the truth is through a certain flexibility and mutual accomodation of their views.

Juanita

Very well, but nobody can die your death for you.

Carol

Nobody else can eat a sandwich for me either.

Juanita

Sure they can. They could digest it and transfer the nutrients to your bloodstream.  But nobody else can die your death for you.

Carol

Nobody else can live my life for me.

Juanita

Sure they can.  Whatever your goal in life is they can help you achieve it.  If your job is to overcome fascism and you become stricken with illness they can live your life for you by overcoming fascism for you.

Carol

Maybe so, but I don’t think anybody else can die my death for me.

Juanita

I will die your death for you. Go back to your children and I will carry on the fight and if I die, I die for you.

Carol

Maybe so, but it doesn’t seem quite right.

Juanita

Nor to me either.

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