slowly deciphering the meaning of life...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

alright, it's time

this isn't a joke, or another manic episode. it is the end of an era (really, era? come on...)

i'm moving my blog to the following location:

please go there for all future readings.


Friday, March 10, 2006

various sundries

  • i'm giving a talk at harvard tomorrow, at the psychology department's music/mind symposium. under other circumstances (like, a few years ago), this would be exciting to me. but as of now, i could care less, except that i get to now put it on my CV.
  • i'd like to start posting more on what i really believe. like the fact that my belief in the afterlife has become less and less important to me over the past year. i'm often not sure if i understand or believe in heaven. i'm often not sure if i understand the significance of this.
  • white russian martinis are good. really good.
  • so is unibroue's don de dieu.
  • my sister-in-law and a friend are coming to stay with us tomorrow. for seven days. in our 600 sq. ft. apartment. we had to store all our liquor at our friends' house today, so we could pass unscathed through the inquisition. i'm so looking forward to this...
  • i'm applying for a job. that means i'm thinking about leaving school. i'm also serious. the job would possibly be in california. i get happy when i think about that.
  • it's been two weeks since i submitted my CV to my inside connection at the possible place of employment. i haven't heard anything, even from my said connection. i guess these things take time.
  • i've started seeing a shrink. seriously. i'm no trying to brag. i just wanted to say shrink...makes me feel like i'm in a movie.
  • i'm also slowly coming back to a fuller understanding of the significance of prayer and faith in the life of a believing person. it's a powerful combination, and one that i feel very few people combine successfully, at least from the (lack of) role models i've seen in my life. what i mean, is that very few people really believe the things they pray about/for. most of us pray like we're throwing up hail mary's. few of us seem to believe in the power of God.
  • life is good. and when stuff in your life starts to take control to the point that you lose sight of life's goodness, then it's time to change something or move on. you can only be free when you choose to leave those things which are damaging to you.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

the scientific believer

since coming to MIT, my mind has been stretched in many ways. combined with a general distancing from my SBC childhood heritage, i've spent the last few years deconstructing and reconstrcuting much of my philosophy on life. this has been a difficult process, made more so because i've often felt like i'm doing it alone.

recently, however, i feel that i've really started to come back to a more wholistic view, incorporating much of the scientific approach i've learned at MIT, while still being able to account for the wondrous nature of a lot of christian thought. this process has brought me to a place where i feel like i can communicate with most christians who believe in the 'other' supernatural world (the kind of belief that most MIT people would scoff at), while internally i interpret what they're saying into a more scientific understanding. this has meant that when i'm in a conversation, i take what the other person is saying, and internally interpret it into words that (most often) the other person would find reprehensible, while it all makes sense to me. this sort of dichotomy has, in my opinion, given me some insight to the rift that exists between spiritualists and naturalists, and so i've lately been wanting to create some writings that would highlight this apparent tension.

so today, i offer up this mock-conversation between a non-believer and a believer, on the subject of whether or not God exists. such a conversation is fairly representative of what's been going on in my mind for the past year. it's not quite fight club, but hopefully you'll find it somewhat interesting.

the non-believer says:
    there is no god. god is an invention, a figment, of the human mind, created to help humans account for their lack of knowledge in the universe. god is the catch-all used by humans to explain everything they don't know, or can't explain. this concept of god has been fairly useful for humans, for otherwise they might go crazy attempting to explain all that they can't account for. fortunately, science is slowly etching away at this vast unknown, and one day humanity's efforts will be able to explain much of what is unaccounted for today.

    life's course is determined by two things: chance and human will power. there is no such thing as the "hand of god" guiding you. all that's guiding you is your own desires. when those desires work out, you attribute it to god. when they don't, you create another ficticious character, the devil, to account for your bad decisions. in the end, the course of each person's life is dependent on the choices that that person makes, not on some unseen, 'divine' power.

the believer says:
    you say there's no god, and that's fine. i can't force you to believe in a god. i can, however, compell you to look at the track record of the existence of life. look at your own life, and look at how you've been successful. you obviously had to conduct your life in such a manner as to get to this point. how do you account for this positive growth? can chance alone beget order? in my mind, i understand your point about being able to explain away life in terms of probabilities. however, the fact is that there are certain rules and laws in this world (which science has discovered), that if followed result in growth and life. while chance seems to be key in determining direction of an individual's life, chance still cannon trump these rules. yes, the world does seem to be determined by chance, but it's determined by chance within the confines of a universe that has unforgiveable rules. these rules determine what survives and what dies.

    now, go look at the history of religion, and see how religion, although most of the time has resulted in great evil, has also resulted in the adoption of many of these rules for the betterment of humanity. and look at how these rules have benefited mankind. the fact that these rules exist, and that they result in the survival of adherents, indicates to me some sense of direction. it is this sense of direction that i believe points towards something greater than ourselves. this sense of direction points towards life, towards order, towards harmony. this sense of direction is what points us towards "God". if God doesn't exist, then how does order triumph over chance?

    i won't argue that believing in something else, like God, isn't difficult. it's very difficult. however, at then end of the day, when i step away from looking at the 'data', i see a pattern. and it is the existence of this pattern, this direction towards survival and life, that leads me to believe that there is an order in the universe. i readily admit that it is my choice to attribute this order to some greater force. but i will also point out that this choice has worked for ages, and continues to work, even in the face of opposing views. if the choice to believe in a God makes life easier, then why is this such a bad thing? could it not be that such belief gives a person a better sense of direction? could it not be that belief in God spurs one on towards actions that result in the proliferation of life? and if this process actually works, then how can you say God doesn't exist? the very fact that this process works is all the proof you need.

i'm not sure if any of this even makes sense to someone else outside of my mind. however, this is what's been going on inside for quite some time, so i offer it up and would be interested to hear what you have to say.

blog maps

i've been playing around with the Google Maps API lately, and created a blogmap showing the locations of blogs and friends i'm connected to. the list isn't complete, so don't get offended if you're not on there. however, since i pretty much know who reads this blog, i don't foresee that happening. if you want anything or anyone added, just let me know and i'll be happy to. also, be sure to check out how accurate the locations are. you might be surprised...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

the magical universe

amidst all that's been going on in my life, i realized i haven't posted anything that thought-provoking lately. i thought that meaning of would turn some heads, but i guess not.

one of the things i've realized lately is that getting good conversation started on the internet is an artform in itself. and since i thrive on good conversation about stimulating topics, i guess it's one i need to refine (at least if i'm going to be a critic). i originally started blogging again because of a post on fletch's blog. he tended to ask questions on his blog, and i've realized that this is one of the best ways to start a good conversation.

so, here's a conversation starter: IS THE WORLD MAGICAL?

being at MIT for the past few years, where naturalism seems to reign supreme, i've slowly been swayed to believe that the world contains no special "magic", but instead is composed of only what our senses tell us is there. while this is a valid argument for describing what humans can actually perceive, i believe that such a view is faulty in many regards.

the primary problem i have with such a view is that it assumes that the human being perceives everything. it is this assumption that i believe to be the achilles' heel of modern naturalism. we humans do have five senses, and it appears to us that we are the supreme beings in the universes, insofar as we can tell. but, we overstep our boundaries when we start to assume that we perceive everything that is. put another way (in the form of a question), how can we know that when we look at something, we are seeing everything that is there?

there's a constant pattern throughout the course of human history whereby humans assume one thing about the physical world, only to be shown later, with the revelation of new evidence, that the previous conclusion was false. take for example a flat earth, or a geocentric universe. over time, human beings, through the tool of scientific analysis, have provided us with additional information informing us of what actually does exist, and many times these new findings conflict, or rather destroy, old notions we have about the universe.

so, back to my original question, is it possible to believe in a "magical" world, where things happen that we can't provide explanations for, and still have this view fully supported by modern science? i argue YES. and my primary supportive point is that we still don't know everything that exists. years ago, we thought that the atom was the basic unit of physical reality. now, we know that it's not. i wonder how many more layers of physical reality we'll know about in 200 years.

if we don't know everything that exists, then how can we conclude that miracles are not possible? how can we conclude that prayer is something that is completely contained inside one's own head, and that there isn't really a communication with some other form or being? to operate one's life in such a manner that we assume that we know everything is very dangerous, for it places us on a pedastal of infallibility. many people, both naturalistic scientists and fundamentalist Christians, have placed themselves in this posture, and there continuance in that manner only causes them further damage.

we have to learn to live with an openness to the fact that we don't know everything. furthermore, we have to admit that it's quite possible we (humans) won't ever know everything, because as we discover more, we'll realize that there's still even more to discover. of course, this doesn't give us excuse to dismiss knowledge that we have discovered. even though we don't know everything, it is still our responsibility to do the best with what we DO know.

so, with regards to my original question, i guess i want to ask those who are reading:

do you believe that the world is magical?

do you believe prayer works, even though you don't see any "communication lines" between yourselves and God? do you believe that miracles actually happen, or at least CAN happen? for those of us who claim to follow Jesus, do we REALLY believe that the world can support all the things that the Bible accounts for Jesus doing? do we still believe that the world is like this? i admit that i DO believe in this aspect of the world, although this belief for me is relatively young. i have a full faith that the world is magical, and i'll be happy to field any questions from doubters who might think otherwise.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

the wonders of global capitalism

my good friend jon, a.k.a. "da biggest nation", who lives in abilene, tx, presented me with a wonderful present today. i'm sure you will find it an equally inspiring piece of fine musical art: mp3 link (4.4MB)

if you want to sing ( will!), lyrics can be found here

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

for those of you who are intrigued by interesting conversations about the meaning of life, then i highly encourage taking a stroll over to they have a bunch of recorded conversations with some of the world's preeminent thinkers of science, religion and spirituality. i've only listened to a few of these conversations, so i'd love to hear what you guys have to say about other conversations there. currently, i'm listening to daniel dennett's conversation on consciousness.