Monthly Archives: October 2012

Mind Candy

I got a new computer today. Actually, it’s a computer my brother built for me from a bunch of old parts that our uncle gave him. It’s been giving me some grief, but I think my brother should be able to get it sorted out. I’ve just been having so much trouble with computers lately that I’m starting to think something like Sky Net is arising and the machines are conspiring against me. At least I can still update my blog.

I complain a lot. I can be quite impatient, and when I don’t know how something works or I simply just can’t get it to work right, I can get testy. I’m trying to do a project for my Victorian literature class, and I need to find an article discussing the novel Sybil. I haven’t been looking for a super long time, but I’m having trouble finding anything that I could really use. My dad suggested using Jstor through the Boston Public Library site. I asked him if I needed his library card number and he said, “yes,” and promptly left before giving it to me. I really dislike doing research, and it’s little inconveniences like this that drive me up a wall.

I have other homework I could be doing, but I’m actually feeling quite sick of dense, arduous reading material. When you’re an English and Philosophy major, this is pretty much all you get. There’s really no mind-candy involved. I feel like the child who gets nothing to eat but vegetables.

I played a game called Journey on Thursday when I got home from school. It’s the weirdest, simplest and best game I’ve ever played, and I’m not exaggerating. There is not a single word, spoken or written to tell you what to do or where to go. You are simply dropped into a desert and the only thing to do is to start walking. In the beginning of the game this is literally all you can do. You can’t even jump. After a short walk you get to the top of a sand dune, and off in the distance you see a shiny mountain. The point of the game is to get to said shiny mountain. There are a few puzzles along the way, but they’re all pretty easy. The game is mostly about the scenery. It’s a really beautiful game. There isn’t even any combat. There are a couple levels where these robot things decide that you look tasty and you have to run away. You can’t fight back. I actually played through it again on Friday. The first time it took me about 3 hours to beat because I spent an awful lot of time just looking around and figuring the game out, but the second time it took me about an hour to an hour and a half. I want to find other games like it, because that was some good mind-candy.

I certainly think that blogging helps maintain my sanity, but I tend to think too much even when I write for fun. I think a problem that I have is that I’m always “too much” or “not enough.” During the school semesters I’m so crazy with work most of the time, and during winter and summer breaks I’m so burnt out I don’t do anything. It’s partly my own fault because of the way I set my schedule up, but it would be nice if there was a better way to balance fun and learning.

Things That Matter

Well, I was trying to read a dense and confusing article about how to explain the mind, and I was thinking about all the things I need to get done for next week, music-wise, and I was feeling quite distracted because a gnawing  question would not leave me alone. “Why am I reading this? Why does it actually matter? What, if anything actually matters?” The immediate reason why I was reading the article was because I was supposed to for homework, so I can participate in class, so I can get a good grade. But the real question is, “Why do we have to explain the mind? Why does that matter?” Why do we delve into science and philosophy to find weird answers to weird questions?

Something that struck me recently is that a lot of the philosophical ideas that I’m studying don’t always correspond with my faith. I realized, however, that it doesn’t really matter. Philosophy is largely theoretical, and doesn’t necessarily bring us any closer to truth no matter how convincing an argument is. Similarly, science may be pretty darn convincing at times, and in fact it seems that it has an answer or a reason for almost anything in the physical world (on earth at least), but how do we know that science is actually or entirely true? Science and philosophy may give us explanations and procedures that work, but just because something works, does not mean that it is true.

So this brings me back to the question of “What actually matters?” I’d like to come up with an objective answer for this if possible. In doing so, I think I’ll have to figure out what it is that everyone cares about, what effects everyone, and what the significance of such things is.

I think a good place to start is to determine what at least seems to matter to the lowest common denominator. At this point I’m tempted to jump to basic, biological necessities, such as food and water, but I think at the root of that is simply life. I think it matters a great deal that we even exist. Philosophers and scientists will spend a significant amount of time trying to decide how and why we exist, but I would like to argue that that doesn’t matter. It is a fact that we exist, and I really don’t think you need to go any farther than that. It is the reason why anything else matters to us.

Existence doesn’t happen on its own, so clearly other things matter to our existence. I think the next rung on the ladder of significance is love. It is possibly the most complicated and yet simplest thing that people and arguably other creatures are capable of. I won’t get into all the details and aspects of it because that would take up a whole other article, but I honestly think that without love, individuals and societies could not function. Without it we would fall apart, so it is necessarily true that love matters. One could argue that some people exist who are incapable of love, and there are others who may feel entirely unloved. While it is true that they can function without it, they are simply enduring, and this does not make for a happy existence.

Another thing I think matters a great deal is identity. Who and what we identify ourselves as is exceedingly important. One might argue that labels can be problematic in some cases, but I think self-imposed labels can actually be helpful. The trick is to have just a few, positive and truthful “titles,” if you will. It is important to identify with something, because it gives a person grounding. It determines how they think, feel, interact with others and go about their lives. Without it, a person can feel lonely, confused or directionless. It can also be much more difficult for people like this to relate to others. Knowing who and what you are often determines where you are, who you’re with and where you want to go.

Perhaps the thing that matters most however, and possibly the most difficult to talk about is truth. I believe that there is an objective truth; a truth that holds for every person who inhabits the earth. Philosophy doesn’t give us an objective truth because philosophers argue amongst themselves and some simply argue that truth is entirely subjective. Science doesn’t even give us an objective truth because in science, certain things are only sometimes true. I recently watched a video in one of my classes that explained that electrons sometimes act like particles and sometimes act like waves (I don’t remember the name of the video, but you can probably look up “electron slit experiment,” or something to that effect on YouTube. It was a cartoonish video). Before I go on, I need to make the point that an objective truth does not have to be something that everyone agrees is true. I believe that all people seek objective truth, and all people are capable of finding it.

These are the four things that I believe matter and matter above all else: the fact that we exist, the giving and receiving of love, personal identity and the search for and acquisition of truth.

Control

Wednesday I was having a bit of a teenage-girl-mood-swing day. I had to meet with my presentation group for my Philosophy class, and we went longer than I had hoped. On top of that, I was a bit tired and I hadn’t really had much to eat for lunch beforehand. When we finished I decided to go for a walk because it was getting stuffy in the little coffee shop on campus.

It was a drizzly day, but it wasn’t raining so I wandered around aimlessly for a bit while I tried to decide where I wanted to go. I had about an hour and a half to kill before my mom was supposed to pick me up, so I decided to sit down at a table and call my grandmother. We didn’t really talk about much, but we talked for 10 minutes or so.

But alas! I had the problem of where to go again! I thought about going down my usual trail, but I decided to explore a bit instead. I decided to see what was behind Frost Hall, which is a big, old stone building that looks like a castle. Frost is actually at the top of a hill, but you wouldn’t know it unless you went behind it. It’s usually out of the way for me, so I just hadn’t been back there. What I found was beautiful! At the bottom of the hill and across a little road is a pond, and behind that there are woods. The leaves on the trees are starting to change around here, and it was so nice! The odd thing was that it left me feeling a bit lonely. I thought about heading back to the coffee shop, but I wasn’t feeling particularly sociable either, so I decided just to sit for a bit.

The trouble is that when I sit still I get to thinking, and when I get to thinking, I sometimes get to thinking things I don’t want to. I have absolutely no reason to doubt the Lord. He has been so involved in my life in the past couple years that it would seem ridiculous not to believe in His greatness. As I was sitting there however, the thought came into my head, “is this for real?” That thought has crossed my mind before, and the immediate response is always “Of course!” It just bothers me that this doubt would even cross my mind. All I can do about it is pray, and that’s what I did yesterday. As usual, it made me feel a bit better.

Later that night I went to choir practice at my church and I was the only alto (there’s usually only two of us, anyway), but I sang my parts loudly and pretty well, and I worshiped God with my friends and I felt awesome afterwards.

Something that took me a while to accept is that God isn’t always going to give me the answer to “hard” questions, but He always has the answer. I have a tendency to be a bit of a control freak, so my prayer is usually, “what do I need to do, Father?” It can be a bit difficult for me to say, “God, I don’t know what’s going on. Just do your thing.” Generally the latter works out better. I think the best way to go about whatever it is we’re doing is to do our thing, and let God do His thing. The two “things” are usually intertwined. I think in general, we need to do less thinking and more doing. If we just take the opportunities that are given to us, so much more gets done. Sometimes even if something looks appealing, I’ll think so much about it that I won’t actually end up doing it. You can almost always say “no,” and you can almost always back out. In fact, this can sometimes be easier if you jump in head first (of course it depends on the situation, but I’ve noticed that this is true in a lot of cases).

I’m writing this down in the hope that it is helpful, but also so that I might be more inclined to take my own advice. I’m really just getting
to the point where I will just “jump in” to things, and I still tend to over-think a lot.

40 Posts And Everything Else

This is the first morning in quite a while when I can just chill out for a bit and not rush like a crazy person to get things done. Ironically Wednesday is usually my craziest day. I do need to get some work done this morning, but at least I’m not in freak-out mode. I went to bed obscenely early last night (8:00 or 8:30, which is VERY early for me) and I got up around 6:45, which was very nice. Then I watched a bit of the news (which I usually find depressing) with my dad and my brother before they went off to work and school, and now I’m having coffee.

Incidentally, this is my 40th blog post. I think when I get to 50 I’ll get myself a pumpkin muffin from the gingerbread place down the street and throw myself a little party. Those muffins are basically cupcakes, and they’re SO GOOD!!!! Occasionally I’ll pretend they’re good for me and have one with my coffee on the way to school in the morning.

I do have to meet up with my presentation group today for my philosophy class. We’re presenting tomorrow and the question we’re attempting to answer is basically, “How do you define a person?” We had to read an article by this guy named Nagel, and he brings split-brain cases into the equation and sort of goes back and forth on whether they have two minds or one. We are presenting “bundle theory,” which basically says that “people” are simply a bundle of physical properties, mental states and experiences. What makes “people” different from animals is the fact that we have reason and we seek truth. We are also sort of arguing that there is no “mind,” there is only “person,” which I don’t even really agree with, but it’s the logical conclusion that we’ve come to and I’m mostly interested in getting an A on this. This class has pretty much convinced me that I should double major in Philosophy as well as English. Then if I go to seminary I can annoy everyone to death with Theology as well as the other two subjects under my belt.

Of course if I add a Philosophy major or minor I have to take logic. I may fail that class… (kidding of course), but I can be a bit irrational sometimes. Often, even if something “makes sense,” I’ll ignore it or refute it simply because I don’t “get it.” I’ve tried to understand The Big Bang Theory numerous times, and I just don’t “get it.” I don’t understand how the entire universe could possibly be contained in a “singularity,” or a “little mush,” as I like to call it. The only way I think it could work is if God put it there, which I think is a perfectly viable answer, but for some reason it still just sounds ridiculous. Plus if I accept this idea I have to figure out how in the world the Genesis story fits in. Evolution messes that up a bit too, but not as much, and I have an easier time dealing with it.

I originally wrote a few more lines in the last paragraph, but I decided to leave them out because they were basically a pointless digression. I’ve noticed that I tend to do that when I write lengthy blog posts. I often venture into the precarious territory of “What the heck was God thinking?” Half the time I can’t even articulate what I’m thinking, so I don’t know why I find it so freaking interesting, but I think it’s important. That’s as far as I’m going to go on that for now, at least.

I’ve often wondered about “swearing.” I used to think saying things like “shit” would automatically condemn you. Now I tend to think that words are just words, and it’s the intention behind them that really matters. I still refrain from saying most things other than “That sucks,” or “That’s freaking awesome!” or “What the crap?” I just think that most “bad words” are rather vulgar and uncivilized. There’s really just no need. I’m not saying I’m particularly “classy,” but I think the way a person speaks is important. I think the way a person speaks really defines them. I have one friend who will F-bomb everywhere just for the sake of F-bombing. I’ll admit that it can be funny at times. I have another friend who will usually swear for emphasis. She wants to get her point across! When I want to emphasize something, I usually add “Dude!” I actually think this can be less effective. The reason I bring this up is because my Philosophy teacher “swears” kind of a lot, but it’s FUNNY! He’s very good at it. He likes to make awkward situations, and we’re at the point where we understand that, so we just laugh. The best part is he’s a great teacher, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve also argued with him a lot, which has been great fun. Maybe after a semester of his class I’ll be good enough at arguing that I won’t fail the logic class and I’ll actually be able to win a debate with my brother.

New Ideas On The Radar

I’ve never really paid too much attention to statistics. I don’t like math in the fist place, and I’m a bit competitive, so when I see that the odds are against me for whatever reason, I decide to pick a fight with them.

I was doing some homework a couple days ago—or at least I was supposed to be doing homework, and I decided to look up the percentage of pastors who are women in various churches. I was actually surprised to find that a few different sites said only 10%. The reason I looked this up was because I’ve been trying to figure out what in the world I would like to do with my life.

I’m currently majoring in English at a Christian school, and quite honestly, I don’t entirely know what I want to do with it. I started working on a business idea with a couple cousins this past summer, that had to do with music and writing, and it seemed like a good idea, but college got in the way and we lost momentum. Now thinking about it, it seems the idea has lost a bit of appeal. Hopefully this winter we’ll pick up some momentum again over break, but we have a bit of a road block to overcome in the meantime. I may know how to fix the problem, but I don’t currently have time to experiment too much.

A few weeks ago my mother mentioned that one of her friends had said that she honestly thought I should be a pastor. At the time I laughed and dismissed the idea, but thinking about it, it might actually be a fitting role for me. I love people, I love being “on stage” so to speak, and I sincerely want to spread God’s message of love and redemption. In a way, I already have a little experience doing this. I write my own worship music, and I perform it at open mics. People generally like my stuff, and I’d like to think I’m at least subtly getting the message across.

Another reason I think I might want to do this is because of my friends. I have many friends who haven’t been saved, and I don’t entirely know how to sort of “get the point across” to them. For whatever reason I feel like it’s sort of my “job” to help them to get to know the Lord. I’m a bit afraid of doing it obnoxiously, though, so I’ve been trying to “lead by example,” if you will. Over the past couple years, my faith has grown exponentially (granted it was only really born a couple years ago), but I’m not sure that my friends see it. I guess I try to be subtle about it. I don’t want it to be this whole other “thing.” It’s just part of who I am.

The interesting thing is that I hadn’t even considered pastoring as an option until the other night. It hadn’t even been anywhere on my radar, but the more I think about it, the more appealing it seems. I’m still not entirely sure what to think, because the idea is a bit intimidating, but I also like it a fair amount more than any of my other career ideas so far. It may go nowhere, but we’ll see. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if this is what I end up doing.