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Category: philosophy

Zen and the art of swimming pool maintenance

by Andrea Elizabeth

It has been years since I heard part of the audiobook, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but I love the title and premise, which a long time attentive reader, my muse, would have gathered. I have heard of writers having a vision of their muse. Stephen King’s is John Tuturro’s character, John Shooter, in Secret Window. He’s a bar leaning smoking, sort of malevolent man in black. My muse is a Johnny Depp type person, who is more intellectual than Johnny Depp, who finds me fascinating and hangs on my every word. He may not agree with me, but he wants to know why I think thataway. Once he knows that, he will either challenge me or just ponder.

Anyway. I’m not in the mood for a reactionary post today. Unless I’m reacting to my pool that no matter what I’ve learned from previous spring algae blooms, I still can’t prevent them. I may have been able to prevent this one if I’d not gone to Connecticut for a week a month ago, but Fiona, our grandchild, is worth it. To prevent this from being a reactionary post, I’ll not talk about ways to combat the green cloudy mess. Swimming pool maintenance can be more about a state of being. Algae happens. Aggressive perfectionists may always have clear, sparkly pools. I have to live with the consequences of having other priorities than perfection, even though I like perfection. Some non perfectionists can live with disorder and don’t really notice it. I notice it, but while I may be just plain lazy, for now I’ll say I put up with a certain amount because I will not be a slave to perfection or let it’s lack make me completely unhappy. I like the idea that things can be fixed later, before they become ruined. There is however a point of no return, hoarders beware. It’s the difference between annoying fleas and an infestation. So now I’ll go pour in another 2 gallons of bleach, wait an hour, put in new shock, wait an hour, and then the rest of my second kind of algicide that still hasn’t done the trick.

he also prays

by Andrea Elizabeth

spoiler alert. In Episode 5 of Alone, the Omm guy also prays, so it’s not just about being chill. He’s interesting, but my favorite guy is the young carpenter who is a little overzealous with his plans. At least he has plans, though. Interesting that he interprets Darwin and gets on his knees to ask for help. And the youngest guy is doing suprisingly well. The older Georgia, or was it North Carolina, guy has a fun flare for the dramatic.

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

by Andrea Elizabeth

During one of the Q&A’s, Fr. Maximos was asked if man-made things have a logos. Fr. said no, only natural, God-made objects do. I would propose that man-made objects have a different logos. This is a combination of a God-created and man-manipulated logos, meaning intention. I believe God created nature to be somewhat manipulated, or cultivated. The discussion was many faceted covering things like gmo’s, atomic bombs and sky-scrapers which were strongly felt to be very unnatural. Items worked for use in the Church were not designated as having a logos. I believe that artificially (in the Aristotelian sense) manufactured items are imbued with a creatively inspired logos that God has given man the ability to bestow on his creation. There are three possible categories for these logoi: consecrated for good, evil, or for secular use. Even if an Auschwitz gas chamber were made, I don’t think it is totally without a logos. The stones and metal have been abused. They are still performing their God-given functions of strength and distribution, but to their dismay are being used for ill. I think decommissioned Auschwitz is a shrine to those whose lives were lost, the devil’s enslavement of the Nazi soldiers, who still have a logos by the way, and the abused materials that made the buildings.

To say a manufactured product, which also includes fine art, has a divine logos is to say that God determined that that piece would be made exactly as it was. This is how Calvinists view the Bible. Contrarily, if we think that the stories in the Bible were also influenced by human free will, then the Bible is a combination of divine and human intention.

It’s kind of like God is the grandfather of man-made things. Grandchildren have the DNA of the grandparent, but of three other grandparents as well.

Back to naturally created things, I saw a PBS show a while ago that said that geology is changed when man is present. I wish I could remember more, but I think it was saying that man’s simple act of breathing chemically changes his environment. If that is true, then nothing is untainted by human manipulation.

By the way, I don’t agree with Aristotle’s quote in my title either. There was a similar division proposed in the lectures between the outward appearance and inner essence of a thing as well. I don’t think the outer and inner are so divorced from each other. St. Maximus taught that Christ came to heal divided things. Granted inner and outer isn’t listed in his famous five*, but still. The superficial is a respected part of an object and can communicate a lot about it, like a face in an icon does. It does take spiritual sight to see the divine, but the divine doesn’t destroy the created thing, which is the whole point of the burning bush. The fire and the bush are significant.

*created and uncreated, intelligible and sensible, heaven and earth, paradise and universe, male and female. from here, which is not where I originally got it. I think it was from Dr. Joseph Farrell’s introduction from St. Maximus’ Disputation with Pyrrhus, but it may have been from On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ.

Aristotle for Everybody

by Andrea Elizabeth

As my daughter, son and I were on our 1 1/4 hour drive home from Denton yesterday evening, my husband called and said he downloaded Aristotle for Everybody on his audible account and was finding it interesting. I was surprised, and don’t recall if he said what prompted it. But what surprised me more was that my daughter was listening on speakerphone and said she wanted to listen to it. She said she thinks it’s interesting. She knew Aristotle was the student of Plato and the teacher of Alexander the Great, but I have never heard her express interest in philosophy before. My kids haven’t really engaged in talking about it with me, and I have given up on monologues with them. So we listened for the remaining 45 minutes of the trip, and then I asked her if she liked it. And she said yes. This morning she said she wants to use it for her required “informational book report”. Cool!

My impression so far: I wonder if Aristotle was OCD wanting to classify everything as he does. This hyperclassification and boundary making also struck me in C.S. Lewis’ “Out of the Silent Planet”. Though there was in AFE an acknowledgment of overlaps, such as immobile crustaceans that act like plants, and that may have been by the author, not Aristotle, I was impressed by a recent PBS documentary that talks about the interdependent relationships they are discovering between minerals and life, such as limestone being made by shell fish, and the role of bacteria in processing iron and such.

Universalism vs Justice

by Andrea Elizabeth

Now that I’ve watched the fourth and final installment of The Great Holiday Baking Show I will compare and contrast it to Universalism vs. Justice. Justice says that the perfectionist, pointy lady who had complicated, balanced flavors and fancy artistry deserved to win. That her free will helped her engage in skill-enhancing exercises, and she respected the right way to proof dough and layer puff pastry to produce superior results. The black lady did not deserve to win because of her laid back attitude and lack of practice with baking bread. She was too folksy and southern, if not funny and sometimes surprisingly good.

Perhaps Universalism says precise perfection is a western European hyperactive construct. Instead, community and family are more important than impressing people. Art is more about sentiment than presentation. Love is the key ingredient, not symmetry.

gathering and naming

by Andrea Elizabeth

I just read long Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy entries on existentialism and Heidegger. Therefore I am. Also is the active and contemplative life. But not the unaware life, including being unaware of what in unknown. At least not in maturity. But the unaware life is still human. I think. This could have only been two sentences.

 

ko wu, chih chih

by Andrea Elizabeth

“Chinese philosophical terms used in the Ta-hsüeh (Great Learning) to refer to two related stages or aspects of the self-cultivation process, subsequently given different interpretations by later Confucian thinkers. ‘Ko‘ can mean ‘correct’, ‘arrive at’ or ‘oppose’; ‘wu‘ means ‘things’. The first ‘chih‘ can mean ‘expand’ or ‘reach out’; the second ‘chih‘ means ‘knowledge’. Chu Hsi (1130-1200) took ‘ko wu‘ to mean arriving at li (principle, pattern) in human affairs and ‘chih chih‘ to mean the expansion of knowledge; an important part of the self-cultivation process involves expanding one’s moral knowledge by examining daily affairs and studying classics and historical documents. Wang Yang-ming (1472-1529) took ‘ko wu‘ to mean correcting the activities of one’s hear/mind (hsin), and ‘chih chih‘ the reaching out of one’s innate knowledge (liang chih); an important part of the self-culitivation process involves making fully manifest one’s innate knowledge by constantly watching out for and eliminating distortive desires.”

from The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy randomly arrived at by letting the book open where it may and reading the first entry that came to my eye like I used to do with the Bible.

Applying this principle, today I watched the last half of a PBS documentary on Gene Robinson, Love Free or Die. The first elected openly gay bishop is cuter and more compelling that I expected. So is his significant other. The most unfortunate part is the end statistics detailing how it is illegal to be gay punishable by jail and even death in some countries. This gives them the moral high ground to appeal for justice and equal rights. The most compelling voice for keeping the tradition of homosexuality is a sin was Bishop Rowen Williams. Someone told him that to take up one’s cross is righteous, but woe to those who crucify others. He paused and agreed that ‘not committing homosexual sin does need to be a voluntary sacrifice and not coerced. If it is not agreed upon, it reflects the very damaged state of the Church.’ The least compelling where the picketers that had signs saying “God hates fags”, and the scary, beefy motorcycle guy picketing people to split from the Episcopal Church and follow the Bible. Then there was the distraught, confused lady who was sad about it all, but had to vote against gay clergy and marriage anyway. The Gay Pride Parade freak show didn’t score many points, imo, either. Except for the few normal looking ones handing out water.

The fact that some gay people are so happy to have found love, to me speaks of damaged people who can’t turn their back on love. They sincerely believe that they will die without it. Maybe God is merciful to such as those who cannot accept being a eunuch, like Matthew says. But at the same time, I sense a bit of a latent acknowledgement that maybe they should have given up more in order to have a natural family. They are not ready to move on from their childhood baggage to a more sacrificial life.

is goodness a thing

by Andrea Elizabeth

Agatha Christie’s “Mystery of the Blue Jar” (pardon the over-enunciation in this recording) has an intriguing opinion by the self-professed “doctor of souls”. He doesn’t believe in ghosts or communicative spirits of the departed, but that blind justice gropes to find resolution.  This brings to mind, despite the twist in the ending, Divine Command Theory, which I just heard about on Facebook. According to my Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, DCT addresses whether there is ontological virtue, such as justice, or if goodness is solely based on obedience to God’s, what could be considered, arbitrary commands. Atheists claim to have a handle on virtue without listening to God, but Kierkegaard has an interesting take on it:

“Many Christians find divine command ethics attractive because the ethics of love advocated in the Gospels makes love the subject of a command. Matthew 22:37-40 records Jesus as saying that we are commanded to love God and the neighbor. According to Kierkegaard, there are two reasons to suppose that Christian love of neighbor must be an obligation imposed by divine command: first, only an obligatory love can be sufficiently extensive to embrace everyone, even one’s enemies; second, only an obligatory love can be invulnerable to changes in its objects, a love that alters not when it alteration finds.”

Well if such a sequence is rare, then heads is due

by Andrea Elizabeth

From the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy

gambler’s fallacy, also called Monte Carlo fallacy, the fallacy of supposing, of a sequence of independent events, that the probabilities of later outcomes must increase or decrease to “compensate” for earlier outcomes. For example, since (by Bernoulli’s theorem) in a long run of tosses of a fair coin it is very probable that the coin will come up heads roughly half the time, one might think that a coin that has not come up heads recently must be “due” to come up heads – must have a probability greater than one-half of doing so. But this is a misunderstanding of the law of large numbers, which requires no such compensating tendencies of the coin. The probability of heads remains one-half for each toss despite the preponderance, so far; of tails. In the sufficiently long run what “compensates” for the presence of improbably long subsequences in which, say, tails strongly predominate, is simply that such subsequences occur rarely and therefore have only a slight effect on the statistical character of the whole. See Bernoulli’s theorem

Bernoulli’s theorem is too complicated. The entry before that on St. Bernard of Clairvaux is more interesting:

(1090 – 1153), French Cistercian monk, mystic, and religious leader. He is most noted for his doctrine of Christian humility and his depiction of the mytical experience, which exerted considerable influence on later Christian mystics. Educated in France, he entered the monastery at Citeaux in 1112, and three years later founded a daughter monastery at Clairvaux.

According to Bernard, honest self-knowledge should reveal the extnt to which we fail to be what we should be in the eyes of God. That self-knowledge should lead us to curb our pride and so become more humble. Humility is necessary for contemplation of God, the highest form of which is union with God. Consistent with orthodox Christian doctrine, Bernard maintains that mystical union does not entail identity. One does not become God; rather, one’s will and God’s will come into complete conformity. See mysticism.

Not sure it’s Orthodox according to St. Athanasius.

Why women don’t like Kierkegaard

by Andrea Elizabeth

Inspired by yesterday’s article, this morning I again, after a long hiatus, picked up Either/Or Part II. Part I was from the point of view of the aesthete, and Part II is from the point of view of the ethicist. Aesthetics by nature are more interesting than ethics. Do is more interesting than don’t. Do opens the realms of possibilities, don’t closes the door. This is probably why Part I is a lot thicker than Part II. I think I must have quit reading after this: “but there is one thing for which I thank God with my whole soul, and that is that she is the only I have ever loved, the first, and there is one thing for which I pray to God with my whole heart, that he will give me the strength never to want o love any other.” (page 9)

To all who find themselves in this ideal arrangement, good for you. Preach on against those of us who did not. Club us over the head for our instability, recklessness, waywardness, dangerousness, immorality, and deservedness of being shunned. There, that was a self-indulgent pity party.

The third reason I’ve put this book at arms’ length is that Kierkegaard was never married. He courted Regina for four years, finally proposed, then dropped her immediately after she accepted. How can he preach about marriage?

But, he is a complicated fellow and deserves more query. Maybe he’s chastising himself as the aesthete? Maybe Part I is his loving himself and Part II is his hating himself? If that’s so, I can be more sympathetic. But this goal, “But now to the subject. There are two things that I must regard as my particular task: to show the esthetic meaning of marriage and to show how the esthetic in it may be retained despite life’s numerous hindrances.” (page 8) Have your cake and eat it too? Sounds like a women’s magazine cover article on keeping your marriage sparkly. So did he break off his own engagement because he didn’t think the aesthetic immediacy of attraction could really be retained? Was this next part himself?:

“You, however, actually live by plundering; unnoticed, you creep up on people, steal from them their happy moment, their most beautiful moment, stick this shadow picture in your pocket as the tall man did in Schlemiel and take it out whenever you wish. You no doubt say that those involved lose nothing by this, that often they themselves perhaps do not know which is their most beautiful moment. You believe that they should rather be indebted to you , because with your study of lighting, which magic formulas, you permitted them to stand forth transfigured in the supernatural amplitude of the rare moments…. If one dared to hope that the energy that kindles you in such moments could take shape in you, distribute itself coherently over your life, well, then something great would certainly come of you , for you yourself are transfigured in such moments.” (page 10-11)

My current theory is that Kierkegaard did try to sustain the transfigured energy – but he chose to do it through philosophical writing, not marriage. I don’t think he liked the physical as much as the intellectual, thus his decision not to marry her, but to devote himself to his work. But he did have an emotional bond to her, which he found that he could sustain without marriage. He believed in constant transfiguration, and for a while had the patience for it. But eventually he fulfilled this prophecy, “you who once wrote to me that patience to bear life’s burdens must indeed be an extraordinary virtue, that you did not even have the patience to want to live. Your life disintegrates into nothing but interesting details like these.” And this is why he died so young after getting more and more negative. Why do the brightest lights die so young? I do like Kierkegaard.

 

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