Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Prelude to Intentionality

As of late I have had the desire, and even received encouragement, to start writing again. Along with that desire I get some sense that it might fulfill my function in some twisted Aristotelian sense. I'm not expecting to attain Eudaimonia or ultimate happiness through writing. But, in the very least, it may help make sense of the thoughts that are my own alone. In the same vein, if one is going to decide to write, he must decide to write well. But what is it to write well?

I've heard it said that someone who writes well is able to communicate effectively what they are thinking. But effective translation from mind to pen to paper cannot be sufficient to qualify one as a good writer. If writing is merely the communication of thoughts, there has to be an assumption that the thought is worth writing. Not all thoughts are worth writing. I have many of these.

I have always wanted to write beautifully--more than the transposing my idle speculation. I've heard of how Alfred Tennyson would carefully study the way words sound in the ear. The care is reflected in his poetry, with 'equal temper of heroic hearts'. It sings and flows. It rings and sows. A good writer communicates the thought that he has but does so in a way that connects with the mind of the reader, not merely tending to his own conception. It's amusing to manipulate words, twist syntax, generate multiple meanings through ironic terms. It's vindicating to look at a word and perceive a meaning beyond what most attain through continued contemplation--as though looking at a radically different reality derived purely from the letters on a page. But let me be clear on this point. I don't play with words. Words play with me. My hope in these types of endeavors is that the written word plays with the ear of the reader, teasing the mind to further ideas 'roaming with a hungry heart'.

It is redundant to say that it is fun to play with words. For if it were not fun then it would not be playing in the first place. It would be something else entirely. Skilled writers play with words in the cleverest ways. When the concepts of a pun reconcile themselves with the reader, like a sight unseen, they introduce new possibilities. Yet if the thought too shocking the point is missed and the semantic brilliance forgotten though it was never really known. But most writers are sadists. For they still gain satisfaction in turning a phrase that is not received by the reader. Though the goal of writing is not to shoot over the head of the reader, it still may be a perk. And yet this intention is not entirely evil. For if the reader studies and strives he may surmise the greater glory of reconciling a deeper meaning to the text.

The other day, I explained the etymology of the phrase 'non sequitur' to a coworker and how her reasoning in this given instance was not entirely valid. She responded that I was a genius. I didn't follow.

It's the thought that counts, some say. That's mostly true. I have my own thoughts on thoughts. Some count for much. Some don't. I suggest it's the reconciliation that matters--how the thoughts, communicated through words, resonate with the intellect of the reader. What thought should I try to reconcile with whoever reads my writing?  I asked myself the question tonight and decided that I should write on writing. I have an inclination towards writing ironically. What do I write about? My intent is to eventually write about aboutness. To do so would be doubly ironic. It's ironic to say something about aboutness. To critique how a set of cultural values are about aboutness takes the irony to another level. I get the feeling that irony continues on always, incapable of meeting a definitive end. It continues to reconcile itself with the mind until the mind can reconcile no more.

A writer works with an audience mind, considering how his words will be received--to open eyes and ears or to the flames. The written word has the ability to impact, whether they are nailed to the Senate door or read quietly by the homely hearth. A great writer takes care to consider the impact on his audience. In this day and age considering the response would really be counter-cultural. We live in a time that aims to empower a man to more than rugged individualism. The individual is the 'captain of his soul', the author of his destiny, and master of his fate. This is radical individualism. The individual presents himself to the world, take it or leave it, unbending in purpose and disposition. It is left to the world to respond and change to meet the needs of the individual. It is the same attitude that motivates a voter to choose the candidate that is best for his own livelihood over the candidate that is best for the livelihood of the polity.

Not that I expect this piece to equal 'being the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero'. But I expect that if I desire to write well, I should write for the benefit of an audience. I could look back at former writings and essays and see how I adopted a disposition that aimed to shock the reader. Yet it wouldn't be right to be purely consequentialist in choosing content and presenting ideas. Else I would truly write to create the greatest stir possible, and call that quality. I'm not sure what an ethical writing would look like apart from being about ethics. I suppose a piece of writing could be good in itself, inasmuch as a person, action or virtue has the potential to be good. But then it gets exposed to whatever ethical system is evaluating it. As such, whether or not its 'goodness' becomes entirely changeable. Whether or not a piece is good should be absolute and constant. The content does not change, only the mind of the reader viewing it. If an essay is to be evaluated for the qualities that makes it good, it has to be evaluated within the appropriate conceptual framework of writing. As such, what makes it good is not the audience viewing it, but the syntax and composition within. Sure, a writer creates for his audience and has an impact. Perhaps the only way to have an impact of a consistent tone is to compose the writing in such a way, that from within it is impeccable and from without it is inspiring. I want to write in such a way that my reader is impacted for his benefit, be it beautiful and harmonious or potent and revolutionary. I can do better than what I have done. I can do better than this.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Amusing... On Disposition and Reality

This post was written on my phone originally in a facebook message to my buddy Jason. By the time I finished I figured it might be worth posting. This post is turning into a dialogue. So why not change it as such?!

Ryan: So, I had some thoughts in a sbux, but no pen to write them down  so I might as well write them here. I was thinking about knowledge (K) and how there are gradations of K and that perfect perfect K is utterly impossible for ordinary man. I remember two girls who in high school told me I was a negative person and shouldn't be " neg neg" but more "pos pos". Juvenile terms, I even thought so then. But if there is a filter between us and the real world-- sense perception, a grandeur in the ego or super ego, conceptual framework, subjectivity, etc- then perhaps general disposition and outlook on life has something to do with distortion of reality to the mind as well. In being overly optimistic or pessimistic towards the set of circumstances or events in reality, something is missed or twisted. Years ago I wrote about being dysphemistic--putting something into terms that are qualitatively no better than the original statement. Even if its not putting a positive or negative spin on reality it still has a spin of its own in virtue of translating something about reality. Back then I equated dysphemism with a rational view of the world. Now I think that being so allows for no more grasp of the world than otherwise. Because knowledge is graded, perfect knowledge of the world is unattainable regardless of disposition, be it positive or negative or altogether apathetic. The great irony in all of this is that in suggesting that this is how knowledge is and we cannot perfectly grasp reality, my own grasp of reality and the theory put forth is subjected to the same criticism.

Jason: I think you just need to be ‘uber-pos-pos’ Ryan. The higheschool teenie boppers were onto something, they just left out the ‘uber.’ Common mistake. Very intelecctually juvenile.

Despite our ability to play-down negative events in our lives with justification that it was’ meant to be’, the mere fact is that the event occurred outside of our perceptions, due to the reality of objectivity in the universe. We can look at negative events positvely ( all is for a good cause) in neutrality ( ex. the Stoic philosophy to take life as it comes, unsuprised by any events, in order to free yourself from the anxiety and sress of the external world, similar to you’re dysphemism if I understand it, pure reason) or pessimistically. (Schopenhauer? Work, worry, toil and trouble are indeed the lot of all men their whole life, aka. life sucks, has sucked, will suck, and will continue to suck until death, the thought of which is the only respite from suffering.) What I am getting at is, despite any of these subjective emotions, an event indeed ocurred. An event that is not necearrily bound by our subjections upon it, but by the laws of nature, and divine law if one acribes to such thought. At any rate, events do occur, whether we pin feelings on them or not, and events are either moral or amoral. Can there be anything such as an event that has no moral value? Taking a nice afternoon stroll outside seems like a good bet. Yet is there a moral difference between a hard working and upright citizen taking a stroll after an honest day’s work over that of a criminal who spent his day implementing a fradualent scheme on innocent victims? Are our actions isolated in such a way? A true morality, in my opinion, infinite and outside of time, would not let the criminal obtain moral immunity so quick and easy. Human will is in a constant state of overlapping itself, bad with good, good with bad, its hard to truly isolate actions by their sequrence or chronology. What I mean is even in the trivial matters that we pick apart and isolate from the whole, subjectivity is never relative, and always tied to a deeper level of understanding, even if we are unable to attain it. Hence, subjectivity always binded to morality.
So perhaps there is a ‘right’ disposition in most circumstances. Human beings are subjective creatures, so I do not fool myself into thinking we can attain perfection in our attitudes, yet we certainly do try to improve. Just this idea of ‘betting oneself’ and ‘changing out attitudes’ seems to me a good indicator that subjections have more moral weight than they would appear to have.
And if moral values take precedent over subjectivity, perhaps all 3 above mentioned dispositions may be morally correct in different circumstances. Although we always view these moral values trough and within our own subjectivity, they may exist outside of such. I think this is pretty much what Kant tried to expose in the metaphysics of morals, that there is a universal morality outside of out subjections.

Ryan: I find it interesting that you shifted to a line of reasoning giving regard to moral considerations of dispositions. When I was pecking it out on my phone, I had more in mind (obvious pun) epistemological considerations with regard to dispositions. Years ago I wrote about dysphemism. Looking back there was a lot of personal nonsense mixed in that really distorted what I thought at the time. What I thought at the time was that dysphemism is in some way tied to a rational view of the world--a view of the world that sees it for what it is in itself. Now I tend to think that the world 'an sich' is unknowable in a complete sense, something Kant would likely assent to. As such, dysphemism and a rational view of the world might have a greater knowledge of reality, but not a perfect one. It distorts reality or gives a certain picture of it that isn't the complete story.

I hadn't really given much thought to moral considerations. But let's give it a shot. With regard to dispositions, it's hard to say whether or not one disposition is the 'right' one. I certainly wouldn't want to argue that one disposition is right in every scenario. Imagine someone who was perpetually optimistic, even in the darkest of times. A) It would drive those around them nuts. B)Others around them would think them nuts. C) Functionally, someone like that would be completely incapable of dealing with the volume of challenges that would be apparent to someone of a different epistemological disposition.

Perhaps one might argue that there is a right disposition for every situation. Even that I am not fully convinced as it seems that various dispositions could be helpful in a given situation. Imagine for instance, that a woman has lost a loved one. She may need a friend of an optimistic disposition to cheer her up, a friend of pessimistic disposition to motivate her to keep going and get out of bed in the morning, and a friend of dysphemistic disposition to help them rationalize and cope with the loss. Is one really 'right'? All are certainly 'good', but I'm not convinced that one or the other is the only right way.

You said that, "Human will is in a constant state of overlapping itself, bad with good, good with bad, its hard to truly isolate actions by their sequrence or chronology. What I mean is even in the trivial matters that we pick apart and isolate from the whole, subjectivity is never relative, and always tied to a deeper level of understanding, even if we are unable to attain it." Especially with regard to the ethical, philosophers have a way of picking apart and isolating such events to determine whether or not they are ethical. But as you questioned, is there really an action that isn't moral? If it's true, then amidst the multitude of the infinite moral actions taken every day, how often do we really pick apart the reasoning for them. Often times they are just passive. In this way, the moral affects the disposition of the subject. In passively making moral decisions, our disposition is shifted--towards the optimistic, dysphemistic, and pessimistic in varying degrees. Because disposition affects our ability to know reality, perhaps morality passively also affects our knowledge of the world?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Amusing... Why I Won't Join Twitter

When you don't spend time with other people,
you spend time with yourself.
When you don't come up with ideas collectively with other people,
you think to yourself.
When you don't talk with other people,
you talk to yourself.
When you talk to yourself,
other people may think you're crazy.
And if you do it enough, maybe
just maybe,
you start to believe it yourself.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Amusing... Truth and Objectivity

A moment of clarity while trying to fall asleep. No idea what prompted these thoughts, but I don't have my notebook on me, so why not throw them down here for the time being.

A proposition is subjectively true when it is the personal concepts of the speaker which generates the meaning of the terms in question.
A proposition is objectively true when the meaning of the terms in question are rooted in the external world.
As personal concepts are almost always generated from experience in the external world, subjectivity of truth is generated from objectivity.
And yet, as a proposition is expressed utilizing the speaker's language, representative of idiosyncratic concepts, truth maintains a subjective quality.
Ergo, truth is neither purely subjective, nor purely objective. For while the subject does not make a proposition true of its own volition, a subject is needed to recognize truth in the objective world.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Be the Consequent

I wrote some stuff down during church today after hearing Gary Darnell preach on 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. I put some things into terms that make sense to me. Here it is, unamended.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the Great Antecedent. If it is true, then the consequent is the most fulfilling life that a human being can live -- a life lived for the sake of something above and beyond anything innately human. If it is true, then it is fallacious to deny that fact. If it is not true, then every bit of this life lived for the sake of His name is utterly foolish and nothing better than everything else that is merely human. Everything hinges on this ironic point -- the resurrection of Christ is everything or nothing.

The resurrection of Christ is the Great Antecedent.
Let my life be consequence of that fact.

Be the consequent.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Walking Tall, Walking Strong

I feel that I could write for hours trying to explain the significance of what God has done for me. But for the purposes of upbuilding and encouragement I think that something short and sweet is just the sort to treat.

A little known personal history would probably help to set the stage for those who do not know me well. For the last five years I have had a variety of knee problems. The initial issues sparked while I was still in high school while I was working at a small pet store. The first doctor initially diagnosed one condition (osteochondritis dissecans), suggesting that I had damage to the cartilage in my right knee causing a popping noise when I squatted. It was probably caused by a handful of things -- heavy lifting at work, jumping from a high spot onto concrete, my involvement in baseball and kickboxing at the time, etc. Regardless of what caused it, the doctor offered physical therapy, which helped for a bit. But the popping never really went away. I would try stints of physical therapy twice more over the next few years with the same result that the immediate pain would temporarily alleviate but no doctor could find what the real cause was.

Fast forward a few years to three months ago. I started having knee pain again, but different and more severe than before. On a trip home to Northern California I saw a new orthopedist, who initially didn't have an explanation. That was until he saw the new MRI that showed that I had a complex medial meniscus tear. Again, the offer was physical therapy and pain medication. But this time surgery was offered as a permanent solution.

Surgery meant I would have to uproot myself from the niche I've made here and move home. For a while I felt like whether or not I stayed or moved was dependent on whether I went for the surgery or begged God to heal me.

Two weeks ago, I approached a friend on the Rock Harbor Fullerton prayer team about getting prayer for my knee after the service. He grabbed one or two guys who grabbed a couple more and before I knew it, a half dozen brothers in Christ were intensely beseeching the Lord on my behalf while I sat perched on a speaker. It was powerful and it was impacting. Apart from my knee, it helped to clear up some of the issues with which I had been dealing, especially with regard to God showing the path he has for me in moving or not moving home. God healing me or not healing me would not inhibit or determine the plan that he has for my life.

I got home from Rock Harbor that night and realized, my knee didn't really hurt. It felt kinda loose and weak, but I really didn't have any pain. The next day I got up and walked to work completely pain free. I had been in a small car accident the week before that let me without a means of getting to work except for my own two feet. God brought me to the lowest point, walking three miles a day on an injured knee, dealing with aching pain. And then he healed me.

I've been pain free since that day. Every passing day my knee seems to get stronger. I had always been a skeptic, and still am about many things. But God can and does heal, no doubt about it. I desire to live every day in a relationship with this God who loves me, this God who healed me. What faith I had before has been revolutionized in light of how I have seen God tangibly work in my life. Because of that I feel comfortable just sitting, basking in the love of the Father.

Again, this is my prayer: "I ask for the grace I want; here I ask Our Lord for grace not to be deaf to His call, but alert to fulfill his most holy will to the best of my ability."

I'm going to walk to work tomorrow. And I'm going to thank the Lord every step of the way.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spiritual Therapy

Tonight was a bit of a rough night for me. And while I've wrapped my mind around most of it, maybe writing about it all will help it to coalesce. If you've bumped into me in the last few weeks or asked how I am or how things are, you probably regularly got the response, "busy" or "tired". And that's the truth. I feel like I've given that response a thousand times. Somehow between all the work, church, and sleep, the peril of my present situation never really sunk in. Well, that changed tonight.

I took a trip home a week ago, 389 miles, to the east bay area in northern California. For one, I wanted to visit family and friends, to spend quality time. Second, and probably of more eminent importance, I went to get my knee checked out by an orthopedist. The appointment was a long time coming, so we were prepared for it, even clearing authorization for an MRI with insurance before the appointment itself. Over the last two months, my knee has been bothering me more and more -- a little more aching, a little more pain; a little more popping, a little more locking. More and more to the point that it was the worst it had felt in over three years. I've had many appointments and doctor's meetings in the past. Every one of them has given a different diagnosis but always recommended the same remedy--anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. Each time the pain would go away but the popping would remain. After three bouts of physical therapy, the treatment has gotten stale. At some level it seems like a diagnosis on par with 16th century physicians suggesting blood-letting for most illnesses. In other words, "I don't know what's wrong with it, but maybe this will do something."

After the preliminary X-rays, this doctor didn't have a conclusive answer either. But, being prepared, we went ahead with the MRI. The following Monday, now back in southern California, I got a voicemail message from the orthopedist with his and the radiologist's diagnosis. I had torn my medial meniscus. Both of my parents have had surgery on their menisci before, so it's familiar territory. He laid out a few possible options for treatment. First, the usual dose of physical therapy and regimen of anti-inflammatories (how original!). Then there's the surgical option. It's a very real option and a strong possibility.

I've been trying since Monday to get in touch with the orthopedist, to talk to him directly and ask questions about the severity of the tear and overarching prognosis. As with most doctors, he has been more than difficult to get in contact with. I would appreciate a returned call given how much is riding on his diagnosis and recommendations.

And there really is a lot riding on it. Getting surgery on my meniscus means rehabilitation and recovery. It means time off work. Simply put, I wouldn't be able to afford to live in southern California if I had this surgery. I would have to move home. And that reality tore me up tonight. I'm not attached to my job too much. But I'm finally getting involved in Rock Harbor and forging a group of friend. Moving home means that I'm closer to my family and certain friends. It means I would be able to go to the seminary that my former church is starting up. There are opportunities there that interest me. But I'm torn between the two options and the lack of clarity as to what I should do ate me up tonight.

I went to a prayer training meeting on Thursday night. There was opportunity to pray for one another, so naturally I asked for prayer about my knee and for clarity on the current situation. The consequence was not greater clarity, but rather a medium with which to measure my options. I believe that God can heal. I believe that God can heal me. I believe that God can heal the tear in my meniscus. I still need to talk to the orthopedist directly, but it has added a wrinkle to my decision making. If God heals my knee, I will stay in southern California and pursue finding a full time job while getting more involved at Rock Harbor. If not, I'll move back to northern California, likely to undergo surgery to repair my knee.

That reality hit me like a truck tonight. What a weight! Leaving my job, leaving my friends, leaving the life that has manifested down here -- all dependent on God healing my knee! It brought me almost to tears, not because I'm afraid of one thing happening or the other, but out of frustration that I do not know what will happen. Talking with John helped calm me down and think through it all. He asked directly, "what do you want?" The truth is that I would be okay with either situation. I desire to do the will of God. I want my desires and thoughts to line up with his desires and thoughts. I want my wants to be the same as what God wants for my life. But to want the same things I have to know what God wants for my life. And the only way I'll know that is if God heals my knee! It's frustrating beyond belief. But that's where I am right now--a time of waiting and transition, "yearning for grace and hoping for peace."

"I ask for the grace I want; here I ask Our Lord for grace not to be deaf to His call, but alert to fulfill His most holy will to the best of my ability." - Ignatius of Loyola