Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Things I Don't Believe In

The first three things I don't believe in are interrelated, so the explanation as to why I disbelieve in these forces appears only once.

1. Fate

2. Karma

3. Everything Happens for a Reason

All these ideas suggest the presence of order in the world and I simply don't believe in order on a large scale over great spans of time. That doesn't mean there aren't staggering coincidences that feel like fate. Nor am I suggesting the idea of karma is complete nonsense. If you treat people consistently well, it is often the case that good things come your way. If you treat people badly, you often suffer the consequences. But not always. And the levels of reward and punishment are frequently disproportionate, inconsistent, and far from universal. Some people get by with causing misery; others lead blameless lives and never find happiness or contentment. And it only appears things happen for a reason because humankind invented reason and applies it to as many events as possible.

4. World Peace

I'm not only deeply skeptical that world peace is possible, I am also uncertain that it is desirable. Of course, I also don't favor a state of constant war. But as long as humans remain, well, human, war must exist as a possibility. I would only support world peace if it were accompanied by a shift in fundamental human nature. Otherwise, without conflict, necessary changes are difficult to put into place. That doesn't mean I endorse senseless violence, only that violence must be retained as a last resort for those who fail to see reason. I do not support war as a means for population control, to enhance wealth, to oppress peoples, or for any other petty political reason. But in the world as currently constructed, the sword has to be an option if the pen fails. If there's a deep change in the state of the world, maybe global peace will appear more viable. We can hope.

5. Intelligent Design

The possibility that the universe was created by God, or merely by entity or entities unknown, still resonates with me. The idea that the universe evolved without intervention from a creator due to a series of events both spectacular and ordinary also holds some sway. Neither notion explains everything perfectly, but I think some combination of the two may account for our existence.

However, the Intelligent Design argument as it stands now lacks both moral and spiritual integrity. ID advocates take the portions of various scientific theories--the Big Bang, the Modern Synthesis-- they are willing to accept and ignore what they dislike. That's a very human reaction to something controversial or counter intuitive, but it isn't really scientific. They fill in all the uncertainties of scientific theory with the idea that "God did it." Well, maybe God did do it, but that doesn't tell us anything. Science may sometimes be about whether God did something, but the larger question is how God did it. Whether God created a constantly expanding universe or designed very peculiar creatures like the woodpecker and the platypus represent keys to fascinating philosophical and spiritual questions, but that's no cause to simply attribute the inexplicable to God and stop investigating. The mysteries explained by Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were perceived by many as intractable as well until those men solved the problem. Maybe there was a designer and maybe he or she or they was/were intelligent, but shortcomings in evolutionary theory do not constitute direct evidence of a creator, only, at best, circumstantial evidence.

6. Ghosts

7. UFOs

When I say I don't believe in these things, that doesn't mean I think everyone who claims to have seen ghosts or UFOs is either insane or lying. Nor do I consider either of these ideas to be impossible. All I'm saying is I have never been persuaded.

Odds are, planets in other parts of the universe support life, perhaps even intelligent life. However, given the huge distances between different points in space, the behavior of alien life forms during alleged sightings strikes me as curious. They seem to have come an awfully long way just to be fleetingly observed before they vanish. Are we to believe beings advanced enough to cover the vast emptiness of the cosmos would simply turn away at the last moment rather than risk a direct encounter with humans? Could be, but I doubt it. It's possible they have observed and researched us and concluded we are not to be trusted. It's possible they have attempted communication and we have failed to detect their efforts. Maybe. But I remain unconvinced.

As for ghosts, who knows? I don't discount the possibility of disembodied spirits, I simply haven't seen any compelling evidence. I have known people who have seen, heard, even engaged in interaction with what they thought were ghosts. Some of those making such claims seemed pretty crazy; others appeared perfectly levelheaded.

8. -isms

9. Principles

Communism, Socialism, Capitalism, Conservatism, Liberalism, Fascism and most other systematic -isms are just names people give to ideas in order to simplify and organize them. The general principles of any of these notions are not universally agreed upon and it is dangerous to apply them across the board in every situation just for the sake of remaining consistent with a set of ideas that were conceived by imperfect humans in the first place.

I actually do believe in principles but sometimes people confront situations where any choice one makes violates one principle or another. As referenced above, consult the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson when it comes to the dangers of a foolish consistency. So what principle should not be subject to compromise under any circumstances? The first that springs to mind is never actively betray your friends or loved ones.

10. Bigfoot

Come on, now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I care about my politics. You care about your politics. But I probably don't care about your politics. And if I do, I'll ask.

I have had this blog nearly five years now and a fair volume of political commentary has appeared on it. Nothing wrong with that. No one is forced to read a blog so if something offensive shows up in the text, it is easy enough to close the page and never type in that web address again. My problem has more to do with immediate declarations of political allegiance before I've even gotten acquainted with someone.

The latest example is some stranger on a social networking site sending me a friend request. To begin with, I do not understand this practice. At the very least, if you want to be my friend and we've never spoken at all, send me a message saying "hello, we don't know each other, but you seem like a nifty guy." I would probably agree to be friends with someone like that, even if it's what the person says to everyone to whom he or she sends a friend request. At least it's cordial. But this message contained no salutation or explanation; somebody I don't know apparently wanted to be my friend. So I looked at his profile. One of the first things to appear was his declaration that he was of a particular political persuasion and was, furthermore, "proud of it." Seriously. He was proud of his political philosophy.

Doesn't this go without saying? Unlike being Irish or from New Mexico or over six feet tall, political philosophies are something individuals choose. If we weren't proud of our own politics, chances are we would change them. A guy who's proud to be Persian I can respect. He didn't choose to be Persian but he has decided, on the whole, it's a nice state of affairs. Great. But a guy who is proud to be a Democrat or a Republican, proud to be pro-life or pro-choice, proud to be in favor of school vouchers, well, I understand less.

There is a distinction here, I suppose. If tomorrow afternoon Representative Andre Carson rescues seventeen children from a burning school bus, I guess it's all right to say "that makes me proud to be a Democrat." By the same token, if Charles Rangel throws a tomato at a four year old child and further explains there is no Santa Claus, it's probably okay to say you're embarrassed to be a Democrat, at least for the short-term. Those are situational declarations. But to just say you're proud to be something that, presumably, you would alter if you weren't proud of it doesn't make a lot of sense. And anyway, the next day Olympia Snowe might rescue those school children and Richard Lugar might throw that tomato. What does the person who felt pride and embarrassment at the actions of his fellow Democrats feel when Republicans bask in both the zenith and nadir of daily activities?

In politics, bear in mind, there is always a sense of victimization and of taking a stand, a kind of implication that while others may be ashamed to call themselves conservative/liberal, you most certainly are not and are prepared to shout your allegiances from the mountaintops. Well, all right, if you insist. But must it be the first thing I see on your social networking profile? And if you say it must, again, that's fine, but in that case, I'm not sure I want to be your friend, not if we are previously unacquainted. I'm willing to put up with unsolicited political pronouncements from existing friends, but I find myself far more guarded with potential friends.

Perhaps I'm making too much of this. People shouldn't have to fear talking about politics or walk on eggshells to avoid offending others who may disagree. But so often I find that people who are verbose about their political views in the presence of relative strangers react poorly to disagreement. There seems to exist an inverse curve; the more prone a person is to unprovoked political diatribes, the less inclined the person is to tolerate someone else's opinions. If you ask me about my politics, I don't mind discussing them. If you're of a dissenting opinion, you're free to say so. But loudmouths, while within their rights, can fairly be said to have personality defects. Loudmouths like to claim their right to free speech is being challenged when they blow off their big bazoos about something and another person steps in asks them to shut the hell up. Wrong, loudmouths. You have a right to talk. I have a right to say put a sock in it. You have a right to continue talking. I have a right to think you're a creep if you do. Nobody's rights have been trampled.

There's so much going on in the world but so little to write about. What more is there to say about BP? Or Afghanistan? Or the economy, not quite recovering, not quite declining, flat out confusing? Well, there's General McChrystal, an interesting affair but not one on which I'm very knowledgeable. If I were a loudmouth, I'd pretend to understand the affair intimately.