Sunday, February 25


I know I've spent time on the subject of nature's beauty before when I recently waxed poetic over snow and, to a lesser extent, when I wrote about watching the sunrise this summer, but I think I may have found the underlying principle, the one that ties my appreciation for all of these together. With respect to this post, three important things happened yesterday afternoon and last night. First, during a run I spoke with a friend about technology and what it has been to humanity. The second, I read this article about Disney World and the new American paradigm on On a sidenote, you should just visit the National Geographic Magazine Web page anyway because it is so well designed and the content is of such high quality.

Thirdly, I took a long walk outside as the snow fell. It was snowing again, but different from the last tiem I wrote about it. There were flakes, but they were very wet and didn't stick to the ground at all, melting almost immediately. Despite the fact that the air was full of snow, there was very little white on the grass, only a thin layer of slush. But I still thought it was beautiful. Really, it was cold, wet and disgusting to walk through, but the greatest painters in history would have been hard pressed to capture the beauty in that moment.

Like I said earlier, I think I now know why I appreciated it so much. No matter humanity's efforts, the weather is completely outside of our control, much less ability to predict judging by the many jokes made about weathermen. Yes, technology has allowed us unprecedented, unimaginable abilities to communicate, store information, create new realities and transform the land, but the weather is beyond us. If it weren't for the weather, humans could very nearly control every single aspect of their daily lives and lead them exactly as they wanted to with no surprises and nothing unexpected. Undoubtedly, humanity has impacted the weather through carbon emissions and everything else that makes environmentalists fear our future, but the weather will never be brought to heel.

And that's what I love about it. The weather is not something I can dominate or even slightly bend to my wishes. It simply is, and I must go with it. The person who can take any weather, no matter the situation, is one to be respected because they are aware of and comfortable with their own humanity and smallness.

Tuesday, February 20

Ethical disagreements

Currently, I am taking an Ethics class, something you would already know if you have been keeping up with this blog. Or keep in touch with me on regular basis. Or take the class with me. I guess it's also possible that you would know this if you had seen the class list at some point, but now I'm really digressing. So far our professor has attempted to convince us that an objective moral system does exist as our first few weeks have been spent reading about and disputing subjectivism (belief that morality depends upon the individual and their experiences), relativism (belief that morality is dependent upon culture and only discussed in that context) and egoism (belief that a moral action must spring from genuine altruism, where there is no reward, to be truly moral). Now we are getting into actual ethical theories, our next reading is on natural law.

Still, I have a metaethical concern that I'll probably ask my professor about tomorrow. How do we deal with those who act, as we perceive it, evilly? Ethics are a big deal. They're not some aesthetic judgment. I can't or, at least, shouldn't accept your endorsement of eugenics in the same way that I am willing to accept that you don't like Fight Club and may even think it's the most over-hyped movie ever. To take a concrete example, I fundamentally disagree with the death penalty and killing in general, but we'll need to focus upon capital punishment for this example. How can I still regard myself as a good person if I do not do all that is in my power to stop anymore people from being put to death for their crimes? How can I live in good conscience if I am not making every effort to stop the needle from being put into their arm?

I discussed this with a friend not so long ago. His suggestion is that my awareness of the situation is very likely limited in comparison to those who made the decision, and should I have their knowledge, I may agreement with what they did. In many particular ethical conflicts, I can agree with that, but I understand state-sponsored executions as an absolute evil. The situation will never justify it.

What then? I guess I can retreat to some form of "you have to pick your battles." My time and energy are finite. I am not enough to change the world to conform to all of my beliefs and ideas, and it would hardly be appropriate for me to do so were I given the opportunity since I have so little knowledge of some topics. I have to pick what I feel are the issues and situations that most need my participation and live with my choice.

Saturday, February 17

When are we ourselves?

If my memory serves correctly, I remember Rachel of Animorphs fame was once described by Jake as a person who was always the same. No matter if she were in front of a teacher, her friends, her most dire enemy or her mother, you always got the same Rachel. I understood that as a compliment, and it's not hard to find examples of this celebration of the consistent in American culture. People who are willing to tell their bosses what they just told their co-workers are as heroic as it gets in the business world. People who double-talk and wholly change their personalities depending on they're with are despised.

Yeah, I can agree with this virtue to the extent that those who act differently when their society changes in order to benefit themselves do not deserve respect. But it bothers me too. Different people affect us differently. Some people command our respect due to their achievements and person, and others simply make us feel good because of how their zest for life comes out in their every action. Because of their pessimistic attitude and apathetic personality, others bring us down. Why shouldn't we be affected by them and thus see changes in our personality? What's wrong with that?

I believe many would suggest that my view on changing personality is wrong as well because it does not allow us to truly ourselves if our personalities are so easily altered. It's this sentiment that drives so many characters on television to leave their everyday lives and go on a journey to "find themselves." Humans are social creatures, unable to exist or even learn much about themselves unless they are put in contact with and form relationships with other humans. To go live alone by a pond or on some mountain is foolish as we are cut off from the living mirrors our self-image comes from. To know themselves, people need community and relationships.

Tuesday, February 13


Religion occupies that same ambiguous position as obscenity and culture do in our lexicon. We may not be able to define it, but we know it when we see it. Seeing as how I'm taking a religion class this semester that focuses on the many different denominations of Christianity that have appeared in the United States and how the two have impacted one another, I think it would be worth my (considerable) time and (infintie) space on this blog to try and define it.

In the broadest terms, religion is best defined against science and ethics all though the three are inextricably bound up. The primal religions see every event as a suprenatural one caused by divinities, science can become a religion unto itself and ethics cannot be separated from either. Science describes the world. Ethics inform us as to what we should do. Religion is purpose.

It's not hard to recognize Christianity and Buddhism as religions, but when you start to break them down and try to sift what makes them different from things like your job, it becomes difficult to see exactly what it is that separates them from something as ridiculous as sports. Rituals, community, mythology, rules, transcendence all of those can be found in both the major world religions and sports. Muslims have the Five Daily Prayers. Every team has a chant to get fired up before a game. Jews and Christians have church and synagogues to reinforce community. Even sports as apparently individual as distance running, one still needs teammates to set a strong pace and a coach to train them. Hindus have the Vedas, and Jews have the Torah. Baseball has its own origin stories. Jews have the Ten Commandments and Leviticus. Sports have rules. Religions seek to break out of the common and touch the divine. Sports movies set up the 'big game' as that place where ordinary people become superhumans and legends, outside the pale of the normal. As far as I can tell, it is as apprpriate to call football a religion as Sikhism.

Like I said, it's tricky. All you can really do is try and separate the good religions from the bad ones. Which then are good and which are bad? I'm copping out here because the right answer is whichever religion is true, but that is a topic for volumes. For me right now, the good ones are those that do not depend on humans, the ones that look beyond. Sports are a human creation. Every tradition, mythology and other aspect I identified earlier is derived from human actions. When sports are taken up as a religion, they proclaim the ultimate superiority of humans, something I do not accept. In contrast, religions like Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism are good because they are exterior to humanity. Though they may not exist without our presence on earth, their origins would still be here. Sports, on the other hand, simply would not be.

For those of you who took World Religions with me at MITY (2002?), I own up to it that I owe a lot of this post's inspiration to that class. I remember my roots and give credit where it is due.

Wednesday, February 7


If you've been following this blog since early this summer, you may remember my post of a failed scholarship application to Marquette. In it, I had to make a list. I don't precisely remember what the theme was, something along the lines of the most important things I saw in this world, but there had to be seven items in it. One of them was the cold. I would like to expand upon that entry a little because the word limit on the essay didn't allow for a proper examination into one of the more beautiful aspects of the cold, snow.

It snowed Saturday evening. It was gorgeous. It began early and very lightly. You could hardly see the individual flakes they were so small. As it grew later though, the flakes came together, forming ones large enough to watch on their entire trip through the air, following their erratic paths to earth. Not that their beauty ends there.

Freshly fallen snow is clean and renewing. Walking through a snow fall, when you can see traces of only your steps, I do not know how to explain the feeling. There may be an experience of adventure as you are the first to see this new, fleeting scene or a feeling that but a sense of calm comes upon me.

In the winter too, it is quiet. What little sound is made by those animals too tough to hibernate or migrate south, is abosorbed by the snow creating a fragile silence, one that makes you take softer steps and kills any desire to shout that you might preserve the delicate quiet a little longer.