Monthly Archives: October 2007

On feverish nonsensical religious scribblings

I can imagine Johannes Kepler and his feverish mathematical scribbling, interpreting pure coincidence as the hand of God. He works out the mathematics of inscribing polyhedra in spheres and spheres in polyhedra. The five Platonic solids, the only perfect solids, match the orbits of the five planets. What mathematical perfection! I’m sure that as his pen swept across the paper, he could feel elation. He felt as if he were a prophet; God spoke through the numbers and now was guiding his hand. No, this was not what he felt, but what he must have known with 100% certainty. He must have interpreted the elation as a further sign that God was telling them he was on the right path.

How strange this sounds to the modern mind. God no longer is a cosmic geometer. He does not speak to us through numbers. We also know that there are more than five planets. The strange link between the five Platonic solids and the multitude of planets breaks down. Kepler, who must have been so sure that he was getting a glimpse of the Almighty, in reality, found nothing of spiritual significance.

Although his interpretation of events is now foreign, the feeling of the religious elation must be familiar to so many. This happiness, this wave of ecstasy, that you feel when you think you’re during the work of God, is nothing more than wishful thinking. I ask of even the most saintly, “What difference is there between your feeling and Kepler’s?”

Weekend in NY

I spent last weekend in New York, with my awesome friend, Emerald. Here’s a long list of things for me to remember this:

  • up at an ungodly hour
  • werewolves outside the train station
  • cafeteria + asia = fantastically clever name + plain pad thai
  • post-its = e-mails
  • seeing the statue of liberty from the ferry
  • super wind
  • being on the wrong side of the ferry on the way back
  • whining for cookies and coffee
  • chocolate cake, as the quintessence of exquisiteness
  • Where is Maddox’s school?
  • the Met for 25 cents
  • mean lady taking a picture at the Egyptian temple
  • crocodile
  • this Egyptian squiggle is longer than that squiggle
  • American Art is horrible and imperialist, apparently
  • Washington crossing the Delaware kicks ass
  • biting my tongue upon seeing a zombie jesus
  • one-armed Mars(?), with a shitty interpretation
  • puppy store. aww.
  • Italian dinner, constant soft rock in the background
  • Can I get a second water, please?
  • waiting ridiculously long for subway trains to come
  • hostel towels are grody
  • wandering Times Square and not getting lost
  • a buck for tea isn’t objectively that good a deal
  • I’m standing outside your building, sipping tea
  • puppy store again
  • sitting on a park bench in Central Park, eating lunch, watching the little boats in the water
  • the guy making balloon animals, next to us, with the constant stream of little children
  • old guy playing sax and then accordion
  • strolling through Central Park
  • watching the people dance, after the cancer walk
  • Someday, I’ll take six months to play Latin jazz
  • a wonderful, striking image: so many picturesque trees, full trees, lining a path — unable to be caught on camera
  • feeling the most relaxed I’ve been in sooo long
  • did we really walk that far? feet starting to hurt
  • Apple Store, those new iPod nanos with video are damn sexy, better than I expected
  • very confusing elevator
  • No Cinnabon, what?
  • No cookie sundae, what?
  • Top of the Rock
  • breath-taking views
  • Target Breezeway
  • Central Park on one side, Empire State Building on the other
  • Naked boys. Singing!
  • Is that… Joan Rivers
  • asian food, panang curry… mmm… didn’t taste the hint of Latin cuisine, though
  • rushing back — geeze, we did a lot of standing and walking
  • a group of kids outside the train station flashing their matching vampire teeth as I walk by… I smile
  • Amtrak back, drifting in and out of sleep

That’s a lot of stuff, but I still probably forgot to write down a bunch.

My favorite weekend since river rafting, I think. All thanks to my gracious host in the city. Now I’m broke, haha.

Laughter and Freedom

Modern society gives us the distinct displeasure of seeing mass death up close.

To simultaneously feel every death as our own, to feel all those dreams extinguished. To raucously laugh at the death of millions, to laugh at the greatest tragedy. Humanity is at once sublime and meaningless. To live this fundamental contradiction is to be perfectly human: To both be perfectly empathetic and be absurdly detached. Laugh and cry. Cry and laugh. Your life means everything and nothing. Does this mean nothing and everything are the same thing?

No, this can’t be right. But I want to laugh nonetheless at all we do.

Taking yourself seriously is as great a sin as not taking yourself seriously, but both are not as horrible options as being neutral. Choice: Take yourself seriously. Choice: Don’t take yourself seriously. Choice: Neutrality. Choice: Both — Take yourself seriously and don’t take yourself seriously. Choice: All 3.

Is it possible to choose more than one? I must reject neutrality at all costs. I must be human.

Both? At the same time? At different times? To all degrees at all times?

Life only has meaning when you kiss the ground like Alyosha and pledge to love everything. This is the only way we can have dreams. Liberty only exists when you’re able to throw off this burden from your back and act as if nothing matters. This is the only way we can achieve our dreams.

Love cannot exist without fear. Fear of loss. The prospect of attachment, because we live in a finite world, must also mean that we experience sadness with loss. Love everything, but then you cannot move. What happens if you go wrong?

Laughter is our one recourse. Only laughter can break the paralysis. Only in laughter is there freedom. Only in laughter is there action. Laugh at your ridiculous love. What do you love but nothingness?

I laugh. Soon, the world fades away. Only I exist within the surrounding blackness. There is nothing. Why should I move? I stand still, as paralyzed as before.

Only love can answer “Why?” Only laughter can answer “How?”

So, both. Somehow.

QB Curse

It’s official. I have a quarterback curse. First, Kurt Warner went out of the game early, and then David Garrard. Two weeks in a row my fantasy team got creamed.

Okay, no, that’s not all. I also held Matt Leinart and Jake Delhomme, who are both out for the season. Matt Schaub, who I had for a while and recently dropped (and was considering picking up) also went out for a game. I also had Vince Young, but I think he’s holding up okay.

At this rate, Derek Anderson is going to get knocked out in the first quarter next week.

Why Am I Awake So Early? To Harp Again on Voter Registration

Actually, I woke up early to try to work on an essay I need to finish, but again I’m lazy and putting it off.

I believe that in order to get any change in our elected officials, we have to get rid of voter registration, or at least make it same-day voter registration. What kind of change is hard to say because you’ll get a whole lot of voters who haven’t been voting. When you take down this ridiculous barrier to voting, then it makes it easier to mobilize voters, to engage in mass politics. Mass politics is the only path towards taking down the current kleptocratic power structure.

The First Step to Getting My Life under Control: Eliminating Inefficient Work Habits

Lately, I’ve been trying to get my work-filled life under control. I recently realized that I’ve been going about this the wrong way. My problem is not that I am not a hard worker. My problem is that I am a vastly inefficient worker.

If I give myself a whole weekend to do a paper, and I end up doing it on the last day anyway, do I really need a full weekend to do the work?

I constantly distract myself with the Internet. It is impossible to do a task with constant interruptions. I assume there is something wrong with me, and I was just not focusing enough, but the real solution is to remove the interruptions.

I thought I wanted to be a hard worker; I thought that was a virtue I wanted to instill within myself. No, what I really need to be is an efficient and effective worker. I need to get a task done and make sure that I’m not just spinning my wheels.

One other thing to get off my chest: schoolwork sucks and is very unfulfilling. How come I can devour certain books within the span of a couple days, but take obscene amounts of time to finish my class reading? I blame my classes. I write an essay but for what purpose? A grade? I write a paper that will be read once and then tossed aside forever. My life essentially consists of writing these papers. It is an unfulfilling life.

The first step towards breaking the pattern is eliminating my inefficient work habits. Then, I can use the free time to do something that’s worth the time.

The Trouble with Mercenaries

The New York Times has a good article to read on Blackwater USA, titled Report Says Firm Sought to Cover Up Iraq Shootings. Blackwater USA consists what they call “security contractors,” but what antiquity calls mercenaries.

Here is the offending evidence, suggesting that Blackwater did engage in cover-ups:

In at least two cases, Blackwater paid victims’ family members who complained, and sought to cover up other episodes, the Congressional report said. It said State Department officials approved the payments in the hope of keeping the shootings quiet. In one case last year, the department helped Blackwater spirit an employee out of Iraq less than 36 hours after the employee, while drunk, killed a bodyguard for one of Iraq’s two vice presidents on Christmas Eve.

Here are some additional paragraphs provoke worry:

But the report is also harshly critical of the State Department for exercising virtually no restraint or supervision of the private security company’s 861 employees in Iraq. “There is no evidence in the documents that the committee has reviewed that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater’s actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting episodes involving Blackwater or the company’s high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation,” the report states.

The report also says Blackwater gunmen engaged in offensive operations alongside uniformed American military personnel in violation of their State Department contract, which states that Blackwater guards are to use their weapons only for defensive purposes.

Blackwater has dismissed 122 of its employees over the past three years for misuse of weapons, drug or alcohol abuse, lewd conduct or violent behavior, according to the report. It has also terminated workers for insubordination, failure to report incidents or lying about them, and publicly embarrassing the company. One employee was dismissed for showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

I’m particularly worried about what happens with the mercenary situation when (if?) we leave Iraq.

Trying to get control of my life

Undoubtedly, there are so many things political and philosophical I could be blogging about. But what I really need to accomplish is getting control of my life. Instead of being overwhelmed by work, I need to make it manageable. I need to ritualize my classwork, habituate myself to doing work instead of goofing off. Cordon off time to belong only to classwork and to nothing else.

So while I work on that, this blog will remain mostly empty — with only the occasional small outburst, until I can ritualize this too.