Gaining Perspective.

It's social justice week here at TU...a week i had been highly anticipating. Though i am on crutches, i had made the decision that that would not become a hindrance to sleeping outside in a box with about a hundred others who share the desire to gain an awareness throughout campus of those who don't have anything but a box to go home to at night. Then, i got sick. I was in the ER last night for the 3rd time this year due to breathing/asthma complications. Even so, there was a part of me that desperately still wanted to sleep outside. After a conversation with my roommate and a few others, and an analysis of the situation, i came to the conclusion that i would not stay outside. Frustrated, and lying in bed all day, I've had time to think about the decision and realized that to sleep outside while undergoing sickness and sore ankle would have been purely for selfish reasons. IF i was truly doing this to empathize, to gain awareness, then there is no need for me to sleep outside. Through the difficulty i am undergoing, trying to breathe, and trying to walk, i am experiencing a part of the pain that those on the street often deal with. I can empathize with that. I am uncomfortable, i have to spend most of my energy drawing a breath, i can't walk around easily, and i have to depend on others to help me through my days. So, I am learning to be empathetic to the pain, and sympathetic to those who don't have somewhere comfortable to go, don't have nebulizers to help draw a breath, crutches and golf cart to help them get around, and people to support them throughout their day. Ironically, my social justice week is the exact opposite of those living outside. The context of their day is lived as a the least of these, and the content of my day is lived as the least of these. Separately, we will never know what it is like, unless we are to experience it first hand. Put us together, and we have a community who is (somewhat) aware of the pain and the conditions and is ready to love in an entirely different way.

Also, a thought from Donald Miller,that I'm trying to keep in mind (i think that we may be using the word "sympathetic" in a different way, perhaps he is using it more in the sense of pity)

"Somehow I had come to believe that because a person is in need, they are candidates for sympathy, not just charity. It was not that i wanted to buy her groceries, the government was already doing that. I wanted to buy her dignity. And yet, by judging her, I was the one taking her dignity away."

On an entirely different (and yet, not) note. I just finished 1000 Splendid Suns. (One can read 300 pages in a day if one cannot get out of bed). I'm still processing, quite a bit. Without giving away the heart wrenching plot, suffice it to say that this book was all too real.

At the end, Tariq, one of the main characters says that the war "may not be so bad in the end."

His wife, Laila, responds saying, "Not so bad? People dying? Women, children, old people? Homes destroyed again? Not so bad?...How can you say that Tariq?...You wouldn't know. You left when the Mujahadeen began fighting, remember? I'm the one who stayed behind. Me. I know war. I lost my parents to war. My parents, Tariq. And now to hear you say that war is not so bad?"

He answers, "I'm sorry Laila. I'm sorry. You're right. I'm sorry. Forgive me. What i meant was that maybe there will be hope at the other end of this war, that maybe for the first time in a long time...

She begins to think, it unfair, what she said to him--hadn't war taken his parents too?--and whatever had flared in her was softening already...She knows that he is probably right. She knows how his comment was intended. Maybe this is necessary. Maybe there will be hopewhen Bush's bombs stop falling. But she cannot bring herself to say it, not when what happened to Babi and Mammy is happening to someone now in Afghanistan, not when some unsuspecting girl or boy back home has just been orphaned by a rocket as she was. Laila cannot bring herself to say it. It's hard to rejoice. It seems hypocritical, perverse.

This book was powerful. You should read it. It was written by an Afghani born man. It is important to see things from the perspective of those who are going through a trial. That is why i support social justice week and Khaled Hosseini, and also why i recommend both to you.


My Philosophy of Technology.

This is a paper that i may or may not have spent all night on, though it is the least of my worries right now. This what real education does though, in part, develop passion within its learners...

As with most “ologies”, I believe that there is a Christ-centered philosophy behind technology. (I wonder if the use of the made up word “ologies” would fit in to a Christian philosophy of etymology). Technology, to me, would be defined as any invention or convention that aims at improving or expediting any given process. The emphasis in that definition rests on the word “aims,” which is pivotal to a Christian view of technology. While technologies such as the written word, grade point averages, and the world wide web were created in an effort to advance the human race’s capacity to remember and analyze, to categorize and measure, and to communicate and share knowledge, their intended aim was not their only effect.
One may wonder why this matters to a Christian—to know the accidental effect of technology. It matters because Christian’s are called to be “in the world, but not of it.” Technology, while invaluable in some aspects, is still an unnatural part of this world that we should never cease to be wary of. When I say wary, I mean it in the least demeaning or negative way possible; it’s not that we should be constantly suspicious, but instead, hold to a healthy caution and attentiveness concerning all things man-made. This prudence can manifest itself in the most obvious manner—the disgust with immoral uses of technology, or in the most covert of ways—the awareness of a steady shift to a culture that reveres the god of high speed internet above the God who gave us the capacity the create the things we put on the internet, the internet itself. As Christians, there are very practical reasons to be aware of technologies positive and negative uses and effects—primarily because technology is in the world, and so are we. Though there may be some who hold to the idea or tradition that technology is a pervasive, corrupting force that should be shunned at all costs, technology is not, and cannot, be purely evil. It is my belief that all evil is a distortion of some good. It is important that we, as Christians, cling to the good that certain technologies afford us, without forgetting to recognize the ways in which they are corrupted or have the ability to corrupt.
Without a constant analysis of those things that influence us it is possible to miss out on the best that the Lord has created for us. Facebook? Not bad. Cell phones? Not bad. SAT scores and the grading phenomenon? Not bad. Cars? Not bad. It is important to remember, however, that each of these things play major role in our society, and each of these things contributes negatively in about the same capacity as it contributes positively. Therefore, though it may not be the fault of the technology, a healthy view of these technologies is integral to the Christian faith. As it says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything.” The refrain “I will not be mastered by anything” plays over and over in my mind, reminding me of my addiction to those things that are not necessarily beneficial to me, to my relationships with those on earth, and my relationship to Him in Heaven. Technology has had a mastering effect on most, a sad statement when considering the number of Christians who are called to, ultimately, submit to one Master, but have failed miserably in an attempt to submit to both a master on earth, and Master in Heaven.
The question “why” is highly under appreciated in the Christian community. Why television? Why medicine? Why e-mail? This question may, initially, sound silly. Well, television—for entertainment, of course! Well, medicine—for healing, of course! Well, e-mail, for rapid communication, of course! The why question may be more aptly put, what is the why behind television, behind medicine, behind e-mail? Everyone with half a brain and one eye can see the obvious purpose of these technologies, what is behind, however, is altogether less forthcoming, it requires much less focus on what is being done, but what is being undone. Without attempting to sound trite, what are you not doing when you watch television? Probably a whole lot. What is being lost when you do not necessarily have to engage your mind, when words like “veg out” can become commonplace adjectives for those who sit in front of the TV? What context are you not getting when images portray “reality”? These kinds of questions beg to be asked, but often are neglected by those who wish to embrace reality and all its shortcomings. And, even when they are realized and television is blamed for obesity or failed intelligence, “never you fear, a new technology is here” to remedy those mal effects brought on by the previous technology. We have the advent of the diet pill and educational computer games (as if kids needed to stare at another screen to fix the maladies brought on them by their last screen addiction). It becomes a vicious cycle. Christians must be at the forefront of halting this ridiculous cycle, not by attempting to halt the production of technology (as if that would be a feasible solution), but instead, by attempting to halt the presence of technology without awareness. As a sidenote, non Christians can benefit from this awareness too, even without the belief in God, the creator of all things. Christians need not use technology as another ancient soapbox from which they thump their non electronic copies of their Bible’s on peoples’ botox ridden, braces filled, hearing aided heads. Christianity is relevant, Christianity is practical, but Christianity is also uncomfortable. And, as the chief end of many a technology is comfort—here this the rub. Sometimes, Christianity may have to speak out against the use of certain technologies, but the discomfort that could be caused should do nothing to avert the intentions of those who have considered technology’s possible inadvertent or even intentional consequences.
As an example, I would like to draw an awareness to the the way that community has evolved with technology. few hundred years ago, a web based community would have been a preposterous notion. Community meant getting together with loved ones and those in the surrounding areas to tell stories, explore ideas, orally debate political issues, enjoy each other’s company, and solve any problems that presented themselves within the group. “Community”, at its root, comes from the Latin word communitatus. There are three parts that comprise the word. “Com” is a Latin prefix that means “with or together”. “Munis” means “the changes or exchanges that link”. “Tatus” is a Latin suffix that means “diminutive, small, intimate, or local” This idea of community is not something that the modern world is familiar with because as technology advanced, so did each civilization’s idea of community. Once postal correspondence became a viable option, so did the notion of far-reaching community, that is, a community connected by ideas rather than physical presence. This had a positive impact on American society because of its ability to connect those who wished to keep in contact but were hindered by distance. However, the consequence of this advancement was a lack of face to face interaction, which was inevitable considering the medium. Technology evolved yet again and brought the world the telephone, a new, faster way to associate with others. Like writing letters, the telephone made face to face contact unnecessary. Although the telephone proved to be an even more efficient tool than writing letters, it also had its drawbacks. Contacting people became such a simple task, that it became almost too commonplace. Communication took little effort at best. When there is more work involved in communication, its significance increases, it means more. The next development in the technological scene was the cell phone. No longer did one need to remain in his household to place calls, but was granted the opportunity to become even more efficient by interaction while mobile. It furthered the ease of contact and made significance diminish even more so than the invention of the telephone. Another momentous technological leap was that of Electronic mail. Merging the idea of the letter with the newly created World Wide Web, the result was one that people of past eras could not have imagined if speculating about the future. As if “community” could not have come any farther from its original meaning, the web yet again redefined that idea. No longer did one have to utilize their vocal chords. Instead, simple strokes on a key board could conveniently convey any message imaginable. Not only did it replace the intonation involved with speaking, but it also traded in the personal touch of handwriting for cold, removed Times New Roman font. The most recent creation to further community is an entity called Facebook. Not only can users of Facebook interact through words, but pictures and self descriptions play a major role. It created not only a way to communicate, but it has become its own community.
It is in this newest technology that I would like to sit for a moment. Facebook, though with many a positive attribute, has the ability to erode, with great force, the idea of authentic Christian community—community in general. One aspect that draws people to this technology is that they are free to be whomever they wish to be on Facebook. John Locke, a political philosopher from the seventeenth century, produced a philosophy based on an imaginary situation. This situation, a state of nature, was one that possessed no overarching authority. A parallel can be drawn between Locke’s state of nature and Zuckerberg’s Facebook. A state of nature is a condition in which no government exists. Likewise, Facebook has no authority to check the validity of people’s actions. Facebook users have the power to make their own rules. They are able to disregard social expectations, and political correctness is thrown out the window. The unchecked ability to create one’s self adds to the desire to exaggerate, to portray one’s self in a better light, yet again proving that the Facebook community is not always genuine. This can prove to be problematic in a place where honesty and true vulnerability should be held as virtues paramount.
No matter how poorly or wisely one uses social networking sites like Facebook, there are still limitations on what the medium can do. Hipps explains, “It is not that content doesn’t matter, but it is true that if we only take note of content, we are missing much of the power of any medium” (Hipps). This is why it is important to put every new technology under heavy scrutiny. The questions: “What does it extend? What does it make obsolete? What does it retrieve? And what does it reverse into?” are helpful tools in beginning to understand what is gained and lost with entrance of every new innovation. Many times “we are…numb to the way our lives are impacted by the mass media and do not see the danger they pose” (Hipps). It is helpful to look at the progression of technology throughout history and to see the way societies changed due to the new system’s unintended consequences. As far as the current culture is concerned, many repercussions can already be seen. Loss of genuine communication and loss of understanding have resulted the hindering of the “getting to know you” process. These are effects of the limitations that are inevitable when communicating, or building community, via online networking. Nevertheless, Facebook has in many ways fulfilled its objectives by allowing for efficient time management, providing the means to reestablish forgotten friendships, and supplying the tools to expand one’s resources. Similar to all other new technologies, Facebook has, indeed, proved to be a combination of the advantageous and the undesirable.
Facebook is only one example of a way in which technology has changed our community. In some ways, we benefit, in others, we lose. The problem occurs when we fail to realize the ways in which, despite the progress, we are taking a step back.

I like thinking about this...end of story.


Beating a Dead Horse.

Yes. I'm going to do it, and i'm not going to feel bad about the analogy either.

The Purpose of Education. Its a theme in my life, apparently. In class on thursday, we were talking about Technopoly, again. My professor simply asked, "why do you go to school?" My body literally tensed up when he asked the question. I felt like the first answer out of someone's mouth would be very telling--i decided to wait it out and keep my mouth closed on a subject i think about far too often. Low and behold, the first answer out of someone's mouth (and i am still unsure as to whether she was giving her own opinion or voicing the opinion of the cultural majority, and i'm also wondering which i would have preferred.)--"to get a job."

I got angry. This doesn't happen very often, and it almost always happens when i think someone's ideas are mistaken, not because someone has hurt me, but hurt the ideas i hold so strongly to. I guess i let my ideas become inseperable from myself. Unlike most times, however, i felt a sense of hopelessness. I usually have a quick answer, a solution, a sharp remark to somehow cut down the silly conjectures of those who disagree with my stance on education,instead, i was silent. My anger quickly turned to sadness. Every part of me was crying out "really? I mean, really? That's the point? That is why I should, you should, go to school?" Yet, i couldn't bring myself to say anything. I felt that "to learn" would have seemed a trite and typical answer from a philosophy major, and anything else would have fallen on ears who did't want to hear.

My first constructive thought was--what about when you're 80? You will, no doubt, not be involved in the field you studied in school. There is no need for 80 year old teachers, psychologists, or computer scientists. Does your purpose, then, become irrelavant? Did everything i learn merely get me a good job, did i bide my time in school so that eventualy i could do something that i really wanted to do--make money? Well great, then the whole of my existence up until i acquire that job is spent readying myself for that end--but the problem is that life doesn't end when, someday, my job ends. All I'm saying is that wouldn't our time be better spent preparing us as people who's chief end is not to make money or have a job, but, instead, to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever? We have, even in the Christian community, glorified the "good life" and the "american dream", killing ourselves to make it through an education that is quite frequently unenjoyable and merely a stepping stone to our end.

Forever is now. Forever is elementary school. Forever is High School. Forever is college. Forever is our job. We have made school into a place where we prepare to enjoy god and glorify Him forever (primarily through our work). College is not preparation. Life is now. Education is not a stepping stone, its not a means to an end. It is an end in itself, and, unlike a vocation, it shouldn't stop until we die.

This has turned into something that isn't even about education for me anymore, its about processes. We have turned in to such a goal oriented society. Depending on the goal that we aim for, the process of achieving is Heaven or Hell. As Christians, education, among other things, must be seen as a process that acheives the goal of glorifying God, and allows us to enjoy him (and the process, which is tied up in Him). As Christians, if we aim for any other goal, we have missed the mark.


Good Post. Just kidding.

[you will inevitably not understand what you are about to read until you watch the video...read it anyway, and enjoy a video that has overtaken conversation on my wing for the last two weeks]

You need to watch this video. right now. Just kidding. You can watch it later. just kidding, you'll have other things to do later. just kidding, you don't do anything with your time. Just kidding you are super productive. just kidding, you a lazy bum who can't keep a job. just kidding, you are a CEO who is worth upwards of a billion dollars. Just kidding, you are Donald Trump. Just kidding, you have good hair. Just kidding, its ugly. Just kidding, you are a wig model. Just kidding, your cheekbones aren't high enough to model. Just kidding, your face is perfect. Just kidding, no one is perfect. Just kidding, just kidding, just kidding.

New words...

They get added every year to the dictionary. (see here)

As of dinner this evening, I, along with Samantha Renee, Carly Ann, and Emily Rose, propose a new word to be included in next years addition:

Pronunciation: \klüd\
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): clud·ed; clud·ing

1 : to be around
2 : to be near or exist by part of a whole or a group
3 : to contain around
—clud·able or clud·ible \ˈklü-də-bəl\ adjective

WHY? you may ask. I will tell you.

This is an in between stage that is so oft forgotten or overlooked. There is including and excluding, but what about those times when you are not excluded, but inclusion is not the correct term to describe your relation to those around you--this is clusion. Cluding can occur when people are near each other, not engaging really, just existing. It is the state of being until one becomes included or deliberately excluded. For example, cliques are exclusive whether by word, body language, or deed. However, there are groups of people who congregate, but not as an exclusive body. If one were to approach this sort of group, he or she would not be automatically excluded but is not yet included. Once this person attempts to join a conversation or even joins the general vicinity, he or she is cluding until his or her words are responded to:

Johnny stands near a group of people (cluding).
Johnny walks over to a group of people (cluding).
Johnny says, "hey guys!!" (still cluding).
*momentary silence before response* (cluding, pending inclusion or exclusion)
Group responds, "HEY JOHNNY, great to see you" (definite incluing)

So, I hope you recognize the need to incorporate or "include" this word into our common vernacular, as it will be highly beneficial and a more exact reference to what is actually happening in social interactions. Right now, we are cluding this word, existing with it. Your response to the word will dictate whether or not it is rejected by inclusion or dejected by exclusion. Don't make the wrong decision.

Next word to contemplate: trovert
not an introvert. not an extrovert. I know quite a few of these people. Why pick which one you are, when you know you are right in the middle, that you are troverted?? good question that BEGS for an answer.


It happened again...

It happened again today.

"What?" You may ask.

Well, you, someone asked me what I plan to to with my major. I suppose it is a legitimate question. Every other major seems to have some "do" involved. And even philsophy, as a major, is used as a springboard to seminary, law school, and the like. Everytime i try to be realistic, every time it try to tell myself that i should perhaps get a more applicable, useful, tangible field of study, something in me will not allow it. Over the last 2 weeks i've begun to realize a bit more about just why that might be.

National Student Leadership Conference was an incredible weekend full of thoughts that needed to be manifested into word form. But, the thoughts and words i would most like to recall for you are the ones spoken by a Dr. Paul Spears, protege of the ever-loved J.P. Moreland. I sat in Dr. Spears workshop "The Curse of Cursive Writing, and other Myths that Shaped our Education," and drank in every word. He relayed the common idea of education today, and it went somthing like this:

-Edcation is about job-getting, not about flourishing.
-Students need to start thinking of themselves as what they can produce, not in terms of what they can know and understand.
-Education is a monetary end, not an interaction with the world around us.

We are keenly cautious and aware of the fact that there are standards (A's & B's) that must be met and that are, for all intensive purposes, our primary goal. If we are, in some way, unable to meet these standards, we are deemed unfit for the intellectual realm and pitied for what we can never become. (For afterall, we have learned that our ability to do intellectual work directly relates to capitol). We have been so brainwashed into thinking that meeting these standards is the goal, that we have forgotten to pursue education that we may become "better men." The sad thing is how entrenched we are, and how unaware.

Not only in at National Student Leadership Conference, but also in my studies for class, i have read things that shed further light on the point of education.

In Technopoly, Neil Postman points out an important shift in the way we see achievment in the realm of education: "I refer to the seemingly harmless practice of assigning marks or grades to the answers studnets give on examinations. This procedure seem so natural to most of us that we are hardly aware of its significance. We may even find it difficult to imagine that the number or letter is a tool or ,if you will, a technology...I shall not argue her that this is a stupid or dangerous idea, only that it is peculiar. What is even more peculiar is that man of us do notfind the idea peculiar. To say that someone should be doing better work because he has an IQ of 134...or that this man's essay on the rise of capitalism is an A- and that man's is a C+ would have sounded like gibberish to Galileo or Shakespeare or Thomas Jefferson. If it makes sense to us, that is because or minds have been conditioned by the technology of numbers so that we see the world differently than they did. Our understanding of what is real is different."

The idea of quantifying intelligence is just an example of how education is now viewed. Studies are a means to something else, be it a grade, law school, or the perfect job (perhaps all three). And thats fine, its just not really going to be satisfactory in the end. Many of you have heard me talk of the cyclical nature of this view of education, but here it is again: Why do we work hard in high school? To get into college, of course. Why do we work hard in college? To get into Grad school, of course. Why do we work hard in Grad School? To get a good job, of course. Why do we need a good job? To make money, of course. Why do we need to make money? To put food on the table, and to put our kids into good schools, of course. Why do we make our kids work hard in school? So they can get into college, of course. Why do they need to do well in college? To get a good job, OF COURSE.

Of course, I realize this isn't the stated motive of most, but I would be willing to guess, judging by the questions i recieve so often concerning what i will "do" with my major, that a majority of people see education in this way--as a means to an end.

Well, I think its an end in itself. So here I am, a philosohy major, quite unsure of what i want to do with my life, and thoroughly at peace about it.

And here is a little something from tonights Heidegger reading: "It is absolutely correct and proper to say that 'you can't do anything with philosophy.' It is only wrong to suppose that this is the last word on philosophy. For the rejoinder imposes itself: granted that we cannot do anything with philosophy, might not philosophy, if we concern ourselves with it, do something with us? So much for what philosophy is not."

And here i am, back up on my soapbox, begging for a reorientation in education. Its not about what we do with education, its about what it does to us. (This does not mean that there is no need for doing, just that education is not something that ends when a job is ascertained, nor is it job-training. It is, itself, an end.)

And this too, is an end. (of a long post)


Car Alarms

I just heard one, and I know i'm not alone in my reaction to the incessant beeping--"stupid person hit the panic button on their keychain, again"

Does this defeat the purpose of car alarms if this is our immediate reaction? I think so.

On another note, we had our National Student Leadership Conference this weekend and it was incredible. I don't give out compliments like that to conferences very frequently, in fact this may be the first conference-like thing i've ever attended AND enjoyed. The speakers didn't seem as "conferency" as usual. More on this later when i'm not catching up on all the work i haven't been doing all week.


Things change.

All of a sudden i have a heightened awareness that each year, month, day, hour, minute is something that i will probably not experience again.

Reflecting on this year, and looking forward to next year, i have realized what a drastically different year it will be. Moving to a different wing, PAship, class presidency, 2 good friends gone in Lithuainia first semester, different roommate (whom i have not yet found), a few good friends graduating and leaving me. My days will look entirely different. My responsibilities will change radically. Its just not going to be the same, at all. Its not necessarily a negative thing, I'm excited for a new start, but i suppose its natural to not want to let go of the things that made this year grand. Its not that one year will, neccessarily, be better than another, just different. A difference that i am rather aware of.

On a more philosophical note, today, in History of Philosophy, we talked about how the shift in language and art around the time of Hegel radically changed the way we saw reality. Whereas art used to be judged by its ability to accurately represent and pictify (through paint, notes, or words) an object, the shift was made to valuing those things that brought experience and personal reflection and into exsistence. The art, the words, were no longer about accuracy concerning the subject, but about experience of the subject. And since then, it has remained. Things will never be the same. Its not that one way of seeing thing is better, or worse, just different. A difference that we need to be aware of.

Similarly, in COS104, two days ago, we talked about technology (go figure). We've been reading 'Technopoly', a book by Neil Postman, whose main goal is to draw awareness to the fact that technology is not neutral, it changes thing, for better and for worse, planned or unplanned, noticed or unnoticed. He uses the example: "If you put television into America in 1946, by 1960 you don't have America just "plus television", but a new kind of America, so that our social relations are altered and our attitudes toward childhood are altered and our political system is altered and we get new meanings of old words and so on. That's not something that's new in culture." Technology changes things. Some things will never be the same. Its not neccesarily better, or worse, just different. A difference that we need to be aware of.

Somehow, change seems to be a trend here. And this is probably why i have this heightened awareness of experiences, thoughts, people, never being the same. I don't think that any of this kind of change is better or worse, some lends itself to either side, but at its core, change is just something we need to be aware of, not wary of, not overly excited about, just aware, cognizant, contemplative, i suppose.