This Artist Is Going Big Time!

December 24, 2008

My sister has been doing artsy, craftsy, musicy stuff forever, and she realized a few years ago that it is important enough to her to really let it come out and shine.

She recently had the opportunity to do an exhibit of her work in Jacksonville, FL’s Artwalk 2008 — her first *big* exhibit!  See here and here for some details from her blog.

She has prints of her work for sale as well as *some* of the originals, so contact her for more details.  She even has a hook-up if you want some of her stuff on a t-shirt, hoodie, mug, bag, etc here!

Finally, she even has her new book up and available at Amazon.  Poetry and observations from her life experiences — truely interesting and insightful to her life and inspirations.

She even has some of her music online somewhere, but I’ll have to find that for another post.  Her boyfriend, a friend, and her are gigging somewhere in the near future, so maybe they’ll get a recording of that, too (hint hint).

What Makes Someone “Interesting”?

January 12, 2008

That was the topic at tonight’s philosophical discussion group (not the Thursday Socrates Cafe meetup, but another organized by John).

The discussion wandered around the concept of “what *is* ‘interesting’?” What makes something interesting, and what makes someone consider something interesting.

I think most of us agreed that determining if something is “interesting” lies with the beholder. Just as everyone has different views and opinions on things, that naturally translates to a level of interest.

One person suggested that he finds watching baseball uninteresting and wouldn’t do it by choice. He likes to *play* baseball, but from the observer point of view, it does nothing for him. He also mentioned that he doesn’t care for football, either, unless a team that he may have mild interest in is doing well and perhaps are in the playoffs.

This led me to suggest that perhaps “interest” has at least two components: intellectual and emotional. Also, I offer that the combination of the two must aggregate such that the level of “interest” is sufficient to overcome the inherent inertia of inaction.

This becomes apparent to me when you consider situations like the watching football only if the team is winning or is in a game of significance (i.e. a playoff game, the Superbowl, etc). Another example given was noticing a skydiver … it may be of mild interest to the observer, however, once the parachute opens, that interest may wain. But, what if the skydiver is a friend, the emotional component is likely increased sufficiently such that the observer’s interest level remains high enough to continue monitoring the activity.

However, I do not believe having sufficient “interest” is the only reason to pursue something or participate in an activity. For example, some work tasks aren’t exactly something of great interest, or perhaps a school assignment, or just cleaning the kitty litter box.

So, what makes someone “interesting”? Assuming that “interest” is from the observer’s point of view, a person or thing cannot be “interesting” in of itself, but rather it must satisfy a collection of intellectual and emotional stimuli of the observer in order to qualify. As these stimuli can expand and contract as the observer learns more about the subject, or as a result of time decay (or increased curiosity). “Loosing interest” could be a function of time decay or learning enough about the subject to realize that the emotional or intellectual stimulation is no longer prevalent enough to continue actively participating.

We also explored the observation that the typical human interest has an odd attraction to negative or dark attributes. For example, casual observation of the major media outlets clearly shows they have a disproportionate amount of negative news to positive news. Some postulated reasons for the gravitation to such dark actions like murder, theft, or revenge include:

  • Determining the “why” a person performed such actions (i.e. understanding the human condition)
  • An inherent desire or temptation within most people to perform a similar action. Obviously most people are not murderers, but most people *have had* an occasion where they would have the desire or temptation to act out of anger or frustration — just not enough to overcome the barrier of common sense or morality and take action. Perhaps also described as an unconscious jealousy of the perpetrator’s ability to act?

In the case of the person who proposed the topic, if he wanted to present himself as more “interesting” to other persons, he should probably find out what those persons found interesting and look inward to see if he had any overlap. If not, all is not lost, as he might just realize that something he hadn’t considered might actually be interesting to him after all, and that in itself could provide a basis for a conversation.

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Venturing Out Part 2 – Non-Socrates Method Meeting

January 5, 2008

I went to another meeting last night … similar but different to the Socrates Cafe. Ironically, our meandering topic intersected with some of the discussion of the night before, but the format is essentially a self-regulating free-for-all. Over all, I think it worked, although there were times where I found myself tuning out as we continued to beat a dead horse when someone didn’t “get it”, and we got stuck in a vicious cycle.

The characters at this meeting are very interesting as well … as much as I was able to infer from those who interactively participated. One plus for this sort of format is the lack of bottling up your thoughts until you want to explode, but yet will never really have a way of sharing your views, as is the case with the Socrates method implementation. This informal method doesn’t require everyone to participate, so that is a downside, but there are likely cases where someone just has nothing to contribute. Since they are never put on the spot, they may be more likely to continue to attend and suddenly find themselves in a position where they *do* have something to contribute.

During the discussion, a statement from (seemingly multiple discussions) 4 years ago was resurrected, and that led to an interesting discussion, as well as insight about some of the members. I believe the statement was “The rock is spirit”, which lead to a full, but yet off-topic, discussion about if the “rock *has* spirit”, and the concept of “spirit” itself. After exploring this path, another redirection of the topic became the effect of specific phrasing and how it affects the intent of the speaker vs the understanding of the listener, and how that can radically change the conversation. In this case, the two statements are completely different, and caused the contributors to go off on a totally different path. My conclusion, concise language is critical, but also that modern language alone cannot consistently convey the speaker’s true intent.

In any case, one of the contributors decided the best path to research the “rock *has* spirit” statement was through the American Indian beliefs, and he did so with great effort. He claims to understand, to some extent, the commonality across their belief structure, and, in their world view, the rock does indeed embody the common spirit. He has, also through his extensive research, decided to become a Christian, and therefor is at odds with the Indian belief structure. I find I do have great respect for him in the sense that he is willing to research and consider “facts” that he may ultimately decide are untrue, but he seems willing to concede that others may believe them to be true (although he “knows” them to be false). This, of course, brings me back to the conversation about what is a truth and how we accept a truth (the make up of supporting “facts” vs “faith”).

Do I think the rock *has* spirit or *is* spirit? I think I don’t know! I do know there are a lot of “things” out there that I cannot detect with my human sensory inputs, but yet they do exist. I may not be able to define them, and certainly not in our limited language structure, but I believe they do exist (more “faith” than “fact” support).

Consider the idea that when people refer to “spirit” or “connectedness” or “<fill in the blank>”, they are often thinking in religious connotations. Consider that a lot of religious concepts were (and still are) employed to justify things we see or think may happen (the Greeks and Romans had individual gods for much of these mysterious tasks, such as lightening). We now “know” that lightening is a result of charged particles in the atmosphere, but if we didn’t “know” that, would Zeus still be a part of our daily lives?

The Christian religion has dumped all of these great responsibilities on one God, who really should attend some management seminars and learn to delegate better (it’s a joke, get over it!). Regardless of the differences between the Greek/Roman gods and Christianity’s God, the underlying responsibility for what makes these charged particles exist and do what they do is because it is His will.

So, following along, as science learns more about how things work, they are finding more and more proof of how “things” (people, objects, gases, etc) interact and interrelate at a sub-atomic level. Could science be starting to get closer to describing with language and formulas this “spirit” or “connectedness”?

Just as with lightening, we, as a collection of societies, can allow multiple explanations for things we hold true. Acceptance of this allows us to consider that science vs religion does not need to be absolutely diametrically opposed, or one *must* be wrong. There are obviously some areas that are in direct conflict, but that is not the point of this proposition.

Final answer, do I believe the rock *has* spirit or *is* spirit (or both)? Still don’t know, but I still believe there is a lot of possibility out there and that I don’t know so much that don’t even know, I cannot draw a conclusion yet. (my “gap” is made up of more skepticism than faith, I suppose?) I’d like to think that such a thing does exist, but perhaps that’s just the human desire to gravitate toward being social vs isolation.

Back to the group conversations, did I enjoy both experiences? Sure. Will I become a weekly contributor? Who knows. I know I’m certainly interested in adding additional data points to my experience with both in order to draw a better conclusion.

We’ll see what happens in the next few weeks.

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The “Absolute Truth”, and My Foray Back Into Civilization

January 3, 2008

OK, so I finally got out of the house and tried to go talk to human beings in person (I work from home … long hours). Naturally, I started it easy by going to a meetup of the “Socrates Cafe” group, and the topic was “Is it possible to have philosophical inquiry without positing absolutes?”, and a corollary of “If philosophical inquiry incorporates absolutes, how is it different from religion?”. Yeah, my head is still swimming …

A nice fellow, Andy, ran the meeting since the organizer, John, wasn’t able to make it, and I think he did a pretty good job of balancing passionate and interesting speech with the point were it becomes soap boxing. The format of the meeting follows the Socratic method which has both advantages and disadvantages. I’m not sure what the ideal group size is, but it seemed that our group was perhaps a person or three too big, as it took a long time to get around the circle. Also, not knowing the other players, it made it difficult for me to select the victim for my question and follow-up, so I picked on the topic presenter (who I also sorta know since he’s my father 🙂 ).

Since the topic was a good philosophical topic, i.e. dealing in the definitions of “absolute” and the belief in “absolute”, it naturally lead to a lot of semi-off topic or tangential or just completely “what??” questions and answers. But that in itself was interesting in the manner that each person interpreted the topic and how that shaped their questions and answers.

One gentleman certainly sounded like he wanted everyone to believe that he was very smart, and spouted chapter and verse of the classic philosophers (Plato, et al), but I never did figure out what *he* thought or believed. Perhaps, he believes that what he thinks they said that is right is absolutely right, and he is smart enough to know which parts of their dissertations were right and which were not. I couldn’t tell for sure, but he certainly sounded confident that he was absolutely right. I will concede that he was extremely passionate and excited about hearing himself educate us, but he talked so fast that I had to concentrate to keep tuned in.

Anyway, this brings me to the term “absolute” and its variants. It was part of the core of the conversation. I commented that I found the term “absolute truth” odd since “truth” should be “true”, so the “absolute” part is basically redundant, no? Do we consider that “truth” has degrees to it, and at which point is the “truth” “close enough” to be considered “true” or “absolute”?

Pondering this, it made me consider the following:

The gap between what we believe is “truth” or “fact” and what actually *is* the (absolute?) truth or fact defines our level of uncertainty. As, in many cases, we may never know if we have determined the truth in its finality (i.e. “absolute”), however we may *believe* we have gotten “close enough” to consider something the truth or a fact.

That gap is significant.

In fact, I would propose considering referring to that gap as “faith” (not necessarily religious based). As that gap becomes smaller, the leap-of-faith to consider the “fact” as “truth” becomes easier to swallow, but still, to accept the “fact” as “absolute truth” requires accepting it based on all of its current merits (proofs, probability, sensory confirmation, etc) as well as some amount of “gut”. As Stephen Colbert points out, never let facts get in the way of the truth. 🙂

Consider the situation where the gap between belief in a truth and its absolute version is larger. For example, I believe that electrons flow through the power lines and make my electrical devices function. However, I’ve yet to *see* an electron move, much less even feel them shuffling their way through my power cord. I can remember some of my electrical theory and that fosters this belief that I have in the “truth” that electrons flow through a seemingly solid copper wire and make stuff go. But since *I* cannot prove what is precisely happening to the extent that it is an “absolute” truth, I have a component of “faith” that fills in the gaps in my direct knowledge. This is necessary to support my belief that the proposition that electrons flow through the copper wire and make things go is “true”. We have plenty of evidence that this is true (hey, my monitor *is* lit up, and if I lick the power cord, I get a nice ZAP!), but we also had a lot of evidence that the world is _FLAT_ — we no longer believe in that “truth”, however.

Taken to the extreme, we have “truths” that are based more on faith than discernible “facts”. As I understand my father’s definition of religion, a religious truth is something you *know* to be true, in spite of a potential lack of perceivable evidence (for or against is insignificant). To me, this is the ultimate “gap filler” for a “truth”, and may be the only way that one can fully believe a “fact” to be the “absolute truth”, as I fully believe that all things we consider a “truth” have some component of faith within their proof.

And that’s the Absolute Truth!

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