Category: Philosophy and poetry

"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."

– Blaise Pascal

See: The Problem with People

As we live our lives day by day, it becomes obvious that there are some things we control, and there are many other things we have no control over.

"The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own."

-- Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4-5

So the secret to achieving true happiness is to focus on what you control and then make the best of that despite all of the other things happening around you.

"We need to recognise the legitimate and necessary role of failure, allow ourselves to do things quite imperfectly for a very long time - as a price we cannot avoid paying for an opportunity one day, in many decades, to do something that others will consider a spontaneous success."

Taken from The Perfectionist Trap.

Welcome to our Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy. The goal of our course is to demonstrate that mathematical methods can be as useful in philosophy as they are in the sciences.

Sounds pretty interesting, so I'll try it out and see how far I get. Hopefully by the end of the course I too will be able to use such mathematical methods in order to acquire more philosophical insight.

Here's a useful reference to keep me going: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.


Here are the five elements of effective thinking:

  • Understand deeply (earth)
  • Fail to succeed (fire)
  • Be your own Socrates (air)
  • Look back, look forward (water)
  • Transform yourself (quintessential)

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

The idea that we must at all times remain flexible and embrace change is a central theme at the core of our being. This useful concept can not only be applied theoretically as a nice idea, but more importantly to ones everyday life as well. Life is pretty dynamic, chaotic and short. So it is very strange that at first glance the human inclination is to search for structure and predictability, and then it is too late. The pursuit of a plan-driven existence provides us all with a false sense of comfort. In order to take advantage of the full possibilities of life, we need to accept that change will occur. When it does, we will embrace it with open arms and dive head first into that ocean of variegated currents. Change does not have to be painful. We should not be discouraged if surviving change means following a seemingly uncomfortable transition. The currents go this way and that way and every which way. You only pain yourself by resisting the inevitable outcome that change brings. By swimming against the current too much you will tire and drown. Be ready and accept all changes when they arrive. Sometime out of nowhere and sometimes as planned long ahead. Anticipate and prepare yourself mentally and physically so that you can make the best out of life.

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
There's no way to escape it. The way we view the past depends upon the context within which we as observers try to make sense of it all.

Historical events are chaotic and completely random, but in retrospect there is always some way to define a predictable pattern that makes connecting the dots of time more than just an academic pursuit.

Projecting our own meaning on the world around us is human nature and more than likely is a result of evolution and the need to survive.

Two events seem related in retrospect while the defining moments between the first event and the second was at the time no more than a gap of silence.

To experience is one thing but to analyze and predict based on the past is another ballpark altogether.
Don't forget that the real reason Medea murdered her children was not because she was crazy or barbaric but because she was extremely distressed that her lover had left her for some less than worthy princess.

Life repeats itself in the real world as history fails to prevent us from repeating the same mistakes that the Greeks had warned us against so long ago.

Humanity is painlessly blind in that regard.

At the heart of daily existence is the never-ending confrontation with death. While it might not always be actual death, there is still the threat of death as a symbolic gesture in various forms surrounding you.

Most people do not look, nor care, nor perhaps dare to even look. The real heroes are exposed from within, and they are the ones who show us how to deal with these various forms of death.

Way back in the fourth century or thereabouts, St. Augustine had been struggling many years with the concept of time, when he wrote the following:

"What is time? If no one asks me, then I know. But if someone questions me about it and I try to explain it, then I no longer know."

Developing a sense of a separate, anonymous self is a never-ending pursuit which should never be neglected, otherwise one runs the risk of doing and thinking what one wrongly assumes are the opinions of others.

More often than not so many people unknowingly think that they want to do what others might expect of them rather than what they really want to do let alone what they really are meant to become.

Many people wondered when exactly it was that he had lost touch with reality. Not that such a syndrome had occurred gradually, nor was it possible to define an exact moment in time. When he had traversed the boundary between what is and what isn't. Wherever that is. Some people take such a transition seriously (like some kind of religious experience) while others prefer a more down to Earth approach (could have happened anywhere any time). The truth of the matter is that all in all it doesn't really matter. At least not yet.

Waiting here within this enclosed and protected environment consisting of long metal beams above and thick glass walls down the sides insulating my senses slightly, I never would have expected it to be raining outside. So tell me how did I end up knowing for sure?

Enter left: some young woman walking her bike, drenched head to toe with her hair moist and tangled and her pants soaking wet, a trail of drops following her zigzag path in front of me.

So when it comes to understanding the reality of true surroundings it means a slightly larger dimension beyond just thinking about yourself and simply waiting here.

Most people might consider standing alone on the platform late in the evening waiting who knows how long for the next train to arrive a somewhat boring experience, to say the least.

However, for someone like myself, I consider it a unique opportunity to look around and enjoy how interesting things might have turned out to be otherwise.

Not that I believe that certain events might have been different or that I might have decided to conduct a number of actions separately rather than grouped into the same temporal unit.

That is not the point.

The point is that one chooses according to how events proceed well before one really knows how these events will proceed.

Ideally it should be a balanced mixture of grouped and separated actions, if of course such a compromise were ever possible.

Every story contains within itself a reason for its own existence, whatever that may be. Just like when every day you sip thoughtfully from your cup of coffee or tea or whatever other substance, not worrying about the effects of not thinking about it, thereby not worrying at all. Things just happen and that's it. Everyone has a ready-made story to share, with oneself, with others, friends and stranger alike, whatever that may be. You can choose to be the hero or the victim or both, whatever fits best into the current situation and the person you really want to be rather than the person you think that others want you to be.

In my younger years, when I was convinced that I was on the verge of becoming some kind of future famous poet, I would spend endless hours arranging this and that trying to perfect the ideal epic poem.

When that didn't work out, I figured why not try and write an amazing novel, similar to Gone With the Wind. Lots of work and concentration, but then again things didn't work out as expected.

Too much work, work, work and too little time. Bummer.

When events prevented me from attaining such a noble goal, I decided to accept life as is and just live day by day. Not much else to do, which in itself is nonetheless still quite a noble goal no matter what.

And that is pretty much why I am currently living a simple life, forgetting the pressures of the past, and just being my self.

Whatever that may mean.

When I looked under my seat I was surprised to find a wadded piece of paper with what appeared to be someone's handwriting on it. When I unwadded the whitish ball, I realized upon closer inspection that it was a short story. This is how it went:

"He was very surprised to discover the wad of paper under his seat, and out of curiosity he decided to unwad it and have a look. Someone else's handwriting revealed a short story, and it went like this:

'For the last week or so he had been having this annoying crick in his neck which irritated him so much that he became aggressive and angry. There seemed to be no easy way to shake it off. Solidified neck vertebrae sealed together like some secret conspiracy to take over, unwilling to give in and accept the inevitable. Glued together and then what? As if the pain were not restrictive enough, it was indeed the lack of or the restricted angle of lateral motion which made things a hundred times worse than it should have been. As a distraction in order to reduce the crick he found a piece of paper and recorded his observations, on second though felt what he had written useless, thereby wadded the piece of paper up and dropped it below his seat. The slight draft along the floor when the doors opened blew the wad of paper backwards under his seat and he never saw it again.'

He decided that it wasn't worthwhile, wadded it up again, tossed it back under the seat for the next unknowing person to discover, if ever that would be."

Interesting, but not interesting enough, so I wadded up the paper again and tossed it back between my legs and underneath the seat where it belonged.

There is much too much violence in the world right now, and it does not seem to be getting any better as civilization advances through the ages. Blowing people up, putting bullets through heads, chopping off hands and tongues and whatever, where will it end?

This seems very strange considering that the main push behind evolution dictates that survival of the fittest will result in change as well as improvement as well as a natural pursuit of harmony and living together.

If we continue to kill each other off of the face of the world, then we are going against the grain of nature trying to decide things for ourselves.

Which does not make much sense, so what next?

Perception is kind of a personal way of looking at things, limited to the core of one's being, the way were always meant to be. There is no way of getting around this as if one would prefer otherwise. Fine with me, no choice otherwise.

There are normally regularly scattered moments in time when a person starts to wonder if life is truly meant to be what it should have been. This way of thinking takes place later in life when many chances have been taken or ignored for the sake of one reason or other. This is a perfectly normal stage in life, at least according to C.G. Jung who foresaw the development of the human mind reaching this so-called middle-aged stage during which such philosophical thoughts had to be overcome.

Here are the four Jungian Stages of Development:

  1. Childhood : Archaic: sporadic consciousness, Monarchic: beginning of logical and abstract thinking, Ego starts to develop.
  2. Youth : From Puberty until 35 - 40. Maturing Sexuality, growing consciousness, and a realization that the care free days of childhood are gone forever. People strive to gain independence, find a mate, and raise a family.
  3. Middle Life : The realization that you will not live forever creates tension. If you desperately try to cling to your youth, you will fail in the process of self-realization. Introverted tendencies should now be explored and people often become religious during this period.
  4. Old Age : Consciousness is reduced. Jung thought that death is the ultimate goal of life. By realizing this, people will not face death with fear, but with a hope for rebirth.

See: Stages of Life.

Alright so let's try to think things out more carefully if that is possible. Forget the panic and the extra pressures to get things done before who knows what. The most important thing now is to remain cool, calm and collected, and do our best as much as possible.

There is this misconception out there which needs to be addressed in the sense that let's face it but things are slightly different than we had expected. Dig in and deal with the problem but let's be honest about it and tackle thing accordingly. There is no use in wasting too much time with abstract philosophical variations on the subject, except that we must focus and get the job done. Together, that is.

The time has come when it is necessary to try things out ever so slightly than what is originally expected. This is certainly a difficult task but not one that we should ignore because we are afraid to take the initial steps. We can hesitate forever and wonder about the consequences or we can just roll up our sleeves and get things done. I prefer the latter.

What were the odds that that drop of water detached itself from the overhanging leaf right at the mathematically correct instant that when I cycled underneath the tree that drop of water struck me on my forehead exactly at the midpoint between my eyes?

If it had been a bullet I would have been killed instantly, but if instead it had been a speck of dust I would not have noticed it at all.

When the train starts to decelerate the natural inclination of the body is to bend backwards ever so slightly so as to compensate the force of nature which states that moving objects will continue moving in the initial direction due to the momentum as defined by the current situation.

More often than not even the most structured, logical arguments based on obvious facts which are according to you impossible to refute, are not enough.

The emotional, political and personal elements cannot be ignored. This is the other half of the discussion which is so often under-estimated or even completely ignored.

Since humans are not machines nor are they 'really' logically-thinking beings, the good old ergo sum arguments are not very effective in the long term.

Each and every decision is by definition emotional. Even if the chances are a million to one and any efforts beyond say ten minutes seem to be futile, we the human beings believe so much in ourselves and the world around us, that we might even keep on going for a long time, despite obvious impossible-looking obstacles.

The funny thing is that quite often what at first seemed impossible becomes probable, and with a tad extra perseverance and positive thinking, happens before you realize it.

In that way life is pleasantly unpredictable and worth living, as always.

This is all kind of weird when you think about it logically.

Of course, it might be better not to think logically any more, at least much less logically than one is used to nowadays.

The only problem with that approach would be that in order to retain some sense of sanity, everyone would have to decrease their logicalities at the same moment and in the same way.

Otherwise all of us would not be running in sync anymore.

Was that ever the case anyway, e.g. what's the danger then?

When you think about it logically, it really isn't that impressive an idea at all.

As if the Greeks had come up with some earth-shattering philosophical insight which once and for all determined the course of western civilization.

Here's the idea, quite simple actually. Everything in the universe is made up of material objects called atoms which are indivisible units of matter, the smallest possible dots of what is.

I'm not impressed.

What it all boils down to is this. Every given object can be divided into smaller and smaller pieces indefinitely or not. If not then we reach a logical limit, otherwise there is no known speck of matter which cannot be further sliced in two.

It is or it is not. Flip a coin, roll the dice, or use another less random more emotional means of deciding for yourself. It's one or the other. The final decision is no less than a choice between two limits.

For all we know, some other Greek type of philosopher person could have been born a century earlier who could have just as easily decided the other way around. And then what?

There is no smallest physical object which cannot be further split into two smaller objects. And then again and then again ad infinitum.

Everything in the known universe is infinitely divisible, so there we have it.

In some future entry I will cover the non-physical aspects of reality for which a whole other set of natural laws apply.

Is ther intelligent life beyond this planet? Better yet, is there even intelligent life here on Earth? Not quite sure.

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This personal weblog was started way back on July 21, 2001 which means that it is 7-21-2001 old.

So far this blog contains no less than 2432 entries and as many as 1877 comments.

Important events

Graduated from Stanford 6-5-1979 ago.

Kiffin Rockwell was shot down and killed 9-23-1916 ago.

Believe it or not but I am 10-11-1957 young.

First met Thea in Balestrand, Norway 6-14-1980 ago.

Began well-balanced and healthy life style 1-8-2013 ago.

My father passed away 10-20-2000 ago.

My mother passed away 3-27-2018 ago.

Started Gishtech 04-25-2016 ago.