Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Thu Sep 2 14:15:20 2010
Powdered Chalkboard

Social barriers, professionalism:

Notion of taking on a role (usually work, not always): association is no longer freely chosen, and we may deal with difficult people. Common response: we mechanise ourselves for that role while meeting it - relations from under that hat become formal, pleasantries shallow. Should we meet someone we normally see on the other side of the counter, we are left with a choice as to how congruent things are without it.

With time we may build something that we can feel is more genuine (?), perhaps hanging out elsewhere.

Is this the only arrangement possible? I prefer the hats people wear to not mask them so much, and even at the cost of exposing normal human relations that might be less than happy, I am happier with more realism in the relations. I wonder what the costs are, and how much of this comes from owners or managers thinking of employees as needing to be kept in line. I suspect that keeping in line is bad for people, diminishing us in ways we don't really understand (but I may be wrong on this, and there are circumstances where it is desirable).

Maybe I am overinspired by a general observation that the most pleasant (to me) teahouses are those where the owners/managers exert the least control over the employees and there is a lot of autonomy in how people act, dress, what music is played, and the like. This dynamic is different when the owner/manager is there most of the time; otherwise one ends up with the hellish elevator music (or christmas music playing from October until February) place with people wearing a uniform, smiling fake smiles, and a dull place without the personal touches that people would add. This holds in other types of business too. I hate that corporate, tidy, no-you-can't-change-it-it-has-an-official-look kind of place.

Books - I read a lot, and am sometimes bothered at how little I remember from great literature - great novels from Murakami, Rushdie, Kundera: there is a sense of great adventure when I pick up the book and the hours fly by, and I know that they give me a lot to think about for awhile, but I get the sense that most other people have more of the story stick with them than I do. It may be that on some level I hope to lose enough detail that I can read them again in a few months, but it makes it harder to talk about books than it should be. Maybe it's that I always have another few books on the queue and I don't take enough space between books to remember them solidly. I would love, for example, to think of 「The Satanic Verses」 (one of the first Rushdie books I've read) and recall more of it than a movie star falling out of a plane and then developing an unusual condition, angels, and "flashbacks" to the times of Mohammad. I have the products of analysis left too (what was the book about? what was the symbolism? what is the mood of the various timeframes the story explores?), but being able to trace over the story as if a finger were moving over braille would be more ideal. Maybe it would be absurd to expect that level of recall for everything I've read though. Maybe reading too much (for this purpose) causes the memories to compete with each other to the extent of making that impossible? Or maybe I just have lousy literary recall.

I especially dislike when I can't quite remember if I've read something or not.

I remain highly impressed at how quickly I can type with the NexusOne's onscreen keyboard, turned to the side.

Recently I dug the bike out of the basement and had it repaired. Discovered that the muscles I need to bike need a lot of work. Today I discovered that my messenger bag is good at staying out of the way and distributing weight evenly enough that I can in fact bike with it (with Laptop!). This means I won't need to wait for the bus so often, provided I can build the muscles I need for more efficient riding quickly enough. After I leave Pgh, chances are I'll be someplace flatter, and I'll probably switch to a road bike at that point.

It's obviously too late this year, but if I can get in good enough shape, I could imagine heading to ColumbusOH for TOSRV next year.

In most respects I have a lot of respect for Richard Dawkins, but in this debate, I have some friction of perspective - I don't like how quickly or strongly he marks questions as meaningless. The way I see things, while science is operating in the only sphere that merits capital-T truth, philosophy (and philosophical elements of religion) is what provides the meaning - I am comfortable considering philosophical questions to be scientifically meaningless but very bothered by unqualified use of the term meaningless. I agree with Richard that we may be able to trace our fingers along the brain as we do philosophy, and that we may understand that process entirely in theory someday, but I think it'd be a genetic fallacy to invalidate it by that perspective. To the extent that a philosophy/religion does not make truth claims (even truth claims outside the current or theoretical grasp of science, history, and some other disciplines (interesting question: what qualifies? I won't go into this here)), it does not conflict with science on a foundational level (even as it might discourage science, prevent/disrupt scientific institutional/personal development, or otherwise conflict with it on other levels). Science is not enough to live a fulfilling life - we have narratives, philosophies, and emotional responses to things that are connected to philosophy. There is no need to discard our questions or ideas of meaning when they can coexist neatly with empiricism, and I hold that we cannot actually do so. Even were we to have a complete understanding of human psychology standing on firm pillars of tested theory stretching down through cognitive neuropsychology, chemistry/information theory, and physics, until we invest our own values (even knowing that those values are similarly derived), we remain embedded in subjectivity (whether a delusion or not) that requires something more in order to act.

Recently been chewing on Wittgenstein's argument against private language - while I believe I agree with the premise, the argument seems fairly broken to me. Part of my discomfort is I think the terms relevant to the argument have been laid down in bad places and that on a more ideal fabric, the question would take a different shape or be impossible. That's not uncommon in philosophy though - one often has at least three possible responses to an idea - it is right, it is wrong, it is defined in terms that are either ill-formed or inappropriate. I may offer more concrete objections as I continue to chew on it - for starters, I believe the terms "language" and "understand" should be held differently (ideally in a way more messily-emergent-from-biology than formally-in-a-way-that-feels-like-they-were-plucked-from-Platonic-forms), and I object to his building off of falsifiability as foundation for meaning (structural/definitional statements have meaning too, even as a different one).