Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Philosophy of Liberty

In the coming weeks, I will write a series of notes concerning a few ideas or policies that are, in my opinion, ruining America. Some are more important than others, but all of them carry some sort of weight in my mind.

To preface this series, I would like to show a video that summarizes my core beliefs concerning the philosophy of politics.

The video is entitled "The Philosophy of Liberty," and it was made by the International Society for Individual Liberty. It's relatively short, and shouldn't take up too much time to view. The video derives its logic from a series of axioms which seem indisputable. If anyone would like to challenge one of the axioms given, please do so, and we can debate the issue.

PS: The music is a bit cheesy, but I'm sure you'll be fine.

So without further ado, here it is.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

True Tranquility

Before read, I would like to preface this blog post with this: I have never, ever shared personal information on the internet in this fashion and probably will not for a very long time after today, but for some reason, on today of all days, I have had some sort of insight on life as a whole and I decided to share it.

In the past few months a person has, to be bluntly honest, completely intimidated me. I don't mean intimidated in some crude physical sense, but on an intellectual and emotional level. Most who know me would say that I am at the very least an extremely confident person and at worst, proud. I wouldn't disagree with either evaluation presently. Because of this confidence, when I meet a person who is superior to me in a field I care about, I immediately have a fiercely competitive outlook towards that person. Usually, the person in question is not even aware of my attitude. In the past, I saw this as a way to have a step up on the "competition" (whatever that was), but after I met this one person, this inner competition began to falter. It took several months-- just about an hour ago actually--but it ultimately failed.

What led to this failure was not this person's intellectual triumph or some dramatic achievement, but simply their outlook on life. A simple statement, really. I heard through a friend that the person I have talked about gave a bit of advice to my friend. He said, "Don't become like Jean-Marc and attempt to let acquisition of knowledge be your life goal." Initially, when my friend told me this, I blew it off and thought of the comment as presumptuous and pretentious. But for some strange reason, this comment lingered inside me; it creeped up on me at least weekly and even though I shrugged it off, the advice continued to trouble me. This afternoon the house of cards finally came crashing down. 

I have thought for a while now, that all I needed to live happily was a continuing education--a never-ending, ceaseless education about anything and everything that interested me, but today when I was driving home, I realized that this thought process would never sustain me. Why? There is so much to know of the world that no matter how much I learn, more can always be known. There is always something else to know. No matter what. I like the idea of this, but I realized that it will not sustain me. It is not something I can cling to in times of worry or stress. So I asked myself, what can give me true, lasting tranquility? What can provide some sort of inextinguishable flame of placidity--of peace?

The first idea that came to my mind was simple: nothing. Nothing lasts forever, and everything always fades away. No material object in this world will last forever. No relationship will last forever. No ideas will last forever. So the next step in thought for me was this: to attain true peace one must be able to realize that nothing will last a lifetime. One must be willing to let things go. One must be able to continue on, no matter what circumstances may surround them, no matter what person, idea, or feeling leaves them.

I am definitely not saying to treasure nothing. I am not saying to place no value in anything. What I am saying is that no one should let any one object, idea, or person become a remedy for any problem. Why? Because at some point, somewhere down the long, winding road of life, that thing will leave or cease to exist. Then what will one use to endure hardship? This path only leads to addiction. Addiction to anything at all.

My main message--my main discovery--is this: realize that everything, everything is temporary. All things will end. All things will fade away. Your house, your job, your friends, your relationships, your car, your books, your philosophies, your heroes, even your very life. And while this thought maybe jarring and depressing initially, it provides for a way of thinking in which one can be able to survive any hardship. 

My advice is simply, be. 

Live your life without needing an addiction to live happily; understand the temporal nature of the universe in which we live.

And maybe, just maybe, we can all gain piece of mind. I sure hope I can.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Beautiful Expanse of Nature

Though sometimes I may feel underwhelmed with nature and sometimes even life in general, there are times when I contemplate everything around me in pure awe. The perfection of a solitary lead hanging suspended from a tree-lined with veins, slowly exhaling oxygen. The perfect instinct of animals. The complete placidity of an ocean breeze coupled with the smell of salt and sand. The lush livelihood of forests given sparse room by the ever-expanding concrete jungle. 

The puzzling characteristic of nature as a whole is some humans' ability to create something completely in tune with it, and others who seem only capable (some even bent on) destroying it. For evidence of this phenomenon, compare Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" to the deafening, intrusive bombast of jackhammers, concrete pavers, and bull-dozers.

Which comforts you?

Which aids in finally falling asleep after hours of endless tossing and turning?

Which complements the world we live in, and which can only defy it?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Jean-Marc's Oscars!

Well since the Oscars are on tonight AND I haven't posted anything in forever, I thought I would give my opinion on who should win in each major Oscar category. Feel free to give your opinion!

Best Picture
  • Atonement
  • Juno
  • Michael Clayton
  • No Country for Old Men
  • There Will Be Blood
This year's nominees for best picture are probably the best I have ever seen, and each of them could have probably won in separate years, but alas, only one can win. My pick for Best Picture is... drumroll... No Country for Old Men. This is one of the best movies I have EVER seen in just about every category imaginable. The screenplay (adapted from Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name) is amazing, the acting is even better, especially in Javier Bardem's case, and the cinematography is unsurpassed. EVERYONE should see this movie.

Best Director
  • Paul Thomas Anderson - There Will Be Blood
  • Joel and Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
  • Tony Gilroy - Michael Clayton
  • Jason Reitman - Juno
  • Julian Schnabel - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Though No Country is the better film, for sheer directing, I give this to Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood.

Best Actor
  • George Clooney - Michael Clayton
  • Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
  • Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • Tommy Lee Jones - In the Valley of Elah
  • Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises
While the other nominees are very deserving, this award has absolutely no competition compared to Daniel Day-Lewis of There Will Be Blood. The only word to describe his performance would be virtuoso; he wasn't playing Daniel Plainview in a movie, he was Daniel Plainview. From simple mannerisms to his now-infamous bizarre line, "I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!!!!!!" this performance was probably the absolute best I have ever seen by an actor.

Best Actress
  • Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
  • Julie Christie - Away from Her
  • Marion Cotillard - La Vie en Rose (La mòme)
  • Laura Linney - The Savages
  • Ellen Page - Juno
My pick for Best Actress is the relatively unknown Marion Cotillard from La Vie en Rose. My comment for her performance is similar to what I said about Daniel Day-Lewis; Cotillard transformed herself from a beautiful young actress to the considerably uglier, older, and more vulgar French singer Èdith Piaf.

Best Supporting Actor
  • Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman - Charlie Wilson's War
  • Hal Holbrook - Into the Wild
  • Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton
This is another no-brainer award: Javier Bardem from No Country for Old Men. Anyone who has seen this movie can attest to the sinister aura surrounding his character, the serial-killer Anton Chigurh. His very appearance on screen can induce chills almost immediately, and he is probably one of the most terrifying, yet simultaneously deep villains to step onto the silver screen.

Best Supporting Actress
  • Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
  • Ruby Dee - American Gangster
  • Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
  • Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
  • Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton
While this award is definitely not a "no-brainer"-everyone but Ruby Dee is deserving-I think Saoirse Ronan deserves the award the most.

    Wednesday, February 6, 2008

    Dear Diary: A Novel's Testimony in the Information Age

    Lying in my small two by three inch shelf in Southwater Christian School
    is almost torture. I sit in this space, every day, untouched except for
    the careful, calculating hands of the handler. While this small gesture of
    welcome may suffice for the moments, I yearn for someone, just someone, to
    crack open my cover and take a look at me—even just a passing glance. Yet
    I, The Old Man and the Sea, live out my days ignored and sometimes met
    with an apathetic gaze.

    Besides the constant reorganization by the handler, whom I suspect to have
    some sort of serious compulsion for meticulous worship of the Dewey
    Decimal system, I’m usually only glanced at by passing learners on their way to
    the flashing screen which seem so addictively entertaining even from afar.
    The learners barely even notice that lying just ten feet behind the
    flashing screens are thousands of my brothers, sisters, and cousins
    waiting to be cracked open for some bit of information, but in the silence
    only disturbed by the steady drone of the flashing screens, my kin and I
    are forgotten.

    Just ten years ago, barely the blink of an eye for my species, we were
    used almost round-the-clock—always needed by some learner looking for the
    ever more obscure subjects assigned by certain teachers, who will remain
    unnamed, yet these days assumingly have passed with singers only referred to by their first names and acid-washed jeans. 
    Now, the only objects which receive any attention from learners whatsoever are the continuously flashing screens
    and the tired old romance novels showing a strapping man’s bare nipple on
    the cover, read by the handler only when her compulsion is satiated by
    complete structure in her environment.

    Currently, as the days pass on, my family and friends are being
    continuously converted into the whirring screens—a somehow backward way of
    streamlining reminiscent of the “intellectual” articles found in certain
    magazines published by pipe-smoking men in evening jackets surrounded scantily clad women. 
    So, as my family dies out, I silently wish that just
    one more glasses-clad learner will enter into the handler’s room desiring
    one of my kind, rather than the ubiquitous droning screens.

    And, I lie untouched in my two by three inch shelf.

    Saturday, February 2, 2008

    The Cosmic Beauty of Mortality

    To quote Richard Dawkins, "We're going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones." While some may find this thought morbid, I find it rather liberating; the idea that the precious bit of life one has must be taken advantage of. To not be a colossal waste, everything must be done to the fullest and best of one's ability. 

    Most, including myself, have thought "Man, I wish I could just live forever," but when one really ponders this alternative to reality, the prospect of finding true joy seems hollow at best. An immortal life lends to relegating everything to "tomorrow"-nothing ever being truly meaningful based on fully on the fact that it could happen again. Never truly appreciating life because it would never end.

    So if given the hypothetical choice between the temporary or eternal, I would choose that which ends. While this choice lends itself to some form of loss, it at least renders some sort of appreciation to every day experiences. 

    Yet in all actuality, this hypothetical proposition is obviously preposterous. In reality, this is life, and no one gets out alive. And while this may seem tragic, remember that this enables one to truly enjoy every waking moment of this short cosmic fraction of time called life.

    Wednesday, January 30, 2008

    The Opulence of Consciousness and its Origin

    ooking over a few of the "musings" that I've written and even pondering the capability of "looking over" in the first place, I have become absolutely enraptured by the idea of consciousness. The ability not only to listen to music, but to "enjoy" it, recognize it, and even classify it in some cases seems miraculous in itself. What seems to be even more enrapturing is the proposition that all of these thoughts, enjoyments, and recognitions occur in a fist-sized object in the middle of my head; some may say that this idea is impossible and that the brain is only a mode of transportation for some ethereally centered locus of the mind, but that seems a bit too mystical for my taste. This idea, while initially may sound as the only rational prospect for prospect, is oddly reminiscent of the old cartoon "Casper". How could something by definition "non-material" interact with the brain, a material object? Obviously, for an object to have the ability to interact with the material world, it too must be a material object. Past the philosophical disputes I have with dualism, I also think that the very idea of resigning to mystery as, on an intellectual level, almost lazy. Instead of attempting to dissect and quantify what our experiences may be, the idea of dualism basically resigns itself to the ethereal. If the idea of materialism in the field of consciousness is true, then in my opinion, the field of philosophy of mind and neuroscientists alike have so much more mystery to unravel in the process. Think of attempting to quantify the ability to see an image, interpret it, then feeling something corresponding to personal taste of the environment. Man, think of quantifying "personal taste"! Mindblowing, huh?