January 7, 2010
It has been more than a while since my last posting here. This is largely due to an insecurity of mine about posting something that isn’t worth writing. Not to say that life hasn’t been interesting or exciting, but it is a very specific skill one must have to sit down at the end of the day and reflect on their thoughts. It is skill still more elusive to be able to translate these thoughts to paper (or in this case, the ‘cloud’). However, a blog not updated is even less worthwhile than a blog poorly scribed.
And this brings me to today, and to the idea of an examined life. In my philosophy class we are reading ‘Confessions’ by St. Augustine. This is largely an autobiographical work, and my Professor spoke briefly to the difficulty he has in writing about himself. I laughed and nodded in agreement. What is there to say about yourself? You can always address the simple facts; I am 21, I am white, my name is Tyler, I go to school at Seattle University, I major in Economics, I like computers, I (when I can afford it) fence, I run everywhere, I drive a fast car, I am short. But these don’t really tell who a person is. That is much harder to communicate, and much harder to even notice about oneself. I had a conversation with someone last year and they asked me the question ‘What is your philosophy? How do you live life?’ This was a pretty memorable night, November 22nd, 2008. It was the first time someone had really challenged the basic question ‘Who are you?’ and was genuinely searching for who I was. It was here where I first started to think about that question. I formulated a few basic rules, which have since grown in volume. Tonight, while smoking a cigar, and sipping a beer, I reflected on a similar conversation(s) I had had in the past few days. I’ve recently been talking to people a lot about relationships, but not the concept itself, but the issues they raise with conflicts of perception and personalities. How well do people really know each other, and how well do we know ourselves?
That is when I decided to examine what I had originally termed ‘rules’, but now consider a basis for who I am; a philosophy.
Most of you who know me, have heard me quote one before, or offer it to you as a guideline, but I don’t think I’ve ever reflected on them, no explained where they come from. Each does have a story behind it, and each does impact how I operate. The official list is as follows:
1. Do the least to get the most, but don’t take the easy way out.
2. Do it for the story. Always.
3. Don’t stress. Everything always works out.
4. It doesn’t matter how much you plan ahead, you’re wrong.
5. Don’t wonder “What if?”
Rule number one is the primary summary of how I approach all things in life. Although I find it to be the most misunderstood and confusing rule I have. I never like things that I know, I never like things that are easy, and I never want to try hard to achieve something easy, no matter its importance to my life. An A in a 101 class would be harder for me to achieve, on lack of effort alone, over a 400 level class. Mystery. Difficulty. Puzzle. Challenge. All these things are something attractive to me. I’ve found myself spending hours on approaching an issue from ‘my way’ rather than doing it a much easier way, mostly to prove to myself that it can be done. Reverse-engineer the cyphered answer over solving the actual puzzle; fix the monitor over getting a new one; write the paper on something ridiclious over writing it on a ‘normal topic’. All of these examples that people have pointed out to me in the past. And while I understand the merit of ‘attacking the puzzle’ or ‘solving the mystery’ I think there is something more to it than that. Picking the impossible girl, choosing the difficult (to pay for) school, trying to improv presentations and tests; is it to prove my own worth to myself? I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’ve ever sought validation or praise above the next guy in line. There is something about the act of doing things differently that brings meaning to the telos of my actions. Simply put, I think I really do just like to be difficult. So in this I find that life’s rewards are greater when you can find that feeling. For some it may be in a sport, or in being the best, or in being sucessful. For me, I think the attempt itself is the fun. ‘Motives matter’ is something I say a lot, and I feel like that motive is most suited to me. So, don’t take the easy way out. You might fail at the hard way, but there’s something (whatever it is) to be said for even attempting the hard way.
Rule two, ‘Do it for the story’ is a rule that I borrowed from a friend of mine, Eric Gordon. I credit him with being that friend in college who really showed me that you can have fun and take chances. It won’t kill you, and you get killer stories. Stories are a small sense of immortality. History was once nothing but stories passed down family lines, and today they range from verbal, to written, to movies, to games. But if you have a story to tell, a piece of you is communicated down wherever that story goes. In essence, you can travel with it, and people who have never met you (or even just people listening to you tell it for the first time) get a perspective on you that you probably don’t communicate otherwise. Don’t let fear stop you from trying; Do it for the story. Always.
Rule number three was one of the inital three rules created on November 22nd, but I don’t think I truely understood it until recently. Life sucks. In no person’s life can there be a fairy tale as the autobiography. Life will be hard, life will be bitchy, and life will shit on you. Not to sound overly Sartre’y, but there is little you can do about it. It is in how you react that you discover, and convey who you are. People will get sick, relationships will fail, classes will kick your ass, and things generally won’t go your way. If you’re following rules number one and two, then you’re especially bound for some poor luck. Yet, amongst stress, worry, fear, apprehension, aversion, none of these will improve the situation. They will only lead you further from correcting what you can, or reacting in a way that would at least placate you in the present. The slippery-slope of stress, pity, self-pity, and anger only serve to make the problem worse. Although life tends to fuck each and every individual who lives it, life also has a way of working itself out. Patience, optimism, determination, and any other cheesy noun will, eventually, help you to work through the issue. I can thank Heather Hanson and my Sister for this view. Things will work out in some way. It may not be how you want, but it will always be better than you think. Don’t stress, it’ll work out.
Rule number four is just a combination of rules 1,2, and 3. I am a disorganized mess. Everyone knows this, I know this. I get done what I need, but it’s usually through some combination of dumb luck, and off-hand ability, that allows it to occur. Yet, I never find myself wishing I had a ‘plan’. Plans fail, and this leads to stress. I’m not advocating jumping in to the burning building, but I am saying that life, again, will fuck you, and relying too heavily on how things ought to be, will distract you from how things are. Plans are excellent, but not concrete, and adaptability is essential to staying sane. Don’t plan ahead (too much), because chances are, it isn’t going to work out exactly the way you’d like.
Rule number five is the most recent addition to the family, and the one with the most noticably defining moment. I did, or rather, didn’t do something recently, and I have questioned that decision since. I never question my choices, and it shook me a little bit. Life isn’t that long. 100 years if you are lucky, and often less. There isn’t time for you to wonder how things would be if they had gone differently. Also, if you did it the hard way, and for the story, there should be no reason to stress over alternatives (See what I did there?). If you find yourself thinking ‘What if I had done that thing the other day’, you clearly are not happy with the results. We don’t wonder (I realize this is a broad statement) about our choices if we enjoyed them. So go and do whatever it is you didn’t. Don’t wonder ‘what if’.
And those are my rules, but moreso, those are who I am.
June 15, 2009
Anyone who can even pretend to know me should realize the irony in this paper.
Dr. Cohen // Phil-351-03
The Anthem of Freedom: Collectivism is Slavery
“I owe nothing to my brothers, nor do I gather debts from them. I ask none to live for me, nor do I live for any others. I covet no man’s soul, nor is my soul theirs to covet.” In Anthem, Ayn Rand establishes what she calls the monster of ‘we’. She asserts that each man is an absolute individual, with no obligations or debts towards other men. The main character of Anthem rediscovers the concept of individualism and breaks away from his collectivist community. Through an implied natural right of self-realization, Prometheus (the main character) dares to embrace the Unmentionable Word: ego.
The idea of ‘ego’ is central to the theme of Prometheus’ development. From the beginning he has wishes that are not that of the collective will, but are aspirations of his own. He wishes to become a Scholar, something that he desires. With no regard for his wishes, the collective decided that he would best be used as a Street Sweeper, and cast him in to that role. He accepts this, though is disappointed, as he had never known a concept of ‘I’, and merely followed the commands of the collective ‘we’. This is an example of the kind of coercive forces mentioned by Hayek. These forces are necessarily required to maintain the order of the collectivist state. If one individual were to reallocate the goods of the society (in this case occupation and human capital), that individual could leverage a competitive advantage over the state. If this were to occur, the allocation of goods chosen by the group would be disturbed, and shortages or surpluses would follow. If Prometheus were allowed to choose his own occupation, he would be acting on the fuel of his ego, and not that which is in the best interest of the state.
It seems the state derived its power from the fear of the market. The ‘invisible hand’ of market forces ought to guide the properly efficient allocation of goods and services. What happened was as Hayek describes the inevitable road towards an authoritarian coercive force, justified by the need to maintain strict control and order over the markets. The population of this world became increasingly obsessed with equality over efficiency. Just as in The Road to Serfdom the process began with good intentions, and evolved in to a system that can only be sustained by force. The World Council is responsible for the oversight of all the smaller councils, which are in turn in charge of every aspect of life. Occupations, schedules, where people live, what they may own (nothing), are all established and maintained for the good of the ‘we’.
If we establish that every man has a right to pursue his own ego, then it follows that each individual is free to achieve his own end. It is with this principle that the scope of a state is restricted by. No man in a means to any other man, or a means to the group, but an end in himself. By being an end in himself, each man carries an obligation only to serve himself. It isn’t unreasonable to think that men would eventually find the need for a standard system of justice or laws, through which they can address disputes over contracts or other voluntary exchanges. This system must respect each person as an end in themselves, and interfere in their lives only to the extent needed so that each man is required to interact reasonably with other men. Equality of opportunity arises from this system, where each man is equal to choose how they will progress toward their end. Equality of any of any other kind is unjust, for to alter any man’s means to benefit another is exploitation.
Collectivism imposes a type of slavery on men. The collective desire to achieve fairness or equality necessarily requires some men to alter their chosen means, in turn altering their intended ends. In doing this, the will of the state becomes Machiavellian, justifying the means by promoting the ‘beneficial’ end. Hayek warns against the call of the ‘greater’ good. Collectivism cannot accommodate the full ends of every man, for each must necessarily give something to the state (liberty, taxes, control) so that it may be redistributed to achieve equality.
Prometheus discovers the peril of the state. With no concept of an ‘I’ he is slave to the will of the group. By breaking their laws he disobeyed his occupation and began to work towards his own end. In doing so he (re)created the light bulb, and presented it to the council. Here the evidence of the necessity of coercive force shows. In order to provide for the entire population, the state had carefully planned the occupation and allocation of each man. The new invention would present a disturbance to the candle makers, the wax makers, the oil suppliers, and all people who are involved with the making of the candle. Without markets to absorb them, or the free ability to move to different ends, these people would be unprovided for by the state. Alternatively, the world could choose to adopt the new light bulb technology, and the state would be scrambling to equalize the wealth and labor associated with the invention. Regardless of the adoption, it shows the coercive force necessary to maintain the collective balance; Prometheus is set to stand trial, probably to the result of his own death. The invention would be destroyed, and the state would return to the desired status quo.
To follow that collectivism is slavery is the next step in understanding the situation. If it is so that each person is necessarily his own end, and that he has the right to pursue his own end, then the state may not interfere in his ends. It also follows that the state may not interfere in his means, other than what every man agrees is necessary to prevent one man’s means from interfering with their own ends. If the state may not interfere with a man’s ends or means, yet coerces men to alter either, it is imposing involuntary rule, a sort of legal slavery.
April 28, 2009
Since James was going through his old blogs, I thought I’d post this old draft. It is unfinished, incomplete, but here it is. Enjoy:
The title rhymes. Isn’t that great?
I’m now back in Seattle, amongst the rain, the cool air, and the ‘evil leftists’ (More on this later). If you don’t know, I spent a week in New York (Or Tarrytown if you’re picky. Think of it as New Yorks Everett) to attend a weeklong seminar hosted by the Foundation for Economic Education. (FEE) I attended History and Liberty as the seminar I would attend, and my friend Kelsey made all the arrangements. Booked a flight on American Airlines, and off I flew. (Airport’s taking forever is a lie; I’ve never had to wait more than 30 minutes to get through everything. Granted, I travel light, am white, and generally efficent, but still. Arriving 3 hours before your flight is unneeded.)
Now, before I went to FEE, I did expect it to be a little more conservative. I knew they were economists (I am an econ major, for reference), so they would probably be advocating a more free-market approach to government, liberty, and the economy. I didn’t think that would be much of an issue, the market is, afterall, one of the most efficent ways of allocating resources in a world of unlimited wants.
Boy was I wrong. I sat down for the first lecture, at an hour I wouldn’t normally be ‘learning’, and prepped by brain for information.
“Government is an organized band of robbers, who use violence, or threat of violence to rulle at the expense of others,”
My brain instantly fired up. What about Natural Rights? Social Contract? Mutual Protection? Locke. Hobbs. Democracy. Public Goods. Natural Monoploies… The list in my head ran on and on. I felt the lecturer had a valid point; the government does ‘rob’ us of our money via taxes, does threaten violence via courts and police, and can even take our land if for public use. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and let him continue; but he failed to impress me beyond the original statement. Let’s say for a moment he is correct, and those with a comparative advantage in violence, rule at the expense of others, and that is the only definition of government. Why does government continue to exist? Would the oppressed not overthrow the state? Well, that would simply replace the first ‘state’ with another ‘state’ of violence, but wouldn’t we eventualyl get the hint? History has shown that people can overcome political patterns when looking towards new governments. The United States worked hard to establish a government of least opression, ancient Greece, and later Rome, grew tired of Kings, and developed another system. If violence were the only motivating factor behind government, I doubt it would persist so often through history, especially thousands of years ago when running away or leaving your state was a matter of packing and going…
The works as far back as Plato suggest that government is an establishment for the mutual protection and benefit. The ‘Social Contract; theory. Glaucon offers this definition of Justice to Socrates, who rejects it for a more internal definition of Justice, but it is still offered. (The Republic). Marx addresses this class struggle (which FEE rejects, though I think they are more similar to Marx than they want to admit) in his writings, and suggests that the reason rebellion may not happen, is because the economic base (Capitalism in our case), provides the superstructure of society from which we draw our opinions. Due to this, we don’t see the problems, but what the ‘owners’ want us to see, and continue along being ‘oppressed’. Marx said it, and FEE agrees; though they won’t admit it.
January 2, 2009
1. Start everything anew.
2. Follow the 3 rules:
- 1. Do the least to get the most, but don’t take the easy way out.
- 2. Do it for the story. Always.
- 3. Don’t stress. Everything always works out.
Fuck everything else
December 20, 2008
You have to write a note with sixteen random things, shortcomings, facts, habits or goals about you. At the end choose sixteen people to be tagged, listing their names and why you chose them. You have to tag the person who tagged you.
I refused to do this on FB, but since it will be imported anyway, sure, why the fuck not.
1) After you meet me, you will think I am either the nicest person you’ve met, or the meanest person you met.
2) I can’t fall asleep unless my feet are touching, crossed, or otherwise
3) I am OC in many ways, but the worst: All piles must be neat piles. Legos, Quarters, Cards, Papers, whatever, stacked NEATLY.
4) I think Bread + Cheese + Mayo is the most delicious thing ever.
5) I play with the cowlick in my hair, I always have.
6) Most people who meet me in Vancouver think I’m gay, but no one I’ve met in Seattle has said so.
7) I don’t like fruit, of any kind, in any form (except for Cherries, and Watermelon). Don’t try
8) I used to be hard core in to science, and wanted to be a paleontologist, my 9th grade history teacher changed that
9) I have 16-ish Neices and Nephews, 2 are older than me
10) I have an obsession with leather coats. I own 7, and keep buying more.
11) I love dark chocolate, all the way up to 100%, fuck you if you think it’s bitter, and one of my favorite snacks is Earl Grey tea, and some chocolate
12) I am blunt, cynical, sarcastic, direct, and abrasive: if I say fuck you, it probably means I care
13) I obsess over my hair a little bit, or a lot a bit, but it is damn perfect hair, I’ve been known to wash it in a sink
14) I always walk on the left side of groups, if I am on the right, I will drift over eventually, it is uncomfortable otherwise
15) I do my best thinking when driving, and I go over daydream-like stories in my head that evolve in to 10-minute narratives. It’s how I entertain myself
16) I am always attracted to the mystery, the hard way, the cheat, or whatever isn’t the easy way to do something, sometimes it makes my homework hard.
November 14, 2008
If anyone ever doubted that I was a geek, this will be the clincher.
I was recently posed a riddle by Bea. She asked me for an answer but didn’t expect a two page essay.
Follow the jump Read the rest of this entry »
September 7, 2008
When helping a friend out with an essay, I realized that I would soon need to be doing the same, writing papers, thinking, homework, etc. It makes me stop and take a look at what I’m doing, summer went by so quickly, and college is 1/4 over already. I found this essay I wrote, and thought it was fun to read. Not the best writing ever, but hey, what is? Read the rest of this entry »