Monday, January 09, 2006

Strengths & Weaknesses of Technology

For centuries, prior to 1940's, when penicillin was invented,
individuals would die from various infections, or illnesses, sometimes
at an early age, BUT the entire race, the species, was very strong,
hardy, durable, resilient, precisely because any weakness or infirmity
died off at an early age, or even in infancy, hence the survivors and
their children were very resistant to disease.... BUT...

In past 100 years,... medicine and surgery has allowed even the
weakest and sickliest, to survive to adulthood and to have children....
THEREFORE, the individual is now better off, BUT the human species
becomes weaker as a group, more dependent on antibiotics and
surgery to survive...

The weaker modern species of man, in highly civilized societies, can
no longer take a drink from a stream, without getting a disease, but
must have water from bottles, especially purified...

Think how healthy the native American Indian was, in the wild, for
centuries, before the European came, with no medicine or health care
or surgery...

NOW,.... carry the analogy across, to the IMAGINATION’s and minds of
previous centuries, who did not have audiovisual, and video games,
and cell phones,... and internet, bombarding them, with amusement,
or what to think

When i was a child, there were no google search
engines, or internet,.... and a school homework assignment, in history
for example, would send us to the library, to search the card catalog,
and the encyclopedias, and the indexes of many books...
in order to anwer the questions of the assignment..

In 8th grade,... I spent a weekend trying to find information about "The
Concordat of Worms,Germany"...

Today, a child simply does google search, and then, cuts and pastes

We see the mind become more passive, lazy, less motivated to dig
and search....

This is not true of everyone, of course, but certainly is true of many.

Technology and medicine may weaken us in one respect, but
strengthen us in another...

When firearms and guns were invented, one person commented "the
rifle has made every tailor into a warrior"

A movie was made of the life of Malcom X, our civil rights leader, and I
think in that movie, it said "When the European came to Africa, the
white man had the Bible and the black man had the land, and when
the black man left Africa, the black man had the Bible and the white
man had the land." This saying was very powerful in the media,
catching the attention of the public audiences.

So... here is an example of audiovisual media working in a positive
manner with regard to social injustice

A knife in the hands of a skilled surgeon does great good, but in the
hands of a bad surgeon, or a criminal, it does much harm

Any tool may be used either as an instrument of good or evil

There is a book in the USA which documents the portrayal and
depiction of blacks during the 19th and 20th century...

In the 19th century, blacks were portrayed in drawings and posters in
a very negative fashion,.... portrayed as clowns, or rascals, or very

But, you see, since the civil rights movies of the 1960s, gradually
blacks entered into the media portraying doctors, lawyers, judges and

So you see, now, media teaches the general public to see the charm
and beauty of Woopie Goldberg , for example, or the wisdom of Oprah
Winfree, or the authority of Condoleezza Rice

So.... the image and perception of blacks, and also of women in
general, is benefited by the changes in the use of audiovisual media

But, of course, media and audiovisual was used by the Nazis in

Germany to portray the Jew as socially undesirable, evil, etc

Nowadays, the plots of our television and movie dramas echo and
explore the current events...

One sees, for example, nowadays, many stories and fictional dramas
now involving Arab terrorists...

BBC in britain produced a television drama about a "dirty bomb"
exploding in England....

At the end of the movie, they catch an Arab terrorist who is
responsible... and he says some chilling words.... cant remember
exactly... but something like "it is the fear/terror which UNITES us
Muslims and divides YOU non-muslims"

So, we see how media can set a "spin" upon our understanding of
current events and world events, by concentrating on dramatizations
of certain themes

Monday, January 02, 2006

Messenger/Chat Clients

Anyone may download and use AIM, and register a screen name of
their choice (if not already taken).

I have AIM, Yahoo, MSN and ICQ running simultaneously.
I find Yahoo email to be the most pleasant to use. I used ICQ 6 years
ago, and it was more prone to hacking then. I went for several years
without using it. I started using it again 6 months ago. I have AVG
antivirus and Pestpatrol and one other antivirus running, and have not
experienced problems related to the messagners. Where I do catch
an occasional trojan is from some website. I once searched on a very
obscure scholarly topic (e.g. not porn or cracks or warez, which are
invested with trojans), and when I visited the site, it tried to load a
trojan on my system.

6 years ago, I could use ICQ search engine to bring up users on line in
a given city, such as Chennai or Mumbai, and message them and
make some new friends who share my interests. The same search
engine is still available in ICQ, but greetings to 100 people will be
lucky to yield one response.

I like yahoo the best for my purposes, because of the chat rooms, and
the buddy list, and good email. Oh, by the way, you can not visit your
email for a year, and it shall still be there. Other hosts will delete you
if you do not visit every month.

I spent one year in IRC, in undernet #philosophy mostly , to have
discourse on topics that interest me. But IRC seemed a wasteland,
with only a few active interesting chat rooms. A retired teacher
named Skept was founder of #philosophy. He and his crew of
moderators ran a tight ship. They were kind of a good ole boy club of
exclusivity, and they would boot or ban at the drop of a hat. They
hated anything religious. Once, I mentioned St. Pauls verse on "Fear
and Trembling" (hey, it is Kierkegaards topic, which IS part of
philosophy and existentialism)... well skept booted my hiney. When I
private message him, he said they have no need for comments such
as mine. Oh well. IRC was excellent for certain programming support
like PHP. But again, the good ole boys could be cliqueish and harsh to
newbies, who had to sometimes humbly beg for an answer to
something which they deemed obvious.

Of course, I am recommending yahoo because of my particular
interests in meeting people for discussions. I know that uses MSN once a month to have a group
conference on their book of the month club reading club.

All the messengers offer conferencing.

I will say that ICQ seems the most cold and distant. No one ever
seems to contact you out of the blue. I often get cold calls on AOL
and Yahoo, from people who have read a post somewhere and take
an interest. Once or twice, during the past 8 years, an author
contacted me through hotmail and MSN.

I am fascinated by the info on Trillion, which allows access to all messengers through one program. Although, since I already run
You can feel free to try them all, since you can uninstall (hey, that

Except, MSN seems to be pesky about uninstalling, as I remember.
A word to the wise regarding Yahoo. If you ever sign up for anything at
Yahoo, then file a hard copy print out of everything you answered
regarding zip code, date of birth, secret question and secret answer,
since, if 5 years later, you have some reason to contact Yahoo, they
will not even speak to you unless you have that info. This pertains to
email, egroup, geocities websites, and whatever else they offer, such
as blogs.

Eight years ago, I did not have the foresight to save such information,
and I learned the hard way.

All such giant companies as Yahoo, AOL, MSN, are difficult to deal
with and impersonal. I found a website host for example at and I have been dealing with the same person
, by name, for two years. I searched in google

on : internet provider host "in business for " years

with the notion that whoever was in business the longest would be
more stable, even if higher priced, than some fly by night 3rd world
provider crawling with unsavory sites, for 3 dollars a month. You get
what you pay for.

Obviously, this will not help you with a messenger client, since there
are no small providers of such, but I thought I would make mention of
the advantages of dealing with small reliable organizations that offer
more personalized service, whenever feasible.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Pursuit of Happiness

My wife is addicted to the weekly series "Gilmore Girls". I did not care for it at first, but she purchased an entire season on DVD,... so I sat and watched it with her, to be sociable, for 4 hours straight. Some things are acquired tastes, like ripe olives, sharp cheeses, strong whiskey and pipe tobacco.

Anyway, one main character, Luke Danes, owns and runs a lunch counter. He is always wearing a backwards baseball cap (except in a few bedroom scenes).
I am leading up to my point.

In several episodes, he has taken in a young man aged 20. One day, the young man, frustrated about something, makes a negative remark about the lunch counter/restaurant business. The owner/cook makes an interesting answer: "You should be grateful if you had such a business. I may work many hours at this, but I am my own boss, answer to no one, and make a decent living. No one can fire me or force me into early retirement."

I paraphrase what I can remember of his lines. But what he answered is the plus side of the small business entrepreneur in a nutshell.

We are, all of us, throughout all history, seeking "the better way", to avoid suffering and pursue happiness.

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

"Seek pleasure. Avoid pain." This is a wisdom of all living creatures, down to protozoa.

Zoroaster, Buddha, Socrates, Jesus, Mohammed, Marx, Hitler and Dale Carnegie, to mention only a few, have all addressed the manner and methods of this pursuit of happiness with different techniques but a similar goal.

"Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to loose but your chains."

"I come to bring you life, and life more abundant."

"Win friends and influence people."

"Philosophy is a preparation for death."

"Work Shall Make You Free."

"O builder of this house on fire with desires, my body! I have discovered thee! This house thou shalt never rebuild! Thy rafters all are broken now, And pointed roof in ruins lies! This mind has reached this demolishment, and seen the last of all desire, the cause of all suffering!"

"Seek refuge from malignant witchcraft; from the evil, sneaking whisperer."

"They who are obedient shall all attain unto welfare."

Camus, in his "Myth of Sisyphus", concludes that even Sisyphus may find some measure of existential happiness, during those moments that he walks back down the hill, to begin his eternal labor anew.

Viktor Frankel managed to find some measure of happiness even in a concentration camp. Frankel said "Our final freedom, which no one can rob, is our inner freedom to choose how we shall regard those circumstances in our life which we cannot change." (paraphrased)

He lost everything, he said, that could be taken from a prisoner, except one thing; "the last of the human freedoms, to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

William Ernest Henley


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

In the final chapter of Camus' "The Stranger", we see the state of mind of Merseult, as he awaits execution.

Mersault is in his prison cell reflecting on his life and upcoming death. He remembers the time when his father went to an execution.

He remembers seeing a picture of an execution in the newspaper. He thinks about the shiny guillotine and calls it an efficient killing machine.

Mersault dreams about escaping the guillotine. He imagines fleeing from prison and being shot in the marketplace, which he feels would be a preferable death. He also imagines winning his appeal and being set free. He knows, however, that a man destined for execution has no hope of freedom.

The chaplain represents the religious and spiritual side of man, expecting forgiveness and believing in an afterlife. In contrast, Mersault is secular and down to earth. He is not devoid of emotion or imagination, but his perspective towards life is based on facts, not on hope that blindfolds the truth. As a result, Mersault is able to accept the absoluteness of his verdict, calling it a "brutal certitude." He does, however, believe that his execution will prove the absurdity of life. It is appropriate that Mersault will die an absurd death, for throughout the book he has been developed as an absurd man, living with detachment and lacking conventional values.

Mersault expresses no regret for his actions and refuses to ask for forgiveness. In fact when the Chaplain wants to pray for his soul, Mersault screams at him. However, after the Chaplain leaves, Mersault has an unusual sense of peace and calm, which allows him to sleep. When he wakes, he listens for the dawn, as usual, and wonders if this will be the day of his execution. He realizes, however, that he does not fear death; instead, he will welcome it as a chance to finally be in harmony with the indifferent universe.

The word "equanimity" comes to my mind; an evenly balanced spirit, like the keel of a great ship, which steadies its course through the roughest sea.

It is never hard to find extremely wealthy and successful people who are morbidly unhappy: Kurt Cobain, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemmingway, to name but a few. They cannot find happiness in their fame or wealth, in sexual pleasure or intoxicants.

We can also find people who live very simple lives, but find happiness in the smallest thing, in a leaf or a feather swirling in the wind, like a Forrest Gump.

Odysseus escaped certain death at the hands of Cyclops by calling himself "No-Man". Postmodern man is a no-man become Everyman.

If you ever have the opportunity to watch the movie version of Somerset Maugham's "The Razor's Edge", you will see a young man who is restless and in pursuit of happiness.

He travels about the world, and rubs shoulders with dockworkers and transients. He plays cards with an unusual man who occasionally cheats. One day, he asks that man what he is running away from. The old man answers, that there is someone who relentlessly pursues him. "Well, why don't you face your pursuer. Perhaps prison or death would be better than constantly running away. The old man replies, "It is no person who pursues me. You see, I was a priest, but I left my vocation. It is God who pursues me with forgiveness. That is what I cannot endure and seek to escape." (paraphrased from memory).

The old priest tells him of a holy man in India. In real life, that man was Ramana Maharshi. Maugham visited the guru in India and based his novel on that visit.

At the end of the movie, the holy man sends our hero up on a lonely mountain, to dwell in a hut in solitude. After weeks, the guru climbs the mountain, with long beard, and staff in hand, as we imagine Moses, to visit the American. Our hero has achieved his vision of enlightenment, a feeling at dawn, seeing the sun rising.
The guru explains that the American must return now, to daily life, and carry with him always the memory of this moment of enlightenment.

Together they descend the mountain, just as Sisyphus, to begin that futile task of daily life once again, but now, with a vision, a memory, a choice, a freedom in our exile on death row, awaiting our unavoidable death sentence.

Soliloquy as Prayer

Until recent times, to be alone, yet speak out, was often called prayer; nowadays, it is often called posting on the Internet.

Someone once asked psychologist Alfred Adler, after one of his lectures, “Dr. Adler! But what of God? What do you say about God?” Dr. Adler simply replied, “I would hope, if there is a God, that God would be pleased with the way I have lived my life.” Dr. Adler’s words were prayer in a sense. Publishing on the web is often prayer for me.

We cannot prove to ourselves or others that God exists, nor prove that there is no God. We do not need to prove to ourselves or anyone that we exist. We each have a life, and we have choices. Each waking moment we are faced with a kind of moral dilemma: “What shall I do next.” Few moments become monuments, other than a first footstep upon the moon’s surface, or a gunshot in Ford’s Theater. But, a myriad of moment to moment decisions can add up to something monumentally good and saintly, or notoriously evil, or simply add up to a life of wasted time and lost opportunities.

Often, the greatest virtue can be found in the agnostic who has bypassed God as middle-man to goodness.

I awoke on this first morning of 2006 with the thought “I hope my life is pleasing.”

I so often think of various old saying from India:

“A saint can see saintliness in even the worst of sinners, but a sinner can see sinfulness in even the holiest saint.”

“When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees are pockets.”

“If a woman is my elder, I must treat her as my mother. If she is my peer, I must treat her as my sister. If she is younger, I must treat her as my daughter.”


In a chat room, this morning, someone complained of boredom.

I replied, “People who are bored have no one to blame but themselves. If you are bored, you can find something interesting to read or learn or discuss, and can share with other bored people.”

Boredom is sibling to sloth.

Soliloquy is an actor speaking aloud to himself. The audience hears, but the character is unaware of their presence.

An early symptom of postmodernism is when the actor explicitly addresses the audience, and when an author pauses in his narrative to speak directly to the reader as reader.

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