Archive for 2005

Rumor has it…

… that my evil(?) twin is working at the Bristol Ren Fair I’m planning to go check it out this weekend. Anybody interested in joining me?

The Timeless World

A while ago, the power went out. I wasn’t home, but all the clocks were reset.

I left them that way.

On the whole it isn’t very effective – I often need to meet people at a certain time, which seems to be the main use clocks. That and timing things, but I’ve been using the timer feature of the microwave for cooking. Only some idle weekends do I approach the full effect, and even then I still have a pretty good idea of the progress of the day based on the sun and when I get hungry. I’m also still tracking my sleep schedule, so I’ve a set of fenceposts on the day. Still, it’s nice to get away from the constant glances at the clock sometimes.

"Did you know Jesus Christ died for your sins?"

I love my aunt. She amuses me. She also makes me think sometimes.

For all that the aforementioned question and it’s variants are ridiculed, the simple fact is I don’t have a good answer to them – ‘no’ is more likely an invitation to further persuasion than anything.

Let’s review my personal philosophy, for those just joining us. God is a convenient way of referring to the wholeness of beauty and order in the universe. I don’t attribute will and intention to this concept. Religious texts are not literal, but more like fables that contain the accumulated wisdom of humanity. Their long and prosperous currency attests to the fact that quite a lot of people find strength and guidance in the stories. The stories of Jesus in particular are part of the environment I was raised in, but largely I’ve given them no special attention. I have, however, made some reflections on the concept of death and resurrection as a metaphor, which is a major part of the Jesus mythos.

Now, let’s review my dear aunts arguments and ideas. The expected conclusion is that I agree with the underlying moral, but differ in the key element of not believing that the stories are literally true.

-Jesus died for the sins of humanity.

It quickly becomes apparent that my review above has not defined Jesus to the depth required by the following discussion. The first idea is Jesus (part divine, i.e. perfect) is the image of perfect man, an archetype to each each person can compare himself to judge the rightness of an action (a.k.a., W.W.J.D.) This doesn’t seem to be especially promising in the matter at hand. You might say that Jesus, being perfection, was ‘slain’ by sin or imperfection. This line of analogy becomes more fruitful when we consider that Jesus was crucified BY men – the sinful ones, or simply sin. The divine principle, the path of righteousness, is overturned the by selfish sinful tendencies. But, just as Jesus rises again, so can righteous behavior arise in men. Indeed, to some extent to be a living person at all is be a dead version of a perfect person. The possibility of rebirth into divine grace is a pretty powerful theme. This reasoning is slightly unsatisfying, however, because it completely ignores the sacrifice theme.

-Only because Jesus led a righteous life, was he a worthy sacrifice to accomplish the redemption of humanity.

The worthy sacrifice idea got me thinking of something I’m sure is high heresy in many circles. Jesus was human; he was like unto ourselves. Jesus was divine, he shared in the aspect of the highest thing, the greatest thing, the center of the universe. Now, what might be the center of a person’s universe, especially a person who has ‘strayed from the path’? Himself. “Me first.” THE self; a human thing, holding the highest regard possible. So long as the self holds that highest position, it may be, true righteousness is impossible. All those ‘sinful’ behaviors are tied in one’s self definition, seemly impossible to separate. Now return to the death and resurrection theme; only by sacrificing “god’s son”, the most important thing in world, is rebirth possible. We are still lacking the idea “only because Jesus lived righteously was he a worthy sacrifice” however (the former idea even runs kind of counter to it.)

Of course I don’t remember the exact words used, (and the exact words of a 2000 year old story are a lost cause anyway) so I’m going to rephrase that slightly “only because Jesus lived righteously was he able to sacrifice himself for humanity.” This is going to explore another angle of the sacrifice of self. Only because Jesus had achieved a certain level of moral awareness was he able to make the ultimate sacrifice – the self – and dedicate himself to uplifting his fellow man. The death and resurrection are metaphorical – he sacrificed himself, but kept on living in service to humanity. Very much like a Bodhisattva who forestalls nirvana to aid others on the path.

-Sin began with Adam and reached a kind of conclusion with Jesus.

The main thing I found interesting here is that the both the beginning of sin and the possibility of redemption are placed on individuals, even though they apply to humanity as the whole. Individuals are far easier handles for the transmission of otherwise abstract ideas. (Essay: define sin and redemption without recourse to examples.) That sin began with the first man places it as an inherent quality of humanity. That redemption was not possible until Jesus may be extreme; probably he elucidated slightly more reliable method for achieving it.

-You either have to accept Jesus words as the literal truth, or call him a liar.

This apparent dilemma is founded on a number of assumptions.

That Jesus actually existed. Heck if I know what happened 2000 years ago.

That Jesus’ divine nature makes lying either impossible, or any lie invalidates everything he said (even the parts that have been giving people strength and guidance for millenia) thereby making that option untenable.

That these are the only two options. He might for instance have been insane – fully believing what he said, without it being what we would call empirically true.

That the stories have come down to us through 2000 years of translation and editing – by human beings to whom falsehood is neither impossible, or for that matter especially uncommon – unchanged.

One could go on. In total I’ve ended up where I expected to. I’m no more convinced of the literal truth of the stories; to some extent even less because they work so much more powerfully as metaphor than history. Meanwhile, a little reflection on a sliver of humanity’s wisdom has probably done me good, and I’m better armed for “the question” ;^)

“Did you know Jesus Christ died for your sins?”

“I’ve heard that story. It is a good story.”

Human potential.

“[...]It would come to quickly represent every knowledge base, and every skill base you could imagine, plus, a virtually unlimited amount of time, energy, and resources. And we were right, but we were off by one order of magnitude. We had around three million people on the A.I. project, and about three million people on ilovebeess as well … Damn, there’s nothing they can’t solve, there is nothing they solve instantly.”

-Jordan Weisman, from an interview in Game Developer magazine, May 2005

Think about that. there’s nothing they can’t solve Could this method be applied to “real world” problems?

Actually, there are problems. The alternate reality games are kinds of puzzles – there is an answer, the answer is known, and there is some logical path of conclusions that leads from the information given to the result desired. I suspect you’d have to satisfy most of those properties for the method to achieve the same level of success.

The Explorer

I got a little closer to my own nature. I spent most of the day figuring out how to enter information into our new ERP system. All and all, despite how it may sound, not an unenjoyable experience.

I’ve known for some time that I’ve been tending towards generalist – programming turned into game design turned into patterns, digital publishing, and now music. Somewhere, I started martial arts. Often after a certain depth, I start to lose interest- writing C doesn’t excite me, though some other language might be more interesting. Where I get ‘flow’ is digging into some new problem – related enough to previous experience so I have some place to stand, but still outside of that experience. I think the fascination with video games has something to do with this – each one is a brand new uncharged world to explore. To some extent I think my avoidance of mental puzzles has more to do with a recognition of time spent to no direct benefit, than real disinterest. I am the problem solver – I’ve been thinking that an ideal environment would be where I rove from project to project unsticking the othe people wherever they got stuck.

Alexander’s Magnum Opus

I finally finished book 4 (of 4) of Christopher Alexander’s 27-years-in-the-making Nature of Order series. After putting forth theories of structure, growth, and building in books 1, 2, and 3, book 4 leaves such immediately practical matters behind. (Not entirely unexpectedly, since the table of contents for all four books is printed in each) The book is titled “The Luminous Ground” – the underlying plenum of reality, the stuff that shines through, just a little, when living structure is created. You can call it god if you want; Alexander does and doesn’t; the main point he wants to make in that direction is that many of the greatest works of art were made in a religious context – as gifts to god. Ultimately, he spends more time talking about physics – the current criticism of the purely mechanistic worldview, and how these problems are resolved by integrating the “I” (aka luminous ground, aka god, aka etc.) In short, nothing nothing less than a change in our view of reality will suffice to heal the modern malease.

I tend towards what Alexander calls the psychological explanation: there is a perceivable value, and this value is fairly consistent between individuals, but this similarity has more to do with the fact that we are all humans than with the underlying nature of the universe. The best argument against this simplifying explanation is this: better results are achieved, in terms of approaching said ultimate value, when considering it ‘real’ as averse to not.

Improvisation

I forgot to bring bread to work today, to make PB&J (or, in this case, tahini and peach butter) However, someone brought doughnuts…

Crash

I’ve been on a downswing the last few days – I’ve been getting up a little later every day. Partway through Saturday’s martial arts seminar I really started to feel beat, and Sunday I woke up feeling tired and foggy-headed. I”m feeling somewhat better now; in the evening I was able to read for a few hours without my eyes shutting on me.

The harp tuning is going better. Using my fingernail on the high strings produces much better results on the tuner (I’ve also been in a different room, which may have different acoustic properties – I avoided it initially because of the computer fan.) The strings are also beginning to hold their tuning, so the process is going much faster. On the other hand, the recent cold snap demonstrated that my heater is a rather flat B, sometimes a sharp B-flat ;^)

Something I forgot to mention before – even on the first tuning, it became apparent that I would be developing callouses. Indeed, I’ll need to in order to play for any great length of time.

The Dance of Seven Years.

As much as I’d like to let the image speak for itself, such things are reluctant to transpire without event.

The main thing that was interesting was getting it home. Harps are not something you just have left on the doorstep, so I took delivery at work. Expanded as it was with layers of packing material, the box only barely and with a little coaxing fit into the rear hatch of my car, whereupon I had to scoot the seats forward a little, which made for a slightly awkward drive home.

Once I got home, (and after once again discovering the magic angle to get it back out of the back hatch) the next challenge was opening the box. It had ‘this end up’ but not ‘open here’, and tape on most edges. Working from the former direction, I started at the top, where after some dissection, I discovered the basic construction. Sort of like a nesting top and bottom, in the style used for many board games, only very asymmetrical and on it’s side. Beneath cardboard, were some foam inserts, followed by a plastic bag, and then the soft-shell case. You might think it was over at this point, but there was still the matter of getting the harp out of the case. It doesn’t open completely, like the hard guitar cases, only one edge unzips. With with overlapping folds and friction, lifting it out didn’t seem too practical, so I ended up standing the whole thing up and sort of walking it out.

Next up: tuning. (Thus begins the brave new world of music.) Harps are shipped slightly detuned to reduce the string tension, so the first time around takes awhile. Thankfully for my musically impoverished self, I got an electronic tuner along with it. It seems to have a little bit of trouble with the highest strings, but, just as likely, I don’t have sufficient precision with the tuning key yet.

April 11, 2005

I’ve redone the site for my martial arts school, and am temporarily hosting it here for design review and browser debugging.