Category Archives: Philosophy

Time: The Relentless Pursuer that Kills us All (eventually)


Wait for it.

Mon, 25 Mar 2013 00:00:00 GMT



I watched this for the second time I think tonight.  I really like this film.  I think it leads you to great insights about life.  Maybe the main one is we mostly let our lives be ruled by fear.

The first few minutes are fantastic.  Max Klein (Jeff Bridges) leads a handful of survivors away from a horrific crash of an airliner in a corn field.  He then leaves to find a hotel room forgoing any opportunity to be ministered to by first responders, interviewed by reporters, or consult with an attorney.


Instead he rents a car drives from the crash near Bakersfield to Los Angeles planning to visit an old girl friend, listening to the radio cranked up, feeling the wind in his face with his head out the car window, pausing to to just sit by the car drink in a stunning purple desert landscape. 

Desert View

Knowing now more than ever that life with all its pain and suffering is at least punctuated with moments of intense maybe even painful beauty, he lets it be and takes in the landscape.

Old Lover

Listening to the former lover, he takes in her story that her life is a “disaster”:  disappointing children, a husband denied promotion who sleeps with a student.  Knowing more than ever what a real disaster is, he knows and tells her and I think most us of that:  our lives are not disasters.


Finally, a representative of the airline catches up with him and offers him train travel back to his home in San Francisco.  Fearing liability and to speak the truth,She euphemistically speaks of the “emergency landing”.   Not fearing speaking directly and truthfully, he directly corrects her to speak as he does, of the crash.

Having faced death and having felt able to accept its apparent imminence, the liberated Max asks to fly back to San Francisco, and does.  He teeters between a sense of invulnerability and indifference toward death.

Having faced death and having felt able to accept its apparent imminence, he is unshackled in many ways from the conventions most of live by:  fear of offending by speaking too directly; fear of drinking in the experience of the moment because what may be around the corner; fear of what people may think when maybe it doesn’t matter what they think; finally fearing to recognize that everything is our choice – living is a choice we don’t have to make and whining we “have” to do this or that is mostly a cop out.

Most of the rest of the film deals with his difficult path to reconcile these revelations to the life he had when left on the flight.  His honesty often becomes cruel.  His acceptance of his mortality becomes recklessness.  Having learned so much, he forgets one crucial fact.  Much of the meaning of life is in your few deepest relationships, and cruelty and recklessness endangers his marriage and family.  Alienated from his family, he bonds with a fellow crash survivor, who he guides to acceptance of death of a child in the crash.

So what do I take away from all this?  Don’t confuse inconvenience with disaster.  Don’t miss the joy from the ability to live in the moment.  Any moment could be your last.  Don’t confuse making a choice to avoid bad consequences with “having” to do anything.  Don’t be afraid to tell the truth, but don’t be cruel.


From Megan McCardle (http:// Blame is a way of simulating control: if we can just identify who was at fault, we can stop it. The problem is, when we can’t identify any very plausible target, we too readily go after … Continue reading

Can a Tragedy be left to be a Tragedy?

A sad day once again.  There have been so many.  Columbine high,the Ft. Hood shooter, the killing of Dr. George Tiller, 9/11 and too many to remember.  That itself says a lot.

Each one now often almost immediately becomes a political football.  Bloggers scramble to find the proof of affiliation of the killer with their opponents.  Then use it attack their opposition and to use a phrase from the post civil war era:  "Wave the Bloody Shirt”.

Today we’re certainly seeing that.  I’ve been reading comments at Politico.  It seems like the push and pull is:  “he read Mein Kampf and sounds like he was motivated by the Tea Party” vs “he read the Communist Manifesto and was a lefty”  The major media is no different.

It’s all unseemly.  Can’t we maintain at least for a day a respectful silence for the victims?  Can’t we determine fault and who did what later, when claims can be based on facts not a swirl of not al all vetted rumors?  Can’t we recognize that people with this kind of troubled mind are likely going to find a movement to affiliate with and lash out in the name of:  Whether its of the right or left is irrelevant?  No we can’t and we won’t.

A sad day once again.

Slippery Slope to Death Panels?

Fear of Death Panels continues. This is an example:

Just about everyone is talking about how the Dems and the Obama administration snuck the death panels back into Obamacare, and snuck really is the operative word:

“We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are ‘supporters’ — e-mails can too easily be forwarded.”

The e-mail from Rep. Blumenauer’s office continued: “Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it, but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response.  The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.”


Some folks are mostly bothered by the sneaking around, and some are more worried about where these end-of-life consultations will take us.  You know:  euthanasia, assisted-suicide, pulling-the-plug-on-Granny, or however you phrase it.

As the author continues, this is quite a personal issue.  The main issue is the process to to arrive at end of life consultation, where will this lead.  I just want to comment on the latter.

I’ve lived in Oregon for 16 years, and went through the death of my mother in 2004.  In 1994, Oregon passed its Death with Dignity initiative.

At the time there was a great deal of fear about the slippery slope.  Would troublesome relative: “be put out of their misery”?  Would Dr. Kevorkian take advantage of our state?

So have the fears been justified?  Mostly no.  The use of the death with dignity options has been very limited.  Less than 500 people have used it for the period 1998 to 2009, and that is much less than half of a percent of all deaths.  The details are here, with a summary:

Death with Dignity

I think fear regarding this issue reflects that as a nation we don’t deal with death very well.  After all the debate about death panels has to in light of that we all will die, and the so called death panels may at worst mean people who will die will do so sooner.  That seems to be missed.

Unintended Consequences: The utilitarianism of industrial slaughterhouses vs animal rights activists

From  Modeled Behavior:

Conservatives like to focus on the gap in good intentions and results.  I think this might be an example of that.

You might assume that animal-rights activists would be better at animal welfare than industrial slaughterhouses. I’ve recently seen two pieces of evidence this is not always the case.

First, are animal lovers that have it wrong. Officials in Valley Forge park outside of Philadelphia are planning on culling the deer population from 1,277 to under 200. Sharpshooters will kill 500 this winter and next,  and 300 to 250 in the winters after that. Animal rights activists “Friends of Animals” are arguing, however, that the deer population should be culled naturally by encouraging the number of coyotes to grow. Officials are objecting because it would take a long time to bring the herd population down and require a large number of coyotes. But from an welfare perspective it’s a little strange of an argument. Surely being chased down and killed by a pack of coyotes must cause much more suffering than being picked off by a sharp shooter.

Next is the industrial slaughterhouses that have it right. Two U.S. chicken producers have begun knocking chickens out with carbon dioxide before they kill them, resulting in a lower stress and lower suffering death. One problem they are havingis that it is difficult to advertise, since buyers don’t like to be reminded that the animals are slaughtered in the first place. This is not encouraging, because it suggests that the current state of advertising is an equilibrium where all firms are hiding information about the actual slaughter. If you can’t brag that you’re being more humane because consumers want to be uninformed, then the market incentives to be more humane aren’t there.

via The utilitarianism of industrial slaughterhouses vs animal rights activists.

The First Amendment and Christine

Much has been made of what things shockingly Christine O’Donnell doesn’t know, or believes. At the least she doesn’t express herself very well. But I do think the media, yes the MSM, isn’t really doing her justice or distinguishing themselves.

I’ve listened to where she seem incredulous as she’s told that the First Amendment separates church and state. The story has become that she doesn’t understand that the relation between church and state is delineated in the first amendment. Gasp!!

But, her supporters pitch the story as that the language of the first amendment does no such thing. It clearly precludes at least the federal government from establishing a church. But per critics like Mark Levine, the idea that there was a dividing wall between church and state is a product of court rulings of the 20th century. Is this just covering for her ignorance?

In the debate she seemed stunned by claims of wall between church and state from her opponent. So the question you have to answer from listening to her debate performance is: does she not understand the subject of the first amendment, the relation of church and state, or is she just incredulous of the 20th interpretation she was being presented with? Is she ignorant, or just holds an atypical interpretation of the Constitution?

What do I think? Having listened to the segment, I think she isn’t ignorant, but is outside of a mainstream interpretation of the Constitution. The media doesn’t really understand her take on the Constitution, and unfortunately she can’t comprehend that they don’t. As a result instead of explaining her view, she just acts slack jawed at being presented with the church and state wall concept that she doesn’t accept.

Her reaction was: OMG you think that the establishment clause means that…

The media heard: OMG you mean there’s an establishment clause…

Overall its a massive failure to communicate.

To Minimalize or Not?

Lifehacker had a post commenting on the minimalist lifestyle. The post suggested that such a life, avoiding owning too many physical things had advantages, but shouldn’t be oversold. Many responses ensued that raised existential questions aplenty. One post was this one:

I live in the real world.

In the real world, I am judged to a certain extent by my possessions.

What I have is a reflection of how well I’ve done. My ability to have nice things is concrete proof that I am a person of some means.

I live in the real world.

Women judge me to a certain extent by what I have to determine if I can be a good provider. They may not admit it to me. They may not admit it to themselves.

I live in the real world.

My peers judge me to a certain extent by the manner in which I present myself. My ability to have nice things in varied formats allows me to present myself in a manner that suits the occasion. My ability to do this conveys the message that I have some degree of taste and that my opinion should be respected.

I live in the real world.

While I may like minimalism or whatever "zen"-type adjective I choose to use, I also know that as soon as I start trying to evangelize about minimalism, I immediately put myself in a certain category and marginalize my ability to persuade.

The response seems like a suggestion that life’s purpose was established by evolution as:

survive and procreate.

At least that’s what I read into it. Each paragraph basically says have more stuff because that will:

impress women (allowing you to reproduce);
make your opinions more respected (give you power, ensure your
impress peers including those who can give you the opportunity to
acquire opportunities to acquire still more stuff; and
in general to follow an imperative of competition promote your own
success and to know that you have "been successful".

Owning and acquiring things usually does do all these things. Realistically that’s true, and hence the chorus of "I live in the real world". The responses bottom line seems to be: "he who dies with the most toys wins". I find this sentiment (that I think is pretty common), kind of sad and depressing, and I hope it’s not all there is.

Aren’t we at the point of being self aware enough to think we have purposes other than just success in the sense that living long enough to pass our genes along defined it. I think God gives this awareness, and the Christian Gospel reflects it. Aren’t we aware that we are part of a larger whole? I’d like to hope that my life and existence will have ultimately contributed some things that will make the world better for others better in some way.

Bill Gate and Warren Buffet with their philanthropic activity I think realize this. They don’t want their legacies to be just a bunch of stuff they accumulated for themselves, and none of which likely will prevent their dying like the rest of us. Most of us won’t have the opportunity to have such a potential positive impact, I certainly won’t.

I hope that things I’ve acquired or produced may in a very few cases be of use to people I’ve never met. Things that I’ve accumulated but given away. Photos or writing that can be copied for other may stimulate an interesting thought or make someone’s day a little brighter. That’s part of why I’ve been putting a lot of stuff on the web of late hoping something useful for others will survive me.

In any case, case I hope there’s a better answer to the "why do we exist?" question than to accumulate stuff to:

survive and procreate.

Pessimism Revisited

Interesting if awfully dreary post.

A Pessimist Manifesto

Friday ~ September 3rd, 2010 in Babble | by Karl Smith

One odd empirical regularity is that hard-nosed, pessimistic, realist, free-market guys like myself seem to spend more time agreeing with soggy Liberals than with the Conservatives who supposedly share our worldview.

Part of that has to do with the success of the general Libertarian project, as Scott Sumner outlines here. Many free market ideas have now simply become conventional wisdom among wonks of all stripes.

Partially , however, I think it is that many modern Conservatives intuitively base their analysis of the world on a philosophy is that anathema to my worldview. Their view is that if you take a responsible, measured, well-reasoned approach to the world things will work out. Failure is thus a sign that you have not done that.

My sense is that this is fundamentally crap.

First of all things are not going to work out. You are going to die. Your friends and family are going to die. Everything you care about and everything you ever worked for will be destroyed. This story, our story, only has one ending and it is death and destruction.

If you don’t recognize that, you are living in a fantasy world.

Second, even in the short term your plans almost certainly won’t work out. Most ideas are bad ideas and there are infinitely more ways to fuck something up than to get it right.

To wit, clean living is not some form of salvation. Nor, is prudence assurance that that you and your loved ones will be okay. Suffering is inevitable and the best one can say is that it hasn’t happened to me – yet.

Bad things happen because badness is the natural state of the world. If something good ever happens count yourself lucky and be aware that this too shall pass.

Thus, I see our proper mission as easing pain, where we can, to the extent we can, the best we can. This is best done up close and personal where you are mostly likely to quickly notice if your efforts to help are actually doing harm.

On the drearyness, I think that our existence and of our friends and family and everything we care a whit about is limited. But that we occupy a limited place in space and in time doesn’t seem to mandate being quite so gloomy. You need to make the most of what time you have. I am a Christian and as such believe in transcendence of death, but even if I didn’t I think I would feel the same.

I was very struck by this comment:

4:40 pm


“‘Thus, I see our proper mission as easing pain, where we can, to the extent we can, the best we can.’

Why? What is the point of that? What right does one have to impose that responsibility on others?”

I think this is pure Ayn Rand, correct? I’m sure Apex has a very eloquent defense of this, but honestly my gut reaction is I don’t get this at all. I think life acquire most of its meaning from having connections with something larger than yourself, whether that is family, friends, your God, your country or other, and trying to add something good to something beyond yourself. Furthermore, the mission that Karl suggests doesn’t have to be mandated.

If life is just trying to pursuing your own wants and needs, then as best I can tell it really is very empty and meaningless in the end, unless you’re meglomanica as I think Ayn Rand was, in the end dying alone and largely alienated from anyone and everyone.

Finally, I thought pessimism was a the point of view of conservatives, especially of course about well intended government programs, especially with unintended consequences and the like.