Saturday, July 29, 2017

J Dilla - Lightworks

I like his Donuts album quite a lot; Dilla's music has undoubtedly had an influence on my own audio-art, especially Voyage de l'Âme. In fact, Justin from Xian music blog Spirit You All noted this in a very kind and well-written song review, published about a year and a half ago. This type of music is for an acquired taste - perhaps a very acquired taste. That's not to sound pretentious, but from my perspective, I can't think of anyone who would enjoy this as much as I do. Like most art, as a consumed good, we don't know why we enjoy what we enjoy (at least, that's an assumption and it it seems correct to me intuitively). In the case of food, taste buds just happen to like what they like. Is taste in music really that different from taste in food? Both even have a moral component to them, I think, but I'm not going to get into that right now.

At any rate, if I egged anyone on to listen to the song or my album (cheap thrills, I know), then my work here is accomplished. If not, well, I have no idea, and I might eat some nachos soon.

Monday, July 24, 2017

On Pain and Prayer

Why do we ask God to rid us of our pain? Does God necessarily intend to rid us of it, that is, at all times? Is it worthwhile to beseech Him perpetually?  C. S. Lewis writes in The Problem of Pain:

"Suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God."

The type of pain I'm thinking of at the time is emotional pain, especially in the aftermath of a loss (grief, put simply). It seems a common practice to ask God the Father to comfort those who mourn in such situations. Without doubting the good intentions of those who have made similar requests (myself included), I wonder if something is missing here?

Consider another quotation from Lewis' theodicy:

"Lay down this book and reflect for five minutes on the fact that all the great religions were first preached, and long practiced, in a world without chloroform."

And how far the developed world has come since the days of chloroform! The culture in which Western Christians are situated is undoubtedly one that celebrates pleasure, especially happiness. We need not look any further than some of our social norms. For instance, it has come to my attention that a common complaint among those with depression is that they find it difficult to honestly discuss their thought-life with others. This is fostered by a society that prizes positive conversations in face-to-face interaction, even to the point of dishonesty. As well, in the workplace some employees have to perform what Arlie Russell Hochschild calls 'emotional labor.' This refers to the regulation of emotions, for instance, a flight attendant who is payed for their friendliness toward customers (as discussed in The Managed Heart). Happiness is routinized and even commoditized in everyday life.

That being said, there is nothing wrong with being as happy as a bug in a rug. Happiness can be a proper response in certain situations. But happiness is not the standard any more than pain is, especially in the Christian life. This is not limited to grief but could also include other emotional pain like loneliness. As A. W. Tozer puts it in his essay The Saint Must Walk Alone:

"Most of the world's great saints have been lonely. Loneliness seems to be one price the saint must pay for his saintliness. ... He wants to share his feelings with others and to open his heart to some like-minded soul who will understand him, but the spiritual climate around him does not encourage it..."

Undoubtedly, secular social norms have crawled into the Christian church. But why have we accepted with such passivity? Anything that is not of God ought to be shooed away, even happy bugs in rugs, at least, when their origin is in lying. Lying is not just a bug - it is a pest. This, however, must be said with caution. Again, I don't want to dismiss the good intentions of others in praying for the healing of emotional pain, not to mention God's grace when he does heal. All that I want to wager is that emotional pain should be experienced if it is warranted, and that any hesitancy toward it should not be promoted if it involves lying to oneself.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Great Chain of Linking, Part 3

A world of pure imagination - Unlike those philosophical plebs marching around the walls of empiricism, Edward Feser offers a different perspective on David Hume.*

Four Temperaments Test - Are you sanguine, choleric, melancholic, or phlegmatic? Find out in approximately five minutes.

The Dissatisfaction of Francis Schaeffer - A biography from Christianity Today about one of my favourite philosophers/theologians (Art and the Bible is a wonderful read).

Why the Orthodox Honor Mary - I thought this was an informative read as an outsider to the Orthodox tradition.

Secularization Falsified - "Modernity is not necessarily secularizing; it is necessarily pluralizing." ~ Peter L. Berger. Also, Peter Berger dies at 88. May this brilliant thinker rest in peace.

Graham's Number - This number will literally blow your mind.

The medicalisation of shyness - This article has remained (mostly) unread on my desktop for awhile now, but the title makes me think that it has some interesting information.

*  While I think that Hume is alright, this praising of the empiricist (Hume) while bashing the genius rationalist (Descartes) that seems to happen causes me to lose my patience. Why would anyone have ill feelings toward a man who tried doubting his own existence? It makes no sense to me!

Monday, July 17, 2017

probably plight less

To be 'cultured' is for an individual or group to possess characteristics of a certain culture rather than any culture. That's why some rural folk, among others, are said to not be 'cultured.' But they are cultured; it's just that they are rural rather than bourgeois or noble European. Why their cultural capital is any less 'cultured' is beyond me.

Goo Goo Dolls are to Rock music what realism is to art. Songs like "Iris" and "Black Balloon" are wonderful, though they're those songs in the back of your head that you know you've heard before when you hear them in a most real manifestation (say, on the radio instead of in your brain). Good realistic art so often prompts observers to say "well, that's very nice," and then they're bored and out the door. The quality is so profound and realistic - taken for granted - that they don't even give much thought to it. At least, that's what I've found to be true for me. The truth of my statement is contingent upon the particular consumer, I would imagine.

Refrigerators are strange because they allow the opportunity to store both food that is meant to stay cold and food that is meant to be warmed, eventually. Microwaves, on the other hand, are only used to turn cold food into warm food. It's weird how some food that ought to be warm has to be cold for any period of time at all.

I'll never forget the expression on your face whilst eating that cucumber and mayonnaise sandwich. You probably don't even know that I exist. Did you see me there? Will you ever read this? You looked rather forlorn ... the blues of soccer camp, I guess. I could sympathize.

I have a headache. I had a headache. Peppermint oil for the forehead is the best medicine. Distraction is almost as good. It is past 11:00 PM and it's still ~19 degrees Celsius. I don't know why 'Celsius' is supposed to be capitalized. The warm weather is against me, and somehow, I'm not thirsty. The question of "where on your head does it hurt?" is odd. If my head is in pain, I probably can't think clearly enough to give a proper answer. Can a person keep track of the pain in their head any better than they can keep track of their thoughts?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Castles

I completely forget what I wanted to write here. "Sarah - toh - oh - oh- nin" was just playing in my headphones. What was I thinking about earlier ... oh yes, that's it. Woah - that next song came on way too loud. It's my July 2017 playlist. Pause. Did I already forget what I wanted to write about again? Mmmkay. That's not even a word. Oh. I'm sorry for belaboring, really. Oh yes, I remember again. But if I say I'm going to remember does that just mean I'm going to forget? Kind of like when somebody says that they'll keep a promise, but really, it means that they're just denying what you want them to accept. That probably reads cliché, although, that's only my opinion. Also, when I don't want the letter e with the accent over top, my computer spits it out, and when I do want it, I don't know where to begin, so I type it into Google but I'm certain there's any easier way. Of course there's an easier way.

What I wanted to talk about was ... hey, we're not going there again!

It's concerning to me how some identities are so difficult to shake. As much as I try to free myself from, say, political opinion, the truth of the matter is that my ideas can probably be categorized into a cute little holiday car, even though I'd rather make pessimistic remarks about how politics is just a room full of smoke, say, from that ever-polluting engine of said car. What's the problem here? Do I wish to be a total outsider in this regard, or am I not content with my beliefs, or am I not content with others' attitudes about my beliefs? Wow, only three questions there? I thought there would me more. When I write it out, it's really not so confusing, at least, it seems that way in a certain way.

I'm back. I don't know when I left. I shouldn't be looking at screens for reasons of sleep hygiene.

I re-read paragraph three, hoping that it would motivate some more interesting ideas. Nothing so far.

Today is another day, though it is almost over. "I see the rowan berries reddening and don't know for a moment why they, of all things, should be depressing." I'm not sure why I think of that quote from Clive so often, but it resonates. Somehow, I have been able to see a certain something in nearly everything at one time or another ... interesting for people my age who tend to compartmentalize, so I've heard ... it must be wrong when I don't take things for what they truly are.

I really didn't want to write about politics at all here, but alas, I did! I used to find the activist identity fascinating but now I seem to have a penchant for quietism. I guess quietism is what I've maintained all along, though now I actually seem to like it. It's interesting to note that a firebrand-of-a-"political"-man on the New Left like Herbert Marcuse was just an armchair philosopher. Though ... it's not that I don't want things to be good, or a lack of compassion necessarily; I think it's more so the complexity of social problems, and the limitations of human ability, and the limitations of group ability, discussion, and who knows what else. Perhaps the best thing is to remember our neighbor. As G. K. Chesterton writes: "We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbor."

Though more people than I could count have probably said something along these lines, the forgetfulness about what's right before us need not be overlooked. This is the charm of the aesthete, the one who finds beauty in the ordinary. Living as meaningful a life as possible in one's mundane condition is also good, I would imagine. Why do we wait for castles to descend from the sky ... and why do we think ourselves capable of building castles?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Walking

I went for a walk past 8 o'clock this some evening ago. The sky was so blue and empty. It made me think about when I found the blueness of the sky, the greenness of grass, and the brightness of the sun puzzling matters. I can have the same thoughts these days, but not the same feelings which once accompanied them. Perhaps none of it began with thoughts at all, but feelings, rather...

What did any of this phenomena mean in relation to me? That's what I was wondering when I had those thoughts. I'm not sure I ever came to an answer on that. Somehow, I stopped caring. I don't find myself particularly distracted by the scenery in which I walk among anymore. Every so often, I take notice of a stoplight, or a sunset, or clouds, but my thoughts take precedence. In some ways, I am very immune to what others take to be beautiful. Mountains, for instance, do not move me in a profound way like they seem to for many others.

I suppose, in a way, the disinterest is still there. It feels wrong to deny the beauty of mountains, but my interest in them is only cursory. My inner-aesthete motivates me to make beautiful that which has been deemed 'boring.' A stoplight can be interesting, as can so many other signs, traffic or otherwise. And if the sign lights up, well, that's even better. Perhaps I can put my interest in signs to good use one day by becoming a semiotician.

I think quite often of Kierkegaard's clever words about walking. He says: “Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday, I walk myself into a state of well-being & walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, & the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.”

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Rise in Antidepressant Use and What it Means for Deviance

It is common sense that the mentally ill are, sociologically speaking, a broad group of people who have been, and continue to be in the eyes of some (if not many), considered deviant. What way do things seem to be heading in the future though? To only look at one angle of the issue, this study from Business Insider published last year claims that antidepressant use has increased in 25 countries. The paragraph below includes some of the key information included in that article (though for the sake of brevity, I do not mention all of those countries).

In a matter of four years, antidepressant use in Germany increased by 46%, reaching a rate of 50 per 1,000. During the same period, it increased by approximately 20% in Spain and Portugal, the former being 50 per 1,000 and the latter being 78 per 1,000. Use in Iceland was very high, as it was estimated that 106 per 1,000 used antidepressants. The United States was added to the analysis by the authors, and the results indicated that use in this country was even higher than Iceland, that is to say, antidepressant use there was the highest out of the 26 countries included. Eleven percent of Americans over 12 years of age use antidepressants, and 110 per 1,000 use them overall. Also high on the list was Australia, coming in at third place, which had 89 per 1,000 antidepressant users. Canada was fourth on the list, with a rate of 86 per 1,000. In fifth place was Denmark, which had 85 per 1,000.

While these increases in antidepressant use are fascinating, again, I wonder what the future holds in this regard. I refuse to make any predictions because I know God knows the future so much better than I do. Plus, as I mentioned, the highest use was in the United States at 110 per 1,000, and that is only about 10%, meaning that it is not significant. But if antidepressant use continues to increase, and if those who take this medication are considered mentally ill, and if antidepressant use reaches the point of being significant (say, 6/10), then antidepressant use becomes the norm, and therefore mental illness within this frame can no longer be considered deviant, that is, if deviance is defined as a departure from normal standards of social behavior (statistical rarity, in other words).

Believe me, I have no agenda with any of this - at least, I do not think that I do. I do not believe that such an increase will really happen. My point is that, under current conditions, mental illness (mainly depression/anxiety in this case) is made "substandard" in relation to popular thinking and behavior as well as a popular lack of medication use. However, if this "substandard" thinking/behavior becomes the standard through popularization - as can be inferred through antidepressant use - what shall the new means be by which it will be considered deviant, if not a lack of popularity?

* Thanks to Tami M. Bereska for inspiring to write about this through chapter one of Deviance, Conformity, and Social Control in Canada (4th edition).