Questions

project workI’ve been playing with Python and POV-Ray, catching up on movies, enjoying the continued nice weather, and even getting in some reading.  Yet it’s still weird how little I seem to get done considering the days are all mine.  (And I still haven’t fully shaken the sense that all this free time ends at some point.)

For now I plan to focus on project work—the previously mentioned Python and POV-Ray playing—so there may be a pause in the posting while I putter (possibly a plethora of pauses). Please stay tuned!

In the meantime, I have some questions:

Do the five stages of grief apply to life?

  1. Denial that shit is bad.
  2. Anger that shit is bad.
  3. Bargaining—trying to fix the shit that is bad.
  4. Depression that shit is bad (and can’t be fixed).
  5. Acceptance that shit is bad and will always be bad.

[I’m not sure where I heard this… it sounds a lot like a George Carlin bit to me.]

There is a certain poetry in linking the stages of grief and the stages of (the shit in) life. Buddhists believe life is suffering. And certainly our tradition is filled with parables about shit; for example, it always rolls downhill.

But speaking of suffering and joy, here are other questions:

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If there is no meaning or purpose to the universe:

Why do the stars take my breath away?

Why does music make me joyful?

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If the universe is just a machine:

What does it mean to choose to cause suffering?

That assumes free will exists. It might not.

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If the universe is just a determined machine,

Does choosing to cause suffering have any meaning?

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WhyIs there any link between joy or suffering and the idea of meaning in the universe? Atheists claim there is no evidence for purpose or meaning. Might our capacity for joy and suffering offer such evidence?

There is also our will to cause joy or suffering. How we do one or the other certainly says a lot about our character. Does the ability to choose provide clues about purpose and meaning?

Food for thought! Which brings up another question:

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I wonder what to have for dinner tonight!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

28 responses to “Questions

  • dianasschwenk

    I am only really qualified to answer the last question. So here it goes. Order a pizza. 😉

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Great Idea!! You know, I’ve been meaning to do that for ages! I’m blessed that I (again!) live in Pizza Man delivery territory. I should look this up, but I think Pizza Man is the chain that started the home delivery ball rolling. I seem to recall a commercial tag line from my youth: “Pizza Man: He delivers!”

      In any event, I love their ‘za! Nicely spiced sauce, good proper pizza cheese, and their Italian Sausage is to die for! Plus I have a coupon.

      The downside is that their pie is so good, especially fresh, that it’s really hard not to hurt myself. That extra piece (or two) always seems like such a good idea at the time…

  • reocochran

    Oh, I like subs or wings…add ons at most pizza places!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Heh, I’ve had some great subs in my life! There was a deli we used to go to in high school that had a pastrami sub I remember to this day. I think I’ve maybe had one or two since that have come close.

      You can have my wings… too much trouble to eat and I always feel like I’m leaving edible meat on the bones. The finger lickin’ is kind of sensual, though (especially when you lick each others’ fingers).

      • reocochran

        Oh, a pastrami sub sounds like New York city! I think my favorite is the Italian sub with all the kinds of “bad” luncheon meat like bologna, salami, and pepper or pickle loaf… plus, all the veggies like onions, banana peppers, tomatoes, etc. with a big splash of Italian dressing and then baked until all ingredients make your mouth water as you unwrap it. I am hungry and it is late and we have only “healthy” snacks around here!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Completely other side of the continent; these subs were in Los Angeles!

        Do what I do when the craving gets too much: Just hit your local deli for some nice pastrami and pick up a loaf of good rye and some brown mustard and maybe some swiss from the deli, too.

  • reocochran

    I will never believe the universe is random nor a machine! BTW by the way…

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Given that most of the world’s population is religious, and many others are “spiritual, but not religious,” we can safely say you’re on the side with the most votes. As I believe you know, I’m basically agnostic with deistic leanings, so I also don’t believe in a random machine.

      It is a choice I make consciously, though, since the facts increasingly support the machine view. There is still some wiggle room for other views, although for many of them the ice floe is melting. It sure seems a waste of a whole universe if it all has no meaning or purpose!

  • Lady from Manila

    The further I get on with my life, the more I’m convinced we are, in fact, here by random chance. Am I completely comfortable with a meaningless universe? Not at all. Atheists and people with strong atheist sympathies suffer terribly more by reason of their own (radical) beliefs or rather, non-beliefs. After all, atheism has always been feared to lead to intellectual incoherence and extreme emotional despair. So the world is populated in the majority with religious folks – and it will always be thus. The universe, though, can be looked upon as a blank piece of paper. Very much like the blank piece of paper a writer can put meaning on. All the meaning can be found on our relationships with other people, and through the choices we’ve made, or the free will we exercise in letting “the stars take our breath away” (which you beautifully put on this post).

    Anyway, I’m also curious as to what you had for dinner that night. 🙂

    • Wyrd Smythe

      There do seem ever fewer places for Gods to be. We’ve pretty conclusively ruled out Wind Spirits, Olympus or angels playing harps on clouds (despite all those old cartoons). Did you know that, prior to Sputnik, people reported sightings of angels and demons, but ever since we stepped (ever so gingerly) into space, the reports have been of “little green men” and UFOs. And now that everyone carries a camera all the time (often a video camera!), the aliens have mysteriously stopped visiting. So has Bigfoot and Elvis. Guess they’re all shy or something.

      It is possible religion will turn out to be an evolutionary tactic that helps build societies and prevents us from sitting around doing nothing from the sheer despair of it all.

      The truth is, if one has Atheist beliefs (and I prefer to think of it as a belief rather than a non-belief), the the only possible meaning in life is the meaning we create through our relationships and our deeds. The “problem” with that is that it’s local. It’s limited to what you touch in your lifetime. It also makes it very difficult to define morality objectively.

      What objectively makes Hitler different from Gandhi? The Earth is 4.5 billion years old; all of human history is in the last 10,000 or so. In a few hundred years, what will either Hitler or Gandhi matter?

      That’s a pretty cold and empty universe, so you can see why we’d — at the very least — make something up. Beyond that, I think it’s a matter of belief, choice and personal taste. As I’ve said before, I choose to be Agnostic with teleologic leanings. It offends my sense of style to believe this all — POOF — just happened!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Garlic mashed potatoes and six-cheese macaroni. Got enough for two or three more meals.

      • deleonmarj

        “Did you know that, prior to Sputnik, people reported sightings of angels and demons, but ever since we stepped (ever so gingerly) into space, the reports have been of “little green men” and UFOs. And now that everyone carries a camera all the time (often a video camera!), the aliens have mysteriously stopped visiting. So has Bigfoot and Elvis. Guess they’re all shy or something.” 😀 I just have to let you know I find it very funny.

        I went online tonight because I needed to greet a long-time blogger pal Happy Birthday (which I nearly forgot). I dropped by here expecting a very new post from you, but nada. Anyway, I hope you’re doing great.

        Unlike in your country, macaroni and cheese isn’t a staple food here. Six-cheese macaroni – I assume it means six kinds of cheese? Don’t laugh if I’m oh-so wrong. 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Thank you! You seem to be my only fan, and the only one who pays much attention to — or gets — what I write. That question you asked a while ago, about why there aren’t more readers, has been on my mind for a while (long before you asked). Given the size of the interweb, it sure feels like I should have found more people of like minds. Seems like my blog — as my life — just kinda stands alone. [shrug]

        So I’ve been going through some question-asking (“Why am I doing this?”) and fighting off some ennui and depression. Figured maybe a week away might be the ticket… step away until I really feel the urge to write again.

        Yep, exactly right. Macaroni in a concoction of six different types of cheeses. I love pasta and cheese, and “cheese noodles” was a childhood favorite (I was a picky eater). That six-cheese stuff is kind of a high-end gourmet version. Really high in fat calories, so necessarily an occasional indulgence!

        You’re logged on under a different name? My comments section thinks you’re a new visitor!

      • Lady from Manila

        Dear Wyrd, your last comment has been moving I feel like giving you a warm hug and telling you “It’s okay.” I believe I’ve told you before: other blogs get very popular through frequent and heaps of promotion – which someone like you has no time nor patience for. Moreover, highly intelligent people normally get lonely at the top simply because their elite minds could only be understood by a few.

        I had kind of predicted you’d feel a little melancholy after your retirement. Who wouldn’t? Given the fact that you’ve been working and have spent time on your company for more than 30 years. But you’re the one who has just reminded me of the valuable lesson and priceless line “It is what it is.” So, we have only the singular choice of always trying to pull ourselves from the pits we repeatedly fall into.

        Take your time. I’m still lagging behind my blog post reading on this site anyway. There are still so many highly interesting articles to peruse and learn from here.

        Yes, I’m definitely a fan. I can’t help it. Your blog is awesome. That you believe I somehow get what you write is a huge compliment for me. It’s also true that a lot of your posts are mega mental challenges. Yet how often can I find a blog like this that is being authored by a responsive, cerebral blogger like you? Our co-bloggers are unfortunately missing out on something really good..

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Actually, the retirement part is wonderful! There is (and always has been) a certain level of life melancholia due to never having achieved fatherhood or (permanent) husbandhood. That’s often balanced by the sneaking suspicion that I may have strong hermit genes, and perhaps some part of me never wanted familyhood badly enough. If I’m totally honest, ‘having someone in my life’ is in the Top Five, but I’m beginning to realize it was never #1. (Laughter and Music probably both trump Love, I’m pretty sure, based on what I’d give up if forced at gunpoint.)

        That balance usually pushes depression over it below the level of making much impact, although there are the “bad days” when it rises up and overwhelms. Usually a good night’s sleep resets things then.

        What I’ve been feeling recently is strictly “blog blah” due to the realization I’m just as much of an oddball outsider here as I am in life. The retirement has triggered thoughts of life review and ‘how do I really want things to be now?’ It’s caused me to re-evaluate my relationship with my (so called) friends… I’m so weary of the blank faces politely listening to me go on about things I love. Somehow I need to find people who can keep up with me — who want to keep up with me (and I with them)! I really thought I’d find more of them on the internet, but my mistake is that the internet is gone, replaced with the interweb, and that’s a much different place.

        But I did find you, and that’s something. (It’s kind of funny, actually. For years my friends have suggested there must be someone out there for me. The comeback line I evolved over those years was, “Yeah, sure, but she’s probably a 90-year-old Chinese woman!” Okay, not 90, and not Chinese, but kinda weirdly not all that far off, either. (7000 miles versus 7800… not much diff! :D))

        You notice the writing itself. Maybe the technical material is sometimes out of your scope, but you notice the writing. We take the art of words seriously (I rarely ever meet people who stress out over using the same word twice in a paragraph). And you’re a thinker with feelings, so we relate on that level, too.

        Maybe I’ll become wildly popular and everyone will be reading my posts… after I die! 😆

      • Lady from Manila

        I’m happy to learn it’s a simple case of blog-blah for you. That you were able to retire before the age of 60 and are presently having complete dominion over your time is enviable.

        You’re right. Even though you’ve been vocal about “detesting” Steve Jobs and Bill Gates for making the world of computers available to everyone, the fact remains we wouldn’t have crossed paths if it weren’t for them. It feels good to have found you, too, dear Wyrd. Honestly, whenever I read your comments section, the more I’m convinced you’re lucky to have some other good pals who also seem to value your presence and what you have to say.
        I believe we hold the same view about friendship: it’s not about the quantity, it’s really about the quality.

        You get enough sleep these days?! Now I’m every inch green with envy.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Very true about quality over quantity; that’s been a principle of mine in life in a number of areas. (But not pizza toppings… there it’s all about quantity! Ideally, you shouldn’t even be able to see the crust through the toppings!)

        I do believe I’ve said part of me hates Gates and Jobs. I certainly do recognize the benefits it’s brought to many (and of course the direct personal benefits, as well). My mom is able to keep in touch with my sister and me through email, and that’s a major blessing for her (she’s about as computer UN-savvy as they come).

        I do have some faithful readers (for which I’m grateful), and they do seem to be of unusually high quality! I’ve met some really interesting and fun and great people here. And from what I’ve seen here (admittedly not a huge amount), WordPress seems very low on assholes. I’m amazed at the kind of comments I see on some boards… almost never see that kind of thing around here!

  • reocochran

    Oh, on another revisit, love the way in the stages of grief, “shit happens” repeatedly.

  • bronxboy55

    I have no answers, WS — just more questions. I do like your use of the omega symbol, although at first I thought they were little headphones.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      That’s the confounding thing about life… questions just seem to lead to more questions.

      I’m of the opinion there should be more use of Greek symbols in blog posts. Gives things a classical look. Or at the least, reminds people of audio gear. Or perhaps college or electrical diagrams… Possibly even movies starring Charles Heston. Very evocative your basic Greek symbols! (And big on Questions, those olden Greeks. No TV, no internet, not even magazines, so they just sat around and thought a lot. Rodin did a statue…)

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