Being Okay With Being Meaningless

A problem with objective measures of value.

The major problem, I see, with objective measures of value is the resistance of the individual. The fear that a fully realized conception of objective meaning would render one irrelevant or invalid. I share the pull away from an objective measure because I too fear, not only failing to live up to my own standards, which can be reframed, redefined, and explained away, but living a life deemed unworthy by definition. And the fear that someone outside of myself has the power to label my life as such. But that doesn’t make it a valid position to take, and certainly doesn’t eliminate the possibility that an objective standard does exist.

Making meaning and worth objective will likely diminish the value of many people’s lives, perhaps even my own. In daily life, I, like most other people, can rationalize away my faults and errors in decision making and living. Objective standards will eliminate these excuses, so that the only way to continue with the delusion of meaning in a meaningless life would be equivalent to believing in a flat Earth. One would have to openly live hypocritically and incoherently to the point that his or her opinion wouldn’t be entertained by anyone. Many of us already live this way but can offer strong enough arguments to fool ourselves into seeing value where none exists. Without defined objective standards, we can settle for excuses. At the moment we have nothing better than rationalizations, which are sometimes good, but are usually poor versions of logic. And in the process of reasoning our mistakes away we justify (to a degree) sad and empty lives.

It’s much easier to be dishonest than we realize. It typically doesn’t require any effort at all. Conflicts in our minds are continually resolved without the influence of our consciousness. We don’t need to imagine reasons why we acted one way or another, the reasons are provided for us in our heads, prepackaged and ready for shipment to the outside world. No one is immune from this, but most of us fail to realize it’s happening.

It’s not difficult to be a bad person because so few bad actions people engage in are seen as bad. The majority of people think stealing is a bad thing to do. But the person who steals sees it differently. Perhaps it’s a necessity. Perhaps in his mind the victims deserve it. But few people do bad things thinking what they do is bad and if they do, they have other justifications for it.

But that’s the expected result if we accept poor reasoning for behavior. Platitudes like, “Do what you love” are so vague and meaningless they allow anything to fall under that category. The mentality that we shouldn’t listen to naysayers is the same mentality that allows one to do whatever one pleases with no consideration for how the rest of society is affected by it. Most of the people who use such vapid phrases are harmless, but they don’t see that just because your intention is harmless you can use empty words to justify yourself. If you accept that for yourself, you have to accept it for everyone else.

To eliminate justifications for what is generally thought of as bad ways of life, we have to stop using them for benign ways of life. The way to do that is have an objective standard that takes everyone to task for how they live. Only the strongest positions will survive and should survive. There may be no way to reach an objective standard and the whole endeavor may go nowhere. But at the very least it can increase the level of argument we accept to pass a life as meaningful.

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Being Okay With Being Meaningless

Writing About Thinking About Writing

I haven’t been posting much over the last few weeks. There’s no real reason for this, much of my life has remained constant over that period of time so I can’t pass the responsibility to the busy-ness of life. What I can talk about is the number of posts I have half written. There must be around 15 drafts on wordpress with the beginnings of ideas that I’d like to explore at some point, but haven’t fully formed my thoughts on so can’t figure out which direction I’m going in. And that’s alright. It’s sort of the point of having a blog, for me. Many of my posts go off in directions I hadn’t predicted or introduce some new idea I hadn’t considered.

Right now I’m reading a book called Thinking of Answers by A.C. Grayling. The book is a collection of brief (two to five pages) thoughts on various topics. His point, as stated at the beginning of the book, is not to solve the questions or give a firm answer at all. He just wants to think a little more about these topics and hope that we readers decide to go looking for more when the questions are meaningful to us. I love the concept of it because it’s what so many of us fail to do in every day life. (Those of us with blogs are a little better at this, insomuch as we tend to explore our thoughts or feelings (which can be questionable) on what’s happening in the world and in our personal lives.) I highly value taking time to think. And I highly value being able to see when you’re wrong. I often think we aren’t critical of ourselves. And the entire point of philosophy is to be critical of every thought (sometimes to its detriment).

So I have a post about an impartial observer related to the “turtles all the way down” story. I don’t know exactly what I want to say about it, but I want to say something. I have a post about the limits of human capabilities and why acknowledging them should not be seen as putting a definite cap on those capabilities but a first step to overcoming them. I have a post about life and death and how unimportant and important it is.  Asymmetry. Pornography. Inconsistency.

And, yet, I’ve said little. I think I’m setting standards on what I post and I’m not sure if I should or not. Perhaps I should worry about being incoherent but not so much so that I should be ready to publish.

Writing About Thinking About Writing

Before They Get Me

Everything important seems impossibly intricate. And, at times, even the simplest objectives are complicated by the unpredictable.

Life can be made relatively straightforward and easy, but, for the most part, that sort of life also lacks excitement and a deeper sense of purpose. Walking to a victory diminshes the value of the competition and achievement. But do we, in our hopes to feel we’ve pushed ourselves and grown, over-complicate life? Probably most of us do. How do we know when we are truly enhancing our abilities and when we are creating conflict to feel challenged and important?

I am a single human being in a world of billions. I’ll live for a brief period of time in the vastness of history and geologic time.

In the face of the overwhelming smallness of an individual, what is there in life beyond pleasure? There are good answers but pleasure is by far the easiest. It becomes a question of if we should be willing to settle.

Before They Get Me

A Post About Awareness (Pointlessness)

Am I better off because I’m aware of how unremarkable I am?

We can find patterns in noise if we want to see it.

There’s nothing impressive about rationalizations. In fact, it’s possible the more intelligent and creative we are, the better we are able to hide the truth from ourselves. Being smart doesn’t just mean being able to explain something independent of reality, but being aware of the erroneous ways in which we see the world.

It seems as though we’ve decided to accept explanations for what we do and how we behave regardless of how much or little they actually explain. As long as we offer some words, they pass a shallow examination and are valid. For the most part, that’s fine. Life doesn’t require much more than food, water and shelter. And most of us will never get much more out of life than those things and we hold on to our delusions to keep going. But if we want more than that, or even just to be aware of reality, then awareness needs to increase. In many ways, it might not be possible. The Bias Blind Spot is well established and incredibly hard to break out of. Even when we have platitudes condemning a certain point of view, many people never break free of the problem.

One of the strongest biases I’ve read about is the Lake Wobegon Effect, or Illusory Superiority. The vast majority of us think we’re special. No group I’ve seen tested is immune to this feeling. Over 90% of University professors – who are generally thought of as intelligent – at the University of Nebraska thought they were above-average teachers. Even if professors are no more intelligent than the average person, they do read more academic journals, and are perhaps even aware of this bias.

Is it good or bad or neutral? I don’t really know. If you can become a university professor with this bias strongly intact then I guess it doesn’t hurt. But the majority of people aren’t university professors, or CEOs, or the like. Most of us are regular people going through weird lives full of rather unremarkable events and ideas and beliefs and friends and all the rest. (Same is true for most university professors.) When we’re struggling in some sort of mediocrity, when life is unremarkable, I think these biases really mess with our heads. It can be good in that the biases make us unwilling to settle for less than what we want. But the bad comes in when its an irreversible fact that not everyone can succeed, or be what they want to be. (unless some people truly want, in the most fanciful dreams, to wash cars. it’s worth pointing out that I’m not belittling such work, I’m pointing out that in truth that is not likely someone’s dream job, but more likely a way to fulfill some other aspect of their life, like supporting a family or paying for nursing school or whatever it may be.) When we acknowledge that not everyone who wants to be the lead in the next Avengers movie will get that role, we start seeing the bad parts of our Illusory Superiority. The Concorde Fallacy rears its head.

We don’t truly know how or when to cut our loses and don’t know when we reach our limits. We probably don’t know our limits, and that’s great when we strive for something that looks illogical from the outside, and succeed in hitting our goals. But that story is the exception. The problem is, we all think we are the exception. We are the top. The smartest. The fastest. The most clever.

 

I think this topic can be explored much more than I have done, but I’ll call it here. I should probably proofread this post, but I fear it’s too big of a mess to fix so I’ll present it as is.

Thank you.

A Post About Awareness (Pointlessness)

The Worst of 2015

Alright, like with Adele, I haven’t heard this album, but my position would probably remain the same if I did hear it. I have to once again say that I don’t understand the majority of popular music. I get One Direction, and Katy Perry (not hard, that one), but the appeal of Miley Cyrus is beyond me. Oh the crazy life of millionaires. Do we care because it gives us a taste of what it would be like to be that rich and have so few responsibilities?

Anyway…

I feel responsible to finish this series of posts on music from my year. I’m almost positive no one has read it, though, if you have, thank you very much, I only wish I could return the favor (and silently judge your musical taste HA!).

I haven’t listened to anything this year, on purpose, that I’ve hated. Therefore, to call this a worst of the year list is somewhat disingenuous and I will re-title this,

2015: Disappointing Records That Were Still Relatively Good, Though, Possibly, Simply, Not as Good as I Expected Them to be, Which, Admittedly, is my Own Fault:

(Obviously a terrible title for a blog post)

1. Refused – Freedom

I feel a bit bad putting this album on this list because there was probably nothing Refused could release that would equal their last album in my eyes, ears, heart, and life. Refused released The Shape of Punk to Come in 1998, then broke up. Over the years they grew a huge fan base they never had while an active band. Then they reunited to play a few shows. The communists made some money, then decided to record an album. This rubbed some people the wrong way. I didn’t and don’t care. The album is pretty good. It could never reach The Shape of Punk but that’s my fault.

2. Sorority Noise – Joy, Departed

This album is one of few that actually let me down. They released three or so songs before the album came out and I loved each one. There were two just awesomely fun pop-punk-rock songs and then one heavier, grunge-y song about depression that was equally great. Then the album came out and there are so many slow songs. They aren’t necessarily bad but the album drags so much and, more to the point, let me down. I was excited for a good, fun/serious, almost early Saves the Day style pop-punk-emo. I haven’t heard much of that style for a long time. So maybe it was all expectation.

3. And So I Watch You From Afar

I always enjoy ASIWYFA albums. There aren’t many instrumental bands I can listen to from start to finish, but they are one of them, until this album. I’m not sure what it was that I didn’t like. Some of the songs shred but some fall short for some reason.

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions (Left Off The Best of List for Little or No Reason):

Doomtree – All Hands

Again, slightly inconsistent for me. Not that any part is bad, just doesn’t resonate with me.

Mouse on the keys – The Flowers of Romance

Jazz fusion indie rock from Japan. Haven’t heard enough of it to jump fulling on-board.

Icky Blossoms – Mask

Fun dancey music that I can dig in short bursts. That’s simply personal preference, though, not a comment on the songs/song writing/talent.

Diamond Youth – Nothing Matters

Another that I’m a big fan of but haven’t listened to enough to call it a best of the year. Fuzzy guitars, rock and roll, goodness. (old music video, but I love it)

Tiny Moving Parts – Pleasant Living

Love the technical aspects of this band. I can see their next album being really, really good. Fingers crossed.

The Worst of 2015

The Best and Worst of 2015

 

I’m guessing Adele will be on plenty of Top 10 lists this year, but I haven’t heard the album so she’ll she have to be satisfied with the hundreds of millions of views and albums sales and dollars/pounds.

As for me, my top 10-ish list goes something like this:

1. Hop Along – Painted Shut

I love this album beyond reason. It’s probably my favorite rock album in 5-10 years. It’s complex at times, simple at others. Intense and soothing. It’s everything to enjoy about music wrapped on in one album. Frances Quinlan’s vocals are brilliant throughout and it’s easy to miss how perfect the music is behind her. I’ve listened to this album to death and still find new little guitar parts or drum fills. They don’t repeat musical phrases too often, much like earlier Cursive songs. The solo in this song is my favorite example of how clever their music is.

2. mewithoutyou – Pale Horses

Some people are calling it a return to form since the singer, Aaron Weiss, returned to his earlier style of singing/yelling, but I’ve been a huge fan of their last two albums. This is more good stuff in my book. I dig what they do, and how they somehow avoid sounding repetitive with such a distinct style.

3. The Velvet Teen – All is Illusory

I hope this link works and cuts to the 5:00 mark in the video. It’s the start of one of the most insane songs I’ve ever heard besides EDM shit, which is a bunch of garbage. The difference being people are actually playing this song. That drummer is doing inhuman shit while the keyboardist is somehow keeping up. Anyway, the album is diverse and a bit slow for me at times, but overall just really, really good. I’ve loved these guys for about 14 years now and am stoked at the quality music they keep putting out.

4. Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) – Home After Three Months Away

Here’s your dose of weird little indie rock for the day. Mostly soft, subtle, quirky, clever, intimate songs, but they can explode at times. It’s fun to try to predict where the songs are going. The lyrics are my favorite thing about this band, though I hope that doesn’t take too much away from the song writing.

5. Desaparecidos – Payola

This is the first album that gets a little bit repetitive. I don’t mind it, but it makes the running length of the album feel a little too long. Some political indie rock never hurts though. Most of it is great and if I just break the album into sections and listen to the second half at a different time than the first half then I enjoy all the songs.

6. The Good Life – Everybody’s Coming Down

I haven’t listened to this album as much as I want. The Good Life is from Tim Kasher one of my favorite songwriters of all time. I like this album a lot as a whole and the songs ring especially true for me at this time in my life. Not many people write like Kasher does and he’s taking on purpose and meaningfulness. It’s some heavy stuff. Maybe more music should be. Here’s what Douglas Adams said about writing,

“I think the role of the novel has changed a little bit. In the nineteenth century, the novel was where you went to get your serious reflections and questions about life [. . .] So I think that for the real solid red meat of what I read I go to science books, and read some novels for light relief.”

Music and art, for the most part, was a source for the public to get a taste of philosophy. It’s not really like that too much these days. Pop music and best sellers rarely ask the big questions that philosophers are discussing. I think Tim Kasher is one of the artists keeping the philosophical tradition alive in art. It’s good to see.

7. toe. – Hear You

Quality music. It’s mathy post-rock. What’s not to love about that? This is one of my favorites of the year and makes me realize I paid little attention to the number’s at the beginning of each entry. I’d probably put this at number 3.

8. Screaming Females – Rose Mountain

Good loud, angry-ish, rock and roll music. They throw in a good amount of variation for this type of record. Some surf rock, heavy metal inspired intros, and blaring guitar solos.

9. Laura Stevenson – Cocksure

“I’m fucking hideous and spiteful, when I’m left to my devices.” What a first line of a song, eh? More of a rock record than her last effort, and I’m a bit sad about that. Really good songs still, and great lyrics from what I’ve heard so far.

10. The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die – Harmlessness

I love this style of music. They’ve headed a bit in the rock direction from their 90’s emo-esque style of their last album. It’s not a drastic change though and I can live with it. Some parts don’t mesh with me, but overall the album is creative and from the lyrics I can understand, it’s fairly strong at points. There is a song that seems to be about losing a dog and it makes me tear up pretty hardcore.

 

Bonus

Don’t Stop or We’ll Die – Gorgeous

This is basically a comedy album but with an unusual emphasis on writing good songs. The lyrics are more absurd than jokes in the vein of The Lonely Island or Weird Al.

Harris Wittels was the drummer of this band and he died this year. His death was tough on me for no good reason besides the obvious. First, when someone you respect dies it sucks, regardless if you know him/her personally. Second, I saw much of myself in Harris from his comedy to his opinions on most things (doesn’t help that I also drum) and it made his death hit way too close to home.

That’s good for now.

The worst of the year to come.

The Best and Worst of 2015