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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

From The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt:
There is a strange taboo in our society against ending something merely because it is not pleasant--life, love, a conversation, you name it, the etiquette is that you must begin in ignorance & persevere in the face of knowledge, & though I naturally believe that this is profoundly wrong it's not nice to go around constantly offending people.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Comments on comments

[Please see May 20 post first.]
Daniel said...

I think Lan is missing the point. I don't think being "open-minded" to an activity implies you are going to, or even want to do it. Many men are "open-minded" to homosexuals, but have no desire to have a penis inserted into their ass.
Does the whole debate depend on the definition?
Let me recast the situation so that I'm sure we're talking about the same thing.

The issue I struggle with is that within an ideology that seeks openness--and indeed says that it "doesn't claim to have the answers"--there are still rules that set it apart from other ideologies. Without those rules, we'd all be eating big piles of shit before you know it.

Here's another example: Say I'm the kind of person who considers himself open to lots of different ideas. If a certain group made its goal to--hypothetically--kill all the Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals, I would probably feel like that's the kind of group that I wouldn't want to be open to. Before I know it, I've set up a rule that says something like "I'm open to all ideas except the ones that systematically kill people based on their religion, gypsy status, or sexual orientation." Good idea or not, it's still a rule I'd want to follow pretty rigidly. And that's just the beginning. And what makes that rule better than a rule that says "Join my religion or you're going to Hell"? By what authority?

As a very non-liberal friend said recently:
That side of the spectrum often seems to think that it doesn't have it's own dogmas, doctrines, and excommunicatable offenses. They seem to have a view of themselves as being open to all opinion, but very often they are only open on their own terms. [This is an important idea, I think.] They absolutely believe that there are no absolutes--this creates a really tilted playing-field in dialogue with them, in that they don't or can't recognize their own absolutism.
To address Daniel's comment: If you're "open-minded" to all things, having a penis inserted into your ass is on that list. To say that you have no desire to have a penis inserted into your ass isn't just a preference that most of those guys you're talking about could take or leave. They'd say that they absolutely would not do it. That's a rule--and it's comparable with the issue at hand. A non-credal church, such as my own, does in fact have rules.

My general feeling is that the issue is simply spectral. Traditional religion is on one side, stating that God has handed down rules that tell us how to live, and the details are in the manual. On the other side, more liberal movements--like UU--say that, yes, there are principles and beliefs that one must respect if you want to be a part of our group. But we don't claim them to be the Truth with a capital T. Like most spectrums, there are very few groups who exist in the absolutes on either end. Nihilism is obviously not a religion--what religion is there that believes in nothing?--but it probably lives in the far left corner. Similarly, another non-religion, Communist authoritarianism (or some freakish abstract most closely represented by theocratic North Korea), would probably inhabit the farthest corner of the right. What Daniel seems to advocate is a position not all the way to the left--the downsides of which is pretty much what the shit-eating example was pointing out--but a few steps closer to the center. There are inherent problems with each corner, and the problems grow fewer as you migrate toward the center.
Madge said...
1)There are better arguments against being completely open-minded and 2)Being open-minded to others finding shit-eating to be enriching is not the same as endorsing shit-eating. It's like Voltaire said about freedom: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Freedom, dude. Freedom to let others eat shit.
(1) What better arguments are there against being completely open-minded other than the fact that it leaves you open to accepting absolutely anything? To me, that's the natural consequence of that decision, and ultimately, its fatal flaw. (2) It's true. Being open-minded to others who find shit-eating enriching is not the same as endorsing the practice of chowing down on a big pile of shit. That's where the spectrum comes in. Saluting a guy grubbing on some dookie is pretty far left, I think, but it's a whole different ballgame if you're the one doing the eating.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Check out my sweet new favicon (the little icon in the address bar), thanks to Joey, Honey!
From a recent e-mail:
The whole "the rules are that there are no rules" part of UU--and greater still, of liberalism/"open-mindedness"--is a constant thorn in my side. It's the natural consequence of living on that side of the spectrum. Lan put it this way once:

"If you say you're open to everything, then that means that you're open to eating a pile of shit. Do you want to eat a pile of shit? I mean, if you do it, you'd be staying consistent with your stated beliefs, but--come on. It's a big pile of shit. You have to lay the line somewhere."

I told that to my dad once, and he just looked at me like I was an idiot. Maybe if I used Nazis as an example it would resonate more.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

ES wasn't feeling well today.

"I just took some medicine," she said, "so I'm feeling a little better."

"Sounds like a perfect opportunity for a quickie," I said.

"Are you serious?"

"That depends on your answer."

"I think it might be better if we wait."

"That's OK, I was just kidding anyway."
This weekend I went to a party with ES where they had tons of various party favors. One type of trinket was a candy necklace.

"This is the best-tasting candy necklace I've ever had!" ES said.

"I hear that some women wear candy thongs--like at bachelorette parties and stuff," a nebbish bystander said thoughtfully. "Although I guess you probably wouldn't actually eat them when they're done."

"You might," I said, "if it were a special occasion--like your anniversary or something."

The nebbish guy stood there a moment and thought about it for a minute, looking slightly disturbed. "To each his own, I guess."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

ES called me yesterday when she got home from school.

"My house is part of a crime scene," she said.

I came over, and sure enough, her house was part of a crime scene. The police had blocked off about two square blocks of the neighborhood, the tape going right over her front walk. Her house even showed up in the video that was on the news.

The police only allowed us into the house by escort, and asked us not to come out unless it was absolutely necessary.

"What's going on?" ES asked.

"I can't tell you anything," the cop said.

It turned out that some lady had died in the alley right behind ES's house.

We sat inside for the rest of the night, waiting for the news, which told us pretty much what we had already pieced together.

"She's probably just sleeping," I said.

"You always say that when things are dead," ES said.

"Well, if she's not sleeping, then maybe Eli [her cat] is the only witness, and the cops will have to invent some sort of machine that can read his thoughts to solve the crime."

"Yeah, maybe."

"The end result will probably be that he has his own reality show."

"Shut up, I'm freaked out right now."

"It will be called Eli's Cool Cat Hideaway, and Eli would decide which hottie to vote out of the house each week. The losers will have to sleep in the alley with that lady."