Thursday, October 28, 2010

More TED

I was introduced to the Talking Heads and David Byrne in an introductory Humanities in the basement of the JFSB. We watched a live choreographed presentation of one of their songs. David Byrne spoke the phrase, "Bike riding is faster than a walk, slower than a car, and slighty higher than a human."

I like his style. I was scanning today for some inspiration and came across his presentation of his 1988 hit "(Nothing but) Flowers". Check it out.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

John Wooden on TED

I was eating my turkey sandwich in the Wilkinson Center last wednesday and decided to put the BYU WiFi to use and log onto TED talks. If you haven't seen the website yet, it is a collection of talks and presentations from inspiring people around the world.

I watched a presentation by John Wooden, former UCLA basketball coach. He talked about 'true success'. I really liked it; it was refreshing. Here's the link if you'd like to check it out.

Here were some things I wrote down:

No written word or spoken plea
Can teach our youth what they ought to be
Nor all the books on all the shelves;
It is what the teachers are themselves.

Your reputation is what you are perceived to be, and your character is what you really are.

Giving all, it seems to me,
Is not so far from victory.
And so the fates are seldom wrong,
No matter how they twist and whine,
It's you and I who make our fate
We open up or close the gates
On the road ahead
Or the road behind.

If you become too engrossed and involved and concerned with the things over which you have no control it will adversely affect the things over which you have control.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Flower Gathering

I left you in the morning,
And in the morning glow,
You walked a way beside me
To make me sad to go.
Do you know me in the gloaming,
Gaunt and dusty gray with roaming?
Are you dumb because you know me not,
Or dumb because you know?

All for me?
And not a question
For the faded flowers gay,
That could take me from beside you
For the ages of a day?
They are yours, and be the measure
Of their worth for you to treasure,
The measure of the little while
That I've been long away.
-Robert Frost

I was thinking on my walk to school today about poetry, and this little beauty popped into my mind. I memorized it a couple years back and enjoy reciting it to myself on solitary walks, sometimes. It used to have a lot more meaning for me, especially while I was on my mission and had a girl I liked at home, but even now I can still enjoy its personification of the blossoming nature of absent love.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Life In a Cave

Plato on education:

"Education is not what some people claim it to be. What they say, roughly speaking, is that they are able to put knowledge into souls where none was before. Like putting sight into eyes which were blind.

"Whereas our present account (referring to the allegory of the cave) indicates that this capacity in every soul, this instrument by means of which each person learns, is like an eye which can only be turned away from the darkness and towards the light by turning the whole body. The entire soul has to turn with it, away from what is coming to be, until it is able to bear sight of what is, and in particular the brightest part of it. This is the part we call the good, isn't it?

"Education then would be the art of directing this instrument, of finding the easiest and most effective way of turning it round. Not the art of putting power of sight into it, but the art which assumes it (the soul) possesses this power (sight)--albeit incorrectly aligned, and looking in the wrong direction--and contrives to make it look in the right direction."

The allegory goes that we are all chained up and have been since we came into being. Our heads are fastened and incapable of turning. All we've ever seen are shadows from a puppet show going on behind us (see the above picture), illuminated by a fire burning far on the back wall. We don't see reality, instead, we busy ourselves with the shadows of figurines. True education deals with teachers breaking students out of the chains with which they are bound (societal chains, perhaps), and dragging their peers up the slight incline to the cave's mouth. Our first steps into sunlight would be painful, with eyes only accustomed to darkness. Indeed, we may even angrily claim that this new world isn't reality because we can hardly see it, the outlines of things would be entirely indistinct, because our eyes would have grown so accustomed to the fuzzy outlines in the cave. Not until our eyes adjusted and we saw the world, would we slowly realized that our entire life was spent in a cave. We would see the sun--the good. The source of all light and life--we would realize that the fire which dimly lit our cave was only a sorry representation. The man who discovered the truth would not be satisfied until he could run back and free everyone that still lay chained on the dusty cave floor. Plato argues that only few in life are philosophically minded. He argues that even the majority would fight to stay in the cave, entirely convinced that the philosopher, with eyes now unaccustomed to the dark cave, was foolish and had suffered only impaired vision. The majority would grow impatient and angry, even violent with this man who would threaten their reality.

I loved--loved sitting in class listening to this discussion. It struck a very deep chord with me. We busy ourselves with these "shadows on the wall": money, careers, politics, etc. It must look ridiculous for the philosopher to come down and watch us debating and praising each other for recognizing shapes on a wall. I find it a swell representation of life.

Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire (said Aristotle, I think). We have the power of sight; it's just that our sight is focused on the shadows of shadows. Education is grabbing someone by the head and turning them, and their bodies, and their souls, away from the shadows and toward the absolute reality of the light. The good.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Valid Syllogism

I am in a deductive logic course and have 'arguments' (in the philosophical logic sense) on the brain. I made sure my roommates woke up to this syllogism on our whiteboard this morning:

-Every girl in a BYU ward is in a ward directory.

-Everything in a ward directory is nothing but a picture.

-Pictures are incapable of loving anyone.

-Therefore, Every girl in a BYU ward is incapable of loving anyone.


Subject to refutation.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I woke up yesterday and found this equation on our whiteboard in the living room:

1. time = money
2. money = evil (root of all evil)
3. women = money x time

Substituting 1. into 3.

women = money x (money)
= money2

Squaring 2.

money2 = evil

Substituting 2. into 3.

women = evil

I thought it was pretty funny.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Being Good, Knowing Your Badness

"No man knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good."

"A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation mean. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of the wind by trying to talk against it, but not by lying down. A man who gives into temptation after 5 minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.

"We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means -- the only complete realist."

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

It follows, I think, the worse you think you are doing, the more you are trying. Sometimes I get terribly discouraged about my personality traits and weaknesses and disparage any and all progress and good I've made. To try hard is to feel more deeply the impact of the fall.

Plato's Republic

"You don't, I imagine, call the art of earning a living 'medicine', just because someone becomes healthy while earning a living?"

-"Certainly Not."

"Nor do you call medicine the art of earning a living, do you, if someone earns a living practicing medicine?"

I wish I could have sat by and watched Socrates and Thrasymachus debate over justice. Or rather, watch Socrates dismantle any claim at what justice might be. This snippet from the conversation comes as the two are discussing the precise form of the arts or "skills". They discuss that medicine does not function to improve medicine (as a skill or art), but it functions to improve the body. In the same sense, the art or skill of medicine cannot and does not function to earn on money, but RATHER the art or skill of "making a living" functions simultaneously to put money in one's pocket. Thus, The true form of medicine is to improve the body--and not to make a living.

Now, that point wasn't even a part of the discussion. They were not debating motives. But I like that. Anything we do has a 'true form'. If we study--studying has a true form. A function that does not have applications outside of studying. If we study justly, or purely, we study to the improvement of our souls. If we talk--talking has a true form; probably for no other purpose than communicating purely the thoughts within us. If we do anything, if we study anything, it should be because we wish to do it purely. Study medicine unto the improving of the body, talking unto perfectly communicating, philosophy unto perfectly...thinking?

Which brings me back to the question of what I would like to do with my life. Do you ever ask yourself what kind of brain you have? And when considering a profession, do you choose based upon what kind of brain you have, or what kind of brain you would like to have? What is the most important consideration when deciding what to study? Is it to enjoy it? Is it what comes easy to you? (These two can and often do differ). Should I study what will make me most useful to society, to my family, to my God, or to myself?

If your reasoning convinces me, I will likely change my mode of considering to this, and hopefully be able to blame you for any unhappiness which follows.

P.S. Don't you just love autumn?