Thursday, December 22, 2011
'The Day I Lost God' is an article written by my friend, Dori Hartley, in the Huffington Post. She brings up the subject of why, if God exists, is he/she/it so uneven in the treatment of people? I think she hit it on the nose.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Friday, December 16, 2011
Thursday, December 15, 2011
I'll report final grades to the registrar by Monday morning, after which time I'll be happy to respond to queries about what you made on the final etc. etc.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Holidays...
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
311 and Philosophy
A band that has been around for many years but for some odd reason many people have never heard of them. Some might have heard a song or two off of various movies such as “50 first dates”, and “Surfs Up”. What many people have yet to realize is that this band is way more than a bunch of dudes rocking out and putting on a great show. With their powerful lyrics that pursue their listeners to live a new life, this band has started a religion.
I can tell you from a firsthand experience that this religion is embedded into every 311 fan. This past summer 311 had their first annual music festival. The festival was called the “311 Powwow”. The band wanted to show appreciation to their dedicated fans so they called for their biggest gathering ever. With over 30,000 fans from all around the world gathering by the Suwannee River in northern Florida, I learned that the 311 nation was more than just a name for fans. Being a part of the 311 nation meant that you understood the lyrics, and you were devoted to bettering you own attitude and view of others, for your own good.
The band refers to positivity and unity amongst yourself and others. Their lyrics “Come Original”, and “Trust your instincts and let go of regret”, is their way of telling you to just be yourself and go with the flow. The best person you can be is yourself and you should encourage that not only in the way you act but also in you thought process. 311 has very powerful lyrics when it comes to negativity in your life. They help you through the bad times and attempt to make you look on the bright side of things, with lyrics such as “From chaos comes clarity”, and “If there is a shadow in your life then there is a sunshine”.
When you listen to a lot of their lyrics you soon realize that their biggest pet peeve is pessimistic people. People that doubt, hate, criticize, and choose to be bitter, would not enjoy their lyrics. “Fuck the naysayers ‘cause they don’t mean a thing”, “cruise on by the frowners”, “It’s a waste to be a hater”, “the jaded ones will wither while the optimistic ones grow”, are all lyrics that oppose those people that just want to bring you down.
To do “good” is one thing but to do great is another, and my faith in the lyrics of this band makes me feel as if I am taking strides to that standard. “Nothing in life is above being honest”, “Do what’s right and see the good in everybody”, “give thanks and praise to the things you’ve found, humble people not ashamed or proud”.
A band that reaches out for the best in you is a rare one. Many people look past the lyrics that they listen to and I believe that is what corrupts a lot of people today. For me I will always shoot for the greater good. If negativity tries to follow me I will look beyond it and try to find the silver lining. I will always remember that “life is not a race” and that Living is a journey”
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
Here's the final exam schedule:
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Perspective on Humanism
(Dr. Oliver, I don't know if you received my e-mail on Friday with the attachment of this paper, but I just wanted to let you be aware that, as promised, I did finish the paper last week. Hopefully you will enjoy reading it!)
Background: Once again I am forced to ask that you ignore the informality of this essay, if it is really an essay at all. We have already both read “The Essence of Humanism” by William James. Recall that, near the final conclusion, James asserts
A conception is reckoned true by common sense when it can be made to lead to a sensation. The sensation, which for common sense is not so much “true” as “real,” is held to be provisionally true by the philosopher just in so far as it covers (abuts at, or occupies the place of) a still more absolutely real experience, in the possibility of which to come remoter experient the philosopher finds reason to believe.
I was inspired to take the format of conversation for this project by the e-mail you had sent to the whole class before the semester began. You said that we would expound upon James’s theory and see if it would work out. I believe it did.
The summer reading, “Listening is an Act of Love,” is a simple work. Nothing complicated, nothing exceptionally revealing or profound about the real world in which we live. Notwithstanding, the same simplicity and honesty of the conversations allow a passage for a “sensation… for the common sense” that is “real.” We regain a kind of paradise – I think – when we remind ourselves that no story is just simple. At the same token, I interviewed five people on an inspired effort to gain something “real.” These five conversations range in length from moderately long to short. Each participant, myself included, was able to take away something from the conversation. I hope that you do, too. My point to get across is not one of description in regards to James’s philosophy, but one that applies the philosophy to people. It wasn’t an attempt to determine truth (from the last essay, my conclusion was that we couldn’t determine certain truths in the world). Rather, it – again - was to find out what is “real.” Peoples’ stories do a great deal in achieving that, and if I have succeeded in doing so, then humanism will have become ever so more real to me.
Conversation one, between myself and a good friend.
Immanuel Chioco: Alright, I do not exactly know where to begin with this conversation to be honest, but I hope that by the end of it we both gain something significant from it (and, knowing you, I trust that the depth of whatever topic we choose will benefit us both for the better in the long run.)
I did not clearly explain the structure of how this interview will go, so I will do that now (plus, I will be using the same general outline for all five interviews, so it's definitely best that I do it for myself as well.) I've told you many times in the past about the methodology my class has used in my "Honors Introduction to Philosophy" course: the philosophy of "co." It's basically the idea that two heads are better than one, and throughout duration of the semester I've found that this philosophy - which my professor chose to apply this semester - has probably produced more good results than the bad. I will explain briefly.
Early 20th century philosopher William James came up with the philosophy of "co" in the essay "The Essence of Humanism," which I read in preparation for this interview. James said that it is "essentially a social philosophy, a philosophy of "co," in which conjunctions do the work. Note the word "conjunctions" here - in English grammar, we automatically think of "and," or a supplement to a claim that has already been established. (For example, "I am in your room right now typing this up, AND we are also watching cat videos on youtube.) This semester was I placed in a group which consisted of Ryan Parrow, Joe Dorsey, Cody Parton, and Amy Cook. Each class period we would have 20 minutes of discussion. I don't necessarily agree with their philosophies, but I do acknowledge the respectable fact (and the right) that they hold their own. It wasn't just my own views that were being shared, but it was also Ryan's AND Cody's AND Amy's AND Joe's.
The outcome? A boiling pot of ideas from which we were able to better understand each other personally and intellectually learn the material as well. I'm glad that my professor - Dr. Oliver - used this method for the course. It didn't just play a role in group conversations alone, but it was also utilized during class conversations about philosophy (and probably most prominently, the philosophy of religion.) Through it, I was able to modify beliefs, dispose of them, or confirm the beliefs that I had already held.
The last portion of the essay is of most importance: "If a novel experience, conceptual or sensible, contradict too emphatically our pre-existent system of beliefs, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it is treated as false. Only when the older and the newer experiences are congruous enough to mutually apperceive and modify each other, does what we treat as an advance in truth result... In no case, however, need truth consist in a relation between our experiences and something archetypal or trans-experiential."
James continues, "Satisfactory connection of some sort with such termini is all that the word 'truth' means... Our ideas and concepts and scientific theories pass for true only so far as they harmoniously lead back to the world of sense."
Remember our conversation about truth and belief? This is almost equivalent to what we determined - that the truth is still the truth no matter what we think.
Being a political science major, there is a common phrase that we like to use --- "procrustean bed," which is named after the Greek mythological giant Procrustes, who tried stretching or squeezing people in order that they might fit his bed. The main thing to get here that, in an intellectual sense, we need to epoche, we need to sometimes come up with new categories to place "newer experiences." Yes, sometimes it is good to have a label, but sometimes it's fallacious to approach a new experience with pre-categorized concepts. Sometimes we have to doubt what we see. We have to inquire. We have to gain evidence.
And sometimes, perhaps, we simply have to believe. I know I've dismissed some things as being false simply because they did not fit into my pre-existent beliefs, but now I realize that that wasn't the approach I should have used. And, I think, having been very good friends for the past year, we've both had experiences - shared or not - that have affected our own personal philosophies.
Katelyn Stringer: Moo. So, this "co" philosophy has basically taught you to be more open-minded?
Immanuel: You would reply back with, “Moo,” Katelyn . Haha, but since it's you, I will keep the "moo" for the actual paper. I think Dr. Oliver will find it quite amusing. (Do you, Dr. Oliver?)
But on a serious note, being friends with you (as well as Aaron, Julia, Kelsea, and the whole rest of our niche) has been probably been the best thing that has happened to me since enrolling in MTSU. I've greatly appreciated our friendship, and you've definitely had a good influence over my personal philosophy since we met in early January. You know full well the effects both of my roommates last year had on me --- drinking, smoking, and some partying. Sure, I wasn't entrenched in those things, but I got my "toes more wet" than I should have, more than what was healthy for me. Even now, though I don't drink or party, I still sometimes smoke, and I genuinely afraid that that habit will become permanent. Having you around, keeping me accountable of myself, has helped to break those habits. But I just hope that I can break it on my own in the long run.
As for being more open-minded, "co" phi does in a way that you get exposed to more ideas. It doesn't necessarily mean that you will accept them, it just means that they are available for rejection or adoption. I'm not saying that both of my roommates ONLY had negative effects on me (they are both good people), but unfortunately I picked up some harmful ones through the semesters.
Katelyn: Glad to be of service! Yes, but you also were new to college and were therefore more likely to be exposed to that stuff even if you had had different roommates. I have also had to learn through some unhealthy situations that one cannot keep his or her mind open to everything. I do agree that "co" philosophy plays a big role in shaping us as human beings. For example, a hermit who lived by himself for his entire childhood would be very different from someone who was around other people growing up. It is unhealthy to be by oneself for too long. We humans are social creatures after all.
Immanuel: True, but looking back, I am completely shocked at how easily convinced I was into trying those things. You're right in stating that I was new to college and that I was still trying to find a new group of friends back then, but it still doesn't erase the fact that I did some stupid stuff. But I was still able to learn some good things (like tolerance) from people like Vito. Remember him? I love him to death, but goodness knows he DID put me through some hell that first semester of college. I'm surprised I pulled through it, but I learned how to tolerate others more. He also made me a better listener. I hope he was able to also benefit from having me as a roommate, though I don't think I did the best I could have done in reaching out to him.
Katelyn: I feel the same way about Kirsten. (We both had roommates from Holland.) She was so much fun to be around, so naturally I tried to see what it was like to live like her. I am not well-suited to living a life of partying, however. I found that out very quickly. I regret not talking to her more and sharing more of my philosophy with her when I had the chance, but I was simply unsure of myself, too confused to really help her when she came to me for answers that I could have given. I wish I could talk to her now that I have developed my own personality and have more experience under my belt. I fear that any opportunities for heart- to - heart conversation have passed since she now has a boyfriend who hardly ever leaves her side. I have learned to say no since I have been at college though, due in no small part to my supportive friends. In this case, three or four heads were certainly better than my confused one.
Immanuel: The foreign exchange students from last year... Were something else haha. They had such vibrant personalities as compared to this year's students. I miss them a lot. I'm just a little bit sad that I wasn't able to change Vito's mind about America. He came here thinking that all Americans were stupid, and by the time he left he still had that same impression (and sometimes I think he also found me a little dumb as well.) I was hoping to change the image he had of us... but at the same token, I know that he also views us as being human, as being just the same. He's a good person and I haven't talked to him in a while. The last time was in summer and he said that he was very busy because of his internship, though I did see some pictures on his Facebook profile concerning aerospace.
And it's been great seeing you develop the ability to say, "No." I still need to get better at that myself. I think as time passes on, especially with all the different types of people we've encountered at MTSU and other states (we've both lived in the Midwest and South during some segments of our lives... and I have lots of experience from living in the North), we develop and change. We might not notice it ourselves, but I'm sure that other people do. I've become more independent this year, and I've learned how to detach myself from people for the sake of being alone (this to me, though, has to be done with a lot of caution.)
Katelyn: Why do you say that? Solitude can be good for introverts, and even extroverts need a break sometimes. I know I definitely need some alone time after being around a lot of people.
Immanuel: I'm a natural introvert. I have to force myself to be outspoken in public and to my residents being a Resident Assistant. I love my job, though, and it has helped me juggle time between class and work. I think I've gotten a lot better at time management.
And yeah, I do agree that solitude is healthy. Being without is another way of being within. When I'm alone, I find that I am able to reflect back on myself and on my actions. But sometimes I feel that I am being hiding from my residents whenever I am in my room. A resident, Ashlin, told me that. I'm good friends with him (you well already know that), so I don't think he meant it in a hurtful manner. He was just stating an observation.
Katelyn: Me toooooooo! Big crowds wear me out- yet another reason why I'm no good at parties.
Immanuel: But I think you've found a way to make your ideas influential to others, even if you don't like big crowds. We often simply see "influence" as emanating from some prominent figure, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. or Albert Einstein. Not saying that that's wrong - I look up to both of them myself - but I think we are also called to notice the minute details that surround our everyday lives. I haven't done anything significant. I haven't become some world renown figure who everybody reads in textbooks, but I dearly hope that I've been able to give it my all to everybody. And you've done the same. There are plenty of people on this campus that you've blessed with your kindness and generosity. In a way, you are kind of like an "unsung hero."
Katelyn: Why thank you Immanuel! I do not see myself as a hero, but I am slowly starting to redefine my definition of "hero". I used to think that heroes were only in movies and video games and became very disappointed as a result because I felt like nothing I did would ever matter. Now, I have seen people fighting evil in their own way without fancy swords or dashing good looks. Someone may cut through poverty with a sword of kindness or someone may protect someone whom they have never met from harm (this happened on campus about a month ago). These are true heroes- the ones who never receive credit for what they do, yet still make a difference.
Immanuel: There's a quote by Alan Lomax at the beginning of the summer reading, "Listening is an Act of Love," that goes along well with your statement: "The essence of America lies not the headlined heroes... but in everyday folks who live and die unknown, yet leave their dreams as legacies." I feel like the most under-appreciated people in our society are often the ones who make the most difference to how we live. I can explain further if you want me to, but let me go on temporarily.
Throughout our times of hanging out together, you've usually heard me talk about how much of an inspiration my older brother is to me (especially in music and my behavior. I guess it's natural for younger siblings to pick up characteristics that their older siblings leave behind for them), and I know well that you are also close with Chris. I've learned that heroes can be younger than me. I know this is going to sound obnoxious, but I used to think that I always knew better than my younger counterparts. Now that I've grown, I've realized time and again that I can always learn from those people who, by convention, look up to us as examples. Who would you consider a hero that you look up to?
Katelyn: I definitely agree and I think janitors are some of the finest, most unappreciated people in the world because they are willing to do the jobs that no one else is willing to do. They have incredible patience and humility. I have been blessed enough in my life to have many heroes. The thing about humans, though, is that they do fail from time to time. Therefore, my heroes have done heroic things but not all the time. Sometimes they fail, just like everyone else. However, they are still heroes to me because of what they did for me in their finest moments. For example, one of my heroes is my father. Even though he has made mistakes and has acted very immature throughout the whole process of my parent's divorce, he has learned from it and used the whole experience to become a better man. He made a new life for himself with a new family and has made many sacrifices in his own life to provide for his new family and my brother and myself. I have learned to respect him and I now cherish the time I have with him because I now can become a better person through his influence.
Immanuel: I think that you are already a great person, Katelyn. I once listened to a speech a few years ago. The speaker said, “Change yourself in order to become a better person. Yes, keep your memories. Cherish them, but don’t dwell on them. Learn from your mistakes and keep growing in your life. Reach new heights.”
My parents went through a difficult time in their marriage that lasted three or four years. My brother and I had to keep each other close in order to get through it. It didn’t end in the same way as yours, and since then I’ve learned a lot from all of them. I have also learned a lot from you as well.
Conversation two, between myself and one of my residents.
Jonathan Herlan: What are some ideas that you have previously dismissed, which you now find worth consideration?
Immanuel Chioco: Well, one very good example (that definitely applies to this topic) is the practical use of philosophy. I never really understand what a philosopher did. I mean, in middle school I briefly learned about Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and what ideas they had (such as "Plato's Cave"), but in today's world I almost viewed philosophers as being non-existent or, if they were around, they were people who just sat under trees and tried to think about something meaningful to say. Now I see that philosophy can be applied to the sciences, mathematics, and even music. The philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras said that there is perfection in the chords of music (or something to that effect.) There is harmony in music just as much as there is mathematical law in spheres and triangles.
I also had a very good conversation with Katelyn a few months ago about the philosophies of truth and belief, but that's a totally different subject.
I don't think I have formulated an exact philosophy on truth and belief, but I definitely do not think about it the same way as I used to.
Is there anything that you've revised, dismissed, or have confirmed a belief in since last year?
Jonathan: Actually, I was talking with my supervisor the other day at work about money. I still don't think we completely agree with each other, but he helped me think a bit more about the opinion I had of money. I think I gained a better understanding that money is not itself evil, but rather how we use it that makes money such a trap for people. The same could apply to power.
Immanuel: Oh yes, many things, if applied in the wrong way, can mislead people. Even truth can do this, according to how you define it. This is why we have the phrase, "The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." I may be called into the witness stand (hypothetically speaking, of course) to testify, and I may give MY honest account of what happened in the murder, but that's doesn't mean that my honest account is accurate. I could be telling the truth of what I saw, but maybe I wasn't in the right position to correctly see the descriptions of the man running away from the scene of the crime.
I think that a lot has changed since last year, especially in our personal growth and understanding of the world we live in.
Jonathan: I can definitely agree with you about our understanding of the world having grown since last year. And yet I still feel we have so much to learn. But about truth, I want to make sure I'm understanding correctly what you are saying...in my words what you are saying is that there is an absolute truth, but each of us come with our different perspectives of that truth and accept that perspective as the "truth"--even though it really isn't the truth. Is this correct?
Immanuel: Quite right. I believe that there is an absolute truth in Christianity (what I believe in.) More so, in my philosophy class there are several people who assert as truth being relative. However, I must dismiss this assertion because then, by their logic, everything can be considered truth. What then would be false? Imagine everything in the world becoming three times larger. Your nose would be three times larger (as well as your eyes, ears, everything), the Earth would be three times larger, the Sun would triple in heat, and even distance would be three times farther (if you could use that word as a measurement.) Now imagine that that happened all overnight. The fact that that happened would be true.
But would we notice it? This seems to imply that we sometimes don't even realize what truth is when it is right in front of us. Some philosophers would go as far to say that we can NEVER determine truth. However, I DO think that we can know truth.
Jonathan: Me too! I believe that the God of our faith, Christianity, is a universal God. He created all things, therefore all things point to His majesty, and, as a result all things contain inherent truth. Even though we are hard pressed and often confused--at least I am--to determine what is true, truth is still there staring us in the face, as you say above. Why do you think philosophers say it is so hard to determine truth and why do you think we can know truth?
Immanuel: Well, because many of them inquire pressing questions, as they should (considering that they are philosophers.) By truth, I mean it in the empirical sense, at least in the fashion I used it in my last sentence. We gather data from observations and experiments, and based on that data we are able to determine what is true. The sky is blue. That's true, right? You can't dispute that, unless of course there are clouds in the sky and it is raining.
There are people, though, that believe we can't know anything for certain, even if it is right before our eyes. The famous French philosopher Descartes tried answering this problem with the phrase, "I think, therefore I am." He questioned the very existence of his physical body, but with the statement he confirmed that he was indeed real.
Jonathan: That's a good point. You say truth by the empirical sense, are there other types of truth then?
Immanuel: Well, there are perhaps truths that we can't observe. What happens inside a black hole? (Sorry, I love to use this example a lot.) We don't know. Our lack of knowledge does NOT negate the truth of what happens inside. It is directly observable, at least to us. But those things are tangible. What about ethics and morals? Different cultures have different values. What's true to Buddhists, as an example, wouldn't be true to us.
Jonathan: So, would that mean a Buddhist's truth is in fact true while the truth of other religions and other moral standards are equally, at the same time, true as well?
Immanuel: Difficult question to answer, but I'll try to answer as it efficiently as I can. No. I am not saying that. Their belief to them would be true to their perspective, but in reality it might not be truth at all. Like I said, if we accept everything as being true, then there wouldn't be any necessity for there being a category for "false."
For me, it isn't so hard being away from home at college because my home is only three hours away. That's true to me. In a different light, I suspect that you might have some different feelings about it. (Remember what Jonathan Morrow said? He said that objective truths differ from people to people. In a way, they are really just opinions.)
Jonathan: Indeed, my home is thirteen hours away and I miss my family often but my purpose here enables me to feel more confident that being away from them is alright. But I think I would agree with your statement a belief can be true to someone's perspective although, in reality it is false. But this view must not be confused with the example some people like to use about the blind men and the elephant, that all people "feel" a different part of the truth but it is the same truth. I think this example misses the point that those blind men all called the elephant something that it was not. Yes they had different perspectives of it, but they misinterpreted those perspectives. The elephant was an elephant all along, not the numerous other things the men said it was. (The story also implies that none of us--if we are all blind men and truth is an elephant--can actually know the full truth or understand the full elephant. But we must also remember that someone had to not only see the blind men in action but also see the full elephant to tell this story)
Immanuel: I completely agree with you. It's good that you take into consideration of there being an overall spectator over the elephant and the blind men.
And yeah, I understand how you feel about being away from home. Personally, I find it my responsibility to be able to take care of myself now that I'm not under my parents' roof. I like to be somewhat independent and I love challenging myself (which is why I took 18 hours this semester and am requesting a permit to take 19 hours in the spring.) I guess I try to push myself to the limit, and I do this because I'm going to be going through some very tough choices (which, for this purpose, will be left unstated.) In a way, I’m trying to toughen myself up for the future. One needs hard skin in life. I've always looked to you and Juan for inspiration because you two always seem to be on top of things.
Sorry if this conversation was too short for you, but I know that you have some studying to do for finals and I wish you the best of luck. Hopefully you got something (out of any aspect) from this. Thanks for being willing to be a part of this project even though you had no obligation to be. I truly appreciate it.
Jonathan: No problem, Immanuel. Thank you for your honesty with me. I really liked what you said about the perspective of a witness in a court case. I've never heard it explained that way before. Additionally, I feel I can greater respect and understand you now because I know a bit more about how you think and what you think about certain issues. My only regret in this interview is I feel I may have driven the questions more towards you than answering anything myself. I appreciate your willingness to go along with it. I hope your paper goes well and that you continue to seek God's strength as you study for your finals.
Thank you for your encouragement and for your humble servants heart toward everyone around you, it shows even more this semester in our skill as an RA.
Conversation three, between myself and a classmate.
Immanuel Chioco: My family moved for the third time around 15 years ago to a small town in southwestern Michigan called Stevensville. The town was right up along Lake Michigan and across from East Chicago. It took only less than an hour to cross the border from Michigan into Indiana and travel to Illinois (sometimes my Dad would take my brother and I to Chicago on random nights, since it wasn't too far away.) Needless to say, the American way of life is considerably different in the Midwest than it is here in the South. Mid-westerners are a lot more accustomed to cold winters that last from early October to late March, they prefer unsweetened tea, and their education levels are a bit different (especially in New Jersey, where I was born; they start school in mid-September and end in mid-June. I don't know why, but I still find that a bit odd.) Looking back, I learned a lot from the childhood I had up there. I've lived in the South now for 10 years and I've definitely grown used to it (though sometimes it's hard to try and find people to have meaningful conversations with), but in my heart I THINK I'll always relate to the Midwest a little more.
When I was younger I remember many nights when my parents would just sit on the couch and talk to each other in the traditional Tagalog language. My older brother and I don't speak the language, so it was often hard for us to tell what they were saying to each other. I guess the only way we were able to understand them when they were doing this was because we picked up random bits and phrases that we knew and pieced them together. I can picture the house in Michigan almost perfectly - once you entered through the front door there was the living room with three couches positioned right up next to each other. Then there was the dining room, the kitchen, and a room that my brother and I called the "TV Room," but my favorite was the living room. Anyways, I'm getting carried away with myself and the descriptions.
There was this one night when my father, after hearing my brother and I complain about the food we had for dinner, said, "You know, you should be grateful for the food you have. In The Philippines, whenever I said something negative about the food, my parents would make me watch them eat dinner, and I would have nothing. I would have to wait until the next day to have a meal, sometimes even the next night. The life you have here in America is a lot better than the one your mom and I grew up in. Your bus stop is right down the road at the end of the neighborhood. You know what we had, anak? (The Filipino word for "son.") In the city, I had to wake up two hours early for school because I already anticipated that the traffic would be bad. You would have to jump from jeepney to jeepney to see which one was moving because otherwise you would be stuck in the same spot for an hour. And it was even worse for your mother, who grew up in the province. Listen to me anak, I do NOT want to hear you complain about food. Sometimes I would even go to a neighbor's house just to use the restroom." And he went on and on.
I don't know how much I believed his words back then, but I know I didn't give them the attention they warranted. I was too stuck in my own world to realize the truth he had said. Then, when I was 6-years-old, we visited The Philippines together as a family in 1998. We visited both my father's and my mother's sides of the family, most of whom lived in Metro Manila. Manila is, to this day, one of my favorite places to go and visit. It's a roaring city of at least 21 million people (comparable to New York and bigger than all the cities in China, with the exception of Shanghai. I believe Metro Manila is now one of the top ten most populated cities in the world; the Manila district, one of the 17 city districts, is the densest city in the world - there are 9 people per household) and there's always transportation available, whether it be by taxi, subway, jeepney, or whatever. The malls there are also the best ones I've ever been to; the SM Mall of Asia is one of the largest in the world. It also displays a wide spectrum of cultures. Since The Philippines is located near Indonesia, there's been a growing percentage of Filipino Muslims. The people are also really good at English. Because there are so many dialects spoken there, it's sometimes hard for Filipinos from different parts of the country to communicate with each other (each dialect is very different. My mom, who grew up in the north, speaks Pangasinan and Bolinao. However, whenever she talks with my dad she has to talk in traditional Tagalog. Otherwise he wouldn't understand her.) It's a place of blessings and hardships. The nice parts of The Philippines is just as nice as any place that America has to offer, but there's a vast disparity between the rich and poor.
In 1998 I was with my mom and brother driving through several Manila districts. It started raining pretty hard and the road ahead of us became a glassy, blurry image. I don't know what district we were in, but I saw naked children playing in the streets made out of mud. A little further and I saw the slums - just shacks of metal and wood pieced together to make some kind of a shelter. It reminds me of pictures you sometimes see of slums in places like India, a country which also has a broken democratic system of politics. I don't know how people lived there. It wasn't clean, it wasn't sanitary. And I saw bunches of people sleeping under bridges. When we were stuck in traffic, I looked at them intently for a while and they didn't move. They didn't move to the point that I thought they might have been dead. I know some people over there who have been killed in gang fights, and the last time I went there - in 2010 - there were terrorist hostages and beheadings. But in 1998 it occurred to me then that my dad's words were true.
I'm not going to claim that I never complained after that, but I think my brother and I came to appreciate the things that we were given. My parents made it a point to make my brother and I aware of the concept of hard work from an early age, because to come to America they also had to work hard. For my freshman University 1010 class, I had to post several blogs on given topics each week. The first one included a quote from my dad. I don't know how he came to say it, but I know it was during one of those nights when my mom and dad were talking on the couch and they decided to call my brother and I over to them. He said, "Both of you knew from an early age that the world is unfair." I think my brother still remembers that. It's one of those moments I often remember whenever I'm reflecting back on life. Though I've also had to deal with the unfairness of the world (at the same token, don't we all?), I know that my family is always watching me and that they, too, care. It's one of those things where I just try to be thankful for what I have, no matter what circumstances I am in.
Lorel Holsinger: Wow, I hardly think our lives could be more different. I was born and raised here in Tennessee, although my grandparents came from all over the country. That fact and the fact that my best friend's parents are from New York are probably why I don't sport the typical Southern accent. I also traveled pretty extensively around the States as a child because we were home schooled and had lax schedules. But still the fact remains, I've spent a large majority of my life living at the end of a dead-end dirt road, surrounded by 30 acres of forest, on the outskirts of an insular town with a population of about 4,000. As long as I can remember I resented the place and felt a great need to escape. Your stories about visiting the Philippines are amazing; I have never left the country and I absolutely can not wait. I'm planning on studying abroad at the University of Caen in Normany, France next fall :) I never realized your parents were immigrants. My parents were just misguided, rebellious teenagers. My mom got pregnant with my brother her senior year of high school and my dad dropped out to support the family. I'm consistently surprised that they managed to raise us at all, much less do a decent job of it.
Immanuel: Oh wow! Studying in France will be extremely fun. I've only been to a few places in Europe (Amsterdam and Romania... for mission trips), but it was only for a short while because I had to fund-raise all the money used to purchase the airline tickets. Just make the most of your time there because traveling abroad goes by a lot faster than it seems. I was intent on planning to study in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics, but because of a few complications that have arisen it seems unlikely that that will happen :/.
I also felt a need to escape from the towns that we lived in. In Humboldt, where I'm from, we only have one high school with around 450 students, so there's about 100 students per grade (in my graduating class, we only had 95.) The school system was definitely far behind. In my class alone we had approximately 23-24 babies born before graduating high school, and only a handful of us went on to go to college. The class of 2006 scored very low on the statewide writing assessment with the valedictorian scoring the highest (I believe she got a 4 out of the possible perfect 6.) Because of that, our school was under government watch for several years. It was very... ghetto. There's a lot of schools like that in West Tennessee (especially some schools in Memphis, like Manassas), but Humboldt was known for being one of the worst. There were people I went to high school with that are now in jail for murder, and I know several that have been shot in gang conflicts. My brother and I were the only Asians in the school, so that furthered some of the complications in being able to connect to people.
I would have never been able to guess the background in which you grew up. You definitely seem determined in everything you do and very confident in the things you say (from what I've seen in class.) How has your background affected the way you live?
(And yeah, I'm sometimes surprised that my parents were able to make it this far, specifically my mom. Her father still owns the same house she grew up in. Whenever I visit - which isn't often - I still have to pump water out of the well they have in the backyard and heat up, by stove, the water used for bathing. There's no air conditioning and there's an outhouse for the restroom, and almost none of the windows in the house have glass, so it's also easy for bugs to get in. She also had to re-take the tests necessary for U.S. citizenship, even though she passed the first time. There were some weird complications for her coming over here, and it was still very hard for her adjusting to a new way of American life.)
Lorel: Haha wow yep, your school sounds bad. We had about the same size graduating class. Other than the quirkiness of my family, probably the biggest factor in how I act in social situations is the fact that I was home schooled until I was 14. I had a very hard time adjusting to being around people my age. I still tend to connect with my teachers easier than classmates. Being home schooled taught me how to think and how to learn. When I got to school, I didn't know whether I was "smart" or not, and I felt I had to prove myself. I didn't understand concepts like busy work or doing just what you had to in order to pass. I did everything that was assigned immediately and thoroughly. So obviously I made good grades. But I was also marginalized and disliked. I was "the smart kid," "lesbian," "hippie," etc. Soon I learned how to pass in school doing the bare minimum, but I still made all A's because our school resembled a daycare more than an educational center. Unfortunately, instead of telling those kids to go shove it like I should have, I spent the second half of my high school years trying desperately to figure out how to get them to accept me. I joined Student Council, Book Club, Band, HOSA, Beta Club. I bought American Eagle clothes and I wore makeup and I got my hair cut. None of it really worked. I spent a long, unhappy time in high school trying to forget who I was. College has been a wonderful experience in the sense that I no longer feel judged in the same way. Over the past two years I have regained the feeling that it's OK to be weird. :)
Sorry if this letter is coming too late, I forgot about this and was finishing a giant English paper.
Immanuel: It’s totally cool and understandable. No worries. Thanks for telling me this stuff. I never really knew too much about you (besides the fact that you are a Buchanan), even though we’ve known each other for about a year. You’re an amazing person and you don’t have to conform to anybody’s pressure. I know our conversation might not have been too philosophical, but one thing we can both take away from it is that we’ve gotten to know each other at least a little bit more. It was nice having class with you this past semester.
Conversation four, between myself and a professor.
Immanuel Chioco: When did you know that you wanted to be a philosopher?
Ron Bombardi: I was 14 years of age, and found myself sitting up on the bar one evening at a local “teen club” (no alcohol) arguing with all comers that any object whatsoever might be taken to be a work of art (whether beautiful or not). This went on for over an hour, and the next day I went to a bookstore,e and bought a copy of the Viking edition of selected dialogues of Plato… The first of these I read was the Lysis (On Friendship), and I’ve never looked back….
Immanuel: Oh, wow! That's really cool. I haven't read anything by Plato, but I plan to read at least some over Christmas break. In Humboldt, where I'm from (it's a wee-little town), we have a very small public library, but I suspect I'll be able to find a few of his works there. Katelyn Stringer also told me that I can borrow "Sophie's World" (I believe she had to read it for the Buchanan course she took with you last spring), so I'm planning to read that as well.
I don't think I can remember so specifically when I decided what major I would go into for college. I kinda always knew that I wanted to go into law. I guess it's because my parents always told me that I was argumentative with them (and sometimes rebellious... because I argued with them a lot when I was younger.) I was never really too sure, though. Around 8th grade - when I started using the internet a lot more - I went into online forums and tried engaging in political debates with adults. I don't know how successful I was, but looking back, I don't think I used a lot of logic back then in forming my arguments (in fact, I don't think I really even thought much about logic then.) But nevertheless I chose law over music (which was a hard decision. My older brother and I were both trained in classical piano and we both ended the Tennessee Governor's School for the Arts held annually here at Middle Tennessee. He went in 2005 and I went in 2009. My brother was always good at the piano; he was very dedicated to practice. I think he decided from about age 8 that he wanted to be a musician when he grew up. When he perfected a piece, he was honestly one of the best pianists I've ever heard in person. I kinda wish he was a bit more of a perfectionist than what he is, but he still plays beautifully. I still love music, but unlike my brother, I eventually came to the point where I decided that it wasn't my first passion.)
I came to MTSU unsure of whether or not I would end up changing my major. I always dreaded that thought because I didn't want to be a person who spend 5-6 years in university and ended up paying thousands of dollars in debt. However, after taking a few classes the first semester (H. American Government and Politics with Dr. Robb - Rob? - McDaniel and H. Foundations of Government with Dr. David Carleton), I told myself that I had definitely made the right decision. And now that I'm taking more classes that delve deeper into the pre-law program (such as your course) and some international studies, I've found that I have a peculiar joy about studying law and critiquing on how it is applied in many court cases. I think that's why I've enjoyed all my classes this year so much. Last year, I was bored with taking most of the general education courses (H. Astronomy was quite fun! I loved doing the night labs), but now that I've gotten into my political science courses and journalism minor courses, I don't mind at all studying each night for a few hours. That's the same reason why I chose to double-minor in philosophy. With both of my philosophy courses this semester, I found myself reading ahead in the textbooks simply because I found them interesting. I can't say that about most classes.
Would you mind telling me why you think any object may be considered a work of art? I wish I could hold that view (and have often tried), but there are times when I look at a particular photograph or listen to an impressionistic piano piece and I just tell myself, "Boy, whoever wrote this piece (or took the photograph) must have been on some drugs." Sometimes I just can't find the artistic side of some pieces of artistry, if that makes sense.
I also love how you said that you haven't looked back since choosing philosophy as your passion. I hope that I am the same way about political science. From here, I guess I simply just have to strive onward. So far, I'm pleased to say that it's working.
Bombardi: Well, I don't think that anymore, I mean about any object being an object-of-art. Like you, I was a rather rebellious kid, and took great delight in puncturing the generalizations of my parents, kinfolk, and friends alike. So that was sort of an intellectual challenge back then--successfully defending an unappetizing view. Of course, what I was probably arguing was that a person can take an aesthetic attitude towards any object, from a paper-clip to a Picasso. This doesn't at all mean that what you find is beautiful, attractive, sublime, etc. What you find could be quite ugly.
A philosopher of music that I think has a lot on the ball, named David Burrows, argues that we should revise our aesthetic grammar, and rather than call groupings of sound that we abhor, reject, or otherwise resist "bad music," we should call 'em just plain noise, and be done with it. On his view, music is the stuff we take into our hearts and souls, not what we resist and would silence if we could; and I think that's largely right.
Plato both loved and feared the power of music to affect our deepest feelings and motivations: he built a musical education into his blueprint for a well-lived life, but he feared that the wrong music would corrupt the lives of the well-born. He thought, in other words, that music is as dangerous as it is delightful. Here we are, two-thousand years or so later: Would you say his view remains well-founded or not?
Immanuel: I really like the view that David Burrows takes on music. When I was younger I thought that Bach's compositions were ugly because I couldn't connect with any of his pieces like I did with those from the Romantic period (I didn't have much taste for Baroque music back then besides Pachelbel.) However, when I was in 8th grade I played his "Invention No. 8," and from freshman to senior years in high school I played various Preludes and Fugues by him (my favorite was always Prelude and Fugue No. 21 from the Well-Tempered Clavier.) By playing his pieces each year I began to appreciate the technical difficulties of each piece, especially the precise hand coordination necessary for playing the fugues. What's beautiful to me might be a "collection of noise" to some other person (say, a person who doesn't like classical music and only listens to R&B all day); however, it's still music to me because I feel the weight of each note deep down in my soul. I think I would like to adopt Burrows' philosophy on that.
As for Plato, I would say that his views are well-founded, but I don't think that music necessarily leads to corruption if left unchecked in the minds of the youth. Like you stated, music can be both delightful and dangerous. I guess it can be analogous to video games. Video games are fun to play around on, but they can nevertheless incite violence in some people. However, I tend to think that it's the nature of the person that determines whether or not he acts on that violence, and not the video game. There's some music out there (such as protest music) that sometimes calls for the rebellion of the people. People may listen and grasp the message of the lyrics, but it doesn't mean that they will go out and start some kind of a riot. It just means that there's the possibility that they will protest in an unlawful manner. Like any work of art, music plants ideas into our minds, and more often than not these ideas cannot be erased. They are like seeds that eternally dwell in the hearts of people. I guess it's just up to each individual how he acts accordingly.
Bombardi: Plato wasn’t particularly worried about revolutionary or protest music. He was worried that if a genre or even a particular song embodies or expresses ugly emotions or hateful feelings, then it’s possible for listeners who begin enjoying the music may wind up thinking the same ugly thoughts. We give so much of our inner lives over to music, he thought, that music can direct the flow of our feelings and color our values. So, he thought it really isn’t possible for each individual to choose good actions on h/er own, without the benefit of living in a healthy culture. He figured that if somebody grows up in a sick culture, they’ll most likely wind up with sick values.
Immanuel: He makes a good point. Maybe this is instead comparable to how our parents raise us. More than likely we are to adopt the same values and beliefs that our parents hold, such as political party identification, religion (or no religion), and can maybe even effect our work ethic for school. One reason that I am determined to work hard is because I've seen how diligently the rest of my family works. My parents, who are immigrants from The Philippines, grew up in a very different culture and childhood. They basically had to fight their own way into America, and even when they arrived here it wasn't easy for them adjusting to a new society (My Mom always tells my older brother and I funny stories about when she first arrived in New York. One story is when she went to a McDonalds and the cashier asked her, "For here or to go?" She wasn't familiar with the phrase, so she replied back with the only thing she could think of: "To wrap!!!" Another is when she went to the bank to cash a check. She said there was a long line of people waiting behind her. The bank teller asked, "How do you like your money?" Normally the response is, "In $20s, $10s, etc." But instead she said, "Oh, I like it very much, thank you!" So, with all the people waiting behind her, the bank teller had to explain what he had meant. Anyways, I'm getting off the point. I just think that these stories are a little humorous.) My brother, too, has left good tracks for me to follow in terms of work ethic and inspiration. What I guess I'm trying to say is that we tend to be influenced by the things or people that surround us.
As we head off into the last bit of this conversation, I'll allow you to have the final word, but I'd just like to say that I've enjoyed being in your class. It's always good to know how available you always are to your students. I learned a lot from it and I will continue using what I've learned about logical thinking. Sorry for the late reply to this message as well. I've been working hard on other essays and exams that I had this week (one essay I especially used critical thinking in forming a judgment. I had to read several Supreme Court opinions about terrorism issues - such as those from Justices Scalia and Sandra Day O'Connor - and had to form a judgment about their opinions.) Thanks again for volunteering to do this interview. It meant a lot and I hope that you are able to come away from this interview with something beneficial.
Bombardi: Dear Immanuel,
It makes sense to suppose that there was a first word--a very first word, the first utterance ever spoken by anyone; but maybe there will be no last word. If the origin of language lies with paleohumans, then it would have been roughly 50,000 years ago that someone first spoke. But perhaps the story begins much earlier...maybe as far back as 143 million years ago, when the first split-brain mammals began to appear on the earth, but that's too long a story for a short email.
My parents were born to an immigrant culture too, so we share similar exemplars, especially as regards what we call a person's "work-ethic" these days (although I think in my grandparents' day, they'd have simply talked about taking pride in one's work). There's certainly some comfort to be had in knowing that one's values are not entirely of one's own making; that we share our strongest passions and desires with our kin and kind. But it's also rather grim, because it implies, as both Plato and Aristotle thought (being one of the few things on which they agreed wholly), that without a good, primary moral education at home, from birth, a person is more or less confined to living a bad life. In some respects, Freud held the same view. In fact, on a grander scale, we see that the social world is so contingent, so fragile, that were we entirely to lose some facet of our current knowledge for even one generation, it's quite possible that might never re-acquire it again! In other words, what the old cannot hand over to the young must be forever lost. Which, of course, is why education is our greatest human achievement and our best institution of all.
It was a genuine pleasure sharing class this term. Here's wishing you a splendid Holiday Season, and fantastic New Year!
Conversation five, between myself and a co-worker.
Immanuel Chioco: How has being an RA (resident assistant) changed your perspective as being a student-worker?
Amanda Inman: As an RA I don't really feel like a student worker. I pretty much get a lot of perks to "watch" over a floor, but a lot of the people on my floor have become really good friends. I feel more like I get paid to decorate the hall and sit at a desk.
Immanuel: That's sometimes how I feel about it, too (minus those horrid staff meetings sometimes hahaha... I'm really glad we don't have one tonight. I have two papers due and two exams this week!?) A few of my residents have become close friends of mine as well, and there's even a few that randomly leave candy on my door. I sometimes wish they would participate more, but most of them aren't freshmen and so have constructed a "college life" - so to speak - that they are already used to. Like, a lot of them don't hang out in the lobby and, even though I invite them, they don't really like to go to programs. Still, I love them all because they are great people and I can see that they are working hard in their studies.
As for you, I am extremely blessed to have you as a co-worker in the area. I think this position is fitting for you, and I always knew that you would get along with your residents. You also lighten up the mood of the staff meetings a lot, and I always enjoy hearing you and Kristine laugh away at each other. The friendships I've made having this position is probably the biggest benefit of being an RA, and it's one that I wouldn't trade for anything else.
Amanda: I completely agree. The people I've met through this job I probably wouldn't have gotten the chance to meet without it. Like you and I knew each other previously, but I think that we have become closer friends through the job. Chad and Kristine are two people I had never met before who I would consider two of my really good friends.
Immanuel: Certainly. I remember that around this time of last year (it was during December, I know that for sure, and I'm pretty certain that this happened on the Thursday and Friday that's always set off each year for study days) and shot you a text message on my janked up phone telling you about how much I cherished our friendship. And I meant all of it, and still do to this day. Being in Lyon last year, there was almost nobody that I could rely on to support me. The exception was Amylynne (it's her birthday today, by the way!), who eventually moved over to Monohan. I was blessed to have the roommate I had for the Spring. In a way, I'm selfishly thankful, because through him I met Katelyn, who has quickly become one of my best friends, along with Ashlin and Aaron.
I think I've already told you about all the problems I was going through during freshman year. I'm not trying to have some kind of a pity party for myself, but that was a very unusual stage in my life because I rarely have any emotional distress that I let affect me for so long. And it lasted for a while - the whole year, in fact. I normally try to separate my emotions from my academic life so that I won't be distracted from my studies. Though being emotional can be a plus factor (especially in the arts), it does pose a danger to taking over the minds of people and controlling the whims of their decisions. Emotional train-wrecked people are prime examples of that.
I've discovered myself throughout this past semester trying to erase some memories of last year, but yet I realize that I can never fully do that. I just have to accept the past as it is and go from there. We've had several personal discussions in your room. Some of this plays into the topics that we've talked about. Like we've both said before, I think we both like to listen to other people, and that's something that I love about you. You simply take time off from your personal life to assist others, and there aren't many people like that (you're also bubbly!)
I knew Kristine and Chad from last year, but I didn't really get to know them because we were just going about our own lives. Being in staff with them has made me see them from a totally different perspective. I've gained deep respect for each (or, almost all) of the workers on our staff. I'm really glad that your residents love you, I'm thankful that Chad was able to get into graduate school (though there was never really any doubt about that!), and I love the energy that Kristine brings to our group. Laura is another person I talk to on a regular basis. I'm just thankful for everybody. This is sensitive information, but I hope that a certain person in our staff is still here next year. It's been frustrating at times being on duty by myself, but whenever I was on duty with her I enjoyed being in her company.
Amanda: You have no idea how touched I was by the text message you sent me last year. Like it really meant a lot.
I don't know if you remember this or not, but on your chalkboard bulletin board I was the first one to write something, and I put that I wanted to change someone's life. I know that sounds super cheesy but that is really what I want to do, and I think by listening to be I may be presented with that chance.
I honestly cannot imagine what life would be like without the people on this staff. I hang out with the people I work with all the time and I enjoy the company so much. I never thought that I would like my coworkers so much, but I really do. No matter what happens, I know I always have someone to talk to about anything with.
Immanuel: I didn't think it was cheesy at all, and I still think that it's one of the best things that was written on there. I completely agree with your last paragraph.
What do you hope to accomplish next semester? If you could change any one thing from this past semester, what would it be?
(Sorry if these are random questions. I don't pre-meditate at all on what I'm going to say. Almost all of this just... well, pops into my head on the spot.)
Amanda: I really hope that I get into the College of Education by the end of next semester, I mean that is why I am here. There really isn't much that I would want to change about this semester, other than taking a different stats class. For the most part my semester has been really great and I've loved it. But more importantly on things that weren't so great I just have to learn from them because I can't change them.
Immanuel: I hope that you get accepted in the College of Education, too. I think you have a good chance at it. We have the same philosophies about learning from our mistakes. In a way, I think it’s also good to learn from the mistakes of others so that we ourselves don’t have to go through them. I look forward to working with you next semester again.