Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

This I believe: part them (final report installment two) (H01)

            In my first post (http://cophilosophy.blogspot.com/2016/11/this-i-believe-part-me-final-report.html) I attempted to illustrait m personal philosophy. For this part, I went into Nashville and, in the spirit of This I believe combined with the Humans of New York*, I asked random people about their beliefs.
*If you aren’t familiar with the Humans of New York project you should check it out at http://www.humansofnewyork.com/. He also post everything on the HONY facebook page if you want to check it out at https://www.facebook.com/humansofnewyork/.
A note:
            I believe I forgot to mention it in my first post, but I personally took all of the photos in both my posts. Several of the nice people I talked to to allowed me to video their response and take pictures of them, and so all of the media in this post was collected by me firsthand.
The meat:
            It was odd—trying to ask people about their beliefs—because people know, but they don’t know they know. At first I was asking people “What is your personal philosophy and why?” and I got a few answers, but mostly people just stuttered out some verson of “I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it,” with various amounts of shame and confusion. My first modification was to try and eaplain what I meant by philosophy, but even that was rather useless.
            In the end the question that seemed the most useful was “What do you believe above all else,” and it’s from that question or some version of it that the following interviews branched.

“I suppose I subscribe to Quasi realism which is, sort of, a result of Humes work, and it’s the idea that what’s right and wrong--I guess it’s the philosophy of ethics; the philosophy of ethics—and um, it’s the idea that what is right and wrong is sort of…the result of the pattern of humanity. There’s no objective correctness (right?); nothings innately right or wrong it’s, sort of, the result of what we do and the decisions we make. You kinda’ don’t find out what’s right or wrong until you do things and we decide that they’re right or wrong.”
Is there any particular reason or event in your life that helped to define your philosophy?
“When I was a kid my parents—not my parents, my mom mostly—used to tell me that, like she one time told me that I would be disowned if she ever found out I wasn’t Christian. So it’s kinda like this idea that you have to be a certain thing and that certain things absolutely or objectively correct and I think that’s just…horrible.

“So I think, I think a natural approach, you know, the idea that there isn’t some sort of outside thing giving us rules of any kind. You know, we came about naturally and there’s no reason that…you know, what’s right and wrong wouldn’t be just as natural.”
This pair was one of the first I spoke to, and he was the first person of the day to give me a coherent response. In fact, of everyone I spoke to, he seemed to be the only one that had ever thought about it beforehand. The girl—I didn’t ask anyone for even their first names—stuttered out the expected “I’m sorry. I’d help if I could, but I just don’t know.”

“Well I’m Christian so I believe in God. And how did I get there? I was raised in a Christian-Catholic family ,um, so I guess my foundation growing up and then, as I got older, I just, I had to make my own decisions. I ,um…well, I stuck with it, and I still believe it.”
Is there any particular event that solidified that belief for you?
“No I never, I never doubted it or questioned it. I think that, as I got older and you go through life events, I think your faith—for some people—becomes more important to them. It helps, kind of, make sense of things and sometimes get you though difficult times. So, uh, it wasn’t really an event, it was just that I think I’ve always believed it and the older I get the more I, the stronger it [her faith] becomes.”
She was one of the last people I spoke to, and also the most suspicious. Although she did let me record her interview, she wouldn’t let me video it, and she didn’t want me to take any photos of her face
She seemed annoyed by my second question. As if the underlying idea that she might have ever questioned her faith bothered or even offended her on a level she couldn’t acknowledge.

“I guess…uh…treat others the way you would want to be treated. The Golden rule. I grew up with it, and it was reinforced though life experiences.”

After some stuttering off camera when I initially asked, and then the tripping over her thoughts that I caught on video—and placed earlier in this post—this nice woman came up with probably the most straightforward of the days answers.

“So the one true thing for me is love, and I think that it was the first thing I knew as a child. It’s what I know with my own child, and it’s what my family and my community continue to show me is true.”

            As I said before, most of the people I spoke to hadn’t really thought about it, and couldn’t come up with anything on the spot. For every person that gave me a response another half dozen didn’t, and of those about one in every six wouldn’t even let me explain who I was and what I was doing. Even so, I had several nice conversations off-camera with people that couldn’t actually answer the question at hand.
            My favorite of the off-camera conversations was one I had with a sweet older lady. I’d started to give her my whole shpele about who I was and what I was doing, and she let me get all the way through it, and even asked me a few more questions about it, but then she started telling me about herself which was perfectly fine. I don’t mind to listen, and so I stood there for at least fifteen minutes while this sweet old lady told me about how she and her husband were Chinese immigrants who’d come to America alone in their teens. How they’d both worked for so long, and hard to raise their children and then put them through college, and how now their ids all made good money and were supporting them. They lived in California, and they were here in Nashville to visit their son and watch their grandson play football. I didn’t catch whether their grandson was in high school or college, but apparently whatever game it was was a big deal.
            My favorite part about her though, the bit that stuck in my head, was how she seemed to genuinely happy. Through it all she kept reiterating how lucky she was, and she seemed to really appreciate what she’d earned and what she’d been given both. When she bid me farewell without having ever answered my question or even take a picture of her I couldn’t help but notice the innocence in her elderly eyes as she smiled at her husband. The crinkle of laugh lines long ago etched in her face made me smile and create laugh lines that aren’t even an echo yet.

          I'm going t leave you with two more quote's. Both are said by Ender in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game series. The first is from near the end of Ender's Game while Ender is trying to explain what war is to him, and the second is from Speaker for the Dead, and requires not even the minimal explanation I gave you for the first. 

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them.... I destroy them.” 
― Orson Scott CardEnder's Game

“No human being, when you understand his desires, is worthless. No one's life is nothing. Even the most evil of men and women, if you understand their hearts, had some generous act that redeems them, at least a little, from their sins.” 
― Orson Scott CardSpeaker for the Dead

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1 comment:

  1. What a bold and potentially risky experiment, glad you didn't encounter any dangerous or threatening people.

    So, random people in Centennial Park mostly hadn't thought about their core philosophical identities? Guess that's not too surprising. We really ought to introduce people to the philosophical life in the early grades, as other more reflective cultures do.

    As for the Card quotes: even Hitler, they say, was kind to his cat. Doesn't make him a good person, but - uncomfortable as this makes us - it does make him human.