Archive for September, 2008

Human History Is Written In Blood And Guts—Not Decimal Points

September 27, 2008


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Environmental Stimulus Leads Us Around By The Nose, It’s the Carrot/Stick theory, Go Ask Clarence Darrow; He Believed Man Was No More Responsible For His Conduct Than A Wooden Indian—Only The Toughest And Smartest Get To Perpetuate And Survive

July 10, ‘82

A lot has happened in five days, the highlights of which I am about to relate. The weather got better once I hit New Brunswick. With the wind at my back, I managed a couple of 90-mile days on a good to excellent highway. In New Brunswick I was lucky enough to find two very nice campsites, both of which were in beautiful forests. I am putting all this down on paper while drinking coffee in McDonald’s–an ideal place to write. I passed the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall on the way here, and I need to get down a few thoughts concerning that event before I move on.

People should be consistent within the round of their beliefs, but that consistency has limits. Values and judgments go together, but with new information, sometimes beliefs get challenged, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. When a person values the freedom to question his or her beliefs that person remains open and free. When a person holds beliefs, but is unwilling to stay open to the question ‘why,’ then the mind closes down, and that is a terrible waste.

I met Mike at our preestablished destination, a beach park just outside of Shediac. His bike, however, was on another train. That mistake would need another day to get resolved. No problem, I went to the retail brewery and bought 12 beers, and, at the fish store, I picked up 6 lobsters and a loaf of bread. Mike and I decided to celebrate our bad luck together. I had left my towel and my spare tire on a tree stump at last night’s campsite and Mike had no bike. Nothing could dampen our spirits, though. It was a great feast.

The next day we headed out for Prince Edward Island. We were excited. Behind me, was all of the bad weather, so we took advantage of the good weather by stopping to enjoy the scenery. My favorite stop was the one at the end of the day—that was not necessarily so with Mike. He seemed to enjoy them all. I guess that was why we didn’t get to PEI until almost dark, and, unfortunately, good campsites are hard to find in the dark. We put our tents up in a mosquito-infested farmer’s field. In the morning, before we could pack up, we were hit by a pack of flies. Mike split first. He told me that he would meet me at the first coffee restaurant. It was a bad morning for both of us.

Whoops! I almost forgot about last night’s disaster. When we were looking for a campsite our bikes got tangled, and I went careening over the handlebars. Fortunately, the bikes were okay, and so were we (minus some body contusions), and that brings me to the present. It seems that either Mike or I have made a wrong turn. I’m sitting in the first restaurant that I came to and there’s no Mike. I’m about to backtrack and check out the other highway. Summerside is the next town up, so if all else fails I’m sure we will meet there. I hope this is not another rerun of our last bicycle trip together. On that trip we split up and never did get back together-at least not back together on bicycles, anyway. I know Mike’s shortcomings and he knows mine. I am going to do everything possible to make sure that everything works out on this trip. This is the last time I will see Mike for a long time. After this bicycle trip, he is moving to Kansas City to teach school.

July 12

We didn’t hook up because Mike was out looking for the trout-fishing stream that the guy in the grocery store told him about. We finally found each other at a campground not far from Summerside. Mike was all hyped up about fishing, so after we set up camp, he started to prepare for his fishing trip. Poor Mike, by the time he got it together it was already late afternoon. His disregard for the clock got in the way of his own plans. At the end of the evening, sitting around the campfire, he complained about not having enough time to fish and I was quick to point out that when you ignore the clock things hardly ever work out. I think (hope) Mike has become more time conscious now. I realize that it’s a nice to forget about the clock, but it sure isn’t practical. Even if we were fishless, the six beers he brought back to camp made the disappointment-both his and mine-easier to handle.

This island gets more beautiful all the time. We camped further up along the national seashore last night. We arrived at our campsite late, around 8 PM, but this time it wasn’t bad. We managed to get a campsite because the campground had no hookups. The motor homes found somewhere else to camp. In fact, I’m still waiting for my morning coffee because open fires are not permitted. My pot is sitting on an old cast iron community stove. I haven’t even checked out the ocean yet. I’m helpless without my morning coffee.

Yippee, the crows are cawing, the bugs haven’t surfaced yet, and the sun is out, and my coffee is done. This is just the beginning of what looks to be a great day. Mike isn’t up yet, but I expect him soon. I’ve been thinking about some of my ideas and (there goes a rodent, maybe a marmot?) soon, I hope, I’ll be writing them down. Mike has uncomfortable sunburn, but I think he will survive. He’s also a late sleeper. I had hoped to talk to him about my newly acquired philosophy. Back in Michigan, I gave him a copy of my last paper and he told me that he would read it, but unfortunately he lost it before reading it.

July 14

Hello again. I’m looking out over Campbell‘s Cove; it’s a very nice ocean view. This is the nicest campground so far. It’s to bad that we can’t stay, but, after checking our money situation, we decided to head for Nova Scotia. The weather is beautiful.

Mike and I stayed at Rustico Campground for a couple of days and then biked up the north coast of the island. That part of the island is much less touristed, as it is heavily forested and less populated. Today we will bike down the east coast, and camp somewhere close to the ferry. Oh, before I forget, last night Mike and I spent a very enjoyable evening at a bar, or maybe I should say pub. The place had a remarkably quaint atmosphere. The booths were set into honeycomb walls. The mood just begged good conversation. In fact, that’s when I found out that Mike was a staunch determinist. When the subject of evolution came up, I said “it’s a theory” and he said, “No, it’s a process, which, more or less, selects the changes taking place with regard to the environment.” He also said, “It’s only a theory in the sense that it represents a ‘pattern of claims’ that scientifically explains those changes.” Well, that got the ball rolling because I was quick to point out that creation’s starting point cannot be found in matter.

“Oh,” he said, “and what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing much,” I said, “it’s only that the way we know anything at all is because we relate things to other things, and things are relative.”

“Go tell that to the starving children in Ethiopia,” he said, “or to South Africa’s tortured black activists. I’m sure that will make’em feel a whole lot better!”

“Now wait a minute, that’s not fair, you’re jumping way to far ahead,” I said. “Take length for instance. That concept is fixed only by the operations used to measure it. Identity is the same way; it’s fixed by the conceptual relationships used to oppose it, or by arbitrary labeling. You know, as I know, that our descriptions of the material world, especially at the quantum level, become strained. Your cause and effect assumptions get the kybosh on that level. Indeterminacy rules down there.”

“You’re saying quantum indeterminacy affects human behavior? I don’t think so,” replied Mike. “Human history is written in blood and guts, not decimals. It’s all about power relationships. If you don’t believe me go ask the psychologists. For them environmental stimulus leads us around by the nose. It’s the carrot/stick theory, and the toughest and smartest get to perpetuate and survive. But, knowing you, if you’re still unsure about determinism, go ask a Hindu about karma. In fact, why not go right to the boss–Einstein. According to him causal laws are responsible for everything, including human behavior.”

“Well, you have to admit that indeterminacy, on the quantum level at least, makes it easier to believe in free will,” I said.

“So what,” replied Mike. “Indeterminism is mere chance; it’s not free will! A nerve impulse that is not determined is no more than a random jump. Call it what you will; but an inherited jumble of neurons caught up in socially constructed relationships is nobody’s idea of a free and independent will.

“If that’s true,” I said, “than how can anyone be held responsible for their behavior?”

“That’s precisely what Clarence Darrow asked,” Mike responded. “He believed man was no more responsible for his conduct than a wooden Indian. And, he defended his clients based on that philosophy. Was he successful—you bet! All you have to know is that we are waltzing down the straight and narrow without a clue! That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but if you take it with whiskey, you’ll sleep better at night.”

“But what about moral judgments?” I said, “Is praise and blame really meaningless?”

“Look, I didn’t say I had all the answers,” replied Mike, “I’m not God. If the old man can be found, go ask him.”

“To bad you didn’t read my paper,” I responded. “I’m not saying I have all the answers, but my opinions are legion.”

“Go for it then,” Mike replied. “If you have the answers to philosophy’s perennial questions then be my guest; have at it!”

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I Was Packing Wet Gear Under A Wet Sky, Onto A Wet Bike, In a Wet, Wet, Rainsuit

September 20, 2008

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If People Are Having A Good Time, I Also Am Having A Good Time, Even If I Happen To Be Invisible To The People I Am With-The Opposite Is Also True Unfortunately

June 30

I just finished a can of pork and beans, two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a couple of hunks of cheese, and a couple of cookies and I’m presently working on my second-quart of beer. The sun is shining, it’s 6:30 PM and I’m watching this fisherman who just interrupted my dinner as I was sitting under the bridge, which stretches over part of a St. Lawrence Seaway inlet. He’s presently standing about 25 yards from me, trying to figure out if it’s worth fishing or not. Well it looks like the nots have it, he’s walking away. Sorry fisherman I didn’t mean to spoil your favorite spot.

Well this is a pretty nice end to a not so nice day. Last night it rained and rained and rained. I didn’t have my tent as secure as I would have liked, so I woke up in the middle of the night in a puddle of water. At 7 AM I was packing wet gear under a wet sky, onto a wet bike, in a wet, wet, wetsuit. It rained throughout the morning and around noon it settled into the overcast that I am now experiencing.

Around 3:30 PM I came to a junction in the road with a sign that read “Go this way and your windy, rainy, trip will be 30 kilometers longer, but the scenery will probably make it all worth while.” But, the sign pointing in the other direction read, “Go this way and the traffic will be shitty, the scenery lousy, and you should have gone the other way. However, the trip will be shorter and maybe even dryer.” Well I took the shortcut and wasn’t disappointed. The traffic wasn’t bad, the scenery was real nice, and it was a lot shorter–so that left me in Gaspe, under a peek-a-boo sun, which meant a spot to dry out and catch my breath.

I went directly to the store and here I am sitting on the banks of the St. Lawrence with a quart of beer in my hand. I don’t feel like traveling, so this overpass will have to serve as my home away from home, at least for tonight. Tomorrow I’ll reach Perce. There’s a youth hostel there, which means a shower, and hopefully I’ll get some laundry done.

July 1

Now this is a campsite! I’m nestled in a pine forest overlooking a majestic view of the St. Lawrence Seaway. I’m looking down from a 1000-foot cliff, into a horseshoe shaped bay, with an island consisting of a huge rock just off shore. I’m eating donuts and drinking hot coffee, with more coffee on the campfire brewing. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and there is no wind. Well if this is such an ideal place then why am I so upset? Let me tell you!

It’s not the place that bothers me. It’s the idea. After spending a day with 40 mile per hour winds in my face, I was enthusiastically anticipating my arrival at the youth hostel in Perce. Biking into town, the first thing I saw was the incredibly beautiful rock island out in the bay, and then I saw a sign for the youth hostel. The town itself was a tourist town. That didn’t bother me. Everybody needs to be a tourist once in a while. I was dead tired, though, so I followed the signs–straight up the mountain. The last leg of the hike was on my tiptoes pushing my bike in front of me. Well, mountaintop hideaways are one thing, but when you arrive and find no room at the inn, and then you have to hike all the way back into town to get supplies, well that is a totally different thing—a bad thing. By the time I got supplies and climbed back to my tent it was to dark too see.

As I drink my morning coffee under the sunlight streaming through the pines and gaze out at the quaint little village below me, I want to think of yesterday’s bad luck as just a bad dream. I want to, but I can’t because when I load my bike, I will begin my long track down the mountain, grunting and sweating as I go, pulling my bike back with each grudging step, careful not to let it become an unguided rocket. If I had known how difficult it was to get here (a steep grade sign would have helped) I wouldn’t be here now. Well, it’s time to say goodbye to this cozy little wooded niche. Spilt milk!

July 3

I put up my tent in the rain. Its been storming for the last two days, but I’ve dodged most of them. I just talked to a guy who was wondering what I was doing behind this refrigerator truck. He couldn’t speak English, but when he saw my bike and tent he seemed to think everything was OK. At least I hope he did, anyway he went away. The sooner it gets dark the better.

Yesterday, while it was sunny, I did laundry. Back on the highway I was greeted by 30 mile per hour headwinds. Around 5 PM I encountered a storm front. Fortunately there was a field close by and I got my tent set up just before the rains hit. (The refrigerator truck just kicked on. It’s going to be a real peaceful evening.) The rain lasted through the night, finally stopping around 9 AM in the morning. It was an on off day of rain after that. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last two days. I’m tired of these any port in the storm campsites, not to mention the anxiety I have to go through not knowing whether an evening cloudburst is going to blow my tent away. Needless to say I have not been setting any long distance bicycle records. However, with just a little luck, I think I am still on schedule to meet Mike on the 9th of July. (What’s that I hear?)

Wonderful! I’ve camped next to a drive-in theater. That’s music I hear. The picture just came on the screen. A movie might not be so bad, except for the fact that I have to pee. I guess I’m stuck here in my tent at least until it gets darker. The weather looks good; it seems to be clearing a little. There are still some storms to my left, but they’re moving off. I hope the movie is good. It will have to be because right now sleep sounds more entertaining.

July 5

Yesterday was a good day. I want to say fantastic, but there was too much wind for that. Last night I decided to stay in a youth hostel. I went the whole works, $5.50 for a bed and $3.50 for dinner. The dinner was fantastic–all the fresh smelt I could eat, two types of salad, brown rice, bread, coffee, and homemade raspberry shortcake. All this was served to 16 people setting at a table lit by candlelight coming from three candelabras. Everybody was speaking French. I just sat back and picked up on all the good vibrations. In fact, you might say I was having as good a time as anybody there. I’ve talked about my being able to tune into good vibrations in other journal entries, so I won’t go into that here. But, let’s just say that if people are having a good time, I am having as good a time too, even if I happen to be invisible to the people I am with (unfortunately, the opposite is also true).

P.S. I talked with Mike on the phone yesterday-everything is go!

God Depends On Me For Autonomy While I Depend On God For Being-Here-Now

September 13, 2008


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Start Of Bicycle Trip Of Quebec, Gaspe Peninsula, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, And Back To Michigan

Michigan

June 23, 1982

Hello journal! Here we are again, together. This time we are returning to the Canadian Maritime Provinces to complete my aborted 1977 bicycle trip, and we’ve been on the road for a couple of days already. We spent last night at Mike and Val’s place in Hemlock and now we’re holding up about sixty miles east of Port Huron, in this old abandoned schoolhouse. We could be farther down the highway, but we’re playing it smart. I am not going to repeat my last bicycle trip where my knees gave out because I was too eager. A little conditioning in the beginning will get me farther, even if it’s slow going. Since this is really not the beginning, without further ado, let’s start over.

May 28, 1982

The purpose of this pre-mature journal entry is to fill in some of the space between my last journal and this one. After my last road trip, I was overcome with a need to get down on paper some thoughts I had been entertaining. I wanted to write about the growth I had experienced over the last twelve years, so I started to write a play. The play however was postponed when it turned into a couple of other writing projects instead. Now, three papers on freedom wiser, and two years older, I feel closer to God than ever before.

Most of my conclusions, however, are found in my third paper. In essence, God depends on me, and the rest of existence, for autonomy while I, and the rest of existence, depend on G for our creation. And further, God becomes self-conscious in the human being; therefore, humans represent the freest expression of God’s autonomy. My capacity to discriminate is an explicit form of God’s freedom. On this bicycle trip I will let these newly acquired insights, along with the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of my road trip, sink deep into my conscious awareness.

June 26

Hello again journal. In Sarnia, Canada, I caught the train to Quebec. The baggage transfer on the train was a hassle and the train ride wasn’t all that pleasant, either. I had a roof over my head, but I almost froze during the night. When I arrived in Riviere du Loup at 2:30 AM, I waited in the train station until daylight, and then headed out. The good news was that I was bicycling up the St. Lawrence Seaway and there were many youth hostels along that route. At $5.50 a night, and a warm bed to sleep in, I had no reason to complain.

I’m sitting in the Rimouski hostel right now, writing in my journal. It’s been hard to talk with people. Very little English gets spoken in Quebec. I wish I could speak French. I would like to add, however, that the general overall attitude of the people I am experiencing is much less suffocating than when I was here four years ago; back then eye piercing maliciousness on the faces of the people was the norm. I suspect the two failed referendums on Quebec’s independence had something to do with softening up those expressions. Now I’m seeing more “hi, how are you” greetings, at least in the eyes anyway, and that means a lot.

I started this day out in the rain, and then it turned sunny. I was pushed forward by the wind–a rare occurrence. I’m sure I’ll experience some depression before it’s all over, but for now everything is just fine. Maybe on this trip I will have more good days than bad. Did I just say that? Naw, I must be dreaming!

June 28

It’s 6 AM and I’m sitting in the kitchen of the youth hostel in Matane, drinking coffee. Out the window is a beautiful view of the St. Lawrence Seaway. I think the clouds will burn off as the day progresses, but right now it’s pretty overcast. So far the bicycling has been excellent– sun, wind at my back, and beautiful scenery. I do not have a routine yet. The next youth hostel is 90 miles down the highway. Maybe my routine is about to begin.

June 29

Today it’s been overcast and wet—just a little sunshine. With a 15 mile per hour wind in my face it soon became
apparent that I would not make it to the youth hostel, so I set up camp alongside some power lines. I have a nice view of the
St. Lawrence Seaway, but the black flies are bad, so here I sit in my tent, unable to move, and looking forward to turning in early.

When I biked out of Matane, as I crossed the river, I counted 15 fly fishermen. It was the last day of the town’s shrimp festival. Last night, I happened upon a group of musicians playing French music in the town center. I think I’m really getting a feel for that music. I like it. Oh, and I don’t want to forget to mention the flower gardens of Grand Metis. They were absolutely gorgeous. Rows upon rows of yellows, reds, blues, you name it, the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. To bad the weather didn’t cooperate. Also, in Mont St. Pierre a huge cliff overlooking the water provided a platform for hand glider take offs. I watched from a distance as a couple went airborne. The town itself was nestled in a cove between two large mountains—very beautiful.

Anything That Separates The ‘Other’ From Me Opposes What I Believe

September 6, 2008

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Some People Are Swimming In Freedom While The Rest Of The World Is Sifting Through Mud For Drinkable Water

MV conversation

Future Time

Persistence

“So that was it?” said MV, “No more searching? No more struggle?”

“In that direction, yes,” I said. “Synonymous with struggle is family, however, and that never quits.”

“But you never stopped writing. Why?”

“In a way, I was forced to continue,” I replied, “CMU was trying to privatize my job. With a family to support and seventeen years of seniority about to go up in smoke, I decided to go back to school. As a Sociology graduate student, you might say my metaphysic got socialized.”

“Why Sociology?”

“Why not,” I replied, “it was an extension of Philosophy, and I needed a degree that I could sell. I had the support of the faculty too, particularly the politically left leaning faculty.”

“Did they support your metaphysic?” said MV.

“No,” I replied, “In leftist circles God is not a popular subject. In fact, I never brought it up. It was, however, mentioned once, at a critical point in writing my thesis, and I was told to stay sociological.

“How did you do that?” responded MV. “I mean, how do you write about the experience of God sociologically?”

“Writing a thesis is about using authority figures to back up your ideas,” I replied, “which is what I did; and further, it’s about gathering statistically significant data to back up your hypotheses, which is also what I did.”

“I must be missing something, or are you a magician too?” said MV.

“It wasn’t easy, something like walking on broken glass, but I got it done,” I replied.”

“What was your thesis about?”

“I titled it: Prejudice: Empirical Data Beckoning Toward A Theory Of Self, Ambivalence, And Tolerance,” I said, “and except for the data, which wasn’t as strong as I would have liked, I pulled it off. I was able to say what I wanted to say and back it up with data. It didn’t happen overnight, though, and, like I said, it wasn’t easy. In fact, my first two thesis topics were rejected. They weren’t sociological enough I guess. One, a paper on Structuralism, written in a class that was supposed to help students prepare for their thesis, I got credit for, but it still didn’t fly as a thesis topic. But, I haven’t really answered your question, have I? The fact is I can’t stop writing. For me, it’s an expression of freedom.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I write because I can,” I responded. “It’s my way of being free. I stay close to God that way too. Freedom is about creativity and production, and it’s also about producing quality—things that get better over time and make sense.”

“What’s making sense got to do with it?” said MV.

“It’s a holistic thing,” I replied. “For instance, for me, it wouldn’t make sense to work in bomb factory. That kind of work conflicts with what I believe. Anything that separates the ‘other’ from me opposes what I believe. It’s all about respect for life, and that means that it is ‘wrong headed’ to practice self-promotion at the expense of others. It’s ‘wrong headed’ for anyone–or country— to corner the market on disposable income. It is absolutely wrong for people to fantasize away wealth while billions of people are scavenging food, water, and medicine in order to stay alive. It ought to be, if not people before profits, at least people before massive profits. That’s what I mean by ‘producing what makes sense.’ Life is about choice. It’s about God’s freedom in the here and now. It’s about doing something when something needs to be done—anything less goes against God.”

“All right already,” MV responded, “I see why you’re so partial to leftist philosophies. But all you do is write. How does that save anybody?”

“One becomes free within their means,” I said. “Writing focuses thought, and when thought is focused on God, w
ell, that’s the very best I can do. And besides, I believe in the ripple effect. Writing leaves tracks, and the more tracks, the greater the chance of a path, and after a path, perhaps a trail, one that leads to a ‘political will’– like I said, one becomes free within their means. It’s about doing what you can, and then hope for the best.”

“But you’re not reaching anyone. Ouch!” replied MV.

“That pain, over time, loses its sting. My own friends, on my last bicycle trip, forced that lesson upon me,” I responded. “Back in 1982, I was salivating over the opportunity to tell my friends about my revelations, but very quickly I found that I had nobody to talk to. It was a real disappointment.”

“What disappointment–the bicycle trip or your friends?” said MV.

“Getting people to think outside the box,” I replied. “In fact, after that bicycle trip, I even got tired of hearing myself talk.”

“But the trip, how was it?”

“Just fine,” I said. “In fact, I just recently uncovered that journal, so let’s take a look-see. I think it will be fun.”