Sunday, April 22, 2018

Verne Troyer (1969-2018)


    Verne Troyer, probably best known for portraying Mini-Me in two installments of the Austin powers movie franchise, passed away over the weekend. He was only 49. While the cause of death was not released, a message on his Instagram announcing his passing alluded to depression and suicide. It sounds as though Troyer took his own life. It is always tragic to hear a life ended in such a manner.
     I knew Troyer mostly as Mini-Me. It was a hilarious, career defining character which was both a blessing and a curse for Troyer. The role made him famous, but there was no way for him to escape or move beyond it. While Troyer made a respectable amount of appearances in movies and on television, he was playing some variation of Mini-Me or at least cashing in on the character. With his 2' 8” size, there was not much else for him to do.
     I also know Troyer from social media. He was active on Reddit and the usual suspects Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. He liked to interact with fans, and was particularly good with empathizing with those who talked about the adversities they faced in life. There was usually an air of sadness in Troyer's posts. He definitely suffered from deep seeded pain because of issues surrounding his height. He let it be known he was struggling with issues of alcohol and depression. A stint on a celebrity knock off of The Real World made his personal demons clear for all to see.
     Depression driving one to the point of suicide is no laughing matter. Troyer wrote their hopes people would understand and not make a mockery of Troyer's death. As one who has often been surrounded by those who did not care about my mental or emotional state during my lowest points in life, I understand their feelings. I cannot help but feel melancholy about Troyer's struggle and untimely death.
     Godspeed, Mr. Troyer

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Lowering the Goal Post


     What should be the ultimate goal of humanity? As a Christian, I think the goal of humanity should be to accept the gift of salvation by grace through Jesus. As a Calvinist, that will happen whether it is your goal or not. So the answer, true though it may be, makes for a boring answer. Would you like to try for a more substantive answer?
     I am not certain how substantive it is, but the answer is humanity needs to survive while simultaneously being as humane as possible. There is a goal easier said than achieved. You would think self-interest would involve the big picture of survival, but it does not quite happen that way. Note I said enlightened self-interest. We can ultimately survive as a species with only water, food, and sex even with the vast majority of humanity dying off. But being a little less self-absorbed could help more people survive.
     My answer to the goal of humanity feels like it should be more existential and optimistic. I am just not that optimistic about humans or their ability to overcome any circumstances that come our way. We are a hot meal and a good night's sleep from the collapse of civilization. Just look at how a sleepy, hungry toddler acts. He is not too far from you under the same circumstances. I have low expectations for the sort of goals we as a species can achieve.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Who Wants to Live Forever?


     If you were given the option of being immortal on the condition you could also never die by disease or injury, would you choose immortality? No way. Immortality does not include not aging. Who in the world would want to be old forever? There is also the point the human brain only has the capacity to hold about 400 years worth of memories. After 400 years, you would wind up like Drew Barrymore's character in 50 First Dates—never able to create new, lasting memories. No thanks.
     I answered a similar question a few years ago asking whether i wanted to be Downloaded into an immortal robot body.  Check out the post for more related thoughts.  i assume you already assume most of my answer even though an immortal robot body would eliminate the problems of aging and memory capacity.
     I just do not want to live forever regardless of circumstances.  Why would anyone else?

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Name Blame Game


     Does a person's name affect the person they will become? There is some debate among psychologists whether this is true, but I lean towards the skeptical side. I doubt a elementary school kid named Robin Banks will one day hold up a chain of lenders before the FBI finally catches up to him. With apologies to Shel Silverstein and Johnny Cash, a boy named Sue may not learn to be a tough fighter because of his name.
     Take Rosey Grier. I doubt anyone thinks Rosey is a macho male name. However, Grier is a big, tough guy who played professional football and served as a body guard. Granted, he did not save his client Robert Kennedy from being shot, but he did wrestle the gun away from Srhan Sirhan. Surely that says something about how tough the guy was. Do you want to consider Grier taking up needlepoint later in life a sign of him being effeminate? I do not think so when weighed against the rest of his life experiences.
     There are probably hairdressers out there named Bruno and weightlifter named Francis. Someone would have to be an incredibly weak person to allow their name to hold them back in life. Even if you think it might, change your name. It is not as though whatever stigma you believe you will suffer because of your name cannot easily be eliminated. All that said, parents should not name their kids something stupid. There is no reason to create an unnecessary problem for their kids to solve.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Petty Little Lies


     It is impossible to live a normal life without lying. It might be impossible to go through a single day without lying, especially if you include self-deception. We certainly lie to ourselves must of all. In the Christian viewpoint, the Ninth Commandment forbids lying. The fact we still cannot stop lying even though we are commanded not to do so demonstrates our need for grace.
     We lie to protect ourselves. We lie to be tactful. People can perform some impressive mental gymnastics in order to rationalize dishonesty. So at what point is a liar who is not to be trusted. There is no quantifiable point as to how much a person can lie and what subjects they lie about before that person can be considered a liar. You must decide where the line must be drawn for yourself.
     As for where I draw the line, I have a weird answer. If you have not noticed, I am quite jaded about people. I grew up with alcoholic parents who thought they could hide their drinking problems. I spent much time around Christians who were more interested in keeping up appearances than actually being Christlike. Do I even need to describe my experiences with people while involved in politics and law? I have been lied to all the time. I am sure I am not unique in that, but I seem more willing than most to just say that it is the way it is and go about life and accept people are going to lie to serve their interests. I do, however, avoid the ones whose lies cost me the most damage. So I suppose the amount of damage caused is the criteria for whether a person's dishonesty is toxic.
     Do not take anything I said above as an excuse for lying. I work on my honesty, even when it causes me trouble, and so should you. Because it is the right thing to do even if perfect honesty can never be achieved.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Copy Degredation


      If someone you loved was killed, but another person came along and made a perfect copy down to the atomic level, would the copy be the same as the original person and would you feel the same way about the copy? Before I answer, pause a moment to appreciate how creepy this question is. Are you sufficiently disturbed? If so, I will commence splitting the question into two part in order to answer them.
     No, a clone is not the same person. One cannot clone memories, thoughts, emotions, or the soul of a person. The clone would be an exact copy of the outer shell of a person, but not what makes the person what I loved. The human body is greater than the sum of its parts. All that is cloned by copying a person is its parts. The intangibles will be gone.
     So obviously the answer to the second question is no. I would not feel the same way about the copy. The copy would probably only sadden me further at the loss of the real person because the the outward appearance would be the same, thereby serving as a reminder, but the intangibles would be so different. How cruel would it be to have some you love and not have it simultaneously? It sounds horrid.

Friday, April 13, 2018

For Art's Sake


  Where is the line between art and not art? Yet another highly subjective question, but one with far more contentious potential answers than those previously asked. Along the same vein as one man's treasure is another man's junk, one man's art is another man's trash while someone will think it is obscene no matter what. So the answer to what is art is will be highly opinionated.
     I support a broad definition for art. If it is a creative endeavor meant to evoke an emotional reaction, it is art. It may be offensive art, but it is art nevertheless. The Mona Lisa is art, but so is the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #23 and a nude spread of Anna Nicole Smith in Playboy. I go against the late film critic Roger Ebert and say video games are art. Art does not need to be well done in order to be considered art.
     The only time I question whether something is art is when one must have the 'right” opinion in order to consider something art. For instance, a young artist received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in the '90's for a work involving a Barbie doll standing next to novelty plastic vomit. The piece means nothing unless you know the artist intended it as a protest against how public perception of beauty compels girl's into bulimia in order to remain thin. It is difficult for me to consider it art when my proper reaction must be explained to me after I have already experienced a different one. Art should be open for the observer to experience and interpret for himself.
     Note I never claim whether I like a certain piece as a factor in whether it is art. Too many people think if they do not personally like a work of art, then it is not art. I can and frequently am repulsed grotesque or obscene works of art, but within the bounds of my definition, it is still art. So I view the definition of art in a broad manner.

Friday the 13th

     Check out a classic blog post on Friday the 13th and Confirmation 

Bias.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Living the Good Life


     What does it mean to live a good life? The question is probably the oldest in philosophy. There is no objective answer. I am not entirely certain, given the frailty of man in comparison to the influence of his sinful nature, there is an objective answer even for a Christian. But I am not exploring these question just to say I cannot answer them, so I will give it the best shot I can.
     A good life is one lived within the bounds of Christian virtue and fulfillment. I am speaking of Christlike virtue. I am referring to fulfillment as fulfillment of purpose. The fulfillment may not be personal. It may be God's purpose that is not part of your plan. Given my belief it is always god's will be done, not yours, it is impossible to say how well a Christian will fair under the circumstances of life. A good life is not necessarily a prosperous or even happy one. But it was for the greatest good.
     Note I do not include concepts like comfort, health, or wealth in the equation of a good life. Anyone who does is using a much more shallow definition of “good” than I am. A life in which sacrifices have been made is not necessarily a bad life as long as the good life I described above results from it. The trick is recognizing the question of whether one has lived a good life is, as mentioned above, subjective. There is rarely an easy answer as to whether a life lived was good.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Illusion of Free Will


     Does free will exist or is it an illusion? I must answer the question as a Christian. Inter tingly enough, I never encountered the question of whether free will was real or an illusion until my adult life. The problem was the Christian theology I was most exposed to was fiercely anti-Calvinist. Predestination I supposed made many of the Christians I knew growing up feel like they had no control. I have been a Calvinist for about twenty years now, embrace Predestination, and do not feel too bad admitting things are beyond my control. So take the following analysis with this in mind.
      I believe free will is an illusion. If God knew all the days of you life before you were born, then He knew every decision you are going to make throughout your entire life. God knows the choices you are going to make before you do. If so, then you do not have the capacity to make a free choice. The future has already been established within God’s omniscience. You do not know the choice you are going to make, so you have the illusion of a choice, but you really do not have one.
      Let us make an easy illustration. At some point in your life, you will be faced with a choice between A or B. God knew long before he even created you that you would choose A. If god knew beforehand you were going to choose A, then there is no conceivable way you could choose B. You believe you can choose B when making up your mind, but you cannot. You cannot go against God's omniscience in your decision making. Only your ignorance of the future allows you the illusion of the free will to choose.
     I got into a discussion on free will with a theologian about five years ago. I argu ed the position I argued above. He asked me what if God chooses not to know the choices you will make in life. The obvious answer would be if God chooses no to know something, then He is not omniscient even if he is willfully putting Himself in that capacity. But that would have heated up the discussion more than I wanted, so I just said that was speculation. The theologian conceded it was. I cannot say whether God's willful denial of knowledge to Himself is the best rebuttal—I am not convinced—but there it is. If anyone has something else to offer, feel free to do so.
     Free will is an interesting subject. I will probably revisit it again at some point. The likelihood increases if either I stumble across or someone presents to me a solid rebuttal to my belief free will is an illusion. Brace yourselves for the possibility.