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» Hatrack River Forum » Archives » Landmark Threads » What I Have Learned So Far: A Landmark

   
Author Topic: What I Have Learned So Far: A Landmark
Knuckles
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Hi, I am a student, a sometime lurker and a renegade poster on Hatrack.

I just wanted to start off with a bang and post my landmark thread with my first post (with this ID).

This was an assignment from last year that asked us to incorporate some of the books that we had read during the year into an articulation of our belief system.

All comments welcome.


In "Cat’s Cradle", Bokonon creates a religion for the people of San Lorenzo. In that religion, the story of creation goes like this: God made Mud, Mud woke up, looked around and asked “Why am I here?”

The search of “Why?” is a search, no the search, that pervades all human history. All peoples in all times have wondered “Why?” in thousands of ways, degrees and forms. This searching, this drive to understand - mentally, spiritually - the world around us, I believe is inherent in humans.

As in analyzing a book, you must assume the author did things purposefully in his creation, similarly you must assume the Divine Author did things purposefully in creating humans in the universe.

My drive to understand myself and the world around me has been fueled greatly by the varied works that we have read in class this year. The more I have read, the more amazed that I have become at the courage, the vision of the individual writers as they all try to strike through “the pasteboard mask” to find what is true, real, fulfilling: the promised land. It is the land that was promised when we were created. It is the land that is glimpsed when we see/hear/read genius, the expression of the immortal, pure human soul breaching the frailness of the creators’ in their mortal, flawed human form. The struggle that authors epitomize is the search, the struggle to understand “Why?” In reading the great ones, we watch them, feel them, struggle to touch the highest peaks of understanding - struggle, fail and try again - for it is in the searching that we humans succeed, it is in the searching, the struggling that we live out the purpose for which we were made.

While discussing the topic of free will with some classmates, one of them made the comment that “Everything is either genes or environment.” This concept, though I had thought about it before, struck a new chord this time. Can we really attribute our actions to ourselves (whatever that thing, ourselves, is) or is human achievement just arrogance? How much of the decisions we make come from ourselves, our spirit, our unique spark of consciousness and thought? I posed to myself the hypothetical question of identical twins, raised until an early age in identical environments and then put in an identical life situation. I came to the conclusion that those two people, with the same upbringing , the same genes, with every testable piece of data being identical up to the point where the child had achieved a low level of rational thought – that these people would not end up making all the exact same decisions in life. To me, if you believe that those people would end up living the same life - there is really no reason for you to adhere to any sort of system of morals, or principals, or standards and to do so would be hypocritical, arrogant and irrational.

There must be a certain awe and reverence and respect toward every human and their potential and their inherent value. The scientific explanations of when, where, how and why life begins and consciousness occurs are not complete, necessary or relevant to a moral worldview. A human being must err on the side of respect, reverence and awe toward the potential that a human being, in any stage of development represents. A huge reason for the crassness, disillusionment and insensitivity of today’s society is sciences’ insistence of trying to explain human behavior in terms of proteins and amino acids and hormones and traumatic experiences during childhood. In other words, things that are beyond our control. That is not to say that science is bad, but when it comes to humans and their behaviors, there must be a different standard. Humans are the only creatures in the galaxy (known to be) capable of self-consciousness and complex thought, they must be treated as the unique, strange creatures that they are- most particularly among themselves.

The reason why science is so important to humans is that it tries to explain the world in a way that we can understand it. That is what humans do constantly; we try to make sense of the insensible, the random and the incomplete. Humans try to create a way of looking at the world that is consistent, rational and honest; that view cannot escape the setting of our genetic and environmental influences, of which there are plenty, but the only things that matter to we humans are the things that we can change. How much that is, we cannot know, but we should err on the side of taking too much responsibility and pride in our actions and decisions.

In "The Great Gatsby", we see a human named James Gatz who creates a worldview for himself; this view helps guide his decisions by filtering his surroundings, his situation – the facts of his existence – and only bringing to his attention those facts that help him to achieve his goal. James Gatz’ goal is to become Dan Cody, a wealthy playboy who James meets when he is 17. In James’ mind, he will become Jay Gatsby – a wealthy, sophisticated socialite who throws the best parties with the best people. James is a magnetic character, not because of his personality, his persona of Jay Gatsby - but because of his powerful vision that shapes his life, his reality.

Being around a person who is so single minded is intoxicating for another human being. That intoxicating feeling is the sparks of our souls speaking to each other, recognizing the kinship that they share: the ability to create the type of world that they want for themselves. For one soul to sense another soul that is living out its purpose, that is the ultimate attraction.

The thing about James Gatz that is so heartbreaking is the world that he created for himself was an ultimately empty and meaningless place. That is not because he went about achieving his goal in the wrong way, it’s because his goal was wrong. We cannot escape our environment and our genes influence on our worldview. We cannot change the situation that we were born into, the facts of our existence - but what we can and should do is change and shape our lives into a moral, rational world where we can succeed. Civilization was first a dream in someone’s mind before it was reality, and if our sight ever wavers from that goal as a society, then it is impossible for us to sustain it.

In "All the Pretty Horses" we see another character, John Grady Cole, set on finding - creating - for him the place that he sees himself existing in. As we saw with Gatz, Cole seems to have created for himself the dream world he has always wanted, but as we saw with Gatz, Coles’ dream world is also not all what he wanted it to be. His conclusion, as spoken through Alfonsa, is that dreamers – people who try to create the world that they want amid their surroundings, their situation, and the facts of their existence – are “deluded” and sentimental. She says that John and the readers of the book need to value “what is true over what is useful… and by true I do not mean what is righteous but merely what is so.” She sees dreams as “useful” things that help weak humans deal with the “ruthless” world. She rejects the innate human power to create the type of reality that each human desires. In her world, she sees humans as miserable and powerless to change “the way things are”; and so she is miserable and powerless, affirming the principal she meant to reject.

My beliefs are that humans should treat each other with the respect that children of the Divine deserve. The goal of each human should be to search their soul for the fingerprints of their Creator, to figure out what they should be doing with their life, and then go out and do it. People do this by setting certain moral standards and rules among themselves that guide their behavior. But nothing should hold a human back from living in the type of world that they can create for themselves, the power to create endorses the creation. (When I said that nothing should hold a human back from living in the type of world that they can create for themselves, I believe that is true, but it does not sanction murder or other like crimes which inhibit the ability of others to create their own world. What if two visions come in conflict? I believe the person who is more strongly dedicated to their vision will ultimately be successful, no matter the physical consequences of the encounter.)
What is my vision? Right now it’s still a little murky, but I see myself as a leader, in a position of power, making enlightened, balanced decisions based on rational thought and spiritual contemplation. The world that I intend to live in is one in which I can change the outcome for the better, a world where rationality, hard work and ingenuity are rewarded.

A world of this sort may seem far away, but I am certain that I can find it.

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Icarus
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quote:
Humans try to create a way of looking at the world that is consistent, rational and honest; that view cannot escape the setting of our genetic and environmental influences, of which there are plenty, but the only things that matter to we humans are the things that we can change. How much that is, we cannot know, but we should err on the side of taking too much responsibility and pride in our actions and decisions.

Well put. I think free will and personal responsibility could possibly be fictions, but if they are so, then they are necessary fictions. Society seems to fall apart when we absolve ourselves of all responsibility. I think it is necessary to act as though the only agent that matters is the most recent. If I wrong somebody, it may be true that I was predisposed to do this by something in my experience or genetics, and exploring this possibility may well be fruitful for helping me understand how to do better in the future, but as for the present case, I must live as though I am the only one with responsibility for my actions.
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pooka
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My husband loves movies about people who persist in creating their own reality despite the reality being imposed on them by society. Strangely, they are mostly rated R.

Whether or not we actually have free will, it is certain that the "will" imposed by others or groups of others is even less valid. Though personally I believe very much in free will.

P.S. It is really hard to respond to this not knowing who you are.

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Kwea
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Well said, Icky.
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Raia
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Welcome to Hatrack, Knuckles. [Wave]
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RoyHobbs
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Welcome Knuckles, I admire a lot of what you had to say in your paper, it shows a strong moral compass, even if I didn't agree with all of it. [Wink]

Here's to many more fruitful discussions! [Wave]

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RoyHobbs
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*bump* on Knuckles behalf... [Smile]
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pooka
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:eyes RoyHobbs suspiciously:
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