Category Archives: complex things

a unifying theme

I am reading this book.

In one of those pre-chapter vignettes by way of introduction there is a short story. Someone tells the author that he is having difficulty figuring out what the unifying theme of his work is. After a bit of discussion, and after a few people have contributed what they think the unifying theme may be, someone else pipes up.

“How old are you, young man? Late twenties?” He turns to the others. “Fellows, he’s young. Why does he need a unifying theme?”

That is how I feel. I don’t have a unifying theme. Not for this present blog. Not for my life’s direction. Sorry.

Neither a vegan, a baker, nor mom-photographer I be.

I thought a lot of self-discovery was meant to be hammered out in adolescence, and we’d all know what we “want to be” by the time we are fifteen, but I am still working through it. Okay, I only know a few people who are convincedly doing what they think they are meant to be doing. But hey, the school system has to present us with some sort of model and motivation.

Besides the over-arching purpose for my life, I don’t have a clue about things. Sometimes I don’t know what my talents and gifts are. I am not even sure what tell people over small talk when they ask about my hobbies and interests. What am I interested in???

“Is it [the blog] informational? Is it girly? Is it deep? Is it funny?” I don’t know. “What does it all mean?” I don’t know. For heavens sake, I hope it’s not cliche. Whatever. I am sure it’s not all for naught.

My best thoughts and revelations seem to come out of several related conversations and situations and information that at some point converges at an intersection of some new understanding. So this is a good thing. To keep at it anyhow.

To draw the analogy together, I am hoping that as I forge ahead with this blog and with my life that at some point some unifying theme will similarly emerge. Until then, I am having fun anyway.

The book, by the way, is Freakonomics.

the original post is here.


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hard, hard girl

If you read my previous post, you’ll see it was from 2007.

I recently dug up archives of my maiden blog, a little xanga affair begun a year or two before my 2007 post. It’s funny to read it now, how I gush on and on. Surprising too, because I ardently avoided being overly personal with this blog -not that you could tell from my recent postings.

I haven’t had earth-shaking hypotheses or super-intellectual queries lately, and you have to keep the readers occupied. In this old blog, I shamelessly gush about how my day went, what I am thinking, almost like stream of consciousness. It was suitable for me then.

I feel much more guarded now. Just stay back now, and we’ll keep the details sketchy. When I wrote the posts I’ve been reading through, I was a sophomore in university. I had been out of my parents’ house for a bit over six months, and I can still remember how wide-eyed and optimistic I was. My roommates could have told you.

That apartment housed me for three years. Same bed, same window. When we first moved in, I remember wistfully looking out my window. At night, the street light cast a romantic haze on the sidewalk and I could imagine exciting worlds through the glass. By the time I left, I imagined no adventure or worlds.

Generally, I describe me to myself as a pillar of strength unto myself. But not as if that were admirable. Is this my innocence turned shrewd? I don’t think I’m too tough yet. But I’m definitely sporting some awesome armor. A good thing?

And now, despite my better judgment, this is much more first-person than I should wish, but so be it. With any luck, I’ll move on soon, and will post some dry, interesting bit of philosophy.

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First disclaimer: I am writing this on a good day, and my perspective may differ on another day. But I’ve had these thoughts for a while.

You know how some people make lists of what they want to do before they die? You know how people want to get to heaven -but after they have lived a good and full life (and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that).

Now, I have a lot of things that I want to do with my life. I have scores of ideas, and it would probably take a ream or two of paper to write them all day. I keep them confined to short, itemized lists (just kidding. Sort of).

I want things any normal person wants. Find something I like to do.  Get married. Have some kids. See the world, make friends.

But tell me if I’m alone here. Sometimes, not infrequently, I have this thought. If I died today and stood before God, I wouldn’t have any complaints of unfairness. I have already had more than my fair share of opportunities, fun, and good things. Seriously, I’ve been blessed way more than I would have the guts to ask for.

It probably would be good for me to make note of this for when the dark times comes, so I remember that I do feel this way.

But I have thought before, “If I died right now, I would have died feeling fulfilled.” How great is God that He would fill me up so much that I would even think that?

And here is the best part: If I’m still alive, it means that God still has things for me to do. If you’re looking for purpose for your life, that is about as profound as I can think.

I remember hearing the true story of a pastor of a few years ago. He wasn’t too old, maybe in his fifties. He was preaching one morning to his congregation, and was making some point. He said, “I am here to do God’s work and when my part is done, my life will be over!” After he said those words, he did fall down and die. Gee, how great would that be?

And all this reminds me that I’ve been meaning the book The One Thing You Can’t Do in Heaven. I have heard it’s good; can anyone vouch for that?

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“The Wealth of Nations”

.rachel’s grasp on the more complex things of life II.

I am not so bright nor so very dumb. That being said, I cannot decide the best opinion to adopt concerning the present economic situation in our country.

From all accounts, it sounds bad. For the first time in my life, I can see first-hand a few of the effects of a really bad economy. I know that there are a lot of other adverse consequences that I am not experiencing.

I have concerns about the past decisions which led us to this point, and I have great concerns about the decisions that are being made to get us out of this position (to put my general opinion succinctly, FDR’s economic policies are some of my least favorite made by a president). It it’s true that most of the current problem is because the government forced banks to lend to people, that’s just more fodder to my argument that the government should stay out of the free market. Yes, I like John Stossel.

But then again, economies always go up and down.

So how bad is it? Practically, what, if anything, is this crushing amount of debt going to do to our country in a few years? If we’ve carried all right with this much debt so far, won’t we be able to manage however we have up ’til now? Some of the most bleary predictors talk about an economic collapse. Even if that happens, I don’t know what will actually happen to normal people. A few months ago, I heard that Iceland’s economy was completely wrecked, but I haven’t heard any terrible news of people fleeing the country to be able to buy bread.

That much debt can’t be good, though. Can someone explain to me how the country can function even now with such a huge amount of debt? And if it can function, how can more debt hamper progress?

None of my friends are sitting around talking about this. I’m probably the most vocal of my peers. When I was enumerating to a friend the travesty of all the pork-barrel spending hidden in President Obama’s stimulus bill, to placate me, he replied blasély. “What an outrage.”

So maybe, even if it gets bad, it won’t be very bad experientially. In any case, I know it’s not my my prerogative to worry, and the world certainly is not going to end until Jesus makes his second appearance.

I’ve decided this much:

–   Be daily grateful for my two jobs

–   Keep immediately siphoning off ten percent of my paychecks to save

–   Learn more about investing and start to do it

–   Keep honing my budget, disciplining myself to stay within it, and finding ways to save more

–   Read something like Freakonomics, Investing for Dummies, or  An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and reread Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?

Finally, my favorite plan: If things get really bad, move to a developing country and start a small business.

My money will go further and people there are used to a lower standard of living, so adjustments will be easier, rather than American who lives it up and will have farther to fall.

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from evolution to libertarianism

.rachel’s grasp on the more complex things in life.

The organism that is most suited to survive in a particular environment will have more reproductive success, enabling it to survive and/or flourish in that environment. The organism less “fit” for the environment will be less successful at procreation and thus diminish. Fitness is measured by reproductive success. This is the process of survival of the fittest, an integral part of natural selection.

Certain traits are “selected” because they allow the creature to survive in their environment. What is fit for their environment will survive and what is not fit will not survive or, at the very least, not thrive.

Natural selection is a key component to the explanation of the theory of evolution and is widely accepted as factual. (It is worth noting that natural selection, though often coupled with evolution, is not actually evolution and most creationists subscribe to the idea).

As a political philosophy, Libertarianism is free-market and non-regulation to the extreme. It attempts to preserve a “natural” state of competition. It sees government as a necessity which should be kept small and which derives its power from the people it governs. Libertarianism is all about preserving the freedom of the individual.

A libertarian perspective might sound like: I am subject to my government, but I elect my officials. The government is there to provide basic stability and rule to our country, such as have standard currency and protect the country from foreign and domestic enemies and create a rule of law. Other than that, the government has no business being in my business.

Pure libertarians would say that people should be allowed to do whatever they wish, as long as it does not impede anyone else’s life, liberties, or rights. One of the most popular examples would be that drugs would be legal in most cases. The rationale is that an individual has the right to do as he pleases, eve if ti’s to his personal detriment. Of course, libertarians would likely support laws making it illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs (because you’d be likely to interfere with somoen else’s life), illegal for minors to take drugs or for an adult to provide them, illegal for a pregnant women to take drugs, etc.

The government would minimally regulate the economy, wouldn’t stimulate the ecnomy, or interfere with its swings up and down. It’s true laissez-faire economic philosophy. The idea is that things will right themselves better, sooner, and for less money than if the government were trying to do it. Of course, this would not mean that there would not be severe penalties for people who commit criminal acts in the free market.

Libertarianism would have very minimal welfare, believing that the best way to promote and encourage people to achieve is to unburden the achievers by undue taxation as well as that the best way to motivate people at the bottom is to encourage them to move up by making it uncomfortable to stay at the bottom.

In this world, the best, brightest, and most cunning people will rise to the top. The people who have what it takes will survive. The less achieving, less clever will inevitably stay lower on the ladder. In other words, those most fit will survive and thrive. I don’t know if today we’d measure fitness by reproduction, though.

My point is, the most logical political philosophy from a natural selection mentality is libertarianism.

An explanation:
I came up with this thought a few weeks ago, and it’s been a while ’til I could think well enough to articulate it enough to write down. It is still a rather rough sketch, I feel, but I felt good enough to post it after I had my political scientist graduate student big brother read it and he didn’t completely trash it. I hope to publish some of his comments as soon as I get his permission.

Personal Disclaimer:

“I’m just sayin’ what I’m sayin’ and no more.”

If you’ll notice, I tried to simply make a connection between the mindset one would have from an evolutionary/natural selection perspective and what the logical outworkings of that would be politically.

I did not and do not attempt to endorse either philosophy in this little essay. I can write a blog on my political views sometime, if you want, but the reader need not assume that this is one that I hold. And I’ll simply say further, to anyone who reads this and does not know me, I do not accept evolution as the explaination for the origin of man.


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