All posts by Philosofer

FMD 3/6/2020: Music For A Quarantine

Well I've got my daughter in the office for the second day in a row - yesterday daycare was closed because of illness and today she's with me because she had a high enough fever that she couldn't go to daycare (though it came down with meds pretty quickly).

And also there's some sort of health related issue in the news?

So: music for a quarantine. Or illness. I suppose that's generally a time when I don't play music. Should I? Would that help a person get better? Is this topic really any different than cabin fever music or desert island music? I dunno.

Thinking About The Good Place

After finishing The Good Place a few days ago, I’ve found that it hasn’t been far from my mind. Obviously the show has some appeal for me, what with all the philosophy talk and such. But I wanted to say a few words, specifically in response to something Nibs said earlier.

Heads up, spoilers may abound. You’ve been warned. Also, this is a bit rambling. Again, you’ve been warned.

Anyway, here’s what Nibs wrote:

I really liked the horror of infinite wish fulfillment as a kind numbing negative thing. I'm not sure that I'm totally sold on their solution to the issue, but it was vastly better than "everything perfect forever" as an ending.

This question – and the whole show really – touches (embraces, encircles, confronts directly) one of the great questions in life: what do we want the afterlife to be?

It’s no secret that I’m a person of faith. I believe in an afterlife. But even if you don’t, I think this question really captures something fascinating about human nature. If you had infinity time, what would heaven be? Can anything infinite even really be called heaven?

The Good Place captured this succinctly, with the happiness zombies in the Good Place, where people were completely numb. Infinite wish fulfillment is, frankly, crap, according to human nature. We crave challenge, growth, improvement, variety, etc. That’s just in our nature. And it is precisely why traditional notions of heaven are so… depressingly boring. Harps and clouds and sitting around with nothing to do. Blech. But even if heaven is infinite wish fulfillment… is that really better? According to The Good Place the answer is clearly “no.”

So what would we want the afterlife to be? It’s actually a topic I’ve spent a long time thinking about, particularly since my sister passed away. Now, I believe in a Heaven and a Hell, and that, in some form or another, what we do on Earth directs what our afterlife might be. But I also don’t super-subscribe to traditional notions of afterlife and that somehow sitting quietly in a church your whole life is what gets you to heaven.

In fact, that notion is part of what helps me think about the afterlife. See, I think life is meant to be lived, not hidden away from. If you want to be a good person, in the truly virtuous sense of the word, that probably means getting out in the world and living life to the fullest. Being a positive influence in people’s lives. Loving. Laughing. Crying. Suffering. There is beauty in struggle. There is something human in pain. If we could just infinitely waive away all unpleasantness, we’d basically be those happiness zombies of the Good Place.

So for me, the test of whether you would get into heaven at all turns less on traditional notions of “good” and more on notions of whether you’ve lived life the fullest in a virtuous way. Did you seize your opportunities to make the world better? Did you push yourself to grow? Did you suffer loss because you had things worth losing?

And I think to some extent, this approach helps address the “problem of infinity.” A person who lives fully is going to be less likely to be bored with the afterlife than a person who just seeks the pleasurable ends. Ultimately, I think the true answer to the problem of infinity is that time doesn’t exist in the afterlife – we’ll all experience it the way Janet does (or maybe as the dot over the ‘i’?) – but I think the notion of an afterlife that fulfills human nature is a heck of a lot more appealing than the traditional notions.

I also think that there is one final smart move that The Good Place made: in having characters walk through that final door, they left the ultimate afterlife as an unknown. Which, of course, it is. But they showed that essence of Eleanor drifting back to Earth and landing on that one guy, who was influenced to bring Michael his mail. That influence itself is a huge part of the afterlife: namely, the way we live on here on Earth, after our lives. We want to have a lasting impact on the people still here (note: the absence of children for all the characters makes perfect sense, but I’d love to see what they’d have done if any of the main 4 had had kids on Earth).

In this regard, too, I think that “living life to the fullest” approach is essential. How many people have impacted your life for the better by sitting quietly and avoiding their own temptations? Probably very few. But how many have impacted your life for the better by either seizing opportunities, living their lives fully, or helping you do the same? And, maybe somewhat depressingly, how many more times could our lives have been better if we’d seized those chances?

Anyway, I’m officially rambling now. But I wanted to get some thoughts down, because they’ve been burning a hole in my head. These are fun questions to think about. And for me the conclusion to be reached – and, the ultimate takeaway from The Good Place – is this:

Life – and the afterlife - is an opportunity to be seized, and Good is in the struggle.

FMD 1/10/20: Best of the Decade Part 2: Make a List?

Alright, as promised (or threatened?), here's part 2 of the best of the decade. Let's have those lists, eh?

Here's my first pass, to get things started (in no order):

1. "Royals" - Lorde
2. "No Roots" - Alice Merton
3. "Shake it Off" - Taylor Swift
4. "Get Lucky" - Daft Punk
5. "Hold On" - Alabama Shakes
6. "Life Ain't Fair & The World Is Mean" - Sturgill Simpson
7. "S.O.B." - Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
8. "Feel It Still" - Portugal The Man
9. "Where the Night Goes" - Josh Ritter
10. "Word Crimes" - Weird Al Yankovic

FMD: 1/3/20 – Songs/Albums/Artists of the Decade – Part 1

There's something about "best of" lists that I - and obviously lots of people - love. I think it's that there's a low-stakes challenge to the task. It's enough that you can be invested in it, while at the same time, it's just opinion, so... fun. Anyway, in that vein, I was thinking we'd look back over the past decade and put together some lists.

I'm making this a 2-part post, since, frankly, I don't think I could complete my list today. And I'm sure people will list other songs that appeal to me, and such.

So my thought process was this - today, let's just heap up a pile of favorite songs, albums, artists, etc., from the 2010s. And next week (and I've not run this by anyone else, but I'm guessing they'll be okay with it? Free? HJ?) we'll try to actually carve out some top 10 lists.

Unless everyone else already has those 10 ready to go... then just drop 'em. Also, drop your random lists.

FMD 11/8/2019: Musical Wishes

Let's try something a little different today... I'm curious about people's musical wishes. That could be anything from "I'd love to see [deceased performer] in concert" to "I wish someone would make a Mama Mia-style musical featuring the songs of Limp Bizkit" to "I'd love to be able to play Classical Gas on the guitar."

I think we've all got these types of musical desires, right? And most of us are not musicians in our own right, such that we could make these things come true. But let's indulge those wishes for a day. What are your musical wishes?

Game 147: Twins at Cleveland

There is baseball. It seems like every time these two teams meet they're heading opposite directions, and then they switch, despite the series going the opposite way. When the Twins took 2 of 3 out of the All-star break, it looked good. Then their lead slowly eeked away. When the Twins hosted the next series it didn't go so well, and Cleveland pulled ahead. But then they swapped right back. Last weekend the Twins came in looking good, and now a week later they're stinkin' up the joint. Since this is the last meeting, it's the right time for the Twins to pass that stink right back to the Indians. Let's hope they can grab a game or two in the process, and then wrap up the season beating on the bad teams.

Let's also hope for some home runs. Max Kepler is back in the lineup, and he's my call to do some damage, along with Sano. Heck, Sano is back too. This is good!

Parentgood: Golden

Today is Aquinas's golden birthday. He's 10. As cliche as it is, I still cannot believe how fast the time has flown by.

Aquinas is the person who brings me closest to understanding the mind of God. I suppose that's what parenthood is, really. Their joy is your joy, their pain your pain. You want for them so much more than you want for yourself. You both see the person they could be and love the person they are. It has been a decade, and the effect this kid has on me continues to grow.

I've documented on the site some of our hard times - his struggles to fit in with kids who aren't much like him, how a small town makes those problems seem bigger, some bullying, etc. I want so very much to take away all of the pain and hardship he faces, or be able to gift him the tools to expertly overcome those problems. But I can't do that. So instead I wanted to take a chance to document just a few good developments too, because there are so many of them, and they feel like they're very much parenting related.

Aquinas was born in D.C., and as his birthday gift Philosofette and I flew out there with him for a trip over Labor Day Weekend. It simply could not have been more perfect. The museums were a tremendous hit. We saw a play at the Kennedy Center. We hung out on the Mall at night ("This is exactly what I pictured!" he exclaimed). He met old friends of ours and their kids, and saw our beautiful old neighborhood. And most important, especially coming from a small town, he was able to broaden his perspective on the world. We know how important this is for him - especially for him, as opposed to some of his other siblings, given his experiences and personality - and being able to deliver... it feels like a real accomplishment.

Aquinas seems to have some genuine creative ability. It's a big reason why we've enrolled him in piano lessons (finally). He's somewhat hesitant towards the lessons themselves, but just in the past couple months he has started tinkering around on his own, and I think it's really growing on him. The idea that we were able to nudge him into something he could be very good at - and enjoy - is incredibly rewarding. Always the balance between pushing too hard and not pushing enough. This feels like an area - at least for now - where we're succeeding in helping him to be the person he could be.

We started Lego League recently. Basically, you build a robot out of legos, and program it to complete tasks. I specifically started this league because our community members need something other than sports, and because Aquinas specifically is one of those community members. This is one of those parenting areas where I'm modelling my Dad. He was my baseball coach, and I remember him staying up late at night after work to watch videos about how to coach, and what drills to run, and things like that. I learned a ton listening to him discuss coaching philosophy, not just about coaching or baseball, but I learned about priorities. What was important wasn't winning or losing. That probably wasn't even secondary. And so when the Lego League opportunity popped up, I jumped. Aquinas can learn those things too, I hope. And hopefully find some other kids, and an activity, that he enjoys in the process.

Anyway... I'm kind of rambling, I realize. This isn't a well-thought out post with a point, other than that it seemed like a good time to share. He's our oldest - our golden child - and it's his golden birthday. What better time to celebrate?

My wish for Aquinas is to be the best person he can be, with all the success, happiness, and virtue that come from so being.