Friday, May 31, 2002


CSPAN has this cool American Writers series.
Cable hasn’t turned off my CSPAN yet. I thought CSPAN was free, but no. You have to pay for it, and I am being ascetic.

But Cable is lazy in following through with my order to turn off my decadent TV programming. So today I got to learn more about Ayn Rand.

I first read Ayn Rand in the summer of ’93. What a momentous summer that was! I loved The Fountainhead so much that I read it at stoplights while driving. I couldn’t put it down!

Rand is interesting, because she is different than just a writer. She is a PHILOSPHER. She started this whole idea of OBJECTIVISM.

I don’t know that much about objectivism, but the essence of Rand’s philosophies is given all throughout her books. It’s a PHILOSOPHY, don’t bother about being realistic.

I had encountered the idea of philosophy once before I read Rand. I had read Francis Schaeffer’s book He is There and He is Not Silent. This was a Christian Apologetic book. That means, it was a book explaining why Christianity is right and true. Previous to my reading Schaeffer’s book, I had never really heard anyone address Christian apologetics. I had gone to chapel every school morning, twice on Wednesday, and then there were the regular church services on Sunday morning and Wednesday night. I had gone to our denomination’s seminary for a year. No apologetics. Just believe!

But Schaeffer…He should have been so over my head, but he wasn’t. He actually had read philosophy, and not just Aristotle. An educated Christian man! I had not encountered such a thing. I was 19 years old, and I was reading this man holding up the bible to the philosophies of Plata, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Sartre and Camus. I had never once heard of ANY OF THESE PEOPLE. But Schaeffer was bringing up their questions and addressing them as if they were important. I ate the book like a lit match eats gasoline.

When I look at it now, I understand it differently than I did then. Sometimes, you don’t know the answer, but just formulating the question can be so satisfying that you almost forget about finding the answer.

I was changed. The world became Eden once again. I laugh now, because I was in a Soviet era town in Yakutia Russia. I was surrounded by grim blank nine-story concrete apartment houses and grim blank grocery stores. I should have been terrified, but I was cherishing every snowflake and sunbeam, because I finally understood that I had a right to question the world and find out why. Everything was fascinating and beautiful, because I could fearlessly examine it.

That was ’92. The next summer, I encountered Rand, my first taste of Philosophy, directly experienced. I loved it. I did not entirely agree, which I also cherished, because I COULD disagree. But I loved her vision of personal strength and no barriers to achievement.

I didn’t want any barriers to my achievement, now that I was back in America. America is SUPPOSED to be a land of no horizons for the brave individual.

Later, when I got to go to the University again (how I love universities!) I took a philosophy class. It filled a slot in my schedule. My education has largely been determined by the convenient time scheduling of class times.

It was also beautiful experience. I remember enjoying the class so much, I thought of it as a lovely faceted diamond. All these beautiful questions and answers, lined up in contiguous sparkling symmetry. They were not perfect, but so much of them were, that you could forgive the flaws.

It was in that survey class that I met Anselm; he had derived the ontological proof of GOD. Philosophies worry about God a lot.

Anselm was from Britain, and he was the head of a monastery. His little monks were asking him questions about God, like “How do we know that God exists?”

Anselm did not bitch-slap them and tell them to have faith. He thought about it. He came up with a well-thought out answer. It is not a fully satisfactory answer, but it’s a pretty good answer. And it was an ANSWER to a question. He respected questions.

I love him for that. In the 11th century, in Britain, Anselm said, “That’s a good question. I will have to think about it.” I am so grateful to his respect of questions, I can never forget about Anselm. I have heard something about some people getting out of hand with the answers, but I will not blame later followers mistakes on the founder

Years later, when I visited Canterbury Cathedral in England, I sought out his grave. I wanted to reverence him.

posted by Murphy 5/31/2002

Thursday, May 30, 2002

As I was at the library today, I stopped and picked up a Career Helper newspaper. That’s not its true name, I don’t remember what its name really was. It was filled with advertisements for getting training to be a dental assistant, and for jobs with “unlimited earning potential—all from your own home!”

There were ads that said “Tired of your dead end job? Become a truck driver!”

“We’re hiring! Join a Security Team in your area! $9.15 an hour starting!”

There are a lot of jobs out there.

“Daily pay for Daily work! $$$$”

The American dream again. Maybe. Daily pay for Daily work. An honest day’s work and an honest day’s pay.

I wonder if I am being a snob because I am horrified and frightened by these $$$$ jobs.

I have a friend who worked at a bookstore as a clerk, and lived happy and free in San Jose at less than ten thousand a year. Her six-figure-earning friend had trouble making ends meet.

I went to the library to get more books to read. Happy happy me, reading books like a mad person now that I can. And I am such a serious little scholar that I’ve taken to making little synopsis notes of what I read, for future reference.

I was laughing at myself as I walked through the biography section. What does this really matter, anyway? Maybe I just need to be networking as hard as I can, to get a job $$$. But after I saw that newspaper, I though, What’s the job for either?

Maybe I should be like my bookstore friend. I could sell my car, get three roommates and live with joy in between the covers of the beautiful books.

Just live with joy, somehow, I think.

posted by Murphy 5/30/2002

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Well, friends. Blogger has been down. I am sorry to be so uncommunicative.

I just finished reading a book by John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley. I’ve had it for a long time, but I haven’t read it because I was busy reading ASSIGNED books. Now that I am free, I am ready to go on a reading rampage.

So. Steinbeck decided, near the end of his life, to take a trip with his dog and find America. It seems reminiscent of On The Road by Kerouac, but without all of the mysticism. In place of it, Steinbeck has down-home philosophy.

It was first published in 1962. America had begun its mass-produced life. Things like plastic and mobile homes are things Steinbeck regards with wonder and suspicion. At that time, mobile homes were the latest innovation. They had not had time to rust and be blown away in hurricanes-- for people to pile rusted car carnage around them and develop trailer park culture.

One interesting difference between Steinbeck’s view of the future and the view now is the great uneasiness about the BOMB. I remember this too, just barely. How everyone lived with the constant fear of nuclear war. It was everywhere, movies, songs, TV, books, conversations. The bomb was a shadow that clouded everyone’s view of the future.

Now, somehow, it is not the same way. I’m not so sure why. Nuclear weapons still exist, and more countries have them now than in the 60s. We are not waging a cold war with the Russians, but I wouldn’t say that Russia is stable, either.

It seems like we just decided to stop thinking about it. It became old news, maybe.

I am reminded of the funerals I have been to—I am thinking of the ones where the deceased was young, and the gathering of friends together for comfort was a gathering of teenagers and 20somethings. It is a shattering thing, that a friend has died, but it is impossible to maintain the attitude of sorrow and seriousness that such and occasion implies. Inevitably, my friends and I would break into some kind of humorous banter. We were torn and mourning but it was just too much to think about all the time.

I think that nuclear war and holocaust is too much to think about. We must move on. Our attention had to go elsewhere.

I don’t know if this is a good thing. I am only looking at what has happened, and I am wondering about it.

posted by Murphy 5/29/2002

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Musings about art and the meaning of life