Sunday, March 30, 2008

(un)belief in humanity

Does someone who believes in God have more faith? More hope? Are they, by in large, better people? More charitable? It seems a lot of those who believe in God think so (e.g. What would you live for without a belief in God or hope for afterlife with your family? Why be moral?) Another possibility, though not inevitable, occurs to me.

To be a good person, continuing to have hope in this life, without a belief in a God or afterlife asserts a genuine faith in the human ability to do good in spite of any retribution or reward. This is in stark contrast to some who believe in God because of their profound distrust in humanity and in their own ability to create meaning. With this in mind, some kinds of belief function to reduce the amazing adventure and wonder around us into a game with a list of rules where we play to win the ultimate prize--eternal life.

I used to justify my own shaky belief in God by citing Pascal's Wager that it's a wise decision to believe in God because as Pascal said: "If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing." The potential costs of belief were mostly lost to me then; now they are ever-abundant--the ease of judging others, justification of environmental degradation, avoidance of ambiguity, a lack of faith in one's self and others to do good for its own sake, the inability to confront one's mortal existence...

There are almost always costs and benefits to any decision we make though I'm not suggesting all those who believe in God necessarily experience these costs, but they are certainly risks. And, of course, there are costs associated with my belief in humanity over a god. To reiterate I do not think all believers experience these costs and, in fact, paradoxically, some use belief to avoid these very costs. But I do assert that there are real risks in an unwavering belief in God and real potential benefits to unbelief or belief in humanity. Amazingly to me these two facts are rarely admitted to.

Pascal's Wager turns on its head for me--a cost/benefit analysis of "belief" puts me squarely in the black with (un)belief in humanity.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Better than sex frivolity

I've been home all day, not getting much of anything done because I'm sick--the first time in at least two years. Not painful sick but sick and tired enough not to work. Thank goodness for March Madness. I'm sittin pretty with the Stanford (love those 7 ft Lopez twins) and Texas on the tv and Davidson (Curry is absolutely amazing) and Wisconsin on the laptop. To top it off I blog or read a couple of pages of Kindred by Octavia Butler when both games are on timeout. Sometimes I love all things frivolous--sports, recliners, technology, and sport star worship. And then being just sick enough to beg off of any work and engage it all.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What I learned while my wife was gone for four days

  1. I don’t mind if the bed stays unmade for days on end
  2. Seven year old son’s fingers get gross if not clipped
  3. Someone signs buttloads of forms for school each day
  4. Getting three kids ready for school by myself on time three days in a row is an amazingly difficult task
  5. I sleep like crap without my wife
  6. After getting kids off to school, dealing with homework, and making/serving dinner, I too am ready for the kids to be in bed at 8:30pm
  7. Single parenthood must be exhausting
  8. My wife and I spend a lot of time talking about the kids, our day, etc.
  9. I can get a lot more reading done when wife is not here (see #8)
  10. Even if I was getting more reading done, I’m very glad my wife is back—I missed her
Note on #1: I "straightened" the bed on the day my wife returned; even though the unmade bed still wasn't bothering me, I'm not stupid.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Rubber Rooms for Teachers and Retirement Homes for Chimps

Did anyone hear the Human Resources episode of This American Life? If not here are a couple of curious items from this recent episode.

Rubber Room

The rubber room in NYC public school district is where they send teachers who get in trouble, but not enough to fire them. Some teachers spend *years* showing up to a room where they sit all day and collect their full pay while waiting a hearing. There are actually several rooms where teachers can go; it seems each room has its own unofficial territory and leadership. And, amazingly, fights often break out concerning the only things—lights, where you sit, level of sound—they have control over. Listening to the absolutely ludicrous nature of this situation had me laughing uncontrollably; at the same time I felt a stinging sense of absolute futility.

The trailer of an upcoming (still seeking distribution) documentary on the rubber room:

See the NY times story about this

Almost Human Resources

A retirement home for chimps which have been used in experiments and as actors. Most include forested lands but some also include human-like environments with televisions and rooms. Many of the chimps have become accustomed to doing human things so they do not want to cut them off from these activities. Charles Siebert, who is writing a book called Humanzee, discusses these strange yet amazing places.

Link to the TAL episode with both of these stories:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Printer Demons

Why do printers refuse to delete unintentional print jobs (like a 55 pages pdf file which you meant to print one page from)?

Why do printers not listen to me when I scream loudly to stop-stop-stop the fuck printing? no more, no mas!!

Why have I had like 102 bad experiences with printers which date back to the early 90s?

Why when I click on delete print job and cancel print jobs does it keep printing?

Why haven't I figured out how to put our home printer on a network so I wouldn't have to plug into said printer every time I need to print something?

Why do I always forget, when taking my laptop to the printer, to disconnect my I-pod which goes a flyin and causes me to cuss loudly?

Why do printers seem to have some sort of vendetta against you when you decide to cancel a print job? "NO, I will print every god damn page of this 83 page document! And I don't care if you turn me off or unplug me or jiggle me or open me up or or scream at me--come hell or high water I'm printing this. You said you wanted it and by damn you are getting it!"

Well, looks like it's done printing. There's no ink left and, well, no paper left but at least I got that one page I needed. Kind of an expensive page when you think about it but thank goodness we have the technological capability to print, to engage in the means and production of written texts. It really makes me feel like breaking something.