February 17, 2007

Healthy Skepticism

Posted in fiction, novelists, philosophy, religion, science at 9:53 am by Jerry

Peter Kreeft, a Christian philosopher, often challenges schools of thought by using their philosophy against them. For instance, for the school of skepticism, he would say something like, “To stay true to their philosophy, skeptics need to be skeptical of skepticism.” This may sound like the school of skepticism is defeated in this phrase, but I think it makes skepticism stronger. I think we should always challenge our own methods of discovering truth and try to improve them.

I also think we should explore others’ methods, learn from them, and use them against our own ideologies. One of the ways I enjoy doing this is by creating fictional characters who don’t share the exact same philosophy or agree on social issues. I love creating an informal debate between them. The characters, for whatever psychological need I give them, are on a personal inquiry, challenging those who see things differently. I’ve corrected my own philosophy through this method plenty of times.

Some people I’ve had conversations with react to a deconstructionist argument as if they thought it were a pursuit for complete annihilation. The truth is, though it can be used for complete annihilation, the bigger picture reveals that it’s just a lot of pruning. And when the pruning is done, it’s so much easier for the living to grow.

Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense. – Carl Sagan

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February 14, 2007

Is Truth Your Valentine?

Posted in culture, philosophy, psychology, scripture, theodicy at 10:34 am by Jerry

Is it just me or are there others who have assumed we should love ALL truth? Truth is considered to be good and healthy. Why shouldn’t we love it?

In the bible it says, “The truth will make you free,” – John 8:32; and “It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth,” – 1 John 5:6. I suppose, truth is omniscient, whether there is a personal Keeper of it or not. But does that mean all truth is worthy of our love? What about the dark side of truth?

It may be convenient at times to live a lie, but deep down, I think we all want to be true to ourselves, and to others. Yet, this conviction requires us to also look at the truths of evil all around us (and in us). It challenges us to remove the wrong in our lives – which will always be impossible in part. No one is capable of ridding themselves of all wrongs.

So what do we do about the truth of the evil that won’t go away? If we can’t solve the problem of evil, should we just ignore the truth of it? Repress it? Stick our head in the sand when it finds us? Because, if we accept the reality that evil has existed for a long time and will continue to do so, and we claim this to be true, how can we love this truth?

Somehow, I had it in my head that it would be wrong of me to hate any truths. That hating something I call “good and healthy” would be an evil act — as if it were blasphemy! What’s so wrong with just looking directly into the truth of evil’s persistence and not only hating the evil but also hating the truth that evil never completely goes away? We either love it, hate it, or become indifferent to it.

I can tell you where I stand — I HATE IT!

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. – Flannery O’Connor

February 12, 2007

Baby Challenges Novel Writing

Posted in fatherhood, fiction, film, novelists at 6:11 am by Jerry

I look at Emma and somehow I feel challenged to make sure my novel gets done. I want her to be able to read a finished product in the future.

Maybe it would help if I imagined her goading me like baby Stewie goads Brian the dog in this Family Guy clip:

What Will I Teach Emma About Religion?

Posted in fatherhood, philosophy, psychology, religion at 12:09 am by Jerry

First of all, I’m not necessarily into parental curriculums. I want to get to know Emma and respond to who she is. But if she is curious about religion, I’d like to teach her to train herself how to think critically. That means ceaselessly asking questions like “Why?” and “What exactly is that?” and “Where did that come from?” and “How do you know that?”

I know I’m setting myself up for alot of work by helping my child develop a critical mind because I’ll be teaching her to be my greatest challenger. She’ll grow up seeing and hearing me reveal my thoughts and feelings about everything. I could be challenged on everything! And as tough as that may be, what a great teaching context that is.

I recognize that through any of Emma’s challenges, she may find out alot about WHAT I think along with HOW I think. Here’s some things she may find out about what I think about religion (and a couple of “how’s”):

  • What – If a God who is creator of all threatens you with the ultimatum – I’ll send you away from my heart into a never-ending life of suffering if you don’t love me above all others THIS God is NOT “omnibenevolent” and DOES NOT love you “unconditionally”.
  • What – Worshipping the ineffable is worshipping the unthinkable.
  • What – There’s a personal reason religious people say what they say.
  • What – The “Afterlife” is not worth any living sacrifice in the present.
  • What – There’s both an optimistic and a pessimistic version of people’s religion.
  • How – If you could imagine two of you, make them role-play as the hero and villain of a religion. Then ask yourself, “How can the use of justice be improved in this religion?”
  • How – When religious people say you “should” do something, ask for a reason that other people who don’t share the same religion would agree with.

February 11, 2007

Family Guy

Posted in family, fatherhood, friends, marriage at 7:25 pm by Jerry

While Becky and I show off our beautiful grrrl to everybody, it’s interesting to hear the comments from people when they hold Emma in their arms and talk about family life. They’ll talk about their experiences raising children and ask how ours has been developing. And then, some, will comment on how it wasn’t long ago that I was looking and sounding like someone far from this experience.

People often commented on my singlehood before I met Becky. Some wondered if I was gay because they didn’t see me dating girls (I guess they thought I’d hide my boyfriends somewhere). I often say I was a “hermit” for a number of years, even though hermits rarely live in cities. I was definitely a loner.

People got confused when I answered their concerns about me with, “I’m not closed to getting married in the future.” They’d follow with a look on their face that said, “Then, get on with it!” So I’d say, “But I’m not on the hunt, either.” Which would frustrate them as well. I didn’t run away from girls. I had plenty of friends that were girls, but I found myself enjoying my alone time more than alot of the time I spent with friends. When I’d admit that to others, I became suspicious if they thought I was becoming one of those psycho-killer loners (wouldn’t you wonder if you saw a hint of fear on peoples’ faces when you admitted your reclusive nature).

I was very picky. I wasn’t gonna just get together with any girl. I didn’t know much about what kind of girl I wanted to get romantically involved with, but I was certain what I didn’t want. I knew I wanted someone I thought to be intelligent, someone who had a common-sense/wisdom about the world, someone who was aware, not blinded or chose to blind-fold herself from what was out there or right in front of her face. I wanted someone who I was attracted to, for many reasons. I wanted an independent girl, courageous, yet graceful.

Then I met Becky.

Two to three outings and I was smitten. I found myself calling this grrrl constantly while thinking to myself, “Why am I doing this? This isn’t me. I don’t have feelings for her, do I?” My mind had yet to comprehend what had happened to me. I was in love. I didn’t know it, but it soon became clear.

Not long after being a couple, I admitted to Becky that I felt like we were married. She said she felt the same way. That settled it.

I use to warn family and friends, “I may never get married, I may never have children.” And here I am, a family guy. Today marks the day I’ve been married to my beautiful wife for two years. I’m even more smitten than I was before. And sharing parenthood has also brought Becky and I closer together.

Looking back, I don’t regret or think bitterly about my “hermit days”. If I was still there, I’d be happy, not regretting being single either. But that’s not my destiny. My destiny is a life with a beautiful, intelligent woman and a cute daughter. It’s been a great journey, a journey that gets better with age.

February 8, 2007

Baby Dreamer

Posted in family, fatherhood, psychology at 6:50 pm by Jerry

I’ve been told, babies are constantly in REM sleep when they sleep. Meaning, they are always dreaming when they sleep. Which makes me wonder — what are they dreaming about?

I’ve seen my little Emma show a variety of facial expressions when she is dreaming. I’ve also heard her make some interesting noises while she sleeps, too. There are the simple smiles and cries, but they’re varied in kind. Our dreaming usually involves material from our experiences. So, what kind of dreams could a baby make from experiences gathered for only one, two, or even three weeks?

February 4, 2007

Questions About the Bible

Posted in culture, literature, scripture at 12:02 pm by Jerry

I ended up with these questions during a conversation in this post:

  • How is a culture’s immoral acts justified through the process of aging for two to four thousand years?
  • And what proof do we have of an utterance of God demonstrated in our bible?
  • And if God was inspiring the biblical writers to adapt God’s truths to their immediate audience on a spiritual learning curve, can our current culture consider THE WHOLE BIBLICAL TEXT to be divine truths for us?
  • And if cherry picking for timeless truths in the bible is in fact the only realistic response to the biblical text (which everyone already does), how are those timeless truths any better than the timeless truths we cherry pick out of other ancient literature?

February 3, 2007

Many Parts

Posted in literature, philosophy, soup at 2:50 am by Jerry

I just finished reading As You Like It by William Shakespeare. It’s no Hamlet, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. For some reason I’m being drawn to Shakespeare’s work again. I won’t analyze why (like I often do), I’ll just let this mysterious desire ride. In As You Like It, you’ll find this one of many famous Shakespearean quotes (which happens to be a favorite of mine):

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
(Act II Scene VII)

When I read the last line, I can’t help but think I’ve already played many parts. And yet, there’s so much potential to play many more.

February 2, 2007

Remembering a Childhood Friend

Posted in friends, martial arts at 8:13 pm by Jerry

SAYCOCIE – The passing of Kamonh Dia Saycocie occurred at Royal University Hospital on Tuesday, January 30th, 2007. He is survived by his wife, Shana; children, Niyah and Tanika; father, Somboun Saycocie; mother, Khekxay Saycocie; sisters, Vanida (Greg), Kenapha (Todd), Vann (Daniel), Keota (Sherman); numerous nieces and nephews. Kamonh was born on November 20th, 1971 in Laos. He immigrated to Canada with his family in 1979 and spent his childhood years in Osler, SK. Kamonh moved to Saskatoon in 1988 attending Marion Graham Collegiate, followed by the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina. Kamonh had a great passion for aquatic sealife. He enjoyed spending time with his family which was always a priority and the love he had for his children was unimaginable. He will be sadly missed and never forgotten. A Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, February 3rd, 2007 at 9:00 a.m. at Hillcrest Funeral Home (east on 8th Street, turn right before the railway tracks). Cremation to follow with burial at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers, donations in Kamonh’s memory may be made to the Trust Fund Bank of Montreal (2122 8th Street East, Saskatoon, SK). Family and friends may send email condolences to hillcrestfh@arbormemorial.com. Arrangements are entrusted to HILLCREST FUNERAL HOME, Ken Scheirich 477-4400. Published in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix on 2/2/2007.

For the first few years of our friendship, Kamonh lived just two houses down the backalley from my family in the town of Osler. I don’t know exactly when Kamonh and I started to become friends. I just remember hanging out with him after school. If I remember correctly, Kamonh was the first person to introduce me to Bruce Lee’s movies. We’d work out together, teaching ourselves martials arts and gymnastics, and run around town pretending we were ninjas. It took awhile, but after my brother, our uncle and myself joined a Karate class we finally convinced Kamonh to come along with us.

Kamonh and I would hang out at each other’s homes on and off. He was an inspiration to many. He was one of those natural athletes, teaching himself to do consecutive back flips or front flips over bushes. He was amazing! I haven’t seen him for a long time. Knowing he has passed away makes me struggle to bring back to life every minute of my memories of him and our time together.