General

Philosophical Questions

Hey, everyone! As it turns out, my last post garnered a bit of positive feedback from you guys. Instead of philosophical quotations, some of you sent us some questions that are quite philosophical in nature. It was quite a joy reading through them and answering them. So I asked Julie for another nightcap and we came up with our answers.

Is it wrong to buy your kids Christmas presents when a disaster has struck your area and others are struggling?

Me: Hooboy. This one made me think quite a bit. To be honest, I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s still my money and it’s my prerogative on how I’m going to spend it despite the occurrences around my family. In fact, since there was a disaster in the area, having an extra holiday cheer will go a long way for the morale of my family.

Julia: I can see why this is a touchy topic for some. It’s the same line of logic as “Should I feel bad for spending on expensive food when there are people dying of hunger?” sort of thing. While I think the world would be a better place if we all helped each other out, this is something that should be done out of the goodness of your heart and not because you feel socially pressured into it. I, personally, would hold a family meeting to discuss this. Do we spend on Christmas presents and the like or is there something else we want to do with it. Ultimately, it is the decision of the family or of the parent which determines the outcome regardless of outside opinion.

Is life devoid of meaning if we live forever?

Me: Yes. Life is beautiful because it is fleeting.

Julia: No. Meaning is placed into something we value. If you value every single day of your immortal life, you can still have meaning in your life.

Is it possible for something to be in two places at once?

Me: Ooh I love the answer to this one. One of my favorite movies is A Walk To Remember. One of the dreams of Mandy Moore’s character is to be in two places at once. Her love interest takes her to a state border and has her stand above it–effectively being in two places at once. So realistically, in that sense, yes–it is possible to be in two places at once.

Julia: It’s a bit odd now as the concept of ‘being’ is rather fluid. Physically speaking, probably not–unless you send your body parts to different places–EW. But for example, if you have a relative who’s abroad and they video chat with you–physically you aren’t there but on the emotional aspect of the thing, you are. You aren’t missing out on whatever it is they’re showing you and you get to stay exactly where you are. So in doing so, you are sort of in two places at once.

Why do we dream?

Me: I think we dream because we need it. We get to explore worlds, scenarios, and feelings that can sort of prepare us for if and when it occurs during waking life. Personally, I look forward to my dreams each night because it’s like my own personal movie.

Julia: To stay sane, really. Our brains process so much data that it needs an outlet for certain thoughts or rationalizations. I think we dream because we can. If that makes sense to you.

 

Some Philosophical Life Quotes

I have a good friend by the name of Julia who picked out the habit of gathering philosophical quotes for me. I have no idea why she does it but it’s been a pretty good exercise. Julia and I often pour hours of discussion over different quotes–how we personally perceive it, how we think it’s relevant to our lives, how we can adapt it (if we haven’t already). So I figured that maybe you guys can do that to with your own friends or family. I’ll be sharing some quotes with you today along with some thoughts from me and Julia.

Life is a long road on a short journey. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897

Ele: For me, I believe this refer to how life can feel so long when you’re still at the beginning or at the middle–yet when you’re nearing the end of your life, it then feels so utterly short. I suppose that’s why one of the more popular villain tropes are rich old men who want to extend their lives by any means necessary. They all have the common exclamation that life is too short and how youth is wasted on the young.

Julia: I think this philosophy isn’t limited to the scope of just life. It’s applicable in other topics too–like listening to a song that you really like or more commonly, the anticipation of a vacation. It can feel oh so dragging when you count down the weeks and days before going on a vacation. Yet, when you’re on it–it’s like time decides to just zip by. It’s like there was a lessened amount of hours for the duration of your vacation.

Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it. ~Christopher Morley, Thunder on the Left

Ele: I like this one. It gives the idea that no matter how proficient you think you are about the topic of life–in the end, you may not actually be as knowledgeable as you think. It actually is quite humbling when you really think about it. Do any of us really know what we’re doing?

Julia: I don’t know. I think it’s one of those feeling fluffers like “It’s okay if you don’t quite understand life–no one does anyway!” The thing is–this is precisely the reason why some really pursue excellence and strive to accomplish something in our lives. If we don’t really know what we’re doing, at least we leave something behind for those who are going to continue the journey. If you’re a person that really likes this quote it’s kinda sad. Don’t limit yourself in the belief that it’s okay if you don’t have direction or someone else is just pretending to be living right (since in the end we all don’t anyway)–strive for more.

Following straight lines shortens distances, and also life. ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

Ele: Hrm. I think this refers to how a neatly planned life can seem quite short. It’s like a burger with no condiments or lettuce, onions, or tomato. Sure you have a pure meat burger but it doesn’t seem like much, does it? When you just follow the already beaten path, there’s no surprises but at the same time, are you really living?

Julia: For me, I think this refers to how if you keep at a set goal with no distractions, when you get to your destination and look around–you may end up wondering where all the time went. When you’ve been so focused on one thing, you let all the other things slip through your fingers. This can give you the idea that you’ve missed out (which is something I really hate).


So that’s it so far–I’ll share more discussions Julia and I have about philosophical quotes. For now, we need refills.

Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in the attic room of his family home in Bonn, Germany. While his birth records continue to remain missing, historians managed to find his baptism certificate dated December 17, 1770. At the time, it is traditional to baptize children the day after they are born–so Beethoven’s birthday is commemorated on December 16.

He was born between Johann van Beethoven and Maria Magdalena Keverich. Their marriage was described as a “chain of sorrows”. As a boy, Beethoven had a tough life as his father was a heavy drinker and would be quite heavy handed. While his mother was quite loving, she was unable to sway her husband from being so harsh toward the family.

Beethoven, even at a young age, was quite the talented keyboardist. He was already composing pieces at the age of twelve. It was his teacher, Christian Gottlob Neefe, who greatly encouraged him to further practice his talent in music. This talent turned into income for the Beethoven family–something his brother, Carl, was thankful for.

As a teen, Beethoven moved to Vienna so he could pursue music and be instructed by the best teachers. It seemed that things were looking up yet disaster struck as his mother became extremely ill. Beethoven then moved back to Bonn to be closer to his ill mother and was present when she passed away. His father progressively got worse–so much that Beethoven had to talk to the Elector of Bonn (his father’s employer) to hand over half of the father’s salary to his keeping in order to care for the family. By the year 1790, the leaders of Bonn were well aware of Beethoven’s talent. They chose him to write a cantata which commemorated the death of Joseph II, the popular Hapsburg emperor.

At the age of 21, Beethoven once again left Bonn for Vienna. This time, a famous composer named Joseph Haydn invited the youth to become his pupil. Teacher and pupil did not always see eye-to-eye. Haydn had often remarked to his pupil that the works he (Beethoven) created were a tad too complicated and the public may not be ready for such emotional works. Despite this, Beethoven carried on and carved out his own distinct style of composing and playing. Life in Vienna was good for the young composer–he was creating his own music and the public was adoring him for it.

In 1801, Beethoven dedicated his Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, famously known as the “Moonlight Sonata”, to his pupil the Countess Giulietta Guicciardi. The Moonlight Sonata was groundbreaking for its time as it begins with a slow movement–something that was rare at the time. Rumors abound that Beethoven had fallen for his pupil but the Countess and Beethoven did not wed.

Around the same time, it was becoming apparent that there was something wrong with his hearing. It started when he was on a walk with a friend who pointed out the sounds of flutes in the air. Beethoven had thought his friend was joking as he did not hear the flutes at all. He kept to himself mostly working on compositions and commissions so others thought there was nothing wrong. As it turns out, Beethoven’s health issues were increasing. His ears were reported to have “buzzed and hummed” all day–an absolute disaster for anyone in the musical field.

To help cope with his growing deafness, Beethoven wrote several symphonies at a breakneck speed. His Second Symphony reflected Beethoven’s internal struggles quite well. This particularly symphony showed ferocious speeds in several sections. Regardless of the attempts to rectify his hearing, nothing seemed to work. In light of this, he moved to Heiligenstadt where he wrote several never-sent letters to his brother that would later be known as the Heiligenstadt Testament.

After his return to Vienna, Beethoven began to compose symphonies which were a revolution unto themselves. Audiences lauded his efforts labeling that he had reached his peak as a composer. On the inside, Beethoven was sinking. At the age of 35, he pulled himself back from committing suicide. Despite his extraordinary output of beautiful music, he was lonely and frequently miserable throughout his adult life. Beethoven never married nor had any children.

It was at the last decade of his life that Beethoven composed his most immortal works. Some of these included Missa Solemnis and String Quartet No. 14. Beethoven died on March 26, 1827 at the age of 56. The autopsy revealed the cause to be post-hepatitic cirrhosis of the liver.

Ludwig van Beethoven is widely considered to be the greatest composer of all time. He is the pivotal spark that connected the classical and romantic ages of Western music. A large fascination with him is the fact that he composed his most beautiful and extraordinary music while deaf and proved his creative genius to his generation and continues to astound learners of today.

Remembering George Michael

In this site, I always said that I would write about music and its links with religion and philosophy. Recently, a great icon of music passed on and left many a broken hearted fan. Upon much reflection, I came to realize that this person did contribute so much to how many people led their lives and the shift in philosophies they’ve held. I’m speaking of Georgios Kyriacos Panayioutou, otherwise known as the incredible George Michael.

He shot to stardom as the other half of the musical duo “Wham!” and later on as a solo artist. What others perceived to be just another up and coming pop star ended up meaning more to so many, particularly those of the LGBTQ persuasion. For others, George Michael was a troubled individual. For some, he represented the embodiment of liberation and the release that follows when one becomes true to one’s self. He was a passionate supporter of the HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust and so many other LGBTQ charities.

Michael’s song “Freedom” released in the UK on August 13, 1984 and in the US the following year. It was number 1 in the UK for over three weeks and the ripples would continue to resound into the people that heard it. What makes Michael and his work stand out and mean so much is because he represented the struggles that a gay person has dealt with. It creates a unique humanization of an icon that other gay persons would be able to relate with.

George Michael was dealing with his sexuality under a microscope during a time where being out wasn’t welcome nor as readily accepted as now. The conversation I had with a rather well-known media blogger was quite insightful as he mentioned that the song “Freedom” and the manner in which George Michael announced that he was not bisexual but he was indeed gay had such an effect on the blogger’s life as a queer person. Despite being open to select friends and one of his sisters that he was gay, George Michael mostly kept his being gay a secret from the rest. It wasn’t until his arrest in April 1998 that he came out as gay to the public. Even after he did, it was clear that he wasn’t conforming to the “polite and desexualized notion of gay”.

When he was asked why he kept his sexuality a secret, he was quoted to mention that it was for his mother’s sake—as she would have been worried about what her son would be subjected to. This is also something that a lot of LGBTQ youth can relate with. The relief he had in being able to express and indulge his passions is a personal pursuit that many can relate with. This is a philosophy that is not limited to only the LGBTQ.

George Michael’s life by all accounts is a life filled with grief and exaltation, something that was reflected in his performances and latter songs. The pursuit of peace with one’s self is an old adage that music, religion, and philosophy all contain. So in truth, the world lost a strong icon that fully represented the interweaving of philosophy and music.

The Human Condition

There are three major similarities between The Human Condition, by Hannah Arendt, and Existentialism and Human Emotions, by Jean-Paul Sartre.  First, Arendt’s belief in the human condition of natality has a strong connection to Sartre’s idea of throwness.  Second, Sartre’s belief that all humans possess the freedom of choice ties in with Arendt’s thoughts on the subject of action.  Finally, Sartre believes that we are fully responsible for our actions.  This relates to Arendt’s belief that our responsibility causes distress, which we attempt to diminish through the acts of forgiving and promising.

Arendt once said that action is “the actualization of the human condition of natality” (The Human Condition 178).  Basically, natality is being born as a distinct individual with a certain set of characteristics that is shared with many other people.  Arendt considers this to be a problem because we are not unique in any way.  She believes that action is the key to unleashing the uniqueness of each individual, and the way in which each individual can free himself from the human condition of natality.

Sartre’s idea of throwness, originally proposed by Martin Heidegger, suggests that people are “thrown” into the world among a plethora of things and other people (Existentialism and Human Emotions 23).  This means that people do not have a choice as to whether they are born, or as to what characteristics or traits they possess. Throwness relates to the idea of natality because of this lack of a choice.  Arendt and Sartre would both agree that an individual has no control over his birth; he only has control of his actions, which determine how he lives his life after that.

A second clear relation between the thoughts of Hannah Arendt and Jean-Paul Sartre is the concept of freedom.  Arendt and Sartre both believe that man is born with an inherent freedom.  Arendt believes that this freedom is both good and bad.  The freedom of man is good because is allows humans to distinguish themselves from one another through the uniqueness of their actions, but it is also bad because complete freedom means that people can act however they may choose at any given time (The Human Condition 176).  Arendt refers to freedom as causing stress, while Sartre states that it causes anguish.  However one may look at it, both philosophers have the same idea; the absolute freedom of man is both an antidote and a poison for the human race.

On page 191 of The Human Condition, Arendt explains that there are two ways to remedy the unpredictability that freedom causes: forgiveness and promising.  The idea that most closely relates to the beliefs of Sartre is that of forgiveness.  Our actions are frail, meaning that we never know what outcome our actions will have, who the actions will affect, or what the future will be like because of those actions (The Human Condition 190-191).  The ability to forgive exists for the time when our actions have an unintended and unwanted effect.  Maybe one of my actions, which I had previously thought to be harmless, has hurt someone.  Arendt believes that forgiveness exists for this purpose (The Human Condition 236).  Forgiveness is a very powerful action because it can release both me and the person that I have hurt from the consequences of my actions.  This is not to say that the person that I have hurt will forget about my actions.  I am still responsible for them, but in being forgiven, we can both move on with our lives.

Sartre agrees with the idea that we are totally responsible for all of our actions.  On page twenty-three of Existentialism and Human Emotions, Sartre states, “… in the bright realm of values, we have no excuse behind us, nor justification before us…”  This statement means that because man is absolutely free, he is completely responsible for everything that he does and does not do.  Sartre believes that at every moment, man must establish his own values by which to live his life.  Arendt and Sartre both believe that the values that humans create to live their lives by, and the actions that they do or do not take, form their unique identities.