Existential Quote of the Week: April 17-23

“Regardless of the staggering dimensions of the world about us, the density of our ignorance, the risks of catastrophes to come, and our individual weakness within the immense collectivity, the fact remains that we are absolutely free today if we choose to will our existence in its finiteness, a finiteness which is open on the infinite. And in fact, any man who has known real loves, real revolts, real desires, and real will knows quite well that he has no need of any outside guarantee to be sure of his goals; their certitude comes from his own drive.”

-Simone de Beauvoir

French Existential Philosopher and Author

The Delivery Man: Book Review #4

The 2008, debut novel of Joe McGinniss Jr. is captivating to say the least. From the very beginning McGinnis is able to keep your attention with his peculiar cast of characters, and in a setting that seems to be over-used, McGinniss is able to bring new life to it in an original story. Taking place in sex-obsessed, drug infested, Las Vegas, you are taken through a story involving a group of childhood friends now all in their mid-twenties, and throughout the novel the reader slowly begins to put pieces of their dark past together.

The Delivery Man is to a certain degree a love story, but the most unconventional one I’ve seen in a while. You will find yourself rooting for the protagonist to get the girl. However, trying to figure out why he is so in love with such a whore (literally) is something readers are sure to try to figure out as the story progresses.

Not only is this a brilliant novel, but it is a critique of a shallow, Myspace absorbed generation that is detached from reality. If live fast, die hard is applicable to any story, The Delivery Man is one. The fast pace of the story keeps the reader turning page after page anticipating what will happen next. Honestly I could not stop until I had finished the book.

Chase is the unforgettable protagonist of The Delivery Man, at times seeming reminiscent of Holden Caulfield or the unnamed lead character of Fight Club with his apathetic attitude and tight situations. From the very beginning I found myself really liking his character. While many of the other characters have bi-polar attitudes throughout much of the story, Chase manages to hold himself well, but by no means is static.

Being a struggling artist disillusioned by a bright future, Chase is forced to teach art at a Las Vegas Highschool. But after losing his job he ends up getting involved in a teenage call-girl service which, while being lucrative, forces him to make some of the hardest decisions in his life. Choosing between a woman he once thought he wanted to marry and life on the strip with people from his past, he becomes conflicted and tries to rationalize his inclination for the latter.

After getting involved with certain people he shouldn’t have, his life takes a course that can’t be undone, bringing the story to a harsh ending. Down to the very last line of the novel readers will wonder if he ever will straighten things out.

This book is a must read, by a rising new author who really brings something new to the table. Being extremely enjoyable, fast paced, with unforgettable characters and in an interesting setting, you will leave this book wanting more.

_________________________________________

This book just happened to catch my eye on a huge wall of books at a local used book store, and wow, was I glad that I decided to purchase it. It’s a new favorite.

Thoughts on Ignorance

Emma Goldman onces said, “The most violent element of society is ignorance.” And I could not agree more fully. Massacres, genocides, and ethnic cleansing, among many other atrocities, have all sprung from the simple term ignorance, often accompanied by greed. There is another side of ignorance that is important to address also. The fact is, ignorance has created multiple extremely conceited, dumb and arrogant generations, and it is this point that I would like to address.

Over time people become ignorant of what is actually important because distractions are continually created, and eventually consume whole civilizations. Between the glorification of public figures, excessive amounts of shallow entertainment, and activities that require no mental activity, people have become more and more detached from any kind of search for knowledge and understanding. When one combines what is mentioned above with consumerism, a dangerous cocktail is created, which can be described by many different terms, escapism being one of them.

Escapism has almost become synonymous with our generation. When one observes society today they may notice that Aldous Huxley’s predictions of future societies was almost dead on. Now, one would think that at this time in history we would be making an exorbitant amount of progress considering we now have the greatest database of information and shared thought that man has ever seen. This database is what we call the internet. However, the majority of our population settles for minimum requirements being made and are no longer interested in learning.

Yet, if one has stopped seeking understanding, truth and knowledge they become a static being and ignorance rules their thought. Being enslaved by ignorance confines a person to only one corner of their overall existence. To be set free one must seek those exact objects which they have chosen to ignore.

Not only do we have the most massive database of information and shared thought that we have ever known, but we also have more books than ever have been available to any civilization, and they are all essentially at the tips of our fingers. But of course this is completely ignored by the majority of our population.

Imagine if every person had an inclination to seek knowledge, we would be far beyond where we are now. Many people who could help make a significant difference in the progress of man, have become absorbed in things that deter them from ever reaching their full potential, and this is one of the most important things to abolish in the world. With the abolishment of the trait of ignorance many other things will fall with it. Prejudices, delusion and minuscule differences could be done away with if people began to try to understand their fellowman, and began to examine the world through a critical eye.

We are at an important point in history that needs to be handled with extreme care, every person can make a difference, and by abandoning outdated ideologies, prejudices and any other obsolete things that divide us from each other we can make serious progress.

“Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.”
-Dalai Lama

The Inward Morning


A Poem by Henry David Thoreau

Packed in my mind lie all the clothes
Which outward nature wears,
And in its fashion’s hourly change
It all things else repairs.
In vain I look for change abroad,
And can no difference find,
Till some new ray of peace uncalled
Illumes my inmost mind.

What is it gilds the trees and clouds,
And paints the heavens so gay,
But yonder fast-abiding light
With its unchanging ray?

Lo, when the sun streams through the wood,
Upon a winter’s morn,
Where’er his silent beams intrude,
The murky night is gone.

How could the patient pine have known
The morning breeze would come,
Or humble flowers anticipate
The insect’s noonday hum–

Till the new light with morning cheer
From far streamed through the aisles,
And nimbly told the forest trees
For many stretching miles?

I’ve heard within my inmost soul
Such cheerful morning news,
In the horizon of my mind
Have seen such orient hues,

As in the twilight of the dawn,
When the first birds awake,
Are heard within some silent wood,
Where they the small twigs break,

Or in the eastern skies are seen,
Before the sun appears,
The harbingers of summer heats
Which from afar he bears.

The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine: Book Review #3

After finishing “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins earlier this week I decided that I should read the book that was written in response to Dawkins’s behemoth, so I could see what a theologian would say in response to such an argument as the one Dawkins presents. And it appears that maybe I had my expectations too high going into The Dawkins Delusion?. McGrath tried to address some of the points made in The God Delusion but falsely or incompletely represented Dawkins’s views and points before he tried to refute them. At several points in The Dawkins Delusion? I found myself asking if McGrath even read all of Dawkins’s book, because some of the conclusions McGrath come to simply show his misunderstanding of Dawkins’s standing on the topics at hand.

In this review I will try to address a few of the things that I found to be important points to discuss, however, I will not address everything simply because while reading this book I wrote 9-pages, front and back, on the points presented. Maybe at some point I will make them into a complete work explaining where McGrath was mistaken about Dawkins’s viewpoints and what I think about McGrath’s points made in this book. Whether or not I am to do this is still unclear.

Theologian and Apologist, Alister McGrath, penned the 97-page book, The Dawkins Delusion? (2007) in response to Richard Dawkins‘s The God Delusion (2006), and he starts by explaining why he decided to write this book:

“It is clear that a response of some sort is needed to The God Delusion, if only because the absence of one might persuade some that no answer could be given.” -Alister McGrath, The Dawkins Delusion?, page 13.

I would agree with McGrath’s point here, that if there is an answer to be given then by all means share it with us, and ultimately, I think that was the goal McGrath tried to accomplish, but to say that he reached this goal would be dishonest. When reading this book I felt like there was little substance at all to McGrath’s arguments, except there were some ideas that he presented that made sense but really didn’t defend his case well.

Throughout The Dawkins Delusion? McGrath consistently claims that Dawkins was misrepresenting Christianity, religion and abusing science through the majority of The God Delusion. However, McGrath fails to give hardly any specific examples of these injustices he claims Dawkins brought against Christianity, religion or examples of the abuse he brought on science. It is sad to say that McGrath’s best two arguments in this book for the existence of a God are at most, weak.

One of the first points that McGrath responds too is belief in God being infantile and childish, and mentions how Dawkins compares belief in God to the belief, in say, Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.

“Like many of Dawkins’s analogies, this has been constructed with a specific agenda in mind – in this case, the ridiculing of religion. Yet the analogy is obviously flawed. How many people do you know who began to believe in Santa Claus in adulthood? Or who have found belief in the Tooth Fairy consoling in old age?” –The Dawkins Delusion?, Page 20

This being a serious point is just laughable, because every rational person would agree that just because an adult starts to believe something does not necessarily mean its true. For example, Hitler began to believe that ethnic cleansing was the right thing to do once he was into adulthood, and his belief was not at all justifiable by the age he began to believe it. Nor does the statement “consoling in old age” prove anything in the terms of God existing. Though it maybe true that some people find solace in the belief that heaven awaits after death, it does not make the existence of God a truth. For instance, I could easily say that I find solace in the idea that there is a massive being consisting of noodle like appendages and meat balls somewhere in the sky, and that he will watch after me in the afterlife, or that he created everything. Simply believing that does not make it true.

Over the course of the book McGrath paints the picture that Dawkins hates all religion and says all bad is caused by religion, which is simply false. In Dawkins book he never once says he hates religion, or for that matter, hates all religion. First off Dawkins states clearly in the beginning of his book, that he is mainly referring to the three major monotheistic religions, and more directly Christianity, because he is most familiar with it. As a matter of fact, Dawkins even says that other religions (i.e., Buddhism) present more direct and important moral teachings. However, Dawkins does acknowledge the great moral teachings of Jesus, or whoever penned the character of Jesus. (Dawkins leaves the existence of Jesus as an open question)

McGrath responds to the misinterpretation that Dawkins thinks all religion is evil by stating that atheists and the religious have both had their fair share of violent and malicious acts. Which is completely agreeable, both sides of the spectrum have been corrupted and have committed atrocities.

Later on in the book McGrath refutes some of Dawkins points by simply saying, “I don’t believe that.” while also acusing Dawkins of generalizing Christians. This may be a valid argument to a certain point, but Dawkins meant for his book to address the Christian majority, not the direct belief system of McGrath. McGrath holds a lot of views that do not run parallel to the majority of Christian believers. (Example: the majority of Christians do not accept evolution yet McGrath does.)

One important point that needs to be addressed is McGrath’s misinterpretation of atheism. From reading The Dawkins Delusion? the reader will often notice how he relates atheists and faith. For example terms like “godless faith”, “faltering faith” (when referring to atheists that are beginning to consider religion) and many other uses of the word “faith” when referring to atheistic beliefs. This is a misunderstanding, atheism does not have a system of “faith.”  And often McGrath assumes that there are a set of systematic atheistic beliefs, which there are not. The only requirement to be an atheist is not believing in a god. Other than that there are no central beliefs that are attributed to all atheists.

McGrath has stated many times in his career that he was once an atheist and by stating this one would assume that he has a better understanding of what being an atheist means. I only bring up the whole point of misrepresenting atheism because of the numerous times that McGrath claims Dawkins to misrepresent Christianity and religion, while at the same time he misrepresents other peoples belief systems.

The last specific point I would like to address here is McGrath saying Dawkins has a cognitive bias when it comes to analyzing facts. For readers who do not know what cognitive bias is, it is essentially an evolved mental behavior in which a person begins to distort facts or give illogical judgement, often discrediting the facts and evidence that do not cohere to their belief or worldview. One can fully accept that people will often write books that only present the facts that work with their beliefs so they can try to sway readers one way or another. However, McGrath does not give a single example of evidence that Dawkins ignores when explaining ideas and processes in his book. So it is hard to take McGrath’s claim seriously here because he does not show readers what evidence he is talking about when arguing that Dawkins is being ignorant of scientific evidence for God.

In all reality it seems as though if McGrath had full intentions of trying to seriously analyze Dawkins’s book but quit about a third of the way through. The book itself seems to be an effort to release some of the frustration that The God Delusion caused to many believers, and I believe that if McGrath had been able to provide more specific examples of the ‘mistakes’ Dawkins made in his book it would be a more sufficient response to The God Delusion.

If you are looking for an argument to dismantle The God Delusion‘s ideas then I suggest you not waste your time with this book, and keep searching. However, if you are looking for a book that is written by an intelligent man, embarrassing himself by making false accusations and hypocritical observations of Dawkins then look no further.

Siddhartha: Book Review #2

Have you ever had one of those days that just seemed to be genuinely longer than other days, but in all reality remained in the 18-22 average waking hours that you usually experience? And in this day you encounter a plethora of emotions and events that really made you consider your position in life? Well that is what Siddhartha is like.

Siddhartha is considered Hermann Hesse’s greatest, most famous novel, and for good reason. First published in the United States in 1951, it became an extremely popular and influential work of literature and art during the 1960s. With themes such as self-realization, freedom, spiritual enlightenment and finding ones way in life, readers will likely be intrigued by the insights that are shown in this small novel.

Being just over 150-pages, this story takes you through the turbulent life of a young man named Siddhartha as he tries to find meaning and truth in life outside of the structures of teachings given to the people by religious leaders. The story is set in ancient India during the time Guatama Buddha was traversing the land to spread his teachings, and eventually Siddhartha and Guatama’s paths cross, for better or for worse.

Through the novel we see how conflicted Siddhartha is about his spirituality and he tries to fix this through knowledge, but as his story continues he realizes that it is not knowledge that gives you enlightenment. It is wisdom, and wisdom cannot be learned by a master, a teacher or in a book or classroom. That is something you can only obtain through experience, and if anyone has some interesting experiences in his life, Siddhartha is ranked among them.

While reading this book you will likely be intrigued by some of the ideologies presented, even if you are not new to them. Hesse does a fantastic job of sliding important ideologies into an entertaining story. Not only is it entertaining, but it is precise. Hesse sticks to the point and quickly delivers the important events to his reader without having a static, flat character.

Some authors will write books two or three times the size of Siddhartha, but with only half the amount of memorable events in them that Hesse’s novel contains. You will feel like you just got back from a long journey after you finish this book. A journey that progressed quickly over a lifetime and left you with a nice reminder that you are alive and need to see the bigger picture, how everything is, in the end, one in the same.

For any person who loves literature, philosophy or is looking for inspiration, they should consider this an essential piece of reading, I highly recommend it. Even if you only leave this book with a fraction of the beautiful motifs presented, you have walked away as a beneficiary of Hesse’s fantastic work.

I will end with a quote that stuck out to me in particular:

“At times he heard within him a soft, gentle voice, which reminded him quietly, complained quietly, so that he could hardly hear it. Then he suddenly saw clearly that he was leading a strange life, that he was doing many things that were only a game, that he was quite cheerful and sometimes experienced pleasure, but that real life was flowing past him and did not touch him . . . His real self wandered elsewhere, far away, wandered on and on invisibly and had nothing to do with his life. He was sometimes afraid of these thoughts and wished that he could also share their childish daily affairs with intensity, truly to take part in them, to enjoy and live their lives instead of only being there as an onlooker.” –Siddhartha, page 71, Bantam Books Edition.

Travanj No’c Konflikt

and in the darkness
i saw their shadows
creep upon the door
and move across the
lawn.

and watching far
away as the
guardians work
through their
day,

i swerve off the track
of time, and call a
final thought to
plunder mind and,
foray into exhaustion.

“Awake, only show
anger to your bride, for
with her thoughts she
will eventually turn to
genocide.”

while the asylum’s
neglect their refugees
and fret over circumstance,
the atmosphere will open
and break their emergencies
and insipid trance.

if you don’t stay with him
it could be wrong, and they
told him not to leave,
all along.

those who should be trusted
bashed it all away, in a quick
unjust, crash and sway.

leave me here so that
i
can say,  how long its
been since i have
eaten.
at least a day, but it
could be two, its
just as easy, as it
is to pray. an
answer never comes
but if i stay, there will
be one more to add to
the fray.