Failed Gambits and Backup Plans

May 15, 2009 at 11:58 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , )

Backstory: every summer, my best friend and I start a project on RPGFO. To give a brief history, here is what we have so far joinly accomplished in our leisure time:

2006 – started the nation of Frenelia in Isis, a persistent world; created the classesRoleplay Creation and Maintenance in the Academy

2007 – created (with Vorlikesh) Kel’Amnir, another persistent world; took over administrative duties of the Academy and taught several classes

2008 – forced an Academy overhaul and created the Library and other resources

One thing that we tried to do in 2008 was to revamp Isis, the persistent world. It had died (as such projects often do when not carefully monitored), and everyone seemed to not want to clean the slate and start fresh. After much discussion and using me as a bouncing board, my friend came up with a modest proposal. It received mixed reviews, but ultimately fell through due to low popular vote. Everyone fights change. Isis ended up undergoing minor changes which fixed nothing, and proceeded to die. Again. It was like kicking a dead horse.

Now we come to 2009, where we just tried to create a completely new way of world building – via media. Instead of linear first person roleplays defining the world, we wanted to have the world defined through speeches, newspaper articles, and various other forms of popular media. Unfortunately, as many times before (including the 2008 Isis gambit described above) we at first received mixed reviews, and then a final flop: the idea was too ambitious, too different, and thus did not strike many people’s fancy.

But this time we had a backup plan! Namely, the very same modest proposal, but this time it followed a gambit that was far more ambitious and different! We effectively raised the bar for acceptable change by proposing an apparently unacceptable change.

Moral of the story is that if you want a gambit to succeed, preface it with something far more outlandish, and push it as far forward as you can. When it fails, introduce the gambit itself as your backup plan. Unless it too is outlandish, you are far more likely to succeed than if you went in cold. Otherwise, you’ll have to do what we did, and wait a year before you can come back with your original idea.

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Flying Spaghetti Monster vs God

April 15, 2009 at 6:13 am (Wrongs of the World) (, , , , , )

I read the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and just now read some hate mail they received (and was compelled to comment). I’ve echoed my comments below. Normally, I put up with people who I know are theists (more so now than I had before, thanks to the influence of Hemant Mehta who was kind enough to visit us at CMU last Friday, where much pasta was had). The letter below is nonsensical idiocy, complete with irrelevant references to the Holy Babble which I have attempted to rectify. Maybe it is okay to base your faith on personal beliefs, but how is citing a book, written by people two thousand years ago, with no requirement for not exaggerating and no knowledge of science (and an eye for spotting coincidences and ignoring non-coincident incidents) at all acceptable? This only reinforces my skepticism, and caused me to find the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible (which surely does not help ANY Christians get their apparently convoluted point across).

Anyway, onwards with the aggravating hate-mail:

How can you know that God is a F.S.M. if he is invisible? If he is invisible how can you see him?

If something is invisible, then those wavelengths of light that we perceive are not emitted by the object at hand. However, just because you cannot see it does not mean that you cannot feel His Noodly Appendage.

What is said on this website, in your books and amongst yourselves doesn’t change what the Bible and the real word of God says. Gods word is like gravity, just because people don’t believe in it doesn’t mean it’s not true and doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences to jumping off of a cliff. Someone can easily say “I don’t believe in gravity because I can’t see it, etc..because it’s an old belief….” but that doesn’t change the fact that it is there. This is like Gods laws for all of humanity.

His Noodliness allowed for heretics to create the fake book so titled the Bible, for it amused His Meatballs. Additionally, the Flying Spaghetti Monster does not speak; consequently, whatever word you think is His is surely the lies of some B.C. fiction writer(s) out of a job (goat herding).

Have any of you ever seen your own brain? Does that mean that it isn’t there? Have any of you ever seen your heart? Does that mean that it isn’t inside your body still beating? Have any of you ever seen your soul? Does that meen that it isn’t there?

I cannot claim to have seen my brain, but if you volunteer, I will check that yours is indeed in your head. The same goes for your heart, though I’m sure a CT or an MRI would suffice. And have you ever seen the FSM? I have. In fact, there is an IMAGE of His Noodliness on my bumper sticker (and apparently, on t-shirts, sidewalks, potted plants, clouds, and other locations worldwide).

The fact is that we do have souls and I heard it put this way “If God did not exist than man would create one” and this is what has been done with the F.S.M. group. You have created a God and the Bible calls this idol worship. Often times groups in the Bible would create an idol to worship because they couldn’t see or hear or touch God.

No you! (OMG BEST COMEBACK EVER) I remind you that writing that your fake sky-daddy’s book is the word of sky-daddy does not actually make it an actual book of sky-daddy’s words. Even the unemployed goat-herders failed to get their stories to agree while wandering all about Israel as hobos.

God’s fingerprints are on all of creation and more and more scientists and peole are recognizing this alike. Antony Flew, one of the worlds most famous atheists has recently said that there is a God and one who is intelligent. The Bible does say clearly that man was created in his image (Genisis 1:27) so we know that God is not a flying spaghetti monster.

Actually, DNA (of humans and otherwise) is full of USELESS CRAP that was only necessary back before viruses mutated and in the direction of Archeans. It’d be pretty cool if we were at all efficient, but apparently there were a lot of mistakes along the way. Your sky-daddy figured it’d be fun for people to doubt his awesomeness, so he dropped those in. You know, for fun, since people on the whole are egotistical, inefficient, uncooperative, corruptible, and physically frail (at least, compared to Rhinos!). Your sky-daddy doesn’t sound like much, if we are made in his image. Also, She would also be a sky-mommy. FSM solves this problem by having Two Meatballs, many Noodles, and no sex. And clearly created a delicious Italian dish, if we are speaking of image.

On another note, God’s word was written because He loves us and showed his unending love for us through his son Jesus Christs death on the cross and ultimatley, His resurrection from the grave. Romans 10:9 says that “If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Salvation comes through Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone (John 14:6).

That’s cool. Letting your children die must be one of your sky-daddy’s virtues, according to precedent. But then, isn’t killing also uncool? So killing your own (or others’) children wouldn’t be right (since you’re against abortion), but maybe not having any children would do the trick, right? You know, emulate your sky-daddy and feel closer to him? I’d appreciate the lack of Your children, and I’m sure His Noodliness wouldn’t mind. He’s pro-choice, after all. Also, John and the Romans didn’t get the memo. Way to not read the Bible, John and Romans. Heretics!

I would recommend that anyone who is a follower of this group to read not only the Bible but a series of books from a former atheist called “The Case for Christ” and “the Case for Creator” and from there you can draw your own conclusions. If you are truly seeking for answers in life than I would encourage all of you to search for those answers and don’t just give up by creating your own religion/idol.

I’m going to guess that a lot of atheists have read the Bible, unlike yourself, who appear to be selective in reading only pro-sky-daddy books. And we think your literature is CRAP. (Plus, the writing style is horrendous! Who edits it? The Church?)

Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. That means you, me and everyone else in the entire world.

Romans are also the guys who killed Joshua (for real, it’s not Jesus). They also had some pretty awesome military tactics, as well as advanced forms of government, and even almost-modern plumbing. Plus, they would have orgies and were cool with homosexuality and ate a lot for fun before throwing it up on purpose, so really, I don’t think they cared much for your definition of sin. Also, sinfo.

Think about it, if all the people in the world were on a boat in the middle of the ocean and the ship was going down and there were no lifeboats, everyone would need a Savior no matter how hard they tried to save themselves. That savior is Jesus Christ. Every other religion in the world is saved through works and Christianity is the only one where we are saved by our faith alone. Once a person proclaims that Jeesus is Lord it is up to that person to live his/her life for Him.

Or, they could resign to their fate, and die like 1,517 people on the Titanic died. Joshua didn’t seem to help them with getting out alive, and so far as history shows, all the scientists, comedians, entertainers, and the majority of beautiful women wouldn’t get saved. I’d prefer to die with/like them, than with boring dudes who really like to pray. It’s not like living a boring sinless life will allow me to sin like a pro in the afterlife, will it?

I hope that this has been some help to all of you.

-CD

I hope that you go to your sky-daddy’s heaven and spend all of eternity BORED.

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Justice, Integrity, and Objectivity

April 5, 2009 at 11:48 am (Wrongs of the World) (, , , , , , , , )

Objectivity is a rather uncanny concept. Every court case, every peer review, every time any issue of justice comes up, the call is to “be objective”. I would like to hypothesize that this doesn’t actually mean anything. We define objectivity as the best interests of the governing law system of the society in which the issue at hand has occurred, so really, we are just being socially subjective (assuming that the set of laws has been written to truly represent those best interest of that society). We can argue all we want, but I fell that I should describe a case that I presided over just today (without breaching confidentiality, of course).

I am Sergeant-at-Arms of Delta Beta Crescent Colony of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity at Carnegie Mellon University, a role that was assigned to me by a team of three (or four) consultants. Every chapter has it’s own organizational structure, but when colonies are formed is is simplest that the Sergeant-at-Arms serve in two roles: his own, and the Chairman of the Honor Board. The Sergeant-at-Arms writes the bylaws, and the HB Chairman enforces them. I am effectively Judge and Executioner, coupled with the Honor Board, which serves as Jury.

When first tasked with the above, I had intended to keep to the books, be wholly impartial, be wholly objective, and thereby act as a fair judge. This is the wrong way to go about it. The bylaws that I wrote are not simply my own: they are based on those of a well established chapter, and they have been reviewed by at least three alumni from other chapters a total of at least ten times. As well, the colony has been voting on these bylaws, article by article, making corrections where necessary, so as to ratify them.

The Accused at today’s hearing is a rather active Freshman, and has actually made the effort to offer corrections on my bylaws – the only one to do so without them coming up on screen at General Body meeting. So, the only one to offer suggestions of his own accord. Interestingly enough, I was morally opposed to almost every one of his many suggestions, and found the remainder to be worse than my original. We have not yet ratified everything, but what we have ratified is in agreement with me, and in direct disagreement with the accused.

He has been a problem from the start – both with his bad reputation on campus (which I still cannot fathom how he attained before even the conclusion of his Freshman year), and with his inability to function in a social setting without saying something stupid. His libertarian views apparently give him leave to have rude outbursts against the governing authority of just about every organization (unless he is the one leading it). So far as I understand, he is also a liar (or, more likely, he is in too much of a haze to actually remember the events that happen, what order they happen in, and when they haven’t actually happened).

As a result, when the Colony finally decided that yes, he should be brought to Honor Board, no one stepped up. So I took the flag, and was right to do so. Who better to protect the laws, then the man who wrote them? Those bylaws define our organization, determine what makes us us, separate us from other fraternities, and separate each member from non-members. I did my research on this guy, as biased as I was, and only became more biased as the evidence grew stronger. I would think that, finding more and more evidence against the accused’s Delthood, my bias against him was making me only more objective! In fact, the case that I built was structured only on the basis of the national bylaws. Objectivity was no longer defined in social terms, but in the terms of the Fraternity. No, not even so broad: in the terms of our thirty man colony. Objectivity does NOT scale.

I was chosen to serve as the Sergeant-at-Arms because I had first applied to be Risk Manager, and was transparent about my view for the organization from the very start. Well, following a decisive (and wholly unsurprising) Honor Board Hearing (which admittedly lasted an extra hour because I was nice about letting him say what he wanted to say), he proceeded to complain to the Vice President and President that I did not make a good Honor Board Chairman, because I was too biased. I say that, so long as I am biased in the best interests of the organization (which I defined, and the organization has apparently agreed with), I am just about the best Honor Board Chairman that the organization can currently have. And no, this isn’t power grubbing: I’ll be a senior next year, and so shall be ineligible for Executive positions.

My situation is so uniquely empowering, that it makes me cringe at the future, if it so happens that someone who does not share my views becomes Honor Board President, that the Colony amends the bylaws, and that the direction in which I have helped point the organization changes. Of course, we are human, so perhaps my direction isn’t the right one, but instead I am influential enough to have turned everyone toward it, so far.

Or maybe I’m being influenced by someone else, and just don’t know it yet. Regardless, I have a newfound appreciation for Thomas Jefferson and for all committed policy makers, and a disdain for those other policy makers who clearly don’t deserve their positions.

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RIASEC, Science, Permeating Irrationality

March 7, 2009 at 4:07 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , )

Our Delta Beta Crescent Colony of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity just had a “Dream Job” presentation based on the RIASEC theory. Our President and Vice President were both Enterprising, meaning that once they graduate the colony will have to fall into a period of stagnation until someone else who is Enterprising is recruited. I happened to be Investigative, with close seconds in Social and Conventional. To adapt myself to the prescribed stereotypes, I agree. I love Physics, which is Science, which uses the Scientific Method, so Investigative makes quite a bit of sense. One of my (many) flaws is my steadfastness in my current assumptions. To be fair, given decisive evidence I will drop my beliefs in a heartbeat, but until then I stand by them (for example, religion is a nuisance and bad influence on society, and is no better than hard drugs). However, what this flaw does do is make me an enabler: if I agree with someone, I will echo their thoughts, reinforce them, and do my best to help them realize their intentions. Hence, Social. And, based on my (not always successful) runs as forum administrator and my recent spike in campus involvement (Safewalk, Safezone, SAA, 1in4) and my executive officer position in the Fraternity, well, it would seem that I at least try to be an organizer. Wikipedia tells me that this makes me Conventional.

As to what I’m not: Realistic, Artistic, Enterprising. I will enable (being Social), but will not get my hands dirty (hence not Realistic). I will organize or even reorganize (being Conventional) but I will not innovate (hence not Artistic). I will think (being Investigative), but I will not hope (hence not Enterprising). As far as this relates to science, RIASEC tells me that I should be a theorist rather than an experimentalist. Not because I can’t (In fact, I am enjoying Modern Physics Laboratory very much and doing quite well in it) but because the best experimentalists are innovative and hands on, and are able to convince the big wigs with the money that the LHC is a necessity, and that one quarter of the experimental space should be theirs. So they are Artistic, Realistic, and Enterprising. I’m not. Damn.

Theorists live longer anyway, right? Then again, ISC does not likely make me a theorist (well, I helps, but S and C are stretch). Well, the contrapositive is that experimentalists don’t live longer, and I’ll just say “… than me” and be done with it. Speaking of living longer, Spock wished it on everyone, and he was a frequent flier. The worst segue of all time.

I took a flight last night on a De Havilland Dash 8 Q400. With 4 seats per row, and propellers rather than reactive engines, the real defining feature of the smallitude of the aircraft was that the stewardess, when pushing the beverage cart, was unable to give away cans of juice or soda because the cart was only large enough to hold at most three cans of each beverage (and in some cases only one can). As per some recent news stories I have begun to peruse PlaneCrashInfo.com.

How is that at all relevant to… anything? I will generalize to say that everyone has phobias. Some are so irrational and overwhelming, like claustro-, that I wont even delve in that direction. Fear of a plane crashing? Wholly idiotic, unless you have some method of stopping it. It is one thing to fear dying (or at least not want to die), but to fear death while already on the plane? Unless your plane is being hijacked, you have no control over your “fate”, if you will. Unless you’re in the cockpit, in which case there damn better be a good reason for that (like, you’re the pilot). The man next to me was freaking out. While we taxied to the runway, on take off, in the air, and during the bumpy landing. In case you read this, sir, let me just tell you that you will die young. Worrying leads to stress, and stress prevents your body from regenerating your blood cells at an appropriate rate. You’ll die of old age, at a young age. (To clarify, that was a Google search. Unlike Wikipedia, things on Google are NOT always true. As a matter of fact, I didn’t actually read the page I just linked.)

It is rational to worry about your choices, and to perhaps make your choices based on what you hear in the news (though they are likely just as irrational as you are, those reporters, newscasters, and editors, that you are better off waiting for statistics to appear on Wikipedia). For example, it might be prudent not to choose flights that use the Q400 series aircraft. The point is that once you have made this possibly poor decision, you should be resigned to your fate. Unless you want to be tazed, once the cabin door has been closed you will either make it to your destination, or you wont. So pick up a book, or whip out your laptop, and amuse yourself. If you are going to die, at least die happy :).

Jay Jay the Jet Plane

This guy will!

The moral of the story is that it is rational to have rational fears – so as to guide your current choices. It is irrational to have irrational fears – instead, one should make conclusions and mental notes to influence their future choices. If that doesn’t make sense, then I recommend therapy.

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Strike that, Reverse it!

November 22, 2008 at 8:33 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , , , , )

So much time, so little to do!

Delta Tau Delta has recolonized at Carnegie Mellon, and despite my initial reluctance I was drafted into the Delta Beta Crescent Colony. Despite my dislike for extra work, I was appointed by the consultants as Sergeant-at-Arms and Honor Board Chairman. I am now stuffing my nose into every committee as they are forming, involving myself in nearly every bit of colony business, working towards building the colony’s website, and writing the colony bylaws.

I also went through SafeZone training, which is GLBT awareness/sensitivity/Ally training, and I think falls in well with Sexual Assault Advisor training. Although unrelated, my binder of being a community resource is growing. Coupled with the experience I will gain from running the Honor Board, writing the bylaws, helping with the New Member Education committee, and my involvement in the Service/Philanthropy/Fundraising Committee and the Social Committee… Well, I believe I will have, in this one semester, introduced an extracurriculars section to my resume as well as gaining a wide assortment of skills.

Luckily, Thanksgiving is coming, and I will be giving thanks to the holiday break for giving me a chance to sit down and write those bylaws.

Moral of the story: I have no gods, and yet I am somehow moral enough to be appointed to a position of authority in a fraternal organization. I am ethical enough to have been selected to write the ethical code of this organization, and I apparently have enough integrity to have been chosen to conduct the honor board. I have no gods, and yet I now have a social network that connects me to thousands of people who share my values. What is the tenet of Delta Tau Delta? “Committed to Lives of Excellence”. Not “Committed to the Service of God”. If I can have all of these things without gods, what is the benefit of believing in gods at all? I have already discounted the promise of an afterlife, I have discounted the necessity of religion for morality, and just now I have discounted the necessity of religion for community. What are the other benefits of religion, if any? Perhaps “security”, or “hope”. I’ll have to think on how to discount the necessity or success of religion with regards to each of those.

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Bullshit Makes the World Go Round

November 1, 2008 at 1:32 pm (Wrongs of the World) (, , , , , )

I used to bullshit for the fun of it. Bullshit can be compared to compulsive lying: you start making something up based on what you know, and with enough resolve and confidence everyone in the immediate vicinity will take you for an expert. Bullshit gives people a sort of social high: the attention, the apparent expertise, a sense of accomplishment and a personal appreciation for one’s wit.

Well, as a student at Carnegie Mellon, I no longer bullshit for no reason. Not only has the deception lost its luster, but outwitting the bright, high in IQ, and up-to-date on the latest in science, politics, world news is damn near impossible. However, I study physics, and I find that I no longer “bullshit” so much as I correctly explain the world. I know enough and I have imbibed enough physics-oriented thinking that when I make something up, it is not far off from reality.

Theists fail to approach this standard of basing their explanations of the world on the world itself. If I see my friend making something up, I catch those nuances in his voice and those slight incongruities in his arguments: he is bullshitting, and I can call him out on it. It is a public service because his falsehoods don’t get passed on to others. In fact, catching him in the act makes him less likely to bullshit in the future, at least with me around, and might drive him to actually research the subject before speaking on it.

So why is antitheist and antireligious speech quenched so strongly by society? Why can’t I, when hearing people discuss God and the Bible and the Torah and Jesus and the Messiah, call them out on putting their beliefs into some books and some stories? Hell, when Wikipedia has an article about anything they have to cite sources, and those sources have to correlate to the material. Of the “sources” available for religion, there are the Holy Books. Unfortunately these books barely correlate among each other, let alone with the religious views of the people quoting them. What sort of close-minded decision allows Christians to believe in the New Testament while not acknowledging Dianetics as the Holy Word? How can any theist claim to be correct with all others wrong, when the sources for ALL the groups are merely imagination-augmented renditions of various moral codes?

I call bullshit when I see it, and I see a lot of it. Every time I hear theists discuss their personal religions I cringe. But what hurts the most is when they discuss atheists: oh, those non-believers are fine, so long as they don’t speak out against my beliefs, seeing as how they are my beliefs, not theirs.

Well, theists of all faiths: speaking authoritatively on a subject that you not only have not researched but can do no research in to anyone publicly is a violation of the no-bullshit policy. Bullshit is fun, yes, and it makes you feel good for having outwitted someone. But bullshit is unnecessary. Take some physics courses, if you really do wonder about the creation of the universe. But please, PLEASE don’t speak about your religious beliefs as though you are right. Every scientist, if they don’t want to get ridiculed, has to gather massive amounts of supporting evidence before their theories are even tested by the scientific community. As a theist, you KNOW that your beliefs cannot be tested and proven right. So yes, your beliefs are personal. Keep them inside.

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Blagospherology, Status Quo, and the elusive Anton Liebowitz

October 31, 2008 at 3:52 pm (Wrongs of the World) (, , )

I took a break from blogging because I realized that I wasn’t breaking ground: not only has the ground I’ve been hammering at been thoroughly tilled and reseeded, but… In fact, the metaphor I didn’t bother to come up with has likely been worn out many times over. My thoughts on politics are moot: the institution is corrupt, and any replacement institution will also be corrupt (or will fail). Or both. Most of society (at least, that part of society that maintains a profitable standard of living) survives thanks to that corruption, so I find it awkward to do either of 1) start or 2) join an anti-corrupt government crusade.

In similar news, my crusades against religion are no better than others’ crusades for religion. In fact, I can recommend nothing more than everyone reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins during or immediately after high school, and that parents not force religion onto any children who resist it.

However, I do have a new mission in life, which I am sure others will be more successful at: spread the science seed. In literal terms. Just because a person doesn’t understand your views (on science) doesn’t mean they are worthless. In fact, they are necessary for assimilation into the science sphere. If you have any interest in science, have many children, even with someone who doesn’t understand you. With any luck of genetics, your children will share your passion, at least to some degree. And, if your spouse happens to not particularly enjoy science, at least you have taken them out of the non-science mating pool.

A friend of mine, Emily Orthogonal, has always been active in the Mornington Crescent community. This win against Anton Liebowitz was a rather exciting game, and so I have resolved to perhaps once again peruse the rulebooks and get back into the scene.

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Communication, Confidentiality, and Open-Ended Prompting

October 8, 2008 at 10:57 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , , , )

I have recently been accepted into SAA training at my college. SAA stands for Sexual Assault Advisor – a confidential peer that a sexual assault survivor can speak to and get information from (regarding various legal and college related processes). When I started this blog I thought, for the very first time, about the repercussions of not having grown up with any sort of religion (and thereby not having any morals and ethics hard coded into my childhood). Some time back in middle school I had developed an uncanny habit of stealing – breaking into lockers at the YMCA and extracting cash. When I was finally caught I received a brutal non-physical release of anger from my parents, in the form of the grandiose maxim “imagine if you were in their shoes”. I most certainly do not want anyone stealing from me, and that episode is the first time that I distinctly remember using my imagination. (Everyone uses their imagination, but how often is that memorable?)

So I wondered, when I wrote the first entries of this blog, about what ethics and morals and humanism and whatnot meant to me. And I honestly couldn’t say. One of my “proposed” theological models is the queue of souls, lining up for their turn on Earth to experience it, feel it, sense it. And death on Earth is non-permanent: the soul simply lines back up and gets another creature the next time around. However, given sentience, a soul in a human can lose its spot in the queue permanently (“burn in hell for all eternity”) by ruining this sensory Earth for others (for example through deforestation, genocide, rape, murder, etc). So by my model, we should all strive to make the world a better place (for our soul and others, the next time around the queue).

Let me add a caveat here. I don’t “believe” in this theological model. That is illogical, and “quantity” of total souls comes into question among many contradictions and incongruities. Still, just as (some) stories of the Bible are useful for illustrating socially acceptable and unacceptable behavior, so does this model loosely dictate some “rules” to live by.

Despite providing this model as a reason to be “good”, I reflected and did not find myself actually doing anything “good”. What kind of humanist was I, preaching (or at least accepting) humanism as a way of life, but not actively promoting it through my actions? To alleviate my internal conflict, I applied for SafeWalk and SAA. Safewalk sends teams of two out, from 10pm-2am, to walk any caller between any two locations on and around campus, to promote safety and security. In large part, to prevent violent assaults (and unwanted attention from passing drunk students). SAA then is a program to help survivors of sexual assaults (rapes) come to terms with their lives, accept the event, and move past it.

Communication (starting with body language) is the very first element of being an SAA. Poor posture, tension, or an overtly laid-back attitude can all break a survivor’s confidence and prevent the session from being at all effective. Then there is confidentiality – while I can describe the methods used by the SAAs, I obviously cannot disclose the details of any particular case. Confidentiality helps maintain the integrity of the SAA program, and keeps survivors willing to call us for help. If their confidence in our confidentiality was lost then they would not seek our help (and would be less likely to receive help from elsewhere).

And last is the mode of conversation: open-ended prompting. I wrote an article on Play-by-post forum-based dueling for the Role Play Academy, and started it with Open-Ended Prompting. The premise there was to keep the duel going by giving that person something they had to respond to, and open-ended prompts in SAA conversation are no different: to make a session productive, the SAA needs to keep the survivor talking (or at least able to talk, as pauses in conversation are not only allowed by are encouraged when necessary). To keep the conversation going, the answers to questions need to be long but possible to recall (rather than requiring analysis). As such, yes-or-no questions are a bust due to their one word answers (great for ending a conversation, but not necessarily on a good or useful note). But also “why” questions are a taboo. Questions that start with “why” require active analytical commitment to respond to. As the survivor is likely preoccupied with overwhelming emotions (rage, terror, hate, disgust, etc), requesting that they take a moment to analyze the situation objectively and answer your “why” questions is both selfish and unlikely to be successful.

It is one thing to speak on a subject; it is a whole ‘nother to do. It is easy to say that we should all be supportive of each other, so as to make the world a better place. I’m not saying that I’m now making the world a better place, but I think that I’m en route to figuring out how I would go about doing so. Baby steps.

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Reaching Out and Touching a Puppy

October 4, 2008 at 7:08 pm (Uncategorized)

Thick with Issues has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. The Atheist Blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist Bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

Aside from that I’ve joined two organizations at my school: Safe Walk and Sexual Assault Advising. So apart from reaching out to get me heard, I’m reaching out to help others not get hurt or recover from being hurt. Life sucks (as a general sentiment) so maybe I can help make it better.

Also, some bands are quite whiny. If you forget the name of a whiny band but want to reference it as part of a larger genre of other whiny bands, feel free to refer to it as Fallout Confessional Service for Cutie at the Disco. To those who are in such an emotional state that you enjoy these bands, please, please take some friends and go to your nearest mall pet store. Most have booths in which to play with puppies: unless you have allergies, these are guaranteed to make you feel better.

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A Shot at Conscience

September 30, 2008 at 4:45 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , )

His mother spoke at the television as he stood from the dinner table, Don’t forget to clean your placemat, I wont, he replied, And go do your homework, I know, and with that their exchange halted. He ascended the six step staircase and entered his room. Sitting down, he had barely touched the power button when his mother called out again, Are you doing your homework, Of course I am, why do you ask such stupid questions, you were the one who told me to go and do that homework, If my question is so stupid, why you bark at me for my simple questions rather than simply answering? He was in silence, she was frowning, but was happy, amused by her success, and neither could see the other, but they didn’t need to see to know what the other was thinking. Because I don’t like it when you take a shot at my conscience, the boy almost said, but instead pressed the power button again, and as the computer whirred down he instead started his work.

I wrote that in August of 2005 as the preface to a 20 short-chapter Book of Summer for a Literature class. The style is meant to tribute Jose Saramago, author of Blindness.

I have always had trouble choosing to do what was necessary (read: dictated by others) over doing what was appealing. I still do, am doing so right now: writing is far more appealing than physical mechanics homework. Perhaps I am in the wrong major?

Still, why do we do what others dictate over what we want? The answer is society, and our obligation to it. We are taxed by our governments, forced to donate to them funds with which to perpetuate this way of life. We are also taxed by society of our time and energy, forced to learn professions and provide labor to perpetuate progress. When looked at life from that perspective, I find the humanist in my suddenly agreeing, accepting that conforming to the school to career progression is necessary. I get through the day, through my necessary but unwanted tasks knowing that I am working towards being a productive cell in that organism that is our world. If only our central processing unit would stop taking heavy shots of heroin that propagate down and affect us all.

So it doesn’t hurt to reiterate, to myself and others, that maxim that grandparents love to recite: Love what you do, and do what you love. My problem is figuring out if I love physics – I love the premise, but I might be doomed for philosophy rather than discrete phenomenology. (I also dislike calculus.) The question I have, though, is regarding getting to the thing you love. There are almost always obstacles in the way, so it is necessary to gauge if overcoming them is worth the end result. The equally important maxim here is that The thing you love might be nice from afar, but might be far from nice. What you want now might very well not be what you really wanted – perhaps I need to take a spirit walk, like Parkman, and figure out what lies in my future.

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