Tuesday, May 29, 2007

As CCR Put It

Have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day?

I'm unhappy today.

The weather is perfect. It's maybe a little windy, but it's sunny and warm.

I wish my mood and the weather matched.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Beeeeeeeeeeeeer

I promised my next post would be a happy one.


This made me laugh:



Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Living With It

It sucks having an autoimmune disease. It sucks having it be in remission and it sucks trying to find the balance between abject fear of relapse and a normal, healthy life. It sucks having a rare autoimmune disease because no one really understands how much it sucks.

There was an article in Self Magazine's March 2007* issue that said it very nicely: ...with severe autoimmune illness, you get to go through all the official cancer crap without getting any of the cancer credit. There is no pretty ribbon to adorn your lapel. You do not get a story line on Sex and the City, nor do you rock out at the Grammys. You cannot purchase lovely pink products to help find a cure.

Not to belittle people who have had cancer - it's not easy dealing with that either - but do you know how many time I have wished that I had cancer instead of Wegener's? It's not easy, but it's much easier for cancer people because they have a gigantic support system and publicity and just tons of people they can relate to and share their experience.

I know that makes me sound like a terrible person, but it's really true. Cancer survivors also have the joy of not worrying if every cough, headache, nosebleed, earache or joint/muscle ache is a symptom of their cancer coming back. I do. It sucks.

A friend of mine pointed out the other day that I let Wegener's Granulomatosis be a fairly major thing in my life (well, no shit!) and that I should try to make it influence me less or not at all. Because whether or not I have a relapse is out of my control, he essentially said I should ignore the disease. His sister has had cancer and he used her as an example of how one should cope. He actually kind of pissed me off because he implied that I was a slave to WG and that I should really just be passive about it.

That's not really a plausible idea. I have to pay very close attention to any symptoms that might indicate a relapse because, while I can't control if a relapse happens, I can control how soon it's diagnosed. Catching a relapse early could save me from being on dialisis for the rest of my life or keep my nose from collapsing completely. I've found a few support groups online too. It's comforting to have found people who went through something similar, and it's helpful to be aware of what I can maybe expect if I do have a relapse. Not actively dealing with WG is likely to be more detrimental than not.

The truth is I don't really let it have that much influence on my life. If I were to really let Wegener's control my life, I would be a total hypocondriac and would never do anything but worry about it. I do very normal things for a person my age. There are a few things I don't do because they would increase the risk of me getting sick, but they're kind of stupid things to do anyway. I don't even talk to most of my friends about it because right now, it's not a really big deal. Occasionally they'll ask me about it, and I'll tell them, but I seldom bring it up.

Blah! I promise my next blog will be happy. This one and the one before are a bit ponderous.

*I couldn't find a link to the Self article itself that didn't require some sort of password. I've posted it as a comment though (it's kind of long so I don't want to put it on the main page). I highly recommend reading it; it's a great article.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Have You Waxed Your Philosophy Today?

I'm waxing philosophic today. (What the hell does that mean anyway, "waxing philosophic"? Well, I know what it means, but where did it come from and how does it make sense?). One of the guys I work with asked me yesterday if I was LDS (being in Utah one gets asked that question frequently) and I said no, I was atheist. Today he asked me if I believed in "all those energies" - you know, the weird energy thingies that godless heathens sometimes believe in. I told him that I kind of dabbled with Taoism but was mostly an Existentialist. Not surprisingly, he asked me what that meant. I explained it to him as best I could; existentialism is kind of a tricky and controvertial little philosophy even within the existential community and my major exposure to it has been a few plays by Sarte, Camus and Beckett.

From a shit happens perspective, Taoism says "shit happens", Existentialism says: "Shit doesn't happen, shit IS"

That conversation got me thinking that existentialism and taoism don't really go very well together. I occured to me that you may not really be able to do both; an existential taoist? Seems a little far fetched. Based on my limited exposure and what I learned today on wikipedia (mostly just refreshing my memory about the two ideas really) I will now attempt to desipher whether or not the two can work together without totally cancelling each other out.

Existentialism (really over simplified) is based on the idea that human existance is fundamental and inexplicable. A big motto of this thought is "existence precedes essence" which essentially means that there is no predefined meaning of life, people just exist, and any meaning that we find is there because we (humans) ascribe it, we define our essence through our actions, reactions, our life. We are "thrown" into existence and we simply exist until we come up with some definition of ourself. We live in a universe that is random, irrational and totally indiffernt to us. According to Sarte, rationality is "bad faith" - it is an attempt to impose structure on the structureless universe. As far a God goes there are three ideas: God is dead, belief in God is a personal choice based on faith, experience and/or observation, and Agnostic Existentialism. The last one is the one I like. It doesn't claim to know anything about the "greater picture" - about God or the grand scheme of things or whoever it is that throws us into existence or whether any of those things actually exist. Whatever the greater picture is, it's far beyond human comprehension so it's futile and useless to try to figure it out.

Enough of that, let's move on to Taoism.

I'm going to simplify Taoism even more than I did Existentialism. There are several reasons for this, one is that "Taoism" coveres a whole shit-load of philosophies, religions and interpretations there of. Second reason is my understanding of Taoism comes mostly from a religion survey class I took which really just covered the basics. I like understanding (in a limited way) Taoism like this because it really leaves the whole thing flexable and open to interpretation. The third reason is that this blog is long enough already and there simply isn't time to dive deep into the Tao.


Let's pretend that Taoism is pretty much the sum of it's parts; looking at it this way makes it easier to look at it in relation to existentialism. The parts are (more or less) Tao, De, Wu Wei, and Pu.

Tao is a concept that is really difficult to explain. Actually it's impossible- those who know the Tao don't know the true Tao (or something like that). As much as I would love to be cryptic and leave it at that, Tao is (big surprise here) a major component of Taoism and really needs to be sort of understood. Tao is the flow of the universe - it's the influence that keeps everything balanced and in order. It's kind of like "the force" in Star Wars or Chi in feng shui. It is also "the way" or the path you must follow to find the Tao. It's beyond human comprehension to fully understand what Tao is; that's not just me saying so, that is part of the definition of Tao.

Part number two: De can be literally translated as "virtue" but its meaning is different than the typical western definition. De is essentially following the Tao (as in "the way" more than as the universal force). Being virtuous by Taoist standards means doing the right thing for the right reason. De means you return someone's wallet not because you want the reward but because it is the right thing to do and in harmony with the Tao.

Wu Wei is sort of related to De. Translated it means "without action." A big part of Taoism is also "Wei Wu Wei" which means "action without action" - I dare you to try to wrap your head around that. Wu Wei doesn't mean (as the translation would imply) that you should sit around and do nothing. It means that you shouldn't fight the Tao; you shouldn't exert your will on the universe. Let's pretend the Tao is a stream, Wu Wei would be like a stick floating down the stream - it's moving and "acting" but not fighting the current. Not Wu Wei would be a big old rock in the stream which would eventually be worn away into dust.

Finally, let's talk about Pu. Pu means "simplicity" and is the true nature of the mind. Have you ever had a moment when playing an intrument or playing a sport where you're so into what you're doing that your mind is kind of blank and everything just comes together but the second you start thinking about what you're doing (really start paying attention) it all falls apart? That moment of blankness is Pu- at that moment you are one with the Tao. It's awareness without definitions, lables, knowledge or experience.

Now comes the fun part! How can Taoism and Existentialism work together? There are some bits of Taoism that work pretty easily; Pu, for example is more or less just existing without any ascribed meaning. When you are one with the Tao, you simple ARE. The Tao itself goes quite nicely with the "greater picture" Agnostic Existentialism. Of course, you run into a big problem when you look at the part of the Tao that orders the universe. A truly random, irrational universe cannot have Tao, especially since Tao is all about balance. Ah, there's the rub. Taoism is a way of structualising the random universe; this is a problem. Another problem is that Taoism is essentialy giving a pre-existence meaning to life; we exist to follow the Tao. I could then argue that the Tao isn't there to follow until we define it or create it or chose it as an essence.

At this point, I'm a bit flummuxed. I don't really know that anything I just wrote actually makes sense. I would like to point out to any readers that I really don't know what I'm talking about. This blog has been me just thinking aloud (in a typing sort of way). I think I'm going to simply continue to exist and if I happen to follow the Tao along the way, good for me!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Meat Pies. YUM!

I just found out that Tim Burton is directing a new movie version of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street. Sweeney will be played by Burton's favorite actor, Jonny Depp (I heart him, but I have to wonder if he can pull off the Sondheim score), and opposite him Mrs Burton (Helena Bonham Carter) as Mrs Lovett. Alan Rickman is also signed up as the judge. Sacha Cohen (Borat) also has a role, not so sure I'm totally psyched about that. Most websites say that it will released December 21 this year, but one said Jan 11. In any case I can't wait.

Another film I'm quite excited for is 28 Weeks Later, which comes out this Friday. I loved 28 Days Later and this sequel looks to be just as good. I miss Cillian Murphy though.

As for the rest of the Summer of Sequels:

I can live without seeing Spider Man 3 - especially after hearing about it from friends who saw it over the weekend. I wasn't too impressed by the first two (though they are good for comic book movies) and all their redeeming quality are lacking in the new one, or so I hear.

You will find me in line on opening day to see Pirates.

The Harry Potter saga continues with Half Blood Prince coming out on July 13. I will probably go see it, but I'm much more excited about the final book release two weeks later.

Ocean's 13 should be decent. Let's be honest, the first two Ocean movies were really just hollywood hotness getting together and having fun. It worked. This latest installment doesn't look like it's going to be anything more than that, so it should work too.

What else is coming out this summer? Fantastic Four, Bourne, Die Hard... I'm fairly indifferent to those three. Transformers? Eh.

Hairspray should be fun. If nothing else, it might be worth it to see John Travolta in drag.

Friday, May 04, 2007

What's The Matter With Kids Today?

Seriously, when does this even start to make sense?

I guess it's good that I can't relate to a total sociopath, it means I'm not one myself, right? I just don't get why doing something like that would even cross someone's mind. Especially since it was a duck that the school had sort of adopted and was monitoring.


In the article, they mention that the kid might not be charged with anything. I think letting him get away with it with a slap on the wrist and a couple shrink visits (god knows he needs those anyway) is almost reinforcing the psycho behavior. Even if he's not wired to know the difference between right and wrong, he could still understand the logic of doing something illegal and facing the consequences.

Can you just imagine what his parents are going through? Unless they're the "oh my kid could do no wrong. He's not bad, just misunderstood" kind of parents, they have got to be freaking out. How do you handle the idea that your kid is showing classic signs of being a violent sort of nut job? I would be scared to death. And I would never be able to watch Haloween again.