Sunday, October 03, 2010

Philosophy of Life

It's been a while. Inspired by a friend to get back at it, here I am. I am going to cheat a bit and use my answers to a few essay questions for my philosophy class as my latest post. I think it's important as my philosophies have changed quite a bit from what is already here on this blog. I don't want to rid myself of what I've got already, and I may add a new blog here in the near future to mirror where I'm at in life now. But for now, this is what I've got.

What do you most value in life? Why?

On a personal level, I very much value my ability to think and look at things in life objectively. I have spent, and still do, a lot of time with myself and there is nothing quite like being able to make constructive use of that time. Not only have I used this ability in entertaining myself, but I have had many discussions with friends and family that have only benefited from remaining open minded and asking endless questions in the process of thought.

I spent three years in the Army and basic training was one of the toughest things I had ever done. One sort of goes into shock both physically and mentally, so to have a place to remain rooted proved to be useful. We would go on what seemed to be endless road marches and you essentially have nothing but time to think. Focusing on being physically and mentally tired isn’t the best place to go. I would spend that time thinking about my place in the world and where I wanted to go. It passed the time and I got to know myself as well as what I was made of in the process.

Today I run a crane for a living and spend long hours alone while working, anywhere from 8 to 16 hours at times. Being aware of the conversations I have with myself really helps in making use of the thinking that goes on. The ability to think and be conscious of it is a great asset as far as I’m concerned. I can tell you, though, that I am excited to now be in an environment where all of this thinking can be put to use.

What moral beliefs influence your choices and your behavior toward others? How do you determine the “right” thing to do?

I can’t exactly say that I live by any specific moral beliefs. I suppose my behavior toward others would depend on the situation and what I’m looking to gain, if anything, from it. That doesn’t mean everything I do is based on gaining something, but most of the time the things I do are dictated by an expectation of some sort. Usually there is a result in mind when acting on something. Often times, I’m afraid, things are done without any thought whatsoever.

As far as doing the “right” thing, I’m not even really sure what that means. What I see as the right thing, others may not. A lot of times I notice either negative or positive emotions attached to making a decision. Sometimes I can’t go by that alone. I may have a negative feeling about something but “know” that it’s what I need to do. There are a whole lot of things involved in making a decision and not necessarily just asking myself if it’s right or wrong. Being conscious of what you’re thinking and feeling when making a decision helps, but it’s not always easy to do. That being said, I sometimes make decisions out of habit formed by things outside of myself. All of the things I’ve been taught or all of the things that we are often told is the “right” thing to do often play a part in the decisions I make.

What role do religious beliefs play in your life? Do you believe in God? Why or why not? Is there an afterlife? If so, what is the path to it?

I think I first need to answer the second question because the reason is in the answer to the first question. I do not believe in God, nor do I believe there is an afterlife. While I do not hold any religious beliefs of my own, some of the religious beliefs that are out there have played a huge role in my life. I always joke in saying that for someone who doesn’t believe in God I sure do think about God an awful lot.

The question of whether or not God is real has been a huge factor in my life. I was raised Catholic and even at the young age of about 8 or 9 I can remember sitting in church and asking myself what the point was to all of the stuff that went on there. I went to a Catholic school up until 5th grade where I had a daily religion class. I recall asking questions to which I received short answers that amounted to “just because”. For the most part I accepted those answers until somewhere in high school, though I never stopped asking questions.

Through hardships and downfalls in high school I began to really question the purpose of life altogether. I thought I would find all the answers I ever needed in my search for God. I read the bible multiple times trying to gain an understanding of Him, thus an understanding of my place in life. I grew more frustrated and confused because I could pray and ask for help yet nothing changed and I still had no answers. There came a point where I became angry with God, and even though I was angry I still wanted to believe. I went through the worst part of this inner turmoil for at least five years, seeking answers even through other religions, never finding the answers I needed.

As time went on, staying open minded, I continued to read everything I could get my hands on searching for answers. I got into some of the Eastern religions which seemed to bring a bit of peace, as they themselves were more peaceful. They allowed more room for people to be human, so it seemed. Their “rules” didn’t appear so impossible to follow and this began to empower me in the process. The more I began to see that I, in fact, was responsible for what happened to me the more I began to take responsibility for my actions, and the less I looked for a God to fix all that was wrong in the world as well as myself.

My ideas of God and religion continued to change and have brought me to where I am today. The further that I got from those concepts the more at peace I have become with myself. It has evolved to the point where I no longer believe in God. It would appear to me that there is more proof that God doesn’t exist than God does exist. If at some point in the future somebody can show me hard evidence that there is a God, I am yet again open to change. As you can see, religion has played a huge role in my life even though I no longer try to live by it.

What gives your life meaning? What is the purpose of your life? What do you hope to achieve in your life?

Today my meaning and purpose in life is raising my children. My goal is to teach them how to think for themselves and to be the best they can be. I didn’t have much guidance growing up and it has been my mission to make sure that I break the chain as far as that goes. It is my experience, with my own kids, that they are eager to learn and know things and I think that’s awesome. I would be doing them, and society, an injustice to neglect that. I simply want to know that I’ve done the best I could by them. I’m not sure what I hope to achieve in my life, but I do know that whatever it is I am working on it right now.

How do we find truth? How do you know when you “know” something is true? What is an example of something you know to be true?

We find truth by looking, I suppose. Taking things at face value is not always the best way to find truth. There are some things that can be proven true and some things that can’t. The things that can be proven true speak for themselves. The things that can’t, well, all we can do is make the best of it. There are many things in life that we’ll never know the absolute truth of, and I can accept that. Although, it doesn’t mean I won’t look. I find it interesting to look and come up with my own ideas, true or not.

The sun rises and the sun sets, that I know to be true. I can see it happen. God is real. Is that a true statement? It may or may not be. I have my own set of ideas surrounding that which, today, I can live with.

Do you believe that your choices are free? Do you hold yourself responsible for your choices?

Anymore I try not to concern myself with questions about whether or not my choices are free. There are a lot of situations where I “have to” do certain things to have certain outcomes. For example, if I want to feed my family I have to work. Now, I don’t have to work, but unless I want to starve or live on the street I have to do that. I am free to make either choice I want, but if I want a specific outcome chances are I have to make a specific choice, and I do hold myself responsible for that choice. It would be self-defeating to label my choices as free or not. It’s just a word and doesn’t hold much weight in the grand scheme of things. Whether or not I can live with the results of my actions is what matters.

What do you consider to be “beautiful”? Why? What is the function of art? Should “extreme” forms of artistic expression be censored? Why or why not?

There are many things that I consider to be beautiful. My children, the night sky, classical music. They are appealing to the eyes, or ears, or simply just moving. What I perceive as beautiful strikes me in some way whether it is physical, mental, or emotional. Essentially that is the function of art. It can be a release to the person creating it or a motion of some sort to the person taking it in.

As for extreme forms of artistic expression being censored, I think it depends on who it is being censored from. Of course I am not going to let my young children watch a gory movie with foul language. Should a song with foul language be censored from me? I don’t think so. If I don’t want to hear I don’t have to listen. It comes down to perception, I suppose. What is offensive to me may not be offensive to you, but we as adults are capable of making the decision to be offended in the first place.

Are all people entitled to basic human rights? Why? What is justice?

All people should be entitled to basic human rights, though we know that’s not the way it goes in most of the world. I think there are enough of those basic things to go around to everyone. Because we are capable of thinking and figuring out ways to make that happen then we should. Unfortunately not everyone thinks that way so it’ll probably never happen. That doesn’t stop me from doing what I can do to share what I have with others when I have something to share.

Without looking up the word, I’d have to say justice is doing “right” by other people. There’s that vague word again. If you’re speaking of justice as far as law, then I guess it’s a set of rules the majority has said are right. Is it an injustice for a child to starve? Yes, I think so, but apparently not everyone does. There are scenarios that are allowed to be played out which make these types of things happen. Justice is a concept that we can only strive to obtain. I don’t think it can be fully realized.

What are other important beliefs in your life?

I try not to stand on beliefs, only ideas. Ideas are easier to change. Beliefs only seem to get people in trouble. That is, unless it is something that is provable. I have taken a lot of flack from people for expressing this, but it doesn’t matter. A lot of times it seems that people need to have something to believe in simply because they have nothing else. Also, people appear to thrive on conflict, another outcome of having beliefs. I can accept having only ideas. Ideas are forever changing and growing into something else. I am basing this on my own experience so I don’t expect anyone else to abide by it. At this stage it works for me.