Monthly Archives: September 2012

Central Oregon Socrates Cafe Changes

In which we announce a day and time change for the twice monthly Central Oregon Socrates Cafe discussions…

What?:Central Oregon Socrates Café

When?: 2nd and 4th Thursdays, 6:30-8:30

Where?:Dudley’s Bookshop Café, 135 N.W. Minnesota Ave., Bend. Oregon

 Who?: You at your most philosophically curious.  All welcome.  Please treat yourself to a book, beverage, or snack.

How?: Bring a question for us to discuss (we vote on all questions offered).  Discuss question philosophically. Ask more questions.  Listen to your interlocutors.  Have fun!

Why?:

To be inquirers asking questions.  To potentially understand ourselves and society better. To discover frameworks of thinking we might be unaware of in our own life. To break down and build up structures of thought.

To think about:

  • assumptions
  • embedded concepts
  • differences in kind and degree
  •  logical methods
  •  compelling or alternative viewpoints

 

Contact: bendsocratescafe@gmail.com

Visit Oregon Socrates Café

Advertisements

Greatness

In which Carrie considers the impact of inspiration and perspiration through the lens of sports metaphor and historical heroism…

This is a kick ass video, literally and figuratively.  It is instructive in relaying a message that kicking another’s ass is the way to be great and it reminds us that kicking ass is a measure one can only hold in relation to greater values than personal glory.  This invites questions about identity and ethics.

Who am I?  What do I believe in?  Who can I trust to stand by me?  Who can I support to achieve comparable objectives?

I am reminded of a conversation I had with a friend recently.  I often analogize my desire to assert myself courageously in terms of  when “I come out swinging.”  I do this while fighting for my autonomy and purpose, and my place in the world as a member of the whole human society who wants to do great things.  Sometimes we are met with walls in our way, necessary or character-bending in their placement.  My friend recognized my impulse to “come out swinging” and told me a fight wasn’t of interest.  I was reminded of the risks involved in war, even a two person one.

Shall I work for peace or do I succumb to the pressures of my passionate species?

One of my projects this term is to read Lies my Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen.  It is a subversive text which criticizes American history textbooks.  It gives compelling insights into heroes small and large.  It asks why authors omit information and retain other points.  It wonders why American students learn only about how great this country is and why we perpetuate the facade of the positive.

When I watch this inspirational video, or find other opportunities for inspiration, I question them.  I am reminded that what interests me is achieving my better self, one which I would be proud to put in a history textbook, while remaining very much human in my uncertainty and willing power to take the steep side to the summit if it is the best route for us all.


Fahrenheit 451 Greenwalled

In which Carrie compares two types of walls one could surround one’s self with…

John Green, author of a number of my favorite books, explains several features of walls relating to Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 and the eerie resemblance to modern culture.  We now live in a time when you not only have the option of large plasma screens and upcoming artificial intelligence which will practically read your mind in similar ways Bradbury predicts, but you can also have one of these in your home as well!

 

Green Wall technologies are gadgets you can buy or build for your home to accentuate a bare space with plants without taking up too much floor space.  The one pictured was built by Sisters Science Club and was planted recently by high school students in their school.


Spine Haiku

In which Carrie fashions a haiku from book spines…

 

Biophilia

A void, the fault in our stars

Great house, earth in mind

Found poetry idea from When Tech met Ed…


“Give It the Old College Try”

In which Carrie remembers her grandfather’s witicisms while publishing her first graded homework assignment of the term for the sake of staking out the place and earning an ESOL endorsement…

“Most of us will live heroic lives on a small scale…be kind to each other, honor those who came before you and respect those who will come after you.”
-John Green, commenting on the release of The Fault in Our Stars during the tour-de nerdfighting, January 2012, Bagdad Theatre, Portland, Oregon

It took the recent deaths of two people I loved to finally spur me into action.  I have been thinking of returning to school for some time and it is not without some symbolism that I attend my third Oregon University, OSU, which happened to also be my late grandfather’s home team.   He gave me a small gift of money with the requirement that I use it for “a meaningful, long-lasting purpose to remember him by.”  Or so says my grandmother, who along with him, was also a teacher.

Times are different for teachers now than they were back then.  It has been over three years since I finished my M.A.T. program at Southern Oregon University with endorsements to teach middle school multiple subjects and high school language arts.  Language everything has been a long-term hobby for I-don’t-know-how-long, and I’ve received the generous gifts of people in my life who inspire the continuation of its study in my life.  One person was my professor Wilkins-O’Riley Zinn (W-OZ) who died this August unexpectedly.  She encouraged my personal writing goals and to teach students with kindness, creativity, and fun.

I remember these two people who inspired a joy of life, a lot of therapeutic humor, and the desire to make the world a better place.  The small place I live now is east of the Cascades, in central Oregon.  I substitute teach here, and often have the pleasure of seeing my old teachers at the high school I attended.  I consider John Green’s quote with excitement when I think of the new generation of scholars and world-makers whom I will encounter in the coming months.  I believe I will approach them, humbly and happily, as both learner and teacher.  I imagine that I will empathize with the struggles they overcome at their level of study and commiserate with them while I grinningly express my own educational woes (deadlines, computer glitches) and wonders (inspiration, curiosity).

There is so much I wish to do for our children and our world, and knowing I don’t have to do it all by myself is a relief.  I believe I can be heroic and that my heroic acts are not mine individually…I’m made up of small and large parts of the diverse communities I call mine,  who, over the years, and even just this moment, shape my decisions and actions.  I am a fan of the vlogbrothers, of which John Green represents half, and their edutaining videos bolstered by the catch phrase “decrease worldsuck, increase awesome” to indicate a movement I am already part of through my love of language and communication.

“It’s a mad mission but I got the ambition. It’s a mad mission, sign me up.”

Patty Griffin, “Mad Mission”


The 2nd Amendment and 28 Squirrels

In which Carrie uses writing therapy to confront her feelings of isolation and disrespect…

“Franklin was angry and took five or six of them in his mouth, crushing them, tossing them one after the other.  The other dogs watched; none knew if squirrel-killing made them happy or not.”
-Dave Eggers, “After I was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned”

The Pole Creek fire in central Oregon rages on, but the last statistic I heard was that it is 45% contained.  If you took a pizza and cut it in half, almost, this would represent the statistic, visually. A fire is not a circle, geometrically.  Reports say that there was a lot of standing dead trees and downed woody debris up there.  It was inevitable that a fire would come through eventually.

I don’t think of pizzas when I think of thousands of acres of wilderness.  I think of populations.  I consider the devastating effects of the fire on living things, and the habitats which took millennia to build up…all gone in flames.  I allow for the idea of the benefits of fire for certain trees which need them to let loose their seeds and the billions of insects attracted to charred wood which then bring in certain birds, etc.  I indulge in my imagination the fact that death breeds life, and that the biosphere is a complicated system I can only, with my insufficient human mind, speculate upon and admire like a work of art.  A beautiful object with which I am in love.  This is my visceral rendition of Edward. O. Wilson’s coinage of the term “biophilia.”

I am more than acquainted with people who practice the right to bear arms for protection of the home and/or for hunting.  I’m comfortable with the people who go out in certain seasons to hunt duck, bear, elk, others, but am hurt when some people kill things, like squirrels, on the property.  The hunting stories of those who go out into the wilderness to seek and kill what they will eventually eat is life-affirming to me.  I can relate to their adventure and see some form of a respect of life. What I can’t understand, or appreciate, is the joyful killing of animals which will later be buried on the property (to prevent the attraction of other species to the carcass).  What hurts worse is heroic narratives of such slaughters, and an ignorance to what unintended consequences may occur when one or twenty-eight of these squirrels are destroyed for no other reason except annoyance at their presence on the five acres.

I do not express myself fully as the environmentalist which I am.  I believe I have heard enough verbal pot-shots taken on environmentalists to associate freely with this kind of person.  Pressure on the side of belonging to a group can sabotage inner truths which repel people with certain biases.  So it is, with careful skepticism, I subject the pain I feel when an animal is killed unnecessarily to the other side of the environmentalist project.  I  have observed bird population changes, for example, on the property I speak of. Could this be because the Western gray squirrel population has become more “stabilized” and has since provided more habitat for other species?  When I criticize man’s hand in everything, can I also see the positive unintended consequences in this case?  What do those who disrespect people like me see when they take some action which goes against something which I am against?

These people I speak of (unnamed because they are so wonderful in ways not shown here) have not experienced what I have.  They cannot understand the sharpness of my sensitivity on matters of destroying even a small part of the life system.  Nor can they “get” that their pleasure at the sport is my extreme pain, which I conceive as all of ours in the long run.  They probably aren’t even aware of the disrespect they exhibit against the environmentalist, whose attentive understanding of the necessity of healthy ecosystems as prolonging our cherished human species, hurts more  than my personal sentiment.  I won’t profess wisdom on matters concerning the bigger picture, but call on those who honor human life to take a look at it and ask what would it be like to know they contributed to the death of our species with these small actions of destruction, if they knew how ignorantly they behaved even while advertising its joy.

When my travelling companions and I walked off of the Druk Path in the Himalayas and into the capital city of Thimphu, a hotel with showers and beds were a new luxury after five days on the trail.  I still recall an interesting inference I made once…maybe ignorantly…associated with my perception of the Bhutanese regard for life.

A hotel clerk called up to my room and asked me to please shut my balcony door…so I wouldn’t let the flies inside.  “Excuse me?” I asked, puzzling over the oddity of this request marked with a small tone of customer service weariness.

“Please shut your door so you don’t let the flies in.”

I said, okay and did as I was told.  I was in a foreign country and wanted to be a respectful guest.  It occurred later to me, after I examined further the strangeness of this minor detail to hotel operations, that in a country where Buddhism is the norm and the sacristy of life is maintained though vegetarian habits, that maybe they didn’t want to have to kill the flies later.  The ones I let in might bother future guests and would have to be destroyed to make them happy or add to their comfort.  I can see how this could be a dilemma for a Bhutanese person if he or she believes in either reincarnation or simply honors the contribution of all living beings as part of a whole life system.

The smoke here bothers me.  I’ve had headaches and dehydration and some nausea in the last few days.  The fire is the talk of the town as we all process its consequences  in our collaborative and individual ways.  I know it will be controlled 100% eventually and slowly a new forest will form…with the help of birds dropping seeds and insects drawing in woodpeckers and mycelium invading carbon sources of food.

“Do you love any, do you love none, do you love many, can you love one, do you love me?
Do you love any, do you love none, do you love twenty, can you love one, do you love me?”
-Suzanne Vega, “Knight Moves”

Photo credits:

Jon Renner for the Pole Creek Fire photo taken from the deck of his home.

Himalayas and Mule taken by travelling companion Julie when we went there together as a group in 2005.


Magic of the Mathematician-Mystic

In which Carrie appreciates beauty and excellence in mathematical language…

Oh, man, this is so cool!  Let me tell you about one small learning I had yesterday in the setting of the Metolius River Nature Reserve with a friend of mine.  Let’s call him the Mystic, since I’m mystified by math.

Mystic asks: Do you believe prime numbers are finite or infinite?
Me: Finite.  (It is what I learned in school, after all, and really it doesn’t make intuitive sense for there to be an endless amount of these…)
Mystic: Would you like to be proven wrong?
Me: Oh, yes!  (I do love any attempt at this, especially from one boasting of such confidence.)

So he proceeds…

Imagine the finite list of prime numbers.  If I had enough time I’d write them all down on a piece of paper.  Call the last prime number “P”.

Now, let’s multiply all of the numbers on this list together.  It will take a long time, but imagine we have done this and come up with our result.  We’ll call this result “C” for composite.  This C is the product of multiplying all the primes in existence  from prime number 2 to prime number P.

My mystic then begins to demonstrate the basic principles of prime numbers for a reminder on how they work.  This  tutelage delights and reminds me of when Socrates demonstrates that learning is possible (with also the metaphysical implication that all knowledge is remembered knowledge) by “teaching”Meno’s house slave geometry.  So, with his stick in hand, my mystic draws in the dirt numbers 1 through 9.

He then asks me: “What are the divisors of (C + 1)?”  It cannot be divisible by 2, because C is divisible by 2, so the next even number would be C + 2.  Nor can it be divisible by 3, because C is divisible by 3, so the next multiple of 3 would be C + 3.  The same argument holds for every prime on the list, so (C + 1) is not divisible by any prime.  That makes it a prime larger than P, which contradicts the hypothesis.

Therefore, there can’t be a largest prime number.

Yay!

For someone who isn’t  good at math but curious all the same, this Socratic proof in the dirt, near a rollicking river, surrounded by Pileated woodpecker excavated snags, and in the company of a wonderful person who makes magic, was only a infinitesimally small part of the beauty of the day.

(Special thanks to Silas for his clarification of Euclid’s Theorem.)