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May. 21st, 2010

Mwhahahaha!  I have highjacked my geek's livejournal!  I wonder how long it will take for him to notice. 

Two more dreams

One from last night, one from several months ago. I was typing the one into a text file when I saw the other one right below it. They are both short and seem to have a similar theme.

Dream: I was adventuring in a dream-world. In the dream I was doing this, and in it there were other people there. Except only I knew it was a dream. I was with a group of others competing somehow, I don't remember how. I was on a team with a scientist, and a lady-doctor. We were doing something...investigating what sort of technology another group had in a dream. I walked into a room and was supposed to see what they had, but I was not impressed. All they had were...some sort of drug that supposedly enhanced people for a time. The lady-doctor wanted to try them out...on me...but I was dubious.
Then the telephone woke me up.

Dream: Online rpg but in virtual reality dream-form. I was playing a merchant in a trading space-ship. The space station was invaded by darth vader, or a vader-like figure. I realized he wanted or abandoned a package, so I tricked him into letting me leave, then doubled back, stole a mech (with a cool laser sword) and broke through a door leading to this videogame-like store he (he was being played by the admin) wasn't planning on letting anyone see until later. He knocked me/my character out, and before I could wake up the dream ended.

A Dream

I dreamed I was exploring a series of cavern-like Sewers with my mother. Quality time together. Which probably should have made me say 'hey, this is a dream dummy!' immediately, but. It was an interesting series of sewers. Large enough to walk in, with ramps leading up and down, water coursing through the bottom of the passageways, and a cavernous ceiling. Kinda like some parts of the old, old New York Sewer system, I guess, except much prettier. Probably inspired by some videogame or other.

So we got all the way through them, and spoke to Jersey at some point (I forget how) - and then continued on our way. I was standing on a small ledge above a chamber with rushing water, and she had moved around to the other side to admire the cool ceiling, which was clearly concrete, but over however long it had been there, had been molded by dripping and leaky water so much it basically looked like a cavern ceiling, except smoother. I noticed a few cracks in it, but wasn't worried since it was clearly very old - possibly even a century. It wasn't going anywhere while -I- was in it.

And then a large block of it gave way over the water. Plop! Fell right town into the torrent in a big square. I got the idea that we should get out of there, but was too busy staring. I'm not sure what route my mother would have taken out, anyways. And then another fell down...and then another. The last right on top of her. Heedless of the danger, I jumped down into the water to fetch her, and did so, but she appeared cold and unresponsive.

When the dream next resumed (perhaps I passed out, perhaps time passed, I'm not sure. My dreams tend to be much, much, much longer then most peoples, and the various parts are sometimes separated in this fashion, like acts in a tv show) - I was in an apartment with Jersey. I think it might have been one we lived in when I was a child, but I'm not sure. I found out that he had buried my mother, in a coffin and everything, after he found us. He had -not- sent her to a hospital, he had -not- gone to any great lengths to try to revive her, having decided she was dead. Understandably, I was pissed at him. This is totally something I could see him doing, too.

So I made him take me to the coffin, which wasn't buried very much yet (dream logic), and then made him get a shovel and unbury it, and help me open it up so I could check to make sure she was dead. I insisted she could have just been passed out, or even if she was dead perhaps she could have been revived. We didn't know because he didn't check, he just had her buried, and didn't even wait for me. For all we knew, he had her buried asleep and alive.

So we get the coffin out, and the thought occurs to me that even if she was just asleep when he buried her, she's certainly dead now. But I open it up anyways...and the first thing I see is the skinless underside of her severed head, which is lying in the coffin on its side, and all the...body part bits...of a head from underneath it. Completely severed from the body. It wasn't severed when I passed out after rescuing her, and it didn't occur to me to wonder why then. I suppose it was because, on some level, I had enough of the dream. Even if I'm in a dream dreaming as if it were real, on some level I'm usually aware that its a dream, and that part of me had decided this was no longer worth dreaming.

So I started screaming, while a part of my mind thought 'this has to be a dream', until my scream distorted reality/the dream around me enough that I woke up.
Game Paused!

The dwarf 'Charles' Physicist has entered a Strange Mood!
The dwarf 'Charles' has seized a computer!
The dwarf 'Charles' is screaming 'DF2010 is out!'

The Failure of our Generation



Lately, I have been watching an online television series called "The Guild". It appears to be a simple comedy for geeks on the face of it, but is actually reflective of the great failure of our generation. It is a show about a guild of 6 online gamers on World of Warcraft. 3 guys and three girls. They spend almost all of every day on this game, well over 12 hours a day, even to the point of having appointments to play the game. They have no friends outside of the game, and it has consumed their lives.

Now, the creator of the series "Felicia Day"...Penny from Dr. Horrible...has stated that she was addicted to MMO's at one point, and still plays them often. But she wasn't trying to bash them in the series, rather she was trying to capture the following:

There is that mid-20s ennui in a sense, where people get out of college, they get their jobs and then they find that they've been working from point A to point B to point C their whole life, being tested and structured by school and college and their parents," Day says. "There is a period in people's lives where they're like, 'Am I doing the thing I want to do? I've been racing here, now I'm here, and well, it's not very satisfying.' That was what I wanted to capture in her psychology."

The media often posits a question. Does the internet isolate us? And to an extent, the behavior seen in this show...which is very typical of online gamers...does indicate on the surface that this game and activities like it consume lives. But if you look at the characters in this show, none of them would be any better off, really, if they stopped gaming. Perhaps some of them would get a social life, perhaps half, but the other half would be completely lost and broken. They are not turning away from their broken lives because they are gaming; they are turning to gaming because their lives are broken and lost.

I see this as being a result of our society. How many people know their next door neighbor? How many people have more then 2 or 3 people who care about them? (In real life, not online guys!). How many people have -noone- who cares about them? There are millions of people who are in that situation, or who are intelligent and educated, and have been told by our culture "you go to high-school then college then you'll start life and be happy" or some variation of that. But there -is- this post-college ennui, where people realize that whatever it was they wanted either isn't happening, or isn't so great. Perhaps some people become successful and rich, but most of the people I know who graduated from college are still working minimum wage jobs. And even some of the 'successful' ones are finding their lives not exactly filled with meaning.

We all want more, and have been shown more by our education and the media, and yet the fact of life is that most people will never -get- more. And perhaps that would not be so bad if we had friends...but there are many without friends. And so you have people who turn online for friends, for a social support network...who have absolutely nothing else. And without that fragile network, they would have nothing.

This is the failure of our generation. Not technology gone wild, but the death of dreams, and the death of any connection to the people who surround us in our day to day real lives. We don't know our neighbors, we don't have any sense of 'community' in the traditional sense, and we are all too often left adrift and purposeless. To an extent, the American Dream itself plays into this. Work harder, make more money, buy more stuff. Repeat and repeat and repeat forever. That's the American Dream, right? Get more stuff? Even for those who become successful after college, is that satisfying? Is that the best dream we as a people can aspire towards?

So thats what I see as being the philosophical question of the Guild, whether or not it fully realizes it. We have an entire generation of our culture which has grown up in this sort of heavily structured environment, without much of a sense of community. Is it any wonder people turn to the internet to try and replace what they -should- have in real life?


Tags:

My New Blog!

It is valentine's day and I love my girlfriend. This is my new blog. I have ported over some posts from my old blog. Much has changed since then! But I felt they were useful for historical reasons. I feel the posts I ported over emphasize how I felt during certain portions of my life. I have more somewhere, and I'll get to those eventually if I havn't lost them. There are only a few right now.

In any case: Hello World!

Standing in the Snow at Dawn

Well, its not quite dawn right now, but nearly so. As I start this, I've just spent 40 minutes or so standing in it...rather foolishly, might I add. Not for fun, like in the rain at night - though I have been meaning to take a good walk in the snow, I'd probably want to be wearing a few pairs of socks when I did so. Ugh, wet feet.

In any case, while looking at the snowflakes falling off of the buildings and the tree, and (trying not to stare) at the hazy yellow-white sun, obscured by snow and clouds, I was thinking about the nature of Good and Evil.

It occurs to me that, perhaps - the greatest of evils is not Murder but Ignorance, the most deadly of Sins not an excess of Wrath but a lack of Compassion, and the duty of each human being not to struggle against the evils of another but against the darkness within themselves.

Before I get to the logical argument, let me state that I believe that these principles are at the heart and soul of all religions; that my fundamental point is written upon the innate...sense of ethics of all mankind. I do believe we have a certain innate sense of moral values. One can argue whether or not this is so, but I take the point to be so self-evident that I will not here discuss it, nor bother to argue it. In any event, gaze upon some of the following religious quotes first:

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" - Jesus the Nazarene, 5 B.CE - 33 BCE (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31, Luke 10:25)

None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." — Muhammad (c. 571 – 632 CE) Hadith.

"Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD." — Torah Leviticus 19:18 (Judaism)

Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Udana-Varga 5:18
(Bhuddism)

That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn. (Babylonian Talmud, tractate Shabbat 31a. --Hillel the Elder) (Judaism)

"This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you." - Mahabharata 5.15.17 (Text from a famous Hindu epic)

"All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One." - Black Elk (Native American Spirituality)

"Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own loss." - T'ai Shang Kan Ying P'ien. (Taoism)

"Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do." - Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, 1970 BCE, Ancient Egypt.

As you can see, all religions have some version or concept of compassion. Though not necessarily emphasized by the /followers/ of each religion, I propose that an adherence to this universal law of compassion is a prerequisite for any being to be morally upright, and the lack of it is (along with Ignorance and a lack of Curiosity) one of the signs of the greatest forms of evil, no matter the moral system of the person in question.

Case in point. While one can murder a man and by so doing destroy him, and thereafter scatter both his ashes and his memory to each and every corner of the earth, making it as if he had never been - and some would call this (rightfully so) an evil; it is an evil due to a lack of that individual caring for the well-being of his victim, of caring for his rights. It is innately the same sin as rape; which is also a lack of respect and understanding for another being, of caring for your rights and feelings over theirs. Theft, adultery - all sins can be traced back to a simple lack of empathy and compassion.

A person with true qualities of compassion would not commit murder, because it would feel to him as if he were murdering himself. He would not steal from another because his conscience would in turn steal from him any satisfaction from the event, any mental peace or happiness regarding it, and so would feel as if he had stolen from himself. The difference is the degree to the lack of compassion. Some can merely tell lies, or treat another unfairly. Others feel comfortable with taking away the legal rights of others, or in insuring they have less medical or social rights (this is the same sin) - while others are capable of murder or even genocide. In the end, though the acts are different, each cause is the same.

And yet, sometimes even reasonably compassionate folk can overcome their own better judgment. They know they will feel poorly about it later on, but they commit such acts anyways as to cause themselves pain. What causes this? Lack of foresight? Certainly not - often (or at least sometimes), such compassionate folk know they will regret it later on. Perhaps they feel as if they have no choice, or like many other sins - it just feels too good at the present moment for them to pass up.

And yet there are others whom tell themselves that certain types of human beings are not worthy of compassion. Southern ministers during the 1800's in America routinely preached on the inferiority of African Americans. Many ministers today - not all, not most - but still many - preach on the subservient role of women, and decry feminine leadership in the home, and in churches. That particular lack of compassion is not limited to Christianity, but can be found in Judaism and Buddhism too.

Other forms of this evil are more sinister; the economic or political American leader whom convinces his voters/followers that it is not 'our job' to ensure people have basic health care, that economic policies which increase the economic gap between rich and poor are acceptable - because it is their fault; as if (even were that true) - that would make it better. And then of course, the classic psychopathic insanities of the ethnic cleansing of the Taliban or the Nazis; evils so obvious all can agree on them.

But they are not the worst of evil, for they can be confronted and destroyed.

The most subtle forms of this evil cannot be, unfortunately. Discrimination against women in the church, or against the poor by the majority of America. Even September 11th could have been avoided had we taken care of the Taliban in 1997. We knew how they treated women. They were participating in 'ethnic cleansing' of the Hazara ethnic group, killing them by the thousands, taking their homes, raping their women, or simply beating them to death in the streets. By the /thousands/ - and we knew.

We could have toppled them at any time. But we did not. We cared about our pocketbooks more then we did the welfare of others, and we suffered. Even in Bosnia, when hundreds of thousands (perhaps more) were killed by Milosevic on the visible theater of global politics, congress /bitterly/ complained that it was not their duty to interfere in the governments and actions of other nations.

In the long run, doing an action because it is right - even if it seems against your best 'personal interests' - will always be in your benefit. Hindsight is 20/20 - and we could not have foreseen what the Taliban would be a party to in the future, that they would be a threat to us. But that is the problem. We did not (and even had the president tried then, congress would not have let him) think to do an action because it was morally correct for that sake and that sake alone. But that is the attitude we should have.

Ignorance - by which I mean a lack of curiosity and a certainty in your own moral assumptions and cultural beliefs, a lack of compassion, and a lack of will to do what it is right for its sake alone; this is the central root of evil, and the greatest of its examples.

Walking in the Rain at Night

A few hours ago I was feeling restless, with nothing to do on a cloudy night. I had little desire to watch television, waste time playing a videogame, or sleep - and no friends whom would be up at this hour (or many at this campus at all), so I decided to go for a walk.

About two miles into this walk it began to rain. Fortunately there were a good deal of trees around me, so I was able to hear the wind blowing through their branches, and watch the raindrops drip off of the treeleaves onto my head. It occured to me to be grateful for this experience, the first thing that came to my mind was how wonderful the sight of a raindrop falling off a leaf in the middle of a breeze was, when it occured to me: not everyone would appreciate such. Many in fact would feel annoyed at the cold, unhappy at the wet, and (that most horrid of words) /accustomed/ to the leaves.

It seems to me this is a great sin, insofar as one can call a thought a sin. As we walk through life from day to day, we become /accustomed/ to the world around us, we take it for granted. We see order, and in so seeing (or creating) order, give it no further thought. An example of this can be seen in our desire to predict the weather, or to create shelters and devices to minimize the impact of nature upon us; we want predictability and comfort. We desire a feeling of control over the world around us, and once having established this feeling give it no further thought.

This is an experience unique to the rise of science and the modern world. In eras past, the degree of control and understanding that we have acheived (and the desensitivity) was not possible. From all accounts the ancient Britons and Greeks, and sailors of almost every era, felt only wonder when they saw a blade of grass, a sprig of mistletoe. And yet, were I to take half the contents of humanity with me on my walk, it is likely that despite culture or language, all would express annoyance at the weather, rather then wonder that (alone in all planets among all the billions upon billions of stars) - we have rain. None would ask why we have rain, or ponder the awnser - people just accept that we do and move on.

And so all our wonders become commonplace. We have come to the point where our 'advanced' minds are increasingly of the opinion that feelings (and by proxy, beliefs) should be replaced by knowledge, feelings which do rest upon knowledge are supertitious, and thus have no place in an orderly and understood world.

But there are things in the world which cannot be understood through rationality alone, and things which, while they can be seen and measured, cannot be /appreciated/ through rationality. There are beliefs and moral ideas about conduct and judgements which cannot be accounted for solely upon a rationalist way. Even philosophy cannot rely on numbers and evidence to acheive conclusions about moral systems. Nor can the sheer beauty of a sunrise, a single snowflake on a winter's day, the charity or intelligence of a person with true inner beauty be understood with sheer rationality. The purely rational mind can comprehend none of these things, and in truth does not exist except as an unspoken societal ideal.

But likewise and equally dangerous is rejecting the byproducts of rationality - of dismissing scientific conclusions because they conflict with ones own beliefs. There is a selfish urge in American beliefs and values, a tendancy towards declaring (as Stephen Colbert put it) 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I //feel// it to be true, but that //I// feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality.

And so we are left with a society without wonder or appreciation. A society in which the beauty and sense of awe of the mysteries which surround us is either lost in rationality or in unknowning ignorance, in which curiosity is either to be opposed or pitied.

My entire life I have sought to ask questions, questions for which some would say there can be no awnsers. Many reject the art of questioning in our modern society, even among theoreticians and physicists who prefer slowly expanding the status quo to changing one's worldview when presented with new facts. Many religious people (from many religions) likewise, refuse to even meet and analyze their own texts with a critical eye, preferring instead the mandate of tradition in a poetic imitation of their scientific counterparts.

But for all this I have hope. While some may say that we know little more about the universe then we did in the time of Plato, this is not true. Scientific exploration has revealed much to us of the mechanics of creation, the same products which have stripped away the wonder of the world have nevertheless educated us. And religious efforts have taught us much of ourselves, our motivations and desires, how to live a good and moral life, how to make an appropriate judgement on a particular course of action.

Perhaps we will someday yet learn. But nothing will ever be accomplishedwithout a sense of wonder, and an appreciation for the natural world.For these reasons, and their sake alone, I choose to appreciate the beauty of the rising sun, the majesty of the babbling brook, the timelessness of the shores of the sea, and the wonder of a single raindrop, falling from a leaf in the rain.

My name Charles Baran. Sortof.

Actually, for most of my childhood I thought of myself as Charles Murray. Its interesting how an identity can change. As far as I knew, my name /was/ Charles Murray. Actually, it was just the name I was enrolled in highschool as, by my biological father. My name was Charles Baran (my mothers maiden name) - as she had declined to list him as the father when I was born. Everyone had declined to inform me of this until it came time for me to attend college, and they insisted no Charles Murray had ever existed; all in the head of me, my family, and those whom had known me at highschool; a dream of my crazy demented father.

I was born on May 19th, 1983. The result of an 'out of wedlock' situation; not that I knew that until years after I had found out my name was false. As you can probably guess, I have a strange family; I won't get into that full story right now.

I have had many dreams in my life. My life has been defined by my dreams. When I was 4, I wanted to be like King Solomon. When I was 6, I wanted to be a Paladin like King Arthur. 7, I wanted to be like Encyclopedia Brown - a boy I had read of in a book. He read his entire local library and remembered everything, and used that knowledge to solve mysteries and help people. Ironically, I havn't done much to help people, but he is the figure from my life I have managed to emulate the most successfully; it is so easy to read. And I have read so very much. I don't even remember it all; its in there, somewhere - like spider webs in a dusty closet. I recall it at randomn times, triggered by things people say. My head is always full of facts, a mixture of the babble of others speaking around me with the memory of the endless multitude of books I have read.

Ironically, it is I who often babble. I talk too much. Perhaps because words have so very little to say. I would prefer to write everything if I could. The idea is preposterous of course, everyone with large scrolls and feather-ink pens scribing messages to each other all day instead of talking, but there it is - I would prefer such. Words are so sudden and incomplete. As I said, I talk too much.

In third grade I was systematically reading the elementary library. I was at the 'M' section - mythology. I had read of the so-called 'heroes of reknown, great men of old' - the greek myths and legends, other stories of other people. And then after that I got to P. Physics. The first book was entitled 'Quasars, Pulsars and Black Holes' You can get it from amazon.com for 1 cent today.

http://www.amazon.com/Quasars-Pulsars-Black-Frederic-Golden/dp/0684181436/sr=8-3/qid=1171454838/ref=sr_1_3/105-1262851-2583669?ie=UTF8&s=books


After that, I wanted only to see the universe and understand how it works. Such was my dream, though that dream took many forms over the years, the nature was consistant.

I am a person defined by his dreams. When I dream, I dream higher then most I know. Ambition is a part of me, as much as it seems my inevitable failure. I have many weaknesses. I have very little social skills - I often come across as rather annoying (I am actually slightly intimidated by socialization at times) I am easily frustrated by mathematics homework, an irony in a physics major.

But I am at a crossroads in my life, for I have dreamed my dream, but now that dream is gone from me. I have no hope of getting into graduate school for physics; I have no research experience and a poor gpa. I am not certain I would succeed even if I did. I have no other dream with which to replace it. I have withdrawn from what little social life I had - in truth, I had little to begin with. I am disillusioned with myself and with others. The world, as a child; was a bright and shining place with infinite horizons of grace and learning, where one could become anything.

But it is not so. And yet I am a person defined by his dreams, and thus I am now without a definition for the first time in my life.

And so instead of dream I struggle. I work through my classes as best I can, turning my thoughts from far horizons to dreary futures, and contemplate my options while wishing for my dreams.