Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
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27-10-2015, 08:31 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
(27-10-2015 08:25 PM)claywise Wrote:  
(27-10-2015 08:15 PM)Siz Wrote:  I do not believe in alturism. It is a myth.

...

Make friends with the nihilstic reality of existence.

I agree that for the most part, "altruism" has an element of selfishness.

But what about, for example, the story of my grandfather? He was a Marine in World War II. A natural leader and a guy who had to be part of the action (he was probably ADHD or something) — and a definite wild man and black sheep in his family — was killed when he singlehandedly stood forth and held off a Japanese counterassault in the battle of Tarawa. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

First, the kind of man he was, he really did seem to have a need to be part of the action, so this was (all his friends agreed) very much in character. His father called him "fearless," my mother said he was "impetuous," others said "reckless." Whatever, he put himself in harm's way - and those who survived the battle said they believed he knew he was very likely to die in this action, because he would have no choice but to expose himself - is that not altruistic?

I'm interested in your take on that one. Incidentally, if you want to look him up, just Google "Bonnyman" and his Wikipedia entry will come up first (it's true so far as it goes, but I plan to commit full-scale revising after I publish a book on the subject).
My take is that at least one of the following brought him pleasure/happiness:
-The thrill of throwing himself into situations like that.
-The acknowledgement of his country/peers that his actions were indeed great
-The image/reputation he maintained
-The thought that his actions indirectly brought safety to his loved ones.

Self preservation interestingly enough doesn't always trump happiness. See: heavy drug users (not to say you gpa was like a drug user, but as an example).

I prefer fantasy, but I have to live in reality.
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27-10-2015, 08:40 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
(27-10-2015 08:31 PM)Adrianime Wrote:  My take is that at least one of the following brought him pleasure/happiness:
-The thrill of throwing himself into situations like that.
-The acknowledgement of his country/peers that his actions were indeed great
-The image/reputation he maintained
-The thought that his actions indirectly brought safety to his loved ones.

Self preservation interestingly enough doesn't always trump happiness. See: heavy drug users (not to say you gpa was like a drug user, but as an example).

I think, given the chaos that was taking place and the rapid development of the assault he led, your first point is a valid one - again, well within his character to throw himself into the action.

I feel quite certain, on the other hand - and most of those counted as "heroes" in battle say this is the case - the praise of his fellow humans and his image didn't enter into it.

In general, on the fourth point, yes, he believed he was fighting to protect his country and his family.

Talk to those who have gone through military training, however, and they will tell you that lofty notions of freedom or courage or medals or whatever rarely enter into it when they are in battle. They have been trained to do one thing above all: Fight for their buddies. That's the most effective way to inspire men to fight.

God does not work in mysterious ways — he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.
Jesus had a pretty rough weekend for your sins.
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27-10-2015, 09:06 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
(27-10-2015 08:25 PM)claywise Wrote:  Undecided
I agree that for the most part, "altruism" has an element of selfishness.

...A natural leader and a guy who had to be part of the action...
...a definite wild man and black sheep in his family...
...he really did seem to have a need to be part of the action...
...so this was (all his friends agreed) very much in character...
..."fearless,"..."impetuous,"..."reckless."...
...is that not altruistic?

I'm interested in your take on that one.

My take on it is that he was a thrill-seeker. Sounds like good ol' fashioned vainglory to me.

When one sleeps on the floor one need not worry about falling out of bed - Anton Lavey
If god had meant us to believe in him he would've existed - Linda Smith
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27-10-2015, 09:13 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
(27-10-2015 09:06 PM)Siz Wrote:  My take on it is that he was a thrill-seeker. Sounds like good ol' fashioned vainglory to me.

Thrill-seeking, no question.

But that hardly equates to vainglory:

1. excessive elation or pride over one's own achievements, abilities, etc.; boastful vanity.
2. empty pomp or show.


I don't think his actions on that day qualify under either definition.

Perhaps you meant "illusions of invincibility," and that might be (though again, those who were with him say he seemed fully aware of the dangers).

Either way, your take strikes me as little petty — trashing a guy who put himself in harm's way to protect his fellow humans? Hmmmm....

God does not work in mysterious ways — he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.
Jesus had a pretty rough weekend for your sins.
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27-10-2015, 09:47 PM (This post was last modified: 28-10-2015 02:08 AM by Siz.)
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
Who trashed him? You assume that me considering him a vainglorious thrill-seeker is a negative. Much respect to him. The kind of life I'd love to live... and an exciting death - one his family can rightly be proud of. He was a hero - a hero for living his life on his own terms. For the thrill of it. I doff my cap to the fella.

The point is that he lived and died doing shit he loved. He wasn't the self-denying kind of hero you build him up to be. Let's not pretend it was all so alturistic - that wasn't the case at all.

Why not remember him for what he was and celebrate that, instead of making a less than accurate (albeit attractive) caricature of him. That would do him a disservice.

When one sleeps on the floor one need not worry about falling out of bed - Anton Lavey
If god had meant us to believe in him he would've existed - Linda Smith
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28-10-2015, 06:32 AM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
(27-10-2015 09:47 PM)Siz Wrote:  Who trashed him?

I think the misunderstanding has to do with the word "vainglory," which is, per the definitions I posted, considered a negative trait.

Thanks for the clarification.

God does not work in mysterious ways — he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.
Jesus had a pretty rough weekend for your sins.
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28-10-2015, 07:12 AM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
Frankly, I think it's all biochemical and we have little to no control over it. Some of us require boosts to our adrenalin system, some require boosts to the dopamine system. Some of us have large amounts of empathy, some of us are more engaged in self preservation.

We go through life's situations and this, that or the other chemical gets triggered and needs to be balanced.

We are a delicate balance of ever-changing chemicals and act accordingly. We watch each other and call it "character". Add in the chemicals we ingest through food stuffs and medications and our "character" will change accordingly.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that defy our usual way of balancing ourselves. Now we have to rationally induce change, and those are the difficult phases in our lives as they are not automatically supported by our chemical composition. We might plunge into grief or depression triggering calming chemicals, or we might go manic with activity triggering adrenaline.

I think we can analyze and rationalize all we want, our personal chemical balance will continue to be the catalyst for most actions. Medicine has long recognized this and provides medications that alter our chemical balance when facilitation of alternate behaviors is indicated.

[Image: dobie.png]Science is the process we've designed to be responsible for generating our best guess as to what the fuck is going on. Girly Man
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28-10-2015, 01:35 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
(27-10-2015 04:57 PM)claywise Wrote:  Up front, I must say I've always looked askance at the "personal issues" region of this forum. Seems, I dunno, whiny.

Not sure, then, if this is the right place for this one. Could go in Philosophy?

I embraced my atheism fully about two years ago, or rather, became willing to say aloud that I did not believe in god/gods/the supernatural. But I had been, at best, a weak sort of theist for a long, long time.

As it turns out, I've had what I can honestly say are the best two years of my life since then. To some extent, it really is because in "coming out," I walked away from the vestigial fear of god, hell and so on that remained from a modest Catholic upbringing.

To be perfectly clear: I accept that there is no meaning of life, and embrace the idea that there is (or can be) meaning in life. And yet....

As I say, a great two years. I've done and accomplished the most amazing things — I auditioned for and got a part in a production of (don't laugh!) 'Jesus Christ Superstar'; I thru-hiked the 500-mile Colorado Trail; I published two new books; my wife and I made the decision to sell our house, become absolutely debt free and move to a place where I can ... surf! Most of all, I've been part of a remarkable effort for the last five years to recover the remains of around 500 Marines lost in the 1943 battle of Tarawa, including my grandfather, a Medal of Honor recipient — and in May, we found him, along with three dozen other sets of well-preserved remains. I arranged for an amazing three-days of memorial events in his hometown, and this is the perfect ending for a book I've been working on for five years.

Life is great. And yet....

I still find myself sometimes feeling rather empty, or perhaps rudderless. Having accomplished all these things for which I've worked so hard, I look up and realize that I am extremely dependent on being (as a wise old teacher once said), a "human doing" rather than a "human being."

Another layer — at least tangentially — is the persistent, quiet whispers echoing in the back halls of my brain that still want to know, What's it all about?

I never did find much "meaning" in the idea of god or the afterlife or any of that (indeed, the idea of eternal life is utterly terrifying; why haven't more horror writers worked with that?) And I am simply unable to believe in the idea of a "soul" or some part of me continuing after death.

And yet.....

My human instincts still poke me with the same goddamn questions that (literally) used to keep me up at night as a kid: If the universe isn't infinite, what else is there? If it is infinite, holy shit, how can that possibly be?

Yes, yes, I know — we make our own meaning. And I do — for example, I have been a hospice volunteer for many years — but that's still doing something. And when I'm not doing, it does seem a bit, well, empty.

I've done some decent reading on this, including Dan Barker. Still not satisfied.

Is it really just a series of doings until we croak? Should I just pursue pleasures and goals at all times and assume that's my "meaning"?

I'll be most curious to hear what anyone else has to say. Mostly, what I've heard over the years here and at AXP, and in atheist tomes, winds up feeling rather glib.

Thanks for listening.

P.S. I once had a problem with opiates and booze. I'm a moderate drinker now, but I must confess that when these enormous questions and perceptions of, for lack of a better word, meaningless arise, I find myself wanting to be high to escape. No, I don't need a "higher power." But interesting to me that when nothing is going on, I want to be somewhere else, figuratively speaking.

Sort of reminds of something Woody Allen said:

"That’s why over the years, I’ve never written or made movies about political themes. Because while they do have current critical importance, in the large scheme of things, only the big questions matter, and the answers to those big questions are very, very depressing. What I would recommend — this is the solution that I’ve come up with — is distraction.

“That’s all you can do! You get up, you can be distracted by your love life, by the baseball game, by the movies, by the nonsense. Can I get my kid into this private school? Will this girl go out with me Saturday night? Can I think of an ending for the third act of my play? Am I going to get the promotion in my office? All this stuff, but in the end the universe burns out. So I think it’s completely meaningless, and to be honest, my characters portray this feeling. Have a good weekend.”

Perhaps that void is just nature's way of keeping us going, moving from one project to the other, and we should just fill that space with things that we enjoy doing. Perhaps not those big adventures so much, but even little ones, inexpensive things, like enjoying time with our children, and wives, friends etc....

Find something beautiful, and squeeze every last drop out of it.

"Tell me, muse, of the storyteller who has been thrust to the edge of the world, both an infant and an ancient, and through him reveal everyman." ---Homer the aged poet.

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
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28-10-2015, 05:21 PM
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
(27-10-2015 04:57 PM)claywise Wrote:  P.S. I once had a problem with opiates and booze. I'm a moderate drinker now, but I must confess that when these enormous questions and perceptions of, for lack of a better word, meaningless arise, I find myself wanting to be high to escape. No, I don't need a "higher power."
Just a powerful high? Consider

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Science is not a subject, but a method.
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28-10-2015, 06:16 PM (This post was last modified: 28-10-2015 06:48 PM by GirlyMan.)
RE: Oh no! The 'M' word (meaning)
(27-10-2015 04:57 PM)claywise Wrote:  I still find myself sometimes feeling rather empty, or perhaps rudderless. Having accomplished all these things for which I've worked so hard, I look up and realize that I am extremely dependent on being (as a wise old teacher once said), a "human doing" rather than a "human being."

I just float. I'm so damn fat I can do that without thinking.

There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. -Camus
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