Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This is wrong.


The BC NDP is currently engaged in an election to decide who our next leader will be.

To be eligible to vote - join the BC NDP - right now.

Use our convenient online membership form.

Joining by December 31, 2010, ensures you are able to take full advantage of the tax credits of up to 75% for your membership fee.

A $100 membership donation will cost you just $25 after the generous tax credit.  A $40 membership fee just $10.

Please join today and take part in choosing the next leader of the BC NDP.

Season's greetings, happy new year and thank you for your continued support.


5367 Kingsway
Burnaby BC V5H 2G1
1-888-VOTE-NDP (1-888-868-3637) or 604-430-8600

I knew from the start of this email that this was just a silly gimmick to get people feeling involved. I have come to terms with Canadian political parties not treating me as a rational creature. I do not mean to say that I am okay with it or that I do not desire to change it but I have come to expect this. A way to get people involved is good and so is being politically active even in a small way. But, wait... I have to pay to do this?

The NDP wants to charge membership fees to be part of their website. This isn't quite right from what I can see. All sorts of things wrong with this. Higher monetary bracket making choices that the lower cannot, etc. Grr. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Almost a year being vegetarian

Last year at the beginning of December I stopped eating meat. My father, who does not eat meat and should have been supportive of my decision, said that it was fine that I didn't eat meat but I should eat turkey dinner anyway because he always did. So it is almost a year. I will include some pictures from the past year. Unfortunately I cannot find any of the delicious meals I made, but here is some fruit and pastry, which is my meat replacement in any case.

Picture #1 Apple halves and melon.
I was playing a game on the bus. I imagined my ideal. I could say ideal self, but that isn't really what I mean. I mean the person I would like to be, but I also mean a role-model or ideal human being. Apparently my ideal is a tall, lanky man dressed in a white suite who does not procrastinate, as I am doing now. The most interesting thing I learned from this thought experiment is that my ideal is vegetarian.

Then I asked 'what changes can I make to be similar to my ideal?'

My sister, boyfriend, and roommate were all vegetarian at this point. As such I knew lots of recipes that did not involve meet. Furthermore, I made a deal with myself. I would give up meat in exchange for fruit and cheese. I did not realise at this point that cheese contained enzymes from calf-stomach or that marsh mellows contained gelatine. I discovered these things during my research and decided that my decision was based on not eating flesh and as such I was permitted to continue eating gelatine and calf enzyme.

So I got off the bus at the local green grocer, bought a bunch of fruit and went home to tell my roommates I was vegetarian.

I learned the arguments for vegetarianism: health, environment, cost, animal-torture, respect. I fall under the respect and environmental category if you push me. I believe that the consumption of sentient beings is a religious act at as such should be undertaken with respect. It is a disturbing act and well it need not be avoided it should be taken seriously.

I do not tell people this!

It is amusing to see the confusion of my opponent when they attempt to challenge my choices and hit thin air.

"Your against it because you don't like torturing animals."

No, that isn't why I became vegetarian. Then they manage to be very confusing and ask if I eat chicken.
Picture #2: Strawberry rhubarb pie.
"Why don't you like meat?"

I do, I love meat. I just decided not to eat it. It is fun to talk to people who wish to challenge my views. Sometimes my responses are not as good as I could wish for, but  sometimes I manage to make the person sympathetic. Moreover, I am proud to say that I have not attacked or alienated any meat eaters. I do not approve of this method, particularly because non-vegetarians will sometimes approach vegetarians out of curiousity and possibly to consider the choice for themselves. If I want to support my view I should give them information, not attack them!

"You don't get enough protein. You don't get enough iron."
Picture #3: The melon matches the plate.
At this point I explain that if you become vegetarian you need to know what kind of food to prepare. Before I could be vegetarian I needed to be an independent and self-reliant cook. You cannot be an unhealthy vegetarian or a vegetarian who simple does not eat because then you will become ill. When I first became a vegetarian I also went through a phase of not wanting to cook. I knew what I could cook but I had no interest in eating. I think the main danger in being a vegetarian is losing interest in your food. In which case the attacks are correct. If you do not eat you will not get enough protein, iron, or whatever else you might need. This is because you need food in order to get this.

If you do eat, however, you are likely to be healthier then a non-vegetarian. This is because being a vegetarian forces you to explore food, cook variety in order to keep up interest, and pay more attention to your food intake to guarantee you get what you need. It isn't more difficult, it is just more fun.

Picture #4: Frozen desert chocolate wafer & cream.
If must people ate the sort of diet I did before I became vegetarian I would not encourage them to switch. I bought and prepared whole rock cod. I roasted chickens and saved them over periods of days. Then I would use the bones for soup. Once a month I fried up a slice of steak and ate a dining room table dinner. My diet was enjoyable, exploratory, and at times festive.

Most people do not approach meat the way I did. For them eating meat simply means not changing the recipes they know, mixing bacon into everything (not that bacon isn't delicious), and choosing whatever they like at restaurants.

Picture #5: Tea kept warm with a candle.
Recently I had followed the live-food fad. Live foods fascinate me. I explained that being vegetarian was eating only that which was still alive until I cooked it. It is a fun definition, and fairly accurate. It also changes the view on meat. Eating meat is eating things that have been dead for a while, that doesn't sound extremely appealing.

So that's what I have learned over the past year of being a vegetarian. Around New Years I plan to reevaluate my commitment. The year was supposed to be six months. I made it to six months and decided I should do a year. I think instead of being vegetarian I might be a vegetarian in practice but eat fish that I or those around me catch. I also want to decide whether I should eat bugs or not. Buts might be tasty.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Human behaviour in Emergency situations

In Canada when an ambulance or fire truck is on the road all of the cars 'turn into little automatons.' This is how it was put to me by a British woman I know. She explained that it is one of the impressive points in Canadian driving. We tend to be rude and slopping but as soon as there is an emergency: traffic light off, emergency vehicles on the road we switch into emergency situation and perform the necessary actions. This is not the case with road work or accidents, but in emergency situations we know what to do.

The Canadian emergency preparedness handbook says "when disaster strikes, people usually react in a calm and reasonable manner." We are trained to be input, output machines. We wait for information and react upon it. We conserve the resources we have and make sure those we have responsibility for are accounted for and properly looked after. A booklet on preparedness aims to give information ahead of time and make us responsible for others aside from immediate family: It reminds us to look after our elderly or handicapped neighbours.

From my own experience --that being fire, earthquakes and lots of drills-- this is correct. The alarm goes off or the room begins to shake and I think 'do I go under my desk or do I exit the building?' My mind is blank apart from that question. I wait for input. We are told where to go and we go there. This is how the Canadian school system works. It doesn't prepare us for much but it does prepare us for emergency actions. Once we are outside in the cold we start to wake up. If it is an emergency and I am not traumatised then I will put myself into the group that will help others. If I need help myself I call attention to that fact and then stay calm.

There are three questions I would like to ask:

First, In regard to traffic emergencies there was the remark that this is particular to Canada. How much of this is peculiar to our Country? How much particular to BC?

Second, does everyone wait to be told what they can do to help?

I know I tend toward being the good citizen because I believe others will not be paying enough attention to notice if something goes wrong, does this carry over to emergencies?

Third, and most interesting: If we had a 'minor emergency' mentality at all times, would that improve our societies?

The economic crisis says that it would not be an advantage. We would simply be stressed and unhappy. But that is a monetary and not a environmental problem. If we focussed on making sure the elderly in our community got help beyond municipally funded help, this would be an improvement. If in general everyone worked more closely with their communities and were more careful and aware of the resources, it would be an improvement. The danger is the drain of a constant emergency mentality and the narrow-mindedness that it encourages. Those who lived during the wars and also during Depressions are less able to experiment, less willing to change. The luxury they have is theirs and they will not give it up, their diets cannot be improved, everything they can get they must horde. These would not be improvements. The improvement would be encouraging awareness of what needed to be done. It would be the binary: Are you hurt? Identify yourself. Are you stable? Offer help. Keep yourself stable. Much must be added to make the binary a rich and worthwhile life but as a basic premise it adds a great deal of clarity.

The related question is can we do this? We are not offered as much information when it is not an emergency. What we are listening for is harder to find. The clarity offered by an emergency cannot appear when it is not an emergency because there are many things we must do in order to keep our lives the way we want them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Artist's Way puzzle, humanism

I have solved the Artist's Way puzzle.

The puzzle was religion. I am religious but more in a way that makes me very happy in a forest and interested in talking to rocks. Nevermind! The problem is that Cameron tells you to supplement in your own religion and I can't because how she talks is monotheistic, closed, modern, and inaccessible without the desire to believe in God. I know it works for many people but for me it caused a problem. It made many passages awkward and some weeks I gained nothing because of my inability to accept her variety of spirituality.

So that was the puzzle. The solution is humanism. I was reading Week 7 and decided to supplement human kind for God. What it creates is a giddy variety of humanism which tells you that people want you to write. That you are writing for them. That human kind embraces art. It might not be true, but when is humanism ever entirely true. What is it? Beautiful, glorious optimism. It is Doctor Who saying 'I love people, people are incredible.' People can do everything wrong, cruel, and horrid. The power of Doctor Who is seeing that and still finding people incredible because sometimes they get it right. Messy, muddled, wonderful people!

Not that we do not have a great propensity for wrong, but sometimes it is important to think that we can get it right as well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Studying philosophy, part 1

I recently became interested in what it means to me as a student to be studying philosophy. I will try to explore that in upcoming posts. I will begin by sharing a letter I wrote to a fellow volunteer.

Preamble: I volunteer as a Peer Helper. Part of this Volunteering involves being on a Committee. I am on the Student Transition committee. We meet once a week with tea, coffee, and baked goods. Students can come in and talk for an hour. The head of this committee, aware that my mother killed herself, was very upset when the group had a conversation regarding suicide. She emailed me and expressed concern. I thought that I would share my response, as it involves how I see philosophy. It's a bit cheesy because I was trying hard to reassure her. The other thing to gather is my dislike of people being concerned about me, which has little to do with philosophy.


The world philosophy day was set in Iran. There was a concern expressed that freedom of thought would not be permitted, as the government of Iran has shut down many humanities programs in the university were the conference was being held. There have also been deaths and imprisonment's. The concern was that the government would use the world Philosophy day (put on by Unesco to allow for a wider variety of philosophical interests.) The group that [name removed] belongs to sent someone to ask the PSU to send a letter to our Chair to endorse moving it (if that makes any sense.) World philosophy day is now in Paris.

I really didn't find the conversation disturbing or upsetting. I find microskills disturbing because it requires self-reflection and self-analysis. Even if I had found it upsetting that isn't necessarily a bad thing, although in that case I would have wanted to talk it over with someone. I study philosophy because it challenges my beliefs, sometimes it can be unbalancing but once you regain your balance you've gained something. You know, we seem to be talking after all. I think I find it confusing when people are worried about me. I don't want conversations to be censored because I am in a room. It'd be missing part of life.

Sincerely, Jesse.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Self Care

Recently I became a peer helper. There is an emphasis on self-care. Self-care is probably Aristotelian and British Columbia socialism. The socialist part is the important of looking after your own health, being your own patient and making sure you get the care you need. The Aristotelian part is philos. Philos has a different flavour. It is not like love because love has Christian and self-sacrificial considerations. It is trusting yourself and treating yourself as the centre. It is self-reliance.

Self care is weird because it misses these points. It is right but it is not personal and it is hard to get past the flakiness in order to see the useful parts. Why not just put it into words that are true instead of requiring us to dig for it? I do not know.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Artist's Way

My roommate is a serious writer. Not like me. She is a writing major. This Summer she fell in with the this book, the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. She became an enthusiast. I became curious. It seemed the sort of book my mother would read.

She told me about morning pages. Morning pages? Well, I never manage to get up in the morning so that probably would not work. But it did seem like a good idea, except for being encouraged to rant about everything you hate every morning. I wonder if we are honest and happy at the expense of being good.

She told me about Artist dates. You go out and do something by yourself or rather 'take your inner artist on a date'. Sounds like incest. These seemed like a artsie-fartsie (and I use this in the most derogatory way) way of saying something obvious, spending time by yourself in places you love is important.' Time is important. Everything she told me rang both true and wrong. True in that I recognised much of it from my own habits and what I considered important, wrong in that each time the wording was not quite right. I do not think that taking your inner child on a date healthy, I think that going places, forests or cafés or gardens, where you temporarily modify how you view the world, is important. Returning from the café you bring the feeling of it with you, and in the café your thoughts are different. You taken into an atmosphere which requires you to be a slightly different person, and carefully you modify yourself. It is interesting and true. It is not what the book says.

The Artist's Way is useful. I can see that. The stories are good. Her stories about her grandmother sound like awareness of qualia. I like qualia and as such like those. Very existential. Most of the book isn't. What I clearly need is the Existentialist's Way for Art. Nonetheless it bothers me. I know there are others who agree. It is repetitive when it could be embrace brevity. The repetition of the word 'crazymaker' bothered me particularly. That is how mental health patients speak. Assigning all woes and bothers to one person or one idea is dangerous and frightening. In this way the books frightens me. The book is sweetened with artificial sugar and water. You cannot argue with it. It asserts without argument so you must either accept or flail.

Furthermore the religious connotations are heavy and unavoidable. These connotations are not mixed. The religion is not that of many cultures and many viewpoints. It is the God that one meets wandering into the a priori. It is the first idea. It waits in the shadows of abstract reality to devour those who wish to acquire knowledge. It need not be there! It is not even the honest God of the medievals. That God, the God of Plotinus of whom there are slight echoes here, is worthy. The Great Creator is not. Tell me that it is the One, the well-spring of being. The Good, Just, and Beautiful. Tell me to look up and become part of the world soul, ever reaching for pure Parmenidean unity. Tell me to look away from the shadows for fear that I will see beyond them into the nothingness. At least that is beautiful. It may not be true but it has power. There is something there. The other way seems filthy. It is a trap. It is not honest. You are asked to accept a God so that you can be a better person. You are not asked to do so on any rational grounds. Beauty is a rational ground for accepting something. Self-care is not. 

I know that I do not live in a stable way. I procrastinate and fumble. I expect too much of myself and achieve too little. I think outside of myself no longer because I love the external world but because I chose a discipline that requires focus and I want to avoid it. I think this book can help me with that. But I also think it is just like Toastmasters. I recognise it as something that might be destructive and as such embrace it. I do not like myself and hope that if I become another person that person will like themselves better. This is both disturbing and strange. Disturbing because it sounds like mental suicide. Strange because I am really a very interesting person. 

I see that there is value in this book, and the cover is also very pretty. I plan to find what is of value, and what is dangerous. What is of value I will keep for myself and what is dangerous I will post here. If I become brainwashed please send a troop of flying monkeys to rescue me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Subtlety of thought

The Philosophy Student Union holds semi-formal Cafés. Professors come to talk to us about interests and we talk amongst ourselves about philosophy. I am quiet. I do not have much to say. I do not understand what I am learning like the others do. I do not wish to make a fool of myself.

Last year a law student came to visit us. He graduated with a BA in philosophy a few years back. I listened to him talk with the fourth year honours students.

'It seems like, once you've done four years you're done,' he said.

The student agreed. 'You get a view of the subject matter and it doesn't really seem like there is much more to learn or much further to go.'

The law student was pleased to meet this agreement and they continued their discussion for some time. 'Well, there's a lot of reading but I can pretty much guess where it is all going. A few details wrong but I feel like I understand the field now.'

I talked with my tall friend after that. Neither of us felt as if we could understand philosophy like these bright people. We are both slightly incompetent. We are can never read enough. Is that why he is a law student and I am not? Is this man only a few years older then me really brilliant?

I have felt the way those two felt. I have felt as if philosophy as it is seen now is rather empty. I do not wish to spend my career picking apart one passage in one book. That is not important. It cannot be the goal of a whole life because if the passage is really that troublesome it should be discussed by everyone always until answers can be found. If it is left only to one person who only works on that one little difficulty there will be no imagination left.

I am now a fourth year honours student and I still do not understand what philosophy is, but I have a much better idea then last year. A year full of friends and study groups and excitement for my chosen discipline have brought me into the stream.

I can see the clear path set out for me. I can see the methods with which to discover new ideas. I know I must follow these methods if I wish to make a usable contribution, but sometimes I let my mind wander a bit.

We discussed the use of intuitions in philosophy. Intuitions are our means of communication. We confirm that people agree with us about the world in order to continue safely along the path, for philosophers are ever tempted by willow-wisps and sometimes mistake the light of a kitchen window for the light of truth. The trouble is research is being done on intuitions which shows that the way each person thinks can be much different and much less clear then formerly expected.

I do not see this as a problem because I believe intuitions exist to prevent our audience from becoming lost, but this is not what they are used for. Intuitions are used in the place of evidence, and this can be problematic.

For example, if you ask someone to think of a horse there will be huge variation. One person thinks of an experience, one of a brown horse they have never seen, one of a drawing, one of a feeling.

We think we are communicating and we get this!

The world is very complex. The portion of it we use and discuss and understand is only a portion. There are vast lands we do not know of or do not discuss because it is difficult or because they simple do not interest us, or because the difference between what we see as real and what can be seen as real is so subtle as to be almost unnoticeable. It is like think of the South Pole or discussing China. There is a great deal to discuss when we sit down and begin to speak of it, but these places do not enter into our geography in the same way that other places do.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Our house on Braefoot

Sometime ago I posted about a scammer advertising a house on Braefoot Road. I am glad that I did because I helped others apart from myself avoid this scam and could share my frustration with a few people.

But I thought I should report an odd coincidence, for the sake of pointing out that life is sometimes strange. I will be living on Braefoot. This house actually exists. It very obviously does. It has a bit of history and a bit of glory and a green house. It is strange, though my roommates do not mind it, that the first place we considered (a scam) happens to be the same street, the same block, as the home we will now have.

Canadian firearms registry

I am Canadian, but I do not often feel pride in it. I find Canada too big and too varied. How can I feel pride in something when I have only ever seen a tiny portion of it? When most of it's people are totally different from me? I could see pride in it's policies but policies do not make a common culture, a common belief system!

There is one thing of which I feel pride. Our gun policy. I have visited the USA. I went to Washington. It is hardly so different from Vancouver Island but I was aware that there were guns there. It is a different way of approaching the world. People are more confident but also less trusting. They do not need to trust if they have a gun.

I was baffled by the controversy around firearms registry. You are permitted a gun if you need one. Why is that a problem? People cite massacres that have occurred because no one on site had a gun. This is idiotic. How do you predict the sort of horror and insanity that comes from pushing people too close together? It is not lack of guns that causes this, it is too many people too close with a great deal of pressure on them. It is a horror but the horror could be put down just as well to midterms as to lack of guns. Furthermore it has happened in locations that have guns such as the USA so that cannot rightly be argued.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I will be the philosopher

'No, no, I must think. Even if you ought not to I must. It's okay for me. That's my job. They'll have mentioned me. You see, I'm the philosopher."

From time to time I encounter an odd reaction to the way I think and speak and look at the world. My father most of all is bothered by my choice. I do not mind this. It shows that he loves me. It is the reaction of those who have read a little in the Eastern Tradition. They do not know that I will be the philosopher mentioned in the passages they read.

'Leave it to the philosophers,' says the sage. I will be one of the philosophers. Go ahead, chop wood and carry water. Do not take the first step on that thousand mile journey. Try to be in the sense of being. I cannot, because I must be as a philosopher.

It is not those who have read enough to know exactly what harm I do or in what way Western thought fails to understand the world, it is those who know only enough to know that in some odd way it is wrong. It does fail. How? Father do not know this. I know, and as such love Eastern philosophy.

For me and for others like me it is that good friend who is the compliment of our own thought. It is the friend who you meet in a class or well having lunch, who warms you and challenges you and makes your life richer and you can never understand how they can be so wonderful until one day they tell you that they think the same of you.

Japanese philosophy, the only branch I have studied at length, drank deep of Western thought. What it produced is it's own but you can hear the words of Heraclitus echo there also.

They do not know this, the people who fear and question me. Father does not know, and I never thought to tell him that I revel in Western thought without - in fact because I am not -- blinded to it's short comings. I would not dare play as I do if I thought that the goddess of wisdom was perfect. If I thought she her without a sense of humour, put off by teasing and ragging then I would not dare.

It is the same in the East, although I do not with those thoughts quite as often. The East can encourage giving up of the self, which is a dangerous idea in a community of people who do not do the same. There are other faults I do not know. But I know that neither is the East nor the West perfect, nor are they fully divided but for me they are equally wonderful.

Picture by Jessica Kern. Olympic Hotsprings, Washington.

Friday, May 28, 2010

"Wow, that's so deep."

My brother works on log houses. I came to visit him in his hotel and made small talk with his boss, Frank, well he made some phone calls. His boss, on hearing that I am a philosophy major, responded in the way that many people respond.

"Quick, say something deep."

I was a bit caught off guard. I live philosophy. Not to say that I am particularly good at it, particularly dedicated or particularly clever, just that that is I cannot distinguish between thoughts that are deep and those that are everyday. So I responded with the everyday.

"Is there beer in the fridge?"

"Yes," replied my brother. He did not realise what I was about and assumed I wanted a drink, so he proceeded to recommend one over another, obviously uncomfortable at the notion of his baby sister drinking with the boys.

I bounced over to the fridge and opened it. There was in fact beer in the fridge. "Ah! ha! I have discovered truth." I grinned foolishly at Frank.

So what do people mean by deep? I suppose that the thing changes the way the world looks. Joggles up the senses. That is why I love philosophy. Things look different upside down and backwards.

What changes my life? Carnivorous tomatoes. The fact that picture on the right is cinnamon and on the left, the object I have believed to be cinnamon my entire life, is cassia. I've always wondered why cinnamon tastes slightly different then it ought to. I think my wondering this was simply happenstance, but still. I've been eating cassia my whole life without knowing it's name.

But when someone comments that something I think is 'deep' I feel cheap and commercial. This post I thought on before I wrote. I worked on it in my head. I considered what I could say. This post should be something deep, something meaningful. It is not. What is meaningful? A clever turn of phrase. A twist in the way of saying things. They do not mean the thoughts are deep but that they are witty. It is not wisdom I am sharing with them, but a joke. 'Getting' the joke they think they have encountered the universe.

 Why do I hold such disdain? Was I not once one of those people who found philosophy deep? Do I think think that it will offer me those further things I wish to learn about the world? Knowledge of the universe? Yes. But I also hated it. I never thought it was deep, simply perilous and shattering. I knew that I could lose who I was in it. I did lose who I was in it.

 When I was in grade ten I came up with the witty phrase 'perfection is a delusion of the mind.' I used it as my tagline on msn. Now I know that it means god does not exist, we can never attain our ideals, and perfectionism is unhealthy. Now I know I disagree. I disagreed then too, but did not say so. My perfectionist friend informed me a few years later that it had mattered to her, that being a perfectionist she struggled with and embraced that idea.

So some of the things said can have meaning, but not meaning that I intend which means, I suppose, that even if I do not think anything of what I say it should not bother me when others do.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Consult your preferences

I give up. Everyone else has a cell phone. Apparently my not having a cell phone is almost as inconvenient as my not eating meat.

'What, I can't call you whenever I like? But what if I need to get in touch with you when you are in class? What if I want you to work an extra shift? In fact I think you do have a cell phone. You're lying because you don't want to work.'

None of these things are ever said outright, but from time to time they are meant. So I will conform, I suppose, to this unnecessary object. Rather, they do seem like a bit of fun, although I realise I do not need one that is 'fun' but merely functional.

I don't know much about cell phones. I started by quizzing my friends. It turns out there isn't much to know according to them. The most common response was, 'I pay more then I should because I have unnecessary features, I should change that.'

I turned to the internet. What did I find?

'In order to acquire a phone that is RIGHT FOR YOU consult YOUR PREFERENCES.'

Umm? What? I believe these pages must only exist to waste my time long enough that I will click on an ad. I've never had a cell phone. I don't know what my preferences are and that is why I am reading this page. Why are you telling me to consult my preferences? What preferences? What should I prefer? I don't even know what options I have. Yes of course if it is right for me it will be the one I prefer. What I want is information.

This is not the first time I have encountered this inane rhetoric. I found the same thing when attempting to purchase a laptop and a toaster oven. So far I have always found what is right, not simply for me but as a common sense choice. I find the page that says 'get something over this price or it will break.' That's helpful!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Galileo's persecution

Astrology is only as illogical as my childhood belief that trees created wind. The system, a complicated one, does not come from nowhere. It is based on an Aristotelian cosmology adopted and adapted by the Arabian intellectuals, from whom I believe we acquired astrology somewhere in the 12th century renaissance. When the Aristotelian cosmology was replaced this was not because it was 'hockie superstitution,' but on the good scientific reason of it simply not having as efficient predictive powers when you treated the planets on a spherical orbit as an elliptical one. Astrology was a necessary cost of adopting a more efficient astronomical theory.

I studied Galileo. I did not understand. I know that the Church held certain views. I know that Galileo was one of those men who stood up and said, 'you cannot hold to this, you cannot let it become dogma. It will be your downfall. I beg you. I love my church, please do not say a thing that may show you as fallible.'  This in itself might be presumptuous enough to get you dead, but that was not it. That is how it is told in the play of Bertolt Brecht and in the history we read and they do not mention that what Galileo said shatters whole cosmologies.

Galileo was not killed for his work but he was imprisoned, censored, and ultimately died in silence having renounced what he believed to be true. He is considered a martyr of science. He isn't, because he did not die for it. He renounced it and lived to work in secrecy. He is not a martyr and although I respect his practicality I am disgusted by his failure to hold to what he held to be true. We die. It cannot be helped. For goodness sakes die for something if you can!

For Aristotle and as such for most all of the medieval tradition there were two realms. There was a superlunary and the sublunary. The sublunary is earth. Earth is mutable, changing, subject to birth and decay. Earth is imperfection at the center of a perfect universe. Past the vapours of the earth is the moon, the first superlunary body. All superlunary bodies are perfect, never-changing, and divine. The thing of it is the Catholic church still had bits of paganism in it, the worst of them being Aristotle. All we need do is remember that these are people who still worshiped the stars. It is never mentioned. There is a bit of talk about the need for earth to be at the centre of God's plan, but it is never mentioned that these are people who looked at the stars as holy bodies. The Arabic philosophy, which bleeds into western thought, considers them manifestations of God. It was believed that beyond the earth moved the heavenly spheres. These perfect bodies moved on crystalline tracks and made music unheard by any human creature; it was sometimes said that the animals could hear the music, especially birds and nighttime things.

So Galileo's science destroyed one of the last holding places of pagan belief. It forced the acceptance of one more thing not infested with spirits, not alive, not meaningful. Of course they fought him! Of course they were angry!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Whale skin

It was my birthday on Easter and I asked my father to take us out into the woods for a hike. I live in the city now and I miss having access to the parks and paths.

On Friday there was a huge storm. Trees were on the path in a few places. We had to climb around and over. For a bit we walked on the beach. Coming around a corner I saw a crowd of people. Then I gasped. On the beach in the circle of people was a dead grey whale. Never having seen a wild whale, either dead or alive, I was in awe.

It was definitely dead, although the barnacles were not. The tail was in the water and the barnacles there were still feeding as the tide washed in plankton. It stank. It only stank sometimes. It would be fine and then there would be a moment when the smell would wash over everything.

I watched the people touching the whale, a real whale! I found it disturbing, as did my little sister who watched from a distance. But I have always been curious. I could not bring myself to touch the flesh, but I did touch the baleen. It brought back all my desire to be a biologist, a dream until the first year of University when I realised how unsuitable I am for the sciences.

My boyfriend told the story to his disgusted co-workers. They expressed moral indignation at the importunity of the spectators. He agreed with them and then told them about how he had seen the whale, and touched the whale, and taken some pieces of it's skin. He gave me some for my birthday. A less disturbing gift then last year but only because last year he gave me Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.

I have the same view of this as of the Garden Protest. Wrong but rather wonderful.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My mother is dead.

This is not a happy post, but one I felt compelled to write.

My mother is dead. I feel angry. I feel guilty. I want her back. I need her back. For her, form me, for her family and friends and poetry. I feel jealous of those who have both parents. There are so many who are less deserving of a mother. I am. I loved my mother. I told her how much she mattered to me and I told the truth. How can she be dead? How can she be dead when others less deserving still live? People are alive who just go on killing time and when they are gone it will not matter. This was not her. Why could not one of them have gone in her place? It is not right. It is unfair. Death always seems unfair, but this one was particularly so. She died at fifty four. I am in my twenties. It is wrong. I should have been 50, not her. She was too young; I am too young to lose my mother and too old to not remember her now that I have.

I know she is dead. I am not in denial, which is the little I can say. I saw her body. I could tell from how it lay that it would not move again, like a soiled bed or a doll left in the ditch or an apple forgotten in the fruit bowl. Once death was a metaphor for those things, but to explain it I used them as a metaphor for her body. The body was no good. It could not harbour human life any longer.

I wish it called for revenge. I want someone to pay. I want someone to suffer for taking her from me. How dare the world do such a thing? But it is life, and no particular person. But there is no one. It is for the best, I would only get myself into trouble. I have a little anyhow. A man on the street was nearly hit by a car in his own negligence. He was angry at the car and I pointed out that the driver was simply upset at having nearly caused a death. He became angry with me. Insisted he was in the right. Following me. I slapped him. All the time I thought, I would like this man to suffer a little. I would like to take this out on him. What right does he have to live in a world that my mother no longer inhabits? There are others like him. I could hurt them too. Angry, stupid people who call attention to themselves when there are beautiful people in this world, people like my mother who would never ask for such attention.

I will not do these things, but I think of them as consolation. I pretend I will because it makes it hurt less.

I knew how lucky I was and I know how unlucky I now am. To lose a parent is devastation. For me to lose my mother is worse, worse in circumstance and worse again because she was so warm and so wonderful and gifted. My mother was Tanya Kern.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shrine to student housing

We gave away the household budgie today and I proceeded to rearrange the room. I ended up with what Amber calls an oubliette. It is one of those awkward spaces in the corner of a room that is not quite accessible and cannot quite be used for anything, as such things gather there that you do not wish to use but do not wish to store too far from use. Amber pointed this out and I decided that the corner needed a plant. We ended up with what appears to be a shrine to student housing.

Storage, childhood crafts, and an empty bottle bottle once used to hold candles.
Note the UVic bunny, power cord, and router.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Yesterday I discovered for the second time phdcomics.com. I now understand that grad school is not only a lot of work it is also a torturous maze of procrastination, self-hatred, and slow intellectual, emotional, economical,  and physical deterioration.  I am challenging myself as such to build a sturdy foundation before I make it to grad school, because otherwise that will be who I am for the next ten years. I do not want that.

I am unwilling to take drugs so Ritalin, Procrastin-X, and suchlike are out of the question. Hypnonotism is also a bit sketchy. Self-control does not solve the problem because it is the problem.

I shall use a notepad document and a planner. There are many good, free planners online. I prefer software to hardware (hardware in this case being a notebook) because it doesn't get lost and there is always enough space to write. The notepad document, seen to the right, helps me keep track of what I am doing. Right now I have noted that I am considering writing this blog article. Before I do anything I try to write it down. If I do not write it down before hand I write it down after. This is not prescriptive. I do not use this sheet to plan how I will use my time. I use so I can learn how I use my time, because trying to force myself into a schedule has been as yet a failure. Once I have a few weeks worth of these lists I hope to go through them, rearrange, reconsider, and so on. The important thing right now is simply being conscious of what I am doing.

Hobbies and social activities are important. It is true that I am a student, but ten years is a long time. I am willing to make it eleven and be mentally stable at the end. Furthermore I think that it might go up even more if I attempt to do nothing but study. Cooking, dancing, gardening, and writing are an important part of my well-being as is social interaction and some degree of cleanliness. Even my random web-surfing is not entirely useless, as it does at time render interesting results.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Community garden protest Part 2

The Uvic Courtyard has a number of sculptures on permanent display from the Matlwood's modern and contemporary art collection. Elza Mayhew, a UVic alumna and member of the Royal Canadian Academy is featured with large bronze sculptures including "Coast Spirit". Also featured are the totem poles carved by Tony and Henry Hunt, as well as Charles Elliott. 

Around the very ugly 'coast spirit' statue protesters built a garden yesterday. I work on campus. I finished at 7:30 pm and went to see what had been done to the campus lawn. I encountered students planting strawberries in a plot that looked like a pokeball, the tidy beds I had expected, and  a girl who tramped through the muck in high heels singing 'I can garden if I want to, can leave my friends behind...' with those around her shouting lines to rhyme with carrot.

With the crowd gone it was a pleasant little garden. All the ambivalence I had felt towards the act of vandalism felt out of place with regard to the garden. Anarchy I may not like, but I cannot resist fresh soil. I joined the students planting strawberries in the pokeball, to the amusement of my coworker who teased me about being a 'dirty hippy' before going home with his somewhat confused wife. Oh those students!

I talked to the people there. They were hopeful that the garden would remain. One pointed out the turtle-like tendencies of bureaucracy, and the others agreed that it would probably take a week or two before the garden was taken down. It hadn't been taken away yet, after all. The police had been by but had not done anything. It might stay for a few weeks, maybe longer.The University could not remove it until there weren't any students around to get involved.

These people are so naive! So hopeful! Did they really think the campus would let us keep it? I got home thinking that I should bring beans today to plant in the garden. When I arrived at 7:40am it was gone. Of course it was gone.

But that's the brilliant part! I do not know whether it was planned or not but it worked perfectly. Hundreds of students who have never been to the community garden thought that this little piece would stay. I knew it wouldn't and I still became attached. That is exactly what the protest wanted and needed. Here in the center of campus the university has taken away the community garden. Not across the ringroad behind a fence. This garden was real, the more so for it being temporary. I still cannot decide if it was ethical.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Protest for the community gardens

I finished medieval philosophy and my friend and I walked back into the main part of campus together. When the fountain in front of the library became visible we also saw a large crowd. Someone was talking on a loud speaker and the protest band was playing. I feel a moment of pride. UVic has it's own little protest group. That's something special. The protest band is a group who attend various events on campus with drums and sometimes trombones. They attended the career day in protest of capitalism which made me, really not wanting to be there at the time, rather happy until I realised they had destroyed a Canadian flag. It isn't illegal to destroy the flag of Canada but that doesn't mean it doesn't have an effect. Canada for me is like those old friends you have had since middle school who just cannot get their lives sorted out. You love them and you desperately want them to succeed, but sometimes you just cannot stand being around them. So I am not the most patriotic person there is, but I can't see the symbol of Canada destroyed without feeling hurt and upset. So the protest band always puts me on edge, and so do loudspeakers.

The man with the loudspeakers said, 'just keep walking. Go to your next class. Do not look at what we are doing. This is subversive activity. Just keep walking. That's right.' I decided not to make a challenge. Later I come back. As I walk by he says, 'just keep walking.' I stop. "Okay, stay there but do not come any closer." I step closer to him. A girl behind him starts laughing. "Very, well, you can step closer to me but do not look at what is going on behind me." I stand there laughing as he continues his speech. "Just go back to your studies. Study is what is important. Do not look at what is happening here." A little crowd starts to listen to him. He is not so serious and he is not so threatening when people are listening to him. Eventually he gets bored and leaves. I leave too.

I want to tell him I agree with him. I want to ask more questions. I want to talk to the people, but I do not. I leave.

The protest is about the community garden and as I approach I can see people digging to the music of the trombine and pouring soul into little 24" by 24" box plots.

Recently an article ran in our student newspaper: Campus Community Garden calls for support.

So today in protest the students are digging up a section of land near the fountain and setting up a garden.

Isn't it a waste? I ask. It'll be gone by nightfall after all.

"But they are making a point!" Replies a friend. Everyone is so enthusiastic.

I think of how the University will respond. It will lash out not only at the group responsible but also fringe groups. But this is because I am pessimistic right? The loudspeakers and large crowds scare me. I am an incredibly passive person. I hate making a show and making a fuss. I look even at benevolent authorities as dangerous.

Everyone else is enthusiastic.

"It would be great to have garden in the middle of campus."

Yes, I say, but it won't last 'till sundown.

"It's making a statement even if it doesn't last, and everyone is having so much fun."

Yes, I say, they are. It makes me want to join in. Students with big buckets are running to the pond behind the library to get water. Most of the crowd do not even know what is happening. They do not realise it is a protest. They think it is the 4:20 group having a good time. That's what I thought too when I heard the loudspeaker. I'm glad there are people protesting, but I am upset as well. I have all these reasons that they should not be and all of them seem to be things I picked up in passing, and not my own conclusions. Societal bias, it always scares me when I find it in myself.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Being studious

 1. Assiduous in study; devoted to the acquisition of learning.
{dag}Const. in, of.
    b. Of the nature of, pertaining to, or concerned with learning or study.
    c. Of a place: Devoted to or suited to study.

 2. Giving careful attention; intent on a purpose or object, heedful, solicitous.
    a. with agent-n.
    b. const. to with inf., of, {dag}for (rare), {dag}in.
    c. Characterized by or exhibiting careful attention.
    d. Planned with care; studied, deliberate.

I've always been hard on myself. I was rarely disciplined so I learned  to discipline myself. Having artistic desires I am well in tune with the impossibility of ever succeeding at perfection, and the failure to apply myself as I should.

This year I started joining study groups. I decided to go easier on myself. I would prepare for the study session. Go to the study session. Take what I could and review it, and be done. I practice lowering my standards to something manageable. I believe that if I set achievable tasks for myself I am likely to become a stronger and more studious person. It has not worked so far. So far I have simply managed to achieve less. My standard seems to be connected to how well I achieve. If I am aiming for perfect I will get 75%. If I am aiming for 80% I will get 70%. I should aim for 90%, then I might get 80%. It really does not work. I am supposed to be a philosophy honours student. I darn well know I'm bright enough, I just can't seem to work hard enough.

In Latin 101 I learned the word estudiar and loved it. This was a word loved by the Romans. It appears as studious around 1350. Studious women are to go to the convent where they may satisfy their love of knowledge. It never goes away. Part of the problem might be the religious connotation. I cannot find the original latin use, and as such I am for lack of a pagan understanding.

I lived with a highly religious girl for four months. She played the piano six hours a day, which was not enough. She worked at night as a nurse. She took classes at the university. Sometimes she even went for jogs with me! I know how she managed it. She has a God.

My beliefs do not work that way. I have always linked religion, writing, and study. I do, however, not have the support of the two thousand year Church behind me and that is a powerful thing to lack. Furthermore I cannot replace God with myself. I like myself well enough but there is no respect and certainly no love. If only I finished that novel, if only I worked a little harder, one more hour, one more reading, one step closer to finishing an essay, then it would be different.

My solution today was to go searching for the concept of studiousness. Maybe if I understood it I would become it. There are very few blogs that discuss studiousness, and even fewer websites. I was redirected to studio. I liked the Oxford English Dictionary 'devoted to the acquisition of learning.'

I am devoted to philosophy!

Philosophy is everything I want to do and be. If I have a soul I have given it to whatever god is the philosopher's God, and I consider giving away one's soul to be immoral so that ought to be a very impressive sort of devotion. My trouble is I am devoted like a dog. Philosophy is my master and I shall do as it says, but it says I must think for myself and that is not what I want. The other definition of studious is 'characterized by or exhibiting careful attention' and this is certainly not me.

People think that I am studious. The people close to me who see me making tea, and who go for walks with me, and see me fall asleep after 15 minutes of trying to read a book think that I am studious. I always assumed that that was the image I gave off, but really if studiousness is devotion to study I am devoted. Everything I do, no matter how flawed or misguided it is, is for the aim of becoming a better person and a better scholar. I am weak of will but I am as a dog, utterly loyal to a day-dreaming master. Half of my life I spend in justification and excuses for my failures at careful and deliberate study, but when I do apply myself and manage to understand something of the world those are my favourite moments.

But isn't that like the woman who tries to write a novel? She sits there staring at the page and cannot think of a thing to do. Is she a writer or just a fake? What about when she cleans the house? Makes dinner? Cleans the fish tank?

Yes, it is like this woman. This woman gets a phone call from her agent. He wants the next chapter. She disappears for two days and there is the next chapter. This is what I do. It is not a healthy way of doing things but there is progress. I am moving forward. I am learning more. Maybe this is a handicap I most accept. I want to be perfect. I never will be, but I want to be. I'm going to aim for somewhere beyond human conception and fail every single time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

People who disbelieve mental illness

I am interested in the connections between mental illness and philosophy. I am currently studying medieval philosophy. One interesting if not necessarily correct explanation for mysticism is, if I remember correctly, kidney failure. Too much toxicity in the blood leads to visions. Doesn't mean it can't be visions of something, but here is a biological cause and here is a way of understanding that might get us in the vicinity of some truth.

So it is an interesting topic. Unfortunetely I made the mistake of googling it and came across a discussion on insanity on the  Philosophy Forums. This is not the sort of philosophy with which I am acquainted. If my professors and peers express an idea which is radical, it is in a gentle and intelligent manner; it is at the same time honest and also inoffensive. I have taken this as my ideal manner of communication and seek to follow it as a model, however, I hold that there are times when screaming and crying are the only appropriate reaction and times when the only appropriate reaction is silence.

Anger in an intellectual discussion is not appropriate. As such I knew when I read that forum that I could not respond. People believe that mental illness is simply a fabrication! Real, intelligent people who can spell and forum coherent thoughts and yet still continue to believe such a foolish and destructive thing.

I once assumed that the only homophobic people were misinformed rednecks off on the cattle ranches. I did not really believe that misinformed rednecks existed and as such managed to disbelieve in homophobia. Then I went to university and encountered a boy who was openly homophobic. Now I know that many people share this view although most will deny it or do not even realise it.

Why would people think that mental illness is a fabrication? Psychology may be somewhat new and sometimes it is wrong, but that is the nature of what it is to be science. If it were cut in stone it would be a religion and that is no help to us at all. It frightens me that people think this. It frightens me because I know there are people suffering because people who I cannot call anything but stupid and ignorant. These people do not need to be victims on top of what they have already. Why should you be so unlucky as to have a mental illness and the disbelief and scorn of those around you also?

Monday, March 8, 2010


I recently joined Toastmasters International. My first speech is an icebreaker. I need to tell the club about myself so that they can appreciate the context of my later speeches. From attempting to write the speech I generated a great deal of material that, well fascinating, completely ignored the question at hand. The most interesting portion was a phenomenological description of abstract thought. I think that telling a group of people this tells them who I am, and in a sense it does but not directly. Through this exercise I learned a great deal about how I think about people and why it is useful to tell a person things like your birthday and your maiden name, which I had always before considered useless information the purpose of which is to make conversation for the sake of conversation instead of communication.

The first time I remember thinking it was summer. I was wearing nothing but a really big shirt that went down to my knees. I think I swore off dresses sometime before that, and this was clearly not a dress. I was in the forest, I think, and thinking about myself and probably the fact that I needed to go and take a bath because my hair was full of dirt and twigs from wandering in the forest. I have an image of thought at that moment. I do not quite remember the content but there is a certain way that thinking looks. You take objects and separate them in your mind, and order them, and draw them together. These objects are fuzzy rays of light, or circles and lines or real things and concepts.

For example I can think about a try. You have this branch. Now separate it from it's name. You have the name of tree and the tree itself. Now separate it from it's shape. Separate it from what it means to you. Have any of you succeeded here?

I can't, really. I try to pull apart these things and they stick together. This is what abstract thought is for me and what it might be for everyone, separating things that cannot be moved with the hands. Although it does feel like touching and feeling them.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Inner demons

Some people have the inability to function in particular ways. Some of these people call their problems inner demons. Thus objectifying they attempt to overcome their inner demons or keep them to themselves. There is a trite saying that we all have our demons. It does not mean anything taken either figuratively or literally. It is the sort of thing you will be given you write on if ever forced to write a provincial English exam. Meaningless. It gives you so much room for creativity! For once I shall take advantage of that.

I would like to kidnap that word for a moment. I do not have any inner demons of the sort that these people worry about. Some minor ones yes, but no major ones. The thing I do have is a very tedious inner editor. It isn't really an inner editor because I can usually shut it off when writing, for better or worse. I shall call it a demon, or daimon to borrow the Greek sense of the word. That is the sense I want. Daimon relates more to spirit then creepy thing lurking about wanting your soul. In this sense it need not be negative, and it still carries the negative connotation, which is important as you will see

So I have this daemon. 'Hello daemon.'

"Hello Jesse, you sleep too much. You have readings you should be doing right now."

'Thank you daemon. Now I not only are those things true about me but I am also upset about them.'

"Oh, also your essay sucks. You can't plan anything. And you should feel terrible about all those dishes."

'Thank you daemon. Now I shall wash dishes instead of doing anything else.'

See? It's terrible tedious. The poor thing has no imagination! It has no wonder of the world. It only cares about me. Me. Me. Me. Why can't it leave me alone and work on something more important for a change?

I think a lot of people have this problem. That rational part of ourselves instead of being focused on the world is focused on self-improvement. That is a very powerful piece of the human mind. Do you really want it turned on yourself at all times? I certainly don't. It is far more productive to send it off to think about Plato so that I can do well on this test.

Seven things about me

I read a beautiful blog called Sixth in Line. Recently Elisabeth won the Kreativ blogger award. It is not difficult to see why when you read her writing. Go and do so! 

The wonderful musician and writer, Mike McClaren from Annotated Margins has honoured my efforts with a Kreativ blogger award. My second ever. I am grateful for his recognition and will respond as I must but only in part. I will list the mandatory things about me but I will leave it up to all those wonderful bloggers whom I follow - I cannot choose among them - to take it upon themselves if they so choose to list seven things about themselves, here in comments or on their own blogs.
 I am willing to take up the challenge, although there is a level of reality I do not quite feel I can attain in listing things about me. It seems like the things I list are simply the things that everyone would write in one of these lists. They evoke the same feelings, call in the same memories, share the same sense of belonging or not belonging. It is good to know I am in the same place but it makes this somewhat redundant.

1. I have a phobia of helicopters and airoplanes flying over my head. Even as an adult try to hide under a building or a tree until they pass. My boyfriend suggests that this is because I grew up near a military base. It might be true. I sometimes have nighmares about our harbours being full of ships at war.

2. My name is Jessica but I have gone by Jesse since childhood. For years I regretted being born a girl.

3. I could not read until grade seven.

4. I realise that there are certain people in the world who are very fashion conscious. I have sympathy for those people but also enjoy subtly breaking fashion rules in order to drive them crazy.

5. I've never been drunk.

6. The moment I can pinpoint as a freedom is riding over a hill on my bicycle and seeing the Olympic mountains. I like to pretend that if I peddle fast enough I can get there.

7. I started to take philosophy in order to understand it so that I could defend myself against it. In Spring of 2008 ingested such a quantity of philosophy I became a different person and I can no longer remember what I found so threatening.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On a more positive note, cabbage.

Cabbage is big. It is easy to grow. All the dishes made from it have the taste of the old world or that of the east. If I imagine a garden I will imagine cabbage and turnips on a cold grey day, still growing despite the weather. Gardening is amazing because it actually works. I do not yet have the delicacy or the money to grow more difficult crops perfectly or sometimes even imperfectly. No greenhouses are available, nor fancy mixtures. But things will grow in spite of this fact. Part of this is because Vancouver Island is fairy land. There is some magic to it. The soil is rich. Nothing is prickly or harsh here, unlike the interior.

I looked at a seed chart today. It turns out that if I do not plant cabbage transplants by early march there will not be time for them to mature. I mentioned this to a friend today and he encouraged me to get some seeds, so I sent off an order to West Coast Seeds in Delta. Hopefully I will get an envolope soon, full of exciting time-oriented objects.

This is my second year gardening on my own. I used to grow things but my mother was in charge and knew when to plant what. One of it's main challenges and rewards is time. Time-as-a-being: It is a way of living with time. I deal with deadlines at school and at work and with bills. Why is it not the same to garden?

If I do not go outside in time it will be dark. I will not be able to work in the garden. If I do not grow these cabbage in time there will not be enough time to grow them at all is different. On one hand it is discouarging. Many gardens are not planted due to missed deadlines. On the other hand it makes you more aware of weather, season, and light. That is the difference. Deadlines at work and school, bills and dishes, these things are enforced by human systems. The deadlines I am following when I grow things are not really deadlines at all. They are not set but simply are. I get both time and nature.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dealing with passive-aggression

Sometime in late August 2008 I found a whiteboard sitting on the side of the road. It was a giant whiteboard. I needed one of my roommates to help me carry it home. We put it in the kitchen. Unfortunately whiteboards attract the nefarious, ever waiting, and continually irritating passive aggressive note.

It might have happened anyhow. Maybe we would have ended up with all sorts of stickies everywhere. But this made it very easy.

Ever since that day my household has worked on dealing with passive-aggressive note issues. Our house is too small for 5 people so it is hard to avoid space issues and respect the common areas in a way that everyone thinks of as respectful.

I look at passive-aggression as a form of bullying. You make the other person feel guilty and incompetent so that you have power over them and so that you can control them and make them behave like yourself. The problem is that people do not like to be controlled. As such they will attempt to fight back. It gets even worse if they continue to bully. The problem with passive-aggression, like other types of bullying, is that it is hard to recognize. Unless you know the signs you will not realize that the person leaving you a friendly little note full of smiles and hearts is actually attacking you. Recognizing passive-aggression for what it is helps. As such when our resident psychology-turned-philosophy. student moved in she labeled half the board as an area in which to write passive-aggressive notes. Whenever our friends come over we teach them how to be passive-aggressive. Making it into a game or a joke helps both victims of passive-aggression and victims of the desire to be passive aggressive realise what is happening and attempt to prevent it, or maybe it was just funny.

Happily we no longer get notes like the above imaged, but that  has less to do with us and more to do with no longer living with crazy people.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Swing dancing

I took a class on Sartre last year. We watched a video because my teacher was slightly incompetent. Various people who knew Sartre talked about the time in which he lived, the atmosphere into which he was accepted, and the strange freedom that the Paris youth were then embracing. Thousands of people came to his funeral. He was not only a philosopher or an adored public figure, he was one of the spirits of the time. He exemplified the thoughts of a new era, and offered further thoughts to expand that era. I don't know if he was right, what I do know is that in the video there were people dancing. People about my age in a black and white video. They looked free. We don't have that feeling of freedom anymore, but we still have swing dancing.

My roommate did swing when I moved in with her, and she convinced me to come along to a Saturday night dance with a live band. Because of the band the room was packed. First there was a lesson. Two teachers instructed us to get into partners. First we learned the basic step, and then a few simple moves. You meet a few people and learn a bit. There is nothing grand in it.

Once the lesson is over the instructors turn out the overhead lights and turn on a reddish spotlight. The DJ puts on a song and everyone starts dancing. It isn't just the things from the beginner class.  Throwing or jumping is not permitted because of limited dance space, but many of the people dancing are impressive and skilled dancers. Seeing all these people in the dim red light I realised that swing is still alive! After almost a hundred years this dance is still something that brings people out. I have been dancing for about a year now and I am always surprised by the enthusiasm. I can tell my friend about swing and she will ask me to take her along. It seems so esoteric but it isn't. It isn't just a few people playing with the past. It's alive.

If you live on Victoria please come out to Nothin' but Swing on Saturday nights. It's pretty amazing that this exists, so you should see it at least once.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Getting scammed

We are moving out in August and I decided to start advertising now in order to avoid the last minute panic.

I got an email for a really nice place in a somewhat rural area, which I like. My roommate ran a scam check by putting the address in through craiglist and seeing if there were any hits. There were. It is rather clever. They took an ad for two bedroom and made it into an ad for a four bedroom. Which is the greed hook. $300 per month would have been very nice. The scammer didn't even read my ad. I'm a little hurt, because it was a good ad and gave the information he wants in his list. Come on scammers! At least don't use a form document. Oh wait, maybe I shouldn't tell them that.

It didn't look too scamlike, apart from the rooms looking like B&B rooms, until I asked for a face to face interview.

Re: 4 bedroom for August 1st (Near uvic)‏
From: Ryan Joe (roarthur3@gmail.com)
Sent: February 5, 2010 10:58:46 PM
To: Jesse ... (vesuvius@hotmail.com)
thanks for your email..i own it and its located @ 1435 Braefoot Close, Victoria B.C.    and also want you to know that it was due to my missionary trip that makes me, my wife and Daughter to leave the house and also want to give it out for rent and looking for a responsible person that can take very good care of it as we are not after the money for the rent but want it to be clean at the time and the person that will rent it to take it as if it were its own. So for now, We are here in the United Kingdom, our new house and put all my worries off concerning the maintenance of the House , i have the keys to the House and it is  right here with me, and also the house documents....... Which I can send to you after all necessary agreement has be accepted.. Also I will like you to know that the rent charges is not really the issue ,but your absolute maintenance of my House is most important thing so i want you to get back to me with the Application form below


1)Your Full Name
2)Your Full Address & Phone Number
4)Are you married
5)How many people will be living in the house
6)Do you have a pet
7)Do you have a car
9)When do you want to move in
10)How long do you want to stay in my House
11)Reason for moving out of Current home

 so If you are still interested, and  Note that rent is $1200 per month and  Utilities is included in the rent .I personally will actually come visiting you some time during the year as our new tenant. Looking forward to hearing from you with all the details so that i can have it in my file in case of issuing the receipt for you and contacting you. Await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the document and the keys of the house to you. The address of the house is  1435 Braefoot Close, Victoria B.C. 

I was considering sending them the money in domino currency. Oh well, no chickens for me. It wouldn't have been that convenient anyhow.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Living like my mother

When it is cold and wet I keep a big pot of chi on the stove. I make a new batch every three days. It boils over and making a mess on the stove, but my roommates apparently found it an endearing quality. We have acquired at least one roommate by offering them a cup of spicy honey-laden tea. My mother taught me how to make chi. She did not learn from the internet. She learned from an Indian woman who lived next door to her when my older brother was a baby.

I got it into my head that I should live in a commune at least once during my life. My mother told me about her experiences in a communal house. It seems like she gave me all her dreams about what life can be. I also learned that I never wanted to have children, because that is a lot to give another being.

When I was a child we lived in a little log house and had a huge garden out back where I hung worms on a tree I called a worm tree. I was a heartless child. We had chickens until the raccoons ate them. I cannot remember a time when the moosewood cookbook did not inhabit our homes. I believe I might have been vegetarian as a child but I cannot be sure. I homeschooled until grade five. By the time I got into high school all these things were gone. We moved into an five-plex. Our only garden was on the deck.

I have only lived on my own for a year and a half. It's so short that the halves still count for something. When I moved out I made note to take responsibility for myself. I have took responsibility for my diet and decided to stop eating meat, my health care, my expenses, and all those other things that make some one an adult, so far as I can tell. Every time I reflect I find myself moving towards the life my mother lived when I was a child. My boyfriend convinced me to get a compost program. We both kept little gardens last year and plan to do so again this year. If I get a big enough yard when I move in the summer I plan to keep chickens as well. Someday I will live on a farm. My grandmother commented when my sister stopped eating meat that it seems like it is the thing to do at this age. Mother did it. Sister did it. I'm going it. It's just a phase.

The garden and the chickens, and living in a community of people, not eating meat are all things that my mother did and then stopped doing. It is the same for my boyfriend. Eventually you grow out of it. Eventually you settle down into a normal life. That frightens me. The idea that I can grow out of my ideas frightens me. I will have to work in the great world as Forster calls it and slowly the things I think about what it is to be human and to be me will disappear. I will not live out doors but I will not live in my own home either. Just a impressionless cell. The bright electric lights of a career will make them so hard to see that sometime I will just stop looking. On the other hand I cannot remain a student forever, and some of these ideas I am sure are a product of being a student and young. I will look like a fool if I act the same as I always did. I shall once again be incomplete.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cross-disciplinary work

There is talk in academia. People are unhappy with the segregation of the disciplines. Philosophy will be my example as it is what I know. Biology, physics, medicine, religion, psychology, astronomy, alchemy and anything else you can think of were once the domain of philosophy. Now our powers lie primarily in ethics, history of philosophy, and metaphysics. Metaphysics is a good foundation on which to work. Ethics is useful in other areas and as such taught outside of the philosophy department, and history of philosophy is blatantly cross-disciplinary.

Professors and students from time to time inform me that a cross-disciplinary approach is best. No one says anything more. Either we must learn as much as we possibly can or correspond with people in other disciplines. It was bad enough that we are out of touch with the lay people, now we are out of touch with each other as well. But whenever people mention cross-disciplinary work they commit an error to which up until now I have been unable to respond.

Cross disciplinary work is useful, I am told, because it is a different way of looking at things. This is not always but often false.

It's a bit romantic. Look at the world through the eyes of another. How different it looks! How strange and new. This implies that we are simply narrow. We cannot see across the hill because we are so focused on the flower growing against this tiny stone. The chemist is not looking at the flower. They are off on the other side of the hill blowing things up. It is not simply a different view, it is a different part of the world. It is not as if I look at the forest and talk to the biologist who looks at a certain tree, it is as if I am listening to the stream and the biologist comes running out of the forest to tell me about something they discovered. We are not just looking at the same things in different ways, we are looking at entirely different problems in different ways. That is why it is useful. A superficial knowledge of the tree will let me see things differently, but I need a deep knowledge of the tree in order to really know it and use it.

For example my boyfriend is a physics student. He teaches me something and we can discuss it, but only through him. I couldn't go and discuss physics with someone who knew less then me, I wouldn't learn or advance in any way, and he does not advance in talking to me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ideals and reality

Ideals are not solid things. You cannot catch and hold one except maybe in words, and always there is the danger that it will escape. When Rickie sees Agnes and her lover kissing and calls them the ideal lovers he sees the ideal of the lover momentarily alight on their shoulders. Like a butterfly it stopped there for just one moment. Like a ray of sunlight that chanced from a cloud. It is not solid. It is not permanent, not because it does not exist but because it does not stay.

Some philosophers, whose names I do not remember, hold that the soul does not stay with the body but only visits. I think this is true. The soul is our ideal. It may come to us in certain moments. It may speak to us but it will not stay. We cannot hold it. It is not the same as a chair or as my hand or even as a piece of bark or a melting bit of ice, although to that it is closer. It is not closer because it lacks, although if this is reality there are times when it is not real, but it returns. It will be real again. It will be forgotten and remembered.

I never held to images of romantic love. Candle lit dinners make me awkward and slightly queasy. But there are times when I am with Thomas, such as the first time I met him, when our actions invoke universals, ideals. I first met him Swing Dancing. We did not know what we were doing. I really had no interest in him. But somehow we were dancing and it was perfect. There were no clouds and the stars were bright like stars in the rural municapality where I grew up. Some baby bunnies were huddled by a sign and we stopped and tried to catch them with my beret. I knew if we were not careful the spirits would flit away. That moment was an ideal. That moment was what the writers write about. We are not that moment. It is separate from our bodies. It might even be separate from our souls, although I think they must have been present at that moment.

But maybe there is no soul. It could be that those moments when someone would declare a soul present is a moment when some god or spirit passes by. It is not the same soul each time but a different entity. The body and it's breath, which can give words to those spirits, are as much as we have of a soul.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I moved out in 2008. I understood that my mother sheltered me a bit and that I did not know a lot about people. I never had the sort of friends who spend all their free time together and never dealt with the sort of fights which arise from that kind of friendship. So I knew that having roommates would be a challenge for me and that I needed to be respectful of them and take care to know their boundaries and realize that hurt feelings do not equate to lasting hatred. I trusted that my roommates, all of whom had been on their own before, would be a reliable source of information on how to act in the world. We all want to be good people and do the right thing, right?

No. We don't. We want to do the easiest thing. We don't want to do something that is seriously wrong. No murder. No cruelty. But what about the grey areas? Rent money is an issue that is slightly grey. How to treat people when they have treated you is an area that is grey. What to do when you break someone's possessions accidentally is an area that is grey. What? Those aren't grey areas. But what if the person is a jerk? What if they had it coming?

I am now very careful who I trust to make judgments. Those are not grey areas. I knew they weren't. But I had never lived on my own before and thought that I just did not understand how these things worked. It is a bit of a nasty lesson, learning not to trust people's judgment. But it is a good one.

My sister phoned me the other day. Her friend was on academic probation. His life was a mess and he was depressed. She had asked all her friends if she should stop being friends with him, because it was creating a lot of stress for her and she did not feel like she could help him much anyhow. Everyone had told her yes. Then she asked a mutual friend of ours. He is a on call teacher and as she put it, 'an authority figure.' He said to wait it out. When she called me I told her to discourage him from discussing his problems with her but to continue being her friend. We were the only people who said she shouldn't drop him. This upset her, because it felt wrong.

It is rather sad. Idealizing people is wrong. People are people, not embodiments of a priori thought stuff. I am happy to say that the issues I had to take up in first year no longer exist. My roommates and I care about each other and want to do right, but this is from natural sympathy. How do you avoid the world becoming grey? Getting into a muddle. It worries me that what seems so clear now could fade in the wrong situation with the wrong people.