The Magical Mind

That when one says pigs something comes to mind is astounding. How can thousands of millions of neurons arrange themselves in such a way as to hold and consider ideas? “Pigs.” Immediately images zoom through one’s consciousness. Along with them come related facts: pink, brown, four footed, bacon. More than that, one has a fuzzy-but-specific-enough idea of pigness that enables one to quickly differentiate a pig from other objects like cats, dogs, and bananas without even directly comparing colors or shapes.

Absolutely amazing.

The complexity of the brain is mind-boggling.

On/off switches configured into simple sequences and then multiplied many times over have given us modern computing. Something similar in the brain—but far beyond current computational abilities—could possibly explain much or all of the human mind. But is there more to the mind than physiological phenomena?

Perspective matters. And questions reveal assumptions.

The perspective of this age is strongly naturalistic, so one understandably asks if there is an immaterial component to the human mind. But from a much more basic viewpoint, one could, and should, rightly ask if the natural world itself even exists.

“I think, therefore I am”, said Descartes in one of his meditations. His method was to doubt everything, even his own existence, and then determine what could be truly known. His first conclusion was that the very fact of questioning his own existence demonstrated his existence, at least immaterially. He continued from there and reasoned his way to showing there is a good god who would not allow him to live an entirely deluded life, and thus the natural world (including his body and brain) and people around him must have some basis in reality.

Descartes’s total skepticism led to an admirably thorough approach. And while his conclusions themselves don’t strictly prove an immaterial component to the human mind, they do show the existence of such a mind is more basic and believable than the physical world around us!

So, which question is easier to answer? Is there an immaterial component to the human mind? Do our brains exist?

On Immigration Reform: Let’s Rise to the Challenge

Dear Republicans,

(Particularly those in federal office.)

Yesterday, President Obama signed two executive actions regarding how we treat illegal aliens. Here is the press release on the President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions; also, he outlined his plan in a public address Thursday night.

The uproar in response has been loud. Whether it’s Republican pundits (e.g. Limbaugh and Hannity) or elected officials (e.g. Rand Paul and John Boehner), the response by many is that Obama is “declaring war on the Constitution”, that he is “damaging the presidency itself”, and that he is bypassing Congress. While I don’t think Obama’s action is particularly out of line with historic actions, being a small government libertarian/conservative, I’m not a fan. But given our current context, his statements and actions are not very upsetting to me.

(Aside: I’m a registered Republican and a committee member in my town. I’ve directly volunteered for Republican candidates at both local and federal levels. But I’m not a party man. I often fantasize about seeing changes that would empower third parties and hopefully break up this two-party system, but that’s a pipe dream, so I do my best to work within this broken system. You see, I’m interested in politics for several reasons—mostly because I believe that liberty is important, that the citizenry must be challenged and responsible, and that government has serious responsibilities and the ability to effect change with stunning repercussions. This isn’t a game to me. In fact, I very much dislike, though I understand, the game aspect of politics; it physically sickens me. I hope that you, my party, will both take noble stands and embrace enough pragmatism to be helpful to the best principles and, ultimately, helpful to real people.)

Pardon my blunt statements, but I think efficiency and passion are needed: do you think I’m an idiot? While many of you blabber about Obama and his very possibly inappropriate (but needed) actions, you do nothing! Our immigration issues aren’t new. Do you think I’ll forget the past fifteen years? In fact, one of the first times I became genuinely upset with our system and President Bush particularly was when I realized he wasn’t genuinely interested in solving our immigration problems or defending America via our southern border. It’s not like we (Republicans) didn’t have the executive and both legislative chambers for six years at the beginning of this millennium. How could I forget this?

Yes, I’m upset about this immigration issue, quite upset. But not with President Obama (at the moment). I’m upset that we’ve had a massive immigration problem for well over a decade and nothing substantial has been done about it! There are many people to blame including our current president at times, but I lay the majority of the blame on my own party, the Republicans. Not only did we have a governing majority for the bulk of the Bush years, but more recently an opportunity came in the form of a bill passed in the Senate with Republican sponsors (including Graham and Rubio). Was it a perfect bill? No. I’m not even sure what a perfect bill would be. But it was a big step. Not only did the House Republicans not pass their own version, but they failed to even bring this vote up for a yes/no vote.

Republicans: if we don’t want Obama’s executive actions, let’s actually pass a bill! A bill would clearly override and make obsolete anything Obama’s stated thus far. Not only is this true, but Obama openly welcomes such action. Further, I think Obama genuinely craves such action. He has humbly but strongly requested such action. Just listen to his speech Thursday with an open mind. Here’s an excerpt:

And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution.

And to those who reply, “He’s just saying that for political points.” Three thoughts:

Stop sounding like the little boy who just was scored upon in two-hand-touch football and is trying to overturn it via technicalities. Grow up and score on your opponent like adults!
Further, last year he supported a bipartisan bill that passed in the senate. Meaning, he isn’t all talk, he has actually supported real congressional action.
And lastly, maybe he is, but then let’s call his bluff. As of this January we will have majorities in both chambers of Congress. Let’s pass something meaningful and see what Obama does. If he’s bluffing, it will not play well for his party come 2016.

This is more than just a rant; I hope. This is a meaningful challenge to those in my party who’re stuck playing games, who talk loudly but do nothing (and for many years now). Please, let’s do something. I believe the vast majority of our elected officials (from both parties) are intelligent men and women who want to govern well. I know we have different ideologies (even within our party) which make passing effective legislation difficult at times, but this is a real problem that must be dealt with in a timely manner. America needs meaningful immigration reform (and we can’t sit back, the President’s actions don’t solve this issue in the long-term). Do something, please. Stop complaining about the fact that Obama wants to actually solve this problem and resolve to be helpful yourselves.

The next step is action, not anti-Obama action but meaningful immigration reform. Let’s rise to the challenge!


Time, Helots, and the Triumphant Milliner

Second after second, minute after minute, year after year, generation after generation.

Chronology: a sequential arrangement of events ordered by befores and afters. Ours, Time—ongoing, restless, relentless, and powerful.

(A milliner triumphs—he is a fashion icon.)

Trapped. We are helots, slaves of time. This tireless cycle lords over us. However, I will not bow to its gasconade. Will we inosculate?

(Come with me, and please don’t buy that hat.)

How shall we overcome? I suppose I don’t know. How does one escape the clutches of one such as Time?

Our strategy will be simple, for we are simple-minded folk. We cannot lose sight of the goal; there is no room for distraction. Yes, our way shall be markedly spartan.

(Alas, Time continues. And nothing under the sun can save us. Proof: the verdigris on a Clarkson roof.)