2018 Year-End Lists

“I love lists. Always have. when I was 14, I wrote down every dirty word I knew on file cards and placed them in alphabetical order. I have a thing about about collections, and a list is a collection with purchase.”

Adam Savage
Wired Magazine
“Step One: Make a List”
October 2012

Alternative to College for High School Graduates

I think I wrote about this idea on the old v-i, but I can’t remember. Because of the high cost of college, I recently had a conversation about an alternative to going to college, something I wouldn’t mind for my children. My concept is based on the St. Johns College’s approach:

Through close engagement with the works of some of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers—from Homer, Plato, and Euclid to Nietzsche, Einstein, and Woolf—students at St. John’s College grapple with fundamental questions that confront us as human beings. As they participate in lively discussions and throw themselves into the activity of translating, writing, demonstrating, conducting experiments, and analyzing musical compositions, St. John’s students learn to speak articulately, read attentively, reason effectively, and think creatively.

My understanding is that St. John’s College students basically read the Great Books and discuss them in small groups. For the math and science books, they will sometimes replicate older experiments or solve mathematical problems posed in these classic works. Essentially, the approach comes down to reading really good books and then being able to write and discuss them. Now imagine if a St. John’s College graduate (or some well-read person that was a good teacher) started a “school,” where about ten students would read the Great Books, meet to discuss them, write about them, and do occasional project (replicate experiments, solve math problems, etc.). That’s basically my alternative to sending my kids to college. If I was confident in my teaching ability, particularly of these books, I would consider doing this for my kids. Besides this obstacle, here are some other potential problems that come to mind: Continue reading “Alternative to College for High School Graduates”

Notes on The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

A thread for thoughts and questions about this book. (Note: The posts may not correspond chronologically with the book.)

Here’s a brief description of the book. Haidt has three ideas to explain why people have great difficulty agreeing upon political and religious matters. First, most people are influenced by intuition and emotions, more than reason, when it comes to choosing political and religious positions. Haidt uses the metaphor of a rider (reason) sitting on an elephant (intuition). For the most part the elephant is in control. Second, for Westerners morality involves reducing harm, and that which does not harm someone is morally acceptable. Haidt argues that there are actually five other moral domains, and conservatives tend to use all six, while liberals tend to think in one or two. This can create a barrier and source of misunderstanding between the two groups. Finally, religion has the power to cohesion in a group, but it also can impair judgment and reasoning. (I’m not sure about the last point, because I haven’t completed that section of the book.) With this knowledge I believe Haidt’s goal is to help people from different political and religious backgrounds to better understand and communicate with one another.

Notes on Stephen King’s On Writing

Apologies. I know Reid brought this up before but until I get the old content back online, I have to create this from scratch. Feel free to repeat anything that comes to mind.

As I wrote on IG, I generally stay away from books about writing because I don’t want to be one of those people who reads about writing and talks about writing more than he actually writes. But I need a bit of inspiration, and I’ve owned this copy for four years, so I’m going through it during Camp NaNoWriMo. “We are writers, and we never ask one another where we get our ideas; we know we don’t know.”

Why Has the Internet Been So Disappointing for Discussing Individual Movies, Books, Etc.?

When I’m asked about things I like to do, reading was one of the things that I’d mention. In reality, that’s not really accurate, especially if we mean deriving pleasure simply from the act of reading. That’s not me (unfortunately). What would be more accurate is to say I like learning; and I like talking about what I learn and read. This also applies to movies as well (although watching movies is enjoyable and more effortless than reading). Generally speaking, talking about books and movies might be more enjoyable to me than experiencing either. Because of this, the internet has been a place that has, until recently, held a lot of promise for me. When I read a book or watch a film, especially more obscure ones, I assumed that the internet would be the solution to this, especially now with millions (billions) of people online. Given those numbers, finding others who have read or seen the same books and movies I have shouldn’t be hard, right? Now, not all of these people have an interest in discussion. Still, I thought the ones that would be would constitute a big enough number to have a discussion. I’ve now concluded this is not the case (but I would love to be wrong about this!). To be clear, I’m not really referring to the currently most popular books and films. I think you can find conversations on those, but if I want to find a conversation, right now, on Francis Ford Coppola’s One From the Heart, forget about it. Why is that? Off the top of my head, here’s my short explanation: Continue reading “Why Has the Internet Been So Disappointing for Discussing Individual Movies, Books, Etc.?”

Notes on The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss by David Bentley Hart

Hart is an Eastern Orthodox scholar of religion, philosopher and cultural commentator, and he has written a response to atheism, which seems in vogue now. He claims that his objective isn’t to prove God’s existence, but to clarify a false premise in the debate. Here’s how he puts it:

If one imagines that God is some discrete object visible to physics or some finite aspect of nature, rather than the transcendent actuality of all things and all knowing, the logical inevitable Absolute upon which the contingent depends, then one has simply misunderstood what the content of the concept of God truly is, and has nothing to contribute to the debate (p. 327)

Using this as a starting point, Hart discusses the way this conception of God relates to problems with a strictly materialistic view of the world (which he generalizes, rightly in my opinion, as the main world view of the New Atheists.), going into three aspects of the concept of God that highlight this problem—-being, consciousness, and bliss/

As in other “notes” threads, I’m going use this to jot random thoughts and notes as a way to help me process the book.