Silent For Too Long

It has been over a year since I last blogged. It was a crazy year and I also believe I needed a break from blogging. I have kept numerous blogs in the past five/six years and I think I was getting burned out on the exercise.

Well, it has come to my attention that I need to come back to it. It is an outlet that I haven’t used in a while and I’ve been told by a few individuals that I need to get back to it.

So, this leaves me with the thought of what blogging should be to me now. It has always been a mix of my thoughts, rants, writings and reviews of various books/film. I think I will continue with just that, but I am also going to speak about current events and issues in the media.

Social justice has always been super important to me and it has come clear to me that it needs to be discussed more. The only way to make this happen is to discuss and open more dialogue. I will try and do this in the vein of those American writers that came before, such as Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and Flannery O’Connor. It is a bit lofty of a goal, but I believe this coming year will be a transitional year for this blog and myself.

-Alexander

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I Didn’t Vote and I’m Okay With That

Yesterday was the much heralded ‘Election Day’ in the U.S. and there was a swell on Facebook with the voting badge that could be shared to show off the fact that they voted.  I did not.  My reasoning, to be blunt, I just didn’t care enough for the congressional elections.  Being a registered voter in VA and lack of interest there was no chance for me to get an absentee ballot.  That and having not been a real resident of VA in going on six years (I’ve been in undergrad. and now grad. school in Ohio), there’s just very little pull to be kept abreast of state side issues.  These may sound like an excuses and in some ways they are.  In other ways, they are just the reality of the situation.

Another point of these issues is that our voting options are limited to Republican or Democrat and the old trope of ‘choosing a lesser evil’ is more true than ever.  At the end of the day, whether I sent in my vote or not, it wouldn’t matter consider that the elections went to my preference anyways, since the GOP won back control.  I won’t go into the paradigmatic debate between liberals and conservatives, but for the most part I do fall under the conservative umbrella (though rather left leaning).  I should also add that I resent political identification in almost all its forms.

This post may seem to be trying to initiate some sort of flame-war or something of that nature, but it’s to just point out the fact that people shouldn’t feel guilty if they didn’t vote nor should they feel required to vote.  Sure, its a freedom that we have, but America was born from lack of representation and considering what our Congress actually consists of, I would say we are not represented very well at all.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t participate in political life and voting may seem like the easiest way to participate in politics, but there are other avenues to participate.  Getting involved with movements, read more than one news source, and keep an open mind to issues; are just some of the different ways that I believe that we can make a better political economy in the U.S..  All and all this shouldn’t be surprising to any of you, at least I hope.  The reality is that our ears shouldn’t only perk up at Election Day, but should be up all year round.

 

I Can Philosophy And So Can You!

Okay, so yeah the title to this is a bit off I know, but just keep reading and I promise that I will be able to explain what I mean.  This post is mostly a pondering that has been gestating in my mind for the past week and a half from my grad. classes.  It occurred in my texts of Plato class, when my professor asked us, “Can anyone philosophize? What is required for it?”  Plato gives some narrow parameters for individuals to fulfill in order to do philosophy of the caliber that the Greeks were able.  I wasn’t exactly happy with that sort of explanation though, in fact it bothered me more than anything else.  The result of this ‘being bothered’ is here below.

What are we talking about when it comes to philosophy? Are we speaking on the realities of the Forms or metaphysics in some sense?  I’m not.  And yes I realize that Plato is to some degree, but I think the idea that philosophy proper is restricted to a “small elite”, is an impoverished view of philosophy and a disservice to persons.  I’m going to take philosophy out of this definition for greater clarification of what I’m trying to achieve here.

Philosophy is something that anyone can achieve.  All it takes is a consideration of real issues that reside at the core of man.  This may sound close to the high-brow language of philosophers, but by ‘real issues’ I mean things such as life, love, death, the community, and our own beings. A person should consider these topics at points in their life.  There are plenty of persons walking about that care about issues that bear little consequence in the grand scheme of things.  These temporal problems surround acquiring money, fame, or  pop culture.  Put simply, philosophy is concerned with eternal things.

What if you don’t believe in that? Well, I can’t really help you, because I don’t think people really stand by that sort of perspective.  There is a natural pull of the transcending beyond.  If you do stand by that point than I can say that I don’t not understand you either though.  The material reality of the world is pretty persuasive and thinking that there could be something beyond or immaterial objects is a hard concept to grasp, but give me a little leeway here.

You don’t need super intelligence or some unique understanding of the world to do philosophy.  You don’t even need to be eccentric(that might help though).  Philosophy is honestly a lot simpler than it might first appear.  Truth and the Good may seem like foreboding phrases, but they are not.  It starts with knowing yourself, your skills, and your purpose as a person.  The rest of it comes naturally from there proceeding outward from your being. So, go philosophize now!

Enemies Inside The Walls

Over the past month I have seen and heard a growing resentment for Islam and Muslims.  Since 9/11 there has obviously been a greater examination, and prejudice of this world religion.  It has been continually and more frequently been brought into critique by Western culture.  With the latest events in the Middle East, including the brutal rise of The Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS), it is understandable that many Americans feel such strong aversion to Islam and what it represents.  The broadcasted violence speaks for itself as far as those events are concerned and it begs the question of what other Muslims are doing in the midst of these atrocities that their ‘brethren’ are committing.  It has been reported, Muslim leaders are speaking out and casting these murderous group out, despite their labeling as such.  So, our concern over the religion seems to be somewhat misplaced and misdirected.

All of this aside, at my university there is an atmosphere of rancor towards Islam and those who follow it.  There are numerous articles that are calling for Christians to take up arms and ‘fight’ the rise of Islam.  Given I’m not entirely sure what sort of ‘fighting’ we as Christians should be doing, but those points are a bit vague. It also may be a little late, since Islam worldwide is the second largest religion after Christianity itself.  I’m not going to speculate on these Christian writers’ motivations nor of their intentions, because what I really want to talk about is where the enemies of Christianity truly reside.

They inhabit our churches.  We go to mass with them.  We are with them every day.  I’m not talking about demons or sins or unbelievers or even ‘cafeteria Christians’.  I’m talking about ourselves.  We are Christianity’s own worst enemy. 

How could I say such a thing? Well, how often are Christians held to their actions? How often are we viewed by our actions rather than by what we actually say? Quite a lot honestly, and it is no surprise why Christianity has such a derogatory connotation when it is brought mentioned in secular circles.  Even when it comes to what we say, there are times when our communication isn’t the best.  Sure, I realize Christians are human, I get that. (I’m Christian and human too). I only feel as if that sometimes we are not as conscious of what we represent.

There have been occasions in the past that I have been confronted by individuals, who are proclaimed ‘faithful Christians’ and have then proceeded to almost push me out of the Church.

An increase in awareness of what we are doing as persons and as Christians is necessary.  There should be an accounting of compassion and sympathy for our fellow man, rather than a cold hostility.  I’m not saying that all Christians are like this, nothing of the sort, but the fact that I have come across individuals like this does not speak well of our ‘Christian Culture’ that we are trying to cultivate.  Being judged by how often we pray or how well we keep feast days or even paying attention to the finer intricacies of Mass or what have you is uncalled for and entirely pharisaical.

Coming back to ISIS and Islam, I just want to say that we have enough enemies right next to us rather than making more half way across the world.  There isn’t a need to try and create ill feelings toward people that have in the past been our friends and given us help in the past.  We can be our own greatest obstacles in achieving what we wish.  And even with the temptation of sin brought into play, there are enough hindrances on our own in expanding the Kingdom.  We have to be better. Better persons. Better Christians.  It is up to us to change this attitude on both fronts.

 

A Case For Angst

The question of angst is one that has bothered me for years.  When I was an anarchist, I was often written off, at least mildly, as an angsty teenager.  Given the attitude or topic of angst might not warrant such time or even such deep thought, but the point is that in my considerations of angst I have found it useful and in other ways beneficial.  Sure it can be detrimental and so destructive it can be self destructive in certain degrees.  My case rests on embracing and utilizing moments/small doses of angst when they come.  Such a statement may sound foolish or somehow a childish justification for my predisposition to angst.

My point of contention rests on how unsatisfactory feelings causes us to ask questions and look at things, with extreme prejudice, at certain situations.  It’s a point of being critical and for some people, being ‘too harsh’ is looked as something more cynical or negative, but sometimes it takes a serious leap in order to really see possible flaws in something.  For example, I tend to be very angsty when it comes to the topic of American culture.  This is multiple roots in my upbringing that I’ve talked about before in other posts, but on this basis I’m going to consider how angst plays into my critique.

Being raised in American culture I have been trained to expect certain things and see things in a preconditioned way.  Angst takes me out of this setting and calls into question what I expect.  A sample of this would be simply honoring what our President/military/administration does no matter the context.  (I’m setting aside most recent events such as Syria and ISIS conflicts) Instead by being placed outside I can see, in a larger extent, the real effects of our international actions upon those persons living in those countries.  Sure, empathy works in this way too and I think it works with angst in my experience.

By Banksy
By Banksy

I may not be explaining this conception of angst clearly, but then its a hard concept to really spell out.  It tends to be based in a very primal place in our personalities and breaks out on occasion when we feel that something is direly wrong or goes directly against us in an aggressive fashion.  One could call graffiti artists as those who ‘have a lot of angst’ considering most of their work seems to be no more than an outlet for their self-expressions.  I would say that this is false considering that most of the most prevalent graffiti artists (i.e. Banksy) create works that are supercharged with social messages and themes.  Most people may just walk by these works of art no matter how small or insignificant they may be, but in reality they are glaring critiques against the status quo that we have and for the most part accept in culture and society.

By Banksy
By Banksy

I don’t know how great my case for angst was, but if you have differing thoughts or would like to dialogue with me please comment! Angst is a tricky concept to nail down and I could always use the input.