RSSCategory: Meaning of Life

Roger Ebert writes of death as a matter of fact and permanent

April 6, 2013 | By | Reply More

In 2011, Salon published a serene meaning-of-life article by Roger Ebert. Here is an excerpt:

Many readers have informed me that it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don’t feel that way. “Faith” is neutral. All depends on what is believed in. I have no desire to live forever. The concept frightens me. I am 69, have had cancer, will die sooner than most of those reading this. That is in the nature of things. In my plans for life after death, I say, again with Whitman:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

And with Will, the brother in Saul Bellow’s “Herzog,” I say, “Look for me in the weather reports.”

Raised as a Roman Catholic, I internalized the social values of that faith and still hold most of them, even though its theology no longer persuades me. I have no quarrel with what anyone else subscribes to; everyone deals with these things in his own way, and I have no truths to impart. All I require of a religion is that it be tolerant of those who do not agree with it.

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Invisible war victims

April 1, 2013 | By | Reply More

Glenn Greenwald writes the following as part of his article on an upcoming film titled “Dirty Wars.”

The most propagandistic aspect of the US War on Terror has been, and remains, that its victims are rendered invisible and voiceless. They are almost never named by newspapers. They and their surviving family members are virtually never heard from on television. The Bush and Obama DOJs have collaborated with federal judges to ensure that even those who everyone admits are completely innocent have no access to American courts and thus no means of having their stories heard or their rights vindicated. Radical secrecy theories and escalating attacks on whistleblowers push these victims further into the dark. It is the ultimate tactic of Othering: concealing their humanity, enabling their dehumanization, by simply relegating them to nonexistence.

The following excerpt is from the website of “Dirty Wars.”

As [Investigative Reporter] Scahill digs deeper into the activities of JSOC, he is pulled into a world of covert operations unknown to the public and carried out across the globe by men who do not exist on paper and will never appear before Congress. In military jargon, JSOC teams “find, fix, and finish” their targets, who are selected through a secret process. No target is off limits for the “kill list,” including U.S. citizens. Drawn into the stories and lives of the people he meets along the way, Scahill is forced to confront the painful consequences of a war spinning out of control, as well as his own role as a journalist.

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Existential Ape

March 27, 2013 | By | 1 Reply More

This is the funniest Onion News Network report I’ve ever seen. It’s been around for awhile, but I just discovered it.


Scientists Successfully Teach Gorilla It Will Die Someday

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The most astounding fact about the universe

March 10, 2013 | By | Reply More

Neil DeGrasse Tyson recounts the most astounding fact about the universe in this short video. How can anyone who listens to these words with an open mind not feel a sense of awe?

And yes, this idea tracks the words of Carl Sagan, who pointed out that we are made of star-stuff:

I plucked the Tyson video link off of a light-hearted look at the life of Tyson.

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Considering Cults and the Need for Meaning

February 27, 2013 | By | 10 Replies More
Considering Cults and the Need for Meaning

Recently, I finished reading Lawrence Wright’s new book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollwood, & the Prison of Belief, about Scientology. It’s a lucid history and examination of the movement. [More . . . ]

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What really happened in Vietnam? Nick Turse investigates war crimes files.

February 22, 2013 | By | Reply More

Journalist Nick Turse investigated Vietnam war crimes files, thousands of them. As he explained to Bill Moyers, there is much America did in Vietnam that it should be ashamed of. Why dredge up the past? First, Vietnam is within the lifetimes of many people currently alive. Second, a powerful lesson illustrated by Turse is that in the absence of accurately reported information our government excels at hiding the truth and painting rosy pictures. This is a very important lesson pertaining to Iraq and Afghanistan. We always have spotty and hyper-censored media coverage concerning the conduct of our troops. What have our troops been doing? The assumption should be that in the absence of vigorous and accurate reporting, things have been going on in Iraq and Afghanistan that could not possibly withstand the light of day. That is certainly what happened in Vietnam, which was a concocted war, just like Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans need to quit pretending that they are getting accurate information from their government in the absence of any trustworthy verifying source of information. In the absence of trustworthy information, we need to assume that war is a theater for war crimes and make believe.

How many decades will we need to wait before the truth comes out about the wars of “freedom” we are fighting in the Middle East? How many decades will pass before historians declare that these needless wars were conducted in shameful ways. How long before Americans realize that our biggest wars are wars to clamp down on information waged by our government against the people of the U.S.? Here are a few excerpts from the Turse interview by Bill Moyers:

All the atrocities that [John] Kerry mentions by name [before Congress] I found evidence of all of those types of crimes represented in the records of this Vietnam War Crimes Working Group in the government’s own files. So at the same time that– you know, that Kerry and the veterans that he was referring to there were being smeared as fake veterans or as liars, the military had all these records that proved that these were just the very crimes that were going on in Vietnam.

[An army medic named Jamie Henry] saw these things. And when he first spoke up about brutality his life was threatened by fellow unit members. And even his friends came to him and said, “Look, you have to keep your mouth shut or you’re going to get shot in the back during a firefight and no one’s going to be the wiser.” So Jamie did keep his mouth shut, but he kept his eyes open. And he kept cataloguing everything he saw.

And this culminated in– it was February 8th, 1968. And his unit moved into a small hamlet. And his commanding officer, a West Point trained captain– ordered all the civilians there rounded up. It was about 19 civilians, women and children. And Jamie was taking a break, smoking a cigarette. And over the radio he heard this captain give an order. And it was to kill anything that moves.

And Jamie heard this. And he jumped up. And he went to go try and intervene. But he was just seconds late. He showed up just as five men arrayed around these civilians, opened up on full automatic with their M-16 rifles, and shot them all dead. And Jamie told me that 30 seconds after this took place, he vowed that he would make this public.

And he made it, you know, his duty to do so. As soon as he got home from Vietnam, he sought out an Army lawyer. And he told them everything that he saw. And this Army lawyer told him that he needed to keep quiet, because there were a million ways that the Army could make him disappear. He went to spoke to an Army criminal investigator. But that man threatened him. He went and sought out a civilian lawyer who told him to get some political backing.

He wrote to two congressman. Neither of them returned his letters. Then he started speaking out. He went on the radio. He went to public forums. And even the winter soldier investigation He spoke out there. But he could never get any traction. And finally, you know, it was years later that Jamie just gave up. And you know, he decided that he just had to move on with his life.

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Don’t give up on your dreams to change the world

February 21, 2013 | By | Reply More

Bryon Reese urges that we not give up on our dreams to change the world. Don’t succumb to apathy and pessimism. It’s time to get to work, regardless of the perceived obstacles or the long odds of success.

Resse’s TED talk reminded me of this quote:

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand,” he tells his children. “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.

Atticus Finch, in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

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Remembering the little things

February 9, 2013 | By | Reply More
Remembering the little things

At TED, artist Cesar Kuriyama explains his approach trying to remembering the many little things of his life, one second at a time. He reminds himself to capture (through video) the bad moments as well as the good. This project encourages him to live life in an interesting way, every day. This TED video includes an example of his engaging work:

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Scouts and Honor and Fair

February 1, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More
Scouts and Honor and Fair

My relationship with the Boy Scouts of America was not the most pleasant.  I was an oddity, to be sure.  I think I was at one time the only—only—second class scout to be a patrol leader. Second class.  For those who may not have been through the quasi-military organization, the way it was structured in […]

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