Thankful for the Opportunity

It is Thanksgiving, which, despite whatever cultural implications it might carry, is one of my favorite holidays. It is one of my favorite holidays because it forces me to reflect on what I am thankful for, and this year I am thankful for rather a lot.

But first, some background. This time last year I had considerably less to be thankful for. Just out of a long and difficult relationship, I woke up at Reed to realize that I didn’t really have a solid friend group. Nor was I the same caliber of thinker that I am now. This past year, both I and my life have improved considerably and this is what I am most grateful for. It was not really until about this time last year that I began to really get to know the members of Babylon and I was far from what I would call a member. This time last year I was mediocre with respect to philosophy; most of this has changed. While I would not say I have become a morally better man, as my kindness is now more discriminating; I think I have become a superior man.

Today I am most thankful for the opportunities I have been given. I am thankful for the wonderful opportunities I have been given by my mother, who is paying for my education. I am thankful to have been able to work with a top notch philosopher over the summer. I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to become a good, respected, and real member of Reed’s philosophy department. And I am thankful that the Babylonians wanted to get to know me.

The truth of the matter is, one can only do so much by oneself. I have worked hard to become who I am, and I have seized these opportunities. But it is important to realize that they were opportunities, that I was lucky to have them.

Without such a fantastic mom, I wouldn’t be at Reed. This has been a gateway to improving my mind. The past few weeks I’ve been able to grasp things that eluded me completely a year ago, and it’s an awesome feeling, let me tell you! Without my philosophy professor, TC, I wouldn’t have the same love or the same understanding of the field I’ve decided to study.

Without my friend, let’s call him Tall, I wouldn’t feel like a real member of Reed’s philosophical community, and I don’t think I would be nearly as driven. He is, besides one of the most brilliant and well read undergrads I have ever met, an intensely good man.

And without the folks at Babylon, there is a lot I would not have learned. When it comes down to it, I think I am most thankful this year for Babylon; these are some of the best friends I could have. Through them I have learned to fight, to become stronger, the basics of combative shooting, a little rhetoric, and how to drink scotch in a manly fashion. But also, I have learned how to better conserve myself emotionally and how relationships ought to look. That being said, metaphysics is still a valid field of inquiry (usually). But more than that, I think we don’t really realize the value of having close friends close by until we don’t. And this time last year, I didn’t really have that. Now I have people that I can count on, people I love dearly. This year, I am most grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know them.

So, I am grateful for the opportunities that I have had. Most of all, I am grateful that I have been given the opportunity to run with such exceptionally high caliber people; it is largely due to them that I am happy and that I have become better.

Fear

Tomorrow is the meeting with the Housing Appeals Committee. They will decide whether or not I will be allowed out of my housing contract and able to live at Babylon over the next year.

I am afraid. While most of my friends assure me that it will go my way, that I will be fine, I’m not so optimistic. They have to decide to release me from a legal obligation, which I consented to at the start. And if they don’t release me, I’ll be back in the Sci-Fi fantasy dorm, surrounded by people I have little in common with, away from the Babylonians. Right now, I feel like I come home at night. I have a place where I belong, surrounded by people who not only challenge me to improve, but are my best friends in Portland. I don’t want to lose what I have here.

There are two ways to frame tomorrows decision. They can look at it from the perspective that I signed a contract and that I am asking for an exception which they are not obligated to give me, or they can look at it from my perspective, which asks what is best for me? If they choose that my mental and physical health, coupled with a higher probability of success, is more important than the need to collect my money for room and board, then they should let me out. But they don’t have to see it that way and, although I hate to say it, I understand their end.

Whatever the case, hopefully tomorrow I will have my decision. And hopefully tomorrow night I will have a scotch in celebration instead of a scotch as a defeat’s comfort.

Novelties

In the past week, my life has been exceedingly novel. Not this weekend (which is happening currently), but the last one, I did a number of very novel things.

First of all, I attended and officiated my first wedding! My two housemates are now officially married, by the power invested in me by the laws of Oregon, and the Gravitas of my Ministry. Yes, I am a minister of the Universal Life Church; this title took all of thirty seconds to obtain via the internet. Regardless, I couldn’t be happier for the two of them! And I’m glad the ceremony went as well as it did, as they deserve the very best. Not that I wasn’t pleased that they thought I did a good job, I was. But it was their day, and it deserved the best I had. 

Second, I went shooting with the chief Babylonian and another one of his lady friends (who has this terrific habit of both making whoever she’s talking to feel like the most interesting person in the room, and being the most interesting person in the room herself). This was most excellent; I really am a fan of the Glock as a pistol (just in general, although I would like to own a 19). Learning all of this traditionally masculine stuff is a lot of fun for me, and as long as guns are used safely, target shooting is a lot of fun!

After shooting, I went to one of my (now 3 in total) philosophy reading groups. Due to the absence of several members, instead of discussing “The Philosophy of Philosophy” we put it off and watched “The Devil Wears Prada” instead, on my insistance. It’s one of my favorite movies, and watching it with a professor is a very novel experience. He enjoyed it, and then (and I was amazed) beat me at arm wrestling! I didn’t expect it, but was more amazed and pleasantly awestruck than anything else. I swear, I have some of the coolest professors. 

On the fourth of July the Babylonians, and a good friend of mine (Mark) dating back from elementary school went to a few parties, first Mark and I went to the Tir nA nOg barbeque at Reed, which was a pleasant enough experience. I was worried that one of my (former?) friends Kendra would make things awkward, but she was perfectly pleasant, despite not talking to me for well over a month and not inviting me to her house warming party. But whatever, somehow I’ll manage. Following this the Babylonians, Mark, and I went to another party (hosted by a friend of Babylon), which was great. Afterwards we went to a third party, where many illegal fireworks were fired! One of the more adrenaline involving experiences of the past week involves my lighting fireworks with a blow torch. Yes, it felt awesome. And apparently I have a pretty quick back pedal, which is good for that kind of thing.

In other news, I have a job for the rest of August as a lifeguard at the Reed pool. It pays a fair amount, which will hopefully fund icebreaker and perhaps a nice hat. We shall see. 

Despite all of the exciting and fun things happening in my life, I’ve still felt a bit lonely of late. Not from lack of friends, but because I’d really like it if a woman were on my arm again. It’s been almost a year since I woke up with someone, and I miss it. I don’t really miss her so much as I miss having someone. There are a few beautiful women I have some interest in, one tastes of champagne, another of espresso. 

Interestingly enough I think I’ve become more open to the possibility of a polyamorous relationship. It’s hard not to be at Babylon. My jealousy problems exist mainly when lies or betrayal are involved, or that’s how it seems now. But the truth of the matter is, I prefer being open to different relationship structures instead of being set on one. I’d rather find someone I really care about and do what they want, as opposed to sleeping with a myriad of women (which I haven’t been doing any of, for the record). 

Oddly enough, I think I miss feeling vulnerable. While I love the Babylonians with all my heart, there aren’t many heart to heart talks here. When there are, they mean more for it. But it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t like to have them with a beautiful woman. 

Flakes

I am tired of people flaking on me. This past week I have been put off by, flaked out on, cancelled on, and just outright forgotten by five separate people. I am more than a little annoyed. Those five separate people have ranged from someone I hoped would become a new friend, to family, to the professor I am working for.

Maybe it’s me. But if it is me, I’d like someone to say so rather than wasting my time. Clearly I am not a priority to any of these people. That being said, it’s poor form to tell someone you’re going to be somewhere at a certain time and then make them wait, especially when you’re there for their benefit (2 of the cases).

I did my best to be upbeat about it in each case, until the last one. Honestly I kind of expected the last person to flake out on me, but it still hurt. What people don’t realize is that doing that to me creates the implicature: Sam, you are not worth my time; you are unimportant to me. Why am I unimportant? Tell me so I can fix it, god dammit! I’d rather be hurt the once than continue to waste my time with this kind of bullshit, and that’s what it is, bullshit.

So many people like to hedge their bets when it comes to making plans. “I can probably make it,” “I should be there,” etc. This is obnoxious; make plans with me or do not. If you can’t make it sometimes, I get it. But if this is how you constantly conduct business with me, it is pretty obvious that you do not want to spend time in my company. I study logic for fun. Deducing this is not hard for me.

This kind of behavior hurts. My feelings are hurt when people flake out on or forget me. I want people to stop doing it or go away.

Carving Happiness at the Joints

Right now my life is going better than it has in a very long time. I literally just spent nine hours with a professor and some fellow students; the entire time was spent either philosophizing, talking about working out, or playing chess. I even beat my professor once (after he’d had a drink, of course), which has been a goal of mine for a few weeks.

The realization of today is that I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. I am living with some of my favorite people in the world, working out all the time, and studying what I love. There are no big parties, no drunken hookups or any of the other things I think some college students look forward to over the summer (that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with any of that; it just doesn’t do it for me). Rather, I am becoming good friends with a professor, and watching as the core literature in the metaphysics of dispositions is being written. This is a relatively new field of inquiry in metaphysics, dispositions having previously been dismissed as a non-fundamental property. Now it’s in style, and I get to be an observer.

I think the main thing for me is that I get to really feel like I’m a part of the philosophy department at Reed. Before, when I was still with my ex, that wasn’t something I felt I could do. I was very much on the sidelines. But without that commitment to a relationship that wasn’t going well (however much we care(d) about each other), I can participate. I can go to talks, join reading groups, and feel my mind growing again. I understand counterfactuals, dispositions, and their relations to each other, at least to a point. I have an opinion on the synthetic/analytic distinction, which I realized today allows me to deny Troy’s paper that uncarved reality at the joints (it showed that, if the analytic/synthetic distinction is vague and supervaluationism or some other three valued logic is true, then some philosophical puzzles arise because there is no fact of the matter; reality is indeterminate in some cases)! I’m being exposed to awesome, hardcore analytic philosophy and I’m understanding most of it.

It doesn’t hurt that this weekend was pretty spectacular. After the chief Babylonian helped me loft my bed, a very large and very intelligent friend came over with two separate two hundred dollar bottles of wine. Not bad, for my first glass of wine ever. But I think that the fact that I seem to be forming such good connections with such a wonderfully diverse group of amazing people is spoiling me. Hopefully this is what reality is really like.

Philosophy and the Transitivity of Love

Many people tend to look down on philosophy. What use is it? I have one answer to that question that I want to give here. This is actually something I’ve been thinking about since high school.

I’m going to make one big assumptions here, and that’s that love is transitive; it requires an object. Now, that doesn’t mean that I think we can’t just feel the emotion “love”, but when we say “I love you” or talk about loving each other, or some such, the emotion takes an object.

The object of love can be either real or or not real. But let’s be honest, when we talk about loving each other, we want to it to be true that we love each other as opposed to just ideas of each other.

So, if my assumptions are correct, then it follows that in order to love each other we need to know facts about each other. We need to know who the other person is. But what is knowledge? How do we attain it? Certainly we have it, at least with regards to some things. But if we don’t have a solid understanding of what it means to know something and a good grasp on how to reliably attain it, then love of each other becomes much more difficult.

Take the following example: James has been seeing this girl, Lily, for a few years. They say “I love you” very often to each other and they both mean it. However, the list of beliefs they have about each other is skewed considerably , so when James says “I love you, Lily” his concept of “Lily” actually corresponds to Lily’s sister, Petunia. This is due to the fact that someone, say, Severus, has enchanted James’ glasses so that his perception of Lily is altered in just the right way so that he associates a concept similar to “Petunia” with Lily. So when he says “I love you Lily”, Lily is not in fact the object of his love, which sucks for her.

Yes, this is a silly example, but it’s just meant to illustrate a point. We say all the time “I thought I knew him” or “you’re not the person I used to know,” etc. We often get to “know” people without really knowing them in their entirety, and so we form ideas about who they are that are just simply wrong. So it seems that a proper study of knowledge and the methods we can use to attain it is pretty important for everyday things in general; I just picked one close to our hearts. It just so happens that an entire branch of philosophy is directed towards this, epistemology.

That’s all I’ve got. Working on a discussion of private languages between individuals (friends and couples), and will probably also reiterate a rant against relativism (as opposed to realism, which says that the facts about the world are not relative.”

Homecoming

Right now, I am home at Babylon. I’ve been here for a few weeks now, and things are going spectacularly well. It’s nice to be surrounded by good friends, who share my lifestyle.

In the past few weeks I have done many things. I have gone to a health spa where we all sat naked in a hottub together (something I wouldn’t have been comfortable doing a few years ago), I have gone hiking, I have wrestled, and played watched Iron Sky over a single of scotch.

I’ve also been working for that professor, and by working I mean two things. First, it’s more of a slaveship, because I am not being paid. Second, the work is sporadic at best. Sometimes he’ll have hours of work for me a day, other times he’ll have nothing at all because he’s too busy perfecting what he’ll eventually send me. I think he’s rewritten this book review at least twice at this point. The first meeting of his reading group for “The Philosophy of Philosophy” went pretty well too, despite a bit of a slow start. I’m looking forward to this Sunday’s meeting, but that’ll get here Sunday.

There hasn’t really been a lot of bad lately. The occasional twinge of loneliness, but I keep the fact that I’m happier now than I was before firmly in mind, and it is a fact. I do not know how long Babylon will last, as a place, and as a community. But right now I feel at home here. It’s nice to come home in Portland.