Friday, June 6, 2008

Please Refrain From Reading This Post

…trust me. It’s way too long and crappy. The last paragraph is the only place that even starts to be good, and it’s rough too.
There, I covered my behind from any judgment you might make about me or my writing. I can now continue free of care:

You know, I’ve been thinking a bit lately about this blog thing.

How many times have I opened up my browser, clicked the link to my own blog, and stared disappointedly at the same old post that’s been there for a month? More than I care to say. Every time I see that I haven’t updated, it makes me want to update less. What do I have to say right now? Frankly, until this week, I had essentially put my brain in sleep mode, at least in terms of the things I normally ponder almost perpetually: faith, music, politics, life, people, justice, Frisbee, and food.

So maybe those last two I ponder simply to the extent of a desire to be experiencing them at most every hour of the day. The others, I’d say, tend to command a level of depth in thought that, quite frankly, I’m not really smart enough to maintain for more than a few minutes at a time. Seriously, though, I think I’ve been afraid to post because I think I don’t have anything to say that’s insightful enough to share with you, the reader. This is not to say that I haven’t been thinking at all for the last month. Maybe what’s been happening has simply been too personal or, more likely, too undeveloped to put into writing.

But that’s often my problem. Writing only comes naturally when I begin to do it. The desire to begin is almost never there. So here I am, starting an entry once again; and once again, I have to get things underway by metablogging. In my opinion, the only thing more lame/pitiful than writing about writing is to write about… just that. You see, the more you start to think about thinking, the more layers of thought you find yourself caught thinking. The only real way to redeem such a feedback loop of thought is to think critically about the loop in which you find yourself, which only makes matters worse. Try this:

Think about yourself thinking. Do this for a moment, and suddenly, you will feel quite silly. When you start to feel silly, you have become keenly aware of the fact that you are now transcendentally thinking about thinking about thinking. But just before you attempt to articulate that sense in any meaningful way (even to yourself), the moment has slipped away below countless layers of thought. You quickly re-set your feet in reality, by wiping clean the slate and thinking about something else. This all will happen in the course of about 10 seconds.

If that was difficult for you, try to do it in writing. This will clarify the absurdity of the whole process in that it leaves the thinker/writer altogether inarticulate. That is, he or she simply cannot articulate nearly as quickly as he or she can observe that articulation, which as he or she proceeds to observe, is equally inexpressible, except to begin to describe it in words as these I have written for the past two and a half paragraphs, only to be left with words like “absurd” or “silly” to describe the whole situation.

One useful thought occurs to me, however, and that is, in the form of a question, “Why does a thought have to be useful in order to be a valuable thought?” I can think about things for a long time about which someone might say, “this is not a helpful thought.” But is this not an over-pragmatized definition of the validity or worth of a thought? Do my thoughts have value only if they lead to some “useful” end? Who says whether something is “useful”?

The concept of “value” is somewhat problematic. When you look it up in my Mac’s onboard dictionary, you cyclically connect to three words: importance, attention, and significance. This latter concept is a bit more helpful in that it ties to the concept of meaning, or rather ties fairly closely to usefulness. So value, by definition, does have something to do with usefulness. But what is “useful”?

This is interesting too: try looking up the word “useful.” Here’s the definition I get: “able to be used for a practical purpose or in several ways.”
This definition is somewhat problematic in its use of the root word to clarify meaning. For fun, let’s see how it defines the root word: “take, hold, or deploy (something) as a means of accomplishing a purpose or achieving a result.”

Hmm. These definitions seem only to lead to more definitions. Okay, bear with me for the next few minutes as I take us down a definition path. The bolded words are words that I will seek to define. Italicized words are ones we’ve already attempted to define (and thus, are somewhat of a dead-end, or perhaps more accurately a feedback loop, in ascertaining meaning). When I put a word in ALL CAPS, I will save that word for later because it seems important. Remember, if this gets a bit tedious, I already warned you not to read this post. Really, you can skip to the last section of definitions (capitalized ones) if you like, and just trust that I have more or less faithfully pursued definitions to that end. The choice is yours…

Here goes:

Useful – able to be used for a practical purpose or in several ways.
Use – take, hold, or deploy as a means of accomplishing a purpose or achieving a result
Purpose – the reason for which something is done or created or for which something EXISTS
Create – bring into EXISTENCE
Reason – a cause, explanation, or justification for an ACTION or event
Cause – a PERSON or THING that gives rise to an ACTION, phenomenon, or condition

Result – a consequence, effect, or outcome of something
Consequence – a result or effect of an action or condition
Effect – a change that is a result or consequence of an action or other cause
Action – the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim
Aim – a purpose or intention; a desired outcome
Outcome – the way a thing turns out; a consequence
Intention – a thing intended; an aim or plan
Plan – a detailed proposal for DOING or achieving something
Achieve – reach or attain
Reach – attain or extend to (a specified point, level, or condition)
Point – a particular spot, PLACE, or position
Attain – succeed in achieving
Intend – have as one’s purpose or objective
Objective – a thing aimed at or sought
Seek – attempt to find
Find – discover or perceive
Discover – find unexpectedly
Perceive – become aware or conscious of; come to realize or understand
Realize – become fully aware of as a FACT
Aware – having knowledge or perception of a situation or FACT
Knowledge – FACTS, information, and skills
Situation – set of circumstances in which one finds oneself
Circumstances – a fact or condition connected with or relevant to an EVENT or ACTION
Understand – perceive the intended meaning of
Meaning – what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action
Mean – intend to convey, indicate, or refer
Indicate – point out; show
Show – be or allow or cause to be visible
Visible – able to be seen
See – perceive with the eyes
Convey – transport or carry to a PLACE

DO – perform (an action)
EXIST – having objective reality or being
Objective – not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts
Reality – the world or the state of THINGS as they actually exist
Be - exist
FACT – a thing that is indisputably the case (an instance (occurrence (event)))
PLACE – a particular position or point in space
Position – a place where someone or something is located
Locate – discover the exact place or position of
EVENT – a thing that happens (take place; occur)→ all three definitions for “happen,” “take place,” and “occur” all lead back to each other
HAPPEN – (alt. definition) ensue as an effect or result of an action or event

ACTION – the fact or process of doing something
SOMETHING – a thing that is unspecified
THING – an object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to
SOMEONE – an unknown or unspecified person
PERSON – a human being regarded as an individual
Individual – a single human being
Human being – a man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens
Man – an adult human male
Woman – an adult human female
Child – a young human being
OBJECT – a person or thing to which a specified action or feeling is directed

Thus, after a quasi-exhaustive exploration of meaning beneath the concept of "usefulness," the resultant and elemental concepts are (surprise, surprise):
- ACTION (verb)
- PERSON (noun, pt 1)
- PLACE (noun, pt 2)
- THING (noun, pt 3)
- OBJECT (nouns, all)
These, as you must already know, are the most basic building blocks of language. Because all nouns can function grammatically as subjects and objects, and because all subjects are objects in and of themselves, language conveys, at its most basic level: ACTION & OBJECT.
Such concepts are all rooted in the concept of EXISTENCE.

Therefore, in my (very) crude exploration of our language, no thought can actually be deemed “not useful” other than the thought which has yet to be thought. Some might argue that a thought does not actually have existence in the same sense as people, places, and things. But Plato would say that a thought, or IDEA, has “eternal existence” as a pattern of which individual things in any class are imperfect copies, and in such a sense, has a more “real” existence than any noun. But then again, that’s Plato. Here is perhaps where my argument breaks down.

But I’ve yet to make an argument! I got ahead of myself. I will conclude (finally) with this:

Usefulness or purpose is almost inseparably tied to existence. I believe, as many of you do, that existence has come from an Uncaused Causer, or rather, God Himself. That is, however, an argument for another day. Assuming God has created us, He has done so implicitly giving us (and all other existent things) purpose, usefulness, and meaning.

So maybe the things I have to say don’t have much use to anyone, but they will almost always be more useful when existing as opposed to not (i.e. “unwritten”). Words have some level, however small, of inherent use and purpose. This use only comes alive when the words themselves do. When a writer articulates, he or she implies meaning, purpose, and value, as long as the words are somewhat definable and ordered. In this way, value is tied directly to the one articulated simply based on his or her act of ordered articulation. My words have meaning because I give it to them by writing them, although the meanings of words do objectively transcend my existence, and ultimately are determined by the eternal God. But at the most basic level, I convey meaning that is at least partially or imperfectly tied to my own existence. I digress, however, and perhaps it is more helpful to think not of my words, but God's.

When God articulated (spoke) the world – all people, places, and things – into existence, He placed within all of this inherent meaning, purpose, and value.

Even as the words fell from His lips, existence for us all happened, and with it, a value given implicitly by He whose existence goes beyond value. What a priceless existence we lead.

To Him be the glory.

PS – Take all of this to its logical conclusion for a moment. No longer must we concern ourselves with living a life that is (pardon my slight sarcasm) “purpose-driven.” All humans lead a purpose-infused life whether they like it or not. The best we can do is to try to live with a keen awareness of the purpose we already have, and the glory that every knee and every tongue, if not now, then, brings to Him that spoke its existence. From the most righteous to the most evil, each of us ultimately brings God glory as beings created, sustained, and restored (or judged) by Him. I am free from the concern of my own value or purpose, for it is hidden within my existence, over which I have no authority. The authority of Christ achieves for me a value and purpose that goes unsurpassed by anything I can conjure up on my own. “I am His.” No other statement can convey a higher value. No other reality can exceed this truth in worth.


Emily Hunt said...

playa please. you know i read the whole thing.

Hoseef said...

Yeah, I on the other hand read the first couple of paragraphs and decided to come back to it later, when I've got about an hour to digest just what it is you are trying to say. Also, link to this:

Kyle said...

you are unbelievable. that's all i have to say. also, i like "Purpose Driven Life". and, i like you. Can these 2 be mutually exclusive?

peace out player please.


Steve Conn said...

Ok seriously ben? I feel like you reached a decent conclusion but the stuff in the middle looked like watching Random Brad play mind-benders with an 8 year old and not realizing he was getting outwhitted. Should I go back and read the whole thign or not?

KES said...

I finally read this...oh the places your mind will go, Ben.