The Meaninglessness of Tradition

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"Tradition is the reason for doing something you can no longer thing of a reason for doing."
For those who don't follow this comic strip, Rat is the cynic. He's arrogant and constantly puts others down, seeing only the bad in everyone but himself. Hence, Goat's statement about hating when he agrees with Rat. But in this case, I believe Rat has hit the nail on the head. So today, we'll be looking at tradition, and why it's really so irrelevant. First, let's look at a story. I've heard it told as a joke. It may or may not be true.

A man was participating in a competition and after winning, he was given a ham as a prize. Delighted, he went home and presented it to his wife, who decided that she would cook it for dinner. She promptly set it on the counter and cut off one end of it.
"What are you doing?" the man cried. "Why are you chopping up my prize ham?"
"That's how you cook a ham," she replied.
But her husband still wasn't convinced.
"That's how my mother always did it," she insisted, "but I'm not quite sure why." So she called up her mother and asked, "Why do you cut off one end of a ham before cooking it?"
"I don't know," was the response. "But that's always how my mom did it." So they called up her mother, the first woman's grandmother. They explained the situation to her and asked again, "Why do you cut off one end of a ham before cooking it?"
The woman responded, "Well, I don't know why you two are doing it, but my pan was too small!"

In this situation, we see how being taught one way caused the two women to act a certain way without understanding it. We see another example in the TV show Babylon 5, where Londo tells a tale of a princess who commanded a guard to stand in one place to keep watch over the first flower of spring. Later, she forgot about the command, and never cancelled the order. So every day for 500 years, a guard would stand in that one place, even though there was really no reason anymore.

Now, I'm not claiming that tradition is evil. But it must be accompanied by reason. If tradition is truly the only reason, then you have no reason for performing a task except that it's what everyone else does. It's what you're expected to do. Rather, tradition is meaningless. Meaningless is not said in a negative sense, but a neutral sense. It does not qualify as a reason for or a reason against. So when you find yourself asking why and the only reason is because "that's what we've always done," it may be time to step back and look again at the situation.
"Just because something is traditional is no reason to do it, of course."
-Lemony Snicket

Technical Difficulties

Due to some computer issues, today's post will be delayed. If you'd like, you could look at my dad's blog, Peculiar Perceptions.

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Pros and Cons: A Reason for Everything

"The heart has its reasons which reason knows not."
-Blaise Pascal
Why are you reading this blog post? What reason do you have for sitting at your computer staring at a screen? I mean, if you want to stare at a screen, surely you could be staring at something more interesting, like a game, or a YouTube video. But overall, wouldn't it be healthier to go outside and get some fresh air? Or go to bed instead of staying up so late?

No, wait, come back! That wasn't meant to make you leave, it was just supposed to lead up into today's post. Today, I'm going to show that everyone has a reason for everything, in the hopes that we will start looking into our reasons, rather than going along with them blindly.

As this is a rather simple idea, this will also be a shorter post than usual. Essentially, you have a reason for everything you do. I have a reason for everything I do. Everyone has a reason, and everyone does something because they believe it will be beneficial, usually to themselves.

Now, I'm sure that there's someone out there who has, upon reading this section, stood up, clapped three times, and sat down again. Or something along those lines. That is to say, someone has done something pointless to prove me wrong. Oops. I guess I'm wrong. Sorry. I'll end the post now.

...Actually, first, let's look at that sentence again. "Someone has done something pointless to prove me wrong." If they did it to prove me wrong, then it wasn't without reason. Their reason was to prove me wrong, even if they didn't know it, and they believed it would be beneficial because proving me wrong would give some type of emotional satisfaction, or not proving me wrong would provide some type of emotional dissatisfaction.

Even people who intentionally do something detrimental to themselves believe that it will be beneficial. Each action has a list of pros and cons. People subconsciously weigh those pros and cons and decide which will be more beneficial. Doing something detrimental to yourself would happen if you subconsciously believed that such an action should happen for whatever reason, which means that you are now closer to the emotion that you were aiming for. If you want to be sad, then you "want" to be sad, and are aiming for what you want.

This is important, because we make decisions all the time. We subconsciously weigh the pros and cons. But do we trust our own inner minds? I believe that, rather, we should bring decisions into our conscious minds to analyze them more thoroughly. I don't mean the most basic decisions, such as walking rather than hopping on one foot, but more decisions than we currently think about. If we're actively deciding to do something, we need to know why we're doing it. Few pros but no cons? Many pros and few cons? Or are we not doing it for the opposite reasons?
"No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness."
-Mary Shelly

A Child's Perspective on Childcare

"A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words bruise the heart of a child."
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When in conflict, the position of authority is the winner by default, regardless of whether or not their position is correct. I believe that this has detrimental effects on individuals, and on society as a whole. Today, we'll be examining childcare from a child's perspective, in an attempt to show what can be done, as parents and leaders, to help our children. I am not a parent, and if I were to give advice to a parent or a person in authority from that perspective, anything I said would be sorely lacking. However, I will be approaching this topic from a different perspective; a perspective that, I believe, is very important and very uncommon.

I was often mistreated as a child. Not by my parents, but by other people in my life. It wasn't an obvious mistreatment, though. It was contempt. Contempt is, according to the dictionary, a feeling or treatment of someone as worthless or inferior. This isn't a conscious action, though. Nobody thinks about the dirt on which they tread. And note that word inferior. People saw me as inferior because I was a child. After all, I wasn't as strong, I wasn't as coordinated, I wasn't as educated or experienced. Doesn't that make me worth less? Nobody would say that I wasn't valuable, of course. That thought isn't one that people will consciously tolerate. But in reality, they believed I was valuable for who I would eventually grow up to be, not for who I was at that moment. And unlike most children, I could tell. They would smile and play with me to keep me happy, but they didn't treat me with the basic respect due to a human being. They didn't keep me happy because they cared, they kept me happy because that made life easier for them.

From the age of five, there was a certain thought that I'd begun thinking. "I'm going to remember this, and when I'm older, I'm never going to treat people like this. I'll never forget what it's like to be a kid." This wasn't for the sake of carrying a grudge or getting revenge. This was because I knew how I felt, and when I was older, I wanted to treat kids better than I had been treated.

Now, examine this for a minute. I was mistreated, and learned something from it. Certainly children will not always be happy. Discipline is a part of raising them. It's a part of helping them grow. And that's why this is so important. Because childcare isn't about the parents, or the teachers, or anyone else in authority. It's about the kids. If a child decides when he's older to leave behind everything his parents ever taught him, he can do that. It doesn't matter if his parents were right. What matters is whether the child believes that his parents were right. If they were right but didn't convince him of that, then they have failed their child.

When I was little, I would ask "why" a lot. The answer was usually, "because I told you to." I learned quickly that the adults were mistaking my request for knowledge as a challenge. To compensate, I tried a variety of tactics. For example, I would consciously smile while doing the task, and only ask "why" afterwards. I would, with my most respectful voice, ask, "would you mind telling me why?" I did everything I could think of. Still, the answer never changed. It was annoying. I wanted knowledge, and that knowledge was being refused. Had I actually been challenging the authority, that answer would have been correct. But there was a difference in the "why" that I was asking. The authority believed that I was asking, "why do I have to do this," when in reality, I was asking, "why does this task need to be done."

As the parents, guardians, babysitters, caretakers, etc., it is our job to think about the details that the child can't see. For example, when two children are fighting in the back seat. In many cases, this is similar to a crude form of policy debate. One child is fighting for the status quo, and the other child is fighting for a change. The easy response, "Quiet down back there!" is automatically deciding that the status quo will remain. Regardless of which child was right, one child has been chosen as a winner without examining the situation. Granted, it is difficult to examine a situation while driving. But what about upon reaching the destination? Or listening to their cases while driving and making a basic decision? Whatever the answer, we need to be aware of what we're doing. We need to realize that childcare is about the children.

I have worked with three and four-year-olds once a week for about four and a half years now. From a parental perspective, I'm certainly inexperienced. But from a child's perspective? We don't consciously recognize the aging process in our day to day lives. But I have chosen to remember a child's perspective. I have chosen to remember what it's like to be young, and I continue to make this choice now, as I am still young. And I put my memories to action with the children. I keep them safe, enforce the rules, keep order... And I love them. My children, though not my own, are still precious to me. I care about them not for who they will become, but for who they are right now. And for their sake, I believe that we should all remember who they are, to raise them as best we can.
"The words with which a child's heart is poisoned, whether through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul."
-Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Science Fiction and its Types

"Television is medium because it is neither rare nor well done."
-Earnie Kovaks
 "The purpose of this blog is to look in detail at the things that people often glance over without a second thought. Larger topics may come up from time to time, but the goal is mainly to get your minds moving."
-Jared Curry (To Overthink, or not to Overthink)
Exercise is not something that builds up your muscles. At least, not directly. In reality, it tears down your muscles. The reason this makes you stronger is because your muscles build themselves back up to be stronger than before. If they were designed for fifty pounds and you lifted sixty, for example, your muscles would eventually "learn" that they need to be strong enough for sixty pounds. But while consistent exercise would be good, constantly pushing them to their limits would give them no time to build themselves back up. So today, we're going to be taking a slight break from all the depth to analyze science fiction and its types. Many people think of science fiction as, simply, science fiction. But looking closer at science fiction, we can see that in reality, these people are practicing the habit of placing labels on what they don't understand. I'll be looking at a few different types of science fiction, with the hopes of showing that even within a category, you can't judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, a show by its ships.

First let's look at Star Trek. This could be considered "standard" science fiction. A ship, a crew, aliens, and space travel. Transporters, robots, laser guns, the works. And, as any Trekkie will be able to tell you, they're not laser guns, they're phasers. The important characters always survive. The only people who die are unnamed, or, if they feel like throwing in a twist, named, but not a regular character. Basically, the point of this science fiction is to have all kinds of cool tech that we don't have (yet?) in real life. This is the classic form of science fiction, that everybody knows about. And, while I personally find it to be entertaining, I also make fun of it at the drop of a hat. Sadly, I believe that it has given science fiction a certain reputation. But it isn't the only kind of science fiction.

Next, we'll take a look at Babylon 5. At first glance, this seems to be some more standard science fiction. We meet the cast of main characters, we learn their jobs, we have plenty of technology, and the security crew carries phasers. Of course, as any Babylon 5 nerd would be able to tell you, they're not phasers, they're PPGs (short for Phased Plasma Guns). But there's a line in episode six that hints at bigger things ahead.
"No one here is exactly what he appears."
-Ambassador G'Kar
Indeed, this is the truth. Each character is different, and we get to know each of them on a deeper level than we ever would in Star Trek. The characters grow, and change, and sometimes, even die. Each episode is connected as a story. Each episode, a chapter, and each season, a book in a series. In something like Star Trek: Voyager, there is a common theme, but each episode is still mainly its own story. Not so with Babylon 5. The story is what makes the show, not the technology. And the characters will grow to fit the story, even to the point of death. This is not the shallow science fiction that we previously saw.

Babylon 5 is not a well known show. Doctor Who, however, is. And while Doctor Who does have some level of storytelling involved, the characters come before story, rather than story coming before characters. Each episode, they find themselves in a new time and place, thanks to The Doctor's time machine, The T.A.R.D.I.S. (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). Because of this, everything revolves around the people, and who they are. We watch them grow, we watch them learn, and we see who they are. Every once in a while, The Doctor will take on a new companion, leaving the old one behind for one reason for another. And since he's an alien, he changes his face and body whenever he's mortally wounded, calling it "regeneration." His personality tends to change as well, meaning that, although he's still The Doctor, we have a whole new personality to get used to.

Looking further, into something like Star Wars, we see yet another type of science fiction. This is because Star Wars isn't a single story; it's an entire fictional universe. While the six movies focus on a general time period, looking into the books, we can find stories about any place and any time period. I personally have enjoyed reading about Darth Bane, as well as the Mandolorian Wars, although the New Jedi Order is also interesting. Anywhere you look, you can see a universe in motion. You can look into a character, or you can look at a crew. And if you want technology, they even have PPGs. But as any Star Trek nerd will know, they're not PPGs. They're called blasters.

At this point, various nerds and geeks will most likely be thinking to themselves that laser guns, phasers, PPGs, and blasters aren't just different names for the same thing, they're entirely different weapons. If you caught that, good for you. It hurt to refer to them as the same thing, so I'm glad I'm not the only one that noticed. But not all science fiction has aliens and what we would call futuristic technology. Let's turn to my final example, Fahrenheit 451.

Fahrenheit 451 is a masterpiece novel written by Ray Bradbury and published in 1953. Flat screen TVs and small devices that let people listen to music in their ears are some of the fantastic innovations you can find in his tale of wonder. While not science fiction in the sense of what we would consider today, for 1953, this was indeed technology of the future. But this technology wasn't the purpose of the story. The story was told with specific intent, not merely to tickle the imaginations of those who cared for such styles. This was a story of what would happen in the future of reality, if we continue down our present path. "Hogwash," say some. "This type of technology is only for stories. It could never exist in real life." And yet, how many things do we have now that even Star Trek didn't imagine? Couldn't our modern-day smartphones easily replace both their tricorders and their communicators? While some inventions, such as teleportation, may be a thing of fiction, other ideas of theirs are things of the past. Fahrenheit 451 is written as a warning.

Through looking at these different stories, we can see that science fiction, though often having common themes, is not something that can be dismissed. I often hear people say, "I don't like science fiction. It's just not my thing." I don't like pirate stories. But I do like Isle of Swords and Isle of Fire, both by Wayne Thomas Batson. I don't like historical fiction, but I do like Crime Through Time by Bill Doyle. I don't like thrillers, but I like Blink by Ted Dekker. I do like science fiction, but I don't like Star Trek: Enterprise. Each story is its own, regardless of category.
"Once you label me you negate me."
-Søren Kierkegaard