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Allow me to introduce you to the concept of structure. This is where if your essay aims to discuss a single main point, going off on huge tangents mostly unrelated to the main topic and endless anecdotes that belabor the point are not good strategies for getting said point across. I shouldn't need to check back every couple of pages because I've forgotten what exactly you were trying to argue. You are a shining example of how not to write essays.

Lots of frustrated glares,
Jen
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I'm meant to be doing my Computer Graphics assignment but I'm having trouble with the coding, so instead it's time for me to write about what I did on the weekend!

An ex-coworker asked me if I wanted to come to this play thing with him that his friend was in. Since I hadn't seen said coworker for a couple of months I agreed. Turns out that 'this play thing' was actually Bodhi Night, an event that the Buddhist society at my uni puts on every year. I'll gloss over the actual events, except to say that it was all very well-intentioned but amateurish. I think I've been spoilt by the high production values of all the revues I go to.. But that's neither here nor there.

Their theme for this year was 'The Invisible Grasp'. The idea behind this is that unhappiness and suffering is caused by our attachment to material things like money, status, and expectations. These things are both impermanent and reliant on factors beyond our control, and the harder we grasp onto them the harder it will be to find lasting happiness, which can only come from within. This isn't to say that you should stop caring since everything is impermanent, but rather that you should take things as they come and not get too attached to any one thing or state of being. And you should treat everyone and everything with kindness and generosity (I'm not sure why since that's wasn't really included in the show. But I think it's something along the lines of: attachment is cognate with selfishness in Buddhism, therefore I should be the opposite of selfish)

These concepts are finding a lot of favour with me these days. I think I've written before about wanting to be free and unencumbered by all the baggage that most people collect, and the concepts of Buddhism certainly agree with that.

Goals

May. 12th, 2007 04:41 pm
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I joke around a lot with my friends about how I'm never going to graduate. But really, half the reason I'm not rushing is because I have no idea what I'm going to do once I do. And I look around at my fellow employees at Coles, especially the ones who've been there forever, and I wonder whether they feel like their lives are fulfilling at all. Today an older woman came back to work after a five week break. I asked her how she was, and her response was something like "good, but not I'm back in this hellhole. You would think I'd find another job while I was on break."

While I'm at uni I have a concrete goal to be working towards, namely that of graduating. While I'm working towards said goal I can put up with any number of mundane and boring other things (such as working at Coles) because it's all just killing time until I can realise said goal. But then if I do graduate, what then? Would I be able to deal with having nothing but a day job forever? Unless I could somehow find the hypothetical dream job that would provide a goal in itself and cause me to wake up happy to go and spend another day there..
What reasons do people have for continuing on? I already know that I don't intend to have children, and even if I did I'm not sure even they would be enough not to be overwhelmed by the constant sameness and the knowledge that this is all there is. My hobbies are interesting enough but not enough to provide my reason for existence. Maybe I'll end up being one of those perpetual students, except that then I would need to keep myself in denial and always plan to be leaving any day now, because the moment I realised that this is all there is... I suppose in this sense religious people have the best deal because they'll always have that goal to work towards.

I guess these thoughts were also partially inspired by The Namesake, the movie I saw a couple of days ago, where the idea of freedom was an overarching theme. Most of the characters feel hemmed in, sometimes by the US culture they live in, sometimes by their Bengali traditions, sometimes by the relationships they have with other people. At the end both the mother and the son find freedom in their own ways, and so do the people around them. I want to be free in that way, where they both reach that point where they're not just being pushed around by what they feel they should be doing but finally know what they want to do with themselves and are at peace with themselves. "Following your bliss" is the phrase they use towards the end.



yeh, I know I've been blogging way too much lately...it's a combination of boredom, dissatisfaction and having enough free time to write about it all.
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A lot of people I know seem to find comfort and security in their absolute knowledge that God exists. My understanding of this is that it lets one make sense of seemingly senseless events because then you can say that your cousin didn't die in a car accident because of a meaningless set of coincidences, but that God works in mysterious ways and his death somehow serves a higher purpose, even if as humans we can't understand what that purpose is.

As for me, I find the opposite to be true. If I try to imagine that everything in life happens because some omnipotent being out there made it like this I feel trapped and rageful at said being for dumping us into such a crappy world. I find it liberating to believe that life is complete and utter randomness. On the one hand it means that yes, horrible stuff happens to good people for no reason at all. But on the other it means that you really are free to do whatever you want. If you want to be a complete asshole, that's ok, but there's plenty of consequences in this world for that kind of behaviour such as lack of friends and stuff. And if you want to be good then that's fine too, and better yet, you don't need to listen to anything but your own conscience to decide what constitutes good. Hmm, that came out implying that you can be lazy by setting the bar as low as you want, which isn't what I meant. What I meant was that most people have certain moral ideas about what is right and wrong, and not believing in a higher power leaves you free to follow that inner compass rather than trying to reconcile your views with that of your religious institution.

I think I believe in an ideal world that doesn't really exist. I assume that everyone has a strong moral voice that, in the absence of an authority figure (eg god) would still lead people to act in a good/responsible way. I know from experience that there are a lot of people out there who are like that, but that there's also a lot of people out there who either don't possess or don't listen to that voice, who take the easy way out, who act in petty and malicious ways because they're bored or having a bad day or whatever. But then, the majority of those people wouldn't change their ways for religious purposes anyway..

As usual, I have no idea where I'm going with this. But I know that I find the idea of God as a kind of Big Brother to be oppressive, even if he had my best interests at heart. I want to be free, whether that means screwing up big time or becoming something amazing I never knew I could be. And without the capacity for the first the second loses a lot of its savour.
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This is an email from a mailing list I'm on

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In my earlier discussion I was referring to the idea that certain individuals have inherent qualities that make them superior at certain things. We can take the difference between Greyhounds and Dachshunds in running for example. In a quarter mile sprint, in a thousand races, if all other factors are equal, the Greyhound will win, one thousand times. This isn't fair, but it is just. On the other hand, if we allow the Dachshund a different starting point, one that allows it an equal chance of winning given an equal effort, this is fair, but not just. In dog racing it is clear that the better course of action is to allow all dogs the same starting point, and see which is faster, but in human society we have similar discrepancies in ability that affect our economic and sociological standing. If we follow the just but not fair model, we end up with a permanent, disenfranchised underclass, if we follow the fair but not just model, we reward incompetence, punish talent and demotivate all effort to succeed. This leaves us with the necessity of a compromise, and it is the degree and direction of this compromise that makes up much of the political difference among people.
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My own thoughts? Prior to this I believed that justice is primarily concerned with punishing wrongs and making sure they don't re-occur, while fair is more about what should happen, and how to fix the problems created by the wrong. A simple example of this would run like so: in medieval times it was customary to punish thievery by cutting the thief's right hand off. This would ensure a) that the thief was punished for his crime b) he wouldn't be able to re-offend (unless he was left-handed :p). Fairness would only require that the stolen goods be returned to the original owners at no cost to them.

The model described by the person in the email though seems to fit society's norms much more closely. Enough that I wonder whether fairness is a good principle to live one's life by. Then again, the fairness described only takes into account individual fairness, not global fairness.
It might be fair for any child to become whatever they want to be provided that they work hard at it, but its not fair to soldiers if they die because their general is an incompetent who only became a general because it wasn't fair to bar him from becoming one when he worked so hard for it. As soon as you introduce responsibility for other people into the system individual fairness no longer becomes the issue. I guess the idea I'm reaching for here is closest to Utilitarianism
.

Justice on the other hand.. now there's an interesting concept, and one which I can rant about for many many words. I disagree that a just society would create a permanent underclass at least given the fair structures we already have in place, such as mandatory schooling. He assumes that the underclass would have no persuasive/intelligent people born to it, that the upperclass would never be interested in 'slumming it', that no one in the underclass would be willing to put in the work to pay their way into uni... the assumptions are infinite. He seems to assume that a just but not fair system would evolve into a caste system where the rich are the rich and the poor are the poor and never the twain shall meet. This.. doesn't seem right.. I don't see how our current society could devolve into a feudal system without some serious dictatorship happening.

And now for the other half of my justice rant, which I was too lazy to type out until now.. A couple of months ago I saw the movie Hard Candy with a friend (kept nameless because I'm about to pan his opinions). I won't go into plot details but the main issue we were discussing afterwards was a)who has the right to punish crime, and b)what should the punishment be for serious crimes such as rape.
My friend held that all crime should be referred to proper authorities and that people shouldn't take the law into their own hands. To punish bad crimes he felt that it's better to keep criminals alive and make them suffer so that they will appreciate what they've done.
Needless to say, I disagreed on all these points :p Firstly, the proper authorities are just as fallible as the next person, the only difference is that they have more experience. It makes their judgements more consistent but not necessarily wiser. It's like how it has been argued that the reason we study ethics at uni isn't to teach us how to be moral (because people have an inbuilt moral compass or lack thereof already) but to make us aware of situations that may come up so that we can make a more considered decision rather than an irrational decision in the heat of the moment.
So I hold that it can be ok for individuals to take the law into their own hands since their morals are not any better or worse than an authority's, but only in extreme circumstances and when other avenues have already been pursued.
Finally, the punishment for serious crimes. My view on this is simple. If you're going to remove yourself from the human race by doing something that everyone can agree is monstrous (eg rape/pedophilia) then you deserve to be treated as the vermin you are, and to be exterminated. The concept of revenge is meaningless to me because it simply diverts resources away from people who could make positive use of them. Why feed the serial rapist when you could be feeding a child in Africa? And really, why should we care if they appreciate what they've done? It won't make their crime go away.
Add to that, that punishing the criminal as harshly as their crime deserves (since the argument was that they should be kept alive because death is too good for them) would require someone else to be monstrous to be able to order it done and then carry it out. And torture is a pretty bad crime in itself, doesn't that mean that they should be locked away and punished too? Except that to be lock them away and punish them requires the very skills that required those people to be locked away in the first place. And so on and so forth (I love recursive arguments :p). So really you're doing no one any favours by keeping the criminal around for revenge purposes, in the end you're only degrading yourself and wasting your time for someone who you've already decided is so bad that even death isn't a suitable punishment.

Ok, enough rant.

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