Soulful Ignorance

By Crawford's Blog. Originally published at Crawford's Blog.

Conveniently the blog post is illuminating the theme of time and religion, something I could not help but wonder about while reading Slaughterhouse Five. I am a Protestant Christian, Episcopalian to be exact. But what does that mean for my understanding of time? As a Christian I think about time linearly. I live this life, time goes on, I die, and then hopefully I am rewarded with heaven, whatever that means I can’t tell you. What reading Slaughterhouse Five made me think about was time in a circle. Over and over living your same life. Your choices are concrete and exist in time independent of your “will”. So where does this concept leave me with respect to my religion. If time is circular what incentive is there to act a certain way? Why be a good person? But then again ever moment is already dictated so if you are a bad person its who you always were and its who you always will be. Then where does that leave prayer? Prayer, the act of asking a higher being for some type of change or blessing would seem pointless. Whatever the future is cannot be changed, it is what it is, there can be no higher power changing your future.
Slaughterhouse Five impacted me immensely. Much more than I expected. It is now one of my favorite books, but with that said it scares me. Do I have no choice in the direction of my life? My chest is tightening even thinking about that. But why should it? Shouldn’t the knowledge that I have no control over my fate provide me with a sense of relief? A sense that I can let go of all anxiety regarding the future and just live. Be who I am. I think the finality of time as its described in Slaughterhouse Five is what I struggle with.
I believe as humans, we crave control. We crave the knowledge that whoever I am today, I can be a new person tomorrow. But Slaughterhouse Five refutes that. Who you are is who you are, who you were, and who you always will be. So then I suppose you have to ask yourself are you ok with that? Are you trusting enough of yourself to come to the realization you are this moment is all you have? In a strange way Slaughterhouse Five is really about coming to terms with who you are, where you have been, and where you are going. Without the ability to choose a slice of time to live in, or go back and change mistakes you must live and relive every single moment of your life. Every mistake, every success, is always going to be there.
Given all the above, where do I stand in relation to God? We Christians are constantly told we are not finished products, we have the power to change, to become better, to take control of our future. But do you? Or do you simply enjoy the illusion you can alter your fate? If time is what the tralfmadorians say it is, the answer is the latter. Is it possible though that you might not have control over your actions but you have control over your soul or intention? You do what you do, but you can do so gracefully or barbarically. You can live with joy in your heart or you can live with hatred. Fear or optimism. That’s how I rationalize my religion with tralfmadorian time. Yes, maybe my fate is decided, but my soul is my own and that allows me to become who I chose.

Cadet Conformity

By Crawford's Blog. Originally published at Crawford's Blog.

The human condition which motivates protection of oneself and one’s clan is the first observation I, as a non-human being, recognized. The idea of separation is foreign to me. Why exactly do humans create militaries to dispose of other humans? It truly makes no sense to me. Humans, while not as intelligent as my own classification of being, are, or claim to be, intelligent. And yet, they insist on separation into clans or what they call “countries”. They fight each other, destroy what little human intelligence their species has, and then wonder why they continue to struggle with their largest problems. The minds of humans are restricted. That is what separates them from us. They don’t have the mental capacity to look beyond their immediate circumstance. They fail to understand the greater scope of their world as well as the higher powers.
And so, they create “military academies” at least that’s what I could glean from the audio story. It seems as though they are taking bright young individualistic organisms and stripping them of everything that makes them different from the next. I have yet to decide whether I see the strategy as brilliant or institutionalized stupidity. As far as I know the United States has the most powerful armed forces on earth. What that springs from is discipline. Humans have a great capacity for discipline, which provides them with an advantage over many other species. They have the ability to suppress their emotions and passions. Humans can effectively close their minds to everything but the task before them. It seems as though that is the goal of the sentence. A seemingly easy task which teaches them to contain emotion and act through discipline and perseverance. Every fiber of the human brain, I would assume, is buzzing with nervousness and stress, clogging the memory of the most necessary sentence. The military academies train the human brain into accepting the discipline that it can posses. And yet, I am still on the fence as to the successfulness of the practice.
The application process to be admitted into west point, as stated in the story is rigorous. The new incoming class is comprised of some of the most desirable students in the United States. And what do they do? Mesh them into one single blob of nothingness. The culture they create is one of conformity. Think of the ideas, solutions, cures that are alive and well in the minds of new cadets. But what takes priority? “Sir, new cadet Doe reports to the Cadet in the Red Sash for the first time as ordered.” Over and over the new Cadets strive to correctly dictate that simple sentence. They all learn the same sentence and they all move on as a group. The group mentality is once again burned into the simplistic human mind. The goal is to build a sense of community and responsibility towards one another, as well as a system of hierarchy, which rules battlefields and classrooms alike. The separation from the human species and that of my own is dedication to one another. My species understands the importance of individuality and we are all separate autonomous beings apart from eachother. This allows us to explore more deeply the depths of our consciousness and mental capabilities but leaves us void of connection. The military strategy, as I understand it, generates communal pain, which bonds its members closer than they could ever imagine. Group pain is the key to meshing the individuals into the collective. The group mentality is a brilliantly constructed system, which utilizes the human ability for discipline. While my species is too intellectually advanced to ever submit to such a system the human brain is hardwired to find comfort in solidarity. What I thought I knew about the human consciousness was reinforced by this look into human civilization.

Sentiment

By Crawford's Blog. Originally published at Crawford's Blog.

Sentiment, Sentimental, and Sentimentality are words, which I understand but barely comprehend. I understand their existence. I understand their importance, their use, and their place in language. And yet, putting a finger on sentiment is difficult. I cannot fully comprehend the phenomenon. Sentiment could be understood in the same way as “feeling”. But feeling is something more whimsical than sentiment. Sentiment has roots in language and society. To invoke feeling in someone is to harness their human emotion on the singular level, but to invoke human sentimentality is to tap into basic human connection between the self, the collective, and any range of deep personal emotion. Sentimentality has a long history throughout culture, literature, and politics. Understanding and capitalizing on common sentiment has been used throughout history to spark common reaction and action. Whether it was Shakespeare forcing us to understand and undertake each and every one of our abilities to love unconditionally in Romeo and Juliet, or whether it was Harriet Jacobs forcing us to comprehend the incomprehensible horrors of slavery, or John F. Kennedy challenging us to put to bed the notion that our country works for us and adopt the initiative that we, in fact work for our country, or even Barack Obama providing dialogue of hope during his 2008 election, sentimentality has found its place and its purpose throughout the history of human discourse. The ability to harness sentimentality on a large scale is what separates those who can connect with one from those two can connect with millions. Both John F Kennedy and Barack Obama possessed the acute ability to tap into collectivized sentiments.
When comparing John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address in 1989 and Barack Obama’s victory speech in 2008 within the first paragraph of both men utilize common sentiment to arouse collective emotion. JFK states, “ We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution,” and in the same vein Obama declares, “Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward.” Neither statesman with those sentences are creating anything. They are not describing their plan of action or what they are going to do for the country, to start off their speech they tap into our sentimentality. They tap into our “Americanism”. By invoking the founding they force us to reflect upon where our country came from and our duty and responsibility to uphold the basis of the founding. President Obama, who, in my opinion is the best emotion-invoking politician to ever run for office, takes it a step further. He gives ownership of improving “our” nation to the masses. He tapped into their sentimental need to feel important and like they contributed to improving the nation they are so lucky to live in. The very next sentence is “It moves forward because of you”. Not “you all” just “you”. He personalizes it down to each and every person in the crowd. JFK uses nearly the same tactic when trying to express that our country is the sum of our efforts. He says, “my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” In one of the most famous lines ever spoken by a President, Kennedy succeeded in provoking the common American sentiment of hard work and accountability. Both Barack Obama and John F. Kennedy utilize the collective sentiment of the country in order to harness widespread emotion.

Dear “Dear John”

By Crawford's Blog. Originally published at Crawford's Blog.

Dear John!
He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me sick.
John laughs
at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.
John is practical in the extreme.
He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and
he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put
down in figures.
John is a physician
and PERHAPS—(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this
is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)—PERHAPS that is one
reason I do not get well faster. I get unreasonably angry with
John sometimes.
I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this
nervous condition. But
John is so
pleased to see me improve!
John says
if I feel so, I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take
pains to control myself—before him, at least, and that makes me very
tired.
John is away
all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious.
John
does not know how much I really suffer.
I suppose
John never
was nervous in his life.
John is
kept in town very often by serious cases
John says
it is good for me, and to sleep all I can.
The fact is I am getting a little afraid of
John.
I wish
John would
take me away from here! Why there’s
John at
the door!
John is to
stay in town over night, and won’t be out until this evening.
John is
secretly affected by it.
John was
asleep and I hated to waken him,
John would
suspect something at once.
John is
beginning to notice.
John
knows I don’t sleep very well at night, for all I’m so quiet!

said I in the gentlest voice
“John dear!”

Word

By Crawford's Blog. Originally published at Crawford's Blog.

My favorite word in this world is “word”. I use “word” more than any other combination of letters and sounds in the human language. What makes “word” the best word (pardon the necessary repetition) is that it is succinct and effective in getting the point across. When I say “word” what I am really saying is either “yes I agree,” “I heard you,” or “that is the best idea, let’s do it.” “Word” in my vocabulary could and does refer to, “a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation” (Dictionary.com) but it also is a confirmation of consent and a declaration of approval. For example if I am asking my friend to meet up and he says, “meet me at the fountain at 10pm” the only response I would ever give to that statement is “word”. In that context “word” means I read the message and I will follow the instructions. Another way I use “word” is to show great enthusiasm for an idea. If I am sitting in my dorm room complaining about how hungry I am and my roommate says “lets order dominoes” I will immediately say “word” but not in a short to the point manner but rather very enthusiastically drawing out the word for a long time.
I think the development of the word “word” into how I/we (people I hang out with) use it started by saying “word up” as depicted in my meme. “Word up” is again a confirmation of the statement that preceded it. The only difference for myself and those around me is that we have simply truncated the “up” and just stuck with “word”. Although I will not rule out saying, “word up” I would just have to be in a unusually retro mood. I have no idea why word came to mean what it does to me but my speculation is that by saying “word” its almost as though you would have said the same thing if you had gotten the chance so by saying “word” you acknowledge the “words” of another as reflecting the words you would have said.

Unknown

 

Involuntary Investigation

By Crawford's Blog. Originally published at Crawford's Blog.

Under United States law perpetrators cannot be forced to testify in their own trial. Article 5 of the United States Constitution is the basis for the phrase, “taking the 5th” referring to ones refusal to answer questions that could possibly be incriminating. The result of the Fifth Amendment therefore, is that any confessions of guilt must be made completely voluntarily. That aspect of United States law sets the groundwork for many of the Miranda rights citizens receive. What happens when the pressure to confess does not come from the outside but rather the inside? What happens when the interrogator is ones own mind? This very scenario is played out in “The Tell-Tale Heart”. The narrator in the end is driven mad by what he believes to be the head pounding heart beat of a dead man. In this case those in law enforcement did not even pose a single question. They did not threaten or abuse the narrator but could we call his confession voluntary? Is the mental health of the perpetrator grounds for dismissal of the so-called “voluntary” confession? In the instance in “The Tell-Tale Heart” I would argue it was not voluntary. To be completely voluntary one must have control of their thoughts and be able to distinguish reality from imaginary. That was not the case.
A different but related argument can be made for Dr. Reiss’s essay “Madness after Virginia Tech.” Is it possible to be self incriminating through writing? If a piece of writing is self incriminating is it considered voluntary if it was made in a classroom setting? Dr. Reiss argues English professors are not prosecutors they are instructors. Putting them in the position of deciphering between incrimination and imagination is not fair to the student or professor. Reiss does not address the 5gh amendment directly but I believe he would argue the classroom should be inadmissible in court.

“Word”

By Crawford's Blog. Originally published at Crawford's Blog.

My favorite word in this world is “word”. I use “word” more than any other combination of letters and sounds in the human language. What makes “word” the best word (pardon the necessary repetition) is that it is succinct and effective in getting the point across. When I say “word” what I am really saying is either “yes I agree,” “I heard you,” or “that is the best idea, let’s do it.” “Word” in my vocabulary could and does refer to, “a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation” (Dictionary.com) but it also is a confirmation of consent and a declaration of approval. For example if I am asking my friend to meet up and he says, “meet me at the fountain at 10pm” the only response I would ever give to that statement is “word”. In that context “word” means I read the message and I will follow the instructions. Another way I use “word” is to show great enthusiasm for an idea. If I am sitting in my dorm room complaining about how hungry I am and my roommate says “lets order dominoes” I will immediately say “word” but not in a short to the point manner but rather very enthusiastically drawing out the word for a long time.

I think the development of the word “word” into how I/we (people I hang out with) use it started by saying “word up” as depicted in my meme. “Word up” is again a confirmation of the statement that preceded it. The only difference for myself and those around me is that we have simply truncated the “up” and just stuck with “word”. Although I will not rule out saying, “word up” I would just have to be in a unusually retro mood. I have no idea why word came to mean what it does to me but my speculation is that by saying “word” its almost as though you would have said the same thing if you had gotten the chance so by saying “word” you acknowledge the “words” of another as reflecting the words you would have said.Unknown