World Pain and Suffering–Why?

One of the problems concerning those who believe in an all powerful, good God, is reconciling that belief with the existence of so much pain and suffering in the world. The problem is known as the Problem of Evil.

We’ve all heard it before:

The theist says, “God exists.”

The atheist says, “God does not exist.”

The agnostic says, “I’m on the fence, undecided so I suspend judgment.”

As far as the vast amount of pain and suffering in the world—some of the thinking is:

If God exists and he is all powerful and all knowing, then he would get rid of all unnecessary pain and suffering in the world.

But, there is unnecessary pain and suffering in the world. So, does that mean God does NOT exist?

I watched a film recently that dealt with this subject. It was called, “The Seventh Seal”. The story goes:

In the 14th century, in Sweden, when the Black Death was sweeping the continent. People wanted to know why God was inflicting on them so much pain and suffering.

A knight who returned from the Crusades has a game of chess with Death in hope of getting some answers to why God puts up with all this pain.

The knight tells Death he can’t grasp God with his senses. He calls out to Him but there is silence like no one is there!

Death answers: “Perhaps no one IS there!”

We humans have an inclination to rely on our senses:

“Seeing is believing.” But you can’t see God.

So, how do the theists counter the argument—why does God allow pain and suffering in the world?

The defense is: pain and suffering are necessary for the production of GOOD.

GOOD requires the existence of BAD. You couldn’t have compassion or courage if someone wasn’t suffering or threatened with harm. So, to get GOOD you have to have BAD. Do you agree?

The knight, in the Seventh Seal, seems to think that the enormous amount of pain God allows in the world turns religion into a farce.

Another defense that the theist uses is that suffering is necessary to be a CONTRAST to good, so we can see GOOD as GOOD!

It’s like we don’t appreciate health as good until we get sick.

But others would say they don’t need pain to appreciate health.

So, why do we have this suffering in the world? Or is there no God?

Another of the many philosophical questions to mull over.

On a lighter note: Philosophy is common sense in a dress suit!

A Leaderless and Unrecognisable Europe

NEWS FLASH!

Migrants are coming to Europe from many countries: Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Guinea, Senegal, Sudan and others.

What to do? One scenario to stabilize the Middle East and Africa would take an army of ½ million men!

This is unlikely because there is no will for that in the West.

So, what do we do? Do we wait for war to break out within Europe because of over-population? Do we put a blockade of warships down the entire southern coast of Europe and force the migrant boats to go back?

It’s not just people coming from war-torn countries, many are coming from places where there is no war just poverty and sickness. They simply seek a better life!

Human rights law makes it almost impossible to return them to their countries.

These people have a great motivation to move to Europe. They see countries of wealth and security which is missing from their origins.

In the end this mass migration will destroy Europe’s stability.

Some people reading this article will ask: “Where is your compassion for millions of suffering people?”

The reply would be: “When should the compassion stop?”

After all our infrastructures collapse? Do we want Europe to be changed forever?

The Third World is coming to Europe and if it continues it will change society beyond recognition!

Maybe, the young people of tomorrow will be content to live in a world of transformation. But if it leads to war or social unrest, contentment will be short-lived!

Also, where are the leaders? They don’t seem to acknowledge the upheaval.

We are living in a “leaderless world”. No single country or alliance of countries seems to be capable of leading in a global world.

Lots of problems but the leaders have no solutions!

Are we sleepwalking toward Apocalypse?

Can A Robot Have A Mind?

The question popped into my mind after watching two films, “Artificial Intelligence” and “Bicentennial Man”.

Recently computers have been developed capable of performing tasks as good as humans, maybe better. What came to mind was the computer “Deep Blue” that defeated the chess champion, Garry Kasparov.

The film A.I. put forward a robot, David, a child, with the capacity to “love” that would bring him close to being human. It also shows what would happen when humans became dependent on robots. The humans developed a deep-seated hatred of them. The robot, “David” displays his analytic ability to figure out how to get his “mother’s” love back.

In “Bicentennial Man”, Andrew, the robot, starts out as a “slave” for the family, but as time goes on he wants more. He wants the freedom and equality of a human. The story explores many issues of what makes a human: Humanity, prejudice, intellectual freedom and love.

These two films are science-fiction but with the continuing research and development of A.I., could some disturbing scenarios become reality? In these movies it seemed to me that the robots were being wronged.

Many questions arise when thinking about the development of A. I. such as:

Can a robot become a moral person? In “Bicentennial Man”, Andrew was taught the humanities, which supposedly made him a moral robot. But can we design morality, good and bad, right and wrong, into a robot?

What distinguishes a robot from a human? The three main differences are:

Humans have emotions and feelings, robots don’t.

Humans are organic, flesh and bone, robots are made of metal, chips and wire.

Humans think, robots are programmed.

What will the world be like if and when robots surpass their human makers in intelligence and how will humans respond?

There would be a turn around in social structure: The robots would treat the humans the way that humans have treated some humans and animals for years, with disdain and prejudice. The worst scenario would be that the robots would want to get rid of the humans!

Maybe we should proceed with caution with the research into A.I. and seriously think about what role we would give a robot, with a mind, in society.

I will leave you with this:

Any man who pits his intelligence against a robot and loses, has it coming!

 

This article was posted by David Wise author of “Web of Guilt”, “24 Traumatic Hours, Twice”, “The Becoming” and “Life Story Terror”.

All available on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

 

The Magic of Writing

I was sitting in my scriptorium (study), one late afternoon, gazing out the window, daydreaming. When there was a heavy knock on my front door. Startled out of my idea-catching mode, I went to the door, opened it, and there stood my old schoolmate, Tom. I ushered him into the scriptorium. I sat in my swivel chair and he plunked himself down on the settee.

“Long time, no see!”

“It’s been a fair few years, I guess.”

“It’s good to see you. Now, what’s on your mind, Tom?”

“Recently, I stumbled across your blog. I read your blog stories and I’ve also read your novels. I like your writing and I want to be a writer myself.”

“Thank you for the compliment. Do you want a drink?”

“No, thank you, I want to stay sober because I’m going to practice my writing later.”

“I find a glass or two of red wine helps me with my writing. Have you written anything lately?”

“Yes, I’ve tried my hand at a few short stories. My wife says they’re okay. But I question, can I write?” Tom looked confused.

“Well, my friend, there are a few measurements available to see if you can write.”

“Such as?” Tom said eagerly.

“Lets first take, “Technical Proficiency”, how well you understand the component elements of writing. Such as, dialogue, description, exposition, characterization, punctuation, grammar and narrative.”

“Oh boy, that’s a lot of elements.”

“That’s not all of them, also you have chronology, flashbacks, backstory, show or tell, tense and point of view.”

“You need to know all that?’ Tom looked worried.

“Of course, my friend, if you want to write well. Every element melds together flawlessly to create a powerful impression on the reader.”

“So, it’s like magic?”

“That’s right, the writer’s magic! You can get your reader excited, scared, angry and full of emotion. But they never see how you did the trick.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, next comes “Structural Proficiency”, the more word count you have, the more demands on you as a writer. You have to understand pace, storyline, character arcs, suspense, conflict and twists.”

“What kind of writer are you, Dave?”

“Well Tom, I’m a blend of two types. I like to write chronologically sometimes and other times I prefer to write bits of the story separately, here there and everywhere. Just so I don’t lose the thread of the storyline.”

“Boy, this is interesting stuff, Dave,” said Tom, his eyes sparkling, “Tell me more.”

“A writer sometimes takes a strong experience in the present and it awakens a memory from his past, maybe childhood, from which he proceeds to write about a wish, or a daydream, which then finds fulfillment in his story.”

“So, what are the problems that a writer has starting out like me?”

“The problems are personality problems. The writer starts a story but loses heart and confidence, gets stuck and is blocked. Sometimes he writes good, sometimes bad. It’s frustrating! In other words, there are problems of confidence and self-respect. Then there are the demons of the subconscious, where a lot of our ideas come from.”

“Lots of problems then?”

“Yes, but you can work hard and get rid of the habits of thought that impede your progress. You must strengthen the right side of your brain, which handles expressive and creative tasks.”

“Any final words before I leave?”

“Yes, Tom, but they are on the light side. I asked a guy, the other day, what he did for a living.

“I’m a brain surgeon, what do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“Oh, that’s what I think I’ll do when I retire,” said the surgeon, matter-of-factly.

“That’s interesting,” I said, “When I retire I want to be a brain surgeon!”

TOM LEFT THE BUILDING!

 

This article was posted by David Wise author of “Web of Guilt”, “24 Traumatic Hours, Twice”, and “The Becoming”.

All available on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

 

How Do You Live?

The question in this article’s title came to mind after I read, Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych and watched the film, “Ikiru”. Both stories have a common theme of a man buried in bureaucracy, who has a terminal illness. He realizes he hasn’t lived at all! They both, through facing death, figured out their lives contained no meaning for them.

One of the quotes in “Ikiru” was; “Men are such fools, they only realize life’s beauty when they are faced with death.”

It makes you think: It’s man’s duty to enjoy life. Most of us, in our day-to-day routine, have artificial lives marked by shallow relationships, self-interest and materialism. This leaves us barren of meaning in our lives.

When the two protagonists face death it changes the way they see the world. Death forces them to give their life meaning that is their own.

If you look over your shoulder the Grim Reaper is right behind you. So, while you have life, enjoy it.

So much depression and neuroses happen in a person’s life because they feel life hasn’t any real significance. You and I live in the here and now. What will you do with the time that lies ahead of you? This time is unshaped and full of uncertainty. When you stand at this present point in life maybe you will take a completely different direction to the one which has made you who you are.

So, How Do You Live? You need to find something that is important to you. Some activity that you can throw yourself into, so you connect with the world in a way that you feel “things matter”.

Things happen in life (illness, lost of a loved one, etc.), but you can still find meaning in life if your attitude is positive.

I, personally, find meaning through writing. My writing ignites a spark in me so I am aware of the fact that I am alive and to make the most of it. There is so much to be written, it can keep you busy for a lifetime. So much to be explored through the written word. I have the freedom to write ANYTHING, but of course, it won’t be EVERYTHING!

That thought allows me to choose what I write about and those choices illuminate the meanings in my life. I write about what is meaningful to me.

Writing, to me, is what makes my life, in retirement, worthwhile.

That’s How I Live!

 

This article was posted by David Wise author of “Web of Guilt”, “24 Traumatic Hours, Twice”, and “The Becoming”.

All available on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Right Or Wrong, That Is The Question

What constitutes a morally right action from a morally wrong action?

That question popped into my head after I watched the film, “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, with Woody Allen and Martin Landau.

I remembered there were two theories of moral philosophy, also known as ethics, one involving “consequences” and the other, “intentions”. So, what constitutes GOOD consequences and intentions, and BAD ones?

To add to the confusion, there is “moral relativism” which states there are NO moral facts. All moral evaluations are relative to the individual.

Plus, “moral objectivism” which states there ARE moral facts. The moral facts don’t depend on what anybody thinks.

In my mind, there are differences in people’s moral standards.

I wondered if the film could clear up some of these points. This movie has two stories and two protagonists. Judah Rosenthal, an eye doctor and pillar of the community, is one protagonist.

Cliff Stern, the second protagonist, is a film maker. His wife wants him to work on a documentary about her brother, a successful TV producer. While doing the film Cliff meets and falls in love with the documentary’s producer, Halley. In the end Cliff loses her to Lester, his wife’s brother. What links the two stories together is Ben, the rabbi, who is Cliff’s brother-law and Judah’s patient.

Now, Judah had a mistress, Delores, who threatened to spill the beans to Judah’s wife about the affair and some dodgy business dealings. Judah has his brother hire a hit man to kill Delores. In doing this, Judah is morally wrong, his action produced bad consequences and his intentions were suspect. He fell victim of moral egoism, his sole concern in making the decision was how it will affect him.

 

John Stuart Mill had a greatest happiness principle, which stated that the most important things in life are pleasure and freedom from pain.

So, according to this principle what has to be done to figure out what is the morally right decision?

List all the alternative actions the person has to choose from.

For each alternative figure out the total amount of happiness or unhappiness that would result from the decision.

The alternative with the greatest happiness is the morally right thing to do. Any alternative with less than maximum happiness is morally wrong.

Lets look at this with analyzing Judah’s decision to get a hit man to kill Delores.

What were his alternatives:

He could confess his infidelity to his wife. This would result in his wife’s unhappiness and his guilt. Maybe in the end would be forgiveness and adjustment.

He could decide to “do nothing”. Delores would be unhappy to continue living a lie. But everyone else would be happy if Judah could keep Delores quiet.

Or he could choose to hire the hit man, which he does. Delores suffers death and she has the right NOT to be killed. Judah suffers guilt, but his wife and family have the happiness of the status quo. Also, an innocent man was accused of the killing which wasn’t right.

In the last analysis Judah’s action was wrong because it produced the worst outcome than the other alternatives.

The end of the movie is chilling for a lot of people because there is no ultimate punishment for Judah, his guilt vanished in time and his life of wealth and privilege continued as if nothing happened.

So, why be moral in the first place?

Why do the right thing if we can do the wrong thing and get away with it?

Does conscience mean anything if everything (guilt,etc.) passes away with time?

In conclusion: We all face life decisions, moral choices, some big some small. We are defined by our choices. We hope we have the ability to keep trying to find joy and satisfaction from basic things, such as our family, our work and our passions.

 

This article was posted by David Wise author of “Web of Guilt”, “24 Traumatic Hours, Twice”, and “The Becoming”.

All available on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

 

Who Am I ?

The question of identity has always intrigued me. How to understand yourself and who and what are we as individuals.

After watching two films: “Being John Malkovich” and “Memento”, I became interested in the Psychological Continuity Theory of personal identity.

The theory states: what makes ME, me, are my psychological characteristics: personality, disposition, value system and worldview, all these change very slowly over time. Memory, also, achieves continuity.

In “Being John Malkovich”, the protagonist slips into Malkovich’s mind and sees the world through his eyes. But he doesn’t become him, or does he?

In “Memento”, the protagonist, Leonard, looses his short-term memory. Before the incident, the killing of his wife, Leonard is a bland law-abiding citizen, then he becomes a killer. Was this change the result of a changed personality or was it because circumstances changed and his personality adapted?

The film shown backwards in time disorientates the viewer. With memory loss does Leonard lose himself?

Many of Leonard’s “memories” were not genuine, they were distorted. For memory to be a link to psychological continuity it must be genuine.

 

Your personal identity in one sense can change. In my working life I was a time study, in my retirement I am a writer. So my idea of myself changed over time.

 

I often think: Am I the same person now as I was as a baby? My answer is NO, I am different. My DNA is the same, but that’s about it. I have changed physically and mentally through the years.

A better question would be: Am I the person NOW, who was here yesterday or a week ago? What evidence is there? Well, I rely on first-person memory: I remember doing something yesterday and it was done, so I am probably the same person I was yesterday.

How about the question: What am I?

I am a biological organism that is a collection of mental states and events. I am a bundle of all my perceptions; the world through my senses and the way I interpret what I am aware of.

Why am I concerned about my identity?

Because only I can be responsible for my actions and this gives me a reason to care about ME. I have a special, selfish interest in my own present and future. Identity matters to me practically. My identity is very important to me.

 

This post was written by David Wise, author of “Web of Guilt”, “24 Traumatic Hours, Twice”, and “The Becoming”.

All available on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Learning Existentialism Through Film

You can learn about existentialism, which is a theory of philosophy, through film. Movies can help you understand philosophical views of the world.

The other day I watched two films. The first was a 1992 movie called, “The Crying Game”. Putting the plot of the film next to Sartre’s existential philosophy helps to explain some basic points of the theory.

Both films are highly interesting on their own without thinking about philosophical themes. But the two together give you an insight into the philosophy of the films.

The first is a story about an IRA “soldier” and his cell who capture a British soldier. Fergus, the IRA man, guards Jody, the soldier, and eventually is supposed to kill him. But he can’t and the soldier runs away only to be run down by a British armored car. Before this happens, The Brit tries to convince Fergus he can change his cold-hearted killer nature.

Jody asked Fergus if, after he is killed, will he look after his girlfriend in England. Fergus promises he would. In the end his nature is changed.

The film shows the existential view of freedom to choose and take responsibility for the choice. Fergus gave up his foundational beliefs and becomes a caring human being.

The film shows that our lives are the product of our choices and there are possibilities for transformation of our characters, they are not fixed!

 

The second film was “Lost in Translation”. The story of a man and a woman who meet and are at loose ends in their lives. They communicate about their situations to try to figure them out.

They both are attempting to escape their troubled situations. The man wants to escape his unhappy marriage and the woman wants to escape the uncertainty of her future.

The conclusion is: Escape isn’t an option, in fact, it’s not possible! You have to accept the fact that change will come from your actions. They both must make a choice in response to their present situations and then they must take full responsibility for their choices.

Films, like fiction, can make the transition to philosophical thinking easier and fun.

If You Are A Writer, Call Yourself A Writer!

I was at a luncheon, where the speaker’s topic was “Becoming a Writer”.

During lunch, before the speaker spoke, the gentleman next to me asked:

“What do you do?”

“I’m a writer in my retirement,” I said, and all the other six people at the table suddenly looked at me with raised eyebrows.

“Are you now, and what do you write?”

“Non-fiction, short stories, blog posts and I’ve written three novels.”

“Anything published?”

“Two articles for a magazine a year ago. Now, I publish blog posts on the internet and I self-published three novels in three years.”

The chap smiled and said:

“Should you really call yourself a writer if you’ve only been at it three years?”

This guy was getting under my skin. The others at the table were waiting for my answer.

“Of course I’m a writer and I have a pile of rejection letters to prove it! Only writers who write and submit can get rejected. What do you do?”

“I’m a doctor.”

“That’s nice, nobody at this table is going to ask you to prove it!”

Everyone laughed.

“It’s interesting that writing is one of the few jobs where people put the “burden of proof” on you.”

“I guess it’s a form of identity,” one person across from me said.

“Yes, you’re right. I look at myself in the mirror and say, “I am a writer”. It’s a way of interacting with and viewing the world.”

“I guess if you call yourself a writer, you have to write often, probably daily,” said the doctor, humbly.

“That’s right, a writer has to produce. Nobody will ever miss something you didn’t write. Writers have to create their own motivation.”

“You must have to discipline yourself to write,” someone said.

“Yes, a writer must have self-discipline. Writers are people who write!”

“What about writer’s block?”

Questions were coming from all directions now!

“Well, questions like the one the doctor put to me, “Should I call myself a writer?”, contribute to writer’s block!”

“What do you mean?”

“All writers have a little negative voice in the back of their heads saying:

“Are you really a writer, maybe you should put your pen down and walk away from the table.”

“Writers hear voices?’

“Yes, so do you, it’s the voice of self-doubt!”

Everyone at the table nodded their head.

“The doctor’s controversial question just fortifies that voice, which is the enemy of writers and really the enemy of all art.”

“Well, you sure know a lot about writing. I’m sorry I said what I did,” said the doctor, shaking my hand.

“Apology accepted.”

At that moment the M.C. announced:

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, our speaker: Writer Dave.”

The applause was deafening. I GOT UP AND WENT TO THE PODIUM!

P.S.-This post is the 206th on my blog: www.writerdave.com

Existential Crisis!

One day, when I was feeding the birds in the park, I realized everything I was doing and thinking about lately, was an existential crisis!

My friend told me not to worry:

“If you get up in the morning and then do what you want to do during the day, you can sleep easy because you are living right.”

I was still skeptical.

Just the other day, I was thinking: I was a living, breathing, fragile functioning persona that was going to die one day! That’s scary!

Someone called me an old git last week. Am I really a bitter old person? Am I having an “Old Age Crisis” also?

It seemed like I was questioning the very foundations of my life, whether it had any meaning, purpose or value!

I have experienced the death of loved ones and had traumatic events in my life. But things have come to a head now that I became a senior citizen. Now, I’m always looking for answers!

I’ve gotten very emotional recently. When I’m reading a book or watching a movie, I get tearful. Also, cemeteries have started to bug me. “I’m going to die,” I think. So now, I avoid cemeteries!

The other day I felt my heart skip a beat. Oh no, is it now, so soon? Hypochondria looms!

I’ve started reading existential novels and watching existential movies, in order to find answers. All these goings on was becoming like a “Dark Night of the Soul” or “Ego Death”! What can I do to handle this crisis?

My friend told me to “Anchor” onto something I could be passionate about, something to focus my attention on consistently.

So I started writing articles, short stories and novels full time. It worked and I’ve never looked back. In other words, I’ve created my own meaning and purpose in my later years.

My friend also told me, it’s important to have a sense of humor. So he told me a joke:

“Descartes is in a tavern having a beer. The bartender asks him if he would like another. “I think NOT,” he says and disappears in a puff of smoke.”

“Very funny,” I said.

DID YOU GET IT?