The 4th Humour
uninfluential words from an uninfluenced man
Bile humour Apathetic hemetic Fluent indifferent Emetic Phlegmatic

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Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Cosmic Coincidence

Have you ever been thinking about something you haven't thought about in a long time, only to hear about it later that day? Or perhaps you encountered something obscure for the first time only to cross it again a few hours later. Of course, but if you think I'm about to sing the body holographic and praise these precognitive proofs of destiny and Divinity, you're so, so wrong. Life generates plenty of nifty coincidences without its drives running on infinite improbability.

Today, for example, I was thinking of a tune I hadn't thought of in a long time. I will not name it, since I don't want to spread that meme, but suffice to say it was one of the few popular tunes I happen to like from the 80s. Ten minutes later, it was playing in the restaurant I was in. Coincidence? I guess. Possibly influenced by my realization of the era of music that had already been playing? Maybe. Evidence of my psychic ability or psycho-temporal-kinesis? I'm sure of it.

Then later, over at Unmedia, someone mentioned Kuhn in a comment. Still later, I saw a link to Paradigm Shift over at Coherence Engine. Wow, two references to Kuhn in one day, someone I had completely forgotten in spite of my scientific background (yes, I am ashamed). Another cosmic coincidence! It was destined to happen.

Casting aside all the typical scientific evidence against such psychic or divine claims for a moment, I still can't wrap my ectoplasm around the notion that there is any significance whatsoever to these or any other perceived coincidences. Things are destined to happen only in the sense that they are determined to happen, but there's nothing special about that. Surely in a deterministic universe, everything is a coincidence, right? Surely for every cosmic so-called coincidence I experience, there were other coincidences I experienced but didn't recognize. Surely under a different set of initial conditions, a different set of coincidences would have taken place instead.

Recognize them, have fun with them, laud them if you like, but for GDF's (Great Deterministic Force) sake, don't live your life by coincidence. You will only end up encouraged and inspired and discouraged and frustrated at all the inappropriate times.

(For the record, yes, the title "What a Coincidence!" for this entry did cross my mind, but since I don't want to sound like some effing tabloid journalist vying for memetic grammy-in-a-box-like attention, I opted not to use it.)

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Happily Detatched

I'm not sure when it started happening, but at some point in my relatively recent life I stopped being the go-to guy for whenever people have problems. Perhaps it happened after I had a few revelations that lead to simple solutions to most common problems; people don't want solutions, they just want an open ear to implicitly validate their character. My solutions are always simple, yet somehow difficult for people to execute in practice (probably due to pride). What works for me can't work for them because they're not me. I call bullshit.

Enough about me (you may have noticed I limit how much I talk about myself). Point is, problems are generally a source of unhappiness--especially so-called personal problems--and unhappy, sunken feelings are often linked to feelings of loss. I'm homesick. My girlfriend broke up with me. Oohhh, some animal died. How can you lose something without a sense of attachment? Well, yeah, you can't.

Loss. Attachment. Both artifacts of the self/non-self illusion. This self, normally thought to be autonomous, nonetheless feels a connection to these other people, places, and things, the detachment of which could cause so much sorrow. Typically I hear people say, "They were never yours to begin with, so it can not be a loss!" I prefer to look at it from the other direction; everything is a part of me, so nothing can be gained or lost.

Again, the reason loss is felt is because you feel like a part of you is gone. How can something be a part of you? When the barrier between self and non-self is broken. When the self/non-self barrier is broken due to a sense of ownership rather than through dissolution of the ego, karmic repurcussions (such as sorrow) are in order.

"But Phlegm, I love my wife. Are you saying it's wrong for me to spend the rest of my life with her?" I wish! Heh, but seriously, no, I'm not saying that. True love (huh?!?), at least in my worldview, carries with it no sense of ownership, but instead a selfless realization of union. Jealousy, envy, possessiveness, and all that horrible stuff that happens in relationships is the result of pride and attachment. If you feel like you will die if you lose her, then yeah I think that's wrong, but that's another blog entry.

Just let go. The fewer attachments you have, the happier you will be.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2004
The Sin of Utilization

Strunk and White is a great little grammar book, but it has one major error: it lists "utilize" as a suitable substitute for "use" (which is also funny considering it discourages the -ize suffix in general). Utilize is not a synonym for use. To utilize something is to use something other than for its intended purpose, and thus rarely does the substitution make sense. If someone tells me to utilize a broom to sweep the floor, are they telling me to turn it upside-down and try it that way? I can't think of any other way to utilize it while still using it for its intended purpose.

An intended purpose presupposes a designer. Indeed, you can't utilize something if it wasn't intelligently designed, because it has no defined use. Most of our environment is the result of evolution, which has neither foresight nor design. Rocks have no intended purpose. Neither do dogs or bees (unless they were bred by humans for a purpose).

Clearly I'm not respecting the broom's design in trying to move dust with the handle. I'm not respecting the broom itself. Likewise, any damage done to the broom would render it incapable of fulfilling its purpose and would thus be disrepectful, whether the damage were purposeful or negligent.

Wait, I hear the naysayers now, "But Phlegm, oftentimes new uses for things are found after they are designed!" Really? I'd argue not. Does the new use fill a need, or is there another tool that already fills the need sufficiently well? If it fits the need better, could another tool be made to improve even upon that, perhaps based on the original design? It will probably end up modified to perform both tasks, yet inherit the original name (or a new version number). You would then feel not quite right about utilizing the original, since a new and better tool has been designed specifically for the new purpose.

Consumerism violates these principles. Things are expected to break, expected to be replaced. In fact, they're designed to break, such that in a twisted way they're still fulfilling their purpose. The higher purpose, of course, being Capitalism and the so-called advancement of society *cough cough*. I don't know who said it, but like many others, I'll say it again: where are we going in such a hurry?

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