Tim's Musings

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Disclaimer:  I'm not a philosopher, nor do I pretend to be one.  Don't expect more value from these words than what you paid for them.


"Objectivity is the claim of liars and fools."


"Luck is better than skill. Skill is potential, but luck is realization."


"All that is truly valuable from an eternal perspective is solely dependent upon our own personal decisions."

It is foolish to set goals which others must foil in order to achieve their own goals. If two individuals aspire to the same office, of which there can only exist one simultaneous holder, then at least one is guaranteed failure. The intrinsic value of such attainments is even questionable, given the predominant influence of random events or events over which the individual has no control. The seeming glory or nobility of such attainments is tempered by the realization that the success of one's efforts is not only not necessary but is also insufficient to achieve the goal. Rather, the occurrence of events that hinder the success of competitors is essential, and the nature of such events is often random and independent of the victor's efforts.

Consider Michael Jordan whom many acknowledge as the greatest basketball player ever. While Michael's athletic talents and work ethic are undeniable and laudable, his success in terms of championships is less so. Innumerable events in his life contributed to or were required to enable his success. His career was remarkably devoid of serious physical injuries, social instabilities, and other obstacles. This good fortune can be partially attributed to Michael's foresight and ethical behavior. However, much of that good fortune was simply coincidental. Perhaps more significantly, how many erstwhile Michael's have not been so fortunate. Many others were also blessed with comparable or perhaps even greater talent but had their lives affected by circumstances and events beyond their control: being killed by a drunk driver, being born into a poor family that required money earning employment in place of basketball practice, being unnoticed by basketball coaches with personal agendas, etc.


"Perceive the good."

While it is good to seek the good, we may not always achieve all our anticipated goals. Thus, it is necessary to perceive the good, to actively recognize those aspects of our environment and circumstances that are positive. There always exist both positive and negative all around us. What we perceive is entirely dependent upon ourselves, whether passively or actively. 


"Don't get mad. Don't get even. Get happy."

The problem with getting even is that our own position is not improved. Getting even usually involves bringing someone else down to our level rather than improving our own situation and therefore does us no real good.


"The perception of leisure is a luxury."

Perhaps this idea is the counterpart of "haste makes waste." While dawdling may be the opposite of haste, it implies laziness and a desire to avoid work, neither of which are meritorious. However, the ability and desire to achieve goals do not require a mentality of constant rushing about. Instead the best compromise is the achievement of goals coupled with a leisurely attitude. This can be compared to a leisurely Sunday drive where the drive actually ends in a desired destination.

The key is to alter one's perception of circumstances and one's environment. I am often late to appointments. In such situations, I foolishly try to drive somewhat more quickly and aggressively. If I encounter a red light or slow driver, I become frustrated, even though I wouldn't be bothered at all if I were on a leisurely drive. In reality, my frenetic driving state of mind rarely saves me more than a few most insignificant minutes. However, I lose a lot more in safety and peace of mind.


Fairness is comprised of justice and equality. Justice is the correlation between reality and the moral or legal law, which are distinct forms of justice. Equality is the inverse of the variance among individual situations.


"The laws of the Gospel are not a cage but a platform."


"Relevance is relative."

Statements of the relevance of a particular item to another are always necessarily relative to a particular person, usually the speaker, and possibly also relative to a specific time or situation. This idea is always valid, even if not explicitly stated. For instance, consider an idea that is asked of a student on an exam. Regardless of what the idea is, it definitely has high relevance to that student. Since such a hypothetical idea may encompass any arbitrary idea, there are no ideas that can be definitely stated to be of no relevance .... [Am I talking about relevance or significance here?]


"The defining line of legality coincides with the border of immorality."

The oft-heard refrain "I am a law-abiding citizen" is intended to project an aura of civic responsibility. However, this phrase conveys the exact opposite image to me. To say that one abides by the legal law is to say that one's behavior lies somewhere above the line of least acceptance. The law defines the very basest of behavior that can be tolerate by society without any sanction. To define one's behavior by the lowest measure possible is to relegate the vicinity of one's behavior to immorality.


"The end does not justify the means, but the end may disqualify the means."


"My pet peeve is that I have so many pet peeves."


"Legality without morality leads to anarchy."


"Absence of a signal is a signal."

Sometimes parents withhold instructions or advice in the hope that the child is better served by choosing their own way, even though the choice might lead to mistakes, some of which may be irrepairable. The ultimate expectation is that the experience of studying possibilities, choosing, and seeing the consequences of those choices. Such parents often tout the superiority of their method in preventing the child from blindly following without a true understanding. An alternate motivation is the desire to prevent biasing the child or thus robbing them of their free agency and ability to freely choose.

Such ideas are flawed because the absence of instruction is not equivalent to objective presentation of all possible choices. Rather, absence of instruction is tantamount to implicit support of the inclinations of the child. The absence of words is not equivalent to absence of communication. Rather, the absence of words is itself a form of communication.

Often, the parent has already taught and thereby predisposed the child to prefer a particular choice. In that case, the parent realizes that the child will interpret the absence of words to mean the endorsement of a particular choice.


Theory of Overheads


"Do not expect others to do unto you as you would have done to them."

This is a corollary to Jesus' Golden Rule (do unto other what you want others to do to you) as well as similar teachings by others such as Confucius (do not do unto others what you do not want them to do to you), but expressed as an admonition to reign in one's expectations of other's actions with the goal of avoiding personal stress and anger. The specific application of this principle concerns the expression of righteous indignation at the behavior of others toward us. We look down on such behavior, reasoning that we would have acted differently and attributing such behavior to bad morals.

For example, I have opened a door for someone following me. When that person fails to express thanks for the act of politeness, I sometimes feel offended. After all, I and any well-mannered individual would have said, "Thank you." However, in so thinking, I not only impose my value system on that person, I also manufacture offense where none was intended. Perhaps the person was distracted by pressing situations and would have otherwise paid more attention to etiquette.  Or, it may that the behavior I expected might be void of any positive meaning for another.  In fact, it is possible for behavior that in common courtesy in my mind to be viewed as an affront by another, e.g., opening a door for a feminist who considers the act to be an implicit communication of unequal status.


"Equity is the domain of God. Mere mortals lack even the ability to perceive equity."


"The resort to legal justification implies an inability to depend on ethical justification."


"The letter of the law is superficial.  The interpretation of the law is the letter of the law." [1-25-06]

This observation was motivated by the ongoing Senate confirmation hearings for Samuel Alito and a realization of the unbalanced importance of the Supreme Court.  Due to judicial review, the power of the United States legal system is biased heavily in favor of the Supreme Court.  Because the Supreme Court is the appeal of last resort, anything it decrees becomes law, even if such decrees openly defy seemingly clear Congressional legislation.  Mr. Alito has maintained throughout his Senate hearings that the "rule of law" is supreme and that "no person in this country, no matter how high or powerful, is above the law."  Such statements are both meaningless and obvious.  Because the opinion of the Supreme Court, no matter how ridiculous such opinions may seem to the masses, is de jure law of the land, the profession of a Supreme Court justice to be beholden to the "law of the land" is tantamount to swearing allegiance to one's own judgments.


Hail to the victors! To the victors go the spoils!

The victorious claim the spoils of conquest, and perhaps the most significant prize is the right of historical revisionism. This rewriting of history includes intentional attempts to erase events from remembrance, injection of non-existing occurrences, and outright lies.  From an American perspective, I have found it obvious how nations, such as Japan, have audaciously promoted historical revisionism in an effort to whitewash past crimes and to shift blame to others.  However, in an eye-opening manner, I have also come to realize that a significant part of American history has been revised in a likewise fashion.  Textbooks have created heroes out of opportunists, racists, commercial and industrial predators, and others with ideas and actions that would be embarrassing were they to be brought to exposure.

Here are some events that are so significant that their omission from readily available history texts suggests intentional propaganda:


"The inept at mercy clamor for justice, for that is the limit of their ability."


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As The Family: A Proclamation to the World states concerning the roles of fathers and mothers, "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners."
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Tragically many fathers focus on their responsibility to provide for their families in contrast to the responsibilities of mothers to care for their children. The importance of the succeeding qualifying statement is almost entirely lost. There is not merely the suggestion that helping one's spouse might be considered. Rather, the wording makes it clear that helping each other as equal partners is a required obligation. Due to the failure to heed this requirement, fathers often excuse themselves from household chores and childrearing due to their incorrectly assumed sole responsibility to earn money. Sometimes, the excuse is a lack of energy and resources after each day of exhausting work that has completely drained them of any energy to help at home. Or, perhaps the excuse is that as a result of their hard work, they have earned a pass to enjoy their evenings without the bother of home responsibilities, which are not their primary duty anyway.
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Such attitudes bear no merit for several reasons. First, the dictate to share equally in home responsibilities is clear and unambiguous. Second, such fathers deprive themselves of the great blessings of strengthened family relationships that can come in no other way. Third, the perception of diligence and sacrifice at work are often exaggerated and often knowingly fabricated. The truth of the matter is that working outside the home is usually a release from the burden of home and family tasks.  One interacts with adults, is intellectually stimulated, enjoys frequent lunches and breaks, has the opportunity to explore the internet, and is actually paid.  In very few circumstances is work outside the home as physically and emotionally demanding and exhausting as taking care of home and family.
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Is it any wonder that marriages and families struggle when the counsel of the prophets and apostles are ignored, minimalized, or circumvented?  This is the reason that I try to minimize my time at work and maximize my time at home.
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Seek the respect of those you respect. Disregard the adulation and disdain of the rest.
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It is good to be inoffendable.
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At any moment in one's life, there are a million irritants, only a subset of which are actually reasonable. However, being irritated is purely a matter of free choice.
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For most children, most of the lessons and skills learned during childhood are not used when adulthood is reached. Are these skills therefore useless? And, were the resources expended during childhood wasted? If not, what are the redeeming qualities of such efforts? More importantly, are there perhaps other points of emphasis that should dominate the teaching of children to produce the greatest impact on their lives?
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The essence of prejudice is the belief that all significant characteristics of an individual can be derived from a single known fact.  In other words, "Because I know something about you, I know everything about you."
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Principle of cake: When we were children, we wanted the biggest piece of cake. However, as parents, we enjoy watching our children eating a bigger piece of cake than we have. This is the type of love and charity that is needed in our relationships with other people.
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Learning in church about gospel topics is similar to learning academic topics in school. The students that learn the most are the ones that actively ask questions about the points that they don't understand and that think and study outside of class.
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The right to offend is not only an integral component of free speech.  It is perhaps the most necessary ingredient because free speech in its absence devolves to aping the thoughts allowed by others.  Civility, decency, and the avoidance of incitement must be regulated by societal pressure and not by threat of legal punishment.
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Although the content of our speech may be largely determined by our audience and the attending circumstances, the manner of our communication is entirely a reflection of our personal demeanor.  In other words, other people and circumstances do not incite us to angry speech, but rather such meanness is derived from an inward predilection toward hostility.  While it is true that external events may provoke an internal feeling of anger, the outward expression of that anger is gated by one's own personality.
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Some kids have a gift for social interaction or leadership amongst their peers.  Other kids demonstrate an ability to easily communicate with adults.  The kids that can do both are special and destined for success when they grow up.

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