Friday, February 24, 2006

It doesn't change a thing, I know.
You have an idea.
You have a belief.
You call a number "four" thinking
"four" somehow has meaning.

You don't believe in unicorns.
You don't believe in make-believe.

You understand empirically what is
or can and cannot be.
You live in a world called
"reality" and it doesn't change a thing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Schizophrenic Subjectivity

And yes I will marry you
and yes this is true
and yes I was born out of
dad and you. Consult your egg
for the next thing to do - the
yolk is what's dead, the white
is the truth. And dad is ok,
he's a part of you too, and yes,
he's a part of me too.
And yes, the voices really are
out to get you, and believing
really does make things true.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Truth According to O'Brien

When a story begins with the line “This is true,” as in O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story,” the reader is immediately led to question whether or not the story is actually true. Just as Poe’s narrator’s claim about not being “mad” leads the reader to question his sanity in "The Tell-Tale Heart," the opening line in “How to Tell a True War Story” suggests the possibility of the story not being true, merely by claiming that it is true. “This is true” is a statement that is non-falsifiable. O’Brien claims that the story he tells is true, but merely claiming that something is true does not make it so, which is perhaps, one of the point’s O’Brien is making about truth.

A common belief about truth is that it is self-evident. By this rational, if a story is true, the storyteller will not start off by attempting to convince us that it is true. People tend to believe that which is believable and disbelieve things that seem outlandish and far-fetched. Because of this tendency, O’Brien’s claim that his story is true leads to suspicion. However, O’Brien suggests that common notions about truth are incorrect, and that “often the crazy stuff is true and the normal stuff isn’t because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believe the truly incredible craziness.”

Another incorrect notion about truth, according to O’Brien, is that a true story will have some kind of moral to it. “If a story seems moral, do not believe it,” he tells his readers. For O’Brien, the truth just is. It needs no moral lesson attached to it in order to achieve higher meaning. However, there is some ambiguity on this point, as seen later in the story when Sanders tries to attach a moral to his story about the soldiers hearing music in the mountains. This attempt at a moral lesson coupled with Sanders’ admission of embellishing details makes the story appear false, but it is still possible that the story is true.

Kierkegaard believed that the only truth we are capable of knowing is subjective truth. O’Brien appears to agree with this idea when he admits that when telling a war story “what seems to happen becomes its own happening and has to be told that way.” The truth that anyone knows is known to them through their own experience, and is therefore, always subjective. With this in mind, a story with false details may not necessarily be a false story, but a true story that developed embellished details because of the story teller’s personal perspective.

O’Brien also admits that sometimes a true war story is “just beyond telling.” This statement suggests that the truth is ineffable – it can not be expressed or understood. Sometimes truth is something that is beyond our grasp. The term “ineffability” is often ascribed to God or spiritual experiences. Taken in this light, O’Brien could seem to be describing truth as something comparable to God, and given the contradictions that arise in attempting to understand God, the comparison is not without merit.

The truth is contradictory. “In a true war story nothing much is ever very true” and “the only certainty is absolute ambiguity.” This contradiction exists in truth because it exists in life. O’Brien describes war as being close to death, and in being close to death we are most alive. Every person’s life is full of opposing, paradoxical forces – love and hate, body and soul, life and death. It is only natural that expressing the truth of experience will be paradoxical as well. In this paradox of truth, it is possible for a story that never happened to be true. This notion once again rests on the subjective nature of truth. For Kierkegaard, if we are passionate about something it becomes our subjective truth – that which we would live or die for. Likewise, for O’Brien, if we care about whether or not a story is true, it is true, even if it never happened.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

more fun email stuff

A friend sent me to a page that gages how well you know you're own personality. If you know me, take a moment and pick six characteristics that describe me here and make one for yourself if it amuses you.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


I got one of those email questionnaire things today that you're supposed to pass along, but I never know who to send them to, so I thought I'd just post it on my blog instead.

1. What is your occupation? I don’t work, I just go to school
2. What color are your socks right now? I’m not wearing any
3. What are you listening to right now? Rasputina
4. What was the last thing that you ate? A fruit roll up.
5. Can you drive a stick shift? NO
6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? yellow
7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? My brother
8. Do you like the person who sent this to you? Sure
9. How old are you today? 26
10. Favorite drink? Iced Tea.
11. What is your favorite sport to watch? baseball.
12. Have you ever dyed your hair? Yes. I used to dye it burgundy
13. Do you wear contacts or glasses? Neither
14. Pets? 4 cats. Yes, 4.
15. Favorite food? Soup.
16. What was the last movie you watched? Hobgobins, or rather, an episode of MST3K featuring Hobgoblins.
17. Favorite day of the year? It varies. Any day in summer is good.
18. What do you do to vent anger? Go for walks or short jogs. Or write.
19. Favorite toy as a child? Happy Apple.
20. Fall or Spring? Fall – it’s warmer than Spring in Wisconsin.
21. Hugs or kisses? Either
22. Cherry or Blueberry? Cherry
23. Do you want your friends to email you back? Not applicable since I’m posting this on my blog
24. Who is most likely to respond? N/A
25. Who is least likely to respond? N/A
26. Living arrangements? Husband, four cats, apartment in Bay View.
27. When was the last time you cried? A couple of days ago when I broke the coffee pot
28. What is on the floor of your closet? Everything.
29. Who is the friend you have had the longest? Mark and Danny
30. What did you do last night? Did laundry, watched Futurama on DVD
31. Favorite smell? anything citrus
32. What inspires you? Philosophy classes
33. What are you afraid of? People.
34. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers? plain
35. Favorite car? Jeep
36. Favorite dog breed? Siberian Husky
37. Number of keys on your key ring? 8, I think.
38. How many years at your current job? Not working, but I usually quit jobs at around 3 months.
39. Favorite day of the week? Monday, I know it sounds weird, but I only have one class and it’s a Philosophy class.
40. How many states have you lived in? 1 so far
41. Favorite holiday(s)? Probably Thanksgiving.
42. Ever driven a Motorcycle or heavy machinery? Does a U-Haul count?
43. Don't you hate these stupid things? Sometimes.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Things I can't stand

01. The Beastie Boys
02. Girls who talk on their cell phones in the bathroom
03. Loudmouth idiots who take philosophy classes
04. Football
05. People who mix religion with politics, or try to convert the world to their beliefs
06. Easy Rawlins
07. Gwen Stefani
08. Toyota commercials
09. Yoplait commercials
10. Commercials
11. People who pass on the right
12. Tim Allen
13. Everybody Loves Raymond
14. clothing that is fluffy and pink
15. The Bob and Tom show

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Tell-Tale Heart

When reading Poe’s story of “The Tell-Tale Heart”, one is immediately confronted with the question of whether or not the narrator is “mad”. The narrator insists that he is not “mad”, but as Shakespeare illustrated when he said “the lady doth protest too much”, the narrator’s denial of being “mad” only helps to convince us that he is, in fact, insane.

In a modern court of law, if the narrator attempted to plead insanity, he would not be found insane because his actions were premeditated. He carefully planned to kill the old man, and followed through on that plan with complete awareness of his actions. However, the narrator does exhibit certain signs of mental illness throughout the story. His meticulous attention to detail demonstrates an obsessive-compulsive nature, he shows clear signs of paranoia, and his detachment from human emotion borders on sociopathic.

The narrator’s obsessive-compulsive nature is illustrated in his careful planning of the murder. He plans to kill the man long before he actually accomplishes the task, and sneaks in to watch the man sleep, giving much thought to every detail of the murder. The narrator is also particularly pleased with himself that there was “nothing to wash out – no stain of any kind – no blood-spot whatsoever”. The narrator’s obsession with the old man’s eye also shows a preoccupation with appearances, and he even describes himself as having an “over-acuteness of the sense”.

The narrator also shows signs of paranoia throughout the story. For one, we see that he believes that the old man’s eye has some special power when he says “no human eye – not even his could have detected anything wrong”. In reality, the old man’s eye was probably useless and unable to see a thing, but the narrator believed it to be evil and somehow more capable of seeing than the average eye. The narrator also demonstrates paranoia when he is being questioned by the police and believes that they can hear the imagined beating of the dead man’s heart as he can. “They heard! – they suspected! – they knew! – they were making a mockery of my horror!”

The narrator’s semi-sociopathic nature is shown in his detachment from human emotion and his ability to imitate emotions that he does not actually feel. However, it is important to note that the narrator is not a true sociopath in the strict definition of the word. Two signs of a sociopath are an inability to control impulses and a lack of moral sense, both of which are displayed in the narrator’s murder of the old man.

Although the narrator detaches himself from human emotion, it is clear that he still feels guilt and sympathy, though he tries to suppress these feelings. This is shown when the narrator says “I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart.” The narrator’s feelings of sympathy are brief and fleeting, and are quickly replaced by an actual feeling of pleasure over another person’s suffering.

The heart, which can be seen as a symbol of life, can also be seen as a symbol of emotion. Before killing the old man, the narrator hears the heart beating and it increases his fury. This fury, which could be described as a human emotion, is suppressed when the narrator kills the old man.

Although the narrator is able to feign the appearance of ease while being questioned by police, he is only able to suppress his feelings up to a certain point. His feeling of guilt, in particular, is no longer something he can detach from and presents itself in the beating of the dead man's heart. The narrator is haunted by the beating of the heart because it connects him with life – it reminds him that he is a human being with an emotion of guilt that is no longer suppressible. Hence, the narrator is not a true sociopath, but simply a man who exhibits some sociopathic tendencies.

Through the narrator’s obsessive-compulsive behavior, paranoia and sociopathic behavior, we can see that he does demonstrate some signs of mental illness, but the question still remains as to whether or not he is truly “mad”. To call him “mad” would suggest that he is not responsible for his own behavior, but his careful planning and deliberation of the murder show that he knew full well what he was doing, and his unavoidable guilt shows that he knew his actions were wrong.