The Illustrated Man

The Illustrated Man  by  Ray Bradbury

The Grand Master Editions  Bantam Books  1951   186 pages

I am very glad I did not take the time to read this in graduate school when I was researching tattoos. More than one person suggested this book because the “illustrated man” is heavily tattooed, yet the book has nothing to do with him. I don’t even know why Bradbury went to what little trouble he did to include him at the beginning of what is essentially a collection of short stories. A tattooed man wanders place to place in search of a job. He comes upon a young lad whom he befriends and explains that his tattoos tell the future. At night the tattoos move. The tattoos are a curse placed upon him by a witch. Each tattoo tells a story, and if one looks at him long enough, he or she will become one of the tattooed stories. Even though the boy is asked not to, he stares at the man’s tattoos all night as the tattooed man sleeps. Each tattoo shows us the story that we have before us. Each tale is pretty short, so this book would be a good “before going to sleep” book. Most of the stories have to do with spaceships and intergalactic travel. Each story also seems to hint at a moral of some kind. I will give you the name of each story, some best bits, and its synopsis.

  1. The Veldt This is one of my favorites since it puts the kids in charge of their own world. What they do with it is gruesome! The Hadleys have allowed technology to take over their life. It spoils their children and kills the parents.
  1. Kaleidoscope A philosophical piece regarding looking back at your life and wondering what it was all for. How did you use your time? Did you live or dream about living?
  1. The Other Foot People of color were shipped to Mars as Earth began a nuclear war. Twenty years later a white man came to visit and let them know that Earth was destroyed. The Martians had plans to subjugate the man like the way of life in America, but when they learn of the fate of the Earth, they feel the man has been punished enough.
  1. The Highway A theme of atomic war again and the thought of being so far removed that you don’t know or even understand the news.
  1. The Man Of searching, belief, skepticism, and faith. What would you think if Jesus actually returned? Would you dismiss it? Believe? Follow him? Laugh?
  1. The Long Rain On Venus there is only rain. It makes all visitors crazy.
  1. The Rocket Man I really liked the following passage that described the mindfulness a child needs from his/her parent:.

“‘Let’s hear it,’ he said at last.

And I knew that now we would talk, as we had always talked, for three hours straight. All afternoon we would murmur back and forth in the lazy sun about my school grades, how high I could jump, how fast I could swim.

Dad nodded each time I spoke and smiled and slapped my chest lightly in approval. We talked. We did not talk of rockets or space, but we talked of Mexico at noon, seeing the hundred butterflies sucked to our radiator, dying there, beating their blue and crimson winds, twitching, beautifully, and sad. We talked of such things instead of the things I wanted to talk about. And he listened to me. That was the thing he did, as if he was trying to fill himself up with all the sound he could hear. He listened to the wind and the falling ocean and my voice, always with a rapt attention, a concentration that almost excluded physical bodies themselves and kept only the sounds. He shut his eyes to listen. I would see him listening to the lawn mower as he cut the grass by hand instead of using the remote-control device, and I would see him smelling the cut grass as it sprayed up at him behind the mower in a green fount.”

What is it like to be an astronaut with a family? He is caught between two worlds. He loves his family and space equally. Eventually, the father/astronaut is killed in space. The wife began pretending he was dead long ago in preparation for this eventuality.

  1. The Fire Balloons This passage is good:

“‘I wonder–’ Father Peregrine mopped his face. ‘Do you think if we called Hello! They might answer?’

‘Father Peregine, won’t you ever be serious?’

‘Not until the good Lord is. Oh, don’t look so terribly shocked, please. The Lord is not serious. In fact, it is a little hard to know just what else He is except loving. And love has to do with humor, doesn’t it? For you cannot love someone unless you put up with him, can you? And you cannot put up with someone constantly unless you can laugh at him. Isn’t that true? And certainly we are ridiculous little animals wallowing in the fudge bowl, and God must love us all the more because we appeal to His humor.’

‘I never thought of God as humorous,’ said Father Stone.

‘The Creator of the platypus, the camel, the ostrich, and man? Oh, come now!’ Father Peregrine laughed.”

On the next page there is some more good stuff:

“And again, Independence Night, thought Father Peregrine, tremoring. He felt like a child back in those July Fourth evenings, the sky blowing apart, breaking into powdery stars and burning sound, the concussions jingling house windows like the ice on a thousand thin ponds. The aunts, uncles, cousins crying, ‘Ah!’ as to some celestial physician. The summer sky colors. And the Fire Balloons, lit by an indulgent grandfather, steadied in his massively tender hands. Oh, the memory of those lovely Fire Balloons, softly lighted, warmly billowed hits of tissue, like insect wings, lying like folded wasps in boxes and, last of all, after the day of riot and fury, at long last from their boxes, delicately unfolded, blue, red, white, patriotic–the Fire Balloons! He saw the dim faces of dear relatives long dead and mantled with moss as Grandfather lit the tiny candle and let the warm air breathe up to form the ballon plumply luminous in his hands, a shining vision which they held, reluctant to let it go; for, once released, it was yet another year gone from life, anther Fourth, another bit of beauty vanished. And then up, up, still up through the warm summer night constellations, the Fire Balloons had drifted, while red-white-and-blue eyes followed them, wordless, from family porches. Away into deep Illinois country, over night rivers and sleeping mansions the Fire Balloons dwindled, forever gone…”

Missionaries thought they were going to bring Christianity to the Martians, but they ended up learning from them.

  1. The Last Night of the World Everyone has the same dream about the world ending. It seems so logical that everyone just accepts it.
  1. The Exiles Best bit: “Mr. Poe’s face was weary; there were fire coals remaining, fading, in his eyes, and a sad wildness in the way he talked, and a uselessness of his hands and the way his hair fell lanky over his amazing white brow. He was like a satan of some lost dark cause, a general arrived from a derelict invasion. His silky, soft, black mustache was worn away by his musing lips. He was so small his brow seemed to float, vast and phosphorescent, by itself, in the dark room.”

The thought that authors cannot live beyond their works. When their books were censored and destroyed, the authors would disappear from the face of the Earth.

  1. No Particular Night or Morning Best bit: “‘Why should I hold onto things I can’t use?’ said Hitchcock, his eyes wide, still staring into space. ‘I’m practical. If Earth isn’t here for me to walk on, you want me to walk on a memory? That hurts. Memories, as my father once said, are porcupines. To hell with them! Stay away from them. They make you unhappy. They ruin your work. They make you cry.’”

A man goes crazy out in space. If something is not physically interacting with him he believes it doesn’t exist.

  1. The Fox and the Forest Time travelers try to escape their horrible war-torn world…but it’s not so easy to disappear into the past.
  1. The Visitor Sick people are exiled to Mars and find a man who can hypnotize them to see anything. Their possessive jealousy ends up killing him. No more escapism.
  1. The Concrete Mixer I made a note that I might like this one best. Martians visiting earth are not met with force but invited in. How slothful and unhealthy will they become? How fast will they become dumb like humans?
  1.  Marionettes, Inc. You can buy a look-alike so it can cover at home and work while you live your best life. But what happens when the clone wants you out of the way?
  1. The City A city once destroyed by men lays in wait for revenge. When men come they turn them into robots, load their rocket with disease and send them to Earth.
  1. Zero Hour Another version of kids wanting to kill their parents. An outside force recruits them because no one really pays attention to what they do.
  1. The Rocket How can a poor man afford space travel? Ask Mr. Bodoni.

Wonderland: Movie Review

Wonderland  2003  Rated R  1 hour 44 minutes  

Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment

Takes place in the summer of 1981. Laurel Canyon’s Wonderland Avenue was the scene of grisly murders. Porn star John Holmes was a prime suspect.

Actors:  Val Kilmer (John Holmes), Kate Bosworth (Dawn Schiller), Lisa Kudrow (Sharon Holmes), Josh Lucus (Ron Launias), Dylan McDermott (David Lind), Eric Bogosian (Eddie Nash), Carrie Fisher (Sally Hansen), Geneane Garofalo (Joy Miller). 

Directed by James Cox

For quite a while I have recognized that I have a harder time deciphering movies that employ multiple timelines that flashback, roll forward, land in real-time, roll forward, real-time, flashback…ey, yi, yi. Not only that, the story is told from two, at times three, points of view. Each point of view has a different take on what actually went down. Some people are lying and some people are telling the truth. Some characters are doing both. At movie time it is as if my mind goes into relaxation mode and multiple timelines make me work harder than I want. It’s irritating, but that’s just me. Give me a chronological tale anytime. So, when it comes to the 2003 movie Wonderland the cards were already stacked against it for my particular tastes. Four people were actually murdered in 1981 in Laurel Canyon. This makes me think of the Manson murders which are actually referenced when one of the detectives says the place was one of the most horrific crime scenes he’d witnessed in his entire career. That is where the comparison ends since there is no mastermind or brainwashing going on here; just out-of-control druggies who want a big score. I do like the setting of L. A. with its flash and desert landscapes but we don’t get much of that. Boisterous house parties? Check. Sleazy motels? Check. This is not the shiny side of Hollywood. This is the down-and-out, drug-addled, detective questioning type where you wish everyone would snap out of it.  It is somewhat interesting to learn about the real lives of porn stars, but almost instantly the character of John Holmes is someone you definitely do not want to know. Far from my favorite activity lies watching dumb characters consistently stay dumb and fumble their way through their lives.

While John Holmes (Val Kilmer twelve years after his spot-on portrayal of Jim Morrison in The Doors) was being “The King ” of porn, he obviously was not planning his future with a money manager or buying valuable land in California. Maybe he thought he could ride his massive train forever and not worry about the future. Come to think of it, this Holmes character shares many similarities with the characterization of Jim Morrison: always making self-defeating moves; being oppositional at every turn. Holmes is a cokehead and crack smoker and continues on this path for the entirety of the story. His wife has already left him and although they are still married, he treats his current lover, Dawn Schiller (the beautiful Kate Bosworth) in exactly the same manner. Although he is done making the porn that broke up his marriage, he has become an unhinged druggie and Dawn puts up with it. Holmes is such an out-of-control addict that he burns every drug dealer in town which forces his hand to become involved with Eric Bogosian’s character, Eddie Nash (aka “The Arab”). Just to be on the safe side, you probably don’t want to depend on The Arab for anything. Why would Holmes’s peers put him in charge of making a drug deal with The Arab? He’s totally unreliable and keeps stringing the group along as they beg for their next fix. At one point Holmes sends his girlfriend into The Arab’s house alone. Why? The motive is never established. There was once a short duration when Holmes and Dawn were broken up. You know what psycho addicts do? They call your parents every night when they can’t find you and say they love you and shit like that. In one of these timelines, but after the hit on The Arab’s house, Holmes visits Nash very casual like as if nothing is out of the ordinary. They take him hostage and threaten to track down his family. Holmes is just a stinking pile of idiot. Holmes lies to the detectives during questioning and lies to everyone else as well. During a flashback, we see that Holmes and his wife were actually in a good relationship until he had an epiphany one day that he could make money with his giant cock. He chose porn over his marriage and that is where it ended. After the murders, Holmes and Dawn escape to Florida where they live under assumed names. She eventually turns him in because god…he is such an asshole. There is no arc in character; he learns nothing. There are no redeemable character traits within Holmes. Although that makes him frustrating to watch, at least we didn’t have to live with him. John Holmes was never convicted; AIDS got him instead.

Another and perhaps stronger frustration with Wonderland is that the women in this movie are simply there for show. They play no part in the meat of the plot; it could have taken place without them. They have no agency and display no active thinking skills. When she is freaking out on the street surrounded by prostitutes, Sally Hansen (Carrie Fisher) picks up Dawn in an effort to take her home, clean her up and feed her but Dawn keeps calling for John. She wants John Holmes to come pick her up. This makes no sense; he’s not the one who saves her from the streets. Next, Holmes and Dawn are driving place to place for money and drugs. Dawn says she really has to pee but has been ordered to stay in the car. When she begs to pee Holmes hands her a Coke can so she can pee in it. And she does it! What the fuck is going on here? She’s a semi-drug-addicted semi-prostitute outside of a drug dealer’s house…pee anywhere! Holmes gets them a sleazy motel room but she doesn’t mind. Dawn begs him not to smoke crack, but he does anyway. Oh, well. She doesn’t want him to leave her alone in this crappy motel, but he does anyway. She ends up so bored that she smokes crack herself. I have to say that women who are in love with addicts will go to the ends of the earth for them, even if it doesn’t benefit them and it makes no sense. They will sometimes get addicted themselves and will make allowances for almost anything because they are in love. Dawn could have left at any time! She could have gone to a variety of places to get herself back on track but it doesn’t even cross her mind. At one point Dawn is asked (forced?) to go into The Arab’s lair to what? Case the place? Find the location of the safe? It is unclear why she went into Eddie Nash’s mansion (the biggest nightclub owner in L.A.) but the results are not good. She ends up being scrubbed in a hot bath while she stares off into space. This doesn’t make Dawn want to leave Holmes? Dawn, you don’t even really like drugs. Coke heads usually can’t get it up so why exactly are you torturing yourself? Dawn has somehow become friends with Holmes’s wife, Sharon (Lisa Kudrow). In a meeting with Sharon before questioning by the detectives, she tells Sharon that she did get away once. She went to Oregon and worked in health care. Then her parents began telling her that John was calling every night saying how much he loved her and to tell her good night. Dawn doesn’t get angry that Holmes is disturbing her parents. She doesn’t get livid that she still hasn’t completely gotten away from this loser. No! Oh, it is all so romantic how he just couldn’t forget her. She eventually takes his calls and boom! She’s back where she started. Dawn ends up lying to the cops and running away to Florida with Holmes as if they are going to get away with the botched everything. For whatever reason, six months later Dawn turns Holmes in and never sees him again. Just like many of us when we finally get over the “gotta have that bad guy/girl” phase, she grows up, moves back to the Pacific Northwest, starts a family, and writes a book. (I would much rather have met this Dawn Schiller.)

There is one bright spot in this entire wacky drugs and gun-toting world and that is the former (but still married) wife of John Holmes (Sharon) played by Lisa Kudrow. All of the characters have been so dumb and out of control that when Sharon comes on the scene with her no-nonsense attitude and sharp words you feel like shouting, “FINALLY!” She has enough emotional distance from John that she totally does not care that he has a girlfriend; in fact, she likes Dawn. She encourages Dawn to get out of this dysfunctional relationship. Pack all the bad things up in a box and leave it behind (like she did). Dawn admires Sharon and did attempt at one time to begin a better life, even working in the same field as Sharon. The best part is when Holmes comes to Sharon for help and is trying to convince her they can go into the witness protection program and run away. She says she doesn’t want to fucking run away with him. What the fuck are you talking about? “Are you going to fucking cry? Don’t cry, John.” Holmes’s trumped-up emotions have no effect on Sharon; she’s seen it a million times before. If Holmes were to call her parents every night she would fucking change their number. No wonder Kudrow took this role. She is the first woman who has any gumption and point of view in the entire movie. Since all we’ve been surrounded by are dimwits she shines bright like a biting diamond. She eventually pays Holmes off to permanently exit her life. She is never asked to testify against her husband but after his death reveals that she did see Holmes the morning of the murders. She maintains a relationship with Dawn Schiller.

All told, there are some fun moments like when crazy house party Ronnie takes an epic leap over a coffee table to land on Holmes’s chest. The fashion and music are fun and I really wish I’d been at that crowded house party although I would have been in the pool and not in the room with tweaking Ronnie drunkenly shooting antique guns.  There are some sped-up and split-screen transitions that look very cool. If you enjoy unhinged drug culture movies and don’t require chronological continuity, sex, gore, realistic goatees, or intellect, you may enjoy this flick. Three out of ten. Kudrow’s character earns all three stars.

Stream of consciousness synopsis with digging commentary:

John Holmes was the first porn star dubbed “The King”. “This is the story of what happened once the legend was over.”

Monday, June 29th, 1981 Hollywood Hills. Prostitute on street stands alone at 1p. She bites her fingernails while holding a Chihuahua. She cries and shakes while other prostitutes roam the street. VW bus pulls up. The girl, Dawn Schiller, (Kate Bosworth) is picked up by Sally Hansen (Carrie Fisher) but the girl wants her boyfriend, John Holmes (Val Kilmer) to come pick her up. Holmes: “Whatever it takes to get you back, baby. Whatever it takes.” He breaks out the coke as she starts to laugh. Mountains of snow. Snorting coke and having sex in the bathroom. 

Next, John makes Dawn wait in the car while he scores more drugs. She badly needs to pee so he hands her a Coke can. She doesn’t get out of the car to fucking pee? She pees in the Coke can? How dumb is this person? We’ve gotta turn what is in the briefcase into cash. John keeps hopping into rundown places to do skeezy things. Now in motel. He blocks the door. Smoking the coke although Dawn doesn’t want him to. He leaves. This is just what almost every female partner of an addicted man goes through. She doesn’t want him to do it, he does it anyway, then leaves her alone. 

Cool transition with split-screen and music. Now Dawn is smoking the coke in the motel room alone. A map shows John’s meanderings. Quick click views, split-screen. 

When he comes back it is daylight. He brings beer. He takes some unknown pills and drinks a beer for breakfast. John says he’s had an accident. Dawn hears on the news that four people have been found dead during the time John was missing. A detective says it is the most horrific crime scene he’s witnessed in his entire career, reminiscent of the Manson murders. 

Random guy in bar on the phone. Phone on other end of call is bloody and no one answers. Random guy has flashback of pointing a gun at a man. So far, all we know is that the random guy at the bar is calling his connected friend who says he’s going to take care of everything. The guy in the bar is having flashbacks of violent events. We have not been properly introduced to these two new characters. Eddie Nash (AKA “The Arab”) is played by Eric Bogosian. He steps off a plane. He’s the biggest nightclub owner in Hollywood. 

The bar guy is now at the crime scene wandering around. Blood everywhere. Detectives Nico and Cruise arrive. They’re just going to let a dude walk around a crime scene and break things and take things? What kind of cops are these? The bar guy’s name is Lind who ends up in the questioning room and he’s about to tell a story. Lind looks totally stupid. The costume department looked like they pressed on his goatee and his hair is so colored black it is fried. Right now he has on a do-rag with a sleeveless black t-shirt. He looks ridiculous. Why is his hair that black? Detective Nico (played by Ted Levine) is the actor who was the killer in Silence of the Lambs. If you spotted that in the first ten seconds you would be as good as my movie-watching partner. I don’t think many people can do that. Flashback to good times with drugs, girls, and money. Mr. Lind is trippin’ back to the good old days of house parties where all the chicks are hot and everyone is doing drugs. Bell bottoms, leather jackets, rock and roll, guns. In a house with a hundred and fifty people, Lind starts talking to his drunk friend, Ronnie, who is brandishing guns. “Hey man, you gonna sell those?” Ronnie says he’s been looking for a fence. Lind asks for a place to crash. There’s the couch. All of a sudden we see Lind making out with his girlfriend. What happened to the hundred and fifty people? Is this three days later when everyone is passed out or what? 

John Holmes is introduced to Dave Lind. Holmes has already established himself as the king of porn which the detectives know. This is of interest: male-on-male sexual intimidation. When gun-wielding Ronnie knows Holmes is at the party he publicly challenges Holmes to show everyone his penis. Holmes doesn’t want to show off his dick, but Ronnie shoots his pistol into the ceiling. “Show them!” Holmes does it. A girl looks to Ronnie, (not the owner of the penis) and asks, “Can I touch it?” So he doesn’t even own his dick? I like this little switcharoo even though it’s icky. Have a man sexually intimidate another male every once in a while. Why not? No wonder Holmes is a cokehead. 

Why did Holmes hang out at Wonderland? Because he had burned every other drug dealer in town. The detectives know Holmes as a scumbag, thief, bad news. Joy Miller (Geneane Garofalo) comes in and is tweaking on the couch. It is inexplicable why Garofalo even took this part. The guys need to go to The Arab because they can’t find drugs anywhere else. When Holmes doesn’t come back with drugs from The Arab, Ronnie makes a fucking epic leap over a coffee table and lands on Holmes’s chest. Ronnie gives Holmes a deal: the money or the guns in two days. “Now get the fuck out of here.” All these tweakers are around Holmes asking what is the deal with The Arab? When are we getting our shit? We just have to wait; he’s bringing it all in at once. The plot is becoming a little confusing because we are at the same time listening to Lind tell the cops this story, so it’s a nested tale. Lind is telling the cops and we are seeing the story in flashbacks. It is getting convoluted. 

Holmes draws a map to give his friends so they can break into The Arab’s place. They case the place. The more Holmes says a stash is hidden there, the more Ronnie wants to do it. Ronnie wants a big score so he can live in Maui. Earlier that day, Ronnie gave Holmes money to go to The Arab to get some shit. Bogosian as the Arab is surrounded by women, drugs, rock and roll. They wait for The Arab to go to sleep. They are loaded for bear. A gaggle of druggies break into The Arab’s house at 8a all coked up. The mayhem begins. Ronnie has The Arab by the hair. They want to find the safe. Lind discovers as the safe is opened that this is Eddie Nash…he did not know that. They take as much as possible and exit. Great ‘70s music with a smoggy L.A. in the background. Getting in the car with guns and other stolen goods. Pretty cool. Holmes was waiting back at the house. In this version of the story, Holmes was not involved in the hit. They are all excited when they return to the house with the loot. Everyone is kissing and hugging. Yea! A great Saturday morning. Seven kilos of cocaine, cash flying everywhere. Two, three, four hundred fifty thousand dollars. One ounce pure heroine. They are adding up the money. Five thousand quaaludes. Antique guns. Total take: one point two million. Everyone is clinking glasses. It was a good score and nobody got hurt. There is a strong Natural Born Killers feel to the scene where all the goods are being revealed. All the girls are excited. 

Here is where the rift begins between Holmes and the rest of the drug ring. Although Holmes sets it up and knows when the target is going to be out or asleep, the ring feels they are the ones who take all the risk and do all the hard work. They are the ones who go into the house with guns blazing. When they get back and Holmes wants his cut, they give him just a wee bit and Holmes doesn’t think that is good enough. Lind does some heroin as his reward while Holmes smokes crack. Do you want to see a guy take a shot of heroin in the tongue? Oh wait, no…that’s a pixie stick. It would have been cooler to take a shot in the tongue. Ronnie and Holmes argue until Ronnie throws a briefcase out the window, breaking it. Holmes leaves in a huff. Lind says when he saw the news on television he knew it had to be Holmes. The group becomes paranoid and begins to close ranks. Nobody gets into the house unless buzzed up. They have to keep a low profile. Holmes is the only one who knows about the Nash hit. He is the one who let Nash in and “got my butterfly killed.” When Holmes is all fucked up in bed with his girlfriend, she asks why four people are dead in a house that he’d talked about and taken her to before? Holmes is so fucked up he can’t really give a straight answer. Women are totally ineffectual in this film. 

LAPD breaks into the motel room and now Dawn is in for questioning. In a flashback, Dawn takes on an alias and goes into The Arab’s house and says, “What do you want me to do?” The Arab says to dance. The women in this film have no agency, no weapons, no thoughts, no free will, no vote. Holmes waits in the car freaking out because he’s sent his girl into no man’s land. The Arab says, “Touch me.” Despite this flashback, Dawn tells the cops she’s never met The Arab. Dawn and Holmes go to the motel. He is scrubbing her in a bathtub with bubbles. Drug addicts don’t usually have the wherewithal to stop at Walgreens for bubble bath.  Obviously, she didn’t just dance. She was violated in some way because she is being scrubbed with hot water and soap and she is staring as if disassociated.

July, 1981 Newspaper headlines. Lisa Kudrow  (Sharon Holmes) finally shows up. She’s reading the headlines in her house. Opens door to find Dawn and her dog. Kudrow is not happy to find Dawn has nowhere else to go. Sharon is mad at Dawn for still being with this loser creep. Dawn says she did get away when she went to Oregon. “I was a nurse, kind of like you.” I had a job, but he kept calling. Okay, here’s what psychos do. She is explaining to Sharon (her sister? The connection has not been established) that Holmes used to call every night. He used to call my mom every night and say, “Tell Dawn I love her. Tell Dawn goodnight.” He used to call every night. So eventually I took his calls. This is what weak women do when they date addicts. The advice Sharon gives her is put all the bad things in a box then you put them away and you get away. One of the detectives is going to take these two women to see Holmes. Why? One of my weak points in movie watching is getting easily confused with timelines. So, if we go forward in time, then backward in time, then we are current, followed by backward then forwards, I get confused. So I don’t know where in the timeline we are now. I know that some shit has gone down and these two women are with the detective. Maybe the detective is in real-time and they are going to see Holmes. Holmes and Sharon meet. Sharon says they have offered her a deal and she thinks she is going to take it. Is Sharon the first woman who has any sense in this movie? Holmes is trying to convince her that they can go into the witness protection program and run away. She says she doesn’t want to fucking run away with him. What the fuck are you talking about? “Are you going to fucking cry? Don’t cry, John.” OMG, they are married! No wonder Kudrow took this role. She is the first woman who has any gumption and point of view in the entire movie. Finally!

Old friend Bill comes in. Maybe an ex-cop? He comes to question Holmes in a separate room while other detectives listen in. Holmes says Lind is the liar, not him. OMG, I think Paris Hilton is on this yacht. This is where Eddie Nash introduces himself. “This is my boat!” This is Holmes’s first meeting with Nash. Flashback to Holmes trying to make a gun deal with Nash but Nash refusing. This is an alternate story of events where Holmes is with the group about to hit The Arab’s house. He is in the backseat and they create the map of the house. He doesn’t want to go in (contrary to the earlier related events). Holmes is giving an alternate story to what we’ve seen so far. The group wants Holmes to unlock the kitchen door and he does. In this alternate story, the group who comes back after the hit is trumpeting their success, answering the phone, telling everybody, using the drugs, living it up. Another Natural Born Killers knockoff scene of chaos where a girl punk band is blasting. The scene speeds and speeds.

Holmes calls Nash (after the hit?) and acts casual. Hey man, what’s going on? The Arab says come on up. Now when Holmes goes there they all know or suspect he was involved in the heist so they beat him up. The robbers do drugs all during the robbery and on the way out someone says, “John Holmes says hello.” The Arab is holding Holmes hostage and is looking up the addresses of his family members. “When they’re dead, I’m going to cut off your fourteen-inch cock and shove it down your throat until you are dead. You are going to do to those guys on Wonderland what they did to me.” 

After all this goes down, Holmes returns to his delinquent friends and says hello. Let me in. He does a couple lines and when he goes out he leaves the door ajar. Holmes lies for all the rest of the questioning session. No, I didn’t see them go in. No, I didn’t see them in the car outside. (From flashbacks we know he is lying.) Were you present during the murders? No, no, no. He doesn’t finger Nash and he doesn’t put himself at the scene. The detectives begin to piece together that Holmes set this whole thing up: a revenge murder that he wasn’t involved in. Sharon is willing to pay Holmes off to get him out of her life. She gets Dawn her dog back and gives Holmes money and is like, good riddance. Another flashback: Holmes drives to Sharon’s house in the middle of the night, his shirt red with blood. She discovers he has no wounds; it’s not his blood. Holmes confesses he killed (who?) so The Arab would not get her name…his black book. He insists he left before anything happened. We get backstory between Holmes and his wife and why they broke up. She loved him, but when he discovered that his dick could make him money he decided porn over her. That is where the whole thing broke up. In the flashback, Holmes goes to the house and is the one who, with a gun to his head, beats Ronnie’s wife. She ends up in the hospital.

End of movie script: “John Holmes and Dawn fled to Florida under assumed names. Holmes was arrested in Florida six months later and stood trial on four counts of murder. He never took the stand and was acquitted of all charges. He died of AIDS in 1988. David Lind served as lead witness in the state’s prosecution of John Holmes and Eddie Nash. Both trials ultimately ended in acquittals. Sharon Holmes was never asked to testify against her husband. After John’s death, she revealed that John had visited her the morning of the Wonderland murders. She maintains a close relationship with Dawn to this day. Susan Lenias survived significant injuries. She testified to remembering nothing more than shadows that night. Her whereabouts are unknown.” We see a car driving crazily into the desert. “Dawn Schiller escaped with John to Florida. She reported his whereabouts to authorities six months later and never saw him again. She has just finished a book about her experiences and lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter. Eddie Nash was indicted in 2000. He pled guilty to federal racketeering. Charges including conspiracy to commit the Wonderland murders the night of July 1, 1981 and was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. He currently resides in the greater Los Angeles area a free man.”  

A Hard Day’s Night: Movie Review

A Hard Day’s Night: Disc 1 Collector’s Series [rented disc from Netflix]

A review

1964  Directed by Richard Lester and often considered his best film

Comedy  Black and white  1 hour 32 minutes  Rated G

Starring: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Wilfrid Brambell 

    I don’t often choose a movie that is purely a showcase of talent, but that is the simple premise of A Hard Day’s Night. I quickly realized I wasn’t waiting on a plot to formulate; instead, I was merely asked to sit back and take in the mania and glory that was the Beatles. This movie came out before I was born so although I grew up with the Beatles, I did not go through the teen freakout of the 1960s that was Beatlemania. Viewing the movie today allows current pop culture explorers insight to the elements that made the band so beloved.

For current music lovers this movie is a great example of what “mania” really meant back in the day. The screaming girls often drowned out the songs they came to hear. One of the tropes of musical mania is a voracious mob of teen girls chasing their male idols in such a way that can amount to real pain! In the opening scene the band is running from a frenzied mob and Harrison bites the sidewalk in an obviously unplanned heap. The band duck, weave and hide in order to outwit their fans and end up escaping by train. We also see young teen girls losing their minds during the culminating “show” with close ups of their tears and hair pulling. They wave their scarves in a desperate plea for eye contact. This is a clear window through which modern music lovers can gaze at mania history and see how our mothers and grandmothers used to go insane. Although there is an innocence in that the girls are not up-ending bottles of Jack Daniel’s or passing joints around, there is a strong vibe of being totally unhinged and out of their minds. (The same thing happened to me when I saw Shaun Cassidy in the ‘70’s. I cried all the way home and didn’t know why. I know of what I speak.) Point is, these gals were rabid and would probably tear their idols limb from limb and scurry away with the pieces to place at religious altars to pop music to worship forevermore. A fellow viewer who was equally bowled over by the fanatical energy asked, “What do they hope to gain from this [chasing and pounding on escaping car windows]?” The only idea I could manage was, “A kiss?” More realistically (but totally unrealistically) the girls were most likely ardently wishing that their Beatle of choice would take one look at them, swoon, scurry her away to a gothic castle at which time he would get on bended knee to ask for her hand in marriage. Oh, she’s only thirteen? No worries; we’ll have a long engagement. That the members of the group were at least ten years their senior made no discernible difference to the fans. In a way it is creepy, yet it has been this way since time began. 

Another element the movie provides for young lusties is close up shots of their idols. When you are young and in love, you just can’t get enough of the images of your beloved. A Hard Day’s Night does not disappoint with director Richard Lester really getting the camera in close to revel in every drop of sweat and every tweak of the eyebrow. If young girls of the day could have only paused the movie they would have sat staring and crying while their parents and brothers left to eat dinner. The up close and personal approach is multiplied in one scene in which McCartney is singing and his cute little head is copied and repeated down the line as he sits next to multiple televisions. An added bonus comes at the end of the movie when a variety of headshots is displayed of each of the band members. Each band member sports a black turtleneck against a white backdrop and employs various expressions across multiple shots. The close up clarity and excellence of these photos may have caused a swoon or two while credits were rolling. I suppose movie theater staff had to call some parents for assistance at that point.

The peripatetic plot takes place over the course of two days while the band, one grandpa, and a couple managers travel to perform for a television audience. On the way we get to know each band member and as a bonus, they often spontaneously break into song. Getting to know them is pure pleasure. Although these guys were not trained actors, they have a natural feel and cadence to their dialogue and actions. I haven’t taken the time to look up and watch Beatles interviews from the past so I did not have a feel for each man’s personality. Each is comedic in his own way. The mood is light, fun and fast-paced. Wilfrid Brambell (he of gargantuan teeth and bespectacled shifty eyes) plays McCartney’s grandfather who, for unknown reasons, accompanies the group on their way to perform the TV appearance. One at first supposes he is there to play the straight man but we quickly learn he is cheeky and twisted in quite a different way than the others. One of the themes is that the band (and Grandpa) cannot be kept in hand; they are always running off like errant children with ADD. Supposed to be answering fan mail? No. They end up at a club dancing and drinking. Supposed to be prepping for the TV show? No. They have lost Ringo and are off to find him. The police, managers and television production crew play the exasperated “adults” who are continually aggravated by the group’s shenanigans.

The scene in which Grandpa is giving Ringo life advice is my favorite part of the movie and perhaps the only real conversation we can explore. They both end up at a diner where Ringo quietly sits reading a book. Grandpa, with his famous (and creepy) side eye, begins, “Would ya look at ‘em? Sitting there with his hooter scraping away at that book.” 

Ringo asks, “Well, what’s the matter with that?” 

Grandpa yanks the book from Ringo’s hands and asks, “Have ya no natural resources of your own? Have they even robbed you of that?”

“You can learn from books,” Ringo says, snatching the book back.

“You can, can ya? Bah. Sheeps’ heads. You could learn more by getting out there and living.”

“Like where?”

“Any old where! But not our little Richard…oh, no. When you’re not thumpin’ those pagan skins you’re tormenting your eyes with that rubbish.”

“Books are good.”

“Parading’s better.”

“Parading?”

“Ah! Parading the streets, trailing your coat, bowling along…LIVING!”

“Well, I am living.”

“You? Living? When was the last time you gave a girl a pink-edged daisy? When did you last embarrass a sheila with your cool appraising stare?”

“You’re a bit old for that sort of chat, aren’t ya?”

“Well at least I got a backlog of memories when all you got is that book!”

Ringo fights back. “Oh, stop picking on me. You’re as bad as the rest of ‘em.”

“Ah, so you are a man after all.”

“What’s that mean?”

Grandpa states, “Do you think I haven’t noticed? Do you think I wasn’t aware of the drift?” [This scene is enhanced by Grandpa moving about the diner in search of sugar while he doles out his advice.] “Oh, ya poor unfortunate scruff. They’ve driven ya into books with their cruel, unnatural treatment. Exploiting your good nature.”

“I don’t know.”

“Ah, sure, that lot’s never happy unless they’re jeering you. And where would they be without the steady support of your drumbeat? That’s what I’d like to know.”

Ringo agrees, “Yeah, that’s right.”

“And what’s it all come to in the end?”

Ringo beginning to turn, “Yeah. What’s in it for me?”

“A book.”

Ringo throws the book on the table. “Yeah. A bloomin’ book.”

“When you could be out there betraying a rich American widow or sipping palm wine in Tahiti before you’re too old like me.”

“Yeah, funny really, ‘cause I never thought but being middle aged and old takes up most of your time, doesn’t it?”

With a sad expression Grandpa says, “You’re only right.”

Ringo picks up his stuff and heads for the door. Grandpa asks, “Where you going?”

“I’m going parading before it’s too late.”

Out of ten stars I would give this a solid eight, especially if you are into pop music history, teenage mania and Merseyside/Liverpool-ish/”Scouse” dialect. Recommended.

Synopsis with light commentary and dialogue:

The movie opens with the band being chased through the streets until they escape by train. We discover their cute accents. We get our first evidence of magical realism letting us know that this story is in no way nonfiction. We see the guys leering inside a train window from outside the moving car; seconds later they reappear inside. We see a train passenger reading a Son of Mad magazine. Ringo says he plays the drums to make up for his short stature. They lock Grandpa in the luggage area, deal cards, then are suddenly playing a song with instruments that magically appear.

Next they arrive at a fancy hotel. Ringo asks if he snores. Paul says, “With a trombone like that it wouldn’t be natural if you didn’t.” Grandpa chides, “Paulie, don’t mock the afflicted. It may be a joke, but it’s his nose. He can’t help his great big hooter…and the poor little head tremblin’ under the weight of it.” The band manager commands them to stay in and answer pounds of fan mail, but the guys escape to a club while Grandpa finds a gambling hall. The manager has to round everyone up. Lennon ends up in a bubble bath with his hat on. When the water is let out John walks out of the bathroom perfectly dry. 

The band has a press conference where they are asked only dumb questions. A stage is being prepared but the guys perform a song before everything is ready. It miraculously sounds perfect. Instead of getting ready in the dressing room, the guys take the fire escape. These days they would use a drone, but there is a long shot from above that watches the guys run around an open green area. The manager laments that it is “a battle of nerves between John and me.” Everyone smokes cigarettes.

Next we see Harrison wander into a fashion office but says fashion is “grotty” and that trendsetters are “a drag.” Grandpa has a money making scheme by taking the band’s promotional photos, signing them, then selling them on the street. The band has no patience for wardrobe fittings or makeup. There is a great shot with Paul singing with multiple TV screens focused on his face. The Beatles knock a dance troupe off the stage to do another song. They have a one hour break. Lennon leaves with a girl. Now that Grandpa has filled Ringo’s head with “notions” they don’t know where to find him. Ringo is out on the town taking pictures. He buys thrift clothes for disguise and plays near the water. He talks with a boy who is skipping school then Ringo becomes a troublemaker at a pub and gets thrown out. The stage manager is freaking out: where is Ringo? He is found by the police and taken to the station. Grandpa is brought in too. (That’s what they get for parading.) The general consensus is that “all coppers are villains”, but then the cops offer their prisoners tea. Grandpa, with his wiley ways, escapes the cops and goes to tell the manager where to find Ringo. They make it just in time for the cure all: a cup of tea and then on to the show.

The Beatles perform three songs and break a sweat. We see long shots and close shots of the screaming female audience; not a boy in sight. With the fourth song Grandpa escapes his handcuffs and the theater. The band runs straight from the show to a waiting helicopter. The movie ends with headshots of each of the band members. They are all taken with a white background. Each band member sports a black turtleneck and employs various expressions. These are excellent photos.

The songs that we get to hear during the movie sound excellent and appear as follows:

“A Hard Day’s Night”

“I Should Have Known Better”

“I Wanna Be Your Man”

“Don’t Bother Me”

“All My Loving”

“If I Fell”

“Can’t Buy Me Love”

“And I Love Her”

“I’m Happy Just to Dance with You”

A Ringo instrumental called “This Boy”

An instrumental of “A Hard Day’s Night”

A reprise of “Can’t Buy Me Love”

A reprise of “I Should Have Known Better”

“She Loves You”

And the reprise/closing credits of “A Hard Day’s Night” 

The Role of Fate in The House Behind the Cedars

Tiffany Akin

Dr. Menson-Furr

Engl 8328

27 Jan. 2010

 

Charles Chesnutt performs extraordinary feats within the story structure in The House Behind the Cedars: he creates deep and complicated characters, he grapples with social issues of race and prejudice, and he builds suspense throughout the story that propels the reader on to the next page.  One of the most interesting ideas that Chesnutt uses to create interest and drama within the story is the idea of Fate.  During the early part of the story the idea of Fate is more faint and abstract, but as the story deepens Chesnutt begins to use the word “Fate” at certain key moments in the story, leaving no doubt that Fate plays as strong a role as any human character in the story.  Due to the brevity of this format, we will only examine a few ways in which Fate twisted the love affair between George Tryon and Rena Walden in The House Behind the Cedars.

The relationship between Rena and George is the centerpiece of Chesnutt’s story.  The hand of Fate directs their relationship as early as their first encounter.  During the chapter entitled “The Tournament” the crowd is gathered to watch chivalrous men on horseback perform a series of skills of accuracy.  The crowd is going wild and the women are waving their handkerchiefs.  As Fate would have it, Rena’s handkerchief escapes her grip and it flies up into the air.  George spots the flying cloth and scoops it up with his lance before it even touches the ground.  The rider then returns the handkerchief to Rena which, unknowingly for the couple, binds the two of them together for life.  If George had not spotted the errant cloth or some other young man had made the same gesture, things would have evolved differently in both of their lives.

A second twist of Fate occurs at the end of the chapter entitled “Doubts and Fears.”  Rena has been discussing “coming out” with her brother and they decide to surreptitiously test the waters with Tryon by asking sideways questions regarding what he may feel about the black race.  Rena and Tryon are discussing marriage when she points at her nephew’s black nurse and asks, “Would you love me if I were Albert’s nurse yonder?”  Although Rena is referring to the color of the nurse, George receives the question in a totally different light; his answer in the positive refers to the nurse’s job, not her color.  While George feels it would be perfectly fine to marry a nurse and take her away from such drudgery, Rena thinks his affirmative answer means “it would make no difference with him…” (326).   This misunderstanding, or twist of Fate, prompts Rena to answer “yes” to George’s proposal and the next set of circumstances is set into motion.

A precursor to one of the most devastating twists of Fate occurs when Rena begins to have dreams that her dear mother is ill.  Rena has been preparing for her wedding to George, but at the same time she has a series of dreams in which her mother becomes more and more sick.  Due to these fateful dreams, Rena leaves on the eve of her wedding, headed to Patesville to nurse her mother back to health.  If she had not gone Molly may have died, yet Rena’s secret would have been safe… even more secure than when Molly was alive.  Later in the story Chesnutt refers back to the dreams:  “If she had not been sick, Rena would not have dreamed the fateful dream that had brought her to Patesville…” (398).

The most excruciating twist of Fate occurs when both George and Rena are in Patesville at the same time.  Both Judge Straight and Rena’s old friend Frank understand the relevance of having the two lovers running amok in the small town at the same time.  As the two men are busy trying to find and reign in Rena, she is fatefully running around town performing errands for her mother.  They cannot find her soon enough to save her.  Dr. Green and George are together in the doctor’s cart.  As the doctor hops down to perform some task he tells George that if he wants to see a good looking woman he should look inside the drugstore.  George does not even care that much but, just to pass the time, he takes a look.  The scene painted by Chesnutt when Rena steps out of the store is crushingly heartbreaking.  “She stood a moment as if turned to stone” (360).  If the hands of Fate had placed that young woman anywhere else that day she may have gotten away with marrying George and living happily ever after.  Yet would a life of hiding her heritage been carefree?  Perhaps that is to debate in another paper.

 

 

 

Ida B. Wells Project

English 8330

23 Mar 2011

        From her humble beginnings in Holly Springs, Mississippi, no one guesses that Ida B. Wells will grow up to be a revolutionary investigative journalist.  The circumstances of her childhood do not provide a solid platform upon which Wells can leap into a life of progressive thought and action. Her parents are both slaves and Wells is the oldest in a long line of eight siblings.  It is fortuitous that the young woman’s father sees fit to educate her because Wells spends the rest of her life educating others about the plight of the newly emancipated Negro. When her parents and younger brother die of yellow fever Wells is forced to quit school and take on a paying position as a teacher and in this way supports the entire family.  According to a timeline found on the Ida B. Wells Memorial Foundation website, in 1879 “[a]n aunt invites Ida to move to Memphis, Tennessee where she quickly finds and accepts a teaching position in the Shelby County school system.” As Wells works as a teacher she also begins editing small scale church newsletters which whet her appetite for the idea of disseminating information directly into black homes.

        One incident in particular not only provides an interesting first-person narrative for The Living Way newsletter, but also sparks Wells’ imagination to focus her writing on social change.  Wells has been a victim of the Jim Crow laws while riding the train. Wells writes about the fact that she “had sued the railroad company for attempting to expel her from the ladies’ car” (Gates & McKay, 676).  The topic is prescient, personal and interesting to her audience: it gives them a stake in the lawsuit’s outcome. (In 1887 the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned Wells’ former win against the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.)  Using the pen name “Iola” (probably adopted from a Frances Harper novel entitled Iola Leroy) Wells’ train/court stories “were reprinted in newspapers throughout the country” (Gates, 676).  Given a public forum in which to tell these stories increased Wells’ appetite for publicly renouncing obvious wrongs that occur on an hourly basis to the newly emancipated black contingent of U.S. citizenry.  Her next topic of scrutiny is the one that will not only get her run out of her home base of Memphis but will forever connect her name to a cause: U.S. anti-lynching laws.

        In her preface to Southern Horrors Wells seems to take up the pen with a heavy heart and gives an overview of her purpose: “Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against that sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so.  The awful death-roll that Judge Lynch is calling every week is appalling, not only because of the lives it takes, the rank cruelty and outrage to the victims, but because of the prejudice it fosters and the stain it places against the good name of a weak race” (25-6).  Writing about her experience with injustice on the train opens Wells’ eyes to an even more insidious and widespread injustice taking place around her; one that is sanctioned by law: the act of lynching. During these dark days mobs regularly gather to capture and hang someone from a tree whom they feel has committed an offense or broken a societal law.  When Wells learns of the lynching of people she actually knows she begins to turn her considerable writing skills toward activism against lynching. Little does Ida B. Wells recognize that her decision to use the press in service of protecting the rights of her race and pointing the finger directly at offenders will set a groundbreaking precedent that would carry on within the ink of newspaper print for generations to come.

        In order to understand the importance of Wells’ decision to make use of the press to bring to light social injustice, we must first get our footing in the rhetorical situation of her day.  When Wells begins writing the United States has just undergone a little more than a decade of reconstruction after the Civil War. Yet simply because the blacks are no longer enslaved does not mean our nation’s troubles instantaneously disappear.  “With slavery officially outlawed, the white south moved quickly to protect its interests by codifying the very white supremacist ideology that had undergirded the chattel slave system” (Gates, 543). Wells experiences the Jim Crow laws such as blacks and whites having to travel in separate train cars.  In 1883 the U.S. Supreme Court rules that congress can regulate only state action regarding racial discrimination, not private action. In the years 1888-9 one hundred and sixty-three Negroes are lynched along with one hundred and forty-four whites. Disenfranchisement begins with the “Mississippi Plan.”  According to information found in a timeline of African American history provided by the National Humanities center, in order “[t]o minimize the number of black voters, Mississippi institutes a literacy test, a poll tax, and the ‘grandfather clause’” and during the next two decades “most Southern states pass similar laws.”  

        Thirty-five years before Wells is born the first attempt to run a black newspaper is made by Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm.  They run Freedom’s Journal for two years which then becomes The Rights of All which only lasts two more years.  About forty-two years before Wells sets up shop, Frederick Douglass resolves to launch his own newspaper, The North Star.  “In part Douglass wanted to prove that a black run newspaper could succeed; in part he needed a forum from which to express himself freely, without consulting his former mentors…”(Gates, 386).  All of these shifting circumstances are morphing the social and political landscape in the day of Ida B. Wells. It was in 1889 that “Wells becomes part owner of the black-run Memphis newspaper, The Free Speech and Headlight and continues to write under the pen name Iola” (Ida B. Wells Memorial Foundation).  Wells runs and writes for the paper for three years before an incident occurs that will change not only Wells’ life, but her legacy forever.

        According to the Wells Foundation timeline, on March 9th, 1892, “three friends of Wells—Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and William Steward—were lynched outside of Memphis.  The three men owned and operated a store called the People’s Grocery, a business the competed successfully with a white-owned store nearby.”  These incidents so shock and enrage Wells that she tears off an incendiary indictment, using her newspaper as a platform to strongly denounce the practice of lynching.  She recognizes that Southern people will often say lynching is used as a punishment against black men that rape white women when Wells knows this to be an outright lie. Her first anti-lynching editorial uses such sure and strong language that it sends (probably the same) white mob into frenzy and they burn the news office to the ground.  Ms. Wells is advised to never return to Memphis. A more direct form of censorship do not exist, yet the threat to life and limb do not dissuade Wells from her anti-lynching campaign. The timeline states: “Wells begins to investigate the lynching phenomenon from New York where she writes for the African-American newspaper, the New York Age.  Her findings are complied and published in the fall in a story titled Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.

Some of the particulars of her findings written in the above book are as follows: 

  1.  That lynching may be claimed to be a punishment for rape, but many white women use the accusation of rape in order to cover up an affair or explain giving birth to a mulatto child.
  2. That though rape is often proffered as the reason for the lynching, any numbers of reasons (or none at all) have been given as sufficient to hang a person.  Wells is fond of using lists and lines up lynching statistics for any given year. Beside the number of those lynched there is a reason given for that particular hanging.  Some of the reasons on record are: no cause, unknown cause, mistaken identity, bad reputation, giving evidence, refusing to give evidence and unpopularity.
  3. That the white press is only making things worse.
  4. That “[t]here is little difference between the Antebellum South and the New South” (47).
  5. That “[t]he white man’s dollar is his god, and to stop this will be to stop outrages in many localities” (50).

        As mentioned earlier, Wells has consequences occur due to her truth-seeking.  Her business is burned to the ground and she cannot return to her adopted hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.  Yet Wells escapes with her life and from new posts up North she continues to write and rally against racism.  She protests the lack of African American participation in the Chicago World’s Fair. She helps found the National Association of Colored Women and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  In information found in the Ida B. Wells Memorial Foundation timeline, in 1913 Wells “turn[s] her reformist energies towards winning the vote for all African-Americans; particularly women. She forms the first suffrage club for black women in the state of Illinois; the Alpha Suffrage Club.“  In 1931 Wells dies in Chicago, yet her creativity in using the medium of the newspaper as a tool for social reform sets the stage for decades of media pioneers to follow.

        The activism and writing of Wells carries the country well into the Harlem Renaissance which lasted roughly from 1919-1940.  “In particular, the second half of the decade witnessed an outpouring of publications by African Americans that was unprecedented in its variety and scope” (Gates 953).  Harlem, New York appears during these years as the African American artistic capital of the world. Blacks begin to be published by the “establishment” publishers, the housing conditions are better than in the south and there is an explosion in every form of art from the writing of plays to the expansion of jazz, the celebration of dance and the emergence of new cultural and political goals.  We can see Wells’ influence on men of the Renaissance who are eager to own and run their own African American newspapers. From Charles Johnson to Marcus Garvey, the new African fully exercises the power of the pen by disseminating information, collecting stories, poetry and artwork and relishing the power of creating their own propaganda. “Of these, the most important was almost certainly the Crisis, edited by the brilliant scholar…W.E.B. Du Bois…” (Gates, 955).  Du Bois and Wells are connected through the NAACP: Wells helps found the organization and Du Bois launches the Crisis as a mouthpiece for the group.  Just as Wells is forced to migrate northward in order to carry on her work, Du Bois also suffers negative consequences due to using printed media to further his leftist politics.  The repayment for speaking his mind is “his forced retirement from Atlanta University in 1944 and his firing in 1948 by the NAACP from his position as director of special research” (Gates, 688).  Wells’ anti-lynching campaign morphed into Du Bois’ anti-nukes campaign and the U.S. government tries to indict him as a “subversive agent.” Even though the charges do not stick, Du Bois kind of becomes a man alone on a desert island although this isolation does not deter him from speaking his truth.

        There is a link connecting the times and people of the Harlem Renaissance to the age of modern African American journalism and his name is Thomas Fleming.  Mr. Fleming is “the longtime executive editor of Reporter Publishing Company, Northern California’s leading chain of African American newspapers” (Millard).  While the Harlem Renaissance proper is winding down on the east coast Mr. Fleming is gearing up for a life-long vocation in journalism in San Francisco. He is founding editor for the Reporter newspaper and for years writes, on average, three articles a week and in the spirit of Ida B. Wells, he tends to focus on human rights.  Through his work with the newspaper Fleming has the opportunity to meet other men of letters that keep African American progress foremost in the writing of their day.  Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes and others are the types of prolific movers and shakers that inspire and influence the journalism of Fleming. One of his articles entitled “Marcus Garvey Comes to Harlem” provides historians with a direct link from early twentieth century newspapermen to those of more recent times.  Yet our linking connections from Ida B. Wells to the Harlem Renaissance to Fleming would not be complete without one last backward glance to African American journalism during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.

        As Fleming is writing in San Francisco, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is writing about his experience as a pastor in the south and how he becomes a vocal advocate for the idea and practice of nonviolent resistance.  Dr. King is influenced by Gandhi and shares his philosophy that “…no individual or group need submit to any wrong, nor need they use violence to right the wrong; there is the way of nonviolent resistance. This is ultimately the way of the strong man” (102).  King brings our story full circle back to Memphis, Tennessee where he, another African American activist and writer, is being “punished” for having the guts to confront social problems in America. As Martin Luther King Jr. is being shot down at the Lorraine Motel in 1968 a newspaperman by the name of Earl Caldwell stands by his side.  Just as Ida B. Wells has been witness to the lynching of her grocery store-owning neighbors, seventy-six years later Caldwell is a journalist witnessing the racial hatred and confusion that continues into the Age of Aquarius.  

        Civil Rights activists and journalists alike know that Caldwell covers the activities of the Black Panther party and is writing his pieces for the New York Times.  According to information found through the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, Caldwell is the center of a mighty struggle between himself as a journalist keeping his sources confidential, and the federal government’s attempts to confiscate Caldwell’s personal notes and research.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. As Tiffany Shepard learned in her personal interview with Caldwell during her stint at Hampton University, the Supreme Court ruling “resulted in a landmark First Amendment decision on reporter’s rights to protect confidential sources. ‘The ruling was unanimous.  The court ruled that the First Amendment protected a reporter’s information, notes and confidential sources, ‘said Caldwell, ‘and it protected the reporting process.’” Unlike all of the journalists examined previously in the paper, Earl Caldwell was never run out of town or out of business. It is some relief to see that with the passage of time and America’s tentative steps toward racial equality that Caldwell is still teaching and writing about civil rights.  Bringing media all the way into the digital age, we can see from Earl Caldwell’s’ Facebook page that he “is writer-in-residence at the Robert C. Maynard Institute” mentioned earlier in this piece.  

        A Facebook page is a long way from the days of a small Negro newspaper co-owned by Ida B. Wells in 1889.  By keeping her eyes open and her mind analyzing Wells is able to bring forth the discussion of race and rights and use journalism as a tool to bring these issues to the public.  Wells set the precedent, and set it with such a high bar that her shoes are quite difficult to fill. Yet we see people step forth, people such as W.E.B. Du Bois during the Harlem Renaissance, Thomas Fleming bridging the gap and Earl Caldwell bringing us into the age of Martin Luther King and the Black Panthers during the Civil Rights era and beyond.  Newspapers and in-the-moment journalism keep the world ever-present with the changing and prescient issues of our day. Thanks to Ida B. Wells, the tradition of truth-telling through journalism has been an exciting and often terrifying journey that all Americans are privileged to experience.
Works Cited

Gates, Henry and Nellie McKay.  Introduction. A Red Record. By Ida B. Wells-Barnett.  The Norton Anthology of African American Literature.  W. W. Norton and Company, New York: 676.

King, Martin Luther.  Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story.  Harper and Row Inc. 101-107.

Millard, Max.  “Thomas Fleming, ‘Good Soldier’ of San Francisco’s Black Press, Retires from Sun-Reporter at 89.” Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco.  28 July 1997.  www.sfmuseum.org/sunreporter/fleming.html.

Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. “The Caldwell Journals.” 2000. Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. Web. 23 Mar 2011. 

www.localcommunities.org

Shepard, Tiffany. Interview with Earl Caldwell. National Visionary Leadership Project. 2006.  http://www.visionaryproject.org/caldwellearl.

The Making of African American Identity. “Timeline: 1860-1920.” Volume II: 1865-1917. Jan 2006. National Humanities Center. 15 Mar 2011.

<nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/maai2/index.htm>.

Wells-Barnett, Ida B. Preface. Southern Horrors. By Ida Be. Wells-Barnett. On Lynchings. Humanity Books, New York: 25-6, 47, 50.

Wells, Ida B. (family). Ida B. Wells Memorial Foundation. 22 April 2010. Web. 21 Mar     2010. http://www.idabwells.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article.

 

W.E.B. Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk

Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

Is the book a coherent whole or a set of disparate essays? Explain.

After examining the themes of each individual chapter of The Souls of Black Folk I feel that instead of the text hanging together as one entire body, it more reflects different viewing points on one particular topic. Obviously, the progress of the African American was the one unifying topic that ran throughout the finished book.   I understand that Mr. Du Bois wrote all of these pieces as essays and was later asked if he would allow his essays to be collected into a book.  I can easily see the differences of mindset between the chapters.

In chapter one Du Bois asks how the race should progress and in what directions now that they have been emancipated?  In chapter two the aim is to understand and criticize the freedman’s bureaus and other emancipation agencies that were formed during that time.  In the same way, Du Bois examines and criticizes Booker T. Washington’s views in chapter three.  Chapter four completely switches gears by discussing the meaning of African American progress.  Skipping ahead to chapter seven, Du Bois writes from a unique amalgam of cartographer and sociologist while discussing the various Cotton Kingdoms in Georgia. Chapter twelve examines a true human character in Alexander Crummel while in the very next chapter Du Bois creates two fictitious peripatetic young men both named John who are forever changed by their color and education.  I would venture to say, and this is only a guess, that the forethought and afterthought, along with the chapter-opening sorrow-songs, were added as a coalescing element to the final form of the book.

Let us look for some type of grouping of these chapter topics.  What we find is some observations, ideas and guidance in the form of chapters 1, 4 and 9.  There are geographical studies in chapters 5 and 7.  There are examinations of those living in chapters 3 and 12.  Du Bois  gives a directive in chapter 6.  There are informative chapters in 8, 10 and 14.  In my opinion the chapters that most fall from form are 11 and 13.  Chapter eleven takes us to an extremely personal space with Du Bois.  In this chapter we witness the birth and death of his child.  The only consolation Du Bois offers is that he feels death for his child would be preferable to his life behind the Veil.  “Better for this nameless void that stops my life than a sea of sorrow for you” (742).  Of the many difficult things Du Bois describes in vivid detail in his novel, “Of the Passing of the Firstborn,” in my opinion, is the most heart-wrenching.

The chapter that seems to fit the least, or makes its most awkward debut in the novel, is chapter 13, “The Coming of John.”  This, one supposes, is a fictional story of two young men, one black one white, both carrying the name of John.  Both go off to school, and upon returning home their lives are changed forever.  White John ends up raping black John’s sister, black John avenges his sister’s honor, killing White John, and in the end John Jones is hung for the murder.  Not only does the chapter stand out as a fictional piece, which does not play the role in any other parts of the novel, it is also a somewhat odd mixture of intellect and pathos that makes no one happy in the end (not that this is the goal).

 

Question two: discuss philosophical differences between Du Bois and Washington

I find the philosophical differences between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington interesting because these two vantage points give the reader a window into the multi-faceted struggle of the emancipated black race.  Du Bois devotes Chapter Three in The Souls of Black Folk to discussing Washington’s “…programme of industrial education, conciliation of the South, and submission and silence as to civil and political rights…” (699).  As one can easily tell from the variety and depth of Du Bois’ writing, the man was highly educated and won a scholarship to Yale as well as a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin.  Perhaps because he well understood the intellectual levels that could be attained by an African American, he seemed to sneer at Washington because he felt Booker T. had allowed commercialism to kill his fire for higher education.  Further, Du Bois feels that Washington’s “…educational programme was unnecessarily narrow” (700).  Du Bois chafed against the idea that the freedmen should study mostly industrial arts and concentrate on the accumulation of wealth; he felt everyone should be able to acquire the type of education that would take a student as far as their abilities and desires would take him.  Du Bois solidly believed in college and university-level aspirations that were within the grasp of the new aged black man and he disagreed with anyone steering them away from such untapped possibility.

Du Bois also did not find value in Washington’s philosophy of submission to the white race.  In one way, Du Bois felt that this submission “overlooked certain elements of true manhood” (700).  Du Bois also felt that the idea of allowing the white man to believe he was still running the show was an outdated way of handling this new found freedom in America.  Not only that, by working within the former paradigm of one race being submissive to the other, Washington was by default admitting that his own race was inferior.  Naturally, if one believes they are equal to another they will not stand for any form of degradation or prejudice.  Du Bois resides on the other side of the coin by believing that a man who demands respect will earn respect.  This point is very poignant for Du Bois as he says that Booker T. Washington is to be especially criticized for his leniency on the white race.  “His doctrine has tended to make the whites, North and South, shift the burden of the Negro problem to the Negro’s shoulders…” (707) while white America stands back and analyze the scene from afar.  Du Bois did not condone violence but felt the black race must insist on the “rights which the world accords to men… (708).

 

WORK CITED

 

Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk.  The Norton Anthology of African American       Literature. Henry Gates, Jr. ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2004.

Peter Singer

My students and I explored some of the works by philosopher Peter Singer. We read his chapter called “Rich and Poor”, his chapter entitled “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” and his book The Most Good You Can Do. What follows are our reading notes along with personal comments and ideas for writing. The title of each piece will appear followed by the page number of each reading note. Ideas for writing are indicated by the initials W.I. (for writing idea). The entire class contributed to these notes, so you may hear many voices and opinions while reading. Use these notes to learn more about Singer’s philosophies, the content of three of his works or for study notes.

 

Honors Comp II

Peter Singer

Reading to Write

 

  • Close reading at the word/sentence/paragraph level
  • Knowing what is an example of a larger point
  • Knowing which words in a sentence you can omit for clarity
  • Drawing the ideas
  • Using a dictionary
  • Taking thinking AND reading notes
  • What ideas are Singer’s and which are not
  • Philosophy requires patience and time to decipher

 

Writing Ideas

When you see a bullet point below with W.I. for “writing idea” this indicates there is something within the text you could take on for a quarterly project. 

  1.  If you like one of these ideas, place your last name in brackets under the idea of your choosing and tell us how you will tackle your writing idea. 
  2. You may come up with your own ideas. If so, place your last name within brackets at the point you see your “in” and indicate the topic you are going to explore. 
  3. As you become responsible for updating reading notes, use the bulleted W.I. technique to que others there is a germ of an idea for writing. When updating reading notes, use normal text arial 14 style/size font. Indicate titles and subheadings by following capitalization rules and set the title or subheading apart from the notes by one extra space. You will also be asked to make personal comments within the reading notes. Follow the last name in brackets technique to include your personal thoughts. Let’s set the gradebook to record two personal comments per article and chapter.

General writing ideas:

  • To what extent do you agree with the author
  • Exploring definitions
  • Google Scholar has vetted scholarly articles to help research

Peter Singer: Rich and Poor

Singer is the most famous ethicist in the world. His views on euthanasia and healthcare rationing make him one of the most controversial philosophers. He is an ardent Utilitarian.

Writing idea: what is a utilitarian? Where did this concept begin? Who else has written about utilitarian views? What utilitarian views are found in this Singer piece? 

Some Facts

Singer describes that hunger is a problem across the world. He uses some quotes from Robert McNamara, President of the World Bank.

          Writing idea (W.I.): Who is Robert McNamara and what has he written about world hunger?           

The concept of relative vs. absolute poverty

          W.I.: The economics of world hunger and food distribution

          W.I.: What other definitions of poverty can we find? Who is defining these terms?

          W.I.: Explore poverty across your own lifespan. What have you seen or endured? 

         W.I.: Poverty observed through travel  

Absolute poverty is poverty by any standard. Poverty at the absolute level…is life at the very margin of existence. As McNamara says “beneath any reasonable definition of human decency. Absolute poverty is responsible for the loss of countless lives, especially among infants and young children.” Malnutrition affects health, growth and learning capacity. It contributes to deficiency diseases. The food value is further reduced by hookworm and ringworms. Absolute poverty involves inadequate food, shelter, clothing, sanitation, health services and education. Something like 800 million people–almost 40% of the people of developing countries–live in absolute poverty. It no longer makes the news.

          W.I.: Create and film a news story on absolute poverty 

In America we produce grain to feed animals, but we do not send the grain to the people who are starving. People in rich countries are responsible for the consumption of far more food than those in poor countries who eat few animal products.

          W.I.: Explication: discover and explain this or other forms of food insufficiency and distribution problems

Solution: If we stopped feeding animals on grains, soybeans and fishmeal the amount of food saved would–if distributed to those who need it–be more than enough to end hunger throughout the world. The problem is essentially one of distribution rather than production. The poorer nations themselves could produce far more if they made more use of improved agricultural techniques. So why are people hungry? Poor people cannot afford to buy grain grown by American farmers. Poor farmers cannot afford to buy improved seeds, or fertilizers, or the machinery needed for drilling wells and pumping water.

          W.I.: Is there a codified hierarchy of poverty? Who created it? When? Have others created different categories?

A solution is to transfer wealth, product and tolls to those in need. “Absolute affluence” is affluence by any reasonable definition of human needs. They can spend money on luxuries. Its defining characteristic is a significant amount of income above the level necessary to provide for the basic human needs of oneself and one’s dependents. He lists countries who could help with poverty; who have enough to share. He follows with the percentage of income they actually share.

The Moral Equivalent of Murder?

If these are the facts, we cannot avoid concluding that by not giving more than we do, people in rich countries are allowing those in poor countries to suffer. If, then, allowing someone to die is not intrinsically different from killing someone, it would seem that we are all murderers.

[Observe that the paragraph after the next really begins the philosophical question. We are going down a road of thought to see where it will go.]

How is a murderer different from a big spender?

A murderer acts with malice; a big spender acts with indifference.

It is very difficult to obey a rule which commands us to save all the lives we can. Although it is difficult, not doing so still results in death. We are allowing some to die who might have been saved. Saving every life would require a degree of moral heroism utterly different from what is required by mere avoidance of killing.

With murder, there is certainty of harm. To give leads to an uncertainty of it helping. Singer says it like this: a third difference between a murderer and a big spender is the greater certainty of the outcome of shooting when compared with not giving aid.

Fourth, when people are shot there are identifiable individuals who have been harmed. When I buy my color television, I cannot know who my money would have saved if I had given it away. (You know who you have shot vs. an unknown recipient of help.)

A murderer is responsible for a death whereas the big spender is not responsible for hunger.

Singer goes deeper into analysis of the murderer vs. the big spender and asks if these attitudes are justified. Knowingly poisoning itself is reprehensible even if we don’t know who we kill. The lack of knowing how the money will be used is not a sufficient reason not to give.

          W.I. Is there an entire theory of consequentialism? Research.

If a consequence of my spending money on a luxury item is that someone dies, I am responsible for that death. Consequentialists will say that as a result of living in today’s world we are responsible for today’s world.

Non-consequentialists have a theory of rights.

          W.I. Explore the works of John Locke or Robert Nozick regarding non-consequentialism

Yes, individuals dwelling only in their own worlds cannot harm others, but that is not how the real world works. If we consider people living together in a community, it is less easy to assume that rights must be restricted to rights against interference. If you have a right to life, so does the other. Despite a lack of malice, those who kill deserve not only blame but also severe punishment.

          W.I.: Do you believe the above statement? If you kill accidentally or without forethought, planning or malice, should you be punished as much as the reverse?

Not to kill is a minimum standard of acceptable conduct we can require of everyone, to save all one could possibly is not something that can realistically be required.

The Obligation to Assist: The Argument for an Obligation of Assist

If it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance, we ought to do it. Although this sounds solid, we don’t follow this principle by helping people in poverty.

Most non-consequentialists hold that we ought to prevent what is bad and promote what is good. I assume that absolute poverty, with its hunger and malnutrition, lack of shelter, illiteracy, disease, high infant mortality and low life expectancy, is a bad thing. And I assume that it is within the power of the affluent to reduce absolute poverty, without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance.

Not to help would be wrong, so helping is something everyone ought to do.

This is the argument for an obligation to assist:

First premise: If we can prevent something bad without sacrificing anything of comparable significance, we ought to do it.

Second premise: Absolute poverty is bad.

Third premise: There is some absolute poverty we can prevent without sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance.

Conclusion: We ought to prevent some absolute poverty.

          W.I.: What is universalizability? How does it relate to world hunger?

Then Singer argues with his own argument!

Objections to the Argument: Taking Care of Our Own

Some people will ask why help those overseas when we need to help people here first. Singer says the question is not what we usually do, but what we ought to do, and it is difficult to see any sound moral justification for the view that distance, or community membership, makes a crucial difference to our obligations.

To allow one’s own kin to sink into absolute poverty would be to sacrifice something of comparable significance; and before that point had been reached, the breakdown of the system of family and community responsibility would be a factor to weigh the balance in favor of a small degree of preference for family and community. This small degree of preference is, however, decisively outweighed by existing discrepancies in wealth and property. 

Property Rights

Do we have the right to not share our private property?

          W.I.: See here Thomas Aquinas: what would he say?

          W.I.: How would a socialist answer this question?

A theory of property rights can insist on our right to retain wealth without pronouncing on whether the rich ought to give to the poor.

Population and the Ethics of Triage

In times of war with too few doctors the patients are divided into three categories: those who would probably survive without medical assistance, those who might survive if they received assistance, but otherwise probably would not, and those who even with medical assistance probably would not survive. We would aid those countries where our help might make the difference between success and failure in bringing food and population into balance.

If a country seems to fall into the third category of triage, should we assist them? Make an argument for or against

Population growth cannot be ignored and it cannot grow indefinitely. It will be checked by a decline in birth rates or a rise in death rats. Those who advocate triage are proposing that we allow the population growth of some countries to be checked by a rise in death rates–that is, by increased malnutrition, and related diseases; by widespread famines; by increased infant mortality and by epidemics of infectious diseases. The consequences of triage on this scale are so horrible that we are inclined to reject it without further argument.

By combining the triage theory and consequentialist ethics we find: only if the greater magnitude of the uncertain benefit outweighs its uncertainty should we choose it. The same principle applies when we are trying to avoid evils. The policy of triage involves a certain, very great evil: population control by famine and disease.

Singer makes suggestions regarding what we can do about population growth.

Population growth is therefore not a reason against giving overseas aid, although it should make us think about the kind of aid to give. Instead of food handouts, it may be better to give aid that hastens the demographic transition. The obligation to assist is not reduced. 

We have no obligation to assist countries whose governments have policies which will make our aid ineffective. We will help more people in the long run by using our resources where they are most effective.

Leaving It to the Government

I would agree that the governments of affluent nations should give much more genuine, no strings attached, aid than they give now. Refusing to give privately is wrong for the same reason that triage is wrong: it is a refusal to prevent a definite evil for the sake of a very uncertain gain. Singer suggests ways we can work with government.

          W.I.: Explore what government agencies are doing to help with overseas aid 

Too High a Standard?

If we were to set a more realistic standard, people might make a genuine effort to reach it. This setting a lower standard might actually result in more aid being given. It would mean that in order to do the maximum to reduce absolute poverty, we should advocate a standard lower than the amount we think people really ought to give. Of course we ourselves–those of us who accept the original argument, with its higher standard–would know that we ought to do more than we publicly propose people ought to do, and we might actually give more than we urge others to give. There is no inconsistency here, since in both our private and our public behavior we are trying to do what will most reduce absolute poverty.

What level should we advocate? A round percentage of one’s income…perhaps 10%.

Others may be able to give more without difficulty. No figure should be advocated as a rigid minimum or maximum; but it seems safe to advocate that those earning average or above average incomes in affluent societies, unless they have an unusually large number of dependents or other special needs, ought to give a tenth of their income to reducing absolute poverty. By any reasonable ethical standards this is the minimum we ought to do, and we do wrong if we do less.

V.9 Famine, Affluence, and Morality

269  It’s not an impossible idea to get rid of the poverty and destitution faced by millions.

On a personal/local level, people aren’t doing much 

          W.I.: Investigate the human tendency toward inaction

India will be forced to choose between letting the refugees starve or diverting funds from her own development program, which will mean that more of her own people will starve in the future.

270  There is nothing unique about this situation except it magnitude. Bengal is simply chosen as an example…this happens all the time.

(Singer’s thesis): What are the moral implications of a situation like this? In what follows, I shall argue that they way people in relatively affluent countries react to a situation like that in Bengal cannot be justified; indeed, the whole way we look at moral issues–our moral conceptual scheme–needs to be altered, and with it, the way of life that has come to be taken for granted in our society.

I begin with the assumption that suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad.

If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it.

If it were acted upon, our world would be fundamentally changed. The principle takes no account of proximity or distance. Secondly, the principle makes no distinction between cases in which I am the only person who could possibly do anything and cases in which I am just one among millions in the same position. We cannot discriminate against someone merely because he is far away.

A large part of what they should be doing as individuals is to try to convince the government to give more aid

Mentions we haven’t responded in any significant way, while he doesn’t define “significant”

If significant means give everything to refugees, poverty-stricken, etc. then that seems outrageous as it would just turn the formerly well off into the ones living In poverty. 

Large governments aren’t doing enough either

Even the most generous countries have only given enough money to support them for a few days.

Countries put more money into their own infrastructure and projects than foreign aid.   

This puts the home country in a bind between saving those in need today and further causing problems in the future or not helping the needy today and being more able to prevent and fix the problem in the future by having more money 

If we can help someone without doing something worse and making a huge sacrifice, it’s our job to do it.

By saying this, we should help everyone no matter where they are.

By someone being near us, it’s easier to help them and aid them as we can see what they need.

[271, 272]  We all have a moral responsibility. Why do we have to choose to save a life in another country opposed to our own country where millions are fighting hungry and don’t have a place to call home.

Now that there is world news and travel we can help those far as well as near  

Why must we seek attention more than anything? No one will act on their own free will. NO one takes actions when someone else is closer.

All people are equally responsible. We cannot count on everyone to give. By giving more than five I will prevent more suffering than I would if I gave just 5 dollars.

         W.I.: Write about how even one person’s action can make an enormous change.

If everyone does what he ought to do, the result will not be as good as it would be if everyone did a little less than he ought to do, if only some do all they ought to do. (It is best if everyone gives a little.) In order to know how much to give everyone would have to give the same amount at the same time.

“If it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything else morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it.”  

The result of everyone doing what he really ought to do cannot be worse than the result of everyone doing less than he ought to do. We see giving money as charity, not duty.

          W.I.: The difference between duty and charity

“Supererogatory” is an act which it would be good to do, but not wrong not to do. We ought to give money away, and it is wrong not do so.

         W.I.: We are more focused on getting new clothes and new cars than giving to charity and helping those in need.

The outcome of this argument is that our traditional moral categories are upset. The traditional distinction between duty and charity cannot be drawn.

         W.I.: What is your moral responsibility?

273 “It might, nevertheless, be interesting to consider why our society, and most other societies, do judge differently from the way I have suggested they should.” As a philosopher trying to spread his own views and ideas, he seems unable to derive from the idea of most people having good morals, and almost justifying anything less.

Singer mentions J. O. Urmson, a British utilitarian philosopher of the late 19th century. Utilitarianism is “an action is right if it tends to promote happiness and wrong if it tends to produce the reverse of happiness… one theory of utilitarianism is the theory of Justification of Punishment stands in opposition to the “retributive” theory, according to which punishment is intended to make the criminal “pay” for his crime. According to the utilitarian, the rationale of punishment is entirely to prevent further crime by either reforming the criminal or protecting society from him and to deter others from crime through fear of punishment.” Henry R. West britannica.com 

The moral point of view requires us to look beyond the interests of our own society.

The statement from J. O. Urmson’s article is this: “the imperatives of duty, which tell us what we must do, as distinct from what it would be good to do but not wrong to do, function so as to prohibit behavior that is intolerable if men are to live together in society.” 

The possibility that by spreading the idea that we ought to be doing very much more than we are to relieve famine we shall bring about a general breakdown of moral behavior seems remote. If the stakes are an end to widespread starvation, it is worth the risk.

Just as singer related his topic to another Philosopher/ Author I will do the same. In his book Social Problems: Second Edition Joel Best he describes Social Construction as the way people assign meaning to the world, such as which actions are considered “tolerable” in different societies and cultures. Even moral standards differ through cultures, this is another example of social construct. 

The conclusion, regardless of circumstances, remains that “we ought to be preventing as much suffering as we can without sacrificing [seems like the notes drop off here] 

Page 274 Part V Utilitarianism

Singer brings up the fact that, to a certain degree, most people are self-interested with very few of us (people in general) being likely to do everything we ought to do.

           W.I: What defines the degrees of self-interest? Yet another triage?

          W.I: Singer gave many examples of Contemporary Western moral standards. What moral standards can be found in other cultures and countries?

Some people say the government should be in charge. Others say we actually need population control. This point, like the previous one, is an argument against relieving suffering that is happening now, because of a belief about what might happen in the future.

275  Singer mentions that the proper “conclusion that should be drawn is that the best means of preventing famine, in the long run, is population control.” 

How much should we all give? Looking at the matter purely from the point of view of overseas aid, there must be a limit to the extent to which we should deliberately slow down our economy. 

Mentioned “a strong and moderate version  of the principle of preventing bad occurrences.” 

The moderate version saying that we should want to help stop bad occurrences from coming to pass unless it would make the situation worse. The only difference from moderate and strong is that in the strong version we lower ourselves to a level of minimal work (“marginal utility”). Singer taking the side of the strong version saying “I can see no good reason for holding the moderate version of the principle rather than the strong version.”  

 

The Most Good You Can Do

———————————————————————————————————————

 

4  Effective altruists do things like the following:

Living modestly and donating a large part of their income–often much more than the traditional tenth, or tithe–to the most effective charities;

Researching and discussing with others which charities are the most effective or drawing on research done by other independent evaluators;

Choosing the career in which they can earn most, not in order to be able to live affluently but so that they can do more good;

Talking to others, in person or online, about giving, so that the idea of effective altruism will spread;

Giving part of their body–blood, bone marrow, or even a kidney–to a stranger.

Effective altruism is a philosophy and social movement which applies evidence and reason to working out the most effective ways to improve the world.

5  If doing the most you can for others means that you are also flourishing, then that is the best possible outcome for everyone.

6-8  What is Altruism? 

To quote Webster an Altruist is “a person unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others”. Singer digs deeper under the surface of altruist, examining every conceivable aspect of it and breaking it down. 

6  People tend to be more willing to give to people with a story and a name, rather than to a face in a crowd. He then goes into how many people generously give to the Make-A-Wish foundation to make a child’s dreams of becoming Bat-Kid come true, but are then reluctant to give money to save multiple lives from malaria in another country. 

I agree with him when he says that this is because of an “emotional pull”. People seem to feel compelled to give when the child is known and acknowledged as his or her own person rather than one of the many. In my opinion people may sometimes feel they can’t make a lasting difference if they give to many different people as opposed to giving all you can to one specific person. 

Although Effective Altruists will also feel compelled to give into an emotional pull, they don’t because they know that their donations are better suited elsewhere where it does more good.

Effective altruists will feel the pull of helping an identifiable child from their own nation, region, or ethnic group but will then ask themselves if that is the best thing to do.

7  They give to the cause that will do the most good, given the abilities, time and money they have available. 

What exactly is “the most good”?

According to Singer, even the most effective altruists will have varying opinions. Some will argue that the most good is done when there is more happiness and less suffering whereas others will say that the most good is done simply when everything is equal. 

Both arguments are very compelling and understandable. Happiness is good for obvious reasons and then you have equality, which is good because everyone gets the same and no one is overabundant in one thing while others are dying for it. I personally feel that out those two options, id say that the most good would be when we live in a world with more happiness and less suffering. I say this simply because believe everyone wants to be happy and not suffer.

Does all suffering count?

Yes. According to Singer, Effective Altruists regard all suffering as bad no matter how far away they are or even what species they are. Animal suffering is not disregarded simply because they are animals, though they are measured differently on much suffering they an tolerate. 

8  One thing that stood out to me was how at the top of page eight Singer states “Effective Altruists can accept one’s own children…ahead of the children of strangers.”

I was surprised at how Singer chose to word this sentence.

The word “accept” shows, in my mind, that there was hesitation. 

Another thing he says a few sentences later really had me thinking. Singer says “…it’s not possible to love people without having greater concern for their [owns own children] than others.” 

I had never thought of it that way, that to love, you have to love some more than others. Otherwise you wouldn’t love anyone because your feelings for everyone would be the same. 

It is important to keep in mind that Effective Altruists are still people, they are still human and cannot put other first every second of every day or their life. They, like everyone else, take time out for themselves. 

(9-11)  Peter Singer, author of “The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically,” claims that investing resources into the arts would be a worthy goal, had we already overcome major issues in our world. In the next paragraph, Singer goes on to say, “Unfortunately, most people, even (…) professional philanthropy advisors don’t believe in thinking too much about the choice of causes to support. So it isn’t likely everyone will become an effective altruist anytime soon.” I’ve found that, in this sentence, Singer fails to mention the definition of an effective altruist, mentioned previously, leaving me to feel as if I were being persuaded. 

The original characteristics of an effective altruist which are excluded in, what seems to be, a persuasive attempt to become one myself: 

  1. “Things like the following-”
  2. “Choosing the career in which they can earn most, not in order to be able to live affluently but so that they can do more good”
  3. “Talking to others about giving, so that the idea of effective altruism will spread”
  4. “Giving part of their body; blood, bone marrow, or even a kidney to a stranger.”

 

These are reasons I do not wish to refer to myself as an “effective altruistic.” This is not because of reasons such as these which seem harmless:

  1. “Living modestly and donating a large part of their income often much more than the traditional tenth, or tithe to the most effective charities”
  2.  “Researching and discussing with others which charities are the most effective or drawing on research done by other independent evaluators”

In terms of getting more people to claim effective altruism, these are great points. I see the problem when a person claims the belief system and never knew the other parts. It almost sounds like a cult, by definition of both cult and effective altruism, with the attempt to get their numbers up for active members.

13 Something that stood out to me in this book was even the author argued that we should be giving more than half our income, he did not do it himself.

They were trying to ease into giving marginal unity. 

When he first wrote the article him and his wife were only donating half of their income. Even though that percentage was low at the beginning him and his wife are now giving one-third of their income 

“One of the things that made it psychologically difficult to increase our giving was that for many years we were giving away a bigger slice of our income than anyone we knew.”

A man by the name of Zell Kravinsky had given up almost his entire 45 million dollars real estate fortune to charity. He did not put any of this money in his children or wife’s trust fund, but he donated it to help others while he lived off of $60,000 a year.

Scientific studies to show that a person that would not donate their kidney valued their life 4,000 times more than the person than that of a stranger. That high of a number is shocking.

The work of Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, professors of economics at MIT, who founded the Poverty Action Lab to carry out “social experiments”–by which they meant empirical research to discover which interventions against poverty work and which do not. Now known as the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, or J-PAL.

          W.I.: Explore their work

15  Innovations for Poverty Action

          W.I. Explore

16  Give Well, an organization that has taken the evaluation of charities to a new level

          W.I.: Explore

18  In 2009 Ord and Will MacAskill founded Giving What We Can which was created to end poverty in the developing world. The members of the organization would pledge to give 10 percent of their income to fund the relief efforts. They organization had 644 members who had pledged to give that percentage. If all went according to plan the organization would raise 309 million dollars for charity. Founded another organization – 80,000 Hours – a global community seeking to change the world. 

19  The Life You Can Save – Book – 2009. Website set up so people could pledge 10 percent. Website grew. Everything has a purpose. The book affected even Charlie Bresler – Who would later become the president of Men’s Warehouse. Now the unpaid executive director of The Life You Can Save.

20  2013 – Budget of $147,000 had moved up to $594,000 – more than 400 percent “return on investment’ 

Title page Part Two: How To Do The Most Good

 3 Living Modestly to Give More 

The definition of Modest: (of an amount, rate, or level) relatively moderate, limited, or small. 

It is possible to do an immense amount of good without earning a lot. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean “living on rice and beans and never going out to a movie” as source states. Living modestly means, not the bare minimum, but nothing excessive or completely unnecessary. Singer, along with Julia and her husband Jeff Kaufman, understand that lower incomes can give just as much without sacrificing anything of comparable significance.

          W.I.: Learn more about Giving Gladly 

Poorness is objective in itself. However, wealthier people often feel poor in comparison to those with even more wealth. Seeing that Julia and Jeff Kaufman were already living modestly and giving with a lower income, it was not hard for them to give more as they earned it. 

24 It shows first a graph of how Julia and her husband, Jeff, expenses looked like between August 2013 and July 2014. It talked about how they achieved saving so much and being able to give so much to charity such as taking the bus instead of owning a car as well as only renting part of a house. Knowing that the future held other financial obstacles  they still donated half of their income. 

25  It also starts off with a graph but instead it shows the “budget for a single person living in the Boston area on 35,000 a year.” We also see that julia provides us a list of the budget breakdown and how it would look realistically showing that most of it going to rent, only 10% being donated as well as saved. 

26  If living on a median income you could donate, save money for the future and still have enough to live comfortably. 

          W.I.: Do you agree with the statement above?

We are told that Julia isn’t Catholic yet has mentioned words spoken by Ambrose, a fourth-century archbishop of Milan who became known as one of the four original Great Doctors of the Roman Catholic Church.

          W.I.: Investigate Ambrose.

He states that when you give to the poor “ You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his,. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself.” As this radical view over time became apart of Christian traditions, the Roman Catholic Church never denied it and at times would repeat it to others. Pope Paul VI even quoted a part of what Ambrose said into his encyclical. 

27  Julia, a Catholic, reads in the Bible of a time Jesus spoke. Jesus told the man that he is to go and sell everything and give it to the poor. Julia began to do just that.

           W.I. Investigate Aaron Moore: Australian international aid worker and artist

28  Questions then arise: How far is too far? Is creating your own misery or saving someone else’s life more important? We can not give everything. 

29  “Everyone has boundaries. If you find yourself doing something that makes you bitter, it is time to reconsider.” This also reflects on the balance between giving too much and not enough. Julia found that her decision to not have a child was making her bitter. Julia soon understood that she would be more successful to the world with her personal happiness.

          W.I.: Learn more about George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends

30-32  At the very end of page twenty-nine and into the beginning of thirty, the author is telling a story of a woman who become so deeply engulfed in helping others that she was sacrificing things in her own life that gave her any source of happiness. She deprived herself of every little ounce of joy because she told herself that her joy wasn’t as important as giving those extra few dollars for ice cream to a woman who needed to feed her children.

Although it is good to help others, sometimes it’s okay to put yourself first, healthy even. 

Set a budget for giving, but also for yourself.

If you deprive yourself of all happiness just to bring another happiness than you’re not really doing any good, your simply switching sides the person who’s miserable.

There needs to be a healthy balance of giving and keeping:

The giver should not be giving simply because they feel they HAVE to or even in such excess that it deprives them of happiness and the simple joys in life.

You also shouldn’t stop others from giving things to you if that makes them happy (ex. Christmas and birthday gifts) Its okay to buy ice cream or accept a gift every now and then.

Although life should not be all about you, your happiness matters just as much as another’s.

Nearing the end of page thirty and onto thirty-one, Singer elaborates more on a story he told pages before about the same woman who deprived herself of ice cream as well as life’s other little joys. Her and her husband wanted to have a child but for some time she was adamant about not having a child because it would take away too much time and money that they could use to help others in need. This decision changed over time due to some factors:

By not having a child in order to giveaway more money than that extra money would have more weight to them then the other money they give. (On page 31 the woman (Julia) says “I’m happy donating 50 percent of my income over my life, but if I also chose not to have a child simply to raise that amount to 55 percent, then that final 5 percent would cost more than all the rest…”

Something I found slightly disturbing is how Singer tries to justify having a child as though it is a bad thing to create life with your spouse. 

Singer talks about how hopefully the child will do more good than bad in its life and therefore be worth having it. That, to put it frankly, infuriated me. How would the child feel when he grew up and found out that his parents had to weigh his existence on whether or not he’d be good and raise more money  than the cost to be alive. 

Yes, children are expensive but their worth it and no one should deprive themselves of a child simply to donate EXTRA money. 

Julia also mentions that she “rejects the idea that her responsibility is limited to doing the best for her own child.” This makes me think that Julia does not see children as a blessing but as a burden. 

My question is, if she’s so concerned about how the child will ruin her way of life, then why even have one? You should have a child because YOU want to and because you can take care of it and provide it with everything it needs to become the best version of itself, not simply because you’re hoping it will pay the cost of itself.

Having a child can increase empathy because you can then really feel the struggle and responsibility it takes to protect and care for another.

Other Effective Altruists: Rhema Hokama

-modest income

-starting giving when she got her first paycheck

-started donating 2 percent

-set up a “donation account” that she adds into and at the end of the year donates everything in that account to a worthy cause

-doesn’t own a car and packs her own lunches at college to save money

33: Rhema Hokama made a lot of money, lives like her childhood home in Hawaii with a working-class family. 

          W.I. Learn more about R. Hokama 

34: Celso Vieira; thought to have a mental disability as a child, but they turned out to be a genius. Vieira gives to charities such as ‘Innovations for Poverty Action.’

          W.I.: Investigate The Life You Can Save

35: Priya Basil grew up in Kenya, in what she calls “A bubble of privilege,” came from India. She has been both rich and poor.

          W.I. Explore the writings of P. Basil

36  A woman named Priya is aware that people in our life and the situations in our life play a big role in determining our values and behavior 

Believes altruism needs to be needs to be watched challenged and nurtured, or it’ll become “stale” or “automatic”

It is also easy to be caught up with yourself and being “All about me”. Priya mentions that it is hard not impulsively shop. 

Priya donates 5 percent of her income to effective charities. Even though due to her income she meets the requirements she plans to donate 10 percent. 

In addition to giving, Priya and her partner co-founded in the organization called authors for peace Is involved in another political initiative called  Writers Against Mass Surveillance. She believes by working to help one Society you increase the chance of all the societies excelling. 

          W.I. : Learn more about Authors for Peace

37 Priya explains that even if you live in a household that earns less than the average income, you can still donate 10 percent and make a huge difference in a person’s life who would make roughly 1 percent of the median income 

39  Everyone can donate to charity, but the more money you make the more you’re able to donate.

           W.I. Explore John Wesley, the founder of Methodism

          W.I.: write about the idea of purposely becoming rich to be able to donate a lot to charity, and who does this.

Jim Greenbaum born in 1958 was another man who did this. He has committed to donating 85 percent of his 133 million dollars before he dies. The rest of his fortune will be donated when he dies. Unlike other people committed to donating everything, he lives a luxurious lifestyle. Many wealthy people have committed to donate almost all their money before they die.

          W.I.: write about some of the richest people in the world who have committed to donate almost all their money such as Bill Gates, Jim Greenbaum, or Matt Wage

         W.I.: Is it wrong to take a higher paying job over a job working for charity if you are going to donate a lot of money to charity?

          W.I.: is it more effective to work for a charity or to work somewhere else that pays much more but you will donate enough money to charity to pay for two employees?

As a charity worker you are largely replaceable. Working in finance, however, you earn much more than you need and give half of your earnings to the charity, which can us that money to employ two extra workers it would not, without your donation, have been able to employ at all. Whereas you would have been replaceable as a charity worker, you are not replaceable as a donor.

42  Change is a good thing. When you donate you should be certain that the charity you donate to is effective with its proceeds. Millennials connect with like minded people over social media to share their ideas and experiences. 

43  Many people believe charity is very important no matter how you give.

Effective altruism – “Effective altruism is a philosophy and social movement that uses evidence and reasoning to determine the most effective ways to benefit others.” 

Philipp Gruissem is an example of effective altruism. “Raising for Effective Giving.” 

          W.I.: Animal Charity Evaluators: tries to find the most effective charities helping animals.

          W.I.: University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute investigates the problem of how to allocate scarce resources among different global needs.

           W.I.: Raising for Effective Giving (explore)

44  “1. Modern animal agriculture causes an immense amount of suffering. 2. We are responsible both for what we do and for what we refrain from doing. 3. We have the means to reduce the suffering caused by modern animal agriculture. 4. It is imperative for each of us to do so.”

           W.I.: Hampton Creek Foods. 

          W.I.: Humane League. 

          W.I.: Mercy for Animals. 

          W.I.: Population Services International. 

45 The Psychology of Earning to Give

This page introduces Jason Trigg, an MIT computer science graduate giving half of his salary to the Against Malaria Foundation. Given this information about his educational background, one can only assume he has an outstanding paycheck. The 2013 article mentioned is titled Join Wall Street. Save The World. It Revealed that Trigg is a programmer that went to work for a hedge fund in order to earn more money to give.

Although Trigg really seems to be doing the most good that he can, David Brooks from The New York Times “Brooks urged caution. He warned, first that our daily activities change us, and by working in a hedge fund your ideas can slip so that you become less committed to giving.” A Hedge Fund is “a limited partnership of investors that uses high risk methods, such as investing with borrowed money, in hopes of realizing large capital gains.” or an investment partnership. So far, Jason does not seem to be changed as brooks said.David Brooks also warned that choosing a career just for the money can be corrosive. His last warning, Brooks said “turning yourself into a means rather than an end… a machine for the redistribution of wealth.” He explained that this objection is a moral issue, but it can happen and should be mentioned.

46 Matt Wage is another student who chose finance over another career. Although Jason Trigg only chose the path for money, Wage seems to enjoy is and finds his work “interesting.” Brooks and Wage agreed that this path could “[turn yourself into] a machine for redistribution of wealth.” Matt wage explains this as selfishness and jealousy, using ferraris against charities. A clearly selfish choice that most people would make. Matt knows this can happen to him and created a strategy to fight his own implied selfishness; publicity. 

Next is Jim Greenbaum, another businessman. Although the first two examples in this section seemed satisfied with their career, Jim Greenbaum said that his initial years were frustrating, because it took longer than expected to earn enough money to help others, but said it did not make him any less committed. Jim also is an advocate for balance between comfort and good like several others have agreed, and others less.

47 Ben West makes an interesting point for page 47. He points out that “even from a selfish perspective, earning to give allows you to have things that believe make them happy, like money and a high-status job, while still getting the fulfillment that comes from knowing you are helping to make the world a better place.” Although this is a good thing, I disagree. It is not selfish to feel good about helping others. Singer mentioned Ian Ross and Alex Foster next, and they are on somewhat different pages when it comes to giving. Ross says there’s no risk for burnout and will continue to give, but Foster was much more enthusiastic. Foster said that this period of his life/career is extremely fulfilling, even with a reduced social life. And on the very different page lies Aveek Bhattacharya, who sees earning to give as an experiment. On this note, Singer brings Brooks back up to warn that earning to give is NOT for everyone. Aveek seems like a very good example of this. However, even a lack of enthusiasm can do good to others. Maybe less good, but some good is better than no good. On the worst side to this, if someone is not enthusiastic they CAN become corrosive effect on them.

49  To fit into the ethos of the organization in which they want to succeed, people earning to give may have to disguise their views about the intrinsic value of their work. It is also true that some of those who change their career in order to earn to give have stepped aside from their own projects and have instead taken the career required by “utilitarian calculation.”

Those who earn to give are, to a greater extent than most people, living in accord with their values; they live so as to do the most good. 

50 No doubt capitalism does drive some people into extreme poverty–it is such a vast system that it would be surprising if it did not–but it has also lifted hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty. It would not be easy to demonstrate that capitalism has driven more people into extreme poverty than it has lifted out of it; indeed there are good grounds for thinking that the opposite is the case.

51 Singer refers to the title of the book, “Do the most good you can.” Singer sets himself apart from an effective altruist. He shows how his view on “doing the most good” may be different in his eyes than in the eyes of an effective altruist. 

I notice that Singer is very controversial in the philosophical world, and he is not afraid to tell the reader when his view differs from others.

          W.I.: An idea for an argument paper: “…you will probably also think that it is wrong to be involved in financial activities that harm some people, even if that brings about an equivalent benefit to many more.”

52 Singer approaches the idea of “ Well, If I didn’t do this bad thing someone else would have anyway.”  i.e.- The guards at Auschwitz were at no fault because if they did not guard than someone else would have. [Would delete due to it being a more harsh example of the idea below] Add this:

52  Your choice to work for the bank will have good consequences, for it will have made you a better-informed, more credible opponent of the bank’s actions.

53  If one held that investment banks and similar corporations are engaged in wrongdoing, one might see this as a sufficient reason for not going into the finance industry. (Or you could think the opposite.)

A Brookings Institution study has pointed out that millennials are much more concerned about corporate social responsibility.

54  Millennials want their daily work to be part of, and reflect, their societal concerns.

          W.I. Is the above statement true?

Singer quotes another in saying that employees want “their daily work to be a part of, and reflet, their social concerns.” I believe this quote is saying that people want the work that they do to reflect their morals, values, social concerns and beliefs. 

Example- Someone who is against abortion, most likely would not be working in an abortion clinic (unless to end it from the inside) .

Some people only get jobs to earn money so that they can give it away.

55  Other Ethical Careers

Will MacAskill does not claim that earning to give is always or even usually the best option. Rather, he thinks we should see it as a baseline against which to compare other possible ethical careers.

Singer goes on to talk about “the ability to find work one is interested in.” He understands that to do something well you have to at least somewhat enjoy what you do, otherwise you won’t try to do better or make an effort.

Staying committed to giving away a large chunk of your money is struggle.

Singer uses “earning to give” as a baseline by which to weigh all other jobs. 

In simple terms, if he makes more money for others by influencing others to give, than he would by making money himself then he is doing better than he could have at a regular 9-5 job. Working for a meta charity can do more good than a regular one.

          W.I. What are meta charities? What do they do? Examples?

56 The Bureaucrat

The more skills you have that set you apart from the crowd, the more irreplaceable you are.

Just because you don’t like what a company is doing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work there, you can make a difference.

Singer talks about a man who initially didn’t want to pursue a job at a bank because he didn’t like what the bank was doing, but singer suggested he take the job. Years later singer gets a reply telling him about how he works at the bank and the differences he’s made for the better.

57   There are very big differences in the cost-effectiveness of different ways of improving the health of people in developing countries, so even with a fixed budget, better choices can make a huge difference.

Researchers

Medical researchers, biologists

58  There may be better prospects of making an impact in a relatively uncrowded field. 80,000 Hours recommends “Prioritization Research,” which it describes as “activity aimed at working out which causes, interventions, organisations, policies, etc. do the most to make the world a better place.”

Organizers and Campaigners

Starting an organization

59  There are situations in which if one particular person had not started a novel organization, none of the benefits brought about by the organization would have been achieved.

          W.I. Research Janina Ochojska, the Polish EquiLibre Foundation or Polish Humanitarian Action, or (PAH)

60  Ochojska rejects the idea that you can only care and donate to the people that live nearby rather than help people farther away.

PAH helps run educational programs to help make students understand the needs of others in 3rd world countries. To my surprise, it is the leading Non-governmental polish provider of assistance and humanitarian relief. Learning more than US $5 million.

Dharma Master Cheng Yen saw a woman being carried down the mountains of Hualien County. When they arrived they were told they had to pay for medical treatment. Not having any money, the family had to carry her back again.

After the incident  Cheng Yen then started an organization with 30 houswifes where they put donated a few cents to families in need. 

61  The organization was called Tzu Chi meaning “compassionate relief”

Overtime the word spread and funds were raised to build hospitals. This lead to Tzu Chi founding medical schools and nursing schools to teach the local people

One feature that was interesting is that when they received cadavers they would treat them with the utmost respect and would even meet the family and friends of the person to learn more about them.

Tzu Chi is now a big organization with 7 million members…they have also rebuilt 51 schools.

62  Tzu chi has become a major recycler. They get volunteers to collect bottles and other recyclables that are turned into carpets and clothing.

All meals served in Tzu Chi hospitals, schools, universities, and other institutions are vegetarian. 

They distribute $10 million dollars worth of visa debit cards after an earthquake and Tsunami hit Japan; each card has 600 dollars on it 

This organization teaches to show love and compassion to others, whether they are rich or poor. Even though they won’t be as big as other organizations they will alway continue to inspire people worldwide to show compassion and love to others.

63  Students from MIT and Harvard (Michael Faye, Paul Niehaus, Jeremy Shapiro and Rohit Wanchoo) studied where donations went and what was more effective. They studied charities that distributed money themselves, and also agencies in which you donated straight to those who needed it. They discovered that the money that was directly donated was typically used for good things. They also discovered that people prefer to donate to the less fortunate directly.

GiveDirectly is among its top three recommended charities.

          W.I: write about donating to a charity and having them do what they want with it vs. directly donating to the less fortunate.

These same students tried to find an organization that offered direct giving but none did. To solve this problem, they made their own charity: GiveDirectly, which allows donors to donate directly to the needy and see where it goes. 

          W.I.: write a biography on GiveDirectly and how it works. 

64  Henry Spira worked for most of his life defending and helping the weak and oppressed. He began to fight for animals rights after inheriting a cat from a friend. During his life He led a  successful campaign that convinced Revlon and Avon beauty products to stop product testing on animals.

          W.I: write about companies that still continue to test on animals and what is being done to try to stop this.

           W.I: write about Spira and all that he did for the animal rights movements.

65  A Wide-Open Choice

         W.I: write about the career you think you could do well that would help the maximum amount of people/do the most good.

67  Giving a Part of Yourself

In January 2013 Peter Singer received an email from a college student who donated his kidney after reading The Life You Can Save which had stated that none of Peter Singer’s students have ever donated a kidney so Chris Croy, a student at St. Louis Community College, in Meramec, Missouri proved Singer wrong. Croy stated that  a means to aid others is to donate organs. Will giving your organ aid more than affecting your own life?

          W.I. What good does giving an organ do?

          W.I. The process of donating an organ

68

          W.I. Kidney donation. 

          W.I. Argument against donating a kidney.

Donating organs changes peoples’ lives and lets them live their life. Zell Kravinsky’s donation. “In 2014 the waiting line for a kidney was one hundred thousand and still growing. The waiting list a deceased donor can be five years, and in some states is closer to ten years. On average fourteen people die on the waiting list each day.” Some of the people on the list would have still died even with the transplant but receiving a kidney transplant adds an average of ten years of life to the recipient.

          W.I. What it’s like to be on the waiting list.

          W.I.  How can receiving a kidney change a person’s life and how much longer they get to live. 

69  Alexander Berger works for GiveWell, an altruistic organization that has been referred to throughout this document as well as “ The Most Good You Can Do” but he went beyond his already altruistic lifestyle and followed Chris Croy’s trend and decided to altruistically donate his kidney. Berger donated 15-20% of his income regularly, which is something that singer has stressed throughout the book as well as his article from “Famine, Affluence, and Morality.” 

Along with starting a doner chain, Croy became vegan. I figured since he cares so deeply for other lives that he would be very strict about dairy and eggs and such. Ironically, this is not the case! He said that “…trying to be very strict about these things discourages people from becoming vegan and so causes more suffering than it prevents.” 

70  Croy says that he didn’t think giving his kidney was all that good. He only took 25 years into consideration. That, to me, is still a whole lot of good. ESPECIALLY at the risk of his own health. He didn’t even think it was enough good considering everyone else that had followed his altruistic doner path. I disagree with Croy about it being not good enough, however I do agree with singer when he says “Going to a hospital to have surgery that does no good to you and carries a risk of harm, however small, in order to benefit a stranger seems to take altruism to a very high level.” However, I am not in total disagreement with altruistic kidney donation or other donations such as blood, plasma, bone marrow, stem cells, etc. I find it fascinating that one can continue to give apart of themselves altruistically even after death. I plan to sign up to donate and have my organs harvested after my death. I even have a little heart icon on my driver’s license. ❤️

71   Singer points out that blood, plasma, bone marrow, and stem cells can grow back whereas a kidney cannot. Even so, I still believe that donating one of your kidneys to someone in desperate need is more than okay as long as it does not bring any huge risks for yourself. 

 Apparently, altruistic organ donation was regarded as psychological! Singer said that this was all up until 2001. That was only 18 years ago. Genuine compassion and empathy for lives seems to be even more rare and outlandish than I thought. Or, in 2001 it was at least.  In the UK, it was illegal to donate one’s kidney altruistically. Upon further research, I assumed that this was only illegal because the boom of organ trafficking in the United Kingdom, especially for kidneys. The sources I researched were dated around 2012, so I am not yet certain about this theory. 

Chapter Seven: Is Love All We Need?

75 Singer approaches the theory of “All we need is Love” He asks if effective altruists are motivated by universal love.

Effective altruists are sufficiently concerned about the welfare of others to make meaningful changes in their lives. Effective altruists donate to charities that, instead of making an emotional appeal to prospective donors, can demonstrate that they will use donations to save lives and reduce suffering in a way that is highly cost-effective. In order to be able to do more good, effective altruists limit their spending or take a different career path so that they will have more to give or will be more useful in some other way. They may also donate blood, stem cells, bone marrow, or a kidney to a stranger.

What motivates them?

          W.I. Who is David Hume?

David Hume- explains that there is no such passion in human minds as the love of mankind

76 Hume relates the love of each other to genetic selection itself. He explains that these two ideas go hand in hand. Our love promotes the survival of genes like ours.

It is easy to see why we would help kin or business partners.

          W.I. Who is Frans de Waal?

Waal explains that typically humans do not treat all humans the same, but favor kin/ people they know rather than a stranger.

 Maybe love does not motivate effective altruists, but in fact empathy motivates them. 

77 Singer now leaves the idea of love motivating altruists, and moves to empathy motivating an effective altruist.

Empathy- the ability to put oneself in the position of others and identify with their feelings and emotions. 

Interpersonal Reactivity Inventory has four distinct categories. Empathic concern, (the tendency to experience feelings of warmth, compassion, and concern for other people; Personal distress, (one’s own feelings of personal unease and discomfort in reaction to the emotions of others; Perspective taking (the tendency to adopt the point of view of other people; and Fantasy (the tendency to imagine oneself experiencing the feelings and performing the actions of fictitious characters.). 

          W.I. Explain the four types of Interpersonal Reactivity Inventory and how they relate to altruism. 

78  It is easier to feel emotional empathy for one identifiable child than it is to feel that for thousands of children in a circumstance like the one identifiable child. I think this may be due to the fact that it is more likely that you can help one specific child than it is that you can save all the thousands of hurting children. When you don’t feel like you can make a difference it depresses you and you don’t even want to try. I also feel it is easier to identify with one child more than thousands, the same way it is easier for a mother to love her child more than others. When that child is there, and you see it and it has a name and a story then it somehow seems to make it more real than the thousands of other unidentifiable children in need. Effective altruism does not require and is often opposed to letting emotions lead what we feel is the most good because empathy can lead us to make decisions that are not the most possible good we could do. 

Effective altruists are sensitive to numbers and to cost per life saved or year of suffering prevented. If they have 10,000 to donate, they would rather give it to a charity that can save a life for 2,000 than one that can save a life for 5,000 because they would rather save five lives than two.

“Paul Bloom, a professor of Psychology at Yale University, has suggested that if we think about our own responses, most of us will realize that we do [let our emotions lead us].”

79  Most of the time our reactions are not equivalent with the amount of pain we are reacting to. Imagine that 2000 people have died. We would most likely feel sad. Now imagine imagine that 20,000 people just died. We probably feel worse about that but its not likely that we feel 10 times worse than we did for the 2,000 who died. 

Effective altruists share a lot of moral judgments with utilitarians. Singer tells a story about a runaway trolley heading for 5 people. The trolley will kill the five people unless YOU divert it, in which case it will only kill one. The people in the studies who answered with a utilitarian judgement normally had low levels of empathy. In my opinion, although it is sad, if I HAD to make a choice, I would let the five die and save the one. I know it sounds crazy but I just couldn’t physically divert the train knowing that i would be the actual cause of someone’s death. I just couldn’t do it.

80  Although empathy is good, there is no way to get everyone in the world to empathize with everyone else in the world, it’s just not possible. What everyone needs to realize is that just because you may not feel empathy for someone doesnt mean your life is worth any more than theirs. You child’s life is worth the same as a strangers. Everyone’s life is worth the same. Bloom states that “To the extent that we can recognize the numbers as significance, it’s because of reason, not empathy.” The strongest objection to this claim comes from Hume’s view that “reason can never initiate an action because all action starts with passion or desire.” I personally agree with Hume more on this. If you really think about it, reason itself stems from desire. It can be one’s desire to be reasonable. Every action we have, every move we make, we do because something in us wants to. Whether or not the decisions we make are correct or “reasonable”, we make them because we desire to or because of how we feel. 

81 Essentially saying that all people are equals, unless one being is doing more good than the other; (Utilitarianism.) This idea is considered by Sidgwick, the last Utilitarianist of the nineteenth century and quoted by Singer, to be ‘rational/logical’ thought.

82 The same principles used by both Sidgwick & Bloom lead them to a similar idea of universal ‘brotherhood.’ Humans aren’t purely rational; if we were we would be driven to do the most good for the sole purpose of doing the ‘most’ good.

83 Human beings who practice self-respect are allegedly more ‘rational’ and are more empathetic.

85  Chapter 8: One Among Many

Bernard Williams argued that human beings are not the kind of creatures who can take “the point of view of the universe. He also mentions that there is no exercise that consist of stepping outside yourself or your point of view to evaluate the dispositions, projects, and affections that constitute the substance of life. 

Effective altruists seem to have completed what WIlliams thought could not be done. They are able to detach themselves from personal considerations. While this detachment is not total, it does make a difference to how they live. It is based on reasoning of a kind. 

Living from a point of view that is independent of their own “dispositions, projects and affections.”

86  Effective altruists have a few commonly expressed dispositions that they would consider misguided grounds for giving. One example is “I give to breast cancer research because my wife died of breast cancer”.  “The point of view of the universe” has an influence on one’s behavior that will vary person to person. Effective altruist decide on their overall view while they are still young; before they were engrossed in different projects or gained close personal attachments. 

“By modifying and redirecting our passions, it can play a critical part in the process that leads us to act ethically.  

87 Numbers turn people into altruists. It goes into detail regarding several people who took a look at the numbers and realized how big of a difference they can make

          W.I: find a statistic about altruism and charitable donations and see how it changes your opinion on what you can do

          W.I: write about one of the altruists discussed on this page and how numbers changed their perspective 

People value their own lives and those that are closest to them more then distant abstract people

This would make sense as people are more likely to donate if they have a face or an individual person they’re donating to.

People tend to think of individual people, not as a statistic

          W.I: write about how people tend to think more of personal people/individuals/people close to them rather than a group as a whole or statistic.

If our capacity to reason also enables us to see that the good of others is, from a more universal perspective, as important as our own good, then we have an explanation for why effective altruists act in accordance with such principles. Like our ability to do higher math, this use of reason to recognize fundamental moral truths would be a by-product of another trait or ability that was selected for because it enhanced our reproductive fitness–something that in evolutionary theory is known as a spandrel.

When they talk about why they act as they do, they often use language that is more suggestive of a rational insight than of an emotional impulse.

88 Effective altruists look how to help the most people, rather than an individual person. These people tend to donate to bigger, more effective organizations that got to help many people, while other smaller, less-effective organizations allow you to see how you’re making a difference directly, do less good and help fewer people

People with backgrounds in math and analytical reasoning tend to be the msot effective altruists.

          W.I: write about how a background involving math would make you a more effective altruist  

89 A study showed that including numbers and statistics increased the donations given by large donors but decreased the number of small donors. 

Effective altruists are strongly influenced by analytical data such as statistics and facts

It is telling that effective altruists talk more about the number of people they are able to help than about helping particular individuals.

My favorite example of the combination of effective altruism and numeracy is the website Counting Animals, which has the subtitle “A place for people who love animals and numbers” and a home page stating that “nerdism meets animal rights here!”

People with a high level of abstract reasoning ability are more likely to take the kind of approach to helping others that is characteristic of effective altruism.

          W.I: write about why these effective altruists are influenced by this information so much  

90  Karlan and Daniel Wood. Freedom from Hunger, a U.S. based charity, they use fundraising-letters. The Standard letter comes with information about the individual who is benefiting by the Freedom from Hunger’s work. “Scientific evidence that shows the effectiveness of Freedom from Hunger increased the number of donations of large donors but decreased the number of donations received from small donors.” “Warm Glow donators.” Effective Altruists – Charitable effectiveness, analytical information, they allow their reasoning abilities to override and redirect their emotion is consistent. Joshua Greene. People use two distinct processes when making moral judgments.

          W.I. What processes happen when making moral judgments.

          W.I. What’s the most effective way to give your money in a charity.

          W.I. What charity is the best at its job.

91  When confronted with moral judgments one will have a gut reaction telling that person what is right or wrong. Intuitive responses are quick and easy and yield good results, but sometimes will lead you astray. Emotional Point-and-shoot mode. Utilitarian Judgment. Nonutilitarian judgment. 

          W.I. Nonutilitarian judgment.

          W.I. Utilitarian Judgment

          W.I. Are intuitive responses always right and if not what is the reason. 

The most controversial aspect of this model is that it links moral judgments characteristically based on the idea that something is just wrong in itself, independently of its consequences, to the instinctive, emotionally based point-and-shoot mode of reaching a moral judgment and links characteristically utilitarian judgments to the manual mode, which draws on our conscious thought processes, or reasoning, as well as on emotional attitudes. An early piece of evidence for this view came from a study in which Greene and his colleagues asked people to make judgments about trolley problems and similar moral dilemmas while images were being taken of their brain activity. The study showed increased activity in brain areas associated with cognitive control before a subject made a utilitarian judgment but not before making a non utilitarian judgment. This suggestive finding has since been supported by a wide variety of further evidence.

92  Experiments have shown that cognitive loading has shed light on the realm of brain where these functions are being processed. These experiments used various methods on the participants like having the participant memorize a series of numbers or letters. Other experiments involved the participants being shown a picture of a single person that would be harmed if that participant did not choose to act so as to save the larger group of people, the most likely response of the participant was the feeling of empathy for the person shown in the picture. These studies bolster as well the more specific claim that associates characteristically consequentialist judgments with greater use of conscious reasoning processes. Holden Karnofsky. GiveWell

          W.I. Cognitive Loading

          W.I. Holden Karnofsky

          W.I. The human mind and what we think

93  As page 92 deals with cognitive loading in a textbook sense, 93 makes it hypothetical. Holden Karnofsky (above) is the cofounder of GiveWell. Singer makes a hypothetical situation in which Karnofsky would have to choose between his passion of soup kitchen or his current position at GiveWell. Singer suggests that reason, in this case, trumps that of passion even though a desire for good is present in both situations. He also uses an example of an animal rights activist named Harish Sethu who argues that motivation is not just one side of the other, but emotion and reason together. 

           WI: Write an argumentative essay defending each example and then choose your own path. 

94   Singer has already mentioned that people are more likely to help someone they can recognize. Sethu pays homage to that ideology, but he flips it. He says that the recognition of a larger universe of animal suffering that he sees in a video “does not dampen his emotional response, as it does in people who are told about a group of children in need rather than one child.” Sethu recognizes that it is a whole social issue, and does not happen to only one animal. This makes his wish go give more even stronger, yet when it comes to other people, we give less money and resources or more people who need it. Rather than more money and resources or more people that need it. 

Abstract reasoning essentially means that the answers can be found in gray areas, and are not always just black or white. Singer argues that this is conducive to effective altruism. “Have people’s abstract reasoning abilities suddenly improved?” I don’t think that is the case. I don’t think it was the abilities that improved, I think it related more to cultural and societal improvements that made altruism more common and good. 

95 Steven Pinker believes the invention of the printing press improved our reasoning and spread ideas and information to a much larger proportion of the population. He argues that better reasoning has a positive moral impact.

97  Chapter 9: Altruism and Happiness

97  Check out the blog post “Excited Altruism.” 

Effective altruists do not generally see what they are doing as a sacrifice.

98 Studies of the relationship between income and happiness or well-being indicate that for people at low levels of income, an increase in income does lead to greater happiness, but once income is sufficient to provide for one’s needs and a degree of financial security, further increases have either much less impact on happiness or no impact at all.

99 Singer continues on the idea of “Does money equal happiness” or more accurately does lack of money equal lack of happiness? Singer found that in the former study the bad mood was highly exaggerated, and in the latter people largely underestimated how happy people at the lower incomes would be.

Singer then approaches “Does having more material things make us happier?” 

He concludes that using your income to buy more stuff does not make us happier, but using it to help others does.

Americans today have three times the amount of space, per person than they did in 1950. They pay a total of 22 billion a year to rent extra storage space. Are they happier for having so much stuff?

100  Singer finds a correlation; he finds that people who are happier are more likely to  give help to others. In the same way, giving makes people feel happier. 

There is a positive correlation between having donated to charity in the past month and being at a higher level of happiness. This creates a positive feedback loop that leads to more spending on others and greater happiness.

          W.I. Do a study and investigate how happy people think they are in relation to how much they give.

101           W.I. Sue Rabbitt Roff investigate her studies on how donors self-esteem is affected.

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best, an average score of 9.8 was given in rating the overall donation experience while an average score of 10 was given to willingness to do it again.

Self-esteem is important for happiness. I think that self-esteem is important for happiness; I think that it allows happiness. If you have no self-esteem could you really be truly happy?

          W.I. Richard Keshen’s concepts for self esteem 

102 Everyone’s life and well being is regarded as equal to your own. You cannot ignore the interests of others or you are basically saying that their life isn’t as valuable as yours. Effective Altruists are not actually sacrificing anything because they do not regard what they do as “sacrificing” but rather something that they want to do. They see this as one element of the core of their identity.

103 If they are not sacrificing anything can they really be called “effective altruists?” The answer is yes. Just because one is also gaining happiness from the act of giving to others does not change the fact that they are indeed, helping. Take exercise for example. A majority of people hate working out; they complain it’s painful, time consuming, and oftentimes expensive, but some people love it. They work out all the time and find great joy in it. The fact that they love it has no change in the fact that it helps their health and well-being anymore than it changes the fact that it helps those who hate it. Altruists can be defined by their interests, not the loss of them.

          W.I. The difference between Egoism and Altruism

104 The difference between Egoism and Altruism is unimportant when you keep in mind the interest of others. You shouldn’t label someone as an Altruist or an Egoist based of the joy they receive from the good that they do, but rather the increased well being of the person/people they chose to help. If you are doing the most possible good you can, it doesn’t really matter if you benefit from it or not. 

105  Part Four:  Choosing Causes and Organizations

107 Chapter 10  Domestic or Global?

How can we tell if we are being the most effective with our time, money and efforts? The field of philanthropy has, as a whole, been extremely reluctant to tackle these comparative questions. Finding the answers involves not only questions of fact that are difficult to establish but also controversial value judgments. Let us use the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors as an example. It is one of the world’s largest philanthropic service organizations.

108: A website created by Rockefeller Advisors features a section called “Your Philanthropy Roadmap”. The goal is to start helping donors create thoughtful and effective giving program. It includes charts that give information about various areas that might give health and safety, education, arts culture and heritage. 

Animal welfare does not fit the environment category because much of the suffering human inflicts on animals . 

It also fails to indicate that intendcing donors living in affluent countries must choose whether to give to an organition that acts domestically or one with a focus beyond thatir country’s borders. Giving to reduce global poverty does not even appear as a category.

109: Among the various projects, the leaflet wants to seek to improve health care for the global poor and improve health care in america.  In 1988 Ted Turner gave a third of his wealth to health programs focused on the world’s biggest killer diseases; mainly in developing countries. 

The Initiative has been very successful drawing in funding from non profit organizations such as Gates Foundation. 1.1 billion children have been given a combined vaccine that prevents measles and rubella. Deaths from measles have fallen 78%, the cost of the vaccine is one dollar.

Lucile Packard gave 40 million donation to establish a hospital in Palo Alto, California. The Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital has been in the news for its success in achieving difficult separations of conjoined twins. 

110  In 2007 the hospital separated two girls both Costa Rica who share deliver. The cost estimated at somewhere between 1 million and 2 million. One of the girls needed heart surgery for a heart defect and the other needed an operation to reconstruct her chest cavity. The hospital paid for operations and the doctors donated their time.

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors describe the costs of a child living in a ICU and it is really shocking. The million dollars used could help many children in a developing country. 

What Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors does not say, in describing these two projects, is that the cost of saving a child’s life in an intensive care hospital in the U.S. is typically thousands of times higher than the cost of saving the life of a child in a developing country. It doesn’t seem all that difficult to judge that is is better to use a million dollars to save the lives of hundreds of children by protecting them from measles than to use it to separate one pair of conjoined twins or save one extremely premature infant. It costs about 40,000 to supply one person in the U.S. with a guide dog… 

111 but the cost of preventing someone from going blind because of trachoma, the most common cause of preventable blindness, is in the range of 20-100 dollars.

Even though America has many poor people, and people living in poverty, the poverty experienced is relative. Compared to people living in extreme poverty, they’re living lavishly. 

Poverty in the US is almost 6000 a year per person while extreme poverty is around 500 dollars.

A dollar and twenty-five cents a day is what more than a billion people live on, virtually all of them in developing countries. The World Bank’s figure is at “purchasing power parity.”

People in poverty in America have clean water, free schooling, free health care, housing, and food stamps. While people in extreme poverty have to watch their kids die and walk miles for water.

          W.I: write about what you’d buy if you had $1.53 (extreme poverty per day) and you had to make it last all day 

112: Malnourished Children in the US are placed into care and are nursed back to health. Children living in extreme poverty however have no access to healthcare and often die from easily treated diseases

The author says that he’s not saying being poor in America isn’t hard and that we shouldn’t worry about them, but that there’s simply a big difference between being poor in America/rich nations and in extreme poverty poor countries

          W.I: compare and contrast being poor in a rich country vs a poor country Relative poverty vs extreme poverty

113: People in extreme poverty can do a lot more with less money

It is more effective and helpful to donate money to people living in extreme poverty

Example: Would 1000 dollars make a bigger difference to a family who makes 2500 dollars a year or one who makes 24,000 a year?

          W.I: write about what you could buy for 1000 in a developed country vs an impoverished country 

The charity GiveDirectly makes one-off cash grants of about 1,000 U.S. dollars to African families living in extreme poverty. This could be six months to a year’s income.  

114 Giving a $1000 dollars in the US might be the equivalent of a month’s income. If the family is on SNAP benefits they won’t have to use that money on food whereas is they weren’t on SNAP benefits the family would have to use the $1000 on food. We will do more good donating to organizations working to help people living in extreme poverty in poor nations. Robert Wiblin. Altruistic arbitrage. In the business world, if two identical products are selling at different prices in different markets.   Philanthropy is not focused on effectiveness as the financial sector is focused on profit. 

115 The life of a poor American is far higher than the cost of making such a difference to the life of someone who is poor by global standards. “Target groups you care about that other people mostly don’t, and take advantage of strategies other people are biased against using.” 

 

117 Chapter 11 Are Some Causes Objectively Better than Others?

A potential donor should be asking where can I do the most good?

Singer alludes to a leaflet from the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the welfare of others through generous donations of money.

          WI: explore RPA more deeply and the most good they have achieved. 

Those wanting to do the most good should ask WHERE can I do the most good, rather than asking what is the most urgent issue. Singer compares his own situation here: he wrote about poverty and liberation of animals in “Famine, Affluence, and Morality” and “Animal Liberation” even though more urgent issues were happening at the time like the Vietnam war and threats of the Cold War. Although he supported these issues, he knew that he alone could do even more good somewhere else.  

118 He chose to write “Animal Liberation” because not enough people were doing enough for this cause, giving him the chance to do the most good for the treatment of animals. If there were more people contributing the same amount to the same cause, he would no longer be giving the most impact there and his efforts could be put to use somewhere else. Singer points out that these efforts are not the most good or the biggest impact in the moment, but will be in the long run. 

119 (An extended example. This section can be cut.) Numbers are not always black and white. He mentions helping a museum opening a new wing compared to curing blindness. The wing would cost $50 mil and appeal to a million people over the years, but $100,000 can cure a thousand people of blindness in developing worlds for 15 years. Morally you should help the blind who have more need, instead of the museum even though the number is greater. 

          WI: Are there any situations where morals are less relevant, or that the impact of the less moral option does a greater amount of good?

120  The Harvard philosopher Thomas Scanlon. When we are faced with the needs of those who are “severely burdened,” the sum of the smaller pleasures of the many have no “justificatory weight.”

          W.I. Does art (making or viewing) depend on economic status? Does every level of wealth enjoy art? Is art relevant in upper classes along with people who can’t even provide basic needs for themselves?

125 If the price of trying to persuade people to donate to the cause that does the most good is that they give less, that price may be worth paying. Singer then approaches; How would we decide? We would have to figure of the amount of good in a dollar, depending on the charity of choosing. 

Singer makes an analogy to explain that getting rid of the problem is WAY better than finding a way to deal with the problem.

126  Giving isn’t about the amount of money you give, it’s about the amount of good that comes out of it. You could give 1000 dollars to one organization but if giving 500 to another does more good than you ought to give your money to the second organization even if you are giving less. GIVING LESS doesn’t always mean DOING LESS. Sometimes giving to the wrong charities (even if they aren’t necessarily doing harm) causes harm. Giving to a charity that does only a very limited amount of good, for example, may cause more harm than good because when you examine the fact that donations can be tax deductible and are therefore coming out of the pockets of hard working taxpayers drawing money away from organizations that do more good. You should never give simply for the sake of giving, you should give for the sake of doing the most good. Sometimes things intended for good can cause harm if they aren’t properly thought through. 

Should donors be directed on where to give? A donor might, for example, give half as much, but the charity may do a hundred times as much good per dollar it receives; then persuading the donor to give to the more effective charity will lead to benefits fifty times greater than leaving the donor to follow her or his initial personal convictions.

127  Most people just want to do the most good they can with what they have and telling them that there is “obviously no objective answer” to the question of giving can dampen their desire to give altogether causing the reverse effect of what you want.

129  Chapter Twelve: Difficult Comparisons

130  In the United Kingdom the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, known as NICE, uses such methods in order to recommend to the National Health Service authorities which drugs and treatments they should provide free of charge to British residents who can benefit from them. To reach this conclusion, NICE, for each treatment it considers, draws on estimates of the cost of gaining a quality-adjusted life-year, or QALY.

131  In order to set priorities, WHO wanted to estimate the global burden of various diseases. WHO uses the Disability-Adjusted Life-Year, or DALY. One DALY represents one year of life in full health. A year of life with a disability is discounted according to the severity of the disability. The extent of the discounting is decided by various methods involving interviews with samples of the population.

132 A large team of researchers did a study and found results in distinct cultures. For example they used blindness to equate the amount of healthy years of healthy life a person has. This was a hypothetical study. The researchers believe since blindness cause less deaths than starvation, then people should focus on feeding the starving. It is not difficult to find grounds for disagreeing with the discount rate for blindness and and the method used to evaluate “healthy states.”

For $1000,000, untreated blindness causes the loss of 1,000 x 0.2 = 200 DALYs per year, while starvation threatens to cause the loss of 500 DALYs per year. On these figures, we should feed the starving.

On the other hand there psychological research cast a doubt on the judgement by people with good health about what it would be like to suffer from different health condition. 

133 Holden Karnofsky asks us to imagine different scenarios for the same cost, we could accomplish them. Holden noted that some people agreed with his view and others did not. He says “ it’s possible that we would agree if we new more about the lives of the people in developing countries”. Holden believes the best solution to get people to donate is telling them exactly the number of people their helping. For example, $100,000 can restore health to x people, or save the lives of y infants. 

Any disagreement on these fundamental value questions will lead to disagreement about the cost-effectiveness of different health care interventions, and converting the benefits of those interventions into a single figure like the DALY obfuscates the disagreement rather than resolving it.

134 This allows the donors to donate with their values in consideration. Toby Ord says there are problems with the DALY approach, but supports their attempts. He believes should continue to construct a single measure of well being, even if we won’t reach it in the near future. 

There has been research going into developing ways of measuring the benefits of health care interventions. In the initial years of Give Well it did consider some charities that assist poor in the United States, but they soon stopped because they realized helping the global poor would be better. 

137  Chapter 13: Reducing Animal Suffering and Protecting Nature

While they’re a good cause, rescuing animals shouldn’t be our top priority, because they go to a small portion of the animals that suffer in the U.S.

Only a small portion of pets are abused while 9.1billion animals are slaughtered each year. That’s 55 times as many farm raised animals as there are pets.

Hundreds of millions of animals don’t die from slaughter but from suffering

          W.I. write about animal cruelty and how people are trying to stop it

          W.I. write about how animals raised for slaughter are treated 

There is a straightforward reason for not giving the highest priority to charities that rescue abused animals. The suffering of abused pets amounts to a tiny fraction of the suffering we inflict on animals.

138: The Animal Activists’ Handbook. Matt Ball. Bruce Friedrich. “Every year, hundreds of millions of animals-many times more than the total total number killed for fur, housed in shelters, and locked in laboratories combined- don’t even make it to slaughter. They actually suffer to death.” The total number of animals killed in shelters each year is around 4 million, for fur 10 million, and in laboratories 11.5 million, making a total of approximately 25.5 million. 

Animals killed for food are so badly treated that they die before they ever get to slaughter. 

          W.I. Animal experimentation 

          W.I. How many animals die because of humans

Harish Sethu has done the numbers for the U.S. on his website Counting Animals. There are thousands of organizations in the U.S. working to help dogs and cats and relatively few working for farmed animals. Animal Charity

139: Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE). Sterilizing dogs and cats, curtailing the spread of disease among them, and finding a good home for some animals it is possible to reduce the suffering of the animals. ACE – The most effective way to help animals is to be an advocate for farm animals. 

Convince people to reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products saves animals at a fraction of this cost.

How can we compare the good achieved by helping animals with the good achieved by other charities? Here, two separate questions are often confused. One is a factual question: Do animals suffer as much as humans? The other is ethical: Given that an animal is suffering as much as a human, does the suffering of the animal matter as much as the suffering of the human? The answer to the ethical question should be yes.

Robert Wiblin. Animal Liberation. Speciesism is a form of discrimination against the interests of those who are not “us,” where the line between us and the outsider is drown on the basis of something that is not in itself morally relevant. 

          W.I. Whats is gained by those animals suffering

          W.I. Are modern amenities worth the killing of thousands of animals 

          W.I. What is Speciesism 

140: Rejection of speciesism isn’t the end of the debate, it’s about the moral weight we should give to an animal suffering. Defenders of the way we treat animals usually point out that humans are more rational or autonomous or self-aware or capable of reciprocating than nonhuman animals. Some find it offensive to compare the suffering of humans with that of animals. Presumably they believe that human suffering is always incomparably more important than the suffering of animals.

We wrong animals whenever we give less weight to their interests than we would, in the same circumstances, give to a human with similar capacities.

           W.I. The suffering of animals compared to human suffering 

141 The argument is since animals have lower awareness and mental capacity, that they therefore are not on the same level as humans and there suffering is in the lower degree. Singer says that this goes beyond species bias because it is based on mental capacities. Because he says that the argument is based on that same mental capacity, some argue that humans with similar mental level also can’t compare their suffering with actual human suffering. This argument puts mentally disabled people as less than human. Other animals are kind and lovable, but humans pride ourselves on our intelligence so to put one in the category as not to have that intelligence is of the greatest insults because it is morally wrong. Since it seems immoral to choose one species suffering over the other, Singer says that the area of uncertainty seems to be the best. Without having to choose whose suffering outweighs the other, ethical altruists can help both causes even though they might not be aware which one does the MOST good, or they can make the most DIFFERENCE. 

142 Do levels of awareness determine levels of suffering? A farm animal that has grown up in a slaughter farm has no knowledge or awareness of what there life could be like without the suffering; they are not aware that they are suffering compared to other animals not in the same type of environment. Does this make their suffering less? I don’t think it does. There is no sound criteria that says one cause is better or worse than the other. Altruists believe in different causes, the support for different causes creates an argument of which cause is better or more good. One side of this argument says that animals have less capacity to suffer than humans because they have a different level of awareness, while the other sides believe that either human suffering is less than that of animals, or that they are on a similar level. 

Vegan Outreach is a nonprofit organization to end violence towards animals, especially in the slaughtering scene. They hand out leaflets to spread the idea of veganism and give statistical data of suffering. Other organizations use their leaflets for their own organization like The Humane League which is a protection non profit organization, also aiming to stop violence towards animals, specifically animals being raised for food. Their advertisements have helped many animals, because people have started agreeing with the leaflets and stopped buying and eating animal meat and products. 

ACE (Animal Charity Evaluators) also use leaflets to forward this movement to stop animal cruelty. 

143 ACE gives more statistical evidence to readers about how much it costs to help these animals and how little it takes. These inexpensive ways to divert suffering are as little as .06 CENTS. Although ACE is an animal advocacy organization, they still say that animals are only capable of a portion of the suffering that humans can endure, this portion being only one tenth. 

          WI: why does ACE believe animals only suffer 1/10? Research and develop an answer. 

144  Spreading information about factoring farming would still have excellent value compared to the most effective charities helping humans. Even if your goal were solely to slow down climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, you could do that more effectively by donating to organizations that are encouraging people to go vegetarian or vegan than by donating to leading carbon-offsetting organizations.

Climate Change

Singer discusses the effects of global warming

145 Slowing climate change would be a very important goal, one that would bring huge benefits to the global poor and to all future generations. An action that has only a tiny chance of changing that outcome can still have very high expected value.

Does Nature Have Intrinsic Value?

147 Intrinsic value of nature- Most effective altruists have not shown interest in. Singer believes that intrinsic value is to be found only in conscious experiences.

149 Chapter 14 Choosing the Best Organization

Meta Charities- organizations that evaluate other charities. Most people who give to charities are giving out of an emotionally based reasoning. Others give because they are asked by someone they know. In both cases sufficient research is usually not present.

150 Donors have an excuse for not looking into the charities and organizations they donate to; it is a lot of work. Before GiveWell, people would go to the website Charity Navigator. Charity navigator is a program that evaluates charities. Although this sounds good, it does has its disadvantages. One disadvantage is that its ratings are superficial. At the moment Charity Navigator doesn’t even tell you anything about the outcome of the charities. Many time people use Charity Navigator to look at one figure: the percentage of a charity’s revenue that is spent on administration and fundraising, rather than on its programs. In extreme cases this can be very helpful, especially when deciding when NOT to give to a charity.

151 In a few cases the proportion of revenue spent doesn’t tell us anything. Just because a charity spends little to nothing on administration and fundraising doesnt mean its a good charity to donate to. In some cases a large amount of the donations can go to administration and fundraising and it helps the charity to make the most out of every dollar it gets. 

152 Instead of evaluating all types of charities, GiveWell focuses on charities that help the poor. GiveWell decided that aiming to help poor people in developing countries would be more cost affluent than affluent countries and therefore stopped reviewing charities that don’t assign the global poor. Because GiveWell only reviews a small amount of organizations (in comparison to other charity review sites), it is able to give better, more deeply research reviews. In the absence of evidence, GiveWell writes reviews on charities but doesn’t recommend them. GiveWell does not focus on specific organizations but rather on specific types of interventions because GiveWell contends that the highest quality of evidence comes from academic research which focuses on the type of intervention. One could describe GiveWells mode of investigation as identifying interventions with a plethora of evidence showing positive outcomes, and then narrowing in on specific organizations within the decided specific interventions. 

Give Well’s first identifying interventions for which their is rigorous evidence that they have positive effects, and then investigating organizations that focus narrowly on these demonstrably beneficial interventions. Directing a donation to a specific project thus won’t necessarily affect whether or not the project will go ahead or even its scale. In 2013 GiveWell recommended only three charities, two of which specialize in treating parasitic worm infections that cause children to develop anemia and slow their progress in school, which the third is GiveDirectly founded to give cash grants directly to very poor people. These interventions have been evaluated by randomized controlled trials.

154  Providing information to parents about the increased wages of those who stay at school is by far the most cost-effective way of improving education and 

155  results in an amazing 20.7 additional years spent at school!

156  There are limited resources make it impossible for Heifer International to provide the option of giving to everyone who could benefit from it. Niehaus proposed instead of giving people cash grams, it would be more beneficial to give poor people cows because it would lead to a better outcome in the end. 

Randomized controlled trials of drugs and medical treatments are required even though they are “experiments with people’s lives”. The trials, however, comply with guidelines set by international research organizations. In the long run these treatments save people’s lives. Failing to use the resource available to save people’s lives is much worse. There are drawbacks and limitations to the randomized controlled trials. For some aid interventions, getting trained people to remote villages is the largest part of the budget. If randomization is to be done, which will be necessary in some situations, then twice as many villages need to be visited to get the baseline measurement which will be doubling the cost of the project. 

157 Oxfam America wanted to do a randomized trials of its “Savings for Change” program, this encouraged women in rural villages in Mali to set up saving schemes from which each member could borrow money when needed.  However, Donors were worried that their donations were going only to the research being done. The study found benefits in this plan like food security but not in education, it also helped in women empowerment. The major limitation of randomization is they can only  be used for certain inventions. Oxfam puts resources into both direct aid and advocacy work.It believes that its advocacy work is better grounded because it regards itself as vital to try combat the causes of poverty. 

 

158  Oxfam has always taken an interest in extracting industries like oil and mining, which often deprives the poor of the land and pollute the rivers which local people rely on for fishing, drinking water, and irrigation. When big quantities of oil and gas were discovered, Ghana knew that it would not benefit the poor of the country. 

Oxfam supported research reports and public forums that use the revenue from the oil industry to help raise public awareness to the issue. The attention helped Ghana get the money they deserved. In 2014 they received approximately $777 million in oil revenue. WIth vast majority of this money directed at “Poverty-focused agriculture”. 

159   Oxfam, an international organization working to end poverty. They work with oil companies to get them to donate to farms and those in poverty. Because it involves so much money, even getting them to donate 1 percent is a huge sum. It indicates a return on investment of 580 percent.

          W.I. write about Oxfam and what they do

They also work to stop large food companies methods of land acquisition, sustainable use of water, climate change, and exploiting women

One of their big battles is fighting against big brand foods driving poor people off land they’ve lived on their whole lives. 

160  An example of this^ is a people in brazil had been living in the sirinhaem river estuary since 1914, in 1998 sugar cane companies forced them to move out, threatened them with violence, and burned their homes down.

When oxfam brought this to the public’s eye , coca-cola and other big 10 food brands denounced this practice 

They have all committed to zero tolerance policies of this practice 

W.I. write about the sirinhaem river estuary people and their conflict with the Usina Trapiche sugar cane company

161  People like political advocacies because they help the causes of poverty too

Many times when a poverty stricken country gets money, they don’t fix the poverty or help them. The money goes into the extremely wealthy and government officials. Because they don’t get any of the money, and know they can get it if they take over the government, the risk for revolt is increased.

Many organizations are part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which works to make sure that money from resource rights goes into the right hands and not into leaders pockets

Working to change unfair trading practices that disadvantage developing countries is one way in which we can try to address at least some of the causes of poverty.

          W.I. write about what the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative does 

          W.I. write about how the angolan government pocketed 34 billion dollars over the course of 8 years that should’ve gone to help their poverty stricken

162: Angola. Financial flows of $34 billion between 2000 and 2008. Nine times what it received in official development assistance during the same period. The rich rule over the poor. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. EITI- works alongside governments and companies to implement an international standard requiring transparency both from the governments of resource rich countries concerning what what they recieve and what happens to it. ONE. In 2011 ONE campaigned for nations to increase their pledges to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations. June 2011- $4.3 billion dollars in total was raised, more than hundred times ONE’s total expenditure of $29 million that year. Bono the lead singer of U2, the largest advocacy-only organization that is focused on extreme poverty. 

          W.I. What is the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations and what does it do? 

          W.I. What all goes into giving a vaccine and immunizations?

163: How much money should ONE claim? The campaign was money well spent. ONE conducted another campaign in 2011, it appealed to the UN for a humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa. ONE also successfully persuaded the European Commission to propose a law requiring transparency in the extractives industry. In 2012 ONE became somewhat obsolete because of budget cuts in the European government. GiveWell has a partnership with Good Ventures, a philanthropic foundation set up by Cari Tuna and her husband. Dustin Moskovitz. Open Philanthropy Project – goal of investigating a much wider range of giving opportunities that GiveWell does when it evaluates and recommends specific charities. OPP and GiveWell have funded many scientific research studies focused on reducing global catastrophic risk, and attempting to reform the criminal justice system in the U.S. 

          W.I. What government gives the most to people in need and why? What impact does it have on those people and does it do any good? If so how?

164 If the advocacy organizations do have an impact, then the return investment “would likely be very large.” In other words, we do not, at present, know enough to say whether policy advocacy offers better or worse value for money than direct aid programs.

          W.I. The difference between direct aid and policy advocacy.

          W.I. What is the best way to give your money?

165  Singer explains that dinosaurs became extinct due to a massive collision wiping out the species, and points out that it might be our turn next. He describes how rare the occurrence is, but I am very confused regarding how this can relate to choosing the best organization. Maybe he is leading up to an organization that is researching ways to prevent these collisions?

Chapter 15: Preventing Human Extinction

Nick Bostrom speaks of the term existential risk, or a situation in which “an adverse outcome would either annihilate Earth-originating intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential.”

166  Nick Bostrom is focused on “intelligent life” such as ourselves, but not a specific species. Where is the line drawn? Some of the ways we could become extinct: a large asteroid, nuclear war, a pandemic of natural origins, a pandemic caused by bioterrorism, global warming, (which is very current) 167  a nanotech accident, physics research producing hyperdense “strange matter”, or a superintelligent unfriendly artificial intelligence [Gremillion] What is nasa’s plan to prevent these catastrophic events? How can we help them do the most good for our planet and our lives?

172  Prior existence view: that if people or, more broadly, sentient beings, exist or will exist independently of anything we choose to do, we ought to make their lives as good as possible; but we have no obligation to try to bring about the existence of people who, but for our actions, would not have existed at all. There is no obligation to reproduce.

173  There is a philosophical debate as to the extent of the efforts we should make to reduce the risk of extinction. Bostrom’s calculations say that reducing existential risk should take priority over doing other good things.

174 Altruistic dollars are scarce so effective altruists tend to donate more to reducing need than the actual needs themselves. Unrestricted altruism is not common enough today for us to have the ability to waste it on the more frivolous needs. This isn’t to say that every need isn’t important, but some are definitely more detrimental than others. On that note, it is important to encourage others to be effective altruists as there is a greater likelihood of those effective altruists becoming concerned about existential risk than someone who wasn’t previously an effective altruism would. The problem of how to minimize known existential risks has no known solution. This is true only for most existential risks. 

175 Some effective altruists have shown interest in the development of artificial intelligence. 

          W.I. The dangers of artificial intelligence

176 The development of artificial intelligence was bad for the chimps but good for humans. Animal suffering is offset by the fact there by the decreased suffering of humans, there is hope for the future of increased happiness for both humans and animals together. If you have a clear idea in one specific area of how to reduce existential risk, it is much better for you to focus on that one area of which you have knowledge and do limited side work in other areas, than to dedicate yourself to areas you have no knowledge about. 

177  Take steps to reduce the risk of human extinction when those steps are also highly effective in benefiting existing sentient beings. For example, eliminating or decreasing the consumption of animal products will benefit animals, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lessen the chances of a pandemic resulting from a virus evolving among the animals crowded into today’s factory farms, which are an ideal breeding ground for viruses.

178  Educating and empowering women by giving them greater say in national and international affairs. Educating women and growing healthier children.

 

Love in the Time of Cholera

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Marquez also wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude along with other works. This book, Love in the Time of Cholera, was a national best seller. Marquez was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. Penguin Books had this edition translated from Spanish by Edith Grossman. This book was published in 1988. Even though the cover of my copy appears intriguing, I hate the title; it actively makes me not want to read it. I committed to it because I’d heard such good things about the author. A movie was made based on this story. A personal note on the very first page reads “This book is incredible!” On the second page I wrote “With very little dialogue, this book reminds me of another one of my favorite authors, Dostoyevsky. We go deep into people’s hearts, souls and minds. What a splendored world is love. How long would you wait? How far would you go? Love has no age; no sell-by date. We do not stop loving when we age.” On the next page I wrote “This is another one of those books whose title does not reveal the humor and the love inside!”

As far as transcription, I usually just type the “best bits” that rise to the surface as outstanding writing. For this one I also included plot points (which I mark differently in the book). That was too much! I’m hoping that if you like the “best bits” you’ll feel inspired to read the entire story.

 

3  margin note: Saint Amour poisons himself

5  margin note: Dr. Juvenal Urbino is very old but still working. Memory and hearing slipping a bit.

9  “…the uproar of oil and motors from the bay whose exhaust fumes fluttered through the house on hot afternoons like an angel condemned to putrefaction.”

10  “‘The scalpel is the greatest proof of the failure of medicine.’ He thought that, in a strict sense, all medication was poison and that seventy percent of common foods hastened death.”

17  Branding (one of my literary interests discussed in my thesis) is mentioned

20  “He was a deplumed, maniacal parrot who did not speak when asked to but only when it was least expected, but when he did so with a clarity and rationality that were uncommon among human beings.”

31  “He was very glad that the instrument used by Divine Providence for that overwhelming revelation had been Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, whom he had always considered a saint unaware of his own state of grace. But when the letter revealed his true identity, his sinister past, his inconceivable powers of deception, he felt that something definitive and irrevocable had occurred in his life.”

32  “‘You don’t understand anything,’ he said. ‘What infuriates me is not what he was or what he did, but the deception he practiced on all of us for so many years.’”

37  “He remembered Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, on view at that hour in his coffin, in his bogus military uniform with his fake decoration, under the accusing eyes of the children in the portraits.”

49  Dr. Urbino is buried the day after Saint-Amour.

50  “‘Fermina,’ he said, ‘I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love.’

“Fermina Daza would have thought she was facing a madman if she had not had reason to believe that at that moment Florentino Ariza was inspired by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Her first impulse was to curse him for profaning the house when the body of her husband was still warm in the grave. But the dignity of her fury held her back. ‘Get out of here,’ she said. ‘And don’t show your face again for the years of life that are left to you.’ She opened the street door, which she had begun to close, and concluded:

“‘And I hope there are very few of them.’”

51  “Only then did she realize that she had slept a long time without dying, sobbing in her sleep, and that while she slept, sobbing, she had thought more about Florentino Ariza than about her dead husband.”

Chapter endnotes:

Learn about Saint-Amour and what is revealed in his suicide note. Learn of Dr. Urbino (who dies next) and his wife, Fermina. She is visited by a man she met as a teen who says he has loved her all this time. This news did not come as a shock but she kicks him out. Even so…she thinks about him more than her dead husband all through the night.

 

53  “Florentino Ariza, on the other hand, had not stopped thinking of her for a single moment since Fermina Daza had rejected him out of hand after a long and troubled love affair fifty-one years, nine months, and four days ago.”

54  “…Florentino Ariza could play by ear like a professional. When he met Fermina Daza he was the most sought-after young man in his social circle…”

55  “The lesson was not interrupted, but the girl raised her eyes to see who was passing by the window, and that casual glance was the beginning of a cataclysm of love that still had not ended half a century later.”

57  “‘But above all,’ she said, ‘The first person you have to win over is not the girl but her aunt.’”

58  “…her aunt was convinced that all these meetings could not be casual. She said: ‘He is not going to all this trouble for me.’ For despite her austere conduct and penitential habit, Aunt Escolastica had an instinct for life and a vocation for complicity, which was her greatest virtues, and the mere idea that a man was interested in her niece awakened an irresistible emotion in her. Fermina Daza, however, was still safe from even simple curiosity about love, and the only feeling that Florentino Ariza inspired in her was a certain pity, because it seemed to her that he was sick. But her aunt told her that one had to live a long time to know a  man’s true nature, and she was convinced that the one who sat in the park to watch them walk by could only be sick with love.

“Four times a day, when they walked through the little Park of the Evangels, both hurried to look with a rapid glance at the thin, timid, unimpressive sentinel who was almost always dressed in black despite the heat and who pretended to read under the trees.”

59  “But her prayers were not answered. On the contrary. This occurred at the time that Florentino Ariza made his confession to his mother, who dissuaded him from handing Fermina Daza his seventy pages of compliments, so that she continued to wait for the rest of the year.”

62  But his examination revealed that he had no fever, no pain anywhere, and that his only concrete feeling was an urgent desire to die. All that was needed was shrewd questioning, first of the patient and then of his mother, to conclude once again that the symptoms of love were the same as those of cholera.”

68  “It was the year they fell into devastating love. Neither one could do anything except think about the other, dream about the other, and wait for letters with the same impatience they felt when they answered them. Never in that delirious spring, or in the following year, did they have the opportunity to speak to each other. Moreover, from the moment they saw each other for the first time until he reiterated his determination a half century later, they never had the opportunity to be alone or to talk of their love. But during the first three months not one day went by that they did not write to each other, and for a time they wrote twice a day, until Aunt Escolastica became frightened by the intensity of the blaze that she herself had helped to ignite.”

69  “Sometimes he went to the office without having slept, his hair in an uproar of love after leaving the letter in the prearranged hiding place so that Fermina Daza would find it on her way to school.”

71  “Their frenetic correspondence was almost two years old when Florentino Ariza, in a letter of only one paragraph, made a formal proposal of marriage to Fermina Daza. On several occasions during the preceding six months he had sent her a white camellia…”

“…torn from the margin of a school notebook, on which a one-line answer was written in pencil: Very well, I will marry you if you promise not to make me eat eggplant.”

73  “In any case, the details of the engagement were settled in their letters during the weeks that followed. Fermina Daza, on the advice of her Aunt Escolastica, accepted both the two-year extension and the condition of absolute secrecy, and suggested that Florentino Ariza ask for her hand when she finished secondary school, during the Christmas vacation. When the time came they would decide on how the engagement was to be formalized, depending on the degree of approval she obtained from her father. In the meantime, they continued to write to each other with the same ardor and frequency, but free of the turmoil they had felt before, and their letters tended toward a domestic tone that seemed appropriate to husband and wife. Nothing disturbed their dreams.”

77  “She had two children, each by a different father, not because they were casual adventures but because she could never love any man who came back after the third visit.”

78  “The fact was that on the previous Saturday, Sister Franca de la Luz, Superior of the Academy of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, had come into the class on Ideas of Cosmogony with the stealth of a serpent, and spying on the students over their shoulders, she discovered that Fermina Daza was pretending to take notes in her notebook when in reality she was writing a love letter. According to the rules of the Academy, that error was reason for expulsion.”

79  “Certain that such an intricate relationship was understandable only with the complicity of his sister, he did not grant her the grace of an excuse or the right of appeal, but shipped her on the schooner to San Juan de la Cienaga. Fermina Daza never found relief from her last memory of her aunt on the afternoon when she said goodbye in the doorway…”

“Lorenzo Daza did not foresee the ferocity with which his daughter would react to the unjust punishment of her Aunt Escolastica, whom she had always identified with the mother she could barely remember. She locked herself in her room, refused to eat or drink, and when at last he persuaded her to open the door, first with threats and then with poorly dissimulated pleading, he found a wounded panther who would never be fifteen years old again.”

“But it was like talking to a corpse. Defeated, he at last lost his temper at lunch on Monday, and while he choked back insults and blasphemies and was about to explode, she put the meat knife to her throat, without dramatics but with a steady hand and eyes so aghast that he did not dare to challenge her. That was when he took the risk of talking for five minutes, man to man, with the accursed upstart whom he did not remember ever having seen, and who had come into his life to his great sorrow. By force of habit he picked up his revolver before he went out, but he was careful to hide it under his shirt.”

81  “Get out of our way.”

82  “‘Don’t force me to shoot you,’ he said.

“‘Shoot me,’ he said, with his hand on his chest. ‘There is no greater glory than to die for love.’”

Margin note: Father is taking her away. She leaves a letter in her hair braid.

86  “So the Forentino Ariza not only learned the complete itinerary but also established an extensive brotherhood of telegraph operators who would follow the trail of Fermina Daza to the last settlement in Cabo de la Vela. This allowed him to maintain intensive communications with her from the time of her arrival in Valledupar, where she stayed three months, until the end of her journey in Riohacha, a year and a half later, when Lorenzo Daza took it for granted that his daughter had at last forgotten and he decided to return home.”

88  “That was how the telegraphic correspondence with Florentino Ariza stopped being a concerto of intentions and illusory promises and became methodical and practical and more intense than ever. They set dates, established means, pledged their lives to their mutual determination to marry without consulting anyone, wherever and however they could, as soon as they were together again.”

Lorenzo Daza “never spoke to her about his plans for the arranged marriage.”

“It was at this time that Florentino Ariza decided to tell her in his letters of his determination to salvage the treasure of the sunken galleon for her.”

102 margin note: OH. NO.

103  “…opportunity to see or talk to Fermina Daza alone in the many chance encounters of their very long lives until fifty-one years and nine months and four days later, when he repeated his vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love on her first night as a widow.”

Endnotes: Florentino and Fermina were in love all their teen/young years, but her father moved them away to break up the romance. They stayed in touch through letters. Three years later when Fermina returned to secretly marry Florentino, he caught her by surprise in the market. At just that moment, the X factor was extinguished. She saw Florentino in an entirely new light and abruptly broke off the engagement.

 

109  “To prevent anyone from drinking from the aluminum cup used to dip out the water, its edges were as jagged as the crown of a mock king.”

122 Dr. Urbino is now attempting to get close to Fermina.

“It was a brief and bitter visit. Sister Franca de la Luz, wasting no time on formalities, offered honorable reinstatement to Fermina Daza. The reason for her expulsion would be erased not only from the records but also from the memory of the Community, and this would allow her to finish her studies and receive her baccalaureate degree. Fermina Daza was perplexed and wanted to know why.

“‘It is the request of someone who deserves everything he desires and whose only sin is to make you happy,’ said the nun. ‘Do you know who that is?’

“Then she understood. She asked herself with what authority a woman who had made her life miserable because of an innocent letter served as the emissary of love, but she did not dare to speak of it. Instead she said yes, she knew that man, and by the same token she also knew that he had no right to interfere in her life.”

132  margin notes: Fermina is a homebody with no friends

“She herself had not realized that every step she took from her house to school, every spot in the city, every moment of her recent past, did not seem to exist except by the grace of Florentino Ariza. Hildebranda pointed this out to her, but she did not admit it because she never would have admitted that Florentino Ariza, for better or for worse, was the only thing that had ever happened to her in her life.”

136  margin note: Interesting how all these men are after Fermina when she herself does not seem interesting at all.

“…Doctor with a perfunctory handshake. Fermina did the same, but when she tried to withdraw her hand in its satin glove, Dr. Urbino squeezed her ring finger.

“‘I am waiting for your answer,’ he said.”

“Then Fermina pulled harder and her empty glove was left dangling in the Doctor’s hand, but she did not wait to retrieve it.”

137  “It was one of her typical letters, not a syllable too many or too few, in which she told the Doctor yes, he could speak to her father.”

138 margin note: Florentino plays one last waltz for Fermina before moving away.

142 margin note: Florintino loses his virginity to a stranger.

143  “…he could not believe, that he even refused to admit, which was that his illusory love for Fermina Daza could be replaced by an earthly passion.”

147  “…in the marasmus of the sedatives he had resolved once and for all that he did not give a damn about the brilliant future of the telegraph and that he would take this very same boat back to his old Street of Windows.

“Never again, because never again would he abandon the city of Fermina Daza.

149  “Florentino Ariza tried to help her unfasten her stays, but she anticipated him with a deft maneuver, for in five years of matrimonial devotion she learned to depend on herself in all phases of love, even the preliminary stages, with no help from anyone.”

Margin notes 152: Florentino begins keeping journals of his lovers

Margin notes 153: Florentina sees Fermina after her honeymoon. She is at church with her husband and pregnant.

“…which couples in the family still made love and which ones had stopped, and when, and why, even though they continued to live together.”

159  “He was aware that he did not love her. He had married her because he liked her haughtiness, her seriousness, her strength, and also because of some vanity on his part, but as she kissed him for the first time he was sure there would be no obstacle to their inventing true love. They did not speak of it that first night, when they spoke of everything until dawn, nor would they ever speak of it. But in the long run, neither of them had made a mistake.’

Margin notes 160  Fermina and Urbino have their first child

161  “But amid these and so many other memories, Dr. Juvenal Urbino had one that he always regretted not sharing with his wife, for it came from his days as a bachelor student in Paris. It was the memory of Victor Hugo, who enjoyed an impassioned fame here that had nothing to do with his books, because someone said that he had said, although no one actually heard him say it, that our Constitution was meant for a nation not of men but of angels. From that time on, special homage was paid to him, and most of our many compatriots who traveled to France went out of their way to see him. A half-dozen students, among them Juvenal Urbino, stood guard for a time outside his residence on Avenue Eylau, and at the cafes where it was said he came without fail and never came, and at last they sent a written request for a private audience in the name of the angels of the Constitution of Rionegro. They never received a re3ply. One day, when Juvenal Urbino happened to be passing the Luxembourg Gardens, he saw him come out of the Senate with a young woman on his arm. He seemed very old, he walked with difficulty, his beard and hair were less brilliant than in his pictures, and he wore an overcoat that seemed to belong to a larger man. He did not want to ruin the memory with an impertinent greeting: he was satisfied with the almost unreal vision that he would keep for the rest of his life. When he returned to Paris as a married man, in a position to see him under more formal circumstances, Victor Hugo had already died.”

End note: We learn what happens during Fermina and Florentino’s lives when Dr. Urbino comes on the scene.

 

A plan: “The day that Florentino Ariza saw Fermina Daza in the atrium of the Cathedral, in the sixth month of her pregnancy and in full command of her new condition as a woman of the world, he made a fierce decision to win fame and fortune in order to deserve her. He did not even stop to think about the obstacle of her being married, because at the same time he decided, as if it depended on himself alone, that Dr. Juvenal Urbino had to die. He did not know when or how, but he considered it an ineluctable event that he was resolved to wait for without impatience or violence, even till the end of time.

“…he allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves” (166).

“Inside the shell of a soulless merchant was hidden a genial lunatic…” (165-6).

169  “In the other photograph, his father was with a group of soldiers in God knows which of so many wars, and he held the longest rifle, and his mustache had a gunpowder smell that wafted out of the picture.”

176-7  “As he spoke he sipped aguardiente without pause. He seemed to be made of reinforced concrete: he was enormous, with hair all over his body except on his head, a mustache like a housepainter’s brush, a voice like a capstan, which would have been his alone, and an exquisite courtesy. But not even his body could resist the way he drank. Before they sat down to the table he had finished half of the demijohn, and he fell forward onto the tray of glasses and bottles with a slow sound of demolition.”  OMG…that is SO GOOD!

178  here I wrote “Ausencia” : “…the first thing she did when he arrived was to take off his glasses instead of undressing him, so that she could kiss him with greater ease, and this was how Florentino Ariza learned that she had begun to love him.”

188  “‘No,’ she said to him. ‘I would feel as if I were going to bed with the son I never had.’

“Florentino Ariza was left with the nagging suspicion that this was not her last word. He believed that when a woman says no, she is waiting to be urged before making her final decision, but with her he could not risk making the same mistake twice. He withdrew without protest, and even with a certain grae, which was not easy for him. From that night on, any cloud there might have been between them was dissipated without bitterness, and Florentino Ariza understood at last that it is possible to be a woman’s friend and not go to bed with her.”

191  Florentino and Dr. Juvenal meet: “…it revealed to him that he and this man, whom he had always considered his personal enemy, were victims of the same fate and shared the hazards of a common passion; they were two animals yoked together.”

200 “‘By virtue of marrying a man she does not love for money,’ interrupted Sara Noriega. ‘That’s the lowest kind of whore.’”

203 “…loving without lies, sleeping without having to feign sleep in order to escape the indecency of official love, possessed at last of the right to an entire bed to themselves, where no one fought them for half of the sheet, half of the air they breathed, half of their night, until their bodies were satisfied with dreaming their own dreams, and they woke alone.

“He saw no reason why Fermina Daza should not be a widow like them, prepared by life to accept him just as he was, without fantasier of guilt because of her dead husband, resolved to discover with him the other happiness of being happy twice, with one love for everyday use which would become, more and more, a miracle of being alive, and the other love that belonged to her alone, the love immunized by death against all contagion.”

204  “…but no one could remember what he was like. It was then that Fermina Daza experienced the revelation of the unconscious motives that had kept her from loving him. She said: ‘It is as if he were not a person but only a shadow.’ That is what he was: the shadow of someone whom no one had ever known.”

205  “The truth is that Juvenal Urbino’s suit had never been undertaken in the name of love, and it was curious, to say the least, that a militant Catholic like him would offer her only worldly goods: security, order, happiness, contiguous numbers that, once they were added together, might resemble love, almost be love. But they were not love, and these doubts increased her confusion, because she was also not convinced that love was really what she most needed to live.”

206  “…Fermina Daza’s happy marriage lasted as long as the honeymoon…”

“…the man she had married was a hopeless weakling: a poor devil made bold by the social weight of his family names.”

211  “…he had won the power to turn his daughter into an exquisite lady. He left old and sick, but still he lived much longer than any of his victims might have desired. Fermina Daza could not repress a sigh of relief when she received the news of his death, and in order to avoid questions she did not wear mourning, but for several months she wept with mute fury without knowing why when she locked herself in the bathroom to smoke, and it was because she was crying for him.

“The most absurd element in their situation was that they never seemed so happy in public as during those years of misery. For this was the time of their greatest victories over the subterranean hostility of a milieu that resisted accepting them as they were: different and modern, and for that reason transgressors against the traditional order. That, however, had been the easy part for Fermina Daza. Life in the world, which had caused her so much uncertainty before she was familiar with it, was nothing more than a system of atavistic contracts, banal ceremonies, preordained words, with which people entertained each other in society in order not to commit murder. The dominant sign in that paradise of provincial frivolity was fear of the unknown. She had defined it in a simpler way: ‘The problem in public life is learning to overcome terror; the problem in married life is learning to overcome boredom.’ She had made this sudden discovery with the clarity of a revelation when, trailing her endless bridal train behind her, she had entered the vast  salon of the Social Club, where the air was thin with the mingled scent of so many flowers, the brilliance of the waltzes, the tumult of perspiring men and tremulous women who looked at her not knowing how they were going to exorcise the dazzling menace that had come to them from the outside world. She had just turned twenty-one and had done little more than leave her house to go to school, but with one look around her she understood that her adversaries were not convulsed with hatred but paralyzed by fear. Instead of frightening them even more, as she was already doing, she had the compassion to help them learn to know her. They were no different from what she wanted them to be…”

223  “Over the years they both reached the same wise conclusion by different paths: it was not possible to live together in any other way, or love in any other way, and nothing in this world was more difficult than love.”

End note: We learn about the individual lives and loves of Fermina and Florentino as they are apart and move forward through their lives. Florentino never married but knew many woman. Fermina was in a loveless but workable marriage and had 3 children.

The reader will enjoy a romantic interlude between pages 227-229

230  “The military man, prepared to introduce them, asked her if they did not know each other. She did not say yes and she did not say no, but she held out her hand to Florentino Ariza with a salon smile. The same thing had occurred twice in the past, and would occur again, and Florentino Ariza always accepted these occasions with a strength of character worthy of Fermina Daza. But that afternoon he asked himself, with his infinite capacity for illusion, if such pitiless indifference might not be a subterfuge for hiding the torments of love.

Margin note 233  He hears gossip that Fermina is sick

235  “At last she decided to leave, not even knowing why or to what purpose, out of sheer fury, and he, inhibited by his sense of guilt, had not been able to dissuade her.

“When she made her rash decision, she told her children that she was going to have a change of scene for three months or so with Aunt Hildebranda, but her determination was not to return. Dr. Juvenal Urbino knew the strength of her character very well, and he was so troubled that he accepted her decision with humility as God’s punishment for the gravity of his sins. But the lights on the boat had not yet been lost to view when they both repented of their weakness.”

Two years pass

237  “Beyond any shadow of a doubt there was an odor in each of the articles that had not been there in all their years of life together, an odor impossible to define because it was not the sent of flowers or of artificial essences but of something peculiar to human nature. She said nothing, and she did not notice the odor every day, but she now sniffed at her husband’s clothing not to decide if it was ready to launder but with an unbearable anxiety that gnawed at her innermost being.”

240  “In this way she realized not only that her husband was in a state of mortal sin but that he had resolved to persist in it, since he did not go to his confessor for help. She had never imagined that she could suffer so much for something that seemed to be the absolute opposite of love, but she was suffering, and she resolved that the only way she could keep from dying was to burn out the nest of vipers that was poisoning her soul.”

“…a great relief that what was bound to happen sooner or later had happened sooner rather than later: the ghost of Miss Barbara Lynch had entered his house at last.”

241  “Miss Barbara Lynch, Doctor of Theology, was the only child of the Reverend Jonathan B. Lynch…”

248  “the last thing Miss Lynch received from him was an emerald tiara in a little box wrapped in paper from the pharmacy, so that the coachman himself thought it was an emergency prescription and handed it to her with no comment, no message, nothing in writing. Dr. Urbino never saw her again, not even by accident, and God alone knows how much grief his heroic resolve cost him or how many bitter tears he had to shed behind the locked lavatory door in order to survive this private catastrophe. At five o’clock, instead of going to see her, he made a profound act of contrition before his confessor, and on the following Sunday he took Communion, his heart broken but his soul at peace.”

249  “…he ended the recital of his misery with a sigh as mournful as it was sincere: ‘I think I am going to die.’ She did not even blink when she replied.

‘That would be best,’ she said. ‘Then we could both have some peace.’”

“Something definitive had happened to her while he slept: the sediment that had accumulated at the bottom of her life over the course of so many years had been stirred up by the torment of her jealousy and had floated to the surface, and it had aged her all at once.”

250  “For her it was the end of everything. She was sure that her honor was the subject of gossip even before her husband had finished his penance, and the feeling of humiliation that this produced in her was much less tolerable than the shame and anger and injustice caused by his infidelity. And worst of all, damn it: with a black woman. He corrected her: ‘With a mulatta.’ But by then if was too late for accuracy: she had finished.

‘Just as bad,’ she said, ‘and only now I understand: it was the smell of a black woman.’

“This happened on a Monday. On Friday at seven o’clock in the evening, Fermina Daza sailed away on the regular boat to San Juan de la Cienaga with only one trunk, in the company of her goddaughter, her face covered by a mantilla to avoid questions for herself and her husband. Dr. Juvenal Urbino was not at the dock, by mutual agreement, following an exhausting three-day discussion in which they decided that she should to Cousin Hildebranda Sanchez’s ranch in Flores de Maria for as long a time as she needed to think before coming to a final decision. Without knowing her reasons, the children understood it as  a trip she had often put off and that they themselves had wanted her to make for a long time. Dr. Urbino arranged matters so that no one in his perfidious circle could engage in malicious speculation, and he did it so well that if Florentino Ariza could find no clue to Fermina Daza’s disappearance it was because in fact there was none, not because he lacked the means to investigate. Her husband had no doubts that she would come home as soon as she got over her rage. But she lft certain that her rage would never end.”

254  “Dr. Juvenal Urbino made the decision to come for her after receiving a report from the Bishop…”

Fermina was so happy to see Juvenal

256 margin note: Florentino sees Fermina as she grows old

258  “As they talked, Florentino Ariza put his hand on her thigh, he began to caress her with the gentle touch of an experienced seducer, and she did not stop him, but she did not respond either, not even with a shudder for courtesy’s sake.”

“From that time on, she would say to anyone who would listen to her: ‘If you ever hear of a big, strong fellow who raped a poor black girl from the street on Drowned Men’s Jetty, one October fifteenth at about half-past eleven at night, tell him where he can find me.’ She said it out of habit, and she had said it to so many people that she no longer had any hope. Florentino Ariza had heard the story as many times as he had heard a boat sailing away in the night. By two o’clock in the morning they had each drunk three brandies and he knew, in truth, that he was not the man she was waiting for, and he was glad to know it.”

259  “It was the most fearful kind of presentiment, because it was based on reality. The years of immobilized waiting, of hoping for good luck, were behind him, but on the horizon he could see nothing more than the unfathomable sea of imaginary illnesses, the drop-by-drop urinations of sleepless nights, the daily death at twilight. He thought that all the moments in the day, which had once been his allies and sworn accomplices, were beginning to conspire against him. A few years before he had gone to a dangerous assignation, his heart heavy with terror of what might happen, and he had found the door unlocked and the hinges recently oiled so that he could come in without a sound, but he repented at the last moment for fear of causing a decent married woman irreparable harm by dying in her bed. So that it was reasonable to think that the woman he loved most on earth, the one he had waited for from one century to the next without a sigh of disenchantment, might not have the opportunity to lead him by the arm across a street full of lunar grave mounds and beds of windblown poppies in order to help him reach the other side of death in safety.

“It was a bad time for being young: there was a style of dress for each age, but the style of old age began soon after adolescence, and lasted until the grave.”

268  “Six months later, by unanimous agreement, Florentino Ariza was named President of the Board of Directors and General manager of the company.”

272 margin note: Pretty creepy, Florentino!

276  “…although it seemed absurd: the oldest and best-qualified doctor in the city, and one oof its illustrious men for many other meritorious reasons, had died of a broken spine, at the age of eighty-one, when he fell from the branch of a mango tree as he tried to catch a parrot.”

278  “…and on the wet envelope he recognized at once the imperious handwriting that so many changes in life had not changed, and he even thought he could detect the nocturnal perfume of withered gardenias, because after the initial shock, his heart told him everything: it was the letter he had been waiting for, without a moment’s respite, for over half a century.”

End note: Florentino’s later years and learning of Dr. Urbino’s death. He goes to tell Fermina he’ll be waiting. Three weeks later he finds a letter at his door.

 

279  “Fermina Daza could not have imagined that her letter, inspired by blind rage, would have been interpreted by Florentino Atiza as a love letter. She had put into it all the fury of which she was capable, her cruelest words, the most wounding, most unjust vilifications…

281  “At the end of the third week, in fact, she began to see the first light. But as it grew larger and brighter, she became aware that there was an evil phantom in her life who did not give her a moment’s peace. He was not the pitiable phantom who had haunted her in the Park of the Evangels and whom she had evoked with a certain tenderness after she had grown old, but the hateful phantom with his executioner’s frock coat and his hat held against his chest, whose thoughtless impertinence had disturbed her so much that she found it impossible not to think about him. Ever since her rejection of him at the age of eighteen, she had been convinced that she had left behind a seed of hatred in him that could only grow larger with time. She had always counted on that hatred, she had felt it in the air when the phantom was near, and the mere sight of him had upset and frightened her so that she never found a natural way to behave with him. On the night when he reiterated his love for her, while the flowers for her dead husband were still perfuming the house, she could not believe that his insolence wad not the first step in God knows what sinister plan for revenge.

“It was not easy for her to imagine Florentino Ariza as he had been then, much less to believe that the taciturn boy, so vulnerable in the rain, was the moth-eaten old wreck who had stood in front of her with no consideration for her situation, or the slightest respect for her grief, and had seared her soul with a flaming insult that still made it difficult for her to breathe.”

285  “Prudencia Pitre had not forgotten his scratching signal at the door, the one ha had used to identify himself when they thought they were still young although they no longer were, and she opened the door without any questions. The street was dark, he was barely visible in his black suit, his stiff hat, and his bat’s umbrella hanging over his arm, and her eyes were too weak to see him except in full light, but she recognized him by the gleam of the streetlamp on the metal frame of his eyeglasses. He looked like a merderer with blood still on his hands.

‘Sanctuary for a poor orphan,’ he said.”

302  “It seemed incredible, but as the first anniversary of her husband’s death approached, Fermina Daza felt herself entering a place that was shady, cool, quiet: the grove of the irremediable. She was not yet aware, and would not be for several months, of how much the written meditations of Florentino Ariza had helped her to recover her peace of mind. Applied to her own experiences, they were what allowed her to understand her own life and to await the designs of old age with serenity. Their meeting at the memorial Mass was a providential opportunity for her to let Florentino Ariza know that she, too, thanks to his letters of encouragement, was prepared to erase the past.”

305 margin note: they finally sit down to talk

“…enough time to look at each other with some serenity, and they had seen each other for what they were: two old people, ambushed by death, who had nothing in common except the memory of an ephemeral past that was no longer theirs but belonged to two young people who had vanished and who could have been their grandchildren. She thought that he would at last be convinced of the unreality of his dream, and that this would redeem his insolence.”

308  “She ignored his hidden intentions and returned the letter to him, saying: ‘It is a shame that I cannot read it, because the others have helped me a great deal.’”

“‘Come back whenever you like,’ she said. ‘I am almost always alone.’”

317  “Fermina Daza needed no more than three Tuesdays to realize how much she missed Florentino Ariza’s visits.”

“But for Fermina Daza no one could take the place of her calming afternoons with Florentino Ariza.”

323  “‘A century ago, life screwed that poor man and me because we were too young, and now they want to do the same thing because we are too old.’”

329  “Then he reached out with two icy fingers in the darkness, felt for the other hand in the darkness, and found it waiting for him. Both were lucid enough to realize, at the same fleeting instant, that the hands made of old bones were not the hands they had imagined before touching. In the next moment, however, they were. She began to speak of her dead husband in the present tense, as if he were alive, and Florentino Ariza knew then that for her, too, the time had come to ask herself with dignity, with majesty, with an irrepressible desire to live, what she should do with the love that had been left behind without a master.”

“‘…there is no God worth worrying about.’”

Margin note page 331 says there is a mention of environmental damage

331  “Seeing him like this, dressed just for her in so patent a manner, she could not hold back the fiery blush that rose to her face. She was embarrassed when she greeted him, and he was more embarrassed by her embarrassment. The knowledge that they were behaving as if they were sweethearts was even more embarrassing, and the knowledge that they were both embarrassed embarrassed them so much that Captain Samaritano noticed it with a tremor of compassion.”

A ghost is mentioned on page 332

338  “‘If we’re going to do it, let’s do it,’ she said, ‘but let’s do it like grownups.’”

343  “At dusk in Puerto Nare they picked up a woman who was even taller and stouter than the Captain, asn uncommon beauty who needed only a beard to be hired by a circus.”

348  “Then he looked at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.”

Last end note: The wait is kind of reminiscent of The Count of Monte Cristo.

 

 

 

The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone

The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone

By

Scott Samuelson

The University of Chicago Press

2014

 

Prelude on Light Pollution and the Stars

Part 1: What is Philosophy?

“…wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder. Samuel Taylor Coleridge adds a touch of poetry to the point, ‘In Wonder all philosophy began: in Wonder it ends: and Admiration fills up the interspace’” (1).

 

1: Portrait of You as Odysseus

“A Dialogue between two Infants in the womb concerning the state of this world, might handsomely illustrate our ignorance of the next, whereof methinks we yet discourse in Platoes denne, and are but Embryon Philosophers”–Sir Thomas Browne

“We’re capable of revising our very being, or reordering our values, of turning our calculating abilities back on ourselves” (7).

“…the whole of it, which involves the fullest exercise of our rationality: the seeking out of a meaningful life” (9).

Pierre Hadot: philosophy is “a set of spiritual exercises intended to get people back to their true selves.” Improvement. “They were after the good life, and philosophy was the discipline of hunting it down.”

“But when everyday life is less than fully satisfying, there will always be people who set out on a quest for meaning” (10).

“…if one animal can’t understand another, how can one human understand another” (12)?

 

2: Portrait of Philosophy as Socrates

“Born around 470 BC to Sophroniscus, a stonemason, and Phaenarete, a midwife, Socrates referred to his own philosophical practice as a kind of midwifery, whereby he helped other people give birth to their ideas, though he had no ‘children’–that is, theories–of his own.”

“…in 399 BC, he had three young children. His wife Xanthippe…” (16).

“Socrates left behind as many writings as Jesus–none. We know about him solely through the work of his contemporaries, mainly his student Plator, almost all of whose writings are dialogues starring Socrates” (17-18).

You Gotta Serve Somebody

In the last full paragraph on page 20 I’ve underlined the word “divine” and in the margin have written: Why must the choices be polytheism and the divine? All of the beauty and violence could equally be conceived as being born of chaos with no overruling forces.

Oracles and Demons

“Socrates really was the wisest of all. He did have a little bit of positive wisdom: the priceless knowledge that he know nothing” (24).

“(After Socrates discovers that the poets can’t explain their poems, he concludes, ‘I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled them to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration’” (26).

“In the Phaedo, just an hour before his death, Socrates says, ‘Philosophy is nothing but the preparation for death and dying’” (27).

For the following quote on page 31 my margin notes say “We win either way”:

“Death is one of two things. Either it is an annihilation, and the dead have no consciousness of anything; or, as we are told, it really is a change: a migration of the soul from this place to another. Now if there is no consciousness but only a dreamless sleep, death must be a marvelous gain…because the whole of time, if you look at it in this way, can be regarded as no more than one single night. If on the other hand death is a removal from here to some other place, and if what we are told is true, that all the dead are there, what greater blessing could there be than this, gentlemen?…Put it in this way: how much would one of you gie to meet Orpheus and Museus, Hesiod and Homer?…Above all I should like to spend my time there, as here, in examining and searching people’s minds, to find out who is really wise among them, and who only thinks that he is” (31 Socrates’s response to being given the death penalty).

Philosophical Patriotism

“Socrates then imagines a more profound dialogue than the one he finds himself in, between him and what he calls the Laws. What emerges is that citizens have an implicit contract with the Laws. The Laws provide Socrates (and us, too, for the form of the contract that Socrates describes would be the same, if he’s right, for Americans as for Athenians) with all the benefits of living in a political system: the marriage codes that provide for our birth and upbringing, armed forces to protect us, education, health codes, roads, and so  on. It’s hard to think of a single aspect of our lives untouched by the Laws. In return, we must do no more than follow the law: ay our taxes and not break the rules. If we don’t like the deal, there are two important provisions to the contract: (1) we’re allowed to leave, or (2) we may try to change the system through legal means. Our very presence in the state, at least after legal age of adulthood, provides what the philosopher John Locke calles ‘tacit consent’ to such a contract. If Socrates didn’t like living in a democracy where one can be charged for unholiness, then he shouldn’t have stuck around for seventy years” (32).

Risking Eternity

 

Interlude on Laughter and Tears

Regarding a student, she writes “‘When you’re right in the middle of suffering, it doesn’t always feel comic,’ she admitted, ‘but comedy is necessary and usually available to us.’”

“I should have assigned Kierkegaard’s Stages on Life’s Way: ‘The more one suffers, the more, I believe, has one a sense of the comic. It is only by the deepest suffering that one acquires true authority in the use of the comic, an authority which by one word transforms as by magic the reasonable creature one calls man into a caricature’” (41).

 

Part 2: What Is Happiness?

“According to Socrates, most of us conceive of a happiness of the part but have never imagined a happiness of the whole. We need some answer to the question of how to spend our time that isn’t about satisfying a gut or a heart or a brain–or any other organ of the body for that matter. Real happiness pertains to the complete human being, the whole soul” (48).

 

3: The Exquisite Materialism of Epicurus

  1. T. Pettee wrote: “Pray for peace and grace and spiritual food,

For wisdom and guidance, for all these are good,

But don’t forget the potatoes.”

Epicurus’s idea is the “the pleasurable life involves the clear-headed calculation of what will actually produce a stable, authentic pleasure.”

“But we misunderstand Epicurus if we take him to be saying, ‘It would be wonderful if we could eat like Mirande without suffering any ill effects, but geven our physiology that’s impossible; so we have to practice moderation.’ His real point is that the deepest pleasure comes from the satisfaction of our desires with the most basic nourishment” (52).

“Epicurus’s preferred diet was barley bread, spring water, and fresh vegetables. A diet that leans on the staffs of life is easy to obtain and promotes our health” (52-3).

“…but luxuries should remain luxuries, the occasional adornment to a healthy diet. Epicurus’s occasional feast, it is said, was a slice of Cythnian cheese and a half pint of wine.

“The foundational principle of Epicureanism–perhaps the sanest in all philosophy–is: pleasure good; ain bad. In a sense, all his philosophy amounts to is the rigorous, reasonable application of this elementary truth, which even newborns seem to have deduced. Epicurus sees no other way to give meaning to the concept of goodness, ‘Nor yet for my part can I find anything that I can understand as good if I take away from it the pleasures afforded by taste, those that come from listening to music, those that come from the eyes by the sight of figures in motion, or other pleasures produced by any of the senses in the complet person’” ( 53).

“But the pleasure-good-pain-bad principle is immensely complicated by the structure of our desires. Epicurus identifies three types of desire: (1) natural and necessary desires, which sustain our health and provide for our mental tranquility (like our hunger for food or our desire for companionship); (2) natural and unnecessary desires, which are extensions of our natural desires (like our wish to have artichokes on a pedestal of foie gras, or a Coke); and (3) unnatural and unnecessary desires (like our cravings for money, fame, or power). The big problem is that our desires tend to slip from the first category into the other two. Our natural desire for mother’s milk becomes a mighty yen for ice cream. The discipline of Epicureanism is to contain and then weed out all our overgrown desires, to return to the basic, nourishing desires that do indeed provide for our happiness. As Thoreau once said, ‘Simplify, simplify,’ though based on that logic he should have just said, ‘Simplify’” (53).

“But there’s an irony to the Epicurean critique of our society. We are, in fact, bad consumerists. We aren’t materialist enough. Only idiotic consumers stuff themselves with things that make them sick, fat, and unhappy. Only idiotic materialists fill their lives with disposable crap. A wise consumer enjoys exactly what the brain and the gut can agree is most enjoyable throughout a lifetime. A true materialist values things and seeks out the best. The authentic materialist-consumerist finds a reasonable way of relating to the desires of the body and shuns the desire that extends far beyond what anything in the physical universe can provide” (54).

“We don’t even value money properly. We ought to regard it as no more than a medium of exchange, necessary only to the extent that it helps procure the things we need” (54-5).

“But the fact that life is limited is exactly what makes it good.”

“As a materialist, Epicurus argues that death is nothing to us–literally, nothing–and so shouldn’t be upsetting. Remember what it was like before you were born: was that at all a hard time for you” (55).

“As materialists, not just in the moral but also the metaphysical sense of the word, Epicureans are committed to the idea that the world is no more than atoms, the void, and the creative principles of movement, which they marvelously name ‘the swerve.’ Everything, in short, is the product of chance, which is a view often criticized in our society by certain religious believers who claim that the world–or at least certain irreducibly complex features of it, like the flagellum or the eyeball–are so wondrously formed that they must be designed by a capacious intelligence, namely, God. Such believers have the sense that if the world were just the product of chance, it would be drained of meaning and value, that an atheistic materialism dries up our wellsprings of gratitude for the intricate beauties of existence.

“I wonder, though, if atheistic materialism and traditional theology don’t converge on the same basic point. According to the Christian theologians, God creates ex nihilo; in other words, His act of creation is an act of grace. He creates rhinoceroses much like a child draws unicorns: the horned creatures of the world are the result of their overflowing creativity. We should feel thankful, the religious believers argue, because every moment is pur gravy, a gift of God. But the Epicurean also greets the world as the result of unthinkably marvelous luck. Imagine, a bunch of atoms randomly swerving around the universe somehow produced out my window–at the moment of my writing–a thrush singing notes that somehow strike against the contraption of my ear in such a way as somehow to remind me of the universe miraculously pumped out me and you, purposeful beings, not to mention all the rhinoceros-bizarre menagerie of being. ‘The secret of Epicurean joy and serenity,’ as Pierre Hadot says, ‘is to live each instant as if it were the last, but also as if it were the first.’

“Another common fear that religious believers harbor about materialism is that it undermines morality. Epicurus argues the exact opposite: the rigorous pursuit of pleasure leads straight to the life of a moralist. Why shouldn’t we tell a lie? Simple: lying makes us unhappy. Telling the truth, like exercise, may sometimes hurt at first, but one always feels better overall. Immorality is one more form of childish reasoning: we do wrong to extricate ourselves from some difficult situation, but wrongdoing simply our difficult situations. In fact, justice and pleasure reinforce each other: the more pleasant our life, the less likely we are to do others wrong; and when we do others right, the more pleasant our life. Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food, a modern-day Epicurean movement, slowly discovered the same idea. ‘I came to understand that those who suffer for others do more damage to humanity than those who enjoy themselves. Pleasure is a way of being at one with yourself and others.’ The idea is nobly expressed by Wendell Berry, that champion of small farms and human pleasures. ‘Moral, practical, spiritual, esthetic, economic, and ecological values are all concerned ultimately with the same question of life and health. To the virtuous man, for example, practical and spiritual questions are identical; it is only corruption that can see a difference.’

“What we need in life, according to Epicurus, is relatively simple. We need human companionship…the steady joys of friendship…Epicurus declares, ‘by far the most important is the acquisition of friends.’ We need good work in order to find meaning and provide for our essentials” (56-7).

Epicurus “advised unplugging oneself from the bustle of ‘the political life’–what we’re more apt to call ‘the dominant culture’” (58).

 

4: The Mysterious Freedom of the Stoic

Thomas More wrote:

Grant me a soul to which dullness is naught,

Knowing no complaint, grumble or sigh,

And do not permit me to give too much thought

To that domineering creature called the “I.”

My Lord, endow me with a sense of humor,

Give me the grace of understanding jest,

That I might know the joy that life harbors

And were able to grant it to the rest.

 

The Stoics. “Epictetus sums up the essence of Stoicism in one command, ‘Do not ask things to happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go smoothly’” (61).

Stoicism–Porchism. “It quickly became the most popular philosophy among the educated in the Hellenistic world, and by the time of the Roman Empire had spread to all walks of society.”

“But the Stoics hold that your emotions in that situation, and even much worse situations, are indeed completely in your control…’There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so,’ or, as Epictetus says, ‘It is not the things themselves that disturb people but the judgments about those things.’

“Our emotions, the Stoics claim, depend on our beliefs.

“Thus by eliminating the ideas that generate negative emotions, we’re capable of being permanently happy, if we so choose. To use an image from Plato, our emotions are strong horses, and our reason is the charioteer…it’s possible to channel their energies properly and get them to go exactly where we demand” (63).

“The great Stoic metaphor, going back to the Greek philosopher Chrysippus, is that we’re like dogs leashed to a powerful chariot. When the chariot begins to move, we have two choices: trot or be dragged. Either way, we go the same place. The exact same place.

“Isn’t it absurd to get angry when you’re tackled, it you signed up to play football” (64)?

“Getting tackled–and even injured–is very much part of his game.

“You might protest that unlike the football player you didn’t sign up for the game. True, but as Epictetus observes, ‘Remember that the door is open. Do not be more cowardly than children, but just as they say, when the game no longer pleases them, ‘I will play no more,’ you too, when things seem that way to you, should merely say, ‘I will play no more,’ and so depart; but if you stay, stop moaning.’ Nobody compels you to play football, drive on freeways, or collect breakable items. If you’re unwilling to play such a harsh gaem as life, where even children die of cancer, then you should be grateful that you have options. Your parents may have signed you up, but you are free to quit” (65).

Study

“Make friends with real philosophers…conversing. Read philosophers…starting with Epictetus, who is the clearest and in some ways the firmest: ‘If you want your children and your wife and your friends to live forever, you are stupid.’

Seneca

Meditate in the Morning

“In imagining what we fear, we’re training ourselves to see reality clearly.

“…the confrontation with our fears is most likely to make us grateful for all we’re given” (67).

“As the Stoics point out, that’s precisely the situation we’re in with everyone and everything we love: they’ve all been loaned to us for an uncertain period of time.”

Start Small

For this next marking I wrote: practice with the every day.

“When the mug breaks, say, ‘It’s just a mug. I knew it wouldn’t last forever.’ Tell yourself before your visit to the in-laws that you refuse to allow them to control your emotions: prepare yourself to transcend all pettiness. When you go to the pool, think, ‘I might be splashed inadvertently, my towel might be dropped in a puddle, and it it’s not a private pool, it’s a public restroom.”

Pay Attention

Here I wrote: mindfulness

“Turn off autopilot and pay attention to what you’re doing and why. We need always to remember that we’re signing up for the life we’re leading. Where you can, sign up for what is truly meaningful. But look to uncover the significance of any activity you participate in” (68).

Have a Sense of Humor

“…chuckle at the discrepancy between our human ideas and how reality plays out. For that matter, you should also chuckle when things do…go your way.

“…look out on life as a nonstop carnival, where colleagues and even complete strangers perform as freaks and clowns, free of charge. As Seneca says,

We should make light of all things and endure them with tolerance it is more civilized to make fun of life than to bewail it. Bear in mind too that he deserves better of the human race as well who laughs at it that he who grieves over it; since the one allows it a fair prospect of hope, while the other stupidly laments over things he cannot hope will be put right. And, all things considered, it is the mark of a grater mind not to restrain laughter than not to restrain tears, since laughter expresses the gentlest of our feelings, and reckons that nothing is great or serious or even wretched in all the trappings of our existence.

Review in the Evening

“If you’ve failed in some way, you’re hurting yourself” (70).

“As the emperor says, ‘The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.’”

This part made me laugh:

“Or as Epictetus phrases it, ‘It is difficulties that show what men are. Consequently, when a difficulty befalls, remember that God, like a physical trainer, has matched you with a rugged young man…’

“Anything truly worth doing is worth failing at.

“Would it be worth doing even if our utmost efforts will amount to worldly failure? If it is, then that’s what you’re meant to do in this life” (71).

“Rather than wrestle for a gold medal, the Stoics recommend we wrestle to be our best” (72).

 

Interlude on Wine and Bicycles

“One doesn’t need to go that far to wonder if any theory of happiness is complete. Some roman thinkers–most famously Cicero–adopt the position of eclecticism, taking a little of the best from all the philosophical schools. From skepticism they take the idea that no theory is final; from Epicureanism, the idea that under favorable conditions one should pursue a reasonable amount of pleasure; from Stoicism, the idea that favorable conditions doesn’t last forever, and we should prepare ourselves to maintain our dignity. Essentially, Epicureanism when you can, Stoicism when you must, and a little skepticism always” (76).

 

Part 3: Is Knowledge of God Possible?

“Simony…the sin of paying money for spiritual things…” (79).

 

5: The Ecstasy without a Name

“…epistemological crisis: a crisis in the order of knowledge…They occur whenever we realize that what we take to be natural is not what someone else takes to be natural.

“First, our beliefs aren’t really ours;…we’re bound by a ‘servile conformism,’ whereby our beliefs are dependent on which side of the street we’re born on. Second, somebody must be wrong, and it could us.

“…’daring in mounting from the lowland of servile conformism to the highland of independent investigation’” (82-3).

“He shall try to doubt the sources of his beliefs, and if even a little doubt sticks to them, then he shall set them aside until he’s able to discover their certain foundation. Guilty until proven innocent.” Examples: my book is on the desk, sense data, math, logic, self-evident truths” (84).

Samuelson then gives examples of our senses deceiving us.

“So how can we grasp anything if it changes as we perceive it? Everything is a moving shadow–of a tree we never fully observe! Second, our senses are calibrated to our human scale.

“…we likely lack some crucial organ of perception” (85).

“‘How can you believe in God if you never see Him?’ But, if al-Ghazali is right, our senses can’t be trusted to reveal the whole of the universe…It’s at least possible there’s more to the story than meets the eye or the mind.

“Religion is built on authority, which could be wrong. Science is built on the senses, which could be wrong. Mathematics and logic are built on reason, which could be wrong.

“…those who claim to possess wisdom are self-deceived” (86).

“But why accept one starting point rather than another?…’One should be most diligent in seeking the truth until he finally comes to seeking the unseekable.’ The problem is that people who seek the truth take the easy way out and invest in some unquestioned source of truth, whereas they ought to go to the very limits of their search.

“…the Sufis tell him that, while they do have a dogma they could expound, their guiding principle is that searchers must experience the truth for themselves…He must enter into a state of certainty.

“He must experience–for lack of a better word–God” (87).

“Sufism is an Islamic variety of what religious scholars call mysticism.”

Below that I wrote: mysticism cuts out the middleman.

“Mystical forms of religion…claim that it is possible for you and me to transcend this long-distance relationship and meet God face to face.”

“…in the mystical experience of God he finds a certainty to which no doubt clings, an existential rather than an intellectual certainty” (88).

To the above I wrote: but isn’t this just a belief? A sense? A feeling?

“‘There was what was of what I do not mention:/So think well of it, and ask for ano account’” (89).

Samuelson then runs through his interpretation of how al-Ghazali interprets God.

“…all profane authors seem of the seed of the serpent that creeps, thou art the Dove that flies.

“One of the most profoundly alienating passions is the need for a belief, the need to cling to some claim on the truth” (90).

Austrian poet Hugo von Hofmansthal:

The other night I found under a walnut tree a half-full watering can that a young gardener had forgotten there, and this watering can, with the water in it, hidden by the tree’s shadow, with a water bug paddling from one shore to the other of that dark water: this combination of trivialities exposes me to such a presence of the infinite, traversing me from the roots of my hair to the base of my heels, that I feel like bursting out in words which I know, I had found them, would have floored those cherubim in whom I do not believe” (97).

“What is philosophy or religion–or human life for that matter–but the attempt to relate to the meaningful hugeness revealed in such experiences without sounding or acting like a total fool, at our best with a touch of style” (98)?

 

6: In Nightmares Begins Rationality

Descartes: “I was completely free to converse with myself about my own thoughts.’ After one such day of reflection, he nodded off and had three successive dreams–the nightmares, really–that changed world history more significantly than any king’s coronation.

What follows is an example of original thought:

“The method Descartes formulates to find this firm foundation is practically identical to al-Ghazali’s. (The whole of the first meditation follows the Sufi’s logic so closely as to make scholars wonder about plagiarism. My own view is that not only do great minds think think alike, all minds think alike, though mysteriously they often come to different conclusions)” (103).

“Or, to use his formulation in the Discourse on Method: ‘Cognito; ergo sum’–I think; therefore I am. Even if an evil genius with infinite power is spending his entire time deceiving Descartes, it still must be the care that an object of deception exists. Philosophers refer to this famous metaphysical lightning bolt simply as the ‘cogito’” (106).

“In both the experience of God and the experience of our own ‘I am,’ thought and the source of thought are unified. In one sense, they are the same ecstatic experience. But whereas al-Ghazali focuses on the divine ‘I am,’ Descartes begins with the human ‘I am’–a difference perhaps metaphysically small but one that signals the world-historical shift from the medieval to the modern age” (107).

“How does the primordial human mind stumble on the idea of the divine?”

When the author writes “God–for instance, it’s possible that any or all ideas are simply implantations of the evil genius, stimulating our minds in his macabre laboratory” (109). To this quote I feel this is quite a leap. And why this particular leap? The human brain can conceptualize a god as the source which still does not make it true.

On the next page it is written “In more straightforward terms, only God could imagine God. Since we have the idea of God, it must be the case that God exists. Only God could have put the idea of God in our minds, signing His creation like an artist.”

My margin note just says “no.”

Page 111: “According to Descartes, the very implausibility of having an idea of something none of our intellectual faculties can frame is itself the proof of God.”

I respond: This dismisses the imaginative power of the human brain striving for reason.

Below the author writes “A supreme being by definition cannot have any limitations or imperfections. Since evil is an imperfections, God cannot be evil.

To the idea that evil is an imperfection, I wrote that idea is one interpretation. Further, what says you cannot be all powerful and include evil all at once? Doesn’t ALL include both yin and yang?

Later: “God just wouldn’t allow such ideas to form in the mind if they weren’t really so.”

I ask, why attribute this to god?

“…we can indeed have wrong beliefs floating around our minds” (111).

“If the perfect God created our minds, how can they be so imperfect” (112)?

Major Descartes beliefs:

Real knowledge should be expressed in  numbers

We should utilize a self-correcting method of knowledge about the physical world

This method should involve a uniform, repeatable procedure

The truth is accessible to anyone who is willing to think clearly

Values are subjective and private

We should use reason to determine the existence and nature of God

The body is a machine and hence can be understood and fixed like a machine

The universe is a machine too

We should utilize scientific understanding to build technologies so we can become masters of our fate

And the ‘preservation of health’ is the ‘chief of all goods’” (115-6)

Samuelson concludes this paragraph by saying something I wholeheartedly believe:

“The lesson I draw is: don’t get up too early because you will die” (118).

 

7: The Terrifying Distance of the Stars

The following is what has led us to invent God and all religions (according to me):

“Pascal sums up our condition in three words: ‘Inconstancy, boredom, anxiety’–a striking outline of the problem of being human. In short, our very being fills us with anxiety; we flee the anxiety by means of some kind of diversion (another of Pascal’s pet terms). As long as our diversionary tactic lasts, we have a measure of happiness, but eventually the charm wears off, the diversion becomes boring, and we seek out the newest thing to do–thus our inconstancy.”

Carl Honore: In Praise of Slowness  (find and read)

Pascal says it perfectly for me here:

“The fact is that the present usually hurts. We thrust it out of sight because it distresses us, and if we find it enjoyable, we are sorry to see it slip away…Let each of us examine his thoughts; he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so” (122).

Pascal: “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that the does not know how to stay quietly in his own room.”

At the bottom of the page Samuelson asks: is it possible for humans to be truly happy in this life? My answer is: only for moments in time.

“Instead of facing our misery, we divert ourselves.” Ball games, hunting, gossip, drama, cards, affairs, pets, politics, war, etc. This is what I mean by life just being a space which we fill with things to do. There is birth and there is death. When you look at the picture (the world) as a whole, we simply create things to do in between. We have constructed everything in order to fill the time: work, school, kids. Sometimes when driving to a play or some such you think, “Well, I had nothing else to do. I have to fill my time with something.”

I had a friendship that ended. This section of the book described it:

“What’s eating you all of a sudden? Where are your inner resources? The odd thing is that when I’m in such a mood, I prefer my boredom to what strikes me as their foolishness. If Pascal is right, it’s because such moods bring us closer to reality, and ultimately we prefer a genuine misery to a phony happiness (though it sometimes takes a little while to realize that)” (125).

“Oh, well. Smile. Tell him how happy you are for him. As Pascal says, ‘Respect means: put yourself out’” (127).

“…the human mind seems to have a weird doubleness, to be haunted by conceptions it can never measure up to, to cast a shadow by its own light” (128).

What follows seems to indicate that Pascal was uncomfortable with the unknown:

“The next point Pascal makes is that we can’t be agnostic. We must call it. We’re not simply intellectual spectators at the coin toss of God’s existence. Our very lives hang on if it comes down heads or tails. We’re ‘embarked,’ to use Pascal’s term. Agnosticism, for Pascal, is simply a refusal to admit what you’ve staked your life on. As he sees it, either you live a life committed to God or you don’t. There’s no option of waiting until the coin spinning in eternity lands” (129).

I disagree with Pascal here. I think agnostics are saying I don’t know enough to know or There are some things I will never know. I think that point of view is a very smart and valid one. There are not many things in this world that are wholly one thing or another. There are cats that act like dogs. There are women who look like men. There are bisexuals. There is a time between day and night when it is neither. Everything works upon a scale and is rarely either/or. I think agnosticism occupies a valid space in the world of religious philosophy.

The following, I believe, is why so many choose religion:

“…the heart is vain and greedy; so we begin immediately to think about what we stand to gain or lose from our choice.”

“If God exists, and we devote our lives to God, then we stand to gain the happiness that nothing else in the world provides. In a word, we stand to gain heaven. Moreover, we lose nothing by devoting our lives to God, even if we’re wrong. If, instead, we’re atheists, and indeed God doesn’t exist, what have we gained? Nothing, according to Pascal. But if wrong, what do we stand to lose” (130)?

I respond by saying not only does this assume a God, following involves devotion on a bet against punishment. It’s going with the rich guy in hopes of being in the will. Humans have only conceptualized three choices: believe, choose to not choose, or not believe.

Again the either/or concept is displayed:

“As in roulette where gamblers must place a bet on either red or black, we must either believe or disbelieve in God; but also, just as roulette gamblers can place a bet on one of thirty-eight or so religions (in fact, quite a bit more, if we start factoring in denominations)” (132).

 

Interlude on Campfires and the Sun

“Perhaps someday, after an adult’s quest, that imaginative fire can be rekindled and fanned into something more useful than naivete or skepticism. To discover the truth is to have our souls disoriented and then reoriented into a higher way of being” (138).

Even if it doesn’t reveal God?

“Socrates…is executed for ‘corrupting’ Athenians by making them confront the fact that their foundational concepts are at best partial truths, flickering images of a more complex reality. What is Socratic method if not the attempt to lead people through the darkness in order to see the truth for themselves?

“…sunlight of knowledge…aporia, where they feel totally confused.”

“…al-Ghazali, Descartes, and Pascal. In each case, the philosopher begins by recognizing that the truths around him are projections of a particular culture” (140).

“It’s a phony education that doesn’t completely confuse you at some point…” (141).

“Moreover, as al-Ghazali realizes, we can’t live, at least in our present condition, full time in the sunlit world; we need our little fires in order to remember the great fire” (141). Me: And sometimes we just need to rest.

 

Part 4: What Is the Nature of Good and Evil?

8: The Moral Worth of a Teardrop

“In the tradition of Western philosophy, no appraiser has been more incisive than Immanuel Kant, who was born in 1724…Prussian…he never left and that furnished him with enough experience to construct one of the deathless philosophical systems.

“In his late fifties that his great philosophical work began to appear…the three critiques: The Critique of Pure Reason, The Critique of Practical Reason, and The Critique of Judgment.

“…Kant’s moral philosophy, particularly his idea that the consequences of an action play no role in evaluating it, that an action has moral worth based solely on its motive” (148).

“The idea that the worth of an action lies in the consequences it brings about–in short, that the ends justify the means–is called consequentialism.

“Kant vehemently rejects the logic of consequentialism…it’s absurd to locate our worth in something we have basically no control over. Not being gods, we can’t control or predict what the consequences of our actions are going to be.

“Evil is impermissible, regardless of what good we think will come of it” (150).

“…ethics of intention, which is basically Kantian ethics…

Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals “…’good will’ Kant means doing the right thing for the right reason…All that matters…is the inner quality of the agent, the good will.

“Kant’s doctrine of moral worth is that a common religious conception of ethics–using heaven and hell as motivators–actually destroys our moral worth…Kant regards Abraham’s decision to sacrifice his son to please God as the essence of immorality” (151).

“…if you’re willing to do right even under the threat of divine retribution, then your action clearly does have moral worth.

“If our shopkeeper is being fair because it’s right, his action has moral worth; if he’s being fair because it’s good business, his action is without moral worth” (152).

“Kant tries to give a theoretically clean version of the spirit of these injunctions in what he calls the categorical imperative. When rational being like ourselves have to decide how the world ought to be…Act on a principle that you could, without contradicting yourself, will everyone to act on. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, your mom, your best friend, your neighbor, and your enemy.

“‘Every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends’

William James: “…to vote and to act as to bring about the very largest total universe of good which we can see.’

“Morality…it’s about respecting a common dignity” (153).

“…err on the side of the good…if you worry about your virtue and others’ happiness, you improve both; whereas if you worry about others’ virtue and your own happiness, you decrease both.

“We are good when we do good out of pure respect for goodness…for Kant there’s a common human duty to treat each other fairly and with dignity, a duty that flows right from our rational nature” (155).

I placed a star by this passage:

“Kant is the philosopher of limits. In most of his philosophical work, he labors to circumscribe just what we can and cannot know and do. It turns out that we can’t know or do very much. We can’t control the outcomes of our actions. We can’t know if God does or does not exist. We can’t know if our souls are immortal. We can’t know wat the world is really life. We can’t even be sure that we’re really free. Since freedom is necessary for morality to be meaningful, we’re compelled to practice to believe that we’re free, though needing something to be true isn’t much of a reason that it is. When it comes to knowledge and power, Kant’s bottom line is that we’re not gods. [end star]

“…act as if the rule you were living by could become a law of nature…In essence, morality is about playing God, playing a good rational God…divine power…

“Kant’s…commitment to the idea of moral progress…it’s possible for humankind to become better…” (155).

“Every time you act selfishly, according to Kant, you’re perpetuating a selfish civilization. Every time you act according to the moral law, you’re unleashing our native nobility.

“Kant has the marvelous notion of ‘the kingdom of ends,’ the world where everybody treats everybody with full moral dignity, where the Golden Rule is the only rule followed.

“Kant…view of human nature is so dark that he even wonders if there has ever been a pure moral action in human history” (156).

I’ve gotta read more Kant…I’m loving this guy.

“William Carlos Williams says, ‘men die miserably every day / for lack of what is found there.’

“Adulthood involves understanding our limits but not being oppressed by them” (158).

 

9: The Beast That Is and Is Not

Northrop Frye wrote: In contrast to many other mythological systems, in the Bible the dragon seems to be a consistently sinister image. This is not only because of its antisocial habits of breathing fire and eating virgins, but because, of all sinister animals, it has the unique advantage of not existing.

[Damn, you gotta love that.]

“To state the skeptic’s position in the form of two linked arguments:

If God is all-good, then He should not want any unfair suffering.

If God is all-powerful, then He has the power to eliminate any unfair suffering.

So, if an all-good, all-powerful God exists, then there should be no unfair suffering.

But there is plenty of unfair suffering in the world.

So, an all-good, all-powerful God does not exist” (163).

“Martin Heidegger, whom many consider the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century…” (171).

 

Interlude on Zombies and Superheroes

“What is a zombie? According to a common etymology, the word is traceable back to the Kikongo word nzambi, which means god. Zombies are, in the popular imagination, the living dead, corpses animated by an outside magic. They usually have an insatiable leveling desire: zombies are always looking to make more zombies. According to Martin, zombies are a projection of human life numbed by distractions, hollowed out and remote-controlled by the magic we call consumerism. As Simon Zealot charmingly writes, ‘Do you find that most of life’s problems can be solved with a little creative shopping? Is television your primary form of entertainment? Do you find that there’s just not enough time in the day, especially for things like exercise? Are you tired right now? Despite this constant lack of energy, do you believe that everything will work out in the end?…If you answered ‘yes’ to most or all of these questions then you might be suffering from an illness called phobosophitis, or, as it’s known by its more common name, the zombie disease’” (181-2).

“And, in fine Nietzschean satirical style,

‘The basic ability to speak remains unaffected, and they appear to experience minor degrees of limited cognitive activity in response to many different kinds of external stimuli, but, in general, thoughts come with less and less frequency, and those that do come are of increasingly smaller orders of magnitude. Dreams are forgotten, all but the most animalistic passions fade, and the creative impulse, if it was ever present, dies. Things of an abstract nature, such as art, beauty, freedom, dignity, justice, or any sort of philosophical or spiritual speculations, will all gradually become more and more meaningless as the disease progresses, and such things will therefore elicit no authentic cognitive response, except perhaps for dismissal or hostility, from the infected.

“The illness of phobosophitis, according to Martin, is related to a deadening materialism, nihilism really, the legacy of the non-Gnostic version of Christianity. Official religion numbed our spiritual longings with false visions of a comfortable heaven. Now that the plausibility of such visions has run its course, we’re apt to become soulless bodies vegetating in front of bleeping screens. Some still cling to their outdated religions. Others reject religion altogether and philosophically embrace our deadening materialism, arguing that we’re nothing more than animals with so many itches to be scratched. Either corse, Martin believes, amounts to the same thing: ‘Culture is replaced by consumerism, education by certification, creation by industry.’

“He considers phobosophitis an epidemic. His spiritual intellect’s great work is to develop a cure for the disease. Here is some of the doctor’s advice: ‘Inoculate yourselves and those around you with your own art and self-awareness. Create wonders. Dance. Make love. Move at more than a shambling pace. Kiss in public. Climb something. Play. Disrupt misery and the viciousness of the miserable. Be alive. Welcome to the Zombie Resistance’” (182-3).

“Martin embodies our Gnostic paradox with considerably more panache than your standard jogger, spending countless hours perfecting his body’s performance through gymnastics and martial arts in order to liberate his spiritual powers. His ongoing project is to construct an ideal educational system, one that disciplines the body and mind so that its dedicated practitioners emerge as knights or angelic chivalry, ‘fearless agents of compassionate and effective change,’ superheroes” (184).

 

Conclusion: The Most Beautiful Thing in the World

Xenophon said that Socrates said:

‘And if I have something good, I teach it to them and I introduce them to others who will be useful to them with respect to virtue. And together with my friends I go through the treasures of the wise men of old which they left behind written in books, and we peruse them. If we see something good, we pick it out and hold it to be a great profit, if we are able to prove useful to one another.’ When I heard this, I held Socrates to be really happy” (187).

“The thing missing isn’t what weakens the teacher; mysteriously, it’s the source of the teacher’s strength. The supreme example is Socrates, whose recognition of his ignorance empowers not just the dialogues but the entire history of Western thought as well” (189).

“As Kierkegaard puts it, ‘The disciple is the opportunity for the master to understand himself, as the master is the opportunity for the disciple to understand himself’” (190).

 

Scott Samuelson lives in Iowa City where he teaches philosophy at Kirkwood Community College. He also reviews movies, hosts on television and is a sous chef at a French restaurant on a gravel road.