Monday, June 18, 2007

... value

i was thinking about the idea of intrinsic value and how little i think i appreciate it. in some ways instrinsic value is a very abstract concept but in other ways very concrete.

i remember reading ursula k. le guin's earthsea sequence, in which we meet ged, a young wizard learning how to manipulate the magic of the world. the way they do this in earthsea is to know the true name of someone or something and thus by knowing the true nature of the person or thing it can then be manipulated. in terms of magic and the idea of magic this is no new idea: many old forms of magic required something that belonged to or was actually a part of the person being manipulated or enchanted (remember the witches of eastwick when the women took revenge on daryl van horne?). totems would also be used to represent the true nature of something; idols also.

i'm sure i remember something from plato or aristotle about this too, that the things we see are not the true thing itself but how the essential thing is manifested in the world of matter. i suspect that emergent behaviour in complex systems (and the idea of emergent artificial intelligence) is kind of linked to this idea of the true thing being conceptual or spiritual.

this goes against the grain for the Christian perspective, which maintains that people, and the world (or creation, if you want to look at it like that), were made initially and deliberately by God to be material things and experience or be experienced in a material way. people are almost a nexus between the material nature of our bodies and the immaterial nature of our souls. (or are our souls immaterial?)

i went to a forum on the weekend discussing self-publishing and how it impacted the artistic community in a whole range of different ways; critically, artistically, monetarily, to list a few. i couldn't help but wonder that if we have to consider how a work of art needs to be explained or rationalised, what is its value? does it have a value intrinsic to itself? does that artist have the right to alter it once it is created or does it have its own right to exist once it has been made? can it be unmade? is its value wholly and solely in how it is experienced (by the consumer of the art) or how it is meant to be experienced (in the mind of the artist)? how much of the value of thing is wrapped up in what it does?

i think i've kind of wandered off from where i was going here but to be honest i don't know that i really had a point anyway.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

... just a couple of things

when i left the house this morning i was told that the temperature was 3.5 degrees celsius. just the kind of winter weather i'd been looking forward to before i moved to melbourne!

i read this awesome analogy today and want to share it here:
"one sunday, our pastor took out a twenty-dollar bill and held it up for everyone to see. he asked if anyone wanted it. hands shot up and cheers rang out.

then he crumpled up the bill, threw it on the floor, and ground it under his shoe. he held it up again and asked who wanted it now. the response was the same as before.

what was his point? he was demonstrating that no matter how dirty, crumpled, or torn the bill became, it still had the same value. the bill's worth was determined before it was even printed, and his mistreatment had not changed its value.

your value has never changed. you are worth just as much today as on the day God created you. no matter how you've behaved or how you've been treated - like a brand-new designer piece or a thrift store bargain - you are and always have been a treasured possession of the One who created you. no one - not even you - can change that."
as someone whose natural self-esteem temperature sits at roughly 5 degrees kelvin, it is a great encouragement to be reminded of this kind of thing. i am made in the image of God - i am his own idol! regardless of what happens to me or what i do to myself or to the world around me - or those other idols of himself around me - i was made in his image to reflect his glory. i was not made to be a doorstop, or to hold up one corner of the bed, or hang party streamers from.

... it would be nice to not need reminding so much.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

... rumours of my death have been exaggerated

a friend commented the other day that it had been quite a while since i'd blogged. my count, apparently, of blogs entries in the last month was only two! and fair enough, when the title of this blog promises a marvel every day...

well, despite the fact that every day is a marvel in and of itself, a marvel that God allows us all one more day to wake up to ourselves and realise just who exactly is running the show, i thought i would explain what i've been up to this last month or so.

work has been very busy. one of our staff, the chief purchasing officer, was off on three weeks' holidays. that meant that i was taking up the slack for her, along with a few other people in the office. i didn't need to stress out about it as much as i did, i suppose, but i always have a tendency to set too high a bar in some things and i think this was one of them. there are systemic procedural problems here at work, problems that are gradually being addressed, but in the classic tradition i tried to do what i could to work my own way through them. some successes, some failures. c'est la vie.

at home, my housemate and i have (separately and together) been ploughing our way through dvds of the west wing - we're up to season 6 now, getting into the sharp end of the end of the series. looking forward to working through season 7 and seeing all the episodes i missed on the abc.

although, given some of the rubbish we talk about at work, it surprises me i haven't been able to blog more...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

... comment gone out of control

this started out as a comment on erika's blog, but kind of got out of control. check out the link on the right to go to erika's page and then come back here...

i agree, let's call a spade a spade. the question is, how do we get started?

medical and science journals, i would have thought, are part of that arena that is ostensibly apolitical, reporting on the facts of a thing rather than the politics of a thing. so how do we get these reports into the circles of influence of the people who can effect change in these areas?

i wonder if making these issues personal to people here might not be the only way to get people... unnerved enough to act on them? i remember the AIDS awareness ad campaigns that did more to scare than to educate but i know very little about how effective they were and not so much how effective in their intend results but what actual results they produced. so how do we make genocide, how do we make "ethnic cleansing" and "forced mass explusions" a tangible concept to comfortable westernised australians?

we live in a country where our head of government refuses to make an apology (and he could make clear his apology does not open the door for reparations, if that is what he's worried about) to the aborigines of australia for the impact of european settlement on the lives they had before the arrival to our shores of europeans. the extent of that impact was felt in various ways in various places but seems now to be widely regarded as mass slaughter and forced assimilation. i wonder if the reason there seems to be no forward progress on this issue is the (very human) tendency to focus on the misdeeds of the past and assign blame rather than focus on the opportunities presented by the future?

it is not as if australia is unique in this backwards stumble into the twenty-first century. consider: israel, the sudan, china, north korea, the balkans, iraq, iran, basque and flemish unrest, the "troubles" in ireland; countless tribal conflicts across africa; gang warfare and organised crime in the u.s., russia, japan, italy, the u.k., south-east asia; the unilateral actions of thousands of corporations paying lip-service to nations' sovereignty whilst investing no more in local economies than is necessary to provide a springboard to move to the next low-cost flag-of-convenience country.

to begin to take responsibility now does not need to mean a carte-blanche acceptance of responsibility for what has happened in the past. no foster parent accepts the responsibility for the abuse the child now in their care may have suffered in the past at the hands of their biological parents or previous guardians! neither do i think, however, that they would be able to ignore such abuse and pretend it never occurred.

there must be a middle road, a balance of accepted responsibility and deliberate forgiveness, for those involved to move on. could nazi germany have evolved under a weimar republic that was more liberal or more draconian? was it partly the punitive terms of the treaties that came out of WWI that allowed for the fostering of resentment of other nations without and scapegoat groups within germany, a resentment that became intitutionalised and executed in the death machine that the third reich became? a death machine that was so horrible that those who survived it and those who brought it down believed that such a thing should never be allowed to happen again?

the idea of genocide might have been brought horribly into the public eye by the holocaust but how much of an impact did such widespread knowledge of it in the west have on all those jews slaughtered under the stalinist regime in the u.s.s.r? it's not as if concentration camps were new (i'm pretty sure they were used in the boer war). jews and kurds alike have been living under the threat of extinction for centuries. where one tribe has sought to exterminate another tribe, isn't that genocide?

so do we need to decide how to define genocide or to decide what we actually intend to do about it when we see it?

water's wet, the sky is blue, and there seem to be a lot of good men standing by doing nothing. as i write this, i feel like i'm one of them. so what do i do?