Monthly Archives: June 2018

Eight Hours of Soothing Binaural Music for the Weekend

(Body) and Soul


“Body” is a concept with which few of us have a problem.  We all have bodies after all.  No one doubts this, except perhaps for solipsists and those who’d argue that we are actually brains in vats (or for Wachowski fans, that we’re connected to the Matrix, which is essentially the same thing)*.  For the purposes here, at least, we’ll consider such viewpoints in light of the commonsense perspective–that is, that they’re cracked!  Thus, what I want to look at is the idea of the soul.  I’m doing so in order to develop the groundwork for some ideas I want to explore in my series on polygenism, specifically, and more generally in regard to my series on the Fall.  Since this post itself is a sort of stand-alone, though, I’ll put it in “Religious Miscellany“.

I should preface this discussion by stipulating that I do believe that the soul, as an entity distinct from the body actually does exist.  Obviously, not everyone believes this.  Many of the philosophically materialist persuasion would argue that what is commonly called a “soul” is merely the complex interaction of electrochemical processes in the human brain.  The more radical would argue that the mind itself is no different from the brain, except perhaps in an analytical sense.  Some, such as Daniel Dennett (if I understand him correctly) would even go so far as to deny the existence of sense of self and personal experience.  In this post, I’m not interested in arguing against a materialist view of the comos. For those interested in such a defense, I’d refer you to C. S. Lewis’s book Miracles.  For now, suffice it to say that I’m taking the existence of a discrete, immaterial soul that is distinct from the body for granted.

We use the word “soul” all the time, and we all have a vague agreement on what it means.  In general, “soul” means the center of identity that makes a person who he or she is, and which is distinct from the body.  That is, our memories, thoughts, emotions–that which we consider to be our “self”, our “identity”, including but not limited to the mind, is the soul.  The soul is in some sense “in” the body (though the spatial term “in” is really a metaphor) and interacts with and is affected by the body–for example, if the body becomes tired enough, we become unconscious, and things such as drugs can affect our minds.  Despite this, the soul is distinct from the body, and is usually held to be separable from it, and to survive the body’s death.

Further, as is popularly conceived, though not always clearly articulated, the soul is not only the locus of the true self, it is the self.  We speak of having a soul, like we have a car or a television.  However, as the term is usually understood, it’s more accurate to say that we are souls.  This follows the ideas of Plato, notably in his dialogue Phaedo.  In effect, the true person is the soul, which merely “wears” the body as one would wear clothing.  Thus, while we may identify with our body, there is still a sense in which we do not consider it equivalent to ourselves.  We speak of “my” hand or kidney or hair, as if these things are not actually part of us, any more than “my” book or computer is.  We say of a departed one that “he” went to Heaven (or perhaps Hell), or that “he” was reincarnated.  Since his body remains, it is evident that the “he” to which we refer is the soul.

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Quote for the Week

The heaviest weight. – What if some day or night a demon were to steal into your loneliest loneliness and say to you : ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine. ‘ If this thought gained power over you, as you are it would transform and possibly crush you; the question in each and every thing, ‘Do you want this again and innumerable times again?’ would lie on your actions as the heaviest weight! Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to long for no thing more fervently than for this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

–Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, translated by Josefine Nauckhoff; courtesy of Wikiquote.

Ennio Morricone’s Soundtracks Live in Concert

Music for the Solstice


Happy Summer Solstice 2018.

The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?

The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones was the great “This or That” of the 60’s.  Despite the unsurpassed creativity and variety of pop music in those days, it sometimes seemed as if the Beatles and the Stones divided the world between them, with there being no third.  Certainly, they appeared to be the yin and yang of the rock world.  There were the smiling, relatively clean-cut, boyish Beatles, who managed not only to make music for the kids, but to put out what John Lennon later disparagingly referred to as “granny music”, and who even made cartoons for kids (see below).  On the other hand, there were the more brooding and snarly Stones, who were definitely not granny or kid-friendly, and who put out such anthems as “Sympathy for the Devil”.  Of course, in the real world, the dichotomy was less stark–the Beatles had their dark side, and Charlie Watts, the drummer of the Rolling Stones, was and is into Big Band music.  Still, the images and the public perception was there.  I was too young to be aware of all this at the time, of course; so I’m going to approach this from another direction.

There has never been a time in my life that the Beatles weren’t in the cultural atmosphere.  Their first album, Please Please Me, was released in March 1963, four months before I was born.  Beatlemania ensued in the United Kingdom.  They came to America and played on the Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964.  Beatlemania ensued in the United States.  Thus, throughout my earliest years, there was always something by the Beatles on the air.

My first clear memory of them is of the cartoon TV series, The Beatles, which aired in first run and then in reruns from 1965 to 1969.  I watched it regularly and could still remember bits and pieces of it by my forties, at which time I showed episodes to my then-young daughter on YouTube.  As far as 60’s cartoons aimed at kids go, it still held up.  And what a soundtrack!  Going back to my youth, I was vaguely aware when the movie Yellow Submarine came out in 1968, but I never had the opportunity to watch it until it played on network television sometime in the early 70’s.  It was very different, to say the least, from the TV series; but I found it oddly fascinating.  Several years ago, I bought it on DVD for my daughter, around eight at the time; and she, too liked it.

As I said, the Beatles were always there.  I listened to relatively little pop music as a kid, though.  The records (yes, it was pre-CD and MP3) I bought were all classical.  I heard what was on the airwaves, of course; and there was always Beatles, and later, Paul McCartney, and to a lesser extent, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, as solo acts, on the radio.  Still, it was more background music than anything else.

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On Shaving

I don’t use a straight razor, by the way.  I don’t want to slit my own throat accidentally, after all!  I do use mug soap and a brush, though.  In any case, this post is a departure from my usual topics; but then again, variety is the spice of life.

As is the case with most young men, I found the advent of facial hair an exciting time.  My parents had bought me a shaving kit, without comment, around Christmas my freshman year of high school, or maybe for my birthday that year (which would have been the summer between freshman and sophomore year); I don’t remember clearly.  I allowed it to sit for a few months.  After all, I didn’t know what the threshold was for starting to shave (how fuzzy does the peach fuzz have to be?), and this was one of many things that Dad seemed to feel no need to discuss.  I was a first child, and Mom and Dad had me relatively late (for those days); and in retrospect, I think they often assumed that kids would “just naturally” do the various developmental things at the appropriate age.  Thus, shaving did not need to be discussed.

Be that as it may, I eventually caved in some time during my sophomore year, and shaved the fuzz off.  It was rather anticlimactic, really–not much effort at all.  I did leave the “mustache”–scare quotes intentional–intact, though, and kept it there for the rest of the year.  Alas, every young man has to go through his “pencil-thin mustache” stage, I guess.

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Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Trek, of course–what kind of question is that?  Actually, if I’m going to write an essay, I should have more to say….

Star Trek, in its original incarnation (which I will henceforth refer to by the standard fan abbreviation TOS for “The Original Series”) began its prime-time network run on NBC in 1966, at which time I was three years old.  Its last season ended in 1969, at which time I was six, and about to begin the first grade.  I know Mom and Dad watched it, so I no doubt did, as well.  I’ve seen every episode multiple times since, and given that, it’s hard to sort out any genuine memories of the series’s original airing.

It doesn’t really matter, though.  Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, TOS was more or less constantly in syndication somewhere on one channel or another.  Every time it was available on any of the channels we got, I always watched it.  For reasons that are obscure, certain episodes (e.g. “The City on the Edge of Forever” and “A Piece of the Action”) were in very heavy rotation, whereas others (such as “Errand of Mercy” and the insanely elusive “The Mark of Gideon”) were rarely if ever aired.  I made it my goal to watch every one of the original seventy-nine episodes at least once.  I set this goal at the age of around twelve or thirteen, and it took into my mid-twenties to complete it, but complete it I did.  In the meantime, my involvement with Star Trek was expanding far beyond watching reruns.

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I’ve Looked at Plagues from Both Sides Now

This is an interesting post on a blog I discovered just today. One ongoing theme in my writing about the Bible has been how to reconcile the nastier parts of it, particularly in the Old Testament, with modern ethics. This article presents this issue from a Jewish perspective. It is definitely worthy of thought.

Part of the series “The Pretty Good Book

The View from the Shadows

So Much Help I have so much help getting ready for Passover.

This week is Passover. Along with a certain amount of ridiculous antics (everybody hits each other with scallions while they sing Dayeinu…right?) and caloric intake issues (of course popcorn counts as a meal. And exploding is not the same as rising.), and logistical problems (every house becomes a TARDIS at Passover: bigger on the inside), and definitely way too much gefilte fish, there are also some fairly serious topics to discuss and dwell on.

The one that’s striking me this year is the plagues. Throughout the course of the story, God sends ten plagues to the Egyptians to try to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. They start bad and get progressively worse, culminating in the death of the first-born of every Egyptian family,  at which point, Pharaoh finally relents and the slaves get to leave. Each of these plagues strike all of the…

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Quote for the Week

Interea dulces pendent circum oscula nati,
Casta pudicitiam servat domus.

His cares are eased with intervals of bliss;
His little children, climbing for a kiss,
Welcome their father’s late return at night;
His faithful bed is crown’d with chaste delight.

–Virgil, Georgics (29 BC), Book II, lines 523-524 (translated by John Dryden); courtesy of Wikiquote