On the night of 6/7/2016 I heard on TV a journalist/political commentator Chuck Todd say that Donald Trump had his worst week on the worst week possible of the primaries. This comment made an impact on my feelings about what is going on today at this moment in our political life as a society.
We all want to improve the lives of everyone, we all want to have better conditions for our living standards and wellbeing. We come together through “politics” to establish civilized rules of engagement, where words matter. It is clear that having correct and accurate semantic interpretation of what it is said is of paramount importance in our social relationship. People can’t just say what ever they feel and expect that the listener will get a different idea of what is said. That is one problem today with how spinning words that mean something are made to mean something different.
Take the words “conservative” and “liberal”, they should mean something but after may years of spin these words have lost their meaning. Depending on who utter them they will have a pejorative meaning. For a “liberal” a conservative person is an uneducated, retrograde, regressive individual who is not prepared for the demands of a continuous changing world. For a “conservative” a liberal is someone who is lazy and depending on other’s work, drug-addict who wants to destroy our way of living.
Of course in reality this is not true. Liberals and conservatives want the best for all, as individuals and as a community. Why is then that appears to be such a deep division in our society today? Can we blame the “media”? Can we blame “special interest”? Can we blame “education”?
Is the problem today that we are so lazy (in general) or so busy that we don’t take the time to think about the meaning of words anymore? I’m reflecting on this now because on the one hand I am teaching my students of chemistry the meaning of very specific words like “mole” that have a quantitative as well as qualitative narrow meaning; and on the other hand I am listening to the news where it appears that no word has meaning. Take for example the word “immigration.” In the news of the last days people have been talking about the “problem of (illegal) immigration” in a way that doesn’t make any sense but individually people appear to make sense of it because they create the meaning that they want.
In one of my classes last spring as we were talking about human nature and the meaning of names I asked my students: What is the name of this country? My students were perplexed, and looked at me intrigued! How can ask such a stupid question? So when I insisted with my question they replied derisively “America”! Of course they were wrong as this country is not named America as America is the name of the continent. So I clarified my question by telling them that a name is something like “Oregon”, “Canada”, “Great Britain”, etc. Immediately they came with the name: United States of America! Which is not really a name but an idea! My point being that when The United States of America was founded the founding fathers were thinking about an ideal, were thinking about a place where there were not going be labels of nationality as all of them were immigrants and came here to a land of opportunity given by the fact that “all men were created equal.” This is for me the main reason why this is the country of the future now and has been for many years and for many (immigrants) who have labored in order to make it so.
We have much to learn, and we will.
This is the time of doing end of year reflexions. It is New Year’s Eve and I am taking a few moments to reflect on what happened this ending year, as well a meditating about what I would like to do over this coming 2016.
The ‘reality’ of the tradition of renewal every new year is part of the reality of a continuos changing life that goes forward as it circle around events that seem never change.
It is the paradox of permanent change. Every year has the same seasons winter, spring, summer, and fall. Stations that are connected as the model train circling around the Christmas tree. These four seasons have within a sequence of commemorative dates related to the evolution of cultures like Christmas in the Christian tradition related to the birth of Jesus and celebrated close to the winter solstice. But as the Earth going around the sun is not coming back to the same place because the sun is moving through space. In the grand picture of the universe not the earth, nor the solar system, or the Milky Way will ever be back to some point where they once were!
It is is some way ironic that the apparent cyclicality of events is only an illusion. This energizing illusion once again will be had this New Year.
So let me enumerate some of the highlights of 2015 for me.
- The wedding of our Son Jorge with the wonderful bride Jonise. Back is September we were so fortunate to celebrate with our children this event. My daughter Bernice had to fly all the way from Barcelona for a weekend of celebration as she was working there on an assignment.
- The engagement of our daughter Bernice. Her fiance Alex flew to Barcelona to propose. Before that he came to Portland to let us know of his intentions.
- In may I had a new hip. Hip surgery went really well thanks to the expertise of Dr. Boardman who performed an excellent operation and prescribed six weeks of complete rest that help me recharge my batteries after a very busy school year that ended the Friday before my surgery. Not only I was able to read and study over those six weeks but over the rest of my three month summer as well.
- In October my 50th anniversary of preparatory school (high school) graduation. Flying to San Luis Potosí, Mexico for a weekend of celebration was en exhilarating experience. Met with my school friends that I had not seen in 50 years, a renewed friendship that is continuing and will continue for many more years.
- Work at Warner Pacific College was very satisfying. Teaching is always a challenge that comes with lots of emotions. Working with young students that are the future of our society is a great honor and responsibility, brings with the hard work a joy that is deep and permanent.
- My life in general has been blessed with the company of my wife Maria Eugenia.
For 2016 I hope to continue working and enjoying life in the company of my family. Do not have any plans in particular and I am very open to what the future brings. At this point of my life and with the experiences that I have had the only thing I can say is: I’m ready for life!
Reading Guy P. Harrison’s book “Think” is a truly enjoyable feat. I am reading it as I am reinforcing my perception that teaching is all about helping students to develop critical thinking with the tools to communicate and analyze difficult and complex concepts. In a way it doesn’t matter what the topic is or the subject matter everyone and all topics and subjects have to be taught by giving to the student the context that allows him/her to see the connection of these ideas with the lives of those developing the ideas. Including the cultural and semantic context in which the ideas are developed and the fact that the models proposed in this way will always have some imperfections. These imperfections are in any way making the models, hypothesis or theories unusable but have to be known in order to improve them. As we are in an ever changing world where development and progress is unstoppable we have to be aware of the fallacies embedded as to be careful to fix them or to not support new ideas based on these erroneous concepts. There are many examples of this as when thinking about a flat earth people developed all sort of erroneous (some time poetical) models to describe its behavior like the one where elephants were standing on a turtle. For images of these ideas click here. Once a wrong idea is used to sustain more ideas is hard to be fixed. More so when they are supported by dogmatic interests and human powers that see changes in these ideas as threat to the status quo that benefits those in power.
The complexity and interconnectedness of models that explain reality is also the problem when we analyze the behavior of the individual.
At Warner Pacific College we have a senior capstone course within the general education core called “Humanities Senior Seminar” which leads students into a research project that explores the “paradoxical” nature of our humanity. This project is an excellent example of the way in which skepticism supports the students’ effort to analyze paradox in different contexts and with different relationships to their interests and “major.” This project has produced many remarkable papers. From analyzing the paradox of success through failure to the identification of unity in order from a disorderly origin. What all these papers have in common is the underlying skepticism of an inquisitive mind.
All these years that I have been reading these papers have given me a lot of satisfaction as I am witnessing the growth of these student. Some have told me that they have continued thinking about their project as it helped then have a better understanding of life.
It looks like the reason that skepticism has developed a bad name is because is a liberating attitude, not good in a repressive society. Will it be necessary to have an explicit course within the Liberal Arts called “Skepticism”?
Christmas 2013 is here today! Many thoughts come to mind as one sits still pondering the wonders and marvels of life and the gifts some of us have for having a wonderful family. I am now, after opening presents and having some coffee, writing these words to express how grateful I am for life and for all the blessings I have received.
Nothing has changed it seems when on looks around and outside, but wait, look carefully and you’ll see how everything has changed. I don’t know who said that the only thing is constant is “change” and thinking about it I see it is true. For a late December day, today is extraordinary here in Portland OR. It is sunny and warm, if it wasn’t for the green and the trees you could say is like my good o’l San Luis Potosí, in the middle of the desert in Mexico’s north central region. Is this product of climate change or is it just another day in the statistical dimension of Portland’s weather?
The question is significant because we want to know what is the reality of our lives in this environment. We want to be able to explain logically and systematically why things are the way they are and thus be able to predict how things (e.g. weather) will be. Modeling, mapping, and theorizing is the way that we have in the physical sciences to establish hypothesis and methods to understand reality, by the way other disciplines like economy try to do the same but when dealing with human behavior all gets kind of messy. Therefore I am eager to read “Farewell to Reality” by Jim Baggott where he is postulating how modern physicist have become fairy-tail-physicists proposing all sorts of hypotheses that are not based on any empirical data, and in some cases find it convenient to say that these hypotheses will never lead to observable phenomena! We’ll see what arguments Baggott mention and what is his reaction to them.