2012-02-09

Trivia

It's entirely possible that you may stumble upon this blog during an internet search, read a post or two, encounter something you like, benefit from it, and move on. It is also entirely possible that you read this blog a dozen or more times and only ever discover one thing about the blog with which you "agree."

What you find on my blog is a repository of my own personal thoughts and opinions. Some of them prove to be highly controversial, either because my readers outright disagree with me or because they feel I've been unfair to "the other side" of the issue. But, believe it or not, the majority of what I write here consists of beliefs and information that I consider to be largely uncontroversial.

Something I often say is that my ideas are "an all-encompassing philosophy." Another way to say this is that everything I blog about represents an incarnation of my personal creed.

It may seem odd to think that diverse - and sometimes trivial - topics like the Guitar Exercise of the Week, running a marathon, and Ryan Ruins Requests have anything to do with the more serious things I blog about. But what I try to convey as I write my blog is the idea that a person's creed is their modus operandi, that it is important, that it must be built from the ground up, and that, once established, it guides that person through every activity in which he or she engages.

This all seems quite serious, and again begs the question why I also blog about such trivial things when promoting an existential idea is basically the whole point of the blog. I will now attempt to address this apparent gap.

Life Is Like a Movie Theater, Not a Movie
Walk through a movie theater and you will encounter some horror, some drama, some thrills; but, you will also encounter a lot of comedy and romance.

While it can be fun to spend a couple of hours watching a fictional drama about global politics, it would be a major drag to watch only political dramas all the time, and nothing else. Simply put, there's more to life than drama and seriousness. That's why we find ourselves seeking out different kinds of movies at different times, depending on how we feel. It's not just taste, it's mood.

It's mental state. There is a lot of room in the human brain, plenty of room to fill it with all kinds of information; some important, some trivial. But all of it is important.

If we don't take time to laugh about silly things, we won't be able to keep a handle on the serious things. If we don't wrestle with serious topics from time to time, then we soon run out of things to laugh at. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but it is in fact thousands of years old. Aristotle put it best when he said,
Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.
Philosophy Teaches Us About Life, Not Merely About "Deep" Things
Whatever else anyone may say about the content of Ayn Rand's philosophy, her view of philosophy itself is probably the clearest and most universally acceptable opinion she had. As she wrote in an essay called "The Chicken's Homecoming" (reprinted in a recent collection called Return of the Primitive):
The task of philosophy is to provide man with a comprehensive view of life. This view serves as a base, a frame of reference, for all his actions, mental or physical, psychological or existential. This view tells him the nature of the universe with which he has to deal (metaphysics); the means by which he is to deal with it, i.e., the means of acquiring knowledge (epistemology); the standards by which he is to choose his goals and values, in regard to his own life and character (ethics)—and in regard to society (politics); the means of concretizing this view is given to him by esthetics.
The purpose of developing a personal creed is addressed by that first sentence, i.e. having a comprehensive view of life.

And when we talk about life, we mean all of it. Not just the serious stuff, but also art, humor, goofiness, quirkiness, zaniness, and everything else.

When you meet someone new, do you develop your relationship solely around their opinions of "life, the universe, and everything?" During the initial stages of a new relationship with any friend, coworker, or casual acquaintance, do you even know what their metaphysical beliefs are? Of course not! In fact, you can relate to a great many people without ever discussing anything serious with them at all. For many nourishing, important relationships, life's biggest questions never come up. Some people never cultivate a relationship to each other that extends beyond small talk.

It would be wrong to say that such relationships are trivial, meaningless, or unimportant. The reality is that we have as many different kinds of relationships as we have relationships. All of them contribute to our lives in an important way, and all of them shape our perspectives somehow.

Philosophy, and more importantly your creed, doesn't ignore these many relationships any more than it ignores the kookier things life offers. Having an understanding of one's own life means having an understanding of everything in it.

Your Creed
Therefore, your creed is that aspect of yourself that governs how you behave in both important and unimportant matters. What's important here is that situations and moods change, but creeds do not.

A well-developed creed will just as easily guide you through situations that are silly as it will through situations that are somber. It will act as a compass through all moments of your life, not just the ones that you consider the most weighty. It can serve as the fabric from which you weave all of your behavior.

While that isn't the main reason I promote the idea of creeds, it is certainly a major benefit!

My Creed
My creed involves all of the concepts captured on this blog, and all those which have yet to be captured on the blog. I run because it's fun, and having fun is part of my personal creed. I also run because it's a healthy activity, and capturing the quality of life gains from a healthy lifestyle is also part of my creed. I also run because it gives me time alone, during which I can think through the big questions I face from time to time, and introspection is also a part of my creed.

Get the picture? It's not about running any more than it's about Insipid Pop Weekend. It's not about serious stuff like politics and economics any more than it's about YouTube videos of Weird Al Yankovic songs.

Stationary Waves isn't about any of these things in isolation. It's about building a cohesive, consistent line of reasoning and a modus operandi by which I live my life. Sometimes it's serious, sometimes it's trivial. But it's always my creed.

That's the idea I'm going for here.