Defining Philosophy Survey Results

As I promised in yesterday’s post on my Brain Upgrade Project, the following are excerpts from the email responses I received to the following question:

“Ask six friends what they think philosophy is.”

The study of critical thinking.
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. . . philosophy is the contemplation of our existence, sentience, and interaction with the universe and its inhabitants. I believe we as humans agree that our capacity to reflect upon our existence is unique. And that we are seeking  elusive knowledge for our propose through this process.
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Narrowly, philosophy is the love of knowledge. Broadly, it’s the inquiry into what is real, true, valuable; how we know it and what difference it makes; what is man, who am I, why am I here, what am I to do? It is the search of meaning and purpose in life.
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Philosophy to me is a general moral framework to help determine one’s actions and explain how the world works (or should work).
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After taking two required philosophy courses in college many moons ago, I decided philosophy is the opportunity for a professor to put forward his/her agenda and give you poor grades if you don’t agree with it-no matter how much you support your point of view.
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I guess I would define philosophy as the study/search for answers regarding, well, existence:  who we are, what things are, why things are the way they are, and how things should be (i.e. ethics and morality).  I believe (although I could be wrong) a lot of science has it’s roots in philosophy (if I remember correctly, it was one of the very early philosophers that theorized the existence of atoms).  You could almost say that philosophy is the study of questions.
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I would say philosophy is the study of thinking, the why we think, that we can think, the how we think ~ leading to our conclusions ~ which remain in a state of flux,  to a point!!

The importance of this should be that we understand the decisions we make, there is a trail or should be of how we got to that point.
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My answer to the similar question posed to my Philosophy class by our professor:

“How philosophy is defined? How would your define it?”

Philosophy means the love of wisdom with a goal to help us achieve autonomy, by making us more aware of our own beliefs and encouraging us to think through issues for ourselves.  Philosophy is also an activity, and not an easy one, but the struggle for freedom never is, especially when we examine our most basic beliefs and assumptions under the microscope of reason.  I would define philosophy as unrelenting curiosity and drive to ask, and attempt to answer for ourselves, the hard questions about our purpose, our place in the world and the universe, our mortality and our morality

Next post I’ll ruminate about my reading of the second chapter of my Introduction to Philosophy textbook:  Human Nature

Guest Blog by May Liang

Jon asked me to post a guest blog on her blog, and I immediately agreed, although I had no idea what to blog about.  (Not to mention my 14 year old then said, “I thought only famous people were asked to guest blog.”)  But, then, I realized the obvious–that what I should blog about is how much Jon’s friendship has meant to me over the years.

Jon and I met in 1992 while we were both working at Foulston & Siefkin, a large Wichita, Kansas law firm.  We were drawn together by our shared interests—our love of fantasy reading (which she has kept up much better than I have), our geeky fascination for all things technology-related (although I’m a much bigger Apple fan than she is), and our love of Chinese food.  We shared reading recommendations and Chinese restaurant recommendations and talked about all sorts of topics, from career to family to Lord of the Rings (the books, as the movies had not come out yet).  Much as I liked all the lawyers in the firm, it was sanity-saving and wonderful to hang out with someone who wasn’t a lawyer and who liked many of the same things that I do.  Jon made my transition of moving from Silicon Valley to Wichita an easier one with her friendship and support.

I moved away from Wichita about two years later, but Jon and I kept in sporadic touch with birthday/Christmas cards and then, more frequently, with email.

I now live in Washington, DC and keep nagging Jon to come and visit.  🙂 I also love reading her blog to see what she and her family are up to.  (And I discovered that I can ask her lots of photography questions, too!) 

So, Jon, this may have not been exactly the type of post you wanted from me as a guest blogger, but I did want to take this opportunity to say that I have valued your friendship throughout the years, and I hope to talk with you (whether for real or virtually) about fantasy, LOTR, and food for many more years to come!

Five Thousand Eight Hundred Forty-Four

Days … but who’s counting?  Apparently, I am.

Yesterday was my 16th anniversary with my employer.  Oddly enough, I had completely forgotten about the anniversary until my boss entered my cubicle, late in the afternoon on Wednesday, August 1st, and presented me with a card and token gift.  Very strange indeed, since I hadn’t seen him in probably ten days and he usually misplaces or forgets things like anniversaries and birthdays.

But the real highlight of my day came when I met an old friend and her husband for dinner and a jazz concert.  I’ve known her just as long as I’ve been employed, although she up and retired earlier this year.  We still get together, usually once a month for this first Wednesday concert, called Spirituality and All That Jazz, but sometimes for lunch as well.  Last’s night’s theme was:

The Sensational Swingin’ Saxes
A Night of Exceptional Sax Educators Cutting Loose
performing with Tim Whitmer & The Consort Band

Dueling Saxophones
Todd Wilkinson and Jim Mair (click image for rest of album)

I surprised myself by leaving the camera bag in the car.  Serendipitous in that I could then attempt to take some better photos than I could have managed with my cell phone camera.  The lighting at Unity Temple isn’t the best, so I changed the ISO to 800, and eventually 1600, but most of the photos I took were very blurry.  I took a few from up front and those turned out better.

The group played mostly jazz standards, including Duke Ellington’s ‘Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” (in honor of the Royals); “Stella by Starlight”; a Harry Allen chart called “Jake’s Lament”; a Charlie Parker chart called “My Little Suede Shoes”; “Body and Soul”; “The Preacher”; and they closed out the concert with some blues … “Blues Up and Down.”  I missed some of the song titles because I couldn’t always understand Tim or Todd (less gain on the microphone and/or better diction please).  The second song I recognized, and could almost hear the words being sung in my head, but for the life of me I don’t have any idea what the name of it might have been.

The concert wrapped up shortly after 8:30 p.m.  I said my goodbyes to my friends and hit the road home.  The sun had already set and the full moon (well, three hours short of being a full moon) had risen behind me.

I had a great time, catching up with friends and enjoying some amazing saxy jazz or jazzy saxes … take your pick.

Veggie Bliss with a Side of Jazzy Friends

I whirled through Wednesday like the gusty winds whipping through the Midwest the past few days.  The minute I dropped off my last rider, I rushed home, ran in the house, snatched some cash from Terry, switched van keys for car keys and flew back to the Plaza (where I had just spent eight or nine hours working).  I spent less than five minutes in the house, only having time to pet Roxy and Apollo once each and peck Terry on the cheek (as I fleeced him out of a twenty dollar bill).

When Marge retired in late January, we agreed to reconnect on the first Wednesday of March.  We met at the Eden Alley Cafe in the basement of the Unity Temple on the Plaza for dinner, immediately followed by the monthly ‘Spirituality and All That Jazz‘ concert hosted by Tim Whitmer.  I touched base with Marge late on Tuesday to confirm and agreed to meet at a quarter to six.  I should have said I’d be there by six, not before, as I barely made it back from Lansing in thirty minutes (a record for me actually).

Veggie Burger (vegan) made with carrots, celery, yellow onions, tofu, vegetable oil, soy sauce and bread crumbs, served atop a locally made whole wheat bun with dijon mustard, spicy vegan aioli, dill pickles, red onions, greens and a tomato.

We were seated almost immediately.  I had to spend some time reviewing the menu, since it had been over two years (probably close to three years) since I’d last been to Eden Alley.  I decided to try their veggie burger and for once I did NOT ask for anything to be left off (since cheese was not automatically part of the dish) with a side of Garlic Bread.  Marge and Bill ordered the same dish, the Spinach and Mushroom Meatloaf.  We snacked on various types of freshly baked breads, all of which tasted fabulous.  Our food arrived quite quickly and I devoured the delicious veggie burger, but decided not to finish the garlic bread.  I’ve had that side before and I should have remembered that I don’t care for the aoili.  None of us had room for dessert so we paid our tabs, tipped the waitor and headed upstairs for the concert.

We soon learned that the scheduled special guest for the evening, vocalist Monique Danielle, would not be performing.  Tim did not enlighten us until after the first set who had agreed to step in at the absolute last minute as a replacement.

The ‘usual suspects’ appeared on stage a few minutes past seven o’clock –  Tim Whitmer at the piano, bassist James Albright, percussionist Jurgen Welge and saxophonist and flutist Jim Mair.

Spirituality and All That Jazz
Tim Whitmer at the piano, James Albright on bass, Jurgin Welge on drums and Jim Mair on sax and flute.

First set:

I heard some incredibly stunning soprano sax solos by Jim Mair during that first set.  Just mind boggling.

During the brief pause between sets, Tim let the cat out of the bag with respect to Monique’s illness.  He got quite a few laughs when he started soliciting the audience for vocal volunteers.  After a few minutes, one woman came forward, answering the jazz altar call and blessed us with her voice – the incomparable Millie Edwards.

Millie Edwards
Millie Edwards

Second set (with very special guest Millie Edwards):

I love listening to Millie sing.  And, surprising to me anyway, her vocal range matches my own voice almost perfectly.  I had to really resist the urge to start singing along with her, since I so rarely get the chance to sing in that range (I am no soprano and never want to be one).  Her last two songs were just plain fun.

Between songs, Millie shared with us the story of how Tim wrangled her into performing last night.  That afternoon she had received an e-mail from Tim with the subject ‘Favor’ and soon discovered the nature of the favor Tim asked of her.  Her students became the real beneficiaries as she had to postpone grading papers and a pop-quiz the next day.  Millie imparted to Tim the heartfelt gratitude of her students for sparing them from the test gauntlet, at least for a day.

After the concert, I said goodbye to Marge and Bill and headed back home (for the second time in that day).  I flipped through my radio presets and caught the last song of the classic music program on KANU – one I actually recognized – a piano arrangement of ‘Pictures at an Exhibition.’  As I exited I-70 and headed north on K-7/US-73, I caught the beginning of Piano Jazz on KPR.

I attempted to call my daughter but as usually happens, I got her voice-mail.  So for the second time that day, I called her boyfriend, Nic, who promptly answered his phone (as he always does).  We exchanged pleasantries and I asked if he happened to be near my daughter.  Unfortunately, she was at a rehearsal (which explained why she didn’t answer her phone).  Nic realized Rachelle had forgotten to tell me she finally got a church gig.  She is now an Alto II section lead in the Chancel Choir at First UMC of Plano.  I think I need to take an extra trip to North Texas next month for Easter services.

I had a great time catching up with Marge (and Bill) and listening to lovely live jazz music in a relaxed and smoke-free environment.  Marge and I agreed to return for the May concert which features the KCKCC jazz ensembles (of which my daughter is an alum).  I look forward to seeing how the jazz program at KCKCC has progressed in the three years since Rachelle graduated.

Saying Farewell After Sixteen Years

Mon 30 Jan 2012 SunriseMonday started out innocently enough. I spent Sunday afternoon whipping up a batch of my favorite cookies (Chocolate Crinkles) for a cookie exchange and farewell party for a coworker Monday afternoon.  January was ending on mixed notes for me.  Unseasonably warm weather permeated the entire month and into the first few days of February.  Yet, on the very last day of the month, I needed to ‘let go’ of a person who I have relied upon and shared more workdays with than any other person on this planet.

As I drove south from Crown Center Monday morning, the sunrise kept teasing me with highlights of pink and orange among the scattered wisps of clouds.  I predicted I would miss the prettiest photo opportunities in the ten to fifteen minutes it takes me to drive to the Plaza.  Some of the former glory shines through the photo (above) I took with my cell phone as I walked up the outside staircase of the parking garage.

Bon Voyage Marge (click photo for rest of album)

During the noon hour, with the assistance of our department secretary, we decorated our conference room for the cookie exchange and farewell party.  Most of the department and many others stopped by to wish Marge well in her retirement and her planned travels around the country to visit her far flung family.  Many cookies were consumed and even a speech from our illustrious leader extolling Marge’s sixteen years with the company.  We sent her home with several dozen cookies.

Tuesday dawned much the same as Monday did, and doubled as Marge’s final day of work.  Our team (well, most of our team), including our manager, planned to take Marge out to lunch at Gram & Dun on the Country Club Plaza.  I began to get nervous when our boss failed to show up for work that morning.  He did eventually call me, as he was leaving his physician’s office and rushing to the pharmacy to purchase the prescriptions to ease his sinus infection or bronchitis (or both … I didn’t quite catch the entire diagnosis).  He called asking me to take Marge to the restaurant, where he would meet us at noon.  While Marge and I could have walked to the restaurant, it would have taken at least fifteen minutes to do so, and neither of us wanted to add an additional thirty minutes to our lunch hour, especially when we had so many things to juggle at work.  I drove us over in the van.

We enjoyed a pleasant lunch, starting with the Shishito Peppers appetizer.  Marge ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna salad with a side of butternut squash (which we all tried).  I ordered the quail and our manager had their prime burger and the Brunswick stew.  While we waited on our food, I presented Marge with my gift (a giraffe pin – see photo at left) and card as well as the Southwest Airlines gift cards and retirement card signed by coworkers.  The food was good, the company better but the memory will be bittersweet for me.

Marge and I returned to the office while our manager rushed to an appointment on the Kansas side.  The afternoon flew by and before I knew it my time had come to leave the office.  Marge happened to be on the phone doing what she did best when I needed to leave, so I did not get to say much beyond ‘keep in touch’ and ‘goodbye.’

Wednesday brought a new month and a new dynamic at work.  Our team had lost a third of its resources.  The two of us left had to temporarily bear the burden of the missing third.  Even though I went to bed early (around eight thirty Tuesday night), I work up a couple of hours later and tossed and turned the rest of the night.  Stress and worry does that to me.  Not the most auspicious way to start a day, especially one that could potentially explode with problems.

Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, my day imploded with each passing hour.  I had every confidence I could wrestle any issues that arose, I just did not anticipate the avalanche that crashed down upon my desk.  I worked through my lunch and several hours from home that evening.  By ten o’clock, I passed out and thankfully got a full night’s sleep.

Oh, and as if I didn’t have enough to worry about at work, I received a disturbing call from a very congested coughing daughter asking me to find her an urgent care facility near her.  I looked up some likely prospects within five miles of her apartment.  She managed to get into her doctor and received a prescription for antibiotics to combat the bronchitis she contracted.  The timing couldn’t have been worse since her graduate school auditions were scheduled for Friday.

Thursday morning became a mirror image of Wednesday, only worse.  A system I administer (since late Fall 2011) decided to freak out and lock up.  Calls to tech support went unanswered (or unresponded to) for nearly two hours, during which time I tried a few measures to kick the servers and services back into line.  Desperate to get people back into the system, I restarted all the servers, even though I could find no errors in any of the usual logs.  Miraculously (or not if you have any experience with this product), the system came back online and hummed happily along, oblivious to the havoc it left in it’s wake.  At least the afternoon calmed down a bit and let me catchup on items from the previous day and projects that needed updating.

Groundhog Day SunsetThursday evening, Terry and I had a few errands to run, so we grabbed a quick dinner at a local sub shop. Just as I parked the van, I spied a spectacular sunset in progress and snapped a quick photo with my cell phone.  A far cry from last year’s Groundhog Day blizzard if I don’t say so myself.

Friday morning, I woke up about fifteen minutes early (roughly 4:45 a.m.).  Just as I was rubbing the sleep from my eyes and stretching, Terry came up to tell me he was heading to the hospital emergency room with chest pains.  I followed him a few minutes later.  I did the paperwork while the emergency room nurses and doctors ran a battery of tests.  I sat with him, monitoring his vitals (which looked fairly normal to me) until six o’clock, when I left to pickup my vanpool riders for the commute into Kansas City (I recounted some of this in an earlier blog post).  Thanks to an unseasonable thunderstorm that produced torrential downpours, the drive to work couldn’t have been more stressful.  By the time I dropped off the last two riders, Terry had called to let me know the hospital was releasing him on his own recognizance to followup with his physician at his first opportunity.

It figures. Queen of Spades.Work at least settled into something a bit more normal (or at least not a flash flood of problems).  I even escaped for a lunch at my favorite local sub shop, taking advantage of a free sandwich courtesy of my full punch card.  I almost laughed out loud, though, when my order ‘number’ came up the Queen of Spades.  What a way to cap off this week!  I did really enjoy starting Archangel by Sharon Shinn, one of the two selections for February at the Beyond Reality book club.  For more information about the group and the great books we read and discuss, stop by the one of the group moderator’s blogs:  Far Beyond Reality.

I didn’t get any exercising done Friday.  By the time I made it home Friday evening, after a quick side trip to the local liquor store for a bottle of wine, all I wanted to do was collapse.  I scrounged up enough energy to chop some celery and onions to combine with sweet relish, albacore tuna and mayonaise for a couple of tuna salad sandwiches for supper.

Honey Wheat bread hot out of the oven.I spent Saturday not thinking about work.  I made two loaves of bread, one of which came out of the oven looking and smelling completely awesome.  I immediately took a photo of my fabulous Honey Wheat bread with my cell phone and uploaded it via Twitpic to make everyone jealous.  The first loaf of White Sandwich bread was still in the oven when my father stopped by for a surprise visit.  While the bread cooled on the rack, we chatted away on various and sundry subjects.  I sent him home with one loaf and one cookie (the last of the chocolate crinkles) about an hour and half later.

Since the weather had turned decidedly more wintery (or at least early springish), with a thick cloud cover and constant drizzle, I filled the crockpot with a savory beef stew.  The aroma caused our mouths to water whenever we walked through the kitchen.  By five o’clock, we each had a bowl of stew and a couple of freshly warmed Hawaiian honey wheat rolls.

We topped off the evening my braving the drizzle (which rapidly morphed into spitting snow) and driving to the Moose Lodge 1999 for the early V.D. show performed by Phyllis Killer.  (V.D. meaning Valentine’s Day).  Finding that particular lodge proved interesting.  Have you ever seen a driveway that actually connects to an exit ramp from a highway?  Yep, we drove right by it the first time.  Well, it was sleeting and it was dark.  After we turned around on 65th street, we found the large arrowed sign pointing the way back down the exit/entrance ramp to Turner Drive.  Against all logic, I followed the sign and surprisingly, back along the curve towards the highway, I spied the driveway that literally falls off the backside of the curve embankment for the exit.

We sat through the first set of music, most of which I somewhat recognized (Terry knew more of them than I did) and one original song.  We introduced ourselves to the bass player, who happens to be the husband of one of my vanpool drivers.  We said our goodbyes (not wanting to stay out too late in case the weather turned even nastier) and headed back north, past the blazing Speedway lights (wasting electricity to celebrate the ‘grand opening’ of the Hollywood Casino I assume).

Never have I been so glad to put a week behind me.  I will miss Marge sitting in the cube next to me, but I will not miss all the extra stress (in and out of work).  I pray this next week (and all the ones that follow it) will continue to improve.  I look forward to getting back together with Marge in early March for dinner and a jazz concert at the Unity Temple on the Plaza.  I do plan to keep in touch with her, as much as she will allow me to.