Friday, January 23, 2009

What I learned in Astronomy

I am currently in the Astronomy program at Nipissing University as my mandatory science credit. I never considered myself much of a scientist but I do like to think that I am an amateur philosopher; with that reasoning I took Astronomy in an attempt to better understand the universe.

I understand people who find the course to be a bit confusing because of all the physics and chemistry involved. I actually had to take high school science twice because of subjects like those so I want to clarify that I don’t want to pass astronomy off as being simple. If you can get past those hurdles though and start to notice some of the recurring patterns and simple geometry in our own solar system, it brings some interesting ideas forward. 

One of the fundamental concepts of Astronomy states that the laws that govern the universe apply equally to us here on Earth. The gravity of the Sun provides the momentum and energy which have allowed the planets to form around it. While we humans are governed by the laws of nature, planets and stars are governed by the laws of physics.

I find room for a religious viewpoint in my philosophy because I find it hard to imagine that pure science, limited as it is by human reasoning, can explain the grand perfection and balance inherent in laws that not only keep planets in orbit, but also govern feelings such as love and hate. I like to believe that there are facts about the universe that we shall never understand given our limited span of intellect. I also believe that the power of imagination allows us to appreciate that which we don`t know and fills the void in our consciousness with the sensation of magic. As long as we don`t try to appear as though we know the unknowable, we can get down to the more important business of understanding what we do know.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Who needs presents on Christmas anyway?

How important are traditions anyway? This time of year seems like a time when tradition becomes a very important part of our lives. Almost everyone seems to have one or two for the last month of the year regardless of religious or ethnic background. December marks the end of an old year and the start of a new one. I like to think that this is the time to consider old courses of action, their implications, and ways to improve; (even if you don't hold your resolutions, it's the thought that counts!)

Take a moment to consider how many annual traditions you have in your life: your birthday, those of your family and friends, anniversaries, holidays; every day that you mark as an important part in a cycle. Not necessarily the beginning or the end, but rather a celebration of the fact that it still is. When a baby is born we celebrate its life; every year that it is alive we celebrate the fact that it is still alive; if the baby grew up and left a big enough impression on others, we may even celebrate it's life and contributions after it dies.

But are these traditions necessarily important? Is it actually important to wear a poppy on Remembrance Day? Is it necessary to give gifts on Christmas? Do we even have to have a cake on our birthday? When you think about it, these little details aren't really that big of a deal independantly. We perform them to show others that we consider the ideas they represent to be important. We wear a poppy to let others know that we consider the sacrifice of the soldiers in WWII to have been important; getting a present on Christmas tells you that the person who gave it to you is thinking of you and wants you to be happy; cake tastes great and you can't have cake for dessert any night of the week and hope to keep your teeth.

If we stopped celebrating traditions, we could very well forget the behind them. It would still be a new year without "Ol' Angsine" (or however you spell it,) and the Nazis would still have been defeated because of the soldiers of WWII without Remembrance Day; however, without these ceremonies, we might eventually forget to think about these little details.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I wish I could help

I really wish that I could help people.

I wish that I had answers to all their problems and that they could come to me, give me the scoop, and I would tell them what they need to do. I might use this power for personal gain if I had it but right now, all I want is to give people a hand. Some people's idea of help includes "quit whining" or "deal with it". They also want to give people solutions to their problems but they lack the verbal dexterity or the sensitivity to say it any other way.

Me on the other hand, I empathize with people (more than I should really) and I want them to feel better because when I meet someone who is having a right crappy day, I feel crappy too through osmosis. I will sometimes offer advice if I know enough about what is upsetting them and I try not to interfere if my meddling could cause more damage but it would seem that most people are very adept at keeping their problems from public display. I know that I don't want my dirty laundry hanging out for everyone to see, so to speak, so I want to make it clear that I understand.

I don't want it to sound as though I want to bear the burden of society like some superhero come from a comic book to end all war and strife. Each person has their own problems and I know from experience that people don't like it when you come in to their lives telling them that they should do what you did to get over it. I understand that the only time that you should give assistance is when someone comes to you for advice. This is also the reason that I hesitate from giving advice in the comments sections of people's blogs.

I suppose that the moral of this blog is that I need to stop feeling sorry for everyone and worry about my own life. I just have to be there for people who want help. It is not feasible for me to try to give advice to everybody so I shouldn't waste any more thought power on it. What I should do is get back to studying for my mid-term.

Well, thanks for listening (errr, reading anyway.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When I grow up...

There are two types of job: those that require you only to perform well at the work site and then clock out, and those that require a bit more of your time.

I believe that teaching is one of these jobs that you don't leave at the office. As much as I dislike homework now, I realize that I am going to be doing a whole lot more when I finally get out of this school. I came to this understanding after I handed in my research paper for history. I had been so focused upon getting the paper finished while I was writing it that I thought that writing papers was the most difficult thing anyone could do. It wasn't until I handed it in to my professor that I thought about what he has to do now. He has to read every 8-page paper and grade them accordingly; all that on top of preparing the lectures and seminars for each week while facing a majority of students that openly display their lackadaisical attitude towards his subject of interest. I can't wait to be doing what he's doing!

I actually plan to teach at the upper-high school level which, though it is very different from university, is fundamentally similar. I won't even have the benefit of having students motivated by making sure their money is well spent. I do look forward to it because I had good experiences in high school and I believe that it can be a very fascinating time as long as there are teachers willing to make it interesting.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Feeling Lucky?

I wish to pose a question to my readers.

I have always found that I had trouble with luck as a whole. I found that no matter how much I wished for something, it wouldn't just fall out of the sky and be given to me. Later, I realized that effort on my part was actually required to make many of my wishes come true.

Having spent a large portion of my childhood playing dice games I am also fairly knowledgeable in the concept of chance and having recently given up my passive style of play, I have learned the ability to distinguish between chance and odds and am getting better at using them.

The question that I would pose is how much does luck influence your life? Having spent so long "not trying" to influence odds in my favour, I can say fairly positively that I have an even mix of good and bad luck. I can also say that due to the lessons learned from my recent experiences I am prepared to take control of the reins and affect the odds in my life more directly.

So, having read this, I hope that you will look back on your own life and recognize some of the factors that can be attributed to luck and those that are directly influenced by your efforts to tip the scales in your favour.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Excess Vs. Success

Before I left for Reading Week, my landlady told me to come back with some words of wisdom; it is apparently a tradition with her family to have some for each birthday. I went through the week not thinking on it too hard but on my last night with my parents we went out to dinner and I had a chat with my dad about success.

I was explaining the realization that I had come to while I was in Alberta working for the Brick. I had been working there for a year and I knew that I didn't want to work there. I had also appreciated the fact that there are people there who love what they do and wouldn't trade their job for the world and it helped me understand the nature of success a little better. Success is relative and my idea of success does not necessarily meet someone else's definition. I originally thought people who have been working in retail for most of their life should aim for something higher but now I see that they have merely chosen a different path than me and the fact that they are happy with what they do makes them more successful than me right now.

That still left me with my dissatisfaction towards my position. I wanted something more and I knew that I needed to do a lot more work to get it; I wanted to exceed where I was. This is where I currently stand and I can say that it is not necessarily very enjoyable. An analogy would be to say that I am on a mountain and I am not content with the view at my current height so I want to climb a bit higher. This doesn't mean that I will definitely like the view more when I get higher but I am unhappy enough with where I am that I am willing to put the work in to go higher.

So when I returned to my apartment from Reading Week, the words of wisdom I gave my landlady were "excess" and "success". To succeed means that you have found a post where you are happy and whereas to exceed means that you are unhappy and are looking for something greater. It should also be noted that achieving "higher" status does not always bring happiness but even if you do not find what you want at the higher-paying jobs or managerial positions you can always go back far more easily to something you enjoyed once before.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Enjoy Responsibly

Firstly, let me say thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday. I did find it rather enjoyable so all your wishing did not go to waste. I had a quiet day with the family watching a couple old movies and getting some reading done; I know most people would call that a boring birthday and all I can say is that they don't have to imitate me. I am a man of simple tastes and I prefer not to go overboard with my celebrations because when I do, I usually end up paying for it sooner or later.
Most people at this stage of life should know how to drink so I don't want to claim to be preaching to the choir but I believe this is one of the most valuable lessons of drinking; it's fun and it makes making friends a whole lot easier but taken too far drinking can cause you to say things you don't mean and make messes that reflect badly on yourself. Regardless of whether or not you remember the night before, the people you were drinking with will remember it. It takes a bit of practice but there is a safe zone between sociably intoxicated and bringing out "Mr. Hyde."