June 7th, 2004

Semiformalishmaybe

Fast before the meal

Yesterday evening, a time with one less event than I expected, I retiredto Coffee Tree, and while I was there, I overheard yet another conversationabout the justification of Israeli's national policies. This being SquirrelHill, there was no lack of pro-Israel sentiment, and of course there was theother side. I just listened -- it's rare that I get into this discussionanymore. As usual, there was wrangling over historical fact, mention of theHolocaust, and high tempers on both sides.. people telling sob stories abouthow their relatives had been killed or exiled from their homeland by Israelis,the Germans, and the Arabs. The second part of the discussion, which I listenedto more, was led on the Israel side by an acquaintence of mine - an atheistwho left orthodoxy, so there wasn't any mention of the religious nonsensefrom that side of the argument. The dove in the first part of the conversationwas an Israeli guy who was called a traitor numerous times, in the second,a random nonjewish coffee-tree frequenter. One of the things that was broughtup is that the Arab liberals who want to work out a settlement don't feel freeor safe to speak up. I wonder what it looks like when one side in a politicalconflict in general doesn't feel safe/free to be visible -- it's a mark ofdisaster in the making.

It got me chewing on varying views of religious demands, mostly on lifestyleissues. I've known, for example, many atheist people from Jewish-culture/Muslimfamilies that keep the dietary laws, and I've always wondered why. Some possibleclassifications...
Word of god, obey unconditionally, don't question it
Collection of ideas representing perfect order that we can't
see entirely, obey
Represents underlying values, try to understand them to go beyond
just law-conformant, but obey the law too
Represents underlying values, when you understand them, you don't
need the law
Represents some universal content, and some other stuff, obey to make
sure one hits the universal
Represents some universal content, and some other stuff, obey the good
stuff, not the rest
Represents an identity, obey to maintain that identity
On the way back, I swung by Giant Eagle, again happy that it's now 24-hour.I'm again amazed at the crap some people eat, and how much of it there isin the store. It would be nice, I think, if supermarkets gently tried tosteer people towards healthy living.

On my way to the Doctor's this morning, for a regular checkup, I had anaccident. Go figure.. It turns out that some schmuck changed his drivewayaround so the sidewalk has steps going down and up to driveway level, andthis was not there the last time I took this path. I noticed just before Ihit the up-steps, and put on the breaks, but my rear brakes are currentlyunhealthy, so the bike flipped. Fortunately, as always, my head is undamagedfrom the fall (used the rest of my body to keep it safe), but my rightknee/leg/hip is messed up (hurts to walk, and I'm limping) and my rightarm also took a blow. Oh well. My doctor seems a lot happier with my healththis time than he was last time -- apparently my pulse and blood pressure arenow well within the healthy range (blood pressure is actually a bit low now),although he's concerned that I don't weigh enough for my height (right now I'min the 160s and am 6 foot 1). We'll see how my cholesterol and the like aredoing when the results of the blood test come back. Actually, I'm not goingto worry too much about the weight for now -- I hadn't eaten breakfast yetat the time I came in, so I probably weighed less than I usually do. I donotice now that my cellphone took another beating in the fall -- a rubber guardon the phone is now gone, and the antenna is again broken.

Semiformalishmaybe

Sluice and Slice

My leg/knee/hip appears to be getting worse. It probably doesn't help that I'vebeen climbing up and down stairs and biking more since I got the injury. I nowdon't think I could handle stairs if I wanted to (the thing now has a tendencyto just give out, and dump me on the floor), and sitting down on the floorintentionally is quite painful. Even putting my feet up on a table/stand/chairis really bad. I don't think I'll be climbing tomorrow, and I'll leave my bikeat CMU and bus back. Nature is really good nowadays at reminding me that a 25year old body is less resilient than a 15 year old body. On the other hand,for the actual place I lost skin near my elbow, the doctors put some kind ofgel on it that appears to have made it heal very rapidly. This is cool --normally, while I almost never get diseases or anything like that, it takes mea very long time to recover from bruises, cuts, and similar. I wonder what wasin the gel that made it heal so fast -- I suspect that by tomorrow, the skinwill be intact. I hope that the knee/leg/hip injury will disappear within a weekor two, and find myself wondering if this is the kind of thing where I'll wakeup tomorrow in agony, about the same, or mostly better. Hmm.

On the upside, I had lunch with N -- she found an interesting veggie placenear my favourite Indian restaurant, and while it's not a particularly cheapplace to eat, it's very good. If you're in Pgh, the place is called Maggie's,and it's on 320 Atwood.

Also, in the amusing side, last time my life began to shift course in a waylike this, I suffered in a different way -- my car broke down. It's amusing tocompare the two situations. Some people, those suceptible to mysticism, seesuch accidental synchronization, and see it as a sign of a deeper pattern, abifrost bridge to religion.. a personal message from the universe. However, thenature of things possible, simpler even than accepting the statistical premise,demands better from us. This has always been a topic I've been fascinated with-- what kinds of base interpretations of events are possible, what 'stacks' ofanalysis can, should, and do fit in? For example, people who believe thateverything is according to their god's will, and that that will often but doesnot always make sense, these people may not accept statistics, as the notionof things not being planned, the very notion of frequency/probability may playno role in their worldview. For people who either don't have that tile in theirstack of analysis, the only recourse I can imagine to have discourse with themis to rely on a harder tile to deny, the flipside of sophism. It is possible,without resorting to statistics/probability, to rule out many mystic worldviewsby saying that the universe has no special message for people by demandinga similar interpretation for other people, and doing consistancy checks. Peopleare thus either pushed to vanity (the universe only gives such messages tome and perhaps a few other special/magick people) or to sophism (nobody elseis actually real), or perhaps to a radical cousin to sophism - everybodylives in a universe with some differences in the small details, but with broadenough consensus that people generally don't notice when conversing with eachother, these conversations effectively bridging universes. In any case, it'san interesting tack to take.