When I was ten I noticed a book on my
brother's shelf called Sophie's World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder. I thought, 'cool, a book with my name in the title, I should read it', obviously without any idea that it was to forever change the way I think, and ultimately the way I live. In chapter two, Albert Knox tells Sophie that most humans are buried in the fur of a (presumably elephantine) white rabbit which has just been pulled out of a hat by a magician. Philosophers are those who climb up the rabbit's hairs to stare into the magician's eyes and try to understand the workings of the 'trick'. Since reading that I've always tried to maintain perspective and to question life as if atop the hairs aboard the great rabbit of life(!)... This blog is a home for the (life-permitting) daily overspill of (copied, contradictory, inconclusive) thoughts, many related to music and being INFP and some decidedly not, from one little furry journey. Click here for the blog-warming post from Jan 1 2010, or 'follow' me below (and left a bit).

Sniff sniff, tweet tweet: The latest on twitter from the Rabbit Perspective

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Excuse me, do you sell thought harnesses?

Philosophers must have some high-spec hiking gear. Every time I feel like I'm close to fully developing a new thought, I lose my footing (rabbit hairs aren't so sturdy after all). I think the skill/gift (delete as applicable) is to be able to grasp multiple hairs at the same time in order to hoist yourself up. Back to the gym I go.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Identity Invasion

If you were picked up by aliens one day and dropped on another planet, would you remain the same person? The same question is valid in slightly less extreme situations too... If your job relocated you from London to Liverpool, would you keep the same principles and tastes, the same vegan tendencies and inexplicable love for Bjork? Is there some part of every being that remains intact no matter where a being physically finds itself? I think a few blog posts ago I believed the answer was 'yes' (Jan 19, 'You say nature and I say nurture': 'people don't fundamentally change, just their priorities'). If the answer is 'yes', I think that part is what they call the soul. And I think Plato and co* probably got there before I did with their thoughts on dualism.

*['Plato and co'... definitely going on my 'ideas for café names' list. I could even put copies of books from a series I just discovered, including Coffee with Plato, on every table... Ooh, I love it when a fantasy business plan comes together.]

I've been wondering to what extent your habitat, daily lifestyle and personal relationships define who you are as a person. People talk endlessly about retreating to deep dark corners of the globe to discover 'who they really are'. But can we ever divorce 'who we really are' from who we've become as influenced by our surroundings? If you lived a sheltered childhood existence in a minimalist magnolia-painted room and were fed a diet of mostly rice cakes and water, would you grow up to be as interesting and interested as a rice cake itself? Or could you be the happiest of bunnies with an enviable clarity of thought?

Perhaps a trip to Ikea is overdue.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Duck Perspective?

I was reminded in my music theory class today of the rabbit-duck illusion...

At first I thought I'd give my brain a mini-break by just posting this picture and leaving it as a nice decorative addition to my blog, but then it got me thinking (dangerous). Here's one of my (contrived?) Photoshop-provoked thoughts...

Perhaps we're 'on the same page' as more people than we first think. The ways in which others function, however, don't allow us to relate to them. In bunny-related words, rather than climbing the hairs of an enormous rabbit others are, at the same pace and altitude, scaling the feathers of an equally huge duck. Surely this is at the root of religious conflict; we all have similar if not the same general aims, but people don't recognise that there are different ways of approaching and actively achieving them within different personal and cultural contexts... Same carrot, different animal. One man's rabbit is another man's duck... You get the picture (literally).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The problems of an ideal rabbit

Have you ever noticed how life gets in the way of 'life'?

Plato had his 'ideal' and visual realms and, to illustrate, he used not rabbits but horses, i.e. he distinguished between the fixed idea or form of a horse and its physical manifestations in our material world of change. For more on these two realms, see the new little animated clay version of Plato's allegory of the cave here.

I worry that too often we feel inadequate for letting our 'imperfect' and dynamic real lives get in the way of our attempts at living our static concepts of an 'ideal' life, something which is not just unattainable but non-existent. The Christian pressure on us to live in the image of God (in fact, pressure to live a certain way in society in general) doesn't exactly help us on this one. Of course I'm not saying it's a bad thing to strive for excellence, but surely it's perpetually guilt-inducing and plain wrong to believe that there is one perfect life-path which can be followed. After all, we're only 'shadows' of the ideal human living in the 'cave' that is our own world. [Thanks to amazing company, food and wine in Brighton, NY for fuelling this post and others.]

P.S. I somehow just found this t-shirt online - Plato's cave- and bunny-related... my ideal t-shirt, so to speak.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fight or flight, filter or freeze

To continue the extended bunny metaphor, today is one of those days when I feel like a rabbit in the headlights. Life is one huge car which has just rounded a corner and stunned me with light, i.e. too many undeveloped thoughts, not enough brainpower to process them into something bloggable. Philosophers must be those hardy (GM?) rabbits who are able to filter light rather than just freeze in all its overwhelmingness.

More soon when my eyes have adjusted.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lessons for life

Notes I probably shouldn't be taking in class:

1. The relative importance of delivery over content is alarming.
2. 'Wisest is he who knows he does not know' should be pinned to every blackboard/forehead (thanks Socrates).
3. Wisest is he who also doesn't state the bleeding obvious as if it's going to revolutionise humankind.

Although... Is it ultimately wisest to recognise that nothing is obvious? Hmm.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bursting the bunny-bubble

Moving from Harpenden/Cambridge, England to Rochester, NY can't help but change your perspective (for better or for worse), but it made me think... Can we ever have true perspective? Does such a thing exist?

per·spec·tive n. true understanding of the relative importance of things

Surely every place we escape to is just another bubble on one scale or another? In which bubble should we trust that we're making the 'right' decisions? What's to say that one decision in one bubble is right in the context of another?

Rabbit fur-climbing, global bubble-popping... one and the same thing really.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You say nature and I say nurture

People don't fundamentally change, just their priorities.

Was that possibly one of my most broad, unjustified thoughts yet? That's the beauty of blogging, folks. And did I just do my usual 'paraphrase-to-fein-originality' trick? I may as well have written 'I came up with some vague response to that nature vs nurture issue today'. And that brings up another question... How much 'original' thought is, in fact, mostly or all recycled? Perhaps more on inspiration vs imitation coming soon to a blog near you.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wolfgang Amadeus Mraz

Listening to my whole itunes library on shuffle, this thought popped into my head... If Mozart was alive today, would he love Jason Mraz? I hope so. Because I love them both, and I'd hate for them not to get on.

And that question, as ever, raises more questions... How would artistic tastes from two or three hundred years ago transfer to today's world? Would a twenty-first century Mozart fill up his ipod with Haydn symphonies? Or would he have a burning desire to collaborate with Lady Gaga? The postmodernists would have a field day.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Cogito, ego sum (typo intentional)

What is a philosopher? According to Jostein Gaarder, as we've seen, it's simply somebody who retains the 'faculty of wonder' with which they were born, somebody who never becomes willing to sit back and accept the world at face value. I was thinking today... There are obviously very few people who are officially, by occupation, 'philosophers'. What is it that turns a tiny percentage of Gaarder's philosophers into the philosophers that we read about and discuss today? I hate to say it, but the answer may well include the word ego. Imagine if every wonderful, humble, perceptive, progressive, unique philosophical thought that ever came into being magically made it into print for all to ponder. The world could be so much more wise, diverse, depressed, elated, angry, tolerant, confused...

Wow, this sounds like one of those anti-abortion 'you could be killing another Beethoven/Descartes' arguments (i.e. don't kill anyone's freedom of speech because you don't know what you might miss). It's not. That really is another egg to be fertilised another day.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Hedonistic? Let's calculate

To do what makes you happy right now or to do what you think will make you and others happy in the long-run? That is the question.

And a stab at the answer is pretty satisfactorily yet not so succinctly given to us here, not by Shakespeare but by Mr Bentham, in the form of the hedonic calculus and with the glamorous assistance of our good friend wikipedia. With seven 'vectors' to choose from, there's definitely something for everyone, although it's perhaps not so practical or sociable for whipping out in each little everyday situation (e.g. that old carrot cake vs carrot dilemma).

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Your Country Needs YOU (in snow and in health)

[No, this isn't a patriotic rant. Perhaps should read 'Other Beings (and some inanimate objects, come to think of it) Need You'.]

Why should it have to take the worst snowfall in Britain since 1964, or even a world war, to really truly forge communities?

More on this and what I'm calling the 'Car Crash Effect' (or less sinisterly the 'CN Tower Effect') soon.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

'I'm so 3008, you so 2000 and late'

Inspired by a conversation with a friend (you know who you are) at lunch today over gluten-free orange polenta cake:

Could economic concepts and lingo be applied to musical development? (Wittgenstein might not think so... click here for info on language-games). If so, I think we're currently in a necessary but soulless musical depression. I'm mostly talking 'classical' music here; think Webern, if you can bring yourself. (N.B., before I lose several friends: I'm speaking in very general terms, as ever.)

I'm hoping for that musical boom any decade now. Perhaps this century's 20s could be just as roaring and golden as the last. And it looks like the Black Eyes Peas and I are on the same wavelength (lyrics to 'Boom Boom Pow' here).

Monday, January 04, 2010

All aboard the yellow submarine

When we are so exhausted we become dizzy and feel we can't concentrate our thoughts or absorb our surroundings (like right now), what is to say that we're not, in fact, experiencing the world in sharper focus?

Empiricism might be the way to go, but if our sense perceptions vary depending on tiredness, magic mushrooms etc., how do we know which ones to trust? I suppose I just discovered a justification for class A drugs.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

'God Only Knows'

Can music replace religion? Or does music itself necessitate religion?

Answers on the back of some manuscript/a bible please - whichever you decide is least useful.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Ockham's razor: shaver of choice for 2010?

I just finished a book (shock horror; the ratio between books I start and books I finish is embarrassing), The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill. Aside from the beautiful mental images of Cambridge, Venice and Yorkshire it conjured, the book mentioned and reminded me of the principal of 'Ockham's razor', a little nugget I picked up in the good old days of A-level philosophy of religion. Trusty wikipedia will do a better job of defining this than I will...

Occam's razor (or Ockham's razor[1]), entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, is the principle that "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity" and the conclusion thereof, that the simplest explanation or strategy tends to be the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English logician, theologian and Franciscan friarWilliam of Ockham.

Reading about that again led me to think that the principle could be usefully applied to our daily lives and not just when we're trying, for example, to argue against the existence of a god. It is well-known that one of the main reasons for January depression is that people have failed to keep their many new year's resolutions. If everyone opted for a simpler, single, less specific strategy or mantra to improve their lives, such as 'be healthy', there wouldn't be so many different opportunities to feel failure and guilt. Instead people are resolving all at once to eat more celery, take up yoga, learn Mandarin, volunteer at the local donkey sanctuary and write weekly letters to Auntie Edna, which, frankly, is unrealistic.

I certainly think that I should practice a new principle ('Sophie's rabbit comb'?) that 'words must not be multiplied beyond necessity', for everyone's sake...

Friday, January 01, 2010

In the ring today: fate vs proactivity

Not very original at all, I know, but it's been preoccupying my thoughts. I decided that what I was thinking about earlier could most appropriately be written under the heading 'fate vs proactivity', but then I realised that I was just paraphrasing the age-old religious problem of 'predetermination vs free will'. No gold star for me. But we all have to arrive at these questions ourselves I think, and I don't think we have to talk about these concepts in a religious context, especially when 'religion' is a term so freely interpreted.

More and more I have a sense that fate really does exist. I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps it's because recently some fundamentally bad things have happened to me, but with silver linings that vastly outweigh the negatives; now there are big fluffy silver clouds with only faint grey linings. Perhaps it's because, as I live more life, I see that decisions I've made seem to 'make sense' within the larger picture. But what bothers me is this... If fate does exist, is there much point in being proactive? Obviously we can't just sit around at home all day and wait for exciting things to happen to us but, if things are meant to be, will they happen anyway even if we don't try our very hardest to make them happen? Is it possible to believe in fate and complete self-control at the same time? I hope so, but maybe that's paradoxical. Now I must force myself to crash back into GMT, although maybe fate is dictating that I turn into a pumpkin.

'...into the eyes of the Great Magician'

Well hello 2010! A new decade, a new blog. Where to start? As I mean to go on I suppose... with an unedited, unstructured, perhaps unintelligible stream of consciousness, because the primary purpose of this new online space of mine is to ease up some of my own mental space. A wee intro first...

At the risk of sounding pretentious, contrived or clichéd, I've realised I need, or rather could hugely benefit from, having a place to mentally offload without anyone directly telling me I'm crazy, wrong or incomprehensible. The usual problem when I begin to write is that I can't stop (pringle syndrome), or that I get so far from the original point by playing some kind of word-association game with myself that I have no idea why I sat down to write in the first place, so my plan is to limit myself to one general idea each day; it doesn't makes sense to me to spend more time writing about life than living it.

I don't really want to use this blog to talk about specific events, people or places (I have another blog which documented my initial reactions to the great and overwhelming US of A!) but rather to log more general thoughts about life, which of course are in some way shaped by specific experiences. Sometimes I feel as though the perspectives I gain from certain experiences would be beneficial to me (and who knows, maybe someone else) if maintained at other points in life, but I worry that they're only fleeting and easily forgotten, so hopefully this blog can serve as a reminder to myself, just like sniffing the delightful scent of silage or hearing Maroon 5 tunes can instantly transport me back to crawling around Cornwall or dancing around my dorm at school.

Now I should explain the seemingly bizarre blog title... When I was ten I saw a book on my then 17-year-old brother's shelf called Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. At that time I thought 'cool, a book with my name in the title, I have to read it'. I had no idea what it was about, no idea at first that it was in fact 'a novel about the history of philosophy', and no idea that, even though 11 years later I still haven't finished it (simply because I'm the world's slowest reader - I've started it about four times and have now bought the audiobook in my determination to get to the end), it would have a profound effect on my life. Without going into too much detail, it reassured me that other people (probably every single person at some stage) thought and wondered in the same way I did, and set in motion my excitement for philosophy.

The one part of the book that suddenly clicked with me and has remained with me ever since is in chapter two, where Albert Knox tells Sophie that most humans are buried deep inside the fur of a (presumably elephantine) white rabbit, a rabbit which has just been pulled out of a hat by a magician. Philosophers are those humans who feel the urge and dare to climb to the top of the rabbit's hairs to stare into the magician's eyes and attempt to understand the workings of the 'trick'. Since reading that I've always tried to maintain perspective and to question life as if atop the hairs aboard the great rabbit of life(!)... I actually wrote my reactions to this part of the book in a purple notebook when I was 13; maybe I'll track it down and post it up here sometime - could be angsty and entertaining.

Incidentally, my blog profile just revealed to me that my zodiac year is the rabbit. It also just struck me that the title of this blog could easily and alternatively be taken as a reference to my 'rabbiting' on... I think it's time to get onto thought no. 1 of the first decade of the rest of our lives.