The Philosophical Apprentice

“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.” Albert Einstein

Archive for the month “October, 2013”

Come Join the Anti-Haugen Underground

Good News! Recent unofficial reports indicate that Marty Haugen’s music is going to be outlawed under a new Geneva Convention Resolution. According to a recently leaked document

New guidelines set down by the international community during the fifth Geneva Convention this week has extensively defined the basic, spiritual wartime rights of the Church Militant by outlawing all Marty Haugen music used in and around war-zones. What is officially being called The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Parishioners in Times of Spiritual War has become the fifth convention establishing the standards on international law for the humanitarian treatment of spiritual war. “Our new resolution states that all Catholics who are in the process of spiritual warfare are to be treated humanely,” Said General of the Counsel Robert Durant at a press conference earlier this morning. “The following acts are to be henceforth prohibited: Violence to life and person, in particular, cruel treatment and torture by means of being made to listen to Gather Us In. Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment such as asking parishioners to sing along to We Remember. And finally, all acts requiring parishioners to listen to said music during the reception of communion.”

I almost soiled myself when I read this cheeky piece of satire. The schadenfreude was delicious since every week I have to endure the sonic torture that emanates from the Gory & Praise Hymn Book. Why, I ask myself incredulously, do Catholic Churches continue to inflict the faithful with awful dreck from the pen of a man who admits many Catholics consider as “personally  responsible for destroying Roman Catholic worship”. I mean Haugen is not even Catholic. We have almost 2,000years of musical heritage to draw upon for our liturgies and we wind up singing “We remember, we celebrate, we BELIEVE!” The worst part is that this insidious music reverberates in your head for days afterward like some musical virus.

So delighted with the possibility that a musical counter-revolution might be underway I spent a little time researching the anti-Haugen underground. To my surprise, I found this underground is extensive and growing. There is even a Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas ! I for one am glad the counter-revolution is off to a good start. We will continue to gather furtively at night planning the rebellion by candlelight and twitter and we will keep our eyes on the prize. Our new revolutionaries will need adequate training and education. Here are a few resources they can use:

This is a list of some of the worst hymns we’ll be confronting week in and week out. For my part I would have included Haugen’s “Anthem”.  And who could forget Dan Schutte’s  “All are Welcome” a song which one commenter swears the Devil sings as new folks enter his gates.

One of the reasons Haugen has managed to wreak such havoc over the years is that the Oregon Catholic Press (better known as the regime) has aided and abetted this mischief. For a full run down by J.A.  Tucker see here.

To understand how our musical adversary works see here.

Lastly, it is important to note that all this mess started with the St. Louis Jesuits. Here’s a must read

 

 

 

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If You Want to Get More Done, Get more Sleep

Obviously, sleep has become a big issue for me lately. The conventional wisdom of cutting sleep to get more done appears to be counterproductive. Paradoxically, if we attempt less we accomplish more. Here’s some god tips from a recent article on this theme from The Unclutterer.

Stop hitting the snooze button

 Though it’s intended to be helpful, the snooze button on your alarm can interrupt your sleep cycle which will in turn make you feel more tired and groggy (this is known as sleep inertia). You’ll feel this way because your body may not be ready to be awake (depending on the stage of the sleep cycle that it’s in) when the alarm sounds. This can translate into poor performance during the day. Instead, implement a consistent sleep schedule so that you are not dependent on the snooze button. Get up and go to bed at the same time every day so that you create a pattern of restorative sleep (you can even use a sleep cycle app on your phone to help).

Schedule recovery time during the workday

Recovery time can include planned breaks from working on your projects. It can also mean taking power naps during the day (whenever possible), particularly if you didn’t sleep well the night before. You’ll want to take relatively short naps so that when you wake up, you’ll feel more alert and energized. Though napping longer than 20 minutes has benefits (like better decision making and being able to recall directions more easily), if you get into a very deep sleep, you may wake up feeling more tired. Consider experimenting with shorter or longer nap times to find the right amount of time that will help you to recover.

Schedule time for energizing movement

While everyone needs downtime, exercise has been proven to have a positive effect on how well you sleep. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, “just 10 minutes of exercise a day could make a difference in the duration and quality of sleep.” The good news is that you don’t have to carve out several hours to exercise, but rather build in a short stints of energetic movement throughout your day to reap the benefits at night.

Keep your sleep space uncluttererd

 When there’s clutter build-up in a room, there’s likely to be a good deal of stress felt when you’re in that particular area. So, set the stage for a restful night by uncluttering your space. Put away clothing and keep your nightstands neat and organized. Be sure that you don’t keep receipts, mail, or any other (non-sleep) related items hanging about. One thing you can keep on your nightstand: a sleep journal. Use the journal to track how well you’re sleeping, how much sleep you need to function optimally, as well as specific things (soft music, completely dark room, bath before bed) that help you achieve restorative sleep.

Do less: Practice single-tasking

 So, this isn’t a sleep tip specifically, but it’s good to put it into practice as it can have big results. Though I’m suggesting that you should do less, please don’t throw your to-do list out the window! Doing less doesn’t mean that you should ignore your responsibilities. It simply means that you should focus on one thing at a time, instead of trying to wrap your mind around several tasks and projects simultaneously. This can be tricky at first, but after a bit of practice, you’ll begin to notice that you can get more done and, perhaps more importantly, you’ll have a greater chance of getting things done more completely (and with less stress, too).

 Getting enough rest should be at the top of your list if you want to improve your ability to be productive. If after trying some of today’s suggestions you find that there has been no improvement to the quality of your sleep, consider talking with your doctor to see if there are other things that could be having an impact (like certain medications) on your performance.

Another good article from the same website.

Philosophy is Everybody’s Business

I was happy today to come across a good article on Mortimer Adler that detailed his continued relevance for today and tomorrow.

I say good because often the tendency is to caricature Adler as a sort of middle brow Aristotle for the Common Man of which A Great idea at the Time by Alex Beam is the archetype.

To be sure Adler was not an academic philosopher; he was no doubt abrasive; unlike the Ivory Tower Mandarins of his day, his books sold well; the damn print on the Britannica Great Books Series really was too small. But so what.

What I do know was that Adler wrote as clear as a bell and was able to make abstract ideas accessible to the average reader. His book How to Read a Book is without a doubt one of the most valuable books  on education written by an American in the 20th century. And finally, bad translation and all, the Britannica Great Books volume on Homer was what I took with me to Afghanistan. Over 2,000 years later it is one of the best, if not the best, book on war ever written.

So yes, I am very happy to see Adler posthumously receive the credit he is due. Adler still offers a vision of the complete, classically educated man in contrast to our ‘educated’ modern barbarians. In fact, armed with a good grounding in grammar and logic a complete set of the Britannica Great Books if read with care and diligence rivals any education acquired at our illustrious universities. Homeschoolers can find ideas on how to implement the great books here see here. If a complete formal curriculum is your thing, the Great Books Academy an institution  founded in order to foster the ideas of Mortimer Adler among homeschoolers is a great resource.  For Catholics there is even a branch – the Angelicum Academy – for you.

As Adler would say “Philosophy is everybody’s business”.

Scared Straight on Sleep

If you needed any more reason to get a good night’s sleep. This article, Poor Sleep Linked to Alzheimer’s in Study of Brain Scans, should be about all you need.  As the article says

Sleeping poorly or not getting enough rest may result in a type of brain abnormality associated with Alzheimer’s disease, a study showed.

Brain images of adults with an average age of 76 found that those who said they slept less or poorly had increased build-up of beta-amyloid plaques, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, according to research published today in JAMA Neurology. None of those in the study had been diagnosed with the disease.

That being said, I have never doubted that most people, myself included, need to get more sleep than we do. I love to sleep and i would sleep 10 hours a day if I could. I wouldn’t have a life and that leads to the issue that continually bugs me – how do you find time for the intellectual life working a traditional job?

If i ever find the answer to that question I am going to write a book about it.

Don’t Work Hard, Work Smart

I stumbled upon a very good article tonight  on productivity that summarizes some of the best research in the field. The article is called The Psychology of Getting More Done (in Less Time) and you’ll find some useful strategies in it. Highly recommended. Here is a quick summary.

Understand that willpower alone will not save you: Your productivity shouldn’t be reliant on your sheer force of will alone. Sure, mental toughness will get you a long way, but in order to stay disciplined over time, you need to acknowledge the usefulness of systems for keeping yourself on track.

Give yourself the ability to go “all-in”: Working harder on the stuff that matters is going to drain you mentally & physically. Don’t be afraid of giving yourself multiple breaks throughout the day. It’s better to “chunk” productivity sessions into 90 minute periods (followed by 15 minute breaks) in order to keep yourself sharp and to alleviate the stress of pacing your energy throughout the entire day.

World class experts utilize this strategy, so it ought to be good enough for you too!

If it’s not worth measuring, it’s not worth doing: Okay… that might be a bit of an exaggeration. Tracking has been proven to be the best way to stay diligent about your progress. Create an accountability chart to list what productive things you’ve gotten done throughout the day. You’ll see how much you’re really accomplishing.

Multitasking is your enemy: Treat it as such. Block out unwanted distractions and as Ron Swanson would say, “Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.”

Plan your day the night before so you won’t get consumed with the wonderful distractions of the internet when you start your day.

All the More Reason to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

The brain needs sleep in order to clear waste. So says an interesting new study.

My only question, if I don’t get a good night’s sleep will I wake up with a dirty mind?

 

O sleep! O gentle sleep!

Nothing seems to be more at odds with the modern world than sleep. There is always something we could be doing like watching Downton Abbey or keeping up with your favorite Cuban salsa band on Youtube. Still there is a lot of research that shows that we need more sleep than we are getting. See here and here.

Taylor Marshall recently addressed this very issue in Why You’re Needing More Sleep. Marshall points out that wanting to “make an impact (spiritually or temporally) requires vision and creativity. When you’re tired you have neither.”

True enough but how to know if we are not getting enough sleep. Marshall quoting from a recent well-received business book Rework gives four signs:

  1. Stubbornness. When you’re tired, you plow forward on whatever bad path you’re on.
  2. Lack of creativity. Creativity discovers better solutions. When you’re tired, you come up with 1/10th of the solutions.
  3. Diminished morale. Fatigue draws you away from big challenges. You just keep reading Facebook and checking email instead of doing something really important.
  4. Irritability. You’re just ticked. You don’t have patience and patience is necessary for sanctity and success in every endeavor.

If you’ve ever spent any time on Marshall’s blog you ‘ll know that he is a paragon of energy and productivity so I imagine he is providing some good advice here. Advice that I’d do well to follow. So in that vein I think I ‘m going to go sleep on it.

What are the primary and secondary substances?

Aristotle defines substance as that which is “in the truest and primary and most definite sense of the word, is that which is neither predicable of a subject nor present in a subject” (Chapter 5, Edghill Translation). A primary substance is that “which neither is said of a subject nor is present in a subject” (Chapter 5, Edghill Translation), while a secondary substance is that “which is said of a subject but is not present in a subject”. To make this clearer we can say that a substance is anything that has an independent existence. Cows, cats and Kangaroos are all substances that we encounter in the world around us. Now take one of those substances, say your cat Simba, this individual cat is a primary substance while his catness, the kind of thing he is, represents a secondary substance.  We can also say that it is the primary substance which is capable of having something predicated on it. In our example here catness is predicated upon the primary substance of Simba.

Where is the agreement between Plato and Aristotle?

That Plato and Aristotle share much in common goes without saying. Aristotle spent a long and profitable tutelage under Plato. Why study under a teacher unless you’re learning something from him? From my perspective, there are two areas where Plato and Aristotle are in broad agreement – truth and reality. This assertion is best defended against the backdrop of the impasse that had arisen in Greek Philosophy. I call this the problem of change. At one end there is the empiricist / phenomenalist camp represented by Heraclitus which held that everything in the world was in a constant process of change. The other camp, the rationalists, represented by Parmenides maintained that in a system like that of the phenomenalists there was no room for being, which was by definition changeless. Whereas Heraclitus maintained that everything changed and nothing endured (all is becoming is another way of saying this), Parmenides, on the other hand, maintained that being could not not be and hence change was an illusion. The former precluded a rational account of the world and fostered relativism while the latter did violence to common sense by denying sense experience altogether; it also aroused skepticism in the populace at the time. All these strands came together with the Sophists who represented to the eyes of Plato a threat to the moral order. The question then for Plato became then the status of universals. What persisted in the things of this world that could be the object and reference for true statements, especially in moral matters, and, additionally, what was the ontological status of those universals? Where did they reside for instance? For Plato, the objects of knowledge were the forms which existed in an eternal changeless world while the objects of our mundane material world were mere copies of the forms that possessed less reality than the forms themselves – this is I call the form / matter distinction . Although Aristotle is often depicted as differing widely from Plato in many matters in this instance I believe Aristotle is in broad agreement with Plato in that he accepts the form matter distinction. He agrees with Plato in his approach rather than adopting other solutions to the being-becoming problem that had been proposed such as atomism or the pluralism of Empedocles. The real difference is that Aristotle believed that the forms existed in the individual things in the world around rather than in some shadowy transcendent world. As Aristotle tell us: “All substance appears to signify that which is individual” (Chapter 5, Edghill Translation).

Some of the Best Advice I Have Read in a Long Time

I happen to read a lot. Or rather, I happen to spend a lot of time scanning the internet.  A lot of the material I come across on the internet may seem profound at the time but most often it never manages to make it into my long term memory. Still, once in a while I read a piece that sticks with me. Two weeks ago I ran across an article by Brett & Kate McKay called The Child Is the Father to the Man: 9 Foundational Habits Young Men Should Start Now to Raise Themselves Right. In this piece the authors point out that what a young man does today will be reaped by the mature man in the morrow. To ensure a bountiful harvest the authors recommend nine foundational habits. They are as follows:

1. Save 20% of Your Money  

2. Exercise Daily  

3. Eat Healthy

4. Plan Weekly and Daily

5. Read for Pleasure

6. Brush and Floss

7. Meditate

8. Journal

9. Serve

These are all good habits that yield impressive benefits if done on a regular basis. I have been or have been attempting to implement all of these in my life.  I would like, in the days to come, to examine each of these practices and explore some of the good effects they bring about.  In the meantime, I encourage all the men out there ( women too, it’s applies equally to the fairer sex) to read the source article. Go ahead and check out the rest of the website – The Art of Manliness  – you will, I guarantee, find some very useful information there.

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