Ghosts in the Machine - Henning Shih

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Ghosts in the Machine - Henning Shih

Post  hen on Wed May 13, 2009 8:26 pm

Nowadays whenever one turns on the TV, unfolds a newspaper, or checks the internet for news, a good deal of it will likely be negative reports (of crime, disorder, political affairs, environmental concerns). Why are these things so widespread throughout human society–specifically in the more unhappy ones? The answer is actually quite simple–a failure to be at one with another; to communicate.

Let’s first answer our cause of unhappiness in the modern world, which can largely be pointed towards consumerism. Today, many people believe that materialistic needs are what determine happiness. As a matter of fact, it appears to be just the opposite. Developing countries, disregarding health concerns, actually live better lives than those who live in the States (e.g. the Indians). Why is consumerism not making us happy? Putting aside the idea of always wanting more to quench a relentless thirst for material goods, consumerism misleads us; it keeps us away from what really makes us happy, and that is communion and relationships between one another. A human, despite being able to have all materialistic needs satisfied at any time, will never be truly happy if her or she spends life alone and isolated. Going back to the Indians, I saw a documentary once that showed how easily they were able to make friends with each other, how open they are with strangers, and how they enjoy life by interacting.

This interaction is crucial to achieving happiness, and dealing with global issues. The well known issue of global warming is a nice example. Global warming, as the name suggests, is “global.” Why? Because global warming is caused by the world (despite the fact that some countries may have contributed more to it than others). How can we possibly solve global warming? Sure, we can reduce CO2 emissions, but what use is that unless all countries join in on the effort? As a global issue, it needs to be dealt with on a global scale, requiring communication and cooperation between all countries. The same concept though, generates the idea of “if other people aren’t doing it, what difference does it make if I don’t?” All the more reason to do so, actually. If everyone maintains such a mindset, the issue will never be dealt with properly, let alone be resolved.

The transcendentalists spoke about intuition, a strictly individualistic concept. However, they went on to explain that the highest power of soul, which is the greatest manifestation of an individual that is connected to being, is actually at one with everything. So in essence, we are all part of this spiritual communion. This concept is reflected even in our industry, our machines and assembly lines. In machines, every part needs to be functioning correctly, or else an error occurs. In assembly lines, every worker/station needs to correctly assemble a specific part of the product. If any step is missed out or assembled improperly, the final product will likely be flawed. The breaking of the communion, even at the lowest level, can render the entire system useless. This communion is part of our being, our essence, thus denying it would result in self-annihilation. By failure to solve global warming through proper communication, is self-annihilation not what the world is bringing upon itself right now?
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Re: Ghosts in the Machine - Henning Shih

Post  Nick_A on Thu Jun 04, 2009 8:53 am

Hi Henning

I don't know if this is an essay you've already handed in or one you are working on. If you are still interested, I'd like you to consider one thing. You asked why we don't communicate and why consumerism is not making us happy?

Put intuition aside and consider these questions from another perspective. Perhaps there is too much communication that lacks QUALITY and are just forms of escapism.

I'd like to share something with you from the intro to Jacob Needleman's book" "The American Soul." Take from it what you will. Consider what we have lost by not pondering the great questions in favor of "small thoughts." It is one thing to communicate and quite another to communicate something worthwhile.



Our world, so we see and hear on all sides, is drowning in materialism, commercialism, consumerism. But the problem is not really there. What we ordinarily speak of as materialism is a result, not a cause. The root of materialism is a poverty of ideas about the inner and outer world. Less and less does our contemporary culture have, or even seek, commerce with great ideas, and it is the lack that is weakening the human spirit. This is the essence of materialism. Materialism is a disease of the mind starved for ideas.

Throughout history ideas of a certain kind have been disseminated into the life of humanity in order to help human beings understand and feel the possibility of the deep inner change that would enable them to serve the purpose for which they were created, namely, to act in the world as conscious,individual instruments of God, and the ultimate principle of reality and value. Ideas of this kind are formulated in order to have a specific range of action on the human psych: to touch the heart as well as the intellect; to shock us into questioning our present understanding; to point us to the greatness around us in nature and the universe, and the potential greatness slumbering within ourselves; to open our eyes to the real needs of our neighbor; to confront us with our own profound ignorance and our criminal fears and egoism; to show us that we are not here for ourselves alone, but as necessary particles of divine love.

These are the contours of the ancient wisdom, considered as ideas embodied in religious and philosophical doctrines, works of sacred art,literature and music and, in a very fundamental way, an indication of practical methods by which a man or woman can work, as is said, to become what he or she really is. Without feeling the full range of such ideas, or sensing even a modest, but pure, trace of them, we are bound to turn for meaning.

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Re: Ghosts in the Machine - Henning Shih

Post  Philly_CS on Thu Jun 04, 2009 9:41 pm

My God, Nick, every single one of of your posts is just plain genius.

But, yes, consumerism is not the cause of every suffering in the world. However, it is like a sign, just like you pointed out, that we are all starved for ideas. The mind, then, is similar to a machine that never stops. It is a wonderful thing when we wrestle with the ideas of ancient philosophers and observe the world around us. However, the societies today just don't focus as much on them as they used to. You can blame this on Industrial Revolution or the rise of the Internet, but we can't escape the fact that we have turned our attention from questioning, perceiving, and generally just 'living,' to materialism, consumerism, or any other addictions that helps us escape. Instead of dealing with the problem, we run away from it.

You can see a lot of examples around you when you just observe. We turn on the television and we have either rumors about pop icons, coverage about the latest riot on the streets, or television shows/movies. To be honest, we don't need all this thing. This is all just taking our attention away from what really matters, from contemplating about one's life to, well, fully living the now (Power of Now). Now I'll admit that I view movies and television shows, so I'm really not the one to speak against it, but I think I'm just trying to clarify (to you and to myself) that our minds need to work, therefore it redirects it attention to god knows where.

I still have no idea how you can type a bunch of essays in the posts you did from your topic.
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Re: Ghosts in the Machine - Henning Shih

Post  hen on Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:21 pm

Hey there, Nick. An honor to have you comment on my midterm essay.
All the essays in this forum are selected essays from our midterm exams, which most of us wrote in about 20 or so minutes, so please excuse any areas that seem rather unclear or poorly discussed.

As it was meant to be a persuasive essay, a majority of the questions I used here were rhetorical questions, so I wasn't exactly looking for answers when I asked why we don't communicate and why consumerism isn't making us happy.

However, you have given me new thoughts nonetheless. I thank you for that.

If I'm picking up the message correctly, you're saying that we do communicate, but the communication lacks quality-genuine connection and sincere exchange of inspirations and ideas, perhaps? The forms of communication present today are either more indirect (like this forum and any other form of electronic communication for example) or for the wrong purposes (marketing, political expansion, etc.).
So would it be right if I concluded that technology and modern politics hasn't actually brought us closer together, but rather, further apart?

As for consumerism, I am aware that it is a form of escapism, but I did not know that it was a replacement for the purpose we were looking for in life.
It makes sense. Many people often question the meaning in life, and many of those who do not question it tend to divulge themselves in materialistic pleasures instead of thinking about it. Others end up equating materialism with absolute happiness, and follow the same horrid path.

In the end (correct me if I am mistaken), these are both results of us not knowing the meaning in life, or how to live life to the fullest.
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Re: Ghosts in the Machine - Henning Shih

Post  Nick_A on Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:54 pm

Thanks for the warm welcome. Hen wrote:

In the end (correct me if I am mistaken), these are both results of us not knowing the meaning in life, or how to live life to the fullest.

I'd say it is something more basic and far worse. I know it as the "repression of Eros." It is the result of metaphysical fear based on imagination and should be the concern of all open to the question of transcendence. It is an important question and I'd like your feedback so I will begin another thread called: "Repression of Eros."

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