Friday, December 14, 2012

Le Monde 100: Tristes Tropique

I'm not sure I was prepared for the AP level of of hanging out that the Bourbons were accustomed to at their megalith of opulence at Versailles. 

The design process of the architects and decorators, no doubt, had a strict default-to-opulence policy. Not sure about what to do with the hedges? Default to opulence. How should we set up the back entry stairs? Default to opulence. Where should these mops go? Default to opulence. You can just imagine the designers jolting awake in the smallest parts of night from ghastly dreams involving overlooked un-gilded corners of the east corridor and hidden alcoves tragically un-muraled.

Can't you just feel the overwhelming message that's being sent as you stroll through this?

The Hall of Mirrors. Private opera theaters. Regime-change inspiring Bedchambers. There was no soft spots to this place. 

But, for all the extreme wealth pouring form every orifice of Versailles, it's majesty had to compete for my attention with a fellow tourist wearing this:

It was jarring that in the context of being a visitor to Versailles, one of the most glorious palaces in the world, I was traveling in the same strata as this t-shirt. It really brought to mind a term that stands out in Claude Levi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques, - monoculture.

As Levi-Strauss traversed the continents, despising travel books, and searching for authenticity, he lamented the corruption of the purity of traditional cultures by the homogenizing influences of colonization and what we basically know as globalization. He is venomous as he writes:

"The first thing we see as we travel round the world is our own filth, thrown in the face of mankind."

This is a concept that I would instinctively align myself with as I viscerally despise the diminishing returns of mass market culture. When everybody adopts the same thing as part of their identity, then it takes away from the identity of the individual. 

However, on the larger scale, there is something terribly adaptive about having a culture determined by the market forces at large. Markets are composed of adaptive and flexible elements and it is only through adaptability that humanity can ultimately survive. 

I am a great believer in technology and the human ability to change in order to meet any challenge. The only time that change in humanity may seem dis-favorable  is if this impedes on the individual's personal experiences, biases, prejudices, conveniences, and, not least, existence. If global warming wipes out a majority of humanity, there will be a lot of unhappy individuals. But, those that adapt to the change, those who survive, and those that allow it to become the new reality by letting go of old presumptions about what should be, will be the ones who will enjoy the overall net happiness by flowing with the circumstances. 

As much as I can't stand corporations and monoculture, they must exist in order for the cumulative resources to be available for technological advancements, which will ultimately allow for the amplification and implementation of the human spirit. 


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Le Monde 100: Being and Nothingness

I'll admit that I have had in my life a fair amount of personal delusion.

A particularly vivid example occurred twelve years ago, deep in the heart of Westchester County, in the ancient woods of Valhalla. I was deeply involved in getting to know my lovely, spending reckless hours of the day and night persuing, perusing, and perambulating with her, towards her, and around her. Because she lived in Brooklyn and I lived an hour away, this led to very late nights, which I felt was no obstacle at all to the general function and execution of my normal life.

After one very long day in construction, I spent an equally long amount of time in Brooklyn with the object of my desire into the night. I left for my hour long ride at 3:00am with no regrets.

However, as I sped up the Saw Mill Parkway in my yellow Isuzu Trooper, I felt a great weight descend upon me as if I had been plunged to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. My awareness became blurred in every direction. As the parkway snaked up through the ancient American woods like a long lazy sea eel, the space between the road and the forest disappeared, creating a dark corridor that my  Trooper pushed through that was as murky as my conception of space and time. I should have known better. Six years previously, thanks to another long day of stacking railroad ties and a most relaxing rocksteady beat, I emerged from a delicious sleep only to find myself in the grassy valley between the North and South highways of Interstate 684 with my cruise control set at sixty miles an hour. A sobering event that left me auditing the rest of my days.

As that forgotten spectre of slumber returned, my Trooper wound its way through those treacherous curves only by means of some deeply ingrained animal instinct. My arms and legs responded in the manner of the doomed Korean Octopus that continues to exert its lifeforce after being submerged in a communal hotpot. This means of autopiloting, though, generally has a very short lifespan. Mere seconds would pass before I would no doubt find myself careening off the dark road into a ravine to  join the loamy humus well before my time.

But, just as my eyelids were about to droop to their most comfortable position and as my eyeballs prepared their final ascent to a most useless degree, they observed an incredible sight. Like a cannon trained on my windshield, a massive owl burst from the undergrowth, exploding into a ball of bloody plumeage! The sudden energy of its violent demise transferred into every dormant adrenal in my body, emptying themselves into my blood stream, infusing me with a powerful stimulant, erasing every trace of sludge from my consciousness.

After I had pulled over and reflected on the crimson halo of owl blood on my windshield, I became convinced that my days were not numbered and I was, in fact, THE CHOSEN ONE. Chosen for what, though, hardly mattered. Destiny had guided the night creature to protect me and my future in order to fulfill the essence of the person that I actually was and had been predetermined to be.

As I said, this was a delusion. Some sort of Messiah complex.

In Being and Nothingness by John Paul Sartre, he writes AGAINST the concept of essence coming before existence. We do not strive to become something that is predetermined and intractable. We become whatever we decide. The possibilities, which start out as NOTHINGNESS'S, come into BEING through choice. For some, this is depressing because it means that there is no larger story to fit into and that brings about a crushing nihilism. However, for others, this is empowering! It means that you may be the Chosen One because YOU have done the choosing.

I mean, how many owls have to die for us all to have meaning?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Le Monde 100: Brave New World

While Diary of a Young Girl shows how humanity finds a way of transcending its base animalistic nature, Brave New World looks shows how it can overcome our base computeristic nature.

Until our individuality recognizes and manifests itself, our brains are just big wet computers with inputs, processors, and outputs. The beginning years of our lives are when we do the heavy lifting of setting up our internal computers. Neuroscientist Michael Merzenich goes into great detail the plasticity of our brains and the way we take in information in this TED talk:

So, the OUTPUT of our brains are very susceptible to the INPUT that, not only gets processed through the machine of its wetware, but goes into the constructing of the processor itself!

In Brave New World, the leaders of society understand the power of conditioning and craft their entire society into conditioning babies and children to build values for the benefit of the state. The genius behind conditioning is building brains to have wants or desires that may be against their own benefit. I was going to write "own self interests," but that's incorrect. Their self interests are the very things that have been tampered with!

This makes me think of the current war between NYC Mayor Bloomberg and the soft drink companies (BIG SODA). One thing that Huxley left out of the equation between the individual and government was the presence of corporations. In Brave New World, the media outlets were controlled by the government, effectively crafting all the communication and propaganda to their wants. In America, a majority of advertising is owned by corporations, who have their bottom lines behind their motivations for advertising. Thus, we live in a culture, where consumerism is the key tenet and portion-sizes hold the highest virtue. Bloomberg has been lambasted by supporters of Big Soda as being a vanguard for the Nanny State for putting a ban on any containers larger than 16 ounces. They claim that its a ban on soda. But, is it really? There is nothing preventing someone from buying an unlimited amount of soda if they wish. But, in the battle against obesity, which is one of our nations biggest health problems, should the government ignore the concepts of conditioning and allow soda companies to profit from man's instinctive desire to consume? The situation with Bloomberg has turned into an inverse Brave New World with the government fighting the conditioning of the public.

 If you don't think that portion size is a corporate tool, look at the difference from the original fountain drink in 1955 to what the KID size is now to what's available for a single consumer:

Diabetes, anyone?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Le Monde 100: Diary of a Young Girl

When Diary of a Young Girl came out, there was a whole lot of nay-saying as to the credibility of the claim that this book was written by a girl from the age of thirteen to fifteen years old. This was primarily done by Holocaust deniers and ex-Hitler Youth types, persons of their own limited credibility. However, when reading Anne Frank's diary, one may find one's self legitimately asking if that it could be possible that someone so young could be so incredibly self-aware and so powerfully articulate. For instance, this passage:

"I was suffering then (and still do) from moods that kept my head under water (figuratively speaking) and allowed me to see things only from my own perspective, without calmly considering what the others- those whom I, with my mercurial temperament, had hurt or offended- had said, and then acting as they would have done."

This sounds like something a beta version cyborg programmed to write from the perspective of a young girl would come up with. If you read that passage in Brent Spiner's voice, it may sound quite at home.

But, there seems to be a recurring theme that appears throughout Le Monde 100. Like a tiny sapling pushing through the thickest concrete, the humanity of the individual will assert itself, even in the smallest ways, when society attempts to erase it. In his book Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl, a psychologist who survived the concentration camps, noted that the deprivation of certain basic needs push men towards a state of animal instinct. Every waking thought gradually becomes overwhelmed with the procuring of those needs, depriving the brain of the focus to self reflect, which is the hallmark of what separates men from beasts. Victor and his fellow prisoners would be allowed cigarettes, which they would purposefully not smoke as they would be used in barter and social interaction. It would be a disturbing sight for the prisoners to see one of them smoking his own cigarettes because it would mean that the smoker had now given up on his humanity and would always die not long afterward.

Anne Frank was put in a similar position. Along with food, clothing, and shelter, man needs to be social. Locked in an attic with a handful of people, Anne's social needs were severely constricted. Her humanity asserted itself by turning inward and exploring in great detail herself and the few interactions she had had in her life as well as the minutia of the social relationships in the attic.

This inward exploration was confirmed when the unabridged version of her diary was released in the early Nineties. Here we find Anne going into great graphic detail about her vagina, nuanced aspects of her sexuality including her early exploration of lesbianism, and menstruation, which all was a bit of a shock as I had originally read the abridged version in the Eighties, which included none of that.

One could see why her father Otto, who compiled the notes would not choose to include those parts for general release. However, they reveal a lot about the human condition under duress as well as solidify their authenticity.

This human imperative was allowed to bloom in the soil of her leisure. This is important. Aristotle refused to allow farmers, skilled tradesmen, and women from entering the Academy as he felt they did not have the necessary leisure time required for true self reflection as they would be involved in fulfilling basic needs, such as growing food, building homes, and rearing children.  For Aristotle, to teach them the disciplines of self-reflection would be a disservice to them as they would not properly be able to give them mental room necessary to be useful. That's why you always see a lot of lounging in old paintings of philosophers. Anne Frank basically developed her own Academy spreading her mental wings in the open space of time even though she was constricted in her physical place.

That is how we can explain the credibility of her eloquence.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Le Monde 100: The Name of the Rose

"You are more like me than you realize."

In the insatiable quest for certainty,  humans have to negotiate with reality as well as what we tell ourselves is reality.

              The obvious boggle in this chain of interaction is the fact that ALL reality must pass through the filter of what we tell ourselves, making it quite easy for us to interpret things through the further filters of our biases. This is the main tool used by the "treacherous heart."

             Take skepticism. Skepticism is not a position one takes in the world, but rather a methodology. Skeptics pride themselves on being completely objective and without bias in evaluating claims about "reality." The group of people primarily associated with skepticism are scientists as they apply scientific method to their belief systems in order to determine a objectivity without the use of presumptions and "common sense." However, there is a trap to wearing the mantle of skepticism in the fact that it can bring credibility to hidden biases through "selective skepticism."

             In the article "The Myth of Consistent Skepticism: The Cautionary Case of Albert Einstein," Todd C. Riniolo and Lee Nisbet discuss the ways that our hidden natures may cause us to make claims in the face of strong evidence to the contrary: "We all look for evidence that is consistent with our beliefs. In short, we tend to believe what we wish to be true, but we do so 'objectively.' Specifically, we typically do not seek out discrediting evidence for our current beliefs with the same vigor that we look for supportive evidence . Psychologists call this a confirmation bias."

              This is when conservatives only watch Fox News and liberals only listen to NPR. The article writes that a true skeptic would  "would apply the methods of skepticism to all claims consistently and evaluate the evidence in an unbiased manner (i.e., without double standards)" and "should obviously use discrediting information to modify beliefs."

               One would think that Albert Einstein as the most famous scientist that ever lived would be a walking testament to consistent skepticism. However, outside of theoretical physics, he allowed his sympathies and feelings to intrude on his beliefs. Under Nazism, Einstein ignored the political propaganda of the state and harshly criticized the actions of the regime, namely the oppression of liberty. He supported Socialism, specifically the model created by the Soviet Union and trumpeted their virtues. 

               However, as time passed, the reports of human rights being smashed by the Soviet empire started to trickle west. Did Einstein maintain his objective attitude toward this political system that he held dear? The article continues:

               "Einstein refused to join or endorse an international commission headed by John Dewey to investigate the Moscow Show Trials (a consistent skeptic would seek both confirmatory and discrediting evidence) and would subsequently write to Max Born that “there are increasing signs the Russian trials are not faked, but that there is a plot among those who look upon Stalin as a stupid reactionary who has betrayed the ideas of the revolution” (quoted in Born 1971, p. 130). Born would later comment that most people in the West at the time believed the trials “to be the arbitrary acts of a cruel dictator.” Einstein, however, relied upon information from people he described as “those who know Russia best.”

               As painful as the commission might have been for Einstein, as a scientist he should of known that the same methods he used to examine particles and waveforms apply just as effectively to political systems. Yet, he was perfectly fine to allow his confirmation bias dictate reality for him. 

               This is what happens when we think of intellectual things with our emotions. In The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, the Catholic monks that cared for the greatest library in Christendom went to great lengths to prevent access to of one of Aristotle's books. The reason was quite succinnct:

"the work of our order and in particular the work of this monastery, a part- indeed, the substance - is study, and the preservation of knowledge. . . Preservation of, I say, not search for, because it is property of knowledge, as a human thing, that it has been defined and completed over the course of centuries, from the preaching of the prophets to the interpretations of the fathers of the church." 

              Confirmation bias is a preservation of knowledge, not a search for it. 

              To truly search for the knowledge of reality, one must search inside themselves to find the will to face it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Le Monde 100: The Blue Lotus

There has been a lot of Tintin hoopla lately in America with the Peter Jackson movie released a few months ago. I've always liked the idea of Tintin. But, honestly, the Tintin books were what I had flip past in order to get to the Asterix books, seeing that they were both originally in French and the same size and fairly steeped in geekery.

After reading The Blue Lotus as a grown person, the revelations of societal mores and the boundaries of political correctness are really the only thing I can think about.

Herge was quite outspoken and heavy-handed about racism (here toward Asians) yet he still portrayed Asians in a way that would be unacceptable by today's standards.

For instance, Herge's philosophy is quite clear here:

However, in the very next panel, we are following the exploits of this guy:

I'm sure Herge would never have drawn  anything offensive if he was aware of it. Culturally, our awareness of race and propriety emerges gradually. It must have been an awkward transition for Europeans to shift their value system away from a colonialist perspective that was something that was less self-centered. Tintin was in the heart of this change. I mean just look at this twenty-something's luggage!

One has to wonder what we are saying now that will be offensive to future generations but don't even get me started on Tintin in the Congo.

Le Monde 100: Alcools

Anyone who is passionate enough about art to aid and abet the theft of the Mona Lisa, blame it on Pablo Picasso while calling for the immolation of the Lourve has a complicated enough relationship with art to make his poetry at least worthy of a small consideration. Guillaume Apollinaire's legacy is probably the most widely felt as the man who coined the word "Surrealism" in reference to the Dada art movement and its offshoots.
One thing that I have noticed about Surrealist art is its incredible subjectiveness. The meaning and messages behind many of its pieces are so localized and particular to the personal situation of the artist that one must absolutely have some knowledge of the lifestyle and context of the artist in order to deduce any understanding of the piece.
The same is true of Apollinaire's poetry in his collection Alcools. 
I must confess that I do not understand much of his poems as they are so specific to him. However, some of the imagery he evokes in his writing is so beautiful and odd that I don't care if I know what he's talking about. FOR INSTANCE:

The horizon screams an eagle pouncing
And from America there comes a hummingbird
From China sinuous peehees
Who have one wing and who fly in couples


Christ's spinning halo spins forever
Behold the red lily of worship
Behold the red torch inextinguishable
Behold the pale son and scarlet of the dolorous Mother
Behold the tree forever tufted with prayer
Behold the double gallows of honor and eternity
Behold the six pointed star
Behold the God who dies on Friday and rises on Sunday
Behold the Christ who flies higher than aviators
He holds the world record for altitude

Oh, okay, one more:

The moon is honey on the mouths of madmen
The orchards are the towns are gluttons
Honeybees allegorize the constellations
Every moonbeam is a honeybeam now
Falling slowly an ooze from heaven
Incandescent honey drenches the trellises
And I am hiding I am pregnant with intrigue
In terror of the stinger of the great North Star
Who poured deceitful lights into my hands
Who stole the nectar from the compass rose

Oh, I'm a sucker for animating the inanimate!

Unfortunately for Guillaume, he died from post World War One Spanish Flu, which was probably very cliched for its time. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Le Monde 100: The Gulag Archipelago

I am convinced that the Soviet Union suffered from a national case of dermatillomania.

Dermatillomania is a mental disorder that causes the sufferer to continually pick at their skin. He or she will obsess over their skin and tear, rip, peel, and scratch at themselves to the point of causing harm all over their body. The root of the problem is impulse control brought on by anxiety.

In reading The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, one can see the same symptoms of dermatillomania. Observe, if you will, the body of the dermatillomaniac, riddled with scabs and scratches, peppered with a constellation of his shame and paranoia:

Now, observe another picture of the Soviet Union:

The dots you see on the map are labor camps, which are the scabs of the Soviet shame and paranoia.
The Soviet system was responsible for more than double the deaths of the Nazi Holocaust. But, the worst thing about the Gulag and the compulsive imprisonment of the Soviet citizens, was not it's nefarious plan to do away with it's citizens like Hitler did, but rather the spiraling of a bureaucracy into a machine gone wrong. In reading Solzhenitsyn's account of the government's relationship with its people, I am struck by the notion that if a government is like a computer program, acting out the policies and laws that form it, then the Soviet Union behaved like it had a virus.

For example, to speak against the Soviet system would earn you a label under Article 58 of the Soviet law. Being rewarded for turning in those who spoke against the government and punished for sedition caused the public to look askew at everyone of their fellow men.  Once, at a public conference, everyone in attendance was called to to applause in tribute to Comrade Stalin. Solzhenitsyn writes:

"For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the 'stormy applause' rising to an ovation,' continued. But, palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching . . . It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really loved Stalin. However, who would dare to be the first to stop? . . .The applause went on. Six minutes, seven minutes, eight minutes! They were done for! . . . Nine minutes! Ten! . . . After eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place. To a man, every else stopped dead and sat down.

"That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed Form 206, the final document of interrogation, his interrogator reminded him.
         'Don't ever be the first to stop applauding!"

It seems like the entire Soviet Union applauded right down to the falling of the Berlin wall.
The failure of the Soviet Union was the ultimate failure to recognize the individual as a sovereign of his or her personhood in the context of the State. The Soviets hamhandedly esteemed the State over the individual. Thus, erasing humanity as a virtue in light of the machine of government.

Some scientists feel that dermatillomania comes from repressed rage at authoritarian parents and that overbearing parenting can cause this obsessive form of control over one's self. Was the Soviet Union working out its issues with coming from monarchy and Tsardom? Perhaps. But, like abusive parents, abused children can become abusive and pass down abusiveness to their children over and over until someone becomes self-aware and breaks the cycle. Is Russia aware now? One would have to assume with the wealth of information available to everyone. What about other dictatorships like North Korea? They seem to be in the same place as the Soviet Union once was as can be attested by the forced mourning at Kim Jong-Il's death. Whatever the case, the Gulag Archipelago is definitely a handbook for conscientious dictators.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Le Monde 100: Paroles

Jacques Prevert is a film maker and an important one at that. His film The Children of Paradise is considered one of the greatest films ever made by many critics.
I have never seen it.
However, I have just finished reading Paroles, a collection of poetry by Prevert that was written in after World War II. It is a translation from French to English, which many people find lacking as English is not one of the Romance languages. Here is an example of the difference of his poem "Alicante" for you to decide:

Une orange sur la table
Ta robe sur le tapis
Et toi dans mon lit
Doux present du present
Fraicheur de la nuit
Chaleur de ma vie.

An orange on the table
Your dress on the rug
And you in my bed
Sweet present of the present
Cool of night
Warmth of my life.

It's hard to tell if it's these particular words sound better or if it's just the fact that the French language roles off the tongue so much nicer.

A copy of Paroles was published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the City Lights bookstore. That makes sense because, even though Prevert didn't have the same stream-of consciousness approach to poetry like many of the Beats, he did pull his inspiration from the ramifications of being in a so-called "civilized" society in the light of incredible horrors inflicted by it. For the Beats, the evil of society seemed to be rampant industrialism, which was the breeding ground for the nuclear arms race. For Prevert, it seemed to be a more personal evil of patriotism, much like Louise-Ferdinand Celine. In my favorite poem of his, "The New Order," Prevert writes of the German soldier who has to deal with the dulling of the shine of the stars of the Great Hope they once had in Hitler. He has to live in a "New Order" that is very different than what he thought it would be and it is equal to returning home to live in a house that has fallen down.

Prevert has a way of creating a scene in the mind that is both visual and poignant and is probably why his screenwriting is so popular.  The opening lines in "The New Order" read like the setting passages of a play:

The sun lies on the soil
Litre of spilled wine
A house has collapsed
Like a drunk on the pavement

If someone has a copy of The Children of Paradise, can we please have a viewing party?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Le Monde 100: The Second Sex

            The mathematics that are involved in the sonar of the bat are incredibly complicated. The concepts of distance, triangulation, and velocity are best understood by super computers and advanced algorithms. However, the bat knows nothing about the algebraic numbers and figures that is uses to navigate the dark with instantaneous reaction time. The bat's knowledge is innate and organic. It arose in it instinctively.

            Likewise, I feel the same way about the concepts of feminism. Until I read The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, I always felt a need to buck against any pre-conceived notions of what a woman should and shouldn't be, and to reject any assumptions of woman's role in the home.
            But, conditioning can play with one's instincts. At family dinners, there is a ritual that seems to be not unusual in regards to the power relationships with men and women. It is be quite typical in families like mine, which is half-Italian and half-British, both of which display the same behavior. The women or woman of the house is cooking dinner in the house while the men wait with drinks in another room. The men sit at the table with the eldest men at the position of power at either end of the table. Dinner is served with the women catering to the accoutrement of the men. After dinner, women will clear the table while men "talk" about "important issues."
           It is very easy to fall into this pattern as an emerging man, especially when actively promoted as correct by elders. On more than one occasion, I was urged to sit back down as I started to help clear dishes because it was women's work, and now I sometimes have to push down sub-conscious feelings of entitlement when confronted with this situation.
           Simone de Beauvoir is a mad genius of feminism. The length and breadth of her discussion of woman's role within nature and society is so deep it seems like multiple authors had a hand in this book. The Second Sex is to feminism as advanced mathematics is to the bat's sonar. Feminism is an ideal that executes the concept that woman is an individual, and as the importance of the individual increases as time goes on, the importance of feminism increases as well.
            At first, I was irritated at a lot of her examples of the female condition as I thought they were mere hyperbole used to prove a point. But, I soon realized that extreme and varied experiences demonstrate the many forms of the feminine experience, and that experience is entirely created by the individual. After reading The Second Sex, I now understand that to say that one knows what it is to be objectively feminine is extreme arrogance, especially if a man is saying it.
           If a woman wants to clear the table and serve her guests, that's fine. It's her decision. It's okay to have whatever role makes one happy. But, it is when her role is pre-defined do we find concepts that can crush her.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Le Monde 100: Waiting For Godot

"It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance..." - Henry James

When I was a very young person, I was deposited by my father on one of his renovation jobs. Everyone on this job was very busy and engaged in their own particular tasks - installing a handrail, grouting the kitchen bathroom, building a wall...e.t.c. I was to act as a general helper and assist everyone as the need arose.

But, instead of fulfilling my father's vision of a diligent son, I actually became the equivalent of a talking orangutan in my productivity and spent the whole time playing, wandering, and nosing about. In time, my uselessness reached a fever pitch and the foreman, a gruff bald man in suspenders, planted me in a chair next to a telephone and told me not to get up.

"This job is going to be the most important one in the house. This telephone might ring and you need to sit here and answer it. You can't leave this phone for a second, not until we leave."

I waited there all day for the phone to ring and, of course, it never did. It's quite possible that it wasn't plugged in.

It was only later did I realize that this was a punishment after a report was delivered to my father.

It didn't seem like a punishment at the time because I truly thought the task of waiting for a telephone to ring gave that waiting meaning. However, it had none in of itself.

In Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett strips down all context and history of his characters to create the existential situation of Vladimir and Estragon, who wait by a lonely tree in the wilderness for a man named Godot, who never comes. As time passes, they fill their time with eating, dancing, singing, crying, talking, thinking, and other mundane tasks over and over in order for them to give themselves the "impression that they exist."

There are so many ways to interpret this play. But it seems to primarily address the need to give one's self a purpose in life in order to fend off the murkiness of the future. Man has an inherent need for closure that conflicts with his inherent need to exist. Throwing one's self into the tasks of life allow one's self to forget about endings and ideals by putting one's consciousness squarely in the present moment.

Purpose in life is always a subjectively crafted thing. The answer isn't the same for everybody. One must decide what one's purpose is and, instead of waiting for a Godot to appear to put a cap on the story, one need only wait for one's self. Even for those of us that believe we have been given a purpose from heaven, the decision is still from within to purpose one's self in that direction.

Looking back at that day by the telephone, I remember being satisfied in the goofiest way possible. Perhaps, I am still that way.