WE ARE EVERYTHING

IMG_0663Short Story by Ari Juniper.

I remember a time when I felt powerful, and the world, the universe, vibrated at my feet. I was a sunflower sprout, stretching, reaching toward the bright energy above, drawing me in magnetically. A natural pull that made me know I was growing tall.

It all began with a seed, a thought pushed into the dark and fed by the world. The little idea began to shake, tumble, like a snowball pushed down a hill by gravity, the little seed gained momentum as it grows, gathers nutrients from the soil, and explodes.

The first step is hardest, we want to test the water before we jump. What if it’s cold? Hesitations and justifications like stones weighing our feet to the ground. But the seed, as it’s nurtured, pushes its little head toward the sky, slowly unveiling the light. Then we jump.

Head first is best, we’re thrown into the chaos, sending ripples resounding around us. Waves rock our bodies as we gain balance. But we can’t stop here. We choose now to swim, or sink.

Engulfed in idea, we begin to transform our visions into reality. I push my arms into the water surrounding me In any direction, I pull myself closer toward somewhere new.

I move slowly at first, as I feel how the water surrounds my body and how to best move through it. I roll over onto my back, breathe air into my lungs, and float in peace, letting thoughts and waves rock me. My arm is a pinwheel and my cupped hand is submerged, and I am moved. Then my other arm follows lead and begins to act in patterns, thoughts guiding actions guiding thoughts. I slide gracefully over the surface.

I appreciate the sky and begin to wonder what lies below the surface. I have almost forgotten what it was like before the jump and remembering makes me see how far I have come. I flip, taking in air as I submerge my body, reaching my arms below me into the darkness. I pull, like a rope guiding me up a wall, and my eyes are adjusting to the lightless world below.

lake sunsetI come up for air, keeping my eyes open to take in the light. Small steps give introduction to the unfamiliar, and as I explore, I am not afraid, for fear will pull me back to the shore. The little sprout never feared, for the sun was always there, telling the sprout, “all you must do is reach, then rest, and you will grow tall.” And so the seed stretched and shivered as it inhaled the life from the light, and when the light had gone to teach others, she would rest, awaiting another lesson.

As the seed grew into stalk, she learned about leaves, from her ancestors who speak to her through her own body. She found the leaves helped her to grow faster and stronger and so she made many. And at the center was the bud, the flower waiting to bloom.

As I float, moving through the water, this new world begins to feel natural as my body discovers and learns to be one with the medium. I begin to realize that all along I knew how to move but I just needed to throw myself into the waves and remember to move to stay afloat. my ancestors taught me how to swim as I mimicked their fins and trained my lungs to hold my life.

I dive again and see a fish dive below me, shaking his tail and body to propel himself. I see his way of moving is effective and try new methods of movement, slowly discovering better ways. I practice movement and reflect on my progress, and then resurface to rest and breathe.

Breath to energy; photosynthesis to light. I begin to see how I am the seed, slowly reaching and becoming more than a seed, but a stalk, a trunk, leaves, petals and more seeds. As I grow, my thoughts grow and I am able to know that one day I will send these new seeds, grown from another seed, out into the world, scattered in the soil to be nurtured as I was.

man-on-beach-at-sunsetAs the sunflower opens herself to the light each morning, her bright eye follows her muse across the vast blue ocean above and she shines, they shine together. I reach forward, my body submerged and moving toward the other shore. I am thankful for land and rest. As I pull my body, emerge from the depths, water droplets cling to my skin like burrs, soaking into my pores. I may be moving on from this pond but the pond has become a part of me now, just as the earth and sun become and create the sunflower.

I am the seed, the sun, the swimmer, the sea. I am my ancestors, the ancient biological knowledge that pulses in my veins. I am this place, the land below and sky above that nurture my body and soul and are home. I am the fish that shows me the way, I am the rain that quenches my thirst as I grow. I am myself, I am you, I am the universe, the stars and sand and energy. I vibrate at your feet, I am the world, we are all the world. We are everything. So, jump!

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AN UNFORTUNATE ENCOUNTER WITH OBJECTIVIST DR. DIANA HSIEH

0Article by Mark I Rasskazov, editor in chief.

UPDATE (2347 26 MARCH 2013): I offered the olive branch to Dr. Hsieh, but it seems we have irreconcilable differences.  Such is life.  We all live in glass houses.  Those who throw stones at mine tend to find it’s made of thicker glass than most.

TENTATIVE RETRACTION (1717 15 MARCH 2013): Dr. Hsieh has explained her response, and it seems reasonable, so my comments about her character may be false.  Also, her lack of comments may be more a function of the fact that her attention is taken elsewhere, than a reflection on her personality.  My comments about her career; some scholars pursue academics; others pursue activism.  Perhaps she is the latter.  My comments about the nature of Objectivism, I stand by; I’ve read most of the main items written by Ayn Rand, and have given them a lot of thought.  My comments about Rand’s personality, I stand by; I’ve met a lot of elderly Russian women, and based on video clips, her writing style, and accounts about her behavior, I would say that she was very much a Russian woman of her time and place in many ways.

NOTE: This is a tough love piece.  I am not down on Objectivists in general like so many out there are.  If there are Objectivists reading this, please have the intellectual courage to read it in its entirety and judge it objectively.

Dr. Diana Hsieh is one of the top figures within the current Objectivist movement.  My perception is that there’s Dr. Leonard Peikoff, Dr. Yaron Brooke, and Dr. Diana Hsieh — in that order.  She’s pretty high up on the Objectivist totem pole.

Now, I like Objectivism as a philosophy.  I don’t agree with it 100% — but I would say that I do agree with it about 90%.  Their politics are usually on point.  Their ethics are usually very close to the truth (if a little narrow, at times).  Their epistemological system is nearly flawless — although I have not encountered any Objectivist writings on cognitive philosophy.  The fundamentals of their metaphysics are sound (things are what they are), with the exception that they don’t seem to have a satisfactory answer to the mind-dualism problem.  Their Aesthetic is like a shot-gun blast — not very subtle, and not very accurate, but it gets the job done (their conclusions are on the right track, although they need to take a closer look at their premises in this field).

All of that having been said, I did encounter Dr. Hsieh online, and I am sorry to say it did not go well.

Now, Dr. Hsieh has a radio show podcast, and she has a blog.  I visited her blog, «Noodlefood.»  What I find interesting is that, whereas she is very prominent in the world of Objectivism, and whereas her blog has over 6,000 posts, intellectual interactions on her site are very sparse.  I commented on her second most recent blog post.  There are 8 posts between that one and the next one with any comments (2 comments — one of them hers — on that one; followed by two more posts with empty comment sections).  Now, the value of a blog’s content is not necessarily measured in the number of comments it generates, however, if a blog has been around as long and as prolifically as that one has, one would expect a little more interest in the content.

To give you an idea, this WordPress powered online newspaper and philosophy forum (the TDJ, that is), which has been around for about month gets comments almost every post, now; sometimes 6-7 comments per post.  Compared to Dr. Hsieh, I am a nobody.  How am I able to generate so much more interest in my writings than she is?

That’s not the only thing.

On her blog, she’s always asking for handouts; «tip your philosopher,» etc., whereas, I don’t see any advertising on her site.  Now, I am not, in principle, opposed to asking for donations, but I would expect a proponent of Capitalism to be just a little more savvy.  Why would she ask for donations?  She’s a prominent Objectivist.  It’s embarrassing!  How about providing a product for peoples’ money instead of trying to guilt them into donations?  WWJGD (What Would John Galt Do)?  I’m betting he’d sell t-shirts, coffee mugs, and books, and get sponsors — not grovel and guilt-trip for donations.  Jussayin.

Now, here is how she describes herself on her site:

«Dr. Diana Hsieh is a philosopher specializing in practical ethics. She received her Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. Her dissertation argued that Thomas Nagel’s «problem of moral luck» can be resolved by an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility. She began podcasting in 2009, then webcasting in 2010. She switched to internet radio in 2012.

Diana blogs at NoodleFood and podcasts at NoodleCast. Her other active projects include Explore Atlas Shrugged, Modern Paleo, and OList.com. She also contributes to Front Range Objectivism, the Coalition for Secular Government, and Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine. Diana lives with her husband Paul Hsieh and a small menagerie of beasts in Sedalia, Colorado.»

No books?  No teaching career?  Her major accomplishment as a philosopher is a dissertation about another philosopher’s work?  Kinda thin resume, considering her status in the Objectivist world.

This is Dr. Diana Hsieh.  Now, all of this having been said, I don’t judge someone on the basis of tokens of accomplishment — the substance of one’s work matters far more than the generation of tokens of accomplishment, and I did not make any premature judgments about this person prior to talking to her — in fact, I was hoping to establish a friendly, collegial relationship with her — I do not ascribe to the philosophy of Objectivism, but I do have a lot of respect for it.  I am an «Objectivist sympathizer,»  As Dr. Peikoff has put it, in the past.  However, while I approached her with an open mind, hoping for a meeting of the minds, I say all of this to point out that an accomplished thinker will usually have more to show for himself/herself than what has been described above.

The exchange that took place between us can be seen here, and is republished below:

Rasskazivats (me): Huh!  I published an article by Barbara Cornell about a «regretful parent» myself, recently: [http://transegoism.us/snake-mom].  Cheers!

Diana Hsieh: Playing (annoying) music automatically on opening a web page?!? AUGH. I can’t imagine any better way to drive people away from a web site.

NOTE: It is in poor taste to address someone you’ve never even spoke to before, and who is approaching you in a friendly, professional manner in this way.  However, rather express offense at this, I chose to remain friendly and professional by providing her with an alternate means of reading my content, without having to endure the «annoying» music on my site.

Rasskazivats: Here’s my RSS feed: [http://transegoism.us/feed/].

Dr. Hsieh has not condescended to resume our conversation.  The only thing I can figure is that she is offended that I did not immediately apologize to her for not running my site in such a way that she finds tasteful, and immediately complying with her tastes.  Now, that music was created by a good friend of mine.  I enjoy it.  I’ve received compliments elsewhere about it.  Beyond that, if it really were in bad taste to have music playing automatically, there’s a right way and a wrong way to bring that up.  Insulting me at a first encounter when I am projecting a friendly demeanor, is the wrong way.  I didn’t ask her what she thought about my site, yet I did provide her with a music-free alternative — and for the record, my month old site seems to be doing substantially better than hers.  With a personality as charming as her’s I can’t imagine why.

NOTE: A passage from The Fountainhead comes to mind; when Peter Keating asks Howard Roark for advice on his work, Roark, at first, balks, and says something to the effect of «Why would you even ask for my advice?»  Dr. Hsieh, with respect, I did not ask for your advice.

Which brings me to another point — Ayn Rand was a brilliant philosopher, but a flawed person.  Her main fault (so far as I can tell from reading about her) was that she was an extremely abrasive person.  Now, people seem to think that her abrasiveness is somehow a necessary function of her philosophy.  Her personality surely influenced the presentation of her work, although I think it has little to do with the content.  What most people don’t understand is that abrasiveness is a personality trait that is very common among Russian women — particularly women of her age (women who survived one or both of the world wars, and/or the Russian civil war).  People view her personality as being an integral aspect of her beliefs, whereas it has more to do with the Russian culture (which is not at all Objectivist, by and large) than with the belief system she created.  Yet, unfortunately, she managed to impress the worst aspects of her personality upon everyone who was associated with her — to a lesser or greater extent.

Dr. Hsieh, I find it to be a sign of weakness that you have failed to develop your own personality and have adopted the worst aspects of Rand’s character.

I am disappointed.

AMARYLLIS

I think when the moneyed interests go to Hell, their punishment will be to have to listen to the album «Amaryllis» by Shinedown over and over again, knowing that they were the ones who tried to suppress the message it blasts out front and center.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fGwnmB47pnM