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hush
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since 05-27-2001
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Ohio, USA


25 posted 08-20-2002 04:30 AM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

Essorant-

'I would rather have a world condition with candles than one with weapons of mass destruction. If everything had been slowed down more that would have aided our approach
, we wouldn't have missed the good things.'

I can't argue with you here, because this all comes down to personal values. Presonally, I feel that the good things technology has brought us outweight the bad by far. But that's a feeling, not a qualitative value...

'It would have given us more time to think less and thus more wit and sharpness to make choices withal.'

More time, to me, seems to indicate time for more thought, rather than less. Also... I'm still really, really struggling with your concept that less thought gives us more wisdom, and wit??? Huh??? Please, please explain this to me, because I don't see how this conclusion can possibly be possible.

'Imagine if Napoleon had been modest?'

Interesting point. But it can be made about anybody. Imagine if Shakespeare had been modest.

'But perhaps we should think about them more, these men and women of the past who forewent most personal selfishness and pleasure to give and help others around with out needing something in return knowinng they're helping a need.'

Selfishness is inherent in human nature. there is no truly selfless action. The person who gives does so because it pleases their moral standards, correct? If saints believe it right to give, they do so, and because of this, they gain a sense of happiness. I mean, when's the last time you heard a saint say "Man, you know, I really just hate helping others!" That's preposterous... and sickening. Selfishness motivates us to live up to our moral standards, because of the satisfaction we derive from it. They aren't foregoing their most personal selfishness and pleasure... they are indulging it. Furthermore... this is a good, healthy, natural, beautiful process... people dealing by mutual consent, and for mutual gain.

'I feel we shouldn't forget the thoughts, more we shouldn't forget the passions and deeds of these people, but maintain and continue them still somewhat in our own.  They are still somewhere within us and needed.'

Do you think people should be forced to help others, or that we should ahve a choice? I believe in choice. If there is a man dying on the street of starvation, it is my right to turn my back and state "It isn't my problem." My personal set of morals would promote me to help the man.... give him some money, a sandwich... a smile... because it would make me feel good to help another human being. But... it is still my right to ask whether the needed services are also deserved, and act accordingly.

'No impulses are ill unless thoughts somehow cause them to be.'

Huh? This makes my head hurt. So... I'm a forty-year old man. Is my impulse to have sex with my ten-year-old daughter only bad when thought is applied? The impulse, in and of itself, is nothing to worry about, just a normal feeling men have? Give me a break.

'It was pure radical thoughts that made the grudge that reared and ruled hitler and his empire.'

I disagree. Do you think any line of reasonable thought can lead someone to believe that Jews are all inferior, (as a rationalization [read- defense mechanism] against the fact that they thought his art sucked) Germans are superior, and that in order to propogate these beliefs (not thoughts- beliefs) he had to launch a plan to take over the world? I think Hitler felt slighted and went on an insane power trip to make himself feel better. Not that I'm an expert on the subject, but from what little I know, that's what seems to be the case.

'Look at North American luxury--we have so much we hurt ourselves with it.'

How? I really can't recall the last time having roofing shingles did me any harm. In fact... it only did good... we got a nice roof, and our roofer got paid a handsome sum to do the job. Mutual consent and mutual gain. No roofs... all roofers lose their jobs. No entertainment industry? Your quest to de-throne celebrities doesn't account for all the movie theaters, music stores, makeup artists, roadies, bookies, stadiums, and countless other people/venues that would lase their means of survival. Does it make sense to throttle the livelihood of thousands just to 'be fair?'

'This is where modesty And where thoughts of saints should come in and influence us just a bit to give more, and perhaps want less.'

On a personal basis, perhaps. A lot of people do believe this. However, you can't apply personal morality to all people. I still have the freedom to not help... ans that's essential.

Really enjoying this debate, BTW.

I am writing graffiti on your body
I am drawing the story of how hard we tried

-Ani DiFranco

Essorant
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since 08-10-2002
Posts 4689
Regina, Saskatchewan; Canada


26 posted 08-20-2002 04:42 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Thought is to heart as machine is to hand.  Do you call the machine superior?  Wiser?  Will you trust it more?
It isn't something that ammends of itself, we in feeling and impulse ammend thought, and it often demonstrates the kenspeckle tendencies to go menacingly out of joint and kilter if you don't condense and moderate the usage of it.  Just like too much machine and reliance on machine in the real world is hazardous and smothering to natures health and symmetry,  so is too much thought and reliance on it most of the time, in ourselves hazardous to our own personal nature and natural stability.
Often If we slow down I feel when we have more time to feel more naturally we can ammend our thoughts better so that they can work less hard and harsh and as long, and condense more to to get where we want to go with them, sharper.  More time and less haste would make healthier feelings and thus, healthier thoughts in less thinking.    

I wasn't saying at all anyone should be forced to do anything, as you will say it is moral, cultural, and I agree with Hush inevitably somewhat selfish choice to give or not to give to a need, a needing person, and we duly have the right to what choice soever.  I am speaking just straightforward the bend of my opinion of a choice I wish more persons would make here and there because the world seems needing it-- the choice of giving more attention to the less fortunate people and countries, and reducing this our predominate state of luxury, not even a lot, but just a bit more, in order to give a bit more to those who just need a living.  We are the people who are really making most of the millionaires,  Aren't we?  And they mostly come from North america.  But do many of these people like actors and sport players and such entertainers, really deserve to be swimming in so much attention money and luxury as they do?  Does this not also take the integrity out of these things a bit too?   Some how shouldn't choices be made to tone down these people a bit who are enertaining and wanting, and give a bit more tone to those whom are begging and needing.  I know many help, but think most hoard.  Celebrities deserve their fame but it is given ad nauseum overmuch nowadays.  I know nothing can be completly equal, but we are the fattest part of the world, we can afford to give more and want less, so we should.


Essorant.

[This message has been edited by Essorant (08-20-2002 07:31 PM).]

Toad
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27 posted 08-20-2002 05:22 PM       View Profile for Toad   Email Toad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Toad


Essorant

quote:
Thought is to heart as machine is to hand. Do you call the machine superior? Wiser? Will you trust it more?

By heart do you mean the thought processes that produce compassion, morality and a sense of ethics?
quote:
It isn't something that ammends of itself, we in feeling and impulse ammend thought, and it often demonstrates the kenspeckle tendencies to go menacingly out of joint and kilter if you don't condense and moderate the usage of it.

As  has already been pointed out Ė we amend thought and the decisions we make by thinking more, not less.
quote:
Just like too much machine and reliance on machine in the real world is hazardous and smothering to natures health and symmetry, so is too much thought and reliance on it most of the time, in ourselves hazardous to our own personal nature and natural stability.

As I said earlier, without the higher levels of thought we are left with only the reptilian brain function Ėinstinct- which has a 50/50 chance of us all ending up as roadkill.
quote:
Often If we slow down I feel when we have more time to feel more naturally we can ammend our thoughts better so that they can work less hard and harsh and as long, and condense more to to get where we want to go with them, sharper. More time and less haste would make healthier feelings and thus, healthier thoughts in less thinking.

I can understand the slowing down part, not rushing into things, THINKING them through, but if youíre saying just slow down, relax and DONít think I canít see where any thoughts, healthy or otherwise are going to come from.

The next bit is all about the semi-communist state, similar to the ethos that existed in early American settlements. The problem is it doesnít work when you scale the model up to the size needed to deal with modern societies.
Stephanos
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28 posted 08-20-2002 05:37 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Hush,

You said:

"Selfishness is inherent in human nature. there is no truly selfless action. The person who gives does so because it pleases their moral standards, correct?"


Just some thoughts...  When you say that "there are no truly selfless actions" what exactly do you mean?  Are you saying that when a person does a good deed for another person, that there is without exception an ulterior motive behind it?  That would mean that every act that is called virtuous would be in reality only a link in the chain to get somewhere else... the place of pleasant feelings which commonly follow doing something "good".  


I understand where you are coming from.  But If those feelings of satisfaction which tend to come from performing selfless deeds are the only goal, then theoretically, if those feelings could be obtained some other way, they would.  This is especially true if being selfless involves discomfort, effort, and sacrifice, or any kind of pain.  If helping someone is only a means to another ends then the path of least resistance will be taken no doubt.  Why trouble with all the stretching exertion of reaching out to someone else if (theoretically) the same desired results could be found down an easier path?


I think most often, selfless deeds are done against a flood of human emotions and desires in the contrary direction.  It's like salmon swimming upstream.  You are definitely right when you say that selfishness is inherent in human nature.  It think there are many examples in present life (and history) of people who help others at a great cost.  Now you may say that these deem the reward of doing something virtuous as greater than the cost it imposes.  And I would agree.  But where I would not agree is in the assertion that this is being "selfish".  


It's kind of hard to explain but there is a subtle difference here.  Usually when people do deeds that are truly virtuous, they are not harboring ideas of reward actively in their minds.  At least it seems to me (you may disagree here), that my best actions are when I have forgotten myself completely for the moment.  I know there are times (much fewer than there should be) when I have done things for others with no conscious thoughts of pleasing myself by doing it.  My thoughts were absorbed in the person(s) recieving my affections.  In fact if I had begun to think about rewards and pleasure etc... I would have found ample reason not to do it.  This may be an example (for Essorant   ) where thinking plays a lesser role in the scheme of things.  I'm not saying that thinking isn't involved.  But to be honest with you, if I am thinking in terms of returns and profits for myself,  I can find a much more pleasant path for myself than being loving  and selfless.  


I think the difference in what you are saying may involve the order of events, or the source of things.  Some believe that the source and incintive for good deeds is the moral satisfaction they bring.  But turn that around.  What if the source of the satisfaction is actually the good deed...or more accurately the motive behind it in union with the deed?  What if the only way to get any lasting moral satisfaction is not really to have it as your main concern?  What if these rewards only flow from a heart that genuinely wants the wellbeing of someone else and would want it even if the good feeling somehow didn't come?  


Now here is where it is clear to me what people are really saying who don't believe in any truly "selfless" action.  It is the disbelief that anyone could be genuinely desirous of the good of another for that reason alone.  To put it more simply it is being skeptical that love really exists.  It is for some people (I am not saying so in your case because I don't yet know you personally) a suspicion that no one can be really selfless because, they themselves cannot be really selfless.  Not finding it inside often makes it a struggle to find it anywhere else.  It can be a projection of ourselves.  


But if you are merely saying that good feelings and satisfaction flow from doing what is right, I agree.  If you want to call that "selfish",  I say it's either one of two things.  1) Semantics-  because the one who values (but not supremely) the satisfaction of welldoing,  may be in some sense called "selfish", in which case I agree, but would not agree with your choice of words.  or 2) there is a disallusionment with the ability of humanity to have any virute.

I like to think love really exists.  In fact I am certain.  I have seen it too often in others.
But to concede here Hush,  I agree that there is often (and should be) mutual benefits involved in relationships.  Love is best when it is returned.  I'm just not so sure we should refuse to dispense it when it is not.  

Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (08-20-2002 05:47 PM).]

Toad
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since 06-16-2002
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29 posted 08-20-2002 06:48 PM       View Profile for Toad   Email Toad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Toad

Stephanos

That was a well presented and thought out argument.

However  

quote:
It is for some people (I am not saying so in your case because I don't yet know you personally) a suspicion that no one can be really selfless because, they themselves cannot be really selfless.

OK I better hold my hand up, Iím guilty as charged.

Iíve never in my life done anything that I consider selfless, Iíve done a few things that other people have regarded as such but none where I canít pinpoint the exact reason why I did it and what I got out of it. Iíll go one step further, I canít imagine ever doing anything that was selfless or didnít benefit me in some way.

Let me give you an example:

About seven years ago I was driving along one Sunday morning when I noticed the van in front of me was weaving a lot, I slowed down to put some distance between us. The next minute the van veered sharply to the left (we drive on that side btw), hit the grass verge and did a full 360+ in mid-air. I pulled up, ran to the van, which was on its side leaking petrol and steam. I climbed up onto the top of it and dragged the driver, who was unconscious, out of the side window. After Iíd put him down a safe distance from the vehicle I went back and removed the battery to prevent any electrical short igniting the petrol. By this time a crowd had gathered, after checking the driver was ok and as the emergency services arrived I got into my car and drove home. The accident and the Ďmysterious selfless heroí were all over the local news for days, the only people I told were my family.

There was a good reason for me to do what I did, two in fact, the first is that I knew I could do it, and the second is that I was the only one there at the time that could. The selfish part in all this is that I didnít want to spend the rest of my life working out why I didnít, if I could have guaranteed it wouldnít have haunted me, Iíd have kept on driving.

I remember thinking as I ran towards the van that if I slowed down a bit the tank might blow before I got there and the only person that would know would be me. Looking back I also recall thinking that if I did it may blow while I was on top of it so I selfishly ran as fast as I could.

My point is that one reason people do things that are considered selfless is the avoidance of the consequences of doing anything else. They donít gain as such, they just donít lose anything, that anything can be something as small, or as big, as self respect.

[This message has been edited by Toad (08-20-2002 06:50 PM).]

Essorant
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since 08-10-2002
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Regina, Saskatchewan; Canada


30 posted 08-21-2002 12:03 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Toad-

"By heart do you mean the thought processes that produce compassion, morality and a sense of ethics?"


By heart, I mean the feeling processes that alloy into and produce compassion, moralities, sense of ethic, and philosphy, the seat of highest government.  These are what should be the legislators and ammenders of thought. Without these the mind is a cold world governed by machines alone.  When we get too absorbed in mechanics of machinery it alter our state so that we start staring too much time away at the machines waiting for solutions somehow to come out of these alone rather than going back to the original wisdom, the direction we meant to keep programmed into them to begin with.  I say from my bad experience.  The wisdom was good, but the machines we have depended upon so much couldn't hold onto it the distance, and now have deviated into immodest and destructive ways.  It is time to go back to the original wisdom. We could use less machine, our hands a bit more directly.


Essorant.

[This message has been edited by Essorant (08-21-2002 12:03 AM).]

hush
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since 05-27-2001
Posts 1693
Ohio, USA


31 posted 08-21-2002 04:15 AM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

Essorant-

'Thought is to heart as machine is to hand.  Do you call the machine superior?  Wiser?  Will you trust it more?'

If the hand is my banker's, and the machine is a computer, and the object of the work being done (interesting you didn't mention that in your analogy?) is the entire sum of my personal finances... yeah, I think I trust the machine more.

If the hand is a rescue worker's, and the machine they are hooking to me is a ventilator... I think I trust the machine to give me consistently good air more than I trust mouth-to-mouth breathing.

Intentions are nothing without means to accomplish them.

Stephan-

By no truly selfless act, I mean that there is no (volitional) action possible that does not benefit a person in one way or another. We choose the best option available, simply because self-destruction isn't in our natures... and in the case of a suicidal or self-harming person, I maintain that the choice to harm oneself brings a relief from whatever conditions caused that impulse.

One of my points is this- wouldn't the world be a much sadder place if all the poeple who did help others did it truly selflessly? Without any gain or satisfaction to show? With only loss and unhappiness as their payment?

'Usually when people do deeds that are truly virtuous, they are not harboring ideas of reward actively in their minds.'

I never said that people consciously choose helpful actions for rewards. I do not consciously write with my right hand because it's easier than doing so with my left. Better example: I do not consciously think of the satisfaction I will gain from helping another person, the same way I do not think to take offense at sexist remarks. It just happens. Morality, once cemented, is second nature... like the hand you write with.

'In fact if I had begun to think about rewards and pleasure etc... I would have found ample reason not to do it.'

My father is leaving me all of his finances when he dies, because my brother hasn't bothered calling in years. Now, I call my father because I love him, and I help him when he needs help because my moral code demands that I help a person I love... but I am not unaware of my financial benefits. When he goes, I'm going to accept the money happily... no facade of selflessness will cause me to feel guilt... or say "No,  really, I don't want financial security... or (gasp) luxury..." By your logic... I should not call my father anymore, because I am thinking of my payments. Doesn't make much sense to me.

'It is the disbelief that anyone could be genuinely desirous of the good of another for that reason alone.'

I do think that desire exists. It is the fulfillment of that desire that is the selfish action.

'To put it more simply it is being skeptical that love really exists.'

I strongly disagree here. I think love is a bad word to use in this situation, anyway... because while I would help a stranger in need... I would not love that stranger.

'It is for some people (I am not saying so in your case because I don't yet know you personally) a suspicion that no one can be really selfless because, they themselves cannot be really selfless.'

That's my point! I can't be really selfless... Toad already made this point for me... I don't think anyone can. I don't think it's the actions, or the motivations that differ between me and you- I do think this is a semantics issue. I call all actions selfish. You call them selfless. Scenario: Homeless man, begging for alms. Well-to-do man gives him twenty bucks. I call it selfish- the well-to-do man is sating his desire to see good done to other people. You call it selfless- man is giving up hard-earned money for the cause of goodness to another man.

There is, however, a line between selfish and greedy. Selfish is normal and healthy- greed is where ulterior motives come into play... greed is what makes a person want to benefit at the expense of another, rather than at the benefit of another. Greed is taking what you don't deserve... greed is the homeless man expecting alms, and robbing the man who won't volunteer them. There is a big difference between the two terms.

I am writing graffiti on your body
I am drawing the story of how hard we tried

-Ani DiFranco

Stephanos
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Statesboro, GA, USA


32 posted 08-21-2002 12:33 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Hush,

I think  the commonly held definition of "selfish" is what you are attempting to change.  But how can you divorce a word from it's negative denotation?  Look the word up in a variety of different dictionaries and see what you get ... I don't think the dictionary itself is all-authoritative, but I do think it gives us a pretty good idea of how people have made use of a word.  I would challenge you to show me one (preferably non-speculative, non-philosophical) text where the word selfish is not used with the negative denotation.  What you and  others are seemingly doing is taking a word and making it mean something else.  


If you mention a healthy self interest being ingrained in everything we do ... I agree.  I just will not call it selfish, because they describe two different things.  Selfishness exists, and so does healthy self-interest.  Admittedly, the difference is one of degree ... as in the difference between hunger and gluttony.  Both involve the root principle of eating.  But sharing the same principle doesn't mean they are alike.  All bad actions are a perversion or an excess of what is otherwise good.  Take anger for example...  It is not always a bad thing to be angry.  In fact sometimes it would be more wrong not to be angry.  But anger taken to the extreme of rage, or unforgiveness is not good.  That must be why the bible says "Be angry and sin not". . . indicating that the wrongness lies in the inappropriate reaction to anger, not the anger itself.  


This brings me to my next point... First, I would like to use just a couple of exerpts from the bible because it provides illustration for what I am trying to say.


     "Take care not to make public performance of your goodness, with the intention of letting everyone see how good you are.  If you do, you can expect no reward from your Father who is in Heaven.  
     When you are going to perform an act of charity, do not annouce yourself with a fanfare of trumpets, as those whose religion consists in ostentatious play-acting do in the synagogues and on the streets, to win popular applause.  I tell you truly, they have all the reward they will ever get.  But when you perform an act of charity, your left hand must not know what your right hand is doing.  Your aim must be to keep your charitable giving secret.  And your Father who sees what is done in secret will give you your reward in full."
  (matthew 6:1-4).


The idea of reward being a motive for doing what is right is a good thing.  On that point I am in total agreement with you.  The world would be a sad place if there were no benefit in helping others.  This is not a bad thing.  I think it is the way God set it all up, so that following his moral law would yield blessing ... both for the giver and the reciever.  


But the above text illustrates the possibility of there being a different kind of reward...  A selfish kind of reward.  What if someone feeds the hungry because the recognition of it helps them politically?  Oh yeah, the hungry being fed might not bother them in the least.  They like to see others prosper well enough.  But that isn't the heart-motive.  At a heart level, if all recognition were stripped away, that person would not be feeding  the hungry.  There is nothing strong enough inside to motivate that kind of action and energy ... it all came from the outside.  That's why it's possible to do a spectacular philanthropic act for the wrong motive ... spiritually and morally it profits the giver nothing.  Physically, on the side of the recievers there may be much benefit.  But the person who did it has no lasting reward.  Now if the person (genuinely)  wasn't looking for recognition, and it came anyway, then that person would not lose his spiritual reward.  


You said "I call my father because I love him, and I help him when he needs help because my moral code demands that I help a person I love... but I am not unaware of my financial benefits. When he goes, I'm going to accept the money happily... no facade of selflessness will cause me to feel guilt... or say "No,††really, I don't want financial security... or (gasp) luxury..." By your logic... I should not call my father anymore, because I am thinking of my payments. Doesn't make much sense to me."


Now what you are saying seems to be that you did it because you love him, and that your love demands that you help him... but you also may benefit in a material way.  I have no problem with that.  I never said that anyone should avoid any benefits that come.  They just can't be the only motive, or even the primary motive.  My question to you would be, Would you do what you are doing even if your Father had no money to give you?  If you say yes and mean it, I would say this is a sincere act of kindness.  If you say no, then I would call that selfish, even deceptive.  If you really would do it without the money, then there is no shame in recieving what is given to you.  It is a gift.  Part of love is being able to recieve as well as give.  I am not into self-flagellation ideologies, where it is deemed wrong to recieve blessings.  The way I see it, if I do what is right and good to myself comes with it, then I won't refuse it.  It is God's gift to me.  I have never refused benefits that came naturally from doing what is right.  Have you ever heard the saying "It is more blessed to give than to recieve"?  To say that something is MORE blessed than something else, implies that the other thing spoken of is also blessed.  But if we deem recieving to be the supreme goal,  we will seek recieving for it's own sake.  If we make temporal benefits the reason for doing good deeds, then we lose the best  reward.


This brings me to my final point.  A person who would give without consideration of material benefit for himself... still gives mindful of a reward.  This reward involves those feelings of satisfaction which come from helping others, the meeting of the need to express love and be needed, and the need to find out what it means to be "good".  But these are the "rewards" that God has inherently put into the nature of things.  You can say that is selfishness, but I say that it is right.  There has to be something to make being good attractive, or else it is useless.  These things flow from goodness intrinsically.  That is healthy self-interest.


I think this does deal mostly with Semantics... We may agree more than we actually disagree.


But, whether or not people can be truly "good" without the Spirit of Christ would take another thread.


Stephen.
    


[This message has been edited by Stephanos (08-21-2002 12:33 PM).]

Essorant
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since 08-10-2002
Posts 4689
Regina, Saskatchewan; Canada


33 posted 08-21-2002 01:10 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Hush,
I agree completly.  
I was just pointing out that the center of wisdom is not in the machine but in that "hand" that operates.


Essorant.


[This message has been edited by Essorant (08-21-2002 02:46 PM).]

Toad
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34 posted 08-21-2002 07:50 PM       View Profile for Toad   Email Toad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Toad


Stephanos

Selfless Ė Having no regard to self

Selfish Ė Concerned unduly over personal profit or pleasure

Collins New English Dictionary. (1956 edition)

Iíve been digging around, spurred on by your challenge to Hush and Iím not sure semantics is the main problem, or even an answer to the problem. I agree that the meaning of selfish can be taken and viewed in two separate ways but the definition or word choice doesnít change the fundamental difference in our belief of why an action was undertaken and the mechanics that determined that action.

The thing that stops us dead in our tracks is semantics itself, language ends up being the constraint and suppresser of communication, take the above definition of selfless. As I see it this definition isnít exactly what you mean by selfless, a closer proximity would be the opposite of the definition of selfish as given above:

NOT concerned unduly over personal profit or pleasure.

Strangely enough the definition of selfish isnít exactly what I mean by selfish either, a closer match would be the exact opposite of the above definition of selfless.

Closer still would be the use of another connected derivative of self Ė selfism Ė exclusive devotedness to ones owns interest.

Semantics canít change the fact that I believe that every perceived action I undertake is based around reasons of self interest whereas you maintain that acts can be undertaken that are not determined by the same means. You can say those actions arenít selfish and I can argue that they arenít selfless either, we can both agree that itís probably down to semantics and the definition of the words and weíre probably both right, but that canít be true, can it? Either I do everything based on reasons of self-interest or I donít.

Weíre probably never going to agree in any case but Iíd rather communication was halted in a friendly stalemate and agreement on a separation of belief than halting it because weíre struggling to find a suitable definition for separate acts.

Going back to the original topic.

I keep reading references to a distinction of acts guided by the heart and those, presumably, guided by the head, I canít see any distinction or evidence of such a distinction, apart from mans fabrication along lines of descriptive type. This distinction seems to be mirrored by the machine and the hand analogy, surely where cognitive thought is concerned the machine and the hand are the same thing, the act of thinking. In the same way that thoughts by the heart and thoughts by the head are, apart from distinctions of type, products of the same thought process.

I believe that there is no difference between thoughts from the heart and thoughts from the head regarding mechanics, apart from those created as a descriptive label of type regarding associated acts.

Thank you for the chance to read and reply.
Stephanos
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35 posted 08-22-2002 01:55 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Toad,

My intent of pointing out the definition of the word "selfish" was merely to show that applying it to a healthy self-interest was incorrect based on the denotation of the word itself.  You are right in that the meaning of words does not solve the fundamental problem of how we view motives of actions.  It was just a foundation I introduced before I made my main point.


You said:

" Either I do everything based on reasons of self-interest or I donít."


My point again is that there may be another division that you are not seeing.  You seem to be saying there are only two categories ... self interest or no self interest.  I would say that the category of self interest is divided into two more categories...  Proper self interest and self-seeking.  The desire to do good and the moral satisfaction that it brings, the need to love others, the need to be needed, the need to discover in day to day life human goodness ... these are all legitimate things to be desired.  Are these the same thing as the desire to be applauded for doing a good deed, or the desire for monetary gain, or the desire that others would see themselves as indebted to you for your help, etc...?  


There is a vast difference to me.  In the scripture I quoted above, Jesus talked of two different kinds of rewards... one more spiritual in nature, one carnal and selfish in nature.  And which one a person gets depends on which one he desires.  When a person seeks to do good for goodness sake, other blessings may get thrown in alongside as a suppliment.  But if a person does "good" for other reasons the spiritual reward is withheld.  


Now your assertion is that a man who does well in order to obtain moral satisfaction is in the same category as a man who does well merely to promote himself.  I disagree.  The difference is not in the fact that they both seek something.  I agree with you that there is a seeking of something in all instances.  And I agree that there is nothing done which is purely "selfless".  My assertion is that one is the proper thing to seek in doing good, while the other is not.  One grasps for his own life, the other finds his own life by losing it.  

Two different categories here.  One will only do good if personal gain is involved.  The other will do good even if personal gain is not guaranteed.  You may say that the later is also selfish in seeking  rewards for doing good.  But if that's the case, you can call it selfish, but it's still different.  It's the reward that God has given us to seek.  I am glad that in blessing someone, we get blessed in return.  


Okay bottom line... if you insist on calling both of these examples "selfish", how do we make a distinction between their obvious difference in character?  You must either concede that selfish (in the etymological understanding of the word) isn't the right word, or deny the difference.  Denying the difference is understandable.  Because spritual truths are not always easy to see.  But I think most people who deny such a difference do so because they don't understand it.  But even then, there is often the suspicion of a definite difference somewhere, albeit nebulous and hard to define.  Do you not see a difference between the character of a man who feigns kindness to his aging mother (who he actually hates) in order to procure a fat inheretence, and the character of man who loves his mother and shows it in true deeds even though she doesn't have a penny to her name?


Stephen.                        

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (08-22-2002 02:05 AM).]

Toad
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36 posted 08-22-2002 08:24 AM       View Profile for Toad   Email Toad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Toad


Well at least weíre making progress.

Now we have actions that are selfless, of which there are no examples and actions that are dictated by reasons based on self-interest, which are split into two sub-categories divided into right or wrong.

quote:
Do you not see a difference between the character of a man who feigns kindness to his aging mother (who he actually hates) in order to procure a fat inheretence, and the character of man who loves his mother and shows it in true deeds even though she doesn't have a penny to her name?


Actually no I donít, both actions produce the same result and are based upon self-interest which produces a reward of some kind for the individual. Separating the type of reward into right or wrong after the event may create a subjective difference based upon moral standards or personal ethics but the mechanics of the actions in both cases are identical.

A judgement of the morality and ethics involved in the action has already taken place, the individual found no ethical or moral reason not to undertake the action at that time or came to the conclusion that such reasons that did exist were subservient to the reward. If you asked that individual whether it was right to do what he/she was doing they would say yes, this would make your categories of right and wrong redundant as far as the individual is concerned.

Am I saying that no action can be classed as wrong on an individual level?

Yes, but only at that time and sometimes only in the mind of the individual. Take the case of the man who is trying to procure a fat inheritance, at the time his actions must have been deemed right as far as he was concerned. At a later time he may reassess his actions and come to the conclusion that his decision to feign kindness was unethical, at that time heís right as well.

There is another way to look at this example which encompasses a wider morality, you say that the difference is one of wrong or right and seem to be categorising this man into the compartment tagged wrong. This decision is based upon the motive for the action and lends no thought to the action itself, the correct decision according to your rules would have the man openly expressing his hate for his mother or at least totally ignoring her. An action of this type could be seen as even more morally or ethically wrong than the action he originally took, in such a case what would be the right thing to do?


Stephanos
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37 posted 08-22-2002 10:40 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Toad,

You said:


" Take the case of the man who is trying to procure a fat inheritance, at the time his actions must have been deemed right as far as he was concerned. At a later time he may reassess his actions and come to the conclusion that his decision to feign kindness was unethical, at that time heís right as well."


"deemed right" in the first half of the scenario is far different than "right" in the second half.  In hindsight, this person is looking back and seeing that his decision was based on what was wrong.  No one looks back at something they did in the past which they now think is unethical and says "I am now right as well", as if the conclusion was two correct answers ... one preferable to another.


Why do we balk at admitting that we can be in the wrong?


you also said:

"There is another way to look at this example which encompasses a wider morality, you say that the difference is one of wrong or right and seem to be categorising this man into the compartment tagged wrong. This decision is based upon the motive for the action and lends no thought to the action itself, the correct decision according to your rules would have the man openly expressing his hate for his mother or at least totally ignoring her. An action of this type could be seen as even more morally or ethically wrong than the action he originally took, in such a case what would be the right thing to do?"


What you may not be seeing is that the example of the person feigning love when there is hate, involves two wrongs.  One is deception for personal gain.  If he acted according to his true feelings, you are right, the results would be much worse.  Because a mess that is covered-up appears aesthetically much better than a mess in open view.  But then again, unless a mess is uncovered it cannot be cleaned.  Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better.  The second wrong is the hatred itself.  And no doubt this is the worse of the two vices ... but the cover up prevents it from being looked at.  


" Separating the type of reward into right or wrong after the event may create a subjective difference based upon moral standards or personal ethics but the mechanics of the actions in both cases are identical."


And this after all is the point I will always make... that right and wrong is not wholly  subjective.  The one who created us has placed within us an unescapable reminder of where we came from.  It is but an imperfect image of his own moral law. It may undulate between cultures and individuals as a reflected image will distort in moving water, but it is directly connected to the original and therefore not subjective.


"When the heathen who do not posses any law do by natural instinct what the law demands, although they possess no law, they are their own law.  They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts.  On the day when God judges the secrets of men through Jesus Christ, as my gospel says he will, their conscience will agree with the verdict, and their own inmost thoughts will accuse them, or even sometimes excuse them."  Romans 2:14-16


So regardless of the fact that the "mechanics" of two differing actions are the same, it is what is internal that matters.  ie the "secrets of men".  The mechanics of a hand mixer, and a hand drill are pretty much the same I guess.  But the motive of the men who designed them determines the definition of their use.  And they are not the same.  So it doesn't bother me that self interest is involved in every decision.  It has it's proper place.  


Stephen.

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (08-22-2002 10:43 AM).]

Toad
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38 posted 08-22-2002 11:52 AM       View Profile for Toad   Email Toad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Toad


You can remove both ďdeemedĒ and ďin hindsightĒ if they bother you so much, neither changes the fact that at each specific point in time the actions were correct for that person at that time.

If a man makes a decision to carry out a certain action, at that time and for that individual, that action HAS to be the right one, if he thought it was the wrong one heíd not undertake the action.

The fact that you, or he, reaches the conclusion that it is wrong at another point in time does not affect it being correct for that individual at the earlier specific time.

Why do we balk at admitting that we can be in the wrong?

Probably because we canít, as far as individual actions are concerned, until after the fact. Nobody has ever consciously chosen to do the wrong thing in preference to the right thing, the wrong thing wasnít wrong at the initial point for that individual or they wouldnít do it.

quote:
What you may not be seeing is that the example of the person feigning love when there is hate, involves two wrongs.


That was exactly my point, the man in question was stuck between two decisions that were morally wrong. You say he made the wrong decision I say it was his choice but whichever decision he made had to be the right one at that time as far as he was concerned based upon his own self-interest.

quote:
And this after all is the point I will always make... that right and wrong is not wholly subjective. The one who created us has placed within us an unescapable reminder of where we came from. It is but an imperfect image of his own moral law. It may undulate between cultures and individuals as a reflected image will distort in moving water, but it is directly connected to the original and therefore not subjective.


Playing the God card isnít, I believe, really relevant, it doesnít matter where the information, moral or otherwise, originated that was used to determine the action. The question is - were the actions of the man based upon self-interest and were they the right choice, for that individual, at that time. I maintain they were.


The upside to all this is that both of our opinions can be judged in the same way.

Stephanos
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39 posted 08-22-2002 04:24 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos



"If a man makes a decision to carry out a certain action, at that time and for that individual, that action HAS to be the right one, if he thought it was the wrong one heíd not undertake the action.
The fact that you, or he, reaches the conclusion that it is wrong at another point in time does not affect it being correct for that individual at the earlier specific time."


You are suggesting that just because someone "thinks" it is the right decision at a certain time means that it was?  This is usually in direct contradiction with a person's present assessment of a past mistake ... If someone says "I know now that I was wrong in doing such and such", could you reasonably come and suggest to them that "no, you were right for that particular time and mindset you were in"?  The only way that what you are saying could be true would be if there were no possiblity to have any true moral insight that matters.  So that the realization that "I was wrong" would be merely a different alignment of molecules, a different color, a change that some may prefer, but not a true progression of anykind.  At a base level, it comes down to the belief that true moral knowledge or wisdom is not possible.  In which case a child molester would be no less wise than a builder of orphanages.


"Why do we balk at admitting that we can be in the wrong?
Probably because we canít, as far as individual actions are concerned, until after the fact. "


It is the realization that we are wrong which occurs "after the fact", not the wrongness itself.  


"Nobody has ever consciously chosen to do the wrong thing in preference to the right thing"


Nobody consciously chooses what is wrong?  I know this is absolutely false from my own standpoint not to mention the countless testimonies of others.  Sometimes I do wrong things with full knowledge that it is the wrong thing to do (usually for a selfish reason) and even with knowledge that I will regret it.  The deception that plays on the mind during such a temptation is that I will be better off doing things my way as opposed to the true moral insight which God has provided.  Of course sometime later, I always come to admit that I was in error, because the truth can only be painted in a corner for so long.  


"the wrong thing wasnít wrong at the initial point for that individual or they wouldnít do it."


Again you are making an unsupported (at least so far), assertion... that we cannot make a mistake.  You've given no convincing reason as to why I should believe that an action cannot be wrong unwittingly, or that a wrong action cannot be done if the person has knowledge that it is wrong.  Getting out of the world of philosophy for a moment, I have heard countless testimonies of repentance that say otherwise.   If your view were to be followed then we would have to say that every vile, despicable,  hateful action and crime that has ever been carried out under the sun was right.  According to this view, any punishment, or consequence imposed even by a justice system is unjust, because it was right for that person for the moment, how can we hold them accountable for what was "right".  If a stranger brutally attacked your best friend for no good reason and ended his or her life, would you want to say that was right for that person to do it?  Was Hitler's massacre of the Jews right for him?  Or was it really an abominable action to be despised by all humankind, as a crime against humanity?  


I guess it boils down to this issue. . . Is it possible to have any true moral insight or is it all a matter of preference.  But again I maintain that inside where the conscience works, we know that morality is not anything we want to make it.  And God has his own card to play ... I just try to help others to see it.  


Stephen.
Toad
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40 posted 08-22-2002 06:43 PM       View Profile for Toad   Email Toad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Toad

quote:
You are suggesting that just because someone "thinks" it is the right decision at a certain time means that it was?

Yes, at that time for that individual it was the right decision.
quote:
This is usually in direct contradiction with a person's present assessment of a past mistake ... If someone says "I know now that I was wrong in doing such and such", could you reasonably come and suggest to them that "no, you were right for that particular time and mindset you were in"?

No, Iíd have to give my honest opinion on the situation as I saw it but that isnít to say that I donít believe that action was undertaken because that person believed it was the right action. People make mistakes but they donít purposely set out to make them, to that person the action is right, it may be obviously wrong in my eyes but itís right for him at that time otherwise heíd recognise it as a mistake and not do it.
quote:
The only way that what you are saying could be true would be if there were no possiblity to have any true moral insight that matters. So that the realization that "I was wrong" would be merely a different alignment of molecules, a different color, a change that some may prefer, but not a true progression of anykind.

Or an assessment of the situation based upon a changed or different data set.
quote:
At a base level, it comes down to the belief that true moral knowledge or wisdom is not possible.

Wisdom and morality are two separate issues, one is not a necessary requirement to posses the other, if by true moral knowledge you mean one unified code of morals ,shared by all individuals, then no, in my opinion that is not possible.
quote:
In which case a child molester would be no less wise than a builder of orphanages.

If the child molester builds an orphanage they would be equally wise, if you mean two separate people either could be more or less wise than the other.
quote:
It is the realization that we are wrong which occurs "after the fact", not the wrongness itself.

Yes, but it only becomes recognisably wrong at that time, before that time it is, to all intents and purposes, right.
quote:
Nobody consciously chooses what is wrong? I know this is absolutely false from my own standpoint not to mention the countless testimonies of others. Sometimes I do wrong things with full knowledge that it is the wrong thing to do (usually for a selfish reason) and even with knowledge that I will regret it.

So you are saying that despite having an alternative that you considered better you still decided to act against such a better judgement? Iíd be interested to hear an example of one instance with details.
quote:
The deception that plays on the mind during such a temptation is that I will be better off doing things my way as opposed to the true moral insight which God has provided. Of course sometime later, I always come to admit that I was in error, because the truth can only be painted in a corner for so long.

But at the time you were convinced it was the right thing to do, so sure it was right that you actually did it, does that not suggest that at that time for that individual (you) the action was the right one. That only Ďsometime laterí did you change your assessment and decide that the action was wrong. That change is important, change can only take place from one state to another, on becomes off, up becomes down and right becomes wrong. Accepting that a change of state has taken place infers that the opposite state was in effect before such a change occurred, in the case of an action this would require that action was at one point right. At one point it was right to believe that the earth was flat, no other belief was thought possible, now most people accept that that belief is wrong but at one point it WAS right to believe to earth was flat.
quote:
Again you are making an unsupported (at least so far), assertion... that we cannot make a mistake. You've given no convincing reason as to why I should believe that an action cannot be wrong unwittingly, or that a wrong action cannot be done if the person has knowledge that it is wrong. Getting out of the world of philosophy for a moment, I have heard countless testimonies of repentance that say otherwise. If your view were to be followed then we would have to say that every vile, despicable, hateful action and crime that has ever been carried out under the sun was right.

I never said we can never make a mistake, let alone assert that fact, I said no person has ever consciously decided to do the wrong thing in preference to the right thing, thereís a big difference.

If I gave you a series of numbers and asked you to add them together it is possible for you to arrive at an answer that is incorrect, would the answer, to the best of your knowledge be the right one, even though I recognise it as being wrong?

If I asked you to add a series of numbers together and you arrived at two different numbers but knew that one of them was right which one would you give me as your answer? From your earlier statement you would have me believe that you would choose the wrong answer while in full knowledge and possession of the right answer. It may be possible but I find it hard to comprehend it ever happening.
quote:
According to this view, any punishment, or consequence imposed even by a justice system is unjust, because it was right for that person for the moment, how can we hold them accountable for what was "right". If a stranger brutally attacked your best friend for no good reason and ended his or her life, would you want to say that was right for that person to do it? Was Hitler's massacre of the Jews right for him? Or was it really an abominable action to be despised by all humankind, as a crime against humanity?

It was an abominable act, but do you actually believe that Hitler woke up one morning thinking Ďthis is the worst crime against humanity anyone can ever commit itíd be the biggest mistake a single person could undertake Ė Iíll do itĒ. Or do you think he actually believed that what he was doing was right? The fact that every other person on the planet since, and probably at the time, thought it was wrong doesnít mean he didnít think it was right.

With respect to punishment, the individual belief of right or wrong isnít a factor, Hitler was guilty of doing something wrong according to the judgement of society, and the fact that he believed he was right has no bearing on such a decision.
quote:
I guess it boils down to this issue. . . Is it possible to have any true moral insight or is it all a matter of preference. But again I maintain that inside where the conscience works, we know that morality is not anything we want to make it. And God has his own card to play ... I just try to help others to see it.

Itís all a matter of preference in my opinion, that isnít strictly true, to be more exact itís impossible to define a true moral insight due to the fact that everybody owns a different set of morals and they are constantly in flux.

You seem to infer that God has instilled in man a set of moral rules, rigid since time immemorial and clear for all to see. If that is the case why is morality subject to change and why are immoral acts committed?





[This message has been edited by Toad (08-22-2002 06:52 PM).]

Essorant
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41 posted 08-23-2002 01:30 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

We already have to sleep usually one third of lifetime away...Why didn't God fashion us so we could do all this business of thinking in our sleep and then wake up with everything figured out for the day???!

[This message has been edited by Essorant (08-23-2002 01:33 AM).]

Brad
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42 posted 08-23-2002 06:37 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Glancing at the last three of four posts, I like the discussion between Toad and Stephen but I think we can combine Essorant's last comment. While I'm pretty sure I agree with Toad (no surprise there), I'm not sure he's phrasing it correctly. I would say that one's decisions are his or her responsibility regardless of whether they thought it was right or wrong. After the fact decisions of right or wrong do not in any way release an individual from that responsibility. There are times when it seems people are trying to do just that.

I've only had a little time to peruse some of their arguments so forgive me if I'm going out on a limb here but if you look at Essorant's post, where does responsibility enter in?

She doesn't want to know right from wrong, she wants everything decided for her in her sleep, she wants the paradise of a zombie or a robot.

I don't think either Toad or Stephan would accept that.

I'll try to get more specific later if I have the time.

Brad  
Toad
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43 posted 08-23-2002 08:37 AM       View Profile for Toad   Email Toad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Toad

Brad

As long as you tag on the disclaimer that the individual believed he was right, your explanation pretty much covers it.

Getting back to the original topic sounds a good idea, sometimes these threads wander off in all directions, and though interesting donít usually deal with the original point.
quote:
She doesn't want to know right from wrong, she wants everything decided for her in her sleep, she wants the paradise of a zombie or a robot.

I accept this with only one or two slight reservation, the use of the word zombie is one, robot isnít much better but at least it allows for enough complication and progression to be a closer substitution.

My acceptance is based on a belief that this is almost exactly the way things are at present. Iíd be stupid not to accept that a large proportion of thought takes place during the day but itís only the nightly indexing and data updates that allow us any progression of thought.

Iíll need a couple of free hours to put my reasoning into words and get it anywhere near understandable but Iíll be back.

Craig

[This message has been edited by Toad (08-23-2002 03:05 PM).]

Essorant
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44 posted 08-23-2002 01:47 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

Who is this "she" you refer to?? she might like to "think" with a man like me then!

[This message has been edited by Essorant (08-23-2002 02:01 PM).]

Toad
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45 posted 08-23-2002 03:03 PM       View Profile for Toad   Email Toad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Toad


Brad does that now and then, I canít make my mind up whether itís an attempt to depersonalise his comment by aiming it at a third person or whether itís designed to throw you off your train of thought.

(For all those watching in black and white that was my failed attempt at a humorous remark)
Brad
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46 posted 08-23-2002 07:44 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Sorry, I gave too much credit to the thing writing. perhaps 'it' is the better pronoun. How does one treat someone who believes that we shouldn't treat each other as human?
Essorant
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47 posted 08-24-2002 01:05 AM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

If you don't believe in a saying I can appreciate that but smite the saying not the sayer.You don't even have to treat me like a human, but you could at least treat me with respect.   It just wasn't very pleasant to find your comment.  It makes me feel I would rather be treated like nothing than like that.

Brad
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48 posted 08-24-2002 03:38 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

You don't have a choice. You don't want to think? Then stop. I'm showing you the world without thought (which is never what you wanted, you wanted other people to stop thinking.). I think and you can't tell me to stop (which is what you were really asking). You can stop.

How does it feel?

There is no respect in a world without thought. There are only 'its'.

Instead, why not give me a little respect?
Brad
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Jejudo, South Korea


49 posted 08-24-2002 04:10 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

By the way, I want a world with weapons of mass destruction, I just don't want to use them.
 
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