Tolerance of Narratives

A Rule of Thumb Inspired by Rudolf Carnap


Written by: 罗子禾


One day, I was striking up an interesting conversation with a friend about laws. We looked into the diversity of laws, viz. laws differ from region to region, from country to country, from era to era. We shared a moment of silent admiration after our shared realization that ages of legal and moral laws were all products of human actions. It’s funny that humans authored this intricate and enormous system of rules and norms, but we can’t seem to escape the banality of our lives.

All of a sudden, my friend said, “you know, even though humans wrote all these laws. The credit goes to God.”

“Here we go…” I replied with a deep sigh.

“No, man, look. Where did intelligence come from? Where did moral intuitions come from? Intelligence and moral intuitions are teleologically meaningful things. They are meant for something, i.e. helping us establish and further our pursuit of truth and goodness. It’s natural to think that they exist by the design of a creator. If you see a watch on the beach, would you think it’s more likely that some watchmaker fashioned it or would you prefer to think that the watch formed naturally? I’m allowing the possibility of a watch forming naturally. It is indeed possible, however remotely. But I choose to believe that something as intricate as a watch, which clearly has a specific purpose, is the product of thoughtful design. Now, would you really rather believe that intelligence and moral intuition formed naturally?”

“A scenario of intelligence and moral intuitions forming naturally, by means of mutations and natural selection is actually more plausible. My narrative tells a much fuller story. Check it. The origin of intelligence is just one or a few mutations. Before you say your creator is behind mutation, there is a full bio-physics story that explains how a mutation occurs as well. Let’s leave that aside for now. The genes of intelligence get added to the gene pool and get passed onto future generations. This ability turned out to be advantageous or even the key to survival in a lot of situations. So intelligence and its corresponding genes stayed in a lot of species’ gene pools rather stably, until hominids began consuming cooked foods, which, in time, increased brain capacity and gave intelligence a huge boost. So, to answer your question, yes, I’d much prefer believing that intelligence formed naturally rather than by the design of some creator, of which I see no evidence. The same goes for moral intuitions; there is a full narrative that does not involve a creator.”

Our stimulating conversation eventually turned into a repartee, and it could have gone a lot worse if we weren’t friends.

Too many of us get lured into these disagreements, which trap everybody in an atmosphere of anger and rashness, and nobody ever gets convinced. Then, perhaps we shouldn’t wantonly get into these arguments.

A Christian, who praises Jesus for her fruitful day, shouldn’t be met with my scorn if I asked about her day; if I wanted to convince an atheist, empiricist good-samaritan to come with me to a Hare Krishna soup kitchen, and he says no, I can either try to persuade him by making the case that humanitarian work is humanitarian work with or without religious branding, or I could move on to the next person. Barring extreme situations, there is really no need to discuss a person’s narrative of life, the cosmos, everything, unless the narratives are the topic that is agreed upon.

Make maximal use of what agreements you can solicit, and tolerate other people’s alternative narrative.



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Travel: Angkor Wat

What images float through your mind when you think about Cambodia? Do you see images where nature meets technology, and the ancient meets the modern? If so, then you’re already on your way to understanding a piece of Cambodian culture.

If you’re going to travel to Cambodia, then there are lots of places to go that are both entertaining and meaningful. The top choice for travelers is Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is an ancient Hindu temple city complex built in the early 1100’s (1115-1150). The entire complex sits on about 500 acres of land with different temple sites spread out within the thick forest of northern Siem Reap.

Entering Angkor Wat through the stone bridge, over the Siem Reap river is akin being transported through time. The complex is far from the hustle and bustle of the city. The atmosphere is charged and you’ll feel the irrevocable sensation that you are a tiny blip in the fabric of the universe compared to this ancient place. The stone towers spiral into the sky, towering above you and everything else within hundreds of miles. Although there are hundreds of tourists from around the world admiring the structures with you, it’s quiet. You can easily hear the sounds of nature against the backdrop of the low murmur of speech.

Recommendations

I recommend that you take your time here. Some people prefer to visit most sites in one day, but I recommend getting a two or three day pass. There is much to see, as Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious complex.

Angkor Wat is very hot and dry, so you’ll be tempted to wear more summer friendly clothing. It is important to keep in mind that at some sites, you cannot enter with bare shoulders and exposed thighs. Certain sites allow you to enter and stay on the ground level. If you wish to explore higher, then you’ll have to cover your shoulders. In most case, wrapping a simple scarf around your shoulders should suffice.

Bring lots of water. Although most of Angkor Wat is low-level hiking, it is a big place with little shade.

Don’t forget to live in the moment. When I traveled to Angkor Wat, I was one of several hundred tourists walking around in awe. Many of the tourists, I noticed, were so consumed by snapping photos that they missed some of the important bits. Angkor Wat was a social and religious center of the Khmer people. There is not one space in Angkor Wat that is bare of symbolism. You’ll notice the many different asparas (female spirits) carved along the walls.

Getting There

If you’re travelling alone, or with three other people, then getting a Tuk Tuk ( a motorized rickshaw) is the fun and cheaper option. Tuk Tuks can be found everywhere. If you inquire about it at your hotel, the staff will undoubtedly help you. If you’re with a big group, then booking a van is the best option.

Related:

Take a look at this short, artistic collection of images from Angkor Wat.


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A Society Cannot Stand Without Its Missing Piece

by Vivian


He asked me what we overlooked.

I told him love. The passionate one. The one that makes your skin crawl. Love that takes you to the edge of the universe and beyond.

I was in love once. I might be again.

He asked me if I’ve ever been in love. I told him yes. The “till death do us part” type of love. The blissfully falling type of love. Love that gives the butterflies in your stomach a permanent home.

I was in love once. I will never be again.

He asked me what it felt like. I told him, everything. The crazy, and high thrill. The ecstatic and melancholy, doleful and crestfallen love. Love that you think you understand – you don’t – but you do.

I was in love once. I might be again.

He asked me if I love him. I told him it’s just imaginary. The affair during the marriage that seemed so wrong but so right. The love of a wife, but not of a husband.

I was in love once. I will never be again.


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A Note on John McCain

by Mark Kodama


The passing of Sen. John McCain does not mark the end of an era but the passing of the baton. A lot has been said about the great void he has left.  But it is clear to me that this country – and this is one of the hallmarks of a great country and democracy – has many great leaders and will produce many more.

Speaker after speaker at this great man’s funeral affirmed for us the eternal values of this country.  Warrior, statesman and patriot, the great Republican Sen. John McCain not only loved America but lived its values which were tested under conditions that few of us would ever want to undergo.

Sen. McCain’s heroism as a POW in Hanoi, and courage as a senator and presidential candidate is well documented.  We know that he was beaten and tortured for five years after being shot down as a pilot. He turned down an opportunity for early release offered to him because his father was an admiral.

Although he had a reputation as a conservative, Sen. McCain was never afraid to cross party lines to vote for campaign finance reform, champion immigration reform and vote down repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  He also championed normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam.

Speaker after speaker recounted his infamous temper, as well as his sense of humor, and most of all, his authenticity and sincere love of American values. Former President Barack Obama spoke of his “largeness of spirit” and his belief that “some principals transcend politics, some values transcend party.”

Former President Obama recounted how Sen. McCain believed in “honest argument, and hearing other views.” and his belief that “all men were created equal endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.”

He also believed in America’s role in the world as a proponents of rule of law and human rights and dignity of every human being and that ours is “a country where anything is possible.”

Former President George W. Bush said of Sen. McCain: “He was honest no matter whom it offended – presidents were not spared.

“He loved freedom with a passion of a man who knew its absence.  He respected the dignity inherent in every life.

“Above all, John detested the abuse of power, and could not abide bigots or swaggering despots.”

Sen. McCain’s daughter Meghan recounted what a great father her father really was. That John McCain was really about love.

Sen. Joe Lieberman recounted how three dissidents in Myanmar said they would never have survived their torture and captivity but for the hope the great Sen. John McCain was working for their freedom.

John McCain believed in “freedom, human rights, opportunity, democracy and equal justice under law.”

Sen. Lieberman said Sen. McCain’s last great gift to America was to help us “nurture these values and take them forward” so America can be the “better country that it could be.”


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Travel: The Dwell Hotel

Overview 

Chattanooga, Tennessee is known for many things. From the beautiful Tennessee river that runs through the city, to the beautiful Appalachian mountains that frame it, it is truly a tourist’s playground. Chattanooga is also well known for being the site of many battles during the Civil War. As a result, Chattanooga has a wealth of historical museums and battlefields that the tourist can visit.

For the tourist looking to stay in a unique hotel, then my recommendation would be The Dwell Hotel. The Dwell has a long and rich history. Before it was ever a hotel, it was Fort James. The Fort played an influential role during the Civil War.

Decades later,  Chattanooga experienced an industrial explosion so spectacular that the moniker ‘Dynamo of Dixie’ was created to describe the sudden influx of businesses and money. During this time, Fort James became the ‘Colonial Hotel.’

The style and name of the hotel would continue to change, until 2016, under the innovative leadership of  Seija Ojanpera.

The Dwell 

Stepping inside The Dwell is like stepping inside of a fairy tale book. Think Alice in Wonderland meets The Great Gatsby. The Dwell has 16 uniquely designed rooms, all with bright and bold colors, accompanied with retro, but comfortable furniture.

The design of the hotel is honestly the best I’ve seen, as far as boutique hotels go. The Dwell is almost like a hotel that doubles as an art museum, which is obviously what all hotels need to be like.

If you didn’t think it was possible for the staff at a hotel to look as if they’re apart of the design, then you’ve been visiting the wrong hotels. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful.

Pros: 

Rooms are cozy and elegant.

The bathrooms are fantastic, spacious.

Staff is helpful.

Unique, and comfortable.

Cons:

Parking is a bit weird, but they have a complimentary valet service.


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Las Vegas Tales VIV

Bill DeSelms II
The Newspaper Reporter Prologue: The Business

by Mark Kodama


My first job was the police beat.
That’s where you either sink or swim.
I remember I once covered
A search and rescue launched
for a missing woman and child.

A few days later they found their bodies.
I was so angry
Those incompetents.
I didn’t want my story to end like that.
Dick White said “Kid, don’t take things so personally.”

Last week, a woman had a fight here with her husband.
She took her two small children with her into the desert.
They found her five-year-old boy about five miles from here.
He was dead.
They found her body with the infant a mile away.
Twenty years later, the same story, the same ending.

My next job was at UPI,
Covering Governor Romney in Lansing.
We were always smaller than AP.
After press conferences, we would race to get our stories out.
AP had a reporter.
He drank heavily, but boy could he write.
I dropped him at his house once.
It was in a nice neighborhood.
And his was the only yard unkept.
In his house, he had closets and closets
Full of shoes.
He ran over a kid.
Killed him.

After that he would never
Let his wife out of his house.
Once we were covering a Michigan state football game,
After the game, he stood over me as I was finishing my story.
“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” he said.
His eyes were wide and saliva dripped from his mouth.
His hands began to shake.

After I sent my story, we rushed to the bar.
When we were served our beers, he gulped down his.
Such a look of relief came over his face.
He grabbed the waitress and said “Wow, look at those tits.”
I thought “Boy.” Ten year later there I was.

Once I interviewed Richard Nixon at the airport.
It was after he lost to John Kennedy.
One of Johnson’s men had been caught
In a public bathroom with another man.
When I asked him about it,
He hunched over and began to hunker down.

My biggest scoop was about a scandal
At the National Guard.
After a year, I went to work as a flack.
When I went to see my former friends at UPI,
I learned right away I was no longer one of them.
Wow. I was no longer part of the business.

My life in public relations was a bore
But it paid me better than the business.
I got married and we had a daughter.
But it was the sixties.
You know freedom riders, civil rights
Vietnam and assassinations.
And of course free love.

One time my little daughter Marguerite
Saw me on the television.
She asked me how I got so small.
At that time, the revolution was coming.
Well, it came and went.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
I started drinking and fooling around.
One time, Marguerite caught me
In the bedroom with another woman.
I kept telling her “I was not that kind of guy!”
When I was married, my wife would always nag me.

The funny thing is when you are alone its worse:
Nobody cares.
I drank and I drank and then lost my job.
And then I lived on the streets.
Finally I had a heart attack.
As they wheeled me in to surgery,
I prayed to God for another chance.

Well, I gave up drinking and women.
I joined alcoholics anonymous.
I started a garden.
Have you ever planted seeds
And then watch them grow?
If you don’t believe in God,
Raise a garden then decide.

My wife bought me a car and new clothes.
And then I returned to do what I loved best:
Working in the business.
I got a job at the Columbus Dispatch.
And afterwards, came out west.

And now here I am.
I once met a lawyer.
After I wrote a story,
He said I misquoted him.
He then said I made grammatical errors.
So I asked whether he was a literary critic too.

That’s what I like about the business,
We always get the last word.
My poem is about the business,
Freedom of the press,
And the First Amendment,
About the very best
In a great tradition.


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Las Vegas Tales VIII

Bill DeSelms I
The Newspaper Reporter Prologue: The Business

by Mark Kodama

 


What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If
men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern
men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.

James Madison


Two movie houses, one closed, and four restaurants lined Main Street. We pulled
into a restaurant bar called Sauce and Pepper, next to the House of the Seven Lepers, for a soda, quick lunch and gas.

Dylan, a balding portly man, was the barkeep
He claimed four day jobs and to never sleep.
He was a little middle-aged man about yea high.
Sporting an awful sweater and an even worse tie.
He claimed two Ph.Ds and a law degree;
And two rich girlfriends of whom no one ever sees.

The first was a Danish fairy tale heiress
The second, a blond Russian mob princess,
Dylan said: “When her thug husband threatened me
I responded by demanding that he should flee.
I put my finger in his face ‘Do you think I am afraid of you?
I used to wrestle in high school.’

“I told my two lovers: ‘I know I’m worth it but please no strife.
Resolve your differences in a tete a tete.
To decide what part of me each one gets.’”
I said: “‘Sorry for my sangfroid;
But might I suggest a ménage a trois.’
Marriage is not in my DNA, not in my bones
Like my namesake said: ‘I’m a rolling stone.’”

We moved from the bar into the shaded courtyard. There was a small stage in
the corner. The musician set up on the stage and began playing “Norwegian Wood” on his
acoustic guitar.

At a table in the small courtyard, a thin, dapper middle-aged man with a craggy
face and short gray hair sat alone in a booth. He wore a freshly pressed dress shirt with a
frayed collar and old tie. A book was on the table: Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My
Lovely. He ordered “an unsweetened ice tea with a twist of lemon.” He was eating lunch
with a shaggy red-haired photographer with a goat beard named Fred.

We asked him his name. He was Bill DeSelms, a newspaper reporter from the paper, the Desert Dispatch. He said he covered city hall, about a mile away, on the hill,
up the street. In the distance was a massive rail yard.

Bill suggested the tuna melt or perhaps the breakfast burrito. I ordered the tuna
melt with French fries and an ice tea with a twist of lemon.

We asked them to join our small company. They agreed.


My name is Bill DeSelms,
No, I am not the editor,
I am just a reporter,
You know “Jus’ the facts Mam”
That’s me.

Boy, I love the business.
How did I get here?
How did I not get here?
This is California, man.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York.
My mother was French Canadian.
She used to tell me in French:
“I love you, I adore you,
You are all mine.”

Never met my father.
He was a mustang in the Marines Corps.
That’s a Marine who rose through ranks
To become an officer.
He was killed at Iwo Jima
In ’45, trying to take Mount Suribachi.
He is buried at the Punch Bowl in Hawaii.
I am gonna to see him some day.

I joined the Marines myself when I came of age.
Spent my time on search and destroy missions in the Philippines.
Surprised? Yes, we burned villages looking for communists.
You don’t believe me?
Well, as we say in the business,
Never let the facts get in the way
Of a good story.

I was busted down for pulling a knife on a redneck cracker.
He was from Louisiana
He talked like he had shit in his mouth.
When I got out of the Corps,
I got a job at the Cheyenne Eagle.
Dick White was the City Editor.
Dick was also from the Corps.
He used to tell me I was just made for the business.
He also taught me the finer things.
Dick liked literature and things like the Opera.
I used to think that was sissy shit.

But afterwards it made me think
‘Well, maybe there was something to this.’
Dick White was a real man, an educated man.
Once he took me to see Billie Holiday.
I told her, “Hey, you sing pretty good.”
At the time, I did not know who she was.

When I first worked for the Eagle,
I had to write an obit.
When I misspelled the dead man’s name,
Dick White took me aside.
He said, “Look, people keep these things
In their family Bible.
Besides, you don’t want to lose your job.”


Continue reading this poem, here.

For Princess Miah

by Mark Kodama


I am a ballerina dancing in the sky,
Looking down at my audience from on high.
I rule from a castle at the edge of the woods,
Where the house of Hansel and Gretel once stood.

I have one thousand and one peppermint soldiers,
Who follow my each and every order.
Pirates, sharks and ruffians beware,
I will throw you in jail if you dare.

I love to eat chocolate ice cream bears,
And pepperoni pizza served in squares,
And drink root beer vanilla floats,
While swimming in my castle moat.

My dad and mom think they know more than me,
But little do they know, I’m the queen bee.
Uncle Mark, I would like to stay but I must go
My dad and mom are here and I love them so.


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Stamped

by Blue_Notebook


Their bodies have gone soft, almost on the verge of melting down like burnt candles. Look! See that one melt with a smile on his face as if folly became he.

Rivet your gaze and witness! The melting of a thousand souls in this bright room swarmed by the strongest tempest.

What is it that a voice so faded has longed enough to utter? Bear with me for my hearing is clogged with blood coming from the mouth of my thoughts.

Ah! Poison you say? Is it indeed poison that a tongue deprived of nudity suffers to howl?

Eyes! My dear normality! Eyes must and are meant to stay wide open for such poison to finally take the form of words.

Hear now! Say, what is it indeed that they whisper to your senses? Focus! And pray for it not to be, “The reign of coffins.”

Light! Painful in the perception of the mad! Extinguish such torturer for they who crawl and they who walk are meant to roam under the hands of darkness. It pains them to be seen and to see. For such spectacle is indeed not for the living nor for the dying. Only those who are in between are given the opportunity to enjoy and peruse the roughened surface of this place.

Behold and tense not in the sight of the damned and the chained!

It is but a comedy to the blind and a fantasy to the insane. The endless pursuit of the decapitated for the cliff of oblivion; their hands imprinting death on their paths as they strive for wings. But what misfortune it is to find themselves flying with their bones as a parachute! None but I and the others who belong with my category have arrested such sight without any contempt. There is no room for one when we acknowledge the beauty of such exit.

The ravens flew with their golden wings as gray hands with dead fingernails draw themselves outward, though chained, to the beckoning voice of a moth. But a moth it is not. For that is my– our, freedom. The only door remaining for us to exit upon. And yet, must I do it, my body must suffer from decapitation too the way the rest of us did. It is true that I have been known as the warrior old. A fighter who battles with life in order to be with my beloved death at all cost. I long for its embrace, for its touch upon my skin, for the thrill of its words as my pieces gather before it. There I will run, naked and free from those shackles.

Lift them higher! Ah! Run fast! For life might get you back and the chains might get thicker. And yet such is a vision, a stupor in pity for the rheum my eyes have produced.

Phantasms, if given power, can surpass the capabilities of a phantasmagorical event. And I dare but elude the possibility of my being freed and at last, be rid of such lurid place full of cretins. So I reach for more, this time my hands grapple on the chains placed on my aching wrists. Then lo! A crack long and deep, red in tincture, appeared under my arms.

Continue! Pull! See the overflowing success as I dissipate from such horrible place. Ah! The sensation of being lifted is overwhelming. Here I have stayed, in this gloomy place inhabited by bleakness. Now I am winning my freedom.

Pull! Pull and see from my cracks the redness of my life as it flows
towards death amorphous. Drain it all out until I am but a liquid crawling toward my beloved.

At last, with one last drop of strength, I pulled my self out of such wounded carcass. No longer am I chained, no longer am I seen, no longer am I suffering. To the caress of death I go, stamped with victory, tired and in need of the abyss endless where I can lay, drifting in its recesses without rue.

Do What It Takes

by J. Niziolek


We will not be defined by the struggles we are facing.
The distance between us has always been like a paper airplane.
It seems like the miles will soar on for forever, but soon we will find ourselves landing in the same spot we’re supposed to be before the air stops lifting the paper wings in the sky.

We will do whatever it takes.
We have a new direction, but the goal is the same.
You and me in whatever our forever will end up looking like.
We refuse to play with the paints of fantasy anymore; we will build something from the brinks and borders of struggles and adversities.

Painting our sky by the faith of the monarch butterfly a blue that even water would envy.
We know the work we have ahead of us to reshape the picture from dream to final reality will take time, but it will be time well spent.
Especially if it makes us a better, stronger partner to one another.
Doing whatever it takes is the hardest DIY project ever done.
Because reinventing a picture for two people meant to be with one another, is always a worthwhile challenge to embark upon.
When it’s love; when it’s real, you do whatever it takes.

The Clothes We Try On

 

by Vivian


The men and woman try each other on
Casually, like suits, rejecting those that do not fit.
The clothes that fit the body snug
Complimenting the curves and concave stomachs
He was here to stay, but only for the season
She found one that fits, one that compliments her eyes
He was just to wear a couple times and then

Forgotten.

But at the end of the day, the clothes come off –

Get switched for a new set.
When she finds another suit, better and bolder
And when he doesn’t compliment her eyes anymore,
Not as much as her, she’ll switch him in
For the one that makes her eyes twinkle.
She’ll be happy with her new clothes for a while…
Until she finds one that makes her eyes sparkle.


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