Mt. Wilson Observatory

I’d like to offer a summer recommendation if you’re in the Los Angeles area.

On May 19th I went to Mt. Wilson Observatory for the first of what will be a series of lectures throughout the rest of the summer. Our lecturer was Dr. Carrie Nugent, who who studies asteroids. She gave a lively talk about asteroids, and discussed how they are a preventable natural disaster. It was educational, entertaining, and she was extremely engaging. She also has a podcast, which I will link below.

https://www.listentospacepod.com

Afterwards they offered bbq burgers and drinks for purchase, followed by the option to view through one of their telescopes. On that night we got to look through the 100-inch telescope.

It was the first time so the numbering system for viewing through the telescope in the evening was a bit disorganized, especially for those who were given a latter number. I’m sure that’ll be fixed for the future though and all of the attendees were wonderful and naturally curious people.

Some people even brought personal telescopes, so it turned into a bit of a star party. Many people there were keen to share their knowledge of the night sky. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend going, especially with friends. As there is some time between the end of lecture and telescope viewing, I’d bring food and beverage of your own. There were plenty of picnic tables. Also definitely make sure to bring warm clothing. It was honestly some of the best fun I’ve had in a while.

 

https://www.mtwilson.edu/lectures/

Language and the Arts

Last night I attended a lecture that is part of a series called Recovered Voices. It’s an initiative aimed at highlighting composers whom were suppressed by the Nazis. This week’s lecture was particularly interesting for me, as it took on a philosophical slant. The following stood out to me: from a practical standpoint, how do we-if at all-encourage people to attend concerts that highlight these voices (this will be an interesting usage of the term, as will be evident in a minute) without it seeming to exploit music that may have originated under horrible circumstances? If music director’s opt to highlight these pieces, do they have a responsibility to highlight the circumstances and context under which the music was composed when presenting the pieces to a wider audience? This will largely depend on how we philosophically understand music, or the meaning of it (if it has meaning at all). The following is an excerpt from the supplemental reading of the lecture (which I recommend reading as it will be much more succinct with expertly observations):

“Of course the battle for and about musical meaning has been going on for centuries.  For some, music is nothing more or less than the relationship between tones in “musical space,” gloriously abstract and preferably untainted by too much contact with other aspects of reality.  Others insist on a general connection between human states of mind and behavior and musical gestures, while still others wish to forge closer connections, arguing, as did Mendelssohn, that music is actually the most precise commentary on human existence.  Finally, in Terezín artists and musicians also used music as a means for sending messages that exposed the propaganda lie of the camp.”

http://orelfoundation.org/journal/journalArticle/what_kind_of_historical_documen

I’ve often wondered how we view the meaning of art. It’s communicative but is there a meaning to these pieces? Additionally it seems like (at least from personal reflections on my own experiences, which is a weak measure) different arts will lead to different reflections (perhaps differently depending on the person).

I remember some years ago, I went to the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art (LACMA) for guided tour that coupled the paintings of an era/location with foods that may have been served during that era and location. My food motivation runs deep.

As we walked through the exhibit the guide explained the context of the paintings and what made them so remarkable (the food if you were wondering, was not remarkable. Though I met a German who was a professional sommelier of water…yes, water).

The following paintings stood out to me (keep in mind this was some years ago):

 

John Singer Sargent, "Portrait of Mrs. Edward L. Davis and Her Son, Livingston Davis," 1890

 

https://unframed.lacma.org/2016/10/31/haunted-lacma-wanderings-john-singer-sargent-portrait

http://brownboygenius.com/2015/02/black-man-sued-right-vote-1780-youve-probably-never-heard/

The portrait on the left is of Maria and Livingston Davis, a mother and son from a prominent family. Though visually it is striking, it’s significance comes from context. Looking at it from today’s perspective it may seem like any other nice depiction of a mother and son, however this type of posture and the tenderness depicted in the painting is in context extremely unusual, especially of a family of prominent class. Paintings like this were typically very postured, perhaps even rigid, to signify class. Here there is a warmth and casualness that is extremely unusual.

The other is a commissioned portrait (possibly) of Captain Paul Cuffee, a freed slave who became a prominent and wealthy business man. Though the painting is not a technically remarkable portrait, the significance of the painting comes from the ability of Paul Cuffee to commission such a portrait. It is extremely meaningful in context.

Perhaps we may say that that context doesn’t give the painting itself meaning, but only our understanding of it. Is that so? (Spoken language relies on understanding meaning from context quite a bit)

Now with this lecture that touched on the meaning of music and it’s ethical applications, especially when we consider music composed under horrible circumstances, I wonder how far we take context to understanding the meaning of music (if it has meaning at all).

Thinking about this now, I think there are two concepts to flesh out: enjoyment and meaning. It SEEMS from my own perspective (which is a horrible metric) like context is less important for the enjoyment of music than it is with artwork, which I wonder if it may get confused with meaning. For example, I truly enjoyed learning about the context of the paintings, it made it more meaningful to me. But with music I’m not sure that understanding the context affects my enjoyment of music. This may be a bit too centric to my own experience, but I think it may be a valid point with respect to the arts. Does something become more meaningful if it becomes more enjoyable? What do we mean by ‘meaningful’ when we talk about the arts?

More things for me to think about.

Time

At this very moment, I’m on a quick trip with one of my closest friends. This point in time for me consists of navigating through odd and complicated life crossroads, but I’ve never been so sure of myself. I’ve never been this happy, content, and surrounded by support.

Additionally, these are the last few hours of being 28. Time is an odd beast, and the older I get the more I realize it.

In university, I developed an interest in the nature of time. From a philosophy of language standpoint, indexicals in particular grabbed my attention. I’m really fascinated by how-probably mostly metaphysically- ‘I am here now’ is meaningful.

My very specific interest in philosophy of language found it’s home in philosophy of time, when I had one lonely but incredible course on the philosophy of space and time. It challenged some deeply engrained assumptions I had about how I understand the world around me. Is time real? What would that mean for it to be real (or not)? In what way does it exist? If it doesn’t, how do we make sense of our experience?

I also acknowledge that though it’s fun to play around with ideas, I want to understand the implications of those philosophical conclusions in various real world contexts. It seems fine fun to challenge the reality of time when we think about comfortable scenarios. But what about the uncomfortable ones? Not that those situations should mould our understand of what is, try to force something. However, I tend to think when we only consider the mundane examples, it does just that. It let’s you play with fun abstract ideas, but doesn’t help you get to what the reality is (whatever that may mean).

Currently, I’m beginning to piece together what some physicists have to say about our understanding of time. In essence, they don’t. At least not very well.

Something so seemingly absolutely fundamental to our understanding of our place in the universe-our existence- is so unknown. A mundane thought takes time to experience.

It’s bewildering and exhilarating. To the adventurer in me, it’s a unknown frontier that I want to explore.

So the older I get, the less I understand but in a strange way it’s had the effect that I value my time-whatever that may mean-more than ever, and spending it with the people whom I care for and care for me.

So-here’s to a 29! May it be filled with hygge, exploration, and a lot of love (reciprocated with the people who earn it 😉 ).

I am here now.

The Beginning of 2018

A while back, I got a paddle board and for my first trip with it I went out into the ocean. When I got out, it was beautiful. Calm serenity, looking out into the horizon and floating out, just touching the unknown. When I tried to get back to shore though, it was the first time in a very long time I felt fear. I should say, a specific type of fear; emotional fear I’ve felt. This fear was a twilight of primal/survival fear. I was out in the middle of an open ocean, not in prime physical shape, never had been out in the water with my board, trying to fight currents and waves to get back in. I was realizing I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was and for the first time in a very long time, I wasn’t sure if I was capable of saving myself. I was never in true danger as there were plenty of surfers around me. Pride wouldn’t let me ask for help though, so I pushed and paddled through as though no one was around. It took me a  long time to get back on shore and I was a bit away from where my friend was waiting for me. I was completely drained and the following day my entire back was in pain from pulling all of those muscles that I had never used before.

It was exhilarating.

I was afraid, but I was pushed (in a small way of course) out of my comfort zone. We get complacent sometimes, but I think in those places of the unknown when you get to test your own boundaries you learn so much. That’s what I want from life. I want to learn, grow, bring some joy to others, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to contribute in a positive way to the world.

It’s been an odd time in my life. I have been trying to get into graduate school for two years now. During that time I have had a job that-though not ideal (which job is?)-it provided some security for me during this interim. I’ve had amazing coworkers, it provided a supportive environment for the pursuit of personal goals, and for some time I even learned a bit about business and the people within it, so I waited for things to come together; I kept staying. But life doesn’t work in the way we plan, so even though I wasn’t being used to my full capacity it was easy for me to become complacent with where I was.

But I wasn’t happy. Perhaps it’s an irrational part of me, as how often do you really get a job that’s as relaxed as mine was and has coworkers who are as smart, funny, supportive, and talented as they are? But somewhere in me I want to feel that fear; I want to be pushed ahead of my limits. I want to use and extend my potential.

And so, perhaps against good judgement, I decided to leave my good job at the end of this month. Perhaps I’ll wind up in a worse situation, but hopefully that will propel me even further. I’m not truly sure what’s in store for me; I’ve nothing waiting for me. But I’m done waiting for nothing.

And so, here I go to make some more mistakes.

3 a.m.

image1I enjoy being alone. I love the virtues of being able to enjoy this remarkable existence as an individual.

Loneliness on the other hand is a deep and painful vortex that smothers the life out of an otherwise happy person.

I’m not scared to die alone, I’m scared I’ll live my life lonely.

I like being alone with my thoughts. I don’t like being with my own thoughts for very long.

I enjoy going to the movies alone. I don’t enjoy always going to the movies alone.

I enjoy relishing in a new restaurant alone. I don’t enjoy always eating alone.

I love that I now love, I don’t love that I love those who don’t love me back.

I enjoy traveling on my own. I don’t enjoy always experiencing a new place on my own.

I enjoy coming to a quiet home and being able to listen to silence. I don’t enjoy an empty house.

I enjoy curling up in bed. I don’t enjoy the pain I feel when I wake up and realize no one is there, no one ever has been there, and no one will probably be there.

I enjoy the night when the rest of the world seems to be asleep and I’m up to good trouble. I don’t enjoy waking up at 3am and feeling the crushing anxious realization that no one is here.

I enjoy waking up from a dream and being able to stretch out and enjoy the memory of it. I don’t enjoy waking up from a nightmare and having no one around to tell me it’ll be alright.

I enjoy looking at the night sky and wondering about how incredibly complex life is and how remarkably little I understand about the universe- feeling as though my place here right now is remarkable. I don’t enjoy feeling as though I don’t ever really belong anywhere or with anyone. Given the former, the latter feels all the more painful.

I love celebrating this remarkably unlikely life on my own. I don’t enjoy that I don’t have someone to celebrate life with me; sometimes it does seem like a chore.

I enjoy sharing my life through the internet, I don’t enjoy waiting to see if anyone else (if I’m being honest, waiting to see if particular someones) likes it.

I love being alone. I hate being lonely.

Life is really good, except in moments like this when it’s not.

i promise I’m fine, I just want to be honest about living life.

Why Aren’t Women in Philosophy?

FullSizeRender

Every few months, I either see or am sent an article about the relationship between women and philosophy. I’m always happy to discuss almost anything- but I’m a little perplexed as to the mystery behind the question; “why aren’t women in philosophy?”.

I should say, I’m not an expert on femaleness. I barely understand my Natasha-ness. But here’s my two cents (I was waiting for a flight so excuse my irritability. Wrote this as a Facebook post but wanted to journal this thought):

It’s a little like a B rated fast food joint-with good food-wondering why it can’t get more female and minority customers…when the online reviews are bad, when the lines are stupidly long, when you’ve been told there’s a good chance you’ll be harassed both in line and if you meet the employees, when you meet good employees but they consistently tell you the wait isn’t worth it unless you really want it, when the cost is expensive, and when you (as a woman or monitory) are told when you get to the front the employees will probably ignore you (intentionally or not) and pick the male customers behind you. On top of that-just for good measure-when you do get your order there’s a good chance you’ll get food poisoning. 

Given that there are other options, most rational people would chose another option…since there are better options. There are a few of us who just really, really like the food. And then there are the women and minorities who really, really, really like the food. And then a lucky few of us who know good people within the field who help us get through the shitty lines.

When your prospects for a decent job after six long years of intensive graduate studies is at best precarious unless you go to a top program, when quite a few talented students from middle class and lower income backgrounds are burdened with crippling student loan debt from undergraduate studies and can’t postpone payments for years (and then MAYBE have a job that can pay that plus living costs), when increasingly the masters route is given as the go to (when a masters in philosophy doesn’t have a lot of value above the undergraduate degree in and of itself AND you have to pay for it), when the mantra seems to be “don’t do it”, when the institution seems to trip over its feet when it’s presented with problems-mostly imo because quite a few of the people within academia have the life skills of a pre-teen (and a lot of the time act like it), and then after dealing with all of that you’re told your work won’t be respected or valued and there’s a good chance you’ll be harassed, just because you’re a minority and/or a woman-what intelligent person, especially from a middle to lower class background, would be rational to chose philosophy when almost anything else would on paper be a better risk for investment in terms time, intellect, economic prosperity, and frankly personal safety.
Philosophy is a privilege at its best, and at its worst like a bad retirement home.

But no, you’re right. I have no clue why philosophy can’t get more quality people. The mystery persists.

 

On the painting: I’m learning to watercolor. The painting included is a painting I worked on during a trip. Amateur, but I’m having a lot of fun with it.

 

-Natasha Haddal