Work Ethic

You do the job that’s in front of you. This phrase has been at the forefront of my mind for the last several weeks, ever since I was promoted to Lab Support Administrator. There is a tremendous amount to do, and it’s a bit overwhelming sometimes,* but I’ve been making a list and just working my way down it. Start a task, finish a task.

Continue reading

Why I don’t care about Facebook changes

I have to admit, I underestimated Facebook at first. As a User Support Specialist at Missouri State University, I was given the opportunity to beta test Facebook before it was released to everyone. You might remember that Facbook was only available to colleges in its infancy, and so the creators wanted to make sure it worked for colleges while at the same time we wanted to make sure we wanted it on our campus.

At that time, you had to have a .edu email address to create an account on Facebook, and the institution in question had to agree to let their students log in (else their email address wouldn’t have been able to create an account). That was all thrown out the window a year or so later when Facebook was opened up to high school students, then business users, then everyone.

I’ve seen every change Facebook has undergone since it was first shown to the public, and I’ve also seen the backlash and subsequent responses of the Facebook team as the community has struggled with a fluid service that is constantly undergoing changes. Every change, no matter how small, elicits an outcry from people who will quit the service if the change isn’t rolled back, followed immediately by a flurry of rumours that Facebook will soon start charging for its use. Everyone freaks out constantly about this free service that has set the bar for a successful social networking site.

And I just don’t care. That isn’t quite as flippant a statement as it seems, because I often wondered why I didn’t care. I’m not in love with Facebook (when we first tested it, I thought it was a rather shallow service and didn’t see the point–I especially disliked how locked down it was, a walled garden of social networking), but I certainly use the service to schedule events and parties, send out announcements to groups, and check in to see how my friends are doing and what they’re up to. So if I use it, why don’t I care? Why haven’t I joined the slavering masses, a’feared that my primary social networking service is going to be destroyed by megalomaniacal despots?

I guess because I never really took ownership of my Facebook page. Similar to my MySpace account, I saw it as complementary to my primary online presence and never came to rely on it. My personal website is my core, and these are just extra services to help me connect with people.

It is the relationships and lines of communication I have established with others that makes these services worthwhile, not their appearance, arrangement, or colours. To that end, Facebook has finally improved their messaging service to make it quick and reliable, it auto-imports my blog entries via RSS, and its group feature is pretty decent. I can find people easily and they can find me. Beyond that, I don’t care.

They can do whatever they want to the home page, the photos, and how the information is displayed on the screen. I generally find their changes to be acceptable and even pleasant down the road, and though I don’t particularly like the current iteration (having status updates be front-and-center like a Twitter feed; I particularly dislike that when I click “notes” on the left, I only see other people’s notes, and getting to my own is more difficult now), my life doesn’t exist on Facebook. My online presence isn’t centered there.

That’s why I made a website to begin with. I was tired of Livejournal and Xanga jerking me around, screwing with my stuff, so I sought out autonomy. If you get all worked up about social networking services jacking with your pages, maybe you need to move your web presence elsewhere. Climb over the wall, take some control back, and quit’cher’bitchin’. You don’t own Facebook and never will, so if you really want to take ownership and make something how you want it to be, go out and do it.

And along those lines, if you’re looking for a designer for your site, I can recommend a top notch one 😉 He’ll make you something beautiful and it’ll be all yours.

The Inherent Existence of God

I published an article on October 20th indicating that I was finally beginning to understand Nagarjuna, and if my test results from my Buddhism class aren’t completely based on nepotism, I apparently have a firm grasp on the other concepts of this religion as well. Therefore, I feel confident moving forward with this discussion, at least as confident as I’ll ever be, and turn towards why I disagree with Nagarjuna regarding inherent existence.

To recap, Nagarjuna states that nothing inherently exists because such a concept is absurd. To inherently exist means to be eternal, to never change, and Nagarjuna states that something which never changes can never change anything else either. If something inherently existed, it could not move, could not feel, could not be moved, and could not move anything else. It would also have to be unconditional, which is to say that nothing would cause that which inherently exists. Likewise, that which inherently exists cannot cause anything else.

The logical conclusion of this line of argument is that if something does not possess inherent existence–that is to say, it is capable of change–it will die. Likewise, everything that is temporary and going to die is also conditional; everything is caused by something else. Nothing exists on its own.

That which is temporary and conditional is “empty,” Nagarjuna would say. It has no inherent existence; it is conditional on something else, and is itself a condition for other states. It only exists, is only defined, by its conditions. It is empty.

You may have already surmised my response, which is that Nagarjuna’s perception was limited. He observed the world around himself with the same assumptions everyone in Asia made at the time and came to these logical conclusions, but they’re only logical based on that limited perception.

It should be stated here that, within Buddhist theology, there are gods. I had previously always believed it an atheistic religion, or philosophy, but there are certainly gods within Buddhism. And these gods are the same as everything else: susceptible to change, death, and rebirth.

I believe strongly that I serve a God who is both the beginning and the end, however; who has always existed and always will. Despite that, I do not believe that God inherently exists as Nagarjuna would define it.

The Christian God “inherently exists” in that His existence is not conditional. God does not depend on anything else for His existence. However, inherent existence, to my mind, does not preclude the inability to change or to affect change. Nagarjuna took a step from “not caused” to “unable to cause” that I cannot quite comprehend. The only arguments he offers is that if something is not caused, it cannot exist, and therefore cannot cause anything else. But what if something existed without being caused? Could it not then affect change?

Our God exists without being caused, and this fact alone leads to the unraveling of Nagarjuna’s chain of logic. Beyond this, we know that God can change, else He would have wiped out the Israelites during the time of Moses, left them in exile in Babylon, or left humanity dwelling in sin. The story of Jesus is a story of changing times, and it was our God who changed them.

God doesn’t need us for His existence. God just is. But He presses into us as we press into Him, He shapes and teaches us, and we must therefore recognize that God affects change. God claims to be the beginning and the end, and I cannot dispute His claim. I have met God, and know His face. It smiled, and in this, I saw God move.

The Check

There is something blessedly comforting
In the check that comes at the end of a meal.
True, it is one you must pay; its inevitability
Absolute.

        Yet even so,
        With all its monetary requirements,
        There it still sits.

Never a flutter
        of anger,
Never a cloud
        of concealed hate.

The bill has no soul, much like that
    which satisfies it.

        The check never changes-
                it rarely surprises.

Rather, it waits,
    Peacefully dozing,
                Until settled and one leaves.

Yes, there is a comfort
        In that which never changes,
                Even if it costs.

Bordering on Neurotic

While I am not against Change or its many avatars, I admit that I have become a creature of habit. My life has been tumultuous for so long that I began to cling to what bedrocks I could, however minor they may be. Though everything else in my life would be in a state of flux, I still had my books. The words greeted me the same today as yesterday, and those worlds were known and safe because they were unchanging from the time ink was set to page. When my life is particularly fluid, I cling to the same cereal, the same side of the bed, the same route to work… I find what stability I can in the little things so as to face the bigger things with a stronger stance.

So when I go grocery shopping, I have a routine. I always go to the same Wal-Mart and I always buy the same things. I have a relationship developed over the years with these particular foods and brands, so imagine my distress when one is discontinued, or even if the packaging is changed. If an item is even just out of stock, I start to worry that I will never see it again. And, as was the case with April’s tortelloni, I begin to hoard.

What if I never see this food again? I’d better buy a lot of it, just to get as much out of it as I can while it’s still here…

Subsequently, when I went grocery shopping last week, I bought a fair amount more than I probably should have. The pasta sauce I prefer, Bertolli’s, had been moved to an end-shelf the previous time I had been at Wal-Mart. What if they were trying to get rid of it all as a precursor to dropping the brand? I bought five jars, just in case. I think I spent around $20 just on tortelloni.

Of course, one can never find true stability in man-made constructions, routines, or packages. I recognize the neurosis as ludicrous, but it strikes me as a relatively minor vice, akin to my love of coffee. It would be better to not indulge, but if I am going to indulge at all, at least let it be something minor like this with so little impact on my life or the lives of others.