Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Author-Reader Relationship: An Existential View of Personal Blogs in Cyberspace

Solitary person overlooking Lost Lagoon in Vancouver's Stanley Park

On this special occasion and landmark of my blog - it is the centennial entry - I would like to point out the importance of the reader in this blogger relationship.

Without the reader, the blog would not exist. The purpose of blogs, its raison d'être, is to have a readership following its posts. Of course, it is also beneficial for the author to gain personal satisfaction by simply producing articles and by honing one's craft, but it is published in cyberspace for the main reason of being read and possibly commented upon.

Some writers say they do not care about readership and are validated by the art of writing itself. That may be so, but it seems a contradiction in existential terms. Even if you produce a text for your eyes only, you are indeed a reader yourself. A text cannot exist without its reader; otherwise it is no different from a blank sheet of paper.

Similarly, a person cannot live, or rather exist, without a social context. For existence, we need the other to confirm our existence in the world, for them to see, acknowledge and react to us. In other words, each of us is a text that needs to be read and deciphered by other people in order to exist.

As a result, dead or invisible people do not exist unless you are a medium or you happen to think of them. I am also aware that following my argument, Robinson Crusoe would not exist. And yet he does. He simply exists through the fact that the reader reads about his adventures. By picturing and imagining him in our minds through the act of reading, he comes to life each time we grab the book and read his text. If he were unknown to us, he would cease to exist.

In psychological terms, we are all endowed with a personality – or so they say. But you still need the other to differentiate yourself from in order to have a personality to begin with. Another person needs to recognize you as having certain characteristics, such as humor, intelligence, or patience. No matter how funny you may think you are, if you do not make anybody laugh, you are not funny. We need the other to validate or refute us.

Likewise, in a world where everybody is good and honest, evil and deceit would not exist. The fact then that you are good means really nothing because so is everybody else. In this case, we need the other, as our opposite pole to help us set us apart from them. The definition of good is the counterpoint and negation of evil, the yin and yang.

To return to our first proposition, I want to thank all my readers for helping my blog – and me – to come into being. If I say it would not exist without you, I mean it ... literally.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Negative Aspects and Attitudes of Science versus Religion

God with scientific instruments as geometer
God the Geometer
Throughout history - with the exception of the Middle Ages - science and religion have been at odds with each other. While religion tended to lean toward refinement of the spirit and was rather engulfed in spiritual matters at the expense of earthly matters (I am considering most Western religions), science instead chose to accumulate knowledge and to form its theories based on physical bodies. Science preferred and valued events rooted in material evidence, observable facts that could be reproduced and replicated through controlled experiments.

Religion became more and more rule-based and dogmatic and thrived mainly on authority and hierarchy. In its negative forms, it developed a specific stance of mind, the “holier-than-thou” attitude. A priest because of his study, knowledge, experience, contact with the Almighty presupposes special abilities and the right to not only teach, but to actually preach. He considers himself as authorized to show and reveal to the rest of humanity the supposedly wrong and sinful paths and traps that we get lost and ensnared in.

Science, on the other hand, grew more and more confident, and to a certain extent it became too engulfed and self-absorbed in its deterministic factual ways. Science, again in its darkest moments, has become arrogant with a “know-it-all” attitude; supposed superficial superstitions are dismissed as mere child's play and fancy, yet at the same time, science overlooks the fact that it has become trapped in its own myth and superstitious force. Science in its rigid form is happy to limit itself to only those events seen and measured, but remains unresponsive to anything that defies its paradigm; it rejects and brushes off the invisible as nonexistent.

The ideal would be, as in most cases, a moderate approach, the middle way. There is a fine, yet distinguishable line between teaching and preaching, and, at the same time, nobody enjoys a patronizing voice. Render to religion what belongs to religion, and science to science. Both have made valuable and insightful contributions to the human condition; both are essential for life, and none can really exist or survive in isolation from the other.