The Behemoth Saga

    While the writings in this mini-saga are based on trite philosophical topics, the stories built to express them have become the foundation of my blog-world's life.  The character personifications and antics have entertained readers around the world while giving them all insights into higher learning and distinctly American sensibilities.  For the casual reader, a review of simple, basic and schoolish topics can be refreshing or perhaps even shed light on unrelated events or concerns in your life.  So, please enjoy reading these stories, critique them as you will, and carry the humor that they give you along with the insights that you might need to glean from them.

The Nope-Master's Greatest Hits

   When I first began writing on the Internet, I was an frequent visitor at Yahoo!Answers, where trolling, cyber-bullying, atheism, and comical disrespect for academic value runs rampant.  I spent lots of energy developing a style of answering which combined meaningful wisdom, academic validity, and competitive wit.  It was difficult to be more entertaining than the contemptuous trolls while being at least as knowledgeable as the academians who often earned Best-Answer votes without effort.  I found that playful and randomly unrelated Answers were often welcome and rewarded on the repetitious "What is the Meaning of Life" questions (or Meaning-o-Life, as I started to call them), an unpremeditated first posting by a new visitor who was fearful of attempting to be an Answerer, yet wished to be seen publicly on the Internet-and could do so as an Asker.  After a few weeks of answering this same question many times, most Answerers grew weary of typing the same text over and over again, especially in light of the obvious search engine built in to Yahoo's website.  I posted several variations of non-answers on many cases of the Meaning-o-Life questions, and my efforts began to become equally repetitious and tiresome.  Finally, I just compiled and abridged eight of my favorite Answers and began to paste them into new occurrences of the Meaning-o-Life question.

    Meanwhile, I was also posting variations of the "Famous Desk Test," and a collection of those texts has been put together with commentary in a separate page called "The Magic of Repetition."  But that's a separate story.  As often as not, in the repetitions of the Meaning-o-Life questions, the Asker would forbid Answerers from mentioning religion in their postings, and you will see here as well as in the Behemoth Saga stories how I handled that request.  The primary reason for including these eight paragraphs is to serve as a content-based prelude to the Behemoth Saga.

1. There is something unsettling about our existence, perhaps it is caused by the fact that we have consciousness and are able to communicate it, or perhaps it is because we consider ourselves to be the only sentient beings on this planet. There are those of us who accept the non-answers for this question and go on our merry way, believing in this new (albeit false) principle for our lives, and then there are those who know that it must strike a chord in us to be true. Maybe those who accepted the non-answers had that experience, too, and prove silently that such a criteria is an inappropriate measurement for this question. Life's Meaning is simply an ordering principle which does nothing more than give us a sense of direction by showing us where we are.

2. Work, work, work! Perpetuating the species is neither a sensical nor nonsensical thing to do. It's the genetic purpose of living beings. Even plants do it. The purpose of procreation (i.e., the Meaning of Life) is an individual effort, almost a competitive struggle. "I procreate so that my progeny can outnumber the other guy's progeny." That's what procreation is all about. Life itself and the fact that we have brains is merely something to pass the time in-between children. Gee, that's kinda depressing. I'm glad I disagree with it.

3. Godzilla doesn't have any religion. Should I be afraid of you? There is a tiny little earthworm crawling up out of the drain in my bathtub swirling around in the ceramic basin, squirming in the light with all the stinging soap-stains, and I look down at it and wonder, "What is the point of your life? You're not Godzilla. I'm not afraid of you! You're nothing but a little worm!" Contradiction: You insist that I not speak of Religion, but "life is so godless." Oh, I get it. You're a paradox!

4. If you can say "Cogito ergo Sum," a predatory carnivore will be tempted to eat you!

5. Yet another in the continuing struggle of the 42-ish quandary of conundrums! Is it time for yet another visit to the bookstore for yet another copy of that amazing technological invention (The Electronic Book-like device which has a huge yellow smiley face on it that calmly advises each reader, "Don't Panic!")? Yes, the supposedly science-fiction notion presented in the Douglas Adams novel quadrilogy, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy of a paperless book in a portable electronic format is in fact a reality now. You can get a Kindle at  You can get a NOOK at Barnes&  The Apple iPad is much more than a paperless book, but it still counts as one.  Does this constitute an existential crisis for Reality? What happens when the realm of science fiction becomes real objects readily available on the market? When Sci-Fi becomes reality?

6. Misconstrued. Most people who ask for the "Meaning" of Life are actually seeking an Answer to their sense of lacking purpose, and they want to be told what the purpose or intent of life is. Life has no meaning, inasmuch as an empty glass has no meaning. The glass only has meaning when you fill it halfway, because then you have done something incompletely, and have therefore failed. Or, on the other hand, perhaps you had filled the glass completely but only drank it halfway down, in which case you have still failed at something. There will always be somebody in your life who has been given the authority to convince you that your life is incomplete and therefore needs to be explained, explored or repaired. Whether this be an intentional discourse or a mere assessment on your part, it is still an intrusion against the "self," and this causes weakness in your self-esteem, gives rise to fears of an impending Identity Crisis. You're too established in your ways to have Identity Crises, and you don't understand the thoughts that arise from an Existential Crisis, so you run around inside your head, wondering what the meaning of Life could possibly be. It cannot be what you used to think, because if it were true, you wouldn't be doubting it, would you?

7. The dogs roam the streets in a cantankerous herd, packing like gerbils and swarming like birds, bellowing like vain breezes in trees, a soundless howl against the icy winds of Winter in a midwestern cornfield, and looking for strange lights in the skies (while we enjoy a peaceful reverie noticing the shape of Orion's bow and arrow), and yet we toil in the soil mining for gold as we age mercilessly wailing at the waning of our lives.

8. We exist because we are here, and our sense of duty is determined by society. In an existentialist view, our meaning / purpose / value in Life is merely living it. Sometimes people recite the blind optimism that Life is a gift that should be cherished, but when you go to bed alone and stare at the ceiling, you get pretty saddened when you have to disagree and say that "It just is." Sometimes people spout the famous aphorisms, unhelpfully, "Go where you're most needed when you're most needed." and "Help others, join a charity, etc." Others will spew contempt at you for posting a question which could conceivably be searched in Google's search engine, but sometimes the point of posting the question yourself is the magic of having somebody talking directly to you.

   As I was beginning to lose interest in writing--and trolling--at Yahoo!Answers, my good friends Happy Hiram and BabySnoopyFan invited me to join them in a round-table blogging site which would be called "Bread n Circles:  Philosophy a la carte."  We wrote segments of our discussions in emails which we circulated among the four of us who would participate in it, and after we were done passing the discussion around three or four times, the webmaster (Happy Hiram) would arrange the entries, design the page, and post the whole thing on the website.  I eagerly joined the first round-table discussion, since the Nope-Master was widely known for his constant mockery and disrespect in the subject of Meaning-o-Life questions.  Happy Hiram began the discussion by declaring that Wikipedia's definition of "The Meaning of Life" is based on dissatisfaction, and considered the Pink-Floydesque question of "leading lives of quiet desperation." BabySnoopyFan immediately supported the suggestion with a quote from the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."  My first submission to the discussion, clearly a reflection on my abandoned postings at Yahoo!Answers, was unexpectedly non-narrative, caustic and provocative.
The Meaning of Life at Bread n Circles

     I don't think that dissatisfaction is the only basis for this question.  Before I get into that though, I just wanted to propose a paradox that arose precisely because of our new subtext, the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," a delightfully mysterious allegory of the Human Condition.  I asked myself, "What is the Human Condition?" While Coleridge characterizes it beautifully, I wanted to define it.  Strangely enough, my answer had something to do with genetic propagation of the species.  But that's not very Human.  I'll try to avoid getting all Wittgensteinian about this, but when we answer that the "Meaning of Life" is to serve God or Allah, or to do the most Good for the most people, or achieve Nirvana through transcendental meditation, we should be reminded that bacterium and viruses are lifeforms as well.  Does the Swine Flu bug "please God" by causing people to vomit in public places, or did the HIV virus "please God" by decimating the Gay population in the 1980's and reducing the entire world into abject terror in the 1990's while the rallying cry among populist Christians was "AIDS is God's way of saying that Homosexuality is wrong!"  It was only when HIV began to infect the heterosexual community that those self-same populist Christians realized how inappropriate it was to be rallying behind such an accusation.  However, I have turned the question around and must err on the side of brevity.  Oops, too late!

    While I was entering this discussion, the company that I worked for at the time was implementing a new Accounting application platform (Don't be a SAP!  Step into EGAP!"), so things got very busy at work.  After this first submission, I had little or no time for the follow-up, and after several days of being pestered, I finally presented the quick, logical formula which defied the suggestions that control-mania could be the answer.

1.  "Nature abhors a vacuum."
2.  Non-Universality equals Quantity (All) minus one.
3.  If everybody were insatiably in need of being in control, existence would be nothing but conflict.
4.  As long as 'somebody' is in control of themselves, I am at peace.

  But, finally, my penchant for narrative won out, and the first episode of what has become known as "The Behemoth Saga" was born.  One note:  Happy Hiram had suggested that if I were to throw Christians into the argument, that he could throw Homosexuals into the discussion with equal result.  My reaction to his suggestion pays appropriate homage to the Mel Brooks film, Blazing Saddles.  The reference to Pope Julian is an homage to the Erasmus tract, "Pope Julian Excluded from Heaven" (included in an anthology for his famous book, The Praise of Folly).

     The Behemoth stood resolutely in front of a massive bonfire, his arms spread out before him.  "I proclaim all of this world to be my domain!"  He spread his fingers emphatically.  "Everyone who abides here is my subject, every creature that walks the earth or flies aloft, or swims in the briny seas, must humbly bow before me!"

    A bear lumbered out of the forest and stepped up before the behemoth, belting out a deafening roar.

    The Behemoth chuckled and picked up the bear with one hand, tossed him over its shoulder into the flames.  "You do not scare me!"

    The bear howled horrifically as the flames first singed away its fur and then began to scorch its skin into blisters.

    The behemoth turned to look towards the forest.  He shouted, "Is that all you got?"

    A homosexual pranced out from between the largest trees at the edge of the clearing.  "Well, look what we have here!  There you are, all big and brutish, all broad-shouldered and furry!  Did you bring enough for everyone, or do I get to make you all mine?"

    The Behemoth grimaced and tried to speak.  After a second, he shrugged and tossed the homosexual into the flames.  The homosexual screamed with ear-piercing yelps as he shouted "You brute! You brute!" repeatedly.

    Pope Julian (the apostate) stepped up and chastised the Behemoth.  "You will not withstand the onslaught of The Church's armies.  We have God on our side."

    The Behemoth sneered and tossed the Pope over his shoulder into the flames.

    St. Francis of Assisi stepped up.  "In God's eyes, all creatures are equal.  Humans are the Lord's special creatures, created by Divine Providence, blessed with a unique soul and intellectual capacity.  But all of God's creatures can earn a place in God's Heaven, despite your claim to final authority in this world."

    The Behemoth laughed boisterously.  "What creature can earn a place in God's Heaven if their existence means nothing more than to be tossed into the flames of my bonfire?"  Without giving the Saint an opportunity to answer, the behemoth tossed him into the flames.

    An Itinerant Philosopher stepped up.  "Gee, that's a nasty case of megalomania you've got there."

    The Behemoth blinked and shrugged.  Then he tossed the philosopher into the fire, where the roaring cinders began to scorch at the philosopher's clothes.

    But the Itinerant Philosopher leaped out of the fire.  "You cannot defeat me, you see.  I am the Voice of Dissent."

    The Behemoth frowned.  "But the meaning of your life is to exist for the mere sake of being thrown into this bonfire.  What is the point of your philosophy when that is all your existence means?"

    The Itinerant Philosopher shook the ashes out of his robe.  "But it is my job to explain what life means for those beyond your reach.  Not everyone will be thrown into your fire.  Eventually, you will die, and your so-called 'realm' will disperse."

    The Behemoth gulped.  "But that is not true today.  And if I throw you into my fire, no others will know what you have to say."

    My closing entry resumed the non-narrative style, and paid homage to a significant event which occurred at work.

    I cannot accept any answer to this question which claims to hold true for most people.  Such expressions are political, not philosophical.  This is a discussion of the Meaning of Life, not the scheduling of a sale at K-Mart.  Exclusionary principles will prove that no answer can be considered acceptable which lends clout to a particular religion, vocation, or political affiliation.  If we were talking about the Meaning of being Episcopalian, then talking about religion would be appropriate; If we were talking about the Meaning of being Filipino, then discussions of race would be appropriate; If we were talking about the Meaning of being a Swine Flu, then discussions of microbiotics would be appropriate--Oh, wait, I was discussing Swine flu earlier, wasn't I?  But I'll finally say it, plainly and simply:  The Meaning of Life is an Ordering Principle, for whichever type of order you find necessary.  Let me explain that.

    In my job, I work with a complex reconciliation process which was developed to require six people to work on it in order to complete a day's work. We even needed to maintain and use a "Process Tracking Sheet" on a monthly basis to keep track of which steps had been completed, and which had yet to be done. With recent workforce reductions, we had to cross-train each other so that we could slowly be rendered unemployed.  We were thoroughly panicked when the first member of our team was laid off--our supervisor, the lady who had developed the process. We stopped using the "Process Tracking Sheet" because each of us were beginning to get the process memorized.  After that, we managed the further reductions much more effectively until it was down to two of us.  After a day, I noticed my last remaining co-worker shuffling her hands at her desk, not knowing what to do.  She might have even been on the edge of tears.  I handed her the "Process Tracking Sheet" and advised her to fill it in and begin using it.  The next day, she was unstoppable and kept our processes updated to within a day of current until she got laid off six weeks later.  It was a powerful indicator that I had seen the transforming effect of "order" on somebody's existential crisis.

    For some people, it isn't enough to have industriousness without meaning.  For most of us, money is an inescapable necessity which requires labors in order to acquire it.  For others, money simply falls out of the skies and life becomes a hedonistic ride.  For such people, change is the Meaning of Life.  But can "Change" be described as a sort of "order?"  I think it goes without saying that control-mania and other such structural belief systems can be described as Ordering Principles.  I'll admit that it feels wrong to describe religions as nothing more than an ordering principle, but when you think of the civilizational and societal development that religion is capable of, it doesn't seem all that slighting to describe religion as an ordering principle for a large population.

"Whence Cometh Evil" at Bread n Circles

    While I struggled with the mayhem at my job, Bread n Circles rounded through two more articles, one about Independence (which Happy Hiram posted on July 4th, 2009), and one about Love (which Happy Hiram posted on July 19th, 2009).  I intentionally decided not to participate in the Independence article, admitting freely that I did not have the spare time for blogging from the middle of June through an indefinite point in July.  I announced a desire to submit at least one entry for the Love article, but ended up not submitting anything for it-I recall confessing that if I remained silent on the subject of Love, my wife would never let me hear the end if it.  A new blogger (named Draciron) was added to the scene, perhaps to fill in the void left by my continuing absence, or perhaps to bring a more stylized non-narrative voice to counteract my flagrant narrative efforts. 

    However, when the suggestion of a round-table discussion on Evil came around, I dove on it, despite the continuing frenetic environment at work.  I decided not to resist the urge to "Go narrative" and opened my submissions with an article that was more provocative and offending than throwing homosexuals into bonfires-at least I hoped it would be more offensive than that.

    A cloaked figure strolled secretively across a desolate city street, barely peeking out of his hood.  He stepped up to a scantily-clad young lady who was leaning on the corner's lamp-post.  "I would like to know if you would share this corner with me," he asked.  "So that I may preach the Good Word to the gentle folk of your city."

    The young lady looked over at him suddenly, scanned his figure from head to toe, and then retorted, "Who wants to know?"

    The cloaked figure removed his hood furtively.  "My name is Saint Sixedog.  I am here to spread the Salvation of the Lord to you and your neighbors."

    "You're gonna have to talk to my boss if you wanna stay here.  Everybody leaves here with a smile on their face, or they are carried away bleeding."  She glanced over the Saint's shoulder into the alley between the store-fronts.  "There is no happy medium here."

    "Grr-oh-Owrr!"  The Behemoth strolled out of the shadows and approached Saint Sixedog sternly.  "You are wasting her time.  When you waste her time, I lose money."

    Saint Sixedog shrugged.  "Then our needs are in conflict.  Your needs are profit-based and materialistic, while my needs are charitable and spiritual."

    The Behemoth grinned.  "I see no conflict.  I find satisfaction in utilizing my talents."  The Behemoth grabbed Saint Sixedog's cloak by its hoodie and flailed the Saint mercilessly against the lamp-post.  After several swings, he held up the Saint and looked him in the eyes.  "I cannot help it if my talent--enforcement--causes harm to your body."  The Behemoth chuckled and tossed the Saint across the street.

    The Young lady hobbled across the street to the heaping pile of Saint Sixedog's body, which lay upended beside a car parked on the curb next to a lamp post.  She stepped up cautiously.  "I'm really sorry about this.  He protects me, and he provides for me, but he really is evil.  What's a girl to do?"

    While my fellow bloggers suspected that I would elaborate on the suggested theme that Evil should be portrayed as resulting from conflicting needs, I persisted in the provocative thread, having the Behemoth almost but not quite accuse God of nonexistence.  While most of the Behemoth's chants are lies, one of them has proven to be valid, at least according the Stephen Hawking's latest book, The Grand Design.

    The Behemoth marched down the sidewalk, reciting a chant.  "The existence of God is inconsistent with the Nature of the Universe!"  He twirled his fists in the air emphatically.  "God is incompetent!"

    Strolling along the sidewalk, the Itinerant Philosopher strolled past the Behemoth, glanced haplessly at him and continued walking.

    The Behemoth continued chanting:  "God is ineptitude!  God is impotent!"

    The Itinerant Philosopher caught sight of St. Sixedog lying upended beside the lamp-post on the other side of the street and stopped.  He turned to face the Behemoth.  "That's a nasty case of Halitosis you've got there."

    The Behemoth blew on his paw and sniffed it.

    The Itinerant Philosopher stammered.  "I meant to say Nihilism."

    The Behemoth shrugged.  "Well, I try to contain my ego, but with a face like this, what's the point of humility?"

    The prostitute stepped up behind the Itinerant Philosopher.  "What you did to that saintly man was Evil, and you're going to burn in HELL for it!"

    The Behemoth looked sternly over the Itinerant Philosopher's shoulder and waved a smelly paw at the girl's face.  "What I did to that man was necessary.  He needed to be reminded of where he is, and who is running this place.  There is no objective Evil, only subjective distaste for the necessities of different environments.  Nobody complains about the Fashion Evil of Mosquito Nets draped from Canopy Beds!  Nobody complains about the widespread use of High Fructose Corn Syrup as a preservative in canned goods!"

    The Itinerant Philosopher meekly raised his hand.  "Um, I do.  High Fructose Corn Syrup is the bane of my existence."  He looked around sheepishly, expecting shouts of dismay.  "And . . um . . .unsalted Cottage Cheese.  It turns my stomach--I've gotta have salt in it!"

    The Behemoth turned away in contempt.  "And you call yourself a MAN?  You disgust me!"

    After defending the suspected thesis that Evil would be portrayed as a result of conflicting needs, I could see that my fellow bloggers were scratching their heads in confusion.  It is possible that I was playing a game with their expectations (a real-world playfulness of the type portrayed in This and That, the novella in Mangled Doves), acting on the belief that they would be entertained by my antics in the same way that my antics were entertaining to me.  Perhaps my efforts were misplaced, but I could not have suspected that they could have been offended by my ploy, even if they weren't offended by my content.  However, my third entry in the Evil article came as a shock of invention to my fellow bloggers, and I sensed that I had shattered an unspoken trust with my blind-siding surprise, even though it was praised as the most creative interpretation in the round-table series.

    The Behemoth stepped forward.  "Evil exists as a cloud over every deed performed by every person, making them doubt everything they do.  Evil exists because people need it to exist to in order to explain their extreme distaste for things they really abhor.  I represent that Evil, and I exist because people need me to exist in order to embody the Evil that they can neither see nor touch but at the same time feel infused in their blood."

    The Itinerant Philosopher stepped over to Saint Sixedog, who still lay upended beside the lamp-post.  "So, I just tell him that these injuries are real, but that they were caused by somebody who--for all he is concerned--does not exist in his belief system?  I just tell him to believe that your attack was an apparently random bludgeoning caused by confluent, ergonomic forces?"

    Shamefully, the Behemoth covered his brow with his paw, "I receive the energy needed for existence from those who believe in me.  Everything that is believed in by somebody exists for at least that person.  If enough people believe in the exact same thing, then the being which would otherwise be imagined by few becomes empowered enough to influence the physical realities of others who may not believe in such things."

    The Itinerant Philosopher squinched up his eyebrows and scratched at his forehead.  "So, you're like Tinkerbell?"  He held out his hand emphatically.  "The more that people believe in you, the more you exist, and the more people lose faith in you, the less you exist?"

    The Behemoth turned away.  "Well, yes.  I suppose that's a valid comparison.  Technically, I'm a Thought-being.  I'm simply stronger because I am energized by widely held similar beliefs."

    The Philosopher held up his hands, flat-palmed.  "That's enough!  I'm just trying not to imagine you in green tights and dragonfly wings."

    The Behemoth grasped its belly to suppress a nauseating sensation.  "Not to mention those Jingle-bell-toed shoes.  I hate jingle bells."

    I had announced while submitting my first entry that I wanted to end up comparing the Behemoth to Tinkerbell, but I guess they didn't expect me to do so in a meaningful way.  But for all that, Happy Hiram did present the web-page with a phantasmagorical image of the Behemoth as the frontispiece to the round-table discussion, which featured an indescribable figure in a wide-brimmed hat with glowing eyes.

Hermagorus Forgotten, Version 3

    The infamous Editor's essay submission which caused so much strife among the Bread n Circles staff was met with open scorn when I first submitted it for consideration.  Its sarcastic tone, and disrespectful treatment of the very subject which it appears to praise, made it feel more like a slap-in-the-face to the philosophes (Lovers of Wisdom) who were being asked to approve it.  After flatly being rejected as a valid application for an Editor's position at Bread n Circles, it was accepted as a content submission, and after several hotly contested revisions, was finally posted on the website on October 14th, 2009.  While he never removed this essay from the web-page, Happy Hiram did not retain the archival links to this web-page after he began posting the interviews with my fellow bloggers.  This is the final version that was actually posted at Bread n Circles on October 14th, 2009. 

    In the study of philosophy, one must write many term papers, and as such, must be well-versed in the ways of MLA citation formats and snipe-hunting in libraries (searching the Dewey Decimal System for non-existent books). One must also be adept in technical writing styles, for philosophical research can become a dry and lifeless pursuit. It is in philosophical thinking that we are being creative and imaginative, for the philosophizing which occurs outside of the research contains the "art" of philosophy. However, one of the most neglected requirements of Philosophical research is in its use of the five famous questions of Journalism.

    Snicker if you will, but the most important questions start with one of the five W's of this Journalistic process, who, what, when, where, and why. Of course, the emendation of "and one H" was included in the maxim as early as the First Century B.C. by Hermagoras the Pseudo-Augustine, in his De Rhetorica. He defined a set of seven elements of circumstance as the loci of an issue. In Latin, they are "Quis, quid, quando, ubi, cur, quem ad modum, quibus adminiculis." However, in English, they are translated as "Who, what, when, where, why, in what way, and by what means." Modern journalism would convert the last two "elements" into the question of how.

    But how do these questions relate to Philosophy?  In philosophical research we ask who said it, what did he say, when and where did he say it and why-the five W's.  Of course, the sixth question is a little different, but often the most elusive question to answer in most term papers. How was it written?

    Being heavily focused on name-dropping is a vastly popular trait among essayists. Philosophy papers are no different. This is why the question of who is frequently the very first question answered in a paper-often as the first word in the title. However, the use of a well-known name in writing a paper in a philosophy class is more complex than the show-off attitude betrayed by medical students who claim to know anything about Jonas Salk's vaccine in their first semester or law students who speak of the Scopes Trial in religious circles. I suspect that the problem of name-dropping in philosophical term papers is caused by the mere fact that the person named is the subject of the term paper. In fact, I'm certain of it.

    I think that a term paper which didn't answer the question of what he or she said would be better off not written. It strikes me as so painfully obvious in its necessity there are virtually no qualifiers or conditions for this requirement.

    The timing of certain events is critical Historically, and such a maxim should fail to apply in philosophical term papers. However, since most term research papers are historical in nature, the philosophical event's timing is crucial in revealing the student's awareness of its significance.

    Yet another unrelated element of philosophical research is the question of where the historical figure was at the time that he wrote the paper, essay, tract, treatise, or book that is the subject of the student's term paper. Historically, academicians tend to categorize locales within certain time frames (for example, Wittenberg, Germany in 1524). Ignorance of this time-space continuum spells doom (not the type designated by the letter "D") for term papers in History classes, and as I have noted before, Philosophical research is Historical in nature.

    I shall save the question of why for last. As for the question of How, the reportable answers involve nothing more than to describe the type of writing (whether it be tract, treatise, essay, defense, philosophical novel, or even epistolary novel) which contained the philosopher's statement, which language was used, and the circumstances of its writing. My favorite example is the story of John Milton writing Paradise Lost in blindness by enlisting the transcription efforts of his sisters who constantly played pranks on him.

    The most vital and unique element of philosophical research is the question of why the "what" was said. The simplest excuse for philosophical studies is that it is a subject which teaches students how to think instead of what to think. All through elementary school and high school, students are forced to swallow a long litany of facts, and each pop quiz and every exam is nothing more than a request to regurgitate those facts from the student's memory. In a sense, the educational experience is geared towards a "binge and purge" lifestyle that is only reinforced in college.

    This is the stuff of Arthurian legends, and it is only taught to students when their contempt for authority figures has hopefully dissipated into respectful honor. Philosophy was once an almost mystical discipline similar to religion, the spur for the Sciences that kicked them in the loins and frightened them into action.  It was once regarded, in Socrates' time, as a subversive and dangerous influence, a dangerous threat to the status quo, and even Jesus Christ himself was considered a "rabble-rouser" who was crucified before he could undermine the economic forces which maintained the existence of the Roman Empire.  Now, philosophy is a historical discipline, regarded by many "as a dodge," a literary-type class in which one is expected to write content-analysis papers on readings from the textbook.  First-semester philosophy is like first-semester English Lit, except that the class would be called something like "Ancient Greek and Latin in Translation."  It is exactly the same paradigm-shift for students as what occurs in the Ancient/Classical Lit courses when they are asked to interpret the moral validity of Odysseus' actions based on the culture of his time.  And the papers that students are asked to write in literature classes require the same level of creativity and critical thinking that is expected of them in philosophy classes.  Those thought-processes have become a skill-set, not an art.

    In a long string of names that have passed into the communal consciousness of our society's "authorized canon," the most recent name that we commonly remember is Jean-Paul Sartre. All names after his can safely be considered members of pop psychology. Once an event such as this occurs, the discipline has become historical and the question of why becomes a researchable item which is well documented in critical analyses readily available on the internet and creative thinking is no longer required from the student.

    The great tragedy of our culture is that we have prided ourselves on something we no longer possess: Uniqueness. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "To be great is to be misunderstood." The immediate conflict of newness is that if it were understood, it is because it is not new; newness is therefore often unpopular. However, we must be reminded of what George Bernard Shaw said. "The philosopher is Nature's pilot - and there you have our difference; to be in hell is to drift: to be in heaven is to steer." I find it to be a moral responsibility of the practice--nay, the Art--of Philosophy that its practitioners should force their audience to think, to lead them to the answers by rhetorical, psychological, dramatic, and literary principles, and yet we should be emotionally incapable of accepting something which promises to deliver everything except the answer.  However, if we hand-feed the answers to our audience, then we have robbed them of the very capacity which this art has promised to deliver:  The ability to think for oneself.

The Final Truth at Bread n Circles

    Aside from the assessment that our "Whence Cometh Evil" round-table blog had been on a subject less than ideal for philosophical blogging, we universally saw it as our most successful round-table yet.  All four of us had submitted briefer, punchier, and more thoughtful entries, Reva had even written a poem to preface one of her submissions, and our newest member, Draciron, had shone in a light reminiscent of a veteran blogger.

   In August, Happy Hiram announced that he would change up the situation of round-table blogging for the next article, and suggested that Reva and BabySnoopyFan would write a round-table on the subject of Truth, while Draciron and I would write a separate round-table on the same subject, but not seeing each other's articles until each were completed.  Unfortunately, Reva and BabySnoopyFan became preoccupied with schooling in Law and Nursing, and other such family needs.  Happy Hiram's job began the attrition-based burdening of surviving employees by dumping new responsibilities on him, and he professed that he would be unable to participate in the Truth round-table.  Meanwhile, as I cowered under the suspicion that I might not have anything to say about Truth, Draciron proceeded to argue with me on Texas politics and eventually stopped responding to my emails.  Happy Hiram acceded the absence and allowed that if I could manage to write a round-table article by myself, he would post it.

    So, being the only blogger who felt that he had nothing to say, I was suddenly the only blogger at Bread n Circles who would say anything on the subject of Truth.  However, I started researching the topic at Wikipedia and finished the article in early November. The "Delays, Delays, Delays!" article betrays my frustration with the distractions that Happy Hiram was facing, but the pre-posting "Interview with Wraxtiorre" article was simply a time-waster to keep readership high while the new material remained unavailable.  I even began to discuss the points I had made about writing the article when I submitted it, in a long-winded tirade called "Thumb-twiddling."  However, the first six parts of the article were posted on Thanksgiving Day of 2009, and the last four parts were posted on Christmas Day of 2009.  I posted a table of contents for the postings in an Announcement on December 17th.

    While I cannot replicate the formatting and layout that Happy Hiram gave my article when he posted it at Bread n Circles, I have at least colored the segments in green and purple as he had done at the Bread n Circles website.  I am also not permitted to repeat the commentary provided by my fellow bloggers, but I can say that I had placed a comment near the end of the last section saying, "I found it haunting that the Behemoth could say almost the exact same thing as Jesus, but in a very different tone."

    Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground begins with a lengthy soliloquy (or tirade, if you will), in which his narrator repeatedly describes impossibility as a stone wall, and compares social mores with a law of "twice-two-makes-four." He sardonically declares that choices of self-interest can only serve one's own advantage, and that such behavior is in accordance with laws of nature and mathematics. He baits his reader snidely, "Just try to refute that."

    However, in his description of behaviors of men who might approach this stone wall of impossibility, he shows that capitulation in the face of impossibility is sincere and honest. He even suggests that, "A stone wall exerts a calming influence upon them, a sort of final and morally decisive influence."

    His narrator admits that he is discussing Free Will by supposing that if a mathematical formula were discovered which would satisfactorily predict human behavior, that men would immediately lose their capacity to have desire. He implies that his readers might defend the stone wall of impossibility by admonishing that the laws of mature make no concession for our human preferences or desires, and that there is nothing to be done but to accept the laws of twice-two-makes-four which necessitate the impossibility (or impassibility, if you will) of a stone wall. It is clearly more comforting (and healthier) to accept that the stone wall is there of its own accord, and that the laws of twice-two-makes-four prove that it is not mankind's fault that the stone wall is there in our path, and therefore it is beneficial to understand (and calculate) those laws. Human nature appears to provide only two alternatives when one is faced with impossibility: Accepting its necessity through understanding, and senselessly attacking it.

    But he was talking about the nature of Truth.

    The Itinerant Philosopher strolled intently into a hospital E.R.'s Waiting Room. Several people were sitting in the chairs, bleeding listlessly on the upholstery, staving off the throbbing pain by cradling their elbows in their hands. He continued towards the admitting desk. "Do you have a Saint Sixedog here?"

    The nurse looked up contemptuously. "Triage bed 3A."

    The Itinerant Philosopher walked around the desk and pushed the heavy hydraulic doors and continued to walk into the Triage area, looking from side to side at the steel panels on the edges of each door. "Ah, here we are." He stopped, turned and stepped into a curtained room labeled 3A. "Here he is! How are you feeling?"

    Saint Sixedog was lying in a hospital bed wrapped in a cast from his shoulders to his toes. The IV Pole beside the bed betrayed the only motion in the room, as the fluid dripped slowly into the line. He sat up in the bed defensively. "I was sodomized with a light-pole! Do you have any idea what it feels like to have your colon tickled by a halogen lamp?"

    "Yeah, that's pretty disturbing, alright. So, who is the presiding physician?"

    "Doctor Eppie Blight."


    "It's short for 'Eponymous.'"

    "So, your doctor's name is named-after-a-disease?"

    Saint Sixedog looked away. "It could be worse."

    "But I need to change the subject now. What about Truth?"

    Saint Sixedog glared at the ceiling for a moment, and then shouted, "Truth is nine feet of aluminum tubing forcibly entering your ASS!  Truth is being tossed across the street into the side-view mirror of a Volvo!  They had to peel flakes of paint off my eyeballs!"

    The Itinerant Philosopher straightened his hair. "Have you tried praying?" He picked up a copy of Gideon's Bible off the table and held it up.

    "Ugh!" Saint Sixedog held up his hands in disgust. "That's a bad translation. I can't pray with that text!"

    The Itinerant Philosopher dropped the bible fearfully and shrieked. "Aaah! What is this, then? A pack of lies?"

    Saint Sixedog grimaced. "No, not a pack of lies. Just not the word of God."

    "How can that be?" The Itinerant Philosopher looked incredulously at Saint Sixedog. "How can it be not the word of God and also not be a pack of lies?"

    To define Truth as "Nothing more than the set of all facts" is redundant. There would be no distinction between the word "Fact" and the word "Truth" if such were the case. In common usage, the word "fact" describes an element of reality which has a truth-value of "true." This necessarily denotes a relationship between factuality and truth-hood, but the counter-points in such a discussion do not end there. There is also a dramatic distinction made between the word "truth" and the capitalized word, "Truth." I am here to discuss the capitalized "Truth."

    As I stated in my first entry, Dostoevsky's narrator was talking about the nature of Truth in his discussions about "Twice-two-makes-four" and the stone wall of impossibility. He concludes his discussion with a defiant statement which cannot be accepted as "truth," and yet defines certain factual elements of reality as untruths. He said, "But twice-two-makes-four is for all that a most unsupportable thing. Twice-two-makes-four is, in my humble opinion, nothing but a piece of impudence. Twice-two makes-four is a farcical dressed-up fellow who stands across your path with arms akimbo and spits at you. Mind you, I quite agree that twice-two-makes-four is a most excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, then twice-two-makes-five is sometimes a most charming little thing, too."

    Dostoevsky's narrator concludes that since "twice-two-makes-four" is an irrefutable law of mathematics which bears no relation to the reality it defines he will simply stand up against it, defiantly claiming that something other than the Truth is the case. Hence, by defining unTruth, he has essentially defined Truth by defending what it is not. But does this bring me any closer to understanding Truth itself, other than the anthropomorphic description of a bully? No, it does not.

    Saint Sixedog scratched his chin. "Nope. God's word is a very specific sequence of words, and has been transcribed carefully throughout history by scrupulous scribes. Any variation from that exact sequence is considered to be not the word of God."

    The Itinerant Philosopher balked. "But then, wouldn't any translation therefore not be the Word of God?"

    Saint Sixedog looked into the Philosopher's eyes. "Do you read Hebrew? Aramaic? Greek, even?"

    The Itinerant Philosopher held up his hands, befuddled. "But what about the Vulgate? I'm sure I could figure out Latin."

    Saint Sixedog looked away confidently. "Nope, that's also a translation." He thought for a bit. "So, am I saying that only Hebrew-trained Jews are reading the actual word of God?"

    The Itinerant Philosopher looked out the door into the hallway. "Hmm, you could be saying that most Christians around the world are basing their faith on something other than the word of God, but it's really a question of whether an approximation of God's word through translation is sufficient to establish a person's faith."

    Saint Sixedog did a double-take. "Wait, I thought we were talking about Truth?"

    A doctor suddenly breezed into the room. "Hello, I am Doctor Eppie Blight. So, how is our bloody Man of the cloth?"

    Saint Sixedog looked wide-eyed at the doctor. "We were talking about Truth."

    "Bah! Truth is nothing more than the moral interpretation of Facts. Wouldn't you rather talk about my diagnosis of your condition?" He jabbed a syringe into the IV line. "Here, this will deaden the pain and make you talk like a character in a Dostoevsky novel." He pushed decisively on the syringe's plunger, injecting all the liquid into the line.

    Saint Sixedog lunged across the bed clumsily. "Wait! No! I need to be able to make sense!"

    Conversational dialogue includes phrases such as "to tell the truth," "Truth be told," and "the honest-to-God truth." Such phrases are often appended to statements which contain a description of factual events or circumstances, and imply a promise that the reported information is accurate, or that the person's actions were faithful to his/her intent. Considering this to be a possible definition for Truth brings a whole slew of semantic issues into question, such as language barriers (Would an East German who speaks no English understand the Truth-value of a warning against biting into an explosive pastry if it were spoken only in English?).

    According to Semantic Theory, logical predicates require a separate and unique language because languages cannot contain their own Truth-values. For example, the statement, "President Reagan told Berliners that he is a chocolate doughnut," does not contain its own Truth-value, even if "is true" were appended to the end of the sentence-it is nothing but a claim, a claimed observation which promises to be an accurate report of a factual event. The proof of Truth must be provided by another logically defined language.

    This argument has proven to be quite a stumbling block for critics who wish to plead "semantics" as an answer for Truth, but are unwilling to develop an articulate language in which to validate their evidence.

    Saul Kripke's effort to sidestep this stumbling block by creating infinite new subsets of the given language which only validate the Truth-value of the previous subset by appending "is true" or "is false" to each statement in it proves equally unsatisfactory unless one is willing to spend the rest of Eternity repeatedly proving that "Yet again, the Liar's Paradox is excluded from this pair of subsets."

    The Itinerant Philosopher walked towards the window and looked out at the horizon. "Osho, the Eastern mystic, said to stop thinking with our minds," he complained. "It takes a pretty big pair of cajones to tell philosophers that they are using the wrong head to think about things!"

    Doctor Eppie Blight strolled to the door. "I'll just come back when it is time to check his vitals."

    Saint Sixedog flopped across the bed. "Blurgle," he sputtered. "Pugna-fwibble." He clawed anxiously at his arm where the I.V. needle was inserted. "Meglanot!"

    The Itinerant Philosopher turned to look at him, and suddenly grabbed his hands to hold them away. "Whoa! We don't need you to start hemorrhaging all over the place!"


    "The Itinerant Philosopher released his grip and stood up. "Now, let's take that sunset there, for instance." He pointed out the window. "Osho says that if we try and comprehend the Truth of this sunset, then we would miss the setting of the sun, and also fail to comprehend its Truth. He said that the way to experience Truth is to simply experience it!"

    Saint Sixedog grunted feverishly. "Did you read that somewhere?"

    The Itinerant Philosopher twirled around. Nope, I just wrote it." He waved politely at Doctor Eppie Blight.

    Saint Sixedog watched as the doctor meekly stepped out of the room. "I've read some of your stuff recently, like that unfinished story called 'The Cherubs of Sablewing' in your book, Mangled Doves. Your writings are so overwrought as to have the appearance of meaningless boole sheets."

    Ignoring that, the Itinerant Philosopher turned back to the window. "But all that Eastern Mysticism isn't helping our discussion here, is it?"

    "Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh!" Saint Sixedog's eyes glazed over as he drooped onto the pillow.

    The Itinerant Philosopher grinned. "Tell me about Nietzsche, and Baudrillard. What did they say? What about Kant and Hegel, Fromm and Kierkegaard."

1. Correspondence Theory: Truth is the relationship between observations and the actual state of affairs. "To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true." (Aristotle, Metaphysics 1011b25) Thomas Aquinas clarified this theory with "Truth is the equation of thing and intellect", which he restated as, "A judgment is said to be true when it conforms to the external reality." (De Veritate and Summa Theologiae)

2. Coherence Theory: Truth is the relationship between elements of reality (thoughts, beliefs, observations, statements) and a complete system which is only True if the system itself is true as a whole. G.W.F Hegel is considered to be a Coherence Theorist, along with Leibniz, Spinoza, and F.H. Bradley.

3. Consensus Theory: Truth is whatever the majority of people say it is.

4. Minimalist Theories: Truth is insignificant or rejected. Deflationary Theories disregard the importance of Truth, while Disquotational Theories discuss truth as a plain concept while negating the significance of "Truth."

5. Constuctivist Theory: Truth is created by social structures, in the same way that traditions are formed by community-wide behaviors or conventions. This is distinct from Consensus Theory in that our actions necessitated the existence of Truth.

6. Unconcealment Theory: Truth as disclosedness. Martin Heidegger revived a pre-Socratic notion of Truth by declaring that the first stage of Truth is the appearance of something so that it may be comprehended or understood.

7. Conspiracy Theory: Truth is inexplicable or conflicts with observed facts. Popular Culture tends to wield the notion of Truth as an undefined excuse to enforce a confusing ethical code or an incomprehensible course of action. (Notably, the tagline for The X-Files)

    The Itinerant Philosopher turned away from the window. "But you have to remember, Wittgenstein said that 'The World is all that is the case.' Isn't that just a colorful way of saying that Truth is simply the set of all facts?"

    Saint Sixedog sat up in the bed, shaking visibly and sweating profusely. "Erich Fromm decided not to discuss a notion of absolute Truth, but rather defended an 'operational' ever-clarifying approximation of truth, which is like a semblance of platonic awareness. We perceive a semblance of 'perfect' truth through our feeble senses, and it is enough to get our bearings in this crazy, mixed-up world. But Immanuel Kant criticized Aristotle's Theory, claiming that the only way to verify our knowledge of an object is by comparing it to our knowledge of that object. Kierkegaard merely said that our subjective experience of Reality is our own personal Truth, but such a perspective kinda negates the Universality of it. Hegel proposed a Kripke-like History-unfolding triplicity-like theory in which opposites and conflicts resolve themselves into a closer approximation of an absolute Truth."

    The Itinerant Philosopher covered his ears and clenched his teeth. "You're beginning to sound like a bing-dot-com commercial."

    Saint Sixedog heightened his pace. "Speaking of semblance, Baudrillard claimed that Truth is a simulacrum of Reality, an example of the moral value which Reality does not in fact contain. In fact, he made up an inspirational quote from Ecclesiastes in order to support it." He collapsed on the hospital bed as the heart-rate monitor began to beep a steady drone.

    The Itinerant Philosopher stepped backward fearfully. "Meanwhile," he sputtererd. "Nietzsche said that there is no Truth. The only truth is that which furthers the advance of the race, or increases the chances of survival . . ." He turned and dashed towards the door.

    Perhaps the most famous expressions about Truth-with-a-capital-T were spoken by Jesus Christ and his interrogator in the New Testament book of John. While preaching, he tells his followers that "the Truth shall set you free." (John 8:32) and "I am the way, the Truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6) In the interrogation after arresting Jesus, Pontius Pilate asks Jesus if he is a King, and Jesus retorts that such a title has been ascribed to Him by others, but evasively answers, "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into this world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the Truth hears my voice." (John 18:37) Upon hearing that, Pilate asked the infamous question without expecting an answer: "What is Truth?" (John 18:38)

    Is it, as John Keats concluded, the case that "Beauty is truth, truth beauty--that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know"? (Ode on a Grecian Urn, 49-50)

    Even Quoholet, the legendary author of Ecclesiastes, who claimed that his preacher had written all that were considered appropriate words which were declared to be Truth, and yet he complains that "of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep the commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." Ecclesiastes 12:12-13

    (Research on the Conspiracy Theory is unavailable. It's as if the whole concept was simply made up.)

    The Itinerant Philosopher turned and stepped quickly towards the door, but halted as a hulking figure blocked his path. Move, you idiot! He's gonna die!"

    The now-familiar voice rang out from the shadows. "This isn't about him!"

    "Step aside," the Itinerant Philosopher shouted. "I have to find the Doctor!"

    "If you want to get to him, you're gonna have to go through me." The Behemoth pushed into the doorway, pressing his fingers into the doorframe on both sides. "You foolish little man, always trying to understand me. Even your God told you to stop wasting your energy with such silly pursuits." He backed into the shadows of the hallway, glaring scornfully.

    The Itinerant Philosopher shrugged and stepped forward. "But that cannot be! I have always opposed you, as you have opposed my efforts." He looked down at his hands. After a moment, he looked up into the Behemoth's eyes. "That's a nasty case of absolutism you've got there,"

    The Behemoth shrugged. "Well, I try to stick with Skyye, but sometimes variety is the spice of life."

    Lunging forward, the Itinerant Philosopher barked, "You've got to let me get by! We have the moral responsibility of trying to save his life!"

    The Behemoth inhaled and squared his shoulders. He spat a massive lugey onto the Philosopher's cheek. "No. You have that responsibility; I have the burden of trying to prevent you from succeeding in your endeavors." The Behemoth hoisted his elbows out and rested his clenched fists on his hips.

    The Itinerant Philosopher swiped the spittle off his face and pushed against the Behemoth's chest, shouting, "Get out of my way!"

    A playful smile rose on the Behemoth's lips, and his teeth sparkled in the fading sunlight as he snarled, "None shall pass!"

     After posting an advertising blurb for the publication of Mangled Doves, no further roundtable discussions were pursued at Bread n Circles, and the website was taken down by its host, CWAHI.NET, in the early Spring of 2011.