More from: Philosophy

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1

We’re on our way to the European Juggling Convention in Toulouse, and have two weeks of travel and holiday before we arrive. On Monday we drove across Germany to Trier, the oldest city in the country. On Tuesday we had a look at the city, then we visited Luxembourg (and I now have a video of me juggling in 101 different countries!), and drove across to France. On Wednesday we checked out Reims cathedral, took a drive along part of the Champagne Tourist Route, and Juliane had a champagne tasting session (I had to drive), before finally driving to Paris. Thursday we spent visiting some places and doing things neither of us had done before in the city.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Trier, Germany.

Trier, Germany.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Trier, Germany.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Trier, Germany.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Trier, Germany.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Trier, Germany.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Luxembourg, Luxembourg.

Luxembourg, Luxembourg.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Luxembourg, Luxembourg.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Luxembourg, Luxembourg.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Luxembourg, Luxembourg.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Luxembourg, Luxembourg.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Luxembourg, Luxembourg.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Luxembourg, Luxembourg.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Reims, France.

Reims, France.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Reims, France.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Reims, France.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Reims, France.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Reims, France.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Champagne tasting in Epernay.

Champagne tasting in Epernay.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Champagne tasting in Epernay.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Champagne tasting in Epernay.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Champagne tasting in Epernay.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: Champagne tasting in Epernay.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris: La Defense.

A day in Paris: La Defense.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris: La Defense.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris: La Defense.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris: La Defense.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris: the view from Tour Montparnasse.

A day in Paris: the view from Tour Montparnasse.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. We didn't get engaged.

A day in Paris. We didn’t get engaged.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. We didn't get engaged.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. We didn't get engaged.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. Pont de Bir-Hakeim

A day in Paris. Pont de Bir-Hakeim

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. On the metro.

A day in Paris. On the metro.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. On the metro.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. Shakespeare and Company.

A day in Paris. Shakespeare and Company.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. River cruise.

A day in Paris. River cruise.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. River cruise.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. River cruise.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. River cruise.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. River cruise.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. Notre-Dame de Paris.

A day in Paris. Notre-Dame de Paris.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. Notre-Dame de Paris.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. A very secure bridge.

A day in Paris. A very secure bridge.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. A very secure bridge.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation.

A day in Paris. Memorial des Martyrs de la Deportation.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation.

Luke and Juliane Summer Tour part 1: A day in Paris. Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation.


I love to read comments and feedback about my blog posts. Please email me, I reply to every message: luke@juggler.net


Luke Wilson

I’m not sure where this is going, but I have to write something. Luke Wilson died a few days ago, and the news hit me really hard. Hopefully this can clear up, for myself and anyone interested, just what he meant to me, and what’s going to change in my life now he has gone.

Pretty often I’d meet a juggler for the first time, and after a brief introduction, they would ask me: “Are you Luke Wilson?”

“No,” I’d say, “I’m the other British professional juggler who lives in Germany, has a German girlfriend, travels and performs around the world, hosts shows at many conventions, etc, etc… and who is also called Luke. I’m the tall skinny club juggler called Luke, and Luke is the small skinny club juggler called Luke.”

I can see where the confusion might arise. Luke and I acknowledged the confusion, and our position of being the two Lukes in the juggling world, with a our online rivalry both claiming to be the Real Luke.

Back in early 2001 I invented a ring trick. You place a ring on one ear, and with a shake of the head, you transfer it to the other ear. I showed it off in a best trick competition at the BJC 2001, and it got a good reaction. Other jugglers started calling it Luke’s Ear Ring Trick, which I thought was pretty cool. Then someone said they had seen Ian Merchant doing it a few months before. Which I also found pretty cool, as so many times two jugglers build on the same existing concept to come up with the same new trick.

After writing about this on my website, I got an email from Luke Wilson saying:

“What is the trick? If it involves hanging the ring on one ear, and then
flipping it around your face to a catch on the other, then the name is
correct :-)

If the trick is another: please expand details!

Regards,

Luke (Not Barrage But Wilson)”

As you can see, right from the start, we had more in common than just our name. We’d both invented the same trick! The ambiguity of “Luke’s Ear Ring Trick” seemed to make sense. We stayed in contact from then on for various reasons, including the fact that people presumed that the luke@juggler.net email address would reach the Luke Wilson, and not the actual Real Luke (why would the non-Real Luke have the juggler.net address?).

Later in 2001 I attended Luke and Ben Richter’s workshop at the London Juggling Convention called “Encyclopedia of Contemporary Club Juggling”. It inspired me to write up my thoughts about ring juggling in a similar categorical way, leading to The Endless Possibilities of Ring Juggling essay/workshop guide.

I could go on and on about the small ways Luke Wilson influenced and inspired me in my early years as a juggler. I’m sure everyone has similar stories. His presence in my life grew though, into a friendship. We weren’t as close friends as others, but we were good friends, and constant friends, due to the similar paths we’d chosen in life, and due to the similar paths life had chosen for us.

It’s only now Luke has died do I realize that Luke’s constant presence became the guide for my entire life. I never thought “If I could be like anyone, I’d be just like Luke Wilson!” and, as I said, so much of life is outside of anyone’s control.

But Luke was four years older than me, and so often the same number of years ahead of me in terms of his juggling career. Sometimes more, sometimes less, I guess. If ever I wondered if I was doing okay in my progression as a juggler, Luke’s life and career was my go-to guide to know I was on the right track.

Luke Wilson performed in the BJC public show in 2000 as a Gandini, and in 2003 in his Luka Luka double act with Ilka Licht. Well, once I’d performed in the same show, I knew I’d be on my way. In 2004 I performed in the BJC Public Show as a solo act, and headlined the Dutch convention gala show… but then I met Luke backstage at the EJC that same year, and he was performing his devilstick act. In the Gala show… for second year in a row, having already performed with Ilka in in the 2003 EJC Gala.

Well, not to worry, the EJC Gala was a still a few years off for me. Pola and I performed our double act in both the BJC and EJC Gala shows in 2006.

At Bamberg Zaubert, a street show festival, I noticed Luka Luka listed as a previous winner. Once Pola and I won the main competition, I sent Luke a message about it. His response?

“I won it twice, once with Ilka and once as a solo magician.”

12 months later, when Pola and I won the same competition for the second year in a row, I felt I could continue the conversation with Luke as an equal.

“Luka Luka” and “Luke and Pola”, two English-German juggling couple duo club juggling shows. Here’s Luke Wilson and Luke Burrage similarity trivia fun fact number 83: both Ilka and Pola, our respective juggling partners and first German girlfriends, lived in Aachen. Ilka also studied architecture, and Pola worked as a graphic designer for an architecture firm.

Of course, both of our relationships with our German juggling/life partners ended, and we both had to go through the same issues that brings up, professionally and otherwise. Thankfully Luke had gone through that years before me, and while I we didn’t talk about that in depth, I remember thinking “It won’t be a problem… Luke’s been there and done that, so I should aim to be as professional about it as he was.” Pola and I went on to perform our last contracted shows together, despite the pain and annoyance of breaking up, and we’ve stayed friends since. Both Luke and I found new German girlfriends (you know, because we both lived in Germany), and earlier this year he followed my lead, for once, moving to Berlin.

So it was never conscious decision to do what Luke did, but in any professional situation, Luke was my go-to guy. Often we’d chat online or in person, and our conversations would typically revolve around our common job and work. To be clear, our work was traveling. We had ongoing battles comparing how many flights we took per year… with the loser being the one who’d flown more times.

But our common job was performing juggling. We weren’t just jugglers, we were performing jugglers. I don’t remember a single conversation in the last 6 years about juggling itself, or any kinds of trick. It was all about performing. Which is good, because we could both talk endlessly about our views on performing and our approaches to stage craft.

Here’s a random exchange from Skype:

Luke Burrage: Just found a video on an old hard drive of you performing a club routine, outside, in the wind, with trees behind, and you’re wearing a pink top. When was this?
Luke Wilson: EJC Edinburgh opening show, 1998.
Luke Wilson: I think, to my shame, that I even hold up a moistened finger to indicate the wind…

Our onstage personas and juggling style differed in so many ways, with his based on crisp precision and mine on exuberant freedom. However, at the roots of both our shows we always found similar ideas and ideals, with both of use knowing the reason for every single element of our acts, and why we included or excluded simple things such as individual blinks or turns of our hands.

In 2008 I was in charge of the EJC open stage tent, and I decided to make a list of all the possible jugglers I knew I could rely on to host a show in a professional manner. I wanted someone who I knew could do a good job, and because I’d be busy doing other work, I wanted them to be able to do it without any input or help, and more importantly, would cause me no stress at all.

When I’d finished compiling that list, Luke Wilson’s name wasn’t just at the top of the list, it was the only name on the list. Just Luke. Nobody else I’d worked with before or since at juggling conventions came close to his level of preparedness and experience.

And so, of course, I spent some of my meager budget to make sure Luke would be there to host a show. In the end Pola and I only ran four of the open stage shows, so I hosted two, Pola one and Luke the other. Luke was, of course, utterly professional, so much so that we hardly had to talk about the show itself at all. Which is exactly how it should be! The technical crew of the open stage venue said that the four shows we put on were all better organized and presented than gala shows at other conventions.

At the EJC in 2010 I once again ran the Open Stage shows, and asked Luke Wilson to host again. Throughout 2008, 2010 and 2011 (when I was running the open stages at the EJC) I was always inviting new people to host shows, with varied results, some bad and some good. With Luke though, I knew that even his worst show would be good. I knew because everything he did, and every decision he took, and every way he responded on stage, was based on a strong foundation of technical performing knowledge and a deep understanding of the concepts and philosophies of being entertaining. This was backed up by a successful career as a professional juggler and show moderator.

So often I didn’t even have to ask Luke about a subject, it was good enough to consider “What would Luke do?” Then next time we chatted online it could be about Star Wars or bikes or all the other geeky interests we had in common.

What all this builds up to is why Luke’s death it me so hard. Like I said, we weren’t close personal friends, which is why I didn’t know he was struggling with cancer until a few days before he died. Our busy work and travel schedules rarely coincided enough to schedule social visits. But Luke was a good friend, and a constant friend.

The fact is, I always presumed Luke would be around, and I always presumed he’d be a few years ahead of me as a professional juggler. Time after time I’d perform somewhere, and Luke had performed there before me. At the Israeli Juggling Convention in 2002, I found it amusing how many jugglers were doing his style of club juggling, as he’d been there in 2001. Repeat this and other similar stories over 10 years, and I gained a huge appreciation on how treasured he was in the juggling world.

More recently, Luke taught at circus schools, and he directed a show at the Leipzig Krystalpalast. My unconscious presumption was that, within about four years, I’d also be teaching at circus schools and directing shows. It’s not something I’ve been actively pursuing, but because Luke has gone there before me, I kind of assumed that it was where I’d be heading in the future. I have my own projects and plans, of course, but it’s more on the level of what I can be proud of accomplishing.

Luke Wilson has always been the standard, or the yardstick, that I’ve used to measure my own progress. He hasn’t been my guide in terms of “I have to do what Luke does” but instead in terms of “how am I doing? (glance at Luke) Okay, I’m doing just fine.”

And now I don’t have guide. I’m now the only Luke who is a professional juggler from England living in Germany… with all the other similarities we shared, those we chose and those which just came with the job and life.

In four years time, I’ll have caught up with the end of Luke’s path ahead of me. I’ll be striking out without him. Our journey together, offset as it was, will end.

The reason I’m crying as I finish writing this is that I never told Luke how much he meant to me. Partially this is because he kept his suffering private, and I simply had no opportunity to explain all this.

But the main reason is that I didn’t even understand this all until he died. I didn’t just lose a someone, a friend, I lost something else I didn’t even realize I had until it was gone.

I thought that when a friend died I’d not mourn their death, but celebrate their life. I tried to do that with Luke, but all I could think about was Luke’s future and how much it meant to me. I didn’t understand my grief over the loss of Luke’s future for a few days, but I think I worked it out. It’s selfish, I know, this presumption that he’d always be Luke A and I’d always be Luke B. I was invested in Luke’s future in a way that can only come all the facets of life we shared, and I didn’t understand that until it was too late to tell him.

Now I’ve got to get on with life myself.

Thanks for reading.


Gods and Platypuses: The Ignostic Non-Beliefer.

Someone asked me about my “religious status” on Facebook, and I thought it would make a good blog post.

I’ve written on my blog a few time about how I used to be a Christian and now I’m a non-Christian. Not being Christian was on step along the journey, but once I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t believe in any kind of god, I wasn’t sure what word I could use to describe myself. After this bothering me for a few years, I googled about, and worked out I was probably some kind of secular humanist.

However, when people brought up my lack of belief in god, there seemed to be only two options: atheist or agnostic. I had a hard time accepting either of these designations.

Atheist?

First, “atheist” defines someone by their lack of belief in God or in a god or in gods in general. This privileges the idea of gods above other elements of supernatural claims, as nobody calls themselves a-fairyists or a-dragonists.

Secondly, it privileges the belief in the supernatural claim to be the defining aspect in someone’s life. Theist or atheist? “Well,” I think, “before I answer, may I first tell you my story rather than putting myself into one of those two camps?” I guess that’s why secular humanism is more appealing to me, as the name tells us that the human being and human endeavor is more important than the supernatural.

And that’s why I’m going to tell you a bit of my story.

Agnostic?

So now to my main problem with calling myself either an atheist or agnostic. Over the years I’ve believed in many different versions of God. For example:

  • Hardcore belief in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as expected of a fundamentalist Christian.
  • I believe in God and all that, but did he really create the world in 6 days?
  • God is some kind of powerful spirit, a force for love and for good.
  • Jesus wasn’t really God, just a wisdom teacher.
  • I have spiritual experiences, and the Bible is still meaningful.
  • Actually many things in the Bible are quite disturbing, but there’s still something to it.
  • Ah shit, this is all made up by humans to explain what goes on in humans’ brains, isn’t it?

It’s all relative, right? Luke at the start of my journey would class Luke at every other point as a non-theist. From the second point to the second last point I could be called agnostic by the Lukes at any other point. Only when I reached that last point could I really call myself an atheist.

So when someone asked me if I believed in God, I wondered at what point they were in this spectrum. What did they really mean? Did they mean the modern fundamentalist ideas? Did they mean wishy-washy spiritualist stuff? Were they on a spectrum of belief in a non-Abrahamic god?

I never knew. I’d get into a debate with someone, and they’d challenge me to tell them why they were wrong about God (and I did this when a Christian too), but after a few minutes they’d say something like “No, I don’t believe God answers prayers, he’s more like an all-pervading spirit that imbues the wider destiny of the universe.” I thought I’d been talking to a theist, and they were actually a pantheist or deist.

And after me saying “I’m an atheist” the other person might describe a kind of God that fits my science-fiction-loving brain’s image of an benevolent alien super-being. Do I believe in that kind of god? Well, I guess then I’m an agnostic. I’d not call it a god though. What does God need with a starship?

After a few years of these miscommunications, when anyone wanted to know if I was an atheist or agnostic, I’d ask them to define god first, and then I’d answer.

Ignostic!

And then I found out, I don’t remember exactly when or where, that this had a name! It’s called Ignosticism. And the definition is pretty much what I’ve outlined above. Ignosticism is the stance that the notion of god shouldn’t be elevated to any kind of important position, instead treating the word as exactly that: a word. A very imprecise word at that!

For example, you ask if I have a car, and I say no, and then you say “You can have my car!” and give me a Lego model. Gee, thanks.

Then you clarify, “Do you have a real car?” I would say no. But what if you really meant “Do you have a personal vehicle with four wheels and an engine?” I could say “Yes.” Because I own a van.

So I let the person define the object of belief, and only then do I answer.

Belief?

There is one final step to this, so I’ll stretch the car analogy a bit more:

“Do you have a real car?”

“You mean a personal vehicle with four wheels and an engine? Like a van?”

“Yes.”

“Well…”

In fact I don’t have a van. But I kind of do. I used to have a van, and technically I still partly own it, even if my ex-girlfriend now uses it in another country. So does that mean I have a van or not?

“Do have a real car?”

Okay, my current girlfriend has a car, so if I need to get somewhere with a big bag, I can ask her to drive me. Also, when we visited England last month, we rented a car, so if you asked me a month ago, I could say that I did have a car, but now I don’t.

As you can see, the word “have” is now just as troublesome as the word “car”!

And in the question “Do you believe in God?” the word “believe” is as troublesome to me as the word “have”. What the fuck does belief even mean? That I know something is true, despite not being sure? That I think something is true, despite not being sure? That I think that I know something is true, despite not being sure? Or that I’m sure something is true, despite not thinking it through?

I believe lots of things, but now I like to think that belief or non-belief is only a stance on a proposition that hasn’t been closely examined. Once I’ve closely examined an idea, I’ll tell you that I think it is probably true, or that it is probably not true, or if I’m not so sure, I’ll give an estimate on how likely it is to be true.

Claim: “God, as depicted in Genesis, is real.”

My judgment: False.

Claim: “Some kind of energy being currently unexplained by science exists somewhere in the universe.”

My judgment: Maybe. It’s a big universe.

Claim: “The platypus is an endangered species.”

My judgment: I believe so.

You see, I really have no idea about the conservation status of the platypus, but off the top of my head, I guess it might be endangered. That’s what I call a belief.

A belief can be a meaningful basis for action. For example, I’ll stop someone killing a platypus with a stick! If later I discover platypuses are, in fact, vermin that need culling… well, that’s cool. I wasn’t really invested in the idea.

Claim: “In the event of an earthquake, run out into the street!”

My judgment: I believe so. I’ve not really looked into it. I’ll check the answer when I move to an earthquake zone.

For many people the question “Do you believe in God?” is just that important, so they don’t really care about the definition of God in the mind of the questioner, nor do they plan use that belief to make important decisions. In that case, belief or non-belief is a totally fine position.

For someone like me, who was brought up as a Christian, God was super important to me! His existence, and the nature of his existence, had a real impact on the decisions I made in life. How could I merely believe or not believe in the existence of God? I needed to look more closely at the whole concept.

Now I hold various important concepts as impossible, possible, improbable, probable, and all kind of degrees in between. For concepts unimportant to me, belief or non-belief is just fine.

Got a conclusion?

When it comes down to important matters, I’m simply not a beliefer. I’m a non-beliefer.

An ignostic non-beliefer.


I love to read comments and feedback about my blog posts. Please email me, I reply to every message: luke@juggler.net


Elite Skeptics, Elitist Skeptics, and me.

A bunch of nerds at TAM London 2010.

Many people get a lot of attention on the internet for saying or writing things like “Atheist and skeptics are just the same as religious people!”

They go on to say things like “Skeptics like to take down the beliefs of others, but they never question their own beliefs.”

Near the end of the rant, you’ll probably find accusations of elitism and arrogance.

Personally I think there is a confusion between the labels of “elite skeptics” and “elitist skeptics”. There is some overlap between the groups, but from my own anecdotal evidence, not very much.

I have no problem with people who are not skeptical about every one of their beliefs. My problem is with those people who aren’t skeptical of the reasons they THINK they are skeptical.

It’s a tricky concept, but maybe I can explain.

Not everyone can be skeptical of everything. There are loads of areas where I don’t think skeptically at all. This is the only way to get through my day, otherwise I’d never get anything done. I’d spend all the time investigating every tiny detail of every tiny truth claim, and never be able to have an awesome, albeit slightly random, life.

Who can really be that skeptical? Not us everyday people. And yet “skeptics” come under fire for NOT examining every single thing. And because we believe some things without question, and challenge a certain set of beliefs of others, we are called arrogant and elitist.

For that attention to detail we rely on elite skeptics. These can be professional scientists, or they can be trusted journalists or public figures who communicate the current state of scientific thought.

When Ben Goldacre says “Homeopathy is bullshit” I don’t rush out to do my own tests on diluted water. I just take his word on it. There is a virtuous circle of trust among scientists and science writers that allows them to reach a consensus on certain topics.

Yay for the elite skeptics!

My problem is with elitist skeptics, and I have a good working definition of the term.

First, let me state that I have no problems with any single belief or stance on any issue an elitist skeptic might talk about, or browbeat others about. The chances are they are 100% correct on the matter when held against the standards of modern science.

My only problem is the reason that they THINK they are skeptics, and are therefore scientifically right. The reason they believe they skeptics is their own intelligence.

Which leads to them believing everyone who believes something scientifically incorrect is stupid, or at least less intelligence than they are.

THIS is elitist skepticism, in my opinion.

I experienced it many, many times at the TAM London conferences in 2009 and 2010. More so in 2010. There would be a statement from the stage about how stupid religious people are, or how people are stupid for not knowing this scientific fact, and the audience would erupt in applause and cheering. It made me feel very uncomfortable. Same with my brother and sister-in-law, who attended one and two of the events respectfully.

The truth of the matter, as I see it, is that fact that you are a skeptic has nothing to do with your own intelligence. Instead it has everything to do with circumstances of your birth, your upbringing, and the society in which you live.

If this wasn’t the case, we could look at the most incredible minds throughout history, and they’d all be atheists and skeptics.

How about Isaac Newton? Oops. Was totally into alchemy and all kinds of batshit crazy stuff, as well as being a Christian. Same with every other intelligent person up until the Enlightenment.

Also, atheists have no problem saying “If you were born in Saudi Arabia, you’d probably believe in Allah, if you were born in Texas you’d probably believe in Jesus.” Which is totally true. This isn’t a statement about the mental capacity of any religious person, just the admission that people are shaped by their surroundings.

So why do skeptics think they are any different?

I was brought up in a hardcore Christian home, and I’m now an atheist and a skeptic. Is it my intelligence that took me down that path? I’d say no, just a great many incidences and coincidences along the way. My Christian upbringing probably contributed more to me being a skeptic now than other people’s secular upbringing, to the point where they’ve thought as much about the existence of god as the efficacy of Homeopathy. As in, not at all.

I have an identical twin brother who also attended TAM London in 2009 and 2010. He was also brought up in a Christian home, of course, and is now probably more hardcore atheist than I am. Did we reach the same beliefs because we are both as intelligent as each other? Well, no. It could be said that I’m objectively more intelligent than he is, as measured by grades at school. But even our grades at school had more to do with our only very slightly different life experiences up until age 16.

We took different paths to our skeptical mindset, at different paces, but in each case it took a repeated exposure to the skeptical mindset of others, each time totally outside of our control. After a time, by applying skeptical tools we’d picked up to our own beliefs, we came to the same kinds of conclusions. This had nothing to do with our intelligence levels, and way more to do with the fact that skepticism itself works. We didn’t invent it, we only slowly, and by accident, learnt it.

So what next?

Thinking other people are stupid because they are religious or not skeptical is totally misguided. It becomes worrying when these elitist skeptics think they should also be elite skeptics, or worse yet, elite members of society in general.

You may be CORRECT about the topics of which you are skeptical, but that doesn’t mean the “stupid” people should be sneered at and then ignored. They should, instead or at least, be educated.

As a final argument, I’d like to bring up the parallels between elitist skeptics and Randian thinkers on economics.

“I got to where I am today, financially, due to my own skills, intelligence, and hard work! I am the 53%! Pull yourself up by your boot straps!”

The common rebuttal is something on the lines of “Really? You didn’t rely on your parents? Your schooling? The circumstances of your birth? Your parents’ economic standing? Your gender? The colour of your skin? Your reliance on the wider society to provide the safe environment in which you can flourish?”

Soon the claims that someone, anyone, got to their current financial position due to their own abilities falls flat. It involves long chains of coincidence, circumstances outside of the person’s control, and the actions of other people. All these things combine to bring any single person to any point in their life. There is no fate, there is no destiny, there is no god in the machine. If you are a hardcore skeptic, you won’t believe in true free will, only in the illusion of free will. You are only the culmination of matter and energy playing itself out in the universe.

Really.

“I’m a skeptic, and have all the right answers, due to my own skills, intelligence, and hard work! I have the same religious beliefs as all these Nobel Prize winning scientists! If you weren’t so stupid, you’d be just like me!”

My rebuttal is exactly the same as before. “Really? You didn’t rely on your parents? Your schooling? The circumstances of your birth? Your parents’ economic standing? Your gender? The colour of your skin? Your reliance on the wider society to provide the safe environment in which you can flourish?”

Yes, even skin gender and colour. How many black women at TAM London in 2010? Maybe there was one, but she was hidden among the sea of caucasian men. Then again, only middle-to-upper-class people could afford the money and time to attend TAM, and we all know that white men, aged 25-40, only reach that position through their own intelligence and hard work. Ho hum.

To conclude: Some people DO rely solely on their outstanding mental capacity to independently formulate the principles of science and skeptical thought. Good on them. But these people are few and far between. I’m not asking you to defend the ancient philosophers’ intelligence compared to the general population. It’s obvious they had the chops to rise above the rest, and have influenced world history since their times.

No, I’m asking you to defend your OWN intelligence compared to the general population. Is knowing the truth about some subjects, and knowing a method of thought to reach true conclusions on other subjects, reason enough to sneer at everyone else?

I think not.


A month of music – part 4: listening to my entire iTunes library by date added.

So, it’s that time of year again!

In 2009 I listened to every bit of music in my iTunes library as sorted by track name, and in 2010 I did listened to the entire thing as sorted by by track length, and again in 2010 sorted by play number.

It’s a fun little project, and makes me take notice of the music I have in new ways. Over the past month I’ve listened to every track as sorted by date added.

What did I find out this time?

Of the four ways I’ve listened to all my music in order, it was the one that had the greatest effect. Listening as sorted by track length told me a lot about the kind of music I own, but by date added it told me a lot about me. Changing tastes of music is only the smallest part of it.

Mostly it’s about the triggered memories. This is a great way to relive your life through your memories, in order, as triggered by “Oh shit, I remember buying this!” or “I know where I was the first time I heard this track, and ripped it from that CD!”

If I looked through a diary, that would work, but most people don’t keep diaries. But everyone has a collection of music. Listening by track name is just a whimsical thing that only someone like me would do, someone who has almost unlimited free time, gives in to random impulses, and bloody-minded enough to stick with long term projects.

I think everyone should listen to all their music as sorted by date. Then again, maybe most people aren’t like me, and might not get anything from it at all. Who knows.

Some more notes:

  • When you sort all the tracks by date added, if an album has the same time and date (to the nearest minute) it then lists the tracks alphabetically by name, not by track number. I’m not sure why, but it meant that I listened to albums in an unusual order. Unless, of course, the track names were “Track 1, track 2, track 3, etc.”
  • The first track, for the second time, was “5 seconds of almost silence”, a track I use to separate music track on CDs for my show. It’s also the shortest track in my library, as well as the most played.
  • Next is a whole load of music that I copied direct from my old PC onto my macbook when I bought it back in February of 2008. This includes 311 songs, 20.2 hours, or 1.5 GB of music. A lot of this is from my collection of CDs from the previous decade, but from CDs I didn’t still have with me physically.
    What did this mean? This batch included a LOT of memories. Stuff I’d downloaded for specific shows, CDs I’d borrowed from friends at university and ripped, some music from Pola’s computer, and lots more.
  • The next main batch of music is from a few weeks later, when I wanted to have the titles of every track listed, rather than just “Track 1, track 2, track 3, etc.” Instead of doing anything manually, I just ripped all the CDs I had, let iTunes grab the track titles from the internet automagically, and deleted the previous files.
    This included a lot more music that Pola and I had bought together, or that we both liked so that we’d carry the music with us on road trips in a CD carrying case. Good times!
  • Once I had an iTunes account, much of the music I bought was through that, and not CD. A lot of these were impulse buys, or buying new albums from favourite artists. Also there are many EPs and albums that I bought after hearing the music on a YouTube video, and iTunes is usually the easiest way to grab it.
  • At the EJC in 2008 I organized the EJC Open Stages, and put in lots of CDs to rip for the artists appearing on stage. Also someone gave me a USB thumb drive with a big collection of ska music and other stuff, and it somehow got imported into my iTunes library. I liked most of it, so kept most of it.
  • Some CDs that someone gave to me. Those were ripped.
  • Some music from musicians I work with on cruise ships. Well, to be honest the style of music normally isn’t to my taste, so I don’t keep the music in rotation, except for a very few artists.
  • Oh look, all of Jonathan Coulton’s Thing A Week music. Mixed memories of my own attempt to make a song a week for a just six weeks, rather than for an entire year.
  • And then quite a few albums bought at the suggestion of various girlfriends and friends who are girls over the last two years. Lots of memories there too!
  • Albums and EPs by musicians I met on my vacation in New York in September 2010. Those guys were all super talented! I still buy their new music as and when it comes out.
  • Various nostalgia trip! Downloading albums I owned on CD, cassette tape or (I’m not kidding here) minidisc when I was 20, but since lost. Groove Armada are still cool, right? Basement Jax? Air’s Moon Safari? Jamiroqui? Love it! That reminds me, I should find some Orbital and Leftfield again some time. This way I can get double memories, of when I first listened to that music, and also when I buy it again 10 (or more) years later.

Whew! A lot of memories. That will do for now.

But what next? Listen to the whole iTunes library as sorted by… release date? That might work, but only three quarters of my library has the year of release. Beats per minute? Only a few dozen tracks have that info attached. Genre? Album? Artist? Those are a bit boring. No matter, I’ll think of something.