Struggle: I’ve Got A Strong Will To Survive

“People let me tell you I work hard every day
I get up out of bed, I put on my clothes
‘Cause I’ve got bills to pay
Now it ain’t easy, but I don’t need no help
I’ve got a strong will to survive
I’ve got a deeper love, deeper love.”

Tinush feat Arethra Franklin

We are now deep in the winter doldrums, when some mornings it is tough to just get out of bed in the morning, let alone get to work. Even without the political turmoil of our times and uncertainty of our future, it is a difficult time of year to find motivation to get moving.

I noticed that there was little talk of New Year’s resolutions and I think that is because we would all just like things to go back to “normal.” I am not sure that we can go back, but I do know we can move forward, but it is going to take more courage and perseverance than “normal.”

The next few posts I am working on will drop some of the “heavy” science and philosophy stuff I have been talking about lately and focus more on practical and mental health issues that we face at the beginning of a new year. I, myself, have lived through times that only a strong desire to overcome my situation was the only thing that got me up in it the morning. I would not stop fighting for a life of my own.

Your life is worth fighting for – now – this moment, this day. Don’t let these difficult times let you forget that.

You Don’t Have to be French to Enjoy Life, But…

… you do have to make room in a busy life for it.

Food for Thought

When I first left the workforce to be home with my children over thirty years ago, it was because I believed that our culture was missing something. Maybe it was something I found in my reading or from another kind of awareness of life around me, but it seemed to me that the everyday mundane things we do for each other are more important than financial wealth. Our family took a huge hit financially, but I have never regretted it. What we gained in family cohesion and mental health was worth it. I understand that what I did is difficult to achieve today, but I believe it is still possible to improve our daily lives in little ways.

I came across this book this morning and ordered it. It looks interesting because it seems to share that same view from a different perspective. And well – since life is an art, not a science – we can always use pointers. The French don’t really live this way anymore – just like the rest of us, but that should not deter us from trying. And also, I bought if for the recipes and for some encouragement to drop snacking – a very bad American habit I am guilty of. One can never have too many good recipes in life.

Below the book link, I have included a realistic review that I found in the Amazon reviews which is worth reading. Enjoy!

Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday by Robert Arbor

Pleasure in Life

Reviewed in the United States on April 23, 2005

Arbor’s book is an evocation of a way of life that only a few French people today achieve (especially in Paris, which is now about 65% wealthy executives and a lesser assortment of truly poor people). But social reality is not the point of the book. Arbor does really capture what many French people imagine their lives to be, despite the messy reality that includes: infuriating customer service and poor availability of products and services (even French people often get angry, when they are not stuffing it inside), open social conflicts and overt racism that many “apolitical” Americans would find exhausting or shocking, and extreme cultivation of privacy and disregard for others in public. Actual French people are as varied as we are–and the stories they tell to themselves (and Arbor translates one important one here for us) are interesting to hear and we can learn from them–both as a clue to French ideals of the pleasure-filled, simple life and as a restorative from our own excesses.

It is, I believe, true that many French executives have a much more relaxed life than the American bourgeoisie, although many are also nervous, stressed and unpleasant. There are wonderful food choices (if you can afford them, something increasingly difficult for working French people). “Low-fat” IS under 20% for many foods. I actually found many French people to be too skinny and to look unhealthy and washed out–and of course some are fat but not normally as obese as we are used to seeing here. More importantly, the ideal that Arbor describes circulates widely in France and accounts for some of the different choices in life that the French make and the different emphasis that many place on their experiences.

I read Arbor’s book before living in Paris for six months and, indeed, my consumption of his evocations and internalization of his values caused a few French people to remark on how well socialized I was (until they knew me and my heathen ways, of course). I realized that France is as far from Paradise as here, but in a slightly different direction. The ideals that Arbor sets out here in a lovely, idealized style have something to do with this: Arbor’s “France” and his suggestions are healthy and even wholesome–why shouldn’t we all live a ‘beautiful’ and slower-paced life? Why not incorporate a sense of beauty and the love of pleasure as a fundamental? And, as Arbor suggests, this has more to do with emphasis and choices already available than with running to France to smell the lavender (although that would be nice!). A “really good fried egg” tastes as good in Kentucky as it does in Paris. One should also remember that not all aspects of American life are worthless–our cultural struggles for convenience and accessibility has led to much better services and access for handicapped people than will ever be possible in Paris. If you are wheel-chair bound, or have a hard-time walking (or anything), you can pretty much write France off the map; French handicapped people look to the US as a Mecca for such services as we make available here.

While “plaisir” is overused in France as a marketing theme for everything from cheap sandwiches to toilet tissue in the same way that images of home and reconstructed families are overused in the US, “plaisir” and “joie de vivre” points to something that many Americans could really learn from–the cultivation of pleasure, individual and shared, as an everyday ethic, if not always an easy reality. One could go further as an American and notice the areas of our lives that ARE similar and full of pleasure–such as the Thanksgiving meal, which is an important ritual of pleasure, togetherness, sharing and abundance, and extend those values into everyday life. In Joie de Vivre, Arbor highlights the contrasts between a life focused on pleasure (not indulgence) and the sour Puritan, production and “necessity”-driven life we overvalue here. As Voltaire suggested, “let us cultivate our garden,” a garden that is always in front of us. In “Joie de Vivre,” Arbor translates that ethic for his American readers, who are so obviously looking for a moment of respite. If you are looking for a reminder to cultivate the good things in life, this book is a charming choice for a relaxing read.

JFT – amazon review

Of Gods, Watchmakers, and Unicorns (Part 4)

God Is Not A Unicorn Series

Part 1 looked at the reason why the question of God ‘s existence cannot be satisfied by an appeal to the imagination alone.

Part 2 looked at the different approaches to the question of creation by Philosophy, Religion, and Science.

Part 3 looked at some of the scientific weaknesses of The Big Bang Theory, our modern Creation Myth

Part 4, below, is a post on the question of what do we mean when we talk about God. Secondly, can science address the question of existence and being?


This series began by explaining why the question about the existence of God is not the same type of question as the questions posed by imaginary things like a unicorn. It is time to return to the beginning in order to address how we got to this point in our culture that we think they are the same kind of question.

When we talk about God today, we are rarely talking about the God of antiquity, but more like a modern version of a demiurge.

Continue reading “Of Gods, Watchmakers, and Unicorns (Part 4)”

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays – at least as much as possible during this pandemic season.

I will be back to posting regular articles soon.

Until then I wish everyone a Happy New Year and a better year ahead.

Turtles All the Way Down: First Proof of God

In my research for the next post in the series, God Is Not A Unicorn, I felt a slight detour was needed for those who are not familiar with an older view of the universe as a reality whole and unbroken. Modern particle physics experimentation has been described like this: It is like smashing an idyllic pond environment with an atom bomb and then trying to explain what a pond is from the pieces that are left over. Scientists break reality into smaller and smaller pieces, then try to reconstruct a model of the universe from those bits and pieces.

In contrast, St. Thomas Aquinas famously put forward “Five Proofs of God” in his Summa Theologiae which looked at the natural universe as a whole system. In this post we are going to look at his first proof: “argument from unmoved mover”. I must warn you that it is not an argument that is easy to understand at first. As moderns, we are unused to this way of reasoning and so often avoid it. It may take more than one attempt to understand what is being said here, but I assure you it is worth taking time to think about these ideas as they are fundamental thought about our very being.

The video below is a pretty good explanation of the first proof of St. Thomas Aquinas (Unmoved Mover). This first proof is often explained poorly (and incompletely). It also explains the context of these proofs. They are not definitive proofs of God. They are considered ways to logically infer the existence of God from reason. (I also like that they make Aquinas talk like a Monty Python Character).

This series of videos also included the modern scientific arguments against Aquinas’s first proof. In this video it is explained that the universe is not a system of interlocking moving parts and so motion must originate from the “unmoved mover.” The modern view is that motion originates through intrinsic forces or laws of nature. In essence – the universe is more like individual forces of billiard balls than a system of forces working on each other. More on that faulty thinking below the video.

Oddly, it seems that this 2nd video misses the essence of Aquinas’ argument. Aquinas argued that the first mover – or unmoved mover – would not be a “force” of the same type of natural forces in the universe. This strange omission underscores the powerful conditioning of our modern culture and the mechanistic view of the universe that exists today. It’s almost as if Aquinas argument is “overwritten” without any real consideration of what he is actually saying. Even if it is true that the “laws of nature” are intrinsic to the physical objects of the universe, this simply means that they are attributes of these objects. (Intrinsic means “belonging naturally; essential.”) That definition begs the question: Where do these intrinsic laws of nature come from? It is circular reasoning to say a thing exists because of its attributes. Avoiding the question of where these laws originate from is not an argument against the Aquinas’ first proof.

This second video also says (wrongly) that the Big Bang Theory proves (in theory) that the universe has a beginning. This conflicts with the idea that the universe is eternal as St. Thomas thought. But, that is not what most physicists think. The canonical response to the joke “What existed before the Big Bang” is “It’s turtles all the way down.” This is a reference to a Creation myth that the world is supported by a giant turtle. It’s from an older joke that when asked “What supports the turtle?”, the answer is “It’s turtles all the way down”.

The truth is that we do not know how the universe was first formed, whether it is eternal or not, or even if the Big Bang Theory is correct. (see Cosmology: Modern Science Creation Story aka The Big Bang Theory (Part 3)).

Some scientific questions stop at the door of metaphysics. There exists, especially among the intelligentsia, a mental resistance to admitting these questions exist. That attitude does not disprove the existence of God, nor does it invalidate Aquinas’ reasoning on the subject.