Quandaries of My Existence

Quandaries of My Existence

images (1)I am having one of those days; when the questions of life that I have never been able to answer just seem overwhelming.  I once looked forward to the day that I would know almost everything or at least know a great deal more than I did.  Sadly, that day has retreated further and further from my grasp.  Each day that I live, I find more questions that I cannot answer.  So today, I am listing some of these in the hopes that you (my reader) may have found some of the answers that have eluded me.  Please feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments section or send me an email with your answer.  Any solutions will be greatly appreciated.  For those of you who have never read my blog before, I am a 76 year old White guy who lives in the USA.  I love lobster, liquor, reading, music, travel and making it difficult for racists, xenophobes, Trumpers, and other bigots to dominate current narratives.


Here then are my major quandaries:

  • I grew up always feeling like I was old. I never felt like a child.  Now I am told that I am old, but I do not feel old.  How can I never be young or old?
  • Years ago, I thought that I was smart and that I knew a great deal about the world. Many years have gone by.  I have studied and read much.  I have attended years of education and completed many programs.  How come today, I do not feel like I know much at all? 
  • The older I get, the less that I understand people.  I had people all figured out years ago.  Today, I can’t even figure my self out.
  • It was said that if you are not a socialist when you are young, you do not have a heart and if you are not a conservative when you are old, you do not have a brain. Well, something must be wrong with me, because I still believe in the merits of socialism.
  • I never wanted to be young. I have always been more comfortable around older people.  Trouble is I never wanted to be old either.  I truly wonder if there is any age that I would be happy at?    
  • I have never discovered the meaning of existence, a buried treasure, or the secrets to success. I have looked high and low.  Seems like I would have found something by now.
  • My father used to say if “If you are so smart, why aren’t you rich.” I still don’t know the answer to his question.  My father thought he was smart, but he died poor as well.  I guess, “Like father like son.” 
  • Money never mattered very much to me. I wonder what my life would have been like if money had been my holy grail instead of time.  I always admired the grasshopper in the story with the ants.  I could never save for a rainy day as much more followed the precept to “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow I might die.” 
  • What if I could live my life again. Knowing what I know now. Would I have a better life if I could live it over again?  Somehow, I doubt it.  This conclusion puzzles me.  Maybe its like the time paradox thing.  You can’t go back in the past and change the future. 


  • My greatest heroes were always thinkers rather than doers. I think Hofstede’s book “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” should be for thinkers like the Communist Manifesto was for the proletariat.  “Rise up Intellectuals and overthrow the morons of the world!”  God knows there are enough of them.
  • Why did none of the officers on the Star Ship Enterprise have seat belts? Every other episode they are in a photon battle with Klingons or Romulans and they are tossed hither and zither all over the deck.  Four hundred years in the future and they still do not have seat belts?  This show was a harbinger of our future.  God Forbid It! 
  • I have made many friends and lost many friends.  Friends seem like ships in the night.  Why do they come and go?  Am I the one that changes, or do they?  I read Aristotle’s books on friendship years ago hoping that they would help.  Did he leave out some important information?
  • Was Socrates really the smartest person in ancient Greece?  Seems like the Delphic oracle would have been, but she was not counted because she was a woman. 
  • How do so many mediocre writers sell so many books?  People who find a blasé character that is some dumb action figure and repeat the story over and over again with a slightly different title.  The hoi polloi buy hundreds of these books making the authors rich and making us listen to them on endless talk shows. 
  • If I die and there is a heaven and I go to it, will I have to listen to God lecture all day long?  I have never liked long lectures and I have been told that we must listen to God in heaven.  I suppose I could take him or her for a few minutes but all day?
  • If I go to heaven, will I have any chores to do?  Lots of other questions on the sexual side about heaven but I don’t want this blog to get an X RATING so I will leave them to your imagination.
  • Life’s not fair. Parents told me that when I was five or so.  Now that I am wiser, I still have never given up expecting it to be.  Is there anyone out there who really expects life to be “unfair?” 
  • Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise! BULLSHIT!  PS:  Maybe it works for women. 
  • The early bird catches the worm. Great if you like worms.  Just a few examples of some of the useless sayings we hear as we grow up.  This leads me to my three rules for aphorisms. 
  • Three rules that I have learned from aphorisms, 1st For every up there is a down. 2nd For every pro there is a con.  3rd For every rule there is an exception.  But if there are exceptions for every rule, then that means that these three rules are all false.  How confusing! 
  • Do not go gently into the night, rage, rage and drag your feet when they come to take you to the nursing home. It probably won’t do you any good, so you will need a backup plan.  In a future blog, I will give you a plan for avoiding getting dragged off to a nursing home.  If I can come up with one.
  • Whoever said that death and taxes were the only eternals was a big schmuck. If I started a list of “eternals” it would go on for many pages.  Taxes get a bad rap.  You want roads? You pay taxes.  You want police protection?  You pay taxes.  You want education for your kids?  You pay taxes.  So why are so many people complaining about taxes?  Maybe they should pay for these things out of their weekly checks and see how they feel about that.

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That’s it folks.  I am sure that with more time devoted to it, I could add endlessly to my list of quandaries.  Each day brings more and more of them.  I would love to hear your Quandaries of Existence.  Please feel free to add as many as you like in my comments section.  Perhaps other readers will have solutions to your quandaries.  If there are any Socrates, Marilyn Vos Savants or Solomons out there please give us the benefit of your wisdom.  😊





How Do You Know if You Know Anything?

truthHow do you know if you know anything?  You have two paths to answer this question.  The first path involves your belief that you do know something.  You can choose this path if you are fairly certain that you know something.  It may surprise you, but this is not a path of science.  This is a Faith-Based path.  No matter what anyone tells you, science relies on faith almost as much as religion relies on faith.

Consider the Heisenberg Principle of Uncertainty and Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems.  Both theories show that ultimately, we can never be certain of anything, and that the fundamental bedrock of even science must then be a degree of faith.  Formulated by Werner Heisenberg, Nobel Prize winning physicist in 1927, the Uncertainty Principle states that we cannot know both the position and speed of a particle, such as a photon or electron, with perfect accuracy; the more we nail down the particle’s position, the less we know about its speed and vice versa. 

Godel’s first incompleteness theorem states that “No consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by an effective procedure (i.e., an algorithm) is capable of proving all truths about the arithmetic of natural numbers.  For any such consistent formal system, there will always be statements about natural numbers that are true, but that are unprovable within the system.  The second incompleteness theorem, an extension of the first, shows that the system cannot demonstrate its own consistency.” — Wikipedia


Let me provide a simple example of what these theories tell us.  For instance, you may say, “I know the earth is round.”  I challenge you to prove this.  The only way that you can prove it is by relying or trusting on the wisdom of experts who say that the earth is round.  Even if you have a picture of the round earth, how do you know that it is real?  In essence, you are relying on faith.  It is your faith in someone you trust whom you believe has more knowledge than you do.  You cannot prove the earth is round so your belief is based on faith.  This explains why climate change deniers are so difficult to argue with.  They refuse to accept any evidence from experts on climate whom they disagree with.  Instead, they find the inevitable expert who disagrees with many other scientists.  Most of us have faith in the majority.  But history has countless examples of where the majority were wrong. 


The second path you can take is what I call the Path of the Atheist.  In this path, you accept what Socrates did that you know nothing.  Socrates was called the wisest man in the world because he believed that “I know that I know nothing.”  The atheist does not believe anything unless it can be proved to them personally.  Since it is impossible that anyone can ever prove anything to you beyond a shadow of a doubt, you must conclude that knowledge (like God) is impossible to know or prove.  The atheist concludes that all possibility of ever conclusively proving anything is impossible.  Thus no one can really know anything. 

The Path of the Atheist diverges from the Faith Based path since with faith we believe things.  We believe that there are facts and there is an ultimate truth.  Even if we cannot find them ourselves.   The scientist’s belief is tempered by realistic probabilities based on experiments and history.  The Path of the Atheist does not believe that there is any ultimate truth.  Truth is only a process that gets us closer to some approximation that we are finally willing to settle for.  The Atheist says, “Show me an ultimate truth that is unvarying and that you can prove will be forever true.”  You might argue that the sun will come up tomorrow, but you only have history to rely on for this.  The dinosaurs might have believed that they would live forever but all it took was one large asteroid to wipe out millions of years of evolution. 

As we go through life, we sometimes choose one path and sometimes the other.  Given whatever circumstances we are confronted with, we select the path that provides the most comfort and certainty for us.  Even the Path of the Atheist is comforting since the atheist does not expect any irrefutable truth.  This gives the atheist the ability to ignore whatever fads and foibles society is following in search of a truth that does not exist, or at least for the atheist does not exist.   

truth as factual

What is the meaning of all this?  Are we arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of the pin?  Are we engaging in the same logic that Bishop Berkeley did.  A man who denied that there is a reality of matter apart from what the mind perceived.  Some philosophers have argued that we cannot prove or ever know if we are living or dreaming.  I would guess that most of you reading this blog persist in the idea that you are truly alive and not dreaming now. 

What then is the value of discussing truth?  In this age of misinformation, disinformation, false facts, and fake news, it is a matter that we all need to take more seriously.  For generations and centuries, humans have searched for the truth.  We are told that the “Truth will set us free” and that truth is a value even more important than honesty.  But as Sara Gran said ““Most people wouldn’t know the truth if it bit them in the ass and paid for the privilege.”  Could it be that to paraphrase Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in a “Few Good Men”, “You don’t want the truth because you can’t handle the truth.” 

truth will set you free

Truth is a great deal more complicated than we realize.  It is one of those “holy grails” which if we find may give us eternal life.  Problem is that no one has found either the Holy Grail or the Truth.  It is said that you have your truth and I have my truth.  Dr. Deming, an expert on quality insisted that nothing could be accomplished without an operational definition of any concept that was going to be studied.  He said “An operational definition is a procedure agreed upon for translation of a concept into measurement of some kind.”   The science of an operational definition lay in the measurement of the concept but the starting point for measurement lay in the agreement between two “reasonable” people as to what measurement procedure would be used.  Without an agreement there was no starting or ending point. 

We may meet someone on the street or at a party or it may be a friend or relative and they advance some theory or ideas which contradicts the facts as we know them.  A popular controversy these days among some is whether Trump really won the election and if it was not stolen from him.  If you believe it was stolen, you will have a set of ideas about what constitutes a “fair” election. 

trumpThe Faith Based Path could lead one to accept that hundreds of systems across America could not all have been wrong and that the tallies were accurate because someone you trust told you they were.  If you do not trust the poll counters, you will reject the decisions made by election boards and cling to the idea that Trump was cheated by liars and scoundrels.  Either way it is a matter of faith.

If you follow the Path of the Atheist, you may reject the vote tallies because you do not believe any voting procedure could be foolproof.  You accept that there is error in any system and the deciding factor for you lies in the degree of error that you are willing to accept.  Given your proclivity to accept a certain amount of error, you will either accept of reject any election results based on the voting tallies.

I chose the Faith Based path and accepted that fifty state election boards cannot all be wrong.  On the other hand, I followed the Path of the Atheist since I know that error exists in any procedure, and I do not trust that any election process can rule out all the errors in the system.  I accept the errors in life just as I accept the risk of dying on the road tomorrow when I drive someplace.  It is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of statistical probability.  Tallies like life will never be perfect.

truth 2

What do we do?  First stop looking for an ultimate truth.  Truth is like beauty and is in the eye of the beholder.  Second, ask others what they base their truth on.  See if you can come up with an operational definition for establishing truth that you are both willing to accept.  Third, agree on a way to measure the outcome of whatever you are measuring or looking at.  Accept that error will always exist and that predictability for any ultimate truth is near zero. 

The best we can achieve in life is a “useful” truth that we may find to make life easier and happier for all of us.    


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