Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cogito ergo sum

Sorry, Uncle Tim, I had to put Descartes before the horse :-D

As I sit here about to start my eight-page paper for Philosophy class, many thoughts are going through my mind. Mostly those thoughts are about Rene Descartes... Hmm, could that be because that's one of the people that will be written into my paper??? Could be.

At any rate, anyone who has had a Philosophy class is probably familiar with the quote "Cogito ergo sum." My professor calls it a "cocktail party quote," since it is one of those things you can say at a party to impress people with your infinite knowledge of things (or so he thinks). I am not so convinced that I could use that at a party, but I digress.

For anyone who is not familiar with that quote in Latin, you are probably familiar with it in English: "I think, therefore, I am." Descartes is proving that we exist by the fact that we can think. We are immaterial thinking things; that which we believe makes us human (the human body) actually has very little to do with who we are. The mind is separate from the body, and we merely take the form of a body to be a part of the material world. This intellect separates us from the rocks, the plants, and the animals, since they only have material bodies and no mind/intellect. Descartes would say that therefore, we have dominion over all other things, paraphrasing Genesis: "to be masters and possessors of nature." Very powerful stuff, if you ask me, though I do not agree with it all.

From the way I have learned in many a Theology class, both here and in the past, nature was not created merely for our own use. Yes, I do believe that humans were made in God's image and likeness, and that we are the superior beings due to the intellect we have, but that doesn't mean everything in nature is ours to control. The Bible suggests that we have responsibility for the Earth, not necessarily that we have free reign over everything. Descartes would have us believe that all things were created simply for our sake, and not for those things in and of themselves. For example, the cow was made to give us food and milk, not to be a cow. The tree was made to give us shade and furniture from it's wood, not to grow and live as a tree. Et cetera, et cetera...

Why don't I believe in all of this? Let's just say I can't believe in a God that would create things just for us to exploit them. Yes, I enjoy eating meat and plants, and burning those fossil fuels in my car, and otherwise using nature to continue my life. However, not recognizing that those things that I am using were precious and good before I used them is just plain wrong. In that way, I tend to agree more with St. Thomas Aquinas, who coincidentally is also going to be in my paper. He would have us say that something is good before we use it for our own good. For example, "This is an oak tree, and it is good. Now I will make a table out of it." Or, "This is a cow, and it is good. Now I will make hamburgers out of it."

I think, therefore I am, disagreeing with Descartes on a couple things. He has a lot of good points that I would agree with, but this one just did not sit well with me. What do all the other masters and possessors out there think?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Aunt Paulette

The beginning of November is always a special time in the Church. The first is All Saints' Day, which celebrates all men and women who are officially declared to be in heaven by the Church. The second is All Souls' Day, which celebrates the men and women who, though not officially declared saints, have gone before us into everlasting life. This includes those souls already in Heaven, those in purgatory, and even also we the living. It is, after all, ALL Souls' Day.

November is also the month that we remember in a special way those that have left our mortal realm in the last year. Naturally when I reflected on this, my mind shifted to Aunt Paulette. I made a point to write her name in the special book in the Chapel here at Xavier. I have been thinking about her a lot lately, and those thoughts have been both sad and comforting at the same time. Since I really didn't have a chance to reflect on her and her impact on my life in blog form, I decided this was as good a time as any to do so.

The first time I can actually recall meeting her (take into account that this is the only meeting I REMEMBER) was at my cousin Kelly's wedding about five or six years ago. We all made the trip to Jacksonville for this occasion, and it was going to be interesting to finally meet all of my Grandpa's brothers and sisters, who unbeknownst to me, I had probably already met. At any rate, Aunt Paulette instantly made an impact on me. I am not just saying that just to prove my point that I miss her, but because I can actually remember what the first thing she said to me was. Here is an exerpt of our conversation, more or less, as I remember it:

AP: (already in a conversation about being nice)
SM: Hi, I am Sean, Marcel's grandson.
AP: Well, are you nice, too?
SM: (uneasy) Umm, yes?
AP: Well, good, I'll get along well with you then.

Obviously you can tell that I wasn't ready for such a question, but we got over that awkward introduction. Later on it came out how I was the one that got left behind at Grandpa Beauregard's birthday party when I was three. Once that came out, Aunt Paulette knew exactly who I was. Unfortunately, I will always be infamously remembered that way by my extended family. It was a topic of humor during the course of the visit, and I have to say now it is quite funny to me as well. Of course, at the age of three, it was a horrific experience, and I can still remember it quite vividly. Well, that's a topic for another blog.

After that summer of getting to know her through discussion and games (and all of my grandfather's siblings for that matter), I was very intrigued and wanted to keep in touch with her. Unfortunately that only really started happening two or three years later when I got introduced to the blogging world. And as you know, once I started blogging, I got hooked on blogs in general. I was introduced to so many family members that I never even knew I had. It was truly refreshing to know that there were people out there that had interesting blogs, and who were genuinely interested in what I had to say.

Aunt Paulette was something else when it came to the blogging world. Not only did she post interesting things to her own blog, but she was a diligent commenter on everyone's blogs. This included mine. I could always count on her to post something on each and every one of my posts, or at least a majority of them. Even if she didn't agree with what I said, or even if the content was boring, she made a point to comment. I always enjoyed reading her comments. She posted praise, advice, information, personal anecdotes, jokes, and shared in my joy if I had something good to report. I was very glad I had found her through blogging.

On top of her comments, I thoroughly enjoyed reading her own blog. I went all the way back to the beginning of her blog (about 4-5 years prior to now) when I started reading blogs, and she was an excellent writer. I was amazed at what an awesome memory she had, being able to recall people's names and events from sixty years ago. What a woman! Not only did she remember what happened, but she remembered specific details, and could then use her storytelling skills to set the scene for all the rest of us. I especially liked her retrospective posts on her own childhood, and the posts on all her siblings as children (especially the ones about my own grandfather). I could not get enough of her blog, and I started checking it every day for new pearls of wisdom.

Unfortunately, my new-found blogging relationship did not last long enough. That saddens me to an extent, knowing that I won't suddenly find a new comment from paulettevanh. BUT, I know that she continues to live on through her family, and she will always be present on cyberspace. I still go to her blog to get to everyone else's; come on, she did have the most comprehensive list ever. Going to that blog every day, I start to think about those fond memories, and how thankful I was to get to know her. I do truly miss her, but I do hope to see her again sometime. God willing that won't be anytime soon, and I will live a long, healthy life in which I remember everything so vividly as she did.

Aunt Paulette, pray for us...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Who I Am

As per the request of some readers, and due to my overwhelming need to try to please everyone, I decided to write a post to tell you all who I am and what I believe. I know that no one agrees on everything, but this is what I believe, and I hope everyone can respect my decisions. Contrary to popular belief, young people do come about their own decisions without coercion of others, and that is the case with me. I don't believe in something just because that's what I am told to do; I weigh things very carefully and make decisions that best represent who I am and what I feel is right.

I am a Catholic.
I think this is one of the most important "I am" statements that I can make. I was born and raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, and I could not imagine living with any other faith tradition. Yes, I guess you could say I was more or less "forced" into believing these things as a child, but I have made my commitment to the Church by myself. It was I that chose to be confirmed as a senior in high school, and that is a decision I stand behind whole-heartedly. I love all the good things the Church stands for, and I defend her in her stances on things. I chose to attend a Jesuit Catholic college, not because someone told me to, but because that is what I wanted. I choose to attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day not because someone tells me to, but because I want to. I believe that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, and that all that I am and do reflects Him in my words and actions. I believe in an everlasting reward in Heaven that hopefully I will achieve someday. I believe that all people are born with a common goodness and decency, only that we are corrupted by the sin and destruction of this world. That's not to say the whole world is corrupt; there is so much beauty in creation and God reveals Himself/Herself through all that we can see (and for that matter, things we can't see). I believe that all faiths are good ways of achieving the same end. I know that the Catholic faith is the right way for me, but I would not take away from any other faith and say it is less Godly than mine. Faith is that relationship with God; religion is only a way of expressing that faith in a structured environment. I believe in the equality of all people: rich or poor, old or young, black or white, gay or straight, educated or uneducated. These are my beliefs and who I am, and I stand behind that.

I am a Democrat.
Given the recent election, I think it is also important to make this statement. If you have looked in the Blogger world lately, you will probably see that quite a few of my relatives are Conservatives. Obviously, then, I did not choose to be a Democrat because someone told me to. In the same way, I did not choose to be a Democrat just to spite them; that's not who I am at all. I have always believed in certain things, but only in the last few years have determined that many of my views seem to fit in nicely with the Democrat way of thinking. However, that is not to say I don't hold some Conservative values and beliefs, only that I choose to align myself more with Democrats than I do with Republicans. First of all, I believe in our right to choose our own religion, and not to be a country of only Christians. I choose to be a Catholic, but that does not mean everyone else must make the same choice as I made. Our Constitution allows us to practice whatever religion we want, even if that entails not practicing one at all. I can respect any choice of religion, whether it be Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, any other organized religion, or even the choice of "no religion." I believe in a strong federal government that takes care of its citizens and looks out for their welfare. I believe that we need federal programs to help people find jobs, to help people get out of tough situations, to help people raise their families, to keep us safe at home and abroad, to help us keep our freedoms that we enjoy. That being said, I believe that these programs are under-supervised and under-regulated. People can easily take advantage of the system, and there should be more oversight in these avenues. There are many other things that I believe that correspond with the Democrat way, but I will leave you with just those few for now. These are my beliefs and who I am, and I stand behind that.

I am pro-life.
Some might say that a pro-life stance is contrary to the ways of a Democrat. I say that they are wrong. Being pr0-life encompasses much more than just the issue of abortion. Yes, maybe I disagree with my party on abortion rights, but in the same way, I am not sure I believe that the government should have a say in whether or not someone chooses to have one. That being said, I did march in Washington during one of the Right to Life Marches while in high school, and boy was that an awesome experience! I would just prefer someone choose life and to give their child life, even if that means adoption. I am pro-family, anti-death penalty, pro-gun control. All of these stances show a pro-life belief; all humans deserve the right to life. Yes, it is controversial to think that criminals deserve to live just as much as we non-criminals, but that is what I believe. The legal system sometimes has holes in it that keeps innocent people from being declared innocent (or i suppose "not guilty"), which means some innocent people end up dead by the hands of their government. I believe that convicted murderers should face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and that their lives should be confined to a small room with only necessary food and other provisions. I believe that gun control should exist to a greater extent. Think of Virgina Tech; that yahoo was able to buy guns even though he had obvious psychological problems. Yes, maybe the Constitution allows for us to "bear arms," but I believe that the greater good of our country depends on us not arming certain citizens with guns (felons, people with psychological histories, or people with non-felonious criminal histories). I believe that the family is the most important group in our country. I love my extended family more than life itself, and I would do anything to defend it. The family is the foundation on which this country is built, and I am prepared to stand behind those values. These are my beliefs and who I am, and a stand behind that.

I am a college student.
This is not a belief statement, but merely a major part of my life. I chose to come to Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I stand behind that decision. I wanted to have a college experience that was away from home, and yet comfortably close enough that I could easily make it home for holidays. I needed an experience that emphasized learning and growth in areas other than my major (which, by the way, is Biology). I am becoming more well-versed in Theology, History, Spanish, Philosophy, Music, English, and other subject areas that perhaps other colleges might not focus on as much. Yes, I am becoming very well-versed in Biology as well. I chose a Biology major because I wanted to pursue medical school in the future. Is this still my intended path? You betcha. I just know that for now, that is not in my immediate future. Perhaps after I finish undergraduate I will get a job in a medical or research field to build up a resume. Perhaps I will continue in my pursuit of knowledge and attend graduate school back home. Perhaps someday in the not-to-distant future I will decide to apply to medical school. But, I have ultimately decided that if medical school is not a reasonable possibility for me, I can live with that. There are so many more things that a Biology or science-minded person can do, and if medicine is not for me, I know that I can have a fulfilling career and life in something other than that. These are my beliefs and who I am, and I stand behind that.

I am "green."
Being pro-life and a Biology-minded individual, it should obviously follow that I believe in conservation and promoting a healthy world. I drive a very fuel-efficient car that on average gets 35 miles per gallon, and I therefore only buy gas every three weeks or so when I am driving a lot. Here at school I hardly do any driving, so I only buy gas when I am about to make trips home. I believe in reducing our carbon footprint and being good stewards of our earth and its resources. I try to reduce my energy usage both at school and at home whenever I can. If I don't need the light on, I leave it off. I turn off my computer and unplug other electronic gadgets that don't need electricity at night. We turn up our thermostat at home during the summer, and turn it down during the winter to not waste energy. I recycle anything that can be recycled; luckily the school provided me with a separate recycling can for this year. If you looked at my room right now, you would find cans, bottles, jars, plastic jugs, boxes, papers, newspapers, and other things waiting to be taken to the curb. "Waste not, want not" is a good motto for me, and I believe in making good use out of everything I own. These are my beliefs and who I am, and I stand behind that.

These are just a few things that describe who I am and what I believe. I encourage everyone to write about their own beliefs and who they are and why they believe/are that way. Also, I welcome opinions and comments on my belief systems; let's keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their opinions and that every opinion is a valid one.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


It doesn't matter who you are or what your politics are. This is America, and we are one in our patriotism and our pursuit of liberty. Even if you don't like the man, you have to admit that President-Elect Obama is an eloquent speaker. In case you haven't seen it already, here is his victory speech from last night. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning watching all the coverage, and I have to admit, I had tears in my eyes from this speech. God Bless America!

Monday, November 03, 2008

One Last Time

Today was my final registration day here at Xavier. If you all have seen my previous posts about registration, you will know that this is a most rewarding day for me, as I will not have to do this again here at Xavier! I'd go into all the details of my registration woes again, but I'd pretty much be copying and pasting things that have already happened in the past. In that case, you can just check out the old blogs or simply ask if you are so curious.

At any rate, here are the classes I will be taking next semester:

Introductory Financial Accounting
Bacteriology Lab
Methods of Biological Research II
Microeconomics Principles
Philosophy of Religion

I decided since I needed a few electives to graduate that I would take some business classes, hence, the accounting and economics. I have not taken any college business classes, and they have always interested me. I took one semester of Economics in high school, but lack of an adequate teacher left me with little to no knowledge of that subject. As some of you already know, my job at the grocery store is as a bookkeeper; this is not the typical position one thinks of when the word "bookkeeper" is mentioned, but close enough. At any rate, I have become a whiz at our store accounting program, so I wanted to see if this class would elaborate more on what I was actually doing for the store. Plus, I'm sure the information found in those classes would have useful, real-world applications that I will deal with in the future.

As compared to past years, I would say this final registration went much more smoothly. Of course, no registration is without incidence, but I am used to it by now. I'm just glad to finally say, "Thank God it's the last time..."