Although the holiday break of Thanksgiving is coming, making the last week of November seem longer than it is once we are dining with our families and thinking about what to snag on Black Friday, the return to Penn State will shatter us back into a reality of struggle as we prep for final exams or add finishing touches to our final papers. According to the modern psychology, stress can come in different forms and bring different impacts. Catastrophes are unexpected and cause massive stress, while hassles are daily annoyances ranging from burning your tongue on a cup of coffee or failing to the perfect knot on our ties. One could further divide stressors to situations where the person has or does not have control, with the uncontrollable stressors being the more strenuous. But one thing these stressors all have in common is change. Maybe it’s your environment or your friend. Even if your life had never changed for 10 years and you become bored of your lifestyle, you still experience a change in attitude.
So how do we deal with change and the stress it will cause? They’re two ways to first look at a situation before coming up with the plan, which brings us to emotion-coping methods and problem-solving methods. Emotion-coping is to change the way one feels about the stress, therefore assuaging the problem. For example, smiling even when the expression is not genuine, is shown to genuinely reduce stress levels. Problem-based solutions are looking at what steps can one take in order to make the problem go away. People stressed about a paper may break down the problem into smaller hassles and then proceed one step at a time until the paper is completed. Notice how situations can call for different types of stress reduction. Emotion-coping works better with problems that are uncontrollable, while problem solving methods cannot help solve unchangeable problems.
The problem of what humans should care about, a life purpose if you wish to call it by that name, is one that is not by any stretch of the definition ‘solved’, and a consensus on what life’s important gifts are seems too far over the horizon. Some take refuge in work, keeping themselves busy until it’s hello darkness my old friend. Religion, family, science, and the goal of just obtaining stuff (greed) are also present in discussions of the ‘right’ way to live.
The concept that I would like to contribute to the conversation is called that of maintaining a content consciousness. Remember that thoughts, emotions, and expressing and receiving expressions are all perturbations of consciousness. The five smells become a meaningless statement when consciousness is lost. The other previously mentioned paths one could take to a meaningful life are also impossible without consciousness. The consolations of religion and the advancements of science don’t mean anything to us if these activities don’t alter consciousness. Would a prayer in church have an effect without the mental tools to analyze music and lyrics? Would the creation of an elevator have an effect on our stress level if the difference between excruciating pain and good health was undetectable? If we want to live happy lives, then we should conduct more research on consciousness and it forms.
The first question to ask if whether consciousness is actually physical. Whether consciousness can be removed by taking apart the human body, or whether consciousness itself is immaterial. This is known as the mind body problem in philosophy. Religious tend to believe the consciousness is immaterial and will float off the brain at death, while neuroscientists tend to believe that consciousness is connected to the brain, and may or may not change after death. But for the brain to be connected to consciousness isn’t the same as being dependent on the brain. Being dependent would mean that without the brain, there is no consciousness. Being connected is to say that the brain is a part of consciousness, which has been shown through various neuroscience experiments
That is unfortunately all we can claim to know about consciousness, as it is a puzzle with pieces still missing. Regardless, I believe we should rally around the experimenters and philosophers who still attempt to solve this problem, as the answer could have serious moral and spiritual implications.
Halloween is a celebration that began in Celtic Ireland during its pagan years. It was believed that on summer’s end, evil spirits would roam amongst the living, and curse the peasants so they wouldn’t survive the winter. To ward off and confuse the evil spirits, the people dressed as to look like them. Therefore, variations of ghouls, the undead, and ghost costumes were the original choices of costumes. The tradition was brought over to America by an influx of Irish citizens who were escaping the potato famine. Overtime, as people believed less in the doctrines of evil spirits, costumes like fireman, fictional characters, and heroes became readily accepted. This is how Halloween has evolved into the celebration we know it as.
I broke the promise of staying to the topic of philosophy and psychology in order to dispute an ad campaign that I saw throughout buildings on the Penn State campus. The ad features a sad child looking at a picture of a costume that depicts a culture. “We are a culture, not a costume, and this is not okay”. Pictures have ranged from condemning suicide bomber costumes, Asian costumes, and others. These ads weren’t the only pushback from a politically correct stance during the Halloween season. Celebrities like Nicki Minaj have come out condemning a hilarious and well created costume of Bill Cosby, saying that our culture is too desensitized.
To start with an inexpensive observation, it seems to me Nicki Minaj isn’t the best spokesperson to talk about the problems of desensitization. Here’s a link to the music video Anaconda. I’ll let my readers decide which draws most of their attention.
While Halloween has not also been about satire, the costumes people wear can be a political statement or just plain fun. Take the Bill Cosby costume for example; what was the message of the person who wore the costume? Was it joy over the fact that injustice like rape with the assistance of pharmaceuticals could occur? Or was he calling attention to the injustice? How is this any different than crude satire? If we can safely make fun of the Chris Christie in a baseball jersey, or Demi Lovato when she’s called out on live TV, we should safely be able to satire current events, using words or costumes. Live a little people!