Friday, March 29, 2013

Hello World

If you've ever tried your hand at computer programming before, you know that it is a skill that needs to be learned through doing. Reading about programming, hearing about programming, watching someone else program... these are good supplements, but unless you directly apply the material to an application that you have written, you will find yourself lost pretty quickly. This is why the near-universal first step when introducing a particular computer language is the "Hello World" program. Not only is this a relatively simple thing to do (making it good for beginners) but it also demonstrates to the programmer some fundamental syntax and a 'feel' for the language. In short, it is an exercise that has you write a program in the target language that, when run, simply outputs the words "Hello World!" to the monitor.

Profound, isn't it? An optimistic declaration to the world that you exist and want to engage! Coming from a programming background, I thought a Hello World post would be a good way to start a blog.

DISCLAIMER: This will not be a blog about programming. (Understand, there are excellent blogs on programming out there, but writing a blog about programming would bore me to tears!)

I'm an idea guy. And by that I don't mean it is my mission to arrogantly churn out ideas that I want everyone to follow. What I mean is that I love ideas. I love hearing them, discussing them, wrestling with them, testing them... My hope is that, over time, by exposing myself to more and more ideas and refining my own, I can edge and crawl and squeak my way towards truth.

Now, 'truth' is a pretty nebulous word. There are little truths and big truths, subjective truths and (hopefully) objective truths, truths that are inconsequential and truths that are earth-shaking. For my religious friends, you'll recall that when Jesus was on trial, he tells Pontius Pilate (a roman prefect) that his mission was to bring truth, and Pilate replies with a thoughtful question: "What is truth?"

How am I defining the truth I am searching for? I suppose a first, feeble attempt would be that I want to have as good an idea as possible about the way things are in the realm of things that matter. And now look, I've dug myself a hole where I need to define what 'matters'. :)

I'd wager that if a poll could be taken of the whole world asking what questions they want answered, they would consist roughly of the following:

  • Where do I come from?
  • Why am I here?
  • Do life and existence have meaning?
  • Are the above questions absurd?
These are the things that I think 'matter'.

And here! With this blog! I will answer these questions for you!
...

More likely, if I stick with this blog, I will probably pose more questions than anything else and this is because they are questions that I'm wrestling with myself (not to mention, I think most people have a healthy skepticism when someone tells them they have the answers). The blog will more be a place for me to dump what I am feeling about certain issues and ideas whether they be current events or age-old topics.

I've realized for awhile now that micro-blogging platforms like Facebook and Twitter are definitely not the right forums for discussion of complex and controversial ideas. The short format more readily lends itself to shocking one-liners and pithy-comebacks than reasoned debate. A blog, while not perfect, seems to offer more in this regard if for no other reason than the length afforded to each post and the anti-reactionary nature of the act of posting ideas at such length. Quick posting of a sentence or two on social media usually doesn't give enough time for tempers to cool or thoughtful reflection to prevail. I have, of course, read some 'choice' blog comments, but I've also seen a greater average of thoughtful comments on blogs than on Facebook posts and tweets which seem only to attract comments either from people of identical mind (leading to a circle-jerk of sorts) or from those seeking attention and a feeling of self-righteousness by being directly oppositional. I have nothing against agreement or disagreement of any of my ideas and I do hope that you comment, but I also hope that with this blog, you and I can utilize the extra space to more fully articulate our questions and views.

If you get nothing else from this blog and you disagree with every single one of my conclusions, I at least hope that it causes you to look your own ideas and views in the face and to ensure that they really do hold the weight you are putting on them. I can't think of a single nobler exercise that conscious creatures can perform. So Hello World! My name is John.