Posts tagged Philosophy
Faith, Hope and Free Dessert

by: Amanda Kay Holstien, Sr.

Today is my first day on the road. I'm heading how to Texas and Louisiana to do 2 weeks of shows (come check them out & say hi!). 

I'm sitting in a cabin with my dog in Virginia, smoking a spliff (naturally). 

Sometimes it feels like my life is a dream - everything that has come together to bring me to this place here, now: the death of my father, my divorce, moving to New York on my own. Sometimes it feels like my life has already been written. Sometimes it feels like I'm the one who writes it. 

I'm turning 30 this month, which is significant in some symbolic way. Age is ultimately an arbitrary number used for measuring and categorization, but if that age ends in a zero, it somehow feels significant. I'm not bothered about turning 30. In some way, I've always felt like an old soul - studying the Bible instead of going to parties in high school. 

I don't believe in God in the same way I used to believe in God. I now believe that God or the Universe or Whatever is much bigger than our limited consciousness allows us to imagine. If there does exist some Divine Good far larger than the Universe itself, then surely that Infinite Being is much more complex than the dogma & rules we ascribe to It.

What I do believe is the Universe is inherently good. I can't explain in some analytic, logical way why or how evil exists if the Universe is inherently good, but I do know that with every struggle comes an opportunity for growth. With every road block and time things don't go perfectly, there also exists a chance to gain wisdom, insight and gain a deeper insight into the beautiful complexity that it is to exist.

It has taken an immense amount of faith to bring me to this cabin with my blind dog, smoking a spliff, but I have come to trust that the Universe is on my side the more I seek goodness, truth and authenticity. I'm aware what I'm saying might come off as hoakey or like Oprah's episode about The Secret, but stay with me as I explain.

Think about it this way: reality exists outside of our interpretation of it. For example: Let's say I am with a friend at lunch. At the end of our meal, the waiter brings us a free dessert. My friend loves dessert, and is thrilled at the blessing of chocolate cake without a fee. On the other hand, I am upset by the free cake because I am on a diet and the cake is a temptation for me, and if I eat it, I will gain weight and thus be unlovable (or something like that). The reality that exists outside of our interpretations is: the free cake given to us. In this situation, my friend and I have two totally different ways of interpreting the same reality: my friend is positive and grateful, while I am annoyed and riddled with anxiety.

Reality exists outside of our interpretation of it. There are multiple ways for us to interpret any given scenario of our lives: positively, negatively or with indifference. Ultimately, however, we have a choice on our interpretation. 

I recently decided to get rid of most my shit, buy a car to go on the road, tell jokes, sell art & smoke spliffs. After breaking up with my boyfriend, I was faced with many ways to interpret my life: who am I and what do I want for my life? I could choose to live in fear and play it safe, or I could choose to take a leap of faith and believe that the Universe is on my side.

What do I have to lose?

Since deciding to make the move & go on the road, so much goodness has come into my life. I've been booking a shit ton of road shows. Friends have offered me rooms and couches to sleep on. I've sold art. I've made money doing standup. 

It reminds me of the teaching of Jesus from the book of Matthew: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself."

Putting aside gender being ascribed to an Infinite Being, I can still find a valuable interpretation of this teaching: seek goodness first and goodness will follow. Inevitably, things will go wrong, but inevitable things will also go right. I can interpret the world with negativity and anxiety while living in fear and doubt, or I can have faith and seek goodness, truth, honesty and authenticity.

There are multiple ways for me to interpret this moment in a cabin smoking a spliff with my blind dog, and there are multiple ways for me to see my future. I am not destined for a life that is out of my control. I will not sit passively by and just let life happen to me. Rather, I choose to have faith and trust that God or the Universe or Nature is inherently on my side. After all, I know that I have made it this far in my life through my 20s: through a divorce, the death of my father, moving to New York. I've made it this far and have come out stronger and wiser at the other end. Struggle is inevitable, but with every struggle is a blessing, and I will choose to be grateful for the free cake. 

What if (reprised) or Reality, Unhinged

by: Amanda Kay Holstien

What if I don’t know anybody?
What if they’re all dicks?
What if he falls out of love with me?
What if I never make it?
What am I working towards?
Why is she further along?
What if I compare myself,
But my comparison is actually wrong?
Evaluating my time like it’s money
And my decisions, commodities
Like buying stocks
When I’m ill informed of what tomorrow might bring.
Luck and hard work
Plus ego and delusion
Equals: why should it happen for me?
Self-doubt for 29 years is too long,
I could’ve died by now and never had the chance to change it-
I could be pregnant,
Barefoot in the kitchen with only dreams of fucking another man,
Praying my husband doesn’t think of another woman.
I feel I’m floating, like a lucky feather,
Fluttering and uncomfortable in any one place.

Please leave me alone,
So I have time to contemplate
All the ways in which I’m not good enough.
It’s sad, really,
To feel alone amongst so many friends.
Authenticity died with Sartre,
Yet hell remains the Other.
What if I perish
Without having published?
What if inspiration never comes
And my emotions are never given a proper name?
What if we think we’re so different,
When we’re really, mostly the same?
What if all the right questions
Still don’t lead to a satisfying conclusion?
What if what I believe to be true
Is actually just an illusion?

Pornography, Empathy and the Objectification of Women

By: Amanda Kay Holstien, Sr.

This is not a manifesto. Broadly, this is a reflection on what it is to be a human, having both basic animal instincts as well as higher functioning capabilities. Specifically, this is a reflection on pornography and the objectification of women. For the purposes of this reflection, when I say "men," I am referring to straight men in general and no man in particular, as I am well-aware there are plenty of men who are already aware of the issues I bring up in this reflection. I love men! Some of my best friends are men!

At its core, sex is not a moral issue. Human beings are, essentially, animals: our ultimate goal is to survive and reproduce. I maintain that this animal essence is why men want to fuck and watch porn, generally and substantially, more than women.  Perhaps men, when objectifying women, are just tapped into their animal-side, the unconscious desire to reproduce. This animal-side is not essentially wrong in any moral sense, but rather, the animal-side is simply basic. Shoveling food into our mouths is also basic and animalistic.

Ultimately, however, human beings have higher capabilities than solely animal instincts. Human beings have consciousness, which allows us the ability to contemplate our animal instincts and chose to change those behaviors. Along with consciousness, human beings have empathy. Empathy is the ability to imagine oneself in the position of another and identify with their thoughts and feelings as if they are your own. Empathy is a higher level mental function and distinguishes humans from most other animals. That humans try to save the weak is a product of empathy. 

That humans are not existentially only animal is why I am now suggesting that men ought to remind themselves, perhaps regularly, that women are not objects. It is understood that men might objectify women from a basic, evolutionary standpoint, but I ask that men also remember their more complex capabilities like empathy. 

Pornography touts women as objects, and if unchecked, this assumption can carry over beyond the world of animalistic fantasy and lead to the unconscious further objectification of women. Unconscious bias and the objectification of women is harmful because women are not then viewed as equally capable as men and thus are not given the same opportunities. (This problem is amplified for women of color, as race comes with another layer of assumptions and baggage.)

In summation, this general reflection distinguishes human beings as both animals with basic, evolutionarily-driven functions as well as capable of higher-level reasoning. I suggest, in this reflection, that pornography is fueled by our basic functions, but that, if unchecked by our higher capabilities, this basic function can lead to the harmful objectification of women.