Jim Moonan

Owner/Artistic Director, NorthWind Education


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If you had a choice, would you rather your life on earth be lived in a physical state or non-physical state?

Purely an exercise in philosophy...

Suppose we lived our lives in a non-physical state. Everything else remained the same. We were born (but through a non-physical process), we died, we had careers,vacations, nature, loves, temptations, desires, interests - all the things we currently experience in our lives, with one exception - we had no bodies.

Old age is largely equated with the physical deterioration of the body.I watch my father's physical health deteriorate even as his mind remains relatively strong. The physical world has largely left him behind; he is unable to see, unable to walk without assistance, unable to do many of the things that require physical action. Yet his mind remains lucid, full of life.

Our world places a great amount of importance on physical appearances. Is it fair that some people are born physically unattractive?

If it is true that "beauty" is in the eye of the beholder", isn't it also true that our physical self is unimportant?

Is beauty skin deep?

Is our physicality a ball and chain?

Are the two inextricably linked?

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    Nov 22 2013: I think everyone has to face to the deterioration in their physical condition, but we can choose to use our mental power to put it off. Be open and brave enough to be an old person but with a young heart. And we can choose to die with dignity or live with some difficluties or pains when we are around the corner to meet our maker.
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    Nov 18 2013: Hi Jim :) Nice to see an old friend around.
    To live a life in a non physical state would be nice, but I might not prefer it. I may like to live the pain and suffering of my body, a wonderful gift of nature. I may like to see it grow, bloom and then decay - I think I find all those experiences wonderful.
    I am not really talking about the appearance of the body, at least not about a standard of its physical beauty. I am talking about the awesome story of millions of years of evolution in it and finding Pabitra in one such creation of nature.
    Our minds met in the cyberspace and enjoyed each others company. I value that, of course. But honestly, it would be infinitely more interesting for me to shake hands with you, feel the warmth of your skin or watch your face, crows feet by your eyes or creases of your chin.
    Did I tell you about the pleasure of a loooong pee in the morning?
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      Nov 19 2013: I'm inclined to agree with you... Although your TED profile pic makes me think twice :)

      A certain kind of beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder. I find that kind of beauty fascinating.
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        Nov 19 2013: "Although your TED profile pic makes me think twice :)"
        Hahaha, you are not the first one saying that !

        Pabitra, you really should change your pic, It gives you a bad reputation ....lol
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          Nov 19 2013: @ Harald : I have another photo in my profile. Can you make do with that ? :D
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        Nov 19 2013: @Jim: But Colleen find this ape adorable, Jim :)
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          Nov 19 2013: I'm fine with any photo. This chimpanzee looks actually fairly intelligent, at least for a chimpanzee. ;-)
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          Nov 20 2013: Harald: "This chimpanzee looks actually fairly intelligent, at least for a chimpanzee" .

          This is exactly my point. We judge and are judged by our physicality.

          But still, I do appreciate the fact that we live in a physical world. I honestly don't know why I phrased the question as I did. There are lots of thoughts swimming around in my head about old age. My father is nearing the end of his physical life and I am seeing up close what happens.
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    Nov 20 2013: I'm hanging on to this topic by a thread, trying to salvage a piece of truth to what old age does to us physically.

    Take a look at this photo essay:
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    Nov 20 2013: I can't imagine a non-physical state in my life except death. I do believe physical health is the foundation of everything you do. Your mental health and charm of your personality help you to become beautiful and outstanding as a whole in long-run. We should take care of both. Beauty is everywhere for people who are ready to find out. So the most important thing is to keep fit and be mentally confident and wise. All that glitters is not gold.

    But for some short-term chances of jobs or jobs with special demands on apperance( like models), one's appearance could be extremely important. But these kinds of people also have to take more pressure or lose some freedom ,privacy when they are attended to by other people.And they may seem to have had the short-cut to success but what really makes them successful is their personality and mental strengths, I think.
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    Nov 19 2013: Again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder... I like it. It is a paradox - both primal and trendy.
  • Nov 19 2013: I reject the notion that we could exist in a non-physical state and "everything else would remain the same."

    In the absence of the physical, would not our desires, temptations, careers, interests, etc. be inevitably different also? What (except possibly nature if you mean that which exists naturally other than ourselves) is not experienced through our physical selves, affected by our physical selves, and affecting our physical selves in turn?

    Certainly our physical self does not exist primarily for "beauty.' Beauty is a judgment we make about our own and others' physical (and perhaps non-physical) characteristics, rather than a primary function of physicality. I would argue that no one is born physically unattractive. It may be that some people are more likely to be judged unattractive than others, but the standards for that are hardly universal or unchanging.
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      Nov 19 2013: Yes, I totally understand the impossibility of what I am asking. It is a fatally flawed question that most might avoid discussing because of it's premise...

      I asked the question on a lark and now have come to my senses. I love my physicality and cannot even imagine how to separate it from the non-physical.
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        Nov 20 2013: Jim, I do not think it is a fatally flawed question. I can see layers in it.
        Notwithstanding my attachment to physicality of my bodily existence, there are non-physical entities that are born, that grow, compete, flourish and/or die in a manner akin to physically living organisms. These non-physical entities interact between themselves and with us all the time. I have heard about ideas having sex in TED! :)
        You could have as well asked how would we feel if (as in a thought experiment) we were ideas or concepts, or theories or principles (assuming these can feel and sense). In that philosophical exercise we can have insights towards how markets or societies function.
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    Nov 19 2013: Harald, can you fight the entropic process? (reminds me of a Dylan Thomas poem, "Death Be Not Proud")

    Yes, you are right to take action... those things will work for the time being :) ... a positive, deeply-engaged-in-life attitude will see me through almost everything.
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    Nov 19 2013: It's just that things and people are always in a state of physical entropy, always deteriorating. As I age and become more aware of mortality, and as I watch my father reach the end of his life it all seems so much a physical thing, when in fact life is as much about the non-physical. I know entropy is a natural process, but I don't want to believe it is the final thing.
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      Nov 19 2013: I'm fighting entropy and it seems to work fine for me. Probably my 2 - 3 hours daily in the gym, my daily glass (or 2) of wine, avoidance of stress, living with nature instead of fighting it,,,,,just to name a few,,,,might be some of the factors that help ;-)
  • Nov 18 2013: Physical, need to feel the pain and the joy.
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    Nov 18 2013: For all we know, we need our senses to make any sense of our surroundings.
    If you have no body, you obviously wouldn't have any senses either, so the question is how would you experience your environment.
    Beside, everything we are, think, feel, etc. are products of our brains. Without a brain, how would you formulate a thought, a feeling ? etc
    So, for me it's difficult to even imagine a non-physical state.
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      Nov 18 2013: Let's say our ability to use our senses was left intact. (Don't ask how - I don't know :) Let's also say that our brain's was supplanted by some other non-physical mechanism. that performed the same function... Everything was the same except for the fact that we formed relationships, interacted and engaged with the world without a visible self...

      I know - it's hard to imagine...
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        Nov 19 2013: So perhaps an invisibility cloak would do the job ?
        Scientist are already working on that so your dream might come through, sooner than you believe.
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    Nov 18 2013: well, the body is also a source of sensual pleasure, so I'd probably prefer physical. But I don't know what if feels like to get old and die. Someone told me as you approach death, your body starts making chemicals that ease the way. Don't know if it's true?