Monday, April 30, 2007

A Passion for Dance

This is another article I wrote last year while thinking of the Mind-Body issue.
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I began my love affair with dancing in middle school, and our relationship has grown stronger with each passing year. It started at a YMCA summer camp high in the Applalachains. I didn't know any of the other kids aside from camp, so I was less worried what they thought about me. I would flail my arms about wildly to the rhythm; hop, skip and jump across the floor; or grab a girl by the arm and spin her around till we both fell down dizzy. Some kids would make fun of me, but I think they were just jealous. I was having more fun than anyone else!

My puppy love for dance turned into a full blown love affair my sophomore year in high school, when I went to my first techno dance party, or "rave." I spent hours just walking around and watching people dance. There were incredibly athletic breakdancers, hip hop dancers, even ballet dancers. Everyone had his own style, but each style was dictated by the rhythm and the variations in the music. It was beautiful, spontaneously ordered chaos. Over the years, I went to lots of raves and late night clubs, each time developing my own signature style of dance more acutely. I became quite good, and was proud of the crowds I would attract to watch me. Any feelings of anxiety about others watching me completely disappeared. To this day, I'm usually the first person on the dance floor at a club, and oftentimes the last to leave.

In college, I started trying different kinds of clubs and learning different styles of dance. The majority of clubs in college towns are hip hop / top 40's clubs, so that seemed like a good place to start. Hip hop can be very difficult when you start out with techno. Techno is all about coordinating your limbs to move in straight lines or curves with respect to one another. Your arms, legs, and head are active, but usually your hips stay in the same place. Hip hop is just the opposite; your hips are the source of the beat and the music. Once you learn the style, though, it can be very sexy and sensual. Hip hop introduced me to couples dancing, which is uncommon in techno clubs. Having no prior experience with couples dancing, it took me a while to learn to improvise on the spot with women I'd never met before. Learning to couples dance seemed the next natural step (no pun intended).

Ballroom dancing came very quickly to me, and I fell in love all over again. Once you know the basic steps and a few moves, you can make up whatever you want. Learning the different ballroom styles opens up a whole new world of specialty-type clubs that can fill a lifetime. If you've never been, I *highly* recommend visiting a ballroom club or Swing club that offers a free lesson before they open up the dance floor. Try your best to participate, and look around at the experienced dancers. Each with his own style, each a spontaneous work of art in motion, each having the time of his life! I'm still in the beginning stages of learning ballroom (I should probably take an actual lesson or three). I'm fortunate enough to have the lovely and matchless Kelly Meg available to teach me Swing. She's really *really* good! And we'll tackle the other styles together.

Learning to dance is fun in and of itself, but it has positive effects on many other aspects of your life. It helps you feel more comfortable with your body, more natural in your own skin. This effects the way you walk and communicate non-verbally, especially with those of the opposite sex. Dance gives you a better psycho-epistemological understanding of your sexuality. Not only do you have better non-verbal communication, you can recognize it more easily in others. An acute awareness of your own body is a powerful potential source of psychological visibility and romantic pleasure. Another romantic goodie: ballroom-type dance clubs are a great place to meet women/men! Very few complete morons frequent such places. But I digress!

If you don't dance, especially if it makes you uncomfortable, you own it to yourself to give it a shot. You might fall in love like I did. Don't worry, I won't get too jealous.

--Dan Edge

Friday, April 27, 2007

Objectivism and the Correspondence Theory of Truth

Introduction

This essay is a discussion of the Correspondence Theory of Truth (CTOT) and how the theory fits into the philosophy of Objectivism. I will argue that properly understood, the CTOT is compatible with Objectivist epistemology. I will also discuss pitfalls that must be avoided to keep the door closed to skepticism.

Readers should note that I am writing here for two distinct audiences. The first is the Objectivist community at large, those who are already familiar with the philosophy. I am also presenting this essay to my Senior Seminar in Philosophy class at the University of South Carolina for peer review.

To the Objectivist community: Some have expressed dissatisfaction with an unqualified acceptance of the Correspondence Theory, and with good reason, as I hope to demonstrate. A proper understanding of the Correspondence Theory is necessary to defend against Juggernaut of skepticism that has been sweeping the academic community for the past century.

To my classmates: This paper is based on information contained in my in-class presentation of Objectivist Epistemology, and it assumes the truth of Objectivism. I will glaze over some technical aspects of Objectivist principles. I encourage any of you to approach me with questions about these principles as you are working through the text.
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The Correspondence Theory of Truth

The first formal expression of the Correspondence Theory of Truth (CTOT) can be traced back to Aristotle, who wrote: “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true” (Metaphysics 1011b25), though Plato wrote very similar formulations (Cratylus 385b2, Sophist 263b). Kant considers the issue so obvious that it doesn't even deserve arguement, writing "“The nominal definition of truth, that it is the agreement of [a cognition] with its object, is assumed as granted.” (Critique of Pure Reason, 82). The Correspondence Theory has endured over the centuries, in part because it is seemingly so axiomatic, so elegant in its simplicity.

According to the CTOT, a statement is true iff (if and only if) it corresponds to reality. If I make the statement "Dr. Donougho is the Professor of my Philosophy class," this statement is true iff Dr. Donougho is, in fact, the Professor. If anyone else is the Professor (or if I don't have a Professor), then my statement is false. According to most interpretations of the CTOT, my statement would be false even if I have every reason to believe that Dr. Donougho is the professor, but he is not in fact because some impostor has taken his place. One's context of knowledge is irrelevant. Please keep this in mind, as we will have reason to return to it in a moment.

The Correspondence Theory of Truth is an alluring philosophical principle on many levels. At root, it is an epistemological expression of axiomatic metaphysical principles. Two such axiomatic principles in Objectivism are the Law of Identity and the Primacy of Existence. The Law of Identity states that "A is A," or "a thing is what it is." The Primacy of Existence states that "existence has primacy over consciousness," implying that consciousness has no effect on the identity of entities. If one accepts these metaphysical principles, then the task of man becomes to discover the identity of the world around him. His consciousness does not have the capacity to create, only to identify reality.

The Standard of Omniscience

The biggest problem with the common interpretation of the CTOT is that it sets a standard of omniscience for truth, making certainty impossible. If we accept that certainty is impossible, then we leave the discipline of philosophy open to skeptics (who will gleefully agree that reality is unknowable) and mystics (who offer a supernatural source for certainty).

As mentioned earlier, one's context of knowledge is deemed irrelevant when determining the truth value of his statements. If I say that "Dr. Donougho is my Professor," then my statement is false even if I have every reason to believe that it is true. These kinds of situations are not uncommon. The history of man is marked by an ever-expanding degree of knowledge about the nature of reality. In the realm of science, when new data is discovered that contradicts old theories, then the old theories are discarded, and new ones devised. Does this mean that the old theories were always false? How can we ever be certain that our theories will not be contradicted by new evidence at some point in the future? This creates a problem. If truth is determined without regard to context, then one's context must be all-encompassing (i.e., omniscient) to make a claim of certainty. An omniscient standard of truth is incompatible with Objectivism.

Knowledge As Contextual

Objectivist epistemology lays the foundation for a bridge between subject and object, and the reconciliation between the CTOT and certainty. Objectivism states that absolute certainty is possible within a specified context of knowledge. Any statement made by a human being necessarily implies the preamble "within my context of knowledge." This preamble is necessarily implied because man, by his nature, is a being of limited consciousness. He is not omniscient.

For example, Newton's Laws of Motion are true, and will always be true, given Newton's context of knowledge at the time. Einstein has access to better technology and higher levels of mathematics, and was able to expand man's understanding of Physics. He discovered new data that could not be explained by Newton's Laws, and he was able to construct a new theory which did account for the data. It would be false for Einstein to state that Newton's Laws will always always be true regardless of context, but Einstein could agree that, give Newton's context of knowledge at the time, his theories are still true.

The contextual nature of knowledge allows man to continually expand his understanding of the world around him, while at the same time avoid being paralyzed by uncertainty. The rational man forms principles on the basis of evidence, and treats them as absolute unless and until he discovers new evidence that would require him to restructure those principles. This methodology can be applied to ethics, politics, and esthetics, as well as science.

The Implied Conditional of Absolute Principles

Another helpful way of viewing absolute principles is in the form of a logical conditional. One can assert "If there are no aspects of reality outside the context of my knowledge which come into play, then principle X will always hold true." If one has properly formed his principle, and integrated it with all of the evidence available to him, then this statement will always be true, forever and ever.

One can view this logical conditional the same as any other, in terms of truth value. We can represent the statement as:

p-->q

Where

p = there are no aspects of reality outside the context of my knowledge which come into play

And

q = principle X will always hold true

Note that the truth value of this statement follows the same format of any other conditional statement. If 'p' is true, then 'q' must be true. If 'q' is false, then 'p' must also be false. And if 'p' is false, then the truth value of 'q' is indeterminable.

Let's return to Newton to demonstrate this method in action. Newton makes the claim that "if there are no aspects of reality outside the context of my knowledge which come into play, then The Laws of Motion will always hold true." If Newton acquires evidence that his Law of Motion does not apply to a particular case (for example, when entities approach the speed of light), then he knows that an element outside his context of knowledge has come into play. Now, he is challenged to integrate the new data with his old principle, modify it, or discard it favor of a new one. Note that, while 'p' and 'q' in the above example can have varying truth values, the logical statement p-->q is itself an absolute principle.

A New Perspective on CTOT

I have argued that theories and principles can be held with absolute certainty within a specified context. How then can one marry this with the CTOT?

When one formulates a theory based on evidence he has gathered, and integrates it without contradiction into the whole of his knowledge, then his theory does indeed correspond with reality. He has properly identified a relationship between his consciousness and some specified aspect of reality. It is important to keep in mind that a conceptual consciousness is an entity in reality, and an understanding of that consciousness is an instance of correspondence. One's integration of data into concepts and principles corresponds to the reality of his conceptual consciousness, and the contents therein.

One will never be able to step outside of his consciousness and make propositions based on information unavailable to him, but that does not mean that his limited theories do not correspond to the aspects of reality within his contextual range. It is unfair, and indeed irrational, to demand that man define "truth" in terms of the metaphysically impossible, i.e., omniscience.

The Importance of Semantics

An understanding of epistemological concepts is critical to maintain the integrity of philosophy as a discipline. In academic circles, classrooms, journals, online discussion forums, and even private philosophical conversations, the defenders of rationality must insist on the precise use of epistemological terms like "truth" and "certainty." The reason why there is so much misunderstanding about the proper application of the CTOT is that many just assume that the CTOT requires a standard of omniscience. This misunderstanding must be identified, clarified, called out, and rooted out of existence.

When engaged in discussion with an intellectual opponent, especially on issues of epistemology, take care that your opponent is not demanding that you step outside your context of knowledge in order to make a claim of certainty. A flaccid refrain of rationalistic "what ifs" does not take the place principled, logical, evidenced-based discussion. In the of spirit of Socrates, define your terms, and challenge your opponent to define his.

Communication

I must anticipate a challenge to my argument with respect to communication. If all knowledge is contextual, and each individual is working from his own context, then how can one defend against the charge of relativism? Is it reasonable to assume that one can effectively communicate with other individuals, and that the ideas being communicated are understood in the proper context?

My answer to this last question is 'yes!', given that one goes to the effort of defining his terms. This is why the precise definition of philosophical terms within one's own mind is so important. Individuals may define concepts in subtly different ways, so when a misunderstanding arises, the first step is to make sure that participants in a discussion understand each others' context of knowledge with respect to the issues being discussed. Misunderstandings are always possible, but can be limited through proper discourse of ideas.

Also, while individuals may have different contexts of knowledge at any given time, as men we all have access to perceptual concretes. Another method of clarifying interpersonal communication is to logically reduce ideas as close as possible to the perceptual level.

Looking Forward: A Complete Theory of Induction

There are many challenges in the field of epistemology that must still be overcome. The most important of these, in my view, is a more complete theory of induction. Logical induction is man's method of forming rational principles based on evidence of the world around him. Ayn Rand presented a powerful theory of induction with respect to concepts in her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, but some questions remained unanswered.

First, what degree of evidence is required to form a (contextually) absolute principle? In Objectivism - The The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff discusses degrees of certainty with respect to principles (p67). He classifies theories on a graduate scale, from "possible," to "probable," to "certain." But what delineates these degrees of probability? More importantly, at what point can one settle on any given principle as "certain?" One clue offered by Peikoff is that in order to settle on a principle, "all evidence points in one direction, there is no evidence in any other direction, and no contradictory evidence." This idea is helpful, but insufficient.

If philosophers can agree on the CTOT and proper standards of rational discourse, then I believe these questions are answerable within our lifetimes. The only way to defeat the specter of skepticism in the academic community is through our consistent and determined effort to define our terms in philosophy with the most rigorous logical integrity.

--Dan Edge

Stanislovski Quotes

Stanislavski was a Russian actor/director/teacher who worked in Moscow until his death in the early 20th century. His "Method" of acting is today widely revered and implemented around the world. He was the first to popularize romantic realism in theatre. I would like to write an essay on his life some time in the future, but for now I want to present some quotes of his that moved me:

- "What does it really mean to be truthful on stage? Does it mean that you conduct yourself as you do in ordinary life? Not at all. Truthfulness in those terms would be sheer triviality. There is the the same difference between artistic and inartistic truth as exists between a painting and a photograph: the latter produces everything, the former only what is essential; to put the essential on canvas requires the talent of a painter."

- "Learn to see, hear, love life - learn to carry this over into art, use it to fill the image you create for yourself..."

- "What I have wanted to learn was how [through training] to create at will a condition favorable to the appearance of inspiration, a condition in the presence of which inspiration was most likely to flow into the actor's soul, and make this no longer a matter of mere accident."

- "There are no physical actions divorced from some desire, some effort in some direction, some objective, without one feeling inwardly a justification for them..."

- "Inspiration is born of hard work. It is not the other way around."

- "Is it not clear now. when you realize all that is required of a true artist, that he must lead a life full of interest, beauty, variety, excitement, and enlightenment?"

- "You must not live on the stage for the purpose of entertaining the spectators, you must live for yourself!" (original italicized)

- On Ibsen: "He attracted us through his philosophy. We sought to reproduce the power of his reason, the power of his logic, which is the fascinating part of Ibsen."

- "To inflate something which is nonexistent, to inflate emptiness - that makes me think of blowing soap bubbles. When the form is greater and more powerful than the actual being this latter is bound to be crushed and unnoticed in the tremendous space."

A Banner Year

Hello All,

I broke down and finally decided to create a MySpace page and a blog. I saw that many of my friends from all over the country use MySpace to keep in touch, so I'm following suit. I will use this introductory post to catch you up on what's been going on in my life the past few years.

In December of 2005, I moved back to Columbia, SC to complete my degree in Philosophy that I had started way back in 1996. I only had one semester (16 credits) left, if you can believe it. I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a BA in Philosophy in May of 2006.

A few days after graduation, I moved to Union, NJ (about 15 miles west of Manhattan) to be with my wonderful girlfriend Kelly Koenig. Kelly and I had met through mutual friends in fall of 2004 while I was visiting Aaron Kendall in Hoboken, NJ. What began as a casual get-together became a date, which became a long-distance relationship, which will become a permanent union in April of 2008. That’s right! A few months ago, I asked Kelly to marry me, and she said yes.

Kelly is a graphic designer by trade, but an artist at heart. She takes art lessons every Saturday in Brooklyn with the masterful Michael Newberry (www.michaelnewberry.com). She will eventually work as a full time artist.

When I got here, I found a job in Rockland County, NY about 35 miles north of Union, NJ through some of the worst traffic in the world. My commute was about an hour and a half each way, and more than half of that was on the Garden State Parkway, an infamous parking lot of a road complete with tolls and very aggressive drivers. But I was making a living.

Kelly and I moved to Pomona, NY in August of last year to be closer to our jobs. My commute went from 1.5 hours each way to 20 minutes each way. Plus, we’re now in the foothills of the Appalachians, and the air smells much more like in does in Greenville, SC, my hometown. It’s not anywhere near as crowded, the traffic isn’t so bad, and we can get to Bear Mountain State Park in the mountains in about 20 minutes. Manhattan is a mere hour’s drive away, even considering traffic. We’re both so much happier here.

By the end of 2006, I was dissatisfied with my job to the point that I quit. In the course of seeking work in a similar field, I was presented with the opportunity to go into business for myself. I pursued this opportunity, and my company was born. This company provides transcription and other supportive services to clients in the medical communications market. The company has grown by leaps and bounds, and we hit cash neutral this month, 2 months ahead of schedule! So far, I have a team of about 15 independent subcontractor transcriptionsists and proofers. My new production manager, another Objectivist from Ohio named Jennifer Snow, starts next week. It’s exciting times.

Another bright spot from last year (2006 was a banner year for me): I received a full scholarship to the Objectivist Academic Center. I am at the tail end of my freshman year, and I look forward to finishing the entire 4-year program. I have been studying Objectivism for over 12 years now, and I will continue to study it for the rest of my life. My blog contains a smattering of essays I’ve written over the past few years. I’m currently working on two more essays: “12 Steps to Evading Responsibility,” a criticism of 12-Step Programs, and “The Psycho-Epistemology of Sexuality,” a theoretical essay attempting to explain the experience of sexuality from a psycho-epistemological perspective. I’ll publish them when they’re complete, likely in a month or two.

To those of you who are aware of the hard times I put myself through for a long while, I’m happy to say that I have been completely on the straight an narrow for several years. I finally quit smoking! I am in good physical condition: 6’, 180 lbs, and athletic. Kelly and I work out together every morning, and we’re about to join the local community center, which has a weight room and great cardio machines.

I feel like I have finally lived up to my potential, and I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. I will try always to keep in touch with old friends, and am happy to make new ones. Feel free to comment here or on my Blog, whether you are in the “old friend” or the “potential friend” category.

--Dan Edge

Rights and War

Rights are moral principles that define man's needs in a social context. A government's function is to protect the rights of its own citizens, not the citizens of other countries, and certainly not the citizens of violent dictatorships. We form a government to fulfill *our* needs (for freedom), and our nation's policies ought to function in accordance with those needs.

In a domestic capacity, these needs are best served by applying the initiation of force principle through the police and court systems. The government acts to punish or remove from society those individuals who initiate force. Since protecting the freedom of our nation's citizens is paramount, great care is taken to ensure that innocent civilians aren't significantly affected by crime. The court system helps protect the innocent from accidental prosecution. Police make efforts not to hurt bystanders when making arrests. The military doesn't bomb a city into rubble to kill a single criminal. Again, all this is done because, in a rational society based on a recognition of individual rights, *protecting the freedom of our nation's citizens is paramount.*

One can apply the same principle to the context of a war. Every effort ought to be taken to protect the rights of the civilians in the home country. This means that the government ought to do whatever is necessary to defend the freedom of its citizens for the long term, making every effort to ensure that innocent civilians (of the home country) are not significantly affected by (international) crime. But in this context, it is not necessary to make individual arrests, place individuals on trial, and make pinpoint attacks on specific targets. This is the absolute worst way to fight a war, if a nation is primarily concerned with the needs of its own citizens.

Regarding how the principle of rights applies to international policy and the ethics of war, that's as far as one needs to go. Rights theory dictates that we *need* our government to defend our freedom in every way possible. When determining the morality of a particular action in war, one must only ask the question: Will this action best preserve the long term freedom of the defending nation's citizens? If the answer is "yes," then the action is morally obligatory. Everything else is a question of military tactics.

Those of you who oppose the targeting of civilians in war must ask yourselves this question: *If* targeting civilians were the best way to end a war quickly and cheaply, and *if* doing so were the best way to preserve the long term freedom of our country's citizens, *then* would you support it?

If your answer is "yes," and your argument is only that targeting civilians is not an effective military tactic, then I refer you to Dr. Lewis's "Sherman" article, or to the defeat of the Japanese in WWII, or a myriad of other military examples throughout history. Based on my limited understanding of military tactics, targeting civilian populations can be *very* effective in certain contexts.

If your answer is "no," then we have a fundamental disagreement. If the principle of individual rights requires that a nation frustrate the needs of its own citizens in order to protect those outside its borders, then I don't know what you're talking about when you say "rights." You've gone into another realm, the World of the Forms maybe, but you're certainly no longer talking about a philosophy for living on earth.

A few ancillary issues:

I would like to briefly address the question of whether or not non-combatants are morally responsible for the actions of their government. I say briefly, because my position is simple: it doesn't matter. Whether or not the civilians we target are morally guilty has no bearing on our right to target them. The question is not: "are they morally innocent?" but: "would targeting them be an effective tactic in protecting *our* morally innocent population?" If the answer to the latter question is "yes," then we have every right to target them.

One last point on the effectiveness of targeting civilians: No matter whether or not civilians in an enemy country sanction the actions of their government, they fuel their country's war machine simply by living and working there. They continue to produce food, cars, fuel, and other things that are used by the enemy. And they continue to provide funds for the enemy government in the form of taxes. An enemy that is bolstered by the unfettered production of its populous is much more difficult to defeat, and has much less incentive to surrender.

--Dan Edge

Israel Must Respond to Militant Islam with Overwhelming Force

On July 12, 2006, Lebanese fighters perpetrated an act of war against Israel when they fired rockets into Israeli territory and kidnapped two IDF soldiers. In the face of such a brazen and unprovoked attack, it is a government's moral responsibility to do whatever is necessary to protect the lives of its citizens. Israel was well within its right to respond militarily and demand the return of its soldiers.

Arabs throughout the Middle East greatly feared the Israeli response. Hezbollah was widely criticized for awakening the sleeping Zionist giant. At first, the Israeli government threatened to respond with overwhelming force. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared the Lebanese action "an act of war," and promised a " very painful and far-reaching response." The head of Israel's Northern Command Udi Adam said, "this affair is between Israel and the state of Lebanon. Where to attack? Once it is inside Lebanon, everything is legitimate -- not just southern Lebanon, not just the line of Hezbollah posts." As rockets began to streak across the border onto Israel towns, Israeli army radio declared that the army would "totally destroy any village from which missiles are fired toward Israel."

Israel was challenged to follow through on its promises. Hezbollah guerillas embedded themselves in the civilian population, fired rockets from populated areas, and disguised themselves as civilians. In several reported cases, Islamists blocked village exits to prevent residents from leaving combat zones, maximizing civilian death. International pressure began to mount against Israel. On July 20, after a report claimed that 60 civilians were killed in a single attack, Israel agreed to halt air strikes for 48 hours. The United States began to push Israel towards a fast resolution.

Thereafter, even as Hezbollah fired hundreds of rockets across the border, Israeli forces were careful not to inflict significant damage on non-combatants. This hampered Israel's ability to fight the war effectively. The army never followed through on its promise to "totally destroy" villages from which rockets were fired.

Israel finally agreed to a cease fire on August 14, even though it had not accomplished its two stated objectives for victory: recovering the kidnapped soldiers, and ejecting Hezbollah from southern Lebanon. Hezbollah was widely regarded as the winner of the conflict. On September 22, thousands of supporters gathered in Beirut to hear Hezbollah leader Nasrallah openly declare his country's "divine and strategic victory" against Israel.

This outcome was worse than if Israel had done nothing, because now supporters of militant Islam have rallied around the victorious Hezbollah. Civilians in Lebanon still must fear the strong arm of militant Islam, but no longer fear the harsh reprisal of Israel. Moderate Lebanese have no incentive to oppose Hezbollah; to do so would mean certain death. Al Queda, Hamas, and other terrorist organizations around the globe now see that the tactic of holding ones own civilian population hostage is effective.

When the United States faced a similar threat during WWII, we achieved victory by convincing the people of Japan that we would destroy their entire country if necessary to defend our own. We settled for nothing less than unconditional surrender. When Japan would not yield, we unleashed a devastating attack on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Though less widely publicized, similar tactics were used against Nazi Germany. Today, US actions in WWII are often criticized, but witness the long term results of this ruthless approach. It is widely conceded that dropping the atomic bomb on Japan saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American lives.

Israel should learn from this example. Islamic Terrorists cannot be reasoned with, and they will not stop until Israel is completely destroyed. Israel must recognize that the only way to stop an enemy aggressor is to respond with overwhelming force. If they are not willing to do so, then Muslims around the world are right: Israel has forfeited its right to exist.


--Dan Edge

Mind-Body Integration

A wealth of philosophical literature has been devoted to discussion of the supposed mind-body split, and why no such dichotomy exists. But the specific way in which mind and body are integrated has been neglected to a significant degree. This essay will explore the connection between these components of self and applications for self-training. I intend this to be a foundational paper for future articles on gastronomy, self-motivation, sexuality, and romantic love. I assume that the reader has a working knowledge of psycho-epistemology, specifically the way in which concepts and physical motions are automatized in the subconscious. A summary of these ideas can be found in the introduction to my Psycho-Epistemology of Acting article.


The process by which ideas and physical motions are automatized is asymmetrical reciprocal, with one's volitional consciousness performing the weighted side of the process. One must initially focus on an idea or set of actions in order to automatize it, but after it is automatized the subconscious makes this information immediately available. Similarly, in the mind-body relationship, the mind is the weighted side of the equation. But the mind does not store automatized physical motions as entirely separate from ideas. The two are very much interrelated. I propose that automatized ideas, sensations, and physical motions are stored together, as integrated units, in the subconscious. I shall designate these composites as psycho-physical units.

The teleology of the subconscious must now be considered. Man is able to deal with vast quantities of information because his subconscious provides him information related to whatever his mind is focused on at any particular time. If one's mind is well organized in a hierarchical fashion, then the subconscious will provide information stored close by within the hierarchy. Conceptual units may be interrelated and cross-classified in a variety of ways, and the subconscious aims to provide the focal awareness with related information. For instance, if one is thinking about snakes, his subconscious will send him units related to snakes, like reptile, or animal, or some memory of an encounter with a snake, or some emotion related to snakes (like fear), etc. The information provided depends both on the organization of one's mind and the context in which the idea arises in the focal awareness.

If components of mind and body are integrated and stored together, then one would expect that his mind will provide automatized physical motions when considering an idea related to those motions, and vice versa. Using the "snake" example, if one fears snakes, then he may cringe when the topic of snakes comes up in conversation. Note that he does not necessarily choose to cringe in the moment, it is simply an automatic reaction, one which he would experience to a greater degree if he actually saw a snake nearby. To use another example, if an accomplished typist closes his eyes and imagines words he wants to type, then he can allow his subconscious to take over and his fingers move as if he were actually typing.

Conversely, willfully performing automatized physical motions related to mental units will trigger the subconscious to provide related conceptual information. For instance, if one empties his mind and goes though the motions of riding a bike, then his mind will send him information related to bike-riding. If he allows his mind to wander, this activity may trigger memories of bike-riding, ideas about fitness, or any other thoughts related to bicycles. These psycho-physical units are very much interrelated and can be attuned and organized in a the same way as conceptual units.

Sensory-perceptual experiences are also integrated into psycho-physical units. If one detects the pleasantly familiar scent of honey wafting in the air, he may begin to lick his lips, even before he conceptually identifies the smell. Also, his subconscious may send him memories or pictures of pleasant gastronomical experiences. All this before he even identifies the fact that yummy honey is in the immediate vicinity. Alternatively, thoughts of a pleasant food can give rise to the automatized sense-memory of that food. One can imagine that he is smelling or tasting something that is not in fact present. The human mind is incredibly powerful, and can integrate all these elements of conceptual, physical, and sensory units together with ease.

One's physical state can also affect his mood in a variety of ways. For years, motivational speakers have argued that sitting up straight, breathing deeply, and smiling can improve one's emotional state almost immediately. Similarly, if one forces an angry facial expression and posture, and breathes sharply, his mind will tend toward negative feelings and memories. Actors have long used this method to incite an appropriate emotional state in the moment on stage. The evidence for this phenomenon must be gathered introspectively, and as it may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, I encourage those who are interested in exploring these ideas to experiment with this.

Emotional experiences are a special case, because they represent a psycho-physical experience in and of themselves. Emotions are a response to automatized value-judgments (conceptual information), yet are experienced physically. Emotions can be identified and classified in part by the way they affect one's body. Feelings of anxiety may cause one to frown, raise his blood-pressure, increase his heart rate, tighten his stomach, or (most often) a combination of these. Feelings of happiness may cause one to smile, laugh, dance, etc. It is important to note that the physical manifestation of an emotional experience is automatic. One does not need to focus on the actions associated with an emotion, he performs them automatically. (However, he can forcibly re-automatize these physical reactions if they are incommensurate with his value-system. I will offer a more complete discussion of re-automatizing the physical components of emotions in another essay).

I propose that emotional experiences are also integrated into psycho-physical units, and are treated by the subconscious as information related to ideas and physical actions. If one ponders a happy memory, he may experience a shadow of the happiness he felt at that time, along with the physical manifestation of that happiness. If he feels happy in the moment, his mind may naturally wander to memories of happy occasions. This phenomenon is very much the same as the snake-reptile example. Again, the function of the subconscious is to provide related information to one's focal awareness, and I argue that all these elements of self are integrated in one's mind.

With a proper understanding of the way in which his mind and body are integrated, an individual can train himself to automatize mental, physical, sensual, and emotional experiences in a more optimal way. It is important to train not only one's mind, but also one's body and spirit. The man who has fully integrated his mind and body feels more comfortable in his own skin, and is more attuned to experiences of sexuality and sensuality. He can achieve this state of being by paying closer attention to the interrelationship between the different elements of self. He studies dance, or martial arts, or sports, etc., in an effort to explore the physical elements of his existence and automatize physical expressions of masculine (or feminine) power. He can become more acutely aware of the physical manifestations of his emotions, and learn to control and re-automatize these physical reactions to more appropriately reflect his value-system. The applications of these principles are endless, and I hope to explore them in depth in future papers.

I welcome any questions or comments. Thank you for reading.

--Dan Edge

Self-Love as a Prime Mover

I love my life. And I don't just mean life in general, but my life in particular. I love my name, the particulars of my body, my voice, I love the fact that I'm a man, my taste in music, my hometown, my local football team, pretty much everything that makes me distinctly who I am. I would not want to trade my face with anyone, even someone better looking than me. I love my consciousness, and my body's particular physical manifestation in reality.

All of these distinguishing characteristics are morally neutral. It is no more ethical to be male or female, to root for the Panthers or the Redskins, to have green eyes or brown eyes, to be from Greenville, SC or somewhere else. One may ask: On what basis can one value his particular distinguishing characteristics more highly than any other possible combination? There are no absolute standards of judgment in this morally optional realm. My simple answer: Self-love is a prime mover.

I don't need a reason to highly value the distinguishing characteristics that make me an individual. To value life is to value the particular manifestation of one's life in the world. One exists as a unity of mind and body, and one's body exists in a particular form. It is appropriate to highly value your distinguishing physical characteristics, for no other reason than that is who you are.

The experience of sexuality is an expression of this fundamental form of self-love. I love the fact that I am a man, and I would never in a million years want to be a woman. This is not because I think that men are morally superior to women. I love being a man because that is what I am. Man-ness is a central characteristic of my physical existence qua living being. My experience of masculinity is intimately tied up with my experience of living in reality. It is rational and appropriate for me to highly value the physical reality of my gender.

[Sexuality and the experience of masculinity or femininity as an expression of self-love is a closely related issue, one which I will discuss at length in a future essay.]

I contend that one may choose to highly value other distinguishing aspects of his existence qua rational animal that are non-volitional, such as his birthplace. I love the fact that I am from Greenville, SC, and I would not want to be from anywhere else. I pull for southern sports teams, allow my southern drawl to manifest itself in my speech, and identify myself as a "redneck" or "southern gentleman" as a form of introduction. This does not mean that I withhold judgment on negative aspects of southern culture, I simply focus on the positive. The southern gentleman is educated, kind, polite, romantic, distinguished, witty, and intelligent. The redneck is hard-working, spontaneous, excitable, tough, and brutally violent when he needs to be. I take pride in identifying these positive aspects of my personality, and unifying them under a moniker that represents my place of birth.

[Individualizing oneself though the unification of personality traits into easily perceptible "types" (like redneck) is one powerful method of self-identification and expression. This, too, deserves its own essay at some point in the future.]

I get great pleasure out of rooting for the Carolina Panthers, and I will be a fan for the rest of my life. Anyone who has seen me hoot and hollar at the television on a Monday Night during the fall months can attest to my passion for the sport. I chose the Panthers because they are the closest NFL team to Greenville, SC (thought one could chose a favorite team for a myriad of other reasons). The point is that, though my choice of team is morally optional, I highly value the choice that I have made, and I need no other moral justification beyond my love of self.

This short essay represents a brainstorm of issues I have been thinking about for some time, especially as it relates to Mind-Body integration and sexuality. I welcome any comments that would help me clarify these issues.

--Dan Edge

The Psycho-Epistemology of Acting

Introduction-

This essay is an attempt to explain, in more detail than has been presented in the past, the psychological processes involved in acting. I'm going to define some basic concepts in psychology and psycho-epistemology and apply them to the realm of theatre, specifically to Stanislovski's method of acting.

Psycho-epistemology is the study of the interrelationship between one's mind, body, and spirit. By mind, I mean both the reasoning, volitional mind and the subconscious mind. By body, I mean the particulars of one's body (like body-type and sex), and also the kinds of motions that the body performs, i.e., motor control and involuntary actions. By spirit, I mean one's emotional experience of life, including a broad range of particular emotional responses one can identify in different situations.

Automatization-

Automatization is the most important concept in the realm of psycho-epistemology. Your mind has the ability to automatize(i.e., make automatic) an understanding of many different kinds of relationships, and to make this information immediately available to you. One automatizes concepts, ideas, evaluations, complex chains of actions, and interrelationships between these.

It's not difficult to perceive automatization at work in one's own mind. As you are reading this sentence, right now, you don't have to stop and consider the meaning of each word separately. You know the definitions of the words in the sentence, and your mind makes this information immediately available to you. In this way, you can read the whole sentence and get the gist of the ideas being communicated without going back and mentally rehashing your understanding of the individual words.

With physical actions, it's even easier to see automatization at work. When you first learned to ride a bicycle, you had to focus on the individual actions involved: the balance, steering, pumping the pedals and so forth. But now you can ride a bike under normal circumstances without giving it a second thought. You can ride a bike, chew gum, and talk on your cell-phone all at the same time. This is because your mind has consolidated the complex chain of actions involved in "bike-riding," and has made this information immediately available for use whenever you need it.

Emotions-

Emotions are a different animal, and are not automatized in the same way as concepts and physical actions. Emotions are the psycho-somatic form in which one experiences his automatized evaluations of the world around him. By psycho-somatic, I mean that emotional experiences are at once mental and physical. One is conscious of an emotion and it also affects his body in a particular way.

Emotions are a response to automatized evaluations, or automatized value-judgments, about the world around us. Automatized evaluations function in much the same way as automatized concepts or physical movements, but on a higher intellectual level.

An evaluation is a moral judgment of some aspect of reality, i.e., an answer to the question "Is this thing good for me or bad for me?" In the course of your life, you make a countless number of individual evaluations about different things. These individual judgments are retained by your subconscious. If you value good grades and receive an 'A' on a paper, you don't have to rehash all the reasons why you value good grades in order to feel good about it. Your mind makes this information immediately available to you in the form of a positive emotion.

So, emotions give us information about our automatized value-judgments. When one encounters an aspect of reality (a good grade on a paper) that has automatized evaluations associated with it (good grades rock!), then the body responds with an emotion (yay!). It the simplest form, emotions work like this: If you see something you think is good for you, you feel good; if you see something you think is bad for you, you feel bad.

As an individual grows, and experiences a broader range of evaluations and emotions, he tends to associate a certain set of physical actions with his emotions. When he is amused, he laughs; when he is happy, he smiles; when he is upset, he cries. His mind automatizes the relationship between his ideas and evaluations, his emotions, and his physical actions. This is why, if you force yourself to crinkle your brow, curl your lip, grit your teeth, and snarl, it can actually make you feel angry. Your mind may even naturally drift to ideas or memories that make you angry. Such is the power and organization of the human mind.

Application-

Now, we should have enough of the basic terminology to take our understanding of Stanislovski's method a step further.

The actor's goal is to make a fictional situation appear to be reality, both to himself and to his audience. He strives to make the situation seem real to himself because in this way he is able to tap into the wealth of mind-body-spirit connections that are automatized in his mind, and use this information to give a truthful performance. Stanislovski's method is one way for the actor to tap into his own soul, as it were.

The current understanding of the psychological process of emotional experiences is thus: stimulus --> emotion --> physical action. Based on the information presented in this essay, we can extend the explanation to look like this: stimulus --> automatized evaluation --> emotion --> physical action.

It's important to note that, though this is a process that one's mind performs daily, it's not the only process that the mind is capable of. As mentioned earlier, with the example of making oneself angry, physical actions can elicit an emotional response (physical action --> emotion). Also, emotional experiences can lead one to think about ideas or memories associated with that emotion. For example, if one is feeling depressed his mind may tend to sway towards unhappy thoughts and memories (emotion --> automatized evaluation). The mind is a powerful computer, capable of retaining a massive number of automatized relationships. Complex interrelationships between mind, body, and spirit are stored in the mind as complete units.

In scoring a role, the actor relates a fictional character in a fictional situation to his own life, to his own automatized evaluations of the world. In blocking the scene, he plans a set of physical actions that approximate how his character would act in reality. If the actor has scored his role properly, his mind is in the role. If he performs his physical actions properly, his body is in the role. With the combination of these two factors, the actor has given his consciousness all the stimuli it needs to elicit the appropriate emotional response, to get his spirit in the role.

It is crucial for the actor to elicit an emotional response in himself on stage because it would be impossible for him to recall such a large number of particular physical actions as would be necessary to create a believable reality to the spectator. If he taps into the automatized relationships (mind, body, and spirit) that are already present in his subconscious, then he can allow his subconscious to do the work for him. If he is able to elicit the emotion of sadness, for instance, then he will naturally hang his head more, close his body, choke up his voice, etc. There are so many physical actions associated with each emotion, he would never be able to remember them all, much less enact them on stage. But by tapping into his subconscious, he will have immediately available to him a massive arsenal of automatized physical actions.

Stanislovski may not have had a highly technical understanding of psychology, but he was clearly a visionary in the realm of psycho-epistemology. His understanding of the human mind, and of the way it makes connections between mind, body, and emotion, is nearly without parallel. The field of psycho-epistemology is still very young, and in many ways we're still standing on Stanislovski's shoulders.

--Dan Edge

The Morality of Monogamy

6/25/07 - Citation Note: This article was written in 1998 (when I was 19), was later edited in 2005, and was not originally intended for publication. For that reason, I did not properly cite sources as I would for a published article. Though I did not take any direct quotes from any other works, please note that the description of the concepts "psychological visibility" and "private world," and the logical progression for the argument for why psychological visibility is a need (w hich I included in the "Background" section of my article), are based on Nathanial Branden's The Psychology of Self-Esteem and The Psychology of Romantic Love, specifically his discussion of the "Muttnik Principle." The argument I make for monogamy based on these ideas is entirely my own, however, and my views are not necessarily shared by Mr. Branden.


Background:

Psychological visibility is the experience of perceiving a psychological "mirror" in reality that reflects one’s most fundamental values. This experience has epistemological and psychological significance because man needs a direct perceptual experience of the connection between his mind and reality. One is able to focus on a relatively limited number of entities at one time. The contents of your mind are vast and you are able to consider only a few aspects of your own consciousness at once. Through another living being one can experience the reflection of many of his values, all at the same time.

One gets this experience on a limited level when looking at plant or lush landscape. A tree grows towards the sun and pushes its roots deep into the earth, in an effort to gain those minerals and chemicals that sustain its life. Man shares with a tree his struggle for survival. He perceives in the tree a miniature mirror of his values and experiences the actualization of those values as an emotional sum. He shares even more values with animals, which have the capacity of perception and locomotion. Animals also possess a rudimentary form of emotion, which is obvious to anyone who has ever owned a dog. The dog can often tell if one is happy or sad, excited or stagnant, and it responds in kind. One experiences pleasure when a pet displays recognition of his intentions.

Through another human being, one is able to directly experience almost all of his most treasured values. Your good friend not only possesses intelligence, but also knows those aspects of your personality that make you different from any other entity in the universe. One generally thinks of himself as a flow of thoughts and perceptions, but he think of others as a united whole, like “Dan,” “Kelly,” and “Chris.” When one lays his eyes on a close friend, he can feel as if all is right in the world, and that he shares life with another being who truly understands him. This is greatest experience and potential of psychological visibility.

The need for romantic love is a corollary of the need for psychological visibility. Romantic love is the most powerful psychological mirror because, ideally, a lover reflects all of the fundamental aspects of self. Like a close friend, she shares most of one’s philosophical ideals and appreciates the unique aspects of one's personality. Beyond that, she is able provide immediate perceptual realization of one’s body. She can provide physical as well as emotional pleasure.

Merely looking at one’s friend can cause a feeling of inner contentment. Making love to one’s romantic partner is the ultimate celebration of life. All perceptions are active at that moment. One can see his lovers face, hear her voice, smell her scent, and touch her body. It’s almost a perceptual overload. This is the most intense perceptual-emotional experience of psychological visibility possible. For most of us, it is the greatest form of happiness we ever feel.

The Morality of Monogamy:

Monogamy is a long-term romantic relationship in which both partners preserve romantic and sexual exclusivity. I hold that monogamous relationships are the ideal channel for romantic love over the long term.

Psychological visibility is of critical importance to romantic love relationships. Through a lover, one can experience the deepest form of self-love possible. In order to attain this highest level of happiness, it is necessary to directly perceive another being that reflects both the broadest and the most specific aspects of self simultaneously. The person must reflect one’s broader intellectual values like philosophical and political beliefs, and also the specific traits, personality quirks, and physical attributes that make him unique.

Self-love is a psychological prime mover. I don’t need a reason to love the fact that I am a man, have green eyes, like to play chess, and tell stupid jokes. I would not want to trade my life, my personality, or my body (or especially my girlfriend) with anyone else. Most individuals with a healthy self-esteem feel the same way. It is appropriate for one to highly value his own optional value judgments and individuality. The direct, perceptual experience of a being that psychologically mirrors many or all of these specific traits will generate an emotional reaction in proportion to the depth and scope of the reflection. A lover can provide such a mirror.

Through interaction, shared experiences, and physical contact, two lovers can build an immense private world with one another. Those who have been in a rational and mutually beneficial relationship for an extended period of time are able to read each other’s minds, anticipate each other’s choices, and generally display an acute understanding of each other’s distinguishing attributes. In a good romance, no one knows your various likes and dislikes as well as your partner.

Lovers become a part of each other as they share life experiences. This is not any kind of second-handedness, but a marvelous consequence of living and growing with another sentient, rational being. Often, one’s most treasured memories are of things he learned or experienced with a loved one.

The more one grows as an individual, the greater capacity he has to experience an even higher emotional sum in response to his values. There is more self to sum up, i.e., there are more aspects of self automatized in the subconscious. In a long-term romantic love relationship, memories and experiences of one’s lover become a substantial part of that sum. Your long time wife is not only a value because she is wonderful, but because she has been wonderful for years. If you both continue to grow individually and with one another, the shared private world embodied in your partner can become your highest perceivable value.

The problem with polygamy is that the value of psychological visibility is judged by its intensity, not its quantity. The private world between two long-term lovers can become massive, and it is automatized into each partner’s subconscious. It cannot be transferred to someone else at whim. The private world is intimately, physically connected to one particular person. The fact that exactly one perceivable entity represents a host of one’s values is what makes psychological visibility possible. An infinite number of casual romances will never add up to the degree of happiness that monogamous, long-term relationships can provide.

If one focuses his time and energy on one person, a private world is able to grow faster and deeper over a period of time. It would be impossible to develop the same kind of depth with even two people, much less three or more. It is simply more time-efficient to pursue one relationship at a time, and to pursue a long-term monogamous relationship when possible. There is no salary cap on the spiritual paycheck. The private world continues to grow as long as each partner grows as an individual.

Sexual exclusivity is also important because man attaches a symbolic value to the act of love making, creating a channel though which he experiences the emotional sum of psychological visibility. Just as we punish criminals proportional to the severity of their crimes, so we honor loved ones according to their ranking in our hierarchy of values. One does not French kiss complete strangers. He doles out physical affection proportionate to his degree of intimacy with each individual. One hugs his friends, kisses relatives, but usually goes no further than this except with a romantic interest. If a man begins to focus on one romantic relationship, he ought to be sexually exclusive with that partner, because in this way he connects the greatest possible emotional and intellectual pleasure to the greatest possible physical pleasure. He reserves sex as the highest celebration of his values, which will only be shared with the one who maximizes his feelings of happiness and self-esteem.

If two lovers preserve sexual exclusivity, then their sex life becomes an even more intimate part of their private world. It is something shared with one individual, and no other. One automatizes the symbolic value that he places on sex, which adds even more to the emotional sum he experiences with his lover.

During my adult life, there has never been a question in my mind about what kind of romance I want: One woman, one wife, one life-long friend to grow old and raise a family with. Most of us have dreamed about it since adolescence. It is time we recognized that monogamy is the ideal form of romantic love. Anything else is like a genius aspiring to be a janitor.


--Dan Edge

Initial Sexual Attraction

Let me tell you what I saw in Kelly Koenig, from the first moment. Our meeting is a test case for initial sexual attraction because our relationship became romantic within a few hours of speaking for the first time.

First off, Kelly is a beautiful physical specimen. Even if you didn't hear her talk, or see her walk, or analyze her psychology, she would still be beautiful, just based on her body structure. She works out every day and her body is the result of this consistent discipline. My subconscious picked up on that instantly, and I was attracted.

She also knows how to dress herself in a way that stresses her most attractive physical attributes. I won't go into detail about her in this context (don't want to embarrass her too much), but suffice to say that she understands how to magnify her own unique beauty. Everyone can do this.

She generally speaks in a low, serious tone, but the inflections in her voice are more high-pitched, more feminine, especially when she laughs or is excited. As we began to connect over the first few hours of our unplanned "date," her tone became softer and more casual.

Kelly has excellent diction, and speaks with the exactitude of an educated woman. Her grammar is exemplary (much, much better than my redneck drawl). When she speaks, every word is clear and purposeful and filled with meaning. This is evidence of a very organized mind. In fact I gave her that very compliment, that she has "an organized mind", within two hours of our meeting. Later, she said that was the first time she felt really sexually attracted to me (pay attention, fellas) Smiling


Her gate was very straightforward and determined, but feminine at the same time. She wasn't wearing heels, but she held her body as if she was: head up, shoulders back, chest out, swaying hips; it was beautiful.

Her dark brown eyes were perceptive, respectful, and knowing. She always looked me in the eye when we were talking, from the very beginning, especially if we were discussing something important.

I don't think she was wearing any perfume that night (we were only supposed to be hanging out as friends) but she smelled like a woman. She brushes her teeth and bathes and generally takes care of her body.

And of course, Kelly is an intelligent and knowledgeable lady who can weigh in on any subject. This is particularly important to me because I have such a love for intellectual discussion.

Initial attraction has everything to do with the senses. We all have automatized value judgments about the opposite sex, and our minds respond immediately to the evidence of our senses. Sight, smell, hearing, touch, and (eventually) taste are all our front line of evaluation. We must attune our senses to pick up the subtleties of romantic communication and interaction. You will be a better person for it, and your lover will thank you.

--Dan Edge

Love at First Sight

Kelly and I met in Hoboken, NJ in the fall of 2004. We knew of each other from my site Objectivist Singles, but we had never exchanged correspondence. I was visiting a high school friend in Hoboken, and went into the city one night to meet with a group of Objectivists at a Karaoke club. I met a girl who, to my pleasant surprise, happened to be Kelly’s roommate. I’d read her profile on my website and wanted to meet her, so we arranged for a group of us to hang out two days later, which was the night before my scheduled plane ride back to the Carolinas.

It turned out that no one else could come that night, so it was just me and Kelly. I helped her find a place to park in Hoboken. As soon as she got out of the car I was struck by how well dressed she was, how pleasant, how well put together, how fit (see my recent article “Initial Sexual Attraction” for more details). I took her up to Stephen’s Point, which has the best view in Jersey of Manhattan across the river. We talked about our childhoods, our friends, families, how we got into Objectivism (her parents are Objectivists), our hobbies, and interests. We felt immediately comfortable around one another. We were only going out as friends, but it felt very much like a date to me.

I decided I wanted to take her out to dinner, and she gratefully accepted. We ate at a nice little Thai place in town. She seemed pleasantly shocked when I opened doors and pulled her chair back for her. Apparently the Yankee metrosexuals up here don’t know how to treat a lady properly. ;) We got to know each other better over dinner, and I decided that I was definitely going to kiss her before the end of the night. I was leaving the next day, what did I have to lose?

We decided to go into the city to find a dance club, so we took the Path train to south Manhattan and hopped into a cab. Things were going so well, I felt butterflies in my stomach for the first time since high school. While we were in the cab, I childishly tapped my foot against hers to get her attention. “Dan Edge, are you flirting with me?” she asked. I answered, “No, you know I’m much too shy for that.” Then I grabbed her and kissed her.

Apparently, that was the right thing to do. We spent the rest of the night making out all over Manhattan, like young lovers in some movie. It was the closest thing to love at first sight that I can imagine. I had to reschedule my plane trip home for a day later.

We got engaged a few months ago, and we now live in an apartment together in the foothills of the Appalachians, less than an hour drive to Hoboken and New York City. This is how life is supposed to be.

--Dan Edge