Death and Social Media: Facebook Friends For Life

Anders Nilsen. Big Questions.

It’s been said too many times that social media is changing our relationships and degrading our ability to genuinely connect with others, but all those “superficial” interactions take on a unique significance when social media meets death. In a totally bizarre way, social media enables us to be friends with dead people.

And for that, I’m very grateful. Continue reading

Person vs. Lying Robot: A Lesson In Ethics

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I’ve learned a lot this semester while teaching my first class in Medical and Healthcare Ethics. We’ve covered a range of topics that I hope to eventually make videos and write posts about, but one insight in particular has¬†repeatedly¬†been made apparent to me in my personal life: It’s inappropriate to respond to everything in the same way. Doing so not only increases your likelihood of responding to someone or some situation in the wrong way. It may also mean that there are some deeper things going on that are worth thinking about. For your own sake as well as everyone else’s. Continue reading

To Love Others (Without Them Knowing It)


Unrequited love is a common theme of tortured souls, those who wish for nothing more than to be loved back by their beloved. In many stories, this type of love is a kind of tragedy for we often assume that love is (and perhaps should be) realized only in particular ways. But I’ve recently been thinking differently, and I’ve found something quite poignant about a certain kind of love that is not only unreciprocated but also unknown to those who are loved.

In the past eight months I developed a new kind of love for two boys who are not my own. They live a number of hours away from me. I never met them and I likely never will. One is ten years old. The other is eight. I was dating their father. Continue reading

The Difficult Silence of Ineffability

my heart, my body, my brain

The waiting of three months with not-knowing certainty pushed me to new limits of patience and understanding. With its end came sadness, but at least also a sense of finality. In the three weeks that have passed I’ve been trying to openly embrace my transition into a different phase, but here, it’s been difficult. Arriving at this new place meant acknowledging that the few things I held close were more deeply falling away. Truthfully, I can muster heavy welcomes to greet these changes, and despite my wish to be filled with the lightness of being, I’m holding breath with my insecurities. Keeping them next to me without pushing away means finding new resources of courage to battle the loneliness of independence. In the meantime, I’ve managed to maintain. It results, however, in a penetrating silence. Continue reading

"When Time and Space Don’t Matter, Meet Me at The Bean": An Exegesis

On the feels-longer-than-nine-hour drive back to Pennsylvania from Chicago, Bryn asked, “So what are you going to name the album for all of these pictures?” I didn’t know, and after a moment or two of pondering album titles, I stopped thinking about it. “They usually just come to me on whim when I’m uploading the pictures. I’ll wait and see, I guess.”

As usual, this title presented itself to me rather spontaneously. But I didn’t feel very content with it at first. I liked the title well enough but it struck me as long, corny, and vague. When I thought about it some more, though, I realized that it was actually sort of complex for a title, and that was what mattered most about it. “When Time and Space Don’t Matter, Meet me at The Bean” captures a lot about the trip for me–comments, memories, future possibilities, and current feelings. That’s what makes it complex, and because of this, I really like it now. Continue reading

for a friend, far away

today has been a strange day. i woke up with anticipatory dreams, verging on psychic predictions–that a phone charger would be left behind on a loved one’s travel, that a conversation with a long-term supporter would address the lessening need for our time together because life and things just continue to get better and better. and in the waiting room, a journal of medicine was resting in the chair next to me, different from the usual copies of AARP. I glanced at the table of contents–new patient-oriented methods, placebo treatments of asthma, and something about leukemia.

i thought of my friend. Continue reading

Thinking of You

Philosophical possibilities aside (because I know that there are many passages I could bring in here), I’ve been wanting to mention one thing that has really been on my mind over the past couple of weeks.

There’s a really good chance that you are part of it. Seriously.

Because what I’ve been paying attention to are the many instances, minutes, and days in which thoughts of other people are present to me. Most likely, all of this occurs unbeknownst to those who cross my mind. I imagine that many, many people would be surprised to know how often I actually think of them. Once I started paying attention to it, it even surprised me. Continue reading

Whole-Hearted Vulnerability

If there is one theme that I have followed in my personal and professional and philosophical life, it is that of vulnerability. Being open and willing to be imperfect, to be dependent on and affected by others, to recognize that we are shaped by our experiences and that we close ourselves off to those experiences when we seek to control everything, especially in the effort to avert “difficult,” “hard,” or even painful emotions–this is the stuff of life.

For the past few months, I have been reading philosophical texts on embodiment, phenomenology, and affect. I am studying notions of intercorporeal existence, authentic love and radical generosity in the face of alterity, and psychosomatic examples of aphasia as not just a refusal to speak, but a more existential refusal of the ontological relations we have with others and the world. In other words, we are not independent, autonomous, isolated beings who can be characterized as pure minds or mechanistic machine-bodies. Rather, we exist–in body, mind, psyche, and even biochemically–in relation to others, history, culture, nature, and the world. When the conversation turns to ethics, many philosophers suggest that this leads us to notions of freedom, responsibility, and forgiveness.

All of this reminds me of my thought process during the summer before coming to graduate school. Continue reading

Heroic Imaginings, and Reality Checks

Reading Nietzsche has been very slow going for me because he makes me think, and as in this case, I sometimes indulge in these thoughts by writing. When I read Nietzsche, it seems that he is speaking directly to me, to right where I am in this moment. How could it be that just as I am remembering one of the most significant people who has shaped me, and more specifically, the truly incredible amount of love, devotion, and commitment that this one human being has shown me, Nietzsche writes about heroes, delusion, and vanity? Lest that seems like too harsh of a connection, hold on. More on this in a bit…

As an example of Nietzsche’s impeccable timing and insight, I just saw “The Adjustment Bureau,” which has been praised for its philosophical musings on free will and determinism but which, thanks to the personally peculiar intersections of casting, plot, and script, actually raised bewildering questions in me like, “Is all of this, my feelings, my thoughts, and even me seeing this particular movie right now, some coincidence?? Is it fate?” Continue reading