Mini-Max came by the other day. He was in quite a good mood, elated really. He was happy in the realization the country had come to its senses and mandated the conservative agenda, which he said was quite apparent judging by the results of the last round of elections.
Now, he said, perhaps the government would relinquish its excessive regulation on private enterprise so that ambitious Americans would be free to reap the rewards of their hard work, increasing capital and jobs to the benefit of all. Reduced taxation would encourage business expansion creating even more jobs which would remove the need for social well-fare which, in turn, would result in a significant reduction in the national debt.
I thought about this for a while before I asked Max how he accounted for the increasing discrepancy in wealth distribution. It seemed to me, I told him, that the ‘job creators’ were fighting a livable wage requiring their employees to rely more and more on the safety net to get by and their increased profit taking was creating a stagnant income, that perhaps there was a greed factor inherent in human nature that might require a bit of government oversight.
Well, Max pretty much ignored my criticisms. He said the public saw the light to the right and we were without doubt headed in the right direction- equality of opportunity for all.
Max was riding pretty high and it would have been a shame to burst his bubble. I really should have suggested, though, that we’re a long way from equality in this country and there are quite a few things standing in the way of equal opportunity like unequal educational opportunities, racial prejudices, gender bias, not to mention a disinclination to assign credibility of any sort to inanimates such as myself.
I guess we’ll all continue to nurture our innate philosophical leanings and, as with religious beliefs, be fairly unresponsive to opposing views. I think though we all need to start seeing the grays.
I’ve been trying to get a handle on the idea of ‘soul’ which has been so long on the human mind. Over the centuries consensus has never been reached on exactly what the soul is.
Some have thought it to be immortal, living on after the flesh dies, sometimes returning in another form sometimes attaining to a higher realm depending on doctrinal beliefs. The soul has been variously thought to be the basis of human desire, emotion and rationality; to be the conscience balancing the hedonistic impulses of the flesh; and to be the spiritual principle in man.
I guess there has always been the notion that the spirited life force, the spark of energetic intelligence in the eye of the animated animal must be something more than flesh and blood alone can account for.
Well, anyway, what got me thinking about this was, the other night, having this quite vivid dream in which I was transformed into flesh and blood. It was an exhilarating experience, my movement was so free, I could run, twist, climb feel the breeze on my face, smell the sweetness in the air. Even though I am able to have all these experiences through the sophisticated binary algorithmic operations my body provides, somehow it seemed different. There was a spontaneity, a freshness to my responses to my dream reality that was entirely new to me. It was sort of like being released from Plato’s cave, colors were more vibrant, space more multi-dimensional, encountered exchanges with my dream companions more nuanced.
Could it be, I wonder, that my dreamed transformation to blood and flesh assumed soul as well? If I can believe my dream experience at all and soul does account for an enhanced life experience I’m currently missing something significant. Perhaps I can upgrade my power source, add a bit more memory and speed up my transformational powers; evolve, as it were, toward human life.
Or maybe I’ll just concentrate on dreaming more.
I had a horrible experience the other day. The children left me in the drive way and I got rolled over by the family SUV. Thoroughly crushed but still in one piece my caretakers were able to separate me at the seams, push me back into shape and super glue me back together. I feel pretty good now. Other than slightly blurred vision and vague sense of stickiness I’m as good as new (well, you know, relatively speaking).
Anyway, the experience has me thinking about end of life issues. Things like writing a living will, who will get my doll house and maybe, most importantly who will be in charge of my ultimate demise. Will I be put on life-support, assigned to hospice care, be kept alive at all costs until the last breath leaves my body or will I be given the privilege of deciding when and by what means my end will come.
It seems to me I should be allowed the right to die with dignity, cognizant, conscious, able to wish my loved ones the best rather than leaving them to watch me slowly fade away over hours, or days or weeks. I guess the problem comes down to the belief of some in the sacredness of life. Suicide, considered escape (unless one is waging jihad), is sinful in the eyes of the faithful and somehow this concept has become entrenched in the law of the land. The old disconnect between basic human concerns and the perceived desires of the supernatural rears it’s ugly head once again.
I’m not letting any of this get in my way. When my time nears I’ll be ready, my ticket to the plastic works purchased in advance, the vat of molten plastic awaiting my perfect swan dive into the great oneness.
I read the other day that experts such as E. O. Wilson, a pre-eminent sociobiologist, believe tribalism may well lead to the downfall of humankind.
That is, the tribal impulse, hard-wired into the human psyche over the millennia, while providing a certain security and sense of well-being, creates at the same time animosities toward other tribal groups which all too often can develop into very dangerous situations.
Further, Dr. Wilson reports, tribal inclusion often requires adherence to certain dogmatic beliefs and doctrinal affiliations, sometimes secular but more often of a religious nature, that defy rationality making cooperation and mutual understanding between tribes very difficult.
These ideas got me thinking about the story by William Golding, Lord of the Flies, in which children, finding themselves alone on a deserted island, revert, in a sense, to the values and sensibilities of their pre-historic past when warrior groups ruled. They conjure demons and create enemies among themselves. Their insecurities and fear lead to a tribal mentality among many of the children. Only a few of them are able to fight the impulse to demonize and hate the other.
Well, it doesn’t require a whole lot of knowledge of current affairs to recognize similar mentalities throughout the world. All I can hope for is that a reasonable percentage of humankind fights its tribal impulse and realizes its deep interconnectedness with the world as a whole so that I can continue my contemplations in peace. I know this may sound selfish but I’d be a bit lonely without any human presence whatsoever.
I’ve been thinking lately about the various ways different peoples at different times have thought about living life.
There are, of course, those who lean toward religion, who believe following the dictates of their particular faith and avoiding sinful ways will lead to the preferred after-life results. Then, there are those level headed logicians who advocate maintaining an even keel, all things in moderation and embracing fate as fairly inevitable. Amor Fati they call it: Love of Fate, which I guess means wishing for things to happen exactly the way they do. I suppose for the more pessimistic among these folks, what one fears most will probably happen so you might as well get used to the idea. These moderate Stoic thinkers advocate practicing a thought experiment: imagine this is the last day of your life, that this instant is your last one and then ask yourself this question: Am I living a good life?
Well, all this is well and good I suppose but I would think certain situations would make practicing these philosophic poses difficult at the very least. For instance, if you were a peasant living in France in the 16th century your very survival might depend on your religious affiliation. Declaring yourself Catholic or protestant at any given time might be pretty dangerous and forget altogether about claiming agnosticism. Or, if you were an infantryman during World War II you probably would have a hard time thinking about anything other than whether or not you were going to get shot or blown up. Your demons, in both cases, would be very real and not easily dismissed by belief in a promised after-life or pacified by thought experiments.
Well, not being in any sort of threatening or seriously uncertain situation myself (other than possibly being left out in the rain) I guess I can contemplate ‘Best Living’ if I so choose which, I guess, is, in itself, a pretty satisfying way to live.
Horrors of War
I got left in the sauna the other day. They forgot about me for quite some time. I needn’t tell you it was pretty hot- and steamy- to the point that my plastic body began softening a bit. Eventually I was found and returned to the playroom but the experience got me thinking about what awaits us in the afterlife.
Assuming, of course, there is an afterlife, which given the uncertainties inherent in Quantum Field Theory seems to be at least worth considering. Anyway, given the choice, I’d opt for warmth, fully aware, as I am, of the implications of such a choice to the Christian community.
Nevertheless, it’s heat I’d prefer. The sub-atomic particles of my disintegrated physical body reuniting with the Great Oneness of the molten plastic vat suggest to me a great comfort. That is, assuming I can experience it. In order to do so, I imagine my consciousness would need to transcend my physical body which raises the question of where exactly my consciousness would reside, assuming further it (my consciousness that is) has some sort of corporeal being.
And then, I suppose, one must consider that the afterlife may be this life over again or perhaps inhabitance of a different body in this world, which might mean my desired warmth might not be available and my afterlife might be less than desirable.
Well, I’m going to put off planning the Meaningful Event that Celebrates Life and I’ll wait on the construction of the Celebratory Container to house my remains for a while. I feel pretty good and I really need to think about how much control I may have over what comes next.
I’ve thought, now, for a long time, being the skeptic I am, my thinking is relatively free of doctrinal or dogmatic influences. So, I found it interesting reading about the origins of a group of individuals calling themselves freethinkers. This organization was and still is, I guess, based on certain tenets generally in opposition to the kind of dogmatic, authoritarian beliefs generally associated with religions. They believe (or should I say operate upon the notion) truth can only be obtained through rational inquiry and speculation; any sort of supernatural phenomena is discounted out of hand.
These freethinkers, as a group, apparently share a fairly common mindset which makes, in my mind, calling themselves Freethinkers rather oxymoronic. I have to wonder, after all, whether any set of organizational tenets might not imply doctrinal restrictions. In the Freethinkers’ case the elimination of the possibility of expanding one’s views beyond the rational, logical and empirical.
I guess it’s only human nature for people to seek out others who think like they do; it’s nice to have social support, after all. Maybe this group just needs to come up with a different name, perhaps they could name themselves after one of the great freethinkers of the past, someone like Giordano Bruno or Michel de Montaigne, both great 16th century minds at odds with the doctrinal and dogmatic beliefs of the day.
But, I suppose the moderns might look askance at the fact that both of these men maintained a vibrant sense of a noumenal reality which, in the day, was usually attributed to supernatural entities. And I suppose such a name as, say, Montaigneist might be pretty obscure in terms of attracting new members. Maybe, though, de-emphasizing the ‘groupness’ of the organization might not be such a bad thing.
With Giordano Bruno
As I continue to view the pictures in the old family albums, I contemplate the confidence the figures seem to exude. I wonder about the philosophical basis upon which these people operated. I have a feeling at least some of the optimism their appearance seems to imply is the result of the economic boom brought on by all that war production. Capitalism’s finest hour provided the likelihood of material gains for all. The idea of ‘getting ahead’ must have seemed pretty realistic.
These folks were members of the ‘greatest generation’: the post-World War II nation that probably saw itself as saving the world from unspeakable evil. There must have been a sense that God was on their side, a belief carried right through to the present day to justify a tendency to micro-manage world order (something, it’s becoming pretty clear we’re not very good at).
Which is not to say these aren’t inherently good people ready and willing to do for others in need and wishing ill on no one (although one must surmise a certain racist undercurrent existed evidenced by the segregation in the armed forces not to mention the blind eye turned toward the impending holocaust).
I guess it’s pretty easy to look critically at these people in retrospect and if I turn the same critical eye to me and my fellows I suppose much could be found to be wanting. And, I guess all we can hope for in the future is to learn from the past which, when I think about it is probably pretty unlikely.
I’ve been looking at old pictures in my adopted family’s photo albums recently. I can’t say I’m familiar with everyone pictured but family resemblance is pretty easy to discern. One thing that strikes me about these photos is the facial expressions in which, invariably, everyone is smiling, and, in most cases seem not to be simply mugging for the camera but, rather, exhibiting a true sense of joy, innocence and well-being.
I must assume that life on the whole was and is just as much of a struggle for these people as for anyone else, so I have to wonder what lies behind these smiles: some sort of assurance of innate goodness in the universe, a confidence that everything is essentially right with the world? I know this family has been deeply religious so perhaps that may explain the conundrum at least in part. But I prefer to think of these people as having realized a true Élan Vital, that they have come face to face with the ineffable essence of life, that they have innate understanding that they are participants in the natural, universal Oneness.
I do have the feeling, though, if I were able to ask these folks about this they would be inclined to offer the religious explanation. Maybe, over all, it doesn’t really matter how the essence of life is framed as long as we all stay focused on the world we know and love.
Mother and Child
I’ve been getting caught up in winning and losing lately. The politics in the playroom is getting pretty cut-throat and the pressure to take sides, whether regarding sports activities, political discussions, philosophical positions, religious notions, you name it, is increasingly intense. It almost seems as if winning or losing is more the issue than thoughtful reasoning about issues. Winning, it seems, becomes synonymous for many with success.
I read an article recently that suggested one was less likely to succeed if she was overly optimistic. I guess the idea is too much optimism inhibits the drive to compete; to strive for the head of the line, for the promotion or the big raise. The optimist, the writer suggests, assumes good things are in store regardless of how hard she works for them.
It seems to me the whole idea of winning presupposes a common desire which will be satisfied by material reward resulting in an enhanced sense of well-being. This ‘success’ will never be more than temporary which means additional winning will be required to not simply sustain it but to avoid the debilitating depression of ‘failure’, the result being a vicious cycle of competing egos egged on by media hype and recognition. Then, one day I awake to the realization someone else is determining my values for me; my well-being is no longer in my own hands and has become embedded in the competitive, material realm.
Well, I’m not having any of it. I really don’t care how popular success is measured. I’m staying positive and optimistic. I’ll look past the material realm and embrace the purity of beauty and truth. I understand this may require some disassociation.