I learned recently that modern science views the notion of ‘now’ as nothing more than an illusion. Due to the lag time our sensory apparatus requires to acknowledge occurrences around us along with the finite speed of light means that what we are experiencing at any given moment has already happened. So, if the past is no longer and the future is yet to be and there is no ‘now’ then where, exactly, do I exist? If where I am, I only was I must have to anticipate where I really am.
I must say I find this a bit unsettling as I’ve been operating for some time under the assumption that ‘Eternity is Now’ given the nonexistence of past and future. So if ‘now ‘ is ‘past’ then I’m inclined to discount the idea of eternity.
But, cosmologists make matters even more confusing suggesting we may exist within an eternal multi-verse within which the ‘Big Bang’ that created our universe happened and who’s to say, they hypothesize, this big Bang thing hasn’t happened all sorts of times.
Apparently the ideas is there are passage ways, ‘worm holes’, between these various universes that if we weren’t limited by our vision and movements due to the finite speed of light we might be able to find.
So, between not being here ‘now’ and being a minute speck within one of countless universes I’m thinking I may have to start again from the beginning and agree with that great thinker Rene Descartes that at least I know I’m thinking.
I read the other day about a study that found that most people have a really hard time sitting alone with their thoughts.
The story related how researchers had asked volunteers to sit alone in a room for fifteen minutes. The room contained nothing but a table and chair and a machine that would produce mild electrical shocks if one chose to use it. Apparently a fairly large percentage of the research subjects chose to administer shocks to themselves rather than sit alone with their thoughts for even fifteen minutes.
Letting one’s mind wander to past occurrences or future possibilities seems to me pretty natural so I guess I don’t understand what the problem was. Focusing on the eternity of now, I must admit, isn’t always easy but my mind is pretty good at wandering.
In fact, I was just thinking about the movie, Altered States, in which the protagonist, played by William Hurt, submerses himself in a sensory deprivation chamber, which is essentially a tank of warm water in a totally darkened cubicle, for hours on end, day after day. His idea was that by doing this he could get in touch with his primal inner self. And I guess he does because he ends up developing simian characteristics.
So, I’m wondering if the reason most people are unable or unwilling to be alone with their thoughts is that they fear glimpsing their innate animal natures.
If this is the case it sure explains our inclination to constantly be distracting ourselves.
I was thinking the other day about different kinds of reasonableness.
There is reasoning that follows the dictates of logic based on falsifiable premises and avoiding contradiction. And, then, sometimes the passions get a hold of a person and things can be believed or acted upon based on poor reasoning-things that don’t follow from the supposed justification of the reasoner.
The philosopher, Immanuel Kant, put forth the idea of practical reason. He thought that a belief in God and after-life was necessary (even though not based on falsifiable premises) in order that man behave moralistically and ethically toward his fellows, since such behavior is more difficult than acting exclusively out of self-interest.
Leo Tolstoy wrote A Confession toward the end of his life during a time of extreme disillusionment regarding the purpose of life and the meaninglessness and insignificance of the part he had played in it. His assumption had always been that reason was the ground of existence; that any and all insight and understanding that might be achievable would be so exclusively through reason. And now reason told him that it was all for naught; his existence made no difference in the grand scheme of things. Better to die, he thought.
When he looked around him he saw people engaged in hedonistic pursuits or religious endeavors, neither of which he felt validated a reasoned life. His awakening came upon considering the peasant who toiled and suffered throughout his life but was able to maintain his will to life positively. Maybe lacking formal education and not having too many big ideas to think about had something to do with it, but in their sense of spirit, irrational as it seemed to be, Tolstoy found the answer to his dilemma: reason must embrace the irrational and sustain a faith in the human spirit.
So, if it is fair to assume logical reasoning will not provide the final answers to life’s big questions is a leap into faith despite the irrationality and or absurdities of such the answer?
I guess I’ll stay open to all possibilities: enjoy the beauties of logical reasoning while embracing the spirit. How can I go wrong?
I’ve been reading this book called Praise of Folly written by the goddess Folly herself. In this book Folly claims allegiance from just about everybody, by which she means, I guess, everyone is either foolish, ignorant or just unwilling to get serious about life, which, from her point of view is a good thing.
From Folly’s perspective foolish, carefree behavior generally leads to happiness. Of all her followers she ranks at the top those delusional folks so lost in their imaginative worlds as to be oblivious of any sense of reality. Those she finds least enlightened, although clearly foolish are the Stoics and theologians whose strict adherence to reason can only mean a painful and dreary life not to mention lost rewards in the hereafter.
So, anyway, I was beginning to take all this to heart, spending lots of time playing Flappy Bird and watching reruns of Jersey Shore when I discovered the book was meant to be satirical; that the celebration of foolish worldly behavior was really meant to be quite the opposite.
The author of Praise of Folly was the 16th century Catholic priest Erasmus of Rotterdam who was pretty disgusted with the frivolous preoccupation with material wealth and bodily desires of mankind in general (and, I guess, the twisted motives of the Catholic Church in particular). I’m not sure about the current motives of the Catholic Church but I think his opinion of 16th century European culture still may hold pretty true for contemporary western culture altogether.
Anyway, at the end of the book Folly goes to considerable pains to assure the reader that the reader’s spiritual health depends on not thinking about things too much; that remaining a fool is really the only way anyone will gain spiritual redemption.
So I guess I’ll just keep spending loads of time with Flappy Bird and inane television and just wait until the weak-minded inherit the earth.
Elvis in Memphis
I’ve been experiencing this strong sense of inner spirit recently. It’s a feeling of strength within, a sense of groundedness and a confidence that I’ll be able to not only cope with but decisively defeat any adversity that may come my way. I find quite a wonderful peacefulness in this.
But, along with this sense of inner strength comes the nagging thought that my ego may be a bit out of control, having been taught from a very early age the virtues of humility. This realization leads me to consider my own short comings which include but are not limited to average intelligence, unapproachable countenance and various biases and intolerances. This in turn brings me back to the anxiety that has been a predominant aspect of my nature as long as I can remember. Someone said, Martin Heidegger I think, that anxiety is the fundamental mood of existence. Boy, sometimes I can really relate to that.
So, I’m wondering if I’m better off in the possibly delusional world of inner strength or in the anxiety ridden reality of humble me.
I think I’ll bask in the inner glow as long as I can. Here’s to positive thinking.
Having returned from the wilderness without incident I have quickly re assumed my generally distracted existence. While in the wilderness I managed to maintain my eating and sleeping routine almost to the minute. When I think about that I have to admit it seems pretty strange since I obviously had no deadlines to meet, places to be at a certain hour or people to coordinate with. I guess it’s pretty amazing how effectively I’ve been culturally conditioned. It does make me wonder about the nature of free will.
The only tangible remnants of my wilderness experience consist of a few small paintings that are now more real than the rock, water and vegetation they represent. And, as I view them in their balanced, rectangular format it’s clear to me they really haven’t captured the intense sensory experience that inspired them. I guess I’ll keep them anyway for their memory value. When I think about it, maybe there’s no better reason to produce art in the first place.
I’ve been thinking about who would really miss me if I were not to come back from the wilderness. I think there are people who would care but also that there are different degrees of mourning.
For instance you might feel bad at a friend’s disappearance but the loss might be harder to deal with if the deceased were a parent or sibling. If the lost one were a partner or spouse you depended on daily I would guess it may be really hard to take.
I have no spouse or siblings, but I guess there are folks out there who would consider my passing significant. I don’t anticipate any problems returning from the wilderness provided I keep my canoe upright. I have no desire to disappear. The spirit is still willing.
Outside of any eschatological interferences I plan to return.
Another think I miss while alone in the wilderness is distraction. Other than the occasional animal rustling or bird song there are no distractions here. I can’t even get a cell phone signal.
The awareness of not being distracted makes me think I must be distracted a lot usually. I wonder how much of my life I spend distracted.
Which is one reason I didn’t mind falling in the water while trying to get into my canoe so much. It temporarily distracted me. Wilderness is so in your face, so absolute, such stark reality.
So, to deal with stark reality I brought along some distractions in the form of reading material and, obviously, writing pad.
One of the books is Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson. The person telling the story in this book reminds me somewhat of myself. She goes on and on about whatever comes into her head. She tells in the book about having once been mad. I don’t think she ever fully recovered by the end of the book.
I don’t know what that says about me.
I’ve been alone in the wilderness now for more than twenty-four hours. Other than the occasional canoe passing by I’ve seen or talked with no one.
Nothing particularly unusual has happened here other than last evening I fell in the lake trying to get into my canoe. I spent considerable time after that rigging up lines to dry things out which they pretty well were by morning.
So, I was thinking about what I miss being in the wilderness and one of the first things that came to mind is music which when I’m not in the wilderness I am usually listening to or is at least playing in the background.
I find it interesting how some musicians’ names seem to fit their profession so well. Take Esa-Pekka Salonen or Luigi Boccherini or Antonine Dvorak. When I say these names out loud I just want to repeat them over and over because they’re so rhythmic sounding (well, maybe not Antonine Dvorak so much).
The composer I’m thinking of now is Aaron Copeland who I guess doesn’t have a particularly rhythmic sounding name but his music seems to suit the wilderness. It seems to me Appalachian Spring would be really good background music for where I presently am. I’m not in Appalachia and it’s not spring but never the less.
I do know the title of that work really doesn’t refer to the season but rather a water source. I found this out only recently. Even so I still am inclined to think of the season when I hear the piece. Also I think of Jody Foster who sang Simple Gifts in an episode of Kung Fu for David Carradine who played Kwai Chang Caine even though he’s Caucasian.
The movie that I think of when I think of Jody Foster is Taxi Driver with Robert DeNiro. In it she plays an adolescent prostitute.
I’m all alone in the wilderness. At least it’s someplace I would call wilderness. I know for a fact no one lives within miles of here and there aren’t any roads within miles of here either.
That’s not to say there aren’t people around. I saw four people just minutes ago but they aren’t within sight now. For all intents and purposes I’m all alone. At least I have been for the last three hours and seventeen minutes which is how long ago I entered the wilderness.
Right now I’m looking out across a lake.
Although it’s been a couple of minutes since I wrote that last sentence I’m still looking across the same lake in so far as I haven’t moved from the spot I was at when I wrote the last sentence. It’s a beautiful scene; the sun sparkling off of the water, the variety of greens in the trees on the far bank, the multi-colored rock outcroppings reaching down into the dark water. It could be a painting.
Of course I know it couldn’t really be a painting because then what I’d be looking at would be some sort of pigment spread on canvas or paper or something rather than the real water and rocks and trees I’m seeing.
That’s not to say if what I was looking at was a painting that the painting wouldn’t be real. It is real in my imagination in so far as I can imagine this scene as a painting.
So I guess there’s no reason to think that the painting I’m imagining of the scene that I’m looking at is any less real than the water, trees and rocks.