What we’re all entitled to

I guess it’s pretty clear there are those among us who presume moral entitlement, whose imagined self-worth provides them the impetus to butt into lines, swerve dangerously through traffic, and, generally, push off the stage those they find to be in the way of their selfish desires. Depending on the degree to which such people imagine their superiority, their behavior may range from petty annoyances to total disregard for the welfare of those around them.

I’ve been reading that there is evidence to suggest egregious behavior of this sort is becoming more and more common and that it threatens to undermine the values necessary to maintain a cooperative, free society. Cooperation all too often depends on realization of personal benefit. The idea of acting in the interests of mutual benefit for all, of equality and justice, is waning, no longer a viable concept for some.

I guess our capitalistic notions of ‘working hard to get ahead’, which certainly accounts for much good being accomplished, can get out control sometimes, a bit too dog eat dog, blinds some people to the true values of mutual well-being.

I’m going to start thinking more about mankind’s common entitlement to a reasonably happy and content existence, maybe spend some time working toward a more just distribution of resources. Maybe I’ll invite the neighbors over for tea.

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Taking Sides

I came across this idea, the other day, a comment by Elie Wiesel that suggested we all must take sides. Neutrality, he said, helps the oppressor, silence encourages the tormentor. I guess he was thinking of his time imprisoned during WWII, but the idea sure seems applicable these days. The problem is it takes a lot of energy to take sides. It’s a lot easier to look the other way, to sink into the peaceful oblivion of a misconceived optimism totally unwarranted by the dire events of the day. A head-in-the-sand situation, I guess. And then there’s the problem of feeling impotent, that no matter how one might choose to act it will be too little to make a difference.

Between the desire to bask in undeserved optimism and rationalizing my non-action, I seem to be keeping my Will well distracted. Some people, I know, will seek out a motivator to guilt them into action. I don’t respond well to cheerleaders and guilt is a fairly constant companion anyway. So I guess, for starters, I’ll resolve to spend some time each morning contemplating humankind’s inclination to base instinctual behavior after which I will relish the purity of the Will evident in nature’s lesser phenomena. Perhaps the collective Will will assert itself at some point. I guess it’s pretty clear, though; I have taken sides haven’t I.

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Rays of Hope

I’ve been thinking how moral proprieties as expressed in popular culture have changed over the generations. Depending on one’s philosophical perspective decadence or enlightenment might be a fairly accurate one-word description, I guess. There have, of course, always been pockets of depraved immorality as well as societies of puritanical absolutes, but what has been found to be acceptable to the cultural mainstream has certainly been changing.

From the standpoint of artistic expression, eliminating taboos regarding visual representation and language usage has certainly been a positive when used to offer insights into the contemporary conundrum, to better express the complexities of daily existence.

But, unfortunately, there appears to be plenty of self-promoters out there who see advantages to be exploited; who use social media to avoid any sort of censorial control. The result being a kind of ugly downward spiral away from thoughtful beneficence and toward anything perceived as attention grabbing, shock value being particularly sought after.

I have to admit I have no solutions in mind to overcome this unfortunate situation other than to continue to live in my increasingly judgmental intuitive world, rejecting or admitting input as I see fit. I will optimistically watch for the occasional rays of enlightenment I know are out there.

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My Intuitive World

Given the uncertainty of the accuracy of any news items these days I continue to exercise my right to accept or disregard what I hear and read according to my intuitive discretion. In my intuitive world, events and reported occurrences, for the most part, pass by, conveyor-like, in a stream that I view from the sidelines. This information elicits from me various responses from mild to vehement, extreme dis-like to guarded optimism.

I wonder sometimes if I should try to take a more active position, assume some sort of public stand, voice my opposition or approval. Except, since I don’t know what to believe, what would be the point?

OK, OK, enough of the negativity, intuitively I know what’s best. In my world I can respond with confidence to my immediate surroundings: the weather, one-on-one interactions with others and so forth; a bit, I suppose, like putting one’s head in the sand, or attaching blinders to block my peripheral vision or wearing ear plugs 24/7. But, who knows, maybe sensory deprivation will yield new and useful insights.

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Truth

There’s been a lot of news, lately, about the dissemination of ‘fake news’. Almost daily, it seems, there are reports of ersatz information being spread around, some of which is pretty incredible. Sometimes it’s reported, people will even take actions in response to these ‘fake news’ stories, which, I guess, must mean they can sometimes be pretty believable.

But now I learn that a pretty large percentage of the population distrusts news sources altogether, which makes me wonder, if the news sources are of dubious believability how do we determine what’s fake? And, if we can’t tell what’s fake how can we know what’s true? I guess truth becomes a matter of belief, which works pretty well, I suppose, when it comes to religious issues but maybe not so much when it involves hard facts.

As far as I’m concerned I’ve got this kind of intuitive scenario in my mind that I sort of fit new information in to, selecting and discarding as it suits my world view. My understanding of things may not always be entirely accurate but my method does give me temporary peace of mind.

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Will-less Peace

I’ve been thinking about the will lately, you know, that primal existential drive from which all of our desires, hungers, urges along with the accompanying passions originate. The Will is the very life-force that defines who we are beyond our physical existences in space and time; we are our will. Unfortunately, my will has been imposing extremely negative emotions on me lately: disgust and abstract hatred mostly. I think it may have something to do with current political occurrences.

So, I think it would be good, sometimes, to be able to transcend the insidious demands of my will. I do, of course, appreciate the occasional euphoric satisfaction, but what I get mostly are anxieties and disappointments. And, the way to do that (transcend the will, that is), I’m confidently reassured by that great thinker Arthur Schopenhauer, is to seek beauty. Not the kind of visual attractiveness that only feeds self-interests, but pure ideal beauty, or if that can’t be done then perhaps descent into the overwhelming awe of the sublime will suffice.

At any rate, I’m focusing on reaching beyond my willful self-interests by seeking the purity of the beautiful, visual or aural, perhaps both. I’ll keep the will at arm’s length, at least for a while; I’ll bask in the truth of the Ideal, the beauty within that transcends the physical here and now. It seems to me, as I think about it, that this is what religions should be about.

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Philosophy for All

I came across a commentary, recently, suggesting it might not be such a good idea to introduce thoughts philosophical to young people. I guess the thinking was that young minds were not developed enough to handle deep thought, which made me wonder what the commentator thought philosophy is. Philosophy, it seems to me, is, to a great extent, about reflection: thoughts about relative moral values, how best to deal with difficult situations, maybe thoughts about what might underlie our daily existence.

While children may be less inclined toward thoughtfulness, they are certainly intellectually savvy, dealing, as they do, with the rough and tumble world of the playground. What they do have is a general openness to alternatives, particularly when it comes to human relations. Provided a forum for reflection, I suspect most will reach an attitude of tolerance for the other.

So, in my opinion, given these terribly divisive times, I think philosophical thinking should be encouraged in the schools. I have this feeling that, given the opportunity, children could reach out to our hardened unswayable opinionated psyches and teach us all philosophical perspectives on tolerance and mutual respect.

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The World as Idea

I’ve been thinking, lately, about ideas certain philosophers, back in the day, spent quite a bit of time thinking about, which is, what exactly we can know of the world we inhabit. Generally, there seemed to have been the assumption that there is way more to the universe than we can ever know given our limited sensory capacity and intellect.

The thinking goes that while experiencing the world is one thing (shared by all animal life), perceptive understanding is limited and can only occur through our innate, implanted cognitive facility to organize phenomena in terms of space, time, cause and effect: that to know a thing is to visualize it in three-dimensional space and to understand it as being in the present, having some sort of past and likely future, what cause brought it about and effect it may eventually have.

Which is why, some of the old guys determined the only world I can know is nothing more than an idea, but, underlying my idea of the world lays an unknowable, substantive reality, world-in-itself, existing within the realm of the metaphysical.

But maybe science is making some headway. This whole other unknowable realm underlying our sensory and intellectual capacities seems likely to me to probably have something to do with sub-atomic particle physics, you know, quarks and things so small nobody’s actually seen them, which make up all that the universe is, and the meta- can probably be left off of the metaphysical, at least with regard to the idea of world.

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There is no Perpetual Motion

I’ve been reading, lately, about the second law of thermodynamics. I guess physicists have figured out that the transfer of energy will invariably result in a net loss (you know, carbon emissions and such); entropy will invariably increase over time until heat distribution reaches equilibrium and the last star blinks out, which will occur, according to sound estimates, sometime in the distant future. That is, the universe will remain functional and in existence for a very, very long time. Physicists are pretty sure about this and who am I to question learned scientific minds.

No matter how dark things may look at present, even if the world we know and love loses its capacity to sustain life (through every fault of our own), there will, I truly believe, be stars somewhere out there supporting planets where life will be sustainable. Stephen Hawking is pretty sure that, to his reckoning, we probably should be looking for such places in the interests of species survival.

I feel optimistic about such thinking: on a planet in a galaxy far away perhaps politics will be less offensive.

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Unity of Opposites

It’s come to my attention recently that the 19th century German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel offered a theory of historical progression that seems somehow appropriate to our contemporary times. The general rule that history will follow, Hegel thought, is that any thesis will face its contradiction, after which a synthesis of the two will occur.

Now, I’m no scholar mind you, but I can’t help thinking about this in relation to our current political upheaval. For some time now it has seemed to me humankind was making significant humanistic strides toward pluralistic understanding and acceptance. Appreciation for cultural variety, tolerance for the other and compassion toward the less fortunate not to mention a sound scientific understanding of the threats to our natural environment seemed to be reaching consensus levels.

But suddenly the very antithesis of these ideals has reared its ugly head. We have found ourselves face to face with our most base instincts; hatred and fear of the Other, isolationist divisiveness, blatant disregard for unpopular scientific research and an anti-intellectual disinclination toward thoughtful dialogue.

So, Hegel would have us believe this dichotomous situation will work itself out, some sort of middle ground will stabilize things, compromises will be arrived at.  I must admit I’m having a hard time visualizing what that peaceful compromise might look like.