The Evil ‘I’

I’ve been thinking, lately, that perhaps I’m taking some of the events of the day a bit too personally. I’m thinking my sensitive, insecure ego is causing me to become increasingly intolerant, less understanding of those with different views than mine and making it less likely I will fairly assess what’s happening around me. Occurrences, no matter the cause have little to do with my stilted sense of appropriateness, my biased ideals and the sooner I come to grips with reality the better.

At any rate, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one dealing with the evil ‘I’ which causes so much turmoil in the world.  I know there are spiritual endeavors that offer direction in ego suppression, subordinating the invented Self. Meditative disciplines emphasizing focus on the now and allowing thoughts to pass through one’s mind has the potential, I think, to set me in a more healthy and productive place. I just need to start putting in the time, focus on the now, maybe practice some deep breathing.

Contradiction

I’ve been reading that, counter-intuitive though it may seem, sometimes a thing can be two different things at one and the same time. I guess the realization of this contradiction came about through the study of sub-atomic entities, some of which can be particles and also be waves even though particles and waves are distinctly different things. To emphasize this phenomenon, one physicist imagined a cat in a box with a triggered cyanide capsule. He imagined a sub-atomic entity, both particle and wave being shot into the box at a reflecting mirror the wave would pass through but the particle would hit, reflect and trigger the cyanide capsule. Since the sub-atomic entity is both wave and particle the cat in the box would be both alive and dead: pretty mind-blowing; (well, that’s not exactly how it goes but the key is the multiple identities superimposed on the outcome and definitely mind-blowing).

Anyway, the implication is contradiction is pretty deeply embedded in reality altogether. By extension a concept which may be taken to mean one thing will assume a contradictory meaning at the same time. Benevolent, nurturing nature supporting life is malevolent, murderous predator exploiting innocent prey; the horizontal horizon skews to vertical in the absence of gravity; red is violet; up/down; wet/dry.

It makes me think any absolutes that may exist must lie outside of the empirical realm.

My Prejudices

I’ve been reading that, as much as we may not like to believe it, prejudice is an inevitable contributor to how we understand most all aspects of our existence. We attach meaning to what we observe through pre-conceived concepts which may function pragmatically but certainly fall short of providing us with a thorough understanding of our world. And, so, we end up with prejudices heavily ego-centric and self-preserving.

The kind of prejudices that lead folks to embrace racist, xenophobic perspectives and doubt the legitimacy of scientific research result from the lack of having at hand hard facts and reliable theories and have led to some pretty amazing intuitive jumps, irrational thinking and prejudices.

But, then, any belief is a prejudice which denies its contradiction. As I think about my own beliefs that may border on philosophical skepticism (a contradiction in itself) likelihoods and reasonable possibilities seem the operational rule. I suppose the only way to avoid believing oneself into a box is to think theoretically, keep things open ended.

A Disquieting Realization

It’s become increasingly apparent to me lately that an excessive amount of my cerebral energy is being spent considering how my actions are perceived by others, or, even, as I anticipate actions I might be inclined to engage in, how those future doings will, hypothetically, effect how others valuate my person. I suppose it’s natural to have a concern for one’s public image up to a point; after all, no one wants to be a social misfit, ostracized for thought, word or deed. And, I guess the ego for most of us can be a fairly delicate thing. But at what point does concern for image get in the way of acting with strength and conviction and without second thought?

Anyway, what has me thinking about these things is my engagement in a most interesting tome called The Book of Disquiet. The writer, Fernando Pessoa (not surprisingly, an early 20th century European immersed in his own particular existential dilemma) invented personas so elaborately constructed the identity of Pessoa himself disappeared. Claiming we are all many in one, a profusion of selves, Pessoa wrote through his heteronyms, text without singular aim, a compilation of disparate aphorisms never intended as a cohesive work.

It’s a lonely idea, I guess, but there is beauty and truth in by-passing the inevitable struggle with ego and identity many artists have to deal with.

New Toys

My usually contemplative existence has been upset recently due to the acquisition of what I have come to think of as a new toy. I have gotten used to spending significant time, on a daily basis, reflecting philosophically on all sorts of things I consider of a profound nature. But, now, suddenly, I find myself preoccupied with my physical activity: steps taken, time spent in various heart rate zones, distance traveled, calories burned and more. And, to make sure I don’t forget about or ignore the information my new toy is providing it congratulates me, gives me awards sometimes when I reach certain plateaus it deems noteworthy. And, then it encourages me to share my successes with others who have been, dare I say, entrapped by this clever computerized overseer.

I have to admit I was initially captivated by the personal attention and concern for my well-being and I didn’t want to let my personal trainer (which is what it purports to be) down, but I miss my extended times of reflection. I toy with the idea of sitting in my lounger while swinging my arm alongside in order to keep the numbers respectable, but I guess eventually my personal trainer and I will have to part ways.

 

Seeking Common Ground

Public discourse sure seems divisive these days. There seems to be a lot of people holding pretty strong oppositional opinions on a host of contemporary issues. The disagreements appear to be pretty deep; not just apples and oranges but more of a god/Satan divergence; a profound philosophical divide beyond any sort of reconciliation; neighbor versus neighbor has led to political gridlock. I’m inclined to level some of the blame for the situation on football; it’s all come down to a win or lose situation.

Which has led some wise pundits to suggest we need a change of attitude; a spirit of compromise along with a sense of civil exchange of ideas; allow the other side their dignity while articulating your own point of view clearly and calmly and try to avoid taking the issues personally.
I grant you this isn’t an easy task when you know for certain the other side is clearly wrong. I wish I could tell you I’m immune to this discordant dilemma but reading the news from the perspective of my favored apps keeps me regularly angry at the other side, and, I suspect, the other side is similarly seething while absorbing the bias of their favored sources.

The conundrum brings me back to a need to spend more time on my meditative practices: focus on by-passing the Self, allowing disquieting thoughts to evaporate, strive for ultimate nature of being, seek believable truths. It’s difficult but I can think of no better solution and maybe I’ll eventually reach a point of toleration for those on the other side.

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Useful Facts

I’ve been mulling over the relationship between objective truth, subjective belief and fact, lately. As far as I can tell, facts are those things that are unmistakably true, that must under all circumstances be the case. Facts are those things having occurred, like the Norman Invasion, things that will occur in the future like the ultimate physical demise of all biological life forms and concepts beyond doubt like gravitational force. Propositions that border on objective truth, then, are those concepts and theories that are most in-line with the facts. Subjective belief on the other hand, provides important personal ground for living, maybe, but is not required to conform to any sort of irrefutable facts.

Now, it seems to me, in order to progress in our understanding of the world around us we need to generate useful knowledge. Some people undoubtedly feel subjective beliefs offer useful knowledge and I hesitate to dismiss them out-of-hand, but I’m afraid such a stance lacks the flexibility needed to truly progress. To progress we need to be able and willing to set aside what we once understood to be the case in favor of new ideas, theories that conform better to the facts which have been and continue to be revealed to us.

And these days with the significant problems we face I’m thinking we better root for the creative, progressive problem solvers who are reaching beyond what we now know. Here’s hoping solutions will be found before we find ourselves inextricably caught in a trap of our own making.

 

 

Family

I’ve been thinking, lately, about the nature of family, you know, the shared warmth of common beginnings, but also the dissonance of having come to know, or supposed, an identity inconsistent with one’s upbringing and parental values. The realization that family will probably, we being adults and all, be well in the background of one’s life, nevertheless exist as emotional support; a safety net of sorts one can always cast when burdens become particularly heavy is reassuring if only in the abstract.

Family is the true protection against solitary oblivion; a respite before our final demise and our re absorption into the mother of us all.

Ground of Being

I’ve been reading about this idea that we all have, at the base of our instinctual understanding, a faith that sustains our very existence; a faith in the existence of something without which survival would be impossible.
This something may be, I think necessarily is, of a very nebulous character and in fact, if and when it takes on too specific an identification may very well lose much of its potency. Naming it is losing it. Our rational selves are inclined to try to grasp this something, identify it, get intimate with it, worship it, maybe, but any such action only diminishes it. All we can and must do is acknowledge its existence.

We might think to construct symbols for and procedures by which we can more easily gain access, to keep it close to our waking consciousness, but any such activity must be of an abstract nature, no more than a parallel reference acknowledging only the existence of this something that defies labeling of any kind because this ground of being is essential to our very nature.

Ok, so I kind of get this, you know, and I can sense hopefulness on even the dreariest and most depressing of days. I guess, though, I maybe should pay a bit more attention, not lose awareness of this ultimate sustainable essence, my very being depends on it and as difficult as it is to think about something so ineffable and adverse to description I will dedicate contemplative time to reaching deep.

Sustaining Nature

I am reminded these mild early fall days of warm sun and cool nights, of our symbiotic relationship to the natural world. As much as we may wish to bask in our autonomy, the fact is we are of nature, simply a small fairly insignificant component of the natural environment. It’s pretty clear our very existence, dependent as it is on an oxygenated atmosphere and water-rich environs can’t really be separated in any meaningful way from our supportive world.

We are nature, nature is us. If we were pressed to name this embracing entity I suppose we might refer to it as God.