The Impending Demise of Old White Guys

TV ads these days have made me aware the country’s demographic is changing. Savvy advertisers are using more people of color and those living alternative lifestyles to sell their products. It only makes sense of course; old white guys are dying by the droves due not only to covid but to natural life span.

One doesn’t have to look too hard to see the desperate war of resistance the aging white population is waging. The political realm is rife with frenzied folks upset about the changing status quo, opposing the surge of youthful, socially and racially pluralistic energy, which is slowly, steadily driving the conventional beliefs of a previously white cultural dominance into extinction.

There are aspects of the new tolerance for fluid gender identity and sexual lifestyles that are difficult for me, given the social structures I have grown up with, to integrate. I firmly believe, though, change must happen. I sense in the young a positive life force asserting itself; one necessary to overcome the difficulties maintaining life as we know it will require.

Imaginings

I’ve been reading in the news lately political pundits and others in the know are suggesting, warning in some cases, that we are in danger of experiencing another civil war. The crux of the concern seems to be that with large numbers of us polarized as to what we perceive to be true, supported as we are by our chosen information sources, contradictory one side to the other, finding common ground seems unlikely. We find ourselves living in alternate realities and the more firmly we embrace our beliefs the more we fear the other. It’s common these days to see opponents demonized and violence perpetrated.

But, on the positive side there have recently been those on the political fringes calling for state secession. One can imagine a red state/blue state divide although I suppose there’d have to be some voluntary resettlement in order to consolidate realities. Once everyone was on their chosen side of the new international border it would seem peace would be obtainable. Narratives would evolve reflecting relative realities. There will of course be differing perspectives: a democracy on one side, totalitarianism on the other; one state operating according to logic and reason the other embracing the dictates of authority; basic trust in the peace and goodness of humanity on the one hand, paranoia driven preparation for armed conflict on the other. Family get-togethers will be difficult for those on opposite; sides of the fence and given the opposing opinions of the efficacy of science I guess another pandemic will not be good for the red staters.

Imagining a red/blue divide could produce a modicum of peace is hopeful, I suppose, but what is more likely, the mistrust inherent in such a philosophical chasm will feed the human need to demonize each other further.

It’s hard not to imagine mankind’s self-destruction.

Belief in God

As things began spiraling out of control she wondered if belief in God was a viable option.

Well, maybe belief was the wrong word. It seemed to her unlikely one can suddenly ‘believe’ something not believed or at least had taken to be credible at some earlier time in life. Something, some idea, introduced to her, possibly in childhood that kind of drifted along in the sub-conscious for years until some sort of existential shock brought it (the belief) to the surface and seemed suddenly to be just the things the extraordinary times required.

So maybe it was more like expedient, practical to seek and find a supernatural entity to appeal to in these dire times when her resources were strained and uncertainties about her very survival constantly pressed. She had settled, after all, as she had thought about it over the years, on an enlightened agnosticism not a hard atheism. God as a concept was elusive but not easily dismissed in totality and now seemed the time to, if not make re-acquaintance, at least allow the embedded idea to come a bit closer to the surface. There is something comforting about the idea of a benevolent overlord, protector, benefactor in these uncertain times.

If only maintaining belief was that simple.

Existential Angst

I’ve been thinking lately about the mechanisms we put in place to insulate ourselves, act as buffer between our daily existence and the uncertainty of what’s next. I’ve been reading that Hindus who have the means acquire the services of a seer, a guru who will foretell a personal future, what karmic fluctuations one might expect in one’s present incarnation. According to the Hindu cycle of time we are presently in the Kaliyuga, a period of immorality preceding catastrophic social upheaval, which, I guess, is why the Hindu faithful seek the advice of a guru.

Most everyone, I suppose, seeks to avoid confronting the unknown without a plan. Western religious dogmas pacify the faithful by promising an obtainable after-life. Stoics prepare themselves against psychic annihilation by keeping in mind worst case scenarios. The most secular among us lose themselves in all manner of distractions from doing good to living large. Those who recognize such distractions for what they are may rationalize non-existence will involve a peaceful transition.

I suppose if I had to pick a mechanism to ward of fear of the unknown, I might lean toward Hinduism which is pretty attractive at least from a cultural distance. It’s more exotic, less familiar than traditional western religions and the statuary and temples of and to the pantheon of very interesting gods and goddesses is spectacular. I’ll keep Hinduism in mind the next time I’m in the market for a mechanism to deflect existential angst. I realize such flippancy might seriously deplete my karmic capital. I could find myself a minor insect next life.

Vibrant Youth

I found myself in the presence, the other day, of a captivating young woman. She was in full spirit, exuding such energy and general enthusiasm for life, an optimism devoid of obstacles. We, her aged audience, sat mesmerized as she flattered and cajoled her elders, rapt as we were in the attentions of such youthful beauty.

The encounter brought to mind fading memories of my own youth, melancholy feelings now in the realization of a past exuberance for life not likely to ever be experienced again. But, we rationalized, she has yet to face the head winds reality has in store for her. Give her a few years and life will take its toll.

Still, the realization we have produced her and others like her of such depth of spirit is affirming, a validation of our existence more significant than anything else we may have accomplished in this world.

Cognitive Biases

I’ve been reading that cognitive biases interfere with nearly everyone’s decision making. There are quite a number of ways that clear thinking is undermined by personal prejudices, intuitive imaginings, simplistic assumptions, unrelated beliefs or refusal to accept information inconsistent with previously accepted knowledge.

The idea of cognitive biases explains, it seems to me, how those of us sharing a fairly common reality can arrive at such diverse opinions about the political, religious and social issues we find ourselves facing daily. There’s a considerable discrepancy as to what constitutes fact. Sometimes our sources gain such credibility we allow their ‘truth’ beyond questioning; makes me think of the Groucho Marx line: “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”

I guess in many cases biases aren’t a serious problem but there are issues needed to be faced these days that mustn’t be denied, cast off as fake news. And to be fair, there are indications many are beginning to look toward the future: carbon sequestration projects, carbon credits for CO2 reductions, a move toward recognizing citizenship for future generations all point to a growing awareness of the importance of maintaining the health of the earth. History and human nature do suggest it takes a blatantly obvious impending doom or maybe even actual devastation for humankind to come together and act. It appears we may be closing in on such an event.

Immortality

I’ve been wondering as I watch re-runs of Gunsmoke how many times over the series 20 year run Matt Dillon has received gunshot wounds. It seems he’s getting shot about every third or fourth episode. I understand there were 635 episodes produced between 1955-75, which would suggest he would display, if he were to appear shirtless and the show’s producers maintained consistency, a fairly perforated torso. Being inclined as I am to pictorial imaginings, Matt’s body would appear, as I envision it, a purplish mottled mass of undifferentiated musculature.

But, of course that’s not what we fans think about, rather we accept the clothed marshal’s obvious physical dominance knowing that the moral order will be maintained in Dodge City and by extension in our world as well.

No Such Thing as a True Story

I’ve been reading that most everyone reconfigures their personal narrative as they proceed through the experiences of living. Personal interactions that may have been emotionally intense may be viewed differently in the calm of later years. Reckless behaviors in one’s youth as reaction to societal (or parental) pressures may later be realized to have been mistakes that interrupted character building constraint so necessary to a stable grounding in reality.

Where once we may have found truth in the absolute freedom of choice as a path to an autonomous independence, we may later realize a shallowness, a superficial misunderstanding of the deep-seeded need we have for the care of others, a dependence on those dear to us. So, the narrative changes; the way you thought things to be were not, upon reflection, truly the case. Motivations, ambiguous desires altered the truth of the experience.

I guess it’s fair to say narratives are interpretations which lie somewhere between fiction and non: stories being told by their possessors.

Balancing Risk and Desire

I’ve been reading about balancing risk and desire when the desire is fed by the risk. As I think about my wayward college days when smoking marijuana was as much about defying the man as it was about enjoying the effects of the drug, I realize ‘toking up’ made me feel like a solid member of the anti-establishment, anti-war hippy crowd even though inhaling was about as far as my social protest went.

Now, as I age, my desires are tempered, more thoughtful, I’m less inclined toward risky behaviors. But then I think about why risks are taken in the first place. It’s because risks successfully taken are life affirming, adrenaline pumping, provide a glimpse of (imagined) immortality, experiences sorely lacking in my present daily existence.

So, today I did something I’ve never done before. My mother always warned me about thin ice, so I tried some early season skating anyway. I fell through the ice. The experience was fairly unpleasant but it did alter my usual mundane routine.

A Dystopian Future

I’ve been thinking, lately, of dystopian futures. Such story lines aren’t difficult to find in science fiction, are actually pretty common the best ones being those that are most believable. Common narratives spin a future Dark Age resulting from nuclear disaster, perhaps, or, more believable still, the collapse of civilization due to lethal pandemic. Catastrophic loss of life usually results and those few souls remaining revert to animal behaviors in order to survive. The loss of basic needs collapses moral imperative: theft, murder even cannibalism become the rule.

The abundance of such stores has me wondering about the human psyche, how inclined we may be to expect existential disaster. The reality of global climate change increases our psychosis, the nightly news feeds our discomfort and keeps immanent disaster fresh in our minds.

It’s pretty easy to see why some of us seek solace in spiritual endeavors that promote belief in a worry-free afterlife. As for me, I’m inclined to refocus on the mantra ‘right here, right now’ and celebrate the natural beauty immediately before me.