Contemplating Destiny

I’ve been watching a fantasy series, lately, a video adaptation of a series of books and accompanying computer game that presents a fairly contrived plotline meted out in, what I can only describe as inane dialogue but is, nevertheless, compelling in its presentation of quite inventive monsters of various sorts and gruesome and bloody fight scenes. The storyline depends on the idea of destiny; that the ‘Law of Surprise’ (in which unforeseen events determine a necessity of binding obligation) will eventually reveal each character’s ultimate end, or, I guess, the point at which he/she/it comes to realize his/her/it’s life purpose.

Following this story has me thinking about what my destiny might be, which, I think, is a reasonable contemplation given that I’m spending time engaged in a video fantasy land. I might imagine, I suppose, an upheaval of my sedentary routine leading to an awakening to a broader knowledge of what existence might mean.

Given my fairly advanced age as well as a reasonably firm understanding of modern science, my destiny would not appear to have in store anything particularly dramatic. Even so, I can appreciate that letting my imagination loose on occasion is an uplifting even if delusional enterprise: a way to retain youthfulness.

Alternative Realities

I read about a lady, the other day, who, when asked about a controversial idea she was championing declared that she knew that it wasn’t true but that it was consistent with her beliefs so she embraces it. Just an example, I guess, that our deep philosophical divisiveness has morphed into alternate realities. The spin has turned into, at least in some cases, ‘alternative facts’. The information we receive has become not simply differing versions or interpretations of events but actual counter-facts, egregious distortions. The fact checkers, who I tend to trust, have, I suspect, been working overtime to decipher truth from fiction.  There are no excuses for those who deliberately misinform to suit their own agendas but I suspect many of us simply experience differently, which has me thinking about what exactly Truth is.

Even life versus death will have nuanced meaning for some I suppose (at least those of a spiritual bent), and like the half empty/ half full glass of water interpretation must be accounted for. As I sit here writing this, I can’t know the truth, when I finish, of where exactly I will be physically, the world turning as it is. I peer out the window at a beautiful blue sky and suspect there are those whose truth upon viewing same will be something other.

So, I guess it’s only fair to assume that what I know to be truly the case will not necessarily be truth for others. I guess we’ll all just have to learn to co-exist in our alternative realities.

How Gunsmoke Can Save the World

I’ve been watching re-runs, lately, of old Gunsmoke episodes. This oater usually ends with a peaceful resolution established by Marshall Dillon. Dodge City is once again made safe by the larger than life lawman. Injustice is vanquished, evil clearly at a disadvantage in Dodge.

Bad things happen, of course, over the dramatic hour. Good people are taken advantage of, racism rears it’s ugly head, murder happens. In the end, though, Matt, Kitty, Doc and Chester (or Festus) will be sitting around a table in the Long Branch at peace with their existence.

For hard-core fans (naïve as we may be) a subliminal message: good will always prevail and, by extension we are all in the embrace of a benevolent God. Delusional, I suppose, if taken too seriously and quickly undermined by personal tragedy, still, if a moments peace is provided why not embrace it.

A Public Persona

I’ve been thinking about how the public eye so often transforms individuals caught within it. A narrative is invariably required of those publicly recognized. The storyline of one’s life, when spelled out to a waiting audience, will almost always be enhanced beyond the mundane existence one lives. Truth be known, most lives are quite ordinary, hardly the stuff of inspiring fiction.

What got me thinking about this was exposure the other day to the biography of Ernest Hemmingway. E. H.’s early successes as a young writer earned him high praise and recognition that eventually led him to remake himself. Half-truths depicting him as a hard-living, risk-taking soldier of fortune garnered near constant media attention. He became who he must be but wasn’t. Living the lie led to broken relationships, alcoholism and eventually, suicide.

In contrast, E. H.’s contemporary, J. D. Salinger, who also received considerable attention for an early novel, shunned public attention throughout his life. He was able, for the most part, to ignore attempts to draw him into the role of reclusive genius the media tried to create for him.

I wonder, given the choice of inventing a persona in order to receive ego-boosting adulation or living an anonymous private life, if at some time the public eye were to fall on me, how I would choose.

I’m really not too concerned about having to make such a choice.

Fresh Ideas

It seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve had a fresh idea, or even happened upon a fresh idea someone else may have recently had. I’m a pretty firm believer that without fresh ideas stagnation occurs and the choice to stagnate or progress is no choice at all, it seems to me.

I’ve been thinking, lately, about what happens during those adolescent years when the instinctual urge to break away leads to fundamental questioning of values and experimentation with ideas and actions that push the boundaries of the familiar and expected, which may, at times, result in behaviors that are risky and maybe border on the irresponsible and may even be thought of as questionable on a moral level. But, what such a stance does provide, given a reasonable helping of basic human needs, is a sense of freedom from convention that, well directed, has a potential to realize fresh ideas.

If we allow that creative thought is likely to be nurtured most effectively when there is freedom from the immutability of established ideas, allowing it (creative thought, that is) to run its course will likely be the preferable avenue to take. I think we should champion youth, relish their energies, tolerate their impiety, impetuousness and contempt, and tolerate their ambivalence toward established truths. By encouraging their pursuit of they know not what, we all might realize new ways to tackle the problems of our complex existence.

 

Ground of Being

I’ve been reading about this sense that we all have, beneath our logical instinctual understanding, a ground 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, because I can sense hopefulness on even the dreariest and most depressing of days. I guess, though, I maybe should pay a bit more attention, work a bit harder to sustain this essence because my very being may depend 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.

Knowing the Ineffable

I’ve been reading about the religious concept ’Via Negativa’, the idea that the only way to really know God is to obliterate any association one might imagine about a supreme being with tangible realities like personhood, embodiment, even singularity, that to truly grasp the enormity of the concept of an Ineffable Other is to eliminate the limitations imposed by naming or envisioning being.

I guess the idea is, that to sense the presence of the Un-nameable, Non-entity in one’s surrounding environment and personal interactions every waking moment is to achieve true spiritual enlightenment.

I must say such an idea is intriguing and not totally unfamiliar sensing as I do, well, maybe not in every waking moment, but occasionally, something more in my surroundings and personal relationships than mere physical or psychic reality would suggest.

It’s good, I think, to have alternate ways to contemplate a personal spirituality beyond the limitations of conventional religion.

Virtual Reality and Dementia

I’ve been reading that Virtual Reality technology is becoming pretty sophisticated these days: put on the headset and find yourself in an alternate world so all-encompassing it all becomes pretty believable. Well, as a recreation anyway.

Apparently the technology is being applied to nursing home residents suffering from dementia. The intent is to help them restore brain function, I guess. I’m wondering if or when VR will be taken a step further: headsets for hospice care. I can imagine, rather than heavy sedation a journey to a pain-free realm of serenity, beauty and peace might not be such a bad way to retire from life.

What would happen, I wonder, as physical life expires. Does one live on psychically in beautiful VR? Seems kind of religious. Could it be technological advances will redefine the notion of heaven?

How to Live Authentically

Some twentieth century thinkers spent considerable time trying to understand what, exactly, one can know about the world. They thought that the fundamental basis upon which our knowledge of the world rests is suspect, based, as it is, on imagined truths originating from cultural orientations that define reality in terms of conceptual dualisms. Human inclination was to seek a secure ground of being in God or, perhaps, science that could provide reliable answers in dark times of stress and desperation. Such grounding led to unverifiable premises that produced false assumptions about the nature of the world.

A number of these deep thinkers dismissed the reliance on the eternal and infinite as being outside the realm of finite human understanding. All that can be known for certain, they thought, are the facts that exist in this world. These guys thought a primordial ground of being as disclosed through conventional world views was not to be found. An honest search would instead reveal an abyss, a nothingness beneath the cultural veneer. To live an authentic life, they believed, one must man-up, face uncertainty, tempt fate and step away from the safety of familiarity.

Other philosophers of the time thought a subjective ground of being could be found. Realizing the freedom to do what one chose depended upon a spiritual component to lift such a person beyond causal necessity. This ground of being will be personal and dependent on a belief in an existence beyond factual knowledge.

I have to say I admire these great thinkers living as they did through difficult times, unstable finances and psychological angst, who spend so much time and energy pursing ideas that provide us all the opportunity to at least contemplate how we can live our lives authentically.

Upon Encountering God

He felt pretty good, confident in his aerobic fitness, you know, for his age: looking forward to the post-workout high that follows pushing oneself to near exhaustion. Nothing like cross-country skiing to achieve a full-body workout. A couple more strenuous climbs and he’d be home.

And then, a new experience: he found himself levitating above the ski trail. Below him a skier lay. He must have had trouble navigating the steep uphill. A voice above him offered context: “Well, it had to happen sometime. The old heart finally gave out; happens pretty regularly if you want to know the truth.”

The skier found himself thinking, reviewing events from his past, reflecting on relationships, choices made, evaluating his character: did he think of himself as a good person over-all? One has regrets, things he might have done that he didn’t and vice versa.

The voice again reading his thoughts: “Everyone who’s honest has regrets. Human failings are an obvious given, but all in all you’ve done less harm than good. You’re no genius but you keep seeking answers, simplistic as they may be. I know you think of me as a figment of your imagination which may in fact be so, but maybe internal conversations do have good answers to offer.”

“Anyway, shake it off, snap out of it, you only bumped your head.”