Existential Truth

I think it was the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who determined that a satisfied desire may be followed by a brief period of peace but that the momentary peace will soon be replaced by a new want; the moment of satisfaction will be lost. Suffering unrealized desire whether selfish or altruistic will be the state in which everyone lives. Which means, I guess, that anxieties will be constant companions throughout our lives.

Humankind, though, has imagination. In order to stay reasonably upbeat and optimistic we conjure favorable scenarios: a benevolent nature, a loving partner, supportive forever friends, lasting economic security. But, of course, things don’t always go as one might desire; scapegoats are needed to save us from our inadequacies.

Sanity requires maintaining faith in our beliefs.

Short Term Memory Loss

My short-term memory isn’t what it once was. I find myself, while visiting with a new acquaintance, forgetting her name before the conversation is over and twenty minutes after dinner is over, I’ve forgotten what I just ate and how many times while retrieving a needed item I’ve forgotten what I was retrieving. I guess I find these small memory slips more amusing than concerning but the realization the issue is a symptom of age and is degenerative is undeniable.

The upside, though, of short-term memory loss is I’m less inclined to hang onto negative occurrences. Experiencing the moment in terms of past memories leaves time for contemplation. It’s good, I think, to feel a sense of peace in aging.

The Earth is Flat

It’s clear to me there’s no observable knowledge the earth is anything other than a flat disk. Theories to the contrary are the products of the imagination and attempts to suggest curvature are deceptions without basis in observable fact. Photographs to the contrary have been manipulated by those intent on keeping us in ignorance.

If what we’ve been taught about something as basic as the shape of the earth is wrong one must question all such ‘common knowledge’: if the earth turns on an axis why don’t we feel the movement, the sun moves about the earth not the other way around, travel to the moon is a NASA deception. Our only true source of knowledge is the Bible that informs us of the ‘four corners of the earth (Rev 7:1), Psalms 96:10 tells us the earth is stationary, Daniel 4:10 speaks of a tree at the center of the earth visible to the earth’s ends.

And down the rabbit hole into the dark realm of conspiracy one falls vulnerable to grifters and scammers and crazies of all sorts, reinforced by like-minds on social media. Frightful to contemplate the numbers of those so enthralled. More frightful to realize this short post will only serve to reinforce flat earth beliefs.

The Human Soul

I’ve been reading about the various ways the human soul is perceived by various religious traditions as well as non-believers. In most cases the soul is seen as an entity that remains in existence after death of the body. For those uninclined toward religious dogmatisms the soul may, if accepted as existential at all, likely lack individual identity and will, after death, merge into a collective unconscious, a mindless and immaterial essence.

A common religious perspective has the soul maintaining the identity, personality and memories of the individual from which it emanates. If one is to experience the benefits of heaven or the eternal miseries of Hell such a soul will be necessary, even as such a belief may be a strain on the thoughtful faithful who may have trouble with the idea of a functioning dead brain.

Another concept of soul can be found in the scifi realm. A ‘cortical stack’ situated between the brain and spinal column containing one’s identity is found to be portable. This ‘personality package’ can be transferred once one’s body wears out into a fresh physical specimen creating in effect a new you. Belief in such futuristic technology will certainly be a significant strain on even the most avid of scifi proponents.

Anticipating a future reality beyond life as we know it is something humankind has been contemplating for millennia and it’s pretty compelling for many of us to continue to do so. Contemplation is never a bad thing.

A Whole Fear Quick

I’ve been reading the stories of Flannery O’Connor lately. The secluded culture of rural Mississippi in the 1940’s along with her inventive brilliance led to the creation of phrases that capture essential human experiences. One phrase that particularly struck me relates the idea of sudden discomfort someone might experience as thoughts unravel in contemplation.

‘A whole fear quick’ effectively captures, it seems to me, the anxieties that tend to spring up as one proceeds through unsettling daily encounters, dark thoughts emerge from the past and/or uncertain anticipations invade the mind: mental meanderings in which WFQ’s bound to the surface of one’s mind with regularity.

Such uncomfortable thoughts are all controllable, of course, understood in context. These are thoughts that can be dealt with prior to any sort of panic attack. If it were otherwise, if the unpleasantness became incapacitating, it might be time to home in on thoughts of an escapist nature, thinking about existence on an uninhabited desert island while at the same time experiencing amnesia. Such a scenario would promise a serenity of sorts, think.

A Mysterious Past

I’ve been wondering how to think about what has been. No longer existent, one’s past can only be imagined. Unlike the present or future, the past would seem to be ‘written in stone’ but for the interpretations we impose on it as we encounter new experiences.

Interpreting one’s past is further complicated by the complexities of our belief systems, moral imperatives and ability to think logically and reason. Our memories, furthermore, record only snapshots of past experiences limited by our fragmentary sensory capacities and fleeting attention spans, and for some of us experiential bits are conveniently forgotten in support of a delicate ego.

I’m beginning to realize the ‘what was’ is a realm of Being steeped in mystery. I sense my history is rich with unrecoverable experiences: makes me wonder how much potential understanding I’ve left behind.

The Look of Love

I read in the paper the other day that Burt Bacharach died. News items sprinkled with his biggest hits reminded me, and I’m sure many others who grew up in the ’60’s, of our post-high school days. Listening to Burt’s music has me remembering the naivete we shared, the romantic perspectives we embraced. Remembering some of the lyrics now, though, is a real eye-opener. Consider: ‘on the day that you were born the angels got together and decided to create a dream come true, so they sprinkled moon dust in your hair of gold and star light in your eyes of blue.’ Deeply romantic, I guess, but now it makes me wince.

Even considering Viet Nam and the Kennedy assassination we were of a simpler nature then, a bit less jaded, it seems to me. The tunes do bring back fond memories of convertible cruising on summer nights and minimal responsibilities, and I guess listening to Burt’s music may have had some positive effects on our developing psyches.

Deteriorating Language

I’m finding that my language is deteriorating since I left the workforce. ‘ing’s’ have become ‘in’s’ or worse, ’em’s’, requested acknowledgements have devolved into ‘init’s’, assents into ‘yabetcha’s’. It’s a sad state of affairs.

Now though, on the upside, having been reading a bio of the consummate short story writer Flannery O’Connor I find that when she applied for appointment to the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop as a young woman in the 1940’s her interviewer asked her to please write her responses to his questions because he couldn’t understand her speech, modified as it was due to her secluded southern upbringing.

At the time, she was, of course, without the benefit of exposure to a strong, accent free media voice that everyone, nowadays, hears on a daily basis. Which leaves me without excuse; my deteriorating language use must be attributed to laziness. The thing is no one seems to mind. I suspect that my slovenly language use lowers expectations, my murder of enunciations and shorthand phrases are accepted, fit into what I sense is a collective disregard for proper enunciation.

This is not an uplifting perspective, I know, but I have nothing to prove, no one to impress and really mean no ill-will. I’ll stick with my written musings as my primary means of communication, though, at least partly out of embarrassment.

The Other

Fall season celebrations remind me of the deeply ingrained inclinations of people to hold onto ideas of the supernatural. I’ve been wondering if, beyond the dogmas of organized religions, do all reasonably sensitive human beings sense the existence of a presence beyond yet within the physical universe, a presence within all beings that accounts for spirit and vitality? A life-force simply unattributable to biological composition alone, an Other, without singularity, ethereal, ineffable, beyond definition?

Such an awareness, I think, might provide a useful perspective when one is experiencing the travails of daily life.

contemplating eternal recurrence

Mortification of the Flesh

As I anticipate the oncoming winter, the discomfort of cold winds and ice-covered streets, the extended darkness of shorter days and the ugliness of dirt covered snowdrifts, it’s clear to me a certain amount of suffering is soon to be expected.

To set the tone, I’ve been reading about the medieval practice of mortification of the flesh, a not uncommon behavior of the extremely pious seeking union with God. Such behavior was all about suffering, as it might involve ascetic denial, living in seclusion, vows of silence and might grow to include flagellation and other self-imposed harms to one’s physical body.

It should be noted that those who engaged in such activities needed to maintain purity of motive: to accept physical pain in order to grow closer to and become more deserving of God’s benevolence. Pridefulness or exhibitionism must not be in the equation.

So, as I anticipate the suffering I will have to endure in the coming winter, I must avoid poking fun at the snowbirds who flee to the south, remain committed to my stoic resolve and hope to be rewarded by a celestial embrace in April or May.