The human genome has finally been deciphered and connected suggesting that in the future an individual’s genetic flaws may be found and possibly corrected leading to the potential for longer human lifespans. Imagination might lead one to the idea that sustaining life indefinitely is within the realm of possibility.
On the face of it the idea seems pretty uplifting, having all that time to…………… well, do exactly what. Another problem that comes to mind is that the very nature of human Being depends on uncertainty. Awareness of one’s mortality, as subliminal as it may be, is an enlivening prospect, an experiential richness, without which one would likely fall into a debilitating ennui, losing any sense of meaningful life.
It will be some generations, I suspect, before anyone must worry about such things. Meanwhile, realizing mortality will keep us in mind of the preciousness of daily existence.
I’ve been thinking about two essays I’ve recently read by the 19th century philosopher William James. The essays were delivered to the philosophical society and YMCA at Harvard and Yale, respectively, where, it appears, enlightenment thinking had not surprisingly undermined religious beliefs of many faculty members and students.
The thing that has stuck with me as I think about his essentially pro-faith rationale is his fervent assertion that skepticism about belief in God (in whatever form it may take), if sustained will inhibit emotional growth. One must have the will, he maintains, to choose, make an informed decision and move forward in that belief or disbelief until new experiences lead to reassessment.
I find this position to be counter to my own fairly skeptical nature. My thought processes are organized to entertain possibilities without the need to choose one. So, I guess I must count myself among the timid non-choosers wondering what it must be like living in the rarefied air of firm belief.
I’ve recently become aware of a ‘mental illness’ identified as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, a self-descriptive term fairly familiar I suspect, to those dealing regularly with certain adolescents. Seems like another example (attention deficit disorder being the other I’m aware of) of the mental health community labeling behaviors illnesses that one would assume should be simply attributed to the quirks of human nature.
Granted today’s children weaned on Sesame Street and social media might be expected to have issues, we of a slower paced more insular generation didn’t experience. Just wondering, though, if behaviors become legitimized when given a medical label.
I have a friend who fights a constant battle with all things electronic. Computer related devices, never found to behaving as they should are a particular source of anger and frustration. Such devices assume, for her, an adversarial identity, become almost sentient beings malevolently oppositional in nature. These devices are recognized by her as being potentially useful, but achieving desired results is never easy, often times completely elusive resulting in frustration bordering on physical assault of the offending device effectively ending any attempt to achieve hoped for ends.
I find the illogic of it all pretty interesting given this person is a thoughtful pragmatist, a rule follower that deduces solution to everyday problems that I’m often inclined to waver on as I weigh options and entertain possibilities of all sorts.
I suppose our alternate abilities make us a reasonably functional team though it is certainly one requiring patience and tolerance on both sides.
In light, these days, of the steady questioning of the validity and truthfulness offered through the public narrative, what with ‘fake news’ and ‘the big lie’ before us on nearly a daily basis I find it interesting that I have recently been approached by a friend who, in another context, suggests everyone is ‘living a lie’.
The idea that one is ‘living a lie’ implies deliberate subterfuge, a conscious intent to deceive and mustn’t be confused with a distracted pre-occupation with life’s minor difficulties, losing track of the Big Picture resulting in identity crises: an entirely different issue.
I think my friend’s idea must be meant within a religious context: something about the lack of acknowledgement of the Truth of the Christian message or some such. The implications are, pretty clearly, that we all should recognize our inherently sinful natures, focus on our frailties and failings and seek forgiveness so we may exalt in our redemption through God’s good graces.
There’s certainly something to be said for seeking and finding respite on occasion when life’s pressures become particularly difficult as they do for all of us of normal cognitive functioning, but it seems unnecessary for one to embrace blind commitment at the expense of freedom of thought and action.
I’ve been reading essays, lately by the 19th Century philosopher William James. W. J. believed the best path to a healthy happy existence passed through religious belief, which, he writes, involved embracing the best, ‘more eternal’ things in life. He poses his argument at a time when many were coming to grips with the revelations science had uncovered about the natural world. Mysteries previously attributed to the supernatural became understandable; an Enlightenment world view undermined religious belief for those who thought about such things. W. J. argues philosophical pursuit of ‘objective truth’ will only yield, in the end, a deadly dogmatism, an intellectual dead end unable to accommodate experiential re-discovery. Such a pursuit lacks grasp of the realization that scientific knowledge is but a drop in the sea of the unknown.
Our philosopher maintains all of us, everyone, has an ‘inner voice’, an intuitive sense beyond our rational, logical minds that we sometimes suppress, but, when acknowledged can contribute to a superior life experience. One must, he suggests, exercise intellectual bravery, seeking answers to Life’s Big Questions, to not fear being wrong, to conjure the faith to believe. Skepticism he writes delays man’s emotional, intellectual development, is no more than a delaying tactic for those afraid to be wrong. A foray into the metaphysical, the supernatural world is an enlightening prospect, a means of realizing possibilities of eternal entities which will convey a sense of optimism to those religiously embracing that which is beyond the confines of science.
On the face of it, to my 21st century mind, W. J. seems a bit too optimistic. Was the late 19th century a simpler more naïve time? Well, certainly not. It’s just that we’ve put the front and center LBQ’s on the back burner these days.
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.
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.
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.
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.