Fear

It’s become apparent to me, lately, that among other perhaps more obvious differences between conservative and liberal political perspectives, the notion of fear is of particular concern to those entrenched within the political right, which, I guess, explains the conservative desire to build walls and ban entire communities of people of particular religious beliefs………and build ever-larger military arsenals, anticipating, I guess, having to ward off the aggression s of any number of potential hostile entities. I suppose one could add to this the conservative penchant toward religious devotion intended to override the fear of ultimate personal demise.

It’s hard to argue or reason with someone harboring a very real, albeit abstract fear and as much as I might like to convince my conservative friends of the beauty of a pluralistic world I guess I’ll have to settle for a bit of understanding, a sympathy for them living as they do with their very real fear.

A Larger World

 

It’s occurred to me recently that perhaps my world is shrinking.  Having fallen into a fairly consistent daily routine that finds me usually no farther than maybe 25 miles from my home most of the time and limiting my sources of information to those outlets that more or less support my views, not to mention the fact most of my social contact is with people pretty much just like me, I think I may be closeting myself.  I think I may be losing any personal empathy and understanding I may have once had to a diverse, pluralistic world.

It may be time for me to step out of the artificial safety of my insulated life, embrace the discomfort of the unknown and grow my world.  I need to do this before the most abhorrent of conditions, fear of the other, sets in; I can kind of feel it coming on.

I will venture into the public square, strike up conversations with those of unlike mind, seek out folks of unfamiliar cultural values and maybe even venture into situations where language barriers exist.  I need to renew my faith in the benevolence of those with whom I share the planet.  I know such benevolence exists.  I’ve realized it in the past.  There’s still time for me to save myself.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

Descent into the Irrational

Boy, it sure seems, these days, judging by the public discourse, that we’re all sliding deeper and deeper into irrationality. Passions predominate on both sides of the philosophical divide; the peripheries of the political spectrum appear to absorb more folks daily as centrists disappear. Measured exchanges are being displaced by passionate condemnation; demonization of the Other renders moot any attempts at rational consideration of opposing views.

There appears to be little interest in seeking imaginative solutions to our ever increasing problems. I guess until an unavoidable disaster looms before us we will remain content within our tribes tossing stones, verbal and literal, at our chosen enemies.

It’s really unfortunate we’re all so easily manipulated by the public narrative. When it comes down to it I truly believe we have more in common than we may think.

Winners and Losers

I’ve been reading that the divisiveness so prevalent these days among folks of differing political persuasions is caused to a not inconsiderable extent by media narratives that posit the news in terms of winners and losers. Rather than defining contemporary problems as mutual and in need of consensus solutions, stories in the news all too often portray ideological differences as warfare pitting one side against the other in a battle which will ultimately determine winner and loser. And, since news outlets no longer see any necessity in offering a balanced story line with pros and cons for any particular stance, partisans can gravitate to the site of their preferred ideological narrative, reinforcing the corrosive divisiveness.

So, I’m wondering if there’s any way to get everyone in the same army in the same camp or on the same team: to get Republicans and Democrats, creationists and scientists, Russians and Islamists and perhaps the entire animal kingdom wearing the same uniform. I fear it will happen only under the threat of imminent cataclysmic disaster. Of course the potential Armageddon will be attributed variously to godless atheism, head-in-the-sand anti-intellectualism, capitalistic excesses, the Infidel, whatever.

I guess that takes us back to where we started. Will we all ultimately be losers?

The County Fair

I went to the county fair this past week as I have been doing for several years now. All rural county fairs, as far as I know, judge the quality of various activities and accomplishments through competitions that any county resident who wishes to can enter. One can compete in art and needle work and garden production as well as have the quality of their livestock judged. There are adult divisions and 4H competitions for children.

Judging by the quality of the 4H exhibits it appears most of these kids are slightly less than marginally involved in their projects. One young fellow put together a poster display about raising sheep in which he borrowed verbatim, short articles on line, printed them and pasted them to colored paper after which he arranged them on a poster board. For this he received a Grand Champion ribbon which makes one wonder about what sort of lessons are being taught and learned here.

In fact, apart from the animals that generally appeared healthy and well taken care of, the adult art and garden exhibitions left a lot to be desired; uninspired, I guess, would be a polite referral to many of the poorly executed offerings. To be honest the fair as a whole made me wonder if my neighbors make up a semi-functional citizenry lacking full grasp of meaningful social exchange.

Well, to be fair, everybody’s busy these days; maybe I should give credit for participation. Still the experience left me little desire to mingle with the masses let alone inspire any warmth toward humanity.

 

Political (pseudo) Science

As I understand it, science is a discipline whereby observations lead to evidence. The greater the number of observers along with the ever increasing number of observations lead to increasingly firmer, sounder more believable evidence. And, as time goes by and the multitudes of observations reinforce the evidence, truth appears; of course absolute truth can never be achieved because the possibility, as remote as that maybe, of new evidence entering the discussion can’t be discounted. But, practically speaking, from a pragmatic standpoint, science does sometimes reveal truths.  And, in it’s unadulterated purity science continues to seek truths which improve quality of life, understanding of the natural world and the origins of our existence.

Unfortunately, skepticism as to ulterior motive has led some to doubt scientific evidence, and, I guess, for good reason. On the one-hand vested interests claim justification in the name of science for activities that benefit a few and may potentially do harm. Then, also, those who find scientific findings contradicting their preferred world views tend to discount the evidence as atheistic. And so, science becomes politicized, in part because the complexity of the evidence is difficult for us non-scientists to understand; in fact, it sometimes sounds like nonsense to our untrained ears.

So, political science (not to be confused with the discipline that studies scientifically the way politics works) may very well become political pseudo- science when in the hands of the politically astute, casting doubt, for many, on all scientific findings. Which is, indeed, unfortunate. It kind of sounds  oxymoronic doesn’t it.