I’ve been thinking lately about what draws people to get-togethers with their former high school classmates years after graduation. It makes sense of course to want to reconnect with those who were good friends, but I suspect those who wish to do so are in the minority, that there are a variety of other reasons compelling attendance.
High school was and is a contrived culture dictated by overseers in an artificial environment with time restrictions, attendance demands and pecking order. Those in charge, aware their charges harbor under-developed brains tolerate them on the basis of their cooperativeness, a fact not lost on the average intelligence who may opt to suck up to those in charge, rebel and play the renegade or simply accept the situation and persevere; we all know which behaviors can expect future social and economic success.
It’s mostly out of curiosity, then, that reunion attendance occurs. Everyone is wondering how so and so made it through life to this point given how tenuous his/her potential survival appeared back then.
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.
Numerous paintings have been done over the centuries of peasant celebrations, often in wooded settings, where revelry is apparent, debauchery implied. The imagery captures times, sometimes after harvest when food has become abundant after the lean months before, other depictions suggesting spring when mankind recognized the rebirth of nature and the fecundity it implies.
The ancient Greeks depicted the animal nature released during these times of celebration as animal/human composites: satyrs, fauns, nymphs, suggesting, I guess, that the human inclination to give into one’s natural urges was less than civilized.
There are some of us, I suppose, who might benefit from such emotional release, civilization overlaying, as it does, a blanketing guilt upon those who might pursue such Bacchanolic revelry. Maybe we should rethink our moral priorities in the interest of mental health.
I purchased a Buddha the other day; a concrete yard sculpture, a fairly generic cast form, the sort of thing one finds at garden stores next to the gnomes and angels. Being concrete the buddha was pretty heavy to move, it required two workers to lift it into my van and a couple of hours sweat on my part to move it to the location near the pond in my backyard where I’d chosen to place it.
Now, as I stand back and view this sculpture situated as it is amid the verdancy of the surrounding ferns, hostas, Maple canopy and water surface it seems to emanate a significance greater than its generic origin would suggest; maybe it’s massive weight contributes psychologically to the concrete Buddha’s inflated worth, but, even so, it conveys a sense of the serene that I’m thinking will be helpful as I contemplate the big questions from the comfort of a lounge chair on my back deck.
The diminutive tribal people indigenous to the primal forests of equatorial Africa represent an autonomous culture able to thrive in a most prohibitive environment. Survival means understanding the flora and fauna, what’s edible and what has medicinal applications since the extremely dense jungle in which they live is rife with tropical diseases and man-eating predators. To thrive, tribal identity requires a philosophy of sanctity of group rather than individuality. To exist in such a place means finding the sublime in the terrible. They must become one with their sacred world.
Lessons to be learned here, I think, about how to nurture and support a life-providing environment.
I’ve been thinking lately about how one uses or wastes intellectual energy over the course of even one day. Would that IE be characterized as merely mental distraction? Allowing oneself to become bored, to slovenly slide into mundane existence would likely result in mental sludge, frivolous, insignificant, aimless meanderings; social, relational or escapist distractions of no redeeming worth far removed from any sort of constructive contemplation.
When, on the other hand one might find her way through reading, study or acute observation to realms of enlightening insight; finding concepts, building ideas with the potential to reveal applications useful in all sorts of ways, or, at the very least, result in something tangible.
As I think about it, there’s no doubt I waste intellectual energy every day; how long has it taken me to put together these three paragraphs? And can I honestly say any of my precious IE has been well used? At least I can say I produced a product I suppose.
I’ve been thinking, lately, about the trickster gods polytheistic religions have conjured or otherwise discovered among their myriad deities. Tricksters like the Nordic Loki and Kokopelli, God of the indigenous tribes of the desert southwest, are known to be instigators of chaos, are blamed when life’s routines are interrupted or seen as tempters when one strays from the straight and narrow. Deceit, betrayal and treachery are the domains of the tricksters.
In contrast the monotheistic religions, who, of course, do have Satan to blame when things go awry, have the dilemma of reconciling their infallible, all-powerful Deity with the idea He would allow evil to occur, that He is unable to thwart the Satanic demons mortals struggle with.
On the one hand we have the pagans, who, keeping things simple, perform rites to solicit favor from gods they recognized as having faults as well as attributes, who may or may not perform as desired. On the other hand, the intellectual discrepancies monotheists are continually confronted with in order to sustain faith in an Infallible God must consistently be addressed.
When it comes down to it, though, I guess the real issue isn’t about specifics of belief but the mystery of belief in the unknown itself.
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.
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.
Experiencing, as I am, the self-imposed (if not state mandated) isolation brought about by the invasion of the insidious virus, I think a lot about traveling. The desire to seek unfamiliar environs is something I’ve always known but now the desire is stronger than ever. And it appears I’m not alone in wanting to be some where else these days. I understand recreational equipment is flying off the shelves and out the doors and I know campground reservation are hard to come by. It seems there’s a strong psychological need to escape what feels a bit like viral entrapment.
I suppose a lot of our motivation to get away has to do with finding alternatives to our engrained daily routines. So much of what we’re used to doing has been interrupted: social interactions, museum visits, shopping excursions, sporting events are either no longer possibilities or complicated by the need to social distance and wear masks. Now we face a prolonged societal shut-down due to the politicization of the issue, one faction convinced on the advice of self-interested parties the danger is overblown, the other side heeding the medical communities advice to mask-up, curtail the spread.
Being free to follow one’s political intuitions does have it’s downside sometimes, I guess.