I find myself visited lately by an idea, a figment of imagination that, during times of contemplation come and go, hint at an ellusive potential for understanding; thoughts of solutions and resolutions appear, slip and fade replaced by new enigmas always wavering on the edge of consciousness remembered clearly then lost, evaporating, caroming into then out of view; ideas within sight for an instant but ungraspable, mind fluctuating from one ill-defined thought to another, the intangeable true reality beyond reach. Something of value may be there twisting into then out of focus. How long must I wait for the idea to appear.
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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.
I recently found myself sitting in the student union of the college from which I matriculated forty years ago. I got lost in the maze of corridors finding my way; it’s all quite unrecognizable, but the ghost whispers of remembrance conjure vague memories of classes, activities, acquaintances and competitive exchanges. I remember the hierarchy of college authority, an authority based on what one knows, sometimes, but sometimes on pure bravura. Wondering why, why students seek more school whether the commitment is for the pure love of learning, aimed at future employment or just four more years of little responsibility. Maybe it’s the assumption of future success; maybe the belief is, to paraphrase Woody Allen: ” all one needs to do to succeed in life is just show up.”
On this weekend day the campus is mostly deserted. It feels cold and alien despite the big light filled windows, the carpeting and comfortable chairs. Huge public money goes into these edifices, the intention being to produce productive citizens. I wonder if that’s happening.
On the upside, four years of liberal arts education will likely produce more liberal voters.
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.
I’ve been thinking lately about the ‘Woke’ movement and the hot-button issues of social inequality. The thinking goes, I guess, that any pretense of a liberal acknowledgement of social disparities has no foundation in fact since the white powers that be exist within an innate racist, sexist and homophobic psyche. As a result, a political dualism has occurred: while championing equality for all as the ideological ideal a system favorable to the white heterosexual majority is being maintained.
Unfortunately, the volatility of the demonstrative ‘Woke’ proponents will continue to fail to move the unwoke who reside in a state of quiet disinterest and private preoccupation. There is hope, I suppose, in the changing demographic with people of color as well as those seeking trans-gender identities increase in numbers.
Revenge of the Sabine Women
I’ve been reading about an event that occurred during the founding of the city of Rome. Apparently, 8th C BC Rome was primarily male, populated by the soldiers and mercenaries who secured the region from the various tribes in the area. The story goes that in order to grow the population Romulus concocted a plan to lure the tribal Sabines to the city, killed the men and raped the women who then became the mothers of the next generation of Roman citizens.
The reason the event was not forgotten over time was because quite a number of artists found the imagined scene compelling. From the Baroque to Cubism, Rubens to Picasso artists depicted the chaotic scene. None of them imagined an alternative ‘rest of the story’ I guess.
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.
Must there be a Why?
I’ve been reading about the billiard ball analogy often applied to the rule of cause and effect. The idea is that when a propelled ball (the cause) strikes its target, the trajectory of the struck ball (the effect) is without question as it moves in a straight line until encountering resistance, change direction: movements predictable within the basic laws of physics.
Such theory is simplistic in application to human experience where the obvious complexity of possible causes (personal biases, religious beliefs) isn’t easy to apply to human experience, especially in cases of spur of the moment, spontaneous actions. In contemplating such behaviors we’ll always seek explanations, assume a disturbed mind or an innate animal nature. But perhaps some actions occur without cause or reason, immaculate in their spontaneity like the Big Bang of creation. Maybe we’re better off sometimes not seeking causes.
I’ve been thinking about how language so often simplifies things, reduces complexities to opposites; consider definitions of race (black, white) or political perspectives, just to name two.
Dichotomies, conceptual opposites, seem to be primary to definition for many of us. Not sure whether such thinking is the result of a desire for a basic grasp of contemporary issues or just laziness. In any case it’s a phenomenon exacerbated by the media that tend to project sound bites, click bait to attract followers, I guess. And then there’s our inherent biases, the intuitive inclinations that lead us to champion or demonize.
Philosophers have been contemplating the idea of dualism for a long time as an issue of body vs mind, leading some (Plato, for example) to entertain the notion of an eternal soul, the mind being incorporeal, which might explain a lot about religious participation.
Maybe humankind is destined to live a heaven/hell existence. In practice, though, finding common ground would seem to be more practical.