I’ve been thinking about the satirical Monty Python tune ‘Always look on the Bright Side of Life’. The song comes to mind because I’m finding myself in quite the opposite situation lately: entertaining a dark humor. Being aware of the need to lighten up before I descend too far into the abyss, Eric Idle and the gang, always quick with dark humor of their own temper my daily diet of the news, the knowledge of world events that are consistently quite the opposite of enlightening.
Putting things into perspective, not wanting to totally abandon reality, the boys continue; ‘always look on the bright side of death’, informing us ‘we come from nothing, return to nothing, what’s lost’. And if humor doesn’t lighten one up whistling might help.
I had my last colonoscopy today: no polyps, colon nice and clean, good to go. I was beyond pleased at the announcement. Preparation for the procedure I find to be particularly unpleasant. Never having to ever again drink half a gallon of laxative in order to thoroughly cleanse my bowels and then suffering through a day of fasting is so relieving, particularly in view of the fact food is usually at the top of my daily thoughts.
So, I’ll never need the procedure again, my colon will stay healthy. Forever? The procedure being my last one ever along with an earlier assessment of my general health that led to the comment that, I would probably ‘have another twenty years’ before me sounds pretty good but the underlying implication is pretty hard to miss.
Anyway, right now I feel great and can easily live with the predicament of mortality.
I’ve been reading accounts, lately, some fictional, some non, of man’s inhumanity to man. Myriad examples abound on various media outlets; news of heinous acts perpetrated by religious zealots and alienated loners among others.
Usually when real bullets or knives are involved, we’re exposed to such malevolence in video offerings that carry a warning of disturbing content of particularly vile acts to prepare us sensitive viewers for what’s to come (which, I suspect, is a real attention grabber) and, when it comes to the fictional realm is choreographed with accompanying soundtrack resulting in glorification, romanticizing the obscenities.
The accounts of wicked behavior I find most disturbing, though, are in the form of written narrative where description can be presented unedited and without censorship, where behaviors so hateful and vile, described in vivid detail, have the potential to burn the obscene imagery into one’s mind.
So, I’m wondering, does consuming knowledge of wicked and vile acts anesthetize, numb one’s sensibilities making the horrors presented more tolerable? Can descriptions of vile acts so horrific that knowledge of them become embedded within the mind of the reader, alter his/her countenance?
I’m thinking we may need to temper our media consumption sometimes, pay attention to the good happening in the world, you know, seek the lighter side. I suspect some research may be involved.
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.
I’ve been reading that, in the mid-20th century, natural philosophy was dominated by logical positivism: the idea that truths are established in terms of clearly perceivable facts, such as size, shape, age, quantity, etc. The logical structure of this theory might be thought of as analogous to billiard balls on a table caroming off one another in blind chain-reactions of cause and effect. Such theory rejects value or quality judgements which are subject to individual interpretation, being of opinion or belief rather than fact.
By 1945, as the atrocities of the Nazi death camps were revealed, some thinkers began to see some otherwise subjective value assignments, evil particularly, as having objective validity. Taking Aristotle as a starting point, the dissenters found a biological paradigm to define the natural world: alive and in constant change, developing, reproducing and transitioning. Rather than blind cause and effect everything in nature is in the process of self-directed development.
These ideas have me thinking of a recent experience I had while paddling my canoe along a shoreline. I startled a duck, most certainly a recent mother, who in the interest of her ducklings hidden somewhere in the rushes, put on the most amazing show of feigned injury, flopping along the water, drawing me away from her brood. Choices were there for her to make: stay hidden or risk her life to draw me off; no ‘blind effect’ to the cause there. I’m with Aristotle on this one.
It’s evening. The day has taken its toll. The aches and pains have accumulated over the day’s (relatively) strenuous physical activities. I’m exhausted. I can do little right now but convalesce. Maintaining the mantra: ‘use it or lose it’ is becoming increasingly difficult to voice with enthusiasm. Like others in my aging community vigor and flexibility are diminishing. The unable to perform list awaits and is never empty. Common medical knowledge informs us to cut back our physical (and mental) expectations, don’t push so hard, accept limitations if you wish to maintain your earthly existence.
Morning now. I feel invigorated, competitive again, ready to face any adversity. Age, after all, is experience, an equalizer against youthful exuberance. Bring it on. I’m more than ready for challenge.
I’ve been thinking, for some time, about the polarized political narrative these days. I guess the divisiveness isn’t so surprising given the sensationalistic clickbait that crops up on everyone’s phone, algorithmically modified to enhance the political inclinations of the viewer/listener and further exacerbated by politicos anxious to feed from the populist trough.
Ok; so maybe the news I’m being fed has got me thinking in black and white. Maybe I should be seeking and finding the nuances necessary to exchange diverse ideas in a constructive manner with those who hold views I consider abhorrent. Maybe my world is the simplistic one. I’ll work on it. Still, I do like the clarity of black birds on white snow.
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.
In these divisive times of disparate beliefs and alternate realities it seems reasonable to weigh with care one’s personal offerings on subjects of controversy. Strong opinions will arise inevitably in all of us paying attention to the political narrative these days, our chosen news feeds providing us with sound bites of ‘logical’ support for our irrefutable truths. Voicing opinion may best be tempered in the interests of momentary calm, but such a stance seems rarely practiced.
I’ve been reading about the concept of Mumbo Jumbo, an adaptable personage in the traditional cultures of Central Africa. When conflicts emerge, often within the polygamous harems, Mumbo Jumbo may appear with masked face, top hat and staff to gather the community and then single out the most egregious disruptor for punishment.
I’m wondering if a similar sort of magical thought may be creeping into our thinking these days.
As I’ve been recalling, lately, events of my teenage years in the small town I grew up in, I’m getting the eerie feeling that the occurrences I recall didn’t happen as I remember them occurring rather in a world of unreality, a fantasy world that, viewed in retrospect couldn’t ever have been.
Even though my recent remembrances aren’t all happy memories as one might suppose imagining a nostalgic past: I think of unpleasant things and actions sometimes that make me wince at my naivete, the bizarro world I imagine is unreal, the sense I have of these past events and places is unexplainable as being due simply to my youthful lack of worldly knowledge.
Anyway, I’ve been reading about mind parasites that exist, as I understand it, in everyone’s deepest subconscious floating about in the ocean of collective consciousness subtly poking and prodding, manipulating memories in parasitic acquisition that may be detrimental to the unaware driving some to harmful personal behaviors. The only way to counter these parasites is to maintain awareness of their existence but to not call them out, maintain rather a personal center of stability in order to overcome their manipulations. I’m not fully on board with such theory but I guess it doesn’t hurt to stay a bit vigilant; review the past, seek photo references and such.