A Dystopian Future

I’ve been thinking, lately, of dystopian futures. Such story lines aren’t difficult to find in science fiction, are actually pretty common the best ones being those that are most believable. Common narratives spin a future Dark Age resulting from nuclear disaster, perhaps, or, more believable still, the collapse of civilization due to lethal pandemic. Catastrophic loss of life usually results and those few souls remaining revert to animal behaviors in order to survive. The loss of basic needs collapses moral imperative: theft, murder even cannibalism become the rule.

The abundance of such stores has me wondering about the human psyche, how inclined we may be to expect existential disaster. The reality of global climate change increases our psychosis, the nightly news feeds our discomfort and keeps immanent disaster fresh in our minds.

It’s pretty easy to see why some of us seek solace in spiritual endeavors that promote belief in a worry-free afterlife. As for me, I’m inclined to refocus on the mantra ‘right here, right now’ and celebrate the natural beauty immediately before me.

The Market

So, as I understand it the market depends on the consumer whose purchasing power depends on the sale of goods produced by the consumer whose wages ensure the consumers’ purchasing power which ensures the product will be purchased.

Everything proceeds along okay as long as there aren’t any linkage problems in the chain, like interruptions in acquiring the necessary pieces required to produce the product which might result in job layoffs which then reduce the consumers’ purchasing power, and which eventually, considerably increases the cost of the unavailable pieces the products’ manufacture require making the product more expensive and perhaps out of reach of the consumers’ now limited resources. The product is no longer affordable, manufacture shuts down: no wages, no consumers, no product.

Thought about in such terms, life seems pretty tenuous dependent as it is on the cooperation of a population of independent souls often at odds with each other. It may be time to thank my neighbor for his part in keeping the chain in tact.

Impending Doom

I guess this time of year invites morbid thoughts: nature receding into dormancy as it is, temperatures dropping to inhospitable levels. Then there’s the growing disaster of climate change that our politicos seem unwilling or unable to address in any meaningful way, the partisan reality disconnect dividing us into hostile tribes and who can forget the ominous persistence of the dreaded virus.

What I need is a catharsis, a jolt of adrenalin to lift me from this debilitating depression. I was reading that the horror genre is beneficial as a means of escaping the sense of gloom one finds oneself in at times; that horror films can help one find a fresh outlook. Seeing Jason about to slice up an unaware teenager and the like produces an adrenalin rush, so the article suggests, ushering in a revival of energy to go along with a thankfulness one is in one’s living room rather than in a cabin at Camp Crystal Lake.

It makes sense to me; I think I’ll revisit some of the films that have terrified me in the past; maybe start with Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte. Betty Davis’ take on insanity caused me nightmares for quite some time.

Feelings of Anguish

Some days I find myself feeling vulnerable in an abstract sort of way, sensing opposition to my existence that I’m hard pressed to identify. I have no explanation for this vague feeling of dread but it’s very real when it occurs. I know I’m not alone in experiencing this sort of discomfort and I know that it leads some of us to seek a strong identifier, something or someone who appears to stand in opposition to the status quo, to the ingrained structure that lead to the inequities we think we’re experiencing.

A renegade leader can, if he/she is effective produce an identifier many of us will gladly latch on to and may evolve, over time, into the very epitome of evil. This development may lead to a sense of moral superiority, a hubristic certainty of being on the Right Path, and then, after a while, may lead to violent confrontations with a perceived enemy and eventually to terroristic behaviors. (yikes!)

My angst, thankfully, is usually pretty short lived. When the sun comes out, the weather turns mild, I find myself feeling everything is fine, life is good. Curious, though, the twists and turns of one’s psychological self.

Self-Awareness

I’ve been reading an interesting commentary on self-awareness. The suggestion the author makes is that the ‘whys’ of our intuitive actions and reactions are mysteries we rationalize by creating narratives that justify our otherwise unexplainable behaviors.

This, you might guess, has me thinking about my own behaviors, wondering where some of my recent actions and reactions come from, why I’m so inclined, sometimes, to take things personally. It occurs to me after some thought that often my more emotional responses are driven by doubts and uncertainties: being inclined, as I am, to ruminate on multiple points of view.

Did I just justify my emotional responses? Well, it’s all pretty complicated. I guess telling ourselves stories about why we do what we do is a human inevitability. We should hope when emotional build-up makes things intense, we can at least take responsibility rather than seek scapegoats. (The ‘deep state’ is pretty popular these days.)

Does skepticism Inhibit Emotional Development?

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.

O.D.D.

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.

A First Order Luddite

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.

Living a Lie

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.

An Enlightening Perspective

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.

An Audience with Lord Ganesha