Easter Visions

I’ve been thinking about the influence Christianity had over the people of the Middle Ages. The fact that the peasants, poor as they were, would sacrifice to enrich the church and volunteer back-breaking labor to erect the cathedrals must have meant extreme piety. Their most important event of the year would have been Easter, celebration of the resurrection.

I’ve been reading, though, that perhaps religious experiences, the visions, messages from God so common to these medieval folks might have had something to do with chemistry; an inadequate diet brought on by Lenten fasting as well as the hallucinogenic effects of the ergot that formed in the grain bins as supplies ran low in the spring.

If such was the case for the medieval peasants, any means of tempering the harsh realities of their existence might certainly be thought of as a gift from God.

Evil as Natural Inclination

I’ve been reading, lately, a treatise by the 18th Century philosopher Immanuel Kant in which he determines through his meticulous thought processes that man is evil by nature. He reasons that, while man is aware of moral laws, that there are morally acceptable behaviors toward others one knows should be followed, there is at the same time a natural inclination to favor personal interests above moral concerns for others that may, when push comes to shove, result in evil behaviors.

So, I guess everyone is naturally inclined to be evil, although I suppose one could quantify degrees of evilness: whether one’s self-interest completely undermines rules of morality resulting in despicable behaviors, as opposed to those of us who occasionally find ourselves exaggerating reality for personal gain if we think we can get away with it. The latter doesn’t seem to me to be evil, exactly, but probably merits a certain sense of shame, at least a guilty conscience.

I wonder if Kant thought himself to be evil in any sense. I understand he was pretty reclusive, hardly left his home but for a daily walk around the neighborhood. He probably didn’t have the opportunity to be too evil.

Does Life Imitate Art?

I’ve been thinking, lately, about what art is. A common understanding of art, I guess, will specify that it reflects our visual world and offers insights into our common human experiences. The idea is that art codifies our existence, how we understand who we are. A museum visit invites us to look into our collective psyche, to view clearly our values, beliefs and limitations.

What happens, though, when the consumption of the art that popular culture imposes in the forms of literature, movies, music, not to mention social media platforms becomes so ingrained that we begin to mimic the stereotypes, become the actors art invents? I suspect most of us, by the time we pass adolescence have discovered a solid enough sense of being that we can see past superficial identities so as to not become something other than what we know ourselves to be. Still, it seems there’s a powerful inclination for most of us to slide into a persona, the roll we wish to play in the story of life.

Even though I’m aware of this conundrum I wonder to what extent my identity is altered by the popular culture. It makes me think I need to temper my media consumption.

The Impending Demise of Old White Guys

TV ads these days have made me aware the country’s demographic is changing. Savvy advertisers are using more people of color and those living alternative lifestyles to sell their products. It only makes sense of course; old white guys are dying by the droves due not only to covid but to natural life span.

One doesn’t have to look too hard to see the desperate war of resistance the aging white population is waging. The political realm is rife with frenzied folks upset about the changing status quo, opposing the surge of youthful, socially and racially pluralistic energy, which is slowly, steadily driving the conventional beliefs of a previously white cultural dominance into extinction.

There are aspects of the new tolerance for fluid gender identity and sexual lifestyles that are difficult for me, given the social structures I have grown up with, to integrate. I firmly believe, though, change must happen. I sense in the young a positive life force asserting itself; one necessary to overcome the difficulties maintaining life as we know it will require.

Belief in God

As things began spiraling out of control she wondered if belief in God was a viable option.

Well, maybe belief was the wrong word. It seemed to her unlikely one can suddenly ‘believe’ something not believed or at least had taken to be credible at some earlier time in life. Something, some idea, introduced to her, possibly in childhood that kind of drifted along in the sub-conscious for years until some sort of existential shock brought it (the belief) to the surface and seemed suddenly to be just the things the extraordinary times required.

So maybe it was more like expedient, practical to seek and find a supernatural entity to appeal to in these dire times when her resources were strained and uncertainties about her very survival constantly pressed. She had settled, after all, as she had thought about it over the years, on an enlightened agnosticism not a hard atheism. God as a concept was elusive but not easily dismissed in totality and now seemed the time to, if not make re-acquaintance, at least allow the embedded idea to come a bit closer to the surface. There is something comforting about the idea of a benevolent overlord, protector, benefactor in these uncertain times.

If only maintaining belief was that simple.

Vibrant Youth

I found myself in the presence, the other day, of a captivating young woman. She was in full spirit, exuding such energy and general enthusiasm for life, an optimism devoid of obstacles. We, her aged audience, sat mesmerized as she flattered and cajoled her elders, rapt as we were in the attentions of such youthful beauty.

The encounter brought to mind fading memories of my own youth, melancholy feelings now in the realization of a past exuberance for life not likely to ever be experienced again. But, we rationalized, she has yet to face the head winds reality has in store for her. Give her a few years and life will take its toll.

Still, the realization we have produced her and others like her of such depth of spirit is affirming, a validation of our existence more significant than anything else we may have accomplished in this world.

Immortality

I’ve been wondering as I watch re-runs of Gunsmoke how many times over the series 20 year run Matt Dillon has received gunshot wounds. It seems he’s getting shot about every third or fourth episode. I understand there were 635 episodes produced between 1955-75, which would suggest he would display, if he were to appear shirtless and the show’s producers maintained consistency, a fairly perforated torso. Being inclined as I am to pictorial imaginings, Matt’s body would appear, as I envision it, a purplish mottled mass of undifferentiated musculature.

But, of course that’s not what we fans think about, rather we accept the clothed marshal’s obvious physical dominance knowing that the moral order will be maintained in Dodge City and by extension in our world as well.

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.