I’ve been thinking, lately, about what it might mean to realize an extended period of calm, peacefulness and tranquility; halcyon days of pleasant meanderings through a benevolent natural world and happy encounters with grounded, enlightened people. It seems a bit of a fantasy requiring, in this day and age of political unrest and perpetual world-wide tragedy, a sort of head-in-the-sand dismissal of reality.
Maybe I’m just allowing myself to be distracted, not seeing the whole forest, lost among the trees. I suppose I could strive to remain awake in the moment, not get overly obsessed with situations beyond my control, you know, realize the world around us is ever-changing. I, perhaps, need to reacquaint myself with a Nature in constant flux and modify my sense of propriety so as not to assume it should be for everyone, everywhere.
Can right mind, I wonder, see a reality in which all live happily ever after; if not, how about a centered life free of the sufferings of expectation?
I’ve been reading that in France in the mid-20th century various fringe groups instigated massive protests against the government, building barricades across streets in Paris and causing as much mayhem as they could muster, which was considerable, energy being particularly high when an appropriate evil is made tangible.
Although the demands of the anarchists weren’t well articulated it appears the rub essentially was about class struggles; a class-less communism seeming to be the desired end; freedom to be equals through re-distribution of resources. The result of all the chaos turned out to be a ruthless police crack-down and excessive prison sentences where abominable conditions led many inmates to suicide, which led to more protests and civil unrest.
It all seems too familiar: the tendency toward mayhem for mayhems sake, even all-out anarchy appears hidden beneath mankind’s benign exterior. Human nature seeks opposition; someone or something to cast as enemy, the cause of their difficulties, emotions rise, factions unite, shouting occurs, and all Hell breaks loose: another revolution of sorts happens.
The human psyche being what it is I sometimes wonder how periods of peace happen at all.
Apparently, in medieval times, the general consensus (among the few who thought about it), was that time was an illusion; the only reality , as they saw it, is now (or was now, I suppose, if one allows that these people lived in a past which isn’t any longer) which leads me, as I think about it, to assume it’s reasonable to find ‘now’ the only reality, since nothing has yet to come next.
Setting aside the manufactured ‘time’ we’ve come to accept which divides nature’s cycles into seconds, minutes and hours, ‘just now’ or ‘in a bit’ can be interpreted as ‘yesterday’ or ‘tomorrow’ or even ‘a year ago’ or a ‘year from now’ if the events considered (think galactic distances and the speed of light) warrant such interpretation.
Then there’s the psychological aspect. Sometimes I find time passing rapidly, you know, when I’m engaged in a particularly interesting enterprise and other times time seems to slither along at a snail’s pace when, for instance, I’m a captive audience, trapped before an expounding orator which may have me thinking about what ‘eternity is now’ really means.
Anyway, this all has me thinking I needn’t care so much about late or early anymore.
So, I’ve been reading that in order to stay grounded in sound philosophical thought one needs to know what one believes and why one believes it. When I think about this, I can come up fairly quickly with the ‘what’ but the ‘why’ is often a bit elusive.
Take religion for instance; pretty hard to think about it outside the intuitive; no hard facts to be had and all; an inclination to believe in the existence of a heavenly realm is elusive enough to require the support of like-minds and require a pretty constant reinforcement. Those who deny the possibilities of such a pietistic realm, relying as they do on firm belief in science will rationalize their stance through a logical progression of empirical observations, but will never-the-less find the issue nebulous enough that they too will seek support of like-minded individuals. In either case the ‘why’, when offered will be subject to doubt if not the wrath of unbelievers.
There are those, I know, on both sides of the aisle who trust most implicitly their intuitions; are able to manipulate their ’whys’ beyond logic and shrug off the label of narrow-minded, hard-headed non-thinker that will certainly be leveled against them. Given the necessary support such folks may be able to sustain their invented fantasy land right up until the end times.
As for me, I will continue to seek my ‘whys’ and flex my ‘whats’ as necessary. I can think of no other reasonable way to proceed.
I’ve been wondering how one comes to know who one is. I’m thinking that by the time most of us become adults we pretty much know our biases, preferences, how we will react in certain conceivable situations; at a particular moment in time, anyway. But it seems unlikely that that knowledge will remain constant as one ages. What we may value as adolescents certainly evolves over time and I suspect that who we are now may bare very little resemblance to who we were then and is likely to be an entirely different person in the future.
So we become, right? As long as we’re cogent and interacting with others our experiences will change us. We will, likely, engage as much as possible in comfortable settings with people of like mind because we seek the safety of familiarity. Even so we’ll find ourselves outside our comfort zone at times which will require a ‘letting go’, an inevitable loss of self-recognition. And of course some of us are risk takers pursuing new experiences that will inevitably expand and distort our sense of self.
But, either way, we won’t stay the same, and knowing who one is at any point in time should, I guess, involve fairly constant re-evaluation. I suppose as one ages the pace of change slows down a bit, settling into routines and all, but I’m looking forward nevertheless to experiencing the future me, hoping the individual I become will demonstrate a stronger sense of compassion and wisdom.
I’ve been wondering, lately, what exactly it means to have ‘power’, beyond, of course, the physical impetus to get up in the morning and go about one’s daily activities. There appears to be a sort of psychological power associated with social relationships. I’ve been surprised on occasion while in a group of relative strangers to have my opinions or comments viewed as credible whether or not they reflect the perspectives of the listeners.
There must be some connection between credibility and allotted power: does the credibility come from speaking the truth or from the manner in which one’s opinions are delivered: loud and forceful as opposed to quiet and thoughtful. How much of one’s inherent ‘power’, I wonder, is the result of physical presence: age, grooming or one’s wardrobe? I do find, while running errands while fairly disheveled, unwashed and in work clothes that I’m sometimes looked at askance. It may be my imagination but young women in particular seem to turn away in perceptible disgust sometimes. I would suspect my power cred is pretty low in such circumstances.
I would like to think that conveying truths and avoiding unverifiable and suspect premises is where the power cred lies but I suspect that, in most instances, it probably has more to do with individual likability.
I’ve been reading a commentary lauding the virtues of free-market Capitalism. The author champions the Ayn Randian conception of unrestrained capitalistic growth, giving free-rein to anyone with the wits and ambition to produce without regulative restriction, capital goods and services, which, he tells us, means more quality products produced through competition which in the end, we are assured, will raise everyone’s quality of life. A bit of social engineering through subtle advertising will convince us all to buy more, seek out the wondrous new products we had no idea even existed just yesterday.
My skeptical nature leads me to see a problem with such a rosy picture. For just one thing, these new and wonderful life-enhancing, time-saving products will (and, of course, have already) require(d) us consumers to put in extra time at work and, I suspect we will, before long,( in the immortal words of the great Tennessee Ernie Ford), ‘owe our soul(s) to the company store’.
More for you, more for me may sound good but uncontrolled exploitation of the earth’s resources will result in scarcity which will put the ‘good life’ out of the reach of increasing numbers of working poor. Without viable consumers, producing industries will fail and before long, just a matter of time, we will experience the collapse of civilization as we know it. A new Dark Age will ensue; survivors will find new meanings and values in existence and begin again to build family and community.
Well, maybe I’m being a bit extreme in my imaginings; but maybe not.
I’ve been reading about the 20th Century philosopher Michel Foucault, a truly enigmatic Frenchman preoccupied with thoughts of death. Well, it wasn’t just death in general he thought about but his own demise and how he might best accomplish it that seemed to pre-occupy him.
Suicide or near-death experiences he believed would reveal the ‘unthought’, conceptions beyond imagining, not to be found even in dreams. Extreme behaviors, sadomasochistic indulgences, which carried one to the brink of insanity, had the potential in our philosopher’s view, to reveal what lay beyond the capacity of the rational human mind. Foucault thought of madness as a potentially positive occurrence, as a category of being realized by those, artists and such, stretching the envelope of societal propriety that, he believed, in the future, be accepted as a pathway to the ‘unthought’, to a deeper knowledge beyond the limitations of conventional reason.
I have to admit it all seems a bit much to me; my daily workouts are about as masochistic as I ever want to get and I have few acquaintances that inspire in me any sort of sadistic imaginings. I guess I’ll just have to leave the unthought unthought.
I’ve been reading lately the musings of a young philosopher who has spent considerable time trying to make sense of his life (worth living, he wonders) through investigation of the profound offerings of the great thinkers of the past. He tells us of a less than ideal childhood, of searching for answers in his readings as a student, of a confused sense of need for someone to share his life with while at the same time desiring solitary un-interrupted contemplation, finally settling on the belief that the ultimate motivation of all men is self-interest.
Caught up as he was in the existentialist thinkers (who, given the history of the times had good reason for their pessimistic assessments of humanity, I suppose) our hero (and how can we think of him otherwise pursuing truth as he was) descended into the dark realm from which no man escapes unscathed, placing upon himself the burden of humanities failings and facing the inevitable disaster which will inevitably follow. Kind of like living under a dark cloud, I guess.
Anyway, in the end our young philosopher does appear to re-enter life to some degree, remarrying and having a child, decisions which carry along with them sufficient anxieties to over shadow the thoughts of the existentialists. One would think.
I’ve been reading about the fairly difficult existence that the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche endured over his life time. Given his self-imposed isolation and the debilitating health issues that he endured: fairly constant migraines and nausea, it’s small wonder many of his thoughts were less than uplifting.
But, the physical and mental infirmities led him, I suppose, to one of his most notable ideas.
Eternal recurrence, stated simply, is to “live this life again in all its aspects, every pain and every joy, every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small and great must return to all in the same succession and sequence over and over for ever and ever”, which must have been a pretty horrible idea for Nietzsche given his health and loneliness issues.
So, I’ve been thinking, maybe there’s something to be learned here, you know, make friends, go to the doctor, do good things; if life is indeed cyclical than maybe recurrence wouldn’t be so bad. There still would be periods of boredom to deal with though, I suppose.