Fear

It’s become apparent to me, lately, that among other perhaps more obvious differences between conservative and liberal political perspectives, the notion of fear is of particular concern to those entrenched within the political right, which, I guess, explains the conservative desire to build walls and ban entire communities of people of particular religious beliefs………and build ever-larger military arsenals, anticipating, I guess, having to ward off the aggression s of any number of potential hostile entities. I suppose one could add to this the conservative penchant toward religious devotion intended to override the fear of ultimate personal demise.

It’s hard to argue or reason with someone harboring a very real, albeit abstract fear and as much as I might like to convince my conservative friends of the beauty of a pluralistic world I guess I’ll have to settle for a bit of understanding, a sympathy for them living as they do with their very real fear.

A Larger World

 

It’s occurred to me recently that perhaps my world is shrinking.  Having fallen into a fairly consistent daily routine that finds me usually no farther than maybe 25 miles from my home most of the time and limiting my sources of information to those outlets that more or less support my views, not to mention the fact most of my social contact is with people pretty much just like me, I think I may be closeting myself.  I think I may be losing any personal empathy and understanding I may have once had to a diverse, pluralistic world.

It may be time for me to step out of the artificial safety of my insulated life, embrace the discomfort of the unknown and grow my world.  I need to do this before the most abhorrent of conditions, fear of the other, sets in; I can kind of feel it coming on.

I will venture into the public square, strike up conversations with those of unlike mind, seek out folks of unfamiliar cultural values and maybe even venture into situations where language barriers exist.  I need to renew my faith in the benevolence of those with whom I share the planet.  I know such benevolence exists.  I’ve realized it in the past.  There’s still time for me to save myself.

Now

So, it’s come to my attention that the only true reality is now: the past is no longer and the future is yet to be. Yesterday isn’t now although it was now then and the future may become now but isn’t now, now.

As we conjure up what was but is no longer now our remembrances assume only an approximation more or less accurate as to how it was when was then was now. And, though we may plan and anticipate how it will be when will be is now we have no certainty of that now until it becomes now.

I do think there is value in conscious awareness of now as opposed to too much concern to was then and will be; I think focus on now suppresses the ‘I’ which requires, for it to be well-defined, a bit of a time line.

Plus, being here now opens conscious awareness of all sorts of things one misses when one’s mind is fluctuating between was then and will be. So, now I’m going to definitely focus, as well as I can on now rather than going to.

I’m finding it to be a bit of a struggle.

The Evil ‘I’

I’ve been thinking, lately, that perhaps I’m taking some of the events of the day a bit too personally. I’m thinking my sensitive, insecure ego is causing me to become increasingly intolerant, less understanding of those with different views than mine and making it less likely I will fairly assess what’s happening around me. Occurrences, no matter the cause have little to do with my stilted sense of appropriateness, my biased ideals and the sooner I come to grips with reality the better.

At any rate, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one dealing with the evil ‘I’ which causes so much turmoil in the world.  I know there are spiritual endeavors that offer direction in ego suppression, subordinating the invented Self. Meditative disciplines emphasizing focus on the now and allowing thoughts to pass through one’s mind has the potential, I think, to set me in a more healthy and productive place. I just need to start putting in the time, focus on the now, maybe practice some deep breathing.

Contradiction

I’ve been reading that, counter-intuitive though it may seem, sometimes a thing can be two different things at one and the same time. I guess the realization of this contradiction came about through the study of sub-atomic entities, some of which can be particles and also be waves even though particles and waves are distinctly different things. To emphasize this phenomenon, one physicist imagined a cat in a box with a triggered cyanide capsule. He imagined a sub-atomic entity, both particle and wave being shot into the box at a reflecting mirror the wave would pass through but the particle would hit, reflect and trigger the cyanide capsule. Since the sub-atomic entity is both wave and particle the cat in the box would be both alive and dead: pretty mind-blowing; (well, that’s not exactly how it goes but the key is the multiple identities superimposed on the outcome and definitely mind-blowing).

Anyway, the implication is contradiction is pretty deeply embedded in reality altogether. By extension a concept which may be taken to mean one thing will assume a contradictory meaning at the same time. Benevolent, nurturing nature supporting life is malevolent, murderous predator exploiting innocent prey; the horizontal horizon skews to vertical in the absence of gravity; red is violet; up/down; wet/dry.

It makes me think any absolutes that may exist must lie outside of the empirical realm.

My Prejudices

I’ve been reading that, as much as we may not like to believe it, prejudice is an inevitable contributor to how we understand most all aspects of our existence. We attach meaning to what we observe through pre-conceived concepts which may function pragmatically but certainly fall short of providing us with a thorough understanding of our world. And, so, we end up with prejudices heavily ego-centric and self-preserving.

The kind of prejudices that lead folks to embrace racist, xenophobic perspectives and doubt the legitimacy of scientific research result from the lack of having at hand hard facts and reliable theories and have led to some pretty amazing intuitive jumps, irrational thinking and prejudices.

But, then, any belief is a prejudice which denies its contradiction. As I think about my own beliefs that may border on philosophical skepticism (a contradiction in itself) likelihoods and reasonable possibilities seem the operational rule. I suppose the only way to avoid believing oneself into a box is to think theoretically, keep things open ended.

A Disquieting Realization

It’s become increasingly apparent to me lately that an excessive amount of my cerebral energy is being spent considering how my actions are perceived by others, or, even, as I anticipate actions I might be inclined to engage in, how those future doings will, hypothetically, effect how others valuate my person. I suppose it’s natural to have a concern for one’s public image up to a point; after all, no one wants to be a social misfit, ostracized for thought, word or deed. And, I guess the ego for most of us can be a fairly delicate thing. But at what point does concern for image get in the way of acting with strength and conviction and without second thought?

Anyway, what has me thinking about these things is my engagement in a most interesting tome called The Book of Disquiet. The writer, Fernando Pessoa (not surprisingly, an early 20th century European immersed in his own particular existential dilemma) invented personas so elaborately constructed the identity of Pessoa himself disappeared. Claiming we are all many in one, a profusion of selves, Pessoa wrote through his heteronyms, text without singular aim, a compilation of disparate aphorisms never intended as a cohesive work.

It’s a lonely idea, I guess, but there is beauty and truth in by-passing the inevitable struggle with ego and identity many artists have to deal with.

New Toys

My usually contemplative existence has been upset recently due to the acquisition of what I have come to think of as a new toy. I have gotten used to spending significant time, on a daily basis, reflecting philosophically on all sorts of things I consider of a profound nature. But, now, suddenly, I find myself preoccupied with my physical activity: steps taken, time spent in various heart rate zones, distance traveled, calories burned and more. And, to make sure I don’t forget about or ignore the information my new toy is providing it congratulates me, gives me awards sometimes when I reach certain plateaus it deems noteworthy. And, then it encourages me to share my successes with others who have been, dare I say, entrapped by this clever computerized overseer.

I have to admit I was initially captivated by the personal attention and concern for my well-being and I didn’t want to let my personal trainer (which is what it purports to be) down, but I miss my extended times of reflection. I toy with the idea of sitting in my lounger while swinging my arm alongside in order to keep the numbers respectable, but I guess eventually my personal trainer and I will have to part ways.

 

Seeking Common Ground

Public discourse sure seems divisive these days. There seems to be a lot of people holding pretty strong oppositional opinions on a host of contemporary issues. The disagreements appear to be pretty deep; not just apples and oranges but more of a god/Satan divergence; a profound philosophical divide beyond any sort of reconciliation; neighbor versus neighbor has led to political gridlock. I’m inclined to level some of the blame for the situation on football; it’s all come down to a win or lose situation.

Which has led some wise pundits to suggest we need a change of attitude; a spirit of compromise along with a sense of civil exchange of ideas; allow the other side their dignity while articulating your own point of view clearly and calmly and try to avoid taking the issues personally.
I grant you this isn’t an easy task when you know for certain the other side is clearly wrong. I wish I could tell you I’m immune to this discordant dilemma but reading the news from the perspective of my favored apps keeps me regularly angry at the other side, and, I suspect, the other side is similarly seething while absorbing the bias of their favored sources.

The conundrum brings me back to a need to spend more time on my meditative practices: focus on by-passing the Self, allowing disquieting thoughts to evaporate, strive for ultimate nature of being, seek believable truths. It’s difficult but I can think of no better solution and maybe I’ll eventually reach a point of toleration for those on the other side.

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Useful Facts

I’ve been mulling over the relationship between objective truth, subjective belief and fact, lately. As far as I can tell, facts are those things that are unmistakably true, that must under all circumstances be the case. Facts are those things having occurred, like the Norman Invasion, things that will occur in the future like the ultimate physical demise of all biological life forms and concepts beyond doubt like gravitational force. Propositions that border on objective truth, then, are those concepts and theories that are most in-line with the facts. Subjective belief on the other hand, provides important personal ground for living, maybe, but is not required to conform to any sort of irrefutable facts.

Now, it seems to me, in order to progress in our understanding of the world around us we need to generate useful knowledge. Some people undoubtedly feel subjective beliefs offer useful knowledge and I hesitate to dismiss them out-of-hand, but I’m afraid such a stance lacks the flexibility needed to truly progress. To progress we need to be able and willing to set aside what we once understood to be the case in favor of new ideas, theories that conform better to the facts which have been and continue to be revealed to us.

And these days with the significant problems we face I’m thinking we better root for the creative, progressive problem solvers who are reaching beyond what we now know. Here’s hoping solutions will be found before we find ourselves inextricably caught in a trap of our own making.