A Deep Sense of Place

I’ve been reading about the villagers of rural Sumatra who have occupied their ancestral lands for generations. The rich volcanic soil and abundant rainfall have provided reliable rice production for families to remain in place for a thousand years or more. Such an extended presence has led these folks to develop deep spiritual connection to the land. Beliefs have developed over time securing a sense of peace and common bond among these rural farmers. Tabus have evolved to ward off ill-fortune, rituals, past down over the generations, are performed to appease nature’s gods.

How incredible it must be to have such a deep sense of place, a conception almost unimaginable for Scandinavian transplants like me, so far removed from any place we might think of as ancestral. We immigrants can, of course, understand our inherent ties to nature traceable back to our primordial past, our single-celled ancestors, but we lack the personal connection to place, the spiritual and physical continuity of the Sumatran villagers.

Things change. The aggressive influx of the revealed religions undermines traditional beliefs, interrupt respect for local sacred places. Growing populations force more villagers to commute to jobs in the city where material values take hold and village life loses it’s sense of cultural autonomy.

I guess it will always be the case that new ideas will eventually disrupt old beliefs, for better or worse.

Controlled Hallucinations

I’ve been reading that certain neuro-scientists have determined that ‘reality’, the domain within which we all live, embodies a world existing in the intersection of memory and observation: that our cognitive awareness consists of ‘controlled hallucinations’.

I guess what this must means is that the memories we rely on will undergo change over time, likely soften, flex toward favorable interpretation and what our senses observe at one point in time will likely vary with age and experience.

I wonder if the ‘controlled’ part of this idea is about dealing with the psychological baggage I carry around with me that gets in the way of my otherwise generally pleasant existence. I can live well enough with the idea my reality consists of hallucinations.

escape

I’ve been thinking lately about escape. The psychological desire to retreat to unfamiliar environs even for a couple of days is truly compelling. Months long wait lists for camper purchases and campground reservations unavailable into late fall informs me I’m not alone. The uncertainty of contracting the dreaded virus variant even after being vaccinated has led the more responsible among us to seek outdoor activities away from urban crowds.

I long for such escape realizing at the same time that the whole notion is illusory: leaving home, traveling, is at best a distraction, a means of removing oneself from one’s daily realities, a short-term reprieve at best.

Knowing this truth changes nothing. If anyone hears of a lightweight camper for sale, please let me know.

Contemplating Immortality

The human genome has finally been deciphered and connected suggesting that in the future an individual’s genetic flaws may be found and possibly corrected leading to the potential for longer human lifespans. Imagination might lead one to the idea that sustaining life indefinitely is within the realm of possibility.

On the face of it the idea seems pretty uplifting, having all that time to…………… well, do exactly what. Another problem that comes to mind is that the very nature of human Being depends on uncertainty. Awareness of one’s mortality, as subliminal as it may be, is an enlivening prospect, an experiential richness, without which one would likely fall into a debilitating ennui, losing any sense of meaningful life.

It will be some generations, I suspect, before anyone must worry about such things. Meanwhile, realizing mortality will keep us in mind of the preciousness of daily existence.

Reborn in the Seventh Sphere

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.

Realizing Relevance

I recall reading years ago a comment written by Kurt Vonnegut in one of his novels, I forget which one, that, although we all suffer through life’s inequities, in the end all anyone really wants is to be granted a bit of dignity. I sense deep truth in this idea but lately I’ve been thinking that realizing some sort of relevance may be more important.

These thoughts come to mind as I wonder, lately, about my own relevance: no longer in the ‘work force’, disengaged from many of my former social interactions, occupying myself with activities many would think, I suspect, of being little more than playtime. I live comfortably in retirement with the basic benefits afforded anyone who has worked most of his/her life, but is it enough? Should I be doing more by contributing my vast accumulated knowledge and skills to the proliferation of alienated misdirected youth so apparent everywhere one looks?

As I think about my own alienated misdirected youth and the skepticism with which I viewed the opinions of my elders whose life experiences might have been worthy of my consideration, I’m inclined to live with my questionable relevance and just accept the slight dignity age allows.

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