Embedded Evil

I’ve been reading accounts, lately, some fictional, some non, of man’s inhumanity to man. Myriad examples abound on various media outlets; news of heinous acts perpetrated by religious zealots and alienated loners among others.

Usually when real bullets or knives are involved, we’re exposed to such malevolence in video offerings that carry a warning of disturbing content of particularly vile acts to prepare us sensitive viewers for what’s to come (which, I suspect, is a real attention grabber) and, when it comes to the fictional realm is choreographed with accompanying soundtrack resulting in glorification, romanticizing the obscenities.

The accounts of wicked behavior I find most disturbing, though, are in the form of written narrative where description can be presented unedited and without censorship, where behaviors so hateful and vile, described in vivid detail, have the potential to burn the obscene imagery into one’s mind.

So, I’m wondering, does consuming knowledge of wicked and vile acts anesthetize, numb one’s sensibilities making the horrors presented more tolerable? Can descriptions of vile acts so horrific that knowledge of them become embedded within the mind of the reader, alter his/her countenance?

I’m thinking we may need to temper our media consumption sometimes, pay attention to the good happening in the world, you know, seek the lighter side. I suspect some research may be involved.

Aristotle’s Legacy

I’ve been reading that, in the mid-20th century, natural philosophy was dominated by logical positivism: the idea that truths are established in terms of clearly perceivable facts, such as size, shape, age, quantity, etc. The logical structure of this theory might be thought of as analogous to billiard balls on a table caroming off one another in blind chain-reactions of cause and effect. Such theory rejects value or quality judgements which are subject to individual interpretation, being of opinion or belief rather than fact.

By 1945, as the atrocities of the Nazi death camps were revealed, some thinkers began to see some otherwise subjective value assignments, evil particularly, as having objective validity. Taking Aristotle as a starting point, the dissenters found a biological paradigm to define the natural world: alive and in constant change, developing, reproducing and transitioning. Rather than blind cause and effect everything in nature is in the process of self-directed development.

These ideas have me thinking of a recent experience I had while paddling my canoe along a shoreline. I startled a duck, most certainly a recent mother, who in the interest of her ducklings hidden somewhere in the rushes, put on the most amazing show of feigned injury, flopping along the water, drawing me away from her brood. Choices were there for her to make: stay hidden or risk her life to draw me off; no ‘blind effect’ to the cause there.
I’m with Aristotle on this one.

Full Circle

It’s evening. The day has taken its toll. The aches and pains have accumulated over the day’s (relatively) strenuous physical activities. I’m exhausted. I can do little right now but convalesce. Maintaining the mantra: ‘use it or lose it’ is becoming increasingly difficult to voice with enthusiasm. Like others in my aging community vigor and flexibility are diminishing. The unable to perform list awaits and is never empty. Common medical knowledge informs us to cut back our physical (and mental) expectations, don’t push so hard, accept limitations if you wish to maintain your earthly existence.

Morning now. I feel invigorated, competitive again, ready to face any adversity. Age, after all, is experience, an equalizer against youthful exuberance. Bring it on. I’m more than ready for challenge.

Evening again and the cycle continues.

Black and White

I’ve been thinking, for some time, about the polarized political narrative these days. I guess the divisiveness isn’t so surprising given the sensationalistic clickbait that crops up on everyone’s phone, algorithmically modified to enhance the political inclinations of the viewer/listener and further exacerbated by politicos anxious to feed from the populist trough.

Ok; so maybe the news I’m being fed has got me thinking in black and white. Maybe I should be seeking and finding the nuances necessary to exchange diverse ideas in a constructive manner with those who hold views I consider abhorrent. Maybe my world is the simplistic one. I’ll work on it. Still, I do like the clarity of black birds on white snow.

Realizing the Sublime

The diminutive tribal people indigenous to the primal forests of equatorial Africa represent an autonomous culture able to thrive in a most prohibitive environment. Survival means understanding the flora and fauna, what’s edible and what has medicinal applications since the extremely dense jungle in which they live is rife with tropical diseases and man-eating predators. To thrive, tribal identity requires a philosophy of sanctity of group rather than individuality. To exist in such a place means finding the sublime in the terrible. They must become one with their sacred world.

Lessons to be learned here, I think, about how to nurture and support a life-providing environment.

Mind Parasites

As I’ve been recalling, lately, events of my teenage years in the small town I grew up in, I’m getting the eerie feeling that the occurrences I recall didn’t happen as I remember them occurring rather in a world of unreality, a fantasy world that, viewed in retrospect couldn’t ever have been.

Even though my recent remembrances aren’t all happy memories as one might suppose imagining a nostalgic past: I think of unpleasant things and actions sometimes that make me wince at my naivete, the bizarro world I imagine is unreal, the sense I have of these past events and places is unexplainable as being due simply to my youthful lack of worldly knowledge.

Anyway, I’ve been reading about mind parasites that exist, as I understand it, in everyone’s deepest subconscious floating about in the ocean of collective consciousness subtly poking and prodding, manipulating memories in parasitic acquisition that may be detrimental to the unaware driving some to harmful personal behaviors. The only way to counter these parasites is to maintain awareness of their existence but to not call them out, maintain rather a personal center of stability in order to overcome their manipulations.
I’m not fully on board with such theory but I guess it doesn’t hurt to stay a bit vigilant; review the past, seek photo references and such.

Immortality

I’ve been reading that death, to die, wasn’t always in the evolutionary cards. Science speculates that the earliest life forms (single cell Amoeba, I’m guessing) didn’t die, that death emerged during evolution because it was advantageous to survival of the species. Over population being the problem, I suppose; a lesson to be learned considering the pressure humankind is putting on the earth’s resources these days.

Now we have big money interests pursuing the science involved in rehabilitating human cells in order to reverse the aging process with the hope of extending life indefinitely. It’s human nature, I guess, to want to postpone, even imagine the elimination of death. It all has me wondering though, how happy we’d be if we lost the uncertainty we experience as we fall into the small death of sleep, the elation of discovering in the morning we live another day.

Unlimited Possibilities

A beautiful late spring day, sun shining, light breeze blowing, conjures images of youthful optimism, of the immanent occurrence of wonderful happenings likely in the near future.

Now, the number and quality of possible outcomes, many not necessarily good, have me wondering about what’s been lost. No doubt my earlier optimism was swayed by a generously youthful naivete, and world events, these days, are dire, oppressive if one pays too much attention.

Still, the opening into the transcendent ought to be there, shrunk maybe, narrower, more constricted but the window, grimy as it may be, ought to admit a bit of light.

Time to reignite my imagination, I guess.

The Limitations of Language and Memory

I’ve been thinking lately that language is a limiting and essentially inadequate means of describing experience. (As I think about this it occurs to me I’ve probably thought this very thing before; in fact, I doubt I’ve had a truly original thought anytime recently).

Anyway, language may be the only way of describing experience, but the descriptions rendered no matter the mastery one may have of the written word will fall well short of sufficiently describing the color and complexities of sensual experience.

Roland Barthes, the late French literary theorist, said that man cannot know, understand prior to developing at least a rudimentary language. I’m inclined to disagree with such an idea. It seems to me my colorful and complex sensual experiences can occur to my conscious self without interpretation; that it is unnecessary for language to supervene upon my experiences for them to actually exist. 

But, then, maybe my memory is going, I am aging after all; brain cells are being lost. Still, the visual imagery is there and doesn’t seem to require captions. I’m thinking language is over-rated. It simply is unable to account for the ineffable.

 

The Beauty of the Incomplete

I’ve been thinking lately about how one determines beauty. Arguments can be made for the primacy of the ‘eye of the beholder’ in such a determination, but one can’t discount cultural or experiential factors in defining the quality. I’ve been reading that the beauty of classical sculpture may lie to a great extent in the imagined perfection that the damaged remnants still in existence conjure in one’s mind. The figurative Greek sculpture that has over the centuries suffered abuse and intentional destruction still represents what many consider the ideal of physical beauty despite its fragmentary existence.

This idea has me thinking that maybe the greatest beauty, that which is most aesthetically pleasing is beyond physical manifestation; an argument for the existence of God.

Silver Creek (October)