I’ve been reading in the news lately political pundits and others in the know are suggesting, warning in some cases, that we are in danger of experiencing another civil war. The crux of the concern seems to be that with large numbers of us polarized as to what we perceive to be true, supported as we are by our chosen information sources, contradictory one side to the other, finding common ground seems unlikely. We find ourselves living in alternate realities and the more firmly we embrace our beliefs the more we fear the other. It’s common these days to see opponents demonized and violence perpetrated.
But, on the positive side there have recently been those on the political fringes calling for state secession. One can imagine a red state/blue state divide although I suppose there’d have to be some voluntary resettlement in order to consolidate realities. Once everyone was on their chosen side of the new international border it would seem peace would be obtainable. Narratives would evolve reflecting relative realities. There will of course be differing perspectives: a democracy on one side, totalitarianism on the other; one state operating according to logic and reason the other embracing the dictates of authority; basic trust in the peace and goodness of humanity on the one hand, paranoia driven preparation for armed conflict on the other. Family get-togethers will be difficult for those on opposite; sides of the fence and given the opposing opinions of the efficacy of science I guess another pandemic will not be good for the red staters.
Imagining a red/blue divide could produce a modicum of peace is hopeful, I suppose, but what is more likely, the mistrust inherent in such a philosophical chasm will feed the human need to demonize each other further.
It’s hard not to imagine mankind’s self-destruction.
I’ve been thinking lately about the mechanisms we put in place to insulate ourselves, act as buffer between our daily existence and the uncertainty of what’s next. I’ve been reading that Hindus who have the means acquire the services of a seer, a guru who will foretell a personal future, what karmic fluctuations one might expect in one’s present incarnation. According to the Hindu cycle of time we are presently in the Kaliyuga, a period of immorality preceding catastrophic social upheaval, which, I guess, is why the Hindu faithful seek the advice of a guru.
Most everyone, I suppose, seeks to avoid confronting the unknown without a plan. Western religious dogmas pacify the faithful by promising an obtainable after-life. Stoics prepare themselves against psychic annihilation by keeping in mind worst case scenarios. The most secular among us lose themselves in all manner of distractions from doing good to living large. Those who recognize such distractions for what they are may rationalize non-existence will involve a peaceful transition.
I suppose if I had to pick a mechanism to ward of fear of the unknown, I might lean toward Hinduism which is pretty attractive at least from a cultural distance. It’s more exotic, less familiar than traditional western religions and the statuary and temples of and to the pantheon of very interesting gods and goddesses is spectacular. I’ll keep Hinduism in mind the next time I’m in the market for a mechanism to deflect existential angst. I realize such flippancy might seriously deplete my karmic capital. I could find myself a minor insect next life.
I’ve been reading that cognitive biases interfere with nearly everyone’s decision making. There are quite a number of ways that clear thinking is undermined by personal prejudices, intuitive imaginings, simplistic assumptions, unrelated beliefs or refusal to accept information inconsistent with previously accepted knowledge.
The idea of cognitive biases explains, it seems to me, how those of us sharing a fairly common reality can arrive at such diverse opinions about the political, religious and social issues we find ourselves facing daily. There’s a considerable discrepancy as to what constitutes fact. Sometimes our sources gain such credibility we allow their ‘truth’ beyond questioning; makes me think of the Groucho Marx line: “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”
I guess in many cases biases aren’t a serious problem but there are issues needed to be faced these days that mustn’t be denied, cast off as fake news. And to be fair, there are indications many are beginning to look toward the future: carbon sequestration projects, carbon credits for CO2 reductions, a move toward recognizing citizenship for future generations all point to a growing awareness of the importance of maintaining the health of the earth. History and human nature do suggest it takes a blatantly obvious impending doom or maybe even actual devastation for humankind to come together and act. It appears we may be closing in on such an event.
I’ve been reading that most everyone reconfigures their personal narrative as they proceed through the experiences of living. Personal interactions that may have been emotionally intense may be viewed differently in the calm of later years. Reckless behaviors in one’s youth as reaction to societal (or parental) pressures may later be realized to have been mistakes that interrupted character building constraint so necessary to a stable grounding in reality.
Where once we may have found truth in the absolute freedom of choice as a path to an autonomous independence, we may later realize a shallowness, a superficial misunderstanding of the deep-seeded need we have for the care of others, a dependence on those dear to us. So, the narrative changes; the way you thought things to be were not, upon reflection, truly the case. Motivations, ambiguous desires altered the truth of the experience.
I guess it’s fair to say narratives are interpretations which lie somewhere between fiction and non: stories being told by their possessors.
I’ve been reading about balancing risk and desire when the desire is fed by the risk. As I think about my wayward college days when smoking marijuana was as much about defying the man as it was about enjoying the effects of the drug, I realize ‘toking up’ made me feel like a solid member of the anti-establishment, anti-war hippy crowd even though inhaling was about as far as my social protest went.
Now, as I age, my desires are tempered, more thoughtful, I’m less inclined toward risky behaviors. But then I think about why risks are taken in the first place. It’s because risks successfully taken are life affirming, adrenaline pumping, provide a glimpse of (imagined) immortality, experiences sorely lacking in my present daily existence.
So, today I did something I’ve never done before. My mother always warned me about thin ice, so I tried some early season skating anyway. I fell through the ice. The experience was fairly unpleasant but it did alter my usual mundane routine.
A recent long road trip had me listening to audio books of the sort providing lots of easy-to-follow action. The books I listen to while traveling are ones I would likely not spend time reading but they’re books I find helpful in passing the time during the long expressway miles.
One of the books I listened to offered believable (but pseudo, I suppose) science that got me thinking. The idea that caught my attention was Spontaneous Creation. The beginnings of life on earth, the book’s protagonist explained, was not due to the Big Bang or an Act of God but by natural physical processes responding to thermo-dynamics, the energy required to ward off entropic disintegration: the idea being that the sun’s heat brings sub-atomic particles into alignment eventually forming complexities that evolve over time into life as we know it.
The idea seemed pretty sound to me but, as the author pointed out the ‘laws’ of thermo-dynamics and entropic disintegration imply the existence of a First Cause, something above and beyond imposing order on the universe. A well-reasoned assumption, I guess, but a cynical nature has me wondering if, perhaps, the author was thinking less about science than about book sales.
I’ve been reading, lately, about art and meaning, specifically how the intended communication the art maker might initially wish to convey becomes confused and intermingled with personal urges or desires that are then made manifest in the work during the intensive painstaking making process.
An uninhibited free reign provides the art maker’s mind the opportunity to bypass the political correctness of moral restraint untroubled by any sort of critical push-back (well, at least until the work is presented) and if the work is coming from the depths of the maker’s being without ulterior motive the work will be true: not necessarily attractive in an aesthetic sense nor morally uplifting nor of profound meaning; just honest.
Anyway, this got me thinking about my motivations as I proceeded to develop and execute my painting of the Mother Tree. Making the painting turned out to be a fairly involved undertaking in more ways than I usually find myself engaged. So now I’m led to consider that a project I’ve intended to have a lightly humorousness, anthropomorphizing tree forms as I have might in fact suggest a subliminal libidinous undertone that not only have I been preoccupied with female anatomy I present them (the female entities) as subservient
.Well, I must claim innocence. I really was just intending a light-hearted take on the natural process. But, who can say what the unconscious mind holds. I just hope the PC police won’t come down on me too hard.
I’ve been thinking, lately, about what constitutes freedom. I imagine a freedom of movement, to travel undeterred, to acquire whatever man be required to ensure a semblance of safety.
Now I find the idea of ‘freedom’ has taken on political nuance: those who oppose vaccination demand the freedom to choose in spite of science informing us the virus will mutate, be with us much longer than it might have if most of us were vaccinated. The anti-vaxxers oppose vaccine requirements with demonstrations, touting ‘my body my choice’, which in itself is pretty interesting since many of these same folks refuse to accept a woman’s right to abortion.
I guess I should count myself fortunate that I can still find temporary solace in my local environs, seek short-term get-a-ways to recharge and realize the inherent freedom such affords.
I heard the term ‘media eco-system’ used the other day and got to thinking about what that might encompass.
An eco-system as I understand it, consists of a complexity of mutually dependent inter-acting parts that constitute a ‘whole’ and embodies an aspect if not the totality of the realities of the organisms within. The media eco-system provides us captives a diverse selection of socio-cultural perspectives that demand belief, rejection, adherence or refutation of the sensational often incendiary information conveyed, pushing those of us locked into the media world toward extremes of opinion and behaviors not to mention paranoia.
I’ve come to realize the media eco-system is essentially oppositional by design, generating anger that insures the rabid following necessary to the systems’ sustainability. So, I wonder, how do I stay informed about the things that matter these days without getting sucked into the vile vortex.
I guess, to be fair, not all news presentation is sensationalized. I’ll just have to look harder to find a fair and balanced coverage. (Not sure, but I think that might be the slogan of one of the more egregious sources.)
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.