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.

 

 

Ground of Being

I’ve been reading about this idea that we all have, at the base of our instinctual understanding, a faith that sustains our very existence; a faith in the existence of something without which survival would be impossible.
This something may be, I think necessarily is, of a very nebulous character and in fact, if and when it takes on too specific an identification may very well lose much of its potency. Naming it is losing it. Our rational selves are inclined to try to grasp this something, identify it, get intimate with it, worship it, maybe, but any such action only diminishes it. All we can and must do is acknowledge its existence.

We might think to construct symbols for and procedures by which we can more easily gain access, to keep it close to our waking consciousness, but any such activity must be of an abstract nature, no more than a parallel reference acknowledging only the existence of this something that defies labeling of any kind because this ground of being is essential to our very nature.

Ok, so I kind of get this, you know, and I can sense hopefulness on even the dreariest and most depressing of days. I guess, though, I maybe should pay a bit more attention, not lose awareness of this ultimate sustainable essence, my very being depends on it and as difficult as it is to think about something so ineffable and adverse to description I will dedicate contemplative time to reaching deep.

Sustaining Nature

I am reminded these mild early fall days of warm sun and cool nights, of our symbiotic relationship to the natural world. As much as we may wish to bask in our autonomy, the fact is we are of nature, simply a small fairly insignificant component of the natural environment. It’s pretty clear our very existence, dependent as it is on an oxygenated atmosphere and water-rich environs can’t really be separated in any meaningful way from our supportive world.

We are nature, nature is us. If we were pressed to name this embracing entity I suppose we might refer to it as God.

Descent into the Irrational

Boy, it sure seems, these days, judging by the public discourse, that we’re all sliding deeper and deeper into irrationality. Passions predominate on both sides of the philosophical divide; the peripheries of the political spectrum appear to absorb more folks daily as centrists disappear. Measured exchanges are being displaced by passionate condemnation; demonization of the Other renders moot any attempts at rational consideration of opposing views.

There appears to be little interest in seeking imaginative solutions to our ever increasing problems. I guess until an unavoidable disaster looms before us we will remain content within our tribes tossing stones, verbal and literal, at our chosen enemies.

It’s really unfortunate we’re all so easily manipulated by the public narrative. When it comes down to it I truly believe we have more in common than we may think.

Winners and Losers

I’ve been reading that the divisiveness so prevalent these days among folks of differing political persuasions is caused to a not inconsiderable extent by media narratives that posit the news in terms of winners and losers. Rather than defining contemporary problems as mutual and in need of consensus solutions, stories in the news all too often portray ideological differences as warfare pitting one side against the other in a battle which will ultimately determine winner and loser. And, since news outlets no longer see any necessity in offering a balanced story line with pros and cons for any particular stance, partisans can gravitate to the site of their preferred ideological narrative, reinforcing the corrosive divisiveness.

So, I’m wondering if there’s any way to get everyone in the same army in the same camp or on the same team: to get Republicans and Democrats, creationists and scientists, Russians and Islamists and perhaps the entire animal kingdom wearing the same uniform. I fear it will happen only under the threat of imminent cataclysmic disaster. Of course the potential Armageddon will be attributed variously to godless atheism, head-in-the-sand anti-intellectualism, capitalistic excesses, the Infidel, whatever.

I guess that takes us back to where we started. Will we all ultimately be losers?

The County Fair

I went to the county fair this past week as I have been doing for several years now. All rural county fairs, as far as I know, judge the quality of various activities and accomplishments through competitions that any county resident who wishes to can enter. One can compete in art and needle work and garden production as well as have the quality of their livestock judged. There are adult divisions and 4H competitions for children.

Judging by the quality of the 4H exhibits it appears most of these kids are slightly less than marginally involved in their projects. One young fellow put together a poster display about raising sheep in which he borrowed verbatim, short articles on line, printed them and pasted them to colored paper after which he arranged them on a poster board. For this he received a Grand Champion ribbon which makes one wonder about what sort of lessons are being taught and learned here.

In fact, apart from the animals that generally appeared healthy and well taken care of, the adult art and garden exhibitions left a lot to be desired; uninspired, I guess, would be a polite referral to many of the poorly executed offerings. To be honest the fair as a whole made me wonder if my neighbors make up a semi-functional citizenry lacking full grasp of meaningful social exchange.

Well, to be fair, everybody’s busy these days; maybe I should give credit for participation. Still the experience left me little desire to mingle with the masses let alone inspire any warmth toward humanity.

 

Objective Truth……….or Not?

So, it’s come to my attention that through virtually my entire educational existence, a culture of relativistic truth has undermined the notion that some truths are truly and necessarily objectively true. I’ve come to realize that, through careful observation of nature using inductive reasoning practical truths have been and will continue to be established.

I guess this idea of virtual relativity has lodged itself into the peripheries of our intellect in part, at least, because social truths and values have been shown to vary with different peoples. And, I have to admit that sensitivity to cultural pluralism is certainly a good thing. But, I guess it’s led to the confusion that all truths are relative to the unique and differing perspectives of each of us. Moral truths, for instance, will differ depending on one’s sense of religious propriety or lack thereof. But, the process of science which involves painstaking data collection by numerous researchers over extended time periods that lead to useable innovative ideas and are regularly peer reviewed must necessarily be perceived as objective.

Anyway, I have to keep telling myself this, having been so thoroughly indoctrinated in the culture of relativity. Sustaining a healthy natural environment threatened as it is by the onerous pressures of human habitation depends upon accepting the objective findings of science.

Political (pseudo) Science

As I understand it, science is a discipline whereby observations lead to evidence. The greater the number of observers along with the ever increasing number of observations lead to increasingly firmer, sounder more believable evidence. And, as time goes by and the multitudes of observations reinforce the evidence, truth appears; of course absolute truth can never be achieved because the possibility, as remote as that maybe, of new evidence entering the discussion can’t be discounted. But, practically speaking, from a pragmatic standpoint, science does sometimes reveal truths.  And, in it’s unadulterated purity science continues to seek truths which improve quality of life, understanding of the natural world and the origins of our existence.

Unfortunately, skepticism as to ulterior motive has led some to doubt scientific evidence, and, I guess, for good reason. On the one-hand vested interests claim justification in the name of science for activities that benefit a few and may potentially do harm. Then, also, those who find scientific findings contradicting their preferred world views tend to discount the evidence as atheistic. And so, science becomes politicized, in part because the complexity of the evidence is difficult for us non-scientists to understand; in fact, it sometimes sounds like nonsense to our untrained ears.

So, political science (not to be confused with the discipline that studies scientifically the way politics works) may very well become political pseudo- science when in the hands of the politically astute, casting doubt, for many, on all scientific findings. Which is, indeed, unfortunate. It kind of sounds  oxymoronic doesn’t it.