The Mythological Us

I’ve been reading about the ancient Spartans and how research has determined they weren’t as ‘spartan’ as mythology would suggest, that, in fact, they were as unwilling to put themselves in life-threatening situations as anyone else and that they appreciated the arts of poetry and music.

This revelation has me thinking about what sort of mythology might evolve from our contemporary reality in, say, 2000 years’ time. Given that history is a narrative and stories are interpreted and change, one wonders how we’ll be seen. I’m thinking the images of our modern selves won’t be all that wonderful. There will be good things to think about us I suppose: our intellectual energy producing, as we have, wonders in medicine, science and communication technologies, but any overview of contemporary us by our future descendants will have to take into account the dubious ethical behaviors we’ve engaged in the fight to control the earth’s resources and claim the wealth as our own.

Whatever future mythology develops about us from the actions of our twenty-first century selves is pretty hard to guess; I’m just hoping there are folks still around to make an evaluation.

The Illusion of Freedom

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.

Self-Awareness

I’ve been reading an interesting commentary on self-awareness. The suggestion the author makes is that the ‘whys’ of our intuitive actions and reactions are mysteries we rationalize by creating narratives that justify our otherwise unexplainable behaviors.

This, you might guess, has me thinking about my own behaviors, wondering where some of my recent actions and reactions come from, why I’m so inclined, sometimes, to take things personally. It occurs to me after some thought that often my more emotional responses are driven by doubts and uncertainties: being inclined, as I am, to ruminate on multiple points of view.

Did I just justify my emotional responses? Well, it’s all pretty complicated. I guess telling ourselves stories about why we do what we do is a human inevitability. We should hope when emotional build-up makes things intense, we can at least take responsibility rather than seek scapegoats. (The ‘deep state’ is pretty popular these days.)

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.