A Frightening Proposition

Apparently Augustine of Hippo, after a mis-spent youth of carousal and debauchery, found intellectual and spiritual sustenance in various disciplines of the time (neo-platonism, etc.) until his meditative practices led him to Christianity. Then slowly, over the years, a dependency on reasonable determination gave way to faith: an all-encompassing faith in spiritual direction arrived at through prayer.

So, in fairly short order, Augustine tells us in his Confessions, he abandoned reasoned thought in the certain knowledge God would be sufficient means, a more than adequate guide, to see him through the lapses in faith that he and all who were invariably sinful-in-nature required to be worthy of salvation.

He apparently felt so strongly about this, about everyone’s essential sinfulness and inability to lead a truthful and honest life on their own, that he saw to it that the laity were subject to the whims and dictates of the church hierarchy. These innocents, were discouraged from seeking any sort of personal spiritual enlightenment through Bible study and prayer which was pretty easy to enforce since most of them couldn’t read anyway. Over the next few centuries this priestly authoritarian presence became tyrannical resulting in the establishment of inquisitors who burned heretics.

Maybe the lesson to be learned here is to beware of those who suggest to you: don’t think about it all too hard, just believe, have faith, God will provide. A pretty scary proposition, it seems to me.

 

The Ancients

I’ve been wondering, lately, if anyone thinks about the ancients anymore. I’ve been reading about the polarizing political intrigues that engulfed Plato in the later years of his life. He found his integrity compromised despite his best intentions to teach the young ruler Dionysius philosophy, geometry and the path to a deeper understanding of the ultimate realities.

I guess the idea that absolute power, which is what these early Greek tyrants had, corrupts absolutely holds most of the time. Diogenes the Cynic certainly understood this. In protest to the perverse values of the time he cast off all social conventions (along with most of his clothes) and wandered the streets of Athens seeking an honest man while living hand to mouth, without material possessions of any sort, in a castoff wine barrel.

Some things never change I guess. It’s pretty evident today that the inclination to wield power trumps thoughtful contemplation, reasoned pursuit of the good and the just and true pretty much every time.

Virtual Reality and Dementia

I’ve been reading that Virtual Reality technology is becoming pretty sophisticated these days: put on the headset and find yourself in an alternate world so all-encompassing it all becomes pretty believable. Well, as a recreation anyway.

Apparently the technology is being applied to nursing home residents suffering from dementia. The intent is to help them restore brain function, I guess. I’m wondering if or when VR will be taken a step further: headsets for hospice care. I can imagine, rather than heavy sedation a journey to a pain-free realm of serenity, beauty and peace might not be such a bad way to retire from life.

What would happen, I wonder, as physical life expires. Does one live on psychically in beautiful VR? Seems kind of religious. Could it be technological advances will redefine the notion of heaven?

That Which Cannot Be Known

I’ve been reading how, early on, and I mean way early on, before humankind had developed the capacity for conscious thought, instincts advanced by evolutionary survivors determined our ancestors’ standard operating procedures. Instinct provided useful means for dealing with a relatively harsh environment, which in addition to food acquisition, shelter and clothing needs also included recognition of super-natural powers that led these early folks to establish ritual behaviors in recognition of whatever gods might have been imagined.

These intuitive actions (passed on, from generation to generation with slight variations, maybe, with the success or lack thereof of the procedure) manifested themselves in fantasies that assumed symbolic images: conquering hero, heavenly paradise, torturous underworld, and so on.

Now, the thing is, my very distinguished authority asserts, deep within our unconscious these primal connections are just waiting to spring to consciousness and mess with our delusional sense of self-control. Dissociation is close at hand, I guess. Reason and logic are but a Band-Aid.

Rather than fight it, I think it might make sense to embrace the super-natural realities buried deep within me, be creative, find a workable, useful manifestation of that which cannot be known and assimilate.

Leisure Capitalism

I’ve been reading, lately, about this idea, sort of a thought experiment I guess, offered by an innovative thinker that addresses concerns about the health of our planet. The idea, leisure capitalism, proposes reducing the hours workers work by as much as half. The twenty hour work week would reduce considerably the toxic emissions we are presently spewing into the atmosphere and relieve pressure on our contaminated waterways and depleted forests. These things will be accomplished by reducing work commutes, industrial run-off and large-scale harvesting of South American rain forest.

The wealth of the developed world could easily compensate workers with a living wage and, one would think leisure capitalism would be an idea enthusiastically embraced by the majority of people who could then pursue recreational interests, the nature of which might responsibly be directed toward healthy non-polluting activities.

While the western world is scaling down production developing countries could be encouraged to increase production, raising the standard of living for many in poverty to reasonable levels enjoyed by most of us, after which production can be reduced and people everywhere can find meaning in recreational pursuits.

Seems to me like a great idea for those of us who find pleasure and meaning in activities not providing a paycheck, but I suspect there will be plenty of folks not willing to forego wealth accumulation, status relationships and economic power. The folks, who, I suspect, find it expedient to deny climate change wouldn’t look favorably toward doubling (tripling?) worker wages in the interests of bringing our earth back to full health.

Well, in my mind, the idea of leisure capitalism is optimistic and uplifting even though probably unrealizable. Still, let’s hope innovative thinkers will always be with us.

The Beauty of the Mysterious

I’ve been reading that sometimes everyday events can trigger subliminal memories lying deep within the unconscious mind that have nothing to do with lived experience. Psychologists suggest the indeterminate source of these ‘memories’ may be a collective accumulation of insights we share with all who have come before us. How exactly we acquire these insights I find to be pretty mysterious.
The idea, though, seemed somewhat reasonable to me but then I read that inanimate objects may cooperate with these subliminal messages in the arrangement of symbolic patterns; a prime example of which is the grandfather clock that suddenly stops ticking upon the death of its ancient owner. Apparently there are numerous documented incidents of similar occurrences, which suggest we may have mental capacities beyond the physical neurological operations of the mind.

Well, it all appeared to me kind of questionably new-agie, but then, when I considered the idea that over evolutionary time survival has dictated the acquisition of certain intuitive knowledge associated with the natural environment that took on super-natural significance as our ancestors dreamt of the dead, come alive, and witnessed powerful life-forces within nature. The thought made the man and his clock a bit more palatable. And the whole idea of a collective unconscious fits in pretty nicely with the psychic inclinations our primitive, eons-old brains have yet to evolve beyond.

As reasoned and logical as I might wish reality to be, I’ve got to accept, and revel really, in the beauty of the mysterious.

Why Western Europeans Dominated the Rest of the World for Awhile

So, as I understand it, a long time ago, way back, as humankind emerged from their hunter/gatherer roots, civilization developed in the Fertile Crescent (it being a place particularly conducive to plant and animal domestication) while much of the rest of the world,( save China and a bit later Mesoamerica), remained tribal people for millennia.

Before too long these newly sedentary farmers created complex societies that produced artisan craftsman and a written language. Unfortunately for those urbanizing folks they didn’t have a good grasp on the importance of environmental stewardship: deforestation and soil degradation took its toll. The civilizations of the Fertile Crescent fell into decline.

But, over the millennia, technologies developed by these folks traveled with relative ease and speed into soil rich Western Europe, where, before long, (relatively speaking), the Spanish, Portuguese, French, English and Dutch became the powers that dominated and exploited the rest of the world.

And so, it’s pretty clear geography and circumstance is responsible to a considerable extent for the historical dominance of the Western Europeans. One would think such knowledge would undermine the racist tendencies of our primitive minds. I fear that’s not the case.

Dissociation

I’ve been reading that Karl Jung, back in the day, suggested, in his investigations of the human psyche, that we are all on the verge, only a step away from, dissociation which means, I guess, that we are liable in times of stress to revert to our earlier primitive natures and become aggressive, confrontational and hostile. A being, so unlike our modern selves re- emerges from deep within our unconscious and we find ourselves fighting for survival in a tribal sort of reality: you get the picture; we take on the persona of a club-bearing, animal-hide clad, primordial screamer.

I kind of get this as I think of my own change of personality as competitive engagements become heated. A sort of insidious aggression, a tooth and nail fight, a winner take all thirst for blood of the vanquished. It’s us versus them, good against evil, long-live the righteous.

But then, later, energy sapped, returned to my safe, nurturing reality, the sensitive, new-age guy I truly am, attuned to my feminine nature, resurfaces, bobs back up and the whole idea of a crazed, primitive me reduces to but a bad dream.

I do have to wonder, sometimes which identity is truly the real me.

Being in the Flow

I’ve been reading and thinking about what it means to be in ‘the flow’. The flow is, I guess, the state of existence when the sense of self slides to the back of one’s consciousness, when the mind and body are occupied completely with being in the fluid present, doing without second thought.

I think being in the flow should mean one can move smoothly through daily tasks in a timely and creative fashion, side-stepping gracefully the occasional barbs of conflict, toward the meaningful progress of living a richer and more fulfilled life in a moral and ethical manner. I assume that, when one is in the flow, existence is beautiful, but, of course, no one will ever always be there and some of us may never find it at all but for brief glimpses.

Finding the flow, I guess, requires patience and preparation, being attentive and developing skill-sets that increase the likelihood, that, when the opportunity arises, one will be ready to, you know, slip into a mutual symbiosis of support and provision with the world around us.

Easing into the flow does seem to me to be a worthwhile pursuit. I’ll try to prepare myself to be ready for the opportunity should it present itself.

The Story of Civilization, Part Two

I’ve been recently learning from a very well researched tome that the reasons for the discrepancy in the development of civilizations, over time, around the world, was, contrary to popular opinion, the result of factors that had little or nothing to do with human capabilities.

The so-called cradle of civilization, the fertile crescent in the near east which was the location of the earliest known significant civil progress had the benefits of a variety of domestic-able food plants and large animals which provided the means to create sedentary communities able to diversify energies toward technological developments: a considerable head-start on the rest of the world.

So called backward peoples like the Australian Aborigines remained hunter/ gatherers into modern times because, to a great extent, the lands they occupy don’t accommodate farming and the indigenous fauna isn’t domestic-able. The knowledge these people have acquired, though, makes it possible for them to thrive in an exceedingly harsh environment.

It would appear that humankind has survived to this point in time through a common intelligence and adaptability. Now, if we can all just recognize our mutual worth perhaps we can survive a bit longer.