The Twisted Contradictory Mottos of Totalitarianism

I’ve been thinking about the George Orwell novel “1984”, how the totalitarian regime in the book implemented catch phrases to secure the minds of the populace. ‘War is Peace’ is used to establish a permanent enemy, a scapegoat, that can be blamed for any and all ills that befall the citizenry. ‘Freedom is Slavery’ discourages individualism, promotes tribalism in order to keep everyone bound to the collective. ‘Ignorance is Strength’ encourages the subservient populace to forego intellectual reflection, follow the dictates of those in power, not think about things to hard and they will realize contented peace. The message is, I guess, that given such ideas along with sufficient deterrents a totalitarian regime turns people into sheep without them realizing it.

It does seem a bit familiar these days but I guess as long as a free exchange of ideas remains in place reasonable responses can happen.

 

 

Routine

The idea of routine these days has taken on a sort of oppressive new meaning, limited as we are in our ability to socially interact and move about freely without concern of infection. Before the onset of the dreaded virus relieving a tedious daily cycle was as simple as a museum visit or dinner out with friends, experiences that give life meaning, expand imagination and help us realize possibility.

The conundrum has me thinking about cyclical time, how daily experiences reoccur with a good deal of regularity. Eastern Religions have long understood time to cycle on a cosmic scale which, I suppose, gave hope to those living less fortunate existences (who also looked forward to reincarnation). The philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche came up with a thought experiment he called Eternal Recurrence. The idea is to suppose one is destined to live this life over and over repeating the same experiences forever, an eternal cycle. The implication is, that if such were to be the case, one would want to be very careful that each moment of life was lived to the optimum: as best and as positive as one could make it happen.

What we need to do in covid world, I guess, is find ways to sustain ourselves positively, in uplifting ways. As important as it is to stay centered, alive and present in the moment, distraction may be in order. Many may find solace in readings with happy endings while others may seek the catharsis of apocalyptic disaster literature. Hobbies might be developed. Exercise is always good, solitary sport activities might be explored.

I really don’t have any particular advice for anyone, just trying to work it all out for myself.

Are We Living in a Simulation?

There are certain theoretical physicists contemplating, as I understand it, the idea that perhaps we are not living a base reality but are in a simulation, an artificial reality. We may be, they surmise, virtual beings created by a higher intelligence with infinite computational facility. These cyber-gods’ superior intellect along with our limited capacity to fully understand our world renders it impossible for us to grasp the closed system provided by our overseers.

The overseers, acting as game players, pit us against each other, create inventive situations for us to deal with and suffer through and then play favorites, much as the ancient Greek gods did. The idea is, I guess, our overseers are using us as pawns in the ultimate virtual Game of Life.

Well, if I am existing in a virtual closed system, I really can’t complain too much, reclining, as I am, in my lounger in front of a warming fireplace. I do, of course, face difficulties from time to time: existential psychological eruptions I must deal with, but all in all life is pretty good. If I am a virtual being in a created world it would seem my cyber-gods are fairly benevolent.

Belief in God

As things began spiraling out of control she wondered if belief in God was a viable option.

Well, maybe belief was the wrong word. It seemed to her unlikely one can suddenly ‘believe’ something, but there were remnants of belief she had taken to be credible at some earlier time in life. There were beliefs introduced to her as a child that had drifted along in her sub-conscious all these years until recent existential shock brought them (the beliefs) to the surface, beliefs which seemed, suddenly, to be just the thing these extraordinary times require.

So maybe it was more like expedient, practical to seek and find a supernatural entity to appeal to in these dire times when her resources were strained and uncertainties about her very survival constantly weighed upon her. She had settled, after all, as she had thought about it over the years, on an enlightened agnosticism, resisting the hard atheism embraced by some. God as a concept was elusive but not easily dismissed in totality and now seemed the time to, if not make re-acquaintance, at least allow the embedded idea to come a bit closer to the surface. There is something comforting about the idea of a benevolent overlord, protector, benefactor in these uncertain times.

But finding and maintaining belief, she realized, wasn’t that simple.

The Exhilaration of a Near Death Experience

While doing fall chores the other day the ladder I was on gave way. Apparently, my weight was above the fulcrum which was the roof edge causing the foot of the ladder to begin sliding backward. I found myself on an accelerating descent. The ladder slid off the edge of the deck propelling me backwards into a reverse summer sault, my body eventually coming to rest on the ground. As I lay there on my back, I was taken with a feeling I can only describe as euphoria. Other than a few minor aches and pains, a few bruises, I found myself in a better place mentally, more upbeat, than at any time in recent memory. Given that I did not intentionally seek this sense of exaggerated well-being, I nevertheless got to thinking that the experience must be something akin to the adventures sought by adrenalin junkies, those who regularly defy fate, put themselves in situations of potentially serious danger.

The exhilaration was great to experience though it faded fairly quickly, was gone in a couple of hours, but I have no intention of re-creating the emotional high through intentional risky behavior. I’m too much of a realist and kind of old (brittle bones, you know). But If it should happen I make a bad decision while at the mercy of gravity in the future I’ll hope for a similarly favorable outcome.

Beauty in Death

I’m finding the transformation of nature this time of year breathtaking. The vibrancy and variety of colors transforms the environment so dramatically my visual surroundings become something totally other, so changed, that, on a walk in the woods, I find myself someplace unrecognizable as if it were another world.

Nature though is dying, she is in the throes of death, breathing a last gasp as she fades into dormancy. In another month these woods will appear dead, reduced to subdued browns and grays. They will have been abandoned by songbirds and hibernating animals. There will be little to suggest there is any life existing here at all. The death of nature will, of course, eventually transition into a sort of rebirth or at least a regeneration of life as the seasons advance.

What makes nature’s metaphorical death so unique is the flair, the exuberant celebration of finality she displays. Such an enthusiastic embrace of physical demise doesn’t seem to follow for the animal world except, perhaps, for certain humans convinced they too will be reborn in the spring.

Unintelligent Design

I’ve been reading a lot, lately, about Evolution and it appears he’s pretty stupid. Well, maybe non-thinking would be a fairer assessment.

Although he’s very good at upgrading life forms to better suit their various environments and predicaments, it takes him an awfully long time to do it. Some philosophers suggest he doesn’t even know what he’s doing, he’s absolutely ignorant, and his competence is without comprehension.

I guess, for Evolution, it’s just a matter of trying out possibilities until one stands out and considering there is an enormous number of possibilities and he isn’t thinking about discriminating the process is bound to proceed at a snail’s pace.

I’ve been thinking about what sort of changes Evolution might have in store for humankind in the future. I’m thinking hair is pretty superfluous (a lot of people seem to be realizing this and removing it themselves) and eventually Evolution will probably send it the way of the tail. The appendix should probably go as well. On the positive side, anticipating survival, some sort of built-in air filtering apparatus to aid breath-ability might be in order. And maybe a move toward the bovine stomach to increase potential edibles in a foresee-ably depleted eco-system.

I’m sure Evolution’s working on these things but given his mindless process I don’t expect much anytime soon.

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Seeking God-Greek Philosophers

In the interests of my ongoing pursuit I’ve been considering some of the Greek philosophers who appear to have made some in-roads into the nature of God, or, god-likeness anyway.

Diogenes the Cynic maintained virtue as the true path to happiness. Living in poverty, reviling social constructs and the accumulation of wealth he assumed dog-likeness, living in the present without anxiety, a simple life of virtue depending on the kindness of others for his survival. The purity of his motives seem pretty god-like to me. Can dog-likeness be akin to God-likeness?

Chrysippus was a stoic philosopher who believed that, while one’s fate was pretty much set in stone if one controlled his soul crushing passions and adjusted his will to intersect with what was going to happen anyway, peace and tranquility were a real possibility. He also believed in the equality of all men (but, unfortunately, I’m not sure he meant women to be included in that generality). Still, he was certainly an honorable and virtuous man who deserves inclusion in any consideration of god-likeness.

Epicurus, founder of the Epicureans, expounded this very reasonable way of life based on moderation of desires and the seeking of a state of static pleasures which amounted to minimizing pain, anxiety and suffering. Among other things he believed the gods held little sway regarding the goings-on in the world and that the only true knowledge one could acquire came through the senses.

One of Epicurus’ chief disciples, Lucretius wrote a poem in which he goes to considerable lengths describing how the world formed within the infinite universe which had to do with the movements of tiny particles from which all things, wind, water, fire , earth and all that inhabit the world are composed. All things including the gods and men’s souls, Epicurus put forth, must expect a terminal existence, have a limited shelf-life, is subject to mortal demise over time.  Well, this did not sit well with the temple-goers. Despite the fact Epicurus was clearly an honorable person; celibate and a vegetarian to boot and clearly not a hedonist, his name became synonymous with heretic; he was persona non grata amongst the believers. He may not be God but if he was around today I’d definitely invite him to the ashram.

All three of these men point the way toward god-like qualities but omniscience is probably not among their attributes. I guess I can rule out omnipotency and omnipresence as well. Maybe perfection is an unreasonable assumption.

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Worldview

I got asked the other day what my worldview was. I was unable to come up with much of an answer. When I thought about the physical universe I couldn’t get past the dilemma modern science seems to be having regarding quantum theories that posit the idea of sub-atomic particles that are nearly unknowable. I mean, really, if the invisible, unknowable is what the universe consists of then what am I to make of reality at all?

It seemed to me the whole idea of a worldview presupposes some sort of underlying order driving the cogs of the universal machine. Like for the religious faithful, who, I think, can come up with a pretty thorough answer fairly quickly.

So, then I got to thinking about the nature of humankind-whether or not there may be some sort of ordered structure controlling the sentient.

I recently saw this movie, Hannah Arendt that dramatizes the philosopher’s acceptance of an offer by The New Yorker magazine, back in the 1960’s, to travel to Jerusalem to view and write about the trial of the notorious Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann. As she views the testimony she becomes increasingly convinced that the man was nothing-simply a cog in the totalitarian machine that was Nazi Germany; amoral, lacking in person hood, simply doing what he was ordered to do.

Although an extreme case it seems to me it’s something we all wrestle with. Lacking a mechanism that balances the good of the group, the political, social or religious motives of the institution with the moral and ethical responsibility of the individual, the nature of humankind is as chaotic as the quantum universe.

I can make no more sense of a concept of worldview now than when I was first asked the question.

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The Great Revivals

Brother Abraham, the Semitic cleric and Biblical scholar, was telling me the other day about the great Revival Movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He said the movements began as a reaction to the scientistic attitudes brought about by Enlightenment thinking which the faithful found to be atheistic and involved a return to the fundamental beliefs of Christian doctrine and an irrefutable belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.

The revival meetings, Abraham told me, were heavy on emotional content with lots of singing and praising and pretty light on intellectual substance which, I guess, was a real crowd pleaser because the revival meetings became quite popular with a lot of people finding God and looking forward to the next event.

The good brother said that these fundamentalist Christians were for the most part dispensational premillennialists, which means, among other things, that God will make good on his promise to establish Jewish dominion over the world, which, Abraham said, will certainly be good for him and that he’s looking forward to it.

As I think about what these meetings might have been like, I think I could have enjoyed the energy and reverie, the coming together of like-minded people in a celebratory gathering. As long as no one asked me whose fault it was that apple got picked.

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