(“More what you might call ‘guidelines’ …”)
If you don’t get the above reference, then I pity the life you’ve led.
Anyway, it turns out that I have “rules.” The idea hadn’t occurred to me so much, one way or the other, until some 20 years ago, when I happened to formulate these “rules.” (I’ll stop scare-quoting the word now.) I may or may not have mentioned the fact that I was (for a while, at least) a moderately serious Renaissance Faire participant, what is often referred to as a “rennie.” And by “participant,” I mean I had invested something in the neighborhood of $1,200.00 in garb and gear (about half of that was for my custom made, thigh-high boots alone) to participate in character as a low ranking German nobleman of the 16th C. The attached picture really is me (and yes, that is my hair). I share it here with the generous permission of the photographer, Jeffrey Gibson, D. Phil. The hyper link at his name is to his photographer’s website, and I encourage everyone to follow that link and take a look at some of his work.
In any event, it was at Ren Faire – in garb and in character – that I learned that I had rules. Rules about interpersonal, social/sexual interactions. This would be a matter of scarcely any interest even to myself, except that the nature of those rules has some interesting philosophical characteristics over and beyond just what I personally will or will not do. It is to this latter I wish, ultimately, to address myself. But first I have to say a bit about the rules themselves, so that the philosophical implications have something to build upon. But to get to the rules themselves, I first must tell a story. Continue reading
I don’t like bridges. I mean the physical, not the musical, ones. Your typical short span over the local creek won’t upset me. But those huge, arcing monsters traversing vast rivers or bays give me the willies. Perhaps the Sum of All (my bridge) Fears is the Coronado Bay bridge in San Diego, pictured below. It is high, it is long, it is curved, and it doesn’t even have any external skeletal structures to give you any sense of containment or safety. As you can see from the picture, there’s barely even a guard rail at the side. Look again at the little dark bump a bit right of center of the picture, on the bridge. That’s a vehicle driving by. I’m sure it has never happened, but in my nightmares I envision cars flipping over that rail and going into the bay.
But the nightmares get much worse than that. In them, there is no rail at all, and only a line separating oncoming traffic from each other. The curves are canted at such an extreme angle that you have to accelerate into them or risk sliding right off. But if you accelerate too much, you’ll fly off the outside edge. The whole thing is more twisted than a knotted shoelace, with multiple on and off ramps and cars streaking past at insane and uncontrollable speeds.
Go ahead: you can make that jump …
You might ask yourself, why I am sharing these sleep disturbing images with you? Well, good question, glad to see you’re paying attention. For the record, I did tag and categorize this post as “personal,” meaning that the reflections are largely personal ones that need not have any deeper philosophical significance. Although, in this instance, there is a deeper personal significance to last nights squirrelly dreaming. Continue reading
“You’ll ruin your life!”
I have objected to this phrase, commonly enough used by parents (and others) to admonish their recalcitrant children (and others), all of my adult life and even into my youth, so something over 40 years now. The only ruin a life will find is death, and even that might not be a ruin, depending on how well lived that life was. Certainly there are things a person can do that will permanently redefine the direction of that life. For example, young persons who, in a fit of rage, murders another person, and as a result ends up spending the remainder of that life in prison, has certainly changed the direction of that live in a manner that is unlikely to match very closely anything the individual ever hoped for or dreamed of. But is that life ruined? Isn’t it still a life, a life that might yet rise above its petty and benumbedi existence to genuinely mean something? A ruin is something that once was, but now only exists as a mere husk of its former glory. A life is something that is not over until it is over, regardless of whatever unexpected and (possibly) undesired twists and turns that occur in the process of that life.
The ancient Greeks had a saying: “Count no man happy until he is dead.” The point being that the quality of a life can turn at a moment, so that the most successful individual might suddenly be cast down from the pinnacle of success to utter “ruin.” One of the favorite tales along this line is that of Oedipus, who rises from the status of an abandoned orphan to the all powerful king of a great country. Unfortunately for Oedipus, he gets there by unwittingly murdering his own father, and marrying and having sex with his own mother, all following the iron-clad declarations of a deterministic prophecy that allowed for no deviation. He ends up a blind beggar wandering the countryside. Such were the vicissitudes of life in the ancient world, success was fragile and life was harsh. Yet, they might as easily have said, “count no man disappointed until he is dead.” For life’s struggles may be constant, yet our success in dealing with those struggles can be a story of heroism or failure at almost – almost – any level. Continue reading
I was looking at a picture that I had taken a few years back, of Thumb Butte, just outside of Prescott, Arizona, when the phrase “natural order” popped into my mind. What made this stand out (because words, phrases, and images are popping into my mind all of the time – it is like Tourette’s of the imagination) was the fact that it came to me flagged as ironic. What struck me as ironic, gazing with affection at one of my favorite places in the world, was how seriously disorderly nature really is. That’s what is so lovely about it – it shatters our boundaries with promiscuous abandon. And the only way we prevent such shattering is by murdering nature outright – which, of course, we are also working on with rather more energy and enthusiasm than we ought.
The natural sciences look to distill, while the engineering and technical enterprises look to impose, order from and upon Nature. And there are certainly good and thoroughly ethical reasons for all of these valuable activities. We live longer, healthier lives (certainly on average) than we ever did in the past. Further, the quest for knowledge is, at least arguably, one of the most singularly noble pursuits available to our imaginations. But I’d like to say a little about the negatives, from my version of a Whiteheadian perspective. Now, I am not anti-science; when I’ve criticized contemporary disciplines (see below) it is for their abandonment of real science. Nor am I any manner of luddite; I am composing this missive on a computer, I intend to post it on the internet; I’ve a library that would be the envy of even the wealthiest individuals from a century ago on my Kindle; even as an introvert, I have connections to the outside world far beyond the imaginations of all but the luckiest persons from previous centuries. But there are costs, and we ought to acknowledge that there might be such a thing as “too much.” I began wondering, looking at that picture of Thumb Butte, if that too much might be related to our simplistic notions of “natural order.” Continue reading
So, 4 weeks ago – 4X7 = 28, the mythological “28 days” – I deactivated my Facebook account. I did so very much on purpose: a great part of what was happening on Facebook was nourishing just and only the worst parts of myself. Not everything about my FB experience was bad, but a few things were irreparably destructive. I’ll have a few things to say about both, although much more about the bad than the good. I’ll finish with a few words, not in the way of explanation or justification, but simply in the way of my own thoroughly dumbfounded phenomenological observation, about why I can’t take my eyes off this train wreck.
But before proceeding, just a quick note about the title. There is a well established fairy tale amongst the “detoxification” professionals – that is, the people whom other people pay so that the first people can be declared “clean” of some addiction or other – that 28 (to 30) days is the magic number for breaking an addiction. It is, of course, complete twaddle. Continue reading
See, here’s the thing: BEING dead does not scare me at all. The day I die will be the first time in my adult life I actually make it through the night without waking up because of a bad dream, or I had to pee, or because I’ve been cursed by five generations of sin, or because I didn’t pull a perfect trifecta on the genetics game, or because it was a day that ended in “Y”. That, as Hamlet once observed, is a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Usually I take more time to compose my thoughts, but there are times when that is exactly the wrong thing to do. I’ve been trying not to think about white privilege too much of late, precisely because it has been overwhelming my thoughts. Bless me, **ther, for I have sinned
My first genuine experience of my white privilege was when I was 18, and in Basic Training in the Army. Continue reading
Americans have long exercised a vexed relationship with the Christmas season; and I say “Americans” here, because the vexation has long preceded the existence of the “United States.” If one takes seriously the tales told in the Gospels, then the Winter Solstice bears no possible connection to the birth date of Jesus. The stories very clearly state that shepherds were minding their flocks in the hills when the Star appeared. But shepherds would never permit their flocks to wander about the hills in the late days of Autumn, early days of Winter. So by irrefutable Biblical evidence, we know that Christ’s birth would never occur at “Christmas” time.