Blog #33 CLEANING ATTICS

The perennial chore of clearing the attic is relatively easy. More difficult is the selective elimination of obsolete and useless thought patterns. The recommendations made here are not oversimplified or reductive; they are made with recognition of the difficulties inherent in such process. Our much vaunted “free will” is, in fact,  encumbered by our psyche, our personal chemistry and our upbringing However, this process is vital to the enhancement of  life.

The suggested procedure is the sorting out of the “attic’s” contents to result in a division of the items into three (3) categories: (a) disposable junk, (b) potentially recyclable items and (c) valuable items to keep Illustrative examples are set forth below:

(a)  Disposable Junk

Cynicism, Pessimism and Hopelessness

Many cynics and pessimists maintain that they are possessed of a higher degree of discernment and understanding of life, present and foreseeable; they would see everything with a negative prospect. Such predictions can be self-fulfilling and as predictable, result in (a reinforcing) disappointment.

When a disappointing outcome occurs, it should be treated as a discrete, perhaps unique, experience and not part of a predictable opera.

Bigotry

It is merely by the accident of birth that we randomly acquire our physical characteristics and our belief system (see Blog#3). Mythology and fear of the “other” limits growth and is injurious to all concerned.

Superstition

Certain people, in order to mitigate their feelings about the unknown future,  resort to such useless practices as astrology, tarot cards, tea leaves, numerology and other primitive and misleading devices. Personal solution of problems and existing questions can only be sought by way of our rationality; these bogus devices just get in the way and can be harmful.

Egocentrism, Selfishness

Life is not an autobiography; planet Earth is populated with vast multitudes of others, all of whom aspire to the good life. The desire to manipulate others is insensitive and immoral; it may also be motivated by an inability to achieve control and order in one’s own life.

Jealousy

The underlying basis of jealousy is fantasy .It may emanate from unrealistic expectation or a creative perception of the “success” of others. It is unhealthy, useless and a waste of time.

Fearfulness

We have natural, innate, fears that are useful and protective; viz., fear of falling, fear of fire, fear of wild beasts. However, there are some who live a life of perpetual fear without logical or empirical basis; examples include, fear of failure, fear of change (see Blog#15), fear of others. These limit spontaneity, growth and individuation resulting in an inadequate life.

It is to be noted that there are some fears, “phobias,” the elimination of which usually requires the intercession of qualified third parties.

Predisposition, Snap Judgments

Those who classify and make judgments of others without factual basis,  expose themselves to a charge of bias and are prone to error. The chance of successful results is enhanced by attention to the relevant facts, as well as sufficient interpersonal interaction. (See: Blog#18).

Over- Reaction

An objective appropriate and calibrated response to stimulus is essential to life and health (see: Blog#23). The inclination to react excessively to all disappointment, regardless of kind and degree, puts unnecessary stress on the body; if not nipped in the bud, it  can become a conditioned response. This category might also qualify for “2”.

(2) Possible Recycle

Poor Self Control

Often the best response to unfriendly, even egregious remarks is no response. Statements of this kind do not deserve a response. If a reply is mandated, it should be made in a measured and restrained way; otherwise the potential for necessary and meaningful communication will be lost.

Slavish Adherence to the Past

For certain insecure folks, repetition of past ways and patterns of thought are sufficient. New ventures and new activities require too much daring. The insatiable quest for security and fear of criticism keeps these folks in an archaic prison. They suffer the loss of new and better ways, the excitement and stimulation of new experiences and a lack of individuation.

New foods, friends, interests, and activities lend freshness and excitement to  confident spontaneity, and a sense of a life well spent.

Intolerance

The exchange of differing opinions is a most salutary way to operate a democracy. Unfortunately, we have experienced a breakdown of civic amity (see: blog#21), evidenced by the enmity and even, hatred, of those who have differing opinions. This causes insularity, disunity and a poorly administered government  tasked with satisfying everyone. The free exchange of ideas should not be perceived as threatening and should not be  divisive.

(3) Items of Storage to Keep

The following items, stored in the attic should be kept, permanently and never become obsolete. Since they are self-explanatory, a mere listing of the same is deemed sufficient. These include:

Ability to love and be loved, tolerance of others and all points of view, a feeling of personal self- worth and a recognition of the worth of others, the aspiration for self-fulfillment,  respect for the environment and its natural inhabitants, capacity for genuine apathy and charity.

It is essential to liberate our spirit by cleaning out the attic, removing the useless clutter, and taking pride in our valuable possessions.

p.

Blog #32 VANITY FAIR

Anyone would tell you that Deena was certainly nobody’s fool. Deena Jane Ipecac always knew what, and for how long, something was “cool.” She was admirably self-sufficient, persistent in her personal pride and defensive when she detected any threat to her firmly held self-image. For example, when something new came up in conversation, of which she knew nothing, she had the tactical good sense to reply “whatever,” to denote disinterest, or even boredom. It is to be especially noted that she studiously avoided any consideration of “then” and was unrelentingly focused on “now.”

Deena Jane was always reliably “in the know” and constantly alert to the shifts in the wind concerning changes in linguistic or apparel fashion. She prudently kept the latest “smart phone” within easy reach, in which phone was stored, the  latest music, games, celebrity gossip, current telephone numbers and most notably , dozens of posed “selfies, ”taken and painstakingly selected, to reveal the authentic Deena Jane; the latter  always seeming to bear an uncanny resemblance to some  “diva” appearing on her favorite reality television show.

Her texting was always expressed in the very latest patois, “lol,” “omg,” “s’up?” as some examples; and revealed a generous use of the latest lingua franca, such as “like,”” totally,” “awesome.” Ms. Ipecac was literati, performing close and analytical readings of People magazine and most of the supermarket celebrity publications.

To her credit, she was completely flexible; when the need for change was perceived, she changed, except for her tattoo. Her clothes were always au courant, hence, for the present, rips in her jeans, flip flops and a streak of color in her hair (usually blue).

Often, Deena Jane’s friends disappointed her however; she was often willing to endure a contrary opinion, if it was expressed by an attractive person who affected confidence. It was, unfortunately necessary, every so often for Deena Jane to change her “best friend.”

As far as “boys” were concerned, she was faultless at identifying who was considered the “hottest” by her cohort, and then directing her flirtations at him.

Her conversations, such as they are, contain the language of the current patois, “totally,” instead of “yes,” “she goes”, in lieu of “she says” “awesome pizza,” instead of “tasty” pizza.  She qualifies all her statements with the word “like” in order to avoid any possible impression that she has a current emotion or has personal feelings about the subject.

Deena Jane’s eyes are always celebrated in a copious variety and quantity of makeup products, as contained in magazine advertisements which endows her eyes with a striking resemblance to  that of a lemur; she only decorates her lips with lip gloss ( for the moment). There is a simple metal adornment screwed to her left earlobe.

She invariably refers to ( and, thereby, deprecates) aged members of  society by referring to them as “cute,” carefully reserving the word “old” to refer to, “out of fashion,” “passé,” and other “retro” things, words and expressions.

Deena floats high on  life’s  meandering stream,  never knowing the direction of the next “cool” thing, but ever ready to make changes in her appearance, vocabulary and when necessary, friends.

Do not have pity or be sad for Deena Jane, she is especially fortunate to remain forever young (that is, as long as it is in fashion).

p.

Blog #31 ANIMATED HOUSEHOLDS; LITERATE CATS

Domesticated animals have always been man’s life-long room- mates. Thus, we see ancient cave paintings in every hemisphere depicting animals, their representation on sculpture (religious and secular) on urns and pottery created by human hands, as well as observed from studies of their natural   remains. They are depicted as hunting partners, protectors, even deities. But, it would appear, their salient feature was their provision of comfort and company.

In today’s world, owners of pets usually bestow upon them human names and, by the phenomena of anthropomorphism, coupled with projection, ascribe to them nuanced and individual personality traits.  They are properly and adequately fed, afforded the latest and best medical attention and assigned a prominent and coveted place in the family household.

In exchange for the multiple benefits derived from sharing life with a pet, there is little or no inconvenience involved. Simply filling bowls with pet food and water, general oversight, and  in  the case of dogs, walking them once or twice per day; with regard to  cats  there is even less, since cats regularly service themselves by way of litterboxes [ does this mean  that cats are literate?] .

We are all familiar with, pet clothes, pet raincoats (with or without hoods) pet booties, pet beds, pet grooming equipment, pet carriers, pets in strollers, pet treats and goodies, pet toys and the like, all part of the enjoyable and rewarding diversion derived from the care of Nature’s offspring. At the end of their too- short lives, we have pet caskets, pet cemeteries and funeral urns for their cremated remains.

Many pets perform invaluable services for their fellow humans, including protection, as lifesavers, as guides for the blind, locating survivors of physical disaster, as sleuths for bombs, bed bugs and dope, as therapy animals and as pest and rodent eliminators.

There are many valid objective reasons for the exaltation give to, and the special love we confer on, these little beasties but, p. would confidently venture the hypothesis that by projection and extension, we are, in a very real sense, giving to ourselves the nurturing we always wanted.

 

p.

Blog #30   THE ROUTE TO CLARITY

The subject of grammar is not a sexy one. However it is vitally important to the success of our interfacing with others of our species. We are fortunate to have such a field manual of the “rules of the road” for our usage of language.  If ignored or violated, the result can be blurry messaging and predictable misunderstandings.

The grammatical code   contains in effect, directional traffic signs created to successfully lead the compliant speaker or writer to his important and desired destination, the intended meaning. Misinterpretation, occasioned by carelessly constructed statements, inevitably leads  to complications and problems; ask any experienced business person or lawyer.

The sentence, the juxtaposition of (hopefully, carefully selected) words to express an idea, sentiment or information, should always be thoughtfully constructed, with the other person in mind, so as to insure understanding; it must not vague or equivocal. The strictures concerning double negatives, the avoidance of parallelism, appropriate plural or singular nouns with plural or singular verbs,  and the many important other rules need be faithfully  observed for successful  results.

Sadly and alarmingly, there appears to have developed, a casual or dismissive approach to these grammatical rules of the road, a downplaying of their necessity too numerous and varied to delineate here. Nevertheless, one instance of this unfortunate trend has been selected because of the simplicity of its demonstration and because it is representative of this all- pervasive trend. The selected example is the lazy and irresponsible conflation of noun and verb. Such conversion of nouns to bogus verbs, it should be noted, however, is far from the most egregious violation of the mandated rules.t

Despite the common understanding that a noun expresses an object, e.g., a person, a sentiment, an object, and by comparison, a verb denotes action, e.g., run, swim write, the proper function of the two has been bypassed, and the two have been carelessly and irresponsibly conflated. Three such examples are:

Noun                                                   Bogus Verb

Impact                                                Impacting, impacted

Party                                                    Partied, Let’s party

Microwave                                         Microwaved

Are there not enough words in our vocabulary?

In order for a society to exist and prosper there must be interaction between its members; such interaction should be useful and without confusion of message.   We need only follow the rules.

p.

 

 

Blog #29  AN ENDANGERED SPECIES

A reading of the history of any period will reveal the age’s reverence for wisdom and erudition; those who excelled in these gifts were highly prized and their contributions are remembered with pride in the record of that society.  Mankind’s potential for reason and discovery is traditionally been celebrated as evidence of its superiority over the beasts.

Yet, surprisingly and unhappily, society, of late, has demonstrated a downgrading and deprecation of these vital and beneficial attributes.

The first time p. heard the newly created word, “Brainiac” as a spoken reference to a knowledgeable person, he was shocked and outraged. The newly created noun was intended as an epithet. This new label has been used it appears, by low information people in a collective and defensive attempt to make a norm of ignorance and a pathology of knowledge. Such current slang is but one example of (to borrow the words of the late and learned Senator Moynihan) the “dumbing down” of society.

Among too many it now seems to be within the acceptable mainstream of society, and even stylish (“cool”), to deprecate the intellectual and offer praise to the self-limited person (especially if the latter is good looking). What is now in vogue is smart phone and cool dude, or cool  gal; ” selfies” instead of self- examination, electronics in lieu of conversation-the search for style instead of the pursuit of truth.

This trend is nothing short of alarming and is an effective roadblock to potentiation and self- realization on the part of the individual as well as the quality of a democracy; it makes of  the magnificent gift of life, a surface phenomenon; life and the world is left  unexamined and  potential growth stunted. The result is (in addition to the disinterest in nature, the world and its events) a low interest in life itself and a constant search for short-term stimulation.

The “Brainiac” ( p. is revolted by that word) is the most commendable member of society and predictably lives a fuller and more fulfilling life with the potential of real understanding and enduring joy. But we seem to be dealing with a species that is contracting and has become endangered.

Fortunately, albeit limited in number, we still have certain institutions of learning which maintain a “core” curriculum mandating the study of the liberal arts and sciences.  Exposure to such studies is broadening and enlightening; it counsels meaning and purpose. The preparation for a job or calling which should follow will also be enabled by such studies. Higher education should exemplify the goal of the enrichment of the individual and not be limited to the purpose of job   preparation.

The individual and the nation cannot achieve the highest potential where people sacrifice self-examination in favor of “selfies.” Maybe everyone should strive to be a brainiac.

 

 

Blog #28 STALE TAGS: LAZY TAKES

The current expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression like all aphorisms, (See blog #11) is of little value and may moreover be rather misleading. Its basic premise is that one is in control of someone else’s perception. The truth is that a first impression is solely within the psyche of the other person over which you have very little control. That perception can either relatively objective or unfortunately as more often is the case, founded on accumulated stereotypes, projection or even, neurosis. It would, in any event, appear that the avowed ability to properly evaluate another person for any purpose, at the first contact is an egotistical and presumptuous fantasy.

One is entitled to be evaluated, or judged, on at least a modicum of interactive experience, in a rational manner and not be prejudged.

Reliance upon recollected characteristics of others, with whom one has had past experience, is a   thoughtless and lazy criterion for evaluation for any purpose, professional or social.  It is only too often the practice to assign a populist label to the other person (often without fair basis) and thereafter, lacking any knowledge, and without rational inquiry, deduce wide-sweeping conclusions concerning him. Reflexive judgment would seem to trump rational and fair inquiry; labeling or tagging is easier.

It may be interesting that, while this pernicious practice is not new, such labels (used to unfairly and reductively judge others) have themselves evolved, Darwin style to suit the changing contexts in which society found itself. (See blog#22).

For example in the 19th Century the labels, “liberal” and “conservative,” had meanings which were the polar opposite of today’s use.  In the days of Adam Smith, “liberal” meant free of the influence of the King, the Church and Government in general. The liberal believed that commerce was to be governed by the natural law of the market; self -reliance of the individual was paramount {Classical Liberalism}. During the same period in history, the label or tag “conservative” was applied to those who believed in the authority of the King, State and Church viz., rule by a central, hierarchical authority.

In today’s parlance, the “liberal” is understood to believe that the Government has a legitimate role in regulating commerce and an obligation to assist the needy (some of which are casualties of market forces). The current label, “conservative” is assigned to one who like the Classical Liberalism of Adam Smith, wants a “hands off” policy on the part of Government and with regard to social assistance to the poor. {A modern-day example of a Classical Liberal is the novelist Ayn Rand}.

Putting the evolution of specific labels aside, regardless of era, the evaluation or judgment of individuals based upon convenient labels is not only unjust, inaccurate and reductive, but makes for a fractious and contentious society where the well-intentioned exchange of varying ideas, so necessary to a democratic society, in the solution of problems is thwarted. {See blog#21,” Civic Amity, A Requiem”}

In ancient Hebrew the word, “Shibboleth” (meaning corn, also flood) was utilized by one warring State to identify the enemy since the citizens of the enemy could not pronounce the “sh” sound in the word (shades of Gulliver’s Travels). In more modern times, the slang word,” lollapalooza” was used to identify Japanese spies who could not pronounce it. Happily there are no present day “shibboleth” tests we do however still have tags, unfounded assumptions and ignorant and lazy labeling. The myopia, ignorance which typify baseless and divisive labels and the resulting judgments based upon stereotypes, is unfair, irrational and, by the way very, un-American.

In a just society, superficial “first impressions” should not be determinative and should be followed up and supplemented by real data.

p.

BLOG #27 ETHNIC STEW IN THE MELTING POT

The question whether the progenitors of our native- American citizens, who walked across the Aleutian Islands and entered North America (without documentation), may correctly be termed, “immigrants” is difficult of resolution; they did emigrate from foreign lands, bearing their own distinctive culture.

Over the ensuing centuries, the many diverse peoples who arrived here, at various times and under various circumstances, can without question be referred to as immigrants. As the ages progressed and the process continued, an unfortunate phenomenon reared its ugly head, to be consistently repeated at the arrival of each new nationality. The population which had previously come to America and had already settled in found reasons (largely fictional) to oppose the admission of others of different national or ethnic origin, forgetting their own family’s past history.  How soon they forget!

Despite our national motto,” E Pluribus Unum” many have evinced fear and hatred of the” other” (See Blog #3). Where some people properly and generously see others yearning for the “American Dream”, others see invasion and want to build preventative fences.

Blog#17,”The Isis Crises” suggests a policy of liberal admission of Syrian refugees (with vetting as necessary) risking their family’s lives to escape Isis and Shari Law; it would give the lie to Isis’ claim that it is creating a paradise; but equally because we have the national  tradition of providing a safe haven for refugees.

P. remembers the disgraceful depiction and caricaturing of the Japanese people in the 40s’ (not to mention the internment camps), the McCarren Act, which initially barred all Chinese immigration, then was liberalized to permit their entry only as laundry operators .Later experience revealed the beauty art and elegance of the Japanese, the industry and intellectual gifts of the Chinese. Who does not know an Indian Computer Scientist? An Iranian Physician? An Italian orchestra conductor?

An accredited food historian, in a television lecture, presented the case that American-English cuisine had been tasteless and uninteresting until the entry of the Mediterranean immigrants who introduced olive oil, cheeses, seasonings, and other delicious ingredients We all eat very happily at ethnic  restaurants, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Thai, French and so many others. Immigration has many great advantages, but p’s favorite is the cuisine. No one is bigoted when it comes to great dining.

This indeed posits a new and useful immigration policy. All otherwise acceptable applications for entry to the U.S. should be granted, provided each applicant brings his ethnic menu or a grandmother who is willing to tell all.

p.