Blog # 37   EXTREME MODERATION   (“Generally Speaking” redux)

It should not be judged immoderate to again proclaim the statement that there is no generalized formula for successful life and living; no stated guide suitable for every individual and every nuanced occasion. As stressed in blogs, ##11 and 34, some of these seemingly sage prescriptions for living have limited use and then, only in their selective and judicial application.

One such seemingly salutary and even-handed admonition may be among the most misleading. While it appears wise and certainly harmless, this apparently vanilla statement is therefore, insidious and harmful. The statement is “Moderation in all things.” All things?

The greatest of all the ancient Greek tragedians, Sophocles, in all of his plays, uniformly stressed the instructive theme of “sophrosyne  (moderation ).The tragic heroes of his plays  were always  men, usually  kings, who suffer great and unspeakable loss occasioned by  hubris,  excess of passion. The ancient Greek audience was taught moderation through cathartic identification with the tragic hero.

Sophocles must have intended the goal of sophrosyne to apply, exclusively, to excess emotion and passion; even he, I trust,  would not prescribe moderation for all of life’s experiences.

Certainly, excesses in anything, even good things is harmful; a breakfast bowl of oatmeal is nourishing and good; five pounds of oatmeal per diem would have tragic results. Unfortunately, sometimes the judgment of “excessive” is subjective and personal; nevertheless, “moderation” as a (universal) rule is ipso facto erroneous.

There are, in fact, many aspects of life which would suffer under the banner of moderation; moderate love of spouse and family, moderate zeal in the pursuit of knowledge and science, moderate loyalty, moderate honesty and morality, moderate care and attention, moderate empathy.  These examples, among many others, would lead to inadequate, faulty or cruel results.

There are, of course, many instances where moderation is a good guide; in such instances as temper and reactive behavior, expectations, justice (moderated with mercy), ambition, driving speed and diet.

Formulas are for chemistry and physics, not for human behavior.

p.

Blog # 36 Lichens People

“My mind’s made up, don’t confuse confuse me (with facts) is a deadly statement; one that is a predictable recipe for stagnation and enduring ignorance. It is the inclination and utterance of those who, wittingly, or unwittingly, adhere to mythical and obsolete beliefs with the same unyielding and  persistent bond as lichens on stone or dead logs.

To be fair, there is always some discomfort adherent in the uprooting of long and traditionally held beliefs and assumptions; changes of every kind are predictably accompanied by some discomfort (see:blog#15) Lichens do not grow, perceptively, and thus many adhere comfortably unchanged in knowledge and in situ ; better undisturbed and comfortable than disturbed.

It remains a mystery to p. how the statement,”ignorance is bliss” was ever generated since the truly ignorant would seem to lack the awareness and objective detachment to make the necessary comparison and observation.

A sad, but demonstrable example of lichen attitude exists with regard to the important subject of climate change; a phenomenon so evident as to be virtually incontrovertible.

There are many lichens folk, notably, politicians and Congresspeople who, when asked for their position on climate change, predictably respond,” I am not a climate scientist.” Yet if it is conceded that only climate scientists are competent to comment on climate change, why do not the many climate change deniers heed the uniform finding of those scientists to the effect that climate change is real, imminent and dangerous to the planet? It is because lichen people cling to their familiar rock.

In like fashion, there are those who obstinately deny evolutionary theory.  Charles Darwin aside, reliable and verified  biological, chemical, geological and paleontology studies and verified findings  are unimpeachable in their demonstration of the evolutionary process from simple-cell organisms to man.

A rafting trip down the Colorado River from Hoover Dam (Grand Canyon), about half way down, reveals eye-catching evidence,  in the many exposed layers of strata, from the oldest and deepest to the more recent levels, of the progress from simple organisms and plant life to the later developed  species.

A typical lichen person said to p. one day, that “evolution is just a theory.” to which the response was “so is the theory of gravity, electricity and the speed of light.”

p.

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Blog #35         SANGUINE SPORTS

Oh, how we love our pets; our dogs and cats with the soft fur and warm bellies. We are a nation of pet and animal lovers. Dogs and cats regularly appear in movies, for our added entertainment, and in commercials to seduce sales. They are nurtured by us as quasi-children, are protected, and given a household niche. By reason of our anthropomorphic inclinations, we project human traits and responses to them (See blog#31) and by identification, by nurturing them, receive (ourselves) the nurturance we have always sought.

It is a wide-spread belief that one’s character and worth may be gauged by the quality and manner in which that person treats his pets and other animals.

Cruelty to animals is universally condemned and detested by society and is not infrequently, prosecuted criminally.  Agencies such as the A.S.P.C.A. and many organizations exist for the purpose of preventing cruelty to animals. It is, indeed, society’s positive expectation that properly socialized citizens treat these children of Nature with kindness.

Yet, one recalls with horror, the media account of the wealthy dentist, who among many others, considers the killing of innocent wild animals admirable and who proudly exhibits severed parts of their victims (usually the head) as revered trophies.

The person reported in the media, proudly recounted his procedure in killing the lion viz., by shooting him with a high-powered bow and arrow in the morning, then tracking him and killing him at day’s end. He did not see it as relevant to give a moment’s thought to the day-long agony, bleeding and suffering of the innocent beast. Unlike him, the lion did not have a good day.

As it happens, this particular animal was well known and given a name by the local community. The brave hunter was roundly condemned and universally termed a psychopath. P. wonders the event achieved notoriety because the elderly lion was a well- known and beloved resident of the local area; how many numerous other innocent animals, who are not celebrities, are treated to such an end, by “sportsmen.”

We are fortunate to be born, live and share the planet contemporaneously with all of its creature inhabitants. Stated differently, we and our fellow animals, as co-tenants of the Earth, are born, mate, have offspring and, at the end of life (unless sooner terminated by sportsmen) die.

It is an unfortunate reality that  there are many unavoidable animal tragedies caused by the proximity of “civilization” to animal habitats, most commonly by way of auto accidents. P. is still unable to rid his mind’s eye of the sight of a young doe, two years ago, sitting awkwardly by the side of the highway, dazed, flicking her ears, having apparently just been hit by an automobile, wide-eyed and bleeding from her mouth. There are many accounts of bears looking for food too close to human habitation that are killed. These are, however, accidental occurrences, and, in most cases, unpreventable.

However, a special and unique category of villain is to be allocated to humans who derive pride and pleasure from the killing of innocent animals; one is obliged to inquire as to the character and moral compass of those who, indeed, exult in the killing and maiming of Nature’s offspring for pleasure.

Our forest denizens have soft fur and warm bellies just like our pets and are not targets in a woodland shooting gallery. They, and all animals, do not exist for the satisfaction of human beings with blood-thirsty and atavistic inclinations.

p.

 

Blog # 34 GENERALLY SPEAKING

Included within the detritus of useless and misleading aphoristic statements is one which richly deserves special notice; in addition to being patently false, literally and effectively, it negates itself. The time worn statement is “All generalizations are false.” Have you heard or read it? How many times?

The statement is demonstrably wrong. In fact there is an almost infinite number of generalizations which are true and useful. The statement’s reductive and misleading nature would certainly suffice to relegate it to the proverbial dust bin. But the evident and profound arrogance evidenced by this statement, resides in the fact that the declarer has not tested it in every (“all”) application.  Even more fatal, it would appear that the statement is self-contradictory since It, itself, is undeniably, a generalization and (by the operation of its own universal rule) necessarily false.

A suggested working definition of “generalization” is: the wide-spread, universal application of the result of limited experience, or the universal application of a particular principle; it is induction on steroids.

Yet when properly used, generalization is an essential tool in man’s development and existence.

Mankind’s development and progress has always been built upon prior achievements and cumulative knowledge. For example, the empirical lesson that metallic spear- heads are more effective in hunting for food than stone spear- heads was discovered and passed on. Whoever was resistant to learn from better developing experience could not thereafter compete and survive. These practical lessons, by their nature, were inherited and applied by means of the use of generalization. There would be no civilization as we know it, if each new generation had to start from scratch with a blank mind (“tabula rasa”).

From their earliest beginnings, scientific and medical research and knowledge have proceeded on the shoulders of past discovery and achievement. The general assumption of man’s social contract with society and his desire to live in peace with others was and is the basis for code and laws. The need for a   societal consensus and understanding of physical and mental health, behaviors, safety and recipes for survival, are all principles learned from empirical experience and passed on as general rules. In business, climate study, engineering, cooking, and virtually every category of experience, acquired experience and development proceeds from previously learned general principles.

Yet, while the utility of generalization is vast and ubiquitous, ethical precepts, morality, accuracy and decency, require that the concept be strongly discouraged in application to humanity. In regard to the valuation of religion, ethnos, nationality, culture and the like, generalizations are too often subjective, wrong and harmful. An examination of the history of Victorian England, as just one of a myriad of historical examples, recalls the credo of “White Man’s Burden” i.e., to allegedly improve the life of lesser industrialized (“civilized) peoples by the export of EuropeanCulture (read Rudyard Kipling for a literary example).This, of course, was arrogant, stupid ethnocentricity; we all know how that worked out. Such horrors, Tutsi v. Tutu, Shia v, Sunni, Indians v. Pakistanis, Gentile v. Jew are just a few examples of the evil misuse of generalization with regard to groups of people. However when appropriately used, generalization is a significantly valuable tool. {Or, do I generalize?}

p.