Blog # 52 ROWING AND WADING

The legalization of abortion by the U.S. Supreme Court sent a wave of relief over a great many Americans; no longer would women needing an abortion be relegated to illegal and dangerous “back-alley” solutions, but could now pursue accepted and professional assistance .By contrast, the opponents of abortion were devastated, and in response, launched a militant movement dedicated to the reversal of that determination and to an unlawful program of actual interdiction of abortions.

The anti-abortion movement conscripted the slick, self- justifying title, “Right to Life” and has engaged in desperate acts of opposition, including no less than premediated and deliberate murder of abortion providers and their staff, in their excessive zeal to protect the nascent embryo.

The stark difference in belief systems and consequent conflict between the supporters and opponents of abortion has resulted in a truly unfortunate break- down in our democracy’s civic amity (blog # 21).

No one could rationally believe that a pregnant mother’s desperate decision to abort her pregnancy is not without great emotional and psychological pain; it is no less than sociopathic to believe that such decision to abort one’s own fetus is a casual act of convenience or irresponsibility.

These mono-focused crusaders militate for the fetus as long it is, in fact a fetus; after birth they seem to morph into a mindset of complete disregard for the child including their opposition to efforts to grant sustenance or assistance to the needy child.  Welfare, food stamps, health benefits are almost uniformly opposed by these fetus zealots. This unquestionably cockeyed morality is not the tenet of any known religion or any rational human being.

Contraception

No one, in truth, likes abortion; neither its supporters nor its detractors .Contraception and sex education is inarguably the best route to the prevention of unwanted pregnancy (and consequently, the need for abortion). It boggles the mind to observe that “lifers” are vehemently opposed to the same.

The only conclusion that may reasonably be drawn is that “lifers” care less about abortion than they do about exercising control and in aligning themselves with others who oppose any and all liberal legislation.

Gun control

A further indication that abortion opponents (“lifers”) are not sincere advocates for the sanctity of life is shown by their general opposition to gun control. In face of, and despite, the numerous horrific acts of senseless mass slaughter of innocents at schools, movie theaters, parking lots and elsewhere, as reported by the media, they oppose gun control and seem to support a free and unregulated gun market.

A pocket knife, for example, can be used to cut string, whittle, slice fruit and to perform other acceptable uses; a gun’s sole utility is to kill.  Yet “lifers,” whose pretentions are the sanctity of life, seem only concerned with their stubborn misreading of the Second Amendment.

Capital punishment

Should you inquire of your local “lifer,” you will probably discover that he is a supporter and proponent of capital punishment, a position not easily reconcilable with the reverence for life.

Many authorities on the subject of Constitutional Law are of considered opinion that capital punishment violates the Constitution’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.” This practice, in addition to being atavistic and barbaric, is too often effected in an incompetent manner, resulting in unspeakably horrible results.

Moreover, with the development of modern DNA technology, many convicts on death row have been found to be completely innocent of the crime for which they were convicted and sentenced to die.

If more were needed, many ”lifers” are also counted among the category of “war hawks” in  believing in the primacy of military solutions over diplomacy in addressing international problems. Can honest believers in the sanctity of human life condone and favor the mass slaughter inherent in warfare?

The disregard for the plight of needy offspring after birth, opposition to contraception, support of the death penalty and their hawkishness, in truth and in reality, puts the lie to the avowed concern for human life on the part of the “lifer.” They should be condemned for, and prevented under their false banner from, interference with our compassionate democracy.

Blog # 51 RETRO BANANA

In an effort to gain a moment of perspective, we need to take a brief respite, and a much needed break, from the coursing tide of exponential change. In this brief moment we will attempt to furnish a random, but representative, snapshot of the impact of recent developments.

Constant upgrading (especially in technology) has been the uniform life experience and therefore the normal expectation of the younger generation. In general, however, the older generation with a somewhat different life experience is often caught slightly off balance, experiencing some nostalgia for the recent past when the speed of change was more moderate.

A peek into the current state of affairs may provide some objective understanding of the impact of recent change for all concerned. For purposes of illustration, we have randomly selected mundane topics: interactive conversation, letter writing, reading books, dressing for work and men’s shaving.

Interactive conversation

There would appear to be many substantial losses, in the current substitution of e-mail or texting, as compared with personal conversation, the comfort of voice recognition, tone, emphasis, and spontaneous response among others (blog #4).

Concomitant life style adjustments are often needed on the part of the older generation .For example, one might refrain from calling a friend at a certain time of day, knowing from experience that the friend is not usually home at such hour; cell phone users know that the friend can be reached at any time and anywhere, bus, theater, work even at portable restrooms. Predictably, and unhappily, electronic communication will supersede land phones, the latter to go the way of dinosaurs and dodos.

Letter correspondence

Currently, communication by letter seems to be an ancient artifact. Formerly the letter writer would thoughtfully employ selected language appropriate to his relationship with the recipient who would observe and recognize the individualized handwriting, style and personal nuance of the sender. The same familiar features would exemplify the response. Meaningful letters could be kept as mementoes and re-read as desired.

In the case of electronic messaging there is rarely an aspiration for aesthetic vocabulary and scant opportunity for authentic memorable interaction.

Reading books

Happily, there are at present a great number of book readers, among whom many experience the real pleasure of reading from printed books. Digital books, such as Kindle and Nook offer electronic replication of books that are shown on a back lighted surface and  there are a great number of readers whose experience with great literature is solely by way of a data-like transmission on the electric screen. The same is a markedly different experience  and it is submitted, less satisfying  than reading from a real book, in your favorite chair under a soft light; Virginia Woolf, Thomas Hardy, Edgar Allen Poe and Tolstoy do not have the same impact and resonance in electronic data mode. Pages change  by  button.

On information, there are studies which have determined that the technique of digital reading at times cause the eye and brain to skip words.

The chief argument in support of the use of digital books, seems to be that they are easy to carry. Since when did portability trump aesthetic pleasure? In any event, most books are published in softcover and are easily transportable.

For some there is even tactual pleasure in the holding and use of hard cover books, notably in the ritual of opening the newly purchased book at midway, in  hearing  the familiar “crack,” in separating, by fingernail  the two, or so pages that may be still joined at their edges and by the “new” smell; this  exotic ritual may pleasantly be described as “literary foreplay.”

Dressing for business

For eons, it was the expectation that the acceptable attire for the office was a suit, or jacket, and a tie. The decline of this expectation was productive of great happiness and celebration among the manufacturers of tan chino slacks and sportswear.

While, generally, stereotypes are usually to be condemned, yet  in this area and context they are useful as identification and  assurance concerning  traditionally  accepted and recognized roles of professionals  and business people (in their expected attire) in our society.

Shaving

A close shave, as well as neat attire, was always society’s expectation for men’s respectability. Of late, grubby, non-shaven actors and models are presented by the media as attractive and sexy. In the forgotten past, a shave (and hot towel) was procured from one’s barber. Now men self-shave with implements of ever increasing comfort.

But the concern at present is not with changes in shaving technique, but with the purported change in fashion to unshaven.  This latest style is not recommended, even to applicants for entry level positions.

Bananas

  1. cannot contain his boundless happiness and immense relief at the realization that the yellow item in his hand, emitting a redolence of banana ester, is still called a “banana.” God bless.

p.

 

Blog # 50 PRIVATE ACCOUNTING

The saying “Virtue is its own reward,” is often misunderstood by some people as signifying that there is no reward for righteous deeds; they are wrong. For our purpose, it is essential to define and identify our chosen operative meaning of “reward.” We maintain and insist that the rewards are inestimably great.

The chief ingredient in all self-evaluation is one’s own private perception of self. At some point in life (usually, later years) intelligent, thoughtful people feel self-consciously compelled to examine the important ingredients of their personal identity and perceived worth.

In the course of each of our ongoing, private conversations with ourselves, we seek insight into an accurate measure of our self-image which, in main part, consists in the recollection of our past accomplishments and behavior. In these accountings we audit our recollection and assign the category of asset to our acts of rectitude and charity, and liability to wrongful or selfish behavior. The salient fact is that this record is entirely internal. Kind acts performed for which no material or visible reward is expected or received are the jewels in the crown of self-esteem. Willing assistance to the needy, public support of worthy causes, consistent maintenance of right thinking belief systems and the like have the predictable reward of a satisfactory self- evaluation.

In the category of charitable behavior, most commendable of all is the act of the anonymous giver, who by the way, is unknown by everyone except (to our point) himself.

The expression “Charity begins at home,” does not mandate that it should end at home. One’s tolerance and understanding are essential ingredients in a peaceful and fulfilling home scene, but should extend, as well, to all society.

Our children should be raised in a context in which there is no system of rewards for good acts and punishments for bad; morality or mischief should not vary with parental observation. Where possible, our children should be guided and instructed in such a way that their innate sense of personal identity and ego would reject wrongdoing and practice kindness and right action, even when alone.

By way of illustration, if A were to steal B’s wristwatch, thereafter feel remorse and return the watch to B with an apology, and B readily accepts the apology  and forgives A , A still has the painful problem of the self – assessment of his own character, as to having committed  the theft in the first place.

We all possess an internal “bank account” in which the balance of our deeds is computed. Acts which are deemed commendable add to the balance; selfish or mean- spirited acts operate as withdrawals. This figurative bankbook balance is our source for the reckoning of our feelings of personal virtue and self- worth.

Blog # 49 RELATIVITY

Have you noticed? Our speech is rife with the word” family,” “Regards to the family,” “Have you heard from your family?,” He is part of the family”, “family vacations”, “family size…”, “all in the family” and so much more.

At the risk of earning the epithet of dilettante, not being a sociologist, there are some observations regarding the family, which do deserve mention. In contrast with the historically recognized “extended family” (with some exceptions, usually found in rural areas) the modern configuration of the “nuclear family” (parents and their child(ren), “post-modern families,” ‘single family households,’” same sex families,” “”blended families,   (families with children of prior marriages) appear statistically to be the rule. There are many variations, but it does seem safe to say that the extended, closely bonded, family has largely been superseded.

Of interest here, is the understanding and function of the word “relative” and the consequent understanding concerning the relative expectations inherent in that noun..

There is no doubt that the institution of the family is the building block of any society, children are reared and socialized in the family; their care and upbringing by the parent(s) is vital and sacrosanct.

A pertinent question for discussion is the nature of the perception of the family member, including collateral relatives (Uncle, Aunt, Cousins) of his identity as a member of the family and the concomitant responsibilities, if any, resulting from such recognition.

The common expression, “Blood is thicker than water” (another useless aphorism) is more easily addressed, chemically, than otherwise. But the intended message is that those with DNA in common have a fiduciary responsibility and a permanent, or at least, enduring, tie to each other. This chestnut is extinct and mindless.

People do not, for example, ipso facto become true “siblings” (except legally) simply by virtue of the fact that they happen to have been born into the same litter, or to the same mother. As they develop and mature to the point that they are viable, self -sufficient individuals, the determinative questions to be answered, in this respect, are: are they close? Do they keep in touch? Is there a special, recognizable style of conversation? Do their interactions reflect common recollections? Do they share friends to any degree? Do they see each other as siblings?

People and their opinions and worldview often change leading to differences in feeling and alterations of a relationship; the spouses of married siblings may introduce, even unintentionally, issues between the parties, all of which may lead to discord and separation.

Too often heard, is the statement, “I am closer with m y friends than with my family.”  As is often said, “You get to choose your friends but not your family.”  Acid remarks around the family dinner table at holidays are far too common. It is strange to note that a member of the family who may at a holiday dinner table, use carelessly selected words, by slip of the tongue or otherwise will usually find that, even after his timely and sincerely expressed apology, his statement is transmogrified, exaggerated and enshrined in the family long-term memory.

By stark contrast, a slip of the tongue among friends, after a brief (sincere) apology, is quickly relegated to the proverbial dustbin. Isn’t it bizarre that in the family situation, people who bear close family relationships and who should therefore especially love each other can shift their gears so effortlessly to hatred?

It would, indeed, be a most joyous event, if we could combine friendship and family!

 

p.

Blog # 48 STATIONARY SATELLITES

To encounter the word “satellite” is immediately to summon up the image of a smaller, weaker entity, irresistibly drawn into an unvarying route about a greater and more powerful one. The best known example, of course, is the Moon.

Current events advise us that there are a great many man-made satellites mandatorily and elliptically orbiting our planet in the performance of many vital services, in communication, exploration, GPS, weather forecasting, defense, disaster reporting and others.

The subject of this writing is in fact, completely unrelated to the subject of natural or man-made satellites, or to the additional use of the term to reference the domination of one country over another.  We speak, instead, of stationary satellites who do not exist by reason of natural causes or those which are engineered to perform useful functions for mankind. Our satellites perform absolutely no useful functions for mankind, nor for themselves… These are human satellites, irresistibly drawn into the attraction and pull of television.

Human satellites are especially fortunate in that their function is simple and effortless, viz., to witness the world and its affairs as portrayed through a small rectangular window placed by them in their den or living room.  By fortunate circumstance, contrary to orthodox satellites, their position is fixed and no orbiting around a greater entity is at all necessary.

They see only young shapely people who, by advertising criteria, are beautiful, and who possess ultimate physical and sexual prowess. Television, as well as other types of media invests viewers, people of normal appearance and demeanor, with the calculated message that they are missing the boat.

This program of misinformation and propaganda, of course, is focused solely on the physical features of the human body and scrupulously avoids all subjects, directly or indirectly, related to independent thought and intelligence.

The goal of such calculated strategy is enhanced marketing and sale of apparel, beauty products and other merchandise. Millions of people are carpet bombed with a continuous stream of advice on how to be “cool” or fashionable. It is strategically calculated to make the viewer’s predictably unsuccessful attempts to mimic such unrealistic portrayals, by the purchase of more and more recommended merchandise, a continuing source of frustration.

Collaterally unfortunate is the disfigurement of our language. The English language has evolved successfully from pre-Shakespearean days to Virginia Woolf. It is most expressive, useful, and when selectively used, aesthetic. The “now” or the “with it” lingo of the “beautiful people” is far less descriptive or communicative and can be accurately termed “dumbed down” (see blog #25). “Later” does not mean, “I will see you soon,” “I’m on it” does not mean “ I will do it,” “OMG” does not equate with “That’s remarkable” or “how surprising” even to a Deist, “dis” does not signify criticize or disparage.

Political debate on television has proven, of late, to be no more than “potty mouth” jabs at competitors for office, as opposed to civil and informed discussion of the prevailing issues (see blog#21).It must be said that the numbers of human satellites functioning (or, not functioning) in this universe in which such atrocities prevail, is so consequential that aspirations for a wiser and better functioning society is conceivably imperiled.

The most egregious example of the effect of “stationary satellite-ism is found in the passive acceptance of spurious, self-proclaimed “experts”. Their unholy combination of ignorance, paired with an unlimited and unfounded self- confidence is deadly.  Yet there are many stationary satellites who are drawn to them with the similar irresistible attraction as a moth to a lightbulb or, possibly, the Moon to the Earth.

 

p.

Blog # 47 PLEASE TELL US WHO WE ARE

William Shakespeare famously penned in, “As you Like It” “All the world’s a stage and the men and women the players”

Classic Greek literature informs that the aphorism, “Know Thyself” is inscribed in the Temple of Apollo, in the City of Delphi; the same has been the frequent abjuration of such great Greek pedagogues as Sophocles.

Despite anticipated  charges of presumption, as well as literary blasphemy, p. observes that these revered, time-worn maxims, like all aphorisms (see blog #11) raise more questions than furnish answers (despite, in this case, the eminence of their authors). Such purported verbal pillars of wisdom have less meaning and use than is commonly attributed to them.

An actor’s role in a play is assigned to him and is completely predictable. Perhaps therefore there may be a slight problem with the great Bard’s metaphor.  In the real world, by contrast, the individual role and identity of the player is a multifaceted and complex one which can only be somewhat ascertained by a reference to a consensus on the part of his contacts.

Were William Shakespeare alive today, his great plays would have to undergo significant alteration in style, size and certainly in content. Contemporary audiences are, in this age, aware of the universally accepted existence of differences in perception, as well as of multi-faceted persona. No longer are individuals frequently and simplistically identified by virtue of a big black beard, a deep voice or by physical stature such as “a lean and hungry look.”

It is important to bear in mind that the beholder is always affected in his observation and judgment by his past experiences and his own inclinations. There are an infinite number of beholders and, accordingly, an infinite number and variety of evaluations.

Let us assume, merely for the purpose of illustration, that a single specific trait of an individual were selected  by a consensus of observers, still,  complete agreement upon the subject of personality and character would l vary by virtue of  predictable differences in perception.

Other imponderables: are traits acquired in childhood? At earlier or later ages? Can they change by virtue of experience, education or significant experiences?

Thus, in the effort to identify and describe an individual and his role, one’s personal experiential past and individualized perception, may make accurate, objective determination extremely difficult or impossible; it makes “Know Thyself” extremely difficult; especially when we privately disagree with the perception of others.

Even further complications arise when one factors the common human trait in viz.,  the need to see other people as we need them to be (in the hierarchy of our fantasies). For example, the celebrated western heroes of popular fiction, such as Davey Crockett, Wyatt Earp, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and many others, are revealed by simple research to be undesirables; men running westward to escape the law, creditors, wives and other normal  responsibilities. They are to us, nevertheless, authentic, legendary heroes, simply because we   need them to be. Another example is the case of the mother of a dangerous fugitive, arrested for the commission of numerous cruel and horrendous crimes, who persists in her claims (and belief) that her son is “a good boy.”

How practical and useful is the adage “Know thyself” (excuse me, Socrates) when it seems that it is the consensus of opinion as to our worth and our role, that is determinative.

Different roles seem as well to be dictated by, and vary with, the nature of our interactions. For example, a   hardened, cruel criiminal may play the role of a loving creampuff in the presence of his wife and small child.

Lastly, there are many roles played conditionally, in exchange for the performance of a specific and promised role on the part of another person.

So, what part can we attempt to play on Shakespeare’s world stage?

p.?

Blog # 46 AN OBSERVATION ON ATTRACTIVE LANGUAGE

Unlike wooden puppets on a  stage, totally lacking volition and completely dependent upon skilled,  human  manipulation, people, while not suffering  comparable dependency, do have an all pervasive  “legal” impediment to their movement.

The Law of Gravity, eternal and timeless, unlike man made law, is not subject to revision, interpretation or, amendment. In keeping with such overarching and fixed authority, it would appear that the only intrinsically relevant direction or movement on the planet is “up” and “down”; travel on the planet’s surface to any point of navigation on the compass, regardless of the distance of the expedition, would pale by any comparison.

In fact, the attraction of gravity is so much an ever-present “given” in the geometry of our lives that we seem to act and think in such a way that one could conclude that we expend little or no energy thinking about the subject.

Strangely and interestingly, while we would appear to take no overt notice of the force of the planet’s attraction, a contrary conclusion may well be entertained by merely taking the time to examine our everyday vocabulary and speech.

“Up” and “Down” being the operative words, it may be pointed out that our “up” words (directionally resistant to the authority and direction of gravity) are in the positive or aspirational context, while words in our “down” category (submission, obedience) are noticeably less positive in tone and meaning.

Such words as, “upbeat,” “upgrade” ”feeling up,” “uplift.” “upturn,” “upward and onward,” “upward mobility,” “uppity,” “up with….,” “holding up” and so many other words of positive or progressive context.

“Down” words, are less positive, less aspirational: “down size,” “down in the mouth,” low spirits,” “feeling low,” lower class,” low turnout. “down- tick,” “heading down,” “downtrodden,” and so many others of unhappy or disappointed   aspect.

Gravity language then, utilized to express mood or perception, reveals that we are, subliminally, well aware that our existence completely and continuously depends upon the continuance of earth’s attractive properties. Perhaps we are a bit too fearful to consciously dwell on a life and death subject over which we have absolutely no control.

Go Gravity!