Blog # 142 “THAT” GLASS OF WATER

It is profoundly distressing that certain verbal expressions, universally discredited as “psychobabble,” have nevertheless enjoyed remarkable longevity. One possible explanation may be found in the public’s perennial taste for certain afternoon television panel discussions;  such panels feature popular T.V. personalities attired in fetching  garb, exchanging populist “gems of wisdom” on such compelling subjects as “true love” and the classic vicissitudes of life, all articulated in the snarky-cool patois of celebrated soap opera intelligentsia.

Maintaining its prominent place among the many other travesties in the vast inventory of ludicrous aphorisms and discredited pseudo-intellectual “wisdom,” is the very subject of this writing, an exemplary item of intensely offensive, albeit classic, psychobabble.

On the field of battle, artillerymen are routinely ordered to “Fire one for effect.” Thereafter, the battery officer will receive a telephone message from the forward observer, who will direct any necessary adjustments relative to the desired  target. However, in the universe of social interaction, by profound contrast, a ventured statement, used for an analogous purpose to “firing for effect,” is an offensive and foolish experiment.

This outlandish and presumptuous investigation is conducted in the form of the trite question, “Is the glass of water half full, or half empty?” The response, purportedly, would enable a summary determination as to whether the respondent was optimistic or pessimistic, i.e., possesses a positive or negative persona. In the words of many of my contemporaries, “give me a break!” This idiotic, reductionist farce is of no conceivable value whatsoever and might, conceivably and ironically in fact, discourage the inception of a nascent, successful relationship.

The notion that character or personality is stereotypically discernable from an elective response to a pre-set, cliché, is a truly classic example of profound, reductive ignorance. (See: earlier writing, “Tags…”). In fact, the choice to employ such a tactic, while useless and misleading as an inquiry concerning the character of it’s subject, may operate, instead, as revelatory of insecurity and lack of sophistication on the part of the examiner.

The only rational and effective way to ascertain another person’s attributes is by means of sufficient mutual interactive experience.

Still, at the risk of seeming to afford some measure of unwarranted credit to this simplistic metaphor, it is nevertheless  true that with the natural passage of time, symbolized by the declining level of water in the apocryphal glass, the same will be partly empty (or partly full). Those folks who have wisely spent the empty portion developing their personal resources and engaging in life affirming and enhancing pursuits, may find the” balance of water” even more pleasurable and rewarding  and may  discover that  the “first half” was  a necessary and wisely prescribed  pre-requisite  for the fulfilling second.

-p.

Blog # 141 CHARLES DARWIN’S EGG

Those who have acceptably incorporated Darwinian evolution into the permanent infrastructure of their belief system might be somewhat surprised at the number of folks (previously referred to by us, as “flat- earth people”) who would prefer adherence to the Disney-like fantasia of “creationism.” It may be observed that such people would, without question, be among those referred to by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s observation, “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” (See previous writing).

As universally known, evolution has been empirically, scientifically and forensically authenticated; blood sample comparisons (serological proof), archeological (fossils), geological evidence (strata), and biological (DNA, etc.) proofs  and  confirmation of the theory are clear, logical, consistent and unassailable. Recently, a” believer,” reprovingly, stated to us: “Well, it is only a theory.” To which we immediately responded, “So are gravity and electricity, theories.”

Inarguably, evolution’s greatest and most useful “gift” to mankind was his evolved brain and its capacity for reason. If we may be permitted an anatomical analogy to the human heart and to muscles in general, we would venture that it, too, if not adequately exercised, it could neurologically atrophy.  The thematic intention of this writing is to communicate our desperately felt fear, that the currently observed reluctance to enhance and use man’s magnificent gift may in the near future, result in its permanent atrophy and loss of utility. This makes him useless as an individual or contributing citizen, and renders him vulnerable to demagogues, “snake oil salesmen” and potential dictators.

We have consistently observed that there is a proximate relation  between reading  good literature, and the acquisition of understanding, perspective, and eventually, wisdom; that reading the great authors, awakens one to the recurrent vagaries of the human condition and to man’s  eternal problems  though the millennia of his recorded existence.  It does so in a manner catalytically enlarging the reader’s insight to himself and to his society, and does so enjoyably and aesthetically.

Sadly, fewer people are reading much these days; and those that do read seem to prefer “shorter,” simpler novels with formulaic love stories and barely literate books about violence, crime or “super heroes.” Some read “books” which are fully illustrated by cartoons, with a bare minimum of written words; many do not read at all. This retrogressive tendency and these “books” do nothing at all to increasing self- awareness or understanding; their exclusive reading is most predictive of an unsatisfactory, insular and disappointing life. From the standpoint of society, such readers do not make good and useful citizens or useful participants in a representative democracy.

The development of potential for improved empirical reason is invaluable, but it can be wasted if not employed. We honor and respect those members of society, who through reading and other self-enhancement have successfully developed into citizens capable of exercising mature and capable reason; yet we most especially honor and respect those people, who actually “use” such developed reason. Please consider, for illustration, the following, true, episode:

When only an inexperienced, high school sophomore, we were confronted by an older, upper grade school-mate, who very confidently issued to us the following  challenge :“I will bet you two “chunky bars” (in those modest days, those candies [containing chocolate, nuts and raisins] were our equivalent of Victorian- age gold ingots) that you can’t answer a question that I am now thinking about.” Being young and knowing that the upper classmate was not “the sharpest knife in the drawer” we took the challenge. “O.K.” he said gleefully, presumably, in a supremely confident anticipation of our predictable inability to answer his question, and of his anticipated winnings, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” To his great surprise, we immediately answered, “The egg.” Puzzled that we offered any answer at all, he demanded, “Oh yeah, then, where did the egg come from?” We immediately responded as follows: “From the animal or bird which was the immediate predecessor of the chicken in evolution; the egg, when it hatched was the first chicken.”{ I can still taste those delicious chunky bars, to this day.}*

This is an apt (and true) illustration of the importance of not only developing reason, the natural function and purpose of the brain, but of reason’s actual use. It still surprises us that the “proverbial chicken egg question” is still used by many educated people to describe a supposedly unanswerable problem of cause and effect, despite the fact that we all believe in evolution and that there is such an overwhelming consensus  that all chickens, uniformly, come from eggs.

-p,

  • Also recounted in an earlier pliny writing.

Blog # 140 EMERSON AND HOBGOBLINS

One would flatter himself with the illusion that he has an unassailably durable sense of equanimity, and that the same is availably sufficient in the face of universal stimuli. However, we have experienced so many failures of restraint as to be effectively disabused of this comfortable and self-serving fantasy.

By way of illustration only, we cite the following common experience.  We find it almost impossible to maintain our studied resolve to remain calm, when (on an especially cold or hot day) we are met with so many iterations of the banal attempt at social interaction, namely, “Cold (or “hot”) enough for you?” Are these thoughtless inanities inquiries as to taste, sensitivity, preference, nuanced tolerance or judicial determination? Who knows? “Enough”and “for you,” are indeed, more than “enough for us.”

We find much more unsettling than the above illustration, the frequently repeated Emerson misquote, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” This utterance is usually made pedantically and in a confidant, pseudo-philosophical tone. A suggested reply to this “educative” intimation is “Ugh.” Emerson is certainly due a great many sincere apologies, since he in fact, said no such thing.

Emerson did believe that those who consistently adhere to disproven theories were fools (“small minds”). The great philosopher and author felt that the element of “consistency” is essential in man’s life; to societal interaction, scientific inquiry (cause and effect), to a just and consistent application of the law to all, as well as to societal and family expectations, relating to roles and responsible behavior.

He correctly is quoted as stating, “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds…” The operative and crucial word in Emerson’s famous observation, is the first one, “foolish.” It is disconcerting to hear so many pseudo-savants, confidently intone the misquoted version and thereby falsely portray this revered thinker as opposing the many virtues of consistency.

Emerson, in the celebrated statement, was observing that the adamant refusal to change one’s views, despite the appearance of new evidence, or facts to the contrary, was foolish consistency. He also maintained that the consistent exposition of matters which were not adequately researched, or were not shown to be inaccurate, were similarly, foolish. Most particularly, he was opposed to the refusal to change one’s previous assumptions despite the appearance of a material change in facts or circumstance. A current, and apt, illustration is the refusal of many members of Congress to change their traditional political opinion on the subject of man’s participation in climate change, despite the unified finding to such effect by virtually all leading scientists. This appears to be “political hobgoblinry” of the very worst kind.

Emerson was not alone among the famous thinkers urging the acceptance of new and better ideas and opposing the obstinate adherence to previously prevailing but later disproven assumptions. William Huxley said” the only truly consistent people are the dead”. Oscar Wilde said that “consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

 

{This note on Emerson, and his observation on irrational consistency (as opposed to an enlightened progress of understanding and adjustment to new developments) has intentionally omitted any but this mere reference to that blatant inconsistency which appears to be an unfortunate feature of our current  federal administration and  which it seems is  based upon tactical  chicanery and evident  disrespect for the informed citizen.}

And so, our most sincere and contrite apologies to the venerable Ralph Waldo Emerson, for all the past misleading misquotes, and for those many others, predictably, yet to be made.

-p.

Blog # 139 “CHILLIN” WITH MR. ARISTOTLE

Lost in deep reverie, perilously close to the reach of Morpheus, we find ourselves, spiritually and meditatively, in the company of the great philosopher, Aristotle. While thus visiting, I remembered that it was that great sage that famously and wisely observed, “We are busy [so] that we can have leisure.”

We have, of course, eternally extolled the great wisdom of the sages. However, by stark contrast, we have consistently expressed contempt for the inane, pedestrian aphorism (see previous writing, “The Arrogance of Aphorisms”) they are uniformly and consistently, devoid of reason or any empirical utility, whatsoever, and are the exclusive and willing inheritance of only lazy, seldom used minds.

One such particularly despicable, and unfortunately traditional, admonition is “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” This gross perversion of the human intellect is downright insulting and immensely irritating, especially in its implicit view of the innate evil inclination of mankind.  In view of our intention that “Leisure” be the theme of this writing, it appears that a further look at this atavistic travesty may be useful, possibly even, somewhat illuminating.

To “part the curtain” in said critique, one is enabled  to evaluate the mind-set and the degree of rationality, of the folks who find  guidance in this behavioral rule, by its reference to the medieval existence of a “devil,” a malevolent entity that superstition says, urges man to sin. Contemporary humans, of every stripe, understand that man’s potential to do good, or otherwise, stems from his socialization and resultant self-image, and not some superstitious third-party agency.

It takes only the most elementary analysis to conclude that the “idle hands” concept, (even, possibly, as a metaphor) deprecates the capabilities and the essential nature of mankind in a most insulting and defamatory way. Inarguably, the greatest evolutionary gift to mankind is his developed capacity for reason, the essential basis for his successful presence on this planet. Indeed, most primates do have “hands” and also employ tools for food gathering, but lack the extent of reason and advanced self-awareness of man (remember Adam?). In addition to manual labor, let us also contemplate Descartes and Socrates as well as Silicon Valley.

It is especially vexing to understand this express admonition which, inarguably, states that to the extent man is busy, he will have no opportunity to practice his predisposition to do evil.  This is, indeed a jaw-dropping , pessimistic and negative appraisal of the nature of man.

The metamorphosis of our society, from essentially agrarian to a largely industrial one, resulted in new emphasis on the importance of work and production; this necessitated a proportionate decline in the personal life of the individual. The societal promulgation of the significance of work and production so penetrated man’s collective psyche that he began to associate his identity and self-image with what he does for a living. While it is true that the concept of “work” is philosophically and etymologically distinct from the conception of “morality” it became, too emblematic of value in our society which placed an inordinate emphasis on profitable production; the same has developed into a secular  mantra under the name “work ethic” ; those who are seen as lacking that ethic are often the recipients of overt societal disapproval. This new measure of human acceptability and worth has made scheduled retirement a difficult passage for many who were caused to associate their identity with their work. Retirees who have developed personal resources and interests, unrelated to their employment have an easier transition; in fact, many see this period as a grant of freedom to be themselves at long last, and to pursue the interests cultivated on weekends and other breaks from work. For others, the adjustment may take longer. It is hoped that most retirees will avail themselves of their new opportunity to uncover the person they always were and the interests they would have pursued, if not for work. While society benefited from his previous employment productivity, it, and especially he, will doubtless also benefit from his freedom for self-enhancement and personal self-realization.

Leisure time is not best described, merely by the freedom from work obligations, or release from the duty to produce commercial goods and services. Indeed, leisure time affords the rare and valuable opportunity to be personally productive, intellectually and otherwise, and to freely explore subjects deferred by necessity to work.  There is great joy in the realization of discovered self-determination, of being free to be yourself on an unlimited basis, as opposed to limited work breaks and weekends.

To those who, are so effectively brainwashed by industrial dogma that they continue to adhere to the opinion that the practice of leisure is a waste of valuable time , Aristotle would again observe (as he did when, in his day he received  similar opinions ) that it was their leisure that enabled the Egyptians to invent the study of mathematics. You go Aristotle!

-p.

Blog # 138 (poesie) A LITTLE EARTH MUSIC

 

We’ve been told: the ancient bard,
Could hear the “music of the spheres.”
We have since seen harmony on high,
But astral strains never were heard.
We do hear the music of “our” sphere,
Whose virtuosos perform in nature’s realm.
One has but to attend to hear.

The splash of raindrops on trembling leaves,
The whistled wind-song thru tall dark reeds,
The high pitch scratch of cricket limbs,
The basso profundo of bull frog croaks,
The redundant “coo” of mourning doves,
The baby sounding off for the mom,
The wolf intoning his baritone aria,
The countless chirps of little birds,
The gleeful chatter of sportive chipmunks,
The staccato sound of barking dogs,
The brassy honks of overflying geese,
The lakes soft slosh on muddy banks.

One can, in truth, faintly hear,
If he listens, most meditatively,
The upward thrust of perennial plants,
The final melt of tardy snow,
Spring, is that really you?
Have you just returned?
Welcome, do come in, Spring, my love.
Bienvenue!

-p.

Blog # 137 REDEMPTION IN GREEN

It is understandable but unfortunate, that the current level of societal angst and figurative handwringing is virtually palpable. There appears to be a disturbing, wistful mind-set that the former, settled and predictable American way of life is now a feature of some bygone era. The previously declining state of civic amity has all but disappeared; any attempt, however polite, to debate a contrary political opinion with another is predictive of a response featuring rancor and expressed hatred.

This exotic atmosphere is proximately related to a sea change in the character and intention of Washington, by virtue of the past presidential election which saw the elevation of an egocentric poser, lacking the requisite aptitude to be entrusted with an entry level job at a multi-national corporation, to the role of its CEO. The multi-national corporate conglomerate in this case, is the United States of America, the most powerful and determinative nation on the planet, and as well, the acknowledged leader of the free world. This shallow, intemperate game show host and real estate conniver, now frighteningly, has the destiny of our nation legally under his control, and his small hands potentially on the awesome nuclear trigger. There is absolutely no basis for confidence in this snake-oil salesman who ignorantly derides scholarship and intelligence in favor of biased reductionism. Our previously repeated observation, that the combination of ignorance with (unjustified) confidence is lethal, now has sufficient in vitro laboratory proof.

It required only a short period of time after he took office to frighten and confuse every rational person on the globe, both national and international.  Our elected office holders and legislative representatives, as well as the leaders of foreign countries have been eternally confounded with his rash and poorly conceived statements, publicly imparted by means of the unseemly use of “twitter” technology.

He has attacked the media and the Courts, the only two institutions, in fact, protecting the American citizen.  He has brazenly violated every presidential sacrament, the conflict of interest prohibition, the uniform obligation of presidents to furnish tax returns; he has shamelessly installed members of his immediate family as functionaries in the White House and has participated in treasonous liaison with the Russian government.

His perverse appointments to leadership of the various departments of government have been those who have committed treasonous acts with Russia, others that have no experience or knowledge of their department and some who have even expressed opposition to their respective department. His state of awareness as to his total incapacity to perform and direct the responsibilities of presidential office has occasioned a co-dependency relationship with a chief advisor, Steven Bannon. Mr. Bannon is known as a proudly self-identified white supremacist who suffers from the paranoid delusion that there will be a future Armageddon- scale war between white Christianity and Islam and, since Russia is white and Christian, it will be our ally; these clinically diagnosable delusions may serve to explain the recent, unprecedented White House tilt toward our perennial opponent, Russia.

If more were needed to fuel our anxiety, the new President has dismissed the ominous concerns and findings of our leading scientists as to the planetary danger of carbon activated climate warming in favor of courting the large financiers of his candidacy, the despoilers of our planet, the coal and oil industrial magnates. The express intention of the present administration is to grant favorable tax treatment to such billionaires and others of the extremely rich category, to the detriment of the lower and middle class voters who supported him specifically based upon his diametrically opposite assurances.

As a nation of immigrants, our traditional open door policy, symbolized by The Statue of Liberty, Emma Lazarus and Ellis Island, has now given way to unfriendly suspicion, restriction and selectivity of newcomers.

BUT! Contemporaneously with, and totally independent of the above dire events, something wonderful is making its joyful return. In many areas, the soil has started to soften, perennial roots are twitching excitedly, various green shoots are awaiting their solar cue for emergence; small furry animals are cautiously peeping out from cover and wrinkling their tiny noses to gauge the coming change to the warmer season; tender bulbs and crocuses have started their slow and steady upward mobility and the forsythia look impatient for the start of their annual yellow outbreak.

Sap is moving in the systemic systems of the trees and we will soon see the appearance of the pale green primavera, followed by mature green leaves. Migrated birds will come home, and shortly we will see and hear honking geese and the sounds of their noisy competition for desired nesting spots on ponds, we will all marvel at the enormous balletic flow of the starlings as they surf their way home like ocean tides, and we can soon anticipate the mellifluous solo performances by hundreds of songbirds.

If you look closely, you may be able to see the appearance of tiny buds, with every requisite ambition to grow; it is buds, buds, buds, everywhere. This natural development does not hang on any votes or decision by an Electoral College. Soon pussy willows, tender bulbs, daffodils, hyacinths and lilac will make their appearance; later, hydrangea and spirea will bloom, foxglove, ageratum (“black eye Susan”) and all the other loving expressions of our planet will tempt the eye and nose with remembered joy.

The daylight is increasing in honor of the arrival of the Princess of Spring and the only tweets that will matter to us at all, are those of the sparrows and chickadees; a generous and empathetic  Nature is performing  for us the desperately needed and intrinsically holy, Redemption of spring.

-p.

Blog #136 NON-PRESIDENT’S DAY

It is an institutional feature, appearing on every American Calendar: the 3rd Monday of February is “President’s Day.” Originally, Washington’s Birthday, it was later coupled with Lincoln’s Birthday and eventually morphed into today’s “Presidents Day.” The holiday now is a commemoration for “all” American Presidents who have guided our nation over the hundreds of years of its existence.

It would accordingly seem necessary to establish a distinctly separate day, perhaps the Tuesday following the institutional holiday, to recognize the unique legacy of the current President, so that his memorable persona and term of occupancy of the White House will not besmirch the history of his predecessors; as the proverbial “bad apple” that “spoils the barrel.” In light of the overt reaction of so many citizens who denied his status as the leader of our country and of the free world, we might properly name it “Non-President’s day.” As far as the current holder of the office is concerned, he will predictably be delighted; his reductive and egoistic personality perceiving, simply and only, that he, no doubt for some good reason, is honored exclusively, in historic contrast to all the past Presidents.

With regard to the Presidents included as a class, in the traditional “Presidents’ Day,” many observant citizens honor the memory of one President or another by symbolic observance such as, baking   cherry pie for the Washington story about cutting down the proverbial cherry tree, wearing stovepipe hats and chopping firewood to commemorate the mythical Lincoln or the wearing of Bermuda shorts and shouting “bully” to remember Theodore Roosevelt.

Since we have, only now, created the novel American holiday, “Non-President’s Day,” we thought it fair and appropriate to furnish some assistance in its elective, symbolic commemoration:

  • Without regard to the temperature, wear an (open) heavy blue coat,
  • As soon as possible, purchase and wear a red tie; if the storekeeper advises you that he does not have any red ties in stock, charge out of the store, immediately, shouting the word, “loser!”
  • Dye your hair orange and as well, dye your pet’s hair orange for the day; if orange is not readily available, use dirty blond color,
  • Wear a printed sandwich sign advertising Ivana merchandise for sale, at least for three hours,
  • Tape a smart phone to both of your ears, pre-set to ring at 3:A.M.,
  • Avoid being seen in close proximity to a library, school or other institution of learning,
  • Have a public rally organized at which attendees, either continuously shout, “Trump” Trump” or alternatively, “Jail Hillary!”
  • Speak in superlatives about many wonderful things and then, shortly thereafter denigrate them,
  • Attend as many gambling casinos as possible, in Nevada, Atlantic City or Connecticut, being sure to shout the word, “losers” at everyone with the exception of shapely blonds.

It is hoped that the above suggested observances will be of assistance to the many voters who put the new President in office, and who will have his name  and their  future pangs of conscience  enshrined for all time.

–p.