Blog # 184        DARKNESS AT NOON

This time the dynamics of nature was not subject to denial. The immense drama and eerie light show of yesterday’s lunar eclipse were universally witnessed and emotionally experienced.

It occurred irrespective of our earthly, mundane concerns, exorbitant college tuition, the latest saber rattling from North Korea, the inane tweet du jour from a caricature President, thoughts about lunch options; it actually happened.

To be sure, we were afforded adequate notice of the imminent event, and offered sufficient information regarding its meaning and dynamics; we were admonished not to look directly at it, and advised to purchase special eyeglasses for its safe viewing; but what a spectacle!

Even persistently resolute climate change and evolution deniers were obliged to take notice that our planet is part of an empirically demonstrated solar system, and not a creative object in their fictional and reductionist belief systems.

Scientists were fortunate enough to derive some additional information in the area of solar studies, particularly concerning the sun’s corona, which reportedly detaches huge fireballs of matter into space. It is inarguable that the pursuit of scientific inquiry and knowledge is of crucial importance to the development of mankind and ultimately, to its safety and survival.

Nevertheless, we would maintain that the greatest and most profound impact was occasioned to the human psyche, in the candid realization that we are merely hapless witnesses to nature’s irreversible and awesome dynamic and possess only the limited ability and the responsibility, in our own interest, to protect our immediate environment.

People of all nations, ethnos, cultures and belief systems, alike, were witnesses to the  truly awesome, possibly frightening, event unfolding before them, over which we have absolutely no control and limited understanding. The experience was real and dramatic, and was in its objectivity, unrelated and totally indifferent to the existence of mankind, and therefore profoundly humbling. It served to remind homo- sapiens that he is but a temporal and hapless resident of a planet which is evidently a minor part of an infinite and dynamic universe.

Many unenlightened people will quickly resume their customary petty concerns and egotistical aspirations; others will be wisely grateful in the recognition that we have been given the valuable franchise to, at least, be walk-on players in the universe’s colossal amphitheater.

-p

Blog # 183       UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

It may be of some interest, considering the previous publication of 182 posts, to touch on the existence of plinyblog,  its raison d’etre and choice of pen name.

Classical scholars would know that there were two Plinys who were prominent citizens of ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder and his nephew, Pliny the Younger. Scholars are everlastingly grateful for the treasure trove of erudite letters written by the nephew, which reportedly provides a rich source of information on the life and times of ancient Rome. With no desire to be presumptuous, we have chosen the latter as our namesake.

Our choice to use a nom de plume was motivated by the following considerations. We have felt it necessary to speak, at times, in the language of aspiration and high principle; the use of third person tense and fictionalized name is an attempt to establish a context of objectivity and for the avoidance of the possible criticism of personal editorializing, or worse, the arrogant voicing of selected aphorism.

We have observed that the institution of society is an essential prerequisite to the development of the individual and his personal sense of identity, that living in a  society provides the benefits of shared and assigned responsibilities, the opportunity for interactive communication and the learning from shared experience, and as to our consistent theme, the opportunity for leisure and personal growth.

Many in fact, in their aspiration to a full life, pursue self-enhancement by such activities as reading good literature, keeping informed as to the arts and sciences and, appropriately, respecting scholarship and learning. However, far too many in society, unfortunately, seem to manifest a preference for populist, uneducated and reductionist sentiment, relegating scholarship and the pursuit of enlightenment to a lower platform than superficial, easily accessible entertainment. Such preference for ephemeral diversion and the overt disparagement of efforts toward the development of man’s comprehension of himself and his environment amount to a veritable tragedy and fundamentally, from the standpoint of human evolution, are despicable acts of ingratitude for nature’s gift of a highly developed brain.

It is the troubling recognition of such tragic waste of human potential that was and is the essence of our purpose and earnest preoccupation in the establishment of plinyblog.

The awareness of ourselves and those around us, the development of a morality based upon self-esteem and not reward and punishment, the search for insight and wisdom, the acceptance of others, the satisfactory realization that significant perceptions are personal and internal, the capacity for empathy and love, are all qualities that this writer seeks to remind others, as well as himself.

-p.

Blog # 182      A PRIMER ON AMERICAN HATRED

Finding a suitable word, despite the vastness of the American –English lexicon, adequate to the depiction of our perennial hate groups, is a challenge equal to the vain search for a suitable synonym for the noun “nausea.” Such hate groups are the ultimate ugly blemish on our body politic and a slur on American society. Such stark symptoms may be more usefully discussed in the medical jargon of syndromic diseases; the etiology of the same, having their infectious presentation in such unhealthy organisms as the KKK, White Supremacy, The Nationalist White Party, The American Nazi Party (a genuine oxymoron), the pseudo-patriotic right wing militias and others of such deplorable ilk.

These singular cohorts of non -regenerate bigots, are variously composed of maladjusted and damaged personalities (possibly deprived of parental nurturance and doubtlessly lacking normal socialization) who have an intense, unfulfilled need for personal identity, and above all, for acceptance. Membership and participation in such groups, apparently provides the tenuous adhesive of acceptance and recognized persona, as a co- participant in a common anti-social cause. The specific choice of target, such as Jew, black or member of gay community it would seem, is of less importance than the all-important neurotic need for personal identity and group acceptance by way of a shared cause.

The recent events at Charlottesville Virginia, were shameful, but by no means a new pathology. Research shows that antisemitism dates back to the reign of Emperor Constantine during the 4th Century, while the minimization of black people antedates the Civil War; a time when black people were shamefully accorded the status of agricultural equipment, such that a slave owner had the legal right to their recovery (Dred Scott  case, SCOTUS, Justice Taney). These groups also have their perverse, iconic and revered idols, such as George Lincoln Rockwell and David Duke. Their historic mantra is to purify the American race and prevent it from “mongrelization.”Sound familiar? It is right from Adolph Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” This ignorant and demented goal is the delusional aim and the veritable religion of these Hitler worshippers, whose evil intentions unquestionably qualifies them for places of notable prominence in the literary hell of Dante’s “Inferno.”

Most of us, understandably, engaged in the context of the challenges and responsibilities of our mainstream lives, invest little or no thought on this subject. Yet this underbelly of society which consistently manifests the dogmatic mantra of hatred is eternally dangerous and aggressive. The Skokie march, in full Nazi military regalia had as its sole, sadistic and pathological purpose, the causation of great anguish and trauma at that nuanced city, known for its many Jewish death camp survivors. We cannot risk any degree of complacency. These dedicated hate groups have intentionally caused fear and have committed homicide at houses of worship, theaters, schools, playgrounds, federal buildings and even, military installations. Right thinking people would identify such horrific deeds as acts of domestic terrorism.

It is ironic to note that even such overt acts of these distasteful psychopaths, can be seen as actually serving some useful purpose, by way of their educative, although tragic, occurrence. Our complacency is, by necessity, replaced by a reminder of the existence of such sub-surface danger. Similar to our awareness of the underground phenomena that cause volcanoes and earthquakes, we can, by our dedication and creativity, minimize the impact of these pernicious enterprises and their potential damage. We can ill afford to ignore this species of human pathology lest it perpetuates its existence and metastasizes. Programs of public education, teaching respect for other peoples are always salutary, but we would suggest that programs of re- education preferably begin on a small, inter- personal level; one might start by affirmatively, expressly and emphatically, voicing disapproval of ethnic jokes and related inane, stereotype- based humor.

-p.

Blog # 182      DIGITAL ARMAGGEDON (Sci.-Fi.)

It appears to be almost four months now, since the horrific event which resulted in the complete annihilation of electronic digital transmission.  Leading scientists concur in the firm belief that the proximate causation of the event was an unprecedented and unforeseen cataclysmic electro-chemical reaction between huge and uncharted mists of man- made carbon pollution and the digital cloud itself, catalytically assisted by the abnormal ozone layer.

An unprecedented and bizarre shift in societal affairs has been reported by academic sociologists and psychiatrists, which apparently manifests itself in a marked change in worldwide behavior, particularly  in the context of human interactive communication and observed behavior patterns; the foregoing, reportedly, attributed to the total and  abrupt cessation of digital communication.

The American President, in lieu of his regular transmission of tweets, has sensibly adjusted to the change in circumstances, by regularly maintaining his unique public expression of spontaneous feelings and thoughts, by means of an amplified megaphone recently installed at his request on the White House portico. He has issued the paternal direction that America should stay calm, and expressed the definite assurances that “ soon very smart people will solve the problem, completely and  “bigly.”

Significant trauma and confusion has prevailed throughout the nation specifically regarding the subject of interpersonal interaction. People have, since the calamitous event, begun to realize an urgent need to introduce themselves to “friends” with whom they had been electronically communicating for years. American citizens have recently been obliged, on business and personal occasions, to actually meet or converse by telephone. Necessarily, both the CIA and the FBI have issued strict official directives recommending, in the interest of citizen privacy and security that all Americans, becoming personally familiar with the voices of their family members and close friends.

The citizenry has further been advised that under a new regime, libraries, telephone centers, parks and museums will increase their hours of operation; the U.S. postal service will also extend its hours and has already reported land office business in the sale of stamps and postal supplies.

Reportedly, the greatest impact has been sustained by the younger generation which has become especially confused and profoundly disoriented. This portion of society presumably, with but faint recollection of personal interactive communication, will require much needed counseling and re-education. The ubiquitous practice of “texting,” no longer being possible, young people will have to resume their predecessors’ practice of conversing by telephone, or in person. Pseudo words, such as, “s’up,” “fyi,” “omg,” and “lol,” have been relegated to the dust bin of electronics. With respect to all members of society, who had previously communicated electronically, word has it that astute lexicographers are at present, and in dedicated fashion, engaged in  deleting the adjective ” virtual” from expressions such as” virtual reality,” “ virtual experience” and “virtual fact,” as now being uselessly redundant and tautological.

Such recent developments have made necessary the use of personally chosen vocabulary, selected to express feelings, the intended  emotional expression; this is expected to  result in significant improvement, in communication, compared with the moronic and inarticulate use of cartoonish, smiling or sad “emoji’s.” Another positive feature is the re-discovery by many readers of the forgotten tactual pleasure of actually holding a real book and turning its pages .Shoppers are now usefully obliged to actually examine the product or garment they intend to purchase, in lieu of examining images of the same on a computer screen. The search for information will now require the  personal consultation of relevant texts or selected encyclopedia  The most important consideration, by far, is that problem solving will entail the resumption of the individual’s salubrious exercise of reason and experience, in contrast to the act of dependently pushing a button on a digital pocket-sized electronic device.

It is remotely possible that some over-zealous Public Health professional will develop a theory to the effect that increased personal contact between human beings could, in theory  increase the possibility of the spread of communicable disease; however, the greatly increased potential for peace and meaningful living, outweighs any such  neurotic concern  by far.

Let’s talk!

-p.

 

 

Blog # 181     MEDIA’S MEDICINE FOR THE MULTITUDES

The well recognized contrast between the disciplines of Health Policy and that of the Practice of Medicine essentially resides in the difference in scope and application; the former investigates and studies population and societal disease trends, while the latter, by its very intrinsic nature, necessarily deals with the individual patient.

Informed by this inarguable and obvious difference, we are disturbed and confused by the vast number of television commercials aimed at marketing of medicines to the general public. These merchandise efforts deal with the most serious conditions such as coronary disease, stroke, cancer, hepatitis C, diabetes and others, as well as less threatening maladies such as digestive discomfort, dry eyes or mouth, dental health, allergies and many others. They often clearly point out that the product has been approved by the FDA, but even such welcome assurance is part of an irresponsible and potentially dangerous program to merchandise medicine on an indiscriminate basis to the general public.

There is crucial importance in the selection of a competent personal and family physician. The physician should be selected on the basis, if available, of a reliable personal recommendation, and should possess the requisite medical knowledge and training, as well as an aptitude for the art of practice. It is of crucial importance that the physician be familiar with the individual patient, his medical history and individual physiology, and to record the same for future reference. The diagnosis and treatment of presenting problems, including the prescription of medicine, where warranted, should be specifically tailored to the needs and personal nuance of the individual patient.

It would not be too much of a stretch to surmise that even the least sophisticated television viewer would not order a pair of leather shoes in response to a commercial, for fear of not getting the right fit. Certainly, the act of offering for sale, any medicine to the general public runs at the very least, the same dismal prospect. Furthermore, the administration of the wrong medicine has the strong probability of leading to disastrous results. A direr scenario is possible if the viewer foolishly engages in his own self- diagnosis, based upon his uninformed understanding and assumptions from the content of the commercial. That species of viewer has the same chance of success as a blind air traffic controller.

Nor is the danger to the unsophisticated viewer by the public advertisement of medicinal cure in any way assuaged by the inevitable legal disclaimer statement, defensibly included by the advertiser at the conclusion of the sales pitch; the same are uniformly delivered with the speed, and articulated clarity of a Civil War Gatling gun and are incomprehensible and useless. Moreover, the purported “authenticated” testimonials of successful past users, especially, the show business or sport celebrities are unprincipled, Even, theoretically, were there any veracity at all to these testimonials, they would still remain far outweighed by the substantive peril created by the confident recommendation of  potentially harmful medication to the general public.

To be entirely fair, many of these commercials do recommend the consultation with the consumer’s doctor to ascertain whether the advertised medication is appropriate. Yet we fail to understand the

basic purpose of advertising the medication to the patient as opposed to the doctor who is presumably aware of the medicine deemed indicated for the patient’s needs. A patient would have the right to conclude that the underlying premise for the nature of this species of advertisement is the ignorance of the physician as to the suitable medicine.

What are truly bizarre experiences is seeing and hearing certain commercials extolling the virtues of a particular medicine, and on the very same days on which such advertisements are running, to have attorney solicitations offering to represent any and all parties seriously injured by the use of that same advertised medicine.

Please do stay well!

-p.

Blog # 180 SLIM PICKINGS

After extensive and pleasurable reading, when one’s eyes are too tired to continue, he may be inclined to try his luck at finding some further acceptable diversion by means of his very accessible television set. He most likely will be disappointed, but not (experientially) surprised.

Specifically and expressly excluded from this critique, are the many worthwhile media offerings of public and educational television (whose existence and success are eternally under threat from our populist Administration and Congress) and the occasional good movie.

The medium of television, considering its vast potential capability for quality programming, and the unlimited extent of its public reach (even the most modest household has at least one television set) has eternally and shamelessly, offered low quality programming, presumably in accord with the mass marketers’ low esteem for, and stereotypical perception of the taste of the public consumer.

We know of no suitable or rational method for their respective ranking, but would nominate the following as equally deserving of an Olympic gold medal for consistent and ample generation of ennui and nausea:

Among the top contenders is any and all programming featuring the religious preacher. These oily, smarmy, self-adulating egotists espouse the “ultimate truths,” based upon their neurotic claims of personal inspiration from the deity; such inspiration guiding their perceived life mission to convert the non-believer and to secure compliance with every identified syllable of the bible. The latter, to be clear, was authored by various men, all of whom were so divinely inspired with ultimate wisdom, that they believed that the sun orbited abound the earth. We will confess, with only a little twinge of guilt, to our feelings of divine satisfaction and authentic schadenfreude when, as often has been the case, these zealous merchants of religious morality are discovered to be a loyal patrons of a rural house of ill repute.

With the express exception of a discreet number of quality discussion programs such as Charlie Rose, The Open Mind, Metro Focus, To The Contrary, Tavis Smiley and a few others, talk shows, especially afternoon talk shows, are so repulsive as to defy adjectival description. These, less than erudite populist “seminars,” generally feature panelists distinguished only by their excessive cosmetic use and garish attire in combination with a tasteless show of glitz and bling, all of which accompany a remarkable deficiency in mature judgment, good taste and basic good sense. The typical subjects discussed, are vital philosophical and esoteric mysteries, such as the latest mode in interaction between the sexes, show business divorces and celebrity culture, and trends in “cool” attire. They feature the articulation of the very latest in inane populist wisdom, peppered with useless aphorisms and expressed with unhesitating (and unjustifiable) confidence, to the raucous applause of an appreciative studio audience.

The ubiquitous game show is another contender in the race for the gold.  Consistently hosted by a  host whose entire toolkit of qualifications consists of the possession of a smile white enough to qualify for toothpaste commercials and the ersatz happy personality of a lady’s shoe salesman .The selected subjects for the typical game show contests are barely challenging enough for a  middle school sophomore, yet the correct answers are applauded by the studio audience and  congratulated by the game show host with an enthusiasm appropriate to the discovery of penicillin. In the past there were a small number of game shows hosted by erudite personalities and dealing with challenging subjects; these of course, never survived the test of perceived commercial criteria.

The viewing of television sports programming is certainly acceptable for those who are sport fans. But many sport fans have little interest in other, possibly life enhancing means of entertainment, and forgo  exposure to many valuable cultural experiences. What is especially deplorable are sport shows, featuring retired, semi-literate professional athletes, sitting in professorial seminar, discussing the performance or peccadillos of performing athletes, or the perceived significance of player trades. To put it sardonically, these exchanges do not quite attain the quality of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, nor the erudition and significance of the contest between Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryant, over evolution; but seem nonetheless to be conducted with like energy and presumed significance.

By the process of elimination, it would seem that major news programs would be our remaining choice. Certainly, it is a useful practice to remain knowledgeable in current affairs, national and international and with issues concerning climate change, scientific and medical advances and other developments. However, since the (disastrous) election of Donald Trump to the American Presidency, the subject of Mr. Trump’s unprofessional and erratic behavior has apparently overpowered and displaced most of the media time needed for more essential and more appropriate news content. Reporting on Trump is akin to reporting on the bad behavior of an insecure and neurotically needy child who tactically invites parental punishment as a proven mode of attracting desired attention.

The television medium, with its vast resources and capabilities can do better. This clearly has been demonstrated by its PBS, educational and nature programming, as well as its occasional offerings of quality entertainment in music and drama. It has instead been led Pinocchio-like, down a wrong and irresponsible highway; one emphasizing, in the purported interest of mass marketing, the erroneous necessity of catering mainly to the unsophisticated, low information viewer. In addition to improving the quality of its offerings in entertainment, it has the capability, by virtue of such resources and unlimited outreach, to perform vital societal services in many areas of need, including employment, education and literacy, language instruction, health and responsible social outreach.

We continue to live in hope.

-p.

 

Blog # 179     ANGST A LA FAMILIA

The composition of a “family,” by reason of numerous societal changes in our mores and culture, has morphed into many distinct, but societally acceptable configurations. Nevertheless, the family remains recognized as the principal entity for the rearing and socialization of children.  We have an observation to make however, with regard to certain dynamics of that entity; a fact which seems to tax credibility and defy any view of societal justice (since the family is universally considered a salutary institution) is its frequent causation of angst to the individual family member.

Leo Tolstoy, in his great novel, Anna Karenina, stated that all happy families are alike, while unhappy families are unhappy for their own individual reasons. The theme of this writing, relates exclusively to functional (successful) families and would exclude dysfunctional ones, whether due to parent and child conflict, serious sibling rivalry, domestic abuse, extramarital affairs, drugs and alcohol abuse and the like. We seek to call attention to a frequent phenomenon which, all too often, seems to emerge from the unavoidable organic nature of the functional family.

The family has often been referred to as the building block of societal civilization; but each block, unlike those of brick and cinder, is not uniformly composed and has its own independent chemistry. In all cases, however, families do factually appear to play an unwitting role in the causation of angst to their individual members. The originating source may be external or internal, as demonstrated below.

Often the qualities, good or bad, or the talents and abilities of individuals, are unfairly projected upon their offspring, creating advance expectations or unfounded predictions concerning the child. Thus, good business acumen, great mathematical or musical abilities, charitable inclinations, or in the negative category, inclination to do evil, miserliness, strict disciplinary tendencies, and many others, cause erroneous expectations, imposed by thoughtless and insensitive people, within and outside of the family; such unwanted and irrational expectations causing great stress or pressure unfairly to the child. The great English philosopher, John Locke, remarked that children are born with a “tabula rasa” or, clean slate.

Every family has its own distinct history; however, its history is not objectively and accurately recorded in some accessible and referable record. The communicated past of the family, to the extent known, is by necessity subject to oral history. The latter, by its nuanced nature, is vulnerable to inaccuracy, editing or amending, depending upon some approved collective memory and the subjective inclination of the reciter of the history. Often, family provenance is open much energetic dispute and productive of stress.

The emotional experience of being a family member of a specific family, conceivably suffering the stress imposed by projected groundless expectations, regarding aptitudes or character with its disputed history, does perform a service, nevertheless, which serves to distinguish the identity of the members of one family from others in society and facilitates the creation of identity. It is certainly fair to refer to the societal value of family and yet proclaim that it is an efficient producer of stress or, angst. Please consider the following example:

If I were to utter a faux- pas, or inadvertently, an insulting remark to a friend, I would have every reasonable expectation of forgiveness and a forgetting, following my sincere apology. By contrast, should such a mistake be made within the confines of the family, the wrong is never forgiven, and certainly not, forgotten; it festers and metastasizes as a permanent subject for treasured critical comment at each and every family gathering. People, who should love each other with the especial warmth of being intimately related as  a family member,  are potentially willing to villainize another.

Your guess is as good as ours.

-p.