Plinyblog post #324 DARK AGES REDUX

Now, back to hobgoblins, witches, black magic, the spirits, necromancy!

In the prior post, #223, we sought to  draw a sharp contrast, between the many laudable advances of the European Period of Enlightenment (17th and 18th Centuries), most especially, the recognition of reason and empirical experience as the only legitimate source of knowledge, and the unaccountable persistance of “Dark Ages” ignorance, regarding the subject of gender.  In the present writing, we deal with another illustration of the persistance of this retrogressive inclination, here, regarding a vitally important obligation- the practice of vaccination of the young against disease.

In the interest of  illustration of the quality of the irrational and atavistic thought process, regarding pedriatic health, we would cite an old, unfortunately popular, bit of useless aphoristic advice, “feed a cold, and starve a fever,” This mantra, in addition to being extremely poor advice, additionally happens to  a misquotation of another shamefully ignorant aphorism, ” [If you] “Feed a cold, and [you will be obliged to] starve a fever”. This, popular hand-me-down, tidbit of unmitigated ignorance, based upon the corruption of a previous breathtaking inanity, is a shining example of another failure to benefit from mankind’s steady advance, going back to the European Enlightenment; reason and empirical experience.

Medical research and experience have conclusively determined that vaccination has been deservedly rated as among the top ten achievements in public health, in the modern Century; yet stubborn and irrational opposition to it has existed, since its inception. Despite decades of research and experience, supporting the medical value  and safety of vaccination, an unfounded and bizarre mythology still persists, that it causes autism; an unfounded “Dark Ages” style charge which has been reliably and scientifically disproven.

“RMR” is the designation of an effective vaccine that protects children from suffering from the diseases of measles, mumps and rubella. We have read that two, spaced doses of measles vaccine, results in a 97% immunity. We are authoritatively advised, that measles is so contagious, that if one person has it, 96% of the non-immunized people, close to that person, will predictibly become infected with the disease.

Complications of measles include pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encyphalitis (infection of the brain) and requires hospitalization.  As many as one out of twenty children, infected with measles, get pneumonia, which is the most common cause of death in young children.

There seem to be two grounds alleged for opposition to this essentially important and salubrious program of vaccination. The first, is a (mythical) fear of contracting autism by being vaccinated; this feared possibility has been authoritatively and credibly disproven. Considering the empirical, beneficial results of the process, can this mythical “Dark Ages” concern, still persist in overriding the rational and experiential threat to a child’s life and health? The other existing ground for opposition, we are told, is a religious one. As we are able to  understand it, the religious opposition is that by vaccination, man interferes with God’s life plan for the patient. Respectfully, so does every other form of avoidance of death or disaster, by surgical procedure, heroic acts, medical care and crossing streets exclusively on green lights. Any belief in a divinity, logically and anthropologically, would have to be at least  somewhat consistent with the desire of the believer for the continuance of life.

-p.

 

Blogpost # 323 HORMONE HOLOCAUST

Historians refer to the European period of the 17th and 18th Centuries, as the “Age of Enlightenment.” During that period, major thinkers and renowned writers,  revolutionized man’s understanding of the true source of knowledge, by concluding that reason and empirical experience is to permanently and decisively, prevail over atavistic and superstitious belief and religious dogma. The heliocentric theory of the solar system (viz., that the Earth orbits around the  Sun, and not the obverse, as declared in the Christian Bible) was confirmed, and the “scientific method” was recognized as humanity’s appropriate guide to the acquisition of knowledge and its advancement. Great strides were made in the natural sciences, the understanding of the cosmos, in navigation, mathematics and ethical philisophy; however, by far, the most singular and enduring advance, was the recognition that reason and empirical experience, are the legitimate sources of knowledge.

As we appraise history, human enlightenment can be likened to a young tree, requiring regular and constant care and  nurturance for its survival and growth. Ignorance and irrational belief emanate from fear, insecurity and from the psychological resistance to change;  traditional thought patterns are seen as safer and more comfortable by reason of their familiarity and long history of common acceptability. By contrast, the exercise and nurture of innovative reason requires requisite self- confidence and imagination, qualities which, for many, is a bridge too far.

We live in an age clearly evincing a dire need for a reprise of the process begun in the 17th and 18th Century, Age of Enlightenment, which saw the removal of a great many persistant road blocks to the predominance of reason and sense experience, as the proper basis of knowledge.  To this date, numbers of insecure or ignorant people still seem to find it easier to stay the old course, with regard to useless, and at times,  harmful, retrogressive thought and outworn, disproven principles.

There unhappily still seems to survive, an infinite variety and number of areas of “Dark Ages” thinking; we have, nevertheless, selected, for present  comment, the particularly troublesome, and psychologically injurious, subject of reductive ignorance and persistant bigotry, relating to the delicate subject of  gender.

A binary gender system of  classification is the simplist method, and the one generally employed by society. In this (much too) convenient system, members of society are split into one of two exclusive genders, presumably, dependent upon their genetalia. However, other than for limited  purposes, such as population studies, current medical science would testify that such reductive, binary categorization is incomplete and inaccurate, and can be productive of extremely harmful  results.

We read that sexual determination takes place in the prenatal stage, after the first four months of pregnancy; fetuses before that period, apparently, lack any indication of gender, which is thereafter, hormonally determined. Societal treatment and assumptions that gender is simply binary, is medically and scientifically erroneous.  Gender has been scientifically proven to be the end product a broad spectrum, or continuum, of diverse, hormonally inherited (potential) traits. Nonetheless, continuing societal ignorance and existing reductive thought on the subject, adversely affects every aspect of  life, education, career, finances and relationships. Retrogressive expectations, regarding the vast number of non-binary gender people has eternally been the cause of serious and hurtful problems. Unfortunately,  those who even vary slightly from the binary gender stereotype, often become unjust and undeserved targets of disapproval, discrimination and even violence.

The price life generally exacts for human ignorance is eternally steep; whether by way of an unfulfilled and meaningless life, or myth-making and the resultant commission of acts hurtful to one’s self or others, including loved ones. The chance inventory and distribution of hormones, developing in the fetus, after the fourth month, is clearly unrelated to the subsequent value and worth of any matured human being. However, we would submit that ignorance concerning the determination and understanding of gender, has been so productive of unnecessary suffering and tragedy, as to, in our opinion, qualify for Holocaust status.

Suicides, bigotry, misunderstandings, failed opportunities (social and career), “gay bashing” by miscreants in an effort to exorcise personally self- hated traits and inclinations, the bullying, the unjust and hurtful criticism, and those insensitive “queer jokes,” would appear to exceed all standards of acceptible reality, and are the product of a reductive (bilateral) understanding of gender.

This  category of mestasizing bigotry, the product of ignorance and personal insecurity, is  avoidable, and constitutes a tragic and unnecessary waste of life, comparable to an ancient Sophoclean drama. Just as man is not empowered with the personal choice of skin and eye color, or the length of his arms and legs, he has no part to play in the distribution and category of gender determinant hormones, chemically assigned to him in utero.

It would be a salubrious and major advance in human reason and man’s avowed aspiration for enlightenment, if the biological basis of gender were recognized as amulti-faceted chemical spectrum, in permanent replacement of the ignorant, hurtful and reductive assumption of bilateral exclusivity. A significant light would then be cast on this atavistic vestige of a contemporary “Dark Ages.”

-p.

Blog post # 322 “LEFT-OVERS”

Irrespective of the degree of skill and creativity employed in the creation of an elegantly presented meal, its awarded, superlative descriptions, such as “artisinal” and “gourmet quality,” are severely degraded, to the common status of “left overs,” with respect to its uneaten surplus. In response to the question, “What’s for dinner?” the occasional answer,”Left overs,” often evokes an uncalled for, and manifestly unjust, expectation of an uninteresting and tiresome meal. The subject noun, in actual fact, is not, in any way, qualitative or judgmental; it is instead, a statement of factual and quantitative import. Moreover, it is a matter of  irrefutable, empirical experience, that if the initial meal was an exquisite one, the consumption of the uneaten excess will likewise, unquestionably, be enjoyable. The obverse is also unfortunately true; additionally, there always are some diners who do not  agree that the initial meal was truly deserving of its many bestowed-upon superlatives.

Taking the liberty of generalized metaphorical similarity, the problems associated with the retrospective evaluation of any human interraction [ statement or act] is our specific  subject of interest in this note. With regard to our convenient metaphor, (our regular readers are familiar with our unrepentant inclination to use metaphoric references) the extent of individual variations in taste, regarding food, are relatively limited and usually specific, while variations in perceptive evaluation of past statements appear to be virtually unlimited, and often non-specific.

Additionally, the recollection of parties themselves, as to the actual words they personally employed in a statement, may be inexact and vary significantly. There are countless instances, where parties have a specific subject matter in mind but, despite their avowed honestly, and stated firm recollection to the contrary, just never have expressed it clearly, if at all. It is infinitively more difficult to deny, or forget a specific dish, served as part of a meal, than to deny, or be obliged to affirm, a statement made in a conversation. These indeed constitute questionable and arguable” left overs.” It is not rare to hear contrary  statements such as, “You never told me” and “I did so” or ” You said…”  and the response “I did not.” From the point of view of nuanced perception, they both may be telling the truth (as each is honestly aware of it).

There would appear to be no prescribed antidote for the prevention of occasional misunderstandings. One needs to maintain his flexibility and willing understanding, in view of individual variations in the skill of clear expression of thoughts and intentions; the resultant, “left overs” or, recollection, of what we hear (or perceive we hear) may not be the specifically intended message. In matters of significance, especially when the other party’s mode, or style, of communication is unfamiliar us, it would be useful to request further details or clarification.  When matters are especially complex or sensitive, one might even, in a  courteous manner, attempt to restate the other person’s message or point of view to him, to assure confirmance of his understanding. Of course, an additional, major complication is that, as receptors, our accurate recollection, (our personal ” left overs”) is universally challanged by our (natural) subjective perception.

Evaluating last Sunday’s dinner left overs, is so much easier.

-p.

Post # 321 HIGH ALTITUDE ZONE- OUT (Redux)

The consistent use of a recognizable musical theme at the outset of each installment of a television mini- series, is the most commonly employed technique, to restore the viewer’s attention and recollection, of the genre and narrative, as well as the personalties appearing in the series. The (” Pavlovian”) association of the nuanced musical theme, with the contextual presentation of the narrative, is virtually instantaneous, returning the mind-set of the viewer to a recollection of the past installments of the ongoing series.

In metaphorical similarity to such associative dynamic, we seem to uniformly experience an automatic and identical response to each act of boarding an airplane, amounting to   an enlarged, self-awareness, almost bordering on an out-of-body experience.

As we, uncomfortably reach around to locate the two ends, to mandatorily snap on on the seat belt, we are privileged to hear an unsettling, smarmy welcome from the Captain, not entirely unlike some mid-western take on the warmly unctuous, menacing welcome by Igor, to Castle Frankenstein. Next, we experience another robotic, extra-terrestrial welcome from the chief flight attendant, accompanied by her emotionless lecture, concerning the proper etiquette to be observed by travelers, should the plane happen to ditch into the Atlantic Ocean.

Admittedly, we travel by air no more than once or twice per year, yet in each such experience, the out-of-body type self- awareness develops, particularly noticed, as we attain the distance of 33,000 feet of airspace, between the soles of our shoes and the surface of the planet, below. The hypnotic illusion seems, to effectively redact all recall of our complex, multi-faceted and busy life on terra- firma, notwithstanding, the relatively brief nature of the flight; apparently, Dr. Pavlov has rung the determinant bell.

The  hypnotic episode is exacerbated by the relative silence of the large number of belted,  and effectively incarcerated, fellow passengers, the subdued lighting and the sustained, incessant, soft drone of the engines. Our experience, despite its “ground hog” familiar recurrence, manifests itself in a state of mind, while not fearful, is somehow mono-focused on a “twilight zone” existence, solely confined to perceived occurrences taking place relative to the flight of the airplane.

Let no reductive thinker, blithely, conclude, that on some unannounced level, we have any fear of airplane travel. Admittedly, we are often aware that there is a lot of airspace between the soles of our moccasins and the ground. However, we are well reassured by the scientific basis of flight; the jet engines producing greater pressure below the airplane, than that above it, hence the resultant lift. We are further reassured that there are some persons in command, experienced and capable of so finessing the lift, that we arrive at the pre-determined destination; and who, additionally, have the recognized skill set and experience to guide our airborne leviathan to a balletic return to the airfield.

The out- of body sense of reality, seems to dissipate upon successfully surviving the exit  from the airplane, together with impatient fellow passengers; and then, completely, after enduring the officious administrative tedium, no doubt constituting their raison d’etre.

So, at last, we have returned to Mother Earth, and, relative to our theme, she has returned to us. It almost seems as if we have acquired an alternate personality from our other self, the one who experiences flying in airplanes.

In the diligent quest of further enlightenment regarding the academic science of aeronautics, we have resolved to consult, on the didactic subject of aeronautic”lift,”  a true expert in the field, one of our local Canadian geese.

-p.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogpost # 320 RAGTIME

It seems that when we reach our later years, and are obliged to finally confess, that we are well into that stage of life, commonly termed, “growing old,” that we are, at times, confronted with the return of long-term memories, concerning  singularly meaningful experiences in our past life; perhaps, a spontaneous projection of the stage- setting of a period of residence, in our very early life, the sound of a forgotton voice, or perhaps, a remembered scent (like ocean air, or a cooked food) suddenly recalled, after a veritable lifetime of subsequent experiences.

Such a sudden, recent memory visitation, was apparently triggered in us, by the mere encountering of the mundane verb , “crochet,” which appeared on the page of a novel we were reading. The word was not, in truth, used in any complex, metaphoric, meaningful or especially artistic sense; just the normal, unexciting and mundane word. At first, our lowering of the book and looking away, felt unusual; then, a sudden eclat, “Mom!”

Our mother knew how to crochet and managed to be rather accomplished at her often practiced skill, despite the lack of a right index finger (amputated in the “dark ages”of medical ignorance of the White Russia of her childhood, in primitive manner, to prevent the spread of infection.) Crocheting was a common pastime, when she was not cleaning house, cooking meals, tending to sick children or food shopping.

Historically, she may, perhaps, be entitled to be numbered among the world’s original recyclers; but truthfully, only did so, as a matter of necessity.  In the impoverished life, endured, together with her hard working, immigrant husband, and children, seldom was anything actually discarded, if it could be seen to have some other function, or some future possible utility.

Among our earliest memories, was of mother, actively tearing long, thin strips of cloth, from clothing and other fabrics, the latter, finally consigned to the dire functional diagnosis as no longer repairable, and, consequently, and at long last, falling into the rarified scientific category of “schmattas.” There was no limit to the wide provenance of these residual schmattas, old washclothes, towels, pants, undergarments, very torn sweaters, ancient shirts, blouses, dresses and whatever deserving fabric which, at long last, had fairly earned the right to meet its maker.

We would see her, in any break from housecleaning, cooking meals, nursing sick children, and the like, crocheting these substantial, multi- colored, multi-textured, accumulations of ancient family utility. Her recognized artisinal canon was area rugs, which  multi-splendored, objets d’art, kept our bare (or stockinged) feet warm, despite a cold flat and cold floor.

Then, a second lightening bolt (“eclat”)  struck; this time, a truly inventive, exciting and more scholarly eclat; as distinguished from the emotional jolt, set forth, above.

These cloth strips, torn from fabrics, used during the time of her family history, starting with her emigration to America, represent a witness, going back to the time of her escape from pogrom country and the Russian dark ages, though an American period, from Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt to John Kennedy, and encompassing  events which occurred during such era, including, World War II, the Korean and Vietnamese Wars,  the exponential changes in technology and medicine, social upheavals and developments, indeed, all of the intervening domestic and World history of the era.

May not these historic strips, albeit arranged and conglomerated into somewhat different form, be of significant academic use to historians, economists and sociologists, studying the life and events of the approximately,  one Century of American existence represented, find a veritable treasure trove of desired information therein? Devoted and capable scientists obtain needed enlightenment from radioactive carbon, from fossils and geological strata, from the study and computation of tree rings, why not schmattas? Mom would be very pleased to know that they have yet another use.

-p.

Post # 319 SELF-GRADING AND THE CUMULATIVE INDEX

In an attempt at clarity of our theme, [viz., the universal need for self awareness] and, as well, in an effort to encourage reader interest, we have elected, in this mini-essay, to employ the well-known academic metaphor, of the liberal arts academy.

College students are universally aware, that the grades, awarded to them are the result of a determination, by the respective instructor, (at times, somewhat subjective) of the student’s performance, and of his understanding of the course’s subject matter. The final accumulation and analysis of all such determined grades [in total] is known as the “Cumulative Index.” Despite the arguably, small amount of subjectivity, in the awarding of individual grades, the Index, in its recordation of the student’s total performance, is credited with providing a practical and acceptable measure of the success of his performance.

It is, not our intention, to present, in this writing, a redux of our oft-repeated , eternal theme, viz., that all of mankind, bears a continuing (evolutionary) moral responsibility to pursue self-advancement and enlightenment, in an effort to attain a richer life, and, as well, to constitute a more valuable member of his society, or nation.

We would also disclaim any intention to discuss the wide world of difference between an entity, deemed to be considered,  “technically alive” by biologists ( manifesting function, such as, respiration, movement, nutrition and excretion) and the qualitative and complex “being alive” of homo sapiens, possessing the capability to pursue knowledge, and potential for advanced living.

Our present attention is, instead, focused upon the efforts of mankind, as a sentient entity,  needing to maintain a fixed and personally acceptable, self-image of himself and of his society. This urgent need, by its nature, requires regular confirmation, and is the primary subject of man’s life-long, evaluative, inner conversation with himself. Not too very different from the metaphoric grading of performances at college he, often in retrospect, makes an evaluation (“grades”) his reaction to an event, statement, or change of circumstances, relative to his privately conceived persona. Often, as in the case of college grading, this expo-facto judgment may be somewhat subjective, specifically, in the case of mankind, colored by his available ego-defense mechanisms, or run through some personally contrived, protective filter.

Returning yet again, to our serviceable metaphor, while one’s perceived evaluation of himself, in his reaction an event (“grades”) may bear the color of subjectivity, a retrospective of a reasonable number of such behavioral reactions (“the Cumulative Index”) will serve to furnish a useful picture of the extent of difference, if any, between the held, perceived persona, and the cumulative, empirical evidence.

Such a regular, privately conducted audit of our characteristic behavior, particularly in reaction to stressful events, can be productive of a confirmation of our previous conception,  or a practical and useful way to understand perceptions of us by others; even of greater utility is the possible enlightened invitation to engage in personal improvement.

Socrates preached, “Know thyself.”

-p.

 

 

 

 

Blogpost #318 TERMITES IN THE FOUNDATION

At some indeterminate moment in his primitive history, mankind made the stupendous advance to the status of living in societal community. Living alone, meant an eternal search for shelter from the elements, the daily, desperate search for food, all added to an ever present fear of  marauding strangers and predatory beasts. Living in society, by stark contrast, provided a plethora of benefits,  the improved safety of joint defense, joint enterprise, group hunting and food gathering, the sharing and development of skills, and, as well, and perhaps getting closer to our theme, satisfied an innate human need for interaction with other homo sapiens. In the precarious context of the primitive era, factual reporting and accuracy of communication was absolutely vital to survival.

In the the present day and age, speaking truthfully, is, at times, sometimes spoken of as a personal “virtue”;  but, much more accurately and profoundly, it still continues to be a vital societal construct. For reasons of practical  necessity, there exists the every day assumption, that a speaker is truthful. Conceivably and empirically, no society could operate successfully, or, even minimally exist, without an  implicit trust in the factual reports and spoken words of its inhabitants.

It may be useful, at this point, to  define “lying,” as we understand that disreputable verb. The act of lying, involves the utterance a falsehood, knowing it to be inaccurate,  with the intention to deceive. Actual lying is a shameless breach of the hearer’s trust, and, as well,  a true and clear revelation, as to the actual falsity of any previously assumed honest and sincerely based relationship.The prevaricator, by virtue of his exclusive possession of the truthful facts, marks himself, ipso facto, by that wrongful act, as a mere stranger, and not, as previously represented, a sincere and respectful  friend.

We, emphatically, do not include in this contemptible act, innocent, but inaccurate and erroneous statements, nor a friend’s soothing, and optimistic, but knowingly inaccurate, representations, to a dying, or chronically ill patient, of a positive prognosis nor, indeed. a social, albeit insincere, compliment on a fellow guest’s purportedly ” fine appearance.” A lie, to qualify as such, requires an intentional communication of a known false statement, of a fact, with the specific, purpose, that the hearer rely upon it.

The private act of lying often causes the subsequent creation of a false fact pattern,  requiring the prevaricator to quickly and uncomfortably, manufacture supplemental, or explanatory, false information; in his desperate need to attempt to achieve consistency. Was it, Walter  Scott, or William Shakespeare, who penned the prescient observation, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”?

The words, prevarication, mendacity or, put simply, lying, may be at the zenith of all other, contemptible, miscreant human acts. Without the assumption (and existence) of veracity, there would be no useful communication between members of the human race. It is nothing short of a crime, both against mankind’s advancement to date, as well as in the future. It may be noted that once trust has been violated, it can never be repaired, or put back on the chart of man’s commendable progress. To lie, is no less than to. sin against our evolving anthropology.

We have opted not to proceed further with the subject of the ethics and the existential necessity for truth, as they relate to our current President; whose numerous practices of daily mendacity, would require several professional firms of auditors to recount.We have stated, in a past note, that considering all of the many varieties of reprehensible and unprofessional acts of President Trump, none would be shamefully comparable to his mendacity, except his related, overt, sociopathic and irresponsible, attack on “truth.” He is, metaphorically, a despicable hive of hungry termites, chewing away at the foundations of civilization.

-p.