Post # 329 TALKING “FREE WILL”

In the European historical period, generally known as, “The Enlightenment,” man made great strides to rid himself of the widespread belief in supernatural or other-worldly influences, and to take personal responsibility for his independently determined action and decisions. In philosophical and ethical discourse, there was seen to develop, thereafter, no more materially determinant canon, than the new concept of “free will.”

We wholeheartedly applaud the elimination of the attributive influence of spirits, hob-goblins and other supernatural forces upon man’s actions and deliberations; yet we still believe that the term, “freedom” employed in the term “free will” is not yet up to the desired standard, since it is encumbered by many empirical considerations. It is our impression that the declaration of the declared concept, that man is purportedly free to make unrestrained, volitional choices, may be somewhat optimistic and overstated.

We revere independence, ethical autonomy, discretionary caution, diplomatic, as well as empathic interaction, as well as approved societal behavior; all inarguably acts of  volitional (“free will”) We are, however, interested in the extent of unrestrained spontaniety in each choice of “volitionary,” or” free act.”

Before proceeding further, we would like to reassure the reader, that it our firm, personal belief, that man is, in all respects, individually responsible for his actions and statements; our interest, here, is limited to the nature and the source of his personal motivatition. We believe that the laudatory and exemplary concept of the phrase, “free will” (viz., free from external influence) is more honored in its idealized conception than in its empirical  reality.

We have chosen to exclude the subject of “illness” from this note, except to observe that it is a matter of public knowledge, that the malady known as “depression” is caused by a chemical imbalance; either innately pre-determined, or  brought on by reaction to trauma. The motivation and behavior of the depressed patient, like a person who has ingested a psychic drug, is markedly affected, and not a product of his “free will.” The evident point is that changes in bodily chemistry, particularly brain chemistry, affect, or motivate, mood and behavior. Any  regular jogger or dedicated exerciser, knows that sustained exercise results in a felt change in brain chemistry (endorphins), resulting in increased energy and a discernably improved mood.

The concept of “free will”, might suggest to some, an independent, and unlimited franchise to think and act, in a completely infettered condition of temporal spontaniety.  The English  (l8th Century) philisopher, John Locke, declared that man is born with a blank slate and that all knowledge is acquired by learning from empirical experience. Early childhood teaching, including cultural mindset, language, societal attitudes and general approach, have been shown to be enduring, if not permanent. These early teachings affect later perception and decisional motivation.  Race and ethnicity, economic hardship, disability, state of health, economics; the remembered experience of traumatic or extremely unusual life experiences, such as fire or assault, by their enduring remembrance, may, also have their effect on our later choices.

Medieval, “Dark Ages” limitations on “free will” have, in large part, been eliminated (and where they may still exist, can be eliminated, by the proper application of mature and healthy reason). Where applicable, and needed, assistance in education, especially literacy and general education, can be offered to those who are willing. Medecine and therapies are available for people beset by chemical illness, behavioral therapies are accessible, for people whose choices of behavior are limited by previous experience of trauma or phobia, physical and medical counseling and therapies are offered to enhance the range of activities for the handicapped. For others, the portion of the American population, limited by low information and lack of vision, a resolute undertaking to participate in life’s unlimited enhancement possibilities, may be obtainable.

With the superstitious nonsense out of the way, we all now have the “free will” and the personal responsbility, to choose to take action towards the enhancement of the quality of our life, or, otherwise, simply let it grind on, meaninglessly.

Gremlins are reported to be gratefully relieved to be “off the hook.”

-p.

 

 

Blogpost#328 MEDITATIVE THOUGHTS

As we understand it,”Meditation,”essentially, is a mental exercise involving the complete concentration on one’s breathing, or on an object or a repeated mantra, for the purpose of attaining a higher level of spiritual awareness.

As is known, the concept and practice of “meditation” had its origins in Eastern-World religious practices, such as in Buddism and Hinduism. In recent times, the practice has, somehow, spread to the Western world; where, avid proponents and commercially successful entrepreneurs, claim that it has curative effects on anxiety, depression and general work-a-day stress. We have never shied away from controversial subjects, and offer this note to urge the patent inapplicability of the practice to the contextual dynamics of the Western world mindset, contrary to the claims of its many devoted partisans, philisophical and  commercial.

We, admittedly, are not authorities on the subjects of mental health, depression or anxiety; we are, however, sincere advocates of the philisophy of the 18th Century thinker, John Locke. Most modern thinkers of note, agree with the Lockean theory, that man is born with a clean slate, a “tabula rasa.” It follows, therefore, that all knowledge, is acquired, or “learned” from sense experience and resultant reason. Locke’s empiricism refuted many of his contemporary thinkers, who felt that man is born with certain inspired knowledge, the latter forming the basis of his future pursuits.

If, as we believe, man is born with a clean slate, it is clear that his learning  begins with his early childhood experiences including his specific ethnic acculturation. These early learning experiences and absorbed identity, can later on, be modifiable to some degree, but are, nevertheless, durable, if not permanent.

It may be fairly observed that the spiritual and religious aspirations of Eastern religious and social cultures (ex. Buddism and Hinduism) look to the ultimate elimination of the “ego,” “I,” or “self”, from philisophic contemplation; resulting in the successful attainment of Nirvana, affording the consequent elimination of temporal pain and inner conflict. The traditional, Eastern mindset, looks inside, to the inner person, for spiritual growth, self realization and peace.

By contrast, in the Western traditions and cultural mindset, the “I” or ego is not to be  suppressed, but to the contrary, asserted and success- oriented; morality consists in the humanely directed ego. The aspiration for inner peace and comfort, is not to be attained by any attempted setting aside, or elimination, of the “I,” or identified “self,” as is the case with Eastern religious belief. Virtue, in the Western context, consists in good moral behavior and an empathic self-identity. The important dynamics in Western life are all external and objective.

By reason of such material (cultural) difference (both, of course, estimable) it is our view that the Western, stylish trend towards orthodox “Meditation” is interesting, but perhaps Quixotic. The Western practitioner of the attempted dynamic, cannot, culturally and effectively eliminate the “self” from his existance; even by his dedicated attempts to look inward (to an acculturated consciousness that is always self- aware and protective). He must look outside himself for fulfillment, and no attempt to rebrand this ineffective practice with the social worker appellation of “mindfulness,” can be sufficient to reconstruct the long- ago established cultural consciousness of self.

-p.

 

 

 

Post # 327   TRUE LOVE AND BULBS (A Valentine’s Day Reprise)

Caution, dear reader, brace yourself. In a few days, the perennial tsunami, appearing every February 14, will predictably reassert itself, in all its traditional force. The sole fans of the feared flooding are the usual suspects, the greeting card companies, the chocolate manufacturers, the florists, the retail jewelry businesses, the pajama industry and the novelty sales folk. The expected high tide of the Valentine’s Day flooding, judging by previous experience, will inundate all land masses, human population and baffle all reason. Among other phenomena, the advertising industry will publish a virtual hurricane of notices, featuring photo-shopped, seemingly amorous couples, in intimate proximity, to their highlighted sales merchandise.

Since (mercifully) this holiday has only a short half-life, one day, the need for effective, sales propaganda becomes urgent. Unaccountably huge profits are earned by companies who, presumptuously, maintain that there is a realistic (and commercial) need to supplement the interaction of couples, who love one another with their manufactured paraphernalia. Greeting card companies are especially guilty of this self-serving assumption and hire distinguished “poets” to create doggerel, consisting of inane expressions of love and fidelity, for the thousands of presumably, aphasic, anonymous consumers.

The most objectionable of the various Valentine’s Day symbols, is the trite red valentine “heart,” an outmoded and retro- configuration, that is broadcast without relief; on all holiday products, greeting cards, gift wrapping paper, stuffed toys, pillows and candy boxes.This  stale symbol is glaringly imprinted on all items for sale on Valentine’s Day, as well as on the consumer’s mind, by some Manchurian Candidate type propaganda.

Various research people [ who apparently have no more pressing fields of inquiry for the employment of their PHD acumen] have uniformly reported that the classic red symbol is derived from an early incorrect understanding by [no less than] Galen and Aristotle, who believed that the heart contained only three chambers. [It may be noted, that Dr. Galen and Mr. Aristotle were accurate on a great many other subjects] subjects.]

The valentine depiction of the human heart, maintains the very same proportionate degree of accuracy, as a wood duck, in appearance, bears to a moose. Nevertheless, it has, over the ages, been imposed upon, and willingly accepted by, the consuming public as appropriate.

In accurate fact, the human heart is shaped like a pear and is the approximate size of a man’s fist. This life-or-death chest muscle is taxed with the job of circulating blood and oxygen throughout the body. It has no time, or noticeable inclination, for holiday Hallmark sales propaganda, as the purported source of love, courage, strength or kindness. The statement, “He has a good heart” should be relegated solely to a positive determination by a cardiologist, and not a positive comment on such traits as a person’s generosity or empathy. We are only concerned with cardiologists and not “cardeologists.” How would you value a positive comment on generosity, like, “He has good kidneys.”

It is certainly inarguable that all human thought and emotion are exclusively functions of the brain and not the traditionally romanticized heart muscle. Admittedly, however, it would be impractical to artistically create a brain-shaped cartoon figure to serve as a symbol of the holiday.

We, however, unlike certain political organizations, believe in repeal and  immediate replacement. The senseless valentine heart is best replaced by a preferable love symbol, the unique and marvelous tulip bulb. Certainly, the outline of the traditional bulb is simple to replicate, artistically. More important, the bulb has always been a reliable symbol of future growth and predictable beauty. Furthermore, relative to the modern conception of true and healthy love, the tulip bulb is independent and self-sustaining, having within its inner self a sufficient systemic source of future nourishment as well as the natural ability and inclination for growth and the achievement of its innate potential.

The tulip bulb, in the Middle Ages, was thought to be magical and priceless. There are historical records of its individual sale for the modern equivalent of several thousand dollars. If you should offer one to him/her and it is refused, we earnestly suggest that you look elsewhere.

ADDENDUM:

Why should it be necessary to dedicate a one- day holiday in recognition and expression of love; and, further, to do so by trite gifts of holiday nonsense? Love, where it is genuine, is experienced on a regular basis, and expressed in tender interaction and caring, personal acts. This one- day holiday is sadly  comparable to gifts of free turkey dinners on Thanksgiving to the needy. Hunger exists year- round and the poor and unfortunate need more than a gratuitous symbol.

(* minor edits)

-p.

Blogpost # 326 THE CATARACT

Life rockets on, like a cold, insistant mountain current, fast, furious and determined. No rocky impediment can hinder its raging impatience, nor burden its gravity inspired speed, in its steep dramatic journey from natural promonitory to the sea, far below.  Its unabating power and untamed turbulance, have the two-sided potential to inspire admiration, or true atavistic fear.

Metaphorical life too, inexorably surges on, apparently undaunted by temporal impediments, and at an alarmingly, uncommon speed. The old folks ironically observe, “The years are short, but the days are long.” The breakneck speed of man’s years, as they seemingly dissipate, sans empathy, seems to completely blur specific recollection, with the exception of exceptional matters of life-altering significance. By cognitive contrast, the day presents itself at once, in sixty minute, conscious and sometimes, seemingly, prolonged doses.

The use of the waterfall image is an exciting, but rather limited metaphor, specifically chosen to portray the immutable and unrestrained passage of time; and as derivatively applicable to each man’s relatively brief allotment of lifetime on Earth.

Of all the terrestial, sentient fauna, man has the good fortune to possess the exclusive knowledge of his ultimate mortality. His nuanced reaction to the impact of that eventuality, varies with age, sophistication and persona, and can indeed, be a material determinant in the quality and degree of his ultimate satisfaction with life.

It would undoubtedly be harmful, unhealthy and non-productive, to eternally dwell on the reality of one’s inevitable mortality; in such event, long term planning and personal aspirations, would appear to any such person, as foolish and impractical. People who fearfully live their entire lives, waiting, in readiness, outside death’s door, sacrifice all of the joy of living  and surrender themselves to insular, limited lives. Some, perhaps, seek succor and comfort, from the traditional archaic pretentions of religious dogma and spiritual fantasy. To many of those people, life on earth may be merely a preparatory precursor to something better, as promised.

Those with healthier perspective, appreciatively affirm the priceless gift of life, most especially in their understanding of its limited timespan. They enthusiastically and energetically, open themselves up to life’s virtually unlimited array of available potential for the pursuit of advancement and intelligent stimulation, and strive for personal self-fulfillment (happiness). Pursuits such as the regular reading of good literature, attendance at lectures, travel, theater, enjoyment of music, are sources of personal development, satisfaction and the pure joy of living. Additionally, very rewarding are voluntary services rendered to worthy causes. These undertakings and pursuits, make valuable use of whatever time we have allotted to us, and result in a hightened appreciation of life, and a recognition that it is indeed, a most, generous, planetary gift, for as long as alloted.

-p.

 

 

 

Blogpost # 325 CONTRACTS

The noun, “contract,” is prevalently employed in the context of business relations, to signify an enforceable, promissory exchange between two or more parties, concerning the performance of specific agreed upon obligations. Such business agreements might typically concern, the sale of merchandise or property, the extension of financing or the performance of services. Most contractual undertakings can be either express (written) or implied (oral or situational).

However, the word, “contract,” can be permissibly employed, as well, in the context of many human (non-business), interactive relationships, to describe the necessary social mandates and assumptions that accommodate societal living and interactional behavior. Obviously, such binding societal agreements and behavioral mandates, are implied.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the French 18th Century philosopher, is best known for his concept of “The Social Contract,” which defines a transactional relationship in which the individual, contractually surrenders certain of his personal rights to (his) society, in exchange for the benefits of membership and for the common good.

Since ancient times, marriage has always been considered a contractual relationship, with several attendant and implicit obligations by reason of its vital societal importance. Some cultures, provide, additionally, for a written document, as for example, the traditional Hebrew practice of the bride and groom signing a written marriage contract (the “Chupa”),  in the presence of the assembled wedding party and the officiating clergyman.

“Societal contracts” are implied by necessity and relationship. Societally and socially affirming folkways and behaviors, are recognized and mutually complied with, by members of every society; these include, as examples, handshaking or some alternate form of social recognition, offers of neighborly assistance when needed, mutual  recognition of certain secular and historic holidays, acceptable dress, accepted rules of common hospitality and decency, shared response to disaster, observance of  expected familial responsibilites, participation in joint enterprise, and many other implicit and binding social obligations.

From an anthropological view, homo sapiens eventually concluded that living in society was vastly superior to his prior solo existence; the latter involved a daily, desperate search for food and habitation, as well as constant exposure to danger from predatory animals and marauders. Living in society with other humans however, necessitated the evolution of mutually binding understandings and assumptions, relating to behavior and communal authority (Rousseau’s “Social Contract”). The obvious success of the societal mode of living was, in large part, due to man’s willingness to comply with uniform, tacitly accepted, social responsibilities and mandatory interactive discipline. These implied understandings were contractual, and enforceable by an appointed agency of the communty. It is a tribute to the innate nature of mankind, that for the most part, these implied “contractual” undertakings were universally observed, making possible, the continued growth of even larger and more sophisticated societal groups.

As life became more complex, supplemental rules and understandings,  most,unrelated to basic survival and mandatory behavior evolved, of necessity. This was especially true and applicable to advances in communication, such that, in contemporary times, inter-active communication has inarguably become part of the social infrastructure. Yet, despite the sophisticated growth of common language and the development of modern forms of communication, certain problems persisted regarding human interaction, possibly due to the increasing number and kind of relatively complex relationships, possibly due to the exponential speed of technical and social change, or more likely, attributable to human failings.

We find it frustrating, that the communal responsibility, in conversation, to be clear, and at the very least, marginally understandable, is often ignored. The obligation, of a party to a conversation, in fairness, to exercise at least a modicum of care, to state that which he had previously resolved to say is a material flaw, if not also a contractual wrong.  By reason of the speaker’s prior intention, he will, no doubt, “truthfully,” and adamantly, insist on a statement having been said, despite the fact that such intended message was, in fact, never articulated.  The predictable result is a possible misunderstanding by the  parties, and its proximate, eventual ramifications, be they of slight, or of a serious nature.

Accordingly, we would, respectfully suggest, a mandatory “Rider” to Rousseau’s Social Contract, expressly providing, by its terms, for a contractual obligation, to consider, specifically, what one  intends to say, in advance of any significant conversation, so that there will be a better possibility of actually saying it.  **

** Also recommended for family members and spouses.

-p.