Post # 542 ARMCHAIR PERORATIONS **

As a result of our study and contemplation, we came to adequately value the Socratic admonition, “Know thyself.” The ancient Greek philosopher’s seemingly simple words, in reality, are so profound in their eternally edifying meaning, that any person, however contemplative, would be extremely challenged to recite all of its instructive implications.

Many centuries after the age of Socrates, a brilliant English philosopher, John Locke, famously and valuably, articulated to mankind his fundamentally empirical, “tabula rasa” declaration, viz., that man is born with a blank slate, and that all knowledge is acquired by experience.  As we see it, this declaration would appear to chart the rationally exclusive route to the implementation of the valuable Socratic advice.

As ardent followers of Locke’s “empirical school” of epistemology and of the quoted Socratic admonition, we have been enabled by such principled guidance, to acquire and to cherish certain personally useful, lifetime principles, inclusive of those set forth below, [which may coincide with the reader’s own thoughtful conclusions or perorations.]

[A] Internal life. The ultimate mechanism, enabling any useful understanding of life is the phenomenon of self- perception, identified in many of our writings as, “the lifelong conversation with oneself.” Continuing, self- awareness and efforts to achieve personal self-identification is existentially necessary, to the Socratic aspiration to know oneself. A continuous, internal audit of one’s actions and words, referable to his conceived persona, is the objective source of his self-identity. Candor is vitally essential, in any personal comparison between one’s avowed morality and his actual behavior. The practice of punishments for bad behavior and rewards for good acts, is of minuscule value, in comparison with a candid personal analysis, founded on the maintenance of an objectively conceived moral self-image.

Occasional moments of contemplative self- analysis constitute valuable time in the maintenance of a desired persona.

[B] Nuanced aptitudes. It is of essential importance to the maintenance of our identity and self-esteem, to be aware that there are specific innate strengths and weaknesses which factually vary among individuals. The expectation that one is universally skilled, and capable in every area or study discipline, is an indication of inexperience and a predictable invitation to frustration and disappointment. The untimely discovery that aptitudes do vary can lead to unnecessary incidents of failure and loss of self-esteem. Additionally, the comparison with others’ strengths is useless, unrealistic and self-defeating.

One should, rationally and positively, define himself by his strengths, and not by his innate weaknesses.

[C] Stress Management. The phenomenon of stress i.e., the emotional reaction to certain stimuli, is innate and natural. This reaction, deemed vital to the survival of early homo sapiens, is today present in personal reactions to stimuli, for example, to unsettling thoughts about aging, extremely bad weather, personal threats, bad news, danger (real or perceived), personal challenges, loss, disappointment and perceived failures. The common occurrence and discomfort of anxiety is universal, and we are medically advised, deleterious to health. However, such unhealthy and uncomfortable reaction, can be managed and at times, mitigated with the employment of reason and experienced perception.

It should be borne in mind that the empirical occasions (stimuli) exciting the reaction of stress are endless in nature and varied in emotional significance. Certainly, the loss of an ordinary object, such as an inexpensive pin is not comparable to the death of a loved pet, or worse, a dire medical diagnosis. Yet, there are personalities who will spontaneously exhibit, their most extreme reactions to stimuli of any nature. Far healthier are those with mature perception, who suit, or calibrate, their response to the objective significance of the stimulus. It is additionally possible, that in cases of observed overreaction to a particular stimulus, that there is the underlying existence of an unrelated, disturbing, pre-existing stressor.

Learning to tailor the appropriate extent of stress to the objective degree of gravity of a presenting stimulus, may lead to an easier and healthier life.

[D] Independent determination. Individuals who, in addition to attending to relevant responsibilities of family and society, have applied reasonable periods of time to contemplation and self -advancement, are predictably includable among those with sufficient confidence and the efficacy of independent thought. The factors of adequate education and sufficient experience are essentially indispensable to such facility. Those who read good literature, travel when possible, and pursue an appreciation for the arts and sciences, are least likely to rely upon gossip, group think (tribalism) and common aphorism. Such enlightened people live a more meaningful, in depth and more satisfying life and constitute the most valued and useful citizens of a Democratic Republic.

 Nevertheless, individuals who have achieved satisfaction from the felt determination of appropriate conclusions, should attend, fairly and constructively, to the views of respected others, regardless of their points of view.

[E] Success and happiness.  Assuming the gift of reasonably good health, aspirations for essential happiness and rational success, are as closely related as identical twins, who may be mistaken one for the other. Unfortunately, there are a great many who comprehend success as the substantial acquisition of assets and the immense accumulation of money and property.   However, life as revealed from time to time in the media, and demonstrated by experience, material success, alone, does not portend happiness. There are all too many accounts of dependent drug use and even suicide, among many of the publically celebrated rich.

But, if fame and acquisition of expensive homes, boats and other assets, are not the necessary markers of success and happiness, what is?  Stated empirically, the criteria for success and happiness, empirically must be otherwise, since there do exist happy and also, unhappy rich and famous, as well as happy, successful and unsung people of relatively modest means.

 It is inarguable, that not everyone begins at the same starting position, and that those born to families of great wealth and influence, ipso facto, have far greater future opportunities for material success than do others, not so fortuitously born. What is essential in choosing a goal, is a realistic and practical assessment of the situational cards which one is dealt, and a practical consideration of the possibilities of future material success. While a grand and glorious financial future may have some possibility in any life situation, the selection of aspirations ought, wisely be tempered with realistic and empirical considerations.

Success, in our experience, is not assured by the quantity, however impressive, of visible or ostentatious assets.  Consistent with our experience and understanding, life’s precious essentials, love, security, morality and image, the elements of success and consequent happiness, are distinctively internal. True success is the attainment of the feeling of accomplishment and the priceless sense of fundamental self-fulfillment. In such determination, a determinative comparison between one’s starting point and one’s attainment, is a most rational consideration.

Beyond any conceivable criterion, an individual’s realization of being infortuitous possession of the unique franchise of life, is his ultimate success and prime occasion for rational happiness.

-p.

 ** ADDENDUM:  We would certainly not presume to be the possessors of the answers to the eternal human questions, and would respectfully request that the foregoing writing, be perceived as simply based upon our own best understanding, which we hoped might be interesting reading.

Post # 541 ELECTIVE CLASS ASSIGNMENTS

 As we understand the 18th Century European-American history, the novel assertion of our Founders, that “All men are created equal,” at that time, did not have the contextual meaning we now (morally and usefully) assign to it. It was, in fact, a radical declaration of the demise of the long, inequitable European institution of privileged birth. In the new Republican Democracy, no man was to be born to life-long privilege nor servitude; to a class status, assigned and solely attributable, to his birth. Whether an assignment of social class was, nonetheless, to evolve, albeit on alternative criteria, was yet to be seen.

After some decades of reading history, and from personal observation, we have reached the conclusion that human beings are, by nature, individually competitive and acquisitive and that as a consequence, economic and social stratification is an inevitable phenomenon. Upon the assumption that such conclusion is accurate, it would follow that the categorization of people based on socio-economic criteria like, wealth, income, education, ethnos, race, gender, occupation, social status may prove useful.

Various efforts to create entirely egalitarian communes or societies, even on a small scale, have generally failed, with rare exceptions such as the Israeli kibbutz. Karl Marx, in his Communist Manifesto,, declared that under Communism, society would naturally and scientifically morph into a classless society, ruled by the common man (proletariat). As far as we have been able to ascertain, no Nation (despite their name and protestation) or polity has ever existed as “Marxist.” The U.S.S.R, by bright example, held itself out as a Communist (Marxist) State, however, research reveals that, at the time of the inquiry, Russia had a greater number of managerial classes alone, than the total of classes in all the U.S.

In the United States, it appears, popularly recognized class differentials essentially stress wealth and business success as the fundamental criteria of class; the “Upper Capitalist” class, the rich and powerful, the “Upper Middle class”, highly educated, affluent professionals, the “Middle class”, semi-professional, some college education, “Working class”, “blue -collar workers, usually with routinized jobs and the “Lower class,” the working poor and unemployed. American freedom of opportunity, makes feasible a (hard-earned) mobility to a higher category, (especially regarding the lower categories).

The accepted criteria of wealth, education and experience, that constitute the main determinants of class and social stratification, appear to be empirically responsible for a wide variety of choices, in, apparel, television preferences, color of residential property, food and dining choices, children’s names, even pet names. There are in addition, discernable differences in health and medical care, creature comforts, and a sense of security. These observations may well be as meaningful to merchants, as to sociologists.

Since it is apparent that socio-economic classes are inevitable, fundamentally based on man’s natural inclination to be differentially competitive and acquisitive, care should be taken, where relevant, to support those who, despite their demonstrated best efforts, are in need of government support, viz., regarding sickness and childbirth, education and the necessities of basic life. In keeping with the traditional American emblematic pretensions of “equality” and “life liberty and happiness,” as relevant to the financial situation of bona fide need (ex., the “working poor” class), supplementary governmental assistance and special tax treatment would seem to be warranted. Unlike the members of the “Upper Capitalist” class, they do not have the unique opportunity to enlarge their assets in billions through opportune stock transfers.

We have never been, and properly should never be, a “managed society;” the free enterprise system has always been and should remain, endemic to our Nation. The argument, (especially by people who accept and enjoy so many governmental benefits) that compassionate capitalism, is a step toward a socialistic government is an example of gross and implacable ignorance. Socialism (not an epithet, as tactically used, but an economic theory) is the system of total ownership of business and industry by government. There is absolutely no existing candidate for high office that is desirous of that goal. Indeed, it is the very policy of compassionate capitalism that, in addition to being morally empathetic in its reduction of privation and poverty, that permanently keeps other non-free enterprise economic systems, from our shores.

We believe that a long overdue and reasonable, governmental policy of financial adjustment, between the wide diversity of American classes, such as the working poor and the hedge fund billionaire, is fair, morally appropriate and (if necessary to assert) completely unrelated to “socialism.” The approval of a policy of governmental extension of relief for fellow Americans who work hard, yet lack sufficient means to exist, by those who have the facility to amass more money than they could possibly need or spend, would be empathic and patriotic as consistent with the Nation’s emblematic tradition of equality.

-p.

Post # 540 AMERICAN CRAZY QUILT

It is common knowledge that a “Crazy Quilt” is a type of bedcover, traditionally made in North America, consisting of sewn together patches of fabrics, randomly chosen in varying sizes, shapes and colors. The appearance of the finished item suggests to us a natural and useful analogy to the randomness and variation of public opinion in our Nation.

At election time in a two party democracy, voters are at times obliged, to set aside certain of their nuanced views and of necessity, cast their vote for the candidate of the two, whose platform is perceived as closest to their personal interest and their general philosophy of governance. In this writing, we are interested in examining the etiology of individual opinion in our democracy, and the dynamics of possible change.

Among the divergent views on human perception and knowledge, as our regular readers would be aware, our eternal indebtedness is to the 19Th Century philosopher, John Locke. In his elegant, “Essay Concerning Human Understanding,” Locke famously declared that man is born with a blank slate (“tabula rasa”) and that his knowledge is acquired by his experience. This classic view of epistemology held by the “Empirical” school of philosophy, we maintain, makes greater rational sense than the “Rationalist” thinkers, who insisted that man was born, already possessing certain items of inspired knowledge.

For us then, it would consistently and logically follow, that perceptions of reality, and consequent judgments, moral, social, political and otherwise, are developed by the individual based upon his lifetime of experience. How happy we would be, as inhabitants of this complex Planet, were it only so fundamentally logical and acceptably simple.

The etiology of the variety of opinion is inclusive of many individuals guided (or, misguided) by thoughtless and ethnocentric early childhood teaching and/or immaturely perceived experience. The foregoing can possibly result, as life proceeds, in resultant feelings of insecurity, low self- esteem and poor self-image, based principally upon the later revelation and challenge of an apparently inconsistent, objective reality. Such consequential lack of personal confidence is often manifested, empirically, by a neurotic lust for the approval of the perceived, “accepted others,” and the self- deprecation of personal opinion, leading to the sad pathology of tribalism. Our Democratic Republic is functionally disenfranchised by the phenomenon of neurotic “group think,” or “tribalism,” in lieu of spontaneous and democratically expressed “Will of the People.”

It is unfortunate that several patches of the American crazy quilt of popular opinion are composed of these pathetic and intractable tribal voters whose salient failing is not founded in debatable principle but rather, in self- impaired persona.

A colorfully enthusiastic if, worrisome patch of the American crazy quilt, is composed of one-issue voters, dedicatedly mono -focused on one specific issue; whether it be gun rights, abortion, global warming, immigration policy, civil rights, gay rights, government health insurance, environmental or any other (for them) solely determinative issue. Such people effectively wear, “horse blinders,” preventing them from the consideration of any of the plethora of other unrelated positions in the candidate’s platform (some, conceivably, against their personal interest). The skewed result is an inaccurate and unbalanced statement of national will. These highly dedicated and thoughtless voters are unwittingly destructive of the concept and virtues of governmental responsive democracy.

Because the foregoing “patches” of the American quilt, choose, to cast their vote based upon their fixed respective irrational motivations, it might be perceived as useless, as a practical matter, to attempt to disabuse them of their unwitting and disrespectful, waste and abuse of the voting franchise, and to marshal political arguments solely directed to the more rational, thoughtful American.

However, the universal right to vote is the inherently vital ingredient by which a democratic government is defined and guided. Accordingly, its existential importance might justify efforts to re-decorate America’s crazy quilt, to raise the awareness of those misguided citizens who do not choose to contemplate their own best interests and that of our Nation.

We are confident enough to believe that with reference to certain patches of non-thinking voters, particularly, those who vote to mindlessly replicate their parent’s traditional vote (ref. early essay, “Lichen People”) and voters who rely excessively upon the persuasive opinions of another, may be amenable to alternative and more rational views. The limited consciousness of “one-issue voters,” be can possibly be raised, so as to address necessary attention to the plural context of a candidate’s intended platform. In addition, a regular practice of popular distribution, by both parties, of objective (and accurate) written information, could conceivably lead to voting results that are more useful, meaningful and democratically referential for governance.

The larger piece of the American crazy quilt can suitably cast their votes, rationally and effectively, based upon an objective evaluation of the acceptability, or otherwise, of an incumbent’s record of performance, and their own political and moral beliefs.

-p.

Post # 539       “GOOD TALK”         

If asked to define the term, “interactive conversation,” we might well describe it as an exchange where both participants are active and have an effect by their words upon the other. The term encompasses and describes a dynamic flow of information.
Our writings on the dynamics or functioning of man in society have consistently stressed the existential importance of inter-active societal communication. From the era of Early Man to our present time, analogous needs for mutual defense, food, transmission of skills and cultural folkways, societal structure and governance, matters of love and marriage, family and inheritance, trade and other phenomena of societal significance, are voiced and made possible by the use of a shared language. We would go so far as to declare that the development of a common language constituted the cultural mortar and cement in the early construction and development of society.

A Nation or a distinct ethnos is, in significant part, identified and described by its nuanced language. In the late 19th Century a movement of peace-seeking intellectuals attempted to promote the use of an international (common) language for all mankind, (“Esperanto”) in the hope that a world where all mankind spoke the same language, differences would be less prevalent and the possibility of war, thereby abated. Unfortunately, the “Esperanto” movement failed. The principal motivation for the same, however, was commendable and empirically based, if Pollyannaish. However, we have said enough about the importance of language and must get back to our principal theme, viz., the nature and quality of interactive conversation between members of society.
As we see it, the nature of the individual persona is the most significant determinant as to the degree of successful quality of interpersonal interaction. Effective success is accomplished by those who have the willingness and ability to put aside their own personal thoughts and concerns, in order to consider and possibly empathize with, the expressed thoughts and concerns of others. This mature capability is essential in the attainment of the societal skill of an effective conversationalist. Others may be so consumed by their incessant ruminative introspections, that they cannot put them aside, even for the moment required for another’s opportunity to express his personal thoughts. We think of the subject, generally, as the presence or absence of the generosity of spirit.
The following is a (fictional) illustration of the latter described, failed conversation:

George: Hi Luther
Luther: Oh, hi George
George: Did you hear, my “Missus” is pregnant.
Luther: My sister just got back.
George: I don’t know how we can, possibly, afford a fifth child
She was in Florida for two weeks
George: I’m quite worried about her carrying a baby at her age
Luther: While she was gone, I managed to fix the carburetor on my Pontiac
George: Then there’s the concern about the expense of childbirth
Luther: Got to go now, George, time for lunch, Goodbye!
George: See you. Good talk!

Such exchanges occur far too often and parties to such failed interactions have only the limited benefit of the discharge of one’s personal thoughts in the presence of another human being, but no communication. It is as if a transparent piece of plastic wrap were inserted between the parties, blocking the thoughts expressed by from ever reaching the other party. It is our observation that many claimed, interactive conversations, in reality, never objectively take place. Any miniscule value to the conceivable feelings of relief, of having reliably discharged the energy of a perseverated anxiety, is completely eliminated by the objective realization that the speaker could equally have accomplished the identical result, by declaring his concerns to the family cat.
People who attain the bona fide relationship of true friendship, greatly value the ability and willingness to mutually share thoughts and concerns with each other. As indicated, other ostensible conversants are, in effect, merely talking to themselves.

The ability to express one’s thoughts fully and accurately is far from a universal skill. At various times, one may have the confident and sincere impression that he has fully and accurately expressed his intentions, but has, in reality, failed to employ the necessary or accurate vocabulary. Inadequately expressed, or mindlessly worded, communications can lead to friction, ranging from frustration and dispute, to, in an appropriate case, the costly and extreme matter of legal action. This common failing is the foundational legal basis for the underlying legal precedent, requiring agreements in certain transactions, to be expressed in writing and mutually signed, in order to constitute enforceable contracts.

The carefully considered and intentionally selected language of a personal letter, normally results in a minimum of misunderstanding, since its writer and the addressee, are familiar with each other and aware of the context and personal nuance of the writer’s carefully selected language. Letter writing also affords to the writer, the opportunity to adequately consider his chosen words prior to their communication. Unfortunately, today, in this era of popular electronic transmittal of inarticulate and impersonal, data-like symbols, letter writing, while possessing the least potential for a carelessly selected word, or misapprehended meaning, is considered a mere romantic antique.
During restive times such as the present, when society evinces a high degree of divisive and politically polarized character, frequent instances of spoken misunderstanding are more common; meaningful interaction, when attempted, is frequently misapprehended by those with subjectively biased perception and obdurately nuanced views.

In all instances and without exception, the vital mutual facility of transmitting thoughts and information, as well as the satisfaction at being understood, exist only when both parties to a conversation invest sufficient attention to the words of the other, as well as to their own.
-p.

Post # 538      A LITTLE PANDEMIC JABBERWOCKY *

Two village dudes named Luke and Sean
Conspired one day to steal a lawn
They met at night just to devise
A scheme to take away their prize
They stole away a flatbed truck
Which wouldn’t start, t’was their bad luck
They left the scene in great despair
And each dude pulled the other’s hair.
-p.
Attributed to Leonard N, Shapiro NY 9/4/20
*Tip of the hat to Lewis Carroll

ost # 537 (poesie) THE ETERNAL TRANSACTION*

Of all the deals we strike in life
Of all the goods we buy and sell
Of all our love of land and flag
Of all our ardent love of peace
Of all our firm friendships made
Of all our love of life itself

The dearest cost is a loss of love
The painful sight of life’s cruel end
The egregious cost of a loved one’s death
A hurtful space that’s never filled

Green emeralds’ cost is very great
The price of peace, ‘oft hard to pay
The cost of truth so dearly bought
The cost of death is enduring pain

There seems no cost in avoiding loss
With no love whose death to mourn
There’s far less risk in solitude, and
Yet in such choice, in fear of pain
The dearest cost in life, we feel,
Is emptiness, in lieu of love.

-p.

attributed to Leonard N. Shapiro N.Y. 9/2/2020

Post # 536 ARMCHAIR RUMINATIONS

By now it seems probable, that by the time the contagious coronavirus pandemic finally surrenders its potentially lethal course, or is eternally defeated by an effective and relevant vaccine, the same will have occurred only after most of us have already spent a significant amount of prophylactic time, “sheltering in” (quarantine). The mandate to eschew interactive societal contact for such an extensive period of time has empirically required many necessary alterations to our lifestyle in order to accommodate or adjust to the new restrictive existence. By being home, individuals acquired (happily or otherwise) the opportunity for more intensive family time as well as the opportunity to engage in activities of personal interest.

It will come as no surprise to our regular readers, to declare that we are especially interested in the subjects of human contemplation, self- image and one’s ongoing lifelong inner conversation with himself. In such a context, the solitude necessarily implicit in a commitment to quarantine enables ample time for undisturbed inner thought and self- examination, which time would otherwise be normally consumed by work and social activities. For those of contemplative inclination, the bonus of additional time is considered useful, valuable, and not wasted or misspent.

In normal circumstances, thoughtful and perceptive people prize their limited availability of private time for reading, contemplation and self -advancement. Such dedicated activities, largely expressed in private thought, often tends in the direction of the individual’s mature perception of himself and of his world. In terms of human development, such introspective analytics lead to self -improvement and advances the goal, set by Nature, of the eternally sought and ultimate gold medal of human evolution, wisdom.  Enforced solitude has expanded the time for such contemplative and valuable activity.

The conclusion of the threat of this pandemic will unquestionably bring, in addition to, happiness and universal sighs of relief, the return to our former lifestyle, including significantly, the resumption of normal, societal interaction. In this context, we are optimistically, hoping for a renaissance of appreciation for the benefits of natural, nuanced, interpersonal conversation; as opposed to the popular ersatz, electronic transmission of data-like images shown on a small, held lighted screen. Our hopeful expectation is based on the anticipated, renewed appreciation of natural personal contact and communication, as may be remembered, existing previous to the double-edged sword of the so-called, “smartphone.”

We predict that the future reaction to the readjustment and resumption of the former normality, might well vary with the person and the specific activity or routine resumed. As an instructive example, those who have thoughtlessly weathered the epidemic from the comfortable indolence of a soft couch may mourn the end of a rare period of acceptable excuse for wasting valuable time.

It can certainly be safe to predict that there will be a universal pleasure at the liberty to go to movies as well as to the theater, beaches, parks, and sports stadia and dine at favorite restaurants. No one will miss the discharge of the obligations of distancing, wearing a mask, and frequent handwashing with germ-killing soap. Not everyone, we assume, will enjoy the resumption of the obligation to commute to and from employment, to dress regularly in conformance with societal expectations, nor, perhaps, the resumption of fixed schedules for meals and bedtime. However, it is rational and appropriate for everyone, including the stagnant couch potato, to sincerely rejoice in the end of this tragic virus.

Those who had employed the newly available time to engage in elective matters of self -advancement, as discussed above, will, of course, share in the relief and happiness at the long-awaited demise of COVID-19, but, possibly, to some degree, may miss the available unlimited time for desired reading and contemplation

In the present context of the anticipation of society’s response to the end of the costly and tragic pandemic, we are willing to plead guilty to any reader’s charge of extreme optimism, for our following perceived assessment, in fact, of its positive results:

  • It provided a “timeout” from our automatic and routinized life, to take a step back and objectively evaluate ourselves and our lifestyle;
  • It conceivably provided a needed reappraisal and re-evaluation of the benefits of personal and natural conversation, as opposed to the cold exchange of electronic symbols by the ersatz, impersonal mode of electronic conversation.
  • It aided in the universal recognition of the eternal existence of the classic problems, affecting everyone, regardless of political or religious affiliation.
  • It emphasized the existential importance to health, of research science and rational thought, as opposed to atavistic, ignorant precepts and misleading and irrelevant, superstitious or religious practices.
  • It was an effective reminder that life is precarious and immeasurably precious.

This writing is a product of our armchair musings and ruminations, strategically published, in advance of the termination of the epidemic, and the resumption of normality, when there may be less armchair time for such activity.

-p.