Post # 509   CONUNDRA (A Quarantine Whimsy)

A period of solitude necessarily, implicit in the present prophylactic practice of quarantine, affords ample undistracted time for free-floating and undisciplined thought. In such a context, the other day, we seemed to perseverate on our early childhood thoughts and experiences. In that antediluvian era, as recalled, “telling a joke,” for some childish reason, meant, to pose a riddle, the intended humor apparently, consisting of the revelation of the solution. The inventory of such “jokes,” however, was necessarily limited, as a result of their familiarized, local repetition; so their utility was usually employed, in the unkind challenge to outsiders, such as newcomers to the neighborhood and strangers.

Many of these problematic riddles, (read, “jokes”) still linger in our long-ago memories: Examples: “Why did the chicken cross the road? (To get to the other side); why do firemen wear red suspenders? (To hold their trousers up); What can you catch, but not throw? (a cold); What month has 28 days? (All of them); What comes but never arrives? (Tomorrow).

One riddle which, seems to persist, universally, for some unknown reason, was actually answered by us in our high school years. The so-called conundrum was: “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” This problem, strange to relate, is still utilized, today to signify unanswerable questions. Truthfully, and with the greatest modesty, we (viz., pliny) easily solved the age-old issue, when a High School sophomore, to earn the offered prize, of two chunky bars (the then contemporary, medium of exchange). We saw that the solution of the traditionally, unsolvable dilemma, was elementary if you are a believer in Darwinian evolution. (The egg came first, which was laid by a creature [bird], one step before the chicken in the evolutionary process). These facts have been set forth in an earlier, pliny blogpost). Understandably, we have been, for many decades, surprised and greatly disappointed, by the felt lack of due recognition and absence of well deserved, tribute, given to our singular break-through.

We presently are beset by an irritatingly, unanswerable question, which we ourselves have posed, regarding the well-known baked item, called the “bagel.” We will attempt to justify the use of the adjective, “irritatingly,” as well as setting forth the difficult question, following a very brief note on the iconic bagel, itself.

The Yiddish word, and item, “bagel,” had their modest origins within the Jewish community of Poland. Wheaten dough is shaped by hand, into the form of a small circle (approximately, medium hand size) boiled and thereafter baked. Bagels, in all their many present iterations, plain, sesame seed, pumpernickel, onion, garlic, and the like, have, universally, become extremely popular and profitable items. Our unsolved issue “revolves” (sorry!) about that delicious product.

Prior to the actual recitation of our bagel conundrum, we would earnestly request the reader to reserve his predictable, reaction, outrage, or immediately, proffered response, to the same. If the solution to this problem, were as simplistic as its statement would, on its face, appear to be, we (who are discerning enough to have finally solved the age-old, chicken-egg, conundrum) would not feel so distressed and frustrated at its elusive answer.

As set forth above, the quintessential bagel is hand-formed into a circle, boiled and then baked. The excruciatingly difficult- perhaps unanswerable, the question relates to its circular configuration, and is an empirical, or factual, one: CAN A BAGEL HAVE A HOLE IN IT? Please, as earnestly requested above, withhold your response, derisive or factual, until we have the opportunity to elucidate.

It is a simple matter to determine whether one’s sock, shirt, shoe, or watering can, has a hole in it. This ultra-simple question can be readily answered by reference to its appearance or performance.

Getting down to the basics, we would describe the simple concept of “hole,” as an opening, tear, space gap, or perhaps, a cavity. In view of the fact that a bagel is circular shaped, i.e., a 360 -degree arc, like all circles is especially identified by the void, occupying the interior of the baked circle. This means that for a bagel to satisfy its mandatory and existential essence, and qualify under applicable definition and established standard, it must be baked in a circle (viz., a baked item, whose essentially, identifying feature is its shape, which, in its intrinsic, circular form, surrounds an interior empty space).

Since it is the fact, that, both empirically, and by universally, established definition, a bagel is circular and contains an empty space, within its wheaten baked circle, can it be correctly said that a bagel has a “hole” in it? Stated otherwise, if membership, as a bagel, in the class of baked goods, requires an empty center, how, in the name of reason, can a legitimately, qualified bagel, be said to contain a hole?

Before we hazard our, personally considered view, on this erudite, philosophical and definitional conundrum, we are duty-bound to refer to the historically, divisive and bitter feelings as between the divergent points of view on the subject. Since the relatively recent creative, and universally, life-enhancing, phenomenon, the bagel, was creatively, inspired and miraculously, effectuated, the contentious “hole” issue, has been compared, in intensity, and time to the 30 Year’s War in Europe, in philosophical and World significance, to the Protestant Reformation, and in its extent of great excitement, to the year the Boston Red Socks, at long last, triumphed over the New York Yankees, in Finley Park. Unfortunately, there have been some street riots and a few general strikes, ignited by the differing and contentious feelings on the issue, but fortunately to date, no deaths.

Based upon our intensive researches, both academic and social, on all sides of the contested issue, the disputants line up as follows. The adherents to the theory that a bagel, defined by its circular shape, has no opportunity, or space for a hole, that the empty center, classically, and by definition “is” what defines it as a bagel; others, beg the question, by arguing that a bagel is a bakery item with a hole already in it; still others, also say, that the open space is a definitional part of the bagel and, sneeringly, that you cannot have a second hole in an empty space.

After much consultation on the issue, with recognized experts in Geometry (Euclidian and Spherical), Trigonometry, Metaphysical Philosophers, Designers and Food experts, and after due consideration and deliberation, we have come to the answer to this obtuse and heavily contested question, and can confidently conclude that the reader will be entirely correct if he chooses to select, any one, of the following answers, to the thorny question: Does a bagel have a hole in it?

  • A Bagel is a “Bagel”, because of the signature hole,
  • You cannot poke a hole in empty space,
  • But you can make one on its baked portion or,
  • Who cares? We have conundrums enough, in dealing with Trump and COVID-19.

Well, we hope that you at least smiled!

-p.

Post #508      PICKING AT THE SCAB (editorial)

The surprise attack and degree of ensuing success of the novel, and potentially fatal, 2019-2020, coronavirus pandemic has been, in no small part, the beneficiary of America’s misplaced priorities, and lack of responsible official oversight. The ignorance, egotism and total incapacity of the Trump Administration, provided in decisive effect, the same pernicious and disabling impact, as would a cadre of enemy fifth columnists; in its senseless dismissal of a special watchdog agency, tasked with the responsibility of advance notification of worldwide epidemics, in tandem with its generally, ignorant denigration of scientific (and other, academic) research.

The subject pandemic, as of the date of this writing, reportedly, has steadily increased in our Nation, to the ((known) alarming amount of 1,655, 691 deaths, and 97,812, infected. It has been officially reported that to date, the figures of infected people in New York State, is 362,764. (however, due to the gross malpractice of the Trump administration, there are serious shortages of testing equipment (among other things) accordingly, the figures of the infected may be understated.) We read today, that the number of cases of coronavirus is alarmingly rising in five Southern States. The World Health Organization has publically declared, that we need to be cognizant, that simply because the numbers may appear to indicate, in some areas, that the virus is on the way down, it is vitally necessary to continue to maintain our protective protocols, (sheltering in place, masks, distancing, sanitary practices).

It is our disconcerting observation, that, despite the advertised dangers of contracting the virus, and its known potential for lethality, a reckless, impatient portion of our population, has irresponsibly chosen to defy the mandatorily essential, prophylactic admonitions, by closely socializing at the shore on Memorial Day, and in attendance at crowded bars, barbeques, and other public events. It is to be realized, that such impatient and reckless noncompliance, with the medically, prescribed procedures, is a danger, as well, to the general public, by the further thoughtless, transmission of the viral infection, to the general population. It is not, merely a private choice and could, unjustly result, in the communication of the dreaded disease to others, also impatient, but more responsible [ in their compliance with the prescribed medical strictures.] No individual ever has the elective freedom, or moral authority, to “throw caution to the winds,” when it is at the risk of others.

Those who have raised children have predictably experienced the occasion, when their child incurs a minor wound to the knee or elbow, which, in the normal healing process, develops a protectively, covering scab. It is not uncommon for the young child, to want to pick at the scab, in an effort to remove it, because it feels itchy and uncomfortable. It is appropriate to discourage the child from doing so, by candidly, explaining that picking off of the scab may provide at first, a brief feeling of relief, but will delay the healing process of the wound, and may lead to further damage, or infection, and possibly, result in an unwanted scar.

For the present, by applicable and instructive analogy, patient endurance and compliance, with the prophylactic measures prescribed by the medical authorities, is the only safe, and societally responsible, course of action. The medical scientists, reportedly, are working feverously, to discover more about this novel virus, and to ultimately, produce a preventative vaccine. The small business interests who have been experiencing severe financial straits, understandably, would prefer to relax the protective restrictions; but in the end, are, logically and empirically, foolhardy, in seeking such premature relief, at the empirical risk, of an extension, or, perhaps, an exacerbation, of the problem.  Now is certainly not the pragmatic time, for “picking at the uncomfortably, itchy scab”.

Were the Trump Administration a capable, empathetic, and responsible one, desperately needed temporary financial relief, pending the arrival of the appropriate time to relax the restrictions, would be of major assistance, in the resolution of the current dilemma. However, the non- empathic, and pre-occupied, D.J. Trump, is far too engaged, in his golf scores, which are resolutely played, unmasked.

-p.

Post # 507        CANE AND ABLE

Mankind has historically venerated strength and athletic ability. The Roman Coliseum, perhaps, the best known of ancient stadia, was, like the Greek Amphitheater, dedicated to the Gods, and erected for the huge public spectatorship of regularly scheduled, athletic tournaments, known as the Olympics, or the “Games.” Research indicates, that contests and feats of exhibited strength and athletic performance, date back to the early days of man, and testifies to the eternal nature of man’s high regard for physical prowess. Modern society reprises this tradition, by its idolization of outstanding athletes, such as Babe Ruth, Joe Louis, Michael Jordan, Pele, LeBron James, and a full myriad of others. Vast numbers of sports stadia have been erected, in which multiple thousands of fans cheer for high performing, professional and college athletes, who are later, lionized on television, radio, and throughout the written media.

Although we include ourselves, among the many fans, and do share the admiration for the idolized (and magnificently rewarded) athletes, we nevertheless, are of the view that our Nation evinces a populist imbalance of priorities, in its extreme degree of adulation of athletic talent, as compared with its relatively understated, response to scientific and literary accomplishment; but this is another subject appropriately, reserved for a separate writing. The present writing concerns aging, rationally, and happily.

The popularly subscribed medium of television, (presumably, for commercial reasons) consistently links strength and physical capability, with success, pride and self -respect; and, contrariwise, fatigue and aging, with express or implied failure. This priority, may be savvy marketing, but in its biased fashion, demonstrates a tactical and insensitive, failure of awareness and respect, for the natural stages of man, who, with the immutable passage of time, by predictable and normal degrees, progresses, to naturally, a loss of physical strength and prowess. This intentional bias, demeans a very substantial portion of our population, inclusive of those fortunate enough to enjoy relative good, health, and those who do not. The criteria for manliness or femininity, instructively illustrated, by the, commercially motivated media, if realistic, at all, are in essence, ephemeral, fleeting, and temporary, being necessarily dependent, upon the stage of the aging process.

Admittedly, with aging, physical performance declines in ease and efficiency, recent memories may be challenged, and physical appearance often reveals cogent evidence of many years of living. On the emotional and intellectual side, however, many seniors enjoy certain substantial and profound advantages over younger people. We will elucidate on this phenomenon.

The acquisition of a mature perspective, we are certain, is not only a major stepping stone in the path to the achievement of wisdom but an essential factor in one’s happiness and self –fulfillment. We can see little achieved learning more necessary to the progress of life, or to the exercise of right reason, then the ability to seasonably, evaluate oneself, in relation to his environment and situation. Rational and realistic perception may be among the most vital criteria for emotional health, and the acceptable exercise of judgment.

If the inclination for personal comparison is, ultimately useful at all, basic reason prescribes that the relevant examples have comparable similarity. No one compares size, as between a rabbit and a giraffe. The criteria, applicable to physical fitness, strength, and athletic ability, is one which, as a matter of reason, empirically varies with age and health. A grandfather in his 80’s cannot, usefully, measure his strength and virility with a 20 year- old Olympic athlete, nor should the average, or aging, sports fan, measure his personal prowess, by comparison with the young, professional athlete. The reverence by the advertising agencies, for beautiful bodies, is an expression of their mission, to sell merchandise, and not necessarily, an appropriate reflection of the community’s expectation of its own attainment of that unrealistic criterion. Rational comparison depends upon the commonality of the relevant subjects.

We would be remiss in candor and our sense of fairness, if we omitted a brief comment on the benefits, of being older. Gone and done with, by such age, are life stresses, such as, school and grades, choice of career, marriage and family stresses, including the issues implicit in raising children, fantasized success, competition, earnings, and employment. For the healthy elder, what comfortably remains is peace. Those who have developed sufficient internal resources additionally, have the life-affirming opportunity to pursue their life-long interests such as literature, art, gardening, collection, and travel.

Contrary to certain immature, ego-centric opinion, aging is not a disease; to the contrary, for those elders with relatively good health, it constitutes an undisturbed and continuing opportunity, for growth, advancement, and the fulfillment of postponed, lifetime aspirations.

-p.

Post #506  WADING IN THE STREAM

The seemingly inexorable continuance, of the medically compliant, prophylactic quarantine, additionally, brings with it, the collateral benefit of a unique opportunity for the undisturbed, exercise of the phenomenon, described, in earlier writings, as “the life-long conversation with oneself.” The benefits to be derived, from this unique opportunity for inner analytical thought, however, are materially dependent upon the nature of such ruminative activity, the degree of objectivity, and the presence of a realistically established, self- image. The myriad distractions, in more normal times, provide requisite cover and opportunity to divert from those uncomfortable thoughts; which, conceivably, may be relevant to our conceptual route to happiness and ultimate, self-fulfillment. This valuable opportunity for reflection, for our wading, in the waters, of our private and consequential, stream of consciousness, should not be casually, overlooked.

Thoughtful considerations, may  well include, the passage of time, alteration of circumstances, experiential learning,  realization of mitigating circumstance regarding judgments of self and others, recognized irrationality or error in certain persistent,  disturbing, thoughts, re-evaluation of previous opinions, both personal or factually based, the unreality of certain expectations, personal or professional, the evolution of changes in social expectations or mores, the sudden realization of the true intention of another’s act, the acceptance of aging, the realization of errors, and the corrective solutions, if possible, the  positive recognition of sincere effort, expended by others on failed enterprises, the existence of mitigation of others in blameworthy actions, the acceptance of points of view or importantly, of people, previously rejected  offhand, the reevaluation of past events, the sudden realization of poor judgement, and so very many others, dependent upon the life experience of the individual and his ability, and willingness, to objectively recall and reevaluate.

There are, doubtless, at least as many diverse subjects, suitable for private reevaluation and appraisal, as there are thoughtful people, willing to wade into their personal (and ultimately) invigorating, stream of consciousness, during the opportunity afforded by this unusual down period. However, we would be thoughtless and remiss, in our desire to express something useful on the subject, without mention of the all-important and life-enhancing, ability, and willingness, for the generous and compassionate, forgiveness of oneself, for perceived, or actual, past mistakes and errors of judgment. Available comforting balm, for such possibly painful enterprise, is permissibly available, with ample applications of the consideration and appraisal of mitigating circumstances,  of good intention, or, as applicable, of the causative element of inexperience.

This fortuitous, luxury, of time, and opportunity, to advance to a more mature and useful knowledge of yourself, by private monologue, should not be irresponsibly, undervalued, or regrettably, squandered. It may be noted, that it is perfectly acceptable to leave on shoes and socks (or stockings), as may be desired when wading in the enlightening and emotionally useful, stream of consciousness.

-p.

Post # 505 (fiction)  THE TRACTATE OF SELWIN 

Of the very few that can remember Selwin Budge, not one could truthfully say that he was not an ardent believer; the trait that one could, accurately fault the strange little man, was that he was insular and fearfully, indecisive. Unlike the case with most people, who acquire their culture and belief system by the happenstance of birth, Selwin’s birth parents were completely unknown; he was abandoned, as a newborn, wrapped in a  soiled red blanket, and deposited, under cover of night, at the employee’s entrance, of the local “Dunkin Donuts.”

Selwin, by good fortune, was discovered and taken in by a middle-aged, alcoholic woman, who had never married nor had children. The nurturing woman thereupon discovered purpose in her previously empty life, gave up alcohol, and cared for the abandoned child until her untimely death, at the time of Selwin’s 15Th birthday. She had been able, through the influence of her second cousin, a City Councilman, and later, a Judge, sitting in the Family Court, to obtain a Birth Certificate, for the abandoned infant, giving him, her late father’s, name, “Selwin Budge.” Her father, who had been a Protestant Minister, of some obscure denomination, in Peoria, Illinois, had died in his early 50’s, of cirrhosis of the liver. Hannah his estranged,  only child, was not a follower of any religion but did keep, as mementos, his old Bible and some religious songbooks, bequeathed to her.

The abandoned child, was, thereafter, properly cared for by her, and attended primary school. Regrettably, his unusual appearance, (spectacled, cross-eyed, tiny and heavily freckled) apparently, was an impediment to any close friendships and caused him to be isolated, and from time to time, the victim of cruel pranks. His unhappy experience at school, led to his understandable, disinterest in socializing, and by default, to a curiosity and an interest, in the religious books, inherited by Hannah, his foster mother, and stored away, gathering dust, in the large clothes closet.

About the time of the early stages of Selwin’s learning to read, he began to question Hannah about the strangely worded religious books, but she was unable to answer even the simplest of his questions. However, it so happened, that a member of the Watchtower Society, was employed, as a Clerk, at the local grocery, and on a constant basis, seemed to be publically, proclaiming his religious faith. So, the eight-year old, Selwin, one day, asked him about the obscure verbiage in the religious books. The man was, initially, overjoyed to note that Selwin was interested in the subject, but, after some thought, stated, as follows, “You are too young to read the holy word, for now, just remember these words:” Believe in me (God) and ye shall be saved.”

Selwin was more puzzled than ever but was only too familiar, with the concept of “being saved,” from Hannah’s past relation to him, of his being found and saved by her, at the doorstep of a public business. In his nuanced set of preconceptions, “being saved” had personal, empirically specific and existential meaning, knowing, only too well, that he, a newborn, otherwise, would certainly, have died at the entrance to coffee shop. From that point on, and for the remainder of his life, Selwin ardently believed, that to be given the opportunity to live, one had to believe in the Deity.

As he grew older and progressed at school, the odd-looking and unpopular, Selwin, spent a great deal of his after school time at the local library. It was there, with the assistance of reference books, particularly the Encyclopedia Britannica, in researching the topics, “god” and “belief,” he discovered to his amazement and utter confusion, that there existed, in fact, many uncountable, modes of belief, each giving obeisance to a great number of differently envisioned Deities.

Lacking an authoritative foster mother or trusted and reliable social contemporaries, with whom he might share his concerns, he, thereupon embarked on a lifetime of perseveration, on the vital existential requirement to be “saved,” as he knew it, by the instructed, belief in god; but vastly, complicated by the many nuanced perceptions of the Deity and the numbers of different and exotic ways, to demonstrate that belief. Little Selwin Budge was, at all times in his lonely existence, constitutionally aware, from his own limited life experience, that to be saved is to be found, and fortuitously, given life. What was he to do? Which god, and how?

Selwin usefully remembered, the words of the past admonition of his, now deceased, foster mother, “Do the best you can.” He resolved that he would, for safety, elect to follow the practices of four great (“popular”) religions, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam, and thereby permanently preserve, the future continuance of his fortuitous status, as having been saved.

As an adult, Selwin drove a taxi for a living, which afforded him the opportunity to observe the religious prayer rituals of such selected, four faiths: Sunday services and Communion (Christian), prayer, morning, afternoon and evening, and on Saturday (Judaism), chanting on holy days, gift giving, meditation and Yoga (Buddhism) and devotional prayers five times per day (Muslim). If Selwin was completely exhausted, considering the logistics and performance of all of the foregoing religious observances, added, of course, to his job, as a New York City cab driver, he nevertheless enjoyed the assurance of security in his continued, existence, to a degree, perhaps, no other human had ever experienced.

During the past week, the happy, overworked and secure, Selwin Budge, was suddenly and instantly, killed, by a flowerpot full of red geraniums, which fell from the thirteenth floor of an old apartment house, situated, just across the street from the Dunkin Donuts, of his rescue.

-p.

Post # 504   MINUTES OF THE SFA SUB-COMMITTEE

The following is a certified-as accurate, facsimile, of the Record of the meeting, of the SFA, (Small Furry Animals) sub-committee, one of numerous committees, officially appointed by the NORTHEAST FOREST CONSERVANCY. The latter, a legally constituted, not-for-profit Trust. The Trust, in turn, reports to, its corporate parent, the WESTERN HEMISPHERE GROUP, LTD., a fiduciary organization, engaged in watchdog services, in the protective oversight of the hemisphere’s forests, inclusive of its resident fauna and flora. An organizational infrastructure, identically structured and purposefully dedicated, also exists, respecting the Eastern Hemisphere. For logistical reasons, both hemispheric organizations have joint offices in Quito, Equator, in proximity to the Equator, the Planet’s Official Meridian Line.

The specific Sub-Committee, the SFA, is, by far, the busiest, of the many other such subcommittees, and convenes, each  Spring, after the completion of its  post-hibernation census, of its constituents (the resident small furry critters, such as chipmunks, squirrels, beavers, opossums, hedgehogs, badgers and weasels, but excluding rats and mice (whose adequate population, particularly in urban areas, is, for some reason, eternally, assured). By specific regulation, no predatory animals are afforded membership, nor included within the mandatory census (such as foxes, all feline species, coyotes and wolves), despite the existence of an eternally, debatable  point, as to whether they legally qualify as intended small, furry animals, the proper beneficiaries of the sub-committee’s altruism.

The procedural By-Laws of the sub-committee, call for a mandatory, initial roll call and determination of the presence of a quorum. That being satisfactorily accomplished, the second (and final) mandated requirement, is the public reading from the Small Critter Scroll, the honor of which, this meeting was awarded, this meeting, to Woody Chopowitz, the dedicated and industrious beaver representative, from Lake Mohegan, New York.

The extensive Scroll, in short, recounts the facts of the ignorant, immoral and self-serving assumption of humankind, that it has the inalienable right to trespass upon nature and her entire lands and fields, whose rightful ownership has eternally and rightfully belonged to its earlier (and present) occupants, the indigenous animal population.

The Scroll goes on to recite the ageless and essentially ludicrous history of man’s, continuous conflict and tragic warfare, regarding the asserted ownership of lands, by parties, neither of which, have ever actually possessed any color of right, to the ownership or possession of land. The assumption that the victors of war have thereby established their ownership of the land of the conquered people, has ever been delusional. Neither party has ever owned the land, which was, earlier and permanently, bequeathed by Nature to its children and natural residents, the animals of the plains and field.

After some pointed reference to the many eons of human trespass, the highly reverenced, Scroll concludes with a comic depiction of a frequently performed, meaningless ceremony, in which several, business dressed humans gather around a table, and with serious demeanor, politely take turns, penning their respective names to paper, then impressing an inked stamp, and thereafter smiling, in the mutual assumption that ownership of the designated real estate has, effectively, changed hands. As provided in the omniscient Scroll, nothing has occurred, by virtue of this  silly, terpsichorean demonstration, with the exception of an exchange of typewritten, signed and stamped papers, from one non-owner to another.

The meeting continued with negative written reports from the latest air and water pollution committee, just received by bee mail, the devastating findings of the trash and chemicals, by the representatives of the health and welfare group, the sad and frightening statistics, reported by the animal-homicide hunting committee and finally, a truly terrifying report from the all-important climate change special investigating committee.

A wise raccoon, loudly and disgustedly, announced to the assemblage, “not only have  humans, ignorantly,and egotistically, arrogated to themselves the ownership of the planet, they are now acting as if they have the right to destroy it.”

-p.

Post # 503    LETTER TO OUR READER

Dear Reader:

The continuing quarantine experience, it seems, has put us in an unorthodox mood, leading to the present alteration of our customary, contextual format. We have to date, published in excess of 500 posts, prose and poetry, on a wide variety of subjects, from societal, ethical and philosophical, to aesthetic and anthropological; we have attempted to limit our writing on politics, except in those instances when we felt irresistibly motivated to do otherwise. So, perhaps, we may be forgiven if we now hazard this admittedly, nuanced, but sincere, opinion and critique, informally expressed as personal correspondence.

We, at plinyblog, are well along, in the category of senior citizen, and admittedly, express ourselves from that perspective. It is apparently obvious, that times and folkways have radically and significantly, changed in recent decades. We have always been of the determined view, that, much of this change is due, in agreat measure, to an exponential increase in absentee, impersonal, electronic communication, and the resultant decline in the quality of interpersonal interaction; life has become faster and, considerably more efficient, but, as we are able to discern, qualitatively, not better.

We do not shrink from the expected potential criticism, of our, long -held and firm declaration, that digital interactive communication, is, impersonal, and therefore, emotionally, unsatisfactory; a statement certain to be vehemently denied by those who prefer to remain unfamiliar with the practice of natural, personal conversation and its satisfying and fulfilling, expression. The English vocabulary, the communicating medium of Shakespeare and Milton, as well as Churchill and Martin Luther King, has, for some, become, for some, a superfluity, and a “drag.” Just as, for many, the reading of the world’s great literature is wasted time, deemed better expended by “texting” and computer games.

It is our established view that intimately associated with the willing surrender of natural conversation, is the relative loss of inclination for empathy and sympathy for strangers. The self-imposed, limitation to a smaller, circle of communicating acquaintances, additionally, has ultimately led to the insularity and “tribalism” of much of our population. We have, in past writings, described the observable decline, from neighborly debatable, differences of opinion, to tribal, insular, warring groups, as, “the death of civic amity.” A wider and more encompassing network of communicants, conceivably, might have opened a door to the concept of the wide existence of alternate views.

We have, in the motivation for this writing, assumed that the leisure time, implicit in the experience of quarantine, incident to the COVID-9 pandemic, affords to many others, like ourselves, the opportunity to randomly ponder subjects, including the possibility of implicit negative features of our new electronic marvels, as well as their obvious convenience.

In our view, it appears that, only in the unfortunate, “new normal,” of our American society, the national, citizen-wide, insularity, of the electronic mode of communication, and the hurried and thoughtless nature of a large, degraded, generally uninformed and inadequately literate society, that could possibly, have elected a Donald Trump to the Oval Office. We have sufficiently, described that former game show hosts, complete incapability, his inflated and neurotic ego, miscreant behavior, and regular mendacity, as well as our Nation’s resulting, damage and decline, both nationally and internationally. He was elected, largely due to the newly-voting, flat earth, low information, voters in our population, motivated by demagoguery and financed by certain large industrial, carbon polluting, psychopaths, who value profits above government regulations which protect the life and health of our citizens; and by irresponsible Americans, too diverted by their facile electronic entertainments, to vote.

With the recent advent of the novel, Coronavirus, this incapable, egotistic and ignorant President, found himself, completely confused and “lost at sea.” To make matters worse, in addition to Trump’s complete ignorance, lack of leadership ability and super-sized, neurotic ego, he, as an early act of his shameful Presidency, dismissed a capable agency, appointed, by the responsibly, foresighted, President Obama, to monitor worldwide outbreaks of epidemic disease.

Initially, this uninformed and delusional President, was responsible for a very costly delay in addressing this horrific epidemic, by denying its existence, in refutation of the Nation’s leading scientists; claiming, neurotically, and egocentrically, that it was a Democratic hoax to injure his Presidency. Thereafter, stating that was just another seasonal flu. When the deniability of the epidemic proved impossible by the arrival of horrific morbidity and mortality figures, he was forced to publically acknowledge the virulent pathology but, undoubtedly speaking to his adoring base, devalued the health precautions recommended by the medical experts, such as wearing face masks, distancing and quarantine. To his credit, the disastrous Chief Executive demonstrated the extent of his informed expertise and heartfelt empathy by recommending the ingestion of bathroom, anti-bacterial cleanser, to kill the offending virus.

We have often made reference to the cautious admonition of Thomas Jefferson, that to succeed, a democracy must have a literate and informed people. The statement has unfortunately morphed into a negative truism. Too many of our fellow citizens have rejected the stimulating benefits of true discussion, reading good literature, interest in the arts and humanities, drama, music and personal growth, of knowledge, and mature perception. We are a Nation of individual citizens, blessed with the unlimited, universal freedom to choose our direction and goals, individually and societally. The freedom to verbally exchange ideas, in tandem with responsible reading and thereby, advances the potential, afforded to homo sapiens, by the evolutionary gift of an advanced brain, capable of expanding our potential for understanding and wisdom, should not be undervalued and ungratefully, abandoned.

To opt to reduce the avenues of the existentially necessary exchange of ideas and observations is to shut off the flow of spontaneous creativity and lead to the stultification of new ideas, as well as the assessment of traditional ones. Free, and unabridged, inter-societal communication, is a vital stimulant to imagination and creativity, as well as an outlet for the satisfaction of emotionally needed, personal expression. Reading good literature enlarges one’s perspective of the universal and eternal challenges inherent in being a human being, living in society.

Each of us maintains the option to refresh and enhance our present style of interaction, return to the natural benefits of freely spoken interpersonal communication, and to its expressive exchange of ideas. This return would be conducent to personal growth and understanding, as would a return, as well, to the advantages of reading good literature, also required for the attainment of the biologically afforded potential, for the pursuit of wisdom and self- fulfillment.

Kindest regards to all, and wishes for continued good health,

-pliny.

 

Dear Reader:

The continuing, quarantine experience, it seems, has put us in an unorthodox mood, leading to the present alteration of our customary, contextual format. We have to date, published in excess of 500 posts, prose and poetry, on a wide variety of subjects, from societal, ethical and philosophical, to aesthetic and anthropological; we have attempted to limit our writing on politics, except in those instances when we felt irresistibly motivated to do otherwise. So, perhaps, we may be forgiven if we now hazard this admittedly, nuanced, but sincere, opinion and critique, informally expressed as personal correspondence.

We, at plinyblog, are well along, in the category of senior citizen, and admittedly, express ourselves from that perspective. It is apparently obvious, that times and folkways have radically and significantly, changed in the recent decades. We have always been of the determined view, that, much of this change is due, in great measure, to an exponential increase in absentee, impersonal, electronic communication, and the resultant decline in the quality of interpersonal interaction; life has become faster and, considerably more efficient, but, as we are able to discern, qualitatively, not better.

We do not shrink from the expected potential criticism, of our, long held and firm declaration, that digital interactive communication, is, impersonal, and therefore, emotionally, unsatisfactory; a statement certain to be vehemently denied by those who prefer to remain unfamiliar with the practice of natural, personal conversation and its satisfying and fulfilling, expression. The English vocabulary, the communicating medium of Shakespeare and Milton, as well as Churchill and Martin Luther King, has, for some, become, for some, a superfluity, and a “drag.” Just as, for many, the reading of the world’s great literature, is wasted time, deemed better expended by “texting” and computer games.

It is our established view that, intimately associated with the willing surrender of natural conversation, is the relative loss of inclination for empathy and sympathy for strangers. The self-imposed, limitation to a smaller, circle of communicating acquaintances, additionally, has ultimately led to the insularity and “tribalism” of much of our population. We have, in past writings, described the observable decline, from neighborly debatable, differences of opinion, to tribal, insular, warring groups, as, “the death of civic amity.” A wider and more encompassing network of communicants, conceivably, might have opened a door to the concept of the wide existence of alternate views.

We have, in the motivation for this writing, assumed that the leisure time, implicit in the experience of quarantine, incident to the COVID-9 pandemic, affords to many others, like ourselves, the opportunity to randomly ponder subjects, including the possibility of implicit negative features of our new electronic marvels, as well as their obvious convenience.

In our view, it appears that, only in the unfortunate, “new normal,” of our American society, the national, citizen-wide, insularity, of the electronic mode of communication, and the hurried and thoughtless nature of a large, degraded, generally uninformed and inadequately literate society, that could possibly, have elected a Donald Trump to the Oval Office. We have sufficiently, described that former game show host’s, complete incapability, his inflated and neurotic ego, miscreant behavior, and regular mendacity, as well as our Nation’s resulting, damage and decline, both nationally and internationally. He was elected, largely due to the newly-voting, flat earth, low information, voters in our population, motivated by demagoguery and financed by certain large industrial, carbon polluting, psychopaths, who value profits above government regulations which protect the life and health of our citizens; and by irresponsible Americans, too diverted by their facile electronic entertainments, to vote.

With the recent advent of the novel, Corona virus, this incapable, egotistic and ignorant President, found himself, completely confused and “lost at sea.” To make matters worse, in addition to Trump’s compete ignorance, lack of leadership ability and super-sized, neurotic ego, he, as an early act of his shameful Presidency, dismissed a capable agency, appointed, by the responsibly, foresighted, President Obama, to monitor worldwide outbreaks of epidemic disease.

Initially, this uninformed and delusional President, was responsible for a very costly delay in addressing this horrific epidemic, by denying its existence, in refutation of the Nation’s leading scientists; claiming, neurotically, and egocentrically, that it was a Democratic hoax to injure his Presidency. Thereafter, stating that was just another seasonal flu. When the deniability of the epidemic proved impossible by the arrival of horrific morbidity and mortality figures, he was forced to publically acknowledge the virulent pathology but, undoubtedly speaking to his adoring base, devalued the health precautions recommended by the medical experts, such as wearing face masks, distancing and quarantine. To his credit, the disastrous Chief Executive, demonstrated the extent of his informed expertise and heartfelt empathy by recommending the ingestion of bathroom, anti-bacterial cleanser, to kill the offending virus.

We have often made reference to the cautious admonition of Thomas Jefferson, that to succeed, a democracy must have a literate and informed people. The statement, has unfortunately morphed into a negative truism. Too many of our fellow citizens have rejected the stimulating benefits of true discussion, reading good literature, interest in the arts and humanities, drama, music and personal growth, of knowledge and mature perception. We are a Nation of individual citizens, blessed with the unlimited, universal freedom to choose our direction and goals, individually and societally. The freedom to verbally exchange ideas, in tandem with responsible reading and thereby, advances the potential, afforded to homo sapiens, by the evolutionary gift of an advanced brain, capable of expanding our potential for understanding and wisdom, should not be undervalued and ungratefully, abandoned.

To opt to reduce the avenues of the existentially necessary exchange of ideas and observations, is to shut off the flow of spontaneous creativity and leads to stultification of new ideas, as well as the assessment of traditional ones. Free, and unabridged, inter-societal communication, is a vital stimulant to imagination and creativity, as well as an outlet for the satisfaction of emotionally needed, personal expression. Reading good literature, enlarges one’s perspective of the universal and eternal challenges inherent in being a human being, living in society.

Each of us maintains the option to refresh and enhance our present style of interaction, return to the natural benefits of freely spoken interpersonal communication, and to its expressive exchange of ideas. This return would be conducent to personal growth and understanding, as would a return, as well, to the advantages of reading good literature, also required for the attainment of the biologically afforded potential, for the pursuit of wisdom and self- fulfillment.

Kindest regards to all, and wishes for continued good health,

-pliny.

Post #502     THE PARTIAL ARTS

Objectivity in its purest sense is the inarguable gold standard for the proper evaluation of life experience, the exercise of judgment, and the making of elective choices. However, as eternally, appears to be the case, in common with all gold standards, it is an aspirational goal, and not an accomplished reality. The earnest dedication to be objective, in man’s evaluative exercise of judgment, is morally and empirically, admirable, but, more often than not, unrealizable.

There appears to be, some measure of dissonance between the residual impact of our previously learned experience, and our expectations of an unaffected and objective learning, of new experience. This appears to be most observable in the process of societal interaction. Man’s psyche appears to be indolent, often preferring to make effortless judgments, based upon perceived similarities with past individuals, or with like factual situations, rather than the more challenging and appropriate, effort of the fresh analysis of new experience, or the “sizing up,” of newly met, people. This failing seems to be, notably applicable to a teacher’s evaluation of students, and, to somewhat of a lesser degree, in child-rearing.

A demonstrably abusive, and repugnant instance, of this reductive trait, is a nefarious practice, known as “profiling.” The perverse dynamic of this practice, is the reflexive, perception, and attribution, of dangerous or undesirable potential, to reductively selected, physiognomic traits, as well as race or ethnos. This unjust practice exceeds in ignorance and bigotry, the long-ago discredited, Lombrosoan Theory (“atavistic types”), and Europe’s past populist analysis, by cranial bumps.

We shall go so far as to declare. that any facile evaluation of individuals, colored by past experience with others, perceived to have resembling characteristics, is, ipso facto, erroneous, reductionist and quintessentially, neurotic; further, that decisional choices, based thereon, are irrational and meritless, as well as unfairly prejudicial.

An empirically related subject is the nuanced, evaluation of experience, grounded on a perceived, evaluation of its protagonist. An act by a person, esteemed to be a law-abiding and a good citizen, may accrue the unearned luxury, of being perceived differently, than the perception of the identical act, performed by a person, reputed to be of questionable character. Only the former will get the benefit of the doubt; the latter will, unfairly, be looked upon with suspicion. A sitting Judge will be open to consider a positive, moral interpretation of an equivocal act by a citizen, reputed to be upstanding, but infer otherwise, concerning an accused person, with an unknown, or poorly ascribed reputation. A parent may, more leniently interpret, the breaking of an expensive Chinese vase, by a well behaved child, (especially, one who earns good grades at school), than a less well behaved, one; the act, itself, being unequivocal, identical, the unjust evaluation, most regrettably, is not.

This is the unjust phenomenon, whose intended expression, is the specifically intended theme, of this writing, i.e., that the evaluation of a particular act, may often be made, unfairly, as being based upon a (correct, or erroneous) previous partiality or negative appraisal of the actor. It is profoundly unjust, to entertain an undeserved partiality for an actor, responsible for a bad result, who previous to the errant act, bore a favorable reputation, in stark contrast to the treatment of another, subjectively perceived, to be of unpopular or of unknown persona. Surely, fairness requires the nature and quality of the act, itself, that needs consideration and evaluation, and not, inappropriately, the actor.

This regrettable inclination, to downplay the value of a useful act, by a perceived meritless person, in addition to being immoral and unjust, is objectionable, as well, for several practical reasons. First, if an act has significance at all, it is good and useful, or alternatively, wrong and useless, on its own, intrinsic and objective merits, and without irrelevant, inquiry as to the identity of the actor.  Second, there is little or no progress of societal growth, where advances are not evaluated, strictly, upon the basis of their own intrinsic value or usefulness. Third, if the act, or object, has value to society, it’s utility exists, entirely independent of the person of the creator; and may be of great value to society, notwithstanding any extant and irrelevant disdain for the innovator. Indeed, the innovator may, previously, have been prejudicially or erroneously, disparaged in reputation, and the innovative discovery may enhance his previous societal standing and reputation.

By contrast, with reference to detrimental, or wrongful acts, the same need to be, rationally, evaluated upon the extent of its particular harm or extent of danger posed to society, rather than any previous, prejudicial evaluation of the person of the perpetrator. This uniform process is consistent with society’s espoused principles of “American justice.” Severe and unjust treatment often is unjustly meted out, to persons (conceivably, on unjust racial or ethnically, bigoted, grounds) who are arbitrarily perceived, to be on the “outs,” with society, or with its empirical norms. For the sake of attaining a just society, the acts of such unfairly, perceived individuals, in common with all members of society, must be impartially, evaluated, on the specific act’s objective degree of wrong.

The convenient and effortless, knee-jerk reaction to the reductionist judgment of others, based upon stereotypical past resemblances, in accordance with the most fundamental concept of rational fairness and justice, must be restrained and replaced, to the degree, humanly achievable, with objective evaluation, free of societal, scuttle-but, and its, self-perpetuating, usually unfounded and anti societal, partiality.

-p.

Post # 501    LEO IS WATCHING

 

Two iconic lions, tirelessly, dutifully and eternally, guard the entrance to New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, in New York City. These marbleized statues, sculptured on May 23rd, 1911, one hundred years ago, familiar to City residents and visitors, were named, “Patience” and Fortitude, (Ralph Waldo Emerson’s phrase) by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, during America’s Great Depression, in the 1930s; constituting, the then Mayor said, the qualities, America needed, to get through that very challenging period.

Today, we give homage and special recognition to these familiar stone beasts, not alone because it is their centennial birthday, but, additionally, because their spirit of Patience and Fortitude, are again called upon, at an extremely challenging time; perhaps the most challenging, since the Second World War; the invasion of an unprecedented, lethal enemy, Coronavirus (COVID-19). The celebrity lions are now witness to a world pandemic, in which, as of this writing the known statistics are fearful. The total cases: 1,342, 821, deaths: 80,123, recovered: 232,232,73. The virus, COVID-19, apparently, is a new strain of Coronavirus, that has never, previously, been identified in humans, was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Provence, China. Our cursory research indicates, that the class, Coronavirus includes a large group of viruses, that have the varying potential to cause illness, from the common cold to more serious diseases, including, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (“SARS”).

To amplify the lions’ empathically painful roar of dismay, and tragic disbelief is the Trump Administration’s ignorant, irresponsible, and complete, unpreparedness, for this virulent holocaust. The roar is amplified, even further, in learning of Trump’s, foolhardy dismissal, soon after taking office, of a foresighted, Obama entity, led by a Navy Admiral ranked, Doctor, and composed of experts, charged with the existential watchdog responsibility, to act as a monitor of disease outbreak, anywhere on the globe. By reason of the ignorance and egotism of Donald Trump (ever, a lethal combination), America was caught, completely, by surprise, and was unprepared to meet this virulent outbreak (now a “pandemic”). A great deal of precious time was, additionally, wasted by Trump’s, initial, petulant denial of the outbreak, followed by his public diminution of its importance (“it is like another, regular flu”), and later of his incomprehensible, utterance of gross misinformation.

The Nation is in quarantine, sporting protective masks and gloves, the economy is tanking, preventative masks and gloves are in short supply, hospitals are overcrowded, significant and necessary testing, is significantly challenged due to the dearth of testing kits, the unemployment figures are greatly increased, small businesses are on their last legs, the country is in a state of fear of disease and death. Still that travesty, tragically, cloaked with Presidential Authority, is downplaying the disease, by recommending the opening of business, despite the urgent requests of the scientific and medical world, that people remain in quarantine and separated. As worrisome as the presenting pandemic may, in fact, be, we have always posted the advice that the combination of ignorance and egotistic, unsupported confidence is eternally, lethal. Trump makes this dogmatic statement, inarguable.

While the Nation waits, impatiently (but hopefully), for the ultimate development of an effective vaccine, it bears its apprehensions and discomforts, with patience and fortitude, thanks to the support of the two, iconic, library lions, who have been witness to America’s ultimate triumph, through patience and fortitude, over many challenges.

-p.

Post # 500 (poesie) FROZEN FIRE

There seems to be within the man,
A padlocked vault of vain resolve,
Of things unsaid, of half-done deeds-
The frozen fire of deep regret.

A withheld expression of response
The felt detour to better routes
A looked for liaison, unmet-
A silent grimace of distress.

An ardent feeling, not expressed,
Of standing up for what is right
A willing start of something new
The roadblock to a different way.

The frozen fire, that burns within,
When feelings remain inside hid
That silent consumer of the soul-
Burns even hotter, at repressed love.

(Leonard N. Shapiro, 2020)

-p.