Blog # 56 TO AND FRO: INSIDE AND OUT

When we travel abroad, our lifelong inner conversation becomes more focused and intense due to the absence of the distraction of our repetitive daily experience and routine; the latter does not call upon any singular awareness. When we go abroad and encounter new environments and “foreign” people, our attention becomes focused purposefully elsewhere.

Our previous blogs have meditated principally on the great significance of the inner nature of our lives, feelings of worth, success and self-fulfillment, often residing in ourselves in projected comparison with our contemporaries. We have maintained that significant and meaningful self-evaluation is the accumulated total sum of such inner takes and perceptions.

On the subject of travel, itself, we have observed that long distance and truly exotic voyaging can be meaningfully experienced through the Arts, especially fine Literature.

Actual travel can free the mind from useless preoccupation with banal stereotypes and mindless preconceptions and liberates our capacity for the understanding of others and, by extension, ourselves. An example is in the attainment of a better and objective understanding of grammar from the study of a second language. By analogy, a spontaneous realization and recognition of our own routine folkways and practices is gained by the observation of differing practices. For example, observation of people who eat with the assistance of chopsticks, obliges the western visitor take particular notice that he does otherwise, he eats with the aid of a knife and fork. By travel, we thus become more aware as well of our own practices, patterns of thought and routine behavior; travel is always potentially an additional voyage of discovery of ourselves.

A cogent subject for consideration in our ongoing inner conversation with ourselves, is the objective reconsideration of our limited “cookie cutter” expectations and related “group think”, a benefit derived from the perspective gained from travel, (see blog # 55).

Actual delight is experienced in the recognition of a place, previously familiar to our inner self, as a site recognized from the reading of literature and history.

In confronting and experiencing variations in the ethnic or national life of others, the visitor may choose to be especially accepting and deferential in his behavior in an effort to make a good impression. Would that we could all tailor our sensibilities and behavior after his return home.

Of greatest importance is the realization that despite ostensible differences in appearance, folkways and patterns of thought, we come away with the certified realization that all mankind is uniform in its aspiration for peace, good health and self-fulfillment.

ADDENDUM: It is hoped that in the not-too-distant future, travel  tours would place somewhat less emphasis on forts, cathedrals and statues of gods and  generals and more on people viz., post offices, food stores, schools, local meeting places and the like.                                                                         -p

Blog # 55 THE LETHAL COOKIE CUTTER

Analogous to the limited area of acceptability of the word, “discrimination” (ex. relating to taste in clothes, food, art, architecture) the operative word, “normal” has the potential of being a Dr. Jekyll or a Mr. Hyde product.

The word normal is useful when employed in the context of objective experience or the predictive state of inanimate things, i.e. physical properties of matter, weather patterns, weights and measures, agricultural or industrial production longevity, physical measurement, among the physical phenomena.

When used for the nefarious purpose of the valuation of human beings, it is more than baseless and inaccurate; it is unjust and has the potential in reality to be dangerous. The very concept of worth and value in the context of human beings is ignorant and frightening. People were not made clone-like with one uniform cookie cutter. The insensitive and mindless use of “normal” (with the exception of aberrant behavior) leads to negative, sometimes tragic results.

The easiest critique to make of the word and concept when applied to humans, is that it is indisputably subjective and the product of the commentator’s personal perception, hence inaccurate, In the extreme the word can be a publicly effective tool of totalitarian repression and, as shown by history, is an efficient precursor to extermination,

There is such a plentitude, regrettably of this frequently used word that for practical blog reasons, we limit ourselves to a few, hopefully demonstrative examples.

George Orwell, in his” futuristic” novel,”1984” (written well before 1984), portrays a future in which people are permanently sorted out and categorized in accordance with their perceived competency and usefulness to the State, gave a cogent view of a cookie cutter population.

We all have learned from the disastrous and tragic results of European colonialism, that only horror and perennial hatred are the fruits of ethnocentric arrogance. Such diseased thinking has not yet fully abated and the enduring scars on the self- image of humanity remain. As long as the mantra of “we” and “they” are still perpetuated, such tragedies will probably continue. (Blog #3).

In our personal lives and experience, analogous pathologies seem to infect the psyche and militate against the belief in the universal worth of all human beings and atavistically value people with the yardstick of race and ethnicity .The word” race,” in addition to lacking any scientific  basis, has never been used for any positive purpose but only for mischief.

The reprehensible standard of “normal” would seem to be a tactic of the insecure mind’s attempt to assuage its discomfort by the creation of a sense of community with others, also lack wisdom and perspective, but share a corporate unity of thought and outlook.

Examples of this outlook can also be observed in employment hiring (“is he a good fit”) and in the admission of an applicant for membership in a college fraternity (“is he a cool example of a frat  brother in our fraternity”). Difference is not acceptable.

It is reassuring that many people do possess desirable  qualities of originality and creativity of thought; people with the aspirations and probable future of full and rewarding lives through progress in self-knowledge, creativity and a developed sense of the aesthetic.

Arguably, the most unique and valuable feature of America’s greatness is its creativity and freedom of thought. The developments in new cures and  techniques in disease prevention, advancements in travel, communication, artistic expression, in understanding ourselves, our planet and our universe; we would not stand a chance of such spectacular developments with a limited, cookie cutter approach to mankind.

Under the large tent of humanity, there are variations in political belief, sexual identity, scientific belief, Deists and non-Deists; all are eminently acceptable and valuable.  Value is expressed in many ways but consistently dependent upon reason and the spontaneous acceptance of others who may be different.

Normal??  Not on your life.

p.

Blog #54 THE PROBLEM WITH “NO PROBLEM”

The current, ubiquitous, use of the phrase “no problem,” as a response to expressions of gratitude, like “thanks” and in certain other instances, is improper and in fact, unsettling.

There seems to be an infinite variety of minor mishaps caused and experienced in a busy, interactive society such as ours; minor physical contact on busy sidewalks, burning toast, forgetting a name, arriving a little late, forgetting to return the hairdryer, among a myriad of others.

These minor misdemeanors, usually the result of preoccupation, forgetfulness or inattention, are fully and completely atoned for by the statement, “oops, I’m sorry,” “excuse me,” “pardon me.” A suitable reply might be “that’s ok,” “it’s nothing,” “forget it,” or the like. A disagreeable alternative is “no problem;” it is this latter phrase (now in vogue) with which we are concerned.

Some concern is based on the premise that this “reply du jour” to an apology, might seem to imply that if not for the generous forbearance on the part of the speaker, a problem would in fact exist. Such a response is thoughtless, insensitive and could even be seen as hostile.

Another unfortunate use of the subject phrase is in response to an expression of appreciation for assistance rendered to the elderly or disabled in navigating a high curb, picking up an object dropped by a stranger, helping someone to his feet or giving directions. The best response to “thank you” is “you are welcome.” Utilizing the mindless phrase may be understood to describe the discretionary choice of amnesty and is clearly inconsistent with the act of assistance. Nor is it warranted in the engagement of a contractor or mechanic (unless it has reference to the degree of difficulty of the job) the terms and price having been agreed to. One would not expect the phrase “no problem” to be used in response to words of appreciation expressed to an amply compensated doctor or lawyer.

There is at the very least, in addition to the criticism as to use of the expression as a response to words of gratitude, an aesthetic critique (with the phrase as such) with regard to which, p. affirmatively has a problem.

p.

 

Blog #53 TWO CHEERS FOR THE WITCH DOCTOR

Early Native Americans would seek the aid of the shaman or witch doctor for assistance in times of trouble. The holy man (usually with the aid of peyote or some other hallucinating drug) would enter into a trance-like reverie during which he would access and communicate with the spirits for advice.

Problems of every description, illness, failures in love, personal disputes, failures of conception, curses and all other needful occasions .The witch doctor or shaman could be designated, in modern parlance, a “general practitioner” (apparently there were no specialists then).

Honor and special status was accorded to this useful holy man, gifted with the franchise to commune with the spirits. It would appear that such office and function was of great value in the preservation and peaceful functioning of the tribe.

In the modern era, we are culturally inclined to look askance at the professed ability to commune with the” spirits” for solutions to problems.  While we recognize the benefits of such phenomena in its time, we are ethnically reluctant to certify to its validity.

It is unfortunate that we have become inordinately reliant and dependent upon the universe of digital electronics; our ability to do research, to solve problems and to procure entertainment are some examples. It is, in fact, disheartening to admit that we have surrendered so much of modern man’s evolved skills and facilities to mechanical contrivances and have therefore necessarily suffered a great dependence upon them.  Additionally, while most individuals have acquired a working familiarity with the operation of these devices, few actually have the ken or ability to comprehend the “magic” behind their dynamics and operation.

It is possible to construe a limited, functional, analogy between the shaman or witch doctor and those whose profession incorporates the seemingly “magical” ability to communicate with the rarely understood forces behind these digital contrivances. The computer professional has the “Merlin”-like power to commune with the celebrated “cloud” and, as in the case of early man, provide a solution to the problem including no less than the dramatic act of bringing a dead computer back to life.

However, the comparison is a limited one because the computer professional’s power and utility is strictly limited to the world of the computer and related digital- type problems.  Outside the specialized, limited area of the computer specialist there exists a plentitude of human problems, personal and interpersonal, disappointment in love, failure in business, illness and a myriad of others. These are not within his calling or professional capability.

For these problems we are obliged to designate ourselves our own personal shaman and, commune with our inner self, our personal resources for solutions or for accommodation. Our inner resources are the essential tool for the solution to, or amelioration of our problems. (Blog #8). In similar fashion as the mining of natural resources in commerce, we have to unearth the mature and developed ore of reason and wisdom for the purpose.

We are born with the innate potential for learning and the potential for the acquisition of wisdom. The “mining” of our inner resources, of course, is necessarily dependent upon their sufficient presence and accessibility. These are developed through meaningful life experiences and interactions and especially, as personal shamans, communing with the eternally wise spirits of our great authors of literature. (Blog # 9).

Most problems of humanity are not unique (although they may feel that way); in reality they are universal and within in the broad spectrum of human existence. The exposure to humanities’ universal challenges can be derivatively experienced and studied though their situational portrayal by the many world class novelists (our spirits). We can derive necessary detachment and perspective relative to our problems, with which we may from time to time be confronted, from their classical iteration.

The office of providing assistance to all and unlimited manner of problems, in their day, should entitle the witch doctor or shaman to no less than three cheers, however, we have deducted one from our title by reason of the employed  methodology.

p.

Blog # 52 ROWING AND WADING

The legalization of abortion by the U.S. Supreme Court sent a wave of relief over a great many Americans; no longer would women needing an abortion be relegated to illegal and dangerous “back-alley” solutions, but could now pursue accepted and professional assistance .By contrast, the opponents of abortion were devastated, and in response, launched a militant movement dedicated to the reversal of that determination and to an unlawful program of actual interdiction of abortions.

The anti-abortion movement conscripted the slick, self- justifying title, “Right to Life” and has engaged in desperate acts of opposition, including no less than premediated and deliberate murder of abortion providers and their staff, in their excessive zeal to protect the nascent embryo.

The stark difference in belief systems and consequent conflict between the supporters and opponents of abortion has resulted in a truly unfortunate break- down in our democracy’s civic amity (blog # 21).

No one could rationally believe that a pregnant mother’s desperate decision to abort her pregnancy is not without great emotional and psychological pain; it is no less than sociopathic to believe that such decision to abort one’s own fetus is a casual act of convenience or irresponsibility.

These mono-focused crusaders militate for the fetus as long it is, in fact a fetus; after birth they seem to morph into a mindset of complete disregard for the child including their opposition to efforts to grant sustenance or assistance to the needy child.  Welfare, food stamps, health benefits are almost uniformly opposed by these fetus zealots. This unquestionably cockeyed morality is not the tenet of any known religion or any rational human being.

Contraception

No one, in truth, likes abortion; neither its supporters nor its detractors .Contraception and sex education is inarguably the best route to the prevention of unwanted pregnancy (and consequently, the need for abortion). It boggles the mind to observe that “lifers” are vehemently opposed to the same.

The only conclusion that may reasonably be drawn is that “lifers” care less about abortion than they do about exercising control and in aligning themselves with others who oppose any and all liberal legislation.

Gun control

A further indication that abortion opponents (“lifers”) are not sincere advocates for the sanctity of life is shown by their general opposition to gun control. In face of, and despite, the numerous horrific acts of senseless mass slaughter of innocents at schools, movie theaters, parking lots and elsewhere, as reported by the media, they oppose gun control and seem to support a free and unregulated gun market.

A pocket knife, for example, can be used to cut string, whittle, slice fruit and to perform other acceptable uses; a gun’s sole utility is to kill.  Yet “lifers,” whose pretentions are the sanctity of life, seem only concerned with their stubborn misreading of the Second Amendment.

Capital punishment

Should you inquire of your local “lifer,” you will probably discover that he is a supporter and proponent of capital punishment, a position not easily reconcilable with the reverence for life.

Many authorities on the subject of Constitutional Law are of considered opinion that capital punishment violates the Constitution’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.” This practice, in addition to being atavistic and barbaric, is too often effected in an incompetent manner, resulting in unspeakably horrible results.

Moreover, with the development of modern DNA technology, many convicts on death row have been found to be completely innocent of the crime for which they were convicted and sentenced to die.

If more were needed, many ”lifers” are also counted among the category of “war hawks” in  believing in the primacy of military solutions over diplomacy in addressing international problems. Can honest believers in the sanctity of human life condone and favor the mass slaughter inherent in warfare?

The disregard for the plight of needy offspring after birth, opposition to contraception, support of the death penalty and their hawkishness, in truth and in reality, puts the lie to the avowed concern for human life on the part of the “lifer.” They should be condemned for, and prevented under their false banner from, interference with our compassionate democracy.

Blog # 51 RETRO BANANA

In an effort to gain a moment of perspective, we need to take a brief respite, and a much needed break, from the coursing tide of exponential change. In this brief moment we will attempt to furnish a random, but representative, snapshot of the impact of recent developments.

Constant upgrading (especially in technology) has been the uniform life experience and therefore the normal expectation of the younger generation. In general, however, the older generation with a somewhat different life experience is often caught slightly off balance, experiencing some nostalgia for the recent past when the speed of change was more moderate.

A peek into the current state of affairs may provide some objective understanding of the impact of recent change for all concerned. For purposes of illustration, we have randomly selected mundane topics: interactive conversation, letter writing, reading books, dressing for work and men’s shaving.

Interactive conversation

There would appear to be many substantial losses, in the current substitution of e-mail or texting, as compared with personal conversation, the comfort of voice recognition, tone, emphasis, and spontaneous response among others (blog #4).

Concomitant life style adjustments are often needed on the part of the older generation .For example, one might refrain from calling a friend at a certain time of day, knowing from experience that the friend is not usually home at such hour; cell phone users know that the friend can be reached at any time and anywhere, bus, theater, work even at portable restrooms. Predictably, and unhappily, electronic communication will supersede land phones, the latter to go the way of dinosaurs and dodos.

Letter correspondence

Currently, communication by letter seems to be an ancient artifact. Formerly the letter writer would thoughtfully employ selected language appropriate to his relationship with the recipient who would observe and recognize the individualized handwriting, style and personal nuance of the sender. The same familiar features would exemplify the response. Meaningful letters could be kept as mementoes and re-read as desired.

In the case of electronic messaging there is rarely an aspiration for aesthetic vocabulary and scant opportunity for authentic memorable interaction.

Reading books

Happily, there are at present a great number of book readers, among whom many experience the real pleasure of reading from printed books. Digital books, such as Kindle and Nook offer electronic replication of books that are shown on a back lighted surface and  there are a great number of readers whose experience with great literature is solely by way of a data-like transmission on the electric screen. The same is a markedly different experience  and it is submitted, less satisfying  than reading from a real book, in your favorite chair under a soft light; Virginia Woolf, Thomas Hardy, Edgar Allen Poe and Tolstoy do not have the same impact and resonance in electronic data mode. Pages change  by  button.

On information, there are studies which have determined that the technique of digital reading at times cause the eye and brain to skip words.

The chief argument in support of the use of digital books, seems to be that they are easy to carry. Since when did portability trump aesthetic pleasure? In any event, most books are published in softcover and are easily transportable.

For some there is even tactual pleasure in the holding and use of hard cover books, notably in the ritual of opening the newly purchased book at midway, in  hearing  the familiar “crack,” in separating, by fingernail  the two, or so pages that may be still joined at their edges and by the “new” smell; this  exotic ritual may pleasantly be described as “literary foreplay.”

Dressing for business

For eons, it was the expectation that the acceptable attire for the office was a suit, or jacket, and a tie. The decline of this expectation was productive of great happiness and celebration among the manufacturers of tan chino slacks and sportswear.

While, generally, stereotypes are usually to be condemned, yet  in this area and context they are useful as identification and  assurance concerning  traditionally  accepted and recognized roles of professionals  and business people (in their expected attire) in our society.

Shaving

A close shave, as well as neat attire, was always society’s expectation for men’s respectability. Of late, grubby, non-shaven actors and models are presented by the media as attractive and sexy. In the forgotten past, a shave (and hot towel) was procured from one’s barber. Now men self-shave with implements of ever increasing comfort.

But the concern at present is not with changes in shaving technique, but with the purported change in fashion to unshaven.  This latest style is not recommended, even to applicants for entry level positions.

Bananas

  1. cannot contain his boundless happiness and immense relief at the realization that the yellow item in his hand, emitting a redolence of banana ester, is still called a “banana.” God bless.

p.

 

Blog # 50 PRIVATE ACCOUNTING

The saying “Virtue is its own reward,” is often misunderstood by some people as signifying that there is no reward for righteous deeds; they are wrong. For our purpose, it is essential to define and identify our chosen operative meaning of “reward.” We maintain and insist that the rewards are inestimably great.

The chief ingredient in all self-evaluation is one’s own private perception of self. At some point in life (usually, later years) intelligent, thoughtful people feel self-consciously compelled to examine the important ingredients of their personal identity and perceived worth.

In the course of each of our ongoing, private conversations with ourselves, we seek insight into an accurate measure of our self-image which, in main part, consists in the recollection of our past accomplishments and behavior. In these accountings we audit our recollection and assign the category of asset to our acts of rectitude and charity, and liability to wrongful or selfish behavior. The salient fact is that this record is entirely internal. Kind acts performed for which no material or visible reward is expected or received are the jewels in the crown of self-esteem. Willing assistance to the needy, public support of worthy causes, consistent maintenance of right thinking belief systems and the like have the predictable reward of a satisfactory self- evaluation.

In the category of charitable behavior, most commendable of all is the act of the anonymous giver, who by the way, is unknown by everyone except (to our point) himself.

The expression “Charity begins at home,” does not mandate that it should end at home. One’s tolerance and understanding are essential ingredients in a peaceful and fulfilling home scene, but should extend, as well, to all society.

Our children should be raised in a context in which there is no system of rewards for good acts and punishments for bad; morality or mischief should not vary with parental observation. Where possible, our children should be guided and instructed in such a way that their innate sense of personal identity and ego would reject wrongdoing and practice kindness and right action, even when alone.

By way of illustration, if A were to steal B’s wristwatch, thereafter feel remorse and return the watch to B with an apology, and B readily accepts the apology  and forgives A , A still has the painful problem of the self – assessment of his own character, as to having committed  the theft in the first place.

We all possess an internal “bank account” in which the balance of our deeds is computed. Acts which are deemed commendable add to the balance; selfish or mean- spirited acts operate as withdrawals. This figurative bankbook balance is our source for the reckoning of our feelings of personal virtue and self- worth.