Blog #39     ALONE TOGETHER

While both birth and death are, by their nature, solitary occurrences, between these two astounding events we live through a wide variety of experience. These take place either in isolation or with others; in the greater number of instances we are, happily, afforded the luxury of choice.

There are many instances which by their very nature are solitary; these include brushing teeth, sleeping, itching, bathing (most of the time) and having the flu.

Other experiences require the participation of others, including, dancing, love- making, haircuts, chess, checkers and tugs-of-war.

In the third category of experience, the choice to jointly participate with another, uniformly results in a more satisfying and better experience. In the special area of love-making, it is observed that a shared (dual) experience is to be preferred; we call this” love.” There are those who seek sex solely for personal release and gratification and view the partner as an object; this we term “lust.”

A meal or a cocktail may be enjoyed alone, but in most instances is more enjoyable, sometimes, memorable, in the company of friends.  Personal conversations (trust me) are more satisfying than electronic messaging (see: blog#4). Why socialize alone?

We, among a great many other evolved inhabitants of the planet, birds, horses, buffaloes and wolves, are essentially social beings, developing and shaping our lives in a communal and societal fashion. One’s identity, thought patterns and expectations are learned and edited early by our community. (See blog #3).

With reference to the crucially important subject of education, particularly early education, public schools are preferable to home schooling, if objective   education is the goal. The attendance at public school is especially important in early years for a great many reasons, including the benefit of a trained, college educated teacher,  as well as experience in socialization. In the case of home schooling, the quality of education will be limited by the extent of the instructor’s own  education and affected by his/her personal perceptions; add to this the absence of necessary developmental  experience derived from interacting with other students.

In higher education, the experience of students personally interacting with the instructor, is beneficial to both; this personal,” two-way” exchange is an essential part of real education (as is the interaction between students).  This is significantly to be preferred to the somewhat new method of learning at home by computer; the latter development is a” one-way” delivery of information without the real personal presence of an instructor and student interface. While sometimes students can respond the benefits fall far short of the spontaneous face-to-face interaction so necessary in the acquisition of a good education. Computer college may be more useful in training students who are job oriented, but not for an education capable of producing wisdom in addition to factual information. Unlike texting in which the communicant socializes alone, students need real classrooms.

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Blog # 38 DIM ENLIGHTENMENT

Religious proselytizing has been practiced, it seems, as long as the existence of its first cousins, ethnocentrism and egocentricism.

As noted in blog#3, it is only by the accident of birth that we all acquire our particular culture and belief system; despite this, differences in belief or religious affiliation (inculcated by unfortunate childhood lessons in “we” “ and they”) have  led to mythmaking, evangelism and even war.

There are those who volunteer or are recruited to be self-appointed messengers of “god’s word.” Usually of limited formal education, these do-gooders function with “horse-blinders” in lieu of rational perspective. Sad to say, these mono-focused, “dedicated” folks are themselves, victims of their own deluded message.

In response to any question, these loyal propagators of the” truth,” with the efficiency of  programmed robots, will  recite, accurately and faithfully, chapter and verse of the King James Bible, their sole and exclusive source of information  and guidance.  What will it take for such believers to at long last, realize that the bible was written by men who in their time believed that the Sun rotated (orbited) around the Earth? (See: blog#36 “Lichens on Stone.”).

The mission of these peddlers of “the faith” is to bring such enlightenment to non-believers so that they, themselves, incidentally, will also be saved. {Saved from what?} Their vista is a reductive, insular and erroneous take on human life and character, its aspirations and spirit.

Our nation was founded by great statesmen and thinkers who, conscious of the long previous history of religious tyranny and oppression in Europe, purposefully omitted any reference to the Deity in our founding documents. Their writings clearly explain that this was done to avoid religious zealotry from tainting our democracy.

The world does need saving.  Poverty, disease, homelessness, conflict, illiteracy and countless other causes which are relevant and immediate; world problems which require rational enlightenment and real world solutions to humanity’s suffering.

Yet, surely and predictably, these self- anointed missionaries will be seen well-dressed, hair brushed,  pamphlets in hand, standing mutely in subway stations and elsewhere and  ringing doorbells, smugly engaged in their naïve and  irrational “mission.”

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Blog # 37   EXTREME MODERATION   (“Generally Speaking” redux)

It should not be judged immoderate to again proclaim the statement that there is no generalized formula for successful life and living; no stated guide suitable for every individual and every nuanced occasion. As stressed in blogs, ##11 and 34, some of these seemingly sage prescriptions for living have limited use and then, only in their selective and judicial application.

One such seemingly salutary and even-handed admonition may be among the most misleading. While it appears wise and certainly harmless, this apparently vanilla statement is therefore, insidious and harmful. The statement is “Moderation in all things.” All things?

The greatest of all the ancient Greek tragedians, Sophocles, in all of his plays, uniformly stressed the instructive theme of “sophrosyne  (moderation ).The tragic heroes of his plays  were always  men, usually  kings, who suffer great and unspeakable loss occasioned by  hubris,  excess of passion. The ancient Greek audience was taught moderation through cathartic identification with the tragic hero.

Sophocles must have intended the goal of sophrosyne to apply, exclusively, to excess emotion and passion; even he, I trust,  would not prescribe moderation for all of life’s experiences.

Certainly, excesses in anything, even good things is harmful; a breakfast bowl of oatmeal is nourishing and good; five pounds of oatmeal per diem would have tragic results. Unfortunately, sometimes the judgment of “excessive” is subjective and personal; nevertheless, “moderation” as a (universal) rule is ipso facto erroneous.

There are, in fact, many aspects of life which would suffer under the banner of moderation; moderate love of spouse and family, moderate zeal in the pursuit of knowledge and science, moderate loyalty, moderate honesty and morality, moderate care and attention, moderate empathy.  These examples, among many others, would lead to inadequate, faulty or cruel results.

There are, of course, many instances where moderation is a good guide; in such instances as temper and reactive behavior, expectations, justice (moderated with mercy), ambition, driving speed and diet.

Formulas are for chemistry and physics, not for human behavior.

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Blog # 36 Lichens People

“My mind’s made up, don’t confuse confuse me (with facts) is a deadly statement; one that is a predictable recipe for stagnation and enduring ignorance. It is the inclination and utterance of those who, wittingly, or unwittingly, adhere to mythical and obsolete beliefs with the same unyielding and  persistent bond as lichens on stone or dead logs.

To be fair, there is always some discomfort adherent in the uprooting of long and traditionally held beliefs and assumptions; changes of every kind are predictably accompanied by some discomfort (see:blog#15) Lichens do not grow, perceptively, and thus many adhere comfortably unchanged in knowledge and in situ ; better undisturbed and comfortable than disturbed.

It remains a mystery to p. how the statement,”ignorance is bliss” was ever generated since the truly ignorant would seem to lack the awareness and objective detachment to make the necessary comparison and observation.

A sad, but demonstrable example of lichen attitude exists with regard to the important subject of climate change; a phenomenon so evident as to be virtually incontrovertible.

There are many lichens folk, notably, politicians and Congresspeople who, when asked for their position on climate change, predictably respond,” I am not a climate scientist.” Yet if it is conceded that only climate scientists are competent to comment on climate change, why do not the many climate change deniers heed the uniform finding of those scientists to the effect that climate change is real, imminent and dangerous to the planet? It is because lichen people cling to their familiar rock.

In like fashion, there are those who obstinately deny evolutionary theory.  Charles Darwin aside, reliable and verified  biological, chemical, geological and paleontology studies and verified findings  are unimpeachable in their demonstration of the evolutionary process from simple-cell organisms to man.

A rafting trip down the Colorado River from Hoover Dam (Grand Canyon), about half way down, reveals eye-catching evidence,  in the many exposed layers of strata, from the oldest and deepest to the more recent levels, of the progress from simple organisms and plant life to the later developed  species.

A typical lichen person said to p. one day, that “evolution is just a theory.” to which the response was “so is the theory of gravity, electricity and the speed of light.”

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Blog #35         SANGUINE SPORTS

Oh, how we love our pets; our dogs and cats with the soft fur and warm bellies. We are a nation of pet and animal lovers. Dogs and cats regularly appear in movies, for our added entertainment, and in commercials to seduce sales. They are nurtured by us as quasi-children, are protected, and given a household niche. By reason of our anthropomorphic inclinations, we project human traits and responses to them (See blog#31) and by identification, by nurturing them, receive (ourselves) the nurturance we have always sought.

It is a wide-spread belief that one’s character and worth may be gauged by the quality and manner in which that person treats his pets and other animals.

Cruelty to animals is universally condemned and detested by society and is not infrequently, prosecuted criminally.  Agencies such as the A.S.P.C.A. and many organizations exist for the purpose of preventing cruelty to animals. It is, indeed, society’s positive expectation that properly socialized citizens treat these children of Nature with kindness.

Yet, one recalls with horror, the media account of the wealthy dentist, who among many others, considers the killing of innocent wild animals admirable and who proudly exhibits severed parts of their victims (usually the head) as revered trophies.

The person reported in the media, proudly recounted his procedure in killing the lion viz., by shooting him with a high-powered bow and arrow in the morning, then tracking him and killing him at day’s end. He did not see it as relevant to give a moment’s thought to the day-long agony, bleeding and suffering of the innocent beast. Unlike him, the lion did not have a good day.

As it happens, this particular animal was well known and given a name by the local community. The brave hunter was roundly condemned and universally termed a psychopath. P. wonders the event achieved notoriety because the elderly lion was a well- known and beloved resident of the local area; how many numerous other innocent animals, who are not celebrities, are treated to such an end, by “sportsmen.”

We are fortunate to be born, live and share the planet contemporaneously with all of its creature inhabitants. Stated differently, we and our fellow animals, as co-tenants of the Earth, are born, mate, have offspring and, at the end of life (unless sooner terminated by sportsmen) die.

It is an unfortunate reality that  there are many unavoidable animal tragedies caused by the proximity of “civilization” to animal habitats, most commonly by way of auto accidents. P. is still unable to rid his mind’s eye of the sight of a young doe, two years ago, sitting awkwardly by the side of the highway, dazed, flicking her ears, having apparently just been hit by an automobile, wide-eyed and bleeding from her mouth. There are many accounts of bears looking for food too close to human habitation that are killed. These are, however, accidental occurrences, and, in most cases, unpreventable.

However, a special and unique category of villain is to be allocated to humans who derive pride and pleasure from the killing of innocent animals; one is obliged to inquire as to the character and moral compass of those who, indeed, exult in the killing and maiming of Nature’s offspring for pleasure.

Our forest denizens have soft fur and warm bellies just like our pets and are not targets in a woodland shooting gallery. They, and all animals, do not exist for the satisfaction of human beings with blood-thirsty and atavistic inclinations.

p.

 

Blog # 34 GENERALLY SPEAKING

Included within the detritus of useless and misleading aphoristic statements is one which richly deserves special notice; in addition to being patently false, literally and effectively, it negates itself. The time worn statement is “All generalizations are false.” Have you heard or read it? How many times?

The statement is demonstrably wrong. In fact there is an almost infinite number of generalizations which are true and useful. The statement’s reductive and misleading nature would certainly suffice to relegate it to the proverbial dust bin. But the evident and profound arrogance evidenced by this statement, resides in the fact that the declarer has not tested it in every (“all”) application.  Even more fatal, it would appear that the statement is self-contradictory since It, itself, is undeniably, a generalization and (by the operation of its own universal rule) necessarily false.

A suggested working definition of “generalization” is: the wide-spread, universal application of the result of limited experience, or the universal application of a particular principle; it is induction on steroids.

Yet when properly used, generalization is an essential tool in man’s development and existence.

Mankind’s development and progress has always been built upon prior achievements and cumulative knowledge. For example, the empirical lesson that metallic spear- heads are more effective in hunting for food than stone spear- heads was discovered and passed on. Whoever was resistant to learn from better developing experience could not thereafter compete and survive. These practical lessons, by their nature, were inherited and applied by means of the use of generalization. There would be no civilization as we know it, if each new generation had to start from scratch with a blank mind (“tabula rasa”).

From their earliest beginnings, scientific and medical research and knowledge have proceeded on the shoulders of past discovery and achievement. The general assumption of man’s social contract with society and his desire to live in peace with others was and is the basis for code and laws. The need for a   societal consensus and understanding of physical and mental health, behaviors, safety and recipes for survival, are all principles learned from empirical experience and passed on as general rules. In business, climate study, engineering, cooking, and virtually every category of experience, acquired experience and development proceeds from previously learned general principles.

Yet, while the utility of generalization is vast and ubiquitous, ethical precepts, morality, accuracy and decency, require that the concept be strongly discouraged in application to humanity. In regard to the valuation of religion, ethnos, nationality, culture and the like, generalizations are too often subjective, wrong and harmful. An examination of the history of Victorian England, as just one of a myriad of historical examples, recalls the credo of “White Man’s Burden” i.e., to allegedly improve the life of lesser industrialized (“civilized) peoples by the export of EuropeanCulture (read Rudyard Kipling for a literary example).This, of course, was arrogant, stupid ethnocentricity; we all know how that worked out. Such horrors, Tutsi v. Tutu, Shia v, Sunni, Indians v. Pakistanis, Gentile v. Jew are just a few examples of the evil misuse of generalization with regard to groups of people. However when appropriately used, generalization is a significantly valuable tool. {Or, do I generalize?}

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Blog #33 CLEANING ATTICS

The perennial chore of clearing the attic is relatively easy. More difficult is the selective elimination of obsolete and useless thought patterns. The recommendations made here are not oversimplified or reductive; they are made with recognition of the difficulties inherent in such process. Our much vaunted “free will” is, in fact,  encumbered by our psyche, our personal chemistry and our upbringing However, this process is vital to the enhancement of  life.

The suggested procedure is the sorting out of the “attic’s” contents to result in a division of the items into three (3) categories: (a) disposable junk, (b) potentially recyclable items and (c) valuable items to keep Illustrative examples are set forth below:

(a)  Disposable Junk

Cynicism, Pessimism and Hopelessness

Many cynics and pessimists maintain that they are possessed of a higher degree of discernment and understanding of life, present and foreseeable; they would see everything with a negative prospect. Such predictions can be self-fulfilling and as predictable, result in (a reinforcing) disappointment.

When a disappointing outcome occurs, it should be treated as a discrete, perhaps unique, experience and not part of a predictable opera.

Bigotry

It is merely by the accident of birth that we randomly acquire our physical characteristics and our belief system (see Blog#3). Mythology and fear of the “other” limits growth and is injurious to all concerned.

Superstition

Certain people, in order to mitigate their feelings about the unknown future,  resort to such useless practices as astrology, tarot cards, tea leaves, numerology and other primitive and misleading devices. Personal solution of problems and existing questions can only be sought by way of our rationality; these bogus devices just get in the way and can be harmful.

Egocentrism, Selfishness

Life is not an autobiography; planet Earth is populated with vast multitudes of others, all of whom aspire to the good life. The desire to manipulate others is insensitive and immoral; it may also be motivated by an inability to achieve control and order in one’s own life.

Jealousy

The underlying basis of jealousy is fantasy .It may emanate from unrealistic expectation or a creative perception of the “success” of others. It is unhealthy, useless and a waste of time.

Fearfulness

We have natural, innate, fears that are useful and protective; viz., fear of falling, fear of fire, fear of wild beasts. However, there are some who live a life of perpetual fear without logical or empirical basis; examples include, fear of failure, fear of change (see Blog#15), fear of others. These limit spontaneity, growth and individuation resulting in an inadequate life.

It is to be noted that there are some fears, “phobias,” the elimination of which usually requires the intercession of qualified third parties.

Predisposition, Snap Judgments

Those who classify and make judgments of others without factual basis,  expose themselves to a charge of bias and are prone to error. The chance of successful results is enhanced by attention to the relevant facts, as well as sufficient interpersonal interaction. (See: Blog#18).

Over- Reaction

An objective appropriate and calibrated response to stimulus is essential to life and health (see: Blog#23). The inclination to react excessively to all disappointment, regardless of kind and degree, puts unnecessary stress on the body; if not nipped in the bud, it  can become a conditioned response. This category might also qualify for “2”.

(2) Possible Recycle

Poor Self Control

Often the best response to unfriendly, even egregious remarks is no response. Statements of this kind do not deserve a response. If a reply is mandated, it should be made in a measured and restrained way; otherwise the potential for necessary and meaningful communication will be lost.

Slavish Adherence to the Past

For certain insecure folks, repetition of past ways and patterns of thought are sufficient. New ventures and new activities require too much daring. The insatiable quest for security and fear of criticism keeps these folks in an archaic prison. They suffer the loss of new and better ways, the excitement and stimulation of new experiences and a lack of individuation.

New foods, friends, interests, and activities lend freshness and excitement to  confident spontaneity, and a sense of a life well spent.

Intolerance

The exchange of differing opinions is a most salutary way to operate a democracy. Unfortunately, we have experienced a breakdown of civic amity (see: blog#21), evidenced by the enmity and even, hatred, of those who have differing opinions. This causes insularity, disunity and a poorly administered government  tasked with satisfying everyone. The free exchange of ideas should not be perceived as threatening and should not be  divisive.

(3) Items of Storage to Keep

The following items, stored in the attic should be kept, permanently and never become obsolete. Since they are self-explanatory, a mere listing of the same is deemed sufficient. These include:

Ability to love and be loved, tolerance of others and all points of view, a feeling of personal self- worth and a recognition of the worth of others, the aspiration for self-fulfillment,  respect for the environment and its natural inhabitants, capacity for genuine apathy and charity.

It is essential to liberate our spirit by cleaning out the attic, removing the useless clutter, and taking pride in our valuable possessions.

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Blog #32 VANITY FAIR

Anyone would tell you that Deena was certainly nobody’s fool. Deena Jane Ipecac always knew what, and for how long, something was “cool.” She was admirably self-sufficient, persistent in her personal pride and defensive when she detected any threat to her firmly held self-image. For example, when something new came up in conversation, of which she knew nothing, she had the tactical good sense to reply “whatever,” to denote disinterest, or even boredom. It is to be especially noted that she studiously avoided any consideration of “then” and was unrelentingly focused on “now.”

Deena Jane was always reliably “in the know” and constantly alert to the shifts in the wind concerning changes in linguistic or apparel fashion. She prudently kept the latest “smart phone” within easy reach, in which phone was stored, the  latest music, games, celebrity gossip, current telephone numbers and most notably , dozens of posed “selfies, ”taken and painstakingly selected, to reveal the authentic Deena Jane; the latter  always seeming to bear an uncanny resemblance to some  “diva” appearing on her favorite reality television show.

Her texting was always expressed in the very latest patois, “lol,” “omg,” “s’up?” as some examples; and revealed a generous use of the latest lingua franca, such as “like,”” totally,” “awesome.” Ms. Ipecac was literati, performing close and analytical readings of People magazine and most of the supermarket celebrity publications.

To her credit, she was completely flexible; when the need for change was perceived, she changed, except for her tattoo. Her clothes were always au courant, hence, for the present, rips in her jeans, flip flops and a streak of color in her hair (usually blue).

Often, Deena Jane’s friends disappointed her however; she was often willing to endure a contrary opinion, if it was expressed by an attractive person who affected confidence. It was, unfortunately necessary, every so often for Deena Jane to change her “best friend.”

As far as “boys” were concerned, she was faultless at identifying who was considered the “hottest” by her cohort, and then directing her flirtations at him.

Her conversations, such as they are, contain the language of the current patois, “totally,” instead of “yes,” “she goes”, in lieu of “she says” “awesome pizza,” instead of “tasty” pizza.  She qualifies all her statements with the word “like” in order to avoid any possible impression that she has a current emotion or has personal feelings about the subject.

Deena Jane’s eyes are always celebrated in a copious variety and quantity of makeup products, as contained in magazine advertisements which endows her eyes with a striking resemblance to  that of a lemur; she only decorates her lips with lip gloss ( for the moment). There is a simple metal adornment screwed to her left earlobe.

She invariably refers to ( and, thereby, deprecates) aged members of  society by referring to them as “cute,” carefully reserving the word “old” to refer to, “out of fashion,” “passé,” and other “retro” things, words and expressions.

Deena floats high on  life’s  meandering stream,  never knowing the direction of the next “cool” thing, but ever ready to make changes in her appearance, vocabulary and when necessary, friends.

Do not have pity or be sad for Deena Jane, she is especially fortunate to remain forever young (that is, as long as it is in fashion).

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Blog #31 ANIMATED HOUSEHOLDS; LITERATE CATS

Domesticated animals have always been man’s life-long room- mates. Thus, we see ancient cave paintings in every hemisphere depicting animals, their representation on sculpture (religious and secular) on urns and pottery created by human hands, as well as observed from studies of their natural   remains. They are depicted as hunting partners, protectors, even deities. But, it would appear, their salient feature was their provision of comfort and company.

In today’s world, owners of pets usually bestow upon them human names and, by the phenomena of anthropomorphism, coupled with projection, ascribe to them nuanced and individual personality traits.  They are properly and adequately fed, afforded the latest and best medical attention and assigned a prominent and coveted place in the family household.

In exchange for the multiple benefits derived from sharing life with a pet, there is little or no inconvenience involved. Simply filling bowls with pet food and water, general oversight, and  in  the case of dogs, walking them once or twice per day; with regard to  cats  there is even less, since cats regularly service themselves by way of litterboxes [ does this mean  that cats are literate?] .

We are all familiar with, pet clothes, pet raincoats (with or without hoods) pet booties, pet beds, pet grooming equipment, pet carriers, pets in strollers, pet treats and goodies, pet toys and the like, all part of the enjoyable and rewarding diversion derived from the care of Nature’s offspring. At the end of their too- short lives, we have pet caskets, pet cemeteries and funeral urns for their cremated remains.

Many pets perform invaluable services for their fellow humans, including protection, as lifesavers, as guides for the blind, locating survivors of physical disaster, as sleuths for bombs, bed bugs and dope, as therapy animals and as pest and rodent eliminators.

There are many valid objective reasons for the exaltation give to, and the special love we confer on, these little beasties but, p. would confidently venture the hypothesis that by projection and extension, we are, in a very real sense, giving to ourselves the nurturing we always wanted.

 

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Blog #30   THE ROUTE TO CLARITY

The subject of grammar is not a sexy one. However it is vitally important to the success of our interfacing with others of our species. We are fortunate to have such a field manual of the “rules of the road” for our usage of language.  If ignored or violated, the result can be blurry messaging and predictable misunderstandings.

The grammatical code   contains in effect, directional traffic signs created to successfully lead the compliant speaker or writer to his important and desired destination, the intended meaning. Misinterpretation, occasioned by carelessly constructed statements, inevitably leads  to complications and problems; ask any experienced business person or lawyer.

The sentence, the juxtaposition of (hopefully, carefully selected) words to express an idea, sentiment or information, should always be thoughtfully constructed, with the other person in mind, so as to insure understanding; it must not vague or equivocal. The strictures concerning double negatives, the avoidance of parallelism, appropriate plural or singular nouns with plural or singular verbs,  and the many important other rules need be faithfully  observed for successful  results.

Sadly and alarmingly, there appears to have developed, a casual or dismissive approach to these grammatical rules of the road, a downplaying of their necessity too numerous and varied to delineate here. Nevertheless, one instance of this unfortunate trend has been selected because of the simplicity of its demonstration and because it is representative of this all- pervasive trend. The selected example is the lazy and irresponsible conflation of noun and verb. Such conversion of nouns to bogus verbs, it should be noted, however, is far from the most egregious violation of the mandated rules.t

Despite the common understanding that a noun expresses an object, e.g., a person, a sentiment, an object, and by comparison, a verb denotes action, e.g., run, swim write, the proper function of the two has been bypassed, and the two have been carelessly and irresponsibly conflated. Three such examples are:

Noun                                                   Bogus Verb

Impact                                                Impacting, impacted

Party                                                    Partied, Let’s party

Microwave                                         Microwaved

Are there not enough words in our vocabulary?

In order for a society to exist and prosper there must be interaction between its members; such interaction should be useful and without confusion of message.   We need only follow the rules.

p.