art, Philosophy, Science

Santayana’s Folly

untitled-1969

We must not fall into the trap of seeing the world as a teleology, or worse, as a function of an unmoved mover. We must, as Santayana implores, look to the past in order to not repeat it, but we often misunderstand this dictum. Events as they are do not seek to move forward with a preordained or mechanical certainty for want of human agency. Events, history, movements, revolutions, are all aspects of human agency. The world will behave according to the laws of nature unless acted upon by human beings, and even then we must remember that humans are animals and a part of nature. So perhaps we must reword our original preposition: Events as they are will move, and any perceived direction is a projection of human need, fear and desire. Humans are self-obsessed animals, self-aware of their own awareness, captivated and intimidated, overwhelmed, by their potential for agency in the natural world. We are apes and subject to the sort of whims and whimsy, and instincts, of that class of organisms. We are pattern seekers and have indeed created a world for ourselves that exists, within our own minds at least, independent of the realities of nature and physics. Philosophy is a wish the human mind makes, a striving for order in a system that is inherently chaos. We are instinctually inclined to see chaos as a negative state of affairs, but it is neither “good” nor “bad”; chaos is, and that is all there is to it.

There is no good or evil, there is only cause and effect. We do and then that which is done upon acts in response. We are conditioned, as social animals, to see the good in the group we belong to. The violence done by, or in the name of, those who we associate with is not seen as violence, but as a reaction against a constant war that rages around us and against us. The world is a “dangerous” place for “our sort” and this is and has always been true. Humans will do anything, convince themselves of anything, in order to feel safe in the group, safe in the community, safe in the society. We all live in a spotlight that we believe is projected only onto ourselves. This is not narcissism, this is a sort of human naturalism, a built in mechanism that had its place in our development. It undermines us now only because we chose to attempt to transcend the purely animal and to achieve something that would allow us to “not repeat history”. We cannot help but “repeat” history because we will always conform to our natures. It is as much in our nature to create as to destroy, to rage as well as to love, to learn as well as to stick our heads in the sand.

But, we can make a change in the application of our personal, and collective, agency in order to better our own circumstances and those of our fellows. One can live well and live healthily, safely, and comfortably without violating the laws of nature. Nature allows for human comfort and happiness, but it will never allow human utopia. The problem the philosophical systems we have created (and continue to create) and let run rampant is that all are based on the premise that the human is perfectible. What we fail to realize is that the human animals already is perfect, at least insofar as perfection has a place in nature. We are what we became, and we became what we are because of natural forces. Natural Selection is not wish fulfilment, and it does not act so much as it exists. Species change over time, we are all transitional forms, changing not out of some “striving” to “become”. Firstly, nature does not strive, nature acts and reacts according to the laws of nature, and nature does not become because there is nothing to become save for what is at the moment, and that moment changes constantly. Nothing is now how it was a moment ago.

History cannot repeat itself as there is nothing to repeat: nature exists as a perpetual “is” and this is a result of laws we have discovered and continue to discover. Heraclitus was right all along, in a simple all too human way. One cannot step in the same river twice because the river is never the river, it is only the sum of the constantly moving atoms that comprise what we see as a flow of water, that we wade into for refreshment and pleasure, which we call a river, and which we bestow with the attributes and the attitudes of what we have decided comprises a “river”. We see parts where there is only a whole, and this is fine, for an animal, natural. The ape will reach for the brightest fruits, and he will choose from those only the sweetest. This will serve the tree as much as it will serve the animal, for it will spread its seeds as far as the animal will sojourn and make the kingdom of the trees that much more diverse and vital. Change is the only constant, a constant being only that which human beings have decided will (or must?) transpire based on what they have observed.

Science is that human propensity for observation refined into systems and measures that allow us to glimpse the fine print, and past drafts, of natural law. Our most noble attribute is the need to explore and to learn from that exploration. After this primary value is the penultimate, Art. Art is the human propensity for taking in what we observe in the world, filtering it through the unique contents of our individual minds, and expressing it through creative activity and behavior. Art is the ultimate human commentary on nature; where science quotes, or attempts to paraphrase, art rhapsodizes,criticizes and excoriates. Art allows us to create something that is our own and to try our hands at being in control of nature, God over the universe (and God is only our self-obsessed conception of ourselves projected onto the chaos of nature) or at least a little creative universe of our own. Art allows us to express emotion, as much blessing as curse for our ape minds, without inflicting our emotions on our fellow creatures. Art can rage as much as it can sing. Without science art would have no mythology to draw upon, without art science would have no music to inspire us. We reached for the Moon, and traveled thereto, not just because we observed it as an aspect of nature, but because its light has inspired a thousand tall tales, and gave mood and color to countless works of art. Apollo 11 was propelled as much by poetry as much as by rocket-fuel

 

Art thou pale for weariness

    Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,

Wandering companionless

     Among the stars that have a different birth,

And ever changing, like a Joyless eye

    That finds no object worth its constancy?

All this, then, is Santayana’s folly: it is not possible to learn from the past because the past is only a flawed human perception of the present. The philosopher was far more on point, if not in such a broad way as his assessment of the past, with this comment on human agency


An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.

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GOP, Science

Why Does the GOP Hate Science?

GOPSCIENCE

I have been stunned lately by the ridiculous and regressive things major GOP figures have been saying about medicine and science lately. It is old news that the GOP wants to repeal Obamacare (a law I think did not go nearly far enough but has at least brought insurance to millions who did not have it before) and does not give a shit about the lives and liberty of women when it comes to their own reproductive health, but this week the GOP may have gone, in the words of the great comedy Tropic Thunder, “Full Retard”.

A little background: Disneyland and a few other areas in California have suffered a measles outbreak stemming from the anti-vaccine movement. Thousands of “parents” have decided that they will not vaccinate their children against deadly and easily spread diseases because some quack Doctors and terrible actress Jenny McCarthy told them it would cause autism and other “terrible afflictions”. I am not even going to go into how insulting this is to people like me who actually have autism. It is bad enough that these idiot parents want to bring health standards back to the level of pre-industrial Europe. Anyone with a half of a brain knows that vaccines are safe and effective and save millions of lives. So of course Chris Christie and play-Doctor Rand Paul came out against vaccinating children. Professional Charlatan Rand Paul (hail Aqua-Buddha) went so far as to say that vaccines caused “profound” mental and intellectual problems in children. Rand Paul is a board certified Doctor…of course the “board” in question was pulled out of his Ayn Rand worshiping ass. This man puts wandering wild west snake oil salesmen to shame. Chris Christie, the fattest man on earth–I mean the governor of New Jersey, weighed in and said that parents should have a “choice” in whether to vaccinates their children. I guess the GOP is pro-choice only when it comes to deciding whether you want your child to die the death of a 15th century German peasant.

But wait, there is more! North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom “My first name needed an extra “H” for some reason” Tillis has decided that it is too much of a “regulatory” burden to make restaurants force their employees wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Let me repeat that: A US Senator wants to fight liberal economic tyranny by allowing your Denny’s waitress to serve you your grand slam with shit stained fingers. ‘Murica, Fuck Yeah.

The GOP has gotten to the point where they view science itself as a liberal conspiracy to impose socialist “medicine” to prevent Marxist “diseases” from taking our communist “lives”. It is difficult to pin down exactly why this is; is it to appease the religious fools who make up their base, to appease their corporate overlords, or is it just plain old, Scopes Monkey Trial level American anti-intellectualism? We may never know for sure, but one thing is certain: these idiots should not be let anywhere near the levers of power.

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poetry, Religion

Bodhisattva

Kuan-yan_bodhisattva,_Northern_Sung_dynasty,_China,_c._1025,_wood,_Honolulu_Academy_of_Arts

quaeritur

where is a pleasant land

brundle and behest lee right to do that way of weight

 

dharma

towards a known blessed window

through a bodhi flesh blue

 

Amitabha

swarm on lilac hills Camponotus wroughtonii

Asuras vomiting up potent wine

 

han

sound flat and sharp

slapped note note upwards

 

Mara

bleeds his screams into Cetiya

drunk up by the disciples

 

Dorylus labiatus

the walls of existence vibrate

with the fervor of honey bees

a tree twisted by a cancer

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Conservatism, Conservatives, Criticism, GOP

An All in Good Fun Discussion of Erick Erickson

Erick_Erickson_by_Gage_Skidmore-460x307

By now I am sure you have seen various interviews with media commentator and professional clown porn director Erick Erickson (I am only speculating about the clown porn but I like to err on the side of caution)

Good ol’ Erick Just wanted to let the world know that wives should make their goddamn husbands a sammich right damn now because…because male baboons have bigger rear ends than female baboons…or something. I would really love to see Mr. Erickson shrunk down to the size of an insect so as to be able to give his “males are more powerful in nature” speech to a female praying mantis. “You see, the book of Acts states that women…hey…why are you eating my head? You are supposed to be subservi–”

Megyn Kelly of Fox News totally, completely and UTTERLY owned the balls of both Erickson and Lou “Smile, You’re on To Catch A Predator” Dobbs (yes, that Lou Dobbs). If you haven’t seen this beat-down I highly suggest you look it up…or i could just post it down here!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/megyn-kelly-erick-erickson-lou-dobbs_n_3367571.html

To be fair to Lou and Erick (and Juan Williams who was yukking it up with them on Fox News) their intellectual level is not quite up to the standard of a Megyn Kelly (who, full disclosure, is one of the few coherent, if not always correct, people on Fox); they are more the “dare me to have that 7th shot of Red Stag” type of public intellectuals.

Erickson has of course tried to back-pedal without actually moving an inch, but that is just his usual game. Whine about people whining about him and blame those damn pansy boys and feminazis on the left for not “understanding” his great white christian male angst complex. He has even taken to crying havoc and releasing the hounds of social networking: he responded to a tweet of mine today by messaging me back and reassuring me that “his wife and his sisters” agree with his misogynistic and and pseudo-scientific babble. Some one is intellectually desperate when they have to appeal to the “see, some of my greatest supporters are women/black people/latino day laborers” argument. Just another name to add to the “this is why our country is an enormous laughingstock” list. Goodnight and good luck…

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Atheism, Circumcision, Health, Liberty, Men, Science, Sex, Sexuality

Circumcision

Detail of Circumcision of Jesus Christ by Pellegrino da San Daniele

A 99 year old Iraqi mystic who once tried to sacrifice his own son to a desert sky deity decided to chop off the foreskin of his penis in order to seal a covenant with said deity. This may or may have not happened around 4000 plus years ago (it didn’t but I am attempting to be ecumenical here). This is one of the most common reasons given for the choice to circumcise male children all over the world. The World Health Organization estimates that 1/3 of all males on Earth are circumcised. That is over 1 billion people. There have been numerous studies done that purport to show the medical benefits of removing the prepuce and an almost equal number done showing the opposite or that there is no change at all. I believe that this is beside the point. The vast majority of circumcisions done are performed when the child is an infant or a young toddler. The child does not have the ability to consent to this procedure, and as it is performed almost exclusively as a cosmetic or culturally mandated procedure this leads to a few ethical dilemmas.

Where is the line drawn as to such decisions? If the culture of the parent dictated that a child would be best served by the ceremonial removal of the tip of his tongue or his ear lobes would this be permissible as a medical procedure administered upon an infant? Something tells me that the removal of ear lobes at birth would cause a bit of a stir in the international community. But of course the penis is part of that dirty filthy realm of sex, and sex is almost universally colored by views informed by millenarian prophets born in another century. Because of its near ubiquitous nature circumcision it is assumed that there is an assumption that there must be something inherently positive to the procedure. What that positive aspect consists of seems to be up for discussion. As I mentioned there is the medical argument that circumcision has health benefits, principally it reduces the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission. But by the time a boy is old enough to see real risk from any sort of sexual activity/disease he will have gained the ability to make a decision on his own whether or not he wants his penis mutilated.

Should we then not err on the side of letting a growing human being decide what his sexual organ looks like and how it feels? Some say that women or other men will reject a man who is not circumcised and that he may be ostracized for life. Assuming this is true, and my personal experience would suggest that this is not universally the case, is possible future social shunning really a good enough reason to deprive a person of the choice to decide how their body will look for the rest of their lives? Another argument would have us believe that a child will not remember the pain that occurs doing a circumcision because of his age so the issue of discomfort should not be an issue. Personally I find this “argument” to be facile at best and downright cruel at worst. Who are we to decide what an infant can or cannot experience or what or what he may not remember? I remember tripping down my Aunt’s staircase and cutting my eye lid upon the sharp edge of the landing. I was a year and a half old. “He won’t remember” does not seem to be a great excuse to inflict unnecessary pain upon an infant, no matter what the reason.

There is not much evidence for or against the idea that circumcision leads to decreased (or increased) sensitivity during oral/vaginal/anal intercourse but the absence of any evidence should not be taken of evidence of absence. I have talked with men who have undergone the procedure who wonder what sexual relations would have felt like if they had not had this bit of their genitalia removed. Is it too much to expect that they reach puberty before they are faced with this sort of potentially life altering decision? Is anything lost, even in a religious sense, if a child has the ability to consent to his own physical alteration, even if, no, especially if it is in tribute to some sort of deity?

For better or worse men identify with their genitalia in a visceral and even emotional way. It is part of the psychological picture of them-selves and it will become an important part of how they relate sexually with the woman or man they end up being physically and/or romantically involved with. And furthermore it is an issue of trust and personal liberty: if we are not allowed to make decisions about the very appearance of our bodies then what sort of message does this send to societies based upon liberty or aspiring to liberty? Where do we draw the line? And why should religious and cultural considerations be given a veto over the inherent sanctity and dignity of how a human being decides what happens to his own body? God should not be an active partner in what happens to a child’s penis. That decision should be left to that child when he is old enough to understand the pros and cons of the decision to be circumcised.

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Biography, books, Brain, Life, Writing

Day in the Life of a Professional Writer

I realized today that I do not often talk about my personal life on this blog. Well I intend to remedy that mistake today. I will not bore you with a listing of everything about myself, if you are a regular reader you know enough about my interests and thoughts. I will talk about what I do day to day, or what I have been doing lately.

I am nearing the end of a long process, a journey even, the process of finishing my first complete novel. It’s topic is the papacy, specifically the papacy before the 20th century. I am secretive about my projects mostly out of shyness and a natural paranoia but I can disclose that this project was not the one I thought would be my first finished novel. My long term project, whose working title is “The Dionysian Man” (it will  not be called this when finished)  is about half of the way through and will be done probably by 2014. My pope project should be done and ready for the final edits before the end of the next spring. I hope to find an agent or a publisher next year.

I am working on three novels at the moment because I hate myself and don’t have a life…no, it is more because I have far too many ideas. I am a slow writer when it comes to finishing long projects. I have 200 plus poems finished, a book of short stories nearly completion, a completed play, and two essays that I am preparing to self-publish on Amazon Kindle. The link to those two essays will be proudly displayed on this site soon enough.

I am reading many things at the moment, as I always am. These include a history of the papacy by John Julius Norwich (naturally), a history of German thought and literature, some wonderful books on evolution and dinosaur science, The Dream of Reason, a history of Ancient philosophical thought, and various other things depending on my mood.

I want to end by thank all of my followers and my subscribers on this blog. It has made my art worthwhile to hear from all of you and to see your feedback, and it makes me happy every day to see all the people from everywhere on earth who are interested in what this autistic self-employed writer from Sycamore Illinois has to say. I hope I can keep you all interested and entertained well into the future.

Thanks!

 

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