MEANINGLESS? WHAT? YOU WANT ME TO TALK ABOUT MEANINGLESS?

Meaningless? Don’t talk to me about meaningless! 

Allow me to refer you to my most recent post, which I coincidentally published a couple of weeks ago. It really does say it all and I’m not up to saying the whole thing again. I have included the lively center of the post for your perusal.


We spend too much time trying to figure out what life means and too little time doing the stuff we enjoy. I suppose it’s normal to wonder if the reason you are sick, broke, or miserable is the result of something you did or failed to do. Normal, but a waste of time and energy because I’m going to explain everything and you’ll never have to wonder again.

Meaning of life

Learning to accept the randomness of stuff that happens is tough. We want life to make sense. We want order. We want our messes and disasters to be important, meaningful. I’m pretty sure that some god has a message about this.

I’ve put a good bit of thought into why my life has regularly fallen apart. I know I’m imperfect, but whatever I’ve done wrong, it’s small potatoes in the scheme of things. Even in my darkest moments I doubt I’m so wicked that The Big Guy has in for me. Then I had an epiphany.

You can believe what you want, but you can’t know any more than I do. Believe as hard as you want. Believing isn’t knowing.

 I KNOW NOTHING. NEITHER DO YOU.

Accepting you know nothing is a big step, so take a deep breath. Your next challenge will be how you can cash in on this new knowledge. What’s the point unless you can awe people with your brilliance — and make a few bucks?

WORDS

You need the right vocabulary to dazzle your audience. Impressively large words (4 or more syllables) in the right context can showcase your education and intelligence. People will make little cooing sounds to show their admiration.

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Big words enhance your likelihood of getting a management position. You can write important books. Have a blog like me and I know you want to be just like me. Big words can take you a long way, if you are skilled at deploying them.


I will not repeat the entire post, but if by any chance you missed it — unlikely because I run with this one at least twice a year … it sums up my relationship with philosophy. Who knew it would take an entire lifetime to discover I don’t know anything and neither do you? But you can take a look at it the whole thing: WHEN NOTHING MEANS ANYTHING.

For some obscure reason, knowing nothing really empowers me. Go figure, right?

WHEN NOTHING MEANS ANYTHING

I’m always glad to have a reason to pull this out of my archives and dust it off. It represents years of thought, night-long discussions in college, several obscure philosophy courses and at least one 40-page research paper. How bizarre that now, at long last, I live in a world where everything means nothing. This used to be humor, of a sort. Now, it’s not quite as funny.

We spend too much time trying to figure out what life means and too little time doing the stuff we enjoy. I suppose it’s normal to wonder if the reason you are sick, broke, or miserable is the result of something you did or failed to do. Normal, but a waste of time and energy because I’m going to explain everything and you’ll never have to wonder again.

Meaning of life

Learning to accept the randomness of stuff that happens is tough. We want life to make sense. We want order. We want our messes and disasters to be important, meaningful.

I’ve put a good bit of thought into why my life has regularly fallen apart. I know I’m imperfect, but whatever I’ve done wrong, it’s small potatoes in the scheme of things. Even in my darkest moments I doubt I’m so wicked that The Big Guy has in for me.

Then I had my epiphany.

You can believe what you want, but you can’t know any more than I do. You take the same leap of faith by believing in God or if you declare yourself an atheist. Both positions require you take as absolute something for which you have no direct proof and for which you will never have proof.

If believing in a loving God makes you feel good, believe it. It could be true. If it turns out you’re right, you’ll have backed a winner. If believing there is no God, and science is the only path (and is antithetical to God — a position with which I disagree) to Truth, go with that. Regardless, you’re making a faith-based choice because there’s no proof God exists or doesn’t exist.

Personally, I don’t know. What makes me smarter than most people is I know I don’t know.

 I KNOW NOTHING. NEITHER DO YOU.

Accepting you know nothing is a big step, so take a deep breath. Your next challenge will be how you can cash in on this new knowledge. What’s the point unless you can awe people with your brilliance — and make a few bucks?

WORDING

You need the right lingo to dazzle your audience. Big words (4 or more syllables) used in the right context can showcase your education and intelligence. People will make little cooing sounds to show their admiration.

meaning-of-life3

Big words enhance your likelihood of getting a management position. You can write important books. Have a blog like me and I know you want to be just like me. Big words can take you a long way, if you are skilled at deploying them.

Note: Make sure you know how to pronounce them. Mispronouncing big words will cause unexpected laughter … not good unless you are aiming for a stand-up comedy career.

EPISTEMOLOGY – IT’S All ABOUT KNOWING

Let’s start with epistemology. This is an excellent catch-all word you can drop into any conversation. Most people will have no idea what you are talking about, but will be too embarrassed to admit it. On the off-chance you encounter someone who actually recognizes the word, you can use this handy-dandy definition from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the philosopher’s convenient source for everything:

Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? 

I bet you still have no idea what it means. The awesome truth is that epistemology doesn’t mean anything because it means everything.

Anything that means everything means nothing. Equally, when something claims to do everything, it has no actual use. This applies to people, software, concepts, and kitchen appliances. In practical terms, everything and nothing are identical.

PHENOMENOLOGY IS THE NEW FAITH

On to phenomenology. When I was studying religion in college, phenomenology was a way to prove the existence of God. Phenomenologically speaking, all human experience is proof of God. The same reasoning also proves there is no God. Ah, the joy of it.

Phenomenology can help you prove all things are one thing, all things are God. You are God. I am God. I am a warm cup of tea and you are a daffodil. If this doesn’t clarify it for you, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers further elucidation.


Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object.


In other words, you can use any and all human experience, your experience and anyone else’s, to prove whatever you want. Phenomenology is fundamental to all belief systems: religion, politics, and Fox News. Lots of people believe in religion, politics and Fox News, so maybe they will believe in you too.

As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure that almost everything our current administration has said fits neatly into phenomenology. Since the only thing that matters in phenomenology is someones’ experience, you don’t need facts. Figures. Statistics. You don’t need anything but “I felt it, so it must be true.”

Do you feel it yet?

FOUNT OF WISDOM

You can now explain anything. Everything. You can prove things based on something a couple of friends said years ago while under the influence of powerful hallucinogenic drugs. Although others may fault your logic, in the world of academics, everyone disbelieves everyone else unless they are citing them as a source, so you might as well stick your oar in the water.

meanin-of-life-snoopy

There are people who will attack you using faith. Faith is based on itself which makes it hard to dispute. The only person who is ever convinced by faith is the he/she who holds it. Nor does it really matter how many people believe or disbelieve it.


Having more believers or followers doesn’t transform faith into fact.
If it did, we could achieve some really nifty things.
Like, say we all believe in magic and therefore, it exists.

So, as it turns out, nothing is what I know and nothing seems like a great place to stay put in this best of all possible worlds. Welcome to my big wide world of nothing.

RHYTHM METHOD

lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown


The poem I’ve written below is based on the “Five Principles for Getting through the Trump Years,” given by Alice Walker in her speech at a reading in La Manzanilla, Mexico two nights ago on February 20, 2017. I was fortunate enough to be at that reading where she and four other excellent writers also talked about subjugation, prejudice, inequality, poverty and the importance of kindness, open-mindedness, acceptance and education in bringing our country to a better level of fairness to all.

I’ll talk about some of the other poets and storytellers who told their tales in a later post; but for today, and since it fit in with today’s prompt, here is my take on Ms. Walker’s wonderful talk.

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Rhythm Method

You’ve got to listen to the beat.
Shake your booty, pound your feet.
If you want to survive the day,
the rhythm method is the way.
It’s been said by smarter folks than I
that it’s the way that we’ll get by
in times we think we won’t survive—
the way we stay fully alive
in spite of voters who were hazy
and voted in a man who’s crazy.

Instead of listening to his bleat,
until the time of his defeat,
first and foremost, kindness will
help us to swallow this bitter pill.
A close connection with nature might
help us stay strong in the fight.
Respect for all those elders who
just might be another hue:

native tribes or Africans
brought unwillingly as hands
to shore up our economy
and build a country for you and me
while they paid the awful fee
in poverty and slavery.
It’s time to set our people free!

Gratitude for human life,
both theirs and ours, will allay strife.
In times like these, less than enhancing,
“Hard times demand furious dancing!”
One wiser and more in the groove
than I am, says that we must “Move!”
James Cleveland sang “This too shall pass,”
Turn on his music and move your ass.

Thousands of people dance along
this wonderful old gospel song
in her mind’s eye and I agree.
While we are waiting, you and me,
for enough others to see the light
and step in line to wage the fight,
we have to keep the joy in us
in spite of this unholy fuss
that seeks to keep us frightened and
prisoners in our native land.

Instead of knives and swords and guns,
defeat the tyrant with jokes and puns.
Comedians will save the day
and keep us laughing on the way.
But in the mean time, move your feet.
Feel the rhythm. Feel the beat.
If this nation has a chance,
perhaps we’ll find it in the dance.


The quotations above are all from Alice Walker’s talk. In prose form, here again are her five principles for getting through the Trump years (or hopefully, months.)

1. Kindness, which can keep us going through these unkind times.

2. A close connection with nature.

3. Respect for our oldest biological ancestors including native Americans (specifically those at Standing Rock), Africans  (who survived the fierce physical brutality of slavery) and Europeans such as John Brown and Susan B. Anthony.

4.  ‘Move!  Hard times demand furious dancing.’ Reverend James Cleveland sang, “This too shall pass.”  Get a recording of it and dance to it! She has an image of thousands of people dancing to this wonderful gospel song.

5. Maintain gratitude for human life.

She ended by relating the importance of meditation, which she described as a means “to rediscover the blue sky that is our mind,” and by stating that one way we can overcome the constant bad news with which our oppressors drug us is to learn the bad news first from comedians. This, perhaps, is one way for us to get through this dark period in our history.

The prompt today was rhythmic.


Please read the original post on Judy Dykstra’s brilliant site: Rhythm Method

STAND UP FOR TRUTH

This the season to spread stupid rumors. It keeps coming up. I get madder each time I see it.

This is the season to spread the rumor that there’s a war against Christmas. That the same cabal consisting of “them – the unnamed conspirators that are doing bad things” want to ban the holiday. That there are movements afoot to make Christmas trees into “holiday” trees and thus ban Christ in Christmas. Worse, that people will get angry and maybe sue you if you wish them a merry Christmas.

Has that ever actually happened? To anyone? Anywhere?

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It has never happened to me. I am not a Christian, but I like Christmas. It’s a nice holiday with pretty decorations, terrific music, and great lighting. Good food and drink and friends getting together to celebrate. What’s not to like?

I am an equal opportunity greeter. I will greet friends and strangers by saying whatever comes to tongue first. I have been doing this my entire life. Not once in all these decades has anyone objected to being wished Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday. Because people are not anti-Christmas. There is no war on Christmas.

There is a Constitutional, entirely legal (obligatory) separation of church and state. It suggests putting a crèche in the middle of town might be in poor taste or outright illegal, but is not a war on anything. It’s protecting my right to not be Christian while simultaneously protecting your right to go to the church, synagogue, mosque — or none of the above — of your choice. Separation of church and state protects all religions and non-believers equally.

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If you want to a crèche in the middle of town, ask the nearest church to put one on their property — if they don’t already have one (and I bet they do). Enjoy it at the church because that’s where it belongs. It’s religious iconography and is entirely acceptable in a religious context.

The United States is not a Christian country. It is religiously unaffiliated. Even though the majority of the population may profess to be some kind of Christian, this includes millions of people who never go to church. One of the many thing that are protected is your right to say your are a Christian or anything else without actually having to do anything to prove it. Freedom of religion is a wonderful thing. It means the government has no stake in your personal belief system as long as it stays personal and doesn’t involve bombing other sects or non-believers.

Which means you can say you are a Christian, never go to church at all, complain how Christianity is being threatened by the “freedom and politically correct cabal” (who don’t exist) and no one will ever ask you to show your bona fides. It’s a great constitution we have. If we ditched everything else but kept that first amendment, we might just be okay anyhow.

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If there’s a war on anything, it is on my right to not be Christian. Enforcing the first amendment is not a war. It’s what keeps us free.

Speaking of the first amendment, there is no law anywhere against greeting anyone in any manner you choose. The first amendment also protects your right to free speech including saying Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Or nothing at all. Whatever. It’s all good. I suggest the following response to any seasonal greeting: “Thank you!” Accompanied by a smile. Because someone is being nice and you should be nice, too. Now … that wasn’t so hard, was it?

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Despite Facebook, there is no war on Christmas. No war on free speech. If you spread the rumor that this is true, who knows how much damage you can do? Unless that’s your intention, don’t do it.

No matter what you believe, it’s time to stop sharing, tweeting, and re-posting stuff that’s supposed to be true without first checking to make sure that it is true. How about we stop letting other people’s opinions substitute for facts? How about not passing rumors? How about we all make a commitment to fact-checking as a matter of course? Because the damage we do by spreading lies, rumors, and half-truths — intentional or not — is incalculable. This is something you can do to make the world better without getting out of your recliner.

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If you don’t have time to check the facts, do not repeat it, share it, re-post it, publish it, or in any way pass it along. Unless you personally have checked the facts, assume it is not true. The world will be a better place no matter what politics you favor.

This is not an “us versus them” issue. It is a true versus untrue issue, a fact versus fiction issue. It affects everyone — including your children and grandchildren. Stand up for truth!

NO VIRTUE IN VICE

I don’t have much in the way of thoughts about vice. I’m not even sure what it is any more. This morning, in one of those online chat things I do these days in lieu of actual conversations with customer service people, I discovered that “LYING” is only lying if I do it. If they tell me something that is completely untrue and I believe them, it is a misunderstanding. So when they said “We are fixing this and should have a solution soon” and they really meant “This is the way it’s going to be and we’re not going to change it. Ever.” And I believed them, it was my misunderstanding rather than their outright lie. I would normally have categorized it as “vice,” but give the state of the body politic and all the crap I see in the news, I’ve decided telling the truth versus lying is no longer meaningful. If I say something without any basis in fact and claim it’s the truth, but you later realize it is not the truth and, in fact, bears no relationship to truth as anyone understands it … it’s just a misunderstanding.

So how can there be vice if there is no truth?

Fortunately, there still is AD-vice, which is free. Sometimes, it even contains a particle of useful information. I hesitate to suggest that it might also be true because … well … you know … what IS truth?

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As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place. I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).

I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will make movies I like. I’ve stopped trying to like “new” music, most new TV shows. Or hoping to remember the names of new “stars.”

Some stuff gave me up. Some people gave up on me. Other things, just slipped away. In the end, it’s the same.

So. Now. If anyone asks me how or why I have given up whatever it was, virtue, vice, or anything, I tell them it was for religious reasons. No one ever asks what I mean by that. But just so you know  …

It doesn’t mean anything.

It’s a misunderstanding. Not a lie. Just a way to end the conversation. No one wants to offend me by asking for details of my beliefs. They might turn out to be embarrassing or bizarre. Thus my all-purpose answer to everyone is “on religious grounds,” “for religious reasons,” or “on the advice of my spiritual counselor.”

These powerful words can make any conversation vanish and I never have to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

It’s similar to (but entirely different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!” 99.9% of the time, this does the job. Test drive it yourself.

I’m fine. For religious reasons.

VICE | THE DAILY POST

MY EIGHTH SIN

Remember the seven cardinal sins? I took up the gauntlet, the challenge of adding a new sin to the classics. First, I had to do a quick refresher course on the original big seven. They are:

Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride.

Seven Deadly Sins, Peter Bruegal

Seven Deadly Sins, Peter Bruegal

Really, I’m not sure we need another one. These seem entirely adequate to the task of making the world a wretched place for one and all. But hey, I’ll give it a shot. The original sins are concepts.

1 – From the top, there’s the ever-popular Lust.

Lust encompasses far more than indiscriminate sex or cheating on one’s spouse. Lust is not just for horny teenagers and men in a midlife crisis.

Lust is an intense desire. It is a general term for desire. Therefore lust could involve the intense desire (for) money, food, fame, power, or sex. In Dante’s Purgatorio, the penitent walks within flames to purge himself of lustful thoughts and feelings. 

On this earthly plane, there’s a lot of lusting going on and sex is the least of it. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say sex is the best of it. Possibly the only piece of the “lust sinology” that’s fun and might do somebody some good.\

2 – So how about Gluttony, eh? If you think it means you eat too much, you’d be right, though eating is a symptom, not the disease.

Derived from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow, gluttony (Latin, gula) is the over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything to the point of waste. Gluttony can be interpreted as selfishness; essentially placing concern with one’s own interests above the well-being or interests of others.

As far as I can tell, our whole society has been doing a lot of gulping … of natural resources, of fancy cars, houses, gadgets, widgets. We also eat too much, but in the overall scheme of things, eating is the least of it. Over-consumption is a the sin and quintessentially American.


greed-cartoon

3 – Moving along, we get to the perennial favorite: Greed. You can’t go wrong with greed. For thousands of years, greed has topped the “most popular sin” list across social boundaries. It’s probably the single most motivating of the sins. It is so popular, it has lost its evil connotations and been enshrined as something to which one ought aspire.

Greed (Latin, avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity or covetousness, is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of excess. However, greed (as seen by the church) is applied to a very excessive or rapacious desire and pursuit of material possessions. Scavenging, hoarding materials or objects, theft and robbery, especially by violence, trickery, or manipulation of authority are actions likely inspired by Greed.

According to Gordon Gecko, “Greed is good.” So, not to worry. Greed is not evil. It’s just business.


sloth

4 – Sloth has a certain quaint charm and in the broader scheme of things, hardly seems worthy of mention. But, it’s on the list, so …

Sloth (Latin, acedia) can entail different vices. While sloth is sometimes defined as physical laziness, spiritual laziness is emphasized. Failing to develop spiritually is key to becoming guilty of sloth. In the Christian faith, sloth rejects grace and God. Sloth has also been defined as a failure to do things that one should do. By this definition, evil exists when good men fail to act.

Sloth is not only failure to “do” stuff. It’s also failure to do the moral thing … to do nothing in the face of evil. Failure to do the right thing is a sin, even if it isn’t a crime.


5 – Wrath is a big deal, the cause for much of what ails America these days. If you don’t think wrath is a problem, spend 15 minutes cruising posts on Facebook. Watch the news. There’s a staggering amount of rage and hatred out there. I believe wrath has overtaken greed as the most popular mortal sin of the decade.

Wrath (Latin, ira), also known as “rage”, may be described as inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Wrath, in its purest form, presents with self-destructiveness, violence, and hate that may provoke feuds that can go on for centuries. Wrath can persist long after the person who committed a grievous wrong is dead. Feelings of anger can manifest in different ways, including impatience, revenge, and self-destructive behavior, such as drug abuse or suicide. 

We seem to be in the middle of a wrath epidemic. Politically and socially, we are an angry, hate-filled people. And it’s spreading in ever-widening circles.


6 – Ah Envy! The motivator of crime, the inciter of ambition.

Like greed and lust, Envy (Latin, invidia) is insatiable desire, is similar to jealousy in that they both feel discontent towards someone’s traits, status, abilities, or rewards. The difference is the envious also desire the entity and covet it. Envy can be directly related to the Ten Commandments, specifically, “Neither shall you desire… anything that belongs to your neighbor.” 

Envy is a major motivator of small evils that grow into bigger ones. Back-biting, gossip, eavesdropping are fueled by envy. Greed often starts with envy, as does gluttony and pride. Although it can be hard to tell which sin came before the other one.


7 – Pride is the downfall of the best and brightest. If there’s a sin to which I am addicted, pride is it. It rears its head in so many ways, both subtle and obvious. Believing one is smarter than everyone else, that one is really in control of ones fate (yeah, right!). Snobbery is born of pride, as is xenophobia. It is the sweetest, coziest sin, the beloved of the educated and ambitious.

Pride is my personal favorite. Being prideful is fun.

In almost every list, pride (Latin, superbia), or hubris (Greek), is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and the source of the others. It is identified as believing that one is essentially better than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others, and excessive admiration of the personal self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). 


So what could I possibly add to this prestigious list?

ignorance

Allow me to offer Willful Ignorance, a determined blindness to facts, reality, and knowledge. Willful Ignorance fits comfortably in with other popular sins to make up “our body politic.” It certainly should be a sin, don’t you think?

No need to thank me. You can hold the applause.

DOWN THE ROAD WITH FANATICISM AND IGNORANCE

Fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding … and we are feeding it well. 

I originally posted this four years ago. Horribly enough, it’s even more relevant now than it was then.

Inherit the Wind” (1960) was directed by Stanley KramerNot merely based on actual events, the script is substantially drawn from transcripts of the 1925 Scopes’ “Monkey Trial” in Dayton, Tennessee, where teaching evolution had been banned by the Butler Act.

You would think that we would have come a long way since then … and we did. We passed some good legislation. Civil rights and all that. We eliminated the legalized part of our national evil. But then, we started doubling back.

We’re heading down a bleak, dark road. Again. Apparently we lack a national memory of having been here before and it ending badly. It always ends badly. A nation led by hatred, ignorance, and fear is not headed for a happy ending.