"You are here and you are lost." (New Yorker magazine cartoon: 2 hikers looking at a big map of the trails in a very large state park. A big "X" marks their location)
"Take what you like, and leave the rest" (Al-Anon dictum)
[ Notice what's hiding in plain sight! ] "Always ask yourself: 'What is this [whatever] an instance of?'" (Louis Forsdale)
"The war is over. You have come home, while yet there is time for you." (My (BMcC) hope)
Delineating the situation: Crisis and hoped for resolution
As I write this, we are currently (June 2020) living in a time of crisis:
- (1) nihilistic United States of America federal government headed by malign/malignant narcissist Thug in Chief,
- (2) global sneaky Wuhan coronavirus ("asymptomatic spreading") pandemic with no vaccine or effective treatment yet (Covid-19),
- (2a) persons' economic lives severely impacted by measures taken to try to contain #2,
- (3) mass street protests against police brutality and discriminatory treatment of black persons,
- (4) "Cancel Culture" witch hunting by persons determined to character assassinate and blacklist persons, and drive out of business enterprises they imagine are not kowtowing to them and enrolled in their witch hunting,
- (5) And more.
People's enthusiasm for #3 is taking their attention away from #2. But, even without #3, people are getting tired of #2 and the still increasing privations entailed by #2a, and they are letting down their guard, while #2 is not getting tired of [infecting] them and potentially me. Here in middle class America, death and grave illness is more a presence in daily life than ever before in my lifetime (I was born in 1946).
Edmund Husserl addressed the situation confronting a person who would devote their life to thinking and reflection (or anything else high up on Maslow's hierarchy of needs), in a time of crisis:
Melanie Klein offers considerations for a way up and out, if that is possible:
What I plan to work on here
[If you, my reader, do not want to read through some rambling, you are welcome to skip from here immediately to Important note.
Now let us expose the dirty laundry of famous men (and women). Let those who want publicity enjoy all they've earned.
I intend here to beat a dead horse (perhaps more than one...), but first I will need to kill it, because this one is all too very much alive and kicking Everyman, woman, child in the face and other body parts. I will kill it over and over. (There will also be a lot of digressions, here, some dealing with collateral damage, some just less or more free associations, and, oh, yes, there will be some fun here too, I promise.)
On a vacation once to Canada, in Montreal, I ate a horsemeat steak for dinner.
It tasted quite good. My father said that in the World War II United States Army Air Corps mess hall (or
was it only just before men went off on their missions?) they did serve
horsemeat, and there was a sign in the mess hall:
"Take what you want, Eat what you take." That sign has always sounded both marxist and good to me.
We don't eat horsemeat here in The United States of (POTUS №40) Ronnie Raygun, and his heir, The Don (
Corleone(POTUS №45) Trump).
Exactly what is the "horse" here?
Man weiss nicht....
Of course "horse", here, is a metaphor. Once offered an opportunity to ride a pony, I politely chickened out (The 95 year old Queen Elizabeth II is not such a wimp, and I think "we" should consider annulling "The American Revolution", if the Brits would have us back and allow us representation in Parliament).
Pace the presumably good soul who, in advertisements for Southern New Hampshire University, says his students can, at the end of their course of studies, proudly say: "I did it", no person ever did or will do anything creative by themself. Maybe the SNHU man is only talking about effort, i.e., doing more of what a person already knows how to do, which a person can do by themself (at least apart from contingencies of ALS, etc.). The horse is foolish pride. For those who have it, it is needful that they learn where they came from, where they are, and where they are going (see picture above, and its alt text). Lux mentis lux orbis.
In a New York Times interview, Bob Dylan says: "The songs... kind of write themselves and count on me to sing them." Did Thomas Edison ever invent anything? I don't know his biography, but I doubt he did. Rather: Inventions came into the world through him. I believe he just "took dictation" (from whom/what? That, I propose may be an unanswerable question). Elsewhere here I have cited one person's description of having a new idea: The story of an American icon. Much of writing my dissertation for Robbie I felt was "taking inner dictation". If the "Aha!" metaphor means anything, it means a person sees what the lightbulb is illuminating in the room. The eye does not, as I think some Medievals believed, emit light but only receives it.
No person can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps
A related fact here is that "To pull yourself up by your bootstraps is actually physically impossible. In fact, the original meaning of the phrase was more along the lines of 'to try to do something completely absurd.'" (Link to article) The article goes on to say that the idiom may have originated in an 1834 newspaper article that lampooned a dude who had invented a perpetual motion machine. I'm thinking about it. To pull oneself up by one's bootstraps one would need to be perched somewhere above the boots. But the boots would still be attached to oneself (via one's feet), so they would already have been pulled up because one was wearing them. Now: If one had one's fanny on something (like Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall...), one could pull one's feet up onto the wall by their boots' straps. That makes sense to me. One could also hoist up boots one was not wearing, or lift somebody else up by their bootstraps ([mis-]managers, schoolmarms and other prigs please take note!).
"I did it" is doubly rediculous
I have sympathy for those SNHU students who can finally say "I did it", if by that they mean per aspera ad astra. They worked hard in the face of adversity, and they've earned their degree. But this then is still not good epistemology. Item 1: An only reason the person got to "I did it" was fortunate social circumstances, in the present case, including SNHU. Item 2: Another only reason they got there is that nothing prevented them from getting there. Perhaps a single oncogene or cosmic ray shot Steve Jobs down. Lou Gehrig may have felt himself to be the luckiest man on earth, but ALS involuntarily ended his career/life (as also, I believe, it ended Professor Forsdale's mother's life, too). I doubt there is much rugged individualism in an iron lung, except for the monumental achievment of the person moving his or her diaphragm unaided. "Rugged individualism" is partly a case of not seeing how one got to where one is. Effort + luck = achievement.
Therefore: Even if there is no God, fortunate persons should give thanks
Lou Gehrig apparently was a humble man: "When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body -- it's a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed -- that's the finest I know." He knew he had not pulled himself up by his own bootstraps.
There was a PBS program now many years ago about the Inuits. It showed a master seal hunter standing patiently for hours over a seal's breathing hole in the ice. The seal came up to breathe. The man squarely skewered the seal with his little wooden harpoon. "I almost missed!", he exclaimed. How many exalted day traders and short sellers would say that if they even knew about such things? My father, a salesman [which word is often a synonym for rip-off "artist"] said: "We never close deals, we open accounts."
So let all those of us who have had an SNHU and not an ALS, give thanks for our good fortune. If we have had the bad fortune of living in a time that demands heroes, our good fortune will then be having been blessed with the luck and stamina to become one and to have survived. A body builder can only develop muscles he or she has been blessed to have in the first place. [I'm beating that dead horse.]
But there is at least one further question here: Who/what to thank, not just proximally, but also ultimately? I don't think an atheist can thank God, and, given God's machinations with Abraham, Job, the builders of the Tower of Babel, et al. maybe if He does exist He may not be deserving of thanks except to try to pacify Him. Some "believers" have better Gods, but they may also not try to think clearly about "the problem of evil"; or maybe their God is not Omnipotent, etc.'
I think "to be thankful" can be an intransitive verb. "Man weiss nicht..." (Schiller, quoted in George Steiner, "After Babel", p. 108) -- No one knows from whence comes the upsurge of meaning into the light of human experience. It is, I think, a "ne plus ultra", because even if the universe is spatially and temporally infinite, all things are bounded for each person by their conceptual/perceptual framework (Weltanschauung/living present), and what has not yet been imagined has a place therein only as an unresolvable X (because it is outside experience but there is no where there). So, if we live in a world that has earned that name as an accolade (or which we can make shape up to standard), let us give thanks, otherwise, "Damn it all!" I believe every person (Everyman -- each man, woman, child) is a Judge of the World and every day is Judgment Day.
This is amazing
I had previously thought that the case of George Floyd was just a matter of horrendous police brutality done to a petty law breaker. I don't think I've heard about whether he really did try knowlingly to pass a forged $20 bill. If he did, probably it can be explained by his environment. In any case, I now see on CNN a report of a school assignment he did in the second grade. The teacher assigned: "How will you impact the future? What will you do to make the difference?" George Floyd made a drawing of a judge seated behind the bench. He wrote: "When I grow up I want to be a Supreme Court judge. When people say Your Honor, He did rob the bank, I will say If he did, and if he doesn't, I will tell the guard to take him out. Then I will beat my hammer on the desk. Then everybody will be quiet." Speaking of Judges and Judgment (supra). I certainly could never have written such a statement until long after my graduation from Yale. I think George Floyd's second grade school assignment submission is amazing, and food for pedagogical and philosophical thinking.
22 August 2020. On CNN this day they interviewed the lawyer for one of the policemen present at George Floyd's death (not the policeman who did the kneeing). The lawyer said there was evidence that Floyd had 3 times the lethal amount of fentanyl in his body, and therefore he would have died without having been kneed. He also noted that the policemen have not yet been found guilty and therefore public figures such as Michelle Obama should not be talking as if the case had already been tried and the verdict rendered. He said the policeman had asked Floyd if he was on drugs and Floyd had replied negative, and Floyd also said something that was dissociated [I did not get this; it was something about "loops" or "hoops" that the lawyer said usually was asssociated with basketball]. The lawyer said the body cam footage showed Floyd apparently swallowing some white powder off his tongue. He also added that Floyd had been in a similar situation a year previously and at that time had said he was on a drug and the police had taken him to hospital. Finally a page from the police training manual which seemed to show that knee on throat was an approved way of restraining a suspect (I could not see this on the page, but the CNN interrogator apparently did see it and indicated surprise that this would be there). My net: Who knows, at this point? I think the only conclusion that can be drawn at this point is that things may be more complicated than the orthodox story of George Floyd would have it, or they may not. In any case, often, things are complicated, and persons and institutions often are eager to leap to simple but not fully defensible/nuanced positions. This last point we do know with certainty and we also know it is not generally widely publicized, either popularly or politically/ideologically. Question/notice everything.
My (BMcC) set of pages here is all accessible from the Table of contents on my "base" page. It's all one big albeit not [well] organized work in progress. Therefore, my reader, you may browse through it by various paths, and you will also find places where a path just stops. This situation may give you an invitation to explore further on your own, or it may only mean that's just where I've gotten to, and I may later come back to it and elaborate further, branch off on other paths, or if I find something I think is better, delete it.... To borrow from Martin Heidegger's trope of logger's paths in a forest ("Holzwege"), be a logger, not a naive, maintain your orientation and don't get lost, explore, and as Robbie says, have fun. (In my childhood, I was taught by example that only kids who did not study had access to fun, which in my context was a code word for sex.)
Here ends today's sermon