Philosophy

Sunday the 5th: All Is Vanity

Posted on February 8, 2018. Filed under: Philosophy, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • vanity = wasted effort (according to Dean)
  • disillusioned = learned the ugly truth: dreams are not reality

While writing another article, Quoth the Raven, a single word kept threading its way through my thoughts — vanity. I checked a biblical source for the phrase “all is vanity” which I remembered as coming from the Book of Proverbs (KJV). Turns out, it comes from The Book of Ecclesiastes — every chapter.

My early religious instructors did not spend much time in that particular writing, using the Old Testament primarily as foundation for fulfillment of the New Testament teachings. Ecclesiastes was used to show the result of Man’s folly in earthly pursuits — something which a newbie in Life (such as I was) couldn’t really appreciate.

That book was written by an individual calling himself the Preacher (or Teacher, depending upon which version you are reading). He asserts that he undertook the path of instant gratification just so he could attain wisdom (a la Jimmy Carter’s alleged admission that he only looked at Playboy to read the articles?), and, with that hard-won knowledge, he can now tell others what NOT to do and what to expect if they go ahead and do it anyway. Of course, during this remorseful retelling of his life, he still had access to all the comforts that his would-be students were being denied.

Yeah, I know. It’s hard work, but…  someone had to do it…  right?

My cynicism aside, whether you trek through Life barefooted with almost nothing to ease your discomfort, or that you get chauffeured daily to a five-star restaurant followed by an evening at a posh, upscale theater event, you got born, and, you are going to die.

What a downer to finally realize that whatever you experienced or attained in Life is housed in a sand castle with a sea level view of the incoming tide.

One second after your last breath, it all means nothing.

All is vanity. All is meaningless. Or, to put it my way,

LIFE SUCKS.

I suspect it was the impending sense of doom and loss – such as the passing of his youth – that impelled the pampered rich kid to adopt the moniker of Preacher (or Teacher) to clean up his image while whining about his loses.  Eccl. 2:

  • (18) I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. (19) …they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun.  This too is meaningless.”  –Bible, New International Version.

The self-styled Preacher was not alone in recounting all of Life’s wasted pursuits. Shakespeare later echoes this detachment from reality through the character Macbeth:

  • “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.  Out, out brief candle. Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

If, as we often perceive, the Life experience is totally meaningless, how do we deal with it? This question is answered by the myriad versions of religion that pervade the whole of the human condition. Each individual decides for itself whether there is more beyond this fragile existence, or, whether one’s persona simply dissipates into the vapor of Time. The Preacher’s father, who also moonlighted as a shepherd and poet, assessed his lack thusly:

  • “Such knowledge is too high for me; I cannot attain to it.”

As attested to in a previous article (Wednesday the First), multi-tasking is not my forte. I was born into ignorance and must now depend on others who entered Life in that same condition to fill me in on matters beyond human understanding.  I appreciate the help, but…

I can only deal with NOW:

  • “Yesterday is gone, tomorrow never comes. Just this moment’s joy or sorrow is all our hands may clasp.”  –Anonymous, at least to me.
  • “I have only this one minute, with 60 seconds in it. Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it. Thrust upon me, can’t refuse it. Just a tiny little minute, but, eternity is in it.” –Anonymous

NOW is all I know. Yesterday is but memory. Tomorrow doesn’t even exist. The only place in Time that I will ever be…

…is NOW.

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Quoth the Raven…

Posted on December 7, 2017. Filed under: Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Poe’s raven speaks to my present-day state of angst…

  • I was born without any knowledge of the time that preceded me.
  • I have lived without knowing whether the existence I perceive even exists.
  • I will die in total ignorance of whether there is more beyond this physical existence.

If the grandchildren of Adam and Eve did not tell their own children about their great-grandparents, Adam and Eve would have passed into the Mists of Time purposeless. Those great-grandchildren would have opened their eyes in ignorance of the past, and would have gone on to know that they would eventually die. All that they would attain in life would be only an exercise in futility. Wherein could they find purpose to existence?

None of us really knows anything about a purpose to this existence. Yet, we are keenly aware that this is a self-recycling existence and that whatever we are, or think we are, will be ground into dust to be reused in another existence that does not include us. We persist, though, in active consideration and pursuit of what we do not know. We find answers to this physical universe’s operation, but we don’t know if they are correct answers since we cannot see the whole of the universe.  We think we find purpose in the things we do daily in response to physical needs and social obligations. But, when you die and leave to this world all your possessions, achievements, and creations, you will be little more than a curious name to your great-grandchildren; what, then, was the purpose to your tiny blip of existence?

There are many who will immediately jump on that “I will die in ignorance of an afterlife,” and espouse many reasons – according to their beliefs – why I cannot disbelieve THEIR beliefs on the subject. They will ignore that I did not state disbelief in an afterlife; they will assume so and take advantage of the moment to loudly aver THEIR faith in THEIR beliefs.

I must point out, there can be no faith unless there is ignorance. By touting faith, one confirms ignorance. It is ignorance that troubles our souls all the days of our lives.

What does our ignorance conceal? Briefly, the future. Our angst over life’s purpose is a dark, foreboding cloud that heightens our fears and spurs our hopes with indistinct, onrushing images that could forebode either blessing or calamity. What will be our destinies, what will be our worth at the end of life’s road? Our fears and concerns are like Poe’s raven tapping just outside our sphere of awareness for entry into our minds.  The one in the poem acquiesced and invited the uncertainty inside. The mysterious, dark raven made itself at home, and its host pulled up a chair and pondered endlessly on why it uttered only that one word.

In like manner, we dote on the Unknown and beseech it for answers. We occupy ourselves linking fancy unto fancy in a vain effort to pry meaning from this ominous, ancient cloud of obscurity. Though it crowds our every moment and hovers darkly over our future, we can only discern one reply to our requests for full disclosure – Never! Nevermore!

We continue as temporal wanderers, trekking an unending trail through a wilderness of ignorance seeking any light from the dark abyss of Tomorrow, while our dark companion, Uncertainty, like Poe’s raven…

,,,still is sitting, still is flitting, upon the pallid bust of Pallas just above Tomorrow’s door.   And, our souls from out its shadow shall be lifted,

…nevermore.

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Soul Candy

Posted on April 6, 2016. Filed under: Humor, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I  simply love this place.  While it can be noisy at times, by and large there is usually a quiet corner where I can mellow out, sipping the sweet nectar from my life’s experiences.  Oft’ times, I follow Alice’s lead and pursue the White One down a rabbit hole where I can wonder at new sights, savor unusual concepts, and saunter down brightly lit exotic avenues — even yield to the invitation of a back-alley portico offering a slightly shadier ambiance. (more…)

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Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Posted on August 25, 2013. Filed under: Memories, Philosophy |

My two emissaries to Tomorrow.  Getting them born and getting started in life is without doubt the best thing I have done with my life.  The girl is the little one in the previous post.

My two emissaries to Tomorrow

My two emissaries to Tomorrow

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Do Not Offend Tomorrow

Posted on August 16, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Twice I got to see my tomorrow.  This is the first one.

Twice I got to see my tomorrow. This is the first one.

Today’s proverb:  As the twig is bent, so grows the tree

Your words for the day:

  • guile = deviousness; cunning; deceit
  • innocent = noun:  one devoid of guile

The reality of the world into which we are born results from the actions of previous generations coping with their own brand of realities.  By “reality,” I refer to the social and environmental conditions into which each is flung.  Neophytes all, that specific reality that cradles our early growth becomes the standard to which we expect our entire lives to adhere…   Talk about a pitcher of ice-water in the face.

Existence is a dynamo pumping out change with every passing instant.  The childhood reality that dresses us for the School of Life is but the first of a long list of nannies destined to take us aside and explain the way Life really is.

Thus the chorus of lamentations resulting from these icy dousings:

  • The end times are near (every generation seems to have a new crop of doom’s day prophets).
  • The world is going to hell in a hand basket.
  • What is the world coming to?
  • Repent!  The end is near…   again.
  • I just don’t know anymore.
  • What is this younger generation thinking?

Not to be outdone, the younger generation, dripping from its first icy baptism, points an accusing finger at that previous generation and says, “Don’t tell ME how to do things; look at the mess YOU’VE made of the world!”

Truth is, the social fabric that defines humankind is a complex weave, and, as populations increase, so does the complexity of that weave.  Life moves toward Tomorrow, and humankind will move with it for better or for worse.  The efforts of any one individual or group to change the overall pattern will be overshadowed by the sheer numbers of strands being woven in simultaneously.  TODAY is the culmination of eons upon eons of Yesterdays, yet, it is merely the single starting point for a still-theoretical Tomorrow.  On and on the march of change continues, in spite of the useless exercises of fist shaking and whines of self-pity.

Statistically speaking, most of us (say…   99.9999 and a whole bunch more 9’s %) will have no appreciable effect on the avalanche of Time’s passage that, at first, carries each of us along, then — and quite matter-of-factly — buries all of us beneath the ruble of Yesterday.  That very same percentage will not even rate a footnote in the pages of history.

All that we can expect to influence are those persons and things that physically surround us, and, we can only do that in the time we are ultimately allotted.  If we are to paint the Wind of Time in colors that scream “Me!  Me!  Me!” we have to work fast.  In spite of what our conscious state tells us, we do NOT have forever.  The wind is a fickle medium anyway.

If yours was not the voice of the horrified announcer at the Hindenburg disaster, it is not likely that it will disturb the airwaves much when you are under the topsoil.  If you were not videoed naked on the White House lawn during a presidential inauguration, it is not likely that your form will be seen by large audiences for very long after your funeral.  Being a hit in the future is awfully hard if you are not there to toot your horn or run naked in public.  “Now” is where it is at.

Humanity of Yesterday extended itself into uncounted Tomorrows, all of which constitute TODAY.  It will continue into unknown Tomorrows in only one way — in the impressionable minds and voices of TODAY’s children.  Most of us will accompany them for at least a short distance into the mystery of the future, but, the major part of that journey is theirs, and theirs alone, to make.  Humanity’s children are Humanity’s Tomorrow, and they will inherit what TODAY leaves them.

As a very small part of TODAY, I can’t really bequeath much to Tomorrow.  About all I can do is to make a favorable impression on TODAY’s messengers to Tomorrow.  If a child smiles at me, I smile back.  If it* speaks to me, I respond, whether with “goo, goo, goo,” or “What’s the name of the pet dinosaur you are holding?”  If it stares at me, I give it a wink.  I just do stuff to make them smile or giggle rather than shrink away, dubious of my intentions.  Neither ethnicity nor economic status is a factor in my offering of goodwill.  I try to connect favorably with all children I encounter.  It is the only way I can influence Tomorrow.

If I do not offend Tomorrow today, then Tomorrow may not have to look back at me and say, “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”**

_____________

* it = he or she

** “Well…   into.”  A recurring line I remember from old Laurel and Hardy movies…   no, I did not attend the original screenings.

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Reverence For Life

Posted on August 27, 2012. Filed under: General Interest, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , |

“Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies…”  Alfred, Lord Tennyson (c) 1849   All rights reserved.

Yeah, that was a long time ago, so I guess that copyright has expired by now.  So, I’m not going to ask for written permission from the author to use it.

I was only reminded of the verse because I thought about taking some pictures of flowers (specifically, orchids) to spice up my, heretofore, rather bland presentations.  Refreshing myself on the wording of that little ditty, I checked on my smart phone (at least something associated with me is smart) and saw the question “what does that poem mean?” queried on www.ask.com.  The answer that www.chacha.com posted was, “The poem is about depression and disconnect of oneself.”

to which my unsophisticated approach to life queried, “Huh?  Say what?  Didn’t they even read the thing?

So, we got this dude out for a stroll, and he scopes a flower growing out of a brick or stone wall.  In one of the shallow, dirt-filled cracks, I gather.  It entrances him.  Moves in for a better look, he  does.

Eyeball-to-petal-and-stem, he considers this wonder before him.  “Wow!” he is thinking.  “The existence of such a thing as this is totally amazing.”  Oh, sure, you see plants growing everywhere all the time;  it is all so commonplace.  But, this one former seed has taken root in a nutrient-starved, precarious spot and made a life for itself in defiance of all the odds.  And, in triumphant bloom, it announces to a hostile world, “I WILL SURVIVE.”

How can you get “depression” and “disconnect” from all that?  From the perspective of the strolling dude, reverence for such a thing of beauty would seem to be the poem’s theme…   wait a minute.  What is that fool doing?  No.  NO!   …he   …he   …he just ripped that tiny success story out of that crack by its roots.  It’s going to die before it can realize its dream!  What is he saying now?   “…if I could understand what you are, root and all, all in all, I should know what God and man is.”

Why do I suddenly feel depressed and disconnected?

 

Next up:  We’ll play it by ear (but, I warn you, I’m tone deaf)

Just in case anyone is interested, I still have a few more posts on  The Great Cluster Fu…   I just need a short break to regroup.

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Digressions: Where No Foot Has Trod

Posted on July 2, 2012. Filed under: General Interest, MIM4.5a, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Your word for th daymuse = someone who is a source of inspiration

The old Greeks had them. Muses, I mean.  In earlier posts, I touched on them, even if somewhat irreverently.  For the Ancients, they explained what moved that most remote recess of Self, the mysterious Psyche, to elicit from it the creative urges and even the dark manifestations that we call the  human spirit.

For most of my life, I didn’t have a Muse.  But, I had a love of poetry, so I guess you could say that Erato was my nominal, default Muse.  In verse, I could take “the road less traveled,” and “rise with eagles” to “touch the face of God.”  By finding reflections of my own inexpressible feelings toward this torture we call Life, it gave comfort that I had fellow travelers on a journey I just knew would, somehow, end badly.  But, what the heck…   eat, drink, and be merry…   right?

In spite of the Muses, in spite of the poetry, not all that emanates from the Psyche is definable.  There is the unexplained, a pathos that darkens the soul, a heaviness that ensconces the heart making its every beat a Herculean task.  An aching that surges to unbearable fullness, then ebbs, only to surge again; a vast emptiness that hovers just beyond feeling, where echoes fade like  diaphanous whispers into infinite nothingness. 

A poem I memorized decades just a few years ago often surfaces during my own musings.  The third verse of Each in His Own Tongue by William Herbert Carruth (1859-1924) captures that feeling; at least, it has for me:                     

Like tides on a crescent sea beach, when the moon is new and thin, into our hearts high yearnings come welling and surging in;  come from the mystic ocean, whose rim no foot has trod.  Some call it longing, and others call it God.

Yearning.  Longing.  A deep, aching feeling devoid of anything that could define it.  When all is said and done, is this the total eulogy that Life will intone for each of us?

Next up:  MIM4.5a

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