Alienation, Alienation From Self, Boredom, Cultural Traits, Culture, Emotions, Free Spirit, Fun, Goals, Happiness, Human Nature, Impermance, Life, Living, Love, Meaning, Nature, Passion, Play, Purpose, Quality of Life, Spiritual Alienation, Spirituality, Television, Vacilando, Values, Work

The Passionate Life: Living in the Moment vs. Living for the Moment

(About an 8 minute read)

“Don’t cry over things that were or things that aren’t. Enjoy what you have now to the fullest.” — Barbara Bush

“Your passions cannot soar unless you release them from the hands of time — the left hand of the past, and the right hand of the future.”  — Some ditz or another of no importance.

 

She looked to be about 15 in her red shorts and white T-shirt.  She was sitting on a boulder at least four times her size, bouncing a tennis ball on a racket.  Her face said she was bored.

Her father had left her there, promising to be back in just a few minutes.  He wanted to “try a few casts in the lake”.  Then off he went down the shore, pausing only now and then to dip his line, before disappearing out of sight around a bend in the water.

Continue reading “The Passionate Life: Living in the Moment vs. Living for the Moment”

Anxiety, Art, Boredom, Deity, Goals, God, God(s), Gratitude, Homeless, Human Nature, Late Night Thoughts, Life, Obsession, Poetry, Quality of Life, Television, Unconditional Love, Wisdom

Late Night Thoughts: Personalities and Ecosystems, First Dates, Thinking Gods, and More (July 21, 2018)

(About a nine minute read)

It’s becoming evident to me that our personalities are in some ways like ecosystems.  One thing affects another, and if we aren’t careful when we go about improving things,  we can run into unintended consequences.

Back when I was in business, I became obsessed –there’s no other word for it — obsessed with time management and achieving or exceeding my goals.  For some years, I worked hard to improve myself along those lines, and it paid off quite well at first.

Each day, I would, while eating a quick  breakfast, review all my goals, both business and personal, both short and long-term.  By the time I got to the office, I was so focused that very little could completely distract me from what I intended to accomplish for the remainder of the day.

But I took it too far.  One day, I was sitting at a stoplight when it turned green while a pedestrian — an woman perhaps seventy or even eighty years old — was still in the crosswalk.  She was using a walker, you see, and quite a bit slower than I wished.

I didn’t honk at her, creep my car forward — nothing like that.  I had plenty of time that morning.  Besides, it had of course happened many times before that I’d had to wait on a pedestrian.

But this time I became aware, as I never had before, just how harsh were my thoughts towards her.  I was basically treating her in my head like a treat a fierce business competitor.  She was between me and what I wanted to accomplish, and with a bit of genuine shock, I realized what it really meant that I was not seeing her as fully human.

Of course, after that, I began to see other unintended ways my assiduously cultivated ability to focus my efforts had altered me.

♦♦♦

Have you noticed how felt gratitude possesses in some much smaller measure the power of unconditional love to renew us, to make us born again?

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How to save money on a first date…

GLORIA (At Door):  Hello!  You must be Paul, yes?  Well, here I am, Gloria!

SUNSTONE: Welcome, Gloria!  I’m so pleased to meet you!  Did you have a hard time finding my place?

GLORIA:  Not at all, but I must admit, I was a bit taken back at first that you wanted to meet up at your cottage.  That’s quite unusual you know, for an online date.   But then you explained you don’t own a car.

SUNSTONE:  What convinced you to come anyway?

GLORIA:  I was reassured when you said you wouldn’t insist I came in.  Nothing personal, you know, but you can’t be too cautious on a first date.

SUNSTONE:  Thank you so much  for coming. I’ll be ready in just a moment, Gloria.  I have to make a quick phone call to animal control.  My cat has escaped and I’m sure she’s in the neighborhood somewhere.

GLORIA:  Of course please make your phone call.  I’ll wait here.   What does your cat look like, in case I spot one while I’m waiting.

SUNSTONE:  She’s got green eyes, short tawny fur, big paws, and weights about 300 lbs.  You might actually spot her:  She never goes much further when she gets loose than the first pedestrian she spots.

GLORIA:  Three..hundred…pounds?  I can see in your eyes, you’re not joking, or are you?

SUNSTONE:  Oh no, she’s quite the mountain lion.  I raised her from a kitten.

GLORIA:  Oh My God!

SUNSTONE:  You’re welcome to wait inside if you’d like.

GLORIA:  Yes, yes, I think that would be a good idea.

SUNSTONE: By the way, I have Netflix and, even though I’m not much of a cook, it won’t take long to make some of my deep-fried mac and cheese….

GLORIA: I cannot believe this is happening!

♦♦♦

A petite homeless woman knocked on my door one night last winter, the day of the first snow of the season.  She had about twenty reasonable requests of me, not more than one of them that I granted her.  Five dollars for cigarettes was all I gave.

“Uncharacteristic of me”, I thought after I’d sent her away.  But while she still was there, the thought had crossed my mind, “She might steal from me if I let her in, and turn my back”.

It wasn’t much more than a mild self-caution, but it had been enough.

♦♦♦

I have long been uncomfortable with the notion that a god — if one or more exist — thinks.  To be sure the notion is an anthropomorphism: That much is granted.  But it seems to me an especially preposterous anthropomorphism — much on the same level as believing a god had a beard.

For one thing, what we humans mean by “thought” is essentially symbolism.  That is, our thoughts bear much the same relationship to reality that a map does to its terrain.  When we think of a house, we’re not doing anything greatly different in principle from what a cartographer does when he or she places a small dot, a star, or a square on a map to represent that house.

But suppose that’s the same as what it means for a god to think.  Wouldn’t that place god at least partly outside nature — outside the natural universe — in much the same sense a map is separate from its terrain?  I think so, and that rather alarms me.  I’m not a theist, but if I were one, I would believe in a deity that was co-extensive with the natural universe, rather than in any way outside of it.

Yet my preference for a pantheistic deity is merely personal.  There’s no reason to hold that view other than for one’s own reasons.  To me, a more serious criticism of the notion that deity thinks begins with the recognition that thinking takes time.

The thought, “I’ll go to the store, buy some milk, lace it with Colorado weed, and sneak it back onto the shelf — fun, fun, fun!”, doesn’t normally present itself in our minds all at once unless we’ve previously come up with it.  Rather, it takes time for those thoughts to unfold.

But what would that mean to a deity?  Would it not mean the deity was subject to time?  Subject to past, present, and future thoughts?   Or if Einstein was correct in suggesting that time is an illusion, then for the deity to think like a human, it too much suffer from the same illusion.

Moreover, if it is the case that deity is subject to time, then doesn’t that imply the deity is at any given moment (except, perhaps during the very last moment of its existence) not omniscient, not all knowing?  For it would not know what it’s next thought would be.  And if is not all knowing, how can it completely know what it itself is?  As an example, if it was external, it would not know it — being subject to thinking within time.

There are many implications besides those, but I think you might see the point now:  To say deity thinks like we think is at least to say that deity is limited in knowledge and perhaps subject to at least one illusion.

Then beyond all that, you would have the problem that humans have cognitive biases, are notoriously imperfect at predicting the future,  entwine thought with emotion, and can’t keep their minds off the studly guy or beautiful gal next door, etc, etc, etc.

♦♦♦

Fragment of a poem in progress:

How many souls would we need
If we needed one for each soul
Stolen or lost by us
On the way?

And what sum of souls is tallied
By thirty years without loving —
Without loving freely?

♦♦♦

Tonight, it strikes me as curious morality and wisdom are not the same thing.  I often hear people defend the practices of distant ages by saying something along the lines of, “Well, given the morals of that time and place…”.   Perhaps.  But have some things always been wise?

 ♦♦♦

In a novel written in the 1920s,  a woman is planning a dinner party she’s giving for about a dozen guests.  Carefully, very carefully, she considers each of several seating arrangements,  imagining as best she can the conversations the different arrangements will prompt.  She pays little attention to who has the honor of sitting next to who: It’s the conversations she’s focused on.  And she goes further than that.

She plans how she will prompt each guest at key moments through-out the evening with questions she’s selecting just for them.

My father was born in 1900.  In the early 50s, he noticed the conversations among his circle of friends had begun to shift away from a wide range of (probably pre-selected) topics and towards talking about the high points of the past night’s or past week’s television shows.

“The art of conversation is dying”, he told my mother, “It will be buried soon.”

♦♦♦

“There are no boring speakers.  Only bored audiences.”  — Speaker forgotten, but an English lord, circa 1890s.

One day, an old couple in their 70s came into the restaurant where I had just begun waiting tables.  It was my first day, and I didn’t yet know who the regulars were, but it didn’t matter in their case, because they very quickly told me they’d been coming to that restaurant for lunch almost every weekday for the past forty-two years — ever since the day or so after they’d gotten back in town from their honeymoon.

Before I had time to fully digest that incredible news, the woman pleasantly instructed me, “Just tell Amie” — she was the cook —  “we’ll have our usual sunny-sides-ups today.  And, young man, I’ll need the jar of salsa you’ll find on a shelf in the mini-refrigerator at your waiter station, please.”

It wasn’t until after my shift, and I had time to reflect, that it fully sank in how odd  anyone would spend forty-two years going for lunch to the very same restaurant!

As the days turned into weeks and months, they certainly did come in nearly every weekday, excepting only the weekends.  I noticed they had almost no conversation between them.  They would more or less routinely invite others — usually semi-regulars — over to their table and then they might chat lively enough.  But on those occasions when they sat alone, they were almost totally silent.

Sometimes it seems quite curious to me we get bored with the people we love the most.  After all, isn’t boredom so often a form of turning away, of withdrawing from people in practice, if perhaps not actually in principle?

♦♦♦

Was it television that did in the art of conversation during the 1950s?  Or was it the decimation during the war of the upper classes — the people mostly responsible for sustaining the art?

Bad Ideas, Democracy, Honesty, Hume's Ghost, Ideologies, Intellectual Honesty, Liars Lies and Lying, News and Current Events, Political and Social Alienation, Political Issues, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Quotes, Society, Television, Truth, Values, Village Idiots

Chris Hedges on Lies and Truths in a Democracy

A democracy survives when its citizens have access to trustworthy and impartial sources of information, when it can discern lies from truth, when civic discourse is grounded in verifiable fact. And with the decimation of reporting these sources of information are disappearing. The increasing fusion of news and entertainment, the rise of a class of celebrity journalists on television who define reporting by their access to the famous and the powerful, the retreat by many readers into the ideological ghettos of the Internet and the ruthless drive by corporations to destroy the traditional news business are leaving us deaf, dumb and blind. The relentless assault on the “liberal press” by right-wing propaganda outlets such as Fox News or by the Christian right is in fact an assault on a system of information grounded in verifiable fact. And once this bedrock of civil discourse is eradicated, people will be free, as many already are, to believe whatever they want to believe, to pick and choose what facts or opinions suit their world and what do not. In this new world lies will become true.

– Chris Hedges, “Lies Become Truths

(H/T: The Daily Doubter)

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FURTHER READING: Fourteen Propaganda Techniques Fox “News” Uses to Brainwash Americans

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Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Idealism, Ideologies, Intellectual Honesty, International Relations, Liars Lies and Lying, Neocons, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Television, Village Idiots, Violence, War

Those Who Will Not Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It

As I understand it, we had no choice but to destroy the Iraqi nation and decimate its people because Saddam hated us for our freedoms. Also, Saddam would have had weapons of mass destruction if only he had had weapons of mass destruction. And last, Saddam would have been in league with Al Qaeda if only he had not feared and hated Al Qaeda as much as he did.

For those three very good reasons, and possibly for other just as good reasons — reasons that are so really really good only a heavy Fox viewer is actually qualified to say just how truly good they are — we understandably invaded Iraq, murdered over 200,000 of its civilians, left 4 million people chronically homeless, and allowed the looting of a nation. I’d say we done some good in the world.

Pride time! That is, it’s plain we Americans done some good. Good? Hell, it was like Normandy all over again! So now it’s time for us to sit on our couches, dig our hands deep into our chips bag, lift up our eyes in bovine thankfulness to God for the Fox News Network, and then allow ourselves to be possessed by the thought that we Americans are, of all the world’s peoples, the one that is truly “exceptional“.

— Overheard in a Bar

Authenticity, Dying, Television

Reality TV

I sometimes wonder about the attraction of  Reality TV.   Specifically, about all the death and dying on Reality TV.

I was asked this morning whether I had ever seen a person die, and the question stirred some memories.  Long ago, during high school, I worked part time in a funeral home.  In that job, I became familiar with the aftermath of dying, but I did not witness someone actually dying until a few short years later.

That happened after I started working as a fire fighter to pay my way through college. One night, around two in the morning, we rolled on a car accident in which a man had gotten drunk and flown off a country road at close to 100 miles an hour.  That is, his car somehow became air born, left the road, and then hit a walnut tree four or so feet up its trunk.  In all the confused bouncing around, the man got thrown from his car — then the car bounced back to freakishly land right on top of him.  He was two hours dying.

I didn’t know him, but I was almost crying by the time he was dead; more in frustration than in sorrow.  We — my crew — were trying so hard to save him.

My dreams were profoundly disturbed for three nights following his death. I later found out that always would be the case: After witnessing someone broken and dying, my dreams would be extremely vivid, yet colorless: darkness stirred into troubled waters  for — usually — the next three nights.

Once, a couple years after that first accident, I happened to compare notes with two other fire fighters, and we discovered it was the same for all three of us: Our dreams were almost always dark and disturbing for the next three nights.

I don’t recall having those dreams following when someone was already dead by the time we got to the scene. But I recall they were all but inevitable after a dying.  I don’t know, though, whether such dreams were  just the case for the three of us, or whether dreams like those are much more common.

After that first night, I almost incidentally lost any interest in watching Reality TV.  It seemed to me that reality as seen through a TV camera was somehow “cheaper” — in most every sense of that word — than being there.  And I’m not entirely sure how to express this, but perhaps on some level I preferred someone’s dying should not feel cheap to me.

News and Current Events, Politics, Television

Is CNN Always Like This?

While traveling recently, I watched some television.  Even though I don’t own a TV, I now and then catch fragments of programs that someone or another has posted on their blogs.  Or I hear about something said on one of the talk shows.  So, I’m not entirely naive of what’s going on in television these days.  But I was a bit surprised when I tuned in CNN last week.

Among other things, they aired a segment on the student protests in London.  What surprised me was how little information about the protests they managed to convey during the several minutes they allocated to them.   The announcer kept repeating that CNN had expected the protests would be over by then.  So, the headline might have been, “Protests Continue Despite CNN’s Wild Newsroom Speculations”.  But the announcer said almost nothing about what the students were protesting, and absolutely nothing about what the students wanted to make happen.

Until now, when I’ve heard people complain about how superficial the TV news is, I’d been thinking they meant it was superficial because it neither raised nor answered questions like, “Who are the leaders of the student protests”?, or “How much hardship would the budget cuts create for the average student?”, or even “What technologies are being used to organize the protests?”  But CNN wasn’t even making decent mention of the fact the students were protesting budget cuts to education.  How can you turn your cameras on a few thousand students out in the streets and not be reasonably curious about why they are there?

So now I’m wondering if CNN is always like that or if I just happened to catch them on a bad day, so to speak?

Fantasy Based Community, Honesty, Ideologies, Intellectual Honesty, Liars Lies and Lying, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Politics, Quotes, Television, Village Idiots

Is This the Essential Problem with Fox News?

To hear Jon Stewart talk about it, the main problem with Fox News is that they’re conservative and that they’re passionate about it.  This is not what’s wrong with Fox News.  A conservative news outlet that still practiced real journalism wouldn’t be a problem like Fox is. The problem with Fox is that they promote misinformation at a breath-taking clip.  Any given moment during the day, you can turn it on and whatever they’re saying is probably dishonest on some level, or even an open lie.  They set out to confuse instead of enlighten.  They want the average viewer to be more, not less, ignorant for watching them.

Amanda Marcotte

H/T: Dale at Faith in Honest Doubt

A lot is said about what is wrong with Fox News, but has Amanda Marcotte put her finger on what’s really wrong with the network? What do you think?

News and Current Events, Television

The Media and Jackson’s Death

It’s interesting how Michael Jackson’s death is driving the corporate news media.  Issues like health care and the mess in Iran have been swept under the rug.

I wonder how the decision to do wall to wall coverage of Jackson’s death is made.  Does the market — the news consumers — demand wall to wall coverage of Jackson’s death, or do the news corporations determine what gets viewed — or is it a combination of both?

Anger, Emotions, Television

Anger and Disagreement

Although I gave the last television I owned to a charity some years ago, I still catch a program every now and then — either by watching one online or sometimes when visiting a certain friend who never shuts off his TV.   When I do watch a program, I’m often enough baffled by how much anger is found on television.

Like most of us, I hear so much talk about gratuitous sex, but I’m impressed there is even more gratuitous anger than sex.  Am I wrong to think actors routinely respond to even the slightest disagreement between their characters by portraying anger?  Or that pundits are always shouting at each other? Even newscasters half the time can’t seem to peacefully interview someone.  Whether it’s my imagination or not, the one thing that most strikes me about television is the amount of gratuitous anger.

Anger is an appropriate and useful emotion in some circumstances.   Wikipedia describes it as “…a behavioral pattern designed to warn aggressors to stop their threatening behavior.”  One can see how anger would be useful, but what is “threatening behavior”?

Going by what prompts anger on television, “threatening behavior” might be no more than someone disagreeing with you.  Offhand, I can think of at least two reasons why it is usually useless to get angry for no better reason than someone disagrees with you.

Many people — sometimes I think it’s most people — respond to anger by themselves getting angry.  And when people get angry, they get stubborn.  So, if we get angry each time someone disagrees with us, the most likely effect is to make others oppose us even more adamantly than they would have otherwise.

On television, the usual outcome when the protagonist gets angry at someone for disagreeing with him is that the protagonist gets his way.  That’s simply the opposite of real life.

Another reason it’s usually useless to get angry because someone disagrees with you has to do with the nature of anger.  Anger impairs both our ability to see the other person’s point of view, and our ability to see the bigger picture.  Among other consequences of that, we are unlikely to find a solution to a disagreement if we cannot understand either of those things.

Of course, on television, there is no reason to find a creative solution to a disagreement because on television one side is completely right and the other side is completely wrong.  But how often does that happen in real life?

So those are a couple reasons, then, why I think getting angry at someone who disagrees with us is usually counter-productive.  Naturally, I’m right about these things.  And, naturally, I’ll be quite upset if anyone contradicts me.