Fearless Reason

Fearless reason in an age of frightened absurdity.

Category: Social Commentary

Into the Void

Occasionally I break the cardinal rule of anyone who values their sanity and peace of mind; I read the comments section of news articles. An while it can be a jarring and disheartening experience, I encourage you to do the same.

It reminds me that I have the privilege of living a manicured life. Over the years I have cultivated a circle of friends that I both cherish and enjoy, and have meticulously groomed my social media feeds to the point that everything I see is thoughtful, informative, or uplifting. As a result I have attained an artificial sense of the world being comprised primarily of thoughtful and intelligent people with good intentions.

Then I stare into the void of the comments section, and all my pretty illusions crumble like gossamer in a fire. The depth of the fear, hate, ignorance, and hysteria I see varies depending on the news source, but is always quantifiably present. What world do these people live in I wonder, surely it is not the same as mine. Who are these aliens that have such drastically different understandings of science, morality, and justice?

Then I take it a step further, and visit these aliens on their home worlds. In a click, I am on their social media profiles, looking at pictures, prior posts, and their self-identifiers. These aliens are human after all. They have families they love, friends, jobs, hobbies and passions.

They are human and we share a common Earth, but their manicured world is much different than mine. Their faces have a lot in common, old, white, and working class. Much like the family I love, but studiously avoid discussing politics and religion with. In these moments I feel empathy for even the most vicious troll. I am reminded that we are not so different after all, and that only time and education divide us.

As Thanksgiving approaches many of us will be seeing relatives who may or may not be like the comments trolls that degrade our faith in humanity. Perhaps this year, it would be useful to seek to further understand your similarities, instead of just avoiding your differences. You may not agree on politics and religion, but you’ll certainly have more empathy for these aliens at the dinner table.

 

 

Family of Orphaned Souls

I want to get a house together, and invite all our friends. Lets make a world together, not just a home. We will grow what we eat, and need nothing more. We’ll have dinners past midnight, and conversations that last years. We will invite all our soul mates, and make a family of orphaned souls. We’ll make a village, and call it our home.

We will remedy this modern sickness, of isolation and fear. We’ll wage war on balkanized hearts and minds. We will find ourselves in one another. We’ll know we’re not alone. We will have a village, and call it our home. We’ll read books and share stories, and find comfort in tribe. We will learn together, and replace flickering screens with shinning eyes.

We will rediscover humanity, and find it in our home.

Dead Hands

Bound by dead hands, we follow our captures to their graves. Pulled by convention – pushed by inertia. We travel well worn paths, ceaselessly following our predecessors’ footsteps. We are hoarders, clinging desperately to the useful and useless alike, unable to discern treasure from trash.

Look with fresh eyes at what dead hands have wrought.

Drink Deeply

I yearn for a world that is not, but should be. I crave good wine, laughter, and dear friends, gathered around neolithic fires, dancing in moonlight. I desire time, a break from duty, a moment’s reprieve from the to dos, must dos, and can dos that fill my days.

I dream of a world with human purpose, intended to meet human needs. I crave a life made up in equal parts of laughter, love, community, learning, and growth. I wish for a life without waste, where every moment serves my happiness or that of others.

I dream sweet dreams, of a life that is neither nasty, brutish, nor short. A life worth living. A life to be drank deeply and savored, until the heart breaks, for once not from anguish, but from being filled to bursting with love and joy. I yearn to drink deeply of this world. I crave a life worth living, and freedom from duties that serve none.

I Pray the World Out Lives Me

I pray the world out lives me, and strive to make it a place worth living if it does. I was born before the wall fell, when Great Powers threatened mutual destruction. I survived the apocalypse, though I only learned about it in school.  I grew up with terrorists, first domestic then foreign. All trying to kill me, all punishing my government and hating my liberty. I survived the terrorists, though I had to learn about them on the news. Then as a young man, I was assaulted by poison in food and water, overpopulation, a kleptocratic oligarchy, global warming, and ancient aliens if what some say is true. I survived these things, though I had to learn about them in somber documentaries and videos on youtube.

My life is lived on the cusp of destruction, but I die from squinting at screens, poking at keys, shuffling papers, and listening half heartedly to the chattering of strangers. I die every moment of every day, as the present becomes the past or is lost to abstractions about a future I may never see.

I survived the apocalypse, only to die of decay.

Heartless Folly

 “Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.”

-Winston Churchill

I often wonder whether the partisan warfare in America is mere post-modern tribalism, or the result of a deeper metaphysical divide. For the most part, Conservatives respect tradition and are guided primarily by reason, while Liberals hold more respect for ideas and are primarily guided by passion. I will be the first to admit this line is often blurred, but at its core this seems to be the primary difference between the factions, and the divide is as old as civilization itself. 

Since childhood I have tended more towards reason than passion. My earliest proclivities were towards dispassionate analysis of problems and events, with an equal tendency towards ruthlessly oppressing emotional considerations. I don’t know whether these early tendencies were the result of genetics, environment, or karma; but with age I have come to realize wisdom without passion is as cruel and destructive as passion run amok. 

The divide between passion and wisdom seems to have reached a polarized crescendo in American politics, with both sides becoming foolish and callous in turn. We must recognize that true wisdom requires compassion, because only when we see the inherent connectivity of all things do we see a clear picture of reality. Wisdom without compassion is reason based on a faulty premise. It assumes we are disparate atomized beings with clear winners and losers, and the losers be damned. Similarly, compassion without wisdom forgets that we are at once connected and separate beings. If there is any point to our individuated experience of the universe it is to learn and grow, and our instructor is often pain and suffering. Passion uninformed by wisdom tends towards trying to eliminate pain and suffering, often at the cost of individual liberty and the freedom to make bad decisions and bear the consequences.

The partisans in America must recall that we need both wisdom and compassion, and that when one prevails over the other only dysfunction can ensue. As individuals and a civilization we must strive towards being wise and loving, balancing the passion and wisdom in ourselves; learning, growing, and evolving towards more perfect and integrated beings.

America the Beautiful

The hawks squawk and the doves quake. Darkness rises in the East like a memory from the last century. After the long lull of peace following the second World War, Americans have forgotten that there is darkness in the world, and that we were once the light.

America the bold. America the beautiful. Those words mean something to me. I am often critical of the United States. I fear for her. I fear that she has lost her way, lost her identify, and forgotten what made her the envy of the world. But I nevertheless find an unshakeable love for her – and an attachment and rootedness that goes beyond retail patriotism.

My family was among the first to settle this country, and for nine generations we have made it our home. I still feel a connectedness to the European cultures that came before their immigration, but I have always seen in America the realization of the promise of those cultures. America sprang forth from the Enlightenment with the hope and promise of fulfilling the best instincts of that era, free from the dysfunction and darkness of the past.

So when I criticize my country, I do so with love. I do so knowing she is capable of so much more than she has become. She is mine, and I am hers. I do not view my citizenship as transient, nor my fate as separable. We shall rise or fall together. America will realize the promise of her founding, or become another crumbling Empire to be relegated to the ashes of history; but I will be here, striving for a better tomorrow, until my flesh returns to the ground from which it sprang.

It has become all too fashionable to resent ones citizenship. The mark of education and culture has come to mean holding America in contempt. The endless criticisms come drolly, all in the comfort of the freedom being an American guarantees. These professional critics speak of America with detachment, as a thing they have no vested interest in, as though they just happen to live here and her fate is separate from their own.

I say to the professional critics, you are not separate from this country. You are this country, and you lose your right to criticize her the moment you stop seeing yourself as such. Turn your words into actions my friends. In many cases your criticisms are well founded. I do not find fault with your words. I would fight and die for your right to say them, regardless of their content. What I find fault with is your disengagement, your apathy, and lack of action. If every droll criticism were followed by an action to change this country for the better, America would soon be the bold and beautiful light of the world she was always meant to be.

We will once more be called to defend the light of Western Civilization. Darkness looms in the East, and we must rediscover our soul. We are not Despots. We do not spy on our own. We respect personal liberty, the right to self-determination, and human dignity above all else. That is the promise of this land, and that is the light we must bear and defend.

A False Dichotomy

Our paradigm determines what is possible. I spent most of my life as a hardboiled materialist. I was enough of a philosopher to temper that view with the acknowledgement that I could not know for sure, but I was Agnostic only in name. I felt certain the world of my five senses was all that there was, and that if there was more, I had no way of knowing.

I would describe this period in my life as the Age of the Machine. My worldview was mechanistic, so I viewed life as just another sort of machine – sometimes beautiful, sometimes tragic, but always blindly acting on programming.

Atheism did not make me immoral. Even with the view that humans are no more than biological machines I adhered to high levels of ethical and moral behavior. Even machines must observe rules for optimal functionality.

It was only after a rather spontaneous spiritual awakening that I came to realize my paradigm of materialism had made my world small and grey. The religion of materialism is internally logical and self-reinforcing. When we view ourselves as machines, we become machines. If the world of the five senses is all you acknowledge as real, then that is all you will perceive. The world of the five senses comes at us in a barrage that will not be ignored. You must either face the onslaught, or become its victim. The forces of physical violence and necessity do not require your belief.

Conversely, matters of the spirit and mind are far more subtle. One can neglect and ignore both for a lifetime, and never comprehend the consequences. However, to flourish and grow the mind and soul require our belief and devoted attention. Even as I have moved into the Age of Spirit, the senses remain a siren in the night, driving me to distraction on their rocky shores.

In all, I prefer life as a man rather than a machine. I prefer a world of infinite possibility to one of finite cause and effect. I prefer the subtle energies of spirit to the course lure of the world that cannot be ignored.

Even as I write this, I am struck by the false duality of my statement. I fully reject Cartesian dualism, and embrace a pantheistic view of the universe. Yet spirit and everyday life often seem irreconcilable.

I believe this conflict to be a result of the Cartesian dualism that has so permeated modern society, rather than any innate tension. Dualism posits that the world of the flesh and the world of the spirit and mind are fundamentally separate. You must choose to live the life of flesh, or chose the spirit and retreat to a monastery away from its temptations and distractions; a false dichotomy that splits men in two.

Awaken

We are sick, and have forgotten what health feels like. I am not speaking of individual vitality, though that certainly plays a role. I speak of cultural and spiritual degradation.

The West no longer exists as a culture or civilization. The Western World gave birth to democracy and the concepts of personal liberty and inalienable rights. These should have been our great contributions to global evolution towards peace, prosperity and human dignity. But we have been subverted, and our great contributions turned into cruel ironies.

Orwellian Doublespeak characterizes these once noble and ennobling values. Democracy is a choice between pre-approved corporately sponsored shills. Personal liberty is the freedom to be surveilled, interrogated, and routinely violated in mind and body. Inalienable rights are luxuries sacrificed on the alter of security.

We are sick, but there is a cure. As a culture we are addicted to fear, security, war and consumption. In short, we are addicted to the body and have forgotten our souls. But denying the soul’s existence does not make it go away. It merely sickens the body and mind. As a species we can be ennobled as spiritual being that create, love and learn – or we can be debased as bodies that consume, wage war and drift into sedentary unconsciousness. No one can deny you your soul, but the world is doing a very good job of convincing you that you do not have one.

The sleepers must awaken. We are not bodies to produce, keep safe, feed, and control. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. What ennobles you? What lifts you out of your body and makes you feel joyful, light and alive? Identify these things and build your life around them. What degrades you and makes you feel like a body in motion trapped in space and time? Identify these things and remove them from your life and being.

Awaken and be free. Civilization is the culmination of individual actions, choices, and attitudes. A culture is defined by what it values. Right now we are addicted to the body and degrade the soul – so our civilization has become one of death and dysfunction. If we value the soul, and engage in those things that enliven and ennoble us, so to will our civilization be reborn and ennobled.

Modern Malaise: Gen Y

Something is amiss with modern man; a sort of subtle melancholy that at times defies articulation. The history of humanity has thus far been defined by hardship and the struggle for survival. Our forebears lived lives that were nasty, brutish and short, where each day was an unbearable struggle to merely survive. However, over the past hundred years or so a large portion of the human race has managed to pull itself up from the drudgery of mere survival, to a place of prosperity and ease. Physical comfort and survival accomplished, the question has become: What now?

Those stuck in the paradigm of survival have concluded that if what they have now is good, surely more is better. So they set out to acquire ever more wealth, luxury and ease; often at the expense of enjoying any of it. However, an increasing portion of the population, particularly those in Gen Y, are no longer satisfied with their predecessors’ imperative of survival.

This is the generation who has known no great wars, and was born into a world of material abundance and digital connectivity. Survival was never at risk for this cohort, so they often fail to see the necessity or wisdom of the ideas that drive modern society. Survival assured, Gen Y wants more than their parents’ suburban mansions, with garages filled to overflowing with once wanted but now unused adornments and diversions. Instead, they wish to live lives filled with meaning, in communities that foster growth.

People are changing, and the world is soon to follow. What many are experiencing now is the birthing pains of a new paradigm, and a new age. As survival chafes against the paradigm of prosperity, many find themselves trapped in old patterns that leave them feeling empty and unfulfilled. They work jobs they hate, doing thing they find meaningless or wrong, to buy things, once acquired, they no longer want. They live in a world of survival, because they cannot see how prosperous they are. This person feels trapped, and their life meaningless. They know there is a better way, but they see no way to achieve it. They feel trapped in a struggle for survival, not born of the necessity to survive, but out of a system and circumstances that seem to allow no alternative. In short, they are caught in the inertia of a world predicated on a paradigm that enriches their flesh, but impoverishes their soul.

However, only our choice to adhere to inertia’s mandate gives it any power over us. To live a life of prosperity, one need only decide they are prosperous and enjoy their wealth. I do not speak of the ornaments of survival that have given birth to the tremendous waste and shallow consumerism of our society. Instead, I speak of the richness of living a life with meaning, with people you love. To be prosperous, one need only live a life in which your values and actions align, and those you love are cherished.

Consider what the world would be like if everyone engaged only in those things they found meaningful, good and worthwhile. Is it somewhere you would like to live? If so, what is stopping you?