Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Cusp of Being

The Present is all there is.

The Past is a continuum of often deathly silent Presents that can haunt, inspire and distract.

The Future is a pyramid of possible Presents to imagine ahead with bittersweet uncertainty.

Be Present.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Overcoming Despair

Know thy enemy.

If Goodness were to have an enemy, I believe it would be Despair.

Despair (the incarnation thereof, from Neil Gaiman's Sandman)
Evil, if it exists is a psychotic aberration, a storybook concoction to distract us from the true horror around us, among us and even within us.  Despair, on the other hand, is all too real, whether in the form of an unhappy professional's Monday morning commute, a monthly mortgage on a lonely house, or an itchy scalp that won't go away.  In life, the multitudes of challenges we face, from ticks to terrorists, not a single one is inherently evil, they are merely dark facets of reality, the requisite shadows of anyone who seeks light.

In a previous blog post I commented on that eventual state of darkness, we must all one day face, death.  There are many who will cite scripture and authority to support the delusional position of an afterlife to combat such a despairing destination.  In my opinion such a delusional position distracts us from the challenges in our lives, in building towards a "heaven" here on Earth.  Still, there is an element of merit in such a belief in a second chance, if only that if we fuck up our one true chance in life we can feel good in those moments that are otherwise rife with despair.

Death in all likelihood actually holds for us the ultimate peace of nonexistence, an assured peace once we have lived our whole life, a tapestry woven of threads of joy and suffering.  At first blush, we might think being positive in every moment and ignoring the dark patches is a worthy way to live.  If one is to live with integrity, however, one must confront the presence of suffering by other living things, so long as we don't permit it to drown us in an ocean of despair.

Dare to stare despair in the face!  Indeed, there is so much contradiction in this life that living sincerely can make staying on a sane path difficult at times.  Too many examples shatter the idea that Goodness occurs naturally and of its own accord in this world.  We celebrate the immensely expensive military killing machines and the humans who wield them ostensibly to seek peace, hardly considering the despair and hatred we stir in our  fellow humans.  At an even more fundamental level we destroy life to sustain our nutritional lives, rarely taking a moment to contemplate the plants and animals that were confined, killed and converted into delicious food.

And so we live in constant suspension of disbelief, trying to see only the Goodness in the walk through the world while forgetting the suffering we cause with each footfall.  We pretty much ignore every planetary issue that is obviously driven by human population, reveling in increasing our numbers while our planet cries at every additional billion humans we add to its overladen environment.

I wish I could provide a better light at the end of this dark tunnel.  Alas, the hard truth is living as individuals and groups with the most positive intentions will never result in a despair free existence.  Perhaps being honest with oneself about the state of despair is the ultimate irony, as sometimes I do wonder if the religionists are wielding evolution's gift of self delusion to their advantage, by potentially living happier lives for the benefit of the human species and at the cost of all others.

Still, I believe conscious existence is the silver lining facet in an otherwise despair seeded world.  Sure, at any moment we can opt for ultimate silence, alas once invoked you will lose any chance at the rainbow glimmers that permit us to dance on the head of Despair.

Life is problems. Living is solving problems.  One of those problems is Despair.

(Endnote: I contemplated holding off posting this until Monday, to avoid adding a downer to the weekend, alas, better to present Despair on a Friday, methinks, if only because the glorious promise of a weekend has the best chance to confront such darkness)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thought Transfer Protocol X

Often taken for granted, humans have evolved and developed this magical thing we call language, Since getting the Goodness word out is critical to living life fully, I think it's worthwhile to highlight the various language mediums we use everyday to communicate, each providing advantages and pitfalls along the way.

Face-to Face-Talking:  As old school as it gets.  Tens of thousands of years of invested ancestral research layered on top of our evolved senses and processing power lets you speak vocally and importantly integrate hand, face and body gestures to get across the point to your listeners.  This mode of communication is still popular in the modern day for those of us who aren't total shut-ins.  Of all the implementations of language, talking face-to-face is inherently the most satisfying, as it provides reward feedback loops wired for millions of years by evolution and further programmed by cultural upbringing.  Its biggest disadvantage is its ephemeral nature; "whisper down the lane" unreliability added  to "foot-in-mouth" inaccuracy hinder its effectiveness.  Still it remains the truest real-time use of language humans use in the current day.

Letter writing: Victorian in essence, but surprisingly popular up until the dot com expansionist era.  Surprising how many post cards, holiday cards, romantic notes and other written thoughts were shared pre-2000 as the primary method of communicating with people too distant geographically or temporally.  There is an art to constructing a written letter that is joyful at its core; sadly the art of cursive handwriting itself is definitely on the extinction list given the current Millennial Generation's addiction to the QWERTY interface.  Writing in general has the advantage of providing the writer an opportunity to reflect before bringing pen to paper.  Books in essence are organized letters to unknown future readers and have served as the foundation of cumulative understanding until the more recent digital days,   The semi-permanence of the written word can also be a disadvantage as one (or a group) can be held accountable for their statements, as they should, especially when updated information contradicts older ideas.

Telephony:  Fully implemented in the 20th century, this convenient mode of vocal conversation sought to emulate FtF talking, sans the presence of gestures, eye contact and physicality.  Sound quality can greatly effect the conversation, and unless you have an agenda or a personal knack in holding a deeper conversation, I find this medium can devolve to "how's the weather?" pretty quickly.  Still, this near instant ability to converse with people at great distances permits coordination of good works and rapid spread of big and small ideas.  Given so many have mobile phones nowadays, I would love to see true voice conversations regain a foothold in our culture.

Email:  The electronic letter was both the savior of written correspondence and the ruin of the handwritten letter.  Email's double-edged sword has definitely increased the amount of non-realtime communication, with all the written letter benefits of being able to be reflective, and easily edit ones words.  Since the late 90's people across the world have discovered this free, near instant, spell-checkable medium.  Too bad 90% of email has gone spam; still if you want to share a deep thought or a brief anecdote with a friend, it can't be beat for convenience, even if the artistry of the email is pretty much relegated to ones choice of font.  Done right, and email exchange can be an effective way at sharing meaningful, personal information.

Texting:  The age of smartphones infected us with the need for greater instant gratification.  Where a phone ringing could be ignored or an email silently filtered to trash, texting inherently requests a near immediate reply in our current culture.  Absolutely great for quick "I'll be theres" and "Pick up milks" alas the tendency for text blurbs to be terse makes them horribly inadequate for deeper conversation.  Unfortunately, the ease of texting use has strong armed its domination of the conversational paradigm.  The result is a dramatic loss of conversation quality, especially when someone misses your text or by choice ignores replying for days.  One can only hope texting will find its way to a place where it simply seeds the beginning of a conversation through a more appropriate channel.  On the other hand the flirtatious use of sexting can be just what the doctor ordered in a romantic exchange.

Blogs and Facebook:  These are the partylines of the 21st century.  Facebook in particular is the collective blog for the masses, having all the makings for a massively detailed, broadly shared multimedia journal. Sadly FB can also be an idea scrambler and even a thought black hole.  Aggregating hundreds of friends' posts into one magazine layout is at the same time enjoyable as it is frustrating for reader and author both.  By design it is not a one-on-one interface; instead, it is a customizable "what's up with my friends and family" space.  As such, it actually permits people to share deeper messages in a well thought out manner.  The major drawback is the messages are untargeted, and a shared, mindful thought may get totally ignored. In FB, one lives for the LIKE, the smallest bit of acknowledgement that what was shared was actually read.  Comments are even more treasured for their relative scarcity, as a typed response gives the author more feedback to go on, whether positive or negative.  FB also suffers from media spamming, and re-re-shared posts that too often have no added creativity by the sender, further diluting the meaningful posts that are actually accessed.  Blogs on the other hand can achieve more successful localized sharing, if only because the readership is more topically targeted.

Twitter: I've tried to use Twitter, alas the streaming idea fragments it generates has been too much of an anonymous jigsaw puzzle for me to assess accurately.  It certainly is used a lot, so I imagine it fills a gap the other mediums lack, particularly in specialized situations like national coups and TV series real-time commentary.  Personally I have eschewed Twitter if only because FB, email and texting have informationally satisfied my communication wants.

In the end, the challenge for each one of us is to utilize these mediums to the best of our ability, whether to improve our relationships with others or to increase the productive outcome for personal and group projects or to otherwise assist us in pursuing good works.

In what ways do you leverage language creatively and effectively?