Thursday, June 29, 2017
Julian: Of Empires and Inflection Points
The novelized biography of Julian by Gore Vidal provides a sobering snapshot of human civilization in the 4th Century CE. The book chronicles the cathartic transition of an empire and of a man. The story which albeit nearly two millennia old holds surprising context for our global civilization today.
Julian's journey takes him from blue-blood orphan to reluctant leader and then from Caesar Augustus to military KIA. Often labeled Julian the Apostate, this impassioned man sought to take the Roman Empire back to its historic roots of Hellenism. Ironically, his uncle Constantine famously converted Rome spiritually to rally the troops and citizenry under a the then rising populist religion of Christianity.
Julian's apostasy refers to one who has rejected a religion to which they were devoted. Indeed Julian, schooled in Christian myth, rejects Christianity as a misguided death cult and embraces Hellenism in what he sees as a more poetic and philosophical world view. As Augustus he implements policies that are tolerant to worshipers of all religion while more strongly backing the gods that he finds most worthy, Helios in particular.
More than religion, the Roman Empire seems to thrive on the power struggle of militaristic expansionism and with more overt fervor than even our modern world. Julian was no different in that he secured his power as Caesar by shoring up Gaul with military might and then as Augustus he attempted to conquer Persia. Military strength appears to be as worshiped as much then as it is today in the American Empire.
The modern American Empire built its foundation on secular government for The People, by The People at the direction of The People, rather than at the direction of some illusory god. At its heart, our modern democratic system encourages peaceful, meaningful living with religious freedom for all beneath secular oversight. However, it seems to me that today a mix of Christian myth and militaristic industrialism are driving a movement to recast secular rule in favor of an archaic, power-hungry cabal.
Julian's vision seems to me to be of similar conservative form; it sought solace in the perceived stability of past beliefs, rather than truly moving forward. Our future civilization holds its greatest potential in the implementation of science-informed policy where its people "worship" reality and upkeep the "heaven" here on Earth.
The time of gods and prophets (by any name, Helios, Ares, Jehovah, Jesus, or Mohammed, et al) is over. Secular governing policies divorced from religious hawks and based on evidence-based ethics are the logical next iteration in a better, global civilization.
Unfortunately, the conservative belief that wants to retain its power by selling the past seems to mimic Julian's historic lesson: fight to the death.
Saturday, June 17, 2017
Thursday, June 8, 2017
Wonder Woman and Waging War
I'm taking a break from the serial story this week as I am inspired by the latest superhero movie on offer, Wonder Woman. With your leave I shall wax pontifical.
Beyond here there be Spoilers!
Wonder Woman is an action and drama packed Hollywood parable extraordinaire. This is the latest DC entry its more noirish interpretation of human versus superhuman travails and serving as both prequel and sequel to the underrated Batman vs. Superman.
In short, my assessment of the film: Gal Gadot's strong presence as Diana dominates this movie like a veritable goddess. The romantic energy between said goddess and her mortal Romeo of a soldier suffers in awkward disparity. The combat action is seismic in its stop flow cinematographic execution, however, those same frenetic and bloodless battles underscore how detached we are from the reality of true violence. Modest nods are made to the wounded combatants of war, the desire for peace among foot soldiers, and social justice. The soundtrack in particular is amazing, drumming up an anxiety and primal call to arms during battle scenes. A valiant attempt is made to incorporate deeper themes including social justice, the endless cycle of violence, and the worship of battle heroes as gods. Overall, it's an engaging yarn with many levels at work.
It is not my real intent here to untangle the good from the bad or to further dissect the perhaps over-complex whole of this movie. Sometimes a movie should be just an escape, alas we live in a complex world and we are both blessed and damned to hear the opinions of those who want to pontificate.
Pontification #1: We worship our soldiers as if they were gods.
Wonder Woman is both warrior and goddess, embodying an almost Christ-like figure, in her attempt to wield force to attain peace. For we mere mortals, it is embedded in our evolutionary programming to kill other creatures, to seek revenge, and to align in tribes to do both more effectively. And for thousands of years the honed assembly of (mostly) controlled violence has been a dominant energy in asserting and maintaining power. To this ends we celebrate our tribe's soldiers and their "sacrifice" against the other tribe's celebrated soldiers. Evil and belief and bravery and country are thrown out as motive time and time again as to why each side is always more in the right.
Might we not celebrate more those who strive to overcome our violent origins fighting peacefully for the long and hard journey to forge a unified world tribe, one which continually reduces the for-profit, power mongering, industrial military complex culture we now live in?
Pontification #2: There is no magical solution to ending all war.
Ares, the god of war, is the entity in this movie that incites humanity to war, in an effort to return Earth to paradise. For a fantasy film it makes for a great device to have a menacing boss character whose elimination will restore all the good that there used to be in the world. In the real world, too often we pine for some mythical past where law and order was perfect, whether it be the Garden of Eden or the Leave it to Beaver 1950's. I'm sorry to confirm that the world has always been full of destabilizing mechanisms that we will never fully overcome. Natural disasters, the loss of loved ones, pain, and bad Alien sequels are part of life.
And yet Wonder Woman give us an augur of hope that love can conquer all. Not love for her mortal soldier alone, but a love for the potential that the human race may find its way toward greater stewardship here on Earth.
Saturday, June 3, 2017
States of Change: Chapter 12: Tar Heel (North Carolina)
States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.
The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization.
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.
"Hey elm Renny! Day two of Summer Week here we are!"
Netti sits heavily on the poolside lounge chair, setting her red, white and blue beach bag alongside. Renny looks over the rims of her green bamboo, fashion VisAR; its LED glints with the steady red of standby mode.
"Another sunny day, Netti, my sound! Where's Hamilton?"
"He's chilling with the kids in the Em Pea Zee today."
"Times two...our lives are in sync!"
"More likely Ham wants to access two way live-stream."
"Click. Well, here's to the Solar Sisters Club, web-free!"
Renee hands Netti a plastic bottle, its exterior churning with fractal inspired art around the Voila! logo.
"Cheers grand! Double Ex to no incoming data!"
"Yum Ee plus nine! Is this pomegranate and sudachi, I flave?"
"Poss hun, and with just a hint of Ell Ess Dee Prime. Quite pitch refreshing!"
Netti lays down on the lounge chair and lets out an extended sigh.
"Okay elm Netti, what's vertical? You and Ham dancing with the Dawkins?"
"Oh, I don't know, Renny. The same old parent work challenges. I've sussed out the latest child management apps and nothing seems to help Fry over his Ess and Ess fits."
"Terrible Twos engaged. With all that's changed in our lifetime, some things are as great a challenge as they've ever been. Gotta admit though, having a family week off every three months at least lets we engineers catch an Eden reboot, don't you think?"
The two tap bottles and their designs morph from fractal spins to firework fusillades.
"Sure, sis grand, sure. Unplugging from the d-stream and the augment minefield is solid state. Still, wouldn't it be Ee plus eleven to have retirement to look forward to."
"Retirement's a word for the wicked, elm. A Tar Heal's gotta work for a living, family and state!"
"Yeah. Click. Family and state." Netti exhales. "Grand elm, root and true."
After a shared snicker, both women close their eyes behind their inactive VisARs, and dream the fuzzy fantasies while their skins shimmer with photon induced sensation.
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