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Friday, November 3, 2017

Of Our Fears, Our Dogmas, and Our Fragile Existentialism

Some random thoughts on a recent flight...
The idea that we are free and are therefore ultimately responsible for the choices we make is a philosophical burden that few of us are prepared to assume. In a world in which it is sometimes convenient to believe that “what is to be will be”, we tend to cultivate a certain pathos around the reality that whatever is to be is up to us. I have come to believe this. Many of us declare a pre-determinism that assumes that our course in this life has been set, and there is nothing we can do about it. What is to be, will be. Period.
We can agree that there are some things we have little or no control over in our lives; but our fate and destiny are determined by the course that we ourselves set by each decision we make. There are people who will never set foot on an airplane because of their fear of flying. Like bungee jumping, and riding on the latest version of a wild roller coaster, they just wont do it. Our most awe-full phobias are fed by one decision after another not to do something…not to take those steps which will ultimately give us power over our irrationality.
In other contexts in our lives we parrot the dogma “practice makes perfect”, but we fail to see its implication for the “finishing” of ourselves with regards to our fears. Yes, the word “perfect” means “finished”, and it is an often stated fact that none of us are. We are impacted daily by the formative influences of the hands of experience. The perfection that life nudges us toward is a function of the steps we take to overcome our worries and our fears. Sometimes the nudges of reality are painful and unsettling, but they force us to look more clearly at the ground around our feet. They make us look again with more critical eyes at the assumptions in which we have anchored our expectations.
Our fears sabotage every aspect of our existence. They prevent one from asking for a deserved salary increase at the job one has done well for five, six, seven years. It is fear that causes an unhappy spouse not to declare to the world that his or her marriage is a miserable sham that should end. The desire to maintain the status quo at the expense of one’s fulfillment demands unreasonable self-sacrifice. We worry about outcomes that may never be because fear breeds irrationality. My existentialism says, if a thing is unreasonable it is wrong. There comes a moment when we are shaken by the need to right the ship of fear-filled living.
My thoughts go by like wisps of cirrus clouds. A multitude of “what ifs” find their way in and out of my mind despite the protestations of my rationalism. I eventually surrender to the moment, recognizing the reality that there are some possibilities that lay on the heap of fate which are out of my control. My mind goes back to something that Cypher Raige says to his son Kitai in the movie After Earth : Danger is very real. Fear is always a choice”.
I try for a moment to reconfigure the notion… Fear is a response to danger… . 
My reformulation sounds reasonable, it is congruent with what I have heard others conclude, but I chose to stick with Cypher Raige’s dogma…Fear is a choice. Something about this formulation engenders a sense of being in control. I identify with that. The thought appeals to something in the DNA of my personhood, so I let it soak in. It fleshes out my existentialism, fragile as it may be.

The Crass Symbiosis Between Parasites And Their Hosts

Parasites… they are an unmistakable reality of the ecology of our lives. A parasite is an organism that lives in or on another organism, its host, and benefits by deriving nutrients at that host's expense. They present as insects, and plants, … and as persons.

There comes a time in our lives - a season if you will - when we must, in order to survive and maximize our potentials, rid ourselves of those influences that are in fact impediments in our journey to our best selves. To that end it becomes necessary to realistically evaluate the factors in and around us that impact our lives - and that our lives impact - with a view to detaching from them where they have proven to be detrimental to our own growth and the growth of others.

On an intellectual level the deliberative act suggested here seems to be a no brainer. It makes all the sense in the world to separate ourselves from things and from persons that would jeopardize our safety, and the integrity of our being. In fact though, this is more easily said than done. Removing and destroying a tick or a fungus is one thing; separating ourselves from habits and persons that have become a part of our natural habitat is quite another.

We look around us and it is easy to see the organisms that attach themselves to the vegetation in our immediate environment. If we till the ground, or if we raise livestock, or if we have pets; the task of ridding our gardens and our animals of these parasites becomes obvious and necessary. There are fungi that attach themselves to plants and infuse them with destructive toxins. Ticks maim and degrade the animals they sink their tentacles into. As human beings we should educate ourselves and our loved ones about the threat that pathologies such as Lyme Disease pose to our health and well-being. The presence of head lice, which feed on human blood, is a scare that threatens the social viability of homes and larger institutions.

When we come to know the dangers posed by the organisms noted above, we are able to dispassionately dispatch them with practices and treatments that remove the threats they pose. Good enough. But what about those threats that look like us? What about the real human threats to our physical and emotional integrity that live and move and have their being in our daily lives? Well… let's just say the task of ridding ourselves of them is a much less dispassionate one. Truthfully speaking, this task can be so downright difficult, and the consequences so traumatic, that we defer necessary action in this regard indefinitely.

Non-human parasites are dependent for their existence on the organisms to which they attach themselves. On the other hand, the human sources of dysfunction in our lives exist in a kind of crass symbiosis with us that makes it difficult for many to identify them for the essential threat they represent. Instead of the unilateral dependency expressed in the relationship between a tick and its host; the human parasite in many instances is facilitated by a more complex interrelationship. The nature and extent of this complexity varies from relationship to relationship… from individual to individual; and is informed by the degree of neediness in each instance.

The word used to describe what I have called this crass symbiosis is codependency. Codependency is defined by mental health professionals as - “an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual's ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive.” Based on the evidence, I believe that it is not an exaggeration to remove all qualifiers and state that such relationships are destructive… period.

One can rid one’s self of ticks or lice and recover one’s health. You can rid a plant of the fungus that stunts its growth, and it will return to great health and productivity. The end of a co-dependent relationship on the other hand, can result in disastrous consequences for everyone involved in such relationships. Furthermore, the damage that can result is in certain instances not limited to those directly involved in these relationships; but is expressed in the collateral hurt/damage visited on those in close proximity to the intended target of the aggrieved. Getting rid of head lice is a very exact science that has little or no collateral carnage. Not so with a person with whom one has established a pathologically dysfunctional relationship.

Let us agree that relationships characterized by bilateral and unilateral dependencies are dangerous to the health and wellbeing of all those involved in such relationships. These pathological attachments have  their reasons for being in dynamics that range from emotional to economic neediness. Codependent relationships in many cases have their reason for being in a corrupted power dynamic in which control of other persons for whatever reason, is an expressed objective of those involved. Whether we facilitate and cultivate the dependence of others on us, or whether others attach themselves to us for reasons of convenience; the resulting dysfunction is just as deleterious.

A tragic consequence of such relationships is that persons end up in situations where they might feel they can't do without the other, or where the other feels that if they can't “have”  the object of their attachment no one else should. Both of these circumstances engender tragedies that play out in the social environment everyday. The husband or boyfriend kills the partner and children. The mother or wife poisons the former mate and murders the girlfriend. The many variations of these tragic dysfunctions play out in front of us almost daily.

As inconvenient as it may be, there comes a time when in the interest of the common good, and for our own sakes, we should evaluate our various relationships in an effort to identify and take remedial action regarding the dysfunctions in and around us. Our very lives may depend on that inconvenient analysis. At the very least, the possibilities of our growth and development beckon us to discover the truth about the deficiencies that ultimately undermine our own well-being, the wellbeing of others - and our very lives.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Good vs Evil ... No Equivocation!

There are those among us who even now would salute Hitler; but they are in reality a fringe trying to survive against the moral tide of History. There are those who would resurrect the fascism of Mussolini; but they inevitably find themselves marginalized and eventually swept aside by the thrust toward a more equal society and a better world. The putrid stench of slavery lingers in the air we breathe. The Ku Klux Klan still lives among us despite the desperately vicious history they represent.

The forward march of History gains impetus when we identify and call Evil by its name… That which seeks to destroy the will to achieve the common good. The establishment of the common good is the goal of our civilization. It is a foundation of the kind of Peace which issues from the triumph of the forces of good over the presence of evil.

We understand civil society to be a function of the recognition of each other’s right to the pursuit of our highest human potential regardless of circumstances of race, gender, sexuality, religious persuasion, or the socio-economic circumstances of one’s birth. When we appropriate to each other as a human right the ability to thrive in ways that are non-obstructive to the strivings of our fellow persons, we regard that as a good thing.

To live at peace with each other by the establishment of equity among us is good. We know beyond equivocation that there have been, and that there remain among us persons and influences that do not share the values implicit in these notions. They foster in their own lives, and seek to foist upon others, the inequity that serves their twisted sense of being. They create misery. They are agents of chaos.

The heroes we celebrate in our individual and corporate lives are those who stood in firm opposition to the forces of evil. There must be no equivocation; those who represent the expression of evil must continue to bear the eternal rebuke reserved for them. They must either repent, or be relegated to the hell they would create for others.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Of Bogeymen and Saviors

Let us be clear about the profound immorality of those who love to use Karl Marx as the bogeyman in our time while they pay lip service to the life and work of a Nazarene named Jesus. Marx lived twice as long as Jesus and eventually died of pleurisy. While Marx was vilified by many for calling the workers of the world to unite, Jesus was murdered at age 33 for calling out the inequities of his day and those who perpetuated it. 

We can theologically sanitize his murder all we want... The fact is he was NAILED to a rough wooden cross, which he was forced to carry on his back to the hill where he would be further brutalized and allowed to hang on it till he was dead. His was the kind of fate that the theologian Bonhoeffer aptly described in his declaration that "when God calls a man, He bids him come and die." This for Bonhoeffer was "the cost of discipleship".

Those who have an interest in maintaining the status quo have never welcomed the voices that declare in favor of the poor and the disadvantaged. Christianity as we know it is a reflection of the prevailing moral values in our society.  In this context those who act out in contravention of those values are invariably isolated and targeted for elimination. The false equivalencies that we witness from the mouths of the servants of the status quo are nothing more than attempts to muddle the consciousness of those who are patrons of the daily discourse of charlatans "making a living".

And so the poor perish while political opportunists and their lackeys spook the people with their visions of the ghost of Marx. And for this "Jesus wept". 

The struggle continues...

Friday, August 11, 2017

Anodynes

“Creative rhymes…
Potent anodynes…
Analgesic tones…
Somnifaciently affected sounds…
Words that heal…
In combinations we feel…
Anesthetic formulae
And stupefacient lies
Won’t change our need for realistic treatise…

Preachers and teachers
Singers and speakers…
Sermons and lessons
Songs and mass visions…
Come now before us
Sounding so spurious
Because they are devoid of real truths…
Thoughts obfuscated
On minds opiated
Will…finally…do us no good—”

Excerpt From: Roy Alexander Graham. “Of Scattered Seed and Broken Souls.” Figtree Enterprises, Inc., 2012. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itun.es/us/i6upI.l

Immortal

“Forever
Like a wind traveling through time
Across many stages…
From everlasting till now…we are…
And will be still
Through all the ages…of time…

And forever
Like a raindrop moving through space…
Returning again to its origin as air…
Through heat and cold
Becoming water
Again…and again

Forever and forever
We are like the wind
Becoming clouds
That fall as rain
To return again
To its form as spirit…

We are the immortals…of the Immortal
Which was…
Who is…
That will be
Forever”

Excerpt From: Roy Alexander Graham's  “In My Element.” Figtree Enterprises, Inc., 2012. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itun.es/us/lCupI.l

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Where does your "god" stand on the matter of Justice?

There is in fact a well established and very meaningful orthodoxy which declares that it is utter nonsense to talk about our fascination with gods we cannot see, while we foster a culture of inequity. The propagation of injustice is a direct contradiction of our claim to obedience to any loving God. It places our faith on tenuous ground, and nullifies all attempts, rhetorical and liturgical, to validate our stated beliefs.

Theological exercises that do not affirm the experiences and the needs of our common humanity are a gross misuse of physical and mental energy. Worse than that, they are potentially dangerous. To profess our love for, and our commitment to celestial beings while we actively antagonize one another is to live a lie. Lies have a tendency to erode our potential to live in authentic relationships. This is as true for each of us as it is for all of us. Lies negate and erode the life-enhancing potentials of individuals and of nations. A meaningful faith is one which finds expression through the cultivation of real equity in our stewardship of Earth and its fullness. Another word for equity... Justice.


In the physical, cultural, and political spaces in which we live out our lives we often have to confront the incongruities between the ideas that we have come to define ourselves by and the challenges that are inherent in the realities of our being together. The tensions herein are real and ongoing. Our efforts to resolve these tensions underline the necessity to engage philosophically with our selves and each other. The honest philosopher comes to acknowledge a truth that is universally affirmed: "There are more questions than answers; ... and the more we find out, the less we know". The less we know for sure that is.


Ultimately the most consequential question that we must answer is not about the nature of God. The responses to that philosophical piece are too subjective to be universally useful. We can agree that that question is indicative of a certain functional genius, and it most definitely has its place in our philosophical resumes. But the more pressing query is: Who is my neighbor, and am I his/her keeper? An affirmation of the wisdom and the duty implied in this question clears the path to the salvation we and our societies seek… and need.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trump... A Clear and Present Danger to Civil Society

It has been declared that politics is about life. I want to expand and expound on that: Politics is about our lives together. 

Beyond our individual interests and the group interests that are at times used to divide and rule us; there is that greater imperative that calls us to build the kind of national and international community that will secure our mutual interests and bolster our collective security. The leadership that this vision of our lives demands is what we are constantly  being called on to bring into being. Donald Trump is NOT the kind of leader our country and the world needs. His lack of moral acuity, his demonstrably horrible temperament, his ill-mannered attitude toward others - these traits are antithetical to everything we should be working toward as a society.

One does not have to look far in order to find the reasons that disqualify Mr Trump from holding the highest office in the land. Any casual observer of his conduct can, without much effort, identify a host of such reasons. His unapologetic divisiveness. His crass abrasiveness. His activist appeal to the racist underbelly of a nation still scarred by its history of bigotry. His disrespect for women, and for immigrants who are not white and rich... and corrupt. Add to all this his obvious inability to intelligently address any of the issues of critical importance in our national life and we have the ingredients for a national crisis.

Trump has demonstrated a lack of intellectual curiosity about our world that, in an otherwise uncorrupted process, would disqualify him from leadership of any corporate entity - much less the United States of America. His careless disregard for those with disabilities among us is a marker of the kind of warped amorality that those concerned about the health of our nation find detestable. His history of exploiting the economic system to benefit himself to the disadvantage of others is the primeval scream of a corrupt economic soul. 

When we add to all this Trump's careless disregard for truth, we have nothing less than the recipe for a national disaster. His propensity to promote violence against those who do not share his worldview calls the civilized among us to engage in the necessary constitutional measures to preserve our democracy. His ludicrously inconsequential bravado is matched only by his disrespect of those who have served in our military. 

This man is a clear and present danger to the further establishment of civil society here in America, and in the world.