TITLES (0043- 0057 August
0043 - Choosing to
believe [analysis culture joy meaning myth nature
purpose revelation right/wrong tradition]
0044 - Wealth and
0045 - Mirror
for the soul [appreciation contrition guidance
intentionality introspection meditation petition prayer]
0046 - Science: the source of
all knowledge? [error experience joy observation understanding]
0047 - What
science does not (yet) understand [choice consciousness
error free-will intentionality observation truth value]
0048 - My erotic
life [emotion gender history intimacy love sex]
0049 - Shredding
Asimov [fiction literature novel]
0050 - Elements of
Art [boundary experience intentionality meaning
0051 - On art and
Art [artist artisan boundary skill technique utility]
0052 - Noticing
God [atheism experience religion value
0053 - De profundis [angelic bestial
charity civilization faith hope satanic]
0054 - Choosing to
suffer [evil fairness justice necessity self-absorption]
0055 - In
search of flavor [food home]
0056 - The soul of
photography [accident accuracy cinematography image
Extreme moderation [authority behavior
civilization reality society]
08/31/07 (#0057) Extreme moderation
"Only too much is enough". You know you are
getting on when you no longer subscribe to that view. (Myself, I'm old enough
to subscribe to the principle of "moderation in everything, especially in moderation"). While we're young and sky
is the limit nothing but extremes will do Never mind pushing the envelope, punch
your way right out of the frigging thing.
Of course, in the far corners of the bell curve,
there live the exceptions. Some are pathetic timid souls, living
in perpetual fear of the unknown and the untried. Some others, like me,
are Candide-like optimistic rationalists born to the belief that
this is the best of all possible worlds. In my childhood it never occurred to me to question the authorities. Not
only that, it never occurred to me that anybody
would think of questioning the authorities. I knew there were some kids who
sometimes did what they weren't supposed to do (I myself had transgressed
parental prohibitions on occasion) but as far as I was concerned those were
rare exceptions in an otherwise orderly world. What a shock it was when it
finally became apparent to me that misbehavior was the rule, not the
exception! For boys, anyway. Girls tended to be goody-goodies - on the
surface. Underneath they tended to be vicious bitches and liars which
was far more shocking. My practically perfect world was shattered and all
the king's horses and all the king's men could not put it ever together
this epiphany came too late. My habit of good behavior was
ingrained by then and, fascinated as I was with my contemporaries'
experimentation with fringe philosophies and extreme experiences I
could not bring myself to participate in such adventures wholeheartedly. I
remained on the fringe of the fringe. I may have been disillusioned, but I was
still a rationalist of Apollonic rather than Dionysian bent.
Eventually, like almost everybody else, I became, to all appearances, a
Responsible Adult, a Law-Abiding Ctizen, and a certified Non-Extremist..
Still, living within the confines
of my adopted social parameters sometimes gets to be a bit stale. Once in a
while I get the urge to break out and do something outrageous. What usually
stops me is lack of energy. That's the bottom line. So, instead, I go nuts
in my artwork - that's almost as good as the real
08/30/07 (#0056) The soul of photography
beginning, photography was perceived by artists as another means of drawing
images, a kind of instantaneous pencil, and on this basis it pretended for a
while to be an Art medium competitive with the pencil and the brush. It
soon became clear that it wasn't. It was too rigid, too literal, too
slavishly devoted to recording of every detail, regardless of artistic
significance. Photography as Art fell into disrepute - it was even questioned
whether a photograph could be Art. Still,
efforts to involve photography in making of Art never ceased.
Now photography is firmly
established as an important Art form. Not surprisingly, its current importance
derives from what earlier was considered its fault. It has progressed
along two paths, uniquely its own: one as an accurate record of the passing scene or the
accidental image (found Art) and the other as a dynamic recording medium for the
performing arts. In this role, the camera has become itself an actor and a
participant in the action. In cinematography photography reached its
fullest potential and became wholly integrated in the process of making
In still images,
photography's fidelity to the scene before the lens allows recording
of faithful portraits of reality. Yet the camera's fidelity is not
absolute and capable of distortion and perversion. After all, the
photographic record is only a two-dimensional projection of a split
second in a continuing three-dimensional process, observed from one
particular point of view. It is eminently vulnerable to misinterpretation and to
intentional or unintentional deception. The difficult Art of still photography
lies in observing and recording that special moment when the captured image also
captures unmistakeably the true essence of the scene.
Even though Art photography has
found its own true soul, cameras are still
being widely used simply to draw images. In this mode, the fidelity of the
record can actually become an obstacle to obtaining the desired image,
cluttering it with non-essential detail. But with digital image
processing it is now easy to use photography to provide "clean"
graphic elements which may be then infinitely metamorphosed to create
entirely new images (a primitive precursor of this Art form is the collage).
Whether this can still be called photography is debatable, but
whatever it is, it has certainly generated much new Art.
08/29/07 (#0055) In
search of flavor
to the list: One of the most common forms of
self-inflicted suffering is unforgiveness. An analogy I've always liked (not my invention) is that rather than "keeping
the unforgiven person on a hook of suffering" it is the unforgiver who places
themself on a 'hook of suffering', stewing about the events and the persons
involved oblivious to the fact that the 'unforgiven' usually are NOT
thinking about it at all! Unforgiveness is a self-cultivated cancer
that truly does 'eat up' the actual sufferer. - Charles
And how much more bitter the unforgiver's suffering when
they discover the truth! Somebody said "the best revenge is living well". - the
I live in the woods, in a little chalet clinging
precariously to a hillside. My chief complaints are a) I can't see the stars,
especially in summer (in winter, however, the moon shines into my
studio through the 20 foot high windows), b) if the woods ever catch fire the
house is gone - I have trees practically leaning against it, and c) except
for a little stream running by the house in the rainy season, there is no
body of water in sight. Otherwise it's very pleasant here and you can go out naked at night - or in daytime.
One of the summer delights of
living here is that I am surrounded by orchards and farms growing a great
variety of fruit and produce. Local cherries, berries of all kinds, peaches,
plums, apples and melons are available in a mindboggling number of varieties
which change almost daily as they ripen in their turn. All tree ripened and
freshly picked. Among the produce, the latest to appear are several varieties of
"heirloom" tomatoes. Since I eat tomatoes like apples - at least one a day
in season, I got myself a basketful of a couple of varieties of these
With my fading taste
buds, in general nothing tastes like I remember it tasting in my youth (normally
I blame this on the mass production techniques used by food
producers nowadays). However, these tomatoes
are the best I have ever tasted. Really! A
startling wake up experience, like, hey! this is a real tomato! With flavor yet! Who knew such things
Now, if only I could
find a cup of coffee that actually tastes and smells like coffee... (In my whole
life I only found five good cups of coffee and two of them I drank at "Joe &
Joe's" in the Bronx, NY).
08/28/07 (#0054) Choosing to suffer
Not all evil is man-made. Nature socks it to us as well:
hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, extreme heat, extreme
cold, droughts and floods, just for starters. Then there are bacteria, viruses,
genetic errors and mutations, toxins of all sorts, and, of course, the
deterioration of old age.
not as bad as it seems. Assuming we don't go looking for trouble by settling
in dangerous or potentially dangerous environment (such as
the vicinity of Mt. Vesuvius) a great majority of us can look forward to
mostly safe and satisfactory lives. Nevertheless, some disasters, personal and
global, remain out of our control, and may strike us any time. The usual
reaction is "why me?" - a silly question.
The more pertinent question is how do we deal
with the intrinsic unfairness of the universe? As an immediate remedy there
is charity - the more fortunate helping the less fortunate. We try to compensate
the victims of disasters, but some losses are beyond our power to compensate. We
just have to live with them. Still, a disaster often turns out to be a test of
our mettle, and in accordance with the principle that what does not kill you
makes you stronger we ultimately find ourselves better off for having been
tried and having made the passing grade.
When we are the victim of a disaster and are permanently
diminished by our loss, we have a choice: we can spend the rest of our life
contemplating our loss, raging against it and feeling sorry for ourselves, or we
can simply get on with doing the best we can with what we still have. Most
suffering is self-inflicted. Many people love to suffer - they use suffering as
the source of meaning in their lives. It's like a hobby - something to fill
their otherwise empty lives. Others suffer as a result of setting too
demanding expectations for themselves or others and as a result being
perpetually disappointed, irritated and frustrated. Yet others suffer
deliberately as conscious or unconscious self-punishment
for imagined inadequacies and failures. Then there are those
engaged in strenuous pursuit of happiness which is forever eluding them.
If people the world over would
just let go of all the unnecessary suffering and
concentrated instead on the immediate tasks before them the world would be
radically changed. Universal peace and plenty would descend on the
planet as self-absorption in one's own suffering gave way to attention to
what needs to be done. I can't say "it will never happen" - I never say
08/27/07 (#0053) De profundis...
Art: Is Art Art because of its creator's motivation? Does motivation
of reward disqualify a piece from being Art? There are
countless examples that would contradict that premise and plenty of artists who
have stated that they, 'do it for the money' yet whose works are considered
can only surmise the elephant's motivation(s) for putting brush to paper. -
But that is not my premise. Motivation doesn't matter as
long as there is intention to make Art. What does matter is significance - the
piece must mean something to somebody even if only to the artist. The
elephant doesn't signify anything by its action of swiping a brush across a
canvas. - the Ed.
Deprivation. Pain. Dread of the unknown.
Insecurity. Mistrust. Greed. Anger. Hostility. Hatred. Aggression. Violence.
Cruelty. Survival of the fittest and death to the weaker. No, I'm not talking
about the beasts in the jungle - these are very much human experiences and
reactions, here, now, in the twenty first century. Not only that, but to a
greater or lesser degree they are universal. We have all been there and, at any
moment, we can find ourselves there again. It has been noted that civilization
is only a thin veneer. We chafe under it and yearn to break out.
That is our satanic side founded
in the natural and inevitable fear and ignorance of an isolated
individual (or an isolated group under the influence of an individual). But
there is an angelic side to us, as well, a desire to transcend the beastly
existence, to experience higher joys than can be derived from brutal
domination of others. Our angelic nature drives us toward association,
cooperation, mutual assistance, maximization of human potential, group
consciousness and integration with the environment. Against fear and
ignorance it sets faith, hope and charity - irrational virtues which,
considering the alternative, seem very rational indeed.
Nevertheless, fear and ignorance
are always there. Necessarily, we do not and cannot know everything.
Necessarily, the future is uncertain and potentially dangerous. These are the necessary conditions of existence, sine qua non. We can optimize the quality of our lives
but we cannot perfect it. The struggle between our satanic and angelic
sides is permanent. However, there is no rule that their influence on
our lives must be forever equal. As an optimist, I see us evolving and
continuing to evolve from beasthood towards angelhood.
08/25/07 (#0052) Noticing God
Does Art necessarily have to be about human experience?
Animals may be able to meet some conditions that make Art - observeable,
distinct and intentional. For example, there is an elephant that
paints pictures. It uses a paintbrush, paint and canvas. People buy the pictures
this elephant paints. - Molly
Ah, but if
it isn't significant it
isn't Art. Someone could well discover Art in an elephant painting (Art may be
found anywhere) but it would be her Art, not the
elephant's. The elephant doesn't mean anything by
it - it just goes through the motions to earn peanuts. - the Ed
Mother Theresa (I wonder how many Mother Theresas there
have been but you know the one I mean) like most pious people, suffered from
"spiritual dryness" - a condition of not being able to feel and respond to
God's presence. This was a cause of great sorrow for her and she struggled
with it for the last ten years of her life though this had no effect
on her continuing charitable work.
Without passing judgement on God's ways, I note that
this seems a curious "penalty" for piety. I who am not at all pious
(though, I hope, not impious) have no trouble whatever recognizing and
being conscious of the presence of God any time I pause to notice it. As
somebody said (maybe it was me) God's presence is as obvious as a tiger jumping
out at you. Mother Theresa's idea of God was no doubt different from
mine (though probably not at the most fundamental level). Still, I marvel
at the fact that she felt isolated from God and I do not.
On the other end of the piety
spectrum, the self-proclaimed "atheists" carefully cultivate conviction of God's
absence. It's not that they can't sense God's presence, they deliberately ignore
it on the grounds that rational thought leaves no room for and has no
need of God. They are mistaken in this. Rational thought not only leaves
room for God, it suggests an absolute necessity for God as an alternative to a
meaningless universe in which rational thought (along with everything
else) has no value.
course, those who place their faith in "pure" rationalism argue that value can
be derived simply from observation of what it is that maximizes one's own sense
of well-being. What they fail to notice is that one's own sense of
well-being is that very tiger jumping out at you.
08/24/07 (#0051) On art and
Let us now give equal time to art with little "a" - no
relation to Art though often mistaken for it. Like its Greek parent word,
art means simply a skill, as in art of saddle making or of motorcycle
maintenance. In so far as skills are employed in making Art, art may well
be an integral part of Art (such as the art of representing 3D objects in
2D, or the art of composition, or the art of applying paint
capital "A" having usurped the term "artist" for themselves, practitioners of
small "a" arts usually call themselves "artisans" or
"technicians" often adopting specific labels referring to their particular
skills such as "potter", "draughtsman", "welder", etc. The main difference
between art and Art is that both the intent and the significance of art are
utilitarian - art is not the ultimate
objective, it is only a means to achieving it - whereas Art is complete in
itself (even though it may be a continuing "work in progress") regardless
of intended or unintended consequences of the experience of it.
Artists are almost always
technically adept artisans, and artisans often invade the realm of Art. Humans
are simply not contained by categories and definitions set up by language. Hence
the commonplace confusion between art and Art. In real life, the
boundary between them is porous and diffuse and in that vague region
live all kinds of hybrids such as graphic arts, decorative arts, design,
commercial art, illustration, architecture, etc. In any case, whatever else it
may be, if it meets the criteria of observability, distinction, intentionality
and significance it's Art.
08/23/07 (#0050) Elements of
To celebrate the 50th Nuthshell, let's turn back to the
sublime, namely Elements of Art. The question I
shall contemplate today is: "what are the absolute minimum requirements for
there to be Art?".
It seems to
me that one essential property of Art is that it must be observable. If there is nothing there to experience,
presumably there is no Art there. It needs to be noted that a piece such as John
Cage's composition consisting of a pianist not
playing for a prescribed interval of time does not qualify as "nothing" or
"unobservable": it is the ambient sounds contained in that seeming
"silence" as well as the initiating and terminating actions.
Which brings us to another
essential property: Art must be framed. By
"framed" I mean "made distinct from its environment" or "pointed out". We have
to be able to tell Art from the rest of the world - we need a boundary drawn
between Art and non-Art. It does not have to be sharp, but it needs to be
property of Art is that it must be intentional. Somebody must have intended to make Art
or at least to point it out. Somebody had to say
(actually or figuratively): "this is Art" or perhaps "let it be
Art!". Here we need to note that Art is in the eye (or the ear or any
other sense) of the beholder whether the beholder is its maker or
merely its discoverer.
Finally (?) and perhaps most fundamentally, Art must
possess significance. It must refer,
symbollically, metaphorically or literally, to some real aspect of human
experience in such a way as to give it a particular meaning by relating it to some larger structure.
These four: observability,
distinction from the rest of the world, intentionality and significance seem to
me to be the essential elements of Art, sine qua
non. And what exactly is Art? Why, anything
that possesses these four elemental properties...
08/21/07 (#0049) Shredding
I never liked Isaak Asimov. I met him personally on couple
of occasions: a brilliantly intelligent man, bursting with energy and charisma -
what's not to hate? Recently, being incarcerated in a hospital for a number of
days, I read all six volumes of his "Foundation" series. Absolute
Good read, though,
mostly. Asimov keeps you turning those pages. I think it's his ingenious plots.
It's not the quality of writing (often dreadful, especially the dialogues) or
characterization (shallow and stereotypical) or the ideas (admittedly plenty of
them, culled from a variety of global resources but mostly half-baked).
Asimov is a master plotter, deft enough to make you forget that what you're
reading is at its core nonsense. In the end, unless you're
captivated or blindsided by all the ideas he throws at you (much of
his text is opinionated pontification), there's a sense of lack
of philosophical gravitas, a sense of
mere ingenuity of invention. It's the breadth, not the depth of his mind that
"Foundation" series is outdated. The biggest problem with "hard" science
fiction, even Asimov's, is that it doesn't age well. The world these
days is changing so fast and so unpredictably (Harry Seldon's psychohistory
notwithstanding) that even Asimov could not foresee the immediate
future, never mind twenty thousand years hence. He populates these far future
worlds with mid-twentieth century characters and attitudes (it's an
all male galaxy out there with only an occasional token strong
woman) and mid-twentieth century problems. Expanding them to a galactic
scale doesn't make any real difference. Instead of hopping a train, plane
or a bus, people hop a hyper-spaceship. Instead of traveling from city to city,
they travel from planet to planet. Technologically and sociologically
it's mostly same old same old except for pseudo-futuristic
details. And already old-fashioned from our twenty first century point
of view. (However, the evolution of Gaia/Galaxia - global consciousness - may actually be a possibility).
Anyway, now that I've shredded
Asimov, I feel better.
08/21/07 (#0048) My erotic life
If the Innuit use a dozen or so words for different
kinds of snow, then why, oh why oh why do we use only one virtually meaningless word "love" for so many
vastly different experiences ranging from sexual lust through infatuation,
affection, friendship to deepest caring? Just asking.
My "love" life started
precociously early. I became intensely interested in girls at the age of not
quite four and my interest in the opposite sex has continued unabated to
this day. However, I had a problem. Initially I tried to be friends with girls
around my age but none of them were interested in being my friend. Even after
the onset of puberty, I still sought friendship with girls first and foremost.
Sex, to me, was the apex of intimacy, a manifestation of extreme
emotional closeness and deep caring for each other, something that obviously
took time to achieve. But, no takers.
That was back in wartime Poland, where I spent my childhood
in pleasant solitude - no school, no close friends, no male role models. When I
arrived on this continent and finally went to school, among several major
cultural shocks was the realization that I was absolutely unique in my approach
to girls. The rest of the boys my age were interested in girls mainly as
sex objects and their lusty pursuit of them yielded infinitely greater
success rate than my search for a meaningful relationship (which remained
Well, eventually I
did find a soul mate (via correspondence) and for a few good years it worked,
too. But if sex without love was unthinkable for me, love without
sex turned out not to be a workable proposition either. After a
renaissance (literally) of several more years following the birth of our
daughter, there was no closeness or intimacy left. I resumed my search for
a soul mate with various tragicomical results and finally ended up in a love
relationship based on deep mutual respect. It has lasted twenty years, so
Looking back, I can tell
you: je ne regret rien! It was an
interesting ride with a truly happy ending.
08/20/07 (#0047) What science does not (yet) understand
In "Brave New World" Aldous Huxley envisons a
rationalized human society operated strictly according to scientific
knowledge. It is a cautionary tale which represents only one of countless
possibilities, perhaps not all of them so distopian. The question is, given
as complete knowledge of human nature as science can provide, how do we
apply it? What constitutes a "perfect" human society? One in which everyone is
"happy" (whatever that means)? Where everyone has an ideal body
(whatever that may be) and never gets sick? Where economic and/or
political equality is assured for all? Where everyone is exactly like
everyone else? Where specialized classes are bred to carry out different
Naturally, whatever the
answer, once virtually certain scientific knowledge becomes the basis for
all decisions, any notion of "free will" goes out the window. All behavior is
ruled by rational analysis. Emotions are appropriately controlled and channeled.
Satisfaction is guaranteed. Well, almost. There is
the matter of the inherent incompleteness and imprecision of the scientific
knowledge. There is always room for error and
unpredictability, however small.
The problem is that any answer to the question "what would
the ideal human society be like?" requires assumptions which science cannot test
for truth by observation. The question presupposes knowledge of the purpose of humanity and the word "purpose" is not in
the scientific vocabulary. Without a purpose human life is meaningless (see The
Nutshell #43). In which case, scientifically speaking, it doesn't matter
which of the possible brave new worlds we choose. Any one will do.
Curiously, that is not how the world works. The one thing that science
has not been able to come to terms with is the phenomenon of conscious choice and
intentionality. Or, for that matter, the phenomenon of consciousness
itself. Under the present scientific paradigm, study of consciousness would
require observing the experience of observing in an infinite
regression - a koan-like paradox which science has yet to break
08/19/07 (#0046) Science:
the source of all knowledge?
Yes, this is a rare Sunday edition
of The Nutshell to make up for the recent irregularities due to events beyond
the Editor's control. And what better choice for our Sunday musings than
A very simple (and
inadequate) definition of science is "knowledge about the world of our
experience" ("science" comes from the Latin word "to know"). But what does
it mean "to know" something? When we observe
something we know what we have observed - sort of.
There is the matter of how accurately we have observed, under what
circumstances, and from what point of view. All our observations
are partial and imperfect - we never observe the totality of an
event. Add to that the fact that as soon as the observation has been made it
becomes merely a memory of what actually happened and it becomes obvious
that there is room for error and uncertainty in what we think we know about what we observed.
It is the genius of science to
recognize that all knowledge is incomplete and erroneous to some degree and to
try to assess the magnitude of that error.
As noted in an earlier Nutshell, knowing your error is the beginning
of wisdom and true knowledge. It is the source of the explanatory power of
science - science works only with what can actually be known with high degree of certainty and
with full awareness of what is not known. It
has no agenda other than to discover how the world works, without any
preconceptions. Science never believes its
own explanations - it puts them to test and even after the test is positive does
not consider them "proven" once and for all time but only as provisional
practical "truths" subject to continuing testing and refinement.
The success of science in
achieving remarkable levels of understanding how the world works (and putting
this understanding to practial use) has led to a certain degree of hubris among
some scientists who see science as necessarily the sole source of all human knowledge including the
knowledge of humanity itself and therefore of such things as joy and happiness
and how they may be achieved for one and all. In other words, some scientists
see science as leading to the knowledge of good
and evil and to the ability to deal with them
Can this be so?
Tune in tomorrow.
08/16/07 (#0045) Mirror for the soul
By my definition, wealth is having
the time and the money to freely experience the things and activities you love,
shared with the people you love, any time and place that you choose.It's a
fascinating concept to consider, because it can shine a bright light on those
things that one considers important in the physical world. My definition of
wealth does not consider happiness, which I consider to be completely different
and linked to spirituality and well-being, not to resources (time & money) -Mike
that besides requiring leisure (time) and adequate income your
defintion also implies well-being. And it involves love which surely links
it to "spirituality" (i.e. the irrational intangible values which nevertheless
we hold as being of ultimate importance). Sounds like happiness to me... -
Millions, more likely billions of people daily ask God (or
gods) for special personal favors, most of them conflicting. Far fewer pause to
express gratitude and appreciation for the joys of being. Then there is a
goodly number who simply seek guidance, inspiration or understanding.
And a smaller number who wish to express their regret for what they see as
wrongful actions. These, as far as I can discern, are the four main
categories of prayer: petition, appreciation (thanksgiving, praise), seeking and
contrition. There are other minor varieties, some of which freak me out,
e.g. prayer as punishment.
Even though most petitioning prayers are unreflectively
selfish and therefore of no consequence, this type of prayer does have a valid
raison d'etre. It's proper function is to focus
attention on our real needs and
desires - to recognize them, to come to terms with them and, so
far as possible, to do something about them (God, it is said, helps
those who help themselves). Prayers of appreciation keep us mindful of
the fundamental goodness of conscious being. Seeking prayers are meditations on
the present situation and the appropriate action under the circumstances.
And prayers of contrition lead us to recognize our failures and weaknesses
and motivate corrective action.
In every case, prayer is a matter of serious introspection,
of facing ourselves, to the extent that we can, as we really are. Even
prayers for others are reflections on our personal relationships with those
others and on the reasons for what we desire for them. If I were a poet,
and if I accepted the conventional notion of the "soul", I'd say that
prayer is a mirror for the soul.
That said, I am not prepared, in my ignorance, to declare
that power of prayer lies solely in self-reflective reality checking. When we
look in that mirror, who knows what else we may glimpse besides our
selves? Who knows what shifts in probabilities of possible futures our
clear intentionality may effect? Who knows how the world really works? Not I.
08/15/07 (#0044) Wealth and
I consider myself a wealthy man. It's not just a matter of
opinion - concrete facts testify to my wealth: I lack nothing in way of
basic needs for comfortable and pleasant living, I have virtually unlimited
resources for entertainment and learning, and I can pretty much do anything I
really want to do. Add to that the fact that I don't have to work at all to
maintain my princely existence and my wealth is beyond dispute.
And yet, according to the
government statistics, my annual income falls into borderline poverty
level. At least by the standards of the United States of America where a great
majority are blessed - or cursed - with incomes far greater than mine. Yet
many of these people do not consider themselves wealthy. Many are struggling to
make ends meet. And some are downright miserable.
As Mr. Micawber noted long
ago, happiness is spending one penny less than one's income, misery is
spending one penny more. But there's more to it: it's a matter of being
satisfied or dissatisfied with what one already has. If one measures one's worth
by one's income one can not be satisfied until one has reached
the highest possible level. Under this paradigm, a sense of wealth is, in fact,
an ultimately unattainable objective, regardless of income.
However, if wealth is
measured according to one's capacity for enjoyment of life, income becomes
a tool rather than an objective. To some extent
the ability to enjoy life is contingent on income, but it does not
necessarily increase proportionately with income. It may even decline as
income increases. On the other hand, it is possible to achieve a high degree of
enjoyment of life on a relatively small income, depending on one's
openness to opportunities for enjoyment, sense of proportion, and good
management of one's assets.
for me, I have no idea whether I am enjoying life to the max nor am I
particularly concerned about it. I know I am
enjoying it. And my income taxes are minimal and that's enjoyable
08/14/07 (#0043) Choosing to believe
That faith is necessary to make life meaningful is a given.
The only matter for dispute is whether or not it is necessary that life be
meaningful. Necessary or not, it seems to me that it is desirable that life be meaningful - simply on the
historical evidence that meaningful lives tend to
be more satisfactory (joyful) than meaningless ones.
Faith is the acceptance as true
of a declaration of a purpose for one's life. The purpose is
what gives a life its direction and shape. It provides a framework for all of
life's relationships and a way of distinguishing between "good" and
"bad" so that the answer to the question "what is a good life?" can
actually be attempted. It makes judgement and grace possible. And satisfaction
with a job well done.
purpose of life may be, beyond mere survival for its own sake, is something that
we need to determine for ourselves - we are not born with that
knowledge. There are guides: the culture we are raised in with its historical
experience and its myths and traditions, our own immediate experience with
our capacity for rational analysis, and the teachings of the most brilliant
and penetrating minds who have lived among us so far. And then there is the
matter of direct revelation from the Ground of All Being - which I consider to
be an inevitable fact of conscious life but one which is almost universally
obscured, distorted and muffled - and sometimes permanently destroyed -
by cultural influences, misinterpretation of experience and
misunderstanding of teaching. It is that ineffable universal something which we
usually call "humanity" when speaking of the positive value of being
human. It's in our nature, a direct sense of what the purpose of our life ought
to be. It's there if we stop and listen. We only need to choose to