Category: Meaning of Life

Early Racism

| October 21, 2014 | Reply
Early Racism

They were marched into the classroom, single file, and lined up along the blackboard to face the roomful of white faces. It would be sheerest invention to say I remember everything about that day. The only things I recall had to do with questions about how my own situation was about to change.

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Poem: The Joyride of Becoming

| October 7, 2014 | 2 Replies

I rarely write poetry, but I’m finding myself in new territory these days (divorce, new home and several other related changes), feeling some angst when it would seem that I mostly have cause to celebrate new perspectives and opportunities.  I’ve often joked that I experience this sort of distressed happiness because of my gypsy roots.  Friends tell me that this is the plight of control freaks and that I need to loosen up. This is my response to them.

I’ve long been fascinated with the writings of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. I made his theory of the flux the focus of my poem.

The Joyride of Becoming
Erich Vieth (2014)

Heraclitus wasn’t fooled when people talked about
“permanent” things.
All is flux, he proclaimed.
“You cannot step into the same river twice.”

Now that Life has hurled me out of my self-conjured comfort,
Every moment whispers that Heraclitus is correct;
the world is permeated with universal acid.
This is not a philosopher’s word game.
I feel it in my ever-morphing bones.

Everything.
Every thing is
a nonstop dance of destruction and creation.
Every cloud, creature and canyon a ghostly multiverse,
a sprawling swirling that runs through our feeble stop signs,
ignoring these empty-shell words we try to use as hooks
to stabilize our vivid imaginings.
Even my steadfast dog threatens to become an ontological metaphor.

The SuperFlux gives rise to joys that will inevitably threaten
and dangers that will someday delight–
A roiling process that moves in and on in a thousand ways
On both sides of our skins and skulls,
whether we are ready or not.
Failure to heed this fact that all nouns are verbs
tempts us to walk
with undue swagger
and blurt out false promises.

Yes, some things change less noticeably, mostly
things that don’t cry,
though all things eventually crack, crumble
and re-assimilate.

It is our friends, lovers
and central truths that are
the fastest fire and water:
Even though they look the same from day to day, they are
self-extinguishing works in progress
that we struggle to know
only through sparks and splatters.
Trying to possess them is to try to embrace
dancing flames and swift whirlpools.

Act, we must. Judge, we must,
or we would quickly die.
We are told that to live well
we must know well,
though we are irretrievably smeared
across all that is.
Even that magic three-pound organ in our head
cannot wrap itself around the impossibility of this daily task.
Taking this plight seriously risks
sanity.
If only I could better convince myself
to go with the flow.

As we pause to drink water molecules previously drunk
by Jesus, Cleopatra and Heraclitus, we become
Fatigued.
We summon up courage as a substitute for knowledge
and we have faith that all Motion is Progress,
whistling while rearranging our decaying deck chairs,
convincing ourselves
over and over
that it is the Blobs in this lava lamp that are stably
meaningful,
rather than the process.

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Running from the Grim Reaper

| August 11, 2014 | Reply
Running from the Grim Reaper

I’m starting to run for exercise, but I couldn’t find a watch. My old watches have dead batteries because I’ve long used my phone to know the time. Except . . . I DO have one working watch, but it is highly specialized. It is my new Tikker existential watch.

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The tortured history of the Senate’s report on U.S. torture

| August 5, 2014 | Reply

Propublica has published this astonishing history of the Senate’s attempt to not get to the truth.

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Stroll down the highway . . .

| June 5, 2014 | 5 Replies

Almost a nightmare tonight. I flew into St. Louis at 11:30 pm, and I was tired. I found my car at the airport and was driving about 60 mpg in the center lane of Hwy 70 toward downtown. Coming around a curve in the highway I though I saw something, and a split second later I DID see that it a man slowly walking across my lane. He was wearing a dark red top and black pants. I gave the wheel a slight nudge to the left, but not a hard tug for fear of rolling the car over. I ended up on the left side of my center lane, and missed hitting the man by less than a foot. There was no time to hit the brakes. He was not looking toward me when I almost hit him. I don’t know whether he was drunk or mentally ill. I found myself shaken up, and thanking my stars for both him and me. A couple minutes later, I thought of calling the police, but the man would have made it across the highway, or not, by then. You just don’t expect to see a person walking on a dark superhighway at night, so when I first thought I saw him, I couldn’t immediately process that it could be a person. looking back, I now see that I made an almost unconscious decision that I would not flip my car (probably a suicidal maneuver) in order to save this man. It’s a disturbing thought, made only a bit less disturbing by the fact that the entire episode lasted 2 seconds, making it impossible for me to think things through in real time.

And now, back home, I once again remind myself that an avoided tragedy is a great gift. What happened is the equivalent of me striking and killing a man on the highway, and then a magic genie coming along and using magic to undo the damage. I came so close to striking the man that it almost seems like I DID strike him . . .

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Deepak Chopra nonsense generator

| May 26, 2014 | Reply

This nonsensical Deepak Chopra quote generator will make as much sense as many of the quotes of Chopra himself. And yet you won’t wince when you read these because you’ll know that they are supposed to be random strings of words.

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Sam Harris intends to reclaim the use of the word “spiritual”

| April 5, 2014 | Reply

Sam Harris will soon be writing a book to argue for a legitimate secular use of the word “spiritual.” In this article, he points out that many atheists have used the term, pointing out some distinctions along the way.

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Lee Camp defends sheep, hammers people who fall in line

| April 4, 2014 | Reply

As Lee Camp says, the sheep have good excuses for falling in line. People allow TV commercials tell them how to live their lives. It’s not that the commercials directly tell you what to do, but that when you think that you need to buy things you don’t need, you have committed yourself to a series of bad choices, often including a job you work for the money only.

http://leecamp.net/moc-295-you-dont-even-know-youre-being-manipulated/

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La Crosse, Wisconsin: the town that is willing to talk about death

| March 27, 2014 | Reply

Excellent story by NPR. It’s a long way from the Republican scare stories about “death panels”:

People in La Crosse, Wisconsin are used to talking about death. In fact, 96 percent of people who die in this small, Midwestern city have specific directions laid out for when they pass. That number is astounding. Nationwide, it’s more like 50 percent.

In today’s episode, we’ll take you to a place where dying has become acceptable dinner conversation for teenagers and senior citizens alike. A place that also happens to have the lowest healthcare spending of any region in the country.

This piece reminds me that one of the main problems with the United States is that we cannot have meaningful conversations. This is refreshingly different. And important: One-quarter of health care spending occurs in the last year of life.

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