HELOISE AND ABELARD, LOVE’S REQUITAL, FEMINISM AND RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY IN THE MIDDLE AGE, SCHOLARLY CHAUVINISM, AND CONTEMPORARY VIEWS, ON HELOISE LOVE LETTERS.

Abelard and his Pupil Heloise (1882) by Edmund Blair Leighton

 

I would not want to give you cause for finding me disobedient in anything, so I have set the bridle of your injunction on the words which issue from my unbounded grief; thus in writing at least I may moderate what it is difficult or rather impossible to forestall in speech. For nothing is less under our control than our heart – having no power to command it we are forced to obey. And so when its impulses move us, none of us can stop their sudden promptings from easily breaking out, and even more easily overflowing into words which are the everready indications of the heart’s emotions: as it is written, ‘A man’s words are spoken from the overflowing of the heart.’ I will therefore hold my hand from writing words which I cannot restrain my tongue from speaking; would that a grieving heart would be as ready to obey as a writer’s hand!

Heloise on the Third Letter to Abelard.

‘Heloise and Abelard’ is one of history’s most passionate and romantic true love stories. The nine hundred year old love affair of the 12th century philosopher and theologian and his student Heloise continues to inspire and move us. Their passionate relationship scandalized the community in which they lived. The details of their physical and spiritual intimacy is also a cautionary tale for our time.

There are still societies whose policies result in rigid attitudes of intellectual, theological and sexual repression. This great love story, and the courage and passion of its protagonists, has much to teach us about our own understanding of religious tolerance, sexual equality and intellectual freedom.

Heloise and Abelard

Here is an admonitory tale screaming to us from across the centuries to reason, and to question, question, question!

In twelfth century Paris, the intellectually gifted young Heloise, the niece of Notre Dame’s Canon Fulbert, strives for knowledge, truth and the answer to the question of human existence. It soon becomes apparent that only one teacher in Paris can provide the education that she seeks. Though twenty years her senior, Abelard quickly becomes intrigued by Heloise’s uncommon wit and intelligence, for Heloise is on par intellectually with Abelard.

They soon find themselves so entwined that neither can resist the spiritual and physical desires of their bodies, yet they both know that the laws of the time forbid such a relationship. But their physical love and the strength of their passion proved to be a power impossible to resist.

When Heloise becomes pregnant, they realize it is not safe for her to remain in Paris. They flee for Brittany, Abelard’s place of birth. In a scheme to protect the dignity of his fallen niece, and return Heloise to his home, Canon Fulbert arranges a secret marriage between Heloise and Abelard. But shortly after the two lovers are wed, they discover Fulbert’s true plot is to ruin Abelard and keep Heloise for himself. For her safety, Heloise escapes to the convent at Argenteuil, but it is too late for Abelard and he is brutally attacked in Paris.

As a result of his humiliating punishment, Abelard no longer considers himself capable of continuing as a teacher at Notre Dame, and he and Heloise understand what they must do. Canon Bedell pleads with Abelard to not force such a fate upon Heloise, but both Heloise and Abelard agree that they must take Holy Orders as Monk and Nun. In a heartbreaking moment, Heloise must give up her child, knowing that she will never see him again.

Through their famous correspondence of twenty years, their love continues to flourish, in spite of their separation. After many years pass, in a chance meeting, Heloise and Abelard are briefly reunited at a ceremony in Paris. Though they have been physically apart all these years, at last in the sight of the other, the former lovers realize that the love they share is the reason for human existence. As the glorious ceremony begins, they triumphantly promise to remain “Forever One”.

They never met again, yet through their famous letters, their love endures.

“You know, beloved, as the whole world knows, how much I have lost in you, how at one wretched stroke of fortune that supreme act of flagrant treachery robbed me of my very self in robbing me of you; and how my sorrow for my loss is nothing compared with what I feel for the manner in which I lost you.”

Six hundred years later, it was Josephine Bonaparte, so moved by their story, the she ordered that the remains of Abelard and Heloise be entombed together at Pére Lachaise cemetery in Paris. To this day, lovers from all over the world visit the tomb where the remains of Heloise and Abelard rest eternally together.’

Abelard and Heloise monument in Pere Lachaise cemetery

Historica Calamitatum

Now the above story, it’s a simplified versions, somewhat sweetened of the real struggle, on a Men dominated society, common, not only to Heloise, but of injustice for  many women through the annals of History.

Heloise (1101-1164) was the niece and pride of Canon Fulbert. She was well-educated by her uncle in Paris. Abelard later writes in his autobiographical “Historica Calamitatum”: “Her uncle’s love for her was equaled only by his desire that she should have the best education which he could possibly procure for her. Of no mean beauty, she stood out above all by reason of her abundant knowledge of letters.”

John Marenbon, in his book on Abelard, has two chapters in which he deals with Heloise’s contribution to his ethics. The first of the two chapters is about dismissing claims that Heloise did not write her own letters. That, in itself, is telling. Take any woman philosopher who is not actually around to fight her ground, and chances are, someone will argue that she did not author her own work. Marenbon’s defense is spirited and convincing, but it does not go far towards building up an account of what Heloise might have had to contribute to the philosophy of her age. The second of the two chapters does a little better, as it claims that Abelard’s later account of Caritas as unconditional love of God was influenced by Heloise’s description of her love for Abelard. She, was, Marenbon said, a writer he had to take seriously, and this is reflected in his revisions of his own ethical thought.

Heloïse_et_d'Abélard

‘Many commentators dealing with the question of Heloise’s tumultuous “inner life” as an abbess have focused primarily on Heloise’s refusal to relinquish her sexual desires for Abelard. In these cases, her desire has been construed as a form of subversion and transgression, thus relegating her to the position of the unruly female who must accept the “bridle of the [monastic] injunction.” Instead of being used as a heuristic for dialogue, it places the female subject into a position that must be controlled and subjugated. Rather than desire being an agent of actualization for the female subject, it shuts down avenues for negotiations of subjectivity. Furthermore, the inordinate focus on Heloise as a romantic heroine obscures the fact that she is also acutely anguished by the uncertainty of her heavenly reward. Despite claiming that she has done everything for the love of Abelard, Heloise still expresses her anxiety about her spiritual salvation. She believes that in her struggle against her own body and subjectivity, God will grant her a little “corner of heaven.” Thus, Heloise’s sudden redirection in the third letter should be approached for what it simply is, as a well-calculated rhetorical move on her part, for she knows that Abelard will not confront the question of her continued desire directly. Heloise starts afresh on another subject which she knows he would be more amenable to discuss, the management of the Oratory of the Paraclete. As such, though Heloise’s third letter to Abelard is submerged in mundane theological concerns, Robert Edwards argues that the third letter of Heloise continues an ongoing struggle and negotiation of and for desire. Desire here, however, is not only the overtly passionate eroticism that suffuses Heloise’s first two letters to Abelard, but desire in the broader sense, encompassing her own longing to attain intellectual communion with him. Prior to this letter, Heloise has already been sending a deluge of complaints to Abelard. She demands remuneration for the infinite debt he supposedly owes her; she pesters him to address her old perpetual complaint against God; she demands consolation for her emotional distress. In a sense, Heloise is seeking recognition from Abelard, asking him to realize that he has left her mired in their past, that he has forgotten about her after his castration. Abelard’s conversion is a continued source of anxiety and despair for Heloise, as she can no longer request the same sort of idealized engagement with him she so treasured from their past. Her dilemma arises from a desire explicitly forbidden by traditional monastic profession: a desire to let her past shape and influence her present and future religious life and a desire to construct a new order that would allow her to continue upholding her cherished notions of secular love.

Ancient Home of Heloise

And what a love it was. Until recently, we could read it directly only in eight letters discovered in the 13th century and composed long after the lovers’ entry into monastic life. The first, from Abelard, isn’t even directed to Heloise. Written for an unnamed monk, it’s what a medieval reader would have called a “letter of consolation,” meant to comfort a troubled friend by convincing him that your problems are greater than his. This early variant of schadenfreude, the so-called “Historia Calamitatum,” is how we learn of Abelard’s first arrival in Paris, of his growing renown as a teacher and his encounter with the well-educated young Heloise. Here too we learn of Abelard’s rash decision to move into her uncle Fulbert’s home and become her tutor, of their love and her pregnancy, of Fulbert’s rage, Abelard’s attempt to pacify him by proposing marriage and Heloise’s resistance — at least in part because of the damage it would do to her lover’s reputation. We learn that Abelard prevailed over his pupil, that the wedding was initially kept secret and that Fulbert ordered a terrible act of vengeance. Days after thugs broke into Abelard’s bedroom at night and castrated him, the newlyweds took vows of celibacy and repaired to their respective religious institutions.

The letters written after the “Historia Calamitatum” are the richest, containing the rash, ringing, reckless and altogether impious declarations of love for which Heloise will always be known. Here is a voice that refuses to stay in the Middle Ages; it reaches through the centuries and catches us at the throat. “Men call me chaste,” she writes. “They do not know the hypocrite I am.” Even during the celebration of Mass, she confesses, “lewd visions” of the pleasures she shared with Abelard “take such a hold upon my unhappy soul that my thoughts are on their wantonness instead of on prayers. I should be groaning over the sins I have committed, but I can only sigh for what I have lost.” She asserts the primacy of desire, boldly professing the amorous, sacrilegious motives that drove her into the convent: “It was not any sense of vocation which brought me as a young girl to accept the austerities of the cloister, but your bidding alone. . . . I can expect no reward for this from God, for it is certain that I have done nothing as yet for love of him. . . . I would have had no hesitation, God knows, in following you or going ahead at your bidding to the flames of hell.” Her bravado, her defiance, her ruthless honesty and her apotheosis of eros over morality are everywhere apparent — and still today they are shocking.

Heloise and Abelard at the Paraclete

Love is Heloise’s religion, even when she’s wrapped in the robes of a nun. And in the practice of this religion, she is as uncompromising as she is unconventional. For her, love has no business with the law or money or social safety nets. It is for this reason, more than any other, that she opposes Abelard’s desire to wed: “I never sought anything in you except yourself. . . . I looked for no marriage bond.” Indeed, she proclaims,”if Augustus, emperor of the whole world, saw fit to honor me with marriage and conferred all the earth on me to possess forever, it would be dearer and more honorable to me to be called not his empress, but your whore.”

The dust will not settle on such words. At once intrepid and idealistic, transgressive and submissive, taboo-busting and sweet-natured, noble and naughty, they have seduced scholars for centuries. This woman, this prioress, who was prepared to sacrifice not just earthly reputation but heavenly salvation for the sake of her secular love, is a literary original. Petrarch couldn’t read her without scribbling exclamations in the margins; the three letters to Abelard that have come down to us from her monastic confinement have sufficed to make her name as a writer.

Only recently — and miraculously — has a new cache of material turned up, fragments of 113 letters that many scholars believe Abelard and Heloise exchanged before Abelard’s castration. Copied in the 15th century by a monk named Johannes de Vespria, discovered in 1980 by Constant J. Mews and finally published as “The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard,” these short but eloquent missives present two people vying — with no coyness or gender typecasting whatever — to outdo each other in expressions of adoration. “To a reddening rose under the spotless whiteness of lilies,” the woman addresses the man. “To his jewel, more pleasing and more splendid than the present light,” the man addresses the woman. The letters have unleashed a new storm of interest in the couple; it is to this that we owe the British filmmaker James Burge’s biography, “Abelard and Heloise.”

Burge spends much time glossing the new correspondence — unfortunately, trivializing rather than illuminating it. “This sounds to modern ears like a promise of sex,” he tells us at one point, then rushes to explain: “The question of when exactly they first consummated their love awaits more assiduous scholarship.” Given that scholars are still arguing about Heloise’s birth date (she’s been put between 15 and 27 years of age at the time of her encounter with Abelard, who would have been in his late 30’s), you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for this golden factoid. But what’s really missing in Burge’s biography is an ear for the lyricism of his subjects’ correspondence, a feel for the mystery of their bond.

Kauffman_Angelica--Parting_of_Abelard_and_Heloise

Antoine Audouard’s novel “Farewell, My Only One” doesn’t draw explicitly on the new letters, but it’s substantially truer to their spirit. It also has an ingenious narrative scheme: the story is told from the point of view of a wandering student, William, who falls in love with Heloise at the same time that he becomes Abelard’s disciple. When he has outlived both, at the end of the tale, we discover an even closer connection.

Audouard, a former director of the French publisher Laffont-Fixot, evokes in gritty and poetic detail the streets of 12th-century Paris (where the narrator tells us he “stumbled over a pig”). He’s also very good at conveying the process of infatuation: William falls for Heloise when she loses consciousness in a crowd: “I am not strong. I have never carried a woman,” he marvels. And yet he does, and even lunges after the flower that has fallen from her hair. “A few crushed petals” are all that remain, though, when he opens his “clenched fist” — a foretaste of what happens when we grasp what we love too firmly.

But Audouard spends too much time alone with William — building churches, cleaning grates, making friends — and we resent being taken away from the lovers. Then again, anyone writing about Abelard and Heloise must compete with their own eloquence. The early letters are so clear and beautiful they can be read alone, without anachronistic glossing or fictional superstructures. Like the later letters — recently reprinted in a volume edited by the British medievalist and Abelard biographer Michael Clanchy — they glow. Together they preserve the myth of a shining couple, persecuted by authority and hounded by circumstance but true to each other, ready for all sacrifice, passionate even to the grave.

Heloise-and-Abelard-Stealing-Heaven-Film

It’s a potent myth and a necessary one — but it is a myth. The reality of Abelard and Heloise’s story may be no less moving, but it’s less than perfect. You could argue, first off, that their relationship was already on the decline by the time Abelard was castrated. And that Fulbert’s vengeance was taken because Abelard was insufficiently, rather than excessively, close to his niece. Heloise already lived in a convent at the time of Abelard’s mutilation — not as a nun, but nevertheless under the protection of the nuns. Ostensibly this was a tactic to preserve the secrecy of their marriage; to Fulbert, however, it may have suggested that Abelard was planning to get rid of his wife. Is this what it meant to her? The arrangement, in any case, was neither ideal nor particularly gallant, and Abelard’s visits were decreasing in frequency: “You sadden my spirit,” Heloise writes in the last of her early letters.

Is it possible that Fulbert’s crime saved rather than sank the lovers’ passion? That by turning Abelard into a romantic martyr at the very moment his interest was flagging, Fulbert reinvigorated Heloise’s loyalty and gave Abelard an excuse to ignore her without blame?

This is, in fact, what he did for the next 12 years. It wasn’t until Heloise had become abbess of her own convent and stumbled upon his “Historia Calamitatum” that she was able to draw Abelard back into communication with her. And even then religion had changed him; the passion and warmth of the early letters had fled.

Heloise and Abelard Letters

In the later letters, Abélard has become pious and self-centered. When Heloise entreats him to take pity on her loneliness, he sends her a set of prayers to say for him. When she serenades their love, he moans about the trouble he’s having with the other monks at his abbey. Never an easy man to get on with, he has made blood enemies of men whose well-being he is supposed to preserve: they are, he assures Heloise, relentlessly trying to poison him. Therefore the refrain, “Pray for me.”

It is Heloise’s tact and generosity that allow the dialogue to continue and even attain exemplary dimensions. Seeing that her beloved is no longer capable of the language of passion, she smothers her love song (“the loss,” as Burge states, “is history’s”) and addresses him on the only terms he still knows and values. Like the star student she once was, she begins to quiz him on every biblical, monastic and moral question she can think of. In doing so, she inspires much of the most valuable — and satisfying — work of Abelard’s life. Disdained by his own monks as well as by the Vatican (he was twice condemned for heresy), he found an enthusiastic audience in Heloise and her nuns. It is for Heloise that he undertakes what one scholar has called “the most substantial writings of the 12th century on women’s place in Christianity”; it is for Heloise that he writes countless sermons, hymns and disquisitions on spiritual themes. Heloise’s convent becomes, in some sense, the couple’s joint project, their spiritual child. Their cooperation struck onlookers as a dazzling example of friendship between a man and a woman.

Site of Heloise Paraclete

If Heloise didn’t get what she most wanted from Abelard, she got the very best he had to give. His reflections, his confidences and his final, all-important confession were addressed to her; his most urgent worldly plea was to be buried where she would be near him. Is their story a fraud because Abelard, as Mews has written, was “tagging along behind” Heloise in matters of the heart?

The love stories that touch us most deeply are punctuated by human frailty. Look at them up close and you see the fault lines, compromises and anticlimaxes. At the beginning of Shakespeare’s play, Romeo is just as intemperately in love with a girl called Rosaline as he is later with Juliet. Tristan and Isolde’s passion could well be the fruit of substance abuse, of a love potion they drank unknowingly. And Abélard and Heloise? They weren’t equally strong or passionate or generous. Still, they put their frailties together and begat a perfect myth, as well as something perhaps even more precious — a surprising, splendid, fractured reality. “There is a crack,” the Leonard Cohen lyric goes, “a crack in everything: that’s how the light gets in.”

A Light Comes Through

The Problemata Heloissae, And My Motivation

In all honesty my original intention was to focus on Heloise’s as:

Problemata Heloissae (The “Questions” of Heloise): Prefatory Letter, Heloise to Abelard.

The letter introduces 42 questions (the “Problemata”) that have arisen from the daily biblical readings Heloise and her nuns do. The questions involve issues of sin and judgment, intention versus action, law and punishment, damnation and repentance, as well as contradictions or odd references in the Bible. Heloise does not hesitate to draw an analogy between herself and Marcella, Jerome’s celebrated and very learned colleague and correspondent.

However I understood that focusing on such letters the main story would be lost and that it’s Heloise main love’s requital to Abelard, so the Theological letters would be of no interest to most readers anyway, the real story is told above.

Too much had been said about the couple to add new insights into their story, so I just put together from several sources what I thought would be interesting to the readers if unfamiliar with the story.

Also I would like to remind to our readers how different the times in the Middle Ages were compared to our contemporary values, Religion was, how we should say? No a fact of Life, but ‘the major fact of Life’ that took precedence over anything else.

Books Discussed in This Essay

 

SHARON JANE GO SHUA A Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Letters of Georgetown University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in English

HELOISE AND ABELARD A New Biography. By James Burge. HarperSanFrancisco,

FAREWELL, MY ONLY ONE By Antoine Audouard. Translated by Euan Cameron. Houghton Mifflin,

ABELARD AND HELOISE By Constant J. Mews. Oxford University, cloth, $74; paper,

THE LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE Translated With an Introduction and Notes by Betty Radice. Revised by M. T. Clanchy. Penguin, paper,

THE LOST LETTERS OF HELOISE AND ABELARD Perceptions of Dialogue in Twelfth-Century France. By Constant J. Mews. With Translations by Neville Chiavaroli and Constant J. Mews. Palgrave Macmillan.

Cristina Nehring Eloise and Abelard: Love Hurts. writes regularly for The Atlantic. She is the author of the forthcoming “Women in Love From Simone de Beauvoir to Sylvia Plath: A Feminist Defense of Romance.”

Abelard and heloise pere lachaise

 

 

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ON LEARNING, AND TEACHING, THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EASTERN WAYS, TO OUR WESTERN APPROACH.

Seating Seiza Style

Seiza (正座 or 正坐, literally “proper sitting”) is the Japanese term for one of the traditional formal ways of sitting in Japan.

Zanshin is a concept found in Zen, Budo (Japanese martial arts), particularly Kendo, and in many Japanese arts, such as Ikebana (flower arrangement), chado (the tea ceremony) and sumi-e (ink painting).

Mushin is the essence of Zen and Japanese martial arts. Mushin literally means the “mind without mind”, and it is commonly called “the state of no-mindedness”.

Fudoshin is the ‘immovable mind’, that is, the mind that has met all challenges of life, and has attained a state of complete composure and fearlessness. This state of equanimity is essential in the practice of Zazen and Budo.

Satori. As opposed to what many people think, Buddhist Enlightenment is not a special state of mind. It is simply a return to the original, natural condition of the human mind.

Za-Zen

 

On Learning, Acquire VS Emptying Yourself

You want to be baffle, and challenged as a Westerner? All you got to do it’s try to learn the Eastern Ways!

Culturally  we are programmed differently, each specific country has its ways, particular to the idiosyncrasy of the place, we generally in the West have similar methods, with subtle variances due to the prevalent character in the country you may live, and now with Globalization, pretty much Teaching its being standardized all over, not only in the West, but on the East as well.

However I know for a fact, that True Teaching in the East will never change, and if it ever does, great loss will be the result.

On the West our culture relays on acquisition, you gain knowledge by studying, and reading books, a common problem in the West it’s the student the more aware he is, the more questions he have, nothing wrong with that, but usually he expects an answer from the Teacher, and it should be a rational answer which should satisfy his mind.

On the East the student is taught to listen, rather than to make questions, in general a student attitude it’s more passive, but only in appearance, the fact is he/she has to be more attentive, and try not to lose details, and mimic even if he has not fully understood what he is taught, now do not think the Teacher doesn’t know that, however he knows that by repetition, the student finally will get it, and not only intellectually but in practice, something sometimes lost on our education, where it’s common to graduate from school with a lot of theoretical knowledge, just to be confronted at work by the often heard phrase: ‘Well, someone must have taught you that way at school, but around here you do things our way!’

The way we do things here.

When a student at an Eastern Way Dojo the first thing I learned was to be quiet and do not raise my hand and make stupid questions, if I didn’t want to provoke the teacher’s anger. Now in our culture questioning constantly it’s an easy way to get answers, and save us the problem of figuring things by ourselves.

The Problem With Asking

Many times now day, I am confronted by what I consider silly questions, in our permissive society it’s alright to do silly questions, since there is not a thing as a silly question, to the one who doesn’t know, according to our lore, but my past experience makes me know it’s a cultural custom, and not a good one, but instead of answering what the student believe he is trying to figure out, I rather give an answer that address the whole problem, rather than the details, in other words try to go ahead and give the student what he really needs to know,  rather what he thinks he should learn. If you think this is arrogance, or wrong on my part, my question to you is: Well who is the Teacher here, if you know the answer why do you ask? But if you don’t, please pay attention to what I am saying, or you will lose, because what I am saying it’s more important than your question. Why bother to go to the one who has the answers, and try to impose on him the answers you want to hear? Some students make the habit of arguing with the Teacher, and we may consider that good. Well as I said it’s a cultural habit not necessarily a good one, like having an opinion on matters we don’t really know that well.

We even have a well known ugly saying for that: Everybody has an opinion as everybody has an …….!

In a way, culturally  we are predispose to make a question without giving it too much thought, and ask questions constantly, when if only you will pay attention properly,  or studying the subject at home, really would not be necessary, making a lot of question at class it’s no real substitute for serious reading, and practice.

I never got really good at Math, and now I realize why? First the subject never interested me, second if I didn’t understood, never made an effort to consult my book, or a fellow student who did, and third, I never really practiced  to master all those equations, what I did not learnt on the spot listening to the Teacher, didn’t care to make up for, consequently never got good grades on Math, I was a math slacker!

Asking questions the Proper Way

A Western Teacher Experience on the Value of Struggle

In 1979, when Jim Stigler was still a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he went to Japan to research teaching methods and found himself sitting in the back row of a crowded fourth-grade math class.

“The teacher was trying to teach the class how to draw three-dimensional cubes on paper,” Stigler explains, “and one kid was just totally having trouble with it. His cube looked all cockeyed, so the teacher said to him, ‘Why don’t you go put yours on the board?’ So right there I thought, ‘That’s interesting! He took the one who can’t do it and told him to go and put it on the board.’ “

Stigler knew that in American classrooms, it was usually the best kid in the class who was invited to the board. And so he watched with interest as the Japanese student dutifully came to the board and started drawing, but still couldn’t complete the cube. Every few minutes, the teacher would ask the rest of the class whether the kid had gotten it right, and the class would look up from their work, and shake their heads no. And as the period progressed, Stigler noticed that he — Stigler — was getting more and more anxious.

“I realized that I was sitting there starting to perspire,” he says, “because I was really empathizing with this kid. I thought, ‘This kid is going to break into tears!’ “

Struggle

But the kid didn’t break into tears. Stigler says the child continued to draw his cube with equanimity. “And at the end of the class, he did make his cube look right! And the teacher said to the class, ‘How does that look, class?’ And they all looked up and said, ‘He did it!’ And they broke into applause.” The kid smiled a huge smile and sat down, clearly proud of himself.

Stigler is now a professor of psychology at UCLA who studies teaching and learning around the world, and he says it was this small experience that first got him thinking about how differently East and West approach the experience of intellectual struggle.

“I think that from very early ages we [in America] see struggle as an indicator that you’re just not very smart,” Stigler says. “It’s a sign of low ability — people who are smart don’t struggle, they just naturally get it, that’s our folk theory. Whereas in Asian cultures they tend to see struggle more as an opportunity.”

No janitors needed

In Eastern cultures, Stigler says, it’s just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process. Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle.

“They’ve taught them that suffering can be a good thing,” Stigler says. “I mean it sounds bad, but I think that’s what they’ve taught them.”

Granting that there is a lot of cultural diversity within East and West and it’s possible to point to counterexamples in each, Stigler still sums up the difference this way: For the most part in American culture, intellectual struggle in schoolchildren is seen as an indicator of weakness, while in Eastern cultures it is not only tolerated but is often used to measure emotional strength.

It’s a small difference in approach that Stigler believes has some very big implications.

Struggle!

 

Stigler is not the first psychologist to notice the difference in how East and West approach the experience of intellectual struggle.

We on the West focus on being smart, clever, meanwhile in the East focus more on hard work, and the challenge of trying to go beyond our limitations, in other words, the teaching resembles more a Dojo attitude like in Martial Arts, you go there to train hard, despite your lack of ability, or skills, hard effort, constant practice makes the miracle of achieving good technique, the habit of practice and hard work it’s imbued on you, like a second nature, and you learn that if there is no pain, there is no gain.

This in turn build confidence, and self assurance, and what’s more teach you the valuable lesson that constant struggle it’s the key to success.

Ironically, my general experience was that; the more natural skills the student had the less persevering he seemed to be, some quitting and giving up the practice, moving to other things, those who lacked natural abilities, but went on fighting their clumsiness, persevering without giving up went to achieve a remarkable transformation, and a formidable inner strength, lacking on those who left.

Soji-cleaning-dojo

In the West we have the Armed forces, who rely on hard struggle and practice to achieve it’s goals, however our general perception it is:

‘Yes, the military is only for losers and garbage people. The people that join are too stupid to succeed anywhere else. Many people go on with their lives after high school to make 6 and 7 digit salaries while most of those in the service could not even succeed at selling Amway or generic perfume in parking lots! The military, like prison is nothing more than a dumpster for incompetent and non-motivated people. The military is nothing more than a government run day care center and it’s so called benefits are no different than welfare.’

It may be some truth that the people with less resources, and education go into the armed forces to try to find a chance in life, but the discipline and habits acquired there are important for success in life, as to why some of them end as losers, there may be other factors as well, but one of them may be in the fact they never got a proper education, when they went through school before joining the armed forces.

And I am not an apologist for the military, in fact care little for the use our country does with it, to defend the country it’s one thing, invading poor, far off places to do profit for the few, a total different matter.

However, I know the value of discipline, and struggle. This bring the idea for a further post on discipleship, and the value of an education under a qualified Spiritual Master, or guide, where constant struggle, hardship and perseverance are a given.

Seating in Meditation

Posted in Buddhism, Critical Thinking, Cultural Attitudes, Eastern Ways Vs Western Ways, Education, Holistic View, Human Nature, Learning, Philosophy, Social Criticism, Teaching, True Teaching, Uncategorized, Zen | Tagged , , , , , , | 28 Comments

PROJECT UTOPIA, DAVID PEARCE, AND THE HEDONISTIC IMPERATIVE, TRANSHUMANISM.

Visions From A Not So Far Future

“As for you, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full,
Make merry day and night.
Of each day make a feast of rejoicing.
Day and night dance and play!
Let your garments be sparkling fresh,
Your head be washed; bathe in water.
Pay heed to a little one that holds on to your hand,
Let a spouse delight in your bosom.

These things are alone the concern of men.”

Siduri the Barmaid to Gilgamesh.

Which may represent the first recorded advocacy of a hedonistic philosophy.

The Epic of Gilgamesh Tablet X

Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that pleasure and happiness are the primary or most important intrinsic goods and the proper aim of human life. A hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure (pleasure minus pain), but when having finally gained that pleasure, either through intrinsic or extrinsic goods, happiness remains stationary.

Ethical hedonism is the idea that all people have the right to do everything in their power to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure possible to them. It is also the idea that every person’s pleasure should far surpass their amount of pain. Ethical hedonism is said to have been started by Aristippus of Cyrene, a student of Socrates. He held the idea that pleasure is the highest good.

Hedonism is a sub-philosophy of utilitarianism, which says to act in a way that maximizes utility. Hedonists equate pleasure with utility and believe that pleasure is the master of all humankind, and acts as the ultimate life goal. Hedonists believe that there are only two motivators of human action, pleasure and pain, and that decisions should only be made that further our pleasurable experiences and minimize or completely eliminate our painful ones.

Aristippus

David Pearce

David Pearce is co-founder of Humanity, formerly the World Transhumanist Association, and a prominent figure within the transhumanism movement.

Based in Brighton, England, Pearce maintains a series of websites devoted to transhumanist topics and what he calls the “hedonistic imperative”, a moral obligation to work towards the abolition of suffering in all sentient life. His book-length internet manifesto, The Hedonistic Imperative(1995), outlines how pharmacology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and neurosurgery could converge to eliminate all forms of unpleasant experience from human and non-human life, replacing suffering with “gradients of bliss”. Pearce calls this the “abolitionist project”.

A vegan, Pearce argues that humans have a responsibility not only to avoid cruelty to animal within human society but also to redesign the global ecosystem so that animals do not suffer in the wild.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hedonistic Transhumanism Manifesto

This manifesto outlines a strategy to eradicate suffering in all sentient life. The abolitionist project is ambitious, implausible, but technically feasible. It is defended here on ethical utilitarian grounds. Genetic engineering and nanotechnology allow Homo sapiens to discard the legacy-wetware of our evolutionary past. Our post-human successors will rewrite the vertebrate genome, redesign the global ecosystem, and abolish suffering throughout the living world.

        Why does suffering exist? The metabolic pathways of pain and malaise evolved only because they served the inclusive fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment. Their ugliness can be replaced by a new motivational system based entirely on gradients of well-being. Life-long happiness of an intensity now physiologically unimaginable can become the heritable norm of mental health. A sketch is offered of when, and why, this major evolutionary transition in the history of life is likely to occur. Possible objections, both practical and moral, are raised and then rebutted.

Utopia may be closer than you think

        Contemporary images of opiate-addled junkies, and the lever-pressing frenzies of intra-cranially self-stimulating rats, are deceptive. Such stereotypes stigmatize, and falsely discredit, the only remedy for the world’s horrors and everyday discontents that is biologically realistic. For it is misleading to contrast social and intellectual development with perpetual happiness. There need be no such trade-off. Thus states of “dopamine-overdrive” can actually enhance exploratory and goal-directed activity. Hyper-dopaminergic states can also increase the range and diversity of actions an organism finds rewarding. Our descendants may live in a civilization of serenely well-motivated “high-achievers”, animated by gradients of bliss. Their productivity may far eclipse our own.

        Two hundred years ago, before the development of potent synthetic pain-killers or surgical anesthetics, the notion that “physical” pain could be banished from most people’s lives would have seemed no less bizarre. Most of us in the developed world now take its daily absence for granted. The prospect that what we describe as “mental” pain, too, could one day be superseded is equally counter-intuitive. The technical option of its abolition turns its deliberate retention into an issue of political policy and ethical choice.

The Way to Heaven

Transhumanism

Pearce’s ideas inspired an abolitionist school of transhumanism, or “hedonistic transhumanism”, based on his idea of “paradise engineering” and his argument that the abolition of suffering—which he calls the “abolitionist project”—is a moral imperative.

Transhumanism(abbreviated as H+ orh+) is an international and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellect and physiology.

Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human as well as ethical limitations of using such technologies. The most common transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the natural condition as to merit the label of posthuman beings.

Post Human Beings

The contemporary meaning of the term “transhumanism” was foreshadowed by one of the first professors of futurology, FM-2030, who taught “new concepts of the human” at The New School in the 1960s, when he began to identify people who adopt technologies, lifestyles and worldviews “transitional” to posthumanity as “transhuman”. The assertion would lay the intellectual groundwork for the British philosopher Max More to begin articulating the principles of transhumanism as a futurist philosophy in 1990 and organizing in California an intelligentsia that has since grown into the worldwide transhumanist movement.

Influenced by seminal works of science fiction, the transhumanist vision of a transformed future humanity has attracted many supporters and detractors from a wide range of perspectives, including philosophy and religion. Transhumanism has been characterized by one critic, Francis Fukuyama, as among the “world’s most dangerous ideas”, to which Ronald Bailey has countered that it is rather the “movement that epitomizes the most daring, courageous, imaginative and idealistic aspirations of humanity”

transhumanism

The How

Here are three scenarios in ascending order of sociological plausibility:

a) wireheading
b) Utopian designer drugs
c) genetic engineering
and – what I want to focus on – the impending reproductive revolution of designer babies

a) Recall wireheading is direct stimulation of the pleasure centres of the brain via implanted electrodes. Intracranial self-stimulation shows no physiological or subjective tolerance i.e. it’s just as rewarding after two days as it is after two minutes. Wireheading doesn’t harm others; it has a small ecological footprint; it banishes psychological and physical pain; and arguably it’s a lot less offensive to human dignity than having sex. Admittedly, lifelong wireheading sounds an appealing prospect only to a handful of severe depressives. But what are the technical arguments against its adoption?

Well, wireheading is not an evolutionary stable solution: there would be selection pressure against its widespread adoption. Wireheading doesn’t promote nurturing behavior: wireheads, whether human or non-human, don’t want to raise baby wireheads. Uniform, indiscriminate bliss in the guise of wireheading or its equivalents would effectively bring the human experiment to an end, at least if it were adopted globally. Direct neurostimulation of the reward centers destroys informational sensitivity to environmental stimuli. So assuming we want to be smart – and become smarter – we have a choice. Intelligent agents can have a motivational structure based on gradients of ill-being, characteristic of some lifelong depressives today. Or intelligent agents can have our current typical mixture of pleasures and pains. Or alternatively, we could have an informational economy of mind based entirely on [adaptive] gradients of cerebral bliss – which I’m going to argue for.

Cerebral Bliss

Actually, this dismissal of wireheading may be too quick. In the far future, one can’t rule out offloading everything unpleasant or mundane onto inorganic supercomputers, prostheses and robots while we enjoy uniform orgasmic bliss. Or maybe not orgasmic bliss, possibly some other family of ideal states that simply couldn’t be improved upon. But that’s speculative. Whatever our ultimate destination, it would be more prudent, I think, to aim for both super happiness and super intelligence – at least until we understand the full implications of what we are doing. There isn’t a moral urgency to maximizing super happiness in the same way as there is to abolishing suffering.

[It’s worth noting that the offloading option assumes that inorganic computers, prostheses and robots don’t – or at least needn’t – experience subjective phenomenal pain even if their functional architecture allows them to avoid and respond to noxious stimuli. This absence of inorganic suffering is relatively uncontroversial with existing computers – switching off one’s PC doesn’t have ethical implications, and a silicon robot can be programmed to avoid corrosive acids without experiencing agony if it’s damaged. It’s debatable whether any computational system with a classical von Neumann architecture will ever be interestingly conscious. I’m skeptical; but either way, it doesn’t affect the offloading option, unless one argues that the subjective texture of suffering is functionally essential to any system capable of avoiding harmful stimuli.]

Transhumanist Wireheading

b) The second technical option for eradicating suffering is futuristic designer drugs. In an era of mature post-genomic medicine, will it be possible rationally to design truly ideal pleasure-drugs that deliver lifelong, high-functioning well-being without unacceptable side-effects? “Ideal pleasure drugs” here is just a piece of shorthand. Such drugs can in principle embrace cerebral, empathetic, aesthetic and perhaps spiritual well-being – and not just hedonistic pleasure in the usual one-dimensional and amoral sense.

 

We’re not talking here about recreational euphoriants, which simply activate the negative feedback mechanisms of the brain; nor the shallow, opiated contentment of a Brave New World; nor drugs that induce euphoric mania, with its uncontrolled excitement, loss of critical insight, grandiosity and flight of ideas. Can we develop true wonder drugs that deliver sublime well-being on a sustainable basis, re calibrating the hedonic treadmill to ensure a high quality of life for everyone?

Hedonic-adaptation-happiness

A lot of people recoil from the word “drugs” – which is understandable given today’s noxious street drugs and their uninspiring medical counterparts. Yet even academics and intellectuals in our society typically take the prototypical dumb drug, ethyl alcohol. If it’s socially acceptable to take a drug that makes you temporarily happy and stupid, then why not rationally design drugs to make people perpetually happier and smarter? Presumably, in order to limit abuse-potential, one would want any ideal pleasure drug to be akin – in one limited but important sense – to nicotine, where the smoker’s brain finely calibrates its optimal level: there is no uncontrolled dose-escalation.

There are of course all kinds of pitfalls to drug-based solutions. Technically, I think these pitfalls can be overcome, though I won’t try to show this here. But there is a deeper issue. If there weren’t something fundamentally wrong – or at least fundamentally inadequate – with our existing natural state of consciousness bequeathed by evolution, then we wouldn’t be so keen to change it. Even when it’s not unpleasant, everyday consciousness is mediocre compared to what we call peak experiences. Ordinary everyday consciousness was presumably adaptive in the sense it helped our genes leave more copies of themselves on the African Savannah; but why keep it as our default-state indefinitely? Why not change human nature by literally repairing our genetic code?

Again, this dismissal of pharmacological solutions may be too quick. Arguably, Utopian designer drugs may always be useful for the fine-grained and readily reversible control of consciousness; and I think designer drugs will be an indispensable tool to explore the disparate varieties of conscious mind. But wouldn’t it be better if we were all born with a genetic predisposition to psychological super-health rather than needing chronic self-medication? Does even the most ardent abolitionist propose to give cocktails of drugs to all children from birth; and then to take such drug cocktails for the rest of our lives?

Drugs of the Future

c) So thirdly, there are genetic solutions, embracing both somatic and germ line therapy.

 

By way of context, today there is a minority of people who are always depressed or dysthymic, albeit to varying degrees. Studies with mono- and dizygotic twins confirm there is a high degree of genetic loading for depression. Conversely, there are some people who are temperamentally optimistic. Beyond the optimists, there is a very small minority of people who are what psychiatrists call hyperthymic. Hyperthymic people aren’t manic or bipolar; but by contemporary standards, they are always exceedingly happy, albeit sometimes happier than others. Hyperthymic people respond “appropriately” and adaptively to their environment. Indeed they are characteristically energetic, productive and creative. Even when they are blissful, they aren’t “blissed out”.

Now what if, as a whole civilization, we were to opt to become genetically hyperthymic – to adopt a motivational system driven entirely by adaptive gradients of well-being? More radically, as the genetic basis of hedonic tone is understood, might we opt to add multiple extra copies of hyperthymia-promoting genes/allelic combinations and their regulatory promoters – not abolishing homeostasis and the hedonic treadmill but shifting our hedonic set-point to a vastly higher level?

Building a New Humanity

Three points here:First, this genetic re-calibration might seem to be endorsing another kind of uniformity; but it’s worth recalling that happier people – and especially hyperdopaminergic people – are typically responsive to a broader range of potentially rewarding stimuli than depressives: they engage in more exploratory behavior. This makes getting stuck in a sub-optimal rut less likely, both for the enhanced individual and posthuman society as a whole.

Secondly, universal hyperthymia might sound like a gigantic experiment; and in a sense of course it is. But all sexual reproduction is an experiment. We play genetic roulette, shuffling our genes and then throwing the genetic dice. Most of us flinch at the word “eugenics”; but that’s what we’re effectively practicing, crudely and incompetently, when we choose our prospective mates. The difference is that within the next few decades, prospective parents will be able to act progressively more rationally and responsibly in their reproductive decisions. Pre-implantation genetic screening is going to become routine; artificial wombs will release us from the constraints of the human birth-canal; and a revolution in reproductive medicine will begin to replace the old Darwinian lottery. The question is not whether a reproductive revolution is coming, but rather what kinds of being – and what kinds of consciousness – do we want to create?

Thirdly, isn’t this reproductive revolution going to be the prerogative of rich elites in the West? Probably not for long. Compare the brief lag between the introduction of, say, mobile phones and their world-wide adoption with the 50 year time-lag between the introduction and world-wide adoption of radio; and the 20 year lag between the introduction and world-wide penetration of television. The time-lag between the initial introduction and global acceptance of new technologies is shrinking rapidly. So of course is the price.

Euphoria

Anyway, one of the advantages of genetically re-calibrating the hedonic treadmill rather than abolishing it altogether, at least for the foreseeable future, is that the functional analogues of pain, anxiety, guilt and even depression can be preserved without their nasty raw feels as we understand them today. We can retain the functional analogues of discontent – arguably the motor of progress – and retain the discernment and critical insight lacking in the euphorically manic. Even if hedonic tone is massively enhanced, and even if our reward centers are physically and functionally amplified, then it’s still possible in principle to conserve much of our existing preference architecture. If you prefer Mozart to Beethoven, or philosophy to pushpin, then you can still retain this preference ranking even if your hedonic tone is hugely enriched.

Now personally, I think it would be better if our preference architecture were radically changed, and we pursued [please pardon the jargon] a “re-encephalisation of emotion”. Evolution via natural selection has left us strongly predisposed to form all manner of dysfunctional preferences that harm both ourselves and others for the benefit of our genes. Recall Genghis Khan: “The greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you, to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters.”

Notorious-A-Ruthless-Legacy-Genghis-Khan

Now I’m told academia isn’t quite that bad, but even university life has its forms of urbane savagery – its competitive status-seeking and alpha-male dominance rituals: a zero-sum game with many losers. Too many of our preferences reflect nasty behaviors and states of mind that were genetically adaptive in the ancestral environment. Instead, wouldn’t it be better if we rewrote our own corrupt code? I’ve focused here on genetically enhancing hedonic tone. Yet mastery of the biology of emotion means that we’ll be able, for instance, to enlarge our capacity for empathy, functionally amplifying mirror neurons and engineering a sustained increase in oxytocin-release to promote trust and sociability. Likewise, we can identify the molecular signatures of, say, spirituality, our aesthetic sense, or our sense of humor – and modulate and “over-express” their psychological machinery too. From an information-theoretic perspective, what is critical to an adaptive, flexible, intelligent response to the world is not our absolute point on a hedonic scale but that we are informationally sensitive to differences. Indeed information theorists sometimes simply define information as a “difference that makes a difference”.

However, to stress again, this re-encephalisation of emotion is optional. It’s technically feasible to engineer the well-being of all sentience and retain most but not all of our existing preference architecture. The three technical options for abolishing suffering presented here – wireheading, designer drugs and genetic engineering – aren’t mutually exclusive. Are they exhaustive? I don’t know of any other viable options. Some transhumanists believe we could one day all be scanned, digitized and uploaded into inorganic computers and reprogrammed. Well, perhaps, I’m skeptical; but in any case, this proposal doesn’t solve the suffering of existing organic life unless we embrace so-called destructive uploading – a holocaust option I’m not even going to consider here.

Suffering

2: WHY IT SHOULD HAPPEN

Assume that within the next few centuries we will acquire these Godlike powers over our emotions. Assume, too, that the signalling function of unpleasant experience can be replaced – either through the re-calibration argued for here, or through the offloading of everything unpleasant or routine to inorganic prostheses, bionic implants or inorganic computers – or perhaps through outright elimination in the case of something like jealousy. Why should we all be abolitionists?

If one is a classical utilitarian, then the abolitionist project follows: it’s Bentham plus biotechnology. One doesn’t have to be a classical utilitarian to endorse the abolition of suffering; but all classical utilitarians should embrace the abolitionist project. Bentham championed social and legislative reform, which is great as far as it goes; but he was working before the era of biotechnology and genetic medicine.

If one is a scientifically enlightened Buddhist, then the abolitionist project follows too. Buddhists, uniquely among the world’s religions, focus on the primacy of suffering in the living world. Buddhists may think that the Noble Eight fold Path offers a surer route to Nirvana than genetic engineering; but it’s hard for a Buddhist to argue in principle against biotech if it works. Buddhists focus on relieving suffering via the extinction of desire; yet it’s worth noting this extinction is technically optional, and might arguably lead to a stagnant society. Instead it’s possible both to abolish suffering and continue to have all manner of desires.

All kind of Wonders

Persuading followers of Islam and the Judaeo-Christian tradition is more of a challenge. But believers claim – despite anomalies in the empirical evidence – that Allah/God is infinitely compassionate and merciful. So if mere mortals can envisage the well-being of all sentience, it would seem blasphemous to claim that God is more limited in the scope of His benevolence.

Most contemporary philosophers aren’t classical utilitarians or Buddhists or theists. Why should, say, an ethical pluralist take the abolitionist project seriously?

 

Here I want to take as my text Shakespeare’s

 

“For there was never yet philosopher That could endure the toothache patiently.

 

[Much Ado About Nothing, Scene Five, Act One (Leonato speaking)]

When one is gripped by excruciating physical pain, one is always shocked at just how frightful it can be.

stk64527cor

 

It’s tempting to suppose that purely “psychological” pain – loneliness, rejection, existential angst, grief, anxiety, depression – can’t be as atrocious as extreme physical pain; yet the reason over 800,000 people in the world take their own lives every year is mainly psychological distress. It’s not that other things – great art, friendship, social justice, a sense of humor, cultivating excellence of character, academic scholarship, etc – aren’t valuable; but rather when intense physical or psychological distress intrudes – either in one’s own life or that of a loved one – we recognize that this intense pain has immediate priority and urgency. If you are in agony after catching your hand in the door, then you’d give short shrift to someone who urged you to remember the finer things in life. If you’re distraught after an unhappy love affair, then you don’t want to be tactlessly reminded it’s a beautiful day outside.

OK, while it lasts, extreme pain or psychological distress has an urgency and priority that overrides the rest of one’s life projects; but so what? When the misery passes, why not just get on with one’s life as before?

Godlike Powers

 

Well, natural science aspires to “a view from nowhere”, a notional God’s-eye view. Physics tells us that no here-and-now is privileged over any other; all are equally real. Science and technology are shortly going to give us Godlike powers over the entire living world to match this Godlike perspective. I argue that so long as there is any sentient being who is undergoing suffering similar to our distress, that suffering should be tackled with the same priority and urgency as if it were one’s own pain or the pain of a loved one. With power comes complicity. Godlike powers carry godlike responsibilities. Thus the existence of suffering 200 years ago, for instance, may indeed have been terrible; but it’s not clear that such suffering can sensibly be called “immoral” – because there wasn’t much that could be done about it. But thanks to biotechnology, now there is – or shortly will be. Over the next few centuries, suffering of any kind is going to become optional.

suffering-is-optional

If you’re not a classical ethical utilitarian, the advantage of re-calibrating the hedonic treadmill rather than simply seeking to maximize super-happiness is that you are retaining at least a recognizable descendant of our existing preference architecture. Re-calibration of the hedonic treadmill can be made consistent with your existing value scheme. Hence even the ill-named “preference utilitarian” can be accommodated. Indeed control over the emotions means that you can pursue your existing life projects more effectively.

 

And what about the alleged character-building function of suffering? “That which does not crush me makes me stronger”, said Nietzsche. This worry seems misplaced. Other things being equal, enhancing hedonic tone strengthens motivation – it makes us psychologically more robust. By contrast, prolonged low mood leads to a syndrome of learned helplessness and behavioral despair.

Friedrich Nietzsche

I haven’t explicitly addressed the value nihilist – the subjectivist or ethical skeptic who says all values are simply matters of opinion, and that one can’t logically derive an “ought” from an “is”.

 

Well, let’s say I find myself in agony because my hand is on a hot stove. That agony is intrinsically motivating, even if my conviction that I ought to withdraw my hand doesn’t follow the formal canons of logical inference.

 

If one takes the scientific world-picture seriously, then there is nothing ontologically special or privileged about here-and-now or me – the egocentric illusion is a trick of perspective engineered by selfish DNA.

 

If it’s wrong for me to be in agony, then it is wrong for anyone, anywhere.

An Immortal Machine

3: WHY IT WILL HAPPEN

OK, it’s technically feasible. A world without suffering would be wonderful; and full-blown paradise-engineering even better. But again, so what? It’s technically feasible to build a thousand-metre cube of cheddar cheese. Why is a pain-free world going to happen? Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking. Perhaps we’ll opt to retain the biology of suffering indefinitely.

The counterargument here is that whether or not one is sympathetic to the abolitionist project, we are heading for a reproductive revolution of designer babies. Prospective parents are soon going to be choosing the characteristics of their future children. We’re on the eve of the Post-Darwinian Transition, not in the sense that selection pressure will be any less severe, but evolution will no longer be “blind” and “random”: there will no longer be natural selection but unnatural selection. We will be choosing the genetic makeup of our future offspring, selecting and designing alleles and allelic combinations in anticipation of their consequences. There will be selection pressure against nastier alleles and allelic combinations that were adaptive in the ancestral environment.

Genetic designed children

Unfortunately, this isn’t a rigorous argument, but imagine you are choosing the genetic dial-settings for mood – the hedonic set-point – of your future children. What settings would you pick? You might not want gradients of lifelong super-happiness, but the overwhelming bulk of parents will surely want to choose happy children. For a start, they are more fun to raise. Most parents across most cultures say, I think sincerely, that they want their children to be happy. One may be skeptical of parents who say happiness is the only thing they care about for their kids – many parents are highly ambitious. But other things being equal, happiness signals success – possibly the ultimate evolutionary origin of why we value the happiness of our children as well as our own.

Of course the parental choice argument isn’t decisive. Not least, it’s unclear how many more generations of free reproductive choices lie ahead before radical anti-aging technologies force a progressively tighter collective control over our reproductive decisions – since a swelling population of ageless quasi-immortals can’t multiply indefinitely in finite physical space. But even if centralized control of reproductive decisions becomes the norm, and procreation itself becomes rare, the selection pressure against primitive Darwinian genotypes will presumably be intense. Thus it’s hard to envisage what future social formations would really allow the premeditated creation of any predisposition to depressive or anxiety disorders – or even the “normal” pathologies of unenhanced consciousness.

transhuman

Posted in A Brave New World, Consciousness, Future, Genetics, Hedonism, Historical Evolution, Philosophy, Project Utopia, Science Fitction, Transhumanism, Transmutation, Uncategorized, Utopia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

MASAKI KOBAYASHI, RESISTING THE SYSTEM, SEPPUKU, AND THE HUMAN CONDITION

Masaki Kobayashi Seppuku

“If a warrior is not unattached to life and death, he will be of no use whatsoever. The saying that “All abilities come from one mind” sounds as though it has to do with sentient matters, but it is in fact a matter of being unattached to life and death. With such non-attachment one can accomplish any feat.”

“Even if it seems certain that you will lose, retaliate. Neither wisdom nor technique has a place in this. A real man does not think of victory or defeat. He plunges recklessly towards an irrational death. By doing this, you will awaken from your dreams.”

“Bushido is realized in the presence of death. This means choosing death whenever there is a choice between life and death. There is no other reasoning.”

 

― Tsunetomo Yamamoto, Hagakure.

 

 

My Interest on Japanese Cinema

If you read one of my previous post you know about my Love Affair with Cinema (Jan 2017) as a child, and a young man, not that I ever stop of loving movies, but you could say, I have not the time now to waste, as I did as a young man,  looking at movies, that unfortunately, sad to say, most of them are a waste of time, mass produced, poor in plot, and most of the time mindless entertainment, despite the great amount of money now day cost producing a movie,  save few honorable exceptions of course.

From very early in my life I was impressed with Japanese cinema by the portrayal of fearless, skillful with a sword, and honorable Samurais, willing to give their life away for loyalty, and their high moral sense of duty.

How not to be impressed  by these stoic warriors, heroes of the past, at such tender, and idealistic age?

Not to say the movies were superbly crafted, and carried by a vision different from let’s say a bunch of wild, and rogue, cowboys, and bank robbers, in a saloon brawl, exciting as it may be, but stories devoid of idealism, and selflessness, characteristic of Samurai’s Bushido code movies, as we used to call them, how can we  forget the Judo Saga 1965 by Seiichiiro Uchikawa, first made by Kurosawa in 1943 the story of Sanchiro Sugata but not available until much later (1974), or Hiroshi Inagaki’s superb Samurai Trilogy 1954-1956, and his Chushingura Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki. 1962. just to mention some of the few most memorable Japanese movies I recollect, as  writing this,  from the many I saw.

Graves of the Forty-seven Ronin at Sengaku-ji

Masaki Kobayashi

There is many Japanese movies I watched worth writing about it, however for today I will talk about Masaki Kobayashi who impressed my young mind by some great movies he made, and now looking back for his great social vision somehow overlooked in the West, by our lack of sympathy rampant at the time, with a fear of communism, fresh out of Senator McCarthy reign of terror, McCarthyism was a widespread social and cultural phenomenon that affected all levels of society and was the source of a great deal of debate and conflict in the United States, Kobayashi despite the prices, and nominations he won, is work now days lay forgotten, but for a few cognoscenti of this great director.

Masaki Kobayashi (小林 正樹 Kobayashi Masaki?, February 14, 1916 – October 4, 1996) was a Japanese film director, best known for the epic trilogy The Human Condition (1959–1961), the samurai film Seppuku (1962), Ghost Stories (1964). And Samurai rebellion (1967)

An art history student, Kobayashi decided to take up film making when the Pacific war broke out, convinced that cinema was a more urgent medium for a time of crisis. Mere months after securing an apprenticeship at the Shochiku studio, he was conscripted into the Japanese Army in Manchuria, where, as an act of resistance, he refused to rise above the rank of private. He was eventually interned at a prisoner-of-war camp in Okinawa.

Kobayashi’s experiences in that war, which he called “the culmination of human evil,” directly inspired his grueling magnum opus “The Human Condition” (1959-61), a three-part, 9 1/2-hour epic about a principled soldier who decries but becomes implicated in his country’s militarist aggression. Now known principally for “The Human Condition” and such later period films as “Harakiri” (1963), Kobayashi was a clear-eyed social critic from early in his career.

Masaki Kobayashi

A Rebel, And a Critic

Masaki Kobayashi’s career started during, and through Golden Age of Japanese cinema in the 1950s and 1960s, and all the way to the mid 1980s . Kobayashi has been largely forgotten but for a few cinema lovers around the World, even in  Japan interest in his work is much lower than it is for the films of his contemporaries, such as Akira Kurosawa. Despite the fact that some of his films such as the war trilogy Ningen no jōken (The Human Condition, 1959-1961) and Seppuku (Harakiri, 1962) had won international critical acclaim,1 the centenary of his birth in February 2016 passed almost unnoticed in the Western media. The reason for this unpardonable oversight by film goers, and critics alike, it’s easy to understand, some, or I should say many may find his movies, dark, and depressing, others may feel uncomfortable about his political views, and too critical for its day,  from a time like the early fifties, specially in Japan, you basically conformed to the establishment of the day, or you were not even be able to work, or even to speak your mind, without risking retribution, and boycott,  to Kobayashi’s credit not only he created great cinematography, but condemn Japan Imperial war past, and the uncritical  authority from the ruler class of medieval Japan, over their serfs, that didn’t Historically ended, until quite recently, and even today not quite totally extinct in modern Japan, the Daimyo (Lord), now day supplanted by the Company boss.

Shogun-Daimyo-and-Samurai

 

Andrea Grunert on Kobayashi

“Kobayashi’s politically and ethically uncompromising and economically risk-taking attitude put him in conflict with the studios he worked with, Shōchiku and Toho: this might explain the fact that he made only 22 films. Moreover, his critical view of militarism in Japanese history and the entanglement of politics and the economy in Japanese society are topics that are not attractive to young Japanese people. However, they are still burning issues in Japan and in the modern world, more meaningful than ever before. The Human Condition is not only a landmark film putting a harsh light on Japanese imperialism during World War II, it is a remarkable and universal statement against war. Harakiri, Kwaidan (1964), Jōi-uchi: Hairyō-tsuma shimatsu (Samurai Rebellion, 1967) or Inochi bō no furō (Inn of Evil, 1971) – all bearing the director’s unique signature – reveal the complex interplay between content and form, morality and aesthetics. They show in a most original way how traditional forms can be used as a tool for political criticism and ethical reflection.

Nakadai in The Human Condition

Kobayashi was one of the finest depicters of Japanese society in the 1950s and 1960s, and explored the war and post-war situation by addressing controversial topics such as corruption, economic exploitation and the denial of war atrocities. The Human Condition was such a great international success in the 1960s that a remake was produced for television in 1963 directed by Takeshi Abe. It is not the film’s harsh and uncompromising realism which makes it outstanding, but its approach to Japan’s imperialist policy. As film critic Setogawa Sōta pointed out, it “was the first Japanese film that frankly depicted ‘Japanese devils’ in China in great detail.”3Kobayashi dared to criticize openly Japanese militarism and to show the brutality of the Japanese occupation policy in China. His humanist message is close to Kurosawa’s, but his political attitude and his interest in aspects that concern Japanese society are more clearly expressed than in the work of most of his contemporaries. Not unlike Kurosawa, he was a risk-taking filmmaker who was interested in challenging formal aspects and rejected compromise, an attitude which made his position more and more insecure in the 1970s when Japanese film industry experienced a period of drought. His last film – Shokutaku no nai ie (Family Without a Dinner Table aka The Empty Table) – was released in 1985, twelve years before his death. However, his anti-violence stance and his personal style with its combination of aesthetics, historical research and emotions are as vibrant as ever.”

the-human-condition-i-no-greater-love

The Human Condition

Trilogy made between 1959 and 1961, based on the six-volume novel published from 1956 to 1958 by Junpei Gomikawa. It was directed by Masaki Kobayashi and stars Tatsuya Nakadai. The trilogy follows the life of Kaji, a Japanese pacifist and socialist, as he tries to survive in the totalitarian and oppressive world of World War II-era Japan. Altogether, as a single film it is 9 hours, 47 minutes long, not including intermissions, making it one of the longest fiction films ever made.

Many years later still impressed by the movies, tried to read Junpei Gomokawa books, I couldn’t find them in English, despite the novels being a great success in Japan, I ignore if the novel was ever translated, this in itself speaks volumes as in to what regard we are interested in America in to anything but ourselves.

The Human Condition sits closest to Kon Ichikawa’s contemporaneous, equally unforgettable and urgent firecracker. Ichikawa’s film was based on Shôhei Ôoka’s 1951 novel, Kobayashi’s upon Junpei Gumikawa’s six-volume bestseller of 1958. The source novels derive much of their force from their authors’ haunting experiences as soldiers and prisoners of war. The films were similarly cathartic exercises that helped their directors and their nation come to terms with the emotional carnage of anger, despair and crippling guilt. Ichikawa and Kobayashi tend to be bracketed within the ‘humanist’ tendency of Japanese cinema’s post-war golden age. They would combine, in the late sixties, with two others from that ‘school’, Keisuke Kinoshita (who taught Kobayashi his craft) and Akira Kurosawa, to form a loose collective, Yonki-no-kai (‘The Club of the Four Knights’).

The Human Condition

Seppuku/Harakiri

Possible the best known Kobayashi’s movie here in America, and everywhere else but for Japan itself.

In brief  Harakiri it’s a grisly movie, not for the faint of heart. It tells the story of Hanshirō Tsugumo, a warrior without a lord, about the revenge of a lonely samurai against the Li clan, who it’s responsible for the death of his son-in law , and indirectly from his daughter, and grandson. He expressly goes and humiliate, and punish  those responsible, exposing their haughtiness , and hypocrisy, by playing  within the rules of Bushido code which governs the conduct of all samurai, he lures the powerful leader into a situation where sheer naked logic leaves him humiliated before his retainers. A condemnation of the whole feudal system, and the inhumanity of it.

Tatsuya Nakadai seating ready for Seppuku

Bushido And Hagakure

The movie of great interest for those aficionados of “Bushido” and endless source of discussion, and disagreements about the Bushido code of Samurai conduct, who in fact lacks a written code, for those somewhat familiar with it in the West, it’s important for them to know that Hagakure (Hidden by the Leaves or hidden leaves) by Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s is a practical and spiritual guide for a warrior, drawn from a collection of commentaries by the clerk Yamamoto Tsunetomo, former retainer to Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of what is now Saga Prefecture in Japan. Tsuramoto Tashiro compiled these commentaries from his conversations with Tsunetomo from 1709 to 1716; however, it was not published until many years afterwards. Hagakure is also known as The Book of the Samurai, Analects of Nabeshima or Hagakure Analects. Held in great respect by many in Japan, however it’s not a code of ethics for the Samurai, and there is no doubt many of Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s contemporaries, may had held views of their own, who could differ somewhat, on what it’s expressed on Hagakure.

So to take Hagakure as ‘the code’ it’s erroneous, just like there is not a total, and final written rule of courtesy, regardless of the may books on etiquette. Nitobe wrote on his Bushido:

“Bushidō, then, is the code of moral principles which the samurai were required or instructed to observe […] More frequently it is a code unuttered and unwritten […] It was an organic growth of decades and centuries of military career. In order to become a samurai this code has to be mastered.”

Bowing in to the Warriors Code

The code of etiquette in Japan governs the expectations of social behavior in the country and is considered very important. Like many social cultures, etiquette varies greatly depending on one’s status relative to the person in question. Many books instruct readers on its minutiae.

Some conventions may be very regional practices, and thus may not exist in all regions of Japan. Some customs have changed over the course of Japanese history. The above apply as well to Bushido, in Japan it’s common to say there is almost impossible for an individual, not to commit a faux pas at any given time, due to the numerous unwritten rules of behavior that dominate Japanese Culture. So there is little use to many arguments, few others may be valid, on the end the movie, was the work of one man; Masaki Kobayashi, and despite criticism, he was one hell of a director.

Harakiri Poster

Posted in Cinema & Literature, Crisis of Values, Cultural Attitudes, Heart, Justice, Masaki Kobayashi, Memories, Old Movies, Social Criticism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

RENE GUENON, TRADITIONALIST, ALEXANDER DUGIN ON THE FOURTH POLITICAL POWER, BRANCO MALIC’S RESPONSE, POLITICS, AND VISIONARIES

Earth its Worth Caring

“The quantitative degeneration of all things is closely linked to that of money, as is shown by the fact that nowadays the ‘worth’ of an object is ordinarily ‘estimated’ only in terms of its price, considered simply as a ‘figure’, a ‘sum’, or a numerical quantity of money; in fact, with most of our contemporaries, every judgment brought to bear on an object is nearly always based exclusively on what it costs. The word ‘estimate’ has been emphasized because it has in itself a double meaning, qualitative and quantitative; today the first meaning has been lost to sight, or what amounts to the same thing, means have been found to equate it to the second, and thus it comes about that not only is the ‘worth’ of an object ‘estimated’ according to its price, but the ‘worth’ of a man is ‘estimated’ according to his wealth.”

 

― René Guénon

Rene Guenon

A Traditionalist an Perennialist

For many years, maybe 44 years to date, I have been aware of Rene, Jean, Marie, Joseph Guenon, also later known as Abd al –Wahid Yahya (al-Maliki, al-Hamidi ash-Shadhili ) a French author and intellectual who remains an influential figure in the domain of metaphysics, having written on topics ranging from metaphysics, “sacred science” and traditional studies to symbolism and initiation.

In 1921, Guénon published an Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines. His goal, as he writes it, is an attempt at presenting to westerners eastern metaphysics and spirituality as they are understood and thought by easterners themselves, while pointing at what René Guénon describes as all the erroneous interpretations and misunderstandings of western orientalism and “neospiritualism” (for the latter, notably the proponents of Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophism). Right from that time, he presents a rigorous understanding, not only of Hindu doctrines, but also of eastern metaphysics in general. He managed to expose these doctrines to a western public viewed by him as quite unprepared and unreceptive as a whole. He departed from standard scholarship (orientalist) terminology and methods and preferred to expose the doctrines as a simple “easterner”, devoid of what he called “western prejudices”. For one of the most famous aspects of René Guénon’s work is the irreducible difference he describes between the East and the West. René Guénon defines eastern metaphysics and intellectualism as of “universal nature”, that “opens possibilities of conception which are truly beyond any limitation”.

Rene Guenon (1)

His work comprises:

  • An exposition of fundamental metaphysical principles: Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines which contains the general definition of the term “tradition” as Guénon defines it, Man and His Becoming according to the Vedânta, The Symbolism of the Cross, The Multiple States of Being,The Metaphysical Principles of the Infinitesimal Calculus, Oriental Metaphysics.

  • Studies in symbolism (comprising many articles he wrote for the journal Le Voile d’Isis which became later known under the name Etudes Traditionnelles). These studies in symbolism were later compiled by Michel Valsan in the posthumous book Symbols of Sacred Science. The studies The Great Triad,Traditional Forms & Cosmic Cycles, Insights into Islamic Esoterism & Taoism and The King of the World (alternately translated as Lord of the World) are also mostly about symbolism.

  • Fundamental studies related to Initiation, a subject completely re-exposited by Guénon from the traditional perspective: Perspectives on Initiation, Initiation and Spiritual Realization, The Esoterism of Dante.

  • Criticism of the modern world and of “neospiritualism”: East and West, The Crisis of the Modern World, Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power, Theosophy: History of a Pseudo-Religion, The Spiritist Fallacy and The Reign of Quantity & the Signs of the Times, the latter book being often considered as his masterpiece as an explanation of the modern world from the traditional perspective.

  • Various studies in esoterism: Saint Bernard, Insights into Christian Esoterism, Studies in Freemasonry and Compagnonnage, Studies in Hinduism, &c.

My Surprise

Imagine my surprise of the likes of Alexander Dugin, the so named Putin’s Rasputin claiming ideas derived from  Rene Guenon!

In all honesty I had read some time ago a little about Dugin, mainly on the Western media, not an unbiased source for news, and filtered through the lens of what it’s considered a politically, Liberal, and correct attitude, then the shock of recently reading a extract from his Fourth Political Theory book, and when he claims allegiance to the Traditionalist.

Alexander Dugin American Liberalism

Dugin’s Fourth Political Power:

“Modernity and its ideological basis (individualism, liberal democracy, capitalism, consumerism, and so on) are the cause of the future catastrophe of humanity, and the global domination of the Western lifestyle is the reason for the final degradation of the Earth. The West is approaching its terminus, and we should not let it drag the rest of us down into the abyss with it.

Tradition (religion, hierarchy, and family) and its values were overthrown at the dawn of modernity. All three political theories were conceived as artificial ideological constructions by people who comprehended, in various ways, ‘the death of God’ (Nietzsche), the ‘disenchantment of the world’ (Weber), and the ‘end of the sacred.’ This was the core of the New Era of modernity: man came to replace God, philosophy and science replaced religion, and the rational, forceful, and technological constructs took the place of revelation.

When we use the term ‘modernization’, we mean progress, linear accumulation, and a certain continuous process. When we speak of ‘modernization’, we presuppose development, growth, and evolution. It is the same semantic system. Thus, when we speak of the ‘unconditionally positive achievements of modernization: we agree with a very important basic paradigm – we agree with the idea that ‘human society is developing, progressing, evolving, growing, and getting better and better: that is to say, we share a particular vision of historical optimism.

This historical optimism pertains to the three classical political ideologies (liberalism, Communism, and fascism). It is rooted in the scientific, societal, political, and social worldview in the humanities and natural sciences of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, when the ideas of progress, development, and growth were taken as axioms that could not be doubted. In other words, this entire set of axioms, as well as the whole historiography and predictive analytics of the Nineteenth century in the humanities and the natural sciences, were built upon the idea of progress.

Aleksandr Dugin

The Socialist Herbert Spencer claimed that the development of human society that the development of human society was the next stage of evolution in the animal species, and that there was  a connection, and a continuity between the animal world and social development.

And, therefore, all the laws of the animal world leading to the development, improvement, and evolution on the animal world, within Darwin’s framework, can be projected onto society, This is the basis of the famous theory, ‘Social Darwinism’, of which Spencer was a classic representative. If, according to Darwin, the driving force behind the evolution of the animal kingdom its the struggle for survival and natural selection, then the same process must take place in society, argued Spencer. And the more perfect the struggle is for survival (Inter-species, intrs-species, the struggle of the strong against the weak, the competition for resources, pleasure), the more perfect our society becomes, The question is how to aid this process of selection. According to Spencer, this is the theme of the liberal model, and is the meaning of social progress.

Therefore, if we are liberals, in one way or the other we inherited this ‘zoological’ approach to social development based on the struggle against the destruction of the weak by the strong.

Herbert Spencer

Spencer’s theory contains an important point that must be elaborated upon. He argues that there are two phases of social development. The first phase occurs when the struggle for survival is conducted crudely, by force; this is characteristic of the ancient world. The second occurs when the struggle is carried out more subtly through economic means. Once the bourgeois revolution takes place, the struggle for survival doesn’t stop. According to Spencer, it acquires new, more advanced, and more efficient forms; it relocates into the sphere of the market. Here the strongest survive-that is the richest. Instead of the most powerful feudal lord, a hero, a strong person, or a leader, who simply sizes all that there is for grabs around his community, taking away what all that belongs to other nations and races and sharing it with the ruling ethnicity or cast, now come the capitalist, who bring the same aggressive principle to the market, the corporation, or the trading company. The transition from the order of power to the order of money, according to Spencer, does not mean the humanization of the process, but only underscores greater effectiveness. That is to say, the struggle in the market sphere between the strong (meaning the rich) and the weak (meaning the poor) becomes more efficient and leads to higher levels of development until super-rich,  super-strong, and super developed countries emerge. Progress, according to Spencer, and, more broadly speaking, according to liberalism is always the growth of economic power, since this continues to refine the struggle for survival of the animal species, the warfare methods of strong nations, and the castes within the framework of pre-capitalistic states.

Dubai fog

Thus, an animalistic form of aggression is embedded in the liberal idea of progress, which is regarded as the main trajectory of social development. With more economic freedom, there is greater power for takeovers, attacks, mergers, and acquisitions.

In such a system, the ‘more advanced’ law or the more advanced, ‘more modern’ methods of production do not mean that they are more humane; what it means that they allow more opportunities for the strong to more effectively realize their power, while the weak can only admit defeat, or, if they have any strength left, fight on. In this meaner, the modern idea of economic growth, as we see in liberals such as Alan Greenspan, and Ben Bernake, has its foundations and origins in the idea of the struggle between species, that is, the feral destruction of the weak by the strong, or the validation of the strong at the expense of the weak. Only instead of the conflict between predators and herbivores, we have the golden billion, and in that golden billion, their own ‘kings of beasts’ ( the New York Stock Exchange and the World Bank bankers) who devour all that there is up for grabs and, at the same time, turn the forest of the World into ‘social infrastructures’.

Forest-destruction

Therefore, when we speak of ‘modernization’ into the liberal vein, of necesity we mean the enhancement of the social, political, cultural, spiritual, and informational scenario within which the absolute aggression of the strong against the weak can be implemented.

There is only one way out-to reject the classical political theories, both winners and losers, strain our imaginations, seize the reality of a new world, correctly decipher the challenges of post-modernity, and create something new-something beyond the political battles of Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries. Such an approach is an invitation to the development of the Fourth Political Theory-beyond Communism, Fascism, and Liberalism.”

In Brief

“Dugin charges that Liberalism in the end contributes to decline and does not achieve the progress it claims. “Communism and Fascism have collapsed,” Peter J. Leithart asserts, then he assigns the belief that “liberalism, the final twentieth-century ideology, turned into libertine postmodernism as soon as it triumphed,” to Dugin’s mindset. Dugin believes that “the idea of modernization is based on the idea of progress, which is regarded as the main trajectory of social development. With more economic freedom, there is greater power for takeovers, attacks, mergers, and acquisitions. Liberal discourse, meaning the analysis of the liberal ideologist, is a completely animal discourse.”

 

Branko Malic’s, Dugin’s questionable Traditionalism

“Alexander Dugin’s influence on Russian foreign policy is an object of speculation, mostly on the level of gossip. In the West he is often times dubbed new Rasputin, probably because mainstream opinion maker’s intelligence doesn’t seem to reach further of pattern recognition (clue: the beard). While it’s hard to believe that esteemed professor sees himself as “Russia’s greatest love machine”, it is impossible to overlook that some of the moves Russian foreign policy makes are fairly concordant to his opinions and affirm much of what he is saying. Diplomatic victory over the West during the first phase of Syria crisis cannot be denied, and it is hard to escape the fact that Reagan’s term “Evil empire” is coming dangerously close to denote the USA itself. However, there is a great danger in idealizing the Eurasian project spearheaded by Russian Federation. Uncritical glorification of the rising might of Russia, although understandable, shouldn’t lead to forgetting the famous saying about “enigma wrapped in secret”. In other words, Westerner must never forget that he doesn’t know and – as is implied in Dugin’s logic – maybe even cannot know, what goes on behind Putin’s stone face. Further, it is questionable how really can one reconcile militant Evolian mysticism with ascetic wisdom of Guenon, which Dugin apparently tries to do. It is a pity that West is more or less ignorant of Guenon’s consequent spiritual descendant, Hungarian Bela Hamvas, man far more experienced in enduring than exercising the violent force, but who nevertheless almost single handed kept the flame of Tradition alive for all Eastern Europe. What he and Guenon were able to do is to point the finger and say: this is Corruption. Nothing more, nothing less. And that in itself made them revolutionaries. Resistance of the sort Alexander Dugin advocates could prove no less immoral than the aggression of the West and in fact can hardly be reconciled with the religious attitude of Traditionalism.

Hamvas_Béla

We must conclude that Alexander Dugin is relevant thinker and his work is a point of reference for everybody who sees, or at least hears, something creeping in the bushes near his front door. Dugin says it clearly: in the plastic flowers of Globalization, there is a serpent hiding. But if we observe how he, as well as the European alternative right in general, splices the Traditionalism and realpolitik, the unavoidable question arises: do you really cure the viper’s bite with another batch of poison? No doubt, ever more people are becoming aware that history of 20th century was not what they were told it was. The values of the West more and more prove to be a threat not only to political, economical and biological, but also the very logical foundation of human being as such. Nihilism is all out of masks. However, to align with thinkers like Alexander Dugin solely because they see the shortcomings of the West so clearly is very unreasonable. For although his cards are not marked, don’t be so sure you know what card game he is really playing.”

Branko Malić

A place of prayer

My View of the Matter

I can’t deny   to agree with the above words expressed by Dugin, but I would be the first to recognize at my lack of knowledge about Dugin’s political intentions, and his dealings with Putin,  and as to what extent Putin himself take Dugin’s advise in his political dealings, or it’s just a ‘spiritual’ ideological adviser of a philosophical nature, rather than a de facto policy maker? Do not know, it’s said he doesn’t even hold a job at the Kremlin, journalist Alexander Nevzorov: “if we had had Sergey Kurginyan and Dugin instead of Putin, there would have been hell for all of us to pay, they would have unleashed a European and World War without a shadow of a doubt, without considering consequences at all.” But “Dugin and Kurginyan do not have the slightest impact on what is going on in the Kremlin and do not even get coaching there”.

My only interest on him, it’s in relation to Rene Guenon’s Traditionalist ideas. And in all this I suspect a little of an idealism, on his part, based on isolated, and disconnected readings on Guenon’s books, than a serious, more direct relationship, with Guenon’s school of Traditionalist heirs.

The Traditionalist School is a group of 20th and 21st century thinkers concerned with what they considered to be the demise of traditional forms of knowledge, both aesthetic and spiritual, within Western society. The principal thinkers in this tradition are René Guénon, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Frithjof Schuon. Other important thinkers in this tradition include Titus Burckhardt, Martin Lings, Bela Hamvas, Jean-Louis Michon, Marco Pallis, Huston Smith, Hossein Nasr, Jean Borella, Julius Evola and William Chittick. A central belief of this school is the existence of a perennial wisdom, or perennial philosophy, which says that there are primordial and universal truths which form the source for, and are shared by all the major world religions.

A group of mainly Western idealists, mystics, religious scholars, seeking the Wisdom of the East, known only to the few who care what they have to say, certainly a small minority, who also have ideological detractors, but hardly a nest for political activism, upheaval, and controversial ideas regarding a ‘New World  Order’. Now thrown into the searchlights, by Dugin’s  pronouncements. And consequently my surprise of Dugin’s allegiance to the Traditionalist or Perennial school, despite my sympathy for the ideas he express above, and by my long acquaintance with the Traditionalist writings who seem to have little in common with Dugin’s public persona, by their disregard for the limelight of politics. However we know ideas move mountains, and that a seed on fertile soil, under the right conditions grows, as for what kind of seed may be, only the future will tell.

Hidden Mountain Retreat

Posted in A World in Crisis, Aleksandr Dugin, Ancient Religions, Branko Malic, Capitalism, Consciousness, Crisis, Crisis of Values, Critical Thinking, Criticism, Cultural Attitudes, Disillusion with Capitalism, Ecological Crisis, Economy, Globalization, Government and Free Markets, Greed and Impunity, Herbert Spencer, New Values, Oligarchy, Perennialist, Plutocracy, Politics, Rene Guenon, The Fourth Political Theory, Traditionalist, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

MANICHAEISM, AN ONTOLOGICAL , DUALISTIC VIEW ON THE NATURE OF EXISTENCE

 

Epicurus supposedly atribiuted phrase

“God,” he [Epicurus] says, “either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot,or can but does not want to,
or neither wishes to nor can,
or both wants to and can.
If he wants to and cannot, then he is weak and this does not apply to god.
If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful which is equally foreign to god’’s nature.
If he neither wants to nor can, he is both weak and spiteful, and so not a god.
If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?
Lactantius, On the Anger of God, 13.19

Eph. 6:12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Paul to the Ephesians

Mani

Mani (210-276 C.E.), the founder of Manichaeism, was raised in a Judaeo-Christian desert sect known as the Elchasites. Similar to the Essenes, this sect was centered in the Mesopotamian desert, dressed in white robes, and were disenchanted by the religious establishment of their day. At age twelve Mani reported having his first revelation, but decided to keep it secret and wait until the right time for its proclamation. At age twenty-four Mani parted ways with the Elchasites and started writing, teaching, and preaching his own religious doctrines which he considered as final and authoritative. Mani saw himself as the final seal of the prophets; he closed the revelation which had started with Buddha and Zarathustra and had been passed on through Jesus and Paul. On the subject of Mani’s conception of his own religion, P. Oktor Skjaervo notes that “according to Mani his new religion was not simply to replace the previous religions, rather it represented the fulfillment of what the previous religions had promised but had not been able to live up to.”

Mani

An archon, in the Gnosticism of late antiquity, was any of several servants of the Demiurge, the “creator god” that stood between the human race and a transcendent God that could only be reached through Gnosis. In this context they have the role of the angels and demons of the Old Testament. They give their name to the sect called Archontics. They were thus called from the Greek word ἄρχοντες, “principalities”, or “rulers”, by reason that they held the world to have been created and ruled by malevolent Archons. The term was taken from the ancient Greek position of office “archon”.

A Life Tainted With Evil A Matter Of Outlook

We live in a world that seem to be on his head, as children we are generally taught on the Kindest, and Mercy of God all embracing and forgiving, but as we grew old we perceive a dichotomy between what we have been told and what is really going on in the World, selfishness, unbridled avarice, and materialism, double standards even from religious leaders, false promises, venial, and morally condemning behavior on the part of our political leaders, who are there not to serve us but to fulfill their private agendas, selfishness and harshness everywhere, everybody looking for themselves, and maybe if we perceive them at all, some few, and poor individuals trying to be dogooders, but just like a drop in a bucket to make any real difference. And to top it all the onslaught of the daily news, whose focus is on disasters, wars, murders, crimes, abuse, violence, and evil.

Charlotte-riots

Manichaeism

The conflict between good and evil is one of the precepts of the Zoroastrian faith, first enshrined by Zoroaster over 3000 years ago. It is also one of the most common conventional themes in literature, and is sometimes considered to be a universal part of the human condition

The central and sine qua non aspect to the Manichean outlook on evil is ontological dualism. In the Epistula Fundamenti Mani clearly lays out this doctrine: “For there were in the beginning these two substances divided from one another”, and Augustine, who is understood by most scholars to have an accurate grasp on Manichean doctrine, notes that Mani “put together two principles, different from an opposing each other, as well as eternal and co-eternal (that is, having always been), and also two natures or substances, namely, of good and bad.” Evil, then, is ultimately not an object of the will or of the mind, but a separately active pre-cosmic substance.

Good Vs Evil

Gnostic Belief

In the Gnostic view, there is a true, ultimate and transcendent God, who is beyond all created universes and who never created anything in the sense in which the word “create” is ordinarily understood. While this True God did not fashion or create anything, He (or, It) “emanated” or brought forth from within Himself the substance of all there is in all the worlds, visible and invisible. In a certain sense, it may therefore be true to say that all is God, for all consists of the substance of God. By the same token, it must also be recognized that many portions of the original divine essence have been projected so far from their source that they underwent unwholesome changes in the process. To worship the cosmos, or nature, or embodied creatures is thus tantamount to worshiping alienated and corrupt portions of the emanated divine essence.

The basic Gnostic myth has many variations, but all of these refer to Aeons, intermediate deific beings who exist between the ultimate, True God and ourselves. They, together with the True God, comprise the realm of Fullness (Pleroma) wherein the potency of divinity operates fully. The Fullness stands in contrast to our existential state, which in comparison may be called emptiness.

One of the aeonial beings who bears the name Sophia (“Wisdom”) is of great importance to the Gnostic world view. In the course of her journeying, Sophia came to emanate from her own being a flawed consciousness, a being who became the creator of the material and psychic cosmos, all of which he created in the image of his own flaw. This being, unaware of his origins, imagined himself to be the ultimate and absolute God. Since he took the already existing divine essence and fashioned it into various forms, he is also called the Demiurgos or “half-maker” There is an authentic half, a true deific component within creation, but it is not recognized by the half-maker and by his cosmic minions, the Archons or “rulers”.

Gnostic cosmology

The Myth of the Archons and Sophia’s Rape (Wisdom)

In the beginning was the Pleroma. The Pleroma was Light, it was Full, it was Complete, it was Wonderful, it was Nouns and Verbs with Capital Letters. It was the place to be. Within the Pleroma waves of divinity flowed and created pairs of godlike beings. These were the Aions, (Aeons) male and female aspects, each of which gave birth to further couples of divine light. Eventually though, a single Aion was created – she was called Wisdom and had no other half. She longed to have children as the other Aions had children, and using the divine light she willed herself to conceive. Although a virgin she was able to bring forth a child, but this child was blind to the upper beauty of the Pleroma. He could not see the divine light and imagined himself to be the greatest of all. Thinking he was on his own, he started to create, but his creation was flawed and lifeless.

The Creator had managed to create a vast ocean, a place of chaos, and he called it the Deep. And he moved over the Deep and created the stars, and the earth, and the mountains and the rivers, but still there was something missing. And he created servants to help with his work, the Archons and Angels, the Princes and Powers, but still there was something missing. And he created the flying creatures, and the swimming creatures, and the walking creatures, but still there was something missing. The Creator rested and left his creation to the Archons, brooding on what was missing.

Now it happened that Wisdom found the world that her son had created. She looked into the Deep and saw her reflection. As the last of the Aoins she was far from the light of the Pleroma and had never seen her own radiance. She was entranced by her own beauty, and not living up to her name, she moved closer and closer to her reflection until she fell into the material world. The world scared her and she did not know what was happening. Then the Archons found her, and they lusted after her. She had never experienced such want from anyone and did not expect what the Archons planned. Too late she realized, she fell into their hands and they forced themselves upon her.

Sophia

Not willing to experience the horrors, Wisdom split apart, her divine nature sundered into hundreds of pieces. The most divine part of Wisdom become a mighty Oak, the Tree of Knowledge. Her body was left behind, a shell that had a human nature. The shell was called Eve and she gave birth to the children of the Archons. These human beings spread out and populated the Earth, and they worshiped the Archons, the Powers and Principalities, and they worshiped the blind Creator.

But among the humans were some who inherited the divine spark of Wisdom. These few souls went through life feeling like strangers in a strange land. They yearned for the Pleroma but they could not understand what this yearning was. Discontent with the world they suffered and when they died the divine spark would ascend and try to return to the Pleroma, but the Archons would force the divine sparks back into the world.

The spark that had lingered on in Eve was called Ennoia, and hers was a terrible fate. Doomed to suffer the most, the Archons made sure that she would never have true happiness. All looked lost for the sparks of Wisdom.

But there was hope. The Pleroma would come to know of the world and of the trapped Wisdom. And the Pleroma would send a Revealer, and a Redeemer. Through the Revealer (perhaps to be called John the Baptist) the humans with the divine spark would be told about the true nature of things, they would be blessed, baptized into the new reality. And the Revealer would bring forth the Redeemer (perhaps to be called Simon Magus), the one who the Pleroma had finally created to be the other half of Wisdom, and when he saved Ennoia, then the material world would fall apart and the truth would set them free.

Defining Evil

One of the problems of believing in Evil, it’s you have to define it first, without defining what evil is, the validity of the statements cannot be properly assessed. As for example what constitute evil, and from where come the decision to do an evil act? Another it’s the idea of free will, if God it’s there to take our decision away from us by preventing any negative act from us, then what freedom do we really have? Plus we know that’s not the case, since there is nobody to stop you before committing a stupid thing, if you wish to do so, but where moral responsibility begins, if you are not willing to confront yourself as the doer of evil? Are you so naive as to believe you are doing nothing wrong when you are murdering a human being?

And rather to avoid the ultimate question why not ask yourself first why death it’s a fact of life, regardless? it’s not the creator who bear that responsibility even if you die from old age anyway?

There it’s anything more inescapable than death?

Death, The  Grim Reaper

Religious Response

Buddhism attempted to answer the problem by disassociation, meditation, and avoidance, for evil was nothing but the outcome of desire and greed stemming from a misunderstanding of the self and of the world. The Buddha’s answer was “to avoid all evil, to do good, and to purify one’s mind.

Plato and Aristotle would equate evil with a lack of knowledge, making evil synonymous with intellectual ignorance, with it’s antidote being rational contemplation. Eventually Christianity would emerge with its own answer and explanation of evil, through a savior and Immanent God in the form of Jesus Christ, I will not dwell on the theological arguments of this doctrine too long to be exposed here and full of ambivalence in my opinion bordering on irresponsible arguments like the will of God it’s to allow evil  for an unknown future greater good, rather than simplify  it as Plato and Aristotle did; free will and ignorance, and the not existence of a moral absolute on the will of God that would curtail the freedom of the individual to choose by himself, and make evil a total Human responsibility, and not blaming God for it.

Inferno by Giovanni da Modena

Beyond Good and Evil, Ibn Arabi’s View

“God’s Wide Land Ibn ‘Arabi’s position is corroborated by the Shaykh’s own words: “What in fact takes place is that one divine name prescribes the Law for another divine name within the locus of a created human being.” In this scheme of things, the servant’s own will to act is absolutely irrelevant. In fact, it simply does not exist, since all actions spring from the internal interplay of God’s names and commands within a contingent locus called human being. Elsewhere, Ibn ‘Arabi drives this message home saying: “There is nothing here for us, except our readiness to accept the actions that are attributed [to us by God] in the empirical world.” “My kashf therefore says: ‘You have nothing to do with this.'” In short, the only true and real actor is none other than God Himself.

In the end, Ibn ‘Arabi the gnostic prevails over Ibn ‘Arabi the canon. For better or worse, he dares to raise the curtain protecting God’s ultimate mystery and to reveal to his readers that all human actions and natural phenomena take place by and in the all-encompassing divine Reality (al-haqq). God’s creatures are but the passive and contingent arenas of dialogues between God’s own names and attributes. Seen from this perspective, the creatures have no role at all in the acts that they ostensibly create and perform.”

My Views on the Matter

I understand these views can be a lot to take to the inexperienced on these subjects  reader of this post, however I want to clarify all these conclusions, and opinions, are  to be considered by the individual reading them, and not the final word on it, I agree with Ibn Arabi’s outlook, however you have to understand he is talking beyond our Human realm, on the terrestrial we are all subject to laws, given by Sacred book’s commands, and by our own moral codes of ethics, as individuals bounded, and liable, by them, and  not necessarily dictated by religious belief, but by logic, as in the case of nonbelievers, or Atheist who do not need a command in order to be ethic, but also bounded by the laws of Men, regardless of his own views on the matter.

He Alone

Posted in Ancient Religions, Archons, Biblical Studies, Cosmology, Crisis of Values, Critical Thinking, Demiurge, Determinism, Dualism, Eschatology, Gnosis, History, Ibn Arabi, Inner Journey, Inspiration, Jesus, Manichaeism, Metaphysics, Mysticism, Myth, Ontology, Religion, Revelation, Sophia, Spirituality, Theology, Uncategorized, Wisdom, World View | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 57 Comments

TIME PERCEPTION, RELATIVITY, AND THE LONGEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE.

Einstein on Time Perceptuion

“The conclusion is that the whole of those laws

of nature which have been woven into a

unified scheme – mechanics, gravitation, electrodynamics and optics – have their origin,

not in any special mechanism of nature,

but in the workings of the mind”

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington

 

The ebb and flow of time

Time Perception

We all have noticed that time drags when we want to get over with something, like getting home after a long commute, or getting out from work after a long day of dealing with difficult things, but also the reverse it’s true, the more busy you are the faster time seems to go by, I remember a particular job I did for three years, were my job was to take call, after call, as a customer service representative, not an easy job, but that I got to like it, because as I got used to, most of the times someone would come to me and tap me on the shoulder, to call my attention, and said, it’s time to go. And it seem to me that I had only been there three, or four hours, rather than eight!

Over a century ago, Albert Einstein postulated that a given time interval is registered differently by independent (moving) clocks. Interestingly, Einstein himself recognized the similarity between the relativity of physical and psychological time: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute – and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity.”  Einstein was literally talking about different temporal contexts providing different read-outs for the same physical interval. While relative time became the de-facto view in physics, the relativity of psychological time is still a matter for debate. For example, neuron-biological evidence suggests indeed that major time scales (millisecond, second-to-minutes, and circadian) are processes by different regions of the brain (e.g., cortex, cerebellum, striatum, and suprachiasmatic nucleus), it is still unclear whether everyday timing in the seconds-to-minutes range is performed by a single or rather multiple parallel mechanisms in the brain.

Time and Counsciousness

Real or absolute time does not exist – only local time(is), different for each observer.

Short list of types of temporal illusions:

  • Telescoping effect: People tend to recall recent events as occurring further back in time than they actually did (backward telescoping) and distant events as occurring more recently than they actually did (forward telescoping).[19]
  • Vierordt’s law: Shorter intervals tend to be overestimated while longer intervals tend to be underestimated
  • Time intervals associated with more changes may be perceived as longer than intervals with fewer changes
  • Perceived temporal length of a given task may shorten with greater motivation
  • Perceived temporal length of a given task may stretch when broken up or interrupted
  • Auditory stimuli may appear to last longer than visual stimuli
  • Time duration may appear longer with greater stimulus intensity (e.g., auditory loudness or pitch)
  • Simultaneity judgments can be manipulated by repeated exposure to non-simultaneous stimuli

Men's time journey

Time as Unreal

In 5th century BC Greece, Antiphon the Sophist, in a fragment preserved from his chief work On Truth, held that: “Time is not a reality (hypostasis), but a concept (noêma) or a measure (metron).”Parmenides went further, maintaining that time, motion, and change were illusions, leading to the paradoxes of his follower Zeno. Time as an illusion is also a common theme in Buddhist thought.

J. M. E. McTaggarts 1908 The Unreality of Time argues that, since every event has the characteristic of being both present and not present (i.e., future or past), that time is a self-contradictory idea (see also The flow of time).

These arguments often center around what it means for something to be unreal. Modern physicists generally believe that time is as real as space, though others, such as Julian Barbour in his book The End of Time, argue that quantum equations of the universe take their true form when expressed in the timeless realm containing every possible now or momentary configuration of the universe, called ‘platonia’ by Barbour.

A modern philosophical theory called presentism views the past and the future as human-mind interpretations of movement instead of real parts of time (or “dimensions”) which coexist with the present. This theory rejects the existence of all direct interaction with the past or the future, holding only the present as tangible. This is one of the philosophical arguments against time travel. This contrasts with eternalism (all time: present, past and future, is real) and the growing block theory (the present and the past are real, but the future is not).

Time as an illusion

Our story: The Longest Night Of My life

There is a lot to talk about time, but this would have to be a book, and it’s just a post, so here it is my personal perception, and experience of how time can stretch to great lengths, it was many years ago, somewhere in December of 1973 just before Christmas and close to the Winter Solstice when nights are long, a friend of mine invited me to go and listen to a conference to a town 60 miles away from us, the conference would start at  8:30 PM and we would be living somewhere before 7:00 PM to arrive with plenty of time to find the place.

Having to teach a Yoga class at 6:AM the next day, decided to take a little nap somewhere at 4:00 PM that evening before leaving, expecting a long night ahead of us, but to be back before midnight. Woke up from my nap at 5:00 PM  and headed to the Yoga studio where we would meet to leave, at that time it was one of the shortest days of the year and I remember it was almost dark, and by the time that I arrived to the studio, 40 minutes after it was totally dark, and not only that, it started to rain, shortly as I left my home, very likely now day, I would had apologize to my friend and cancel the trip, but been young and excited about the conference the four of us we left as planed somewhere around 6:30 PM.

Half way down the way, with the rain some rocks had landslide in to the road, being dark and rainy my friend hit one of the rocks and had a flat  tire, and broke the ring of the wheel. It took us quite a while in the dark, and with the danger of other cars hitting us from behind to change the wheel. Needless to say by the time we could mount the spare tire we better should had turn the car around and go back home, but instead my friend the driver over optimistic  we fought traffic and the rain in the city, and once  when we finally got to the conference, we were able to listen the answer to the last question the speaker had, somewhere a little after 10:00 PM.

Landslide on a rainy night

My friend worried about not having a spare tire on our way back,  he went looking  with some of his relatives who lived in that town, for a spare tire, to begin with, the relatives lived at quite some distance, and that also took some time, and he not only pick up the tire but he talked to the relatives for an hour or so, finally we left back to our town and we arrived maybe at 2:00 AM, but of course they couldn’t drop me right away, they were hungry and wanted diner!

So we looked for a 24 hour place to eat,  and needless to say it was way past the time estimated we would be back by midnight, somewhere around 3:30 AM when they drop me home, went to bed immediately just after setting the alarm for 5:00 AM, after a brief sleep the alarm went off, and dressing up I went in to the wet, and muddy streets, rain was still pouring, and what strike me right at that moment as I walked to the class, through the poor lighted streets avoiding mud, and big pools of water, under the rain, how it was still dark, and despite traveling to a different town, and back, doing all the things we did, here I was walking the same path I did earlier a few hours before in darkness to meet my friends at the studio, but the night wasn’t over yet..!

Train ride though freezing temperatures

No doubt the night wasn’t longer than any other night around that time of the year, but so much events were sandwiched in between, including walking twice to the Yoga studio in darkness during the same cold, rainy night, that it stuck in my memory, neither was the toughest night of my life, as I have memories of hell, like spending the night on a train trip on the mountains in a freezing night without proper clothing, and no heating in the car compartment, this just been only the prelude of many subsequent nights on that trip, sleeping on cement floors, on top of cardboard, and the flimsiest of a sleeping bag, separating my body from the cement floor, on subfreezing weather for a whole month. And many other nights when I used to work night shift, or whatever many other occurrences through a life’s long journey.

Time perception is relative, maybe because so much was sandwiched in between, went on that night, and we wasted the night away without achieving anything of purpose, since waking up from my early nap in semidarkness, and not seeing the light of day after finishing the teaching of the class in the early morning. It stayed in my memory as a very long night, it was the longest night I remember maybe because it just stuck on my mind, to be that way. I am sure for all of us there have being similar occurrences, when time seem to stretch for ever, or at least an unusual length, for no other reason that we perceive it that way.

timeship-planet-earth

Posted in Consciousness, Einstein, Inspiration, Longest Night, Memories, Personal Story, Relativity, Subjective, The Subjective, Time Perception, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 92 Comments

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH CINEMA, FROM TEN SECONDS TO HELL, HURRICANES, AND THINGS TO COME, CINEMA PARADISO, AN EDUCATION, AND DISILLUSIONMENT

The Hidden Fortress

“For me, film making combines everything. That’s the reason I’ve made cinema my life’s work. In films, painting and literature, theater and music come together. But a film is still a film.”

Akira Kurosawa

 

My love of movies

I was probably six years of age when my parents took me to see my first movie ever, at the time movie theaters didn’t allow children less than seven years of age in to the theaters, at the 8:00PM show  mainly I guess at least in my days as a child they put us in bed just after diner no later than 9:00PM, or not to disturb the adults at the theater, besides most movies were foreign movies and had subtitles, if you were too young to read there was no point to take a child to the movies. The movie I remember was Ten seconds to Hell, a movie by Robert Aldrich  with Jack Palance, and Jeff Chandler, the movie was sort of a failure, and not memorable, except to me, since it was the first of thousands of movies I have watched through the years.

Ten Seconds To Hell

Fortunately I learnt to read at five, so I could read the subtitles, now there was no television in town, a thing hard to understand to people now days , but I got to remind you this was 1959, there was no satellites even if the first Russian Sputnik was launched in October 1957, first time ever than TV signal was transmitted from a satellite wasn’t until July 23, 1962, but since in my town we lacked a tower to capture the signal, in fact not until 1968 our town got a TV tower for the first time.

So as a child I missed watching TV, but in our small town we had been watching movies since 1897 two years just after the Lumiere brothers offered their first picture to the people of Paris, and in my childhood we possessed a whooping six movie theaters, or at least three of them running continually, since one did not have a roof and run at night only for obvious reasons, (but not a drive in) aptly named “Tropical” and two of them were out of action periodically, theaters would start selling tickets at 3:30PM, and punctually at 4:00PM the magic of turning off the lights and start rolling the first movie would begin, you could adjust your watch to it, possibly the only thing that would run on time in my town!

And we had at each theater three old movies on Monday, three different on Tuesday, and Wednesday, Three more on Thursday, and Friday to Sunday two new releases, if my math is correct we had at least from 33, to around 60 different pictures,  you could choose to watch at any given week, not counting matinees who were meant for children, and that I did,  watching on the mid sixties to the early early seventies, numerous films, being at the theater four, or five times a week! An evening without going to the theater was a bore, even on school days being out of school by five we could be at a theater to catch the second picture, and stay there if we wish to do so until the end of the last picture around  midnight.

Teatro Angela Peralta

Growing Up Nurtured by Movies

Now I used to joke if it wasn’t for the big old theaters at home showing us so many movies, and a respite to our daily boredom, in a town where the only two things a young person could do was go to the beach during the mornings, and to the movies during the evenings, pretty much there was nothing else to do but to read a book, or go to a bar to drink!

I believe the movies saved many of us young people of becoming early alcoholics, sad to say but on those days there where bars everywhere, I remember a particular corner with a bar in all it’s three points, and the fourth point, the local beer brewery! Movies was an innocent healthy escape you could say, not to talk a respite to the heat as well, since few people could afford air condition, and above all, truly an education on cinema, a window to the world seen on celluloid, in a time when communication with the outside world meant to be able to travel. Going to the movies on the other hand, was relatively cheap, around 35, 0r 40 cents depending on the theater.

And what a first class cinema education I got, the rich fare we were served, through our theaters we saw every movie made around the globe, not only by Hollywood, but French, Italian, British, Swedish, German, Japanese, Spanish, Indian, Mexican, Argentinian, Brazilian, and anybody who could make a movie, somehow slowly but surely the heavy canisters of celluloid would reach our theaters, and were loaded into the big old projectors. In my opinion the golden age of cinema was reached on the late fifties, through most of the sixties, and had been a long slow decline since, to the point that long after I ceased to go to the theaters, in the early eighties, and renting them instead to watch at home, and finally cancelled my Netflix account quite a few years ago, now days I ever hardly watch a movie, and haven’t been to a theater in ages, by that I do not mean good movies are no longer made, they do, not just that often.

Old movie projector

Cinema Paradiso

I saw Cinema Paradiso on video, some years after it was released in 1988, already somewhat disenchanted with the mass production of movies on a totally corporate business like, industrial line of production, not that old movies were not done that way, but wised up by age, disillusioned, with the so named seventh art, maybe too much of a cynic. One of the reasons for the success of Cinema Paradiso, no doubt was that Toto’s story it’s for many of us who grew up in a small town, our own story, people like me who  left for good their small town, in  an age where people abandoned their small towns to go to the big cities to study, or try their luck in search of work, and a better life somewhere else, and the local movie theater was the window that provided the necessary inspiration to look for bigger horizons.

Toto & Alfredo in Cinema Paradiso

And we share the same story with some variants no doubt, but pretty much on the same lines, leaving a young High school sweetheart behind, family, and friends, to face life in the big city, with farther, and farther in between visits to home, and family, and when back, the heartbreak from seeing the abandoned remains of the old movie houses, where we spend our childhood, for so many hours dreaming…

Abandoned Old Teather.

My Story, A Matinee, and Things to Come

Only twelve years of age on September 26 1965, a Sunday my elder brother and myself did what we used to do every Sunday morning, and that was to go to the matinee that started a 10:00AM. every Sunday, it matter little to us what movies were playing, as long we had not see them yet, we used to go along with three or more friends, little did matter also that the day was sort looking like rain was coming, in those days without satellites to track the weather they relied on weather balloons that would send up every day sketchy weather information, our mother hesitated a little before letting us go, since it looked like a storm was about to hit  town, but we went anyway prevailing over our mother’s fears, we arrived to the old theater and there were two movies to watch, and that was all we cared, we took our seats in our favorite spot and saw the first movie without any incident worth talking, I can’t even recall what movie it was, but during the second movie an interesting old British prewar movie,  about half into it, we start noticing that the old theater roof  was having leaks of water here, and there, first slowly, but as the minutes went by, more and more water start leaking down on us, suddenly a ceiling panel with a loud noise ripped off the false ceiling, and a veritable waterfall equal to emptying a swimming pool on top of our heads come down the theater!

A Hurricane!

The movie being of interest to us took a second seat to the real show when every panel of the ceiling start being coming apart under the weight of the water accumulated, between the roof, and the false ceiling, we were exposed not only to get soaked wet, but in danger of a piece of ceiling hitting us, so we run for cover, not out of the theater as we should have done, but under the projection cabin, to protect us from the water, and the more dangerous debris from the roof, and just sat there to weather the storm and keep watching the movie, and the falling debris of the ceiling!

Theater Reforma after Hurricane

Incredible enough the movie kept playing and we didn’t abandon the protection under the cabin until every piece of the roof was gone, and the corrugated  sheets of asbestos were totally torn off by the storm, and flew away one by one, like if they were sheets of paper, still wonder where they landed, they probably did great damage!

Water kept pouring and we decided we had enough, mainly because we couldn’t see the movie anymore, there was no roof anymore, and the place look like if it was a drive inn with seats, even if the projector kept running and the light of the day, and the rain made it difficult for us to keep seeing the action on the movie, just as we started to leave the theater finally the power gave out, no doubt an electricity pole falling down somewhere, or many!

Every employee of the theater had abandoned the theater, including the projectionist, in fact we were the last to leave the now totally wrecked theater, my surprise had no end, when we descended  in to the lobby and saw the candy shop under water, and the popcorn floating around!

The theater was located in a low zone of the city, in terrain that very likely was a estuary, or a marsh, if not outright land gained from the ocean, that naturally flooded when a storm of the magnitude of Hurricane Hazel hit the city.

Luckily the employees of the theater, who obviously knew better, had deserted us for quite some time, but didn’t even lock up the theater, or turn the projector off. With water to our chest and waddling through a current of water holding ourselves cautiously from the iron works of the house’s windows along our way we reached narrow Constitution street where water was running with the force of a river rapid, and had a first hand knowledge at that moment as to the why the sidewalks on that street where that high! We solved the problem by walking back in the opposite direction from where the water was coming, and forded the current so we could come out successfully at the opposite sidewalk, crossing the street at an angle, now reflect how lucky we were of not been swept away by the strong current!

From there we reached high ground on Plaza Revolucion, right at that corner in the picture below, although the plaza didn’t look as nice as in the picture!

Catedral & plaza Revolucion

There was no a tree left standing, every heavy Indian Laurel fig laying on the ground, but to us was an adventure just crossing the park through the the jungle of fallen branches, by that time the storm had subsided, and we reached home all excited by such great adventure, in our young lives, of course mother had another view of the event, herself a victim of an earlier Hurricane adventure, my poor mother was scared out of her wits, and blaming herself for letting us go to the matinee, posted to the window through the storm in hope to see us come safe home that day, and later more terrorized by our account of the destruction of the theater, and the general mayhem at the town caused by the storm.

Aftermath

Later next day my father who was out of town arrived home, and we drove on his car avoiding all sort of obstacles, like downed trees, and big water holes, and cautiously made our way along the coast seeing the devastation of many places and kept driving until we reached a point called  Sabalo, at the time way out of town, where the lonely figure of a local character, famous for his jolly occurrences, nicknamed Pacharo,  who had recently acted on a  minor role, a little above extra, working for scale on a non talking role, along  Yul Brynner and George Chakiris on a forgetful movie named Kings of the Sun, filmed on location on the outskirts of our town, Pacharo who owned a palapa restaurant by the beach, and faced the storm all by himself, very little remained of his destroyed place, but he was so happy to see us, being the first people to be able to reach his place since the day before the storm, he recognized us and yelled my father’s name running toward us as soon he saw us, as we got out of the car to talk to him, in character with his recent movie exploits he exclaimed: I withstood the storm all alone; Like Attila frente a Roma! (Sign of the Pagan) thing that provoke all the members of our family to laugh, and remember through the years Pacharo’s ordeal.

Aftermath of Hurricane Hazel

Palapa Wiped Up By Storm

 Pacharo with Yul Brynner and George Chakiris

Sign_of_the_Pagan

Not My First One

It was not even my first Hurricane, I had a first seat from a window at home, as a witness of great mayhem occasioned by a Hurricane in 1958 or 1959? When I was only five or six years of age and our house’s windows faced another park, and saw every huge Indian Laurel tree in the park being lifted in to the air pulled by the roots like a carrot, and crash with an uproar, like thunder sound, just fifty feet from our house, meanwhile I watched my father and an elder cousin who where trying to rescue my mother who had the bad idea just before the Hurricane hit, to go and fetch up a bag of coffee at the grocery store for breakfast that day, mother spent most of the hurricane a block from home holding in to the iron bars of a window until  my father and cousin could rescue her, and brought her back home safe, a home that no longer exist, and was located in front of the park on the upper right corner in relation to the park (middle) in the picture below.

Neither those Hurricanes were the last ones, been on six Hurricanes through my life, however non as exciting as the two first ones, for many years between our friends who participated on that faithful matinee in September, try to figure out what was the name of the movie we never finished, the main problem being because at that age we cared little to read the credits, all we wanted was for the credits to end soon, so we could start watching the movie, that and the fact we didn’t knew the original title in English, on those days the translators would change the original name and give it any name they saw fit, or they  pleased, as an example the Sound of Music was translated as La Novicia Rebelde! (The Rebel Novice)  go figure!

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H.G. Wells

Well, after almost fifty years later could figure it was Things to Come (also known in promotional material as H. G. Wells’ Things to Come) is a 1936 British black-and-white science fiction film from United Artists, produced by Alexander Korda, directed by William Cameron Menzies, and written by H. G. Wells. The film stars Raymond Massey, Ralph Richardson, Cedric Hardwicke, Pearl Argyle, and Margaretta Scott.

Thanks to the Internet, and Youtube could solve the mystery,  we went to a matinee to watch Things to Come, and what it come was a Hurricane!

Ironically in my town, the oldest of all the theaters, was the only one to survive, and after it’s almost total destruction by another Hurricane in 1975 was beautifully restored and you can appreciate it on the third picture, now the place for all kinds of cultural events.

Things-to-Come-UK-poster

Wonderful Memories

I have wonderful memories of the great many movies I had watched through the years of my life, even if now days hardly watch a movie, tired of the direction movies in general have gone, some people mainly young ones, sometimes try to talk me into watching this movie, or that other one, rarely if I do, care too much about it, at least not as I did so many years ago, I guess I have changed,  lost that sense of wonderment you carry as a young person, and look at things, and life with different eyes, I will not go to specifics, too well known by many, and in fairness there is a few movies made that are good, and enjoyable no doubt, but I am no more the same small child who looked in wonderment from my seat, in the cool darkness, and silence of the old theaters, with devotion like in a temple, to the magical reflection on the screen that opened new worlds of discovery to my young eyes, and imagination.

Omar Sharif was a small dot riding out of a desert mirage to join Peter O'Toole

Posted in Cinema, Cinema & Literature, Cinema Paradiso, Criticism, Cynicism, Dreams, Family History, Hurricanes, Imagination, Inner Journey, Inspiration, Memories, Old Movies, Old Theaters, Personal Story, Ten Seconds To Hell, Things To Come, Uncategorized, Watching Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 59 Comments

CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE INFLUENCED BY CINEMA, AND OTHER FORMS OF MEDIA.

Annabelle Moore

“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”

― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

The Silver Age of Literature

The world’s first hand-tinted motion picture was produced by Thomas Edison’s company, Edison Studios, in 1895, more than 115 years ago. The dancer, Annabelle Moore (1878-1961), was just a teenager when this film was released, and her dance caused both a sensation and a scandal.

Ironically the end of the Nineteen century and the beginning of the Twenty century, those were the heydays of Literature, with writers in Russia like  Tolstoy, Dostoevsky,  Chekhov, Turgenev, Andreyev, Bunin, Bulgakov In England Dickens, W Eliot, Bronte, Hardy, Kipling in America Poe, Whitman, Melville, Twain, in France Balzac, Baudelaire, Hugo, Dumas, Flaubert, Zola, Maupassant, Proust, in German Fontane, Rilke, Musil, Roth, Mann, Kafka, Hesse, in Hungary Kosztolányi, Poland  Sienkiewicz, Bruno Schultz, and Gombrowicz, in Italy Pirandello and Svevo, in Spain Perez Galdos, Leopoldo Alas, Palacio Valdes, Valle Inclan, Pio Baroja, Blasco Ibañez, in Portugal, Eça de Queirós, Ireland, Wilde, James Joyce, Norway, Ibsen, and Hamsun, Sweden, Strindberg, Lagerlöf, and Lagerkvist.

And this it’s not an exhaustive list, just a few well known names to a roster of great writers of many nations who wrote great many books in a sort of Silver age of writing after the Golden age of Shakespeare, and Cervantes.

Tolstoy-List-Main

Literature As Art, Or Entertainment?

Before starting throwing accusations to contemporary literature, in all fairness let’s say most people read as an utilitarian occupation, in order to learn something, like a subject at school, like math, History, Biology, etc. We will not talk about business since if you are not able to read basically it’s even hard to get a job!

Then some may read as entertainment like reading a thriller, or a detective story,  romance novel,  science fiction, etc. This it’s what we call genre novels, whose main objective it’s to fill our time to avoid boredom, now some may be pretty good, and engaging, some may even border on real Literature…As to when a piece of writing crosses the line and become an authentic piece of Literature, it’s hard to tell, since most people have different standards to qualify a work of art, sad to say but now days our standards are very low, we consume a lot of garbage, in food, music, movies, television, and mass media.

It doesn’t help that the prime motivator of writing a novel it’s to sell it, not to promote Literature, or good taste on people’s reading habits, so bottom line is that a novel in order to be successful is necessary to produce money to the writer who laboriously wasted uncounted hours writing it, and to the editors as well, who need to profit from the book, so the first requisite of a writer it’s not to produce a piece of art, but something that sells, and here comes the editor saying : Sorry your work it’s very good, but I will not be able to sell it, there is not a car chase, nobody gets kill, there is not even someone stealing something, or nothing really exciting ever happens, there is not even bad words, or sex! How do you expect for me to sell this?

An Editor at Work

Exhibit Number One, The Thriller

Thriller is a broad genre of literature, film and television, having numerous sub genres. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety. The Merriam Webster dictionary: one that thrills; especially :  a work of fiction or drama designed to hold the interest by the use of a high degree of intrigue, adventure, or suspense.

Writer Vladimir Nabokov, in his lectures at Cornell University, said: “In an Anglo-Saxon thriller, the villain is generally punished, and the strong silent man generally wins the weak babbling girl, but there is no governmental law in Western countries to ban a story that does not comply with a fond tradition, so that we always hope that the wicked but romantic fellow will escape scot-free and the good but dull chap will be finally snubbed by the moody heroine.”

Thrillers may be defined by the primary mood that they elicit: suspenseful excitement. In short, if it “thrills”, it is a thriller. As the introduction to a major anthology explains:

Thrillers

 

Thrillers provide such a rich literary feast. There are all kinds. The legal thriller, spy thriller, action-adventure thriller, medical thriller, police thriller, romantic thriller, historical thriller, political thriller, religious thriller, high-tech thriller, military thriller. The list goes on and on, with new variations constantly being invented. In fact, this openness to expansion is one of the genre’s most enduring characteristics. But what gives the variety of thrillers a common ground is the intensity of emotions they create, particularly those of apprehension and exhilaration, of excitement and breathlessness, all designed to generate that all-important thrill. By definition, if a thriller doesn’t thrill, it’s not doing its job.

Action movie

Common methods and themes in crime and action thrillers are mainly ransoms, captivities, heists, revenge, kidnappings. Common in mystery thrillers are investigations and the whodunit technique. Common elements in dramatic and psychological thrillers include plot twists, psychology, obsession and mind games. Common in horror thrillers are serial killers, stalking, deathtraps and horror-of-personality. Elements such as fringe theories, false accusations and paranoia are common in paranoid thrillers. Threats to entire countries, spies, espionage, conspiracies, assassins and electronic surveillance are common in spy thrillers.

Characters may include criminals, stalkers, assassins, innocent victims (often on the run), menaced women, psychotic individuals, spree killers, sociopaths, agents, terrorists, cops and escaped cons, private eyes, people involved in twisted relationships, world-weary men and women, psycho-fiends, and more. The themes frequently include terrorism, political conspiracy, pursuit, or romantic triangles leading to murder. Plots of thrillers involve characters which come into conflict with each other or with outside forces.

mission-impossible

The protagonist of these films is set against a problem. No matter what sub-genre a thriller film falls into, it will emphasize the danger that the protagonist faces. The protagonists are frequently ordinary citizens unaccustomed to danger, although commonly in crime and action thrillers, they may also be “hard men” accustomed to danger such as police officers and detectives. While protagonists of thrillers have traditionally been men, women lead characters are increasingly common.[ In psychological thrillers, the protagonists are reliant on their mental resources, whether it be by battling wits with the antagonist or by battling for equilibrium in the character’s own mind. The suspense often comes from two or more characters preying upon one another’s minds, either by playing deceptive games with the other or by merely trying to demolish the other’s mental state.

An atmosphere of menace and sudden violence, such as crime and murder, characterize thrillers. The tension usually arises when the character(s) is placed in a dangerous situation, or a trap from which escaping seems impossible. Life is threatened, usually because the principal character is unsuspectingly or unknowingly involved in a dangerous or potentially deadly situation.

Just when you thought it was safe to read a novel

Hitchcock’s films often placed an innocent victim (an average, responsible person) into a strange, life-threatening or terrorizing situation, in a case of mistaken identity or wrongful accusation.

Thrillers take place mostly in ordinary suburbs and cities, although sometimes they may take place wholly or partly in exotic settings such as foreign cities, deserts, polar regions, or the high seas. These usually tough, resourceful, but essentially ordinary heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them, their country, or the stability of the free world. Often in a thriller movie, the protagonist is faced with what seem to be insurmountable problems in his mission, carried out against a ticking clock, the stakes are high and although resourceful, they face personal dilemmas along the way forcing them to make sacrifices for others.

Violent World Saviors

Yes unfortunately it’s true, if a novel doesn’t hit us with the brutal force of a koboko whiplash and wake us from our dense, saturated, and insensitive slumber we will not be able to read the book, our attention span, it’s getting shorter, and shorter does not tolerate anything less than a high doses of peak events, like an earthquake, or a tremendous explosion, the hijack of a terrorist, the threat of a nuclear explosion, police descending in mas like the invasion of an army, a terrific car chase where cars fly through the air like airplanes, and explode like bombs, why bother to keep reading? Regardless of the fact many of us never will be in the cross lines of a rifle sight held by a professional killer. A far fetch concocted piece of trash designed as junk food for our minds, the Doritos bag of chips to go along our Friday movie night watching of an exciting movie. This genre pretends to make us believe that what you see in the news as incidents of a highly unusual nature, that are one in a million, it may be happening to you at any moment, when your chances of being hit by lightening are higher, but not as high as wining the lotto!

In principle I am not oppose to consider this type of writing, as Literature if it’s very good, but just like twins conjoined are one in 200,000, and of those only about 5% survive, they are oddities, and the subject is not something it may happen to you, words that come to mind are epic, implausible, far fetched, contrived, Manichean, (good vs evil) it points out as writing for entertainment, Literature in my opinion it’s something we all can relate, and identify as happening to any of us, what makes it great, and different, is just the way is told.

Obi Wan Kenobi & Darth Vader

Exhibit Two, the whodunit

Detective fiction in the English-speaking world is considered to have begun in 1841 with the publication of Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” itself, featuring “the first fictional detective, the eccentric and brilliant C. Auguste Dupin”. Poe devised a “plot formula that’s been successful ever since, give or take a few shifting variables.” Poe followed with further Auguste Dupin tales: “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” in 1843 and “The Purloined Letter” in 1845.

Poe referred to his stories as “tales of ratiocination”. In stories such as these, the primary concern of the plot is ascertaining truth, and the usual means of obtaining the truth is a complex and mysterious process combining intuitive logic, astute observation, and perspicacious inference. “Early detective stories tended to follow an investigating protagonist from the first scene to the last, making the unraveling a practical rather than emotional matter.” “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” is particularly interesting because it is a barely fictionalized account based on Poe’s theory of what happened to the real-life Mary Cecilia Rogers.

Edgar Allan Poe

The period of the 1920s and ’30s is generally referred to as the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. During this period, a number of very popular writers emerged, mostly British but with a notable subset of American and New Zealand writers. Female writers constituted a major portion of notable Golden Age writers, including Agatha Christie, the most famous of the Golden Age writers, and among the most famous authors of any genre, of all time. Four female writers of the Golden Age are considered the four original “Queens of Crime”: Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham. Apart from Ngaio Marsh (a New Zealander) they were British.

Various conventions of the detective genre were standardized during the Golden Age, and in 1929 some of them were codified by writer Ronald Knox in his ‘Decalogue’ of rules for detective fiction, among them to avoid supernatural elements, all of which were meant to guarantee that, in Knox’s words, a detective story “must have as its main interest the unraveling of a mystery; a mystery whose elements are clearly presented to the reader at an early stage in the proceedings, and whose nature is such as to arouse curiosity, a curiosity which is gratified at the end.” In Golden Age detective stories, an outsider, sometimes a salaried investigator or a police officer, but often a gifted amateur investigates a murder committed in a closed environment by one of a limited number of suspects.

The most widespread sub genre of the detective novel became the whodunit (or whodunit, short for “who done it?”), where great ingenuity may be exercised in narrating the events of the crime, usually a homicide, and of the subsequent investigation in such a manner as to conceal the identity of the criminal from the reader until the end of the book, when the method and culprit are revealed. According to scholars Carole Kismaric and Marvi Heiferman, “The golden age of detective fiction began with high-class amateur detectives sniffing out murderers lurking in rose gardens, down country lanes, and in picturesque villages. Many conventions of the detective-fiction genre evolved in this era, as numerous writers, from populist entertainers, to respected poets, tried their hands at mystery.

Private Eye

The murder, or the detective novel, a simple premise someone gets killed, no one seems to know who did it, so a policeman, or a private detective have to uncover the mystery surrounding it, and catch the perpetrator(s). A genre so common that many of the writers get a style that it’s easily recognizable by the readers, and even if this give us a pretty good idea how the novel will develop, and after reading two, or three novels by the same author we can figure pretty easy who did it, either you stop buying the author, or keep coming because you identify with the hero, or enjoy his witticism. The novels are done with a mass audience in mind who are not hard to please, and do not demand much of you as a reader, usually short, and very formulaic, successful authors know this, and do not bother to come with anything new, why bother if your books sell? So you keep making the same book over, and over, changing names, and situations a little, just enough to justify the different title. Of course depending on the author this genre can be very entertaining, regardless of it’s merits as Literature, and taken to the big screen very often.

Glued to the book

 

Exhibit Number Three, Science Fiction.

Science fiction (often shortened to sci-fi or scifi) is a genre of speculative fiction, typically dealing with imaginative concepts such as futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and has been called a “literature of ideas.”  It usually eschews the supernatural, and unlike the related genre of fantasy, historically science fiction stories were intended to have at least a faint grounding in science-based fact or theory at the time the story was created, but this connection has become tenuous or non-existent in much of science fiction.

Literature of ideas a most generous name given to this genre, if you ask me, but like in anything there is some good storytellers, far and few needless to say.

Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possible worlds or futures. It is related to, but different from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated physical laws (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation).

The settings of science fiction are often contrary to those of consensus reality, but most science fiction relies on a considerable degree of suspension of disbelief, which is facilitated in the reader’s mind by potential scientific explanations or solutions to various fictional elements. Science fiction elements include:

  • A time setting in the future, in alternative timelines, or in a historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record.

  • A spatial setting or scenes in outer space (e.g. spaceflight), on other worlds, or on subterranean earth.

  • Characters that include aliens, mutants, androids, or humanoid robots and other types of characters arising from a future human evolution.

  • Futuristic or plausible technology such as ray guns, teleportation machines, and humanoid computers.

  • Scientific principles that are new or that contradict accepted physical laws, for example time travel, wormholes, or faster-than-light travel or communication.

  • New and different political or social systems, e.g. Utopian, dystopian, post-scarcity, or post-apocalyptic.

  • Paranormal abilities such as mind control, telepathy, telekinesis (e.g. “The Force” in Star Wars.)

  • Other universes or dimensions and travel between them.

Science Fiction Scenario

The annual Hugo Awards for science fiction and fantasy have been running uninterrupted (with the exception of a brief hiatus in 1954) since 1953. Voting is open to anyone prepared to stump up the money (currently $40) and the ceremony has been held all over the world. As such, the awards can lay serious claim to being one of the most venerable, democratic and international in existence, not to mention one of the most transparent

Outside the sci-fi community, however, the awards barely resonate. Leaving aside the (admittedly interesting) question of whether democratic voting will always select the best novel over that year’s populist Dan Brown equivalent, there’s the well-known snobbery around these genre books. Science fiction may be one of the defining literature of the last century, but it’s rare that its products get any kind of acceptance by the academy (and when they do, they’re then generally called something else).

I got little taste for this type of writing, born by the advent of our contemporary Science, and based on the infatuation  from  our Western obsession with Science, at the root a staunch materialism, from people with the idea Science it’s a panacea for Mankind, a delusional idea if there is one, who even ignore the second law of Thermodynamics: Entropy, yes the Universe had a beginning, and consequently would have an end,  therefore a material existence ends with death, there is no hope of extending life beyond it’s end, however rosy a picture you may have of a fictional future brought by Science and technology, there will not be eternal life, at least not on this material dimension, so go seek it elsewhere!

To be fair there is nothing wrong to read for entertainment purposes, neither a desire to be thrilled, and we have the freedom to choose and pick our own form of entertainment, even if we secretly may feel guilty of indulging our time in such pursuits, myself a clear example of it, for many years I read WWII History, and biographies, knowing that they didn’t add a thing, but to my knowledge of History, if that has any value at all, now days once in a while pick one of this books, read it and feel a little bit guilty afterwards, in fact reading any book that doesn’t make me feel I learnt something valuable, even if I enjoyed it make me feel that way!

As a fellow blogger just read recently describe himself:

“As my faithful readers must have surmised, I like to touch upon a variety of subjects. I was diagnosed “borderline dilettante” at an early age. Fortunately my Juvenile records are sealed. Fiction, non-fiction, gender, travel and the accompanying “yours truly’s” photographs.”

The cat is a dilettante in fur.

Other Genres

Genre is a label that characterizes elements a reader can expect in a work of literature. The major forms of literature can be written in various genres. Genre is a category characterized by similarities in style, or subject matter.

The classic major genres of literature are:

  • Fiction
  • Comedy
  • Drama
  • Horror
  • Non-fiction
  • Realistic fiction
  • Romance novel
  • Satire
  • Tragedy
  • Tragicomedy
  • Fantasy

My original intention was to talk about all of these, however for the sake of brevity we would end this post right here, and we may tackle the subject on further posts.

Imaginal Views

Posted in Cinema & Literature, Criticism, Cultural Attitudes, Imagination, Language, Literary Criticism, Literature, Novels, On Reading, On Writing, Science Fitction, Thrillers, Uncategorized, whodunit | Tagged , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

MY FRIEND BOB, CALENDARS, AND THE RELATIVITY OF SYSTEMS OF MEASURE

Mayan Astronomers at Caracol

“The first men to be created and formed were called the Sorcerer of Fatal Laughter, the Sorcerer of Night, Unkempt, and the Black Sorcerer … They were endowed with intelligence, they succeeded in knowing all that there is in the world. When they looked, instantly they saw all that is around them, and they contemplated in turn the arc of heaven and the round face of the earth … [Then the Creator said]: ‘They know all … what shall we do with them now? Let their sight reach only to that which is near; let them see only a little of the face of the earth!… Are they not by nature simple creatures of our making? Must they also be gods?”

 

Popol Vuh

The Devil’s Advocate

My friend Bob it’s a very nice guy, but a little on the stubborn side, when it come to arguing about anything, he rather choose an eccentric point of view than a logical one, he prefers to abandon common sense than to be subjected to established rules, or measures of any kind, as an example recently it took me half an afternoon to explain him, against his better understanding of why we have leap years, his argument was since a day has 24 hours and a year consist of 365 days why we have a need of leap days, and leap years?

When I pointed out a year has no relation to the rotation of the Earth around it’s axis,  24 hours a full rotation known as a day, but  to the Earth  orbit around the Sun 149.60 millions kilometers, 92.96 million miles, he couldn’t figure out why there was not a synchronicity relationship of exactly 365 days, but a leftover roughly a quarter of a day (256. 363 004 parts of a day), and therefore the need every four year to add a leap day to keep an accurate calendar system, I tried to explain him to the best of my ability that a calendar it’s just a conception of the measure of time for utilitarian purposes, and point to the fact even our months are not all of 30 days thanks to the 5 days over 360, a beautiful division of our 360 degrees of a circle, in twelve months of 30 days, but in reality an idealized way to divide a circle,  if we wouldn’t add a leap year in a century we would be roughly 25 days off time, and in a millennium that would add up to 250 days off the mark and that would throw off the seasons, our January first would be somewhere in early September.

Of course my friend Bob argued that if calendars were arbitrary and relative measures of time why we couldn’t just divide time as we pleased, as simple as cutting a cake in 365 equal parts!

Neither to say at this point of the conversation I had to point to the obvious need of an standard system of measure, in order to have consensus, that it may be relative to, but not arbitrary, just like going to his house the time it may take him in his car, has no relation as to how many times it’s wheels may spin, since that it’s determine, by the diameter of the wheels, x π (pi)=circumference or size of the wheel, in relation to the distance, regardless of the speed,  he could be driving 5 miles an hour, or 60, it will not matter, the number of spins from the wheels will be the same, independent of the time it make take him to get there.

Bob pensive (800x800)

Cuneiform Tablets

Measure it’s related to honesty, and justice, maybe you will be surprised to know how our writing it is related to this virtues, not surprising writing was not as we know it today. In Mesopotamia it started out as simple counting marks, alongside which sometimes a non-arbitrary well understood sign, in the form of a simple picture image, that was cut into wood, stone, pots but more often pressed onto clay tokens. In that way, recorded accounts of amounts of goods involved in a transaction could be made. This convention began when people developed agriculture and settled into permanent communities that were centered on increasingly large and organised trading marketplaces. These marketplaces traded sheep, grain, and bread loaves, each and every one of these items was recorded by clay tokens. These initially very small clay tokens were continually used all the way from the pre-historic Mesopotamia period, 9000 BC, to the start of the historic period around 3000 BC, when the use of writing for recording was widely adopted.

No doubt this was simply a practical reason to keep record of any transaction, and in this way to keep people of short memory honest!

Administrative Cuneiform tablet

Any measure it’s Relative to

We have come a long way since, and a preconception of time involve a complex set of variables for a celestial planet, or star in relation to other celestial objects, just like our planet Earth year it’s in relation to our Sun, by it’s orbit, so do the rest of our Solar system, as for example a year in Venus it’s 224.7 days long, but a day in the other hand takes a whooping 243 day of our Earth, imagine a day in Venus, is longer than a Venus year!

A year in Jupiter it’s the equivalent of 11.86 years on Earth. As for a day time it depends on where you are in Jupiter! Because Jupiter is not a solid body, its upper atmosphere undergoes differential rotation. The rotation of Jupiter’s polar atmosphere is about 5 minutes longer than that of the equatorial atmosphere; three systems are used as frames of reference, particularly when graphing the motion of atmospheric features. System I applies from the latitudes 10° N to 10° S; its period is the planet’s shortest, at 9 hours 50 minutes 30.0 seconds. System II applies at all latitudes north and south of these; its period is 9h 55m 40.6s. System III was first defined by radio astronomers, and corresponds to the rotation of the planet’s magnetosphere; its period is Jupiter’s official rotation.

Cassini views Jupiter and Io

Human measure systems

As we saw every planet has it’s own particular conditions, and therefore ruled by different time standards in relation to one another, but this is not so different from our way to measure anything here on Earth.

We had so many calendars through History, by every civilization you can think of, that a whole post wouldn’t be big enough to enumerate, and do justice to the subject. There is Solar calendars, Lunar calendars, and Luni-solar.

A little known fact outside of France was the French republican calendar also commonly called the French Revolutionary Calendar (calendrier révolutionnaire français), was a calendar created and implemented during the French Revolution, and used by the French government for about 12 years from late 1793 to 1805, and for 18 days by the Paris Commune in 1871. The revolutionary system was designed in part to remove all religious and royalist influences from the calendar, and was part of a larger attempt at decimalization in France (which also included decimal time of day, decimalization of currency, and metrication).

Each day in the Republican Calendar was divided into ten hours, each hour into 100 decimal minutes, and each decimal minute into 100 decimal seconds. Thus an hour was 144 conventional minutes (more than twice as long as a conventional hour), a minute was 86.4 conventional seconds (44% longer than a conventional minute), and a second was 0.864 conventional seconds (13.6% shorter than a conventional second)

There were twelve months, each divided into three ten-day weeks called décades. The tenth day, décadi, replaced Sunday as the day of rest and festivity. The five or six extra days needed to approximate the solar or tropical year were placed after the months at the end of each year and called complementary days. This arrangement was an almost exact copy of the calendar used by the Ancient Egyptians, though in their case the beginning of the year was marked by summer solstice rather than autumn equinox.

A period of four years ending on a leap day was to be called a “Franciade”. The name “Olympique” was originally proposed but changed to Franciade to commemorate the fact that it had taken the revolution four years to establish a republican government in France.

The leap year was called Sextile, an allusion to the “bissextile” leap years of the Julian and Gregorian calendars, because it contained a sixth complementary day.

French Revolutionary pocket watch showing ten-day décade names and thirty-day month numbers from the Republican Calendar, but with duodecimal time

Weights and measures have taken a great variety of forms over the course of history, from simple informal expectations in barter transactions to elaborate state and supranational systems that integrate measures of many different kinds. Weights and measures from the oldest societies can often be inferred at least in part from archaeological specimens, often preserved in museums. The comparison of the dimensions of buildings with the descriptions of contemporary writers is another source of information. An interesting example of this is the comparison of the dimensions of the Greek Parthenon with the description given by Plutarch from which a fairly accurate idea of the size of the Attic foot is obtained. Because of the comparative volume of artifacts and documentation, we know much more about the state-sanctioned measures of large, advanced societies than we do about those of smaller societies or about the informal measures that often coexisted with official ones throughout history. In some cases, we have only plausible theories and we must sometimes select the interpretation to be given to the evidence.

Athena Pathenon

By studying the evidence given by all available sources, and by correlating the relevant facts, we obtain some idea of the origin and development of the units. We find that they have changed more or less gradually with the passing of time in a complex manner because of a great variety of modifying influences. It is possible to group official measurement systems for large societies into historical systems that are relatively stable over time, including: the Babylonian system, the Egyptian system, the Phileterian system of the Ptolemaic age, the Olympic system of Greece, the Roman system, the British system, and the metric system.

Scale-balance-iron-brass

Standard weights and measures have existed in the Indus Valley Civilization since the 5th millennium BCE. The centralized weight and measure system served the commercial interest of Indus merchants as smaller weight measures were used to measure luxury goods while larger weights were employed for buying bulkier items, such as food grains etc.Weights existed in multiples of a standard weight and in categories. Technical standardization enabled gauging devices to be effectively used in angular measurement and measurement for construction. Uniform units of length were used in the planning of towns such as Lothal, Surkotada, Kalibangan, Dolavira, Harappa, and Mohenjo-daro. The weights and measures of the Indus civilization also reached Persia and Central Asia, where they were further modified.

Every System Had A Utilitarian Purpose

My point is every measure system had a human origin base on a practical purpose, and could differ according to the specific needs of the task, and the cultural backgrounds of the people who invented the system, a relatively new invention The metric system is a called a decimal-based system because it is based on multiples of ten. Any measurement given in one metric unit(e.g., kilogram) can be converted to another metric unit (e.g., gram) simply by moving the decimal place. Adopted by most of the countries in the world even England the creators, except us here in the United States of America we keep company with Myanmar, and Liberia the other two countries where we cling to the more complicate British Imperial, or Exchequer System.

However no system it’s a God’s given system attuned to every need since as we see in the Heavens every planet, and Star holds different conditions particular, and specific to the given celestial body with their own calendar. Could we have a better calendar now days? Very likely, however changing a calendar just because it’s better it’s not practical just like the Republican French found out, people it’s used to what we have, changing things may bring a lot of unhappiness for the sake of accuracy, an expedience.

As a bit of anecdote the Toltec, Olmec, and the Maya build their calendar, according to their own Cosmological views with their own logic, that until recent were totally unknown to the rest of the world, some people argue the Julian it’s still a better calendar, but the fact remains the Maya adjusted their calendar five days every 52 years, meanwhile in the same period we adjust it 13 times!

Maya pyramid

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Calendars, Cosmology, Cuneiform Tablets, Decimal System, French Revolutionary Calendar, History, Inspiration, Maya Calendar, My Friend Bob, Relativity, Science, Uncategorized, Weights & Measures | Tagged , , , , , , | 31 Comments