Tag Archives: Philosophy

Comments Inspired by the Last Post

Art is about the process, they say.

I suppose that this is true.

When I mess around with visual art.  Old fashion Art which is mixed media on board or paper, generally, the idea of the process seems obvious, to me.  It is a struggle to get a image, a thing, from my mind’s eye onto paper.  It is a struggle between the mind which can be crisp and clear to the hand which, in my case, is far less certain.  What comes out at the end, whether I like it or not, is the result of this process or struggle.  Sometimes I surprise myself, not to say that I am particularly good at it, just to say that the end product is both pleasing to my mind’s eye and it comes with a sense of accomplishment.

Growing up and through into my late twenties I also had a love affair with the written word.  In this case reading it for leisure or escape.  I was always interested in the act of writing.  It was a thing that I was passionate about.  Well as passionate as I can be.  I was just never very good at it.  It seems that English wasn’t my strongest suit so when I wrote it was simply for the love of the act, the process.  I think that it is this love that keeps me working on a thing in which I fully realize I lack real talent.  In the case of writing, skill counts as well, but skill takes time.  It has been a serious education.

Here is the strange thing.

After I washed out of college and the work force I found that I had nothing but time.  I certainly didn’t want to spend my days sitting in front of a television set or later a computer monitor.  So I continued messing around with drawing, mixed media and writing.  From my experience, for what ever that is worth, schizophrenia, I think, is an ailment that in part effects that way one thinks.  We like terms like chemical imbalance or genetic defect and we avoid idea about states of consciousness and the power of world view.  World view in this case being about how thoughts are ordered, logic and the underlying assumptions that structure that logic.  I used to like and think that being schizophrenic was like having a waking dream.

It took time to get my head together well enough after breakdown to begin to tinker with words again.  I think it took several years before I started to put pen to paper with any regularity.  It was a challenge that I enjoyed and over time I could see my words and their use improve.  The better my writing became the clearer my thoughts grew.  I don’t want to undervalue medication in my case, but medication alone is not enough.  Meds aside, the decades that I have been working on writing whatever thoughts I may have on my mind, mostly fiction, have led to a certain state of clarity.  Not to say that I am as clear as a person free of Schizophrenia, simply that I am far clearer than when this whole hootenanny started.  I have reached a point where all of the people I knew personally with this diagnosis are now passed, the last being Meta’s sister.  That makes me the last person standing.  This leaves me with a weird feeling.

I can’t say that this path will work for anyone else.  My conclusions are drawn from purely anecdotal evidence.  Instead I forced to admit that I am lucky.  This is so because of my interests, studies, experiences and college course work before my breakdown and my relationship with Meta after Breakdown.  Change any one thing in that mix and I may not have survived to 30 much less 50 something.

It is times like these that leave me wide eyed with wonder at the staggering complexity of any individual life.  That every life has something nearly unique about its existence.  This is not a question of God or not God, but rather the wonder we each should struggle to maintain so that we may get the most out of each life.  It is a way for baffling the mundane, the bad days, the less than adequate work, short comings and failures we are all confronted by.

I hope you have a better than average day.

The Art of Adjustment

I have a hazy recollection of the day I was finally diagnosed as a schizophrenic.  I remember the intense sensation of relief.  As far as the date goes, I am far less certain.  That question I always answer as late spring early summer of 1989.  I want to say 1990 but I moved in with Meta around December 6th 1989.  That occurred after I was instructed that I had to stop working.

I had no idea how I was about to eat and put a roof over my head with out work but the alternative was institutionalization.  I can say I was the most not cooperative client the clinic had on this issue, but I was fully well aware that there was no real way I could resist if such a decision was made so I acquiesced.

I am pretty sure that I have talked about this before.

The label, Schizophrenic, like anything else, is a double edged sword.  One of the hardest things to cope with as the moment the sense of relief wore off was shame.  Wu live in a culture that has an individual-centric meaning with which every good thing that comes our way is the direct result of our individual merit and every bad thing that comes our way is also the direct result of our lack merit.  This is true it the very least in the working class and the lower middle class where I formed the basis of my world view.  This is a hard thing to cope with and it took many years, decades to be fair, to work passed this.  The most important step in this adjustment was resignation.  I mean this in the sense that Kierkegaard discusses in his work Fear and Trembling. 

I am getting a head of myself.

The first big adjustment that most people like me have to make, if we want to live, is medication.  I had taken a few Psych courses while I was at the university one being abnormal psychology and I had a distinct recollection of the subject matter the day I received my diagnosis.  That was “The number one problem with the treatment of schizophrenia is medication noncompliance.”  I remember saying to the Doc that day.  One of the big problem with Meds is side effects.  These are often hard to describe other than dry mouth, stiffness of the joints and one of the stranger effects for me was vivid dreaming and the sudden sensitivity to sunlight.  Now once a doctor has chosen a med for a client, such as myself, they generally don’t like to change it right away.  They want to give the medication a chance to work.  Often the recourse is to increase Meds if the desired effect hasn’t been achieved.  This causes side effects to intensify.  This will lead to other Medication being prescribed to deal with side effects.  I like to call this the Medication Pyramid.  I am a medication minimalist.   It best to learn to trust the Doctors.  When some one feels both vulnerable and powerless this is a lot to ask.  I remember the feeling of being threatened.  It was an intense experience and it took a couple of years and a change of doctors before I could make the least little bit of head way in this respect.

It was a tiny, tiny bit of head way.

When an individual is vulnerable and powerless the act of trusting requires a leap of faith.  This is a very difficult thing to accomplish.  The first few times it is a gut wrenching experience.  It isn’t like a great leap you might see in various action type films for the leap of faith is taken in an environment where you can not see the other side.  You have no real idea how the doctor, in this case, is going to react.  We like to paint doctors as great humanitarians but they are still human beings like you and me…well maybe not that much like me.  They have their own problems to deal with.

In my experience just being real with a person I barely know requires this leap.  There are repercussions to being mentally ill, especially schizophrenic. in a social and economic sense.  These are unpredictable.

I guess that I am writing this to get across one idea.  As a persons moorings give and they find themselves falling uncontrollably into a new unknown world where they don’t know the rules or how to work the system they will find that they too may have to take this fated leap.  I hope this provides some help.

Silent Thunder

I remember that we would get together, during the long warm or hot summer’s afternoon to listen to the rain.  It seems in my memory that this happened many times, everyday.  This could just be an illusion of memory.  It likes those type of jokes as it has a sense of humor all its own.

It would be with the first rumble of distant thunder, the skies just beginning to change to that soft grey.  We would gather on the front porch on a side street near the downtown each of us taking one of the many chairs trying to find the spot we thought would best keep us dry.  Dad would have his highball glass freshly filled with bourbon and water poured over an excess of ice and the remains of a long cold cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth.  On occasion these storms could be a bit hostile.  The thunder grew loud and angry either coughing racking cracks, loud or some times rolling like falling bowling pins.  The pale grey could get dark as though a blanket had been pulled over the sky.  It never got like night but it did sometimes turn to a slate grey green.

The wind would whip passed us and we would only leave the porch if it was impossible to stay some what dry, a little wet was to be expected.

When the sky was at its darkest on these summer afternoons would be the time that the lightening would show itself most brightly flashing wildly.  I know that the loud thunder and bright electric gripped me hard with cold tingling fear,  I don’t know about my brothers or mother.  What chatter there was between us would cease when those explosions of thunder occurred around the bright flashes of lightening.  Dad would laugh.  Maybe fear grabbed him too and laughter was just his way of dealing with it.

It was a summer tradition.

In time I would laugh too, when the fear that accompanied nature’s fireworks was at it worst.  This type of weather is like scotch, an acquired taste.  My memory shows me and tells me that both my brothers, brother number four was still a life time away, would laugh as well, the youngest being the last to begin the practice.

In time the laughter faded and we just sat, immersed in the moment.

Over time soda pop became beer and brother and I added tobacco, all at a legal age.  Mom fades from the picture in my head as well as the youngest brother.  We just sat in silence during those summer storms, in the moment until I had become to busy and I fade from the picture as well.

I don’t know how often mom joined us for those events or even the youngest brother but that may have nothing to do with the actual event.  It could be a trick of memory.  Maybe my mothers death back in 1988 at the age of 49 changed the way of where and when I remember her.  Youngest brother ceased any real participation in my life back in the early 1990s.  It could be the same type of phenomena.  It might be that the whole family gathered on that big front porch covered with a thick sturdy roof to watch the summer storms often and the events after the fact changed the way I remembered this.

I’ve noticed over the years, Meta and I had talked about it, that memory is quite strange.  Sometimes I see myself in my own memories, sometimes I do not.  Stranger yet I see the memory from strange angles, like a corner near the ceiling of the room of the event that I am remembering takes place.

The recollections of those summer storms seems like they came from a whole other life time.  My Mom would die a few years after these memories and my mental collapse came on the heels of that particular event, no big surprise in retrospect.  So when I look back from now I am not the same person as I was when the event I am recalling takes place.

Remembering is the the act of taking the pieces of a thing that has been dismembered and trying to put it back together.  That definition comes from the back of the cassette This Winters Night by the neopagan music group, MOTHER”S TONGUE.  Whenever I think about this I get the feeling that the thing dismembered has lost an indeterminate number of pieces.  That the reassembly is a difficult task.

I have spent time in my own memory making serious effort to avoid blame shifting and just trying to understand what’s has happened and why.  It is a task that will never be completed as memory is an imperfect thing.

Rather than remembering the dismembered it strikes me that memory is more like echos from some type of alien environment.  They are mix of known and unknowable some times in a language we recognize and sometimes in a tongue foreign to our ear and under the worst of circumstances a series of sounds not recognizable as a language at all.

Trying to remember anything with any form of relative accuracy is extremely difficult when I find my mind awash in hot sharp emotion.  It is possible to learn from such a thing and I have learned one important idea.

You can never know what is in the mind or heart of another person.

Its best not to assume otherwise.

 

Now just One Minute

I remember, when I was a bit younger, hearing that the life of a butterfly, once freed from the prison of its cocoon, lived for only a day.  I’m not sure how true that is as the Monarch Butterfly lives for six months, if memory serves.  Even if it is rarely true it is still an interesting fact.  I always wondered if that single day of life felt like a single day to the flutterby?  Does it feel as short as it sounds?

When I was about the age of 10 years I was struck by a strange near fatal illness.  I have always been under the impression that it was diphtheria, but I don’t know that as fact.  When I think about the butterfly flutteringby for its single day I wonder how long that passing day seems to the little critter.   I wonder if the butterfly can even conceive of the notion of time much less one as complicated as ours.  I wonder what it would be like for a lifetime to be such that the first half occurred in the light and the second half in the dark.  There is a point to this, I think.

We humans are quite curious in the way we understand our world.  Appointments, work schedules, bank accounts, credit cards, maps and countries are just a few numbers we use in almost every moment of our existence.  Nations, distance between cities and the diameter of our little planet and even the date of our birth and death are other numbers we use often.  Complicated ideas like force and velocity are also based on these strange numbers.  Weight, which is the effect of gravity on mass, length, height and time allow us as intelligent beings to develop an understanding of our reality.  These things, weight, length, time are metrics or units of measure are created by we humans and we accept them for the sake of simplicity.  They do not exist on their own in nature, there is a tree that grows yard sticks, meters, kilogram measures or seconds.  In my experience that is where the weirdness begins.

I don’t feel the passage of time naturally.  A clock does it for me but with out one I have no sense of time what so ever, unless I am smoking, tobacco.  Yes, I know it is bad for me.  Its been like that since my breakdown.  Maybe it was different in the respect of feeling times passage pre-breakdown but I have no point of reference, after all it was a long time ago.

I know this sounds crazy.

Really it came home to me after my fathers passing, when the ancient photos of a life so foreign to me came  back out into the world.  I knew the people in the photographs and yet I didn’t know them.  They were like a glimpse into a world that never existed even though I was pretty sure they had.

Over these many years with my strange occasional bouts of melancholy as though something had been lost, a thing that could never be regained, I found myself wondering as to the very nature of that thing.  After The old man’s death, when I became the old man, that sense had become exquisite ad sweet like some exotic food or strained alien mental sensation.

I wondered if I too was dead.

Would I know if I were?

Have my last many years of life been like that of the butterfly, just a day or a few hours as death was in the process of taking me?  I don’t think I would know the difference.  We have such definite ideas about the world but all of them are based on the measurement of our perceptions.

I find my self perplexed by the idea that these many years may be nothing more than phantasms of my dying brain.  My wife and friends and all these efforts to express my thoughts and even my brothers all figments of a sequence of neurons firing in those last few minutes while I lay in a hospital at the age of ten dying.

Does any of this really matter?

I think not.

Look for your Muse.  Only she can be your guide.

Intangible

Tangibility is the key

give it a number

weigh it

measure it

run some electric through it

Does it react?

Misbehave?

Get angry?

The Intangible carries no weight

An assembly of numbers

is still responisible

somehow

as though

The subtle might have a say

Even though it is not

This is

We are

That is an uncomfortable question

Equality under the Law

It is a phrase that we hear from time to time, depending on what we read, watch or listen to, that no one is above the law.  The law that is being discussed is either civil or criminal law, it is the law of and for citizens.  Every country, just about, has these laws on both a national and local level.  In my watching, listening and reading experience, when this phrase is used, no one is above the law, it is in the political arena.  It becomes apparent in the debate that this term is commonly applied to our political leadership and or our captains of industry.  For instance, the term war criminal gets bandied about one political or corporate leader here or there.  Kissinger, George W Bush, Barack Obama and soon, I am sure, Donald Trump will all stand accused of one crime or another the most interesting being a War Criminal.   Who is accused is largely partisan although there are some dissident voices from both extremes, left and right who seem to apply the term with an even hand.  There is a problem though, with the term, as it has little to do with civil or criminal law.  It deals with the laws of and between Nations, International Law.

This is where the weird and illuminating difficulty lies hiding.  There is the same problem with in International Law that there is with in national law.  That problem is that some nations are above the law and others under it lay.  It is evident that great nations or powers benefit from the laws of nations while weaker nations or states find that they are bound by these laws.  This becomes most apparent with respect to War Crimes. The side that wins the war, the most powerful, in American vernacular the winners, have never be tried for war crimes, they will never be seriously accused, in effect war crimes and the laws that define them do not apply.  In other words, regardless of lofty rhetoric War Crimes are exactly that, words designed to get a response and nothing more.  These Crimes are for the Losers, also a term common in American phraseology.

This may seem cold at first but there is a point.  While good citizen’s of the United States worry over serial killers and wax rabid about the crimes of great corporations horrendous things, criminal actions are being undertaken in our name.  At the very least that is how the victims of these actions see it.  The United States is not alone hear, it is in interesting company to say the least.  China, Russia and a couple of key members of that group of nations collectively known as the west, principally England and France.  Notice that The United States, Russia, China, England and France all have one thing in common, they are the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.  Nothing passes with out their agreement, each has the ability to veto any measure the general assembly tries to pass and none of these nations has ever had to have any of its leaders, civilian or military face the charge of War crimes with the possible exception of France.  Instead they prefer the charge of treason.

Why am I talking about this?

We talk about peak oil, terrorism, global warming, nuclear war and other threats to our liberty and our lives.  The system, even the internet system, has away of putting our fears and problems on another level like a land separate or better yet a distant planet.  The secrecy that national security requires and our own elite notions of ourselves as a nation has put us in an unusual position.  We have faced the abyss and closed our eyes instead of taking the leap, letting our own eye wander inwards to survey our own inner world not only as individuals but as a people.  We as a people, I am beginning to believe that this a problem that effects all of humanity, have been put to the test and found lacking.  We are Morally corrupt and have no grasp of ethics while at the same time, we are sitting on a pile of the most destructive weapons ever conceived in written history.  Nuclear, biological, chemical and conventional weapons that until now were unimaginable in the hands of corrupt, confused or simply stupid politicians leading a populations dazzled by bright lights and shiny things or lost in the shadows.  People worry about global warming or rising opiod addiction as the war drums begin to bang and sabers rattle.  The idea of War Crimes like the death penalty, is as a deterrent to violent acts of aggression.  If a person or group of people are above this law then they have no consequences to worry them.

That’s real power, the lack of consequences.  So when the Trump haters and the Trump lovers are dukeing it out in the street and as the war over what words are legal and which are not continue just try and keep that in the back of your mind.  The current President is the type of leader that can find himself trapped in his own rhetoric and then boom.

It won’t be the end, just major set back with lots of pain all around.

That is the thing about Power.  It isn’t the wealth, the admiration of the masses, all the free or cheap stuff, the comfort, multitudes of people to boss around, markets to establish, resources to exploit or the access to the worlds best medical care, it is the absence of consequences.  Real power can kill and rape on a scale that would make Ted Bundy or Charles Manson’s eyes turn green with envy.  Like the old saying goes, Kill one man and you are a murder, kill a million and you are a conqueror.  That is the problem with power.  That is why so many desire it and why it will be our undoing.

We are entering an interesting time.  I can only offer this advice, mostly to myself.  When the abyss finally opens at my, our, feet don’t close your eyes and I won’t close mine either.  Always give those you love a hug. Finally always try and remember that you are blessed.

Have a better than average day.

The Power of Hesitation

It is easy, I have found, to get caught up in the moment.  The mob is both frightening and enticing.  Once caught in its grasp there is this shifting of responsibility away from the individual  to the seething throbbing whole.  In this surrender of free will one find’s themselves trapped without feeling trapped,  Now if you are into this sort of thing then you can feel free to stop reading,  This is a piece about exercising free will and its not for everyone.

Any given individual is either a part of an event, acting with in their own sense of agency or in a neutral, observer state.  Rephrase, we are reacting, acting or hesitating.  The professor who taught the Action Theory class I suffered through back in college, one Doctor Robins, might have referred to this as a folk analysis or a folk understanding.  Well everybody has to start somewhere.   We do not just live in a world of events, we also live in a world of agents.  This is why an understanding, in an individual sense, is so important.  This debate, in my limited experience, breaks down between Predestiny (Determinism) verses Free Will (Action Theory).  Determinism is the idea that whatever choice you make today, at this second is based on all of the previous events, experiences and choices that you have made in the past.  Action Theory is dependent on the idea of Agency.

Agency means that some entities are actors and that they possess a thing or an ability that allows them to act that is known as Will.  There is an intellectual tendency to choose a camp but I prefer the quantum equivalent.   That any given individual exists in two states simultaneously.   The predestined state and the free will state coexist and that our resting state is the predestined state.  In the Predestined state we are simply reacting to the events taking place around us.  There is no exercise of free will.  Think of it like breathing.  You do it with out thought, it requires no exercise of will, it simply is.  A person simply breaths because their body demands it.

On the other hand there is Agency.  We are all born with this ability, we are all made to be Free Agents and we all have Free Will.  The choice, though, is like a muscle, it has to be exercised.  There is where the problem lies.  How can any individual tell the difference between a reaction and a choice, choice in this case requiring the exercise of Free Will?

This is where hesitation becomes important, the previously mentioned third state.  If one carefully observes others they have the opportunity to notice instant reactions when they occur, like the knee jerk response.  I swear to you I have seen people jerk their knee when they hear something or see something that they instinctively react to negatively.  Hesitation takes a great exercise of will.  It also involves some risk.  When The Christ stated turn the other cheek, he is talking about denying the reaction and concentrating on the action.  The act of Hesitating has to become trained, instinctive, it is through the act of Hesitating that any individual might be able to begin to detect the difference between reacting and acting.  Hesitating is an exhaustive process as it denies the instinctive response.  It also requires that part of the individuals attention constantly be cast inward in a semi reflective state.  Any one following this path needs a quiet space where they can just be.  This will give them the opportunity to rest and recuperate.  The path of Hesitation takes discipline and patience.  In time the difference between the two states, reacting and acting, will become easily discernible.  This will give the individual the opportunity to act when they think or feel they must and save their energy for pursuits closer to the heart.

The test is a simple one.  People, especially educated people, are experts at pushing other peoples buttons.  That is saying or doing something that will provoke a reaction.  So the next time some one hits you, out of the blue and for no apparent reason, or says a thing that cuts deep, that causes your body to scream and demand a response, hesitate.  While hesitating watch the reaction of the provocateur.

That is where the real education begins.