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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hey Dad, gotta question for you...


Rascal, my youngest son has hit that magical age. It's a special age for a father and son. The age when i can go up into the attic and find all my favorite, old R and PG-13 rated Dvds that i think he's finally mature enough to handle: Last of the Mohicans, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, Midnight Run, no Desperado yet. Heck, i'm not mature enough to handle Salma Hayek. But the other night it was the instant classic Michael Mann film that ultimately pitted those two powerhouses Pacino and DeNiro together, Heat.

While sitting there in a nostalgic haze i wondered out loud during the hotel scene, "would they really evacuate an entire hotel just cuz some fool pulled the smoke alarm?" Well, i have now gotten that question answered. No, contrary to what you may think, i did not pull the alarm, i hear there was smoke, also no work of mine. And sure nuff, they evacuated the entire hotel.

Then i come out here to the Coop and there's all these eggs tossed back, fermenting in the afternoon sun. Amazing. Answers are just oozing from the universe today. In that spirit, it seemed a good time to respond to the responses. Especially since so many were very thought provoking in their own right. So without further adoodoo, the general responses:
  • Anonymous R said, i think too much. The pat answer is... too pat. So, the patricia answer to that would be, yes, you're probably right. But i've never really learned to unplug short of cutting the wires and those experiences have left me in near catatonic states so... i think it's safer just to ponder a little too much and force folk to ignore me.
  • Anonymous of the Empirical Mind says, no such thing as the imponderable! i agree. Empiricism however is only as deep as the breadth of experience and powers of observation on the part of the observer.
Now on to the responses to specific questions:
  • Work vs. no work. Two men, two inscrutable fates, one God. What's going on? The Empirical Mind says, the world is effectively random. Well, i can see how it would appear so... to one who only believes what they can see, test and prove.
  • Teenagers. Should we get graded as parents on them? Emp Mind recommends further study into nature vs nurture. i don't think i'm going to be qualified to answer this in any sense until my own two test subjects make it into their twenties.
  • Is society in a decline? Emp Mind had a fun quote here attributed to Cicero and a thought that something more complex than just entropy is happening since the world hasn't ended yet. And yet Cicero lived in a time when arguably, the seeds which birthed the end of the Roman Empire sprouted. Each successive generation of Romans was less than those before until if fell and the Dark Ages began. It wasn't the end of the world but it would take nearly fifteen hundred years to achieve that level of civilization again. The Dark Ages were the Post Apocalypse. Those unwilling to learn from history...
  • What am i teaching my kids? Again Emmind says, faith tends to degrade from generation to generation. This is related to the last one i suppose. i might even say an indicator of why. What my boys are learning and what i may have inadvertently passed on will also probably have to wait until they're older.
  • Which love is truer: love as an extension of feeling or conscious choice to love? The Mind is apparently the only one willing to weigh in on this too... As long as you're in love, does it matter? "In Love," would be the first condition i was suggesting with my question so yes, that's kinda the point... which is truer? "In love" or because i choose to love you. Cause frankly, i've had days that i wake up and i am not "In Love," but i am still married. The Mind also suggests that it may be impossible to tell the difference. i would suggest that is an opinion of either the unexamined life or one that hasn't truly tried loving in a long term sense.
  • Other than as a food source, what is the point of artists/poets in a recession/depression? The Mind says, get better at yer art, carve yer own space. Ah, a true capitalist. i translate this as, it is up to each artist/poet to define their own use. What has been the role of artists and poets through history? Have they ever served any real use? If we all vanished tomorrow, would anyone care?
  • Are Lego-playing adults sick? Crimso says, yes, but it's a good kinda sick. The Mind says, that Sports fans and Republicans are sicker given a few provisos. i say we're all sick but most of us are harmless.
  • Is the internet a real community or an illusory one? The Mind says, possibly but no. Forums and blogs tend to be feudal. i found that to be a delightfully interesting thought and am still chewing on it. Whilst i don't feel like a baron i can see some of what he means. i have power to eject anyone i chose and Blogger can eject me. Though Facebook isn't offering me any military protection and hasn't sent the tax collector to my door yet. And i have truly reconnected in some sense with folk that i had lost touch with, i keep up with their lives or at least the parts of their lives they are willing to share and i don't have to where a silly coif or liripiped hood. This one needs to be fleshed out some more i think.
  • Are we doomed... to become our parents? Anonymous Love Ya says, You are you. Not sure but i think this was directed at me specifically and not in a general sense so, thanks ;) The Mind finishes up their treatise with, We're doomed to be shaped by our parents, and that's bad enough, don't you think? i would. If that was where it ended.
And that's where i'm gonna end this today... Father's day. It's a thought and warning, fathers, you are shaping the next generation. They may be you, they may be less than you but you have a lot of say in it, make every word, deed and corner of your own life count.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope Son that in a small way I did leave a small part of myself with you. Don't judge me by the way my life has turned out but just remember this, I am and always will be you Dad and will love you for who you are, a true poet, artist and gifted example of a really great Dad.

Anonymous said...

Followup!

The world as effectively random: I'm not saying it actually is (in fact I get in trouble regularly for claiming that it's possible to statistically predict general cultural and socioeconomic shifts mathematically), just that hoping for overarching themes of justice and explication seems to be a lost cause. Whether there is a God or not, She doesn't seem to intervene often enough or decisively enough to give our lives a narrative purpose we're capable of understanding.

The ultimate inscrutability of God as a concept seems to muddy the waters even further. A God with the creative and intellectual powers human religions ascribe them may simply be indistinguishable from what we think of as the 'natural' organizing properties of our universe.

Society in decline: Technically Cicero saw the birth of the Roman Empire, which could be called Phase I of Roman decline. It's true that the Roman Empire declined, but it's not clear that it was a moral decline rather than structural problems related to the thorny issue of ruling a world-spanning empire with their tech package, and the fact that the Roman Empire started out pretty corrupt, unequal, authoritarian and self-serving, then got more so.

The term 'Dark Age' is misleading - parts of Europe (like France) did very well in the medieval period. The concept of a Dark or 'Middle' Age is actually Italian, because they had a really rough time and didn't recover until the Renaissance. The Roman knowledge base was remarkably well preserved and even expanded on in the Islamic world (think of Al-jabr, bane of high school students everywhere). So Rome may have declined, but it's an open (and unanswerable) question whether Western knowledge and society did.

Have you read Paul Kennedy? He's got a few things to say about the economic side of the issues you're wrestling with.

The 'which love is truer' question: I am actually in a long-term relationship, and I know the dichotomy you're describing very well. What I'm asking is - 'truer by what metric?' Unless there's a common frame of reference, it's not possible to disprove either assertion, which means we can't get a meaningful positive answer either. We need to ask a better question.

Art and poetry: I'm a working artist, which is a lot less glamorous than the sort of dissipated bohemian existence art students aspire to. I'm very pragmatic about it.

Artists and poets force us to self-examine, which is probably the only reason we have any systems of ethics and morality, religious or otherwise.

scruffy said...

Wow, a real live conversation... maybe there's hope for society yet! ;) Lemme start with my Anonymous Dad. Yeah, Dad, of course you left an impression. i look and sound very much like you did and my arts and many of my views came from you. i suppose you could say, it's your mistakes that i'm worried about...

As for all the other stuff... i am curious as to these mathematical prophecies. i suspect you are on to something that i have suspected for some time.

But not be able to hope for Justice??? My friend, you need to stop thinking about religion and meet God. He's VERY interested in Justice and while He's not going to explain everything in great detail, He tells us enough. Everyone calls Christianity a religion. It's not. It's freedom from religion. God gave us the law/religion to show us how futile it would be to for us to measure up to His righteousness, to save ourselves with religion. Then he himself came, fulfilled the religious requirements and paid the penalty for not fulfilling the religious requirements, the justice, and now, those of us who accept that sacrifice on our behalf are free. That's it. It is finished. Everything we do now is for him, in honor of him, to be useful to him but not to earn anything from him.

As far as the Romans go or went... i'm gonna guess based on your views of God that we don't really agree on morality or ethics either. But to me, they didn't start out morally all that great as you say, cuz they were people, but they had some great ideas, much as the American founders did. As they even lost their ideals i suppose is where i say they declined. As each subsequent generation grew lazier and more luxuriant, more desiring to be served than to serve, more willing to let an emperor dictate than govern themselves, true Romans i'm speaking of here, and they cared less for the world beyond their borders and even the life of service their ancestors had undertaken, it fell.

All told though, i'm gonna guess if given the choice of living in medieval France or the Roman Empire you would chose Rome. France didn't have any more medicine or less barbaric rule than any other nation that i'm aware of. And yes, from what we're told, the height of civilization was at that time in Moorish Spain and pre-Genghis China.

Never heard of Paul Kennedy but thanks for the referral. i'll look him up.

As for love. To me, "in love" is a chemical response to the stimuli of a novel relationship or a gesture or a sense of self-worth gained from the relationship. The actions come because they make you feel good.
To Love, action verb, is a decision made to do something regardless of whether or not there's ever a return on the action, in fact, one may even undertake love knowing that one will pay for the action. There may be no real, definable reason even for the action other than the initial decision to love. Because of a value one has placed upon the recipient.

God being an artist, i would have to agree with your final statement. ;) i applaud you at having found a way to make a living doing your art. Possibly not in the manner to which you would if you were given your 'druthers, but... a start. Better n' i'm doing.

Anonymous said...

I bet we have a lot more ethical common ground than you think - my ethics are just secular rather than Christian, which isn't nearly as much of a difference as it looks like.

I'm really not interested in God, thanks, and I'm not interested in being converted. And if I were, I wouldn't choose Christianity. Those positions don't come from a lack of familiarity with it, either - I own several bibles, I've read them all cover to cover, and I'm just not going there.

I didn't say there's no hope for justice, I said there's no (verifiable) overarching narrative justice in which the wicked are ultimately punished and the righteous are rewarded without human intervention, or, if there is, it's poorly maintained. Is there a prayer that starts "Dear Lord, I would like to file a bug report"?

I'm pretty sure that's independent of the (unanswerable) question of whether or not God exists.

I see medieval France and Ancient Rome as pretty much equivalent, frankly. From a modern perspective they were both pretty repugnant, but the French had better medicine and agriculture, so, just to mess with you, I'd pick them. But my actual preference would be Florence in 1475, or Amsterdam in 1700.

I think of love as the synthesis of both those concepts, so I think at this point we're having the 'what we talk about when we talk about love' discussion and we can chalk up our actual differences to semantics. I find that love comes easier when I stop trying to measure it and pour more effort into living it, and that worrying about the 'truth' of love, in the absence of concrete definitions and metrics of love, seems counterproductive to that.

scruffy said...

Well, i'm sorry to hear that. And i believe you. It's been my experience that people refuse God and Christ not because of a lack of familiarity with christians but because of too much familiarity with christians. i believe it's Gandhi who was credited with saying, "i could easily have embraced christianity if not for the christians i've met." That and a refusal to give up control of their lives.

We'll just have to agree to disagree on what's verifiable or not. To me there is an overarching narrative and you've apparently read it. As for that prayer, if you'd like to start one that way, i'm sure He'd love to hear from you. ;)

Unanswerable? Or just not happy with the answer?

Apparently i'm going to have to do some more research on medieval France.

Most likely right about the love stuff. But the subject had come up in my own life and i was forced to answer it myself. So i thought i'd put it out there and see what other's thought.

Anonymous said...

I say 'unanswerable' because the semantic term 'God' (as distinct from any specific theological concepts of God) is so broadly defined that it's impossible to conclusively disprove - especially if, as I do, you can envision concepts of 'God' that not only don't conflict with a secular worldview but actually confirm it (technologically-mediated meta-humanity, for example, is functionally indistinguishable from divinity).

Because God's existence is not falsifiable, it's not possible to effectively debate points that rely on the existence or nonexistence of a God - although that doesn't invalidate Christian ethical systems by any means, just the class of ethical arguments that run "God says X, so you should do it" (which are also fallacies, arguments from authority). And that kind of rationalization is bad for faith in the long run anyway - if you believe because you're ignorant of other viewpoints, I think you'd agree with me that you're not really believing at all.

Barbara Tuchman's 'A Distant Mirror' is a pretty fascinating introduction to late-medieval France. I've heard a lot of academic medievalists cite it as an inspiration. And it's just a fun read, very well written and accessible.

This has actually been really fun. I really enjoy talking to believers who are secure enough in their own position to listen to mine.

scruffy said...

"Technologically-mediated meta-humanity..." yeah, i, um, i'm really not smart enough for this conversation. Lemme just say this about that though, all baffling chaff aside, there are only two possibilities:
God is either a person, sentient and aware
Or
He does not exist. i dunno what a techno-media thingy is but it's not a divine person. It sounds like a conceptualization of a system. An anthropomorphism of something we are unable to understand.

Now, if He doesn't exist then nothing you or i say matters. We're just accidents on an accidental stage. Here today and as gone tomorrow as yesterday's mayflies. No more significant than a pizza. Used up and pooped out. We are wholly wasting our time. Why bother with love at all. Wouldn't fun make more sense? Why work? Take what you can get, yer only here for a hundred years tops. There are no morals other than the ones we want to agree on. And if i choose to disagree, what right do you have as just another accidental primate to tell me, "no"? There are no higher purposes cuz we're all just walking fertilizer. And someday the sun will explode and erase even the fertilizer. Meaningless, meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Or, there is a God, a real, thinking, feeling person with obviously unimaginable power and creativity who actually made all of this, including you and me. Wouldn't it be stark, raving lunacy to walk around in His creation ignoring Him completely?

Your arguments, to my simple ears, sound like, "well, no one can know for sure so there's no point in discussing it." Which i translate to, "i invalidate your reasons ahead of time because they conflict with what i choose to believe or not to believe." And really, all you've done is replaced faith in God with faith that there is no God. i apologize if that offends you, just trying to help you understand my viewpoint so you can dissect it better. i too am enjoying the conversation though i will freely admit, i fear for your soul. i want the best for you and i'm acting on belief, the synergy of love ;)

Anonymous said...

thank you