on humanism and environmental crisis

Archive for the ‘human nature’ Category

My worldview

As I am embarking on the task of teaching how to write your worldview, I thought I need to publish my own. The answers to the unanswerable questions are short, like at the Philozophy.com. In that way they can serve as a brief note to yourself, a reminder. It is also easier to compare them with others and to discuss them.  Here you are:

 

1.How did the Universe begin?

 

My Universe began with my conception. As I am learning from others and my experiences, my world shifts, gets bigger and more complex.  Where my understanding ends, on that edge, reversing the arrow of time, there and then the Universe begins

 

  1. What is the Universe made of?

 

My Universe is built from my birth with my instincts, my experiences and the experiences of other people I learned from. It is also solid and real. Maybe there is a Nobody’s Universe, independent of our personal worlds, but I doubt it.

 

  1. What is the origin of good?

 

Eusocial hominids, using mirror neurons, created and genetically encoded altruism and friendship. Surviving evolved into the drive to cooperate and to understand. The wisdom -understanding- translates socially into good, true and beautiful

 

4.What is the origin of evil?

 

Survival instincts and natural selection. We supposed to grow up and transform fear and greed of the caveman into the understanding and wisdom. I guess, we need to work harder on that. Tempus fugit.

 

  1. Is there free will?

 

As I have built my world, I am responsible for it and for my actions, even if sometimes I don’t know what I am doing. I feel that I have many freedoms, but in the same time I realize that I am a part of the cosmic interdependent web of causality.

 

  1. What is the nature of the mind?

 

The Mind is a cluster of functions of the brain. Thinking and feeling create my experience while consciousness, memory, attention make possible of me being aware of the performing these very functions. It is a concept, like a joy or pain.

 

  1. How do you find happiness?

 

With effort and intention of love, curiosity and gratitude, the results exceed expectations. It is transient, subjective and trainable. Practice to become happiable- ready for happiness.

 

  1. How do you find truth?

 

Truth is relative and mythic. It is what has been working for long time and for many people as a human nature and it is civilization dependent. So, I am trying to find wise books and wise friends to trust and then to ask.

 

  1. What is the meaning of life?

 

Being curious, doing good and having fun. It is how I am trying to do projects bigger than me. Working with people makes it meaningful and significant and beautiful.

 

  1. What is the role of evolution?

 

The evolution is probably the most important algorithm human invented to understand the world. It tries to explain how simple organisms evolved in Time and how the level of entropy and complexity can be so uneven across all dimensions.

 

  1. What happens after death?

 

I will live in others. If one does good for the reward after death, one will not be rewarded, if one does good to avoid punishment, that is one’s punishment. The judgement? It occurs inside our heads. Immortality? Sure, what you sow, you reap.

 

  1. Who or What is God?

 

The animal and then human intelligences were built through the process of the evolution. It is an awesome system, which we are trying to understand, often heroic and Divine. Gods are the parts of human mythology, therefore a part of human nature.

 

  1. What is going to happen to humankind?

 

Miraculously we will understand our unity, stop fighting, stop overpopulating, stop wasting resources. We will see our relatedness as Love and Friendship between us. Only then we will build a better world. A piece of cake but we need to hurry.

 

  1. What Question is missing?

 

What is the human nature?

Subjective, objective – which is which?

I am interested in human intelligence as it evolved from the animal intelligence. What are our abilities and our constraints? Looking into the past, into the nature of our world, who did what?  Which part is done by animals: colors, for sure?  Fear and pleasure, certainly? But reality??

The brain of mammals, our ancestors, is huge, compared with other animals, and is mostly consisting of neurons handling sensory perceptions and the interpretation of the perceptions in the view of survival/ adaptation benefits.  Attached to this behemoth are the ganglia ( we call them “old brain” but for the mammal, they are actually new), the neural centers responsible for the emotions. The animal “tries” to figure out constantly what is going on and if so, what to do. When a lion attacks, the sensory data combine with behavior menu and emotional impulses like fear and hunger.  We associate these actions, like emotions or feelings with the events going on inside us, in the head, in the chest, or heart, but with the animals, they are obviously ” out there”, as a part of the animal’s environment.

So, animal brain creates real world  with the brain which works on instincts and emotions? This does not make any sense. How that type of the brain can create solid objects, trees, antelopes etc.  Also, to confuse things even more, we think about the emotions and feelings as subjective, but subjective is related to reflective thinking and the robust self, while the animals just do not have the necessary brain structures (or minimal).

It looks like the split between subjective and objective is the part of the development of the human mind, and therefore is artificial. What’s worse that the new, invented part is an objective part.

Well, let’s put some order into this mess, an upside down order that is. When we build, as infants, our world around us we do not develop the “permanence of the objects”. We develop the world of impermanence. It is the world which we call the subjectivity, the one which changes, it resides in our “mind” or even “heart”, it is related to the development of self and reflective thinking. The brain we use to develop this new human quality is the newest part of the brain- prefrontal areas, verbal areas, the empathic brain. Animals do not have it, or have very little of it.

On the other hand, young human infant’s brain is like animal’s:  literal, permanent and real. It has no good feel for time- this comes much later. Her world occurs outside, feels objective and real and its complexity depends on the complexity of the animal (or the age- level of the development of the infant.) For the low complexity organisms even if feels real- the only world they have- it is very different than our reality.

The concept of dimensions, for example, develops one by one ( a simple bacteria detecting ony concentration of the chemical, i.e. distance, i.e. one dimension, E.coli can orient itself and has buding of tri-dimensional sensory). These realities, “Umwelts” (Uexküll) consist of gradually increasing number of elements and interactions and are built for survival, that is the organism’s niche. ( the idea that the world and the niche is the same deserves separate attention, no?- not I and thou but I and my niche!)

It seems that the objective world is just the evolutionary construct of the subjective experiences of our ancestors. As their ability to socialize and communicate increased they built something more sophisticated than bee’s beehive: the whole virtual shared world, our objectivity. How far back this construct reaches?  It reaches further and further back, as our understanding broadens, our science reaches deeper into cosmos and time and consciousness.

Our objective world is shared with the member of the species. Our sharing is vastly superior than animal’s world because of social connections via language and culture. Animals sharing is limited to social adaptive traits. So the lion and antelope do not see the same tree, even two antelopes see only as much of a “tree” as evolutionary minimally necessary.

This, when you think about it, puts all reality concepts upside-down and the consequences are mindblowing.

Recommended cycle of study

   Making  of the modern sage.

   

   Recommended cycle of study:

                                       SELF

                           ->                          ->

          WORLDVIEW                                  COMPLEXITY

           ->                                                                  ->

INDIVIDUALITY                                                           EVOLUTION

     <-                                                                                 ->

HUMANISM                                                           EVOLUTION OF NERVOUS SYSTEM

           <-                                                                   <-

          HUMAN NATURE     <-       SOCIAL ANIMALS

 

The transition from studying self (like, growing up) to the concept of complexity is the most difficult and revolutionary.

It is like a deep, narrow, rocky canyon filled with the cacti of self doubt. And at the bottom run wild rivers of cosmology, neuroscience, epistemology and ontology.

Some trying to hang the bridge of second order cybernetics, some-recently- bring predictive coding -bloody sheets of phenomenology and neo-Kantian tied end to end.

I am offering my own bridge : the theory of evolutionary reality.

But, when you get to complexity- further steps roll smoothly and naturally.

You can actually stick with studying complexity and treat all the step as the examples of  increasing complexity.

Everybody writes about the human nature but it remains a nebulous subject ( like: who? me??)

You do not need individuality to have a worldview, everybody has one or more, but I mean, working on the explicit worldview.

“Accidentally” – no, not accidentally at all, the level of explicitness of communication follows the same circle of progression.

Some steps will be your favorites, some – slippery and yucky like pickled okra, but if you miss one step you inevitably will get stuck, the chi of wisdom needs to flow, not spurt like a broken fossett.

Of course when you get back to “self” – good luck- we need to start again .

Teleconference with Elizabeth Warren

For the teleconference with Elizabeth Warren, my question was:  “The opposition to the Trump’s agenda created an incredibly broad coalition. How would you characterize this coalition? What are we for and what against?”

 

The politicians are not philosophers, so I do not expect an answer. With the Mr. President help, the “against” part become clearer and clearer: my dream coalition is against the primitive survival behavior- against the power generated by fear and greed. In politics, it translates into rigid beliefs disregarding the facts, it is also xenophobia, racism, sexism, and entitlement.

The school bully is the poster child of this worldview; sulky, fearful and cruel.

This reminds me the story from the post-modernism: putting a urinal in the art exhibition helped with the question: what is beauty, what is art?

 

Now, what are we for I can describe in one word: humanism.

But in the US the image of a humanist is terrible: a weird, angry, ex- catholic or ex- Jew.

No, my concept of the humanist is close to a “renaissance man”, kind of mixture of Dalai Lama and Madonna, Homo historicus and homo ludi.

Deep in our human nature is curiosity, imagination, trying to understand, to figure out. This is fun!

Throughout our human evolution the religion, science, and philosophy were always one thing, they split only recently ( Chinese never completely split it.) Together with the art, they were the major forces of human advancement, they created metaphor, language, myths, and society.

The humanist is about the education, education, and education, forever.

This will give him or her a broad perspective and ability to participate joyfully in the culture we, together, created.  

Mr. Trump, you like deals, let’s make a deal.

Each time you, by your actions, exemplify what is primitive, fearful and cruel in the human nature, we show once more our human dignity, compassion, and unity. And we’ll get this joyful feeling that the humanity once again will handle the crisis in the way that’ll make our grandchildren and the grand grandchildren proud of us.

Deal?

Johanna Oksala-Femme Fatale of Neoliberalism

Since humans invented our civilization, the desperate struggle for power has been going on. Many different divisions and alliances were made, along the kinship lines, tribal, national, racial, religious and recently- class lines. And of course, at last, but not at least along the gender divide- this one literally started from Adam and Eve.
Michel Foucault, a historian, a sociologist and a philosopher of the second half of 20th century, analyses forces of the government and discipline in a society mixing phenomenological and postmodernist stances. He sees the members of society as experiencing their subjectivity in Husserlian way, but the society changes for him in an impersonal, mechanistic and post-modernistic way. The phenomenological intentional arc leads him to “biosociality”- the societal forces influencing and disciplining human bodies, trying to subdue them into “docile” bodies.
The early feminist movement uses Foucault to point to the exploitation of women by the male dominating capitalism. Partly for the economic reasons, and partly as the response to feminism and the general human rights movement, the capitalism, late in 20th century, morphed into seemingly gentler, kinder and more enlightened form- neoliberalism. It was also supposed to be an antidote to the powerful ideas involving class relationships- as in socialism, marxism and communism. Many feminists, like Eisenstein and Walby, oppose neoliberalism as leading to more economic and social inequalities. They want to improve neoliberalism by helping women ( and other social groups with limited power-minorities, children, gays, handicapped people) by giving them more equal rights, better pay, better social status.
Johanna Oksala sees deeper problems with the neoliberalism, she uses Foucault arguments to point into neoliberalism as a creator of a new feminine subject. “This implies that women are now also governed and subjected through new mechanisms, namely through the harnessing of their economic interests. It is significant that normative femininity has become firmly attached to economic gains in a new way. Women are increasingly rationalizing their participation in the normative habits of femininity in terms of their own economic interests, not in terms of men’s interests”
Oksala believes the mechanism of power has been transformed from “the subtle mechanisms of discipline described by Bartky — a system of social sanctions and rewards such as shame and sexual admiration”.And she explains: ”We must recognize that the personal freedom and choice that neoliberal governmentality entails is an integral aspect of this technique of power. The idea of personal choice effectively masks the systemic aspects of power — domination, social hierarchies, economic exploitation — by relegating to subjects the freedom to choose between different options whilst denying them any real possibility for defining or shaping those options. This excessive focus on free choice has been perhaps the most insidious aspect of neoliberal governmentality for the subject of feminism.” J. Oksala, Feminism and Neoliberal Governmentality.(2013) Foucault Studies.,(p? This is from the online version of this article)
The choices this system gives to a woman are not liberating , they are pushing her deeper and deeper into “docile”- (again!) member of the economic system, a cog in the well-lubricated machine. It is why Oksala calls for the revolution: “we have to transform not only our political or economic institutions but more fundamentally, our way of life and even ourselves. We need a politics of ourselves that acknowledges that it is through us, through the reshaping of our subjectivity, that neoliberal governmentality is able to function”. ibid.,p. 135.
I couldn’t find any clear answer as to what exactly this new way of life should look like. Is it a meditation in the modern “mindfulness” monastery? A matriarchal, Amazons- like system?
Personally, I am afraid, there is not enough time for these posturings of our civilization. I am afraid that the ecological crisis, with all well-known evils, will limit our women and men choices to simple survival mode. And I doubt the technological miracle ( or any other miracle, for this matter) will hack it.

We’ll have to stop fighting  and be really, really good….. or die.

Lunch with Derrida ( Human Nature Grilled)

It seems that philosophy has been obsessed with human nature since the beginning of time. And, as times and philosophy change, so does the concept of human nature.
From Aristotle’s (384-322 BC) “Nichomachean Ethics” to Hume’s “A Treatise of Human Nature” (1738) human nature means just the way we understand and know the World, which includes all- ontology, axiology, praxeology, and epistemology. For Darwin (The Descent of Man- 1871) human nature is mostly about how we differ from the monkey, and how we came to have common ancestors. By the way, it looks that, the humanity is getting over this offensive detail of our nature. For E.O.Wilson ( On Human Nature-1971) it is about humans with their qualities to form the pinnacle of the evolutionary and the sociobiological process. For Chomsky, human nature represents an innate neurobiological structure responsible for the development of language. For me, human nature is all the above, but most importantly I see a human being as the evolutionary marvel, able to reflect on him- or herself, and to consciously build a personal world around and with the free will – own life.
This concept was discussed in the domains of biology, history, evolution, theology, and sociology and now the postmodernists want to take it away from us? Derrida in “Differance” denies the importance of humans interest in their history or biology. Absurdly, he preaches the absolute supremacy of text which, he thinks, means everything- but as there is no meaning- so ultimately- it means nothing. He says: “Differance is neither a word nor a concept. In it , however, we shall see the juncture-rather than summation-of what has been most decisively inscribed in the thought of what is conveniently call our “epoch”: the difference of forces in Nietzsche, Saussure’s principle of semiological difference, etc, etc”. (p130, I could not find a better quote). Of course, postmodernists question human nature but also the subject, truth, and moral standards. It is difficult to argue if the person you want to argue with, questions the argument itself, the process of arguing and the existence of the opponent.
Michel Foucault as the social historian and phenomenologist is less radical:
“It was not by studying human nature that linguists discovered the laws of consonant mutation, or Freud the principles of the analysis of dreams, or cultural anthropologists the structure of myths. In the history of knowledge, the notion of human nature seems to me mainly to have played the role of an epistemological indicator to designate certain types of discourse in relation to or in opposition to theology or biology or history. I would find it difficult to see in this a scientific concept.” (1971 debate, excerpts). And, actually, I agree with him about human nature being “an intellectual tool” rather than a biological or moral entity. During their famous debate, Noam Chomsky tried to defend the notion of human nature and pointed to the quality of creativity as the basic, innate human faculty responsible for the creation of the language, which made the culture and civilization possible.
For Foucault the forces behind human civilization are not personal, he sees discoveries and the changes as the inevitable result of societal progress. According to him human nature is just a “shopping list of science.”; humans can not not create anything, until the mechanism of the economy, politics, and psychological development of masses made it possible.
In my opinion, we should keep exploring the concept of human nature. With the progress in global education, improved critical thinking, people have become more and more individualistic, making their own decisions. The awareness of our cultural and sociobiological heritage, of our qualities and capacities for good and evil is very important in this age of the planetary crisis.
Human nature might be not a real thing, but as with the crisis in religious dogmas we are searching for origins of good, it would be useful to recognize the common origins of our character and values, pan-human brotherhood. And postmodernism is of not much of help, may be only by giving us the list of values one can question and telling us what humanity is not.

For myself, I would like to know that I can figure out my place in the world and my plan for action, conscious, deliberate and passionate action. This will be my human nature. And I wish that the people around me would do the same.
Or, would they rather go to lunch with Derrida???

Big Question #10: What is the role of evolution?

Enlightenment is man’s leaving his self-caused immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s intelligence without the guidance of another. Such immaturity is self-caused if it is not caused by lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination and courage to use one’s intelligence without being guided by another. Sapere Aude! Have the courage to use your own intelligence! This is, therefore, the motto of the enlightenment…

 Immanuel KantAn Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?

“We are what we are, we see what we see, and we know what we know, because of the evolution and according to the evolution.  Any scientific or philosophical discussion ignoring evolution is naive and lame. ” -Me

Subquestions and everyday relevance

  • Why things change?
  • Is there a trend?
  • Is there a purpose?
  • Can human mind evolve?
  • Is the history, the civilization, the Universe in its nature linear or circular?
  • How is this question relevant to our everyday life?

(It is not, you can live happily without being bothered by the idea of the evolution.)

How to work on the answer to Question #10

That is the only Big Question, which is not the part of the classical, unanswerable, basic questions of the mankind.  Adding this question to our list was partly personal, as I have studied evolution for the last 30 years, but beyond the personal, I think, the evolutionary look at the world is the part of any rational worldview.

 Examples of answers:

Ann Marshall: “To keep things interesting for God”

Linda Gambill: “To nudge us to look at the little sticker on the windshield that reminds us to change the oil.”

View more answers on Philozophy.com

Psychotherapy

Many our problems stem from the fact that we are so dreadfully close to them. They just sit in front of our fat noses and we can not see anything beyond them. Evolutionary thinking gives you a broader perspective. Modern human is also called homo historicus, as the species which has the history. But we can now look deeper and broader than history, we can look into the history of life on Earth, into cosmic space, into subatomic world, into time itself. Won’t it feel good?

 

An Interview

Well, the planned interview is not coming. I wanted to talk to Clement Vidal, a Belgian philosopher who wrote about the future worlds, evolution, worldview, and complexity. Here is my letter:

“Dear Clement, I read with the great interest your article about the worldview. I think you created the monster! You single handed created a new branch of philosophy; the philosophy of the worldview, with its own methodology, history and a purpose. this is great, this is needed. The people have a lot of difficulties when it comes  to creating the personal explicit worldview. But, I think, this work is rewarding, and the world would be a better place if more people work on it. It is why I and my daughter Sophia created Philozophy.com. Now I am writing a companion paper called “Worldview Owner’s Manual”. I am trying to shift from the attempts to improve on Aristotle, do unanswerable answers, towards something like savoir vivre  in the broad and literary sense ( I mean after one figured out how to hold the fork), something useful and beneficial for the participant. In the first part,  I am discussing the general issues, like what is the worldview and why one should write it down, etc. In the second part, there are 13 short chapters each for one of our Big Questions. At the end of each chapter, there is a “guest’s interview, an essay or a worldview story”. Again, rather than pure philosophy, I prefer personal insight or story.  The length varies- 1 to even 5 or more pages.

Some of the chapters are finished (need editing badly), some need badly to be written.
All this you can find on my blog evolutionandmeandyou.com under Worldview Owner’s Manual and in posts. Big Question # 10 is “What is the role of evolution?” I would be honored if you’d write something to finish that chapter because you are the best. But you are probably too busy to do it. So maybe I could call you and interview you on this subject (15-20 min), transcribe it the best I can and with your permission and approval, stick it there? Tom”.
He did not answer, so to avoid an empty page in this book I had to write something.
One of the best books I read about evolution is Adam Frank’s “About time”. It shows how human culture and the way of life parallel scientific discoveries. It is 158 years since Darwin’s famous book was published. Since then the view of the world slowly transforming, life forms disappearing, new ones appearing creating the magnificent tree of life connected and explained like never before is seeping into our brains, our culture and our language. It is not that it is difficult to understand what Darwin was saying. It is that every generation in our global culture slowly sinks deeper and deeper in the evolutionary understanding of the world. Scientific discoveries like the fireworks lit the road of the slow process of changing peoples minds, every generation a little bit further.
The genetics is now household concept, the dating of fossils, the background radiation, nuclear energy, and weapons- all these have no sense whatsoever without evolution. And yet more than 50% of Americans do not accept evolution. So fundamental is the role of evolution, it requires, often subconsciously, to rebuilt your vision of the universe and of ourselves from the ground up. The similar process occurred in our implicit sense of cosmos. The Earth was always stable, solid and unchangeable( even if balancing on the Great Turtle) with the Sun and Heavens looking benevolently from above. Then, slowly, over the last five centuries, the Earth moved, then the Planets, then the Suns and Galaxies and Universes swirling around us madly with deeper and deeper disregard for little bi-pedals. Similarly, we saw ourselves as unchangeable, as part of the family, we wanted our children to live better, but we saw our lives tougher than good old days of our parents and ancestors. With the invention of the history, we, for the first time, saw that the old times could have been quite different, maybe not so good. But surely the people were the same! Then, we, slowly again, started to worry about the other cultures about the “primitives” and “aborigines” and then Darwin shocked us with his crazy theory. Now we have to digest that our intelligence changed, from cave man to present, so will it change again in the future. We have to digest that our sensory mechanism changed, we see different things than the animals. According to neuroscience, our emotional and social brain changed.  And now how about a spiritual brain, how about the sense of reality,  the sense of freedom and individuality, All because of these prefrontals and reflective thinking and this obnoxious and annoying SELF…. After a century and a half, we just started to seriously grapple with this evolutionary worldview transformation, I guess we need to ask Millenials?

Big Question #8 : How do you find truth?

“Have patience awhile-slanders are not long-lived. Truth is the child of time- ere long she shall appear to vindicate thee.” Immanuel Kant.

Subquestions and everyday relevance

  • how to find somebody to trust?
  • how do you know to believe in that or that scripture?
  • how do you know to believe in this or that media source?
  • do you believe in the system of beliefs you have been growing up with?

How to work on your answer to Question #8

“Find somebody you trust, then ask.” This is the answer that served me well for the last 40 years. I use it myself, but more importantly, I advise the parents of my patients, scared, confused and overwhelmed by the media.

Example of an answer:

“Do lots of experiments. Make notes. Try again”.

Beth Lilly.

View more answers on Philozophy.com

Psychotherapy

Surprisingly, I think, the people who would benefit the most from the working on that question come from the both ends of the spectrum. First, these pragmatics, these who think and act like the truth is relative, “what works” or even worse “the best deal” people. This is a misery, no happiness, no relationship, no peace of mind is possible- go and work on your answer!

Second group is happy but more dangerous. They “know the truth”, and they are willing and ready to stick it to us through our throats, all for “our good”.  It is frightening to see how nice and friendly they are. They would help to rebuild your burned house and they would burn you at the stake with the same angelic, righteous smile. Maybe even Philozophy.com can not fix them, hopefully, their children will rebel….

An Essay

Tommy is my grandson, a brilliant young man, medical student, fencier, and boxer, and Go player. He lives in Poland.

“The Complete Personality”, By  Tommy Boron

A development of a personal Mundus Operandi, from battling historical inaccuracy to choosing what the devil to do during the next hour. The Truth is the way, Jesus used to say, a golden compass that guides our actions, if we choose to develop it, patterns emerge from chaos, details become relevant, good and evil distinguishable. This question also hides the meaning of this very edifice. I’d also like to share with you my concept of a complete personality, which as you probably agree this project allows to develop. It can be broken down into these four components:

Purpose – a mean to thrive, goal, vocation, an end of the line for some. In the Matrix, Agent Smith stated that “Programs must have a purpose, otherwise they are deleted”. Maybe it’s not the best quote, but it hits the spot. Sometimes it might only refer to the task at hand, but it dictates the urgency of our actions. “The haste that urges man to march, the dignity of every act” – Dante Alighieri (Divine Comedy) That haste is, of course, to be avoided, by keeping it cool, but doing our job.
Principles – a creed, gentlemen’s code of conduct, Savoir Vivre, etc. Gotta stick to your principles, keep a given word, open doors for the ladies.
Convictions – the roots that hold us firmly in the ground, so that we don’t wobble, or flow carelessly with the stream, pretty much a worldview that Philozophy.com helps us to establish.
Void – A core of that is the child which survived, that may at any time let go of all the above and observe with pure curiosity the works of nature, a place where duality is broken, the tao flows without obstruction, dreams become a tangible reality. I’d say it is like a mental sanctuary, mind palace also grasps the essence. An oasis of peace deep within.
Lastly, the components of our life: the story, the game, and the style. Story binds our days, creates beauty, sorts out our experiences so that we may look back and proudly say it was a good day. We are, no doubt, homo Ludens, we enjoy games, sports, physical, and mental activity. The real sages know how to play with their own story, they laugh, cheer the folks around them, and tell us through metaphor that life is just a ride, so we need not worry, and frown too much. Now the style, as Charles Bukowski said: “Style is the answer to everything(…) to do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it, to do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art”. Adding the cherry on top, personal touch, a subtle stroke of the brush is what makes us truly like ancient warriors.

Big Question #11 : What happens after death?

“Hasta la vista, baby”- Terminator

Subquestions and everyday relevance

  • What will happen after you die?            
  • What is heaven, if any?
  • What part of us will not die, if any?
  • Shall we prepare, talk about the afterlife?

How is this question relevant to our everyday life? There are many things you chose not to think about, but they are there affecting your everyday life.  The death is the poster child of those things.

I think that there are two ways to deal with death. First is to not think about it, this way is a perfect, 100% successful way. The second is to think about it and this way is also, absolutely, 100% successful way.

How to work on the answer to Question #11

Of course, like with all other “primary questions”, the true answer to this question is unknown, but having a frank conversation about the death is interesting. Then, what to say, about the hopes, about the fear or just be “politically correct” (whatever are your politics )?

An example by Dosia Boron : “Those who deserve to keep their soul play on. Others feed others. And if we don’t like the spiritual game it is just a quite useless language construction- “after death”, I mean.”

View more answers on Philozophy.com

Psychotherapy

A philosopher said that all our lives end badly.  Does it need to be like this? Lao-tzu says: “Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.”  Can it be done? like, do your work, then step back?”

An Interview

tom kunesh, a humanist, an atheist, an activist for the rights of American Indians,( he is part-Lakota-it is why he does not use capitals) an author, a philosopher and a liberal politician is also a co-founder of the Chattanooga Humanist Assembly. We organized this interview as a part of the Assembly’s monthly meeting so we could benefit from the opinions of the members.

The meeting was long, so below you’ll find excerpts which seem to me interesting and useful for both religious and nonreligious people and anybody in between working on the Big Question #11: What happens after death?

Me: Adam Frank in his great book “About Time” writes: “Death has always been a portal to time’s great mystery. By ending time for the self, death acts as an invitation to consider time’s reality and its meaning”. He sounds like a humanist – “death as an invitation”, huh?

tpk: (tom kunesh) Every time I plan to travel, whether it is to Nashville, 2 hours away, or especially if it is a longer trip, to Minnesota, I get an anxiety. It is not that I am afraid, I am going to fall asleep at the wheel. It is different, it is inexplicable, it is this dread of change. I am missing something.

I do not have any fear of death related to pain – I have been to car accidents, this does not bother me. Even missing my kids do not bother me if I die I will not feel anything. This is the anxiety that bothers me. I am missing my dad since he died many years ago, even we were not living together. Even the change of this place, what use to be a store, now a restaurant, bothers me. The death is just a big change, a big anxiety provoking travel, a one-way ticket.

Me: it is not very logical…

tpk: No. Like the metaphor we use often: “he is gone”. He is still here, I do not believe in the soul, so everything is still here, just like a dog, a cat, a bird which hit the window pane… When I am thinking about it calmly, rationally, I have no worries, no concerns.

Me: really?

tpk : Our behavior around death is irrational. The fear of dying, the pain and grief after losing a loved one, these are very powerful emotions, sometimes stronger than your philosophical attitudes. People venerate others after death, treat their dead bodies like real people. Catholics canonize dead people, make them saints, the society celebrates dead leaders like Lenin in Russia, our presidents here in our country. We visit out a relative to have “the last look”. As humanists, as materialists, we are trying to be rational. We do not pray, we do not think the people after death go to heaven, and they are going to join other dead people there, keep waiting for us. We focus on our memory of that person.

Me: Do you need to be a materialist to be a humanist, now in the era of quantum physics? I think I am a humanist but not a materialist.

tpk: some humanists believe in  the Cosmic Union, but I think this is a hubris, it is thinking that we are something special, better than dying elephants or other animals. I think 99% of humanists are materialists.

Me: I think our modern America handles the death in the most unskillful way. Most people die lonely, painfully and costly in the impersonal hospitals, clinging to the life senselessly, tormenting themselves and the family. Can humanism be a guide to the better way to die?

tpk: humanists are free thinkers, they are generally better at talking about difficult subjects like religion and race and sexual orientation. Talking about dying is one of these subjects, usually a “taboo” in our society. I prepare for death every day, especially now, as I am 60. I prepare my professional things to be ready, things from my office handled, my political unfinished issues completed.

I am talking to my daughters about death frequently ( maybe more frequently than they would like me to), especially when I am leaving and going for a longer trip.My father was killed suddenly when I was the young man. Suddenness hurts. We were not prepared for this as a family, it affected us horribly. I remember I was devastated for a long time.I need my girls to realize, to get into their consciousness the notion that the death is normal, a constant part of our life, every week somebody I know dies, presidents, governors, relatives. I try not to shield my kids from any of these events, even such an event like a dog dying, finding a dead snake on the road, that this is not much different than finding a dead person. I believe that seeing death and talking about death makes us better prepared for the death of somebody in the family. “Ok, the dad is dead, long live the dad’.

Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset said „Hay que tomar la vida con filosofía.“- One has to take life with philosophy. Philosophy helps you to sort out your emotions. It is one of many reasons I admire Buddhists. They talk about death and they practice detachment: “when you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.” this is the metaphor for our escape into heavens, reincarnation etc. instead of facing the real, physical death of your loved one or yourself. To face this reality we need to teach children and our society about the physicality and the naturalness of death.

Me: This is great, I am all for talking about Big Questions.  But can you think about happy dying, like the celebrations of well-done job?

tpk: I think, as usual, you ask for too much, for too much of social engineering. I have seen and I have been told of people dying with dignity, even serenity… Well, how about that scenario:

When I am old and done here I will buy one-way ticket to India. I will meditate there and when I am ready I will ask people to roll me down to the river Ganges, where merciful monsoon waves will wash me away. This is the best I can do for you.

Me: This sounds good but if we go together we might have too much fun and the project might fail?

tpk : Do not worry, somebody famous said: “ all lives end badly”.

 

 

Big Question #9: What is the meaning of life?

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso.

When the storm rages and  the shipwreck of the state threatens, we can do nothing more noble than to lower the anchor of our peaceful studies into the ground of eternity.”  Johannes Kepler

Subquestions and everyday relevance

  •  What is the meaning of your life?
  • How should we act? Praxeology (theory of actions).
  • Can we make a difference?
  • What’s your legacy?

It helps to reflect from time to time on it and to write it down. It is mostly helpful in the hour of crisis or worry. Maybe the answer or a glimpse of it will come unexpectedly. Catch it then and use it every day.

How to work on your answer to Question #9

When I was working on that answer, I wanted to write down something big, profound,  and philosophical. Something a guru sitting on the top of the mountain would explain to the confused seeker. But then, do I feel like a guru or rather like the confused seeker? Also, even if you are a guru, what is the benefit for you telling the things you already know. If you know your “Eureka”, tell us by all means, but it has to be yours, unique and personal. What you wander, what you question, what you worry about would be great.

An example by Lucas Prater: ” The meaning of life is to collect as much stuff as possible so that when you die your survivors have to take time out of their lives to sift-through and sell all your stuff. The more of their time you waste, the higher your score.”

View more answers on Philozophy.com

Psychotherapy

Plato said that the life unexamined is not worth living. We all feel emptiness and senselessness from time to time. Working on the meaning and purpose and editing it often might keep you keeping on…

An Interview

 

Trying to figure things out has been my favorite entretaining and interest since I can remember. Naturally writing about meaning of life become more than writing an essay to make your, my reader’s, writing easier and more urgent. The purpose of doing it for you, if I am going to be honest, merges with doing this for myself. In this endavour we are going to join forces with Dosia Boron.
 When she was born, I was a young, searching man and  she become an obvious and unequivocal meaning of my life. Now she is not only a brilliant philosopher, a great
teacher but also a fantastic mom of three boys. As I grew old (still searching) , to turn the tables I am asking her about meaning of life. I am calling her from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Lublin, Poland and here are the excerpts of the conversation.
 We started by contrasting the meaning of one’s personal life versus the meaning of life shared by everybody, a philosophical concept of the humankind’s meaning of life.
DB: First things first. To even think about the meaning of your personal life you have first to find time and hone your skills and develop the habit to reflect on our life. It means stop doing what you are doing, and breathe… in silence. It also means working hard to lead authentic life, to be yourself, making sure you do not betray your essence, that you do not lie to yourself. And this is a huge task in itself- all existential philosophers, Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, all of them line up to help you and to mock you with their own doubts and derision. Beyond that, I don’t know, when I am thinking about personal life, I tend to ask negative questions: ” Is my life meaningless? And why not? Is it worth living, how would I know that I should continue?”
Me:  Most people find children, loved ones  a natural reason that the life is worth living.
DB: Not really, no, I know many people with children, and I speak for myself, who wander if their life is meaningless. “Giving , always giving, where is the sense of it?”
I like more the idea of looking for and finding somebody with whom you can share the concept of life, with whom you can talk freely, deeply. I do not know if I met someone like that?
Me: But, this is the problem, people do not talk about these things, at least it is true in my life. Don’t you think that such conversations can be helpful and relevant for you during tough periods in life?
DB: I disagree that people do not talk about it. From time to time, when you find somebody you can talk to and you have time and mood, you talk an intimate and honest talk, and whatever is the subject- it is somehow about the meaning of life. And you ask, I think it is what you mean, if the formal discussion about that part of the worldview, “meaning of life”, would talking about that help? I don’t know.
Rather than talking about the meaning, it is important to discuss and clarify for yourself and for the people you live with, your system of values. To clarify this and to live more or less openly accordingly with these values. It is the part of the authentic life that we were talking about earlier.
Me: Like, Is it about the winning or how you play the game?
DB: Exactly, the system of values, how you play, can actually replace or substitute for the problem of life being meaningful- the winning and what you play for . Dying people , what do they regret? Not being for others, not spending enough time with family. This is weird, dying people stop being selfish.

Me: Talking about death can help.

DB: I think dying people are just very lonely and this is ugly. It is important to think about the connection between the meaning of life and the beauty. For an artist, actually for almost everybody, the great art and beauty, even natural beauty, makes the life meaningful. And the philosopher sees meaning as beautiful. And to bring again the concept of values, I think that it is important trying to find the beauty in the relationship with others.
 Me:  To try to find beauty in the relationship with others! This is one of the best advices and definitions of meaning of life I have ever heard!
 DB:Yes, if we only could communicate…
Me: when discussing the meaning of life, is there a difference between talking and writing?
DB: Most important difference is between worrying about the life without meaning and talking about it, putting your worries in words, then the next step is writing. But when I am confronted with the task to write about the personal philosophy, meaning of life, I do not feel I can add anything new, why would people be interested in what I think? The poetry is much better, it  is like a code, a different, secret language, intimate and multidimensional.
 It is better form of communication. If people read my poem, I feel they become closer to me, but if they read my philosophical definitions or remarks, I would feel embarrassed to write what big white heads have already written in much better way.
Me: Maybe there is the way between, or combining philosophy and poetry/
DB: I am teaching and giving workshops in critical thinking. I am using
socratic method and we analyze beautiful classical texts, like Thomas Mann, Dostoyevsky. The idea is old, but working on this , so to speak, head-on is very satisfactory and my young student like it. But if you think that they could then start discussing the meaning of life,  not so fast, I think they are not ready.
Me:  We need thousands, millions philosophy teachers doing this.
 BD: I feel that I owe this to my ancestors and my teachers.  They worked in harder and more dangerous times, and they fought for their values. In our furiously rased and materialistic world, I feel I need to be brave and to preserve love for literature, beauty, art and philosophy.
Me: Amen
DB: I feel that I did not say anything interesting about meaning of life…
Me: You did, this is the beauty of my hypothesis. You do not need to improve philosophy of the Greeks to benefit from Philozophy.com. All you need is to be brave, honest and personal, this form of answer will help you and others. And you did all that,  and send me a poem or two?
They come three day later:
What I’m afraid the most
 
What I’m afraid the most
is that I will resign
from beauty seeking mission
one day
just like that
will sink into ugliness
stop fighting
stop struggling for breath
It will swallow me eagerly
the EXPECTED and KNOWN
grow on me like mould
thick
I will stop moving
and my poor soul
will simply fly from me
away
to look for beauty
by itself
 Writing poetry
What is worth a line but sharing
maybe
You find it
a treasure of thought
all excited, bathing in a stream of ideas and hints
all smart
 pleasant vibes of discovery
all right!
man
You beat wings
in a dried well
Your bright insights
down deep there
what is worth life if not sharing
I know i know
me, too, I live with the Dead mostly
I beat my wings in darkness
all smart
coughing dust
still
I carry my lines with me
vigiliant
sniffing the air
ready.
 And quotations:
Hanz Castorp in the chapter Snow: (Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann)
” I dreamed about the nature of man, and about the courteous, reasonable and respectful community of men – while the ghastly bloody feast went on in the temple behind them. Were they courteous and charming to one another, those sunny folk, out of silent regard for that horror? what a fine and gallant conclusion fot them to draw! I shall hold to their side, here in my soul.”
(…)
“God and the Devil, good and evil, just made for someone to tumble headlong into its void and perish mystically there.(…) Death or life –  illness or health – spirit or nature. Are those really contradictions? I ask You: are those problems? NO, they are not problems, and the question of their nobility is not the question either.(…)
Man is the master of contradictions, they occur through him, and so he is more noble than they. More noble than death, too noble for it – that is the freedom of his mind. More noble than life, too noble for it – that is the devotion of his heart. There, I have rhymed it all together, dreamed the poem of humankind.”
” And form, too, comes only from love and goodness; form and the cultivated manners of man’s fair state, of a reasonable, genial community – out of the silent regard for the bloody banquet”
 \
“For a moment everything was clear, and when that happens you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know this? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dreamclock chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life. Behind it? Below it and around it? Chaos, storms. Men with hammers, men with knives, men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.”
― Stephen King11/22/63
“We did not ask for this room or this music. We were invited in. Therefore, because the dark surrounds us, let us turn our faces to the light. Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty. We have been given pain to be astounded by joy. We have been given life to deny death. We did not ask for this room or this music. But because we are here, let us dance.”
― Stephen King11/22/63