Monday, May 15, 2017

A Curmudgeon and a Termagant Walk Into A Bar

Termagant: O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who (for the most part) are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipp'd for not associating me with being a true vixen.

Crumudgeon: Swear thou art honest, Vixen! Heaven doth truly know thou art falsity jostling others for dominance, with brute power the final factor of your raging encounter.

T: It is the very error of your moon that brings you nearer to a state of lament, where you will most assuredly find your incredulous thinking!

C: Command you not of governing cosmic peculiarities. We lay traps for the likes of you.

T: Those may be your final words. 

Why have you grievance with me, surely the question of your own motivation is sufficient without quirk or injury to my blessed tragedy.

C: I refuse to be drawn into your inquiries. I shall remain steadfast to my impenetrable resolve.

T: So striking it is that you invite it here for examination?

C: Don't try to inquire further! Be content with the knowledge you have. 

T: Tush, never tell me. Mock me not. Trifles light as air are to the jealous confirmations strong. As proofs holy writ. 

C: As prime as goats or hot as monkeys! 

T: Just order the scotch, already.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Fish in Love

I never met a metaphor I didn't like. Not only is this fish out of water, but it is riding a penny-farthing. Of fishes, Lynda Barry wrote:

Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke. 

Dr. Mardy Grothe, a very clever and witty writer and author of treasures for the intellectually insatiable, wrote about the 1995 novel Corelli's Mandolin, where Louis de Bernieres tells the story of Pelagia Iannis, a young beauty who lives with her physician father on the small Greek island of Cephalonia. When the island is overtaken by Italian troops in the early days of World War II, Dr. Iannis and his daughter are forced to billet the officer in command, Captain Antonio Correlli, in their house. Corelli is a handsome and cultured man who always travels with his prized mandolin. His passion for music is matched by a disdain for military life, which he demonstrates by replying "Heil Puccini" whenever he is offered the Nazi greeting "Heil Hitler." The beautiful Pelagia soon falls for Corelli, even though she is betrothed to a young Greek fisherman who has left to fight in the war. The developing love affair gravely concerns her father, who sits her down one day and says:

Love is a kind of dementia
with very precise and oft-repeated
clinical symptoms.

After ticking off some of the "symptoms" that he has observed in the young lovers, Dr. Iannis launches into an extended analogy. 

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body ...

That is just being "in love," which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew toward each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from our branches, we found that we were one tree and not two.

Ambrose Bierce wrote: Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. 

Returning to Dr. Iannis' lecture to his daughter, this is where Mardy and I take a divergent path. It is the path of awareness. Dr. Iannis speaks from his perspective, which is conventional love. Living in society this is perhaps one of the easiest loves to have. It is intimate and personal, but it is also illusory when two people deny their essence in the name of pragmatism or even altruism. If it is the first, it may be more authentic, with two individuals living in earnest. These are the people who claim to have met their soulmate. Another person with whom they are naturally inclined, with both sharing the preference for and ability to sustain a long lasting love affair. But if one is secretly languishing, denial and resentment can arise. These sentiments are formidable even for a well balanced mind, and require higher faculties to escape. These are the willingly chosen ideals that result in a very rich and creative inner reality - sometimes turning one into a phenomenologist. 

Although the sentence: "I never met a phenomenologist I didn't like" doesn't have the same ring as "I never met a metaphor I didn't like" - even if one could argue the structure renders these two concepts categorically equal. 

The next category is love for convenience. History and literature are filled with woeful unrequited ultimately loveless tales of this nature. When we read these stories, we feel instantaneous "compassion" and "anguish" for the main characters, those pour suffering souls living in secret torment, under the spell of insatiable love or the hope thereof. 

If this happens to a flat character, usually a fortunate or unfortunate impetus occurs, and the person follows an almost predestined path back to their senses or a more "suitable" suitor. Either that or the author kills them off creatively. 

If forbidden love happens to a dynamic character, a journey or odyssey begins. These characters are the Odysseuses of the world whom wanton readers will follow, sometimes to the scaffold. Where despite innate trembling imagine their hero or heroine (Joan of Arc, for example) step upon the scaffold with nothing but dignity and grace. Like Marie Antoinette and probably Anne Boleyn, they take one final breath, gaze up upon the morning sky, and let go of enough inner pretense to accept the harsh hand of fate. Their true natural eliteness (not elitistness) will not allow them to superimpose their ideals upon another, so their final word is conciliatory. If nothing happens that requires one final courtesy, such as apologizing for tripping over the executioner's foot; then their deepest hope and faithful desire is their last steadfast thought. In a single helplessly beautiful heroic act, they free their heart from their body, close their eyes, and wait. 

This is just one of many death scenes that history has imposed on some of its most dynamic characters. It is the tragic fate of those unyielding souls who can hear the sun set between perfect action in accordance with self and perfect action in accordance with other. 

Folklore describes these beings as cursed or solitary in nature, and in many ways they are. They may become beloved orators, steadfast to the great potential in every conceivable landscape. They are often educated by the best teachers of the day, but their autodidactical approach to living will seek knowledge from every conceivable source. 

Some are born into old and respectable families, others arrive into states of chaos. Most all turn to some form of writing or the arts, or toward physical experiences that are all-encompassing. Ultimately they set their sights on love and amorous intrigue. If the dynamics of love are not present in such a captivating way, they channel desire elsewhere. Devouring a sophisticated and pleasure-seeking society in perfectly unique ways that speak to them. They may be popular or unknown, but others are not necessarily unknown to them. 

Venus and Adonis - Abraham Bloemaert (Dutch, 1566 - 1651)
The Statens Museum for Kunst

Ovid was married three times, finally finding contentment in his third marriage. His first two marriages were short-lived and not particularly harmonious, giving special relevance to a line that appeared in the Art of Love: 

Love is a kind of warfare

Our penny-farthing riding fish out of water picks up the shattered pieces of Odyssey's heart and turns and twists them into metaphors or historical remedies, reminding us that Ovid was one of the first in history to say that love is war, a more powerful concept exposing the weakness of character behind Dr. Iannis'  love is a mental illness.

The timid would stop here, but a more insatiable being would ask: 

What about fire? 

That ancient flame - the flame of love - has been a central theme in world literature. In The Divine Comedy, Dante used the metaphor to suggest that a great passion can spring from a modest beginning: 

A great flame follows a little spark.

In Guardians of the Galaxy, baby Groot is ever more adorable and irresistible because he has the heart of Groot inside. In the seventeenth century, an English proverb commonly attributed to English cleric Jeremy Taylor continued the theme and became one of history's most popular observations: 

Love is a friendship set on fire 

Lord Byron saw love as a kind of celestial fire, calling it "a light from heaven, a spark of that immortal fire." Honoré de Balzac wrote that "Love is like the devil," adding "Whom it has in its clutches it surrounds with flames." 

Of One Hundred Years of Solitude, the Chicago Tribune Book World described García Márquez as taking one into a dream, where the reader emerges with their mind on fire. Not as twisted as Nabokov's enormous appetite and imagination, nor his fatalism either. Like rum calentano, these stories go down easily, leaving a rich, sweet burning flavor behind. 

If only it would stay gone. 
But it doesn't. 
It returns.
Again and again, fecund, savage and irresistible. 

In the words of Maya Angelou: 

Love is like a virus. 
It can happen to anybody at any time.

It may be a gift we give ourselves, it may be designed to catch a heart like a fish, it may be Anouilh's "one arch-enemy" ... it may be instinct, a way to find the way to one's own heart, or it may be a feeble insect in search of its next flower, with an innate will that nothing can dismay nor turn aside (Honoré de Balzac). It may be Nature's fairest gem or an exploding cigar. It may be a flowing wine held in existence or the wild card of existence. It may be wrapped or bare, savage or barbarous, dark, or so primal it purges vanity and leaves one with no other choice but to yield, if only to drag oneself from its torturous grasp. 

It may be fiction or reality or history. It may be the promise of an alliance of friendship taunted by lust. It may become pliable and overly yielding, or die of starvation. Whatever it is, love is a passion exalted and refined, gross and sensual. It is friendship set to music and the foundation of all civilization. 

It is an ocean of emotions, surrounded by apologies and personal expenses. For some it could prove to be more painful that being alive, a perpetual, relentless aching wound. Love is every ode willingly ascribed to it.

Of all it is and all it is not, love is always one thing above all else: Spelled correctly.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Review of the Movie 'Gifted'

Nobody likes a smart ass

When the science of behavior and mind masquerade as genius there is bound to be confusion. Embracing all aspects of conscious and unconscious experience as well as thought, we establish general principles and superimpose our worldview upon all subjects, including the subject of genius, about which scientists know very little.

How does one explain the variation in the species that produces profoundly, observably-gifted individuals? 

By presenting it in relation to something else.


Natural scientists have been searching for the origin of genius since at least Plato. Today, a neuroscientist might refer to the phenomenon as plasticity, whereas a biologist might offer the theory of evolution. There are perhaps as many theories as there are opinions.

It would seem we don't yet have a roadmap for the further we move along the evolutionary ladder. After opposable thumbs and the ability to utilize one's hands as a unit, we find ourselves faced with a family of ontologies, such as fictional, imaginary, and impossible objects like Pegasus the winged horse or round squares. Genius is thought to reside somewhere nearby.

In the below clip from Men in Black, Edward (Will Smith) determined after a brief hesitation that little Tiffany posed the most threat while trained military officers instantly reacted to the monsters.

"She's the only one that seemed dangerous," says Edward. "She's about to start some *stuff ... those books are way too advanced for her."

This is precisely how I would describe the many complexities of genius: way too advanced for a quick review or movie. Regardless, the movie does address some important aspects of the challenges associated with living with genius, including those experienced by caretakers.

Specifically, the movie addresses these five (5) topics:
  1. What responsibilities do the gifted have to society? 
  2. Are the gifted at a higher risk for existential crisis?
  3. What responsibilities do caregivers have to the gifted? 
  4. Which environment is best for the nurturing of gifted? 
  5. Is childhood development different for the gifted? 

Image result for gifted movie

1. What responsibilities do the gifted have to society? 

Mary's maternal-grandmother believes that Mary is a "one-in-a-billion" mathematical prodigy who should be privately tutored in the hopes of being able to better contribute to society, and perhaps solve one of the Millennium Prize Problems (a set of seven mathematical problems so difficult they have a $1 million prize if you solve them).

Midway we learn that Mary's Grandmother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) was also a mathematician, but that her career ended when she married. Here, it is implied that Evelyn has redirected her emotions and feelings (transference) about succeeding as a mathematician onto her granddaughter, and her daughter before her.

While it may be true that the grandmother (or Evelyn) does appear to suffer from some negative transference conflicts, this psychological affliction does not address what the development of giftedness can do for society. For that, we have to ask questions like:

What can solving math equations do for society? 

Take for example Évariste Galois, who at twenty-years-old solved a concept called - group theory - which today is recognized as the official language of all symmetries.

"And, since symmetry permeates disciplines ranging from the visual arts to music to psychology and the natural sciences, the significance of the discovery cannot be overemphasized." (Mario Livio)

This is where the movie vacillates between ethics and value.

Image result for gifted movie

2. Are the gifted at a higher risk for existential crisis?

An existential crisis occurs when an individual questions whether life has any meaning, purpose, or value. Existential depression can occur following a trauma, leaving a person feeling like they're "falling apart."

Existential depression in gifted individuals is widely documented. In some cases it can be linked to positive disintegration experiences (Dabrowski), but not always. In the movie Little Man Tate, Fred Tate (Adam Hann-Byrd) can solve complicated math problems and play piano extraordinarily well, but he is plagued by big world problems until his intellectual abilities are guided and his emotional needs are met (making friends).

In the movie Gifted, Mary does not seem to suffer from Fred's type of existential crisis until she learns that her biological father did not want her. This is the audience's first real glimpse that she feels deeply. Toward the end of the movie, she hits her uncle, but this could be in part due to the type of television programming they are watching (or to the disingenuous introduction of a court ordering Mary to live with a foster family without legitimate cause).

Instead the movie addresses this subject via the mother, presenting the "risks" (anger, resentment, depression, negative action) but not expounding on them.

Image result for gifted movie math

3. What responsibilities do caregivers have to the gifted? 

What the movie does explore is the responsibilities caregivers have to the gifted. Frank's greatest fear is that he cannot give Mary what she needs to reach her unique potential. As a philosopher, Frank (at the end of the movie) tells Mary that he broke his promise and sent her to a foster family because he doubted his ability to care for her.

In philosophy, an individual is free in the positive extent when they have control over their own life, or are self-determining and free from interference by others. While Mary is young, Frank makes it clear that Mary is smart and capable of knowing what she wants, and that he should have listened to her in the first place. No doubt Frank is familiar with Bentham who coined the term 'negative liberty' to describe the situation when a person is free only in absence of coercion (see Hobbes, Locke, and Hume). It appears Frank mostly wants to love Mary while helping her develop her intellectual abilities and interests, not coerce her into a specific experience, which is what the grandmother attempts to do.

Of course, sitting in the audience, one can't help but feel compelled by the narrative. The audience wants Mary to return to her uncle, where she will be loved for who she is:

"He wanted me before I was smart."

4. Which environment is best for the nurturing of gifted? 

In the movie, being 'gifted' is presented as an intellectual affinity versus an affliction (such as in A Beautiful Mind, when genius is presented in relation to mental illness). Audiences leave with the impression that a loving environment is best for everyone, including the gifted.

But questions linger. In particular, one can't help wonder what potential might be lost when a child engages with ordinary children instead of with his or her intellectual peers. This is precisely what the director wants us to question and debate.

5. Is childhood development different for the gifted? 

Of the gifted it is said that they show clear signs of moral and social responsibility at higher levels of development, and that this occurs earlier in life than it does for most.

According to Dabrowski, there are various levels of development, from narcissistic self-absorption to a life of pure service. This is not an age-related theory. It does not imply that human beings begin life as sociopaths and end up like the Dalai Lama.

Level 1

The individual is concerned with self. In the service of egocentrism, perfectionists become tyrannical. They do not see their own imperfections; instead, they focus on the flaws of others. At this level, other people are used for self-gratification and self-aggrandizement. Parents at this level expect their children to achieve in school, behave well in public, get accepted to an Ivy League university, and become a success in life - to reflect well on them. These individuals set unrealistic standards for others and focus on their flaws; this is accompanied by blame, lack of trust, and feelings of hostility toward others (Hewitt & Flett). This is said to increase the potential of causing debilitating perfectionism in gifted children. While Mary's grandmother is clearly intellectually gifted, her transference is causing her to engage with perfectionism at a lower level.

Level 2

The individual is at the mercy of a society or their social group. They continuously ask themselves, "What will people think of me if I ...?" They experience insecurity and feelings of inferiority toward others; they judge themselves lacking in comparison with others. Polarized - all or nothing - thinking arises, where they judge themselves as either perfect or worthless.

It is said that perfectionists live in a constant state of anxiety about making errors. They have extremely high standards and perceive excessive expectations and negative criticisms from others, including their parents. Sometimes these pressures are real, sometimes they come from within. Perfectionists question their own judgement, lack effective coping strategies, and feel a constant need for approval. They fear being exposed as frauds or imposters. Many avoid the healthy risks that will help them grow, procrastinating, or refusing outright to try new experiences for fear of failure. (Adderholdt-Elliot & Goldberg).

Level 3

Healthier forms of perfectionism emerge when the individual becomes a seeker of self-perfection, instead of feeling inferior to others or feeling inadequate. The person is aware of their potential to be fully human and feels inferior only to that potentiality. Integrity, empathy, wisdom, and harmony are powerful incentives for growth. The longing to become one's best self propels the individual to seek out blind spots, see the truth about themselves, and transform lower-level instincts.

Life is a high drama. There are persecutors (Mary's grandmother and the insensitive, powerful court system), victims (Mary, Frank ... and nearly Fred), and rescuers (Bonnie). The first two levels are compelled by the lower realities, and there is little, if any, awareness that a higher possibility is possible. At Levels IV and V, the pull from the higher reality directs the personality. At Level III, the individual is aware of the higher, but in the beginning is still caught in the lower. The struggle that ensues is painful. To know there is a higher reality, while at the same time feeling incapable of reaching it, causes an agonizing tension. Even though this high drama is difficult, it can work as a catalyst for inner transformation.

Level 4

One gains a greater capacity for self-reflection, for acceptance of others and of self when one has transformed much of the inner polarity and is able to live according to higher ideals. Here, self-regulation is eased. Instead of being controlled by baser desires, such as possessiveness or trying to control others, one is more compassionate, able to think about and understand the plight of others. These individuals have a clearer vision of the meaning of life experiences.

Level 5

Dabrowski refers to Level V as the perfection of the personality. It is life without inner conflict. It is a life directed by the highest guiding principles. These individuals are wise teachers, guides, and exemplars for others. Autonomy is achieved from the lower layers of reality fraught with confusion and violence. Life is lived in service to all humanity, not in service of the ego. The motto, "All is love" reflects the transcendent potential for humanity - and perhaps the greatest gift the 'gifted' can give the world.


Frank Adler (Chris Evans) recognizes and treats his niece's mathematical proclivities with respect and dignity, ensuring that she is presented with theoretical math books that feed her mind's insatiable need for stimuli.

But he is also concerned about Mary's psychological well being and emotional state; in particular because her mother (his sister) took her own life. When Mary wants to continue reading and solving mathematical equations, he insists instead they go to the beach to play and let off a little steam. This tells the audience that as a caretaker, Frank is concerned with Mary's happiness and well being, not just her potential.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Super Mensa Lumen, or "Luxsa" for short

Are you a Secret Super Brain?
(and don't even know it?) 

How about we consider some kind of expanding, brain-sizzling, angelically devilish entertaining questions before watching a mindless video on meditation? (get it?) those who do, continue reading.

Are you in league with Isaac Asimov or Buckminster Fuller and don't even know it? Let us find out! 

But before we do, let us give ourselves a name, so that people of exceptionally high intelligence might have a label with which to identify should the subject arise at their next dinner party. 

Let's start with Mensa. "Mensa" is Latin for table, so Beyond Mensa is Super Mensa Lumen, or "Luxsa" - our newly adopted and beloved colloquial expression for Smarty Pants. It also means that our desk now has a table lamp.

Disclaimer: If you are concerned with elitism, Luxsa might not be for you ... for elitism is the belief one is superior to one's peers, while elite is sufficient enough. As such, Luxsa is elite. 

Luxsa is not mindless Trivia without context. For to do well on Trivia, one only need be in possession of a well-furnished, overstuffed mind. But if Trivia is a favorite pastime, you'll find yourself in good company here. 
  1. Which does not belong? George Sand, George Eliot, George Orwell? 
  2. If while in a coffee shop you heard people discussing ullage and botrytis, what is it they were discussing? 
  3. In the novel by Jules Verne, who went around the world in eighty days?
For the more arcane, how many imaginary places from world literature can you name? For the Super Arcane, how many landscapes from imaginary places can you close your eyes and verbally walk me through? 

Come back down from the slender stilts that rise from the ground at a great distance from one another and are lost above the clouds of the city and aim your spyglass and telescope back upon Luxsa for you will never tire of examining it, page by page, leaf by leaf, stone by stone, particle by particle, contemplating with fascination abstract notions of concrete realities such as absence and presence.  

Now that our minds are warmed up, let us start 4 hours after the meridian in Greenwich strikes 12 o'clock noon, which would be right about now. 

The following set of questions are relative to the unimportant matters or things one's mind considers. The tedious, never-quieting internal dialogue and debate on the nature of chicken-and-egg riddles and tyrannical influences and civil responsibility. The fun and charming challenges of nurturing a large working memory and the triumphs in fine mental tuning. Let us draw our own lines and color inside or outside them, and then arrange the elements in such a way as to arrive at a conclusion, a decision, or solution to some random and entirely important-in-the-moment thought ... to a place where our intuition resides. And by intuition we mean not some mystic or mysterious force that belongs in the realm of psychic phenomena. But rather a real, definable, and, to a greater or lesser extent, present in all of us accumulation of millions - perhaps billions or trillions - of tiny, "trivial" bits of information stored in the recesses of our memories that we harness, dust off, and bring together in an appropriate combination when the situation calls for it.

Armed with our thinking caps we enter a room filled with thoughts, and instantly we experience a feeling, either positive or negative. Let us pause and consider what creates that first impression? Are we hard-pressed to offer specifics? 

If our reaction be negative, what in the world, might I ask, is that human computer of ours doing? Is it being unruly? Focusing on facial expressions, mannerisms, a way of walking, and style of dressing - and with matching socks, dressing up these experiences with, and reactions to, "trivial" matters based on arcane or worse yet - boring information from the past? A kind of sad and desperate subconscious picture is drawn and in a fraction of a second reacted to that presents to the mind the notion of "bummer vibes?" 

The longer and more actively we engage our brains, the keener our intuition becomes. There are those who can take one look at a person, read a few words in a comment, or observe someone's manner and in an instant know precisely how that individual will react in certain circumstances. Dangerous, you say? Indeed, but only when used for ill. For there are those whose systems independent of their prowess of intellect adhere to higher grand principles from which to engage the world. Higher, not mindless and unexamined. 

Because the accumulation of facts is important to intuitive thinking, to the myriad of snap decisions and quick judgments one must make in order to go about one's day; trivia, in all its lack of glory, is part and parcel to our thinking experiments. 

We are almost compelled to conclude that Luxsa will be filled with Trivia and relatively unimportant matters or things, but these things can be another's essentiality. As we are not aware of the essentiality of others, those things by which they define their life purpose, we can only surmise - a few of us effectively - what those things might be based on their actions, words, complaints and celebrations ... for data examined is often illuminated. And fortunately for us, we have a light on our desk to see it. 

There will be some cramming in the head of information that one must merely suck up and learn, and by learn I mean not memorize. If there is a subject, rather than consult Google to see which posts rank highest and then take as proof of answer that which fits one's mindset; delve deeper, read scholarly journals on the subject, and "think" about the matter and allow your mind to openly wonder without bias and preconception. 

Travel along the neural framework you have carved for yourself with ceaseless thinking activities. If for any reason your neural framework is not functioning clean and clear of clutter, draw yourself a mind map of the 15 basic thinking paradigms by which your brain processes thought. Then delve down deeper into categories and subcategories and exceptions that belong to those areas of thought. Once you have mapped out where your thoughts reside, with a big picture view, you can now make the necessary adjustments to put your brain on your desired track. If you prefer to remain in the mire of twisting and turning and churning in your stomach over trivial matters, enjoy. If you consider that an unpleasant experience, retreat to a safe harbor, examine your mind's map, and adjust accordingly. 

One final thought, if you come to this activity with good cheer and sufficient rest for your mind, your enjoyment will be increased tenfold. In other words, you'll have more fun. If this latter comment on amusement was charming and nostalgic rather than illuminating, welcome to Luxsa. 

Match Wits with Luxsa

  1. Describe how your perfectionism developed. 
  2. Under which hierarchy has your critical perception and evaluation of values arisen? 
  3. What is frustration and why is this question important? 
  4. Define superiority and inferiority? 
  5. Does thinking cause you disquietude? 
  6. What is the value of agitation and anxiety? 
  7. Does surprise and shock exist? 
  8. How does one rectify moral failure (guilt)? 
  9. Which positive maladjustments have you adopted? 
  10. Does antagonism against social opinion and protest against the violation of intrinsic ethical principles make you feel better about yourself? 

Though uncomfortable, those who can answer these questions have the potential to fully realize and illuminate their mind map. 

In our next activity, we'll pull out our drawing utensils and make our very own mind map so that we might more easily keep our table lamp shinning bright. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Little Theory of Enchantment

A Little Theory of Enchantment 
(Saturday morning musings)

Pure reason supplies our over-arching concepts for grand and otherwise overwhelming items. When we are dazed and enchanted by a night sky full of stars, this wildness is somewhat tamed when we make use of the rational concept of space and time.

The deepest sense of the sublime is our recognition of this power of reason to grasp something extremely awesome and essentially unpresentable. It is the major artifice of intellectual power to grasp ideas in the first place.

Take a short historical romp with me through a few of the religions of the world to see the theory of enchantment in operation ...

Let us start with the ROMANTIC ... a sublimity in the intuition of oneness between nature, humanity, and the notion of existence. Nietzsche made the sublime encompass the entire domain of cultural symbolism and philosophic speculation - the entire net of culture as the territory of the sublime.

Whether this vast sublime domain is under the control of reason or the will to power, for it to be so it must FIRST be placed under the control of FANTASY, a fantasy which rests on pure existence. Out of everything, and out of nothing is pure existence ... be it manifest or unmanifest.

Human fantasy lays down the wholly fictional constructs that give grand coherence to each person's life. We see these examples expressed daily on social media. Consider the remarkable bond between the Chinese mind and the concept of the mysterious Tao, the absolute which uses Yin and Yang as its agents for creating the world. Those who discount this idea as a non-truth, might instead classify it as a great cultural fantasy which satisfied their civilization for centuries.

All of our major religions, cultural, and ideological beliefs are in this sense made possible by the psychological ability to construct a notion of fantasy and enchantment.

To dramatize this theory, we might consider a hypothetical dispute between a Methodist and a Catholic. For Catholics, Holy Communion has maximum sublime power because of transubstantiation. The Methodist believe that the supposed miraculous conversion of wine to blood is a superstitious Catholic fantasy, and that the Methodists have a better theory of communion, as a memorial service to Jesus as the Christ.

To a Zen Buddhist, the Catholic model and the Methodist model are both improper fantasies. If Augustine says that he feels sublime bonding to an invisible City of God, and if Marx says he feels such a bond to the socialist state, Augustine and Marx show the same symptom of deluded fantasy.

It is a little known Theory of Enchantment (little know for I have just now written it, in this post) ... that enables all theories to yield a powerful joy and simultaneously touch the deepest psychological core of jouissance and desire.

In my world, the Self and the Mysterious Other are best construed as one something seeking another something, because each entity is, in essentialist language, complete and whole in and of itself, an abundance, existence, a positivity that enables manifest reality.

If we are to have a true history of human culture, we need not decide who is right or who is wrong, but that there is room for all theories and realities to simultaneously exist in the cosmic vacuum needed by an expanding universe.

On a more simple level, we each have our tea parties to which we invite friends to achieve the perfect balance of harmony in the operations of the real world.

This is my Saturday morning story. I shall now sit atop Mt. Olympus with histories great Greek intellectuals and partake of a highly attractive breakfast of nectar and honey.

Bonne journée !

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Facebook and Philosophy

"Facebook is a force that has changed the way we engage with the world." 
~Soph Laugh
An Experiment
It started as an experiment, a promise to myself. To search for wisdom, find my truth, and stick to it. So, I started a blog. Very shortly into my Socratic exploration, I had an epiphany. I liked humor and I enjoyed poking fun at that which we call "knowledge."
I was convinced the path to enlightenment was hidden in the paradoxical things that make us laugh the hardest.
An indecency decently put is the thing we laugh at hardest. ~Cicero
Happy Thoughts Travel Fast (HTTF) was born ... and along with it, the public identity known as Sophy Laughing (Soph Laugh, for short).
Starting on April 17, 2011, I traveled with Socrates in search of wisdom, posting my philosophically inspired humor articles on Facebook, today's Agora of Athens. In doing so, I uncovered what seems to be the spirit of the times, with all its impulses that drive society forward, no longer separated by unbridged chasms of space.
What did I learn?
People across nations believe in following their heart's desire without overstepping the boundaries of right.
This mindset reflects a Confucian view of truth in relation to duty. Recorded in the journals of Confucius's pupils, the Analects state that Confucius thought education was the key to everything: A person should be so deep in study that he forgets to eat, so full of joy in learning that he ignores all practical worries, and so busy acquiring knowledge that he does not notice old age coming on.
Education was the process whereby civilization, and the minds and bodies of those privileged to enjoy it, breathed and lived.
According to onlinemba: 57% of FB users have "some college" and earn between $50-100k USD annually. From this perspective, there seems to be a correlation between people who value education and personal wealth, but not at the cost of losing touch with friends and loved ones (and themselves).
A Truth Soothsayer's Convention
One of the chief complaints on FB is the propagation of false information. Each day freshly transcribed versions of subjective perspective are emotively expressed. Similar to language used in newspapers, political speeches, advertising copy, literature and conversation, typical banners include:
Facebook (Unspoken) Laws
Like the first five books of the Torah, or Jewish Bible, what Christians call the Old Testament, Facebook has it's own set of laws ... instruction, teaching, and guidance.
Good advice earnestly shared is the basis of public posts on anything from yoga and vegan diets to hopes and dreams, for ourselves and for our growing together global community.
No longer exiled from our neighbors, with a simple scroll of the screen we can now peer into someone else's world ... and with a simple click, transmit something of our own in return.
United by a passion for family, well-being, and higher meaning, 1.79 billion people are united by a new type of education: Societal Learning.
The Third Way
Human advancement drives development, which over time evolves and changes in association with our collective and individual successes and failures. It seems clear to me that no matter the economical, political, legal or intellectual institutions we erect for sustainable development, FB and other social media sites are the modern day Agoras, the place where society and economy rest and meet - and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Transforming Truth Into Money
Facebook's is making more money than ever. Between July and September 2016, FB revealed that it made $7bn in revenue - a 59% increase from 2015. The average revenue per user was thus $4.01.
With FB's market value about $350 billion and estimated to someday be worth a whopping $1 trillion, one tangible truth I uncovered in my philosophical quest was that independent of what FB is or is not for each user: modern-day agoras (social media platforms) remain one of the most impressive business models ever created. Our species have been meeting in squares and centres since the dawn of socializing.
The Power of "like" is a Societal Game Changer
Facebook demographics are evolving societal class structures. In 2015, 56% of society fell into the social category of low income, 22% were somewhere in the middle, and only 7% in the upper category. Societal classes are thus divided into three:
  1. Upper class
  2. Middle Class
  3. Lower Class
However, thanks to social media, we now have a 4th category: The Connected Class.
The Connected Class transcends typical income groups, connecting people by common interest. Whatever one's individually held truth, the Connected Class is now a formidable group, with the power to influence perspectives on the global economy, our systems of government and the laws we enact.

Laughter connects you with people. It's almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or sense of social hierarchy when you're just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy."

~John Cleese
With Facebook accounting for 5.5% of all time spent online (in the U.S. in November 2015), it is no wonder that Facebook and other global social programs, such as WeChat is changing the way we 'think' about world, which in turn affects how we engage with the world.
Which brings me back, full circle back to my Socratic-inspired quest for wisdom, and whether or not enlightenment could be found in a cookie. In a way, enlightenment really was found in humor - in the sprinkles on the cake - simply because I discovered what humor meant to me and how much I truly value its healing force.
But to understand humor, I had to practice humor. To practice humor, I had to kick back and relax and share some jokes with a few thousand of my closest online friends.
Facebook is its own philosophy: A system of philosophical thought on the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially in relation to each person's place in society.
Facebook users are Socratic in the sense that each post offers an opportunity to explore virtue and what it means to live a good life. No doubt Socrates would have been on Facebook had it been available to the Ancient Greeks. I wonder how many followers his posts would have touched or inspired, and whether or not he would have unfriended Aristophanes for publishing The Clouds.