Some days you may feel like all you need is a date.
It might be a day where you feel lonely and hopeless. It might be that everything is going wrong. You may be struggling to face reality with all of its suffering and seeming meaninglessness. Maybe you just want some love and affection.
Perhaps it's one of those days where you feel like you just want the universe to give you a hug.
I am sure we can all recognize the feeling, whether we like it or not.
How we deal with it, however, may be quite different. For instance, modern society gives us a diverse range of dopamine-enhancing activities to fill that hole inside from social media to on-demand film entertainment.
Still, it's never satisfying, is it?
Sometimes you must get tired of trying to fill the emptiness with everything else instead of what you know you want.
The Canadian psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson has become known for his injunction to people to make their beds. It has become a sort of tagline for him. Yet why this obsession with a tedious chore that must be done in the morning only to be undone in the evening and so repeated day after day after day? Doubtless every mother trying to convince her children to tidy their rooms and make their beds would appreciate his support. Naturally those inclined toward cleanliness and order would applaud his sentiment. But why should he force this perspective on the rest of the world? One obvious answer is that he is merely a conscientious person who likes order and believes that everyone else ought to as well. After all, we all like everyone else to believe in the importance of what we feel is important. We could thereby dismiss his statement as merely a means of trying to control his environment in a more extensive fashion than most people would consider by having his influence extend even to people's bedrooms. Yet if you listen in context, he also says to get one's house in order before trying to change the world. So really he wants clean houses, right? No. There is far more at stake here. It's about far more than merely the completion of a daily chore or a clean environment. It's about a conscientious approach to life and the element of sacrifice. In some sense, too, it really is about the inanity of the action. For one who neglects to make his bed because he will unmake it again in the evening has a perspective that one ought not to do something that seems fruitless. But what if that seemingly-fruitless action were essential? I can think of so many areas in which this might be relevant from cleaning a jet engine or building a rocket to writing computer code or designing software. Would the one who wouldn't make his bed choose to do anything unnecessary? Might he not rather neglect little things that could have serious ramifications? Even death, for instance. "He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater: and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater." (Luke 16:10)
Myself: "The Friend Zone" sounds rather like "The End Zone" but its relation to sports will benefit us little unless we should wish to make rhyming poetry with a twist of mockery:
Go, bidden, unto The Friend Zone, Dashed down, heart broken, Unnerved; unlike The End Zone Where you may score a goal.
I: A foolish turn of phrase indeed.
Me: Aye, but methinks you merely dislike it for the same reason that you dislike other such modern phrases and therefore your criticism means little. Just because Shakespeare didn't invent it that doesn't make any less worthy a phrase.
I: Nonsense. When I choose to express my dislike for something it delves deeper than mere feeling against modernity.
Me: Then explain away.
Myself: One of us must score a goal there.
I: Let us first begin with defining our terms lest there should be some misapprehension of our meaning. I take "The Friend Zone" to be used to exclude members of the opposite sex from the possibility of romantic relationship.
Me: In other words, should a girl not have any romantic attraction towards a guy she may "friend zone" him.
Myself: Ah, yes, "verbing weirds language."
I: Now let's not bring Calvin and Hobbes into this discussion.
Myself: But they might have some important things to say.
I: As do I.
Me: Very well. Unmuzzle your wisdom.
Myself: It seems clear enough that such a simplification of human relationships demands criticism.
I: Indeed, and for that reason I disdain this term. Also, for its inherent flaws, which may not appear obvious upon immediate view.
Me: It seems to me that the term is a legitimately lighthearted means of grappling with a reality that can be to at least one of the parties quite painful and—if you will forgive the cliche—quite heartbreaking.
Myself: And, as with all such coping mechanisms, that lessens not its flaws.
I: Precisely, for listen but a moment: by the very nature of excluding that person from a romantic relationship by putting him or her into "The Friend Zone" it seems to exclude friends from becoming romantic partners. If that isn't a most dangerous circumstance, I don't know what is.
Me: That's rather an alarming thought. I suppose that leaves enemies and acquaintances for potential spouses then.
I: It's all the same in the end. It is the fruit of this ridiculous dating culture and the oversexualization of our society.
Me: You could blame that for anything. Myself: Nearly true. In this case, however, it holds more weight. Think of it this way: the purpose of a date is to get the other person to bed.
Me: That seems a bit hasty to make such a statement.
Myself: In the secular world, the goal is that very night and in the religious world it is to the marriage bed. Granted, the latter is longer-lasting, involves commitment (mostly) and therefore is of slightly greater worth, but is the difference all that important? I: There is the crux of it—or the lack thereof. For, you see, in this circumstance it remains a matter of what the person intends to gain.
Myself: Not what he can give.
I: If he goes about it in that way—
Me: I see at once: there's no gift of self.
Myself: A gift for self maybe.
I: Aye, for someone—let us say a man for this example—decides that he is suddenly ready for marriage and therefore he must find a spouse. Perhaps he may even have waited for years or tried unsuccessfully for years to find a spouse. Now he may be desperate. He wants at all cost to be married. Does he stop to consider friendship?
Me: Not likely.
Myself: He stops to consider little but himself. Society has taught him so successfully that he is an individual that it never occurs to him that he is more than that: he is a person and that implies relationship with others.
I: Those relationships must extend beyond one romantic relationship. If they do not, he will grow just as lonely later once the glow of passionate emotion has faded.
Me: Our culture stands against us there.
Myself: Indeed, with its bevy of social media platforms and so on: a wealth of knowledge and self-effrontery that dare not allow the true person to develop. Keep him in his sphere of control at all costs.
I: Let him once step beyond that sphere and begin to grow as a person and he must be lured back.
Me: That is a horribly cynical view.
I: That I do not deny, but do you deny its truth?
Me: Well, perhaps not in general....
Myself: Precisely, for you cannot discount generalities spoken as such. We do not rig up a particular person and point out his flaws, but merely the state in general. Therefore, you can find no fault with our arguments and perhaps might take to heart some truth that may better your condition.
Me: Then you shall paint us into a dark hole of truth.
I: Never, for the truth is never a hole, but always a tunnel leading onward. If you have once found the tunnel, you can carry on through it until you reach the light.
Me: And where is the light to be found?
I: In friendship cultivated widely and deeply when possible and in the growth of virtue for dying to self that one might possess oneself in order to be able to give oneself to the other.
Me: Lofty goals indeed.
I: None shall serve better.
Myself: No pun intended there I expect?
I: None in the least.
Myself: Now you need only find those who will listen to such wisdom.
I: That is no trouble. They are those who already know the truth of what I speak.
Murphy’s Law #243: The more unimportant stuff you have, the easier it is to misplace the important stuff somewhere underneath. The legitimacy of said law may be subject to doubt, especially because its random recording here lacks a source. However, unless we mean to debate whether there are indeed 243 Murphy's laws (and clearly more) or the folly of writing interesting quotations and leaving out their sources, then that is of little account. That, after all, would be to misplace the important stuff beneath the unimportant. Of course burying important stuff with the unimportant is the meat of procrastination. So also the way of social media. For instance, why do we live in a world where we judge our president and the Pope by their random comments on twitter? Perhaps virtual reality has supplanted the value of what is deeply human to such an extent that these have indeed become the most important. That is easier to believe, for it stares us right in the face. We all like to be right. We all like to be admired as being at the head of innovative trends that transform society. Then let us begin a crusade for the Unimportant and we shall find ourselves leading the charge. If we can propose the most trivial things to people through extensive advertising, social media campaigns, and so on, we shall succeed in burying once more the deeper uncomfortable realities once considered important that really just get in the way of doing what we want to do. Production, growth, change: these are the keywords for our new movement. Let us raise the banner of the Unimportant! Don't question why. It is clearly the right way to go simply because that is what everyone is doing. If you resist the new movement you are clearly a bigot. Your belief in deeper truths obviously makes you racist and prejudiced. Therefore you must save yourself by jumping on the bandwagon and embracing the pointless little things as the dogma of a new reality. When you release your hold on the outdated notions of the past and conform yourselves instead to the freedom that arises from doing solely as you please according to the standards set by the group to which you belong you will know that this is clearly the key to happiness. Never mind the ephemeral nature of this quality we term happiness. You must seek happiness at any cost, even at the cost of your own self.
The above comic by Scott Adams presents a humorous look at the reality of the modern world, the reality you face in every moment of every day.
Or is it quite so humorous?
Although these two-dimensional characters may bandy about such words as "souls" and "dopamine delivery systems" without repercussions, you do not have that same leisure. Every action you take, however small, changes your three-dimensional reality, laying out the course of your future.
Now if that sounds melodramatic, perhaps you ascribe to Asok's view of reality rather than Dilbert's perspective. You may prefer to walk each day according to the stimulation of dopamine responses to notifications. You may believe your happiest reality consists of sitting with your eyes staring at a screen receiving responses to your latest spectacular photo or detailed description of some particular moment of your day. You may choose the virtual reality before you.
"O brave new world!"
Yes, that world of virtual reality with its soma-like pleasure trips stares you in the face, demanding that you deny the contemplative nature of your soul and accept the new reality foisted upon you as the consumer. Why would you ever choose the painful world of suffering against that realm of virtual pleasure?
Only if you know its emptiness will you have the courage to make that stand. It is the action of a hero to step out on the path that leads to fight the dragon rather than remaining in the inn with food and beer aplenty.
Seeing that choice clearly does not ensure one will choose the right course. The pull of pleasure is strong.
Oedipus listened to the oracle that he would kill his father and marry his mother and set out on a course that had him do precisely that. You must be clever if you want to correctly follow the path of righteousness and not meet the destruction foretold for you life.
Even the Savage could not fight against the whole world that rose up against him. He saw through the facade of the brave new world that claimed that everyone belonged to everyone else and that the only thing that mattered was pleasure. He tried to regain the purity of his soul. That drew crowds to him: they viewed him as a spectacle that defied understanding. It fascinated them.
They did not see his suffering. They did not see him as a person.
For they had long ago ceased to view each other as persons. They had been conditioned from their inception to behave as automatons: their life consisted of completing their duties, believing wholeheartedly in their group, and treating each other as objects.
Aldous Huxley might well have looked into the future as into one of Tolkien's palantiri, the seeing stones. His science may be rudimentary, but his reason and foresight demand respect.
Next time you choose to allow the social media companies to control your actions perhaps you may think of a man standing alone in a valley, flogging himself to atone for the evil he has done, or believes he has done, while crowds gather to laugh and stare. Perhaps a face of one tormented by the horror of living for pleasure alone will rise up before you when the same temptation tugs at you. Yet biology is a strong factor. You must be strong indeed to turn the sword of truth against that dragon.
There are a few strong voices that still ring out clearly against the tide of postmodernism with its pleasure-based culture of want makes right. One of these is Dr. Jordan Peterson who has been grappling himself with the idea of suffering and what to do about it. In his words:
"Life is suffering, and suffering can make you resentful, murderous, and then genocidal if you take it far enough. So you need an antidote to suffering. And maybe you think that you can build walls of luxury around yourself, and that that will protect you from the suffering. Good luck with that. That isn't going to work. Maybe you think that you could build a delusion and live inside that. Well, that's going to fall apart. What is there, then, that's going to help you fight against suffering? That's easy: It's the Truth. The Truth is the antidote to suffering. The reason for that is because the Truth puts reality behind you, so that you can face the reality that's coming straight at you without becoming weak and degenerating and becoming resentful, and wishing for the destruction of Being, because that's the final Hell. The final Hell is your soul wishing for the destruction of everything, because it's too painful, and you're too bitter. And that happens to people all the time."
Hell is quite the empty life. But it is always a choice.
Although perhaps the steady rush of time and the busyness of modern life has dulled somewhat the outrage regarding the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, media coverage helps to keep the flame of hatred alive. After all, that is the right of every civilized person in this country of liberty: to hate the leader of its government. How do you prove your freedom better than to mock your own president?
Now I have little reason to defend President Trump on any basis other than his office. For if we make of that office a laughing stock, then how can anyone ever hold it without expecting a barrage of rotted vegetables in his face, if only metaphorically so? Still, I will make no paltry defense of that once noble office for I doubt that anyone cares. It is more satisfying to tear down than to build up. It gives one a feeling of greater power to denigrate another for his stupidity than to compliment the other's good points, however few they may be. I cannot claim vast knowledge of the actions of our current president. I prefer to spend my time upon other more beneficial endeavors. The actions of the president, no matter who he happens to be, make very little difference in my day to day life. So, go ahead, cast your stones. Burn your buildings. Express your displeasure in all the mature ways of an educated society. But I will point out that you voted him in. You can argue with me if you wish. You can tell me you voted for Hillary Clinton. If you should chance to make such a foolish claim, however, I must correct your misunderstandings: if you voted for Hillary Clinton, you voted for Donald Trump. They like to tell you that a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for the candidate of the party opposite the main party you prefer to support. That, however, is slightly flawed logic. It may happen to carry some weight when it passes from the theoretical world of statistics to the world of reality, but very little. The greater reality is this: if you vote for a candidate in the two-party system, you vote for the system. You give your assent to the victory of the majority candidate whether or not you wish him to hold the office. (And in truth how much difference is there these days between Democrats and Republicans?) It is remarkable how little it would take to break that system so firmly entrenched. Yet I doubt it will happen. I have little confidence in the American spirit of independence as anything other than a choice to exhibit opinions on social media sites about everything from food to film. I believe you are free to say what you want about your dog and look pretty in your favorite pose, but forgive me if I think the likelihood that you will think independently upon the most important issues of our time rather than merely bashing your favorite roasting candidate are not worth mentioning. In fact, what are the odds that you will even bother to look up what must be done to implement more choices into our supposedly-democratic election process? Of course you have two years until you have to worry about it again. So perhaps you might say my "time is out of joint," but if so I will respond that "something is rotten in the state" of America. You have been fair warned. So prepare your 2020 vision!
A while back there was this popular idea going around known as the "Six Degrees of Separation." In essence, this idea means that you are connected to any other person in the world within six or fewer steps. It shows how closely the human race is bound together no matter how different we may seem or how various our cultural backgrounds or other aspects of our being. Yet have you ever considered that it also means you are only six degrees of separation away from mass murderers such as the recent one in Las Vegas? Perhaps now you will not find the idea so comforting. Now you may prefer to hold to the theory that gun control is the solution to the problem of mass murder. Were you to propose that to my face, I should be forced to give assent with one stipulation: it would require the complete banishment of all guns from the face of the earth (and I certainly wouldn't mind getting rid of the black arm and returning to the day of the sword), but that would be a feat to accomplish indeed. So I would rather wind these two popular topics of idle conversation into one: what if instead of spending so much time jawing about mass murderers, you sent a message of love to some poor tempted soul through the six degrees that separate you? For all you know something as simple as a smile at a stranger might brighten his day enough that he decided to buy coffee for someone who then felt a sudden desire to call up an old friend and so on until it reached the afflicted spirit of someone who felt the world worthy of destruction? Might he then change his mind? Maybe you will never know.
WHEREAS the Declaration of Independence clearly states that "all men are created equal," and WHEREAS we clearly understand that statement to refer to all people without needing to mince words about its political correctness; and WHEREAS we certainly believe that all are indeed equal and consequently deserving of equal opportunities in the area of education and elsewhere; and WHEREAS equal obviously means the same; and WHEREAS it is entirely unfair to ignore the needs of equality by allowing some to be superior to others or to permit the emotional trauma caused by feelings of inferiority; and WHEREAS no one's equality to another should be threatened by pretended superiority in terms of greater knowledge or advanced learning or greater competency or any other area of higher status caused by greater exertion of effort or natural merit; now THEREFORE, the government of the United States of America hereby takes into its jurisdiction the proper distribution of justice by ensuring the equality of each citizen of this nation. By these rights, the government shall permit none to rise above the bar of equality set for the lowest possible denominator that all may be equal and none may be made to feel inferior by the speech or position of another, including, but not limited to, the following areas: 1. Education: no person shall know more of any subject than any other person. No advanced degrees shall be permissible. 2. Speech: no person shall use advanced grammar or quote distinguished writers or other languages or speak in any other language but the simplest English. Slang is permissible only if it be widespread and suitable for all persons. 3. Argument: no person shall apply logical principles to the argument of another nor argue to deconstruct another's argument lest the other be proved less by losing the argument and therefore becoming subject to feelings of inferiority. FURTHERMORE, anyone who fails to meet the bar of equality by selfishly rising above it must seek to give restitution by regressing immediately or be subject to fine or imprisonment according to the severity and number of offenses.
In consumerist America, little of the passionate fervor of our forefathers remains to spur us to daring action. We have no battles to fight, no tyrant overseas to overthrow, no independence to gain. Most of us have access not only to the basic necessities of life, but a tremendous array of options to fill every spare moment with entertainment and pleasure. The thrilling cry of revolutionary Patrick Henry might well resound with the faintly-humorous pun of a lumberyard's advertising board leading up to the celebration of Independence Day: GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME A DECK It could be rather an amusing pun, if it were not a little too close to the truth. Yet surely, you might say, we would not surrender our freedom for so little as a deck? Perhaps not a literal deck. Then again, perhaps we would give it up for something smaller—a cell phone perhaps? A tax cut? A free lunch? A popular opinion? A like on a Facebook post? Do we really know much we would sign over our freedom for things so worthless even when it means turning our backs on those things we know deep down truly matter? The more we surrender our liberty bit by bit for the smallest of things, the more we bind ourselves to the forging of chains for which we can blame no one but ourselves. Fear speaks louder than reason. Will we throw overboard the metaphorical tea of our oppressors and shout for liberty or death? Or will we rather choose our own security and see any revolutionaries about as a dangerous threat to the life of pleasure we have chosen? As for me, I stand with Patrick Henry, if in a battle of an entirely different nature: give me liberty or give me death!
One might think that as an advanced civilization we would have outgrown stock characters. After all, we know much more about physiology, psychology, and philosophy than our ancestors, so we can be much subtler in our characterization. Yet somehow these characters keep showing themselves again and again in various manifestations. One recent appearance of stock characters resulted in a delightful show known as Firefly. It was cancelled of course, like most good shows, such as the children's show Magic School Bus where I gained a surprising amount of scientific knowledge, but I digress. I bring up Firefly not to laud its merits, nor to condemn its flaws. Rather I bring up the show because of its wonderful variety of stock characters. Also, those stock characters have played a significant part in assisting science, the medical profession particularly. I cannot give you the precise details, but I have it on good authority that a certain Eastern medical doctor uses the characters from Firefly as a metaphor for the various organs of the human body. For each of these characters—just as each of the organs in the body—serve a specific role. So perhaps we stock characters may be of more use than one would ever imagine....
The other day my Grandma spoke seriously about the dangers of certain actions in the modern world and she called upon Eisenhower in her defense. However, her quotation only resulted in laughter from my little brother and me.
Why, you may ask.
Well, because this was the quotation: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia."
Does that sound familiar?
Now my research fails to assure me with absolute certainty that it was indeed President Eisenhower who first said it. However, presuming that he did indeed originate that phrase I am only brought once more to admiration at the skill of a certain William Goldman who so cleverly wove that phrase into the vocabulary of his character, Vizzini:
"You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - the most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia...."
Although, if on the contrary, Eisenhower quoted Vizzini, then I can but applaud his good taste in film and literature.
Which of these twain be true, I leave to your better judgment according to your knowledge of history and time....