Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Hilarious Hopelessness: The Wisdom of John Cleese

April 11, 2018.  I was sitting in the second row of the very large and totally packed Paramount Theater, located on the downtown mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, not far from Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. 

When John Cleese of the legendary Monty Python Circus stepped on stage, the applause was overwhelming. John retreats to offstage and the applause dies down. Out on stage again, the roars of approval resume, and again he vanishes. Next time the audience gets the hint, and lets him speak.

“Hello Charlotte villains,” I hear him say—first laugh--and we’re off.    

Sunday, April 8, 2018

When Statues Cry Real Tears

The world is full of strange phenomena that challenge the way we understand ourselves.  I’m drawn to the extreme, the rare but often deeply revealing phenomena.  I’m trying to form as accurate a picture of human potential as possible.

The project calls for a gradual piecing together of many elements from various sources.  The interesting phenomena prompt us to ask: What does this matter to me, going forward? Of course, you might not want to probe too deeply. Phenomena are sometimes ignored because they can’t be explained, or because they challenge our assumptions.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Psychic Interaction With Our Pets

In a recent post, I talked about my friendship with a stinkbug.  The big issue there was the nature and scope of consciousness.  I think it important to spotlight the outlaws of nature—monks that levitate, affectionate insects, milk that dematerializes before statues of Ganesha—that sort of thing.  The anomalous, the preternatural, the supernormal: there is much to investigate, if you’re interested.  

But few of us are paying attention.  The reason is that the “educated” classes typically dismiss claims that threaten the creed of scientific materialism. So I feel it a duty to fight back.  My method is to hunt down the most provocative counter-examples to the reigning dogma of physicalism.  I do it for love of truth, however corny and old-fashioned that may sound.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Beyond Money, Power, and Death-Anxiety

Beyond Money, Power, and Death-Anxiety

Death is invincible and defeats us all, but we devise ways to compensate.  Some are natural such as biological reproduction; some are cultural, as when we contribute  to the greater good. But not every reaction to our mortality is benign.  Many people repress the very idea of being mortal.   According to Pulitzer prize-winning sociologist, Ernest Becker, the denial of death can lead to dangerous distortions of the human personality.  (See Becker’s Denial of Death, 1973.)

One way to compensate for feeling puny before death is to amass great personal power.  Wealth spread wide, fame that makes you known everywhere, influence and control—like talismans, these can buoy up one’s cowed spirit.  The ability to create fear or love in underlings at will, being fawned upon and laved with admiration, wallowing in privilege and feeling superior—all this might alleviate the angst that haunts our imagination.       

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