Category Archives: meaning of life
To misquote Sublime, I don’t practice necromancy. For what it’s worth, I ain’t got no crystal ball, either. I do, however, practice a form of it that I think is very common. That is, I’m not trying to foretell the future by communication with the dead, which is the standard definition of “necromancy”; but rather I all too often unhealthily try to recreate or relive the past.
I grew up in a small town of fewer than a thousand people. I went to college in a city of (at that time) a hundred thousand. It was nearly a hundred and fifty miles away from my hometown, and in a very different geographical and cultural region of my home state. As you might well imagine, it was quite an adjustment. I adjusted though, such as it were; and I often think of it as my second hometown. After college I moved back to my hometown for seven years. Finally, I moved back across state, and since 1995 have lived in the metropolitan region of my “second hometown” ever since, even working in it for about seven years.
I currently live in a small town about twenty-five miles from my college city (CC, henceforth, to save space), and have worked in or near where I live for the last seven years or so. Therefore, except for occasional doctor’s appointments or an occasional lunch with my wife (who works in the city), I am not much in CC any more. All this is to set the stage for the minor incident that prompted this reflection. Read the rest of this entry
The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.
–Bill Hicks, Revelations (1993), courtesy Wikiquotes.
I’m not a fan, not because I dislike him but because I wasn’t much aware of him when he was alive. From what I’ve read and some short clips I’ve seen, I certainly wouldn’t agree with many of his beliefs, and in his last years he seems to have pushed edginess to the very brink of obnoxiousness, if not all the way over the brink. Still, he had talent, and this quote is quite nice–reminiscent of the Hindu concept of līlā; and certainly a good prescription for the world.
There’s a pop-culture game you see now and then, the name of which I’m unsure, but which you could call “this or that”. You name a certain pop-cultural category in which there are (or are perceived to be) two different major choices, and the players pick which one. For example: “Coke or Pepsi”; “Chevy or Ford”; “PC or Mac”; “Marvel or DC”. You get the idea. If one played this game with ancient philosophy, one might say, “Plato or Aristotle”.
The two giants of Classical Greek philosophy are an appropriate “this or that” for various reasons. Theirs are the last two major schools of Classical Greek philosophy–after Aristotle comes the Hellenistic age. Hellenistic philosophy (some characteristic examples of which are Cynicism, Skepticism, Epicureanism, and Stoicism) is generally thought to be less ambitious, more inwardly directed, and more pessimistic than Classical philosophy. On the other hand, the towering genius of Plato has had the result that we have only fragments of the pre-Socratics. Many of them probably weren’t systematists; but even of those, such as Pythagoras, who probably were, we have little that remains. Thus, for Greek philosophy at its height, the choices are Plato and Aristotle. Read the rest of this entry