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What’s So Funny?

                                                                           What’s So Funny?

                                                                           by Marco M. Pardi

                                                                                mpardi.com

 “Humor: The ability to laugh at any mistake you survive.” Jerry Tucker. (1941 – ) The Experience of Politics: You and American Government. 1974

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All comments welcome

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When I was learning the American language I took interest in why certain words were chosen to represent certain ideas, etc.  I still wonder about that.  An interesting example is the term punch line. Was this the signal to punch the speaker?  The listener?

Somewhere I heard or read that most humor is based in tragedy. And then I discovered an area of inquiry into what, to me, is a far more interesting undercurrent: Why certain events, such as told in jokes, are considered funny.  Even in something as basic as a cartoon we are expected to find it funny when someone, for example, slips on a banana peel. No, don’t think of spinal injury or fractured elbows. Laugh.

Why laugh? Is it relief it didn’t happen to you?  I’ve heard people laugh after near escapes from what could have been a fatal incident. So we write that off as “comic relief”, or venting the stress.  But is that a reason to laugh when something bad happens to someone else?  To this day I cringe when having to watch a person present a public speech under what, to them, appears to be terrifying stress.  I don’t like to watch well meaning people struggle.

As a young, first time parent I took great interest in the varieties of ideas and events to which my daughter would be increasingly exposed as she grew.  I read several chilling psychoanalytic analyses of nursery rhymes and children’s stories.  And, remembering my own childhood of reading the newspaper comic strips, in my case as an aid to learning the American language, I looked again at these cultural icons.

It did not take long to form the opinion that in those comics which were supposed to be funny – as opposed to ongoing serial dramas – the male characters were almost invariably portrayed in a very negative light.  At the same time I happened to find myself in conversation with a retired, nationally recognized cartoonist. At first, he found my assertion puzzling. But, once we thought it through he agreed. Some of the examples I will cite go back further than some readers. And, readers in different locales will find comic strips not mentioned here.  But, just a few, brief examples were:

Lazy: Snuffy Smith; Lil’ Abner and male friends; Beetle Bailey; Sluggo – in the Nancy strip; Hagar; and Mr. Lockhorn;  

Drunkard: Snuffy Smith; Hagar; General Halftrack – in Beetle Bailey; and Mr. Lockhorn.

Dimwit: Dagwood; Snuffy Smith; Jon – in Garfield; Zero – in Beetle Bailey; Hagar’s sidekick;

Lecherous: General Halftrack; Mr Lockhorn; Killer – in Beetle Bailey

Dishonest/thief: Hagar; Snuffy Smith; the pirate crew – in Overboard; Cosmo – in Beetle Bailey.

Ineffective: Dagwood; Lute – in Hagar; Jon – in Garfield; Charlie Brown; General Halftrack.

In all of these examples the females were portrayed as more competent (but sometimes “ditzy”), but restrained in their opportunities to show competence, call out bad behavior, and put offensive men in their place.  Was this the adult world my daughter should come to expect?

Over the years I’ve watched the change in mass media portrayals of humor.  Even decades ago comedians were pushing the boundaries with material that could get them in prison. Lenny Bruce and George Carlin led the way, but each seemed consumed by their own private devils. What they were saying made people laugh.  But Lenny and George knew it wasn’t funny.

When I took a full time teaching post in 1970 a fellow faculty member asked if I watched All In The Family. He enjoyed it immensely.  I tried to watch one episode and had to turn it off.  Having, by that time, lived and worked in places where the bigotry we were to laugh at on screen was all too real on the street and in the homes, I could only sense outrage while others laughed.  My colleague had never once been exposed to any of that in real life.

My daughter and I watched Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street. I can still sing some of the learning jingles.  Of course, the dark Republican voices were already calling for the defunding of PBS, singling out Sesame Street as insidious Socialism. But they were stuck in a quandary: William Buckley was on PBS. They eventually elected Reagan but their real voice has emerged in this last election.  Hatred has replaced even “ethnic jokes”. Maybe that’s because hatred is no joke.

Once my daughter was in bed, I watched BBC programs.  Some of the best comedies were Fawlty Towers and To The Manor Born. There were others as well, though not serialized for long.  On American network tv Mork & Mindy was a great show, though there were characters with tragic circumstances. For my own reasons I enjoyed Get Smart.

Since then my life has not provided much time for television.  But I feel I am aware that some of the better and more thoughtful programs, those which challenge the “Conservative” views, do not seem to last long. With the current efforts to consolidate networks and providers it seems we will, in effect, be told what to watch.  And I assume that means we will be told what is funny and what is tragic. 

But I have recently found myself actually laughing out loud – without being told – in one area.  Every time the incompetent buffoon occupying the White House appears on television I laugh. And when he speaks I roar in laughter.  Could it be I’m sensing the tragedy at the heart of our current world? Could there be better proof that most comedy is based in tragedy?

But I must be clear.  Laughing at the symptoms of our demise does not mean accepting our demise.  I call out tragedy when I see it, and I join with others in challenging people to re-think what they take joy in. Perhaps an update of that old saying, Be careful what you wish for is needed: Be careful what you find funny.   

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What Was That?

                                                                           What Was That?

                                                                          by Marco M. Pardi

“You want to know whether I believe in ghosts. Of course I do not believe in them. If you had known as many of them as I have, you would not believe in them either.” Don Marquis (1878-1937) “Ghosts” Archy and Mehitabel, 1927

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All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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I have just recently been asked to consider presenting a video recorded discussion of ghosts and how different cultures through space and time have viewed them.  I was a bit taken back by this request.  In the years I taught college classes on Death & Dying and Critical Thinking – using end of life issues as the focus, I did not give much attention to ghosts. So, I thought I would try this venue for some thoughts and reactions….and maybe a little “in-spiration”. 

Requests of this kind have problems.  At any moment in time there are thousands of cultures. Each, by definition, perceives and constructs its world differently along a broad scale of possibilities.  Obviously, a statement about cultures would be selective and incomplete. Furthermore, cultures change over time and these changes are often reactionary.  Describing them as static entities is shallow and misleading. So, a complete and accurate presentation about cultural views on a topic would require many written volumes, many taped sessions.

A less obvious problem is the concept “ghost”.  What exactly is meant by this?  For example, Catholics believe the “Godhead” is tripartite: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.  And, people of several faiths believe they see (or hear) discarnate figures pertinent to their faith.  Is an apparition connected to a faith not a ghost while an apparition not so connected is a ghost?  Then there are the actions attributed to these figures; “God kept me from going too fast around that turn.” “My Dad, several years deceased, warned me about marrying that person.” Which was the ghost, or were they both?

Where ideas about ghosts occur, they are part of a given culture and, as such, are enmeshed in the overall world view, including what we would call religion. The list of these world views, or cosmologies, is almost endless.

Each of the two problem areas above bring to mind two dicta to which I have tried to adhere: Any examination of others must first begin with an examination of the examiner; and, That which is perceived is at least in part an artifact of the perceiver.  In fact, the second dictum is rendered more potent in tandem with the degree of failure to observe the first dictum. 

So, as we examine our textbooks, be they history, anthropology, or some other related subject we are reminded that “history is written by the winners”, or at least the survivors.  There are several issues of importance here.  Written history represents only a tiny fraction of human history. And, there are still large areas of humanity for whom history is written by someone else.  So who is it telling me the history of how pre-literate or non-literate people felt or currently feel about “ghosts”? Are these the same people who used terms like “primitive” to describe pre-literate or non-literate cultures?  Are these people simply unaware that when developing mankind crossed into the Homo sapiens species they were the very same species we are today, with the same variations in mental acuity as we now see in a spectrum from our marginal people to our most advanced research centers or from our low I.Q. members to our geniuses?  A clear example of the failure to recognize this is found in the common attitude that if the material remains of a culture are simple, the culture and its carriers – the people, must also have been simple. This belief finds no support in anatomy, physiology, or psychology. Another example found even in today’s textbooks tells us the pre-Christian populations of what is now Europe were Pagans. Apparently, the writers of these textbooks flunked Latin.  “Pagani”, a Latin term specifically meaning country people, was a pejorative used in the same way modern Americans use the term “rednecks”.  There was no cohesive “pagan” culture or religion – another term for cosmology, much to the dismay of the modern Woo-Woo crowd that claims to be its descendants.  Anyone who reads the actual literature of Classical Greece and Rome knows fully well the educated, literate people of those cultures held world views which only acknowledged the common beliefs in various god like entities and discarnate entities but did not themselves subscribe to those beliefs.  Furthermore, the concept “gods” was very different from the later personified deity claimed by the monotheistic religions.  The “gods” of Rome were the core values of the State. Refusal to honor the “gods” was not an affront to the frail ego of a god, it was a threat to the integrity of the State much like the refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Remember, the philosophers and educated classes of Greece and Rome were not the ones who plunged the Western world into the Dark Ages. The “history” books were written by members of a predominantly Christian culture – the winners. And, (I can’t let this one go by) in my youth I saw several movies in which dark skinned people, be they African-Americans or “natives”, were uniformly terrified at the possibility of a ghost.  In fact, the actors seem to have been hired on their ability to generate saucer eyes and “OooOooOooh” wails. The producers of these films were urban Whites.  But have we seriously examined how these textbooks and other media have shaped our perceptions and interpretations?  If someone asked us if we thought ghosts were real, would our response be what we thought socially acceptable or would it be how we actually felt?

If there is a common denominator among pre-modern and contemporary marginal society world views and religions it can be found in the concepts of Animatism – the belief in an intangible force within all things, animate and inanimate, and Animism, a religious view of a life force in all living things, not just humans.  But these are not foreign to the most modern of societies.  Many people believe a force resides in some amulet, such as a religious medal, or even their automobile. And, a great many pet companions are certain their pet has a spirit, even one which lives on with them or awaits them after death. The inclusion of deceased pets in perceptions of “ghosts” is so common as to be unquestionable.  But aside from Stephen King novels, I’ve not heard of cars coming back for revenge while the literature on pets manifesting to beloved human companions is exhaustive.  Also, I have hundreds of cases pertaining to discarnate people and the evidence cited for their reality.  Some of these are undocumented but most are thoroughly documented with supportive and matching testimony often by multiple unimpeachable witnesses.  The report sources range from children to top of their profession scientists. The settings vary from spontaneous to hospitals to controlled settings.  Just in the United States there is unimaginable variation in the instances, the witnesses, and the circumstances under which the perceptions took place. So too, there are unimaginable variations in interpretation – and I am not even referring here to the materialists who, knowing little to nothing of how science operates, deny everything. I have read or directly heard interpretations of the manifestations ranging from: He doesn’t know he’s dead and hasn’t crossed over, she’s attached to the place she lived, he is looking for vengeance against his killer, she is watching over her grandchildren, he is looking for a vulnerable body to enter, to she has a message for us.    

In sum, I simply cannot venture into a discussion of a subject for which the variation is so great an adequate and properly contextual treatment would require several printed volumes or many hours of recorded video.  In fact, even an extremely narrowed subject topic would, in my opinion, run intolerable risk of misrepresenting the seriousness of the subject as a whole.

What do you think?

 

 

 

       

Полезный идиот

Полезный идиот

                                                                 by Marco M. Pardi

It not infrequently happens that persons without any other special qualifications than the drama of their lives are precipitated into important political positions.”

Charles E. Merriam (1876-1953) Political Power. 1934

“You learn to know a pilot in a storm.” Seneca the Younger (5BCE-CE65) On Providence

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All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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The term Useful Idiot, rendered above in Cyrillic, first gained common parlance in Russia during the early Soviet era.  It was used to refer to those who blindly applauded and followed Lenin and Stalin even as millions died, many of starvation.  It reappeared in NSA intercepts of Russian conversations about at least one highly placed member of the Trump campaign.

As the Cuisinart Chaos we assumed would be a presidential administration intensifies some of the more high profile sycophants, such as Pence, Sessions, and Scaramucci have been trumpeting out claims of Donald Trump being a strong leader.  In fact, little more than six months into the presidential term, this president has shown he is the antithesis of a leader.  He is what the low intellect rabble who elected him wanted: a simple disrupter.  A simple disrupter has no goal beyond disruption, no vision of a better working system for all involved.  Yet, for powers behind him he is often a useful idiot.      

In 1961 I was summoned to the hospital at the airbase from which my small unit operated.  I was informed I had received a Congressional nomination to the Air Force Academy and was to spend the day taking a battery of physical exams.  But one of the examiners asked me to define leadership.  I blurted out, “The ability to coordinate people’s wills toward a common goal.” He angrily asked, “Were you coached for this?”

If the definition I offered makes sense to you, apply it to the syndicate now in the White House. Do you see it working? Or do you see a family cadre working toward their own ends while others around them try to keep their jobs, not knowing from day to day what the next Imperial Tweet holds for them?

After a grueling day of exams at the base hospital, especially vision, the Flight Surgeon took me aside and told me I was disqualified on a couple of factors.  I did not knowingly disclose that I was hugely relieved. Having already been in some minor leadership positions I wanted no part of that, especially as a military officer.  And, I did not want to be removed from field positions.  As we talked, he said it was evident I did not want the appointment.  And, he had my medical records in hand showing my two week recovery in that same hospital’s surgical unit from field injuries I had received a few months earlier, minor paralysis still evident down my right leg.  Oh, and I flunked the vision exam.  I also realized I did not want to be a follower; solo assignments were my greatest prize. 

True to this orientation, through the years since I have never identified as a member of any political party. I consider that childish, like fraternities and sororities.  But I do enjoy analyzing human systems.  And so it is that I find the current “administration” so puzzling; it seems to have no system, at least not for the good of the country.

The two main themes I detect are: preservation of one’s job through sycophantic adulation of a mentally impaired authority figure; and, desperation to deflect attention from what appears to be a long established family crime syndicate specializing in money laundering for dictators and oligarchs around the world.  The laundering service appears to be a network of golf clubs but the real money flows through associated hotels and rental homes with a portion for the developer/owner and the rest held for the oligarch of the day. The golf clubs are almost entirely money losers.     

Intelligence officers never retire; they just grow more detached.  But an intelligence officer still keeping his, albeit retired mind in the game quickly sees the players must be sorted.  Particularly when civil and possibly criminal charges may be in the offing.  In the public eye the latter category, the Trump syndicate, appears in charge.  The ultimate validity of that, given what appears to be a world wide closed and small network of uber-oligarchs, is open to question.  The former category, the for-hire sycophants,  are simply chameleons who change their colors for a job.  The deep “love” for Trump professed by Anthony Scaramucci, who had long blistered Republicans and recently the late-comer Trump, is only a blatant example.  So we see here a dyadic paradigm forming, Users and Useful Idiots.  Of course, the broadest class of Useful Idiots was the predominantly under-educated, evangelical, angry White men who answered the siren of the Morlocks and entered the voting booths. But their very existence matters only when it is time to rouse them.  Like farm stock, it is easy to determine what moves them and to supply that when needed.  Their intelligence will not improve; they are worth only watching and perhaps feeding as needed.  Being unintelligent is not a prosecutable offense.

Without documentation, however, it is more difficult to discern and prove the motivators, the driving forces of the syndicate.  But, as Jared Kushner, referring to the Trump Empire, said, “We get lots of money from the Russians”.  So, since money is the obvious driving force, a complete and thorough examination of all financial records, including tax returns, for every syndicate member is in order.  These records should also facilitate insights into the discovery of hitherto unnamed partners and beneficiaries, domestic and foreign of these transactions. Now, do you see the reason for the current president’s refusal to provide his tax returns?  

In the waning months of the Obama administration President Obama enacted the Magnitsky Act, named for a Russian financial expert who exposed the crime syndicate overseen by Putin, the main benefactor. Magnitsky was killed.  The Act froze all Russian financial assets in the United States and stopped further dumping of Russian money into U.S. banks and other American investment shelters.  Done as a sanction against Russia for annexing Crimea and its incursions into Ukraine,  it hit Putin and his fellow oligarchs precisely where it counts. But it also hit those Americans who were providing the shelters. Putin responded by freezing all American adoptions of Russian children.  

Well, gosh.  Do we now have some insight into why Trump likes to play kissy-face with Putin? Do we now have some insight into why the Russians supported the Trump campaign? And why the Russians concocted a code word “adoption” for meetings with high level syndicate members to, in fact, plan ways to revoke the Magnitsky Act once Trump was on the throne?

A consistent theme throughout this past election cycle was that Trump did not actually want to be president.  Shortly after his win even he bemoaned his fate, saying it was much harder than he thought.  Yes, it is harder.  Because there is more to do than just revoke one Act which frees up the money which was the sole driver of the run for president in the first place. And now we are stuck with a syndicate in place thrashing about internally as each person’s USEFULNESS is reassessed from day to day. The White House has been taken over by a new political party, the Opportunist Party.

As I write this I am receiving information that Anthony Scaramucci, who forced out Republicans Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer has himself been removed by General Kelly. Further, it is now clear that General Kelly, while Director of Homeland Security, called FBI Director Comey immediately after Comey had been fired to express his anger at the firing and threaten to resign.

It seems increasingly clear the factions in play are the family/friends Opportunist Party (syndicate) versus the Republican Party.  Each side apparently viewed the other as Useful Idiots to achieve its aims and both played the poorly educated White evangelical fundamentalists as Useful Idiots to get elected.

It makes one wonder about the rest of us.  Me, I’ve never been so happy to be truly useless.

Things to do While Dead

                                                                    Things To Do While Dead

                                                                          by Marco M. Pardi

 “On him does death lie heavily, who, but too well known to all, dies to himself unknown.” Seneca the Younger. (5?BCE – 65 CE). Thyestes 1. 400.

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All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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I should briefly reiterate some positions I’ve stated before. 1. I define belief as: Acceptance without proof.  I do not believe. 2. I see beyond the conventional dyad of: No “afterlife” versus “afterlife” must therefore include a god. My experience, of which I’ve written often, supports my conclusion that life is incarnate and discarnate at the same time, “after” being only an illusion arising from materiality and our material structure of time. Hopefully, that obviates the need for further discussion along those lines.

Two more clarifications: Anyone who has Googled Marco M. Pardi has likely seen entries citing my endorsement of a book written by a physician following her son’s suicide.  In fact, I was asked to provide that endorsement. And if you read it you will see I specifically spoke to the courage of the physician in writing a book which could certainly be harmful to her career.  As for the content, were it not for the fact the medium through which the book was written is a decades long friend I would have put the book straight in the recycle bin.

Finally, although I’ve written some dark stuff lately, please do not feel I’ve turned toward the Light, in hopes of going through Door Number 4. That will come in due time. As a side note, I want to be fully conscious and aware of the process, the last chance to put everything in perspective; I reject the idea of studying for the Final all my life and then sleeping through it.

So, what to do when I close that door behind me?  As a child I firmly determined that if I were condemned to spend eternity floating around strumming a harp all day I would disassemble the harp, fashion the strings into a noose, and hang myself.  But the problem of hanging one’s self while floating, though it has perhaps contributed to my lifelong interest in physics, has so far proved intractable.

In recent years we’ve seen a few popular books on the people you meet in “heaven” – heaven being open to interpretation.  Perhaps it’s my legacy as a loner, but I never thought much about meeting people after death.  I always thought more of exploration, especially with my dogs, horses, and cat (yes, I’m entirely confident, based on experience and not belief, that non-human animal companions are as fully vested in discarnate life as I am).  Maybe they aren’t as curious about the Cosmos as I am, but hopefully I can get them to tag along.  Much of the woo-woo and even the serious literature suggests discarnate beings hang around Earth.  This is not to be confused with “Earthbound”,  a condition arising from failure to accept one’s self as dead. C’mon, who can be that dumb?  No, it just suggests discarnate beings, whether people or otherwise, exist in a kind of halo around the planet. This must be a hassle, what with the satellites whizzing around and the occasional missile leaving the atmosphere. And how about those meteorites? No, I want to explore the Cosmos. Fully. Of course, one might wonder why bother.  So much of what we learn is done so we may impart it to others.  But when I’m dead, who’s listening?

I certainly wouldn’t say I’ve seen all there is on this planet. But traveling since about age 4, including a career which for a long time had me living with a go-pack in the closet, complete with two passports and various identity papers, has dimmed my enthusiasm for the hassles of putting up with zealous border guards and transportation which is more of a free expression of culture than a reliable resource.  Thanks, but I’ll catch the travel documentary on tv.

Most of the people I’ve known I really don’t want to meet again, especially family. Aside from the obvious figures, like Siddhartha Gautama, the Dalai Lama, and a few others there are a couple I would like to meet up – or down – with.  One guy keeps coming to mind. Maybe he’s floating nearby.

In 1964 I was doing lone night duty at Hotel Control, the security facility for the “Hotel” ICBM complex. Golf Control and India Control flanked us, somewhere out there. The ten seismographs were scritching quietly, the sensors on the ten dispersed ICBMs were quiet (some bright star had rigged the skin temp. sensors with a come hither female voice which said, “My skin temperature is rising”), the inside lights were dim, and I was listening to a really moving radio speech by Martin Luther King.  Just then Sgt (I’ll call him Sgt P.) stepped into the control room from where he had been eavesdropping. Sgt P was in charge of the housekeeping at the facility; we spent 10 days and nights on site and two off.  I referred to him as the Maitre d’Hotel, apropos our site designation.  A formidable looking man, he was what we now call African-American.  The scars on his face gave him something of a Picasso figure look.  I never asked, but I assumed he had brought a squirt gun to a knife fight, more than once.

Seeing my involvement in Dr. King’s speech, he sat down and waited for it to end.  We then had a real mind to mind conversation which, given the normal 12 – 14 hour duty shift, seemed timeless. I think things like that were unusual in 1964, especially in the military and between two men in completely different career fields.       

He talked about how his life would have been so different if slavery had not occurred.  He mused about being brought up in an African village, illiterate and picking the most obese girl to marry.  And more.  Having recently transferred in from postings in Africa I saw things differently.  And looking back later I could see how he had internalized American myths about African village life.  He was, after all, an American.

So I wonder about the much vaunted meetings with intellects who have preceded me.  Have they developed away from the cultural milieu which produced them?  Were I to so develop, free of the cultural themes through which I have come to know myself, would I still be me?  Who is my EGO once my time/space/cultural boundaries dissolve? Once I realize and come to accept those boundaries, and all they contain, as no longer relevant? And how does this development happen?

While the physics community and the medical community are quickly coming to accept the reality of separation of mind and brain and the continuation of mind long after brain death, there is little serious material on what to do with that mind.  True, as scientists and other intellectuals are coming to feel their freedom in this foolishly materialistic culture we hear more about how their work has been inspired (“in-spire” coming from the sense of the intrusion of another mind into one’s own) by what they fully accept – not believe – as discarnate predecessors.  But these notes are still sung only in the closed opera houses of the scientific/academic community.  The “common man” does not even bother to try entering.

So the broad field is left open.  If Nature abhors a vacuum, possibly stupidity does too.  In rush the purveyors of “eternal bliss”, “love beyond anything ever known”, and on and on.  Unnoticed in all this orgasmic rapture is a simple fact.  Something is what it is by contrast with what it is not.  And, where there is no contrast what IS quickly becomes the routine, the “same old same old”.  There are no week-ends in the afterlife if there are no Mondays.   

As children we slogged through the school year, visions of summer vacation bliss making life worthwhile.  It arrived and was blissful……..until it wasn’t.  As young adults we feel deeply in love, visions of marital bliss making life worthwhile.  It arrived and was blissful….until it wasn’t.  As workers we sold our lives for a paycheck, visions of retirement bliss making it all worthwhile.  Retirement arrived and was blissful……until we started looking for something to do.

Your once new car no longer a dream boat?  You can buy a spray can of “new car smell” at an auto parts store. Your life no longer a joy?  You can buy and endless assortment of New Age woo-woo books, attend a variety of classes from storefront gurus, hire a spiritual counselor. Then die.

For those who accept (not merely believe) the greatly increasing apparent reality of non-corporeal existence – the mind functioning independently of the body, here’s a thought: As far as you are concerned you are as dead now as you are ever going to be.  Not seeing that means you have bought into other people’s definitions as the ultimate reality. They look at and listen to your body and pronounce you not dead. But the bag of meat you’re sitting in while reading this will one day fall over and not get up.  So?

When one sees the self as more than its wrapper, when one sees the self as the expression of every other being that has ever been, is now, and is coming the opportunities for exploration and understanding are in fact endless.  A simple change in perspective opens Door Number 4.  And we realize it was never there to begin with.

p.s. I still want to ride my horses through the Cosmos.

  

 

What Would You Do?

                                                                What Would You Do?

                                                                 by Marco M. Pardi

“All mankind is divided into three classes — the immovable, the movable, and those who move.” Arab proverb

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All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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I am sure each of us has, at some time, known of or even been present when someone embarks upon an action which we are certain will have negative consequences.  Those of us who are parents have perhaps been called over-protective at times or, as is currently popular, helicopter parents. I am aware there are often two sides to these issues: Let them learn through their own mistakes – a plea I sometimes made in childhood; and, experience brings responsibility for those not so experienced.

Sometimes simple “common sense” is enough even when actual experience is lacking.  I remember an incident involving a freshly minted 2nd Lt. who had no field experience preceding his assignment to our unit.  As part of our perimeter defenses we routinely set trip flares hidden in the scrub brush.  A small stake with a metal ring was hammered into the ground and one end of a small gauge wire ran through the ring and out a few meters to anchor on the next stake.  The end of the wire passing through the ring went down to a slightly buried 60mm mortar parachute flare. This flare is topped by a small folding metal parachute, like a closed umbrella, which, as the flare reaches top altitude of a couple of hundred feet, deploys and holds the flare aloft as it burns bright as the sun for a couple of minutes.

As the Lt, I guess eager to show his superior skills and experience, inspected the set up he loudly pronounced a stake as being crooked (which didn’t matter in the least).  Before anyone could say anything, or so it was claimed later, he kicked the stake to straighten it.  Well, in doing so he tripped the flare next to it.  The front half of his boot, with much of his foot, went flying and he fell to ground with a badly shattered ankle and broken leg. Nobody laughed – at least not then, as it was necessary to stop the bleeding and get him to where he could be e-vaced to a surgical unit.

That was dumb, but aside from the inconvenience to the rest of us he was the one who paid the major price.  On the other hand, I listened to a guy laugh about being home on leave and intending to go on a hunting trip with his father’s dogs.  I should say I never saw this guy sober.  As he told it, he put the two dogs in the trunk of his car, then got so drunk he and his buddies forgot the trip and, when he awoke the next day he had to pull the bodies of the dead dogs from his car trunk. The dogs died miserably. He laughed.  Where’s a flare when you need one?   

There have been times I’ve assessed the likely outcome of an action as limited and not serious, thus taking no counter action.  Let them learn.  But I do take action in cases involving non-human animals, children, the disabled and the elderly. Seven days a week I receive several dozen email petitions, falling broadly into: Environment; non-human animal welfare; energy & conservation; and, socio-political issues including women’s rights, reproductive freedom, etc.  I have no problem risking carpal tunnel syndrome in pounding out responses, writing letters and signing most of these petitions.  I’ve also probably worn out my welcome by forwarding many of these to others.

But, bearing in mind that I do strongly differentiate ignorance (not having the information) from stupidity (having and understanding the information but rejecting it), I do pause for thought over some of the petitions to counter or stop actions or proposed actions emanating from elected officials.  I can’t help thinking about who elected these people.  Clearly, in my opinion, many of these actions and proposals are stupid and even deadly to the people who put these officials in power. We know with certainty the Trump administration came to power through the votes of the “under-educated, economically disenfranchised White” population.  I think that’s kind.  I would say the “stupid” population, crossing all demographics.  An inner voice counsels me to sit back and let these people reap the damage they will bring upon themselves.  This phenomenon is so well known it is the subject of analytical books such as Why Voters Vote Against Their Own Best Interests (my recall of the title may not be entirely accurate, but the message is clear).  I do not engage with people I hear espousing the “Alt-Right” philosophy, considering from experience the likelihood of changing a view.  So, is signing a petition or writing a protest letter – if they succeed, enabling stupidity?  That is, if the petition or protest succeeds in stopping the action does not that merely prevent the damage without addressing the stupidity which would have wrought the damage?  My mind tells me those voters will just snarl and grumble while dreaming up the next stupid proposal.  Let them bring their dwelling down around their ears.

A common mantra today is the Trump administration came to power because people were sick of inaction from politicians.  But, wait.  How did that inaction come about?  In the Congressional election cycles following the first Obama presidential election what we used to call “rabble rousers” inflamed ethnic, racial, and religious fears (He’s Kenyan, he will bring Blacks into power, he’s Muslim) to put forward a cadre of freshly minted Tea Party 2nd Lieutenants to take over Congress.  Needing to immediately prove their bona fides they began finding what they deemed to be crooked stakes, all the established ones. They brought the government to a standstill such that Obama repeatedly had to go around their power drunk bodies through executive actions.  Meanwhile, government was dying in the trunk of the car. These ignorant – or stupid – fools played directly into the hands of the lying-in-wait American Fascist Party.  This is truly the United States of Amnesia.        

But as I ponder this I realize the collateral damage that will ensue from failure to speak out.  As a parent and grandparent I think of the children and the world they would have to live in, if they can.  As a living being I think of all the other living beings on this planet, and their inability to participate in the decisions which affect their lives.  And so I rattle on with the petitions and the letters. My in-box is beckoning to me as I write this.

If you have read this far and choose to not respond, I get it.  Some people tire of my rants.  But please do me the courtesy of forwarding this to someone who might. Perhaps all those people you dislike?

I have a pretty good idea of what I would do.

 

Instrumentality

                                                                             Instrumentality

                                                                           by Marco M. Pardi

“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.” Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961)

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All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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I have never paid the slightest attention to holidays or So-&-So’s Day, or whatever.  But fatherhood being the single most important event and development in my life this – just passed – father’s day once again got me thinking.

Ever look back on the events in your life and think, I could not possibly have been the designer of all those events? Some seem to have been composed and orchestrated by something other. Deists will see that as a god and non-deists may see it as some sort of cosmic dynamic.  The contrast is between being in the palm of a god’s hand versus being the ball in a pin ball machine.

So, you stepped from the platform onto the tracks to watch a just departed train recede into the distant tunnel when suddenly you are scooped from behind by the next incoming train.  But this one doesn’t stop at the station. It goes out through the tunnel onto the world playing field, gathering speed slowly, and what had previously appeared as a single track into the distance is now a myriad of an infinite number of tracks, some as dead ends, many with twists and turns and switches too complex to follow, and most which seem to go on far out of sight.  Welcome to Life. 

Time passes very slowly at first. The school year goes on forever, summer vacation never ends – until it does. And things happen to you. Then, at some point you come to think you make things happen, you alone are responsible for the rights and wrongs in your life.  And later you look back and conclude you alone could not possibly have made many, if not all of those things happen.  You were something of a piece in a great board game. So what has it all been about? 

One of the earliest philosophical quandaries I remember from monastic boarding school was God’s purported omniscience versus free will.  I’m sure most of us remember the question: If God knows everything ahead of time, how can we sin? We are only doing what he already knows we will do, and we can’t make him wrong.  Later, I would encounter this in the secular version, Determinism versus Free Will.  The quandary does not go away simply because one leaves the belief system where one first learned of it.

Indeed, the quandary has been with us throughout recorded history, whether in the belief in the stars, the Fates, Newton’s clockwork universe, or the various morality based religions and philosophies. But realizations in the 1920’s of the quantum, sub-atomic world have intensified arguments of random versus determined, even clouding the sacrosanct dichotomy we know as cause and effect.  Newton’s apple, existing in our macro world, certainly did fall to earth as every apple thereafter verifies.  But the coalescence of the sub-atomic particles of which the apple is ultimately made is a matter of probability, not certainty. As is the temporary arrangement of particles we call the hand, which dropped the apple.

In our developmental journey from Things Happen to Me to I Alone Make Things Happen we enter the quicksand of egocentric thinking.  Indeed, even while wandering the board and realizing the inter-relationship of other people in our lives we run the risk of self primacy: Those people were put in our lives for a purpose (meaning: those people were mere instruments to serve a purpose for me).

Through years of teaching former students have told me what an impact I had on their lives.  I’ve always wondered if they sensed what an impact they had on mine. I always disliked the term Teacher.  To me it implies an elitist I know and you don’t attitude. I much prefer the term Facilitator, as in facilitating the entry of the students into areas of thinking they may not have been aware of before.  What they conclude, and how they employ those conclusions are life choices for them to make, not for me to make for them.

A former colleague of mine, when asked the status and likely outcome of an ongoing field operation, had a quaint reply: We won’t know ’til the dust settles and the pieces fall out.  I always saw that as a metaphor for the later, contemplative years of life.  The dust of a hectic life is settling, and the pieces are almost all accounted for. The trick, of course, is to see and understand not just the where and the what of the pieces but that an individual event was not over when movement stopped.  The event carried on into how we saw and handled the next event, thus forming a bond between the two even if separated by many years. Now, compound that thought with the matrix of all the events, large and small in your life, recognizing that while you may not know all the where’s and the what’s, you have been instrumental in the lives of others as others have been instrumental in yours.

But the emphasis on social environment has its dangers. For many years trial juries have been asked to consider the childhood of the accused.  The Defense puts on a great operetta of inner-city life, no father figure, familial substance abuse, and on and on but never widens the lens to show the almost countless others from similar or closely identical backgrounds that are not standing in a courtroom accused of a crime.  A standard line for characterizing a first encounter with a psychiatrist is: So, tell me about your mother.  By any objective measure my daughter is a profound thinker, accomplished scholar, exemplary medical provider, and model parent.  Being honest, I see very little of my influence, in a direct way, in her profile.  During her formative years I was often hundreds or thousands of miles away, seeing her when I could and phoning her when possible.  On the other hand, her relationship with her mother was quite negative.

A child, of any age, might take father’s day to examine and appreciate the instrumentality of its father in its life but a father has the advantage of the longer view which examines and appreciates the instrumentality of the child throughout his parental life.  My daughter has most certainly been the greatest influence on my life.  Why don’t we have a Child’s Day, to memorialize what our children have done for us?

Although the idea is perhaps as old as Man, an increasing number of modern scientists are moving strongly toward the Conscious Universe concept.  This in no way proposes or supports the idea of a personified entity we could call a God. And I certainly do not subscribe to such a personified entity. But I simply cannot escape the conclusion that themes have been operant throughout my life that I have been only a part of, an instrument called to play only certain notes; I am not the soloist.  Indeed, growing older has afforded me a new freedom: the freedom to say, “I can’t do that anymore.” What a liberating feeling. 

Fade to Black

                                                                       Fade to Black

                                                                  by Marco M. Pardi

“Few men of action have been able to make a graceful exit at the appropriate time.” Malcolm Muggeridge. 1966

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All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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A few weeks ago I had lunch with a former student who, at 25, has acquired significant medical credentials.  As we talked about her career options she went into great detail about Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), commonly known as Doctors Without Borders. She is currently studying French and will no doubt master in it a few months.  I was very excited by her plans.  I simply don’t know anyone else who can deliver expert emergency medicine, dismantle, repair and reassemble a Jeep motor and transaxle in half the time and with more accuracy than a certified mechanic, and flawlessly play a variety of tunes, including original compositions, on any number of exotic stringed instruments.  

As we talked she turned the attention to me, and how I was dealing with retirement after a life which included several simultaneous careers.  As I explained then, and in subsequent emails, retirement was basically irrelevant to me.  I grew up in a family which lived quite nicely from extensive investment incomes; no one worked, unless you count trips to the various stock brokers as work.  So, I had no role models to show the way toward burying yourself in a career in hopes of one day attending a maudlin retirement party and withdrawing into the “What day is it?” syndrome.  No one assessed me and advised me toward some particular line of work; it seemed assumed I would grow up and leave. So, I did.  But on the way I came to realize my career was Being Me.  My schooling for that career was basically the learning of who I was and a search for whether there was any meaning to Being.      

Along the way I voluntarily entered the military and, in what I now see as being me, I volunteered for hazardous field operations, even turning down requests to serve in administrative “back office” capacities. I would never characterize these choices as patriotic; they were instead a means of living and expressing me.  And, they led to offers to more fully and permanently enter field operations.

Going from there into college I chose the discipline I did not for its financial potentials but for its opportunities to live as the person I am.  And, I continued the work I had begun in the military, my choice of academic discipline being a perfect match in college and graduate school.

Teaching that discipline in college, while continuing to apply it in the field, was a natural progression, not a force fit in search of a salary.  Eventually, I was offered a more focused field operations track and accepted it, leaving teaching until my return to the classroom toward the end of my interest in that focused track.  I very happily returned to teaching while keeping occasional field work as a means of expression. In any of my years teaching college Anthropology did I feel I was recruiting and training the next generation of Anthropologists? No.  In fact, when students expressed interest in majoring in Anthropology I always recommended a dual major. I pointed out that Anthropology is perhaps the broadest field in academia and is not just Indiana Jones adventure. I said it is an excellent supportive field to amplify a degree in something like International Relations, Communications, Marketing or any other field the student has the interest and the competence to pursue.  Likewise I more often than not dissuaded students from considering careers in Intelligence, the exceptions being the very few I felt were personally suited to what are usually the brutal facts of the game.  I presented the field of Public Health the same way. Sadly, my own health uncertainties eventually warranted my ethical decision to cease teaching.

But throughout all this I did not lose my sense of self.  I did not become a (fill in the blank) which, upon scaling back my activities left a huge blank spot needing to be filled.  I have not yet felt the need to seek out and join an association of retired whatevers. I was me, am still me and have no plans of retiring from being me.  My means of expression, such as writing this blog, have changed, but not my identity. In the same way I thoroughly enjoyed the personal discoveries I made through studying and teaching I have been enjoying the discoveries found through interaction with those who read and comment on this blog.  Of course, this site, from which I derive no income (in fact, I pay) has counters which enable me to see how may have read a particular piece.  And, those numbers always far exceed the few, to whom I am deeply grateful. who take the time to comment.  Indeed, the SPAM outruns the comments by about 100 to 1.  I’m also aware that there have likely been more than a few articles edited and turned in as “position papers” for college credit.  So it goes.

Fade to Black, a screenplay command for film crews, always appealed metaphorically to me.  Anyone who has slowly lost consciousness due to injuries will appreciate that image.  I suppose when that command finally appears in its ultimate form for me I may say, So, this is retirement.  No party needed and I won’t have any need for that gold watch.