Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why do I exist?

Why do I exist? Is it because some self-replicating chemical has designed and created me as an instrument for the sole purpose of improving its success rate for self-replication? Is it to express some soul purpose? Or is the reason of my existence without purpose?

Descartes’ phrase “I think, therefore I exist,” was meant to prove that there is at least one fact in the universe that is beyond doubt. I am, I exist is necessarily true each time that I pronounce it, or that I mentally conceive it. But his exploration here doesn’t tell us why we exist.

Perhaps why we exist is defined by what Thomas Aquinas thought of as salvation: “Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.” Can our beliefs, desires and moral actions answer the question why?

Tolstoy believed that “The essence of any religion lies solely in the answer to the question: why do I exist, and what is my relationship to the infinite universe that surrounds me?”

What do YOU think?
Artwork by Jane Campbell  Many thanks.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Necessity of Doubt

Doubt is the subjective condition that belongs to mind which judges the facts, where the mind is suspended between two or more propositions and is not able to assent to any of them.  Is doubt necessary to our attainment of knowledge and aspiration to a higher consciousness?  Or is it a limitation to these, leaving us in mistrust, suspicion or uncertainty and without belief?  Is doubt necessary?  Does it exclude faith?
Aristotle believed doubt to be preliminary to philosophical inquiry and the only means by which the necessary removal of prejudice may be effected.  Bacon believed that the scholastic proof of a proposition or thesis begins by the statement of doubts or contrary arguments.
Thomas Huxley gave the name agnosticism to the state: “of being strictly doubtful towards all that lies beyond sense-experience.”  Pragmatism regards all reality as doubtful, and truth as perpetually changing with the progress of human thought.
What do YOU think?
Artwork by Jayne Edwards   Many Thanks

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Role of Emotion in Experience

What role does emotion play in our everyday lives?  How does emotion affect our experience and being?  These are questions addressed by some of the finest minds of our era. 
For Piaget, emotion is the motivating force of action emanating from outside the individual in the form of sensations emitted by objects.  His view is rooted in the Newtonian conception of a universe comprised in isolated objects requiring an emotive force to initiate a series of mechanistic interactions between objects.  Piaget reduces all conscious human experience to a cognitive formulation of these causal relations.    His abstract concept of emotion as force fails to explain the relationship between bodily feelings, emotions, and higher forms of consciousness in human beings.
Alfred North Whitehead indicates the factors in human nature which go to make up the particular emotions, arise from our apprehension of these permanent features of order in the world. His concrete concept of emotion gives insight into the experience of bodily feelings and their relationship to the growth and learning of human beings.  He explains the emotions are the crucial mediating factors between the welter of awareness of these feelings in higher organisms.  “We perceive other things which are in the world of actualities in the same sense as we are.   So our emotions are directed toward other things, including of course, our bodily organs . . . the world for me is nothing else than how the functioning of my body present it for my experience.”
Jean Paul Sartre sees it differently in his book, The Emotions, Outline of a Theory.  He sees our emotion as an “abrupt drop of consciousness into the magical.”  He believes:  “emotion is not accidental modification of a subject which would otherwise be plunged into an unchanged world.  It is easy to see that every emotional apprehension of an object which frightens, irritates, sadness, etc., can be made only on the basis of a total alteration of the world.  In order that an object may in reality appear terrible, it must realize itself as an immediate and magical presence face to face with consciousness.“  In other words, we modify our experience with emotion to make it more comfortable, according to our own nature.  We emote sadness, anger or gloom because “lacking the power and will to accomplish the acts which we have been planning, we behave in such a way that the universe no longer requires anything of us.”
What do YOU think?
Artwork by Beth Nash.  Many thanks.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Consciousness, Ourselves and Our World

Various scientists and philosophers have given us myriad ideas of consciousness. Some see it as the result of our physical brain function.  Others explain consciousness as a non local essence of phenomenon.
Paul Valery: “The universe is built on a plan the profound symmetry of which is somehow expressed in the inner structure of our intellect.”
James Jeans: “[T]he universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter; we are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.”
Albert Einstein: “It seems that the human mind has first to construct forms independently before we can find them in things.... Knowledge cannot spring from experience alone, but only from a comparison of the inventions of the intellect with observed fact.”
As Augustine, Valery, Eddington, and Einstein have duly noted, every “something” that our consciousness may see and point to reflects the qualities of the consciousness that is pointing.
Dan Dennett has us looking at our own perceptions, and suggests that it is the observer of viewpoint that is consciousness:
How do you explain consciousness? 
Artwork by F. Rassouli  Many thanks.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Inspiring Synchronicity All Around Us

Synchronicity is, I think, becoming more a part of our scientific and philosophic paradigms. Webster defines it as: the quality or state of being synchronous or simultaneous: concurrence of acts, events, or developments in time: coincident movement or existence; chronological arrangement of historical events and personages so as to indicate coincidence or coexistence; a representation in the same picture of two or more events which occurred at different times.

Jung required a larger framework for his idea of synchronicity, a framework that reveals an underlying pattern for what he called "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events."

What does synchronicity mean to you? What role does it play in your life?

What do YOU think?

Artwork by Cindy Hesse Many thanks.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Are You In Control?

Are we in control of ourselves, our lives, our families, our worlds? Or are we just aware and knowing what one can do if something unpredictable happens?
There are many explanations for why we do what we do. For example, Thomas Metzinger's new Book, The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self, seriously questions whether there is even an "I", let alone a "we." And Douglas Hofstadter's book, I Am a Strange Loop, contends that the "self" is a recursively self-referencing memory loop.
Hundreds of experiments by Benjamin Libet and others tend to conclusively confirm that our brain prepares to execute our decisions before we are even aware that anything is being decided. It alerts us to our decisions only in time (a split second) for us to veto them.

Libet postulates that it is quite likely that we have no so-called "free will" other than veto power over our specific actions. Our free will may consist instead of 1) being mindful about any ill-serving subliminal intentions and tendencies that inform our actions so that we are accordingly prepared to veto any action that they correspondingly inform, and of 2) programming (or reprogramming) our subliminal intentions to be more productive of the experiencing that we most desire.
Do we have the power to create our realities? Are we in control?
What do YOU think?
Artwork: Create by Ron Isom Many thanks.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Spend the Day in Beauty

What is beauty? Is being beautiful like tasting good to Bob (subjective) or being 150 lbs. (objective)? The saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” suggests subjective. But other sayings—“beauty is truth” or “beauty is eternal”—suggest there is some objective quality to beauty. Advocates of the subjective view emphasize how difficult it is to get people to agree on aesthetic judgments. Advocates of the objective view make arguments like: “The Grand Canyon would be beautiful regardless of whether anyone was there to see it, so beauty is in the object.”

Aristotle believed that there was no absolute beauty, but that it was based on perception. As a general term, the Greeks perceived beauty as interchangeable with excellence, perfection, and satisfaction. Plotinus believed that beauty did not include symmetry. However, "beauty is that which irradiates symmetry, rather than symmetry itself."

Plato introduced to the ideal of "Platonic love:" Plato saw love as motivated by a longing for the highest form of beauty—The Beautiful Itself, and love as the motivational power through which the highest of achievements are possible.

Kant argues that such aesthetic judgments are 'judgments of taste', and insists that universality and necessity are in fact a product of features of the human mind (Kant calls these features 'common sense'), and that there is no objective property of a thing that makes it beautiful.

The Taoist sage also thinks it is human judgment that what happens is beautiful or ugly, right or wrong, fortunate or not. The sage knows all things are one (equal) and does not judge. Our lives are snarled and jumbled so long as we make conventional discriminations, but when we set them aside, we appear to others as extraordinary and enchanted.

Benedetto Croce, originator of the modern “expressionist theory” of aesthetic, maintains that the difference between the beautiful and the ugly is that: “expression in the naturalistic sense simply lacks expression in the spiritual sense, that is to say, the very character of activity of the spirituality, and therefore the bipartition into the poles of beauty and of ugliness.” He sees beauty as part of the process of aesthetic expression that has four stages: impressions, expression or spiritual aesthetic synthesis (intuition), pleasure of the beautiful, translation of the aesthetic fact into physical phenomena. The expressive process is exhausted when these four phases have been passed through.

What do YOU think?

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Union of the Sacred and Secular

Sacred and secular…can they co-exist and where do they meet? As we increase our material wealth and extend ourselves with technology, do we have a tendency to lose our sense of what is sacred in the world?
Some say that sacred, or holy, practices are a product of the past that will be outgrown in modern society, and see sacred associated with religion, whose role in the world is currently changing.
Secular is usually associated with bureaucratization, rationalization, urbanization, industrialization, and seen in terms of historical revolutions.
Most of us live with a tension between the two, as sort of being “in the world, but not of the world.” Is it possible to live in integration of the two, with no separation between the sacred and the secular?
American Sociologist C. Wright Mills summarized this process: “Once the world was filled with the sacred – in thought, practice, and institutional form. After the Reformation and the Renaissance, the forces of modernization swept across the globe and secularization, a corollary historical process, loosened the dominance of the sacred. In due course, the sacred shall disappear altogether except, possibly, in the private realm.”

In the bible, Paul writes, “To the pure, all things are pure” (Titus 1:15) Finding the sacred in the secular might just be the way to go. But it is not easy to do as we watch the evening news.

What do YOU think?
Artwork Playing With Possibilities by Ron Isom

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Finite Mask That Covers the Infinite

Joseph Campbell is probably our best known contemporary expert on the subject of masks, and his work including his massive studies, Masks of God and Masks of Eternity, offer his keen insight into our own abilities to don a mask and uncover the masks we find.
What is it about us that put on our masks? What about us creates the need for one? When do we confuse our mask with who we really are? When are masks useful and when do they become obstacles for us?
I’m not talking about the functional, physical mask such as theatrical, surgical, protect and disguise mask etc. I am talking about the mask of persona, the way we pretend to be one way and are really another. Politesse is a good example and can often be a cultural custom. When our words and mannerisms are polite, but our actions and innuendos aggressive, we are wearing a mask. When we profess undying love as a means to an end, and walk away in the morning light, we are wearing a mask. Sometimes, we lose sight of our own masks and are confused about who we really are. Why?
What do YOU think?
Artwork by Susan Seddon Boulet Many thanks.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Meaning of Love

What is love? What does it mean in our lives? We all seem to come to our own understanding of love as we mature into adulthood, and that understanding changes and evolves as we do, so what does it mean to you right now?

The Greeks broke love down for us into categories: Eros, or sexual love; Philios, or love of friends, love in return for love; Agape, or unconditional love, the love of God for humanity.

Then there is the idea that love is intertwined with death. Andre Breton, in The Lost Steps tells us, “Pardon me for thinking that, unlike ivy, I die when I become attached.” And Albert Camus: “Love demands the impossible, the absolute, the sky on fire, inexhaustible springtime, life after death, and death itself transfigured into eternal life.”

What do YOU think?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Morality as Harmonic Chord

"Love thy neighbor as thyself" or the golden rule, can be found with
slight variations throughout philosophy and religion, here are a few:
Judaism: “…thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”, Leviticus 19:18
Islam: “None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Number 13 of Imam “Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths.”
Native American Spirituality: “All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One.” Black Elk
Shinto: “The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form
Confucianism: “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you” Analects 15:23
Why is this important? Why is morality essential to the fabric of our lives? It prescribes consistency and allows our actions to be in harmony with our desires. It provides an internal compass that we can use to navigate society. How we apply the golden rule, or how we are able to treat others the way we ourselves would like to be treated, tests our moral coherence.
What do YOU think?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Our Own Wonderful Infinite Nature

“Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have Immortal longings in me,” Shakespeare instructs us. But do we? Is there a part of us that is infinite, or is immortality just a longing? There are at least parts of our beings that are infinite, according to Shakespeare: “What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god.”

Our infinite nature is not just fodder for the poets. Einstein came to the conclusion that “the infinite nature of man includes the universe.” Kierkegaard explained our existence in this way: “Man is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two factors. So regarded, man is not yet a self.”

What do YOU think?