My (Obsession with) Death

Grim-Reaper

Image courtesy of EMCrit.

Some of you may have seen my recent essay I wrote titled The Mortality of Me. If you haven’t, I would ask that you give it a read.  It reflects some of my thoughts on my own mortality which, as I approach the age of AARP (50), is something that one tends to ponder every now and then.  But, what has really made me think about it is my On Death and Dying course that I’m taking as part of my Philosophy degree. Later on, I will also publish a short research paper on death anxiety, which, I think, will be an eye opener for some of you.

But, here’s the message: Do not be afraid of death.

I know you probably can’t help it.  After all, as culture anthropologist Ernest Becker has told us in his book Denial of Death, we can’t really escape our fear of death or the terror it brings us subconsciously. Without getting too far into the weeds on that one, I think Dr. Sheldon Solomon explains it a little better when he expands on Becker by explaining that we are dualistic in nature – both physical and spiritual.  Our physical self is our body and our spiritual self is our mind.  Because of this spiritual self, our minds, we are the only species on this plant that we know of that can imagine a past and future while experiencing a present.  And, because we can imagine a future and it’s possibilities, we also know that eventually our bodies will die.  Philosopher Martin Heidegger and the Buddhists both realize the truth in this statement and not only do they know it is certain, but they also know that we don’t know when it’s coming.  The Buddhists say that you are only one breath away from your last.  Poignant, if not scary for some.

The point here is that we are finite beings as far as we know.  There is no sufficient proof of reincarnation or of an afterlife, although some assert their truth valiantly.  That’s all speculation, however, it is certain and observable that we all die. All living things do and this cannot be in dispute.  So, what do you with this information?

Well, some would succumb to an existential crisis of sorts.  They will try to find meaning in and for their lives by pursuing what Becker calls an “immortality” project.  In other words, we will seek immortality in some cultural way whether it is by having children, creating works of art and literature, or, like Freud, revolutionizing a line of thought. Social scientists and philosophers love to that.  In fact, that’s pretty much their self-prescribed reason for being.  There’s nothing wrong with that at all.

Many people will say that they don’t like to think about death because it’s morbid or sad.  I can agree with that, especially if you think about losing a loved one, but I would ask for you to reconsider when thinking of yourself. Don’t be the soldier in the foxhole who is more threatened by his buddy’s demise than his own. If you think about the finitude of your life, then you will begin to think about its meaning.  Don’t look to your prayer-book or to the stars to find that meaning, either.  You won’t find it, or, if you do, it will be the meaning that someone else has ascribed to you.

Life is meaningless.  This is what Alfred Camus taught us. The universe doesn’t owe you anything, especially a reason to live. This is where you come in.  Existentialists like Camus realized that we must find our own meaning, what he calls the “revolt against the absurd”, and pursue it with an inner honesty. Be authentic to yourself and live the life you want to live.

To be fair, I am not an existentialist by any means since I don’t believe in Free Will but I do believe that our lives are determined to follow a st path that we oftentimes reject or refuse to accept. We purposely take the wrong forks in the road because someone is whispering in our ears to do so, but, eventually, hopefully, we find out way to the right path even of we have to backtrack.

 

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Are Men Really This Bad? Probably.

Patriarchy

Image courtesy of Christianity Today (believe it or not!)

Harvey Weinstein. Jeffrey Tambour. Roy Moore. Al Franken. Charlie Rose. Kevin Spacey. Bill Cosby. Danny Masterson. Louis CK. Donald Trump. Matt Lauer…and so on and so on.

These are but a few of the names that have recently been spotlighted as sexual predators.  We see their names in the news every day – a growing list of men who have embarrassed themselves, humiliated and abused women and have made our sex look incredibly vile. And there doesn’t seem to be many people who are surprised by this.  I feel like I have been finally been awakened but I’m really groggy.

I was going to write a post about how confused I am about this whole thing; that I wonder how these men have gotten away with these acts of perversion for so long and how they even had the gall to even do them in the first place.  I was even going to compare the acts of one perv to another to gain some personal perspective, but after I read it, I realized how much of an apologist I looked like. I hate apologists.

Then I thought about my own past and if there was ever anything I did that may have put some poor woman in a humiliating situation.  Did I take advantage of someone? Sure, I’m no Hollywood scumbag, but there are plenty of men who are normal Joes that are also guilty of these crimes, although they aren’t the headline du jour.  After reflecting for a while, I didn’t recall anything.

I then realized this was a useless exercise.  What if Louis CK thought to himself, “Hey, I asked and they said ‘yes’, so no harm, no foul, right?” Maybe Matt Lauer just thought he was being flirty?

The point is that we, as men, cannot judge our actions through our own eyes.  We cannot be trusted. Obviously. So we have to listen to the parties, the women, we have offended and we have to take their accusations seriously.  To say that they should have come forward sooner or to say that they acquiesced is to excuse our own abhorrent behavior.  The truth of the matter is that we should not have put them in that position in the first place.  Louis should have never even asked.  Roy should never have looked at a 14 year old (allegedly), Bill should have never cheated on his wife and therefore, never even have gotten in the position where he would slip women roofies.  Harvey should have kept his bathrobe in the closet and wore normal clothes and jerked off in the privacy of his own home – alone.  Just to name a few…

Are men really this bad? Perhaps we are.  Maybe we are addicted to the patriarchy.  Dr. Joseph Pleck seems to think that we can’t help ourselves from buying into it. He posits that men not only express power over women, but among each other.  We have ranks in the military for this purpose, for example.  Straight men seek to wield power over gay men by humiliating them and by trying to take away their rights.

And what do we do to encourage it, knowingly or not?  Is it as simple as painting the room blue for a baby boy and pink for a baby girl?  Does it happen as early as childhood – boys play with toy trucks and girls play with toy dolls? Or are we still so young in our evolution that we think we still need to be the Alpha Male, spear the largest buffalo, and assume power over our tribe?

I am hopeful that this is a watershed moment for our society.  I am hopeful that we are humble enough to reflect on ourselves as a sex as a whole and not just blame a “few bad apples”.  This time in our history has exposed us (no pun intended) as the insecure sex, not the stronger sex.  We need to let this happen to ourselves and be open to the changes that are coming. We need to evolve socially if we aren’t going to do it biologically.

I Want to be a Tardigrade

tardigrade

(Credit image to atronoo.com)

Look at that little guy up there.  That is the tardigrade, which is also known as the “water bear” or “moss piglet”.  They are virtually immune to heat and cold and can even survive in space for a brief period of time.  I want to be a tardigrade and so should you. After all, they will be the last creatures on earth.  They will be there to shut the lights out or watch as the sun’s light flickers into complete and utter darkness – or a huge explosion that pretty much incinerates everything for millions of miles.

They will be here when the floodwaters come.  When you have an ice shelf twice the size of Luxemburg fall off into the ocean, you need to be a little concerned. That piece of ice is so big, we actually need to redraw maps.  But, the tardigrade don’t care.  He’ll be around.

If a comet or asteroid crashes into the planet, that’s not a problem for the water bear. He’ll just keep on truckin’.

If the apocalypse comes this time, for realsies, the tardigrade don’t give a flying fuck.  He’ll still be here doing what he does…tardigrading, I guess.

Tardigrades are meant to adapt to any environment.  They can live in boiling water and radiation.  Meanwhile, humans will still try to adapt to the planet we continue to destroy even though the Defense Department says that climate change is a direct national security threat. Yet, we are gutting the EPA and pulled out of the Paris Accord.  Our President has stated that Climate Change is a Chinese hoax.

The planet will be here long after we’re done, folks.  Eventually, we will run out of tricks and all that will be left is the tardigrade.  Bully for us.

Agnotology: We Are So Ignorant…

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Apparently, we are so ignorant, that there is actually an “ology” to study exactly how ignorant we are and how that ignorance is used against us. In fact, there is a whole book on it called “Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance” by Robert N. Proctor and Londa Schiebinger. Proctor actually coined the term. Hooray!

The definition of agnotology, as per Wikipedia, is “the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data.”

What does it say about our culture that we have a whole study on how incredibly gullible we are?  The storm of “fake news” has made us gun shy in trying to find the truth and the age of the internet is leading us down rabbit holes filled with traps – by our own design.

While Trump continues to use our ignorance against us and for him, his supporters don’t seem to mind.  His approval rating went up two points since his meeting with Vladimir Putin. Yeah, Vladimir Putin – the guy responsible for interfering in our 2016 election by using hackers to mislead the American public.  Trump supporters in Michigan believe that the Russia investigation is fake news. I wonder what these people thought of Clinton and Nixon.

What’s sad is that this assault on our intelligence is working.  During his campaign, Trump stated that he loved “the poorly educated”.  And he should since they voted for him. Exit polls showed whites without a college degree voted overwhelmingly for Trump by a margin of 67-28. The question is – what does this bode for the American public?

Sadly, I see one direction if we cannot shake out the sillies.  Idiocracy.  Sorry, folks, but we’re heading in that direction.

This Ain’t No Free Speech Zone!

free-speech-zone-reaction

(Image courtesy of hennesyview.com)

I recently had someone submit a comment on my last blog post and, due to its content, I denied publishing the test.  Basically, it was anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi bullshit and was totally unrelated to my “Divorce is Messy” post, so I marked the user as spam and moved on.

Let me be clear – This Ain’t No Free Speech Zone.  I don’t have to allow you to post wicked or unrelated comments.  I am not the government, so I don’t have to afford you that right.  In fact, that disclaimer is on my home page:

Disclaimer

This site is of the person, for the person and by the person and is, therefore, owned and operated solely by that person. That person is me, TJ. If you make any comments that I don’t like, I will remove them. This is not a free speech zone for everybody. So nana nana na na, poopface!

I purposely make it mandatory that all posts get approved by me for specifically this scenario. The troll scenario.  I don’t like trolls and I refuse to feed them here.  So, go elsewhere if you’re hungry.

And I don’t care if you don’t like it.  Tough shit.  If you want to have an honest debate, then let’s have it.  If you want to peddle your alternative facts or bigotry, then I ain’t buying and there is nothing that says I have to.