Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
January 6, 2012 - December 30, 2011

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Part III

The Human Race

Wouldn't it be great if we could all live like this? You know. Natural.

PART IA. I've read through the comments on the last post, not every word because young know-it-alls tend to be dull and repetititve, but enough to understand that the central conflict of the human experience still obtains. Human consciousness is the mother of all bitches. We glory in it and we hate it. We aspire to understand the whole universe and we also question our own right to exist. Why it's facile and frankly idiotic to pose ape consciousness as somehow equivalent. It isn't. Consciousness is not a switch, on or off. It's a scale. And only a fool would try to propose that the consciousness of a cat or a dog or an ape, or a jellyfish or octopus, is contending with the same order of challenges. Dogs do not ask, "Should we be free individuals or units in a system run by the smartest among us?" Apes do not create art. Dolphins do not build cities or multi-thousand year landmarks to their learning. esthetics, beliefs, and questions.

I get the current philosophical dodge. The kids are bored. Bored. They want something new to happen. Because they don't understand everything that has already happened. They're tired of the human adventure. They don't want any demands placed on them. Thing is, that's just not possible. They live in the midst of an experiment that cannot be stopped. Not even by a tantrum that insists everything be slowed down and, if possible, brought to a halt with all the gains preserved and all the sins frozen or nullified. If only life were simpler... If only life were fairer... If only life were more fun... and less boring.

Well, fuck boring. If you're bored, you haven't been paying attention.

The story of the human race is not about an endless cycle of violence, exploitation, predation, environmental destruction, and pointless hatreds. It's about a series of hypotheses about how a self-aware species should best organize itself to survive and flourish. We assail ourselves with the fact that every civilization ultimately fails and falls into ruin, We lament the recurrence and persistence of war. We lavish hatrd and abuse on ourselves for the constants of human weakness, neatly summed up by theologians we now despise under the rubric "the Seven Deadly Sins." In the extremity of our self-loathing, we even fantasize about the paradise of an earth freed from our pestilential presence.

These are the diseases of consciousness, which is not a curse at all but a plastic thing. We are questing for the best configuration of a brain that makes every other look like a midget.

The social groups of other mammals don't vary much. Wolf packs tend to be wolf packs. They tread the same ground and defend the same lairs for thousands of years, no innovations permitted. Gorilla and chimp communities tend to be similar, despite occasional instances of gross internecine violence. But human communities differ substantially even when they exist at a subsistence (read 'Stone Age') level. Yes, there is always a prospect of war, but the relations among men, women, and children, elders and juniors, are not the same. The samenesses relate to things we in our modern arrogance have decided are variables -- the importance of property, division of roles between sexes, the acceptance of consensus morality -- but the differences are also instructive. Sometimes the initiation of young males is cruel and brutal; sometimes the initiation of young females is worse. Sometimes men are the oppressed ones; sometimes the women. But even the most primitive of these cultures also have a sense of the divine that sustains them. They honor dead ancestors and apologize to animals they've killed to eat. So we decide they must be wrong about everything that conflicts with modern understanding. And we congratulate them on the cultural aspects that correspond with our contemporary values -- cooperation, sharing of resources, the relative equality of a hand-to-mouth existence by a tribe that celebrates a modern cooking pot as a treasure, and the indefatigable will to survive. Except maybe not so much the last one.

What's key to understand is that these are essentially wolf packs. But human. They should be more alike than they are if we're just smarter animals.

Worse than that, aren't they -- once the novelty has worn off -- boring?

Human civilization in the context of all these base mammalian societies is an actual explosion. In a split-second of earth time, the human race rose from hunter-gatherer tribal life to the Hubbell telescope, putting men on the moon, tripling life expectancy, and increasing its population from a few million to six billion. This is an insult to the planet? This is evil? This is boring?

Which other species is concerned about how many cheetahs and tigers there are? Do dolphins care about the decline of whales? Do cats of any size scrutinize bird migrations and wonder why this year's volume may be less than last year's?

A few probably unwelcome truths:

War is a collision of cultures, which kills people and then shares ideas, trade and prosperity.

Life is hard and brutal, no matter what species you belong to. Of all large mammals, the only ones not "endangered" are mankind and the animals he's domesticated for use in human society.

Without the something extra that human consciousness is, nothing you think of as you, including all your most nihilistic bile, would exist at all. Meaning you wouldn't exist. At some level, you owe a debt to Attila the Hun, Ghengis Khan, and Julius Caesar. That you regard yourselves as superior to those barbarians is proof that human progress is not a fiction but a fact.

And the high gear that kicked in a couple thousand years ago, whether you're an atheist or not, is the thing that made the individual 'you' of today an individual at all. Otherwise you'd be the guy with the penis gourd above.

Of course, maybe some of you iPhone millennials believe you'd prefer that. But, uh, think about it before you go nuclear in the Comments section.

Make no mistake. I understand why you hate and fear your own human consciousness. But guess what. You'll be afflicted with it till you die. Hating the rest of us isn't going to help. We're all in the same fix. Row or get out of the boat.

The liberals are sick of it to the point of a mass death wish. Some of you kids just have an inherited bent. Shake if off. Before you perish of your own cowardice. The stakes are life and death. Which should never be boring.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Part II:

Happy New Year!

No, I'm not THE One. I am just one who has lived and learned.

MY MY.  My last post of the old year created a stir. The youngsters didn't want to be reminded that gray hairs aren't just signs of obsolescence. I sympathize. It's indicative of how they've been brought up. It will take them a long time to discover that life belongs to those who live it rather than those who believe their fervent impulses must be right because they're the ones who are experiencing the fervent impulses.

It's a strong tide to try to resist. Even one of my best friends told me, "You can't be mean to your commenters." First impressions are everything. Useless to tell him that I was simply telling the truth in my lede when I said, "I feel like Neo at the end of Matrix I. Do your worst and all I can see is digits in slow motion."

Another old friend tried to put things in perspective for me:

It seems Verloc was just a bit late and missed the latest round of realizations of "all I know is that I know nothing" a few months back. I cringe to think that people stumble onto your site and instantly assume that you are a peer, that the playing field is level, that much like little kids think, everyone is entitled to their opinion and they're all equally valuable.

My favorite line from Fine Artist so far is, "Have you written any papers?"

I apologize to the commenters who thought I was being mean. Being mean wasn't my intent. But I honestly don't care. The ones who sail in with their childishly simple world views based on zero reading, zero knowledge of history, and even less reflection on their own infinitesimal gravity in the human story are just streaming digits to me. Sorry. So sorry. If you want to be taken seriously, bring some baggage to the discussion. I do. If you can't be bothered to read history, at least read me before you make an ass of yourself lecturing me about things I've been caring about before you were born.

I shouldn't have said I was disgusted? Why? Disgusted with single-subject heroes who just know that everything is about Wall Street, Jesus, phantom black female geniuses, tribes. or some other unitary focus? uh, no. It isn't. Disgusted with know-it-all youngsters who have pricey degrees but never read Shakespeare and think Picasso can be dismissed because of what he said about art and what he did to his hundreds of willing girlfriends? No. My own wife gets fed up with the odd connections I make. She says I over-complicate everything. She's wrong about that and she knows she is. She loves me because I strike gold with my pointless connections far more often than probability suggests I should. I make her laugh. Which makes up for all the boring dead ends. And my many presumptuous pronouncements.

Here's the bottom line (a term I hate and almost never use, though in this case it's appropriate). I don't mind being a target if it forces you to put thoughts into words you have to be prepared to defend. That's what I do. It's my contribution. Small? Sure. It's as as tiny as your importance to the grand scheme of things.

But here's the rub. I'm a Christian. I don't think anyone is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. If I get just one of you to think, to try on a new idea and wear it proudly in public, I don't have to get on TV to enjoy my 15 minutes of fame. If I can nudge just one life toward the better, I can atone for a legion of personal sins.

I bring to this effort what God gave me and what experience shaped in me. Which may be far less than what any one of you wants and expects. I myself have a very modest view of what that is. I can put 'a' through 'z' together and see patterns. You're free to disagree with my read. But I also have a 40-year record of showing how I derive patterns from the data. And not one of you can make the same claim.

I guess this should have been called Part IA, not Part II. I am going to defend the record of the human race. Something a lot of you, left and right, don't think can be done or should be done. And I'm going to defend the United States of America, Texas included. Frustrated black female geniuses notwithstanding. Just so you know.

P.S. Incidentally, the Mayans were not predicting the end of human life in 2012. I've been studying the Mayans for nearly 50 years.  2012 will be a year like every other. Painful, fruitful, and then past.

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