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Introduction and Apology

In theory, this is going to be the first of three related posts. If things proceed
according to plan, the next three “serious” posts on this blog should proceed as
follows:

• What do I believe, and (very briefly) why it is that I believe it


• How do I want to live my life, and under what circumstances would I consider
my life one no longer worth living
• What exactly am I willing to do and not do to render my life one worth living,
and also whether or not I think I am capable of doing such a thing.

The middle “bullet-point” is the one that I was initially interested in examining, but
as I thought about the entire matter I thought matters would proceed a bit easier if I
set out the framework – in some cases I suppose the unquestioned premises – first
and then move on after doing that to the second point. The third point is the one I
have the least interest in at this point, and may skip altogether. As time is
proceeding it seems there is in fact less and less I can do to make my life worth
living. Or at any rate that I have much interest in.

And yes, at this point this little essay is proceeding in an almost stream of
consciousness fashion. Perhaps at some point I will revisit it and clean it up, but I
doubt it. So I must beg the reader’s indulgence in matters of grammar, spelling – or
my biggest problem – endless repetition of stock phrases and terms. Or not, I
suppose. If such things annoy or bother, go away. And neither of us shall be any
worse off. I also have no doubt that some elements that more properly belong in
one essay will bleed their way into one of the others; such is life.

Metaphysics and Epistemology


Well, since this essay is one where I address the “big” questions, I suppose I should
start with the biggest. Why not? Other than the fact that I’m going to do nothing but
parade my ignorance of the topic, no reason at all not to start here.

Very well: God. As a theoretical matter I neither affirm nor deny the existence of
some sort of deity, an “unmoved mover,” what have you. It seems to me that the
denial of such a being is as much a matter of faith as the acceptance of one.
However, I see no evidence that this deity – if it exists – is any sense a creature that
resembles the personal and loving (or hating) deity of the “Abrahamic” religions.
Quite simply I see no evidence of any kind that this overarching deity takes any
more notice of humanity than it does of any other element of creation. We do seem
to live in a universe that is a fairly consistent place in the sense that I do not go to
bed a man and wake up a unicorn, or 12 feet tall or what have you. And if someone
wishes to assign this regularity of nature to a god, I suppose I could agree.
However, as a practical matter, I suppose I go through life in an attitude that could
best be described as weak atheist. Meaning that I look forward to no life beyond this
one, expect no punishment or reward for either my behavior or faith after death.
Perhaps this is a matter that I should examine on a more rigorous basis, but I simply
lack the interest. What I believe in this area seems to make as much sense as
anything else to me, and also make a great deal more sense than most other belief
systems I have either read about or discussed with others.

As a brief aside, I am willing to go a bit beyond my weak atheist stance in any


matter related to the human soul. I explicitly deny any such conception, assuming it
is defined as some sort of eternal essence that survives death for all eternity.
Simply put, I can find no quality that could be assigned to the soul that could not
ultimately be traced back to material factors. And I can certainly not find any
element I could reasonably describe as eternal. Re: the former, Phineas Gage, re
the latter, any Alzheimer’s case I can think of. Where is the soul in any of this?

Perhaps for no good reason other than that it seems to allow me to function to
some degree or other, I also believe that the world in which I live is a real place, and
not a fantasy (self-induced, re: evil genius hypothesis, etc.) I also believe that I am
not the only being in the world, that there are others out there, whom I may or may
not be correctly perceiving. I suppose I accept things like Quantum Theory to
whatever extent I can dimly grasp them, but as to that practical matter business, I
do not believe my chair is going to spontaneously turn into a swan and fly away,
and I also proceed on the assumption that it is a solid object, and not the spinning
collection of particles I suppose on one level or other I should accept it to be. I
suppose I am simply not bright enough to hold such thoughts.

As to what the limits of human knowledge are? I have absolutely no idea. I suppose
there are some topics that will never be known for certain, the existence or non-
existence of God, etc., but I have simply not given the matter enough thought to
even begin to speak coherently. I have very definite ideas on my own personal
limits are, but that’s another topic entirely.

There is doubtless more I could say in this area, but I suppose the above covers
both what I believe and how I proceed through life well enough.

Ethics
To put it simply, what I would like to believe is that I fumble through life attempting
to treat people as ends in themselves rather than as means to an end. By this I
mean not forcing my beliefs on anyone else, not harming them in any at least
physical way and by acting as forthrightly as I can. That I have failed just about
across the board to achieve any of these goals, and failed terribly badly in a few
cases, is not important to this discussion (Though I hope to reference it later.)
A curiously contradictory belief I ALSO hold is the idea that human nature is one
that is driven to compete. At least in the Western world, our wants and desires are
close to limitless; the resources available to fulfill them decidedly limited. So we
compete. As in when 500 apply for one job. Or ten politicians attempt to solicit my
vote.

Thus I would not lie to someone with whom I was competing for a job, that I wanted
it, and hoped I got it, even if I get it at their expense. I expect competition at all
times and in all venues. I also do not expect everyone to hold a close variant to my
first belief, though I do think enough do that I tend to grant the benefit of the doubt
in this area. Quite frankly if most did not, society would collapse in short order.

I also believe that it is my responsibility to find my way through life and no one
else’s. And I mean this on every level. If I cannot feed myself, I should starve to
death. If I suffer some existential crisis from which I see no escape, I should either
ignore it or let it kill me. And if I feel I can no longer act in a responsible manner, I
should take my game pieces off the board and end the match.

However, I would be remiss if I pointed out that I have failed on all the above, and
indeed am not presently living my life under anything resembling these standards. I
treat those closest to me as means to the grubby end of my survival, I certainly in
no sense and in no way support myself and to this point I have lacked the courage
to follow through to the logical conclusion this ethical system should lead me.
Perhaps the best term to describe me at this point in my life is “parasite.”

But bridging this gap between the “ideal” and the “real” is not the subject of this
discussion; I defer the matter to a later time.

Politics
For most of my adult life I have held a view very close to certain brands of
minarchist libertarianism: that the state is a necessary evil, but that it is an evil that
should be kept as small as possible. In this stance I support the legalization of all
drugs, something very close to a pure laissez-faire system of economics, etc. I voted
for Ron Paul enthusiastically in the 2008 Republican primary, and voted for Bob Barr
with no enthusiasm in the most recent presidential election. I suppose this personal
tendency of mine flows from the idea that humans are at base good, and if left
alone will act sensibly and reasonably.

But over the past few years, I’ve been candidly re-thinking this position. And have
been edging closer and closer toward a view that could best be described as
“conservative-authoritarianism.” More and more I seem to want to live in a society
where everything is nice, peaceful and quiet, where troublemakers get put out of
the way, where the bias is toward the static and not the dynamic. Where if there
isn’t much excitement, there also isn’t much fear about where your next meal is
going to come from. If conservative-authoritarian is a bit off-putting, perhaps
“traditionalist” would work in a European context, though I doubt it would in an
American one. And being an American, I tend to avoid using it.

One of the more irking things about claiming to believe in such a system is that
you’re automatically pegged as some sort of fascist (Syndicalist, Corporativist,
Whatever-ist) or National Socialist. Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact.
Fascism and National socialism, whatever else they are – or hopefully were – were
revolutionary ideologies of the sort that sought to re-make mankind in their own
image. In that sense, whoever it was that called Nazism “Communism’s retarded
little brother” was speaking more truth than falsehood.

In fact, the system I envision would do no such thing. It would remake nobody.
Think the Horthy regime in Hungary, the Salazar regime in Portugal and perhaps
best of all, the Franco regime in Spain. Or on the modern scene, the current regime
in Singapore, though it is showing some strains of late.

Of course all of the above are nothing but an idle fantasy. I am certainly doing
nothing to advance any of the above ideas, from minarchistic libertarianism to
whatever it is that would work best under my goofy, authoritarian nonsensical
meanderings. (Some sort of monarchy? Powerful but subject to limitations in at
least a few ways? An oligarchy that could somehow be kept from degenerating into
corruption? Possibly something a bit like Falangism, though that last I rather doubt.)

Though were I to wake up tomorrow with the ability to impose whatever political
system I wanted wherever in the world I wanted to? Hmph. I don’t know what I’d do.
The two systems I oscillate between are of course utterly incompatible, though I
guess neither would do much in the way of participation on the international scene.

Still, I suppose thinking about such things is a way to pass the time. I should
perhaps explain my sense of disdain for what presently passes as democracy on the
American scene, which I do have, but since I am trying to keep this discussion a
laundry list of what it is I stand for rather than against, that’s something else to
defer to later.

Aesthetics
I like this:
The maniac of a dentist that I had from the time I was a toddler until he died of
brain cancer when I was a teenager actually had this image hung in the hall before
you turned into his examination room. Freaked me out then, and still does now a
bit. His copy had the skull much more prominently displayed than the woman. Not
sure precisely what he was trying to convey, but it is one of those pictures that
sticks with you when you see it at least twice a year from age four onward.

Beyond that, what can I say? I am as much a product of my time as anyone else,
doubtless full of the same biases, prejudices and unquestioned assumptions on all
matters related to the Fine Arts as anyone else. Add a heavy dose of ignorance just
about across the board, and there you have it. I swim in the sewer that is the
popular culture of our late Faustian times and take no more notice of either
approval or disapproval than a fish does about the water surrounding it.

In fact, I suspect my sensibilities in this area are so rudimentary in large part


because I seem to lack the ability to notice very much at all about anything. Coffee
out of a paper cup tastes the same to me as it does out of the finest china. And
$5.99 a pound coffee the same as whatever is on sale at the supermarket this
week.

Fortunately, the little knowledge I have and the even lesser interest in talking about
this topic should have very little to do with how the rest of this series works out,
should it.
Conclusions/Thoughts/and headshaking re: Part I
As I think I noted in a journal entry, this whole mess was written at just above a
stream of consciousness level. It neither makes much sense as a unitary whole, nor
I suppose is supposed to do so. What it was supposed to do is give me a telescope
to look into and allow me to ponder my craters, valleys and extinct volcanoes of the
moonscape that is the totality of me. I think I succeeded in the sense that I said
nothing untruthful, but also failed in the sense that I emphasized certain
unimportant items (that silly picture) at the expense of some other bits of more
importance. Which were either slighted or left out all together. So this mess does
need revision, but don’t look for it anytime soon. I think it is sufficient to get me to
where I want to go, in terms of the other planned essays. As in, even where I didn’t
record something I did think about it.