Philosophy


Music and Philosophy and Poetry and Politics and Psychology and Social Issues13 Aug 2017 07:38 pm

For those of you new to the site, or who haven’t visited in awhile I invite you to fully explore GuidoWorld and all it has to offer. If you click on to the Words tab at the far top right you will currently see four of my novels along with two of my nonfiction books.

I have recently updated the page so that the entire books are posted rather than just some selected chapters. Within the next year I plan on posting two or three more of my books, so by the time you finish reading the current menu of my works more should be available.

A couple tabs to the left of Words you will find the Music tab. There you will find the growing library of my albums. The music contained on the albums spans from the early 80’s all the way up to the present. Similar to the book menu, the posted music library will continue to grow and be of a higher quality throughout the year. Of the 19 albums currently listed 14 of them have been remixed and remastered and will show themselves as part of Bandcamp.

The remaining five plus an additional five more albums are in the process of being updated and remixed. My son, who is a far better recording technician than myself will be in charge of the new revised mixes. Since I have a huge backlog of songs and I still write and record between 8 and 12 songs a year, new albums will be appearing in the foreseeable future.

The podcast button is new and is rather sparse at this point. Within the next year or so I plan on beginning to record a number of podcasts that discuss my books and music, as well as all discuss and expand upon all of the social, political and psychological topics that you have covered in my posts over the last decade.

Those who have been faithful readers to this site know how much I am enthralled with life, and how much I relish the opportunity to share and to grow. Thanks for taking the time to read, listen to and ponder all that I have produced and posted over the years.
Enjoy!

United in Compassion,

Jim

Ecology and Government and Philosophy and Politics and Psychology and Relationships and Social Issues13 Jun 2017 06:43 pm

The KISS principle (keep it simple stupid) is said to have been originated in the early sixties by the navy and referred to the importance and benefit of simple design. Albert Einstein was a big proponent of the idea and felt that any good theory must be simple and elegant, and that complicated formulas and solutions are both inefficient and unusable.

Here is a Wikipedia’s article on the KISS principle:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle

I have stated on numerous occasions that people generally make life far more complicated that it has to be. Experiences such as joy, happiness, peace and harmony are not that complicated, let alone idealistic. The majority of people conduct the vast majority of their social interactions in a peaceful and harmonious manner. In a world of indoor plumbing, potable water, electricity, etc. we are now in a position for most societies, if not the entire globe, to live increasingly comfortable and rewarding lives.

Yet, the greedy and power hungry minority spawn fear and hatred as a means of making the good life the possession of the few by complicating life and convincing the masses that life’s simple pleasures are idealistic and unattainable. Destroying the elegance and simplicity of cooperation by presenting the easiest conflict as unresolvable and flatly stating that all realistic options and acts of diplomacy have been exhausted when nary a one has been explored.

When breaking down a rewarding life into its simplest terms I come up with a few observations. First I yearn for intimacy. I don’t just mean having an intimate relationship with other people, but an intimate relationship with myself, nature and life in general. Intimacy is just the natural process of becoming closer and more familiar with something. One can be intimate with almost any object, idea or activity. I explored this in depth in my book Exploring Intimacy which can be read here:

http://guidoworld.com/words/exploring-intimacy

The second major category is to better enjoy the integration of all aspects of our/my experience. This would mean that I enjoy the sensorial, emotional and mental aspects of my life. In other words I learn how to maximize my experience by enjoying and savoring my being a thinking and feeling sentient person which exists in a body and lives in a world. The third element is my feeling connected to the world and act in a way which improves and maintains not only my quality of life but that of all of organic life.

Applying these ideas to our shared social world we come up with the following. We can keep things simple if we focus on the following. First we should not only tolerate but encourage all to find and cultivate intimacy in their lives. Second we can protect the quality of people’s lives and experiences by not destroying the environment and endangering people’s health through dumping toxins and poisons into our air, land and water.

The third guiding principle is that the major goal and concern of all personal and social behavior is to be life affirming. Being life affirming not only has us move away from poisoning our land, water and air, but also dictates that we make peace and harmony the goal and focus of all our decisions. In a life affirming society any action which harms others or the environment would be attended to and not be allowed to become entrenched or a habit of government. No action which caused harm or impaired the quality of life would be considered an act of progress or even tolerated. Only actions which enhanced or maintained the quality of life of the majority would be considered progress.

Einstein pointed out that one needs to be as simple as one can be without becoming too simple. While intimacy and integrated experience are relatively straight forward, the concept of being life affirming will always be a work in progress. In many situations it will be easy to determine what is life affirming, yet in many areas assessing what is the most life affirming option both near and far term will be challenging.

The fact that social utopias do not exist should not be alarming nor discouraging. The fact that life is an endless process of improvement and development only adds to its preciousness, and is inherent in the concept of intimacy. Yet, do let the greedy and power hungry convince you that life’s lack of perfection means everything is too complicated and joy, peace and harmony are idealistic fictions. Joy, intimacy and harmony are real experiences and not ideals. Real experience is never perfect, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be simple or elegant.

One does not have to deny the reality of pain and suffering to appreciate the reality of joy, love, intimacy and harmony.

Jim Guido

 

 

 

Philosophy and Psychology10 Oct 2016 04:05 pm

Let’s begin by breaking down an experience into its simplest parts. All events are not experiences. The difference between an event and an experience is that an event needs to be accompanied by at least a modicum of awareness for it to become an experience. Therefore:

Event + Awareness = Experience

There are many levels and means of being aware. As humans we are not only aware of our environment but also possess a self-awareness. While there is emerging data that supports the fact we are not the only sentient beings with a nascent sense of themselves, it is generally accepted that our level of self-awareness is unparalleled in the animal kingdom. Our complex and highly articulate use of language is the medium through which our heightened form of self-consciousness seems to most reside. Therefore, we could use this observation to modify our above formula of experience to:

Sensorial perception + Self-consciousness = Experience or

Sentience + Thought = Experience

Yet, even this expanded formula for experience leaves out an important element of human experience. While the definition of sentience involves both feeling and perceiving, the feeling aspect of sentience is usually more literal in that we sensorial feel things rather than emotionally feel things. Yet, for humans the emotional aspect of feeling is an important if not essential element of our experience. So, our expanded formula for human experience should be:

Sentience + Thought + Emotion/Feeling = Experience

You may wonder why I included feelings along with emotions, that is because I make a distinction between feelings and emotions. Feelings are often more a part of our sentient self falling below the level of awareness of the self-conscious ego. Feeling can be viewed as a general attitudinal background for our experiences. We may feel safe, calm, relaxed, agitated, irritated, or anxious without necessarily being consciously aware of this underlying state.

Emotions, on the other hand, are generally more conscious reactions to these underlying feelings or a reactive response to others or events in our environment. As an example someone who is feeling uncomfortable may be more susceptible to becoming angry or harsh with others. While feelings are what we viscerally feel, emotions are literally what we emote.

Each of the above elements of our experience equation provides some richness and fullness that the other lacks or cannot provide. A rich maximized experience would be more than a thought in our head, or an emotion of our heart but a total integration of body, heart and mind or as our equation states an integration of sentience (sensorial perception), thought and emotion.

Often when walk, drive a car or engage in any habitual activity we go on a form of auto-pilot in which we act and function without necessarily being self-consciously aware of what we are doing. We usually have enough awareness to not run into another car, or not fall or hurt ourselves as we make adjustments to minor changes in the terrain such as curbs, tree roots, parking meters as we mindlessly walk along a new or unfamiliar landscape.

Yet, functioning on remote control, while functional, is far from maximizing our experience. Likewise, if I’m absorbed in petty thoughts regarding a huge list of things I plan on doing in the future while at that moment being disconnected from the food I’m eating or the scenery I’m walking along, I am once again far from engaging in my experience in a rich and fulfilling manner. Even deep and challenging thoughts can be a little thin in the experience department if not accompanied by poignant feelings and sensorial context.

It would seem obvious that fulfilling experience is more likely when it integrates all elements of human experience, and does so with each element open full throttle. The old image of an engine maximizing its speed potential by using all of it cylinders seems apt. So does the image of filling the bathtub through fully opening up all three faucets of sentience, thought and emotion.

It is important to keep in mind that more isn’t alway better. While full use of one’s thoughts, senses and perception, and feelings and emotions increases our potential for personal fulfillment and rich experience, it does not necessarily maximize our experience or produce lasting joy. Such cellular joy comes when one acts in a life affirming manner and remains sensitive to one’s personal wants and needs.

Despite the apparent obviousness that an exhaustive use of our mind, heart and body is better able to produce rich and full experience, this expansive approach towards happiness and fulfillment runs counter to millennia of human experience. A great deal of human history focused on reduction rather than expansion and the vestiges of that tendency still dominate modern society and its methods to live a meaningful and happy life.

The expansionist and reductionist ways of dealing with human experience both seem to be present in the life of early man. Earliest records show that man often did not feel to be the author of his own thoughts and feelings. More often than not even the most basic thought and feeling was considered to be a gift or curse of the gods. Early man often desired to flee this fragile sense of self by partaking in ceremonies and rituals whose goal was to achieve ecstasy, which literally meant to get beyond oneself. Despite this goal the ceremonies themselves were often expansive and integrative. One reached the ecstatic state, through chanting, dance, and participating in or observing emotionally and meaning laden operatic parts. While the participants routinely testified to reaching a unified state beyond individuality, they did retain enough awareness to experience this supposed state of fusion.

Yet, the tendency towards reducing experience was also present in the desire to make a distinction between the sacred and the profane, or the exceptional and the mundane. According to this viewpoint life was inherently meaningless or even sinful, and one’s only hope of finding solace and significance was through making contact with the holy or the sacred.

This need to transcend suffering, uncover the great mysteries of life, and create order out of chaos became the central goal of the majority of cultures and societies. Through time it became increasingly necessary to divorce oneself from some aspects or elements of human experience in order to uncover eternal truths, avoid sin, or obtain salvation or eternal life.

Many of our disciplines became very disparaging and mistrustful of our body and its sensory perceptions and emotions. Plato viewed physical and perceptual life as a deceptive illusion feeling that truth and perfection were found instead in ideas, ideals and concepts. Science likewise felt subjectivity and naive perception were obstacles to the acquiring of the underlying mathematically perfect laws that house absolute Truth. Scientific objectivity was acquired by reducing, stripping away, and isolating variables. Religion, spiritualism and mysticism likewise rejected the tangible and the beauty of human experience replacing it with transcendence, essence, spirit and alternate realities. Even the classical arts sought to find the skeleton of truth by reducing our experience to the mathematics of pure form and attempting to find the true laws of idyllic beauty.

This is not to say that the above reductionist tendency was a complete mistake or itself an illusion. Yet, the negative attitude towards integrated human experience, was often unnecessary and has had many unfortunate consequences. The important fact that each time the scientific method found human perception to be illusionary or false, it was corrected by another human perception is often missed. What was gained by objectivity and reductionism was somewhat nullified by the danger of our disrespecting and vilifying our emotional and sensorial world. When spirit and mathematical Truth is all that matters than it become increasingly less important to not poison the air, water and land, or where war, torture, rape and the quality of life of each sentient being becomes inconsequential or the means by which the good defeats evil.

Knowledge, wisdom and intimacy all involve the ability to see and feel things from a multitude of perspectives. We learn much when we reduce and focus our vision when using a microscope and we also often benefit by expanding our vision telescopically to see the big picture. Yet, joy is an expansive experience, and maximizing one’s experience is best accomplished by savoring and integrating all the elements of human experience. The human body is no less a marvel than the mind, and feelings are the spice of life without which joy is impossible. The body feels pleasure, the heart feels joy and the mind feels wonder, such is the incredible beauty of being human and the expansive full range of human experience.

Jim Guido

Ecology and Philosophy and Social Issues20 Apr 2016 09:28 am

Here are a few themes from early philosophy, science and religion which continue to influence our beliefs, attitudes and assumptions regarding truth, meaning and the nature of human existence.

Early philosophers such as Plato desired to anchor knowledge and meaning in the impermeable and eternal. While human experience was transitory and unstable ideas and concepts were true, fixed and universally valid. According to this view point ideas are real and valid while tangible objects are imperfect and relatively insignificant copies of reality.

The superiority of form and essence over the world of sensations and subjective perception was also found in the pure science of mathematics. Perfection, precision and universal law were revealed in the pure form of number and geometry. Certainty, truth, natural/universal law, and objective knowledge were attainable not through sensorial human experience but in revealing the underlying immutable form obtained through math.

All hard sciences from astronomy, to physics to medicine acquired objective knowledge and certainty in the realms of math and universal law which lay outside the subjective realms of sensation and perception. Truth, certainty and immutable fact were the sole property of pure form and essences garnered though math and objective experimentation, while human experience was deceptive at best if not entirely illusionary.

The belief that all human sensorial, emotional and perceptual experience was an illusion was fundamental to most spiritual practices such as Buddhism as well as a core tenet of the major salvation religions. All truth and certainty existed in the sacred and ideal space which lay underneath or beyond human experience. Pure knowledge, truth, certainty and universal law were acquired in the esoteric sacred worlds carved out by religion, philosophy and science.

Enlightenment, salvation and eternal life were attainable to only those brave, disciplined and clever enough to not become attached or deceived by the transitory sensorial world of mundane experience. The world of human experience was deemed an empty illusion bound to be dominated by physical and emotional pain and suffering haunted by the inevitability of death.

The denigration of human experience by making it an illusion, something to transcend or a necessary obstacle to gain access to truth, certainty and immortality carries with it many important ramifications and repercussions. The acquisition of certainty, truth and universal law through the creation of ideal and sacred space comes at a severe cost.

Through math and the scientific method we have satisfied our quest for certainty and truth by discovering and proving the immutable laws which govern our planet and the entire universe. These efficient laws of cause and effect determine that each and action and event have an opposite and equal reaction. So what might appear on the surface as novel or by chance is only an illusion fostered by our inability to see more than a sliver of reality. Yet, according to universal law there is no chance occurrence and every event is predetermined by the immutable laws of cause and effect.

When logically implemented this means that not only is every action I take just a link in the causal chain of the universe, but so is every thought I have or emotion that I experience since they are indeed events that occur inside of the universal frame work. In a world of universal law and cause and effect any perception of individual action, creation or choice is a complete subjective fiction.

The quest for certainty is just as strong in the realms of philosophy and religion as it is in the sciences. The idea of a perfect god or intelligent agent which created the universe is extremely common. It is the nature of a perfect god to create all that is good and perfect. Thus creation must to be perfect, immutable and follow a specific destiny.

It is, therefore, not surprising that most religions have the initial creation being perfect and ideal such as the garden of Eden. The one variable allowed in the realm of religion is that man was created with a free will. So while man was born in harmony with god, he had the ability think on his own. Yet, since god was all good the only way man was able to demonstrate his freedom was to willfully do other than god. Yet, if god is perfect any deviation from his ways would be imperfect and wrong and, therefore, a sin.

In essence the only way man could distinguish himself from god and exercise the gift of free will was to sin and be cast out of the perfect garden and live a live filled with suffering, pain and death. From that moment of original sin on, the entire goal of human existence was to try to seek god’s forgiveness and regain eternal life by subjugating himself to the will of god.

The quest for certainty, immortality and perfection is often born of man’s fear of death and the desire to escape pain and suffering. In philosophy and spirituality one is often guided to transcend the harsh reality of life and to take refuge into his underlying perfect essence. While one can’t prevent the body from pain, suffering and death one can transcend the illusion of the sensorial experience finding solace in enlightenment or place all their focus on their inner immutable and immortal essence, soul, mind or spirit.

While much of the above is no longer explicitly stated many of our beliefs, assumptions and attitudes towards ourselves and the world in general are highly influenced by the tacit vestiges of our need to find meaning in life through truth, certainty, and absolutes. Though for many of us human existence is no longer synonymous with pain and suffering, we still feel a need to find meaning and solace in transcendental realities and universal truths, which marginalize and often demonize our sensorial perceptual subjective experience.

No matter how comfortable and pleasurable our sensorial world, we still have a tendency to view it as an illusion or an empty seduction. The abstract immutable world of spirit, mind, consciousness and soul are still considered by most to be both separate from the body and immutable and immortal. This being the case we still place little value on the importance and significance of physical and sensorial pleasure, in comparison to that of ideals, beliefs, absolutes, concepts and transcendental realities.

This could at least partially explain why we show little regard for the physical, emotional, psychological welfare of those who do not believe as we do. The general disregard for the physical body also explains why we so readily pollute our water, air and land despite all the evidence of its harm on our health, quality of life and physical survival.

We are children of Plato when we revere and glorify ideas and abstract thought as more important and essential than the care and protection of the human body and all its sensorial experiences. Our obsession with mind, spirit and pure consciousness is very harmful when it is divorced from its connection to and dependence on the physical body.

An integrated view of human life finds joy and happiness in the perceptual, emotional, visceral and psychological realms of human experience. Rather than transcending the body we can delight in embracing our humanity. Rather than looking for immutable truth which renders life predestined and predetermined, we can enjoy the human potential to discover, invent, learn and process.

Eternal truth and universal law provide ultimate meaning and immortality at the expense of the value and richness of an individual whose choices and joys are truly real, valuable and self-determined. I do not find what is abstractly gained through Truth, Certainty and Universal Law to be greater than what it is lost by becoming a predestined creature whose every action is just the unfolding of a fated script written either by god’s will or the law of cause and effect.

The choice isn’t between Certainty and Chaos, or complete order and randomness. Our existence is an extremely nuanced blend of givens and possibilities. There are basic laws of nature expressed as limits and conditions such as my need for oxygen to breathe, or that I will die without food and water. We know that genetics as well as naturally occurring events can exert varying amounts of influence in our moment-to-moment thoughts, feelings and decisions.

Humanity’s current self-destructive path seems to be fueled by our blatant disregard of the importance, significance and beauty of sensorial/perceptual life. The more we accept the fact that matter matters, that our bodies and our environment are central to all our experiences of joy, pleasure, love and meaning, the more dedicated when can become to sustaining and improving the quality of life of all organic life.

Philosophy and Psychology and Relationships17 Feb 2016 09:06 am

The following is the introduction from my book Exploring Intimacy which can be accessed by clicking on the words tab. The entire book is available for your perusal and I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

INTRODUCTION

Throughout most of my life there has been an attitudinal thread running through me. All my thoughts, actions and feelings have come together to form one unified view of life. This unified view forms the basis of my theory of intimacy.

This theory tends to all the major questions of life including, what is love, where do I find meaning, how can I be happy, and how can I derive the most from my moment to moment experiences?

The basic views outlined in this book were initially formed as early as high school but began to take shape and become organized in my early twenties. Since then I have been pleasantly surprised to see how my earliest intuitions have been validated through all I have read and experienced throughout the years.

While other people I knew created their ideal world around religious beliefs, love, faith, or psychological/philosophical schools of thought, I instead found myself drawn to a very practical way of looking at and appreciating my experiences. This attitude soon found a name, that being intimacy.

In my life intimacy has been more than a catch word or a vague feeling, for me it is a basic orientation towards life. It is what motivates and propels me towards the future. This book is an introduction to the very program of my existence.

In a society as fast paced and media oriented as ours a word or idea can become popular very quickly. The term intimacy, seldom used before the late sixties, has become quite fashionable over the last few decades. Once the sole property of poets and a gentile substitute for more direct sexual descriptions, intimacy is now a term used by almost everyone.

References to intimacy are common in magazines, novels, and self-help books. Psychiatrists, psychologists and many other therapeutic professionals refer to human intimacy in almost everything they say. Radio and television talk shows donate entire programs to the discussion of the relative merits of intimacy. Instead of talking politics, or exchanging local gossip, friends now often evaluate the amount of intimacy in their lives, or discuss the “intimate” details of their latest relationship.

Intimacy is most often described as something desired and desirable. Many individuals and therapists make intimacy a goal, something to attain which will enrich one’s life. Yet, like many popular terms, the meaning of intimacy is taken for granted. We use the term like we all know what it means. Seldom does anyone ever define the term, and if so they usually do it in a demeaning way, (as if only an insensitive moron would not know the meaning of the word).

The lack of a clear definition is occasionally recognized as a problem. Yet, instead of providing a definition of what intimacy is, people generally choose to end the confusion by stating what it is not. A common example of this would be that sexual intimacy is not just having sex.

Sex, though a popular form of intimacy, is not the only recognized area of intimacy. One often hears of people “hiding their most intimate secrets”, or sharing their “most intimate dreams”. Desire, love, religious piety, personal beliefs and dreams are all viewed as being proper arenas of intimacy.

What is the beauty of intimacy which makes it such an attractive and desired element in our lives? Why are people who claim to have found and attained intimacy in their lives envied and doubted? Why and how has intimacy become a litmus test for personal happiness, and a pre-requisite for achieving self-fulfillment?

These questions lead us to reconsider our perceptions of intimacy, and our views of someone considered to be an intimate person. Though we function under no clear definition of intimacy we do have some pretty strong ideas of the type of people leading intimate lives.

An intimate person is viewed as being open, caring and sensitive, able to see and work on the shortcomings in himself, while recognizing and openly complimenting the strengths of others. An intimate person accepts and gives love without strings being attached and is devoted to those he loves. Women are generally viewed as being more inclined towards intimacy, and often complain about the boorish nature of men and their inability to even appreciate intimacy let alone live it.

The preceding sketchy outline of an intimate person may seem a bit narrow and idealized, but that is what happens when we do not define terms we use. Love, like intimacy, is a word we have trivialized and trampled to death. Yet, the short amount of time we have abused the term intimacy allows us an opportunity to restore the dignity the word deserves.

Intimacy, like love, is much more than a word like boat which names a specific object. Intimacy is a concept articulating an entire stance towards life. Also like love, it is a force we desire to engulf our lives, a worthy goal of the human spirit.

In Exploring Intimacy, we will not only define intimacy, but explore it. We will look at how our current views of intimacy were formed and how this view could shape and be altered by our future. Most importantly we will try to become intimate with intimacy itself, we will look at it, sniff it, and devour each tasty morsel it has to offer.
We will see how our desire to be intimate pervades every aspect of our lives and potentially influences each individual thought we have or action we take. Our investigation into intimacy will involve more than a discussion of sexual relationships, or even friendships in general. Our exploration will be into all relationships we have, including those we have with ourselves, nature, spirituality, art and knowledge.

Leading an intimate life is a never ending task, complex and challenging. No one person’s life is devoid of intimacy. Nor is anyone’s life unable to be made more intimate. The more we know about a specific subject or object the more intimate we can become with that person or thing. Intimacy is infinite because there is no limit to the number of ways we can view even the most mundane object. In this book intimacy will be found to be a pervasive force and an on-going approach at the very heart of human experience.

Philosophy and Psychology20 May 2015 10:55 am

The better people can predict and understand their surroundings the more likely their continued survival. This fact underlies our age old desire to answer the question why and propels our interest in science, religion and philosophy or any other inquiry increasing our knowledge of ourselves, others and nature. Our desire to survive and have a good life underpins our inclination to make sense of things and create societies providing justice, freedom and protection.

Humankind has spent a great deal of time and energy searching for ways to mentally and emotionally cope with and understand death, suffering, disease and physical harm. People have theorized many reasons why people die or endure great suffering and misfortune. In myth, religion and mysticism we find many roots of misfortune. Sometimes it was a form of punishment due to the breaking of a law, taboo or divine interdiction. At other times misfortune came to one due to a curse placed on oneself or one’s ancestors, or as a result of magic. At other times it was attributed to a stain or contamination that has occurred, often without one’s direct knowledge. Vestiges of such ancient explanations remain in modern times in theories and beliefs regarding of sin, karma and the existence of evil.

While death is hard to accept under any circumstance it was and is particularly difficult to deal with when it pertains to the young and innocent. Humankind has always struggled to explain and justify the death or disability of a young child or infant. Death may be inevitable, but suffering and misfortune do not happen to everyone, and man has often had a hard time justifying why bad things happen to good people.

The great majority of misfortune and suffering was observed to be beyond the powers of human control and intervention. Therefore, it was common to hand over the reasons and causes of death and calamity to beings with powers which greatly superseded the capabilities of humans.

People all over the globe formed belief systems on how best to protect oneself from the ill will of higher powers. Aligning oneself with, winning the favor of, appeasing, placating, or even sometimes fooling the powers or gods became the general means of insuring oneself a favorable fate and averting suffering and misfortune. Some cultures focused on making sacrifices to the gods, others on learning the ways of power and controlling them through magic and sorcery, others focused on the benefits of revering and begging the mercy of the powerful spirits.

While humankind as a whole was not able to completely overcome the capriciousness of ill fortune, individuals and sometimes entire tribes could engage in activities and rituals which brought them good fortune or averted suffering or “unnecessary” harm. Religion and spirituality are full of legends, stories, allegories and myths which describe events and strategies of heroes, gods and common people who have found the means of averting danger and soliciting good fortune.

The gods of greek and roman mythology shared many of the same traits and emotions as the humans that worshipped them. The apparent capriciousness and irrationality of fate was made understandable when controlled by beings that lusted, had pride, were vain and had a need to be revered and adored. The human quality of the gods, while making them less reliable and consistent, made it possible for the faithful to find ways to win their favor or have them intervene on their behalf. So, the myths of roman and greek gods both explained why fate was often so cruel and filled with suffering, and at the same time offered a means by which people could improve their lot in life through worship, heroes, and rites and rituals.

In monotheistic religions or those that focused on a sole creator the supreme power seldom retained any weaknesses, fallibilities or human personality traits. The creator God was all powerful, perfect and good. Many of the creation gods were also promised eternal life and salvation for all of the faithful that lived a good life. In this way the injustices of fate were often made tolerable by the fact that eternal life awaited those who remained devoted and faithful to God and his wishes. While prayer could occasionally result in divine intervention, even ill fortune and injustice suffered in this life would be rectified in the here after.

While an all good and perfect God may be both worthy of worship and the title of divinity, there are numerous drawbacks for the faithful. If God is perfect and all good, than anything wrong in the world in due to our fallible and sinful nature. A perfect god is incapable of capricious, petty or malicious behavior. Any perception on our part of injustice is either born of our ignorance or as just recompense for some offense we have committed.

If god is perfect, then so is his creation, and since we are the only creature bestowed with a free will, than all sin and fault is ours and ours alone. When God and his creation are perfect and good then the irony of having a free will is that the only way we can express our individuality is through doing something un-godlike and imperfect (sinful). If we put everything that we did, think and feel that differed from a perfect god into a bag, its contents would only consist of error, sin, stupidity, vanity and all other forms of imperfection and non-goodness. So, while we are told that we are made in God’s image, our entire individuality is expressed in the negative, in sin and in evil.

Belief systems involving a perfect God usually include a story of the fall of man in which evil entered the world and the idyllic relationship between God and man was severed. Often this severed relationship is when evil entered the world, and permanently stained all generations of man with this original sin.

I’m not saying that the above is explicitly stated by all religions and belief systems involving a perfect God. Yet, the conclusions reached are the logical ramifications and implications inherent in a perfect God of which I am not the first to recognize or state. In fact, the belief that man’s nature is basically sinful and base has often been expressed by prophets, sages, saints and holy men throughout the world as reason and need for us to obey and praise God as well explaining why we should never question him/her.

When accepting the existence if a perfect god there are only two answers to the question, “why do babies die?” One answer is that it is a mystery that far surpasses our feeble and imperfect understanding. The second answer is that it is our fault that babies die due to our natures and that all suffering and evil entered into the world through our thoughts, actions and feelings.

Our belief in a perfect god comes with a price to our own sense of worth and value. A child who is told by their parent that they are sinful and evil and that they have nothing to offer but obedience seldom ends up being a healthy, loving and productive adult. So how does our sinful view of ourselves induced by our revering a perfect god impact the way we live and feel about ourselves and our ability to solve social problems and live in harmony with others?

If we have a free will it should be viewed and exercised in a way in which we can be happy with ourselves and harmonious with our contemporaries and with nature. Our choice shouldn’t be between arrogant pride and self-degradation, or between conceit and subservience. Admitting that we are limited and fallible does not mean that we are incompetent or toxic, but only that we are vulnerable and are capable of making things worse as well as making things better.

Jim Guido

Philosophy and Psychology and Social Issues15 May 2015 06:35 pm

When putting together a list of the greatest inventions of humankind, the wheel is always near the top. The wheel is considered to be one the most versatile and important tools used in a host of settings. Along with the lever, the wheel is best known for its ability to assist us in getting work done. A fraction of the amount of work and effort is involved by wheeling things around as opposed to lifting and carrying. Almost every form of human transport whether it be used for work, commerce or battle involves machines utilizing the wheel. The wheel has deserved the title of being the most essential and basic tool in human labor and in our ability to do work, efficiently, safely and quickly.

While the wheel is the quintessential symbol of work, the ball is the most familiar and ubiquitous tool of play. We humans never tire of kicking, throwing, batting, dribbling, striking, hitting, paddling, spinning and rolling balls. Many games and sports involve contacting the ball directly while others hit the ball with an utensil specifically designed for the game or activity. While balls and spheres can be used for work as well as play, they are generally associated with play.

One could make a case for the ball being just as useful as the wheel, and just as prevalent in the lives of every person. Yet, the fact that the ball is equated with play as in “having a ball” or “take me out to the ball game”, and the wheel with work as in “have your shoulder to the wheel” makes the wheel seem more important. Our society has a tendency to glorify and value work while belittling play as being trite and superficial.

Yet, when one looks at the fight for survival in the animal kingdom play is just as important as work. Each predator and prey spends the bulk of their childhood learning their basic survival skill set through play. Human children too spend the bulk of their developmental years learning the basic skills of being human through play. Play dominates learning, growing and development in humans and animals. Play also is at the center of bonding and relationship building in all societies be they human or animal.

The typical ball is a sphere, a complete three-dimensional globe measuring 360 degrees. If you were to strip away a good portion of a ball leaving a narrow tread you would be left with a ball. In essence a wheel is just a mutilated ball with a relatively narrow tread. While a ball is able to go in any direction with complete ease, the wheel can only go backward and forward and needs specific steering mechanism to alter its course.

A wheel is linear and predictable and, therefore, ideal for work and repetitive tasks. A ball is omnidirectional and spontaneous and perfect for play and inventiveness. Our culture’s bias favoring work while viewing play as trivial or something one outgrows is what prevents the ball from being viewed as an important invention or human accomplishment. I for one think that work is overrated and that play is truly an essential ingredient in the quality of life and human fulfillment.

So stop being a fifth wheel, and start having a ball.

Philosophy30 Oct 2014 10:59 pm

The experience of pleasure has played a key role in human history and development. Pleasure is crucial to our desire for sex, food, friendships, community, and appreciation of nature and our environment. Pleasure is the template for happiness, joy and meaning.

In general pleasure has guided us towards things that insure our survival such as sex and food, and fosters our desire for friendship, community and appreciation of nature and our environment. Displeasure and pain on the other hand guide us away from things which endanger, injure, poison, disable us or restrict our quality of life.

Pleasure is at the core of our ability to both survive and to thrive. Throughout human history pleasure has led us towards life affirming behavior, while pain has averted us from life threatening and destructive events.

Non-sentient and even molecular life seems to have mechanisms that promote pleasure and survival and avert pain and extinction. The vestiges or precursors to pleasure are visible in the reflex reaction of a cell’s shrinking back from a dangerous or foreign substance and gravitating or incorporating a life affirming stimuli or substance.

While the pleasure/pain economy has been very efficient, it is by no means an infallible or perfect mechanism. Adaptations to dramatic or novel changes in the environment can trick the pleasure mechanism or cause it to fail in its ability to avoid or adapt to life threatening situations and events.

Our pleasure and pain economy does have a learning curve and since it is structured in our nervous system and body often takes generations to successfully adapt and incorporate new tastes in pleasure and pain. Just as our immune system takes time to adapt to a new germ, virus or bacteria to which we are being exposed.

We have pain and pleasure thresholds, in which both have acceptable ranges. We have all had the experience of a pleasurable experience being taken to excess in which the pleasurable experience crosses the threshold and becomes unpleasant if not painful.

Pain too often has a threshold that once passed we either lose consciousness or our body discharges powerful anesthetics into our system. Yet, our threshold of pain often provides us a warning system that offers us opportunities to improve our health or widen our capacities. The pain involved in exercise and physical exertion are often guide posts we can use that if we stay inside the thresholds we improve our abilities, immune system, or over all health.

Our conscious selves can change at a far greater speed than our organic selves, and to a large extent our pleasure/pain continuum is dominated by our organic selves. This ability for consciousness to grow and change at speeds that greatly surpass the organic self can lead to our conscious self duping or causing our pleasure economy to fail or give false signals.

Many substances and experiences which stimulate the pleasure response have a long history of being life enhancing or replicate the chemicals the body produces to have us feel pleasure, joy, connection, etc. Yet, our conscious abilities allow us to alter, distill, manipulate, modify, combine and increase the frequency and dosage of these substances and events which can result in our developing unhealthy and even life threatening compulsions and addictions. This fact has led us to over react, to mistrust or sometimes vilify our bodies pleasure signals.

This tendency of conscious mind to subvert and pervert our pleasure/pain economy has resulted in our devaluing or fearing pleasure and our organic self. The long history of human existence has been filled with much pain and suffering which has also induced self-conscious beings into sometimes choosing anesthesia over pleasure. This desire to over come suffering by becoming physically numb and emotionally detached is at the core of every major religion and spiritual practice.

Sense and Self-Consciousness

Through the instinctual, reflexive and ever evolving pleasure/pain mechanism (dynamic) our sensorial organic self (body) was able to be guided to make increasingly successful life affirming decisions. Over the course of time these decisions not only insured the survival of our species though successful adaptation, but created increasingly complex and rich experience.

Our sensorial world of pleasure and pain induced ever increasing awareness of our inner and outer world. Senses such as taste and touch had pronounced internal components. Our skin through the sense of touch was a major way in which we took in and interfaced with the world. Yet, an internal sense of touch put us in contact with our visceral selves. This is the sense of satiation and completion from food and water, or the warning pain of a head or stomach ache.

The sensation of taste occurs in our mouth and is felt inside our body. While we occasionally experience a taste in our mouth, the sense of taste is generally activated by the taking in of life from the outside world.

Smell is very associated and a companion of our sense of taste. While we experience smell inside our body we are very aware of its external origins and in fact we feel that we are smelling the rose as it exists outside of our nose and nostrils. Similar to smell we hear noises from the outside even though we experience them internally through the ear. Yet, we often can hear noises from inside the body such as our breathing, heartbeat, growling stomach or even creaking bones. In this manner of internal awareness hearing bears a strong resemblance to our sense of touch.

Our sense of sight is the most abstract and spatial of our senses. While many of our other senses directly affect and alter our real inner world, our sense of vision gives depth to all the other senses by having them orient all experience in the highly articulated world of the outside environment.

With our keen sense of vision we can plan, take evasive action, manipulate, prepare and imagine in ways which no other sense can come close to replicating. The closest rival does seem to hearing and is often the most developed sense of any one deprived of good vision.

Our sense of smell became less valuable to us as we became bipeds which stood erect and vertically open to the world rather than on all fours and being focused on the ground beneath us. So while the growing richness of our senses increased our awareness of our environment, changes in biological design such as our becoming two footed runners and observers of our horizons probably had a greater impact on the development and predominance of our self-consciousness (mind).

There appear to many factors that led to our amazing level of self-consciousness and intellectual acuity. A few of the factors would include the already mentioned standing erect, along with opposable thumbs and the evolution of the brain especially the neocortex. Our ability to articulate and unfold self-consciousness is difficult to imagine occurring without the accelerated growth in all forms of symbolic language especially that of words.

Moderns have difficulty imagining quality experience devoid of thought, or quality thought devoid of language (words). Yet, it reasonable to assume that man started off with a very small vocabulary similar to how children learn spoken language today. One would think that a very restricted vocabulary would have a difficult time producing a large volume of thoughts and that their occurrence was not the continual stream that we moderns have become accustomed to experiencing. I personally have a recollection of early childhood where events, play and fantasy dominated and did not seem to be so thought and word dependent. Also, our translations of the writing of ancient greeks (and others) are filled with examples of citizens who expressed surprise and discomfort for even the most mundane of thoughts and emotions usually denying any ownership of them and viewing them as coming from outside or a gift from the gods.

As sensorial awareness become richer and self-consciousness expanded due to factors such as brain and language development the emotional and psychological life of men was born and became increasingly dominant. The emergence of self-consciousness made us aware of the passage of time and of our having a personal history. We increasingly went from a body responding and reacting to external and internal stimuli to a consciousness planning, anticipating, hoping, regretting, feeling, desiring and searching for meaning in what we did and thought.

Conceptual and Physical Pleasure

The sensorial body is generally locked in the here and now. The pleasure pain mechanisms helped guide this body towards life affirming behavior and experiences and away from harmful or life threatening ones. The birth and development of self-consciousness aided the body in its goal of survival by giving it more options to alter and modify its environment, while expanding its abilities and resources to defend itself and acquire life’s necessities.

Self-consciousness and its rich emotional and psychological life developed its own pleasure and pain system which guided its desire to survive and flourish. Pleasurable emotional and psychological states such as loyalty, attachment, love and self-care were balanced by painful one’s such as mourning, anxiety, and anger which often aided in personal survival.

The mind and thoughts kinship with the sense of sight aided in its ability to imagine (images) and envision the possible and thereby assist in its altering or influencing the immediate environment. The ability to harbor and access the past, see the present from a global perspective, and anticipate the future gave self-conscious a tremendous advantage in the ability to survive and successfully adapt to one’s surroundings.

Self-consciousness was able to not only assist the sensorial body, but also to invent, create and imagine pleasures beyond the scope and design of the sensorial body. When pain and suffering became too great the mind was learning how to cope with, escape or even transmute suffering through imagination and belief.

The desire to escape pain and suffering through the creative powers of the mind became a vital component of the belief systems, myths and religions of almost every culture on the face of the earth. This overcoming of pain and suffering could be accomplished through salvation, revelation, enlightenment, a promise of of life after death, or esthetic practices of emotional detachment.

The overcoming of pain and suffering by transcending the body and its vulnerable sensorial world has been on the ascent for many centuries. The body and its world of successful functioning through pleasure and pain has been supplanted by an abstract world of belief and mind over matter.

Yet, abstract pleasure is not as rich as sensorial pleasure and self-consciousness combined. An imagined juicy peach is not as satisfying and pleasurable as eating a real peach. While imagined pleasure can be beneficial it truly cannot replace our very real needs for food, water and air.

The abstract pleasures of mind divorced from the sensorial body are quite beneficial and often necessary means of our being able to cope and deal with great pain and suffering. Yet, one is currently not in a state of suffering the taking flight into mind weakens our experiences and deprives us of all the millennia of benefits of what our sensorial body has learned of how to survive and flourish. No matter how self-conscious we become our sensorial bodies are what have us successfully live and function in the real world at a reaction speed far faster than we can think and make self-conscious decisions.

Spirituality and The Flesh

The belief that the body is a burden or a necessary hurdle on one’s journey towards heaven, nirvana, or some other form of eternal union is at the heart of many religions and spiritual practices. The belief that some essence called spirit will survive the death of the body, and in the case of reincarnation return again and again in new bodies until perfection is reached, and in the end will end up in a state of union for all eternity is extremely common.

The blissful state of this ultimate union is too refined for the gross sensorial body chained to the world of attached pleasure and pain. This spiritual state beyond pleasure and pain demonstrates the desire if not glorification of anesthesia.

The fear of pain and suffering is greater than the rich joys that are only able to be attained through the sensorial body. The unity and connection often espoused at the heart of spiritual practices is by definition bodiless. It is a unity of spirit or consciousness and not a physical connection or a rich sensorial pleasure such as the peach, but rather only the thought of the peach, or love, or actual connection.

Our sensorial body is very aware of physical connection and our consciousness can find no other analog to use. We should not find this surprising since the process of mind is born from the interaction of environment, body, nervous system and brain. All of our imagining are structured in the real world of the sensorial body, and all our conceptual pleasures of spirituality are structured in that very same rich and abundant sensorial world.

Spiritualists often make the universe as the ultimate source of our connection. The grand universe shows how we are all one. Our concept of universe is very similar to the monotheistic vision of a one god or creator that unifies and is everything. In either case most modern spiritualism emphasizes connection through the unity of the one “uni-verse” (uni meaning one).

I personally find the universe too abstract to be my source of connection. The universe is far too large for me to “feel”. The universe and God for that matter are beyond the constructs of our mind and its capacities for comprehension. The unfathomable dimensions of the universe do not inspire intimate connection, and the fact that the vast overwhelming majority of space is dead and devoid of any life (even molecular) is not warm and fuzzy but actually frightening.

Why would anyone make something so cold, distant, empty and unfathomable the very template and rationale for connection and unity? Why do people so readily seek connection out there, rather than right here? In many ways it replicates our connecting to others via cell phones and internet while ignoring family and friends at the restaurant we are at.

The universe for me is not a great image for unity and connection, but rather an inexhaustible source of awe and wonder. My source of connection is not found way out there, but rather right here. As I noted earlier, our sensorial bodies are intimately aware of the interconnection and interdependency of life.

I take in a bit of the world in every inhalation and return a bit of me in every exhalation. My connection and dependence on the world is obvious in every breath I take. My entire sensorial world full of pleasure and physical challenges is a dance of perpetual interdependence. My body is a host of interacting systems and generally harmonious colonies of microbes without which my life would not
continue.

I am fashioned by every interaction I have with another person, and every conversation I partake in. In many ways it is the divorcing and separation of self-consciousness itself which is at the source of our feeling of being disconnected. A sensorial body aided by self-conscious ego is capable of creating a tangible intimate existence. Not just an abstract union but a very real corporeal and rich intimacy.

Spirituality and religion are steeped in abstract language where the goal is radical change showing deep dissatisfaction with mundane life. Spiritual and religious texts goals often involve transformation, salvation and enlightenment, where the goal is the transcendence of mundane life, the sensorial body and the extinction of the individual ego.

I personally want to find better ways to appreciate, savor and intimately engage in life. I do not desire making everything one, but relish in the plenitude and diversity of our lush planet teeming with life. I see little benefit and great loss by trying to reduce life to a singularity. I seek no ultimates, certainties or eternal truths but rather look to embrace and enjoy the endless process of becoming more familiar, comfortable and intimate with my environment and the people who share it with me.

Government and Music and Philosophy and Poetry and Politics and Social Issues03 Aug 2014 10:54 am

The following is the lyrics and reverie for Deus Ex Machina a song of mine which will be released as a track on the album I’m Just Saying later this week.

Deus Ex Machina

Deus ex Machina is literally “the god machine”. In ancient Greek tragedies it was a device used at the end of the play to save the day through divine intervention to extricate the lead characters from sure and utter ruin.

In this song a strong proud woman is counseled to remain patient despite the fact that the speed of life is seemingly careening out of control. The counsel of her contemporaries seem to suggest that she should take solace in her beliefs and that soon her prayers will be answered by a last minute appearance of the god machine. We moderns are likewise being asked to trust that through our faith in religion, spirituality, technology or science will be plucked out of the immanent disaster our current path seems to be on.

In the late 60’s Buckminster Fuller published a book entitled Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. The book focused on how the earth is essentially a huge spaceship with a limited amount of resources which cannot be resupplied. All of the life on this self-contained ship traveling through space is fragile and mutually dependent on each other for its continued survival.

Our blatant over use of finite resources such as oil, and our continual polluting of our air and water since his book was released bear comparison to the way the characters in the old greek plays ignored the prophesies of the savants in the tragedies. Our foolhardiness becomes even more obvious when we take the analogy between the earth and a giant space ship a little further.

Imagine the fate of the Star Ship Enterprise or some other city sized spaceship, if they allowed their water and air supply to be polluted and toxic. In addition, imagine the repercussions if they routinely had battles between different sectors of the ship in which passengers were killed and their living environment (hardware) were destroyed. How long would the voyage last?

The interdependence of organic and sentient life is a functional and practical reality, while our concepts of nation, political ideology, belief and judgment are relatively arbitrary. Without trees we could not breathe, nor could our bodies function and survive without germs and bacteria. The kill of be killed philosophy which dominates our modern world view is misguided and untenable. Strategies of how to coexist should not be relegated to the realm of utopia or idealism, for they are essential to our continual survival.

Words of hope, promise, and national or ethnic superiority pale in comparison to the importance of actions which increase the quality of life for all the inhabitants of space ship earth. The earth is a lush and vibrant planet due more to the ability of organic life to cooperate, adapt, harmonize and thrive than for its ability for individual organisms to defeat and destroy other organisms. While each individual organism must eat or perish, they also depend on the overall health and expansion of all life on the planet for their continued existence.

People turn a blind eye to the atrocities done in their name, or even defend, justify and support the actions of governments which are destroying people and nature. We are endangered by nuclear warheads and accidents, the degradation and increased toxicity of our water and air, the destruction of arable land and the overuse of non replenish-able resources. The earths growing population and advances in technology have created the opportunity for us to have killed and caused more human suffering than any previous empire on earth. We have killed millions upon millions of innocents under the ironic and absurd pretext of giving people their freedom.

So should we be like the ancient Greeks and still pin our hopes on divine intervention or the eleventh hour appearance of a god machine?

The earth has successfully dealt with every crisis it has faced. Despite the fact that life has always been fragile and survival has always been a reality, life on our planet has not only persisted but flourished. The earth is the only blue/green planet that our science has been able to find, so our planet had to do something right in order to create and support organic life. All we have to do is tap into and continue the tradition of our flourishing planet.

Deus Ex Machina

Deluge of broken comedies, the joker licks the steam
Laura struggles to make it better puts her pride in relief
The treadmill keeps moving faster all is on the increase
Before you slip into the chasm enter the god machine

Keep your toes on the line don’t trip on that line, trip on that line
Your hopes are in the future, so they tell you, so they tell you
So they tell you, so they sell you all will be improve a little later
Running cold, running bold, running blind, can you set the pace?

Lunge onward in darkness blindfolded by the mask of innocence
Walk softly pretty lady have faith in the guiding hand
Take a sleep on stony ground, not much you can do with this land
Listen safe to the deep voice that tells you what lies below

It’s cold, so cold and shady but a few yards yonder lies a brook
You can rest there for awhile, rest there lover
All looks so bleak, the edge of defeat, have faith in some alien god machine
Kiss the treasure the golden dream for here comes the god machine

Adorable god of fortune is late upon the scene
Make me shiver in wonder of your awesome majesty
Pluck us from the danger, the climactic deed
If you’re made of plaster what awaits sweet destiny?

Golden idol of reason celestial or divine
Save us at eleven before our last midnight
All looks so bleak, the edge of defeat, have faith in some alien god machine
Kiss the treasure the golden dream for here comes the god machine
Deus ex machina
Enter the god machine
Deus ex machina

Philosophy and Psychology and Social Issues03 Aug 2013 05:47 pm

The ability for us to document our lives and track our personal history is increasing on an almost daily basis. We can now take real time photos, videos and voice recordings with assorted hand held devices which we can carry with us at all times. We can take notes, do research, text, email and communicate with others most anytime and anyplace.

Most recent events can be recalled by this documentation or found via a research engine in a matter of moments as long as we can remember a few keywords. If I forget the name of a song I heard or a movie I once saw I can find it on-line as long as I can remember anything from a line of dialogue or lyric, to a band or actor name or some other minor fragment that relates to the work. 


All my essays, lyrics, poems, books and songs that I have documented through and on various mediums from computer, to this website to more dated technologies such as notebooks, typewritten manuscript or tape recorder are there for my perusal. Some of the information and data I remember with great clarity, some of it triggers or reconstitutes the old thoughts, feelings and memories and some of it was all but forgotten. Yet, due to all this documentation it is there for me to embrace and include in my sense of self and personal history.


An integrative aspect of memory is the concept of time. While clocks have been with us for centuries, our functional awareness of the hour, minute and even the second has been growing exponentially over the last century or so. We our surrounded, encapsulated and imbedded in chronological time. Our ability to document our memories with precisely noted time is becoming second nature.


All that I have documented becomes cemented in the historical me. It is all part of my sense of continuity and becomes incorporated in that lived consistency we call the ego. My memory aided by all the technological documentation deepens my sense of personal growth and development and my pride in being an ever evolving unique and relatively consistent individual.


The fast paced life we live, in which we are exposed to more information in a day then the majority of our ancestors experienced in their lifetime places a heavy burden on our memory and the mental storage of our lives and thoughts. This massive amount of facts, social interactions, perceptions, sensations and reflections is almost impossible to store in our short and long term memory banks. Our desire to manage, organize and retrieve this information is causing us to find better and more efficient ways to outsource our memory through many of the documentation mediums mentioned above.


Without our usage of these various mediums of documentation and storage our sense of personal history and sense of self would be far more limited. Many memories of past experiences, thoughts and feelings would fade, mutate or be lost completely. Even things as basic as how we looked, what we wore, items we owned even places we frequented would wither and often dissolve without the assistance of photos, diaries, letters and various other forms of documentation which crystalizes our existence for us to review.


The value and importance of memory is almost impossible to over emphasize. Our sense of self and the meaning we derive from life is almost completely dependent on memory and the flow and consistency it provides our existence. I can suffer many physical injuries and still remain Jim Guido. 


My social and personal identity is not endangered by sickness, loss of physical prowess or even the loss of a limb. In extreme cases such events and occurrences could alter or modify my self-image, but they would not extinguish it. As long as my memory stays in tact, and my ability to retrieve and take ownership of documented history survives, my sense of identity remains and my life story continues on unabated.


Yet, as in the case of dementia or Alzheimer’s, when memory fades and can be lost forever, the sense of self can wane and die long before the body. At some critical point of mental decay the person we knew is gone, and the ghost inside the body is no longer someone we recognize. The eyes become vacant and time has shrunk to the immediate. Anticipation, reflection, savoring and relishing, love, gratitude and simple recognition all belong to the world of memory and time. 


Anyone who espouses the beauty of “living in the moment” and bewails “the babbling ego” which distracts one from the present is glossing over the vital role that the past and future play in the very act of cognition and appreciation. If I truly lived in the moment, there would be no memory and no documentation. Duration gives experience depth, significance and meaning. Memory is duration personified.


Our modern world is rife with technologies of expression and documentation which provide the potential for us to have very rich lives. We can remember and savor so much of our experience, and make the past within arms length ever ready to enrich our lives and fortify our sense of development and history. The various forms of tangible documentation increase the intimacy we have with others, ourselves and our surroundings filling our existence with meaning and significance.


Yet, the various forms of instantaneous communication available also pose a threat to memory, meaning and the richness born of reflection. The constant need to be online, plugged in, and on the grid can have us obsess with the fear of missing the very next moment or event. 


Our constant taking photos distances us from the very experience we are documenting, making us more observer than participant. A person unable to unplug, stop streaming, texting and engaging in the technologies is a person who has no time to reflect, savor and weave their memories into the fabric of their internal lives. Such a person is locked in the temporal present and is missing the beauty of integrating the past and present thereby deepening one’s memory and developmental history.


One wonders if our increasing dependence on the external mediums of documentation are weakening rather than aiding and supporting our internal memory. Is our internal memory like a muscle that needs to be exercised and challenged to function at optimal efficiency and avoid premature entropy? The brain which in many ways is the skeleton of mind may in deed be in need of the synaptic exercise to retain the very pathways which forge memory. 


With the specter of dementia still fresh in our minds lets take a moment to ponder the way we manufactured the acquiring of memory with less tangible documentation. Two of the most primitive means of tangible documentation were drawing and the written language. Before the emergence of written language the exchange of information, and the process of teaching and learning was accomplished orally. This pre-literate world we still can observe in children and oral cultures which have resisted the adoption or at least total reliance on the written word.


Cultures that held on to oral traditions or had difficulty adapting their language to the written word often found the written word lacking in substance. Many oral cultures found the nuances that housed the subtleties of meaning to be lost through the written word. Some languages were as much song as word, and the intonations carried a richness and meaning that could not be duplicated by grammar and diacritical marks. Other cultures found their meaning highly stilted and diluted by the absence of gesture, as their language was as much mime and dance as it was speech.


These obstacles and limitations of the written word are not foreign to modern man. Even an abstract language such as English loses much when written. It is easy to miss the emotional subtleties or tenor of the writer/speaker when you read an email or text message. Oftentimes emotional presentations involving sarcasm, irony, frustration and even confusion can be lost or misinterpreted in written language.


Despite the growth in technologies it is easiest to understand a person whom we are viewing and sitting in the same room with as they speak. Next but not quite as effective, would be where we could see their gestures and hear their intonations in a Skype situation. Next would be a telephone conversation and at the bottom of the communication totem pole would be the written word, with essays, letters and books slightly edging out instant messaging and short texts.


The earliest forms of writing lacked grammar and were often very poor at transmitting information or personal experience. The earliest forms of writing seemed to serve a mnemonic function more than expressive. The symbols seemed to be personal reminders than articulations. In this manner the first written notes of man seemed to be a way for them to remember something, and did not attempt to go any further.


The means by which we transfer information into memory for pre-literate children seems to have stayed the same for generations. Whether in a day care center or at home a child’s learning world is dominated by song, story, myth/fable, and theater. You walk into a day care center and the daily schedule and every transition is preceded by and learnt by a song or rhyme. Children commit the alphabet, number and other basic facts to memory through the use of song. We teach children moral and social mores through stories and fables. The bulk of a pre-literate child’s turning of facts or information into memory is accomplished through song, rhyme and story.


Much of how a pre-literate child learns and commits things to memory is replicated in oral and pre-literate societies throughout history. People learnt when to plant, what was poisonous, how to hunt, mid-wife and cure disease through myths and stories. Their moral instruction was also transmitted to memory by fables, stories, dance, poetry and theatrical performance. Epic poems were used to unite, inspire, and train warriors. Religious and spiritual beliefs were inculcated through story, ritual, rite and memorization of prayer.


Committing information to memory in oral cultures was a difficult and time consuming task. In spoken languages such as sanskrit multi-book volume length songs were committed to memory such as the sacred words of the Vedas. Individuals would often spend years of their lives using songs, poems, and myths as mnemonic devices to learn a trade and make the transition from apprentice to professional.


Oftentimes we find that the more silly the song or more outlandish the story the easier it is for our children to remember it, and commit its underlying lesson to memory. We also have found that rhythm, cadence, dance, pantomime and meter are excellent tools making memorization easier.


We find the same mnemonic techniques present in ancient, pre-literal and primitive societies. Dance, fantastic and theatrical presented stories and rhythmic poems often accompany and house the message to be learnt and committed to memory. This fact should make us wonder how much of the story is to help one commit the lesson to memory and how much of it is actual belief.


Living in a world full of tangible documentation it is hard for us to imagine the way the above techniques were used to transmit valuable information and commit it to memory. Due to this we often assume that the people believed in the content of the story as well as its message. While the truth of the matter is the mythic gods and heroes may have been more for effect than actual belief, just as our children can use fantasy and fantastic superheroes as a way of remembering without it being about actual belief.


Without many tangible means of documentation ancient man had to find ways of having things stand out so that they could be remembered. A father or grandfather was best remembered if he became a god or mythic hero. In an undocumented world there was a greater limit to what one could commit to memory and retain. 


One of the most standard means that has come down to us is the division between the sacred and the profane. That which was miraculous or sacred was far easier to remember for it stood out. People often identified thoughts and feelings they wanted to remember as “gifts from the gods”. While their were plenty of factors which probably played in ancients truly having a poor sense of an individual ego, they also found it easier to remember thoughts and feelings by making them sacred and beyond their day to day world. Earlier we mentioned the strong tie between time and memory, this is demonstrated by ancients man’s preference for sacred time and his reluctance to acknowledge chronological time. Yet, with no clocks or reliable means of tracking momentary historical time is it any wonder that his desire for memory found a home in sacred time?

Our road to recognizing and appreciating our sense of self is strongly tied to our ability to remember our individual experience and maintain our personal history. The passing centuries of improving and expanding our world of tangible documentation has solidified our sense of self and our ties to friends, family and contemporaries. 


Each step we make towards understanding ourselves increases our ability to understand others. Our personal memories and shared history can make our lives richer, fuller and more meaningful.

Jim Guido

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