Old Moon

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Loose Living

I have a problem with a few acquaintances who seem to live their lives by aphorisms. For every eventuality, they seem to rely on convenient capsules of wisdom. "A man's life is his work," "It's an ill wind that blows no good," "Consider the lilies of the field...". You can imagine hundreds more.

What bothers me is that the events of life so seldom fall into categories. Too often, with the best attempts at planning and preparing, the completely unexpected happens, and when it does, though some guiding principle succinctly expressed may fit up to a point, the chances are pretty good that it will be only that: up to a point. Besides, what is appropriate for one person isn't always right for someone with different temperament, training, background, goals...etc.

Those who rely on ancient wisdom in brief sayings forget the variability of existence. I wish I understood statistics because I know there are some guidelines for predicting randomness, but I have a feeling that isn't enough. When "the chips are down," when it's "fish or cut bait" and extremely important or instant decision is called for, the chances of failure seem to me to multiply in direct ratio with dependence on proverbs or tribal wisdom or just plain aphorisms.

Free will needs to be just that--including freedom to think and react for the specific moment and the specific person. If it'
s good for you, it's probably a good idea to send a quick prayer, but don't depend on Confucius or Proverbs.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Healthy (Healthful?) Mistrust

As I deleted another Spam e-mail with From indicating the United States Department of Justice, it occurred to me that these days suspicion has to be at the very top of instinctive reactions to almost everything, especially on the indispensable Internet.

It must follow that our (that is, most people’s) automatic responses to one another will eventually be tainted if it isn't already. The notion really frightens me. Somehow there has to be a way to recognize and accept the goodwill most of us have grown up to expect from our fellows. 

Will there be a kind of evolutionary process that over time develops the ability to tell the difference between honest and fraudulent, between Spam in life and genuineness? If not, we must despair of our future.

Imagine having the gall and the stupidity to call yourself The United States Department of Justice with a message saying the reader will receive a seven figure number of dollars when the necessary information has been forwarded! Thank heaven this Spammer/Phisher was so greedy and so cynical as to think the mere mention of that much money would entice some poor fool...

Caveat emptor once said it all, but now everyone with access to the Net has to be terminally suspicious all the time.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Other Side of Silence

            “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” 
                          George Elliot, Middlemarch.

            Early in our lives, most of us are taut with eagerness to vibrate in unison with every sensation available. A few unlucky souls are oblivious. Those most observant, most open to subtlety, most susceptible to resonances with emotion become artists. The second tier of sensitivity allows for appreciation of what the elect produce.
            As time passes, those less hardy understand better what George Elliot meant about “dying of the roar on the other side of silence.” In a world so full of fast communication and visual images, the test of survival (psychic and emotional) is often the ability to withstand the worst, though it doesn’t happen to you.
            As a teenager, I read whatever was recommended or what sounded appealing regardless of its horror, and managed only occasional nightmares. In a single summer I made my way through War and Peace, Gone with the Wind, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, Anna Karenina, The Robe, and more. Those books were Book-of-the-Month Club selections on my aunt’s shelves. I read drama, horror (not in the thriller sense)--endless historical fiction.
            Later I watched the movie Gone with the Wind, and suddenly the gripping scenes of the wounded in Atlanta, for instance, were no longer confined to what my imagination could conjure. I read All Quiet on the Western Front, The Moon is Down, Journey’s End. After a childhood surrounded by the knights of the Round Table, the exploits of Greek heroes, biblical warriors, I began to have a dawning realization of the difference between literary and artistic war and the real thing. By 1939, I couldn’t have escaped it if I’d tried.
            I have several friends who have joined the general rave about the movie War Horse. Some wonder that I won’t watch it. As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered that my tolerance for a lot of reality has diminished in reverse order to the number of years I’ve lived. I no longer find it necessary to keep up with experiences I doubt I can withstand without paying an emotional price I find too high.
            There’s no doubt I’m a coward, both physical and emotional. The things we all manage because we have no choice are beginning to seem like all I can take. I don’t need to subject myself deliberately to things that will be far too easy to imagine far too accurately. So I won’t watch what horses went through (not to mention men and mules and farm animals and civilians) in World War I because I don’t have to.            
            The silence of the end of a disaster (of whatever kind)  hides a roar that only saints and philosophers have the stomach for. I wonder how many elderly have become like me.