Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

It’s Ideas Day here at Taking it to the Streets

A 264 page Socratic dialogue about saving the earth and the teacher is a gorilla?  And Diane says “Read it!”  – say, what?

My local Borders store is one of the ones they closed so I was in there trying to nab some bargains.  I wanted to reread Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse and found I had given my copy away – so that’s what I was after.  The young man who showed me where they hid fiction there said he had always wanted to read Hesse.  I told him Hesse is PERFECT for young people and that his best book, by far, is Siddhartha.  So we struck up an easy camraderie around books.  I had worked in a bookstore when I was in my 20s and somedays I still AM that person, albeit cleverly disguised as an aging hippie.

So the young man told me about HIS favorite book, Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn.  that’s when he told me the gorilla part, apologetically, as, I suppose, I should be with you.  He told me that that really doesn’t get in the way and that the book was really fantastic and inspired him still.  On his enthusiasm alone, I bought the book and this past week I read it.  And wow! I’m glad I did.

I asked the other day on Facebook if “Socratic, didactic” was a redundant phrase and my friend Sean and I came to the same conclusion – a work that is Socratic is, perforce, didactic.  But one could have a work that is didactic, but not Socratic.  This book is both.  The back cover uses the beginning of the story as a hook:  “Teacher seeks pupil.  Must have an earnest desire to save the world.  Apply in person.”

And earnest is a good word to use in regard to this whole book.  Both Ishmael and the unnamed hero are earnest, each in their way.  And Daniel Quinn surely is.  Since I too am earnest about saving the world from the perils created by our modern way of life, this suits me fine, but others may find the preachiness and earnestness too much.

Besides tieing in with my interest in sustainability and the importance of simple living, the book also hit a chord with my philosophical bent.  It touched on some ideas about the Bible that I must say have never ever crossed my mind. Since I want you to read this book and for me those ideas were the most surprising parts of the reading experience, I’m not going to say more, other than it has really given me some new viewpoints.

As one who believes that we are all one and by WE, I don’t just mean white humans living in North America and Western, but all humans, animals and plants (I do limit my ‘all onenness” to sentient beings, so maybe that is my little prejudice), this book rang very true.  I guess that’s why a gorilla is involved – as a spokesperson for all that humankind is so blithely, unthinkingly destroying. 

The timing is good for me.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my impact on the world and have noticed that I’ve been loathe to cut across lawns to get where I’m going, not wishing to tread unecessarily on the grass.  Even I find that odd and a bit too precious, but it has been a strong internal dictum this spring.  So I listen.

Though this super easy to read novel and Judith Schor’s academically-tinged Plenitude would seem to not have much in common, I think they both evince a “middle way”.  I think the Conservative reply to Progressives call for change in response to environmental meltdown is that we’ll all be living in caves like Osama bin Laden – a world with not only no Starbucks or Internet but maybe not even houses or food or jobs – “it will be awful!”

And the Progressives say “Ya, just drive your Hummers and watch the whole world turn into one huge earthquake-tsunami-Gulf Oil spill…” – oh, wait. We have that now.

But both Plenitude and Ishmael say we CAN have a saner life for the whole planet without living like monks.  Unless it’s the kind of monks who have gardens, raise chickens and bees and hang out with friends and chant and sing.  Oh, that sounds like the life I’m moving towards! 

So I have to say, I found the gorilla part a bit too precious, really I did.  I think it would have amused me more when I was the hippie bookseller, not the aging hippie talking to the cool-dude bookseller.  But  the points Quinn makes are valid, it’s well-presented, and very thought-provoking.

And hey, if you’re WAY into it, he’s got a whole online community happening.

And I think Ishmael was right – we’re running out of time.  So have a read, think about the world you are helping to sustain and the role you want to play in it.  Definitely a thought-provoking book!

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I have to say, I was “shocked and dismayed” to hear of Target’s $150,000 donation to Minnesota Forward, which, despite its progressive sounding name is a conservative PAC supporting a homophobic, anti-labor candidate.

I hadn’t ever given much thought to Target, to tell you the truth.  They’re one of my ‘go-to’ stores and I had vaguely good feelings about them.  The CEOs very lame excuse (“pro business”) annoyed me and also seemed really dumb.  If American businesses keep screwing labor and annoying gays and lesbians (who, since many of us don’t have kids, often have more disposable income, for what its worth) who is going to be able to – or want to – buy things from them? 

So Target ended up, for me at least as an unlikely enemy.

I bought my Target boycott T-shirt and it came the day before the Target CEO wrote an email to his employees apologizing (which is NOT the same as a) rescinding the donation to the right wing jerk the money went to; b) apologizing to gays and Americans who like to be paid fair wages for fair work; or c) donating $150,000 to his opponent, Margaret Andersen Kelliher).  So i wondered – he apologized to his staff – do I still wear the t-shirt?  That would be yes.

So I wore it today to the vet and then to see my holistic chiropractor and then to Panera in Fox River Grove (not a hotbed community of radical liberalism, she says drolly).  While waiting to order my food, the woman in front of me, probably a little older than I am, a bit frumpy, seemed like a ‘soccer grandma’ to spin forward a phrase – someone, I would have thought of as going to a very mainstream church and voting Republican, said “I like your shirt”.  Now, it IS colorful (i got the violet one with the big red Target logo with a line across it and the word “Regret” underneath the bullseye logo) and I hesitated. I thought “Poor dear, she probably doesn’t get it” and I said “Well, I believe you have to stand up for what you believe is right.”  To which she said “You mean the mess in Minnesota, right? Target supporting that horrible guy?”

We had a nice chat.  She told me “if you think Target is bad – Wal-Mart is worse!” I told her, yeah, probably the worst labor practices around and had she read Barbara Ehrenrich’s book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.  She had not. But we had a good chat and then it was time to get our food.

So once again I had that old Harry Nillsson song in my head “You never really know who your friends are.”  Or your enemies.

And I got to learn, for, oh, the ten thousandth time, that people, institutions and life are not always what they seem.

How about you? Have you had experiences of finding out that your supposed friends (I know I used a company as an example, but haven’t we all been burned by those we love or considered friends?).  What about your judgements of others – especially strangers? Have you (like I did) let people’s look, clothes, or affect form an impression that was just dead wrong?

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“From ghoulies and ghosties and three-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night – oh Lord deliver us” – so says the traditional Scottish prayer.  My mom, Jerrie GLASGOW Scholten (who didn’t publicly own being part Scottish, but was) used to say that to us.

Tonight I dashed home after work with barely enough time to feed me and my cat before charging out to a class at my church.  Right as I put Caity’s cat food bowl down, I thought I saw her dart away out of the corner of my eye – odd, I thought – she wouldn’t normally go AWAY from food. Then I looked up and she was on the couch snoozing.  Weird.

So as I rushed out with all my stuff for the class at church and turned in the garage towards the driver’s side door I saw a flash of shadow go whizzing by my back door.

Now I thought, there’ s some spirit afoot here.  For some reason Paul came up.  Must be 7 years now since he died in a diving accident at age 21.  This month marks that anniversary.  Yup, had to be Paul.  So when I talked to Sue, Paul’s aunt, my former partner, on the way to the class I mentioned that and said the energy felt calm.  It wasn’t scary or even weird – just not something that happens in my life very often.

Then as I was driving home, I was listening to “Here on Earth” – the Jean Fereca radio interview show on www.wpr.org that is my favorite show.  It was a show about how America is exporting its vision of what mental illness means and how to treat it.    Exposing some really AWFUL behavior by Glaxo Smith Kline – just the type of show I love.  As I listened, I realized, ah this is a rerun – I’ve heard this one before.

And then, just as I pulled into the garage (where I’d earlier seen that second shadow), Jean said she’d read some of the comments listeners had posted on Facebook during the show.  Imagine my surprise when she read a comment I had posted (the website says this show originally aired Feb 24) about my mother.

Ah. That’s who it was.  Hi Mama.  I love you, too.

What do YOU think?  Do the departed hang around?  Do you think of them as ‘ghosts’?  ‘Spirits?’  Do they feel helpful? Scary?  Annoying? 

If this has NOT happened to you when you hear stories like mine do you think “wow, that chick is nuts?” or “I wish that would happen to me?” or “some people are just too imaginative”? – what’s your take on the so-called paranormal?

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What is time?

As mentioned in an earlier post, my beloved Aunt Dory, in Oslo, seems to be dying.  Her daughter wrote me today to say it could be today – and certainly in the next week.  It makes me wonder about our life spans. Are we born just to die?  Why do we get old?

I’ve been thinking about my post “Why Can’t We Be Good?” and how I ‘waste’ so much time.  Is it quantifiable (seems like)?  What is ‘wasting time’?

What IS time?  Is it linear, as it appears to be?  My favorite quote about time comes from the ineffable Albert Einstein who wrote: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute — then it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity!”  That’s so true, ya?  Haven’t you had conversations in which 10 minutes seemed like ETERNITY?  And conversely, anyone who has fallen crazy in love can remember nights that flew by in, oh, two seconds (what! it’s 6 am already?!).

I read a fascinating book by my favorite contemporary philosopher/writer on philosophy, Jacob Needleman (author of “Why Can’t We Be Good?”).  His book on time is called “Time and the Soul:  Where has all the Meaningful Time Gone and Can we Get it Back?

I think the subtitle sort of contains a bit of the answer.

Here’s a quote from the prologue:  “It is our famine, the famine of a culture that has chosen things over time, the external world over the inner world.”  I could probably pick one quote a day from this book and write for a year (same thing with Sarah Susanka’s “The Not so Big Life).

Einstein was right about the relativity of time.  I know that when I am fully embodied and emotionally engaged in the moment i have stepped into eternity.  Oh, in the really big moments of life one expects that transcendental, liminal sense:  birth, death, that crazy space of falling in love. 

But it’s also present whenever we are truly engaged.  Creativity, for one.  Sunday I had friends coming for my women’s group. Usually I go to their turf but this time they were coming to mine and i wanted to make it nice.  I spent all day Saturday cleaning (and I clean every week so this was quite extraordinary special cleaning!) but the real joy of it all came on Sunday.  I wanted to make them food that reflected my renewed interest in localvorism – eating locally grown foods. I had gone to the Farmer’s market on Saturday and so on Sunday I made an amazing crustless Quiche with locally grown swiss chard, leeks, asparagus, Farmer Nick’s eggs and some cream and cheese that alas, were not local.  But the point is, while I was making this Quiche I was just enthralled with life.  Totally “in the zone”.  I was creating. And it was good. (and so was the Quiche, by the way!)

When I interact with small children (which I do whenever possible) i am totally present.

When I meditate I OFTEN am totally present (but sometimes am antsy, distracted, mentally making lists, etc. – i.e., human).

And speaking of meditation I think that is another clue.  Listen to this from page 39:  “Freedom from time – the approximate term for which is ‘immortality’ – awaits you; you are made for that, but you must search and search to receive in your life the winds of this immortality, this endless presence, that are constantly being sent to man from the center of the universe.”

And that leads us, really, to mysticism, to God, to the essence of  Who we are and Why we are here.

When I was about 7 years old I had my first (and one of my only) truly mystical experiences.  It was spring.  Warm.  There was a horseshoe-shaped clump of lilac bushes in the side yard of the old farm-house my parents rented in Ft. Wayne, Indiana (around which a subdivision had sprung up in the postwar building boom).  I was outside playing and I laid down in the middle of the lilacs.  I felt the sun on my body and suddenly I totally and completely got it that the lilacs and the sun and the green grass upon which I was lying were all the same thing and that it was all vibrantly, excitedly joyous and made of love.  I’m much older than 7 now, but I remember it vividly still. 

So what is THAT time?  What is it that makes the 61-year-old remember that 7 year old’s joy and be able to recall it as though it were now?

I guess that leads us to consciousness and memory, now doesn’t it.  and oh what a tangled web we weave.

How is the me that was 7 and the me that is 61 and the me who will be 83 (but isn’t yet) – how are those the same?

Is time linear?  My friend Julia studies precognition (she’s got a PhD from Northwestern) and she would tell you it’s not.  AT least not in the way we conventionally think of it.

On page 142 Jacob Needleman has “The Great Answer”, to wit:

“What became clear, and what can become clear for all of us who are starved for time, is that the answer to the problem of time is not more time, not more efficiency, not even in itself longer biological life, not children, not artistic creations that we pretend will bring us immortality, not some sentimental relationship to imaginary gods, or non-gods.  The answer to the problem and the sorrow of time is one thing and one thing only:  the experience of meaning.  And this experience occurs only when the Self touches the self, when the soul touches the ego. When the two worlds meet.”

As “It’s a Beautiful Day” sang on “Time Is”

“Time is Too Slow for Those Who Wait
and Time is too Swift  for Those Who fear
Time is too Long  for Those who Grieve
And time is Too short for Those that Laugh
And Love is too slow  for those who Wait
And Love is too Swift for Those who Fear
And Love is too Long  for those who Grieve
And Love is too short for Those that Laugh
But for Those who Love
But for Those who Really Love
But for Those Who Love
Time, Sweet Time, Precious Time, Lovely Time
All the Time
Time Time Time TIme TIme TIme TIme Time Time 
is Eternity”

I’ll meet you in the lilac bushes by the side of the house and we can go explore Eternity.

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