Betwixt perilous ideological sideboards….

Asleep, I lay dreaming I was awake. Now, awake, I sit dreaming I am asleep. Which is true? Am I awake, and dreaming, or am I asleep, dreaming of being awake? How does one tell, when there are no external sources of evidence to check against reality? If awake, am I really asleep, dreaming? And if I am dreaming, what is real? I confess to being confused….. at this hour, with no one about to whom I can appeal for a different view, the edge between reality and dream becomes somewhat indistinct….. It is most likely a good thing that I don’t weird out at weird stuff, or I would definitely be feeling thoroughly weirded out….. but, since I start from weird, it’s all good. I’ll just sip a bit more of this fine coffee, and wait until reality adjusts itself to a bit more clarified state….. no worries!

There are times when I do wish I wasn’t so strange, in relation to the rest of humanity. (No, no, don’t bother to argue…. I know I’m strange, and there’s no need to try to keep from hurting my feelings about it… I accepted it long ago, and now it’s just another part of me that other folks need to deal with…. at their own risk….) Not that I don’t like being strange; there are distinct advantages to having other people think twice about approaching, much less about asking for favors, or “just a moment of your time”.

No, it’s just that it can make it really hard sometimes to write anything people will look at twice. My words, as indicated by the first paragraph, can touch up against weirdness at the drop of a cliche, and it is getting to be an onerous task to edit such weirdness when I’m already feeling strange, such as this morning.

I’m guessing it’s just another little memo gram from reality, reminding me that any perks I may enjoy, due to my inner oddness, are always going to be counterbalanced by an appropriate kick in the ass, and there is no sense or benefit in either trying to avoid any such boots, or in complaining about them. Hence, I’ll just shrug my shoulders, offer a sheepish grin, and move on…..

One section of yesterday’s Pearl was a discussion on the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. I don’t need to go over that again (not after approximately 800 fairly passionate words….), but did wish to note the usual Murphy effect that accompanies much of what I write…. some time after publishing, I found the following pearl, which, as is obvious, is a perfect summary of the concluding portion of my thoughts yesterday. To keep Murphy happy, (always a good policy with that particular force of Nature), I include it now…..

“I believe everybody in the world should have guns. Citizens should have bazookas and rocket launchers too. I believe that all citizens should have their weapons of choice. However, I also believe that only I should have the ammunition. Because frankly, I wouldn’t trust the rest of the goobers with anything more dangerous than string.” — Scott Adams

That seems to cover it…. let’s go Pearling, ‘kay? ‘Kay!….. Kowabunga!…..

During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai E. Stevenson “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” Stevenson called back “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!”

Obviously proving he was part of the minority…. Mr. Stevenson was perhaps the last truly rational man to ran for the highest office our country offers. I’ve seen a number of articles about that campaign, and it’s clear in my mind that his very rationality is what gave the election to the other candidate. He made every attempt he could to try to engage the minds of Americans, naively, as it turns out. His opponent, Eisenhower, just mostly kept his mouth shut and let his slogans speak for him, such as “I like Ike!”, and other such intellectual standards, that appealed directly to the American public’s misplaced sense of national pride.

After four years of post-Korean war economic boom, it wasn’t hard for the Republicans to rest on their laurels, firmly attached to the coattails of a war hero…. There was, and still is, no place on the political scene in this country for rationality, obviously, as Ike and his ilk won in a landslide….

So much for the opportunity to see what a “thinking man’s president” might be able to accomplish…. The chances of such a man being elected today are even slimmer, considering that those candidates who can be the most sly, underhanded, and completely dishonest are those who catch the eye, and the votes, of the great unwashed, uneducated masses that now comprise the voting public…..

“It has been said that man is a rational animal.  All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.” — Bertrand Russell

FOLLY, n.  That “gift and faculty divine” whose creative and controlling energy inspires Man’s mind, guides his actions and adorns his life.

Folly! although Erasmus praised thee once
In a thick volume, and all authors known,
If not thy glory yet thy power have shown,
Deign to take homage from thy son who hunts
Through all thy maze his brothers, fool and dunce,
To mend their lives and to sustain his own,
However feebly be his arrows thrown,

Howe’er each hide the flying weapons blunts.
All-Father Folly! be it mine to raise,
With lusty lung, here on his western strand
With all thine offspring thronged from every land,
Thyself inspiring me, the song of praise.
And if too weak, I’ll hire, to help me bawl,
Dick Watson Gilder, gravest of us all.

— Aramis Loto Frope — Ambrose Bierce, “The Devil’s Dictionary”

Perhaps it is a result of having learned to see around corners at an early age, or that silly prophecy made by that supposed witch who scared my mother a week after I was born.  Perhaps it has to do with spending so many hours and days of my intellectual formative years with my nose buried in a book, generally one that made me a familiar inhabitant of the sleaziest, most disreputable spacer’s dives in every far corner of our Galaxy, surrounded by grizzled old first mates from a dilapidated freighter out of the Pleiades, and a motley group of aliens of all descriptions.

I could probably blame it on being the middle child of five, with a neurotic, if perfectly lovable mother, balanced by a perfectly stable father, and four siblings who had no clue how to deal with me.  Or, it could have been the daily ingestion of frozen, processed vegetables so common on our dinner table during the 50’s and 60’s; as it turns out, the benefits of the vegetables were pretty much nullified by the process of preserving and preparing them for consumption. Who knew?

Whatever the root cause may have been, Folly has long been a fascinating area of study for me, and its influence on my life at large has been extensive. My first attempts at blogging, via email since 1998, then via SFGATE since 2011, were known as “Gigoid’s Folly”, and that was almost used as the title for this blog, as well. But, not wishing to tread, even peripherally, on the estate privileges of Robert Heinlein, even out of respect, I left it at “gigoid” with the subtitle, “Exploring consensual reality” as a tip of the cap to Murphy, and Mother Nature’s fondness for him…..

Folly remains a big part of the process of pearling, and Pearling; if that isn’t obvious, I’m doing something wrong. It has been for me a boon companion throughout my life, ever a contrast and strong defense against the powers of darkness and ignorance, always to be trusted to coax a smile out of me, often in the deepest moments of my despair. If it were not for my Folly, and the humor it infuses into my daily existence, I most likely would have bitten somebody, hard, long before now….  I can only be grateful, and proclaim, “May I and my Folly never part ways, throughout all of my days!”……

“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” — Willie Wonka (Roald Dahl)

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour!
— William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Twelfth Night
— Act i, Sc. 1

I’ve been pretty clear in past posts in expressing my lack of enthusiasm for most of Will Shakespeare’s work. To my mind, the greatest part of what he wrote is overblown, heavy with excess imagery and verbiage, and even in the time in which it was first written and performed, must have been a pain to follow just by listening…. sorry, but that’s what I think.

But, at the same time, I can acknowledge, as well, that he was an excellent word smith, and did occasionally write material that is far beyond anything else of its time, or of any time. His sonnets hit that nail squarely more often than his plays, in my opinion, but there are exceptions…. this is one of them.

These few lines of verse possess that timeless beauty that is the hallmark of genius, beauty so great that one can not merely see it in these lines, but is surrounded by beauty that floods every sense. Far be it from me to fail to acknowledge such genius…. I’m no Shakespeare, nor do I consider myself either infallible, nor a critic, but I know what I like, and I like this, a lot…..

“I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off.  so I ran over and said “stop! don’t do it!”  “Why shouldn’t I?” he said.  I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!”  He said, “Like what?”  I said, “Well…are you religious or atheist?”  He said, “Religious.” I said, “Me too!  Are you Christian or Buddhist?”  He said, “Christian.”  I said, “Me too!  Are you Catholic or Protestant?”  He said, “Protestant.”  I said, “Me too!  Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”  He said, “Baptist!”  I said, “Wow!  Me too!  Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?” He said, “Baptist Church of God!”  I said, “Me too!  Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?”  He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God!”  I said, “Me too!  Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?”  He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!”  I said, “Die, heretic scum”, and pushed him off.” — Emo Phillips

(Whew! Whoever transcribed this for the database where I found it was really lazy. They didn’t bother to capitalize the “I’s” or any of the Church names, so I had to go through and put them all in; it’s much clearer to read now, and looks a bit more refined…. but I didn’t change any words, just added capitals, just so you know…..)

Although I had a feeling as to where this would end up, I read it through to the end, and sure enough, it’s worth a full read, just to get to the punch line. My immediate thought was, “What a perfect statement of modern religious philosophy in America!”   🙂

Not trusting my original reaction, I put it down here, then prepared some breakfast, and consumed said comestibles, before coming back to look it over after some inner percolation. It’s still valid, and it still makes me smile, so it stays. No need to embellish any further, either, as I think it pretty well says it all…. Ignorance and bigotry are alive and well, and living in the Mid-West….. in a house, together…..

Visions of Absolute Truth and Beauty; The Tragedy of Severus Snape

The character of Severus Snape, as revealed in the seven novels that comprise the epic creation by J. K. Rowling, (which I choose to entitle Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of The Infinite Magic of  Love, hopefully with her approval and blessing) is, in my less than humble opinion, destined to become, if not synonymous, at least analogous, with those of Cryano de Bergerac, John Smith the Puritan, or the man from Tale of Two Cities, whose name escapes me (suffering functional disparity as I am from early onset Alzheimer’s, and the subsequent prophylactic application of sour mash bourbon), who said, “It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Sounds a little sappy for gigoid, doesn’t it? Well, you know what? I am completely and utterly serious…..

As I do not know Ms. Rowling, other than through her writing, and her public persona, which is carefully controlled, relatively speaking, I cannot say if it was her intent to create a character of such power that he would be forever enshrined amid the most famous of the heroic willing victims of tragedy in literary history. It is moot, anyway, because she has done so….

Here is a man who spent his entire life enduring unrequited love, love that, in his mind, could have been his, had he chosen differently. Yet, knowing that he could never have his deepest desire without destroying that which he loved, he still acted with honor to do all he could to keep the object of his obsession safe, to honor her and the love he felt, even after her death, and in defiance of the threat of his own death. 

He braved the wrath of the most terrifying of villains for almost 20 years, betraying that master of evil at every turn, to do what he could only hold as his Duty; he did this, knowing full well that in the end, he would have to kill the only man in the world who trusted him, and that he would die because of it. And, he knew as well, that his sacrifice would never be known to anyone but the son of the man he most envied in life, the son that might have been his…..

I’ve read a lot of what may be termed as classical literature, and in all that I’ve read, I have never found a character who fit the mold of the tragic hero any better, or more deserved the title of nobility it implies. Though flawed and miserable, Snape makes the hard choices, correctly, at the most critical junctures of his life, all for love of his Lily.

As Dumbledore exclaims when he sees the Patronus that Snape produces, a doe, identical to that of Lily, the only other human being he has ever loved,  “Lily! After all this time?”  Snape merely replies, “Always….”   Now, that is a hero, flawed and unlikeable as he is….. a hero that will go down in history, along with many of the characters from this series of books that will one day certainly be called “classics”……

Not a bad lineup…. personal foibles made light of to begin, with a bit of housekeeping, a taste of political irony, a touch of whimsy, Shakespeare, a dip into religious humor and more irony, and a discussion of literary archetypes in modern and classical writing. I think we’ve approached the demarcation between reality and esoterica quite adeptly, without completely crossing over where the border guards might hassle us about returning to our regularly scheduled activities here in Reality…… that should definitely make an impression. On whom, I couldn’t say, but, hey, I’ll take it…. Y’all take care out there…..

Sometimes I sits and thinks,
and sometimes
I just sits.



Dragooned on a desert isle….

I’ll tell you this right now…. what a long, strange trip it’s been! Though a bit worse for wear, I’ve got quite a few years left yet to flog this old body down the road. I’ve had a good life so far, and hope to have even better yet. Now if only Murphy and the Universe will cooperate…..

Okay, who took my inspiration? I had it here beside me just a few moments ago. I’ve been saving it up for this morning’s Pearl, because it was a good one. But, I just went to pick it up to put it on, and it’s gone! Gone, with no trace of who took it, or where it might have gone. (where DO things that disappear go? Like a lap, where does it go when you stand up?) Oh well, I’d best get started, it’s getting early….and I HATE being early…..

[ Death scene of Cyrano ]
It is coming… I feel
Already shod with marble… gloved with lead…
Let the old fellow come now! He shall find me
On my feet sword in hand [ He draws his sword. ]
I can see him there he grins
He is looking at my nose that skeleton
What’s that you say? Hopeless? Why, very well!
But a man does not fight merely to win!
No no better to know one fights in vain! …
You there Who are you? A hundred against one
I know them now, my ancient enemies
[ He lunges at the empty air. ]
Falsehood! … There! There! Prejudice Compromise
Cowardice [ Thrusting ] What’s that? No! Surrender? No!
Never never! … Ah, you too, Vanity!
I know you would overthrow me in the end
No! I fight on! I fight on! I fight on!
— Edmond Rostand, spoken by Cyrano de Bergerac

I have little to add here; the poetry is strong enough to stand alone. I’ll merely add that this was one of my favorite reads in high school; I’d never really read much of the literature of the 17th or 18th centuries, being more interested in sci-fi, so it was a pleasant surprise to find how much I enjoyed it. Great character, that Cyrano, full of joie de vivre and abundant humor, as well as loyalty, and bravery…. hope you enjoy it as well…..

“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his Father, in the womb of a virgin will be classified with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated Reformer of human errors.” — Thomas Jefferson

In all the books and stories I’ve read or heard about our founding fathers, this idea seems to be pretty commonly held. It seems that the societal outcasts who first came to this country were of a different mind than most of their counterparts in the English culture, as regards religion. I have seen at least three other of the signers of the Declaration who expressed this sentiment to others in their correspondence or published works.

Apparently, these men and women were unhappy with the English churches for these differences of faith, reasons which caused their persecution at the hands of the English government, which is very highly influenced by the Church prelates. Ultimately, this schism resulted in the break with the Church, followed by the flight to the new world, where they could follow the dictates of their conscience, rather than the rules set down in stone by the established churches.

This is why our country was founded, to separate the church and government from each other, in essence to create the first country ever that was based on this principle, to wit: religious freedom. These men and women only wished to be able to follow their hearts and minds in their own way, and not the way that everyone else used. They fought a war, and took the risk of death in stride in order to achieve the right to determine their own destiny.

Now, in today’s complex society, there are forces at work who would go back to the old ways. They wish to have the laws of this country determined by only one church, their own version of Christianity. (Of course there are 6 or 8 different sects that are vying for the privilege of being the sole lawgiver).

The saddest part of this is that all these differing sects who wish to remove the rights so valiantly fought for, replacing them with their own narrow vision of subservience, are only able to make the noise and hullabaloo they engage in BECAUSE of the freedoms our ancestors paid for in blood; in any other country in the world, they would be forced underground, or at best, deported.

Whether or not they will succeed in their move to control the rest of American society remains to be seen; they’ve made some inroads, but I sense that the general run of American today is getting pretty fed up with all the clamor and noise, and will come out in droves in this election year, to show those who would deny their own heritage how real Americans vote…. for separation of Church and State…. for Reason instead of Ignorance.

“During almost fifteen centuries the legal establishment of Christianity has been upon trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.” — James Madison

“‘Truth’ never set anyone free. It is only *doubt* which will bring mental emancipation.” — Anton LaVey

Now, here is a concept long ignored by the general public, who, for the most part, don’t wish to have to think about anything more complicated than a cheese sandwich on white bread. When I first chose my user name for cyberspace, I chose “gigoid” as the nickname that is seen by all. But the full title I hold as my personal icon is “gigoid the dubious”, implying both the search for truth, and the method of searching.

“Gigoid” stands for “garbage in, garbage out, identified”. It points out one of my articles of faith, which is that one cannot recognize Truth without first having Doubt. Only by the vigorous examination of our beliefs, seeking out the qualitative proof of the veracity of our suppositions about reality, can we attain harmony with the world as it is, and give up trying to make it what we would like it to be. Even our longest held beliefs, given to us before we learned to reason, must be periodically taken out and put through their paces, to see whether or not those beliefs remain an accurate representation of reality.

Doubt leads to curiosity, curiosity leads to study, the results of the study are then reexamined with doubting eyes, which leads us at last to the Truth…… if we have the courage to confront it, and accept it as it exists….. Of course, it may be well to remember that the author of this little gem is a famous person; I believe he is the head of the Church of Satan…..

“Jupiter’s passed through Orion and come into conjunction with Mars. Saturn is wheeling through infinite space to its preordained place in the stars.  And I gaze at the planets in wonder–at the time and trouble they expend.  All to warn me to be careful in dealings involving a friend.” — Donald Swann

It has been said, and truthfully, that you can tell a person’s level of ignorance by asking them for their opinion of Astrology. For myself, for much of my life, I tended to be agnostic about it; it seems too incredible to be true, but the characteristics of the different signs have a superficial accuracy, at least, seemingly reflecting what is real.

But that was before I reexamined that belief in the light of doubt, whereupon I realized that the underlying statement of what Astrology is does not include recognizance of the law of Conservation of Energy, which has been demonstrated to be true in a hundred different ways by scientific studies. In essence, what Astrology claims is that the motions of the planet and stars have a direct bearing on the events of our lives. This may be true, as far as it goes.

But, what it fails to consider is that the reverse idea, that the events of our lives have a direct effect on the motions of the planets and stars, MUST be true as well; otherwise there would be an imbalance in the structure of the universe, which we know to be false. Perhaps, as the astrologers say, our destiny is foretold in the stars. Much more likely, however, is the idea that we determine the direction our lives take according to our own will, not by the motion of indifferent stars in the sky….

“The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.” — H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)

If we use this as a true assumption, then there is no politician alive today who would not fit into this suit. Day after day, we see in the news the latest nonsense being spouted by the talking heads, and every time I read what they have said, I feel as if I’ve been insulted. I just don’t understand the capacity for believing lies that exists in the general population of this country.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think that there was no educational system at all, that the dream of an educated populace is dead. Well, as I said, if I didn’t know better. But, I do, and what I see, and understand, is that our educational system is a bust. It does not teach us what we really need to know to become a true citizen of a democracy, to wit: we are not taught how to learn. We only are taught to memorize, and to accept the mandates handed down by those in a position of authority as being in our own interests.

I’d say, in that respect, we are doing well, for we have created a large body of really ignorant people who provide the manipulators with a fertile ground for their nonsensical ideas. It’s enough to make a man take to drinking…. or buy a gun….or like me, both…..

Well, I find myself once again at the end of another morning’s work, always a bit of a surprise…. I can only hope that you find my musings to be stimulating and insightful, or if not, at least entertaining. Until the next time, tomorrow, y’all take care out there…..

Sometimes I sits and thinks,
and sometimes
I just sits.