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Friday, November 25, 2005

Soul

So this comes from The PBA and, in the light of my recent experience with a Goddess of my understanding, i'm reproducing it along with my reply, because it made me think. The original post was by PaulEdward Snyder and to check it you can follow the title link or go to: PaulEdward Snyder's blog. The full text of PaulEdward's post can now be found 'Off The Main Page'.

Much of which post I sort of agree with, but not wholly, so i replied thusly:

I think that's too simplistic.
From my own experience, it is possible to apprehend one's environment and those others in it as unpredictable variables and still choose not to compete in consumption, leaving almost everything to chance, whilst knowing chance will inevitably affect the outcome of one's actions anyway. Having said that, it is a lonely perspective and one which may well have contributed to my having spent years consuming drugs. No longer however, life is precious to me these days, too precious to destroy through inordinate fear of pain.

There are other variations and surely ones I haven't thought of. I'm suspicious of any doctrine which has, at it's core, a dichotamy. Life has taught me that, in as close to objective reality as my subjective experience of it can get, there is no "on the one hand this, on the other: that" however, as well as biology, insecurity makes people attempt to see life in this way. We have two hands, we look out at the world and are comforted by the notion that "in this hand which I see before me is one thing, in my other: the sole rest of the dilemma" therefore i can "hold" this problem, it is not beyond "my grasp".

Of course, this is not true. Most situations in life have to do with other people who are, as you rightly point out, very complex and ultimately, just as we are to ourselves, unknowable, merely approximately predictable. Those others are similarly affected by still more people and there are also a whole raft of other possibilities involved. This train of thought multiplies the variables exponentially, not even a millipede would have enough limbs to "grasp" them all. However, as Aristotle pointed out,

  • "All men by nature desire knowledge."
Which statement would tend to suggest that we must somehow plot a course through these variables, engage with our experience and extract meaning from it. Certainly, survival without knowledge would be difficult, but not impossible, or else how would creatures without much, if any, conscious thought survive?

I think the truth is more complicated again, because we don't have a conscious will to survive and thus a 'natural' thirst for knowledge, but rather a disinclination to repeat actions that seem to cause us pain, unless there is some greater factor of fear involved. I would also disagree with your notion of the soul, for me my soul is that quiet part of myself which has always been there, regardless of what my knowledge, feelings or others' opinion tell me, it says there need not be a point to life in order for it to be worthwhile. That in fact, if there is a point it is ineffable, life is all the more beautiful for that and, despite many people's best efforts, will continue. It holds a compass which, should I choose to take note of where it points, will steer me toward what is best, not just for me either. The sad truth is that this is often incompatible with modern civilisation and perhaps why so few of us choose to look there, because having to comply with that which one knows is wrong is surely one of the most overwhelming sources of pain.

  • "To know that you do not know is the best.
  • To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease."
  • Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu
  • Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)

So that then is true faith, to realise that one will never understand, but to crack on anyway and be at peace with that. Personally, I wish I could keep that notion firmly fixed in my mind at all times, but no... I get sucked into the whirlpool of striving and before I know it, my choices are being limited, my fear of undesirable outcomes has me making poor decisions based on a desperate need to mistakenly apply Ockham's Razor. It's not until I've cut myself with it and that hurts enough that I then remember, not me... I don't have an answer to everything nor need I. Then I'll be quiet, then I hear my soul and whether I survive or not seems of little consequence, but seemingly at odds with my instincts, that is when I make my best decisions.

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4 Comments:

Blogger H5N1 said...

A great post as always, but the quote from Lao-Tzu much as I agreed with it, kind of reminded me of something else:

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns - the ones we don't know we don't know."

- Donald Rumsfeld.

27/11/05 00:38  
Blogger edjog said...

Dear old Don, eh? Yes, I must confess to having come across him when i was looking up the Lao-Tzu quote on The Quotations Page (because i couldn't remember who had said it: i thought it was one of the Ancient Greeks and perhaps it was, also), but decided to forbear ripping into him.

After all, why bother? I'm sure Don's kind of smugness was exactly the disease Lao-Tzu was on about. The venerable Chinese dude also said:
"When armies are mobilized and issues are joined, the man who is sorry over the fact will win."

Of course Aristotle also said:
"It is the mark of an educated mind to rest satisfied with the degree of precision which the nature of the subject admits and not to seek exactness where only an approximation is possible."

and:
"Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime."

but he also cautioned:
"It is unbecoming for young men to utter maxims."

Still, despite how i feel, nearly 38 is hardly young, eh? Thanx for the compliment BTW.

3/12/05 00:19  
Blogger edjog said...

So PaulEdward sent me this pm @PBA (as i'd pm'd him to inform him that i was ripping his post wholesale and plonking it here):

From: PaulEdward Snyder
To: edjog
Subject: Re: your post 'Soul'
Date: Sun, 2005-11-27 04:32

edjog,
Lest you think I did not post a reply, since I think my attempts to do so were unsuccessful, I am sending you a copy of what I intended to post as a comment at 'Disreputable Alens'.
PaulEdward

Reply to Disreputable

It’s reassuring to hear from someone who seems to have seriously thought about his relationship with the environment without the often overwhelming demands of culture blinding him to his ultimate aloneness and his complete lack of defense against that which cannot be controlled. I am not an anarchist, but I am aware of the significance of chance in determining our existence and our continuing existence. You seem to have found a path that makes sense to you, and I must admit, it appeals to me.

My interpretation of life is way too simplistic. I admit that. I work hard to keep it that way. In fact, I am trying very hard to make it even simpler. I get confused easily and I lack the intelligence, education and experience to keep an even keel through the turmoil I see around me. I am heartened that you have found a way to ride the waves. I am still struggling just to keep my head above water.

I am surprised with how many things in your article I agree with. I agree that we do not have a conscious will to survive. As an evolutionist, I believe this will to survive is buried deep within us, a part of our very genes. I believe it is a natural consequence of our having stayed alive through the aeons of evolution. We certainly don’t have a natural thirst for knowledge else so many of us would not be so ignorant and so often taking pride in our ignorance. Even your concept of the soul is remarkably close to mine, though yours is a source of comfort in itself, while mine is a sort of comfort that God wants what is best for me, but even so allows me to make those decisions that determine who I am. Your idea that the soul is a compass and my idea that the soul is the path I follow of my own volition taking full responsibility for where it leads me, yet is an assurance that there is a compass that I can follow if I can determine its direction through the maze of the culture that has formed me, seems compatible.

In my opinion, your last sentence is excellent. Our goal seems to be the same though our paths may be somewhat different. I wish you well, though you seem to be doing great without my good wishes.

PaulEdward 11/26/2005

Oh, how i wish things were quite as good as PaulEdward suggests! The truth is that i am often confused, more often dragged into the "overwhelming demands of culture" and generally quite pissed off as a result. The only way i have of riding "the waves" is NA. I too rely on one simplicity: Don't use [drugs/drink/insert lunacy of your choice], even if your arse falls off! This (which i cannot currently attribute, but i'm researching!), at least, gives me some opportunity to find out what my soul is saying and gives me an option to go with it.

Many people say they're not anarchists. I wonder how many would find that their ideals match very closely with anarchist thinking? It's my belief that just because we're stuck in the gutter, currently, that's no reason to deny that the stars exist, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde.

3/12/05 03:12  
Anonymous some_maineiac said...

I have not yet taken the time to fully digest this post and the comments, but I would take issue with the gist of this paragraph (while considering the opening qualifier)

"I think the truth is more complicated again, because we don't have a conscious will to survive and thus a 'natural' thirst for knowledge, but rather a disinclination to repeat actions that seem to cause us pain, unless there is some greater factor of fear involved."

all conscious living things do have a 'natural' thirst for knowledge, I believe it is the true meaning of the word 'libido'

15/1/06 11:53  

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