Mortality and the Rituals of Infinity


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Victor,

I am glad you see that. Thank you for stopping and looking.

Now I would like to invite you to look deeper and try to see Rich's article from that angle - trying to tap into those kinds of emotions - and let the God talk be metaphorical. Granted, death does not prompt exaltation, but it certainly prompts the feeling of the sacredness of life - even the sacredness of being in the whole structure of all that exists. I think Rich captured some of that in a very moving manner.

About mocking, I am not against it. But I prefer to see in in things like caricatures, where you are a master, than in cheap shots that anybody can do. Talent counts, even in mocking.

Michael

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Philosophy, William James wrote, is largely a clash of temperaments. In the battleground of ideas, I have never found a statement truer. There is more to be seen by examining the temperaments themselves.

Rich,

Great quote. The first thing that happened on this thread was to prove this point. We are psychological beings first; philosophy is just the language we use to express, communicate, and mould the images of our imaginations.

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Michael,

Our spirits come through even in the quotes that have meaning for us. Your spirit is very clear in the Rand quotes you identify with and those you do not. This is true of any Objectivist.

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Dragonfly & Victor,

Why not try a different approach to dialogue. It is so easy to fall into the adversarial trap. We might try seeing different perspectives, our own included, as alternatives to be considered and evaluated objectively without attaching any particular one to our egos. Another way of putting this: we should try viewing our own perspective merely as one among many lenses from which to view existence. This way we can compare our own perspective with that of others without defensiveness, openly and honestly. It shouldn't be seen as a competition to see who is right. It should be seen as a collaboration to find the truth.

I recently wrote on another thread:

[Nathaniel Branden] says that it is often difficult to face certain facts of reality, so we resist them by putting up psychological barriers to being aware of them. Then, in therapy, people refuse to accept that they are resisting certain facts of reality. They resist the resistance. The place where growth begins is in acceptance, even if this is in the acceptance of the resistance to resistance.

If, while in dialogue, another has an opposing perspective, our perspective is experienced as a resistance to the reality of theirs. When we argue we are resisting the resistance. Agreeing to disagree is acceptance of our resistance to the resistance and opens up the possibility of accepting another's contrary view into our awareness where open evaluation can lead to discovery, integration, and growth.

I think each perspective may have a piece of reality's puzzle but none is able to capture the whole of reality. It is best if we see each lens as an individual image in a grand hologram of reality. It is only by piecing together all the images that we will be able to appreciate the whole of reality. If we ignore certain lenses because they don't fit within the scheme of our chosen lens, we will be certain to miss large chunks of reality in our perspective. What is needed is a meta-lens that attempts to integrate the other lenses. Or, put another way, we need to make a hologram of reality from the individual images that contain a picture of the whole of reality seen only from a specific angle.

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I see death as death, at least as far as the individual who died is concerned. The stream of awareness that is the core of our life is made possible by the stability of the material structure that maintains its form. When the material structure breaks down, so too does the integrity of that flowing stream that is the essence of what has been called the life force and the spirit. That I can imagine other scenarios in which the spirit is immortal gives me no comfort. Personally, I find such scenarios require such a departure from the evidence, and from my understanding of the nature of causation, that I cannot imagine them as anything but fantasy.

Seeing death as the final event of my life does change how I live here on earth. It brings clearly into focus the need to strive for happiness and fulfillment across a lifetime. It means I must create a life I can regard with pride in the moment and upon reflection as more and more of my life lies behind me. It means I must discover what is most important to me. It means I must set my life's goals, the steps I need to achieve them, and then put these thoughts into action. It means I must take time to appreciate my existence now and everyday. It means I must face any fears that are stopping me from living. It means I don't put up with shit from people who don't treat me with dignity and respect for my interests. It means that, if I think I can run a company better than the people I work for, I should start my own company. To paraphrase from NB, it means I must be there when I am living my life. It means I must appreciate the value and the meaning of my wife and kids by actually treating them as important as they are to me. It means, if I see the world differently to others, and I think I have something of value to say, I should say it. It means I should pay special attention to people who are special to me and let them know what I see in them

Death doesn't cause all this to happen but it places a limit on when it can. Death is a looming limit to our freedom to act. It makes me want to act now.

Paul

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Seeing death as the final event of my life does change how I live here on earth. It brings clearly into focus the need to strive for happiness and fulfillment across a lifetime. It means I must create a life I can regard with pride in the moment and upon reflection as more and more of my life lies behind me. It means I must discover what is most important to me. It means I must set my life's goals, the steps I need to achieve them, and then put these thoughts into action. It means I must take time to appreciate my existence now and everyday. It means I must face any fears that are stopping me from living. It means I don't put up with shit from people who don't treat me with dignity and respect for my interests. It means that, if I think I can run a company better than the people I work for, I should start my own company. To paraphrase from NB, it means I must be there when I am living my life. It means I must appreciate the value and the meaning of my wife and kids by actually treating them as important as they are to me. It means, if I see the world differently to others, and I think I have something of value to say, I should say it. It means I should pay special attention to people who are special to me and let them know what I see in them

Paul, now you're speaking my language. I agree...you don't know how much I agree with you. Thanks.

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My point is that the article is about death, not about God. Of course people can discuss what they please. But I think it is obvious by now that Rich isn't going to change, neither are you or Victor. So why the belittling and mocking? An itch? Especially on an issue that is not even the point of the article.

I haven't seen any belittling and mocking in this thread, at least not on my side, I think you're seeing spooks.

I am so very enlightened that you gentlemen don't like Judith's pronouncement and can belittle that, too. I guess this shows something good that I am missing. Of course, you didn't even try to understand it. Anything else productive on your minds you want to tell Judith while you are at it?

Why all that sarcasm? The only thing I said is, that in contrast with you, I don't see anything beautiful in it as I find it an incoherent statement, and that I wondered if you found it beautiful because it is coherent. If you're going to berate people for every disagreement with the official party line on this list by calling their contributions "mocking" and "belittling" while there isn't any evidence for such qualifications, the atmosphere will become too stifling for me here and I'll be gone, I don't feel like walking on eggs continuously.

That is what Judith was trying to convey. That is what you guys are refusing to even look at so you can have a sacred right to belittle God whenever the word pops up.

Where did I do that? Are you hallucinating?

How much life gets missed like this! Dragonfly, shall we now mock Bach's Masses because they were written for the glory of something "absurd" and "ridiculous" - a perfect example of bellum quia absurdum? Or shall we listen to that glorious music instead?

Again that "mocking" accusation, where the fucking hell did I "mock" anything?! I only said that Judith's statement is incoherent and absurd, and I still fully stand by my remark. Admiring Bach's masses is not the same as "loving god with my whole heart and soul and mind and strength" while that God may have inspired Bach. Napoleon inspired Beethoven when he wrote his Eroica (although he later regretted it), does that mean that I should love Napoleon with my whole heart? And while God may have been the inspiration for some great works of art, he has also been the inspiration for countless crimes, murders and wars, the inquisition, the crusades and an enormous amount of suffering in general. Not a very inspiring image to love with whole my heart, or do you think that merely picking the positive points is warranted? I don't like such selective memories.

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Dragonfly,

Er... so you think Judith was making a metaphysical statement of fact and not groping to express an emotion in a poetic manner?

That is a very strange interpretation. I find it strange you insist on it.

As far as you going or coming, you are free to go and come as you please. If you find it stifling here because of my disagreements with your views, I think you should do what you find best in your own interests. I certainly would.

I consider you a friend. It will be interesting to see how you weigh that in something like disagreement.

Michael

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Wow. Who would've thunk that my one little sentence would start such a big debate? I don't know whether I should be dismayed or flattered. I'm certainly not going to take it back -- I meant it and I stand by it.

Judith: You are a poetess?

What a beautifully stated sentiment!

(*smile*) Not a poetess -- just a wholehearted romantic. Thank you!

You'll find me probably an old curmudgeon, but I see nothing beautiful in it, it is in my view an incoherent statement. Is this an example of bellum quia absurdum?

The paradox is intentional; it leads the mind to a higher synthesis.

My god, I’m on the same page with Dragonfly! Look, Judith is a good gal, I’ve read some of her posts and she commands my respect just like Rich does. But I have to agree with Dragonfly regarding the quote seen above---I don’t get it. And yes, I’m taking the intended romance out of the thought. [What a bastard I am!;] But, truly, I don’t get it. I mean, I get the idea that we are supposed to feel gushy over it, but it just strikes me as incongruent.

(*smile*) See above. It's a romantic way of making a point.

For the record, to help with the understanding, I will give a Rand quote. This is from the "Introduction" to the 25th anniversary edition of The Fountainhead:
Religion's monopoly in the field of ethics has made it extremely difficult to communicate the emotional meaning and connotations of a rational view of life. Just as religion has preempted the field of ethics, turning morality against man, so it has usurped the highest moral concepts of our language, placing them outside this earth and beyond man's reach. "Exaltation" is usually taken to mean an emotional state evoked by contemplating the supernatural. "Worship" means the emotional experience of loyalty and dedication to something higher than man. "Reverence" means the emotion of a sacred respect, to be experienced on one's knees. "Sacred" means superior to and not-to-be-touched-by any concerns of man or of this earth. Etc.

But such concepts do name actual emotions, even though no supernatural dimension exists; and these emotions are experienced as uplifting or ennobling, without the self-abasement required by religious definitions. What, then, is their source or referent in reality? It is the entire emotional realm of man's dedication to a moral ideal. Yet apart from the man-degrading aspects introduced by religion, that emotional realm is left unidentified, without concepts, words or recognition.

That is what Judith was trying to convey.

Judith, that was a beautiful sentiment and I know exactly what you meant.

Thanks, Michael. That says it very well, and saves me a whole lot of explanation!

I had to laugh at this discussion and the ensuing one, because it calls to mind so vividly so much of what Ken Wilber discusses in much of his work. I could simply say, "Read Wilber!" But that's kind of arrogant -- to assume that one's readers will go off and read heavy tomes just to understand an online discussion. And actually, what the discussion calls to mind isn't so much Wilber as Spiral Dynamics, which Wilber didn't invent but upon which he relies heavily in his work. So I'll say here that Victor's and Dragonfly's responses struck me as being "orange", the fears that I would be offended by them struck me as being "green", and Michael's response struck me as being "yellow", and for explanation of those statements, I'll refer all of you to the articles I'm posting on Spiral Dynamics, so as not to hijack this thread from death, which, after all, is the main topic here.

On the subject of death, I, too consider it to be final. I've struggled with it for years, and I can't so much say that I've made peace with it as that I've come to the realization that death comes for all of us whether we make peace with it or not. We can ignore it, or face it, or scream defiance at it, or make up pretty myths to make it less painful -- and none of it matters; it comes anyway. I hate it. It's the enemy. I will not go gentle into that good night; I'll go down kicking and screaming every step of the way.

When someone you love dies, at first there's a numb sense of disbelief. You say, "No, that can't be right. Go back in time. Fix it. Restore a saved game." Then, when the reality sets in, you scream your defiance, and you wail your despair, and you demand to have him back -- and he's still dead. And you do it over and over and over and over -- and he's still dead. And it happens again and again and again -- with lesser and lesser frequency and intensity, but it never goes away entirely -- and life goes on, because life is nothing if not courageous -- and eventually you smile at the memories, but the loss is always there. And there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. It's the price of being alive and loving. And if we're brave enough, we go out there and do it again, with our eyes wide open to what we're getting into.

Judith

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I thought on this and I suppose it is useful to break my protocol partway without breaking it entirely. I should write for purposes of clarification, and of course to say thanks.

First, thanks to all!! :) Not easy to write on the topic. Try it!

"Intellectually dishonest" This is where the poopy hit the fan. And, it goes to show what happens when you try to be a smarty-pants (me, in this case). That term is O-101, and I got very sick of hearing it on general grounds, but particularly when it was brought down Zeus-like, in convo about religion. My point: no one knows what happens (subjectively, from the, heh, "die-ee" perspective) when we die. Something or another happens, whether the said "die-ee" finds themself in a position to perceive it, or not.

If you read enough mainstream O-writing, what you will see as far as discussing the mortality issue are statements to the effect of "when it's over, it's over," statements normally that are linked to discussions of religion, particularly those that promise or at least suggest the possibility of an afterlife. The Objectivist flavor of atheism says that once you are done here it is over. Not all athesist thinking goes quite like that. Atheists simply are saying there isn't a guy-in-the-sky. Atheists do not feel life from the standpoint of the creator and the created. Atheists do not think there is a God who is running multiple fishtanks. I support that position from the respect that it is motivational, motivating one to lead life to the fullest. It's not unlike Joseph Campbell's saying, at the trail end of an answer to a question about death, something to the effect of "the action's down here." I agree. The appropriate response to having a life is to work within the confines provided.

Peikoff and others talk about agnostics more or less in terms of being intellectually dishonest. I disagree, because they are being honest in saying that they are being asked a question for which there is no empirically proveable answer.

I do not know which one, atheism or creationism, is true. It is unproveable. Try!

What I believe happens is that people experience unique, fingerprint-like individual spiritual consciousnesses. Atheism allows for that experience. In my case, the experience is somewhat along the lines of monism, I would say without going into deeper detail. Not that it matters, because I don't get a lot of inquiries, for one, and for two, my sentiment is that what's important is how you experience living. And, to encourage a civil means of discussion of that with others.

Okay, back to the burning and churning!

Blessed Be,

r

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I do not know which one, atheism or creationism, is true. It is unproveable. Try!

Rich,

Logical fallacy: one does not “prove” atheism. The pre-fix “A” means without Theism; atheism is not a belief—it is a negative. The onus of proof is on the theist who makes a “positive assertion.” The atheist is not required to justify his stand on the issue. The theist is required to provide proof for his claim--and as you say, he can't. So, of course, the atheist remains an atheist.

Victor :devil:

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My point, neither knows.

There is no onus, only two different modalities of the spiritual experience. Positing either gets nowhere. And, you assume atheism was a response to theism. Both have always existed in parallel. Not a cart in front of the horse situation.

OK I'm truly done now. But thanks, Victor!

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My morality play:

Damage: Rich was the mastermind behind 9/11—he ought to be punished!

Victor: Whoa there, what proof do you have for this claim?

Damage: I have no proof—but you can’t prove that he is innocent!

Victor: I’m not required to prove his innocence—you made the charge, you are required to prove it.

Rich: If I may have a word here. My point, gentlemen, neither knows. There is no onus, only two different modalities. Positing either gets nowhere.

The critics panned the plot, but I was looking for character development. :)

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Here is an almost painfully romantic thought I hold about death - not in fact but in sentiment. The following song lyrics wedded to the music spark the exact emotion of how I face both death and love.

The lyrics are by an English lawyer and highly prolific songwriter, Frederick Edward Weatherly, He wrote them to another melody in 1910 in Somerset, England. The song was a flop and he rewrote it in 1911 to no avail, so he left it aside. Then his sister sent him a beautiful melody she heard played by gold-prospectors in the USA at Ouray, Colorado. (Objectivists will recognize this as the real-life place of Galt's Gultch.) The melody was Londonderry Air and the author is unknown.

In 1913, long after the lyrics were originally written, Weatherly made a couple of adjustments in them to set them to the new tune and sent the result to his publisher. The rest is history. It became one of the most beloved songs in the western world.

Danny Boy

Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling

From glen to glen, and down the mountain side.

The summer's gone, and all the roses falling,

It's you, it's you must go and I must bide.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,

Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,

It's I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,—

Oh, Danny boy, O Danny boy, I love you so!

But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,

If I am dead, as dead I well may be,

Ye'll come and find the place where I am lying,

And kneel and say an Ave there for me.

And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,

And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,

For you will bend and tell me that you love me,

And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!

What's amazing is how perfect this thing is despite the rhyming disaster in the second verse - "me" with "me" four times and "be" with "be" once. This is simply a masterwork of sentimentality.

(Now please excuse me while I go somewhere and recover from being a bit choked up. Seriously...)

Michael

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Michael,

You might find this hard to believe, but I have that tune in my collection by three different artists: Roger Whittaker, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. What a beautiful tune...very sad, but beautiful. I think Elvis really does a good version of it. He recorded it a year before his own death.

Victor

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  • 10 years later...

There are many beautiful and profoundly true thoughts in this thread, I've seen only now, by happenstance ('serendipity'?). I said yesterday to someone that he was whistling in the dark, and by coincidence the phrase was mentioned by Rich Engle. It has come back to haunt me... Rich, Paul, Judith, Michael and all -- tops!

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