Month: September 2017

I’m reading “Straw Dogs,” by John Gray…

…and he is describing the fiction of the self, the fictive self. He posits that life is really only a series of discreet but connected perceptions tied together by the capacity for reflection we call consciousness. The crux of his view is that the self I think of as me does not exist. It is an illusion. Instead, I am only a series of analog moments that came about through subconscious stimulus-response reactions. What we attribute to decisions, whether the habitual decisions of living day-to-day or ethical decisions based on some moral code, are really responses to ingrained genetic, biological and cultural programming. Nor do I remember more than a nanoscopic (my word) subset of the responses I have made. Indeed, those conscious moments I have assembled into a “self” are only the few I actually recall, whether by choice or otherwise. As such, this illusory self has neither a future nor a past (as we tend to think of these), and never has had. Instead, we exist (we, that is, as in our thoughts, not our physical bodies) only moment to moment. Our construction of those moments into a past, like our projection of them into a future, is only an unconscious intellectual exercise.  [Note: Gray does not say this (maybe because he didn’t think if it), but he makes me think of Alzheimer’s patients…of whom we often...

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I’m reading “Straw Dogs,” by John Gray…

…and he is describing the fiction of the self, the fictive self. He posits that life is really only a series of discreet but connected perceptions tied together by the capacity for reflection we call consciousness. The crux of his view is that the free-willed self I think of as me does not exist. It is an illusion, perhaps a defensive one. Instead, I am only a series of analog moments that came about through subconscious stimulus-response reactions. What we attribute to decisions of free will are more often than not the result of ingrained genetic, biological and cultural programming. Nor do I remember more than a nanoscopic (my word) subset of the responses I have made. Indeed, those conscious moments I have assembled into a “self” are only the few I actually recall, whether by choice or otherwise. As such, this illusory self has neither a future nor a past (as we tend to think of these), and never has had. Instead, we exist only moment to moment. Our construction of those moments into a past, like our projection of them into a future, is only an unconscious intellectual exercise. Gray’s point is that we think we are free-willed and sentient beings consciously choosing our paths. But to him, free will is a chimera. Our actions are programmed by eons of prehuman and human evolution to react to...

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On significance (or lack thereof)…

Remember Genesis 1:28? “…God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'” As I write, the remnants of Harvey continue to wreak havoc in southeast Texas. Even as I sympathize, I remember the adage, “There but for chance…”.  My own home on a hill won’t flood, and we don’t get hurricanes in Tennessee. But tornados? Hail storms? Fire and lightning? As a certain ex-governor would say, “You betcha!” Harvey reminds us how wrong-headed we are about nature. Consciously or not, Genesis 1:28 still holds sway in Judeo-Christian and related cultures. But thinking we are in charge of anything is laughable. The lessons just keep coming: Chinese floods, 1931: 3.7 million to 4 million dead. Galveston Hurricane, 1900: 6,000-12,000 dead. Spanish influenza, 1918-1920: 50 to 100 million dead. Bhola Cyclone, modern Bangladesh, 1970: 500,000 dead. Indian Ocean tsunami, 2004: 230,000 dead. Haiti earthquake, 2010: 50,000 to 200,000 dead, depending on sources. Hurricane Katrina, 2005: $108B damages. Tōhuko earthquake and tsunami (i.e., Fukushima), 2011: $300B in damages. Superstorm Sandy, 2012: $75B damages. Hurricane Harvey, 2017: possibly $190B, per USA Today And what’s on the horizon? In the U. S. alone, we’ve yet to flood Biloxi or Miami or...

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