Author: Bob Adamcik

Build the past you want…

In this excellent short article by Zat Rana, he relates the adage about living each day as if it were your last. Then he goes on to note that his own approach is slightly different.   Each day, he imagines that he has five more years to live. Given that, what would he change in his life?  The article is about lessons he’s learned by living this way. The article brought to mind my own thinking of some years now. It was an epiphany for me long ago when I was struggling to reconcile the self I’d become with the person I’d always thought I would be.  It remains a valuable perspective as I consider each new day. This is the idea that, with every single thing we do, we are irrefutably building our own past.  My personal history is the one I myself constructed by every action I have taken. If you want to plan your future now, consider the past you want....

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The art of silence…

Around 2010, I saw the movie, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”  Having enjoyed it’s predecessor, I’d looked forward to the sequel. Big surprise, though: In the years since the 1987 release of “Wall Street,” cinematography had changed.  Story line had become secondary to visual stimuli, the intrinsically analog plot line now chopped into innumerable discrete segments planted amidst a barrage of ever-changing images.  Afterwards, I remember only tension, a relaxing escape having been anything but… This cinematographic technique, grown ever more intense and rapid, has become ubiquitous.  I see it in almost everything produced for a screen today: movies and television, music videos, product ads, tutorials, even some sporting events and news programs.  I suspect that it’s drawn from a video game mentality: designed by, produced by, and targeted at the generations who have grown up in this visual environment.  I was most recently reminded of it watching the Justin Timberlake halftime show for the 2018 Super Bowl.  It wasn’t enough for the singers to sing and dancers to dance.  Between constantly shifting camera angles and pulsating strobes, visual images often changed multiple times per second.  It was enough to induce an epileptic seizure. I’m confident that, like purveyors of kinky sex or addictive drugs, producers of visual entertainment are vying to outdo one another. They have to, to feed the brains of viewers inured to anything but ever increasing...

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I’ve been remiss in posting…

…the last couple of months, but not so in thinking.  When I have long voids, it is usually because I am mentally engaged elsewhere.  I will not post here merely for continuity. This lapse has seen me reading (on which I will post here eventually), writing a few draft opinion pieces I hope to publish in another forum, and (lamentably) writing more thoughtful posts on Facebook.  I post there for wider readership and with the vision of raising the bar in that forum, also because I can write more value-oriented content.  I try to reserve the Sentient Traveler for my feeble attempts at existential or philosophical thinking, and to share my reading. Anyway, enough excuses. More than anything, this post is a future reminder to me explaining this lapse.  I often go back to read posts as a in a journal, and a I want to I remember my lapses as...

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Review of “Straw Dogs: Thoughts on humans and other animals,” by John Gray

“Other animals do not need a purpose in life. A contradiction to itself, the human animal cannot do without one. Can we not think of the aim of life as being simply to see?” (–John Gray, in “Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Human and Other Animals, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York 2003) Thus, the closing paragraph of a book by Gray once again reflects his pleasure in poetic, but oblique narrative. I find it appealing, an intellectual challenge to extract his meaning. But for those less inclined to mental effort, he might have ended more explicitly: “There is no purpose to life. Get over it!” Gray generally interchanges meaning and purpose, and his arguments seem directed at the human tendency to seek or create either.  More correctly, his premise is that there is no more meaning to human life than to that of non-humans. Granted, many seem to find it in everything, but Gray is not buying it. He’s talking about a fundamental, existential reason for human existence that sets us apart from the rest of the biosphere. He is more inclined to say that, if it’s there, it is beyond us to perceive it. Apart from the minor existential challenge of abandoning all hope, Gray’s book is an insightful work, if a difficult one to review. Ironically, its most maddening aspect was also its most enjoyable. The entire book is...

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I’ve decided that the purpose of civilization…

…is to allow the human spirit to flourish.  All the while I am reading John Gray and his empirical argument that humans are nothing more than other animals, I am at odds with myself.  On the one hand, I have to agree with him intellectually, empirically.  But on the other, I know in my gut that it is not true.  There is something more there, something intangible, but real nonetheless.  You see it more than anything in art and music and math, in the prodigies, the anomalies, the young children who seem to be from another planet, who seem to channel Chopin or Mozart, Picasso or da Vinci, or Fermin or Descartes.  You sense it in any truly transcendent human being.  We all know them when we see them, when we meet them.  There are psychic connections, spiritual connections, charismatic connections that transcend the physical.  And you know, even if you can neither understand nor articulate it, that there is something else going on, something beyond the physical, beyond DNA, beyond proteins and neurons.  There is something in the human spirit, when it is at its best, that transcends words and science.  I am convinced of it....

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“Consensually hallucinating,” (more on John Gray…)

These following is a quote from “Straw Dogs:” Virtual reality is a technological simulation of techniques of lucid dreaming practised by shamans for millennia. Using fasting, music, dance and psychotropic plants, the shaman leaves the everyday world to enter another, returning to find ordinary reality transformed. Like virtual reality technology, shamanistic techniques disrupt the consensual hallucination of everyday life.  (John Gray, in “Straw Dogs:  Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals.” Farrar Strauss and Geroux, New York 2003) John Gray is reflecting on the history and future of virtual reality in humankind.  He notes that current technological innovations are just a more efficient means of doing what mystics have always done.  And his analogy to lucid dreaming points to a central danger of both lucid dreams and virtual reality:  Who of us, having experienced lucid dreaming, would really prefer to live in the real world? But what resonates with me are the last six words:  “…the consensual hallucination of everyday life.” While seemingly written in passing, Gray’s words here are profound.  This is because what we think of as “reality” is unique to each of us, and “consensual hallucination” is probably all that keeps us from going mad....

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Reflecting on my past…

…the realization I could have lived different lives is only now becoming real to me.  The one I chose (or that chose me, whether by fear or fate or circumstance), is only this I know. Even as I write this, I only now understand Frost: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”.  The question is, what would I have become in a different life, under different choices or different circumstances? I say that remembering the controlled chaos of family life as a boy and teen, how much I liked it and wanted the same. But no, I’ve grown instead into someone solitary who prefers, even needs, long silences. Obviously, the “me” I am today was always there, waiting. But reflecting, I don’t think he was the only one. Perhaps, as in the proverb about the two dogs, I grew into the one I fed.   But there were more “me’s” than just the one other. I know because, as I’ve grown older, I’ve begun to see their shadows. They drift just beyond my vision or consciousness, lamenting their own unrealized dreams.  ...

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Will the last to go please turn out the lights…

I once heard author Jared Diamond speak about his book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.” As he was addressing Easter Island, a once forested isle that was eventually denuded by its inhabitants (leading to their demise), Diamond wondered aloud about the last tree. What must the guy who cut it down have been thinking? Now, as the global human population exceeds seven billion, and we watch real and potential cataclysm unfold around us—civil war, collapse of ocean and tropical ecosystems, global warming, storms and floods, the emergence of new pathogens, nuclear holocaust—I can’t help but  ponder the eventual extinction of our species. And I can’t help but wonder what it will be like for the last man or woman left...

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