Author: Bob Adamcik

The good and the bad…

“When I tried day after day to do good and to relieve the suffering of my patients, I was myself. And when I let myself go and plunged into shameful activities, I was also myself. My scientific studies forced me to the following truth–man is not truly one person, but actually two.” –Dr. Henry Jekyll, in “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” by Robert Louis Stevenson (various publishers). Thinking about human cruelty these past few weeks, I found myself reading Stevenson’s classic allegory of good and evil, the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Like many, I suspect, I knew something of the story but had never actually read it. Doing so after the last two posts was discomfiting. “Jekyll and Hyde” is an allusion to the very things we’ve been considering. In a sense it’s a parable, because of its implicit warning. Jekyll is a respected, upper class physician with a bent towards tinkering. He’d always lived within cultural norms. But, having long sensed his personal darkness, he wondered how it would feel to indulge it. So he developed a potion to allow himself to do that. The heart of the story is that his dark side proved stronger than his good. Eventually it began to take him over without the potion. The more it indulged itself, the greater became it’s greed and disregard...

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The eternal struggle…

Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it. It is a trait that is not known to the higher animals. –Mark Twain, “The Lowest Animal,” (an essay). Those ideals and convictions which resulted from historical experience, from the craving for beauty and harmony, have been readily accepted in theory by man — and at all times, have been trampled upon by the same people under the pressure of their animal instincts. –Albert Einstein (“Ideas and Opinions,” Broadway Books, reprint edition 1995. A friend read my last post and pointed me to Mark Twain’s essay, “The Lowest Animal.”  It’s a commentary on Man’s singular penchant among other animals for cruelty greed, rapaciousness, and other uniquely human hobbies. Twain pushed me to consider this further. Somewhere in our evolutionary ascent (or, per Twain, descent) humans seem to have gone over the edge.  We changed from instinctual automatons to objective, sentient beings who can consciously participate in overt acts of extreme selfishness, regardless of their effects on others.  Recognition of this penchant for personal excess predates, or at least coincides with, the origins of Judaism. The modern western idea of good and evil probably originated in ancient Zoroastrian dualism, around Persia, some three thousand years ago. Original Sin, a Christian invention, was the early...

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Oh, the humanity!

I’m following news about the latest radical Islamist atrocity, this one in Manchester.  And I see once again that most ubiquitous term of self-deception by our species:  “Oh, the inhumanity…!” Or some variant of that, anyway.  After 5,000 years of recorded history, you’d think we know by now that such behavior is nothing if not human.  In fact, mass intraspecific murder is probably uniquely human.  I certainly can’t think of another species that engages in it.  And religion, while not the only cause we kill for, certainly seemed to kick things off. Presaged by prolific Old Testament slaughter of enemies by Jews (or their god), the Jews (using the Romans) tortured and killed Christ, catalyzing the big BC/AD time change.  Over the next two or three hundred years, the Romans tortured and killed Christians.  But then Constantine converted around 315 and took all the fun out of it, so Catholics (the home team, now that Constantine had bought them), killed the gnostics.  But then Islam turns up three hundred years later and takes over, killing pretty much anybody who didn’t agree with them.  They had a good run for a couple hundred years, from China and India, clear across the Middle East to Spain.  By the end of the millennium, though, the Catholic Church got its second wind and started killing Muslims.  When that got tiresome, it went north...

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I’m feeling extremely mortal…

…these last two days. I know why, but I’m reticent to admit it.  I’ve spent the last several days reading Pagel’s “The Gnostic Gospels,” and I’m struck by the many ways people interpreted Christ and Christianity, and that many willingly went to painful deaths for their beliefs. I keep thinking about my own convictions, or more correctly lack of them. What if I’m right? What if I’m wrong? Stupid, I know…but we’re all victims of our socialization, and I was socialized as a Christian. But I’m also educated to be a critical thinker. It’s like two master programmers trying to hack and corrupt each other’s software. In the end I can only fall back on acceptance and confession of what I am, a thinking individual in conflict, looking at a future that will be shorter than my...

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Time Travel:  “He’s walking in my tracks…

…but he can’t fill my shoes” — Jerry Lee Lewis You’d think that, living in East Tennessee, I wouldn’t take country music for granted.  But driving home from Knoxville tonight I picked up the classic show from WDVX, and I could have been 20 years old again.  All these songs and voices so readily identifiable, the liking of which set me apart from my peers in high school…a precursor of sorts to the rest of my life, always being different.  In any case, listening to the young voices of Jerry Lee, Loretta, Merle and Buck, Conway Twitty and Marty Robbins, George Jones and Little Jimmy Dickens…I was wishing I was on a dance floor, something I haven’t thought about in a long, long time. When I was in late high school and early college, we used to play the bars at Matagorda Bay, down along Magnolia Beach and Indianola.  If I hadn’t been playing, I’d have been too young to get in.  And yet, it always fell to me to sing the country stuff…Fraulein, Cheatin’ Heart, Muddy Water, Pick Me Up on Your Way Down.   Low ceilings and low lights, a walking bass, cigarette smoke and juke boxes and alcohol and lonely people…damn!  It just don’t get no better than...

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Down the rabbit hole…sorry!

I know my readers are few, but still, I dislike not posting more frequently.  However, a couple of months ago I started John Gray’s “The Soul of the Marionette,” and it took me down a rabbit hole I’m still exploring.  Gray’s straightforward purpose is the exploration of free will. The book came to me through a fellow traveler in Berlin last year.  I’m not sure why I finally started it, but it might have been better if I hadn’t.  Gray draws from many esoteric sources, several of which resonated deeply.  They drew me in, and one thing led to another.  Now I’m knee deep in a half-dozen books and have been too distracted to think of much else, though I will review any relevant ones at the right time.  I’ve already done so with “Soliloquy.” Anyway, I guess I could list the books that have come up so far, read or being read: The Soliloquy of a Hermit, T.F Powys The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels Straw Dogs, John Gray Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl Existential Psychotherapy, Irvin Yalom So you see, fair readers (ok, reader), I’ve a good excuse.  I just need to plow through some of this and digest it, and I’ll be good to go…!...

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On T.F. Powys and “The Soliloquy of a Hermit”

Man is a collection of atoms through which pass the moods of God…” T.F.Powys, “Soliloquy of a Hermit,” (Hardpress Publishing, Miami. Originally by G. Arnold Shaw, N.Y., 1916) On first read, this work comes off as obtuse commentary on the nature of man, the appeal of simplicity, and the misguided desire for immortality…with some incomprehensible Jesus language tossed in. I was unsurprised that both it and Powys are little known to modern readers. Finding its core, if core there were, would take patience. Who has time for that these days? But I’d come to the book via John Gray, a British political philosopher. Gray spends several pages in “The Soul of the Marionette” discussing Powys. So I explored what Gray and others had to say about him, then gave the book a second read. At some point (and with much help from Gray, on whom I draw for this review) I began to understand it.  Once I did, I found it so insightful I had to read it yet again.  It’s so full of pithy and even humorous commentary, I want to break it into chapter and verse and quote it like the Bible: Powys 6:23, or the like. The book’s original publisher calls it “religious psychology.” Gray and others speak of Powys’ as being “deeply but unconventionally religious.”  I presume, they mean religious from the monotheistic perspective. In...

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