Moments that Make Us Who We Are

I remember that electric slow dance
As I do our trips together
Moments I remember that make us who we are:
Your anger when I left you while I explored Chichen-Itza
The mystic glowing lake we paddled on together that Puerto Rico night
All those airplanes landing in the midnight sky over Miami as we drove home from Key West
Looking up at the base and down from the cliff at Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump
Family, and the luxury resort at Saint Lucia
These are moments that make us who we are
Family dinners on holidays
My growing intelligence as I talk with you
The splash cymbal in the Blind Faith song our finger punctuates, listening to my iPod on the road
Sunday lunches out after I preach
Talk late at night
These are moments that make us what we are

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SLOW DANCING AT THE BLUES BAR

Feeling electric

Current

Generated by you, us, moving

That slow dance to the blues band

Your head resting on

My heart

Beating

Moving

To the music

Feeling

More than hearing

The music

You

Touching me

Slow dancing

Electric current

Turned on

Electric

The music

Moving

On the dance floor

Those moments, moving

Afterward

Days pass

Remembering

We are not the same, now

The Wheel of Fortune

Blown away by the blues licks of

John Watkins–he played with

Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, and Willie Dixon

Played with

Here he is in a blues bar in my small city

Played with

I think of Darryl, my friend, he played

Arenas with Frank Zappa, Earl Klugh

Now eking out a living playing cruise ships

Played with

Played

The wheel turns–turns for all of us

A wheel in a wheel, in a wheel

There is a big wheel turning the world

We each of us turn in our small wheel

I was up–oh, I was up

My wheel spun off the axle and crashed

Oh, I crashed

It wasn’t a matter of riding high and falling low

I crashed

The big wheel swung me up onto my feet again

The beneficent big wheel

I’ve been riding it upward for years

And my small wheel is turning me towards prosperity

I’m not expecting it to crash

But who does?

 

Epistemology and What Words Are

Words are created by people;

They help us function.

Words have meaning only when

Our experience meshes with the origin

Of any given word.

Then there is the consideration

Of experience.

To Locke, experience is

Inner and outer.

The motions of our soul are inner.

The world we all share is outer.

Words created to mediate what is inner

Confront what is outer.

When they coincide,

We call it truth.

A preponderance of words from what is inner

That don’t coincide with words from what is outer

Is what we call a lie.

Linguistic processes affirm the art of epistemology.

And there is what we call truth.

For those who care.

While the Eternal Clock Ticks

There’s that song by REM, an ’80’s band, that tells us to “Think about Direction.”  I think for a lot of us, our aims–our direction–are rather short-term.  When I was younger, I had an aim to get into a good school.  That was a goal of several years.  Then, when I got in, it was to get a good grade.  That was a goal of several months.  Then it was get a Ph.D., which was a goal of several years.  Some people, mostly business-oriented people, talk about having a five-year plan.  “Where do you want to be in 5-years?”  I think mostly this is about material things–being an executive, having a 3-bedroom house, making a 6-figure income, a family (which isn’t a material goal), etc.

But all the while I was pursuing my academic goals, I recall having an overarching goal, which I still have today.  Wisdom and virtue.  In my schoolwork, I took interdisciplinary programs to broaden my knowing.  I didn’t specialize in one discipline in order to fit into a job mold.  And as I was going about my life, I continued personal inventory to measure my life against what I understood to be good.  My conception of what the good is grew and developed as I learned more through my education and my life experiences.

On one end of the spectrum of goals are people who intentionally choose a lifestyle.  There aren’t many of these, I think.  Henry David Thoreau was maybe the classic example.  He intentionally set about a life in harmony with nature, moved out of the city, left capitalism behind, and communed with nature at Walden Pond.  On the other side of the spectrum are people whose main goal is to get through the day, get paid, pay their bills, hit the bar, and do the same thing tomorrow.

There are short-range aims and long-range goals.  Everyone needs to get up and go to work and get through the day.  But while we are doing this, there is room for farther-reaching goals.  Why are we going to work?  What are we intending to do with our money?  Who are we as we go about our quotidian lives?  Midway among these are like people who hit the gym before they hit the bar, having an intentional goal of being fit.  Some longer-ranged goals are creative accomplishments such as my interest in music–learning to play and writing songs.  This avocation is almost as important to me as is my career.  In school, one of my roommates was a body-builder.  Another roommate told me that bodybuilding was as important to him as was my music to me.  I had trouble thinking of bodybuilding as an equal kind of avocation as music.  But he was a dedicated bodybuilder.

Work, pastimes, longer-range goals, and the ultimate goal are all part of the virtuous life, I think.  I want to make beautiful and heartfelt music.  I like having an appreciative audience.  I have enough money and a small, comfortable condo.  But those two aims I had when I was younger are still with me.  Wisdom and virtue.

I know that I’m only a pilgrim on this material plane.  What really matters to me is the kind of soul I am cultivating.  In my thinking, that is what is of eternal value.  Money comes and goes.  Children grow up and live their own lives.  Our bodies deteriorate.  Fame passes, over time.  (Where is Jethro Tull, now?)  But what I’ve made of myself, with the One who has all power, lasts.  Rather, the process of spiritual growth lasts forever.  Because the One who has all power is infinite, and I am finite.  Because this is true, I have all eternity to approach nearer and nearer to the Perfect All Powerful One.  And all the wisdom, virtue, and joy that that means.  That’s the ultimate direction in my life.  And everything else either contributes to it, or keeps time while the eternal clock ticks.

Trump Tests Contemporary Philosophy

At a supper party I spoke with a young woman who was getting a degree in philosophy.  I took the opportunity to lament the state of contemporary philosophy.  I told her, “There’s no more truth!”  She responded, “If there ever was.”

There were a coterie of philosophers in recent years who maintained that there is no such thing as truth.  Some of the notable philosophers were Nietzsche, Derrida, Fish, and Rorty.  Their assertion is that there is no outside reality that language copies and reproduces with words.  Rorty wouldn’t even make an assertion like that.  Because if he had said that there is no reality that language copies, that would have been an assertion of which the predicates of true or false could be attached.  Being consistent to his own system, Rorty said that he would use language in such a way that we would be attracted to speak like him.  He wasn’t making a statement about truth.  He was persuading us to speak like him, think like him.  Rorty wouldn’t even accept the endowed chair in the philosophy department at the University of Virginia which was offered him.  He thought that philosophy was no longer a viable discipline.  So U VA created a chair in a brand new department called something like cultural studies.

What does all this have to do with Donald Trump?  A lot of us are getting sick of all the lies he is telling.  As of August 1, the fact checker at the Washington Post found 4,229 lies told by Trump.  This averages 7.6/day.  If Trump had the brains, which he doesn’t, he could claim that contemporary philosophy has eliminated the concept of truth.  Since there is no truth, he would not be making statements contrary to it.  In short, Trump is the most prominent spokesperson for contemporary philosophy.

I was always suspicious of Rorty, Derrida, and Fish when I was a student.  Their claims didn’t convince me.  Now we have a test case for contemporary.  Is Trump lying?  Or can’t he lie?  Is there such a thing called truth which Trumps 4,229 statements are contrary to?  Or are the tactics of Trump and Giuliani, which seek to poison the notion that there is truth at all, entirely legitimate and in keeping with philosophy today?

I think the public outrage against Trump’s lies is an indication that most of us believe in truth, and bristle against lies.  When it comes down to it, I think that the pretensions of contemporary philosophy is another case of the emperor’s new clothes.  We see through it, even as we do Trump’s lies.