Although life always has its funny way of testing assumptions about anything, I am an enormously fortunate human being, living in a time and place where I have an opportunity to explore varied possibilities of life and to freely express my thoughts without serious risk of inquisition or persecution.
This blog is intended to consolidate my observations, the
only real conclusion being that experience has somehow shown me what I already
knew but did not understand, as written by many people before.
Throughout history we have behaved like members of ant colonies attacking, destroying and enslaving each other; with the added horrors of sadism and sexual violence, often led by one murderous sociopath after another. History is predominately one of brutalized, traumatized, confused people living in pain and subjugation – we in turn build statues to the monstrous and watch entertainments of the butchery.
Yet young children are joyous, loving, curious, imaginative, creative, alive – everything we as adults should be. Adults generally (despite the facades) are often lost in a mix of anxiety, depression, frustration, regret, vengeance, anger, fear and self-loathing; in varying stages of struggle and confusion.
Something happens along the way that drains the joy and implants the madness. If we are aware of what that is, can we become better adults?
Watching performers, I appreciate quality but I don’t get particularly excited by even exquisite technical excellence. Looks attract, certainly, but interest is quickly lost if there is nothing real going on beyond the performance. I detach emotionally when there is anything conceited or contrived. What holds me is real lived human experience, with all its perfect imperfections; something genuine that has emerged in the moment and surprised even the performer.
I really don’t like listening to or watching any recent performance of mine, even if I am generally pleased with how it turned out. This is weird because I don’t mind after a while, when there is some distance and I have forgotten about the process involved. I suppose the time delay helps me listen/watch as an audience member rather than identifying so firmly as the performer.
When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featured like him, like him with friends possessed, Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope, With what I most enjoy contented least; Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee, and then my state, (Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate; For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Listened on YouTube to various attempts at turning Shakespeare’s sonnets into songs. I don’t think these straight translations work very well. However Shakespeare is so clever that if you read the lines of his sonnets out of sequence as rhyming couplets (e.g. line 1 then 3 then 2 then 4 etc.) the sonnet usually still works well without losing the meaning. So I picked up a guitar, strummed some rhythms and improvised some vocal melodies to the rejigged lines and it all works great!
A lot of what I know is the product of age and curiosity, and although broad is often just familiarity with the basics. But I do also feel something expanding within me lately and I’m not sure of the cause, like energy from a switch that has been flicked on.
It is so important with the poetic flow of Shakespeare that every word means something real to the actor, otherwise the viewer will get lost in the density of content coming at them. Watching performances of Shakespeare, it is so obvious when an actor is merely ploughing through the rhythms in a conventional Shakespearean style, rather than really living the powerful words given to them. Thankfully there are lots of good actors and performances out there – this one I just watched of Sonnet 129 is a good example: https://youtu.be/EEvW5lyWgKQ
The dictionary definition of “atheist” as a non-believer in God or Gods isn’t accurate because anecdotally there seems to be many people who think the doctrinal teachings from religious institutions are cultural based anachronisms – and so would be labelled “atheist” for not adhering to definitive religious beliefs about deities – yet believe in some higher power they cannot define. This type of thought would be different from believing the universe’s purpose and function is completely explicable in terms contained within itself by matter and its interactions.
There are a lot of belief jumps in this sentence: the universe is a purposeless collection of matter that mindlessly configured itself by chance out of nothing, existing in time with causes and effects and had no beginning. A reasonable-minded adherent might be aware of the glaring uncertainties in this position but state it is more parsimonious to adopt a materialistic concept of reality than implant a God belief system as an additional layer in the theory. Yet the certainty with which many proponents preach this position as absolute truth, suggests a type of commitment witnessed in religious belief.
An agnostic would state that the ultimate “why” questions are unanswerable, so from a practical perspective we should just be concerned with the “how” questions. The materialist’s objections to agnosticism based on the burden of proof for God being on the proponent, misses the point to an agnostic who has already ruled-out religious explanations of God but not higher meaning and purpose to reality. A particularly zealous materialist might overplay the remit of verifiable facts by stating opinions about ultimate meaning are irrelevant if they are not scientifically falsifiable – ignoring the fact that their own conceptual model for reality contains unfalsifiable conjecture.
My own instinctive opinion is that I believe religions share the same spiritual root, although the core message was often corrupted by the doctrines and institutions that arose. This is my personal version of “spiritual but not particularly religious”. As I am most familiar with Christianity I can be labelled Christian, however I do adopt a filter and select only what resonates with me, mindful that the scriptures were written and edited by early practitioners of the religion and that the Biblical canon was decided upon by the politics of powerful men in ecumenical councils, rather than being the unadulterated teachings of Christ. Looking back in history, the cruelties that have been perpetrated by professed followers of the religion represent the antithesis of the message of Christ; for real spirituality – the root of Christianity – is always inspired by love, joy, harmony, peace and reconciliation.