13 June 2016

More musings

But first, a note on the obligatory image: Here is a scrap of paper photographed on top of an illustration of mountains. I intended to eliminate the background (which is taken from an ancient encyclopedia) but ended up liking the confusion that resulted from all those sideways words and the vertical sea. The quotation comes from Calvin Tomkins’ biography of Marcel Duchamp. Tomkins is restating the artist’s own notes about Duchamp’s work La mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même, which translates as The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (also known as “The Large Glass”); and the handwriting is mine.

Dear diary,

Mental anguish. Physical anguish. I think about these ideas way too much.

I also tend to get stuck on that age-old question: Why is one person born rich while another is born poor? It seems that we inherit the systems that organize our world, that rule our world. Thus, no single individual is at fault for the injustices that dominate everyday life.

I’m uncomfortable with grouping people. The rich are a group. I’d rather think of the rich as individuals than as a collective. Which individual rich person is responsible for the travesties that…

Wait—now I wonder: Are the rich a collective? Is there a lone puppeteer who…

I don’t want to continue along those lines. Now I realize that I’m not able to articulate it properly, but I wanted to wonder aloud if maybe the Buddha phenomenon would occur in our modern day. What if one of the super-rich were to wake up and become a turncoat and…

Happy are the poor. Is that correct? Are the poor blessed? What are alms? If the ‘haves’ lacked any ‘have-nots’ to give alms to, should we label this a sad state of affairs? Should we keep the problems of the world at a workable level, instead of eliminating them, for the sake of the health of so-called charitable organizations?

Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.

Those are the words of Luke’s Jesus (12:22-23), and so are these (12:33):

Sell that ye have, and give alms…

I don’t know about all this stuff. I like poor people, and I like rich people. I also dislike people from either group. What if all rich people were to follow that last teaching of Jesus? Would everyone then be poor? Or would there finally be equality, justice? Or would the world come to an end?

When I was young, I would often wonder what would happen if the whole world—every single soul who is currently alive—were to pray at the exact same instant for God to appear. Would God appear? (Now that I’m older, I think that I know the answer.)

To be injured in combat… What if you died on the battlefield? Do you believe in an afterlife? Would you get a reward for giving your life to a good cause? How do you know that your cause is truly good?

I don’t want bad businesspeople to be punished in hell for eternity. I don’t even want bad businesspeople to be punished in hell for one tiny moment. I just want bad businesspeople to stop being bad. I pray that God softens their hearts and causes them to…

Is my prayer hypocritical because I neither believe nor disbelieve in God? I repeat: if such a thing exists at all, then God is inside rather than outside. But I also understand that life is mysterious. There are more things here than I can sense, and more things in existence than our best efforts have been able to discover. …Plus I’m inherently superstitious; and I don’t say this ironically. Every time I swat a horsefly that is trying to sting me, I fear that some dire payback awaits me on The Last Day.

The Last Day: what a misleading concept. Nothing ends; everything simply keeps changing. If there is ever an end, then each passing second is an end.

Yet things do end. The Ice Age ended. Atlantis ended. My great, great grandfather ended. Even corporations die and ascend into heaven.

But poverty never ends. There will always be poor people. (Prove me wrong, please.)

In his youth, after the assassination of his father, Mithridates is said to have lived in the wilderness for seven years, inuring himself to hardship. While there, and after his accession, he cultivated an immunity to poisons by regularly ingesting sub-lethal doses of the same.

I copied the above paragraph from an encyclopedia. I wish that this “ingesting of sub-lethal doses” would similarly immunize us modern kings from all of the toxins that permeate our daily bread.

We all know that as the human body can be nourished on any food, though it were boiled grass and the broth of shoes, so the human mind can be fed by any knowledge.

That sentence is from The American Scholar by Ralph Waldo Emerson. It gives me hope for the children raised on modern media. But no: the second after I write that, I start backpedaling—it’s not my wish to join the ranks of today’s armchair critics who blame “the media” for everything. I want to do something different with my energies. What should I pretend to spend them on…?

The humans who contributed to the invention of nuclear weaponry—I wonder where are they now, and what’s next for their eminences.

I also wonder why people routinely fight their underlings and occasionally their equals, but rarely their betters. Do we all really trust our superiors? I guess I can answer for myself: I wouldn’t brawl with the captain of a ship, for fear that we’d be lost at sea if I won.

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