Tuesday, 30 September 2008
Oh well, I saw, I did!
Billy Idol, here I come! It's a nice day for a white wedding! Well it would be, wouldn't it? All the snow and ice round here! Go nice with the big dress! Perhaps I should be marketing this? Better than the day job, ay?
Do you ever do something and fail? A little further on you try again, and fail again! Later you think, no, it will not beat me. I can do this! So you steel yourself and try again. Only this time, you will NOT fail! No, sir! Determination is readied in the trenches, waiting for the whistle, stubborness is in reserve, the crack bloody-minded assault troops are in place. This time, I WILL get to the end!
Well I am just coming to the end of Hammett's 'Maltese Falcon' (been unavailable here for ages) and have made up my mind. Next is Moby Dick! That's Melville not John Henry Bonham's drum solo. Although it can sometimes be difficult to get the end of that as well, especially the live version!
Now I first started to try to read Moby Dick when I was young. I got to about page 10! Some years later, more mature, more responsive to 19th century prose style, I was heavily into Dostoyevski at that point and you can't get much more 'dense' than him, I tried again. Got to about page 100! THIS time only the end will suffice! Only the epilogue will satisfy. And no cheating! Now I know the story, I know some of the symbolism and I know the end (as well as the beginning:). This must be enough to sustain me, surely? Surely, I can wade my way through endless descriptions of nautical activity and get to the bottom of what is one of the great American novels. (Not that that is much of an achievement given the class of the European achievements it has to compete with but nonetheless.....)
Now the edition here has 614 pages. I will be posting regular progress reports in the title to each blog from now on as to where I am at. So root for me, cheer me on as I approach page 240, offer encouragement and a cold drink as I enter the stadium at page 499, shout at the tops of your voices, scream, as I enter the final bend at page 578 and please boo and hiss me if I collapse, exhausted, at page 367. Only success will be enough now. Only victory. A gold medal. Moby Dick. Conquered! Just call me Ahab, except this will NOT consume or destroy me! I will rise, proud, unbroken and Moby will lie vanquished, forever a conquered and insignificant whale! I will win! I am a penguin!
Hell, I'm useless at everything else, leave me my small makeweights!
Came across some lovely news earlier. Tarnished a little by what's gone on before (see previous blogs about self destruction) but someone got a plum job today and nobody deserves it more, nor is better suited. MG is crowing that: "It's nice to know my initial assessment all those years ago, when the person was hiding all kinds of stuff under a bushel, wasn't wrong. Just such a shame it took so long! Partly my fault, maybe my departure should have been delayed a little longer but it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference. Too many issues!"
I think he's just pleased that something good has come out of all that pain.
Saturday, 27 September 2008
Now call me old fashioned ("you're old fashioned!") but I think that there is something wonderful about 'tutoyer'. English has become just a little bit worse since everyone (mostly, and then just dialect) stopped using the 'familar' personal pronouns. One of the nice things about conversing in French or German is that there comes a point where you switch from the formal to the familiar and it's like, "you've arrived". These people like you, you are their 'friend'. Alternatively, they're treating you like a small child. Come to think of it.......
But, I think, just as nice is that the sounds of the words are so much less 'harsh'. 'Tu', 'Du', sound so much nicer than 'vous', 'Sie' and perhaps even more so in English. Or am I imagining it? Isn't "Prithee, willst thou not come to bed" nicer, sound more pleasant than "Won't you come to bed, please?". Would Elizabeth's "how do I love thee, let me count the ways" sound as good if it were "you" instead of "thee"? I don't think so.
And so, I give you a fairy story. Though it is sorely in need of a rewrite, it resists all attempts to do so. The stream of conciousness that comes at 3am on New Year's Day from half a bottle of Krug, half a bottle of Bollinger, a couple of large brandies followed by two glasses of Chablis is not to be denied. It is of a place and a time which is not here and is not now. No judgement is required except one. Would her final words be as 'loaded' if 'you' were substituted for 'thee'?
"Upon a time, a sad and lonely boy ventured far from home. In search of Life, he little guessed the narrowness of the chasm that, in places, separates Life from Love, and stepping over he was lost for a time, from sight and knowledge. Love is dangerous for those who have no learning and awareness of the divide they have crossed.
Some time later, though still entranced, he retraced his steps, and found again the straitened path that led back to Life and, crossing the gap, returned, wiser but immeasurably sadder at what had been lost. Faerie is a perilous realm and is not made for mortals. An Elfin Queen consorts with humans from boredom, for play, her love is for her own kind only.
One year later, the same lonely boy set off once more in search of Life. And though sadness was still much a part of him, the narrowness of the chasm and its place were known, and he was careful to remain on the side of Life until………
She beckoned him from across the divide, her face radiant in the morning sunshine. “Come tarry with me, kind Sir. I know of a warm hearth and a place of good cheer. You may keep to your side, I will keep to mine, you need have no fear.” She extended her hand and gestured for him to follow. Although he was fearful, he kept pace, matching her steps, maintaining the chasm between them, never approaching the edge, until the looming shadow of an iron bridge hid the sun and only the radiance of her face could be seen.
She stopped. Where the shadow was most dense, she held out her hand. Taking it, he crossed the gap. Transported by her smile, and in the glow and the warmth of her kiss, he was lured back into the sadness and the joy.
For four long years, he criss-crossed the chasm, neither at peace in Life nor in Love, yet desperate for both. For Love cares little for Life and Life has no recognition of Love and so was he pulled in both directions at once, like a pendulum, swinging in a constant cycle. Each day in Love increased the desire for Life, each day in Life increased the need for Love.
Finally, though the burden of decision was perilous, he was forced to choose. Life or Love. One or the other. To hold both, but each in its own time and place, was no longer to be borne. She would not, could not, leave. “Although I do not wish to be parted from thee, I shall die, away from Love. Life is not for such as I. I will mourn grievous at our final parting, willst thou not stay?” But without Life, he too would wither and fade. The die had been cast.
They walked back to the chasm, arms entwined, down the narrow path that led to Life. “I walk with thee to bar the gate that thou hast found, so that the way is closed. For thou willst hazard to return, this I know. But also I walk to be with thee and to say farewell.” At the chasm, he laid one foot on the other side and turned. She kissed him, one last, long, lingering kiss. As their lips parted, he placed his other foot on Life. She vanished and the chasm was gone.
He never saw her again. And yet, it is said, when the world mocks and taunts this life, her hand, ghostly and ephemeral, stretches out, from the far reaches of Love, and lightly touches his cheek. And he is at peace."
MG emailed today. He got a hug from a most unexpected quarter today for some 'toil' over the weekend. Quite spontaneous and quite made his day!
Friday, 26 September 2008
Someone left a comment yesterday asking me to comment on something. :) Trouble is, I don't know if I've picked up on the right thing. So if this isn't what a certain somebody wanted, well, be clearer next time! Genius? I may be, but clairvoyance is not my strong suit! Spades is, but only if I can draw trumps in two rounds and cross ruff from dummy. Rare bird that, the bridge playing penguin. No-one else here can be fagged to learn, I have to play with a computer! Interestingly my partner goes by the moniker of ‘Big Bird’. (His bidding, however, leaves much to be desired, very conservative. The slams I’ve missed!)
Not a pleasant subject paedophilia. However you dress it up, it sticks in your throat, doesn't it? The problem I have is that I don't know what it is. It's not that I don't know that it's kiddy fiddling (and worse, much, much, much worse), it's that I don't know when being a kiddy stops.
You see, penguins do not have this problem. Females are simply off the agenda until they become sexually mature. Approach a juvenile penguin with amorous (or sexual) attentions and you'll like as not get a beak in the eye. For us, you see, and for most of the non human kingdom, sex only happens at quite specific times of the year and in response to certain stimuli, mostly visual or scent based, caused by hormonal changes. Juveniles don't have those changes. I say most non humans because there is one exception, the bonobo chimpanzee.
To be fair to you, bonobos make you lot look like abstinent priests, sex for bonobos, in positions that will make your eyes water, is all part of the daily social routine. Instead of going to work, saying hello to your colleagues, maybe popping out for a pint and a pie and then going home to watch TV, bonobos have sex! No really! They even use sex to say hello! (Try that down the Slug and Aardvark tonight and see how far you get – with your gonads still attached to your body, mind. If they’re on the floor or coming out of your mouth, it doesn’t count!)
So bonobos aside, you are the only animals that are active sexually all the time. There is no brake on males (or females for that matter). Attraction is not just influenced by hormones either. There is an enormous number of other factors involved which probably accounts for the incredible range of sexual practices you engage in. The other problem you have is your sexual/physical development is becoming increasingly out of kilter with your mental and emotional development and for humans the latter plays a large part in how you form relationships, view the world or develop a moral code or way of living.
You see for us, as soon as we get to sexual maturity we've pretty much developed mentally. We'll learn a few things as we grow older (in my case, quite a few :) but our basic attitudes, behaviours and instincts are all there. Just as importantly we've spent the preceding three years fending for ourselves, being independent, not in any way reliant on our parents.
But humans reach puberty so much earlier in their mental development, most haven't even started their senior school (high school) before they're already well on their way to sexual maturity. And they are still so dependent on their parents. Now quite clearly we say, a 10 year old girl is not old enough to form any kind of 'adult' emotional bond with either another child or an adult and you should probably avoid allowing them to get involved in sexual practices which may lead to emotional or psychological issues further down the line.
However that is a fairly recent view. The legal age on consent was raised to 16 only a hundred years or so ago in LetsfollowBushintoastupidlandwarwecan'twinland when parliament breathed a collective gasp of horror on hearing of a women selling her 13 year old daughter's virginity to the highest bidder. It's only around the same time that any kind of regulation was done in relation to child working, which you applaud now, but which must have been a serious financial blow to families at the time. “Ay, what we gonna do now, lass, now that Charlie (8) will longer be let to push a coal truck in't mine for 16 hours a day? Where’s his 3d (about 1.5c) a week gonna come from now?”
Ah, but we live in more enlightened times, do we not? And children are to be protected, yes?
But it used to be quite common, and in places still is, to offer up girls for marriage at sexual maturity (sometimes before). There is no doubt, in general, males of any age favour sex with nubile young females. No really! :) For a very good reason. If as a male you want to donate the maximum number of your genes to posterity, the best time to start is AT female sexual maturity not 20 years later when they may be better conversation and a lot better in bed ;) but you won't get the opportunity for as many offspring, ergo less genes swimming around in the pool.
But, on the other hand, when are they old enough? Is that 22 year old female, face down in the gutter, pewking her guts up after one too many Bacardi Breezers, old enough? The law says yes, but her emotional/psychological age? Is that also 22? Or is she still stuck at 13? Unable to comprehend that she has just stuck a great big sign on her back, saying “Rape ME!”
It seems to me that we're back on the old 'covering your boss' arse and gassing Jews' continuum. Where do you draw the line? 21? 18? 16? 14? 12? Sexual maturity? I honestly don't know.
Paedophila doesn't make an enormous amount of sense to me, even though I'm male, although I suspect that like rape, it actually has very little to do with sex or emotional attachment and an awful lot more to do with control, power and ego. After all, even if you find little Molly down the road cute, what’s the point of having sex (for pleasure) with a body that is (a) unresponsive and (b) quite simply too small. And let’s be blunt, it’s not restricted to small girls either. In fact, in Ireland, girls don’t even enter the equation. Ask the 'Brotherhood'!
It is certainly something that women seem to fail to engage in, although I don’t think that has anything necessarily to do with ‘maternal instinct’. There are enough of you out there trying to knock down the lounge wall to make the living area, “brighter, bigger, more a sense of space” with the baby’s head for me to think that women of that ilk just exercise their control in a different way. For men it’s always sex! They are, after all, just a penis with a brain attached. Pity that in most cases, both are way too small.
It is however sad that someone becomes twisted enough that the only power they can wield is the sadistic torment of helpless children not just at the time but, in the main, for the rest of their life. At least Stalin tormented adults who potentially could fight back.
As the lowest of the low, those who abuse the most defenceless creatures of your society, what do you do? Those who specifically target the most innocent? String them up? It's been suggested. Chemical castration? Real castration? I don't know. They are quite clearly ill. Does a humane and just society not take care of its sick?
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Now he's a tolerant soul, not PC but he does try to treat everyone the same, irrespective of race, colour, creed, sex, sexual orientation, inside leg measurement. That doesn't mean he treats them all nicely, merely that if you get him on a bad day, he will shout at you irrespective of your race, colour, creed, sex, sexual orientation or, for that matter, inside leg measurement.
Now he's under a lot of pressure at work at the moment, long hours, seven days a weeks, you know the routine. The eighties mentality never really went away, they just call it something different now. He's having to advise people about what to do, which isn't included in his 'proper' job, which means an endless procession of questions, he's just filling in really, a substitute 'fount of all wisdom'. So he's asked a question. He gives a simple response to the question, ie the facts, he doesn't have time for more. Then a couple of hours later, he gets presented with what amounts to a complaint about insensitivity about someone's position. The 'subject', if you will, of the original enquiry.
So he finds a solution, presents it, it's accepted, grudgingly, and now feels bad about it because he should have spotted it first time around when he didn't have all the facts. Where's the sense in that?
In Britland, they have this thing called the Disability Discrimination Act. It means that you cannot discriminate, quite rightly, against someone just because they're disabled. Now it does lead to some strange potential situations like, "So, you want to be a fire fighter? Hm, the wheel chair might pose a bit of a problem when you have to climb a ladder" or "You're applying for the job of receptionist and switchboard operator....and you're totally deaf" but on the whole, it's a good thing. I'd hate to be disabled in a modern western society, it must be awful to be excluded from so many things!
Basically the person was bemoaning the fact that they couldn't do what they wanted to do because there was no online way of doing it and anything else was impractical. What wasn't clear, at the outset, was why. Their disability prevented them from following the normal route. Once that did become clear, a solution was found. So why feel bad about it?
And all you get is, "I should have spotted that it was a genuine complaint about access". "That the solution should have been provided at the point at which they first got involved". Why? The problem with dealing with minorities is that they are just that. 90% of the time, you deal with the average. OK, you try to keep everything in mind, but sometimes, you slip, you don't go the extra yard, because normally you don't have to. Is that so bad? So long as you make good in the end? Why feel bad about it? Especially when you are overworked, underpaid and most importantly, under appreciated!
And why do I always type 'becuase'instead of 'because'? Strange the way the brain/wing combination goes awry sometimes, or in my case, always!
We're none of us perfect, ay?
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
I decided to stop by the Almighty's blog today. It must have been designed by St Lucy. You'd have thought "God's blog, click here!" would be in big letters all over the place. Nope! Buried amongst all the adverts for pieces of the "'True Cross', only $404.99!" and "A full size replica of David's slingshot, only $54.99, demolish your enemies! It did for Goliath, it'll do the same for you! As approved by the American military." Must have been a big cross, that's all I can say and a slingshot isn't going to be of much use against a stinger missile or a gatling gun, now is it?
Anyway, having found God's blog, I must say it was a little disappointing. It just seemed to be one long whinge. (Yes, alright. Mine haven't exactly been all fun and laughter recently.) It was just one long moan. A rant against all the demands she has to deal with every day. There was no joy in the omniscience of it all, just endless carping about farmers in China not wanting their rice harvest to fail. Endless prayers for a lottery win and how it was beyond even God's omnipotence to fulfil them all. George's endless whining about the need for another Republican victory, even if Obama is black! It would certainly seem that that one is seriously hacking God off and I suspect that there will be a lot of 'chad manipulation' after the votes go into the ballot box. One of the advantages of being God, I guess!
So I flipped across to the 100 most asked questions. A small selection is reproduced below:
Pride of place is,
1 Why is my life so shit, God! (97.4% of respondents. Says a lot, ay?)
24 Why does my Big Mac taste of absolutely nothing after I've eaten the pickle/gherkin?
31 If I drink myself senseless and screw Mary Carpenter on the lawn, does this count as 'fornication'? (Popular girl, Mary Carpenter, 0.9% of respondents asked this question)
37 Why does the grass still on my lawnmower turn to rust over the winter?
47 Why is 'Jack Daniels' sold as bourbon when it's Tennessee sipping whiskey?
54 Do angels have sex and if so with whom? Other angels? Or are saints allowed?
58 If Jesus died on the cross to redeem mankind, does this mean I can screw Mrs Folks down the street and it's ok so long as I believe and go to confession?
69 Does the Pope approve? And if not, should he/she?
84 If you are so omnipotent, why don't the trains run on time?
85 If you are so omnipotent, why is MY post ALWAYS delivered to next door?
99 What's going on with energy prices?
I rest my case.
Monday, 22 September 2008
So I 'phoned God today. Just curious, you understand. Just to see if anyone answered. Just applying a little Popperian philosophy. Try to test the hypothesis, try to prove it false. Guess what I got?
"Thank you for calling God's Heaven. If you know the extension of the soul, saint, angel or archangel you are calling please dial it now followed by star, otherwise please choose from one of the following options:
if you are calling to complain about an unanswered prayer, please key one; if you want to make supplication to the almighty, please key two; if you wish to speak to an archangel, angel or saint, please key 3; if you are enquiring about a recently elevated soul, please key 4; if you wish to speak to someone about a crisis of faith, please key 5; if you are enquiring about a plague of boils, of locusts, of Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses on the doorstep or any other plague, please key 6; to speak to Reception, please key 7; to apply for a free 'all areas' pass, please key 8; for all other enquiries, please key 9 or hold to speak to an operator. To return to the list of options, please key hash at any time."
So I held. To the strains of Bach's St Matthew's Passion, the following was endlessly repeated:
"We are sorry but all of our angels and saints are busy dealing with clients at the moment. Please continue to hold, your call is very important to us and you will be answered shortly. Alternatively why not visit our website 'www.blazingapostles.com'. You can submit prayers through our online 'handyprayer' utility, use our very popular 'Ask an archangel' page, look up the 100 most frequently asked questions of God and read God's daily blog,'Omniprescence and where can you go to get away from it all?'. Or you can email your enquiry to: email@example.com. We will answer as soon as angelically possible."
Now I know they're probably very short staffed in Heaven, there not being that many souls up there, but I held for 30 minutes and still no-one answered. I wouldn't mind but it wasn't even a freephone number, premium rate, I dread to think what the station's phone bill is going to be like next month. Some newbie will probably get shouted out for dialling phone-sex lines.
Oh well, maybe God had taken a sneaky day off or a 'sicky' perhaps and Heaven was just playing 'While the cat's away........'
Empathy. One of evolution's great success stories. It's what makes social cohesion, co-operation so much more possible and humans are probably the most empathetic creatures on the planet. (I must confess it does stick in my craw sometimes - whenever I talk about evolution, you lot always come out as the most complex, evolved creatures. Still can't get things right, though, can you?:)
It's also a good illustration for the way in which evolution works. Once the animal has become a little sentient and social, you can see how even tiny improvements in how well they can put themselves inside some other animal's head and work out their motivations, strategies and emotions would offer quite a considerable advantage in how well they do within the social group. Once you start to be able to spot things like deception and manipulation you are well on your way to being a very successful member of your group indeed. Not only that, it benefits the group as a whole. They can resist invasion by deceivers or manipulators because they are able to spot them before they do damage. Without empathy, it's quite difficult to do that.
Now, interestingly humans on the whole don't 'use' the word empathy for all of that. They generally use it to describe and deal with emotional states rather than intellectual or motivational states. So it's unlikely that one would say "I empathise with Adolf Hitlet over the Sudetenland", meaning "I know bloody well what that bastard is up to because I'd do it in the same way", but they would use it when dealing with a friend's bereavment, "I empathise with them having recently lost my brother." Interesting for a word that was originally coined by the 'art critic world' at the turn of the last century.
So what causes empathy failure? I came across something the other day that seemed to me to so blatantly obvious, assuming you just imagined how you would feel if the same things happened to you, that I couldn't believe that others hadn't spotted it and seemed to be absolutely clueless. Is there a sliding scale of empathy? Some of you have loads of it and some of you have an awful lot less with a load in the middle, classic Bell Curve? Or perhaps empathy requires a bit more of an effort and if you're not willing to make the effort, you just never get there? I don't know. Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby has always stood me in good stead ever since I read the Water Babies, Satre just reinforces that, perhaps how empathetic you are relates to that? If you live your life as Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby would have you live it, it makes it easier to get inside someone elses head? You're already thinking kind of that way anyway?
Of course I could be completely wrong and what I see isn't there at all and I have no empathy, just an over active imagination (well, I have got one of those too but....). Ah well, all will become clear in the fullness of time, as Dai op Owen, my grandfather, used to say.
And a small thank you to Bill Nelson and Be Bop Deluxe for the inspiration for blazingapostles.com. (Blazing apostles, guardians of light. The phone number's on the wall. If you are needing a devil to fight, why don't you give us a call?)
Sunday, 21 September 2008
I must confess to being in a bit of a crisis at the moment. My non belief is being twisted, mangled, flagellated (lovely word, that, as all derivations from Latin in English are) and torn apart! Where will it all end? A Muslim penguin? A Catholic Penguin? A Mormon Penguin? A Zen Penguin? The latter has a nice 'ring' to it, I think, tho' endless hand clapping doesn't appeal so much nowadays. These past weeks have seen so much turmoil among my little circle of e-chums that I am seriously asking myself the question: "Has God got it in for me and, if so, why?" And of course, if God does have it in for me, then, by extension, God exists!
You go gaily (that's with gaiety, not with a mincing gait) through life, ne'er a care in the world. Shit happens on a global scale but while you relate to it, it's not personal and can be relegated to the realms of abstraction, which makes it so much easier to deal with. But recently so much has gone on in such a small space, and a small circle of people I know, that it does make me wonder. Because, you see, if God does have it in for me, if she's really so hacked off with me that it's time to pull out 'mine vengeance' and start wielding her omnipotence, what defence do I, a humble penguin, have against that? The almighty?
Can I find enough asbestos fire fighters' outfits to protect myself, and my rookery, against the fire and the brimstone? What if Fricka once looks back in farewell, as she waddles off to sea, and is turned to a pillar of salt? How do I protect her? What do I do when the locusts arrive, and finding no leaves, decide penguins will make an effective substitute? Or I suddenly develop a severe outbreak of boils? Or all of our first born die? No, I have no defence, but one.
When you write it all down like that, you just can't take it seriously, can you?
So I await God's retribution with a spring in my step and the sure knowledge that in all her omnipotence, she must surely be able to take a joke!
If this seems light hearted after even more bad news then perhaps it's because I maybe CAN do something this time, instead of having to sit on my wings and watch, helpless, while lives are perhaps destroyed.
Which brings me neatly to my point. Do you get involved? In someone else's pain/problems? Human/penguin charity clearly indicates you should, if you can help, surely you must? How do you live with yourself if you don't? But when that applies to situations where more than one persom is involved, then it's easy, you're taking it up 'on behalf of' the 'other'.
What when it's just the one? When it's just their psyche, just their well-being, when there's no potential trade off, maybe help one out of two, then what? You offer but they the don't take the offer? Or they do take up the offer and you end up agonising whether you are the right person to be doing this? What if you screw up, make matters worse? What if you are not quite the Wunderkind you think you are? It's funny how Jean-Paul keeps coming back into all this, isn't it? I have a choice, which I should make, and I have to accept the responsibility, either way, for the choice I make. But the potential for a bad outcome is as least as great as the potential for a good one. Satre was right to consider 'choice' one of the fundamental problems in human existence. He just doesn't really provide an awful lot of help in making them though :-). The framework's there, the moral 'guidance' is there but is trying to do good and failing worse than doing nothing at all or better?
I think I need to go and agonise some more :-) Or perhaps call God? Well, assuming she's talking to me, you know how funny women can be! Anybody got her number?
Saturday, 20 September 2008
Strange writing about Sartre yesterday, it got me thinking about bad choices, mistakes, those forking paths where if you had your time all over again, you'd do it differently, take a different path, wouldn't you? But would you? And if you did, would life turn out better? Or worse? Or would it just be different? Would you look back and still think that the 'other alternative' has to have been better than this life you have?
Hindsight is always 20/20 but, in one way, looking at choices you made then from your perspective now is a pointless and valueless exercise. You are now what you are because of the choices you made then. The person/penguin you were then is not the person/penguin you are now, it can't be!
So the question seems to to be 'Do you like yourself?' Or perhaps 'Are you very unhappy?' Because if the answer to the first is 'yes' and the answer to the second is 'no', which I think would be what most of us would answer, then on what basis do you judge the choice you made to be a bad one. Of course if the answers are reversed then you might well judge that the path you took was ill chosen but how many of us, or you, are very unhappy and full of self loathing? Really?
And what of the intervening period? Between your choice and now? How much of that makes you unhappy? How much of that has taught you to hate yourself? All of the wonderful people you've met. Would you have met them if you'd made a different choice? The things you've done, the trips you've made, the places you've seen, the books you've read, the music you've heard, would any of that have happened if you'd made a different choice? Is the life you have, the friends you have, the memories you have not rich enough? Something tells me that in nearly all cases, the answer would be 'Yes!'
It seems a common trait in humans to want more than they have. To want things to be different, more like his or her life across the street. But they had different opportunities, they had different decisions to make, you can never have their life unless you are them, can you? Would you have ever faced up to what you were capable of, how much you loved someone, or they you, found where the rocks in your life are that you can lean on, if you had not made the choice you made?
So in what way then, can it be seen to be a bad one?
No, Camus was right. Take pleasure in the life you have, not the one you think you want, give meaning to the things you do by doing them and stop trying to get one over on l'absurde. You can't, ever! It's just way too big! :-)
As Robert Plant was wont to say, "This is a song of hope."
Friday, 19 September 2008
(Although they were not averse to boring, long winded, mind numbingly confusing 'essays' either.)
They were both also essentially :) existentialists, at least in so far as propounding the ideas around existence being before essence, ie you are what you have become not what you were made to be.
For me, essentially :), Sartre provides a way of generating a moral code of behaviour which is 'good' and 'just' without the necessity of going to "God's" supermarket and picking one off the shelf. The key factors here are choice and responsibility.
At every turn, we are faced with making choices about how we behave both in relation to ourselves and in relation to the world out there. If we are to avoid an 'imposed' moral code, eg "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife" (but I do, I do!) then one must find the same solution in another way. It is here that responsibility steps in. With each choice comes, free of charge, the responsibility that in choosing you are giving your choice validity for everyone else. There can be no "this is just for me, no-one else can choose this way" solutions. If once you choose to act in a certain way, then you have given everyone/thing 'carte blanche' to make exactly the same choice.
When it comes to generating a moral code, this is a powerful tool. It will, all by itself, generate most of the ten commandments for example. I covet my neighbour's wife? I go get her and lo and behold what happens? Someone can now covet what I have. And if she's willing to run off with me, I bet she'll be willing to run off with him! More money and a bigger willy, so rumour has it. Seems a bit senseless doesn't it? I don't like you, so I beat you up. Oh dear, someone doesn't like me so they beat ME up. You can see how this kind of thinking is actually BETTER than an imposed code. YOU get to make the decisions, but you are restrained from making immoral ones by the very nature of the decision you make. You might think you're free to do as you please but in truth you are not. Your freedom is constrained by the very freedom you have. It's self policing!
One doesn't even need to be rational about it. It can be an intuitive or an emotional decision but having made it, it's now ok for the entire planet to do likewise! Wouldn't that make you consider the repercussions of your actions, your decisions?
Oh, if only we could have a world like this, wouldn't it be better? Wouldn't it make you think twice about some of the awful things you do (mostly to beings like me) in the name of avarice, of religion, of sovereignty, of power?
Would your leaders be so willing to gamble with YOUR lives if everyone thought the way Jean-Paul said we should think. I think they would find revolution under every door mat!
I guess this means 'The boy in the striped pyjamas' has been relegated to tomorrow. I wish Havelock would hurry up with the fish. I'm starting to get VERY hungry!
Thursday, 18 September 2008
I finished 'The boy in the striped pyjamas' today. It's only a couple of hundred pages. It's really hard to decide whether a ten year old should read it. Malcolm Goodson has a great niece about the right age but.........Anyway, I wanted to talk about that today. Not the subject matter, I've already said what I have to say about that. I more wanted to talk about how it's all been constructed, edited, written, plotted. However, I need to think some more about it so I'll stick it in draft and maybe then it might make some sense once I've had a chance to worry it to death.
So I thought today, while I work on that, I'd show you a picture instead of babbling in my usual nonsense way.
Now I've been hassled all winter by a certain individual who can't believe that after 7 months the only thing on my blog that he thinks should be there is a Christmas Card drawing of Fricka and I (with Frodo) last year. All the time, emails, "Oh, c'mon, Dai, please?", "It won't hurt, just one?", "I'll love you forever and have your babies! Please?" You have to admit, it's hard to resist. Though I think the last one I should take with a pinch of salt, it might need a major medical breakthrough first, I think.
So, as all friends must, I have succumbed. I will accede to his request, After all, it's not bad as such things go. I'm just glad we don't have them down here. From what he tells me, they're ten times worse than the bonxies! So here we have.........Falco Peregrinus, the most lethal aerial predator of them all!
I thought I'd leave you with a cut and paste job of an email I received from the 'Wunderkind' after my post about Auschwitz.
"When I was seventeen, I stayed in Germany with an elderly couple who a German teacher used to au pair for. They were quite high up the social ladder but very charming, generous, caring people. I was a working class oik but I had learned manners! Omi (that's German for Grandma), very rich, but not their grandmother, used to come for tea on the lawn three or four times a week. She couldn't pronounce Malcolm so called me Michael because the first time she met me, I was dressed all in white with long, flowing dark brown hair (post Woodstock, you understand) and she said I looked just like an angel. Well one day, she brought a friend. An elderly Jewess with a number tatooed along the underside of her forearm. She had a few bangles but a short sleeved dress. All afternoon I was just gagging to ask. But I didn't. When they'd both gone and we were sitting in the sun drinking iced tea, all that was said was 'Thank you.' For what? 'For saying nothing.'
I never spoke about Stalingrad, either - though the drawings were wonderful!'"
Wednesday, 17 September 2008
Now this is one of those questions that always comes up after half a dozen beers on a Friday night. Do I exist? Do you exist? And if we do, how do we prove it etc etc? Usually after another half a dozen beers everyone concludes: "Does it matter? And whose round is it anyway?" Then everyone slides gracelessly under the table. End of discussion.
It is a question that has occupied idle philosophers for centuries. From Plato and the shadows on the wall through Descartes and 'cogito ergo sum' (the Latin roughly translates as 'I'm pink therefore I'm Spam'. Or is it 'I'm pink therefore iPod'? Or 'I'm Pink therefore I sing (badly)'? Well it's one of those, it probably doesn't matter which), Leibnitz and his monads, the phenomenologists. Existence and the proof of it seems to be one of the roots of human speculation.
A small digression. Descartes, in the 'Discours sur la methode' did manage to argue from first principles and prove in a logical and consistent manner the existence of Big Macs, iPod nanos, neo-Conservative politics, capitalism, Taco Bell, sliced white bread and Bill Gates. Alright, I made the last one up. Bill Gates does not exist. He is merely a Jungian manifestation of the collective screams of Windoze Pizza users as Pizza crashes for the umpteenth time and destroys your hard won collection of jpegs of Russian porno starlets! Steve Ballmer does however keep a cardboard cut out of a realisation of that manifestation in his office to frighten visitors (made by Willem de Kooning in 1989). End of digression.
So existence and its proof. What's the big deal? Why should it matter whether you can prove the existence of an objective reality that is somehow seperate and distinct from you? A reality that doesn't depend on you and what you think? A reality that would be there even if you were not? But it quite clearly does matter to you as a species, otherwise you wouldn't spend so much time fretting over it in long, boring philosophical treatises (and endless discussions in bars), would you?
You see for a penguin, wondering whether the seal half a metre from your tail has any objective reality doesn't come into the equation. If you, once, decide that maybe it isn't really real because you cannot 'prove' its existence in a logically consistent manner then you, my dear friend, are DEAD! If once you decide that there is no antarctic winter because you cannot prove in a logically consistent manner that the wind really is blowing at 270kph and it isn't just 'inside your head' and you wander off for 'walkabout' then you are, as I have said, DEAD!
Now I am quite happy to concede that ultimately knowledge of the world is rooted in your perception, ie it IS inside your head. That all of the things you experience are simply that. Random, non random firings of neurons in your brain. The world does exist, for you, for me, only inside your head. Someone else's view may be of a different world, but it's a world nonetheless. But can you, or any of us, afford the luxury of a wager? In truth, it matters not a jot whether I exist, or you exist, in any real way. All that matters is that pragmatically you must exist as must I. Thinking in any other way leads only to non-survival. Only by 'believing' that there is a reality out there, WHICH CAN HURT YOU, can you possibly hope to survive.
And yes, I am aware that I am defending a position that I decry throughout these blogs. A 'blind' faith in something. I wouldn't if I didn't have to but how can I exist if I don't defend it. I can, and do, argue for the non existence of God, or Krishna, or Buddha, or Zarathustra, or Allah but to deny that 'reality' is real, denies me, and 'me' KNOWS I exist without any doubt whatsoever. I just will always be unable to convince you of that! But then perhaps I don't have to?
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Now in amongst the usual fodder was one I had slipped into the order, the second Artemis Fowl novel, but also there was 'The boy in the striped pyjamas'. Now I've been intrigued by this book ever since I saw the first advertisements for the film. We're a bit isolated down here and I must have missed the fuss when the book came out but was it really a children's book? The theme is rather an adult one. Well it is! Not an adult book pretending to be for kids, it genuinely seems to be a book intended for children, in language, style etc.
Now I read the first three chapters and stopped. No, I will continue it. I stopped because an awful thought crossed my mind. Would I let a 'child' of mine read it? Note the word child. Now Auschwitz-Birkenau is a well known historical fact, David Irving notwithstanding. What went on there is well known both from German archives and eye witness testimony, Primo Levi being the outstanding example. But would I want 'my child', 9 or 10 years old say, matching the main characters' ages, reading about something so horrific, that even now the reality of it beggars belief?
Would I want them to know how far into the pit the human race will go in pursuit of its own beliefs? Before they have to? Shouldn't what little innocence that remains to them be preserved just a little while longer? And yet the children, because they could not work, were always in the vanguard to the gas chamber. Doesn't the child have a right to know that adults, just like their parents, allowed an Austrian dolt of a corporal to gain power and employ a gang of psychpathic maniacs to exterminate European Jewry using essentially the same methodologies as are used to provide their toys or their Big Macs, ie big industry?
And even if we agree that 9 or 10 is too young for tales of backbreaking labour from pre dawn to dusk on 800 calories a day, the gas gangrene and typhus experiments, of the mad scramble to be at the top of the pile when the gas pellets hit the floor, crushing the old and the infirm and the young underfoot, extracting the teeth from the corpses, loading your fellow countrymen and women (and children), even perhaps your friends, into the crematoria, when will they be old enough? Are we old enough?
Are we ever old enough for the 'miracle' of the gas chambers? The small girl, who fainting at exactly the right time, had enough uncontaminated air at floor level to survive the gassing. The only survivor of the gas chambers at Auschwitz! They dragged her out and put a bullet in the back of her head!
Perhaps 9 or 10 IS the right age - experience won't have taught them that this happens all the time!
Looking forward to Artemis though. Children's book as well but such an excellent conceit. The fairies and elves no longer use magic much, it's all high tech wizardry, computers etc, all overseen by a Sys Admin who's a centaur!
A few DVDs, not much but a copy of 'All quiet on the western front' (Im Western, Nichts neues - nothing new in the west) which I think I shall watch tonight as it's subtilted - assuming they all go to bed early. And a copy of Memphis Belle, not subtitled but probably watchable for the planes.
I was going to write about reality and whether it's really there or not today but like Borges' 'New refutation of time' perhaps I'll leave it for another pun!
Oh, and the blow by blow account of Satre v Camus in all its blood-stained, testosterone fueled glory will also have to wait. We would not want to do my heroes an injustice now, would we?
Saturday, 13 September 2008
So perhaps immediate worries subside, as Alexander once pointed out:
Man never Is, but always To be blest
Perhaps if Pope had visited here he would have included penguins too. Tho' it wouldn't have scanned! You'd have thought he could have spelled 'blessed' correctly though:-)
So, Albert Camus, l'absurde and hope. Well, I did say........Now Camus often gets lumped in with Sartre as an existentialist but I think that's because he's French, well Algerian French, and they wrote about the same time. But he's not! Satre is about choice and the responsibility that goes with it. How you create a moral code in the absence of God. Where a code can come from if it's not handed down from 'on high'. I think Sartre does really well on that front! What Camus provides is the other crutch. The hope!
You see, if life is just life, where do you get the hope from to stop despairing of it all? Well for Camus, the defining metaphor is Sisyphus.
Sisyphus was a king in Corinth, who amongst his many indiscretions, locked Hades, King of the Underworld, in a cupboard. Finally called to book, his sentence was to be doomed for all eternity to roll a huge boulder up a hill only to lose his grip almost at the very top and for the boulder to roll all the way back down again! Now it seems quite clear that whoever 'invented' this myth was almost certainly trying to get across an idea of futility. Sisyphus' punishment is the despair he must feel each time he nears the top, knowing the rock will slip from his grasp and roll back down. He can never 'complete' the task. There never will be an achievement, never a completion. Most people would probably concur. After a few years, you'd be in anguish, wouldn't you?
And yet, in this tale of misery and 'despair', Camus found 'hope'! Of the most profound kind. "Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux." "One must imagine Sisyphus happy."
For Camus, facing 'l'absurde', the absurd, all that life can throw at you, confronting those things that make life what it is, being, if you like 'at one with life' made all of the 'minor tribulations' such as rock rolling of no purpose, irrelevant. Life itself gave life meaning. No 'saute metaphysique' was required. All that was required was to recognise 'l'absurde', confront it when you must, but otherwise to celebrate and enjoy the life you have. For the goalkeeper of the Oran football team, I think that's a pretty good job! It certainly sustains me when I have my doubts about God's non existence. I imagine how I would feel in the rock rolling team!
Not much around the point but do you ever wonder if you're on the same planet as every one else? Talking of blog comments earlier, reminded me of a not particular nice one earlier in the series. Now I knew who'd posted it and I posted a spoof answer for which I got 'vilified' in the next comment! Now my post contained a reference to something which few people or penguins know about so I thought it ought to be obvious who wrote the comment. But no! They thought it was genuine! Ah well, you can be too clever for your own good some time!
Friday, 12 September 2008
I had something really nice planned for this. It might follow it might not. But one (well the only one really) of my commentators left a message on a post here which in effect pointed to a recently started blog of their own. Out of a sense of penguiness I went and had a look. The blogger's in Texas! I am now going to worry myself silly that they're in/not in "Ike's" path. They're on the coast! The blog says they're staying put!
Some meteorologists in the States are saying it may now reach Category 2 (go look it up) and even this one can't kick that much ass! Trouble is, I'll have no way of knowing whether they are or they're not OK unless they're not in its path. Evacuation, from a communications point of view, is just the same as having your home demolished around you. Always, always....tiny, tiny hopes!
Why have the last weeks just been about tiny hopes? Some dashed, some not. Is it that once you start down the road of tiny hopes, they just keep coming? Or is God trying to tell me something? If I had a God to pray to, I would, but I don't, so just post a comment.........please? I do not want to go through a 'little' Fricka episode again......not so soon.
It's strange in a way. A penguin gets this fraught about something that might happen to a member of a species that's the biggest bunch of shits ever to walk the planet but as George Bernard Shaw once remarked: "I hate the human race, until I meet one of them!"
I'll leave the treatise on Camus and the 'absurde' and why there is hope, even if God does not exist, for another day.
Thursday, 11 September 2008
Got a funny email this morning. Now, if you have an email address, you get these all the time and I don't know why I opened it, nor why I read it, nor why I find it so amusing, in a 'faire rire dans l'ame' kind of way. I just do. This is the email.
"Hi my name is Elena. I search for the man with serious attitudes relations. It should be - decent, courageous, kind, tender, with boundless imagination, with sense of humour, pleasant in the dialogue, loving it is not a lot of romanticism. It is not a lot about itself: to me of 28 years, Blue eyes, the attractive blonde loving animals and also to photograph And a fine morning dawn. I live in city Chebokasary. At present I work as the seller in flowers. And in full of expectations and hopes to meet the man of the dream. Write to me on mine email.............."
What? You expected me to put the email address in? No, Malcolm Goodson would kill me if he thought I might be giving him more competition! :-) There was also a jpeg, which I didn't open, because it almost certainly contains a picture of some Russian porno starlet without clothes.
Now of course, any right thinking person would conclude that this is just a way of garnering valid email addresses for a spam list. The dolts that find the jpeg attractive email back and end up being bombarded with 'cheap viagra' ads. (They will need it too, she's insatiable and she's still got 8-10 years before she hits her prime and gives you a heart attack with her demands! :)
But it made me think. The internet is such a wonderfully global thing. It's such a good place to get to know other people without an enormous risk to your person (most of the time you'll be hundreds, if not thousands of miles apart) and in the case of 'Elena', it would be a wonderful way of getting out of your poorly paid, humdrum job and/or life in Russia and perhaps making a new start somewhere else. But we are all so cynical now, aren't we? Every unsolicited email is a phishing attack, an attempt to gather details useful in identity fraud, a way of getting your bank details and your money, some disguised attempt at paedophilia. I think that's very sad.
The internet really ought to be a way of creating a 'global village' and it could be but it's spoilt by a few criminal elements who want to make a fast buck out of other people's suffering, greed or just plain loneliness (or impotence).
I'm not sure why the email made me smile, I suppose at root it's just amusement at what people sometimes make with the English language. Russian doesn't have gender specific pronouns? I'd hate to be referred to as 'it'. But then what if Elena, the flower seller, making a few roubles an hour, actually exists? And what if Malcolm Goodson really was the man of her dreams? He is 'pleasant in the dialogue' and does have the 'boundless imagination' if not the sexual staying power! :) Ah well, 'strike one!' Makes a change from the Nigerians with $30,000,000 to dispose of!
Monday, 8 September 2008
More food for thought came my way recently. Imagine if you will, a failed human relationship of the 'luurving' kind. It happens. It doesn't work out, you stay sort of friends but..........you can't live together. OK?
Now imagine this. Some shit happens. Two people caught in the firing line when the round twirly thing starts up offer mutual solace. A wee respite from the 'pain'. Now it involves nothing more than some mutual 'blootering'. Thats Scottish for getting 'off your face', 'bladdered', DRUNK! I hasten to add, NOTHING MORE! Why would you then go into one? Why blank the person at every opportunity?
What they do is of no concern, is it? Or even if it is, they don't have a right to make it their concern, do they? So why try and make the person feel bad? They have done nothing wrong, have they? Even if you think they have? I think it's just as well I'll be back at sea soon, I might start getting seriously depressed otherwise. It's hard sometimes having contact with people. It's so much harder when you're just a penguin, even if you are an Emperor!
About the only nice thing to happen in the past weeks was I dug out the copy of the Princess Bride in the station and watched that. "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!" I have always wanted to go up to one of the newbies and say that. Although I love "This is Spinal Tap", the Princess Bride is just too awesome for words. Reiner was truly inspired when he made it. The tongue so lovingly in the cheek and yet it's all so seriously performed. What I find so wonderful about it is that it works both on an 'actual' level, as a fairy tale, and as a spoof in a way that the book kind of doesn't. The book has always seemed to me to be just a little bit too clever for its own good.
So there you have it. Hopefully the end of a sad, troubling and emotional time. When I get back from the sea, Fricka returned this morning, maybe we can put all the doom and gloom behind us and just celebrate being alive.
Inconceivable! As the Sicilian would say.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
a small blue thing
Like a marble or an eye
With my knees against my mouth
I am perfectly round
I am watching you
A little down today. People are getting hurt and there doesn't seem to be anything I can do about it. I suppose I'm probably asking too much of a penguin but nonetheless....It's so much more real when they are people you know.
For some reason, I've been thinking about solitude recently. Now you'd think that with all of us down here, huddled together for the winter, we'd be yearning for a bit of solitude after all that socialising. But actually, it's almost the complete opposite. Even though we are all sleeping in each other's pockets, it's actually quite lonely really when the weather's bad.
You can't talk to anyone when the wind howls round your ears. You can't go off and have a chat with your mates because they're on the other side of the huddle and by the time you get round to them they've had to move somewhere else. You'd think that when the better weather comes we'd all be out socialising, chatting, catching up on old news. I suppose we are to some extent but all I want to be at the moment is ALONE! (Well, except for Fricka, but then she's seldom here when I am so.......)
Funny, I suppose. In the midst of this teeming rookery, all you want is solitude! Ah well, will be back on the long trek to the sea in a day or so, lots of time for reflection then.
I have been thinking a lot recently about responsibility - you can tell from previous posts, can't you? Now pride in what you do, whether it's your job, or raising a family, or cooking a meal, you want to do the best that you can, don't you? Well, in recent weeks, I've been listening to someone doing the best job they can for their boss, covering their arse, pointing out all the pitfalls, making sure that what they do is as watertight as they can make it, all well and good, you might think? Only trouble is, it's cost three people their livelihoods.And this got me thinking. Rudolf Hoess, camp commandant at Auschwitz, 'bragged' that he did the best possible job he could. It was his defence. Only trouble was, he wasn't processing cattle at a slaughter house, he was processing people, human beings! So where does doing your job stop and being Rudolf Hoess start? It's a serious ethical question, I think. Everyone will draw the line at a different point along the continuum from helping your boss to gassing Jews and who is to say where one merges into the other? Did the bureaucrats at the Wannsee conference, working out how many Jews could fit in a box car, how big the crematoria needed to be to cope with the bodies from the gas chambers, rail timetables, were they any different from someone who helps his boss do the best job possible? I honestly don't know! I wish I did!
You see, I'm not sure I see how you stop yourself going from one to the other. How you stop yourself going from covering your boss' arse to gassing Jews!
The little ditty at the head of this is by Suzanne Vega. I didn't ask her permission but I hope she will not mind too much.