Monday, February 16, 2009

Seeing Trees by Louis Evan Palmer

In this article, the trees are virtues and the forest is the whole from which they emerge.

Generally, a virtue is good, and a vice, which is opposed to a virtue, is bad. We, typically, don't see them existing on their own without relationships or connections or contexts. For example, seeing courage and loyalty as ideal independent virtues similar to Plato's ideal solids.

Because virtues are personal attributes, the sire of any virtue is the sense of self. A person, or personhood, manifests a virtue.

Sense of self, in turn, needs memory. The traditional memory but also tendencies, instinct & other innateness, each with their own memories possibly connected to the main traditional memory or other memories, possibly isolated. All enmeshed in a reality, an enormous web of relationships and laws transfixed by time and cravings.

This idea of memory is anchored in an uncharted ocean of speculation and ambiguous experimental results. There are persons with almost no physical brains yet they are smart and have an ability to remember indistinguishable from others with whole brains. One theory being that memories are not actually resident in our brain but rather are deciphered by our brain. It's not known exactly how memories are encoded or even if they're encoded. We typically think of them as constructed out of bits of concepts & images & words & sensations which is somehow captured in some kind of chemical & electrical soup but it's still mostly a mystery. If there is no self or no memory, there are no virtues - virtues being dependent emergent qualities.

It is something we deduce, conjured out of reflections, in actions & words & in our life-facing stance. But within the virtues themselves, at times, we wonder if there an order of precedence to them or if it matters? In living, it may not matter, but in trying to live better, it does. Say, in trying to nurture a virtue that, in fact, depends on other virtues.

Do our primal virtues simply proceed from our urge for self-preservation? Which are the finer virtues - the original primal ones or the ones farthest away on the tree of differentiation? The ones that issue forth from two or more virtues?

Many virtues like courage are defined in terms of a threat or a vice, in courage's case, fear. It's worth elaborating on the triggering threat. Fear, for example, springs from a threat to our sense of self and memory, our being. A vice like greed (or gluttony) engenders a fear of scarcity which drives a need for acquisition and a fear of loss. Again, this is a threat to being, where an aggrandized sense of self exists to which even a surfeit seems inadequate.

What does fear engender? More Fear, panic, hatred, anger. Fear can also generate Obedience. We can see more than one cause for a given virtue or state. While Fear can generate Obedience, Loyalty can also produce it. It is clear that obedience caused by loyalty would be of a different timbre and durability than that caused by fear.

So some states, like fear (causing more fear), can self-sustain themselves but like atomic fission, these states would need a critical mass. Direct threats to the self generate fear; normal fear generates the urge to flight or fight but a greater fear, will generate more fear and at a certain level will this newly augmented fear incapacitate.

The level at which incapacitation occurs will vary according to the person. Thus, virtue gets tied to a person's capacity - here, for endurance or perseverance which in turn are considered virtues - the ability to endure or persevere. And, where does that power come from? The power to endure? The power to persevere? Or, at the primal level, the power to live or to love.

It is again a question of the whole and the part where the part is a fiction created by partitioning. Yet, we see obedience or courage or loyalty. We clearly see the parts but not the whole from which it issues.

Seeing Tress, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be,
Copyright 2009 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

How to Hide Anything by Louis Evan Palmer

Hiding, covering, and obscuring comes easily to us. We do it constantly, consciously & unconsciously, for greater and lesser ends. It becomes a cause for serious concern when it gets elevated in its scope and takes on the mantle of the state. Then it jumps itself up and assumes dangerous forms like militarism and propaganda. What does militarism hide? Theft. What does propaganda hide? Truth.

But it's more than just a person hiding some thing. It's also about choice - choosing to perform actions in a way and at a time and involving things that will not attract notice. One can more easily hide when involving one self with persons or things that have no voice or when attacks are made on someone or something that has no voice or has been muted. And we in turn mute own voices. How can it be wrong if no-one objects? Paradoxically, the worst offenses engender a debilitating silence that envelopes and chokes those who come into contact with it.

It also involves a choice when interacting with persons or things that have no power or much less power than you. They can be overridden in a twinkling. We hide ourselves and our actions when we dominate or attack something that has no power. We trump their free will and dignity and if we do it fast enough no-one will know.

We can hide our actions and their consequences when we involve ourselves with people & processes that are not even visible to most people. They are technically, philosophically or intellectually wrapped in a way that most persons cannot decipher. If these things are not explained they remain hidden. This allows for impunity when people support or attack someone or something that has no visibility.

Hide it by suppressing knowledge of it - suppress witnesses, suppress reporting, suppress recording of it. You can't oppose that of which you have no knowledge. You can suppress yourself as well. It can become a reflexive society-wide action. Self-censor. Self-suppress.

Demean & demonize what you want to hide. Its real nature is covered by the hate & dirt you heap on it. You can't see it because it has been coated with venom. We don't want to know. Is that Adam's real sin? Was it knowledge or a refusal to know, a refusal to accept the truth. We only embrace self-tailored partial truths.

Hide it among other things, magnify them, minimize what is to hidden. Misdirect our attention. We can't see it for we have deliberately crowded a hundred other unimportant things around it. We would rather spend time and energy placing these distractions than looking deeply at the original thing we had.

Delay, delay delay. Spread it out over so much time that it becomes blurred and harmless, forgettable and best left alone. How to rage when all the players, both oppressors and oppressed, are dead? If it was reported and absolutely confirmed that a terrible conspiracy came to fruition some 40 years ago, what would come of it? Some huffing and puffing and then an embarrassed silence. Maybe increased vigilance today for something similar. But for how long? Truth (of this world) delayed is truth denied.

Express & publicize doubt about the information, the messengers and its importance. Impugn their reputations, threaten them, if necessary harm them, even kill them. Delay will make this less necessary. Selective removal is preferred over anything crass and obvious. We need things that can be denied and explained away. That's a here & there versus an everywhere. If it's an everywhere then we're at war and then, well, war is war.

And of course, lies, lies, and more lies and bribes and threats. This is the old stand-by. Deny, lie, delay. How obvious and yet vastly effective.

Do it more quietly. What noise? Make it look like something else. You say crime, I say accident.

We are experts at hiding things from each other and from ourselves. How else can we explain all the death and cruelty and poverty we don't see or talk about? The reasons don't matter. They are part of the hiding process. We cover something with reasons and then stand aside, or worse, we can be the ones who kill or steal.

Millions die every year as a result of things we do and don't do and we've hidden them away. We've buried them quietly under a cover of darkness and platitudes.

How to Hide Anything, Louis Evan Palmer, The Way It Can Be,
Copyright 2009 Louis Evan Palmer lives in Ontario Canada. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications.