Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Capacitating the winds of change

Is humanity simply easily manipulated, greedy because scared, driven by forces beyond our capacity to even begin to comprehend, or just increasingly adrift, un-anchored by convention and the interactive involvement which constitutes true community?
Lord of the Flies homo-erotic frat pranks by mercenary Kabul US embassy guards indeed. Someone didn’t read that book the way I did (see the last part of my blog entitled “Differentiation and Trade” – also posted here). Anti-Obama protesters waving insane signs are merely mimicking something from another era (that of my youth) – mimicking something which was quite scary and not at all understandable to the insecure. And the winds of change can make many feel (and be) very insecure.
Activists of the late 60s too often failed to recognize what elitists they really were, how snobbish to the non-hip, “politically unaware” work-a-day people who kept the roads open and other things running, and how this complacent sense of superiority undermined all they (well, we) were working for…
It’s too easy to look down on others, and even with people acting idiotically, usually wrong – and even to try to “help” them, too patronizing. Life is full of difficult choices, and that won’t change; there will always be pressures, differences of opinion, and things to fight about. But there are also ways to live that reduce the number of occasions for conflict and disaster, as surely getting fired has been for the foolish embassy guards trying to fit in and deal with a very challenging situation with negligible guidance as to parameters… for none can claim their leadership to exhibit any real sense of morality…

A main tenant of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) is that all humans enjoy the same relationship with God, or the Divine Spirit, and thus that there is an essential equality to all humanity.
Which is a nice sentiment. But as with statistics, or much information, that can be taken, or used, in many varying ways. Its meaning isn’t just relative to the context in which the concept is presented, or attempted to be utilized, but depends greatly on the extent of inclusiveness listener or presenter is inclined to entertain. It’s not that some are “more equal than others”, or even more human, but that to most of us, some other people are somewhat comprehensible while others are simply not, while also, while for a few, responding to others at all, interacting, just doesn’t happen. Those more able to comprehend and interact have a definite advantage over those that don’t, and if the truth of words is to be evaluated in light of action, that reality deserves consideration. Meaning, those in a catatonic, “vegetable” state may be loved by a Divine Spirit, but ultimately cannot be taken as having equal importance to us - any of us – as the actively interactive. Any assertion will have more applicability, and value, in some contexts than it could ever have in others. We forget this, especially when priding ourselves on living in the “Information Age”. I’m hardly sure that there is any information which could be judiciously expected to be found of value to each individual human, or even each interactive one. In effect, it’s all just opinion, viewpoint, or conditioned response.
If we are to take the worldview of my wife, once a stateless person with no formal education no concept of country, religion or proper socialization, as having equal validity to the worldview of any of the prominent people we find reported about in the “news” media, some problems occur. For instance, we often like to think that education makes for better people, with more capacity, better judgment, and potential (at least) to be more helpful to others. But my wife does not contribute to the incidence or, or occasion for, war, or hatred, or social degradation, or mass misery. Much of the “information” valuable to many others is of little interest to her, and although she too has attitudes and prejudices, they hardly impose on others to any extent comparable to that which is done daily by the more socialized, “civilized”, high-class” or educated. She does not oppress, over-consume or dictate (except, occasionally, to me). The actions of the educated often do oppress, utilize too much of our precious and limited natural resources, and at least attempt to dictate (and not just to a spouse).
It’s all a bit of a mystery.
Does, or does not, education enable, empower, and assist? Once again, it depends on context. Education can be a good thing, but cannot impart wisdom or insight. Or even, really, understanding – although the exchange involved in friendship can certainly help with that. Empathy, perceptivity, capacity for caring concern, character insights, prehension capacity, laughter – these can’t be taught, but can, somewhat anyway, be learned.
The main point I’m reaching for is that the important things to learn in life can’t be quantified as information which cold be placed in a computer or other retrieval system. Life simply isn’t as simple as that. Information, like art appreciation, may confer some advantages to some, but nothing is universal. What’s important to him isn’t necessarily important to her.

and, An organized self-contradiction:
The intent of organized religion being to help the individual achieve something transcendent, its orientation is essentially selfish. As it doesn’t aspire to maintain its base (us, struggling humanity), but rather aspires to something “higher”, its complete success would be its complete demise (and not all that much eventually). Thus self-defeating, its selfish nature is at odds with itself, and involves no rational, pragmatic sense whatsoever (except to assert control). Organized religion involves but pageantry, fantasy and promises – in other words, deceit, but is as addictive as any hedonistic behavior. Sometimes it’s good that so many of us so regularly fail to learn from teachers.

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