#00—Who am I?

pointless pleasurable ponderings

It is a valid question. But it is not one I, you or anyone else has yet to satisfactorily answer. I mean to say, if it was readily answerable, it wouldn’t be one that we see asked again and again and again. We aren’t just numbers—but as e.g., citizens, drivers, employees, students etc., &c. we are numerically referenced—we do have identities, but these identities are largely manufactured and, for the most part, made up in our heads. We are homo sapiens, we are fauna (i.e., not flora), we are a form of animal species and as animals we (but not all of us) are going to do, or have already done, certain things to replicate ourselves: to reproduce our (selfish)genes.

Here are some questions and topics that will first need to be considered before we can return to the vexed/complex and quite possibly pointless (but nevertheless, pleasurable to ponder) question of “Who am I?” You will notice the list is reflective of the zeitgeist of our times, trepidation with respect to man’s impact on the natural environment (because it is man isn’t it).

#01—Does life have meaning?
#02—What is truth?
#03—Is truth important?
#04—Superstition & scientific knowledge
#05—Is the mind an effect of the body?
#06—Theories on consciousness…
#07—If a tree falls in a forest…
#08—Rights for future generations?
#09—The deep ecology view…
#10—Climate change & moral responsibility

(I want to be free to speak my mind & I want to be free to wear what I like; this is what I am about and this is who I am.* *but I am not who I want to be and most likely I will never be.)

Obviously I am someone, but my identity itself, is of no consequence to answering this question; or to investigate the question as no clear answer will be provided (not least because until now, no convincing answer has been proffered).

This Anodyne Tome

Fettered, febrile & formulaically forlorn…

a rant is Brewing:
Frantic, frenetic and as pointless as patriarchal pride.
a rant is Emboldening:
Uncouth, unhindered and as cruel as chemical castration.
a rant is Wending:
Curt, callous and as cutting as a talent show host.
a rant is Advancing:
Knifelike, knowledgable and as tiresome as suburban conventions.
a rant is Raging:
Eviscerating, exposing and as dogeared as orthodox faith.
a rant is Ending:
Rabid, rambled and as incandescent as ice.


Wilderness Ruined

Rose-tinted glasses,
Halcyon days…
Bygone times,
& Golden eras; humans are self-obsessed sent-i-mental beings.

Wilderness-Lost

^ Ansel Adams (1902–1984) was an American photographer most famous for his pictures taken in National Parks, taken in areas designated to be wilderness.

He once said, “we all know the tragedy of the dustbowls, the cruel unforgivable erosions of the soil … and the shrinking of the noble forests. And we know that such catastrophes shrivel the spirit of the people… The wilderness is pushed back, man is everywhere. Solitude, so vital to the individual man, is almost nowhere.”

One wonders if his iconic pictures acted as the magnet for today’s mass tourism and the overcrowding of sites of natural and historic beauty:

Nature: We’re Lovin’ It To Death The Guardian, 2018.

Image:
Wilderness-Lost--02

Reality:
Wilderness-Lost--03

* * *

Halcyon

Communal Goodness

of benefit to one and (hopefully) all…

Audio one, Liberalism in Retreat by Robin Niblett

Audio two, China and the World by Evan A. Feigenbaum

In economics, philosophy and political science, the ‘common good’ tends to relate to what is shared and beneficial to (most) members of a given community (or economy or group of countries).

References
Feigenbaum, E. A. (2017). China and the World. Foreign Affairs, 96(1), 33–40

Niblett, R. (2017). Liberalism in Retreat. Foreign Affairs, 96(1), 17–24


Grant Wood (1891-1942), American Gothic, 1930
The 1930’s, think of the Great Depression; think of the lead up to WWII.

p.s. ‘Ubique’ is Latin for “everywhere,” and tends to imply omnipresence (the property of being present everywhere). Think of the adjective ‘ubiquitous.’ e.g., “Nowadays, smartphones are ubiqitous.”

Priceless Graphite

with a pencil you are totally free

2281

It’s a tool. As is the plough, as are sextants and swords, as is the shovel, as are sickles and hammers, as is the hypodermic syringe (that may carry a lifesaving elixir, an opioid escape or a life saving or a life ending chemical cocktail). Yet, in distinction to those tools, this one, the tool that I talk of now, is by far the more influential. It articulates, crafts, drafts and sketches. It is one that we have all had in our hands at one point in time or more. We use it to colour in shapes etc. as kids at Kindergarten, to spell out words teachers teach us at School. We use it to write shopping lists for trips to Sweihan’s Abu Siraj Supermarket; we use it to organise thoughts and explore our emotions in private diaries. I think it lets is demonstrate we are human kind. It is, as I know you now know, the pencil [take your pick, your etching stick, 9H through HB to 9xxB].

The computer dictates how you do something, whereas with a pencil you are totally free.
— James Dyson, Inventor (1947– )

Put down your pistols, pick up your pencils. Holding them can be therapeutic it can also be fantastically lucrative. As one advertising campaign proclaims, pencils are where it ‘all’ begins – i.e., the ‘it’ is creativity, e.g., the ‘it’ can be influential literature, impressive architecture, iconic furniture (poetic licence permits me to include here other writing instruments such as the quill of the 18th and 19th centuries and the ink pen of the 20th century and the digital stylus/iPencil of the 21st). The pencil, in olden days, was so expensive. Nowadays, it is cheap and everyone can have one. They now come in every shade of the rainbow but for me, I will stick to graphite grey.
The magic ingredient is indeed graphite (a non-metal mineral), but we often call this lead. As do most good things, the word graphite comes from the ancient Greeks ‘graphein’ – in other words it means to write. Pencil is derived from the Latin ‘pencillus’, meaning little tail, to describe the small ink brushes used for writing in the Middle Ages (imagine for a magic moment these writing sticks in the hands of Chaucer, Dante, Machiavelli, Marlowe and last but not least, Shakespeare). According to J. D. Barrow, the modern pencil was invented in 1795 by Nicholas-Jaques Conte, a scientist working in the Army of Napoleon Bonaparte. I understand from “Guns, Germs, and Steel” that great inventions are results of war. So my humble black and yellow Germany made Staedtler pencil (Norris HB[2] Art. Nr. 122-HB EAN 40 07817 106365) is a child of long past war. My wood wrapped writing stick is born with blood and death on its hands?

Ideas are elusive things so keep a pad of paper and a pencil at your bedside, by so doing, you can stab them during the night before they get away.
— Earl Nightingale, Commentator (1921–1989)

The strange thing about graphite is that it is a form of pure carbon that is one of the softest solids known to scientists (is a soft solid, an oxymoron?). Yet if the graphite’s atomic structure is changed just a little bit it becomes a diamond; the hardest solid known to us. Carbon Dioxide is CO2 and as every Emirati high school graduate knows, this is a Global Warming Greenhouse gas. Indeed, we learn from Google/Wikipedia that Carbon makes up 18 per cent of me and, my dear reader, you. Pencils can be square, polygonal or round, depending on its intended use. It is know that vocational people do not much love round pencils because they roll off of tables etc. During the nineteenth century a major pencil manufacturing industry developed in Great Britain where Barrow informs us, “the purest graphite can be found.” The first pencil factory says Barrow was opened in England in the 1830s. I’d like to move to the Derwent brand (I’d love to visit the Derwent Pencil Museum, which a BBC website review say is one of the most peculiar days out in the UK; one that will fulfil the hopes and dreams of pencil fanatics everywhere), but I cannot leave my black and yellow stripped German made digging tool.

Without a pencil in my hand I am not me. If I am not me then I’m blunt and need to be sharper, before my ink runs dry I am now going to ‘pencil’ some sagely advice. According to Alison Nastasi, writers like John Steinbeck and Vladimir Nabokov were pencil fanatics. Nabokov (a user of Faber-Castell Blackwing 602s) outlined his novels and used one to write, “It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.” Steinbeck loved the Mongol 480 (Faber-Castell again) as it was topped with a rubber. Nastasi says that Steinbeck used 300 pencils to write East of Eden (who, I wonder, counted them). My sagely advice, I hear you ask. Well dear reader, it is this, read these words—written in/by pencil—by Steinbeck: “The free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable element in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected.”


Inspirations and/or Recommended Readings

Barrow, J. D. (2010). 100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know. London: Random House.

Diamond, J. (1997). Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: Norton & Company, Inc.

Nastasi, A (2013, August 17). The Writing Tools of 20 Famous Authors. Flavorwire.

#01—Does life have meaning?

pleasurably pondering pointlessly

To answer the question we need to consider what meaning means, does it mean purpose? Or, does it mean a deeper meaning? (whatever that itself is meant to mean! It is said that Plato once said (wo)man is “a being in search of meaning.”

Because in fact life has a very simple — prosaic — point and purpose and it is this:

As Burton (2018) confirms, historically and today also, many people believe that humankind is the creation of a supernatural entity… yet at Lawton (2016) points out, no one has proved that God exists, but then no one has proved there is no God. Is working out the truth a supernatural feat?

Human life may not have been created with any predetermined purpose, but this need not mean that it cannot have a purpose, nor that this purpose cannot be just as good as, if not much better than, any predetermined one.

And so the meaning of life, of our life, is that which we choose to give it.

As Hendricks (2018) argues, Dewey encourages us to stop looking at education as preparation for a job. Rather, it must be considered as a tool to help giving meaning to our lives. The contention was that this would not only improve a given country’s educational system (etc.) but would also allow its citizens to live more meaningful lives.

This is of course the foundational and seminal philosophical question, it is seemingly articulated somehow in the following works of art:


Clockwise, [1] The Venus of Urbino (1533) by the Italian painter Titian. [2] The Scream or The Scream of Nature (1893) by the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. [3] Ascent of the Blessed (c.1510) and [4] The Garden of Earthly Delights (c.1500) by the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. [5] Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897) by the French painter Paul Gauguin.


References

Burton, N. (2018). What is the Meaning of Life? Psychology Today.
Hendricks, S. (2018). 5 American philosophers on the meaning of life. Big Think.
Lawton, G. (2016). Metaphysics special: What is the meaning of life? New Scientist. Retrieved, https://www.newscientist.com/round-up/metaphysics/
Metz, T. (2013). The Meaning of Life. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/life-meaning/
Steed, E. (2018). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.
Wikipedia (2019). Meaning of Life. Wikipedia. Retrieved, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meaning_of_life