At what level am I self-governing? And what say should I have in my family, my community, my state, my nation, and my world? Where do I decide what is best for me and where does someone else’s or some group’s better judgment start? Is it really better? What if I don’t like it? What if I hate it and would die to stop it? Should I learn to adapt instead? What about your judgment? What if “my” group decides to change your self-governance? What if you hate it and would die to stop it? Could you adapt? This is one level of thought.
The Internet brings an astoundingly vast potpourri of knowledge and thought to our fingertips. Topics as delicate as the heartbeat of a hummingbird, as crass as German scheize fetishes, as sad and brave as a personal struggle against cancer, and as thoughtless as a website dedicated to demonizing a former spouse and billions more are covered on this vast network. Added to traditional television, movies, and periodicals, there is definitely more information available than could be processed by a million people. How this information is presented, when it is presented, and how we come upon it shapes our conception of the world. We depend on others for anything outside our tiny sphere of experience and we vote and decide on matters based on the opinions of others; especially in areas where we have no personal experience. This myriad of data points compete/exist/hide from our attention form a part of our core selves. This is another level of thought.
We are beings of compassion, anger, introspection, drama, logic, and a host of other sensations, emotions, and conceptions. We are born into a situation where the personalities, bonding, dependence, and responsibility of those we encounter bind us to these families, friends, coworkers, bosses, strangers, and even estranged acquaintances and enemies. This is the third level of thought.
We are at the emerging end of many chains of events that run from before recorded history until today. While some events are environmental, others involved the desires/needs/wants of people or groups of people. Civilizations formed and were destroyed, wars fought, groups lived in periods of relative peace, lives were changed/improved/wrecked/sold, and thousands of other complexities. Whether we want to be or not, we are embroiled in the complexities of all that came before us and we are mostly bit actors in the continuing saga known simply as History. The heritage and alliances and prejudices, the enemies and ignorance and amends are all such a part of us that we can’t escape it. This is the fourth (and thankfully) the last level of thought.
Put it all together and you have YOU. And ME. And LIFE. We exist alone and we exist as part of groups and between just the four levels of thought I’ve presented (oh yes, I could have gone on and on); the stage is set for a hopelessly complicated set of circumstances and relations. Yet it is in our nature to make sense of this complexity and to make decisions in our own lives and as families/communities/state/nations/the world that effect change and elicit our futures.
To do this, we simplify, classify, and distill these various influences to better explain what we want to explain. How we do this involves philosophy. Philosophy can borrow from cosmic/religious or human sources or be derived in any way that is appropriate to the situation. Wikipedia describes philosophy as:
Philosophy is the discipline concerned with questions of how one should live (ethics); what sorts of things exist and what are their essential natures (metaphysics); what counts as genuine knowledge (epistemology); and what are the correct principles of reasoning (logic). The word is of Greek origin: φιλοσοφία (philosophía), meaning love of wisdom.
Pat Robertson has a philosophy. So does Michael Moore. Every President of the United States had one as did Karl Marx, Groucho Marx, Oscar the Grouch, and Oscar Robertson (bringing us full circle back to Pat). And everybody that has one is pretty attached to theirs and sincerely believes it explains things (even though the philosophy they really have is likely different than what you think it is).
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know though. I am not wasting your time. I promise. I wouldn’t do that to you, so quit looking at me like that. This is all groundwork for where I am going next...and that next thing I am taking so long to explain is that those of us in the Western World have some historical philosophical underpinnings that are playing in to whether or not you get to pump your own gas, determine your tax contribution, end up on the wrong side of a bomb, the “right” side of the bomb delivery device, live in comfort into the middle of the 21st century, etc.
So I will wait to start on those philosophical underpinnings until the next post so you can feel like, “Hey, I just wasted several precious minutes of my life (which I won’t get back) reading what I already knew and then, what, nothing? Thanks a freaking lot, Don.”
To which I say...sorry.
And stay tuned for more excitement from Captain Obvious and his intrepid sidekick Lt. Lessobvious on the next post.