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Since I Never Get the Last Word

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
The Holy Sports League

Came across a thought that has fascinated me ever since I heard it. In The Wine Dark Sea, Cahill conjectures that the origins of drama lie in liturgy. Nothing controversial there. But, suppose the Olympics were conceived as live action drama. The connection through liturgy to to staged drama to the Olympics is more tenuous but suppose it exists. Then, through a process of growth or progress or evolution, the live action drama has culminated in today’s football.

This means that the purpose of the football leagues and their individual teams is to spur the feeling of commonality, the feeling of belonging to something greater than oneself. Sitting in the stands cheering your head off is part of becoming one with your fellow man, one with the universe, one with god. Is there more of a seratonin rush than being part of a “wave?” Can you feel more righteous than when denouncing the referee? When your team scores in the last 30 seconds of the game, do you not feel the communal joy, the high fives, the pats on the back, the hugs and kisses? Is there ever more of a sense of belonging in the world? And do you not long to feel that sensation again so that you go back for the next game and the one after that and the season after that? Isn’t that the feeling the religious charismatics are after?

When your team wins, god is on your side and on the side of all right thinking people who cheer for the team that you cheer for. When your team loses, you are made aware again that evil exists in this world and that sometimes it prevails.

If you are an Arizona Cardinals fan, which is a contradiction in terms, then evil always prevails. Consequently, the congregation reduces itself to only the most masochistic souls in the universe. If you are a Green Bay Packers fan then, in the 60s, the world was right and god was in her place and shining down on you and all the other cheese heads. Then, as instruction in the ways of the world, the goddess made us walk in the desert of mediocrity for one score and ten before lifting us up in the 90s. Apparently, she has another desert in mind.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-01-25 09:02:15

Monday, January 23, 2006
In Both Ears

Never cared much for history. It was all names and dates and progress. A year or so ago, I read Stephen King’s On Writing and he convinced me to start listening to audiobooks during my travels around the countryside. What a brilliant suggestion! I heard The Journey of Crazy Horse, Founding Mothers, Guns, Germs, and Steel, Lies My Teacher Told Me, and The Universe In a Nutshell. All of a sudden, history began to mean something. Which led me to:

Reading Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog.

Listening to the audiobook version of Thomas Cahill’s Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea

Thinking about a business proposal I’m writing for my former company.

Looking forward to the courses I’ve ordered from The Teaching Company: Quest for Meaning: Values, Ethics, and the Modern Experience; How to Read and Understand Poetry; and The Story of Human Language which follows up The Great Ideas of Philosophy and Books That Have Made History; Books That Can Change Your Life.

Understanding what I've been trying to say with The Wrong War.

The sum of it all: An ever deepening appreciation of the wonder of us all. Look where we've come from; what we've learned, and where we still can go.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-01-23 12:32:19

Saturday, January 21, 2006
Raison d' Etre - Gladiators

One of life’s little mysteries for me is the apparent popularity of what is euphemistically called ‘professional wrestling.’ The more sober media has taken great pains over the years to point out how each event is carefully scripted to provide the most apparent violence, the biggest banging for the buck, so to speak, and yet a sizeable audience continues to follow the spectacle as religiously as I used to read Marvel comics.

The thought that keeps running through my mind is ancient Rome. As long as the emperors provided the diversion of the gladiators, the Romans tried not to notice precisely what those same emperors were up to in their political dealings. So, take your football, the U.S. version or the rest of the world’s version, mix in professional wrestling, sprinkle with the Olympics, and contemplate the purpose of these events. Yeah, sure; you’re going to tell me that the NFL’s league championship games occurring the same week as our Presidential inauguration is simply coincidence. Do you think you could sell that explanation to Sherlock Holmes?

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-01-21 09:22:36

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My dictionary says wisdom is the power of judging rightly and following the soundest course of action, based on knowledge, experience, understanding, etc.. Cicero said that wisdom is, ultimately, about knowing how to apply the good to life. Knowing the truth, he said, understanding absolute values, and knowing how to apply those values to your life. The definitions are not incompatible yet Cicero had the guts to bring morality into the fray where the dictionary carefully avoids discussion of right and wrong.

A while back, GQ asked if there is such a thing as absolute truth. I took the position that there was no such thing as absolute truth which put me immediately into contention with Socrates, Plato, and Cicero. Always nice to take on the top of the class.

Is 2 + 2 = 4 an absolute truth? If we accept that truth is the quality of being in accordance with experience, facts, or reality; that it conforms with fact, then everything in our knowledge, experience, and understanding insists that 2+2=4 is an absolute truth.

When I was in high school studying geometry, I learned that the angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees. In the beginning, my instructor ignored the fact we were studying plane geometry so that in my mind plane really meant plain and that meant there were advanced geometries yet to be studied. I was quite shocked and angry when I discovered that plane meant precisely what it said. The angles of triangles on planes add up to 180 degrees; triangles on other surfaces may or may not add up to 180 degrees. What prompted my anger was the fact I was deriving truths about life from the laws of plane geometry and now I had to start over again.

Back 2+2=4. I now know there are other math models besides the base 10 where this statement was taught to me. I now know that even in base 8 or base 64 or any other base, 2+2 is going to equal 4. Does that make it an absolute truth? I’m not comfortable with the thought. There may just be a valid math model where 2+2 does not equal 4. Have never heard of one but I haven’t heard everything, have I?

Well, must truthbe absolute? Maybe like triangles on planes, there are some conditions where truth is absolute for all practical purposes and others where it’s more elastic. Writing science fiction…writing any fiction...takes liberties with truth. But we all know that we are supposed to suspend our belief systems when reading fiction.

From a different direction, the Analects of Buddha, the Baghavad Gita, Socrates, and the Quran all reveal a belief in a common set of values defined as wisdom, justice, courage, and moderation. This must suggest the existence of an absolute morality, mustn’t it? If there is absolute morality, then certainly there must be absolute truth.

On the other hand…

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-01-18 12:03:16

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It seems that people work at their top efficiency when their chakra has been gonged. I can picture that; I can even hear it in my imagination. There is this great chakra hanging next to my bed with my name engraved upon it form the most lovely runes and heiroglyphics. Every day, my morning djin arrives with a great stick and gongs my chakra. This is much preferable to the electric alarm the Lady Who Shares Her Life With Me is content to use which must sound at least 20 times - the all time record is 43 - before she manages to silence it.

She awakes in need of 30 minutes of solitude to find her personality whilst I burst from the bed full of energy, ready to construct the next blog or add to the current tale but – oddly enough – not enough energy to continue the edit of The Wrong War.

An objective observer might conclude “aha! Here is something for the two of you to work on to improve your lives together.” Such an observer would be titled, of course, but probably not of the nobility. The title would tend to be a job description: marriage counselor, couple’s therapist, or some other such oxymoron. I prefer to watch thissect ply their trade on the tube rather than engage in head-to-head competition. That way they can’t see the expressions their words prompt and I can guffaw and pshaw to my heart’s content.

These professionals would not agree, they’d become near apoplectic to think of the possibility, but, over the decades, I have found the very best advice to be heeded with respect to this morning disjunction is the Hindu dictum: tada. It does not resolve the situation; it simply moves that situation to a place where it cannot harm anyone.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2006-01-17 09:17:30

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