Monday, April 28, 2008

An Existential Relativist

An Existential Relativist: One not bound by the laws of reality.

Existentialism: Makes no claim to know whether or not there is a "greater picture"; rather, they simply assert that the greatest truth is that which the individual chooses to act upon. They feel that to know the greater picture, whether there is one or not, is impossible, or impossible so far, or of little value.

Relativism: The doctrine that there are no absolute truths, i.e., that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture.

This is why one cannot be held accountable for their actions in our culture today. This is why they can believe they did nothing wrong. In their eyes there is no such thing as wrong. Instead their existential act of self validation may require not being held to any absolute standard of any kind. Knowing this, when seen hiding behind the needs or wants of another person or child or the demands of a rigorous job or profession, it is as if a safe haven has been established that is so unquestionable and beyond scrutiny by any other person that to do so would imply the questioner is being a brute, to think otherwise. Better to be bullied for standing up for someone else or for a difficult job than answer for a personal failing or weakness in a personal philosophy that cannot be questioned.

The problem with relativism is that there really are standards. To deny it so - is to say, "here is the standard by which relativism must be judged, there are no standards!" In other words, when one says "relativism is true" they then destroy their whole point - as if to say "it is true to say nothing is true". Doublespeak at best. Those who use doublespeak are unstable in their thoughts and ways and cannot rationalize their existence. There is nothing there to trust.

As they hide behind their relativism, they embrace the idea that since they have adopted this way of thinking and that it is impossible to know the big picture anyway, you may as well validate yourself relatively - since reality is uncomfortable. This being uncomfortable is an anti-existential state of self worth and purpose. Even if purpose itself has no purpose, being uncomfortable about it is intolerable.

So - one justifies themself in his/her rational mindset to allow any luxury or pleasure to validate their comfort, while using anything and everything to buffer themselves and be excused from being accountable.

What if existential relativism is coupled with any form of racism? What then? Does this not also give rise to allowing certain individuals freedoms that aren't applied to other individuals - based solely upon their race or ethnic background? If there are no real standards, why then must all persons be treated equally? Why be treated fairly - once one has cut themself loose from any standard or absolute form of justice. If we must be a people of second chances as some might say, and then not apply these second chances across the board to all - is this not a subtle form of racism? Is this not the root of the evil of slavery itself, or the evil of Hitler's cruelty or the brutality of the race-baiter's rhetoric.

Possibly this is why when some existential relativist are confronted by their inconsistencies, they simply throw up their hands, stare blankly at your face and walk away. They have no satisfactory answer and they know it. To admit there is truth to the complaint of inconsistency, refutes everything they believe in and allows them nowhere to turn. Confronted with reality, the existential relativist turns nowhere but to themself. It is after all, a self-validation. They are, "a victim" of X - why not allow the self enough leeway to never have to answer for their own actions..

Ayn Rand's "virtue of selfishness" in full force has no place in reality. There really is no virtue in selfishness at all. Nor any value to being selfish. Squandering a life lived selfishly is an utter shame. It is akin to holding a "private religion" as it is meaningless to anyone else - though much worse. Selfish living may not be totally embarrassing, but it remains shameful in all its ways.

So, selfish living as expressed in existential relativism boils down to nothing more than shameful behavior at best - and damaging denials and self preservation at all costs at worst. Who gets stepped on while on the road to self image preservation?

What I would give to cut through this crap.
To get to the heart of the matter.
To act honestly and with honor.
To validate one's existence with truth.

Ahhh - but that might mean being real to each other.
That might cost us our pride.
It might make us vulnerable.
It might help make us good!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Good Grief

It's a question more than a response. Is there such a thing as good grief?

Some might say there is, though I wish for the life of me that grief didn't exist.
I write tonight because it's time... grief is here... it doesn't seem to want to go away. Funny thing about real grief, it's easy to think "the blues" are bad - but real grief gives the blues a run for its money and the blues come up short every time!

I am one who enjoys blues music more than any other style - especially when it is fused with jazz. It just makes me feel good. I tell people; "the blues just makes me feel better - it brings me up!" They look at me like I'm crazy and say they don't like the blues 'cause it makes them feel bad. I don't get that.

I will tell you what makes me feel bad though - bad enough that the blues seem trivial by comparison.

A couple of years ago a very dear friend that my wife and I knew since we were first married 32 years ago, committed suicide. We've known her a very long time. Her sweet face and smile is ever present in my memory. For all her faults, she was a beautiful, sweet child of God. It was unbearable to see my best friend, her ex-husband, cry like a baby over her death. I love him as much as I loved her - and to have lost her this way was too much then. She decided it was too tough to go on and so she took too many meds and sat down under a tree in the woods where she wouldn't be rescued and died there - in the cold winter under a cloudy Kansas winter sky.

6 months ago, my wife's best friend and a dear sweet person we both loved a lot decided it was best for her to sit alone in a room and shoot herself in the head. She had suffered greatly over the years with ailments and pain many of us could not endure. She was divorced from the only man she ever loved and knew her two kids were grown and would soon be out of the house. She had come to a crossroads and decided to end her personal tragedy with a bullet. If you could only have known her, known how sweet she was, how caring she was of every person she met - you would never have thought she could have done such a thing. We still grieve her loss and wonder why.

While this may seem less important by comparison to the previous two examples - losing a friend can be just as traumatic. Maybe even more so. Especially when you know miscommunication and effort (or the lack thereof) and hardness of heart is all that stands in the way of restoring that friendship. About the same time as our friend shot herself in the head, I found a way to alienate another person I cared a great deal for - someone I envisioned as being one of our closest friends. My wife and I both knew this person and considered our friendship as valuable in the best possible way. The finality of death makes recriminations and regret a sort of moot point - but when you suffer a loss that could be restored and isn't - it is almost too much to bear. You know life goes on - but there is nothing you can do about it.

Fast forward 6 months - still no restoration of the old friendship. Not really anyway. We still speak - we're cordial. But nothing beyond that. An open wound that doesn't seem to heal - its just there - and I am convinced always will be.

...and then, this last week, I suffer the worst of many fates. My father died after a massive heart attack. Sure, we knew he was getting up there in age. But he was fairly healthy up until two weeks ago. He was independent, he was clear thinking and was quite spry, yet now he is gone. Nothing left but the memories of the good times and the bad times. Nothing left but grief.

After the last 6 months, which have been the worst months of my life considering all that has happened - I finally know what C.S. Lewis means when he says about grief - you want desperately to be left alone except for that feeling you couldn't bear for the house to be empty. If I keep losing friends and family members - I will certainly be alone anyway.

Alone with my blues records and my guitar. Will it bring me up then? I don't know. I doubt it. After my mother died a number of years ago - I took solace playing the blues until my fingers bled. Since there were no succession of deaths or traumatic loss of friends during that time, healing eventually happened.

At this point though, I'm thinking of dropping the "n" and the "erry" from my name. I'm beginning to feel like Job. What seems to be devastating losses - four times over - inside of two years is too much.

Today, Blues music is a quaint triviality. A grief observed from which there seems no end, is not comforted by any form of music.

I know God is there.
I know He is not silent.
I know His will is done.
I know He understands grief better than any of us.

Right now though - I need to feel better. I need to know what He has to say to me.

In any real measure of grief, only what He says is any comfort or understanding.

He says this: "Be still and know that I AM God".

He is - and I am not - and for me, for now, that will have to be sufficient.