Staying Sane in the Age of Trump

parallel-universe

Richard Sahn

As a social scientist living through horrific political, economic, and public health crises, I should be embracing with all my might philosophical materialism, the epistemological model behind science.  That I don’t could cost me personal and collegial respect, not to mention friendships. So, what exactly is philosophical materialism, and why do I find it ultimately non-collegial?

Philosophy precedes science.  It’s impossible to have science (or the sciences) without a presupposition about what is real, which is the arena of philosophy.  Philosophical materialism says that all that is real or factual is material or physical in nature.  And I find this too limiting.

I am more attuned to the Eastern philosophical model, intellectually supported these days by quantum physics, particularly the early 20th-century German physicist Werner Heisenberg.  It holds that non-material phenomena, such as dreams and hallucinations, are as real as physical phenomenon such as rocks and rivers, in one sense, even more real. (My dream is a reality sui generis. It is not electrochemical activity in my brain.) What’s more, all material and non-material phenomena come into existence from individual conscious intention and belief; there is no truly independent universe out there.

The good philosophical news here about the anti-materialist epistemological model is the plausibility of a multi-world or multi-dimensional universe.  If reality is a product of consciousness, rather than the other way around, it seems to me Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s claim that we have “nothing to fear but fear itself” is really possible. In fact, the psycho-therapeutic value of that statement is considerable.

But what do I do with my propensity toward progressive activism? And what do I do with those great discussions I have with my friends on how disgusting and horrible the Trump administration is? Can I have both perspectives at the same time? Emerson said that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. And it seems counterintuitive to be, following the Bible, “in the world but not of the world,” to see everyday life as play, as a sort of game created by me and only for me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not arguing for “alternative facts,” as the supporters of Trump do.  I’m not denying science or the dangers of Covid-19.  When I go out, I social distance and wear a mask as needed.  But I also believe there is a reality outside of rocks and rivers, so to speak, a reality created by my consciousness, an immaterial realm that has its own existence, whether for me or for all of us.  Some might call this a “higher” realm; I prefer to see it as linked to the material, for I myself am both physical and mental, both material and immaterial.

Those epistemological paradigms, material and  immaterial, provide me with solace in these dark days.  Not everything is controlled by others, and especially not by the Cult of Trump.  I decide.  And for me that’s an empowering thought at a time when power is being actively denied to so many of us.

Richard Sahn is a retired sociology professor and a regular contributor to Bracing Views.

72 thoughts on “Staying Sane in the Age of Trump

  1. [The following dialogue is slightly paraphrased.] Lou Costello: “How do we know all this is real? What if we’re just characters in somebody’s dream?” Bud Abbott, slapping his partner sharply on the cheek: “Did you feel that?” Costello: “Yeah, and it hurt!” Abbott: “Good! That means you’re not dreaming!” Mr. Sahn, if you’re walking down an urban street and a piano drops on your head from a tenth-story window, do you think–assuming you emerge from your ensuing coma with memory intact–the piano was only in your mind? As imperfect beings, people perceive events differently because our senses of vision, hearing, touch etc. are at slight variance one from another. The process of Science is an ages-old quest to determine the properties of the material Universe and how various phenomena interact. I would say Philosophy and Science came into the world together, as “Man” (no sexist bias intended) moved away from trying to explain everything in the world via superstition. The fact that there is a significant movement away from Science and back to superstition in our age does not bode at all well for the future of our species.

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    1. Your rebuttal is very compelling but you ignore the tremendous amount of data which imply there is moire to reality than brains and the material world, both empirical data and subjective experience. If you say all subjective expereice, including perceptions of the material world, are in the brain then you’re left with what Rupert Sheldrake calls “the hard problem.” Where is in the brain are these things?
      Also, I wouldn’t say that you’re mistaken and I’m right in defying empirical science but you seem to insist that you’re right and I’m wrong or not on the side of science. Of course, I argue I’m being very scientific

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      1. Richard–My initial comments were not meant as a “rebuttal.” Though I admit to being opinionated! (“If you don’t stand for SOMEthing, you’re liable to fall for ANYthing!” Not an original formulation on my part.) I am simply defending Materialism, which is misunderstood by the great majority of people. Can we “extract” a thought, a dream, or an emotion from a human brain and set it down on an examination table? The moment Einstein flashed on the Special Theory of Relativity, perhaps? Of course not. But none of this mental activity is possible without the material mass of gray matter sitting in your noggin. You know, that most under-exercised “muscle” among so many of our fellow American citizens!

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  2. I had to look up all the big words that Richard Sahn used (which only helped me a little to know their definitions) so, thank you GREGLAXER for clearing it all up (a little more) with that short snippet from Abbott & Costello. (A true comic-genius team if there ever was one!)

    Which reminds me of Richard Feynman (a solo genius) who I was barely beginning to maybe understand his various stories and explanations of the universe (and other stuff he “knew” and could explain so well)…

    But when it comes to “quantum physics” and “Eastern philosophical models” (of what “is” or “isn’t”) I am back to Square One.

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    1. Truly, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in [our] philosophies…” Apologies to the Immortal Bard if I got that a little wrong. I have read up on Quantum Physics over the years, and (it is theorized) some very strange stuff happens on that very small scale of scientific inquiry. All the little stuff adds up, ultimately, collectively to the incredible scope of the Universe. I believe humans will never be able to answer the Ultimate Questions, and I’m okay with that. The thirst for knowledge is much preferable to the search for profits and the conspicuous display of vulgar materialism that permits. Classical Materialism, which Mr. Sahn was discussing under the name “Philosophical Materialism,” opposes Classical Idealism. If you ask the woman on the street “What is idealism?” you’ll get an answer like “The naive belief that a better world is possible.” Classical Idealism, in fact, posited that “The IDEA precedes the physical (material) reality of any object.” So, in whose mind did the Universe, or any item within it, exist before it actually took physical form? This demands acknowledgment of an all-powerful Supernatural Being that is the Primary Cause of anything and everything. These questions were being debated in Greece long before the arrival of Christianity. We hardcore scientific types insist that the material brain must pre-exist any consciousness or thought process, indeed any branch of Philosophy. The journey from primitive proto-humans, hunkering in the dark of night in fear, to our present scope of knowledge is a fascinating story. (Of course, humans still tend to fear the dark! Very old habits are very hard to break! See “The Dragons of Eden,” my favorite book by Carl Sagan. And if you’ve never seen his public TV series “Cosmos,” now would be a good time to seek it out. He addresses all these issues.) The great tragedy of Humankind, and I guarantee you Dr. Sagan would agree, is that with all this knowledge we have failed to find a way to live in peace with ourselves and the environment that nurtures all life on the planet. That is to say, Wisdom is what we are fatally lacking. This lecture presented free of charge, as a public service.

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  3. Sahn is not denying physical reality. As the saying goes, he ducks to avoid hitting his head on low beams.

    I think his point is that meaning is not limited to the material or physical. We need to keep an open mind and not be reductionist or reflexively dismissive.

    So, for example, do we dismiss those who’ve had mystical or spiritual experiences as merely deluded? As people who’ve been “fooled” or tricked by their own (malfunctioning?) minds? Or do we admit that other realms, other realities, may possibly exist? That not everything is knowable, quantifiable, determinable. (Quantum physics suggests otherwise.)

    Our minds have evolved for this planet and to help us survive the rigors of a violent world. If we had evolved on a different planet under less violent conditions, might we conceive of “reality” in a much different way? I think so.

    Whatever the case, I think it’s a “bracing view.”

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    1. I already addressed these matters further in my dreadfully long comment. Lemme just say here that as a Buddhist, I certainly don’t deny “the spiritual plane.” [I have never read “The Varieties of Religious Experience,” by…Henry? William? James. One of those James dudes.] But all our consciousness does depend on the material existence of about a trillion nerve cells packed into our skulls. What a pity that so many people are loathe to exercise them much beyond deciding whether to have a plain or a chocolate frosted donut today!

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    2. He may not be denying physical reality per se, but it sounds as if he’s saying physical reality doesn’t exist independent of one’s observation. In other words, I believe he’s saying the falling tree doesn’t make a noise unless someone is there to hear it. I’ve always thought that, as the tree’s striking the ground generates vibrations, it makes noise even if no one is there.

      I believe dreams are indeed, the result of electrochemical activity in the brain, but that doesn’t make the stuff of dreams unreal. And I’ve seen too many unexplainable things in my life to think that ONLY that which we see and hear exists. There ARE more things in heaven and Earth….

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    3. What Sheldrake calls “the hard problem” (or maybe the theory of everything”) is to reconcile our experience with the physical world, as exemplified by not walking out in front of truck) with consciousness or subjective experience. Right now, I have schizophrenic relationship with reality. Ican live in and appreciate the best of both perspecrives.

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      1. The hard reality is very much a constraint — I won’t be jumping into trucks. But, as the song goes, is that all there is? Isn’t there a possibility of other realities? I’m in favor of keeping an open mind.

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        1. Oh, to be sure, a given individual can build her or his “own reality” internally. In Trump’s (no, we can’t avoid coming back to him, because he holds a position empowering him to do so much evil) “reality,” he is The Greatest Entity to Ever Stride the Earth. Way “bigger” than Jesus in his warped mind, I’m totally convinced. Objective historians–if we can find any going forward!!–will beg to differ.

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  4. To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

    Sahn writes above, “Philosophy precedes science. It’s impossible to have science (or the sciences) without a presupposition about what is real, which is the arena of philosophy.”

    We have as humans continued to push the boundary of Understanding. Back during the days of Copernicus and Galileo the religious authorities insisted on the earth centered solar system. Religion is a philosophy that has demonstrated a propensity to try to dominate Science since Copernicus and Galileo all the way to Darwin.

    The great fear of the Bible Thumper’s and others in the camp of extreme Religious beliefs over all, is Science demands critical thinking: Prove it. Science because of what is, allows for course corrections it is additive by it’s nature. Marine fossils found on mountain and hill tops far from seas, Oh Noah’s great flood – case closed- or plate tectonics??

    We have Evil in the World because we have Sin. Sin is defined by Tele-Evangelists, etc., by scouring the bible for examples. Of course we cannot via Science prove that sin in the world leads to evil. Did sin in the world produce a Hitler or Stalin or was it a peculiar circumstance of time and space, coupled with their socialization??

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    1. “Evil” and “sin” are sometimes rejected as concepts — too metaphysical, too imprecise.

      But, being raised Catholic, I find “evil” and “sin” meaningful. Yet the whole story of Original Sin, which puts the blame on a snake and a virgin woman, betrays a religion that was (is?) relentlessly patriarchal.

      Why, for example, priests can’t marry, or better yet, women can’t be priests: these are decisions made by a male priesthood for a male priesthood. And it has led to a priesthood that far too often betrayed sacred vows before God. (Indeed, there was a predatory priest who targeted young boys in my parish.)

      The Church has most certainly sinned; it has enabled evil. And it’s all wrong to trace the blame back to a snake (Satan) or Eve’s alleged curiosity and weakness roughly six millennia ago.

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      1. The very superstitious–and writers of horror movie screenplays–would have us believe that EVIL is something actually palpable, something that can “creep into” or “inhabit a person’s soul.” But I can give you one definition that fits our current political climate perfectly: I would say that EVIL is the INTENTIONAL pursuit of policies that harm the environment, thru executive orders or simply undoing the (very weak!) environmental protections that had been in place for years. Yeah, take a bow, Donald J. Trump!

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          1. True that! But of course the church operating in his name, and perverting his teachings (am I opening a new can of worms here?), wasn’t founded for decades (centuries before it became a really powerful organization) after the passing of historical JC. What would be the latter’s view of what became of the church? Don’t ask!!

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          2. Do you think if Jesus as depicted nowadays were in reality really depicted as a Dark Skinned Jew these Fundamentalist Evangelicals would be up there with him..?

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          3. I doubt anyone has ever heard a Christian provide a satisfactory answer to this paradox: If Jesus was also God, did he not set himself up inexorably, by meticulous planning, to be crucified? So why did he supposedly cry out, on the cross: “O’ Father, why hast thou forsaken me?” Since all these events fell into place as parts of God’s Plan (to provide a New Covenant for Man, to replace the original deal made exclusively with Israel [Israel here having nothing to do with the modern nation-state bearing that name]), how can some Christians still hate Jews, saying “They murdered our Lord!”?? This ages-old prejudice enabled many a basically apolitical German to look the other way when the Nazi Regime started exterminating Jewish citizens. “They murdered our Lord. We won’t lift a finger to help them.”

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          4. My brother Paul is a professor of history at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). He teaches about the history of anti-Semitism and was explaining to me that this perverse idea that the Jews are guilty of deicide goes way back, at least to John Chrysostom who lived in the 4th century. His denunciations of the Jews were amplified by later Christians and used to justify every sort of crime against them.

            Jews were blamed for the Mongol invasion of Europe, they were blamed for plagues, and pretty much just anything that went wrong. The atrocities that were carried out against are heartbreaking to read about.

            What is ironic is that the story of the trial of Jesus is historical bullshit. The Jews at the time did not need Roman permission to execute someone. The Act of the Apostles records how they stoned Stephen to death quite promptly.

            I think that pragmatically the story was framed in a way that would curry favor with Rome, or ingratiate Christianity with Roman culture, and exonerate the Romans from killing Jesus. Poor Pilate, he tried to save Jesus but had no choice because of those powerful Jews who were the ones really controlling Palestine (sarcasm). What garbage. Pilate was a butcher who had no compunction about killing Jews who might be getting out of line.

            Of course Christians weren’t killing only Jews. They also seemed to delight in killing other Christians, Muslims, and anyone who did not subscribe to their particular brand. Marx had the right idea but the wrong drug. Religion is not the opium of the people. Religion is the methamphetamine of the masses.

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          5. Very interesting. I had not considered the angle of trying to appease the Roman overlords. As the Bible relates the story, it was “the scribes and the Pharisees,” sort of the Jewish bourgeoisie, who wanted to be rid of JC. Precisely because the latter preached against their own violations of the ethics code, e.g. commerce carried on at the temple. Religious fundamentalism of any stripe is a great menace to a civil society, “the rule of law” (does that really exist anywhere? certainly not in USA, despite its bragging), because the self-appointed Earthly guardians of God’s desires insist that THEY are the law, the only law. I have read of the fiendishly cruel tortures “Christians” have inflicted on their fellows, those perceived as having gone astray, over the centuries. See the writings of Joseph McCabe–if you can find them!–Jesuit turned advocate for atheism. I have vintage paperback copies of some of his pamphlets. Luis Bunuel’s film “The Milky Way” from c. 1968 explores some of Christianity’s more inane internecine clashes of beliefs.

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          6. In my teens I was interested in the history of Christianity and was horrified to read about the way Christians would torture their fellow human beings. Both Protestants and Catholics were guilty of that.

            By the way those accounts prove conclusively that torture does not yield factual data. People confessed to doing things that violated the laws of physics and thus must have been lying in the hope of stopping the agony.

            I did hear an account by one Catholic, whose name I cannot recall, who pointed out that those who confessed to witchcraft under torture were simply doing so to stop the torture. He stated that if the inquisitors were subjected to that treatment then they would confess to such crimes as well.

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          7. In many cases, as I understand it, confessing to preposterous “offenses” did NOT save the victim’s life. The Inquisitors just wanted the “satisfaction of a job well done.” I suggest seeking Carl Theodore Dreyer’s 1928 film of “Joan of Arc.” No talking version can stand up to it IMHO.

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          8. Very good point. The confession just ended the torture. The ending was a foregone conclusion. I am not surprised about the behavior, given the historical record of our behavior. But justifying torture and murder in the name of someone who emphasized love, compassion even for one’s enemies, and who repeatedly admonished people not to judge others is mind-boggling.

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          9. Right. Dick Cheney & Company “justified” torture in the name of defending the Sacred American Way of Life!! * A real shortcut to bringing out the worst in some US Military personnel. Because, you know, sadism is patriotic!
            * which consists of what? Claiming some right to pillage, exploit and despoil a whole planet.

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          10. Phil, these people are so in denial of/flight from reality that you could never convince them historical JC was anything but how they’ve depicted him all their lives. And their parents’ lives, and THEIR parents’ lives, etc., etc. I have read every word of the Bible. I don’t recall a description of JC’s “skin tone,” but it’s clear he came from the Jewish community of the Levant. “Let he who has eyes to see [as in, actually read the book they love to thump!], see.”

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        1. Wow, now you’ve reminded me of the old joke (another blast from the past) about ‘Hymie the Jew’!! It’s a longwinded one, and I won’t retell it here.

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    2. It would be a Great Stride Forward for Humankind if we could get folks to understand that the biblical “Adam”–which I’ve seen translated by authoritative figures as “First Blood” or “First Man”–is simply a part of a great mythology. (Also a notion that preceded the assembly of the Old Testament, as did that of Monotheism.) No “Adam and Eve,” no FALL from “God’s Grace,” no condemnation of every person born since to the flames of Hell unless they accept this or that nonsensical religious belief system. I recognize a person may commit many a CRIME, but I must reject the very concept of SIN because it is a purely religious one.

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  5. I’ll try to make some points though I’m not sure if I can use language precisely enough. I have a background in science, having studied physical chemistry at CalTech, and a background in meditation (HH the Dalai Lama wrote the foreword to the book I wrote). Having both of these in the same head is a bit disorienting. I will try not to ramble too much.

    First, the mystical traditions of Buddhism and Christianity both seem to be in agreement in the following manner. Buddhism states clearly, and offers proofs, that no being of any possible conceptualization can have independent existence. This is often taken to mean that Buddhism denies the existence of God, but in mystical Christianity any God that can be conceptualized is not God. John of the Cross states that since God is infinite then any conceptualization of God is more unlike God than like God. Buddhism does not make any statements about the existence of a. being that is beyond any possible conceptualization. So a being that is beyond any conceptualization is possible in Buddhism. I like to use the word Spirit for God. Spirit is presence without form. Form can approximate Spirit but, unlike in calculus where limits converge, one cannot create a form that gets anywhere close to the reality of Spirit.

    Science requires concepts and can only study phenomena that can be conceptualized or described. If Spirit cannot even be approximated by any conceptualization then science cannot study God. One cannot run controlled experiments on something that cannot be conceptualized.

    The mystical traditions I have practiced emphasize that Spirit’s expression in the world of form is love.
    Humans exist in the world of form, but can have experiences in the world of Spirit. Any awareness or memory of those experiences is a conceptualization or description and therefore form and not the reality of Spirit. That is why there are so many warnings about confusing one’s experience of God, or whatever with the reality. “If you meet the Buddha in the road, slay him.” Since spiritual experience can defy logic, people can get into the unfortunate habit of justifying behavior that is harmful as arising out of a spiritual experience. The emphasis on love and compassion protects against this. No matter what one’s experience is in the world of Spirit, in the world of form certain behaviors must be constrained and others emphasized. “Treat others the way you would want them to treat you,” is a decent summary of what one needs to practice.

    I think that people get into trouble when they insist on Spirit being powerful. Christianity definitely gets confused about this. However, any use of logic shows that God is either all-powerful and a complete asshole, or all-loving and not powerful. There are plenty of references to God being Love, and in the story of Jesus on trial with the representative of earthly power he states “My kingdom is not of this world.” This should indicate that power in this world is not Spirit’s strong suit.

    But humans have an aversion to not being in control, so they create a god in their own image who is in power here. That leads to all sorts of nonsense. Furthermore, since this god is clearly not in control, this god needs the help of humans who then judge their fellow humans and commit all sorts of atrocities in the name of their idol.

    Scientific “experiments” to study god always seem to be studying the power aspect of god. As far as I am concerned these are either poorly controlled or un-replicated. Which is what I would expect as I do not believe in a powerful god.

    An all-loving Spirit whose presence can motivate me to be more loving is a completely different story.

    I hope this has being at least somewhat intelligible and apologize for any confusion. Writing this stuff makes my brain hurt.

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    1. JPA, thanks for your contribution to this discussion. There is something of a “problem” with Buddhism in that, as with Christianity, there are numerous schools of thought/belief. If one examines Tibetan Buddhism, one encounters various “minor deities.” As I understand it, and I have read many a book, the ESSENCE of Buddhism addresses the existence of neither a God, a Paradise to reward the faithful, nor a human soul. It is no oxymoron to speak of a “Buddhist atheist,” therefore. I find it very appealing that Gautama Buddha, the “current” Buddha, born Prince Siddhartha in India c. 2500 years ago, is but the fourth Buddha, and that an infinite number of “new” Buddhas await their appearance in the Universe. As for a scientific examination of the question “Does God exist?”, this is a total waste of time. The religionists stake their claims on “negative facts,” like “He” can’t be pinned down to a specific location in the Universe because “He” is omnipresent, etc. ad infinitum. Colonel Yuri Gagarin, first human to reach Earth orbit on the fringe of Outer Space, noted that he couldn’t spot “Heaven” anywhere up there. The Believers scoffed at this, of course. Enlightenment, which leads to the embracing of Loving-Kindness toward other beings, must be found WITHIN. “The Kingdom of Heaven lies within,” from the Christian tradition, is in agreement with that. The only road to happiness for the individual, per my understanding of elemental Buddhism, is to put oneself in service to OTHERS, to try to ease their suffering. I heartily approve.

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        1. Sadly. many of the people running things are sociopaths, and they are only about serving themselves, in which they find a form of fulfillment, a will to power.

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          1. Unfortunately, enlightenment is one of the things we can’t “implant” in individuals. As long as money is considered more important than human lives–and to quote an old chestnut from the ’60s: “And it’s been going on for ten thousand years…” * –sociopaths will seek to rule us all. As if we weren’t already overrun with greedy bastards who don’t quite rise (sink) to the level of sociopath!! [* The song in question is “The Great Mandala,” recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary and later by Richie Havens.]

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        2. But I’ll add this: Have you ever seen Donald Trump laugh, with mirth? He may make a cruel remark and smile, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him laugh spontaneously, especially at himself. As a sociopath, he’s wrapped up in himself and his own self-image. He has no interest in serving others. Is he happy? I don’t think he cares … happiness is lots of Trump Towers.

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          1. I’m sure Trump laughs, or at least chuckles, to himself every time he thinks he’s made a brilliant, snide remark about his opponents. Dr. Anthony Fauci is the current target of daily abuse, lucky fellow. But again, this is from sociopath Trump’s internal viewpoint. Most of us aren’t laughing with him. I very frequently laugh out loud, alone in my home or driving with car radio on, at his absurd pronouncements. But since he does, in fact, occupy office of POTUS we can’t afford to genuinely IGNORE this guy. Plenty more mischief will be unleashed in his waning days in office.

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          2. Nor does DJT make jokes or display any sense of humor. In the future there needs to be psychology course…entitled Donald trump 101–to study and explain this kind of mind, with the goal of stunting such minds/brains before they can translate into behaviors that harm society,

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          3. Or, as we used to say in my childhood, “Quick, kill it before it multiplies!” Yes, I recognize this would be viewed as a “slightly controversial” approach to dealing with the Trump Syndrome. “Right-to-lifers” would not approve!!

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    2. A vital point here is human conceit — the idea God made us in His image, when it’s we who made God in our image.

      And since we are biased, limited, and faulty, our conceptions of God are the same, so long as we think God is something like us.

      Any true conception of God would not have us killing each other and the planet, building more nukes and weapons, and letting people die so that someone’s stock dividends increase by a few percentage points.

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  6. I was also raised Catholic, but I don’t subscribe to that religion, or any for that matter anymore Only in the Sky & Nature do I find meaning with a light sprinkling of Native American Ancient words of wisdom… I refuse all labels such as atheist, or agnostic– all too easy to have people pin them on you. Do I believe in a God? I think not. If I did I believe it would be a “She” as in Mother Nature, or Earth. Even a Spirit Grandfather! If the Universe was caused there may have been a “Causer” But in this Universe that has no end and must be beyond all space & time eternal what really is to gain by arguing over it, and killing over all the different belief systems out there? Yes the “Golden Rule” words to live by… What IF and this is an awesome possibility in its own right– there is no causer, or cause for all this. What if everything just happened…

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    1. Right. Science can’t answer such Ultimate Questions as “If the Universe as we now perceive it started with the ‘Big Bang,’ what brought that event into being?” Here we are on a modest planet that by sheer dumb luck had conditions hospitable to life arising and thriving. Why not be kind to our fellow beings, including the non-human species, to show our appreciation? No elaborate religious belief system or set of rituals handed down over the centuries required!

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  7. Now we are talking turkey!
    Good thoughts, and lots of great comments.
    Bracing view: The current angst of progressives is a direct result of ontological pluralism.
    By not consciously acknowledging other valid realities, we negate our own.
    Quantum cognitive dissonance.
    Simply put, spooky action works.
    Currently on my end table: God and the Multiverse by Victor Stenger. Grab it.

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  8. I think if our Forefather’s had adopted the Native American Indigenous Tribes beliefs, Philosophies, etc. instead of mercilessly trying to conquer and wipe them out America and this World would’ve turned out to be a better place…

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    1. Indeed, the viewpoint of those wretched Puritans who landed on Plymouth Rock * was that Nature is a filthy, horrid, evil realm that must be “conquered” (nowadays it’s a matter of outright decimation) by good Christians. It was not a historical aberration that New England became the center of “witch” burning on this continent; it flowed from the Puritan outlook. [* The legendary songwriter Cole Porter put a spin on this in “Anything Goes”: “If today
      Any shock they [the Puritans] should try to stem
      ‘Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
      Plymouth Rock would land on them.”
      It’s a damn shame that rock didn’t squash the bastards in 1620 or whenever it was they arrived from England!!]

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      1. Well…..there is a theory that ergot fungus infected the grain crops in Massachusetts, and consumption thereof caused extreme reactions in some individuals. These reactions included behaviors seen as “witchlike” by the local leaders. As the society was completely patriarchal, women were condemned as witches, and men were seen to be under their spells. And not to put too fine a point on it, but all the property of “witches” and their enchanted men was forfeit to those same local leaders. Therefore, ergot or not, it was quite profitable to those in charge to denounce people as witches, thus ridding communities of possibly outspoken, troublesome women and raking in the goods at the same time.

        Did the Puritan mindset predispose those men in charge, along with their wives, to see witches all around them? Wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

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  9. For my part, I do not consider three-and-a-half years sufficient time to warrant the label “Age.” That seems a bit hyperbolic, if not grandiose. After all, when Henry Kissinger asked Chou-en-lai his opinion of the French Revolution (1789) the Chinese Premier replied simply: “Too soon to tell.”

    When the current occupant of the White House actually doessomething that his neo-liberal/neo-conservative detractors (“The Swamp”) oppose — like withdrawing US military forces from their unnecessary, scattered, ruinously expensive deployments abroad — then perhaps we could credit him with a historical “moment,” but hardly more than that. As Max Blumenthal summarized for Jimmy Dore: “Trump drowned in the Swamp.” And as Andrei Raevsky (a.k.a. The Saker) recently agreed: “Trump ‘deflated’ before those whom he called ‘the swamp’ almost as soon as he got into the White House.” Just another easily browbeaten and bullied US president. Note the use of the past tense here (“drowned” and “deflated”) to denote completed activity.

    Furthermore, to name this putative “Age” after the current President of the United States — just another in a dreary succession of such hapless corporate puppets — looks more like homage than criticism. No doubt the monumental ego under discussion would see it that way. And the consequences of making “everything about HIM” — to HIS enormous narcissistic delight (not to mention political advantage) — ought to suggest caution and self-reflection rather than intemperate rushes to premature historical judgment. After all, doesn’t the phrase “Pied Piper Strategy” pretty much explain why “All About Him” (because everything is) became president while “You Know Her” (because everybody does) did not?

    Anyway, a scientific approach would proceed modesty, with full appreciation for alternative hypotheses (“suggestions”) and due respect for the methods (“operations”) by which one might falsify or validate them, one by one, until a public consensus of judgment emerges.

    As an example of the scientific, as opposed to the metaphysical — i.e., philosophical/theological — approach to the current historical moment, consider Glenn Greenwald’s recent video: System Update – How the House Armed Services Committee, in the Middle of a Pandemic, Approved a Huge Military Budget and More War in Afghanistan, The Intercept (July 10, 2020). As his method of exploration, Mr Greenwald examined fourteen hours of the House Armed Services Committee proceedings with special emphasis on four amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (“Your Regularly Scheduled Pentagram Boondoggle”) with particular attention to four amendments (two approved, two defeated) that show how and why endless war remains bi-partisan dogma in the United States regardless of anything that President Donald Trump (or any of his predecessors) has done or said to the contrary. I highly recommend this video exploration of Reality which, if time allows, I will try to transcribe below.

    In any event, as received wisdom admonishes us: “The President proposes, but Congress disposes.” And it appears as if the US Congress has easily and thoroughly disposed of “Orange Man Bad” without the slightest sweat or strain. Hardly an “Age,” by any reasonable definition of that word-like noise. And it should go without saying that subjecting all human utterances — especially those of metaphysicians — to healthy skepticism and a demand for observable evidence goes a long way towards first achieving and then maintaining one’s sanity.

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    1. In my view, a particularly astute — not to mention, sane — presentation by Glenn Greenwald [bold font for emphasis mine]:

      [10:34] GG: “Whenever the the parties’ establishment wings agree on a policy, such as the four amendments that I just recounted where they joined together to insure that the pro-war policy prevailed, or the 740 billion dollar military budget, or U.S. support for Israel or Arab state dictators, or a whole slew of policies where both parties agree, the media essentially ignores those issues because they’re not interested in them. They’re only interested when they can show on cable news or in the op-ed pages some kind of hardened clash between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. And this has two really important effects.”

      [11:10] GG: “Number one. It removes from public consciousness, from public awareness, the extremely consequential policy areas where the Republicans and Democrats of the establishment wings of each party actually agree. So it doesn’t get debated whether we should spend 740 billion dollars or whether we should stay in Afghanistan or whether we should keep troops in Germany even though American citizens are suffering en mass, because the two parties agree and therefore the media doesn’t talk about it because it’s just assumed that it’s not very interesting, that there must be, because of this consensus, a clear and irrefutable truth to whatever that policy is. So [this agreed-upon policy dogma] just gets removed from public consciousness and public debate. That’s one effect.”

      [11:52] GG: “The other effect is that by only focusing on those instances in which the republicans and democrats disagree, the extent to which they clash is wildly exaggerated. Whatever the percentage is, whether it’s 70 percent of the policies where Democrats and Republicans agree in this nice bi-partisan consensus and 30 percent where they’re fighting, if you only focus on the 30 percent because that’s the only thing that’s interesting and you ignore the 70 percent where they’re agreeing and voting by overwhelming votes if not unanimous votes in favor of the same policy, it creates this radically distorted view that they’re always fighting. But it only looks like they’re always fighting because the media only focuses on those issues where they fight, ignoring the much greater number of policy areas where they agree. And looking at how this House Armed Services Committee enacted this extremely imperialistic and pro-war bloated budget to benefit the Pentagon and especially the private arms dealers and defense industry and lobbyists who work for them and the military itself really illustrates what a propagandistic myth this is, that the Republicans and Democrats simply can’t agree, they’re always at loggerheads. The reality is they work together constantly as demonstrated by how much in common Liz Cheney has with the key democratic party leaders in the House who are responsible for shaping foreign and military policy.”

      Points taken.

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    2. Moving right along into the ugly details of Reality as explored scientifically:

      [13:22] GG: “Now it should go without saying that the most important ways for understanding what the Congress does and the reasons why it does it is to explore the people who are driving the process, the members of Congress. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Republican party is overtly pro-war and pro-imperialist, that people like Liz Cheney and her family and that wing of the Republican Party that was so dominant during the Bush and Cheney years and into the Obama years continues to exert great influence on the party’s military and foreign policy posture in a way that is pro-war.”

      [Now something one doesn’t hear much about, for some reason. President of the Donald Trump the “Isolationist” whipped by Liz Cheney the “Militarist/Imperialist” Congresswoman from barely inhabited Wyoming]

      Notwithstanding the ascension of an isolationist wing within the Republican Party as evidenced by the campaign rhetoric of Donald Trump in 2016 and prior to that the relative success of people like Ron Paul or Rand Paul in the Senate – Ron Paul when he ran for President – advocating an isolationist line that is different in ethos from the anti-war sentiment on the Left but still converges in terms of policy views. This right-wing isolationist posture that says we ought not to be spending money on foreign wars and changing other countries, we ought to be spending that money instead on the welfare of American citizens. That wing of the Republican Party, notwithstanding its finding expression in the successful Trump campaign is still a minority within the Republican Party. The majority in the Republican Party is still very much pro-war, pro-imperialist. People like John McCain when he was alive was probably the single most influential figure in the Republican Party on these questions. And he was harshly pro-war. He was very critical of President Obama for eight years for failing, in his view, to sufficiently confront Russia and Vladimir Putin. The same with people like Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio and all kinds of members of the House. It’s a reason why Liz Cheney, as recent reports suggest, has become a leading voice, foreign policy voice, within the Republican Party because that strain of Republican Party politics that is extremely pro-war, pro-militarism, pro-imperialism is still the dominant strain in Republican politics.”

      So President Donald Trump, the rumored “Isolationist,” heads a pro-war Republican party “opposed” by a pro-war Democratic party that cheers wildly when he bombs some foreign peasants, confirms his reactionary administrative and judicial appointees, funds his “Wall” on the border with Mexico, passes his monumentally debt-laden budgets, and lavishes more billions of dollars on the useless, bloated US military than even Donald Trump has demanded. Something — or rather, someone — somehow seems in charge of perpetuating this endless meaningless war that President Donald Trump either agrees with, or impotently pretends that he doesn’t. Glenn Greenwald puts forward a name and legislative biography to explain this Reality.

      [continued below]

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      1. Endless War, your name (or one of them) is Adam Smith.

        [15:33] GG: “How is it, though, that they [the Republicans] form a majority when the Democrats are the majority in the House. And to understand how that works, that dynamic, it’s very important to look at the people who have been empowered by the Democratic Party to be the leaders on foreign policy. So the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, one of the most important positions in the House of Representatives – and probably the single most important when it comes to foreign policy and military spending – is Congressman Adam Smith, who isn’t very known to very many people, even within his own district.”

        “He is highly uncharismatic. He blends into the woodwork. He tends to be a transactional kind of lawmaker instead of one who is on cable news, or being particularly flamboyant or attention grabbing. But his influence is all the greater because of that. He’s kind of a classic standard Democratic Party politician and has been for the last 23 years since he’s been in Congress. He comes from a very blue state of Washington and a pretty blue district as well where whites are just under even being a majority. So the majority of his district are people of color. And Adam Smith in the realm in which he exerts the greatest influence, which is foreign and military policy is clearly a pro-war hawk. There is no other way to describe him. One of the most important first votes that he had upon being elected to Congress was the question of whether to authorize the war in Iraq. He was one of the many Democrats in Congress in 2002 who voted in favor of the Iraq war and proceeded to advocate its wisdom and its necessity for many years to come. He advocated, supported, and voted for a whole slew of Bush/Cheney War on Terror policies in the years after the attacks of 9/11. In the wake of the Snowden reporting, he was one of the Democrats who joined with Republicans to block reforms that were proposed by a bipartisan group in Congress led by then-Republican Justin Amash and then Democrat John Conyers. [Congressman Smith] joined with Republicans to defeat reforms that were proposed in terms of how the NSA could spy on American citizens. So he has over and over and over again supported militarism and war. And this is who the Democratic Party caucus and Nancy Pelosi have chosen to be the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.”

        “Someone with this record. Even in the Obama years he was often to the right, or pro-war side of the Obama administration. He was warning of Obama’s desired effort to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and end the war there. He was one of only 16 Democrats to join with the Republican majority to block what would have been a law banning the US from transferring weapons to Saudi Arabia to be used to bomb Yemen. This is who is the single most influential member of Congress in the Democratic Party when it comes to shaping military spending and foreign policy. Is it any wonder that pro-war and imperialism policies continue to prevail when the Democrats are empowering people like this.”

        [End of Transcription so far. I have other videos of interest to transcribe, so I’ll leave watching the remaining parts of this definitely worthwhile exploration of Reality to those who have the time and interest.]

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Actually, not cutting and pasting, but typing and pasting. Which explains why it has taken me so long to assemble all this material for a comment on this discussion thread.
            Speaking of typing and pasting, I just finished putting together a mini transcript of Glenn Greewald’s introduction to the study he has undertaken, again as an example of studying reality by actually observing and documenting it as it unfolds :

            [0:15] GG: “This episode explores exactly how it is that the United States Congress, just last week ensured that the United States continues on its path of endless war. Who, exactly, in the US Congress did it? What tactics and methods did they use? And what were their motives for doing so?

            [This almost sounds like that course I took in journalism my sophomore year of high school back in the fall of 1962 where our teacher told us to always include the following information in the first sentence of any “news” article that we wished to write, namely the 5W-IH Rule: Who? What? When? Where? How? and — most importantly — Why? Not many so-called “journalists” actually practice high-school sophomore journalism in the US and UK these days, but as a close approximation to scientific method, Glenn Greenwald does a commendable job of covering at least the what-when-where of the House Committee meeting, as well as the more important Who, How, and Why — even though it took him two sentences in order to do it. Then he continues to elaborate in more detail . . .]

            “Specifically, last week, the House Armed Services Committee which is the committee of the US House of Representatives responsible for authorizing military spending, passed what it calls the National Defense Authorization Act which is the military budget for the coming fiscal year of 2021. And as part of that military budget, the committee, which is dominated by Democrats which form a majority of the House of Representatives, voted to authorize 740 billion dollars in military spending for the next year. Even though it has been almost 20 years since the 9/11 attack. Even though the United States is in the middle of a health pandemic; an unemployment crisis; and teetering on the a depression that’s causing millions and millions of people to become highly uncertain about their economic future; and even though polling data uniformly shows that Americans overwhelmingly in both parties want there to be a reduced military commitment and a reduced military footprint not an expanded one, the committee, by a vote of 56 to zero – 30 democrats and 26 Republicans – voted in favor of this extreme budget.”

            [1:56] “A budget of 740 billion dollars which – just to put that into context – is three times higher than the second-highest military spender on the planet, which is China. It is 10 times higher than the third-highest spender, which is Saudi Arabia. It is 15 times more than the country that was most frequently invoked as a grave threat to the United States to justify this budget, which is Russia. And the US. Military budget for the coming year just approved by the House Armed Services Committee by a unanimous vote is also more than the military spending of the next 15 countries combined.”

            [2:33] “And one of the things one realizes when watching the proceedings, the hour upon hour upon hour of Congressional proceedings that result in these outcomes is this huge cleavage between how members of Congress present themselves: the imagery and rhetoric and branding they present to their voters on the one hand, and the reality of what they do in the bowels of Congress and the underbelly of Congressional proceedings on the other where most American constituents and voters have no idea what it is they’re doing. And this gap is enormous. The proceedings lasted more than 15 hours just on this single bill within this one committee. And watching [this], as I did, from start to finish reveals really valuable insight that I want to devote this show to exploring and revealing and describing, because [these proceedings] really show how and why the United States continues to be a militaristic and imperialistic power that devotes enormous amounts of its resources, not on the well-being of its citizens, but for the benefit of military contractors and for imperialistic aims throughout the world. And understanding how it is that the United States Congress controlled by both parties – the Senate controlled by the republicans and the House controlled by the Democrats – overwhelmingly joins together in order to do this is extremely valuable for understanding how the United States actually functions, and how different, how wildly different, that is from the imagery and the rhetoric and propaganda that they themselves present on 24-hour cable news channels, which they try and manufacture, and how in general the United States media talks [and selectively avoids talking] about U.S. politics. This is where the real action is and it’s really valuable to examine it in detail, by looking at the videos of it, and by understanding exactly what it is that they did.”

            [So much for Glenn Greenwald’s introduction to his exercise in observing and reporting on Reality. A very sane thing for an obviously sane man to do.]

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  10. Thanks, Mike Murry, for the transcript of Glenn Greenwald’s report on the latest bloated Pentagon budget and the bipartisan support of it. I’ve been meaning to write about it — Glenn’s report is vitally important. Will try today or tomorrow to do a piece on it.

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  11. As the old-time radio and movie comedian, W. C. Fields liked to say: “If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then quit. No sense being a damn fool about it.” And, of course, Albert Einstein gets credit for defining insanity as “doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.” Both of these aphorisms came immediately to mind when I saw this discussion about Donald Trump and the maintenance of sanity.

    For instance, the current US President has attempted — during his three-plus years in office and on the dubious advice of his administration’s “experts” — to implement certain unfortunate policies, like increasing the level of troop commitments and violence in Afghanistan and Syria while attempting a coup aimed at deposing the President of Venezuela and installing the self-appointed nobody, Juan Guaido, in his place. These efforts failed and President Trump apparently decided not to act like a damn fool by doubling down on dumb. He wants, for example, to recognize reality and deal with the elected President of Venezuela, Nicholas Maduro who commands the support of the voting citizenry and military. He also wants to recognize unprofitable reality and withdraw US forces from Afghanistan, Syria, and even Germany. This while many “supporters” in his own right-wing political party (like Congresswoman Liz Cheney) and detractors in that other right-wing political party (like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) insist that he insanely continue to do the same thing over and over even if no one expects a different result and some even ardently desire profitable (for them) failure to continue indefinitely. Dispassionately considered in this instance, President Donald Trump does not look like either a damn fool or insane.

    As Glenn Greenwald pointed out in his viedeo presentation, large majorities of Americans have wanted these imperial deployments ended, for several election cycles. They want the resources these wars consume redirected towards the welfare of the general US citizenry. Donald Trump successfully ran for office in 2016 promising to do what these voters wanted. If he could actually follow though on withdrawing US troops from even one of America’s ruinous quagmires, he would easily win re-election. For some reason, his “supporters” and “opposition” have both agreed to see to it that he does neither. Hence the unanimously agreed-upon NDAA prohibiting President Trump from doing what the US electorate demands. If he had any real convictions — or balls — he would veto that bill and force the Congress to either withdraw the prohibitive amendments or override his veto with a two-thirds majority. That would clearly distinguish him from the damn fools who insanely demand that America keep doing over and over again what it has done — namely, fail — for decades now.

    Again, in regard to these proposed but prohibited troop withdrawals, I consider President Trump neither a damn fool nor insane. But if he does not show the courage to actually do what he keeps saying he wants to do — and do it NOW — then he certainly qualifies as a blowhard and coward, like several of his immediate predecessors (and his possible successor) in the Oval Office.

    I think that this constitutes an adequately sane appraisal on my part.

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    1. I agree, Mike. But Trump will likely take the path of least resistance. He doesn’t have core principles — or, should I say, his core principle is to have none — except to feed his own ego.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. “These Dreams” Ann Wilson Heart ❤ Whom I'm proud to have seen it performed in Concert 2X's back in the day…! Richard Sahn on Dreams vs. Reality!

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  13. Among the illusions I’m sure Mr. E. was referring to: 1.) that some substances are “solids”–a true solid can only exist at the theoretical temp. of Absolute Zero, where molecular motion ceases [in theory!]; 2.) that we can actually touch an object–what mostly happens is the electron rings in outer layer of our skin “mix” with the rings of the object we’re trying to probe, and these rings are mostly empty space [fortunately our nerve endings can still sense danger from heat or sharpness of an object]; 3.) moving into Buddhism, if I may–being an “alone” individual is impossible…unless every other living entity on the planet or the larger Universe has pre-deceased you! But you’d still have many billions of living things on your skin and inside your gut. Yeah, life is strange. But still worth living IMHO.

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